Monday, January 31, 2011

Book Review: Flight Plan:Your Mission to Become a Man


SUMMARY:
Every flight begins with a destination.
In today’s culture, teenage boys are faced with navigating the turbulent journey to manhood, often without an inkling of what that really means or any direction of how to get there. What does it mean to be a man? Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man, written by educators Lee Burns and Braxton Brady, offers a vision of godly manhood and a complete and honest guide into the adventures ahead.

Flight Plan uses the metaphor of a journey of flight to speak candidly to pre-teen and teen boys about friendships, peer pressure, drinking, drugs, girls and dating, puberty, sex, and school and family relationships.

Flying is an adventure. But like any journey, a good flight needs a great plan. Vision to see beyond the horizon. Preparation for the unexpected. A commitment to get from here to there. Every journey needs a plan. And becoming a man is no exception. The journey from boyhood to manhood is a big adventure filled with big choices. Some choices move us in the right direction, while others can throw us off course. So how can young men navigate to a successful life?

Like any sound flight plan, the book maps out the journey ahead giving practical advice for success and warnings for potential pitfalls any boy on his way to manhood is likely to encounter. Flight Plan shares how boys can:
· Make smart choices today that will impact their future
· Become responsible and accountable
· Handle changes in both their body and their relationships
· Understand the risks of drugs and alcohol
· Develop a God-centered life

The text strategically builds on seven biblically based virtues and each chapter concludes with questions for reflection and discussion, making Flight Plan an ideal teaching tool for boys’ small groups, mentoring groups, Sunday school classes, fathers and sons, or simply individual study.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Lee Burns is the headmaster at Presbyterian Day School, an independent school serving over 630 boys in grades PK-6 in Memphis. In addition, Burns is vice-president and on the executive committee of the Elementary School Headmasters Association (a group of approximately 200 headmasters around the country) and is a member of the Country Day School Headmasters Association and the Visionary Heads Group. He served as a task force member to help the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) develop Principles of Good Practice for Middle School Educators. In addition, he has been a presenter at annual conferences of the National Association of Independent Schools, the International Boys' School Coalition, and the Elementary School Headmasters Association.

Burns plays tennis and enjoys squash and most any sport, as well as reading and writing. Lee is married to Sarah, and they have three children. They are members of Second Presbyterian Church, where he serves as a deacon.

Braxton Brady is the chaplain of Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Memphis, TN. Before coming to PDS, he worked as Bible teacher, athletic director, and assistant principal at Central Day School in Collierville, Tennessee. Brady has served on the boards of various inner city ministries in Memphis. He is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program, a program that helps disciple and develop spiritual leaders in the city of Memphis, and founder of Strategic Dads, a ministry that seeks to provide fathers with practical ways to disciple their sons and lead their families.

Brady enjoys spending time with his family, serving in the inner city, and playing golf. He is currently completing his master's degree in theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. Brady and his wife, Carrie, have three children.

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
I'm not a man but I love this book :)! It's a comprehensive resource to guide boys on their mission. Manhood is the mission; Godly manhood is the desired destination. This book is the flight plan. The authors expose the 6 myths (lies) of manhood while providing a great definition of manhood: "A real man glorifies God by seeking an adventuresome life of purpose and passion as he protects and serves others." To help boys navigate their upcoming challenging years, the authors give them seven virtues of manhood to embrace as their vision. This book covers pretty much every issue teenage boys face...from body changes, peer pressure, temptations with drugs and alcohol, school boredom, family tensions, to dating, pornography, and more. I only wish the authors would have included courtship as a healthier, safer alternative to dating. I also found it ironic that the authors point out in the beginning of the book that basing our view of manhood by what celebrities (many are negative examples) do or don't leads us to an inaccurate picture of manhood, yet several quotes from celebrities (eg. John Lennon, Michael Jordan, Jack Nicholson, Johnny Depp, etc.) can be found throughout the book. I'd prefer quotes from Godly men, instead. Nevertheless, the authors' advice and instruction are Biblically sound and practical. My husband plans to go through this book with our 12 yo son soon. This book is a must-read for every teenaged boy!

Visit the book's website.

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

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Perfect Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: PDS Publishing (2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0615380611
ISBN-13: 978-0615380612

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Buckle Up


“Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.”

- Alan B. Shepard Jr., Astronaut


“It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”

- Chuck Yeager, General


The engines roar so loudly you can feel your whole body shake as the fighter jet accelerates down the short runway on the aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. You can smell the burning fuel. Standing on the deck of the carrier, you can’t even see the fighter pilot inside because his plane is racing by at such an incredible speed. You can, though, sense the power of the great plane and the intensity of the takeoff. Just seconds before, the jet was calmly stationed at the end of the carrier, along with a few other ones. But now, just seconds later, amidst burning fuel and an awesome display of speed, it’s at the end of the runway and quickly airborne, racing up into the blue sky.


But where is the plane going?


Like the fighter jet, you are also about to accelerate down a short runway and take off on a great adventure with many possible missions and destinations. During your childhood, your life has probably been pretty steady and stable for the last few years. Sure, there have been ups and downs and you’ve changed and grown as a boy, but boyhood is usually marked by very slow and gradual development compared to the upcoming season in your life. But soon, instead of just hanging out at the end of the runway with the other fighter jets, instead of slowly taxiing back and forth on the runway, your life is about to accelerate in a very intense and rapid period called adolescence. And at the end of adolescence, you will take off into the sky for an even greater adventure: manhood.


Any fighter pilot will probably tell you that good preparation before the flight is essential to a successful mission. He has spent thousands of hours learning to fly. He has considered problems he could encounter and maneuvers he could use in those dangerous situations. He has tested and serviced the plane. He has filled it up with fuel. He has studied the specific flight plan, considered the weather, and learned the goal and details of the mission. The takeoff is but a few seconds; the mission is but a few hours; but the preparation is years in the making.


You are a man in the making. Before you race down that runway and head up into the sky, it’s important and wise to make sure you are well prepared and equipped for the flight. You’d better make sure you know how to fly the plane and that it has fuel in it. You’d better know what you’re going to do when you come under enemy attack. And, most importantly, you’d better know what the mission is and where you’re going. It’s easy to get lost in the vast sky without a plan.


Manhood is the same way. You’ll be there before you know it, and if you haven’t done your preparations in advance, you can make a lot of unnecessary mistakes as you’re racing down the runway of adolescence. Not only will you make more mistakes without good preparation now, but you can cause yourself—and others—a lot of harm and heartache as well. You can crash on the runway or take off in the wrong direction, and you might never grow into the sort of man God designed you to be. We don’t want you to crash or fly to the wrong destination or get lost in the sky.


This book is designed to give you a mission and flight plan:


We’ll tell you what your purpose is as a man. We’ll tell you what it means to be a man: what your destination is.


We’ll tell you how to accelerate properly and safely down the short runway of adolescence you are about to begin.


We’ll tell you about some problems you are likely to encounter and how you can defeat them before they make you crash or change your flight plan.


We’ll encourage you to get some good co-pilots and flight instructors and technical staff, both your age and older men, who will support and help you on your journey.


So buckle up! The next few years of your life will be a great adventure. Changes like these are on the way:


Your mind, body, emotions and relationships will be changing in ways that you can’t fully understand until you have experienced them.


You will feel new and more intense passions and desires.


You will think about girls, your friends and your parents differently than you do now, and you will relate to them in new ways.


You will think about yourself differently.


You will long for more independence and new challenges.


You will dream new dreams and develop your own identity.


Every adventure also has its share of difficulties and dangers. Self-esteem often dips during your teenage years (though many boys try to hide that on the outside). While you will enjoy and appreciate the increasing freedoms, they will bring temptations that can be hard to resist, and the consequences for a poor decision can be costly. While your body will grow in size and strength, it can be an awkward process with aches and acne. Girls can make your heart race and your heart break. All in all, adolescence can be like riding a roller coaster with many ups and downs.


In this book, we’ll give you as complete and honest of a look at the journey ahead as we can. We want this to be authentic and cover the real issues and temptations that you will likely encounter in the upcoming months and years. We are addressing the topics that boys tell us are on their minds and that teenage boys say they are struggling with. While some of these topics can be embarrassing or difficult, we believe that it is better to know on the front end what you will probably face, and we want to help equip and prepare you for facing them.


But it’s not just the next few years that we care about. We want you to have a vision for the sort of man God wants you to be when you have passed through the adolescent years. That’s our ultimate goal. If you will set your eyes on the final goal—the sort of man you should become—then that will direct you in how you navigate the teenage years. Approaching challenges with the end result in mind is always the best way to begin. Great coaches begin the season talking about where they want the team to be at the end of the season. They talk about conference championships and bowl games and final rankings.


Coaches give their players a playbook to instruct them on how they want the game to be played. God has given you His playbook to help you navigate through the issues that you will be facing in the next few years. Boys are often surprised to hear that the Bible speaks on so many topics. Drinking, peer pressure, friendships, families, girls, even puberty and sex—the Bible gives us perspective and instruction in these matters. It speaks to the role and responsibilities of men. It tells you the sort of man, husband and father you should be one day. It tells all of us how to approach our work and worship and the girls and women in our lives. It talks about our self-worth, our successes, and the stuff we own, use and want to have. It covers difficulties and failures. It tells us about the forgiveness you can experience for all of our mistakes, including ones you may have already committed. We’ll cover all of these topics in this book.


But even more than covering these topics, the Bible describes God’s love for you. Rather than primarily advice and rules, the Bible, most importantly, is the true story of the good news of how much God loves us and how He is seeking to save us. It’s the good news of what He has done for us rather than what we can do for Him. It’s about what we can receive rather than what we must achieve.


We hope that by helping to develop your thinking about these teenage topics and understanding God’s love, grace and pursuit of us, you will grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man. Our desire is that one day you will become a better man, husband and father, and we hope that you will, long before then, deepen your faith and walk with the Lord Jesus Christ; we hope you at least begin to explore questions in your mind and heart about who this God of the Bible is and what He means when He says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has plans to grow and prosper you.


Questions for Reflection and Discussion


1. What are some of the issues that you think will be difficult for you in the next few years?


2. Does the idea of becoming a man scare you or make you nervous? Why or why not?


3. If you could have one question answered about the road ahead for you, what would it be?


4. Is your dad available to talk with you about adolescence and the journey to manhood? If he is not

available, who could you talk to about this important topic?


5. What do you hope to accomplish by reading and studying this book?


6. What is the best piece of advice your dad, mom, adult leader, coach, or mentor has given you so far?


7. How would you define manhood?


8. Do you view the upcoming years of your life as an adventure or just a regular part of your life? Why or why not?

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #37

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

My Fave Five this week:-
1. Mission ConneXion Northwest 2011 (last Saturday). It was awesome! We attended many wonderful workshops. We are very passionate about the Great Commission and get so excited about all the different mission organizations that are reaching out to the lost (esp. the unreached) with the Gospel.

2. Operation World is a great resource to help you in praying for the world including the unreached! "Since its beginnings in Africa in the 1960s, the vision of Operation World has been to gather information to mobilize millions of believers to pray for the nations. We are one of only two Christian centres that compile comprehensive statistics on the religions, denominations and mission agencies across the globe." (from their Facebook page)

3. New Tribes Mission offers a free book: Tribal Beat, a compilation of exciting stories of God working among tribal people.

4. Almond Delight Bristo Cake. Delicious. Thanks to our lovely neighbors for giving us the cake!

5. Definition of a trader. Are you pursuing Christ or the American Dream?
Note: Please turn off my music playlist at the bottom of this page before starting the video.

P.S. I would really appreciate it if you could stop by this post to rate my review of Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic. Thanks so much!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Trusting God to Get You Through by Jason Crabb

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:


Trusting God to Get You Through

Charisma House (January 4, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Best known as the powerhouse lead vocalist for one of Gospel’s most acclaimed and awarded groups, The Crabb Family, Jason Crabb’s career has already been an incredible ride. While garnering multiple Dove Awards, three GRAMMY nominations, and 16 #1 singles with his family, Jason has become one of the Christian music community’s most acclaimed vocalists. Crabb has become a “fan favorite” at the Grand Ole Opry, appeared regularly on the Gaither Homecoming Series videos, and was honored to sing for the Rev. Billy Graham’s final crusade in New York. He has sung with the legendary Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, among many other diverse and prestigious opportunities. His solo album debuted at #1 on Nielsen SoundScan’s Christian/Gospel Christian Retail chart the week following its release in 2009.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DISCRIPTION:

More than anything else, this book is about an amazing God who reaches down and touches ordinary lives. It is a testimony of all He has done for Jason Crabb's family and for the people he has been privileged to meet throughout the years on the road. He wrote this book because every soul walks through the fire of adversity. Most of us have walked that plank several times. Whether the life of your dreams is unfolding before your eyes, or you are losing hope that it ever will, you have tasted a trial or two. No human being with breath in his lungs can say, "Difficulty has never darkened my doorstep." You may have entirely different life experiences than Jason. Yet, when you look in the rearview mirror, you can see the high points and low points of days gone by. The important thing—the truly amazingthing—is that like Jason—you came through all of it. There may be a scar or two to remind us of the past, but the past is behind us. Jason Crabb wants you to know that you came through it for a reason.There is something God is yet going to do with you. The important things to remember is that you can go through the fire—any fire—with God's help.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (January 4, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381744
ISBN-13: 978-1616381745

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Just hold on, our Lord will show up



And He will take you through the fire again!



...Trust the hand of God, He’ll shield the flames again.



Facing Life’s Questions



So many times I’ve questioned certain circumstances



Things I could not understand.




Every song I sing has lyrics centered on a strong gospel message, although the sounds are similar to musical genres that are popular today. Sometimes those familiar styles open doors to exciting and unexpected opportunities to sing outside of mainstream gospel circles.


I’m jazzed by invitations to take part in nontraditional gospel events. One such invite led to the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, a place like no other in the world. Just being on that stage is an honor; how that particular night played out—well, it added to my amazement and demonstrated God’s willingness to use unusual circumstances in the fulfillment of His will.


Talk about irony! The sponsor of our portion of that night’s program was a watering hole in Nashville. You heard me right; our segment was sponsored by a bar—and what an amazing night it turned out to be. From that iconic stage I was privileged to share a

testimony that was fresh in my heart.


“Through the Fire” was part of my testimony that night. Like all my dad’s songs, it speaks to experiences that are common to all people. The song has run like a thread through the fabric of my own life. I told the audience at the Grand Ole Opry as much,

explaining how the song had ministered to Shellye and me during a painful season.


It was a poignant moment when I shared how God had brought us through the trauma of losing two precious babies in separate miscarriages. Although the shock of those losses was still fresh in our thoughts, fresher still was the miracle of God in bringing our season of heartbreak to an end. That night—February 14, 2003—I had the pleasure of sharing breaking news from our house: Shellye and I had just experienced the birth of our first child! Our daughter, Ashleigh Taylor, had been born the day before, and she and her

momma were doing just fine.


After the audience heard our songs and our testimony about Ashleigh’s birth, a woman stopped us outside the auditorium. Like most everyone else at the Opry, she had come to hear the music. But God had more than music in mind for her. With tears streaming

down her face, she said, “I didn’t have any idea I was coming here for this tonight, but I rededicated my life to God—right here at the Grand Ole Opry—sponsored by a bar!”


Life doesn’t always follow the script that makes sense to us. That was true for this woman, and it was true of our miscarriages. The birth of Ashleigh had come after many long days of testing and trial. So many times the dream of raising a family seemed bound

in thick layers of impossibility. Yet deep down, Shellye and I knew that we were not alone in the fight. God’s Word told us so. Many nights the Scriptures comforted and strengthened us. We had His assurance that He would bring us through:


When you pass through the waters,


I will be with you;


and when you pass through the rivers,


they will not sweep over you.


When you walk through the fire,


you will not be burned;


the flames will not set you ablaze.


For I am the Lord, your God.


—Isaiah 43:2–3


Shellye and I walked through some fire. Yet God brought us out and blessed us—radically! Today we have two daughters, Ashleigh Taylor and Emmaleigh Love. They are as beautiful as can be, just like their mother. I will tell you more about them later, but first let me tell you about the love of my life.


My Cowgirl


My earliest awareness of Shellye came when someone brought me a picture of her and said, “You’ve got to meet this girl.”


My reaction was, “Yeah, she’s kind of cute. Yeah, I’d like to meet her.”


I guess I played down my curiosity in front of my friend, but I thought the girl in the picture was beautiful. Little did I know that someone had shown that beautiful girl a picture of me. It was a shot from the album Looking Ahead, a record our family made

even before we started singing full-time. I had a crazy hairdo at the time—a comb-over with a curl that dropped right down the center of my forehead. My hairstyle looked like a 1950s throwback. Shellye wasn’t impressed.


Her reaction was actually stronger than that. She looked at the photo and said, “No way. I don’t think I’d like him at all.”


She then pointed to my curl, saying, “I don’t know about that.”


Sometime later, the Crabb Family was invited by Kentucky Educational Television (KET) to be part of an outdoor concert in Rosine, Kentucky, the home of bluegrass and the birthplace of Bill Monroe, the man known to this day as the Father of Bluegrass

Music.1 KET asked us to sing for a documentary they were making about Kentucky music.


Friends had told me ahead of time that Shellye planned to come and see me at the concert. Things didn’t go exactly according to plan, however. She and her folks arrived after our set was over. We were headed off the stage when I spotted Shellye getting out of a car.


I never took my eyes off her; I watched her walk across the field and toward the stage. I might not be able to tell you what Shellye wore yesterday, but I can tell you exactly what she was wearing in Rosine. She cut straight across that field in blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and roper boots.


Shellye was the prettiest girl I had ever seen. She looked even more beautiful than her picture. My heart skipped a beat—maybe two—and I remember thinking, “Well, I’ve got me a little cowgirl with long, curly hair.”


I wasn’t the only one who noticed Shellye. Our drummer asked, “Who is that?”


I said, “Let’s go meet her.”


“Yeah, I want to meet her,” he said.


We talked to Shellye for a while. Then it hit me: I didn’t need to help the drummer get to know Shellye; I needed to head him off at the pass! Just as quick as you can bat an eye, I asked her, “Hey, what are you doing tonight?”


“I’m going to church,” she replied.


“Well, good, because I’m going with you.” I didn’t ask her if I could accompany her; I just told her we were going to church together. It was bold, but it was OK with Shellye.

She was comfortable knowing that her stepmom knew me. In fact, her stepmom was Kathy’s cousin. So, I wasn’t a complete stranger, and church seemed like a safe first date.


In the meantime, we tried to get out of the blistering heat. The only place that was even slightly cooler than that hot Kentucky field was the inside of our old GMC bus. It was our family’s first bus, and it burned almost as much oil as it did gas. It wasn’t pretty, but

it had places to sit and offered shelter from the sun. It even had a recliner that we had installed for on-the-road comfort.


Shellye sat in the recliner, and I stood in the stairwell. We just talked and talked until it was night. By the time we left for church, one thing was certain: our meeting was no accident. The hours I spent with Shellye were like nothing I had ever experienced. We

were clearly drawn to one another and found it easy to talk and laugh together. It sounds like a cliché, but we felt almost as though we had known each other for some time.


That night, Shellye and I went to church. At some point, I learned that she was seeing someone, but the relationship was not serious. The next day, the fellow Shellye had dated called her before I did. She refused to come to the phone. She had already decided that she didn’t want to talk to anyone but me.


When I finally called, it was Shellye’s turn to be bold. She asked me whether I was coming over and said she wanted to see me again. I didn’t have to think twice about my answer. I just said, “I’ll come over.”


When I got to Shellye’s house, she and her twin sister answered the door. Seeing the two of them caught me by surprise, but I got over it. There was no doubt in my mind: there was only one Shellye, and she was the girl for me.


The memories of those days are strong. The slightest reminder can trigger my senses and transport me back in time. During our courtship, I made it a habit to pick up some watermelon gum and a Dr. Pepper on my way to Shellye’s house. To this day, the

sight, smell, or taste of either one affects us, and each year the first October breeze reminds us of the day we met.


My Better Half


Years ago, I prayed and asked God to bring the right woman into my life. I knew it was important to find not just a good woman but the right woman. God answered my prayers. Shellye is everything I need and everything I am not. She helps me to remain rooted

in what matters. She helps me to strike a healthy balance between family and ministry. She helps me to stay grounded when I’m on the road.


Shellye is an amazing wife and mother and the perfect helpmate. Of course, she is much more than that. Ask anyone about Shellye, and they will tell you that she is a rock. In fact, that’s what they call her: the rock. She is content in life. She is comfortable with our

roles and all they entail. She is supportive of me while at the same time fulfilled as a stay-at-home mom. Her deep contentment brings me peace. I know that when I’m on the road, I don’t have to worry about her or my kids. Shellye has it all in hand.


Not everyone who travels enjoys the kind of homecomings I do. Not every spouse can deal with the things Shellye takes in stride. Keeping the home fires burning is not a chore for my wife. When I return from a stint on the road, I enter a home bubbling over with

warmth and love. It is inviting and reassuring and demonstrates Shellye’s wholeness. Her joy is a great blessing to our family. As a man,


I can’t imagine a better home life than the one I’ve got. As a father, I can’t imagine a better mother for Ashleigh and Emmaleigh.


One of my favorite pastimes is watching Shellye and our girls interact. She’s got a way about her that brings tears to my eyes. Whatever the activity, Shellye is right beside them. When they are learning their Scripture memory verses, Shellye is there. Already,

Ashleigh can quote nine verses of a psalm at a single clip, in part because Shellye is so supportive. As a mom, she is dedicated to helping both our daughters succeed in their endeavors.


Not that being a full-time mom is easy, especially when your husband travels as much as I do. Shellye is the nightly homework helper, the daily taxi, the resident chef, and keeper of all things domestic. Yet she relishes her life. She sincerely enjoys shuttling the girls to and from school and cheerleading practice—and not as a drive-by mother, either. Shellye is very involved at our girls’ school and finds ways to contribute and be a blessing to the staff and faculty.


As a life partner, Shellye is my perfect match, emotionally and otherwise. I value her opinion. She is smart, objective, wise, and knows me better than anybody else does. When questions arise as to the direction of ministry or the choice of songs for an album

or which producer or record company is right, I know I can go to Shellye for straightforward, reliable input.


Being transparent and at ease in our conversation is something we have been able to do since that first day in Rosine. There are no egos in the way. We just keep it simple and honest. That freedom allows us to grow individually and as a couple. After a two-andone-

half-hour concert, Shellye will say, “Honey, that set was too long.” I don’t try to convince her that a one-hundred-fifty-minute concert is a great idea. I take my wife’s advice seriously; I know she has my best interests at heart. At the same time, she knows I trust her and won’t be offended by the truth. In the end, if you can’t tell each other the truth, you have to wonder how solid your relationship really is.


One of the reasons Shellye and I came together in the first place has to do with transparency. At the very beginning, it was clear that Shellye loved me for who I was and not what I did. It wasn’t about the music, the recognition, or anything like that. In fact,

when we first fell in love, she didn’t know the extent of my musical and ministry life.


Shellye liked me as I was. As a result, she brought out the best in me. I had experienced relationships that lacked that kind of truth. In school, everyone had their crush and their reasons. I was a country kid with no fancy home or cars or anything to draw attention

to me. I wasn’t very popular with the girls. In fact, they usually gave me the brush-off. They weren’t interested in me—at least, not until I sang at a school variety show. Then, all of a sudden, the girls noticed me. Suddenly, I was in demand.


He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.


—Proverbs 18:22


Shellye did not operate that way. She loved me first and learned about what I did afterward. We were blessed in that when we started our relationship, we truly loved each other. We weren’t drawn by illusions or impressions or any other distractions. That has proved to be a good foundation for the rest of our life together.


Shellye’s Testimony: It’s Not About Me


I met Jason in Rosine, Kentucky, when I was sixteen years old. In all of Kentucky, I may have been the only person who hadn’t heard of the Crabb Family. All I knew was that my stepmom and my father were taking me to a concert. There was a guy there my stepmom

wanted me to meet.


Moments after I met Jason, he asked me, “What are you doing tonight?”


I said, “I’m going to church.”


Without the slightest hesitation, he said, “I’m going with you”— which he did!


That is where our relationship began. We hit it off from the start, but since we lived seventeen miles apart, it wasn’t easy getting to see one another. Not only that, but Jason was on the road a lot. Often he would come in during the middle of the week, wake up

at six in the morning, and drive over to Central City, where I lived. He would take me to school and return in the evening to pick me up and take me home.


Just about every time Jason came to get me, I would ask him, “What should we do tonight?”


Jason’s answer was always the same: “We’ve got to put up posters.”


The posters let everyone know when the Crabb Family would be singing. Once each month, they gave a concert in Owensboro, Kentucky. It took lots of posters to get the word out. That is how we spent most of our dates. And since the Owensboro concerts

happened every month, we were never done hanging posters. Jason and I dated for three years. In 1997, I graduated from high school, and on May 12, 1998, Jason and I got married in my home church. I was nineteen, and he was twenty-one. Our backgrounds

were very similar; my parents divorced when I was only four years old, and my dad raised me; my twin sister, Kellye; and our older sister, Leslie.


Because my dad worked on the railroad and was gone a lot of the time, my grandmother lived with us and cared for us kids. She was very involved with my sisters and me and played a very significant role in our lives. So did Dad. He worked really hard to make a living for all of us. My dad and grandmother did a great job raising us—and they made sure we were in church every time the doors opened!


After two years of marriage, Jason and I learned that I was pregnant. We were scared, yet excited. Starting a family was something we both wanted very much. But almost as soon as our dream was underway, it was threatened. Early in the pregnancy, I started having complications. Soon afterward, I had a miscarriage. Jason and I were devastated to lose our baby. We couldn’t understand why this had happened to us.


About a year and a half later, I got pregnant again. Our hopes were high, but we lost that baby too. It hit us hard. I remember asking the Lord over and over again to give me the strength to get through the ordeal. He did.


Yet getting through the miscarriages was only part of the process. For so long I struggled with the loss of our babies and the disappointment that followed. At times I almost questioned God; I wanted to ask Him why He allowed everyone but us to have babies.

The loss of our children did not make sense to me. Still, I kept praying. At some point I realized that my focus was centered on me and what I wanted. I was preoccupied with the way I thought things should turn out. What I really needed was to get to the point where it wasn’t about me.


Through prayer and dedication, I eventually got to where I needed to be. It wasn’t about us anymore. It was about what God wanted for our lives. The day came when I could agree with the psalmist who said, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness” (Ps. 115:1).


Emotionally and spiritually, the change in perspective was dramatic. It not only kept us grounded in our trust of the Lord, but it also helped Jason and me to mature. Needless to say, our growth in this area was not easy; we were being stretched and tested. When you are in a situation like we were in, you sometimes wonder whether it will ever end.


Then one day, God spoke to me! He promised me a child. His promise did not come about right away, yet I knew I had heard His voice. And I knew He was faithful.


Shellye’s Testimony: Look to the Future


When Jason is onstage, he often tells the story of an evangelist friend who told us to buy a box of Pampers—before we had even conceived. The man’s name is Jay Boyd. Jason has known him since childhood when Jason and his family attended Jay’s revival meetings. Jason played drums for Jay at some point, and they have kept in touch over the years. The way Jason tells it, Jay could preach wallpaper right off the walls. I don’t doubt it. Jay is fearless about saying whatever he believes God wants said.


We bought that box of Pampers. Every day it served as a reminder that our promise was on its way. It was a tangible symbol of God’s promise and involvement in our lives,much as the watch from Pastor Parsley is symbolic of God’s faithfulness in Jason’s transition

to solo ministry.


This pastor encouraged us to be proactive in our faith, thanking God in advance for the blessing of our children. Doing that forced us to take our focus off the past. Jason and I set our sights on what was yet to come. Before six months went by, I was pregnant again!

This time, I knew everything was going to be fine. In fact, there was not a single doubt in my mind. I just started thanking God for our baby, knowing that He was taking care of us.


He was and still is taking care of us—all four of us! Now, when I look back to the years before the births of Ashleigh Taylor and Emmaleigh Love, I understand why things happened the way they did. The Lord has shown me, and continues to show me, the good

that came out of our trial. Night after night, women with similar heartaches come to our table. They are hurting and wondering why, just as we were during those hard years. Now we have precious opportunities to minister to them. And because we walked through the same flames, these women realize that they can come through the fire too.


God is faithful. He will comfort others as He comforted us! He will help others to understand the things He helped us to understand. They too will come out of the fire knowing that “ . . . neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38–39). In His wisdom and because of our experiences, God has given us a special way to share His love.


There is one other thing God showed me after our trial ended. I learned that trials are often one part why and an equal part when. It is clear to me now that when Jason and I first conceived, it was not the right time for us. The first five years of our marriage helped

us to draw close and build a stronger bond between us. God had something in mind for that season, and it wasn’t children.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


—Jeremiah 29:11


Through the struggle, we continued to minister. At times, when Shellye and I were on the bus, I’d look over at her and see tears in her eyes. Those tears did the talking even when no words were exchanged.


There was a question in my wife’s tears. The question was, “Why?” To this day, I really can’t say why Shellye and I endured the devastation of miscarriages. At this point, I’m not sure I need to know. I do know this: our experiences have helped us to bless others. So many people suffer the heartbreak of losing a baby. The numbers are staggering. In fact, depending upon the statistical source, as many as one out of four women suffer a miscarriage.


There are a lot of hurting people behind those numbers. For Shellye and me, it is easy to relate to them. We know what it is like to lose a child. It is hard—really hard. Yet even in the midst of our losses, we were not without hope. Nor was I without a voice. I just

kept singing “Through the Fire” and “Still Holding On.” I knew I could trust God to show up and carry me past the pain again.


Those two songs encouraged Shellye and me when we needed it most. It was as though God was saying, “I am faithful, and I will continue to be faithful.” He was giving us, through whatever means necessary, the strength to heed the words David wrote during his

own desperate times: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord” (Ps. 31:24).


God used those songs to renew our hope and refresh our souls. He used people too. Shellye told you about Jay Boyd and the Pampers. Jay knew my family for years. His and my dad’s relationship dated back before the Crabb Family Singers to the days when my dad was a minister. I remember Jay in the pulpit—the man could preach! I am thankful that our relationship has continued throughout the years.


Jay told Shellye and me to thank God for the promise before it came to pass. He said we needed to do what the Bible says and call “things that are not as though they were” (Rom. 4:17). We needed to be like the men who tore the roof off a building because they believed Jesus would heal the paralyzed man they brought to Him (Mark 2:1–12). We needed to be like Jairus trusting Jesus, even in the worst circumstances (Mark 5:22–43). We needed to come to the place where no matter the setbacks we would remain focused on the love and power of God to bless and heal.


All of Christianity is built on that kind of faith. It is the faith that says, “When doubt comes, we’ll praise Him. When life comes apart at the seams, we’ll praise Him. No matter the outcome, we’ll praise Him. Whether the promise comes to pass or it doesn’t, we’ll praise Him.”


That last one is a tough nut to crack. It means selling out to God to such a degree that your dreams are not as important as the fact that you are His. It took Shellye and me time to get there. We were not satisfied with the outcome of two miscarriages. We were not

satisfied to be childless. I won’t kid you; after the second miscarriage,

I threw my hands in the air and said, “God, I may not be the greatest father, but I will be a grateful father.”


In the midst of an ordeal like that, there are moments when you feel hopeless and unable to push past the sorrow. We often minister to people who feel exactly that way. Our hearts break for them, because we understand. We are so privileged to pray for them. How blessed we are to hear their testimonies afterward! Some of them write us to say that they have given birth. Others are ecstatic when they tell us that God answered their prayers through adoption. Still, I know that some of them have yet to see their dreams fulfilled.


For those who have had miscarriages, there is good news: your babies are in heaven. So are our babies. As hard as it was to lose them, I get excited to think that someday Ashleigh and Emmaleigh will meet their siblings in heaven!


At some distant day, all six of us will be there together.


It is not easy to be strong and take heart when things happen in defiance of God’s promises. In those crushing moments, it is hard to know what to think or how to respond. Should we trust in silence and ignore our doubts? Or should we deny our emotions, as though we were not in turmoil?


Our responses to difficulty have a lot to do with how we were raised and what we have been told about God. Some people say we should never, ever question God. Yet some of the greatest leaders and prophets in all of history have asked Him tough questions.


When Abraham learned of God’s plan to investigate the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham pressed God to share His intentions. He wanted to know whether God would kill his nephew Lot and Lot’s family along with the depraved. Abraham asked God point-blank, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen. 18:23). He continued to press God until God assured him that the handful of righteous people living in the forsaken place would be spared (Gen. 18:24–32).


Life is full of questions. Not all of them are as pressing as our questions about death, suffering, and loss. Yet, even if we had never experienced a day of adversity, we would ask our Father the curious questions children always ask their parents:


• “How many stars are in the sky?”

• “Why is grass green?”

• “Why do we park in the driveway and drive on the

parkway?”

• “Why is my last name Crabb?” (Imagine how much

adversity a name like that can generate at school!)

• “Why...what...how...when...where?”


My point is this: if you have taken oxygen into your lungs, you know that life is marked by trials and heartaches. We experience circumstances we don’t understand and don’t want to embrace. We have questions and will continue to have questions as long as we are breathing, and maybe even after that. Who is better able to answer us than God? He wasn’t surprised by Abraham’s questions, and He won’t be surprised by ours.


I have met people in all kinds of situations. Often I can almost hear their hearts asking, “Why, God?” Recently I prayed with a woman in the Midwest. She wanted me to ask God to help her keep her new job. She said, “I have an incurable disease.”


She lost her health insurance when she took the new job. That sounds like trouble enough for someone with an incurable disease. Yet she feared something worse. She feared being without work. She had a family to support and was worried about getting fired. I got the sense that she was a single parent. Whatever her status, she was obviously under a lot of pressure and had decided to make choices designed to improve her lot. She believed her new job would open a fresh chapter in her life.


She summed up her thoughts by saying something unforgettable: “I have to get back to living.”


As the tears streamed down her cheeks, I started praying for words of encouragement, something God would have her hear. In my mind, I imagined the questions piercing her heart.


“Am I going to make it?”


“Will I lose my job?”


“Am I going to die?”


“Will they find a cure for this disease, or will God heal me?”


Then I asked this dear woman a question: “Do you believe that God can heal you?”


“I am trying to,” she said. “I’m going to church and hanging on to every word the preacher says.”


Although her unanswered questions lingered, I knew she would be all right when she said, “I have to get back to living.” Her life had been as tough as nails, but she was not about to give up. Nor was she willing to accept the bleak picture the devil was trying to

present to her.


We must never forget that the devil is a liar. Lying is his stock and trade. Therefore it is up to us to take the offense where he and his lies are concerned. When he tempts me, I like to ask myself this question: What if Satan had to tell the truth about himself,

about God, and about our destinies? What kind of picture would he paint then? How successful would he be at killing, stealing, and destroying lives if he could suggest nothing but truth?


The answer is that he would fail miserably at deceiving us. Unfortunately, truth is not the enemy’s hallmark. He continues to seek those “he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8, kjv.) The sense I got from the woman who wanted to get back to living was that she refused to be devoured by a liar. She was determined to keep moving forward. I like to see that kind of tenacity. People like her are hard to forget. In fact, I will never forget her or that altar service.


There are so many memories like that. The people we meet touch our hearts as much as we do theirs, if not more. I remember an outdoor concert from some years ago, before “Through the Fire” was completed. In fact, at the time, Dad had only part of the song

worked out. He had started it at the piano, but after a year, he was still stuck; the rest of the song just wouldn’t come together.


We had a product table at the concert. On that particular day, Dad was behind the table, and I was standing nearby. A woman walked up to Dad with a child in her arms. The woman asked Dad, “When you get back on the bus, will you pray for me? My son needs an operation, and my husband just left me.” We prayed for her right there.


A prayer request like that can take your breath away. Yet this woman showed great strength; as she turned to walk away, she reminded us about faith’s bottom line. Her last words to us were, “I’m still trusting in the Lord that He’s going to help me through all this.”


Her parting words were as riveting as her prayer request. We were reminded once again that there is always someone who is going through something worse than what we are experiencing. God used her to put our lives and issues into clear perspective.


That night Dad wrote the rest of “Through the Fire.”
MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
If you are a fan of the Gaithers, you probably have heard or seen the Crabb family, including Jason Crabb. In this book, Jason shares his personal experiences growing up in a Gospel-singing family with all its ups and downs. His parents' divorce. Being on the road most of the time. His trouble with drugs. Two miscarriages. Going solo. Winning a Grammy. With the backdrop of the lyrics from his father's song, Through the Fire, Jason offers his thoughts and insights from what he has learned along his life's journey. He hopes to encourage others to cling to God, trust Him, and press on no matter what. Never give in and never give up! God will get you through any fire you face. I could sense Jason's love for God, his love for his family, his love for people, his childlike faith, and his humility through the pages. This book is a great read and a great reminder of a great God who loves each one of us so very much and cares for us deeply.
"Don't quit! The biggest and brightest blessings are on the other side of the struggle." ~Jason Crabb

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Game Review: Praise Champion

Our whole family have had a blast with Praise Champion (Karaoke World Tour) CD-rom. We had never done karaoke before and Praise Champion blew us away. Well, not at first since we couldn’t score above a few hundred points due to a defective microphone that was included. Hopefully, this wouldn’t happen to you and if it did, I’m sure you could contact them for a replacement. Through a better microphone that we already owned and through practice, we were able to score well over 100,000 points at times. Not only is it fun to sing and rack up points, but you can also unlock new venues (places to sing) and clothing and accessory options for your character by performing well enough to earn silver, gold, and platinum. You won’t receive a new venue/clothing option every time you reach silver or gold on a song but on certain songs you will. *whispers* If you manage to get gold on a certain song and it unlocks something, you can get gold again and again (at least a couple other times) and unlock two more with the medal level on the same song. That’s a free hint from my 17 yo daughter who has really enjoyed this game. In fact, this singing game has been a big hit with my two sons (12 and 9) as well. After performing a song, we can replay our recording and add effects such as reverb and chorus. There are also mini games such as “Pitch-N-Pass” and “Tune-a-Tuna” that aim to help you improve different vocal skills like pitch detection, pitch sustaining, pitch change and lung capacity. While we haven’t personally unlocked anything through them (and don’t find them as fun as the performances), the instructions say you can unlock new stuff if you do really well. The High Scores list shows the high score for each song that has been sung. For those of you who are competitive, you’ll have fun trying to beat others’ scores :).

Praise Champion features 40 wonderful praise and worship songs such as “Revelation Song”, “I Am Free”, “My Savior Lives”, hymns such as “Amazing Grace”, “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”, “Blessed Assurance” plus 20 bonus Christmas songs such as “Silent Night”, “O Holy Night”, “Joy to the World”, and many more. When we sing, we get real-time performance feedback. A glowing pitch bar moves up and down the scale to display the singer’s pitch. A performance meter indicates whether the singer belongs in the shower, in the choir, or on tour :). We all have had a great time singing. It’s so good for me as a parent to know that my kids are singing clean Christian songs (with great lyrics). It’s okay if you don’t know some of them, this is a fun way to learn new songs! Awesome CD-rom for all ages and one of the most enjoyable PC games we’ve ever owned!

~I received this CD-rom for free from LB Games in an exchange of my honest review. LB Games produces quality PC-based Christian interactive games for children, teens and adults. Their games are supported by Focus on the Family, the Billy Graham Center and many preachers who appreciate that their games provide a healthy alternative to other violent games. I share their approval.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Game Review: LEFT BEHIND: Rise of the Antichrist

Left Behind: Rise Of The AntiChrist is a really fun adventure game. We’ve actually never seen the Left Behind movies or read the Left Behind book series. But that didn’t keep us from enjoying the game! It must have taken a lot of work to design all the buildings and people in the setting of futuristic New York City. The graphics are excellent. A word of warning: Don’t start out without going through at least part of the tutorials. It will leave you frustrated and confused. Once we figured it out, we spent literally hours recruiting people to our cause, building everything from an international bank to a mission training center to a cathedral to a coffee shop and more! It was fun to create helicopters, Abrams tanks, and Humvees with our weapons depot. You can train new friends/recruits to be builders, worship leaders, spies, missionaries, snipers, prayer warriors, and more! They all serve a specific purpose and have different cool things that you can make them. You’ll have to play the game to find out exactly what ;). There are different levels that a person can go through to become a more advanced version of their trade. For example, you put a "friend" inside the clinic and make him/her into a medic. Then, you put him/her inside the mission training center (where the advanced training happens) and you can make that person into a nurse and then a doctor. By the way, the medical profession is important for healing those who are injured by the enemy. Speaking of the enemy, that’s where things really get exciting! Battling the forces of evil (demons and minions of the AntiChrist) through prayer and weapons shows our need to fight both physical and spiritual warfare. You can take command of 3 forces: Tribulation, Peacekeepers, and the American Militia. Over 45 missions and over 40 unit types!

Our computer (where we installed this game) is not hooked up to the internet so we didn’t get to try the multi-player games but I’m sure they’d be a blast, too. The box says that you can choose to play with up to 7 friends online for free. This game is appropriate for teens and up because of violence (fighting/shooting).

~I received this CD-rom for free from LB Games in an exchange of my honest review. LB Games produces quality PC-based Christian interactive games for children, teens and adults. Their games are supported by Focus on the Family, the Billy Graham Center and many preachers who appreciate that their games provide a healthy alternative to other violent games. I share their approval.

Game Review: Keys of the Kingdom

Keys of the Kingdom is an interesting brain puzzle/logic game. You go through different levels solving puzzles, trying to get the brick with the lock and the brick with the key to come together. It gets tricky as the levels pass by! There are bombs and pulleys that make the puzzles more complicated. Like-colored bricks blow up if you pull them together. A Bible verse pops up between each level. There are 100 levels. My daughter likes the pretty sparkles that happen whenever you click on something. We’ve enjoyed solving the challenging puzzles and being encouraged with God’s Word. We’re looking forward to helping Sir Lancelot succeed in freeing the people from the oppressive king. The journey to the King’s castle is filled with puzzling adventures :). Lots of fun for everyone!

~I received this CD-rom for free from LB Games in an exchange of my honest review. LB Games produces quality PC-based Christian interactive games for children, teens and adults. Their games are supported by Focus on the Family, the Billy Graham Center and many preachers who appreciate that their games provide a healthy alternative to other violent games. I share their approval.

Game Review: Charlie Church Mouse Super Pak


Charlie Church Mouse Super Pak includes a 3-game set: Preschool (for ages 2-4), Kindergarten (for ages 4-6), and Early Elementary (for ages 6-8). Kids learn age appropriate skills through 18 exciting Bible stories such as Jonah and the Whale, Noah’s Ark, Three Wise Men, Birth of a Savior, The Prodigal Son, Queen Esther, Daniel and the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, Ruth, and more. Lessons cover colors, shapes, numbers, letters, measurements, addition/subtraction, spelling, synonyms/antonyms, time, etc.

Each story has fun games. In the story of Ruth, there is a game where Ruth tries to gather grain while avoiding the birds and the mole. It is similar to Packman. This was one of my son’s favorite games. Another game from the story of Daniel and the Lions Den teaches kids how to tell time. The animations are colorful and lively but aren’t realistic. For example, in Zacchaeus & The Big Tree, they had a car and in David and Goliath, David’s dad called him on a cell phone telling him to go bring his brothers food and the food he brought was pizza. I recommend Charlie Church Mouse Super Pak because it is educational and entertaining while instilling kids the Biblical accounts that will stay with them throughout their lives. Great value!

~I received this CD-rom for free from LB Games in an exchange of my honest review. LB Games produces quality PC-based Christian interactive games for children, teens and adults. Their games are supported by Focus on the Family, the Billy Graham Center and many preachers who appreciate that their games provide a healthy alternative to other violent games. I share their approval.

Monday, January 24, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Jesus in the Present Tense by Warren 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:


Jesus in the Present Tense: The I AM Statements of Christ

David C. Cook (January 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Dr. Warren 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, including the popular “Be” series of Bible commentaries, which has sold more than four million copies. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, NE.


SHORT BOOK DISCRIPTION:

As Warren Wiersbe writes, “My past may discourage me and my future may frighten me, but ‘the life I now live’ today can be enriching and encouraging because ‘Christ lives in me.’” In Jesus in the Present Tense, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explores the “I AM” statements of God—from His burning bush conversation with Moses, to His powerful reassurances to the Israelites, to Jesus’ startling claim to be the Light of the World. Jesus in the Present Tense offers a fresh exploration of God—the I AM.

God doesn’t want us to ignore the past, but the past should be a rudder to guide us and not an anchor to hold us back. Nor does He want us to neglect planning for the future, so long as we say, “If it is the Lord’s will” (James 4:13-17). The better we understand our Lord’s I AM statements, and by faith apply them, the more our strength will equal our days (Deut. 33:25), and we will “run and not grow weary [and]…walk and not be faint” (Isa. 40:31). We will abide in Christ and bear fruit for His glory today—now.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781404878
ISBN-13: 978-0781404877

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Moses Asks a Question

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

—Exodus 3:13



When Helen Keller was nineteen months old, she contracted an illness that left her blind and deaf for life. It was not until she was ten years old that she began to have meaningful communication with those around her. It occurred when her gifted teacher Anne Sullivan taught her to say “water” as Anne spelled “water” on the palm of her hand. From that pivotal experience, Helen Keller entered the wonderful world of words and names, and it transformed her life. Once Helen was accustomed to this new system of communication with others, her parents arranged for her to receive religious instruction from the eminent Boston clergyman Phillips Brooks. One day during her lesson, Helen said these remarkable words to Brooks: “I knew about God before you told me, only I didn’t know His name.”1



The Greek philosophers wrestled with the problem of knowing and naming God. “But the father and maker of all this universe is past finding out,” Plato wrote in his Timaeus dialogue, “and if we found him, to tell of him to all men would be impossible.” He said that God was “a geometrician,” and Aristotle called God “The Prime Mover.” No wonder the apostle Paul found an altar in Athens dedicated to “The Unknown God” (see Acts 17:22–23). The Greek philosophers of his day were “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). But thinkers in recent centuries haven’t fared much better. The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel called God “the Absolute,” and Herbert Spencer named Him “the Unknowable.” Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychiatry, wrote in chapter 4 of his book Totem and Taboo (1913), “The personalized God is psychologically nothing other than a magnified father.” God is a father figure but not a personal heavenly Father. British biologist Julian Huxley wrote in chapter 3 of his book Religion without Revelation (1957), “Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire cat.” The fantasies described in Alice in Wonderland were more real to Huxley than was God Almighty!



But God wants us to know Him, because knowing God is the most important thing in life!



Salvation

To begin with, knowing God personally is the only way we sinners can be saved. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). After healing a blind beggar, Jesus later searched for him and found him in the temple, and the following conversation took place: “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” asked Jesus. The man said, “Who is he, sir? Tell me so that I may believe in him.”



Jesus replied, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you” (John 9:35–38). The man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he fell on his knees before Jesus. Not only was the beggar given physical sight, but his spiritual eyes were also opened (Eph. 1:18) and he received eternal life. His first response was to worship Jesus publicly where everybody could see him.



This introduces a second reason why we must know who God is and what His name is: We were created to worship and glorify Him. After all, only little joy or encouragement can come from worshipping an “unknown God.” We were created in God’s image that we might have fellowship with Him now and “enjoy Him forever,” as the catechism says. Millions of people attend religious services faithfully each week and participate in the prescribed liturgy, but not all of them enjoy personal fellowship with God. Unlike that beggar, they have never submitted to Jesus and said, “Lord, I believe.” To them, God is a distant stranger, not a loving Father. Their religious lives are a routine, not a living reality.



But there is a third reason for knowing God. Because we possess eternal life and practice biblical worship, we can experience the blessing of a transformed life. After describing the folly of idol worship, the psalmist added, “Those who make them [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (see Ps. 115:1–8). We become like the gods that we worship! Worshipping a god we don’t know is the equivalent of worshipping an idol, and we can have idols in our minds and imaginations as well as on our shelves.



Our heavenly Father’s loving purpose for His children is that they might be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man [Adam], so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man [Jesus]” (1 Cor. 15:49). However, we should not wait until we see Jesus for this transformation to begin, because God’s Holy Spirit can start changing us today. As we pray, meditate on the Word of God, experience suffering and joy, and as we witness, worship, fellowship with God’s people, and serve the Lord with our spiritual gifts, the Spirit quietly works within us and transforms us to become more like our Lord Jesus Christ.



The conclusion is obvious: The better we know the Lord, the more we will love Him, and the more we love Him, the more we will worship and obey Him. As a result, we will become more like Him and experience what the apostle Peter called growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). Paul took an incident out of the life of Moses (Ex. 34:29–35) and described it this way: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). Moses didn’t realize that his face was radiant, but others saw it! He was being transformed.



God commands us to know Him and worship Him because He wants to give us the joyful privilege of serving and glorifying Him. Commanding us to worship isn’t God’s way of going on a heavenly ego trip, because we can supply God with nothing. “If I were hungry,” says the Lord, “I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it” (Ps. 50:12). He commands worship because we need to worship Him! To humble ourselves before Him, to show reverence and gratitude, and to praise Him in the Spirit are essential to balanced growth in a normal Christian life. Heaven is a place of worship (Rev. 4—5), and we ought to begin to worship Him correctly right now. But unless we are growing in our knowledge of God and in our experience of His incredible grace, our worship and service will amount to very little.



Salvation, worship, personal transformation and loving service are all part of living in the present tense and depending on our Lord and Savior. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).



Preparation

Moses spent forty years in Egypt “being educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22). Then he fled for his life to Midian, where he spent the next forty years serving as a shepherd. Imagine a brilliant PhD earning a living by taking care of dumb animals! But the Lord had to humble Moses before He could exalt him and make him the deliverer of Israel. Like the church today, the nation of Israel was only a flock of sheep (Ps. 77:20; 78:52; Acts 20:28), and what the nation needed was a loving shepherd who followed the Lord and cared for His people. The Lord spent eighty years preparing Moses for forty years of faithful service. God isn’t in a hurry.



The call of Moses started with the curiosity of Moses. He saw a bush that was burning but not burning up, and he paused to investigate. “Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect,” said British essayist Samuel Johnson, and Moses certainly qualified. He saw something he couldn’t explain and discovered that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was dwelling in that burning bush (Deut. 33:16). The Lord God had come to visit him.



What did that remarkable burning bush signify to Moses, and what does it signify to us? For one thing, it revealed the holiness of God; because throughout Scripture, fire is associated with the dynamic holy character of the Lord. Isaiah called God “the consuming fire” and the “everlasting burning” (Isa. 33:14; see also Heb. 12:29). Note that Moses saw this burning bush on Mount Horeb, which is Mount Sinai (Ex. 3:1); and when God gave Moses the law on Sinai, the mountain burned with fire (Ex. 24:15–18; Acts 7:30–34). How should we respond to the holy character of God? By humbling ourselves and obeying what He commands. (See Isa. 6.) Theodore Epp wrote, “Moses was soon to discover that the essential qualifications for serving God are unshod feet and a hidden face.”2 How different a description from that of “celebrities” today, who wear expensive clothes and make sure their names and faces are kept before their adoring public. God wasn’t impressed with Moses’ Egyptian learning, for “the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight” (1 Cor. 3:19). God’s command to us is, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6). When the prodigal son repented and came to his father, the father put shoes on his feet (Luke 15:22); but spiritually speaking, when believers humbly surrender to the Lord, they must remove their sandals and become bondservants of Jesus Christ.



The burning bush also reveals the grace of God, for the Lord had come down to announce the good news of Israel’s salvation. He knew Moses’ name and spoke to him personally (Ex. 3:4; John 10:3). He assured Moses that He saw the misery of the Jewish people in Egypt and heard their cries of pain and their prayers for help. “I am concerned about their suffering,” He said. “So I have come down to rescue them” (Ex. 3:7–8). The Lord remembered and honored His covenant promises with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the time had come to deliver His people.



It was by grace that God chose Moses to be His servant. The Lord wasn’t disturbed by Moses’ past failures in Egypt, including the fact that even his own people had rejected his leadership (Ex. 2:11–15). Moses was now an old man who had been away from Egypt for forty years, but this didn’t hinder God from using him effectively. The Lord knows how to use the weak, foolish, and despised things of the world to humiliate the wise and the strong and ultimately to defeat the mighty (1 Cor. 1:26–31). God would receive great glory as Moses magnified His name in Egypt.



Identification

If Moses was going to accomplish anything in Egypt, he needed to know the name of the Lord, because the Israelites would surely ask, “Who gave you the authority to tell us and Pharaoh what to do?” God’s reply to Moses’ question was, “I AM WHO I AM.” Moses told the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:14). The name I AM comes from the Hebrew word YHWH. To pronounce this holy name, the Jews used the vowels from the name Adonai (Lord) and turned YHWH into Yahweh (LORD in our English translations). The name conveys the concept of absolute being, the One who is and whose dynamic presence works on our behalf. It conveys the meanings of “I am who and what I am, and I do not change. I am here with you and for you.”



The name Yahweh (Jehovah, LORD) was known in the time of Seth (Gen. 4:26), Abraham (14:22; 15:1), Isaac (25:21–22), and Jacob (28:13; 49:18). However, the fullness of its meaning had not yet been revealed. The Law of Moses warned the Jews, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Ex. 20:7; see also Deut. 28:58). Their fear of divine judgment caused the Jewish people to avoid using the holy name Yahweh and to substitute Adonai (Lord) instead.



In nine places in the Old Testament, the Lord “filled out” or “completed” the name I AM to reveal more fully His divine nature and His gracious ministry to His people.



• Yahweh-Jireh: The LORD will provide or see to it (Gen. 22:14)

• Yahweh-Rophe: The LORD who heals (Ex. 15:26)

• Yahweh-Nissi: The LORD our banner (Ex. 17:15)

• Yahweh-M’Kaddesh: The LORD who sanctifies (Lev. 20:8)

• Yahweh-Shalom: The LORD our peace (Judg. 6:24)

• Yahweh-Rohi: The LORD my shepherd (Ps. 23:1)

• Yahweh-Sabaoth: The LORD of hosts (Ps. 46:7)

• Yahweh-Tsidkenu: The LORD our righteousness (Jer. 23:6)

• Yahweh-Shammah: The LORD is there (Ezek. 48:35)



Of course, all of these names refer to our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Because He is Yahweh-Jireh, He can supply all our needs and we need not worry (Matt. 6:25–34; Phil. 4:19). As Yahweh-Rophe, He is able to heal us; and as Yahweh-Nissi, He will help us fight our battles and defeat our enemies. We belong to Yahweh-M’Kaddesh because He has set us apart for Himself (1 Cor. 6:11); and Yahweh-Shalom gives us peace in the midst of the storms of life (Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4:9). All the promises of God find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20). Yahweh-Rohi takes us to Psalm 23 and John 10, encouraging us to follow the Shepherd. The armies of heaven and earth are under the command of Yahweh-Sabaoth, and we need not panic (Josh. 5:13–15; Rev. 19:11–21). Because we have trusted Yahweh-Tsidkenu, we have His very righteousness put to our account (2 Cor. 5:21), and our sins and iniquities are remembered no more (Heb. 10:17). Jesus is Yahweh-Shammah, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23), and He will be with us always, even to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20). “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” is still His guarantee (Heb. 13:5). In His incarnation, Jesus came down to earth, not as a burning bush but as “a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground” (Isa. 53:1–2; see also Phil. 2:5–11). He became a human, a man, for us (John 1:14); He became obedient unto death for us and became sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus became a curse for us and on the cross bore the curse of the law for us who have broken God’s law (Gal. 3:13–14). And one day “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2)!

What is God’s name? His name is I AM—and that is also the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord!



MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Are you bothered by your past or anxious about your future? Dr. Warren Wiersbe invites you to embrace Jesus for Who He is and to live in the present where He is. In this book, Dr. Warren Wiersbe explores and explains the I AM statements of Jesus Christ. I really enjoyed pondering what Jesus says He is: The Bread of Life, The Light of the World, The Door, The Good Shepherd, The Resurrection and the Life, and The True Vine.
I soaked it all up :). I appreciate Dr. Warren Wiersbe's insights and his teaching God's Word without sugar-coating. His love for Jesus and for sharing the Gospel shines through. This book reminds readers to faithfully abide in Christ and live for Him. Excellent book!
"Jesus says, 'I AM' and not 'I will be whatever you want Me to be." (p. 33)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #36

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

My Fave Five this week:-

1. You can get a FREE sample copy of "An Encouraging Word," magazine for Christian women of all ages. $5.00 value! Enter promo code: AEWFB in the check out process and click "Continue." Please feel free to share this offer with your friends! http://www.anencouragingword.net/aewsample.htm

2. We've had a blast singing with Praise Champion (Karaoke World Tour) CDrom. Great song selections (lots of hymns, praise and worship songs, Christmas songs, songs by Lincoln Brewster, Kari Jobe, etc.)! We all try to get platinum records :).

3. We had so much fun playing games with our Chinese and Taiwanese friends last Friday night! We played Whoonu, Apples to Apples, Would You Rather...?, and I Have Never. Lots of laughter and I discovered I enjoy crispy anchovy snacks :).

4. Tomorrow, January 22, Focus on the Family is co-sponsoring the first annual Life and Justice Conference at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. You can also join live via simulcast. Discover how you can be an advocate for the preborn child, orphans, those living with special needs, the elderly, or victims of human trafficking and genocide. For more details: http://www.lifeandjusticeconference.org/?page_id=817 

5. I enjoyed reading Life Without Limits and highly recommend it. This inspiring book is written by Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. He is living his life to the fullest with gusto for God's glory! Please take a few minutes to read my review here and rate it.  Thanks so much!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prepare To Be Inspired!


Book Review: Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic
Product Details:
Hardcover: 238 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Religion
ISBN: 978-0307589736

Do you want to live a ridiculously good life?  Nick Vujicic lets you in on his secrets. Born in Australia without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic was a rambunctious kid :). Once a bully in school dared him to fight and he won!  He has not allowed his disabilities to limit his abilities. Did you know that he can swim, surf, scuba dive, fish, and play drums?  I sheepishly admit that I can't do any of those.  In this book, Nick shares about his struggles, his triumphs, and his faith in God.  The Lord has been using him as an internationally motivational speaker to share the message of salvation, hope, healing, joy, and life with a purpose, inspite of difficulties. Nick is blessed with the beautiful gifts of inspiring and encouraging others. Nick offers readers encouragement and practical advice regarding purpose, hope, love and self-acceptance, attitudes, courage, resilience, adaptability, relationships, opportunities, risk, and fun.  The book also includes 8 pages of color photographs of Nick Vujicic from his childhood to adulthood.  Nick concludes his book with the call for us to live for God and others by serving, giving, and reaching out to those in need.  He also includes links to various philanthropic websites at the end of the book. Don't you just love his heart?

I've found Nick Vujicic to be such a wonderful inspiration since I first knew about him a few years ago. I was so excited when I had a chance to review this book. Wow...what a gem it is! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover. This book made me laugh out loud several times. Nick is funny and witty. He is also insightful and joyful. Nick is truly a blessing to the world. If you are discouraged or are going through hard times, this book will lift your spirit and warm your heart. With God on your side, life is definitely without limits and you can be an overcomer like Nick! Nick wants us to remember that if he can do it, we can, too :)!
"Live to glorify God, and don't leave an ounce of energy, a trace of your uniqueness, behind. Dare to be ridiculous, and you will be ridiculously happy." ~Nick Vujicic (p.211)

~ I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Please rate my review. Thanks so much!

You can purchase this book from Amazon.com or WaterBrook Multnomah.
Check out Nick Vujicic's website at http://www.lifewithoutlimbs.org/.
Keep up with Nick on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/NickVujicicFans .

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

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