Thursday, May 31, 2012

Working Successfully with Screwed Up People by Elizabeth Brown

Here is my review of this insightful and entertaining read:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Elizabeth Brown and her publisher for sending me a copy of "Working Successfully with Screwed Up People" 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 change the stress level at your office? Elizabeth Brown’s “Working Successfully with Screwed-Up People” is an entertaining and educational look at the people you encounter in your workplace – and in your mirror! This self-help book is an absolute must read for anyone who wants to see a change in their work relationships. The author plainly says that it only takes one person to change a relationship, and that person can be you!

This book is not just entertaining and informative. There are many helps throughout the volume that the reader can use to truly improve their work life. Each chapter closes with a list of valuable insights that can be applied to yourself, your environment and your work relationships to reap tangible benefits right away. There is also a list of questions that can help you assess yourself, your workplace and your workmates. There is a terrific personality overview in one of the appendices that lists personality traits and the sorts of occupations their personalities are best suited to. There’s also a 10-question test designed to measure the stress level in your workplace.

The Anniversary Waltz by Darrel Nelson

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:

Realms (May 15, 2012)

***Special thanks to Althea Thompson Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Darrel Nelson is a graduate of the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, with bachelor’s degrees in English and education. He is a schoolteacher by profession, with thirty-three years of teaching experience, and currently teaches fourth grade at Raymond Elementary School. Nelson has had an article published in Lethbridge Magazine and has written several dramatic plays, two of which won provincial recognition and were showcased at a drama festival. He won the CJOC radio songwriting contest two years running and has had one song receive international airplay. Writing has always been a passion, and over the years he has written four novels intended for the juvenile market. They are unpublished as yet, but he reads them annually to his fourth-grade students. The Anniversary Waltz is his first novel intended for the adult market. Hometown: Raymond, Alberta, Canada

Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:




It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam Carlson has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. Despite the strained relationship with his father, Adam sets out to revive the dilapidated family farm, neglected since his departure overseas four years ago. After some convincing to take a rest from his labors, he attends the town festival, where he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.





Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Realms (May 15, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616387157
ISBN-13: 978-1616387150



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


July 1946


Adam Carlson shifted in his seat on the Greyhound bus and stared wearily out the window. He couldn’t remember being this tired, not even during the heaviest part of the
fighting in Italy. But he was too excited to close his eyes now. He had finally received his discharge and was almost home. The return voyage across the Atlantic by army transport ship made him seasick, and the four-day journey across the country by train seemed to last forever. But that was all behind him, compartmen- talized in his memory along with a thousand other images he would just as soon forget. All that remained was the thirty-mile bus ride north from Great Falls.
Running a hand through his wavy, brown hair, he studied the landscape he hadn’t seen in four years—except in his dreams. And he had dreamed about his hometown of Reunion, Montana, a great deal, especially while lying under the stars at night and smelling the earthy aroma of freshly dug foxholes. Those were the times he wondered if he would ever see the Great Plains again or feel the wind on his face. He ached to see the Rocky Mountains and gaze at the foothills as they merged with the plains and stretched eastward into infinity. This was the country he loved, the country for which he had fought. Big Sky Country—a corner of heaven.
He noticed a hawk in the distance, riding the invisible current on graceful wings, circling above a stand of cottonwood trees. At that moment, he decided, it had been worth it—all of it.
Even though he had enlisted against his father’s wishes.
As the son of Hector Carlson, dry land farmer, Adam hadn’t needed to enlist. But he wanted to satisfy his sense of adven- ture. He wanted to see the world outside the farm’s boundaries, to answer the call of plain, old-fashioned patriotism. Remember Pearl Harbor! Laborers could be hired to bring in the harvest, he’d told his father, but who was going to go overseas and fight for a cause greater than one family’s run of bad luck?
Hector hadn’t accepted this reasoning, however. He tried to talk Adam into staying and helping run the farm. When his efforts proved futile, he gave up talking to his son at all. He didn’t come to see Adam off, nor did he write once in the four years Adam was away, not even a quick note scribbled at the bottom of the regular letters Adam received from his mother, Maude.
Adam shook the memory away and felt his heart rate quicken as the bus made the last turn leading into Reunion. The anticipa- tion of meeting his parents made him feel strangely nervous. It was dreamlike, as unreal as the world he had just left.
His thoughts went to those who would not be returning. Sixteen of his friends and comrades had fallen in Europe and were now permanent occupants. They would be forever denied the thrill of a homecoming and the anticipation of getting on with their lives. They would never see the mountains again or watch the maturing fields of wheat sway in the wind like a planted ocean. In their memory he closed his eyes, fighting his emotions as the Greyhound turned onto Main Street and headed for the bus stop in front of the Reunion Mercantile.
Several people were waiting on the sidewalk, anxiously craning to see inside the bus. A face appeared in the barbershop window next door to the Mercantile, peering out to study the scene. Two doors down a woman clutching several garments paused before entering Yang’s Dry Cleaners and glanced toward the bus stop. In a small rural community like Reunion, where grain prices and the weather were the main topics of conversation, the arrival of the Greyhound attracted attention.
Inside the bus the driver announced, “Reunion. Please remember to take all your personal belongings. I’ll set your lug- gage on the curb.” He opened the door, and those who were get- ting off made their way forward.
Adam remained in his seat, looking out the window. He watched as each person emerged and was immediately engulfed by waiting arms. It was heartwarming to see people embrace, cry, and laugh all at the same time. He wondered if his father would be this demonstrative, but he already knew the answer to that.
The bus driver reappeared in the doorway a few minutes later. “Isn’t this your stop, soldier?” He smiled sympathetically. “Sometimes it’s as hard coming home as it is leaving, isn’t it?”
Adam nodded and eased his six-foot frame out of the seat. He put on his service cap and adjusted his uniform before making his way up the aisle.
“Good luck,” the driver said, patting him on the shoulder. Adam stood in the door of the bus for a moment, watching
the happy scene. A woman in a blue cotton dress made her way through the crowd. It took Adam a moment to recognize his mother. She had aged during the past four years and looked so frail that he wondered how she got through the crowd without being snapped like a dry twig.
“Adam . . . Adam!” she called, her voice filled with so much emotion she could hardly speak. Tears formed in her eyes and ran down her cheeks as Adam quickly descended the bus steps. She took him in her arms and embraced him with surprising strength. “Oh, my son, God has answered my prayers and brought you back to me.”
Adam held her for a long time, his eyes closed, his lips quiv- ering. Maude silently wept on his shoulder and rubbed the tears with the back of her thin hand. Finally she held him at arm’s length as if unable to believe her eyes. Adam smiled reassuringly and gazed out over the crowd.
“He didn’t come,” she said, in answer to his unspoken question. Adam looked into his mother’s face. “But at least you came.” She reached up and stroked his cheek, her hand trembling.
“Of course I came. Wild horses couldn’t—” She changed the topic abruptly, likely realizing it would only serve to emphasize her husband’s absence if she didn’t. “Where’s your luggage?” she asked. “Let’s get you home so you can rest. You look exhausted.” So do you, he wanted to say, but he just smiled at her. It was obvious that the intervening years had taken their toll on her too. Adam led her toward the passengers who were sorting through the luggage, which was now sitting on the curb. He had no dif- ficulty identifying his two suitcases. They bore little resemblance to the ones he’d purchased four years earlier at the Mercantile. They were now held together by rope and packaging tape, and both of them showed evidence of journeys they’d taken aboard buses, trains, ships, army trucks, jeeps, and, on one occasion, an Italian farmer’s hay cart.
Maude had no difficulty identifying her son’s luggage either. As she reached for one of the suitcases, Adam quickly intercepted her. “I’ve got them, Mom,” he said, picking up the suitcases and adjusting his grip on the sweat-stained leather handles.
“The truck’s parked in front of the dry cleaners,” Maude said, taking hold of his arm and leading him through the crowd.
Adam nodded to the bus driver, who gave him a thumbs-up gesture, and followed his mother down the sidewalk, answering her questions and asking a few of his own. He realized the words of greeting he practiced on the bus were unnecessary. He hoped it would be the same when he finally met his father. But somehow he doubted it.
As the farm came into view, Adam drew in a deep breath. The surrounding fields of wheat and barley, a vibrant green beneath
a robin’s egg sky, were a pastoral setting of majesty and peace- fulness. But in many ways, returning home was like riding into enemy territory. Several times during the war, he had run into an ambush and barely escaped with his life, using every skill possible to survive. Today he felt like there was no refuge. He could only proceed directly into the line of fire and hope for the best.
His mind raced wildly as the pickup truck rattled through the gate and stopped in front of the house. He reached for the door handle but hesitated, taking everything in one more time in case it suddenly vanished . . . like a dream upon awakening.
The farmyard had changed. The two-story, clapboard house looked tired and faded, and several shutters hung at odd angles. The veranda tilted slightly to the south, and the railing was missing several spindles. The pump out in the yard had only a stub of a handle, and the clothesline beside it sagged noticeably. The woodshed and the barn were badly weathered, and the poplar tree near the garden now held only remnants of the tree house that he and his father had built years earlier.
Perhaps the farmyard had always looked like this and he hadn’t noticed. But a fresh coat of paint would do wonders to hide the wrinkles and blemishes, and he resolved to paint every building before winter. He would shore up the clothesline, repair the front step, fix the shutters, replace the handle on the pump . . .
A burst of energy surged through him. He would make it up to his father by getting the farm back in shape. It would be like he had never left. He would show his father that he did care.
Maude put her hand on his. “Before we go in, there’s some- thing I want to say. Despite your father not coming to meet you today, he does love you.”
Exhaling slowly, Adam turned toward her. “He has a funny way of showing it.”
“He has a hard time expressing his feelings sometimes, that’s all.” “He didn’t write once in four years.”
Maude stared out of the truck window, focusing on nothing in particular. She seemed to be searching for the right words. “I can’t say I agree with how he’s handled things, son. And I’m not trying to make excuses for him. But it’s been hard on him too. I just wanted you to know that.” She patted Adam’s hand. “I just hope the two of you can let bygones be bygones.”
Adam leaned over and kissed his mother on the cheek. “You’re a good woman, Maude Carlson.”
She smiled in appreciation, but her smile faded as the barn door opened and her husband stepped out into the sunlight. She glanced over at her son, who squared his shoulders and pulled on the door handle.
Adam was struck by how much his father had aged. His hair was much thinner, and his sun-hardened, wrinkled skin was stretched like tanned hide on a pole frame. His complexion resembled buckskin, rough side out, and his leanness added a sharp edge to his features. A permanent scowl creased his fore- head, and his mouth sagged at the corners.
Hector remained motionless, as though he was a gargoyle guarding the farmyard. His expression looked equally sullen and fierce, and Adam slowly approached him. Staring down the enemy in the fields and streets of Italy had not been this hard.
Maude hurried toward her husband. “Hec, it’s our boy! Adam’s home!”
Adam studied his father’s face, looking for any sign of wel- come . . . or forgiveness. But Hector’s granite-like countenance remained unchanged. Adam stopped several paces away and stood before his father like a disobedient child.
Hector met his son’s eyes momentarily, and then his gaze wan- dered over Adam’s uniform. The silence deepened and Adam felt the tension increase.
Maude narrowed her eyes. “Well, Hec, say something.”
Hector scratched his stubbled chin and cleared his throat. “They treat you okay?”
What a strange question, Adam thought. Was his father refer- ring to the army or the enemy? In all honesty, neither of them had treated him well. The army had removed four years of his life with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel, and the Germans had been far less subtle than that. They had tried to kill him.
Adam felt numb as the memories of the past four years flooded his heart, a trickle at first and then a gush. The experience had been more overwhelming than he ever expected. And with one question his father had reduced it to insignificance.

“You know I don’t agree with what you did,” Hector said. “But
I’m glad you didn’t go and get yourself killed.” Adam forced a smiled. “I’m glad I didn’t either.”
Maude looked anxiously from one to the other. “Hec, this calls for a feast of the fatted calf. Get some beet greens from the garden, and I’ll cook a roast with all the trimmings.”
Hector remained motionless.
She shooed him away from the barn. “You go on, now.” Embracing Adam, she said, “Go have a bath and get some rest, son. I’ll call you for dinner. There’s so much to talk about.”
Adam glanced at the retreating figure of his father and returned to the truck to get his luggage, aware that his mother was reverting to her proven formula for restoring peace on earth, good will toward men: a delicious meal. In the past, good food had settled more arguments in the family than had any line of reasoning, logic, or argument. The way to a man’s heart . . .


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Apology

Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson 9/27/09

Dear Linda and Eva,

I owe you both an apology. A couple of years ago, I reviewed a book you co-wrote rather harshly. Last night, Matthew 18:15-17 convicted me that I handled the situation badly. And I am sorry. Scripture tells us that, if we have an issue with a brother, we should go to him first to rectify it. I didn’t do that. I expressed my opinion in a public forum rather than in private. Doing so could definitely have brought harm to both of you and I apologize for my irresponsible handling of the situation. I should have written to you with my concerns and opened a dialogue.

I cannot go back and undo what I did. I can only ask your forgiveness and pray that Jesus will repair any damage that I’ve done. I can also take this lesson and resolve not to behave so carelessly in the future. I have requested that my hurtful review be removed from commercial websites, but would like to ask your permission to keep the review on my blog (word-up-studies.blogspot.com) with a direct link to this apology in the hope that I will not forget the lesson that it took me so long to learn (I am sorry for that, too) and that it may serve as a lesson to someone else.

I look forward to our restored relationship in Christ.

Stacey

James: Mercy Triumphs – Week Five – Drawing Near

Chairein! (Ky Rain)

Homework: Brokenness is a beautiful thing. And I had a major breakthrough as a result of my homework this week! On day one, Beth conducted a nine-question interview based on James 4:1-3 that really got to me. Honest answers forced me to confront and connect issues in my belief system and that confrontation blessed my socks off! I am a better woman for having answered those questions with thoughtfulness and expectation. I even wrote down the questions in my prayer journal so I can use them again when I feel spiritually clogged. Thank you, Beth!

After day three, James 4:7 continues to be one of my favorite verses of Scripture and has planted itself a bit more deeply in my heart.

Melissa’s Articles: I never considered what Bible verses make me truly uncomfortable. In Melissa’s article “Perfection, Part One”, she shares an encounter with a friend who cited his least favorite verse: Matthew 5:48, which, we come to find out, has a link to James 1:4! The perfection Melissa’s friend felt pressured by in Matthew translates as “completion” in James. I absolutely love God’s Word! Then, Melissa delves into the differences in thought processes of the Jews and the Greeks. Fascinating… And the symbolism – OY! I look forward to many more lessons from Melissa!

“Perfection, Part Two” – when we understand the Biblical view of perfection, the term seems less extreme. “Integrity” seems much easier to swallow…and achieve.
Melissa’s favorite word to describe James’ understanding of perfection is “wholeness”, believing it best captures James’ motivation to persevere: perfection, completion, lacking nothing. We’re not talking about attaining moral perfection, but rather living holy lives before God. How can we achieve that? Faith…perfected by works. Faith alone is not enough. Even demons believe. Ouch! Our actions are how we follow through when we exercise our faith. To me, that completely describes integrity.

Writing James: This week, we wrote James 3:19-4:17.

Memorizing James: This week, I videotaped myself reciting chapter one of James. I am so excited to have reached this milestone. But it makes the memorization process simpler and more complex at the same time. It’s simpler because I can work on memorizing chapter two and have fewer verses to recite so I can go through it several times during my trips to and from work in the car. It’s more complex because I don’t want to forget chapter one, so I need to recite it every so often.

Another challenge in this area is actually finding a solid thirty-minute time frame where I can work on nothing but memorization. But I believe this is key to becoming a woman who commits the Word to memory. I’ve been reciting on my way to work in the car and on my way home from work in the car and again on the way to Bible study in the car. The thing is…the car used to be where I prayed. God and I have had a couple of conversations where I’ve expressed my opinion that I would rather have His words on my lips than my own. And I still take time to pray at other times. Besides, I am still spending time with Him as I memorize.

As of the class meeting for week five of study, I have memorized James 1:1-2:13.
Class Project: Our evening began with our facilitator handing out crayons to everyone. Then she gave out sheets of paper with a circle and a key/legend printed on it. We were to take the crayons and create a pie chart depicting the time we spend each week on our pursuits: God, Family, Friends, Work, Entertainment, etc. This was really eye-opening for me. I didn’t think I gave as much to my family as I do. That was a pleasant surprise.

Video Segment: WOW! This week’s video lesson punched me! I’m not sure if it was in the face or the gut, but I am thrilled and freed. Isn’t it amazing how the conviction of the Holy Spirit smells so much like freedom that, even though you may flinch for a moment to know that you’ve done wrong, you absolutely WANT TO OBEDIENTLY REPENT? That is the wonderful, topsy-turvy nature of the God we serve. A gentle smackdown puts us in our place, and that is precisely where we want to be. Hallelujah!

The lecture was broken into two parts as we studied three verses (James 4:9-11). Part one asked and answered the question “When is it appropriate to turn our joy to gloom?” Part two identified the top five reasons not to be cynical. Somewhere in between, Beth talked about a conversation with her daughter, Melissa told her mother that she would not believe the free-for-all that is going on in cyberspace! Brothers and sisters in Christ beating each other without mercy is a daily occurrence. Beth cited Matthew 18:15-17 as the source of how believers should handle conflict: go straight to the brother you conflict with, first. If he doesn’t listen to you, take a couple of spiritual brothers with you and talk to him, again. If he still doesn’t respond, involve the church body.

Apparently, people aren’t trying to make things right with each other, they are just trying to make themselves heard. The tears were almost instantaneous. I was reminded of an instance almost three years ago where I blasted a couple of people in a public forum, and I knew immediately that I had to apologize. I prayed all the way home, asking Jesus for the words to bring healing, managed to sleep, and wrote my apology letter and emailed it first thing this morning when I got to a computer.

I am free! And I didn’t even realize I was captive. Now I am praying that the recipients of my email will be merciful and accept my apology. I am at the point of memorization where James says anyone who hasn’t been merciful will receive judgment without mercy, and I don’t want that for my sisters. I actually care about their hearts. I can’t believe the change that a moment can bring. Praise Jesus!

What’s coming next in my memorization that I’m about to live out?

The Ride of Her Life by Lorna Seilstad

Here is my review of this wonderful novel:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Lorna Seilstad and her publisher for sending me a copy of "The Ride of Her Life" 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.

Lorna Seilstad beautifully tells the story of widow and single mom, Lilly Hart in her latest novel, “The Ride of Her Life”. Working as a cook at a Lake Manawa Resort lunch counter was not where Lilly thought she would be. But she is determined to carve out a life for herself and her son without the meddlesome “assistance” of her former in-laws. Another thing Lily didn’t expect was that Nick Perrin would find a way through the defenses she’d built and take up residence in her heart.

These aren’t the only challenges to this relationship. Nick designs and builds roller coasters, so Lilly knows that he won’t put down permanent roots in Lake Manawa, and the thing she wants more than anything is a home of her own. It also doesn’t help that Nick’s beautiful ex-fiance has returned to town and seemingly still has feelings for him.

This wonderful story is laced with faith in God, forgiveness and compassion. The characters are thoughtfully crafted and the plot is intricately woven to keep the reader turning pages long after the lights should have been turned off. Although part of the Lake Manawa Summers series, this novel reads incredibly as a stand-alone. This would be a wonderful book to take to the beach this summer!

Mind Monsters by Kevin Gerald

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:





Charisma House (May 1, 2012)




***Special thanks to Althea Thompson | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:







Kevin Gerald is the founder and lead pastor of Champions Centre in Tacoma and Bellevue, Washington, one of the largest congregations in the Pacific Northwest. Thousands are exposed to Kevin’s practical Bible teaching through his television program, KevinGerald.tv. Kevin is also a nationally recognized author of several books, including: Developing Confidence; Pardon Me, I'm Prospering; The Proving Ground; Raising Champion Children; Forces That Form Your Future; Mind Monsters; and By Design or Default.



Visit the author's website.






SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:





Many of us are living beneath our potential because we’ve allowed “mind monsters” to steal our joy and peace, disrupt our relationships, and rob us of contentment. In Mind Monsters, author Kevin Gerald shows us how to combat these negative invaders of the mind.



Gerald explains how we can exterminate mind monsters such as fear, worry, guilt, and shame. People often end up in places they don’t want to be because they boarded the wrong train of thought. Mind Monsters will show readers how to recognize, reject, and replace mind monsters, and retrain their thoughts so they can experience God’s best.











Product Details:

List Price: $9.99

Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Charisma House (May 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1616387386

ISBN-13: 978-1616387389



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:










NEGATIVE INVADERS OF THE MIND









Have you ever had the wrong thing in mind? Have you ever had one of those moments when it dawned on you, “I haven’t been thinking right ”? It ’s as if a light suddenly comes on, and you realize you’ve been giving a voice to mind monsters, those negative invaders that come and:








• Steal your joy and peace


• Disrupt your relationships


• Take away your contentment in life








They steal your life, one day at a time. As you read this book, you may be thinking, “I attend church. I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” The truth is, a person can be saved and on his way to heaven and still have to battle mind monsters.





So if you want your life experience to be positive, abundant, joyful, and overflowing with peace; if you want to live a successful Christian life with a great marriage and a fantastic relationship with your kids, you have to take a stand against negative invaders of the mind. It’s impossible to live a positive life with a negative mind.





Mind monsters are nothing new. In fact they are at least as old as the Bible, all the way back to the Book of Judges, where we can read about a man named Gideon who had to conquer some mind monsters on his way to defeating the Midianites.





The Israelites were in trouble. Their land had been taken over by the Midianites, and they were feeling the weight of oppression. In the middle of this was a lowly farmhand named Gideon. In Judges 6:14, God appears to Gideon and tells him, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”





Pretty strong words to hear directly from God Himself. And yet Gideon immediately let a mind monster jump between him and God. In the very next verse, he replies, “Pardon me, my Lord, but how can I save Israel? My clan is weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family” (v. 15). Can you believe it? God just gave Gideon a job, and Gideon refuses, saying he isn’t strong enough.





Fortunately when God chooses you, you stay chosen. Gideon essentially spends the rest of the chapter disbelieving God, and God spends the rest of the chapter convincing Gideon that he is, in fact, the one chosen to rescue Israel from their captivity. And from then on, Gideon finally accepts his role and kicks the invaders out. (It’s a great story— read Judges 6–8 for all of it.)





There’s also the New Testament story of Joseph, where a mind monster almost kept him from marrying the mother of Jesus. When we read the story of Jesus’s birth, it’s easy to see how close Joseph came to messing up God ’s plan. The Bible records in the first chapter of Matthew that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Back in those days if you were engaged, you were committed; it took a divorce to become unengaged.





But then the unthinkable happened, which we read about in Matthew 1:18: “Before [ Joseph and Mary] came together, she was found to be pregnant [through the power] of the Holy Spirit” (amp). When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he knew it wasn’t his child. He also knew Mary’s penalty could be death—it was a horrible disgrace for a woman to be pregnant out of wedlock. His decision? “He had in mind to divorce her quietly.”1





He had in mind! Notice how his thinking had gone off course. His mind was on a completely different track than the plan of God. An angel came along and pointed this out to Joseph. I imagine the conversation went something like this: “Joseph, you’ve got the wrong thing in mind. God ’s got a plan going on here, and you’re not thinking right. You’ve got to get the right thing in your mind.”2





If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.









WAYWARD THINKING









Have you ever felt sad the moment you woke up? Your mind is whining, “Oh boy, another day! Oh my, a blue Monday! A terrible Tuesday! A weird Wednesday! A tough Thursday! A frightening Friday! A stinking Saturday!”





These way ward thoughts cause you to turn on your country western music and sing, “It’s raining outside, and it’s raining inside too. I’ve got trouble on my mind, and I don’t know


what to do.”





What happened to “This is the day the Lord has made; [I will] rejoice and be glad in it”?3 It went out when sadness came in. The sadness created way ward thoughts, and the mind monster of sadness started jumping around inside your mind wreaking havoc! It said, “Let’s go claim Monday as a day of sadness. Let’s go ahead and move into Tuesday and call it terrible.”





When the mind monster is at work, everything is sad, everything’s gloomy—but there’s really no reason for it to be that way. The negative invader of your mind came in and created way ward thoughts—thoughts that would get you off course. God had an assignment for you that day. You were supposed to go to work happy. You were supposed to walk in and smile at the folks in the office, greeting them with good


cheer.





You were supposed to let your light shine before men so they could see your good works and then honor and glorify God.4 That was God ’s plan before sadness—the monster—invaded your mind. Now you’re on a completely different track, feeling bad and walking into the office with your head hanging low. When your coworker asks, “Did you have a good weekend?” you can barely respond. You’re moping around and sacrificing influence with your poor attitude.





You’ve just been taken over by a mind monster. Get back on assignment and live out the purpose God has for you by understanding that these way ward thoughts are really mind monsters trying to hijack your day and your destiny.









THE TRAINS OF THOUGHTS









A few years ago my wife and I celebrated our wedding anniversary with a trip to Europe. Most of the time we were away we were transported between cities and countries by train. It was an experience that turned out to be much more difficult than we imagined. The signage was insufficient, and finding someone to help us with directions seemed impossible. We ended up being confused for a good portion of the trip. It wasn’t until the end of our time in Europe that we began to understand the routing system and train-car assignments.





Have you ever taken a train? If so you know you don’t get on one without knowing where it’s going. After all that’s the whole point; you’re on board to get somewhere. In my book Forces That Form Your Future, I wrote about the way thoughts are like trains—they take you somewhere. But so often we jump on these trains of thought without knowing our destination!





So many people end up in places they don’t want to be and then wonder how they got there. But it only makes sense that they boarded a train of thought to Self-Pity City, Anger Town, or Lonesomeville without even realizing it.





Many times they assume God put them there. I’ve heard people say, “You know, God put me in this wilderness. I’m hungry, and I can’t feed my kids, but God put me here.” That usually is not the case. More often than not, God is saying, “I didn’t put you there. You boarded the wrong train of thought.” The wrong train carries:





• Thoughts of worry





• Thoughts that create guilt





• Thoughts that cause you to feel insecure and question yourself





• Thoughts that bring sadness





• Thoughts that cause suspicion of others’ motives





• Thoughts that bring doubt of God and His Word





• Thoughts of inaccurate assumptions








For example, have you ever met a person who assumed something about you that wasn’t true? I remember a day when I left church quickly to catch a plane for a speaking engage- ment. My assistant had picked up a sandwich from Subway for me because I didn’t have time to eat lunch. I raced to the airport with no time to spare.





When I arrived, I jumped out of the car, hurried to the check-in counter, and said, “Is there any way you can get me on the plane? Can you get my baggage checked through? I have a speaking engagement tonight, and I’ve got to get on this plane.”





I remember watching the attendant work slowly. I was wondering, “What’s bothering him? Why is he treating me this way?”





Finally he blurted out, “The next time you’re running late to the airport, don’t take the time to stop at Subway and pick up a sandwich.”





Now in that moment I didn’t have to be a great man of God to recognize the mind monster of anger that jumped into my thoughts. Longing to leap over the counter and grab the attendant by the neck, I saw a flash, a picture of that negative imagination.





I rebuked that thought. I cast it down. I brought my thoughts into captivity and kindly responded with something like, “I really didn’t get the sandwich myself, but that’s OK. Would you just please let me on the airplane?”








Thoughts are like trains—


they take you somewhere.





Everyone makes inaccurate assumptions from time to time. The man at the ticket counter put two and two together and assumed I stopped and hung out at Subway and as a result was late for my flight.





He concluded that he shouldn’t have had to rush. He probably told himself, “This tardy customer isn’t going to create an emergency for me! I’ve been here all day waiting for him to get here. He obviously stopped at Subway, and now he wants to fire me up and get me going. I’m not hurrying for him, because I know what happened. I see the bag in his hand!”





I have to admit, I’m not immune to making inaccurate assumptions myself. As a Pentecostal preacher’s kid, I grew up assuming certain things about people who weren’t part of our specific brand of Christianity. It seemed to me that those in other denominations were less informed, less sincere, and just all-around less spiritual than those of us in my dad ’s church. I stereotyped them as not being on “our side.”





But then along came Reggie. We met during football camp while we were in high school and hit it off right away. We saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things and had many of the same interests, including several classes together. He was a fun, good- natured guy and a terrific athlete, so we became friends.





Then I discovered the worst: he was not only one of “them”— his dad was the pastor of one of those “other” churches! Yet here we were: two preachers’ kids in a large, secular high school. I began to realize that our commonalities were so great they rendered our differences irrelevant, and I stopped making all those negative, incorrect assumptions.





Looking back I can see that God had a bigger plan for me and that even then He was beginning to free me from false assumptions. He was preparing me for what I enjoy now: friendships and camaraderie with pastors and leaders of var- ious doctrinal and denominational backgrounds. My world is so much bigger today than it ever could have been had I held on to my “us and them” mentality. I had to change my mind to change my world.





Every day you’re going to be bombarded with mind mon- sters coming to steal your joy, take away your confidence, mess up your relationships, tempt you to doubt God’s Word, keep you focused on your flaws and shortcomings, and create chaos and havoc. There’s no condemnation in the fact that mind monsters are lurking in your life—everyone has them. But you have a choice: Will you allow them to stay, affecting who you are and God’s plan for your life, or will you conquer them?









KEYS TO REMEMBER









• Mind monsters are the negative invaders of your mind that come to steal your joy and peace, disrupt your relationships, and take away your contentment in life.





• It’s impossible to live a positive life with a neg- ative mind.





• If you want to live a successful Christian life, you have to take a stand against the negative invaders of your mind.





• You can overcome the invasion of mind mon- sters and live according to the assignment God has for you each day.





• Thoughts are like trains; they take you somewhere.





• You have a choice of whether or not you will allow mind monsters to stay, affecting who you are and God ’s plan for your life, or if you will conquer them.








THINK ABOUT IT








• What do you think about the statement made in this chapter, “I’ve given my life to Christ. I shouldn’t have to deal with mind monsters, right?” Why do you agree or disagree with that statement?





• What are some ways you have learned to conquer mind monsters by reading this book so far? What kinds of things do you already put into practice that help you overcome mind monsters?





• What are some examples of different trains of thought? What do those trains look like when they “arrive” in your mind? (For example, the “Lonesomeville Train” begins with thoughts such as, “No one cares about me.”)





• Can you think of a time when you realized, “I haven’t been thinking right”? What did you do when you came to that conclusion? Did you take any steps in that moment to begin thinking better? Will you approach that situation differently in the future?


Here is my review of this amazing book:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Kevin Gerald and his publisher for sending me a copy of "Mind Monsters" 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.

Kevin Gerald’s tiny volume “Mind Monsters: Conquering Fear, Worry, Guilt, & Other Negative Thoughts That Work Against You” is a power-packed resource that will help the reader to identify what is stealing their joy and peace and give them tools to empower them to combat these “mind monsters”. We are not alone in our negative thinking. Gerald points to scriptural examples of thought and behavior that the modern-day believer engages in. Then he proceeds to provide additional Scripture to break down that negativity by identifying who God is and who we are in Him!

This wonderful book should be given to teenagers and discussed with them in youth group. It is also valuable to adults, but I believe that the younger you are when you engage this material, the better your new habits will be established before you reach adulthood. The simplistic life application of the advice given here will absolutely bring amazing results. Everyone should memorize the Scriptures that are listed in the back of this book. They will help to bathe your mind in righteousness.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bible Study: Welcome to the Family - A Study of the book of Ephesians - Chapter 5


Please forgive this rough draft format, as these are my raw study notes on the book of Ephesians. 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. Stay strong. Grow in your faith in Christ. Live in the Spirit. Encourage each other. Pray. Jesus is coming…

Stacey


Take a few minutes to pray and savor chapter 5 of the book of Ephesians. Read it with the thought in mind that this is Paul’s instruction to new Gentile converts in Ephesus. Then return here and ponder the thoughts, answer the questions, and be sure to leave comments about your own revelations…


Chapter 5 – May 24, 2005

5 – I matter to God!

5:1 – be imitators of God.

5:2 – walk in love as Christ did.

5:11 – expose darkness.

5:17 – understand God’s will.

We must show love.

We must be light.

We must be wise.

Our marriages are symbolic of Christ’s relationship with the church.

5:22 – submit – to be in agreement with.

5:22-25 – wives are under the protective umbrella of the husband. (See 1:20; 6:1) (Creative Correction – Lisa Whelchel)


• The book of Ephesians contains much teaching about what life in Christ is all about. What have you learned about how He wants you to live for Him from today’s study? Whether seasoned Christian or new convert, how will you accomplish what the Holy Spirit is teaching you about how you should live?
• What attributes of God do you see in this book?
• What verse of scripture seemed to be God speaking directly to you? What is He teaching you in these verses? How does He want you to respond?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

REVIEW: A Love Forbidden by Kathleen Morgan

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Kathleen Morgan and her publisher for sending me a copy of "A Love Forbidden" 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.

Kathleen Morgan’s “A Love Forbidden” is the touching story of Shiloh Wainright and Jesse Blackwater, childhood friends who lost track of each other when Jesse left the Wainright ranch. The two are reunited nine years later when Shiloh accepts a position with an Indian Agency as a teacher to the Ute children in the area. Jesse knows that tensions are high in the community, and when he sees Shiloh, he can think of nothing but getting her to safety.

This beautiful love story is set in the majestic Rockies in the 1800s. The incredible backdrop lends itself to the imagination of the difficulty of life for both whites and Indians at that time. This novel gave me a new appreciation of the value of sacrifice and forgiveness. This is an incredible book that showcases both white and Ute culture in such a way that entertains and educates. Kathleen Morgan has done her homework, and has a gift for painting an amazing panoramic picture of Christian and non-Christian life.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

James: Mercy Triumphs – Week Four – “Living the Faith”

Chairein! (Ky Rain)

Homework: This week’s homework tackled many tough subjects such as works and belief, teaching and its responsibilities, the tongue and true wisdom. These lessons made me examine my own life and ministry. I am always blown away when the Lord gives me a practical exam right before He teaches me a lesson. And that’s what He did this week. He allowed me to trip over my own bubble-headed pride and then dusted me off and poured healing into my wounds. Hallelujah!

Melissa’s Articles: This week’s articles are thought-provoking, as usual.

“The Unity & Diversity Dance” discusses the cohesiveness of the Scriptures and introduces Martin Luther’s disdain for the book of James. In contrast to Luther’s view, the divine inspiration of the Bible is eloquently embraced by Professor Frank Thielman. The diversity of the four Gospel accounts and the unity of their message is beautifully showcased and offers food for thought on the subject matter as it pertains to Scripture.

In the article, “Luther, Law & Gospel”, I learned a new word: excursus, which means “detailed discussion of some point in a book”. To clarify Martin Luther’s clash with James, Melissa presents intriguing insight into Martin Luther’s ideology that the Bible is made up of two kinds of speech: law and gospel. Bothe work together throughout the Old and New Testaments. Luther equated these kinds of speech with works and faith, respectively, and he struggled with the mingling of the two. How might that belief affect how one would read, interpret and apply James?
“Gentleness & Wisdom” delves into the relationship between wisdom and gentleness that would not be prized as compatible with the ancient Greek culture. Peacemaking and righteousness are also discussed as what Christians should actively practice, not just discuss as many intellectuals may be tempted to do.

Writing James: This week, we wrote James 2:14-3:18.

Memorizing James: This week, I took Beth’s advice and laminated my James memorization pages. I bought some lamination sleeves and sealed them using an iron. I sandwiched the sleeve between two dishtowels and ironed them closed. The sleeves were flimsy to begin with, but hardened nicely after the heat was applied and they cooled. I’ve used this technique to make name badges for Bible study with excellent results! And I’m glad I did this. Now the pages won’t get any dirtier and they will be easy to grab while I’m waiting at a traffic light. They won’t add much weight or bulk to what I’m carrying, so they’re portable. But I must admit that I’ve almost lost my first sheet a couple of times already.

As of the class meeting for week four of study, I have memorized James 1:1-2:3.
Class Project: This week, before class began, our facilitator passed out index cards and asked us to write down how we’ve begun to live our faith since the beginning of this study. We turned them in and she read every one of those encouraging cards during our discussion time.

Video Segment: This week I learned the true meaning of “the good life”. I always knew it was more than the name of a jazz ensemble I used to watch in Virginia Beach. I knew it was more than money and stuff, too. Now I know that it is replete with forgiveness and yielding and action and good fruit. I am refreshed and inspired and encouraged and motivated by this teaching. Thank you, Miss Beth! I love you, sister.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I Didn't Sign Up For This: Navigating Life's Detours by Aaron Sharp

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:





Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)




***Special thanks to
Susan Otis, Creative Resources for sending me a review copy.***





ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Aaron Sharp lives in Little Elm, Texas, with his wife, Elaina, and their son, Micah. He is a Master of Theology graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, and is currently employed in the Information Technology department of the ministry Insight for Living.



I Didn’t Sign Up for This is Aaron’s first book. Previously his writing has been seen in The Odessa American newspaper and the magazines Learning Through History, Discipleship Journal, Leben, Marriage Partnership, In Touch Magazine, and multiple issues of The Lookout Magazine.





Visit the author's website.





SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Without the least bit of notice, life can take a sudden turn down a road we never anticipated or never would have chosen to travel. I Didn't Sign Up for This! Navigating Life Detours offers insights from the life and times of the prophet Elijah to encourage readers who have suddenly veered off the road into a wilderness experience. It provides guidelines and tools to help readers align their expectations with God's plan, fuel their lives with faith to overcome their fears, and find their way home. It offers fresh perspective on the need for God's direction throughout life's journey.








Product Details:

List Price: $10.99

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Discovery House Publishers (April 1, 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1572935138

ISBN-13: 978-1572935136








AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:








The Story of Elijah

Late Ninth Century B.C.

Mount Carmel, Israel

Three groups of people made their way up the mountain.

In the first group were thousands of regular, everyday people.

They were making the short trek, ready to see one of the ancient

world’s greatest pieces of theater—a showdown between rival

prophets. Many of them were trying to decide exactly what to

believe and just who to worship. These people were not royalty,

nor were they priests. They were shepherds, farmers, and fishermen.

If nothing else, these Israelites anticipated a good show.

Interspersed within the first group was another group, this

one numbering 450 strong. The colorfully adorned men in this

second group were prophets of the Canaanite fertility god Baal.

Worship of Baal, who was typically pictured as a bull, had been

practiced in this area long before the Israelites had conquered the

Promised Land. Now with the worship of the one true God at

an all-time low in Israel, these priests had done much to lead the

Israelites astray.

Worship of this pagan god revolved around fulfilling the

desires of the worshipper. The ultimate act of worship was when

the worshippers worked themselves into a frenzy of passion, with

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 9 2/1/12 11:33 AM

10 / AARON SHARP

the prophets and priests functioning as sacred prostitutes. Worshipping

Baal meant excitement, thrill, and feeding one’s own

appetites and desires.

The third group of people was not really a group at all. It was

one single, solitary man. As was his custom, the man wore a hairy

garment and a leather belt. He was not only the underdog in that

day’s contest, he was also the reason for the gathering. Every step

that his sandals took crackled on parched ground. And every

crackle reminded him and everyone else that he was the one who

had caused all of this trouble. He had prophesied that it would

not rain in the land of Israel until he said that it would. Then

God commanded him to leave the land of Israel. Now, three

years later, he had returned, and the dry and barren mountain

was testament to the authenticity of his prophecy.

The prophet Elijah made his way up the formerly beautiful

Mount Carmel to take on the prophets of Baal, one versus four

hundred fifty. So much had changed during the three years that

Elijah had been gone. King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had murdered

God’s prophets, and the drought had brought on a severe

famine that was felt heavily in Ahab’s capital city of Samaria.

When the prophet had reappeared, King Ahab had called him

the “Troubler of Israel.” Elijah challenged Ahab to gather the

nation and the priests of Baal to meet him on Mount Carmel.

The meeting would show, once and for all, that God was allpowerful

and that Baal was an empty shell of a dead and uncaring

idol.

Once Elijah, the king, the prophets of Baal, and the assembled

crowd had settled in on a plain just below the mountain’s

peak, Elijah began to speak. The prophet’s voice bellowed across

the natural amphitheater created by the mountain’s features as he

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 10 2/1/12 11:33 AM

The Story of Elijah / 11

challenged the people of Israel to choose whom to follow, Baal

or the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He directed that two

oxen be brought and that the 450 prophets of Baal be given their

choice of cattle to sacrifice. Each would prepare their own ox for

sacrifice. Then whichever deity sent fire from heaven to consume

the sacrifice would be the one true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. A careful observer of the

priests slaughtering the bull and placing it upon the altar would

realize that they already had a major problem. They worshipped

a god of fertility, the one responsible for thunder, rain, and agriculture.

Yet the priests were performing their sacrifice after three

years of drought and famine. In fact, the very mountain on which

they now stood had been a national symbol of vibrant beauty

(Song of Solomon 7:5; see also Isaiah 35:2), but now, after three

years without rain, it was an icon of futility. The prophets performed

their rituals with much music, dancing, and gyrations,

but the entire morning passed without any word from Baal, or so

much as a spark from heaven.

By noontime, with the act of Baal’s prophets growing tiresome

for the assembled crowd, the lone prophet of Yahweh

became more and more openly adversarial. Despite the fact that

this large contingent of colorfully adorned priests had continuously

chanted, “O Baal, answer us” for several hours, they had

seen no evidence of their deity. Elijah heckled them, saying, “Call

out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or

gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs

to be awakened.” Elijah had the audacity to suggest that Baal was

asleep, or possibly even away on a trip. No doubt this taunting of

the prophet’s theological nemesis both shocked and delighted the

crowd that was by this point bored.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 11 2/1/12 11:33 AM

12 / AARON SHARP

The priests of Baal responded to the eccentric prophet’s ridicule

by taking their worship to extreme measures. Since their

deity was not responding to their chants and calls for actions, the

prophets now began to slash and cut themselves. Cries rang out

and blood gushed over their vividly colored outfits as the prophets

grew more and more desperate for Baal to act. This disturbing

behavior continued until the middle of the afternoon when Elijah

finally had had enough.

Against a backdrop of his opponents’ pitiful cries for action,

bloody and beaten by their own desperate hands, Elijah called

the people to gather around. He took the time to choose twelve

stones and to construct an altar, which he promptly surrounded

with a trench. After the painstaking process of constructing his

altar and digging the trench, Elijah killed the ox. After the animal

had breathed its last, he cut the ox into pieces and laid the

bloody pieces on the altar to be sacrificed. Then, in a move that

shocked the crowd as much as his earlier taunting, Elijah commanded

that twelve pitchers of water be poured on top of the

ox and the altar. After a three-year drought, the spectators must

have gasped when so much water was used that it even filled up

the trench.

Then Elijah prayed. Though his prayer was relatively short, it

must have felt like he prayed for an eternity. There was no delay

in what happened next. Unlike Baal, whose priests had sought his

help for hours, Elijah’s God saw no reason to delay.

Fire exploded from heaven and streaked across the evening

sky. The fire blazed closer and closer until it impacted Elijah’s

makeshift altar as if God had punched the earth with a fiery fist.

The fire completely consumed the ox, the water, and even the

stones. Where once had stood an altar, was now just a smolder.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 12 2/1/12 11:33 AM

The Story of Elijah / 13

The solitary man in the hairy garment wasted no time in

completing the triumph. Elijah turned from the smoking ashes

that proclaimed his God’s victory and commanded the people to

seize the bloody and defeated prophets of Baal. He then meted

out the punishment God had decreed for false prophets—all 450

prophets were slain. There was no trial. They were all guilty and

they paid the price.

As an encore, Elijah told King Ahab, the most prominent

worshipper of Baal, to take his chariot down the mountain

because it was about to rain, for the first time in a very long time.

A great rain did come, but not before the prophet outran Ahab’s

chariot down the mountain.

Few human beings in history have ever had a better day than

Elijah did on Mount Carmel. Words such as legendary, historic,

and awesome only begin to tell the story of the showdown on

Mount Carmel. Had newspapers existed at the time, editors

would have had strokes trying to come up with a headline that

would do it justice. With apologies to a young shepherd boy who

one day slew a giant and eventually became king, the feat brought

about by Elijah was only rivaled in Israelite history by Moses’

parting of the Red Sea. Years later young Jewish boys would urge

their fathers, “Tell me about the day with Elijah on the mountain

again!”

But the prophet’s great day quickly turned into a very dark

night. In a stunning turn of events, fire from heaven became a

distant memory for the prophet almost before the embers of that

blaze had grown cold.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 13 2/1/12 11:33 AM

15

Introduc tion

A few years ago my girlfriend (now wife) and I spent a Fourth

of July weekend with her family at their lake house on Eagle

Mountain Lake. We had not been dating long, and it was my

first time to visit them at the lake. Much of the weekend was

spent on WaveRunners, objects almost as unfamiliar to me as the

members of my wife’s family. We were out on the WaveRunners

one morning when I was told to take the WaveRunner I was on

and follow someone else, also on a WaveRunner, to a dock across

the lake.

At the time I was more than a little distracted talking to my

girlfriend, and so I did not pay close attention to the person I was

supposed to follow, or even where my destination was. After a

minute or so I took off across the lake, chasing the person to the

dock. I could see him in the distance, and so I followed, and followed,

and followed, until finally, after having crossed the width

of the lake, I arrived at a marina and realized, much too late, that

I had followed the wrong person.

I was now alone on an unexpected detour on a lake as unfamiliar

to me as the Sea of Galilee. Actually, I might have known

the Sea of Galilee better, because I had at least seen pictures of

it in the back of my Bible. I did not know even the basic shape

of Eagle Mountain Lake. I had no cell phone, and I had not

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 15 2/1/12 11:33 AM

16 / AARON SHARP

memorized my girlfriend’s phone number on the off chance I

could find a phone.

Despite the predicament in which I found myself, I thought

that I could find my way home. I remembered that I could see

the lights of a baseball field from their back porch. Surely I could

find a baseball field along the shore somewhere. Once I found

that, it would be a breeze to navigate the rest of the way. Besides,

this was Texas—how big could the lake be, anyway?

Minutes turned into hours. I traversed the lake trying to find

my way back with little success. At one point I ran out of gas and

had to dock my vessel at the home of a nice couple who helped

me as much as they could. I did not know what city my girlfriend’s

family house was in, as several bordered the lake, so they

gave me a full tank of gas and I headed back out onto the lake.

The hot July Texas sun had turned my usually pale skin into a

shade of tomato red. My sunburn hurt, I was exhausted, I was

embarrassed, I was frustrated, and with the sun slowly beginning

to descend, I had no idea where I was or what lay in front of me.

Eventually, however, I found my way home. They had sent a

search party out for me, but I managed to find my way back on

my own, saving a tiny (very, very tiny) sliver of self-respect. To

this day, her family still talks about my afternoon on the lake,

and I laugh about it now, telling everyone that I know the lake

better than all of them put together. But, if I am honest, that is

not the only time in my life that I have been on a detour. The

other times did not involve lakes, WaveRunners, or sunburn, but

the change in my course was just as unexpected, just as fearful,

and just as frustrating.

There was the time that I got the call from my parents telling

me that my mother had cancer. There was the year after coldidn'tsignup_

2nd.indd 16 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Introduc tion / 17

lege when I struggled to discern God’s will for my future. There

was the time in seminary when I hurt my knee, requiring a surgery

that took all of my savings for school and then some. There

was the huge conflict in my extended family that may never be

resolved, my graduation from seminary with no job prospects,

my wife’s miscarriage, and the unexpected loss of a close friend.

There was my layoff, then my wife’s, and then mine again.

All of these circumstances left me feeling much the same as

I did that day on the lake. At least with my aquatic adventure I

can look back on it and laugh, but I cannot say that about all

the other detours. Nor can I explain why these difficult times

occurred, or what God was doing in my life through them. Some

of them are, at least this side of heaven, unexplainable. I could

make up a reason for their happening, but I do not truly know.

If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we all

end up on these unexpected detours from time to time. Maybe

it is bad news from the doctor, a pink slip, an argument, or any

number of things, but we can easily find ourselves in situations

where we feel like I did that day on the lake. Often we begin to

question ourselves, God, and life itself when our planned course

changes direction. We wonder why our problems seem to get bigger

by the minute and worry about how long it will be before we

can find our way home.

Fortunately for us, the characters of the Bible are no strangers

to detours. Job’s detour—the sudden loss of his children, possessions,

and health—was quite possibly unlike any before or since.

Abraham’s detour of being unable to produce children left him

feeling so out of sorts that he slept with his wife’s servant in an

attempt to accomplish God’s will on his own. Joseph went from

being his father’s favorite child to a slave, sold into slavery by his

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 17 2/1/12 11:33 AM

18 / AARON SHARP

brothers, and then to a falsely accused prisoner. David experienced

detours that left him so exacerbated that he exclaimed:

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?

How long will You hide Your face from me?

How long shall I take counsel in my soul,

Having sorrow in my heart all the day?

How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

(Psalm 13:1–2)

The list of detoured lives that grace the pages of Scripture

could go on and on. It includes men and women, Jew and Gentile,

old and young. This is important for us to note because often

when we are in the midst of a detour we feel like we are the only

one who has experienced anything like the heavy fog in which

we are living. If you are not careful, you can conclude that you

must be the only person who has ever felt like life is closing in

on you and nothing is going right. The question of the prophet

Habakkuk, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and You will

not hear?” (1:2), will be on your lips, and it is important to know

that you are not the first person to have thought those thoughts

and said those words.

Perhaps no biblical figure has taken a more disappointing

detour than the prophet Elijah. Elijah bursts onto the stage of

biblical literature from out of nowhere. After the death of Solomon,

the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, with the

northern nation of ten tribes going by the name of Israel and the

southern two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, going by the name of

Judah. As you read about these events in the book of 1 Kings, you

see a pattern develop in Israel. The kings “did evil in the sight

of the Lord,” and they got progressively worse. By the time you

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 18 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Introduc tion / 19

read about King Omri, who “did evil in the sight of the Lord,

and acted more wickedly than all who were before him” (1 Kings

16:25), you are convinced that this nation must have hit rock

bottom. Then you read about Omri’s son, Ahab:

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the

thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son

of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.

Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more

than all who were before him. It came about, as though

it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of

Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the

daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve

Baal and worshiped him. So he erected an altar for Baal

in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. Ahab also

made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord

God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before

him. (1 Kings 16:29–33)

Chapter 16 of 1 Kings ends with a summary of the depravity

of King Ahab and his queen, Jezebel. Between the two of them,

they were the most wicked monarchy in Israel. They openly

defied God and His laws for the nation.

Chapter 17 then begins with an unexpected contrast: “Now

Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to

Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand,

surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by

my word’” (1 Kings 17:1). From out of nowhere, in the midst of

deep wickedness, Elijah storms into the story proclaiming that

there will be no rain for three years. His appearance is sudden.

We had no evidence that anyone was willing to stand for God,

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 19 2/1/12 11:33 AM

20 / AARON SHARP

much less openly oppose the most wicked of kings, but that is

exactly what Elijah does.

Elijah follows up this prophecy by obeying God’s directions

to live near a stream, with ravens bringing him bread and meat to

eat each morning and evening. After this he travels to the town

of Zarephath where he works miracles, including the raising of a

widow’s son from the dead. Then, when the drought is in its third

year, God instructs Elijah to go back to Israel and confront King

Ahab. Elijah obeys God and what results is a famous confrontation

between Elijah and 450 prophets of the false god Baal. By

the end of the confrontation, Elijah has called down fire from

heaven, the 450 prophets of Baal have been executed, Elijah has

outraced Ahab’s chariot down the mountain, and the storms are

rolling in.

One would expect after such powerful acts that Elijah’s

encore would be out of this world. Yet, in the words of A. W.

Pink, “In passing from 1 Kings 18 to 1 Kings 19 we meet with a

sudden and strange transition. It is as though the sun was shining

brilliantly out of a clear sky and the next moment, without any

warning, black clouds drape the heavens and crashes of thunder

shake the earth. The contrasts presented by these chapters are

sharp and startling.”1

Chapter 18 is a tremendous victory. The sun is shining, birds

are singing, and God has shown himself to be powerful and

mighty. It looks as though Elijah, through God’s power, can do

anything. Chapter 19 is a hasty retreat. Storm clouds litter the

sky, and suddenly God seems to have disappeared. It looks as

though Elijah, God’s formerly powerful servant, is weak and vulnerable.

It is in the black clouds that drape the heavens, the story

of Elijah’s detour in 1 Kings 19, that this book resides.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 20 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Introduc tion / 21

It is important to understand that this book is not a howto

manual. It is not “Seven Steps to Finding Your Way Home.”

As anyone who has been on one of life’s detours will tell you,

formulas do not always work. Our culture is fascinated with formulas

and programs, but God doesn’t work that way. His Bible

isn’t filled with steps to follow to solve every problem, and this

incident in Elijah’s life is not a road map for getting to your destination.

I cannot guarantee that by reading his story, things in

your life will get better. Instead picture Elijah, and his troubles,

as a friendly couple at the lake giving someone in the midst of an

unexpected detour an extra tank of gas—and sometimes a tank

of gas is all you need to find your way home.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 21 2/1/12 11:33 AM

23

ONE

Detours

and Unmet

Expectations

I was in my third year of seminary when I met the woman of

my dreams. I still remember what she was wearing the first

day we met. We did not even speak that day when we both sat

at the same cafeteria table with a group of mutual friends, but I

was determined to find out more about her. Over the next few

months I slowly got to know this beautiful lady, taking careful

mental notes of what kind of a person she was, how she acted,

and what she liked. The more I got to know her, the more I found

to like. Thankfully, she did not seem repulsed by my presence,

so I finally decided the time had come to ask her out on a date.

Despite accidentally hitting her in the face with a door earlier in

the evening, her answer was yes!

My friends were sure that this was a match made in heaven.

She seemed to enjoy my presence, we flirted constantly, and we

had much in common. All signs pointed to this being the first of

many dates. My friends and I agreed: if there was ever a man whose

success on a first date was assured, it was on this date for me.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 23 2/1/12 11:33 AM

24 / AARON SHARP

Once she agreed to go on the date, the work began in earnest.

I carefully chose a restaurant for dinner that would be fun, not

cheap but not too expensive, with an excellent variety of dishes.

I then came up with after-dinner activities that would allow us

to talk and get to know each other. The plan was flawless unless

I did something stupid, which, let’s face it, is always a possibility

with me.

I picked her up that evening and we headed to the restaurant

for a fantastic dinner. I had pasta while she had crab cakes. At

some point in the meal she suggested I try the crab cakes, which

I did despite my complete aversion to eating just about anything

that comes out of the ocean. To this day she remembers the agonized

look on my face as I got my first and last taste of crab cakes.

Our dinner conversation was smooth and we discussed one

of the classes we had together—Old Testament History. I mentioned

a project that I was considering for the class, and before

I knew it we were discussing the possibility of undertaking the

project as a team. There could not have been a clearer sign that

this date was a home run. Surely, if we were talking about spending

dozens of hours together on a project, then she must like me

too. I was most definitely on my way to having a girlfriend soon.

After dinner we went to a bookstore where we each picked out

books that we would like to read and told the other person why

we found those particular books interesting. From the bookstore

we made our way to another restaurant where we each ordered

a piece of cheesecake and continued our lively conversation. All

night long I was the consummate gentleman, opening doors and

being attentive. As our night drew to a close, I prepared to return

to the dorm to tell all my buddies how I was such a thoughtful,

romantic guy and that we would soon be going on a second date.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 24 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 25

We pulled up to her apartment building and I walked her

to her door. On the way, I casually told my date how much fun

I had and how much I would enjoy being able to take her out

again. I uttered these words and then waited for the “Sure, that

would be great” that I was sure was coming. Instead of agreeing

to a second date, however, this lovely woman told me that she was

not interested in going on a second date and would really prefer

to remain friends.

We arrived at her door. I thanked her for the evening, and

then made my way back to my car. Once inside I looked in

the mirror—did I have something in my teeth, or something

hanging out my nose the whole night? I checked my breath and

my armpits—did I smell bad? I mentally replayed the night’s

events—did she not have fun? I started reviewing our entire history.

Did she ever really like me? Was there something wrong

with me? Was I a bad date? These and many more questions

flew through my mind as I drove back to my dorm. Despite the

fact that everything had seemed to go so well, my expectations

proved to be the exact opposite of what came to pass. I expected

a second date, but instead I found myself watching basketball in

the men’s dorm by myself. A little less than two and a half years

later I would marry that same girl, but at the time I knew nothing

of that. All I knew was that real life had veered far off course of

my expectations.

Pretty much every human being who is old enough to walk

has experienced the disconcerting feeling of unmet expectations.

From the first time that another child played with the toy that

you wanted, you began to get the concept. You may have been in

a room full of toys, but that other kid had the one toy you desperately

wanted. You asked for the toy, you demanded the toy, and

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 25 2/1/12 11:33 AM

26 / AARON SHARP

finally you tried to just take the toy. But instead of getting the toy

that you so prized, you got in trouble with an adult.

These first few experiences prepared us for the realization

that the world does not revolve around us and that more often

than not our expectations will be unmet. Yet, even as adults, we

still struggle mightily to remember this concept. This concept is

particularly foreign when we are, in our minds, living rightly. We

understand that if we live outside of the will of God, bad things

will happen to us. Those who choose to live a life of sin will

pay the consequences of that sin, and at times their lives will be

full of nothing but despair and tragedy. That part of life makes

sense to us rationally. Expressions such as “Garbage in, garbage

out,” “You play, you pay,” and “You get what you pay for” are all

evidence that humans comprehend the concept that if you live

dangerously, then dangerous things can and will happen to you.

We have the same expectation for living rightly—we expect

that good living will give us good results. Most of us operate as if

the number-one rule for living the Christian life is to do our best

to do the right things in the right way. Our to-do lists look like

this: go to church, read the Bible, pray, try to be a nice person,

love your family, pet the dog, put some money in the plate, pay

your taxes, buy lemonade from the little girl on the corner, and

try not to get too angry at other drivers (although the occasional

scream is perfectly acceptable). We do all of these things and

expect that because we have stayed on the straight and narrow

path, we will be okay and our good expectations for our life will

be fulfilled.

Unfortunately this “play it safe” philosophy does not protect

us from disappointment over unmet expectations (nor does it

necessarily equate to a healthy, vibrant life for a believer in Jesus

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 26 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 27

Christ). It may make perfect sense rationally: good life = good

expectations fulfilled; bad life = good expectations not fulfilled,

but the path that the Bible presents to us is a far more rugged.

For instance, take the events that befell the prophet Elijah in the

beginning of 1 Kings 19:

Now Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how

he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel

sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me

and even more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of

them by tomorrow about this time.” (vv. 1–2)

Chapter 18 of 1 Kings closed with Elijah as God’s ultimate

champion. He was victorious over the idolatrous prophets of

Baal, outran a chariot down a mountain, and even kept running

seventeen more miles to the town of Jezreel. The biblical record

does not tell us what his thoughts were as he ran well over half

a marathon, but judging by his reaction beginning in verse 3 of

chapter 19, it is probably safe to assume that he did not expect

what came next.

Elijah was not the only one to return to the fortress city of

Jezreel. King Ahab also returned and was quick to inform Queen

Jezebel about the day’s events on Mount Carmel. Unlike Ahab,

who seemed to be in fear and awe of God’s prophet, Jezebel sends

a message to Elijah saying, “So may the gods do to me and even

more, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by

tomorrow about this time.” To the modern reader this was the

equivalent of Elijah coming home and finding a severed horse’s

head in his bed, or seeing his face on Israel’s most wanted list.

Instead of being a hero, Elijah found himself as public enemy

number one, at least as far as the queen was concerned.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 27 2/1/12 11:33 AM

28 / AARON SHARP

One would expect that the man who just killed 450 prophets

of a false god would laugh at the threat of one woman. Elijah had

just called down fire from heaven; surely he feared no one and

nothing. If anything, we would expect more fire from heaven,

but the exact opposite happens. Before we get to Elijah’s reaction,

we must first consider one of the most frequent beginnings of a

detour—unmet expectations. Most scholars agree that Elijah’s

reaction is due to events not playing out as he had envisioned

them. Consider a summary of the situation by Ron Allen:

There are indications in the Elijah narrative that he

hoped to eradicate Baal worship and reestablish a united

monarchy under the pure Yahwism of Moses. The celebrated

contest on Carmel (1 Kings 18) actually began

three-and-one-half years earlier in the palace of Ahab,

when Elijah said there would be no more rain (17:1). Baal,

the fertility god of Canaan, was principally pictured as

the deity responsible for rain . . . Surely by all [Elijah’s]

actions an utter defeat of Baalism had been anticipated.

The extermination of the prophets of Baal in mock and

grisly sacrifice at the Wadi Kishon (v. 40) seemed to be

the final stroke . . . But when Ahab witnessed it and

returned to his palace at Jezreel, did he depose his wicked

queen? No! He told her of Elijah’s victory and did not

prevent her from ordering Elijah’s execution in reprisal.1

Elijah had anticipated that the incredible force with which

Yahweh, the one true God, had shown himself to be would bring

forth a true and long-awaited revival among God’s people and

their wicked leaders. After all, had not people fallen on their

faces and shouted, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God”

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 28 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 29

(18:39)? Surely Elijah expected that the northern kingdom of

Israel would turn to God, and possibly the kingdoms of Judah

and Israel would be reunited.

Sadly, Elijah’s expectation of what was to come could not

have been more different from what actually happened. Instead

of revival, Jezebel declared vengeance. Instead of becoming a

national hero, Elijah became a hunted man. Instead of a king and

a queen turning to the one true God in repentance, they stubbornly,

rebelliously, and violently lashed out at God’s prophet.

Like the prophet Elijah, often our unexpected detours start

with unmet expectations. Life takes us in a direction that we did

not anticipate and did not desire. The more we look around and

try to find somewhere familiar, somewhere that we thought we

would be had things been different, the more despairing we can

become. Our best attempts to solve the problem of a detour often

leave us with a bigger problem rather than a solution.

Understanding that unmet expectations may play a role in

our detour is not a solution to our problems. Just knowing this

fact will not help you see the situation clearly, but for the fog to

lift even a little, we must spend some time thinking about our

expectations.

The Problem with Ou r Expectations

There are three problems with our expectations. First, our

expectations are uninformed, if for no other reason than because

they involve the future. It is not that we should never consider the

future, but that we must realize and anticipate that our expectations

may not, and likely will not, be met. Consider the following

people and their expectations of the future:

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 29 2/1/12 11:33 AM

30 / AARON SHARP

• In 1969 a little known member of the British Parliament

named Margaret Thatcher said, “It will be years—

not in my time—before a woman will become prime

minister.” Yes, this is the same Margaret Thatcher who

was elected prime minister ten years later.

• In 1943 Thomas Watson, the chairman of IBM

said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five

computers.”

• In casting for the 1964 movie The Best Man, about

two leading candidates for the presidency of the

United States, a young enterprising actor named Ronald

Reagan was rejected for the part. Reportedly he

was rejected for “not having the presidential look.”

This is the same Ronald Reagan who took the real

oath of office in 1980.

• In 1918 Tris Speaker, a baseball Hall of Famer, felt the

need to comment on a move by the rival Boston Red

Sox, telling anyone who would listen that, “Taking

the best left-handed pitcher in baseball and converting

him into a right fielder is one of the dumbest things

I ever heard.” The player Speaker was referring to—

George Herman “Babe” Ruth—finished his career

with 714 home runs, a record that stood for nearly

four decades.

• Lieutenant Joseph Ives, tasked with studying the

Grand Canyon by the U.S. War Department,

reported, “Ours has been the first [expedition], and

doubtless to be the last, to visit this profitless locality.”

Today nearly five million people visit the Grand

Canyon every year.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 30 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 31

We may laugh at these obviously far-off predictions, but if

we are honest with ourselves, our expectations for our own lives

are just about as inaccurate. Take these expectations, for example:

• I will not have health problems.

• All of my loved ones will live long and fruitful lives.

• I will know when to make a career change.

• I will meet my spouse and fall madly in love by the

time I am twenty-four.

• We will have four children.

• My spouse and I will always see eye to eye.

Now some of these expectations may seem a bit silly, and

some may be a little more serious, but any one of them can go

unmet. Those with some spiritual maturity or life experience will

look at the list and say, “Well, obviously those things may or may

not happen.” And it is definitely true that most of us understand

that bad things might happen to us, but the point is that even

those of us who are not new to the faith or how the world works

do not expect them to happen. Our expectations are for good

health, vibrant relationships, and sunshine in our lives. So, when

God allows something tragic or disappointing to come into our

lives, most of us are knocked off our feet by it. Our expectations

deal with the future, and the future is the one thing that we know

very little about.

Second, our expectations are selfish. Pause for a moment and

think about your perfect world and what the future would be like

if that world happened. Next think of not your perfect world,

but a reasonable expectation of life in five to ten years. Now consider

how many of your expectations revolved around yourself.

Odds are 100 percent of them. Even if you were thinking of the

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 31 2/1/12 11:33 AM

32 / AARON SHARP

perfect

marriage partner, you were thinking of the perfect marriage

partner for you. You might have thought of the future for

your children or grandchildren, but you thought of the future for

your children and your grandchildren. More than likely, nowhere

in your imaginings of your perfect world did you think about

what life would be like for your friends, much less acquaintances

or total strangers. This is a big area where our expectations fail—

our expectations revolve around ourselves, but God’s plans do

not. Our expectations are so often frustrated because while we are

focused on ourselves, God is focused on His purposes.

Third, often our expectations are unmet because we have a

false perception of who God really is. Our failure to understand

exactly who God is and what His priorities include is often one

of the biggest factors in our unmet expectations. Consider the

following popular, but false, ideas of God and His attributes:

• God is a slot machine whose sole purpose is to give me

what I need or want. How often do we become frustrated

with God because He has not given us what

we believe He should have? On this issue, it is easy

to point the finger at others, particularly those whose

theology disagrees with ours, but all too often this

view of God is a problem for all of us. God does desire

to give His sincere children the desires of their hearts

(Psalm 37:4), but He is not a genie granting our every

wish.

• God is (only) love. Now, the Bible very clearly states

that God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is not simply an

attribute of God; it is also part of His essence. Yet we

err when we look at God as being only love. Theolodidn'tsignup_

2nd.indd 32 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 33

gian D. A. Carson explains, “Our culture has been

purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable.

The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and

above all sentimentalized . . . Today most people seem

to have little difficulty believing in the love of God;

they have far more difficulty believing in the justice

of God, the wrath of God, and the noncontradictory

truthfulness of an omniscient God.”2 The prevailing

view today is that God is a kind, gentle, grandfatherly

being who delights in handing out candy and blessings

to people. Unfortunately this is not the God of

the Bible. The God of the Bible is love, but He is also

holy, righteous, and just.

• God wants me to be happy. Happiness is a funny thing.

It can come and go so easily. People today, particularly

Americans, live their lives in pursuit of happiness.

After all, are not we guaranteed the right of doing just

that by the Declaration of Independence? Yet God has

more important things to accomplish in and through

us than mere happiness. God’s purpose of using the

apostle Paul to spread the gospel was more important

than his happiness when he was executed by

the Romans (2 Timothy 4:1–8). God’s desire to provide

for His chosen people was more important than

Joseph’s happiness when he was sold into slavery and

falsely imprisoned (Genesis 45:1–8; Psalm 105:17–19).

God’s desire to proclaim the truth to His people was

more important than Jeremiah’s happiness when the

king became angry and threw him in a muddy pit

(Jeremiah 1:1–10; 38:1–13).

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 33 2/1/12 11:33 AM

34 / AARON SHARP

• God will not give me more than I can bear (alone). Often

when we feel like life has taken a detour it is because

we are completely overwhelmed by circumstances. So

we cling to the idea that we can make it through these

trying times all by ourselves because God would not

put more on our shoulders than we can carry. That

sounds right, but it misses a large part of God’s truth.

God routinely puts more on our shoulders than we

can carry alone, which is how we realize just how deep

our need for God and other people truly is.3 If we were

able to bear the weight ourselves we might never properly

acknowledge God, or our brothers and sisters in

Christ who are able to bear our burdens with us (Galatians

6:2).

• God wants Christians to be happy and joyful (always).

This is similar to “God wants me to be happy,” but

with a slight twist. Some people are under the mistaken

impression that God requires that we always

present ourselves as happy and joyful, without exception.

It is true that we should be full of God’s love and

the Holy Spirit, and the knowledge of God should give

us noticeable joy (Philippians 4:4). However, everyone

will experience times of sadness, fear, doubt, and

depression, and hiding these emotions is not spiritual.

The Word of God reveals that plenty of God’s servants

had hard times, not the least of which is the instance

in Elijah’s life about which this book is written. Job

experienced severe trials, and his reaction to them was

what one would expect: pain, frustration, and anger.

We might anticipate that God would respond to Job’s

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 34 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 35

negative emotions with a fireball like the one that

consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. However, the Scriptures

tell us that even after Job’s emotional outpouring God

still accepted him (Job 42:7–9).

Dealing with Unmet Expectations

We have learned that when life takes an unexpected detour,

our first step should be to check our expectations. At this point

you may be thinking, “If that is true, then what is the solution

for dealing with these unmet expectations?” This is an excellent

question and one we will discuss, but first let’s change the question

around just a bit.

People on detours tend to look for directions and answers,

and what they really want is a map that shows the way back

home. But I would suggest that God’s primary purpose in allowing

your journey to take an unexpected detour is not just a lesson

in finding your way back to the interstate. As we progress

through 1 Kings 19, we will see that this was true of Elijah, and

I believe that it is true for most of us as well. Having said that,

let’s answer a different question: “If it is true that detours are

about more than simply finding our way back to our desired

path, then what are some guidelines for dealing with these unmet

expectations?”

The difference in that question and the one posed previously

may seem slight to you, but it is important. On a detour we

tend to become even more frustrated and disillusioned looking

for solutions. We are focused on the conclusion of the journey,

rather than the journey itself. In this circumstance, rather than

directions to our final destination, what we really need is extra

fuel to continue the journey.

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 35 2/1/12 11:33 AM

36 / AARON SHARP

We are unique individuals, and what God is attempting to

do in our detours will never be exactly the same from one person

to another. Rather than a one-size-fits-all answer, the following

principles are meant to function much as additional fuel to keep

you going even if your unexpected journey is a lengthy one.

First, when you find yourself on a detour and dealing with

unmet expectations, take the time to look for God’s purposes

instead of your best interests. As fallen creatures, we are inherently

selfish, and we live in a world that caters to our desire to

fulfill our own desires. So the idea that we should put God’s

purposes at the forefront is not one that comes easily to us. Certainly

it is not our first inclination, but the truth is that what we

think are our best interests are not God’s top priority. Anyone

who has been on a detour for any amount of time has probably

gotten tired of having sincere people quote Romans 8:28 to them:

“We know that God causes all things to work together for good

to those who love God, to those who are called according to His

purpose.” The verse can be a great encouragement, but often we

misread it. The verse says that God “causes” everything to work

for good, but it does not mean that only good things will happen

to us. Very bad things will happen to us, but God has a purpose

and at times my best interests, at least as I understand them, must

take a back seat to that greater purpose.

Consider the story of the blind man in John 9. Jesus and His

disciples were walking together, and they passed a blind man on

the road. The disciples asked what they thought was an insightful

question: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he

would be born blind?” (v. 2). They thought his physical impairment

must have been tied to a sin, and they wanted to know

whose sin it was that caused the blindness. Jesus’ answer to His

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 36 2/1/12 11:33 AM

Detours and Unmet Expectations / 37

followers, however, turned their theology upside down: “It was

neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that

the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3).

Imagine, if you will, the disciples’ shock. This man had been

unable to see for his entire life (that is one whale of a detour).

He had never looked into his mother’s or father’s faces, or seen a

sunset. He had been unable to play with other children as a boy

and had struggled with his lack of vision into adulthood. This all

happened solely so that God might perform a miracle in His life

for all to see. He had done nothing wrong, and his parents had

done nothing wrong, yet God allowed this disability so that He

could show everyone His power and glory.

If you are on a detour today, you are probably asking yourself

and God the most simple of questions: “Why?” You may receive

an answer to that question, and you may not. One sure thing is

that sometimes God allows our life’s path to take tremendous

detours so that He can be glorified and we can be equipped to

minister to others. If your detour has to do with sickness, it may

well be that God wants you to know and understand sickness to

minister to others experiencing the same pain. Maybe God has

allowed you to feel the pain of depression to help others who

struggle with depression. Or it may be that the relational conflict

that is causing you such angst may enable you to counsel and

minister to others who are going through or will go through similar

circumstances. Whatever it is that you are going through, do

not discount the impact that your experience can have on others.

Second, even when you are in the midst of a detour, keep

your expectations flexible. Too often our expectations are firmer

in our minds than is realistic. The apostle James stresses this

point in the fourth chapter of his epistle:

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 37 2/1/12 11:33 AM

38 / AARON SHARP

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go

to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage

in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what

your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that

appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead,

you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do

this or that.” (vv. 13–15)

Here, James is not condemning planning for the future, but

he is reproaching the attitude of believers assuming that they

were able to carry out their plans. They were treating their expectations

as if they were a sure thing, when it was all subject to the

mind of God, which no one can know.

Though we all have expectations, we must remember that

we cannot write our expectations in stone. If we are honest with

ourselves, we would have to agree with James’s point that we can

do nothing on our own. The only reason we make it from one

day to the next is because God has provided the breath and life

for us. We must approach our expectations with the understanding

that we have not been promised tomorrow.

In 2010 the United States military released a Joint Operating

Environment report that was commissioned as a look into the

future, an attempt to make educated guesses about environments

and challenges the military would face over the next twenty-five

years. However, the United States Joint Forces Command, which

published the report, placed the following statement at the front

of the study:

The Joint Operating Environment is intended to inform

joint concept development and experimentation throughout

the Department of Defense. It provides a perspective

didn'tsignup_2nd.indd 38 2/1/12 11:33 AM






Here is my review of this incredible study:

First of all, I would like to extend a heartfelt “Thank you” to Aaron Sharp and his publisher for sending me a copy of "I Didn't Sign Up For This: Navigating Life's Detours" 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.

Aaron Sharp’s “I Didn’t Sign Up For This: Navigating Life’s Detours” is a fantastic study using Elijah as its teaching focus. Each of the 11 enlightening chapters contains stories from the author’s life that illuminate Elijah’s own story as shared in Scripture. Topics range from Unmet Expectations to Emotions to Isolation to Imperfect Understanding and much more. Each chapter closes with insightful and thought-provoking questions that can be used for discussion in a small group study. These questions can also be used for private study and personal growth.

I deliberately did not scrutinize the complete text at this time because I plan to use this book for my in-depth summer study.