Sunday, February 28, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands. Psalm 63:4

04/10/09 Heavenly Father, I come before You in the name of Jesus to praise you right now. Right where I am. Right where the world is. In spite of earthquakes and layoffs and tornadoes and pirates and suicide bombs, I thank You for Your love and Your grace and Your free gift of salvation. I praise You for the many opportunities You’ve given us to commune with You and apologize for all of the opportunities that we’ve squandered in favor of doing something else. I lift my hands in praise to You because You are God, the King of the Universe, and I am in awe. Thank you for today. Please teach me how You want me to serve You each moment of it. Give me time to spend in Your Word so that I might be prepared to tell others the reason for the hope that I have in Jesus, and provide instances for me to do that. Amen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Abigail by Jill Eileen Smith


What price must she pay for true love?

Her days marked by turmoil and faded dreams, Abigail has resigned herself to a life with a man she does not love. But when circumstances offer her a second chance at happiness with the handsome David, she takes a leap of faith to join his wandering tribe. Still, her struggles are far from over. How can she share his love with the other women he insists on marrying?

Abigail follows the bestselling Michal and continues Jill Eileen Smith's rich story of David's wives.


About the Author
Jill Eileen Smith has more than twenty years of writing experience, and her writing has garnered acclaim in several contests. Her research into the lives of David's wives has taken her from the Bible to Israel, and she particularly enjoys learning how women lived in Old Testament times. Jill is the author of the bestselling Michal and lives with her family in southeast Michigan.



Here is my review of this wonderful work of Biblical fiction:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Jill Eileen Smith and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Abigail" 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.

Every time I go to a bookstore, I pick up the first novel in The Wives of King David series, “Michal”. I love her story in the Bible, and I read another fictional novel about her life that intrigued me several years ago. But every time I pick it up, I put it back because I know how tall my “to be read for fun” pile of books is becoming. Well, I may have to make a special trip to the bookstore to buy that novel, now. After opening the beautiful cover of Jill Eileen Smith’s second novel in the series, “Abigail”, I am overcome with how three-dimensional this woman has become and I want to experience the same with the first dramatization.

Smith’s situations are plausible for the time. Her dialogue transports the reader to Old Testament times. Abigail’s inner monologue adds sparkle to the character that I love from scripture, making her leap from the pages of my Bible. Abigail lived, breathed, had hopes and dreams, and was all woman with thoughts and feelings, regrets and a relationship with God. Although this may not be a perfectly accurate representation of the woman who saved King David from the mistake of revenge against the foolish Nabal, this book will certainly make Abigail more dimensional when you encounter her in scripture again.

This is a wonderful fiction read that keeps God and scripture at its heart. I highly recommend it.

Today's Daily Devotional


He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:8

04/09/09 I learned something really exciting from today’s verse. The Greek word for “day” is hemera. The definition is rather lengthy and diverse, but part of that definition focuses on “the last day of this present age, the day Christ will return from heaven, raise the dead, hold the final judgment, and perfect his kingdom”. Hallelujah! I believe this verse relates specifically to that day, so I will concentrate on that part of the definition. To be blameless on the day of Christ’s return, is to be saved from the judgment that determines our final destination. Based on our relationship with Jesus Christ, we are saved. Our reservation for eternity in His presence is sure and secure. I cannot wait for that day! What a wonderful day that will be.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Psalm 150:1-2

04/08/09 I was just working on my latest memory verse, James 2:13 which says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” I believe there’s a correlation between that verse and our devotion verse. Think of it this way, praise triumphs over complaining. Not only is that so true…if the meandering Israelites had done more praising and less complaining, those who knew the slavery of Egypt may have seen the promised land! Instead, they grumbled and didn’t trust God and were punished so that all but two of them would die in the desert as they wandered past the same sand dune for the next 40 years! What did they have to praise God for? Deliverance from slavery… Manna… Clothes and shoes that didn’t wear out… God’s guidance… The ability to see His presence in the pillar of cloud and fire… Coolness from the cloud by day and warmth from the fire by night… What do you have to praise God for?

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 17


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Genesis. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material. Much of what I learned for chapters 16 and 17 came from Liz Curtis Higgs' "Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible". I highly recommend it!

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Genesis Chapter 17. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…




17:1-8 – The Lord appears to Abram, establishes a Suzerain-Vassal Covenant and changes his name to Abraham. NOW Abraham is ready to have the child that God promised him in 15:4. (LFL – wait on God or you may birth a new war-making people, like Ishmael’s descendants, the Iraqis.)

17:1 – God Almighty – El Shaddai.

17:5, 15 – God gives each a new name. Is this a fresh start apart from their sin?

17:5 – the addition of “ha” to Abram’s name represents Jehovah.

17:12 – eight days old – “The Arabs, who consider themselves to be descendants of Ishmael, are circumcised at the age of 13 (see v.25).” (NIVSB)

17:15 – the addition of only an “h” to Sarai’s name made it “sacramental, covenantal.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

17:16 – God specifically includes Sarah in His promise to Abraham.

17:17 – Abraham laughs at the thought of becoming a father. Was this joyful, hopeful laughter?

17:19 – “call him Isaac” – Isaac means “laughter”. Was he so named because his parents laughed when they learned of is impending arrival? Or because he would bring such joy to their family? Isaac never really measures up in Abraham’s eyes, though. Did the patriarch love Ishmael more (because he was firstborn)?

17:20 – God assures Abraham that Ishmael will be prolific, responding to Abraham’s statement in 17:18. Abraham may have thought Ishmael would be done away with. Here, God assures Abraham that the boy won’t be harmed, but will have many children.

17:21 – “at this time next year” – this detail is almost added as an afterthought.


What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26

04/20/09 This is it. Our final devotion for this scripture in this collection. I pray that it has been a blessing to you – helping you see the Lord in your midst, appreciating what you have, appreciating what you don’t have, and ultimately drawing so much nearer to Christ. May the Lord bless you. May He keep you. May He make His beautiful face shine upon you. May He be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you. May He give you peace. Jesus is so good. He is so beautiful. He is so loving. He has so many wonderful things in store for your life. Take a minute right now to sit down with Him and thank Him for all that He’s given you and what is yet to come…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


“Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” Revelation 7:12

04/21/09 “Amen” is such a tiny word, but I learned so much while studying it for this passage. “Amen” is originally a Hebrew word that was transliterated directly into Greek, then into Latin and English and many other languages. This means that the word “amen” actually remains “amen” in all the languages into which it has been translated. The word is almost identical to the Hebrew word “amam” which means "believe" or “faithful”. So it came to mean "sure" or "truly", expressing absolute trust and confidence. At the beginning of a dialogue, “amen” means “surely” or “truly”. At the end, it means “so it is”, “so be it”, “may it be fulfilled”. When someone prays to God, and you respond by saying, “Amen”, you are, in essence, stating that you are in agreement with the prayer as if you’d uttered it yourself.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

04/27/09 I can’t even imagine what the anxiety on earth will be like after the rapture of the church. The Holy Spirit will be taken out of the way and evil will reign. We think that things are bad now (in spring 2009), but I can say with absolute confidence, “you ain’t seen nothin’, yet!” And do you know what? You don’t want to see it, either! But there will be some who are left behind when the church is taken by Christ Himself to prepare for the upcoming battle that will implement the fate of the satan, the antichrist and the false prophet. Right now, I pray for them, Father. That they will seek after You with their whole heart, that they will accept Christ and be saved, and that they will obey Your Word, cast their anxiety upon You, and be used mightily for Your will to be done. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Wiersbe Bible Study Series – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon: It's Always Too Soon To Quit! by Warren Wiersbe

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Wiersbe Bible Study Series – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon: It's Always Too Soon to Quit!

David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


A man who has given his life to a deep examination of the Word of God, Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher, former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago and the author of more than 150 books. For over thirty years, millions have come to rely on the timeless wisdom of Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe’s “Be” Commentary series. Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary and insights on Scripture have helped readers understand and apply God’s Word with the goal of life transformation. Dubbed by many as the “pastor’s pastor,” Dr. Wiersbe skillfully weaves Scripture with historical explanations and thought-provoking questions, communicating the Word in such a way that the masses grasp its relevance for today.


Product Details:

List Price: $8.99
Paperback: 128 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (February 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765105
ISBN-13: 978-1434765109

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction to 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon


Too Soon to Quit!


Timothy was not too happy in his church in Ephesus, and Titus was in a difficult situation on the island of Crete. To both of them, Paul wrote, “Be faithful! It’s always too soon to quit!”


Paul used the Greek word pistos (“faithful”) at least seventeen times in these three letters. The theme runs through each chapter: Be faithful to the Word, be faithful to your task, be faithful to the people to whom you minister. God is faithful! But don’t get the idea that the Pastoral Epistles are only for pastors and other “full-time Christian workers.” These three letters are for every Christian, every church member.


I have added a chapter on Philemon because what Paul wrote to him fits right into the theme of this study. Philemon faced a difficult problem with his runaway slave, Onesimus, and Paul’s counsel encouraged Philemon to be faithful to the Lord in solving that problem.


As you study these letters, I want to help you understand the ministry of the local church and also encourage you to stick with it! If you and I are faithful to the tasks God has given us, then His work will prosper and His name will be glorified. Could we ask for more?


A Note about Paul’s Life


Paul was arrested in Jerusalem around AD 57 and was confined to prison in Caesarea for two years (see Acts 21:19—26:32). Paul’s voyage to Rome to be tried before Caesar started sometime around September AD 59. After a shipwreck and a three-month wait on Malta, he arrived in Rome about

February AD 60 (see Acts 27—28). There he had liberty to minister.


Paul was acquitted of the charges and released. During the two years that followed, he ministered in various places and wrote 1 Timothy and Titus.


About AD 65, he was arrested again but this time put into a dungeon. It was then that he wrote 2 Timothy, his last letter.


The other collected letters, including Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, were written during his first Roman captivity. —Warren W. Wiersbe


How to Use This Study


This study is designed for both individual and small-group use. We’ve divided it into eight lessons—each references one or more chapters in Warren W. Wiersbe’s commentary Be Faithful (second edition, David C. Cook, 2009). While reading Be Faithful is not a prerequisite for going through this study, the additional insights and background Wiersbe offers can greatly enhance your study experience.


The Getting Started questions at the beginning of each lesson offer you an opportunity to record your first thoughts and reactions to the study text. This is an important step in the study process as those “first impressions” often include clues about what it is your heart is longing to discover.


The bulk of the study is found in the Going Deeper questions. These dive into the Bible text and, along with helpful excerpts from Wiersbe’s commentary, help you examine not only the original context and meaning of the verses but also modern application.


Looking Inward narrows the focus down to your personal story. These intimate questions can be a bit uncomfortable at times, but don’t shy away from honesty here. This is where you are asked to stand before the mirror of God’s Word and look closely at what you see. It’s the place to take a good look at yourself in light of the lesson and search for ways in which you can grow in faith.


Going Forward is the place where you can commit to paper those things you want or need to do in order to better live out the discoveries you made in the Looking Inward section. Don’t skip or skim through this. Take the time to really consider what practical steps you might take to move closer to Christ. Then share your thoughts with a trusted friend who can act as an encourager and accountability partner.


Finally, there is a brief Seeking Help section to close the lesson. This is a reminder for you to invite God into your spiritual-growth process. If you choose to write out a prayer in this section, come back to it as you work through the lesson and continue to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance as you discover God’s will for your life.


Tips for Small Groups


A small group is a dynamic thing. One week it might seem like a group of close-knit friends. The next it might seem more like a group of uncomfortable strangers. A small-group leader’s role is to read these subtle changes and adjust the tone of the discussion accordingly.


Small groups need to be safe places for people to talk openly. It is through shared wrestling with difficult life issues that some of the greatest personal growth is discovered. But in order for the group to feel safe, participants need to know it’s okay not to share sometimes. Always invite honest disclosure, but never force someone to speak if he or she isn’t comfortable doing so. (A savvy leader will follow up later with a group member who isn’t comfortable sharing in a group setting to see if a one-on-one discussion is more appropriate.)


Have volunteers take turns reading excerpts from Scripture or from the commentary. The more each person is involved even in the mundane tasks, the more they’ll feel comfortable opening up in more meaningful ways.


The leader should watch the clock and keep the discussion moving. Sometimes there may be more Going Deeper questions than your group can cover in your available time. If you’ve had a fruitful discussion, it’s okay to move on without finishing everything. And if you think the group is getting bogged down on a question or has taken off on a tangent, you can simply say, “Let’s go on to question 5.” Be sure to save at least ten to fifteen minutes for the Going Forward questions.


Finally, soak your group meetings in prayer—before you begin, during as needed, and always at the end of your time together.


Lesson 1

An Important Job

(1 TIMOTHY 1—2)


Before you begin …

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

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


Getting Started


From the Commentary


Timothy was born of mixed parentage: His mother was a Jewess, his father a Greek. He was so devoted to Christ that his local church leaders recommended him to Paul, and Paul added him to his “missionary staff” (Acts 16:1–5). Paul often reminded Timothy that he was chosen for this ministry (1 Tim. 1:18; 4:14). Timothy was faithful to the Lord (1 Cor. 4:17) and had a deep concern for God’s people (Phil. 2:20–22).


But in spite of his calling, his close association with Paul, and his spiritual gifts, Timothy was easily discouraged.


Paul wrote the letter we call 1 Timothy to encourage Timothy, to explain how a local church should be managed, and to enforce his own authority as a servant of God.


—Be Faithful, pages 20–21


1. What clues does Paul give in the first two chapters of 1 Timothy about Timothy’s tendency to be discouraged? (See especially 1 Tim. 1:18–19.) Why do you think Paul mentions that he has “handed over to Satan” Hymenaeus and Alexander?


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


Going Deeper


From the Commentary


One reason Christian workers must stay on the job is that false teachers are busy trying to capture Christians. There were teachers of false doctrines in Paul’s day just as there are today, and we must take them seriously. These false teachers have no good news for lost sinners. They seek instead to lead Christians astray and capture them for their causes.


Paul used military language to help Timothy and his people see the seriousness of the problem (1 Tim. 1:3). Charge means “to give strict orders from a superior officer.” Paul used this word (sometimes translated “commandment” and “command” in KJV) eight times in his two letters to Timothy (1 Tim. 1:3, 5, 18; 4:11; 5:7; 6:13, 17; 2 Tim. 4:1). He was conveying this idea: “Timothy, you are not only a pastor of the church in a difficult city. You are also a Christian soldier under orders from the King. Now pass these orders along to the soldiers in your church!”


—Be Faithful, pages 21–22


3. How does Paul’s use of military language speak to an urgency in battling the false doctrines in the Ephesian church? What are some similar circumstances in today’s church where a “command” to a church leader might be appropriate? What are the risks of not responding to the false doctrines swiftly and decisively?


More to Consider: Read Galatians 5:1–6. How does this passage speak to the “ false doctrines” of religious legalism that Paul is warning against in 1 Timothy 1:3–11?


From the Commentary


The mention of “the gospel of the glory of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:11, literal translation) moved Paul to share his own personal testimony. He was “Exhibit A” to prove that the gospel of the grace of God really works. When you read Paul’s testimony (see also Acts 9:1–22; 22:1–21; 26:9–18), you begin to grasp the wonder of God’s grace and His saving power.


—Be Faithful, page 24


4. Review 1 Timothy 1:12–17. What do these verses tell us about Paul’s testimony? What arguments does he put forth to illustrate the gospel of grace in his own story?


From the History Books


The city of Ephesus (in present-day Turkey) was at one time a city of nearly half a million people. Among other things, it was known for the Temple of Artemis (Diana). People came from far away to worship the goddess of fertility. The temple itself, which took more than a hundred years to complete, is often referred to today as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” and is evidence of the strong pagan influence in the city of Ephesus during Paul’s day.


5. What impact would the pagan environment have had on Timothy’s ability to serve the church in Ephesus? What sorts of challenges might he have faced that were unique to a city that was known for its worship of a fertility goddess? How might knowing this about Ephesus have influenced the manner in which Paul addressed Timothy?


From the Commentary


It was not easy to serve God in pagan Ephesus, but Timothy was a man under orders, and he had to obey. The soldier’s task is to “please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim. 2:4), and not to please himself. Furthermore, Timothy was there by divine appointment: God had chosen him and sent him. It was this fact that could give him assurance in difficult days.


—Be Faithful, page 27


6. How does Paul’s personal story (1 Tim. 1:12–13) speak to the idea of being divinely appointed for the leadership task? How might this have offered encouragement to Timothy? How does this resonate with the way we view church leaders today?


From the Commentary


Timothy must have been greatly helped and encouraged when he read this first section of Paul’s letter. God had called Timothy, equipped him, and put him into his place of ministry. Timothy’s job was not to run all over Ephesus, being involved in a multitude of tasks. His job was to care for the church by winning the lost, teaching the saved, and defending the faith. Any task that did not relate to these ministries would have to be abandoned.


—Be Faithful, page 29


7. Why was it important for Timothy to focus on the local church? What greater value could this focus have had on other efforts to reach the Ephesians? In what ways do the leaders of churches today succeed in staying focused? In what ways does the church fail in this? How can Paul’s words in chapter 1 help redirect a church that has lost focus?


From the Commentary


Often, what we think is the “freedom of the Spirit” are the carnal ideas of some Christian who is not walking in the Spirit. Eventually this “freedom” becomes anarchy, and the Spirit grieves as a church gradually moves away from the standards of God’s Word.


To counteract this tendency, Paul exhorted both the men and the women in the church and reminded them of their spiritual responsibilities.


—Be Faithful, page 33


8. Review 1 Timothy 2:1–8. What were the spiritual responsibilities Paul described specifically for the men of the church? Why do you think he separated the responsibilities of men and women in this and the next section? How much of what Paul described is specific to the culture of the time, and what can we derive from this passage that is universally helpful for all believers, men or women?


More to Consider: Read Matthew 6:5; Luke 18:9–14; James 4:1–10; and 1 John 5:14–15 to see examples of problematic attitudes some people bring to prayer. How does Paul’s exhortation in 1 Timothy 2:1–4 speak to the concerns raised by these passages?


From the Commentary


The word translated “subjection” in 1 Timothy 2:11 is translated “submitting” and “submit” in Ephesians 5:21–22 and Colossians 3:18. It literally means “to rank under.” Anyone who has served in the armed forces knows that “rank” has to do with order and authority, not with value or ability.


Submission is not subjugation. Submission is recognizing God’s order in the home and the church and joyfully obeying it. When a Christian wife joyfully submits to the Lord and to her own husband, it should bring out the best in her.


—Be Faithful, page 40


9. Review 1 Timothy 2:9–15. What are the specific responsibilities Paul outlines for women in these verses? What makes this passage somewhat controversial in today’s church? Again, how much of what Paul writes is specific to the culture of the time, and how much is directly applicable today?


From the Commentary


Paul gave several arguments to back up this admonition that the Christian men in the church should be the spiritual leaders. The first is an argument from creation: Adam was formed first, and then Eve (1 Tim. 2:12–13).


The second argument has to do with man’s fall into sin. Satan deceived the woman into sinning (Gen. 3:1ff.; 2 Cor. 11:3); the man sinned with his eyes wide open. Because Adam rejected the God-given order, he listened to his wife, disobeyed God, and brought sin and death into the world. The submission of wives to their own husbands is a part of the original creation.


—Be Faithful, page 43


10. What is your initial reaction to Paul’s arguments about why men should be the spiritual leaders in the church? Why do you think Paul makes this distinction in his letter to Timothy? What can we discern from this that is applicable to today’s church leaders?


Looking Inward


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


Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all, be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.


11. When have you been discouraged like Timothy? How did you respond to that discouragement? How can Paul’s words of encouragement to Timothy help you?


12. Timothy was battling the false doctrine of legalism. How have you battled that in your church? In your own life? Why is it so easy to fall into legalism? How do Paul’s words to Timothy help you understand the gospel of grace?


13. What is your response to Paul’s exhortations to men and women at the end of 1 Timothy 2? How are Paul’s words applicable to your life? Do you agree with everything he says? Why or why not?


Going Forward

14. Think of one or two things you have learned that you’d like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try).


Do you need encouragement? Do you need to fight the temptation to be legalistic? Be specific. Go back through 1 Timothy 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.


Real-Life Application Ideas: Invite a discussion with other church members about how you can support and encourage the church leadership. Brainstorm specific ways you can encourage the leaders, and then take action on these ideas.


Seeking Help


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


Notes for Small Groups:

• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other

group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.

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

and studied.

• Before you start the next lesson, read 1 Timothy 3. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapter 3, “Follow the Leaders,” in Be Faithful.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. The Wiersbe Bible Study Series - 1&2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon by Warren Wiersbe. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.


Here is my review of an inspiring Bible study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Warren Wiersbe and his publisher for sending me a copy of this amazing Bible study 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.

When I first signed up for this book promoting blog tour, I thought it was a study of Proverbs. It had been a while since I’d studied the Old Testament tome of wisdom, so I was really jazzed. I was anticipating a fresh outlook and new insight from Warren Wiersbe, but this was not to be. What arrived in the mail was still a study in The Wiersbe Bible Study Series, but instead of the book of Proverbs, I discovered that I would be studying the New Testament books of 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon. Initially, I was confused. Why did I receive THIS book? Then when I realized it was a replacement for the book I was expecting, I was a bit disappointed. But the let down didn’t last long. I quickly realized that I was given the opportunity to study four books instead of one, and rapidly became engrossed in the material.

Wiersbe’s studies are educational, enjoyable and life-changing if you apply the principles you learn while dissecting the Word of God. They are good guides for travels through the Bible, and I recommend this study series to individuals and groups, alike. This study contains eight lessons, loads of snippets from Wiersbe’s commentary, and thoughtful questions to encourage the student in perseverance.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Double Trouble by Susan May Warren

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Double Trouble

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)

***Special thanks to Stephanie Garvey of Litfuse Publicity Group for sending me a review copy. Also three cheers for Mavis Sanders of Tyndale House Publishers for getting the FIRST group the chapter needed for the tour!***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Susan May Warren is the RITA award-winning author of twenty-four novels with Tyndale, Barbour and Steeple Hill. A four-time Christy award finalist, a two-time RITA Finalist, she's also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers Choice award, and the ACFW Book of the Year. Her larger than life characters and layered plots have won her acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. A seasoned women's events and retreats speaker, she's a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the beginning writer's workbook: From the Inside-Out: discover, create and publish the novel in you! She is also the founder of www.MyBookTherapy.com, a story-crafting service that helps authors discover their voice. Susan makes her home in northern Minnesota, where she is busy cheering on her two sons in football, and her daughter in local theater productions (and desperately missing her college-age son!)

A full listing of her titles, reviews and awards can be found at her website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414313136
ISBN-13: 978-1414313139

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:



PJ Sugar had been born to sneak up on people. She clearly possessed the instincts of a panther, with the ability to find her prey and slink up to them in the shadows, pouncing only when they least suspected.

Suspected adulterer Rudy Bagwell didn’t have a prayer of escaping.

“I’m telling you, Jeremy, we’re going to nail him this time.” She wasn’t sure why she felt the need to keep her voice to a hoarse whisper into the cell phone—or even to slink down in the bucket seat of her VW Bug. It wasn’t like Rudy or his cohort in crime, Geri Fitz, would hear her.

PJ glanced at the digital clock on the dash. It glared 2:14 a.m., a resounding gavel bang to Rudy’s guilt. After all, who would be sneaking around after midnight?

Without, er, a good reason. Like a stakeout.

“I followed him to the Windy Oaks Motel off Highway 12,” PJ continued. She glanced at the soot-dark picture window next to the peeling door of the ancient one-story motel. A brass number 8, slanted at a corrupt angle, glared against the parking lot lights as if spotlighting the sin behind the closed doors.

If she were picking a location to have a tryst with her old high school sweetheart, she might have aimed higher than a graying yellow motel edged with weeds, a broken swing set, a muddy sandbox, and a Dumpster stuffed with a ripped prison-striped mattress. Oh, the romance.

Just sitting in the greasy parking lot made her itch, as if she might be the one engaging in the skulduggery.

Now that she was a PI in training, she got to use words like that. She had even highlighted this one in the Basics of Private Investigation manual Jeremy had assigned her to read as part of her apprenticeship. She had read the “Stakeout” chapter three times. And, if she did say so herself, had the “Tailing Your Suspect” techniques down to a science.

Nope, Rudy wasn’t getting away with cheating on his wife. Not with PJ Sugar on the job.

“Are you sure it’s him?” Jeremy spoke through the gravel in his voice, obviously dredged from a deep sleep.

She heard a faint siren on the other end of the line and did the math. “Are you sleeping at the office again?”

“I worked late. Are you sure it’s Rudy?”

“Of course it’s Rudy. He’s exactly the same dirtbag he was in high school—pockmarked face, a permanent scowl. He was even wearing his leather jacket, which seems suspicious given that it’s August and about seventy degrees out . . .”

“PJ . . .”

She heard him sigh, could imagine Jeremy running his wide hand over his face, through the dark grizzle of his late-night shadow and over his curly, thinning hair. “I’m not sure that I’m up to your PI prowess tonight. Have I ever told you that you’re hard to handle?”

“Every day. Now, get out of bed and bring your camera equipment. Oh, Cynthie is going to be thrilled! I promised her we were going to take down her cheatin’ husband.”

And Cynthie wasn’t the only one to whom she’d promised results. She’d also made a plethora of private promises to herself. A brand-new job, a brand-new life . . . this time she wasn’t going to quit or take the fastest route out of town. She was getting this done, no matter what the cost.

“See, this is your problem, PJ. You make promises you can’t keep. Two weeks, and Rudy hasn’t been seen doing anything more notorious than ordering extra whip on his macchiato. I’m thinking Cynthie is dreaming his affair. And speaking of dreaming, that’s what I should be doing. And you too. Get home. Go to bed.”

“I’m on the case, Jeremy. A great PI follows her instincts, and I know Rudy’s hooked back up with Geri. You should have seen those two in high school—in the halls, wrapped in each other’s arms, making out by the lockers—”

“I don’t want to hear this.”

“I’m just saying, they were an item, and sparks like that never die.”

Silence throbbed on the other end of the phone.

PJ closed her eyes.

“Really.” The word from Jeremy came out small, without much emotion, but PJ felt it like a jab to her heart, even put a hand to her chest.

In some cases, she wanted to add. But not always. Or maybe, yes, always. She wasn’t sure, not with her return to her hometown of Kellogg, Minnesota, right into the bull’s-eye of her high school heartthrob, Daniel “Boone” Buckam, bad boy–turned–detective, who had decided their old flames might be worth stirring up.

PJ had spent too many years roaming the country with his name still simmering in her heart to ignore the fire there.

But Jeremy Kane, PI, had given her a job, even though so far, two months into her gig, Jeremy still hadn’t let her run with her instincts, hadn’t let her handle her own cases. She knew she could be his right-hand gal if he’d just give her a chance.

So she couldn’t find the right reply for him now, as she sat in the darkness of her Bug, alone, knowing she’d been driven out of her bed and from a sound night’s sleep by the stirring desire to prove herself. And maybe something else . . . something she didn’t especially want to talk about. At least not with Jeremy, her boss.

Boss. She needed to write that word on her hand or something. Jeremy was her boss.

“We got ’em, Jeremy. And if we can get pictures, then we’ll have done our job. So get over here.”

“PJ, sometimes . . .” But she heard silence on the other end before she had a chance to tell him that she would surely appreciate some Cheetos and a Diet Coke. Investigative work made a person hungry.

Thirty minutes later Jeremy tapped on her window, looking bedraggled and annoyed.

But because he could read her mind, he held in his hand two cold sodas.

“Scoot over,” he snarled as he climbed in beside her, handing her a soda. His scowl only enhanced his hard-edged former Navy SEAL persona, all dark eyes; wide, ropy-muscled shoulders; trim waist; and long legs. He wore a black T-shirt, a pair of dark jeans, and black Converse shoes that made him melt into the night.

In fact, he sort of matched her, something he made note of as his gaze slid over her. “Is this Sneaky PJ? Black from head to toe? Where are your Superman pants?”

“Hey, a girl has to dress the part. You taught me that.”

Only, in her black leggings and oversize black sweatshirt, she looked more sloppy than dangerous. Apparently only Jeremy could pull that off. She’d first discovered the black ops side of Jeremy Kane the night he’d cajoled her into sneaking into the Kellogg Country Club. She’d nearly been caught when she froze in the bright lights of near discovery.

On the spot, Jeremy, the person she’d believed to be a pizza delivery guy, had morphed into GI Joe, scooping her into his arms and hiding her behind boxes of golf shirts, gripping his flashlight like a lethal weapon.

The memory still sent a forbidden thrill through her, one she didn’t know how to interpret.

And she still, on occasion, called him Pizza Man.

Jeremy didn’t smile, just opened his own soda with a hush, took a swig, and wiped his mouth with his hand. “So, any changes?”

“Rudy hasn’t ordered out for pizza, if that’s what you mean. Did you bring the camera?”

He shrugged a strap off his shoulder and dumped a bag onto her lap, then levered his seat back and closed his eyes. “I’ve created a monster.”

PJ opened the bag and began fitting the long-range digital camera together.

Three hours later, she nudged Jeremy awake. She’d quietly sung through the score of The Phantom of the Opera as well as her complete knowledge of the Beatles and ABBA repertoires, then played “I’m going to the beach and I’m bringing . . .” from A to Z twice and tried to read the chapter titled “How to Find Missing Persons” with the neon blue light attached to her key chain.

She’d even rummaged through her canvas purse that Jeremy referred to as “the abyss,” found a bottle of pink polish, and refreshed her pedicure.

Still, a gal could sit in silence for only so long.

“Smile, this is for posterity.” PJ held the digital camera out as far as her arm would reach, leaned her head in toward his, and depressed the button.

Light flashed like a bullet, shooting her vision with dots against the gray pallor of morning.

“What are you doing?” Jeremy whipped out his arm and snatched the camera from her hand. “Are you trying to get us made?”

“Oh yes, I’m sure they’re glued to the window as we speak.”

He scrolled through the previous shots. “What is this—pictures of your toes?”

“I have cute toes. And I was bored. Delete them if you want.”

Outside, dew glistened on the car hood. She’d rolled up her window, wishing she’d brought along a jacket when she tiptoed out of her sister’s house in the wee hours of the morning, and now shivered. She clamped her hand over a yawn. “I hope they’re not late sleepers.”

“I can’t believe he hasn’t snuck out back to Cynthie yet.” Jeremy popped his seat up and reached for his now-warm soda. PJ said nothing when he noted it was nearly gone.

“Is that what the cheaters usually do—sneak out for their trysts and then back to their wives before dawn?”

“Sometimes. Depends. The ones who work downtown usually disappear at lunchtime.”

“Is PI work always so . . . slimy? I feel a little dirty, like I need a shower or something.”

“I have news for you, PJ. You do need a shower.”

“Seriously, don’t we get to solve a real crime? like a murder or something?”

In the receding shadows, Jeremy looked less menacing, although she’d once seen him shoot a man. “Be thankful for the boring ones. They don’t hurt.”

She didn’t respond. But she had thought that being a PI—or rather a PI’s assistant—might be more, well, fun. Instead, she’d spent two tedious months parked behind a desk, filing reports, answering Jeremy’s calls. Only recently had he invited her to keep him company on his stakeouts.

She longed for high action. Undercover ops and maybe even some karate. In fact . . . “Maybe I should sign up for one of Sergei’s tae kwon do classes. I think it would help.”

“What—in understanding Korean? or maybe Russian so you can help Connie with the in-laws?”

“Very funny. No, in taking down criminals.”

Jeremy ran a finger and thumb against his eyes. Sighed. “Why don’t I send you on a mission?”

“A mission? I’d love to—”

“Get us some donuts.” He glanced in the rearview mirror. “Good Mornin’ Donuts’ light just went on.”

“Is that all I am to you—a delivery girl?”

The minute the words left her mouth, PJ knew she was asking for trouble. Jeremy wore the inklings of a very devilish smile. “Oh, don’t get me started.”

Perhaps Boone wasn’t the only one trying to kindle a flame.

Jeremy held her gaze and shook his head. “Maybe stakeouts aren’t such a great idea.”

“I’ll get the donuts.”

Since she’d parked next to a wall deep in the shadows of the Chinese takeout place, she had to wait for Jeremy to climb out of the Bug before she piled over the driver’s seat. He held open the door for her and she scrambled out without looking at him.

“I’ll take a bismark.”

“What is that—the battleship of all donuts?” She laughed at her own joke.

Jeremy rolled his eyes. “A donut covered in chocolate and filled with custard.” He shook his head as he climbed back into the Bug and closed the door.

Sounded like a long john to her. If they were going to work together, they’d need to nail down their donut terminology.

The cool air raised gooseflesh on her skin as she jogged across the parking lot toward the donut shop. The sun, just a sparkle of hope on the horizon, edged into the metal gray sky, and she smelled summer in the tang of grass freshened by the morning dew. Her Converse slapped against the concrete as she hustled to the doors.

The reception area inside remained dark in the early morning shadows. Lifeless. Void of donuts. She cupped her hand over her eyes and peered through the glass, her stomach clenching in dismay. “Hello in there!”

No one. She knocked on the glass door and then spied someone inside wearing a white apron, moving around in the baking area.

“Hello! We need donuts!”

From the back, a body appeared—a teenager with dyed black hair, a lip ring, and darty black eyes, his apron strings wrapped twice around his noodle-thin body (the boy needed to consume his own product). PJ banged on the window, and he jumped as if she might be wielding a rocket launcher.

Good grief, she just wanted a donut. “Are you open?”

The boy drifted toward the front of the store almost surreptitiously, as if he might be letting in the Mongol horde through the gates of the castle.

He unlocked the door, cracking it just wide enough for his lips to fit through. “We’re not open yet.”

PJ wrapped her arms around herself and tried to appear as waiflike as possible. “Oh, please, please, I’m starved.”

He eyed her warily.

“I spent the night in my car.” She added a little shiver. Looked pitiful. Smiled.

He might have believed her—and now her less-than-dangerous attire might have actually worked in her favor—because he opened the door. “Quick. In the back.”

PJ slunk in, the ever-present danger of a raid hovering over the moment. But never let it be said that when Jeremy sent her on a mission, she returned empty-handed.

She scampered into the back room, where she discovered trays of glistening amber donut holes, freshly glazed. The entire room smelled of baking bread, sugar glaze, and the heady indulgence of chocolate. “I’ll take a dozen holes and a bismark—” she glanced at his name tag—“Phillip.” She held out a ten-dollar bill, intimating that he keep the change.

After all, that’s what PIs did . . . paid for information. Or donuts.

Whatever it took to complete the mission.

Phillip boxed up the holes and the bismark, took the ten, and honest Abe that he was, headed to the front to make change. He stopped short at the threshold to the front parlor. “It’s my boss,” he whispered. He turned and, for a guy already sorta pasty, went even whiter. “Hurry, please . . . go out the back.”

She’d never been kicked out of a bakery before. But to save her new hero . . . she turned and pushed on the metal door, letting it swish shut behind her.

PJ was standing in the back alley next to a Dumpster, a beat-up red Honda, and a pile of old, broken pallets, holding the donut box and giving serious contemplation to digging in right there, when she spied him—Rudy Bagwell, sneaking out a back window of the Windy Oaks Motel.

Oh, she was good at this job.

From this angle she watched Rudy hit the ground and skirt along the back of the motel unit, on the way to freedom.

Sneaky. But not too sneaky for her, the Panther.

PJ hiked the box under her arm and crossed the road, hoping Jeremy saw her angle toward her quarry. Even if he couldn’t spot Rudy from his angle, a guy with a eye out for his donuts should know to wake up and grab his camera.

Rudy had stopped at the edge of the motel, leaning away from the wind to light a cigarette.

She slowed her pace and strolled up to him as if she’d just been out early for a donut run. “Hey there.”

He glanced at her, and for a second she wondered if he would recognize her—after all, she did have one vivid recollection of a wild high school beach party when he’d passed out and she and Boone had buried him to his waist in sand.

He grunted at her and blew out a long stream of smoke.

“Beautiful morning.”

He grunted again, rolling the cigarette between two fingers. He didn’t look like a man who’d spent the night in the arms of his beloved high school sweetheart. In fact, he had a rather ugly welt on his chin, and also, if she looked closely—although she didn’t make it obvious—a splatter of blood down his white shirt, maybe from a bloody nose. Or his lip—it looked a little puffy.

She took a step back, glancing toward Jeremy. Movement in the VW parked in the shadows across the lot was too difficult to discern from here. But Rudy would have to cross in front of the motel to retrieve his Camaro. Jeremy could get the shot then.

So why had Rudy come this way—around the back, away from his wheels?

“Is there something you want, babe?” Rudy cocked his head at her. “Don’t I know you?”

She shook her head. “No, I—”

His eyes widened. “PJ Sugar.” He said it slowly, with a hint of a snarl—maybe he did remember the beach party—and pushed himself away from the building. “I’d heard you were back in town. Cynthie said she saw your picture in the paper. You solved Hoffman’s murder . . .” His gaze went from her to the parking lot.

“Want a donut?” She shoved the box toward him.

Rudy turned back to her, his smile now gone. “What are you doing here?”

“Getting donuts.” Only it came out more like a question. Oops, she’d have to work on her lying.

He took a step toward her . . . and that’s when she saw it. Right above the waist of his jeans, small and black, hidden by the leather jacket that, despite the chill in the air, still didn’t belong in an August wardrobe.

A gun. As if it had claws, it tore at her gaze and PJ couldn’t wrench it away.

A gun.

Blood on his shirt. A bloodied lip. A crime of passion? She added up the facts as quickly as it took Rudy to move another step toward her and snake out his hand to grab her.

But he wasn’t the only one with a weapon. She shoved her hand into the box just as Rudy’s grip closed around her elbow.

With everything inside her, PJ slammed the bismark into his face. Pudding squished between her fingers as she crammed it into his eyes. Then, clutching the box to her chest, she yanked her arm from his grasp and ran.

“Jeremy!”

Footsteps slapping the pavement behind her made her dig into the box again. Her hand closed around a donut hole, and she pitched it behind her as she raced across the parking lot. “Jeremy!”

Another hole, followed by an expletive from behind her. Thankfully, Jeremy had finally come alive, because he emerged from the Bug, staring at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“He’s got a gun! He killed her! He killed Geri!”

Another naughty word from Rudy and the footsteps changed direction. She turned to see Rudy flinging himself toward his Camaro. He Bo Duke’d across the hood and climbed in the window, turning the engine over even as PJ threw another hole at him.

It landed with a splotch of sugary goo on his windshield.

He gunned the hot rod across the parking lot.

PJ dropped the box, her breath wheezing out of her even as she watched him escape.

Or maybe not. As Rudy mowed over a parked Harley and smacked against a Ford Fiesta, she heard another car gunning to roadblock him.

She turned too quickly, wishing she had more time to brace herself.

No.

No!

She nearly flung her body in front of Jeremy as he screeched past her in the VW, a laser streak of lime green on course to intersect with its target.

“Jeremy, stop!”

But Jeremy didn’t know that, one, she hadn’t paid her insurance for over a month, and two, the brakes on the Bug were a little on the spongy side, because he didn’t even slow as he T-boned Rudy’s Camaro and pinned it against the metal pole hosting the Windy Oaks sign.

The sound of metal ripping and the dying whine of her beloved Bug buckled PJ’s knees. She went down hard in the gravel, gulping a breath, watching Jeremy leap from the car, dive over her hood, and rip the gun out of Rudy’s grip before he could even clear his head.

Pinned, he screamed at the top of his lungs.

PJ slumped in the gravel of the lot. Not the Bug. Her Bug. The one remaining possession big enough to hide inside. She reached into the box and pulled out her remaining donut hole, considering it for a long moment as her mind faintly registered the wailing police sirens in the distance. Or maybe the noise came from her, from the keening inside.

Jeremy sauntered toward her, a smug smile in his evil eyes, shaking his head. “I don’t suppose there’s a bismark in that mess, is there?”

PJ leaned back, cupped her hand over her eyes, and hurled the donut hole at his arrogant smile.


Here's my review of this wonderful novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Susan May Warren and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Double Trouble" 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.

PJ Sugar, the fledgling Private Investigator and deadly doughnut catapulter, is in a pickle…AGAIN. Her name starts with “P”, and that rhymes with “T”, and that stands for “Trouble”! Susan May Warren’s latest in the PJ Sugar series is “Double Trouble”, and the title is a thoroughly hysterical gross understatement. PJ is contemplating Boone’s marriage proposal, while he is trying to convince her that it’s too dangerous for her to become the PI that she dreams of being. Living under her newlywed sister’s roof is tough, especially when she communicates better with Connie’s Russian in-laws, and has bonded with her nephew, Davy, over junk food.

Now PJ has a couple of assignments: buy a new car after a stakeout mishap (don’t ask) and find Connie’s father-in-law (Boris) a job before he tears up Connie’s landscaping. And her professional life is taking a turn for the better. Jeremy has entrusted PJ with an undercover assignment to house- and pet-sit for a material witness while he hides the real gal before she testifies at the trial of a former boyfriend. But in true PJ Sugar fashion, this simple task is flipped upside down when she learns that she must impersonate this tattooed, pierced, softball-playing hairdresser.

Susan May Warren has truly outdone herself with this comical, meticulously plotted sequel. Her narrative creates a moving picture in the mind’s eye, and is accented by witty dialogue. And speaking of accents, her phonetic Russian and Russian-accented English conversations are sheer perfection! On more than one occasion, I found myself reciting these lines and cracked myself up!

Thank you, Susan, for an entertaining read and a lot of laughs with the Lord at the heart of the female lead. And thank you for my character. (Yes, folks, the "Stacey Dale" in the book is named for me.) I absolutely adore her! God bless you.

Today's Daily Devotional


The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7

04/27/09 I mentioned when we looked at this verse previously that the New American Standard Bible says, “…He knows those who take refuge in Him.” The phrase “take refuge” is one Hebrew word: chacah. It means “to seek refuge, flee for protection.” I never thought of myself as a refugee before. But that’s exactly what I am. So are you if you belong to Christ. Sort of. But instead of running away from our home to a place of sanctuary, we have come to realize that the place of refuge that we run to is really our true home! Still, the idea of seeking refuge, of fleeing something to find protection somewhere else implies that we are in a dangerous situation, running to a place of safety. And let me assure you that the safest place to be is as close to Jesus as you can get!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth. Isaiah 42:10

03/31/09 “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die, O, raise your head for Love is passing by. Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus, Come to Jesus and live. Now your burden's lifted, and carried far away, and precious blood has washed away the stain... so Sing to Jesus , Sing to Jesus , Sing to Jesus and live. And like a newborn baby, don't be afraid to crawl, and remember when you walk sometimes we fall... so Fall on Jesus, Fall on Jesus, Fall on Jesus and live. Sometimes the way is lonely, and steep and filled with pain, So if your sky is dark and pours the rain... then Cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus, Cry to Jesus and live. O, and when the love spills over, and music fills the night, and when you can't contain your joy inside... then Dance for Jesus, Dance for Jesus, Dance for Jesus and live. And with your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye, then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side... and Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus and live, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus, Fly to Jesus and live.”

Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) – Chris Rice.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:8

06/01/09 What does this verse mean by every good work? Everything God has prepared for us to do? Absolutely! Is it a specific ministry like music or drama or teaching or preaching? Definitely! Will you only be called to do one thing during your entire life? Not likely. I don’t know about you, but I have been called to so many different good works by the Lord. I have witnessed to friends and family. I’ve been involved in music ministry and drama ministry. I have taught Bible study and Sunday school. I have written Bible studies. I have been part of a prayer team. I have sent letters of encouragement to fellow Christians and ministers. I have served in children’s ministry and stewardship. What variety of things have you done to serve the Lord?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


Blessed are those who walk in the light of Your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in Your name; they exult in Your righteousness. Psalm 89:15-16

06/04/09 Are you blessed? How blessed are you? Why are you blessed? Who has blessed you? Don’t gloss over these questions. Think about them for a few minutes. There are no formulas for answers to these. What specific events or moments have made you realize that you are blessed? They can involve Jesus, family, friends, quiet moments that you’ve had one-on-One with God, or concert events. Where have you been blessed? At home? At work? At school? At a friend’s house? In church? At someone else’s church? When have you been blessed? As a child? As a teenager? At a specific church service? Right after your greatest sin when you realized and repented and felt Christ’s love wash over you? Take a minute right now to thank Jesus, the source of all of those blessings.

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 16


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Genesis. I felt a great sense of urgency to publish them rather than waiting until I had the time to pretty them up. Thank you and I pray that God blesses you through this material. Much of what I learned for chapters 16 and 17 came from Liz Curtis Higgs' "Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible". I highly recommend it!

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Genesis Chapters 16 & 17. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



16 – God-sized problems cannot be solved with man or woman-sized hands.

16:1 – now – “meant to ‘interrupt the flow of the story – that is, it marks the beginning of a new episode.’” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs – John D. Currid “Genesis”, 1:301)

16:2 – “go sleep with my maidservant” – “An Assyrian marriage contract, dating from about 1900 BC, stipulated ‘if the wife does not give birth in two years, she will purchase a slave woman for her husband.’ Still, no matter how common that solution was in her culture, Sarai was not of that culture. God had set apart Abram and Sarai.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs – Myers “Women in Scripture”, 86.)

“Trusting in the Lord is the best plan.” See Proverbs 3:5.

“build a family through her” – legally, Sarai would claim any child born to Hagar. In turn, Hagar would become Abram’s secondary wife.

“Abram agreed” – no discussion, no prayer, no resistance, no hesitation. PIG!

16:4 – “he slept with Hagar” – an 80-year old and a 20-something… Yuck! Perhaps Hagar didn’t want to, so it may have been miserable for her – almost like rape.

16:5 – Sarai wasn’t blaming Abram. She was reminding him that he alone had the power to fix things. “If a slave promoted to be a wife could not hold the new position with proper decorum, she was to return to her former state.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs – Francisco “Genesis”, 1:167) This was a legal, courtroom-like dialogue. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

“may the Lord judge between you and me” – “Commentators suggest she was alluding to the time in Egypt when Abram asked her to lie on his behalf.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs – Hartley “New International Bible Commentary: Genesis”, 165)

16:6 – “your servant is in your hands” – a legal pronouncement reducing Hagar to her former slave status.

“do with her whatever you think best” – Whoa! Scary to give such power to a scorned woman. Abram avoids taking responsibility as head of household and he shows no compassion for Hagar or his unborn child. He gave Sarai free reign to mistreat Hagar. The Message says, “Sarai was abusive to Hagar.” She violently abused her. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs – Speiser “The Anchor Bible: Genesis”, 118)

“Tempers are safer when tempered.” See Proverbs 27:4. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

Hagar ignored the law and ran away.

“Running can be a sign of strength.” See Matthew 10:23. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

16:7 – 1st appearance of an angel in scripture.

16:10 – 1st woman in scripture to be given a promise of descendants.

16:11 – Ishmael – 1st person in scripture to be named by God prior to birth.

16:13 – No other character in the Bible dared to name God! Hagar called Him “the One who sees me”. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

El Roi – the God who sees.

16:14 – Beer Lahai Roi – “a well to the Living One who sees me.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

16:15 – Hagar had told Abram of her encounter with God since he knew what to name the child!

16:15-16 – Hagar bears Ishmael and Abram names him.



What attributes of God have you observed in your study today? How will this change your relationship with Him?

Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer by Dr. Lew Sterrett


About Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer:

A champion trainer and true horse whisperer, Dr. Lew Sterrett has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses. In this book, Lew tells the stories of his work with these horses and the lessons each one has taught him. Sometimes heartbreaking and often uplifting, Lew has condensed his lifetime of learning into messages for the Christian life. Today, Lew shares these messages with more than 50,000 people each year through horse training presentations at Miracle Mountain Ranch and nationally through his Sermon on the Mount Ministry.

The author's engaging style and adroit mixture of well-tested anecdotes and thoughtful instruction make this a winning read-and not just for horse lovers.


About Lew:

A champion trainer and true horse whisperer, Dr. Lew Street has used patience and a firm but gentle hand to earn the trust of more than 3,500 horses. Lew Street (Ph. D) had little idea that his boyhood interest in horses would open doors internationally for speaking and training. During his years in 4-H, he savored many opportunities to train and show horses and earn national recognition. As a student leader at Penn State University he benefited from many mentoring relationships from which he received valuable training, experience and honors. This foundation provided a basis for an extensive horse career with a unique emphasis on training youth and community leaders.

Lew has served as the Executive Director of Miracle Mountain Ranch Missions, Inc. (MMRM) since 1977. MMRM, located in northwestern Pennsylvania, is home for a summer youth camp, and a leadership training center for youth, adult, and family groups. He has also promoted safety in public riding programs, serving as President of the Certified Horse Association for 7 years. A licensed pastor, certified Youth, Marriage and Family Counselor, he earned his PhD from North Tennessee Seminary in 2007.

It is from this broad perspective of training and experience, that Dr. Street has readily gained a hearing from audiences internationally teaching lessons for life and leadership from the language of the horse.
In addition to a host of published resources and regular T.V. programs, Lew travels extensively presenting his horse training messages under the banners of Principle Based Training, Leaders by Heart, and Sermon on the Mount.



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

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Dr. Lew Sterrett and Bob Smietana and their publisher for sending me a copy of "Life Lessons from a Horse Whisperer" 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.

Dr. Lew Sterrett teams up with Bob Smietana to pen the non-fiction book “Life Lessons From A Horse Whisperer”. When I saw the discoloration of the page edges in the center of the book, I went immediately to the photographs and oohed and aahed over the action shots of Sterrett and “the boys”, a trio of beautiful horses. After spending several minutes there, I returned to the front and began reading.

I was captivated by a story about trust and an animal named Spotlite that taught me sometimes we need to stop and be still and let Jesus untangle us from the trappings that threaten us. It is truly surprising how these animal anecdotes translate into life lessons for Christians.

This book is easily read in large chunks or as just a few pages at a time. The stories entertain and enlighten and offer opportunities for growth in relationship with Jesus and others. I will recommend this engaging and inspirational book, loan it out to friends and re-read it myself.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:5-6

06/12/09 God is definitely a better helper to me than I am to Him! He is more faithful. He has more integrity. He loves better. He forgives better. He forgets – Hallelujah! I need to give up more control to Him each day. I need Him to shine through my life more tomorrow than He did last week. I want to let Him be the beacon inside of me that everyone sees, but too often I don’t give up control. And when I don’t give up control, people only see me. Not Him. And I am nowhere near as beautiful as He is. Because I am a lousy helper. Compared to Him, I am selfish and irresponsible. I am vain and ignorant. But He is the wonderful, selfless, beautiful Creator and King of the Universe. I should be His helper, but I am incapable. Lord, be my helper so that You may be glorified in Christ’s name. Amen.

Listen by Rene Gutteridge

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

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


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


Listen

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)

***Special thanks to Vicky Lynch of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Rene Gutteridge is the critically acclaimed author of more than fifteen novels, including the Storm series, the Boo series, the Occupational Hazards series, and the novelization of the motion picture The Ultimate Gift. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (January 11, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1414324332
ISBN-13: 978-1414324333

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Present Day

Damien Underwood tapped his pencil against his desk and spun twice in his chair. But once he was facing his computer again, the digital clock still hadn’t changed.

In front of him on a clean white piece of paper was a box, and inside that box was a bunch of other tiny boxes. Some of those boxes he’d neatly scribbled in. And above the large box he wrote, Time to go.

This particular day was stretching beyond his normal capacity of tolerance, and when that happened, he found himself constructing word puzzles. He’d sold three to the New York Times, two published on Monday and one on Wednesday. They were all framed and hanging in his cubicle. He’d sent in over thirty to be considered.

He’d easily convinced his boss years ago to let him start publishing crosswords in the paper, and since then he’d been the crossword editor, occasionally publishing some of his own, a few from local residents, and some in syndication.

The puzzle clues were coming harder today. He wanted to use a lot of plays on words, and he also enjoyed putting in a few specific clues that were just for Marlo residents. Those were almost always published on Fridays.

A nine-letter word for “predictable and smooth.”

Yes, good clue. He smiled and wrote the answer going down. Clockwork.

He glanced over to the bulletin board, which happened to be on the only piece of north wall he could see from his desk at the Marlo Sentinel. Tacked in the center, still hanging there after three years, was an article from Lifestyles Magazine. Marlo, of all the places in the United States, was voted Best Place to Raise a Child. It was still the town’s shining moment of glory. Every restaurant and business had this article framed and hanging somewhere on their walls.

The community boasted its own police force, five separate and unique playgrounds for the kids, including a spray ground put in last summer, where kids could dash through all kinds of water sprays without the fear of anyone drowning.

Potholes were nonexistent. The trash was picked up by shiny, blue, state-of-the-art trash trucks, by men wearing pressed light blue shirts and matching pants, dressed slightly better than the mail carriers.

Two dozen neighborhood watch programs were responsible for nineteen arrests in the last decade, mostly petty thieves and a couple of vandals. There hadn’t been a violent crime in Marlo since 1971, and even then the only one that got shot was a dog. A bank robbery twenty years ago ended with the robber asking to talk to a priest, where he confessed a gambling addiction and a fondness for teller number three.

Damien’s mind lit up, which it often did when words were involved. He penciled it in. An eight-letter word for “a linear stretch of dates.” Timeline. Perfect for 45 across.

So this was Marlo, where society and family joined in marriage. It was safe enough for kids to play in the front yards. It was clean enough that asthmatics were paying top dollar for the real estate. It was good enough, period.

Damien was a second-generation Marlo resident. His mother and father moved here long before it was the Best Place to Raise a Child. Then it had just been cheap land and a good drive from the city. His father had been the manager of a plant now gone because it caused too much pollution. His mother, a stay-at-home mom, had taken great pride in raising a son who shared her maiden name, Damien, and her fondness for reading the dictionary.

Both his parents died the same year from different causes, the same year Damien had met Kay, his wife-to-be. They’d wed nine months after they met and waited the customary five years to have children. Kay managed a real estate company. She loved her job as much as she had the first day she started. And it was a good way to keep up with the Joneses.

Until recently, when the housing market started slumping like his ever-irritated teenage daughter.

The beast’s red eyes declared it was finally time to leave. Damien grabbed his briefcase and walked the long hallway to the door, just to make sure his boss and sometimes friend, Edgar, remembered he was leaving a little early. He gave Edgar a wave, and today, because he was in a good mood, Edgar waved back.

Damien drove through the Elephant’s Foot and picked up two lemonades, one for himself and one for Jenna, his sixteen-year-old daughter who had all at once turned from beautiful princess or ballerina or whatever it was she wanted to be to some weird Jekyll and Hyde science experiment. With blue eye shadow. She never hugged him. She never giggled. Oh, how he missed the giggling. She slouched and grunted like a gorilla, her knuckles nearly dragging the ground if anyone said anything to her. A mild suggestion of any kind, from “grab a jacket” to “don’t do drugs” evoked eyes rolling into the back of her head as if she were having a grand mal seizure.

So the lemonade was the best gesture of kindness he could make. Besides offering to pick her up because her car was in the shop.

He pulled to the curb outside the school, fully aware he was the only car among the full-bodied SUVs idling alongside one another. It was a complete embarrassment to Jenna, who begged to have Kay pick her up in the Navigator. Some lessons were learned the hard way. But his car was perfectly fine, perfectly reliable, and it wasn’t going to cause the ozone to collapse.

She got in, noticed the lemonade, asked if it was sugar-free, then sipped it and stared out the window for the rest of the ride home. It wasn’t sugar-free, but the girl needed a little meat on her bones.

“Your car’s ready.”

Finally, a small smile.

***

“Have a seat.”

Frank Merret shoved his holster and belt downward to make room for the roll of belly fat that had permanently attached itself to his midsection. He slowly sat down in the old vinyl chair across from Captain Lou Grayson’s cluttered desk.

“You got a rookie coming in this morning.”

“I thought we had an agreement about rookies.”

“You ticketed Principal MaLue. We had an agreement about that too.”

Frank sighed. “He was speeding in a school zone.”

“He’s the principal. If he wants to hit Mach speed in the school zone, so be it. The rookie’s file is in your box.” Grayson’s irritated expression said the rest.

Frank left the captain’s office and killed time in the break room until lineup, where the rookie stood next to him, fresh-faced and wide-eyed. He was short, kind of stocky, with white blond hair and baby pink cheeks like a von Trapp kid. There was not a hard-bitten bone in this kid’s body.

Frank cut his gaze sideways. “This is Marlo. The most you can hope for is someone driving under the influence of pot.”

Lineup was dismissed, and the kid followed him out. “That’s not true. I heard about that bank robbery.”

“That was twenty years ago.”

“Doesn’t matter,” the rookie said. “I’m on patrol. That’s cool. I’m Gavin Jenkins, by the way.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Did you read my stats from the academy?”

“Not even one word.”

Gavin stopped midstride, falling behind Frank as he made his way outside to the patrol car. Gavin hurried to catch up. “Where are we going? Aren’t we a little early?”

Frank continued to his car. Gavin hopped into the passenger side. Frank turned west onto Bledsoe.

“Listen, Officer Merret, I just want you to know that I’m glad they paired me with you. I’ve heard great things about you, and I think it’s—”

“I don’t normally talk in the morning.”

“Okay.”

So they drove in silence mostly, checking on a few of the elderly citizens and their resident homeless man, Douglas, until lunchtime, when they stopped at Pizza Hut. The kid couldn’t help but talk, so Frank let him and learned the entire history of how he came to be a Marlo police officer.

Gavin was two bites into his second piece and hadn’t touched his salad when Frank rose. “Stay here.”

Gavin stared at him, his cheek full of cheese and pepperoni. “What? Why?”

“I’ve got something I need to do.”

Gavin stood, trying to gather his things. “Wait. I’ll come.”

Frank held out a firm hand. “Just stay here, okay? I’ll come back to get you in about forty minutes.”

Gavin slowly sat down.

Frank walked out. He knew it already. This rookie was going to be a thorn in his side.

Excerpted from Listen by Rene Gutteridge. Copyright ©2010 by Rene Gutteridge. Used with permission from Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.




Here is my review of this life-changing work of fiction, YES FICTION:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Rene Gutteridge and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Listen" 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.

Rene Gutteridge has blown my mind with the opening pages of her latest novel, “Listen”. We don’t take enough responsibility for our words, in my opinion. This work of fiction will absolutely change that for whoever reads this book.

The further into this novel I read, the more intrigued I’ve become with the whodunit. Each time I thought I’d figured it out, the story took a twist or turn and I changed my mind. This is an edge-of-your-seat book that keeps the reader riveted way past what should be bedtime. It truly is amazing the power that words have. When this little town starts reading their private conversations on an untraceable website, relationships break down, trust is lost, violent fights ensue and the damages caused seem irreversible. For an Op-Ed Columnist and a local Police Officer, the mystery of the revelation of private conversation is not a game. It is potentially a matter of life and death.

What a terrific book from a terrific author. My mind was completely engaged as I read this novel and realized that there is probably more truth to these words than fiction. Although we may not be able to go to a website and read anonymous, private conversations that appear to be about us, God hears all that we say. Perhaps we should remember that every time we decide to open our mouths. Perhaps we should take the Bible’s advice and clean up our thoughts by renewing our minds through the washing of the Word of God. After all, it is what comes out of a man’s mouth that corrupts him – and our hearts and minds are what supplies our mouths.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

06/15/09 Have you been called? No, not by a telemarketer. Have you been called by God? Absolutely. I’m not talking about how many people use the word to refer to how they were compelled to participate in a specific vocation or ministry. I’m speaking of how Jesus stands at the door of every heart and knocks. That is how we are called. And when we open the door and He enters and dines with us, we enter into relationship with Him and begin to learn His purpose for us as we grow in Him. When Jesus knocks, He is calling us according to His purpose, according to His will for our lives. I believe that there are several purposes for our existence as Christians, and I will touch on those purposes the next time we discuss this verse.