Monday, February 28, 2011

REVIEW: Diagnosis Death by Richard L. Mabry

Here is my review of this fantastic medical suspense novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Richard L. Mabry and his publisher for sending me an electronic copy of "Diagnosis Death" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and their generosity.

I am thrilled to be traveling back to Dainger, Texas. “Diagnosis Death” is the third novel in the Prescription for Trouble series by Richard L. Mabry. This medically authentic and entertaining novel follows Dr. Elena Gardner, recently widowed and experiencing the stresses of being alone as well as the guilt over discontinuing life support for her comatose husband. She is also being terrorized by an unknown woman who calls her in the middle of the night weeping.

When her post-education career plans fall through at the last minute, Elena is at her wits’ end until she is recommended for a position with Dr. Cathy Sewell in Dainger, Texas. We first met Dr. Sewell in Mabry’s first novel in the Prescription for Trouble series. But then the threatening letters begin, and another “mercy killing” takes place and looks remarkably like what Dr. Gardner did for her husband. Now, her integrity is in question and may cost her this new job.

This remarkably suspenseful novel is an emotional thrill ride. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book I read to review on my Kindle!

Wiersbe Bible Study Series Nehemiah by Warren Wiersbe

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



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





Today's Wild Card author is:





and the book:



Wiersbe Bible Study Series Nehemiah

David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

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



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:








Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.







SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


Nehemiah was an ordinary man given an impossible task: to rebuild the war-torn city of Jerusalem. This Bible study examines the life, legacy, and perseverance of Nehemiah.





Product Details:



List Price: $8.99

Paperback: 144 pages

Publisher: David C. Cook (February 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 078140455X

ISBN-13: 978-0781404556



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:





A Caring Attitude



(NEHEMIAH 1—2)



Before you begin …



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



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





Getting Started



From the Commentary



“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity.” George Bernard Shaw put those words into the mouth of the Rev. Anthony Anderson in the second act of his play The Devil’s Disciple. The statement certainly summarizes what Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25–37), and it rebukes all those who fold their arms complacently, smile benignly, and say somewhat sarcastically, “Ask me if I care!”







1. What are some of the evidences in Nehemiah 1 that Nehemiah was a person who cared? Why are care and concern important traits for leaders? How might the lack of care and concern affect a leader’s ability to lead?





More to Consider: Nehemiah was a layman, cupbearer to the great Artaxerxes Longimanus, who ruled Persia from 464 to 423 BC. Nehemiah’s name means “The Lord has comforted.” What is the significance of Nehemiah’s name in relation to the task God has for him? Why do you think he mentions abruptly that he was the cupbearer to the king (Neh. 1:11)?





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





Going Deeper



From the Commentary



Nehemiah asked about Jerusalem and the Jews living there because he had a caring heart. When we truly care about people, we want the facts, no matter how painful they may be. “Practical politics consists in ignoring facts,” American historian Henry Adams said, but Aldous Huxley said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” Closing our eyes and ears to the truth could be the first step toward tragedy for ourselves as well as for others.







3. Go through Nehemiah 1 and underline what Nehemiah learns about Jerusalem. What does this tell us about Nehemiah? About the Jews living in Jerusalem? About Jerusalem itself?





From the Commentary



The prayer in Nehemiah 1:5–10 is the first of twelve instances of prayer recorded in this book. (See 2:4; 4:4, 9; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 9:5ff.; 13:14, 22, 29, 31.) The book of Nehemiah opens and closes with prayer. It is obvious that Nehemiah was a man of faith who depended wholly on the Lord to help him accomplish the work He had called him to do. The Scottish novelist George MacDonald said, “In whatever man does without God, he must fail miserably, or succeed more miserably.” Nehemiah succeeded because he depended on God. Speaking about the church’s ministry today, the late Alan Redpath said, “There is too much working before men and too little waiting before God.” This prayer begins with ascription of praise to God (1:5). “God of heaven” is the title Cyrus used for the Lord when he announced that the Jews could return to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23; Ezra 1:1–2). The heathen gods were but idols on the earth, but the God of the Jews was Lord in heaven. Ezra often used this divine title (5:11–12; 6:9; 7:12, 21, 23), and it is found four times in Nehemiah (1:4–5; 2:4, 20) and three times in Daniel (2:18–19, 44). Nehemiah began his prayer as we should begin our prayers: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matt. 6:9).





4. What’s the significance of addressing a prayer to “the God of heaven”? Why does Nehemiah begin his prayer this way? (See Neh. 1:5; see also 4:14; 8:6; 9:32.) What is the focus of Nehemiah’s prayer?





From Today’s World



Every few years, the church suffers through “media scandals” prompted by public revelations of leaders’ misconduct. Though the focus is usually on a single individual—or a tightly knit group of people in positions of influence— these media scandals can have a lasting effect on the church. Long after the details of the scandal have faded into the past, people with an axe to grind continue to point to these events as evidence that the church is at worst, corrupt, and at best, a place for hypocrites and fools.





5. Why does the media give so much screen time to church-related scandals? What makes scandals newsworthy? What impact does this sort of event have on the local churches? Church leaders? Believers in general? What are some positive ways to respond to such scandals?





It has well been said that prayer is not getting man’s will done in heaven but getting God’s will done on earth. However, for God’s will to be done on earth, He needs people to be available for Him to use. God does “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20 NKJV). If God is going to answer prayer, He must start by working in the one doing the praying! He works in us and through us to help us see our prayers answered. While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision of what needed to be done became clearer. Real prayer keeps your heart and your head in balance so your burden doesn’t make you impatient to run ahead of the Lord and ruin everything. As we pray, God tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it, and all are important to the accomplishing of the will of God. Some Christian workers are like Lord Ronald in one of Stephen Leacock’s short stories who “flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”





Nehemiah planned to volunteer to go to Jerusalem to supervise the rebuilding of the walls. He didn’t pray for God to send somebody else, nor did he argue that he was ill-equipped for such a difficult task. He simply said, “Here am I—send me!”





6. What are some of the lessons we can glean from Nehemiah’s prayer? What is significant about his use of “we” in the prayer? What does this say about Nehemiah as a person? As a leader?





From the Commentary



Unknown to him, Nehemiah was about to join the glorious ranks of the “champions of faith,” and in the centuries to follow, his name would be included with heroes like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Esther, Deborah, and David. One person can make a big difference in this world, if that person knows God and really trusts in Him. Because faith makes a difference, we can make a difference in our world to the glory of God. “Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace,” said Martin Luther. “It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”







7. Read Mark 9:23–24 and Matthew 17:20. How do these verses apply to Nehemiah’s faith? How can they help inspire church leaders today?





From the Commentary



The king asked him, “What is it you want?” What an opportunity for Nehemiah! All the power and wealth of the kingdom were wrapped up in that question! As he was accustomed to do, Nehemiah sent one of his quick “telegraph prayers” to the Lord (4:4; 5:19; 6:9, 14; 13:14, 22, 29, 31). But keep in mind that these “emergency prayers” were backed up by four months of fasting and praying. If Nehemiah had not been diligent to pray in private, his “telegraph prayers” might have gone unanswered. “He had only an instant for that prayer,” wrote George Morrison. “Silence would have been misinterpreted. Had he closed his eyes and lingered in devotion, the king immediately would have suspected treason” (Morning Sermons, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1931, p. 243).





8. Review Nehemiah 2:4–8. Why is it significant that Nehemiah took a moment to pray before answering? What lessons can we learn from this small action? How did God answer his prayer?





More to Consider: Jewish rabbis often answer a question with a question, and Nehemiah followed that example. Instead of telling the king what he planned to do, he aroused the king’s sympathy and interest with a question regarding how he should feel about the sad plight of his ancestral city and the graves of his forefathers. Why do you think he chose this approach?





From the Commentary



Nehemiah is a good example of how believers should relate to unsaved officials as they seek to do the work of God. Nehemiah respected the king and sought to work within the lines of authority that existed in the empire. He didn’t say, “I have a commission from the Lord to go to Jerusalem, and I’m going whether you like it or not!” When it comes to matters of conscience, we must always obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), but even then, we must show respect for authority (see Rom. 13 and 1 Peter 2:11–25). Daniel and his friends took the same approach as did Nehemiah, and God honored them as well (Dan. 1).





9. How might the king’s reaction have been different if Nehemiah had spoken in more “religious” terms about his commission? What are some examples in today’s church where leaders have related well to nonbelievers in positions of authority? What are some bad examples of this? How can believers today apply Nehemiah’s wisdom in their dealings with non- Christian bosses or other authority figures they relate to in daily life?





From the Commentary



After his long, difficult journey, Nehemiah took time to rest, for leaders must take care of themselves if they are going to be able to serve the Lord (Mark 6:31). He also took time to get “the lay of the land” without arousing the concern of the enemy. A good leader doesn’t rush into his work but patiently gathers the facts firsthand and then plans his strategy (Prov. 18:13). We must be “wise as serpents” because the Enemy is always watching and waiting to attack. Leaders are often awake when others are asleep, and



working when others are resting. Nehemiah didn’t want the enemy to know what he was doing, so he investigated the ruins by night. By keeping his counsel to himself, Nehemiah prevented Tobiah’s friends from getting information they could pass along to Sanballat.…





As he surveyed the situation, he moved from west to south to east, concentrating on the southern section of the city. It was just as his brother had reported: The walls were broken down and the gates were burned (Neh. 2:13; 1:3).





10. Review Nehemiah 2:11–16. Why did Nehemiah not want the enemy to know what he was doing? In what ways was Nehemiah practicing what it means to be a good leader? What role did his “secret survey” play in his plan to rebuild the city?





Looking Inward



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





Tips for Small Groups: To get the most out of this section, form pairs or trios and have group members take turns answering these questions. Be honest and as open as you can in this discussion, but most of all,



be encouraging and supportive of others. Be sensitive to those who are going through particularly difficult times and don’t press for people to speak if they’re uncomfortable doing so.





11. What are some ways you show your care and concern for your local church? How do you show respect for tradition while also being sensitive to today’s needs? Are you more of an encourager or a complainer? If the latter, why? How can you be more constructive in your relationship with your church?





12. Nehemiah puts a great deal of emphasis on prayer from the very outset of his plan to rebuild the city. What role does prayer play in your plans? How much emphasis do you place on the importance of prayer before, during, and after a plan is put into effect in your life?





13. What aspects of Nehemiah’s leadership appeal to you most? In what ways are you like him? What are some things you’d like to work on in order to be a better servant leader?





Going Forward



14. Think of one or two things that you have learned that you’d like to work on in the coming week. Remember that this is all about quality, not quantity. It’s better to work on one specific area of life and do it well than to work on many and do poorly (or to be so overwhelmed that you simply don’t try). Do you need to work on expanding your prayer life? Is there a particular matter you need to pray about, perhaps for an extended period of time? Be specific. Go back through Nehemiah 1—2 and put a star next to the phrase or verse that is most encouraging to you. Consider memorizing this verse.





Real-Life Application Ideas: One of the key features of Nehemiah’s leadership was his deliberate prayer life. Take a few minutes to consider the various plans you have for your own life (and your family’s life). This could be anything from plans for a summer vacation to educational goals to career plans for you and every other family member. Now, think about how your prayer life intersects with these plans. What are some ways you can be more deliberate in your prayer life about these things? Make practical plans for how to become more prayerful, then commit to those plans.





Seeking Help



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





Notes for Small Groups:



• Look for ways to put into practice the things you wrote in the Going Forward section. Talk with other group members about your ideas and commit to being accountable to one another.



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



and studied.



• Before you start the next lesson, read Nehemiah 3—4. For more in-depth lesson preparation, read chapters 3 and 4, “Wall-to-Wall Workers” and “Workers and Warriors,” in Be Determined.




Here is my review of this fantastic Bible study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Warren Wiersbe and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Standing Firm in the Face of Oppression" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

The Wiersbe Bible Study Series presents its latest incredible study on the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. This nine-lesson Bible study takes the reader deep into this pivotal point of Israel’s history – when Israel was released from Babylonian captivity to return to their homeland and rebuild the destroyed capital city of Jerusalem. Warren Wiersbe succinctly pulls lessons from this Old Testament book that are applicable to us, today.

The Lord can most definitely use the text of this study, “Standing Firm in the Face of Opposition”, to teach the student how to be more like Christ. Whether in a group study setting or in use for personal quiet time, this guide asks questions that make scripture come to life and points out the parallels to modern times and personal situations. The student will not leave this study unchanged if they allow God to stir their hearts.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Kristin Billerbeck’s A Billion Reasons Why


Katie McKenna had resolved to live a quiet life, marry a practical Christian man, and leave all her “worldly” desires behind. Since moving to California, she’d made it her goal to live life logically and for the Lord. She has the perfect life—a fulfilling job, a cute apartment, and a wedding to plan with her soon-to-be fiancé, Dexter.

But then in walks Luc DeForges, the handsome ex-boyfriend who’d broken her heart. After graduating college and rejecting Katie, Luc cornered the organic food market and became one of the most eligible multi-millionaire bachelors. But now he’s back and asking her to go home to New Orleans to sing at his brother’s wedding. She hasn’t fallen victim to her emotions since leaving New Orleans, and she’s invested too much to give into them now.

When Luc was in his element, there was nothing like it. His excitement was contagious and spread like a classroom virus, infecting those around him with a false sense of security. Katie inhales deeply and reminds herself that the man sold inspiration by the pound. His power over her was universal. It did not make her special.

Katie’s boyfriend, Dexter, is a practical man. As Katie’s roommate Eileen offers, “Katie, no matter how many entries you put in that book, Dexter is not going to be a romantic. I mean, fine, you’re going to marry him. He’s a good man. I just don’t want you to be disappointed. No matter how many junior high school hearts you draw next to his name, Dexter is going to order you what the Internet says is the proper gift for each anniversary. He’ll probably have a program created that does it for him.” But Dexter is safe. He’ll be a good dad. He’s very intellectual. He’s punctual. He’s everything she needs in a husband.

And Dexter will propose as soon as she gets her grandmother’s ring from her mom. And Luc will provide her with a free trip home for just that purpose. Plus, she needs to go home to New Orleans. It’s her last chance to find out why Luc tossed her from his life like a banana peel off the back of her father’s pickup. Love is a decision. A choice. All the leading experts said so, and she’d decided she would love Dexter in a way that honored and respected him. The way she’d loved Luc left her worn out and depleted, like an empty air mattress. Then what use was she? She’d get her ring and closure as well. Then nothing would stand in the way of her life with Dexter.

But what if God has more in store for her? What if God’s desire for her is a heart full of life? Can the passions she had as a young woman, which led to many of her past mistakes, still have a place in her life?



About the Author:
Kristin Billerbeck is a successful novelist from northern California. She has authored more than 30 novels, including the Ashley Stockingdale series and the Spa Girls series. She is a leader in the Chick Lit movement, a Christy Award finalist, and a two-time winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year Award. She has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times.



Here is my review of this terrific book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Kristin Billerbeck and her publisher for sending me a copy of "A Billion Reasons Why" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

Kristin Billerbeck’s latest novel “A Billion Reasons Why” is an entertaining read that examines the common saying, “you can’t go home again”. When Katie McKenna faces her past in the form of tall, dark and handsome Luc DeForges, she is forced to confront a life she left behind. Or at least, she thought she left that life behind.

Katie agrees to accompany Luc to his brother’s wedding in New Orleans. Her main motivation is to get her Grandmother’s ring from her Mother so that she can officially become engaged to dull, I mean safe and stable, Dexter. That means that Luc only has five days with Katie to convince her that he is still in love with her. He is also, unbeknownst to Katie, in possession of the ring that Katie came home to get.

With Luc, Katie had passion but she also experienced deep heartbreak. With Dexter, there is safety and security, but no spark. And Katie is positive that she would prefer to live without the romance in favor of practicality. This outstanding “chick lit” novel is as flavorful as the best jambalaya. The landscape is colorful and richly adorned with southern charm. The story is breathtakingly romantic and the characters come very close to leaping off of the page. Kristin Billerbeck has penned another winner with this terrific work of fiction.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 19


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 19. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


19-24 – The Sinaitic Covenant – a Suzerain-Vassal Covenant (an agreement between a feudal lord and his vassal whom the lord has delivered from danger). This was a pledge to be Israel’s God on the condition that Israel consecrate themselves totally to being God’s people, living obediently to and serving Him.

19:1 – Three months to the day after leaving Egypt.

19:3 – Moses “went up” to God. Did he climb partway up the mountain?

The Lord calls us to be His messengers.

19:4 – The Lord reveals Himself to us.

God carried Israel to Himself “on eagle’s wings”. What does that mean? Strong, swift? See Deuteronomy 32:11.

19:5 – Israel will be God’s treasured possession if they obey God. Check out John 14:23. What other teaching can you find in scripture? Are you living obediently to God? If not, what do you need to change?

What was the covenant Israel was supposed to keep? See Genesis 17:9-14. The covenant was circumcision.

19:9 – Why was God going to let Israel hear Him? So Israel would know God talks to Moses and put their trust in Moses always.

The Lord wants to be heard by us.

19:11 – The Lord wants to be seen by us.

19:12-13 – The Lord is holy, and is not to be approached in a nonchalant fashion.

19:13 – Why couldn’t the condemned be touched? Why executed only by stones and arrows?

Who would sound the trumpet?

19:16-19 – Wow! Thunder, lightning, thick cloud, trumpet blast, fire, smoke, earthquake, trumpet blast, God’s voice!!! What an entrance! Fit for the King of the Universe. Check out Hebrews 12:18-21.

Again, where did the trumpet blasts come from? Angels, maybe?

God inspires awe!

19:21 – Were many people trying to get up the mountain? Or were they still trembling at the bottom. Would the awe wear off and the people would storm up the mountainside in curiosity?

How can we balance our approach to God? How can we run to our Daddy and still approach our Lord with the respect His majesty commands?

19:23 – Moses talks back to God. Whoa! How patient God was with Moses. How patient He is with us!!!


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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

REVIEW: Love Is Grand by Annalisa Daughety

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Annalisa Daughety and Barbour Publishing for sending me an electronic copy of "Love is Grand" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and their generosity.

“Love Is Grand” by Annalisa Daughety is the third novel in the “A Walk In The Park” series. I was so taken with this novel, that I had to go out and buy a copy even after I was given an electronic copy to review from the publisher! This incredible novel warms the heart and clears the tear ducts. It’s a terrific way to spend a lazy afternoon curled up in front of the fireplace with a subtle smile on your face.

Nearly two years after the tragic death of her husband, Ainsley Davis emerges from the hiding place she’s created for herself in her parents’ basement. Armed with a journal to record her thoughts when she leaves grief counseling, Ainsley sets out to rebuild a life with her 14-month-old daughter, Faith. Her niece, Julie, is accompanying her to the Grand Canyon. A summer job is taking the young graduate away from an abusive boyfriend in the hope of giving her some perspective.

As Ainsley faces her past by returning to her job as a GC park ranger, she is reunited with old friends like Dustin Cooper, and new friends like the newly hired trail guide, Jake McGuire. Daughety does a masterful job of paralleling both women’s stories: moving on in the face of negative circumstances – one tragic, the other potentially tragic. It was truly lovely to watch these characters bloom and grow in relationship with God and each other.

The setting is incredibly majestic and the author makes it come to life vividly. She is also a gifted romance writer, entangling the heartstrings in such a way that the reader willingly loses sleep watching the relationship unfold. This is a totally amazing read!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century by Dr. Vinson Synan

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 Book is:

Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century

Charisma House (February 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Book Group | Strang Communications for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE GENERAL EDITOR:




Dr. Vinson Synan has been Dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University since 1994. Before that he served as a pastor and the General Secretary of the Pentecostal Holiness denomination. Dr. Synan has produced 15 works as the premier historian of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement.



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

What does a re-vision of the Charismatic/Pentecostal Spirit-empowered movement look like in the coming years of this millennium? The first century of this revival seems to attest that the Lord raised up the holiness and Pentecostal movements not only to be custodians of these distinctive truths, but the perpetuators of them as well. If any generation ceases to accentuate this emphasis, the movement likely will forfeit the right to be recognized as such.

When the Pentecostal message is preached, published, and proclaimed through triumphant song, an atmosphere is sustained for people to experience anew and again the reality of salvation, holiness, charismata, wholeness, and hope. Such a revival will be biblically based, rationally sound, traditionally accurate, and experientially real.

Spirit-Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century is an authoritative compilation of the presentations from thirty leaders in the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement given at the Empowered 21 Conference in Tulsa, OK, in April 2010. These chapters share emerging insights on how the next generation will handle the profound issues facing Christians within the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement in the 21st century. For example, one portion covers the topic of the 21st century renewal while another discusses how we can protect our Charismatic distinctive. Another portion will highlight Charismatic adaptations for reaching this present age, discussing issues of social and economic justice, prosperity and suffering, challenges to urban ministry, the future of the next generation, Oneness Pentecostalism, and missiological aims in North America.


Product Details:

List Price: $34.99
Hardcover: 608 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616382198
ISBN-13: 978-1616382193

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Charismatic Renewal
After Fifty Years


Vinson Synan, PhD, Dean Emeritus
Regent University School of Divinity


Charismatics are Christians who emphasize the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit toward the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

–Fr. Kilian McDonnell

It seemed to creep up on us, the realization that 2010 marked the fifty-year jubilee of the Charismatic Renewal movement that began on April 3, 1960, when Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest, told his upscale St. Marks Episcopal congregation in Van Nuys, California, about the morning in 1959 when he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues in a prayer meeting led by Spirit-filled Episcopalians. This event in Van Nuys marked the beginning of what is now known as the Charismatic Renewal, which has since spread to practically every denomination and congregation in the Christian world. For some of us it seems only yesterday when news came in the press about this well-educated Episcopal priest who broke all the stereotypes by doing what Pentecostals had been doing for the previous sixty years: speaking in tongues, healing the sick, and casting out demons. This was the beginning of a new movement, which has gone through several names and phases and has grown enormously around the world.
In his book Nine O’Clock in the Morning, Bennett described the event that sparked this spiritual revolution:

I suppose I must have prayed out loud for about twenty minutes—at least it seemed like a long time—and was about to give up when a very strange thing happened. My tongue tripped just as it might when you are trying to say a tongue twister, and I began to speak in a new language!

Right away I recognized several things: first, it wasn’t some kind of psychological trick or compulsion. There was nothing compulsive about it. . . . It was a new language, not some kind of “baby talk.” It had grammar and syntax, it had inflection and expression—and it was rather beautiful.1

Although Bennett was not the first mainline pastor to speak in tongues, hundreds of others, such as Richard Winckler, Harald Bredesen, Tommy Tyson, and Gerald Derstine, had preceded him, but because of widespread publicity Bennett was the one who created the movement. Soon thousands of pastors and laymen in the mainline American churches began to seek the Pentecostal experience. When they received the baptism, many expected to be excommunicated from their churches, as the Pentecostals had experienced decades before, but Bennett and the vast majority of these new Pentecostals were allowed to remain in their churches. Some of these pioneers were: Brick Bradford, Rodman Williams, and James Brown (Presbyterian); Ross Whetstone and Gary Moore (Methodist); Howard Conatser and Gary Clark (Baptist); Larry Christenson and Morris Vaagenes (Lutheran); and Nelson Litwiller (Mennonite). In addition to these there were thousands of others who joined the ranks and were able to remain in their churches, although, sad to say, some of them suffered severe rejection and persecution.2

Roots of the Charismatic Renewal

Of course, the Charismatic Renewal did not occur in a vacuum. The Pentecostal movement, with roots in the earlier Holiness movement, had rapidly spread news of the Pentecostal experience since 1901, when Charles Parham began to teach that speaking in tongues was the “Bible evidence” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The movement became worldwide in 1906 with the beginning of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles, led by the black Holiness preacher William J. Seymour. For decades the Pentecostals were pilloried from the pulpits of the mainline churches and mocked in the American press. Indeed, those who spoke in tongues were accused of being mentally and socially deprived or simply “holy rollers.”3

The person who, more than any other one, brought Pentecostalism to the attention of the larger church world and American society at large was Oral Roberts, an Oklahoma Pentecostal Holiness preacher who started a new healing ministry in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1947. In time Roberts packed out his huge tent and the largest auditoriums in America before taking his message to television in 1955. Suddenly Americans of all church backgrounds were seeing healings and Pentecostal worship in their living rooms. Millions of people were attracted not only to the man but also to his message. Many observers and historians believe that Roberts was the major person behind the beginning of the Charismatic movement in the 1960s.4

Another important force in spreading the movement was the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (FGBMFI), which was founded by California dairyman Demos Shakarian in 1951. With the help of Roberts, the Full Gospel laymen became a major platform for hundreds and thousands of pastors and laymen from the mainline churches, many of whom would never enter a Pentecostal church.

The “Neo-Pentecostals”

Because of the Pentecostal roots of the movement, the mainline tongues speakers were at first called “neo-Pentecostals” for want of a better name. Pentecostals often called them “neos” and “collars” while planning conferences in which they were invited to participate. At first, there was little difference between the neo-Pentecostals and the older Pentecostals in both theology and worship styles. Dennis Bennett consistently proclaimed that tongues were “part of the package” and were to be expected by everyone who claimed a full Pentecostal experience. Other leaders, such as Howard Irving of Oral Roberts University and Rodman Williams of Regent University, were very close to their Pentecostal brothers and sisters in describing the Pentecostal experience.

While the Pentecostals insisted that speaking in tongues was the “initial evidence” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Williams and others spoke of tongues as the “primary evidence.”5 At any rate, almost all of these neo-Pentecostals sought for and received the tongues experience. To distinguish themselves from the classical Pentecostals, they graciously called themselves “neo-Pentecostals.”

Around 1965 these “new” Pentecostals adopted the term Charismatic to distinguish themselves from their less respected but admired Pentecostal brothers and sisters. At first these were mainline Protestants in many churches, some of whom suffered persecution for their new experience and identity. The word Charismatic also meant that these people emphasized all the gifts of the Spirit and not just tongues.

The term neo-Pentecostal was soon abandoned. In time most Charismatics dropped the idea that everyone who received the baptism in the Holy Spirit would speak in tongues. Tongues were highly valued but were seen as one of many gifts that could come with the experience.

The Catholic Charismatics

For seven years, from 1960 to 1967, the movement was limited to the Protestant church world with no apparent breakthroughs into the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. But in 1967, to the utter astonishment of most of the Pentecostals and Charismatics, the movement entered the Roman Catholic Church. This happened in a prayer retreat at Duquesne University led by two professors and about thirty graduate students of theology. On a night in February, the first Catholic Charismatic prayer meeting began with the students who went upstairs to tarry for a Pentecostal outpouring. Patty Gallagher described the scene in the upper room of the Chi Rho retreat center:

That night the Lord brought the whole group into the chapel. I found my prayers pouring forth that the others might come to know Him too. My former shyness about praying aloud was completely gone as the Holy Spirit spoke through us. The professors then laid hands on some of the students, but some of us received the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” while kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. Some of us started speaking in tongues. Others received gifts of discernment, prophecy and wisdom. But the most important gift was the fruit of love which bound the whole community together.6

From Duquesne the movement spread rapidly to Catholic graduate students at the University of Michigan and then to Notre Dame University, the intellectual and football capital of American Catholicism. Then, like a prairie fire, the movement spread from campus to campus and parish to parish until the whole church was alive with thousands of lively prayer groups. From America the movement spread to Catholic communities all over the world. After Pope Paul VI gave his papal blessing to the movement in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome in 1975, the Charismatic Renewal became the fastest growing grassroots movement in the Roman Catholic Church.

Catholic bishops and scholars soon saw the value of the movement since the fires of Pentecost attracted multitudes of former Catholics back to the church. Others left the church to join Pentecostal churches that seemed to have more life and fire. In a short time, Catholic scholars such as Kevin Ranaghan and Kilian McDonnell began the task of domesticating the fire of the movement with a new Catholic theology of the baptism in the Holy Spirit that would allow the movement to gain the approval of priests, bishops, and even the pope himself. The new view was that the Holy Spirit was given at baptism to every Catholic, but the later experience that was called “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was in reality an “actualization” or “release” of what had been received in the sacrament of initiation. In the end, most of the Protestant liturgical churches, like the Episcopal and Lutheran churches, adopted this view.7

The High Point of the Renewal

By the late 1970s the movement was exploding all over the nation and the world. Following the lead of Oral Roberts, new televangelists appeared on TV screens and drew millions of followers. Among them were Pat Robertson and his The 700 Club, Paul Crouch and his Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Jim Bakker and his Praise The Lord (PTL) network, and Jimmy Swaggart, with his fiery and popular evangelistic television ministry.

In a short time the movement continued to burgeon in all the denominations with large conferences and thousands of prayer groups. The Catholics held huge conferences at Notre Dame that reached thirty thousand participants in 1973. The Lutherans conducted an annual Charismatic conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, that at times reached twenty-five thousand, the largest annual gathering of Lutherans in the United States. At the same time, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Mennonites held large annual conferences. This was a period of great growth and success and even “giantism” in huge rallies that burst upon the scene in the late 1970s.

It all reached a climax in 1977 with the Kansas City Conference, where some fifty thousand people from all over America gathered to bear a common witness to the work of the Holy Spirit in the churches. Pentecostals and Charismatics from all denominations gathered in the evenings to hear such luminaries as Cardinal Léon-Joseph Suenens of Belgium, Bob Mumford, Bishop J. O. Patterson, and Francis McNutt. The miracle was that one-half of the people there were Roman Catholic. The other half represented all the Pentecostal churches and the mainline Protestant churches.8

In these heady years, most of the mainline renewal movements set up offices to handle the large annual conferences and the magazines that served their growing constituencies. The Catholic centers included Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Notre Dame, Indiana. The Lutheran headquarters was in St. Paul, Minnesota, while the Methodists worked out of Nashville, Tennessee. The Presbyterians also had a very busy renewal center in Oklahoma City. Many other renewal organizations cropped up all over the nation.

Charismatic Controversies

The fast-growing movement was not without its problems and controversies during these years. The most divisive problem concerned the discipleship, or shepherding, movement led at that time by the Fort Lauderdale leaders Charles Simpson, Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Ern Baxter, and Don Basham. In order to promote healing and provide more leadership for the huge and unwieldy movement, a group was begun in 1975. Called the Charismatic Concerns Committee, this group met annually in Glencoe, Missouri, and wrestled with the shepherding controversy. They ultimately kept a sense of unity in the movement at large. Leaders of this group included Kevin Ranaghan, Larry Christenson, Vinson Synan, Vernon Stoop, and in later years Francis McNutt and Scott Kelso.9

Because of the unity in the Glencoe group, a series of massive congresses were planned and carried out by these leaders. The first, for leaders only, was in New Orleans in 1986. Seventy-five hundred leaders registered for the event. The 1987 congress was the first open to the general public, and there were forty thousand attendees. The second was in Indianapolis in 1990, the third was in Orlando in 1995, and the fourth was in St. Louis in 2000. These were led by Vinson Synan and were supported by all the major renewal groups. After the St. Louis meeting in 2000, there were no more large ecumenical rallies held to bring all sectors of the renewal together in one great meeting. Afterward the renewal groups continued to meet separately, sometimes on a regional basis.

At the height of the renewal, Cardinal Suenens stated that the Charismatic movement should “disappear into the life stream of the church” with the goal of renewing the entire church through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. At any rate, after the turn of the twenty-first century the Charismatic Renewal began to diffuse itself into the regular life of the churches with a diminishing emphasis on separate conferences. Some of the smaller Charismatic organizations withered away as the movement lost its freshness and news value.

Also, many independent Pentecostals began to adopt the word Charismatic to describe their own ministries. In time the word was used not only to describe renewal in the mainline churches but was used synonymously with Pentecostal. By the 1990s scholars began to speak of the “Pentecostal/Charismatic movement” to describe the whole phenomenon.

Worldwide Growth

While the Charismatic movement began to plateau in Europe and North America, it continued to experience enormous growth throughout the developing world. In India, Africa, and Latin America almost all churches—Catholic, Protestant, and even Orthodox—adopted the Charismatic experience and worship styles. Historian David Harrell, an expert on Indian Christianity, stated that all the churches in India are now Charismatic.10 The same could be said of many other nations in the world.

In Africa, the Anglican and Catholic churches experienced phenomenal growth, largely due to the energy sustained from the Charismatic Renewal. However, huge indigenous Pentecostal movements also sprang up in Africa and many other developing nations that were not connected to Western missions such as the Assemblies of God or Church of God. In Africa great movements with thousands of churches developed under the leadership of such figures as William Kumuyi, Enoch Adeboye, and David Oyedepo.

Although these were clearly in the classical Pentecostal tradition, David Barrett and other researchers began to use a catchword name for all that did not fall clearly under the names “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic.” The new term was neo-Charismatic. Major movements under the name “neo-Charismatic” were those connected with John Wimber’s Association of Vineyard Churches, which spread around the world under his dynamic ministry. In these movements there was an emphasis on signs and wonders, power encounters, healing, and exorcisms that placed them very close to their Pentecostal brothers. Like other Charismatics, many neo-Charismatics did not insist on speaking in tongues as the single initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. The ranks of the neo-Charismatic movements expanded greatly during the 1990s with the advent of the Toronto Blessing movement in 1993 and the Brownsville revival in Florida in 1995.

The Shape of the Renewal Today

As of 2006 the Pentecostal Charismatic Renewal had appeared in three major phases, according to researcher David Barrett. These were the Pentecostal wave beginning in 1901, the Charismatic wave starting in the mainline churches in 1960, and the neo-Charismatic wave beginning in about 1980. Those individuals participating in the latter category were first called the Post-denominational Charismatics and later the neo-Charismatics.11

The following is the latest view of the situation as the world celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal in 2010:


The First Wave— Classical Pentecostals 94,383,000
The Second Wave— Mainline Charismatics 206,579,000
The Third Wave— Neo-Charismatics 313,048,000
Total 614,010,00012



Looking at these figures it becomes obvious that the greatest growth has been and continues to be in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. The African crusades of the German Pentecostal evangelist Reinhard Bonnke are now eclipsing those of any other preacher in history with as many as one million conversions in a single service.

Although the statistics are impressive indeed, the growth has been much smaller in North America and Europe. It seems that signs and wonders are more prevalent in less developed parts of the world. Perhaps the scientific and secular worldview of the West may act as a hindrance to the dynamics of revival that are being experienced elsewhere.

According to a Pew Forum Survey in 2006, large percentages of ten nations studied had very large populations of Pentecostals and Charismatics. Together they were called “Renewalists.” The nations were the United States, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, India, the Philippines, and South Korea. Of these countries, two nations, Guatemala and Kenya, reported an absolute majority of the population that identified themselves as Renewalists.13

The following list gives the results for all ten nations:

1. The United States—total population: 300,055,192
(Source: US Census Bureau)


Pentecostals—5 percent (15,002,760)

Charismatics—18 percent (54,000,000)

Total—23 percent (69,012,694)14


2. Brazil—total population 186,112,794 (Source: World Factbook and all others)

Pentecostals—15 percent (27,916,919)

Charismatics—34 percent (63,278,349)

Total—49 percent (91,195,269)


3. Chile—total population: 16,134,219

Pentecostals—9 percent (1,452,079)

Charismatics—21 percent (3,388,185

Total—30 percent (4,840,265)


4. Guatemala—total population: 12,293,545

Pentecostals—20 percent (2,458,709)

Charismatics—40 percent (4,917,418)

Total—60 percent (7,376,127)


5. Kenya—total population: 34,707,815

Pentecostals—33 percent (11,453,580)

Charismatics—23 percent (7,982,798)

Total—56 percent (19,436,378)


6. Nigeria—total population: 131,859,731

Pentecostals—18 percent (23,734,752)

Charismatics—9 percent (10,548,779)

Total—25 percent (34,284,530)


7. South Africa—total population: 44,187,537

Pentecostals—10 percent (4,187,637)

Charismatics—24 percent (10,605,034)

Total—34 percent (15,023,797)


8. India—total population: 1,095,351,995

Pentecostals—1 percent (10,953,520)

Charismatics—4 percent (43,814,080)

Total—5 percent (54,767,600)


9. Philippines—total population: 89,468,677

Pentecostals—4 percent (3,578,747)

Charismatics—40 percent (35,787,470)

Total—44 percent (39,366,218)


10. South Korea—total population: 48,846,823

Pentecostals—2 percent (976,936)

Charismatics—9 percent (4,392,140)

Total—11 percent (5,373,150)15


For the continents of the world, Barrett gives the following figures as of 2006, the centennial year of the Azusa Street revival:


Africa 150,000,000
Asia 165,000,000
Europe 34,000,000
South America 158,000,000
North America 83,000,000
Oceania 4,600,000
World Total 600,000,000



Some Prophetic Words for the Future

Although I’m a historian with a perspective typically geared toward the past, I’ve often been asked to predict what might happen in the future of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal. This has meant abandoning the task of surveying the past and becoming a prophet as I look toward the future. Although I’ve never claimed the gift of predicting the future, I do believe scholarship demands that researchers share their insights in order to warn future generations not to make the same mistakes of the past.

As I look back over a lifetime working in my church, in the broader ecumenical world, and in academia, I try to take a long view toward the future as I share what I think lies over the horizon. With that in mind, here are ten predictions that I’ll be brave enough to make:

1. The Pentecostal and Charismatic movements—in all
their different forms—will grow to make up more than
half of all the Christians in the world in the twenty-
first century. These movements already claimed more
than 25 percent of all Christians in 2000. And with


present growth rates, along with the shrinking of mainline churches, this seems to be a certainty.

The Assemblies of God will become the largest single Protestant church family in the world. With more than 60 million members in the world in 2010 and with very rapid growth rates, this church should surpass the Anglicans, the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Lutherans in their worldwide members, followers, and/ or adherents.

Pentecostals will eventually claim half the population of Africa and, in the long run, will outgrow Muslims in the battle for control of the continent.

Classical Pentecostals and Roman Catholic Charismatics will become the majority of all Latin American national populations before the end of the twenty-first century.

Africa will be the salvation of the Anglican Communion as their fast-growing national churches eventually take control of the Anglican world. The North American and British branches of the Anglican world will diminish in size to become negligible and less influential parts of the church. The American Episcopal Church might actually be expelled from the Lambeth Conference of Bishops by the end of the century. This might serve as the salvation of this historic communion. The same could well happen in other Protestant denominations.

Through the mass healing crusades of Pentecostal evangelists such as Reinhard Bonnke and Benny Hinn,


Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity will become more than 10 percent of the population of India.

China will have the largest Christian population in the world by the end of the twenty-first century. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches will make up the vast majority of these new Christians. Along with this revival will come the end of communist rule in China and the institution of true democracy.

Because of very high birth rates, the number of Muslims will increase in most Western nations, including Britain, Germany, France, and the United States. The world population of Muslims will climb during the century because many Christians practicing birth control will have smaller families and because most Western nations have massive abortion rates. The only possibility for change in this trend would be a mighty revival of signs and wonders that will convert hundreds of millions of Muslims to Christianity.

In time, as the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements continue to grow, more than half of the heads of state in the world will be Pentecostals or Charismatics. Demographic growth has always been followed by political influence and power.

The future of Christian affairs will be more and more in the hands of the massively growing Pentecostal churches and a Roman Catholic Church that has been renewed and energized by the Charismatic Renewal.16


Perhaps one of the most prophetic words about the future of Pentecostalism was written by a most unlikely person, Harvey Cox of Harvard University School of Divinity. In 1994 he mildly shocked the Christian world with the publication of his book Fire From Heaven, with the meaningful subtitle The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century. Already famous for his 1965 book The Secular City, in which he proclaimed the end of religion as a priority in the life of modern man, he was toasted by such “God is dead” theologians as Thomas Altizer, Paul Van Buren, and William Hamilton. Yet three decades later Cox reversed his field by celebrating the return of religion for modern man through the exploding Pentecostal and Charismatic movements of the world. He seemed to come full circle from the “God is dead” era to the “Spirit is alive and well” era inspired by the rise of Pentecostalism as a major worldwide spiritual force.17

The initiative is now in the hands of the Pentecostals and Charismatics of the world to do as Cox has suggested; i.e., to “reshape religion” in this century. This is indeed a tall order but one that I believe is possible as a new generation of brilliant Pentecostal scholars set themselves to bringing Christianity back to its earliest roots, as seen in the full Charismatic New Testament church.


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

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Dr. Vinson Synan and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Spirit Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“Spirit-Empowered Christianity in the 21st Century” is a compilation of a vast number of articles written by a collection of authors of whom I have never heard. The topics range from the Holy Spirit to Prophecy and Revival. Some chapters deal with items of specific denominational interest. This is a wide-ranging and informational read.

Although this book is not exactly what I expected – I thought it would be another “self-help” brand of tome that would re-state what Christians already know about how to tap into the power of the Holy Spirit, but often don’t do – I am pleasantly surprised to see this format of compiling several authors’ research on a variety of charismatic topics. Not only was this book enlightening, the diversity represented within its pages are a paramount example of what the Christian church is supposed to be: unified!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

REVIEW: Surrender the Heart by MaryLu Tyndall

“Surrender the Heart”, the first novel in the Surrendered to Destiny Series, is a wild, page-turning adventure from the first turn of phrase. MaryLu Tyndall creates vibrant characters that set sail on sparkling seas and into the hearts of her audience. Marianne Denton is not your typical wealthy American girl. She is being forced to marry Noah Brenin to unlock her inheritance so that her mother may receive much-needed medical care.

Noah’s circumstances aren’t much better. He lives in the shadow of a brother’s death and a father’s resentment. His only desire is to make a name for himself and be Captain of his own destiny. Presently, he will have to settle for being Captain of his father’s merchant ship, Fortune. But Noah has plans to win respect and his lady’s heart.

Are the lessons about surrendering to God for the characters, alone? Or can the reader learn a thing or two about deepening their relationship with God? Personally, I believe this novel not only entertains but also conveys godly life lessons portrayed so vividly that they cannot be ignored.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 18


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 18. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


18:1-5 – Moses is reunited with family.

18:1 – How did Jethro hear about what God did in Egypt?

18:2 – Moses sent Zipporah away back around 4:26. Or did he? Did she go to Egypt and witness some of God’s miracles, herself? Dis Moses send her away when things became too dangerous? Did she bring her father news of Moses’ success?

18:9 – Hearing what God did made Jethro happy.

18:11 – Jethro knew God was greater than other gods because He reprimanded Egypt for treating Israel badly. So, Jethro recognized Israel’s importance. But what’s with the other gods? Midianites were polytheistic.

18:21-22 – Jethro suggests the first hierarchical judicial system to take the pressure of leadership off of Moses.

18:25-26 – See Deuteronomy 1:9-18. What leadership qualities are necessary for the judges?

18:27 – Why do you think Jethro waited until the judge positions were filled before leaving?

Did Zipporah and the boys stay?

What do you think Jethro pondered as he traveled home?


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

Monday, February 14, 2011

REVIEW: Chemo Angels

This is a wonderful organization that offers personal support and encouragement to patients undergoing cancer treatment. Because of Chemo Angels, I met two beautiful Angels who have such loving and generous hearts. They send notes and small gifts and lots of encouragement. Their support always seems to show up at the perfect time: when I need that extra little lift.

If you are a cancer patient, I urge you to fill out the application. Chemo Angels will brighten your day and broaden your support network. For more information about cancer or Chemo Angels or to offer support, go to www.chemoangels.net.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 17


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 17. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


17:4 – Moses and Jesus both were rejected by those they came to serve. See John 1:10-11. (Jews for Jesus newsletter, April 2008)

17:5-6 – Moses and Jesus both provided water from an unusual source. See John 4, 7:38. (Jews for Jesus newsletter, April 2008)

17:5 – in this instance, God tells Moses to strike the rock for water. See 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 – the rock is Christ!

17:6 – The spiritual rock is Jesus. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-4.

Belief in Jesus makes streams of living water flow within the believer. See John 7:37-38. Jesus gives the living water that wells up to eternal life. See John 4:1-14.

17:11 – The raised staff is a posture of worship. When worship of God was happening dring the battle, Israel was winning. The raised staff probably also served as a reminder to the people fighting of the miracles God had already performed for them (parting the Red Sea, bringing the water from the rock), and served to encourage them that God was fighting the battle with them. Also, while Joshua was fighting under God’s banner (see 17:15), he was victorious. But when he fought under his own power/banner/colors, he was losing.

17:12 – Moses hands are being held up by Aaron (a Levite) and Hur ( a Judahite). God used the priestly line and the kingly line to assure victory. This is a perfect picture of Christ, as He is both priest and king!

17:15 – Jehovah-Nissi – The Lord is my banner.

17:16 – The mention of the Lord being at war with the Amalekites leads me to believe that the name of the altar in 17:15 refers to a war banner or battle flag. Moses’ hands raised in a posture of worship was Israel’s battle flag – they were God’s army.


What do you think Jethro pondered as he traveled home?


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

Monday, February 07, 2011

REVIEW: “Cancer For Two” by Dave Balch

“Cancer For Two” by Dave Balch is the extraordinarily detailed journal of a man who walked every step of the cancer treatment road with his beloved. Some moments were poignant, others were laugh-out-loud funny, all were real. This book came to me at a time when I was just beginning the journey through adjuvant treatment – I’d had my surgery and was following up with my plastic surgeon and scheduling referral appointments with an oncologist. It turned out to be the perfect time because it enabled me to question my treatment specialists about their recommendations and my choices. On a more personal note, it showed me how another woman with cancer dealt with it, and gave me another perspective on how those on the outside looking in deal with it as well.

This is a frank look at the journey through cancer treatment that I would absolutely recommend to anyone who can understand that cancer treatment is a very individualistic thing. No two people react exactly the same way, and no two cases are exactly the same. If you can keep in mind that this book will not represent your exact options, it is a worthwhile read.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bible Study: Coming Out Of Bondage - Exodus - Chapter 16


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Exodus. 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 Exodus Chapter 16. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


16 – manna represents God’s mercy and glory. See John 6:35, 51 – Jesus is the bread of life!

16:1-4 – Manna is God’s answer to man’s hunger.

16:3 – Israel was romanticizing their past because of a rough spot in their present. We’ve all done this!

16:4 – the Israelites had to gather it! And they had to gather only what they needed for that day except on the day before the Sabbath. God wanted their participation and daily reliance on Him! He wants the same from us! God’s grace and mercy is available to us everyday, but we must gather it according to our need!

16:6-7 – manna is the physical manifestation of God’s glory.

16:8 – manna is a gift of God’s grace.

16:9 – Why would Moses tell Aaron to do this after the instructions they gave in vv. 6-8?

16:10 – they saw God’s glory in the desert.

16:12 – manna is perfectly satisfying – compare original meanings of “eat” and “filled”.

eat - to eat, devour, burn up, feed (to eat (human subject); to eat, devour (of beasts and birds); to devour, consume (of fire); to devour, slay (of sword); to devour, consume, destroy (inanimate subjects - ie, pestilence, drought); to devour (of oppression); to be eaten (by men); to be devoured, consumed (of fire); to be wasted, destroyed (of flesh); to cause to eat, feed with
to cause to devour; to feed; to cause to eat; consume)

filled - to be satisfied, be sated, be fulfilled, be surfeited (to be sated (with food); to be sated, be satisfied with, be fulfilled, be filled, have one's fill of (have desire satisfied); to have in excess, be surfeited, be surfeited with; to be weary of (fig); to satisfy; to satisfy; to enrich; to sate, glut (with the undesired))

16:10 – compare Hebrews 12:29 – the glory of the Lord appearing in the cloud may have been fiery since our God is a consuming fire!

16:13 – see Psalm 28:29.

Quail were common in Egypt. God gave them what they had in Egypt. God was reminding Israel who He had delivered them from.

16:14 – God’s glory comes in small packages.

16:15 – why didn’t Israel know what it was since they were told what was coming in v. 8? Is this like when a child doesn’t like the look of something and makes a production of asking what it is to express displeasure?

16:16 – an omer is a man’s daily portion. A dry measure of a little over 2 quarts.

The Israelites were to gather only what they needed. God gives His mercy in perfect ratio to our need.

Manna is training for daily dependence on God.

16:18 – God always supplies His grace according to our need.

16:19-20 – What are you holding onto that you shouldn’t be? How can you use it to serve God?

16:21 – the manna was available first thing in the morning, but would disappear with the heat of the day. See Isaiah 55:6 which says we should seek the Lord while He may be found. See Matthew 6:33 which says we are to seek first His kingdom. WE ARE TO SEEK GOD FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!!!!!

16:22 – two omers – double the daily portion.

16:27 – Were these people forgetful? Or rebellious?

16:28 – God holds leaders responsible for the actions of their subordinates.

16:31 – it was white – a symbol of perfection and purity.

16:33-34 – Moses instructed Aaron to put the jar or manna before the Lord. Aaron placed it before the “Testimony.”

16:33 – one omer – saved in a jar as a remembrance.

16:34 – why mention the Testimony, here? It hasn’t been created, yet.

16:36 – one omer = one tenth of an ephah.


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

An Unlikely Blessing by Judy Baer


An Unlikely Blessing

Book 1 in the Forever Hilltop Series


A new pastor tries to shepherd his flock in North Dakota

An Unlikely Blessing is a heartfelt story about a new pastor and life-long city dweller Alex Armstrong, who reluctantly accepts his first assignment, a two-point parish in the wilds of North Dakota. Hilltop Township, a farming community, blooms from the prairie like a wild pink rose-lovely and prickly all at once, much like the people who live there.

Alex quickly finds that this lovely place is in quiet peril. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet: Jonas Owens, a faithful member of Hilltop parish, is on the brink of losing the farm. Alex believes that part of why God called him to Hilltop was to help turn things around, and steps in with ideas for saving the Owens' land. But can even God's minister help save this rural community?

There are a lot of firsts for the new pastor-the annual Hunter's Breakfast, julebukking (also called Christmas fooling), King Oscar's fish balls, and the melody of the musical saw. And the new, single pastor creates remarkable excitement among the unmarried women in the community. If you could die of hot dish overdose, Alex would be a dead man. Whether performing weddings, counseling his flock, or herding cattle by snowmobile, Alex soon discovers that his new church home has as much to teach him as he will teach them. Day by day, he falls more in love with the people of Hilltop Church. People may leave Hilltop, but Hilltop never leaves them.


Here is my review of this charming novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Judy Baer and her publisher for sending me a copy of "An Unlikely Blessing" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“An Unlikely Blessing” by Judy Baer is a charming novel about a man embracing a mid-life career change when he is called to become a pastor. This uproots him from his big city home and the life he knows to relocate him to rural North Dakota. Alex Armstrong and his nephew, Jared, arrive in Hilltop Township after a considerable road trip only to be welcomed into Alex’s new adopted community with warm and unexpected hospitality.

I learned a great deal about rural churches and communities while reading this novel. It is fascinating that churches which cannot afford to hire a pastor of their own will partner with other churches in their area to hire one pastor to shepherd both flocks. The differences between these two churches added lots of spice to the book, as did Alex’s dealings with each. Churches and Christians are definitely “individuals” and must be dealt with on such bases. Ms. Baer paints a beautiful picture that can be taken from this work of fiction as a lesson for life.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stars Collide by Janice Thompson


From author who is a seasoned screenwriter with an insider’s perspective on the entertainment industry, comes the first book Stars Collide in the new series from Janice Thompson, “Backstage Pass.”

In Stars Collide, Kat Jennings and Scott Murphy don't just play two people who are secretly in love on a television sitcom—they are also head over heels for each other in real life. When the lines between reality and TV land blur, they hope they can keep their relationship under wraps.

But when Kat's grandmother, an aging Hollywood starlet with a penchant for wearing elaborate evening gowns from Golden Age movies, mistakes their on-screen wedding proposal for the real deal, things begin to spiral out of their control. Will their secret be front-page news in the tabloids tomorrow? And can their budding romance survive the onslaught of paparazzi, wedding preparations, and misinformed in-laws?
From the sound stage to a Beverly Hills mansion to the gleaming Pacific Ocean, Stars Collide takes readers on a roller-coaster tour of Tinseltown, packing both comedic punch and tender emotion.


Here is my review of this first book in a great new series:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Janice Thompson and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Stars Collide" to review for them. I am truly grateful for this generosity. I really appreciate the time, effort and expense it takes to make a reviewer copy available to me.

“Stars Collide” by Janice Thompson is Book One in her new Backstage Pass Series. This charming Hollywood fairy tale of co-stars in a successful sitcom who fall in love in real life is a completely enjoyable and entertaining read. Kat and Scott play opposite each other in a television situation comedy. Behind the scenes, romance is in the air for these two as well. But when an on-screen proposal is mistaken for a real-life engagement, life becomes a bit topsy-turvy.

Janice Thompson’s gift for comedic writing surfaces is this intimate look at Hollywood, romance, love of Christ and family and aging. Her knowledge of the acting industry creates a solid backbone for this novel that will make the reader laugh, cry and contemplate life. This is a book that entertains beautifully and doesn’t miss a beat when touching the heart. I will recommend this novel to all of my reader buddies and will be on the lookout for book two in the series.