Monday, August 31, 2009

Day Thirty-One – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

Love and marriage…

Leave and cleave. I never had an issue with the “leave” part…and “cleave” was easy when we were younger and I really wanted to be with my husband. Now, I’m so used to being by myself because he works at night and sleeps in the day, that cleaving just doesn’t feel natural. Lord, please help me to recapture the desire I had so many years ago. Inject a freshness into our marriage. Draw us near to You and each other in Christ’s majestic name. Amen.

That was then, this is now…

A man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. Genesis 2:24

It grows increasingly difficult for young people starting out in marriage. Sometimes expenses make it impossible to leave father and mother and set out on your own. I am so glad that my husband and I did this! I don’t know that our relationship would have survived if we had to live with either of our parents. But I don’t think this verse is totally about living arrangements. I think it has a lot to do with the heart. Notice that the verse says “a man shall leave his father and his mother…” Not the woman, the man. He must become the protector of his wife. He cannot hide behind his parents, anymore. He must become responsible for his own family.

Father, thank You for my marriage relationship. I pray that You would continue to nurture and protect us and draw us closer together in the coming year. I also pray right now, Lord, for my daughter and her new husband. Please protect their relationship from outside influences. Bind them together with You at the center. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Prayer Power by Peter Lundell - PLUS A CONTEST!


ABOUT THE BOOK

In the crazy world around us, our prayers may too often seem ineffective. Do you want to connect with God when you pray and receive more direct answers? PRAYER POWER is the tool you need to build a more powerful and dynamic life of prayer.

Intensely practical and straightforward, PRAYER POWER helps you improve on thirty essential facets of prayer such as passion, routine, fasting, praying with others, listening to God, handling distractions, and spiritual warfare. In each brief chapter you'll be inspired by stories of people whose lives of prayer give us powerful examples.

PRAYER POWER can be used as a month-long devotional, a prayer guide, or a reference for help in specific areas. Whether you're a new believer or think you've heard it all, this book's refreshing and honest insight will guide you to a deeper connection with God.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Peter Lundell, a former missionary to Japan, is a pastor at Walnut Blessing Church in Walnut, California. He has an MDiv and DMiss from Fuller Theological Seminary and is the founder of the Walnut Valley Pastors' Prayer Network. Lundell is the author of two books, and his articles have appeared in magazines such as Guideposts and Pray!


9 Ways to Improve Your Prayer Life

1. Establish a designated place to pray.
2. Set a designated time of day to pray.
3. Use written prayers or music to help get started.
4. Repent of the things that hinder your prayer.
5. Pray out loud--this clarifies thoughts.
6. Personalize Bible verses when you pray.
7. Let yourself get in a situation where you have to trust God.
8. Seek the Holy Spirit's leading--and listen.
9. Be bold and persistent.


INTERVIEW

1. Many Christians don't talk about hardships with prayer. Why do you open up about the struggles you have had drawing close to God in prayer?

My first draft of the book read like an instruction manual of all the things you ought to do to be spiritual like me. I realized that the more spiritual I tried to sound, the less honest I was being. I was hiding behind my words. No reader should have to put up with all that. And besides, it was boring.

So I determined to be totally honest. I rewrote the book and openly shared my doubts, struggles, and failures, because everybody goes through the same things. And if I’m not honest with readers, how can I expect readers to be honest with others or even themselves.

I take sort of an “I mess up and you mess up, but God loves us anyway, so let’s connect with him” approach. Readers often tell me how much they identify with that. And when they read about how God still worked amazing things in my life and in others’, it gives them hope.

I’ve discovered two things: First, honesty is liberating, and I don’t want to live any other way. Second, when we stick with prayer and don’t give up, answers and victories rise from our struggles. Answers and victory never rise from pretending.

I hope to connect with readers so that they’ll in turn connect with me and the victories I’ve experienced—so that they will experience their own victories.

2. What are some of the things God has taught you about prayer over the years - especially from the perspective of your leadership roles?

It’s good to listen before I talk. If I always dive into prayer and never spend time listening, I only dump my own “give-me list” on God. But his word says in 1 John 5:14–15 that when I seek and pray according to his will, my prayer will be answered. So the key is to first get in sync with God.

We’ve got to have a hunger, or thirst, for God. Without hunger, no program or technique or anything we learn will go anywhere. But with hunger for God, we could know almost nothing and still have a great prayer life. Hunger is singularly important—which is why it’s the first chapter.

When I pray with faith and don’t get what I ask for, God will soon show me why. There is always something to learn in unanswered prayer.

3. What do you mean by "praying boldly" and how can Christians learn to do that?

Praying boldly is the opposite of excessively polite prayer and of—I’ll just say it—wimpy prayer. Praying boldly is praying without intimidation, not caring what other people think, expressing ourselves to God without concern for being appropriate or religiously correct but rather with a passion from our guts that pours out, unashamedly. Bold prayer is not arrogant. It’s humble and faithful, because of its self-abandoned focus on God and expectation of what God will do.

People often assume they must be polite or solemn before God. Nowhere does the Bible teach this. Two thirds of the Psalms are complaints, and they are not polite. Most prayers in both Old and New Testaments are bold, expectant, and to the point. When Jesus teaches on prayer in Luke 11:5–10, he talks about an obnoxious guy who bangs on his friend’s door at midnight. Then he says we should bug him the same way by continually asking, seeking, and knocking. I often wonder if God gets tired of diplomatic prayers. Why else would he actually tell us to be bold and persistent—and use examples that, if we were on the receiving end, most of us would say are obnoxious.

There’s no real method to doing this. It’s a mindset that chooses to free itself from previous assumptions and uses the Bible as a model of how to pray.

4. How can we practice the presence of God and include him in everyday tasks?

Practicing the presence of God primarily has to do with developing an attitude, a continual awareness that God is always with us, and that in turn, we always incline our attention toward him.

The first thing most of us need to do is to slow down or cut unnecessary activities from our calendar. Busyness is an enemy to practicing the presence of God. Jesus repeatedly blew off other people’s agendas for him and continually focused on his purpose for being here. Pastors who do the same are always happier, closer to God, and more effective. And when we practice the presence of God, we increase our ability to be intimate with him when times do get busy.

Here are some practices that may help develop that attitude: My last thought before I sleep and my first thought when I wake up is centered on God. When I get mad or stressed, I try to see things from God’s perspective. When I am waiting for someone, I use that time to pray. I do menial tasks with an awareness and love of God. I often have a praise song on my mind as I go through the day.

5. You're a proponent for creating a place of prayer and establishing a time of prayer. Why are these important elements for prayer?

These two disciplines are the most important external helps for maintaining a strong prayer life. Without them, our good intentions eventually drown under the assaults of busyness and distractions.

A place of prayer helps us concentrate in the face of distractions. That place could be the church sanctuary, an empty room in the house, a spot in the back yard, or even a rug laid out on the floor, on which the only thing we do is pray. The physical surroundings of a location devoted to prayer tell our brains, “Focus on God.” And if we ever feel bored or in a rut of over-familiarity with a place, a change of location can be stimulating.

Establishing a set prayer time engrains a habit of prayer into our minds, such that if we miss it, we feel anxious because something is missing or wrong—and it is! A set prayer time is not to force ourselves to pray as much as to create a boundary of protection from busyness. That boundary of time is like a protective fence around a garden, where we give ourselves freedom from intrusions to spend unhindered time with God. Preferably we’ll do this as early as possible in the morning, so we can lay the whole day before the Lord. And unlike a prayer place, I have never found benefit in changing my prayer time, so I highly recommend keeping it sacred, especially if we’re travelling or really busy. Whether short or long, this protective fence of a set time must be intentional, because no one else can do it for us.

6. What advice would you give to people who struggle with God when they pray?

True men and women of prayer will sometimes struggle in prayer, as did many figures in the Bible, like Jacob’s symbolic wrestling with the angel and Jesus’ wrestling over his fate in Gethsemane.

Like anyone else, I struggle with unanswered prayer or major decisions to do something by faith, when tragedy strikes, problems of injustice, and healings that take a lot longer than I’d like. The key is to keep struggling—don’t give up and too quickly assume something is God’s will before you know for sure. The angel commended Jacob for not giving up until he got a blessing. God the Father actually sent an angel to help Jesus wrestle in Gethsemane. Sometimes wrestling in prayer is God’s will for us.

Wrestling in prayer is actually a good thing. It draws us closer to God. And it changes us in the process. And that’s what most of us hope for!


CONTEST
(leave a comment for an opportunity to win this great package)

Prayer Power by Peter Lundell
When God Turned off the Lights by Cecil Murphey (Cec is one of Peter's mentors)
Committed but Flawed by Cecil Murphey
Also includes: Prayer Journal, Pen, and Candle


Here's my review of this terrific book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Peter Lundell and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Prayer Power" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“Prayer Power” by Peter Lundell is an amazing book that will help to spark new vibrance into your prayer life. It is broken down into 30 daily readings on prayer that will deepen the intimacy of your relationship with God. The chapters are short, but they’re also packed with scripture and “prayer seeds” – that is, the author provides the first line of a prayer that will help you to begin a dialogue with God. I haven’t finished the book, but I anticipate that it will encourage me to communicate with God in a new way. Regardless of the level of your communication with the Lord, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned communicator, this book will offer insights and ideas.

When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy

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

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


Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


When God Writes Your Love Story

Multnomah Books (June 2, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Eric and Leslie Ludy are the best-selling authors of more than a dozen books – known for tackling some of the toughest issues of our day. The Ludy’s unique “insider perspective” on the sexual and spiritual climate of contemporary culture has given them a powerful platform with audiences around the world. Eric and Leslie Ludy live with their children in Windsor, Colorado and can be found blogging and podcasting at www.setapartlife.com.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421656
ISBN-13: 978-1601421654

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part One

The Author

of Romance

Giving God the Pen




One

The Babes and

the Big Egos

The day I made my choice

ERIC

All the Kens and Barbies sat around the table.1 Amid glistening smiles and Coppertone tans, the fragrance of Polo with a hint of Skin So Soft (yes, this was the good old nineties!) wafted through the café booth. I nibbled at my burrito as the conversation around me finally arrived at its ultimate destination.

“So, Kevin,” Barbie no. 1 flirted across the table, “Tell us who you’re seeing now.”

Kevin, the son of a state senator, was used to having eyes upon him. Being a Tom Cruise look-alike has a way of boosting the ego. As he crunched a chip between perfect teeth, an “I thought you’d never ask” smirk found its way across his face.

As all of us camp counselors leaned in, eyes bulging with expectancy, Kevin finally revealed the secret in a low monotone: “Her name is…Sandra!”

This only added to the excitement and wonder, because no one had any idea who Sandra was.

“Is she a babe?” crooned the resident Brad Pitt, alias Mike from Wyoming.

Say no more! Swift as the bionic man, Kevin whipped out his wallet. Moments later we all observed a photograph of the “hottest girl on the planet,” as Kevin so proudly referred to her.

“Niiice!” Came the rumble of approval from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (Wayne from Denver).

“I think she has a huge nose!” grumbled one of the girls under her breath.

I continued to pick at my burrito.

Barbie no. 2, sitting beside Top Gun, was next in the heartthrob inquisition. She displayed a photo of her boyfriend to cheers of “You go, girl!” from the Barbies and disapproving rumbles about his skinny neck from the Kens, Brads, Matts, and Toms.

After a week of having to exhibit saint like behavior to all the little campers and being super spiritual while around the camp leaders, it was time to let our hair down—time to let the real passions of life come out. I mean, in your late teens and early twenties, you can sing only so many spiritual camp songs before you need an infusion of good old-fashioned romance.

One year earlier, talks like this had really lit my fire. I used to love to brag about my love life at camp and exaggerate about my “sexy new girlfriend” in a way that would make all the guys jealous and all the girls insecure. You could say just about anything and get away with it; no one was going home with you to check out your story.

I used to crave these love life chats, but something about Eric Ludy had changed—something big. Something that made me want to slide under the table when all those inquisitive eyes turned my way.

I’ll never forget the moment. There I was, my fork poking at the jalapeño stranded on the corner of my plate and my mind screaming over and over, Please don’t ask me…please don’t ask me.

They asked.

“So, Eric, tell us about your exciting love life!”

All the periwinkle, emerald, and dark brown eyes were twinkling at me with expectation. I gulped.

“Uh,” I mumbled. My palms were sweaty. My tongue was dry and thick, like I had a felt eraser in my mouth. Finally, I found my voice. “Uh, I uh, actually, uh, I am waiting on God.”

But to be honest, it didn’t really come out as clearly as I just wrote it. The last part of my sentence was mumbled under my breath, sounding something like, “Ima waying on Gaw.”

I hoped a brief answer would encourage them to move on to Elle Macpherson (a.k.a. Kayla from Utah) seated next to me, poised and ready with a photo of her hunk. The plan backfired. They became even more interested.

“Uh, I think we missed that, Ludy, ”Tom Cruise sarcastically challenged. “Was that a girl’s name or some kind of Chinese food?”

After the laughs subsided, I began again, this time a little more clearly.

“I know this may sound strange, you guys, but I’ve decided that I won’t give my heart to another girl until God shows me it’s my wife.”

I have often wished I could have been more eloquent, that I could have made my resolve sound a little more appealing to my audience, now staring at me with mouths ajar. But I guess God wanted me to know that I was following a different path, that I was not to seek the approval of the Kens and Barbies of this world but simply to honor and love Him.

It was a lonely moment. Silence filled our corner of the restaurant, and all eyes focused on the jalapeño I was ruthlessly stabbing to death.

“That’s…interesting!” Barbie no. 1 awkwardly noted, her eyes large with disbelief.

Wayne from Denver was not quite as subtle in his disapproval. “Oh, give me a break!” he exploded in disgust. “How in the world do you expect to find someone, Ludy, if you’re not out there looking? ”His words incited a chorus of yeahs and exactlys from around the booth.

After a moment of reflective silence, I took a deep breath and stated, “I believe that if God wants me to be married”—another deep breath—“He will pick her out for me.”

A dark cloud settled over the entire group and rained down bewilderment in the form of pursed lips and rolled eyes. I glanced up from my tortured jalapeño to discover a long bony index finger pointing at me, about twelve inches from my nose. Kevin used that finger like Clint Eastwood used a gun. He didn’t shoot to maim—he shot to kill. His bronzed face had turned red with annoyance, and his lips were quivering with indignation, like a lava pool ready to explode. After three long seconds, he finally erupted.

“I totally disagree with you!” he fumed, his index finger still targeting my right nostril. “God doesn’t want us hanging around nagging Him about something like that!”

A few “amens” from the crowd textured his passionate sermon. He continued. “I believe God wants us to pick,” he preached, “and then He blesses our choice!” He paused and then came to a climactic finish: “It’s sappy Christianity like yours that gives us Christians the image of helpless orphans! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that God would care that much about your love life!”

The finger held fast for another few long seconds, then slowly dropped as if to say, You show any sign of life, and I’ll shoot again!

I was the ultimate bummer to their titillating conversation. If ever you want to drain the juice right out of romance, just bring God into the picture. I had committed the unpardonable camp counselor sin, and all the eyes around the table were letting me know it.

Growing up, I had always gotten along with everybody. I knew how to be liked by the crowd and not offend anyone. I was careful to say the right thing in order to avoid disagreements. Eric Ludy had never been known for his backbone…well, except maybe in championing the Denver Broncos. But when it came to things that really mattered, I was just plain spineless. This was one of the first times in my life I can remember actually standing up for something I believed in (that wasn’t orange and blue).

Ironically, I didn’t even know exactly what I was talking about. Just twelve months before, I, too, would have “totally disagreed” with what I had just said. But over the past year, God had been challenging me to apply my Christianity to every area of my life. Was it ridiculous to think God would be interested enough in my love life to direct me to the girl He wanted me to spend my life with?

I shifted in my seat, stabbed my jalapeño one last time, and spoke. “All I know,” I said, “is that every time I’ve tried to find someone myself, I realize in the long run that I have horrible taste.”

All eyes were wide with amazement as I concluded, “Kevin, if God had ten women line up in front of me and said, ‘Eric, you pick,’ I would fall flat on my face before Him and say, ‘God, You know me better than I know myself…You pick! ’ ”

I’ll bet no one present other than myself remembers that scene. To them it was probably just the ramblings of a lunatic named Ludy. But for me it was a defining moment. It was almost as if God was saying, “How seriously are you going to trust Me, Eric?”

So there it was, in front of the babes and the big egos, that God challenged me to officially trust Him with the pen of my life. I had held onto that pen for twenty years, and now, over a chicken burrito and a mangled jalapeño, I handed it over to the great Author to allow Him to work His wonders.

I’ve never regretted it for a moment.


Here is my review of this important (and entertaining) non-fiction read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Eric and Leslie Ludy and their publisher for sending me a copy of "When God Writes Your Love Story" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Eric and Leslie Ludy’s “When God Writes Your Love Story” is a wonderful non-fiction look at male-female relationships. This book offers the reader both the male AND the female perspective (on different topics) in the same volume. Overflowing with powerful lessons and insights into romantic love relationships, this book is appropriate whether you’re in a relationship or looking for love. It is never too late to benefit from this work.

There are thoughtful questions for reflection at the end of each chapter. “When God Writes Your Love Story” covers EVERYTHING – from choosing God’s way to sex to marriage and more. Eric and Leslie Ludy are the most adorable couple, and they have written a very important book.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day Thirty – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11

Love brings unity…
WOW! The chapter title is “Love Brings Unity”. That’s what I was just talking about, really. My showing concern would lead to greater unity in the body of Christ.

You may notice that each of these devotions builds upon the previous concept.

That was then, this is now...

Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. John 17:11

True love leads to unity. Because true love unites us in Christ, it leads to oneness of purpose. Love that is centered in Christ has the same goals from person to person because the Holy Spirit indwells us and points us in the same direction. The Lord will not contradict Himself by putting us in conflict with each other.

My husband and I are not always unified in purpose. Sometimes our human nature gets in the way and conflict arises. We also experience conflict when one of us is focused on the Lord’s purpose, and the other of us is focused on our own. To be truly unified, we must be right with the Lord and focused on Him. Then, that three strand cord will make our relationship stronger.

Papa, I want unity with You so badly. And I want unity with my husband. Bind the three of us together with unbreakable cords of love. And when conflict arises, Father, please keep one of us firmly tethered to Your side so that when the wanderer’s heart is made right, the three of us will be reunited again. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation by Adrian Plass



With the comfortable knowledge of a church insider and the leery insight of a seeker, Plass shines a sometimes sarcastic, often times profound, and all the time witty light on the Christian experience. With thoughts on everything from the afterlife (“a place where God will chew a straw and fill us in on how things really are.”) to Zacchaeus (“… [he] looked like Danny DeVito in a dish towel”), Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation is a raucous glossary of biblical characters, church catch phrases and pop-Christian personalities. The inspiration for Bacon Sandwiches & Salvation came from a situation Plass shared with a dear friend in church one day. When asked what the most important thing in the world was, both Plass and his friend responded very differently. “Salvation!” cried Plass. “Bacon sandwiches!” suggested his friend. Writes Plass, “That just about sums it up. A God who can create the indescribable tastiness of a bacon sandwich must be planning something pretty incredible in the salvation line.” Somewhere within the pages of this quirky little guide one begins to find just such a God.

Here is my review of this humorous look at Christianity:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Adrian Plass and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Adrian Plass’ “Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation” is a humorous look at Christianity. The reader’s attention will be drawn to the witty title at first, then completely captured by the cover – this sandwich looks delicious. I think I’ll make BLTs for dinner, tonight… Anyway, this hysterical volume is assembled in the format of a dictionary, and defines various “Christian-ese” terms. It also identifies Biblical characters and historical and modern heroes of the faith. Plass uses humor to shed light on traditions for those already grounded in the church and those who aren’t a member of any denomination.

I do have one concern. I think this book is absolutely written for a Christian audience. I would have to do a lot of research to verify the accuracy of many of the definitions provided, and I am a bit concerned that those without a solid foundation in Christ would see Christians with jaded vision if their only source of information about Christians were this book and our behavior.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day Twenty-Nine – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

"...And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15

Love’s motivation…

It’s about the Lord. It’s not about me. It’s not about my husband. It’s not about how we communicate. It’s not about my need for love or his need for respect. It’s about God. He is love’s motivation. Praise You, Jesus! May I honor and worship You through my married life. And may my husband honor You, too.

That was then, this is now...

Render service with a good attitude, as to the Lord and not to men. Ephesians 6:7

True love must have the proper motivation, or it isn’t love at all. Our purpose should be solely for God, not men, not reciprocation, not networking or making influential contacts. There must be no ulterior motive behind our love. It must be solely for the Lord’s benefit and not ours.

WOW! What a convicting verse of scripture! I know that I am guilty of loving to receive love in return. The Bible plainly says that is a wrong motive! I suppose I haven’t fully grasped the concept that the Lord loves me unconditionally. The knowledge is definitely in my head. Perhaps it just hasn’t made it to my heart completely. But each day, God’s love saturates me a bit deeper. My expectations of my husband to fulfill me become less. Then my man either loves me so well that I lose sight of God because I forget that God is using my husband to love me. Or, my husband will hurt me deeply and make me question his love for me, which subconsciously makes me question God’s love as well. Why is that the case? We question God’s love when others hurt us, but fail to give Him the credit when we are treated well.

Lord, I love You. And I know You love me. I pray that You will saturate my heart with that knowledge and that You will remind me to keep my motives pure when it comes to loving my husband and my family. It is much easier to love them when they don’t deserve it if I remember that, by doing unto them, I am doing unto You. Please plant that thought in the forefront of my mind until this proper motivation becomes ingrained in me. Thank You for hearing my prayer. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Day Twenty-Eight – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Love makes sacrifices…

Yes, it does. I’m not always good at that. It’s not so much that I’m selfish in the sense that I want what I want and I’m inflexible. It’s more that I hold onto hurts and have a problem trusting people once they’ve hurt me. That’s a form of selfishness, I suppose since I’m considering myself first. I suppose I need to pray for those against whom I hold grudges until my heart softens.

That was then, this is now…

He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 1 John 3:16

Jesus sacrificed His life for us. We are told that we should do the same. We may not be called to actually die for another, but death is not the only sacrifice we can endure for the one we love. The key is an attitude of putting someone else before yourself.

Father-God, I want to acknowledge my husband’s needs and wants before I take care of my own. I understand that, in a perfect economy, I would be seeing to his needs and he would be seeing to mine so that nothing would go undone. I also realize that we are not perfect, so this rarely happens. Give me the right attitude of sacrificial giving without any expectation of receiving anything in return. And let me not take credit for what I do give, but rather point my husband to You when he says, “Thanks.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Study: For Such A Time As Now - Esther - Introduction and Chapter 1


The only book of the Bible where God is not mentioned by name.

Deliberately written in the style of a Persian secular narrative to reflect the conditions and attitudes of the Jews scattered in Persia in contrast to those of dedicated Jews in the Holy Land. (John Brug, People’s Commentary Bible, 155-156)

The book of Esther deals with the Jews who remained in Babylon by choice at the end of the captivity. It is the final historical book of the Old Testament.

Xerxes reigned 486-465 BC. He was murdered by his son, Artaxerxes.

Takes place between chapters 6 and 7 of the book of Ezra.

The significance of the Book of Esther is that it testifies to the secret watch care of Jehovah over dispersed Israel. The name of God does not once occur, but in no other book of the Bible is His providence more conspicuous. A mere remnant returned to Jerusalem. The mass of the nation preferred the easy and lucrative life under the Persian rule. But God did not forsake them. What He here does for Judah, He is surely doing for all the covenant people. The book is in seven parts:
The Story of Vashti, 1:1-22.
Esther made queen, 2:1-23.
The conspiracy of Haman, 3:1-15.
The courage of Esther brings deliverance, 4:1-7:10.
The vengeance, 8:1-9:19.
The feast of Purim, 9:20-32.
Epilogue, 10:1-3.
The events recorded in Esther cover a period of 12 years (Ussher). (Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition))

Ahasuerus [E] [H] [S] (Nave’s Topical Bible)
King of Persia, history of
See BOOK OF ESHER
Esther 1
AHASUERUS
See ARTAXERXES
Father of Darius
Daniel 9:1

Artaxerxes [E] [H] [S] (Nave’s Topical Bible)
A Persian king probably identical with AHASUERUS
Prohibits the rebuilding of Jerusalem
Ezra 4:7-24
King of Persia. Decree of, in behalf of the Jews
Ezra 7; Nehemiah 2; 5:14

Ahasue’rus [N] [E] [H] (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)
(lion-king ), the name of one Median and two Persian kings mentioned in the Old Testament.
1. In (Daniel 9:1) Ahasuerus is said to be the father of Darius the Mede. [DARIUS] This first Ahasuerus is Cyaxares, the conqueror of Nineveh. (Began to reign B.C. 634.)
2. The Ahasuerus king of Persia, referred to in (Ezra 4:6) must be Cambyses, thought to be Cyrus’ successor, and perhaps his son. (B.C. 529.)
3. The third is the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. This Ahasuerus is probably Xerxes of history, (Esther 1:1) (B.C. 485), and this conclusion is fortified by the resemblance of character and by certain chronological indications, the account of his life and character agreeing with the book of Esther In the third year of Ahaseuerus was held a great feast and assembly in Shushan the palace, (Esther 1:3) following a council held to consider the invasion of Greece. He divorced his queen Vashti for refusing to appear in public at this banquet, and married, four years afterwards, the Jewess Esther, cousin and ward of Mordecai. Five years after this, Haman, one of his counsellors, having been slighted by Mordecai, prevailed upon the king to order the destruction of all the Jews in the empire. But before the day appointed for the massacre, Esther and Mordecai influenced the king to put Haman to death and to give the Jews the right of self-Defence.


Chapter 1 –

Verses 1-9 Which of the kings of Persia this Ahasuerus was the learned are not agreed. Mordecai is said to have been one of those that were carried captive from Jerusalem (ch. 2:5, 6), whence it should seem that this Ahasuerus was one of the first kings of that empire. Dr. Lightfoot thinks that he was that Artaxerxes who hindered the building of the temple, who is called also Ahasuerus (Ezra 4:6, 7), after his great-grandfather of the Medes, Dan. 9:1.

That there was no mixed dancing; for the gentlemen and ladies were entertained asunder, not as in the feast of Belshazzar, whose wives and concubines drank with him (Dan. 5:2), or that of Herod, whose daughter danced before him. Vashti feasted the women in her own apartment; not openly in the court of the garden, but in the royal house, v. 9. Thus, while the king showed the honour of his majesty, she and her ladies showed the honour of their modesty, which is truly the majesty of the fair sex. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary)

1:1 – 483 BC. (Arthur)

Ahasuerus--It is now generally agreed among learned men that the Ahasuerus mentioned in this episode is the Xerxes who figures in Grecian history. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible)

Ahasuerus - Many suppose this to be Darius Hystapas, for his kingdom was thus vast, and he subdued India, as Herodotus reports: and one of his wives was called Atossa, differing little from Hadassah, which is Esther's other name, 2:7.Provinces - So seven new provinces were added to those hundred and twenty mentioned, Daniel 6:1. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:2 - Sat - Was settled in the peaceable possession of it. Shushan - The chief or royal city. Shushan might be the proper name of the palace, which thence was given to the whole city. Here the kings of Persia used to keep their courts in winter, as at Exbatana in summer. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:3 – 483 BC. (Arthur)

the meeting described is a war council.

made a feast unto all his princes and his servants-- The ancient palace of Susa has been recently disinterred from an incumbent mass of earth and ruins; and in that palace, which is, beyond all doubt, the actual edifice referred to in this passage, there is a great hall of marble pillars. "The position of the great colonnade corresponds with the account here given. It stands on an elevation in the center of the mound, the remainder of which we may well imagine to have been occupied, after the Persian fashion, with a garden and fountains. Thus the colonnade would represent the 'court of the garden of the king's palace' with its 'pillars of marble.' I am even inclined to believe the expression, 'Shushan the palace,' applies especially to this portion of the existing ruins, in contradistinction to the citadel and the city of Shushan" [LOFTUS, Chaldaea and Susiana] . (Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible)

1:4 - Many days - Making every day a magnificent feast, either for all his princes, or for some of them, who might come to the feast successively, as the king ordered them to do. The Persian feasts are much celebrated in authors, for their length and luxury. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:6 – white and blue – Persia’s royal colors.

Porphyry – costly, red marble.

the beds were of gold and silver--that is, the couches on which, according to Oriental fashion, the guests reclined, and which were either formed entirely of gold and silver or inlaid with ornaments of those costly metals, stood on an elevated floor of parti-colored marble. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible)

Beds - For in those eastern countries, they did not then sit at tables as we do, but rested or leaned upon beds or couches. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:8 – drink in his own way – Persians drank a lot. The king was allowing his guests to abstain if they wished.

The law - According to this law which the king had now made, that none should compel another to drink more than he pleased. How does this Heathen prince shame many, that are called Christians, who think they do not make their friends welcome, unless they make them drunk, and under pretence of sending the health round, send the sin round, and death with it! (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:9 – Queen Vashti – great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daughter of Belshazzar. Mother of Artaxerxes.

Women - While the king entertained the men. For this was the common custom of the Persians, that men and women did not feast together. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king,
chamberlains
Or, enunchs. (Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition))

1:10-12 - he commanded . . . the seven chamberlains--These were the eunuchs who had charge of the royal harem. The refusal of Vashti to obey an order which required her to make an indecent exposure of herself before a company of drunken revellers, was becoming both the modesty of her sex and her rank as queen; for, according to Persian customs, the queen, even more than the wives of other men, was secluded from the public gaze. Had not the king's blood been heated with wine, or his reason overpowered by force of offended pride, he would have perceived that his own honor, as well as hers, was consulted by her dignified conduct. (Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible)

Verses 10-22 It was certainly the king’s weakness to send for Vashti into his presence when he was drunk, and in company with abundance of gentlemen, many of whom, it is likely, were in the same condition. When his heart was merry with wine nothing would serve him but Vashti must come, well dressed as she was, with the crown on her head, that the princes and people might see what a handsome woman she was, v. 10, 11. Hereby, 1. He dishonoured himself as a husband, who ought to protect, but by no means expose, the modesty of his wife, who ought to be to her a covering of the eyes (Gen. 20:16), not to uncover them. 2. He diminished himself as a king, in commanding that from his wife which she might refuse, much to the honour of her virtue. It was against the custom of the Persians for the women to appear in public, and he put a great hardship upon her when he did not court, but command her to do so uncouth a thing, and make her a show. If he had not been put out of the possession of himself by drinking to excess, he would not have done such a thing, but would have been angry at any one that should have mentioned it. When the wine is in the wit is out, and men’s reason departs from them. II. However, perhaps it was not her wisdom to deny him. She refused to come (v. 12); though he sent his command by seven honourable messengers, and publicly, and Josephus says sent again and again, yet she persisted in her denial. Had she come, while it was evident that she did it in pure obedience, it would have been no reflection upon her modesty, nor a bad example. The thing was not in itself sinful, and therefore to obey would have been more her honour than to be so precise. Perhaps she refused in a haughty manner, and then it was certainly evil; she scorned to come at the king’s commandment. What a mortification was this to him! While he was showing the glory of his kingdom he showed the reproach of his family, that he had a wife that would do as she pleased.

Divorce - before they proceeded to this extremity they sent to Vashti to know if she would yet submit, cry Peccavi—I have done wrong, and ask the king’s pardon, and that, if she had done so, the mischief of her example would have been effectually prevented, and process would have been stayed; but it is likely she continued obstinate, and insisted upon it as her prerogative to do as she pleased, whether it pleased the king or no, and therefore they gave this judgment against her, that she come no more before the king, and this judgment so ratified as never to be reversed, v. 19. The consequence of this, it was hoped, would be that the wives would give to their husbands honour, even the wives of the great, notwithstanding their own greatness, and the wives of the small, notwithstanding the husband’s meanness (v. 20); and thus every man would bear rule in his own house, as he ought to do, and, the wives being subject, the children and servants would be so too. It is the interest of states and kingdoms to provide that good order be kept in private families. 3. The edict that passed according to this proposal, signifying that the queen was divorced for contumacy, according to the law, and that, if other wives were in like manner undutiful to their husbands, they must expect to be in like manner disgraced (v. 21, 22): were they better than the queen? Whether it was the passion or the policy of the king that was served by this edict, God’s providence served its own purpose by it, which was to make way for Esther to the crown. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible)

1:11 – wearing her royal crown – some scholars believe that she was to wear ONLY her crown.

1:12 – she refused – possibly because she was pregnant.

The king became furious and burned with anger – Xerxes was known for his characteristic outbursts of sudden anger.

Refused - Being favoured in this refusal by the law of Persia, which was to keep mens wives, and especially queens, from the view of other men. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:13 - The times - The histories of former times, what princes have done in such cases as this was. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:14 - Saw - Who had constant freedom of access to the king, and familiar converse with him: which is thus expressed, because the Persian kings were very seldom seen by their subjects. Sat - Who were his chief counsellors and officers. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:15 – according to law – Persian law said that men don’t allow other men to view their wives.

1:18 - Contempt - Contempt in the wives, and thereupon wrath in the husbands; and consequently strife in families. (John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible)

1:22 – he sent dispatches – Persian postal service.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day Twenty-Seven – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20

Amen, Lord! I see how this verse can be applied to being an encourager in a marriage or in other relationships. But it also speaks to me this morning since I’m subject to a background check for my new job, and my husband reminded me that a timeshare we used to have but stopped paying on would probably be considered a forfeit or a foreclosure. Please deliver me from absent-mindedness and protect us from being harmed by this new insight. Please let disclosure be enough to get me through the screening process for this new job.

Love encourages…

My honey has assured me that I do not burden him with unrealistic expectations.

That was then, this is now...

Encourage one another and build up one another…Encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14

We are supposed to encourage those we love. We should strengthen and help those who are weaker than we are. We are taught in the Bible to be patient with everyone. Do your words uplift or bring people down? Do your actions enchant or discourage? How can we tell how our actions and words are received? Ask yourself one question: Do I bring out the best in my spouse?

One area I definitely need to work on is encouraging my husband while waiting patiently for God to mold him in certain areas of his life. It kind of reminds me of Gideon. When the angel of the Lord came, Gideon was hiding in the winepress. But the angel said, “Greetings, mighty warrior!” Gideon was far from a warrior at this point, but the angel saw Gideon for what he was to become rather than who he was at that moment. That’s how I want to see my husband. That’s how I want to treat my husband.

Lord, I need Your help. I am no good at seeing my husband’s potential with my own eyes. Quicken my spirit to see him as You see him. Then teach me how to treat him as the man You created him to be rather than the man he is right now. Help me to encourage his growth in You and Your purpose for his life. And when the discouraging words begin to form on my tongue, please clap Your hand firmly over my mouth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day Twenty-Six – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17:10

That’s one of my favorite verses of scripture. Thank You for nourishing me with this, Lord. I’m sorry that it’s the only verse of scripture I’ve read today. Well not exactly, but close. I didn’t behave very responsibly today, and that is what today’s devotion is about. Father, show me where I’ve failed in my responsibility to You and in my marriage.

Thank You for showing me that I didn’t spend enough time in Your Word. Help me to put forth more effort to be with You. And thanks for the reassurance that I will soon have at least one Bible study to do each day, keeping me in Your Word. Please forgive me.

Love is responsible…

That was then, this is now...

Each one must examine his own work…in regard to himself alone. Galatians 6:4

We are responsible for how we love. We must measure and assess how we love. We cannot compare how we love to how others love. We cannot withhold love because we give it better than we get it. We must encourage our mate to love better by loving him well.

Make his favorite dinner, do his laundry, mow the lawn… When I get up in the morning before my husband goes to bed, I leave the bed unmade for him. He doesn’t like to have to pull the quilt down and store the decorative pillows. And my man is so sweet! He knows I like to see the bedroom looking nice when I go to bed, so he makes it for me when he gets up in the afternoon.

Thank You, Father, for making us responsible for how we love each other. May we grow closer to You as we take care of each other this way. Help us to see the little things we do as not only ministering to each other, but also ministering to You. Give us fresh ideas on how to love You and each other better. In Christ’s name. Amen.

The Knight by Steven James


Killer is on the Loose with an Ancient Manuscript as His Guide
New thriller from critically acclaimed novelist takes readers on a shocking rollercoaster ride to stop this violent killer before it’s too late.


Steven James is one of the nation’s most innovative storytellers—with a Master of Arts in Storytelling degree to prove it. For the past decade, he has been crafting compelling and evocative stories that pull readers into the thick of his brilliant, mind-bending plots, and his latest creative endeavor is no different: The Knight, the third installment in his bestselling series of thrillers, is full of the chilling twists and adrenaline-laced action that readers have come to expect from James.

The Knight picks up in The Bowers Files series, starring FBI criminologist Patrick Bowers, who is assigned to tracking the country’s most dangerous killers. But when he is called to his most disturbing crime scene yet, Bowers begins to realize that this criminal mastermind has actually been tracking him.

To get to the bottom of this cold-blooded case, Bowers uses his cutting-edge investigative techniques to decipher the evidence and discovers that the murderer has been using an ancient manuscript as a blueprint for his crimes. This sends Bowers on a race against time to stop the killer before he takes his next victim in another grisly crime.

But even as he is working to crack the clues of this bloody trail, Bowers finds himself stumped by another matter: An old murder case haunts him, causing him to question himself and wonder which is more important—truth or justice. The answer might set a killer free or change Bowers into a criminal himself.

Keeping readers guessing until the very end, James has earned rave reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly, which called his thrillers “a wild ride with a shocking conclusion.” The Knight offers readers more of the same, as the satisfying follow-up to his previous bestselling psychological thrillers in The Bowers Files series, The Pawn and The Rook.


Here is my review of this action-packed novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Steven James and his publisher for sending me a copy of "The Knight" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“The Knight” by Steven James is the third book in the Patrick Bowers series, and a thought-provoking and very graphic crime drama. From the first sentence, James transports you into the chilling tale of Agent Patrick Bowers’ latest crime scene. He is on the trail of a killer and the clues seem to point to Bowers being the next intended victim.

I really enjoy Bowers’ character. He is strong and intelligent and human. I’m barely into reading this book, and I already want to go back and read “The Pawn” and re-read “The Rook”, books one and two in this series, so I can get an even fuller picture of this character.


Available August 2009 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Secret Sister Ideas


Super Secret Sisters - here is a terrific idea used by one church to bless ladies who don't normally get involved in women's ministry events and draw them into the fold.

This expanded idea motivates women to reach out further into their sphere of influence, which goes toward fulfilling the commandment in Mark 14 to love your neighbor.

One church gave a Secret Sister (women who volunteered) to women who were not really connected or plugged in anywhere, women who are new, senior ladies or ladies who just didn't seem to make friends easily. You can image their surprise when they started to get blessed! It really meant a lot to be reached out to in such a way. Many Super Secret Sisters starting joining the Bible study groups, attending Ladies Night Out, and making friends. They run the Super Secret Sisters program twice a year for two, six-month periods. They found that you get to know more ladies that way. They also send out a monthly letter with words of encouragement, gift suggestions and funny Secret Sister stories. This helps keep your secret sister on your mind and in your prayers. At the time that I read this, they had 64 participants and reportedly were having a blast!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Different Kind of Wild by Debbie Alsdorf


Time to Leave Tame Faith Behind
Get ready to experience the adventurous spiritual life God has for you

When Debbie Alsdorf speaks to Christian women, she has a message for them: “Go wild.” And she means it—but she’s talking about a different kind of wild living than the image we’re most familiar with.

“This new wild is about taking our lives back,” she says. “It’s about becoming women who dare to live differently—wild in surrender, wild in devotion, wild in service, and wild in following what God calls us to.”

She encourages women to embrace the adventure God has for them, and watch their faith flourish like never before. She looks at how women can be risk-takers for Christ, stand firm in crises, confront fear with truth, dare to live by a different standard and find courage to follow a new life path.

Alsdorf explains this call to becoming wild: “’Wild’ stands for ‘women
in lifelong development.’” While this might sound intimidating and
out-of-reach to some women, she points out that it is a process. “The key
is understanding that it’s a lifelong development. There are no overnight spiritual success stories. We are on a journey with God: Each day the
pages of life are turned, and line by line our story unfolds. It is a process.”

With passion and deep, Scriptural insights, Alsdorf—an exciting conference speaker, women’s ministry leader and Bible teacher—helps women live transformed lives with untamed faith and courageous obedience to God’s leading. Reflection questions are included, making this book an ideal resource for personal study or small-group use.

Debbie Alsdorf is the author of Deeper. As the founder of Design4Living Ministries, she seeks to encourage women to Live Up! in the truth of God’s Word. Since 1997, she has been the director of women’s ministries at Cornerstone Fellowship, where she and her team lead a vibrant women’s ministry. Debbie is a biblical lay counselor and a member of the Association of Christian Counselors. She lives in Northern California.

Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, offers practical books that bring the Christian faith to everyday life. They publish resources from a variety of well-known brands and authors, including their partnership with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Hungry Planet.

###

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.


Here is my review of this terrific non-fiction read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Debbie Alsdorf and her publisher for sending me a copy of "A Different Kind of Wild" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Debbie Alsdorf’s “A Different Kind of Wild” is an inspiring non-fiction read. It is a boldly written book that offers life-changing challenges to women who desire to actively live in the Spirit. The author does this by introducing the concept of “living up”, which is her ministry’s focus.

“A Different Kind of Wild” is packed with pertinent scripture references and enlightening quotes. This book would be an ideal group read, as it is loaded with study questions at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book. These questions can lead to wonderful group discussion, or be used for personal reflection.

Day Twenty-Five – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is – 1 Corintians 13:5

Another scripture verse that touched me in particular today is – Luke 23:34

Lord, I’ve had issues of forgiveness with my spouse and with others. I pray that You will open my eyes to see the grudges I still bear and help me to release them, releasing myself from the same prison at the same time. I ask You to reveal to me any seeds of anger, jealousy, guilt or other issues that could grow into Unforgiveness and destroy them before they germinate and take root. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Love forgives…
My trouble isn’t forgiving. It’s forgetting. I try not to use the past against my husband, but when his old behavior patterns surface, it’s difficult not to think about past disappointment. I don’t usually bring it up venomously, though. But I wish I didn’t bring it up at all.

Still, this lesson reminds me of other family relationships because there is still so much of my past that I haven’t let go of. Help me, Lord, to release those bad feelings I still have toward family. Cut off the supply of regret and hurt that fuels this Unforgiveness.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day Twenty-Four – The Love Dare: One Wife’s Journey


Back in October 2008...The scripture verse that touched me in particular today is –

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 1 Peter 2:16

Love vs. lust…

Some people live in freedom. But the Word of God also says not to cause your brother to stumble. And the closer I get to Jesus, the more I understand that God gives us freedom so we can choose Him…so we can choose goodness…so we can choose the right thing.

That was then, this is now…

The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:17

The world is passing away. Lust is passing away. We are growing older every day. Our looks are fading. Our bodies are sagging. Our priorities are changing. It’s more important to laugh with your spouse than to see every head turn as you enter a room with him. But a heart for God never goes out of style. The closer you grow to the Lord, the more important it will become that your mate has a close relationship to Him as well.

How to apply this? Pray together, attend Bible study together, worship together. Can’t do that for some reason? Pray for him. Attend Bible studies that will teach you how to minister to him. Go to church and pay attention so you can share the sermon with him. Jesus is the cord in a relationship that will never break. He MUST be part of your relationship to insure survival.

Jesus, in your name I ask that You would always be a predominant part of my relationship with my husband. I pray that You would become more evident to us at times when we cannot pray or study or worship You as we should. Give each of us a hunger to know You deeply, and for You to know us deeply, too. May we always be honest with You and each other. And transform the physical attraction that we felt (and still feel) for each other into a more meaningful love with You at the heart of it. Amen.

Two terrific non-fiction titles by Stan Toler

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 books:


The Buzzards are Circling, but God is Not Finished with Me Yet

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
AND


God Has Never Failed Me, but He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Stan Toler resides in Oklahoma City, OK and is an international speaker and seminar leader. For several years he served as Vice-President and taught seminars for Dr. John Maxwell's INJOY Group, a leadership development institute. Toler has written over 70 books, including his best sellers, The Five Star Leader, Richest Person in the World, The Secret Blend, his popular Minute Motivator Series; and his latest book, ReThink Your Life. His books have sold over 2 million copies worldwide.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:
The Buzzards are Circling, but God is Not Finished with Me Yet:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765946
ISBN-13: 978-1434765949

Product Details:
God Has Never Failed Me, but He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765954
ISBN-13: 978-1434765956

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERs:



©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Buzzards Are Circling, but God’s Not Finished with Me Yet by Stan Toler. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

When Your World Crumbles, You Don’t Have to Be One of the Crumbs

(You Can Survive Your Situation)


David Hopkins felt as though the eyes of a thousand demons penetrated his soul as he walked across the campus of Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. Thousands of beady-eyed buzzards arrogantly shifted along the bare tree limbs as if they were waiting for him to drop dead and furnish their lunch. My friend Dr. Hopkins, the college president, said his skin crawled as he thought about the six years of torture that had come from the predators who arrived each October and lingered until April, infesting the college property.


With the crunch of his every footstep on the leaf-strewn ground, he relived the staff’s repeated efforts to scare away the birds. Devoted employees tried banging pots and pans—and even firing warning shots into the air. Nothing worked. And killing the ebony beasts was against the law. According to local officials, the tormentors were endangered. Destroying them would result in a hefty fine. The cold autumn wind tearing at the trees seemed to mock Dr. Hopkins, and he was certain one swooping buzzard grinned with glee!


Indeed, the buzzards seemed a metaphor for the spiritual warfare of the last six years. As the winged menaces invaded the school, year in and year out, David’s wife almost died of cancer. He suffered from the sometimes-fatal Crohn’s disease. The college, in the throes of necessary but difficult change, struggled for financial survival. Dr. Hopkins wondered if and when the buzzards would smell the death of the college and swoop. He shook his fist toward the feathered foes and declared, “You won’t win!”


Yet just when it looked like he was finished, twenty-five prayer warriors arrived on the campus to pray for the college—and for the rapid departure of the carnivorous creatures. The next day, Dr. Hopkins received a call from a donor who said, “I’ll give one hundred sixty thousand dollars toward the construction of a new science building.” Another donor called and said, “We’ll give five hundred thousand dollars toward the new science building!” What’s more, his wife was declared cancer free!


President Hopkins told me that he was so happy about the news that he nearly floated home. That’s when he made a startling discovery. As he looked around, he noticed the trees were void of those dark adversaries. No buzzards! Gone! Gone! Gone! For no apparent reason, they had vanished! At that moment, he recalled Abraham’s sojourn from Ur to the Promised Land. Abraham had paused to worship and to offer a sacrifice to God as a sign of His covenant. (It should be noted: The buzzards came down to steal Abraham’s sacrifice before he could seal it. Abraham had to shoo the winged predators away!)


Someday, you’re going to spot buzzards circling in your spiritual No-Fly Zone. There is going to come a time when you’re hit with a crisis, one that you didn’t see coming. And it may cause your whole world to crumble like an old cookie under a big sledgehammer. But take heart; you don’t have to be a crumb in the midst of the crumbling.


WORLD CRUMBLING IS NOT AN OLYMPIC SPORT


The Old Testament character Job reminds us: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). It’s a fact of life. We didn’t inherit curly hair, brown eyes, and a propensity to arthritis from Adam. We inherited trouble. Adam’s disobedience to God started a chain reaction of suffering and sorrow that won’t be broken until the eastern sky splits and the Savior returns. The Bible says, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).


So our family tree is more like a prickly cactus than a pristine maple. But how does it play out in the landscape of life? What is it that makes our world come tumbling down like a planetary Humpty

Dumpty? There are several factors that can play a part in the world crumbling times.


LIFE CHANGES


We are spiritually and emotionally vulnerable when we face changes in the routine of our lives. Vocational, housing, relationship, physical, or financial changes—all may reduce our stability to zero (to put a new slant on the fog report!). In the Old Testament, Abraham faced unsettling uncertainty when God called him to leave his homeland and take his family to a new country.


He responded obediently, but I’m sure there was a king-sized knot in his stomach when he packed his luggage: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). The phrase did not know where he was going is key to what he must have felt. Everything familiar would soon be set aside, and he would leap like a skydiver into the unknown.


The focus on Abraham comes from the patriarchal emphasis in Bible times. But think about how his family must have felt. They would have to leave familiar department stores and playgrounds, forfeit soccer team membership, subscribe to a new cable television service.


Sad farewells.


Financial uncertainty.


Strange roads.


This wasn’t going to be a picnic for Abraham’s family.


Change never is a picnic, but it happens. Sudden layoffs. Diving stocks. Rising gas prices. A doctor with a somber face, holding an alarming medical report in his hands. And when change does happen, our world often crumbles.


Happiness is inward and not outward; and so it does

Not depend on what we have, but on what we are.

—Henry Van Dyke


DELAYED PROMISES


Look again at Abraham’s life story: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9–10).


Abraham was looking forward to the city.


So, where’s the city? All he saw was desert. No skyscrapers here, just dusty tent dwellings at the end of a long travel days spent looking at the backside of a camel.


This was supposed to be the Promised Land. But for Abraham, it must have looked like it was mostly land and little promise. For the moment, milk and honey looked more like curds and whey.


Delayed promises are world-crumbling situations. We gather together the hopes and pledges of the Bible like a pile of prescriptions from an immediate-care clinic. We haul out our inheritance claims. We thumb through the Rolodex of advice from near and far. “Just a little while.” “Sunday’s coming.” “Somewhere over the rainbow …”


But we’re used to instant coffee and microwave popcorn. Delayed promises? We’ve been promised a celestial city, but we can’t see it for the storm clouds. The realization sets in and causes our hearts to

break. We’re stuck in the now, like Abraham and his family, trying to eke out an existence in an unfurnished Promised-Land apartment.


PERSONAL PROBLEMS


Abraham also had to look for a promise beyond the horizon of personal setbacks: “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:11–12).


Wouldn’t it be awful to face life when you’ve already been declared “as good as dead”? Maybe you have!



The buzzards of age and infirmity had been in a holding pattern over Abraham’s life. God had made the promise: Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Abraham couldn’t see the stars because of the smudges on his trifocals. His family would become as numerous as the sands, but the sands of his own hourglass had settled quicker than an elephant in a lawn chair.


We’ve all been there. Personal difficulties crowd out our hopes of a tomorrow. We can’t do that because of this. “If only I could…” “I just wish I didn’t have to …” “If it weren’t for…” We dialogue with life, wishing we could erase the effects of time. Personal difficulties swarm around us:


Grudges that poison us

Jealousy that gnaws at us

Loneliness that isolates us

Inadequacies that paralyze us

Finances that bind us

Sorrows that plague us.


SUDDEN TRIALS


Abraham’s life would have been so much different if it weren’t for that day. He had been sailing along—working out the issues of a new home, bringing his family to a consensus, driving fresh-cut stakes into the promises of the new land. Then, the Scriptures say, “God tested Abraham” (Gen. 22:1).


A sudden trial arrived like a five-hundred-pound gorilla. God was applying a litmus test to Abraham. He wanted His protégé to see that faith works when we face that day. God told Abraham to take his son to a remote place and prepare an altar of sacrifice—and then sacrifice his son, his only son, back to God. Leaving his servants behind, Abraham took the materials for the altar, along with his only son, and began the longest journey of his life. The trip from Ur was a piece of cake compared to these few steps.


Even as they walked together, the questions began to fly: “Father, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham’s heart was pounding. He was committed to obeying God’s command: to make his own son that sacrifice. Abraham replied, “God will provide.” But deep in his heart the doubts must have swirled like an oak leaf in a whirlpool.


That day—that sudden testing time in the life of the patriarch that would be unlike any other day. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son” (Heb. 11:17). Abraham passed the test. He trusted God beyond what common sense or his own will would have led him to do. Then God instructed Abraham not to lay a hand on his son and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice.


Perhaps you’ve had a day like that. Life is pretty uneventful, then suddenly everything changes. A sound f metal crushing metal. A telephone call. A knock on the door. An ambulance siren. We who are children of promise suddenly face a horrendous situation. Something is expected of us. Not one of us is exempt.


I’M HAVING A “WHOLE LIFE” CRISIS


Our reactions to world-crumbling events vary. Sometimes we feel helpless. For the most part, we’re used to being in control of things. But when life is suddenly out of our control, a sense of vulnerability sets in. Until now, we’ve been able to fix most everything else, but we can’t fix this. It’s just out of reach, like that burned-out light bulb in the twenty-foot ceiling chandelier. We can see it, and we know that changing it would make a difference. But without some assistance, we’re powerless. Sometimes we feel abandoned. Alone in the hospital room, waiting for loved ones. Alone at the table that once was also occupied by a spouse or parent. Alone in a courtroom hallway, waiting for the lawyer. Alone. Abandoned. “Why me, Lord?” we inquire. But often, heaven is silent—not because there isn’t any concern up there, but because we make such loud groaning noises down here that we cannot hear the still, small voice of assurance.


Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through Experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, Vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. —Helen Keller


Sometimes we feel worthless. World-crumbling events have a way of sucking the self-esteem out of our lives. Our pride and dignity are temporarily gone. Our once-secure finances are tenuous. Our once strong

bodies are frail. Our once-happy homes are in shambles. Our once-respectful children have rebelled. We feel about as significant as an eyelash on a mosquito.


Sometimes we feel ashamed. Sometimes we have made a personal contribution to the world-crumbling situation. We’ve been players, not just bystanders. Sometimes we make wrong choices. We cross the line. The pain in our foot comes from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We stand in our self-made ruins and weep over what should have been, or what might have been, if only we had kept the law of God or if only we had let our conscience give the final answer.


One day, Jesus came across a man who was a poster child for world-crumbling events:


Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.


When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”


“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”


Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1–9)


For thirty-eight years of his life, this man had been carried, pulled, or pushed to the pool beside the sheep gate on the northern side of the Jerusalem temple. There the unnamed man, with so many unnamed others, waited to be healed.


The invalids believed that an angel of the Lord occasionally stirred the waters in the pool and the first person to step into the water would be healed.


This poor man had never made it. Though he had helpers to transport him and put him close to the edge of the pool, he had never been first in. This day was no exception. It was “miracle time,” and he was tardy.


Time after time, he was toenail close to a miracle. But still, he went to the pool!


Think of the cruelty. A heavenly messenger makes a house call every now and then but brings only enough healing power to cure just one person: the first one in.


Jesus saw and approached this man. He learned about the man’s plight, and the Lord healed him. And the fact is, when our world crumbles, Jesus never fails to see it, and He is never far away.


God believes in me,

Therefore my situation is never hopeless.

God walks with me,

Therefore I am never alone.

God is on my side,

Therefore I can never lose.

—Anonymous


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. God Has Never Failed Me, But He Sure Has Scared Me to Death a Few Times by Stan Toler. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
Pinto Beans and Fried Bologna—
Now That’s a Feast of Faith


We do not know what to do. (2 Chron. 20:12)


Growing up in the hills of West Virginia impacted my life tremendously. My dad was a coal miner, and we lived in a coal-mining community—Baileysville, an unincorporated town. Of course, most towns in West Virginia are still unincorporated. And the population of Baileysville was down to sixty as of 1994, so I guess it will never be incorporated! In fact, it’s so small that Main Street is a cul-de-sac. But it is my hometown!


Californians love to brag about being able to go to the mountains to snow ski and the ocean to sunbathe in the same day. Well, in Baileysville, we had our own definition of the good life. If you lived on the side of the mountain, you could cross the river anytime, any day, on an old-fashioned swinging bridge!


My Saturdays were spent at the Wyoming Company Store. While Mom and Dad made purchases with coal-mining dollars, I took charge of watching my brothers, Terry and Mark. That wasn’t difficult if you knew what to do. We eagerly peered at the black-and-white television sets in the furniture department. Programs such as Fury, Sky King, and My Friend Flicka seemed so real to us!


Our small white frame house was located on the side of Baileysville Mountain. We had a well nearby that provided ample water and a pot-bellied coal stove to keep us warm (as long as you remembered to put the coal in it!).


I have heard that someone can be described as a “redneck” if his bathroom requires a flashlight and shoes. Well, our house had three rooms and a path to the little house out back. But it was our home, and I loved it—no matter how pink it made my neck.


One of the saddest days of my childhood was a Saturday morning when we returned home from a visit to the company store to see our tiny home engulfed in flames. We lost everything. I cried for days.


Years later, Pastor Richard Grindstaff told us that as the house burned to the ground, Dad put his arm around him and said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed by the name of the Lord!”


Put the Road Kill on the Table, and Call the Kids for Supper!


By the time I was eleven years old, we had moved to Columbus, Ohio, in search of a better life. My dad, only thirty-one years old, had already broken his back three times in the coal mines and was suffering from the dreaded miners’ disease, “black lung.” But we were happy and almost always had pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna for supper. (That’s right, only later did we call it dinner!)


Christmas Day 1961 will always be one of the most wonderful, life-changing days in my memory bank. It had been a long, hard winter with lots of snow and cold weather. Times were tough! Dad had been laid off from construction work, our food supply had swindled to nothing, and we had closed off most of the house in order to cut down our high utility bills.


This epiphany really began Christmas Eve when Mom noted that we had no food for Christmas Day and no hope of getting any. That was difficult for me to understand. We were used to mom calling out, “Pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna. Come and get it!” But now we didn’t even have that. There was no food in the house!


Mom suggested that it was time for us to accept a handout from the government commodities department, so—reluctantly—Dad loaded Terry, Mark, and me into our old Plymouth, and we headed downtown. When we got there, we stood in line with hundreds of others for what seemed like hours, waiting for government handouts of cheese, dried milk, flour, and dried eggs. Ugh! The wind was cold, and the snow was blowing as we stood there shivering. Finally, Dad could stand it no longer.


“We’re going home, boys. God will provide!” he said. We cried, yet we completely trusted Dad’s faith in God.


That night, we popped popcorn and opened gifts that we had ordered with Top Value trading stamps which Mom had wisely saved for that purpose. Perhaps some of you are too young to remember Top Value stamps. Back then, almost all grocery stores gave out trading stamps for purchases made. You could save the stamps and fill up Top Value Books for redemption. In my day, Top Value provided a catalog that listed the number of books needed for a gift item. So Mom saved stamps all year long, counted the bounty by November 1, and let us Toler boys pick out our Christmas presents.


Terry got a transistor radio. (He hadn’t realized that we had no money to purchase a battery!) I had ordered a miniature Brownie Kodak camera. (That wasn’t smart, since we couldn’t afford film, either!) And baby brother Mark got a small teddy bear. While none of the gifts was a surprise to us, Mom had carefully and lovingly wrapped each one to be opened Christmas Eve. We were grateful to have anything!


Everyone slept well under Grandma Brewster’s handmade quilts that night. While we were fearful of the prospect of the next day without food, we were just happy to be together as a family. (Little did we know that Dad would be in heaven by the following Christmas.)


On Christmas morning, we were all asleep in Mom and Dad’s bedroom when suddenly, we were startled by a loud knock and a hearty “Merry Christmas!” greeting from people who attended the Fifth Avenue Church. There stood Clair Parsons, Dalmus Bullock, and others with gifts, clothes, and a thirty-day supply of food. (Yes, dried pinto beans, cornmeal, and a huge roll of bologna were included!) Since that day, I have always believed that God will provide, and that God is never late when we need a miracle!


We must bring the presence of God into our families. And how do we do that? By praying.

—Mother Teresa


One of my favorite Bible stories is in 2 Chronicles 20:12. King Jehoshaphat of Israel found himself in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. He cried out to God, “Our God … we have no power.… We do not know what to do.” King Jehoshaphat had just discovered three new enemies. Unfortunately, all three were lined up against the tiny nation of Israel, and King Jehoshaphat realized that he was powerless without God’s help. That’s the way we felt in the Toler home. The good news for all of us is the same as it was for King Jehoshaphat. God can and will make up the difference.


Seek the Lord


Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:3–4)


Jehoshaphat asked God a significant question: “Are you not the God who is in heaven?” (2 Chron. 20:6). In other words, he was saying, “God, if You can take care of this universe and bring order to it, then You can provide for me.”


He asked God another question: “Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land?” (2 Chron. 20:7). He was reminding himself of God’s faithfulness in the past. I am beginning to realize that my faith today anchors to the faith that my dad passed on to me with his wisdom: “God will provide.” And provide He did for the Tolers!


After Dad’s death, God sent a wonderful Kentucky stepfather, Jack Hollingsworth, into our lives. He saw to it that each son of William Aaron Toler had plenty of pinto beans, fried bologna (by the way, he is an expert at cooking it!), cornbread, and a college education. All three boys later became Nazarene ministers.


Confess Your Need


We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. (2 Chron. 20:12)


If you want God’s help, you must confess your need! The world in which we live is a world of independence. We are taught to look out for “No. 1,” to do our own thing, to think for ourselves, and to trust in our own abilities. King Jehoshaphat reminded the children of Israel that “Me-ism” doesn’t work here! He confessed that they were inadequate against the three enemies they faced: “Power and might are in your hand” (2 Chron. 20:6).


When I need God’s provision, I look up and confess, “God, I am incapable, but You have all the resources for my miracle!”


Focus on God, Not Your Problem


We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. (2 Chron. 20:12)


King Jehoshaphat gave his people a formula for deliverance: “Get your eyes off the problem! Your focus must be on God!”


Living in Oklahoma during tough times as an adult has also strengthened my faith in God. In the mid-1980s, I watched many banks fail; in fact, the FDIC closed so many banks in my hometown of Oklahoma City that I wore a T-shirt that said, “I bank with RDIC!” Agriculture diminished, and oil rigs stopped pumping. But even in the most difficult situations, a simple faith in God and a calm reassurance in the face of insurmountable obstacles resulted in victory.


I will always remember sitting at a table in the Oklahoma City Marriott hotel restaurant on Northwest Expressway and listening to my friend Melvin Hatley, founder of USA Waste Management Company, talk about the collapse of the oil industry and the failure of the old First National Bank downtown. Tears flowed freely, and yet his faith took hold as he discussed God’s history of faithfulness. His calm assurance, founded and grounded in a dynamic faith, made all the difference! Today, Melvin is a testimony of the phrase “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!”


Trust and action always work hand in hand. For example, you know the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. On December 17, 1903, they made history. They defied the law of gravity and flew through the air. Many forget that the concept of flying did not originate with the Wright brothers. In fact, several years before the brothers flew their motorized plane at Kitty Hawk, scientists had discovered that flying was possible. While others remained skeptical, the Wright brothers believed the formulas and designed their own plane. When they achieved “first flight,” they demonstrated the importance of trusting the facts and taking action in order to experience results.


The same is true for Christians. We can know a lot about God and the Bible, but until we relax in faith and believe in the promises of God, we will be disappointed.


I love the story that my former professor Dr. Amos Henry used to tell about D. L. Moody. Apparently, Moody was on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean one night when it caught on fire, and all on board formed a bucket brigade to pass ocean water to the scene of the fire. One man in the line turned and said, “Mr. Moody, don’t you think we should retire from the line and go down and pray?”


“You can go pray if you want to,” Moody replied, “but I’m going to pray while I pass the buckets.” What great insight! God wants to see if you mean business, so pray while you work.


Just think, if Jesus had thought prayer was the only thing He needed to do and had remained on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of getting up and following God’s plan for His life, there never would have been a Calvary.


Relax in Faith


One of the great things about faith is that it helps you persevere. There’s a story about two men who were climbing a particularly difficult mountain when one of them suddenly fell down a crevasse five hundred feet deep.


“Are you all right, Bert?” called the man at the top of the crevasse.


“I’m still alive, thank goodness, Fred,” came the reply.


“Here, grab this rope,” said Fred, throwing a rope down to Bert.


“I can’t grab it,” shouted Bert. “My arms are broken.”


“Well, fit it around your legs.”


“I’m afraid I can’t do that either,” said Bert. “My legs are broken.”


“Put the rope in your mouth,” shouted Fred.


So Bert put the rope in his mouth and Fred began to haul him to safety: four hundred ninety feet … four hundred feet … three hundred feet … two hundred feet … one hundred feet … fifty feet … and then Fred called out, “Hey, Bert, how are you doing?”


Bert replied, “I’m fine … Uh oh!”


Don’t let go of the rope, my friend! As Dr. Steve Brown says, “Tie a knot and hang on!”


You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. (2 Chron. 20:17)


It’s interesting that this particular verse is the middle verse of the entire Old Testament. It is like a pregnant pause for the believer. This concept, “stand firm,” is like going into the batter’s box during a World Series baseball game with a great pitcher on the mound, digging in, and saying, “I don’t care how fast you throw that ball, I’m anchored here, and you can’t move me!” King Jehoshaphat said, “Stand your ground and remain calm—God is going to help us.”


Of course, that’s easier said than done. Harmon Schmelzenbach, a missionary to Africa, often holds audiences spellbound with his story about a huge python that uncoiled itself from the rafters and then wrapped itself around his body while he was kneeling to pray.


The python is known for its ability to kill its victim by squeezing it to death. Schmelzenbach states that Isaiah 30:15 instantly flooded his mind: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” With the huge snake wrapped around his body, he testified that he felt the calm assurance that God was in control. Harmon remained perfectly still and prayed like never before!


If he had moved a muscle, no doubt the giant python would have constricted and killed him. But Schmelzenbach reports that the snake slowly uncoiled itself and went back to the rafters. I don’t know if Schmelzenbach now prays with one eye open or not, but one thing’s for certain: No one can convince him that there isn’t power in the promises of God.


We can depend on God. Did you know that we have more than seven thousand promises in Scripture to stand on? Not only that, but you can stand on the character of God! God has never lost a battle. Why not resign as general manager of the universe, eat a bowl of beans and cornbread, and relax in faith?


Give God Thanks Before Your Miracle


King Jehoshaphat began to appoint those who could sing. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (2 Chron. 20:22). Do you get the picture? Three armies of bloodthirsty warriors with overwhelming strength and weaponry lined up against tiny Israel, and the king called the choir to sing! Talk about faith. That day they claimed victory!


God is faithful now in the twentieth century, just as He was in the days of ancient Israel. During the Second World War, the Allies experienced a very difficult time. The British had just suffered a terrible defeat at Dunkirk, losing almost all of their military supplies during the evacuation of their soldiers. France had been conquered, and the United Sates had not yet entered the war. The island nation of England stood alone against the Axis powers.


Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew he had to bolster the courage and the determination of his people. He needed to make a speech—an inspiring speech—that would rally the citizens. On Sunday evening, June 2, 1940, Churchill was in his Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street. His secretary, Mary Shearburn, was poised at the typewriter. Dictating, Churchill paced from the fireplace to the velvet-draped windows and back again. Slowly his speech emerged onto the typed page. Often he would rip the sheet from the machine only to begin anew. It was late, and the room was cold in the night air. The prime minister’s voice had now grown hoarse and faint. His head bowed, and he sobbed, for he did not know what to say. Silence. A minute passed, maybe two. It seemed like an eternity. Abruptly his head rose and his voice trumpeted; he spoke as a man with authority. The thought descended upon him, as from an angel above: “We shall never surrender!”


Perhaps those words did come from an angel. Who knows? All we know is that God is faithful. Regardless of how scary or how seemingly hopeless our mission may be, He does not forsake us. All we have to do is trust—placing our fears and our failures in His hands. He will not let us down.


Back in 1850, during the California Gold Rush, a young man from Bavaria came to San Francisco, bringing with him some rolls of canvas. He was twenty years old at the time, and he planned to sell the canvas to the gold miners to use for tents. Then the profits from his sales would finance his own digging for gold. However, as he headed toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he met one of the gold miners. When he told the miner his plans, the miner said, “It won’t work. It’s a waste of your time. Nobody will buy your canvas for tents. That’s not what we need.”


The young man prayed within. Then he got his answer.


The gold miner went on: “You should have brought pants. That’s what we need—durable pants! Pants don’t wear worth a hoot up there in the diggings. Can’t get a pair strong enough.” Right then, the young man from Bavaria decided to turn the rolls of canvas into pants—blue pants—that would survive the rigors of the gold-mining camps. He had a harness maker reinforce the pockets with copper studs, and the pants sold like hotcakes!


By the way, the name of the young man from Bavaria was Levi Strauss. And he called the new pants “Levi’s”! So far, about 900 million pairs of Levi’s have been sold throughout the world, and they are one of the few items of apparel whose style has remained basically unchanged for more than 130 years.


It is amazing that a style of pants could endure for over a century. How much more incredible is the unwavering faithfulness of God. I’ll never forget the simple hope in His faithfulness that I learned at home. My own father modeled that faith in God before us, trudging home in the snow from the coal mines, face darkened with coal dust, lunch bucket jangling, whistling the old tune “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely

And long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion?

My constant friend is He.

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me!

—Civilla D. Martin


Yes, the God who sits on a throne in heaven is interested in you! If He tends to the lilies of the fields and attends the funeral of a baby sparrow (and He does), He surely will provide for you!



First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Stan Toler and his publisher for sending me copies of “The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet” and “God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me To Death A Few Times” to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, and I am trying to improve at being consistent in taking the time to thank these wonderfully giving individuals in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

Stan Toler has written two incredibly witty books: “The Buzzards Are Circling, But God’s Not Finished With Me Yet” and “God Has Never Failed Me, But He’s Sure Scared Me To Death A Few Times”. From the titles and cover art to the last word on the final page of each volume, Toler dishes up the truth of God’s Word with wit and wisdom to encourage and give hope to his audience. These books are peppered with pertinent and uplifting scripture that will certainly aid the suffering and the impatient.

“The Buzzards Are Circling…” provides encouragement for those who are troubled by painful, tragic circumstances. This book is written with heart-felt sentiment by a man who has walked in the shoes of the suffering.

“God Has Never Failed Me…” pours out hope for the audience through laughter and wisdom as they wait on the Lord to act on their behalf.