Monday, March 29, 2010

Storylines by Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft

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:


Storylines: Your Map to Understanding the Bible

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:


Mike Pilavachi is the founder and public face of the U.K.’s biggest Christian youth event, Soul Survivor (25,000 annual attendance), and senior pastor of the Soul Survivor church in Watford, North London. He is the author of Live the Life, For the Audience of One, Wasteland?: Encountering God in the Desert, and Worship, Evangelism, Justice.

Visit the Mike's MySpace.




Andy Croft is a young twenty-something who has just been awarded a First Class Theology degree from Cambridge University. He is due to be the next leader of Soul Survivor.

Visit the authors' Website.


Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764753
ISBN-13: 978-1434764751

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Jesus Storyline


Years ago, when I was in my teens and Mike was having his first midlife crisis, a series of very popular picture books came out. Perhaps you remember them: They were called Where’s Waldo? The basic idea was you would look at a big picture that would tell a story; there’d be loads of characters in it and tons of stuff going on. Waldo (a little bloke in a red-and-white shirt) was hiding somewhere in the picture. Sometimes he’d be up a tree, sometimes under water, sometimes he’d be in a massive crowd, often he’d be peering out from behind a corner, and almost always he’d be hidden from plain view. The challenge was to find him hidden in the story the picture told.


Two thousand years ago Jesus said to a bunch of Pharisees, “Where’s Waldo?” But he said it like this, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life.

These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40). Jesus wasn’t talking about the New Testament, because his biography hadn’t been written yet, so he must have been talking about the Old Testament. But how could he have been? Everyone knows the Old Testament was about Israel and Moses, David, Abraham, Joshua, and others. Did Jesus get this one wrong? Had he eaten a rotten fig for breakfast? Or …have we all been missing something? Could it be possible that, like Waldo in the picture books, Jesus appears hidden all over the Old Testament?


You probably already know that Jesus is all over the Bible; in the Old Testament he’s concealed, in the New Testament he’s revealed. Finding Jesus in the Old Testament is not just a game, like finding Waldo. It’s more like a treasure hunt, and it brings the story of God to life in a whole new way. Throughout the Old Testament we see strong hints, images, and prophecies about Jesus. In the New Testament those hints, images, and prophecies are unveiled; the curtain is ripped apart, from top to bottom, to reveal the star of the whole show. Let’s go on a journey together to find Jesus in the crowd of Old Testament heroes.


Noah


The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Gen. 6:5–8)


The human race was so messed up there was no way to straighten it out. God decided to bring a flood and wipe out every creature. There was just one problem. Noah.


Noah and God were friends, and Noah was a righteous man. To destroy every living creature would have meant the unjust of killing his friend. God longed to save Noah, and so he commanded him to build a massive ark. We’ve been to the Middle East, and in case you hadn’t realized, it’s a desert! Despite how stupid he looked, Noah obeyed God to the point of humiliation. But it meant that, when the rains hit, Noah was saved. What’s more, his whole family came with him. Why was Noah’s family saved? Were they righteous? No. Noah

was the only righteous one around, but because they were attached to him, his family got to come along!


The first hero of the Old Testament is our first signpost to Jesus. The flood didn’t solve the problem of humanity’s wickedness. God’s righteous judgment is still that humanity deserves to die in its wickedness and be cut off from him forever. However, God has found one totally righteous man, even more righteous than Noah. This righteous man obeyed God to the point of utter humiliation, dying on a cross. What’s more, all the unrighteous people who attach themselves to him are saved. After the flood a rainbow was the sign of God’s promises; today it is the cross. All who shelter in Jesus, the ark of salvation, are not wiped out but given eternal life. Sometimes when we read about the cross, it can seem mysterious—something that’s difficult to get our heads around. Discovering things like this throughout the Old Testament on one level helps us to understand it better—the patterns of salvation often reoccur. But on another level it speaks of the wonder and increases the mystery. Thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, God was carefully laying out the foundations for his master plan …


Abraham and Isaac


Several chapters later in Genesis, we come across a strange scene. In Genesis 22 we find an old man holding a knife over the chest of a young boy he’s about to sacrifice. Years ago God had promised the old man that he would have a son, and after an age of waiting, Isaac was born. The baby became a boy, and Abraham loved him dearly. It was at that point God said to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Gen. 22:2).


How could God command someone to sacrifice his own son? And yet—“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son …” (John 3:16). The words of John, describing God’s giving of his beloved Son, deliberately echo those of Genesis 22:2. God asked no more of Abraham than God himself was willing to give. God gave up his only Son, whom he loved, completely out of choice and love for us.


The old man obeyed God: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey” (Gen. 22:3). Father, son, and donkey headed to the region of Moriah. When Mike and I visited Israel, we were amazed to discover that the region of Moriah is where, hundreds of years after Abraham, Jerusalem was built! And so when we read about Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey, we’re reading about another father, another son, and another donkey riding into

exactly the same area Abraham had been told to head to. In little, subtle ways—ways that we wouldn’t notice unless we looked for them—God is laying down hints in the Old Testament of the plans he has for his Son in the New Testament.


When Abraham and Isaac arrived, we read that the father placed the wood for the sacrifice on the back of his son: “Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife” (Gen. 22:6). Isaac then carried the wood for his own sacrifice up a hill in the region of Moriah. Isn’t this amazing? Centuries later,the Father placed the cross, the wood for the sacrifice, on the back of his Son. Jesus then carried the wood for his own sacrifice up a hill in the region of Moriah.


Upon reaching the top of the hill, Isaac said to Abraham, “The fire and wood are here … but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (Gen. 22: 7). “Abraham answered, ‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son’” (Gen. 22:8). Abraham then tied his son to the wood and was about to kill him when the Lord cried for him to stop. God told Abraham to sacrifice a ram he saw caught in a hedge. Rejoicing, Abraham took it and sacrificed it in the place of his son. “So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided’”(Gen. 22:14). Two thousand years later

on a mountain in the region of Moriah, the Lord did provide. He provided not a ram but a lamb for the offering … the Lamb of God. He is “my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). This provision of Jesus for us was something God had planned and intended from the beginning, before any of us were born. The storyline of Jesus running through the life of Abraham and Isaac shows us that even before most of the people in the Old Testament had been born, God knew what was going to happen, and he knew what it was going to cost him. He knew what you were going to cost—and then he went ahead anyway.


Joseph


So we move on to Joseph. Jesus is everywhere in his story. God’s plan from the beginning, revealed to Joseph in his dreams (Gen. 37), was that he would achieve a high status and bring blessing and salvation to many others through that ruling status. Jesus was born to rule. He

was born to be King, and because of his kingship many would find salvation.


Joseph’s brothers became jealous and did what many of us want to do with our siblings: They sold him into slavery. Joseph was sold to merchants for twenty pieces of silver. Years later Jesus was sold to the Jewish leaders for thirty pieces of silver. Just think—if only it had been the same price, it would have been a perfect parallel … what a shame … But wait! The Bible tells us that Joseph was sold for the going price of a slave in 1900 BC and Jesus for the going price of a

slave in AD 30. The price had gone up, but God had accounted for inflation!


Joseph was eventually sold to Potiphar, a high official in Egypt, and soon became his right-hand man. Mrs. Potiphar tried to seduce Joseph. She was very subtle—“Come to bed with me!” she begged. “No way, José!” Joseph replied, and when Mrs. Potiphar came in one door, he ran out the other. Jesus was tempted in the desert by the Devil. The Devil offered him all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. In response to the Devil’s seduction, Jesus said, “Get lost!” (or words to that effect). By not sleeping with Potiphar’s wife, Joseph resisted abusing the power his master had given him; by not “getting into bed” with the Devil, Jesus refused to abuse the power God had given him.


Mrs. Potiphar accused Joseph of a crime he did not commit. He was unjustly sentenced and thrown into the deepest dungeon. Jesus, years later, was accused of crimes he did not commit and was unjustly sentenced. While Joseph was serving his sentence, two criminals came to join him. Years later, while Jesus was serving his sentence on the cross, two criminals joined him. You can read in Genesis 40 about how Joseph, through the interpretation of a dream, spoke words of life to one of those criminals. Joseph promised he would be saved, and the criminal was later released. You can also read in Luke 23 about how, as he was dying between two criminals, Jesus spoke words of life to one. Jesus promised he would be saved, and we can be sure that criminal is now with Jesus in paradise.


Joseph was eventually released from prison. From the lowest pits of jail, he became Pharaoh’s prime minister, the highest position in Egypt. He named his second son Ephraim (meaning “fruitful”) and said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering” (Gen. 41:52). Egypt was an alien land that was not his home. When God became man, he was born into an alien land that was not his home, and yet it was in this land of suffering that God made Jesus fruitful. He was raised up from the lowest point—death—and is now seated at the right hand of God.


Famine struck the whole area, and Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy food. They were reunited with Joseph, the brother they’d sold into a life of slavery. Instead of having them killed, Joseph forgave them, assuring them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). He went on to save the lives of all his brothers, of those who had sinned against him. He brought them from a place of famine and death to one of abundant life.


The Jewish religious leaders, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers—as our representatives—accomplished what they intended in harming Jesus to the point of death on the cross. Jesus, as he was dying, cried out, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). We, the human race, meant the death of Jesus for harm, but God meant it for good. He intended it to accomplish what is now being fulfilled, a passage from certain death to abundant life, the saving of many lives.


Isn’t this incredible? Joseph was born to be a ruler, he was sold into slavery, he was severely tempted, he went through great suffering, he predicted the salvation of one he suffered with, he was raised up again by God, he forgave those who’d sinned against him, and he declared it had happened that many might be saved.


Jesus’ storyline is central to the story of the Bible, and it runs like a bullet through the story of Joseph. This is more than just an amazing biblical parallel—it carries with it a message for us today. Ever felt insecure about God’s love? Ever been a little unsure as to whether or not he’ll bring about what he’s promised? Ever messed it up and thought, “It’s been one too many; God’s probably going to quit on me this time”? We can draw deep confidence from the fact that God planned his death on the cross. The way that Joseph’s life prophesies Jesus’ shows in an incredible way that God always thought we were going to be worth it—his decision to come to earth wasn’t a last-minute afterthought. John’s gospel tells us that Jesus is from “the beginning,” and Joseph’s story backs that up—he is from the beginning, and he was always going to bring about the ending. This picture is yet another guarantee to our hearts of the love God has—and has always had—for us.


Moses


Hundreds of years later the descendants of Joseph and his brothers had undergone a population explosion. They were now the people of Israel and were being used and abused as slaves by the Egyptians.


God heard the cry of those he loved, now slaves to Pharaoh, and through Moses he set out to do something about it. We read that, at the start of Exodus (chapter 3), the Lord revealed himself to Moses and commanded him to go and save the Israelites. Before he went anywhere, Moses wanted to know who this burning bush of a God was: “Who shall I say has sent me?” he asked. God replied, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14). God’s name was “I AM.”


Also, Moses was understandably a bit nervous about taking on Egypt single-handedly, and he asked God, “Who am I, that I should go?” This time God ignored his question. He didn’t say “You’re Moses, kung fu champion!” He just replied, “I will be with you” (Ex. 3:12). The only thing Moses needed to know on this account was that God had his back.


So God’s rescue operation for a people who were suffering as slaves involved one man. The reason this one man was going to save anyone was because God was with him. Who was this God that was with him? I AM.


Hundreds of years later God again heard the cry of those he loved who were slaves to sin, and through Jesus he set out to do something about it. Moses had asked the God of the burning

bush who he was. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Who do you think you are?” (John 8:53). Amazingly Jesus said in response, “‘Before Abraham was born, I am!’ At this, they picked up stones to stone him …” (8:58–59). Some of the Jews responded with outrage; they wanted to kill Jesus. Why? Because he was claiming to be God. When they asked him who he was, he told them he was I AM. The God I AM went with Moses to save a people; the God I AM came in

person to save a world. One of Jesus’ titles is Emmanuel. It means “God with us.”


Moses confronted the evil powers of Egypt, defeated them—and Pharaoh released Israel. They started the hike out of Egypt, but before long Pharaoh changed his mind; he sent everything he had after them. If we pick up the trail in Exodus 14, we find Israel trapped. In front of them lay the Red Sea, and behind them the Egyptian army was closing in. They had no options. Then God told Moses to raise his staff out over the waves of the Red Sea. Moses obeyed, and the waters parted. Through Moses’ actions a way to freedom and life opened up—Israel now had one option! They passed through the waters and passed from death to life.


In front of all of us lies death; in and around all of us is the evil of this age. Do we have any options? Miraculously God provided an option for all who are trapped. Jesus defeated the evil power of this age (Satan); he conquered sin and death. Through Jesus’ actions a way to freedom and life has opened up. We now have one option! In following Jesus we can be saved. Like the Israelites following Moses, on our journey we, too, pass through water in our crossing from

death to life: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5). Ours is the water of baptism.


Moses’ and Israel’s hike through the wilderness went on for years and years. Mike and I recently went hiking down the Grand Canyon. It lasted for hours rather than years. Still, when we walked through the Grand Canyon, it was baking hot and hard work. After an hour or so, Mike started to moan … “I’m thirsty, I want some water!” He’s Greek, so he tends to exaggerate, and he started to whine, “This is the end, I’m going to die!” Throughout the hike down, Mike complained, moaned, and whined at me. First he wanted water. Then he wanted food. After he’d eaten five PowerBars, he wanted a different sort of food … and so it went …


Moses was in a similar situation in the desert with Israel. They moaned, they whined, they groaned, and they rebelled. If we pick up the story in Exodus 32, we read that the people of Israel had just built themselves another god! Despite all God’s amazing miracles they still mutinied and wanted to worship gods of their own hands. When Moses discovered this, he exclaimed in horror, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make

atonement for your sin” (Ex. 32:30).


Earlier, God, knowing what the people of Israel were up to, said to Moses, “Leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation” (Ex. 32:10).


What an offer! God told Moses to get out of the way; he was going to destroy Israel and start again with Moses’ own children. Moses had a chance to get rid of the nation that had been a pain in his backside ever since leaving Egypt, and to start his own dynasty! There were moments when, had God appeared to me at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and offered to kill Mike, I would have replied, “Brilliant idea, Lord! In fact I’ll help you!”


Moses didn’t respond like that. He didn’t ask for a machine gun. Instead, after seeing Israel’s sin, he said this: “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written” (Ex. 32:31–32).


Astonishing! Instead of offering to help God wipe out Israel, Moses asked to be wiped out in their place! God refused Moses’ offer. He had another plan. Moses’ offer was well meant, but he didn’t realize he didn’t have the right qualifications. God didn’t blot Moses out for the sake of Israel’s sin. He already had someone else in mind. About 1,400 years later it was the life of Jesus, not the life of Moses, that was blotted out to make up for sin.


Sometimes the Bible can seem a little disjointed—we can read one story and wonder if it’s got anything at all to do with the one we were reading the week before. Jesus is the center and the heart of the Bible; again here we see how the life and actions of Moses point forward to who Jesus is and what he was coming to do.


[Note: Mike would like it to be known that he was not allowed to contribute to this section, and in fact disassociates himself from the accuracy of the illustration used above … I, however, insist it’s true, and I’ve got the emotional scars to prove it.]


David



David was born in the small town of Bethlehem. Samuel the prophet declared he was chosen by God to be king of Israel. When Samuel poured the oil onto David, God anointed him for this task. Soon afterward David fought the great battle with Goliath. We find the site of the battle in 1 Samuel 17. The people of Israel were lined up against their archenemies, the Philistines. The huge Philistine champion would daily shout to all the Israelite soldiers, “C’mon then, if you think you’re tough enough!” None of Israel’s soldiers thought they were tough enough, and no one would go and fight Goliath. This went on for weeks until David the shepherd boy arrived and volunteered. He went out alone to face the enemy as the representative of his people, Israel. David won a great victory without using the weapons of the world—he refused to wear a sword or armor. Instead he used a sling, the weapon of a shepherd boy, and it was in this apparent weakness that he defeated Goliath. David declared, “All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves; for the battle is the LORD’s …” (1 Sam. 17:47).


Jesus was born in the same small town of Bethlehem. At Jesus’ baptism John the Baptist declared that Jesus had been chosen by God to be the Savior of the world, and the Holy Spirit was poured out on him (Luke 3:22)—Jesus was spiritually anointed for his task. Having been prepared in this way, Jesus faced the Enemy of the human race, Satan. He entered the battlefield of the desert where he encountered and withstood Satan for forty days. Three years later he went alone to the cross as the representative of the whole world. He won the victory over Satan without using the weapons of the world. Instead Jesus, the Good Shepherd, won the victory in

the weakness of the cross; it was not to be by sword or spear that the Lord would save but by laying down his life for the sheep.


David was anointed to be king of Israel. Jesus, the Christ (which means “the anointed one”), was called “The King of the Jews” at his crucifixion. Jesus was also called “the Son of David,” and people expected the Messiah to be like David. Many expected a David-type military leader who would arrive to kick the Romans’ heads in. Jesus was like David, but not in the ways that were expected.


Of all David’s psalms, Psalm 23 is the most well known, but the psalm that comes immediately before it is an incredible prophecy about the death of Jesus. It is one of the so-called “messianic

psalms” (because it points ahead to the Messiah), and it begins with “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus knew his Scriptures, and so when he cried these words on the cross, he knew he was quoting from Psalm 22. Before we go on to look at this psalm further, we suggest you put this book down, open your Bible, and read Psalm 22 for yourself. Where do you see Jesus in this psalm?


Now let’s look together:


The psalm that begins with the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” continues with many other striking references to Jesus on the cross.


David says, “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him’” (22:6–8). The cries of scorn heaped on Jesus by those present at the crucifixion are almost identical:


In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” (Matt. 27:41–43)


The psalm continues, “From my mother’s womb you have been my God” (Ps. 22:10). If anyone could say those words with more integrity than David, it was the son of Mary. The psalmist goes on, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death” (22:15). The phrase “my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth” is simply another way of saying “I’m thirsty.” Jesus said on the cross, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28).


The next verse is translated, “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet” (Ps. 22:16). David wrote these words hundreds of years before the Roman punishment of crucifixion had even been invented.…


He continues, “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing” (22:18). Luke tells us that at the scene of Jesus’ crucifixion “… they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:34).


Psalm 22:22 says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you.” The stunning thing about this verse is that the writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament tells us that Jesus said it too: “So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises’” (Heb. 2:11–12).


Perhaps most amazing of all, the psalm that started with the words that began Jesus’ crucifixion—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—ends with these five words: “for he has done it” (Ps. 22:31). Only Jesus was able to put these five words into the first person: “It is finished” (John 19:30). For he has done it—it is finished.


How amazing that David, without knowing it, should have written these words for the “Son of David,” his Lord, to speak on the cross a thousand years later!


~~~~~~~~


We have listed just a few of the references to Jesus in the Old Testament. There are many others. We encourage you to go on a treasure hunt of your own! None of this is to say that the stories in

the Old Testament don’t have a power, force, and meaning of their own—they do very much! In this chapter, however, we are only interested in tracing the storyline of Jesus through the Old Testament. It’s like going to an IMAX cinema and being given special 3–D goggles when you go in. Try watching the screen without the goggles, and the pictures are there—though slightly blurred. Once you’ve put on the 3–D goggles, there’s suddenly a whole new, sharp, remarkable

dimension that comes into view. We’ve just watched some events of the lives of only a few of the characters of the Old Testament—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and David—wearing our 3–D goggles; even with only this brief snapshot, some of what was concealed has been revealed. What we need to remember is that this isn’t just a clever joining of dots to make neat parallels—this is rich and glorious truth. It’s the plan of salvation for our lives laid out through the lives of the Old Testament heroes. It’s part of the mystery and wonder of God that he was able to weave the story of Jesus into the lives of his most faithful followers in the Old Testament in such an incredible way. In the same way, he is weaving the story of Jesus into our lives and our individual stories.


The Messianic Prophecies


There are also over three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As we said at the beginning of this chapter, Jesus identified himself in the Old Testament when he said to the Pharisees, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40).


At the end of the chapter, we’ve listed tons of the messianic prophecies, and we hope you’ll take the time to open your Bible and discover more of them. But for now, we’d like to look at one of

the most significant passages, found in Isaiah 53. Before this chapter Isaiah has been talking about the plight of Israel, how they have turned from their God, worshipped idols, and broken his laws by acting unjustly toward one another. The book of Isaiah begins before the exile in Babylon and then continues during the exile. Isaiah begins to speak hope to a hopeless people. He declares that God has not given up on his people and describes the coming of an anointed

one, a Messiah who will bring salvation to Israel. In chapter 53 this Messiah is described in detail. We again urge you, put down this book, open the Bible to Isaiah 53, and read it. Too much explanation of this chapter is unnecessary; it speaks clearly for itself.


In Isaiah 53:2 we notice that when God came to earth, he didn’t look like Brad Pitt. We are also told the coming king would be “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (53:3). This is key, as many of the Jews were expecting a victorious and powerful leader. Verse 6 lays out the sin for which the servant of God would die, the sin of human beings choosing their own way instead of God’s. This verse reminds us that the heart of sin is going astray, choosing to live

independently from him; the choice made by Adam and Eve. Verse 7 speaks of the fact that when Jesus, the Lamb of God, was brought before his accusers, he did not defend himself. Jesus himself even quotes verse 12 at the Last Supper in Luke 22:37: “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” Isaiah 53 was fulfilled hundreds of years later when Jesus, dying on the cross, “bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:12).


We began this chapter by saying that Jesus is concealed in the Old Testament and revealed in the New. The fact is that Jesus hasn’t been concealed very well—we’ve looked at only a few examples, yet pictures and prophecies of Jesus are all over the place!



What does all this tell us? First, Jesus Christ is the central character of the whole Bible. He does not just appear in the last scene. The person of Jesus is, if you like, the glue that holds the whole Bible together. Secondly, this tells us that Jesus was not Plan B. His birth, life, death, and resurrection were written into the script from the very beginning. Our sin and rebellion did not take God by surprise, and Father, Son, and Holy Spirit did not need to have an emergency

cabinet meeting in heaven to work out the rescue plan. Before creation began, God knew that he would have to become part of, and suffer with, his creation. (Take a look at Revelation 13:8.)


A wise couple counts the cost before deciding to have a baby. There is the possibility of several months of vomiting followed by hours of agony for one partner. Then years of sleepless nights for both, followed by the expenditure of ridiculous amounts of money on toys, school uniforms, etc. Then more sleepless nights as they wonder where the teenage offspring are at 2:00 a.m. and even more expenditure if they try and send them to college.


A couple who has counted the cost of all this, but who has decided to love deeply and with commitment, decides to pay the price. God counted the cost and decided to pay the price. From the beginning he said we were worth it. From the beginning he said you were worth it. The whole of the Bible, the Word of God, is a revelation of Jesus, the Word made flesh.


A few years ago a friend of ours proposed to his girlfriend. He went all out. The day before the proposal he went into the countryside and laid an elaborate trail of messages. It began with a note hidden in the branch of a tree. The note was a love letter but also directions and clues as to where the next note was. She soon found, under a rock, another love letter with a clue as to where the next was hidden. Then there was another, inside a bottle concealed by a hedge. This went on for hours until she came to the final love letter. With this love letter, buried in the earth, was a box. When she opened the box, she saw the engagement ring, and he was already kneeling. The fact that he had gone to such a huge effort and carefully laid this elaborate trail was all to show her just how much he desired and loved her. Most women will never forget their wedding day; this woman will never forget the day he proposed. It was spectacular. He planned it down to the last detail; he left the clues everywhere, and it meant the world to her.


In the same way, we, as the bride of Christ (and we know this can seem corny), should be rejoicing and know ourselves to be much loved because our God has laid the paper trail throughout the Old Testament. He has hidden the clues of his love and amazing salvation.

It is our prayer that as you’ve read this chapter you have gone on a journey of discovery, not simply of Jesus, but of how deep God’s love is for us—of how he loved you before you were even conceived.


Jesus Storyline Paperchase:


– John 5:39–40 (Jesus asks, “Where’s Waldo?”)


Pictures in the lives of the Old Testament characters

– Genesis 6–9 (Noah)

– Genesis 22 (Abraham and Isaac)

– Genesis 37–50 (Joseph)

– Exodus 3, 14, 32 (Moses)

– 1 Samuel 17; Psalm 22 (David)


Messianic prophecies

As we said before, there are over three hundred prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the New Testament. To help you get started discovering the Jesus storyline throughout Scripture, we’ve listed a few of them for you, and we pray that God will reveal wonderful things to you as you study!


1. The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem


Micah 5:2–5a

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Therefore Israel will be abandoned until the time when she who is in labor gives birth and the rest of his brothers return to join the Israelites. He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they will live securely, for then his greatness will reach to the ends of the earth. And he will be their peace.


2. He will be King


Isaiah 9:6–7

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.


Daniel 7:13–14

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was

given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.


Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


3. He will be a descendant of David/family lineage


2 Samuel 7:12–16

When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the

one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.


Psalm 132:11

The LORD swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke: “One of your own descendants I will place on your throne …”


Jeremiah 23:5–6

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our

Righteousness”


Jeremiah 33:15

In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.


Isaiah 11:1

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.


Numbers 24:17

I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.


4. He will be born of a virgin


Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.


5. He will be a priest


Zechariah 6:11–13

Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.”


Psalm 110:4

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.”


6. He will be Lord


Psalm 110:1

The LORD says to my LORD: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”


7. He will be God


Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.


Jeremiah 23:6

This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.


8. He will bring salvation


Isaiah 49:6

He says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”


Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.


9. He will atone for sins


Isaiah 53:4–6

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for

our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


Isaiah 53:7–8

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.


Isaiah 53:10–12

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.

For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


10. He will heal the sick/preach the good news


Isaiah 61:1 (and whole chapter)

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners …


Isaiah 35:5–6

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.


11. He will teach in parables


Psalm 78:2

I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old …


12. He will be a light to the Gentiles


Isaiah 42:6

I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles …


Isaiah 49:6

I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.


13. He will enter Jerusalem riding a donkey


Zechariah 9:9

Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of

a donkey.


14. He will be rejected/mocked/suffer and die


Isaiah 53:1–3 (and verses 4–12)

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Psalm 118:22

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.


Psalm 22:7–8

All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: “He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.”


15. His enemies will pierce his hands and feet, divide his clothes among themselves, and cast dice for his garments; and he will be served by future generations


Psalm 22:16–18

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments

among them and cast lots for my clothing.


Psalm 22:30

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.


16. He will be betrayed by a friend


Psalm 41:9

Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.


17. He will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver


Zechariah 11:12

I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.


18. The thirty pieces of silver will be thrown to the potter.


Zechariah 11:13

And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome

price at which they priced me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver

and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.


19. He will be beaten, mocked, and spat upon


Isaiah 50:6

I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.


20. His bones will not be broken


Psalm 34:19–20

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.


21. His side will be pierced


Zechariah 12:10

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him

as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.


22. He will be raised from the dead


Isaiah 53:8–12

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.


Psalm 16:10

… because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.


Psalm 49:15

But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself.


23. He will ascend to heaven


Psalm 68:18

When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious—that you, O LORD God, might dwell there.


Discussion Questions:

• Are you surprised at the extent to which the Old Testament points to Jesus? If so, why? If not, then why aren’t you?

• What does this tell us about the way that the Old Testament links to the New Testament?

• What practical relevance does this knowledge—that Jesus’ life was foretold in so many miraculous ways—have?


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. Storylines by Andy Croft and Mike Pilavachi. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



Here is my review of this terrific Bible synopsis:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft and their publisher for sending me a copy of "Storylines" 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.

I am absolutely smitten with Andy Croft’s and Mike Pilavachi’s overview of the Bible. “Storylines: Your Map To Understanding The Bible” does not claim to be a substitute for reading scripture. Rather it is intended to whet the appetite of the reader as to the subject matter of the books of scripture so that they will open their Bibles and feed on scripture for themselves. This would be a terrific individual or group study guide for all levels of student. There is some wonderful information on how to study scripture for yourself. Each chapter ends with thought-provoking discussion questions. And I absolutely loved the appendix “The Bible in 20 Pages”!

What a great book to choose for your next Bible study or organized class to help new Christians learn how to read and study the Word of God! I will recommend this book for years to come.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Promise of Morning by Ann Shorey

New historical romance set on the Illinois frontier in 1840s:

When loss breaks her heart, can she find the courage to go on?

The Promise of Morning from Ann Shorey takes readers to Beldon Grove on the Illinois frontier in the 1840s. Life isn’t easy here. For Ellie Craig, the graves of her three infant children make it unbearably lonely, despite the love of her husband Matthew. When she uncovers a family secret that suggests she may not be as alone as she thought, Ellie is determined to find the truth.

Meanwhile, Matthew Craig faces controversy in the church he pastors when a man arrives in town claiming to be both a minister and the son of the town's founder. Will Matthew find the courage to reclaim his church? Or will he return to itinerant preaching, leaving Ellie even more alone than before?

Book 2 in the At Home in Beldon Grove series, The Promise of Morning will touch your soul with themes of overcoming tragedy, finding strength to meet daunting challenges, and trusting your heart to love again.


Here is my review of this emotional read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Ann Shorey and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Promise of Morning" 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 Promise of Morning” by Ann Shorey is the second novel in the “At Home In Beldon Grove” series. This historical work of fiction set in the 1840s frontier begins with a visit to the cemetery for Ellie Craig. Three of her infant children have died and been buried. And she now lives in fear that something will happen to her 10-month-old daughter. Ellie’s husband, Matthew, is supportive of his wife, but is concerned that she is not grieving in a manner conducive to recovering. The fact that he is a preacher adds understanding to his ability to process grief and possibly a depth to his character hinting at an inadequacy to help Ellie process hers. And this is just the beginning of this dramatic tale of controversial happenings, family secrets and forgiveness.

At first, Ellie’s character irritated me. The way she snapped at Matthew when she shouldn’t have was an indication of the deep hurt she felt, but I hadn’t invested enough in her character’s pain to sympathize. So, the initial impression I had of her was less than favorable. But she eventually won me over to a certain extent, and I enjoyed the story very much. I gravitated toward Matthew right away as I tend to root for the underdog, and his introduction in the story made his character deserving of support. This emotional story will not make my list of all-time favorite books for the simple reason of how gut-wrenching it is. Still, it is a well-written novel, and if you enjoy historical fiction that tugs firmly at the heart strings, this is the book for you.



“Available March 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Today's Daily Devotional


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

04/27/09 He cares for you! Yes, you. Right where you are. Even with a past like yours. Even with a present like yours. He wants to have a relationship with you. He wants you to call on His name. He wants you to lean on Him. He wants you to allow Him to love you! What are you waiting for? Pray now. Speak your own words or borrow mine. Heavenly Father, thank You for chasing me. Thank You for loving me so much that You sent Jesus to die for my sins on the cross. I believe that He conquered death by rising from the dead. I accept that Jesus did this for me, and I ask Him to come into my heart and change my life. Teach me how to know You and love You as You want me to. In Jesus’ name I ask all of this. Amen.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 21


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.

Stacey


Take a few minutes to savor Genesis Chapter 21. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



21:1-3 – “Miracles never cease.” See Exodus 15:11. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

21:2 – Yes, the elderly have sex.

It took 25 years to deliver Isaac as fulfillment of the promise God made to Abraham. We need to “trust in God, lean on Him, recognize His voice, and follow His commands no matter how long it may take to accomplish His will.” (Explore the Bible, Winter 2007-2008, Genesis 1-27 – 17:1-2, 17-19)

21:6 – “God has bought me laughter” – double meaning: God brought her Isaac, who was called laughter and he brought Sarah joy as well. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

“There is a time to laugh.” See Psalms 30:11. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

It’s rather funny that Sarah and Abraham both laughed when they learned that they would have a son! The name Isaac means “laughter”.

21:8 – “…on the day he was weaned…” – of course Sarah was in a bad mood! (Loved by God – Higgs) Ishmael would have been 2-3 years old.

21:9 – notice the verse says “the son”, not “Sarah’s son”. Also, the reference to Hagar’s nationality is like a slur, offering another clue as to the strain in their relationship. “Borne to Abraham” is used, not “borne for Sarah,” which may indicate that Sarah played no role in Ishmael’s upbringing. Ishmael would have been 16 or 17 years old. Why would he be mocking Isaac rather than chasing girls? As evidenced later (21:15-18), Ishmael was a weak mama’s boy.

was Ishmael’s hostile behavior learned from watching his mother?

21:10 – Sarah didn’t speak Hagar’s or Ishmael’s names when petitioning Abraham to send them away, indicating further diminishment in relationship.

21:12 – God takes Sarah’s side by telling Abraham to do as she says and not worry about Hagar and Ishmael. Abraham wasn’t as concerned about them earlier in scripture (see 16:6). Is this a glimpse into the male psyche? Are men truly visual and tactile beings? Things they can see and touch are more real so they matter more. Is faith so much harder for them as well?

21:12-13 – God mentions Isaac by name, but calls Ishmael “the son of the maidservant.” This would be an indication of Ishmael’s lesser position.

21:15 – He was 16 or 17. How could she “put” him anywhere? He was a mama’s boy.

21:16 – How far is a bowshot?

21:17 – God heard the boy – “A pun on the name Ishmael” (NIVSB) which means “God hears.”

“What is the matter, Hagar?” – of course God knew what was happening. He was giving her an opportunity to confess her failures, fears, faithlessness, etc.

“We have a Hero who hears.” See Psalm 107:8-9. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

21:17-18 – God as a divine parent.

21:18 – great nation – God expands the previous vision (see 16:10).

21:19 – “Lord, open our eyes that we may see.” See Jeremiah 32:17. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

21:20 – God was with Ishmael – his descendants are at war with Israel (and us). What happened? Did they turn their backs on God? This marks his transformation from mama’s boy to “wild donkey of a man.” (See 16:12)

21:22-27 – Abimelech is entering into a covenant with Abraham.

21:23 – Abimelech had reason to be suspicious of Abraham because of their past dealings involving Sarah (see chapter 20).

21:33 – Eternal God – El Olam.


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

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 “When I wander through the desert and I'm longing for my home, all my dreams have gone astray. When I'm stranded in the valley and I'm tired and all alone, it seems like I've lost my way. I go running to your mountain where your mercy sets me free. You are my strong tower, Shelter over me, Beautiful and mighty, Everlasting King. You are my strong tower, Fortress when I'm weak, Your name is true and holy, And Your face is all I seek. In the middle of my darkness, in the midst of all my fear, You're my refuge and my hope. When the storm of life is raging and the thunder's all I hear, You speak softly to my soul.”

Strong Tower – Kutless.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dr. Colbert's "I Can Do This" Diet by Don Colbert

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:


Dr. Colbert's "I Can Do This" Diet

Siloam Press (January 5, 2010)

***Special thanks to LeAnn Hamby | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Don Colbert, MD, is board-certified in family practice and anti-aging medicine. He has also received extensive training in nutritional and preventative medicine, and he has helped millions of people to discover the joy of living in divine health. In addition to speaking at conferences, he is the author of the New York Times best-selling book The Seven Pillars of Health, along with best sellers Toxic Relief, the Bible Cure series, Living in Divine Health, Deadly Emotions, and What Would Jesus Eat?

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $24.99
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Siloam Press (January 5, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1599793504
ISBN-13: 978-1599793504

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Obesity Epidemic:
What We’re Up Against

A few years ago a thirty-two-year-old man named Morgan Spurlock became Ronald McDonald’s worst nightmare. Intent on correlating the rise of obesity in our nation with the fast-food giant, the independent filmmaker conducted a personal experiment—using himself as the guinea pig. For thirty days he ate nothing but McDonald’s food. He downed three meals a day, sampling every item on the Golden Arches’ menu. And whenever he was asked if he wanted his meal supersized, he accepted.

With cameras rolling the entire time, Spurlock transformed his body into a flab factory while consuming an average of 5,000 calories a day and gaining almost 25 pounds in a single month. He also turned his Academy Award–nominated documentary, Super Size Me, into a statement heard around the world.1

The jury is still out on whether Americans were actually paying attention. Though recent statistics indicate that the obesity rates in the United States may be stabilizing, they’re still at unprecedented, staggering levels.2 Since the 1960s, the proportion of obese Americans—now an astounding 34 percent—has more than doubled.3 Obesity currently kills an estimated four hundred thousand Americans each year and is the second-leading cause of preventable deaths in this country.4 The number one avoidable killer? Cigarette smoking.5 That means maintaining a healthy weight is up there with quitting smoking as the most crucial lifestyle change you could ever make. Because we’re seeing a trend of people deciding to quit smoking, I predict that obesity will soon pass smoking as the number one avoidable killer of Americans.

Unfortunately, many doctors, nutritionists, and dietitians seem to completely miss or ignore this fact. They love to offer topical “Band-Aids” that alleviate patients’ symptoms yet fail to tackle the root issues or consider the long-term ramifications of neglecting their patients’ weight. One recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that about a third of obese adults have never been told by a doctor or health-care provider that they were obese.6 Unbelievable! The results speak for themselves. In fact, they’re screaming while most practitioners turn the other way.

As our nation faces the biggest health-care crisis in its history, it’s time for us to realize that the answer isn’t going to come from doctors, clinics, or the U.S. government. It’s going to come from each person taking responsibility for their own health. And because obesity and overweight are at the root of so many health conditions, it only makes sense to start by getting yourself to a healthy weight.

Defining the Problem

Before we delve into what has so many people visiting the plus-size department, let’s clarify the terms overweight and obese. Many people have a general sense as to how these words are different, yet in recent years the delineation has become clearer. Various health organizations, including the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), now officially define these terms using the body mass index (BMI), which factors in a person’s weight relative to height. Most of these organizations define an overweight adult as having a BMI between 25 and 29.9, while an obese adult is anyone who has a BMI of 30 or higher.7



It’s worth mentioning that a very small portion of individuals are overweight or obese according to their BMI (over 30) yet have a normal or low body fat percentage. Professional athletes, for instance, often have a high-muscle, low body fat makeup that causes them to weigh more than the average person, yet they are not truly obese (some football linemen and sumo wrestlers excluded, of course).

However, I have found that most of the people who come to me seeking help are not just overweight but technically obese, with a body fat percentage greater than 25 percent for males and greater than 33 percent for females.8 Throughout this book when I discuss having a high BMI (over 30), I will be referring to obese people and not those few muscular types with high BMI but a normal or low body fat percentage.

The Fat Cost of Obesity

When all is considered, obesity comes with a fat price tag (pun intended) of nearly $122.9 billion each year.10 Recently William L. Weis, a management professor at Seattle University, calculated the total annual revenue from the “obesity industry”—which includes fast-food restaurants, obesity-related medical treatments, and diet books—as more than $315 billion. That amounts to nearly 3 percent of the United States’ overall economy!11 As shocking as that sounds, no dollar amount can do justice to the real damage being done.

If you are overweight or obese, you increase your risk of developing thirty-five major diseases, including (take a deep breath) heart disease, stroke, arthritis, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, Alzheimer’s disease, infertility, erectile dysfunction, gallstones, gallbladder disease, adult-onset asthma, and depression. In fact, we now know that being overweight or obese increases your odds of developing more than a dozen forms of cancer. After reviewing more than seven thousand medical studies over the course of five years, a team of highly respected scientists from around the world concluded in 2007 that diet and weight have a direct effect on the chances of developing cancer. With help from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer, they listed the top ten recommendations for cancer prevention; body fat came in at number one. Their report also strongly recommended maintaining a normal range of body weight, which they identified as a body mass index between 18.5 and 24.9, to assist in cancer prevention.12

If you are an obese woman, you have a significantly higher risk of postmenopausal breast cancer—one and a half times more than a woman with an average healthy weight, to be exact. You also increase your chances of developing uterine cancer because of your weight. For pregnant mothers, the risk of delivering a baby with a serious birth defect is doubled if you are overweight and quadrupled if you are obese.13 Men, your chances of developing prostate cancer are almost double if you are overweight, and even greater if you are obese.14 (Prostate cancer is the second-most common cancer among men behind skin cancer.) A separate new study indicates that the greater a man’s weight, the greater his chances of dying from a stroke.15 Finally, for both men and women the odds of getting colon and kidney cancer increase with weight. And being obese triples your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

This is just a sampling of the physical implications of obesity. There are social and psychological ones too. Obese individuals generally contend with more rejection and prejudice than the average person. Often they are overlooked for promotions or not even hired because of their physical appearance. Most obese people struggle daily with self-worth and self-image issues. They feel unattractive and unappreciated and are at an increased risk of depression. Many of us have experienced the humiliating experience of an obese person trying to fit in an airplane, stadium, or automobile seat that is too small. Maybe you have been that person. If you have, you are well acquainted with how obesity can affect the way others treat you, as well as how you treat yourself.

Globesity and a Culprit

Tragically, millions of others outside the United States struggle with the same issues. The World Health Organization calls obesity a worldwide epidemic. Obesity, along with its expanding list of health consequences, is now overtaking infection and malnutrition as the main cause of death and disability in many third-world countries. Globesity, as it has been termed, has officially arrived. And it seems Morgan Spurlock was on the right track in discovering a major reason why.

In Fast Food Nation, author Eric Schlosser reports that in 1970, Americans spent about $6 billion on fast food; in 2000, we spent more than $110 billion. Because corporate America is a global trendsetter, other countries have followed suit. Between 1984 and 1993, the number of fast-food restaurants in Great Britain doubled, as did the obesity rate among adults. Fast-forward fifteen years, and you will find the British currently eat more fast food than any other nation in Western Europe.





Meanwhile, the proportion of overweight teens in China has roughly tripled in the past decade. In Japan, the obesity rate among children doubled during the 1980s, which correlated with a 200 percent increase in fast-food sales. This generation of Japanese has gone on to become the first in the nation’s history known for its bulging waistlines. Approximately one-third of all Japanese men in their thirties are now overweight.16 Yes, the entire world is beginning to look more like Americans by adopting our fast-food eating habits.

A Child Shall Lead Them

How has an entire generation of hefty eaters changed the face of the world? By starting young. And once again, this unflattering trend originated in America. In the United States, one-fifth of our children are now reported to be overweight, and one out of ten (24 million adults) have diabetes. The CDC predicts that one out of three children born in the United States in 2000 will develop type 2 diabetes at some point in their life.18

As a result of childhood obesity, we are seeing a dramatic rise in children with type 2 diabetes throughout the country. And because of the connection obesity has with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol), and heart disease, experts are predicting a dramatic rise in heart disease as our children become adults. The CDC reports that overweight teens stand a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight adults, and that is increased to 80 percent if at least one parent is overweight or obese. Because of that, heart disease and type 2 diabetes are expected to begin at a much earlier age in those who fail to beat the odds.19 Overall, this is the first generation of children that is not expected to live as long as their parents, and they will be more likely to suffer from disease and illness at an earlier age.

If you do not lose weight for yourself, at least do it for your children. Children follow by example, by mirroring the behavior of their parents. Don’t tell them to lose weight without doing it yourself. I’m sure most of you love your children and are good parents. But ask yourself: Do you love your children enough to lose weight? Do you love them enough to educate them on what foods to eat and what foods to avoid? Do you love them enough to keep junk food out of your house and instead make healthy food more available? Do you love them enough to exercise regularly and lead by example?

If you answered yes to those questions, it is important that you not only take action for your children’s sake but also that you make changes for them that last. I am ecstatic that you have picked up this book. I believe you now hold the key to truly changing your life. But let me be honest; this is not an easy fight when it involves your children’s lives. The culture in which they are growing up is saturated with junk food that is void of nutrition but high in toxic fats, sugars, highly processed carbohydrates, and food additives. Consuming these foods has become part of childhood. For example, in 1978, the typical teenage boy in the United States drank seven ounces of soda a day; today he drinks approximately three times that much. Meanwhile, he gets about a quarter of his daily servings of vegetables from french fries and potato chips.24



If you’re planning on taking a stand against this garbage-in, garbage-out culture, expect some opposition from every front. During the course of a year, the typical American child will watch more than thirty thousand television commercials, with many of these advertisements pitching fast food or junk food as delicious “must-eats.” For years, fast-food franchises have enticed children into their restaurants with kids’ meal toys, promotional giveaways, and elaborate playgrounds. It has obviously worked for McDonald’s: about 90 percent of American children between the ages of three and nine set foot in one each month.25 And when they can’t visit the Golden Arches, it comes to them. Fast-food products—most of which are brought in by franchises—are sold in about 30 percent of public high school cafeterias and many elementary cafeterias.26

These fast-food establishments spend billions of dollars on research and marketing. They know exactly what they are doing and how to push your child’s hot button. They understand the powerful impact certain foods can have on you at a young age. Have you ever thought of when you first started liking certain foods? For the majority of people, those preferences were formed during the first few years of life. That is why comfort foods often do more than just fill the stomach; they bring about memories of the fair, playgrounds, toys, backyard birthday bashes, Fourth of July parties, childhood friends . . . the list goes on. The aroma of foods such as onion rings, doughnuts, or fried hamburgers can instantly trigger these memories, and as adults, we are often unconsciously drawn to these smells. Advertisers have keyed into this and learned to use the sight of food to stimulate the same fond childhood memories.

In the Genes or in the Water?

For every obese person, there is a story behind the excessive weight gain. Growing up, I would often hear it said of an obese person that “she was just born fat,” or “he takes after his daddy.” There’s some truth in both of those. Genetics count when it comes to obesity.

In 1988, the New England Journal of Medicine published a Danish study that observed five hundred forty people who had been adopted during infancy. The research found that adopted individuals had a much greater tendency to end up in the weight class of their biological parents rather than their adoptive parents.28 Separate studies have proven that twins raised apart also reveal that genes have a strong influence on gaining weight or becoming overweight.29 There is a significant genetic predisposition to gaining weight.

Still, that does not fully explain the epidemic of obesity seen in the United States over the past thirty years. Although an individual may have a genetic predisposition to become obese, environment plays a major role as well. I like the way author, speaker, and noted women’s physician Pamela Peeke said it: “Genetics may load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.”30 Many patients I see come into my office thinking they have inherited their “fat genes,” and therefore there is nothing they can do about it. After investigating a little, I usually find that they simply inherited their parents’ propensity for bad choices of foods, large portion sizes, and poor eating habits.

If you have been overweight since childhood, you probably have an increased number of fat cells, which means you will have a tendency to gain weight if you choose the wrong types of foods, large portion sizes, and are inactive. But you should also realize that most people can override their genetic makeup for obesity by making the correct dietary and lifestyle choices. Unfortunately, many of us forget that to make these healthy choices, it helps to surround ourselves with a healthy environment.

That is becoming more difficult than ever as families give way to their hectic routines by grabbing breakfasts-on-the-go, ordering fast-food lunches, dining out for dinner, and skipping meals. After years of this, it is catching up to us. The average American adult gains between 1 to 3 pounds a year, beginning at age twenty-five. That means a twenty-five-year-old, 120-pound female can expect to weigh anywhere from 150 to 210 pounds by the time she is fifty-five years of age. Is there any wonder why we have an epidemic of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, arthritis, cancer, and other degenerative diseases? We have to put the brakes on this obesity epidemic—and a lifestyle approach to eating is the answer!

Adding Culture to the Mix

Just as environment often shapes your health habits, so does culture. The two walk hand in hand when it comes to causing obesity. As children, we develop our food preferences and habits based on our family environment. Yet every family is influenced by its surrounding culture, and culture often shapes the types of foods, recipes, and ingredients we choose on a regular basis.

I was raised in Mississippi. Ever since I was a child I remember how my mother’s coffee cup always sat on the stove in the kitchen. But instead of coffee, it was filled with bacon grease. Whenever she cooked vegetables—any kind—she would add a few tablespoons of that bacon grease to add flavor. She fried almost everything: fried chicken, fried hamburgers, fried salmon, fried fish sticks, chicken fried steaks, fried chicken livers, fried ham, fried pork chops, fried bacon . . . you name it. Why did she do this? Because her mother had taught her to fry virtually any meat.

Mom also usually made gravies, all of which were grease-based. Most meals were served with corn bread or biscuits, either of which contained a hefty amount of Crisco shortening. We rarely ate grilled food, and when we did, it was a fatty cut of meat. I still remember my father making me eat all the fat on my steak. Since I was a skinny kid, he would say, “Son, that fat is good for you—it will help to fatten you up.” I recall almost puking as I tried to get the fat down.

We were a typical Southern family. My brother, sister, and I were all raised to eat fried foods, greasy foods, biscuits, and corn bread—and top it all off with a large piece of cake or pie for dessert. Today, I see a similar thing happening in the southwestern part of the United States. This Southwest culture, which is in part defined by its Tex-Mex and Mexican eating habits, is helping to fuel the obesity epidemic. Most of these people are being raised on highly processed white breads or corn tortillas, white rice and fried white rice, corn chips, refried beans, fried tacos, enchiladas, nachos . . . the list goes on. Their diet typically contains a lot of fats, a lot of grease, a ton of highly processed carbohydrates, and a lot of sugar.

It is no coincidence that almost every year some Texas city has the unflattering distinction of having the largest number of obese individuals in the country. After Houston was named the “fattest city” multiple times in past years, 2008 saw Arlington, San Antonio, Fort Worth, El Paso, and Dallas all place among the top ten fattest cities of Men’s Fitness magazine’s “Annual Fattest and Fittest Cities in America Report.” The year before, four of those cities made the dubious honor.31 Not only do these overweight hot spots feature some of the country’s best Tex-Mex and Mexican style foods, but they also offer extra large Texas portions with a blend of some of the most calorie-dense cultural foods around. Is there any wonder why Texans have a major obesity problem?

Eating With the Head and Not the Heart



We have discussed how genetics can sometimes, though rarely, prompt an individual’s obese state. We have also talked about how the overwhelming majority of obesity cases are a direct result of environment and culture. These can be discouraging factors in light of the gloomy statistics and the ongoing epidemic. However, I want to end this chapter on a positive note by reminding you of a simple truth. In fact, it is what this book is all about.

Regardless of how difficult it sounds, your cultural tastes and foods can be changed over time with education, practice, and discipline. You can learn how to choose similar foods that have not been excessively processed as well as lower-fat alternatives. It’s possible to discover—or rediscover—portion control and healthy cooking methods. Sure, you may still love your fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and chocolate cake. But soon you will be able to enjoy the same foods with just a fraction of the fat, sugars, and calories.

When I wrote the book What Would Jesus Eat? about the Mediterranean diet, I learned that most Middle Easterners ate differently than the typical American. That sounds obvious, but what distinguishes the two isn’t. I found that those who are used to a Mediterranean diet typically would not leave the dinner table stuffed as most Americans do. Generally, they ate anything they wanted—but in moderation. They enjoyed their food and socialized while eating. They had the uncanny ability to enjoy just a few bites of their favorite foods such as wine, dark chocolate, or even chocolate ice cream. Unlike most Americans, who scarf down a dessert as if they were inhaling it, those eating a Mediterranean diet actually savored just a few bites.

The real pleasure in most foods is in the first few bites. We will discuss this later, but for now, know that you can break out of your old cultural eating patterns. You do not have to follow a parent’s poor food choices, and you can overcome your family’s eating cultural patterns. (I certainly did!) And in the process, you will discover the true joy of eating.






Here is my review of the latest addition to my "diet" library:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Dr. Don Colbert and his publisher for sending me a copy of "I Can Do This Diet" 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.

You may think that “I Can Do This Diet” by Don Colbert, MD is just another I-can’t-fit-into-my-largest-pair-of-jeans-and-I-need-to-lose-weight-RIGHT-NOW diet book. What I found when I cracked the cover was a good deal of scientific information about why our bodies react the way they do. I found good information on sugar, exercise, how to deal with plateaus when dieting, and a table of scripture verses that I never thought about with regard to losing weight (this is the coolest part of the book!). There’s a list of recommended places to purchase certain organic food items and supplements and a week of sample menus. What I didn’t find was an appendix of healthy and delicious recipes. Perhaps I’ve read too many diet books.

Maybe I should quit reading diet books completely and do what I already know is the proper course of action – EAT LESS AND GET MORE EXERCISE!!!!!

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 “The room grew still as she made her way to Jesus. She stumbles through the tears that made her blind. She felt such pain, some spoke in anger. Heard folks whisper, there's no place here for her kind. Still on she came, through the shame that flushed her face until at last she knelt before His feet. And though she spoke no words everything she said was heard, As she poured her love for the Master From her box of Alabaster. And I've come to pour my praise on Him like oil from Mary's Alabaster Box. Don't be angry if I wash His feet with my tears and I dry them with my hair. You weren't there the night He found me. You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped His love all around me. And you don't know the cost of the oil in my Alabaster Box. I can't forget the way life used to be. I was a prisoner to the sin that had me bound. I spent my days pouring my life without measure into a little treasure box I thought I found. Until the day when Jesus came to me and healed my soul with the wonder of His touch. So now I'm giving back to Him all the praise He's worthy of. I've been forgiven and that's why I love Him so much. And I've come to pour my praise on Him like oil from Mary's Alabaster Box. Don't be angry if I wash His feet with my tears and I dry them with my hair, my hair. You weren't there the night Jesus found me. You did not feel what I felt when He wrapped His love all around me. And you don't know the cost of the oil - Oh, you don't know the cost of my praise. You don't know the cost of the oil in my Alabaster Box.”

Alabaster Box – CeCe Winans.

Wednesday, March 24, 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 is so special about a good work? Well, since the only good thing is God, I’d say that’s pretty special. In light of that, this verse should probably be read like so: 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 GOD work. God equips us this way to do HIS work. Not just any work, but those things that Ephesians 2:10 says He has prepared in advance for us to do. The Lord offers us grace so that, at any time and in any place, we are thoroughly prepared to do the things that He has prepared in advance for us to do. And since He has prepared the assignment, and He has prepared us for the assignment, it would seem that this is the perfect recipe for good God work.

On Guard by William Lane Craig

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:


On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision

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

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology. With earned doctorates in philosophy and theology, he has established a reputation as one of the most prominent Christian philosophers of our day. His publications, debates, and internet presence have made him a highly visible champion of Christian faith. His seminary textbook, Reasonable Faith, is widely considered to be the best book on Christian apologetics today.


Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (March 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764885
ISBN-13: 978-1434764881

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


WHAT IS APOLOGETICS?


Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15 RSV)


I teach a Sunday school class called “Defenders” to about one hundred people, from high schoolers to senior adults, at our home church in Atlanta. We talk about what the Bible teaches (Christian doctrine) and about how to defend it (Christian apologetics). Sometimes people who aren’t in our class don’t understand what we do. One fine Southern lady, upon hearing that I teach Christian apologetics, remarked indignantly, “I’ll never apologize for my faith!”


Apologetics Means a Defense


The reason for her misunderstanding is obvious: “Apologetics” sounds like “apologize.” But apologetics is not the art of telling somebody you’re sorry that you’re a Christian! Rather apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia, which means a defense, as in a court of law. Christian apologetics involves making a case for the truth of the Christian faith.


The Bible actually commands us to have such a case ready to give to any unbeliever who wants to know why we believe what we do. Just as the contestants in a fencing match have learned both to parry each attack as well as to go on the offensive themselves, so we must always be “on guard.” First Peter 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (author’s translation).


Notice the attitude we’re supposed to have when giving our defense: We should be gentle and respectful. Apologetics is also not the art of making somebody else sorry that you’re a Christian! We can present a defense of the Christian faith without becoming defensive. We can present arguments for Christianity without becoming argumentative.


When I talk in this book about arguments for the Christian faith, it’s vital to understand that I don’t mean quarreling. We should never quarrel with a nonbeliever about our faith. That only makes people mad and drives them away. As I’ll explain later in this chapter, an argument in the philosophical sense is not a fight or a heated exchange; it’s just a series of statements leading to a conclusion. That’s all.


Ironically, if you have good arguments in support of your faith, you’re less apt to become quarrelsome or upset. I find that the better my arguments, the less argumentative I am. The better my defense, the less defensive I am. If you have good reasons for what you believe and know the answers to the unbeliever’s questions or objections, there’s just no reason to get hot under the collar. Instead, you’ll find yourself calm and confident when you’re under attack, because you know you have the answers.


I frequently debate on university campuses on topics like “Does God Exist?” or “Christianity vs.

Atheism.” Sometimes students in the audience get up during the Q&A period and attack me personally

or go into an abusive rant. I find that my reaction to these students is not anger, but rather simply feeling

sorry for them because they’re so mixed up. If you have good reasons for what you believe, then instead

of anger you’ll feel a genuine compassion for the unbeliever, who is often so misled. Good apologetics involves “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15).


Is Apologetics Biblical?

Some people think that apologetics is unbiblical. They say that you should just preach the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do His work! But I think that the example of Jesus and the apostles affirms the value of apologetics. Jesus appealed to miracles and to fulfilled prophecy to prove that His claims were true (Luke 24:25–27; John 14:11). What about the apostles? In dealing with other Jews, they used fulfilled prophecy, Jesus’ miracles, and especially Jesus’ resurrection to prove that He was the Messiah. Take, for example, Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost recorded in the second chapter of Acts. In verse 22, he appeals to Jesus’ miracles. In verses 25–31 he appeals to fulfilled prophecy. In verse 32 he appeals to Christ’s resurrection. By means of these arguments the apostles sought to show their fellow Jews that Christianity is true.


In dealing with non-Jews, the apostles sought to show the existence of God through His handiwork

in nature (Acts 14:17). In Romans 1, Paul says that from nature alone all men can know that God

exists (Rom. 1:20). Paul also appealed to eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection to show further that

Christianity is true (1 Cor. 15:3–8).


So it’s clear that both Jesus and the apostles were not afraid to give evidence for the truth of what

they proclaimed. This doesn’t mean they didn’t trust the Holy Spirit to bring people to God. Rather they trusted the Holy Spirit to use their arguments and evidence to bring people to God.


Why Is Apologetics Important?


It’s vitally important that Christians today be trained in apologetics. Why? Let me give three reasons.


1. Shaping culture. We’ve all heard of the so-called culture war going on in American society. Some people may not like this militaristic metaphor, but the truth is that a tremendous struggle for the soul of America is raging right now. This struggle is not just political. It has a religious or spiritual dimension as well. Secularists are bent on eliminating religion from the public square. The so-called New Atheists, represented by people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, are even more aggressive. They want to exterminate religious belief entirely.


American society has already become post-Christian. Belief in a sort of generic God is still the norm, but belief in Jesus Christ is now politically incorrect. How many films coming out of Hollywood portray Christians in a positive way? How many times do we instead find Christians portrayed as shallow, bigoted, villainous hypocrites? What is the public perception of Bible-believing Christians in our culture today?


The above cartoon poignantly depicts the perception of Christians by the cultural elite in American society today: goofy curiosities to be gawked at by normal people. But notice, they’re also dangerous. They mustn’t be allowed positions of influence in society. Maybe that’s why they even need to be penned up.


Why are these considerations of culture important? Why can’t we Christians just be faithful followers of Christ and ignore what is going on in the culture at large? Why not just preach the gospel to a dark and dying world?


The answer is, because the gospel is never heard in isolation. It is always heard against the backdrop of the culture in which you’ve been born and raised. A person who has been raised in a culture that is sympathetic to the Christian faith will be open to the gospel in a way that a person brought up in a secular culture will not. For a person who is thoroughly secularized, you may as well tell him to believe in fairies or leprechauns as in Jesus Christ! That’s how absurd the message of Christ will seem to him.



To see the influence of culture on your own thinking, imagine what you would think if a Hindu devotee of the Hare Krishna movement, with his shaved head and saffron robe, approached you at the airport or shopping mall, offering you a flower and inviting you to become a follower of Krishna. Such an invitation would likely strike you as bizarre, freakish, maybe even a bit funny. But think how differently someone in Delhi, India, would react if he were approached by such a person! Having been raised in a Hindu culture, he might take such an invitation very seriously.


If America’s slide into secularism continues, then what awaits us tomorrow is already evident today in Europe. Western Europe has become so secularized that it’s hard for the gospel even to get a fair hearing. As a result, missionaries must labor for years to win even a handful of converts. Having lived for thirteen years in Europe in four different countries, I can testify personally to how hard it is for people to respond to the message of Christ. Speaking on university campuses around Europe, I found that the students’ reaction was often bewilderment. Christianity is supposed to be for old women and children, they would think. So what’s this man with two earned doctorates from European universities doing here defending the truth of the Christian faith with arguments we can’t answer?


Once, when I was speaking at a university in Sweden, a student asked me during the Q&A following my talk, “What are you doing here?” Puzzled, I said, “Well, I’ve been invited by the Religious Studies Department to give this lecture.” “That’s not what I mean,” he insisted. “Don’t you understand how unusual this is? I want to know what motivates you personally to come and do this.” I suspect he had never seen a Christian philosopher before—in fact, a prominent Swedish philosopher told me that there are no Christian philosophers at any university in Sweden. The student’s question gave me the chance to share the story of how I came to Christ.


The skepticism on European university campuses runs so deep that when I spoke on the existence of God at the University of Porto in Portugal, the students (as I learned later) actually telephoned the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the University of Louvain in Belgium, where I was affiliated, to see if I was an imposter! They thought I was a fake! I just didn’t fit into their stereotype of a Christian.


If the gospel is to be heard as an intellectually viable option for thinking men and women today,

then it’s vital that we as Christians try to shape American culture in such a way that Christian belief cannot be dismissed as mere superstition. This is where Christian apologetics comes in. If Christians

could be trained to provide solid evidence for what they believe and good answers to unbelievers’

questions and objections, then the perception of Christians would slowly change. Christians would be seen as thoughtful people to be taken seriously rather than as emotional fanatics or buffoons. The gospel would be a real alternative for people to embrace.


I’m not saying that people will become Christians because of the arguments and evidence. Rather I’m saying that the arguments and evidence will help to create a culture in which Christian belief is a reasonable thing. They create an environment in which people will be open to the gospel. So becoming trained in apologetics is one way, a vital way, of being salt and light in American culture today.


2. Strengthening believers. The benefits of apologetics in your personal Christian life are huge. Let me mention three.


First of all, knowing why you believe as well as what you believe will make you more confident in sharing your faith with others. I see this happen all the time on university campuses when I have a public debate with a non-Christian professor. My experience is that while these professors may be very knowledgeable in their area of specialization, they are almost clueless when it comes to the evidence for Christianity. The Christian position in these debates usually comes out so far ahead of the non-Christian position that unbelieving students often complain that the whole event was a setup, staged to make the non-Christian position look bad! The truth is that we try to get the best opponents, who are often picked by the atheist club on campus.


Christian students, by contrast, come away from these debates with their heads held high, proud to be Christians. One Canadian student remarked to me following a debate, “I can’t wait to share my faith in Christ!” People who lack training in apologetics are often afraid to share their faith or speak out for

Christ out of fear that someone might ask them a question. But if you know the answers, then you’re not afraid to go into the lion’s den—in fact, you’ll enjoy it! Training in apologetics will help to make you a bold and fearless witness for Christ.


Second, apologetics can also help you to keep the faith in times of doubt and struggle. Emotions

will carry you only so far, and then you’re going to need something more substantial. When I speak in

churches around the country, I often meet parents who say something like, “If only you’d been here two

or three years ago! Our son (or daughter) had questions about the faith which no one could answer, and now he’s far from the Lord.”


In fact, there seem to be more and more reports of Christians abandoning their faith. A Christian minister at Stanford University recently told me that 40 percent of Christian high school students in church youth groups will quit church involvement altogether after graduation. Forty percent! It’s not just that they lose their faith in a hostile university environment. Rather, many have already abandoned faith while still in the youth group but continue to go through the motions until they’re out from under their parents’ authority.


I think the church is really failing these kids. Rather than provide them training in the defense of Christianity’s truth, we focus on emotional worship experiences, felt needs, and entertainment. It’s no wonder they become sitting ducks for that teacher or professor who rationally takes aim at their faith. In high school and college, students are intellectually assaulted with every manner of non-Christian philosophy conjoined with an overwhelming relativism and skepticism. We’ve got to train our kids for war. How dare we send them unarmed into an intellectual war zone? Parents must do more than take their children to church and read them Bible stories. Moms and dads need to be trained in apologetics themselves and so be able to explain to their children simply from an early age and then with increasing depth why we believe as we do. Honestly, I find it hard to understand how Christian couples in our day and age can risk bringing children into the world without being trained in apologetics as part of the art of parenting.


Of course, apologetics won’t guarantee that you or your children will keep the faith. There are all kinds of moral and spiritual factors that come into play, too. Some of the most effective atheist Web sites feature ex-believers who were trained in apologetics and still abandoned the faith. But when you look

closely at the arguments they give for abandoning Christianity, they are often confused or weak. I recently saw one Web site where the person provided a list of the books that had persuaded him that Christianity is bunk—followed by the remark that he hopes to read them someday! Ironically, some of these folks come to embrace positions that are more extreme and require more gullibility—such as that Jesus never existed—than the conservative views they once held.


But while apologetics is no guarantee, it can help. As I travel, I also meet many people who have been brought back from the brink of abandoning their faith by reading an apologetics book or watching a debate. Recently I had the privilege of speaking at Princeton University on arguments for the existence of God, and after my lecture a young man approached me who wanted to talk. Obviously trying to hold back the tears, he told me how a couple of years earlier he had been struggling with doubts and was almost to the point of abandoning his faith. Someone then gave him a video of one of my debates. He said, “It saved me from losing my faith. I cannot thank you enough.”


I said, “It was the Lord who saved you from falling.”


“Yes,” he replied, “but He used you. I can’t thank you too much.” I told him how thrilled I was for him and asked him about his future plans. “I’m graduating this year,” he told me, “and I plan to go to seminary. I’m going into the pastorate.” Praise God for the victory in this young man’s life! When you’re going through hard times and God seems distant, apologetics can help you to remember that our faith is not based on emotions, but on the truth, and therefore you must hold on to it.


Finally, the study of apologetics is going to make you a deeper and more interesting person. American culture is so appallingly superficial, fixated on celebrities, entertainment, sports, and self-indulgence. Studying apologetics is going to take you beyond all that to life’s deepest questions, questions about the existence and nature of God, the origin of the universe, the source of moral values, the problem of suffering and evil, and so on. As you wrestle with these deep questions, you yourself will be changed.


You will become more thoughtful and well-rounded. You’ll learn how to think logically and to analyze what other people are saying. Instead of saying sheepishly, “This is how I feel about it—it’s just my opinion, that’s all,” you’ll be able to say, “This is what I think about it, and here are my reasons.…” As a Christian, you’ll begin to have a deeper appreciation of Christian truths about God and the world and see how they all fit together to make up a Christian worldview.


3. Winning unbelievers. Many people will agree with what I’ve said about the role of apologetics in strengthening believers, but they deny that it’s of any use in winning unbelievers to Christ. “No one comes to Christ through arguments!” they’ll tell you.


To a certain extent, I think that such people are just victims of false expectations. When you realize that only a minority of people who hear the gospel respond positively to it and place their faith in Christ, we shouldn’t be surprised that most people will refuse to be persuaded by our arguments and evidence. By the very nature of the case, we should expect that most unbelievers will remain unconvinced by our apologetic arguments, just as most remain unmoved by the preaching of the cross.


And remember, no one knows for sure about the cumulative effect of such arguments, as the seed is planted and then watered again and again in ways we can’t even imagine. We shouldn’t expect that the unbeliever, when he first hears our apologetic case, will just roll over and play dead! Of course he’ll

fight back! Think of what’s at stake for him! But we patiently plant and water in hopes that over time the seed will grow and bear fruit.


But why bother, you might ask, with that minority of a minority with whom apologetics is effective? First, because every person is precious to God, a person for whom Christ died. Like a missionary called to reach an obscure people group, the Christian apologist is burdened to reach that minority of

persons who will respond to rational argument and evidence.


But second, this people group, though relatively small in numbers, is huge in influence. One of these persons, for example, was C. S. Lewis. Think of the impact that one man’s conversion continues to have! I find that the people who resonate most with my apologetic arguments tend to be engineers, people in medicine, and lawyers. Such persons are among the most influential in shaping our culture today. So reaching this minority of persons will yield a great harvest for the kingdom of God.



In any case the general conclusion that apologetics is ineffective in evangelism is just not true. Lee Strobel recently remarked to me that he has lost count of the number of people who have come to Christ through his books The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith. Nor has it been my experience that apologetics is ineffective in evangelism. We continually are thrilled to see people committing their lives to Christ through presentations of the gospel coupled with apologetics.


After giving a talk on arguments for the existence of God or evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, I’ll sometimes conclude with a prayer of commitment to give one’s life to Christ, and the comment cards indicate those who have registered such a commitment. Just recently I did a speaking tour of universities in central Illinois, and we were thrilled to find that almost every time I gave such a presentation, students indicated decisions for Christ. I’ve even seen students come to Christ just through hearing a defense of the

cosmological argument (which I’ll explain in this book)!


It has been thrilling, too, to hear stories of how people have been drawn to Christ through reading something I’ve written on apologetics. Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, I’ve had the privilege of being involved in debates with Islamic apologists on various university campuses in Canada and the States. Recently, early one Saturday morning, we received a telephone call. The foreign voice on the other end announced, “Hello! This is Sayd al-Islam calling from Oman!” He went on to explain that he had secretly lost his Muslim faith and had become an atheist. But now by reading various Christian apologetic works, which he was ordering on Amazon.com, he had come to believe in God and was on the verge of making a commitment to Christ.


He was impressed with the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and had called me because he had several questions he still needed to settle. We talked for an hour, and I sensed that in his heart he already believed; but he wanted to be cautious and be sure he had the evidence in place before he consciously made that step. He explained to me, “You understand that I cannot tell you my real name. In my country I must lead a sort of double life because otherwise I would be killed.” I prayed with him that God would continue to guide him into truth, and then we said good-bye. You can imagine how full of thanks my heart was to God for using these books—and the Internet!—in the life of this man! Stories like this could be multiplied, and, of course, we never hear of most of them.


When apologetics is persuasively presented and sensitively combined with a gospel presentation and a personal testimony, the Spirit of God is pleased to use it to bring people to Himself.


How to Get the Most out of This Book


This book is intended to be a sort of training manual to equip you to fulfill the command of 1 Peter 3:15. So this is a book to be studied, not just read. You’ll find several arguments that I’ve put into easily memorizable steps. In discussing each argument, I’ll present a reason (or several reasons) to think

that each step in the argument is true. Then I’ll discuss the usual objections to each step and show you how to answer them. In that way you’ll be prepared in advance for possible questions you might meet in sharing your faith.


For example, suppose we have the following argument:

1. All men are mortal.

2. Socrates is a man.

3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is what we call a logically valid argument. That is to say, if steps 1 and 2 are true, then the conclusion, 3, is also true.


Logic is an expression of the mind of God (John 1:1). It describes how a supremely rational being reasons. There are only about nine basic rules of logic. So long as you obey the rules of logic, they guarantee that if the steps of your argument are true, then the conclusion is true as well. We then say that

the truth of the conclusion follows logically from the argument’s steps.


So the question then becomes: Are steps 1 and 2 in the above argument true? In support of step 1, we might present scientific and medical evidence for the fact that all men are mortal. In support of step 2 we might turn to historical evidence to prove that Socrates was a man. Along the way, we’d want to consider any objections to 1 or 2 and seek to answer them. For example, someone might deny step 2 because he believes that Socrates is just a mythical figure and not a real man. We’d have to show why the evidence

suggests that this belief is mistaken.


Steps 1 and 2 in this argument are called premises. If you obey the rules of logic and your premises are true, then your conclusion must be true as well.


Now the determined skeptic can deny any conclusion simply by denying one of the premises. You can’t force someone to accept the conclusion if he’s willing to pay the price of rejecting one of the premises. But what you can do is raise the price of rejecting the conclusion by giving good evidence for the truth of the premises.


For example, the person who denies premise 2 of the above argument is embracing a historical skepticism that the vast majority of professional historians would find unjustified. So he can reject premise 2 if he wants to, but he pays the price of making himself look like a kook. Such a person can hardly condemn as irrational someone who does accept the truth of premise 2.


So in presenting apologetic arguments for some conclusion, we want to raise the price of denying the conclusion as high as we can. We want to help the unbeliever see what it will cost him intellectually to resist the conclusion. Even if he is willing to pay that price, he may at least come to see why we

are not obliged to pay it, and so he may quit ridiculing Christians for being irrational or having no reasons for what we believe. And if he’s not willing to pay the price, then he may change his mind and come to accept the conclusion we’re arguing for.


In presenting the arguments and evidence in this book, I’ve tried to be simple without being simplistic. I’ll consider the strongest objections to my arguments and offer answers to them. Sometimes the material may be new and difficult for you. I’d encourage you to consider it in small bites, which are easier to digest. You might find it helpful to be part of a small group, where you can discuss the arguments. Don’t feel bad if you disagree with me on some points. I want you to think for yourself.


At the end of most chapters you’ll find an argument map or outline of the case presented in that chapter. Let me explain how to use the argument map. The map has a “swim lane” format that exhibits my argument in the left-hand lane labeled “Pro.” The right-hand lane labeled “Con” exhibits the objections

that might be raised by an opponent of the argument. The arrows moving back and forth across the lanes trace the various Pro and Con responses that might be given. These maps will help you to see the big picture.


Consider, for example, the argument map on the facing page:


In the left-hand lane we see the first premise of the argument: “All men are mortal.” Following the arrow, we find the evidence given in support of that premise. In this case no response to this premise is offered, and so the “Con” lane remains blank. Next in the “Pro” lane comes the second premise: “Socrates is a man.” Here the skeptic does have a response, and so in the “Con” lane we see the objection that “Socrates was just a mythological figure.” Following the arrow, we find the answer to this objection, which states succinctly the historical evidence for Socrates’ being a real man. Notice that only a very terse summary is provided; reading the argument maps will be no substitute for studying the arguments themselves as they are presented in the text. The argument maps just help you to see the big picture.


Wouldn’t you like to be able to defend your faith intelligently? Wouldn’t you like to have some arguments at your fingertips to share with someone who says Christians have no good reasons for what they believe? Aren’t you tired of being afraid and intimidated by unbelievers?


If so, then read on! I’m glad you’ve chosen this book, and I commend you for being On Guard, ready to give a reason for the hope within.


©2010 Cook Communications Ministries. On Guard by William Lane Craig. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.



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

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to William Lane Craig and his publisher for sending me a copy of "On Guard" 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.

William Lane Craig has penned a terrific non-fiction work on the topic of apologetics. The title says it all - “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision”. This book has a great layout for individual or group study. The text is laden with thought-provoking and engaging cartoons, definitions of terms appear in the margins, and discussion questions are offset from the text in boxes throughout the work. It is filled with pertinent scripture and quotes, and contains several mini-biographies of historical figures. There are also outlines at the end of each chapter that reinforce what was discussed.

This is a thinking man’s book. It will get the reader involved in the act of meticulously defending his or her faith in a way that glorifies God and speaks to the intellectual arguments of non-believers. This should be a topic studied by all Christians. Not only will it help you to witness to non-believers with intellectual arguments, it will also solidify your own beliefs in a deep and engaging way. This is an absolute must read!