Thursday, June 30, 2011

book review: "dug down deep" by joshua harris

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:

Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Associate, Image Books/ / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


Joshua Harris is senior pastor of Covenant Life in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which belongs to the Sovereign Grace network of local churches. He is the author of Why Church Matters and several books on relationships, including the run-away bestseller, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. He and his wife, Shannon, have three children.

Visit the author's website.


Dug Down Deep shows a new generation of Christians why words like theology and doctrine are the “pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of knowing the living Jesus Christ.” Joshua Harris enthusiastically reminds readers that orthodoxy isn’t just for scholars. It is for anyone who longs to know and love God.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (May 17, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601423713
ISBN-13: 978-1601423719



“We’re all theologians. The question is

whether what we know about God is true.”

IT’S STRANGE TO SEE an Amish girl drunk. The pairing of a bonnet and a can of beer is awkward. If she were stumbling along with a jug of moonshine, it would at least match her long, dowdy dress. But right now she can’t worry about that. She is flat-out wasted. Welcome to rumspringa.


The Amish, people who belong to a Christian religious sect with roots in

Europe, practice a radical form of separation from the modern world. They live and dress with simplicity. Amish women wear bonnets and long, old fashioned dresses and never touch makeup. The men wear wide-rimmed straw hats, sport bowl cuts, and grow chin curtains—full beards with the mustaches shaved off.

My wife, Shannon, sometimes says she wants to be Amish, but I know this isn’t true. Shannon entertains her Amish fantasy when life feels too complicated or when she’s tired of doing laundry. She thinks life would be easier if she had only two dresses to choose from and both looked the same. I tell her that if she ever tried to be Amish, she would buy a pair of jeans and ditch her head covering about ten minutes into the experiment. Besides, she would never let me grow a beard like that.

Once Shannon and her girlfriend Shelley drove to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for a weekend of furniture and quilt shopping in Amish country. They stayed at a bed-and-breakfast located next door to an Amish farm. One morning Shannon struck up a conversation with the inn’s owner, who had lived among the Amish his entire life. She asked him questions, hoping for romantic details about the simple, buggy-driven life. But instead he complained about having to pick up beer cans every weekend.

Beer cans?

“Yes,” he said, “the Amish kids leave them everywhere. ”That’s when he told her about rumspringa. The Amish believe that before a young person chooses to commit to the Amish church as an adult, he or she should have the chance to freely explore the forbidden delights of the outside world. So at age sixteen everything changes for Amish teenagers. They go from milking cows and singing hymns to living like debauched rock stars.

In the Pennsylvania Dutch language, rumspringa literally means “running around.” It’s a season of doing anything and everything you want with zero rules. During this time—which can last from a few months to several years—all the restrictions of the Amish church are lifted. Teens are free to shop at malls, have sex, wear makeup, play video games, do drugs, use cell phones, dress however they want, and buy and drive cars. But what they seem to enjoy most during rumspringa is gathering at someone’s barn, blasting music, and then drinking themselves into the ground. Every weekend, the man told Shannon, he had to clean up beer cans littered around his property following the raucous, all-night Amish parties.

When Shannon came home from her Lancaster weekend, her Amish aspirations had diminished considerably. The picture of cute little Amish girls binge drinking took the sheen off her idealistic vision of Amish life. We completed her disillusionment when we rented a documentary about the rite of rumspringa called Devil’s Playground. Filmmaker Lucy Walker spent three years befriending, interviewing, and filming Amish teens as they explored the outside world. That’s where we saw the drunk Amish girl tripping along at a barn party. We learned that most girls continue to dress Amish even as they party—as though their clothes are a lifeline back to safety while they explore life on the wild side.

In the documentary Faron, an outgoing, skinny eighteen-year-old sells and is addicted to the drug crystal meth. After Faron is busted by the cops, he turns in rival drug dealers. When his life is threatened, Faron moves back to his parents’ home and tries to start over. The Amish faith is a good religion, he says. He wants to be Amish, but his old habits keep tugging on him.

A girl named Velda struggles with depression. During rumspringa she finds the partying empty, but after joining the church she can’t imagine living the rest of her life as an Amish woman. “God talks to me in one ear, Satan in the other,” Velda says. “Part of me wants to be like my parents, but the other part wants the jeans, the haircut, to do what I want to do.”1When she fails to convince her Amish fiancĂ© to leave the church with her, she breaks off her engagement a month before the wedding and leaves the Amish faith for good. As a result Velda is shunned by her family and the entire community. Alone but determined, she begins to attend college.

Velda’s story is the exception. Eighty to 90 percent of Amish teens decide to return to the Amish church after rumspringa.2 At one point in the film, Faron insightfully comments that rumspringa is like a vaccination for Amish teens. They binge on all the worst aspects of the modern world long enough to make themselves sick of it. Then, weary and disgusted, they turn back to the comforting, familiar, and safe world of Amish life.

But as I watched, I wondered, What are they really going back to? Are they choosing God or just a safe and simple way of life?

I know what it means to wrestle with questions of faith. I know what it’s like for faith to be so mixed up with family tradition that it’s hard to distinguish between a genuine knowledge of God and comfort in a familiar way of life.

I grew up in an evangelical Christian family. One that was on the more conservative end of the spectrum. I’m the oldest of seven children. Our parents homeschooled us, raised us without television, and believed that old fashioned courtship was better than modern dating. Friends in our neighborhood probably thought our family was Amish, but that’s only because they didn’t know some of the really conservative Christian homeschool families. The truth was that our family was more culturally liberal than many homeschoolers. We watched movies, could listen to rock music (as long as it was Christian or the Beatles), and were allowed to have Star Wars and Transformers toys.

But even so, during high school I bucked my parents’ restrictions. That’s not to say my spiritual waywardness was very shocking. I doubt Amish kids would be impressed by my teenage dabbling in worldly pleasure. I never did drugs. Never got drunk. The worst things I ever did were to steal porn magazines, sneak out of the house at night with a kid from church, and date various girls behind my parents’ backs. Although my rebellion was tame in comparison, it was never virtue that held me back from sin. It was lack of opportunity. I shudder to think what I would have done with a parent sanctioned season of rumspringa.

The bottom line is that my parents’ faith wasn’t really my faith. I knew how to work the system, I knew the Christian lingo, but my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was set on enjoying the moment.

Recently a friend of mine met someone who knew me in early high school. “What did she remember about me?” I asked.

“She said you were girl crazy, full of yourself, and immature,” my friend told me.

Yeah, she knew me, I thought. It wasn’t nice to hear, but I couldn’t argue.

I didn’t know or fear God. I didn’t have any driving desire to know him.

For me, the Christian faith was more about a set of moral standards than belief and trust in Jesus Christ.

During my early twenties I went through a phase of blaming the church I had attended in high school for all my spiritual deficiencies. Evangelical mega churches make good punching bags.

My reasoning went something like this: I was spiritually shallow because the pastors’ teaching had been shallow. I wasn’t fully engaged because they hadn’t done enough to grab my attention. I was a hypocrite because everyone else had been a hypocrite. I didn’t know God because they hadn’t provided enough programs. Or they hadn’t provided the right programs. Or maybe they’d had too many programs.

All I knew was that it was someone else’s fault.

Blaming the church for our problems is second only to the popular and easy course of blaming our parents for everything that’s wrong with us. But the older I get, the less I do of both. I hope that’s partly due to the wisdom that comes with age. But I’m sure it’s also because I am now both a parent and a pastor. Suddenly I have a lot more sympathy for my dad and mom and the pastors at my old church. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

At the church where I now pastor (which I love), some young adults remind me of myself when I was in high school. They are church kids who know so much about Christian religion and yet so little about God. Some are passive, completely ambivalent toward spiritual things. Others are actively straying from their faith—ticked off about their parents’ authority, bitter over a rule or guideline, and counting the minutes until they turn eighteen and can disappear. Others aren’t going anywhere, but they stay just to go through the motions. For them, church is a social group.

It’s strange being on the other side now. When I pray for specific young men and women who are wandering from God, when I stand to preach and feel powerless to change a single heart, when I sit and counsel people and it seems nothing I can say will draw them away from sin, I remember the pastors from my teenage years. I realize they must have felt like this too. They must have prayed and cried over me. They must have labored over sermons with students like me in mind.

I see now that they were doing the best they knew how. But a lot of the time, I wasn’t listening.

During high school I spent most Sunday sermons doodling, passing notes, checking out girls, and wishing I were two years older and five inches taller so a redhead named Jenny would stop thinking of me as her “little brother.” That never happened.

I mostly floated through grown-up church. Like a lot of teenagers in evangelical churches, I found my sense of identity and community in the parallel universe of the youth ministry. Our youth group was geared to being loud, fast paced, and fun. It was modeled on the massive and influential, seeker-sensitive Willow Creek Community Church located outside Chicago. The goal was simple: put on a show, get kids in the building, and let them see that Christians are cool, thus Jesus is cool. We had to prove that being a Christian is, contrary to popular opinion and even a few annoying passages of the Bible, loads of fun. Admittedly it’s not as much fun as partying and having sex but pretty fun nonetheless.

Every Wednesday night our group of four-hundred-plus students divided into teams. We competed against each other in games and won points by bringing guests. As a homeschooler, of course I was completely worthless in the “bring friends from school” category. So I tried to make up for that by working on the drama and video team. My buddy Matt and I wrote, performed, and directed skits to complement our youth pastor’s messages. Unfortunately, our idea of complementing was to deliver skits that were not even remotely connected to the message. The fact that Matt was a Brad Pitt look-alike assured that our skits were well received (at least by the girls).

The high point of my youth-group performing career came when the pastor found out I could dance and asked me to do a Michael Jackson impersonation.

The album Bad had just come out. I bought it, learned all the dance moves, and then when I performed—how do I say this humbly?—I blew everyone away. I was bad (and I mean that in the good sense of the word bad ). The crowd went absolutely nuts. The music pulsed, and girls were screaming and grabbing at me in mock adulation as I moon walked and lip-synced my way through one of the most inane pop songs ever written. I loved every minute of it.

Looking back, I’m not real proud of that performance. I would feel better about my bad moment if the sermon that night had been about the depravity of man or something else that was even slightly related. But there was no connection. It had nothing to do with anything.

For me, dancing like Michael Jackson that night has come to embody my experience in a big, evangelical, seeker-oriented youth group. It was fun, it was entertaining, it was culturally savvy (at the time), and it had very little to do with God. Sad to say, I spent more time studying Michael’s dance moves for that drama assignment than I was ever asked to invest in studying about God.

Of course, this was primarily my own fault. I was doing what I wanted to do. There were other kids in the youth group who were more mature and who grew more spiritually during their youth-group stint. And I don’t doubt the good intentions of my youth pastor. He was trying to strike the balance between getting kids to attend and teaching them.

Maybe I wouldn’t have been interested in youth group if it hadn’t been packaged in fun and games and a good band. But I still wish someone had expected more of me—of all of us.

Would I have listened? I can’t know. But I do know that a clear vision of God and the power of his Word and the purpose of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection were lost on me in the midst of all the flash and fun.

There’s a story in the Bible of a young king named Josiah, who lived about 640 years before Christ. I think Josiah could have related tome—being religious but ignorant of God. Josiah’s generation had lost God’s Word. And I don’t mean that figuratively. They literally lost God’s Word. It sounds ridiculous, but they essentially misplaced the Bible.

If you think about it, this was a pretty big deal. We’re not talking about a pair of sunglasses or a set of keys. The Creator of the universe had communicated with mankind through the prophet Moses. He gave his law. He revealed what he was like and what he wanted. He told his people what it meant for them to be his people and how they were to live. All this was dutifully recorded on a scroll. Then this scroll, which was precious beyond measure, was stored in the holy temple. But later it was misplaced. No one knows how. Maybe a clumsy priest dropped it and it rolled into a dark corner.

But here’s the really sad thing: nobody noticed it was missing. No search was made. Nobody checked under the couch. It was gone and no one cared. For decades those who wore the label “God’s people” actually had no communication with him.

They wore their priestly robes, they carried on their traditions in their beautiful temple, and they taught their messages that were so wise, so insightful, so inspirational.

But it was all a bunch of hot air—nothing but their own opinions. Empty ritual. Their robes were costumes, and their temple was an empty shell.

This story scares me because it shows that it’s possible for a whole generation to go happily about the business of religion, all the while having lost a true knowledge of God.

When we talk about knowledge of God, we’re talking about theology. Simply put, theology is the study of the nature of God—who he is and how he thinks and acts. But theology isn’t high on many people’s list of daily concerns.

My friend Curtis says that most people today think only of themselves. He calls this “me-ology.” I guess that’s true. I know it was true of me and still can be. It’s a lot easier to be an expert on what I think and feel and want than to give myself to knowing an invisible, universe-creating God.

Others view theology as something only scholars or pastors should worry about. I used to think that way. I viewed theology as an excuse for all the intellectual types in the world to add homework to Christianity.

But I’ve learned that this isn’t the case. Theology isn’t for a certain group of people. In fact, it’s impossible for anyone to escape theology. It’s everywhere. All of us are constantly “doing” theology. In other words, all of us have some idea or opinion about what God is like. Oprah does theology. The person who says, “I can’t believe in a God who sends people to hell” is doing theology.

We all have some level of knowledge. This knowledge can be much or little, informed or uninformed, true or false, but we all have some concept of God (even if it’s that he doesn’t exist). And we all base our lives on what we think God is like.

So when I was spinning around like Michael Jackson at youth group, I was a theologian. Even though I wasn’t paying attention in church. Even though I wasn’t very concerned with Jesus or pleasing him. Even though I was more preoccupied with my girlfriend and with being popular. Granted I was a really bad theologian—my thoughts about God were unclear and often ignorant. But I had a concept of God that directed how I lived.

I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live. What you believe about God’s nature—what he is like, what he wants from you, and whether or not you will answer to him—affects every part of your life.

Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong.

I know the idea of “studying” God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab or a set of ideas that we memorize like math proofs.

But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood?

We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what he’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imagination and misconceptions.

We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.

In the days of King Josiah, theology was completely messed up. This isn’t really surprising. People had lost God’s words and then quickly forgot what the true God was like.

King Josiah was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. People call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and there was a lot to weep about in those days. “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land,” Jeremiah said. “The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way” (Jeremiah 5:30–31, NIV).

As people learned to love their lies about God, they lost their ability to recognize his voice. “To whom can I speak and give warning?” God asked. “Who will listen tome? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the LORD is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it” (Jeremiah 6:10, NIV).

People forgot God. They lost their taste for his words. They forgot what he had done for them, what he commanded of them, and what he threatened if they disobeyed. So they started inventing gods for themselves. They started borrowing ideas about God from the pagan cults. Their made-up gods let them live however they wanted. It was “me-ology” masquerading as theology.

The results were not pretty.

Messed-up theology leads to messed-up living. The nation of Judah resembled one of those skanky reality television shows where a houseful of barely dressed singles sleep around, stab each other in the back, and try to win cash. Immorality and injustice were everywhere. The rich trampled the poor. People replaced the worship of God with the worship of pagan deities that demanded religious orgies and child sacrifice. Every level of society, from marriage and the legal system to religion and politics, was corrupt.

The surprising part of Josiah’s story is that in the midst of all the distortion and corruption, he chose to seek and obey God. And he did this as a young man (probably no older than his late teens or early twenties). Scripture gives this description of Josiah: “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2, NIV).

The prophet Jeremiah called people to the same straight path of true theology and humble obedience:

Thus says the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is; and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16)

In Jeremiah’s words you see a description of King Josiah’s life. His generation was rushing past him, flooding down the easy paths of man-made religion, injustice, and immorality.

They didn’t stop to look for a different path.

They didn’t pause to consider where the easy path ended.

They didn’t ask if there was a better way.

But Josiah stopped. He stood at a crossroads, and he looked. And then he asked for something that an entire generation had neglected, even completely forgotten. He asked for the ancient paths.

What are the ancient paths? When the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah used the phrase, he was describing obedience to the Law of Moses. But today the ancient paths have been transformed by the coming of Jesus Christ. Now we see that those ancient paths ultimately led to Jesus. We have not only truth to obey but a person to trust in—a person who perfectly obeyed the Law and who died on the cross in our place.

But just as in the days of Jeremiah, the ancient paths still represent life based on a true knowledge of God—a God who is holy, a God who is just, a God who is full of mercy toward sinners. Walking in the ancient paths still means relating to God on his terms. It still means receiving and obeying his self-revelation with humility and awe.

Just as he did with Josiah and Jeremiah and every generation after them, God calls us to the ancient paths. He beckons us to return to theology that is true. He calls us, as Jeremiah called God’s people, to recommit ourselves to orthodoxy.

The word orthodoxy literally means “right opinion.” In the context of Christian faith, orthodoxy is shorthand for getting your opinion or thoughts about God right. It is teaching and beliefs based on the established, proven, cherished truths of the faith. These are the truths that don’t budge. They’re clearly taught in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the Christian faith:
There is one God who created all things.

God is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The Bible is God’s inerrant word to humanity.

Jesus is the virgin-born, eternal Son of God.

Jesus died as a substitute for sinners so they could be forgiven.

Jesus rose from the dead.

Jesus will one day return to judge the world.

Orthodox beliefs are ones that genuine followers of Jesus have acknowledged From the beginning and then handed down through the ages. Take one of them away, and you’re left with something less than historic Christian belief.

When I watched the documentary about the Amish rite of rumspringa, what stood out to me was the way the Amish teenagers processed the decision of whether or not to join the Amish church. With few exceptions the decision seemed to have very little to do with God. They weren’t searching Scripture to see if what their church taught about the world, the human heart, and salvation was true. They weren’t wrestling with theology. I’m not implying that the Amish don’t have a genuine faith and trust in Jesus. But for the teens in the documentary, the decision was mostly a matter of choosing a culture and a lifestyle. It gave them a sense of belonging. In some cases it gave them a steady job or allowed them to marry the person they wanted.

I wonder how many evangelical church kids are like the Amish in this regard. Many of us are not theologically informed. Truth about God doesn’t define us and shape us. We have grown up in our own religious culture. And often this culture, with its own rituals and music and moral values, comes to represent Christianity far more than specific beliefs about God do.

Every new generation of Christians has to ask the question, what are we actually choosing when we choose to be Christians? Watching the stories of the Amish teenagers helped me realize that a return to orthodoxy has to be more than a return to a way of life or to cherished traditions. Of course the Christian faith leads to living in specific ways. And it does join us to a specific community. And it does involve tradition. All this is good. It’s important. But it has to be more than tradition. It has to be about a person—the historical and living person of Jesus Christ.

Orthodoxy matters because the Christian faith is not just a cultural tradition or moral code. Orthodoxy is the irreducible truths about God and his work in the world. Our faith is not just a state of mind, a mystical experience, or concepts on a page. Theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy matter because God is real, and he has acted in our world, and his actions have meaning today and for all eternity.

For many people, words like theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy are almost completely meaningless. Maybe they’re unappealing, even repellent.

Theology sounds stuffy.

Doctrine is something unkind people fight over.

And orthodoxy? Many Christians would have trouble saying what it is other than it calls to mind images of musty churches guarded by old men with comb-overs who hush and scold.

I can relate to that perspective. I’ve been there. But I’ve also discovered that my prejudice, my “theology allergy,” was unfounded.

This book is the story of how I first glimpsed the beauty of Christian theology. These pages hold the journal entries of my own spiritual journey—a journey that led to the realization that sound doctrine is at the center of loving Jesus with passion and authenticity. I want to share how I learned that orthodoxy isn’t just for old men but is for anyone who longs to behold a God who is bigger and more real and glorious than the human mind can imagine.

The irony of my story—and I suppose it often works this way—is that the very things I needed, even longed for in my relationship with God, were wrapped up in the very things I was so sure could do me no good. I didn’t understand that such seemingly worn-out words as theology, doctrine, and orthodoxy were the pathway to the mysterious, awe-filled experience of truly knowing the living Jesus Christ.

They told the story of the Person I longed to know.

My thoughts: This has been on my "to read" list for a while. I want to always strive to grow closer to God and this book helped me in that pursuit. It's definitely not a book to quickly try to read through - you have to let what Harris is saying really sink in. He talks about his own journey in developing a strong faith - wanting more than a surface Christianity. He talks about having a desire to really know God because it's by knowing Him that we're able to understand Him. This is one of those books I plan to read over and over.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

book review: "100 days of favor" by joseph prince

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:

Charisma House (June 7, 2011)
***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***


Joseph Prince is a leading voice in proclaiming the gospel of grace around the world through his teaching resources and television ministry. With more than two decades of full-time ministry behind him, Joseph Prince is known for teaching God's Word in a fresh, practical, and revelatory way that always unveils Jesus. He is the senior pastor of New Creation Church ( in Singapore, which has a congregation of more than 19,000 members, and heads Joseph Prince Ministries, Inc.

Visit the author's website.


Embark on a powerful journey to experience the unmerited favor of God.

You don’t need to depend on your own strength to succeed. Immerse yourself in God’s unmerited favor and change your life forever! 100 Days of Favor shows you how to develop a favor-consciousness in everything you do. Each daily topic includes:

Today’s Scripture—a biblical foundation for the topic

Today’s Inspirational Excerpt From Unmerited Favor—a key truth about God’s unmerited favor

Today’s Prayer—a way to express your heart to our heavenly Father

Today’s Thought—a liberating, favor-inspired idea for the day

Today’s Reflection on Favor—a place to journal what the Holy Spirit brings to your mind

With daily inspirational scriptures, prayers, and readings from Unmerited Favor, you can begin your day with a focus on God’s grace and love.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616384492
ISBN-13: 978-1616384494


I’ve got a challenge for you that I believe will change your life! I want to challenge you to take a journey with me for the next 100 days. Let’s plunge headfirst into the vast ocean of the Lord’s unmerited favor. In the world that we live in today, it’s so easy to forget the Lord’s unconditional love for each of us. It’s so easy to forget that the Lord Himself is personally interested in making you a success in every area of your life.

If you would simply set aside these 100 days to just immerse and saturate yourself in the unmerited favor of God, I believe with all my heart that your life will never be the same again. Every morning as you are sitting with a warm mug of coffee in your hand, simply pick up this book. I’d like us to spend 15 minutes together and have an intimate chat about Jesus. I believe that these precious minutes will help you calibrate your thinking for the rest of the day. And when your mind is set on the favor of the Lord, you will begin to experience like never before a confident expectation of good, regardless of the adversity or challenge that is thrown your way.

My friend, when you begin living with the consciousness of God’s unmerited favor, you will savor and enjoy the beautiful plan and purposes that God is unfolding in your life. When you focus on His grace, His favor and His love for you daily, you are putting a magnifying glass over your life and allowing Jesus’ love to beam down upon you in all its radiance, beauty and warmth. No matter what may be happening around you, you will be anchored in the security of His perfect love, hidden in the cleft of the immovable Rock of all ages—your loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

This is an invitation to take the next 100 days as a commitment to soak yourself in the unmerited favor of God. Pull yourself away from the noise, chaos, clutter and busyness of life, and come under the refreshing waterfall of God’s favor. Take this time to simply sit at Jesus’ feet and enjoy His Word. You’ll find the stress of work, family commitments, people’s expectations and even the fear of the future melting away.

100 Days Of Favor is based on my book, Unmerited Favor. Each bite-sized, inspirational reading includes:

• Today’s Scripture—A scripture that relates to the inspirational reading, giving it a biblical foundation and helping you to understand the truths presented. I encourage you to meditate on each scripture for the day. You’ll be surprised how much the Holy Spirit will open up God’s Word to you and refresh your heart!

• Today’s Inspirational Excerpt From Unmerited Favor—A key truth or nugget about God’s unmerited favor that will surely equip, bless and empower you. These truths cover what God’s unmerited favor is, what it can do for you and how you can develop favor-consciousness to experience good success.

• Today’s Prayer—Don’t know what or how to pray for a breakthrough? These prayers will help you express all that’s in your heart to your heavenly Father. Feel free to adapt them to your own situation. Just speak from your heart. The effective, fervent prayer of a child of God avails much. Your Father is listening!

• Today’s Thought—The mind is where the real battle usually takes place. So start your day with a liberating, favor-inspired thought. The best way to guard your mind is to fill it with God’s precious thoughts toward you!
• Today’s Reflection On Favor—As you prayerfully read each day’s inspirational word, take time to journal the things that the Holy Spirit brings to your attention and encourages you to meditate on.

Anyway, that cave was really high up, so I don’t know how in the world that cow had gotten up there!
But right there and then, the Lord began to speak to me. He said that many come to church and approach His Word like the other cows grazing at the bottom of the mountain—they simply eat and go. Conversely, this cow that was chewing the cud, ruminating and taking its time to absorb all the nutrients, was kept in a high place—a place of rest, security and perfect calm.
The entire experience was simply amazing. Right there, caressed by the cool winds that swept gently across Mount Arbel, the Lord was teaching me an object lesson on meditating on His Word. He was showing me that when we come to receive His living Word, whether in church on a Sunday or in our quiet moments, He does not want us to simply graze and go. He wants us to take His Word, chew on it and savor it. He wants us to ruminate and meditate upon it. My friend, take a verse or thought from the Lord and chew on it until it bursts forth within you and becomes a revelation in your heart.
Now, biblical meditation involves giving voice to the scripture that you are meditating on. If you look up the word “meditate” in Hebrew (from Psalm 1:2 and Joshua 1:8), it is the word hagah, which means “to mutter.” So when you meditate on a particular scripture, you should essentially be speaking it to yourself. Speak it out over and over again. Pore over every word and let each one feed and nourish you. Do that and you will be lifted up, elevated into the secret place of the Most High God, far from any form of oppression, anxiety or fear, and enclosed within the embrace of His mighty wings (Psalm 91). That is the power of biblical meditation. I believe with all of my heart that you will experience this rest for your soul as you meditate on the Word and immerse yourself completely in the Lord’s unmerited favor for you over the next 100 days.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Day 1

The Power Of Looking To Jesus

Today’s Scripture
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. —2 Corinthians 3:18

I love to preach about looking at Jesus and being Christ-occupied instead of being self-occupied. But what is the value of seeing Jesus? How does this put money in your bank account and food on your table? How does this help your children in their studies? Believers who have asked me these questions think that they are being pragmatic, but they don’t realize that miracles happen when they keep their eyes on Jesus.

Look at what happened to a fisherman called Peter, who was one of Jesus’ disciples, in Matthew 14:22–33. When his boat was in the middle of a lake, the most practical thing for a seasoned fisherman to do was to stay in the boat. Science tells you that when you step out into the water, you will sink!
Keep your eyes on Jesus. While it may sound impractical, it is the most powerful thing you can do, and Jesus will cause you to reign over every storm in your life!
But the greatest miracle that Peter experienced happened one night when he stepped out of his boat in the middle of a storm at Jesus’ word. That night, the winds were boisterous, but as long as Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, he did the impossible—he walked on water. Jesus was walking on the water and when Peter looked at Jesus, he became like Jesus and did the supernatural. God’s Word declares that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
Beloved, as Jesus is, so are you in this world. When you keep your focus on Jesus, you are transformed into His image from glory to glory. You are transformed by beholding, not by working. When you see that Jesus is above the storms of your life, you will effortlessly rise above those storms. No amount of self-effort could have helped Peter walk on water. When he did, it happened simply because he was looking at Jesus.

Now, observe what happened the moment Peter turned his eyes away from Jesus, and started to look at the wind and the waves around him. In that instance, Peter became natural and he began to sink. Now, let’s imagine that there was no storm, no howling winds and no crashing waves that night. Let’s imagine that it was a perfectly calm evening and the Sea of Galilee was as still as a mirror without a single ripple on its surface. Could Peter have walked on water then? Of course not!

Walking on water is not something anyone can do whether or not the water is calm. The wind and waves actually made no difference to Peter’s ability to walk on the water. The best thing Peter could have done was to keep his eyes on Jesus and not look at the storm. In the same way, instead of looking at how insurmountable your circumstances and challenges are, turn away from them and keep your eyes on Jesus. While it may sound impractical, it is the most powerful thing you can do, and Jesus will cause you to reign over every storm in your life!

Let me share with you a testimony from a lady in our church. She went for a mammogram one morning and the doctors found some lumps in her breast. They told her to return to the clinic in the afternoon so that they could perform further tests to determine if the lumps were cancerous. But this lady was fresh from hearing me teach that as Jesus is, so are we in this world. So before she returned to the clinic for the biopsy, she actually wrote on her medical report, “Does Jesus have lumps in His breast? As He is, so am I in this world.” That afternoon, she went for further tests and guess what! The doctors told her that there must have been a mistake—they could find no lumps! Do you know why?

Because as He is, so is she!
You have just seen the power of looking to Jesus. If you think that simply looking to Christ is impractical, I am challenging you today to see that it is not. In fact, it is the most practical thing you can ever do. Keep your eyes on Jesus and you will become more and more like Him—full of health, strength, wisdom and life!

Today’s Prayer
Father, I know that a man cannot walk on water, whether in stormy or calm conditions. Likewise, whether there are problems in my life or not, I cannot reign in life without Jesus. Apart from Him, I can do NOTHING. Therefore, I ask that You help me keep my eyes on Jesus despite the many things that I have to attend to today. I thank You that as I look to Jesus for all my needs and wants in the midst of every difficulty and challenge, He will place me at the right place at the right time and provide me with every resource I need to experience good success!

Today’s Thought
I can walk above my problems when I keep my eyes on Jesus and trust Him.

My thoughts: I absolutely loved this book! I'm reading it in a time when I'm believing God for some breakthroughs so it was just what I needed. In almost every reading, I was able to highlight at least one thing that stood out to me. Something I needed to hear. I liked having the place to write the notes at the end of each section. I didn't know this was taken from his book Unmerited Favor so I'm adding that book to my "to read" list. He just writes in a way that says "God loves you." I know that's simplifying it but to me, that's the overall message he's trying to get across. He says "God loves you" in one hundred different ways.

Monday, June 27, 2011

book review: "let God change your life" by greg laurie

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 (June 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Best-selling author Greg Laurie (Gold Medallion winner for The Upside-Down Church, Lost Boy, and more) is senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, one of the largest churches in America. Founder of the Harvest Crusade, Laurie’s nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning, is broadcast on more than 500 radio outlets around the world. Along with his work at Harvest Ministries, Laurie serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, among others.

Visit the author's website.


The first-century believers who followed Jesus Christ were men and women who turned their worlds upside down to follow the Messiah, and they lived the Christian life as Jesus presented it to them personally. They didn’t have the luxury of a passive and lukewarm existence. Instead, they had to draw clear lines in the sand about what following Christ really looked like. The good news is that, even in our current culture, we too can participate in this kind of lifestyle.

In Let God Change Your Life: How to Know and Follow Jesus, evangelist Greg Laurie describes the factors that impact true life change in clear, practical, and thoroughly biblical terms. His conclusions will challenge Christians to trade in their passive preconceptions about God for an active faith that reflects the image of Christ. A call to shed the skin of cultural Christianity, Let God Change Your Life details the transformation that occurs when we take what Christ really said and live as if His words were actually true.

What we often perceive as the Christian life is, in many ways, not what the Bible teaches. Imagine what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus; first-century Christians walked away from their old lives just to be where He was. What they learned, sitting at His feet, was discipleship. And when His work on earth was done, first-century Christians took His words and example and spread out, teaching the gospel to everyone.

We need to ask ourselves whether we are living the Christian life as Jesus meant for us to live it. Are our lives challenging? Exciting? Do they have purpose and direction? Or do we find ourselves depressed and afraid? If your Christian experience is dull, unfulfilling, or boring, then it’s time to seriously examine the statements of Jesus regarding discipleship. What you’ll find is that the call of Christ on your life was never meant to be half-hearted and partially powerful. The natural outworking of a Christ-transformed life is a vibrant and revolutionary desire to know God, learn His ways, and lead others to Him.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702073
ISBN-13: 978-1434702074




Have you ever felt so stressed out that it seemed like everything was going wrong—all at once? Then, when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did? Or, let me put it another way: Do you have kids? And more specifically, do you have teenagers? If so, you know what I’m talking about.

One of the downsides of the information age, in which we have our iPhones, BlackBerrys, Treos, and other devices that can send and receive the latest data, is that we are constantly barraged by information. This information gives us even more to stress out about. And stress is serious stuff. Studies have suggested that high levels of stress can lead to obesity and trigger a raft of diseases, from heart attacks to ulcers. Depression, nervous breakdowns, and even cancer can be stress related. In the United States, up to 90 percent of visits to physicians may be triggered by a stress related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We all stress out about the many frightening things in our world today. Since 9/11, there are certain fears all Americans share. A March 2005 Associated Press article stated, “Though the Soviet Union is gone, the nuclear fears that fueled the Cold War haven’t disappeared. Most Americans think nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no country should have them.”

North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons and to be manufacturing more. Iran is widely believed to be within months of developing such weapons. And lurking in the background is the threat that worries U.S. officials the most: the desire on the part of terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. Fifty-three percent of Americans think a nuclear attack by terrorists is at least somewhat likely.

That brings us stress, worry, and fear.

You may know someone who has a fear of heights, small spaces, or flying. But according to a Time magazine cover article on the topic of fear, people have phobias for just about everything imaginable.

According to the article, over fifty million people in the U.S. have some kind of fear or phobia. Some are pretty unusual, if not slightly humorous. For example, there is kathisophobia, the fear of sitting; ablutophobia, the fear of bathing; dentophobia, the fear of dentists; allodoxaphobia, the fear of opinions; and cyclophobia, the fear of bicycles.

And they get even weirder. There is alektorophobia, the fear of chickens; anuptaphobia, the fear of staying single; arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth; automatonophobia, the fear of ventriloquist dummies; ecclesiophobia, the fear of church; ouranophobia, the fear of heaven; and peladophobia, the the fear of baldness and/or bald people.

Finally, there is my personal favorite: phobophobia, which is the fear of phobias.

Perhaps your life is filled with fear, worry, and intense stress of some kind right now. Without a doubt, life is certainly filled with troubles. The book of Job tells us, “Man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7).

Disappointment is a trouble, and in life there are many disappointments. We are disappointed with ourselves, because we are not always what we want to be. We want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to be successful, yet we experience many failures. We want to be loved, but people are often indifferent toward us.

Circumstances can also be a source of trouble: the loss of a job, relationship issues, events not going the way we want them to, or even uncertainty about the future. All these things can cause us stress and fear.

But my intention here is not to add to your stress. Instead, I want to share with you the words of Jesus to a stressed-out, agitated people.

This is God’s cure for heart trouble:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in

God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are

many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told

you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go

and prepare a place for you, I will come again and

receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you

may be also. And where I go you know, and the

way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we

do not know where You are going, and how can we

know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way,

the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father

except through Me.” (John 14:1–6)

When Jesus spoke these words, His disciples were afraid.

He had just revealed that Judas Iscariot would betray Him, and that Simon Peter would deny Him. Then He dropped the bombshell: He was going to leave them! They didn’t understand that He would die on the cross for them and that He would soon live in their hearts. They only heard the part about Him leaving.

And that caused stress, worry, and fear. So the phrase He utters, let not your heart be troubled, in verse 1 could be translated, “Don’t be agitated, disturbed, or thrown into confusion.” Or, “Don’t let your heart shudder!” Or even more casually, “Relax!” Troubled is a strong word. Jesus told the disciples, in light of the imminent cross, “It may look like your world is falling apart and that darkness will overtake you, but don’t let your heart be troubled!” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Mull over your problems a bit.” Instead, He said, “Don’t be troubled.” And then He laid out three reasons why.

As Christians, regardless of what cause we may have to be troubled, there is greater cause not to be.

This brings us to God’s first cure for heart trouble: His Word is true. Jesus said, “Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). In the original Greek, this is a command. Jesus tells them, “Believe that I know what I’m doing here! My Word is true. You will see that in time.”

God has given us a user’s manual for life called the Bible. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hate to read user’s manuals. This is a problem, because I also love electronic gadgets. If you’re like me, you try out your gadgets first and read the directions later (and usually end up doing the first thing the user’s manual told you not to do!).

While many products come with user’s manuals, some products also come with warning labels. Some warning labels are helpful, others seem just plain ridiculous. But we all know those ridiculous labels are there because someone, somewhere, did what the label warns you not to do.

Consider these goofy but real warning labels. A cardboard sunshade for windshields had this warning: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” This warning came with a hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” An electric rotary tool included the caution, “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.” A warning on a bathroom heater stated, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” A manual for a microwave oven contained this warning: “Do not use for drying pets.” This statement was found on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” A warning label on children’s cough medicine cautions, “Do not drive or operate machinery.” A string of Christmas lights was intended “For indoor or outdoor use only.” A child-sized Superman costume came with this warning: “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.” A sign at a railroad station declared, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” A shipment of hammers came with the notice, “May be harmful if swallowed.” And a bottle of sleeping pills forewarned, “May cause drowsiness.”

Think of the people who tried to blow dry their hair while they were asleep, swallow a hammer, or fly because they wore S on their chests. If only they had read the directions and warning labels first!

The same is true of life. The Bible gives us directions and warnings to guide us. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17 we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (NLT).

This passage reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who was graduating from college. His father hoped to give his son a new car for his graduation present. Many of the other graduates were getting new cars from their dads, so this young man wanted one too. He had even picked out the car he wanted and told his father about it.

When the day of his graduation finally arrived, his dad shocked the young man when he did not hand him car keys, but rather, a brand-new Bible. The son was so outraged that he turned and walked away, leaving his father holding the Bible. In fact, he was so bitter, he cut off all contact with his father and never spoke to him again.

When the father died, the young man went to his house to prepare for the funeral and to help get his father’s affairs in order. There, sitting on a shelf, he noticed the Bible his father had given him for his graduation years before. He blew off the dust and, with tears in his eyes, opened it for the first time. Much to his astonishment, he found an envelope tucked inside the Bible with his name on it. Inside was a cashier’s check, made out to him, for the exact price of the car he had picked out. The check was dated the day of his graduation.

His father gave him the car he wanted, but he had to open the Bible to get it. He never realized what his father had done for him, because he did not open his Bible.

As sad as that story is, we essentially do the same thing when we never open the Book our heavenly Father gave to us. Inside this book is something far more valuable than a cashier’s check. The Bible contains the words of life. In it we find the truth about how to get to heaven.

What could be more valuable than that?

God’s second cure for heart trouble is this: We are going to heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). This is only true for the people who put their faith in Christ. The unbeliever does not have the promise of heaven. No matter what happens to you on this earth, it pales in comparison to this great hope.

As 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 tells us,

For our present troubles are small and won’t last

very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly

outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t

look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix

our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the

things we see now will soon be gone, but the things

we cannot see will last forever. (NLT)

Deep inside, we all long for this place we have never been. C. S. Lewis called this “the inconsolable longing.” He said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”5 We all have a longing for heaven, whetherwe know it or not.

Heaven is waiting for the children of God; you have His word on it. And there is only one thing that God cannot do, and that is lie. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). And this is a key element of our comfort. When you have guests stay in your home, you prepare the room for them. You might know they like certain books or treats, so maybe you customize the room. You do this so that when your guests arrive, they will feel at home.

In the same way, God prepares a place for you.

I heard about an eighty-five-year-old couple who had been married for almost sixty years before they were killed in a car accident. They were in good health over the last ten years of their lives, mainly as a result of her interest in healthy food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and a master suite, complete with a sauna and Jacuzzi. As they ooh’ed and aah’ed over their new residence, the man asked Peter how much all this would cost.

“It’s free,” Peter replied. “This is heaven.”

Next, they went outside to survey the championship golf course behind their new home. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week, the course would change, allowing members to play one of the great golf courses on earth.

The man asked, “What are the green fees?” “This is heaven,” said Peter. “You play for free!”

Then, they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the finest cuisines of the world laid out.

“How much to eat?” asked the man.

“Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven,” Peter replied, withsome exasperation. “It’s free!”

“Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the

man asked.
“That’s the best part,” Peter replied. “You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like, and you never get fat, and you never get sick. This is heaven!”
With that, the man threw down his hat, stomped on it, and screamed wildly. Both his wife and Peter tried to calm him down, asking what was wrong.

The man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”

I don’t believe that the description of mansions in heaven is literal in the sense of a Beverly Hills–type mansion. Rather, I think the mansions we hear spoken about in the Bible refer to the new bodies God will give to us when we get to heaven.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:1–2, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing” (NLT).

Our hearts should not be troubled because His Word is true and we are going to heaven. God’s final cure for heart trouble is this: He is coming back for us. We read in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” In our fallen world, we find relief for our troubled hearts in the promise that Jesus will come back to receive us unto Himself.

When General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines in the early months of World War II, he fled Corregidor in apparent defeat. Upon reaching Australia, he sent back the now-famous declaration, “I shall return!” And he kept his promise. Three years later, he stood on Philippine soil and made his second historic statement, “I have returned!”

Jesus told us that He will come again, and someday, in the nottoo- distant future, He will set foot on planet earth once again and say, “I have returned.”

And it may be sooner than we think. The Lord Jesus will not merely send for us, but will come in person to escort us to HisFather’s house.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 we read,

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven

with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and

with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ

will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain

shall be caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always

be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another

with these words.

Notice that Jesus does not say that He will take us to Himself, rather He will “receive us” (John 14:3). It is not something that He will do against our will. He will return for those who are watching and waiting. Not just the place, heaven, but the person, Jesus, will be ours!

These three reasons, or three cures for heart trouble, that Jesus offered can comfort and strengthen you:

1. His Word is true.

2. We are going to heaven.

3. He is coming back for us.

These promises were made only to the children of God who have received Christ.

Jesus revealed these truths to His disciples with this somewhat mysterious statement: “‘And where I go you know, and the way you know’” (John 14:4). I think Jesus wanted them to ask what He meant. But Thomas was the only one bold enough to do so.

Thomas has been given the title “Doubting Thomas,” but he was really more of a skeptic. The doubter doubts, even when the facts are clear, while the skeptic looks carefully, wanting to see the truth for himself or herself. Thomas wasn’t one to let others do his thinking for him. He behaved more like “Honest Thomas” when he said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

It seems to me that the disciples acted as though they understood when they did not. Thomas was honest enough to speak out and say, “But I don’t know where You are going!”

Aren’t you glad Thomas said that? Thomas didn’t understand and said so, causing Jesus to utter this incredible statement, one of His most famous and profound statements in all of Scripture. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas, but rather took his question as an opportunity to expand His revelation.

Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

This statement is one of the most, if not the most, controversial aspects of our faith. By believing this, we are saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. The majority of Americans today do not hold this belief.

But if you believe the words of Jesus and think and act biblically, then you must believe that Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross is the reason you will get to heaven.

As Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” And Acts 4:12 tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then in 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “But that is being so narrow-minded!” some would say. “As long as people are sincere in their beliefs, they can follow any path they want.”

What would you think of an airline pilot who announced just before takeoff, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to flight 293 bound for Honolulu. Our cruising altitude today will be thirty-two thousand feet, and we will be showing an in-flight movie. By the way, I am not sure about this whole fuel thing. I see the gauge is indicating that we don’t have enough fuel to reach our destination. But I feel good about this, so don’t panic.

“Also, I am not really using our navigation devices or any maps today, because I feel that is too narrow a mind-set. We’ll just flow with it, because after all, all roads lead to Hawaii. “One last thing, folks. Don’t worry, because I’m very sincere!”

All I would want to know at that point is, “How can I get off this plane? There is a psycho in the cockpit.” Of course, we know it is serious business to pilot a plane. Yet how much more serious is our eternal destiny?

God has the cure for your heart trouble. He has the answer to all your questions. He is the way for you to get to heaven. So, what do you need to do to know with certainty that you’re going there?

First, realize that you are a sinner. Every one of us has broken God’s commandments. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Greek word translated as sin means “to fall short of a standard” or “to miss the mark.” We have all fallen short of God’s standards, because the Bible says, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Who is perfect? Not one of us.

It also means no more excuses. Stop blaming your parents, addictive behavior, or someone or something else. Like one man in the Bible, you need to say, “God, be merciful to me!” (Luke 18:13).

Second, recognize that Jesus died on the cross for you. When the movie The Passion of the Christ was released, there was considerable controversy over who was responsible for the death of Jesus. Newsweek

magazine ran a cover article entitled “Who Killed Jesus?” The debate raged. Who was really responsible? Do we put the blame on the Romans? Do we put the blame on the Jewish people? I thought the debate was absurd, because I will tell you who killed Jesus: I did. You did. Our sins did. And more to the point, Jesus did not go to the cross against His will. He willingly went, because there was no other way to satisfy the demands of a righteous God, whom we offended. Nails did not hold Jesus to the cross of Calvary. Love did—love for you and love for me.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). No one forced Him to go to that cross. Christ willingly died for our sins.

Third, repent of your sin. The Bible says that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV). This is missing in many people’s so-called conversions. It is not enough to be sorry for doing something wrong. We must also be sorry enough to change our ways.

So if you want to get right with God, let go of your sins. You need to be willing to follow Him and do what He has called you to do.

Fourth, receive Christ into your life. Salvation comes not just by believing that He is the Son of God, but by receiving Him into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). And John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” You see, there has to come a moment when you say, “Lord, forgive me of my sin. Come into my life.” I can’t do that for you. Another Christian can’t do that for you. You have to say, “Lord, I need Your forgiveness.” You must receive Him.

Fifth, do it publicly. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). But He also said, “Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). The point is this: If you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you need to do it in a public way.

Sixth, do it now. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), reflecting the earlier command, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).

The Lord is here with us right now. He is calling us to Himself. There are some of you who need to get right with God, and I am going to give you an opportunity to do that as we continue. There are some of you who have fallen away from the Lord and need to come back to Him. Later, I will give you an opportunity to return to Christ, if you haven’t already.

Permission line: ©2011 Greg Laurie. Let God Change Your Life published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

book review: "forever after" by deborah raney

Jenna Morgan lost her firefighter husband in the same fire that put fellow fireman Lucas Vermontez in the hospital and began him on long journey with physical therapy. Jenna is forced to move in with her in-laws when she realizes the nice home she and her husband had built is just too much to deal with financially. It doesn't take long before she sees trying to live under the same roof as her controlling mother-in-law is not going to work and she stays with a friend until she can find her own place. Lucas has been attracted to Jenna for a while but is having a hard time thinking of her as anything but his friend's wife. Both are still trying to put their lives back together following the fire that forever changed them. Can they find a future together or will they let secrets and their past prevent them from moving forward?

I enjoyed this book. I've not read anything by Deborah Raney before though I'm familiar with the name. I found myself more drawn to Lucas than Jenna. I don't know why but I had a hard time connecting with her character at times. I liked Lucas and Jenna together and had to smile at the awkwardness of them beginning to date - it was like it was their first date ever and very cute. Things felt a little choppy at times but it didn't detract from the story. Overall, a good book.

I received a copy of this book from Glass Road Public Relations and all opinions are my own.

Friday, June 24, 2011

book review: "young and in love" by ted cunningham

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 (June 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri, and the co-founder of Two Ignite, a local church movement created to strengthen marriage through adventure. He has co-authored four books with Dr. Gary Smalley: The Language of Sex, From Anger to Intimacy, As Long As We Both Shall Live, and Great Parents, Lousy Lovers. He is a speaker with the Smalley Relationship Center, speaking on college campuses and at marriage conferences while working with Smalley on projects such as The DNA of Relationships, Your Relationship with God, Food and Love and their latest work called I Promise, which is a partnership with Purpose Driven Ministries. As a regular guest on Focus on the Family, Life Today and Moody Radio, Cunningham enjoys teaching on marriage and family straight from Scripture. He is a graduate of Liberty University and Dallas Theological Seminary.

Having met his wife Amy on a blind date at Liberty University, Cunningham determined to marry her that night. Although he didn’t ask her then, she said “yes” to his proposal one year later. Now married for 15 years, they both love taking road trips and boating on Table Rock Lake with their children, Corynn and Carson, near their Branson, MO home.

Visit the author's website.


Early marriage might not be a problem; instead, it might just be a solution. In Young and in Love: Challenging the Unnecessary Delay of Marriage, Pastor Ted Cunningham suggests that early marriage is not as harmful as many believe and even offers it as the solution to staying sexually pure. He guides young adults through the arguments against early marriage and then reveals the secrets to creating a healthy, successful and life-long relationship in early adulthood.

Over the last century, statistics show that the average age for marriage is increasing and many couples are choosing not to marry at all. According to Cunningham, the message being taught is to “delay marriage, be independent, finish college, build your career, save up your money and have sex outside of marriage.” Couples are being told to wait until they have it all figured out, but they are paying the price of their purity with this delay.

Cunningham believes that young love should be celebrated, even promoted. Early marriages can be God’s will and often provide the key to sexual purity. When young adults fall in love, they develop intense desires to be with one another emotionally, relationally and, yes, sexually. He validates this early relationship and chases the foxes that seek to delay or destroy the bud before it can turn into a blossoming marriage (Song of Solomon 2:15). He praises this budding love, calling family and friends to recognize it with a wedding, and challenges all unnecessary delays to marrying in one’s early twenties.

Explaining where the arguments against young marriage often go wrong, Cunningham offers wisdom on how to know if you are making the right choice including the Four C’s: Character, Chemistry, Competency and Calling. He’ll help readers understand what it takes to be ready for marriage. And along the way he’ll show that the answer to staying pure might be to prepare for marriage. Because it’s often easier to say “Let’s wait” when “I do” isn’t so far away.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0781404479
ISBN-13: 978-0781404471


Chase the Foxes

Catch for us the foxes.

the little foxes that ruin the vineyards ,

our vineyards that are in bloom.

—Song of Songs 2 : 1 5

I am a promarriage pastor. I believe God created marriage to be enjoyed between a man and woman for a lifetime. The only part of creation that God declared as “not good” was man’s singleness, and throughout Scripture marriage is normative, while singleness is the exception. So young men need to start approaching young women, falling in love, and getting married—it’s biblical. I believe Satan has duped our culture into believing the lie that says, “Marriage is the problem, not man.” He has convinced us that one of the best ways to prosper in life is to abstain from marriage or at least delay it as long as possible.

Young people have fallen for the lie. Delay marriage, be independent, finish college, build your career, save up your money, and have sex outside of marriage. You’ve been told to wait until you have it all figured out and have found someone who has done the same. That’s why you keep hearing the words, “You’re too young.”

I believe that young age is an unnecessary delay of marriage. If you and your fiancĂ©(e) walked into our church today, with budding love in your hearts, we would rejoice with you, even if you were only twenty years old. We would walk you through biblical qualifications for marriage, and if you were ready, we’d give you the pastoral nod. Then we would set a date and throw a raging party.
Once upon a time, a single Shullamite woman desired the love of a shepherd king. Her desire was intensely sexual when she shared,

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—

for your love is more delightful than wine.

Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;

your name is like perfume poured out.

No wonder the maidens love you!

Take me away with you—let us hurry!

Let the king bring me into his chambers. (Song

Have you experienced such love, and if so, how old were you? Do you have an intense desire to be with that person forever? Do you feel God could be knitting the two of you together? Now, have you ever been invalidated in that love by a friend or family member? Has anyone ever told you, “You’ll get over it,” “There are lots of options,” “You don’t know what you need,” or “There’s time for that later”?

I want to validate your love, help you discern whether God is knitting your hearts together, and then encourage you not to let age stop you. If your parents are listening in, I hope they hear my challenge to you. Remember, you are called to honor Mom and Dad. They in turn must guard their hearts from becoming foxes and destroying the buds of your young love. Solomon pictured young marriage as a blossoming vineyard (Song 2:15). There are many foxes that seek to destroy the bud before it can bloom. Some foxes are intentional, and some are not. Some are vicious, while some are simply misinformed.
My daughter, Corynn, is seven years old, and she is my princess. I write this book to give myself plenty of time to prepare her, her mom, and her future husband. But I do not want to be an overreacting, overprotective parent. Today we use the terms hovering and helicopter to describe parents who give their children no room to breathe, suppressing their emotions. One day, years from now, Corynn will come home and tell me she has met the man she will marry. At that moment, my plan is to pause, take a breath, load a small firearm, and praise what God may be forming in them.

Last year Corynn started kindergarten. The best part of my day was dropping her off at school each morning at eight thirty. The second best part of my day was picking her up from school in the afternoon. I’ll never forget the day she told me about a little boy we’ll call “Jason.”

“He likes me, Dad,” she said.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yep, and I think I like him,” she said with one eye closed and head slightly tilted, waiting for my response.

I’d prepared for this day. I told myself I would validate her and not overreact. Too many parents freak out at the signs of young love, and I was not going to be one of them. I would avoid statements like “You’re too young!” “What! You don’t need to have a boyfriend at this age!” “You can’t like him!” or “Boys are evil!”

What we’re thinking and want to say is, “I wish you didn’t have these feelings at such an early age,” “Stop feeling that way,” or “You’ll get over it and I hope pretty quick!” I rebuke all of those responses in the name of Jesus. Send them back to the pit where they belong!

Corynn was not prepared for my response.

“Well, honey, do you think he is the one?” I asked her.

“DAD!” was her reply.
I was prepared to go further. Inspired by my friend Greg Smalley, I was ready to help her work on her first family budget and start looking for their first place. Greg allowed his elementary-school-aged daughter to go so far as to plan where she and her boyfriend would live after they wed, how they would make a living, and even set the date of the wedding. But once they crunched the numbers, it did not seem feasible. He’s a great dad.

I’m sure you have a young-love story. It may be the story you are writing at this very moment. You may be asking, “Have I found the right one?” “How long should we date before talking marriage?” “Will my parents approve?” “What will I be missing out on if I marry now?” “Do I need some time to discover more of life on my own?” “Will my friends think I’m insecure for marrying so young?” “Maybe some will think I fear being alone?” Great questions! A quick Internet search can give you both the good and bad answers to all of those questions.

I hope to give you answers that are first and foremost biblical and Christ honoring. However, the answers you find in the Scriptures are the complete opposite of what you’ll find through Google. With so many different answers out there, it’s no surprise that people are uncertain and fearful of marriage.
Before we answer the obvious questions, let’s get one thing out on the table: Marrying young is not the problem. Love is from our Lord. Being in love is a blessing. If God is arousing love in you for another and you plan to get married, we should be praising what He is doing, not telling you to wait unnecessarily.
Contrary to what you may have been told, marriage is not the reason people divorce. While I am an advocate for marrying young, I’m an even bigger advocate for helping you grow up. Experts call it “eradicating prolonged adolescence.” And the Young and in Love message screams, “Take personal responsibility for your life!” Entering adulthood doesn’t require that you wait until you’re twenty five years old, the age some researchers now believe is the milestone for adulthood. I don’t want that for you because frankly it’s unnecessary. Satan wants you to stay a little boy or girl because it leads you to focus on yourself and results in prolonged adolescence. But God wants you to press on to maturity.

I am blessed that I met my wife, Amy, at Liberty University, a school that was over-the-top pro-love and pro-dating. The founder of Liberty, Dr. Jerry Falwell, taught in chapel every Wednesday and regularly encouraged us not to kiss dating good-bye but to say hello and start asking girls out. Dr. Falwell went so far with this idea that he would often say, “If you’re interested in a girl on this campus and she is dating someone else, but not yet engaged, then by all means ask her out.” On one occasion he even said, “If the guy she is dating isn’t committed enough to put a ring on her finger, he doesn’t deserve her. Ask her out!” Thank You, Jesus, and thank you, Jerry. Jerry was not only an advocate for young marriage; he believed in a competitive dating scene.

So I did exactly as I was told!
Amy was twenty when we met, and I was twenty-one. She was in a serious relationship with a young ministry major. I knew it would be a challenge, but I tried to play it smooth. Now, this next part may cause you to stop reading and throw the book away, and I am okay with that. I didn’t have the guts to ask her out myself, so I had my friend Austin Deloach set it up.
Austin was the senior-class president, and he didn’t seem to enjoy the details that came with his office. I was the junior-class president, and I thrived on the organization and administration that came with mine. So in the spring of 1995, Austin asked me what he could do to help with the junior-senior cruise.
“Get me a date for the cruise with Amy Freitag,” I said to him. “Will do,” he said. And that was that. He set me up on a blind date with Amy on Smith Mountain Lake outside of Lynchburg, Virginia.

That night I decided she was the one. Later, I told Austin that I would one day ask Amy to marry me, and I did. Twelve months later, in Fremont, Nebraska, after I asked for permission from Amy’s dad, I presented Amy with a marquise-cut diamond ring. The karat size is an unnecessary detail, but keep in mind, I’d just graduated college. We were married on October 19, 1996. She was twenty-one, and I was twenty-two.

Never once did we think we were too young. Unprepared? Yes. Too young? No. Our parents blessed it. So did both of our churches. The idea that we needed to wait another five or even seven years, get good jobs, learn to be independent, and then settle down never once crossed our minds. For us, marriage was a milestone at the front end of adulthood, not the back end, and we genuinely looked forward to marriage and figuring out our lives together.
Shannon Fox, a marriage and family therapist and mom to my son’s best friend, recently wrote a book called Last One Down the Aisle Wins. In her book, Shannon encourages young people to wait until at least age twenty-five before they marry. In her book, she writes:

What if we told you that we know the key to more

than doubling your chances of staying married? And

what if we told you that this key was something you

can use right now, whether you’re single without

a prospect in sight, in a serious relationship, or

engaged to the love of your life and knee-deep in

Brides magazines? How much would it be worth

to you? Would it be worth five easy payments of

$29.99 plus shipping and handling? Or how about

just the price of this book?

Here’s the key: Don’t marry young. In fact,

don’t get married until you’re thirty. According

to the National Center for Health Statistics, your

chances of staying married more than double if you

get married after the age of twenty-five.1

Shannon is not alone in her advocacy for delayed marriage. Campus pastors are challenging students to neglect young budding love in order to focus on their relationship with Christ. Parents push the delay with bribes and the “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” argument. Friends encourage the delay for fear of losing their buddies. Churches teach the delay as an antidote to divorce. Young lovers delay marriage in order to give cohabitation a shot. Young women delay in hopes of finding the perfect guy. Young men delay to give themselves a few more years to party and “sow their wild oats.” Researchers give us their studies that show the delay is best for your marital longevity and happiness.
I hate the delay, and I firmly believe it is unnecessary. My heart is to validate young love and provide a framework to make sure you are ready and the one you have chosen is wedable. Ultimately, Young and in Love honors marriage and encourages marriages in the making. This is not another purity book teaching you how to suppress any and all feelings of love. No way! I want you to express your love and then enjoy marriage.

So if you kissed dating good-bye, it’s time to say hello! If you have kept true love waiting, I tell you now, wait no more. Get married!

The Young and in Love message comes with a warning label. You are reading Young and in Love, not Young and Looking for Love or Young and Not Looking for Love. Reader discretion is advised.
This book is not for the intentional single, the guy or gal who has decided not to marry. You will get extremely frustrated with this book. This is not a dating book covering the how-tos of dating or courting.

This is not a book to give to your single friends and say, “Read this, find someone, and get married.”
This is not a book about cohabitation.
This is not a book about the woes of society.

This book will not help you find a soul mate.

This book is not for the single person who wants to be married but can’t find someone.
This is not an abstinence book with a purity message for your youth group.

This book is not intended to teach singles how to be content and productive while they wait patiently for God to send them the right person.

Then who is it for?

This book is for the single man or woman who is in love and wants to get married but is being told by everyone around him or her, “You’re too young!” This book is for the person in his or her late teens or early twenties who needs to say “so long” to prolonged adolescence. If you are in love but the one you want to marry feels irresponsible marrying young, then I hope you both will be equipped to chase the foxes and avoid unnecessary delay.
This book is a primer for your premarital counseling. However, I won’t make you sit in a pastor’s office, burdening you with budgets, personality tests, or wedding planning. I want to challenge you to embrace maturity and adulthood at an early age. This book honors Scripture. The Bible honors marriage, prepares us to be adults, and keeps family and friends from becoming foxes. I am a pastor. My heart is to bless your young love, correct, rebuke, and teach through Scripture. My daughter, Corynn, is seven years old, and my son, Carson, is five. She is my princess, and he is my mighty warrior. I advocate for young marriage with both of them in mind, and I do not take that lightly.

And finally, in all honesty, I hope this book starts a movement that honors marriage, eradicates prolonged adolescence, embraces adulthood, and builds lifelong committed marriages.
While there are many valid reasons to delay marriage, your age should not be on that list. Marriages fall apart for all sorts of reasons: unmet expectations, unrealistic expectations, buying into the “soul mate” myth, prolonged adolescence, lack of commitment, and a culture that devalues marriage. But to say those all go away with age is a fallacy. The issue is maturity, not age.
A Special Note to the Frustrated Female Reader

The purpose of this book is to help couples chase away the foxes of young love. Perhaps many single readers will set the book down in frustration. That is completely understandable. Several single women read this book toward the end of the writing process. Janae Bass, a young woman from our church, sent me the following message on


Okay, so I just finished reading your book Young

and in Love. I really liked it a lot, and I agree that

to be “young and in love” would be great. I know

that you said in the book and I’ve heard you say

lots of times at church that men should be men

and ask girls out. So my question is, what do you

suggest for single girls in the meantime? I’m not a

hermit; I’m involved at church and in the community.

I don’t sit in my apartment at night and wait

for Prince Charming to knock on the door—but

still no men.… If you have any advice for us single

women while we wait for men to be men, please let

me know.

When I read this message to my wife, she said, “Girls need to learn how to appropriately flirt.” Her answer did not surprise me.

I get the frustration of waiting for men to initiate. I encouraged the young woman from our church to express her interest. And no, I do not consider showing interest and chasing the same thing. Flirting says, “I’m interested and would like to explore the possibilities.”Chasing says, “I want you and will pursue you.” Big difference! Showing and expressing interest in a guy can be extremely difficult for young women who have been raised to be independent and to allow men to take the lead. You may fear that flirting communicates desperation, weakness, or too much strength.

I believe God can use you in the maturing process of young men. He used Amy in my life to solidify my calling and vocation. It is absolutely permissible for you to begin spending time with a guy, whether you call that dating or something else, and expressing your interest. Don’t allow your frustration over the immaturity of young men to turn your heart cold, aloof, or distant to the prospects of marriage.

Check out for video podcasts,

articles, and resources to help you prepare for marriage.

Young and in Love Marriage Journal
What are your beliefs about marriage and singleness?

If you are young and in love, when did you know this was the guy/gal you wanted to marry?
What are several good reasons to delay marriage?

What are several bad reasons to delay marriage?

Fox Alerts

Throughout this book, “foxes” are not hot chicks. Foxes are individuals, groups, or things that seek to destroy or delay your blossoming marriage. I have included twenty-four fox alerts in this book. As a pastor, my role is that of shepherd and teacher, and in that role, I will help you identify and protect yourself from these savage beasts. My staff is in hand, and I am ready to go!

©2011 Ted Cunningham. Young and In Love published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.

My thoughts: I really liked this book! I'll admit I've fallen into the trap of thinking I needed to already have an established career and basically have my life all together before entertaining thoughts of marriage. Yet Cunningham says there isn't a "perfect" time to get married - marriage isn't an interruption to life but enhances it. He admits being married isn't always easy but it's worth sticking it out. I feel like I've been given a slight advantage in reading this while single. It's helped me change my thinking by not waiting for me to accomplish a number of personal goals before taking that special walk down the aisle.