Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take a Break and Pause for Power with Warren Wiersbe

Thanks to everyone who took part in today's tour!

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:

David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




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



Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140374X
ISBN-13: 978-0781403740

AND NOW...THE FIRST WEEK OF DEVOTIONS:


A Year in the Word

In the pages that follow, you’ll hear Isaiah’s invitation to wayward hearts, wrestle with Job’s dilemma, examine what Hebrews says about the breathtaking work of Christ, and listen in as Paul writes letters to infant churches. Such a task might seem daunting at first, but with the help of Pause for Power, it will take you only a few minutes a day. And here’s the best part: Over the course of a year, you’ll have read fifteen books of the Bible.

The devotions are undated, so you can start any day of the year. They’re also blended, so you can enjoy a variety of biblical voices and themes each week. One day you might contemplate Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and the next you might consider a wise saying from Ecclesiastes.

To get started, simply turn to Day 1, read the associated Bible passage in your favorite translation, spend time with the devotion, then ponder the question of the day. Repeat daily. In twelve months you’ll have studied Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. But more importantly, you’ll have gained insight into God’s Word—insight that will bring you closer to the Author Himself.


Day 1

Consistent Actions

Read Romans 2:1—3:20

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Romans 2:7–8

God had given Israel great material and spiritual riches: a wonderful land, a righteous law, a temple and priesthood, God’s providential care, and many more blessings. God had patiently endured Israel’s many sins and rebellions, and had even sent them His Son to be their Messiah. Even after Israel crucified Christ, God gave the nation nearly forty more years of grace and withheld His judgment. It is not the judgment of God that leads people to repentance, but the goodness of God; but Israel did not repent.

In Romans 2:6–11, Paul was explaining a basic principle of God’s judgment: God judges according to deeds, just as He judges according to truth. Paul was dealing here with the consistent actions of people’s lives, the total impact of their character and conduct.

True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls. When God measured the deeds of the Jews, He found them to be as wicked as those of the Gentiles.

Something to Ponder

Is it possible for people to grow to have consistently good (not perfect) character and conduct? If so, how? How does this fit with Paul’s claim that no one is righteous apart from Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:9–10)?


Day 2

Devoted to Devotions

Read Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Colossians 4:2

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not telling God what to do or what to give. Prayer is asking God for that which He wants to do and give, according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). As we read the Word and fellowship with our Father, we discover His will and then boldly ask Him to do what He has planned. Richard Trench (1807–1886), archbishop of Dublin, said it perfectly: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”

Of course, it is possible to pray in our hearts and never use the gift of speech (1 Sam. 1:13), but we are using words even if we don’t say them audibly. True prayer must first come from the heart, whether the words are spoken or not.

Something to Ponder

As you pray, in what ways are you “watchful”? In what ways are you “thankful”?


Day 3

The Mark of Maturity

Read Philippians 1:6–10

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Philippians 1:9–10

Paul found joy in his memories of the friends at Philippi and in his growing love for them. He also found joy in remembering them before the throne of grace in prayer.

This is a prayer for maturity, and Paul began it with love. He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment.

The ability to distinguish is a mark of maturity. When a baby learns to speak, he or she may call every four-legged animal a “bowwow.” But then the child discovers that there are cats, mice, cows, and other four-legged creatures.

One of the sure marks of maturity is discerning love and loving discernment.

Something to Ponder

With daily decisions, do you tend to seek what is good, or do you try to discern what is truly best?


Day 4

Avoiding Oblivion

Read 1 John 2:17

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

Every great nation in history has become decadent and has finally been conquered by another nation. Some nineteen world civilizations have slipped into oblivion. There is no reason why we should think that our present civilization will endure forever. “Change and decay in all around I see,” wrote Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847), and if our civilization is not eroded by change and decay, it will certainly be swept away and replaced by a new order of things at the coming of Christ.

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even we Christians think, the world is passing away, but those who do God’s will abide forever. Long after this world system—with its vaunted culture, its proud philosophies, its egocentric intellectualism, and its godless materialism—has been forgotten, and long after this planet has been replaced by the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1), God’s faithful servants will remain, sharing the glory of God for all eternity. And this prospect is not limited to Moody, Spurgeon, Luther, or Wesley and their likes—it is open to each and every humble believer. If you are trusting Christ, it is for you.

Something to Ponder

If you are expecting to share the glory of God for all eternity, what things are you doing now to prepare for such an encounter?


Day 5

Sovereignty and Responsibility

Read Romans 9:14–33

Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Romans 9:14–15

Moses was a Jew; Pharaoh was a Gentile, yet both were sinners. In fact, both were murderers! Both saw God’s wonders. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. Pharaoh was a ruler, and Moses was a slave, yet it was Moses who experienced the mercy and compassion of God—because God willed it that way. Nobody can condemn God for the way He extends His mercy, because God is righteous in His judgments (see Ps. 19:9 KJV).

Paul wrote of divine sovereignty and then human responsibility. Here is a paradox: The Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “law righteousness.” The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved, when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.

Something to Ponder

When you can’t fully understand God’s working, what do you do to maintain your faith?


Day 6

Sins of the Saints

Read Hebrews 2:3–9

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Hebrews 2:3

We have the idea that believers today “under grace” can escape the chastening hand of God that was so evident “under law.” But to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Not only have we received the Word from the Son of God, but that Word has been confirmed by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). The phrase “signs and wonders” here refers to the miracles that witnessed to the Word and gave confirmation that it was true. Today we have the completed Word of God, so there is no need for these apostolic miracles. God now bears witness through His Spirit using the Word. The Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to God’s people so that they may minister in the church (1 Cor. 12:1–11).

I have often told the story about the pastor who preached a series of sermons on “the sins of the saints.” He was severely reprimanded by a church member. “After all,” said the member, “sin in the lives of Christians is different from sin in the lives of other people.”

“Yes,” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”

Something to Ponder

Do you agree that sin in the lives of Christians is worse than sin in the lives of other people? Why?


Day 7

Heart Gifts

Read 2 Corinthians 8:10–24

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.

2 Corinthians 8:11

During my years of ministry, I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened, and I must confess that none of these approaches has ever stirred me to give more than I planned to give.

We must be careful here not to confuse willing with doing, because the two must go together. If the willing is sincere and in the will of God, then there must be a “completion of it” (2 Cor. 8:11; see Phil. 2:12–13). Paul did not say that willing was a substitute for doing, because it is not. But if our giving is motivated by grace, we will give more willingly.

God sees the “heart gift” and not the “hand gift.” If the heart wants to give more, but is unable to do so, God sees it and records it accordingly. But if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God records what is in the heart, no matter how big the offering in the hand may be.

Something to Ponder

Think about a time you gave willingly and a time you gave grudgingly. What made the difference?

Monday, November 29, 2010

OK, so I lied

Last night, I said that I would post my Christmas tree updates throughout the night. Well, I BlackBerry sent them to Facebook, but was otherwise occupied to post to the blog. Here's the tree - any surprise the color of most of the ornaments?


I'm still doing more decorating, so I'll get more pictures up once I finish. It's going to be a little while because my Command Strips are supposed to stick to the wall for an hour before I hang anything on them. I don't know if I like where I draped part of my lights over shelves or not. They may have to go!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Any volunteers?

I used to put up three Christmas trees here in my little duplex - 1 big and 2 small. Two years ago I got really down while doing it and told myself I would not put them up the next year, and I didn't. No one comes over here and sees them but me.

I've decided that I will put one up this year, but I sure don't care to get my table moved, the tree assembled and decorated. If someone wants to come do it for me, come right on over. I don't really want to spend my time in that way, and my hands are itching just thinking about messing with the branches.

Any one oozing with Christmas spirit want to come do it for me? I'm not there yet.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Reasons why I am thankful

  1. The cool front came through and it's no longer 80+ degrees in Texas.
  2. I won't have to cook a day and a half for one meal anytime soon.
  3. I have a nice peaceful home to come home to for some tranquility.
  4. There's no reason I should have to sit at the table and eat leftovers to a discussion on when the various generations of women in my family went through the change and the symptoms they had.
  5. Nothing against Aunt Eula Mae, but I'm thankful that my grandmother and both of her sisters weren't at my parents' house at the same time to have three differing recollections of their childhood to debate about.
  6. Anyone else that I am around this weekend will not be offended when I tell them that I've already heard that story in the past 24 hours.
  7. My parents are planning ahead to a vacation a year from now and a new tradition.
Of course, I'm truly thankful for so much more than that. So many things that count and a lot that don't amount to much. It's just these that I thought you might laugh at.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I really should stop thinking

Because every time a thought crosses my mind, I think of something to do. Isn't that annoying?

So, no blogging for now - I have too many things I need to do before going to bed early to start back at my to do list way early in the morning. ARGH!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How not to be a sales person

I've been debating finally make the leap towards a smart phone for a while. I'd been debating the iPhone vs. the Blackberry Torch. All those commercials during the baseball playoffs didn't help. Go Rangers, but go my money too.

Well, there's two commercials that caught my attention this week. The first is that Sister Wives is airing a new special tomorrow night. The second is that Blackberry Torches dropped from $199 to $99. Armed with some birthday money, and some of my own, I decided that Thursday was the day.

I took Thursday off work for my birthday and after meeting up with Angie and Deacon for a birthday Blizzard, I went by the AT&T store. They were out of Torches since the price drop (the first day the guy saw the new price on the list, he called four people to make sure it wasn't a misprint). GRRR. I could get on the waiting list since I didn't like the red.

From there, I went to CVS to vent my frustration at the photo lab yet again. On Saturday, I had pictures printed, but didn't look at them until Sunday. On Sunday, I took them back to complain about the color which was barely existent. They agreed and were having a tech come in. On Wednesday, I checked in with them, still not reprinted. On Thursday, I had enough of the run around and finally got my reprints. The photo manager had made a note to refund my money, but I was fine with finally just getting reprints although I had been in their 4 times. Mental note to self: next time, let Shutterfly mail them to you.

I texted Jenny that the phone store was out of phones.She asked if I had tried Radio Shack since I had seen one in a Radio Shack in Waxahachie. Ah hah! That's the idea!

Is it a nationwide Radio Shack stereotype that the guys that work there are A) not really helpful and B) the ultimate geeks? So, I go into Radio Shack I go.

"May I help you?"

"Do you have any Blackberry Torches?"

"Yes. Well, I should look first before I say that."

He leads me to the sample out on the floor. "Have you had a Blackberry before?"

"No."

"Well, I tell anyone that hasn't that they are very difficult to use."

"The reviews say this one is better than the ones in the past."

"Do you have a smartphone plan?

"No, but I'm going to get one."

Anyway, he goes on to try to talk me out of what I expressly walked in the door to purchase. However, he doesn't have anything else that he is trying to talk me into. He's just expressing his dislike towards Blackberrys.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"It's going to come to around $107. Is that ok?"

"Yes. The price has dropped, the AT&T store is out. This is what I want."

"You'll have to buy an accessory too if you are upgrading to a smartphone plan."

"What do I have to buy and what's the cheapest ting of use I can get?"

He still proceeds as he opens the box to try to talk me out of it. On and on he goes, trying to talk me out of it.

With no customers in the store, only four salesmen, I loudly say, "you all are terrible sales people. All you have done since I walked in the door is try to talk me out of what I came in to buy." I say this addressed to all of them because they all have other phones. Two I phones and two androids. I don't want your android. It sounds like an alien, and I don't want to sound like I have a geeky alien phone you Trekkies!

All through the "cancelling contract" speech, he's still whining on. He can tell I'm annoyed after a while and finally tones it down.

Later that evening, I am talking to my brother on my parents' house phone telling him I'm trying to figure out my new phone. He says, "I should have given you my iPhone and gotten me something else because I don't need all this stuff."

Well, heck, why didn't he offer this before I wonder? I might have taken him up on his offer, but there was no way I was going back to Radio Shack to return anything.

I'm still trying to figure out the phone as a whole. Especially when it came to taking pictures at the Mavs game with Jenny last night. (I was proclaiming that perhaps the Radio Shack guy was right.) Working the camera is ridiculous, but at least loading up to Facebook is really, really easy.

I did finally get my calendar off of showing up on the main screen all the time, but I have no idea how I did it. It's supposed to be able to sync music with iTunes, but I've not gotten that figured out yet.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Just a tease

I will be posting about why the guys that work at Radio Shack are the worst sales people ever and why they have a reputation in general, but that will have to wait. I know that is a tease that will be sure to grab your interest.

Jenny and I are going to the Mavericks game tonight, and I'm going to leave here in a minute, but am waiting for an email to come through so that I can send off the last of my weekly reports.

Until tomorrow!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A peek at the first chapter of Costly Grace

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:

ACU/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at Pastors.com, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and is founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and web sites around the world. He is also the author of Growing with Purpose. Jon currently lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.


Visit the author's website.



Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891126767
ISBN-13: 978-0891126768

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Grace and Discipleship

What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared cheap grace the deadly enemy of our church in 1937. “We are fighting today for costly grace,” he said. We are in that same fight today.

By cheap grace, Bonhoeffer means the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We assume, since grace is free, there is no cost associated with the free gift. We assume we can go on living the way we have been because our sins are now forgiven.

The gift is free, but Jesus paid a bloody price to offer us the gift; the gift is free, but that doesn’t mean there is no cost to following Jesus once we step into his grace.

Costly grace justifies the sinner: Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin: Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession,” says Bonhoeffer. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

And this means cheap grace is “a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God,” says Bonhoeffer. Did Jesus die so we could follow a doctrine? Did he suffer a cruel and bloody crucifixion to give us a code of conduct? Did he give up all he had, take on the nature of a servant and walk through Palestine as a human being so we could give an intellectual assent to the grace he freely gives? Did he humble himself and walk the path of obedience all the way to death so we could live in disobedience to him? (based on Philippians 2:8)

When the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed as a general truth and the love of God taught as an abstract concept, we depersonalize the incarnation; yet, it can’t be anything but personal: the God of the universe launching a rescue mission for you, his beloved creation, at the expense of Jesus, his only begotten son. Jesus didn’t come in the abstract, as a nebulous idea of love, grace, and forgiveness; rather, “he became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7b).

You can’t get more personal than that.

The Incarnation is totally personal. When Jesus calls you it is absolutely personal; and the cost of grace is personal. Jesus paid personally to provide us with free grace and we must pay personally to live within that grace. Why do you think Jesus died for you, if not for the personal? What do you think he expects from you, if not something personal?

RATIONALIZING OUR WAY INTO CHEAP GRACE

We too easily slip into a corporate concept that Jesus died for sins in general and so he becomes to us something like a huge corporation: we don’t really expect to get personal, individualized attention. And because everything, in our thinking, is impersonal, it is easier for us to dodge responsibility.

In the case of the cross, it is the difference between “Jesus died for the sins of mankind” or “Jesus died to pay for my lie last week at work.”

This is how we rationalize our way into cheap grace. But we are called—in truth, we are designed— to come face-to-face with Jesus, which allows us get to know him and the Father as we are know by them: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On the one hand, costly grace cost Jesus his life and he gives it to us as a gift of righteousness that includes the forgiveness of sin; it is something we can never earn and it comes to us as we open our hearts in repentance: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalms 51:1-4, 10 NLT).

On the other hand, Bonhoeffer says cheap grace requires no contrition; we need not even have a desire to be delivered from our sins, just forgiven. He says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” It’s okay, God will forgive me.

“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which auses him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” Costly grace comes when we come to the end of ourselves, ready to abandon our current lives in order to give our lives whole-heartedly to Jesus. It comes when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It comes when we submit ourselves to the will of Jesus, doing what he tells us to do day-in-and-day-out, altering our lives in obedience to him.

Costly grace means we change our habits, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships according to the will of Jesus. Nothing can remain the same because we are no longer the same. We are uniquely connected to the divine nature through Jesus and we no longer “live under law but under God’s grace” (Romans 6:14; see also Colossians 2:9-10).

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”

GRACE AND DISCIPLESHIP ARE INSEPARABLE

“When he spoke of grace, [Martin] Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. Costly grace does not exempt us from discipleship or give us a pass on obeying the commands of Jesus. In fact, it demands “we take the call to discipleship more seriously than ever before.”

And grace doesn’t make our sanctification automatic; Jesus transforms us into his image as we follow him down the hard path through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. Luther quickly understood that discipleship must be tested in the world, outside the cloister, as Jesus pushes us from self-centered to other-centered.

While it is true Luther said, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still,” Bonhoeffer notes his intent was not to teach cheap grace but to help us understand our position in Christ. When we get serious about discipleship, we will want to be obedient to God. This is why Jesus said the way we show our love for him is by being obedient to his commands. Our obedience brings us in line with the will of God; we become one with his agenda. And that’s the essence of love: when we love we want to do the things the people we love want to do; we become one with our loved one’s wishes.

Yet, our obedience will never make us perfect. The only way we can approach the throne of grace boldly is by stepping into the costly grace of Christ, where he becomes our righteousness before God; he acts as our mediator. Luther’s point, then, was when we sin we need not despair. Jesus covers all our sins. He died for the sins you’ve already committed and he died for the sins you will commit tomorrow. Luther means we can stop being afraid of ourselves; stop being afraid that we may make mistakes. Just love God and live your life—and when you stumble, fall into the grace of Jesus Christ.

By trusting the grace of God, we can be courageous in following Jesus and equally courageous in confessing our sins before him. There is no need to hide our sins or to posture as if we have not sinned. We can just admit it and keep on following Jesus, even if we have to confess sins to Jesus every day.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of costly grace, we’re more likely to play games with God, pretending we haven’t sinned, maintaining the delusion that we’re not that bad, and that leaves us stuck in immaturity right at the threshold of discipleship. And our posturing is part of how we undermine grace. If we’re so cheaply forgiven, then we never have to face the ugliness of our sin. It doesn’t seem so bad. The bloody work and resurrection of Jesus become a generic work, a blanket forgiving of sins, a prettified passion meant to God bless us, everyone.

Cheap grace flips Luther’s sin without fear upside-down, recreating it as a justification of sin instead of the justification of the sinner. Bonhoeffer says the real “outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther’s perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price.” “The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world,” Bonhoeffer says. “Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.”

This is exactly what Paul addresses with the church in Rome, where the religious instinct of man—that desire for self-justification—was in full assault against the sovereignty of God, attempting to prove God wrong in his bloody sacrifice of Jesus.

DOES GRACE MEAN WE CAN KEEP ON SINNING?

“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” asks Paul. I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means” (Romans 6:1-3 MSG). The costly grace of Jesus means to take us into a new land, the kingdom of heaven. We follow Jesus obediently along a difficult path through a narrow gate into his kingdom.

A simple glance across the evangelical landscape reveals that we’ve overwhelmingly embraced the lesser grace. We’re barely willing to adjust our schedules let alone our lifestyles. We make decisions based on common sense, robbing the Holy Spirit of his role of counsel. We stash away our 401k’s and plan for when we will do kingdom work in the future, never trusting God to provide. We take the risk out of ministry by always leaning on our own understanding and then we wonder why our faith is weak. When do we exercise our faith?

We’re glad to follow Jesus. His yoke does seem easy: a few hours each week in worship, a Bible study, a small group, a bit of service at the church and perhaps a mission trip each year. We try to be good people, to help others, and to thank God for our blessings. When things are going well, we don’t want to bother God and, when things are going badly, we can camp out with God and say a holy “Amen” that he’s always there in our darkest times.

But a peculiar people? A royal priesthood set apart? What? Does Jesus really mean I’m supposed to abandon my ________ (fill in the blank)?

We preach, we teach, we publish. We have the internet and Christian radio. “We poured forth unending streams of grace,” says Bonhoeffer. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way is hardly ever heard. Have we presented the gospel in such a way that we’ve left people feeling secure in their ungodly living?

Cheap grace has been “disastrous to our own spiritual lives,” says Bonhoeffer. “Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience.”

We’ve settled for cheap grace for so long that we’ve allowed it to become the norm for Christian living. We know there must be something more but life just gets in the way. We’ve taught people to live disconnected from Jesus and we wonder why they struggle in their Christian walk, why they are so tired all the time.

Bonhoeffer says, “To put it quite simply, we must undertake this task because we are now ready to admit that we no longer stand in the path of true discipleship. We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned, we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord. We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship. The issue can no longer be evaded. It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”

THINK OF GRACE AS A RESTAURANT

Grace is a restaurant where you can eat anything on the menu for free. The cost for you to dine is hefty, but your whole bill has been paid by Jesus.

“You mean, I can eat anything I want here? Then I’ll have a lust burger with a side of lies.”

I’m sorry. We don’t serve lust burgers or lies here. But you are welcome to anything on the menu. Everything here is hand-made by the Father and all of it is specifically designed to keep you healthy.

“I thought you said I could eat anything I wanted if I came into this grace restaurant?”

You can eat anything you want, but we only serve what is on the menu. If you look, you will see there are thousands of choices we’ve prepared specifically for your taste buds.

“But not a lust burger? No lie fries. What kind of restaurant are you running here? Don’t you want me to be happy, to feel good?”

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

“What if I go outside the restaurant, get a lust burger and some lie fries, and bring them back in here to eat?”

That would be cheap grace.

GRACE IS A TRANSFORMING POWER

If you asked most evangelical Christians about the meaning of grace, they’d probably tell you it’s the unmerited favor of God. Not a bad answer, but one that’s just academic enough to keep you distracted from the truly transformational nature of costly grace.

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation so rapid and radical that it would cause skeptics to beat a path to our door.

What is grace? Consider this illustration from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s timeless tale about a peasant who is sentenced to hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. Released from jail, Jean Valjean is offered brief sanctuary in the home of a priest.

Despite being treated with dignity for the first time in years, Valjean, steals the bishop’s valuable silverware and runs away. The next day, Valjean is brought back to the priest’s home by the police, who tell the priest that Valjean has claimed the silver as a gift. The police obviously expect the priest to deny the claim.

The priest immediately addresses Valjean, saying, “Ah, there you are! I am glad to see you. But I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?” When he hands the candlesticks to Valjean privately, he tells him, ”Jean Valjean, my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you.”

It’s a Christ-like moment—and one that shows the tremendous cost of grace, both for the giver and the receiver. Valjean goes on to live a life of grace, supporting the poor and adopting a young orphan whom he must ransom out of servitude.

Do you suppose for a minute that a harsher approach by the priest could have gotten a better response from Jean Valjean? Then why do we expect people to behave better when we “Tsk, tsk, tsk” and shame them into behaving properly rather than modeling the kind of grace that will change them radically and permanently. Grace allows people to make choices and assumes they’ll make the best choice. Grace is free and flowing and unencumbered by guilt or shame or fear, for true grace says, “I know all about you, and I still love you with a godly acceptance.”

We see this in John 4, when Jesus meets the woman at the well. When she offers to give him a drink, he says, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water” (John 4:10 MSG).

Note that he talks about how gracious God can be. Yet most of us, if we were gut honest, function as if God were stingy with his grace. We fear his punishment, in the sense that we think he’s the high school principal walking the halls, taking down names. Who did what and who’s to blame?

But God already knows who did what and who’s to blame, and he still loves us anyway. His interest is in redeeming us, not in keeping us on the hook for our sins.

Unfortunately, many of us—Christians—live our lives as if we’re still on the hook, and as if we have to keep everyone else on the hook. We use weapons of the flesh—the sarcastic comment, the angry stare—all designed to get people to straighten up and live right.

In contrast, when the woman at the well goes back to her village, she says, “Come see a man . . . who knows me inside and out” (John 4:29 MSG). Nothing is hidden from him, and yet he communicates with her in such a fashion that she leaves feeling loved and accepted. That’s the aroma of grace.

Did she get away with her sins? No. They cost Jesus plenty, yet you don’t see him lording it over her, or putting a guilt trip on her, or even using the time for a lecture on sexual ethics. Jesus trusts that once she is confronted with God’s generosity—his grace—that she will be eager to change and conform to God’s commands.

It’s a classic Christian paradox, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s time to pull out the Law and read someone the riot act, Jesus shows by his behavior that it’s better to embrace that person with a costly love.

And grace does cost. It obviously cost the Son of God everything, and for you to extend grace will cost you, just as it cost the priest his silver. In fact, one way to distinguish the difference between grace and mercy is that grace costs while mercy does not. Mercy says, “I won’t press charges.” Grace says, “I not only won’t press charges, I’ll pay for your rehab program.”

GRACE HELPS US BECOME OTHER-CENTERED

Grace is powerfully other-focused. It gives without fear of depletion. Love, forgiveness, and mercy are handed out with no thought of exhausting the supply. Someone enveloped by grace is rooted deeply in soil next to a river that never knows drought.

The prodigal’s father offers a picture of the paradox of grace. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. Every time he touched a pig, the young Hebrew boy was reminded how far he was from the will of God. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.

What was going through his mind as he headed home? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or maybe he thought about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved.

Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response!

Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shamefully shuffles home. Then he sees an unidentifiable person running toward him. Then he recognizes his father and he prepares himself for the worst.

The prodigal was probably bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. After a few minutes of wrestling, the son’s heart is finally overcome by the father’s passionate embrace. He goes limp in his father’s arms unable to hold back the tears.

The father is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hopes for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness. The father’s extraordinary grace continues as he places a ring on his son’s hand and sandals on his feet and then wraps him in an extravagant robe. Each gift is a visible sign of full son-ship.

The father completes his bountiful behaviors of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.

Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is trust yourself at all cost. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway?

We must go to Jesus to be personally tutored in Grace 101. As we receive his grace, we can then pass his grace to others.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A cute, funny series by Renee Riva

I'm trying to get caught up on all my book reviews. I'm really behind on posting about my latest reads. After working the book release on Heading Home by Renee Riva, I decided to go back and buy the first two books in the series that I hadn't worked on.

These are really cute, funny, light-hearted books good for all ages - young and old alike. A.J. Degulio is a spunky, energetic young girl that you see grow up from age 10 to 18 throughout the three books. Think My Big Fat Greek Wedding Italian-style. Oh, well, throw some Greek relatives in too.

I very highly recommend!

Saving Sailor

Saving Sailor: A NovelThe year is 1968. After spending the first half of summer vacation driving her Italian family crazy with her fake southern accent, 10-year old A.J. finds a soul mate on the other side of the island to divert her attention.

She is intrigued to learn that Danny shares her same burning desire to know God and realizes that few people her age think as deeply as the two of them do.

However, the depth of their newfound faith and friendship is soon tested when Danny's father betrays his wife.

Set in a simpler time, Saving Sailor is a heartwarming tale of how hearts can change and relationships can be restored with God's help.

 
Taking Tuscany

Taking Tuscany: A NovelA. J. Degulio loved the idea of a visit to the Old Country . until her family decided to stay. 

Now it's 1972 and she's turning fourteen in a crumbling castle on a hill in Tuscany, wishing she were back in Idaho with her beloved dog, Sailor. In Italy, her fair complexion and blonde hair makes her stick out like a vanilla wafer in a box of chocolate biscotti, and she's so lonely her best friend is a nun from the local convent. What's worse, her grandma's losing her marbles and Mama's going crazy over Uncle Nick's ugly blue villa, which she can see from every window.

The challenges of roots and relatives are nothing new to A. J.-you can read about the summer she turned ten in Saving Sailor-but factor in language, culture shock, and a bad case of homesickness, and A. J.'s going to need more than the famous Degulio sense of humor to survive. Can't anyone see that Italy isn't really home? It will take a catastrophe-and a few wise words from a friend-for A. J. to understand that sometimes the only thing you can change is your perspective.


Heading Home

Heading Home: A NovelShe's back! For eight long years, A.J. Degulio has been itching to get back to Indian Island, her beloved dog, Sailor, and her childhood friend, Danny Morgan. It's home. But a lot has changed. Sailor moves slower, Danny has grown into a six-foot-something good-lookin' cowboy . . . and A.J. has a promise to keep.which doesn't include Danny. When Danny hears of her plans, he's shocked and hurt. But he cares too much to stand in the way of what she really wants.

What's a girl to do? A.J. isn't sure how to fulfill her promise without losing Danny. She works every angle possible to keep her promise and her cowboy. But Danny has plans of his own. Will they be able to work it out? It will take compromise, laughter, and a lot of love before Danny and A.J. figure out that home isn't a place on the map. It's a place in the heart.



Sunday, November 14, 2010

DiAnne Mills' Pursuit of Justice

Pursuit of Justice (Call of Duty)
About the book:

For centuries, the legend of the Spider Rock treasure has lured people to west Texas with promises of unimaginable Wealth. And it just claimed three more victims.

Did they fall prey to he legend's cruse or just get to close to someone else's discovery? To investigate the murders, the FBI calls in one its most promising up-and-comers-Special Agent Bella Jordan. What they don't know is that one of their prime suspects is deeply connect to the past she's been running from for fourteen years.

As Bella begins to sift through evidence, another murder and threats to her own live convinces her she's hunting an experienced killer...and he's not working alone. To catch the suspect before he catches her, Bella must draw on all her skill and instinct and finally gather the courage to face the memories she's tired so hard to forget.

Special Agent Bella Jordan is assigned to investigate a series of murders in West Texas that are linked to the Spider Rock Treasure. Since she spent the first fifteen years of her life in this area, FBI authorities believe she can get the job done. What they don’t know is that one of their prime suspects—a man who’s been on their wanted list for years—is deeply connected to Bella’s past.


The other prime suspect is Carr Sullivan, the man who owns the ranch where the murders occurred. Carr was once one of the wealthiest businessmen in Dallas and has a shady past a mile long. But it appears he’s turned his life around. Can Bella trust him, or is he just trying to cover his tracks?

As Bella probes deeper into the case, threats on her own life convince her the killer is someone she knows. But it soon becomes clear he’s not working alone, and she’ll need to face the past she’s tried so desperately to forget in order to solve the case and prevent more murders.

My review:

I didn't realize when I asked for Pursuit of Justice that it was book #3 in the Call of Duty series. But, you can read this book without feeling like you missed something. I just found out when I went to the Tyndale Fiction website that the other two books had other leading ladies. So, don't worry about reading all the books in the series if this one sounds interesting to you.

DiAnn Mills leads readers through solving a murder, keeping them guessing about who is really involved right to the end. At least she had me guessing. I didn't really expect one of the people involved.

I did think there were a few things missing from the story. If the legend of the Spider Rock treasure was such a big deal, I would have thought more people would have thrown in their knowledge of what they had heard over the years. I thought that could have been built up more.

The story moved a little slow at times - I wanted more action. And I didn't buy the romance. Would an FBI Agent really be taken with a suspect so quickly? You know that is my pet peeve in most every story though. Overall it is still a good read.




(I received this book as a part of Tyndale's blog review program.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Queen of Good Intentions?

You know what my problem is? Everyone of you reading this probably has a different that pops into your mind. I'm thinking of about 15 right now including my internet running so sluggish that it's driving me crazy and the fact that I went to see the local performance of "Hello Dolly" tonight and the incessant theme song will not stop running in my head. And I thought "Stuck Like Glue" by Sugarland was bad.

My problem is that I had a long list of things I intended to get done today and I accomplished about 5% of that list, maybe less. Well, at least I did accomplish the most important thing on my list - buying toilet paper.

On a daily basis, I accomplish so much less than I ever intend. I think my intentions are completely unrealistic. For example, there was no way that today I was going to be able to sleep until noon (I did roll out of bed at 10:15), run by CVS and pick up some pictures (I did do that but they printed bad and I need to go take it up with the photo manager tomorrow), pick up some things at Wal-Mart, do some work stuff that really needed to be done since I'm going to be behind taking off a day next week (I did do the most important thing, then just decided the rest really could wait until Monday), do two scrapbook projects (one I need to have done by Wednesday if I want it for free from Shutterfly - I haven't gotten beyond logging in), including finding some old photos (I ended up spending 2 hours semi-organizing a huge pile of photos in storage bin), and do 4 book reviews on my blog (those are still sitting on my coffee table).

I did, however, accomplish buying some dishes at Wal-Mart that I didn't really need (but were on sale) and spend more money than I intended of my paycheck that is "available" but technically not deposited into my account until Monday. I will take a picture of my table that will be set for no real purpose once I wash said new dishes. I'll give you one guess as to what color they are.

I did have dinner with Jenny and Ashley, followed by the "Hello Dolly" performance. In all actuality, that's probably what I needed to do most - have fun and not worry with my to-do list. I can't even sit on my couch and enjoy a TV show or read a book without thinking of everything I need to get done. When did I get this uptight?

One thing is for sure. There are only two things on my to-do list tomorrow. Church and a nap. I will get both of those done!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Ultimate Field Guide for Growing Boys into Men


Authors provide a dynamic strategy of
encouragement and instruction
for the journey to manhood

In today’s culture, teenage boys are faced with navigating the turbulent journey to manhood, often without an inkling of what that really means or any direction of how to get there. What does it mean to be a man? Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man offers a vision of godly manhood and a complete and honest guide into the adventures ahead.

Flight Plan, written by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady, is a natural evolution of their original program, Building Boys, Making Men, a curriculum created by the authors for the 630 boys who attend Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the years, Burns and Brady, colleagues at PDS, have received numerous requests from youth leaders, pastors, parents, and teachers for access to the curriculum that was only available to the boys at PDS. Flight Plan is the answer to those many requests and the culmination of sixty years of research, mentoring, and ministry to more than 3,000 boys.

Throughout his career in education, PDS Chaplain Braxton Brady has learned that there is a void for young men that is not being taught. “I hope to call dads to be strategic with their kids and intentional with their boys, and I also want to help dads navigate their sons through middle school and high school on their way to adulthood,” says Brady.

Flight Plan uses the metaphor of a journey of flight to speak candidly to pre-teen and teen boys about friendships, peer pressure, drinking, drugs, girls and dating, puberty, sex, and school and family relationships. Like any sound flight plan, the book maps out the journey ahead giving practical advice for success and warnings for potential pitfalls any boy on his way to manhood is likely to encounter. The text strategically builds on seven biblically based virtues, “The True Friend,” “The Humble Hero,” “The Servant Leader,” “The Moral Motivator,” “The Bold Adventurer,” “The Noble Knight,” and “The Heart Patient.” Each chapter concludes with questions for reflection and discussion, making Flight Plan an ideal teaching tool for boys’ small groups, mentoring groups, Sunday school classes, fathers and sons, or simply individual study.

Co-author Lee Burns is the headmaster of Presbyterian Day School. His vision is to mentor boys not just academically, but from a life perspective. “It’s important to know the person God wants us to be,” Burns says. “I believe God calls us into authentic manhood as we pursue His purpose and passion for our lives.”

Flight Plan is a godsend to those of us working on the front lines with middle school boys,” says David Beecher, headmaster of the Hillside School in Massachusetts. “Insightful yet practical, challenging but simple, creative yet concrete—it provides young boys, their parents, and their teachers with a blueprint for sound, successful, meaningful growth.”

Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady
PDS Publishing/November 2010/194 pages/ISBN 978-0-615-38061-2/$14.99

For review copy and interview information, contact:
Audra Jennings - 800-927-0517 x104

Braxton Brady and Lee Burns are available for speaking engagements. For more information, contact Ellen Lewis of The Barnabas Agency (elewis{at}tbbmedia.com or 800-927-0517 x110).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Any volunteers?

Bless the book review bloggers of the world. I can't bring myself to work on my reviews - trying to do too many things, and doing reviews is getting pushed way down the list while a pile of read books piles up on the coffee table. Anyone want to write some for me? I'll dictate or direct. Anyone? Anyone?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Reasons why Skating with the Stars is a bad idea

As usual, all comments made are strictly my opinion...

  1. It's a shameless attempt of spinning off of Dancing with the Stars. (spinning pun intended)
  2. FOX already did it several years ago as a rip off and no one cared. All I remember is Bruce Jenner was on it and it was bad.
  3. If you though there were no name stars on Dancing the past couple of years, Skating has a more pathetic assortment.
  4. If you thought people looked like klutzes the first couple of weeks on Dancing, just wait until these people get on ice.
  5. Now that I think about it, I think that I saw another take of Skating with the Stars on another network, and it didn't take off either.
  6. It might have done better at the first of the year leading into the Winter Olympics, but I'm not a marketing genius or anything...
  7. They are announcing the professional skaters after the stars... admitting that the professionals are a bigger draw than the stars.
Surely, there will be old episodes of NCIS or something on the night this comes on so I won't have any temptation whatsoever to watch.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More vacation photos

Here are more pictures... including the closest I saw of "The Ledge" of the Willis Tower Skydeck. Still disappointed about that. Of course, with the wind the way it was, the building probably was swaying three feet back and forth like it's designed to be able to do. This first picture is the home to the "American Pickers" TV show that was Dad's biggest want-to-do.










I want to be a photographer when I grow up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Snapshots of vacation

There would have been a lot better chance of me bloging about my vacation last week if I had an iPad, iPhone, Blackberry Torch or laptop or something with me last week as I went along. My summary a few days ago pretty much summed everything up. We did a lot, but nothing with big, long, drawn out stories.

Here's some pictures though...








I'll post more tomorrow!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Daily Pause for Power


Pause for Power


Dr. Warren Wiersbe is a gifted Bible scholar with the ability to make personal and relevant application to God’s Word. This fall, David C Cook releases a revised version of Pause for Power: A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures, a daily devotional that will allow readers to explore fifteen different books of the Bible with wisdom and insight gleaned from Wiersbe’s best-selling BE commentaries.

Offering insight and encouragement, this devotional touches on real-life themes that include contentment, integrity, patience, joy, hope, ministry, love, and peace. Each day’s devotional includes a brief Bible passage, an excerpt about that particular passage from Wiersbe’s BE commentaries, and questions for personal reflection. A brief prayer ends each day’s Scripture meditation and purposefully commits the reader’s heart and mind to God’s direction.

Pause for Power is a comprehensive update of Wiersbe’s original devotional and includes three additional books of the Bible as well as updated reflections and prayers. This year-long study includes thoughtful examination of the Old Testament books of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah, as well as the New Testament books of Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. Wiersbe’s trademark voice remains the same throughout the book, and he continues to encourage readers to make personal application of God’s Word to every situation of their lives.

Developing an intimate relationship with Christ is a life-long process, and the study of His Word is one of the primary avenues through which we learn and draw closer to Him. Wiersbe’s ability to explore and explain the Bible serves as a foundational resource for this year-long devotional that offers bite-sized pieces of wisdom that will carry readers through a great deal of Scripture in a single year. Pause for Power will make the perfect gift for friends and family who look forward to a new devotional to strengthen their daily walks during 2011.

Pause for Power: A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures
by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe
David C Cook/November 2010
ISBN: 978-0-7814-0374-0/372 pages
hardcover with jacket/$16.99

For review copy information, contact:
Karen Davis - 800-927-0517 x109