Friday, August 26, 2011

Bible Study: Encouragement For The Persecuted - 1 Thessalonians - Chapter 5


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. At the time of its writing, early 2009, things are looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment among other things. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. Stay strong. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor 1 Thessalonians Chapter 5. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



5:1-11 – How are you preparing for Christ’s return?

5:1 – We don’t need lessons about times and seasons because we’ve witnessed changes and outcomes, and we’ve drawn conclusions that have led to correct interpretations about those events. Besides, Acts 1:7 says it’s not for us to know the Father’s timing.

5:2 – There will be no telling when Jesus will return! Like a thief’s break-in at a house, it will be a total shock for those who have rejected Him! Disbelief, even.

5:3-6 – The believers’ anticipation of this event is like the pregnant woman. A woman approaching the birth of her child is EXPECTING labor to come. She doesn’t know exactly when it’s coming, but she looks forward to it and dreads it. But, by then, it’s too late to decide you don’t want children.

5:3 – the people spoken of here are Christians’ enemies. Their destruction will come suddenly. See Psalm 55:15 and Isaiah 47:9-11.

5:4 – That day should not surprise us because we should be expecting it.

5:5 – We belong to Jesus, the Light of the world.

5:6 – Christians should be set apart, noticeable. Our light should shine for all men to see. We should not behave as those who belong to the darkness, but we should emulate Jesus!

5:7 – Those who belong to the darkness will hide in the darkness. It is easier to conceal bad behavior in the night than in the light of day.

5:8 – The armor of God is our protection. See Ephesians 6:10-18 for the complete outfitting.

5:9 – 1:10 says that Jesus saves us from the coming wrath.

5:10 – awake or asleep = living or dead.

5:11 – Are you encouraging your fellow Christians? If not, start. If you are, keep it up and do more.

5:12 – Those who work hard and are over you and admonish (instruct) you are church leadership.

5:13 – We are to love and respect our leaders. But we can’t always agree. What are some of the ways to live at peace with leaders you don’t agree with?

5:14-15 – This is how we are to care for each other.

How do you warn idle or lazy siblings in Christ to get moving?

How do you encourage the timid/discouraged/fainthearted/wounded members of the Body?

How do you help the weak/spiritually immature?

How are you patient with everyone?


Do you make sure that no one repays evil for evil? We’re not supposed to exact revenge. Trust God to handle it!

How are you kind to everyone?

5:16-22 – These are guidelines for how to be right with God. Pay close attention to them.

5:16-18 – see Romans 8:28-30; Ephesians 5:20

5:16 – Do people usually find you smiling or with a frown imbedded in your face? We are told to be joyful always. Remember that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

5:17 – Since we are instructed to pray continually, what are you praying about right now?

5:18 – Do you give thanks in ALL circumstances? You don’t necessarily have to be thankful FOR the circumstances, but you should be thankful that God hasn’t abandoned you in the midst of them.

5:19 – Do not grieve the Holy Spirit. According to Isaiah 63:10, we do this by rebelling against God.

5:20 – Prophecy is one of the spiritual gifts. See Romans 12:6, 1 Corinthians 12:10, 13:2, 14, Ephesians 4:11.

5:21 – Test everything against the Word of God!

5:22 – How do you avoid evil? RUN FROM IT!

5:23-28 – Paul’s closing prayer.

5:23 – Paul prayed that these people would be completely (spiritually and physically) ready for the coming of Christ. Then they would be reunited for eternity.

5:24 – God is faithful and will prepare you to be with Him for eternity if you allow Him to do so.

5:25 – Pray for those who are sharing the gospel and making disciples.

5:26 – holy kiss – philema – brotherly affection, not a statement of permission for homosexual behavior.



Each chapter of these letters to the Thessalonians teaches much about how to pray for yourself and others. How have you learned to pray today?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Route 66: A Crash Course in Navigating Life with the Bible by Krish Kandiah

Route 66: A Crash Course in Navigating Life with the Bible, by Krish Kandiah

About the Book:
Welcome to Route 66, a journey to discover how the 66 books of the Bible help us to know God--and know how to live for Him. Packed with practical help and helpful programs to help you live your whole life guided by the the Bible.

Here is my review of this terrific study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Krish Kandiah and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Route 66: A Crash Course in Navigating Life with the Bible" 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.

Are you ready to take an eight-week road trip through scripture? Krish Kandiah’s “Route 66” is precisely that type of journey. This is a challenging Bible study that can be used solo or with a group (where the accountability will be greater). I am shocked at the compact size of this book since so much is packed inside! Every book in the Bible is addressed.

Each week’s study contains 5 days of homework and a group study activity. So this would be a terrific small group Bible study. “Route 66” is appropriate for students of any level. It will give a wonderful foundation to the brand new Christian and offer new ideas and great reminders to the more seasoned believer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin


Lt. Ray Novak prefers to follow his calling into ministry rather than the cockpit. But his current position offers him the luxury of a personal life since he is stateside training B-17 pilots. His interest in Helen, the young war widow, grows, but he knows she is hiding a painful past under a frenzy of volunteer work. Ray is called to fly a European combat mission at the peak of the air war. Their romance is tense because Helen is afraid, but Ray cannot help because he is in Europe. As Helen tries to make ends meet and confronts the past, Ray encounters a deadly enemy of his own. Will they find the courage to face their challenges? Will the truth come out? Will hope and redemption ring true for Helen?

The great era of World War II in Blue Skies Tomorrow is brought to life by Sundin in this emotion-packed novel.


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

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

Sarah Sundin’s “Blue Skies Tomorrow”, Book Three in the Wings of Glory series, is an outstanding read. This incredible work of romantic historical fiction takes the reader back in time to WWII California. Ray Novak has just been demoted. As a flight trainer with no combat experience, his job was given to a pilot with combat experience and Ray was shipped back to Antioch, California to fill a desk job. What he doesn’t realize is that, even though he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero, he has always been a hero to Helen Carlisle.

Helen is trapped playing the role of a grieving war widow. Trying to raise her son alone and at the mercy of her in-laws who believe she should mourn their son forever, Helen is torn when she learns that Ray Novak cares for her. How can she give herself fully to this romance that she desperately wants with the whole town watching and secrets tearing her apart?

This emotionally charged love story takes me to a seemingly simpler time, but has taught me that things weren’t so different then. They just weren’t talked about. This story led me to confront some deeply rooted issues with prayer. It also entertained me and made me appreciate my Grandparents’ and Great-Grandparents’ contributions to my life. This is an incredible work of historical fiction that is soaked in godly principles and timeless issues. I strongly recommend this terrific read.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Colonel's Lady by Laura Frantz


Shortly after arriving at the Kentucky fort commanded by Colonel Cassius McLinn, the Colonel tells Roxanna that her officer father has died. Penniless and destitute, Roxanna accepts the Scrivener position once held by her father. Before long, Roxanna discovers secrets that her father uncovered shortly before his death. Who could she trust with this discovery that she found in her father’s Scrivener desk? Could she trust the Colonel? Was his attraction to her real or was he hiding his own secrets including her father’s death? Roxanna needed answers that only the Colonel could provide.

Set in 1779 The Colonel’s Lady is a powerful and emotion-packed story full of love, suspense, intrigue, faith, and forgiveness from reader favorite Laura Frantz. Her solid research and skillful writing immerse readers in the world of the early frontier while her realistic characters become intimate friends.

Here is my review of this beautiful romance:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Laura Frantz and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Colonel's Lady" 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 Colonel’s Lady” by Laura Frantz is the story of Roxanna Rowan, the daughter of a scrivener/soldier stationed at Fort Endeavor in the Kentucke territory. Roxanna travels to the Fort to surprise her father after the passing of her mother and her beau married someone else. When several mishaps take place during the journey, Roxanna finds herself with unlikely traveling companions when she arrives at the fort. She also learns that her father is away but should be back by Christmas.

When Christmas arrives and Colonel Cassius McLinn returns from the campaign with news of her father’s death, Roxanna has nowhere to go. Accepting the position of scrivener to accumulate money to return to Virginia, Roxanna finds herself falling in love with Colonel McLinn. Cass has secrets of his own, and though he finds himself completely captivated by Roxanna, he cannot keep the truth hidden. But will that revelation remove Roxanna from his future altogether.

This is a beautifully penned work of historical fiction. Frantz takes the reader back in time with a suspenseful and eloquent plot, well-crafted characters and engaging prose.

Friday, August 19, 2011

REVIEW: Turnabout's Fair Play by Kaye Dacus

Kaye Dacus’ “Turnabout’s Fair Play” is a wonderful novel! Jamie O’Connor just lost his job in sports marketing, and it sets him on a path of self-discovery. Flannery McNeill thinks Jamie is an arrogant jerk. But when they fall victim to their grandparents’ matchmaking efforts, Flannery learns that things aren’t always what they seem. And as she accompanies Jamie down this path, she learns that she’s dropped a few things on her own road to professional success.

This novel reminds me of the twisted comedic plots of Shakespeare. As Jamie and Flannery are being set up by their Grandparents, these young people return the favor. Arranging ways to spend time together to set up their Grandparents, these matchmakers have created a double-dose of romance. “Turnabout’s Fair Play” is a heart-warming, chivalrous romance that plucks the heart strings.

Bible Study: Encouragement For The Persecuted - 1 Thessalonians - Chapter 4


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. At the time of its writing, early 2009, things are looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment among other things. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. Stay strong. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor 1 Thessalonians Chapter 4. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



4:1 – Finally – Paul is wrapping up.

The term “brothers” implies an equal footing between Paul and the people. He truly had a servant’s heart.

They are living in a manner pleasing to God, as they have been instructed. If you are already living to please God, how can you do this more and more? We can always grow in Christ.

4:2 – Here are some of the instructions that Paul gave the Thessalonians in the verses that follow.

4:3-5 – Was sexual impurity and lust an issue for these people? God speaks directly against this. See 1 Corinthians 6:18; 7:2, 9; Romans 1:26.

4:3 – Paul’s instructions: sanctification and sexual purity. In 1 Corinthians 6:18, we’re taught to flee from sexual sin. Remember what Joseph did? Take a few minutes to read his encounter in Genesis 39:1-23. Then do likewise!

4:4 – This passage is about sexual control, although we may be tempted to make it about all sorts of control issues. The point being made is that if we cannot abstain from sexual activity, we are to have our own spouse with whom to satisfy our physical needs. Sleeping around is not acceptable in God’s economy.

4:5 – Passionate lust – my Bible references Romans 1:26, which describes engaging in unnatural sexual practices. See also Ephesians 4:19.

4:6 – We should not take advantage of each other in the area of purity. How can we help each other stay pure? How we dress. How we behave. By not making ourselves available to situations that may compromise us. By seeking out group interaction rather than one-on-one “dates”. By keeping those “dates” in public places.

4:7-8 – Whoever rejects this instruction, rejects God. Pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ to stay pure.

4:8 – According to Romans 5:5, God poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. We must have His Spirit to be filled with His love. According to 2 Corinthians 5:5, God gives us His Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing what is to come. So, what is to come? Our formal adoption and the redemption of our bodies according to Romans 8:23.

4:9-10 – Even though the Thessalonians were good at loving their brothers, Paul urged them to continue to develop in this area. How is your brotherly love? What specific things can you do to improve?

4:10 – In 3:12, Paul prayed that God would increase the Thessalonians’ love.

4:11 – Lead a quiet life – don’t steal, work with your hands, mind your business, not the business of others. See Ephesians 4:28 and 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12.

4:11-12 – How can leading a quiet life glorify God? What can you do to lead a more quiet life?

How can minding your business honor Him? This actually meant that we should be responsible for our own affairs and complete our assignments. In what areas do you need to put this into practice?

How does working with your hands glorify God? Keep you out of trouble? How can you embrace this instruction, today?

How can these practices earn the respect of others? How can these instructions keep you from being dependant on others? Perhaps you can sew your own clothes, fix your car, repair an appliance… Maybe you make a living doing some form of handiwork.

4:13-18 – see 1 Corinthians 15:51-54.

Paul wants them to be ready for the coming of Jesus.

4:13 – The Thessalonians must have had issues with misunderstanding the teaching on resurrection since Paul is addressing it. See 1 Corinthians 15:14-19.

How do believers mourn differently than non-believers?

4:14 – The dead in Christ will be resurrected and return with Jesus.

4:15-17 – This passage contains 5 disclosures: 1. We’re equal whether dead or alive in Christ. There is no advantage to being alive. 2. The Lord, Himself, will descend with a shout, the voice of the archangel and a trumpet. 3. The dead will rise first. 4. The living will be caught up with Him in the clouds. 5. We will be with the Lord forever.

4:15 – See 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 for a description of the rapture.

4:16 – the trumpet call of God – the next feast on the Jewish calendar to be fulfilled by the Messiah is the Feast of Trumpets. Many scholars believe that the fulfillment of this feast will mark the return of Christ.

4:17 – caught up – rapturo – “to snatch, seize suddenly, or to transport from one place to another.” Also used of rescuing someone from a threatening danger (Acts 23:10; Jude 1:23). This is where we get the term “rapture”.

4:18 – We’re told to encourage each other with these words. Read and study scripture together.



Each chapter of these letters to the Thessalonians teaches much about how to pray for yourself and others. How have you learned to pray today?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Too Blessed To Be Stressed by Debora Coty



Here is my review of this wonderful, inspirational read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Debora Coty and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Too Blessed to be Stressed" 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.

“Too Blessed To Be Stressed” by Debora Coty is a charming book with a valuable message. This incredibly witty and uplifting read is loaded with great quotes and amazingly thoughtful reflection questions. There are quizzes to assess your stress level and songs about the stuff we women stress over.

From the beautiful and colorful front cover to the equally lovely back cover, these 40 chapters offer sage advice for dealing with pressures, relationships, priorities and things that steal our joy. This is a wonderful gift book idea. It would be a terrific daily inspirational reading break.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #7 - Summary

In Priscilla’s final video, she issued a challenge to keep studying on my own. So, now I need to choose a book of the Bible.

Lord, I pray that You will speak clearly and let me know what to study. Speak, Jesus.

Footnote: I watched that video 12 days ago. Since that time, I have used the 5 Ps study method everyday in my quiet time to study the book of James. I have also used this technique to study passages on which my Pastor said he was planning to speak. Jesus has certainly used this method of Bible study to speak to me.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bible Study: Encouragement For The Persecuted - 1 Thessalonians - Chapter 3


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. At the time of its writing, early 2009, things are looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment among other things. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. Stay strong. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor 1 Thessalonians Chapter 3. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…



3:1 – Paul, Silas and Timothy couldn’t stand that they had been torn away from the Thessalonians. What do you miss when you’re prevented from ministering?

3:2-4 – Paul sent Timothy to encourage the Thessalonians because they knew the people were being persecuted. Timothy was a young preacher and probably very enthusiastic. He would have been a terrific encourager.

3:3 – As Christians, are we all destined for trials? Find Biblical passages to answer this question.

3:5 – Because of the persecution, Paul was particularly interest in how the faith of the Thessalonians was holding up. We should check on and encourage those we know are hurting so their ministries continue to thrive.

3:6-7 – Timothy returned to Paul with wonderful news about how the Thessalonians persevered in faith in the face of this oppression. See 1:6. How is it that some people are able to stand strong in faith during a time of persecution? Seek out such a testimony.

3:7-9 – The Thessalonians had great faith, which brought Paul much joy in the midst of his own suffering. Who might you encourage because of your faith?

3:10 – Paul prayed day and night for these people. Who else did he pray for like that? (Hint: read Paul’s other letters.) For whom do you intercede multiple times a day? Pray for what is lacking in the faith of others to be supplied by the Holy Spirit.

3:11 – Do you pray for God to clear a path for the ministry He’s given you? You should.

3:12 – When the Lord fills you to overflowing, you must pour what He gives you into others.

3:13 – Who are Jesus’ “holy ones”? Saints? Angels? Read Matthew 25:31 and 2 Thessalonians 1:7. They are angels.


Each chapter of these letters to the Thessalonians teaches much about how to pray for yourself and others. How have you learned to pray today?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #6, Day #5

From Apathy to Action. What a great topic for a final study! I can’t believe that six weeks is already up. I pray that I’ve learned a few new habits. Nehemiah 1:3-6, 11. Areas of weakness and brokenness exist where there should be protection for God’s people. As I mentioned yesterday, we are weak where we should be strong because we aren’t creating disciples. The process of becoming a disciple on your own is doable, but it is frustrating and takes a long time. I’ve been there.

It saddens me that the body of Christ is in this condition and this lesson has prompted me to pray about it. God wants us to live powerful lives in His name. He has given us a Spirit of power, not timidity. And I believe that this is a prayer He longs to answer for His children. I am willing to pray day and night for this power to be manifested in God’s people, but as a “fat and happy” and free American, I know that I lack the discipline and desperation to do so without God’s help.

So, I pray right now, Lord, that You would fill me with the urgency and the passion to make this my mission: to pray day and night that Your people would be strengthened and empowered to walk in Christ and live in such a powerful way that cannot be ignored. I ask that You would give me opportunities to encourage and teach and learn that would glorify You in this way. In the majestic name of Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

You Can Understand The Book Of Revelation by Skip Heitzig

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:


You Can Understand the Book of Revelation

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Skip Heitzig is a popular speaker, author, and the senior pastor of Calvary of Albuquerque, ministering to more than 13,000 adults and families weekly. He earned a B.A. and M.A. from Trinity Seminary and has a popular multimedia teaching ministry, including a nationwide radio program, television broadcast, and podcast called The Connection. He is a sought-after speaker at events including the Franklin Graham Festivals and Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie.

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Revelation is often considered the most difficult book of the Bible to understand. But dynamic pastor and speaker Skip Heitzig brings refreshing clarity to the mystery of Revelation as he reveals the good news that many Christians miss and shares why this book is important, exciting, and relevant for today.



Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736943315
ISBN-13: 978-0736943314

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


What Have We Got Here?

Revelation 1

Summary

While the book of Revelation is certainly a mysterious book full of curious symbols and imagery, the central theme of the book could not be clearer: Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, this book is all about Jesus and what He has done, is doing, and will do to bring about the eternal plan of His Father.

Related Scriptures for Study

Psalm 22:6; Isaiah 53:5; Daniel 7:13-14; 1 Peter 2:5-9; Revelation 21:6; 22:13



Through the centuries, the book of Revelation has sparked as much controversy and disagreement as it has fascination and awe. In the fourth century, Gregory of Nazianzus and other bishops argued against including it in the Bible because it presented so many problems with interpretation. Although the Council of Carthage in 397 fully accepted Revelation into the canon of Scripture, the Eastern Orthodox church still doesn’t include it among the church’s Divine Liturgy. Although the reformer John Calvin accepted Revelation as canonical, it’s the only New Testament book for which he did not write a commentary. And Martin Luther included it among the books he classified as “antilegomena”—books he considered of questionable use or origin.

Without question, the book is difficult to interpret. It is deeply mysterious. And yet God has given it to us not only to set our minds at ease about the future, but also to spur us on to “love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24). So let’s briefly investigate why we have this book, why it is so different, who wrote it, and the identity of its main character.

A Quick Look at the Book

Back when we announced at our church that we were going to tackle the book of Revelation, you could hear a ripple skitter across the auditorium: “Wow, Revelation!” The congregation had mixed sentiments. I’m sure some thought, Hot diggety dog! I can’t wait to give Skip some tips. Others gasped, “Oh no! Not the book of Revelation! You’ve gotta stay out of that book—that’s one of those closed books. That’s a sealed-up book.”

Many folks no doubt got a surprise when they discovered that the word “revelation” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, from which we get our word “apocalypse.” Most people who hear of an apocalypse think of a catastrophe or a cataclysm—but that’s not what the word means. In fact, it signifies an unveiling or a disclosure. It speaks of uncovering or revealing something that had been hidden. Imagine a new statue placed in front of city hall, covered with a sheet. At the dedication ceremony a band plays, the mayor gives a spiel, and finally the artist talks about his commissioning. At the precise appointed moment, the sheet comes off and the statue is apokalupsis—unveiled. What once was hidden now stands in the open.

In a similar way, the Holy Spirit draws back the curtains on the book of Revelation and reveals things to us. Remember that this book is a prophecy (v. 3). It’s not an allegory; it’s not mere symbols to be spiritualized however one may choose. It makes specific predictions about the future. Verse 1 speaks of things that Jesus “signified” by an angel “to His servant John.” The word “signify” means “to reveal through signs.”

The book of Revelation employs symbol after symbol, many of them deeply mysterious. The opening vision of Jesus, for example, portrays Him with white hair, fiery brass feet, and a sword flashing out of His mouth. Revelation also speaks of many “sevens”: seven lampstands, seven spirits before the throne of God, seven trumpets, seven seals, seven thunders. You might wonder, Why such an emphasis on the number seven? In the Bible, seven is the number of completeness. Even as seven days make a complete week, so the number seven denotes completeness—a complete revelation of God, a complete judgment, a complete church.

But why the symbols and weird language? Why didn’t God just say, “Point number one: This is the rapture of the church. Point number two: After the rapture, this will happen.” Why such an extensive use of symbols?

I can think of several reasons. First, the text of Revelation functioned like a spiritual code for the early church. The Roman government fiercely persecuted first-century Christians, carefully examining any documents they confiscated. A Roman official reading the book of Revelation would respond, “What’s up with this? This is weird.” But a New Testament Christian would grasp its meaning. It feels very Old Testament, and early Christians practically bathed in the Hebrew Scriptures. In fact, out of 404 passages in Revelation, at least 360 quote or allude to the Old Testament. First-century believers understood apocalyptic literature from the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel, so when they read this book, they got it.

Second, the passing of time does not weaken symbolism. Symbolism tends to transcend cultures, language groups, and people groups. It can bless all people of all times—and God inspired this book in order to bless all ages of the church.

Third, symbolism arouses strong emotions. Symbols create mental images that other forms of literature simply can’t duplicate. As my son was growing up, for example, we would read a Bible story, then act out the Bible story. We dressed up as certain characters and put on towels as headdresses and robes—he was always David and I always got the rock. And then afterward we would pray about the lesson. Our games gave my son a visual handle on the stories. He grasped as a child what it took me until my mid-twenties to understand. John uses a similar approach in Revelation by employing vivid images and potent symbolism.

Fourth, verse 1 speaks of the “things which must shortly take place.” My son once said to me, “Dad, this was written 2000 years ago—and John said it will ‘shortly take place.’ Wasn’t he wrong?” You might have the same question. Did John think the events he described in Revelation would happen during his lifetime? In fact, the word translated “shortly take place” comes from the Greek term en tachi, which means “swiftly.” From this term we get our word “tachometer,” a device that measures velocity. It means to unfold in a brief period of time. In other words, once these events start occurring, they will unfold swiftly until they reach their conclusion. A time will come when the machinery of world history will kick into high gear; and then, as suddenly as it began, it will all end.

A Look at the Biographer

The book of Revelation came from God the Father, to His Son Jesus Christ, to an angel, and then finally to the apostle John, who wrote it down. In his early years, John worked as a Galilean fisherman. His dad was Zebedee, his mom was Salome, his older brother was the martyr James (who had his head cut off; see Acts 12:2).

John became part of Jesus’ inner circle, along with James and Peter. This trio was privy to things from which the other disciples were excluded. When Jesus healed Jarius’s daughter in Capernaum, for example, the Lord took with Him Peter, James, and John. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus again took Peter, James, and John. In the Garden of Gethsemane, these three again accompanied Jesus further into the garden than the other disciples.

Beyond this, John apparently had a certain intimacy with Jesus Christ that the others lacked. In his Gospel, John repeatedly called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Jesus loved all His disciples, of course, but He felt a special bond with John. At the Last Supper, it was John who laid his head on the bosom of Jesus, hearing His heartbeat—as if to grasp every word from His master’s mouth. Among the disciples, only John stood at the foot of the cross as Jesus gave His life for the sins of the world. It was John to whom Jesus entrusted the care of His elderly mother. And it was John who ran to the tomb first and believed first.

John wrote this book on the island of Patmos, a Roman penal colony about twenty-five miles off the coast of Asia Minor. To this day, the island has no source of fresh water. In John’s day, Patmos was merely a barren rock jutting out of the Aegean Sea, a perfect place to isolate prisoners. John probably was in his nineties when he wrote this book—an old guy isolated and alone on a dreary, forsaken island. Tradition tells us he didn’t die there; rather, he returned to Ephesus, where he lived out his remaining days. A beautiful church tradition says that shortly before John died, fellow believers carried him in a chair to all the churches of Asia Minor. Wherever he would go, he’d raise his arms, smile, and say, “Little children, love one another!” His harsh experiences didn’t fill him with bitterness, but with the love of Jesus Christ. John wrote Revelation to suffering Christians in order to encourage them in their faith.

Could it be that you are one of those suffering Christians? Do you feel exiled on your own desolate Patmos? Do you feel imprisoned by life’s circumstances? Or perhaps you feel trapped by another person, or maybe your Patmos is a hospital bed. Regardless of your situation, the book of Revelation will encourage you. Remember that John received his greatest revelation from God in a place of extreme isolation.

If you feel exiled on your own personal Patmos, understand that God has brought you there in order to reveal Himself to you. While a little faith may bring your soul to heaven, a lot of faith—clinging to God despite your circumstances—will bring heaven to your soul.

A Look at the Benefits

Of all the books in the Bible, only Revelation offers a promise like the one in verse 3. Only this book opens by saying, in essence, “Read me and you’ll be blessed.”

To be blessed means “to get happy.” The more you read this book, the more you will understand Jesus Christ and His plan for your future—and the happier you will feel. The text says read it, hear it, and keep it. While you can read it for yourself and listen to others as they read it aloud to you, only you can keep it and apply these truths to your life.

As we move through this book, I encourage you to keep asking yourself, What did I learn that I can apply both today and tomorrow? The real joy, John said, comes when you do what the Bible says. Happiness comes when you apply God’s Word to your life.

A Look at the Blessed One

John began by introducing us to the central character and capstone of the book of Revelation: Jesus Christ (vv. 4-8). The book explains who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. Jesus is the main thing, and John keeps Him the main thing throughout this book.

Notice that the book is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ—singular, not plural. It’s not the book of revelations, but the book of Revelation. It’s not a bunch of analogies or a collection of predictions regarding the future. Rather, it offers a revelation of a Person, Jesus Christ. The Savior takes center stage.

For that reason alone it could be that you desperately need this book. You require a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ. Maybe you have heard about Jesus, but you don’t yet know Him personally. To you, perhaps, He’s still a little baby in a Christmas manger. Revelation pictures Jesus as the ruling Lord of the earth. In fact, when John saw Jesus, he “fell at His feet as dead.” John said Jesus responded by laying “His right hand on me, saying to me, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last’ ” (v. 17). John remembered Jesus in the flesh—the man with tattered robes and beat-up sandals, the carpenter from Nazareth—but now recognized Him as God in human flesh. He saw Jesus as a glorious, reigning King, ruling with an iron scepter over the whole world.

Jesus is the central character of the book of Revelation not merely because of His exalted status, but also because of what He has done for us: “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood…” (v. 5). Jesus has every right to rule your life because He’s done everything to redeem your life.

And of course, Jesus is coming to earth again (v. 7). This is the major theme of the book. Jesus Christ, the One who died and rose again, will return to this planet—and not as a common servant, but as an exalted King. He will rule! The theme of Revelation and of all history is simply this: Jesus wins.

A Startling Beginning

John tells us that he heard something, saw something, and did something. He heard a voice, he saw a vision, and he fell and worshiped. Then he wrote down what God directed him to record. In other words, this is not original material. John didn’t sit down and say, “Here I am on Patmos. I’ve got time to kill, so maybe I can write a best-seller.” No, he wrote down the heavenly message that Jesus Christ gave to him.

Because John’s account is utterly faithful to the vision he received from God, in verse 2 he calls what he sees “the word of God.” It’s the testimony of the Holy Spirit, supervised by Jesus Himself. As John finds himself catapulted into the future, he is given a preview of amazing events and records everything he sees and hears.

A Loud Voice Like a Trumpet

John heard a voice so loud that it sounded like a trumpet blast. This wasn’t some quiet whisper! Jesus spoke in a piercing, brassy voice that John compared to “the sound of many waters” (v. 15). John remembered the sound of Jesus’ mortal voice—but now it’s different, thunderous, and utterly unmistakable.

Did you realize that the voice of God changes depending on the circumstances? The prophet Elijah wanted it loud, and yet it came to him in a still, small voice. On Mount Sinai, by contrast, the great Lawgiver roared forth His Law, accompanied by thunder and lightning. Since John wasn’t used to such a roar coming from his Savior, the blaring voice of the mystery-revealing Jesus startled him. Today on the Isle of Patmos, guides direct you to the grotto of Saint John—a little cave with a church built up around it. Locals will point to a crack in the rock and tell you that’s where the trumpet voice came from; they claim the sound split the rock. While it may be a fanciful story, the voice certainly startled John.

Jesus loudly emphasized that He is God (vv. 8,11,17). Jesus Christ is deity in a body. Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet; omega is the last. Any Jew would have replied, “Wait a minute! That’s a title reserved for God alone” (see Isaiah 41). So when Jesus reintroduces Himself as the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty, He plainly describes Himself as God.

And then Jesus speaks of His eternal nature: “I am…[the One] who is and who was and who is to come” (v. 8). When Moses first spoke with God at the burning bush, the Lord used this name to describe Himself: “I AM THAT I AM.” This special name in Hebrew means, “I was, I am, and I will be.” And here is Jesus, taking that eternal name upon Himself! The fact is, if you try to remove the deity of Christ from the person of Christ, Christianity collapses. It’s not optional. Jesus Christ is God. That’s the underlying fact of the New Testament.

A Captivating Vision

As soon as John heard the unearthly voice, he turned to see the face that went with it. Instantly he saw Jesus in all His glory, standing in the midst of some golden lampstands. A Jewish person reading about seven lampstands would think of the menorah, the seven-branch candlestick that stood in the holy place of the tabernacle. Verse 20 tells us this image refers to the church. What a fitting description! A lampstand is meant to give light, to dispel darkness, to show people the way out. Jesus not only claimed to be the light of the world (John 8:12), He also told His disciples that they were the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Jesus is like the sun, the source of our light. We are like the moon, reflecting His glory. And so Jesus stands in the midst of His church, the body He designed, to dispel darkness and show people the way out.

Verse 13 describes a garment that reaches to Jesus’ feet, speaking of His majesty and greatness. Verse 14 tells us, “His head and hair were white like wool.” How do you picture Jesus Christ? Maybe you see Him as a fair-skinned Anglo-Saxon, as in so many paintings. Since Jesus was Semitic, He probably had dark skin and dark hair; but when you see Him in His glory, He’s going to blow your mind. He’s not going to be what you pictured! This isn’t Jesus as John remembered Him. This Jesus had “eyes like a flame of fire.” Perhaps that refers to Jesus’ ability to see into everybody’s heart. I think the eyes of fire are related to His feet, “like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace” (v. 15). Whenever you read of brass in the Scriptures, think of judgment. John had never seen anything like this! But now he sees the holy Jesus of righteous judgment…a prelude to Revelation chapter 4, when a series of judgments begins.

In verse 16 we see Jesus holding seven stars in His right hand and a sharp, two-edged sword flashing out of His mouth. In the Bible, a person’s right hand represents power and authority. So in great power and authority, Jesus holds the stars, the messengers of the churches (v. 20). In response, John fell on his face not only because of Jesus’ majesty, but also because he recognized that God was speaking to him. When people in the Bible had a real encounter with God, they didn’t get puffed up about it. They didn’t say, “Hey, I’ve had a vision! I should write a book.” Instead, they became extremely self-conscious and meek. Far from exalting them, such an otherworldly experience humbled them.

I believe that the modern church desperately needs a new awareness of Jesus Christ. We need to see Him as high and lifted up and in total charge of His church. Too many Christians tend to think of Jesus as “my good old Buddy in the sky.” I believe we speak too much about standing on our own two feet when we ought to fall down at His feet. Have you prostrated yourself before Him in humility, worshiping Him? Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Why is it that some people are often in a place of worship and yet they are not holy? It is because they’ve neglected their prayer closets. They love wheat but they do not grind it. The water flows at their feet, but they do not stoop to drink of it.”1 Then he asked a penetrating, uncomfortable question:

Are we tired of God? If not, how is it that we do not walk with Him from day to day? Really, spiritual worship is not much cared for in these days, even by professing Christians. Many will go to a place of worship if they can be entertained with fine music or grand oratory; but if communion with God is the only attraction, they are not drawn thereby.2

By contrast, John immediately fell down on his face, recognizing that this Jesus he followed was God in the flesh. This awareness overwhelmed and humbled him, as it should us.

Obedient to a Vocation

Jesus instructed John to write what he saw to seven churches of Asia Minor (v. 19). This verse is the key to interpreting the book of Revelation, because in it Jesus gives John an outline of the whole book.

“John,” He said, “first write down the things that you have seen.” And what had John already seen? A vision of Jesus. “After that,” Jesus said, “write down the things that are.” Here Jesus points ahead to His words intended for the seven churches of Asia Minor (chapters 2–3). “Finally,” Jesus continued, “write down the things that will take place after this,” referring to the events detailed in chapters 4–22. And John faithfully obeyed what Jesus had commanded.

If you remember nothing else from the book of Revelation, remember this: When Jesus speaks, obey Him. John heard, John saw, and John obeyed. John understood that God had a call upon his life, and he pursued it faithfully.

God has a calling upon your life too. Because the Lord wants to minister to others through you, give fresh attention to His voice. Get a fresh perspective of Jesus Christ. Seek a fresh experience of worship. Surrender your life in total humility to God, and expect to hear His voice. When you do, obey what you hear. Follow whatever vocation He gives you, and do so with all of your heart.

Our Real Hope

One day a weary father returned home, exhausted after a long day at work. He couldn’t wait to hit his favorite chair, put up his feet, kick off his shoes, and read the newspaper. When he dragged himself through the door, he plopped down, opened the newspaper—and his five-year-old son launched himself into his lap.

“Daddy! Let’s play!” the little boy shouted. The father knew his son needed time with Daddy, but he thought, I have a greater need, for just a few minutes. I need time alone. He didn’t want to tell his excited son to bug off, so he mentally constructed a brilliant scheme. He noticed that one section of the newspaper featured a picture of the earth, taken from a moon probe. “Give me that section,” he instructed his son. Using some scissors, the father cut the picture into puzzle-shaped pieces, piled them up, then gave them to his son, along with some cellophane tape. “Put this puzzle together,” he said. “When you’re all done, bring it to me, and then we’ll play.”

The boy whizzed off and the father thought he had bought himself a chunk of time. But a few moments later, the boy returned with the picture of the earth, perfectly taped together.

“How did you do it so quickly?” the startled father asked.

“Dad,” the boy replied, “it was simple! On the back is a picture of a man, and when you put the man together, the world comes together.”

That little boy is on to something. The world will come together when Jesus Christ returns. Judgment will fall, Jesus will begin to reign, and God will create His perfect world order. But until that day, the Lord puts the world back together one person at a time. He rebuilds and reshapes and tapes each of us together until we start functioning in the way He designed us to operate.

Let God put you back together, and then start living as the Lord has always meant for you to live.



Here is my review of this amazing Bible study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Skip Heitzig and his publisher for sending me a copy of "You Can Understand the Book of Revelation" 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.

Skip Heitzig’s “You Can Understand the Book of Revelation” is a chapter-for-chapter study of one of the most misunderstood books of the Bible. The author’s commentary can be digested easily since it is broken into small snippets for each chapter. I highly recommend this as a good companion book for personal or group study of the book of Revelation, which is full of vivid imagery and end times prophecy. It truly brings greater understanding of the book of Revelation.

Can We Talk – Homework Week #6, Day #4

The call to act. Stand at attention and be alert. Ephesians 6:10-11, 13-18. Ah, the armor of God. We are warriors in the midst of battle. We forget that too often, thinking that life is merely difficult. We forget that we are under attack and the enemy is prowling around. Are we well-trained like soldiers ready for battle? I don’t think that many of us are. I believe that we as Christians have fallen down on the job of discipling those less mature than us, and that we are too arrogant to admit that we have lots to learn from those who are more mature than we are.

Because of this, I believe the body of Christ is weak and we need to take it upon ourselves to teach others. Encourage and discipline the less mature and ask questions of elders. Ask a more mature Christian to mentor you. Take a baby Christian under your wing. I pray that You will empower and strengthen the body of Christ, Father. Make us into a powerful fighting force fully capable of standing in battle. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #6, Day #3

Recognizing the holes. The spirit of the age comes in through false teaching. 2 Timothy 3:1-7. Tough times are coming. People will be wicked and cruel. They won’t love good. They won’t love God. We should avoid those who appear godly, but don’t acknowledge God’s power. Among them are those who will lead others to sin. They appear intelligent and knowledgeable, but don’t know the truth.

In a nutshell, Christians must study the Word so that we will not be led astray. Memorizing the Word is a good way to cleanse the mind from the inside. Memorization is a huge divot that I need to replace. Please help me, Papa, to absorb Your Word. Write Your Word upon my heart so that I might not sin against You.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #6, Day #2

Short lived love. How sad is that? Haggai 1:2-9. Are we so preoccupied with our own stuff that we don’t even care about what we’ve been called by God to do? Getting His Word out to others is of paramount importance and His timing is perfect. Am I so busy building up my own house that I am ignoring His? Has He presented me with opportunities to participate in this work of His and I’ve been oblivious to it or worse – ignored it?

The lasting treasure we can accumulate is comprised of people. Souls are lasting. The other things we store up will be destroyed. So why would I do anything but share Christ with others? Fear of rejection? Would I rather be rejected by man or God?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #6, Day #1

Before I really got into pulling principles out of today’s scripture, one of those anticipated “life holes” presented itself for patching. A pleasant two-hour conversation was the result. And, although a two-hour conversation doesn’t restore a relationship, it is a start. My homework is to initiate another conversation in the future.

The Hole Under the Door. Revelation 3:15-20. Jesus wants us to be on fire for Him, but this scripture says that He would prefer us to be frigid instead of indifferent. I recognize that I take Him for granted sometimes and treat Him with indifference. I pray, Lord, that You would re-ignite my passion for Jesus. I ask that You would make my heart race when I think of Him. That my breath would quicken when I approach the time I spend with Him. That I would relish that time and not want it to end. That I would neglect other things to be with Him like watching television and reading novels.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Can We Talk – Video Session #6 – The Hole Under The Door

A golfing scenario sets the stage for the idea that every life has its share of divots. Displacing chunks of dirt and grass are part of the game of golf, but leaving those holes unattended makes for a rough and unplayable course. In fact, it’s even difficult to walk a course that has been neglected this way. Just like divots on a golf course must be repaired, the same is true for life. And as it pertains to our spiritual selves, it involves self-examination and determining where our issues are, and seeking God’s healing for them.

This is going to be a wonderful week where God strengthens my weak and bruised places. This week, we are going to discuss the holes in my life that need to be patched up.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bible Study: Encouragement For The Persecuted - 1 Thessalonians - Chapter 2


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. 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 and encourages you through this material. I’m not sure of the condition of the world at the time of this publication. At the time of its writing, early 2009, things are looking pretty bleak with the economy and unemployment among other things. Are these the first stages of birth pains? The last? God only knows. Stay strong. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor 1 Thessalonians Chapter 2. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


2:1 – Did some people believe that Paul’s visit to Thessalonica was a failure. Their idolatry was conquered by the Holy Spirit’s power. See 1:5, 9.

2:2 – The gospel message was opposed in Thessalonica, but despite their previous experience with persecution, Paul and his companions brought the gospel. See Acts 16:16-40 for an account of Paul and Silas in prison. What would dissuade you from sharing the gospel? I’ve been dissuaded by embarrassment, fear of rejection, and lack of knowledge before it finally sunk into my head and heart that all I need to do is share my own experience with Christ. You can do the same. Try it today.

See Acts 14:19 for a glimpse of a stoning.

2:3 – Why would the Thessalonians think Paul was trying to trick them? Trick them how?

Apparently, many people tried to sell the gospel for profit, but Paul shared the Word of God sincerely. See 2 Corinthians 2:17.

At one point, I attempted to have a Bible study that I’d written published. I hoped it would lead to a home-based career and a full-time job of studying the Bible. Fortunately, the Lord didn’t allow this. He’s kept me out in the mission field at work and still allowed me to share what I learn from the Bible with others – the best of BOTH worlds!

2:4 – What do you think of when you read of Paul saying, “we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the Gospel”? What sort of person must that be? Are you that sort of person? What do you have to do with God’s help to become that sort of person?

2:5 – All that we do, we should do to please God, not men. Be honest in ministry. Live yourself as you preach to others. People will observe our fruit and know if we’re to be trusted.

2:6-9 – could have been a burden – does this refer to Paul’s practice of applying his trade as a tent maker to meet his needs rather than living off of the churches at which he preached? What else could he possibly be referring to in these verses?

2:6 – Praise from men can be dishonest because our hearts are deceitful according to many passages of scripture. See Jeremiah 17:9-10.

2:7 – How does a mother care for her children? How is this different from how a father cares for those same kids? We’ll look at that in verses 11-12 below. I know it’s tough to answer in this age of broken homes, but try to think of the family unit as God intended it to be. A mom is gentle, loving, nurturing, soothing, protecting.

2:8 – Are there people so dear to you that you don’t just minister to them, you have become friends? If not, what keeps you from investing in people? Do you feel like you’re on the outside of the “in crowd”? That’s me. I avoid cliques like the plague! So, I frequently find myself alone. But, we’re taught to sacrifice our lives for our brothers (See 1 John 3:16). Start to give of yourself – a compliment, a card, a gift. Draw near to your spiritual siblings. I know it’s tough. I’ve been there.

2:9 – Do you toil as not to be a burden to others?

2:10 – Do you know of anyone holy, righteous, or blameless before God? Tell them you appreciate them.

2:11-12 – This is how a father should treat his children. How does a father care for his children? How does this complement the care given by the mother?

2:13 – When you hear the Word taught or spoken, do you believe it is a Word from God? When you teach or share the Word, do you treat it with respect because it belongs to Him?

2:14 – Who do you imitate? Who may be imitating you? Are you worthy of being imitated? What one thing can you change right now to make yourself a better example for others?

Do you share your suffering with others? This is how we receive encouragement to endure our own difficult situations as well as share our own stories. Share with your fellow Christians in a safe environment.

2:15 – Those who suffer are in good company. Take a few minutes to locate and read a Biblical account of suffering.

2:16 – How has the wrath of God come upon them? Their sins will be counted against them. Who is “them”? Specifically, the synagogue members/leaders persecuting the Thessalonian church. Theoretically, anyone who suppresses the gospel and persecutes God’s people.

2:17-18 – When you face opposition, how do you know if it is from the Lord or from Satan?

2:17 – torn away – orphaned. Contrast with 2:7 and 2:11 – the parent relationships.

2:18 – Satan stopped us – Satan can do nothing without God’s permission. So, why would God allow Satan to separate Paul from the Thessalonian people? The Lord wanted Paul to write the letters! Because they were kept apart, they were unable to talk face-to-face, and we now have these letters saved for all time in our Bible. This is a perfect example of how God works all things for good for those who have been called according to His purpose. See Romans 8:28.

2:19 – We will receive crowns when we get to heaven in recognition of our earthly service to God. Watch for an upcoming article on the crowns.

2:20 – What is your glory and joy? Or should I say, “who”? Those you lead to Christ whether you are part of the planting, watering or harvesting are your glory and joy. Those whose lives you touch in His name are your glory and joy. Close your eyes. Are a few faces coming to mind?


Each chapter of these letters to the Thessalonians teaches much about how to pray for yourself and others. How have you learned to pray today?

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #5, Day #5

Changing clothes – Putting on the New. Galatians 5:22-25. Did you glance at this scripture and realize where we were going? Have you memorized these verses as a child? The presence of these qualities is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in one’s life. If we allow the Spirit control of our lives, this fruit will manifest the evidence.

Self-examination of this evidence can be painful. Especially when we don’t see the display of fruit that we imagined would be present. But God is so good to hear and answer our cries to Him to teach us to walk in His ways. And when we step out in faith and obedience, the fruit will come. Hallelujah!

A question in the study guide about what God would have me do to begin to practicing the fruit of the Spirit led to immediate action and lots of conversation with God.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #5, Day #4

Changing clothes – Taking off the Old. Reading Ephesians 4:22-24 was a good idea before diving into the study today. The Message translation was particularly poignant. So, removing the old life is like changing clothes? I wish it were that easy. Maybe the hard to release habits are like that favorite ratty t-shirt that just needs to go, but we have trouble getting rid of it?

Isaiah 43:18-19. Don’t dwell on the past. God is doing a new thing, and it’s definitely distinguishable as His activity because it’s just so odd! At least it looks odd to us. Especially if we’re stuck in the past, continuing bad habits that are hard to get rid of like that ratty old, but comfortable t-shirt. Let go. Look for where God is working. Keep your eyes open and join Him in what He is doing. A tough, but rewarding, lesson.

So, what do I need to let go of? Pain. What is the point of holding onto it? Mistakes I’ve made. Just remember enough not to make them again. Mistakes others have made. People can grow and change. I know I have. Shouldn’t I give others the same benefit?

Is there a process for getting rid of the old self? I think I may have come up with something. First, pray for God to reveal what needs to go. Second, ask God to get rid of it and to give me the strength, courage and confidence in who I am in Christ not to pick it up, again. Third, if/when I feel tempted to pick those things back up, ask God to renew my strength to resist and realign my thoughts with His about that thing I am trying to pick up and remind me who I am in Him. Fourth, keep walking in faith and doing what He has taught me. Study the Word and apply it to put on the new nature.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Can We Talk – Homework Week #5, Day #3

I am necessary. Romans 12:4-6. I am part of the body of Christ. God has given me specific gifts to use within the body. I belong to Christ and to the other members of the body because God’s plan makes us interdependent upon each other.

I see this set of verses as a word picture of a puzzle with human participants as the pieces. We fit together and our gifts compliment each other’s. It’s fascinating that God designed us that way. He doesn’t need us at all, but He made each of us a standalone masterpiece that belongs to the other masterpieces He created through the gifts that He gave us.

Prior to today, I knew I belonged to Him, but I never thought about belonging to the other members of His body. We had a nice talk about that this morning on the way to work.

Monday, August 01, 2011

REVIEW: The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis by Nancy Guthrie

“The Promised One: Seeing Jesus in Genesis” by Nancy Guthrie is a wonderful Bible study that I have imagined myself for years! Do you recall the passage at the end of Luke’s gospel where Jesus meets the men on the road to Emmaus, but they don’t recognize Him. On that road trip, scripture says that Jesus told them everything about Himself in scripture from the beginning. THIS IS THAT BIBLE STUDY!

Finding Jesus so plainly identified in the Old Testament ignites the faith of the believer to know that Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning. He was always the Promised One. This wonderful study would be a good personal or group study topic. It is a ten-week study that is divided into three sections each week: Personal Bible Study, Teaching Chapter, and Discussion Guide. Each week takes a different story from Genesis and identifies Christ.

This is book 1 in the “Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament” series. Once you begin to realize how Jesus is showcased in Genesis, you will never see Old Testament Scripture the same way again.

Can We Talk – Homework Week #5, Day #2

I am a masterpiece. Ephesians 2:10. I memorized this verse years ago when my church had small group Bible study for Rick Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Life”. Today, reading it in the quiet of intimate fellowship with Christ, this verse brought tears to my eyes! My prayer time concluded with one thought that I haven’t been able to forget: The Lord created me with the beauty of His imagination. I’ve had to stop several times already to contemplate this. God gave me a smile that could only come from Him. He created sparkling eyes and a unique personality. He gave me an odd sense of humor and a voice that loves to sing His praise. What are the components of the masterpiece He made of you?

There is so much more to study today.

I am hand chosen by God…to be blessed. Ephesians 1:3-4. As Christians, we are united with Christ, and have received every spiritual blessing because of that union. Before creating the world, God chose us to be united with Christ and set apart for His purpose. Wow! What a beautiful plan for us. Do we live like this? Do I live like this? Hand chosen – it’s like looking through a box of dolls and choosing a specific one to dress up and play with. That’s what God does. He chooses us.

I learned a wonderfully encouraging tactic from my Sunday school teacher. We say it to each other whenever it comes to mind. Now I share this truth with you:

You are His favorite.

Wolfsbane by Ronie Kendig

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:


Wolfsbane, Discarded Heroes #3

Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Camy Tang and Ronie Kendig for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat, married a veteran, and they now have four children. She has a BS in Psychology, speaks to various groups, volunteers with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), and mentors new writers. Nightshade, Discarded Heroes #1, has earned recognition as a finalist in Christian Retailing's 2011 Retailer's Choice Awards as a finalist and with The Christian Manifesto's 2010 Lime Award for Excellence in Fiction. Ronie lives in the Dallas/Ft Worth her family and their pets, Daisy, a Golden Retriever and Helo, the Maltese Menace.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Embark upon a danger-laden mission within the pages of Ronie Kendig’s riveting Wolfsbane. Demolitions expert Danielle Roark thought escaping from a brutal Venezuelan general was a challenge. Now she’s charged with espionage and returned to the jungle where a new nightmare begins. Will Dani survive or become just another political pawn destined to be lost forever? Former Green Beret Canyon Metcalfe is disgusted with the suits on Capitol Hill. Still wrestling with the memories of a mission gone bad, he and Nightshade launch a mission to find Dani. Can Canyon rescue Dani, armed with nothing but raw courage?





Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books; Discarded Heroes edition (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602607842
ISBN-13: 978-1602607842

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


The Invitation

Judicial Building, Virginia Beach

Blood dripped into his left eye.

No. Not blood. Sweat. Hands tight against his hips and fists balled, Captain Canyon Metcalfe blinked away the sting. Another salty drop slid down his temple. Eyes ahead, he focused on his reflection in the massive mirror. Between it and him sat an eight-foot table harboring a panel of three Army investigators from Criminal Investigation Command sent for his one-year evaluation. More like interrogation. And he knew they weren’t legit. Nobody got a review once they were out. This wasn’t about legitimacy. This was about them insuring he’d kept his mouth shut.

Canyon watched his reflection as a bead skidded over his forehead and nose. Felt warm and moderately sticky. So much like. . .

It’s not blood. Not blood.

“Captain, do you have anything to add?” Major Hartwicke lifted the inches-thick file in her manicured hands and stared at him.

“You understand, Captain, if you reveal anything about what has happened here, you will face a full court-martial and dishonorable discharge.”

The voice from twenty-one months ago forged his response. “No, sir.”

Behind the one-way mirror a ghost of a shape shifted. Or was that a shadow? No, he was pretty sure he’d seen the human outline. So, there were more eyes monitoring this so-called review. They’re testing me. No surprise. As a matter of fact, he’d expected them to drag him out of bed in the middle of the night, haul him into the woods, and try to beat a confession out of him.

Innocence didn’t matter. Justice didn’t matter.

Only one thing mattered: silence.

Hartwicke pushed her chair back from the table and stood. “Captain, I don’t understand.” She motioned to the two investigators with her. “We’ve told you the CID believes there is enough. . .ambiguity in the charges and proceedings from thirteen March of last year to question the guilty verdict.” She tilted her head. “In fact, this panel believes you may be innocent.”

“You are not innocent in this brutal crime, Captain Metcalfe. No matter your role, you are guilty. As the officer in charge, you bear that responsibility. Do you understand?”

The eyes of the government held no boundaries. They saw everything. Knew everything. One way or another. Always waiting to throw him away for good. Just as they’d done with the villagers.

Her shoes scritched against the cement floor as she stepped nearer. “Why are you doing this?” she whispered. “Why would you throw away your career?”

Throw away his career? Was she kidding? It’d been ripped from his bloodied hands in a colossal mistake twenty-four months ago. Canyon ground his teeth together. Do not look at her; do not respond. She didn’t deserve a response if she thought this was his choice.

A chair squawked, snapping his gaze to the second investigator who moved from behind the table, his gaze locked on Canyon. What did they want from him? He’d kept the dirty little secret. Lived with it. Relived it night after painful night. Living when she died.

Brown eyes cut off his visual escape. “Captain Metcalfe,” Major Rubart said in a low, controlled voice. “I don’t know what they”—he rolled his eyes to the side to indicate the one-way mirror—“told you or what they used against you as a threat in retaliation for talking, but I think you know something.”

Despite his every effort not to, Canyon looked at the mirror.

“You know the truth about that fateful night, don’t you?”

The words yanked his eyes to Rubart’s. Did this officer really want the truth? Or was this another test? What Canyon wouldn’t do to tell, to right the wrong, to relieve the burden. . . But that’s just what they wanted him to do—relieve his mind and prove they were right, that he could be coerced into talking. That he was weak.

He flicked his attention back to the glass and the shadow moving behind it.

“You disappoint me, Captain.” Air swirled cold and unfeeling as Rubart eased away. “Your sister says you’ve not been the same since you returned from that mission.”

“My sister puts her mouth before her brain.” And for that, Canyon would have a long talk with Willow.

“Do you understand what your silence means?” A bitter edge dug into Rubart’s words as he glared at Canyon, who stared through the man.

“What I understand is that you’ve abused a relationship with my impressionable sister to extract information for the military.”

Rubart’s lips tightened. “Your silence means the people of Tres Kruces receive no justice.”

The thick-bladed words sliced through Canyon’s heart.

Quiet tension tightened the air.

“Willow says you’ve wanted to be a Green Beret since you were twelve.”

“Ten.” Canyon bit his tongue on the automatic correction. He wouldn’t do this. Wouldn’t cave under the pressure. He’d endured far worse.

“How can you let them rip it from you? Everything you love and worked for with blood, sweat, and tears?” After several slow, calming breaths, Rubart gave a single nod. “Enough evidence exists to open a full investigation that could reinstate you with full honors, full rank. Just give us one word, one inclination that you’ll work with us, and it’ll be as if you never left.”

Everything in Canyon wanted that back. Wanted the career he’d felt called to, the adrenaline rush of battle, the humanitarian work of helping villages after a tragedy or an insurgency. . .

Screams howled through the fires. He glanced back. Where was she? How had they gotten separated? He spun, searching the debris and crackling embers.

A scream behind him.

He pivoted. Two feminine forms raced into a hut. “No,” he shouted. “Not in—”

BOOM!

His body lifted, flipped as he sailed through the taunting flames and grieving ashes.

“Captain?”

Canyon blinked back to Major Rubart.

“Just give us some indication you’ll help. We’ll mete out the details later. Just don’t let it go at this. You know this is wrong. Don’t let them win.”

Irritation clawed its way up Canyon’s spine, burrowing into his resolve. He saw through the tactic. “Are we done, sir?”

Rubart’s cheek twitched. “You’re going to walk away?”

“In a three-to-one decision, you are hereby discharged. Your actions will be mentioned in limited detail in our final report to the congressional oversight committee. Should you speak openly about this again, you will find yourself in a federal prison for the rest of your life. Do you understand the ruling, Captain Metcalfe?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I cannot express this enough—this favor we are extending you will be revoked completely if you ever again speak of Tres Kruces.”

“Captain?”

He met Rubart’s gaze evenly. “Decision’s been made.”

“You can’t mean that.” Hartwicke’s voice pitched. “Think—”

“Dismissed, Captain,” the third investigator barked from his chair at the table.

Canyon saluted, then pivoted and strode out. He punched open the door. As he stomped across the parking lot, he wrangled himself free of the dress jacket. He jerked open the door of his black Camaro and snatched off the beret. Flung it into the car. Slammed the door shut. Shuffled and kicked the wheel.

Voices behind pushed him into the car. Letting the roar of the engine echo the one in his head, he peeled away from the curb. Screaming tires fueled his fury. He accelerated. First gear. Second. He sped down the streets. Third. Raced out of Fort Story as fast as he could. He shifted into fourth.

They’d stolen everything from him. What did he have now? The last twelve months had been a futile attempt to plaster meaning to the disaster of a thing called life. Can’t serve. What was the point? They had him on an invisible leash. Shame trailed him like the dust on the roads.

As he rounded a corner, a light glinted—yellow. Speed up or slow down?

Slow down? I don’t think so.

Canyon slammed into fifth and pressed the accelerator. The Camaro lunged toward the intersection. A blur of red swept over his sunroof as he sailed through and cleared it.

Ahead, a sign beckoned him to First Landing State Park. The beach. Something inside him leapt.

Sirens wailed.

He glanced in the rearview mirror and growled. Banged the steering wheel. One more violation and he’d lose his license. Two seconds of fantasy had him on his bike screaming off into the sunset.

Yeah. Right. A high-speed chase. Wouldn’t his mother love that? She’d give him that disappointed look, and in it, he’d read the hidden message—“what would your father have said?”

Dad.

His foot hit the brake. He eased the gears down and brought the car to a stop along the pylons that led to the beach. Less than a mile out, blue waters twinkled at him.

He eyed the mirror as a state trooper pulled in behind him. Lights awhirl, the car sat like a sand spider ready to strike.

Canyon roughed a hand over his face. This was it. Career gone. License gone. He gave his all for his country, and all of it had been systematically disassembled in the last two years.

Hands on the steering wheel, he let the call of the Gulf tease his senses. He should’ve taken a swim instead of unleashing his anger on the road. He was a medic. He knew better than to endanger lives. How stupid could he get?

What was taking so long?

He glanced back to the mirror, only. . .nothing.

Huh? Canyon looked over his shoulder. Where. . .?

An engine roared to the left. A Black Chrysler 300M slid past him with a white-haired old man inside.

But where was the cop? Again, he double-checked his six.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

With more care and attention this time, he pulled back onto the road and drove to the ocean. He parked and stared at the caress of the waters against the sand that lured him out of the Camaro and to the warm sand. Rolling up his sleeves, he made his way down the beach.

On a stone retaining wall he stood and watched a couple of surfers ride a wave. Canyon squatted. Hands fisted against his forehead he struggled through Rubart’s promise—they’d give him his career back if he ratted out the very people who’d made the nightmare go away.

He wanted to. Wanted to set the record straight. Knew they’d done wrong, but blowing this thing open meant they’d pin every drop of blood and blame on his shoulders. He’d go down in a blaze of disgrace. It was bad enough he’d had to tell his mom he was put out of the military for “medical” reasons. She didn’t buy it. She was smarter. But she didn’t press him.

Maybe. . .maybe he should let the panel dig into the tsunami-sized disaster and find the truth.

But he couldn’t. They’d promised to make his life a living hell.

That happened anyway. Everything that felt right and just died. Just like her.

Canyon closed his eyes against the pull of memories and allowed his mind to drift. To everything he felt for her. To all the things he’d done wrong, could’ve done better.

I’m sorry.

Lot of good that did. She died.

He hopped off the wall and strolled to where the waters stroked the sand. He let out a long breath and ran a hand over the back of his longer-than-normal hair. He’d tried to leave the tragedy behind. Move on. But who could move on after something like that? Even the government was scared of Tres Kruces. Nice PR disaster with the whole world as witnesses.

Canyon drew out the small vial. Shouldn’t do this. The back pain was gone. The heart pain permanent. He popped two pills into his mouth and swallowed.

His hand closed around the Emerson in his pocket. Canyon drew it out and eyed the gleaming metal. He’d used it to cut her tethers the first night his team had come up on the backwater village. Flipping the blade to the ground, he tamped down the fireball in his gut. He saved her that night only to end up killing her thirteen months later.

She was gone. His career was gone. The government had a shackle around his neck. What was there to live for?

He retrieved it and swiped the sand from the blade on his rolled cuffs. The silver glinted against his forearm. He pressed the metal against his flesh. Wouldn’t be the first attempt. Maybe he’d succeed this time. Drew it along his arm—

“Never did understand how they stand up on a piece of wood.”

Canyon jerked at the deep voice. He returned his Emerson to his pocket and eyed the old man a few feet away. Looked like the same man from the 300 earlier. What was he saying? Something about wood. . .?

Canyon followed the man’s gaze to the water, the surfers. Ah. Surfboards. “They’re not wood.”

“Really?”

“Polyurethane and fiberglass or cloth. Depends on the board.” He might be off-kilter, but he wasn’t stupid. The man had a military cut and bearing. “What’s your game?”

A slow smile quirked the face lined with age. White hair rustled under the tease of a salty breeze. “Recycling soldiers.”

Why wouldn’t they leave him alone? Believe he’d keep his trap shut when he said he’d keep his trap shut? “Sorry, I don’t have anything to say.”

“Yes, that was quite apparent.”

Hesitation stopped Canyon from trudging back to his car. This man had been at his evaluation? Where. . .? “You were behind the mirror.”

“While you said little, your actions said much more, Captain Metcalfe.”

A knot formed in his gut. “In case you missed the point, I’m no longer a captain. Go back to your leeches and tell them I’m done.”

“Is your career worth cutting your wrists, Captain?”

The knot tightened. “My career was everything,” he ground out. “It’s who I am.” He swallowed. “Was.”

“Yes.” The man smiled. “You wanted to finish what your father started.”

A blaze scorched his chest. “Who are you? What do you know about my father?” Who did this guy think he was?

“Major Owen Metcalfe lost his life trying to free his spec-ops team from a POW camp during Vietnam.”

Canyon jerked his attention back to the water. Focused on the undulating waves. The way they rolled in, rolled out. Just like breathing. In. . .out. . . “How. . .how do you know about my father?” The only reason Canyon knew was because the government tried to use it against him in his trial.

Slowly, the man turned toward him, his smile growing.

Only then did Canyon recognize him. “General Lambert.” He took a step back. “I didn’t. . . You’re out of uniform.”

“Yes, thank goodness. I’ve put on a few pounds since they issued the last uniform.” Lambert laughed and pointed. “Walk with me, Captain.”

What possessed Canyon to indulge him, he didn’t know. But he found himself walking the quiet beach, curious that the general would seek him out. Was it yet another trap?

“So that you will understand me, I have read the full file on Tres Kruces.”

Of course. He’d fallen right into the general’s trap, hadn’t he? “This conversation is over.” He pivoted and started back to his car.

“If my memory serves me correctly, the vote was three to one.”

Canyon hesitated. Cursed himself for hesitating. Just walk away. That’s what they’d done to him.

“What would you say the value of that single dissenter is worth?”

“Nothing. I still lost my career, everything.”

“What if that dissenter held the power to change everything? What would you say it was worth then?”

Eyeballing the man, Canyon tried to think past his drumming pulse. “My life.”

Lambert grinned. Nodded. “Good. . .good.”

Good? How could he say that? What use was a dissenter now anyway? But that unflappable grin and knowing eyes—this man knew something.

“You.” Canyon stumbled back as if hit by a squall. “It was you. You were the dissenter.” He slid a hand over his head and neck. “General, I— It has to stay buried. Or I go down hard and fast. I’m not playing with this fire.”

Hands in his pockets, Lambert smiled up at him. “I am not here in any official capacity related to the U.S. government.”

Dare he hope that this nightmare was over?

“How do you like working as a physical therapist?”

Canyon shrugged. “Not bad. It’s work. I help people.” He hated it.

“That’s what’s important to you, helping people, is it not?” When Canyon shrugged again, Lambert continued. “Thought so. I have a proposition for you, Captain. One that will get you back in your game.”

Wariness crowded out hope. “What game is that?”

“The one you do best. The one that allows you to serve your country, use the medic skills crucial to saving lives, and be part of a winning team.”

“They benched me, said I was done, no more or they’d—”

“What do you say?”

A wild, irregular cadence pounded in his chest. “I’m ready to get off the bench.”



Here is my review of this terrific novel:

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

“Wolfsbane” by Ronie Kendig grabbed my interest from the first page. This third novel in the Discarded Heroes series is guaranteed to lead to at least one sleepless night because this book is impossible to put down. The action is non-stop. The characters are multi-faceted. The plot is intricate and suspenseful. The romance is intense and integrated well into the story. These Discarded Heroes books are some of my favorite romantic suspense novels.

Lt. Danielle Roark, demolitions expert in the Army Corps of Engineers, has just escaped six months of captivity by a South American guerilla. Range Metcalf is rather smitten after pulling Dani into the Coast Guard chopper and home to safety. But it’s Range’s brother, Canyon, who has caught Dani’s eye and captured her heart.

Canyon “Midas” Metcalf is a special forces military operative with team Nightshade. Battling his own demons of painkiller addiction and a past that he’s been ordered to keep quiet about and take the blame for, Canyon falls just as hard for Roark. But he repeatedly (and not always successfully) denies his desires so that he won’t step on his brother’s toes to woo Dani. But when his team is assigned to accompany Dani back to Venezuela to substantiate the intel she stole when she escaped and clear her name of treason charges, Midas is assigned to protect Dani and has even greater difficulty holding himself back from what he wants.

This is an incredible novel that clearly conveys to the reader that the God we serve is a God of second chances. Thank you, Ronie, for that wonderfully encouraging message and this outstanding read!