Tuesday, November 30, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Pause for Power by Warren W. Wiersbe

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:


Pause for Power A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.



Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140374X
ISBN-13: 978-0781403740

AND NOW...THE FIRST WEEK OF DEVOTIONS:



A Year in the Word

In the pages that follow, you’ll hear Isaiah’s invitation to wayward hearts, wrestle with Job’s dilemma, examine what Hebrews says about the breathtaking work of Christ, and listen in as Paul writes letters to infant churches. Such a task might seem daunting at first, but with the help of Pause for Power, it will take you only a few minutes a day. And here’s the best part: Over the course of a year, you’ll have read fifteen books of the Bible.

The devotions are undated, so you can start any day of the year. They’re also blended, so you can enjoy a variety of biblical voices and themes each week. One day you might contemplate Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and the next you might consider a wise saying from Ecclesiastes.

To get started, simply turn to Day 1, read the associated Bible passage in your favorite translation, spend time with the devotion, then ponder the question of the day. Repeat daily. In twelve months you’ll have studied Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. But more importantly, you’ll have gained insight into God’s Word—insight that will bring you closer to the Author Himself.


Day 1

Consistent Actions

Read Romans 2:1—3:20

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Romans 2:7–8

God had given Israel great material and spiritual riches: a wonderful land, a righteous law, a temple and priesthood, God’s providential care, and many more blessings. God had patiently endured Israel’s many sins and rebellions, and had even sent them His Son to be their Messiah. Even after Israel crucified Christ, God gave the nation nearly forty more years of grace and withheld His judgment. It is not the judgment of God that leads people to repentance, but the goodness of God; but Israel did not repent.

In Romans 2:6–11, Paul was explaining a basic principle of God’s judgment: God judges according to deeds, just as He judges according to truth. Paul was dealing here with the consistent actions of people’s lives, the total impact of their character and conduct.

True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls. When God measured the deeds of the Jews, He found them to be as wicked as those of the Gentiles.

Something to Ponder

Is it possible for people to grow to have consistently good (not perfect) character and conduct? If so, how? How does this fit with Paul’s claim that no one is righteous apart from Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:9–10)?


Day 2

Devoted to Devotions

Read Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Colossians 4:2

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not telling God what to do or what to give. Prayer is asking God for that which He wants to do and give, according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). As we read the Word and fellowship with our Father, we discover His will and then boldly ask Him to do what He has planned. Richard Trench (1807–1886), archbishop of Dublin, said it perfectly: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”

Of course, it is possible to pray in our hearts and never use the gift of speech (1 Sam. 1:13), but we are using words even if we don’t say them audibly. True prayer must first come from the heart, whether the words are spoken or not.

Something to Ponder

As you pray, in what ways are you “watchful”? In what ways are you “thankful”?


Day 3

The Mark of Maturity

Read Philippians 1:6–10

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Philippians 1:9–10

Paul found joy in his memories of the friends at Philippi and in his growing love for them. He also found joy in remembering them before the throne of grace in prayer.

This is a prayer for maturity, and Paul began it with love. He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment.

The ability to distinguish is a mark of maturity. When a baby learns to speak, he or she may call every four-legged animal a “bowwow.” But then the child discovers that there are cats, mice, cows, and other four-legged creatures.

One of the sure marks of maturity is discerning love and loving discernment.

Something to Ponder

With daily decisions, do you tend to seek what is good, or do you try to discern what is truly best?


Day 4

Avoiding Oblivion

Read 1 John 2:17

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

Every great nation in history has become decadent and has finally been conquered by another nation. Some nineteen world civilizations have slipped into oblivion. There is no reason why we should think that our present civilization will endure forever. “Change and decay in all around I see,” wrote Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847), and if our civilization is not eroded by change and decay, it will certainly be swept away and replaced by a new order of things at the coming of Christ.

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even we Christians think, the world is passing away, but those who do God’s will abide forever. Long after this world system—with its vaunted culture, its proud philosophies, its egocentric intellectualism, and its godless materialism—has been forgotten, and long after this planet has been replaced by the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1), God’s faithful servants will remain, sharing the glory of God for all eternity. And this prospect is not limited to Moody, Spurgeon, Luther, or Wesley and their likes—it is open to each and every humble believer. If you are trusting Christ, it is for you.

Something to Ponder

If you are expecting to share the glory of God for all eternity, what things are you doing now to prepare for such an encounter?


Day 5

Sovereignty and Responsibility

Read Romans 9:14–33

Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Romans 9:14–15

Moses was a Jew; Pharaoh was a Gentile, yet both were sinners. In fact, both were murderers! Both saw God’s wonders. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. Pharaoh was a ruler, and Moses was a slave, yet it was Moses who experienced the mercy and compassion of God—because God willed it that way. Nobody can condemn God for the way He extends His mercy, because God is righteous in His judgments (see Ps. 19:9 KJV).

Paul wrote of divine sovereignty and then human responsibility. Here is a paradox: The Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “law righteousness.” The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved, when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.

Something to Ponder

When you can’t fully understand God’s working, what do you do to maintain your faith?


Day 6

Sins of the Saints

Read Hebrews 2:3–9

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Hebrews 2:3

We have the idea that believers today “under grace” can escape the chastening hand of God that was so evident “under law.” But to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Not only have we received the Word from the Son of God, but that Word has been confirmed by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). The phrase “signs and wonders” here refers to the miracles that witnessed to the Word and gave confirmation that it was true. Today we have the completed Word of God, so there is no need for these apostolic miracles. God now bears witness through His Spirit using the Word. The Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to God’s people so that they may minister in the church (1 Cor. 12:1–11).

I have often told the story about the pastor who preached a series of sermons on “the sins of the saints.” He was severely reprimanded by a church member. “After all,” said the member, “sin in the lives of Christians is different from sin in the lives of other people.”

“Yes,” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”

Something to Ponder

Do you agree that sin in the lives of Christians is worse than sin in the lives of other people? Why?


Day 7

Heart Gifts

Read 2 Corinthians 8:10–24

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.

2 Corinthians 8:11

During my years of ministry, I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened, and I must confess that none of these approaches has ever stirred me to give more than I planned to give.

We must be careful here not to confuse willing with doing, because the two must go together. If the willing is sincere and in the will of God, then there must be a “completion of it” (2 Cor. 8:11; see Phil. 2:12–13). Paul did not say that willing was a substitute for doing, because it is not. But if our giving is motivated by grace, we will give more willingly.

God sees the “heart gift” and not the “hand gift.” If the heart wants to give more, but is unable to do so, God sees it and records it accordingly. But if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God records what is in the heart, no matter how big the offering in the hand may be.

Something to Ponder

Think about a time you gave willingly and a time you gave grudgingly. What made the difference?



MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
I collect devotionals; therefore, I'm so pleased to add this book to my collection :). Pause for Power includes 365 daily readings starting with a Bible passage and then a relevant excerpt from Dr. Wiersbe's BE commentaries, and questions to ponder at the end. This year-long study covers 15 books of the Bible: Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. When my family was reading 1 Peter and 1 John last month during our Bible time, we made use of this book and appreciated the insight from Dr. Wiersbe. The only things I wish the book included were a theme index and a Scripture reference index so that if readers are looking for encouragement on a certain topic or are studying a certain book in the Bible, they will be able to find what they need easily.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #32

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. Relaxing Thanksgiving Day with our loved ones.  We had a blessed time.  Family, feast, and fun!

2. Triple Berries Cheesecake (strawberries, raspberries, & blueberries).  My mother-in-law made two yesterday...very yummy!

3. Congratulations to Alyssa (my 17 year old daughter) on winning the Tell Mom--Fun or Not? Contest! The prize is a $25 Amazon gift certificate. You can read her entry online here.

4. Consider: A Colonial Thanksgiving.  We indeed have so much to be thankful for.  Let's never forget to count our blessings and thank Whom our blessings come from!
Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.
 

5. The Mend Mark bracelet is a unique bracelet/wristband that resembles the holes of the nail driven into the wrists of Jesus during His crucifixion. It's a great witnessing tool and a beautiful reminder for us to live a life of love and to live for Christ. It makes a meaningful Christmas gift :).  Click here to read my review and enter the giveaway (which ends 11/30).

Christmas Giveaway Galore 2010

ChristmasGiveawayButtons10125x125 5MinutesforMom is hosting a Christmas Giveaway event that consists of several giveaways from Nov. 8th to Nov. 30th.  Please visit here for details. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: Ecostore Products

My family and I love products that are as natural and toxic-free as possible.  Going green is great for our health and environment.  When I was given an opportunity to review products from Ecostore USA, I was very excited.  Ecostore USA is an extension of a 20 year old New Zealand company (http://www.ecostore.co.nz/) that makes plant based/mineral-based, non-toxic Household Cleaning, Baby and Personal Care Products that contain No Nasty Chemicals™.

I am really pleased with the products that I selected to review: Laundry Liquid - 32 fl. oz. and Dishwash Liquid - 32 fl. oz.
 
Ingredients
•Palm and Coconut based non-ionic and anionic surfactants
•Fatty acid derivative
•Mineral hydroxide
•Certified organic Eucalyptus oil

The laundry liquid is perfect for us, people with sensitive skin.  The scent is fresh and mild, not overwhemling like some other brands.  It is super concentrated so we only need a little bit for each load; therefore, it lasts longer.  It's so good to know that our clothes, towels, and bedding are clean and gentle on our skin.

Ingredients
•Palm and coconut based ionic, non-ionic and anionic surfactants
•Mineral hydroxide
•Natural citrus oil

One squirt of this dishwash liquid is enough to clean a stack of dishes.  I tested it out and was quite impressed.  It's gentle on my skin and at the same time is able to cut grease with the natural mineral salts and citrus oil.  This is not for use with automatic dishwashers.  Ecostore also sells Auto Dish Powder.

I am very happy with these two products and definitely recommend them.  Use less and save more!  Safe and healthy for people and planet!  What's not to like :)?

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

Ecostore USA offers free shipping on orders over $25 and right now when you buy any two Household products, you will receive a Pure Oxygen Whitener FREE!

You can visit the Ecostore USA Facebook Fan Page and also find it on Twitter.
 
~ EcoStore USA sent me the products mentioned above to review and to give an honest opinion of the products. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Review: The Life Book by Carl Blunt

Bible Smuggling 101
Legally Saturating High Schools with God’s Word

In today’s divisive culture-war society, when news stories about separation of church and state thrive with controversy, one cutting-edge Christian ministry is having remarkable success spreading the Word of God. What makes it remarkable? They are doing it by distributing Bibles in public schools—legally.

Carl Blunt is the president and CEO of The Life Book Movement, a Christian mission centered on Blunt’s own contemporary, youth-oriented edition of a portion of the Bible called The Life Book, a unique presentation of Scripture designed to engage high school students with the truth of God’s Word. The Life Book presents a brief overview of the Old Testament and the Book of John using an interactive format with honest student comments and real-life questions in the margins. Readers are drawn into the only story that can change their lives forever.

Founded by The Gideons International as an innovative strategy to reach high school students with God’s Word, The Life Book Movement works in collaboration with churches throughout the country to provide the books for free to high school students. Blunt’s organization brilliantly threads a separation-of-church-and-state loophole by getting his publication into the hands of Christian high school students and having them pass the books out to classmates at school—a practice that is entirely legal, as long as the books are not distributed by school staff or other adults. Blunt says, “It’s like we’re helping students smuggle God’s Word into a closed country (public high schools) to reach an unreached people group because studies show that only 4% of today’s teenagers are Bible-believing Christians.” The goal is to ensure that every student in every high school in the United States has an opportunity to receive the gift of The Life Book. This approach presents a phenomenal opportunity to impact a generation with the good news of Jesus Christ.

The Life Book Movement is best described to students as a week-long mission trip to their local high school. Local churches work together in targeted areas to ensure The Life Book is offered to every student in each chosen high school. All churches involved receive the books at no cost from The Life Book Movement and provide the books, along with some evangelism training, to the students in their youth groups. The students then spend a week passing them out to their friends and classmates at school. One student who received the book said, “I got one today. I read it in almost every class today. I like it. It’s pretty neat and other people asked to look at it and then asked where to get one.”

Flying under the radar since its inception last fall, The Life Book Movement is rapidly closing in on distribution of more than 300,000 copies in public high schools across 21 states and even the British Virgin Islands. A quiet success, indeed, but extremely ambitious, The Life Book Movement has an ultimate goal of distributing The Life Book to nearly 18 million high school students when all is said and done. And, so far, the outlook is extremely promising.

Become a fan at www.facebook.com/carlblunt and follow the movement at www.twitter.com/carlblunt.
~The press release above was provided by Audra Jennings.


MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
You may not think of public high schools as mission fields but they are. Your church's youth group can help with Bible-smuggling legally by using The Life Book.  The Life Book starts with the story of God and people in the Old Testament in a nutshell summary (Part 1).  Part 2 covers 21 chapters of John: the story of Jesus coming to earth.  The third part of the book asks readers to ponder who they think Jesus is and to decide whether they want to follow Him or not.  The last part offers help from the Bible for troubles that students may face such as relationships, peer pressure, self-esteem, depression, and worry.  Throughout the whole book, there are comments/questions here and there from 4 students (2 boys, 2 girls) and 1 adult.  Some of these notes are insightful while others are humorous.  A modern translation of the Bible (the Holman Christian Standard Bible version) is used for easy understanding.  The spoken words of the Lord Jesus Christ are in red letters.  I enjoyed reading this book and I think it's a clever way to get kids in public schools to read God's Word without realizing they're reading God's Word.  I encourage you/your church to get involved and share with others about this wonderful evangelism movement.


~I was given a copy of this book by the B&B Media Group for an exchange of my honest review.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Review and Giveaway: The Mend Mark (The Mark of Love) Bracelet

The Mark of Love
The Mend Mark tells a powerful story in two words: "Remember" and "Love".

Have you been “Marked?” The Mend Mark is a mission, a movement, an entire revolution. It is a bracelet meant to remind its wearers of Christ’s love and sacrifice, and its message is the passion of its creator, Hunter Harrison.

The Mend Mark is an innovative and distinctive bracelet that is designed to reflect the scars and nail holes of Jesus. When worn, the band resembles the deep holes of the nail driven into the wrists of Jesus during his crucifixion. By bringing the story of Jesus’ life and death to constant awareness by wearing a bracelet, Mend Mark is meant to powerfully remind wearers of the ultimate act of love Jesus made for all of humankind.

Harrison’s mission is to remind all to remember Christ’s love in both his life and death. But more than only a poignant recollection, the Mend Mark is meant to inspire and motivate wearers to live a life of service. Harrison strives to bring people together around the simplicity and power of love as lived by Jesus. But this is no example of passive love. The Mend Mark calls individuals in all walks of life to love with a profound sincerity and commitment great enough to change a neighborhood, a community, a world.

Harrison leads this call to love and sacrifice by example and joins hands with each Mend Mark bracelet purchaser to take the first step in global change. A portion of each bracelet sold goes to support Living Water International, an organization combating the clean water crisis victimizing over one billion people worldwide. Each $5,000 given will result in one well drilled, providing a community with clean water.

But wearers should be prepared to be seen. Unique in its design, the Mend Mark is sure to be noticed and gives wearers an opportunity to share the story of the profound love of Jesus for each and every person. “It was important to me that the design was simple and generic enough that the observer had to ask about it to know what it meant. But I also wanted it to appear distinctive enough that it sparked curiosity,” reveals creator Hunter Harrison. “I wanted it to require the wearer of the product to engage in conversation about the love of Christ (and hopefully show that love to others) instead of just letting the product talk for them.”

Launched in late 2009 after a year and a half of packaging, material, and design development by Harrison, the bracelet has been sold across the United States, Canada, and the UK and has been featured in retail stores as well. The Mend Mark bracelet movement has grown to further fame after being worn during performances by American Idol winner Lee Dewyze, Idol runner up Siobhan Magnus, Decifer Down, Israel Houghton & New Breed, Pillar, and Finding Favour, to name a few. Says Harrison, “I want it to be more than just another bracelet; I want it to represent a movement.” Based on the way things are going, a movement is exactly what it is becoming.

Order online for $9.99 at http://www.mendmark.com/.

~The press release above and the interview below were provided by Audra Jennings (Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group)

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Unique, cool, and meaningful!  I've been wearing this bracelet for over a month now.  I love it because it is a beautiful reminder of my loving Savior who died for me and who loves me no matter what.  I'm still waiting for someone to ask me about the bracelet so that I can share about Christ's love and sacrifice.  Unfortunately, it has been cold here and I have been wearing shirts and/or jackets with long sleeves which cover the bracelet most of the time.

The bracelet/wristband is elastic and does not irritate my skin at all.  It comes in a classy box (a little tricky to open...you need to pull the orange tab on top and both top and bottom sections will pop out). One circle (resembling nail hole) reads, "Remember" and the other circle reads, "Love."  I will forever remember my Lord and Savior's amazing love and share His love with all.  Let us never forget!  There is no greater love: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us (sinners)!  His love mends (repairs, sets right, restores, makes amends).  This Mend Mark bracelet is a great witnessing tool and a reminder for us to live a life of love and live for Christ.

Q&A With Hunter Harrison, Creator of the Mend Mark

Q: How did you arrive at the idea for the Mend Mark? Why a bracelet?
A: I always thought about getting a tattoo. I still haven’t, but tattoo designs frequently cross my mind, and if I ever got one I would want it to be meaningful. On one particular day, I had the idea of getting two circles tattooed on my wrist to resemble a hole. But not just any hole—the hole that killed a king. The more and more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that nowadays EVERYONE has a tattoo and it would almost be rebellious NOT to get one. (I guess you could consider me a reverse rebel.) So I decided to do something a little different, something that would reach many more people than just some ink on my wrist. I took the idea and designed a bracelet instead, and consequently, the Mend Mark idea was born.

Q: At first glance Mend Mark seems like a nebulous name. What does it mean?
A: I’ve always liked the word “mend” and I feel like it’s underused. So it was an easy decision to incorporate that into the name. It fit the product purpose, and since it was representing one of the marks of Jesus, Mend Mark was an obvious choice. Plus it had a nice ring to it and with tattoo roots it seemed natural to call it that. I wanted it to be more than just another bracelet or wristband. I wanted it to represent a movement. So the “Mend Mark” it became.

Q: What are you hoping will be accomplished through the wearing of the Mend Mark bracelet and through the Mend Mark movement?
A: There are three main things I want to be accomplished. First is that I wanted people to remember the sacrifice. I wanted to unite people—Christians (no matter the denomination) and even people of other worldviews—on one common message: LOVE. The love that Christ preached in particular. With so many books out there and theological debates on who’s right and who’s wrong, sometimes we forget the simplicity of Christ’s main message: LOVE. I figured that no matter what one believes, they can’t deny that selfless love can change the world… and sometimes we need a reminder of that. So I coined the phrase “Remember Love” to be printed on the bracelet. The second thing is that I wanted people to emulate the emotion. I wanted it to require the wearer of the product to engage in conversation about the love of Christ (and hopefully show that love to others) instead of just letting the product talk for them. I felt that if this was done properly it could force people into intentional situations where they were able to demonstrate their faith. If I was a non-believer and I saw someone wearing an obvious Christian product, I doubt I would ask that person about it because I would already know what they were going to say. But, if I saw this, I would want to know what it was. It sparks curiosity… and in turn that curiosity may open some doors for people to share the love of Christ with others. Finally, I wanted it to inspire people to change the world around them. I decided to find a cause to support through the sales of the bracelet. There was no reason for me to keep all the profits for myself. I wanted to be able to give back and share the proceeds somehow. I researched and prayed and petitioned God on what ministry to support and God led me to Living Water International. I knew I wanted to help fight malnourishment in one way or another and providing “Living Water” seemed to fit the purpose of the product—using “love” to mend. That’s what it’s all about and this product allows that to happen on a global scale.

Q: Where did the inspiration to create the Mend Mark come from?
A: My mother was the most influential person in my life. She raised me on her own, even homeschooled me in high school, and I think that extra time with her really impacted me. She passed away from cancer in 2007, but she always told me I would do great things. My wife, Morgan, has been extremely instrumental in encouraging me to take those words from my mom to heart and make them a reality. Morgan motivates me like no one else can and has been a tremendous source of love and support throughout the entire process.

Then my work in banking inspired me. All day long I am helping people achieve their dreams getting businesses and ideas started. I wanted to get out there and start doing something myself. But I wanted it to be meaningful. Since my son was born two years ago, he’s given me an added motivation to do something bigger than myself, something that will somehow leave a legacy behind.

Q: The Mend Mark is certainly growing as a movement. It’s even been worn by celebrities. What’s next for the Mend Mark?
A: The Mend Mark isn’t the first idea I’ve tried to get off the ground. It definitely won’t be the last either. By far, it’s been the most fun and the most successful, and the one I’ve been most passionate about. I’m currently working on additional product designs as well as T-shirts that will go along with the original Mend Mark purpose. The future is bright and I can’t wait to see where God takes it.

GIVEAWAY: I was given a second bracelet to give away to one of my readers. It makes a great Christmas gift :).
To enter (required) : Visit Mend Mark website and leave a comment telling me why you would like to win this or whom you would give it to.
This giveaway is open to US Residents 18 yrs or older. Please leave your email address in the required entry. The giveaway ends 11/30 midnight PDT. Winner has 48 hours to respond.

For extra entries (leave a comment for each extra entry):
- Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect (see my sidebar) (1 entry)
- Follow this blog via NetworkedBlogs (see my sidebar) (1 entry)
- Follow me ("treasuredbyGod") on Twitter (1 entry)
- Follow Mend Mark on Twitter (1 entry)
- Tweet about this giveaway (1 entry daily)
- "Like" Mend Mark on Facebook (1 entry)
- "Like" Living for God on Facebook (1 entry)
- Share one or more of your family's Thanksgiving traditions or Christmas traditions (1 entry)

~ I was given one bracelet for an exchange of my honest review and another bracelet for a giveaway by the B&B Media Group.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

DVD Review: Homeless for the Holidays

Homeless for the Holidays is based on a true story that the writer/producer/director and his family experienced. It was made on a small budget; some of the actors even worked for free.  My family and I were quite impressed with the quality of the production and the quality of the actors' performance.

This movie is centered around the ups and downs of Jack Baker and his family. Jack, an ambitious marketing director, enjoys his rapid success at one moment and then the next moment he faces a crisis that changes everything. From the lifestyle of "have-plenty" to "have-nots"! After a long string of desperate job searches, he gets a job that barely pays enough for him and his family to survive. His bills keep piling up and finally, he and his family end up being homeless during Christmastime. The beautiful generosity of a young girl and a conversation with a stranger make Jack Baker pause and think about his past, present, and God's purpose for his life/future. He realizes Baby Jesus was also homeless and many people are homeless during this tough economy. Instead of focusing on their circumstances, he and his family seek to bless others. They learn the joy of having less and giving more. They embrace the joy of being together and spending time bonding as a family. We find this movie to be entertaining and inspiring. There are many witty and funny lines that made us laugh out loud. This movie speaks about the message of hope, faith, family, joy, and contentment. Watching this movie made us more thankful for what we have and reminded us to pray for and help out the homeless more. By the way, we think the actor, Matt Moore, who plays Jack Baker, looks and acts like Adam Sandler :). If you and your family are looking for a family-friendly movie you can enjoy together this holiday season, check this one out.

The DVD can be purchased in select Christian bookstores and online at  http://homelessfortheholidaysmovie.com/ .  You can also watch the trailer on their website.

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

~ Team Buzzplant provided me a free copy of this DVD for an exchange of my honest review. I am not obligated to write a positive review.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart

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

"It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O Most High." Psalm 92:1
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3
"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15
"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

Have a blessed Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #31

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

My Fave Five this week:-

1. I was stunned by how God confirmed something to us. Our jaws dropped (figuratively speaking) when we heard through a stranger. He never ceases to amaze me!

2. A free movie night at the local library was a treat. We enjoyed Toy Story 3 last Friday.

3. We've had lots of fun with a remote control helicopter that we got from trading in our 6,655 tickets at Wunderland (an arcade).

4. Free class/webinar on Wed.(provided by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine): Biblical Genetics by Dr. Robert W. Carter from http://www.creation.com/ .

5. DVD: Homeless for the Holidays. You can read my review here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship

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:


Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship

Acu/Leafwood Publishing (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:


Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at Pastors.com, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and is founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and web sites around the world. He is also the author of Growing with Purpose. Jon currently lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.


Visit the author's website.




Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891126767
ISBN-13: 978-0891126768

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Grace and Discipleship

What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared cheap grace the deadly enemy of our church in 1937. “We are fighting today for costly grace,” he said. We are in that same fight today.

By cheap grace, Bonhoeffer means the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We assume, since grace is free, there is no cost associated with the free gift. We assume we can go on living the way we have been because our sins are now forgiven.

The gift is free, but Jesus paid a bloody price to offer us the gift; the gift is free, but that doesn’t mean there is no cost to following Jesus once we step into his grace.

Costly grace justifies the sinner: Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin: Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession,” says Bonhoeffer. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

And this means cheap grace is “a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God,” says Bonhoeffer. Did Jesus die so we could follow a doctrine? Did he suffer a cruel and bloody crucifixion to give us a code of conduct? Did he give up all he had, take on the nature of a servant and walk through Palestine as a human being so we could give an intellectual assent to the grace he freely gives? Did he humble himself and walk the path of obedience all the way to death so we could live in disobedience to him? (based on Philippians 2:8)

When the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed as a general truth and the love of God taught as an abstract concept, we depersonalize the incarnation; yet, it can’t be anything but personal: the God of the universe launching a rescue mission for you, his beloved creation, at the expense of Jesus, his only begotten son. Jesus didn’t come in the abstract, as a nebulous idea of love, grace, and forgiveness; rather, “he became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7b).

You can’t get more personal than that.

The Incarnation is totally personal. When Jesus calls you it is absolutely personal; and the cost of grace is personal. Jesus paid personally to provide us with free grace and we must pay personally to live within that grace. Why do you think Jesus died for you, if not for the personal? What do you think he expects from you, if not something personal?

RATIONALIZING OUR WAY INTO CHEAP GRACE

We too easily slip into a corporate concept that Jesus died for sins in general and so he becomes to us something like a huge corporation: we don’t really expect to get personal, individualized attention. And because everything, in our thinking, is impersonal, it is easier for us to dodge responsibility.

In the case of the cross, it is the difference between “Jesus died for the sins of mankind” or “Jesus died to pay for my lie last week at work.”

This is how we rationalize our way into cheap grace. But we are called—in truth, we are designed— to come face-to-face with Jesus, which allows us get to know him and the Father as we are know by them: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On the one hand, costly grace cost Jesus his life and he gives it to us as a gift of righteousness that includes the forgiveness of sin; it is something we can never earn and it comes to us as we open our hearts in repentance: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalms 51:1-4, 10 NLT).

On the other hand, Bonhoeffer says cheap grace requires no contrition; we need not even have a desire to be delivered from our sins, just forgiven. He says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” It’s okay, God will forgive me.

“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which auses him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” Costly grace comes when we come to the end of ourselves, ready to abandon our current lives in order to give our lives whole-heartedly to Jesus. It comes when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It comes when we submit ourselves to the will of Jesus, doing what he tells us to do day-in-and-day-out, altering our lives in obedience to him.

Costly grace means we change our habits, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships according to the will of Jesus. Nothing can remain the same because we are no longer the same. We are uniquely connected to the divine nature through Jesus and we no longer “live under law but under God’s grace” (Romans 6:14; see also Colossians 2:9-10).

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”

GRACE AND DISCIPLESHIP ARE INSEPARABLE

“When he spoke of grace, [Martin] Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. Costly grace does not exempt us from discipleship or give us a pass on obeying the commands of Jesus. In fact, it demands “we take the call to discipleship more seriously than ever before.”

And grace doesn’t make our sanctification automatic; Jesus transforms us into his image as we follow him down the hard path through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. Luther quickly understood that discipleship must be tested in the world, outside the cloister, as Jesus pushes us from self-centered to other-centered.

While it is true Luther said, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still,” Bonhoeffer notes his intent was not to teach cheap grace but to help us understand our position in Christ. When we get serious about discipleship, we will want to be obedient to God. This is why Jesus said the way we show our love for him is by being obedient to his commands. Our obedience brings us in line with the will of God; we become one with his agenda. And that’s the essence of love: when we love we want to do the things the people we love want to do; we become one with our loved one’s wishes.

Yet, our obedience will never make us perfect. The only way we can approach the throne of grace boldly is by stepping into the costly grace of Christ, where he becomes our righteousness before God; he acts as our mediator. Luther’s point, then, was when we sin we need not despair. Jesus covers all our sins. He died for the sins you’ve already committed and he died for the sins you will commit tomorrow. Luther means we can stop being afraid of ourselves; stop being afraid that we may make mistakes. Just love God and live your life—and when you stumble, fall into the grace of Jesus Christ.

By trusting the grace of God, we can be courageous in following Jesus and equally courageous in confessing our sins before him. There is no need to hide our sins or to posture as if we have not sinned. We can just admit it and keep on following Jesus, even if we have to confess sins to Jesus every day.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of costly grace, we’re more likely to play games with God, pretending we haven’t sinned, maintaining the delusion that we’re not that bad, and that leaves us stuck in immaturity right at the threshold of discipleship. And our posturing is part of how we undermine grace. If we’re so cheaply forgiven, then we never have to face the ugliness of our sin. It doesn’t seem so bad. The bloody work and resurrection of Jesus become a generic work, a blanket forgiving of sins, a prettified passion meant to God bless us, everyone.

Cheap grace flips Luther’s sin without fear upside-down, recreating it as a justification of sin instead of the justification of the sinner. Bonhoeffer says the real “outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther’s perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price.” “The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world,” Bonhoeffer says. “Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.”

This is exactly what Paul addresses with the church in Rome, where the religious instinct of man—that desire for self-justification—was in full assault against the sovereignty of God, attempting to prove God wrong in his bloody sacrifice of Jesus.

DOES GRACE MEAN WE CAN KEEP ON SINNING?

“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” asks Paul. I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means” (Romans 6:1-3 MSG). The costly grace of Jesus means to take us into a new land, the kingdom of heaven. We follow Jesus obediently along a difficult path through a narrow gate into his kingdom.

A simple glance across the evangelical landscape reveals that we’ve overwhelmingly embraced the lesser grace. We’re barely willing to adjust our schedules let alone our lifestyles. We make decisions based on common sense, robbing the Holy Spirit of his role of counsel. We stash away our 401k’s and plan for when we will do kingdom work in the future, never trusting God to provide. We take the risk out of ministry by always leaning on our own understanding and then we wonder why our faith is weak. When do we exercise our faith?

We’re glad to follow Jesus. His yoke does seem easy: a few hours each week in worship, a Bible study, a small group, a bit of service at the church and perhaps a mission trip each year. We try to be good people, to help others, and to thank God for our blessings. When things are going well, we don’t want to bother God and, when things are going badly, we can camp out with God and say a holy “Amen” that he’s always there in our darkest times.

But a peculiar people? A royal priesthood set apart? What? Does Jesus really mean I’m supposed to abandon my ________ (fill in the blank)?

We preach, we teach, we publish. We have the internet and Christian radio. “We poured forth unending streams of grace,” says Bonhoeffer. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way is hardly ever heard. Have we presented the gospel in such a way that we’ve left people feeling secure in their ungodly living?

Cheap grace has been “disastrous to our own spiritual lives,” says Bonhoeffer. “Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience.”

We’ve settled for cheap grace for so long that we’ve allowed it to become the norm for Christian living. We know there must be something more but life just gets in the way. We’ve taught people to live disconnected from Jesus and we wonder why they struggle in their Christian walk, why they are so tired all the time.

Bonhoeffer says, “To put it quite simply, we must undertake this task because we are now ready to admit that we no longer stand in the path of true discipleship. We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned, we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord. We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship. The issue can no longer be evaded. It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”

THINK OF GRACE AS A RESTAURANT

Grace is a restaurant where you can eat anything on the menu for free. The cost for you to dine is hefty, but your whole bill has been paid by Jesus.

“You mean, I can eat anything I want here? Then I’ll have a lust burger with a side of lies.”

I’m sorry. We don’t serve lust burgers or lies here. But you are welcome to anything on the menu. Everything here is hand-made by the Father and all of it is specifically designed to keep you healthy.

“I thought you said I could eat anything I wanted if I came into this grace restaurant?”

You can eat anything you want, but we only serve what is on the menu. If you look, you will see there are thousands of choices we’ve prepared specifically for your taste buds.

“But not a lust burger? No lie fries. What kind of restaurant are you running here? Don’t you want me to be happy, to feel good?”

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

“What if I go outside the restaurant, get a lust burger and some lie fries, and bring them back in here to eat?”

That would be cheap grace.

GRACE IS A TRANSFORMING POWER

If you asked most evangelical Christians about the meaning of grace, they’d probably tell you it’s the unmerited favor of God. Not a bad answer, but one that’s just academic enough to keep you distracted from the truly transformational nature of costly grace.

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation so rapid and radical that it would cause skeptics to beat a path to our door.

What is grace? Consider this illustration from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s timeless tale about a peasant who is sentenced to hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. Released from jail, Jean Valjean is offered brief sanctuary in the home of a priest.

Despite being treated with dignity for the first time in years, Valjean, steals the bishop’s valuable silverware and runs away. The next day, Valjean is brought back to the priest’s home by the police, who tell the priest that Valjean has claimed the silver as a gift. The police obviously expect the priest to deny the claim.

The priest immediately addresses Valjean, saying, “Ah, there you are! I am glad to see you. But I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?” When he hands the candlesticks to Valjean privately, he tells him, ”Jean Valjean, my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you.”

It’s a Christ-like moment—and one that shows the tremendous cost of grace, both for the giver and the receiver. Valjean goes on to live a life of grace, supporting the poor and adopting a young orphan whom he must ransom out of servitude.

Do you suppose for a minute that a harsher approach by the priest could have gotten a better response from Jean Valjean? Then why do we expect people to behave better when we “Tsk, tsk, tsk” and shame them into behaving properly rather than modeling the kind of grace that will change them radically and permanently. Grace allows people to make choices and assumes they’ll make the best choice. Grace is free and flowing and unencumbered by guilt or shame or fear, for true grace says, “I know all about you, and I still love you with a godly acceptance.”

We see this in John 4, when Jesus meets the woman at the well. When she offers to give him a drink, he says, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water” (John 4:10 MSG).

Note that he talks about how gracious God can be. Yet most of us, if we were gut honest, function as if God were stingy with his grace. We fear his punishment, in the sense that we think he’s the high school principal walking the halls, taking down names. Who did what and who’s to blame?

But God already knows who did what and who’s to blame, and he still loves us anyway. His interest is in redeeming us, not in keeping us on the hook for our sins.

Unfortunately, many of us—Christians—live our lives as if we’re still on the hook, and as if we have to keep everyone else on the hook. We use weapons of the flesh—the sarcastic comment, the angry stare—all designed to get people to straighten up and live right.

In contrast, when the woman at the well goes back to her village, she says, “Come see a man . . . who knows me inside and out” (John 4:29 MSG). Nothing is hidden from him, and yet he communicates with her in such a fashion that she leaves feeling loved and accepted. That’s the aroma of grace.

Did she get away with her sins? No. They cost Jesus plenty, yet you don’t see him lording it over her, or putting a guilt trip on her, or even using the time for a lecture on sexual ethics. Jesus trusts that once she is confronted with God’s generosity—his grace—that she will be eager to change and conform to God’s commands.

It’s a classic Christian paradox, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s time to pull out the Law and read someone the riot act, Jesus shows by his behavior that it’s better to embrace that person with a costly love.

And grace does cost. It obviously cost the Son of God everything, and for you to extend grace will cost you, just as it cost the priest his silver. In fact, one way to distinguish the difference between grace and mercy is that grace costs while mercy does not. Mercy says, “I won’t press charges.” Grace says, “I not only won’t press charges, I’ll pay for your rehab program.”

GRACE HELPS US BECOME OTHER-CENTERED

Grace is powerfully other-focused. It gives without fear of depletion. Love, forgiveness, and mercy are handed out with no thought of exhausting the supply. Someone enveloped by grace is rooted deeply in soil next to a river that never knows drought.

The prodigal’s father offers a picture of the paradox of grace. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. Every time he touched a pig, the young Hebrew boy was reminded how far he was from the will of God. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.

What was going through his mind as he headed home? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or maybe he thought about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved.

Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response!

Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shamefully shuffles home. Then he sees an unidentifiable person running toward him. Then he recognizes his father and he prepares himself for the worst.

The prodigal was probably bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. After a few minutes of wrestling, the son’s heart is finally overcome by the father’s passionate embrace. He goes limp in his father’s arms unable to hold back the tears.

The father is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hopes for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness. The father’s extraordinary grace continues as he places a ring on his son’s hand and sandals on his feet and then wraps him in an extravagant robe. Each gift is a visible sign of full son-ship.

The father completes his bountiful behaviors of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.

Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is trust yourself at all cost. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway?

We must go to Jesus to be personally tutored in Grace 101. As we receive his grace, we can then pass his grace to others.

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
This book by Jon Walker made me want to learn more about Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor/martyr) and read his book, The Cost of Discipleship. The theme is that God's grace is offered to us for free but it will cost us everything (our life/dying to self) when we truly follow Jesus. There is no room for compromise; the cost of discipleship means total devotion to Christ alone. Costly Grace helps readers understand the doctrine of grace, what it means to be a faithful disciple of Jesus, and how to become more like Jesus. It covers an expository study of Matthew 5-7, including the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount. Each chapter ends with The Cost of Discipleship (the key point from that chapter), Fallen Thinking vs. Kingdom Thinking, and questions to ponder. The common question for each chapter is: "Will you obediently trust Jesus or ....?" You have to make a choice.

I really enjoyed reading this excellent book. Some Christians nowadays abuse grace (use it as an excuse to do whatever they're pleased) and/or sacrifice God's truth on the altar of grace. This book tells it as it is from God's Word. I love lots of Bonhoeffer's quotes. Here are some of my favorites:-
"When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die."
‎"Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time they are the very source of anxiety."
"How is it possible to live the life of faith when we grow weary of prayer, when we lose our taste for reading the Bible, and when sleep, food and sensuality deprive us of the joy of communion with God?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

FIRST Wild Card Tour: No Greater Joy by Jerry Wiles

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:


No Greater Joy: Power of Sharing Your Faith Through Stories and Questions

Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Cathy Hickling of Whitaker House for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


With a background in military service, business, missions/ministry, and education, Jerry N. Wiles, serves as president emeritus of Living Water International (LWI), one of the world's leading faith-based water solutions ministries. He is a noted authority on the burgeoning “Orality Movement,” which is transforming the face of
evangelism worldwide. Wiles coined the term “oral discipleship” in the 1980’s to describe strategies he was developing to reach “oral communicators” -- two thirds of the world’s population who do not learn through reading. As LWI for president the past 20 years, Wiles helped facilitate 9,000 water projects for communities in 26 countries. He hosts the daily radio show, Winning Others to Christ, airing in 174 countries on the KHCB Radio Network.



Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603742425
ISBN-13: 978-1603742429

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Divine Appointments: Recognizing the Activity of God


“Good morning. Has the Lord been good to you today?”

That was my greeting to a young waiter in a lingering moment before a breakfast meeting at a hotel conference facility. I approached Walter with the thought of sharing Christ. He was warm and friendly and took a few minutes to chat. After our brief exchange, I asked him if he had come to know the Lord Jesus in a personal way. He told me that he had been raised in a religious family and had attended church as a child.

I shared with Walter briefly about God’s purpose and His love, about Jesus coming into the world to pay for our sins, and that He was raised from the dead so that we can have new life.

He was open and interested, so I shared Scriptures from John’s gospel and the book of Romans. I asked Walter if he had ever made a commitment of his life to Christ. He said he wasn’t sure how to do that.

I explained that he didn’t have to be in a church building or go through a long religious ritual, but that God was right there with us, and we could include the Lord in our conversation. I told him that he could receive Christ right then. I briefly shared with him from Romans 10:9–13 about believing, confessing, and calling on the Lord.

If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

I suggested that he call on the Lord and ask Him to come into his life. I led him in a prayer something like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, I know I need You. I believe You died for me. Have mercy upon me, a sinner, and save me. I receive You into my life and ask You to make me the kind of person You want me to be. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

I was scheduled to be the guest speaker that day at the breakfast meeting and had arrived early, and this is why I’d had the opportunity to have the encounter with Walter.

Later that morning, as I was speaking to the group, Walter walked into the room as I was describing my earlier conversation with him. He mistakenly thought I was introducing him to say a few words and spontaneously began sharing that he had asked Christ into his life.

It was a tremendous encouragement to the eighty or so men at the breakfast, since my topic was personal evangelism. It was also a great encouragement for me to get updates about Walter for about the next fifteen years from my friends who attended meetings frequently at that hotel and stayed in touch with him.

Walter later became the catering manager at the hotel and gained a reputation as a respected employee. He had a great ministry and witness for Christ through his professional relationships.


Nothing Mystical about Sharing the Gospel


There’s nothing mystical or magical about sharing the gospel and bringing people to the Lord. It’s a matter of demonstrating the love of Christ and being willing to tell others about Him.

There are two important principles in sharing your faith:

Know who you are in Christ and who He is in you.
Be willing to bring Jesus into a conversation.
Knowing your true identity in Christ can make a world of difference in how you relate to others. The truth about you is that God intends for you to be the truth about Him.

God’s Word tells us that we are complete in Christ, we are made righteous in Christ, we are new creations in Christ, we are ambassadors for Christ, and we are ministers of reconciliation. (See Colossians 2:9–10; 2 Corinthians 5:17–21.)

When we believe what God has said in His Word and act on the fact that it is true, the Holy Spirit will make it real in our experience. Real faith is acting on the promises of God.

One of my mentors from years ago, the late Manley Beasley, used to say that faith is “acting like it is so, when it’s not so, in order for it to be so, because God said it’s so.” (See, for example, Romans 4:16–21; Hebrews 11:1.)

Acting on the Word of God converts the truth into our experience. Therefore, you can act on the truth that God is working in you “both to will and to do for His good pleasure,” according to Philippians 2:13. You can also act on the fact that God is faithful to do—through you—what He has called you to do, according to 1 Thessalonians 5:24.

The various ministry encounters you read about in this book are illustrations of God’s activity through our humanity, not illustrations of our doing something for Him.

For example, a few years ago, I was reading a popular Christian magazine and came across an article written by a man with whom I had shared the gospel about ten years earlier. I had actually witnessed to him on a couple of different occasions before he received Christ.

As the Holy Spirit led me, I didn’t approach our discussions in a traditional way. I never asked him to pray a prayer or do any of the typical things you might think to request of people when witnessing (although I do some of those things at other times). However, after I had talked with him about the gospel the second time, he sent me a note and told me that he had repented of his years of rebellion and had trusted Christ.

This man immediately began to share his faith, and a number of people came to the Lord as a result of His witness. In fact, he and I were able to team up in reaching several convicts in a prison through correspondence and sharing gospel literature.

Seeing God at work in these ways makes our walk with Him a high adventure every day!


Recognize the Activity of God in People’s Lives


The more spiritual sensitivity we have and the more we see with the eyes of faith, the more readily we will recognize the activity of God in people’s lives and the more fully we’ll be able to cooperate with Him in “divine appointments.”

Think of the implications of Christ living in you and wanting to express Himself through you on a daily basis.

Many Scriptures refer to our being in Christ and Christ in us. Just an awareness of our spiritual union with Him makes a difference in the way we relate to others. My former pastor once said, “Our main purpose should be to love people and tell them the truth.” That really puts things into perspective in a nutshell. We are so prone to make things more complicated than they are or than God intended for them to be.

Be Encouraged That God Will Use You


I often tell people that I grew up with an inferiority complex, and then, when I became an adult, I discovered that it wasn’t a complex at all; I was just inferior!

Well, the truth of the matter is, we are all inferior when we compare ourselves with Jesus Christ.

The good news is that the Superior One, Christ Himself, is prepared to live in us and compensate for all our weaknesses. In fact, it’s in our weakness that His strength is made perfect, according to 2 Corinthians 12:9.

God often chooses the most unlikely candidates to accomplish His most significant work.

For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption; that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

(1 Corinthians 1:26–31)

Be encouraged that God will use you in a wonderful way to share Christ with others. Keep in mind that He is available to you to the degree that you make yourself available to Him.

God will use you in powerful ways if you will fully yield to His lordship, receive the fullness of His life in you, and trust and obey Him.

Enjoy the journey!



Questions for Reflection and/or Discussion


1. What is a divine appointment?

2. What are two key principles in sharing your faith?

3. What does God’s Word tell us about who we are in Him?

4. How does the Holy Spirit make God’s Word real in our experience?

5. To what degree is God available to you for witnessing?

6. What steps can you take to be more effective in sharing Christ?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pray and Give

PRAY
Today is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP). Please join me and other brothers and sisters in Christ in praying for the persecuted Christians and their persecutors.

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

1 Corinthians 12:26 "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (In reference to the Body of Christ, the Church)

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:3

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." Ephesians 6:18

We are free to believe in America (so far), but many Christians around the world are not.  Sadly, we often take our freedom for granted. Are we using our freedom to tell others about Jesus? We live a life of luxury here compared to many people in other countries. Are we sharing with those in need? Live your faith and your love out loud! Pray for courage and boldness, willingness and opportunity, grace and gentleness ...then go tell of God's love to all the world. In addition, please remember (not just today) to pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering for our Savior, who are beaten for "loving Jesus", who risk all to serve the King of kings, who give up everything to follow the Prince of Peace, who sacrifice so that others can hear the Good News.

GIVE
I'd like to remind you that the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) collection week this year is Nov. 15-22.  If you're not familiar with OCC, please read here or visit here.

I encourage you to get your family involved with this wonderful project.  You will be spreading God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world.  They will also get to hear the Good News.  "Your gift of love may be the door God uses to open a child's heart to Jesus Christ." (~Franklin Graham, President of Samaritan's Purse)

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord JESUS Himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" Acts 20:35

~ Please visit here for the links to other Spiritual Sundays posts.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday's Fave Five #30

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

My Fave Five this week:-

1. I love having my husband with us for the four-day weekend starting yesterday.

2. I'd like to let you, my readers, know about an exclusive opportunity to attend one of the COOL IT free, pre-screening events in the participating cities (click here and then click RSVP to comfirm your seats).  This documentary suggests an approach to tackling the sustainability of creation in light of awareness towards other global concerns such as world hunger, education and access to safe shelter and clean water.  In "COOL IT," environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg goes beyond global climate change to remind us of man's obligation to his fellow man.  He urges rethinking a "just throw money at it" approach in favor of one that will enable the critical investment of more resources to help benefit suffering people along with the planet we inhabit.

3. For You They Signed by Marilyn Boyer.  You can read my review here.  Please vote for my review by leaving a comment on the review post or vote at http://christianhomeschoolhub.spruz.com/for-you-they-signed.htm (by clicking the circle next to Urailak Liljequist--Fruitbearers).  Thanks so much!

4. Since Thanksgiving is the 25th of this month, Childlike Faith Publishing (my 17 yo daughter's web store) will give away a digitial bookmark ($8.95 value + free shipping) to the 25th customer! This applies to those who buy Thanksgiving Stories for Children ($1.29) and/or those who buy Discovering Grace ($3.79). Offer expires at midnight on Nov. 25, 2010.

5. I'd like to share this video that my 17 year old daughter made explaining why she believes God exists (within 1 minute). It is an entry for the Always Ready contest by Creation Science Evangelism. I would really appreciate it if you'd vote for her here :)! You don't need to be on Facebook. Just click "Vote Now". You can vote once per day through Nov. 28th. Thanks a bunch!

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

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why I Believe God Exists

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

This is a video my 17 year old daughter made explaining why she believes God exists (within 1 minute). It is an entry for the Always Ready contest by Creation Science Evangelism. I would really appreciate it if you'd vote for her here :)! You don't need to be on Facebook.  Just click "Vote Now".  You can vote once per day until Nov. 28th.  Thanks so much!  Soli Deo Gloria!

~Please visit here for the links to other Spiritual Sundays posts. Thanks so much to Charlotte and Ginger for hosting Spiritual Sundays every week.  Have a blessed day in the Lord, everyone!

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