Friday, April 30, 2010

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 26


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 26. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



26:2 – The Lord appeared to Isaac as he appeared to Abraham. God told Isaac not to go to Egypt because of the famine.

26:6 – Isaac obeyed God.

26:7 – say you are my sister – like father, like son. See 12:13 and 20:12.

26:12 – Isaac was a farmer.

26:13 – Isaac was wealthy.

26:14 – Isaac also had many flocks.

26:15 – The Philistines became jealous of Isaac and his wealth and stopped up the wells to drive him away.

26:34 – Esau is 40. Isaac is 100 at this time.



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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Divine Misadventure

In the movie “Speed”, when Alan Ruck delivers the line, “I’ve already seen the airport,” the bus carrying the bomb returns to where his character’s tourist-ready feet first touched Los Angeles soil. He didn’t expect the adventure that would take him back to where he’d already been, and that cracked me up. Now, I’ve been on a similar journey…a divine misadventure…and I praise God that my face doesn’t look as disappointed as Alan’s did in the film. Don’t get me wrong, I had moments when I didn’t react all too positively to my plans being interrupted, but I did embrace the adventure…and I’m still laughing.

It began as a daytrip to the Grand Canyon because my family has never seen it. Cooler loaded, gas tank filled, we left Las Vegas and headed toward Arizona. We cranked the tunes while looking for mountain sheep approaching Hoover Dam. The sight of the bridge that is being built there was incredible! What a wonder – and it will cut about 15 minutes from travel time winding through the mountains. We giggled at a truck on blocks with all four tires missing, and then it happened. About 16 miles into Arizona, the engine of our car stopped! We pulled over and did some troubleshooting, but were unable to get “Mac” (the name of our Toyota Highlander) back out on the road under his own power.

Two hours, lots of exploring and a hawk hunting a lizard later, the tow truck picked us up and took us back to Vegas where we scrambled to find a rental car at 3:00 PM on a Saturday. I want to say “thanks” to the two vehicles that stopped to see if we needed water, the tow truck driver that long-hauled us but got us back safely and the rental car agency guy who picked us up so that we could get to his shop in time to get a car. God bless you all. Here’s what I learned:


· Flexibility is crucial. Jesus lived one interruption after another. We should embrace interruptions.

· There are some nice people out there, but they’re not in the majority. I thank God for the opportunity to see that.

· God is good. Our day could have been much worse!


“We’ve already seen Las Vegas.” One day soon, we’ll get to the Grand Canyon. In the meantime, we’re not disappointed to be home.

Monday, April 26, 2010

REVIEW: Black Hills Blessing by Mary Connealy

“Black Hills Blessing” is a three-novel anthology by Mary Connealy that is a must read for every Mary Connealy fan! These three beautifully crafted romances all take place in the breathtaking setting of South Dakota. With strong leading women and rugged leading men to capture their hearts, these three short novels will make you laugh and tear up and thoroughly enjoy a few afternoons with one of the best western romance writers of our time!

*****“Buffalo Gal” tells the tale of Allison “Buffy” Lange, who has come to Buffalo Commons to work and do research while she writes her doctoral dissertation. She is working toward a promised position at Yellowstone National Park and eventually a full-time position with buffalo. But her goals are interrupted by an irresponsible sister and a costly mishap that finds her buffalo destroying the neighbors’ ranches. One such neighbor is Wyatt Shaw, a widower who’s not looking for a new wife while he raises his young – and very energetic – twin boys. Buffy’s animals may have destroyed his home, but he can’t get over the fact that she can tell his boys apart when no one else can. Will these two stop fighting and apologizing long enough to realize they are meant for each other? There are some very sweet moments in this story.

*****In “The Clueless Cowboy”, Emily Johannson meets her match in her new neighbor, Joe “Jake” Hanson. Jake is running from his old life – and directly into Emily. When they meet over Jake chopping down a tree, sparks (and woodchips) fly. Jake learns about the country way of life and that he can trust, again. But will he stick around to win the heart of a beautiful lady rancher? This story had me giggling constantly – from Johannson meets Joe Hanson, to visuals of a man faking an injury to get sympathy and finally learning how to ranch from a capable woman. This story had a solid, suspenseful plot that added to my enjoyment.

*****“The Bossy Bridegroom” is the story of Buffy’s sister, Jeanie Davidson, and her estranged husband, Michael. Since the ending of “Buffalo Gal,” Jeanie has entered into a relationship with Christ, but she isn’t strong enough to stand up to her bully of a husband. So, when Michael shows up on Jeanie’s doorstep declaring that he is changed and wants to reconcile, many challenges surface. Will Jeanie be able to maintain her individual identity or will she fall back into the bad habit of living in Michael’s shadow? Will Michael sign the paperwork allowing Buffy and Wyatt to adopt his daughter, Sally? Will he help Jeanie to be a strong woman? Even though frustrating at times, this turned out to be a terrific read.

April CSFF: Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet Book 3, The Auralia Thread series








Here is my review:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Jeffrey Overstreet and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Raven's Ladder" to review for them. I have always been grateful for this generosity, but haven’t been very consistent in taking the time to thank them in a public forum. I really appreciate your time, effort and expense in making a reviewer copy available to me.

“Raven’s Ladder” by Jeffrey Overstreet is part three of The Auralia Thread fantasy series. It is a continuation of the story begun in “Auralia’s Colors” and sustained in “Cyndere’s Midnight”. There promises to be a fourth – and final – book in the series. My husband is the science fiction/fantasy fan in the family, so it didn’t surprise me that he grabbed this book to read it before I could really get my hands on it.

Well, I’ve finally begun reading the continuing adventure of the people of Abascar as they flee their home because of the latest menace which happens to be growing out of the earth. Their king, Cal-raven, leads them through challenging encounters that test their mettle and increase their strength. The elements in this novel are so much like real life, it’s scary. The fear that comes from the truth being twisted into a lie is so true-to-life that it almost must be written in this genre to be grasped without experiencing complete terror!

This is totally off the path of my review, but I must mention that one thing I really appreciate about this novel is the guide in the back of the book to the characters. I sometimes get really lost in science fiction/fantasy reads trying to keep the characters straight. Perhaps the names are too similar? Is it just me, or do others experience this? Still, this story shows reflections of Christ leading the church and Moses leading the Israelites to the Promised Land. I love to sit back with a book that is written so well and with such creativity that I can not only enjoy the story, but fall more madly in love with my Savior!


Please visit these other Blog Tour Participant websites:


Brandon Barr
Rachel Briard (BooksForLife)
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Shane Deal
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Ryan Heart
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
KM Wilsher


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Real World Parents by Mark Matlock

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:


Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Families Living in the Real World

Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Mark Matlock has been working with youth pastors, students, and parents for two decades. He speaks to hundreds of thousands of students around the world each year, and presents biblical truths in ways that motivate people to change. Mark is the vice president of event content at Youth Specialties and the founder of WisdomWorks Ministries and PlanetWisdom. He’s the author of several books including The Wisdom On - series, Living a Life That Matters, Don’t Buy The Lie, Freshman, and Smart Faith. Mark lives in Texas with his wife Jade and their two children.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Zondervan/Youth Specialties (February 23, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310669367
ISBN-13: 978-0310669364

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


What Are Real World Parents?

I have a vivid memory of being a teenager and sitting at the dinner table with my family, rolling my eyes and pretending to gag behind my dad's back.

Why?

He was trying to do family devotions with us. But my three younger brothers and I just weren't buying it.

Every four or five months my dad would hear some program on Christian radio about family devotions, and he'd come home with another new idea for making it work with our family. After all, that's what Christian families are supposed to do, right? But it just never worked in our house. It felt completely forced and unnatural.

Still, somehow all four of us Matlock boys ended up in ministry. My youngest brother, Jonathan, helped me start WisdomWorks Ministries, and now we both do pretty much the same kind of youth ministry and youth minister support through Youth Specialties. Our brother Josh is a senior pastor in Southern California, and our brother Jeremy is a missionary in Russia. And still to this day, whenever Dad tries to bring us together for Òfamily devotionsÓ during the holidays, we mock him a little. It's become a kind of tradition because it isn't genuine for who we are as a family.

Now, I'm not saying that having kids who serve in some area of ministry means you're a successful parent. The point I'm making is that all four of my dad's sons grew into men with a real passion and appreciation for God's Word--even though he couldn't get us to sit still and take the reading of the Word seriously during repeated failed attempts at family devotions.

Why? Because we knew he had a real passion and appreciation for God's Word. We saw Dad reading the Bible. We saw him struggle to apply it to his life. We saw both of our parents base their decisions on their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

Ultimately we were convinced of the worldview contained in the pages of Scripture because we saw our parents openly endorsing it, talking about it, learning from it, and living it out day after day, year after year. That was enough for us--despite the failed attempts at family devotions.

That's what this book is about. We're not interested in presenting more artificial techniques and methodology to ÒfixÓ our kids or do what Christian families are Òsupposed to do.Ó Rather we want to help you discover how to live for God in a real way, right in front of your kids, so they can't help but catch the big picture that God and his Word mean the world to us and that living for Jesus really works in the Real World.

Don't get me wrong. Not all families are built to the same specifications. We each have our own family DNA. So if family devotions fit who you are, more power to you! Organized, structured, traditional family devotions are a great tool for some families. Now that my wife, Jade, and I have two kids of our own--our son Dax is in middle school, and our daughter Skye is 10--we've tried to have a family Bible hour around the table. It kind of worked off and on when the kids were younger, but we eventually realized it wasn't a good fit for the natural rhythm of our lives. It's not who we are right now. So instead we've found ways to talk about God's Word that are a better fit for us.

As we work together through the concepts in this book, one thing we'll discover is that Real World Parents are real in the sense that they do what best fits their families, and they genuinely adjust their own lives to fit into God's story.

Is God Happy with My Family?

In the church today, there's some really good teaching on parenting. My wife and I have benefited from writers, conference speakers, and pastors who've opened God's Word and helped us connect with what it means to raise up our children in the way they should go, how to provide godly discipline, and ideas for reinforcing good behavior. But again, that's not what this book is about.

And, honestly, over the years I've been frustrated with some teaching on parenting that's built around making parents feel guilty. These teachers, authors, books, and programs build parenting models based on our common fear that we're going to mess up our kids--or that we've already messed up our kids. That's an easy road that plays on our fears and our guilt over the areas in which we struggle as parents. Then they suggest that their programs or perspectives are our final hope to Òget it rightÓ or, worse, to do it the only way God wants it done.

That's not what this book is about, either. I promise not to use your parenting fears and anxieties against you. And we all have those feelings. I know I have them. If you could spend a little time with my family, you'd quickly see that we have issues, too. Those prone to critiquing parents would have no trouble criticizing my wife and me. So, no, I'm not interested in beating up other parents in order to somehow make them feel better or more motivated in their parenting.

In fact, I'd like to communicate exactly the opposite.

In our Real World Parent seminars, held around the United States, our teachers use a self-diagnostic tool to help attendees identify what they believe God thinks of their families.

It goes something like this:

What do you think God sees when he looks at your family? Do you think God grins or grimaces? (Place an X on the line.)


God Grins God Grimaces

This can be a challenging question if you take it seriously. On one hand, those of us who've grown up in Christian churches understand the idea of God's grace. We understand that our relationship with God isn't based on our performance. God sacrificed his only Son--the Son whom God loves so deeply--to pay for our sins on a cross. And God did this long before we even knew we wanted that gift from God. Thus, we'd always check the box that says God's love is unconditional for those of us in Christ.

Still, we have trouble carrying the idea of God's grace into our parenting. We can talk ourselves into believing that failing our kids is an unforgivable sin, that God could never be pleased with us if we've been guilty of sloppy or harsh or inconsistent or selfish or fearful or overprotective or neglectful parenting.

We may wonder how God could ever look at our families and grin. And the problem is that, as parents, we sometimes forget that we're also children--that our God is our Father, and that God is more lovingly inclined to smile at us than we are to smile at our own kids. Our Father loves us, and he forgives our parenting shortcomings and our family failings.

I will say this more than once: Nothing you read in this book will make God the Father love you and your family any more than he does right now, no matter what's going on with your family today.

I made this statement at one of our Real World Parent seminars, and I noticed that one of the women began to cry. She came up to me later and explained how inferior she's felt as a mother in her local church. Her husband isn't a believer, her kids get into trouble, and she just felt like such a failure--like a second-class parent in a church where most of the other parents were both Christians, still married, and raising such ÒniceÓ children.

I tried to assure her that God's grace applies to us as parents, and that in Christ she is forgiven and fully accepted as a beloved daughter (and mom!). The idea that God loved her family right now--in its present condition--was a reality she wasn't living in. She felt she was ÒunderperformingÓ as a parent and couldn't keep up. So she said the idea that she's forgiven, accepted, and loved as a parent gave her immense comfort.

Ernest Hemingway's short story called ÒThe Capital of the WorldÓ begins with an anecdote about a man in Madrid who put an ad in the newspaper to contact his estranged son. The ad read, PACO, MEET ME AT HOTEL MONTANA NOON TUESDAY. ALL IS FORGIVEN. PAPA. The story then describes how at noon on Tuesday, 800 young men arrived at the hotel to make peace with their fathers.

The joke was that there are lots of guys in Spain named Paco. But the other message is that wanting our dads' approval, specifically, is a universal human experience. Taking nothing away from the indispensable role of our mothers, we all long to have our fathers sign off on who we are and what we're doing.

It's what psychologists call Òfather hunger.Ó

As Christians, followers of Jesus, we have that hunger even in our roles as parents, even if we've made mistakes along the way. Our Father has forgiven us. We live in God's grace. God approves of us in Christ. And, yes, God loves us.

I want to make it perfectly clear--again--that you'll find no directives in this book that will make God love you or your family even a little bit more than he already does. God's unconditional love for your family was established long ago. It is full. It cannot grow. Romans 8:1 declares, ÒTherefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.Ó And that includes Christian parents.

I hope you've heard that. But I also hope you aren't satisfied to leave your family where it is today. Because while I'm convinced that God will never love or accept you any more than he does right now, I'm also convinced that God loves you so much that he won't leave you where you are right now, either.

No matter how good or bad you believe your family is, God has plans for you that will unfold in the Real World. God will continue to move your family along in the journey he has in store for you. Which is why this book is designed to help Real World Parents understand that journey--or story--and communicate it to our kids.

ÒHow Will This Book Fix My Kids?Ó 

As long as we're talking about things this book isn't, I should mention again that in the following pages you won't find any tips or tricks or techniques to fix your children's bad behavior. (We'd probably sell more copies if that's what we were promising, but we're not.)

In my experience, books full of tips, techniques, and tricks succeed at making readers feel good for a while. They make us feel hopeful. They make us feel as though we're doing something about the problem. But they often fail in the long run because we just can't keep it up. We can't change the personalities of our families to fit the models of the new programs on an ongoing basis.

When my kids came along, though, and I started making my way through all the different kinds of Christian parenting books, I noticed that a lot of them focused on helping me raise well-behaved, well-mannered kids. And while that's an important element, there wasn't much focus on raising kids to have hearts that seek after Christ. Of course we can't force that kind of spiritual openness and connectedness with God onto our kids--but in our Real World homes, we can create environments that promote such growth.

In a sense we become gardeners tending the spiritual development of our kids. God places the spark of life in the seed. We can't control that or how the plant eventually matures. But we can make sure the soil is rich, the ground is generously watered, the weeds are kept at bay, and the opportunity for sunlight is freely available. We can raise our children in environments where having a heart for God is the norm and not the exception.

What we don't want to generate are well-behaved kids who mindlessly follow our directions without ever willfully owning the faith in Jesus that they see in us. In the long run, the goal of parenting isn't for our kids to be known for how well-behaved they are, but for how well they know and respond to God.

Part of our challenge is to communicate to our kids a worldview that supports right actions. It's true that we (and they) will be held accountable for our behavior based on God's instructions to us. But whether or not we obey those instructions has a lot to do with whether or not we really believe God's story--a biblical worldview--and whether or not we walk in God's power.

In that way, our children's behavior is kind of like the tip of an iceberg. From countless illustrations we all know that the part of the iceberg that rises above the waterline is just a fraction of its total size. As such, you could conceivably make all kinds of alterations to the exposed part of the iceberg--in other words, the outward stuff (behaviors)--without significantly altering the iceberg itself.


What we've got to get at--in our own lives and in the lives of our kids--is the 80 percent of the berg that's under the waterline. In our illustration that represents one's worldview. We believe our behavior is ultimately driven by our understanding of the way the world works, of what we believe to be true and false about the universe, of our perception of reality.

And that's what we want to focus on as Real World Parents. How can we communicate God's worldview to our kids? What story are we telling them about the universe, both intentionally and--more importantly--in the way we live with and for God over time?

Before you move on to the next chapter, ask yourself these questions: 

1. When you imagine God looking at your family, what do you think God sees? What do you believe God's desire for your family is?



2. When you look at the world your children are living in, do you believe it's better or worse compared to when you were growing up? Why?



3. Which matters more to you--that your children demonstrate good behavior, or that your children understand and believe in a biblical worldview? Why?



4. In your own life, what has mattered more in the long run--your behavior on any given day or your foundational beliefs about God and the world?



Here is my review of this fantastic parenting resource:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Mark Matlock and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Real World Parents" 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.

Mark Matlock’s “Real World Parents: Christian Parenting For Families Living In The Real World” may be small, but it’s an engaging workbook about developing your faith at home. Families will benefit from the frank, open discussion of various topics. Nothing is taboo – sex, teen pregnancy, suicide, etc. Each chapter wraps up with several questions that the reader asks him (or her) self to further solidify the knowledge gained in the chapter. Technical data is provided in the form of graphical charts and tables, feeding statistics into the Biblical advice given by this extraordinary youth instructor.

This is a terrific book for parents or couples planning to be parents. Read together, the material will spark conversation about how to address certain issues that parents face. This book can also be used as a springboard to broach difficult or uncomfortable subjects with your children, themselves - especially teenagers. It would also be great for teachers and others who work with children. I highly recommend it to anyone who has a child in their life.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Live Big! 10 Life Coaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams by Katie Brazelton

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:


Live Big! 10 Life Coaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams

Howard Books; Original edition (February 2, 2010)

***Special thanks to Blythe Daniel of The Blythe Daniel Agency, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Katie Brazelton, Ph.D., M.Div., M.A., is a life coach and bestselling author. She is the founder of Life Purpose Coaching Centers International, which trains Christians worldwide to become Life Purpose Coach professionals and assist others to discover and fulfill God’s plan for their lives. Dr. Brazelton was formerly a licensed minister and director of women’s Bible studies at Saddleback Church and now is a professor at Rockbridge Seminary. She lives in Southern California and has two children and two grandchildren. She is the author of the bestselling series Pathway to Purpose for Women and Character Makeover: 40 Days with a Life Coach to Create the Best You.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (February 2, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1439135606
ISBN-13: 978-1439135600

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Introduction

Imagine that you and I are being pampered in first class, relaxing comfortably on an afternoon flight to your favorite world-class resort. As we gaze out the airplane window, it seems as though we're floating through an endless sea of marshmallow clouds, soaring together through the heavens. Up here, dreams somehow seem crystal clear. I think it's because we can pretend we've risen above the rough, mountainous terrain of life and can look down on our hills and valleys, seeing events from a fresh perspective.

From this bird's-eye view, glance down at what is below: your daily routine, closest relationships, untapped potential, and countless opportunities. Let this vantage point help you set your sights on a passionate megadream and an inspiring hope for the future!

I would not dare to author a book on such an important topic as Living Big without practicing what I preach. So, as I write this, I am on a flight to Hawaii (I wish it were first class) for an extended stay to consider living there indefinitely. I was raised in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands in a navy family, so the tropical breeze has always been alluring to me. Might this be where I will plant another Life Purpose Coaching Center...or find the time to launch my long-dreamed-of radio show...or finish this book? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that I can't fail, because this is simply an experiment, with memories waiting to be made. I'm not going to rush the process or force a decision, only enjoy the journey to yea or nay. There is no right or wrong way to dream.

Well, actually, I do believe there's one wrong way, and that is to let the dream stagnate without taking any action!

I am embarking on this time of exploration because I am in a new season of my life, formally ending two decades of single parenting. My son recently accepted an out-of-state job promotion, taking his sweet wife and my two young grandsons with him. Shortly thereafter, my daughter announced her engagement, which means she, too, will be moving away from our home area. In the blink of an eye, without my permission, I have been thrust into a new chapter of my life. On one hand, I am sad and fearful. On the other hand, now I have no more excuses for not doing whatever I want, which is another way of saying "whatever I feel God is calling me to do next."

I am operating in a spirit of supersized living right now, and not just because I may soon be draped in large muumuus, walking barefoot to the local market to buy macadamia-nut chocolates, and blatantly enticing my family with extended holiday vacations in paradise.

Dreaming in high definition and surround sound -- and then taking appropriate steps to live those dreams -- is what this book is all about. You may not have a burning desire to move to a distant land, but what do you want out of life? Are you a student anxiously finishing college? A young mom who's busy raising twins? An overseas missionary on a brand-new assignment? A career woman vying for an enviable position? A widow with only a few pressing obligations? Regardless of your role in life, you and I have a few things in common:

- We love to dream.

- God designed us to dream.

- And there's no day like today to start discovering God's best!

I need you to know that I'm not so far up in the clouds that I am unaware of your everyday realities. Life has prepared me well to be your Life Coach. I have a testimony of brokenness, and I'm honored to help you dream. Check out what I call "My 7 Big D's" -- events that shaped me for nearly twenty years.

My 7 Big D's

1982 Barely survived a serious, four-month depression.

1986 Devastated by a totally unexpected divorce.

1988 Confused about having to rewrite my doctoral dissertation.

1990 Deeply saddened by the death of my exhusband.

1991 Angered by a corporate downsizing, which left me laid off just days after buying a home.

1993 Terrified by a dating incident.

2001 Shocked by the death of my dream when my first book contract was canceled due to budget cuts after 9/11.

What does this list tell you, other than that I must have built up a lot of stamina by now? It says that you can trust me to understand what you're going through and to tell it like it is when I coach you -- without skirting around the issues. I care deeply about making sure you don't get stuck in the quagmire of life, as I did too many times.

These chapters will take you on a journey to find what you're really jazzed about -- what makes you smile, laugh, play, sing, and dance. It's time to daydream about the adventure God has in store for you!

Amos 4:13 tells us that God reveals His thoughts to us: "He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mortals, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth -- the Lord God Almighty is his name." We want to do whatever it takes to be ready for that revelation.

As your Life Coach, I will come alongside you like a Barnabas (a name that Acts 4:36 tells us means "son of encouragement"). We will enjoy life-changing chats about you, stealing precious moments within your hectic schedule. I know how hard it is for you to find time for a conversation about your legacy, your destiny, your divine urge. As you are able to sneak away from your daily routine, it will be my job and my joy to sit with you and draw out of you the distinct calling God laid on your heart eons ago, before you were ever born. And then, equally important, we will put baby steps in place to help you live out your exciting, God-designed purpose, which has long been the desire in your soul even if it has lain dormant.

This book is loaded with modern, true stories of everyday saints, Bible character parallels, inspirational quotes, some of my favorite Scripture verses, heartfelt prayers, ten coaching tips, forty action steps, reflection questions, and practical exercises with sample answers from my own life to trigger your thinking. (Don't miss the Web downloads, too, which are my special gift to you!) You will hear from real women -- students, wives, mothers, a widow, career women, church staff members -- who all have tremendous testimonies to share. I urge you to break all of the normal book-reading rules and jump into the chapters in any sequence you please. Did you know that doing the unexpected can change your perspective, which will then cause you to see your world through new eyes?

I've chosen these particular topics for us to explore in detail as we discover what it takes to Live Big!

1. Face Your Fears

2. Learn to Exhale

3. Honor Your Deepest Longings

4. Don't Ever Give Up

5. Use Your Past for Good

6. Expect Miracles

7. Forgive Someone

8. Eat Dessert First

9. Ask Jesus for Vision

10. Capture Your Live Big! Dream

I can't help but think: If only someone had told me that! or Why didn't I learn that in school? Frankly, I feel there ought to be a law mandating that schools teach us to be tenacious, forgiving, and courageous. We need classes at church that help us reach for our dreams, expect miracles, focus forward, and breathe calmly through adversity. But most important, we must learn how to play and to stop taking ourselves so seriously and to start cherishing God's incredibly specific plan for our lives. In this way, we address the habits that help us attract or sabotage God's boldest wishes for us.

Each of the ten coaching tips will give you a broader, richer understanding of how to run and finish the race well.

You probably picked up this book because you want to travel boldly down the path to purpose and fulfillment, yet perhaps you've lost sight of your dreams, hopes, and longings -- possibly because of regrets, exhaustion, stubbornness, fears, sins, and so on. We're all burdened with something. You want to bring glory to God with your life, but you may be carrying such a heavy weight of boredom, loneliness, doubt, pride, and/or hopelessness that you've forgotten how to unleash your creativity. The biblical perspective in this book will help you hear God's promptings more clearly and act on them with pure joy.

I encourage you to dream big dreams during this eyeopening, heart-pounding quest. Let me share with you forty proven, incremental steps that I personally have used for years and have coached my clients through -- action steps that will help you to live a significance-filled life. God will be honored, and you will be blessed. You will find yourself empowered beyond your wildest imagination as you Live Big!

Will you take your first small step today?



Here is my review of this terrific read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Katie Brazelton and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Live Big! 10 Life Coaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams" 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.

A couple of years ago, I really enjoyed, and was challenged by, the life-changing experience of working through Katie Brazelton’s book “Character Makeover” (co-authored by Shelley Leith). So, when I learned of the opportunity to preview her latest book, I jumped on it! “Live Big! 10 Life Coaching Tips for Living Large, Passionate Dreams” is a terrific, motivating read that will inspire the reader to set goals and pursue lifelong passions and Christlike living. This book almost seems too tiny to deliver what it promises on the cover. In fact, the cover is almost too small to hold the entire title. But Brazelton packs 10 critical chapters of guidance that are Biblically sound into a travel-sized volume that is the perfect length for the average person who wants to live this way, but doesn’t have the time to read a more extensive book.

This book is the perfect size. The thoughts are valuable and fairly complete. If the reader wants or needs more of a given topic than this book provides, it would seem to be the perfect opportunity to study what else the Bible has to say about it. The book can be read in order chronologically or by order of importance to the reader. In fact, when I scanned through the table of contents, my eye caught sight of a chapter on forgiveness, so I jumped right to it. “Live Big!” gave me some serious food for thought. It also pushed me to the Word of God to seek deeper meaning and direction.

The first eight chapters tell the stories of people who are living in such a way as to display the character of Christ. The final two chapters offer a challenge to Live Big! and make an impact on the world around you for Christ.

REVIEW: Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll

Check Out my March 23rd post on this novel.

Here is my review of this terrific romantic suspense novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Robin Caroll and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Deliver Us From Evil" 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 completely enthralled by Robin Caroll’s novel, “Deliver Us From Evil”. My initial attraction to the book description was a mention of the Great Smoky Mountains, a place I spent a bit of time exploring as a child. I looked forward to reliving some memories about the places I visited while in North Carolina and Tennessee. And, although the setting fills my mind with beauty, the underlying subject matter taints that beauty completely. The horrifying topic of child trafficking is at the heart of this novel. A race against time to get a donor heart to a recipient who has the knowledge to bust a Tennessee child trafficking ring wide open is how this book begins and builds in suspense. The crash of the helicopter carrying the heart that is being escorted to its North Carolina destination by U.S. Marshall Roark Holland, leads to the rescue of this group by Ranger-Pilot Brannon Callahan.

This novel truly has every element imaginable for a work of romantic suspense. But what impressed me most about this novel is how incredibly it shows how something horrifying can be surrounded by something incredibly breathtaking, and vice versa. It makes me wonder how much we don’t see because we either don’t look or we refuse to acknowledge a thing. This has led me to pray for eyes open to truth, for the collapse of this horrible industry, and for the physical and emotional healing and restoration of the victims of human trafficking. Thank you, Robin Caroll, for not allowing this subject matter to go unnoticed.

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 25


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 25. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



25:1 – Abraham married again at age 137 (or older)!

25:2 – And he had at least six more children! Keturah bore several of the Arab nations.

25:6 – He sent his other sons out of the land that belonged to Isaac.

25:7 – Abraham died at 175 years old. God promised he would live a long life (see 15:15). Ishmael was 89 and Isaac was 75 at this time. Esau and Jacob would be 15.

25:9-10 – Isaac and Ishmael buried their father with Sarah.

25:13-16 – Ishmael had 12 sons as foretold in 17:20.

25:18 – lived in hostility… - see 16:12.

25:21 – What a man!!! He was a man of prayer and lifted his wife up in prayer to the Lord!

They were married 20 years before their sons were born.

25:22 – the babies jostled. Ouch! God even listens to whiny, pregnant women. She was bold to go to God.

“It pays to take your questions to the top.” See Isaiah 55:6. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

25:23 – God answered her!

The Bible does not say she pondered these things in her heart. Based on a couple of later situations (25:31; 28:1), I believe she told Jacob and Isaac at the very least.

25:26 – twins are typically born 6-10 minutes apart. The fact that Jacob grasped Esau’s heel was a miracle!

25:27 – the wild man and the mild man. hehehehe

25:27-28 – Isaac loved Esau because of his taste for wild game.

Did Rebekah favor Jacob because of his personality? Or because of God’s prophetic words to her in v. 23?

25:28 – The favoritism of the parents for the children came between them.

“What God has joined together, let man not separate.” (Matthew 19:6) See Ephesians 5:33.

25:30 – red stew – Esau couldn’t even identify the meal! It certainly wasn’t worth selling his birthright.

25:31 – how long had Jacob waited for this opportunity? Perhaps Rebekah shared with Jacob what God told her in 25:23, and he was waiting for an opportunity to usurp “his” position.

The birthright wasn’t just a double portion of the estate, but also leadership of the clan!

25:33 – swearing brings God into the transaction.

25:34 – “…ate, drank, got up, left…” - this happened very quickly. Esau didn’t savor the meal for which he sold his birthright. “Esau despised his birthright” – he rejected God’s blessings. He was godless.

Esau despised his birthright – he devalued it. It meant nothing to him.


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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

REVIEW: You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be by Max Lucado


I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Max Lucado and his publisher for sending me a copy of "You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be" 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 Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be” is a beautiful gift book with the most charming cover! And it certainly doesn’t hurt that Max Lucado’s name is on the cover as the author of this small volume packed with Biblical wisdom and what has come to be “uncommon sense” in this day and age. This insightful non-fiction work is comprised of excerpts from Lucado’s book “Cure For The Common Life”, and is the perfect size to throw into a briefcase or purse for a little jolt of encouragement precisely when you need it.

The focus is on living within the will of God rather than the idea that you can be anything you set your mind to being. As Christians, we should seek God’s will for our lives, and this book encourages that. It also leads the reader down a path to discover what God’s will for us is. In fact, I sat and read this book in an evening, with a very specific question about a ministry opportunity on my mind. By the time I reached the end of the book, I was able to discern that this opportunity is definitely God’s will for me right now.

There is a sticker on my copy of this book that says it’s the perfect gift for the graduate. I completely agree. With decisions to be made and influences crawling out of the woodwork, I would want my children to have sound Biblical advice coming from multiple sources. This book offers encouragement and direction and would be a terrific gift!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin PLUS CONTEST


Never pretty enough to please her gorgeous mother, Allie will do anything to gain her approval--even marry a man she doesn't love.

Lt. Walter Novak--fearless in the cockpit but hopeless with women--takes his last furlough at home in California before being shipped overseas. Walt and Allie meet at a wedding and their love of music draws them together, prompting them to begin a correspondence that will change their lives.

As letters fly between Walt's muddy bomber base in England and Allie's mansion in an orange grove, their friendship binds them together. But can they untangle the secrets, commitments, and expectations that keep them apart?

A Distant Melody is the first book in the WINGS OF GLORY series, which follows the three Novak brothers, B-17 bomber pilots with the US Eighth Air Force stationed in England during World War II.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Sundin is an on-call hospital pharmacist and holds a BS in chemistry from UCLA and a doctorate in pharmacy from UC San Francisco. Her great-uncle flew with the US Eighth Air Force in England during WWII. Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children. This is her first novel.
For more info please visit her website at http://www.sarahsundin.com/!

Check out the Litfuse tour site for a terrific contest!

Here is my review of this incredible WWII romance:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Sarah Sundin and her publisher for sending me a copy of "A Distant Melody" 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.

“A Distant Melody” is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in quite a while. Sarah Sundin paints a picture of romance and friendship and discovery of what is meant to be in this novel that is promised as the first book in the Wings of Glory series. Our leading lady, Allie, has gone to northern California to be in a college friend’s wedding. On the train, she meets Walter, a soldier with a huge heart. When they learn that they are to be partnered at the wedding, an easy friendship forms. But Allie can’t help but feel that she is “settling” for her fiancé back home when her heart beats faster over Walter.

Walter is a pilot on furlough for 30 days. He is completely paralyzed around women unless they are spoken for, so when he notices Allie on the train with a little girl in her lap, an effortless dialog begins. Surprisingly, it continues when he learns that she isn’t the girl’s mother as he suspected, but instead she is to be his partner in the wedding he will stand in at the end of the week. For the first time in his life, Walter sees hope for his future – as Allie’s husband.

Sigh… This book grabbed my imagination from the very first page. I could smell the oranges. I could feel the tension between Walter and Allie. I laughed and found myself smiling as I read. I was absolutely captivated by the exchange of letters between these two while Walter was overseas and their lives changed. I CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOK TWO IN THIS SERIES!!!!!



THE CONTEST:

A Distant Melody, Book 1 in Sarah Sundin’s exciting Wings of Glory series, is in stores now! To celebrate the release, we’re offering one Grand Prize winner the chance to get NOSTALGIC!



Enter the Netflix and Nostalgia contest from author Sarah Sundin!


THE PRIZE:

The Winner of the ‘NETFLIX® & Nostalgia’ giveaway will receive a vintage prize package, including:



*A 6 month NETFLIX® subscription

*$25 Starbucks® gift card

*A box of See’s Famous Old Time Chocolates®

*A jar of homemade strawberry jam

*A Big Band music CD

*A Mini B-17 Model airplane

*Vintage stationery and pen

*British specialty tea

*WWII style playing cards



To enter just click on the icon above! Contest will be live April 5th and run through April 25th!

Monday, April 19, 2010

REVIEW: DVD #1 of the A History of Christianity series


Q & A with Diarmaid MacCulloch, Host of A History of Christianity

Q: A History of Christianity corrects several misconceptions regarding Christianity’s past and traditions, beginning with the earliest days of the fledgling religion. How does the true history of Christianity’s origins differ from the version most of us know?

A: Today, Christianity is seen as a Western faith. Indeed, many in the Muslim world would see Western lifestyles as Christian lifestyles. But Christianity is not by origin a Western religion. Its beginnings are in the Middle East, where there still exist churches which have been Eastern since the earliest Christian era. For centuries, Christianity flourished in the East, and indeed, at one point, it was poised to triumph in Asia, maybe even in China. The headquarters of Christianity might well have been Baghdad rather than Rome, and if that had happened, Western Christianity would have been very different. The story of the first Christianity tells us the Christian faith is, in fact, hugely diverse with many identities. The history of Christianity has been the never-ending rebirth of a meeting with Jesus Christ, the resurrected son of God. For some, like the Oriental and Orthodox churches, the meeting has been through ritual and tradition, or the inner life of the mystic. For Western Catholics, through obedience to the Church. In Protestant churches, through the Bible. And it’s the variety that is so remarkable in Christianity’s journey. It’s reached into every continent and adapted to new cultures. That’s the hallmark of a world religion.


Q: Why does Christian history fascinate you?

A: When I was a small boy, my parents used to drive me around historic churches searching out whatever looked interesting, but soon, they realized they had created a monster. The history of the church became my life’s work. For me, no other subject can rival its scale and drama. For 2,000 years, Christianity has been one of the great players in world history, inspiring faith but also squalid politics. It is an epic story starring a cast of extraordinary people—from Jesus himself and the first apostles to empresses, kings, and popes, from reformers and champions of human conscience to crusaders and sadists. Religious belief can transform us for good or ill. It has brought human beings to acts of criminal folly as well as the highest achievements of goodness and creativity. I will tell the story of both extremes. Christianity has survived persecution, splits, wars of religion, mockery, hatred. Today there are two billion Christians, a third of humanity—Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Pentecostal, and many more. Deep down, the Christian faith boasts a shared core—but what is it? This is something I wanted to explore on a truly global scale.


Q: Your search for Christianity’s true history begins with a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Why does this location tell us about the Christianity’s global roots?

A: The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is said to have been built where Jesus was crucified and buried. At its heart is what’s believed to be his tomb. The church built around the tomb of Jesus is the starting point for a forgotten story, a story that may overturn your preconceptions about early Christianity. Pride of place in this building goes to two churches—the Greek Orthodox church and the Roman Catholic church. It’s true that Orthodoxy and Catholicism dominated Christianity in Europe, in the West, for its first 1,500 years. But as you walk around the edges of the church, you can’t fail to notice other curious little chapels. They’re not Western or European. They’re Middle Eastern and African, and they tell a very different story about the origins of Christianity. Around the back of Jesus’ tomb is Egypt’s Coptic church. There are plenty of other churches at this location, but you need to know where to look: the Syriac Orthodox church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, to name a few. Many versions of Christian history would make these churches unorthodox, yet they are far older than better known versions of Christianity like Protestantism. It’s easy for tourists to dismiss these ancient churches as quaint or even irrelevant. But that would be a big mistake.


Q: What are some general differences between the expansion of Western and Eastern Christianity?

A: In the West, Christianity became the religion of an entire empire. This meant the end of persecution. It brought power and wealth. It gave the Christian faith a chance at becoming a universal religion. In theory, it embraced Christians in the Eastern Empire as well as in the West.


But in the east, many Christians were unimpressed by the new alliance—even hostile. At stake were fundamental disagreements about the direction the faith should take. Jesus had told people to abandon wealth, not to ally with the rich and powerful. It was Eastern Christians in Syria who led the way, showing Western Christianity a pattern for spiritual life. We call this pattern monasticism, a way of life involving isolation from the world, austerity, and suffering. The expansion of Eastern Christianity has often taken place apart from any empire. It has often been a religion of dialogue, not conquest.

The DVD set will arrive in stores, including Sam’s Club, in time for the Easter Season. The series will also be available on Amazon.com.


A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years 6 DVD Set presented by Diarmaid MacCulloch

March 2010

http://www.ambrosevideo.com/



Here is my review of this enlightening DVD:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Diarmaid MacCulloch and his publisher for sending me a copy of the first DVD in "A History of Christianity" 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.

In “The First Christianity”, Episode 1 of “A History of Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”, Diarmaid MacCulloch educates the viewer about the beginnings of Christianity. This DVD runs about an hour and is filled with lots of terrific on location footage in the Middle East where Christianity was born. There are also several fact-gathering interviews that provide informative insight about traditions and locations. MacCulloch explains the affects of faith on culture and vise versa. It really got me thinking about how the Christian church should look throughout the world in order to fulfill Christ’s prayer in John 17 for unity. I believe that we really do need to get back to the roots of the faith, and over our denominational differences. We need to understand scripture so that we can be obedient, and to do that, we must understand where Christianity came from.

This is only the first of several disks in this enlightening series. And so far, it appears that the series is worth watching – even if the only reason for doing so would be to have a visual reference for what you are studying in scripture.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In Harm’s Way by Irene Hannon


Eagerly Awaited Conclusion in Bestselling “Heroes of Quantico” Series:

The danger is real, but can she convince the FBI her story is true?

Irene Hannon’s bestselling Heroes of Quantico series has gripped readers with what reviewers have praised as “extraordinary writing, vivid scenes, and a surprise ending….a not-to-be-missed reading experience.”

In Harm’s Way is the final book of the series, where FBI special agent Nick Bradley is confronted by Rachel Sutton: Nick has seen his share of kooks during his fifteen years with the Bureau. But Rachel is an enigma. She seems normal when she shows up at the FBI office in St. Louis--until she produces a tattered Raggedy Ann doll she found and tells him she thinks something is wrong because of a strange feeling of terror it gives her when she touches it. Nick dismisses her, only to stumble across a link between the doll and an abducted child, setting in motion a chain of events that uncovers startling connections—and puts Rachel's life on the line.

Publishers Weekly praised the novel, calling it a “fast-paced crime drama with an aside of romance.” Filled with palpable suspense and a touch of romance, In Harm's Way is the final installment of Hannon’s thrilling Heroes of Quantico series.
Irene Hannon is the bestselling author of more than 30 novels, including Against All Odds andAn Eye for an Eye. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, and the Reviewer's Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviewsmagazine. For more information about Irene and her books, visit her website at www.irenehannon.com.

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

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Praise for Irene Hannon and the Heroes of Quantico series:

“Extraordinary writing, vivid scenes, and a surprise ending
come together for a not-to-be-missed reading experience.”
— Romantic Times

“….fast-paced crime drama with an aside of romance.”
— Publishers Weekly

“I found someone who writes romantic suspense better than I do.”
— Dee Henderson


Here's my review of this wonderful romantic suspense read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Irene Hannon and her publisher for sending me a copy of "In Harm's Way" 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.

Irene Hannon’s third and final installment in the Heroes of Quantico series is a gripping read. “In Harm’s Way” tells the story of a young teacher who finds herself in a rather awkward position. A downward glance reveals a discoloration in the snow that she decides to dig up and turn in to the lost and found of the restaurant it is near. She releases what turns out to be a Raggedy Ann doll from her icy prison, but when she touches it, she is filled with dread. Rachel doesn’t believe in psychic ability. But she’s convinced that she cannot ignore the feelings she gets when she touches the doll. Taking the risk to be laughed at, Rachel takes the doll to the FBI and tells her crazy-sounding story to Nick Bradley. That’s when the real adventure begins.

This novel is suspenseful and romantic and filled with excitement and surprises. The pages fly as the reader engages this roller-coaster like story through every anticipatory ascent, rapid descent, each twist and turn. This is an outstanding read that you will want to devour in as few sittings as possible. I am saddened that this is the final book in the series, but thrilled that all three novels are on my keeper shelf to be re-read again and again.


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

Saturday, April 17, 2010

REVIEW: Faith Path by Mark Mittelberg


Faith.
Everybody lives by it—even skeptics and atheists!

That’s right. Everyone you know trusts something they believe in but can’t prove or know absolutely. They take it on faith. And if you want to talk to your friends about your faith, it helps to understand what they believe and how they got there. Because badgering people to change their minds just doesn’t work.

Based on Mark Mittelberg’s book Choosing Your Faith, the Faith Path workbook and DVD set builds on Mittelberg’s sensible, evenhanded approach to evangelism. Inside you’ll meet six fascinating people who looked at the world in six different ways before they embraced faith in Christ. Very likely you’ll recognize people you know—and you may even recognize yourself.

Work through Faith Path and you will:

• Understand people who approach life differently from you
• Recognize the danger of paths that lead away from Christ
• Deepen your own faith in Christ and reinforce your reasons for believing
• Gain confidence in talking about Christ with others

Relativists, traditionalists, mystics, authoritarians, and others…they’re all here. And after you understand how these folks think about faith, you can help them find a trustworthy pathway to truth. Because no matter what your friends believe, they still matter to God.

Mark Mittelberg explains the 6 Faith Paths (adapted from an interview with NewManMag.com):

As Christians, we need to understand that the people we’re trying to reach think in differing ways when they consider faith. And if we don’t learn to speak to what they value, it’s almost like we are speaking a different language. For example, if all we want to do is give testimony, but they think like scientists and want the evidence, then we’re not going to connect.

So the best way I know to share about this is to go through the six paths people take when they are considering faith, and the six best ways to help them.

· First, for example, is the relativistic path. A person on the relativist path basically decides what they want to believe and calls it truth. This one’s popular on college campuses. They decide what they want to believe, and that mystically becomes true for them. Their truth may not be the same as your truth, and they think that’s OK. So what do we say?

What I try to show is that relativism does not work in any other area of life. For instance, try running your investments based on relativistic, wishful thinking. Would you pick a company out of the blue and invest in them without doing any research into their finances or outlook? No, because you would eventually go bankrupt. Your belief does not change reality. If your beliefs don’t change reality in the realm of daily life, why would they change your spiritual life?

· The second approach is traditional. This one says, “I believe what I believe because that’s what I was taught when I was growing up, period.” How do we respond?

Congratulations on honoring your father and mother, but let’s be honest, someone’s mom and dad were wrong. You’ll never know if your traditions are true unless you test them. Which of your relatives figured it out once and for all for your family? If I look around the table on Thanksgiving, there’s no way I would want to trust my eternity to any of my relatives.

You’ve got nothing to lose by examining your beliefs, because if they prove true, you will only reinforce them, and if they prove not to be true, don’t you want to know? Jesus warned in Mark 7 not to let tradition get in the way of the truth of God.

· The third path to faith is authoritarian, which is similar to the traditional in that it’s a hand-me-down, but this one has a lot more force. This one says, “You will believe this.” One example, and it’s not the only one, is a friend of mine who was raised in the Muslim faith, where he was taught that Allah is God, Muhammad is His prophet, and you will accept this. He did growing up, but he reached a point where he realized he needed to weigh whether he could trust the authorities that were telling him this.

That’s what we teach—the need to help everyone really evaluate whether they can trust the authorities in their lives. It’s not anti-authoritarian; we just want to make sure we have the right authorities. I think when you compare the religious authorities out there, you will see Jesus that stands up to scrutiny like no one else. That’s what my friend, the former Muslim, found as well, and today he is a follower of Jesus.

· The fourth is the intuitive faith path. This is the person who says, “I don’t need all your arguments and evidence because I know in my heart what is true.” It’s the Star Wars approach: “I feel the force.” And it’s sort of the Oprah Winfrey approach, where she teaches in her classes to get rid of doctrine and just follow your heart, or your spirit.

The wisest man who ever lived, named Solomon, warned us in the Old Testament that there’s a way that seems right to a person that ends in death. People tell you to follow your heart, but the Bible says that the heart is deceitfully wicked.

Intuition is like a flashing yellow light on a dark intersection at night. It can warn us to pay attention, but it doesn’t tell us everything we need to know. We still have to look around and figure out what the situation is. When it comes to your spiritual life, don’t just look at your heart but look at the information available to you.

· The fifth one is the mystical faith path. This is the one that says, “I know what to believe based on what God has told me.” Someone in this mindset feels that their spiritual experience trumps everything else.

So what do we say? First, we don’t deny that God can speak to us today. God did not lose His voice 2,000 years ago. I think we need to be seeking His voice and His guidance in our lives daily. But not everything that feels spiritual is from God.

First Thessalonians 5:20-22 says, “Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” That’s a very appropriate warning for this discussion. We shouldn’t ignore something that is from God, but God Himself tells us to test it very carefully and to hold on only to what we know to be from God.

· The sixth one is evidential faith path. This one can be misused, but when applied correctly, it can lead us into truth and help us test what we’ve come to believe from other faith paths.

I give priority to this one. It relies on two undeniable vehicles of truth: logic and evidence. I say “undeniable” because you can’t argue with logic without using logic. It’s through logic and evidence that we determine truth in every other area of life.

When it comes to spiritual matters, logic and evidence can point us in the right direction. For example, I’m convinced that historical and archeological evidence will support the Bible in ways that don’t support the Quran or Book of Mormon. The evidence for the Resurrection supports the authority of Jesus in ways that make Him unique among all spiritual leaders. The evidence of science points to the reality of a Creator who made us.

About the Author: Mark Mittelberg is a best-selling author, sought-after speaker, and a leading outreach strategist. He is the author of Choosing Your Faith, coauthor (with Lee Strobel) of The Unexpected Adventure, and coauthor (with Bill Hybels and Lee Strobel) of the Becoming a Contagious Christian curriculum. He previously served as the evangelism director for Willow Creek Community Church and the Willow Creek Association. Mark earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Religion from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Heidi, and their two teenage children.




Here is my review of this thought-provoking Bible study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Mark Mittelberg and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Faith Path" 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.

“Faith Path” is a fascinating new Bible study by Mark Mittelberg, one of the co-authors/teachers of “Becoming A Contagious Christian”. “Faith Path” is an eight-week DVD driven study that is based on Mark’s book “Choosing Your Faith”, and takes the student on a journey through six spiritual paths taken by the same number of individuals before they chose to follow Christ. I highly recommend this study for your small group.

This illuminating study will teach any student how to better witness to individuals who are currently on other paths of spirituality. The workbook is in a simple format – exercises to be completed before watching the DVD segment, and those to be completed after. The DVD segments are about 10 minutes each, allowing lots of time to share ideas with your small group and answer the workbook questions. There are challenging exercises to get you thinking about people you know and how you might be able to use what you learn to witness to them. This study is an engaging and practical tool for sharing Christ with those you know. It will give you confidence in what you believe, offer you protection from thinking that is not Christ-centered, and present you with information about the challenges you may face from people who participate in various belief systems.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Bible Study: As It Was In The Beginning - Genesis - Chapter 24


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 24. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…




24:1 – In this chapter, Abraham is symbolic of God the Father, Isaac symbolizes Christ the Son, the servant symbolizes the Holy Spirit, and Rebekah represents the bride of Christ.

Isaac is almost 40. He is 37 in 23:1.

24:2 – chief servant – some scholars think this is Eliezer of Damascus. See Genesis 15:2. Eliezer means “comforter” which makes his symbolism of the Holy Spirit in this story even cooler.

“put your had under my thigh” – “In ancient times an oath taker rested his hand on the most vital part of a man’s body as a pledge of allegiance.” (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

24:3 – see Deuteronomy 7:1-4.

24:6 – “do not take my son back there” – Although Abraham didn’t want Isaac to have a Canaanite wife, this was the land promised to them by God, so Abraham wanted him to live here. But the wife must come for his family in the Haran area.

24:7-8 – “We are accountable for being faithful to God’s commands. God alone is responsible for bringing about the desired results according to His timing and His will.” (Explore the Bible, Winter 2007-2008, Genesis 1-27)

24:11 – The servant worked with God by putting himself in a place to encounter young, single women in the town. We must work with God, too.

24:14 – The servant was looking for a generous, compassionate, hard-working, honest wife for Isaac. As the bride of Christ, we should possess these qualities, too.

24:15 – Rebekah is symbolic of the bride of Christ.

24:16 – to fill the jar, Rebekah had to descend a flight of circling stone steps that could have gone as deep as 140 feet. This makes her offer to water the camels in 24:19 a truly benevolent gift.

“Inner beauty needs cultivating, too.” See Proverbs 11:22. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

24:19 – each camel could drink about 25 gallons. That’s 84 trips up and down the steps!

“Strength can be a good thing.” See Proverbs 31:25. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

24:21 – wasn’t her offer the sign the servant asked for? Maybe he wanted to observe her to see if she was worthy of Isaac. Or maybe he wanted to see if she would actually finish what she started. Apparently, she was moving so quickly she appeared to be a blur! (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

She said she would water the camels until they finished drinking. He watched to be sure she was honest and a woman of her word.

24:22 – “a beka for Rebekah” – the ring weighed a beka, about 1/5 ounce. (Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible – Higgs)

A laborer could earn up to 10 shekels a year. What a generous “thank you” gift for drawing the water. This jewelry was not a bridal gift. The servant had to discuss that with her parents.

24:25 – was her generosity stemming from her tendency to manipulate?

24:28 – Why “her mother’s household”? Her father was probably dead. Which is why her brother would speak to the visitor.

24:30 – Laban rushed to see the visitor because of the jewelry Rebekah was wearing.

24:31 – the ancient rule of hospitality meant extending a low-key greeting. Laban is not low-key. His greeting gives the impression that his hospitality is motivated by self-interest.

24:34 – Abraham seeking a wife for Isaac was working to ensure God’s promise for offspring. How do we know when to act in faith and when to allow God to act?

24:35 – The servant declares Abraham’s wealth so Rebekah’s family knows she will be well cared for.

24:36 – The servant qualifies that Sarah gave birth in her old age to assure Rebekah’s family that her future husband was not ancient!

24:40 – walking before the Lord – why wasn’t Abraham following? This actually means to walk with God or live a godly life.

24:42-48 – “Whenever we see life results that only God can bring about, we are to openly acknowledge His power and praise His name publicly!” (Explore the Bible, Winter 2007-2008, Genesis 1-27)

24:45 – “Rebekah” means loop, tie, ensnarer, captivating.

24:50 – the Bethuel mentioned here is not Laban’s father. If he was, he would have been mentioned before Laban. He could be another son or a reference to the family. The fact that Laban is negotiating his sister’s marriage terms could mean that their father was deceased.

24:53 – when Rebekah was given in marriage to Isaac, the servant gave her many gifts. When we agree to become the bride of Christ, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

24:58 – Rebekah had a bit of a choice. We must choose, too.

24:63 – Isaac looks up and sees camels.

24:64 – Rebekah looks up and sees Isaac. Legend says she was so smitten with Isaac that she fell off of her camel. Scholars believe that she preferred to dismount before entering his presence because there is no graceful way to do so.


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

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Power PraiseMoves™ DVD by Laurette Willis

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:


Power PraiseMoves™ DVD

December 1, 2009

***Special thanks to David P. Bartlett - Print & Internet Publicist - Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Laurette Willis, the founder of PraiseMoves®, is a Women’s Fitness Specialist and certified personal trainer, as well as a popular keynote speaker and an award-winning actor and playwright. She has produced the videos PraiseMoves™ and 20-Minute PraiseMoves™ and written BASIC Steps to Godly Fitness.


Visit the author's website.


Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Actors: Laurette Willis
Directors: Josh Atkinson
Format: NTSC
Region: All Regions
Number of discs: 1
Studio: CT Videography
DVD Release Date: December 1, 2009
Run Time: 120 minutes
ASIN: 0736928456

AND NOW...A SAMPLE OF THE VIDEO:




Here is my review of this amazing workout DVD:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Laurette Willis for sending me a copy of "Power PraiseMoves" to review for her. 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.

Originally, I was intrigued by the idea of a Christian alternative to yoga. I’ve never done yoga, but I’ve been looking for a low-impact workout that I could begin to get myself “in shape to get in shape.” This DVD, “Power PraiseMoves” created and hosted by Laurette Willis is incredible. Not only is it low impact, it can be done by anyone regardless of the shape you’re in. It’s easy because you perform at your own fitness level. As you move, the narrator recites scripture for you to meditate on which helps to shape up the soul as well. Still, don’t take my review as a replacement of obtaining a doctor’s advice.

As you gain flexibility and strength, you will intensify the posture you perform. This will increase satisfaction with your workout. The DVD is broken into segments focusing on standing postures, sitting postures, abdominal postures and more. It contains a helpful booklet that has photographs of several of the postures for reference. And, there are more resources available at the Power PraiseMoves website. This is not a DVD that is going to accumulate a lot of dust on my shelf. I will definitely use this workout!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Too Close to Home by Lynette Eason


New romantic suspense series: “Women of Justice

FBI agent Samantha Cash sets out to solve a string of murders in a small Southern town. Troubles arise when the case turns personal…

Lynette Eason debuts a new romantic suspense series that features strong female characters who will stop at nothing to find the criminal: the Women of Justice series.

Too Close to Home is the first novel in this new series, which renowned suspense author Dee Henderson called “a hit” and said that she “enjoyed every minute.”

In this thrilling first book, readers meet Samantha Cash, who is the FBI's secret weapon. Her methods are invisible, and she never stops until the case is closed. When missing teens begin turning up dead in a small Southern town, Samantha is assigned to help the local police chief Connor Wolfe find the killer. And he has two problems with that. There's her faith--in God and herself. And then there's the fact that she looks exactly like his late wife.

As they get close to an answer, the case becomes personal. The killer seems to be taking an interest in Connor's 16-year-old daughter, who thinks her dad is getting way too protective. Can't a girl just have some fun?

Too Close to Home ratchets up the suspense with each page, and will have readers cheering for the characters they love as justice is served and love grows even in the face of danger. Read this one with the lights on!

Lynette Eason is the author of three romantic suspense novels, and a member of American Fiction Christian Writers and Romance Writers of America. A homeschooling mother of two, she has a master's degree in education from Converse College.

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

For more information, visit www.RevellBooks.com.

Here is my review of this incredible novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Lynette Eason and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Too Close To Home" 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.

There is a new series that has demanded my attention and fanaticism. Women of Justice Book One is called “Too Close To Home.” It is written by Lynette Eason, and it has found its way onto my “keeper” shelf. Even though I was intrigued by the synopsis of the story, the cover really didn’t do anything for me. If I saw this book in the store, I might not give it a second glance. I am absolutely thrilled that this was not the case. The story that I discovered within the pages of this novel is a solid crime drama about a series of disappearances of teenage girls who turn up dead a year or so after the abduction – and after they’ve given birth.

Combine this suspenseful plotline with a large smattering of family issues that could be experienced by anyone – a single father trying to balance career and raising a teenage daughter, and a beautiful career woman seeking to make up for her own failings in her relationship with her sister. Add a subplot of faith where the characters struggle like real people over how to involve Christ in their lives. What you get when you blend these elements together is a wonderfully gripping, romantic read that will have you turning pages way past your bedtime.

I’ve learned my lesson – I will not judge a book by its cover!



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