Monday, February 28, 2011

We Have a Winner!

Using the randomizer at, the winner has been chosen. Congratulations Meredith!

Book Review: Wiersbe Bible Study Series Nehemiah by Warren Weirsbe

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:

Wiersbe Bible Study Series Nehemiah

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

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


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


Nehemiah was an ordinary man given an impossible task: to rebuild the war-torn city of Jerusalem. This Bible study examines the life, legacy, and perseverance of Nehemiah.

Product Details:

List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140455X
ISBN-13: 978-0781404556


A Caring Attitude


Before you begin …

• Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal truth and wisdom as you go through this lesson.

• Read Nehemiah 1—2. This lesson references chapters 1 and 2 in Be Determined. It will be helpful for you to have your Bible and a copy of the commentary available as you work through this lesson.

Getting Started

From the Commentary

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw put those words into the mouth of the Rev. Anthony Anderson in the second act of his play The Devil’s Disciple. The statement certainly summarizes what Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), and it rebukes all those who fold their arms complacently, smile benignly, and say somewhat sarcastically, “Ask me if I care!”

1. What are some of the evidences in Nehemiah 1 that Nehemiah was a person who cared? Why are care and concern important traits for leaders? How might the lack of care and concern affect a leader’s ability to lead?

More to Consider: Nehemiah was a layman, cupbearer to the great Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled Persia from 464 to 423 BC. Nehemiah’s name means “The Lord has comforted.” What is the significance of Nehemiah’s name in relation to the task God has for him? Why do you think he mentions abruptly that he was the cupbearer to the king (Neh. 1:11)?

2. Choose one verse or phrase from Nehemiah 1—2 that stands out to you. This could be something you’re intrigued by, something that makes you uncomfortable, something that puzzles you, something that resonates with you, or just something you want to examine further. Write that here.

Going Deeper

From the Commentary

Nehemiah asked about Jerusalem and the Jews living there because he had a caring heart. When we truly care about people, we want the facts, no matter how painful they may be. “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” American historian Henry Adams said, but Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others.

3. Go through Nehemiah 1 and underline what Nehemiah learns about Jerusalem. What does this tell us about Nehemiah? About the Jews living in Jerusalem? About Jerusalem itself?

From the Commentary

The prayer in Nehemiah 1:5–10 is the first of twelve instances of prayer recorded in this book. (See 2:4; 4:4, 9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 9:5ff.; 13:14, 22, 29, 31.) The book of Nehemiah opens and closes with prayer. It is obvious that Nehemiah was a man of faith who depended wholly on the Lord to help him accomplish the work He had called him to do. The Scottish novelist George MacDonald said, “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.” Nehemiah succeeded because he depended on God. Speaking about the church’s ministry today, the late Alan Redpath said, “There is too much working before men and too little waiting before God.” This prayer begins with ascription of praise to God (1:5). “God of heaven” is the title Cyrus used for the Lord when he announced that the Jews could return to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–2). The heathen gods were but idols on the earth, but the God of the Jews was Lord in heaven. Ezra often used this divine title (5:11–12; 6:9; 7:12, 21, 23), and it is found four times in Nehemiah (1:4–5; 2:4, 20) and three times in Daniel (2:18–19, 44). Nehemiah began his prayer as we should begin our prayers: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9).

4. What’s the significance of addressing a prayer to “the God of heaven”? Why does Nehemiah begin his prayer this way? (See Neh. 1:5; see also 4:14; 8:6; 9:32.) What is the focus of Nehemiah’s prayer?

From Today’s World

Every few years, the church suffers through “media scandals” prompted by public revelations of leaders’ misconduct. Though the focus is usually on a single individual—or a tightly knit group of people in positions of influence— these media scandals can have a lasting effect on the church. Long after the details of the scandal have faded into the past, people with an axe to grind continue to point to these events as evidence that the church is at worst, corrupt, and at best, a place for hypocrites and fools.

5. Why does the media give so much screen time to church-related scandals? What makes scandals newsworthy? What impact does this sort of event have on the local churches? Church leaders? Believers in general? What are some positive ways to respond to such scandals?

It has well been said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. However, for God’s will to be done on earth, He needs people to be available for Him to use. God does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV). If God is going to answer prayer, He must start by working in the one doing the praying! He works in us and through us to help us see our prayers answered. While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. Real prayer keeps your heart and your head in balance so your burden doesn’t make you impatient to run ahead of the Lord and ruin everything. As we pray, God tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, and all are important to the accomplishing of the will of God. Some Christian workers are like Lord Ronald in one of Stephen Leacock’s short stories who “flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”

Nehemiah planned to volunteer to go to Jerusalem to supervise the rebuilding of the walls. He didn’t pray for God to send somebody else, nor did he argue that he was ill-equipped for such a difficult task. He simply said, “Here am I—send me!”

6. What are some of the lessons we can glean from Nehemiah’s prayer? What is significant about his use of “we” in the prayer? What does this say about Nehemiah as a person? As a leader?

From the Commentary

Unknown to him, Nehemiah was about to join the glorious ranks of the “champions of faith,” and in the centuries to follow, his name would be included with heroes like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Deborah, and David. One person can make a big difference in this world, if that person knows God and really trusts in Him. Because faith makes a difference, we can make a difference in our world to the glory of God. “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace,” said Martin Luther. “It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”

7. Read Mark 9:23–24 and Matthew 17:20. How do these verses apply to Nehemiah’s faith? How can they help inspire church leaders today?

From the Commentary

The king asked him, “What is it you want?” What an opportunity for Nehemiah! All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question! As he was accustomed to do, Nehemiah sent one of his quick “telegraph prayers” to the Lord (4:4; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). But keep in mind that these “emergency prayers” were backed up by four months of fasting and praying. If Nehemiah had not been diligent to pray in private, his “telegraph prayers” might have gone unanswered. “He had only an instant for that prayer,” wrote George Morrison. “Silence would have been misinterpreted. Had he closed his eyes and lingered in devotion, the king immediately would have suspected treason” (Morning Sermons, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931, p. 243).

8. Review Nehemiah 2:4–8. Why is it significant that Nehemiah took a moment to pray before answering? What lessons can we learn from this small action? How did God answer his prayer?

More to Consider: Jewish rabbis often answer a question with a question, and Nehemiah followed that example. Instead of telling the king what he planned to do, he aroused the king’s sympathy and interest with a question regarding how he should feel about the sad plight of his ancestral city and the graves of his forefathers. Why do you think he chose this approach?

From the Commentary

Nehemiah is a good example of how believers should relate to unsaved officials as they seek to do the work of God. Nehemiah respected the king and sought to work within the lines of authority that existed in the empire. He didn’t say, “I have a commission from the Lord to go to Jerusalem, and I’m going whether you like it or not!” When it comes to matters of conscience, we must always obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), but even then, we must show respect for authority (see Rom. 13 and 1 Peter 2:11–25). Daniel and his friends took the same approach as did Nehemiah, and God honored them as well (Dan. 1).

9. How might the king’s reaction have been different if Nehemiah had spoken in more “religious” terms about his commission? What are some examples in today’s church where leaders have related well to nonbelievers in positions of authority? What are some bad examples of this? How can believers today apply Nehemiah’s wisdom in their dealings with non- Christian bosses or other authority figures they relate to in daily life?

From the Commentary

After his long, difficult journey, Nehemiah took time to rest, for leaders must take care of themselves if they are going to be able to serve the Lord (Mark 6:31). He also took time to get “the lay of the land” without arousing the concern of the enemy. A good leader doesn’t rush into his work but patiently gathers the facts firsthand and then plans his strategy (Prov. 18:13). We must be “wise as serpents” because the Enemy is always watching and waiting to attack. Leaders are often awake when others are asleep, and

working when others are resting. Nehemiah didn’t want the enemy to know what he was doing, so he investigated the ruins by night. By keeping his counsel to himself, Nehemiah prevented Tobiah’s friends from getting information they could pass along to Sanballat.…

As he surveyed the situation, he moved from west to south to east, concentrating on the southern section of the city. It was just as his brother had reported: The walls were broken down and the gates were burned (Neh. 2:13; 1:3).

10. Review Nehemiah 2:11–16. Why did Nehemiah not want the enemy to know what he was doing? In what ways was Nehemiah practicing what it means to be a good leader? What role did his “secret survey” play in his plan to rebuild the city?

Looking Inward

Take a moment to reflect on all that you’ve explored thus far in this study of Nehemiah 1—2. Review your notes and answers and think about how each of these things matters in your life today.

Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all,

be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press for people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.

11. What are some ways you show your care and concern for your local church? How do you show respect for tradition while also being sensitive to today’s needs? Are you more of an encourager or a complainer? If the latter, why? How can you be more constructive in your relationship with your church?

12. Nehemiah puts a great deal of emphasis on prayer from the very outset of his plan to rebuild the city. What role does prayer play in your plans? How much emphasis do you place on the importance of prayer before, during, and after a plan is put into effect in your life?

13. What aspects of Nehemiah’s leadership appeal to you most? In what ways are you like him? What are some things you’d like to work on in order to be a better servant leader?

Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you’d like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try). Do you need to work on expanding your prayer life? Is there a particular matter you need to pray about, perhaps for an extended period of time? Be specific. Go back through Nehemiah 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.

Real-Life Application Ideas: One of the key features of Nehemiah’s leadership was his deliberate prayer life. Take a few minutes to consider the various plans you have for your own life (and your family’s life). This could be anything from plans for a summer vacation to educational goals to career plans for you and every other family member. Now, think about how your prayer life intersects with these plans. What are some ways you can be more deliberate in your prayer life about these things? Make practical plans for how to become more prayerful, then commit to those plans.

Seeking Help

15. Write a prayer below (or simply pray one in silence), inviting God to work on your mind and heart in those areas you’ve previously noted. Be honest about your desires and fears.

Notes for Small Groups:

• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

• During the coming week, ask the Holy Spirit to continue to reveal truth to you from what you’ve read

and studied.

• Before you start the next lesson, read Nehemiah 3—4. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapters 3 and 4, “Wall-to-Wall Workers” and “Workers and Warriors,” in Be Determined.

My Take:
If you are looking for a bible study that takes you beyond regurgitating information fed to you or simple fill in the blank where you fill in the missing words from the scripture. In this study, you will pray, read a passage of scripture, and read a selection from Warren Weirsbe's famous "Be" series of commentaries. Then you will answer questions. Not the simple, no-brainer type, but the kind that make you think about what you just read. If you are wanting to learn more about the book of Nehemiah, this is a great way to do it. The only reason I can think of that you wouldn't like this, is if you are looking for a study that only utilizes scripture, not stories or commentaries or other information. I have always enjoyed those extras, as long as the scriptures take first place. In these studies, they do.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review (and Giveaway!): Life Ready Woman by Shaunti Felhahn

Now for something completely different. Not only am I reviewing this amazing book, but I'm also hosting my first giveaway! Amy Lathrop at LitFuse has provided not only the book I read, but another to give to one of my readers. I'm also including information about another giveaway. This review is being cross-posted on The Very Latest Thing, so if you go there and enter the book giveaway, you'll get two entries. First, the review:

About The Life Ready Woman:

Are you a ‘Doing it all’ or ‘Do what matters’ woman?

Whether a stay at home; or working mom, an airplane-hopping executive, an empty-nester caring for multiple generations or a single juggling high demands of career and personal life, today's fast-paced modern world leaves women gasping for balance. We as modern Christian women want to look to the Bible for guidance on how to manage our lives -- but because the world of women looks so different today than it did when the Bible was written, it is hard to find chapter and verse that seems to apply to our situation today.

Thankfully, God has given us exactly that timeless, unchanging guidance for how to find peace, clarity, and God's best for our lives once we know where to look! The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World, reveals a profound biblical roadmap for how each of us can find the abundant life we are longing for, rather than the stressful, torn, how-do-I-balance-it-all life we often feel like we are trying to keep up with today. Actually being a LifeReady Woman means that you are clear about your life, bold in your faith, and able to find God’s best for you, and the end result will be that you not only survive but thrive in our do-it-all world.

God has given every wonderfully unique woman different skills and abilities, different desires, and different temperaments -- and every woman around the planet and through the ages is certainly living in different circumstances. But no matter what a woman’s life looks like, the Bible says that God has an individual mission and plan that He’s carefully designed for each of us. And He wants us to find it. Starting January 2011, The Life Ready Woman and the Life Ready Woman Video Series will help every wonderfully unique woman to thrive as she identifies and courageously pursues God's unique design and callings for her. LifeReady Woman puts you on a roadmap to make decisions that will lead to relief, delight, and fulfillment instead of regret.


Introduction: Being Life Ready
Part 1: God’s Plan and Purposes for All of Us
Chapter 1: I Am Woman
Chapter 2: A Satisfied Life
Chapter 3: What the Issues Actually Are
Chapter 4: A Biblical Definition of Womanhood, Marriage, and Family
Chapter 5: Where It All Comes Together: Discovering Our Design and Callings

Part 2: Getting to God’s Best for You
Chapter 6: Live from the Inside Out
Chapter 7: Embrace a Big-Picture Understanding of Life, Part One
Chapter 8: Embrace a Big-Picture Understanding of Life, Part Two
Chapter 9: Use Wisdom with a Man
Chapter 10: Steward Your Gifts from an Eternal Perspective
Chapter 11: Believe God, Not Your Fear
Chapter 12: Being God’s Servant

Copyright © 2011 by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis. All rights reserved.

About Shaunti Feldhahn:

Shaunti Feldhahn is a former Wall Street analyst, best-selling author of the book For Women Only, national speaker, and regular commentator in the media. She has been featured on The Today Show, PBS, TNT and Fox News- to name a few. You can learn more about her many activities by visiting her website or get some great mom advice from her at She and her husband live with their two young children in Atlanta, Georgia and enjoy every minute of living at warp speed.

MomLife Today's Weekend To Remember Giveaway

In celebration of Shaunti Feldhahn’s Life Ready Woman, MomLife Today is giving away 2 Weekend To Remember Gift Packs and much more!

Not only, is MomLife Today helping promote Life Ready Woman, but they are thrilled to announce that Shaunti will be joining MomLife Today as a regular contributor!!!

Weekend To Remember Get-Aways offer marriage-changing principles that you can take home and apply to your daily lives to strengthen your marriage. Whether you are newly engaged or have been married for 50 years, you will find value in the tools provided at the getaway.


Don’t miss this opportunity to receive a conference registration for you and your spouse … and more! MomLife Today will be randomly selecting NINE lucky recipients to receive one of these great gifts:
  1. 2 Weekend To Remember Get Away conference registrations for two. $259 value each pair (Two couples will receive this.)
  2. 2 Life Ready Woman DVD packs. $149 value each (Two different people will receive this gift.)
  3. 5 The Life Ready Woman books. (Book will go to 5 people.)
To enter click one of the icons below then tell your friends. Winner will be announced on March 2nd on the MomLife Today website.
Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

MomLife Today provides encouragement, advice and resources to help YOU with your daily Momlife! Because…every MOMent counts!

 My Take:

To tell you the truth I was a little concerned when I started to read the book. I thought it was going to be one of those so-called "Christian feminist" books that tell you that women can and should do and have it all. I couldn't have been more wrong. Shaunti won a firm place in my heart when she said "You can have it all, but not at the same time." Women today have been sold a bill of goods that they can climb the corporate ladder, raise and nurture their family, keep an immaculate home, cook gourmet meals every night and still look and feel ravishing for our husbands after the kids are in bed. No wonder we're disillusioned! Ask almost any woman how she feels and 9 times out of 10 she'll say "tired".

We can be and do so much and God has an incredible plan for our lives that utilizes the gifts He gave us. We just have to work within His calling, His timing, and His strength. This book would have saved me a lot of tears if I would have had it years ago. The Life Ready Woman was encouraging and affirming enough that I'm planning to have all my older daughters read it. There is much out there that heads into one ditch or the other, but I loved the balanced approach. I won't say I 100% agreed with every point, but, again, it was enough that I'm buying them for others.

About the book giveaway:
Leave a comment on this blog and/or The Very Latest Thing and tell me why you think you'd like to read this book. I will pick one winner from the entries on the two blogs combined and post the winner February 28th. Please leave me some way to contact you or you'll have to come back here to see if you won. If the book isn't claimed in 7 days, I'll pick someone new.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Book Review: 10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl by Amy Parham

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:

10 Lessons from a Former Fat Girl

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Christianne Debysingh, Senior Publicist, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Amy Parham co-authored with her husband, Phil, The 90-Day Fitness Challenge and The 90-Day Fitness Challenge DVD. She and Phil were contestants on Season 6 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Over a seven-month period, they recorded the highest percentage of weight loss of any couple in the program’s history. Married for more than 20 years, they live in South Carolina with their three boys, Austin, Pearson, and Rhett.

Visit the author's website.


Former fat girl Amy Parham offers a practical, proven plan for changing not only the fat-girl body but also the fat-girl mentality. Focusing on the mental ,emotional, and spiritual aspects of our relationship with food and exercise, Amy shows how readers can make this a healthy partnership that brings permanent change.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736938656
ISBN-13: 978-0736938655


We All Have an Empty Place

We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls. Some people use alcohol, or sex, or their children, or food, or money, or music, or heroin. A lot of people even use the concept of God itself. I could go on and on. I used to know a girl who used shoes. She had over two-hundred pairs. But it’s all the same thing, really. People, for some stupid reason, think they can escape their sorrows.

  —  Tiffanie DeBartolo, God-Shaped Hole

My earliest memories were such happy ones. Mom had dinner on the table when Dad came home from work, and my two sisters and I laughed and talked about our day with our parents. It was the best feeling. Everything about our family felt so right and secure. I remember Mom walking me to kindergarten every day at a church around the corner from my house. In that same church parking lot, my dad taught me how to ride a bike without training wheels. He also taught me to fly a kite, and with his help, I won a blue ribbon in a kite-flying competition at my school.

I had my own bedroom with a yellow gingham canopy bed and a playhouse in the backyard. There was also a dogwood tree that I climbed all the time. My best friend, Teresa, lived across the street, and my grandparents lived nearby. Life was good and felt normal, but when I turned eight years old, my seemingly perfect life changed forever.

A Growing Hole

Dad quit his longtime job at a local radio station in South Carolina to pursue a job at another radio station in West Palm Beach, Florida. We had to sell our house immediately and move to what seemed to me to be a different planet. I will never forget the image of Teresa and me standing by the “For Sale” sign in our front yard. We bawled our eyes out and held each other so tight because we knew we might not ever see each other again.

When we got to Florida, the five of us moved into a tiny apartment. There was nothing wrong with the apartment, but I was uncomfortable because I was used to living in a larger space and having a big yard to play in. My sisters and I barely had enough room to squeeze past each other on the way to the bathroom. My new school was huge compared to the one I attended in South Carolina. But the worst thing was that while everyone knew and loved me at my old school, I was now the new girl at school, and I got ridiculed for it. I felt insecure, unsure of myself, and alone. I wanted to go back to my happy, carefree life.

This was the first time I remember being unhappy and having no control over my circumstances. I was deeply sad, and it felt like I had an empty hole in my soul. Thankfully, we only stayed in Florida for one year, but things would never go back to how they were before. I would never regain the sense of normalcy I had so desperately craved.

When we came back to South Carolina, we moved to a different city, and my parents bought a restaurant and ice-cream parlor. It was hard work building a new business, and the stress took a toll on Mom and Dad. They began to fight all the time about money and other issues. It got so bad that they divorced.

When my parental situation turned upside down, I found myself in a world that lacked security and stability. Suddenly, I was being raised by a single mother, and as the oldest daughter at ten years old, there was a lot of pressure on me to help my mom care for my two sisters. She worked very hard (sometimes up to 18 hours a day), and I know she did her best to keep food on the table and clothes on our backs. She usually had no time to tuck us in at night and tell us bedtime stories because she worked such long hours.

My sisters (who were four and six years old) and I spent a lot of time at home alone. As much as we tried to pick up after ourselves, you can imagine how messy three kids can be. I felt terrible when my mother would come home, tired from working so much, and be cranky because the house was such a disaster. I never felt like I could do enough to make Mom happy or fix our broken home life.

Many mornings she had to get to work at the crack of dawn and woke us up at three in the morning to take us to the restaurant. She made us a makeshift bed on the concrete floor in the back room and let us sleep there while she worked. This was not an ideal environment for kids, but she was doing the best she could.

It wasn’t her fault. The problem was me. I felt the hole inside my heart growing bigger and bigger, and I desperately needed something to fill it.

Enter the Banana Split

I remember one particular day when I was playing outside the restaurant and decided to go visit the couple who worked at the dry cleaners next door. The owners were in their late twenties and had no children of their own. They were kind enough to let me hang out with them sometimes, and it made me feel good.

In my mind, I felt “less than” because my life had changed so drastically in only two years. I was nothing like the other kids at school and always felt out of place. This couple welcomed, accepted, and loved me just the way I was. They talked to me like I was one of their peers, and I appreciated the kindness and warmth they showed me.

This day was like any other day that I would drop by for a visit. I had been sitting at the counter and talking to the wife for about 20 minutes when her husband walked in. He abruptly told me that it was time for me to go. He said that their business was no place for children and that I shouldn’t hang out there so much.

I was hurt to my core and very embarrassed. I thought they were my friends, but they were abandoning me. I tried my best to maintain my composure and make myself believe that it didn’t matter. I reassured myself that I didn’t need them and was fine on my own. I remember announcing to them that I was leaving, anyway, to go to make a banana split for myself.

I guess in my own childlike way, I was trying to hold on to my self-respect by pointing out that I could have a banana split anytime I wanted one. Maybe it seems silly, but for me that moment was a turning point because it concerned food. I ended up making myself that banana split and hoping it would fill some of the rejection and the emptiness I had been feeling for so long. It was the first time I used food for comfort, but it would definitely not be the last time.

Bigger and Bigger

As I got older, I gained weight and came under the attack of my grandmother who constantly told me I was chubby. My two sisters were in this weight battle with me. What else would anyone expect from kids who ate fast food and ice cream every day for years? Being overweight compounded our problems in school. Not only were we still the new kids on the block, but we had also become the fat kids.

My youngest sister had an especially hard time with children teasing her. To this day, she talks about the negative memories — one of which was having to shop for clothes in the husky department at Sears — that have haunted her through the years. Not only did she suffer from a kidney problem that made her gain even more weight, she also had an eye condition and had to wear coke-bottle glasses. She felt like such an outcast, and it broke my heart. At this point, I had taken on the role of surrogate mother for my sisters. I felt responsible for them and believed it was my job to protect them. I hated to see them suffer so much.

I don’t say all of this to blame my parents. I know they both loved us girls very much and did their best at the time, but the fact was I felt very alone and abandoned. While my mom worked long hours to support us, my father took up a new life. He started dating a woman soon after the divorce. We didn’t realize how serious the relationship was until we found out they had gotten married. My sisters and I weren’t even invited to the wedding.

Yet again, I felt I was left behind as he started a whole new life without my sisters and me. This feeling was further reinforced when he purchased a two-seater sports car. I remember thinking that there wasn’t enough room for my sisters and me. Where were we going to fit in? To me, the car was a symbol of how we weren’t a part of Dad’s life anymore.

My void grew deeper with each passing day. As I shoved more food into my mouth to soothe the pain that wouldn’t go away, my weight crept up.

When I was eleven years old, my friend Beth invited me to attend her church youth group one night. My grandfather was a Pentecostal preacher, and church was a big part of our lives. We visited many churches through the years and spent many weeks during the summers at different vacation Bible schools, which were hosted by local congregations. I had even accepted Christ into my heart at a young age.

Since moving back to South Carolina, however, our family had stopped going to church. I missed it. The thought of visiting one with my friend absolutely thrilled me. When I arrived at the service, I immediately felt as if I belonged. I was in a wonderful place where people loved and cared about each other. It felt like I was home again. Church became my refuge. I especially felt drawn to the youth pastor, Sam. He quickly became a father figure to me, and I felt like I could tell him anything.

This reconnection with church sparked the beginning of a deepening relationship with God. Every Tuesday night, the church bus would drive to my house and take me to church. It was there that I experienced overwhelming love from others, and I discovered that God wanted to fill up the empty hole inside of my heart.

My faith commitment didn’t mean that my problems were suddenly solved. I didn’t ride off into the sunset of my new, happily-ever-after future. It just meant that for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a lifeline. I had hope. My heart had a chance to become whole.

By learning about God’s love for me, I realized that because we are all human, we all carry with us a certain measure of hurt and pain. This is a part of the sin nature of humankind. But that was not all. I also discovered that God created us with a space that only He can fill. He wanted to be the one to fill my voids and heal my hurts. The pain I was trying to mask with ice cream was a pain that only He could mend.

The Fat Girl Thinks She Is in Control

I want you to know that emptiness is normal. If you feel as if you need to numb the pain or soothe your soul with something outside of yourself, you are not alone. We all endure suffering from time to time. It’s a normal process of living in a sinful world.

While emptiness is normal, it is how you fill the emptiness that will determine whether you are a fat girl or a fit girl. These two chicks cope with problems in different ways. The fit girl chooses God. The fat girl chooses unhealthy addictions. The fat girl can use many different ways to try to heal the hurt on the inside. Some abuse food, drugs, or alcohol or become addicted to work, hobbies, or unhealthy relationships. It might be hard to believe, but some folks can even abuse exercise to an addictive level.

Let me tell you something. The hole that is formed inside of us is not shaped like an ice-cream cone, a vodka bottle, a cigarette, or a good-looking guy. The hole is shaped like the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. He is the one who is meant to fill our empty places and heal our hurts.

I like to think about it this way. We have been created like puzzles with a missing piece. That piece is a relationship with God. He wants us to invite Him into our hearts. The closer we walk with God, the less we will search for other things to fill the hole. This is something the fit girl knows and understands.

I will be honest with you. There have been many times in my life, especially as a fat girl, when I have drifted away from my relationship with the Lord. I’m not a psychiatrist, but I believe that because of the instability I felt as a result of my parent’s divorce, I made a decision as a little girl that when I became an adult, I would be self-sufficient. I would take care of myself so that bad things would never happen to me again.

As most of us know, life usually doesn’t turn out as smooth as we hope it will. Bad things happen to everyone. Here’s a reality check. In life, people will disappoint us one way or another. If you have never been hurt or offended by someone, then you just might be an alien from outer space. The fact is none of us can measure up to perfection, and since we can’t, then certainly life will never be perfect.

My sense of independence severely impaired me when it came to trusting God with my life. I voiced my commitment to Him, but when things got tough or trials came my way, I wanted to take back my commitment. I wanted to do things my way instead of His way. When I turned away from God, that original hole in my heart would reappear, and I temporarily filled it with something. My choices were usually food, of course, and sometimes alcohol or the attention of the opposite sex. None of those things ever gave me true contentment because nothing outside of God could fulfill me.

A significant time I pulled away from God was when my son Rhett was diagnosed with autism. I was 35 at the time, and Rhett was 3. Autism is a spectrum disorder that presents different social and psychological abnormalities in some children. The main challenges we had with Rhett were that he screamed nonstop and was very sensitive to certain sounds. He also had a high threshold for pain. If he was hurting, he didn’t know how to tell us, and so my husband and I were always afraid that he might be sick and we would never know.

We faced other obstacles with our son. Rhett acted as if he had no fear. He was always jumping off the top of the sliding board, and one time he even climbed out of his bedroom window and onto the roof. He exhibited destructive behaviors, colored on the walls, overfilled the bathroom sink or tub with water, and broke things around the house at random. Because he couldn’t communicate in a normal manner, he was easily frustrated.

It was a very sad and dark time in our lives. I was utterly exhausted. I couldn’t believe that God would allow my child to be this way, especially because I tried to live a good Christian life. For goodness sake, I even served Him in ministry at church! Why me? This was the question I constantly asked myself whenever I threw a pity party, which was quite often. This should not happen to someone like me, I thought.

I determined that if my son could suffer from autism when God was supposed to be in control, then maybe I should take back the reins of my life and chart my own course. I would figure out how to fix Rhett. I would find a way to make him better by myself. Who needed God? I was pretty sure I could handle things on my own.

As I focused on being in control, guess what happened? That’s right. The hole that formed when my family fell apart grew bigger. And that’s when the fat girl came out in full force. When it came time for bed, I was so exhausted from trying to do everything on my own that I would fall into a heap on the sofa. I spent many nights with my new comforters—a bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips. Oh, I still had conversations with God, but they were more like yelling matches. I would demand that He fix Rhett in the spirit of “You got me into this mess, God, so You’d better get me out of it.”

One day as I was driving down the road and screaming at God yet again, He gently put me in my place. A still, small voice spoke quietly to my heart and said, “Amy, you aren’t perfect, and I love you. Why does Rhett have to be perfect for you to love him?” Talk about getting hit right between the eyes! I knew that God was absolutely right. I was definitely not perfect, and instead of loving Rhett for who he was and dealing with the situation at hand, I had been focusing on making him normal (whatever that even means). At that moment I shifted my focus and asked God to forgive me. I asked Him to help me trust Him with Rhett and the other challenges in my life.

I quickly came to the realization that when I controlled my life, I only made more of a mess of it. It was a lesson I would continue to learn even after I lost the weight and transformed into a fit girl. (By the way, you’ll quickly find out that the fit girl is always learning!)

A week later, I was at church, and as I listened to the sermon, the pastor stopped in the middle of what he was saying and told the congregation that he felt led to say something specific. He said that there was someone in the service who didn’t know how much longer they could hang on, and that they should be encouraged because God was about to perform a miracle in their life.

I was stunned. Only a few days earlier, I mumbled something to myself about not being able to take these problems anymore. Not only was I dealing with my weight  —  I was 230 pounds at that point  —  and Rhett’s autism diagnosis, but my husband, Phillip, and I had also lost a business right after we had purchased a home that needed thousands of dollars worth of renovations. I was emotionally drained by these problems. It seemed I couldn’t get a break.

I felt as if the pastor was talking to me. It was the encouragement I needed to hear. Maybe my life would get better! Within days, the miracles started happening. First, we found out about a therapy called “audio integration” that proved to be a miracle cure for Rhett. It stopped his sensitivity to sound and his constant screaming. We were able to catch and keep his attention for a long period of time, and for the first time, I felt he could actually begin to learn. Second, our financial situation started to turn around as we found new careers in real estate.

When things started changing for the better, Phil and I specifically realized we had been feeding our physical bodies instead of filling our spiritual bodies. In the process, we had become morbidly obese. It was time to begin the journey to lose the weight. For me, it was time to say good-bye to the fat girl and hello to the fit girl.

What about you? What’s your story? I have met people all over the country who have stories that make mine seem like a walk in the park. One such lady that I met recently told me that her problems with her weight began right after her husband committed suicide. That in itself is a horrifying traumatic event, and now this woman is left to pick up the pieces of a family torn apart by tragedy. This affected her and her family emotionally, mentally, and financially. Five years later this lady is obese, depressed, and struggling to support her family. My heart goes out to people like this because I see the magnitude of their holes and how they are desperately trying to fill them.

Pascal wrote, “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” In this he describes the search that is familiar to the fat girl. So many people are on this journey to fill that hole in their hearts.

Another time I met a beautiful young woman with an incredible singing talent. She is tall and blonde and beautiful in spite of the more than 100 pounds she wants to lose. She shared with me that when she was in high school, her stepfather was murdered. Before that she had never had a weight problem, but that event threw her into such a depression that she could hardly get out of bed in the morning. Her grades suffered, and she had to drop out of school for a while. She began eating to comfort herself in her grief.

These people suffered a pain that pierced their hearts like a bullet and left a hole that couldn’t be healed. They needed the Comforter to heal them, but instead they turned to food. Does this sound familiar? Have your fat-girl tendencies to heal yourself left you more depressed and burdened with extra weight? Have you suffered in a way that you feel no one can understand? Do you feel that there is no way out of the pain that plagues you day and night? It’s time to become the fit girl.

What a Fit Girl Knows

Fit girls know that making the right nutrition choices and getting regular exercise are only half the battle. The real key to losing weight and keeping it off is in fighting a spiritual and mental battle. When I lost all the weight while on The Biggest Loser, I found that many issues from my past reappeared. When it was time for the fit girl to deal with her internal fears and let go of the crutches the fat girl held on to for dear life, I felt like a scared kid curled up in a corner in a fetal position. I had to give that scared little girl permission to rise up and be strong. Why? Because fit girls are strong and are not afraid to face challenges, obstacles, or their fears. I had to show the fat girl what a fit girl is capable of.

As a fat girl, I focused on naming things I couldn’t do. After I started losing weight, I was on a mission to prove the fat girl wrong. I climbed mountains, kayaked rivers, hiked the Grand Canyon, and endured physical challenges that I never thought I could face. Being able to witness my own strength for the first time in my life and overcome the impossible was just the beginning of my fit-girl transformation. Healing my heart on the inside would prove to be a bigger challenge than climbing the biggest mountain I could find, but it was only when my heart healed that I was able to find the fit girl.

You may be asking, “Who is the fit girl?” The fit girl is you when you discover that the hole on the inside of you is designed to be filled by God, your heavenly Father and the Creator of the universe. The fit girl is you when you realize that the compulsion to fill an internal void with food, alcohol, or other stuff is futile because only God can fill that place. The fit girl is you when you realize that you don’t need to comfort yourself with anything but God because you know He loves you very much and wants nothing but the best for your life.

The Bible says that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (see Hebrews 11:1 nkjv). Faith in God is the belief that He is the substance you need for the life you dream of but have yet to see. For the fit girl, a life worth dreaming about is one where she doesn’t have to fill the empty places in her life with things outside of God when pressures get to her.

Remember how I said I would continue to learn this lesson? Well, when I was going through the process of losing weight, I faced different kinds of temptations to fill the void. My new alternatives to filling the void were worse than the food addiction.

For instance, as I got thinner, I was getting attention from men other than my husband. I hadn’t experienced that kind of attention in years, and to be honest, I liked it. In fact, I liked it so much that I realized that even though I was a happily married woman, I still sought after male attention to prove that I was attractive. I liked it when other men thought I was pretty, and so I didn’t discourage harmless flirtations. As you can imagine, my husband didn’t find this behavior an acceptable replacement for my food cravings.

Before I knew it, I found myself switching from one addiction to another. I stopped caring about welcoming glances from men and started drinking red wine. That occasional one glass of wine quickly turned into two or three glasses a few nights a week. Obviously the fat girl wasn’t just an outside issue but an issue of the heart. I had a heart problem, and I needed a healer.

So once again I turned to the Lord and asked Him to heal me and be my guide. I asked Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit and show me how to change my heart. I asked Him to reveal to me the keys to change my reactions to life and its challenges and pressures. It was then that God, once again, asked me to have faith in Him and trust Him with my life. He didn’t want to be my acquaintance. He wanted to be my Lord. Thankfully, I said yes to that process. I haven’t looked back since.

What about you? Have you noticed that your struggles are similar to mine? Do you have a hole in your heart that you are trying to fill up with addictive behaviors like compulsive shopping, drinking too much, or smoking cigarettes? Have you lost weight and found yourself holding on to things that have replaced a food addiction? What’s your new drug of choice?

Often weight can be a security blanket to keep from having to deal with sensitive things going on in the heart, and uncovering those hurts can be a painful process. Know this: God loves you and wants you to be whole and fit. He wants to build a relationship with you so that you can allow Him to fill every part of your life. It’s not enough to occasionally chat with Him through a prayer. God wants to be your partner and your friend. He wants to transform you from the inside out! He wants you to be a fit girl.

For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.  — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Transformation Tips

I want you to do something for me. Find a really quiet place and go there by yourself.     I know this might be hard if you have little kids or a busy schedule, but carve out some time to sit in the quiet and set your daily routine aside for a while.     This is important. (By the way, finding a few minutes alone to meditate and pray is a great thing to do at the end of each of these lessons.)

During this quiet time, pray and ask God to reveal some things that may be holding you back from being the fit girl He made you to be. He may bring things to your mind that you haven’t thought about in years. You may have buried feelings, situations, or experiences you didn’t want to deal with back then — things God wants you to uncover today.     God can show you these things through dreams or even nightmares. Identify whatever comes to your mind and write them down in a journal.

Here is a list of questions that will help you with this process and show you some things that may be keeping the fit girl at bay.     Take some time to meditate on these questions and pray about your answers.     Ask God to speak into your heart.

What are my earliest childhood memories? Are they happy ones? Sad ones?
How have these memories shaped my life?
Are there people from my past who I need to forgive or ask to forgive me?
What role does God have in my life? Can I draw closer to Him?
In my relationships with others, does the way I act cause hurt feelings? Concerning myself, does my behavior cause harm or is it self-destructive?
These might be hard questions for you to think about, but it’s what you have to do if you want to transform yourself into a fit girl.     Finally, I want you to pray about each revelation and ask God to show you how to make changes in the areas that need some work.     Trust that He will give you the strategies to heal the places that need healing.

Commit to having a closer relationship with God and listening more closely when He speaks to your heart. He may ask you to call someone and ask them to forgive you for being angry with them. He may tell you that you are going to have to end relationships in your life that are unhealthy.     Whatever it is you feel He is leading you to do, do it.     This is the beginning of the healing journey and finding the fit girl in you!

Your Prayer

Father, please help me realize that only You can fulfill me, and that I need only You to fill the empty spaces inside me. Help me turn away from the temptation to fill my empty spaces with anything else. I pray that You would give me the strength to continually make the choice to relinquish control of my life to You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

My Take:

I was intrigued by this book, since Amy and her husband were contestants on The Biggest Loser TV show. Together they lost an astonishing amount of weight and have kept it off. This book isn't a diet book or fitness plan, so much as a book dealing with the issues that cause us to gain weight, keep us from losing, or help us to gain it all back after losing. I found some wonderful ideas and, if you'll pardon the expression, food for thought. There is much encouragement and some really great tips too. I cringed a bit when she was talking about replacing all her holiday food with steamed vegetables, but the rest of the book was wonderful.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Book Review: Voices of the Fairthful Book 2 by Beth Moore, Kim P. Davis, International Mission Board

Voices of the Faithful - Book 2 Inspiring Stories of Courage from Christians Serving Around the World
By Beth Moore, Kim P. Davis, International Mission Board
Published by Thomas Nelson

Book Description:
A new year's worth of inspiring stories from the front lines of faith.

"A willingness to go is all they have in common," says Beth Moore and Kim P. Davis, speaking of their friends on the front lines who are spreading the gospel around the world and with whom they collaborated to create this book. This second book of 366 daily devotionals features stories of God's faithfulness, written by hundreds of missionaries worldwide.

From stirring miracles to heroic adventures, this second volume highlights those who daily go to the outer limits of spiritual devotion.

A follow-up to the first book which has now sold 300,000 copies.

My Take:
Prepare yourself to be amazed, to be challenged, and to be brought to tears. In this book there are 365 daily readings that will show you the mission field though the eyes of people actually there, living, working, and sharing the gospel. Written in the words of the men, women and children who are actually there, you will taste of the culture, the frustrations, the struggles and the joys of God's people fulfilling their calling. Get ready to be stretched and to be blessed.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Purging Your House, Pruning Your Family Tree by Perry Stone

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:

Purging Your House, Pruning Your Family Tree

Charisma House (February 1, 2011)

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


Perry Stone directs one of America’s fastest growing ministries - Voice of Evangelism. From its 70,000 square foot International Ministry Center, Voice of Evangelism is striving to reach the world with the gospel of Christ through revivals, television, audio/video media, printed material, and missionary sponsorship. Perry has authored over forty books and booklets; produced over one hundred videos and DVDs, and hundreds of audio teaching albums series. Perry publishes The Voice of Evangelism magazine. Manna-Fest with Perry Stone, a weekly television program, can be seen nationally and internationally via cable and satellite systems around the world.

Visit the author's website.


Do the following questions express what you have felt—or asked—in the past?
Does a weeping willow describe your family tree?
Do you secretly wish you had been born to a different family?
Did you pick up some bad DNA from someone in your lineage?
Would you like to put on a new set of genes and make a new you?
Is there a warfare going on that you won’t talk about?
What are the keys to a happy home and marriage?

If so, keep reading! There are two important ways for you to alter your present personal situations and prepare for a great emotional and spiritual future—by purging your house and pruning your family tree. Purging your house involves removing spiritual, emotional, and mental hindrances from three houses: spiritual, physical, and emotional. The author teaches readers the 3-step process of removing the leprosy (laying aside the weights or sins), rebuilding a fresh foundation (replacing old thoughts with new thoughts), and restoring the house (new friends, relations, directions). Pruning your family tree involves a process called redemptive alteration, which positively impacts your future when the Word of God defeats the sin habits and overcomes the carnal nature through regeneration. The author reveals the dangers that can harm or destroy our family are the same dangers that destroy nature’s trees—storms that place pressure on the branches, drought the destroys the leaves, cold weather that destroys the fruit, and floods that uproot the entire tree. He teaches us how to evict the enemy by quoting Scripture, experiencing the anointing, rebuking the devil, and having strong faith.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381868
ISBN-13: 978-1616381868



Introduction ......................................1 1

How Satan Selects His Victims . . . .. . . . .. . . .7 2

Don’t Bring Accursed Things Into Your Home . . . . . 14 3

Stop the Plagues in Your Home. . .. . . . .. . . . ..40 4

Patterns for Purging Your Home .......................58 5

The Authority of the Blood of Christ.. .. . .. . . . 71 6

Prune Your Family Tree . .. . . . .. . . . .. . . .80 7

When Satan Returns to Your House ...................108 8

Stand Against the Roaring Lion .....................116 9

Reverse the Attacks .. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .. . .123 10

Evict the Enemy From Your House ....................134 11

Bind Devils and Loose Saints .........................155 12

Reverse Prophecy From an Evil Spirit ..................176 13

Atmospheric Warfare—Full Moons and New Moons .........194 14

Tapping Into the Spirit World .. . . . .. . . . .. . ..203

Conclusion: Building a Godly Legacy ..................224

Notes. .. . .. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .. . . . .. . .227

Chapter 1

How Satan Selects His Victims

Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth. So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

| Mark 9:20–23 |

Remember The Waltons? It was a popular weekly television series when I was a teenager. The setting was in the mountains of Virginia in the 1930s. A very large family with many children lived in one house, farming the land, eating large meals each night, and working hard for their father’s small lumber business. There was a day when this show typified real-life America, back in the days when Dad worked, Mom raised the kids, and the children were well disciplined, respected their elders, and worked hard from a very early age on the farm. My own father had eleven siblings—two who died young and seven who still survive. I’ve always teased Dad that they didn’t have a large family; they had a TRIBE!

Things have changed. Mom and Dad both work to make ends meet; the ildren are placed in day care and school during the week; are entertained with television, movies, and the Internet; and family members travel on separate paths, preventing quality family time. Then there is the ever-present problem of teen rebellion that moves through the home just like the spreading leprosy in the ancient homes in Israel.

If a family consists of two children, it is likely that one is compliant and the other is defiant—or one is cooperative and the other rather inoperative. One child can be disciplined by a mere look and respond by bowing his or her head and walking away with tears beginning to flow from his or her eyes. However, the other immediately initiates a discussion that leads to a debate and ends in an argument. Most parents with numerous children understand the oddity that often one child tends to encounter more struggles, to battle more addictions, or to rebel.

As parents, we deal with many forms of satanic attacks during our lifetimes. Most can be overcome through wise decisions and prayer. However, rebellious children bring continual, never-ending stress and concern to loving parents. We must not only pray for rebellious children to experience the Lord, but we must also pray for God to protect those children from themselves or from the danger of their own foolish decisions.

Have you ever wondered why one child is often the target of the adversary?

Spirits attacking Children

On one occasion during Christ’s ministry, He brought deliverance to an epileptic boy whom the spirits had been physically attacking since early childhood (Mark 9:21). On another occasion, he freed a woman’s young daughter who had been possessed by an evil spirit (Matt. 15:22). These two incidents indicate that certain types of spirits will attempt to invade the lives of children at a very early age.

Throughout history, the adversary has set his focus on infants and children, especially during major prophetic seasons when God was raising up a deliverer for His people or for His nation. The pharaoh of Egypt assigned the Egyptian midwives, and later, all the Egyptian people, to cast every newborn Hebrew son into the Nile River (Exod. 1:16, 22). This decree of death on the sons forced the mother of Moses to hide the infant in a small handmade ark in the Nile River. Centuries later, Herod heard that a king of the Jews had been born in Bethlehem. Out of fear, he commanded Roman soldiers to slay all infants under two years of age (Matt. 2:16). Through God’s protection, both Moses and Jesus escaped from these decrees of death. As grown men, Moses led the Hebrew nation out of Egypt, and Jesus brought the possibility of redemption to the world.

America’s children have been faced with their own decree of death since abortion was legalized in 1973. The enemy has blinded the eyes of doctors, politicians, and yes, even expectant mothers who participate in the premature death of the unborn. Contained in the Scriptures’ End Time prophecies is a major prophetic promise directed at youth— the sons and daughters—that will take place prior to the return of the Messiah. It is found in both the Old and New Testaments.

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,

That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your young men shall see visions,

Your old men shall dream dreams.

And on My menservants and on My maidservants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days;

And they shall prophesy.

Acts 2:17–18; see also Joel 2:28–29

A unique outpouring of the Holy Spirit is promised to the youth prior to the return of Christ! This outpouring will be initiated by the sons and daughters. This younger generation will also witness an increase of spiritual visions and dreams, revealing the plans of God and exposing the strategies of the adversary. With such a dynamic promise, is it any wonder that the youth of our time are experiencing the most subtle and sly attacks of the adversary?

By hindering young people’s relationship with God, the enemy blocks their ears from hearing God’s Word. By binding them with addictions to drugs or alcohol, he prevents them from feeling the peaceful and joyful presence of the Holy Spirit. By keeping them in rebellion, demonic forces prevent them from experiencing the love their parents have for them. Satan is conducting a mass bondage program to defeat the next generation because he does not know who may be the next deliverer—the next Moses, Joshua, Daniel, Deborah, Rachel, Rebekah—or the next great leader to bring the nation out of its lukewarm, spiritual lethargy.

Satan—Getting inside the House

Adults who are struggling today were children only yesterday. Many who battle addictions and bondages first encountered the snares of the enemy as children. Many women who today are engaged in prostitution were raped or molested as children or teens. Pornographic addictions that breed sexual abuse and perversion usually begin at preteen or in the early teen years. Many of the men and women in prison are there for using or selling illegal drugs. Many began their addictions in their teenage years, never knowing where their addictions would eventually lead. Many male homosexuals began experimenting with homosexual acts at a very early age. Some were actually molested as children by older men, and others entered into the lifestyle in their teen years.

The enemy selects his victims when they are but children. The enemy is fully aware of the importance of early teaching, and he plans strategies against our seed when they are still young children. At an early age children are very emotionally sensitive and mentally impressionable. This is why we are instructed: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). The seeds of the gospel must be planted into the tender soil of the hearts of children before time, circumstances, and pressures from the world form a callus on their hearts.

Holes in the Soul

I once heard a great pastor from Fayetteville, North Carolina, teach a message at a conference that explained how Satan attempts to choose his future victims while they are very young. He explained how cruel words, sexual abuse, anger, and other physical and emotional weapons create a hole in the emotions of a person. As the neglect, abuse, and sexual sins continue, more holes are punched in the emotions, and the previous holes become bigger and bigger. Eventually a person feels so unclean inside, so unworthy and rejected, that he or she seeks affirmation through prostitution, a gay lifestyle, or even through drugs. That person believes, wrongfully so, that drugs are needed to dull his or her emotions and thus feels better when he or she is high. The problem is this: when that person comes down from a false high, the holes in the soul are still there. Thus addiction becomes his or her companion, and the drug becomes the monkey on the back that cannot be defeated.

Soon these hurting individuals become attracted to other individuals who are experiencing the same form of pain. They team up with other wounded people who are drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, or are sexually active in an illicit manner. They get drunk or high, and then they give themselves over to another person, thinking that it will fill the void. When the party is over and the sun rises in the morning, the friends are gone, and they awake with the same holes in their hearts.

Some go as far as marrying someone just like themselves—“because he or she understands me.” Other young girls form a connection with the first boy who gives her attention or who masquerades love for sexual favors. Soon she is pregnant, and the boy has gone AWOL. A hole of rejection is created. The problem is compounded because two people with holes in their emotions can never make each other whole or complete.

The holes in our souls must be sealed off before wholeness can occur. The more holes in our souls, the more prayer and seeking God it takes to seal up the leaky emotions. The good news is that repenting of our sins and placing our faith in Christ bring not only deliverance from our bondages but also wholeness to our inner soul!

The Atoning Work of Christ

In Scripture, the word atonement is used eighty times, and it means “to appease, dismiss, or reconcile.” In the atoning work of Christ, there is a threefold atoning work:

1 . The work of Christ brings salvation to man through His blood (1 Pet. 1:18–19).

2 . The work of Christ brings healing through His stripes (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24).

3 . The work of Christ brings emotional healing through the act of Christ carrying your grief and sorrows (Isa. 53:4).

We see this threefold work of the Messiah in Isaiah 53:

1 . The atonement for sin: “He was wounded for our transgressions” (v. 5).

2 . The promise of physical healing: “By His stripes we are healed” (v. 5).

3 . The hope of emotional healing: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . The chastisement for our peace was upon Him” (vv. 4–5).

Grief and sorrow are the result of painful events that occur in our lives. Death brings grief, and loss brings sorrow. However, the heavenly Father placed upon Christ our grief, pains, and sorrows.

We must come to the point where we understand this and by faith transfer our grief, sorrow, and rejection to the heavenly High Priest, who is touched with the feeling of our weaknesses.

Four Things to Do

I once heard a pastor from North Carolina explain the four things a person must do to bring deliverance and release to his or her spirit.

1. Face it. Do not deny your feelings, and don’t blame others for your negative emotions. Face it as a man or woman who loves God. You will never change what you permit and never face what you deny.

1 Trace it. After you face it, then you must trace it. Get to the root of your conflict. Was it pride on your part? Did you reject godly advice? Was it the enemy attempting to create a rift? Did you misunderstand someone’s comment? Realize what the root was, not just the surface circumstance.

2 Erase it. By asking forgiveness—at times you may even write a letter or face a person directly to ask forgiveness— you are, in reality, erasing the offense. God will blot it from any record in heaven and will help to cleanse it out of your spirit. The enemy may attempt to bring back a memory for a season, but the Holy Spirit will remind you that you need not remember a sin that God has forgotten!

3 Replace it. Old images can be replaced with new pictures. Make fresh memories. Build new relationships. Get on with your life as you leave behind your past.

Thousands of men and women have followed this simple and yet powerful pattern and have experienced freedom and deliverance through faith in Christ. You may have been marked as a target for the adversary from the time you were a child or a teenager. However, you were also marked for a redemptive covenant that will redeem you out of the prison house of the enemy! Change your outlook from a victim mentality to a victory mentality when you enter a covenant of salvation and freedom through Christ! The prison doors have been opened, but you must walk through the doors.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Review: The Resurrection by Mike Duran

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:

The Resurrection

Realms (February 1, 2011)

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


Mike Duran was a finalist in Faith in Fiction's inaugural short story contest and was chosen as one of ten authors to be published in Infuze Magazine’s 2005 print anthology. He is author of the short story “En Route to Inferno,” which appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner: Back from the Dead edition, and received the Editor’s Choice award for his creative nonfiction essay titled “The Ark,” published in the Summer 2.3 Issue of Relief Journal. In between blogs, he also writes a monthly column for Novel Journey and has served as editor on the Midnight Diner’s editorial team. Duran is an ordained minister and lives with his wife of 29 years and four grown children in Southern California.

Visit the author's website.


In the graveyard overlooking the city of Stonetree, a petrified oak broods. It’s a monstrous thing, not just because of its size, but because of who was murdered there. When Ruby Case limped into church that spring morning, she was not thinking about haunted trees. Mother of two young boys and wife to a backslidden believer, she faithfully prays for God’s visitation upon the city. Yet when she inexplicably raises a boy from the dead, Ruby gets more than she bargained for. The resurrection creates uproar in the quiet coastal town, turning Ruby into both a celebrity and a scapegoat. When Reverend Ian Clark joins Ruby in a search for answers it leads to a collision with unspeakable darkness. Together, they quickly realize that Ruby woke more than a dead boy, and the secrets she unleashed now threaten to destroy them all. Can they overcome their own brokenness before they become victims of an insidious evil?

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Realms (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161638204X
ISBN-13: 978-1616382049


No sooner had he removed the chunk of jet-black obsidian from atop his sermon notes than Reverend Ian Clark realized he had a visitor.

A ripple of electricity swept through the room, and the atmosphere tingled in its wake. It was a precursor to the manifestation, further evidence that his shrinking imagination—his world without wonder—had been invaded. The hair along Clark’s forearms bristled, and his body grew tense. He knew what was coming. The stench of burning flesh fouled the air, forcing his throat into a knot. He stood rigid by the filing cabinet.

Mr. Cellophane had arrived.

Clark swallowed hard, his mind churning in indecision. Should he look at the spirit? Sometimes if he ignored it, the thing would go away, seeping back into the netherworld from where it came. But he didn’t have time to waste. The girls would be here any minute, so he had to hurry. He gritted his teeth and turned toward the far end of the bookshelves, glowering.

The specter rose in the corner—its usual spot—and watched him with sallow eyes. An opaque, gauzy sheath seemed to cloak the presence. Pale organs throbbed beneath its translucent skin. It appeared to be a young man, or the remnants of one, caught between worlds. A demon or ghost, he speculated, maybe a transient from a parallel plane. How it had come to haunt the church, Clark could not say. Nor did he really care.

He’d been forced to call it something, what with the frequency of its visits and his interminable need to bleach existence of its mystery. Beings aren’t anonymous, he often reasoned. Amoebas, yes. As far as Clark could tell, Mr. Cellophane was more than an amoeba or an ectoplasmic phenomenon. His repeated attempts to evict the entity had proven futile—no doubt an extension of his spiritual impotence. But Clark was history; soon the ministry would be nothing more than a bad dream. As far as he was concerned, the swirling bag of bones could rot over there.

The apparition rose to the ceiling and hovered, undulating; its head tilted forward, a brooding presence in the corner of the church office. Elastic arms braided with sinews dangled at its side as it stared dispassionately at the minister.

That look—that pleading, defenseless gaze—always unnerved Clark.

He wiped the moisture from his eyes and, with a type of resolute indifference, snatched his notes from the cabinet. He scowled at the glassy wraith—a childish, demoralized pout—and turned away. As he went to the coat rack and removed his black leather jacket, he sensed the sad, empty eyes following him. He flung the jacket over his shoulder and marched toward the exit.

“Leave me alone,” he muttered.

He marched out of his office and slammed the door. Clark stormed past Vinyette’s desk, dragging cords of the fetid vapors with him. Opening the front door, he peered into a dense spring fog. Intermittent droplets pattered the welcome mat, and something rustled in the camphor branches. Other than that, the parking lot was silent.

A groan of relief left him. At least he didn’t have to deal with Ruby and her fanatical entourage. Clark locked the door, rolled his notes into a tight baton, and plunged into the misty veil.

A chill clung to the church office, as usual. Ruby Case shivered and yanked the sleeves of her sweat jacket over her wrists. Why was it always so cold in this building?

Once again it was just the three of them, but Ruby didn’t mind. She had given up trying to generate enthusiasm in Canyon Springs Community Church. In a way she preferred the anonymity of her little prayer group. Vinyette, on the other hand, used it as motivation. “Goliath went down with one stone,” she’d say. “So’s the three of us should do some damage.” Vinyette was not one to aim low. For Ruby, it was more about doing right than getting payback. The fact that her two best friends shared the burden every Sunday morning before church made the commitment a lot easier.

She slipped her eyes open and peeked at them. The girls sat as they always did—Vinyette propped forward with her elbows on her thighs, rocking back and forth, the tattoo on her bicep in full display, and Marje at attention, hands folded on her lap like a prim schoolgirl, eyes squeezed into a fine line of lashes. Vinyette had the lead—her natural position. Ruby smiled and shut her eyes again. She needed to concentrate and stop letting her mind wander.

As she settled in, something brushed past and sent goose bumps skittering up her spine. She thrust her eyes open, fully expecting to see someone standing near. There was no one. Weird.

Suddenly her insides somersaulted.

Ruby leaned back, forcing a metallic groan from the folding chair. She picked at her jeans, waiting, hoping for the wave of nausea to go away. Instead a flush of warmth cascaded over her, and the room turned fuzzy.

She unzipped her jacket and shook the collar of her shirt to let some air in. What was going on? Ruby blinked hard, trying to regain her mental equilibrium. She wasn’t one to not be in control, and this, well, this wouldn’t do. Her scalp tingled, as if invisible fingers caressed her hair. Maybe this was premature menopause. Like fifteen years premature. She frowned at the thought and kept flapping her collar.

That’s when an image sprung into her mind, sharp and inescapable, and snatched her breath away.

Ruby slowly rose with one hand over her mouth, gawking at the vibrant impression that sketched itself in her mind’s eye. She fumbled behind her for the chair, trying to steady herself, trying to comprehend what she was seeing, what she was feeling.

“Speak to him, Lord,” Vinyette prayed in her slight Southern drawl, unaware of Ruby teetering in the circle. “Would you please get that man’s attention?” Marje nodded in agreement, her gold hoops swinging in confirmation.

Ruby swayed, fighting to retain control of her senses. “The boys, Vin,” she mumbled with a lightheaded lilt. “Can you... ”

Vinyette snapped her eyes open and stopped rocking. She shouted something and leaped forward, grappling for Ruby, but she wasn’t fast enough. Ruby collapsed. Her head struck the chair and sent it clattering. Then her body thudded to the carpet and she gasped.

Formless figures and indistinct sounds whirled around her, but the image remained. She lay spellbound, captivated by the bizarre vision.

It was stark in its simplicity: an immense gray tree with barren, arthritic limbs tilted on a high hill. Behind it stretched an unending curtain of crimson sky.

She commanded her body to move, but it could not. Even her heart seemed to freeze at the sight of the unfolding revelation.

The tree towered over her, its skeletal limbs like a vast umbrella speckled with blackbirds. She lay mesmerized, not at all fearful, just captivated by the terrible dream. As she studied it, her thoughts went to a single leaf blooming on a craggy bough, bright and green like newly sprung grass. It seemed incongruent, so out of place on the pale dead branch, like a glorious banner unfurling in some bomb-blasted war zone.

Ruby’s bad leg lay crumpled underneath her. Someone wrestled it free and hovered overhead, shouting gibberish. Just behind her right ear a hot, sharp pinging began and tugged her back to reality. The vision dimmed, ebbed back into the recess of her psyche, the fuzz cleared, and she recognized her friend.

“Breathe, Ruby!” Vinyette’s forearm quivered, and the tattoo-green barbed wire shown under her receding shirtsleeve. If Reverend Clark were here, he’d make her cover the darned thing. “Call them. Hurry!” Vinyette ordered someone. “Breathe!”

“No,” Ruby gasped, struggling to sit up. “No.”

“Stay down.” Vinyette placed her trembling hand flat against Ruby’s tummy with the perfect amount of pressure.

“I can’t find the phone.” Marje stumbled past them in her heels, sending a stapler tumbling off Vinyette’s desk followed by fluttering papers.

“Then use your cell, Marje. C’mon!”

“No.” Ruby groaned, pushed aside Vinyette’s hand and sat up, still loopy. “I’m all right.”

“All right, my butt!” Vinyette glared at her. “You fainted. Nearly cracked your head open.”

Ruby touched the knot behind her ear and grimaced. The image of the tree finally faded. The coffee pot gurgled and the aroma hit her, as did a faint whiff of smoke. She wiped moisture from her eyes, drew a deep breath, and the church office came alive again. The lime green, low-back leather chair, excavated by Vinyette from some vintage thrift store, assured Ruby she was back on Earth.

“Here! Found it!” Marje held the cordless up. “Should I call?”

Vinyette stood and fidgeted with her turquoise rings, one after the other, biting her lip.

“No, Marje, I’ll be OK.” Ruby patted the back of her head to ensure her ponytail was intact. Marje stood ogling, and Vinyette knelt next to Ruby. They watched as she sat and brushed carpet fibers off her jeans. Great! She was now officially something she hated most—the center of attention.

Ruby drew her legs up and struggled to her feet.

“Careful.” Vinyette had her by the elbow.

Marje rushed over, picked up the chair, and steadied it behind Ruby.

“Here,” Vinyette said, “sit down. I’ll get you some water.”

She stomped across the room in her cowboy boots, plucked a paper cup from the water dispenser, and filled it. As she did, Ruby squinted and scanned the office to make sure the fuzziness was gone.

Vinyette returned and extended the cup, her long auburn hair gracing her lean frame. “What happened? Good Lord, Ruby. You scared the wits outta us.”

Ruby savored the cool water, which gave her time to consider her options. She’d had intuitions before, subtle discernments about people or events. Her husband, Jack, called it her baloney detector. Sometimes harebrained words would pop into her mind, real off-the-wall like. Of course, she refused to consider herself psychic or profess some otherworldly calibration, but no amount of dismissal had stifled the gift.

Still, she’d never experienced anything like this.

She finished the water, brought the cup down, and squinted. “Is something burning? That smell. I can barely... ”

Vinyette and Marje looked at each other and started sniffing the air like a couple of hound dogs. After a moment, Vinyette shrugged. “I don’t think so.” Then she pointed to the cup. “Do you want some more?”

“Please.” Ruby coveted the chance to stall.

Spinning on the toe of her boot, Vinyette clomped to the cooler again and refilled the cup.

Ruby surveyed her nails for damage as she pondered her next step. She’d heard about things like this before. Trances and ecstatic visions, however, were the stuff of religious wackos. The fanatics up in Northfork were always touting premonitions and foreign tongues. Once they announced that God had turned some members’ fillings into gold. The ensuing media curiosity was short-lived when the church refused to have the miracle verified. Of course, this only buttressed Jack’s cynical sentiments. He wondered aloud about hillbillies actually having enough teeth to turn to gold and why God should bother with starvation in sub-Saharan Africa when some yokel needed precious metals gracing his diseased gums. That was Jack. As much as she believed in miracles and hated validating her husband’s warped sense of humor, Ruby was hard-pressed to concede that kind of miracle. Besides, if Reverend Clark learned that a parishioner of his church had had some wild vision, he would have a field day dissecting it—that is, after the board’s inquisition. She clucked her tongue as she spotted a chip in the polish on her right index finger.

Vinyette returned, and Ruby took the water and sipped it. Should she tell them? The thought made her stomach somersault again. Why not? Vinyette and Marje knew how to keep a secret. They had proven that. However, something this big always leaked out. The last thing Ruby Case wanted to do was start a scene. Besides, she needed a better handle on this before she went yakking.

“You said something about the boys?” Marje peered at Ruby. “Right before you—”

“That’s right!” Ruby nodded enthusiastically. “That’s right. They’ve been sick. Sean brought something home from preschool, and I must’ve got it.” She smiled sheepishly.

“Yeah, but you passed out.” Vinyette sounded skeptical. “That’s it. I’m getting my truck and driving you home. You can have Jack take you to the doctor.” She snatched her keys from the desk, jangled them, and arched her eyebrows in her usual mother-knows-best expression.

Ruby scrunched her lips. “Mmm, well... ”

“Don’t you dare.”

The haunting dreamscape lingered—she could feel it. The invisible fingers were nearby, waiting to draw Ruby back.

Gulping the last of the water, she crumpled the paper cup in her fist. “I just...I probably caught something, Vin. I’m feeling better now.” She studied the chip in her soft ivory polish and said unconvincingly, “Really.”

My Take:
I was mourning when I found out the second book of the series isn't due out until this time next year and then the third one a year after that. I got completely hooked into the storyline and can't wait to see how it all comes out. I'm not sure I would recommend it for everybody. A new Christian might find themselves confused as the bad guys throw out their objections and redirects, but that will depend on the individual. There are many twists and turns and explorations of the human condition. The spiritual warfare is intense and the characters are real and down to earth. I can hardly wait for the next installment.