Thursday, September 30, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish

Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)

***Special thanks to Pam Mettler of Zonderkidz for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jenn Kelly lives in Ottawa, Canada, but her heart lives in Paris. Or Hawaii. She hasn’t decided yet. She is an undercover garden guru, painter, and chef, which has absolute nothing to do with this book. She won a writing award in grade 4, failed English Lit in university, spent many years writing bad poetry, and then decided to write a book. This is it. She is married to her best friend, Danny, and is mom to a five-year-old boy and a dog who worries too much. She embraces the ridiculousness and disorganization of life.


Visit the author's website.

Ari has worked as a freelance illustrator for a variety of projects, mostly in children’s media. Her specialty is character design and she most enjoys illustrating humorous and wacky predicaments.

She studied editorial and children’s book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the DuCret School of Art in New Jersey. She uses a variety of media to create my images both traditional and digital.


Visit the illustrator's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Hardcover: 272 pages
Publisher: Zonderkidz (August 6, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310720796
ISBN-13: 978-0310720799

PLEASE CLICK THE BROWSE INSIDE BUTTON TO VIEW THE FIRST CHAPTER:




REVIEW:
This is a whimsical, funny children’s book (for ages 9-12 and any young-at-heart, fun-loving people). It takes you along on Jackson’s adventure in his Great-Aunt Harriett’s hair. Yes, it is wacky. It probably breaks oodles of grammar/writing rules. But it works. The author has a unique style of talking directly to the reader. So you’re keenly aware that you’re listening to someone telling you a story (as opposed to watching the action unfold on your own). She feels free to interrupt whenever and ask questions for you or address questions she thinks you might be having. (How did she know I was reading in bed at night?!?) A very cute/funny touch is the titles of the chapters and how weird some of the chapters are. I think she may have set a world record for the shortest chapter.

It’s...different. And it’s nice. (And I happen to think her writing style is temporarily rubbing off on me so if you don’t like the way this review is formatted or written...blame the book :).)

The author used the word “g-o-s-h” once. I don’t like any form of using God’s name in vain so that was somewhat disappointing.

But, besides that, this is a book that is easy to recommend because it is clean and silly. Who doesn’t need some silliness in their life now and then :)?

Monday, September 27, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Follow: A Simple and Profound Call to Live Like Jesus

David C. Cook; 2 edition (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Floyd McClung is the founder and director of All Nations, an international leadership training and church-planting network that partners with local churches to send short term and long-term church planting teams to more than 30 different countries. Floyd has spoken on more than 100 university campuses and has traveled to 187 countries. He is the author of fourteen books, including the best-selling books, The Father Heart of God and Living on the Devil’s Doorstep, that have had a profound influence around the world and have inspired new generations to take risks in both outreach and service. Follow will serve as a catalyst for church growth at the local level—growth in both depth and size. The McClungs live in Cape Town, South Africa where they lead a training and outreach community that equips church planters to work among the poor and unreached in Africa and Asia.

Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434701921
ISBN-13: 978-1434701923

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Repenting of Religion

I want you to imagine what my reaction would have been, when I wrote to Sally (now my wife), asking her to marry me, if her response had been as follows:


Dear Floyd,

I would love to marry you. It’s a dream come true! The answer is YES! There are a few minor details, though. I have a couple of other boyfriends—well, seven to be exact. Most of them don’t mean much to me, but can I keep Murray and Wayne? I must be in love, because I’ve never before been willing to give up so many of my boyfriends! My mother says you’re a lucky man! There’s one other thing. I will accept your proposal on the condition that I can stay in Texas and live with my parents. I love them. They have done so much for me that I couldn’t dream of leaving them. You wouldn’t want me to hurt their feelings, would you? However, you can visit whenever you want to. I’m sure you understand. Oh, and one last thing … I don’t want to upset you, but I would prefer not to take your name. McClung is just not that pretty a name. I look forward to setting the wedding date!

Yours in undying love and devotion,

Sally


Had I received that kind of reply from Sally to my marriage proposal, I would have run the other way. In truth, I pursued Sally late-night phone calls, visits to Texas to see her, and long letters sharing my desires for our future together, hoping that she would share those dreams. I pursued Sally because I loved her. I was convinced she was the woman for me. When I finally did ask Sally to marry me, I expected that if she loved me and she was “the one,” she would lay aside all others for me. And so she did—“McClung” name and all!

She was smitten with me, and I with her! That’s what true love is—committing to love another person. We would feel cheated if by any other kind of relationship. In the same way, God pursues

us because He loves us, to remind us that He loves us, all to draw us back to Himself. Sending Jesus was the most visible expression of this. Jesus is God’s way of romancing us. Just as I courted and pursued Sally, so, in a much more profound way, God pursues each of us.


My story is not about how I found religion, but how I was set free from religion.


My Story

I realized a long time ago that we all have a God Story to tell, a story of how God radically transformed us through faith in Jesus. Our story finds its full meaning in God’s Story. My story is not about how I found religion, but how I was set free from religion. I didn’t have to repent of sin as much as I had to repent of the sin of religion. For me, religion was about powerful people controlling my life and others’ lives. Maybe some of those powerful people were sincere, but they had strayed far from loving people Jesus’ way. And the sad thing about it was that I became like those powerful people. But let me tell the story from the beginning.


Before Jesus

I grew up with Christian religion. Someone could make a Hollywood movie of my life, it was so weird. We were wild-eyed fundamentalists. We attended church meetings up to five times a week: prayer meetings, revival meetings, mid-week meetings, youth meetings, and, of course, two Sunday meetings. There was a lot of sincere zeal, but people lived inside a religious bubble of meetings and so-called

Christian culture. As a teenager, people’s hypocrisy made me cynical about my religion. Many people in church professed one thing but lived another. There were lots of rules but not much love. I tried to fit in, but the journey, filled with my insecurity and zeal to perform, was hard. My parents were good people. In fact, my father was a pastor, a saintly man, deeply religious in the best sense of that word. He prayed by the hour, loved impossible people, and gave his life to being a “good shepherd.” But I struggled with others in our church.


One of the most difficult parts of my church experience was how judgmental people were. They passed judgment on the clothes people wore, the things they did or didn’t do for God, and whether they kept the church’s rules for “holy living.”

Holy was not defined by how loving you were but by how extreme you were. But in my later teen years, that same religious attitude crept into my own heart. What I despised, I became. Growing up with religion made me feel like a failure. I lived with feelings of false guilt—though at the time I didn’t the guilt was false! I continually felt a sense of shame and tried to prove myself worthy of the church’s blessing. I hid my sins and weaknesses from others in the church, while I sought their approval and acceptance.


How God’s Love Became Real to Me

One of the best things that happened to me was going to university. I loved sports, which became an important part of my life. I achieved success, as well as a fair bit of notoriety, and my self-confidence grew. I became the captain of our basketball team, and we traveled the country, defeating teams from universities ten and twenty times our size. Newspapers across the United States wrote about us. Professional scouts from the NBA came to watch us play. It was exhilarating. But I was still in turmoil regarding my faith. During this time, one of my professors had a huge influence on my life. I liked him as a person; he was honest, spent time with the students in the resident halls, attended our student activities and sports events I was involved in. He became a role model to me. This professor was a very devout man but devoid of “religion.” This fascinated and intrigued me. At the end of each of his lectures, he would push back his notes, stand up behind his desk, and speak to us from his heart. He pleaded with us to be people who would change the world. He spoke passionately about being free from the chains of religion. He invited us to be fully human and fully alive. One day, he spoke about the difference between religion and God’s love. He told us the difference between performing and living our lives from the heart–and I realized that up to that point I had lived to please people; but that was not what God wanted from me, nor did it somehow persuade God to love me. As my professor pleaded with us to be free from religion and alive with the grace and love of God, a light went on in my heart. In my inner person I agreed, and I walked out of the class a free man. I realized that I had been taught most of my life that devotion was

duty to God, not delight in God. I quietly determined to live for delight, not duty.


The Change Jesus Made in My Life

As a result of that inner transaction, the weight of religion with rules rolled off me like a heavy backpack falling to the ground. Who took it and how it was lifted off me, I wasn’t sure, but it was gone. I felt free. I knew from that moment, I didn’t need to do anything— indeed could not do anything—to make God love me. I didn’t have to do things to earn God’s love. I was free to love God simply because He loved me first. I felt light, free, and full of hope. Since that day, I have lived like a man unshackled from prison chains. I live like an orphan who has been adopted into a loving family. I feel fully human, alive, set free to enjoy God. I don’t feel alone or that I have to do things to gain the approval of people or of God. I now wake up every day with a deep sense of God’s love and acceptance. I know I belong to God.

Being loved by God is incredible! Accepting His love and forgiveness is my response to that incredible love. Loving God begins with the discovery that He has created us for intimacy and friendship with Him. It is accompanied by a longing to live life to the fullest; to see and taste and hear all life has for us. God has adventure waiting for us, beauty to share with us, dreams and purpose and security and significance to give to us.


What Does It Mean to Love Jesus?

Our theme in the first part of this book is loving Jesus. I know, and I hope you know as well, that loving Jesus is a heart response to His love for us, involving a commitment to obey Jesus each day of our lives. But we must allow God to love us to the point where He captures our complete devotion. To be captured by Jesus is to be captivated by Him, fascinated and intrigued with who He is and what He has in store for us.

Loving Jesus means opening our hearts to Him, holding back nothing, confessing everything—our weaknesses and fears, dreams and longings. Loving Jesus has to be lived out in the face of constant temptation to conform and compromise. This pressure can come from myriad sources: from the influence of our culture and its more depraved and dehumanizing demands, to the more naive, but sometimes painful, interactions with friends and family. It can come from people we work with or go to school with, and from movies, TV, and certain types of music. Jesus wants to give us the strength to withstand the pressures contrary to His way so that we can live our lives for Him and His purposes.


We’re all slaves to something or someone—either willing love slaves or unwilling slaves to private prisons we make. We were created to be fully devoted to God, and if we’re not fully devoted to God, we’ll give that devotion to someone or something else. Paul the apostle speaks to the Roman believers of this capacity for devotion: “You know well enough from your own experience that there are some acts of so-called freedom that destroy freedom. Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it’s your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits” (Rom. 6:16 MSG). We cannot serve two masters. We serve the one we love, and we love the one we serve. When we allow Him to love us, we unshackle our hearts to love Him back. This is good news to religious people who want to be free of religion! Paul goes on to say these incredible words about the love of God:


For all who put their trust in God are children of God. As a result you are set free from acting like fearful, beaten slaves. You should believe and behave instead like God’s very own adopted children, loved and accepted into His family. You can freely call out to Him, “Dear Father.” And know this with certainty: The Father has sent the Holy Spirit to speak to you deep in your heart—and He keeps on speaking to you until you finally believe it—that you are God’s loved children. (Rom. 8:14–16, author’s paraphrase)


We don’t behave differently in order to be loved by God, but because we are loved by God.


Though we were once slaves to our passions, desires, fears, and hurts, we are set free to love God with our whole hearts. No longer do we have to be prisoners. This is the good news of the gospel! God’s love invades our minds, changing our core values and transforming our behavior. We don’t behave differently in order to be loved by God, but because we are loved by God. We realize that God is not trying to punish us for our past sins but deliver us from them. He is not out to heap shame on us for past failures but to take our shame away and give us the great gift of finally, fully belonging.


What Hinders Us from Loving Jesus?

Nothing hinders us from receiving the love of God as much as the lies that build up in our minds about who God is or who we are. Paul describes these lies as “strongholds” in our minds, like fortresses where debilitating accusations wage war against us.

A friend of mine describes these lies as the script we try to live by, but a script that is not the “real us.” We learn this script from our upbringing, our culture, and painful experiences in life. Our scripts get lodged in our hearts despite what we believe in our minds, becoming a deafening cry of the false self—what matters most is what I have, what I do, and what others think of me—instead of the stunning truth that God likes me, He loves me and unconditionally accepts me.

The Bible tells us that we must fight to hold on to the truth; we mustn’t be passive about these lies: “We are human, but we don’t wage war with human plans and methods. We use God’s mighty weapons, not

mere worldly weapons, to knock down the Devil’s strongholds. With these weapons we break down every proud argument that keeps people from knowing God. With these weapons we conquer their rebellious

ideas, and we teach them to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5 NLT).

You can tell when you believe lies about yourself or God, because they produce hopelessness and mistrust. God sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for our sins and free us from these lies. That great act of redemption provides the power we need to be free from the false self, to be the person God created us to be.

We must resist the lies, receive God’s love in Jesus, stand for what is true—and forgive those who have communicated those lies to us and about us. There is great power in forgiving and taking responsibility for our feelings and choices. In fighting for truth, we become strong. We overcome passivity and fear and anger and hate. It is not easy, but fighting to take hold of the love of God is well worth the battle.

To love Jesus and allow Him to love us is to fight for what we know in our minds to be true. In doing this, we allow the doctrinal beliefs we know to be intellectually true to become deeply real to us, to go deep into our hearts. It is then that the love of God in Jesus transforms us. Believing in Jesus is not just a nice religious thing to do. Integrating that belief into the deepest part of our being transforms every aspect of our lives.


The Price of Being Free

You can be free to love God with your whole being, as a whole, passionate, free person. And in doing so, you are freed to become intensely aware of being loved by God. Loving God unlocks your heart and frees you to live above your fears. But there is a price to pay.

God invites us to turn away from lesser pleasures as our source of meaning and purpose to the ultimate pleasure of knowing and loving Him. Jesus told a parable of a man who went to build a tower but did not have enough money to complete it. He said the man, to save embarrassment and wasted effort, should have sat down and calculated the cost before starting. “So therefore,” Jesus says, “whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33 RSV). Those who are considering becoming, or are already committed to being, fully devoted followers of Jesus must count the cost of putting Him first in their lives. That doesn’t mean renouncing who He created you to be, but renouncing the false beliefs and behaviors that have kept you from being all He created you to be.


What Loving Jesus Does Not Mean

In order to grasp what it means to love Jesus, we need to consider what it does not mean.


Becoming a “religious” freak

Loving God does not mean that God expects you to become religious or speak “Christianeze.” My friend David, full of newfound faith and enthusiasm for Jesus, joined a church and was immediately handed a set of regulations covering everything from where he could go and when, how long his hair could be, and even with whom he could associate.

Tragically, the rule book dealt with everything except what mattered most—a heart of devotion to Jesus, which can’t be reduced to a set of rules. The implication of the rule-book approach to spirituality is that it can produce conformity without pleasure, zeal without genuine maturity.

Sometimes, zeal lacks depth and produces so-called “model Christians” that are plastic imitations of the real thing. Some religious leaders fear or resent this perspective, but maybe that’s because they can’t control people without it. Jesus spoke scathingly of the religious leaders of His day because they had reduced a relationship with God to a set of detailed and often ridiculous regulations. Yet there are some Christian leaders today who, unfortunately, think in the same way. Their way of making

people “holy” is to load them down with a long list of dos and don’ts or a strict conformity to their definition of spirituality. This approach, however, only produces fear, dependence, and condemnation. The more control and rules there are, the greater our sense of failure when we are unable to please our earthly leaders. Looking back at my time as a brash young leader who demanded that type of loyalty, I now realize how detrimental my actions were to people’s delight in God. I tried too hard, and as a result, I got in the way. The older I am the more I realize that my role is to stay in the background. The kind of devotion that God delights in comes about when a person finds security in the pure, unselfish love of God. We don’t find our security or our value from the rules we obey or the way we live. But in the love of God, we know that there is nothing we can do to make Him love us more or less—He just loves us!


Performing to earn approval

There is safety in knowing we are “okay” with everyone. Many followers of Jesus try to find security in living up to the expectations of others—the silent code of conduct a group has for itself. There is security in conforming. It means we think we are loved, or okay with God, because we are okay with people. However, God doesn’t grade us according to how good our performance is or by whether we have performed certain religious duties or not. He has offered up His Son Jesus as a substitute sacrifice for our sins, as the means by which we are acceptable to Him. No amount of trying to gain His approval by doing our duty or conforming to some man-made code will ever change that great truth.


Temptations will go away

Even once we accept Jesus’ acceptance, we will be tempted to go back to the old way of trying to earn His love or indulging ourselves in the short-lived pleasures of sin. Whether the sorts of temptations you face are to lust, lie, steal, or fall back on “good behavior,” Jesus made it clear that we will face temptations of both a religious and non-religious type. Jesus Himself was tempted and did not sin, which means we can be tempted—without sinning. Temptation to sin is not sin, although we often think it is. It can sometimes be confusing to know the difference as we wrestle with inner thoughts and feelings. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by the Devil, yet He was without sin. He was tempted, just as we are, when Satan presented Him with thoughts of power, wealth, recognition—shortcuts to becoming all the Father wanted Him to be. But He did not give in to temptation. He did not leave the wilderness with feelings of defeat and unworthiness. If you struggle to discern the difference between temptation and sin, then be direct with God and ask Him, “Have I sinned? What specifically did I do wrong, and how can I correct it?” God is committed to helping us lead lives of truthfulness. He will show us the difference between sin and the temptation to sin. If, after talking to God about this, nothing comes to mind, then quite possibly you are dealing with vague accusations of sin or suffering from false guilt that religious people want to pile on you. If you are feeling powerless and joyless, go to a mature Christian and pray together. Shake off false guilt and refuse to accept it! When we are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, it will be absolutely clear to us what we have done wrong. Condemnation is vague and related to a general sense of failure rather than to a specific sin; shame is a negative emotion that combines feelings of embarrassment

and worthlessness; false-guilt feelings are based on demands from people, not from God, in order to try to control us. But when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, we understand God’s grace and the hope that belongs to those who are loved unconditionally by God. Real guilt shows us that we have done wrong and brings us to Jesus. God convicts us of sin because He loves us and wants to help us be free from sin! The Bible teaches us to resist the Devil so that he will flee from us. If we are tempted and actively resist it, then we are not sinning. But when we welcome it, entertain it, and give in to it, we have entered into sin.


What Loving Jesus Does Mean


We have a purpose to live for! The world waits for us to bring hope to the poor and freedom to the oppressed. Get involved! God has given you abilities and passions and talents to make a difference in the world. Enjoy your passions and interests—but don’t live for them. God has more for you!


We are forgiven!

Jesus’ death on the cross is God’s way of providing for our forgiveness. When we acknowledge our need of forgiveness, He forgive us—and He does that because of His great love for us.


We are freed from fear!

Loving Jesus means that we allow God to work deeply in our hearts, right down to the level of our secret fears. Fear can be a temptation, or it can be sin. For example, it is natural not to want to be a victim of violent crime, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in constant fear. Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and His example of facing and overcoming the cross assure us that we, too, can live in freedom from fear.


We have hope!

God has not abandoned fallen humanity but has come near to us in Jesus. God has provided a wonderful means of redemption, reconciliation, and forgiveness through His Son. Because of the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ, we need no longer be enslaved to sin or dominated by the fears and worries of daily life. This audacious hope impacts all three tenses of our lives: hope for our past—we are forgiven; hope for our present—Jesus is always with us no matter what; hope for our future—the promise of new life through the resurrection.


We get to serve the poor!

There are people around you without hope. There are many in the grip of financial poverty and others enslaved to poverty of spirit. You have an answer for them. Get involved. Listen to their stories. Share your God Story with them. Serve them practically.


We have faith to face difficult circumstances!

There is nothing we face that Jesus has not already faced. He was both a Jew and a Palestinian. He knew racial prejudice. He was the victim of crime. He lived under a ruthless foreign power. He grew up with a single mother. He worked to support His family. Jesus faced temptation. He understands our struggles; He lived through them and conquered them. We will not always be free from fears or feelings of personal rejection or other consequences of living with economic challenges or personal struggles, but Jesus will help us win the battle. You write God’s Story through your life. You add to God’s Story. Your choices, your responses to the love of God, are important to Him. You show the love of God every day to others. As you accept His love and forgiveness for you, you bring hope to others by your example. You are making the God Story real to others, “acted” out on the stage of your life. God is the director, He is in the drama, and we already know the final scene. We have read the last chapter, so we know who wins in the end!


Reflecting and Responding

1. Read and reflect on Romans 8:14–16.


2. Write out your personal story in three parts:


• What your life was like before you experienced the forgiving love of God in Jesus

• How God’s love through Jesus became real to you

• What difference the love of God in Jesus has made in your life.

If you are “still on the journey,” write about where you are now in your search for God’s love. Use less than three hundred words.

Then share it with a few friends and other followers of Jesus.


3. How can pressure from family, friends, coworkers, and movies/television/music tempt us away from loving Jesus? List those pressures.


4. What “lies” are you tempted to tell yourself that can be barriers between you and the love of God?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Faith Has Found a Resting Place

Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

My Faith Has Found A Resting Place written by Lidie H. Edmunds, 19th century, Norwegian melody

"My heart is leaning on the Word--the written Word of God; salvation by my Savior's name--salvation thru His blood." (the third stanza of this hymn that was not sung in the video)
Jesus died to save me and you...to pay the penalty we cannot pay.  That's enough!  Theology is important.  Sound doctrine is important.  Apologetics is important.  But Jesus Christ is the most important!  May our daily lives testify of our childlike faith in Him!

"I know Whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day." 2 Timothy 1:12b

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #26

It's time for another Friday's Fave Five (hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story).

My fave five this week include:
1. Garage Sale.  I usually like shopping at garage sales.  However, I also enjoyed hosting a garage sale last Saturday.  I had fun getting rid of stuff, meeting people, and getting cash for things we didn't need/use. The older I get, the less attached to things I am. We want to live simply with minimal possessions.  We want to be ready.  Lord, here we are...send us!  We're preparing for the "rain" (if you've watched Facing the Giants, you know what I mean :)).

2. Congratulations to my daughter, Alyssa! Her short story, Tunnel Terror, has placed 5th out of 126 entries worldwide. It will be posted at the Surrey International Writers Conference October 22-24, 2010 in Canada.

3. Fresh cinnamon rolls.  On Wednesday, Alyssa made cinnamon rolls for the first time.  They were so delicious.

4. Boardgame marathon day (on Sunday)...Yahtzee, Buzzwords, Monopoly...Fun fun fun!

5. The Butterfly Circus (20 minute film starring Nick Vujicic). To watch this inspiring movie, click here. Nick Vujicic is a true inspiration. You can visit his website at http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/ .

FIRST Wild Card Tour: It's No Secret by Rachel Olsen

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


It’s No Secret: Revealing Divine Truths Every Woman Should Know

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Groupfor sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rachel Olsen is a writer, editor, and speaker on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of their online devotions, “Encouragement for Today,” with a readership of more than 375,000. She also writes for and serves on the editorial board of the P31 Woman magazine. Olsen is a national women’s speaker who enjoys interacting with audiences at women’s retreats and conferences from coast to coast.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765377
ISBN-13: 978-1434765376

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Always RSVP

Revealing the Secret to Responding to God

Everyone has a story. Everyone chooses to ignore God, (re)define God, or search for God and respond to Him as He truly is. I’ve done all three.

When I was growing up, my family attended church in a brown brick building with stained-glass windows and bright red carpet. The sanctuary smelled faintly of wood. I’m surprised I remember the smell; we weren’t there often—a few times a year.

I don’t remember much about going to church other than feel­ing embarrassed by my mother’s singing. We rarely went, but each time we did Mom sat us front and center, and then she sang as loudly as she could. She sang with passion, but she couldn’t carry a tune with a U-Haul. Being from the South I’m required to follow that criticism with “bless her heart.” (So let it be noted here that I blessed my momma’s can’t-sing-a-lick heart.)26 It’s No Secret

I listened to the pastor’s sermons, but I didn’t understand much about the subject matter. From what I could gather, God was good and He didn’t do bad things. So I concluded that if I wanted God to like me I, too, needed to be good and not do anything bad. Being a proper Southern girl, I very much wanted God to like me.

I thought believing in God and trying to do the right thing was what church was all about. I didn’t realize that—because Jesus lived, died, and rose—I could have a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe and He would delight in empowering me to live well. Instead, I assumed it took willpower. Like a diet or a marathon.

Glimpses of Revelation

When I was twelve, my mother called me into her room and patted the edge of the bed. I sat down beside her. With an unsettled look on her face, she revealed she’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The room started to spin, splintering my carefree world within its centrifugal force.

She explained something about cells and masts. Then she braced me for the likelihood that the treatments would cause her hair to fall out. That did it. I ran from the room crying inconsolably. My momma, sick, without her pretty auburn hair? It was too much for a tweenager to take in. I might have been only twelve at the time, but I understood the importance of big hair to Southern women.

During the months of cancer treatments that followed we went to church more often. About this time our church employed a new minister, and I really liked him. I understood more of his sermons, perhaps because I was desperate, or maybe because I was growing Always RSVP 27

up. All I know is I sensed something stirring in a dormant chamber of my heart.

I asked Mom to buy me a Bible; she did. I sat on the floor one Saturday, sunlight streaming through my window, and read through Genesis. (OK, I might have skimmed a little bit.) Then I skipped to the middle—because I’d never read a book this long—and read through Matthew, Mark, and part of Luke. Then I skipped to Revelation to find out how the book ended.

I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in Revelation, but it isn’t exactly light reading material. Challenging concepts make it difficult to grasp, especially for a clueless tween with no decoder ring. I closed the book, remembering the stories about Jesus. He lived doing good, which reconfirmed my notion that I had to be good and do good to make heaven’s invitation list. I’d finally made a Jesus-sighting, but I was still missing His point. I didn’t hear His message of mercy.

I set out to be and do good. I unloaded the dishwasher without being asked. I invited less-popular kids to sit at my lunch table. I even said “yes ma’am,” and “no sir” to my teachers. But inevitably something would happen to throw me off my good game. Someone would insult me, something would depress me, or some boy would pass a note my way.

After a year or so of mastectomy recovery and radiation treat­ments, my mother’s cancer went into remission. Things returned to normal around our home. Sadly, the preacher I liked so well left to pastor another church, and my interest in the things of God faded as my interest in the things of my peers grew. I didn’t give God much thought during my high school years, preferring to focus on fashion, sports, boys, and music.28 It’s No Secret

Halfway through my freshman year of college, my brother called to tell me Mom had again been diagnosed with cancer. This time, it was a brain tumor. His words sank into my own brain, creating a mass of stress and fret.

One night, I lay alone in my dorm room trying to sleep when I thought I saw Jesus standing in the corner. He didn’t say anything; He just looked at me, His arms extended toward me. He looked just as He did in the statues you see in old churches—long brown hair and white flowing robe. I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or hallucinat­ing, but I decided it meant that my mom was going to be OK.

Turned out, the tumor was inoperable. The doctors resorted to chemotherapy and radiation, but I could tell they didn’t think it’d work. I spent my spring semester driving the two hours back and forth between college and home. By exam week I was sick with a sinus infec­tion, probably stress-induced. I’d take an exam, drag myself back to my room and sleep, then stagger—coughing and sniffling—to the next test. At the end of the week, I lugged myself home.

Hope Deferred

That Sunday, Mother’s Day, I visited Mom at the cancer center, determined to keep a smile on my face and do my best to cheer her up. I didn’t want her worrying about me. I purchased a sweet card and wrote, “Thank you for being my mom.” When I arrived, the nurse told me I couldn’t enter her room because I was sick.

I still remember the sterile feeling of the cold, hard floor in the hall outside her room, where I sat and cried. But it’s Mother’s Day, my mind protested between sobs, but she’s dying anyway…. Even today, the memory stings my eyes with tears.Always RSVP 29

A few days later I was better, but Mom had worsened. She came home from the cancer center with hospice care. A couple days after that, she couldn’t respond to me beyond raising her eyebrows at the sound of my voice. Panic set in as I realized I was losing contact. She was sliding away, and I was powerless to stop the inevitable.

Later that evening, my dad and I went out to grab dinner, leav­ing Mom under my grandmother’s watch. As we returned, I spotted a police car parked out front—and I knew. I ran to the bedroom to find my beautiful, vibrant mom lying lifeless.

She was gone. I was seventeen.

That night my life passed before me. Not my history with my mom, but my future without her. Where my prospects once looked promisingly bright, I now saw a haze of uncertainty.

I cried on the shoulder of a family friend. Gasping for breath and wiping away tears, I questioned, “What will I do when it comes time to graduate and my mom isn’t there to pin on my cap and clap? Or when I set out on my own and I don’t have my mom to advise me? What happens when I get married, and have babies, and I don’t have a mom to help me?”

Placing her hands on my trembling shoulders, she stared into my moist eyes. “When those times come, Rachel, God will make sure you are taken care of.” She spoke the words with enough cer­tainty that I resolved to believe her.

Filing that promise away in my heart, I held on to the hope that God would somehow become a mother to me. I had nothing else to cling to. My dad and brothers argued over Mom’s will, then went their separate ways. I didn’t just lose my mom; I lost my whole family that May.30 It’s No Secret

Coming Undone

In the fall I headed back to college, where I majored in journalism. I spent weekends trying to drown my sorrows at fraternity parties. I recall stumbling home one evening and walking into my closet, where I caught sight of one of my mom’s sweaters. My knees buckled beneath me as heavy sobs ensued. I realized the party life wasn’t fixing anything; it was an insufficient distraction. But I didn’t know how else to find relief.

My junior year I met a corduroy-clad young professor with uncommon wisdom and peace. He taught two of my classes, sched­uled back-to-back. As the weather turned cool and leaves crunched underfoot, we’d walk across campus together from one class to the other. I learned he was a Christian. He felt like a safe place. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d felt that way around anybody.

I found myself telling him about my mom, my fractured family, and my uneasiness about the future. I asked him questions about his faith. He answered convincingly, and when the semester ended, he invited me to his church.

Inside that prefab metal building I witnessed vibrancy. Those people possessed hope, joy, and peace, all of which I coveted. I learned about Jesus and how His shed blood washes away my sin and unites me with God—even though I don’t deserve such kindness.


I discovered God doesn’t just want me to be good, He wants me to be in Him—hand in hand, heart to heart. I realized it isn’t just a matter of willpower and proper performance He’s after, but a grow­ing relationship through which He’ll shoulder most of the burden to make me vibrant. Yahweh so desires that I bear His image, I learned, He will transform me into His likeness through His Spirit. He can Always RSVP 31

make the most tarnished Southern belle glorious. In fact, in Him my purpose is found and fulfilled. In coming to Him I’d become a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a bride. All in Him, and all to Him.

After attending church two Sundays, I responded to this divine truth. I walked to the front, acknowledged my need for Jesus, and handed Him the jumbled mess of my broken heart. I asked Him to forgive me, clear the haze, and untangle my knotted-up hopes and dreams.

Inside a priceless decoder ring, God inscribed my initials with an eternal beam of light. In the instant I responded to Christ’s call, I became a beloved daughter of the Most High God and a member of His Yahweh Sisterhood.

The Favor of a Reply Is Requested

You and I need a jeweler’s loupe of sorts to see the secrets Yahweh wants to reveal to us—indeed to see Yahweh Himself. Our basic eye­sight needs some spiritual amplification. We need a divine ointment to anoint our eyes for the task.

Remember that Greek word musterion, meaning a sacred secret revealed by God? Its root word is muo, which means locked up or shut, as in eyes that are closed. In Revelation 3:17–18 Jesus told the people of the church at Laodicea that, although they didn’t realize it, they were spiritually blind. Their eyes were locked shut and could not see God. They were neither seeing nor responding. Jesus counseled them, “Buy from me … salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (v. 18 ESV). Jesus affords us the ability to see, hear, understand, and respond to God. Only Jesus can provide that divine salve we need.32 It’s No Secret

In Matthew 5, we find Jesus perched on the side of a moun­tain near the ancient city of Capernaum to preach. Massive crowds gathered to watch and hear what He had to say. Some in the crowd followed Jesus; they had already opened themselves to His teach­ing. Others desperately sought a miracle or healing. A few counted themselves Jesus’ enemies. Others showed up out of curiosity. They’d heard the rumors and came to decide for themselves if Jesus was a fake, a prophet, or a Savior.

Jesus gazed across the mountainside at the congregation of people. Many eyed Him skeptically, wondering if they would see something that proved a connection to God. He told them, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Matt. 5:8 NIV). A pure heart; an authentic heart; a humble, believing heart open to Jesus’ teaching—that’s the currency that buys the salve to allow our eyes to see God. That’s what enables us to respond to God. Lacking it, many heard Jesus’ words without understanding Him or watched His moves without realizing they were staring into the face of Yahweh.

God’s gals understand that only Jesus can open the eyes of a woman’s heart, cleansing them pure enough to see and respond to Yahweh. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Did you catch the secret Jesus reveals here? He said He’s the only way to God, the full embodiment of truth, and the only source of vibrant, lasting life. Jesus is the way we want to go, the truth we need to know, and the eternal life that we crave. You just can’t get to God without going through Jesus. Jesus is our way to God, and God’s way to us.

Jesus is who God wants us to respond to.Always RSVP 33

All religions do not lead to heaven, despite popular opin­ion (John 3:3). God is wise beyond wise and has a purpose for everything He does, and He designed salvation in such a way that believing in God is not sufficient. We must also believe in His Son, who ushers us to Yahweh and shows us how to live His way.

So our membership in the Yahweh Sisterhood—our becoming a daughter of God—happens at Christ’s invitation to follow Him. You cannot buy, earn, or bluff your way in. You must be invited—and you have been. God’s own hand addressed your invitation some two thousand years ago, at the desk of the cross, on the parchment of Christ’s body, in the ink of His blood.

Have you RSVP’d?

A year of high school French enables me to inform you RSVP stands for “répondez s’il vous plaît.” It means “please respond” … don’t put it off … don’t wait and see … say you’ll join me!

If you’ve never responded to Jesus’ invitation to come to God through Him, now is the time. Don’t wait for tomorrow. Don’t put it off until you get your act together—RSVP right now through prayer. Receive the gift of forgiveness offered through Jesus, and ask God to take charge of your life and future. Receive your divine decoder ring. Tomorrow may be too late. Be Jesus’ guest today.

Guest List

In Jesus’ day, a person throwing a soiree sent out servants to issue invitations to the guests and gather their responses. Invitations noted the day of the gathering but not the hour. The hour depended on when everything was ready. 34 It’s No Secret

Once everything was ready on party day, servants again went out to call in the guests. Those who’d said they’d come were expected to be dressed, ready, and waiting that day. When the ser­vant knocked on their door, they were to head immediately for the banquet room.

This scenario mirrors what happens in the spiritual realm. God sent His Son and Servant Jesus to issue our invitation on the cross. Those who accept are born anew spiritually—then expected and empowered to live in such a way that they are ready for the day Jesus will return, calling us to God’s heavenly banqueting table.

Though we don’t know the day or the hour, we will be ushered to a great wedding feast, the marriage banquet for Jesus and His bride. Jesus’ bride is the church, meaning you and me—all who have RSVP’d to His invitation.

I read about this feast in the book of Revelation that day in my room. What I couldn’t grasp fully back then now sets my heart aflutter in a way that nothing else can. I am loved, chosen, adopted, prepared, and betrothed—to the King of Glory. You are too! The wildest thing about this Yahweh Sisterhood? We’re all engaged to the same Man—Jesus—yet no one seems to mind.

You and I must RSVP and ready ourselves for our heavenly wed­ding day. The rest of the divine secrets in this book will purify and prepare us to take our Groom’s hand as He replaces our decoder ring with a wedding band. I don’t want to miss it. Nor do I want to get there and find myself underdressed and unprepared.

Understanding and responding to the twelve divine secrets that follow—internalizing and enacting them—will keep us dressed Always RSVP 35

and ready for the future party. While simply responding to the cross secures our seat at the grand banqueting table, keeping these secrets assures us that our heavenly Groom will look on us with utter delight.

My fellow belles, have you saved the date? Because a wedding feast looms on the celestial calendar. It’s part of your story. And savvy Yahweh Sisters are always dressed and ready for a party!

A Garden Wedding

Twenty days after I graduated college, I had my own wedding feast. I married that young professor, Southern style, in a garden surrounded by azalea bushes in full bloom, three-hundred-year-old oaks drip­ping with Spanish moss, and swans swimming on the lake behind. It was gorgeous.

God not only adopted this lonely girl into His heavenly family, He placed me into Rick’s earthly family. He presented me with three sisters-in-law and countless Sisters-in-Christ. I learned the truthful relevance of Psalm 68; it became the story of my life:

Sing praises to God and to his name!Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds.His name is the LORD—rejoice in his presence!

Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

God places the lonely in families;he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. (Ps. 68:4–6) 36 It’s No Secret

He’s a Father to the fatherless, and I can testify He’s a mother to the motherless as well. God has guided me, protected me, com­forted me, taught me, and provided for me. He also untangled my hopes and fears and brought me the joyful desires of my heart.

So now you’ll find me in church each week, singing praises to Yahweh and His great name. Oh, and I sing rather quietly when I praise Him in public. It’s not that I’m not extremely thankful—I am. It’s not that I don’t like to sing—I do. And it has nothing to do with embarrassing memories from my church past in that brown brick building with the red carpet.

Truth is, I sing every stinkin’ bit as off-key as my momma did.

Shhh, don’t tell anyone. Sisters stick together, right?

But you can go ahead and bless my heart over that vocal deficit. I need all the help I can get.

BIBLE STUDY

1. Check out this parable Jesus told about a man throwing a feast:

A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!”

Jesus replied with this illustration: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When all was ready, Always RSVP 37

he sent his servant around to notify the guests that it was time for them to come. But they all began making excuses. One said he had just bought a field and wanted to inspect it, so he asked to be excused. Another said he had just bought five pair of oxen and wanted to try them out. Another had just been married, so he said he couldn’t come.

“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was angry and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the city and invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I invited first will get even the smallest taste of what I had prepared for them.’” (Luke 14:15–24)

What struck you when the people in Jesus’ story made excuses for not being prepared to attend? List the things that preoccupied them.38 It’s No Secret

What excuses do you make for not responding to Christ, or not living “dressed and ready”?

2. Read about the coming wedding feast in Revelation 19:6–10. What does it say about the bride (you) and her wedding dress?

3. Next time you throw a bash at your plantation, Jesus offers this advice for planning the guest list:

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” (Luke 14:12–14)

That’s precisely what God did when He created the Yahweh Sisterhood. He sent out invitations welcoming every one of us to His supper club. The glass slipper fits each gal here. Everyone gets the rose. The King of Glory doesn’t require Always RSVP 39

designer gowns or shiny black limos for us to dine with Him. What a relief!

In the space below, write a thank-you note to your King.

Dear Jesus,

_____________________________________________



Thursday, September 23, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Jump: Into a Life of Further and Higher

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Efrem Smith uses motivational speaking, comedy, and preaching to equip people for a life of transformation. He is the Superintendent of the Pacific Southwest Conference for the Evangelical Covenant Church, and an Itinerant Speaker with Kingdom Building Ministries. He is a graduate of Saint John’s University and Luther Theological Seminary, and the author of Raising Up Young Heroes and The Hip-Hop Church. He and his family live in the Bay Area of California.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764575
ISBN-13: 978-1434764577

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


THE IMPALA


My pastor friend Darrell once told me a story that has given me a new vision for living the Christian life. Not long ago Darrell took his son to the zoo and became intrigued with an animal known as the African impala. It just so happened that a female staffer from the zoo was standing near the enclosure giving background information on the impala, so he stopped to listen. I must be honest and say that at that point in my life the only thing I knew about an impala was that Chevrolet made them. As I said, Darrell is my friend. He could tell my thoughts of Chevy automobiles were distracting me from really listening to his story. But he’s also a pastor, so he put his hand on my shoulder to regain my attention.


The zookeeper told Darrell and his son some interesting facts about the impala. She said this animal has the ability to jump thirteen feet high in the air from a standing position. this allows the impala to escape predators that try to sneak up on it from behind. The impala has the ability to jump not only up but also out—thirty feet out. An impala’s back is like a shock absorber, which is crucial since the animal’s leaps are like explosions. Impalas can reach maximum running speeds of close to sixty miles per hour. Again, a

natural survival skill. But it was what the woman said next that really caught Darrell’s attention. “Notice that even though the impala has the ability to jump thirteen feet high and thirty feet out, the African

impalas are contained here at the zoo by a three-foot wall!”


This grabbed my attention too. “Stop right there! How is it that an animal with the ability to jump thirteen feet high and thirty feet out can be contained by a three-foot wall?” I asked. Darrell went on to explain that when the impalas are young, they are taught they can’t jump over the three-foot wall. Zoo personnel do this by emphasizing a weakness of the adults. An adult impala is hesitant to use its ability to jump if it is unable to see where it’s going to land. the inability to see the end of the jump somehow hinders the impala from something it is naturally able to do. I’m a pastor too, like Darrell, so let me put it this way: the inability to live by faith keeps the impala from doing what God created it to do, what it was

born to do. It grows up to become an adult with the ability to jump into freedom, to live out its purpose, but it won’t because it doesn’t believe it can. Darrell finished his story there and said, “Anytime you want to use that in a sermon, feel free.” I’ve been connecting that story to every sermon ever since.



~~~~~


The Christian life in so many ways is about a series of jumps that can take us higher and further into a life of intimacy with and identity in Christ. The Christian life is about the love relationship that God desires to have with us, so that we become His beloved, advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. And on many days this involves taking leaps of faith into the unknown.


From my pastoral point of view, I look around today and see believers all across the land behind three-foot walls. Like African impalas, they’ve been taught one thing or another, many times things completely unscriptural, that keeps them from jumping into the life God wants for them.


For example, maybe they’re taught early on that Christianity is a bunch of rules, and if you don’t follow the rules, God doesn’t love you. I know for a fact that this has kept more than one Christian from ever knowing the freedom of jumping into an intimate relationship with God. Or maybe some people were warned not to learn about spiritual gifts. As a result, they have never taken the leap into knowing their spiritual gifts and God-given mission to advance the Kingdom of heaven on earth.


All that explosive God-potential just sitting behind a three-foot wall.


I think about the life of Peter in the gospel of John as a picture of this. In the first chapter, Andrew, Peter’s brother, brings him to meet Jesus:


One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which translated means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter). John 1:40–42


Peter had to make a decision to take the jump of following Jesus without fully knowing where this jump would end. Yet these jumps into the unknown are the key to freedom in Christ and our ability to advance the Kingdom of God on earth. Peter had to deal with some three-foot walls in making the initial decision to follow Jesus. Maybe his three-foot wall was leaving his fishing business behind. Or maybe it was dealing with what his friends and other family members would think of him for following one

who proclaimed to be the Son of God. Whatever the specifics, it’s clear Peter had to deal with a three-foot wall of some kind in making his initial jump. When we make the decision to follow Christ, we have to deal with a three-foot wall of some kind too.


But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12–13


We may not be able to see what’s on the other side of the wall, but we know one thing: God is there. We are, by faith, jumping into God’s love! We can’t see God, but we hear His voice on the other side calling us into love, forgiveness, and freedom.


Though freedom waits for us on the other side, the walls around us can be overwhelming. Three-foot walls often feel more like skyscrapers. This is one reason why we must be loving and patient with people who have not yet come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. We don’t know what they’ve been through.

We don’t know the multiple walls they may be facing as they consider this faith jump. Evangelism today must be loving, gentle, patient, and in some cases very slow. Some people may take the jump into God’s love at events or on a Sunday morning through an experience of corporate worship; but I believe most

will make the jump only after coming to trust a community of believers over time. It took time for the three-foot walls to be built, and it will take time to take the risk of that initial jump. This first jump into the Christian life is not easy. Maybe it was the same for Peter.


But this initial jump was not the only one that Peter had to make. The impala does not have the ability to jump only once in its life. The impala has the ability to jump over and over again, each time experiencing the liberation that it brings. Peter had many other occasions where he had to decide to jump.


The story is told of Peter and the rest of the disciples on a boat waiting for Jesus. Out of nowhere, Jesus approached them, walking on the water. Peter looked, wondering if it was truly Jesus approaching them in this miraculous way. Jesus called to Peter to come out onto the water himself. Right there, Peter had

a decision to make: Jump or don’t jump. He had already made the initial jump to follow Jesus; now he had to decide whether to say yes to an invitation that most would say was impossible. It’s one thing to follow a man; it’s quite another to jump out of a boat and walk on water.


On another occasion, Jesus was presenting a hard teaching about His identity and the cost of following Him. Many people began to turn away. Peter was faced with another jumping opportunity:


As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” John 6:66–69


When given the opportunity to go to a deeper place of understanding with God, will you take the jump? Even if the teaching presents challenges and issues that seem impossible to take on in daily living? Jumping is seldom easy. Sometimes it even feels like the more you jump, the harder the next jump is.


About a year ago, I took a trip to El Salvador through a partnership with Compassion International and Kingdom Building Ministries. We visited many of the Compassion International projects that are run in partnership with local churches. As part of a team of itinerant speakers with Kingdom Building Ministries, I connect my messages on Kingdom laborship and advancement with the Kingdom values

of compassion, justice, and mercy. The ministries of Compassion International that seek to advance God’s Kingdom and deal with poverty through child sponsorship are a great expression of this.


On our last day in El Salvador, we went zip-lining. I had never zip-lined in my life, and I have to say that I was dealing with a lot of fear. One of the other itinerant speakers, Adrian Dupree, seemed really excited about the chance. I told him I wasn’t going to do it, but he insisted: “Efrem, you need to face your fears.” After a lot of prayer and encouragement from both Compassion International and Kingdom Building staff, I decided to take the jump.


Zip-lining is traveling down a cable while in the air from one point to another. It’s like coming down a mountain on a ski-lift chair except there’s no chair—it’s just you, holding on to a cable rigging.


Our zip-lining adventure took us up in the mountains, four hundred feet above the ground. As we traveled up the mountain by truck, I became very nervous. I didn’t know what was on the other

side of this experience. We finally stopped to put on our gear and then hiked farther up the mountain to get to the proper elevation. Remember now, I was doing this for the first time.


The instructors gave us directions for zip-lining—how to go, how to slow down, and how to stop. They also showed us how to initially get ourselves hooked on to the cable that would take us down the mountain. To get attached, you literally jump up and connect to the cable. When I stopped thinking about how high up I was and focused more on jumping up and getting connected, facing my fears

was a little easier. It didn’t take away my fears, but it made it more manageable. Since I am a pastor, the spiritual comparisons were racing through my head. In our relationship with God, it’s not just about making a jump; it’s about trusting the One we’re connected to, even though we can’t always see the destination. The key is to abide in God through Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:


So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8:31–32


~~~~~


I want to go back to Peter for a moment. As I look at his life and faith, I see three jumps that were defining for Peter. Even though the Christian life is made up of multiple jumps, these three were vital for

Peter. I believe they are for you and me as well:


1. The jump into the beloved self

2. The jump into the beloved church

3. The jump into the beloved world


The Beloved Self


Everything begins somewhere. For Peter, everything began when Jesus said, “Follow Me.” I don’t believe Peter understood all that invitation meant, but he made the decision to take that initial jump. From there he kept on following, even when many turned away. Peter’s jump took him to a moment of denying Jesus (John 18:16–27), but that moment was later redeemed. The resurrected Christ made sure Peter knew His forgiveness and grace and love (John 21:15–17). Through time and trial, Peter learned what it means to be the beloved of God. What about you? Do you live like you believe God loves you?


The Beloved Church


The beloved self overflows into the beloved church. Peter began to see this when he preached on the day of Pentecost and became a leader in the first Christ-centered community. He had no idea where all this would lead.


What does it look like to live in community with others? I’m not talking about just showing up for church on Sunday but actually living the Christian life with others and being willing to be held accountable. Now that is a major jump!


I served as the senior pastor of a church that is intentionally evangelical, multicultural, and urban. This type of church is rare in the United States of America. Race and class still can be very challenging issues in our society, so for a church like this one to be healthy and missional takes people willing to make the jump to build relationships and trust with people who are different from them; in other words, jumping from “God loves me” to “God loves us.” The three-foot walls in this case could be fear, ignorance, prejudice, and past hurts. Taking the jumps over the long haul to be a reconciling gathering is essential to being the beloved church.


The Beloved World


But it doesn’t stop with the church. In Acts 11, Peter was given a vision that challenged him to jump further and higher into the beloved world. Peter had no idea where taking the gospel message to the Gentiles would land him, but he took the leap.


This jump is about understanding and acting on how God has uniquely designed us to advance His Kingdom; in other words, jumping from “God loves us” to “God so loved the world.” It’s about becoming a vehicle of compassion, mercy, justice, and truth.


My “beloved” language comes from the vision of civil rights leader and pastor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who spoke often of “the beloved community”—a community of peace, love, reconciliation, and justice. But the origin of the civil rights movement came not from the speeches of Dr. King but from the jump of a woman named Rosa Parks.


Ms. Parks refused to go to the back of a bus and give up the seat she was sitting in for a white person. She ignited a movement by taking that jump. She had no idea where it would land. There was something Rosa Parks believed in: that God loved her, regardless of what the segregated South thought at the time. Her jump was based on seeing herself beyond how she was seen by those of the dominant racial group. She took the jump into the new self, a self that could live equally with whites and have equal access to all open seats on a bus. She sat still and jumped into the pursuit of the beloved self.


Rosa Parks’s courage spilled over into the churches. But the people needed a leader, someone to take the jump and organize and strategize for the many. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. took that leap. His jump resulted in a movement that hit the streets through bus boycotts, lunch-counter sit-ins, and freedom marches. This was a going public, jumping into the beloved world, the very transforming of society.


Ms. Parks and Dr. King had no idea where their jumps would end. Dr. King’s cost him his life. But our world is so much better for it. Every faith jump you take has a risk factor, including the possibility of losing your life in order to find that faith.


But think about the alternatives: A world full of African impalas behind three-foot walls. Fishermen invited to become something more but don’t because they’re afraid. Pastors who might never experience the thrill of a zip-line. Or men and women forced to the back of the bus or the back of living. Jumping is the difference between a limited life and a liberated life, between just getting by and going further and higher.


What about you—are you ready to jump?


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Jump by Efrem Smith. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
This book is an invitation to participate in faith-jumping. The first jump that is most necessary for us is to jump into Christ's love. From that point, the beloved self (realizing that we are the beloved of God and having an intimate relationship with God) helps us jump into being a part of the beloved church and then the beloved world. The author shares about his own experiences and his spiritual journey and encourages readers to use their God-given gifts and passion to fulfill God's purposes in their lives. He talks about connection (abiding in Christ), sharing God's love, reconciliation, multiethnic Body of Christ, marriage as ministry, and more. I enjoyed reading this book and appreciated the author's insight. Our Christian walk often requires the jumps of faith. "Jump" will give you a jumpstart :).

Friday, September 17, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Stronger by Jim Daly

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Stronger: Trading Brokenness for Unbreakable Strength

David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jim Daly joined the Focus on the Family staff over 20 years ago, initially in the ministry’s public affairs division. Since that time, he has worked extensively in the formation and development of the international outreach of the ministry serving as field director of Asia, Africa, and Australia. Serving in additional roles within marketing and public affairs, Daly continually accepted greater roles of responsibility until his most recent appointment in February 2005 as president and CEO of this internationally recognized family-centered ministry. He is the author of Finding Home: An Imperfect Path to Faith and Family, a deeply personal memoir. He resides in Colorado Springs with his wife, Jean, and two sons.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 143476446X
ISBN-13: 978-1434764461

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



When I Am Weak


This isn’t how it works in the movies.


On a chilly Sunday morning in December, David Works and his family—his wife, Marie, and daughters Stephanie, Laurie, Rachel, and Grace—finish worshipping at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. As usual, they stay after the service to enjoy conversation with friends. On their way to the exit, David announces that lunch will be at a nearby hamburger restaurant called Good Times. The members of the Works family pull their coats tighter and step into a brisk breeze, shuffling carefully across patches of snow in the parking lot.


As the family approaches its white Toyota Sienna van, Laurie heads for the left-side sliding door.


“No, no—you have to sit in the back on the other side,” Rachel says.


It is a Works family tradition that everyone keeps the same seat for both parts of a trip. Laurie rode to church in the rear right seat of the van, and Rachel intends to continue the custom.


“Okay, okay,” Laurie says.


She walks around the back of the van, enters through the right side sliding door, and takes her place in the back seat. Rachel, behind Laurie, pauses in front of the open right-side door to look for something in her purse.


That is when it starts.


David, sitting in the front passenger seat and in the process of buckling his seat belt, hears a sharp metallic sound. What was that? He lets go of the seat belt and swivels his head to the right, surveying the parking lot. To his shock, a young man dressed in black stands just twenty yards away. He’s pointing a large assault rifle at the Toyota.


What in the world?


Another shot rings out.


“Get down! Get down! There’s a shooter out there! He’s shooting at us!” David screams. He curls up in the van’s footwell, trying to get as low as possible. He hears the sound of more gunshots mixed with his family’s screams. The sound of the shots changes; David understands the shooter is on the move.


Wait a minute—where is Rachel?


She’d been just outside the van when the shooting started. David twists to look behind him. His sixteen-year-old daughter is still standing next to the Toyota, a dazed look on her face. Her burnt-orange T-shirt has a hole in it at the level of her lower-right rib cage.


“Rachel!” David cries.


“I think I’ve been shot,” Rachel says. Suddenly, she collapses, falling backward onto the blacktop.


David jerks his door handle and jumps out. The instant his feet hit the ground, another volley of bullets whizz past his head. He turns; the gunman is no more than ten yards away, rifle pointed directly at him. Before he can move, David feels pain on his right side, just above his waist. He too falls to the pavement. The shots continue.


“Gracie, get down and play dead! He’s still here!” David orders. His youngest daughter, eleven years old, had been moving from the backseat to help her sister.


The firing stops momentarily, then resumes, but the sound is more distant and muffled. David realizes the gunman has gone into the church.


David has been shot in the abdomen and groin. He stretches his arm in Rachel’s direction, willing his body to move. His daughter needs her father—her protector—yet David can’t even crawl. Through tears, he says, “I’m so sorry, honey. I can’t reach you.”


“That’s okay, Daddy,” Rachel whispers.1


On this horrifying, heartwrenching day, David Works would give anything to turn into a Hollywood action hero. If this were a movie, he would be Superman, leaping in front of his daughter and watching bullets bounce harmlessly off his chest. With his super strength, he would pick up the van and fly his family to safety, then return to catch the bad guy before he could hurt anyone else.


But this isn’t a movie.


David Works has no super strength. He is lying in a church parking lot, weak, helpless, and bleeding, and watching the life ebb from his beloved daughter.



Panic Attacks


Let’s leave this traumatic scene for the moment and visit the mother of a different family. Lori Mangrum is a pastor’s wife. She and her husband, John, have two children. But Lori isn’t thinking about her family right now. She’s slumped in a chair at home. The curtains are

drawn. For months, she hasn’t slept or eaten well.


Lori grew up in a Christian home and learned to smile and appear joyful no matter what was going on around her. Like any family, she and her parents and siblings had their share of troubles, but Lori didn’t want to burden her parents with her own fears and worries. She became the “sunshine” for her family, always working to cheer up others but rarely addressing her own emotional needs.


Years later, after marrying John, having kids, and moving to a new home, Lori started experiencing panic attacks. Without warning, feelings of terror overwhelmed her. She felt a crushing weight in her chest and became nauseous, dizzy, and disoriented. She thought she would die. The attacks increased to the point that Lori couldn’t drive a car or go into a grocery store.


One day, after a series of tests, a physician explained to Lori that she had a benign heart condition that could cause some of the symptoms of panic attacks. Finally! Lori thought. I knew they would find something!


But the doctor wasn’t finished.


“You have another problem,” he said gently. “I believe this problem manifested itself because of some psychological problems. I want you to see a psychiatrist.”


Lori couldn’t believe it. I don’t have any stress, she told herself, and what stress I do have I handle better than many others!


Now, sitting in the dark at home for week upon week, Lori is depressed. Friends have told her, “Pray harder, get yourself together, and stop this!” Yet she doesn’t even have the energy to talk, eat, or take a shower. Lori is disgusted with herself. She would give anything to change her circumstances, but emotionally, she feels weak and helpless.2


Those Uncomfortable Feelings


You may never have faced a crazed gunman or dealt with debilitating depression, but I’m guessing that at some point in life—perhaps many times—you’ve experienced some of the same feelings that David Works and Lori Mangrum went through in the incidents described above.


Weak. Helpless. Useless. Vulnerable.


Some pretty uncomfortable feelings, right?


We all do our best to avoid situations that expose our failings and fragility. But whether it’s a life-or-death crisis or the challenge of simply getting through another day, sooner or later we each confront the undesired sense of being powerless, worthless, feeble, disabled, and dependent on others.


And we don’t like it.


Most of us, especially in America, grow up with the idea that we can shape our own destinies. This, after all, is the land of opportunity. This is a place where dreams come true. We see ourselves as rugged individualists, fully capable of taking control of our lives and rising to the top.


And the weak? “Those people” are not us. Most of us profess to have empathy for the struggling and more helpless members of our society. But many of us are also conditioned to feel, deep down, a certain amount of disdain for the unfortunate few. You’re homeless? That’s too bad—but maybe you need to work harder at finding a job. You’re depressed? Yeah, I get discouraged sometimes too—but enough of feeling sorry for yourself; it’s time to get yourself together.


Part of the problem is that the weak and helpless are all around us, and when we see others having problems, it reminds us that we’re vulnerable too. Some of us cope by closing our eyes and shutting our ears to troubles. I will confess that this can be my attitude at times. But no matter how hard we try to ignore the trials of others, they rise to our attention like steam from a teapot. We think we’ve guarded our minds and hearts, and suddenly we’re faced with:


The distraught mother who watches her teenage son storm out of the house in anger, not knowing what to say or do and wondering when or if she’ll see him again.
The discouraged father of four who has lost his job, has been evicted from their home, and is so deeply in debt that he doesn’t see a way out.
The terrified little girl who is sexually molested by her “uncle” when Mom isn’t home and is told to keep quiet about it “or else.”
The lonely wife who thought she was marrying a soul mate and is desperate because she can’t get her husband to talk to her.
The sullen fourth-grader who repeatedly gets teased and bullied by a sixth-grader on the way home from school.
The worried single mom whose son is being recruited by a neighborhood gang.
The shocked fifty-year-old who has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer.
The young woman who feels paralyzed by depression and guilt over an abortion.
The husband who can’t forgive himself for an affair.
The despairing grandmother who is watching her children and grandchildren destroy their lives with alcohol and drugs, yet doesn’t know what to do about it.


It’s hard enough to put aside the struggles and weaknesses of family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. It’s harder still when the hurting wife, husband, mother, father, little girl, young man, or grandmother is us.


Do you know what I’m talking about? Are there times when you feel utterly incapable of dealing with the skyscraper-sized obstacle in your path? When you wish you didn’t feel more helpless than a bug on your back? When you wish you were Superman or Wonder Woman instead of plain old pint-sized “me”?


If so, I understand at least some of what you’re experiencing. One of my earliest memories, from when I was four years old, is of a man suddenly bursting through our front door one night as my brothers and sisters and I were watching TV. The man looked like a monster. His eyes were puffy, red, and glassy. His face was unshaven. He carried an oak-handled, ball-peen hammer in one hand and a jug of Gallo burgundy wine in the other.


The half man, half monster was my father, and he was looking for my mother. When he realized she wasn’t there, he roared, “This is what I’m going to do to your mother!” He swung the hammer and bashed a giant hole in the wall. I spent the rest of that night in my bedroom, cowering under a blanket, even after the police arrived and took my dad away.


Up to that point, I’d enjoyed a fairly typical childhood. I was more worried about missing favorite TV shows like Batman than whether I would make it to the age of five. But everything changed for me that night. Although I couldn’t have put it into words at the time, I suddenly learned just how vulnerable and helpless I really was.


It was a pretty awful feeling.


The feeling grew worse when my parents got divorced, Mom remarried, and we moved to an apartment complex in Compton, California. One night soon after, someone was murdered ten feet away from my ground-floor bedroom window. The rumor was that the killer used a shotgun. Knowing that only four inches of stucco and drywall separated me from whatever was out there left me distinctly scared.


I felt exposed. Defenseless. Weak.


The final blow occurred the next year. I understood that my mom was sick. She seemed to get more and more tired and eventually stayed in bed all the time. My stepfather, Hank, was so overprotective that he wouldn’t even let us kids talk to her. Weeks later, when my mom went to the hospital, I still just thought she was really sick. It never occurred to me that she might be dying. When my brother Mike told me that Mom was dead, I was shocked. I squeezed Mike’s arm so hard that I left fingernail marks. In some strange way I felt that hanging onto Mike would keep me from losing my mother.


My dad was out of my life. My stepfather left the family the day of Mom’s funeral and had no real interest in or relationship with my siblings and me. My mother was gone. I felt completely alone—and more helpless than ever.


How I wished it could be different. I wanted something then that I simply did not possess. I wanted strength.


A Different Kind of Strength


Most of us admire strength in its many forms. We all want to be strong. But the word strong conjures up a variety of meanings and images in our minds. For some, it means sheer physical power. We might think of bulging muscles and the ability to handle the next bad guy who crosses our path. For others, strength is about having the persistence to do what we set out to do—such as taking the lead on a difficult project at work or potty training our children. Some may think of strength of intellect—an ability to outsmart any person or problem. For still others, being strong means appearing immune to any irritations or challenges that threaten to disrupt daily life. Some like the idea of being emotionally detached, to embody a “James Bond” approach to life. Whatever comes up, we’ll take care of it, and we’ll do it with style.


Think of the figures portrayed so prominently in the media today: politicians such as our current president; technology gurus such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs; athletes such as Peyton Manning or

LeBron James; actors and actresses such as George Clooney or Nicole Kidman; media moguls such as Oprah Winfrey.


Each of these people possesses strengths that the public appreciates. It might be physical strength, emotional strength, talent, intellectual capacity, or influence, but the world admires these folks for what they have that the rest of us don’t. They seem to have it together. They appear strong.


But I want to talk with you about an entirely different kind of strength. It’s a quality of strength that David Works and Lori Mangrum discovered. It is so powerful that it overshadows every other kind of strength, like a Himalayan mountain towering over a molehill. It wasn’t the strength that David and Lori were looking for in their moment of crisis, darkness, and greatest weakness. In some ways, it was the furthest thing from their minds. But it was exactly the strength they needed most.


I think it’s just what the rest of us need too.


We’re Going Through


In the instant after David Works was shot that December day in 2007, he realized he was in a situation that was beyond him. He didn’t have the power or strength to control the events around him. He was helpless to protect himself or his family. So he turned to the only one left who did have the power and strength to change matters.


God, what’s going on here? he thought. This is crazy. We’re supposed to be a missionary family getting ready to go around the world for You. What’s this all about? It doesn’t make any sense.


David sensed an immediate answer. It wasn’t audible, but it left a deep impression on him nevertheless: We’re going THROUGH. We’re not going OVER or going AROUND this. We’re going THROUGH.


Most of us would be thrilled to receive a message from the Lord. Under the circumstances, however, that message wasn’t what David wanted to hear.


David survived the attack on his life that morning. His daughter Rachel and his oldest daughter, eighteen-year-old Stephanie, did not. Stephanie was struck by a bullet while sitting in one of the van’s middle seats. She died at the scene. Rachel died a few hours later at the same Colorado Springs hospital where David was treated. The gunman was a twenty-four-year-old who had also killed two people earlier that day at another ministry facility. Inside New Life Church, he’d been shot dead by a security guard before he could claim any more victims.


As the father of two boys, I can only imagine the physical and emotional anguish that David and his family endured in the hours, days, and weeks that followed the shooting and loss of two precious daughters and sisters. I can also imagine that they would have been tempted to curse God for what occurred that day, even to turn away from Him for apparently not intervening when they needed Him most. But that’s not what happened.


That first night, lying alone in a hospital bed, overwhelmed by shock and grief, David tried to make sense of the tragedy. He took it straight to God.



Lord, I don’t understand You at all right now. I don’t get it. How could we lose two kids in one day? You’re not making any sense.


But somehow, I trust You in this situation. Obviously I don’t have any better ideas. I’m not going anywhere. I will stick with You, Lord, because You have the words of eternal life. I need You tonight more than ever.


From that humble beginning, David found a strength he didn’t know he had. After just nine days, he was discharged from the hospital. Gradually, and with persistent effort, he recovered from his physical wounds.


What is more incredible was David’s emotional and spiritual recovery. At times the grief and despair overwhelmed him; at one point he was out of control, thrashing, wailing, and sobbing until his voice was hoarse. Yet he was able to attend his daughters’ burial and memorial service, where he read the Twenty-third Psalm and thanked God for allowing him to heal quickly enough to be there. A few days after Christmas, he addressed a crowd of 350 people and talked about how, through the nightmare of the previous three weeks, God had never left his family.


Most amazing was that when the New Life pastor asked if David and his family would like to meet with the parents of the gunman, they took a day to think about it, then agreed. And when they met, there was no hesitation. David stretched his arms out and encircled another grieving father and mother in a

long embrace, followed by the hugs from the rest of his family. Through tears, he and his family repeated, “It’s okay. We forgive you.”3


Lori Mangrum experienced her own amazing emotional and spiritual renewal. In the midst of her depression, she too turned to God. Though He seemed distant, she began reading Scripture with a new interest and curiosity. She read about the Lord’s relationships with sinful men and women and saw how He loved them despite their weaknesses.


One afternoon, while driving home from a session with a therapist, Lori cried out to God, “I can’t do this alone. It’s too hard. If You’re really there, then show me, and I will trust You!”


Lori sensed an answer in the stillness.


Trust Me first—then I will show you.


Starting with small steps, Lori began to relinquish control of her life to the Lord. She focused more on pleasing Him instead of everyone else. It helped her to say no to some requests—and to speak up when she felt upset, angry, hurt, or scared. She began sharing her fears and feelings with her husband. And when a panic attack did strike, she faced it head-on, reassuring herself that she didn’t have to cooperate with what her body was trying to tell her.4


The grace and courage demonstrated by David Works and Lori Mangrum blows me away. Could I have faced and forgiven the parents of a man who murdered my children? Honestly, I don’t know, and I don’t want to find out. Could I take the brave steps to surrender to the Lord and allow Him to lift me out of a disabling depression? Again, I’m not sure, and I’d prefer not to take that test.


But am I attracted to what David and Lori have? You’d better believe it. Because what they have demonstrated is not simply physical, emotional, or intellectual strength. It’s something far deeper, far more powerful, and far more lasting.


Something spiritual.


Something holy.


David and Lori took the worst that life could throw at them. Did it hurt? Of course. Did it bring them to their knees, both figuratively and literally? Yes. Did they find themselves utterly weak and helpless? Absolutely.


Yet somehow, through that weakness and their connection to a merciful God, David and Lori were transformed. They didn’t just survive. They didn’t just “get by.”


They got stronger.


That’s the kind of strength I want: a strength that never leaves, a strength that actually magnifies during the tough times, a strength that isn’t dependent on me but resides in a power that can’t be stopped.


How about you?


I don’t presume to have all the answers to life. But I know who does, and I know who provides the greatest strength of all. It is a strength that I believe is found and forged only through weakness.

It’s what the apostle Paul meant in his message to the members of

the fledgling Corinthian church: “For when I am weak, then I am

strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).


Let’s talk about it.

©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Stronger by Jim Daly. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

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