Ponderings From  My Heart

Monday, August 29, 2011

Life Changing Verses

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:

Life-Changing Bible Verses You Should Know

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

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


Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980, is an award-winning author of more than 20 books including Walking with God. He’s a celebrated international conference speaker and the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard around the world. Rebecca Lutzer has used her gifts of hospitality, mercy, and teaching to minister to many women. She is an RN and enjoyed working as a surgical nurse for several years. They coauthored a book on the women in the life of Jesus and how He changed their worlds titled Jesus, Lover of a Woman’s Soul. They have been married for 35 years, live in the Chicago area, and are the parents of three married children.


Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of the Moody Church, and his wife, Rebecca, encourage readers to reap the blessings of memorizing Scripture in this gathering of relevant verses, 35 topics, insightful explanations, and engaging questions. This foundation of wisdom inspires readers to experience God’s Word in powerful ways.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99

Paperback: 208 pages

Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0736939520

ISBN-13: 978-0736939522



Psalm 46:1—God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

1 Peter 1:6-7—In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

When we think back to the devastating earthquake in Haiti that killed nearly 200,000 people, many images come to mind, but one image that stands out well above the others is that of a young mother being interviewed on television as she held a baby in her arms.

“I lost my son…he died in the rubble.”

“Did you get to bury him?”

“No, no chance; his body was crushed in the rubble; I just had to throw him away.”

Just then the camera zeroed in on her backpack as she prepared to board a bus. Stuffed in a side pocket was a Bible. As she boarded the bus she could be heard, speaking to no one in particular, saying, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble…” Her voice trailed off as she disappeared from view.

When the report was over we just kept staring at the television for a while, pushing back tears and letting what we’d just seen sink into our souls. A dead child with no chance to plan a funeral and pay respects to her precious little one, a baby in her arms, and she was boarding a bus that was going she knew not where. Yet she still expressed belief; she still trusted that God is her refuge and strength.

Faith in adversity!

This mother—God bless her—began quoting Psalm 46, which was written as a praise song after God spared the city of Jerusalem from an invasion by Assyrians who were threatening to annihilate the inhabitants. In the midst of a harrowing escape, the Israelites found God to be an unshakable pillar.

God is our refuge. A refuge is a safe place you can run to for shelter when life’s storms are swirling around you. No wonder this dear mother found solace in this psalm, which continues, “Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging” (verses 2-3).

Yes, the mountains did give way and fall into the heart of the sea, but God is unaffected by the fluctuation on events of earth; He is always there, solid, unmoved. When the mountains are shaking and the ground beneath you is quaking, run to God, and He will meet you. Yes, even when our world falls apart in the aftermath of a horrendous natural disaster, God is unchanging and remains with us.

In the midst of the devastation, God is our source of supply. The psalm continues, “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (verse 4). Most likely that refers to a tunnel that had been built some time earlier to bring water into the city in case it was ever besieged. The people of Jerusalem saw this provision as God giving them specific help at their time of their need.

Then the psalm gives us a command: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (verse 10). Let us cease striving and let God be God. Even in adversity He is there; or perhaps we should say especially in adversity He is there!

Adversity should not drive us away from God; rather, it should drive us into His arms. He is there for the grieving mother, and for the family that has experienced indescribable loss. The psalm ends, “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (verse 11).

God wants to be believed. And our faith is more precious to Him than gold, which perishes. When we continue to trust Him even when there appears to be no reason to do so—and we go on believing God’s bare Word, our faith will “result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:7).

Reverend Henry F. Lyte was a pastor in Scotland who battled tuberculosis most of his life. On his final Sunday, September 4, 1847, amid many tears the congregation sang a song he himself had composed, “Abide with Me.” It spoke of the unchanging God in an ever-changing world:

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;

Change and decay in all around I see;

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.

Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

The young mother in Haiti—who was clutching an undernourished baby in her arms and had no time to mourn the tragic death of her son—found solace in the God who was still beside her when the earth gave way. “God is our refuge and strength,” she said amid her grief and uncertainty of the future.

In times of adversity, our faith can hold fast. And God is both honored and pleased.

Taking God’s Word to Heart

Reflect on the account of the Haitian mother who tragically lost her son. How has Psalm 46 been a source of strength for you during adversity? What other Scripture passages do you turn to for help in difficult times?

What does it mean to you that God is your refuge? In life’s journey, why is God’s unchangeable nature a source of strength for us?

Recall an instance when God provided timely help for a specific need. What did that experience teach or confirm for you about God’s character?

What are some ways God has used adversity to shape your life?

Why is God honored and pleased when we exercise faith in times of adversity?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Let God Change Your Life by Greg Laurie

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:

Let God Change Your Life

David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Best-selling author Greg Laurie (Gold Medallion winner for The Upside-Down Church, Lost Boy, and more) is senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, one of the largest churches in America. Founder of the Harvest Crusade, Laurie’s nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning, is broadcast on more than 500 radio outlets around the world. Along with his work at Harvest Ministries, Laurie serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, among others.

Visit the author's website.


The first-century believers who followed Jesus Christ were men and women who turned their worlds upside down to follow the Messiah, and they lived the Christian life as Jesus presented it to them personally. They didn’t have the luxury of a passive and lukewarm existence. Instead, they had to draw clear lines in the sand about what following Christ really looked like. The good news is that, even in our current culture, we too can participate in this kind of lifestyle.

In Let God Change Your Life: How to Know and Follow Jesus, evangelist Greg Laurie describes the factors that impact true life change in clear, practical, and thoroughly biblical terms. His conclusions will challenge Christians to trade in their passive preconceptions about God for an active faith that reflects the image of Christ. A call to shed the skin of cultural Christianity, Let God Change Your Life details the transformation that occurs when we take what Christ really said and live as if His words were actually true.

What we often perceive as the Christian life is, in many ways, not what the Bible teaches. Imagine what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus; first-century Christians walked away from their old lives just to be where He was. What they learned, sitting at His feet, was discipleship. And when His work on earth was done, first-century Christians took His words and example and spread out, teaching the gospel to everyone.

We need to ask ourselves whether we are living the Christian life as Jesus meant for us to live it. Are our lives challenging? Exciting? Do they have purpose and direction? Or do we find ourselves depressed and afraid? If your Christian experience is dull, unfulfilling, or boring, then it’s time to seriously examine the statements of Jesus regarding discipleship. What you’ll find is that the call of Christ on your life was never meant to be half-hearted and partially powerful. The natural outworking of a Christ-transformed life is a vibrant and revolutionary desire to know God, learn His ways, and lead others to Him.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434702073
ISBN-13: 978-1434702074




Have you ever felt so stressed out that it seemed like everything was going wrong—all at once? Then, when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did? Or, let me put it another way: Do you have kids? And more specifically, do you have teenagers? If so, you know what I’m talking about.

One of the downsides of the information age, in which we have our iPhones, BlackBerrys, Treos, and other devices that can send and receive the latest data, is that we are constantly barraged by information. This information gives us even more to stress out about. And stress is serious stuff. Studies have suggested that high levels of stress can lead to obesity and trigger a raft of diseases, from heart attacks to ulcers. Depression, nervous breakdowns, and even cancer can be stress related. In the United States, up to 90 percent of visits to physicians may be triggered by a stress related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We all stress out about the many frightening things in our world today. Since 9/11, there are certain fears all Americans share. A March 2005 Associated Press article stated, “Though the Soviet Union is gone, the nuclear fears that fueled the Cold War haven’t disappeared. Most Americans think nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no country should have them.”

North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons and to be manufacturing more. Iran is widely believed to be within months of developing such weapons. And lurking in the background is the threat that worries U.S. officials the most: the desire on the part of terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. Fifty-three percent of Americans think a nuclear attack by terrorists is at least somewhat likely.

That brings us stress, worry, and fear.

You may know someone who has a fear of heights, small spaces, or flying. But according to a Time magazine cover article on the topic of fear, people have phobias for just about everything imaginable.

According to the article, over fifty million people in the U.S. have some kind of fear or phobia. Some are pretty unusual, if not slightly humorous. For example, there is kathisophobia, the fear of sitting; ablutophobia, the fear of bathing; dentophobia, the fear of dentists; allodoxaphobia, the fear of opinions; and cyclophobia, the fear of bicycles.

And they get even weirder. There is alektorophobia, the fear of chickens; anuptaphobia, the fear of staying single; arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth; automatonophobia, the fear of ventriloquist dummies; ecclesiophobia, the fear of church; ouranophobia, the fear of heaven; and peladophobia, the the fear of baldness and/or bald people.

Finally, there is my personal favorite: phobophobia, which is the fear of phobias.

Perhaps your life is filled with fear, worry, and intense stress of some kind right now. Without a doubt, life is certainly filled with troubles. The book of Job tells us, “Man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7).

Disappointment is a trouble, and in life there are many disappointments. We are disappointed with ourselves, because we are not always what we want to be. We want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to be successful, yet we experience many failures. We want to be loved, but people are often indifferent toward us.

Circumstances can also be a source of trouble: the loss of a job, relationship issues, events not going the way we want them to, or even uncertainty about the future. All these things can cause us stress and fear.

But my intention here is not to add to your stress. Instead, I want to share with you the words of Jesus to a stressed-out, agitated people.

This is God’s cure for heart trouble:

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in

God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are

many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told

you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go

and prepare a place for you, I will come again and

receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you

may be also. And where I go you know, and the

way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we

do not know where You are going, and how can we

know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way,

the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father

except through Me.” (John 14:1–6)

When Jesus spoke these words, His disciples were afraid.

He had just revealed that Judas Iscariot would betray Him, and that Simon Peter would deny Him. Then He dropped the bombshell: He was going to leave them! They didn’t understand that He would die on the cross for them and that He would soon live in their hearts. They only heard the part about Him leaving.

And that caused stress, worry, and fear. So the phrase He utters, let not your heart be troubled, in verse 1 could be translated, “Don’t be agitated, disturbed, or thrown into confusion.” Or, “Don’t let your heart shudder!” Or even more casually, “Relax!” Troubled is a strong word. Jesus told the disciples, in light of the imminent cross, “It may look like your world is falling apart and that darkness will overtake you, but don’t let your heart be troubled!” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Mull over your problems a bit.” Instead, He said, “Don’t be troubled.” And then He laid out three reasons why.

As Christians, regardless of what cause we may have to be troubled, there is greater cause not to be.

This brings us to God’s first cure for heart trouble: His Word is true. Jesus said, “Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). In the original Greek, this is a command. Jesus tells them, “Believe that I know what I’m doing here! My Word is true. You will see that in time.”

God has given us a user’s manual for life called the Bible. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hate to read user’s manuals. This is a problem, because I also love electronic gadgets. If you’re like me, you try out your gadgets first and read the directions later (and usually end up doing the first thing the user’s manual told you not to do!).

While many products come with user’s manuals, some products also come with warning labels. Some warning labels are helpful, others seem just plain ridiculous. But we all know those ridiculous labels are there because someone, somewhere, did what the label warns you not to do.

Consider these goofy but real warning labels. A cardboard sunshade for windshields had this warning: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” This warning came with a hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” An electric rotary tool included the caution, “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.” A warning on a bathroom heater stated, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” A manual for a microwave oven contained this warning: “Do not use for drying pets.” This statement was found on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” A warning label on children’s cough medicine cautions, “Do not drive or operate machinery.” A string of Christmas lights was intended “For indoor or outdoor use only.” A child-sized Superman costume came with this warning: “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.” A sign at a railroad station declared, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” A shipment of hammers came with the notice, “May be harmful if swallowed.” And a bottle of sleeping pills forewarned, “May cause drowsiness.”

Think of the people who tried to blow dry their hair while they were asleep, swallow a hammer, or fly because they wore S on their chests. If only they had read the directions and warning labels first!

The same is true of life. The Bible gives us directions and warnings to guide us. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17 we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (NLT).

This passage reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who was graduating from college. His father hoped to give his son a new car for his graduation present. Many of the other graduates were getting new cars from their dads, so this young man wanted one too. He had even picked out the car he wanted and told his father about it.

When the day of his graduation finally arrived, his dad shocked the young man when he did not hand him car keys, but rather, a brand-new Bible. The son was so outraged that he turned and walked away, leaving his father holding the Bible. In fact, he was so bitter, he cut off all contact with his father and never spoke to him again.

When the father died, the young man went to his house to prepare for the funeral and to help get his father’s affairs in order. There, sitting on a shelf, he noticed the Bible his father had given him for his graduation years before. He blew off the dust and, with tears in his eyes, opened it for the first time. Much to his astonishment, he found an envelope tucked inside the Bible with his name on it. Inside was a cashier’s check, made out to him, for the exact price of the car he had picked out. The check was dated the day of his graduation.

His father gave him the car he wanted, but he had to open the Bible to get it. He never realized what his father had done for him, because he did not open his Bible.

As sad as that story is, we essentially do the same thing when we never open the Book our heavenly Father gave to us. Inside this book is something far more valuable than a cashier’s check. The Bible contains the words of life. In it we find the truth about how to get to heaven.

What could be more valuable than that?

God’s second cure for heart trouble is this: We are going to heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). This is only true for the people who put their faith in Christ. The unbeliever does not have the promise of heaven. No matter what happens to you on this earth, it pales in comparison to this great hope.

As 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 tells us,

For our present troubles are small and won’t last

very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly

outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t

look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix

our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the

things we see now will soon be gone, but the things

we cannot see will last forever. (NLT)

Deep inside, we all long for this place we have never been. C. S. Lewis called this “the inconsolable longing.” He said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”5 We all have a longing for heaven, whetherwe know it or not.

Heaven is waiting for the children of God; you have His word on it. And there is only one thing that God cannot do, and that is lie. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). And this is a key element of our comfort. When you have guests stay in your home, you prepare the room for them. You might know they like certain books or treats, so maybe you customize the room. You do this so that when your guests arrive, they will feel at home.

In the same way, God prepares a place for you.

I heard about an eighty-five-year-old couple who had been married for almost sixty years before they were killed in a car accident. They were in good health over the last ten years of their lives, mainly as a result of her interest in healthy food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and a master suite, complete with a sauna and Jacuzzi. As they ooh’ed and aah’ed over their new residence, the man asked Peter how much all this would cost.

“It’s free,” Peter replied. “This is heaven.”

Next, they went outside to survey the championship golf course behind their new home. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week, the course would change, allowing members to play one of the great golf courses on earth.

The man asked, “What are the green fees?” “This is heaven,” said Peter. “You play for free!”

Then, they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the finest cuisines of the world laid out.

“How much to eat?” asked the man.

“Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven,” Peter replied, withsome exasperation. “It’s free!”

“Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the

man asked.
“That’s the best part,” Peter replied. “You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like, and you never get fat, and you never get sick. This is heaven!”
With that, the man threw down his hat, stomped on it, and screamed wildly. Both his wife and Peter tried to calm him down, asking what was wrong.

The man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”

I don’t believe that the description of mansions in heaven is literal in the sense of a Beverly Hills–type mansion. Rather, I think the mansions we hear spoken about in the Bible refer to the new bodies God will give to us when we get to heaven.

The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:1–2, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing” (NLT).

Our hearts should not be troubled because His Word is true and we are going to heaven. God’s final cure for heart trouble is this: He is coming back for us. We read in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” In our fallen world, we find relief for our troubled hearts in the promise that Jesus will come back to receive us unto Himself.

When General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines in the early months of World War II, he fled Corregidor in apparent defeat. Upon reaching Australia, he sent back the now-famous declaration, “I shall return!” And he kept his promise. Three years later, he stood on Philippine soil and made his second historic statement, “I have returned!”

Jesus told us that He will come again, and someday, in the nottoo- distant future, He will set foot on planet earth once again and say, “I have returned.”

And it may be sooner than we think. The Lord Jesus will not merely send for us, but will come in person to escort us to HisFather’s house.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 we read,

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven

with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and

with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ

will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain

shall be caught up together with them in the clouds

to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always

be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another

with these words.

Notice that Jesus does not say that He will take us to Himself, rather He will “receive us” (John 14:3). It is not something that He will do against our will. He will return for those who are watching and waiting. Not just the place, heaven, but the person, Jesus, will be ours!

These three reasons, or three cures for heart trouble, that Jesus offered can comfort and strengthen you:

1. His Word is true.

2. We are going to heaven.

3. He is coming back for us.

These promises were made only to the children of God who have received Christ.

Jesus revealed these truths to His disciples with this somewhat mysterious statement: “‘And where I go you know, and the way you know’” (John 14:4). I think Jesus wanted them to ask what He meant. But Thomas was the only one bold enough to do so.

Thomas has been given the title “Doubting Thomas,” but he was really more of a skeptic. The doubter doubts, even when the facts are clear, while the skeptic looks carefully, wanting to see the truth for himself or herself. Thomas wasn’t one to let others do his thinking for him. He behaved more like “Honest Thomas” when he said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).

It seems to me that the disciples acted as though they understood when they did not. Thomas was honest enough to speak out and say, “But I don’t know where You are going!”

Aren’t you glad Thomas said that? Thomas didn’t understand and said so, causing Jesus to utter this incredible statement, one of His most famous and profound statements in all of Scripture. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas, but rather took his question as an opportunity to expand His revelation.

Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

This statement is one of the most, if not the most, controversial aspects of our faith. By believing this, we are saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. The majority of Americans today do not hold this belief.

But if you believe the words of Jesus and think and act biblically, then you must believe that Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross is the reason you will get to heaven.

As Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” And Acts 4:12 tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then in 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “But that is being so narrow-minded!” some would say. “As long as people are sincere in their beliefs, they can follow any path they want.”

What would you think of an airline pilot who announced just before takeoff, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to flight 293 bound for Honolulu. Our cruising altitude today will be thirty-two thousand feet, and we will be showing an in-flight movie. By the way, I am not sure about this whole fuel thing. I see the gauge is indicating that we don’t have enough fuel to reach our destination. But I feel good about this, so don’t panic.

“Also, I am not really using our navigation devices or any maps today, because I feel that is too narrow a mind-set. We’ll just flow with it, because after all, all roads lead to Hawaii. “One last thing, folks. Don’t worry, because I’m very sincere!”

All I would want to know at that point is, “How can I get off this plane? There is a psycho in the cockpit.” Of course, we know it is serious business to pilot a plane. Yet how much more serious is our eternal destiny?

God has the cure for your heart trouble. He has the answer to all your questions. He is the way for you to get to heaven. So, what do you need to do to know with certainty that you’re going there?

First, realize that you are a sinner. Every one of us has broken God’s commandments. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Greek word translated as sin means “to fall short of a standard” or “to miss the mark.” We have all fallen short of God’s standards, because the Bible says, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Who is perfect? Not one of us.

It also means no more excuses. Stop blaming your parents, addictive behavior, or someone or something else. Like one man in the Bible, you need to say, “God, be merciful to me!” (Luke 18:13).

Second, recognize that Jesus died on the cross for you. When the movie The Passion of the Christ was released, there was considerable controversy over who was responsible for the death of Jesus. Newsweek

magazine ran a cover article entitled “Who Killed Jesus?” The debate raged. Who was really responsible? Do we put the blame on the Romans? Do we put the blame on the Jewish people? I thought the debate was absurd, because I will tell you who killed Jesus: I did. You did. Our sins did. And more to the point, Jesus did not go to the cross against His will. He willingly went, because there was no other way to satisfy the demands of a righteous God, whom we offended. Nails did not hold Jesus to the cross of Calvary. Love did—love for you and love for me.

Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). No one forced Him to go to that cross. Christ willingly died for our sins.

Third, repent of your sin. The Bible says that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV). This is missing in many people’s so-called conversions. It is not enough to be sorry for doing something wrong. We must also be sorry enough to change our ways.

So if you want to get right with God, let go of your sins. You need to be willing to follow Him and do what He has called you to do.

Fourth, receive Christ into your life. Salvation comes not just by believing that He is the Son of God, but by receiving Him into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). And John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” You see, there has to come a moment when you say, “Lord, forgive me of my sin. Come into my life.” I can’t do that for you. Another Christian can’t do that for you. You have to say, “Lord, I need Your forgiveness.” You must receive Him.

Fifth, do it publicly. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). But He also said, “Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). The point is this: If you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you need to do it in a public way.

Sixth, do it now. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), reflecting the earlier command, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).

The Lord is here with us right now. He is calling us to Himself. There are some of you who need to get right with God, and I am going to give you an opportunity to do that as we continue. There are some of you who have fallen away from the Lord and need to come back to Him. Later, I will give you an opportunity to return to Christ, if you haven’t already.

Permission line: ©2011 Greg Laurie. Let God Change Your Life published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

You Can Understand the Book of Revelation

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

You Can Understand the Book of Revelation

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

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


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

Visit the author's website.


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

Product Details:

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


What Have We Got Here?

Revelation 1


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

Related Scriptures for Study

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

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

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

A Quick Look at the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look at the Biographer

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look at the Benefits

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

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

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

A Look at the Blessed One

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

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

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

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

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

A Startling Beginning

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

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

A Loud Voice Like a Trumpet

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

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

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

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

A Captivating Vision

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obedient to a Vocation

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

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

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

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

Our Real Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 Questions...

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:

12 Questions to Ask Before You Marry

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

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


Clayton and Charie King have been married for over ten years and share a passion to serve Christ through ministry, missions, and marriage. Clayton is a pastor and the author of Amazing Encounters with God and Dying to Live, and he is the founder and president of Crossroads Worldwide. Charie is an artist, author, and a popular speaker at youth and women’s conferences. Clayton and Charie have two sons.

Visit the author's website.


Longing to help dating couples prepare for lasting marriages, popular author and pastor Clayton King and his wife, Charie, guide them through 12 relationship-building questions about family, finances, and faith and unveil the biblical perspective that creates a forever marriage—it is better to serve rather than be served.

Product Details:

List Price: $11.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736937773
ISBN-13: 978-0736937771


Are You Willing to Grow Up?

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth…Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-15

Here is the best advice on marriage and relationships I have ever heard in my life. Partially because it is simple, blunt, and easy to remember. Mostly because it is absolutely true. Are you ready?

Grow up.

Rick Warren, the well-known author and pastor from California, said that after 30 years of marriage and relationship counseling sessions, he could sum up nearly all of what needs to be said to both men and women in those two words—grow up. I agree.

That is why Charie and I chose to put this chapter near the beginning. Right off the bat, straight out of the gate, you need to know that just about every other problem or challenge or struggle that arises in your marriage will only be a secondary issue. The primary issue will be your level of maturity. Because that maturity, above all other things, will determine whether or not you work together as a team to solve problems or whether you act like children, puffing and pouting and pontificating under pressure, and eventually quitting the relationship.

The bottom line is simple. Marriage is for grown-ups. It is too difficult and requires too much effort, patience, and self-control for people with the maturity level of children. And keep this point in mind: Maturity is not about your age. It is about your acceptance of responsibility.

Acting Like a Kid

There is something epic, right, and good about watching a mom or a dad lay down the law with their five-year-old in the grocery store. I’ve always been impressed with parents who are firm with their kids and aren’t swayed by their emotional outbursts and toddler tirades. So many kids rule and reign over their parents, ignoring their warnings, flopping about on the floor like a smallmouth bass out of water. So when a mom or dad actually follows through on a threat by stopping their child from behaving badly, popping them on the bottom, or grabbing them by the hand and taking them outside to the car or the parking lot, I just want to shout with joy. It’s beautiful to watch a mom or a dad accept the responsibility of being the parent. They’re acting like grown-ups. And one day their children will also act like grown-ups because their responsible parents taught them how to be responsible for their actions from their earliest years.

I saw something along these lines unfold one day in the post office that left an indelible mark on me. It involved a mom and her son. And it’s the perfect illustration of what happens when adults refuse to grow up, to mature, before they tie the knot.

I was behind them in line observing the interaction between mommy and son. This kid was…I really don’t know how to describe him. Awful? Disrespectful? Obnoxious? None of these do him justice. Put plainly, the kid was out of control. Yelling, jumping, pulling envelopes off the shelves. His mom was pitiful. Threatening him. Screaming at him. Rolling her eyes and snapping her fingers. It was a just a big display of futility. The kid knew his mom wasn’t going to follow through with any of her threats. They had played this game before. He knew he could act however he wanted and get away with it.

Everyone there was embarrassed. The clerks looked frazzled. But all of the grown-ups in the room knew it was not the five-year-old who was to blame. It was his mother. Even though she had accumulated enough years to be considered a grown-up, she was, in a sense, as immature as her son.

Then everything changed. The boy was running in and out of the large, heavy swinging doors that led to the parking lot. These were thick glass doors with steel frames. Every time he would run through them, he would push them open really hard, and try to jump back through them before they would close. And they would bang closed.

As the tiny tyrant was playing his game while his mother screamed more threats at him, an older woman with both hands full of boxes opened the other swinging door. And right as that door began to swing backward, the kid was jumping through, playing his game. He never saw the door the woman had let go.

The timing was perfect. The physics were just right. The door caught the boy at just the right angle and at full velocity as he came full-speed toward it. The kid was maybe 40 pounds, the door was at least 150 pounds, and he went airborne.

It sounded and looked way worse than it actually was. He was scared out of his mind. There was no blood, no real injury. But it was as if the cosmic forces of justice and discipline decided to step in and deal with a young boy whose mother was not willing to. All of us in the post office froze until we realized he was okay. And as he shrieked and cried and screamed bloody murder, we tried our best not roll on the floor laughing.

For some of you, sadly, this will be your marriage story. Playing games, having fun, acting like a child, when—BOOM! Out of nowhere you will get sideswiped and knocked on your back, and wonder what in the world happened.

Acting Your Age

People who are willing to grow up are developing the wisdom and foresight to look ahead and predict the outcomes of the decisions they make. If they don’t like what they see in their future, they make changes. They redirect their spending. They pick new friends. They begin reading books and turn off the TV and computer. They put away their cell phones when they need time to think. They watch what they eat. They adjust how they handle relationships.

Fools are not willing to grow up. They like being able to have fun and do what they want. They can run around and scream and yell and pull stuff off the shelves, so to speak. And they can play silly little games with other people’s hearts and emotions. They can sleep around, fool around, and break up with people at will. But just like the rowdy kid in the post office, if they refuse to grow up, hoping a great marriage will automatically come along someday, they will get blindsided by a force bigger and stronger than them. The kid never saw the door coming. Millions of people each year never see the divorce, the affair, or the meltdown coming.

Mature adults see trouble in the future as a result of their current decisions, and they change. Immature kids don’t.

This is why God gave us parents. Whether yours were good or bad, the job of parents is to guide and protect their children, preparing them to be mature adults in the real world one day. All good parents have, at one time or another, told their child to “act your age.” The assumption is that if a child is eight years old, they aren’t allowed to roll around on the floor in the middle of Wal-Mart like a two-year-old who doesn’t get the toy they want. There is an expectation that is not only natural but also normal. There needs to be level of maturity that is equivalent to the number of years a person has been alive.

So before you tie the knot, it is paramount that you deal with this issue as quickly as possible. Again, every single issue and problem and misunderstanding you face in your future as a married man or woman will be framed by your maturity level. If you have never really grown up emotionally, you will find yourself in the midst of a disagreement over something as insignificant as whose family you will visit over the Christmas holidays, and before you know it, it has blown up, and so have you, into an all-out fight. And you (or maybe both of you) are dredging up things from years past, making accusations that are irrelevant to the decision about Christmas plans, and raising your voices to the decibel level of a Metallica concert…all because you did not get your way in the discussion.

Be honest. Do you ever do this? Internally or externally? If you’ve never really asked yourself this question, you should do it right now. And answer truthfully. There is nobody to judge you or make you feel bad. I’m not here watching you—I wrote these words long before you picked up our book. So what do you have to gain by being dishonest about your maturity level? Just own up to it and tell the truth. It’s the first step in preparing yourself to be the kind of woman or man who is ready for the lifelong commitment of marriage.

Read the Signs

On the next couple of pages, you’ll find a basic list of words, attitudes, behaviors, actions, and reactions to serve as a grid…a grid by which you can judge your own level of emotional, spiritual, social, and financial maturity. Look at them as you would look at road signs.

The department of motor vehicles in your state will not issue you a driver’s license until you can prove to them (on a test, administered in a crowded building by less-than-happy DMV employees, usually) that you not only know how to read all road signs, but that you can also interpret what they mean. The DMV wants to know that you are competent enough to obey posted signs—signs that indicate laws that were established for our protection.

God has established laws in the universe He created. His laws are for our benefit and blessing, to protect us and keep us from harming others and ourselves. He has given us signs that He cares for us by establishing laws governing our behavior. He’s given us the Bible, the church, pastors and teachers and leaders, our parents, coaches, and the experience of older people to warn us. If we ignore the signs, we pay the price, just as ignoring road signs could cost us a speeding ticket or a head-on collision. It could cost us a fine, our privilege of driving, or even our life. So it’s much better to read the signs and obey them. Or as one observer of life has pointedly reminded all of us, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.”

As you consider your maturity level, do not be discouraged if you realize that you do indeed need to grow up in one or more areas. Rather, be motivated to change, make course corrections, get help, seek a mentor, read some books, see a counselor, change jobs. If you merely feel bad over being immature, you’ve missed the point. Think of these words as shining a light into your life that will illuminate you to yourself.

You may need to grow up if…

You are over 30 years old and still live with your parents. With the exceptions of caring for aging or sick family members or the sudden loss of a job, by your thirties, unless there is a physical or mental limitation, you should be self-sufficient enough to leave the nest. Who really wants to marry someone who still lives in their parents’ basement at age 34?

You have never had a job of any kind for more than six months. If you have never worked, you need a job. Any job will do. Just start somewhere. You need the experience. If you’ve had numerous jobs over the years and none of them have lasted very long, it may be a sign that you are lazy or easily bored, or have a problem being told what to do by a boss.

You are unable to pay your basic bills each month. Without assistance from family members or friends, you simply could not make it financially. This includes car insurance, rent, groceries, power bill, and basic medical expenses. If you can’t pay your basic bills, you will cause a train wreck by getting married to someone.

As a general rule, you lack self-control in your life. Whether it’s your spending habits, how much you eat, the amount of time you spend watching TV, or your constant obsession with being online (checking e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube), these are signs of immaturity, and are a crucial red flag that points to an inability to control your desires.

Your relationships look more like a roller coaster than a marathon. You are unable to develop long-term relationships with the opposite sex. You’ve never learned how to push through problems, boredom, or conflict, and your default mechanism is to break it off and start a new one. Your past is filled with failure in the area of commitment.

You always play the victim. You’re always secretly trying to uncover a conspiracy by your peers to exclude you from social outings, parties, get-togethers, or group dates. It’s immature to think that the cosmic forces of nature and love have combined their powers to hurt you. None of us are that important in the grand scheme of things.

You tend to speak negatively of other people. Whether in one-on-one conversations or in large groups, your habit is to bash or attack someone who is not present to defend themselves. Immature people say things about people behind their back (or online) that they would never dream of saying to their face. This can ruin a marriage in a hurry, because it reveals deep insecurities.

You are plagued by jealousy. Little children get upset on the playground when they see their best friend playing with or talking to another child. Grown-ups get past this stage…at least they should. Are you consistently jealous of other people’s possessions, salaries, houses, cars, friends, physical appearance, or family? Can you celebrate the blessings of God in others’ lives? Or does God’s goodness to others stir up envy inside your heart toward them?

You have trouble finishing. My two sons are notorious for starting little projects around the house, getting bored, and then abandoning them for us to clean up. They don’t know how to finish things yet because they’re not even ten years old. If you are known for beginning things all gung-ho with great passion, but you consistently fizzle out and never see it through, this is a relationship killer. Marriage is not something you can start, then walk away from, without serious emotional damage. Grown-ups finish what they start.

You are crippled by debt. If you are single and want to get married, the most practical area of your life to examine is your finances. This is the issue most couples fight about most often. If you owe tens of thousands of dollars on credit cards, student loans, your car, and so on, then your problem is not your debt. It’s immaturity. You haven’t yet learned how to live within your means.

You can’t say no. Marriage by nature requires you to say “no” to thousands of other opportunities (and possible mates) so that you can say “yes” to one person for a lifetime. If you are the guy or the girl who is always taking care of others, bailing your friends out, staying up ’til 2 a.m. on the phone trying to talk them out of another crisis, then you will have a rude awakening once your mate expects you to give them your undivided attention and affection.

You fall in love too fast. How many times have you told someone that you were “in love” with them since you turned 18? This may be an indication that you need to mature emotionally. Falling in love after every first date shows you haven’t really moved very far toward emotional maturity. It also guarantees you will get hurt as often as you fall in love, leaving your heart wounded for years to come.

Your relationships are too physical. If you have a track record of messing around and messing up with just about everyone you’ve ever liked or dated, this is bad news. When you start out basing a relationship on making out, kissing, or fooling around physically, you teach yourself to ignore the other person, their feelings, and the self-control that is essential in a godly marriage. Adults draw the line and stand back. Children run ahead without caution and suffer for it.

You have a problem with authority. Pay attention to this one, because marriage is about submitting completely, heart and soul, to someone else. Children hate being told what to do, regardless of their inability to be responsible for themselves. Are you like that? Do you tend to rebel against all forms of authority in your life? Do you balk at being told what to do by the government, the IRS, even a traffic policeman? Grown-ups understand that submission to authority is in their best interest, and they are willing to submit to God first and then to one another. Immature kids rebel.

Do I need to grow up?

I vividly remember the moment in my life when I started to ask that question.

I’d been dating a girl off and on for about four years. We were both in college, in our early twenties, and hopelessly “in love” with each other. There were only a few minor problems.

Neither one of us could ever feel any sense of peace from God that we should get married.
We came from totally different backgrounds.
Our families were as different as night and day.
Her parents begged her to break up with me (a real
bummer for a dating relationship).
We had fairly consistent arguments about meaningless things where one or both of us would end up in tears.
(As I said, a few minor problems.)
It was during one of our arguments about something totally insignificant that I had a sort of “out-of-body” experience. It was as if I was looking at myself from above, and what I saw scared me because it was really happening.

I was sitting on the floor, frustrated and angry and confused. I was crying like a baby. She was lying on the floor, balled up in the fetal position, weeping and wailing and telling me how I never listened. It occurred to me that this scene looked like an episode of The Jerry Springer Show. We were both acting like little children.

Then and there the reality set in. We were not ready for marriage. We couldn’t even have a healthy dating relationship. We were totally wrong for each other.

I broke it off and never looked back. My problem was immaturity. I needed to grow up.

In the remainder of the book Charie and I will explore these ideas and encourage you to continue asking yourself difficult questions as you prepare yourself to become the kind of woman or man that is ready for the lifelong commitment of marriage. You may want to come back to the list in this chapter and glance at it as you read, asking yourself if your biggest issue is your maturity level.

Remember, everything you face in marriage can be dealt with and handled correctly if you and your spouse have the maturity to work together as a team, by God’s grace, to tackle any problem that comes your way.

In what areas of your life do you need to grow up?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

52 Ways...

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:

52 Ways to Wow Your Husband: How to Put a Smile on His Face

Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)

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


Pam Farrel and her husband, Bill, are cofounders and codirectors of Masterful Living, an organization that provides practical insights for personal relationships. The Farrels are also regular relationship columnists. As coauthors their books include Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti, The 10 Best Decisions Every Parent Can Make, and Red-Hot Monogamy. In addition Pam has written Fantastic After 40! and The 10 Best Decisions a Woman Can Make. The Farrels have been married more than 30 years and have three children and a daughter-in-law.

Visit the author's website.


With her trademark humor and godly wisdom, bestselling author Pam Farrel inspires women to add the wow-factor to their marriages and lives through 52 clever ideas for dates, meals, getaways, and daily expressions of love. A spark of fun and refreshment for newlyweds, married with kids, or empty nesters.

Love Wise Intro from Bill & Pam Farrel on Vimeo.

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (August 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736937803
ISBN-13: 978-0736937801



The Recharger Box

What a man finds romantic is a woman who will lower his stress! In Men Are Like Waffles—Women Are Like Spaghetti, I explain that men go to their favorite easy boxes to rest and recharge. God helped us women recognize these easy boxes in that most of them are shaped like boxes—the TV screen, the newspaper, the garage, the Xbox, the computer screen, the football field, the baseball diamond, the basketball court, the refrigerator, and the bed. The bed box (also known as the sex box) is a husband’s favorite box to go to when he is stressed out. This box or square is kind of like the center square on a bingo card, and a man can get to that box from every other square on his waffle.

Wow Assignment

Find out your man’s favorite easy box he goes to for recharging. Here are some ways to discover this vital information:

If given thirty minutes of dead time, what does he do?
If he were given a day off, where would he like to go?
What does he do now when stressed?
What does he watch on TV when relaxing? (Sports? Movies? Adventures? Fix-it shows?)
Kendra Smiley and her husband, John, wrote Do Your Kids a Favor…Love Your Spouse. John was wowed unexpectedly by Kendra with his all-time favorite box:

I’ve been a Green Bay Packers fan for years and transferred that enthusiasm to our three teenage sons. I never imagined I would actually be able to see a game at Lambeau Field because legend has it that the only way to get tickets is to inherit them when someone dies. But legends don’t stop Kendra! She called the ticket office, asking about the purchase of five tickets for the last home game of the season. After the laughter died down (I guess there was some truth to the legend), they referred her to an agency offering “Weekend Packages.” She knew we couldn’t afford all the extras of a package, and somehow she managed to convince the woman at that office to simply sell her five tickets. She gave me a gift that took her time, her effort, and a little bit of her charming persuasion. What a great model for our kids!

My man’s favorite easy box is: ________________________

Wow Wisdom

Pray and thank God for your husband. Often we women push, push, push our spouse to be more productive or work on our “honey-do” list even on his day off. If you keep pushing, he might begin to see you as a mother or a boss, not a wife and lover. A husband who gets pushed to do too many things he doesn’t enjoy will exhaust himself emotionally and grow distant from his wife. Think about how much better your life is when you are connected with your lover!

Instead of resenting your “waffleman” for needing to recharge, thank God he has a box to recharge in so he can maintain the energy to keep up with you! As Paul reminds us, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 nasb).

Wow Date

Make him breakfast in bed and serve waffles. Give him a note for one free day off to do whatever he wants—to enjoy his favorite “waffle box(es).” Include a gift card for something that helps him recharge. While you’re there in bed, why not enjoy some “bingo”? Remember, for most men, bingo is the number one recharger box.