"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Good-ole' Days

Typically, those of us who are old enough to remember a better time, when things were simpler, more honorable, or perhaps more plentiful, cling to those memories tenaciously. But the author of the Biblical letter to the Hebrews encouraged his readers to remember the bad ole' days, when believers suffered persecution today's brethren can't imagine.
Hebrews 10:32-39 LITV
(32) But call to mind the former days in which having been enlightened you endured much conflict of sufferings;
(33) indeed being exposed both to reproaches and to afflictions; and having become partners of those so living.
(34) For also you suffered together in my bonds; and you accepted the seizure of your possessions with joy, knowing yourselves to have a better and abiding possession in Heaven.
(35) Then do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward.
(36) For you have need of patience, that having done the will of God you may obtain the promise.
(37) For, yet a very little while, and the One coming will come, "and will not delay." Hab.2:3
(38) "But the just shall live by faith;" "and if he draws back," "My soul is not pleased in him." Hab. 2:4; Zeph. 1:6; Mal. 1:10
(39) But we are not of those withdrawing to destruction, but of faith, to the preservation of the soul.
It ain't easy bein' Jesus.
So how will we handle the "Bad Ole' Days" as we experience them today? Most of us fortunate enough to have been born in the United States have never had to endure the kind of persecution suffered by our first century brethren … or the millions of faithful throughout history whose perseverance glorified God as they offered their earthly lives to Him. They rejoiced in their loss and hardship, claiming a better reward than any earthly power could offer.
Imagine the conundrum they faced; Your new life is so real it makes your old one seem like a bad dream. Yet, if you live your new life honestly, expressing who you are in Christ, others will surely notice and treat you differently. Worse yet, if you happen to live where the authorities frown upon well-practiced Christianity, bad things will happen to you and your family ... really bad things. So, do you place your family at risk by living as the fanatic Christ-follower you really are, or do you move your faith into a hidden closet, hating the corruption filling your outer life and the hypocrisy that continually separates you from your Lord?
Every day, believers who live under oppressive rule face that heart-rending decision. In fact, millions of believers who enjoy the authorities' official tolerance balk at the prospect of social castigation and disrespect, should they openly express their faith. The question is, who has it worse? The believer who suffers for faithfully living his faith, or the one whose self-inflicted torture plagues his inner life? The believer who clings to the promise of eternal reward, or the one who feels doomed to perdition?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Joy Manual

If you lack joy, simply pray sincerely about each point of this passage. I could exposit it, but I think it is plain enough just as it is:
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 NIV

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey

Introducing, The Swiss Courier, a thrill-ride collaboration between accomplished authors Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey. The Swiss Courier will keep readers entertained not only once, but it will draw them happily back for a reprise or two. How do I know? As one of the editors, I poured over it multiple times and never became bored; it's that well written.

Tricia is the author of 20+ books and has published over 300 articles for national publications such as Guideposts for Kids, Focus on the Family, Christian Parenting Today, Today’s Christian Woman and HomeLife Magazine. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from American Christian Fiction Writers, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion Book Award in 2005.

In her fiction novels, Tricia writes contemporary and historicalstories that feature strong women overcoming great challenges. She recreates historic wartime eras with precise detail through perseverant and comprehensive research.

Each of her World War II and Spanish Civil War novels tell the inspiring stories of engaging characters—and a God whose hand is evident in the landscape of history and the obstacles of ordinary lives.

I'll let Mike Yorkey speak for himself: "I’ve been writing for a living for more than twenty-five years after getting my start at a small weekly newspaper at the California ski resort of Mammoth Lakes. Then in 1986, I received a huge break: I was hired by Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry founded by Dr. James Dobson, to be the editor of Focus on the Familymagazine. I enjoyed eleven fantastic and satisfying years at Focus on the Family before moving into a freelance career as an author, editor, and speaker.

Although I’ve written a dozen books under my name, I’ve collaborated with some amazing people by writing their books for them: folks like Tim and Beverly LaHaye, evangelist Luis Palau, pop singers Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., tennis stars Michael Chang, Roscoe Tanner, and Betsy McCormack,baseball pitcher Dave Dravecky, San Diego physician Nick Yphantides (My Big Fat Greek Diet), and Jordan Rubin of The Maker’s Diet fame.

But the professional and personal highlight has been coming along side Fred Stoeker ever since Every Man’s Battle was released in 2000. The “Every Man’s” series—nearly a dozen books in all—is nearing 2 million in sales, but more importantly, the impact in men’s lives has been mind-boggling and humbling. To be part of influencing millions of guys staggers my imagination and is something I will treasure to the end of my days."

It’s July 1944, and the Gestapo is determined to make examples of anyone remotely suspected of conspiring in the failed
assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life.
Joseph Engel, a young prodigy of German physicist Doctor Weisenberg, working on the Nazi atomic bomb project, is completely unaware of a secret buried deeply in his past that threatens his livelihood and his life.

Gabi Mueller is a young Swiss-American woman working as a translator for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the CIA's forerunner. Though her job has kept her safely ensconced in the translators' pool, she possesses a secret talent that is about to change all that.

U.S. Army Air Corps Captain Bill Palmer nursed his badly damaged B-17 over the border to a hard-but-safe landing in Switzerland, only to find himself "detained" for the war's duration in an internment camp high in the Swiss Alps.

The circumstances that draw these three diverse characters together forms the compelling plot for this action and character-driven novel. Three years in the works, The Swiss Courier draws readers along its treacherous twists and hair-pin turns during a fascinating—and deadly—time in history.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's Not Just Us

Today's Daily Manna from the Net popped into my inbox with a fresh, new rabbit trail for me to chase. In Psalm 61, King David seems to selfishly pray for King David. Yet, in vs. 2 he ... well, read it for yourself:
Psa 61:1-4 NASB For the choir director; on a stringed instrument. A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; Give heed to my prayer. (2) From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (3) For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. (4) Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah.
        Notice how David prays, "From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint." That phrase, "the end of the earth," means, "all the earth," or "everywhere on earth." Even in Young's Literal Translation, the phrase comes across as including all the land, "... From the end of the land unto Thee I call, in the feebleness of my heart ..." David, the most resplendent king up to that time, a warrior of renown, beloved by his people, calls unto God from the end of the earth when his heart is faint ... despite his riches, his security, his fame.         David, in fact, prayed to God not as a lofty king, but as Adam, or fallen Man. Speaking as Man, David prays for God to "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I." In the flesh, in human position of authority, there is no rock higher than King David. Yet, he recognized in this prayer that all men are needy, and that he was the most needy of all.         Young's Literal, probably the most accurate, literal translation available, adds yet another element to David's beautiful prayer of verse 2: "Into a rock higher than I Thou dost lead me." As fallen man, David recognizes God's exclusive role as Guide. No "spirit guides" for David, no sirree! His Guide is God's Spirit, and that's enough for him ... as it is enough for today's fallen human beings, whether we know it or not.         The King's prayer ends in vss. 3 & 4 with a testimony: "For Thou hast been a refuge for me, A tower of strength because of the enemy. I sojourn in Thy tent to the ages, I trust in the secret place of Thy wings. Selah. Does the good King testify from experience? No! He speaks from faith, of a sojourn not yet realized and a promised, secret place for which he trusts implicitly.         In these few verses King David expresses the Problem of fallen humanity, God's Provision for that problem, and the Promise for those accepting God's provision. Beautifully said, King David.         My question is, however, what am I ... what are you doing with God's faithful promise to Adam through King David? Are we secure in that highest of Rocks, the Rock of our faith, Yeshua the anointed One? Or do we whine over our terrible weaknesses that prevent any victorious living? According to King David, God's promises ... all God's promises are ours through faith. And to finish it off, the apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthian church:
As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2Co 1:18-22)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shade-Tree Christians

        Alright, nothing is wrong with enjoying the cooling shade on a scorcher of a summer afternoon. In fact, God gives us permission to enjoy it a lot. What God referred to through his prophet Jeremiah was the Israelite's practice of worshiping heathen gods under the shade trees of the "high places." Though God consistently nurtured, forgave and otherwise displayed patience toward his people Israel, they ran to placate the heathen gods brought in by foreigners. Rightly, God compared that fickle practice with the prostitutes and loose women who helped willing men forsake their wives and families to sate their lustful appetites.
Go, proclaim this message toward the north: "Return, faithless Israel," declares the LORD, "I will frown on you no longer, for I am merciful," declares the LORD, "I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt--you have rebelled against the LORD your God, you have scattered your favors to foreign gods under every spreading tree, and have not obeyed me," declares the LORD. "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you--one from a town and two from a clan--and bring you to Zion." Jeremiah 3:12-14 NIV
        The discerning reader will ask, "How does that have anything to do with Christianity today? The answer is simple: When we compromise our worship and devotion for our Lord and Savior by pursuing activities or possessions other than worshiping him and generously giving in his name, whatever takes preeminence becomes our god. We can have the most conservative morality, the most Biblically correct doctrine, the broadest Sunday smile and the warmest Sunday handshake, but if we pursue entertainments or other pleasures instead of spending fellowship time with the church, and squander our resources on possessions to the exclusion of helping those in need, we have surely camped out at the idol's shady temple.         Will God forgive our "idolatry?" Just as surely as he forgave his people Israel. Will we get off lightly, with no consequences? Again, just as surely as his people Israel suffered defeat and captivity, misery and guilt will plague us for chasing our wandering appetites. One huge difference, however, separates our "captivity" experiences from those of Israel: They still looked forward to God's Messiah to provide rebirth and salvation after they sinned. Today's church, on the other hand, supposedly has already responded to the Savior.         The Biblical letter to the Hebrews contains some heavy reading; nourishing spiritual meat for those mature enough to digest it. Its truths are hard to take … impossible, without a heavy sprinkling of grace. Carefully reading and meditating on the following excerpt from the letter to the Hebrews, with a willing spirit and a teachable attitude, will open the Christ-follower to Holy Spirit conviction and, if obeyed, will give a life filled with "joy unspeakable and full of glory."(1 Peter 1:8-9)
        Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.         For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'" When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds," then he adds, "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.(Hebrews 9:1-28, 10:1-39 ESV)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Sweet Repose

The subject of rest is a favorite for most of us; sweet music to our ears in this helter-skelter world of fast cars, faster people and lightning-fast communications. Yet, call it something else and it becomes the stuff of which religious schisms are made. One of the great controversies splitting Christendom is the nature and observance of the Sabbath. Without further opining, let's examine a couple of Scripture passages that bear directly on this fearsome subject. Below, find the passages in their greater context, so we might interpret them more accurately(This is a lot of Scripture, so if you're familiar with the passages, you can safely skip them).
Heb 3:12-19 (12) Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. (13) But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (14) For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (15) As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." (16) For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? (17) And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? (18) And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? (19) So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief. Heb 4:1-16 (1) Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. (2) For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (3) For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, "As I swore in my wrath, 'They shall not enter my rest,'" although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. (4) For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all his works." (5) And again in this passage he said, "They shall not enter my rest." (6) Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, (7) again he appoints a certain day, "Today," saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (8) For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. (9) So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, (10) for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (11) Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (12) For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (13) And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (14) Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (16) Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Col 1:24-29 (24) Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, (25) of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, (26) the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. (27) To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (28) Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. (29) For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Col 2:1-23 (1) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, (2) that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, (3) in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (4) I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. (5) For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. (6) Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, (7) rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (8) See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (9) For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, (10) and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. (11) In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, (12) having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, (14) by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (15) He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (16) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (17) These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (18) Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, (19) and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God. (20) If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- (21) "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings? (23) These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
Some brethren insist these passages give permission to engage in wholesale licentiousness. That, of course, is the grossest perversion of God's Truth. Instead, these passages expand our responsibility for obedience by removing the artificial barrier that is the Law. Without it, we must step carefully along the way God has established for us, understanding the guiding principles contained within the Law rather than simply memorizing the statutes themselves. Does this free us from our obligation to store up God's word in our hearts? Never! It does just the opposite; it motivates us to more carefully guard God's word in our hearts, from sectarian corruption and careless presumption. Okay, back to keeping the seventh day holy. By sanctifying a spot on the calendar we perpetuate the Old Testament's legalistic religion. Anything more than a casual perusal of its historical books proves how poorly Israel understood God's reasons for giving the Law; they simply didn't get it. While that sorry situation persisted until Jesus fulfilled the Law, carnally-minded Christian brethren continued trying to obligate his church to keep Moses' Law in its entirety. Poor, insecure saps. The Scripture passages laid out here clearly show that philosophy's error. Hebrews chapter four explains the Sabbath's purpose in a way that requires little interpretation, and by understanding its purpose we are free to celebrate its truth without the Law's constraints. In short, Christ Jesus is our Sabbath rest, and when we enter into him, the calendar Sabbath is superfluous. In a very real sense, such artificial requirements minimize Christ's person and his purpose nearly to the point of blasphemy. Such insidious legalities rival one denomination's weekly obligation to renew Christ's sacrifice, effectively negating his one-and-only, true sacrifice on the despicable Roman torture device we call the cross. Can anyone imagine a more disrespectful practice than one that openly declares Christ's sacrifice was not enough? Then there is the passage in Colossians, that expresses the principles laid out in the letter to the Hebrews as a command directly from God's Holy Spirit. While this is just a sketchy treatment of these passages, each verse demands exhaustive study to fully appreciate their liberating beauty. Now in case the reader is still starved for God's word, the following passage applies but indirectly to the issue of Sabbath rest. It does, however, directly apply to the related issue of prohibitions of food and drink on religious grounds. Please note: This is permission, not direction.
Act 10:1-48 (1) At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, (2) a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. (3) About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, "Cornelius." (4) And he stared at him in terror and said, "What is it, Lord?" And he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. (5) And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. (6) He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea." (7) When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, (8) and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. (9) The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. (10) And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance (11) and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. (12) In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. (13) And there came a voice to him: "Rise, Peter; kill and eat." (14) But Peter said, "By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean." (15) And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." (16) This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. (17) Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood at the gate (18) and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. (19) And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you. (20) Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them." (21) And Peter went down to the men and said, "I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?" (22) And they said, "Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say." (23) So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. (24) And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. (25) When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. (26) But Peter lifted him up, saying, "Stand up; I too am a man." (27) And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. (28) And he said to them, "You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. (29) So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me." (30) And Cornelius said, "Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing (31) and said, 'Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. (32) Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.' (33) So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord." (34) So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, (35) but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. (36) As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), (37) you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: (38) how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (39) And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, (40) but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, (41) not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (42) And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (43) To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (44) While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. (45) And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. (46) For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, (47) "Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (48) And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
Does all this obligate us to worship on the First Day of the week or consume foods treated as unclean in the Old Testament? Hardly! They do just the opposite, allowing us to worship and eat according to our consciences, rather than according to a rigid code. This represents freedom in its purest form; the freedom to obey our Savior out of love, rather than out of grudging obligation. In a way, it is just a teaser, a foretaste of the divine freedom we will enjoy with Christ in eternity, where Sweet Repose will take on a whole new meaning.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

ONE FINE SEASON by Michael Sheehan

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

One Fine Season

AuthorHouse (November 25, 2008)


Michael Sheehan


Considering the woman I married, I have no choice but to be a kinda-sorta baseball fan. Nancy won't miss a game on TV, especially the playoffs. So smack in the middle of MLB Playoffs, I get to read ONE FINE SEASON to her. It's the fictional story of a young man with a dream, and a commission, to play in the majors. Without spoiling the story, I can say that Danny Grace fulfilled both, with strikeouts to spare.         ONE FINE SEASON has everything from drama to suspense to romance to gentle humor, all mixed together in a feel-good story with a live-right message. A self-published project of Authorhouse, Sheehan's book shows quality craftsmanship in both its assembly and its content. One reason conventional publishers seldom touch DIY literary works is authors with complete creative control of their projects rarely execute the ruthless editing necessary to make a good book great. Though I sensed from the outset that ONE FINE SEASON could have used tighter editing, Sheehan did a creditable job of proofing the manuscript, allowing just a couple of spell-check errors into the final gallery.         Since I'm passing out back-handed complements, I must mention that fiction needs conflict to work its spellbinding magic. If Sheehan's book lacks anything, it is such interpersonal conflict among the main characters. Sure, some dirty dealing goes on along the way, but the good-guys are only good, and the bad guys only bad, keeping the story a tad simple, and keeping me waiting for the other shoe to drop right on the protagonists' heads. Said shoe is still lost somewhere in the creative ether.         Now for the hard stuff. I am not used to fowl language in "Christian" literature, and this book had language to spare. If a potential reader is easily offended by it, avoid polluting your eyes on this one.         As to its world-view, one must be patient and discriminating to glean an evangelical Christian perspective from Sheehan's book. As a thoughtful Christ-follower, I actually enjoyed reviewing the plentiful, New Age and alternative Christian thought contained within these pages. It is a prime example of Satan speaking under the guise of an angel of light. Yes, it made me think. No, it didn't shake my faith in, and my relationship with, my Savior.         And as to the sexual relationship between the protagonists, this story reveals the church's ugly little secret: Christians fornicate, which is one reason the divorce rate among church folks is as high as among non-church-goers. I do, however, take exception to this story including no consequences for the illicit sexual encounters it described. Truth is, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8) And the other side of that equation showed that even in the tempting world of professional sports, some folks remain faithful to their spouses.         That nit-picking now complete, I desperately hope Sheehan's first novel will grab the publishing industry's attention, so that his next work will benefit from the perilous process of conventional publishing. Talk about drama and conflict ...


Michael Sheehan is CEO and founder of BioResource, a company that distributes natural remedies including the popular INFLAMYAR ointment for sports injuries. He wrote One Fine Season to honor the memories of two childhood friends who died young, before they could realize their dreams.

One Fine Season is true to life. It draws on Sheehan’s religious education at a Catholic seminary and his experience as a high school baseball and collegiate soccer player. A graduate of Santa Clara University, Sheehan also earned a master’s degree in science journalism from Boston University. He lives in Northern California.


ONE FINE SEASON tells the story of a promising young athlete who must rise from the ashes of devastating personal loss to fulfill a pact made years earlier with his best friend.

Best friends Pete O’Brien and Danny Grace are gifted college athletes, both hoping for careers as professional baseball players. When tragedy strikes, Danny struggles to cope with his overwhelming grief and fulfill a pact the young men made years earlier: to play in the World Series.

Events unexpectedly thrust Danny into the spotlight with the new expansion team in Sacramento. Three guides – an aging catcher, spiritual centerfielder and wise manager – plus a beautiful woman lead him on a healing journey, revealing that even death cannot break the bonds of true friendship.

If you would like to read an excerpt from the first chapter of One Fine Season, go HERE

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Slow Burn

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

A Slow Burn

Zondervan (October 1, 2009)


Mary DeMuth

You know a great character actor by your feelings about her during the dramatic presentation. If she's the antagonist, and doing her job well, the distinction between actor and character becomes blurred, causing the audience to accept the dramatic conflict as real, and to dislike the actor as the character she plays. Printed literature demonstrates a similar phenomenon, when the reader becomes so invested in the characters that he truly empathizes with them, feeling both their pain and their joy, and possibly even disliking the work for the emotional upheaval he experiences with them.         A Slow Burn does exactly that to the reader. Emory Chance is a woman who has never known unconditional love, and in fact, just the opposite. Beginning with her mother, every relationship she has experienced—with the notable exception of her recently murdered daughter Daisy—shoves down her throat the message that she is despicable, hardly worthy of the oxygen she breathes. And of course, when one believes she is a nothing, that is the way she lives. With Emory seemingly on a quest to destroy every friendly attempt at building her up, and the friends who try, she desperately tries to numb her pain with pot, pills and beer.         I would have to say I hate gritty stories of southern racism, bigotry and hatred in all forms. Yet, once I get into them, and have to deal with the ugly truth of The Human Condition, the redemptive process that follows rings so true and beautiful that I end the book rejoicing in God's love.         Mary E. DeMuth's novel of harsh, human reality both hurts and heals the reader right along with the authentic characters she created for the gray world of Defiance, Texas.


Mary E. DeMuth is an expert in Pioneer Parenting. She enables Christian parents to navigate our changing culture when their families left no good faith examples to follow.

Her parenting books include Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture (Harvest House, 2007), Building the Christian Family You Never Had (WaterBrook, 2006), and Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (Harvest House, 2005).

Mary also inspires people to face their trials through her real-to-life novels, Watching The Tree Limbs
(nominated for a Christy Award) and Wishing On Dandelions (NavPress, 2006).

Mary has spoken at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, the ACFW Conference, the Colorado Christian Writers Conference, and at various churches and church planting ministries. She's also taught in Germany, Austria, Monaco, Italy, France, and the United States. Mary and her husband, Patrick, reside in Texas with their three children. They recently returned from breaking new spiritual ground in Southern France, and planting a church.


She touched Daisy’s shoulder. So cold. So hard. So unlike Daisy.

Yet so much like herself it made Emory shudder.

Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy’s murderer—a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. As questions surrounding Daisy’s death continue to mount, Emory’s safety is shattered by the pursuit of a stranger, and she can’t shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy’s disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, this suspenseful novel is about courageous love, the burden of regret, and bonds that never break. It is about the beauty and the pain of telling the truth. Most of all, it is about the power of forgiveness and what remains when shame no longer holds us captive.

Watch the video:

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Slow Burn, go HERE

Monday, November 02, 2009

Timeless Appeal

In Jeramiah 3:19-22, the prophet wrote an appeal from God to the people of Israel.
'I myself said, 'How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation.' I thought you would call me 'Father' and not turn away from following me. But like a woman unfaithful to her husband, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,' declares the LORD. A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the LORD their God. 'Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.' Yes, we will come to you, for you are the LORD our God.' (NIV)
While the prophetic message applied directly to Israel about five hundred years before Christ, its spirit applies equally to today's "Children of Israel" by faith: God's church. Read in that context, this passage speaks forcefully to the church's unfaithful. Now we must decide how much to spiritualize this passionate appeal to apply it to our lives.         "How gladly would I treat you like sons and give you a desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation." First, that Christ-followers are God's sons is a scriptural given.(Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:23-26, Galatians 4:5-7, Ephesians 1:3-6, Romans 8:14-15, Hebrews 12:7-8) What does God mean for us with the promise to give a "desirable land, the most beautiful inheritance of any nation."? The obvious interpretation is our eternal, heavenly abode. Push the passage a bit further and we might see in it an earthly land as our temporal inheritance. Yet, an honest perusal of today's persecuted church in less-than-friendly lands could rightly cause us to rebel at the thought of a temporal inheritance. So let's look at it another way; the apostle Paul admitted to being the target of extreme persecution, but he wrote:
"So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2Co 12:7-10)
Today's persecuted churches live those very words. Because they could lose their property, their jobs, their freedom, and even their lives because they profess faith in Christ Jesus. Could they avoid most persecution if they soft-pedaled their profession of faith, as so many American Christ-followers do when it might be unpopular? Of course; they have free will just as we do. What we don't have, however, is their passionate commitment to their Lord.         What follows in the Jeremiah passage is God's lamentation over Israel's unfaithfulness, where he describes Israel's unnecessary suffering and then holds out his offer of forgiveness and restoration. Part of that offer is God's promise to, "cure you of backsliding." Depending on the church's willingness of spirit, that promise might be viewed as a threat, but his "cure" is the most loving act possible: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (Joh 3:16-17)         In view of the world's saturation with human evil, how could anyone not view God's timeless appeal for what it is, an all-powerful, eternal hand up for an impotent humanity?