Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ronnie Wilson's Gift

At nearly two, our son is starting to enjoy cuddling up to a good book read by his mother or me.  We have quite a collection of books that was given to us by his generous grandmother, including great titles from Dr. Seuss and Arnold Lobel.  There are good lessons in these for children.   There were a few Christian titles, but we still wanted to expand our boy’s choices of Christian children’s literature to fuel a hunger after God early in life.

As part of that quest, we came across the book, Ronnie Wilson’s Gift by Francis Chan.  The book tells the story of little Ronnie Wilson.  One day in Sunday School, Ronnie learns that Jesus gave him the ultimate gift through His death and resurrection.  Ronnie is so thankful that he wants to give Jesus a gift in return, but it’s hard to get your favorite baseball glove to heaven.  During his attempts to send Jesus his gift, Ronnie takes the time to help some people in need. 

At the end of the book, Jesus appears to Ronnie in a dream and tells him that all those things he did to help others was like doing them for Jesus, so Ronnie gives his baseball glove to a boy in need of one.

My wife and I cry every time we read it to our son.  Not because the story is particularly moving but because Jesus is particularly moving.  That He would empathize so much with those in need that He makes charity given to them equivalent to charity given to Him, our King, is mind-boggling!  No wonder we’ll sing of His love and His mercies forever.

If you’re looking for a gift for a child in your life, I whole-heartedly recommend Ronnie Wilson’s Gift.

Monday, June 27, 2011

One Step Closer to Death

Take a moment.  Breath deeply.  Do you feel that?  That’s one less breath you’ll take in this life.  When you lay your head on your pillow tonight, you’ll have one less day to live.  Every step you take is one step closer to death.  There’s an old saying that goes something like “only two things are sure in life: death and taxes. “  But that’s not true.  People cheat on their taxes all the time.  No one cheats death. 

Time is marching ever onward and just as surely as you are reading these words; you will die.

The Bible says, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)  

There are a few more sayings out there about the certainty of death: “Carpe Diem (Seize the Day)”, “Live everyday like it’s your last”, and "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we may die."  You may recognize that last one from Isaiah 22:13.

Jesus brings up the idea again in Matthew: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37-39)

None of these Biblical contexts hold the idea of “Carpe Diem” in very high esteem.  Yes, death can come at any moment, but that is no reason to live like it’s at your doorstep, trying to get in all the physical experiences you can before you’re gone. 

As an alternative I would humbly suggest that you spend your time on Earth preparing for eternity.  Spend everyday God gives you on this Earth getting to know Jesus better.  Learn to recognize His voice and follow His commands.  Love God with all your heart, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. 

These are the things that will bring joy on this journey into the grave, and these are the things that will bring us into our Master’s arms on the other side of it.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Degrees of Sin

In terms of God’s justice, it can definitely be said that there are degrees of sin and judgment.  On several occasions Jesus says things like:

And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you. (Matthew 11:23-24)

And He says to Pilate, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11)

John says, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” (1 John 5:16-17)

The Catholic Church differentiates sins of greater and lesser degrees in terms of “mortal sins” and “venial sins”. Mortal sins are at their base derivative from the ten commandments, whereas venial sins are derivative from lesser points of the law, both old testament and church traditions.  And most Protestants tend to think along those same lines, though they don’t have a systematic theology built around it.

I think at the heart of it all; we all believe that the punishment should fit the crime: the child rapist and serial killer deserve far worse than the teenager who steals a candy bar at the grocery store, and God certainly agrees; there’s a lot of scripture that backs this position up.

Yet when it comes to the ultimate judgment, things aren’t quite so balanced.  The rapist, killer, and shoplifter are all sentenced to stand side-by-side in hell, along with the guy who lived a good life except he called his brother a “fool” on occasion (Matthew 5:22).  James says, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” (James 2:10)

Where’s the disconnect?  I don’t think hell has different levels like Dante Alighieri suggests in his Inferno, but it’s easy to see where he would come to the conclusion.  How can God justly sentence everyone to the same punishment no matter what their sins were? 

I think the answer to that question can be found in mankind’s very first sinner.  Adam ate a piece of fruit and brought death into the world.  Let me say that again.  Adam ate a piece of fruit . . . fruit mind you . . . he ate a piece of fruit and brought death into the world. 

Now you can say, “yes, but it was the disobedience part that was the sin,” and I’ll agree, but every sin great or small is disobedience.  I’m looking at degrees of disobedience, and I can’t think of anything labeled “sin” in the Old or New Testament that is as minor as that first one.  He ate a piece of FRUIT!

Next time you think your little white lie, your little sexual fantasy, your being slightly upset with your brother, your not being charitable to one person in need, or your whatever sin it may be isn’t so bad, remember that first sin in the garden.  It only took one bite of a piece of fruit to sentence billions to hell.  Do you think God isn’t miffed about your “little” sins?

Luckily, God sent His Son to pay the price for our sins—great and small.  If you believe on Him, turn from your ways, and follow Jesus, He will be faithful to forgive you and empower you to be called a child of God.  If you’ve never surrendered your life to Christ, fill out the Contact form, and I’ll get in touch with you about how you can.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bombus The Bumblebee

By Elsie Larson

Bombus the Bumblebee tells the story of Bombus, the first bumblebee.  The story begins shortly after creation with Bombus busily buzzing between flowers lapping up nectar.  The honeybees are slightly perturbed by Bombus bumping into them and beating them to the best flowers.  Devising a plan to get Bombus to stop, they tell him that he’s just too bulky to be flying and that he would be better suited to being on the ground crawling. 

Bombus looks at all the other flying bugs and decides that perhaps they’re right, so he stops flying and starts crawling.  Then God shows up and corrects Bombus’ bad attitude.  He says, “what did I tell you to do?  Fly!  So fly.” The book concludes with some facts about bumblebees, most notably that their wings should not be able to support their bodies in flight, yet they do.  There are also some bumblebee activities for children in the back.

Overall, I thought the book was a fun read.  My two-year old son liked it too.

My biggest critique of Bombus the Bumblebee would be the assignment of sinful human characteristics to Bombus and the honeybees in a pre-Fall garden.  I don’t know that children will care about this theological deviation, but it still bothered me as an adult reading the story to my son.  That’s not to say the lessons taught by Bombus and the honeybees aren’t good ones to learn; I just don’t think the pre-fall garden of Eden was an appropriate setting to show issues like selfishness, greed, lying, deception, and disobedience.

If you can look beyond that aspect, I recommend the book.  If you can’t, skip it.

A copy of this book was received for review from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Review: Response-Able

By Matthew Hagee

In Response-Able, Mathew Hagee basically says that while we may not be responsible for everything that happens in our lives, we are able to respond in a Godly manner to any and every obstacle or blessing that comes our way.  The book covers five different spheres of life: Personal, Social, Financial, Educational, and Political. 

I cannot say that there’s a lot of new ground broken in the book.  In fact most of it was broken in the Bible, and I for one am happy to see a book with such a firm foundation in what a responsible Christian looks like, outside of Proverbs that is.  Those of us who follow Christ live in an upside down world where the first is last and the last is first, where one must be a servant to be great.  Hagee makes it clear that he believes in this system and thus presents a Godly view of living.  I highly recommend this book as a beacon of light in the dark sea of Christian self-help/get rich quick/it’s all about me books. 


Matthew Hagee is the sixth generation to carry the mantle of gospel ministry in the Hagee family. He began preaching at seventeen years of age and is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He serves as the executive pastor of the twenty-thousand-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and is the author of Shaken, Not Shattered. He lives in San Antonio with his wife, Kendal, and three children.

Visit the author's website.


You Can Make a Difference!

What if the churches of America could feed every hungry person in their cities? What if we had the resources to educate every child in an environment where respect for God was encouraged? What if we could help create jobs that empowered people and gave everyone the opportunity to give back in the same way that they had received?

As a pastor, Matt Hagee recognizes that there are things in our world that need changing, and, like many younger Christians, he wants to be a part of the solution. In addition, Matt has received a rich legacy from his father—pastor and best-selling author John Hagee—that includes experiential wisdom rooted in solid biblical principles.

In Response-Able he combines the passion of youth with the wisdom of his father’s experience to provide both the inspiration and the steps for a lasting change in each of five key areas:

Your personal life
Your finances

You can make a difference if you will become personally committed to doing so. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what you are going through, the time has come for a turnaround, and being “response-able” begins with you.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99 $10.87 (
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (June 7, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1616381361
ISBN-13: 978-1616381363


You Are Always Able to Respond

Seven Lessons of Personal Responsibility
As I learn more about my life and observe how others live their lives, one thing has become crystal clear: You are always able to respond.

In 2006 my father led the effort to unite Christian leaders from around the country for the sake of the biblical mandate to support Israel. In February of that year, the first-ever meeting of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) took place. Later on that summer, in the month of July, the four hundred plus pastors and leaders who were in the February meeting brought more than three thousand people to Washington DC to meet with senators and congressmen to let them know personally that as voting Americans, we were very concerned about the welfare of the nation of Israel and that we fully expected them to be supportive of our ally in the Middle East.
The success of the event, by all observations, was overwhelming and indeed surpassed expectations, but for me, there was a moment in that first Christians United for Israel Summit that I will never forget. My father, along with select members of the executive board, was holding a press conference in the Hilton Hotel. Members of the media from all organizations, both friendly and hostile, were there with their questions, which ranged from suspicious and accusatory to investigative and journalistic. I simply took a seat in the back of the room to observe him, as a son who was watching his father do what he has always done, stand up and speak up for Israel.
It didn’t take long for the question to be asked, “Pastor Hagee, why did you start this organization, and what are your long-term goals?” My father began the answer with a very familiar story to me about what had caused him to have the very first “Night to Honor Israel,” which was held in in 1981 in San Antonio, Texas, following the world’s outrage over Israel’s strategic military strike on Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Iraq. Could you imagine anyone attacking Saddam Hussein for representing a threat to the security and well-being of the rest of the world?
I was three years old when the first Night to Honor Israel took place, so hearing the retelling of the story was not an earthshaking revelation on that particular afternoon. My father has always, both publicly from the pulpit and privately in our own home, been passionate about supporting the “apple of God’s eye.” The sentence that took my breath away and left me to ponder for the next few days came at the conclusion of my father’s answer to the obviously hostile reporter from Reuter News Service. After he had explained his more than twenty-five years of staunch support for Israel, he finished by saying these words: “And I feel that I was born for this moment right here and right now.” Those are words I will never forget. In July of 2006 Dr. John Hagee was not short on accomplishment by anyone’s standards, and yet in spite of all that he had already achieved, roles he had played, areas of service to the greater good provided, at the age of sixty-six I heard him say that he finally felt as though he had accomplished his purpose.

For me that was a very heavy statement. My dad doesn’t throw around words for the purpose of poetic moments. If he says it, he means it. I have had a front-row seat and have seen firsthand in every arena all that his life’s work has accomplished since 1978 to now. There was the birth of the television ministry, which reaches millions around the globe; the writing of more than twenty-five literary works, which have topped the best-sellers’ lists on more than one occasion; the building of one of the finest churches in America, which is continuing to grow and thrive; and not to mention the raising of five children who are all married and living relatively successful lives. This short list is not all inclusive, but it simply provides a few of the things that in my mind would have given my then sixty-six-year-old father the privilege to say, “Look at all that I have achieved. I’ve earned the right to enjoy my work and take my rest. Thank you very much.” However, the answer I heard him give to that small-minded journalist was loud and clear to me. That in my father’s mind he had only just begun to really fulfill his purpose. Needless to say, I was blown away.
Later on that night in my hotel room, I replayed those words over and over again, and from them I extracted this lesson that I want to share with you now: You are always able to respond. First, consider that in 1981, as the world saw a bold military action taken against a major tyrant and as global leaders stood up in outrage, a relatively unknown pastor in South Texas stood up to applaud the only way he knew how. Some may have thought, “What good will he do? What difference will he make?” Yet, thirty years later, Christians United for Israel has more than six hundred thousand members and is growing stronger every day. In addition, consider his actions in 2006. At the age of sixty-six, when others might have said, “I’ve done all I can do; let someone else carry the ball,” he stood up once again and took his support for Israel to an entirely new level. That night I learned that life accomplishments are never really complete.
No matter how renowned or unknown the person may be, there is a series of stages that have a commencement and a completion followed by yet another commencement as a new chapter of life begins.

To illustrate this point, consider the stage of life I am in right now. My wife, Kendal, and I have three beautiful children and are immersed in the process of raising a family. Hannah is five, John William is four, and Joel Charles celebrated his first birthday a few months ago. Every day spent with my young family is an adventure. It’s not a matter of if our children will get into something—accurately stated it is, what will they get into next? I can see things that remind me of my childhood in each of my children, and, in my behavior as a young father, I often reflect on what my father instilled in me. You see, I have completed my stage as a child and have launched into my chapter as a father.

My dad plays a role in all of this. He has completed his stage as the father of five, with all of his children grown and married, and has commenced into his new, beloved role of Paw-Paw. You don’t have to ask him if he likes having grandkids. All you have to do is watch the way he behaves around them. When my kids walk through the door of his house or into the room where he is, I say they have entered the kingdom of yes. Whatever they ask for, the answer is yes, certainly, absolutely, and of course you can. It’s as though my father was saying to them, “Forget what your stuffy parents told you before you came. You are in my presence now, and I have given you the keys to the kingdom.” I often wonder where this man was when I was growing up.

The answer, however humorous, is really rather profound if you think about it. The reason that my father has the opportunity to enjoy his grandchildren at this point in his life is because he took great care and responsibility in caring for his five children earlier in life. He successfully completed one chapter of life and has commenced with the next. It is the next logical and natural progression. You see, until you do what is required of you in one stage of life, you cannot fully enjoy the next. By completing his job as a father, my dad could embark on being a grandfather, and he soaks it up for all it’s worth! After all, I assure you we made him earn it.

While this example may seem very simplistic, the fact is that too many people are unwilling to do what is required of them even at this basic level. They want the pleasures and joys of life to which they feel entitled, but not the ones that they have actually earned. Let’s look at a few more examples.
People think that with four years of college under their belts, they deserve a secure, high-paying job with great benefits. They expect to receive a deposit to their bank accounts on payday, but they are not willing to take responsibility and produce more than they consume to work hard for their companies. Citizens feel that the government owes them some sort of utopian existence where every question is answered and every problem is solved. Yet they are not willing to stand up and be responsible to defend the freedom and liberty upon which this nation was built. Rather than confront the problems, they live to compromise.

When you stop to take a closer look at your life, you will clearly see that there is no easy street—not on any level. If you are going to build a life that you can enjoy, then you must make up your mind to earn it every day in some way. Again, consider the illustration regarding fathers and grandfathers.
There are many cases, unfortunately, in which fathers have abandoned their responsibilities concerning their children. This neglect causes them to be estranged from their children, thus disqualifying them from ever having the opportunity to enjoy a relationship with not only their children but also with their children’s children. The deficient chapters of their lives hinder the current story from being the pleasant reality they once hoped for, all because they did not complete what they had embarked on—fatherhood. In failing to finish what they started by doing what is required of fathers, they forfeited the future. This principle can be illustrated over and over again with any number of situations and in almost every circumstance.
There are people who face this same issue concerning their physical health, just like those in fractured family relationships. The choices they made in one stage of life have not allowed them to commence enjoying today. Be it bad eating habits or lack of physical exercise or just plain laziness, the choices they made in the past encumber their next stage.

For others it might be financial choices. Rather than becoming responsible stewards, they buried themselves under mountains of debt and materialism. Now a weighed anchor hangs around their necks, and the life they are living is nothing like the life they had hoped for.

In Section 1 of this book I will show you that no matter the circumstance you find yourself in today, you are able to respond.

You can make a difference if you will become personally committed to doing so. It takes courage and commitment, but these two ingredients, combined with some genuine dedication, will give you all the strength you need to change the direction your life is going and give you the hope and future you desire. You can leave the past behind and not look back. Always remember: Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is beyond your reach, but today is in your grasp. What you do with it is up to you. If you handle it right, when today is complete, you will commence upon tomorrow with triumph instead of tragedy. The choice is yours.

Respond Based on Principles
If you truly wish to make a change on anything great or small, you must always keep in mind that it begins and ends with you. Many people live life in reverse; they are always ready to tell us what is wrong with the big picture. These people have a bad case of what

I call the “I’ll tell you what you need to do” disease. They have the answers for everyone else’s problem. They can solve all of the difficult issues of life in one power lunch, but they can never seem to get things to add up in their own existence. It doesn’t really matter what the issue is; they’ll look you in the eyes with confidence and say, “I’ll tell you what they need to do.” The passionate monologue that follows usually sounds good, but it rarely produces results. I was taught that before you can address the change you want to see in someone else’s life, you have to take account of the change you are willing to make in your own life. Maybe when I was younger it sounded like “Practice what you preach.” While it may sound elementary, this principle has had a profound impact on me.

It’s easy to get on your soapbox filled with passion and fire and tell others in a reverent tone how to live; it’s altogether a different thing to live it. When you live it, it’s a matter of principle, and principles endure long after the fire of passion burns out.

When responding to life, I highly recommend that you do so based on principle instead of passion. Passions are very fickle things at best and are famous for running hot and cold. One reason very few people make effective lasting change is because they seldom base their actions on solid principles, but rather let them be fueled by passion. Everywhere you turn you see lives that are driven by passion rather than ruled by principle.
The flames of uncontrolled passion can reduce the most established life into a pile of ashes. How many times have you seen the guy who has it all go down in flames because he based his choices on passion rather than live his life based on principle?
However, lives that are built on a foundation of principle will have stability that is able to endure the most volatile of times.

In 1981 when my father began supporting Israel and the Jewish community, it was not because of passion, but principle. As a man of the Word, it was required of him to do so. It was extremely controversial, often ridiculed, and even to this day heavily scrutinized, but still the results are impossible to deny and came as a matter of principle.

Consider Job, a man who experienced a tremendous amount of sudden changes. He saw all of his wealth, which had taken a lifetime of work and effort to amass, vanish in one day—along with all his children, whom he deeply loved and cherished, and his own personal health. Yet when the sun set on his tragedy and all that he held dear was laid to waste, from a foundation of principle he was able to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

From observing my father’s life of ministry to others, I could fill this book with stories of one personal tragedy after another, some of which would send chills running down your spine if you heard the details. The difference in the outcome of each is marked by those who responded to life’s most challenging days with principle rather than letting their passions overtake them.
How do you live your life? Do you live it upon a solid foundation of principle or upon the volatile passion of the moment? If you live by principle, you’re well on your way to being a difference maker. Not only are you on the road to your very own personal revolution, but also you can impact change in others as well. If you are planning to make a physical turnaround, no matter what resources you seek to assist you, no matter your circumstance, lasting change is a matter of principle; it will be the changes in physical principle that will actually revolutionize your health. Likewise, if it’s a financial principle, it will be an economic turnaround. However, if your passion is in the driver’s seat, then good luck, because I assure you, not even you know what you will do next.
One very simple illustration that I observed one evening at a friend’s house demonstrates how simple and yet powerful this point can be in your life. We had finished dinner, and I was invited to sit in the living room for a visit and conversation while the hostess and her teenage children cleared the table and did the dishes. As the evening went on and the sound of dishes and silverware clattered in the sink, there was suddenly a sharp sound of something shattering, which rang out above every other noise. After a brief moment of tense silence, the noise in the kitchen carried on, and cleaning was back under way.

It was at this time my host said something that jumped out at me, and I have not forgotten it to this day. Sitting in the other room, not even able to see the commotion in the kitchen, he said, “My wife dropped that one.”
I quickly asked him, “How can you tell?”

His response was both honest and sad. “She didn’t yell at any of the kids.”
The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. Dropping a dish is an accident. As a matter of fact, if you have never done it, it simply means you don’t do many dishes. This honest mistake could have been made by anyone, but in this particular home, if Mom made the mistake, no one said a word; but if one of the kids made the same mistake, then Mom was going to let them have it. Why? It was because the mother’s passion dictated her behavior.
Remember that I said there are plenty of dictators in the world waiting for the chance to take control. Well, not all of them wear military uniforms and steal elections. Some of them are those personal emotions and behaviors that have total control over you.

If breaking a dish was a matter of principle, the moment the plate slipped out of her hand, she should have been held accountable for the misdeed. However, because it was not a matter of principle but just an honest mistake, no one made mention of it. Had someone else done the same, she would allow her personal dictator to explode with passion over the broken porcelain on the kitchen floor.

What alternate principle has more value to the quality of life in a home? It is the principle that the kids help Mom out around the house. Then, even though accidents happen, they can still graciously host a guest without the passion-driven idea that if the kids drop a dish, you’re dead, and don’t laugh if Mom does it—or at least not while she’s still in the room. One principle brings a family together; the other drives them apart. One says, “Even if you make a mistake, I still love you and appreciate that you are trying and doing your part.” The other says, “Don’t you dare mess up.”

I know that some of you are thinking, “Wow, all of this over a plate!” Not really; I only use the story to bring to light the fact that people are allowing their passions to dictate their behaviors, and they are yelling at each other about a lot more than just dirty dishes. In doing so, they are allowing their passions to drive them apart rather than allow their principles to pull them together.

Take a moment and consider how many areas of the world around you are totally polarized by passion. Two opposing sides, and both are devaluing the other and refusing any quarter or ounce of surrender because passion is on parade.
A conversation after dinner in the living room over a broken dish might be a small thing, but it was an object lesson that illustrated something my father asked me long ago: “Son, why do you do what you do?” Is it because it’s the right thing to do no matter the circumstances or emotions you are dealing with, or is it because you allow your passions to dictate?
Principles are powerful. They will make men out of boys and instill a foundation in future generations that cannot be shaken. It takes courage to do what is right, no matter what and strength to keep passion under control at all cost. That doesn’t mean you cannot be passionate about the things you love.
Consider my family. You can’t be around the Hagees very long without knowing we are people filled with passion. We are the loudest at the Little League game, the most competitive on family game night, and don’t even try to take us on in a golf match! Visit Cornerstone on Sunday, and for an hour and a half you will experience passion-filled moments—but it is principle that is in the driver’s seat. Unless you live your life in proper order, you cannot expect to make progress and achieve a goal of any kind, because your passion will lead you astray. When you live your life in proper order, you can become passionate about your principles rather than be dictated by your passions.

As a husband and father, I have a number of principles for my home. First and foremost is that we honor the Lord God. Does that mean that we live perfect little halo-wearing lives? Hardly. I don’t know a soul who does. What it does mean is that we strive to please

Him in all that we do. This principle is something that we are passionate about as a family. It is why we go to church together and pray together. It is why we read the Word of God to our children and challenge them to memorize it and hide it in their hearts so that they can live lives that honor God.
We don’t do it because it’s popular or because everyone up and down the block is doing the same. We do it because it is a principle foundation of our lives that makes us who we are. We do it because one day I want to be a grandfather who has the opportunity to spoil my grandchildren in my very own kingdom of yes. I do it because rather than being the guy who sits in the corner of the restaurant filling the air with what others ought to say and do, I want to be the kind of person who, by setting an example with my own behavior and that of my family, inspires others to say, “I want to live like you.”

It’s how I was raised, and for me, it’s a matter of principle to see my children do the same. This one truth can change your life. Principles enable you to become an example to others in a way that may change their lives too. They can lead you to a life of submission, which may be the missing ingredient to achieving your greatness and one that can lead you to the next step in your personal revolution. So, what drives you: principle or passion?
Take a moment before going on to the next step, and consider some principles that you might want to live by. As a guide for you, I have written three that I strive to achieve on a daily basis in my own life based on what my father taught me. You may want to write more, or you may want to list specific details that will help to create your personal prescription. Whether you choose to participate in the exercise of actually writing something down or simply take a moment or two to ponder what you see before you is up to you. What is important to note is that principles have the power to turn around your personal life. Any response you make to the world around you should be a matter of principle.

Step 1.1: Principles of Personal Responsibility

• Personal Principle 1: Invest more in others than you spend on yourself.

• Personal Principle 2: Live every day as if there is instant replay and your every move is going to be reviewed.

• Personal Principle 3: Be grateful for everything. Even the hard days have value.
Questions to Consider
1. Do I live my everyday life based on principle or passion?

2. Is there an area of my life where my passion is out of control?

3. What is one principle I can put into effect and live by, starting today?

If you wish to join the FIRST Wild Card Tour 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!

***Special thanks to Anna Coelho Silva | Publicity Coordinator, Charisma House | Charisma Media for sending me a review copy.***

A copy of this book was received free from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, June 20, 2011

God Doesn't Have Grandkids

The sermon at church yesterday was titled “The Dangers of Growing Up in a Christian Home.” The basic premise was that children who grow up in Christian homes get to know about God at an early age.  They are often spared from a lot of pain that the world has to offer because they learn right from wrong in their youth.  This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about, and my basic conclusion is that knowing about God and knowing God are two different things.

There are a lot of people who claim to be Christians, who have grown up in the church all their lives but have no personal knowledge of God.  It’s like knowing about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  You can read all the tabloids, see all their movies, join their fan clubs, follow them on Twitter, even get your hair cut to look just like them, but if you were to show up on their doorstep claiming to know them, you’d be promptly dragged away by their body guards, turned over to the police and imprisoned for harassment.

In the same way, Jesus says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:21-23)

No child is going to heaven on their parents’ coat tails.  Our greatest task as parents is not to teach our children about our heavenly Father, or instruct them in His ways, or to even model good behavior for them, though these are all good things we ought to do.  Our greatest task, our greatest privilege, is to introduce them to our Father, the Almighty Living God, that they might become children of God too.  What greater gift could a parent receive than to hear their son or daughter told, “Well done my good and faithful servant; enter in the joy of your Master”?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If You Could Experience God?

I have a question for you. I'll be tallying the results from the questionnaire in a post two weeks from now.  Thank you for answering it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God's Good Pleasure

There are so many things in this universe that human beings have never seen and maybe never will.  Who were those things made for?  There's this crazy idea out there that God made the universe so that we could see it and enjoy it, but if that's so, why is there so much of it that we have never seen?  Praise God that He creates things for His good pleasure and not ours.

I made the following video for our small group when we were discussing this issue at one point:

Buy the Album - Itunes

Monday, June 13, 2011

God is Like . . . Part 3

What Does God Taste Like?

In the past couple of posts, we’ve looked at some of the metaphors, imperfect as they are, used for what God looks like and what God sounds like. Today I want to look at what God tastes like.

Psalms 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusts in Him.”

It seems that it would be easy to see that God is good, but what does taste have to do with it? Does God have at taste?  More specifically does the Bible have any metaphors about what God tastes like?

It all starts with John 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.  (John 1:1,14)

What does the Bible says God’s Word tastes like?

How sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Then He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. He said to me, "Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you." Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. Then He said to me, "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. (Ezekiel 1-4)

So I went to the angel, telling him to give me the little book. And he [!] said to me, "Take it and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey." I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey; and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter. And they said to me, "You must prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings." (Revelations 10:9)

If Jesus is the Word, then He tastes like honey.  Look at what the Bible says about the manna from heaven:

The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey. (Exodus 16:31)

He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3)

"Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'"

Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world."

Then they said to Him, "Lord, always give us this bread."

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst . . . For I have come down from heaven. (John 6:31-38)

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread, which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.

I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. (John 6:47-51)

So, God’s taste is derived from the following:

God’s Word tastes like Honey: Jesus is the Word: Jesus tastes like honey.

The manna from heaven tasted like honey: Jesus is the manna: Jesus tastes like honey.

Jesus and God are One: God tastes like honey.

God is Like . . . Part 1 What Does God Look Like?
God is Like . . . Part 2 What Does God Sound Like?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

God is Like . . . (Part 2)

What Does God’s Voice Sound Like?

In my last post, I wrote about what God looks like and the imperfect metaphors we, as the created, must use to describe our creator. God is infinitely more than any word or thing that we can compare Him to on Earth, but the Bible is full of these imperfect metaphors for characteristics of God.  This week I’d like to look at what God sounds like.

If you do a Google search for “what does God sound like” or “how can I hear God’s voice”, you’ll find a bunch of sites saying you can hear God in your mind, in circumstances, or in the Bible.  A lot times they’ll refer to God’s still small voice and quote this verse as evidence: “And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:13)

And while I don’t want to discount God speaking to us through these other methods, this verse is usually taken out of context; it is not referring to Elijah having a thought, interpreting circumstance, or reading the Bible (he didn’t even have a Bible); the verse is referring to hearing an audible voice, which sounded like a gentle whisper.  Let’s look at the verse in context:

There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by."

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. 

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" (1 Kings 19:9-13)

First “the Word of the Lord” comes to Elijah.  I think this is what people are referring to when they talk about those other ways of hearing God. I think that verse 13 makes it clear that God’s voice is something different.  It is audible. Though, you’ll notice that whether audible or not, the message is the same “what are you doing here?” (verses 9 & 13).

With that clarification made, what does the Bible say God’s audible voice sounds like?

Rushing Water

I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory. (Ezekiel 43:2)

His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. (Revelations 1:15)


His body was like chrysolite, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and his voice like the sound of a multitude. (Dan 10:6)

An Army and Wings

When the creatures moved, I heard the sound of their wings, like the roar of rushing waters, like the voice of the Almighty, like the tumult of an army. When they stood still, they lowered their wings. (Ezekiel 1:24)

This last one is a bit more personal. God spoke to me audibly once.  He said, “Give up those things you love and follow me.”  I thought His voice sounded like a strong wind in the trees, but the other metaphors above describe it very well too.

The Wind

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)

Next in the Series: "What Does God Taste Like?" . . . yep, you read that correctly--taste.

God is Like . . . Part 1 What Does God Look Like?
God is Like . . . Part 3 What Does God Taste Like?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

God is Like . . . (Part 1)

What Does God Look Like?

There are a lot of metaphors about God in the Bible.  There are metaphors about what He looks like, what He sounds like, what His relationship to us is like, even what He tastes like.  But how can the Creator really look, sound, or taste like anything He created?  Wouldn’t it be more prudent to say, these things are like Him?  He came first.  And could anything that is like Him, but not Him, really do the Ancient of Days justice in its description?

But imperfect metaphors are the best we as created beings can do to describe the Almighty, so this short series will look at a few of them. Starting with what God looks like:

The Bible is full of visual glimpses of God’s person.  Moses sees His hind parts as He passes before (Exodus 33:18-23), Isaiah sees Him high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1-8), and Ezekiel and John give descriptions of His person (Ezekiel 1:26-28 & Revelation 4:1-11, Revelations 1:13-17). In their descriptions of God, I like to read their words with an excited stutter: “He was like, like, like molten metal with, with, with fire and jasper, and, and, and His face was like, like the sun . . . but brighter; you wouldn’t even need the sun, He lights up everything!”

Anyway, I thought about coming up with a composite image via Photoshop but decided against it because number one: I’d never do God justice, and number two: I’m not sure what qualifies as a graven image.  Instead, I’ve decided to quote scripture coupled with some images of the imperfect metaphors the writers use and let the readers use their imaginations.

God’s Form:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him. (Genesis 1:27)

High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. (Ezekiel 1:26)

God’s face:

I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. (Daniel 7:9)

His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. (Revelations 1:14)

His face was like the sun shining in its strength. (Revelations 1:16)

God’s Chest and Arms:

I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire. (Ezekiel 1:27)

God’s lower parts:

His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace. (Revelations 1:15)

From [His waist] down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. (Ezekiel 1:27)

God is Like . . . Part 2 What Does God Sound Like?
God is Like . . . Part 3 What Does God Taste Like?

Monday, June 6, 2011


The other night in a moment of prayer and seeking God, I had a profound thought.

God knows everything. 

At first glance, that doesn’t seem so profound.  As Christians, we’ve all heard and talked about God’s omniscience before.   It’s pretty standard theological fare as far as it goes.  However for some reason, the idea struck home for me that night.

God knows everything.  He knows everything that ever happened, and He knows everything that ever will happen.  He knows about things that existed before He created our universe.  He knows about things that will exist after our universe is gone.  He knows every movement of every atom everywhere that will happen tomorrow and on a Monday in June 100 trillion years from now. 

I felt a bit like I had stepped into the Total Perspective Vortex from Douglas Adams’ The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.  If you don’t know what that is, you’re an uncultured heathen.  But I’ll explain anyway.  The Total Perspective Vortex is the ultimate torture device: “When you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little mark, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says, ‘You are here’” (p. 70).  Scary stuff.  And then add in the infinity of time on top of that, and I thought my world had just imploded.

And then an even crazier thought came to mind.  This God, this same One who knows everything, Who made everything with a word, this God speaks to me and has called me to follow Him.  He abides within me.  And this part is totally incomprehensible: He loves me.

No wonder Paul writes:

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

(Ephesians 3:14-19)

In order to be filled up with the fullness of God, an event that surpasses knowledge on so many levels, we need two things: strength through His Spirit and Christ dwelling in our hearts.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.  (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What If Adam Hadn't Sinned?

"What if’s” are useless questions.  The past is over.  It cannot be undone only remembered, judged, celebrated, forgiven, or forgotten.  The past is nothing but a place of learned lessons or ignored warnings.  The future is not much different.  James says, “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). 

There is no point in thinking about “what if’s” or “what then’s”, only "what now’s."

And while I firmly believe that this is the case, the other night I had a dream that was interesting and worth discussion regarding a “what if” scenario, particularly what if Adam hadn’t sinned. 

It’s not a topic that I wonder much about because I’m also a firm believer that Jesus was chosen before the creation of the world to save us from our sin (1 Peter 1:20).  And I don’t think God was at all surprised by His creations’ actions in the garden.  All that said, in the dream I was explaining to my wife what our place in the world would be like if Adam hadn’t sinned. 

I said:

Some people have this misguided notion that if Adam hadn’t sinned; we’d all be rulers and have absolute authority over the Earth.  But that’s not true.  God would be the ruler of Earth, and Adam would be His appointed delegate of authority over the Earth.  He’d be King Adam.  We would be at best delegated small areas of authority under the thousands of our forefathers still alive on the Earth, maybe a section as small as our own households and nothing else. 

This scenario is much the same as our authority in Jesus Christ.  God rules.  He gave Christ authority.  And Christ makes us delegates on Earth of His rule.  Some He puts in higher positions than others.  Others He puts in smaller areas, maybe just their own households.  Many of those who envision themselves as powerful rulers in a ‘what if’ Earth without sin also tend to imagine themselves as powerful rulers in this world because they believe in Jesus.

But we’re not powerful rulers.  We’re weak servants.  From the beginning we’ve been weak servants, servants delegated authority from on High.  Any power we have is ultimately God’s power handed down to us.  Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

And since it’s not our power, we can’t just go around doing whatever we want with it.  Jesus didn’t.  He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel” (John 5:19-20).

If Jesus never did anything without the Father showing Him first, should we?  More to the point should we do anything in the name of Father, Son, and Spirit without really praying for understanding in what God would have us do?

And then I woke up and started telling my wife my dream in real life, and she peered at me with half-mast eyelids and said, “I’m going to need coffee before any deep theological conversations, dear," which is how most of our mornings start . . .


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