Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday's Fave Five #45

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

My Fave Five this week:-

1. My daughter, Alyssa's poem, "Jesus Is Risen" is published online at The Homeschool Literary Quarterly. Comments are very welcome :). You can leave her a comment on the website below her poem.

2. Curriculum Clean Out. This is such a great idea for homeschooling families to bless one another. I'm giving away Eenie Meenie Miney Math! on my homeschool-related blog.

3. Chocolate covered pretzels, cashew nuts, roasted pumkin seeds. Yummy snacks :)!

4. Free download from Ken Ham: Defending the Faith Biblically and Scientifically. Disclaimer: I have not listened to it yet.

5. Cardboard Testimonies. I always get teary-eyed whenever I watch these. God's transforming power is so amazing and beautiful! Our church does cardboard testimonies at the Resurrection Day services every year. I'd  like to share this video from our church service last year (I don't know whether or when they'll post the one from this year).

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

Thursday, April 28, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: True Courage by Steve Farrar

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Steve Farrar is the founder and chairman of Men’s LeadershipMinistries. He is a frequent speaker at men’s conferences throughout the country. Farrar has authored 16 books, including Point Man, Battle Ready, and God Built.


Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Best-selling author and Bible teacher, Steve Farrar, reminds us that the story of Daniel holds powerful truths for today. Everyone can recall as a young child having the courage to head out the door—whether it was to your first day of school, your first game in little league, or your piano lesson. Then life takes over and you lose your bravado, giving in to the fears of the world around you. In True Courage readers will discover a God who provides incredible courage in the midst of uncertainty, even through treacherous, evil days. He gives us the courage to face lions in their den—or an unexpected job loss, the diagnosis of a sick child, or the return of a debilitating cancer.



Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781434768735
ISBN-13: 978-1434768735
ASIN: 1434768732

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Are you discouraged by the world's events or by circumstances in your own life? Take heart and be of courage! "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b) In True Courage: Emboldened by God in a Disheartening World, the author encourages readers to learn from the Book of Daniel (specifically chaters 1-6) how God gives courage to His children and uses them for His glory in the midst of difficult situations. You know that common saying, "God equips those He calls!" The theme that runs through the whole book is God's sovereignty, providence, power, and wisdom. Daniel showed true courage by fearing God, rather than men, trusting God totally, and acknowledging God's complete control. In this book, the author also includes examples from the lives of John Newton, George Muller, and from his own experiences. The key to true courage is knowing/remembering who God is...who the source of true courage is! Remember...when things are out of control, God is always in control. When you're in tight places and it seems there's no way out, God will make a way for you. When you're flummoxed and flabbergasted, God is forever faithful. What you deem impossible, God thinks is a piece of cake. This book is a wonderful reminder for us to face fear and uncertainty by placing our hope and confidence in God alone. Our future is in God's hands and that's the best place to be :)!

"No matter who these beasts are or where they may be found, Jesus is still the Sovereign King and the Lion of lions. And He alone is the source of True Courage to those who trust Him with their whole hearts." (p. 209)
"What seems to be passive reliance (on the Lord) is not being weak--it is in reality great strength--it's a demonstration of True Courage." (p.225)

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:

Courage to Stay the Course


True Courage can throw you at first, because it’s counterintuitive.


In other words, it’s the opposite of what you might expect.


My best example? Getting into a pickup and backing up a trailer into the garage. No sweat, you say? What’s the big deal about backing a trailer into a garage? It’s no sweat until you try to pull it off. If you’ve never done it before, thirty seconds into it you’re sweating like a fire hydrant because that pickup and trailer are twisted like a pretzel—and you’re suddenly parked in the flowerbed with no clue how to get out.


Why it is so hard to back up a trailer? It’s counterintuitive, that’s why. If you want the trailer to go left, you don’t turn the wheel left. No, if you want to go left, you have to turn to the right. If you’re going forward and you want to turn left then you turn left—but not if you’re backing up. When you’re backing up, the rules change, and to get that trailer in the garage you have to go against the grain of what makes sense.


Okay, now let’s plow right into Daniel, who right out of the blocks, demonstrates that True Courage is … counterintuitive.


In Daniel 1, we find two events that reveal True Courage.


Also in Daniel 1, we discover three traits that are the basis of True Courage.




Two Events

The Crash


“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god” (Dan. 1:1–2).


We can read this verse and blow right by it. But it is huge in biblical history, and it was huge for Daniel. When Nebuchadnezzar showed up at the gates of Jerusalem, it was the beginning of the end.


When I was a kid in school in the fifties, we used to have drills where we would duck under our desks in case of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The Russian president, Khrushchev, had said he would bury us. So we got under our desks so that we would be protected from the Soviet nuclear missiles. That way Khrushchev couldn’t bury us, and our nation wouldn’t be crushed.


The prophet Jeremiah had told the nation that if they continued to rebel against the one true God and mock His Word, they would crash. And that’s exactly what happened. Nebuchadnezzar showed up in 605 BC, and everything changed.


It would have been easy for Daniel to imagine that his life was over. God’s judgment had arrived, and it was everyone’s worst nightmare. Another king from a more powerful nation was now calling the shots. He would leave a Jewish king in place, but only as a figurehead and puppet. For the little nation of Judah, the gig was up.


When the nation crashed, so did Daniel’s plan for his life. He was just a teenager, but teenagers have dreams, hopes, and wonderful ideas about what their lives will look like someday.


For Daniel, that someday—the someday of his boyhood dreams—would never come. All of those dreams died when the Babylonians smashed through Jerusalem’s gates. All the rules had changed, and nothing could ever look or feel the same again. Not ever.


Sometimes our worlds crash, and so do our dreams.


I have a friend who waved to his wife and daughter as they drove off for a short overnight trip. Two hours later he was in a helicopter, landing at the scene of a head-on collision that took his wife’s life and severely injured his daughter. When that truck crossed the center divider and crashed head-on into his wife’s car, my friend’s entire existence crashed. He held her lifeless body in his arms, and it was the end of everything—or so it seemed in that moment.


At some point every man’s life crashes, and it seems like life is over. It may be the death of a spouse or a child. It could be the death of a marriage. A man’s life can crash through a bankruptcy or because a teenager has run away from home. There are a thousand different events that can crash our lives. Sometimes the crash is the result of a bad decision, but it can just as easily be the result of simply living life.


When a man’s life crashes, it always kicks in cause and effect.


Sometimes, the results are devastating, and a man simply gives up, withdraws in defeat and despair, and checks out of life. In other words, the crash changes everything—permanently, and for the worse. At other times, a man will take a different course and keep moving forward, trusting God, though the path has all but disappeared in front of him.


That, my friend, is a counterintuitive response.


And that is the path of True Courage.



The Change


Some changes are exciting, propelling you into a new and positive life. But when the change is the direct result of a crash, it’s another matter altogether. Your life and your heart have been broken—and you’re wondering how in the world you will ever pick up the pieces. You’re in the middle of a transition, an unwanted change, and there’s no turning back. And when you find yourself in unwelcome change, you are suddenly dealing with new stuff in your gut—anxiety, perplexity, disorientation, crushing disappointment, or even sheer terror.


The road forks before you, and you find yourself walking where you have never walked before. You wake up one morning, and it seems like everything once so dear and familiar to you has been stripped away. You’re on alien turf and maybe wondering how in the world you got there—and what you’re going to do next. And then you remember the crash and realize that’s how you got there—but you still don’t have a clue what you’re going to do next. Here’s how the Bible describes the huge changes that crashed into the life of the young man named Daniel:


Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego. (Dan. 1:3–7)


Daniel’s nation crashed, and so did his world. Almost overnight, he found himself swimming in unwanted change. He was taken from his family, friends, and home, and relocated to a foreign city, with a foreign culture, trying to pick up some basic phrases in a foreign language. And on top of that, he suddenly landed in a foreign university. That’s a lot of unwanted change—but that’s what happens when your world comes crashing down. Daniel was immediately enrolled in a three-year course of study at the University of Babylon. You might call it Daniel’s “education,” but then again, the word indoctrination might fall closer to the mark. So what has changed? It’s still true today. Indoctrination is still the primary work of secular universities, just as it was three thousand years ago in ancient Babylon.


If you think that I overstate the case, note that something had to occur before Daniel could move into the dorm. They first stripped him of his name—which was step one in stripping him of his faith. One commentator writes, “Daniel and his friends received genuine heathen names in exchange for their own significant names, which were associated with that of the true God.”1


The Babylonian conquerors wanted to swallow these young people whole—mind, body, and soul—completely estranging them from their old home and their relationship with the God of Israel.


Daniel in Hebrew means “God is my Judge.” It was changed to Belteshazzar, which means “whom Bel favors.” Daniel’s friends also went through the same drill. Hananiah means “God is gracious.” He became known as Shadrach, which means “illumined by Shad [a sun god].” Mishael means “who is like God? God is great.” They tagged him with Meshach, which means “who is like Shach [a love goddess].” Finally, Azariah means “God is my helper,” but the tenured university faculty came up with Abednego, which means “the servant of Nego [a fire god].”2


Daniel found himself in a Babylonian university system that was a place of tremendous pressure and competition. At the end of the three years, each of the young men brought over from Judah were to stand before the king for the biggest final exam of their young lives. What’s more, I’m pretty sure they couldn’t bring their books, CliffsNotes, laptops, or iPhones to the exam. This is how Scripture records that moment after the university had dubbed Daniel and his friends with new names:


Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.

Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.


As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom. And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. (Dan. 1:8–21)


In Daniel 1:3, Daniel was a teenager. By the time we reach verse 21, he’s somewhere around ninety years of age. Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC. Verses 3–21 give us a very short bio of Daniel’s career in Babylon. He started in the Babylonian university, was promoted like a rocket, and served in the highest reaches of power for at least seventy years.


In the early years at that godless university, God prepared Daniel and his sidekicks to serve as royal advisors to the king of Babylon. In addition, God gave Daniel a stunning gift: the ability to interpret dreams and visions. He was truly one of a kind. He and his friends who stood for the Lord had a place of remarkable influence because their advice, counsel, and wisdom were ten times better than anyone who had ever graduated from the University of Babylon.


At the risk of their very lives, these young men honored God by refusing to violate their consciences, and the Lord honored their faithfulness. Daniel went on to keep his high place of honor for seventy years. For the rest of his life he would live and work in the corridors of power and luxury, politics, and intrigue. The king and the palace were to be his sphere for the rest of his days.


Now how in the world did he do that?




Three Traits


How did this young man maintain his balance on such treacherous turf? And did he manage to keep that balance for the seventy years of his life there?


As I have read and reread the account of Daniel’s life, three traits continually come to the surface: humility, trust, and hope.


They don’t show up just once or twice. Throughout his life they are woven into the fabric of his character and decision making. They are a key part of Daniel’s True Courage. That may not seem obvious at first glance—what does humility, trust, and hope have to do with True Courage? The answer is all three are counterintuitive. They all run against the grain of what we would expect in Daniel.


It hit me one day that those three traits in Daniel’s life are captured in one of the shortest psalms in the Bible: Psalm 131. Interestingly enough, it’s one of the psalms of the ascent—psalms that the men of Judah would sing as they would make their way up the mountain to Jerusalem three times a year. God commanded all of the men to come during these times. But Daniel was never able to do that in his entire life. The nation was in captivity, and the feasts were on hold.


But the traits of Psalm 131 weren’t on hold in his life.


He lived them out every day and in so doing demonstrated True Courage.


He actually lived out that psalm’s truths in a sometimes seductive, always tyrannical environment. And he did it for seventy years.


It was C. H. Spurgeon who commented that Psalm 131 is one of the shortest psalms to read … and one of the longest to learn.


O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high;


I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.


But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. (Ps. 131:1–3)


Did you catch the three essential traits in this psalm? Verse 1 speaks of the trait of humility. Verse 2 focuses on trust, and verse 3 speaks of a great hope. It’s safe to say that Daniel consistently exhibited these traits throughout his life.



Essential Trait 1: Humility


If you’re out looking for an example of humility, you probably shouldn’t start with the NFL—and particularly with wide receivers. Wide receivers, generally speaking, are known for their arrogant touchdown dances. There are notable exceptions, but arrogance could be tattooed quite naturally on most of them.


It seems like whenever these guys just happen to catch a pass in the end zone, they suddenly start pounding their chests and strutting around like a peacock. Now what’s ironic is that the guy probably dropped the last four balls that were thrown his way. But this one he caught because it went through his hands and lodged in his face mask. So now he’s running around like he just did something important. What he did was catch a football. He’s paid (actually overpaid) to catch footballs.


The wide receiver who catches a touchdown pass and then offers a sacrifice to the god of self in the end zone has forgotten a few things. He has forgotten that the touchdown was actually a team effort. There was a quarterback who had the guts to stand in the pocket and get sandwiched by six hundred pounds of blitzing wild men. There are also the anonymous offensive linemen who do the work in the trenches that nobody sees or appreciates. They get stepped on, kicked in the groin, and blinded by a thumb in the eyes. And that’s just during pregame warm-ups! Arrogance is getting full of yourself real quick and losing all perspective concerning your accomplishments.


There are two ways we can depart from humility. The first is arrogance, and it’s also been known to show up in individuals who are not wide receivers. (Frankly, you can be an incredibly arrogant person at a fast-food counter. I’ve met some of them.) Verse 1 is a description of balanced humility. The psalmist says that his heart is not lifted up. He’s not saying that his heart has never been lifted up, but rather that he’s trying to keep his heart in check. In other words, David is doing a little self-assessment here. He’s checking out his heart, as Solomon advised in Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”


The psalmist then makes sure his eyes aren’t raised too high so that they’re not too lofty. In other words, he’s careful of putting all of his energy into reaching the next level—whatever that may be. “There is nothing wrong with the desire to do well,” wrote D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “as long as it does not master us. We must not be governed by ambition.”3


The writer knows that it is God who grants promotion (Ps. 75), and He knows best when we are ready for the higher place. Until then, we should mind our assigned posts—and ourselves.


Humility doesn’t try to understand things that are beyond comprehension. Humility understands that some answers to hard questions will remain secret (Deut. 29:29). And that’s okay.


The second way we can wander away from humility is when we get into self-condemnation and self-loathing. We do something stupid that we promised ourselves we would never do again—and then because of our disappointment, we start telling ourselves we’re worthless. We’ve all done stupid things—and then done them again and again.


Speaking for myself, I’ve got enough hours in “stupid” to get a PhD. I actually have enough hours in “stupid” to teach “stupid” at a graduate level. And if we have really screwed up and done something that has horrible consequences—not only for us but also for the people we love—we start riding ourselves and telling ourselves that it would be better for them if we weren’t even alive.


Whenever a believer commits suicide, you must suspect that there was demonic oppression involved, which led to self-condemnation and self-loathing. That’s the work of Satan. The Bible doesn’t

call him the “accuser of the brethren” for nothing.


So what is humility and how do we find its balance that keeps us from arrogance on one hand and self-condemnation on the other? C. J. Mahaney hit the nail on the head when he stated, “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” 4 Romans 12:3–8 really brings it into focus:


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.


I see three principles here that helped Daniel keep his balance with humility and that I believe will help us do the same.


• Know who you are

• Know what God has given to you

• Stay in your sphere


How to Keep Your Balance

Know Who You Are


The plumb line on humility is this: Don’t think too highly of yourself—and don’t think too lowly, either.


I like the way J. B. Phillips paraphrased Romans 12:3:


As your spiritual teacher I give this piece of advice to each one of you. Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all.


This passage directs us to use sober or sound judgment (or “a sane estimate”) in knowing who you are. If you’re an average singer, don’t plan on cutting a CD and taking a worldwide tour. You may like music, and your brother-in-law might think you’re pretty good at karaoke, but if you’re average or even a little above average, chances are you’re not going to make it in New York or Nashville.



Know What God Has Given You


You don’t have all of the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:3–8. You’re part of the body of Christ, and He has distributed gifts to each of us. Some have more gifts than others—but everyone has a gift.


We often meet someone whom we respect and admire and think, I wish I could be like him, or maybe, I wish I had his personality. But you can’t be like him, and you don’t have his personality. That individual may have gifts you don’t have, but don’t waste your time—and your life—moping around because you don’t have certain gifts. When you do that, your heart is getting proud, your eyes are getting lofty, and you’re not thinking straight. What are the gifts God has given to you? Don’t depreciate them, and don’t

despise them. And don’t imagine that they’re not important—to God and to others.


Years ago I was up early on a Sunday morning and discovered we were out of something—salt, sugar, Ovaltine—I honestly can’t remember what it was. It was too many years ago. But here’s what I do remember. I found what I was looking for on the top shelf of the pantry, and when I reached up to grab it, I knocked over a glass jar of sweet pickles that immediately yielded to the law of gravity and fell

seven feet where it landed on my unprotected pinkie toe.


I’d never given much thought to my pinkie toe and its ministry in my life until that moment. But for the next three or four months I had trouble thinking about anything else. When that pickle-assaulted pinkie toe was broken, it messed up my entire life. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t think. I just wanted that little toe to heal up and get back to its assigned post.



Stay in Your Sphere


You’ve been given gifts. Stay with them. Develop them, work hard, and do your work to the glory of God. Colossians 3:23–24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (NASB).


All work is valuable, and even the Babylonian heathens knew this when they took over Jerusalem and brought back the first round of exiles. In Jeremiah 29:1–2, the prophet makes reference to the people who were taken in the second wave from Judah to Babylon in 597 BC:


These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem.


Daniel and his buddies were members of the educated royal family and had already been taken and enrolled in the University of Babylon (Dan. 1:1–7). But in the second wave, the Babylonians brought back additional members of the royal family, some government bureaucrats, and, watch this—craftsmen and metal workers.


You can understand their bringing in the government guys and the queen, but why would they single out craftsmen and metal workers? It was because they were valuable. Guys who are gifted with their hands, who can work with wood or metal, are critical. Try to build an army without craftsmen and metal workers. Those are the guys who build the chariots and the siege ramps and supply the infantry with swords and armor.


If you’re gifted with your hands—if you’re a finish carpenter or an excellent craftsman—don’t waste your time wishing you could be a preacher or a prime minister. That’s not your calling, and it’s not your sphere. Work with that wood, excel with that needle and thread, and do it to the glory of God!


On the other hand, Daniel, who was gifted with the wisdom and knowledge to lead a government, should not have been shoeing horses and working around a forge. That is honorable and critical work, but Daniel wasn’t called or gifted in that area. He needed to stay in his sphere. He wasn’t to think too highly or too lowly of himself. Instead, he correctly assessed his own gifts and then got after it with what God had given him.


Staying in your sphere doesn’t mean that you don’t improve yourself—you do. So take some classes and get the credentials you need to succeed in your sphere. That may mean that you need a college degree—but then again, you may not need a college degree if you’re going to repair cars or make crowns in a dental lab. But whatever your sphere is, work hard, show up on time, better yourself, do quality work, and God will see to your advancement. But don’t try to be something that you’re not!


Right off the top, I’m reminded of a king in the Old Testament who refused to stay in his sphere: Uzziah, king of Judah.


Uzziah started strong. He was one of the most productive kings that Judah ever had. His vast accomplishments are listed in 2 Chronicles 26:14. And then we read these words:


In Jerusalem he made engines, invented by skillful men, to be on the towers and the corners, to shoot arrows and great stones. And his fame spread far, for he was marvelously helped, till he was strong.


But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. But Azariah the priest went in after him, with eighty priests of the LORD who were men of valor, and they withstood King Uzziah and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Go out of the sanctuary, for you have done wrong, and it will bring you no honor from the LORD God.” Then Uzziah was angry. Now he had a censer in his hand to burn incense, and when he became angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead in the presence of the priests in the house of the LORD, by the altar of incense. And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and behold, he was leprous in his forehead! And they rushed him out quickly, and he himself hurried to go out, because the LORD had struck him. And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death, and being a leper lived in a separate house, for he was excluded from the house of the LORD. And Jotham his son was over the king’s household, governing the people of the land. (2 Chron. 26:15–21)


What haunting words: “He was marvelously helped, till he was strong.”


When he became strong, he grew proud and lost his humility. And it led to his destruction. He refused to stay in his sphere and decided that he would go ahead and do the work that was only to be done by the priest. When he lost his humility, he refused to stay in his sphere—and he was disciplined as a leper for the rest of his days. Then he was forced to stay in his sphere—in a separate house, excluded from the house of the Lord.


Daniel was humble enough to stay in his sphere.


And God favored his life and work for the next seventy years.



Essential Trait 2: Trust


The second essential trait is trust in God, and it’s something that takes years to learn. We fight it from the time we are born as Psalm 131:2 describes: “But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”


In the days of the Old Testament, children often weren’t weaned until the age of three or four. And when the day of weaning came, the little ones fought against it with everything within them. The mother’s breast was the place of security, comfort, affection, and nourishment. But a child must get on with life, and so the time of weaning comes.


Weaning is the first great disappointment of life.


No matter what our age, however, God is continually weaning us from places or positions where we have found comfort, peace, security, nourishment, or affirmation. Sometimes we fight with everything we have to maintain those places of safety, comfort, and security—especially if it involves our income stream.


The mother’s milk is the source of provision, and no child wants to lose it. The sudden loss of a secure and consistent income scares us and makes us worry about our future. A job loss brings anxiety as we suddenly have to calibrate how we’ll buy groceries and pay the mortgage. When we lose a job or we lose our health—we’re being weaned, and it isn’t pleasant. And so we are forced into the place of trust.


Elijah the prophet confronted King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, telling them that because of their Baal worship and their belief that Baal controlled the rain, it would not rain until God’s drought would run its course (1 Kings 17). It turned out to be a three-and-half-year drought. Immediately Elijah became number one on Israel’s mostwanted list. God, however, led him to a strange and unfamiliar refuge east of the Jordan, hiding him by a brook called Cherith.


Elijah had suddenly been weaned off his home, his income, and his security. Now he was in a secluded place where the economic outlook wasn’t good. Without much time to adapt, he found himself having to trust God to give him the daily essentials of life. He had no IRAs to cash in or gold to get him through the crisis. As far as I know, Old Testament prophets didn’t get a pension from the government or have 401(k) accounts.


But he had the Lord, and He is always enough.


During Elijah’s time of exile, he’d had fresh water from the bubbling brook, and each morning God would send the ravens with his brunch—and then they would return that evening with dinner. He had no reserves and no savings. He had to trust God—literally—to give him this day his daily bread. And God strangely chose to use the ravens—which are notorious for neglecting to feed their own young. But they never forgot Elijah. This wasn’t meals on wheels; it was dinner on the fly!


After awhile he began to feel comfortable and secure. He was adjusting nicely to his new circumstances. And then one morning the brook went dry.


Once again he was in crisis. He was being weaned off the familiar and the secure. His source of provision suddenly dried up, and now he was going to have to trust God all over again.


Then the word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’” And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8–16)


So Elijah must have been thinking that this widow up in Zarephath had a foundation from the life-insurance money her husband had left. But when he arrived, he found out that she was in worse shape than he was. He asked her for a blueberry waffle, and she replied that she was going to make one for her and her boy, and then they were going to die. But she agreed to feed Elijah first—and then a convoy of large trucks immediately began to pull up in front of her house with thousands of gallons of Crisco oil and one-hundred-pound sacks of Gold Medal flour. She quickly hired workers to construct large warehouses to hold her great surplus of flour and vegetable oil.


No, that’s not quite how it happened, is it?


In fact, she just kept working out of the same jar of flour and the same jug of oil. She would reach in and dip out a cup of oil, and when she did, the level never dropped—and it was the same with the flour.


She didn’t have a three-year supply down in the root cellar. There never was a surplus—God just made sure that she always had enough to get by. And when that happens, you are forced to trust Him on a daily basis. When you get down to it, that’s not a bad way to live. It keeps us connected with our Provider and mindful that we can’t take a step or a breath without Him.


And that leads to the next essential trait.



Essential Trait 3: Hope


Over the last year I have come to a startling realization.


It’s simply this: The greatest blessings of my life have all come out of my greatest disappointments. I won’t bore you with the details, but every time I thought I was done or found myself fighting off some crushing setback—God brought along a blessing far greater than I could have asked for or imagined. Those disappointments have been a series of weanings. I had to be weaned off what I wanted and what I had prescribed for my own life. Eventually I would quit fighting the loss of what I wanted to happen and simply trust that He knew what was best. And that has always proven to be the case.


That’s how it worked for Daniel. He was humbled when his nation was taken over by Babylon, and no doubt he had to be weaned off his family and friends who were back in Jerusalem. Through it all, however, he learned to hope in the God of Israel who never slumbers or sleeps.


That’s our story too, as we go through life. We are humbled by some crushing setback, great failure, or defeat. We find ourselves getting weaned off something that we dearly love and want to hold on to. Through the humiliations and weanings, however, we learn that God will never abandon us. He may not give us what we want, but He always gives us what we need. And what He gives is always infinitely better than we could have ever thought or imagined— and that in turn builds our hope when the next hard and difficult time comes ripping and ramming into our lives like a runaway bulldozer.


The bottom line is this: Daniel’s hope was completely in God.


That’s it. That’s the Christian life.


Do you find yourself in a humiliating defeat? Are you being weaned off something that you are trying to hold on to?


Let it go. Submit yourself to Him and to His plan for your life. That’s what Daniel did. Trust him with everything. You will find that it’s the safest and most secure place in the entire world.


Stay in your sphere—and trust the God who isn’t bound by spheres.


In the process, you’ll find True Courage.


“We are all imprisoned by facts: I was born, I exist.”

Luigi Pirandello

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Reading Plan--April 2011

The books I've recently finished reading included Max on Life by Max Lucado and Revise Us Again by Frank Viola.

Here is the list of books I am reading or plan to read in the near future:-
  • True Courage by Steve Farrar
  • Lead Serve Love by Gregory E. Lang
  • The Defender's Guide for Life's Toughest Questions by Ray Comfort
  • The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter
Have fun reading :)!

Hope: One of Life's Necessary Ingredients

This Tuesday’s In Other Words is being hosted by Twinkle Mom of Sunflower Faith . This is my first time  participating in "In Other Words"; I hope I'm doing it right :). 

“Hope fills the afflicted soul with such inward joy and consolation, that it can laugh while tears are in the eye,
sigh and sing all in a breath; it is called “The rejoicing of hope” ~William Gurnall

Hope and faith go hand in hand. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1) According to the 1828 Noah Webster's Dictionary, hope (noun) means
"1. A desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable.
2. Confidence in a future event; the highest degree of well founded expectation of good; as a hope founded on God's gracious promises; a scriptural sense.
3. That which gives hope; he or that which furnishes ground of expectation, or promises desired good. The hope of Israel is the Messiah.
4. An opinion or belief not amounting to certainty, but grounded on substantial evidence."
A great example of how hope and faith work together is found in Genesis 15-21 and mentioned in Romans 4:18-21, "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.' Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised."

Hope gives people the will/motivation/reason to live, to keep on keeping on, to get up after falling down, to face each day's challenges, to keep trying and not giving up, to get through tough times, etc. Hope is crucial in life! Without hope (even though "hope" always exists, they just simply don't see it or they perceive that their circumstances/their future are hopeless), people become depressed and many have committed suicide. Remember...we always have hope in Christ! He is our unchanging Hope. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13:8) And He never leaves you nor forsakes you. "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Hebrews 6:19-20) Don't forget our ultimate hope, either: that Christ will return and that we will spend our eternal life with Him! "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you." (1 Peter 1:3-4) God's Word/His promises give us hope because they are true and unchanging.

Do you know what usually makes people feel hopeless? Often, it's because they feel nobody loves them or cares about them, including God. That's why it's essential to rely on God's Word, not on our feelings. His love for us never changes. "But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; He is our Help and our Shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May Your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in You." (Psalm 33:18-22) Do you want to offer hope to others? Love them with the love of the Lord! "It (love) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:7, 13) Where there is love, hope blossoms. Where there is faith, hope thrives.

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, Whom He has given us." (Romans 5:1-5) Why does hope not disappoint us? Because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit! When we're confident in His unfailing love for us, we have hope. When we love others and are loved by others, we have hope. And when we're filled with hope, it's easier to love others and to have faith. Again, we can see how hope, faith, and love fit together in Colossians 1:3-5, "We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-- the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel."

I hope you are encouraged by my post and "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Yes, life is like the Emmaus road, and we tread it not alone
For beside us walks the Son of God, to uphold and keep His own.
And our hearts within us thrill with joy at His words of love and grace,
And the glorious hope that when day is done we shall see His blessed face.

~Avis Christiansen

~ If you'd like to know what "In Other Words" is all about, please visit here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The "R" Factors

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

Blessed Redeemer (Lyrics by Avis B. Christiansen, 1895-1985, Music by Harry Dixon Loes, 1892-1965)

A Hill with Three Crosses--
One cross where a thief died IN SIN
One cross where a thief died TO SIN
A center cross where a Redeemer died FOR SIN

~Unknown

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Romans 3:23-24
"In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." Ephesians 1:7

Christ, our Redeemer, has paid the price of our redemption in full and has reconciled us to God. How should we then respond?
Repent. Turn away from your sins and turn to God.
Receive Christ into your heart/life as your Lord and Savior. Receive His grace..mercy...His gift of salvation.
Remain in Him. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
Reflect Him. "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18
Represent Him. "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God." 2 Corinthians 5:20
Remember what Christ has done for you and remember to tell others about Him. "Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel." 2 Timothy 2:8
Rejoice. "And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:2b  "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Philippians 4:4

Sadly, many choose to reject Him, refuse His offer of salvation, and rebel their way to hell. God gives us free will; the choice is yours!

Have a blessed Resurrection Day...celebrating our Risen Redeemer!
~To visit other Spiritual Sundays participants, please go here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Revise Us Again by Frank Viola

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Frank Viola is a frequent conference speaker and author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life and church restoration, including Reimagining Church, Finding Organic Church, Jesus Manifesto, (coauthored with Leonard Sweet), and the best-selling From Eternity to Here.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Revise what it means to live the Christian life. As believers, the Word of God gives us a script for experiencing life as God intended. Yet our environment, our culture, and our religious traditions often distort our scripts. We are all in constant need of revising the scripts that we live by.

Author Frank Viola believes we need to revisit and revise what it means to live the Christian life. Drawing from his rich background in ministry, Viola shares how believers can benefit from rescripting their lives in ten key areas. Written in a conversational tone and filled with practical insights, Revise Us Again is ideal for any reader who longs to follow God's original script for living.


Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781434768650
ISBN-13: 978-1434768650
ASIN: 1434768651

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Revise Us Again: Living from a Renewed Christian Script is a book that calls readers to examine their lives and edit the way they live to match with God's Word and God's will. God's original script for living is the Gospel of Jesus Christ....gospel of grace, neither legalism nor libertinism. The author believes that  our upbringing, culture, and religious experiences influence how we live out our Christian faith. Often they steer us off track (God's track). Mr. Viola covers 10 areas that may need revising: how we hear God's voice, Christianeze, Christian code language, our semantics, our Gospel-sharing message, our awareness of God's presence, our attitudes, our spiritual expectations, our understanding of the Holy Spirit, and our chief pursuit. I enjoyed reading this book. I laughed a few times because what the author mentioned was so true that it was funny and sad at the same time (eg. people overusing/abusing "God told me...", using "Let me pray about it." as an excuse for "No.") This book may be small but it's packed with Biblical insights and wisdom.

"It's possible to fall in love with the sense of God's presence but fail to love God Himself." (~Frank Viola, from p. 80)
"One can talk a great deal about Jesus Christ, and even about the need for knowing Him, and yet betray Him by one's actions and attitudes toward those who are His." (~Frank Viola, from p. 96)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


GOD’S THREE-FOLD SPEAKING

REVISING THE LORD’S VOICE

There’s a very obscure passage in the Old Testament that sheds light on how God communicates His mind to His people. It’s found in Jeremiah 18:18:

The teaching of the law by the priest will not be lost, nor will counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophets.

The ancient Hebrews divided the Old Testament up into three sections. The first section is called the Torah, or the Law. It includes the first five books of the Bible. The steward of the Torah is the priest.


The second section of the Old Testament is the Prophets. It includes the major and minor Prophets and the historical books. The steward of the Prophets is, of course, the prophet.


The third division of the Old Testament is called the Wisdom literature or “the Writings.” It includes Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Job, and the Song of Solomon. The steward of the Wisdom literature is the sage, or wise man.


These three sections of the Old Testament represent the three major ways in which God communicates His mind to His people.

Where We’ve Been


One of the greatest obstacles to laying hold of God’s mind is our religious background. Virtually every Christian has at some point been given a narrow lens through which they interpret Scripture, the Lord, and the Lord’s speaking.


Therefore, it’s critical that we understand that we all have been given such a lens. The following list shows how incredibly powerful our religious backgrounds are in shaping these lens.1 The list is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I believe the truth is not far off.


Suppose that you are traveling to work and you come to a stop sign. What do you do? Well, that depends on your religious background. For example …


1. A fundamentalist, taking the text very literally, stops at the stop sign and waits for it to tell him to go.


2. A Christian who follows the traditions of his denomination does not bother to read the sign, but she will stop if the car in front of her does.


3. A seminary-educated evangelical preacher might look up stop in his English lexicon and discover that it can mean: (1) something which prevents motion, or (2) a location where a train or bus lets off passengers. The main point of his sermon the following Sunday on this text is: When you see a stop sign, realize that it is a place where traffic is naturally clogged; therefore, it’s a good place to let off passengers from your car.


4. A legalist does one of two things. She takes another route to work that does not have a stop sign so she doesn’t run the risk of disobeying the law. Or she may stop at the stop sign and pray, “Thank you, oh Lord, for your commandment to stop.” She waits three seconds according to her watch and then proceeds. She also keeps a condemning eye out to see if others run the stop sign.


5. A New Testament scholar notices that there is no stop sign on Mark Street, but there is one on Matthew Street and Luke Street. He then concludes that the ones on Luke and Matthew Streets were copied from a sign on the street that no one has ever seen called “Q” Street.


6. A prophetic preacher of end-time theology notices that the square root of the sum of the numeric representations of the letters S-T-O-P (which are sigma tau omicron pi in the Greek alphabet), multiplied by 40 (the number of testing), divided by 4 (the number of the earth) equals 666. Therefore, she concludes that stop signs are the dreaded mark of the beast, a harbinger of divine judgment, and must be avoided at all costs.


7. A Charismatic/Pentecostal will stop only if he feels led of the Spirit and the sign is a rhema word and not a logos word.


8. A prosperity preacher will stop at the sign, make a positive confession about stopping, and offer “the prayer of Jabez,” concluding that God must make her rich.


9. An Arminian believes that if he runs the stop sign he will lose his salvation. So with fear and trembling he works hard at stopping at every stop sign.


10. A Calvinist believes that God has predestinated her reaction to the sign. If she runs the stop sign, she was never saved to begin with. If she stops, she was elected before creation.


11. A Southern Baptist believes that God wants him to stop at the sign, but he will still be saved if he does not. For if you once stopped, you have always stopped.


12. Upon seeing the stop sign, a libertine begins to sing “Hallelujah, I’m free,” pushes her foot down on the pedal, and runs the stop sign at full throttle. She then gets run over by a Mack truck.


13. A liberation theologian believes that stop signs should stop only those who are of the elitist, wealthy class. But the poor are free to run them whenever they wish.


Silly, yes, but this list makes a point. We all have a lens that we inherited from our religious background. And we are conditioned to interpret the Scripture, the Lord, and His speaking through that lens.

How God Communicates His Mind


The Torah contains the foundations on which the community of God’s people are built. The Torah includes God’s enduring moral principles—the standards that spring from His very nature. These standards do not change nor can they be compromised. In the Old Testament economy, the priest was the person who taught the Torah.


The Prophets section often seems to contradict the Torah. The prophet is the person who enters the community of God’s people and causes an abrasive, disruptive upheaval of what the community believes or practices.


The prophet challenges the people’s response to the Torah, which is often a legalistic or libertine response.


In reality though, the prophet really doesn’t contradict the Torah. He contradicts the people’s response to it. We are fallen creatures and sometimes turn the standards of God into dead rituals. At other times we misapply or disregard them altogether. The prophet is needed at such times.


The Wisdom literature contains something that we Christians often do not have a great abundance of—wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge gained through experience. It also includes a predictive element.


Because of his long experience, a wise person can detect patterns. He’s able to foresee outcomes (Luke 11:49; Prov. 22:3).


A wise person may make a statement like this: “What you just said sounds really good, but it’s not going to work, and here’s why …”


The instrument of the Wisdom literature is the sage, the wise old man with the gray head. The sage is sought after for his wisdom because he has the experience of life. As a result, he can peer into the future.


The priest is authorized by the authority of the Torah that contains what God has previously spoken. The prophet is authorized by the present burden of the Lord that the Holy Spirit lays upon him. The sage is authorized by his experience and the fruit of his wisdom, which can be evaluated by the future outcome of his counsel (Luke 7:35).


Put another way, the Torah looks to the past and asks, “Is this scriptural? Is this right?” The prophet looks to the present and asks, “What is God saying to us right now? What is His present leading?”


The sage looks to the future and asks, “How will our present actions affect the future? Is this decision wise or foolish?”


To put it in the language of the Bible: The priest asks, “What do these stones mean?” (Josh. 4:6). The prophet asks, “Is there any word from the LORD?” (Jer. 37:17). And the sage asks, “Where can wisdom be found?” (Job 28:12).

The Inherent Dangers of Each


Each form of God’s speaking has its own dangers if not attended to by the other forms. If a church is conditioned to recognize the Lord’s will through only the form of Torah, it will become ritualistic at best or judgmental, self-righteous, and legalistic at worst. It will need the prophetic word as well as the word of wisdom to balance it.


A church that recognizes the Lord’s will via only the lens of the prophet will be unstable and erratic at best. At worst, it will be deceived. This is because a prophet’s revelation can be bogus. Thus, a prophetic word should be tested by its faithfulness to what God has already said (i.e., Torah) and by its future outcome (i.e., wisdom).


If a Christian or a church recognizes the Lord’s will through only the lens of wisdom, it will be given over to human reasoning and empty philosophy. True wisdom will always be faithful to what God has already said (i.e., Torah), and it will be responsive to the in-breaking of an authentic prophetic word.


Consequently, we should embrace all three forms because God provides guidance through each.


Unfortunately, our religious backgrounds condition us to recognize the Lord’s will through only one form. Those who have a fundamentalist background tend to recognize the Lord speaking through only the Torah. Guidance must contain a standard or principle of God, which usually has a chapter and verse attached to it. But this narrow lens blinds them from recognizing God’s guidance through the other modes.


Those who come from a Charismatic/Pentecostal background tend to recognize the Lord’s voice through only the prophetic word. It must be peppered with, “I sense the Lord saying” … “I have a word from God” … “The Lord showed me” … “Thus saith the Lord.” Appeals to Scripture or wisdom have very little registration.


Those from mainline denominations tend to recognize God speaking through whatever sounds reasonable. Wisdom is their language. What God has said in the past often carries little weight. And prophetic revelation is suspect.


Put differently, those who prefer Torah-speaking are thinkers. Those who prefer prophetic-speaking are feelers. And those who prefer wisdom-speaking are doers. Three temperaments, three denominations, and three forms of God’s speaking.


It’s worth noting that our temperament is connected to our religious background. We are typically drawn to the denomination or movement that matches our temperament. Doers tend to gravitate toward denominations like Baptist. Feelers tend to gravitate toward the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement. And thinkers tend to gravitate toward fundamentalist denominations, Presbyterian, or Anglican churches. Parachurch organizations and many large movements usually combine two of these temperaments, typically thinkers and doers or feelers and doers. I admit these are generalizations; however, I believe they are very close to reality.


Whether we realize it or not, our religious background is a major hurdle that stands in the way of laying hold of the mind of Christ individually and corporately.


Accordingly, God in Christ by the Spirit discloses His will through all three modes.

The Mind of Christ


In 1 Corinthians 12:1–2 (NKJV), Paul writes:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.

Notice that Paul mentions “dumb idols.” What exactly is a dumb idol? It’s not an idol with a low IQ. A dumb idol is an idol that doesn’t have the power of speech. It’s a mute idol.


Before the Corinthian believers came to Christ, they were following pagan gods that didn’t possess the power of speech. These gods were mute. They were dumb. Paul goes on saying the following (this is my paraphrase of verses 3–6):

Remember how you served mute idols? Well, now you serve a God who speaks, and He speaks through you and your fellow members of the body of Christ. For example, when you say, “Jesus is Lord,” God’s own Spirit is speaking through you. There are varieties of spiritual gifts, but it’s the same Spirit. There are varieties of ministries, but it’s the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but it’s the same God who is working through them all. The one true God speaks through a variety of different ways via His one body.

Notice that God communicates in a variety of ways, but it’s the same God who is doing all the speaking. And God does that speaking through His body, i.e., a local assembly.


Consequently, the mind of God can be made known through only a corporate body of believers.


Jesus Christ has the power of speech. He’s not a dumb idol. And when He speaks, He reveals the mind of God. But Christ never reveals His whole mind through an individual. It takes a body of believers to lay hold of His mind together.


Hence, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:9–10:

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”—but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.

Consider the following words:


Eye has not seen. He’s speaking of a single eye. A solo eye has not seen.

Ear has not heard. An individual ear has not heard.

And it has not entered into the heart of man. A single heart hasn’t received.

Now listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:16 (NKJV):


For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?”


This is an absurd question. But notice the singular: “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he [singular] may instruct him?”


The answer is obvious. No individual has God’s mind. But then Paul makes this remarkable statement: “But we [plural] have the mind of Christ.” We, corporately—as His body—possess the mind of Christ. Incredible.


The mind of Christ is discoverable. Jesus Christ is not a dumb idol. He has the power of speech. He desires to speak and reveal His thoughts. But the mind of Christ is a corporate discovery. It’s a corporate pursuit. It’s not the property of any individual. It’s the property of the body of Christ working together to secure it.


As a result, all three ways of God’s speaking in Christ (Torah, prophetic, and wisdom) should be held in tension. The reason? Jesus Christ incarnates all three modes.


Jesus Christ is the real Priest as well as the Torah itself.

Jesus Christ is the real Prophet as well as the prophetic word.

Jesus Christ is the real Sage as well as wisdom itself.

Our Lord reveals His will to and through a local community of believers when they are seeking to lay hold of His mind together. The local assembly, which includes all the believers, is the vehicle through which God has chosen to disclose His mind. Through some believers, He speaks as Prophet. Through others, He speaks as Priest. Still through others, He speaks as Sage.

The speaking may sound different, but it’s the same Christ working through each one.


The Lord helps us to revise our ears so that we may learn to hear the voice of the Shepherd through each one of His sheep.




©2011 Cook Communications Ministries. Revise Us Again by Frank Viola. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Review: Home-Ec 101

About Home-Ec 101:
Home-Ec 101 by Heather Solos shares tips and tricks for tackling the everyday challenges we find in the home.

Heather's advice is easy to apply and is written with the same witty style and attitude readers love on her blog, Home-Ec101.com. Charts, tips, sidebars and "Dear Home Ec 101" letters offer the tools you need to keep your home clean and in good repair.

The perfect manual for college grads to the more seasoned homemakers, this book has something to offer everyone. From the simplest how to's (ever meet a 20 year old who can't pre-heat an oven?) to how to be a fabulous host at your housewarming party, Heather's advice is relevant for homeowners and apartment dwellers of any age.

My Thoughts and Review:
I have to admit that home-ec is not my forte :). I like a clean home; who doesn't? But the cleaning/getting dirty part...not so much. I love cooking, but not the preparation part. I don't mind laundry, but the putting away part is usually put off. My husband is great at fixing things (I'm so thankful for that). My major problem is: I am organizationally challenged....or maybe time-management challenged (could be both!) I enjoyed reading and gaining practical advice from this book. The author is very funny; who knew that a book about home-keeping could be so entertaining :)?

Home-Ec 101 is divided into four sections: Clean It, Wash It, Fix It, and Cook It. The author offers how-tos, tips and tricks, lists of tools you need (and more that you may want), techniques, and easy-to-read charts (chore chart, treatments for common stains, washing instructions for various fabrics, average lifespans for major appliances, emergency cooking or baking substitutions, and more). Her footnotes are hilarious. Don't miss the confession sections, either; you can learn from others' mistakes. "Dear Home-Ec 101" letters address questions/problems that you probably can relate to. I had moments while I was reading the book that I smiled knowing I've been there...done that :). The appendixes are great, too. They include homemade cleaning solutions, dangerous chemical combinations (to avoid, not to try), emergency preparedness checklist, and measurements conversion charts.

Want skills for everyday living? Get this book. It is a neat book to have on hand, especially for those who are keepers-at-home (or apartment) or keepers-at-home wannabes.
 
  ~ I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from One2One Network for an exchange of my honest review.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FIRST Wild Card Tour: That's When I Talk to God

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 authors are:

Dan and Ali Morrow

and Illustrated by

Cory Godbey


and the book:


That's When I Talk to God

David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Dan and Ali Morrow are parents of two wonderful daughters. When they’re not writing children’s books, they like to go on adventures around their Colorado home. They are the authors of That’s Where God Is (2010), their first children’s release.

Visit the authors' website.


ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:


Cory Godbey illustrates, animates, and writes for Portland Studios, a creative firm dedicated to telling great stories and pursuing excellence in art.

He has contributed to projects such as Zune Arts, Flight graphic novel anthologies, and has worked with many major publishers.

Recently, Cory was accepted in the acclaimed Society of Illustrators Annual.

Cory seeks to tell stories with his work.

He also likes drawing monsters.

Visit the illustrator'swebsite.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Targeted to children four to eight, That’s When I Talk to God mirrors the day of the typical child, creating an opportunity for readers to put the practices in the story to use in their own lives. Through beautiful illustrations and an engaging, familiar character, readers can relate to That’s When I Talk to God. Children will learn to go to God with their fears, their joys, their questions, and their desires. They will also learn the hows, whens, and whys of praying to the Lord in a way they can easily apply to their own experiences. And adults will be reminded to communicate the benefit, simplicity, and beauty of prayer.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Hardcover: 36 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434700186
ISBN-13: 978-1434700186

AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (Click on the pictures to enlarge them!):










MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Bedtime prayers and mealtime prayers are quite common in Christian families. However, God wants us to pray continually/unceasingly. In this book, a girl learns from her mom that she can talk to God anytime, anywhere, and about anything. Throughout the day, she sees opportunities to talk to Him: when she wants to express her love for Him, when she is thankful, when she is sorry, when she wants Him to help others, when she needs Him to help her, when she meets people who don't believe in Him, and when she sins, repents, and needs to ask for forgiveness. Finally, she also learns that God talks to her...to us through His Word, other people, and our conscience. With simplistic but expressive illustrations, this book is a sweet book that encourages an open line of communication between children and God.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Review: Max on Life by Max Lucado

Product Details
Format: Jacketed Hardcover
Trim Size: 6.40 x 9.40 x 1.30
Page Count: 256
Retail Price: $24.99
ISBN: 9780849948121

Book Description
We have questions. Child-like inquiries. And deep, heavy ones.

In more than twenty-five years of writing and ministry, Max Lucado has been the receiving line for thousands of such questions. The questions come in letters, e-mails, even on Dunkin Donuts napkins. In Max on Life, he offers thoughtful answers to more than 150 of the most pressing questions on topics ranging from hope to hurt, from home to the hereafter.

Max writes about the role of prayer, the purpose of pain, and the reason for our ultimate hope. He responds to the day-to-day questions—parenting quandaries, financial challenges, difficult relationships—as well as to the profound: Is God really listening?

A special addendum includes Max’s advice on writing and publishing.

Including topical and scriptural indexes and filled with classic Lucado encouragement and insight, Max on Life will quickly become a favorite resource for pastors and ministry leaders as well as new and mature believers.

MY THOUGHTS AND REVIEW:
Max on Life is a Q & A book: Max Lucado's answers and insights to important questions in life. Being a pastor and a well-known writer, Mr. Lucado has received all sorts of questions from all sorts of people. He includes 172 questions in this book. Some of the questions seem to be redundant. Some are excellent questions, especially for new believers. The questions and answers are divided into seven sections: Hope, Hurt, Help, Him/Her, Home, Have/Have-Nots, and Hereafter. The book covers various topics from faith, heaven, hell, prayer to parenting, relationship, money, fear, and more.

I didn't really learn anything new from this book and I don't agree with all of Mr. Lucado's answers. For example, on Page 19, Mr. Lucado said, "He (Jesus) paid the price for sin by becoming a sinner." Jesus paid the price for sin by becoming the sinless sacrifice for sinners. He is God; He can never be a sinner! Anyway, I still enjoyed reading this book. Max Lucado is so good with words that the content and style hold my attention. He often uses analogies to help readers think. I also love his sense of humor. I appreciate that Mr. Lucado bases his answers on the Scriptures and presents them with grace and gentleness. He gives Biblically sound advice. This book is easy to read. Each question and answer is usually only a page long. Concise and Christ-centered!

"When grace moves in, guilt moves out. God has forgiven us. There is no reason to hold on to guilt." Max Lucado (p.2)

~ I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions are my own.




Buy

Read

A Must-See Video for Every Christian

Related Posts

Related Posts with Thumbnails