Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: The Power of Humility: Living Like Jesus by R.T. Kendall

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 Power of Humility: Living like Jesus

Charisma House (May 3, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


R. T. Kendall is author of the best-selling title Total Forgiveness. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Oxford University and was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, for twenty-five years. Known internationally as a speaker and teacher, Dr. Kendall is also the author of more than forty-five books, includingThe Sensitivity of the Spirit, The Thorn in the Flesh, Grace, Pure Joy, Imitating Christ, andThe Anointing: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Written in the same style as his Jealousy—the Sin No One Talks About,Kendall tackles the problem of pride, bringing out into the open the challenges a majority of people face in overcoming the pride and self-righteousness that were introduced to mankind by the serpent in the Garden of Eden. He defines the various kinds of pride, including social, racial, financial, sexual, and spiritual pride, and teaches us how God uses the pride in our lives to reveal our need for Christlikeness. He demonstrates that pride lies behind the “blame game,” causing us to “pass the buck” rather than admit our guilt and thus interfering in our ability to draw closer in relationship to God.

Kendall outlines several Old Testament examples of pride. He shows how foolish pride governed most of Jacob’s life, led to King Saul becoming “yesterday’s man,” and filled Elijah’s life, even though he was a great prophet of God. Then he shows how pride surfaced in New Testament people: Peter’s pride in believing he loved Jesus most of all, the pride of the Pharisees, and the racial-religious pride that filled the Jews and was the reason they rejected Paul. Finally we take a closer look at Jesus—and Kendall teaches us the principles from the Sermon on the Mount that will lead us away from pride. He shows us that it is impossible to be Spirit-filled and self-righteous simultaneously, and he gives us biblical principles for overcoming pride and self-righteousness.


Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616383488
ISBN-13: 978-1616383480

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


“I am the only one of the lord’s prophets left. . . . I have been very zealous for the lord God Almighty.” -1 Kings 18:22; 19:14


“There is no limit to how far a person can go as long as he doesn’t care who gets the credit for it.” -A plaque on President Ronald Reagan’s desk


The measure of pride is essential to our self-esteem, emotional well-being, and good mental health. It is what gives us a sense of self-worth and dignity— which God wants each of us to have. We need to take ourselves seriously to some extent. But pride can push this too far as when we begin to take ourselves too seriously. In chapter 2 we will look at the good side of pride—its advantages to us and why it is not always bad. In this chapter, however, we will examine pride as it is generally understood in the Bible. As I said above, the Bible has nothing good to say about pride. Pride in Scripture is always that which is suspect and to be avoided; it is disdained. It is assumed in the Bible as arrogance, haughtiness, smugness, a feeling of superiority over others, insolence, overbearingness, superciliousness, narcissism, vainglory, conceit, egotism, vanity, and self-importance.


Pride is the opposite of humility, modesty, and meekness. St. Augustine (a.d. 354–430) said that pride is the love of one’s own excellence. People like Aristotle (384–322 b.c.) and George Bernard Shaw (a.d. 1856–1950) saw pride as a profound virtue. “I often quote myself,” said Shaw. “It adds spice to my conversation.” He also said, “Few people think more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week.”


Most religions of the world—certainly Christianity—see pride as a sin. There are two Greek words relevant here. Alazon (as in James 4:16; 1 John 2:16; Romans 1:30) refers to one who makes more of himself than reality justifies, ascribing to himself either more or better things than he has, or even what he does not possess at all; he promises what he cannot deliver. The other Greek word is huperephanos (as in Mark 7:22; James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5), which means arrogance. It refers to one who brags about his position, power, and wealth and despises others. In 2 Timothy 3:2 both alazon (boastful) and huperephanos (proud) are found beside each other.


We will see throughout this book that neither word for pride needs be used explicitly to describe a person’s proud behavior. For example, the writer of 1 Kings did not impute Elijah with pride. But that is what was going on. How dare Elijah say, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left” (1 Kings 18:22; 19:14)—even if it were true! But it was absolutely false. Elijah had just been told that Obadiah the prophet had taken a hundred other prophets and hid them in caves (1 Kings 18:13). Elijah felt so superior to the other prophets of his day that he did not even acknowledge them as prophets of the Lord! That is sheer arrogance. Elijah is a perfect example of a person taking himself too seriously.


Could the revered and hallowed Elijah truly take himself too seriously? Yes. Is not Elijah regarded as one of the greatest men in the Old Testament? Yes. Did his prayer before all the people not result in fire coming down from heaven and exposing the folly of the prophets of Baal? Yes. Was it not Elijah who appeared with Moses when Jesus was transfigured before the disciples on the mountain (Matt. 17:3)? Yes. And when Elijah

said, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left,” God could have aborted the whole procedure because Elijah misspoke (to put it mildly). But God didn’t do that.


This encourages me. James wanted his readers to know that Elijah was “a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17, esv). The point is, if God could use Elijah—and if Elijah can get his prayers answered, so too with any of us! God can use those of us who take ourselves too seriously. In the final chapter of my book In Pursuit of His Glory, I listed five things I would hopefully do differently if I could turn the clock back after twenty-five years at Westminster Chapel. This list included that I should not take myself so seriously.


I therefore define pride essentially as taking oneself too seriously. Taking oneself too seriously is the common denominator in all proud people. It describes those who resent criticism, who are insecure, who cannot laugh at themselves, whose need of praise is constant, who see themselves as overly important, who fancy themselves as being very special to God (and think God bends the rules for them), who tend to blame others for their problems, who hate taking the blame, who cannot bear not getting the credit for the good they did, and who have an insatiable need to prove themselves.


Is that you? Take heart. I just described virtually every person whom God has ever used.


Categories of Pride


But pride takes many forms. Some try to prove they are not proud by trying to appear the very opposite. “Pride perceiving humility honorable often borrows her cloak,” said Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790). It goes down better with people if we seem humble. The motive is the same: we are concerned how we are perceived. Our self-esteem is at stake.


There are many kinds of pride. There is social pride (keeping up with the Joneses), spiritual pride (self-righteousness), financial pride (impressing others with one’s wealth), political pride (being sure to be politically correct), sexual pride (always needing to attract the opposite sex), cultural pride (impressing people with your love of the arts), pride of pedigree (placing importance on one’s background), educational pride (impressing with degrees), intellectual pride (always needing to prove how much you know and how intelligent you are), pride of your good looks (overly concerned with appearance, whether regarding dress, figure, or hair), national pride (sometimes being overly patriotic), or racial pride (proud of the color of your skin). There is even theological pride, when one feels superior because of their rightness of doctrine. Closely akin to this is prophetic pride, when one gloats over their prophetic successes.


God Hates Pride


What must never be forgotten is that God hates pride. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes [‘a proud look’—kjv], a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet

that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Prov. 6:16–19). Note that “haughty eyes” or “proud look” heads the list of things God hates. “Whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, him will I not endure” (Ps. 101:5). Have you ever seen someone with a proud look—haughty eyes? I have. Certain people literally come to my mind when I think of haughty eyes and an arrogant countenance. But who am I to judge? You and I look on the outward appearance; God looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7). So, have I too had the same outward

proud expression I have seen in some when in fact people have had the exact same perception of me? I don’t think I want to know the answer to that question.


When we consider how much God hates our being proud, it is enough to drive us to our knees. We should ask, “Lord, am I like this?” “You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty” (Ps. 18:27). “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled” (Luke 14:11). “You rebuke the arrogant” (Ps. 119:21).


But when I consider that God was patient with Elijah, I feel there is hope for me. God could indeed have stepped in and interrupted the entire proceedings when Elijah openly said, “I am the only true prophet left.” But He didn’t. God took His time and later on called Elijah to one side, as if to say, “Oh, by the way, Elijah, I have seven thousand in Israel whose knees have not bowed down to Baal.” (See 1 Kings 19:18.) God has used me over the years and then later called me to one side and gently showed me faults and flaws others saw but I had been blind to. He is such a good and gracious God.


No Guilt Trip


I will have failed in this book if I give you a guilt trip as you read. My task is to show our pride and God’s hatred of it—but to show we are all in this together. But more than that, that we will equally see His mercy toward those who repent of this folly. The worst thing you and I can do in this connection is to be defensive. That will never do. But if God kindly points out our failures, it means we are loved (1 John 4:19)—and that there is hope for us. Repentance is a grace that God grants (Rom. 2:4; Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). It is a gracious gift that we do not remotely deserve. The very real possibility of being unable to be renewed to repentance (Heb. 6:4–6) should be enough to humble all of us. But if in this book you are given to see what displeases the Lord and that you are sorry, I will give God the praise.


Even Ahab, one of the most wicked kings ever, saw his folly in a most heinous injustice he committed. But when he was reproved, he “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.” God noticed it. He said to Elijah, “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son” (1 Kings 21:27–29). This means there is hope for us all.


God rebukes us to bring us to our senses. He lets us save face. He does not chasten or discipline us to get even. God got even at the cross, when the Lord laid upon Jesus the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:6). “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:11–14). He sent the wind and the fish to swallow up Jonah not to punish him but, as Dr. Bruce Chesser put it, to save him (Jonah 1–2). How often God “saves us from ourselves,” as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say.


Foolish Worry: What People Might Think of Us



Taking ourselves too seriously leads us foolishly to imagine what people might think about us. As if what they think is so important! But I will never forget a day—it was pivotal in my life—when two important men had to humble me. These two men were Dr. Barrie White, my supervisor at Oxford, and Dr.


J. I. Packer, who functioned as a second supervisor. I had been at Oxford for about a year at the time. What I thought was to be a leisurely lunch with them was interrupted by Jim Packer saying to Barrie White, “Shall you tell him, or shall I?” Dr. White motioned to Dr. Packer to start. “You need to minimize your liabilities,” Jim Packer graciously said to me, showing a mastery of British understatement—and trying to let me save face. “I know you have come to Oxford to do your DPhil. (doctorate of philosophy) on John Owen.” (He was referring to the great Puritan theologian John Owen [1616–1683], whose doctrine of the priestly work of Christ had motivated me to come to Oxford, something I had told everybody back in America I would do.) Jim continued, “But we don’t think you are able to do John Owen,” then shared what they thought I could do at Oxford to get the DPhil. I was devastated. I went home with the worst migraine headache of my whole life. I went to bed. Why? I worried what people would think. It was so silly. The truth is, these people would have thought absolutely nothing about it! But I could only think of my reputation among friends back in America. Taking myself too seriously literally put me to bed. What is more, the thesis I ended up doing (on John Calvin [1509–1564] and the English Puritans) was the best thing in that connection that ever happened to me. But at the time I was utterly governed by pride and what people would think, that friends back at my seminary in Louisville might discover I wasn’t cut out to do a doctorate on John Owen. And yet it reminds me of something my grandfather R. J. Kendall used to say: “Don’t worry over what people might be thinking of you; chances are, they are not thinking about you at all.” How true.


Building Monuments to Ourselves


Taking oneself too seriously is what makes people try to ensure they will be remembered by history. They have statues made and get buildings, streets, or highways named after them while they are still alive. The notion to “let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2) seems not to appear on their radar screen. And yet it reminds me of something President Harry S. Truman (1884– 1972) would say when refusing to let anybody sculpt a bust or statue of him. He said, “I don’t want people seeing my statue years later and asking, ‘Who was he?’”


I was disappointed when one of my heroes allowed a larger-than-life statue to be made of himself by America’s greatest sculptor while he was still alive—and was even present for its unveiling! It’s true! They had planned to put the statue outside in the open air. But the preacher stopped them. “No, please put it inside. I don’t want those pigeons defecating on my statue.” But here is something I think is rather funny. I decided sometime later to use this account as an illustration in a sermon, realizing nobody in the congregation at Westminster would remotely know whom I was talking about. My point in the sermon—on rewards—was that God might have to say to this great preacher at the judgment seat of Christ, “Sorry, My son, there is no reward laid up for you now; you got it all below with that statue you let them make of you.” So far, so good. But I was shocked to learn afterward that at least six people were present from this man’s church! By the way, he

was a great man indeed. Now in heaven, if anyone deserved a statue, he did. But after he was gone.


Those in Scripture who built monuments to themselves while they were alive, however, were tragic figures. I have always been gripped by this. In fact, there are two accounts in this connection that have deeply shaped my thinking. First, King Saul had a monument built to himself while he was still alive (1 Sam. 15:12). He had already become yesterday’s man when this happened. Second, years later Absalom stole the hearts of the people and forced his father, King David, to live in exile for a while. David was later restored to the kingship and will always be regarded as Israel’s greatest king. As for Absalom, during his lifetime he took a pillar “and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, ‘I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.’ He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day” (2 Sam. 18:18).


What Matters Most of All


There is one thing—and one thing alone—that ultimately matters: God’s opinion of you and me. If His opinion doesn’t matter to you now, it will then. This opinion will be openly revealed at the judgment seat of Christ. You then will learn what God thinks of you. And you will see what He thinks of me. I can safely promise you that any accolade, humiliation, monument, criticism, put-down, compliment, praise, disappointment, lie, statue, honor, or prize here on this earth will mean nothing then. Nothing. Except how we handled such things—which will largely determine what God thinks of us. Why therefore should we ever want the praise of people here below? Why should it mean so much to us? I will come clean with you: I love compliments. A close friend (who knows me well) had a T-shirt made for my birthday that says “Compliments are in order.” But the thought of preempting what God Himself might say to me on the day—by amassing all the awards and compliments I can get below—scares me to death. I propose to live for that day—seeking no honor or praise but His.


The irony is, if the plaque on Ronald Reagan’s desk is correct—that there is no limit to how far a person can go as long as he doesn’t care who gets to the credit for it—we will accomplish more than ever in this life if we don’t take ourselves so seriously! The way up is down. He who humbles himself will be exalted (Luke 14:11). “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Pet. 5:6, esv).


John speaks of worldliness as “the boasting of what [man] has and does” (1 John 2:16). The KJV calls it “pride of life,” and the ESV calls it “pride in possessions.” It refers to our effort to impress people with what we have accumulated. This could refer to material things, achievements, awards, antiques, pottery, photographs with important people, prestigious jobs, degrees, clothes, furniture, art, carpet, cars, framed commendations, or letters—all there to impress you! I fear there are people for whom these things matter more than anything in the world. How sad. I remember going to a home of some people in Rome many years ago. The main reason they wanted me to come to their home was to see their apartment and collection of bone china. It truly was impressive. But this was all they apparently had to bolster their self-esteem. It was as though their apartment and china gave people warrant to take them seriously. They seemed to feel I would take them truly seriously if I saw these possessions. It was all they lived for—to invite people to see their apartment and china collection.


We who are Christians sometimes forget we are going to heaven one day—and will be there a long time! Have you ever pondered the depth of these famous lines?


When we’ve been there ten thousand years,


Bright shining as the sun;


We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise


Than when we first begun.1


—John Newton (1725–1807)


Think about this. After we have been in heaven for ten thousand years, it will be like the first day. Do we really believe this? I do. Why ever do we live in this present world as though this present existence is all there is? It seems to me that the thought of going to heaven one day—to be there forever—should help us on our way not to take circumstances here below—or ourselves—so seriously.





Monday, May 23, 2011

Book Review: False Witness by Randy Singer

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:


False Witness

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned 10 legal thrillers, including his award-winning debut novel, Directed Verdict. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Clark Shealy is a bail bondsman with the ultimate bounty on the line: his wife's life. He has forty-eight hours to find an Indian professor in possession of the Abacus Algorithm—an equation so powerful it could crack all Internet encryption.

Four years later, law student Jamie Brock is working in legal aid when a routine case takes a vicious twist: she and two colleagues learn that their clients, members of the witness protection program, are accused of defrauding the government and have the encrypted algorithm in their possession. After a life-changing trip to the professor's church in India, the couple also has the key to decode it.

Now they're on the run from federal agents and the Chinese mafia, who will do anything to get the algorithm. Caught in the middle, Jamie and her friends must protect their clients if they want to survive long enough to graduate.

An adrenaline-laced thrill ride, this retelling of one of Randy Singer's most critically acclaimed novels takes readers from the streets of Las Vegas to the halls of the American justice system and the inner sanctum of the growing church in India with all the trademark twists, turns, and the legal intrigue his fans have come to expect.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.; Reprint edition (April 25, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414335695
ISBN-13: 978-1414335698

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


MONDAY, AUGUST 9

THE LONGEST THREE DAYS of Clark Shealy’s life began with an expired registration sticker.

That was Clark’s first clue, the reason he followed the jet-black Cadillac Escalade ESV yesterday. The reason he phoned his wife, his partner in both marriage and crime . . . well, not really crime but certainly the dark edge of legality. They were the Bonnie and Clyde of bounty hunters, of repo artists, of anything requiring sham credentials and bold-faced lies. Jessica’s quick search of DMV records, which led to a phone call to the title holder, a Los Angeles credit union, confirmed what Clark had already guessed. The owner wasn’t making payments. The credit union wanted to repo the vehicle but couldn’t find it. They were willing to pay.

“How much?” Clark asked Jessica.

“It’s not worth it,” she replied. “That’s not why you’re there.”
“Sure, honey. But just for grins, how much are we passing up?”
Jessica murmured something.

“You’re breaking up,” Clark said.

“They’d pay a third of Blue Book.”

“Which is?”

“About forty-eight four,” Jessica said softly.

“Love you, babe,” Clark replied, doing the math. Sixteen thousand dollars!
“Clark—”
He ended the call. She called back. He hit Ignore.

Sixteen thousand dollars! Sure, it wasn’t the main reason he had come to Vegas. But a little bonus couldn’t hurt.

Unfortunately, the vehicle came equipped with the latest in theft protection devices, an electronically coded key supplied to the owner. The engine transmitted an electronic message that had to match the code programmed into the key, or the car wouldn’t turn over.

Clark learned this the hard way during the dead hours of the desert night, at about two thirty. He had broken into the Cadillac, disabled the standard alarm system, removed the cover of the steering column, and hot-wired the vehicle. But without the right key, the car wouldn’t start. Clark knew immediately that he had triggered a remote alarm. Using his hacksaw, he quickly sawed deep into the steering column, disabling the vehicle, and then sprinted down the drive and across the road

.

He heard a stream of cursing from the front steps of a nearby condo followed by the blast of a gun. To Clark’s trained ears, it sounded like a .350 Magnum, though he didn’t stay around long enough to confirm the make, model, and ATF serial number.

◁▷

Six hours later, Clark came back.

He bluffed his way past the security guard at the entrance of the gated community and drove his borrowed tow truck into the elegant brick parking lot rimmed by manicured hedges. He parked sideways, immediately behind the Cadillac. These condos, some of Vegas’s finest, probably went for more than a million bucks each.

The Caddy fit right in, screaming elegance and privilege—custom twenty-inch rims, beautiful leather interior, enough leg room for the Lakers’ starting five, digital readouts on the dash, and an onboard computer that allowed its owner to customize all power functions in the vehicle. The surround-sound system, of course, could rattle the windows on a car three blocks away. Cadillac had pimped this ride out fresh from the factory, making it the vehicle of choice for men like Mortavius Johnson, men who lived on the west side of Vegas and supplied “escorts” for the city’s biggest gamblers.

Clark speed-dialed 1 before he stepped out of the tow truck.
“This is stupid, Clark.”

“Good morning to you, too. Are you ready?”

“No.”
“All right. Let’s do it.” He slid the still-connected phone into a pocket of his coveralls. They were noticeably short, pulling at the crotch. He had bought the outfit on the spot from a mechanic at North Vegas Auto, the same garage where he borrowed the tow truck from the owner, a friend who had helped Clark in some prior repo schemes. A hundred and fifty bucks for the coveralls, complete with oil and grease stains. Clark had ripped off the name tag and rolled up the sleeves. It felt like junior high all over again, growing so fast the clothes couldn’t keep up with the boy.

He popped open the hood of the wrecker, smeared his fingers on some blackened oil grime, and rubbed a little grease on his forearms, with a dab to his face. He closed the hood and walked confidently to the front door of the condo, checking the paper in his hand as if looking for an address. He rang the bell.

Silence. . . . He rang it again.

Eventually, he heard heavy footsteps inside and then the clicking of a lock before the door slowly opened. Mortavius Johnson, looking like he had barely survived a rough night, filled the doorway. Clark was tall and slender—six-three, about one-ninety. But Mortavius was tall and bulky—a brooding presence who dwarfed Clark. He wore jeans and no shirt, exposing rock-solid pecs but also a good-size gut. He didn’t have a gun.
Clark glanced down at his paper while Mortavius surveyed him with bloodshot eyes.

“Are you Mortavius Johnson?”

“Yeah.”
“You call for a tow?”

Mortavius’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. The big man glanced at the pocket of Clark’s coveralls—no insignia—then around him at the tow truck. Clark had quickly spray-painted over the logo and wondered if Mortavius could tell.

Clark held his breath and considered his options. If the big man caught on, Clark would have to surprise Mortavius, Pearl Harbor–style, with a knee to the groin or a fist to the solar plexus. Even those blows would probably just stun the big man momentarily. Clark would sprint like a bandit to the tow truck, hoping Mortavius’s gun was more than arm’s length away. Clark might be able to outrun Mortavius, but not the man’s bullet.

“I left a message last night with the Cadillac dealer,” Mortavius said.
The Cadillac dealer. Clark was hoping for something a little more specific. “And the Cadillac dealer called me,” Clark said, loudly enough to be heard on the cell phone in his pocket. “You think they’ve got their own tow trucks at that place? It’s not like Caddies break down very often. If everybody could afford a Caddie, I’d go out of business.”
Clark smiled. Mortavius did not.

“What company you with?” he asked.

“Highway Auto Service,” Clark responded, louder still. He pulled out the cell phone, surreptitiously hit the End button with a thumb, then held it out to Mortavius. “You want to call my office? Speed dial 1.”
Mortavius frowned. He still looked groggy. “I’ll get the keys,” he said.
He disappeared from the doorway, and Clark let out a breath. He speed-dialed Jessica again and put the phone back in his pocket. He glanced over his shoulder, then did a double take.

Give me a break!

Another tow truck was pulling past the security guard and heading toward Mortavius’s condo. Things were getting a little dicey.

“I left some papers in the truck you’ll need to sign,” Clark called into the condo. But as soon as the words left Clark’s mouth, Mortavius reappeared in the doorway, keys in hand.

Unfortunately, he glanced past Clark, and his eyes locked on the other tow truck. A glint of understanding sparked, followed by a flash of anger. “Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

“I told you . . . the Cadillac place.”

“The Cadillac place,” Mortavius repeated sarcastically. “What Cadillac place?”

“Don’t remember. The name’s on the papers in my truck.”
Mortavius took a menacing step forward, and Clark felt the fear crawl up his neck. His fake sheriff’s ID was in the tow truck along with his gun. He was running out of options.

“Who sent you?” Mortavius demanded.

Clark stiffened, ready to dodge the big man’s blows. In that instant, Clark thought about the dental work the last incident like this had required. Jessica would shoot him—it wasn’t in the budget.
A hand shot out, and Clark ducked. He lunged forward and brought his knee up with all his might. But the other man was quick, and the knee hit rock-solid thigh, not groin. Clark felt himself being jerked by his collar into the foyer, the way a dog might be yanked inside by an angry owner. Before he could land a blow, Clark was up against the wall, Mortavius in his face, a knife poised against Clark’s stomach.

Where did that come from?

Mortavius kicked the door shut. “Talk fast, con man,” he hissed. “Intruders break into my home, I slice ’em up in self-defense.”
“I’m a deputy sheriff for Orange County, California,” Clark gasped. He tried to sound official, hoping that even Mortavius might think twice before killing a law enforcement officer. “In off hours, I repo vehicles.” He felt the point of the knife pressing against his gut, just below his navel, the perfect spot to start a vivisection.
“But you can keep yours,” Clark continued, talking fast. “I’m only authorized to repo if there’s no breach of the peace. Looks like this situation might not qualify.”

Mortavius inched closer. He shifted his grip from Clark’s collar to his neck, pinning Clark against the wall. “You try to gank my ride at night, then show up the next morning to tow it?”

“Something like that,” Clark admitted. The words came out whispered for lack of air.

“That takes guts,” Mortavius responded. A look that might have passed for admiration flashed across the dark eyes. “But no brains.”
“I’ve got a deal,” Clark whispered, frantic now for breath. His world was starting to cave in, stars and pyrotechnics clouding his vision.
The doorbell rang.

“Let’s hear it,” Mortavius said quietly, relaxing his stranglehold just enough so Clark could breathe.

“They’re paying me six Gs for the car,” Clark explained rapidly. He was thinking just clearly enough to fudge the numbers. “They know where you are now because I called them yesterday. Even if you kill me—” saying the words made Clark shudder a little, especially since Mortavius didn’t flinch—“they’re going to find the car. You let me tow it today and get it fixed. I’ll wire four thousand bucks into your bank account before I leave the Cadillac place. I make two thousand, and you’ve got four thousand for a down payment on your next set of wheels.”
The doorbell rang again, and Mortavius furrowed his brow. “Five Gs,” he said, scowling.

“Forty-five hundred,” Clark countered, “I’ve got a wife and—”
Ughh . . . Clark felt the wind flee his lungs as Mortavius slammed him against the wall. Pain shot from the back of his skull where it bounced off the drywall, probably leaving a dent.

“Five,” Mortavius snarled.

Clark nodded quickly.

The big man released Clark, answered the door, and chased away the other tow truck driver, explaining that there had been a mistake. As Mortavius and Clark finished negotiating deal points, Clark had another brilliant idea.

“Have you got any friends who aren’t making their payments?” he asked. “I could cut them in on the same type of deal. Say . . . fifty-fifty on the repo reward—they could use their cuts as down payments to trade up.”

“Get out of here before I hurt you,” Mortavius said.

◁▷

Clark glanced at his watch as he left the parking lot. He had less than two hours to return the tow truck and make it to the plastic surgeon’s office. He speed-dialed Jessica.

“Highway Auto Service,” she responded.

“It didn’t work,” Clark said. “I got busted.”
“You okay?”

He loved hearing the concern in her voice. He hesitated a second, then, “Not a scratch on me.”

“I told you it was a dumb idea,” Jessica said, though she sounded more relieved than upset. “You never listen. Clark Shealy knows it all.”
And he wasn’t listening now. Instead, he was doing the math again in his head. Sixteen thousand, minus Mortavius’s cut and the repair bill, would leave about ten. He thought about the logistics of making the wire transfers into accounts that Jessica wouldn’t know about.
Pulling a con on pimps like Mortavius was one thing. Getting one by Jessica was quite another.



My Take:
Fasten your seatbelt and get ready for a wild ride. False Witness gets off to a fascinating start with two colleagues in India who have created something that could change everything, but now they have to survive long enough to get it into the right hands. The next part deals with a bounty hunter in the United States that manages to get on the wrong side of homegrown thugs, Russian mobsters, and Chinese Triads. When the action slows down a bit, you will jump in time and encounter some young law students who are thrown the case of a lifetime, if only they can figure out the truth and who they can trust. Before long, they find themselves tangled up with the US Attorney's office and the FBI. I love the way one story builds on another and all of them tie together.

I couldn't put this down once I started. The action and intrigue kept going and going and going, right up until the end. There were enough twists and turns to keep you guessing about who is really on which side. This was a fun book.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness by Kris and Jason Vallotton

The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness: Discover How to Escape Your Prison of Pain and Unlock a Life of Freedom 
by Kris and Jason Vallotton

About the Book:
God’s plan has never been to help believers avoid pain. In fact, He uses difficult seasons and relationships to propel His children toward their destiny. The healing process from emotional and spiritual wounds is a journey that prepares Christians to live powerful lives, fully trusting the God who has freed them from the past.
Jason Vallotton thought his world was burning down around him when he found out that his wife, Heather, was having an affair and planned to leave him and their children. Using his own story as a poignant, evocative illustration of God’s grace and healing, Jason invites readers to reframe their understanding of redemption. With his dad, Kris Vallotton, Jason shows believers how they can steward the hardest times and deepest pain in their lives and allow God to use them to lay a foundation for complete restoration and empowerment for the future. While it may be hard to see emotional wounds as gifts when they still hurt so deeply, those who read The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness will discover that God can not only heal their wounds, but He can also use the process of healing to equip them for whole, fulfilled and powerful lives.
About the Authors:
KRIS VALLOTTON is the cofounder and senior overseer of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, which has grown to more than 1200 full-time students in 13 years. He is also the founder and president of Moral Revolution, an organization dedicated to cultural transformation, and is the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California. Kris has written several books, including Heavy Rain and the bestseller Supernatural Ways of Royalty. He and his wife, Kathy, have four children (three in full-time ministry) and eight grandchildren.
JASON VALLOTTON was born and raised in Weaverville, CA, a small town known for its mountainous views and mellow pace of life. He got a quick start in life after getting married at the age of 18 to his high school sweetheart and fathering their three children by the age of 24 (Elijah, Rilie and Evan). Jason’s life has been riddled with challenges, from raising a young family and fighting fires through the hills of Northern California, to overcoming the heartbreak of his marriage dissolving in 2008. He has become a testimony to the redemptive power of perseverance and unconditional love. Jason’s love for people and his drive to see them completely whole, has led him to Redding CA, where he helps to oversee a School of Ministry and a men’s sexual purity group. Having gone through the hardships of life and come out on the other side, Jason has a heart to see people restored to complete wholeness and freedom, the way God intended them.
My Take:
This is one of the two best books I've read this year. This is an amazing story of heartbreak and loss overcome by the supernatural power of forgiveness. The details of walking this out brought me to tears. If you have come to view forgiveness as the ability to not hate someone or being able to tolerate someone from a distance, be prepared to step into a new paradigm. The book is about so much more than forgiveness though, because there are so many peripheral issues involved. A particular quote about mourning and comfort is going up where I can see it every day. I plan to read this book multiple times to wrap my brain around it all. Highly, highly recommended.

Book Review: The Redeemer by Linda Rios Brook

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 Redeemer

Realms (May 3, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Linda Rios Brook has worked as a media executive in broadcasting for over thirty years. A highly acclaimed teacher and member of the International Coalition of Apostles, she teaches at the Covenant Centre International in Palm Beach Gardens and at the Wagner Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs. Linda serves on the board of directors for Global Harvest and is vice president of the International Christian Chamber of Commerce USA. She has taught classes on the Dominion Sky Angel satellite network and is the author of several books: Lucifer’s Flood, The Deliverer, The King, Frontline Christians in a Bottom Line World, Wake Me When It’s Over: From the Boardroom to the Twilight Zone and the Faithfulness of God, and Jesus for Adults.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

As the final installment in the series that began with Lucifer’s Flood, Linda Rios Brook’s The Redeemer finds ancient language expert Samantha Yale translating a final batch of ancient scrolls written by a fallen angel. This volume of writings covers the demon’s eyewitness accounts of biblical events that cover the life of Jesus. In the process we also discover the mysterious Mr. Wonk’s true identity and learn an amazing secret that Samantha has been keeping. This is a story about rebellion and consequences. It is about demonic strategy to disrupt and destroy the people of God. But ultimately it is a story about the unrelenting love, grace, mercy, and determination of a sovereign God in pursuit of His errant children.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382066
ISBN-13: 978-1616382063

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


I never knew how Satan was going to react to bad news, so I waited as long as possible before mentioning the new star-like object. At the slightest chance an irregularity might resolve itself, I usually saved myself the grief and didn’t tell him.
This time I may have waited too long.

Satan stared at the glowing ball hanging in the vacuous space between the heavens. “How long has it been there?”

“I’m not sure, sir. It appeared suddenly. I watched it for a few days, and when it didn’t disappear, I called for you; that is, as soon as I realized it might be important. But then on the other hand, perhaps it means nothing.”
He leaned over the ledge, looked down, and then back up at the strange new light.
“You should have notified me immediately.”

“My fault entirely, All-Knowing One.”

“I knew you were dumb—always have been. How could you think something like this appearing in my territory without my permission could mean nothing?”

Trick question.
“I meant to say maybe it doesn’t mean anything to you— personally. Perhaps I shouldn’t have bothered you until I was sure.”

“It’s your fault for not telling me sooner if this turns out to be trouble for me.”
He was becoming agitated. I needed to diffuse the situation.

“Oh, you know what it probably is? I should have remembered. Before we were thrown out of heaven, Adonai was always making new stars, but some of them didn’t turn out, and He threw them away. This one is probably a reject. He tossed it here to get it out of

His way.”
I paused to gauge his reaction. When he didn’t have one, I kept talking.

“Of course, that’s just what it is, nothing but a botched star. I should have figured it out before I interrupted you. A thousand pardons...”
“It’s not a star.”
“You’re right; it’s not.”
“Don’t patronize me.”
“That would be impossible, sir.”

I knew it wasn’t a star, but it shone like one, and I had to call it something. I was about to explain my choice of descriptors when Molech arrived.
“You sent for me, my lord.” Molech bowed his head, as all lesser beings were required to do when addressing Satan.

“Do you see it?” Satan pointed toward the light.

“Yes, it’s been there for weeks. We’ve all been watching it.”

“Weeks?” Satan snarled and looked at me.

“Uh, well, it’s like this, master—” I had to think of something fast, or I would be so found out. It was my job to watch and report anything unusual immediately. For sure a new light source fixed in the sky as if tethered by an invisible wire over a small town on

the earth would, by anyone’s interpretation, fall into the unusual category. The truth was, of late I’d grown lax about monitoring the earth.

Ever since the prophets died off, God seemed to have lost interest and hadn’t said a word to the Jews in four hundred and thirty years. Humanity was not that interesting without God, and I got bored. I hadn’t been watching Earth every day like I should have been. I still checked on it on a somewhat regular basis, but the truth was, I didn’t know where the light came from or how long it had been there. One look at Satan’s scowl and I knew I’d better find something to say in my defense.
“As you know, master,” I continued, “I’m always at my post watching, but my vision isn’t what it used to be. Recently I’ve seen a number of things that weren’t there, and knowing how busy you are, I didn’t want to trouble you with a figment of my poor eyesight and vivid imagination. But as soon as I knew it was real, I notified you right away, O Sovereign One ever to be praised.”

“God is behind this,” Satan said to Molech, ignoring me entirely. “Send scouts; find out what He’s planning. Miss nothing.”

“As you say, my liege.”
Molech spread his leathery wings and was off. Satan watched the light a little longer and then went back to his lair without saying another word to me. I hopped up on my perch to study the light more closely.

What can it be? Have I ever seen anything like this? No. So why does it seem familiar?
As I strained to recollect, a long-dormant memory woke up in the back of my mind and wiggled its way to the front. Goosebumps formed on my tail as it all came back to me.

How could I have forgotten? I was right here on this very perch when I saw it the first time.
It was after we were thrown out of heaven, thousands of years ago when Lucifer ordered me to watch the earth languish in devastation after he and his rebellious angels ravaged it until there was nothing left of the beautiful blue-and-green planet except for the black, swirling waters. I was with them, but it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t a rebel. I was a victim of circumstance.
I was standing in the wrong place when the war in heaven broke out, weighing the odds between Lucifer and Michael, trying to make up my mind what to do, as any reasonable person would, given the situation. When I figured out that there was no possibility Lucifer could win, I was just about to walk over to Michael’s side; then suddenly the

war was over, and Lucifer and one-third of the angels were cast to the earth. I got caught in the downdraft and fell with them. Five minutes more and none of this would have happened to me.

The day things changed for the earth I was right here at my post in the second heaven watching the dank waters that covered it. I confess that from time to time the boredom became unbearable, and I would close my eyes and let my mind wander to a happier time when I was still in the third heaven with God. Fortunately for me, I wasn’t wandering that day. I scanned the sea like always, and like always I saw nothing happening—except for one tiny glimmer that appeared in the black water.

“It can’t be light,” I said to myself. “There is no light left anywhere on the earth.” I looked again. “That is definitely a glimmer of light.”
I got a little closer and watched as the luminous ripples grew bigger and spread further until the murkiness of the water began to clear. When I finally figured out what was happening, I wanted to run and hide.

Ruah Ha Kadosh was hovering over the deep. I was a witness when God began the re-creation of the fallen earth.

“There’s something about this star, or whatever it is, that feels like the light I saw in the seas so long ago.” I scratched my head. “But how could it be?”
I continued to watch the glow for several more hours until I heard the beating of wings. Molech was back with a cadre of platoon leaders. They set themselves down on the steps leading into Satan’s throne room. I hurried to catch up and followed them inside.

“What have you learned?” Satan demanded. “Something is happening on the earth, isn’t it?”
“That may be, my lord.” Molech paused and exchanged looks with Tammuz, the demon to his right. “But whatever might be happening on the earth cannot be nearly as important as what has happened in the third heaven.”
“How could you know anything about the third heaven?” I blurted out before I could catch myself. “We have no access there anymore.”

Molech glared at me. “You have no access, but my associate here”—he nodded toward Tammuz—“has, shall we say, sources.”

Tammuz stepped forward and bowed to Satan. “My lord, legions of angels are leaving the third heaven—right now—and are heading to the earth.”
Any news involving the heavenly host always made Satan’s eyes twitch, especially if the word legions was in the same sentence.

“But there’s more.” Molech prodded Tammuz along by poking him on the arm. “Tell him the rest—the part about Adonai.”

Satan’s twitching eyes widened.
“I was coming to that,” Tammuz said. “Adonai is missing.”

“Missing?” Satan squeaked, then cleared his throat. “Do you mean to say they’ve misplaced Him?”
Neither Molech nor Tammuz laughed at the ridiculous nature of Satan’s question, and I certainly didn’t, but only because I clamped my teeth over my tongue.
“He’s gone, master,” Tammuz said.

“Vanished,” Molech added. “He’s left the third heaven.”

“Impossible,” Satan declared. “He never leaves home. Besides, where would He go? You’re mistaken and wasting my time.”

Satan drew back his arm as if he might strike the messengers. Molech and Tammuz cowered and stepped back.

“He’s not there, my lord,” Tammuz said. “My sources looked everywhere. He’s gone. The rank-and-file angels are as perplexed as we are.”

Satan lifted an eyebrow.
“There was one witness to something strange.” Tammuz chose his words carefully. “Someone saw the host lined up in front of the throne room, facing each other with their swords drawn and crossed.”

“And?” Satan waved his claw hand in circles, urging Tammuz to say whatever he was trying not to say.

“And the witness saw Adonai come out of the throne room, walk under the crossed swords, and leave. No one has seen Him since.”

“It’s a trick.” Satan walked across the floor and kicked over a footstool, then turned back to Molech. “Where could He have gone?”

“The angels don’t know, sire, not even the elite guard. They are as mystified as you—I mean us; of course you are never mystified.”

Suddenly the door flew open as Baal, Satan’s highest-ranking demon god, barged into the room without being announced. He was breathing so hard we could barely understand him.

“You’ve got to come now, master—to the rim. We’re about to be overrun by them. Hurry!”
“Overrun by what? Whom?” I asked.

“Angels!”
“Are we being invaded?” Satan demanded.

“You must come and see for yourself.”

Wasting no more time, Satan raced with Baal to the edge of the second heaven with the rest of us right behind them. We lined up along the perimeter, where we had a clear view of the earth and all that lay in between it and us. Baal hadn’t exaggerated. Tens of thousands of high-ranking angels were gathering above the earth’s blue sky.

“What are they doing?” Satan asked.

I didn’t realize he was talking to me until he slapped me and demanded an answer.
“I, uh, well, I’m not sure, sir, but it doesn’t look like they’re coming here. It looks like they may be about to penetrate the veil between heaven and the earth and reveal themselves to that group of shepherds down there in the fields.”



“Nonsense. The heavenly host wouldn’t waste their time on gypsies. Besides, I’m sure it would be an illegal military maneuver.”

He was about to huff off when Baal tugged on his sleeve.

“Moron may be right.” He was referring to me. “Look at how the shepherds are scattering. They definitely see the angels.”

We watched as some of the shepherds ran away in fear, while others trembled and fell to their knees. But let me tell you, the trembling ones weren’t by themselves. There were no heroes in the demon horde that day either. We didn’t know why the angels had gathered,

but if it had anything to do with us, we knew we were outmanned by two to one. The chatter among the demons began.

“Why are the angels out there?”
“Is there going to be a fight?”
“Look, they’re closing ranks!”

“Ask Satan what we should do.”

Satan grabbed me by my wing.
“Find out what this means,” he ordered as he pushed me nearer the rim. “Get closer.” Then he pushed me off the edge.

I flapped as hard as I could to keep from falling. I was afraid of what the angels might do if they noticed me, but I knew what Satan would do if I didn’t obey, so I carefully fluttered a little farther out over the abyss where I could see them better. As I got closer, I realized the angels weren’t wearing their combat gear; there was not a sword in sight. They were lining up in choir formation.

“Are they going to attack?” Satan yelled out at me.

“No, sir, I believe they’re going to sing.”

“What?” Satan asked in disbelief as he flew to my side to see for himself.
And sing they did. The angelic royalty of heaven went near the earth and sang a song to fewer than a dozen cowering shepherds.

“Fear not, for behold we bring you glad tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For born unto you tonight in the city of David is the Messiah, the Lord who will bring salvation to all mankind. Go, and you will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
The angels’ voices were so loud we covered our ears to muffle the sounds as they continued.
“Glory to God in the highest and on the earth, peace and goodwill toward men.”
I was terrified like all the rest but so excited by what the angels sang I could barely contain myself. I followed Satan back to the rim and tried to appear as disturbed as the rest of the demons, but inside I was bursting with hope. How long I had waited for Him—the one promised to David so many generations ago. Oh, yes, He was the hope of the Jews, but He was my hope as well, my only hope.

The veil between heaven and the earth closed, and the angels were no longer visible to the shepherds or to us; still, no one moved from his place. It was almost as if an invisible force held us there. We seemed hypnotized by the light that still hung over the blackness of the great abyss.
“What was that all about?” asked one of the demons.

“Maybe Satan knows.”
“Yes, Satan must know.”
But Satan didn’t know. When he heard the chattering among the demons, he whispered to me out of the side of his mouth.

“Do you think it’s over? Should we move on?”

“Can you move, sir?”
He grimaced as he tried to lift a hoof. I pretended not to be looking.

“Maybe we should wait a bit longer,” I said.

I didn’t know what was coming, but the tingling scales on the back of my neck told me something else was about to happen. At once another blinding light appeared and hovered over the abyss right in front of Satan. I knew him immediately. It was Gabriel, the essenger angel of the most high God. All the demons took one step back. Except for me.

“Gabriel! Hello.” I stepped forward and waved.

Satan stepped on my tail and jerked my wing. “Stay still and shut up!”

“Sorry, sir.” I slunk back.
“Lucifer, fallen son of the light.” Gabriel’s voice was like thunder.

“What do you want?” Satan tried to appear annoyed, but his swishing tail said he was nervous. “You’re in my territory.”

“I bring you a message from I AM, one that will be good news to all mankind.”
“Then why are you telling me?”

“Guess what it means for you.”

Every demon took another step back.

“Wha–what is it?” Satan stammered.

The angel’s eyes narrowed as he answered.

“Game on.”



My Take
I enjoyed this book. It is the story of the events of the bible unfolding as told from the perspective of one of the fallen angels, who has serious misgivings about the devil's schemes. The is book four of the Reluctant Demon series. I recently read the first book in the series, Lucifer's Flood. The story, while familiar, was fresh, due to the perspective. The story was fairly easy to follow, despite my having missed the middle two books. However, as with most series, you definitely would fare better if you did read them. My only issue, and it is admittedly a minor one, is that the demon sometimes says things that are a little off, such as a certain animal being a rush job with spare parts and not quite ever finished. I finally chalked it up to the fact that even a reluctant demon is going to lie from time to time. It did give me pause though, since it was in the midst of what appeared to be an accurate accounting of the goings-on. That said, it wasn't enough to keep me from wanting to read the other two books in the series.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Book Review: How to Interpret Dreams and Visions 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:


How to Interpret Dreams and Visions

Charisma House (May 3, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Perry Stone is the best-selling author of numerous books, including The Meal That Heals and Breaking the Jewish Code. He directs one of America’s fastest-growing ministries, The Voice of Evangelism. An international evangelist, Perry holds a BA in theology from Covenant Life Christian College. He lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, with his wife, Pam, and their two children.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Is God Trying to Tell You Something?
Have you ever had a dream or vision that was so vivid that it remained with you for days? It is possible that your dream had a spiritual connotation and your vision was a message from God.

In How to Interpret Dreams and Visions, best-selling author and evangelist Perry Stone explains the guidance and warnings encrypted in our visions and dreams. With his unique blend of Bible knowledge and spiritual insight he provides answers to questions such as…

Is my dream really from God?How do I distinguish between types of spiritual visions?Why am I having nightmares or unclean dreams?· What do my dreams of a departed loved one mean?





Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (May 3, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 161638350X
ISBN-13: 978-1616383503

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Last Days— Time to Pierce the Veil



But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the

Lord is, there is liberty.


-2 Corinthians 3:14–17



The spirit world is as real as the air we breathe and the water we drink. The natural realm is a reflection of the spirit world. Earthly things are patterned after heavenly things. (See

Hebrews 8:1–5.) Our world consists of trees, rivers, mountains, and cities. The heavenly city, New Jerusalem, has the tree of life, the crystal river of life, and a mountain where God is worshiped called Mount Zion (Rev. 22:1–5). These heavenly realities were the original Creation that was reflected on Earth when God created man. Humanity has struggled to believe in a world that cannot be seen with the eyes, touched with the hands, or smelled when we breathe.


To the skeptic, angels are myths, and demonic spirits are the dark imagination of Hollywood scripts. The prevailing attitude is the Thomas syndrome, which says, “Unless I can see it and touch it, I will never believe it” (John 20:25, author’s paraphrase). The fact is that there is an invisible veil covering both the natural eyes and the spiritual understanding of men and women, and only when the veil is lifted or pierced can the realities of the invisible realm become visible. The Bible is a book written by forty different authors over a period of about fifteen hundred years of time that tells the story of men called prophets who were inspired of the Lord and who pierced this veil and saw marvelous eternal and heavenly images that brought to mankind the revelation of God.

Paul wrote that there is a veil, similar to scales, over the eyes of our understanding that clouds the light of God’s revelation from entering into our minds and enlightening us with life-changing insight. If we live behind this veil, then we will never know or experience God’s best for us. This veil, which at times manifests as a lack of interest in spiritual matters, a dullness in our understanding, or a spirit of unbelief toward the idea of Bible-based spiritual manifestations, must be lifted to experience the unseen. This ability to see the future was the gift that set apart the biblical prophets from their false counterparts in surrounding idolatrous nations. These Hebrew visionaries had a reputation for knowing the unknown behind closed doors.


One such example can be seen when a Syrian general sent his army to capture one of God’s prophets, Elisha. When Elisha’s servant saw the army, fear gripped him. However, after Elisha prayed for the eyes of his servant to be opened, the fear turned to faith as the servant saw horses and chariots of fire encamped round about them both, forming a protective hedge. (See 2 Kings 6:8–17.) There is a covering of some sort on our physical eyes, which prevents us from seeing the activity of the spirit world. However, when we sleep, we are still able to see images through dreams or visions. In Scripture, men like the apostle John recorded these dreams and visions. John was on an island when he suddenly saw a “door in heaven open,” or as we would say, “heaven open,” and this opening projected his mind and spirit into another world, a world just as real as the world we live in. (See Revelation 4:1; 19:11.) These two biblical incidents from Revelation indicate two important facts: something occurs on Earth and something occurs in heaven to cause information to be released and the veil removed. On Earth our eyes must be “opened.” This happens when our inner vision, which creates the images in our brain at night, receives information from the heavenly realm, which “opens,” allowing eternal information to pass from the heavenly realm to the earthly realm.


One question posed by sincere seekers is: “Why would God be concerned about revealing events to us that have not yet occurred?” A simple answer is that He does so to prepare us for something or to cause us to intercede in prayer to prevent or to change a situation.

For example, when King Hezekiah was informed by Isaiah to set his house in order because he would soon die, the king began to earnestly pray, and his death was delayed for fifteen years (Isa. 38:1–5).


Another reason God is concerned is because He knows we need to

understand certain events in the future.


Why is the Spirit World Veiled?


Human eyes cannot see into the spirit world. God is a Spirit (John 4:24). Angels are spirits (Heb. 1:13–14). Satan’s kingdom is organized into four levels of spirit rebels (Eph. 6:12), and every man is a tripartite creation of a body, a soul, and a spirit, or, as some teach, a spirit with a soul living in a body (1 Thess. 5:23).


In the time of Adam and Eve, God entered the Garden of Eden and communicated directly with man by walking through the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). Adam and Eve could see and hear God clearly. After they fell into sin, “the eyes of both of them were opened,” and they saw they were naked and felt shame (Gen. 3:7). Although their eyes were opened, at the same time their eyes were veiled. From that moment forward, angelic visitors appeared in the form of a vision, a dream, or would take upon themselves human form, just as the two angelic messengers did when instructed by the Almighty to investigate the sins of Sodom. (See Genesis 19.) Even the writer of Hebrews wrote to be careful when entertaining a stranger because you might not be aware that it is an angel (Heb. 13:2).


If our eyes could be opened and the veil lifted, we would continually see angels, demonic entities, and other forms of spirit beings. While some may wish to see into the invisible realm, the fact is that when great men of God and Hebrew prophets have pierced this veil and seen, for example, angels in their full glory, the reactions have normally been to fall down and be gripped with an overwhelming feeling of fear. Abraham fell into a deep trance (Gen. 15:12) and fell on his face when God talked to him (Gen. 17:3, 17). Ezekiel describes seeing the Almighty upon His throne, with cherubim and amazing heavenly beings appearing like wheels spinning within wheels (Ezek. 1), and he too fell upon his face (v. 28). In several instances when a vision of God or the angelic realm manifested, the prophet fell down upon his face (Ezek. 9:8; 43:3; 44:4). Daniel described an angelic visitor with brass-colored arms and feet, white hair, a gold belt, and eyes like fire. His reaction was so visibly powerful that even the men with him who did not see the vision became overwhelmed and began “quaking” and fled, hiding themselves (Dan. 10:5–7, kjv). Daniel found himself on his face with no strength remaining in his body (vv. 8–9). When John saw the resurrected Christ in heaven, he “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Even Balaam’s donkey fell down when it saw an angel of the Lord (Num. 22:27)!


When the veil is lifted and a mere mortal taps into not just a vision or dream, but into the actual unseen world of angels, demons, heaven, or hell, the human body is unable to sustain the glory of the heavenly realm without responding in some manner. If we could live with our spiritual eyes continually opened, I suggest we would never get any work done and would be continually disrupted in our sleep.


Scripture instructs believers to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). I cannot physically see God, but I believe in God because of the Bible’s evidence and because I have faith that undergirds my confidence in the Word. With my human eyes I am unable to spot an angel flying through the heavens or a cosmic conflict between warring angels and prince spirits called the “spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). However, because my inner being is also a “spirit,” I can at times sense or feel the presence of the Lord, the warmth and peace of an angel, or the dark oppressive

wicked spirits that are in my earth zone. To pierce the curtain of the unseen, a believer must be in tune to that particular realm of spiritual activity.


When my seventy-seven-year-old father was praying for my twenty year-old son, who was kneeling before him at Dad’s small home in Tennessee, with tears in his eyes my father said to Jonathan, “There is a future.” He was encouraging his grandson not to just live for the moment but to discover, plan, and prevail for his future, which the Lord has already laid out for him and his little sister. At that moment I realized that this is what life is really all about—the future. When God laid out a detailed plan for man’s redemption from sin, He prepared the details long before Adam fell. Jesus is called “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). When Christ was praying before His death, He said that God had loved Him from “before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). God planned a future for all of mankind before Adam and Eve were created and fell into sin!


Once man sinned, God Himself released the first prophecy by predicting that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). God spoke this about four thousand years before Mary gave birth to the Messiah (Luke 2). After Cain slew his brother, Abel, God wasted no time in replacing Abel with Adam and Eve’s new addition to the family, a son named Seth who would initiate a nine-generation lineage of righteous men, leading up to tenth man from Adam, Noah. (See Genesis 5.) God continually has your future on His mind and in His purpose


The Almighty’s passion for the future is also witnessed in the fact that God thinks generationally. When God established His covenant through Abraham, He was planning that Abraham’s descendants would become a nation. First God promised Abraham a son and to make a “great nation” from Abraham’s children (Gen. 12:2). Years later God predicted that Abraham would be “a great and mighty nation” (Gen. 18:18). Years passed, and then God visited Abraham’s grandson Jacob, changing his name from Jacob to Israel. God enlarged His promise by saying to Jacob, “A nation and a company of nations shall proceed from you” (Gen. 35:11). After the nation of Israel expanded from seventy souls to more than six hundred thousand men of war (Exod. 1:5; 12:37), the Lord announced that the nation would be “blessed above all peoples” (Deut. 7:14). From one simple individual, Abraham, to seventy souls who went into Egypt under Joseph, in four hundred years the nation grew to six hundred thousand men marching through the Red Sea and on to the millions of Jewish people now in the world. God was beginning the preparations for one large family called the children of Israel when He was making covenant with one man—Abraham! This is why God changed Abram’s name (meaning “father”) to Abraham, meaning “father of many” (Gen. 17:5). Israel began with a dream and a vision!


Securing confidence and boldness for the future is so significant to the Almighty that He allowed men to enter into the dream dimension and receive vital knowledge for themselves, for their leaders, or for the nations in which they were given authority. A few examples of significant dreams that altered situations, set destinies, or brought prophetic knowledge are:


. God warned King Abimelech with the threat of death if he didn’t return Sarah to Abraham (Gen. 20:6–7).

. God confirmed in a dream for Jacob to leave Laban, taking his wives and sons to Canaan (Gen. 31).

. God prepared Joseph’s future by giving him two prophetic dreams when he was a teenager (Gen. 37).

. God allowed Joseph to interpret the dreams of the butler and the baker while in prison (Gen. 40).

. Joseph interpreted both dreams of Pharaoh and prepared for a seven-year famine (Gen. 41).

. It was the “barley cake dream” that gave Gideon confidence to fight the Midianites (Judg. 7).

. God appeared to Solomon in a dream, granting his request for the gift of wisdom (1 Kings 3).

. Daniel was the only man in Babylon capable of interpreting the dream of the metallic image (Dan. 2).

. Daniel later interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s “tree dream,” predicting the downfall of the king (Dan. 4).

. Daniel experienced a major prophetic dream of world empires symbolized by wild beasts (Dan. 7).


Nearly six thousand years of human history have demonstrated that just because God plans a person’s future, it is no guarantee that opposition will not eclipse the light of the revelation. There is a plan by the kingdom of darkness to distract, disrupt, and destroy the future, both God’s prophetic plan and your personal destiny. Each person is said to have a “destiny,” which is simply your future according to God. Just as God revealed to Jeremiah that He foreknew him when he was still in his mother’s womb and that He preordained him to be a prophet (Jer. 1:5), God has a predetermined plan for each person. With all of the clutter and clamor and mixed voices speaking into our lives, our minds can become cloudy and our understanding fogged with numerous possibilities from which we must choose. This is why at times God will permit a believer to pierce the world of the natural and enter the realm of a dream or a vision so that secret strategies of the enemy can be exposed and the hidden plans of God can be revealed. Warnings that are perceived and received can help you avoid potholes and pits in your path to destiny, and understanding God’s plan will empower you to pursue that purpose.


The disrupting of God’s will in our lives can begin at a very early age. During major prophetic cycles and seasons of prophetic fulfillment, children come under severe attack from the adversary. This was seen when Pharaoh ordered the male infants born to the Hebrews to be cast into the Nile River (Exod. 1:22). The time was coming when a deliverer would bring the Hebrews out of Egypt, and the adversary was no doubt attempting to preempt the prophecy by killing the possible male child deliverer before he could become a man! The second assignment of an evil ruler was when Herod commissioned Roman soldiers to encircle the area of Ramah and kill all male children who were under two years of age, attempting to slay the future king of the Jews that the wise men came to worship (Matt. 2).


From a personal perspective, if we survive our birth and live to be teenagers, other battles begin. When he was a teenager (age seventeen), a plot was organized against Joseph by his own brothers (Gen. 37). They were sick of this dreamer, Daddy’s favorite little spoiled boy, running around with an expensive coat! Joseph was doing well until he began to confess his dreams of success that would come to him. At that point his brothers conspired against him, and Joseph ended up in a pit, then in a prison, and spent thirteen years in what seemed negative, dream-killing circumstances.


I was a young teenager when the Lord began to reveal to me His will and I began planning for it. I encountered various types of verbal persecution from my own spiritual brothers in the same denomination of which I was a member. When David—just a

teen—was anointed by Samuel as the next king “in the midst of his brothers,” jealousy arose among certain brothers much older who may have felt they deserved the position more than their kid brother (1 Sam. 16:13; 17:28).


When I was a teenager, the Holy Spirit inspired me to organize a ministry called Voice of Evangelism when I had only preached in three states. Ministers said, “Perry isn’t the voice of anything, much less of evangelism.” They were correct from the natural perspective but wrong in the Spirit. The Lord had a future for me! At age eighteen

I formed a “7-Point Outreach Plan” that included a ministry outreach through books, revival meetings, magazines, and other forms of branching out. Then I began overhearing statements like: “Who does he think he is, Billy Graham or Oral Roberts?” Without sounding arrogant, I knew something these other men did not know. I had a small glimpse into the future. I had both heard and seen in my spirit and through dreams and prayer that I would be used of the Lord to one day have a worldwide ministry Thus, once you see your future, you can learn how to hold off the adversity and know why there is opposition against your destiny!


Watch out for that girl!


When my father, Fred Stone, was a young, black-haired teenage minister, he met a very attractive girl about his age who was gifted in playing the piano and singing. Of course, the common belief was that if you were a minister, your wife needed to be a singer or musician. The girl took a liking to him. However, Dad had a dream in which he saw this girl coming out of a barn embracing a young man. He realized the girl was having relations with this boy. He heard a voice say, “I have warned you; have nothing to do with that girl.” Dad said that after this dream, the girl tried to get close to him in friendship; he would say hello but go no further. Even Dad’s uncle, a noted minister, rebuked Dad for not expressing more interest in such a talented young girl. But three months later the girl’s father told Dad’s uncle he was glad Dad had not formed a relationship with his daughter, because she was pregnant out of wedlock by a fellow she knew.


When I was the same age as my father, a similar situation was repeated in my life. I was eighteen years of age, traveling from church to church conducting weekly revivals. At one location, a family I knew with a daughter about my age wanted me to go out with her to eat. My policy was to only go out with a group of young people and avoid going out alone with the opposite sex. Soon she began to speak to friends that she was serious about me and thought our friendship could lead to eventual marriage. At the same time I dreamed that she was pregnant. In the dream the Lord told me to avoid her. The same week, three noted ministers spoke to me in confidence and said, “You must be careful around this girl. There is something not right about her.” I sent word to her through a friend not to have any contact with me again. One month later it was confirmed that she was pregnant, and she married the father of the child shortly thereafter. Years later she and her mother came to hear me minister in a church and asked to speak with me. Her mother, a very godly woman, required her to apologize to me for plotting to pull me into her situation without my knowledge. The girl said, “I was hoping you would suddenly fall in love with me and marry me before anyone knew I was pregnant with this man’s baby.”


In both cases, more than twenty-six years apart, the same type of snare was laid for Dad and me. By following the same type of dreams and inward warnings, we both avoided missing the will of God and entering into a situation that would have been not only questionable but also embarrassing and detrimental to our early ministries. These


illustrations reveal how strategies are set to disrupt God’s purposes, but God is concerned about the details of our personal lives because circumstances affect our destiny!


Often when we think of a spiritual dream we envision a visitation that warns us of national calamity or an international warning on the same level as what the Old Testament prophets received when warning the priests and the kings of coming calamity. However, God has indicated in Scripture that He is concerned for each individual and not just for the collective population of a nation. Christ revealed that the Father watched a sparrow fall to the ground and saw the lilies in the field grow (Matt. 10:29; Luke 12:28), and if the Almighty is concerned for the smallest in His creation, how much more is His concern manifested toward man, who is made in His image (Gen. 1:26).


The Need to Know


The understanding of the Book of Daniel was sealed “until the time of the end,” when “knowledge shall increase” (Dan. 12:4). Numerous prophecies are assigned to occur in the “time of the end,” a term used in the Book of Daniel five times (Dan. 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9). Other predictions will unfold in the “last days,” a phrase coined to identify the time frame prior to the return of the Messiah, listed five times in the New Testament (Acts 2:17; 2 Tim. 3:1; Heb. 1:2; James 5:3; 2 Pet. 3:3). The final outpouring of the Holy Spirit will occur in the “last days” (Acts 2:17) and includes sons and daughters prophesying and experiencing visions and dreams. Among this final generation there is a need-to-know attitude about their future and destiny.


This need to know is obvious when one considers the millions of dollars spent by sincere yet uninformed individuals on fortune-tellers, astrologers, séances, and psychics. According to the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life, “about 1 in 7 Americans consulted a psychic or fortune teller in 2009.”1 The only reason these false prophets of greed are consulted is to determine the hidden and the unseen and to know in advance the person’s future. Why should the body of Christ sit back and refuse to tell this generation to seek God for His direction, when the adversary will provide a horoscope for that purpose? There is a human need to know, and our knowledge for redemption can be found in the Bible—as well as the guide for practical living found in those inspired Scriptures. However, there are times we are uncertain concerning personal and national decisions that can be seen and understood through visions and dreams.

However, the invisible veil must be pierced in the mind and in the understanding. This begins with the “dream factor.”



My Take

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Book Review: The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter

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 Fitting Room: Putting On the Character of Christ

David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Kelly Minter is a singer/worship leader, a recording artist, a popular speaker, and the author of two books (Water into Wine and No Other Gods) and three Bible studies (No Other Gods, Ruth, and Hannah’s One Wish). Among her CDs is one based on insights from her Bible study on Ruth. Minter resides in Nashville, TN.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Kelly Minter explores what it means—in real life—to “clothe” ourselves (Col. 3:12) in Christian virtues like forgiveness, joy, patience, compassion, and more. Can we really “dress up” in the character of Christ? Kelly Minter says the answer is yes—if we let the Master Designer do the fitting. This relatable book offers insightful Scripture study with real-life stories and simple, down-to-earth explanations of tricky concepts such as justification and sanctification—stitching it all together with dry humor and down-to-earth honesty. There are no gimmicks, no guilt trips, just an irresistible invitation for women to enjoy a spiritual makeover—to put on a life that’s personally tailored by the One who knows and loves them best.




Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (April 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434799859
ISBN-13: 978-1434799852

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Where Are They When You Need Them?


The Virtues


A video shoot for a wonderful author and friend is taking place at my house this week. Stylists, cameramen, set designers, talent, and black-clad crew have been running around my home for days. The entire shebang has absolutely nothing to do with me except that twenty people are now using my bathroom. This is a girl’s recurring nightmare. I’ve decided the only true payoff is the round-the-clock

catering, which produces warm cookies every afternoon around three-ish—a routine I am trying to understand how I have lived so richly without.


This morning as the crew arrived, I feverishly applied the last few elements of makeup onto my slightly puffy and pillow-wrinkled face. I threw on my work-at-home uniform, which is made up of jeans, a

T-shirt, and socks if the hardwoods are chilled, flip-flops if it’s summertime. As I meandered through the kitchen—for the catering, of course—I ran into a stylist I knew who was working with the talent. I told her I needed help finding new boots for the winter. She agreed at an alarming rate, well acquainted with my wanting shoe collection. Her exaggerated urgency was tongue-in-cheek, but with a hint of dead-serious. After all, she is a stylist. Clothes are what she does.


If ever there was a spell in history when what we wear is paramount, I daresay it is now. Dress is a multibillion-dollar industry. The garments we drape on our backs, the hats we don on our heads, the jewelry that dangles from our necks and wrists all tell a little of who we are. Our dress is an expression of ourselves, a statement of our personalities or moods. We dress up, we dress down, we dress for comfort, we kill ourselves in high heels to dress for style, we dress for the weather, we dress for others, we dress for ourselves. But what about the dress of our souls? What about the way our character clothes us? And our character does clothe us. We give off far more than we will ever know by the way we greet the barista, drive in traffic, enter a room, answer the phone, glare at our toddler who’s having a meltdown in a non-meltdown-friendly environment. If only it were as simple as hiring a stylist for an extra bag of peace or another color of honesty. Could I get some denim patience for under $100?


I promise not to kill you with the clothing metaphor for the next several thousand words, but I want to pull from the comparison the apostle Paul set in motion in a letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:12). A few verses earlier he writes, “You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (vv. 9–10). The image of clothing, the picture of slipping out of the old and sliding into the new, is an easily digestible concept because we dress every day.


The gap in the metaphor comes when we don’t know how to clothe ourselves in Christ’s character, or when we’ve given it our valiant best and come up short … really short—like we just walked out the door in our towel, and everyone is staring and mortified while we grasp for fig leaves from our ailing character-garden. The breakdown occurs when we were never taught the value of integrity, when anger

and resentment were the prominent traits our parents passed down, when we weren’t modeled the fine art of forgiveness, when sexual escapades were our solution for loneliness, when lying seemed to work better than the truth at untangling our predicaments, or when complaining became our default over contentment.


Basically, the spiritual concept of throwing off scratchy wool for designer silk sounds simply effortless, but the real-life version is another matter altogether. Many of us who have attempted such a wardrobe overhaul have come up frustrated rather than inspired, and this for many reasons we will address in the pages to come. I hope to speak to these struggles while looking at specific character qualities less from an academic view and more from the vantage point of our everyday realities. Because most of us know we’re supposed to take off old things like bitterness and anger and full-on recklessness and put on the new self, which is full of qualities such as kindness and joy and self-control. But knowing this doesn’t automatically make it so.


I can fairly easily write about what these new-life virtues are, their characteristics, and how we need more of them in our lives, but that feels just about as helpful as the book I was reading last night that appropriately told me not to eat out of boredom or past seven o’clock, which triggered the thought that I might be a little bored, which reminded me of the homemade cinnamon-raisin bread I had in the kitchen. Before I could be held responsible for my actions, I had lost my place in the book and was standing in my pajama pants eating bread.


See, I’m pretty sure most of us need more heart transformation than we need more head knowledge, whether it’s about food or far more important things like exhibiting the character of Christ. Knowledge is vitally important, but it seems so many of us in Western Christianity are just crammed with it—really important knowledge that we gain in controlled settings like Bible study—but when up against the prospect of forgiving someone who has just ripped our insides out, or needing to grab patience out of thin air after our roommate has just stepped on our ever-loving last nerve, we are left with a ton of knowledge about what we should do (don’t eat the bread when you’re bored) but have no idea how to do it.


I had the rare blessing of growing up with parents who modeled and taught the character of Christ well. They were big on the “how” of character and emphasized it over most everything else: A struggling grade on an algebra exam was more excusable than lying (which ended up working heavily in my favor … coefficients?); an off game on the basketball court was no problem compared to being disrespectful to a teacher. My parents taught my siblings and me at a young age about humility, gentleness, patience, contentment, gratefulness, purity, and so on. This doesn’t mean I’m good at all these things; it just means I had the privilege of being taught them. And now that I am past most of my adolescent outbursts and full-on temper tantrums—so often directed toward my parents’ instruction—I am ever thankful for their guidance. If only they could get paid back in stocks or something.


Still, the virtues revealed in Scripture are hard enough when you’ve been taught them. But what if you’ve never been exposed to them in the first place? Perhaps it is in response to this question that my deepest desire for the following pages is to shed fresh light on some of the seemingly shadowed and antiquated virtues in Scripture, exposing their beauty, their delicacy, and the freedom in which they are meant to tailor our lives. This is important because so many of us are plainly stuck in life, wearing the same old things and getting the same miserable results. Our character clothes are frumpy, because we’ve never been groomed and fitted from the pages of Scripture.


There are others who are all too aware of the characteristics of godliness but want nothing to do with them, because they were taught such virtues by people who didn’t actually live by those principles. For them, the notion of godly character was flaunted by hypocrites, self-righteous leaders, or possibly angry parents, and they haven’t wanted a piece of its polyester since. Yes, a lot of damage has been done in the name of God and Christian virtue; people have been clothed by reckless tailors. However, one of my greatest hopes is that if this has been your experience, you will give the discovery of authentic godliness another look, because biblical virtues are not punitive but life-giving.


If there are those who have had little exposure to what the Bible says about godly character and those who have had lots of exposure but find it legalistic and binding, then there is a third group as well: those who long to grasp hold of godly traits but find them maddeningly unattainable. Perhaps you have tried to wear godliness like you try to lose weight or work out or stick to a New Year’s resolution. You’ve dug deep but have found that things like moral purity, kindness, or humility simply don’t exist in your closet. You’ve worn the knock-off brands that faintly resemble the real thing, but after a few good washes of reality, their colors fade and their seams split. And so you find yourself not necessarily disdaining the virtues, but having given up on them.


This is a common dilemma, mostly because we mistakenly view godly character qualities as things we can accomplish if we try just a little harder. We promise ourselves we’ll hold our tongues next time or be thankful for what we have. Perhaps one day we muse we’ll graduate to stretching our reserve of patience, or we’ll respect ourselves enough to stop sleeping with acquaintances. But we can never separate the qualities of God from God Himself. True Christian virtues are not something we can slap on ourselves like cutout clothes for paper dolls. They come as a result of heart change that is accomplished through the supernatural love of Jesus. And yes, we will expound on this more, because I am challenging myself not

to offer Christian colloquialisms that are easy to throw out; even though some of them are true, most are vague and inaccessible. I have experienced the frustrating failures of trying to “do better” as a Christian. I’ve been damaged by legalistic authorities whose preaching and practicing lived in entirely different zip codes. And I’ve had times when I just didn’t know much about the heart behind godly virtue, even though my parents gave me a great foundation. Still, the authentic changes that the gentle and unyielding characteristics of holiness have brought about—and are bringing about—in my life are wholly divine and transforming. Not to mention enormously practical.


Practical, because there are relationships that need to be healed from the cancer of bitterness. There are bones that need to be freed from the incessant gnaw of anger. Hurting neighbors who need to hear an encouraging word of kindness instead of the latest morsel of gossip. Children who need to know that we’ve been blessed in our Western society and that contentment is healthier than complaining. Husbands who need peaceful wives instead of anxious ones; wives who need comforting husbands instead of critical ones. Friends who need to be given to instead of demanded from.


I recently wrote a piece that included a list of several virtues, and I asked women to chime in on the virtues they found the most difficult. This was a bit of a trick question, because the virtues are probably all equally hard in their own right, but I was curious as to what their comments would include. I could not have been more delighted by one woman’s sincere reply: “I think I have plenty of each when I don’t need

them. It is only when I am in the situation that I discover that the one I need is the one that I am short of.” This is pure genius. I pondered her sentiments as a possible subtitle to this book: Clothing Yourself in the Virtues You’ve Got Plenty of Until You Need Them.


Of course the very essence of biblical virtues is that they’re only virtues when they’re being tested: Patience is not patience if someone or something is not trying it. Forgiveness is not forgiveness if there is no offense to pardon. Humility is not humility if a person never has to bow. Biblical virtues need to be studied and defined, but if we leave them in the Christian classroom, we will find we’ve got a wardrobe literally bursting with them until the moment we’re invited to the ball.


If this is has been your experience as it has often been mine—if you find that you have virtues in droves until the moment you need them—it may help to go back to the beginning. To begin with God and what He has accomplished that enables us to live all the virtues He embodies. Much of this can be summed up in the opening line of Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved …” See, we can’t really get to the virtues in Scripture until we have a good handle on the truth that we have been chosen, made holy, and are dearly loved. If we take this introductory line away, we are left with a list of dos (clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience …) without any context for them.


Once we understand the context, the way is paved for the oftenpainful work of parting with our old wardrobes, even that A-outfit from college we’re pretty sure we’d still look fabulous in. ’Cause the old and the new don’t coalesce—our human natures don’t meld with the character of Christ. But leaving the old behind can be surprisingly liberating, because it leaves us poised to wear the virtues we will explore in the pages ahead: forgiveness, peace, kindness, humility, compassion, and patience, with a sassy feather of joy in our hats. Virtues that won’t mysteriously disappear when the clock strikes twelve, ones that will actually be there when we need them.