Friday, August 28, 2009

TOUR: "Breaking the Barriers" by Jason Frenn

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:

Breaking the Barriers: Overcoming Adversity and Reaching Your Greatest Potential

FaithWords (August 13, 2009)
Also in Spanish: Rompiendo las barreras


Jason and Cindee Frenn, along with their three daughters, are missionary evangelists and conference speakers who travel throughout North and South America holding citywide crusades. They have preached the gospel to 1.2 million people and have helped more than 120,000 people make first-time commitments to Christ. Together with their team based in Costa Rica, they help people find freedom in Christ to become all God intends for them to be.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (August 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0446546208
ISBN-13: 978-0446546201



Filled with personal stories to support its main points, this book instructs you on how to overcome the 'barriers' that prevent you from reaching your highest, God-given potential.

Mr. Frenn outlines the three "pillars" that you need to establish in your life in order to break the barriers: 1) The Heart of the Father, 2) The Wisdom of the Son, and 3) The Discipline of the Holy Spirit.

The only thing I didn't like about this book was Mr. Frenn's tendency to repeat points over and over. It got a little redundant. Otherwise, though, this book was really good, and I found it to be full of hope and inspiration.

Rated: B+

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TOUR: "Hope Unleashed" by Andy Hawthorne

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:

Hope Unleashed

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)


Andy Hawthorne is a British evangelist, author, and founder of the Message Trust, an award-winning Christian mission organization dedicated to bringing the gospel message to the poorest neighborhoods of Hawthorne’s hometown of Manchester, England. He is the author of Diary of a Dangerous Vision, also a Survivor book.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434764486
ISBN-13: 978-1434764485


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. Hope Unleashed by Andy Hawthorne. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

There Is No Plan B

Luke 1:26–56

Toward the end of a life full of amazing words and actions, Jesus said something that was remarkable even by his own standards. Talking to his Father, he said, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4).

It strikes me that, like Jesus, we really do all have a task to complete on this earth and that the goal of our lives should be to get as close to completing that work as we possibly can. Flip the thought over: Isn’t it absolutely amazing to think of all the good works we’ll leave behind when we die? What about all those plans and possibilities that were dreamt up for us? Can we really ignore them so easily?

Jesus’ good works here on earth didn’t start when he came out of the desert in a blaze of glorious healing, teaching, and saving. It was thirty years earlier that it all started, when he was willing to leave the glory of heaven and humble himself to float around as a fetus inside a little bag of waters in the womb of a young peasant girl. That’s how far he had to go in order to get right alongside us, to reach our level and literally put flesh on the bones of God’s master plan of salvation.

Throughout the rest of this book we will be looking at Jesus and seeing what we can learn from the way he reached out with words and actions. But first we need to go right back to the beginning and take a look at his mother. What can we learn from her amazing response to the call of God on her life?

There is no doubt that Mary was a remarkable young woman. How many girls in their early teens, as she probably was, would cope in such a faith-filled and chilled-out way in the face of such earth-shattering news? And it wasn’t as if the delivery was low-key. There was no email, no gentle chat with a familiar family member; just some forty-foot-tall shining white angel called Gabriel. (Okay, so the Bible might not say he was forty feet tall or shining white, but you’ve got to give an evangelist a little room to tell a story!)

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:30–33)

Let’s be fair: Mary was a risk. What if she had said “No thanks”? What if she got freaked out by the whole thing and changed her mind? What if she ran off and drank a bottle of gin or had a cold bath or found some other way of getting rid of the baby? There must have been others looking for a way of dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. What if Mary joined them?

The whole thing was a risk, and it’s not much different today. Imagine choosing you and me to share the most glorious news in the world and to deliver the kindness of God to a hurting world! What if we ran in the opposite direction? What if we gave up on prayer, stopped acting in faith, and acted in fear instead? How much of a mess the world would be in!

But that’s our God. He has staked everything on us getting our act together. He has bet the house on everyday idiots like you and me getting involved and taking our faith seriously. How amazing is that? How scary?

There is a folktale of the angels coming before God as Jesus ascended to heaven. They were asking him what the plan was now that Jesus’ time on earth was up. Who was going to carry on the work of building God’s kingdom? God points down to the ragtag bunch of anger-management failures, hotheads, and oubting Thomases. It’s them. They’re the ones to build it.

“But what if they fail?”

“There is no plan B.”

Those first disciples were the plan, just like that overwhelmed teenage mom, just like you and me. We’re the plan. We’re the potential. We’re the way this thing gets built.

Mary may have been young, inexperienced, and poor, but she was no failure. She had what it took to be used by God; she had a heart that pumped for him, a heart that beat in time with his own work. As the eyes of the Lord scanned Israel looking for a girl who would be suitable for the greatest responsibility in the history of the world, they rested on Mary.

I love Mary’s response to Gabriel’s words. I’m convinced that if we were to respond in a similar way when each of us met our own calling, we would see a lot more success and transformation going

on down here.

Four things stand out to me. First, there’s the whole sense of urgency that we get from Mary. Luke 1:39 tells us that her response to the overwhelming responsibility was to get ready and hurry to Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house to tell them the good news. Look at the rest of the gospels, and you’ll see a whole lot of hurrying once people have received a word from the Lord. The gospels are littered with words like immediately, suddenly, and swiftly. Wouldn’t it be great if the church of Jesus was a bit swifter to respond to the command of God to go? How much better would things be if we were to go out of our meetings with a little more pace and passion and deliver the good news in words and actions to this generation? For Mary there was no option. God had spoken, and she started to hurry.

That hurrying carried on over sixty miles of difficult terrain, but it was worth it. Once she arrived at Zechariah and Elizabeth’s house, Elizabeth’s baby started jumping for joy in the Holy Spirit. As if she needed it, there was Mary’s massive confirmation that this wonderful miracle really was taking place inside her. In one quick trip Mary demonstrated a truth that lies at the heart of all Christian living: We have to understand the importance of sacrifice and obedience. If God puts people on your heart, don’t just pray for them; go to them quickly and watch what he does. If God puts an neighborhood or a people group or a country in your mind, go quickly; don’t wait until every piece of the jigsaw puzzle is in place

and every penny is in the bank. Step out. Do it. Risk it.

After thirty years of doing this stuff, I can testify that if it’s the Great Commission you’re working on, God really will bankroll the work. Right now his eyes are searching the earth looking for people with a heart for the lost, hurting, or broken of this planet. And when he finds them and sees that they are ready to obey the call and go sacrificially, he will strongly support them (2 Chronicles 16:9).

The second thing that gets me is Mary’s excitement. We’ve just had a few of our team return from a large youth prayer event in America called The Ramp, and to be honest I’m slightly worried they might spontaneously combust. They’re so pumped that every talk we give is now greeted with whoops and hollers American style, and they’re spending literally hours and hours of every day in prayer, worship, and sharing Jesus with people who don’t know him. They’re not doing it because they’re paid or because they are bored or because they think it might just be a bit of a laugh. They’re doing it because the reality of who Jesus is and what he did has burrowed deep under their skin. And when that happens for real,

any aspect of our lives is a candidate for transformation.

I’m quite jealous of their passion right now. Granted, some of it may seem a bit over the top, but I’d rather have overenthusiasm than the numbness that comes from being lukewarm. George Verwer

put it better when he said, “It’s easier to cool down a furnace than warm up a corpse.” I’d rather be a furnace for Jesus, and passion and excitement have always been the currency that young people

deal in.

Luke carries on with the story:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was

filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord

should come to me?” (Luke 1:41–43)

Elizabeth’s joy was palpable. She was telling Mary that she was the most blessed person on the planet, that she had been given the most privileged job that’s ever been given. Because Mary had not been tripped up or freaked out by the news, nor did she feel lukewarm about it—choosing instead to believe, trust, and act—Elizabeth could see that things were going well. There’s a truth in here somewhere, that when we hold on tight to God’s promises and believe that they will come through in spite of all the troubles and opposition around us, then we end up being blessed. So many Christians get disillusioned and discouraged when God’s promises aren’t fulfilled according to their schedules. It can be tempting to

do the opposite of Mary and give in to disillusionment and defeat. But there is no life to be found down that route.

I think Mary knew that, because instinctively she joined in with Elizabeth’s excitement, bursting into a song full with joy and optimism.

Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has

been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me

blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.” (Luke 1:46–55)

For most of my life I’ve been a member of my local Anglican church. Just occasionally I’ve had the joy of sitting through the 1662 prayer-book service. As the name suggests, this is a very old bit of kit. Over 350 years have passed since it was scripted by a bunch of evangelists called the Reformers. They were trying to reach people with the gospel, dragging services out of the world of outdated Latin traditions. They used the language of the street, and in its day it was a truly dangerous and radical thing to do. Their

motto was “always reforming,” and that’s what they did, constantly bringing the services up to date, refusing to settle and be stuck in a rut. There was just one problem: One by one they were burnt at the stake for their efforts. Three and a half centuries later many churches are still using the same services. I’ve got a sneaking feeling that Thomas Cranmer and his fellow Reformers are in heaven right now slapping their heads, wincing their eyes shut, and shouting,


I know I’m on thin ice with some people, particularly those who love the poetry and reverence of the 1662 prayer-book service. And just because it’s not my cup of tea doesn’t mean God doesn’t like

it. But I’m sure that what matters more than whether we like the worship service or whether it’s got robed choirs and bells and smells or screaming rock bands up front is whether the people outside the church can understand and connect with it. If that’s not possible, we should do exactly what the Reformers did: Kick it out.

But I’ll say this for the 1662 service: It nearly always includes Mary’s song, called the Magnificat. This is an amazing collection of words held together by full-throttle joy, passion, and excitement. Sadly, in my experience, it usually gets sung to a miserable tune by people with very long faces, which is weird because this is a song of excitement and over-the-top joy and passion.

“My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.…” The word rejoices here in the original Greek language is agallio. It’s the same word that’s used in Luke 10:21 when Jesus is freaking out with joy as the disciples return from their first mission and report that “even the demons submit to us in your name” (verse 17). It literally means “to leap for joy, to show one’s joy by leaping and skipping, demonstrating excessive or ecstatic joy and delight.” Mary is, in short, quite a happy girl at this point! In fact, it would appear that,

despite the challenges of her pregnant state, she is beaming with excitement and almost bursting with this song of joy and praise to God.

Let’s be fair, even with the hassle and hard work, Christianity is a phenomenally exciting thing. Living on the cutting edge of God’s purposes, dealing with all the opposition that comes with trying to reach out into our communities, following Jesus’ great commission to tell the world the good news … these are the ingredients that lead to the most real, most inspiring, most satisfying experience of all. Let’s not lose the sheer joy and wonder of what this good news of Jesus can do in the darkest of communities and the most

broken lives. Put another way, the gospel works every time; it’s lost none of its power. As Paul says, we’re plugged into “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

When you think about that, it’s understandable that every once in a while—just like our young men returned from The Ramp—we need to get a little overexcited.

Right now the developed world is suffering from an epidemic of excess that is squeezing all the joy out of so many lives. Look around and you’ll see it: an excess of alcohol, drugs, sex, debt, and isolation that is literally killing people. How about confronting that with the excessive, ecstatic joy and delight that only Jesus can bring?

The third thing that is obvious from Mary’s response to God’s call is her love of Scripture. She is thirteen or fourteen years old, yet she just oozes the Bible. This song she bursts into certainly feels as though it’s off the top of her head, but it includes no less than twelve different Old Testament passages.

It’s clear that Mary didn’t just skim her way through Scripture. She memorized it and held it in her heart, getting to the point where it really was “living and active” and “sharper than any double-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). The same can be true for us, if only we’d get Scripture off the pages of our Bible and running through our blood. Would life ever really be the same again if we managed this? Why not make a commitment today to learn more of the Bible? How good would it be to be able to know it, live it, and breathe it, so that what pours out of us is God’s Word, pure and simple—whether we are on the streets or facing times of great excitement, challenge, temptation, or failure?

I’ve got a feeling that one of the key reasons Mary was chosen for this amazing task was that she loved God’s Word. And from the moment she became a mother to God’s child, she showed her child how to do likewise.

At her coronation Elizabeth II was presented with a Bible by the Archbishop of Canterbury—just as it has been with all the kings and queens of the British Commonwealth. As he presented it, he uttered these words: “Your Majesty, here are the lively oracles of God, the most precious thing this life affords.”

And that’s the truth. We might not spend much time getting into the Bible, and we might completely forget to treat it with the respect it’s due, but it really is the most precious thing on the planet. It’s the only thing I know of that contains the keys to a worthwhile life here on earth and an eternal one to come. We might want to be used by God for high and holy purposes that last forever, but without immersing ourselves in God’s Word, we’re never going to make it. It is this, and not our own man-sized dreams and visions, that must direct our plans.

The last thing to stand out, as we look at this passage right at the start of Jesus’ life on earth, is Mary’s humility. Her song isn’t full of arrogance or ego but humility and sacrifice instead. It reminds me a lot of David’s song when he was dragged out of obscurity as a shepherd boy to rule a nation:

Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And as if this were not enough in your sight, O Sovereign LORD, you have also spoken about the future of the house of your servant. Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign LORD?

(2 Samuel 7:18–19)

Of course the answer is yes—it is exactly God’s usual way of dealing with men and women. Reading the Bible, I get the feeling God just loves to stun the humble with his awesome intervention.

Gideon was the least in the lowest family but went on to defeat the Midianites. Amos the gardener made his status clear with these words:

I was neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son, but I was a shepherd, and I also took care of sycamore-fig trees. But the LORD took me from tending the flock and said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14–15)

There are others, too, and I love every single story. But it’s more than mere entertainment or good drama. If you and I will get to the place where God really does get all the glory—like Mary, David, Gideon, and Amos—then maybe we’ll find ourselves involved in greater things than we’ve experienced so far.

One thing I’m sure of is that right now the Lord’s eyes continue to range the earth. He’s not on the hunt for talent, giftedness, or sexiness; just a humble heart and a life willing to react quickly and obediently to his Word. When he comes across that, he’ll strongly support it. You won’t find yourself giving birth in the way that Mary did, but you will give birth to some God-sized visions for your community. Bit by bit you will stop living a life plagued by small-minded and insular views. Instead you will live large, bearing

the fruit that he chose for you on the day he went out of his way to select you for eternal life.

Ephesians 2:10 makes this absolutely clear: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Maybe some years in the future, when old age has settled upon you, you might be able to inch a little closer to saying to God, “I’ve brought you glory by

completing most of the work you gave me to do.”

Isn’t that really what life is all about?

Hope reflected

1. If someone looked at your bank statements, Internet-browser history, or phone records, what would he or she say are your priorities? Try doing the exercise yourself or—if you’re brave enough—give someone else permission to do it for you.

2. What place does the Bible have in your head and heart? Do you know it? Do you like it? Do you feel as though you need it to help you through the day? If you’ve answered no to any of those, don’t worry or feel condemned, but do make up your mind to do something about it. Talk to someone at church who is wise and trustworthy and who knows the Bible. Ask him or her to help you get to know it better.

3. Are you feeling as though everyone else has a God-given calling and you do not? Are you still waiting for God to deliver you a dream that matches your hopes and expectations? Stop. Think back over the last seventy-two hours: Have there been times when you have ignored things that God may have been prompting you to do? Are there conversations you avoided, situations you backed out of, or things you simply ignored? If so, you need to repent and rediscover a little more obedience. Or are you struggling to think of anything that God might have been speaking to you about? If that’s the case, you need to know this: God doesn’t stay silent for long. Talk to someone about how you can learn to hear him better.

4. Humility is a hard thing to measure—particularly in ourselves. But it’s worth having a go. Are there people or places or tasks that— deep down—you know you go out of your way to avoid? Are there areas of your life that you’ve fenced off from God? Are there dreams and ambitions that you can’t let go of? If so, take a look back at Mary’s reaction to her unexpected pregnancy. How do you think she would respond in your situation?


Back in 1994 I had the priviledge of participating in a youth outreach weekend with Youth Mission International. I was babysitting for my aunt and uncle, who just happened to run that program here.

During the orientation week, the group of youth went into downtown Toronto, Ontario. All of us were split into groups of 3 people, then each group was given a small amount of money. We were then told to go through the streets and find people who we could minister to — take them out for food, or buy them something. My group found two teens who seemed to be living on the street, and we asked them if we could take them to buy them some food. They cautiously agreed, and so we took them for falafels. All through our time with them, you could tell they were torn: part of them was grateful for the kindness we were showing them, but the other part wondered “Why are these complete strangers doing this for us? What do they want in return?” Of course, the leader of our group shared the gospel with these two as well.

This book reminded me so much of that time. There was a passion and an excitement in the pages of this book, and it was/is thoroughly contagious!

The title (”Hope Unleashed“) is very fitting as I often, while reading, felt renewed hope that even I could become passionate about outreach and evangelism (something I’ve always seemed to shy away from, feeling way too inadequate).

Andy’s main focus throughout the book is “to make Jesus known by doing more, doing it together, and doing it with words and actions”. This was a very powerful book.


Rated: B+

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TOUR: God Has Never Failed Me... and The Buzzards Are Circling...

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 books:

The Buzzards are Circling, but God is Not Finished with Me Yet

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)

God Has Never Failed Me, but He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times

David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)


Stan Toler resides in Oklahoma City, OK and is an international speaker and seminar leader. For several years he served as Vice-President and taught seminars for Dr. John Maxwell's INJOY Group, a leadership development institute. Toler has written over 70 books, including his best sellers, The Five Star Leader, Richest Person in the World, The Secret Blend, his popular Minute Motivator Series; and his latest book, ReThink Your Life. His books have sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:
The Buzzards are Circling, but God is Not Finished with Me Yet:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765946
ISBN-13: 978-1434765949

Product Details:
God Has Never Failed Me, but He’s Sure Scared Me to Death a Few Times:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765954
ISBN-13: 978-1434765956


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. The Buzzards Are Circling, but God’s Not Finished with Me Yet by Stan Toler. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1

When Your World Crumbles, You Don’t Have to Be One of the Crumbs

(You Can Survive Your Situation)

David Hopkins felt as though the eyes of a thousand demons penetrated his soul as he walked across the campus of Emmanuel College in Franklin Springs, Georgia. Thousands of beady-eyed buzzards arrogantly shifted along the bare tree limbs as if they were waiting for him to drop dead and furnish their lunch. My friend Dr. Hopkins, the college president, said his skin crawled as he thought about the six years of torture that had come from the predators who arrived each October and lingered until April, infesting the college property.

With the crunch of his every footstep on the leaf-strewn ground, he relived the staff’s repeated efforts to scare away the birds. Devoted employees tried banging pots and pans—and even firing warning shots into the air. Nothing worked. And killing the ebony beasts was against the law. According to local officials, the tormentors were endangered. Destroying them would result in a hefty fine. The cold autumn wind tearing at the trees seemed to mock Dr. Hopkins, and he was certain one swooping buzzard grinned with glee!

Indeed, the buzzards seemed a metaphor for the spiritual warfare of the last six years. As the winged menaces invaded the school, year in and year out, David’s wife almost died of cancer. He suffered from the sometimes-fatal Crohn’s disease. The college, in the throes of necessary but difficult change, struggled for financial survival. Dr. Hopkins wondered if and when the buzzards would smell the death of the college and swoop. He shook his fist toward the feathered foes and declared, “You won’t win!”

Yet just when it looked like he was finished, twenty-five prayer warriors arrived on the campus to pray for the college—and for the rapid departure of the carnivorous creatures. The next day, Dr. Hopkins received a call from a donor who said, “I’ll give one hundred sixty thousand dollars toward the construction of a new science building.” Another donor called and said, “We’ll give five hundred thousand dollars toward the new science building!” What’s more, his wife was declared cancer free!

President Hopkins told me that he was so happy about the news that he nearly floated home. That’s when he made a startling discovery. As he looked around, he noticed the trees were void of those dark adversaries. No buzzards! Gone! Gone! Gone! For no apparent reason, they had vanished! At that moment, he recalled Abraham’s sojourn from Ur to the Promised Land. Abraham had paused to worship and to offer a sacrifice to God as a sign of His covenant. (It should be noted: The buzzards came down to steal Abraham’s sacrifice before he could seal it. Abraham had to shoo the winged predators away!)

Someday, you’re going to spot buzzards circling in your spiritual No-Fly Zone. There is going to come a time when you’re hit with a crisis, one that you didn’t see coming. And it may cause your whole world to crumble like an old cookie under a big sledgehammer. But take heart; you don’t have to be a crumb in the midst of the crumbling.


The Old Testament character Job reminds us: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). It’s a fact of life. We didn’t inherit curly hair, brown eyes, and a propensity to arthritis from Adam. We inherited trouble. Adam’s disobedience to God started a chain reaction of suffering and sorrow that won’t be broken until the eastern sky splits and the Savior returns. The Bible says, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22).

So our family tree is more like a prickly cactus than a pristine maple. But how does it play out in the landscape of life? What is it that makes our world come tumbling down like a planetary Humpty

Dumpty? There are several factors that can play a part in the world crumbling times.


We are spiritually and emotionally vulnerable when we face changes in the routine of our lives. Vocational, housing, relationship, physical, or financial changes—all may reduce our stability to zero (to put a new slant on the fog report!). In the Old Testament, Abraham faced unsettling uncertainty when God called him to leave his homeland and take his family to a new country.

He responded obediently, but I’m sure there was a king-sized knot in his stomach when he packed his luggage: “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (Heb. 11:8). The phrase did not know where he was going is key to what he must have felt. Everything familiar would soon be set aside, and he would leap like a skydiver into the unknown.

The focus on Abraham comes from the patriarchal emphasis in Bible times. But think about how his family must have felt. They would have to leave familiar department stores and playgrounds, forfeit soccer team membership, subscribe to a new cable television service.

Sad farewells.

Financial uncertainty.

Strange roads.

This wasn’t going to be a picnic for Abraham’s family.

Change never is a picnic, but it happens. Sudden layoffs. Diving stocks. Rising gas prices. A doctor with a somber face, holding an alarming medical report in his hands. And when change does happen, our world often crumbles.

Happiness is inward and not outward; and so it does

Not depend on what we have, but on what we are.

—Henry Van Dyke


Look again at Abraham’s life story: “By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:9–10).

Abraham was looking forward to the city.

So, where’s the city? All he saw was desert. No skyscrapers here, just dusty tent dwellings at the end of a long travel days spent looking at the backside of a camel.

This was supposed to be the Promised Land. But for Abraham, it must have looked like it was mostly land and little promise. For the moment, milk and honey looked more like curds and whey.

Delayed promises are world-crumbling situations. We gather together the hopes and pledges of the Bible like a pile of prescriptions from an immediate-care clinic. We haul out our inheritance claims. We thumb through the Rolodex of advice from near and far. “Just a little while.” “Sunday’s coming.” “Somewhere over the rainbow …”

But we’re used to instant coffee and microwave popcorn. Delayed promises? We’ve been promised a celestial city, but we can’t see it for the storm clouds. The realization sets in and causes our hearts to

break. We’re stuck in the now, like Abraham and his family, trying to eke out an existence in an unfurnished Promised-Land apartment.


Abraham also had to look for a promise beyond the horizon of personal setbacks: “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age—and Sarah herself was barren—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:11–12).

Wouldn’t it be awful to face life when you’ve already been declared “as good as dead”? Maybe you have!

The buzzards of age and infirmity had been in a holding pattern over Abraham’s life. God had made the promise: Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars. But Abraham couldn’t see the stars because of the smudges on his trifocals. His family would become as numerous as the sands, but the sands of his own hourglass had settled quicker than an elephant in a lawn chair.

We’ve all been there. Personal difficulties crowd out our hopes of a tomorrow. We can’t do that because of this. “If only I could…” “I just wish I didn’t have to …” “If it weren’t for…” We dialogue with life, wishing we could erase the effects of time. Personal difficulties swarm around us:

Grudges that poison us

Jealousy that gnaws at us

Loneliness that isolates us

Inadequacies that paralyze us

Finances that bind us

Sorrows that plague us.


Abraham’s life would have been so much different if it weren’t for that day. He had been sailing along—working out the issues of a new home, bringing his family to a consensus, driving fresh-cut stakes into the promises of the new land. Then, the Scriptures say, “God tested Abraham” (Gen. 22:1).

A sudden trial arrived like a five-hundred-pound gorilla. God was applying a litmus test to Abraham. He wanted His protégé to see that faith works when we face that day. God told Abraham to take his son to a remote place and prepare an altar of sacrifice—and then sacrifice his son, his only son, back to God. Leaving his servants behind, Abraham took the materials for the altar, along with his only son, and began the longest journey of his life. The trip from Ur was a piece of cake compared to these few steps.

Even as they walked together, the questions began to fly: “Father, where’s the sacrifice?” Abraham’s heart was pounding. He was committed to obeying God’s command: to make his own son that sacrifice. Abraham replied, “God will provide.” But deep in his heart the doubts must have swirled like an oak leaf in a whirlpool.

That day—that sudden testing time in the life of the patriarch that would be unlike any other day. “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son” (Heb. 11:17). Abraham passed the test. He trusted God beyond what common sense or his own will would have led him to do. Then God instructed Abraham not to lay a hand on his son and provided a ram for Abraham to sacrifice.

Perhaps you’ve had a day like that. Life is pretty uneventful, then suddenly everything changes. A sound f metal crushing metal. A telephone call. A knock on the door. An ambulance siren. We who are children of promise suddenly face a horrendous situation. Something is expected of us. Not one of us is exempt.


Our reactions to world-crumbling events vary. Sometimes we feel helpless. For the most part, we’re used to being in control of things. But when life is suddenly out of our control, a sense of vulnerability sets in. Until now, we’ve been able to fix most everything else, but we can’t fix this. It’s just out of reach, like that burned-out light bulb in the twenty-foot ceiling chandelier. We can see it, and we know that changing it would make a difference. But without some assistance, we’re powerless. Sometimes we feel abandoned. Alone in the hospital room, waiting for loved ones. Alone at the table that once was also occupied by a spouse or parent. Alone in a courtroom hallway, waiting for the lawyer. Alone. Abandoned. “Why me, Lord?” we inquire. But often, heaven is silent—not because there isn’t any concern up there, but because we make such loud groaning noises down here that we cannot hear the still, small voice of assurance.

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through Experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, Vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved. —Helen Keller

Sometimes we feel worthless. World-crumbling events have a way of sucking the self-esteem out of our lives. Our pride and dignity are temporarily gone. Our once-secure finances are tenuous. Our once strong

bodies are frail. Our once-happy homes are in shambles. Our once-respectful children have rebelled. We feel about as significant as an eyelash on a mosquito.

Sometimes we feel ashamed. Sometimes we have made a personal contribution to the world-crumbling situation. We’ve been players, not just bystanders. Sometimes we make wrong choices. We cross the line. The pain in our foot comes from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. We stand in our self-made ruins and weep over what should have been, or what might have been, if only we had kept the law of God or if only we had let our conscience give the final answer.

One day, Jesus came across a man who was a poster child for world-crumbling events:

Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. (John 5:1–9)

For thirty-eight years of his life, this man had been carried, pulled, or pushed to the pool beside the sheep gate on the northern side of the Jerusalem temple. There the unnamed man, with so many unnamed others, waited to be healed.

The invalids believed that an angel of the Lord occasionally stirred the waters in the pool and the first person to step into the water would be healed.

This poor man had never made it. Though he had helpers to transport him and put him close to the edge of the pool, he had never been first in. This day was no exception. It was “miracle time,” and he was tardy.

Time after time, he was toenail close to a miracle. But still, he went to the pool!

Think of the cruelty. A heavenly messenger makes a house call every now and then but brings only enough healing power to cure just one person: the first one in.

Jesus saw and approached this man. He learned about the man’s plight, and the Lord healed him. And the fact is, when our world crumbles, Jesus never fails to see it, and He is never far away.

God believes in me,

Therefore my situation is never hopeless.

God walks with me,

Therefore I am never alone.

God is on my side,

Therefore I can never lose.


©2009 Cook Communications Ministries. God Has Never Failed Me, But He Sure Has Scared Me to Death a Few Times by Stan Toler. Used with permission. May not be further reproduced. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
Pinto Beans and Fried Bologna—
Now That’s a Feast of Faith

We do not know what to do. (2 Chron. 20:12)

Growing up in the hills of West Virginia impacted my life tremendously. My dad was a coal miner, and we lived in a coal-mining community—Baileysville, an unincorporated town. Of course, most towns in West Virginia are still unincorporated. And the population of Baileysville was down to sixty as of 1994, so I guess it will never be incorporated! In fact, it’s so small that Main Street is a cul-de-sac. But it is my hometown!

Californians love to brag about being able to go to the mountains to snow ski and the ocean to sunbathe in the same day. Well, in Baileysville, we had our own definition of the good life. If you lived on the side of the mountain, you could cross the river anytime, any day, on an old-fashioned swinging bridge!

My Saturdays were spent at the Wyoming Company Store. While Mom and Dad made purchases with coal-mining dollars, I took charge of watching my brothers, Terry and Mark. That wasn’t difficult if you knew what to do. We eagerly peered at the black-and-white television sets in the furniture department. Programs such as Fury, Sky King, and My Friend Flicka seemed so real to us!

Our small white frame house was located on the side of Baileysville Mountain. We had a well nearby that provided ample water and a pot-bellied coal stove to keep us warm (as long as you remembered to put the coal in it!).

I have heard that someone can be described as a “redneck” if his bathroom requires a flashlight and shoes. Well, our house had three rooms and a path to the little house out back. But it was our home, and I loved it—no matter how pink it made my neck.

One of the saddest days of my childhood was a Saturday morning when we returned home from a visit to the company store to see our tiny home engulfed in flames. We lost everything. I cried for days.

Years later, Pastor Richard Grindstaff told us that as the house burned to the ground, Dad put his arm around him and said, “The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed by the name of the Lord!”

Put the Road Kill on the Table, and Call the Kids for Supper!

By the time I was eleven years old, we had moved to Columbus, Ohio, in search of a better life. My dad, only thirty-one years old, had already broken his back three times in the coal mines and was suffering from the dreaded miners’ disease, “black lung.” But we were happy and almost always had pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna for supper. (That’s right, only later did we call it dinner!)

Christmas Day 1961 will always be one of the most wonderful, life-changing days in my memory bank. It had been a long, hard winter with lots of snow and cold weather. Times were tough! Dad had been laid off from construction work, our food supply had swindled to nothing, and we had closed off most of the house in order to cut down our high utility bills.

This epiphany really began Christmas Eve when Mom noted that we had no food for Christmas Day and no hope of getting any. That was difficult for me to understand. We were used to mom calling out, “Pinto beans, cornbread, and fried bologna. Come and get it!” But now we didn’t even have that. There was no food in the house!

Mom suggested that it was time for us to accept a handout from the government commodities department, so—reluctantly—Dad loaded Terry, Mark, and me into our old Plymouth, and we headed downtown. When we got there, we stood in line with hundreds of others for what seemed like hours, waiting for government handouts of cheese, dried milk, flour, and dried eggs. Ugh! The wind was cold, and the snow was blowing as we stood there shivering. Finally, Dad could stand it no longer.

“We’re going home, boys. God will provide!” he said. We cried, yet we completely trusted Dad’s faith in God.

That night, we popped popcorn and opened gifts that we had ordered with Top Value trading stamps which Mom had wisely saved for that purpose. Perhaps some of you are too young to remember Top Value stamps. Back then, almost all grocery stores gave out trading stamps for purchases made. You could save the stamps and fill up Top Value Books for redemption. In my day, Top Value provided a catalog that listed the number of books needed for a gift item. So Mom saved stamps all year long, counted the bounty by November 1, and let us Toler boys pick out our Christmas presents.

Terry got a transistor radio. (He hadn’t realized that we had no money to purchase a battery!) I had ordered a miniature Brownie Kodak camera. (That wasn’t smart, since we couldn’t afford film, either!) And baby brother Mark got a small teddy bear. While none of the gifts was a surprise to us, Mom had carefully and lovingly wrapped each one to be opened Christmas Eve. We were grateful to have anything!

Everyone slept well under Grandma Brewster’s handmade quilts that night. While we were fearful of the prospect of the next day without food, we were just happy to be together as a family. (Little did we know that Dad would be in heaven by the following Christmas.)

On Christmas morning, we were all asleep in Mom and Dad’s bedroom when suddenly, we were startled by a loud knock and a hearty “Merry Christmas!” greeting from people who attended the Fifth Avenue Church. There stood Clair Parsons, Dalmus Bullock, and others with gifts, clothes, and a thirty-day supply of food. (Yes, dried pinto beans, cornmeal, and a huge roll of bologna were included!) Since that day, I have always believed that God will provide, and that God is never late when we need a miracle!

We must bring the presence of God into our families. And how do we do that? By praying.

—Mother Teresa

One of my favorite Bible stories is in 2 Chronicles 20:12. King Jehoshaphat of Israel found himself in what appeared to be a hopeless situation. He cried out to God, “Our God … we have no power.… We do not know what to do.” King Jehoshaphat had just discovered three new enemies. Unfortunately, all three were lined up against the tiny nation of Israel, and King Jehoshaphat realized that he was powerless without God’s help. That’s the way we felt in the Toler home. The good news for all of us is the same as it was for King Jehoshaphat. God can and will make up the difference.

Seek the Lord

Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord. (2 Chron. 20:3–4)

Jehoshaphat asked God a significant question: “Are you not the God who is in heaven?” (2 Chron. 20:6). In other words, he was saying, “God, if You can take care of this universe and bring order to it, then You can provide for me.”

He asked God another question: “Did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land?” (2 Chron. 20:7). He was reminding himself of God’s faithfulness in the past. I am beginning to realize that my faith today anchors to the faith that my dad passed on to me with his wisdom: “God will provide.” And provide He did for the Tolers!

After Dad’s death, God sent a wonderful Kentucky stepfather, Jack Hollingsworth, into our lives. He saw to it that each son of William Aaron Toler had plenty of pinto beans, fried bologna (by the way, he is an expert at cooking it!), cornbread, and a college education. All three boys later became Nazarene ministers.

Confess Your Need

We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. (2 Chron. 20:12)

If you want God’s help, you must confess your need! The world in which we live is a world of independence. We are taught to look out for “No. 1,” to do our own thing, to think for ourselves, and to trust in our own abilities. King Jehoshaphat reminded the children of Israel that “Me-ism” doesn’t work here! He confessed that they were inadequate against the three enemies they faced: “Power and might are in your hand” (2 Chron. 20:6).

When I need God’s provision, I look up and confess, “God, I am incapable, but You have all the resources for my miracle!”

Focus on God, Not Your Problem

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you. (2 Chron. 20:12)

King Jehoshaphat gave his people a formula for deliverance: “Get your eyes off the problem! Your focus must be on God!”

Living in Oklahoma during tough times as an adult has also strengthened my faith in God. In the mid-1980s, I watched many banks fail; in fact, the FDIC closed so many banks in my hometown of Oklahoma City that I wore a T-shirt that said, “I bank with RDIC!” Agriculture diminished, and oil rigs stopped pumping. But even in the most difficult situations, a simple faith in God and a calm reassurance in the face of insurmountable obstacles resulted in victory.

I will always remember sitting at a table in the Oklahoma City Marriott hotel restaurant on Northwest Expressway and listening to my friend Melvin Hatley, founder of USA Waste Management Company, talk about the collapse of the oil industry and the failure of the old First National Bank downtown. Tears flowed freely, and yet his faith took hold as he discussed God’s history of faithfulness. His calm assurance, founded and grounded in a dynamic faith, made all the difference! Today, Melvin is a testimony of the phrase “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!”

Trust and action always work hand in hand. For example, you know the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright. On December 17, 1903, they made history. They defied the law of gravity and flew through the air. Many forget that the concept of flying did not originate with the Wright brothers. In fact, several years before the brothers flew their motorized plane at Kitty Hawk, scientists had discovered that flying was possible. While others remained skeptical, the Wright brothers believed the formulas and designed their own plane. When they achieved “first flight,” they demonstrated the importance of trusting the facts and taking action in order to experience results.

The same is true for Christians. We can know a lot about God and the Bible, but until we relax in faith and believe in the promises of God, we will be disappointed.

I love the story that my former professor Dr. Amos Henry used to tell about D. L. Moody. Apparently, Moody was on a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean one night when it caught on fire, and all on board formed a bucket brigade to pass ocean water to the scene of the fire. One man in the line turned and said, “Mr. Moody, don’t you think we should retire from the line and go down and pray?”

“You can go pray if you want to,” Moody replied, “but I’m going to pray while I pass the buckets.” What great insight! God wants to see if you mean business, so pray while you work.

Just think, if Jesus had thought prayer was the only thing He needed to do and had remained on His knees in the Garden of Gethsemane instead of getting up and following God’s plan for His life, there never would have been a Calvary.

Relax in Faith

One of the great things about faith is that it helps you persevere. There’s a story about two men who were climbing a particularly difficult mountain when one of them suddenly fell down a crevasse five hundred feet deep.

“Are you all right, Bert?” called the man at the top of the crevasse.

“I’m still alive, thank goodness, Fred,” came the reply.

“Here, grab this rope,” said Fred, throwing a rope down to Bert.

“I can’t grab it,” shouted Bert. “My arms are broken.”

“Well, fit it around your legs.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that either,” said Bert. “My legs are broken.”

“Put the rope in your mouth,” shouted Fred.

So Bert put the rope in his mouth and Fred began to haul him to safety: four hundred ninety feet … four hundred feet … three hundred feet … two hundred feet … one hundred feet … fifty feet … and then Fred called out, “Hey, Bert, how are you doing?”

Bert replied, “I’m fine … Uh oh!”

Don’t let go of the rope, my friend! As Dr. Steve Brown says, “Tie a knot and hang on!”

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you. (2 Chron. 20:17)

It’s interesting that this particular verse is the middle verse of the entire Old Testament. It is like a pregnant pause for the believer. This concept, “stand firm,” is like going into the batter’s box during a World Series baseball game with a great pitcher on the mound, digging in, and saying, “I don’t care how fast you throw that ball, I’m anchored here, and you can’t move me!” King Jehoshaphat said, “Stand your ground and remain calm—God is going to help us.”

Of course, that’s easier said than done. Harmon Schmelzenbach, a missionary to Africa, often holds audiences spellbound with his story about a huge python that uncoiled itself from the rafters and then wrapped itself around his body while he was kneeling to pray.

The python is known for its ability to kill its victim by squeezing it to death. Schmelzenbach states that Isaiah 30:15 instantly flooded his mind: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” With the huge snake wrapped around his body, he testified that he felt the calm assurance that God was in control. Harmon remained perfectly still and prayed like never before!

If he had moved a muscle, no doubt the giant python would have constricted and killed him. But Schmelzenbach reports that the snake slowly uncoiled itself and went back to the rafters. I don’t know if Schmelzenbach now prays with one eye open or not, but one thing’s for certain: No one can convince him that there isn’t power in the promises of God.

We can depend on God. Did you know that we have more than seven thousand promises in Scripture to stand on? Not only that, but you can stand on the character of God! God has never lost a battle. Why not resign as general manager of the universe, eat a bowl of beans and cornbread, and relax in faith?

Give God Thanks Before Your Miracle

King Jehoshaphat began to appoint those who could sing. “As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated” (2 Chron. 20:22). Do you get the picture? Three armies of bloodthirsty warriors with overwhelming strength and weaponry lined up against tiny Israel, and the king called the choir to sing! Talk about faith. That day they claimed victory!

God is faithful now in the twentieth century, just as He was in the days of ancient Israel. During the Second World War, the Allies experienced a very difficult time. The British had just suffered a terrible defeat at Dunkirk, losing almost all of their military supplies during the evacuation of their soldiers. France had been conquered, and the United Sates had not yet entered the war. The island nation of England stood alone against the Axis powers.

Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew he had to bolster the courage and the determination of his people. He needed to make a speech—an inspiring speech—that would rally the citizens. On Sunday evening, June 2, 1940, Churchill was in his Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street. His secretary, Mary Shearburn, was poised at the typewriter. Dictating, Churchill paced from the fireplace to the velvet-draped windows and back again. Slowly his speech emerged onto the typed page. Often he would rip the sheet from the machine only to begin anew. It was late, and the room was cold in the night air. The prime minister’s voice had now grown hoarse and faint. His head bowed, and he sobbed, for he did not know what to say. Silence. A minute passed, maybe two. It seemed like an eternity. Abruptly his head rose and his voice trumpeted; he spoke as a man with authority. The thought descended upon him, as from an angel above: “We shall never surrender!”

Perhaps those words did come from an angel. Who knows? All we know is that God is faithful. Regardless of how scary or how seemingly hopeless our mission may be, He does not forsake us. All we have to do is trust—placing our fears and our failures in His hands. He will not let us down.

Back in 1850, during the California Gold Rush, a young man from Bavaria came to San Francisco, bringing with him some rolls of canvas. He was twenty years old at the time, and he planned to sell the canvas to the gold miners to use for tents. Then the profits from his sales would finance his own digging for gold. However, as he headed toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains, he met one of the gold miners. When he told the miner his plans, the miner said, “It won’t work. It’s a waste of your time. Nobody will buy your canvas for tents. That’s not what we need.”

The young man prayed within. Then he got his answer.

The gold miner went on: “You should have brought pants. That’s what we need—durable pants! Pants don’t wear worth a hoot up there in the diggings. Can’t get a pair strong enough.” Right then, the young man from Bavaria decided to turn the rolls of canvas into pants—blue pants—that would survive the rigors of the gold-mining camps. He had a harness maker reinforce the pockets with copper studs, and the pants sold like hotcakes!

By the way, the name of the young man from Bavaria was Levi Strauss. And he called the new pants “Levi’s”! So far, about 900 million pairs of Levi’s have been sold throughout the world, and they are one of the few items of apparel whose style has remained basically unchanged for more than 130 years.

It is amazing that a style of pants could endure for over a century. How much more incredible is the unwavering faithfulness of God. I’ll never forget the simple hope in His faithfulness that I learned at home. My own father modeled that faith in God before us, trudging home in the snow from the coal mines, face darkened with coal dust, lunch bucket jangling, whistling the old tune “His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”

Why should I feel discouraged?

Why should the shadows come?

Why should my heart be lonely

And long for heaven and home?

When Jesus is my portion?

My constant friend is He.

His eye is on the sparrow,

And I know He watches me!

—Civilla D. Martin

Yes, the God who sits on a throne in heaven is interested in you! If He tends to the lilies of the fields and attends the funeral of a baby sparrow (and He does), He surely will provide for you!


God Has Never Failed Me, But He's Scared Me To Death a Few Times ~ I don't know why, but I was expecting laugh-out-loud humor in this book -- and didn't find it. Sure, there were parts that made me smile. But, nothing was terribly funny.

Either way, there were a lot of good points made, and I found hope in the pages of this book.

The Buzzards Are Circling, But God's Not Finished With Me Yet ~ Again, not the funny, light reading I'd expected given the book's title and chapter titles. Mind you, it was slightly funnier than the previous book. ;)

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this copy, as well. It's a great reminder that, even when life seems to be attacking us, God still has a plan to use everything for our good.

I'd recommend both of these books. I plan to share them with my church library. ;)

REVIEW: "The King's Legacy" by Jim Stovall

A king from a faraway land is looking to leave behind a legacy for his people to remember him by. So he asks his trusted advisors what this legacy should be. One says a monument. One says a gold coin. And, one says a statue of the king, himself.

But, yet another — the eldest wise man — suggests that the king leave a proclamation of the Wisdom of the Ages. The king decides that this is a good idea, so he asks for anyone and everyone who feels they have wisdom to come and share it before the king and his assembled nobility. And, they do.

And, in the end, the king makes his proclamation.

A really good story, with –pardon the pun!– lots of wisdom to be found inside. My favorite tidbit was that “wisdom must stir people’s hearts & souls to action, for without action, wisdom is nothing more than a theory.” (p.43)


Rated: B+

Monday, August 17, 2009

TOUR: "The Blue Enchantress" by M. L. Tyndall

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:

The Blue Enchantress

Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)


M.L. Tyndall, a Christy Award Finalist, and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King’s Pirates series is known for her adventurous historical romances filled with deep spiritual themes. She holds a degree in Math and worked as a software engineer for fifteen years before testing the waters as a writer. MaryLu currently writes full time and makes her home on the California coast with her husband, six kids, and four cats.

Visit the author's website and blog.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.97
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1602601577
ISBN-13: 978-1602601574


The Blue Enchantress by M.L. Tyndall
Chapter 1

St. Kitts, September 1718

“Gentlemen, what will ye offer for this rare treasure of a lady?” The words crashed over Hope Westcott like bilge water. “Why, she’ll make any of ye a fine wife, a cook, a housemaid”—the man gave a lascivious chuckle—“whate’er ye desire.”

“How ’bout someone to warm me bed at night,” one man bellowed, and a cacophony of chortles gurgled through the air.

Hope slammed her eyes shut against the mob of men who pressed on three sides of the tall wooden platform, shoving one another to get a better peek at her. Something crawled over her foot, and she pried her eyes open, keeping her face lowered. A black spider skittered away. Red scrapes and bruises marred her bare feet. When had she lost her satin shoes—the gold braided ones she’d worn to impress Lord Falkland? She couldn’t recall.

“What d’ye say? How much for this fine young lady?” The man grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back. Pain, like a dozen claws, pierced her skull. “She’s a handsome one, to be sure. And these golden locks.” He attempted to slide his fingers through her matted strands, but before becoming hopelessly entangled in them, he jerked his hand free, wrenching out a clump of her hair. Hope winced. “Have ye seen the likes of them?”

Ribald whistles and groans of agreement spewed over her.

“Two shillings,” one man yelled.

Hope dared to glance across the throng amassing before the auction block. A wild sea of lustful eyes sprayed over her. A band of men dressed in garments stained with dirt and sweat bunched toward the front, yelling out bids. Behind them, other men in velvet waistcoats leaned their heads together, no doubt to discuss the value of this recent offering, while studying her as if she were a breeding mare. Slaves knelt in the dirt along the outskirts of the mob, waiting for their masters. Beyond them, a row of wooden buildings stretched in either direction. Brazen women emerged from a tavern and draped themselves over the railings, watching Hope’s predicament with interest. On the street, ladies in modish gowns averted their eyes as they tugged the men on their arms from the sordid scene.

Hope lowered her head. This can’t be happening. I’m dreaming. I am still on the ship. Just a nightmare. Only a nightmare. Humiliation swept over her with an ever-rising dread as the reality of her situation blasted its way through her mind.

She swallowed hard and tried to drown out the grunts and salacious insults tossed her way by the bartering rabble. Perhaps if she couldn’t hear them, if she couldn’t see them, they would disappear and she would wake up back home, safe in Charles Towne, safe in her bedchamber, safe with her sisters, just like she was before she’d put her trust in a man who betrayed her.

“Egad, man. Two shillings, is it? For this beauty?” The auctioneer spit off to the side. The yellowish glob landed on Hope’s skirt. Her heart felt as though it had liquefied into an equally offensive blob and oozed down beside it.

How did I get here? In her terror, she could not remember. She raised her gaze to the auctioneer. Cold eyes, hard like marbles, met hers, and a sinister grin twisted his lips. He adjusted his tricorn to further shade his chubby face from the burning sun.

“She looks too feeble for any real work,” another man yelled.

The sounds of the crowd dimmed. The men’s fists forged into the air as if pushing through mud. Garbled laughter drained from their yellow-toothed mouths like molasses. Hope’s heart beat slower, and she wished for death.

The gentle lap of waves caressed her ears, their peaceful cadence drawing her away. Tearing her gaze from the nightmarish spectacle, she glanced over her shoulder, past the muscled henchmen who’d escorted her here. Two docks jutted out into a small bay brimming with sparkling turquoise water where several ships rocked back and forth as if shaking their heads at her in pity. Salt and papaya and sun combined in a pleasant aroma that lured her mind away from her present horror.

Her eyes locked upon the glimmering red and gold figurine of Ares at the bow of Lord Falkland’s ship. She blinked back the burning behind her eyes. When she’d boarded it nigh a week past—or was it two weeks—all her hopes and dreams had boarded with her. Somewhere along the way, they had been cast into the depths of the sea. She only wished she had joined them. Although the ship gleamed majestically in the bay, all she had seen of it for weeks had been the four walls of a small cabin below deck.

The roar of the crowd wrenched her mind back to the present and turned her face forward.

“Five shillings.”

“’Tis robbery, and ye know it,” the auctioneer barked. “Where are any of ye clods goin’ t’ find a real lady like this?”

A stream of perspiration raced down Hope’s back as if seeking escape. But there was no escape. She was about to be sold as a slave, a harlot to one of these cruel and prurient taskmasters. A fate worse than death. A fate her sister had fought hard to keep her from. A fate Hope had brought upon herself. Numbness crept over her even as her eyes filled with tears. Oh God. This can’t be happening.

She gazed upward at the blue sky dusted with thick clouds, hoping for some deliverance, some sign that God had not abandoned her.

The men continued to haggle, their voices booming louder and louder, grating over her like the howls of demons.

Her head felt like it had detached from her body and was floating up to join the clouds. Palm trees danced in the light breeze coming off the bay. Their tall trunks and fronds formed an oscillating blur of green and brown. The buildings, the mob, and the whole heinous scene joined the growing mass and began twirling around Hope. Her legs turned to jelly, and she toppled to the platform.

“Get up!” A sharp crack stung her cheek. Two hands like rough rope clamped over her arms and dragged her to her feet. Pain lanced through her right foot where a splinter had found a home. Holding a hand to her stinging face, Hope sobbed.

The henchman released her with a grunt of disgust.

“I told ye she won’t last a week,” one burly man shouted.

“She ain’t good for nothing but to look at.”

Planting a strained grin upon his lips, the auctioneer swatted her rear end. “Aye, but she’s much more stout than she appears, gentlemen.”

Horrified and no longer caring about the repercussions, Hope slapped the man’s face. He raised his fist, and she cowered. The crowd roared its mirth.

“One pound, then,” a tall man sporting a white wig called out. “I could use me a pretty wench.” Withdrawing a handkerchief, he dabbed at the perspiration on his forehead.

Wench. Slave. Hope shook her head, trying to force herself to accept what her mind kept trying to deny. A sudden surge of courage, based on naught but her instinct to survive, stiffened her spine. She thrust out her chin and faced the auctioneer. “I beg your pardon, sir. There’s been a mistake. I am no slave.”

“Indeed?” He cocked one brow and gave her a patronizing smirk.

Hope searched the horde for a sympathetic face—just one. “My name is Miss Hope Westcott,” she shouted. “My father is Admiral Henry Westcott. I live in Charles Towne with my two sisters.”

“And I’m King George,” a farmer howled, slapping his knee.

“My father will pay handsomely for my safe return.” Hope scanned the leering faces. Not one. Not one look of sympathy or belief or kindness. Fear crawled up her throat. She stomped her foot, sending a shard of pain up her leg. “You must believe me,” she sobbed. “I don’t belong here.”

Ignoring the laughter, Hope spotted a purple plume fluttering in the breeze atop a gold-trimmed hat in the distance. “Arthur!” She darted for the stairs but two hands grabbed her from behind and held her in place. “Don’t leave me! Lord Falkland!” She struggled in her captor’s grasp. His grip tightened, sending a throbbing ache across her back.

Swerving about, Lord Falkland tapped his cane into the dirt and tipped the brim of his hat up, but the distance between them forbade Hope a vision of his expression.

“Tell them who I am, Arthur. Please save me!”

He leaned toward the woman beside him and said something, then coughed into his hand. What is he doing? The man who once professed an undying love for Hope, the man who promised to marry her, to love her forever, the man who bore the responsibility for her being here in the first place. How could he stand there and do nothing while she met such a hideous fate?

The elegant lady beside him turned her nose up at Hope, then, threading her arm through Lord Falkland’s, she wheeled him around and pulled him down the road.

Hope watched him leave, and with each step of his cordovan boots, her heart and her very soul sank deeper into the wood of the auction block beneath her feet.

Nothing made any sense. Had the world gone completely mad?

“Two pounds,” a corpulent man in the back roared.

A memory flashed through Hope’s mind as she gazed across the band of men. A vision of African slaves, women and children, being auctioned off in Charles Towne. How many times had she passed by, ignoring them, uncaring, unconcerned by the proceedings?

Was this God’s way of repaying her for her selfishness, her lack of charity?

“Five pounds.”

Disappointed curses rumbled among the men at the front, who had obviously reached their limit of coin.

The auctioneer’s mouth spread wide, greed dripping from its corners. “Five pounds, gentlemen. Do I hear six for this lovely lady?”

A blast of hot air rolled over Hope, stealing her breath. Human sweat, fish, and horse manure filled her nose and saturated her skin. The unforgiving sun beat a hot hammer atop her head until she felt she would ignite into a burning torch at any moment. Indeed, she prayed she would. Better to be reduced to a pile of ashes than endure what the future held for her.

“Six pounds,” a short man with a round belly and stiff brown wig yelled from the back of the mob in a tone that indicated he knew what he was doing and had no intention of losing his prize. Decked in the a fine damask waistcoat, silk breeches, and a gold-chained pocket watch, which he kept snapping open and shut, he exuded wealth and power from his pores.

Hope’s stomach twisted into a vicious knot, and she clutched her throat to keep from heaving whatever shred of moisture remained in her empty stomach.

The auctioneer gaped at her, obviously shocked she could command such a price. Rumblings overtook the crowd as the short man pushed his way through to claim his prize. The closer he came, the faster Hope’s chest heaved and the lighter her head became. Blood pounded in her ears, drowning out the groans of the mob. No, God. No.

“Do I hear seven?” the auctioneer bellowed. “She’s young and will breed you some fine sons.”

“Just what I’ll be needing.” The man halted at the platform, glanced over the crowd for any possible competitors, then took the stairs to Hope’s right. He halted beside her too close for propriety’s sake and assailed her with the stench of lard and tobacco. A long purple scar crossed his bloated, red face as his eyes grazed over her like a stallion on a breeding mare. Hope shuddered and gasped for a breath of air. Her palms broke out in a sweat, and she rubbed them on her already moist gown.

The auctioneer threw a hand to his hip and gazed over the crowd.

The man squeezed her arms, and Hope snapped from his grasp and took a step back, abhorred at his audacity. He chuckled. “Not much muscle on her, but she’s got pluck.”

He belched, placed his watch back into the fob pocket of his breeches, and removed a leather pouch from his belt. “Six pounds it is.”

The silver tip of a sword hung at his side. If Hope were quick about it, perhaps she could grab it and, with some luck, fight her way out of here. She clenched her teeth. Who was she trying to fool? Where was her pirate sister when she needed her? Surely Faith would know exactly what to do. Yet what did it matter? Hope would rather die trying to escape than become this loathsome man’s slave.

As the man counted out the coins into the auctioneer’s greedy hands, Hope reached for the sword.


A fabulous story set in the Regency era. Miss Hope Westcott has made some poor choices, and as such has landed herself in a very unfortunate circumstance. Her cries for help are answered, though, in the form of Nathaniel Mason. He sacrifices much to obey God and rescue Hope. And, if he can overcome his bitterness, perhaps he'll find that his sacrifice was well worth it in the end run. ;)


Rated: B+

Sunday, August 16, 2009

TOUR: "Christian-ish" by Mark Steele

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; New edition (August 1, 2009)


Mark Steele is the president and executive creative of Steelehouse Productions, a group that creates art for business and ministry through the mediums of film, stage, and animation. He is also the author of Flashbang: How I Got Over Myself and Half-Life/Die Already. Mark and his wife, Kaysie, reside in Oklahoma with their three greatest productions Morgan, Jackson, and Charlie.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (August 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434766926
ISBN-13: 978-1434766922



Nineteen months are all that separate my two older sons, Jackson and Charlie. In practically every way, one is the antithesis of the other. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but smash them together and they fill out the other’s weak spots, becoming one practically perfect human being. Of course, the scattered remains that are left would be a bit messy. In other words, they complete one another, either as a right example or as a wrong one—their choice.

Charlie is currently seven and Jackson just turned nine, which means their choices— at least for the time being—might skew a bit ornery. A few months ago, I walked upstairs to turn off our daughter Morgan’s light for bedtime. It was later than usual and a good hour after the boys had been put to sleep (which means something different for children than it does for pets). They had been told to go right to bed. Unconsciousness isn’t really something that can be demanded of a child, but I—like millions of parents before me— made the attempt anyway. As I opened Morgan’s door to check on her, I caught the two boys in her room. They ceased mid-play, frozen, and stared at me—deer in the headlights. They were standing in the middle of her bedroom, a clump of Lego’s squeezed in each fist. They gaped with wide-eyed guilt on their faces for about three solid seconds. And then they ran like mad wildfire through the adjoining bathroom. I heard the scurry of feet on linoleum, followed by the bounce of springs and the flip-flop of covers as they scrambled into bed.

Reasoning doesn’t enter into the equation all that much at the ages of seven and nine. For some reason, not only was the rationale to sprint away and dive into bed considered a good idea, but the identical urge to flee the scene hit both brothers at the same time.

I sauntered through the hall to their bedroom (the longer path than the bathroom route by about eleven inches) and creaked open the door. They were each in their bunk, feigning sleep. And so, the cover-up began.


They attempted to rouse themselves from their faux slumber, “What? Huh?”

Were you out of bed and playing in Morgan’s room?

A beat. A moment of pause. And then—both—simultaneously…


Certainly I sympathize with the gut instinct of the cover-up. It is the defensive urge of the male, not to mention the mischievous pre-puberty male. In later stages of life, it will be replaced in-turn by hormones, rage at injustice, and unnecessary snacking. Throughout my own young journey, I was on the punishment end of the cover-up multiple times.

It felt ironic to finally be on the other side.

No? I responded, You were NOT in Morgan’s bedroom?

Sweat trickled down their tiny foreheads.

Nope. No. Nope.

Just now? Like, fifteen seconds ago, you were NOT holding Lego’s in Morgan’s room?

(Slightly more hesitant than before) Noooo.

I paused for dramatic effect: Well—I saw you.

Not since the Noahic Flood have the floodgates burst open so abruptly. The words “I’m sorry” rat-a-tat-tatted out of their mouths repeatedly in a fusillade of desperate penance.

I know you are sorry, but you lied. You know what the punishment is for lying.

I’m fairly certain there were a couple of “yes, sirs” uttered amid all the slobber and snot.

Go downstairs. You’re each going to get one spank.

Yes. My wife and I believe in spanking. Not “grab-your-knees-while-the-back-ofyour-eyeballs-rap-against-your-brain” spanking. But certainly a recognizable sting that serves as a tangible reminder of why the punishable incident was a bad idea. We want our kids to have a sensory reinforcement that sin is not such a preferable option. It always astounds me when parents don’t believe in appropriate spankings, because the world spanks people every day—especially the people who didn’t receive any as a child. Personally, I would rather feel a short-term sting than the sort the Internal Revenue Service doles out.

Of course, an appropriate spanking is exactly that. Just enough to sting—and definitely on the derriere. And, of course, the act is attached to teaching and forgiveness and a walking through of the issue so that it leads to reconciliation and change and love.

That’s the pretty version.

The boys weren’t seeing the benefits just yet.

Jackson and Charlie have a very different approach to the news of an impending spanking. Charlie just stares. Wide-eyed. His brain immediately begins clicking and whirring. Within fifty seconds, he orchestrates a mental plan of how best to charm his way through the incident with minimal pain. By a sheer act of will and a reasoning through percentages, he determines swiftly that playing the situation down will cause it to end with only a slight portion of hurt to his person.

Jackson destroys everything within his wake.

Not literally. He doesn’t throw things or flail. But within a small eight-inch radius, the planet implodes. Jackson takes the news that he will receive one spank the way most react in a house fire. He hugs his favorite belongings close to his body while screaming and rolling on the floor.

I greeted Jackson into the spanking chamber (our bedroom) first as I knew that the twenty-two solid minutes it would take to actually deliver the one spank would be an epic purgatorial wait (and hence, bonus lesson) for Charlie.

The reason a Jackson spanking can take so long is because we don’t believe in wrestling our kids into the spanking. There has to be the moment of surrender. Charlie can fake surrender like the best of them—but Jackson? Not so much.

Lean over, son.


You can have a glass of water after your spank. It will take ten seconds.


You cannot have a glass of water until after your spank.

No one tells a father he is going to be put in a position to say these sorts of irrational things.

You’re stalling. Let’s just get the punishment over with.




You can go to the bathroom after I spank you. We would be finished already…


I promise I won’t whack the pee out of you.

See. Irrational things. Of course, this is when Jackson moves from delay tactics and transitions into physical blockers. As I lean him over and pull back the spank stick, all sorts of appendages start

flailing about spastically like Muppet tails, blocking the punishment trajectory. I’ve never seen the kid move so fast as he does when he strategizes a spank block.




BOTH FEET (wow)!


The kid is Mister Miyagi-ing me, suddenly Jean-Claude Van Damme, blocking every attempt to close the deal. He won’t play football, but this he can do. I finally settle Jackson down.

Jackson, I’m not going to fight you. You have to decide that you’re going to accept the consequences for what you’ve done. You’ve fought me so long, that now you’re going to get—

(Wait for it.)

—two spanks.

Son. Of. A.Gun.

I had no idea what the kid had in him. He began to writhe and weep and gnash his teeth. I’d never seen gnashing—but it’s actually very impressive. I believe he may have even utilized sackcloth. The boy just flat-out wailed like he was being branded with a hot iron. To the neighbors, it must have sounded like I was stunning him with a police taser.

And then, Jackson moved away from delaying and blocking—to step three: blame.


Who are you and what have you done with my child?


All right, son. For that, you’re now going to receive—

Somewhere, between the bedrock layers of our planet, a mushroom cloud was forming its power, readying itself for a self-imploding FOOM! Tension built, and a roar and a rumble began to build just beneath the crust of the earth.

—three spanks.

And that is when Jackson vomited.


He barfed.

He wasn’t sick to his stomach or coming down with a virus.

The boy got so worked up over three spankings that he literally upchucked everywhere. He blew chunks all over the proceedings. As a father, you can’t help but debate your own discipline tactics at this point. I helped him wash up and then cooled him down with a cloth. He began to settle.

After a few moments, I addressed him.

You okay?

I told you I needed to go to the bathroom.

Against all of Jackson’s hopes and dreams, the regurgitation session did not replace any of the punishment, and I forged ahead with the three spanks anyway. The beauty of Jackson is, though he fights you all the way, you know where he stands. When the punishment is over, Jackson is quick to reconcile, huddled and sobbing in my arms. At that moment, after the pain, he is truly repentant. And he always comes out the other side changed.

Amid all of this excitement, Charlie sat waiting in the hall.

For twenty solid minutes. Hearing the sounds of torrential screams and human wretching. He sat, stone. Eyes like nickels on a plate of fine china.

Needless to say, Charlie walked in, bent over, and received his one spank in about six seconds flat.

Immensely accommodating.

But alas, not nearly as life-changing as Jackson.

It’s harder to tell whether or not Charlie truly changes because Charlie knows how to charm. During that same spanking, he sat near Kaysie and spoke to her as Jackson’s sobs and moans were muffled behind the bedroom door.

I’m not gonna do anyfing Jackson is doing when I go get MY spanking.

You’re not, huh.

Nope. I’m gonna walk wight in and jus’ get spanked.

That’s a good idea, Charlie.

I do not wike it when Daddy spanks me.

I’ll bet you don’t.

I wike it when you spank me. This piqued Kaysie’s interest and she hesitated before asking nonchalantly–

Oh really? Why?

Because when Daddy spanks me, it hurts—but when you spank me, it does not— Charlie’s gaze finally met Kaysie’s. The realization of the privileged information spilling out of his mouth occurred to him. He stared.

I pwobably should not have told you dat. Kaysie smiled pleasantly.

Tell you what, son. From now on, we’ll let Daddy do all your spankings.

Charlie sighed.

Yep. I definitewy should not have told you dat.

So, there is an inherent difference in the way Jackson deals with disappointment and in the way Charlie deals with it. Yes, Jackson goes off the deep end, revealing his scars and putting his emotions in front of a microphone—but at least we know where Jackson stands when the consequence is said and done. Jackson wrestles his flesh to the ground— and he does so in public. That’s how we know the transformation is real. I know that his repentance is true because I witness his internal journey from resistance to acceptance firsthand.

Charlie? Well, you don’t always know with Charlie. Charlie is good at seeming fine. He keeps his deepest feelings close to his chest. And the rough stuff? You could go a very long time without Charlie allowing anyone to see the rough stuff. The result is an engaging and personable child—everyone’s best friend—though you don’t always know what’s really going on inside there.

And yet, we as a Christian culture seem to think that it is this same positioning and decorating of ourselves that ministers most. In an effort to put our best foot forward, we disguise the ugly, bury the past, and soak the dirty laundry in perfume. We have an emotional need to seem holier than all the “thou’s we encounter while fitting in to the perfect flawless world of those who side-hug us on the way to the sanctuary.

We delay. We block. We blame.

We cover-up.

And we somehow believe that it delivers a better impression of what it means to serve Christ. We believe that seeming the Stepford Wife makes us some sort of demented recruitment tool. But the truth is, we have done more damage to the world’s impression of Jesus by feigning inaccurate perfection than we could ever cause by allowing those who don’t follow Christ to see us wrestling our sins and flaws to the ground.


Many cite Matthew 5: 48 “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” but that verse doesn’t have anything to do with fakery. It is a call, instead, to spiritual maturity. And maturity owns up to the truth. Others refer to Jesus and how it was His holiness that truly ministered. This, of course, is true. But we too quickly forget that His holiness ministered most powerful as it stood side-by-side with His humanness. And, never was His humanness more on display than in His birth.

Jesus revealed the rough stuff with the very way He first came into the world.

It seems to me that the first sentence in the first telling of the Son of God entering into this world would be glorious and filled with holy hyperbole. Not so. Instead, we get a few pragmatic words: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ.” This is merely a preamble to the names that follow—names that expose Christ’s lineage. The first chapter of Matthew fires the names off bam, bam, bam: so-and-so was the father of whatcha-macall-him—never taking the smallest breath, diving headlong into historic minutia until ZING! Verse seven delivers the whopper—the first specific detail mankind received about the family Jesus comes from:

“David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.”

Uriah? Wasn’t he the guy David had killed? Murdered so that David could sleep with his wife? That guy? Why on earth, out of all the admirable people in Jesus lineage—and for that matter, all the honorable traits of David—why is this bucket of family dirt given the first and greatest mark of attention? A golden opportunity missed. Here the ultimate history book had the option of paving a red carpet and paparazzi before Jesus, publicizing the elitist line He came from and urging the public down to its knees in awe. This was the proof: that Jesus came from the lineage of the favorite King, the man after God’s own heart—David. But instead of applauding this fact, chapter one in Matthew pauses to remind the reading audience that this great King David whose line led to the Savior—this beloved ancestor of Jesus Christ—was a man of great failure and greater scandal.

Matthew started his history book with tabloid fodder. Why?

Because just like you and me, Jesus came from a scandalous history. But unlike you and me, Jesus was not afraid for the world to know and remember that scandal. As a matter of fact, He welcomed it.

We all come from something scandalous. Perhaps those who came before us, perhaps the life we lived before we lived for Christ, perhaps some aspect of our current life. But in modern Christianity, we have somehow deluded ourselves into believing that priority one is to eradicate this reality.

We bury. We pretend. We deny to others and ourselves.

And, even worse—when the opportunity arises to actually come clean with the soiled spots of our life history—we instead make believe everything is, and always has been, a series of either perfect, fine, or no big deal. And in so doing, we make ourselves into the very fakers we detest. We somehow convince ourselves that this is what Jesus would want: a wiped-clean façade. A steam-pressed, white cotton, buttoned-down church shirt.

We live the rough stuff, but we keep it silent. We believe it to be a lapse in faith to actually comment on the rough stuff or give it reference. We assume that exhaling the rough stuff somehow gives it more power, so we smile and wave and praise the Lord that everything good is permanent and everything not-so-good had zero effect on us. We have a terrible habit of skipping the rough stuff.

I don’t understand why I do this. I look at the way Jesus entered this world and I see very quickly why it was important for Him to make mention of his scandalous history. It softened the blow for the shame and disgrace that would accompany Him into the world. It was as if Jesus said, I know the manner in which I am born is going to start the rumor-mill flowing, so I might as well give it a head-start. And, what rough stuff it was:

a mother pregnant before even engaged

a father who almost broke off the engagement

parents who make their decisions based on angel dreams

a cousin born of the elderly

a birth in an animal barn

adoration from astrologers

a birth that prompts the murder of hundreds of other infants

Let’s just say that if you brought all these needs up during a prayer meeting, the family would be ostracized forever before the first syllable of amen.

The truth is this: Jesus experienced the rough stuff before the age of five in ways you and I could never imagine. We consider Christ’s sufferings and we picture Him at the age of thirty-three, but the beatings go all the way back to the birth canal.


How did we take this life picture and somehow misconstrue it to mean that if we just believed in Jesus, our lives would be wealthy, prosperous, and happy? Jesus doesn’t promise that. Jesus says that many great things will come to those who follow Him, but He also promises a whole lot of lousy.

And, here’s the key: the lousy isn’t rotten. The lousy isn’t sin. The focus of your life is not supposed to be dodging lousy.

Because lousy is life.

And lousy is important.

It is in the rough stuff where we truly become more and more like Christ, because it is amid the lousy where we experience life on a deeper level. With intense pain comes the opportunity to love more richly. With disappointment comes the push towards selflessness. Neither of those come with pleasant because pleasant breeds boredom. And boredom is a moist towel where the mung beans of sin sprout. Life following Christ is not supposed to be a ride. It’s supposed to be a fight because there is a very specific villain—and if we don’t fight, he wins. If our Christianity aims only for pretty and pleasant and happy and rich, the enemy becomes the victor.

But there is another just-as-important reason that we should embrace the rough stuff. Not only because Jesus did. And not merely because it is important.

We must embrace the rough stuff because, for far too long, Christians have skipped the rough stuff. We have pretended it does not exist in order to speak into existence a more promising present. But there is a massive dilemma when the Christianish skip the rough stuff.

Real life doesn’t skip the rough stuff.

And those who do not yet follow Jesus know this. Their lives don’t skip the rough stuff and they know good and well that your life doesn’t skip it either.

So while we as a microcosm of faith have been busy naming-and-claiming, yearning for a better bank account and more pleasant pastures, ignoring the fact that lousy exists— the world watches.

And when they watch, they see the truth:

Life doesn’t skip the rough stuff.

We say that our lives do skip the rough stuff.

Therefore, we are liars.

Or—at absolute best—we don’t understand real life at all.

The world is looking for Jesus, but they don’t know they are looking for Jesus because they believe they are looking for truth. You and I know that truth is Jesus. But they? They do not know that truth is Jesus because you and I are supposed to be Jesus— and you and I couldn’t look less like the truth.

For decades, our focus has been completely skewed. In the eighties, our passion was prosperity, never noticing that the only wealth that is important to Jesus is a wealth of love and compassion for those around us. In the nineties, we were branded by righteous indignation, and Christianity became a political term that meant we were anti more things than we were pro. In the new millennium, the postmodern set poured out bitterness and disappointment on the church of their parents, disregarding everything the previous generation built only to construct the same thing with hipper color palettes and larger video screens. We still worship what we want our lives to feel like more than we worship Jesus. We still major on the minors, debating whether the book of Job is literal or parable when we should be out there pulling people out of the rough stuff. We still spend more money on self-help books than we give money to help others. We have become a club—a clique. A group that is supposed to be a perfect picture of the Father—but instead just acts like a bunch of bastards.

And we wonder why no one wants to be a Christian.

We’ve got to do some serious redefining of what that word means.

I am in the same boat. I am guilty as charged for all these crimes. I look back on my life and I see more times than not that I wish someone did not know I was a Christian. Why? Because my unkind words and bad behavior probably did more damage than good to the reputation of Jesus. Yes, this is spilled milk—but the longer we resist cleaning it up, the more sour it will smell.

The root, of course, comes down to the why.

Why do we as Christians strive for extremely temporal things and call them Jesus? As a people group, we are currently defined by the modern world as unloving and unwilling to gain a better understanding of any individual who is not already a Christian. These characteristics have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. They are petty and selfish. They are Christianish. And yet, they are our very own bad habits. Why? Don’t we mean well? Don’t we want to live for Christ—to share His love with those around us? Don’t our mistakes stem from our frustration with the state of society? With what we perceive as the rebellion of modern mankind against the ideology of God?

Actually—that is the core of the problem. The world is broken. Completely broken. What we neglect to accept is that we are broken also.

We each come from damaged goods and scandalous histories and then pretend those negatives have no effect on us. The result equals a sea of followers of Jesus who can’t properly see or hear Him beyond the chaos of our own lives. So, instead of following Him, we say we are following Him while actually following a combination of Him and our own chaos. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we get it wrong, but most of the time it is a mixture of the two. Just enough of God to make a difference. Just enough of ourselves to leave a questionable aftertaste.

So, the world sees that God is real—but at the same time, something doesn’t quite set well with them about Him. What is the negative common denominator?

The navel-gazing.

We are supposed to act as if everything is perfect, but deep down, we know nothing quite is. So, our silent desperate prayer is also a stare. A constant internal eyeball on the broken shards of ourselves. Deep down, most of us feel unglued—in pieces—longing for our Christian zealousness to turn to superglue. We feel that if we just do enough, act out the right formula, all the pieces will melt and coagulate like Robert Patrick in Terminator 2. That we will not only become whole, but indestructible. So, we wall up our compassion and act shatter-proof to a world at large while inside we are falling to pieces.

And we believe this reveals Jesus.

The great news is that Jesus looks down on us with the same tender compassion that He has for the rest of the world. He sees our pain. He sees our scandal. He knows what we are desperately trying to do, and He wants us to succeed.

But there is a realization that we must first accept.

We will never become indestructible by staring at our pieces.

We are not supposed to become indestructible. Untouchable. Safe.

And we aren’t supposed to be staring at our own pieces at all.

Because when we stare at our own pieces, we cannot see the solution.

We only find the solution when we stare instead into the eyes of Christ—and in those eyes, see the reflection of the hurting world.

We know this, but every gut instinct tells us to shout out, “I CAN’T! How can I help a hurting world, when I can’t even figure out how to glue back the broken pieces that make up my life?!” This is when Jesus changes our perspective. This is when He says softly…

You are not pieces.

You are my piece.

The Christianish approach is to see our lives as irreparable shards—always striving for the glue. But that pursuit is fruitless. Because God did not put your glue in you. He did, however, make you the glue for someone else.

Our lives are not shattered pieces. This whole world is a broken puzzle—and each of us fits next to those around us.


My favorite television show is ABC’s Lost. The masterminds of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have constructed a vast mythology where none of the bamboo strands make any sense until the day they eventually become a basket. Yes, I adore the convoluted structure and the peel-back-the-layers mystery of it all, but more importantly, I appreciate the fact that the strands in that basket --are people.

The beauty of Lost is that these characters were marooned on an island with no foreknowledge of any of the others. They each carry their own bruises, scandal, and broken pieces onto this island. What they do not know is that each is the glue for someone else’s piece. Sawyer has the information Jack needs from his dead father. Locke knows where Sayid’s long-lost love lives. Eko knows that Claire’s psychic was a phony. Each one is the ghostbuster to what haunts the other—but some never discover this. Some in this story are never healed. Why? Because the answers do not exist? No.

Because the characters neglect to connect.

When Jesus came to this earth, He was bold about His own scandalous history and He was born under tabloid circumstances. Why? Simple.

Because He knew that His rough stuff was the answer to someone else’s—and He did not want to keep it quiet. He knew that the only path to healing was to connect His glue to someone else’s pieces.

In God’s great plan, He created us each the same way. We each have our own brokenness and we each have a God-given strength. However, we continue to sit in confusion because we feel like a life following Jesus should feel less disjointed and make more—well, sense.

And that is exactly the problem.

Our lives don’t make sense because our lives were not intended to stand alone.

Our lives were each made by God as pieces. Pieces of the eternal puzzle.

We are made to fit our lives into one another’s. Our entire lives.

The good. The bad. The strength. And the rough stuff.

As hopeful as we are that our strength will heal someone else, it is far more likely that our rough stuff will. Because, not only does our rough stuff hit another life where it most matters—the acknowledgement of our own rough stuff communicates that we understand this life we live and this world we live it in. Embracing the reality of our rough stuff communicates truth. Truth that the world is able to identify. Truth that will become the glue to their pieces.

This is the profound orchestration of how God intended to use imperfect people to represent a perfect God. It is not in each of us faking our way to an appearance of flawlessness. It is in each of us being true and vulnerable in our pursuit of Christ and taking the glue of His power (even amidst the frailty of our humanness) and connecting with the broken around us. It is this weave—this interlocked puzzle—this merging of shrapnel and adhesive into a beautiful picture—it is this that reveals the real truth of Jesus Christ. If we are ever to escape the Christianish and truly become little Christs, it will only be in this merging—acknowledging that our strengths are from God and not our own, while allowing that strength to mend the broken. But it does not stop there. We also have to be willing to reveal our pieces so that others’ strengths can heal our own pain.

This is the perfect earthly picture of Christ. It requires a new sort of church culture: a culture that no longer positions itself at the prettiest angle, but rather gets down to the scandalous histories for the sake of revealing to a world at large that Christ not only understands, but can transform our pieces through the power of other broken people.

Just like the rest of the world, my sons Jackson and Charlie fit together. They are simultaneously each other’s antithesis and each other’s antidote. Each other’s miracle or each other’s foil. It all depends upon whether or not they are each willing to fit together and allow the collision of their rough stuff and strength—their scandals and successes— to make the sum of both entirely complete.


Can you relate to the flawed thinking that positioning and decorating ourselves— pretending the rough stuff doesn’t exist—ministers most?

Do you come from something scandalous? Do you experience the rough stuff? Have you hidden from this? Is that hiding drawing you closer to Christ or driving a wedge between you? Is it drawing you closer to others?

Consider the statement: “We have done more damage to the world’s impression of Jesus by feigning inaccurate perfection than we could ever cause by allowing those who don’t follow Christ to see us wrestling our sins and flaws to the ground.” Do you agree or disagree? What are the detriments to hiding our struggle? What are the benefits of allowing it to be seen?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement: “The lousy isn’t rotten. The lousy isn’t sin. The focus of your life is not supposed to be dodging lousy. Because lousy is life. And lousy is important.” Why or why not?

Have you considered your life “in pieces?” Have you attempted to put yourself together on your own?

What do you think of the philosophy that you are actually a “piece”—that the solution to your life lies in the way you fit together with the other people who make up the community of this world?


A fantastic book about shedding the religiosity, and taking on an authentic Christian faith. I couldn't put this book down, as there was so much in it that resonated with me/my own life.

The questions at the end of the each chapter made it easier to delve deeper into how what you'd read applied to your own life. This made the book more potent.


Rated: B+