'n Lint in die wind
This is an extract from 'n Lint in die wind by Elize Parker.
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Charlene lig haar kop en kyk deur die dun bruidsluier wat half teruggeglip het oor haar heuningblonde hare na die erewag soldate in regimentsuniform wat haar en Lloyd Edwards inwag ná hul huweliksbevestiging in die hof.
Fyn, gekleurde confetti val soos papierreën oor haar skouerlose chiffonrok.
Haar groen oë lig na waar die hemelruim in hierdie somer van 1964 deur helder, wit wolke ingekleur word.
Haar blik rus vlugtig op die vele onbekende gesigte in die skare voor haar hier by die Offisiersklubgebou by die Cranborne-barakke, tuiste van C Squadron (Rhodesian) Special Air Services, die eenheid van die Rhodesiese veiligheidsmagte waar Lloyd ’n offisier is.
Die enigste bekendes is die vroue van die offisiere in Lloyd se kleinerige eenheid en die paar offisiere en manskappe wat sy onlangs leer ken het.
Nooit kon sy dink dat sy sou trou en dat daar nie eens een geliefde gesig in die skare sou wees nie.
Tog, sy verkies dit so.
Sy is bang almal wat bekend is sê sy was te haastig om hier in die verte sonder familie of vriende met ’n man te trou wat sy skaars ken nadat sy halsoorkop in Pretoria op hom verlief geraak het. Met die smal troupand met die rooi robyn reeds aan haar vinger, is dit nou te laat vir teregwysings.
Lloyd trek haar nader aan hom asof hy haar ongemak aanvoel. Die glimlag om sy ontspanne mond is gul en gemaklik. Sy donker oë rus liefdevol op haar. Hy gee haar ’n ligte soen op haar wang. ‘Jy lyk so mooi, my skat, so ekstra spesiaal mooi.’
Hy lig weer sy hand in ’n groet en begin dan hand skud met sy vriende in uniform. Daar is ’n broederlike eensgesindheid en geskerts onder hulle wat dui op ’n gereelde, gemaklike saamwees.
Kort voor hierdie dreigende konflik in Rhodesië tussen verskillende faksies wat wil veg om die reg om hierdie kosbare land met sy ryk bronne te regeer, is verhoudings orals gespanne. Onder diegene wat op mekaar aangewese is vir die stryd vorentoe, is reeds ’n samehorigheid wat sy kan aanvoel al is sy maar twee maande hier.
Al is sy net twee-en-twintig jaar oud, het die ouer vroue van die offisiere haar ingetrek in hul nou kring en het sy nie een oomblik uitgestoot gevoel nie. Die offisiersklub is die spil waarom alles hier in die weermag draai en naweke kuier hulle gewoonlik op iemand se plaas.
Dan gesels die vroue gemaklik eenkant oor kinders, kos en hulle families.
Al het sy dikwels niks om by te dra nie, maak hulle haar deel van die groep deur haar te laat help kos maak, opruim of speletjies speel met die kinders.
Sy is haar gewone stil self tydens sulke geleenthede. Sagte en inkennige Charlene wat nie eens ’n partytjiemeisie kan wees met ’n glasie wyn of twee agter die blad nie.
Dis juis waar sy by ’n partytjie eenkant gestaan het dat Lloyd haar in Pretoria tydens ’n militêre opleidingskursus ontdek het.
‘Die meisie met die skaam glimlag,’ het hy haar genoem.
Charlene stoot skugter aan die sluier wat bly vorentoe val. Sy kon vinnig regkom met ’n bruidsuitrusting. Hier in Salisbury is nie veel te kies en te keur nie. Tussen haar nuwe vroue-kennisse was daar ’n openhartige en gulhartige uitdeel van die oorvloed in hul kaste.
Almal was opgewonde oor die ouer, geliefde offisier wat uiteindelik iemand gevind het om sy ruim huis met die rooi sinkdak en die breë stoepe onder die jakarandas te deel nadat hy so lank ’n alleenloper was.
Die huis met die mooi naam op die bronsplaatjie op die voordeur: Heartshaven. ’n Hawe vir die hart. Hoe gepas.
Lloyd se broer, George, wat inderhaas uit Brittanje na Salisbury moes kom namens die Edwards-familie, het egter nie hul verbintenis goedgekeur nie.
Hy was die enigste verteenwoordiger van die familie aangesien Lloyd se ma nie ten gunste van die skielike troue was nie en sy nie eintlik in Lloyd se keuse geken is nie.
Lloyd het net hieroor gelag. ‘Ek is vyf-en-dertig. Ek het definitief nie haar toestemming nodig nie! Sy verstaan duidelik nie die dringendheid nie. Ons is dalk op die rand van ’n oorlog!’
Hoewel Lloyd die dag tevore George se ontevrede houding en sy klein prekie oor Mother afgemaak het, kon sy sien dat dit hom ietwat pla. Hy is na aan sy broer en sou hom tevrede wou stel. ‘Moenie bekommerd wees nie,’ het hy haar egter gerus gestel, ‘wanneer hulle jou beter leer ken, sal hulle lief word vir jou. Hulle sal nie anders kan nie.’
Sy het egter ook met die bostelegraaf gehoor dat Lloyd se ma iemand anders vir hom in die oog gehad het, ouer en beslis baie Brits. Hierdie jong Suid-Afrikaanse meisie wat boonop Afrikaans as eerste taal het, het haar glad nie aangestaan nie.
Hou net uit! het sy vir haarself gesê wanneer George afkeurend na haar kyk. Lloyd is enige opoffering werd!
Gelukkig was daar van sy vriende en haar nuwe kennisse wat anders gedink het.
‘A match made in heaven!’ het Molly Green, een van die ouer vroue in die offisiersvroue-groep uitgeroep toe sy hulle gelukgewens het met hul vinnige verlowing toe Charlene uit Pretoria op Lloyd se uitnodiging in Salisbury kom kuier het.
Die heen-en-weertjie het gou verander in ’n langer kuier toe dit vir hul albei duidelik geword het dat iets dieper en kosbaar tussen hulle aan die groei was.
Hulle het ook beide kop verloor met die driftige bekoring wat tussen hulle opgevlam het.
Na drie weke het Lloyd ’n verloofring aan haar vinger geglip. Sy was weerloos teen die ouer, aantreklike en gewilde man se oorrompelende sjarme.
Hy kon weer glad nie die blondekop met die vlekkelose gelaat en vonkelende groen oë weerstaan nie.
‘Jy is so beeldskoon. So perfek,’ het hy reeds vroeg in hul verhouding vir haar gesê.
Daar was gewoonlik ’n ligte blos op haar wange want sy was skaam en skugter wanneer sy tussen mense gekom het. Sy het ook dikwels agter haar groot sonbril geskuil. Sy was oorbewus van hoe sy koppe laat draai met haar ongewone lengte en sjiek poniestert in die holte van haar nek.
‘Kophou, vriendin,’ het ’n bekommerde vriendin, Rina Potgieter, uit Pretoria laat weet toe sy van die verlowing hoor. Maar vir Charlene was dit onmoontlik.
Sy het die afgelope vier jaar kop gehou. Sy was nou in ’n tyd wat sy haar net wou oorgee aan die koestering van iemand sterk wat haar lewensbesluite kon neem en haar oppas. Dit was ’n moeilike vier jaar.
Op sewentien het sy swanger geraak na ’n vakansieromanse tussen haar en Martyn Jonker. Hy was die seun van welaf familievriende, Cora en Aaron Jonker, wat gereeld op hul plaas, Reiveille, kom kuier het.
Van kleintyd af het hulle saam gespeel en gekuier – sy en Martyn en Tokkie. As sy haar oë toemaak onthou sy eenbeentjiespelery, sokker met ’n ou petrolkan, borrelgom en koeldrank in glasbottels met uitstaankolletjies daarop. Martyn het haar met sjongolôlo’s gejaag wanneer dit gereën het. Hulle het saam boom geklim en forte in die rivier gebou. Jelliepoeier uit pakkies geëet en mekaar al in die rondte gedraai totdat hulle dronk in die kop was.
Toe word hulle tieners … en Tokkie raak swanger met Andries se kind. En alles verander.
Ook die spontane vriendskapsverhouding tussen haar en Martyn het bykans oornag in ’n romanse verander toe hulle op ’n nuwe manier van mekaar bewus geword het.
In die week was sy in Bloemfontein in die koshuis by haar ma se alma mater, die Prinses Beatrix-meisieskool.
Martyn was by hul broerskool, Rhodes Kollege. Dit was maklik genoeg om hom dikwels te sien, tydens geleenthede wat die skole saam aangepak het. Flieks in die skoolsaal, rugbywedstryde en danse, en daar het hulle mekaar op ander maniere as op die plaas leer ken.
Tóé, die somer van 1959.
Die verhouding het tot wasdom gekom ten spyte van hul gemeenskaplike vriendin, Tokkie Bezuidenhout, se waarskuwings.
Tokkie is in standerd agt uit die skool uit omdat sy swanger geraak het. Sy moes trou met haar hoërskoolliefde, Andries Bezuidenhout. Sy het die moeilikheid sien kom.
Martyn se oorheersende en bombastiese sakeman-pa, Aaron, het saam met Charlene se ma, Hannah, gesorg dat niemand, nie eens Cora nie, van Charlene se swangerskap weet nie. Aaron was ’n koue, ongenaakbare man en sy sakeryk was sy hele lewe. Niemand het sy besluite ooit bevraagteken nie.
Sy is stilweg by die skool weg onder voorwendsel dat sy ’n kursus in Pretoria sou gaan volg. Daar is sy in ’n huis vir swanger tienerma’s opgeneem totdat haar seun in 1960 gebore is.
‘Alles reg, skat?’ vra Lloyd besorg. Hy is sedert hul eerste ontmoeting besonder ingestel op haar emosies.
Charlene glimlag vlugtig en druk sy hand waar dit op haar ruiker rus. Sy kon nie anders as swig voor sy sorgsaamheid nie. Hy het haar van hul eerste dans op Elvis se ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ op ’n hotelbalkon in Pretoria met die winkende ligte van die Uniegebou in die verte, soos ’n prinses laat voel.
Hy neem haar in ag: haar gevoelens, buie en menings, al is sy soveel jonger as hy.
Hy kyk soms verwonderd na haar asof sy ’n rare vlinder is wat ’n oomblik in sy teenwoordigheid ingefletter het en waaraan hy hom wil verkyk voordat sy weer wegfladder.
Hy is altyd die perfekte heer en offisier. Hy het haar na die eerste ontmoeting tydens sy verblyf in Pretoria op die hande gedra. Hulle het gereeld uitgegaan, gedans, saam met sy en haar vriende om braaivleisvure gekuier.
Sy is toegegooi met geskenke en oorrompel met sorgsame gebare. Hy het haar in sy opleidingstyd dikwels voor werk in sy pienk motor kom oplaai en voor die bankgebou waar sy werk, gaan aflaai.
Hy was verknog aan sy kar en het spottenderwys daarna verwys as sy Pink Cadillac omdat hy soos die heupswaaisanger, Elvis Presley, vir hom so een aangeskaf en pienk laat verf het.
Dit was nou wel nie presies soos die oorspronklike nie en ’n Coupe de Ville, maar die motor was nogtans Lloyd se hart se punt.
Met Lloyd aan haar sy is soveel van die seer van die afgelope paar jaar soms vir dae op die agtergrond.
Sy staar nie meer so dikwels na die foto van die pragtige blondekopseuntjie met sy groot groen oë soos kolle in sy gesig nie. ’n Seun wat sy gevra is om na Martyn se oupa, Schalk Albertyn, te vernoem.
In haar kop en in haar hart, het sy hom Schalkie genoem.
Die krisis in haar sestiende en sewentiende jaar het haar vinnig laat volwasse word en sy moes haar tienerverliefdheid op Martyn gou afskud. Deesdae dink sy net af en toe aan hom en wonder hoe dit met hom gaan na sy onlangse huwelik in Bloemfontein.
Dit is vlietende gedagtes. Daar kan nooit weer iets tussen hulle wees nie.
Met haar nuwe lewe saam met Lloyd, is gedagtes aan haar skuldgevoelens oor haar pa se selfmoord ook minder.
Haar ma se afsterwe weens ’n gebroke hart omdat hulle die plaas op so ’n tragiese manier verloor het, is steeds oorheersend in haar kop, maar dit is ’n dowwe pyn.
Hiervan weet die glimlaggende Lloyd nie veel nie.
Hy stel belang in die hier en nou, in wie sy is wanneer sy saam met hom is en die goeie tye wat hulle kan deel voor die oorlog dalk aanbreek.
Hy is immers ten eerste soldaat in murg en been, en sal veg vir wat hy dink reg is.
‘Alles is reg, my man,’ stel sy hom gerus en word vir haar skielike, stralende glimlag beloon met ’n sagte soen op haar voorkop. Die omstanders bars spontaan los met applous.
Nie George nie. Hy staan met sy hande oor sy netjiese baadjie gevou en kyk ondersoekend na haar.
Charlene lig haar ruiker oranjepienk armmans-orgideë na haar gesig. Lloyd het dit reeds gister vir haar gestuur. Die kelke met hul kleurvolle gespikkelde binnekante en strelende, sagte geure is haar gunstelingblomme. Dié blomplante groei en gedy al is hulle so teer, broos en blootgestel aan allerhande invloede, en dis hoe sy self ook dikwels voel.
Soos met die blomme het Lloyd op vele maniere probeer opmaak vir die feit dat sy so vinnig hier in die vreemde kom trou het.
Alles val in plek vandag: die onthaal in die offisiersklub met die keurige plaaslike disse en ’n orkes wat tot laat musiek gaan speel.
Daarna vertrek hulle na ’n geheime bestemming vir hul wittebrood.
Dit was reg dat sy by hom skuiling kom soek het, haar swartkopheld met sy sterk oortuigings, gespierde lyf en lewenswyse selfversekerdheid. Sy wil hom nooit verloor nie.
Hy is haar lewensanker noudat sy niks meer het om aan vas te hou nie en sy voel haar greep op haar gemoed en haar lewe word al hoe minder.
Sy het hom veel nodiger as wat hy haar ooit sal hê.
Toe iemand per ongeluk teen haar stamp, breek een van die orgideëkelke af en fladder grond toe. Charlene kyk teleurgesteld daarna en sien hoe die rooi grond daaroor skuif en die gaste die sagte, pienk blaar onherkenbaar vertrap sonder dat sy enigsins iets daaraan kan doen.
Maar die Pink Cadillac se deur klik agter haar toe. Sy het nie tyd om stil te staan en te diep te dink nie. Haar huweliksonthaal wag en die huweliksgaste is uitgehonger vir goeie nuus en vrolike gebeurtenisse soos hul troue vandag.
Dis vandag 15 Januarie 1964 en die lewe snel onteenseglik voort. Sy moet kophou en byhou soos die afgelope paar jaar.
101 Smiles for You, Mom
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40 by Travis Thrasher
This is an extract from 40 by Travis Thrasher. To view the book, click here.
What Difference Does It Make?
I feel watched when I turn onto the dirt road leading to the dead end. I
can see this desolate strip in the dark of my dreams, the wild growth of
untouched Appalachian wilderness, stifling on all sides. The hanging
branches blocking the sun can’t block the gaze of God. His face has always
shone on this small stretch of land. Why, I don’t know.
The house resembles an uncle I haven’t seen in years. A little more
gray, a few more wrinkles. It would make a pretty picture on a postcard if I
hadn’t lived here for a chunk of my life.
The shape by the window I park beside is surely Mom waiting for me.
The front door of the quaint log cabin opens and she smiles. There is nothing
rooted in that smile except love.
“Make it okay?” she asks after I hug her small frame.
“The plane had to crash land in Asheville. Otherwise I was headed to
“A little color might do you some good.”
“Come into the kitchen for a while. He’s fine—
went down for a
nap. Want something to drink?”
“How about a shot of bourbon?”
Her accent is polite southern, sweet southern, the kind the movies
never seem to get right. There’s more character in that tone than in a bottle
of some outrageously expensive vintage wine. She makes me a glass of
sweet tea and I’m once again reminded how there’s never a good substitute
for the real thing.
“How’s work going?”
“I’d be fine if I didn’t have to deal with temperamental artists.” I stand
at the kitchen table and look into the family room. “Good to see you got it
Mom nods but doesn’t appear like she wants to bring it up. I sent them
the check for the window. I guess I never really thought that the bookend
I threw would actually go through two panes, but I wasn’t really thinking
about much of anything when I threw it except how much I hated my
father. I didn’t want to break glass; I wanted to break his face.
That was the last time I’d been here. The last thing I did before going
out the door and driving away and vowing never to come back to this place.
Mom remembers but I’m sure Dad doesn’t.
I don’t even know if he remembers who he is anymore, much less the
curses I hurled out as I chucked some big block that looked like a remnant
of a Roman sculpture from the New Testament.
That was over a year ago.
The older I get, the more I discover how ruthless and uncaring time
His eyes are see-
glass, his face curled up in a joker-
only one side. I’m a moving picture to him, as meaningful as cable television
or blowing rain.
I’m ready, and I stand and swallow.
It’s easy to say those words with this tone and this security when there’s
nobody looking back. When there’s nobody listening on the other side,
demanding an apology or demanding anything.
I see him shift forward, then back, in the wheelchair. So slight, steady,
like the twitching hand of a clock with a dying battery.
“It’s Tyler,” Mom says behind me, speaking in a way I’ve never heard her
speak to my father.
She’s no longer a servant. She’s now his interpreter.
Hearing her words moves me more than seeing him here like this, here
but not here, alive and breathing, but not really.
He looks feeble and frail. The heart attack might as well have killed him.
It took that strong, seemingly unbreakable backbone and snapped it in half.
“Why don’t you sit down?”
I follow my mother’s advice and then watch as she slips away.
He coughs and sounds like an animal. I study the face.
Then I just sit there for a long time.
I hear myself take a breath. The things we take for granted.
It’s remarkable. Really. This life.
I want to ask God why He didn’t just take him. What purpose does this
shell of a man in front of me have?
God’s timing, I hear Charles W. Harrison say.
You can’t speak to me, you’re a vegetable.
Want to know what Hell is, son?
Don’t ask me that question again.
I see you and hear you, TW.
My father’s the only one who’s ever called me TW, and only at selective
moments. Teachable moments. The moments that count, Charles liked to say.
Every moment counts, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it, Dad?
I look at the library surrounding us. His fleet of battleships against the
evil one, our own Sauron that wages war against us daily. My father chose
to fight back with words.
The Word, Son.
Afternoon light slips through the blinds, casting my father’s shadow
over the wall. I see several frames in its wake. Pictures of my mom, Kendra,
Kendra’s boys. Nowhere do I see my face.
I wonder if he took down my mug before the incident or after.
It’s chilly in this room, the smell of cut wood in the air, perhaps just in
my mind. Can memories contain scents?
“Everything okay?” Mom asks on her way to their bedroom, which is
another door down.
I am ten or twenty-
years old and the answer is the
same as always.
A wrong and a fake and a hollow yes.
Before I leave, I take hold of my father’s hand. It’s not cold and it’s not hard
and it doesn’t shock me. I want to say something.
The moment calls for something to be said and I’m the only one here
that can do it.
I can’t think of anything.
“How long did they give him?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“What did Kendra say?”
“She’s Kendra. Thinks she’s a surgeon and a scientist and Mother
“Are you hungry?”
“I was before the dinner you fixed an hour ago.”
“We never had dessert.”
“You’re not around enough for me to fatten you up.”
“I have beer to do that for me.”
The sliding glass door facing the table we sit at opens onto a deck that
overlooks the valley below. The sun floats like a bright beach ball in the
“Remember that tree that used to block the view?” Mom nods toward
the bright glow.
“I thought something was different. You can actually see the sunset.”
“Pretty, isn’t it?” Mom looks out behind the shield of her coffee, lost
somewhere way out beyond the rays.
“I told him for years to cut it down.”
“He finally listened.”
“He wanted to cut it down himself. I told him, ‘over my dead body.’ He
got one of the local workers around here to cut it down.”
“Probably would’ve killed him right then and there.”
“He listened to you more than you know.”
This is the part of being a son I’m not so good at.
The moment when I fail.
I have nothing to say.
I’m embarrassed by the stockpile of emotions in this room. Ashamed
that I can’t find the combination to open the door and let a few of them
come out. Just a few, like dusty tools in a forgotten shed somewhere. Maybe
even just one.
“You know he loves you.”
I nod. Of course I know that. That isn’t the question. How he loved was.
I note that Mom isn’t using past tense like I am.
He’s not in the past tense, not yet.
Yet to me he’s always lived in the past tense. I am always and forever in
fourth grade and can’t ever move on.
The voices sound stronger in the silence than they were when they were
“So what do you want out of life?”
It was a simple question my father asked last time I was here.
“I haven’t really had much time to think about it after being stuffed
with your guilt and loathing of this life, Dad.”
“Seems you’ve done a pretty good job of living your own life these past
“Don’t bring her up.”
“You know my feelings on this.”
“Yeah, and every single time I see your face you bring her up.”
“Which seems to be less and less often.”
“People get divorced every day. Christians, even.”
“A man is known by the fruits of his spirit.”
“So what are you saying? Or what are you trying to say through these
nice little quotes?”
“That a man is known by his actions, his life. Are you like the barren
“I don’t even know what a fig tree is.”
“The Bible says that if salt loses its flavor, how’s it supposed to be seasoned?
That it’s good for nothing except being trampled upon.”
That’s what did it. I didn’t want to hear it anymore and I didn’t want
him suggesting that I was still not quite right, like a car he brought in every
week but that still had some strange and distant clinking that sounded
every time he took it out for a drive.
I wasn’t a damned fig tree or some spreading salt for the sidewalk.
A son shouldn’t be talked about like something worthless, like something
dying, like something that doesn’t matter.
What doesn’t matter is what I said then or what I might have said now.
In the pit of night when the noise is gone, all I can hear are voices.
His remains the loudest.
It’s here that I can’t lie.
I don’t question Heaven or Hell.
Yet I still sometimes question which one I’ll arrive at when my time has
This is an extract from 40 by Travis Thrasher. To view the book, click here.
5 Levels of Leadership
Leadership is one of my passions. So is teaching it. I’ve dedicated
more than thirty years of my life to helping others learn what I know about leading. In fact, I spend about eighty days every year teaching leadership. In the last several years, I’ve taught about it on six continents. The subject is inexhaustible. Why? Because everything rises and falls on leadership. If you want to make a positive impact on the world, learning to lead better will help you do it. In all the years that I’ve taught about leadership, there has been one lecture that I have been asked to give more often than any other from West Point to Microsoft and in countries all around the world.
That lecture explains how leadership works, and it provides a game plan for learning how to become a leader. It’s “The 5 Levels of Leadership.”
My belief that everything rises and falls on leadership solidified in
1976, and it set me on a leadership journey that I am still traveling to
this day. I began the journey by asking many questions. How do you
define leadership? What is a leader? How does leadership work?
Unfortunately, people’s usual answers to those questions are not very
helpful. Some people identify leadership with obtaining a leadership
position. But I’ve known bad leaders who had good positions and good
leaders who had no position at all. Haven’t you? Other people say of
leadership, “I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it.” While that
may be true, it doesn’t help anyone learn how to lead.
The conclusion I came to early on is that leadership is influence. If
people can increase their influence with others, they can lead more
effectively. As I reflected on that, a concept for how leadership works
began to crystallize in my mind. That concept was the 5 Levels of
Leadership, which took me about five years to develop. I have been
teaching it ever since. And whenever I present it, one of the questions
people always ask is, “When are you going to write a book about this?”
As you can see, I’m finally answering that question.
There are a lot of books about leadership lining people’s bookshelves.
Why should you read this one? Because it works. The 5 Levels has
been used to train leaders in companies of every size and configuration,
from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies. It has been
used to help nonprofit organizations understand how to lead volunteers.
And it’s been taught in more than 120 countries around the
world. Every time I talk about it, people ask questions and make observations.
Those things have helped the 5 Levels of Leadership to
become stronger and to develop greater depth. The concept is tested
and proven. In addition, it offers several other benefits:
The 5 Levels of Leadership Provides a Clear Picture of Leadership
How do people get a handle on leadership? For those who are not naturally
gifted for it, leadership can be a mystery. For them, leading people
is like walking down a dark corridor. They have a sense of where
they want to go, but they can’t see ahead and they don’t know where
the problems and pitfalls are going to lie. For many people in the academic
world, leadership is a theoretical exercise, an equation whose
variables are worthy of research, study, and rigorous debate. In contrast,
the 5 Levels of Leadership is visually straightforward, so anyone can
The 5 Levels of Leadership Defines Leading as a
Verb, Not a Noun. Leadership is a process, not a position. There was a time when people
used the terms leadership and management
interchangeably. I think most people now recognize
that there is a significant difference
between the two. Management is at its best
when things stay the same.
Leadership deals with people and their dynamics, which are continually
changing. They are never static. The challenge of leadership is
to create change and facilitate growth. Those require movement,
which, as you will soon see, is inherent in moving up from one level of
leadership to the next.
The 5 Levels of Leadership Breaks Down Leading
into Understandable Steps. The subject of leadership can be overwhelming and confusing. Where
does leadership start? What should we do first? What processes should
we use? How can we gain influence with others? How can we develop
a productive team? How do we help followers become leaders in their
own right? The 5 Levels of Leadership gives answers to these questions
using understandable steps.
The 5 Levels of Leadership Provides a Clear Game Plan for Leadership Development. Too often when people think of their journey into leadership, they
envision a career path. What they should be thinking about is their
own leadership development! Good leadership isn’t about advancing
yourself. It’s about advancing your team. The 5 Levels of Leadership
Leadership is a process, not a position.
Lead people well and help members of your team to become effective leaders, and a successful career path is almost guaranteed.
This is an extract from The Five Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. To find out more, please click here.
7 Gebede wat God altyd beantwoord
This is an extract from 7 Gebede wat God altyd beantwoord by Jason Frenn.
Wat wil jy hê moet
Ek vir jou doen?
Watter gebed wil jy beantwoord hê? As jy saam met die Here ’n koppie koffie
kon gaan drink en Hy vir jou vra: ‘Wat wil jy hê moet Ek vir jou doen?’ – wat sal
jou antwoord wees? Wat sal jy vra? Dink ’n bietjie daaroor na. Sy vraag kan lei tot
die grootste deurbraak in jou lewe. Ek glo die Here beantwoord gebed. Ja, selfs joune.
Alhoewel dit waar is dat die Here nie ’n gees in ’n lamp is nie en ook nie Kersvader is nie,
wil Hy nogtans vir jou dit gee ‘wat jou hart begeer’ (Ps. 37:4). Hy verstaan jou behoeftes
en met sy hart vol liefde, vrygewigheid en medelye, reik Hy op hierdie tyd in jou lewe na
jou toe uit.
Oor die jare het mense my al baie interessante vrae oor gebed gevra. Dikwels vra hulle:
‘Is dit niegeestelik om die Here te vra om my te help om uit die skuld uit te kom of meer
geld te maak?’ Met tye het party mense al stil-stil verneem of dit reg is om te bid vir ’n
meer dinamiese en betekenisvolle sekslewe in hulle huwelik. Een persoon het my gevra
of die Here genoeg omgee om haar versoek te hoor om ’n beter tennisspeler te
Alhoewel hierdie gebedsversoeke vir sommige mense na
onbelangrik kan lyk, is hulle baie belangrik vir diegene wat op
soek is na antwoorde. In feitlik elke situasie is my antwoord
dieselfde. Die Here gee meer om as wat jy dink, en ja, jy moet
jou hart met die Here deel. Daar is amper geen gesprek wat jy
nie met die Here moet voer nie, veral as jou hart opreg is en jou
begeerte suiwer is. Die volgende storie illustreer net hoeveel die
Here omgee oor die besonderhede van ons lewens.
‘Here, ons het u hulp nodig. Ons het u voorsiening nodig’.
Dit was die opregte woorde wat ek neergeskryf het op ’n stukkie
papier terwyl ek in ’n verpligte vergadering gesit het, net
voor die middaguur. Ek, my vrou en my dogters was van plan
om vanuit Sentraal-Amerika terug te keer na Noord-Amerika
vir ’n jaar van reis deur die land in ’n poging om geld vir ons
bediening in te samel. Ons het ten minste vyf duisend dollar
nodig gehad vir reis, om ’n gebruikte motor te kan koop, ’n deposito
vir ons verblyf, die eerste maand se huur en, indien daar
nog enigiets oor was, klere vir die meisies. Kortom het ons ’n
finansiële wonderwerk nodig gehad. Dit was 31 Maart 1999.
April het gekom en gegaan. Ons vertrekdatum was 24 Mei.
Die laaste naweek was ons in Costa Rica waar ek gepraat
het by ’n kerk genaamd Oasis of Hope. Ek onthou die aand
nog goed. Omdat ons so knap van geld was, het my skoene
gate op die sole gehad. Een van die plekaanwysers by die kerk
het na my toe gekom en gesê: ‘Jason, gaan dit jou pla as ek jou
skoene skoonmaak? Hulle is net te vuil’. Alhoewel dit ’n bietjie
vernederend was, het ek agter in die konsistorie gesit terwyl sy
hulle skoongemaak het. Daarna het ek haar bedank en sy het
teruggekeer na haar pos.
Daardie aand het ek ’n eenvoudige boodskap gedeel van
hoe God die God van tweede kanse is. Toe ek klaar is, het die
een pastoor na die verhoog gekom en sonder my medewete
aangekondig dat die kerk ’n finansiële bydrae vir ons gesin sou
opneem. Daarna het hy vir my aangesê om dit aan te wend
waar nodig. Die offerande was ’n duisend dollar. Ons was oorweldig
met dankbaarheid vir hulle vrygewigheid, en ons was
natuurlik dankbaar teenoor die Here.
Die week voor ons vertrek het ons steeds vier duisend dollar
nodig gehad. Toe ontvang ek ’n oproep van my skoonpa om
my te vra of ek daarin sou belangstel om te tolk vir ’n Argentynse
evangelis by ’n veldtog in San Diego, Kalifornië, ’n dag
na ons aankoms. Die koördineerders het iemand nodig gehad
om van Spaans in Engels te tolk. Ek het geëerd gevoel oor die
uitnodiging en gesê dat ek met graagte sou help.
Vyf dae later het ons in Suid-Kalifornië geland en na die
veldtog vertrek. Ons het op pad by ’n winkelsentrum gestop
om nuwe skoene te koop. Ek wou nie hê die mense moes my
tone deur my skoensole sien steek nie.
Die veldtog het goed afgeloop.
Die volgende oggend is ek en die prediker genooi om te
gaan ontbyt eet saam met die pastore wat die geleentheid geborg
het. Ek het al drie ons dogters saamgeneem restaurant toe
terwyl Cindee ’n bietjie rus en vrede in die kamer gehad het.
Nadat ons klaar geëet het, het die koördineerder gesê: ‘Baie
dankie dat julle ons gehelp het. Julle het werklik ons harte geseën.
Nadat hy vir die spreker ’n koevertjie gegee het, hy het
na my gedraai en vir my ook een gegee. Ek het aanvaar dis ’n
geskenk vir my hulp as tolk. Ek het gevra of ek die inhoud van
die koevert vir enige van ons spesifieke behoeftes kon aanwend
en hy het geantwoord: ‘Natuurlik’.
Nadat ons mekaar gegroet en gedruk het, het ek vir die dogters
gesê: ‘Kom ons gaan stap op die strand en soek ’n parkie’.
Hulle was baie opgewonde.
Ek het gewag totdat ons by ’n swaai en ’n klimraam uitgekom
het voor ek die koevert uitgehaal het. Die dogters het
onmiddellik begin klim soos apies wat losgelaat is in ’n boom.
Ek het die koevert oopgemaak en gedink: Dit is waarskynlik
’n tjek vir twee honderd en vyftig of drie honderd dollar. Ek het
die tjek oopgevou. Aanvanklik kon ek nie my oë glo nie. Dit
kan nie reg wees nie, het ek gedink. Die bedrag wat op die tjek
ingevul was, was vier duisend dollar. Ek het my oë uitgevee en
weer gekyk om seker te maak dat ek reg gelees het. Toe het ek
gekyk na die deel waar die persoon wat die tjek uitgeskryf het,
die bedrag in woorde uitgeskryf het. Daar het gestaan: ‘Vier
duisend dollar en ____ xx/100’.
Ek het opgespring en uitgeroep: ‘Halleluja. Die Here is ons
Voorsiener!’ Waarlik, Hy is ons Voorsiener. Terwyl ek in die
parkie rondgedans het, het my dogters gewonder wat in my
ingevaar het. Met een kragtige gebaar het die Here al ons finansiële
behoeftes uitgewis. Daar was genoeg geld vir ons om ’n
gebruikte motor te koop, ’n woonstel te huur en klere te koop
vir die hele gesin. Ek was so opgewonde.
Ses weke later het ons vertrek op ons reis. Ons het van Kalifornië
na Tennessee gery en die nag in ’n hotel in Nieu-Meksiko
deurgebring. Terwyl ek laatmiddag op die rand van my
bed gesit het, het ek ’n telefoonoproep ontvang.
Die stem aan die ander kant was ernstig. ’n Man het gevra:
‘Is dit Jason Frenn?’
‘Ja’, het ek geantwoord.
Hy het gesê: ‘As my feite reg is, het jy onlangs getolk by ’n
veldtog in die San Diego-omgewing. Ek is die uitreik se rekenmeester.
Was die tjek wat jy van ons ontvang het, uitgemaak vir
vier honderd dollar?’
Dit het vir my gevoel asof die wêreld skielik tot stilstand kom.
Ek het diep asemgehaal en gesê: ‘Nee, nee. Die tjek wat julle
vir my gegee het, was uitgemaak vir vier duisend dollar’.
Hy het geantwoord: ‘Vier duisend dollar? Wel, dan is dit waar
al die geld heen is. Daar is ’n groot fout gemaak, ’n fout van drie
duisend ses honderd dollar om presies te wees! Ons sal die probleem
moet oplos. Ek het geen idee wat my besiel het nie. Hoe lyk
jou finansiële situasie? Dalk kan ons ’n plan maak’.
Binne ongeveer sewe sekondes het ek vir hom die hele verhaal
vertel, van my dagboekinskrywing tot die oomblik wat hy
my gebel het.
Nadat ek alles verduidelik het wat gebeur het, het ek gesê:
‘So as jy nou vir my sê dat die tjek ’n fout was en ons drie
duisend ses honderd dollar moet terugbetaal, gaan ek ’n bietjie
tyd nodig hê. Want die vier duisend dollar is op!’
Daar was ’n lang stilte.
‘As jy vir my sê dat jy presies vier duisend dollar nodig gehad
het, kan ek net aanneem dat die Here my gelei het om ’n tjek
vir daardie presiese bedrag uit te skryf. Dit moet die Here se
wil wees. Hou die vier duisend dollar. Ek sal ’n plan maak om
dinge hier te laat reg uitwerk. Die Here seën jou!’
En toe beëindig hy die oproep.
Die Here het waarlik gehoor gegee aan my versoek. Deur ’n
reeks onvoorspelbare omstandighede het sy voorsiening gekom
op die oomblik toe ons dit nodig gehad het. Nooit te vroeg nie,
nooit te laat nie. Sy tydsberekening is altyd onberispelik.
Dit is nou al amper twaalf jaar later en ons het al honderde
en honderde gebede gesien wat beantwoord is. Die Here het
ons nog nooit in die steek gelaat nie, nooit mislei nie, nooit vir
ons vals hoop gegee nie. Hy het ons bygestaan deur dik en dun.
Wat van jou? Wat is jou drome, aspirasies en begeertes? Watter
berge staar jy in die gesig? Watter gebed wil jy graag beantwoord
Wat hierdie boek vir jou kan doen
Ter voorbereiding vir die skryf van hierdie boek, het ek by meer
as ’n duisend mense ’n opname gemaak en vir hulle een vraag
gevra: ‘As jy in gebed vir die Here vir drie dinge kon vra, wetend
dat Hy jou gebed sal beantwoord, wat sou jy vra?’ Die
antwoorde was interessant.
Die grootste enkele gebedsversoek was vir die geestelike redding
van ’n familielid of vriend. Die tweede grootste was vir die
een of ander finansiële deurbraak of loopbaanbevordering. Die
derde was vir fisieke genesing, dikwels vir iemand anders. Die vierde
was vir geestelike groei. Die vyfde gewildste gebedsversoek
was vir fisieke beskerming en veiligheid vir hulle kinders, gesinne
of hulleself. Laastens wou mense die krag en geleenthede hê om
die Here se roeping in hulle lewens te vervul.
Die kanse is goed dat die gebede wat jy wil hê die Here moet
beantwoord in een van die bogenoemde areas val, en dit is my
begeerte dat hierdie boek jou sal help om te bid en die resultate
van jou begeerte sien. Ek bid dat jy ’n groot deurbraak sal
sien, nie net op een gebied in jou lewe nie, maar op verskeie
gebiede. Ek glo dit is die Here se begeerte om jou te help om by
die hindernisse verby te beweeg wat jou of ’n geliefde daarvan
weerhou om vorentoe te gaan.
Hierdie boek sal jou insig gee in die gebede wat God altyd
beantwoord. Dit sal jou leer om sy hart te verstaan sodat jy volgens
sy wil kan bid. Hierdie boek sal jou geloof help om berge
te versit. Dit sal jou help om sy krag te ervaar. My begeerte is
dat hierdie boek jou lewe heeltemal sal verander!
A Brand New Child in 5 Easy Steps
This is an extract from A Brand New Child in 5 Easy Steps by Andalene Salvesen.
Super Granny’s Secret
Five steps to regaining your authority
The ancient Romans described their horses as ‘meek’ when they
were ready for battle after a breaking-in period. Horses are naturally
timid and spook at loud noises and sudden movements.
Once the horses were trained to be unafraid in battle and able
to abide in the commands given to them through a relationship
of trust, they were ready and labelled as ‘meek’ or ‘humble’.
1.1 Recalibrating parenthood
The survival of every culture is dependent on the ability of its adherents
to transfer their cultural knowledge, value systems and traditions from
one generation to the next. One of the most basic and fundamental
values that need to be transferred is to teach children to delay gratification
of their impulses. Children need to be taught to wait their turn, to
respect the rights of others. Delayed gratification ensures the survival of
the culture because it teaches children that the values of the group must
always supersede the desires and impulses of the individual.
In some Eastern cultures and many traditional African cultures the
function of transmitting these cultural values is communal in nature,
with extended families and entire communities playing a role in socializing
the child. In Western nuclear families this task rests almost
exclusively with the child’s parents. But globalization, mass media,
urbanization and global financial stressors have negatively impacted
the capacity of all cultures to nurture the next generation and ensure
that children learn to delay their demands for gratification.
Because of the instant microwave-type society that we live in today,
the term ‘delayed gratification’ has almost become obsolete. We have
Instant Messaging, Skype, instantly down-loadable books and movies,
fast foods and microwave, and we instantly swipe our credit cards. In
most areas of our lives there is no longer a need to wait for any of our
needs to be gratified. While some of these have definite benefits, the
net effect is that when we do find ourselves slowed up in traffic or
standing in queues it is not unusual to experience scenes of irritation,
short fuses, temper tantrums and even violence breaking out.
In keeping with this mindset it is no wonder that we witness parents
who are uncomfortable when expecting their children to wait.
Instead, they quickly give in to their requests, demands and whims
for the sake of ‘keeping the peace’. Peace for the ‘sake of peace’ is a
practice which ends up being repeated over and over and does not
lead to making ‘real peace’.
We see the effects of instant short-term gratification in young people
and adults that result in them being overweight, lethargic, in poor
health, without sexual discipline, and abusing drugs and alcohol.
1.2 Delayed gratification
Take a look at this definition of delayed gratification:
Delayed and deferred gratification denote a person’s ability to wait in
order to obtain something that he or she wants. This intellectual attribute
is also called impulse control, will power, self-control and ‘low’
time preference in economics. Sociologically, good impulse control is
considered a positive personality trait. Moreover, people who lack the
psychological trait of being able to delay gratification are said to require
instant gratification and might suffer poor impulse control.
Psychologists believe that children who were able to delay gratification
(able to wait) were psychologically better-adjusted, more dependable
persons and, as high school students, scored significantly
higher grades than their contemporaries.
No child is born with the ability to exercise impulse control, or
patience. Patience, or ‘waiting with a good attitude’ is something that
is learned or has to be taught. This can be taught only through a
process of consistently and repeatedly helping your child to applicably
delay gratification and learn to do so with an acceptable attitude.
Delayed gratification is an attribute and life skill that has far-reaching
benefits right through a child’s schooling and into adulthood, namely:
• They will be able to study and delay play.
• They will be able to manage overspending on credit cards.
• They will be able to work diligently and wait patiently for a
• They will be able to save for what they really need and not
settle for something less or just impulsively want.
Mastering this skill creates an attitude of gratefulness instead of one
1.3 Transferring family culture and value
systems to the next generation
Most cultures desire to transfer their beliefs, customs, traditions and/or
financial inheritance to the next generation. Without mutual trust
and respect, this cannot happen. When there is no relationship,
financial inheritance, at most, may be transferred, but the important
character traits and value systems will be lost. This is largely due to a
generation of often indulged, disrespectful and stubborn children who
have not been taught or expected to respect and submit to elders.
This creates the problem of them being unteachable, resulting in the
inability to pass down years of wisdom.
‘When children are undisciplined, they enjoy the presents from the
parents but not the presence of the parents’ – Anon
We are all familiar with stories of wealthy families transferring
their financial inheritance to the next generation, only to watch the
family name end up in ruin. While this in itself is heartbreaking,
more important is the inheritance of the value system that should
have been transferred.
Globally there is general frustration among parents regarding the
best way to achieve this transferral. In this work, I suggest that using
the behaviour modification technique known as ‘time-out’ with younger
children and natural consequences for older children is one of the most
effective ways to help children develop the life skill of delayed gratification,
and then to instil it as a value through consistent execution
and appreciation of the ultimate benefits and empowerment that come
Firstly, a relationship based on mutual respect needs to be established.
Used appropriately, effective time-outs and consequences can
be the very vehicle needed to achieve this and recalibrate the parent/
A Love Worth Giving
This is an extract from A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucad. To buy the book now, click here
We love, because He first loved us. 1 JOHN 4:39 NASB
GOD LOVES YOU Personally, Powerfully, Passionately.
Others have promised and failed,
But God has promised and succeeded.
He loves you with an unfailing love.
And his love – if you let it – can fill you
And leave you with a love worth giving.
Could two people be more different? He is looked up to. She is looked down on. He is a church leader. She is a streetwalker. He makes a living promoting standards. She’s made a living breaking them.
He’s hosting the party. She’s crashing it.
Ask the other residents of Capernaum to point out the more pious of the two, and they’ll pick Simon. Why, after all, he’s a student of theology, a man of the cloth. Anyone would pick him. Anyone, that is, except Jesus.
Jesus knew them both. And Jesus would pick the woman. Jesus does pick the woman. And, what’s more, he tells Simon why.
Not that Simon wants to know. His mind is elsewhere. How did this whore get in my house?
He doesn’t know whom to yell at first, the woman or the servant who let her in. After all, this dinner is a formal affair. Invitation only. Upper crust. Crème de la crème. Who let the riffraff in?
Simon is angry. Just look at her – groveling at Jesus’ feet. Kissing them, no less! Why if Jesus were who he says he is, he would have nothing to do with this woman.
One of the lessons Simon learned that day was this: Don’t think thoughts you don’t want Jesus to hear. For Jesus heard them, and when he did, he chose to share a few of his own.
A Year With Jesus
This is an extract from A Year with Jesus by William Barclay. To buy the book now, click here
Jesus is not a figure in a book;
He is a living presence.
- William Barclay
The best way to get to know other human beings is to spend time with them and to listen to what they have to say. We can then discover what matters to them and get a sense of their personalities. We have a wonderful opportunity to get to know Jesus through the Bible. We can hear directly from him with his own words spoken in a variety of circumstances to a variety of audiences. Through these words we can learn who Jesus is and what matters most to him.
What do we learn from listening to Jesus?
We learn that the kingdom of God has come to us and that the members of his kingdom are motivated by one thing: love for one another. Love does no harm to anyone, but instead seeks to bring out the best in each person. Love leads us to forgive rather than to seek vengeance. In fact, there is no room for vengeance at all. In its place, Jesus offers forgiveness and mercy.
Jesus was not concerned with whether a person deserved forgiveness and mercy. He didn’t focus on whether the person was respected or important. Instead, he did what was best for each individual he met. Sometimes that meant healing people. Sometimes it meant answering people’s questions. Sometimes it meant teaching or feeding them. Sometimes it meant eating a meal with them. And sometimes it meant criticizing them harshly. We learn from Jesus that love, though always seeking what’s best for others, does not always feel good at first.
Spend a year with Jesus. Listen to his heart as you contemplate his words. You’ll soon discover that what matters most of all to him is you. He knows what will make you happiest, and so he freely offers it to you—his Father’s kingdom.
God lives fully in Christ.
Jesus Christ turns life right-side-up,
and heaven outside-in.
Carl F. H. Henry
LOVE AND HATE
Loving no matter how someone behaves is rare. We come closest in our relationships with our children. Babies give only sleepless nights and dirty diapers. They never mow the grass or do the dishes. And yet we love our babies. In the same way, God loves us. Hate, in contrast to real love, is entirely dependent upon performance and stands in opposition to love.
Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous
man, though for a good man someone might possibly
dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for
us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:7–8 niv
John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
It came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness. And He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan, and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to Him.
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Mark 1:4–15 nkjv
This is an extract from A Year with Jesus by William Barclay. To buy the book now, click here
Angels on Assignment
Living in the Shadow of the Almighty
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto
me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the
shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge,
until these calamities be overpast.
—Psalm 57:1, kjv
The time is in the late 1970s. Imagine that you
have an eighteen-year-old son whose work assignment
consists of traveling from state to state by automobile. At
times he must drive ten to fifteen hours one way, through
major cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, and even New York
City. To arrive in time for some prearranged engagements, he
must literally leave at ten o’clock at night and drive all night
to make it to the next meeting. He travels alone.
At that time there were no cell phones, BlackBerry devices,
iPhones, text messaging, or GPS systems—only printed maps
and pay phones at convenience stores. At times you expect him
home from an all-night trip by eight o’clock in the morning,
but he arrives hours later. During these times you wonder if
he’s in danger. Did he have a flat tire, engine trouble, or could
he have run out of gas on a long country road in the mountains
of West Virginia? It’s just that parental nature to be concerned.
Who is that young, eighteen-year-old lad? That boy is me.
I was called into the ministry at age sixteen, and by age eighteen,
I began traveling throughout five different states, driving
at all hours of the night to get from one church to another.
My father, Fred Stone, once had wavy, jet-black hair. His hair
turned silver, and he always said, “Perry, this white hair was a
result of me staying up all hours of the night and praying for
your safety and protection when you were traveling across the
nation.” Having a teenage son myself now, I can confirm the
same feelings of my father.
Life is like a long path with unknown sections of quicksand
and pits along the way. When a mother sends her son, or a
wife her husband, to a battlefield in a foreign land, her heart
skips a beat each time a twenty-four-hour cable newscast interrupts
programming to show a bombing or a suicide attack in
the same area where her soldier son or husband is stationed.
Children have been sent to public schools in the morning
never to return home in the evening because of evil seducers
and perverse-minded adults who took advantage of their innocence.
The unexpected even occurs on college campuses when
a mentally unstable student turns a gun on colleagues out of
anger or hate. Shift work divides the quality time in families,
requiring a wife or husband to travel to a factory late at night,
often through dangerous parts of the city.
In reality, we need continual protection—at home, on the
job, on the road, and basically twenty-four hours a day.
There are numerous Scriptures indicating that God can
and will protect us. One of the common English words that
indicates God’s protective plan is the word keep. When the
ancient Jewish high priest spoke the priestly blessing over the
people, he would say, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee”
(Num. 6:24, kjv). The Hebrew word for keep is shamar, and
it means to hedge in, guard, and protect. One of the greatest
Scripture passages, and one of my personal favorites, is Psalm
91. I call it the psalm of divine protection:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence.
He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you.
Only with your eyes shall you look,
And see the reward of the wicked.
This is an extract from the Ballerina Bible. To buy this book, click here
The Gospel According to
The Eternal Word
1IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him
nothing was made that was made.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
did not comprehend a it.
John’s Witness: The True Light
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was
7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the
Light, that all through him might believe.
8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of
9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man
coming into the world. b
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through
Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, c and His own d did not receive
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right
to become children of God, to those who believe in His
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God.
The Word Becomes Flesh
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and
we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This
was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred
before me, for He was before me.’ ”
16 And e of His fullness we have all received, and grace for
17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and
truth came through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten
Son, f who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared
A Voice in the Wilderness
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent
priests and Levites
from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are
20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am
not the Christ.”
21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He
said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered,
22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give
an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about
23 He said: “I am
‘ The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“ Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ g
as the prophet Isaiah said.”
24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees.
25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but
there stands One among you whom you do not know.
27 “It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.”
28 These things were done in Bethabara h beyond the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
The Lamb of God
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and
said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of
30 “This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who
is preferred before me, for He was before me.’
31 “I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to
Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.”
32 And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit
descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon
33 “I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize
with water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit
descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes
with the Holy Spirit.’
34 “And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of
The First Disciples
35 Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples.
36 And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the
Lamb of God!”
37 The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed
38 Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to
them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which
is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?”
39 He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw
where He was staying, and remained with Him that day
(now it was about the tenth hour).
40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed
Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.
41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him,
“We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the
42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked
at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. i You shall
be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).
Philip and Nathanael
43 The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He
found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.”
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have
found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets,
wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come
out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of
him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
48 Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus
answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when
you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are
the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
611 JOHN 3:28
1:51 a NU‑Text omits hereafter. 2:17 b NU‑Text and M‑Text read will eat. c Psalm 69:9 2:22 d NU‑Text and M‑Text omit to them.
3:13 e NU‑Text omits who is in heaven. 3:15 f NU‑Text omits not perish but.
50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you,
‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see
greater things than these.”
51 And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter
a you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Water Turned to Wine
2On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee,
and the mother of Jesus was there.
2 Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the
3 And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus
said to Him, “They have no wine.”
4 Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern
have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to
you, do it.”
6 Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according
to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing
twenty or thirty gallons apiece.
7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And
they filled them up to the brim.
8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it
to the master of the feast.” And they took it.
9 When the master of the feast had tasted the water that
was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but
the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of
the feast called the bridegroom.
10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets
out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk,
then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”
11 This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee,
and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in
12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He, His
mother, His brothers, and His disciples; and they did not
stay there many days.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus
went up to Jerusalem.
14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and
sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business.
15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all
out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured
out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.
16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things
away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written,
“Zeal for Your house has eaten b Me up.” c
18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do
You show to us, since You do these things?”
19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple,
and in three days I will raise it up.”
20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build
this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.
22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples
remembered that He had said this to them; d and they
believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.
The Discerner of Hearts
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during
the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the
signs which He did.
24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He
knew all men,
25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for
He knew what was in man.
The New Birth 3There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a
ruler of the Jews.
2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi,
we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one
can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say
to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom
4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born
when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s
womb and be born?”
5 Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless
one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom
6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which
is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born
8 “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the
sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it
goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these
10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of
Israel, and do not know these things?
11 “Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know
and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our
12 “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe,
how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
13 “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came
down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. e
14 “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness,
even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but f
have eternal life.
16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish
but have everlasting life.
17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn
the world, but that the world through Him might be
18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who
does not believe is condemned already, because he has not
believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come
into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light,
because their deeds were evil.
20 “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does
not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.
21 “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his
deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in
John the Baptist Exalts Christ
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the
land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim,
because there was much water there. And they came and
24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples
and the Jews about purification.
26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who
was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—
behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing
unless it has been given to him from heaven.
28 “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not
the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’
JOHN 3:29 612
4:42 a NU‑Text omits the Christ.
29 “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend
of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices
greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy
of mine is fulfilled.
30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of
the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes
from heaven is above all.
32 “And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and
no one receives His testimony.
33 “He who has received His testimony has certified that
God is true.
34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God,
for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
35 “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into
36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he
who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath
of God abides on him.”
A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah
4Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had
heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than
2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples),
3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee.
4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria
which is called Sychar,
near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.
6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied
from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the
7 A woman of Samaria
came to draw water. Jesus said to
her, “Give Me a drink.”
8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy
9 Then the woman of Samaria
said to Him, “How is it
that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan
woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of
God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you
would have asked Him, and He would have given you living
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw
with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living
12 “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the
well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of
this water will thirst again,
14 “but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him
will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will
become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I
may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’
18 “for you have had five husbands, and the one whom
you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a
20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews
say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming
when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
worship the Father.
22 “You worship what you do not know; we know what we
worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
23 “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers
will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the
Father is seeking such to worship Him.
24 “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship
in spirit and truth.”
25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming”
(who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us
26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”
The Whitened Harvest
27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled
that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You
seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
28 The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into
the city, and said to the men,
29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did.
Could this be the Christ?”
30 Then they went out of the city and came to Him.
31 In the meantime His disciples urged Him, saying,
32 But He said to them, “I have food to eat of which you do
33 Therefore the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone
brought Him anything to eat?”
34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him
who sent Me, and to finish His work.
35 “Do you not say, ‘ There are still four months and then
comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and
look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
36 “And he who reaps receives wages, and gathers fruit for
eternal life, that both he who sows and he who reaps may
37 “For in this the saying is true: ‘One sows and another
38 “I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored;
others have labored, and you have entered into their
The Savior of the World
39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in
Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He
told me all that I ever did.”
40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged
Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days.
41 And many more believed because of His own word.
42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not
because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him
and we know that this is indeed the Christ, a the Savior of the
Welcome at Galilee
43 Now after the two days He departed from there and
went to Galilee.
44 For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor
in his own country.
45 So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received
Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the
feast; for they also had gone to the feast.
A Nobleman’s Son Healed
46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had
made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman
whose son was sick at Capernaum.
47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into
Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down
and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs
and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my
This is an extract from the Ballerina Bible. To buy this book, click here
Becoming a Man of Unwavering Faith
This is an extract from Becoming a Man of Unwavering Faith by John Osteen.
To view the book, click here
Every man faces struggles and temptations. There are
moments when every man feels surrounded by trouble
on every side.
Unfortunately, many men become convinced that
their destiny is to suffer pain, disease, troubles, anxieties,
and defeat. Some resign themselves to the position that
nothing can be done about their situation.
The Bible says, “In the world you will have tribulation”
(John 16:33). The time will come, if it hasn’t already,
when you’re going to have to believe God for something
significant—for your marriage, your finances, your
children, your spiritual growth, your health. You need to
know how to come to Him in unwavering faith and how
to stand on the Word of God.
My own personal journey to becoming a man of faith
began as a boy on a cotton farm with five siblings during
the Great Depression. As a child, I thought about God
many times, but I grew up into my teens having gone to
church very little. My best friend, Sam Martin, constantly
told me about the love of God, but I wouldn’t listen to
him and chose to leave Jesus out of my life.
At the age of seventeen, I found myself without
peace in my heart. One night while walking home alone
from a nightclub in Ft. Worth, Texas, at two o’clock in
the morning, I began to think about time . . . eternity . . .
heaven. Where would I spend eternity? When I got home,
I pulled out our old family Bible and came upon a beautiful
picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking. Under
the picture were the words: “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”
(Revelation 3:20). I could understand opening the door
of my life and letting Jesus in, so early the next morning I
called Sam, and he invited me to go to church with him.
That Sunday morning, I beat Sam to the church!
Although I didn’t understand the sermon that morning,
I had come to give my heart to Jesus, and that was what
I was waiting to do. However, when the pastor invited
anyone who wanted to receive salvation to come to the
front of the church and the invitation song began, it felt
as though my shoes were nailed to the floor. I couldn’t get
the courage to move. Finally, Sam slipped his arm around
my shoulder and whispered he’d come with me.
When I got to the front of the church, the pastor asked
me if I wanted to receive Jesus in my heart, and I said, “I
don’t know. I’ve been real wicked.” He shook my hand
real hard and said, “I didn’t ask you that. Will you receive
Jesus as your Savior?” I balked and said, “I don’t know.
I work in the wrong kind of place.” He nearly shook my
hand off as he said, “I didn’t ask you that. Will you accept
Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior?” It was
then that I surrendered all to Jesus and said courageously,
“Absolutely!” With that word, I passed from death into
life, became a new creature in Christ Jesus, and took my
first step to becoming a man of faith.
From that day, things were different. My grades in
high school went from Cs and Ds to As and Bs. That first
year I began preaching anywhere I was welcomed—Bible
study groups, nursing homes, and missions. Eventually,
I worked my way through college and seminary and
became a pastor.
For nineteen years, I ministered in all the knowledge
I had and was the pastor of a successful, growing church.
But I knew that I had not experienced and was not enjoying
the things the believers did in the New Testament, and
deep within me I felt God had more for me. One day,
with God’s help and the prayers of others, I received the
baptism in the Holy Spirit and experienced the power of
God, which revolutionized me and my ministry.
On Mother’s Day 1959, we founded Lakewood
Church with ninety members. Over the years, the church
grew, and we built an 8,200-seat sanctuary in the middle
of the recession in 1988 a few weeks before Christmas—
debt free. By 1999, we had 10,000 members. During
my ministry, I had the privilege of traveling extensively
throughout the world, taking the message of God’s love
and power to people of all nations, which included making
over forty mission trips to India. For sixteen years I hosted
my own weekly television program, reaching millions in
the U.S. and in many other countries with the Gospel. My
books, cassettes, and videotaped messages went all over
The principles of faith in God and His Word set forth
in this book have been tried in the crucible of my life. I
remember when the doctor told us that our baby daughter
Lisa had brain damage and would never be normal. She
had no sucking reflexes, no muscle tone, and symptoms
similar to cerebral palsy. It was the miracle of her healing
that opened my eyes to the miracle-working power of
God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I remember the time when my nervous system
collapsed, and I lost all sense of purpose, direction, and
initiative. I felt that life held no hope of reality. I came
under a dark hole of fear that God was no longer with
me, and I could not sleep. When day came, I wished for
night. When night came, I wished for day. God graciously
delivered me from that condition, not instantly, but
through trusting His Word the victory came.
Some years later, I went through months of agonizing
pain in my back and legs and faced back surgery and
visions of being paralyzed and unable to walk. Another
battle came in 1986 when I was in Methodist Hospital,
awaiting open heart surgery. In both situations, Jesus
brought me through to victory, permeating my whole
being with faith and assurance as I read and believed His
It was in the midst of the great challenges of my life
that I learned how to exercise my faith. The Lord Jesus
worked in my life and my family through all these conflicts
and many more. Through His grace and strength, the
fields of battle became my greatest victory ground. Now
when fear knocks at my door, faith answers. I learned the
power of faith to help me stand and overcome.
So what makes the difference between living a life
of victory and faith or living one of defeat and unbelief?
What are the qualities of a man of genuine faith? I believe
they are exemplified by the lives of the great men of faith
in the Bible, particularly Jabez and Elijah and others on
whom I will focus in this book.
We are privileged to live in a generation when God is
pouring out His Spirit in a mighty way. The gentle rain of
the precious Holy Spirit is falling upon the dry religious
ground of our day to give sweet refreshing to wearyhearted
men of God. He can do it for you . . . today.
The Lord said in the Book of Joel, “I will restore . . .”
He is restoring to His Church the power and love of God,
and His will is that we become men of faith who bring
His presence into the lives of our families and the world
This is an extract from Becoming a Man of Unwavering Faith by John Osteen. To view the book, click here
Between the Covers
This an extract from Between the Covers by Dr. R. Dainty Shaw and Dr. Christo A. Scheepers. To buy the book now, Click here
Between the Covers was birthed from the obvious lack of availability in resources and the lack of sexual fulfillment in marriages, confirmed by the high divorce rate and the numerous affairs married people are having. When people are experiencing marital problems it is often carried over into the bedroom, leading to sexually frustrated and unfulfilled couples. It is evident in modern-day society and characterized by either extramarital affairs or very unhappy people longing for more action in the bedroom.
Even if you or your spouse have never been involved in an extramarital affair, the question still remains whether you are fully satisfied with your sexual life. Are you truly fulfilled with your sex life or are you longing for more, but do not know how to share this yearning with your spouse? Do you want to try something new in the bedroom, but fear rejection? Are you having difficulty adjusting to your spouse’s sexual cycle and need for sex?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you should continue reading and even take the next step: inviting your spouse to share in your reading experience of Between the Covers. The purpose of Between the Covers is to make you aware of the inner passion within you. We believe that every man and woman has a sexual passion inside them, but it may have been suppressed due to circumstances, fear, rejection, past sexual experiences, negative connotations to sexual pleasure or sexual abuse. Allow us to facilitate the process of discovering the passion inside you and unleashing this inner sexual need within the confines of marriage so that you may also experience sex as God intended it to be from the very beginning.
In Between the Covers you will discover what true sexuality was meant to be, based on the godly plan revealed in the Word of God. You will discover how to deal with dormant sexual desires while involving your spouse in this exciting journey towards sexual fulfillment. Most important of all, you will learn how to become compatible with your spouse’s sexual needs and desires while giving each other the non-judgemental platform in the bedroom to unleash each other’s passion, thus giving your spouse the opportunity to be a truly whole person.
Why do two people who are not married to each other write a book of this nature together, you may ask? Well, most books on sexuality are either written by married couples or professionals (usually of the same gender and of the same opinions). This causes a tendency to portray a specific couple’s opinion of sexual matters or a certain professional opinion. This may result in is a very one-sided or limited point of view, sometimes seen as very judgemental towards people who differ in opinion.
With two friends of different genders writing Between the Covers together, you are ensured of a well-balanced point of view on sexual matters. We offer you the opinions, backgrounds and experiences of different people and couples. As authors we both agree on the crucial matter of believing in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior matter what our past experiences entail. This foundation is strengthened by our professional backgrounds in counseling.
As you can imagine, when friends of different genders write a book of this nature together, very personal information is shared and discussed and as born-again Christians, we embarked on this project with two very definite policies; firstly to have our spouses’ blessing on the project and being open to discuss anything coming up with our respective spouses, and secondly to protect and keep confidential the other’s sensitive information. True to our confidential nature in the counselling profession, this was a natural outflow of common courtesy.
The interesting part was learning from another married couple very intimate details about sexuality while comparing it to your own relationship. The challenging part was to openly and honestly share very intimate sexual details about your own life and marriage. The enlightening part was to become conscious about the truth of the Word of God when applied to sexuality, and the positive influence it has on your own sexual life, and releasing your inner passion when looking at a Scripture like John 8:32, which states that you will know the Truth and the Truth will set you free.
The Truth mentioned in this Scripture is referring to Jesus and since He is the Truth, getting to know Him is what sets a person free. When your relationship with Jesus develops and you draw closer to Him on a daily basis, you soon realise that the past cannot be changed and the future is yet to come, but how you live in the present is what will determine your future. When you live in the present in a godly way, you become aware of how important it is to enjoy every single moment of your life. You soon realise there is no reason to hide your sexual needs and desires from your spouse, but to be honest enough to discuss them with your partner, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes you feel.
Do not fool yourself; it might be very uncomfortable at first because some of us have grown up where sex is not something we talk about or parents teach their children that sex is dirtyn an attempt to keep them from exploring sex at a too young age. That being said, children today find it much easier to talk about sex and do not see any problem with multiple sexual partners due to what the media is suggesting. This is, however, not the case for the older generation who still see sex as a taboo subject. But the reality is that this approach is totally ineffective - you look at the current pregnancy rate of teenagers and the rate at which abortions are performed on a daily basis. So if this approach is totally ineffective in keeping teenagers from having premarital sex, what is it doing? The obvious answer is it is causing people to suppress their sexual desires instead of effectively dealing with it in a godly way. It is causing teenagers to view sex as something to hide from their parents and other people, resulting in these incorrect beliefs being carried over into their marriages which can lead to innumerable sexual problems inside the confines of marriage.
What is the answer then? We believe that when parents honestly and openly teach godly principles and moral values to their children from an appropriate age, they will be able to make the correct decisions about premarital sex instead of just getting involved in it without their parents’ knowledge. When parents take up their godly responsibility to share the Truth with their children and live as godly role-models, their children will grow up with a deep-seated knowing of who they are in Jesus Christ and experience a godly dignity, thus setting them up to make decisions based on the Word of God instead of peer pressure. When they know who they are, they will not have to get approval from their peers to feel good about themselves and this will lead to moral and godly decisions.
As a result, these teenagers will grow up and get married to the right spouses instead of settling for ungodly partners. They will then be able to truly experience sexual fulfilment in their marriages and live out their sexuality within the safety and confines of marriage, thus reducing the risk of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and emotional pain and hurt. As whole people they will be able to unleash their inner passions in marriage.
Unleashing your inner passion has been mentioned a few times now, but what exactly is meant by this? It can be said that every person has a ‘naughty’ side; a so-called inner sexual passion. This is a side often suppressed due to past experiences, wrong beliefs taught to us since childhood and fear of rejection if our spouses find out.
Is this inner passion thus a side of perversion and sin? No, definitely not! It is a side every person and married couple should embrace, to take their sexuality from mediocre to extraordinary. It is the playful side that often becomes dormant as we grow up and take on more and more responsibility; the effortless side forced into hibernation in order for the responsible adult to emerge. Unleashing your inner passion is getting in touch with this playful side again, but especially in the area of your sexuality. When your inner passion is unleashed, you will be able to combine marital sex with playfulness and be able to experience your sexuality as a wonderful part of yourself and your marriage without seeing sex as a marital duty to perform. It will change your sex life from an obligation to a game, a delightful and intimate pastime making God smile on your marriage.
Sex was never intended to be a duty or only something to be done to procreate. If it was, God would never have made it such a pleasurable experience. God gave sex to be used within the boundaries of marriage for husbands and wives to enjoy each other and share their love with each other in a very intimate and pleasurable way. Yes, it was also intended for married couples to procreate and produce children, the ultimate result of their love for each other, but it was never for reproduction only.
‘God Himself invented sex for our delight. It was his gift to us – intended for pleasure.’1 ‘It was God who invented sex. The devil is incapable of creative powers. his purpose is to destroy, corrupt and defile that which is good.’‘We would indeed displease God if we associate every need for sexual fulfilment with sin.’
Looking at these statements, it is evident that God gave sex to married couples to enjoy each other and not only for reproduction. It is furthermore confirmed by the Word of God in Genesis 2:25 where it says, ‘And the man and his wife were both naked and were not embarrassed or ashamed in each other’s presence’. It should be clearly noted this Scripture mentions a husband and wife being naked and comfortable in each other’s company; this was all before sin even entered the world. God gave sex for husbands and wives to get pleasure from each other and the more comfortable, honest and open you are with your spouse, the more enjoyable and satisfying sex will be.
Coming from this premise of sex being a godly gift to married couples, Between the Covers was written from a Christian perspective and from an experiential environment instead of being a medical textbook on the subject of sex.
We invite you to accompany us on this sexual journey of unleashing your inner passion and discovering again the pleasures of sex within your marriage. As far as possible we will avoid professional jargon and we will openly and honestly talk to you about sexual fulfilment. So, make the decision now to involve your spouse as you both buckle up for this straight-to-the-point ride of unleashing your inner passion hidden inside each of you.
This an extract from Between the Covers by Dr. R. Dainty Shaw and Dr. Christo A. Scheepers. To buy the book now, Click here
Beyond Heaven's Door
The Brand-New You
To buy the book, click here
There is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.
—1 Corinthians 15:23 nlt
Suppose you are walking past my farm one day and see me in the field crying. Concerned, you approach me and ask what is wrong. I look up and extend a palm full of seeds in your direction. “My heart breaks for the seeds.”
Between sobs I explain, “The seeds will be placed in the ground and covered with dirt. They will decay, and we will never see them again.”
As I weep, you are stunned. You look around for a turnip truck off which you are confident I tumbled. Finally, you explain to me a basic principle of farming: out of the decay of the seed comes the birth of a plant.
You kindly remind me: “Don’t you know that you will soon witness a mighty miracle of God? Given time and tender care, this tiny kernel will break from its prison of soil and blossom into a plant far beyond its dreams.”
Any farmer who grieves over the burial of a seed needs a reminder: A time of planting is not a time of grief. Any person who anguishes over the burial of a body may need the same. We may need the reminder Paul gave the Corinthians. “There is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (1 Cor. 15:23 nlt).
Between the death of the body of a Christian and the return of our Savior, Scripture assures us that our souls are living, but our body is buried. This is an intermediate period in which we are “away from this body and . . . at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).
Upon death, our souls will journey immediately to the presence of God while we await the resurrection of our bodies. And when will this resurrection occur? You guessed it. When Christ comes. “When Christ comes again, those who belong to him will be raised to life, and then the end will come” (1 Cor. 15:23–24).
What does Paul mean, “those who belong to him will be raised to life”? What will be raised? My body? If so, why this body? I don’t like my body. Why don’t we start over on a new model?
Come with me back to the farm, and let’s look for some answers.
If you were impressed with my seed allegory, I stole the idea from the apostle Paul. The fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians is the definitive essay on our resurrection. He writes:
But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? What kind of body will they have?” Foolish person! When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow. And when you sow it, it does not have the same “body” it will have later. What you sow is only a bare seed, maybe wheat or something else. But God gives it a body that he has planned for it. (1 Cor. 15:35–38)
In other words: You can’t have a new body without the death of the old body.1 Or, as Paul says, “When you sow a seed, it must die in the ground before it can live and grow” (v. 35).
A friend told me that Paul’s parallel between seeds sown and bodies buried reminded her of a remark made by her youngest son. He was a first grader, and his class was studying plants about the same time the family attended a funeral of a loved one. One day, as they were driving past a cemetery, he pointed and said, “Hey, Mom, that’s where they plant people.”
The apostle Paul would have liked that. In fact, he would like us to change the way we think about the burial process. The graveside service is not a burial, but a planting. The grave is not a hole in the ground, but a fertile furrow. The cemetery is not the resting place, but rather the transformation place.
Upon death, our souls will journey immediately to the presence of God while we await the resurrection of our bodies.
Born to Win
Chapter 1: Who Are Winners?
Life on earth is like a long-distance race on an obstacle course. It has a beginning, an end, resting stations and high hurdles that have to be cleared. There are also many mountains and valleys. God created every one of us with this race in mind. No one was made to fall and not get up again. No one was made to bow out as they approached a major hurdle or high ridge. No one was made to lose. We were all made to win!
Winners have two pre-eminent desires. The first is to find fulfilment in living meaningful lives achieving the purpose for which God created them. They also want to leave a considerable legacy behind when they go to heaven – and I’m not talking about possessions. There is profound joy in knowing that you will leave a rich, deeply spiritual legacy behind, and that is what winners strive for. They want to be who they should be and do what they should do here on earth. They also want enough inner strength to be able to overcome the stumbling blocks that stand in the way of achieving this. Moreover, they want to experience overall fulfilment, not just to feel fulfilled from time to time.
Secondly, when they cross over into death, winners want to hear the Lord say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’. Winners know that not hearing these words would mean that they had failed on the most fundamental level imaginable. God wants to say these words to each of us, and He gives all of us the capacity to achieve this. A winner’s spirit yearns for these words while he is still on earth. At the same time, a winner knows that this life is a tiny speck on a long line, and that these words only start counting once we shake this mortal coil. We will only know whether God has been satisfied by our lives when He says those words to us as we stand before his throne. Winners yearn to satisfy God above all else. It is the crowning achievement of everything we do on earth. If we don’t hear those words, everything here on earth would have been worthless.
Luckily, there is no conflict between these two desires (to be fulfilled and to satisfy God with our lives). God has arranged for one to inevitably lead to the other. He has done this because He loves us and wants us to prosper. It is wonderful to know that the smile my life puts on my face makes God smile for the same reason! That is divine grace, and it is also divine logic. He made us to conform to his image here on earth; to build his kingdom by revealing Himself to the world in all his glory. He rescues his image on earth when He saves us from our sin. He transforms our misery into glory through the fullness of his Spirit in us so that He can accomplish his great plan for mankind: to make his glory shine through us. That is why Paul rejoiced as he said ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me;’ why he called Christ his ‘hope of glory’. That is also why John said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’
Paul and John were winners. They understood that God had rescued them and called them, not first and foremost so that they would be saved, but so that their lives would reflect Him – so that they would transmit his glory. All winners understand this as the primary reason for God’s great plan for the salvation of mankind!
God smiles on our lives when we live for his glory on earth. And He has also made this the kind of life in which we are able to experience the most fulfilment. On the way to one (fulfilment in the hereafter) you also achieve the other (fulfilment here on earth). They cannot be separated and no one can achieve one without the other. Winners achieve both, and experience constant, deep fulfilment. And even though no one knows exactly what will happen before God’s throne, winners are well aware of God’s great smile over their lives. The inner peace and deep fulfilment that winners experience is God telling them, in their spirit, that He is satisfied.
... The sad thing is that people are often not aware of the fact that God is smiling over their lives: The stream of living water flowing in a Christian can still be brackish, even if he is filled with the Spirit and carrying out every aspect of his purpose. These people don’t experience the Lord’s joy and peace and they don’t feel like winners. The reason is that we are more than spirit. God gave us emotions, thoughts and a will of our own and we cannot be fulfilled if we don’t manage these components of our humanity in the right way. Winners know a great secret: God is in control of your spirit and if you live a Spirit-filled life, He controls it completely.
However, God has left it up to you to control your thoughts, emotions and will. The fact that the Lord considered us worthy of this responsibility distinguishes us from other creatures and makes us ‘a little lower than the angels’. Having this kind of authority over ourselves is almost frightening, and it has daunting consequences in the lives of losers.
Losers are not always unbelievers. They are often Christians who refuse to accept the control God has given them over their will, emotions and thoughts. They think that God will control their thoughts and emotions once they have given their lives to Him. They also think that He will manage their will so that they will only do what He wants them to and nothing else. In this way, they try to avoid taking responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and actions (all of which flow from the will). God is not fooled by such reasoning, and winners don’t attempt it.
Breaking the Jewish Code - Mass Market Edition
This is an extract from Breaking the Jewish Code - Mass Market Edition by Perry Stone. To buy this book now, click here
Living by Heaven’s Rule Book
Devout Jews have known and lived by
the God Code in the Torah.
And Moses called all Israel, and said to them: “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and
judgments which I speak in your hearing today, that you may learn them and be
careful to observe them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. . . . The Lord talked with you face to face on the
mountain from the midst of the fire.”
—Deuteronomy 5:1–2, 4
For twenty-five centuries, messages from heaven were scarce. From the time when God created Adam until the revealing of the Torah (the Bible’s first five books) to Moses is slightly over twenty-five hundred years. After Adam was expelled from Eden, intimate, face-to-face communication between God and man ceased. Occasionally, God revealed a plan or His will through a vision or a dream. The first reference to a vision in the Scripture is Genesis 15:1: “ . . . the word of
the Lord came to Abram in a vision.” Later, God spoke to Abraham’s descendants in dreams and occasional angelic visitations (Gen. 31:10; 37:5). From Adam to
Moses, men possessed no written revelation from God except one incident recorded by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. This ancient writer records a prophetic
revelation that Adam received, passing it on to his son Seth. Speaking of the sons of Seth, Josephus wrote:
They also were the inventors of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned
with the heavenly bodies, and their order. And that their inventions might not be lost
before they were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction that the world was to
be destroyed at one time by the force of fire, and at another time by the violence
and quantity of water, they made two pillars, the one of brick, the other of stone:
they inscribed their discoveries on them both, that in case the pillar of brick should
be destroyed by the flood, the pillar of stone might remain, and exhibit these discoveries to mankind; and also inform them that there was another pillar of brick erected by them. Now this remains in the land of Siriad to this day.
This prediction of two global catastrophes is one of the first known written prophecies. For ten generations from Adam to Noah, information was passed
down orally, by word of mouth. In pre-Flood times, men lived very long lives—between 365 and 969 years (Gen. 5:23, 27), giving them the ability to pass down
information from generation to generation. Ten more generations passed from Noah’s son Shem to Abraham. Twenty generations after Adam’s failure, God selected Abraham to birth a new nation and become God’s covenant
representative on Earth. The children of Abraham, identified early as Israelites, would carry the name children of Israel and later be identified globally as Jews.2
Abraham was first called a Hebrew in Genesis 14:13.
It is the word Ivri, meaning, “one from the other side,” alluding to God bringing Abraham from Ur (the other side of the river Euphrates) to the Promised Land.
Abraham, at age one hundred, and Sarah, at age ninety, bore Sarah’s only son, Isaac (Gen. 21:5). Isaac, whose Hebrew name Yitzchak means “laughter,” would marry at age forty (Gen. 25:20), and his wife, Rebekah, would birth twins, Esau and Jacob (Gen. 25:25–26). God Himself eventually changed Jacob’s name to Israel.
Jacob’s twelve sons would produce offspring, growing into twelve tribes, becoming the nation of Israel.
Moving Them Out to
Move Them In
To survive a massive famine, Jacob’s family loaded the wagons, traveled to Egypt, and settled in a region in Egypt called Goshen (Gen. 45:10). After several hundred
years, Israel grew into a multitude, striking fear in the heart of a new Egyptian king who was concerned that the Hebrew men could eventually overrun the Egyptian
empire. The Hebrew people were forced into slavery to build treasure cities for the Egyptians (Exod. 1:11).
The time came for God to move them out of Egypt and move them into the Promised Land. Thus, along came Moses! As a newborn infant, he survived a death
threat against the Hebrews’ firstborn sons by being hid in a basket. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered the floating ark among the reeds of the Nile River. She
chose to adopt the baby as her own, and for forty years Moses was raised in Pharaoh’s palace and educated in Egyptian art and military. He wore an Egyptian uniform but carried a Hebrew’s heart, as demonstrated when he killed a fellow Egyptian for beating a Hebrew slave (Exod. 2:11–12). Fearing Egyptian retaliation,
Moses fled from Egypt into the Midian desert. The baby who survived in a basket was now himself a fortyyear- old basket case!
After forty years of watching his father-in-law’s sheep, Moses received a revelation at a burning bush (Exod. 3:2). Being raised in Egypt, Moses had been
familiar with Ra, the Egyptian sun god; Apis, the bull god of prosperity; Amun; Ptah; Khnum; Aten; and numerous other Egyptian gods and goddesses.
When the Almighty spoke to Moses from the bush, Moses asked, “Who are You?” Before the day concluded, Moses had met the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The instructions were clear: bring Israel out of Egypt back to the Promised Land.
Returning to Egypt, Moses and his brother, Aaron, witnessed ten plagues that were an assault against the ten major gods of Egypt. On the fifteenth of Nissan, Moses
directed six hundred thousand men and an estimated total of 1.5 million people, counting women and children, across the Red Sea into the wilderness. This exodus was the beginning of God preparing a people and preparing to reveal for the first time a message from heaven that would be written down for all men to read and see.
The God Code Revelation
Fifty days after departing Egypt, Moses ascended to the top of Mount Sinai in the Arabian Desert and returned forty days later with the most detailed message
from God in mankind’s history (Exod. 24:16–18). The words, carved on stone tablets, were spoken from God in the same fashion as when a secretary types a
letter, word for word, for her boss. Later, the instructions were penned by scribes using large animal skin scrolls. Called the Torah (meaning “teaching”), these
instructions were the rule book of heaven, revealed to the Hebrew people.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain and be there; and
I will give you tablets of stone, and the law and commandments which I have written,
that you may teach them.”
The Torah (called the Pentateuch in Greek) consists
of the first five books in the Bible, which were all written by Moses during his forty-year wilderness journey with the children of Israel. Each handwritten
Torah scroll contains 79,847 words and 847,304,805 individual Hebrew letters.4 The themes of these five books are as follows:
• Genesis is the history of creation to the
time when the twelve sons of Jacob and
their families went down to Egypt.
• Exodus is the call of Moses, the departure
from Egypt, and the establishment
of the priesthood and tabernacle.
• Leviticus details the sacrificial, ceremonial,
and moral laws of God and instructions
for following them.
• Numbers details a census of the twelve
tribes and the failures of the nation to
obey God in the wilderness.
• Deuteronomy is a summary of Israel’s
wanderings, new guidelines, and prophecies
about Israel’s future.
While the Torah contains history, much of it reveals specific guidelines and instruction for spiritual, social, and moral living; sacrificial procedures; and ceremonial applications. The divine instructions in the Torah are often divided into four categories: the law, the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments. Students of Scripture often merge these four divisions into one package and call it the Law of Moses or the Law of God.
It is God’s law given to Moses, but, more importantly, it is the revealed mind of the Creator concerning how His people should live, treat one another, eat, and think, and how to be successful in the journey of life. This was literally the God Code.
One tribe from among the sons of Jacob, Levi, was chosen to teach this code and pass it from generation to generation. Jacob’s son Levi, whose name means
“ joined,” was the third son of Jacob’s wife Leah (Gen. 29:34). Levi became a “connecter,” helping join the Israelites to God. When the tabernacle of Moses was
constructed, the Levites were the full-time ministers, directed by the high priest Aaron and his sons, all of whom were Levites. This tribe carried a unique God
gene, as proven in recent DNA testing. Human DNA is called a genetic book of life that encodes detailed information linked to human physical development.
Your looks, personality, strengths or handicaps, and much more are encoded in your DNA. A number of Jewish men living in Israel had a special genetic test
conducted, proving they were from the lineage of the ancient Hebrew priesthood. The gene test was developed by an American geneticist in 1997. Geneticists
began studying variations in the Y chromosome from 306 Jewish men, including 106 self-identified Kohanim from Israel, Canada, and England.
The Hebrew word for priests is Kohanim. If a Jewish person has the surname Levi, Levee, or Levin, it indicates they are linked to the tribe of Levi. If their Jewish
surnames are Cohen, Kahn, Kane, or a similar variation, the name indicates a connection to the ancient priest, although not all men with such surnames are
Kohanim. David Goldstein reported that of seventeen Kohanim tested in Israel, thirteen tested positive with this priestly gene. Researchers also tested three thousand Jewish men from a tribe in India and another group in Africa. Several men in each group have tested positive for this priestly DNA gene.
The amazing success of Jewish people has been a mystery pondered and studied for many generations. Of the many books and articles written, many ignore
or omit the central heart of all Judaism—studying, reading, and following the Torah Code.
The Torah reveals detailed information that, when followed, can help extend your life, increase physical health, bring emotional stability, build strong families, and provide
wisdom for wealth opportunities.
How Much Do You Know?
You can’t follow what you can’t see, can’t listen to what you’ve never heard, and can’t obey what you don’t know. The Orthodox Jews and children of religious Jews are taught to read, learn, and observe the Torah, along with the Talmud. From an early age, children become familiar with the ceremonies, rituals, and precepts in
this Torah Code. The Gentile Christian community has, for the most part, remained uninformed concerning the many amazing discoveries and principles
for practical living revealed in the Torah. Most believers who attend church hear messages from the four Gospels or the New Testament epistles. Occasionally,
ministers preach from Genesis or mention the Exodus, but they seldom expound on the everyday moral and social instruction found in Leviticus, Numbers, and
Yet, the very founding documents of America, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, are national documents
that have moral principles founded in the Torah. America’s Founding Fathers and original leaders were very much aware of the consequences of disobeying the
Word of God. Therefore, special emphasis was placed upon the commandments of God in the first five books of the Bible. Just because Christians teach from the New
Testament, or New Covenant, does not indicate that God changed His moral commandments to accommodate liberal thinkers of future generations. In other words, God continues to require obedience to His commandments, even though they originate in the Old Testament. First, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). Some Christians are unaware of the numerous times New Testament writers quote directly from the Tanakh—what Christians call the Old Testament.
When the four Gospels, Book of Acts, and epistles mention the “Scriptures,” they are referring to the Torah, the Prophets, and writings (wisdom literature) of the Old
Testament. (See Luke 24:27; Acts 17:2; 2 Timothy 3:15.) The twenty-seven books of the New Testament were not compiled in book form until the fourth century. Today
there are sixty-six books in the English translation of the Bible. However, “all Scripture”—both the Tanakh (Old Testament) and the New Testament—is inspired.
Some liberal Christians reject the entire Old Testament, especially the Torah, as an outdated, primitive document. Part of this misunderstanding stems
from a verse that says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till
heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17–18). Jesus did not destroy the Law, but He fulfilled
messianic predictions and the types and shadows that were hidden in the Law of the prophesied Messiah.
He was the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29) crucified near the time of Passover, which fulfilled the image of the Passover lamb offered in Exodus 12. Christ hung on
a cross between heaven and Earth, similar to Moses’s brass serpent on the pole in Numbers 21 (John 3:14). The sacrifice of the red heifer in Numbers 19 speaks of
wood, hyssop, and scarlet, which were used during this ancient ritual. All three items were part of the crucifixion of Christ fifteen hundred years later. (See John
19:17, 29; Matthew 27:28.)
This is an extract from Breaking the Jewish Code - Mass Market Edition by Perry Stone. To buy this book now, click here
So how does a person equate the New Testament fulfillment of parts of the Torah with the practical moral and social commandments that we should continue
following today? Understanding the Torah’s three main codes helps us to understand what was fulfilled through Christ and what remains intact.
Change Your Words, Change Your Life
This is an extract from Change Your Words, Change Your Life by Joyce Meyer. To buy the book now, click here
Most of us don't realize how powerful words are and how huge an impact they have on our lives. Think about it. Even two simple syllables - Da-da - are powerful enough to make a grown man cry when uttered for the first time by his baby.
I believe that words contain tremendous power: it can be either positive, constructive power or negative, destructive power.
In Genesis, we read that God uses words to create the world that we live in. The Bible says in Proverbs 18:21 that the power of life and death are in the tongue. that is an amazing statement and one that we should seriously consider.
Each time we speak words, we are speaking either life or death to those who hear us and to ourselves. So we need to be cautious about the words we utter. Our mouth gives expression to what we want, think, and feel; therefore, it reveals a great deal about the one who is speaking.
We can learn a lot about ourselves just by listening to the things that we say. Matthew 12:34-35 says that ''out of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man from his inner good treasure flings forth good things, and the evil man out of his inner evil storehouse flings forth evil things.''
Our words are the result of our inner thoughts and attitudes. One might say that our words are a movie screen that reveals what we have been thinking and the attitudes that we have.
I believe that our words can increase or decrease our level of joy. They can affect the answers to our prayers, and have a lot of positive or negative effect on our future. We should pay a lot of attention to what the Word of God has to teach us about the power of our words.
When a person isn't satisfied with the condition of her life, it would be wise to take an inventory of the words she has spoken.
God has a good plan for each one of us, but it won't automatically happen without our cooperation. We are partners with God in this life, and He wants us to be in agreement with what He has spoken about us in His Word.
As you read this book, I believe you will gain new insight into the fact that as you change your words, you can change your life.
Chapter 1: The Impact of Words
Therese was a fabulous worker, friend, and colleague. Everyone in her office loved her - from her bosses to the cleaning lady. She always had a kind word for everyone. One of her best assets was her amazing ability to help people feel good about themselves.
She could make someone whose feelings had been hurt feel like they were the best thing since sliced bread. She could make an insecure colleague feel like a genius.
Her sense of humor always lifted others' moods and made them laugh even if they were annoyed or unhappy. Not only that, but she was smart - very smart. In her five years on the job, she had received three promotions, and her employer had recently told her that she was on a fast track toward a management position.
If things continued the way they were going, she could even expect a vice-presidency within just a few years.
One evening while working late on a project, she discovered that her boss had made a bad judgment call in a speech that he had written and asked her to edit.
He had included a foolish joke that some could find offensive. Therese picked up the phone to leave him a voice mail and tell him her thoughts.
''What were you thinking, boss?'' she said. ''Don't you know the CEO will hate that joke? And he has no sense of humour.''
Unfortunately, instead of sending the voice mail to her boss, Therese inadvertently pressed a button that sent the voice mail to everyone in the company. The next morning, chaos ensured. While Therese wasn't fired, she didn't get that next promotion - or the one after.
The push of a button had sealed her future at the company.
That's an extreme incident, but there are many others today that have far greater consequences.
Never in the history of the world have words been so cheap, quick, irrevocable, and viral.
Choose This Day
Choose to be Redeemed
A New Year, a New Beginning
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,
the old has gone, and the new has come.
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
It is a New Year and a new beginning and you need to choose today to live the life God wants you to and be where He wants you to be. It is a choice that you, and no one else, have to make.
Sometimes we live our lives based on the past and focus on what we could have done or should have done. When we do that, we lose perspective of the present and the future. There is very little you can do about the past year other than to learn from the mistakes you might have made.
Yes, there are areas where you might have missed God last year. The enemy could be reminding you of the sins you committed during the previous year. Rejoice on this first day of the New Year because those sins were forgiven when you confessed them. God does not remember them anymore. You have been redeemed as He promised and you need to see yourself that way – the redeemed of the Lord.
This is a new day that the Lord has made and in you He has created a new person. You need to stand up and get excited about the New Year and the tasks that lie ahead. There are new projects to be executed, new mountain peaks to be reached, new goals to be achieved and new dimensions to be discovered in your walk with God.
God’s timing is always perfect. He knows why you made it into this New Year. You are not here merely to take up space while drifting along in life. God has kept, and indeed, redeemed you for a purpose. That which God begins, He always completes, and He wants to do exactly that in your life – whether it is personal, financial, emotional or physical. You can enable Him to do that by leaving behind your past and embracing the newness of life He has given you. Get up and do what needs to be done.
Choose to be Redeemed
Jesus Christ is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all.
In the Gospels He walks in human form upon the earth,
and accomplishes the work of redemption.
– Philip Schaff
Choose to Be Strengthened
Strength – … that quality which tends to secure results;
effective power in an institution or enactment; security;
validity; legal or moral force; logical conclusiveness.
Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever,
those who are being made holy.
– Hebrews 10:14
By giving his life for us, Jesus has made us whole. He became our Substitute and took our punishment. Salvation is a legal matter and, lawfully, no punishment can be meted on us because Jesus has already served the sentence for us. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, the Bible says Jesus (He who knew no sin) was made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. We have been made perfect, not temporarily but for ever.
When man sinned, Jesus offered to take our penalty and die in our place. Revelation 13:8 says that He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. His mission in relation to us was well captured by John the Baptist when, upon seeing Jesus, he said: ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29). How profound that the sinless One was willing to become a sacrifice for a sinful race.
No angel could die in our place. Only Jesus and his sinless nature could match the law of God. He had the nature and the character that could ransom for our fallen race. The sacrifice was offered and when we accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, his blood is applied on the doorposts of our personal lives and we get exempted from the wages of sin, which is death.
We need to recognize the value of our worth in the eyes of Him who redeemed us and handpicked us for his Kingdom.
Jesus knew the pain which lay before Him when He would be crucified. Yet He did not turn back. Instead, He chose to follow through because God’s love for us is greater than anything we can ever imagine. We are special creatures in his eyes. We were worth the life and sacrifice of his only Son. So how can we not choose today to be revitalized in the Word, in his glory, and in our lives? Choose to recognize and accept the sacrifice He was for you.
You’ve Been Redeemed by the Blood In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness for our sins, in accordance with the riches of God.
– Ephesians 1:7
Sometimes we become victims of our fear. We think of what could happen, instead of what we can make happen, and it stops us from doing the things we should. We allow ourselves to hold on to our past mistakes, regrets and failures.
But Jesus has redeemed us from our past sins and He has picked us up from the deep pits we were in and given us new life in Him. The surety of our redemption lies in Him through his blood. Isn’t that wonderful? That is what the above verse says. Jesus has, through his blood, not only redeemed us but provided collateral (security) for the same redemption. Nobody (Satan and his demons included) can challenge our redemption. There is no better indemnity or guarantee beyond the blood of Jesus.
In the Old Testament, the word redemption generally means a ‘ransom price’ and in the New Testament it means the ‘great price’ which Jesus, the Redeemer, paid for our liberation from sin. Whichever way one looks at it, the concept denotes buying or purchasing. When man fell in the Garden of Eden, that produced humanity’s servitude under Satan. The Redeemer, Jesus Christ, has ‘purchased’ you from the power of darkness into the Kingdom of Light. And this has been done according to his riches – riches not defined by the streets of gold in heaven but the ones found in the blood of Jesus. No wonder it is called the ‘precious’ blood of the Lamb.
Be careful how you value yourself and how you allow other people to value you. The accuser of the brethren (Satan) and others might have told you that you are worthless and will never amount to anything. God thought you were worth the blood of his Son. Therefore, walk, talk and act like one who is worth the blood. Recognize God’s redemption and go into the New Year excited about what He did for you at the cross. Yes, you can say today, like that most prolific hymnist in all of history, Fanny Crosby, once wrote: Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Justified Freely by Grace
Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness.
– Romans 3:24–25
Paul here speaks about us being justified freely by God’s grace. But what does justification mean? When Adam and Eve committed sin in the Garden of Eden, we inherited that original sin which in turn destroyed the righteousness man originally had.
But because of the love and mercy of God, Jesus Christ willingly paid for our sins through his crucifixion and resurrection, thus meriting the redemption of humanity. Whoever believes in and confesses the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus can have their sins forgiven and become children of God. From this perspective, justification means being transformed from a state of unrighteousness to divine sonship through Jesus Christ.
The justification takes place through grace. But what is grace? Grace is the free and undeserved favour that God gives us to respond to his call. Man cannot be justified or acceptable in God’s sight except through his grace. However much people may believe that a good man can earn favour and acceptance with God, humanity cannot of itself meet God’s standard of righteousness. Whatever we do, we cannot win God’s favour except through Christ.
Through our redemption, God has made us righteous. God promised to bless us, provide for us, give us peace and protect us. He has a plan and purpose for each of our lives. As his children, He wants only the best for us. He promised to complete the good work that He has started in us. But unless we choose to allow Him to complete the good work in our lives, we will not experience the joy of his power and love. He wants us to rise to every challenge and grab hold of every opportunity that He presents us. He wants us to shine in his Name. Jesus has taken care of the worst part when He was nailed to the cross. All we need to do is be faithful to God and his purpose in us. Choose today to embrace his grace and the free justification He has given you.
This is an extract from Choose This Day by Ray McCauley. For more information, please click here
Code of the Holy Spirit
Midnight at the Western Wall
At midnight I will rise to give thanks to You,
Because of your righteous judgements
- Psalm 110:62
It was a chilly November night in Israel as four others and myself were making our way
toward the framed Western wall in the Holy City of Jerusalem. As we approached the wall,
the beams of white light from a huge Hannukkah lamp cast a somewhat mystical glow on
the ancient limestone wall, making the large ashlars give off a yellowish iridescent aura.
As we entered the sacred compound, we could hear a mumbling of the high-pitched and lower-sounding voices of mingled prayers, sounding to a casual listener like a distant thunder rumbling across mountains.
Countless men were facing the stone wall, rocking back and forth in a rhythmic motion as these midnight
worshippers sent words upward from one of Judaism's holiest sites. The wall was lined mostly with men
in long black coats and black hates, identified as Orthodox Jews.
Others were clothed in white Jewish prayer shawls, called 'Tallits', and fur hats, and they lifted prayer books close to their eyes to pull from the pages every word needed to be spoken. This was Jerusalem's Western Wall
However, our assignment was not to join in midnight prayers at the wall. We had received a personal invitation
to join a leading rabbi for questions and discussions at his rabbinical offices, located to the left of the wall
in an apartment-type stone building. The stones matched the style and shape of the wall but were much smaller
In nervous anticipation I would be meeting with a beloved rabbi, Yehuda Getz, a brilliant man with exceptional
knowledge who loved Americans and had numerous Christian connections, including Jewish and
non-Jewish friends who admired his love for God and the Bible.
Arriving in his modest office, I was impressed by a large shelf of artifacts - some discoveries from recent
excavations in tunnels - and by the numerous sets of Hebrew commentaries lining the wooden bookcases.
The rabbi welcomed us, with my close friend and tour guide, Gideon Shore, serving as the translator.
Conflict Free Living
This is an extract from Conflict Free Living by Joyce Meyer. To buy the book now, click here
We were created to live in the love and excitement of harmonious relationships, free from dissension, confusion, and hurt. God wants our lives to be free from division; He wants us to live in peace with each other, yet such a life often eludes most of us. Instead, conflict wreaks havoc in our lives, leaving us wounded and alienated from one another. It is:
- Ending our marriages
- Embittering our children
- Alienating our friends and co-workers
- Splitting our churches
- Bankrupting our health
- Stealing our peace of mind and heart
I know because my life and ministry were once in danger of being destroyed by conflict and strife. My prayer is that as you read the following pages, your eyes will be opened and that you will see, more clearly than ever before, the destructive effects that conflict and dissension can have on your life - and that you will never again fail to recognize strife or confront it.
Jesus gave us His peace for our protection. We are to 'hold our peace' and 'let peace be the umpire' in every situation (Exod. 14:14; Col. 3:15). We should 'crave peace and pursue it' and be 'makers and maintainers of peace' (Ps 34:14; Matt. 5:9).
God's Word contains some wonderful promises for the peaceful, including Psalm 37:37: ' Mark the blameless man and behold the upright, for there is a happy end for the man of peace.'
Think of it. If you are a person of peace - if you learn to resist conflict and strife - you will experience happiness. God says that His children will inherit righteousness, peace, and joy.
The kingdom of God consists of these three things, but few who claim Christ as their Savior actually experience these benefits in their everyday lives.
Satan deceives, lies, and beguiles believers through a lack of knowledge or the unwillingness to apply the knowledge we have.
God has instructed us to put on the full armor of God so that we an defeat the devil in every one of his strategies and deceits. (See Ephesians 6:10-18). If we want to experience God's blessing and power, we must resist the devil's attempts to stir up strife.
We must be on guard, because 'the devil roams around like a lion roaring (in fierce hunger), seeking someone to seize upon and devour' (1 Pet. 5:8).
If relationship problems have plagued your life, then this book is for you.
If you are wondering why you don't experience spiritual power in your life and ministry, even though you are serving God and doing all you know to do, then this book is for you. If you are confused about why you are missing out on the blessings that God promises to His children, then this book is for you.
In it we are going to explore why so many of our relationships are the opposite of what Jesus promised and what we an do to enjoy the life God wants us to have.
This is an extract from Cross Roads by WM Paul Young.
A Congregation of Storm
The most pitiable among men is he who turns his dreams into silver and gold.
This is an extract from Cross Roads by WM Paul Young
Some years in Portland, Oregon, winter is a bully, spitting sleet and spewing snow in fits and starts as it violently wrestles days from spring, claiming some archaic right to remain king of the seasons—ultimately the vain attempt of another pretender. This year was not like that. Winter simply bowed out like a beaten woman, leaving head-down in tattered garments of dirty whites and browns with barely a whimper or promise of return. The difference between her presence and absence was scarcely discernible.
Anthony Spencer didn’t care either way. Winter was a nuisance and spring not much better. Given the power, he would remove both from the calendar along with the wet and rainy part of autumn. A five-month year would be just about right, certainly preferable to lingering periods of uncertainty. Every cusp of spring he wondered why he stayed in the Northwest, but each year found him again asking the same question. Maybe disappointing familiarity had its own comforts. The idea of actual change was daunting. The more entrenched in his habits and securities, the less inclined he was to believe that anything else was worth the effort if even possible. Known routines, even though painful at times, at least had their own predictability.
He leaned back in his chair and looked up from the desk cluttered with papers and into his computer screen. With each tap of a key he could watch the monitoring feed from his personal properties; the condo in the building adjacent to where he sat, his central workplace situated strategically in downtown Portland midway up a midsized office scraper, his getaway house at the coast and larger home in the West Hills. He watched and restlessly tapped his right index finger on his knee. All was quiet as if the world was holding her breath. There are many ways to be alone.
Although people who interacted with Tony in business or social situations would have thought otherwise, he was not a cheerful man. He was determined and ever in search of the next advantage. That often required an outgoing and gregarious presence, broad smiles, eye contact and firm handshakes, not because of any true consideration, but because everyone potentially held information that would be valuable in positioning for success. His many questions created the aura of genuine interest, leaving others with a both a sense of significance but also a lingering emptiness. Known for gestures of philanthropy, he understood the value of compassion as a means to more important objectives. Caring made people that much easier to manipulate. After a few halting attempts he has concluded that friends of any depth were a bad investment. So little return. Actual caring was inconvenient and a luxury for which he had no time or energy.
Instead he defined success in real estate property management and development, diverse business ventures, and a growing investment portfolio, where he was respected and feared as a severe negotiator and master dealmaker. For Tony, happiness was a silly and transient sentiment, a vapor compared to the smell of a potential deal and the addicting aftertaste of the win. Like Scrooge of old, he took delight in wresting the last vestiges of dignity from those around him, especially employees who toiled from fear if not respect. Surely such a man is worthy of neither love nor compassion.
When he smiled, Tony could almost be mistaken for handsome. Genetics had gifted him with a six-foot-plus frame and good hair, which even now in his mid-forties showed no evidence of leaving even though the lawyer’s grey had started to salt his temples. Obviously Anglo-Saxon, a hint of something darker and finer softened his features, especially noticeable during rare moments when he was transported out of his customary business demeanor by some fancy or unhinged laughter.
By most standards he was wealthy, successful, and an eligible bachelor. A bit of a womanizer, he exercised enough to stay competitive, sporting only a barely sagging belly that could be sucked in appropriately. And the women came and went, the wiser the sooner, and each feeling less valuable for the experience.
He had married twice, to the same woman. The first union, while both were in their early twenties, had produced a son and a daughter, the latter now an angry young adult living across country near her mother. Their son was another story. That marriage had ended in divorce for irreconcilable differences, a poster story of calculated indifference and a callous lack of attention. In only a few short years Tony had battered Loree’s sense of worth and value into barely recognizable bits and pieces.
The problem was she bowed out gracefully, and this could not be counted as a proper win. So Tony spent the next two years wooing her back, throwing a magnificent remarriage celebration and then two weeks later serving her divorce papers for a second time. Rumor was these had been prepared even before the signatures were inked on the second set of marriage certificates. But this time she came at him with all the fury of a woman scorned, and he had financially, legally, and psychologically crushed her. This certainly could be chalked up as a win. It had been a ruthless game, but only to him.
The price he paid was losing his daughter in the process, something that rose like a specter in the shadows of a little too much Scotch, a little haunting that could soon be buried in the busyness of work and winning. Their son was a significant reason for the Scotch in the first place; over-the-counter medicine that softened the ragged edges of memory and regret and tempered the painful migraines that had become an occasional companion.
In business, Anthony Spencer was respected and feared as a severe negotiator and master manipulator. Like Scrooge of old, he took delight in wresting the last vestiges of dignity from those around him, especially employees who toiled from fear if not respect. Surely such a man is worthy of neither love nor compassion.
If freedom is an incremental process, so, too, is the encroachment of evil. Small adjustments to truth and minor justifications over time build an edifice that would never have been predicted. True for any Hitler or Stalin or common person. The inside house of the soul is magnificent but fragile; any betrayals and lies embedded in its walls and foundation shift its construction in directions unimagined.
The mystery of every human soul, even Anthony Spencer, is profound. He had been birthed in an explosion of life, an inner expanding universe coalescing its own internal solar systems and galaxies with unimagined symmetry and elegance. Here even chaos played her part and order emerged as a by-product. Places of substance entered the dance of competing gravitational forces, each adding their own rotation to the mix, shifting the members of the cosmic waltz and spreading them out in a constant give-and-take of space and time and music. Along this road, pain and loss came crushing, causing this depth to lose its profoundly delicate structure and begin to collapse in on itself. The deterioration rippled on the surface in self-protective fear, selfish ambition, and the hardening of anything tender. What had been a living entity, a heart of flesh, became stone; a small hardened rock lived in the husk, the shell of the body. Once the form was an expression of inward wonder and magnificence. Now it must find its way with no support, a facade in search of a heart, a dying star ravenous in its own emptiness.
Pain, loss, and finally abandonment are each a hard taskmaster, but combined they become a desolation almost unendurable. These had weaponized Tony’s existence, equipping him with the ability to hide knives inside words, erect walls protecting the within from any approach, and keeping him locked in an imagination of safety while isolated and solitary. Little true music now existed in Tony’s life; scraps of creativity barely audible. The sound track of his subsistence didn’t even qualify as Muzak—unsurprising elevator melodies accompanying his predictable elevator pitches
Those who recognized him on the streets nodded their greetings, the more perceptive spitting their disdain onto the sidewalk once he passed. But plenty of others were taken in; fawning sycophants awaited his next directive, desperate to win a scrap of approval or perceived affection. In the wake of alleged success, others are carried along by a need to secure their own significance, identity and agenda. Perception is reality, even if the perception is a lie.
Tony owned an expansive house on acreage in the upper West Hills, and unless he was hosting a party for some advantage, kept only one small portion heated. Though he rarely bothered to stay there, he retained the place as a monument to vanquishing his wife. Loree won it as part of their first divorce settlement but had sold it to pay her mounting legal bills relating to their second. Through a third party he bought it from her for pennies on the dollar and then threw a surprise eviction party, complete with police to escort a stunned ex-wife off the premises on the day the sale closed.
He leaned forward again and switched of his computer and reaching for his Scotch, rotated his chair so he could stare at a list of names he had written on a whiteboard. He got up, erased four names and added one and then slumped back into his chair, the horses in his fingers again tapping their cadence into his desk. Today he was in a fouler mood than usual. Business obligations had required attending a conference in Boston that held little interest for him, and then a minor crisis in personnel management meant he was returning a day earlier than planned. While it was annoying that he had to deal with a situation easily handled by subordinates in the company, he was grateful for the excuse to withdraw from the barely tolerable seminars and return to the barely tolerable routines over which he had more control.
But something had changed. What began as a hint of a shadow of uneasiness had grown to conscious voice. For a few weeks Tony had felt a nagging sense he was being followed. At first he dismissed it as stress overreaching itself; the fabrications of an overworked mind. But once implanted, the thought had found fertile soil; and what began as a seed easily washed away by serious consideration spread roots that soon expressed itself in nervous hypervigilance, sapping even more energy from a mind constantly alert.
He began noticing details in minor events, which individually would draw barely a wonder. But together they became in his consciousness a chorus of warning. The black SUV he sometimes spotted shadowing him on his way to the main office, the gas attendant who forgot to return his credit card for minutes, the alarm company that notified him about three power failures at his home that seemed to affect only his property while his neighbors’ remained undimmed, each outage lasting exactly twenty-two minutes at the same time three days in a row. Tony began to pay more attention to trivial discrepancies and even how others looked at him—the barista at Stumptown Coffee, the security guard on the first-floor entry, and even the personnel manning the desks at work. He noted how they glanced away when he would turn in their direction, averting their eyes and quickly changing their body language to indicate they were busy and involved elsewhere.
There was an unnerving similarity in the responses of these disparate people, as if by collusion. Theirs was a secret to which he was not privy. The more he looked, the more he noticed, so the more he looked. He had always been a little paranoid, but it now escalated to constant considerations of conspiracy, and he lived agitated and unnerved.
Tony kept this small private office complete with a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, its whereabouts not even known to his personal lawyer. This was his retreat down by the river just off Macadam Avenue for the times when he simply wanted to disappear for a few hours or spend the night off the grid.
The larger property that housed this hidden hidey-hole he also owned, but had years before transferred title to a nondescript shell company. He had then renovated a portion of its basement, equipping it with state-of-the-art surveillance and security technology. Other than the original contractors, who had all been hired at arm’s length, no one had seen these rooms. Even the building blueprints did not disclose their existence, thanks to construction payoffs and well-placed donations to local governmental chains of command. When the proper code was entered in what appeared to be a rusty telephone junction box keypad at the back of an unused janitorial closet, a wall slid sideways to reveal a steel fire door and modern camera and keypad entry system.
The place was almost completely self-contained, tied to power and Internet sources independent from the rest of the complex. Additionally, if his monitoring security software discovered any attempt to backtrace the location, it would shut and lock the system down until reset by entering a new and automatically generated code. This could be done from only one of two places; his downtown office desk or inside at the secret lair itself. As a habit, before he entered he would turn off his mobile phone and remove its SIM card and battery. He had an unlisted landline that could be activated should there ever be the need.
There was no show here. The furnishings and art were simple, almost spartan. No one else would ever see this place, so everything in these rooms meant something to him. Books lined the walls, many he had never opened but had belonged to his father. Others, especially classics, his mother had read to him and his brother. The works of C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald were among the most prominent of these, childhood favorites. An early edition of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray was prominently displayed, for his eyes alone. At one end of the bookshelf for a plethora of business books, well read and marked, an arsenal of mentors. A few works by Escher and Doolittle haphazardly hung on the walls and an old phonograph player sat in one corner. He kept a collection of vinyl records whose scratches were like comforting reminders of times long gone.
It was here that he also kept his critically important items and documents: deeds, titles, and especially his official Last Will and Testament. This he frequently reviewed and changed, adding or subtracting people as they intersected his life and their actions angered or pleased him. He imagined the impact of a gift or the lack thereof on those who would care about his wealth once he had joined the ranks of the “dearly departed.”
His own personal lawyer, different from his general counsel, had a key to a safety-deposit box secured in the downtown main branch of Wells Fargo. This could be accessed only with his death certificate. Inside were instructions revealing the location of the private apartment and office, how to gain entry, and where to find the codes for opening the concealed safe buried in the foundation floor. Should anyone ever attempt to gain access to the box without a certified death certificate, the bank was required to notify Tony immediately; and as he had warned the attorney, if such ever occurred, their relationship would terminate without consideration, along with the healthy retainer that arrived promptly the first business day of every month.
Tony kept an older Last Will and Testament, for show, in the safe at the main office. A few of his partners and colleagues had access for business purposes, and he secretly hoped that curiosity would overtake one or the other, imagining their initial pleasure at knowing its contents followed by the sobering event of the reading of his actual will.
It was public information that Tony owned and managed the property adjacent to the building that housed his secret place. It was a similar structure with storefronts on the first floor and condos above. The two buildings shared underground parking, with strategically placed cameras that seemed to blanket the area completely but actually left a corridor that one could invisibly pass through. Tony could quickly access his hidden refuge unnoticed.
In order to justify his regular presence on this side of town, he purchased a two-bedroom condominium on the first floor of the building next to his secret office. It was complete and lavishly apportioned, a perfect front, and he spent more nights here than at either his West Hills house or his getaway at the coast near Depoe Bay. He had timed the walking distance between the two through the parking garage, and knew he could be sequestered away in his special sanctuary in less than three minutes, watching his condo living area through a recordable live video feed. The extensive electronic hardware was more for self-protection than it was for advantage. He purposely hadn’t put cameras in the bedrooms or bathrooms, knowing that others would occasionally occupy it when he was not using it himself. He might have been many things distasteful, but a voyeur was not one of them.
Anyone recognizing his car driving into the garage would simply assume, and usually correctly, that he was coming to spend the night in his condo unit. He had become a routine fixture, part of the background noise of everyday activity, and his presence or absence sent no signal, drew no attention, which was just the way he wanted it. Even so, in his heightened state of anxiety, Tony was more cautious than usual. He altered his routines just enough that it would allow him to catch a glimpse of someone who might be tailing him, but not enough to create suspicion.
What he couldn’t understand was why anyone would be following him in the first place, or what might be their motivations and intentions. He had burned bridges, most bridges actually, and he supposed that therein he would find the answers. It has to be about money, he surmised. Wasn’t everything about money? Maybe it was his ex-wife? Perhaps his partners were preparing a coup to wrest his portion from him, or maybe a competitor? Tony spent hours, days, poring over the financial data of every transaction past and current, every merger and acquisition, looking for a pattern that was out of place, but found nothing. He then buried himself in the operations processes of the multiple holdings, again looking for…what? Something unusual, some hint or clue that would explain what was happening? He found some anomalies, but when he subtly raised them as issues with his partners, they were either swiftly corrected or explained in a manner that was consistent with the standard operating procedures he himself had created.
Even in a struggling economy, business was steady. It was Tony who had convinced his partners to maintain a strong liquid-asset base, and now they were carefully purchasing property and diversifying into enterprises at better than liquidation values, independent of the banks that had withdrawn themselves into self-protective credit hoarding. He was currently the office hero, but this did not give him much peace. Any respite would be short-lived, and every success simply raised the bar of performance expectations. It was an exhausting way to live, but he resisted other options as irresponsible and lazy.
He spent less and less time at the main office. Not that anyone looked for opportunities to be around him anyway. His heightened paranoia made him more testy than normal and the slightest irregularity set him off. Even his partners preferred that he work off-site, and when his office remained dark, everyone sighed in collective relief and actually worked harder and in more creatively focused ways. Such is the debilitative power of micromanagement, a strategy that Tony often took great pride in wielding.
But it was into this space, this momentary reprieve, that his fears had surfaced, his sense of being a target, the object of someone’s or something’s attention, unwanted and unwelcome. To make matters worse, his headaches had come back with a vengeance. These migraines were usually precipitated by vision loss, followed closely by slurred speech as he struggled to complete sentences. It all warned of an impending slam of an invisible spike through his skull into the space behind his right eye. Light- and sound-sensitive, he would notify his personal assistant before crawling into the darkened recesses of his condo. Armed with painkillers and white noise, he slept until it hurt only when he laughed or shook his head. Tony convinced himself that Scotch helped the recovery process, but he looked for any excuse to pour himself another.
So why now? After months without a single migraine, they were happening almost weekly. He began watching what he consumed; concerned that someone might be trying to slip poison into his food or drink. Increasingly he was desperately tired, and even with prescription-enhanced sleep felt exhausted. Finally, he set an appointment for a physical with his doctor, which he failed to keep because an unexpected meeting required his presence to resolve issues pertinent to an important acquisition that had gone sideways. He rescheduled the appointment for two weeks later.
When uncertainty impinges upon routine, one begins to think about one’s life as a whole; about who matters and why. Overall, Tony was not displeased with his. He was prosperous, better than most, which was not bad for a foster child whom the system had failed, and who had quit crying about it. He had made mistakes and hurt people, but who hadn’t? He was alone, but most of the time preferred it that way. He had a house in the West Hills, a beach retreat at Depoe Bay, his condo by the Willamette River, strong investments, and the freedom to do almost anything he wanted. He was alone, but most of the time preferred it…He had reached every objective he had set, at least every realistic goal, and now in his forties he survived with a brooding sense of emptiness and percolating regrets. These he quickly stuffed down inside, into that invisible vault that human beings create to protect themselves from themselves. Sure he was alone, but most of the time…
Upon landing in Portland from Boston, Tony had driven directly to the main office and initiated a particularly volatile argument with two of his partners. It was then that the idea occurred to create a list of those he trusted. Not of people he would say he trusted, but those he actually did trust. Those he would tell secrets to, share dreams with, and with whom he would expose his weaknesses. For this reason he had cloistered himself away in his hidden office, pulled out a whiteboard and Scotch and began writing down and erasing names. The list was never long, and originally included business partners, a few others who worked for him, one or two he had encountered outside of the job, and a couple of people he had met through private clubs and travel. But after an hour’s contemplation he whittled even that down to six people. He sat back and shook his head. It had turned into an exercise in futility. The only people he truly trusted were all dead, although there was some question about the last name.
His father and particularly his mother topped the six. He knew rationally that much of his memory of them was idealized by time and trauma, their negative attributes swallowed up by his ache for them. He treasured the faded photograph, the last one taken before a teenage partyer lost control and turned glory into rubble. He opened the safe and pulled it out, now protected inside a laminated sheet, but he tried to smooth out its wrinkles anyway, as if caressing it could somehow let them know. His father had talked some stranger into taking their picture outside the now-extinct Farrell’s Ice Cream shop, he a gangly eleven-year-old with his seven-year-old kid brother, Jacob, standing in front of him. They had been laughing about something, his mother’s face upturned with the joy of the moment written large upon her beautiful features, his father grinning wryly, the best he could do. It was enough, his father’s grin. He remembered it clearly. An engineer not given to much emotional expression, it would unexpectedly slip out anyway and almost meant more because it was not easily accessible. Tony had tried to recall what they had all been laughing about, staring his question into the photograph for hours as if it might yield the secret, but try as he might, it lay just outside his grasp, tantalizing and maddening.
Next on his list came Mother Teresa, followed closely by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. All great, all idealized, each very human, vulnerable, wonderful, and now dead. Pulling out a small notepad he wrote down the names, tore off the single sheet and then toyed with it between his right forefinger and thumb. Why had he written down the names of these people? It had been almost without thought, this final list, perhaps a true reflection of a source very deep and maybe even real, perhaps even a longing. He detested that word, but loved it somewhere. It sounded weak on the surface, but it had sure staying power, outlasting most other things that had come and gone in his life. These three iconic personages represented, along with the last name on the list, something larger than himself, a hint of a song never sung but still calling, the possibility of someone he might have been, an invitation, a belonging, a tender yearning.
The last name was the most difficult and yet the easiest: Jesus. Jesus, Bethlehem’s gift to the world, the woodworker who supposedly was God joining our humanity, who might not be dead, according to the religious rumors. Tony knew why Jesus was on the list. The name bridged to the strongest memories he had of his mother. She loved this carpenter and anything and everything to do with him. Sure, his dad loved Jesus, too, but not like his mom. The last gift she had ever given him lay inside his safe, in the foundation of the building that housed his secret place; and it was the single most precious thing he possessed.
Not two days before she was so forcefully stolen from his life, she had inexplicably come to his bedroom. The memory was etched into his soul. He was eleven years old, working on homework, and there she stood, leaning against the door, a slip of a woman in a floral apron, flour highlighting one cheek where she had brushed away hair that escaped the tie holding her tresses up and away from activity. It was because of the flour that he knew she had been crying, the trail of tears running a jagged course down her face.
“Mom, are you okay? What’s wrong?” he had asked, getting up from his books.
“Oh,” she exclaimed, wiping her face with backs of her closed hands, “nothing at all. You know me, I sometimes start thinking about things, things that I am so grateful for, like you and your brother, and I just get all emotional.” She paused. “I don’t know why, my dearest, but I was thinking about how big you’re getting, a teenager in a couple years, then you will be driving and off to college and then you’ll get married, and as I thought about all this, do you know what I felt?” She paused. “I felt joy. I felt like my heart was about to burst out of my chest. Tony, I am so thankful to God for you. So I decided to make you your favorite dessert, Marion-berry Cobbler, and some caramel rolls. But as I was standing there, looking out the window at everything we have been given, all the gifts, and especially about you and Jake, I suddenly wanted to give you something, something that’s especially precious to me.”
It was then that Tony noticed her clenched fist; she was holding something. Whatever it was fit in the small grasp of this woman already shorter than he. She held out her hand and slowly opened it. Curled up on her palm was a flour-anointed necklace with a gold cross at the end, fragile and feminine.
“Here.” She held it out. “I want you to have this. Your grandmother gave it to me, and her mother to her. I thought I would one day give it to a daughter, but I don’t think that’s going to happen and I don’t know why, but as I was thinking and praying for you, today seemed to be the right day to give it to you.”
Tony had not known what else to do so he opened his hand, allowing his mother to drop the finely woven thread onto his palm, adorned with the small delicate gold cross.
“Some day, I want you to give this to the woman you love, and I want you to tell her where it came from.” The tears were now rolling down her face.
“But Mom, you can give it to her.”
“No, Anthony, I feel this strongly. I don’t exactly understand why, but it is for you to give, not me. Now don’t get me wrong, I plan to be there, but just like my mother gave it to me to give, I now give it to you, for you to give.”
“But how will I know—”
“You will,” she interrupted. “Trust me, you will!” She wrapped her arms around him and hugged him long, unconcerned for the flour that might be transferred. He had not cared either. None of it had made any sense to him, but he knew it was important.
“Hold on to Jesus, Anthony. You can never go wrong by holding on to Jesus. And know this,” she said as she pulled back and looked up into his eyes: “He will never stop holding on to you.”
Two days later she was gone, swallowed up in the selfish choice of another barely older than he. The necklace still lay in his safe. He had never given it away. Had she known? He had often wondered if this had been a premonition, some warning or gesture by God to give him a remembrance. Her loss had destroyed his life, sending it careering down a path that had made him who he was, strong, tough, and able to withstand things that others struggled with. But there were moments, fleeting and intangible, when the tender longing would slip in between the rocks of his presentation and sing to him, or begin to sing as he would quickly shut such music away.
Was Jesus still holding him? Tony didn’t know, but probably not. He wasn’t much like his mother anymore, but because of her, he had read the Bible along with some of her favorite books, trying to find in the pages of Lewis, MacDonald, Williams, and Tolkien a hint of her presence. He even joined, for a short time, the Young Life group in his high school where he tried to learn more about Jesus, but the foster system in which he and his brother landed shuttled them from home to home and school to school, and when every hello is just a good-bye waiting to happen, social clubs and affiliations become painful. He felt that Jesus had said good-bye like everyone else.
So the fact that he had kept Jesus on the list was a bit of a surprise. He hadn’t given him much thought in years. In college he had briefly renewed the quest, but after a season of conversation and study had quickly relegated Jesus to the list of great dead teachers.
Even so, he could understand why his mother had been so enamored. What wasn’t there to like about him? A man’s man, yet good with children, kind to those unacceptable to religion and culture, a person full of infectious compassion, someone who challenged the status quo and yet loved those he challenged. He was everything that Tony sometimes wished he was, but knew he wasn’t. Perhaps Jesus was an example of that bigger-than-yourself life, but it was too late to change. The older he got, the thought of transformation seemed increasingly remote.
And it was the God-thing that he couldn’t understand, especially as it related to Jesus. Tony had long decided that if there was a God, he or she or it was something or someone terrible and malevolent, capricious and untrustworthy, at best some form of cold dark matter, impersonal and uncaring, and at worst a monster taking pleasure in devastating the hearts of children.
“It’s all wishful thinking,” he mumbled as he crumpled up the paper and indignantly tossed it at the garbage can across the room. Living people couldn’t be trusted. Reaching for a fresh bottle of Balvenie Portwood, he poured himself a triple and turned back toward his computer, switching it back on.
He brought up his official Last Will and Testament and spent the next hour expressing his suspicion and antipathy by making major revisions and printing off a new copy, which he signed, dated, and tossed with the old back onto a pile of others already in the safe, locking and resetting the alarms and turning of his desk lights. As he sat in the darkness thinking about his existence and who might be pursuing him, little did he know he was drinking his last Scotch.
Dare to Dream
My desire is that everyone who reads this book will be encouraged
to become actively involved in seeing the Kingdom of God
come on this Earth and to live in intimacy with the Lord.
I chose the title Dare to Dream because I see around me so many Christians who
have, for one reason or the other, become discouraged, and as a result,
no longer dare to dream. It seems as if they don’t know how to get
from point A to point B in their Christian walk. They have given their
lives to the Lord and, in the past, have had many visions and dreams.
However, due to various adverse circumstances, they have abandoned
any hope of ever accomplishing these dreams. Instead they choose to
remain on the sidelines, while Jesus is still encouraging them to, “Go
to the other side!”
His own disciples faced difficult circumstances, but despite storms
and disappointments, despite religious currents and winds, they persevered
until they reached the other side. Like them, we are also called to
step out in faith, overcome our own obstacles, and go to the other side.
I hope to show you how to build a bridge between your conversion
and your calling, and how you can effectively carry out the mission
that you have been given by the Lord. The best bridge-builder is the
Lord Jesus Himself, for it is by His death on the cross that he built a
bridge between us, as sinful people, and God, our heavenly Father. The
cross is the most beautiful bridge imaginable—a bridge that we must
all cross if we surrender our lives to the Lord and want to follow Him
“Bridge-builder” is a name commonly associated with Dutch
nationals. We are a nation of bridge-builders and we love challenges
and pioneering. For centuries we have defied the encroaching waters
that threaten a large part of our country by building bridges, dams, and
tunnels. In 2005 we used our expertise to assist the U.S. authorities to
secure New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina’s winds ripped through it
with devastating consequences.
(In 1613, the first Dutch settlers arrived in America establishing
many villages and towns, including one called New Amsterdam, which
is now known as New York. According to a 2006 census, more than 5
million Americans claim to have a total or partial Dutch heritage. This
creates a bridge between America and the Netherlands, and even today
we stand together to support Israel. My own personal bridge between
the two countries is that I married an American from Seattle!)
However, in the Christian world, there is often little to remind us
that we are bridge-builders. We are often preoccupied with building
our own dams, our own kingdoms, our own systems, and our own
church—and unfortunately, this scenario is echoed worldwide.
I believe that we are living in an era in which we can no longer
play games. It is “Game Over” for religious systems and structures. It is
time that, without compromise, we surrender all our selfish ambitions
and personal agendas to our Lord Jesus. If we want to see revival in our
communities and countries, we need to start doing things His way. We
have to build bridges between each other, between churches, to our
neighbors, to friends and family, and even to our enemies.
It is time for the Body of Christ to rise up and take the Good News
about Jesus to the poor, wounded, and blind; in fact, to the whole
world. The anointing was never meant to be only for ourselves; the
anointing, or power of God, is so we can be witnesses in the world.
This is why Jesus tells His disciples in Acts 1:8 to go back to Jerusalem
where “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you
will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to
the ends of the earth.”
Luke 4:18 says:
The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed
Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to
proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight
for the blind, to set the oppressed free, Isaiah 61:1 says exactly the same thing and this same Spirit and this same anointing is available to every believer today. However, only those who want to see the Great Commission fulfilled will see
I wrote this book because I want to release something in you. I
want you to once again believe that you can achieve your dreams and
believe that God will provide. Go and walk in the authority that God
has given you as a believer. Put simply, this means go and do what Jesus
did by proclaiming His Kingdom, preaching the Gospel to the poor,
taking care of orphans and widows, loving others, giving God all the
glory, seeking first His Kingdom, laying hands on the sick and seeing
them healed, comforting the brokenhearted, and seeing the captives
set free—all in the name of Jesus.
It does not matter what your background is, what training you
have, or what church you belong to—Jesus is the Way, He is the Truth,
and He is the Life. He wants to bring revival in you and through you!
My prayer is that, as you read this book, you will realize that you
can trust God with your whole heart; and when you do, He will do
amazing things to help you make your dreams a reality.
Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and
in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21).
A Great Adventure
Life with God our Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and
all the angels is a great adventure. From a very young age I clearly
remember that we went to church every Sunday and, as my father was
a pastor, we moved from one place to another quite regularly.
At the age of 14, I was at the Weena Skating Rink in Rotterdam, and I heard a voice saying, “Mattheus, why are you going to church?” It was a good question, and it shocked me. I had been aware of God’s existence from a very young age, and I remember warning people in the supermarket as a ten-year-old that
they were going to go to hell if they did not accept Jesus as their Savior.
I have to admit, this often caused great annoyance to my mother and
sister. During one Christmastime, I wrote in big letters on my bedroom
window that JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY, which further annoyed my
However, talking about Jesus was one thing, but giving my life and
my heart to Him was an entirely different matter. I did not have a personal
relationship with Him. When I heard that voice at the skating
rink, I felt as if a hot liquid was flowing over my body and I can vividly
remember feeling large tears running down my cheeks. My friends
with me at the rink that day were all members of an evangelical church.
That night the youth pastor of the church prayed with me, and I surrendered
my life to Jesus. Later that evening, although I felt shy about sharing my news, I was able to tell my father and mother that I had given my life to Jesus. They were so happy that we ended up having a party to celebrate! A few weeks later, my father baptized me in the Baptist church, and the whole youth group from the evangelical church came to witness this important event. We had a wonderful time.
In the following weeks, I continued to wrestle and reflect on the
question I had heard at the skating rink. Why was I going to church?
What is the function of the church? I came to the conclusion that I
attended out of habit and that even though I was present during the
sermon, I didn’t really hear it, and ultimately didn’t understand the
message at all. In addition, I most certainly didn’t understand the
church culture! I also concluded that I went to church because my
friends did; and I not only had no personal relationship with the Lord,
but I did not communicate with Him either.
In 1993, I read an article by Brother Andrew van der Bijl (also
known as God’s Smuggler) in a magazine. The article described how
retirement facilities are filled with people who are still waiting for a
call from God telling them what He specifically wants each of them to
do. He went on to say that we are all called by God and that we don’t
necessarily need to hear a clearly audible voice or a prophet who picks
us out of a crowd and prophesies over us, before we obey God. It may
happen, but is not absolutely necessary.
He then wrote that he just goes ahead and does what God tells him
to do in the Bible. He often compares the voice of God to a traffic light,
with green meaning “go” and red meaning, “don’t go!” I began to see
that indeed many people were complacently waiting for the green light
in their lives when, in fact, 90 percent of the time, the light was already
green! They just needed to go into everyday life following Jesus and
being His hands and feet in whatever situation or community God
placed them. Upon realizing this, I did just that and have come to learn
that the light is more often green than red.
Later on, Brother Andrew became my mentor and, when my sister
married his son Jop, we became part of the same family. Jop also
became one of my best friends.
As a child I lived in the village of Pernis, which is on the edge of
Rotterdam’s large harbor. Some of my most treasured childhood memories
are of the times I spent watching all the big seagoing vessels moving
in and out of the harbor. I regularly saw one of the pilot boats going out
to one of the many large ships waiting to come into the harbor. When
the pilot boat came alongside, the ship’s pilot would climb on board, via
a ladder, and then guide the ship safely into the harbor.
I was fascinated and, in my dreams, I saw myself standing on the
bridge of a huge ship in a smart white maritime officer’s uniform.
I once prayed and asked the Lord if it was OK to go to the nearby maritime
building. I didn’t get a red light, so I got on my bicycle and cycled to
the building. At the entrance there was a sign saying, “Prohibited Area,”
but I cycled past it and went to the harbor captain’s office. As I arrived
there, an older man came out of the building on his way to one of the
ships. He introduced himself as Mr. Tazelaar, and he told me that he was
a pilot and nearing retirement age. We started talking and, to my amazement,
he invited me to accompany him. You can imagine how exciting
this unexpected trip was for me! We went out on the pilot’s boat to a big
ship that had just arrived from China and, after a dangerous climb up
the ladder wearing my wet shoes, I arrived on board.
A Great Adventure
On the bridge, the pilot gave me his cap to wear. That day was a
dream come true for me and, after having had this wonderful experience,
I wanted to experience more of this kind of life on board a
ship. (Many years later, over a four-year period, I had the privilege
of working with more than 300 different pilots in various parts of
When I researched what training I would need to achieve my
dream of being a marine officer, my teacher discouraged me from
pursuing the higher level of education required, saying it would not
be “realistic” for me as I only had the ability to attain a mediumlevel
education. She then advised me to pursue a lower, more technically-
orientated course. Despite what I had been told, I chose not to
abandon my dream of standing on the bridge of a ship in a white maritime
officer’s uniform. Disregarding all the advice I had been given, I
enrolled myself at a marine officer’s training school. Again I received
the same warning that the first three months would be too difficult
for me, and again I decided not to listen to people, but instead to
follow my dream. I believed that I would get my diploma with the
support of my parents and by putting my faith and trust in the Lord. I
was determined to succeed.
The training was not easy, and sometimes it felt like I was going
through some really “stormy weather,” but five years later, I received
my diploma from the Nautical College; and shortly afterward, my
dreams became reality as I stood in a white uniform as a marine officer
on the bridge of the ship MV Anastasis.
The Anastasis belonged to a Christian ministry called Mercy Ships
which was, at the time, part of the Youth With A Mission (YWAM)
organization. At the time, it was the largest floating hospital in the
world. The aim of Mercy Ships is to spread the Gospel in third world
countries while providing practical assistance to the communities in
the vicinity where their ship is moored. This is a wonderful way to
give hands and feet to the mission Jesus called us to do.
There were hundreds of volunteers on the Anastasis, ranging from
the captain to surgeons, nurses, chefs, and waiters, and everyone paid
a few hundred dollars per month to work on the ship. Every year the
Anastasis went to a different port in Africa where, over a six-month
period, thousands of medical and dental procedures were performed
on those identified as being most in need. There were also dozens
of people on the ship’s construction teams, and they built wells and
small clinics in the area.
While all this was happening, evangelism teams visited the villages
and towns nearby to share the story of Jesus with the local
During my time on board the Anastasis, the ship was moored for a
few months in a harbor in Madagascar, an island southeast of southern
Africa. In addition to my work as a marine officer, I was also involved
in evangelism and reached out to the local community on the days
when I was not working on the ship. I was intensely affected by the
poverty and the people I saw living on the streets there.
One day we were in the jungle, and I met a boy who was about 8
years old and who told us he had no parents. His name was Sinatara
and he lived with a friend. The heartbreaking situation of this orphan
touched my heart enormously. During the three months the ship was
moored in the harbor, I visited Sinatara every Saturday to talk and
play with him. When the time came to say farewell, he threw his little
arms around my legs and screamed and cried in French, “Daddy, don’t
This touched me deeply and for the first time in my life I became
acutely aware of the fate of orphans. I was deeply affected, and a new
desire grew in me to help them.
The Anastasis then sailed to South Africa where we stayed
for a period of six months. Here, Peter Helms, a speaker from the
Netherlands, joined the ship. I was told he had a prophetic ministry;
but, because of my Baptist background, I was not that familiar with
the gift of prophecy and did not know what a prophetic ministry was.
However, I soon found out. During a meeting we both attended on
board the Anastasis, Peter Helms pointed at me and my heart began to
beat faster, both in fear and anticipation. He began prophesying over
me according to what the Spirit of God was telling him. He said that
I would play a key role in the endtimes by training an army of people
and releasing them to do what they were called to do by God. He saw
lots of fire and passion, waves of revival, and thousands of people in
many nations who would come to know Jesus as their Savior. I was
well and truly shaken. First, the orphan Sinatara, and now this word
These two events brought me to a point where I felt that I had
to make a choice. Should I continue my training to become a ship’s
captain, which would take another nine years, or should I stop
sailing and commit myself to being trained to serve needy widows
and orphans? I chose the latter, returned to the Netherlands, and put
my white uniform and certificate in the closet at home. Today, years
later, I miss the sea every day, but I’m still convinced that I made the
Jesus Is the Rock
In 1994, I became involved in Jesus Is the Rock Ministries and, at
the time, there was a revival among the young people in a city in the
center of the Netherlands. It was a wonderful time when non-Christian
young people radically came to Jesus. Led by Jop van der Bijl and
Henk Foppen, we conducted services for non-churchgoing youth.
There were mega-baptisms, worship celebrations, outreaches, and evenings
In the few short years I was with this ministry I gained a wealth
of knowledge. Jop van der Bijl had just returned from Africa where he
had facilitated major training campaigns for evangelists. Henk Foppen
was, at that time, a member of the evangelism committee of a church.
Both men had a heart for missions and evangelism, and they were very
excited by the plans to generate new ideas to evangelize the youth.
In an effort to better understand the people they wanted to reach
for Christ, Jop and Henk had gone onto the streets and talked with
and listened to young people as they told them how and what they felt
about their lives and their circumstances.
I believe that this is a very good and constructive approach. First,
determining who your target group is; second, how they feel and
think; and last, how you can reach them and those like them with the
Gospel in the most effective way. It turned out that most of the surveyed
young people found the message of Jesus and the Gospel too
difficult to comprehend. They didn’t like the traditional approach to
“church” and how Christians related to one another.
Initially, Jop and Henk didn’t dare bring young people like this
into their church, but after much prayer, they plucked up the courage
and did just that!
Irritating the Status Quo
One Sunday morning, they invited 15 young men to church and
sat them in the back row. Among them were young men who were
addicted to soft drugs, were homeless, and had social issues. Jop and
Henk were very excited by the large turnout of youngsters. During
the service, the boys went in and out of the building, taking turns to
smoke cigarettes outside, until one of the elders requested that they sit
still. Other well-meaning members of the congregation were irritated
as well and would even look back at them holding their finger to their
mouth indicating that they should be quiet. At the end of the service,
the 15 young people left the building very frustrated. They knew they
were not acceptable as they were, and that was precisely the reason
they had not wanted to attend church in the first place.
Jop and Henk were deeply frustrated too, and eventually the
church developed a special committee to reach out to those outside
the church who were lost and did not know Jesus as their Savior. After
a year, they went onto the streets again and invited young people into
the church. When they accepted and went to church, once again the
reactions of the congregation drove them away. The young people and
the way they behaved were simply not acceptable.
Unfortunately, this scenario is happening in many churches and
communities worldwide because we value the man-made order and
structure more than we welcome unbelievers. We do not give them
time to be touched and changed by the Lord, and so we drive them
away. I believe the Lord is pleased to see the lost come to church, but
we left when the youth left, and I am sure He was shaking His head
and filled with grief.
It is time for a radical change. We need to pray that God will
give us compassion for the lost and we need to repent from the sin of
valuing the order in a service more than the lost people God cares so
In the same month, a few young people organized a house party,
complete with the top musical hits of the ’90s. All of a sudden churches
were stirred into action and, at a meeting at the local town hall,
launched a campaign against holding the party. Due to the immense
pressure applied by these Christians, the party was canceled and many
young people, angry at the older peoples’ decision, asked why they
had not been allowed to organize their own entertainment. After that,
other recreational ideas for the youth were put forth and organized, but
it wasn’t long before the church objected to those as well.
Jop and Henk did not know what to do next. What could today’s
Church offer these young people who would not attend church? The
church seemed so focused inwardly that there was no room for the
children and young people from outside the church walls, who were
looking to be loved and accepted, to find hope and friendship.
The city council eventually decided to allocate a place for young
people to get together. It was right next to the town hall, and it was
called the Plaza. Organizations were allowed to use the space during
certain hours of the day, and Jop and Henk immediately jumped at
the opportunity to use it for youth gatherings. They organized weekly
Bible studies above the Plaza in a room where young people regularly
met during the week to smoke cannabis and drink heavily.
In addition to the Bible studies, they also organized music concerts.
Christian volunteers were part of the newly created Plaza Team.
At first this new outreach to the youth encountered opposition from
the churches as they felt that they needed to work together, so first a
committee had to be formed. To honor the church leadership, Jop and
Henk joined the committee on behalf of their church, but all the committee
did was talk and deliberate and discuss ideas—it rarely managed
to arrange any activities to reach out to the youth. In the end, Jop and
Henk decided to follow their hearts and continue their outreach work
to the youth without involving the church. They decided to pay all the
expenses for future meetings out of their own pockets.
It was around this time, in 1995, that our family moved to this
city. We soon came into contact with Jop and Henk, and there was an
instant connection. One day, my sister Viviane (who was no longer
attending church) and I were urged by our mother to go to one of
the evening meetings at the Plaza. I remember the night of our first
visit. We passed through a haze of cannabis smoke on our way up the
stairs and as we entered the room, the smell of newly made coffee
and freshly baked cake greeted us. The atmosphere was relaxed, and
we immediately felt at home. There were five other young people
that night as well as Jop and Henk. One was a boy from Amsterdam
called Frits, who was partially blind. He was a very mischievous boy,
but very funny. He had several bad experiences during his lifetime,
and that evening he gave his life to Jesus. I felt like a fish in water. We
continued to attend these meetings and eventually Viviane returned
to following Jesus. She also fell in love with Jop, and they got married
three years later.
Meanwhile, attendance of the Bible study group was growing so
we had to look for a larger room to meet in. By then my sister and I
were on the ministry team along with Jop and Henk, and I eventually
became a full-time worker for Jesus Is the Rock Ministries. At that
time, Jop and Henk, who were still paying for everything themselves,
began organizing concerts with popular bands and singers like Darrel
Mansfield, Rezz, and White Cross. As a result, the number of young
people attending grew very quickly.
There were so many young people who were accepting Jesus as
their Savior that it did not take long before we were ready to hold our
first baptism service, which was held at a lake just outside the city
where we lived. After we had conducted a few of these services, they
became very popular for tourists, passersby, and the media to come
We thought it would be a good idea to organize special services for
young church seekers and non-believing youth. The first service was
a tremendous success, with more than 200 young people attending.
We experienced a small revival. A “youth church” did not exist in the
Netherlands at that time, and so we were one of the first in the country
to introduce the idea.
The surrounding churches witnessed our success and, for the most
part, instead of cheering for Jesus, the councils of elders and church
governing boards were deeply frustrated by the fact that we were
experiencing such success and that, through this, young people were
becoming active followers of Jesus—while they had only a few young
people attending their churches. We had always stretched out our
hands to them and blessed them, as it was our desire to work together
with them. Some people took our outstretched hands and wanted to
cooperate, but most of them were either too scared or too proud. They
were afraid of losing the few young people they had. They were afraid
we would steal their sheep.
To this I have only one thing to say. As long as churches have this
attitude, they will have little impact in our communities and the fruits
they produce will be those of division, jealousy, and ultimately the
splitting of churches. In addition, a spirit of manipulation and control
will emerge if we are not open to other believers. I believe that the time
of building our own kingdoms is over and, personally, I do not believe
in denominations any more.
If the whole Body of Christ wants to start moving and experience
a revival, I believe that the whole Body of Christ, meaning every part
of the Body, will have to cooperate with each other in a spirit of unity.
Unfortunately, the Bride, the Body of Christ, is broken and infected by
sin; but God can perform a miracle if we are prepared to work together
and look beyond our own small worlds and at His bigger picture.
Jop and Henk’s original plan to start a church in a pub was different—
and it became a movement. In that movement, so many young
people became believers that we started discipleship training, organized
nights of refreshing, leading worship celebrations, and evangelism
outreaches. We also established a place where young people could
gather and relax, talk, have a snack, play snooker (billiards), or find
a listening ear. It was an awesome time in which God showed His
strength and where we, as pioneers in this field, learned so much.
We knew there were people outside the church walls who were
lost and hurting, and we were passionate about reaching them with
It is a sad fact that many people are so engrossed in church activities
that they forget that they are commanded to “go into all the world”
and make disciples. Many of these people prefer criticizing the behavior
of the lost instead of asking God to give them His heart for them.
I have difficulty understanding this type of person, and so did
Jesus. He even had a name for them—“a brood of vipers” (Matt. 23:33).
These were Pharisees who lived their lives upholding all their religious
customs and traditions, but didn’t understand the real reason for doing
so. They were without compassion for the deprived, the sick, and unbelievers.
They were the type of people who turned a blind eye and a deaf
ear, just like the Pharisees who, in the story of the Good Samaritan,
hurriedly passed by a badly injured man who had almost been killed
by robbers. They walked right around the injured man, even though
they saw the pitiful state he was in, and attended their worship service.
Ultimately it was the Samaritan, a heathen, who by stopping to help
the injured man, showed the heart of Jesus.
Knowing His Heart
Dear reader, we must repent of our selfishness and attachment to
the petty things of this world. It’s time to wake up and go and do something!
“How?” you ask. Begin by taking the time to talk to God to see
where your help is desperately needed. To this you might say, “There
are needs everywhere and I cannot operate in emergency response
mode.” Or you might say that you aren’t skilled enough. Nonsense! If
you read Matthew 25:31-46, you will see that one doesn’t have to have
a special calling to help people in need, and that God even condemns
a group of people for what they have not done.
I don’t yet fully understand Matthew 25:31-46 because it is so
radical and simple, but I believe that God has set a high value on us
helping the outcasts, the poor, the orphans, and the widows in their
distress—an action that results from spending time with God and
learning to know His heart for these people. You do not need a special
calling to tell people about the love of God.
Most Christians don’t realize that people really do go to hell if they
do not accept Jesus as their Savior. It is written in John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and
only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish
but have eternal life.
Almost every Christian is familiar with this Scripture. Whenever
we hear it mentioned in a sermon, it makes us sigh deeply because we
have to listen to the same message yet again, but then most still do
not respond to it. For the most part, it just goes in one ear and out the
other! Yes, God is love, but He is also powerful and holy. The Word
of God says that, out of love God gave His Son Jesus to be sacrificed
in order to pay for our sins, and that anyone who believes in Him and
follows Him will have eternal life and therefore a home in Heaven.
Anyone who refuses to believe in Him will be lost and spend eternity
My hope is that, if you have not accepted Jesus as your Savior, the
Holy Spirit will convict you of God’s Word. He is waiting for you to
live a life where you are believing and teaching John 3:16 and sharing
with others that God is love and that there is room in Heaven for
everyone. There is no standard way to do this, but when you decide to
follow Him wholeheartedly, He will give you various talents and gifts
to equip you to do the job well.
I think there are far too many Christians who are complacent.
They are so bored that they would rather sit at their computers
playing games than go out and share the love of God with people
and see His Kingdom come on Earth. Surrendering your life entirely
to God, as I have personally found out, is both exciting as well as a
Oman and Kosovo
After a number of years in youth ministry, more and more doors
were opened to me and I became involved with a ministry working in
underground churches in Muslim countries. In 1999 in Muscat, Oman,
the Lord woke me up one night and, in a vision, gave me an enormous
amount of compassion for the nations and especially for third world
countries. My heart was deeply moved by the burden the Lord had laid
on me; and in the subsequent months, I would weep nightly as I felt
His sorrow for the plight of these people. I began to realize that the
Lord wanted me to focus on helping orphans and widows.
In that same year, after I had returned home to the Netherlands
from Oman, war broke out in Kosovo, a country where Albanians were
being brutally raped, murdered, or forcefully driven from their homes
by Serbian militias. In Europe, several refugee camps were established
for the displaced Kosovarans. In the city where I lived at that time,
there was a very large refugee camp set up to accommodate them, and
the Lord gave me the desire to go and work there as a cook. I was successful
in obtaining the position and worked there for three months
with a team of people feeding 3,000 refugees a day. My position
afforded me the privilege of having personal contact and interactions
with Kosovaran youth, so I was able to share the Gospel with them.
This is an extract from Dare to Dream by Mattheus van der Steen. To read more about the book, click here
This is an extract from Die Brug by Karen Kingsbury.
Sy moes iets gesê het.
Vandag, sewe jaar later, met die Dankseggingsdag-skottelgoed gewas en weggepak en nog ’n eensame Desember wat voor haar uitstrek, moet Molly Allen die waarheid in die oë kyk. Haar jaar, haar lewe, haar Kersfees … alles kon soveel anders gewees het as sy net iets gesê het.
Die dinge wat kon gewees het, hinder haar al hierdie hele Swart Vrydag. Hulle gaan saam met haar by die Allen-stigting se kantoordeur in Portland, Oregon, in. Hulle bly oor haar hang terwyl sy middagete eet by P.E. Changs. Hulle trek elke keer haar aandag af as sy rondstap om te kyk hoe dit met die katte en honde by diereskuiling gaan.
Dit is video-dag vandag. Molly se dag ná Dankseggingsdag.
Al die ander inwoners in die Portland-omgewing bestee die dag aan winskopies soek en kom skuiling toe om te sien of die geskenk waarna hulle op soek is dalk in ’n hok in plaas van ’n Walmart-winkel is. Teen die einde van dag wanneer hulle hul inkopiesakke uitpak en uitwerk hoeveel hulle gespaar het, sal Molly alleen onder ’n kombers inkruip en na die video kyk.
Soos sy elke jaar op hierdie dag doen.
Sy druk ’n lang, blonde haarlok agter haar een oor in en buk oor ’n baie groot hok in die onderste ry. Die kamer weergalm van ’n dosyn verskillende blaf- en tjankgeluide en ’n gekef om aandag. Die oproerigheid weerspieël die onrus onder hierdie klompie diere wat die afgelope maand hul weg gevind het na haar skuiling, een van die Allen-stigting se hulpprojekte.
‘Kom hier, Buster.’ Sy sluit die hok oop en hou haar arms oop vir die grys
kroeshaarpoedel. ‘Dis jou gelukkig dag, hoor.’ Sy knip die leiriem aan Buster se halsband. Die hond is twee jaar oud en sit al drie weke in die skuiling. Dis langer as gewoonlik as ’n mens in ag neem dat dit Kerstyd is en die oulikste honde gewoonlik eerste gekies word. Sy krap agter sy ore. ‘Kom ek vat jou na jou gesin toe.’
In die gees van die oomblik sê sy vir die ander diere: ‘Dis nog sewe dae voor Desember. Julle beurt sal kom!’
Buster swaai sy stert wild heen en weer terwyl Molly met hom voorportaal toe stap. Sy hou van Buster se nuwe gesin. Dat sy van die meeste gesinne hou, spreek vanself. Enigeen wat gewillig is om ’n troeteldier te red is wat haar betref ’n vriend. Maar dié gesin met hul sewejarige tweelingseuns lyk vir haar spesiaal. Hul oë verhelder toe Molly om die hoek kom met Buster.
‘Pappa, dis hy! Ons Buster-hond!’ Een van die seuns hardloop nader, val op sy knieë en gooi sy arms om die hond se nek.
Die ander seun is stiller en bly by sy ouers staan, maar sy glimlag is net so wyd. Die gesin het reeds die nodige vorms geteken en hierdie is die laaste stap. Toe hulle groet, skud albei ouers haar hand.
‘Wat jy hier doen, maak ’n verskil,’ sê die pa hartlik. ‘Ek het ’n gevoel dat jy jou tyd met baie ander dinge sou kon verwyl.’ Hy knik sy kop in haar rigting. ‘Geseënde Kersfees.’
‘Dankie.’ Molly huiwer. ‘Geniet die vakansietyd.’
Die gesin verskuif hul aandag na Buster en die gesukkel om hom in die stortbui reën by die deur uit te kry en tot in hul viertrek wat net buite geparkeer staan. Terwyl die gesin wegry, kyk Molly op haar horlosie. Nog ses minute voor toemaaktyd. Sy loop deur toe en draai die ‘Gesluit’-bordjie om. Die hokke is skoon. Die tiental hoërskoolkinders wat die diere vrywillig vir oefening uitneem, is ’n uur gelede al huis toe. Sy sal net die waterbakke volmaak en dan huis toe gaan.
Hy het sy videoprojek Die Brug genoem.
Iewers tussen die erkennings aan die begin van die video, het hy die volgende beskrywing ingevoeg: ‘Hoe ’n plattelandse seun van Carthage, Missisippi, en ’n gekultiveerde meisie van Pacific Heights, Kalifornië, mekaar gevind het tydens hul daaglikse pendelrit net buite Music City met Franklinweg af tot by Die Brug – die beste boekwinkel in die wêreld.’
Te veel woorde, te veel plekke, het Molly hom gewaarsku. Hulle het heerlik gelag oor die feit dat hy ’n A gekry het vir ’n werkstuk met so ’n afskuwelike beskrywing.
Molly stap met die trappe op en sit haar deurdrenkte goed net binne haar woonstel se deur neer, skakel die lig aan en raak ontslae van haar sopnat reënjas. Die nuwe tweeslaapkamerwoonstel in die bekende Northwest Twenty Third Street is heelwat minder as waaraan sy gewoond is. Die bome langs die straat is selfs in Julie behang met liggies en die straat spog met koffiekroegies, straatkafeetjies en boetieks wat slegs tipiese Portland-kuns en -modes aanhou. Die pas en die mense temper in ’n mate die boheemse atmosfeer.
Haar pa sou dit gehaat het.
Aandete is gereed in die Crock-Pot – groentesop met vars gekapte salotte, knoffel en pietersielie. Dis die sop wat hy haar leer maak het. Dis haar Swart Vrydag-sop. Haar kat, Sam, kom met ’n klaende gemiaau uit die waskamer en kom skuur teen haar enkels. Hy is ’n eienaardige kat – meer hond as kat.
Hy val op die kombuisvloer neer en laat sak sy kop tussen sy voorpote.
‘Is jy stokflou?’ Sy buk en krap hom onder sy ken. ‘Goed so, Sam, maar pasop tog dat jy jou nie ooreis nie, hoor.’
Sy skep vir haar ’n bakkie sop in, gryp ’n kombers en die afstandbeheerder en maak haar tuis in die hoek van haar geliefde leerbank. Die boonste knoppie op die beheerder laat die ligte verdof en die volgende een sal die video laat begin. Dit is van vroegoggend af al gereed in die speler.
Molly vat haar hare bymekaar en vee dit eenkant toe.
Sy naam was Ryan Kelly.
Deesdae is hy getroud met die minlike skoonheid met wie hy op hoërskool uitgegaan het en is hy heel waarskynlik die musiekonderwyser by Carthage-hoërskool in Nowhere, Missisippi. Maar vir die twee jaar wat sy en Ryan aan Belmont-universiteit gestudeer het, het hy aan haar behoort. Sy het gedroom dat sy nooit weer sou huis toe gaan nie en dat sy saam met die simfonieorkes viool sou speel. Hy weer wou saam met ’n country-orkes deur die platteland toer en kitaar speel vir ’n inkomste. Op die ou end is hy terug Suide toe om met Kristen te trou en Molly is San Francisco toe waar haar pa se sakeryk gewag het.
Maar vir daardie vier salige semesters in die Franklin-boekwinkel, kon niks hulle skei nie.
Om dit tot ’n einde te bring was die moeilikste: die laaste aanraking, die wegdraai, haar bewende hande. Elke hartverskeurende hartklop is vir ewig in haar siel ingebrand. Hul afskeid het so skielik gekom, sy is steeds nie mooi seker hoekom dit gebeur het nie. Hoe kon hul paaie so skei, so gou en met soveel finaliteit?
Molly druk die speel-knoppie. Die musiek begin en die bekende pyn blom in haar binneste. Sy gun haar nie dikwels die terugreis na die verlede nie. Maar die dag ná Dankseggingsdag behoort aan hom, aan hoe dit tóé was en aan die onvermydelike, onontkombare waarheid.
Sy moes, soos Rhett Butler in Gone with the wind, iets gesê het.
Hy het die kamera op die kar se paneelbord neergesit en met maskeerband en ’n stokkie ’n plan geprakseer om die kamerahoek te kon beheer. Die beeldsoeker het na hulle toe gewys. ‘Wees jouself,’ het hy gesê. ‘En hou jou oë op die pad.’ Sy opgeneemde lag weergalm deur haar woonkamer soos dit eens op ’n tyd deur haar oggende en middae geklink het.
Die eerste skoot is van hom, en sy vraag laat haar altyd glimlag. ‘Nou toe, juffrou Molly, vertel vir die mense hoe ons ontmoet het – die onwaarskynlike ontmoeting wat dié malligheid begin het.’
‘Die hele storie?’ Hy het die kamera na haar toe gedraai waar sy agter haar BMW-sedan se stuur gesit het en sy lyk nie vreeslik inskiklik nie. ‘Terwyl ons ry?’
Hy het weer gelag. ‘Dis dertig minute se ry na Die Brug toe. Ek dink jy kan meer as een ding op ’n slag doen.’
Sy het vir hom ’n gesig getrek en gelag toe sy vlugtig na die kamera kyk. ‘Goed dan. Wat is die vraag nou weer?’
‘Hou jou oë op die pad.’
Hul gelag is saamgesnoer in ’n malse wals, terwyl die kamera die diskrete neiging van hul liggame nader na mekaar toe verewig het. Die effense, maar moedswillige aanraking van elmboë en knieë en die manier waarop sy na hom gekyk het terwyl hy haar verfilm het – asof sy nog nooit in haar lewe gelukkiger was nie. Molly glimlag terwyl sy na die video kyk. Die kamera het die samesnoering van twee harte vasgelê, maar nie net die vriendskap wat daar beslis was nie, maar ook die band waaroor hulle nie wou praat nie. Die band tussen hulle wat so sterk was dat dit nou nog haar asem wegslaan.
’n Sterk, onmiskenbare band.
Terwyl die video speel, gebeur daar iets buitengewoons. Dis waarom Molly dit elke jaar op hierdie dag kyk. Dit voel asof sy nie langer voor haar televisie sit en na ’n video kyk wat sewe jaar gelede opgeneem is nie. Dit voel of sy weer daar is, met die son op haar skouers en avontuur in haar hart – daardie eerste somer nadat sy met hoërskool klaargemaak het. Dis nie soos ’n terugflits nie. Dis weer Augustus en sy en drie splinternuwe vriendinne is regtig op pad na ’n enorme groot ouditorium vir Belmont se oriëntasieprogram.
Miskien was dit die sensasie van vryheid daardie dag, die feit dat sy haar pa oortuig het om haar toe te laat om die ondenkbare te doen – die Weskus die rug toe te keer en in te skryf by ’n universiteit in ’n onbeduidende staatjie soos Tennessee. Of dalk was dit die feit dat sy dáár nie ’n erfgename was wat haar tyd afwag om haar pa se sakeryk oor te neem nie. Sy was ’n universiteitstudent, nes al die ander. Wat dit ook al was, daardie dag het sy wonderlik gevoel, vol lewe en vol hoop, elke vooruitbepaalde aspek van haar lewe so ver van haar af verwyder as die Stille Oseaan.
Die Belmont-ouditorium het gebruis van die lewenslus van eerstejaars wat vol afwagting en angstigheid oorywerig probeer het om deel te word van die groep. Molly en haar vriendinne het neergesak op die eerste oop sitplekke wat hulle kon kry. Haar oë het skaars aangepas by die ouditorium se skemerlig toe een van haar vriendinne die meisie langs haar in die sy pomp.
‘Kyk daai ou!’ het sy gesê en na ’n ou ’n entjie verder gewys. ‘Hy kyk vir my.’
Hy was lank en goed gebou met kort donker hare en helderblou oë.
‘Nè?’ het die ander meisie gelag. ‘Hy kyk vir Molly, nes al die ander ouens.’
‘Moenie simpel wees nie. Hy’s net …’ Molly het begin giggel, want sy kon nie haar gedagtes in woorde omsit nie. Want in daardie kort oomblik het sy en die donkerkop eerstejaar so intens met mekaar kontak gemaak, dit het haar asem weggeslaan. Sy het toe al ’n klomp van die ander studente ontmoet – by die registrasiekantoor en oor etenstyd en vroegmiddag toe hulle speletjies gespeel het. Maar hierdie ‘ontmoeting’ het so anders gevoel, Molly het sonder twyfel geweet dat niks wat haar in die volgende vier jaar by Belmont te beurt sou val, met dié kort oomblik vergelyk sou kon word nie.
Sy sou nooit daardie enkele oomblik vergeet nie.
Hulle het nie met mekaar gepraat nie en ook nie die aand na afloop van die verrigtinge by mekaar uitgekom nie. Molly het selfs vir ’n oomblik gewonder of haar pa dalk iemand gestuur het om haar te agtervolg, iemand wat die donkerkop geld sou gee om van haar af weg te bly. Haar ouers het immers ’n voorwaarde gestel. Sy het hul toestemming gehad om musiek te studeer, nie om uit te gaan nie. Indien haar pa sou uitvind dat sy ’n verhouding aangeknoop het met ’n Belmont-student, sou daar dadelik vir haar ’n plek bespreek word op die volgende vlug huis toe.
‘Jy sal eendag met iemand soos ons trou,’ het hy altyd glimlaggend maar doodernstig gesê. Hy het ook nie bedoel sommer enige jong man in hul vriendekring nie.
Haar pa het Preston J. Millington III vir haar uitgekies.
Sy en Preston was saam op kosskool. Hy was slim en gaaf en heel aansienlik en sy doelwit was om so gou as moontlik sy MBA te verwerf. Hul ouers was beste vriende en haar pa het reeds vir hom ’n pos in sy skeepvaartmaatskappy beloof.
Molly was nie verlief op Preston nie, maar sy is opgevoed met die idee dat sy geen ander keuse het nie, geen sê het in die besluite wat haar toekoms bepaal nie. Dis op Belmont se kampus dat haar lewe vir die eerste keer enigsins soos haar eie begin voel het. Tog, teen die einde van die eerste week, het sy begin wonder of sy ooit weer die ou van die ouditorium sou sien.
Daardie Vrydag het een van Molly se vriendinne haar vir ete genooi. Sy het die uitnodiging aanvaar soos sy elke uitnodiging wat sy gekry het, aanvaar het. Sy het dit geniet om te kom en gaan soos sy wou en om tyd deur te bring saam met enigeen, maak nie saak hoe ryk of hoe arm of invloedryk of nie hulle was nie. Haar vriendin het in Franklin se middedorp gewoon, sowat dertig minute suid van Nashville. Toe Molly haar motor se deur oopmaak en uitklim, het sy ’n ou in die buurerf langs ’n afgeleefde Dodge-bakkie sien staan. Hy het ’n kitaarkas oor sy skouer gehad en wou net begin aanstap toe hy haar raaksien. Hy het in sy spore bly staan.
Molly het teen haar kar se deur geleun en hulle het mekaar aangestaar. Dit was hy, geen twyfel nie. Maar wat het hy so ver van die kampus af gesoek? Wat was sy naam en watter kursus het hy gevolg? Voor sy na hom kon roep en hom begin uitvra, het haar vriendin die voordeur oopgemaak en uitgehardloop. ‘Molly! Jy’s hier! Kom in en ontmoet almal. My ma kook al heeldag …’
Molly het haarself gedwing om weg te kyk en haar arms om haar vriendin te slaan. Halfpad voordeur toe het sy omgedraai, maar hy was reeds weg – seker ingegaan.
Sy kon nie ophou dink aan hom nie en het dwarsdeur die ete gewonder hoe sy te werk kon gaan om by haar vriendin-hulle uit te vind wie hy was, of hy langsaan woon en of hy net daar kuier.
Sy bakkie was reeds weg toe sy later die aand van hulle afskeid neem.
Maar die Maandag daarna het Molly ’n bietjie te vroeg vir haar musiekteorieklas by die musiekgebou aangekom. Toe sy in die gang afstap, is sy letterlik oorweldig deur die pragtige klanke van ’n akoestiese kitaar en ’n manstem wat ’n lied sing wat sy nog nooit gehoor het nie. Sy stem het haar hart laat smelt en op een of ander manier, nog voor sy om die hoek gestap het, het sy geweet. Asof sy hom haar lewe lank geken het, het sy geweet.
Om hom aan die anderkant van die klaskamerdeur te sien, was net die bevestiging van iets wat sy reeds geweet het.
Hy het geglimlag en aanhou speel en sing terwyl sy teen die muur gaan leun en hom dopgehou het. Aan die einde van die lied het hy sy kitaar laat sak en reg deur haar gekyk.
‘Ek het begin dink jy is pure verbeelding.’
Sy kon nie gou genoeg aan ’n gevatte antwoord dink nie en lag toe maar. ‘Is jy ’n musiekstudent?’
‘Ek is.’ Hy het opgestaan en sy een hand na haar toe uitgehou. Sy oë was van naby nog blouer as van ver af. ‘Ryan Kelly. Hulle het my eers in die verkeerde klas geplaas, maar dis nou net reggestel.’
‘En nou’s jy hier?’ Haar hart het vlerke gekry.
‘As ek kan inhaal.’ Hy het skeef geglimlag en sy een wenkbrou gelig. ‘Ek sal dalk ’n paar vrae hê.’
Sy kon voel hoe haar oë skitter. ‘Ek sal dalk die antwoorde hê.’
En net so het dit begin.
Nie een van hulle het op kampus gebly nie. Hy kon nie die koshuisgelde bekostig nie en het by vriende van sy ouers in Franklin loseer. Sy het in ’n huis wat aan haar ouers behoort het in Brentwood se McGavock Farms gewoon. Haar pa het dit vir ’n appel en ’n ei gekoop en laat opknap met die plan om dit teen ’n wins te verkoop wanneer sy klaar was met haar studies. Op die boonste verdieping het ’n getroude paar gebly wat diens gedoen het as huishoudster en opsigter. Molly se stel kamers was op die grondvloer langs die musiekkamer waar sy kon oefen en studeer. Koshuislewe was buite die kwessie.
‘So ’n saamblyery is nie geskik nie,’ het haar pa gesê en sy uitspraak probeer versag met ’n verduideliking: ‘Jy is nie gewoond daaraan nie. Op dié manier sal jy veilig wees.’
Haar gevoelens vir Ryan was van die begin af alles behalwe veilig. En aangesien haar ouers se personeel beslis sou uitkom met die feit dat sy ’n vriend in die huis onthaal, moes hulle ’n ander plan maak. Ryan se idee was die ideale oplossing. ‘Ek ken ’n boekwinkel in ’n ou huis in Franklin se middedorp. Hulle verkoop nuwe en gebruikte boeke. Daar is ’n leeskamer op die boonste vloer wat niemand ooit gebruik nie. Dis my tuiste weg van die huis.’ Hy het geglimlag en die glinstering in sy oë het tot in haar siel getref. ‘Die plekkie se naam is Die Brug.’
Molly se belangstelling was geprikkel, en ná hul eerste studiesessie het Die Brug haar en Ryan se eie klein wêreldjie geword, ’n wegkruipplek net vir hulle twee. Daar was natuurlik ander klante ook, maar die Belmont-studente het nie so ver uitgery nie. Molly het dit geniet om onbekend en naamloos te wees.
Die huis was vroeër tydens die Burgeroorlog ’n wegkruipplek vir Unie-soldate. Die vloer was van verweerde dennehout en die mure en deure het al taamlik skeefgetrek. Die plek het na ou papier en leer geruik en Molly het dit alles liefgekry.
Die bestuurder van Die Brug was ’n man met die naam Charlie Barton, ’n geliefde inwoner van Franklin. Daar was altyd ’n pot vars koffie op ’n tafel langs sy betaaltoonbank en hy was ook altyd gereed met ’n voorstel vir die regte boek of vir ’n insiggewende geselsie. Soms het sy vrou, Donna, by hom aangesluit. Die twee het by Molly en Ryan kom sit waar hulle hul langs die kaggel tuisgemaak het en geluister. Regtig geluister.
‘Vertel my van jul klasse,’ sou Charlie sê en ’n stoel nadertrek asof hy heeldag tyd gehad het om te luister na besonderhede oor musieklesings en wetenskaptoetse en die Engelse letterkunde-werkstukke waarmee hulle besig was.
Donna het Molly ’n paar keer opsy geneem. ‘Daardie outjie is verlief op jou,’ het sy dan gesê. ‘Wanneer gaan julle twee dit erken?’
‘Ons is net vriende, regtig!’ het Molly gekeer.
‘Hm.’ Donna het haar wenkbroue gelig. ‘Ons sal sien.’
Teen die einde van die eerste semester was Molly nader aan Charlie en Donna as wat sy ooit aan haar eie ouers was.
‘Ek wil nooit weer huis toe gaan nie,’ het sy meer as een keer vir Ryan gesê. ‘Hulle kan my nie dwing nie.’
Dan het hy breed geglimlag en sy oë was so helder, sy onthou dit nog presies soos dit was. ‘Niemand kan ons dwing om enigiets teen ons sin te doen nie.’
Dit het hulle net ’n paar studie-afsprake by Die Brug gekos om alles van mekaar te wete te kom. Molly het hom van dinge vertel wat sy vir niemand anders vertel het nie. Sy het hom vertel hoe versmorend haar lewe by die huis was en hoe dit nog nooit by haar opgekom het om haar ouers te dwarsboom of ongehoorsaam te wees nie. Sy het hom van Preston vertel en van haar pa se maatskappy en die planne wat hy vir haar gehad het.
Ryan was ook eerlik. ‘Ek het ’n meisie in Carthage.’ Hy het haar dopgehou om te sien hoe sy reageer. ‘Ons gaan uit vandat ons saam hoërskool toe is en ons gesinne woon dieselfde kerk by.’
Molly kon die steekpyn wat dié brokkie nuus veroorsaak het nie ontken nie, maar sy het dit vir hom weggesteek. Sy kon in elk geval nie met hom uitgaan nie. Hy sou haar vriend wees en niks meer nie. Die feit dat hy ’n meisie in sy tuisdorp gehad het, het haar op ’n manier veiliger laat voel, haar die verskoning gegee om hul vriendskap te laat verdiep.
Aanvanklik het Ryan nogal dikwels oor sy meisie gepraat. ‘Haar pa is ’n boer,’ het hy gesê een middag toe hulle by Die Brug gestudeer het. ‘Hy gaan vir haar ’n stuk grond gee, twee akker, sodat ons later, jy weet … daar kan huis opsit.’
Molly het ingedagte geknik. Sy het hom vas in die oë bly kyk. ‘En hoe sal jy ’n professionele kitaarspeler kan wees as jy op ’n plaas in Carthage, Mississippi, woon?’
Hy het stilweg gegrinnik en die mismoedigheid het in sy stem deurgeslaan. ‘Ek sal nie een wees nie. Almal verwag van my om terug te kom en musiek by die hoërskool te gee.’
‘Wat van jou?’ het sy sag gevra. Die stilte in die boekwinkel se leeskamer het die gesprek laat vlot. ‘Wat wil jy hê?’
‘Dis ’n goeie plan B, om musiek te gee. Ek hou van Carthage.’
Dit het haar skielik getref hoeveel hulle gemeen gehad het, hoe hulle al twee se lewens vir hulle vooruitbeplan was. En skielik kon sy die gedagte nie verduur nie. ‘Nee, Ryan.’ Sy het haar hand op sy skouer gesit en dit ’n sagte drukkie gegee. ‘Jy kan dit nie toelaat nie. Jy moet plan A kies. Gaan toer deur die wêreld saam met die beste country-groepe en speel daardie wonderlike kitaar van jou.’
‘Ek?’ Hy het gelag, maar daar was ’n glinstering in sy oë, ’n avontuurlustigheid wat nie voorheen daar was nie. ‘Wat van jou? Niks van hierdie Preston en San Francisco vir jou nie, Molly Allen. Jy moet viool speel in ’n simfonieorkes.’ Sy lag het verstil en hy was skielik doodernstig. ‘Maak nie saak wat hulle van jou verwag nie.’
So is hul drome vasgelê. Hulle het belowe om mekaar aan te moedig, om nie met naasbeste tevrede te wees nie en om net te gaan waarheen hul hartsbegeertes hulle lei.
Hulle het van die begin saam Belmont toe gery en beurte gemaak om mekaar op te laai. Hy het haar op die hoek van McGavockweg en Murraylaan opgelaai, waar sy weg van die nuuskierige oë van haar pa se personeel vir hom gewag het. Dan het hy haar klas toe gevat en ná klas na Die Brug toe.
Hulle het nie net gestudeer en gewerk nie. Hulle het boeke ontdek om te lees, klassieke verhale wat hulle diep geroer het. Gone with the wind en haar gunsteling, Charlotte Brontë se Jane Eyre. Molly het aansluiting gevind by die heldin wat vasbeslote was om die regte ding te doen, selfs ten koste van die liefde. Hulle het Jane Eyre hardop vir mekaar voorgelees en soms op pad na Die Brug dele daarvan vir mekaar opgesê.
‘I’m asking what Jane Eyre would do to secure my happiness,’ sou Ryan Rochester se woorde met sy beste Engelse aksent voordra.
‘I would do anything for you, sir,’ sou sy met Jane se Victoriaanse aksent aanhaal en terwyl sy haar lag inhou, byvoeg. ‘Anything that was right.’
As hulle nie uit Brontë se roman aangehaal het nie, het hulle saam met die radio gesing of hul lesings bespreek en oor die toekoms gedroom. In daardie twee wonderlike jare het hulle het nie een keer gepraat oor die een ding wat toe so duidelik was nie, die ding wat alles sou verander nie. Hulle het nooit gepraat oor hul vriendskap en of dit nie dalk ’n rookskerm was vir iets wat eintlik voor die hand liggend was nie.
En dit is dat hulle dalk lief was vir mekaar.
Terwyl die video ten einde loop en Sam hom langs haar op die vloer kom tuismaak, stroom die trane oor haar wange soos elke keer wanneer sy na die video kyk. En Molly kan nie help om weer te dink wat sy elke jaar hierdie tyd dink nie.
Sy moes iets gesê het.
This is an extract from the book Die Kans
by Karen Kingsbury
Dit is die plek waarheen Ellie en Nolan al van die somer voor graad ses af kom om oor die lewe te gesels. Destyds het hulle wegkruipertjie gespeel tussen die bome, met die enorme ou akkerboom as den. Op warm dae het hulle baie middae ná skool hier kom huiswerk doen. En op aande soos vanaand het hulle nog altyd gedoen wat vir hulle natuurlik kom. Hulle maak eenvoudig hul harte oop en vertel mekaar alles.
‘Reg, ek luister.’ Nolan maak hom tuis met sy rug teen die massiewe boomstam en kyk ondersoekend na haar. ‘Wat het gebeur?’
Ellie berei haar al op hierdie oomblik voor vandat sy by die skoolgim ingestap het. Sy weet sy moet hom die waarheid vertel, want sy vertel alles vir hom. Maar dalk hoef sy nie nou dadelik vir hom te vertel nie. Hy wag op haar antwoord. Haar keel voel droog en sy wurg die woorde uit. ‘My ma … het vanaand weer laat huis toe gekom.’
Hy staar afwagtend na haar. Ná ’n paar sekondes knip hy sy oë. ‘Is dit al?’
‘Ja.’ Sy hou nie daarvan om die waarheid uit te stel nie, maar sy is nog nie gereed om hom te vertel nie. ‘My pa was verskriklik kwaad.’
Hy leun terug teen die stam. ‘Dit sal oorwaai.’
‘Jy’s seker reg.’ Sy skuif nader aan hom en leun ook liggies agteroor. Haar skouer skuur teen syne en herinner haar aan alles wat goed en eg is in haar lewe.
‘Eendag, wanneer ons oud en getroud is, gaan ons na dié plek toe terugkom en hierdie somer onthou.’
‘Hoe weet jy?’
Hy kyk na haar. ‘Dat ons sal onthou?’
‘Nee.’ Sy glimlag. ‘Dat ek met jou gaan trou.’
‘Dis maklik.’ Hy kyk diep in haar oë en trek sy skouers op. ‘Want jy sal nooit iemand anders kry wat so lief is vir jou soos ek nie.’
Dit is nie die eerste keer dat hy dit sê nie. Hy sê dit altyd ongeërg, sodat sy hom nie daarvan kan beskuldig dat hy te ernstig raak of dit wat tussen hulle is, probeer ryp druk nie. Sy lag altyd en skud haar kop asof hy iets verspots gesê het, soos om voor te stel dat hulle saam wegloop en by die sirkus aansluit.
Maar dié keer lag sy nie. Sy maak dit nie af as ’n grap of verander die onderwerp nie. Sy staar net na die bome in die verte en die vuurvliegies wat tussen hulle dans. Dankie tog sy het hom nie van haar ma vertel nie, dat sy met ’n ander man gelol het en boonop swanger geraak het nie. Want dit sal alles verander. Nolan sal haar jammer kry, en hy sal nie meer grappies maak oor trou nie – nie as haar ouers so ’n gemors gemaak het van hul huwelik nie.
Ellie blaas haar asem stadig uit. Sy haat die waarheid omtrent haar lewe. Die nuus kan wag.
Op hierdie oomblik begeer sy net een ding: om op ’n someraand wat net aan hulle behoort hier langs Nolan Cook onder die groot ou akkerboom aan die rand van die park te sit en te glo … nog een oomblik lank te glo aan die een ding wat sy meer begeer as haar volgende asemteug.
Dat hulle vir altyd so saam sal wees.
Do Yourself a Favor... FORGIVE
This is an extract from Do Yourself a Favor... FORGIVE
by Joyce Meyer.
To buy the book now, click here
What God gives us freely He expects us to also give freely to
others. Because we have received God’s forgiveness we can forgive
others who sin against us or harm us in any way. If we don’t forgive
we will be miserable and our soul will be poisoned with the malignancy of bitterness. I have learned that when I forgive someone who has hurt me, I am actually doing
myself a favor, and that knowledge makes it much easier for me
to forgive quickly and completely. I would like to be able to say
that I learned this principle early in my life and have not wasted
precious time in unforgiveness, but I can’t. It has taken me
decades to learn what I desire to share with you in this book.
Unfortunately, we won’t go through life and never get hurt,
wounded, or offended. Experience tells us that life is filled
with injustices. However, we can be free from the pain of these
wounds by letting them go and trusting God to be our Vindicator
and bring justice into our lives.
The roots of unforgiveness are very dangerous. They grow
deep below the surface and take hold deep within us. They are
insidious because they convince us that because we have been
wronged, someone must be punished and that we cannot and
will not be happy until they are. We want to be paid back for
the pain we have endured, but only God can pay us back, and
He will if we trust Him and forgive our enemies as He has told
us to do.
I am sure that many who read this book will begin with anger
in their hearts. Someone has hurt them or life has disappointed
them. My prayer is that their hearts will be opened to God and
they will see the urgent importance of living free from any kind
of bitterness, resentment, unforgiveness, or offense.
I believe that we have opportunities every week to be offended
and become angry, but proper knowledge of God’s will gives us
the courage to move beyond anger and enjoy the life God has
given us. Staying angry at someone who has hurt you is like taking
poison hoping that your enemy will die. Our unforgiveness
hurts us more than it does anyone else. God never asks us to do
anything unless it is going to ultimately be good for us, so we
should trust Him and learn to freely forgive.
It is my prayer that as you read this book, you will learn that
when you process anger in a healthy manner and when you forgive,
the person you’re doing a favor for is yourself.
It Isn’t Fair!
Susanna is a forty-eight-year-old woman who grew up on a
remote farm in a tiny Texas town. Her parents were extremely
poor, with little income and half a dozen children.
Susanna was the youngest, and her sunny disposition, pretty
features, and unusual intelligence served her well from early
on. She finished high school and went on to be one of the best
salespeople where she worked in a small company that manufactured
clothing. Eventually, she started her own business,
manufacturing women’s apparel. She loved her business; it gave
her a sense of accomplishment and value, and she gave herself
to it wholeheartedly. She met and married the man of her
dreams, and they had two children. As the years progressed, so
did her business, and by the time she was in her early forties,
she and her husband were running a multimillion-dollar
Susanna and her husband enjoyed all that wealth could provide:
a magnificent home, cars, boats, and a summer cottage.
Their vacations took them around the world. Their two daughters
attended the best schools and enjoyed the most prominent
social circles. They grew up and enjoyed successful careers and
families of their own. Life could not have been any better, or
so they thought. Although the couple attended church occasionally
out of a sense of duty, their relationship with God was
not personal, nor did they genuinely consider God’s will when
making decisions. Even the family relationships were more
surface ones rather than deep, honest, and intimate.
One day, suddenly and without warning, Susanna learned that
her husband was having an affair and that it wasn’t the first time.
She was shocked and deeply hurt. Not only was he unfaithful,
but she also learned he had plunged the company into debt and
a tremendous amount of the corporate money was unaccounted
for. He had been taking money from the business she started and
using it to entertain his girlfriends and live a secret life.
The marriage dissolved quickly, and Susanna was left with
a business that was deep in debt and on the verge of collapse.
Then the economy tanked and retail sales plunged downward,
which resulted in Susanna’s company going under. Her anger
and bitterness toward her ex‑husband, whom she blamed for
everything, was increasing daily.
Susanna turned to her children for understanding and comfort,
but they resented her for the years she had worked so hard
and failed to spend much time with them. They also felt that
part of their father’s infidelity was due to their mother loving
her business more than anything else in the world. They were
busy with their own lives and ignored their mother’s needs
and problems just as they felt she had ignored theirs when they
needed her. Susanna needed support, but there was none.
She turned to her sister, but believe it or not she seemed to
revel in Susanna’s distress. She felt that her years of success
and “easy living” had made her selfish and inconsiderate. The
rift that ensued between them was massive, and they still don’t
speak to this day after eight years.
Her children, while polite, don’t call often or invite her to
visit. Susanna has become increasingly bitter and blames everyone
else for her unhappiness. Not once has she considered that
some of the problems could have been her fault, and not once
has she even considered forgiving and asking for forgiveness.
She is angry with her ex‑husband. She is angry with herself
for not having seen that her marriage and business were falling
apart right before her eyes. She is angry that her children
haven’t done more for her, and she is angry at God because her
life has turned out to be so disappointing.
Who Wouldn’t Be Angry?
Most people in this situation would be angry, but they wouldn’t
have to be if they understood the love of God and knew that He
has already provided a way out of this kind of misery. The number
of lives that are ruined through anger and unforgiveness
is astonishing. Some of them don’t know any better, but many
of them are Christians who do know better but are unwilling
to make the right choice. They live according to their feelings,
rather than moving beyond them to do the better thing. They
lock themselves in a prison of negative emotions and limp
along in life rather than living it fully and vibrantly.
Yes, most people would be angry, but there is a better way:
they could do themselves a favor and forgive. They could shake
off their disappointment and get reappointed in God. They
could look to the future instead of the past. They could learn
from their mistakes and endeavor to not make them again.
Although most of us don’t find ourselves in such dire circumstances
as Susanna was in, there is certainly no end of
things to be angry about . . . the neighbor’s dog, the government,
taxes, not getting the pay increase that was expected, traffic,
a husband who leaves his socks and underwear on the bathroom
floor, or the kids showing no appreciation for all you do
for them. Then there are the people who say unkind things to
us and never apologize, parents who never showed affection,
siblings who were favored, false accusations, and on and on the
list goes in a never-ending cascade of opportunities to either be
angry or forgive and move on.
Our natural reaction is upset, offense, bitterness, anger, and
unforgiveness.But who are we hurting by nursing these negative emotions?
The person who committed the offense? Sometimes it does hurt
people if we shut them out of our lives through anger, but quite
often they don’t even know or care that we are angry! We walk
around preoccupied with our upset, replaying the offense over
and over again in our minds. How much time have you spent
imagining what you want to tell the person who made you
angry, all the while upsetting yourself more? When we allow
ourselves to do this, we actually hurt ourselves much more
than the offender.
Medical studies have shown that anger can cause everything
from ulcers to a bad attitude. At the very least it is a waste of
precious time. Every hour that we stay angry is an hour we
have used and will never get back. In Susanna’s and her family’s
case, they wasted years. Think of the times they missed in fellowship
because of all the anger among them. Life is unpredictable;
we don’t know how much time we have left with our loved
ones. What a shame it is to deprive ourselves of good memories
and relationships because of anger. I also wasted a lot of years
being angry and bitter because of injustices done to me early in
life. My attitude affected me in many negative ways, and it overflowed
onto my family. Angry people always take their anger
out on someone because what is in us does come out of us. We
may think we have our anger hidden from everyone, but it finds
a way to express itself eventually.
The things that happen to us are often not fair, but God will
recompense us if we trust and obey Him. Wanting revenge is
a normal desire, but it is not one we can indulge in. We want
to be paid back for damage done, and God promises to do just
For we know Him Who said, Vengeance is Mine [retribution
and the meting out of full justice rest with Me]; I will
repay [I will exact the compensation], says the Lord. And
again, The Lord will judge and determine and solve and
settle the cause and the cases of His people.
This Scripture and others like it have encouraged me to let
go of my anger and bitterness and trust God to repay me in His
own way. I strongly encourage you to take the same leap of faith
anytime you feel you have been treated unfairly.
The people we need to forgive usually don’t deserve it and
sometimes don’t even want it. They may not know they offended
us, or might not care, yet God asks us to forgive them. It would
seem outrageously unfair except for the fact that God does
the same things for us that He is asking us to do for others.
He forgives us over and over again and continues loving us
It helps me to forgive if I take the time to remember all the
mistakes I have made and needed not only God’s forgiveness,
but people’s as well. My husband was very gracious and merciful
toward me during many years while I was working through
a healing process from the trauma of child abuse. My belief is
that “hurting people hurt people.” I know that I hurt my family
and was unable to build healthy relationships, but I certainly
did not do it purposely. It was the result of my own pain and
ignorance. I had been hurt, and all I thought about was myself.
I was hurting, so I hurt others. I really needed understanding,
confrontation at the right time, and loads of forgiveness, and God
worked through Dave to give me that. I try to remember now
that God often wants to work through me to do the same things
for someone else.
Have you ever needed forgiveness—
from people as well as
from God? I am sure you have. Remember those times, and it
will enable you to forgive when you need to.
Please Check Your Anger at the Door
Have you ever watched an old western movie where the cowboys
were required to check their weapons at the door before
entering a saloon? I have, and it is a good example to use when
we think of anger. Anger is like a weapon we carry with us
so we can lash out at people who appear to be on the verge
of hurting us. Just like the cowboys would pull their pistols to
defend themselves unless they checked them at the door, we
pull our anger in defense on a regular basis. Let’s form a habit
of consciously leaving our anger at the door before we enter
anyplace. Let’s refuse to take it with us when we go out for the
day. Consciously say, “I am going out today without anger. I am
taking love, mercy, and forgiveness with me and will use them
generously when needed.”
I have found that talking to myself is a big help. I can talk
myself into things and out of things. I can talk myself into getting
angry and into getting over being angry. Learn to reason
with yourself. Say to yourself, “It is a waste of time to stay angry
and it is displeasing to God, so I am going to purposely let it
go.” I remind myself that I am doing myself a favor by choosing
peace and refusing anger.
We may not feel like doing the right thing, but we can either
live to please God or to please ourselves. If we choose pleasing
God, then we will do many things that will be the opposite of
what we might feel like doing. We all have feelings, but we are
more than our feelings. We also have a free will and can choose
what we know will be the best for us.
Anger Is Strong and Destructive
Anger is indignation, vengeance, and wrath. It begins as a feeling
and progresses to expression in words and actions if it is not
checked. It is one of the strongest passions and is very destructive.
God’s Word teaches us to control anger because it never
produces the righteousness that He desires (James 1:20).
We are instructed by God to be slow to anger. When we feel
ourselves starting to boil over with anger, we need to put a lid
on it. We can stir ourselves up and make our problems worse by
thinking about and talking about them, which equates to feeding
them . . . or . . . the minute our feelings start to rise up we can
do something about them. Be aggressive against the emotion of
anger and say, “I refuse to stay angry. I refuse to take offense.
God has given me self-control,
and I will use it.”
I was told a story about a pastor who invited a guest speaker
to his church. The pastor was sitting in the front row of the
church listening to the speaker, when without using wisdom
the speaker began to say some negative things about the way the
pastor handled some of his church business. He was making a
general comment and I am sure not intending to offend anyone,
but his words were critical and cutting. While the speaker was
speaking, the pastor softly repeated in a whisper, “I will not be
offended, I will not be offended.” He was an older minister who
had more wisdom than his speaker. He recognized the zeal of
his guest but also knew that the speaker lacked knowledge. The
pastor refused to let his guest’s words offend him.
I know what this is like because I am on television sharing
the Gospel message, and I hear other people in ministry who
are not on television make negative statements about “televangelists,”
which is what they un‑lovingly call those of us who are
called to the media ministry.
It is very easy to judge someone if we have not walked in their
shoes, and when I hear people make unkind comments, I try
to remember that they are talking about something they know
nothing about. People say things like “Those televangelists are
just trying to get people’s money.” “Those televangelists don’t
do anything to build the church; they are just out for themselves
and are not kingdom-of-God minded.” Of course, there
are some people in every profession who have impure motives,
but to lump everyone into that category is totally wrong and
not in agreement with Scripture.
Encouragement Changes Everything - New Edition
A Gift of Encouragement
Encouragement is oxygen to the soul
- George Matthew Adams
Encourage Others and Change Their Worlds
Everyone needs encouragement. And everyone – young or old, the successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – who receives encouragement is changed by it. As Mark Twain said, ‘One compliment can keep me going for a whole month.’
Encouragement’s impact can be profound. A word of encouragement from a teacher to a child can change his life. A word of encouragement from a spouse can
save a marriage. A word of encouragement from a leader can inspire a person to reach her potential. What does true encouragement look like – the kind that changes lives forever? To encourage people is to help them gain courage they might not otherwise possess – courage to face the day, to do what’s right, to
take risks, to make a difference.
You never know
when a moment and a few
sincere words can have
an impact on a life.
– Zig Ziglar
If you are an organizational leader, the effectiveness of your team increases
dramatically in proportion to the amount of encouragement you give the people you lead. As a friend, you have the privilege of sharing encouraging words that
may help someone persevere through a rough time or strive for greatness.
In the following pages, we’ll see how encouragement has the power to change everything – individuals, families, schools, businesses, churches – by creating an environment
where people can become their best. I hope this book is an encouragement to you. I trust
the stories, quotes and observations will help and inspire you. And once you have been encouraged, I pray you will pass that encouragement on to others.
Be of good courage,
and He shall strengthen your heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.
– Psalm 31:24
A Word to the Wise
Nineteenth-century writer Walt Whitman struggled for years to get anyone interested
in his poetry. In the midst of his discouragement, Whitman received a life-changing letter from an admirer of his work. The note read: ‘Dear sir, I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit
and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I greet you at the beginning of a great career.’
It was signed by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Whitman enjoyed a long career and is now considered one of the giants of American literature. But when times were tough, he needed encouragement to keep
going. When we’re on the brink of failure, the right words at the right time can keep us in the game. When we’re too tired or discouraged to keep going, an act of
compassion can give us new strength. There’s no doubt about it: Encouragement enables us to persevere like nothing else.
Let no feeling of discouragement
prey upon you, and in the end
you are sure to succeed.
– Abraham Lincoln
When someone does
something good, applaud!
You will make
two people happy.
– Samuel Goldwyn
The way you see people
is the way you treat them.
And the way you treat them is
the way they often become.
– John C Maxwell
Enfold me with your love, Lord
This is an extract from Enfold me with your love, Lord. To buy the book now, click here.
God wants to give you a future!
Read: Jeremiah 29:10–14
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of
peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon
Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
– Jeremiah 29:11–12
In the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Israelites were suffering extremely
hard times. Most of them had been carried off into exile and
the few who remained at home were struggling to survive. And yet the
Lord promised them that He had a prosperous future in mind for
them and would put an end to their current adversity; that He would
rescue them from their exile and bring them back to their country.
When they called upon Him, He would hear their prayers. This prediction
took seventy years to come to pass.
At present things don’t look so bright in South Africa. It is difficult
to remain optimistic when we read the newspapers and listen to the
news bulletins on radio and television. But God is the same God as in
the time of Jeremiah. It is entirely possible for Him to provide us with
a new future; a future to which we can look forward with joy and
anticipation. Perhaps, like the Israelites, we must simply wait patiently
until it happens and not become despondent too soon because
things are not improving.
Are you prepared to wait upon the Lord this year until He changes
your circumstances in his own time and way?
Lord, I know that You have good times in mind for me. Forgive me for
trying to prescribe to You when and how this should happen. Make me willing
to wait upon You. Amen
Choose the best
Read: Luke 10:38–42
And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and
troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen
that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’
– Luke 10:41–42
The story of Jesus’ conversation with Mary and Martha, the two sisters
of Lazarus, is well known. Martha was understandably indignant
that Mary had left her to do everything alone while she sat at Jesus’
feet and listened to Him. Martha insisted that Jesus direct Mary to her
duties, but Jesus answered that Mary had chosen ‘the best part’.
We, too, will need to make time in the year ahead to sit at Jesus’
feet, to make time in our busy schedules to listen to his voice in his
Word. To sit at Jesus’ feet is the very best choice that you can make this
year. If you do this, everything else will fall into place for you; God
Himself will bless you and make your dreams come true. You will find
yourself no longer tired and frustrated, like Martha, through trying to
do everything alone. God will give you the strength for coping with
everything that comes your way.
Today – the second day of the New Year – choose ‘the best part’ by
deciding to remain in constant contact with God.
This is an extract from Enfold me with your love, Lord. To but the book now, Click here.
Every Day A Friday
My purpose in writing this book is to help you arrange your mind so that you choose happiness each and every day. Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances are weighing you down, you can choose your response. How you live your life is totally up to you. It's not dependent on your circumstances. It's dependent on your choices. Abraham Lincoln said, ''Most people are as happy as they've decided to be.''
Honest Abe would have enjoyed a recent study that found happiness increases 10 percent on Fridays. Why is that? People are excited about the coming weekend, so they decide to be happier. They make up their minds on Fridays to enjoy their lives more.
I challenge you to let every day be a Friday. Give yourself permission to be happy every day. Not just on the weekends. Not just when you have a special event. Not just when you're on vacation.
If you have the right mind-set, you can be just as happy on Monday as you are on Friday. The Scripture doesn't say, ''Friday is the day the Lord has made''. It says, ''This is the day the LORD has made'' (Psalm 118:24 NKJV; emphasis added).
This means Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other day of the week. You can be happy even when it's raining, when you have to work late, or when you have to do the dishes.
Why don't you make up your mind to be happy every day? You've heard the saying ''TGIF. Thank God it's Friday''. For you and me it also should be, ''TGIM. Thank God it's Monday.''
TGIW. Thank God it's Wednesday.''
TGIS. Thank God it's Sunday.''
Another study said there are more heart attacks on Monday than on any other day. So many people just decide that Monday is a stressed-out day. They suffer the Monday morning blues.
When you wake up on Monday morning, don't accept those negative thoughts that come knocking on your door, saying: 'It will be a hard day and a long week. Traffic will be bad. I have so much work to do. I just need to make it through the Monday morning blues.'
Don't buy into those thoughts. Instead, say, ''Thanks, but no thanks. I've already answered the door and almighty God, the Creator of the universe, as sent me a hand delivery of joy. I know this will be a great day!''.
Decide that for you, there are no Monday morning blues. Instead, choose the Monday morning dos by saying, ''I do have a smile. I do have joy. I do have God's favor. I do have victory.''
Yes, I know some days are more difficult than others. But if you program your mind in a positive way, you won't have to drag through certain days just hoping to get to Friday so you can finally enjoy life.
Faith is always in the present. Your attitude should be: I'm excited to be alive at this moment. I'm excited to be breathing today. I'm excited about my family, my health, and my opportunities. I have plenty of reasons to be happy right now.
To view the book, click here.
Every Day a Friday Journal
This is an extract from Every Day a Friday Journal by Joel Osteen.
To buy the book now, click here
Choose Happiness Every Day
The quality of your choices determines
the quality of your life.
Whatever challenges you may face, whatever circumstances
are weighing you down; you can choose your response. How you
live your life is totally up to you. It’s not dependent on your circumstances.
It’s dependent on your choices. Abraham Lincoln said,
“Most people are as happy as they’ve decided to be.”
Honest Abe would have enjoyed a recent study that found happiness
increases 10 percent on Fridays. Why is that? People are excited
about the coming weekend so they decide to be happier. They make
up their minds on Fridays to enjoy their lives more.
I challenge you to let every day be a Friday. Give yourself permission
to be happy every day. Not just on the weekends. Not just when
you have a special event. Not just when you’re on vacation.
If you have the right mind-set, you can be just as happy on Monday
as you are on Friday. The Scripture doesn’t say, “Friday is the
day the Lord has made.” It says, “This is the day the Lord has made”
(Psalm 118:24 nkjv; emphasis added).
This means Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and every other day of
the week. You can be happy even when it’s raining, when you have to
work late, or when you have to do the dishes.
Day 1 Choose Happiness Every Day
Why don’t you make up your mind to be happy every day? You’ve
heard the saying “TGIF. Thank God it’s Friday.” For you and me it
also should be, “TGIM. Thank God it’s Monday.”
“TGIW. Thank God it’s Wednesday.”
“TGIS. Thank God it’s Sunday.”
Another study said there are more heart attacks on Monday
than on any other day. So many people just decide that Monday is a
stressed-out day. They suffer the Monday morning blues.
When you wake up on Monday morning, don’t accept those negative
thoughts that come knocking on your door, saying, It’s going to
be a hard day and a long week. Traffic will be bad. I’ve got so much work
to do. I just need to make it through the Monday morning blues. Don’t
buy into those thoughts.
Instead, say, “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve already answered the
door and almighty God, the Creator of the universe, has sent me a
hand delivery of joy. I know this is going to be a great day!”
Decide that for you, there are no Monday morning blues. Instead,
choose the Monday morning dos by saying, “I do have a smile. I do
have joy. I do have God’s favor. I do have victory.”
Some days are more difficult than others. But if you program your
mind in a positive way, you won’t have to drag through certain days
just hoping to get to Friday so you can finally enjoy life.
Step One Don’t Give Away Your Power
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life
in your years.
— Abraham Lincoln
What the Scriptures Say
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad
— Psalm 118:24 (nlt)
It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God [gave
us the victory] . . . Now, God, do it again . . . so those who went
off with heavy hearts will come home laughing, with armloads
— Psalm 126 (The Message)
A Prayer for Today
Father, I say “Thanks but no thanks” to negative thoughts, and
instead I say “Thank You for sending me a hand delivery of joy.” I
know this is going to be a great day!
I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow
hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to
be happy in it.
— Groucho Marx
I can choose happiness every day, so my attitude
should be: I’m excited to be alive at this moment.
I’m excited to be breathing today. I’m excited about my
my health, and my opportunities. I have plenty
to be happy right now.
Treat Every Day as a Gift
Key Truth You can manufacture your own happiness.
Years ago, a man traveling by train met a well‑to‑do couple.
The lady was wearing expensive clothing and jewelry. They shared
their first-class cabin with the fellow traveler, and it was very comfortable.
But from the start the lady did nothing but complain. She
complained that the temperature wasn’t right, complained that there
wasn’t enough light, complained that the food wasn’t good, and complained
that her seat was dirty. She made everyone miserable.
During the journey, the traveler struck up a conversation with
her husband. He asked what kind of business he was in. He said he
had been in the car industry and God had blessed him in a great
way. But he added; “Now my wife, she’s in the manufacturing
The traveler thought: That’s kind of odd. I mean, she’s so dignified
and dressed so properly. That just doesn’t seem like it fits.
He asked very curiously, “What does she manufacture?”
“She manufactures unhappiness,” the husband said. “She’s unhappy
everywhere she goes.” You may need to change businesses, not physically but mentally. Get out of the business of manufacturing unhappiness. Quit dwelling on what’s wrong. Quit seeing the faults and start seeing the good.
Start being grateful for what you have.
As I walked out of the house early one recent morning, I heard all
these birds singing and singing so loud and so cheerful. Little birds
were chirping and chirping. Big birds were making a melody. It was
like they were having a big party. I wanted to say to them, “Hey,
birds. Have you read the newspapers lately? Did you see the stock
market last year? You’re not supposed to be singing, enjoying life.
What’s wrong with you? You’re acting like everything is going to be
What was it with those birds? They know a secret. They know
their heavenly Father is in control. They know God has promised to
take care of them, so they go through the day singing and enjoying
life, regardless of the circumstances.
You attract what you put out. If you complain all the time, you will
only attract other complainers and their unhappiness, but if you get
up each morning with a song of praise in your heart and sing it all
day, you will attract praise, happiness, and joy. So put a smile on your
face. Go out determined to enjoy each day.
8 Step One Don’t Give Away Your Power
Happiness calls out responsive gladness in others. There is
enough sadness in the world without yours. . . . Never doubt the
excellence and permanence of what is yet to be. Join the great
company of those who make the barren places of life fruitful
— Helen Keller
What the Scriptures Say
Be happy [in your faith] and rejoice and be glad-
hearted continually (always).
— 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (amp)
We know that God causes everything to work together for the
good of those who love God and are called according to his
purpose for them.
— Romans 8:28 (nlt)
A Prayer for Today
Father, I know You are in control and that You will take care of me
always, so I will spend my days singing to glorify You, enjoying each
moment given me, and not worrying about what I cannot control.
Day 2 Treat Every Day as a Gift
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to
success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
— Albert Schweitzer
Blaming your circumstances will not relieve
your unhappiness, but changing them will.
Taking responsibility for your happiness is
the first step to finding joy in each day.
Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy
Key Truth Life is 10 percent what happens to you and
90 percent how you respond.
Ihad a real nice sports car when I first dated my wife, Victoria. I
was in my early twenties and wanted to impress her, so I kept that car
spotless. There wasn’t a scratch on it. Then I was driving home from
Victoria’s house late one night and I had an accident. I was proceeding
through an intersection. The light was green. Another car going
the same direction turned right from the wrong lane and hit the back
of my sports car, spinning it around.
After taking a few moments to calm down, I stepped out of my
car. I knew the accident wasn’t my fault, and I’m naturally easygoing.
There is not much that upsets me. I checked my spotless car. The
back end was totally destroyed.
About that time the other driver climbed out of his car. It was very
dark, but I could see he was probably in his fifties. He started ranting,
raving, and cursing, and then he said, “Kid, learn how to drive. I
am so mad at you.”
I thought to myself, I’m the one who should be upset. He just turned
from the wrong lane. He was about thirty yards away. I could see
he was working up his anger. Then he started running toward me
like he wanted to fight.
Day 3 Don’t Let Anyone Steal Your Joy
My first thought was, Do you want some of this?
You know that’s not true. My real first thought was, How big is he?
When he came within fifteen yards, I saw he was twice my size.
Right then and there I had a revelation: This was not a battle worth
I went around to the other side of my car.
You say, “Joel, you mean you were a chicken?”
No, I just wanted to live!
He fit into that category of people who will never be at peace with
me. We all need to accept that some just will feel that way about us.
They will never see our point of view. We might as well let them
go and move on. And even if we could win them over, we’d have to
wonder if it would be worth it. What is this going to accomplish?
What if I had stood up to the guy whose car hit mine and showed
him what I’m made of? Big deal. I didn’t even know the man. He’d
been in my life for less than ten minutes. Trying to make peace with
him was not worth the effort. I made a decision that I was not going
to give him my power, my joy, or my peace. I stayed away from him
and let him cool off. Then we exchanged information and we let the
insurance companies handle it from there.
Go into each day positive, hopeful, and expecting God’s favor.
But at the same time be realistic, knowing that most days will not
go exactly as you planned. If you become stressed because you are off
schedule, frustrated because someone offended you, or upset because
your child wouldn’t eat breakfast, you are giving away your power.
It’s good to have plans, but at the first part of every day, submit
those plans to God and just say, “God, this is what I would like to
accomplish today. But I know You’re in control, so I submit my plans
to You. And I’ve decided in advance that no matter what comes my
way, I will stay in peace, knowing You are directing my steps and that
all things will work together for my good.”
But too many people these days have the wrong approach to life.
They think they can’t be happy unless they control all their circumstances
and everything goes their way.
Exposing Satanís Playbook
This is an extract from Exposing Satan's Playbook by Perry Stone.
WHEN A PROPHETIC WORD
BECOMES A WEAPON OF WAR
It is one of the most dramatic true stories I have ever heard. Pastor Robert Kimberling, who now pastors the East Point Church of God in East Point, Florida, related to me that in 1985 he and his wife were assigned to a church in Lemmon, South Dakota. The church clerk, Vallie Bishop, informed the new pastor that one of their senior members, Liz Brockwell, lived forty miles away in Bison and was unable to attend church as she was elderly.
She requested the pastor to visit her. Pastor Kimberling did set up a visit, and when he and his wife arrived at the house, Liz met them and informed them they would be staying for lunch as she had an important story to tell them. She then began to relate a remarkable incident.
It was in 1928; Liz, her husband, Adam, and two daughters were working hard to keep their ranch. The now famous Dust Bowl was blowing top soil away, preventing a harvest. Her husband had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and was dying at a sanitorium in Rapid City, South Dakota. At that time the doctor called Liz and told her to bring a suit for her husband on her upcoming weekend visit, because he would probably die that weekend.
Liz took Adam's suit from the old trunk, hung it on a clothes line to briefly freshen it, but she could not bring herself to pack it.
Another challenge was that the family's only cow had a large sore with maggots surrounding the wound. The cow was unable to stand and walk. On this day Liz took a small bit of grain and some water and was attempting to hand-feed the dying cow, hoping to keep it alive a little longer. Suddenly she felt a strong whirlwind. It was not the normal 'dust devil' that she had witnessed numerous times.
It felt supernatural, and when she turned to see what was occuring, to her shock a man, which was actually an angel from the Lord, stepped out of the wind and said, ''Your husband, Adam, will not die. He will return home, father a child (daughter), and live to see his family raised.''
The angel said, ''As a sign, this cow will walk into the barnyard under its own power and live.''
Liz was amazed and responded, ''If this happens, I will sell this cow and give the money to missions.''
The angel immediately spoke these words, ''Liz, there are no IFS in God's plan!''
Later that day her brother pulled up in the yard to shoot the cow with a rifle to put it out of its misery. Simultaneously the cow got up and walked into the barnyard. Liz's father then ran into the kitchen shouting, ''It's a miracle, it's a miracle!''.
''WOMAN, YOU ARE CRAZY''
That weekend Liz returned to Rapid City without her suit. Her doctor met her and became angry, rebuking her and tell her that her husband was dying soon. Her reaction was cemented in the revelation of the angel. She related the story, and the doctor screamed, ''Woman, you are crazy.'' She held fast to the promise despite the fact that her husband still lay in the bed.
However, two weeks later, Adam left the sanitorium healed, fathered another daughter, and lived to see his family raised. In fact, Adam outlived the doctor who predicted his death. Liz did sell the cow and gave the income to world missions for evangelism!
Once this word was revealed that Adam was going to be healed, nothing could pull that promise away from Liz, including any circumstances she witnessed at the hospital.
This word from the angel is considered a prophetic word, which is a word that reveals an event or situation that will occur in your future. Just as a biblical prophecy is an advanced revelation of a coming event before it transpires, any promise from God concerning events in your future is a prophetic word.
In this case Liz knew her husband would live and not die and that the dying cow would revive and live. The seven words ''There are no ifs in God's plan'' were a life-changing revelation for her, and should be for all believers as well.
Fasting Forward - Student Edition
This is an extract from Fasting Forward by Jentezen Franklin. To buy the book now, click here
of Hidden Power
Are you looking for a more vibrant and meaningful
relationship with God? Have you ever wanted to experience
God in a way that knocks your socks off or takes
your breath away?
What’s a-m-a-z-i-n-g about God is that no matter how
much you long or ache for Him, He desires a relationship with
you even more! In His radical love God provides lots of ways
for you to experience and know Him more—through studying
Scripture, through prayer, through growing in Christian community,
and through surrounding yourselves with friends who
love God with a mighty passion.
But He provides another way you can grow spiritually that
people don’t like to talk about as often: fasting.
Why don’t people talk about ultra powerful, life-changing spiritual
activity more? Maybe it’s because of the reaction. Too often
people begin to stress out or roll their eyes or even pull a U-turn
when they see the word fasting. You might even be one of them.
Let’s be honest. Fasting stirs up all kinds of colorful pictures
and ideas—a ton of which are based on misunderstandings and
misconceptions. Some people think fasting is simply skipping a
meal or two. Others think of fasting as a diet plan, a quick way
to shave off a few pounds so they can get back into their skinny
jeans. Others think of fasting as something done by only the
hard-core super Christians or some hooded religious monks
who live in a cave in the middle of no man’s land in the desert.
But fasting is so much more. Fasting is a personal invitation
from God to grow deeper in your relationship with Him and
experience His presence more fully in your life. Fasting, according
to the Bible, is meant to be a normal part of your relationship
with God—not just something saved for special people or
Biblical fasting invites you to refrain from food for a spiritual
purpose. In the Old Testament we read about a young shepherd
boy named David. The youngest of his brothers, he was
the least likely to be selected to do anything special. A prophet by
the name of Samuel visited the family one day and announced
that David had been chosen by God to be the future king of
Israel. Everyone’s jaws fell open in astonishment. Who was this
rascal of a little brother? Why would God choose him?
David turned out to be one of the most remarkable kings in the history of Israel. Not only did he courageously fight countless battles and become the hero of his nation, but he also kept growing and pursuing God throughout his lifetime. One of
the great hallmarks of David’s life was that he was described as “a man after God’s own heart.” He pursued the Lord with “As the deer pants for the water brooks,
so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” —Psalm 42:1–3 everything—praying, studying, worshiping, and seeking to grow in his relationship with the Lord. But if you look at his story, you’ll discover that fasting also marked David’s life.
And the practice of fasting took him further and deeper in his relationship with God than he could have ever imagined!
In Psalm 42:7 David describes a deep spiritual longing that developed between himself and God. He described it as, “Deep calls unto deep.” David discovered the spiritual truth that fasting ushers us into a more intimate and powerful relationship
with the Lord.
David lived a radical life for God, and so can you! When you
eliminate food from your diet for a period of time, something
amazing happens in your life: your spirit becomes uncluttered by
the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of
God. You become hyper aware of the Lord’s presence and notice
Him in situations and events you may have never seen Him in
Though it may seem like upside-down thinking, fasting
ignites your passion for God so that your hunger and thirst for
Him are greater than your natural desire for food. Imagine that!
Through fasting you can reach a place where you’re able to cry
out from the depths of your spirit to the depths of God.
Once you’ve experienced even a glimpse of this kind of
intimacy with our God—your Father, the holy Creator of the
universe—and the countless rewards and blessings that follow,
you can’t help but want more. Fasting stirs your hunger for
God. As you begin the adventure of fasting in your spiritual
journey, you’ll find your whole perspective will change as you
discover fasting as a secret source of power that’s available to
you—yes, you!—as a child of God.
A Threefold Cord
Have you ever looked closely at someone’s braid? Maybe on
a lazy afternoon you’ve braided your friend’s hair, or maybe
you’ve been courageous enough to let her braid yours. If you
look closely at the braid, you can follow the strands to see how
each piece of hair lines up to be woven together.
Imagine tugging on someone’s braid. How do you think the
person would respond? You might hear a yell or feel your hand
being shoved away, or worse!
Now imagine just tugging on an individual strand of hair.
How do you think the person would respond?
You might hear a small yelp or be asked to stop, but the
response probably wouldn’t be as strong. In the end you’d likely
be holding a stray hair in your hand.
That’s a glimpse into the power of a threefold cord. You can
easily pull a single strand of hair out of your or your sibling’s
head. But when hair is woven together, the braid is stronger,
making it much more difficult to remove.
In the same way, you may be able to take a pair of scissors and
cut through a single cord. But if you have three cords and weave
them together, cutting through them is much more difficult—if
not impossible. Solomon, when writing the books of wisdom for
Israel, noted that a cord, or rope, braided with three strands is
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
I can’t help but think that Jesus had this passage in mind as
He taught. In the years that He walked the earth, Jesus devoted
time to teaching His disciples principles of the kingdom of
God, principles that conflict with those of this world. In the
Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern
by which each of us is to live as a child of God. That pattern
addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying,
and fasting. Jesus said, “When you give . . . ” and “When you pray . . . ”
and “When you fast . . . ” He made it clear that fasting, like giving
and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much
attention should be given to fasting as to giving and praying.
Likewise, when giving, praying, and fasting are practiced
together in your life, it creates a type of threefold cord that
is not easily broken. You’ll find yourself strengthened and
impassioned—becoming a source of encouragement to your
You’ll also find that in some of the areas in your life where
you’ve been waiting on God—your family, your relationships,
your classes, your workplace—you finally receive a breakthrough.
The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of a father who had a
demon-possessed son. For years this father watched helplessly as
his son suffered with severe convulsions. As the son grew older,
the attacks became so severe that he would often throw himself
into an open fire or a trench of water. A suicidal spirit tormented
him constantly, and the situation became life threatening.
The boy’s dad tried everything he could think of, but
nothing worked. He felt so discouraged and defeated. Then
he heard that Jesus and His disciples were near. At first, he
approached the disciples, but they were clueless about how
to cure the boy. Then, going to the Master, he cried for mercy.
He explained that his son was out of his mind and tormented.
Jesus didn’t hesitate. He instructed the father to bring his son.
When the boy was brought to Jesus, the Bible says Jesus rebuked
the evil spirit, and it immediately left. The child was cured in
that moment. But what made the difference? After all, Matthew
10:1 records that Jesus had already given the disciples power to
cast out evil spirits and to heal every disease. So why couldn’t the
disciples cast out the demon and cure the boy?
That’s what they wanted to know too. So later that night,
when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him. Matthew goes
on to tell us Jesus replied, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly,
I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to
this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and
nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not
go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:20–21).
I’ve read the passage many times and even taught from it
on occasion. But each time I’ve focused on the statement “and
nothing will be impossible for you.” I think a lot of people
stop right there, but Jesus didn’t because He knew there was
See, that funny little word however is the connection—it’s
the key that unlocks the power in the statement “nothing will
be impossible for you.” Jesus told the disciples they needed faith,
even faith the size of a tiny seed. But that wasn’t all. Long before
this incident the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where
He spent forty days and forty nights while taking no food. For
Jesus, casting out that stubborn evil spirit wasn’t impossible.
If Jesus could have accomplished all He came to do without
fasting, why would He fast? The Son of God fasted because He
knew there were supernatural things that could only be released
this way. How much more should fasting be a common practice
in our lives?
Fasting Is for Everyone
Perhaps you’re thinking, “I still don’t know how fasting can
really be for me.” Maybe you discount yourself because of your
age, or the length of time you’ve been following Jesus, or your
affection for fresh, thick-crust pizza. While you may try to
disqualify yourself from fasting, Jesus called those who follow
Him to fasting.
Now you may be thinking that Jesus’s actual disciples, the
twelve followers who journeyed with
Him, didn’t fast. But if you look at
the Bible, you’ll find Jesus’s response.
When addressing the Pharisees as to
why His disciples did not fast, Jesus
replied, “Can you make the friends of
the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom
is with them? But the days will
come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then
they will fast in those days” (Luke 5:34–35, emphasis added).
“A disciple is not
above his teacher,
who is perfectly
trained will be
like his teacher.”
Notice how Jesus responded: Then they will fast. Though the
disciples didn’t fast while they were with Jesus, they did fast
after He died and was resurrected. But Jesus’s words weren’t just
for His immediate disciples but for all His disciples—including
you and me.
I find great comfort in knowing that Jesus didn’t expect His
disciples to do something He hadn’t done as well. Remember
that before the Lord ever launched into ministry, He spent forty
days fasting. Jesus isn’t calling us to the impossible in fasting—
but He shows us that all things are possible through Him.
The great news is that fasting isn’t just about what you’re giving
up—food—but it’s also about what you’re gaining in your
relationship with God. In fact, God delights in rewarding and
revealing Himself to those who seek Him.
In the Old Testament
we read an incredible
story of one young man
who was wildly rewarded
for passionate pursuit of
God through prayer and
fasting. Daniel was taken
away from his homeland
and grew up in Babylon
among a people and
nation that was foreign to him. Not only was the culture strange
to him, but also the Babylonians didn’t worship or love God. Yet
Daniel chose to continue pursuing Him, and though he lived in
Babylonian captivity, his fasting—even partial fasting of certain
foods—brought about the open reward of God, who blessed
Daniel with wisdom beyond that of anyone else in that empire.
If you read the amazing book of Daniel, you’ll discover that
at another point he was grieved and burdened with the revelation he
had received for Israel. In response Daniel ate no
choice breads or meats and drank no wine for three weeks. Then
he described the angel that was sent to him—which had been
delayed by the prince of Persia for twenty-one days—with the
answers Daniel sought. His fast broke the power of the delayer
and released the angels of God so that His purposes could be
revealed and served.
God rewards those who seek Him—and one of the best
ways to pursue the Lord is through prayer and fasting. Why
combine fasting with prayer? Because you probably have areas
in your life right now where you really need to hear from God
and experience a breakthrough.
Maybe you’re struggling with school or with a particular
coach or teacher.
Maybe you’re wondering what God has for you after graduation
or in your career.
Maybe you’re trying to figure out if the person you’re dating
is “the one.”
Maybe you’re struggling with a critical decision that you
know is going to shape the rest of your life.
In the upcoming pages you’ll learn how fasting brings you to
a place of being able to more clearly hear God’s voice and walk
in the center of His will. Whether you desire to be closer to
God or are in need of a great breakthrough in your life, remember
that nothing shall be impossible to you. Fasting is truly a
secret source of power!
This is an extract from Gideon's Gift by Karen Kingsbury.
To buy the book now, click here
The gift that had changed them all had led to this: a Christmas wedding.
Nothing could have been more appropriate. Gideon was an angel, after all. Not the haloed, holy kind. But the type that once in a while—when the chance presented itself—made you stare a little harder at her upper back. In case she was sprouting wings.
From his seat in the back of the church, Earl Badgett’s tired old eyes grew moist. A Christmas wedding was the only kind for Gideon. Because if ever angels shone it was in December. This was the season when Gideon’s gift had mattered most.
A million memories called to him. Had it been thirteen years? Earl stared at the vision she made, surrounded by white satin and lace. The greatest miracle was that Gideon had survived.
He brushed the back of his hand over his damp cheeks. She actually survived.
But that wasn’t the only miracle.
Earl watched Gideon smile at her father—the glowing, unforgettable smile of a young woman on the brink of becoming. The two of them linked arms and began a graceful walk down the aisle. It was a simple wedding, really. A church full of family and friends, there to witness a most tender moment for a girl who deserved it more than any other. A girl whose love, whose very presence, lit the room and caused people to feel grateful for one reason alone: They had been given the privilege of knowing Gideon Mercer. God had lent her a little while longer to the mere mortals who made up her world. And in that they were all blessed.
Gideon and her father were halfway down the aisle when it happened. Gideon hesitated, glanced over her shoulder, and found Earl. Her eyes had that haunting look that spoke straight to his soul, the same as they always had. They shared the briefest smile, a smile that told him he wasn’t the only one. She, too, was remembering the miracle of that Christmas.
The corners of Earl’s mouth worked their way up his worn face. You did it, angel. You got your dream. His heart danced with joy. It was all he could do to stay seated, when everything in him wanted to stand and cheer.
Go get ’em, Gideon!
As they rarely did anymore, the memories came like long lost friends. Filling Earl’s mind, flooding his senses, linking hands with his heart and leading him back. Back thirteen years to that wondrous time when heaven orchestrated an event no less miraculous than Christmas itself. An event that changed both their lives.
An event that saved them.
Time flew . . . back to the winter when Earl first met Gideon Mercer.
The red gloves were all that mattered.
If living on the streets of Portland was a prison, the red gloves were the key. The key that—for a few brief hours—set him free from the lingering stench and hopeless isolation, free from the relentless rain and the tarp-covered shanty.
The key that freed him to relive the life he’d once had. A life he could never have again.
Something about the red gloves took him back and made it all real—their voices, their touch, their warmth as they sat with him around the dinner table each night. Their love. It was as though he’d never lost a bit of it.
As long as he wore the gloves.
Otherwise, the prison would have been unbearable. Because the truth was Earl had lost everything. His life, his hope, his will to live. But when he slipped on the gloves . . . Ah, when he felt the finely knit wool surround his fingers, Earl still had the one thing that mattered. He still had a family. If only for a few dark hours.
It was the first of November, and the gloves were put away, hidden in the lining of his damp parka. Earl never wore them until after dinner, when he was tucked beneath his plastic roof, anxious to rid himself of another day. He would’ve loved to wear them all the time, but he didn’t dare. They were nice gloves. Handmade. The kind most street people would snatch from a corpse.
Dead or alive, Earl had no intention of losing them.
He shuffled along Martin Luther King Boulevard, staring at the faces that sped past him. He was invisible to them. Completely invisible. He’d figured that much out his first year on the streets. Oh, once in a while they’d toss him a quarter or shout at him: “Get a job, old man!” or “Go back to California!”
But mostly they just ignored him.
The people who passed him were still in the race, still making decisions and meeting deadlines, still believing it could never happen to them. They carried themselves with a sense of self-reliance—a certainty that they were somehow better than him. For most of them, Earl was little more than a nuisance. An unsightly blemish on the streets of their nice city.
Rain began to fall. Small, icy droplets found their way through his hooded parka and danced across his balding head. He didn’t mind. He was used to the rain; it fit his mood. The longer he was on the street the more true that became.
He moved along.
The slurred words carried over the traffic. Earl looked up. A black man was weaving along the opposite sidewalk, shouting and waving a bottle of Crown Royal. He was headed for the same place as Earl: the mission.
Rain or shine, there were meals at the mission. All the street people knew it. Earl had seen the black man there a hundred times before, but he couldn’t remember his name. Couldn’t remember most of their names. They didn’t matter to him. Nothing did. Nothing except the red gloves.
The black man waved the bottle again and shot him a toothless grin. “God loves ya, Big Earl!”
Earl looked away. “Leave me alone,” he muttered, and pulled his parka tighter around his neck and face. The mission director had given him the coat two years ago. It had served its purpose. The dark-green nylon was brown now, putrid-smelling and sticky with dirt. Earl’s whiskers caught in the fibers and made his face itch.
He couldn’t remember the last time he’d shaved.
Across the street the black man gave up. He raised his bottle to a group of three animated women with fancy clothes and new umbrellas. “Dinner bell’s a callin’ me home, ladies!”
The women stopped chatting and formed a tight, nervous cluster. They squeezed by the man, creating as much distance between them as they could. After they’d passed, the black man raised his bottle again. “God loves ya!”
The mission was two blocks up on the right. Behind him, Earl could hear the black man singing, his words running together like gutter water. Earl’s cool response hadn’t bothered him at all.
“Amazing grace, how sweet da sound . . .”
Earl narrowed his gaze. Street people wore thick skins. Layers, Earl called it—years of living so far deep inside yourself, nothing could really touch you. Not the weather, not the nervous stares from passersby, not the callous comments from the occasional motorist.
And certainly not anything another street person might say or do.
The mission doors were open. A hapless stream of people mingled among the regulars. Earl rolled his eyes and stared at his boots. When temperatures dropped below fifty, indigents flooded the place. The regulars could barely get a table.
He squeezed his way past the milling newcomers, all of them trying to figure out where the line started and the quickest way to get a hot plate. Up ahead were two empty-eyed drifters—young guys with long hair and years of drug use written on their faces. Earl slid between them, grabbed a plate of food, and headed for his table, a forgotten two-seater off by itself in the far corner of the room.
He looked up and saw D. J. Grange, mission director for the past decade. The man was bundled in his red-plaid jacket, same as always. His eyes were blue. Too blue. And piercing. As though he could see things Earl didn’t tell anyone. D. J. was always talking God this and God that. It was amazing, really. After all these years, D. J. still didn’t get it.
Earl looked back down at his plate. “I don’t come for a sermon. You know that,” he mumbled into his instant mashed potatoes.
“We got people praying, Earl.” D. J. gripped the nearest chair and leaned closer. Earl could feel the man’s smile without looking. “Any requests? Just between us?”
“Yes.” Earl set his fork down and shot D. J. the hardest look he could muster. “Leave me alone.”
“Fine.” D. J. grinned like a shopping-mall Santa Claus. “Let me know if you change your mind.” Still smiling, he moved on to the next table.
There was one other chair at Earl’s table, but no one took it. There was an unspoken code among street people—sober ones, anyway: “Eyes cast down, don’t come around.” Earl kept his eyes on his plate, and on this night the code worked. The others would rather stand than share a meal with a man who needed his space.
Besides his appearance would easily detract even the most hardened street people. He didn’t look in the mirror often, but when he did, he understood why they kept their distance. It wasn’t his scraggly, gray hair or the foul-smelling parka. It was his eyes.
Cold, dead eyes.
The only time he figured his eyes might possibly show signs of life or loneliness was at night. When he wore the red gloves. But then, no one ever saw his eyes during those hours.
He finished his plate, pushed back from the table and headed for the exit. D. J. watched him go, standing guard at the front of the food line. “See you tomorrow, Earl.” He waved big. “I’ll be praying for you.”
Earl didn’t turn around. He walked hard and fast out the door into the dark, rainy night. It was colder than before. It worried him a little. Some years, when the first cold night had hit, another street person had swiped his bed or taken off with his tarp. His current tarp hung like a curtain across the outside wall of his home. It was easily the most important part of his physical survival. Small wonder they were taken so often.
He narrowed his eyes and picked up his pace. His back hurt and he felt more miserable than usual. He was anxious for sleep, anxious to shut out the world and everything bad about it.
Anxious for the red gloves.
He’d spent this day like every other day, wandering the alleyways and staring at his feet. He always took his meals at the mission and waited. For sundown, for sleep, for death. Years ago, when he’d first hit the streets, his emotions had been closer to the surface. Sorrow and grief and guilt, fear and loneliness and anxiety. Hourly these would seize him, strangling his battered heart like a vice grip.
But each day on the streets had built in him another layer, separating him from everything he’d ever felt, everything about the man he used to be and the life he used to lead. His emotions were buried deep now, and Earl was sure they’d never surface again. He was a shell—a meaningless, unfeeling shell.
His existence was centered in nothingness and nightfall.
He rounded the corner and through the wet darkness he saw his home. It was barely noticeable, tucked beneath an old wrought-iron stairwell deep in the heart of a forgotten alley. Hanging from seven rusty bolts along the underside of the stairs was the plastic tarp. He lifted the bottom of it off the ground and crawled inside. No matter how wet it was, rain almost never found its way beyond the tarp. His pillow and pile of old blankets were still dry.
He’d been waiting for this moment all day.
His fingers found the zipper in the lining of his parka and lowered it several inches. He tucked his hand inside and found them, right where he’d left them this morning. As soon as he made contact with the soft wool, the layers began to fall away, exposing what was left of his heart.
Carefully he pulled the gloves out and slipped them onto his fingers, one at a time. He stared at them, studied them, remembering the hands that had knit them a lifetime ago. Then he did something that had become part of his routine, something he did every night at this time. He brought his hands to his face and kissed first one woolen palm and then the other.
“Good night, girls.” He muttered the words out loud. Then he lay down and covered himself with the tattered blankets. When he was buried far beneath, when the warmth of his body had served to sufficiently warm the place where he slept, he laced his gloved fingers together and drifted off to sleep.
The next morning he was still half given to a wonderful dream when he felt rain on his face. Rain and a stream of light much brighter than usual. With eyes closed, he turned his head from side to side. What was it? Where was the water coming from and why wasn’t his tarp working.
He rubbed his fingers together—
--and sat straight up.
“No!” His voice ricocheted off the brick walls of the empty alley.
“Noooo!” He stood up and yelled as loudly as he could—a gut-wrenching, painful cry of the type he hadn’t uttered since that awful afternoon five years ago.
His head was spinning. He grabbed at his hair, pulled it until his scalp hurt. It wasn’t possible. Yet . . .
He’d been robbed. In the middle of the night someone had found him sleeping and taken most of what made up his home. His tarp was gone. Most of his blankets, too.
But that wasn’t all. They had stolen everything left of his will to live, everything he had to look forward to. Nothing this bad had happened to him since he took to the streets. He shook his head in absolute misery as a driving rain pelted his skin, washing away all that remained of his sleep.
He stared at his hands, his body trembling. The thing he’d feared most of all had finally happened.
The red gloves were gone.
The hardest part was pretending everything was okay.
Brian Mercer held tightly to Gideon’s small hand and kept his steps short so she could keep up. With all his heart he hoped this would be the day the doctors looked him in the eye and tell him the good news: that his precious eight-year-old daughter was in remission.
It was a possibility. Gideon seemed stronger than last week at this time. But Brian had felt that way more than once and each time the report had been the same. The cancer wasn’t advancing, but it wasn’t backing off, either.
Brian stifled a sigh as they made their way from the car to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital. If only Tish were here with them. Tish was wonderful at raising Gideon’s spirits. Optimism and laughter rang out in every conversation between them. It was something the two of them brought out in each other.
Tish would have found a way to make the doctor appointment fun. But she couldn’t miss even a day of work. Not with Gideon’s medical bills piling up. Not with his boss threatening layoffs and more hourly cuts at the lumber mill. No, Tish couldn’t possibly be here. Her two cashier jobs were sometimes all they could depend on.
At least the neighbors took little Dustin whenever Gideon had an appointment.
They stepped into the elevator and Gideon looked up at him, her head cocked to one side. “What’s wrong, Daddy?”
“Nothing.” Brian gave Gideon’s hand a light squeeze. “I was wishing Mommy could be here.”
“Me, too.” A shadow fell across Gideon’s face and her eyes took on that soulful, deep look—the look that had become a permanent part of her expression since her diagnosis six months ago. They fell silent for a moment. “Do you think I’ll be better today?”
“Well . . .” Brian bit the inside of his lip. There was no point getting her hopes up, but at the same time he had a feeling. Maybe . . . just maybe . . . “How do you feel?”
Her eyes lit up. “Better.”
“Okay.” He leaned down and kissed the top of her woolen beret. “Then, yes. I think today might be the day.”
The routine was the same every time. Once they reached the right floor, they checked in at the lab and a technician drew a vial of Gideon’s blood. In the beginning–when she’d first gotten sick–the needles had scared her. But she was used to them now, poor girl.
After the blood draw they made their way down a long, glassed-in catwalk, fifteen floors above Portland’s hilly downtown. Halfway across, they found their bench and stopped. At first they had used the bench as a resting point, because Gideon tired so easily. Now it was just something they did. Besides, Gideon’s test results always took awhile, so there was no hurry.
The bench was placed at a point where the view was breathtaking. There were still sailboats on the Columbia and Willamette, and the sun glistening off a dozen tributaries that crisscrossed the city. And, on a clear day like this one, the towering white presence of Mt. Hood.
“Pretty, isn’t it?” Brian slipped his arm around Gideon’s shoulders.
Gideon’s eyes narrowed. “Sometimes I feel like a bird up here. Like I could fly over the city and down along the rivers.” She looked up at him. “And never, ever be sick again.”
Brian swallowed hard. Something about this part of their routine always made Gideon pensive. It was the hardest part for Brian. The time when he wanted to cry out to God and ask “Why?” Why an eight-year-old little girl? Why his daughter? How was it he and Tish could help strangers, but do nothing for their own child?
All he wanted was his family back. Tish and Gideon and Dustin and him. Laughing and loving and taking walks on crisp winter mornings like this one. Just a series of days where none of them had to wonder whether Gideon was getting better. Whether she’d live to see the following Christmas.
There was nothing Brian could say to his daughter, no promises he could make. Instead he hugged her and cleared his throat. It was time to pick a topic. Since her first doctor visit, the two of them had always chosen this time to discuss special things. So far they’d covered a dozen subjects: how mountains were formed, why rivers flowed, and where exactly was heaven. But today, the second of December, Brian had a specific topic in mind. A happy one. One he and Tish had talked about the night before.
“Let’s talk about Christmas, Gideon.” He took her hand once more and they continued down the catwalk toward the doctor’s office.
“Yeah.” A slow smile lifted the corners of her mouth. “Let’s do that.”
They checked in and found their usual spot, on a sofa near the back of the waiting room. Brian angled his body so he could see her, study her wispy brown hair and unforgettable eyes. She was a miniature of Tish. A more serious, ethereal miniature. She’d been that way even before the cancer. As though she carried something deep in her heart—an innocent wisdom, an ability to see straight to the soul of a person. It was what set her apart from other children.
And what he and Tish would miss most if—
Brian blinked. He had ordered himself never to think such things. Nothing could be gained by worrying and dreading the future, borrowing tomorrow’s pain for today. Still, there were times when fear didn’t bother knocking. Times when it kicked in the door and tramped right in. Times like these.
“Okay.” He exhaled slowly. “Christmas.” He reached for Gideon’s hand once more. “Where should we start?”
Her eyes danced like the twinkling lights on the hospital’s Christmas tree. “Let’s talk about the perfect Christmas.”
“Hmmm . . . The perfect Christmas.” Brian leaned into the sofa and gazed out the glass-panel window at the brilliant blue sky beyond. The answer was an easy one. They would find enough money to get Gideon a bone-marrow transplant. She would recover quickly and find her place once more among her little friends at school. And they’d never, ever again have to talk about Christmas from the corner of a cancer doctor’s office.
He shifted his eyes to Gideon. “You go first.”
“Okay.” The twinkle in her eyes dimmed somewhat. She suddenly looked a million miles away, lost in a world of imagination. “We would have a real tree, a tall one that almost touches the ceiling. With lights and decorations and a star on top for you and Mom.” She released his hand and stretched her arms over her head. “A big turkey. And a fire truck for Dustin.”
Brian could feel his heart breaking. Gideon’s perfect Christmas was the kind most kids expected. But money had never come easily for him and Tish. This Christmas—like so many others—they would assemble a four-foot green-plastic tree and cover it with a seventy-cent box of tinsel. Toys would be secondhand and maybe missing parts. Dinner would be chicken and mashed potatoes.
But it was more than many people had, and he and Tish were grateful. Christmas was always wonderful, despite the lack of material trappings. And the children never complained, never made mention of the fact that their Christmases were any different from that of other children.
Of course, Gideon was hardly complaining. She was just playing along, talking about the topic he’d suggested. Brian clenched his jaw. If there’d been a way to find the money, he would have done just that—found the biggest, best, most fragrant, Christmas tree and all the trinkets and toys to go with it. But the mill had cut his hours down to twelve a week. It was barely a job. And Gideon’s medical bills—
Brian pushed the thought from his mind. He met his daughter’s eyes. “Didn’t you forget someone?”
Her expression was open, unpretentious. Then it hit her and she giggled. “You mean me?”
“Yes, you.” Brian twirled a lock of her hair around his finger. “What would you get on this perfect Christmas?”
She lowered her chin. “Really?”
“Well . . .” She let her gaze fall to her hands for a beat. When she looked up, the twinkle was back. Brighter than ever. “In my perfect Christmas my gift would be a brand-new dolly. The kind with pretty hair and eyes that blink and a soft lacey dress.”
“A new doll, huh?” Brian tried to sound surprised, but he wasn’t. “How come?”
“A doll never gets sad when you’re sick.” She looked up and smiled. Her knowing expression spoke volumes. “Sometimes a friend like that would be nice.”
From the time she was old enough to talk Gideon had wanted a new doll. A few years ago she’d even cut a doll photo from a catalog and taped it to the wall beside her bed. The clipping still hung there today. From time to time Brian had come across a used doll and brought it home for Gideon. But it always smelled funny or was missing its dress or shoes. But Gideon didn’t mind that. No, the problem was that in very little time she always loved the doll into nonexistence. A leg would fall off, or an arm, or the doll’s head.
And Gideon would talk about her new doll again.
Each year Brian and Tish talked about the possibility, and each year it was out of the question. New dolls like the one Gideon wanted were expensive. As much as a week’s worth of groceries.
Gideon seemed to sense his thoughts. “It’s just pretend, Daddy. No big deal.” She leaned closer and let her head rest on his shoulder. “What’s your perfect Christmas?”
The answers that had come to mind earlier returned. “That’s easy.” He kissed her forehead. “In the perfect Christmas we never have to come back here again.”
Brian felt Gideon nod against his arm. “Know what my teacher said last week?”
“What, baby?” He stayed close, his face nuzzled against the top of her beret.
“She said Christmas miracles happen to those who believe.”
The words played over again in Brian’s mind. “I like it.”
“Me, too.” Gideon sat a bit straighter and stared at the doctor’s office door. “I believe, Daddy.”
“We all do.”
“Then maybe that’s what we’ll get this Christmas. A miracle.” She turned to him. “That would be better than anything, wouldn’t it?”
“You mean like finding out that you’re better today?”
“Well, that.” She giggled. “But I mean something really big. Something so big it could only be a Christmas miracle.”
A lump formed in Brian’s throat as he studied his daughter. She has no idea how sick she is, God. No idea. He struggled to find his voice. “Then that’s what we’ll pray for.”
“Let’s pray now, Daddy. Right here.”
He gave her a slow smile. “Thata’ girl, Gideon. That’s the way to believe.”
Then, with cancer patients coming and going around them, Brian took hold of Gideon’s hands, bowed his head, and prayed for something so big, it could only be a Christmas miracle.
An hour later Brian had the answer that mattered most to him.
Gideon was in remission!
Her blood results were better than they’d been since she was diagnosed with leukemia. The doctor was cautious. Remission was a tricky thing. It could last weeks or years, depending on the patient. There was no way to know. And a person with her type of leukemia was never really cured until they’d had a successful bone-marrow transplant.
Still, it was the answer Brian and Tish had been praying for since Gideon got sick. Brian blinked back tears as they walked back to the car.
“I can’t wait to tell Mom.” Gideon skipped a few steps and then stopped and faced him. “If I’m not sick, it’s going to be a great Christmas!”
“Yes, it is.” Brian stopped and held out his hands. Gideon knew the sign well. She took a running jump and he caught her, sweeping her into his arms and holding her close. “We even got our miracle.”
Gideon giggled. “Daddy, that’s not the miracle.” She rubbed her nose against his. “Remember? We asked God for something really big.”
“Oh, that’s right.” Brian chuckled as he set her back down. They had reached the parking lot, and he took hold of her hand. “Something tells me Mom will think it’s pretty big.”
On the way home, Gideon fell asleep and Brian turned off the radio. Traffic moved along slowly. God, you’re so good. Gideon asked for a miracle and we got one. Just like that.
Memories of Gideon filled his mind. The time when she was two and shared her pacifier with the neighbor’s cat. Her kindergarten year when a little boy didn’t bring a snack for two months straight and Gideon gave him hers. The way her perfect Christmas involved a fire truck for Dustin before anything for herself.
The loss of any child would be devastating. But Gideon—
Tears clouded his eyes once more. Thank you, God. Thank you a million times over. He was consumed with gratefulness the whole way home. But as he neared their apartment building, a passing thought hit him.
If this wasn’t the miracle Gideon had prayed for, what was? What could possibly be bigger than the news that she was in remission?
Without warning, a chill passed over Brian.
If Christmas miracles truly happened to those who believed, then maybe God wasn’t finished handing out miracles to the Mercer family. Somehow, someway, Brian had the uncanny certainty that some other amazing thing was about to happen. Some sort of direct response to Gideon’s prayer.
Something so big it could only be a Christmas miracle.
God Longs to Heal
To buy the book, click here
Your time for wholeness has come!
God can heal what we reveal.
Powerfully anointed Bishop T.D. Jakes calls you to courageously
confess every layer of superficiality, religious reasonings, and pious
pretending to your Lord. His gracious love and forgiveness will free
you and heal you.
God Longs To Heal You provides inspiration from a man who
shares his personal struggles to help those desperate for the Lord’s
loving touch. You, too, can find peace in today’s troubled world by
understanding God’s desire to heal your body, mind, and spirit.
T.D. Jakes believes this is your important first step to true freedom
and progress in every part of your life! When you reveal what
God longs to heal, you and those around you will experience the lifechanging
Presence of God bringing joy and wholeness.
O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed
me (Psalm 30:2).
THE FEAR OF THE FATHER
HAVE you ever tasted that cold, acid-like taste of fear? I
mean the kind of fear that feels like a cinder block is
being dragged across the pit of your stomach. It’s the
kind where cold chills trimmed with a prickly sensation flood your
body, adorning itself in a distinct sense of nausea. No matter how
strong we are, there is always something that can cause the heart to
flutter and the pulse to weaken.
Fear is as lethal to us as paralysis of the brain. It makes our
thoughts become arthritic and our memory sluggish. It is the kind
of feeling that can make a graceful person stumble up the stairs in
a crowd. You know what I mean—the thing that makes the articulate
stutter and the rhythmic become spastic. Like an oversized
growth, fear soon becomes impossible to camouflage. Telltale signs
like trembling knees or quivering lips betray fear even in the most
disciplined person. Fear is the nightmare of the stage; it haunts the
hearts of the timid as well as of the intimidated.
From the football field to the ski slope, fear has a visa or
entrance that allows it to access the most discriminating crowd. It
is not prejudiced, nor is it socially conscious. It can attack the
impoverished or the aristocratic. When it grips the heart of a
preacher, his notes turn into a foreign language and his breathing
To me, there is no fear like the fear of the innocent. This is the
fear of a child who walks into a dark basement to find the light
switch far from reach—and every mop and bucket becomes a sinister,
sleazy creature whose cold breath lurks upon the neck of life’s
little apprentice. I can remember moments as a child when I
thought my heart had turned into an African tom-tom that was
being beaten by an insane musician whose determined beating
would soon break through my chest like the bursting of a floodengorged
Even now I can only speculate how long it took for fear to give
way to normalcy, or for the distant rumble of a racing heart to
recede into the steadiness of practical thinking and rationality. I
can’t estimate time because fear traps time and holds it hostage in a
prison of icy anxiety. Eventually, though, like the thawing of icicles
on the roof of an aged and sagging house, my heart would gradually
melt into a steady and less pronounced beat.
I confess that maturity has chased away many of the ghosts and
goblins of my youthful closet of fear. Nevertheless, there are still
those occasional moments when reason gives way to the fanciful
imagination of the fearful little boy in me, who peeks his head out
God Longs to Hear You
This is an extract from God Longs to Hear You by TD Jakes.
THE FEAR OF THE FATHER
HAVE you ever tasted that cold, acid-like taste of fear? I
mean the kind of fear that feels like a cinder block is
being dragged across the pit of your stomach. It’s the
kind where cold chills trimmed with a prickly sensation flood your
body, adorning itself in a distinct sense of nausea. No matter how
strong we are, there is always something that can cause the heart to
flutter and the pulse to weaken.
Fear is as lethal to us as paralysis of the brain. It makes our
thoughts become arthritic and our memory sluggish. It is the kind
of feeling that can make a graceful person stumble up the stairs in
a crowd. You know what I mean—the thing that makes the articulate
stutter and the rhythmic become spastic. Like an oversized
growth, fear soon becomes impossible to camouflage. Telltale signs
like trembling knees or quivering lips betray fear even in the most
disciplined person. Fear is the nightmare of the stage; it haunts the
hearts of the timid as well as of the intimidated.
From the football field to the ski slope, fear has a visa or
entrance that allows it to access the most discriminating crowd. It
is not prejudiced, nor is it socially conscious. It can attack the
impoverished or the aristocratic. When it grips the heart of a
preacher, his notes turn into a foreign language and his breathing
To me, there is no fear like the fear of the innocent. This is the
fear of a child who walks into a dark basement to find the light
switch far from reach—and every mop and bucket becomes a sinister,
sleazy creature whose cold breath lurks upon the neck of life’s
little apprentice. I can remember moments as a child when I
thought my heart had turned into an African tom-tom that was
being beaten by an insane musician whose determined beating
would soon break through my chest like the bursting of a floodengorged
Even now I can only speculate how long it took for fear to give
way to normalcy, or for the distant rumble of a racing heart to
recede into the steadiness of practical thinking and rationality. I
can’t estimate time because fear traps time and holds it hostage in a
prison of icy anxiety. Eventually, though, like the thawing of icicles
on the roof of an aged and sagging house, my heart would gradually
melt into a steady and less pronounced beat.
I confess that maturity has chased away many of the ghosts and
goblins of my youthful closet of fear. Nevertheless, there are still
those occasional moments when reason gives way to the fanciful
imagination of the fearful little boy in me, who peeks his head out
of my now fully developed frame like a turtle sticks its head out of
its shell with caution and precision.
THE LOVE OF THE FATHER
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until
Christ be formed in you (Galatians 4:19).
Thank God that He understands the hidden part within each
of us. He understands the child in us, and He speaks to our blanket-
clutching, thumb-sucking infantile need. In spite of our
growth, income, education, or notoriety, He still speaks to the
childhood issues of the aging heart. This is the ministry that only a
Father can give.
Have you ever noticed that you are never a grown-up to the ones
who birthed you? They completely disregard the gray hairs,
crowfeet, and bulging, blossoming waistlines of abundant life. No
matter how many children call you “Dad” or “Mom,” to your parents
you are still just a child yourself. They seem to think you have
slipped into the closet to put on grown-up clothes and are really just
playing a game. They must believe that somewhere beneath the
receding hairline there is still a child, hiding in the darkness of
adulthood. The worst part about it is (keep this quiet), I think they
The Lord looks beyond our facade and sees the trembling
places in our lives. He knows our innermost needs. No matter how
spiritually mature we try to appear, He is still aware that lurking in
the shadows is a discarded candy wrapper from the childish desire
we just prayed off last night—the lingering evidence of some little
temper or temptation that only the Father can see hiding within
His supposedly “all grown-up” little child.
It is He alone whom we must trust to see the very worst in us,
yet still think the very best of us. It is simply the love of a Father. It
is the unfailing love of a Father whose son should have been old
enough to receive his inheritance without acting like a child, without
wandering off into failure and stumbling down the mine shaft
of lasciviousness. Nevertheless, the Father’s love throws a party for
the prodigal and prepares a feast for the foolish. Comprehend with
childhood faith the love of the Father we have in God!
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, the first
thing He taught them was to acknowledge the fatherhood of God.
When we say “Our Father,” we acknowledge His fatherhood and
declare our sonship. Sonship is the basis for our relationship with
Him as it relates to the privilege of belonging to His divine family.
Similarly, one of the first words most babies say is “Daddy.” So
knowing your father helps you understand your own identity as a
son or daughter. Greater still is the need to know not only who my
father is, but how he feels about me.
It is not good to deny a child the right to feel his father’s love.
In divorce cases, some women use the children to punish their exhusbands.
Because of her broken covenant with the child’s father,
the mother may deny him the right to see his child. This is not
good for the child! Every child is curious about his father.
Philip saith unto Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it
sufficeth us ( John 14:8).
Philip didn’t know who the Father was, but he longed to see
Him. I can still remember what it was like to fall asleep watching television
and have my father pick up my listless, sleep-ridden frame
from the couch and carry me up the stairs to bed. I would wake up
to the faint smell of his “Old Spice” cologne and feel his strong arms
around me, carrying me as if I weighed nothing at all. I never felt as
safe and protected as I did in the arms ofmy father—that is, until he
died and I was forced to seek refuge in the arms of my heavenly
What a relief to learn that God can carry the load even better
than my natural father could, and that He will never leave me nor
forsake me! Perhaps it was this holy refuge that inspired the hymnist
to pen the hymn, “What a fellowship, what a joy divine. Leaning on
the everlasting arms” (“Leaning On the Everlasting Arms,” Elisha A.
FEAR OR RESPECT?
And unto man He said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that
is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding ( Job
28:28). The Hebrew term for “fear” in this verse is yir’ah, according to
Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. It means a moral fear,
or reverence. So what attitude should we have toward our heavenly
Father? The Bible declares that we should have a strong degree of
reverence for Him. But a distinction must be made here: there is a
great deal of difference between fear and reverence.
The term reverence means to respect or revere; but the term fear
carries with it a certain connotation of terror and intimidation.
That kind of fear is not a healthy attitude for a child of God to have
about his heavenly Father. The term rendered “fear” in Job 28:28
could be better translated as “respect.” Fear will drive man away
from God like it drove Adam to hide in the bushes at the sound of
the voice of his only Deliverer. Adam said, “I heard Thy voice in the
garden, and I was afraid…” (Gen. 3:10). That is not the reaction a
loving father wants from his children. I don’t want my children to
scatter and hide like mice when I approach! I may not always agree
with what they have done, but I will always love who they are.
I remember an occasion when some students from the elementary
school my sons attended saw me for the first time. Because I
stand a good 6-feet, 2-inches tall, and weigh 250-plus pounds, the
little children were completely astonished. The other children told
my sons, “Look at how big your Dad is! I bet he would just about
kill you. Aren’t you afraid of him?”My sons quickly responded with
glee, “Afraid of him? Naah, he’s not mean. He’s our Dad!” They
were not afraid of my stature because they were secure in our relationship.
Does that mean they have never been punished? Of course
not! What it does mean is they have never been abused! My love
holds my judgment in balance.
GOD LONGS TO HEAL YOU
As imperfect as I admit I am, if I know how to lovemy children,
what about God? Oh friend, He may not approve of your conduct,
but He still loves you! In fact, when you come to understand this
fact, it will help you improve your conduct.
Or despisest thou the riches of His goodness and forbearance
and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of
God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
If this text is true (and it is), then wemust tell ofGod’s goodness to
those who need to repent. I believe the Church has confused conviction
with condemnation. TheHoly Spirit convicts us of sin. Conviction leads
us to a place of deliverance and change. Condemnation leads us to the
gallows of despair and hopelessness.
Why have we withheld from so many bleeding hearts the good
news of the gospel?We have replaced this good news with the rambunctious
ramblings of self-righteous rhetoric! I believe that we
must assume theministry of reconciliation and cause men to be reconciled
back to their God. There is no healing for the sins ofman in
the bushes of this world. Regardless of the atrocious behavior we
discover when we work with the flawed material of human insufficiency,
we must remember that the only antidote is in the presence
of the Lord. I am convinced that the very people who need healing
the most have been driven away from the only Healer they will ever
find in this world.
God Loves Broken People
This is an extract from God Loves Broken People by Sheila Walsh. To buy the book now, Click here
I’m Not Waving; I’m Drowning
When Deep Water Meets Even Deeper Love
She has struggled from childhood with overpowering feelings of melancholy.
As an adult, it was no better.
British poet Stevie Smith traced much of her struggle to a difficult childhood and to the devestation that swept over her after her father abandoned the family. Her most famous poem lent its title to a collection she published in 1957. She called it simply ‘’Not Waving but Drowning.’’
Her brief, twelve-line poem pictures a dying man thrashing about in the surf, gesturing wildly, yet unable to attract the help of people passing by on the shore. The passersby see him, but they suppose he’s merely waving. And so they walk on, maybe even waving back… leaving him to drown. The poem ends with these desolate lines:
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving by drowning
Have you ever felt anything like that?
I have. Sometimes I still do.
Despite the fierce love of Jesus and the measureless grace of God, sometimes I thrust my hands up in the air, my arms flailing wildly, and people not and smile and return what they see as a wave. But I’m not waving. I’m drowning. Even for those of us who hae walked with Christ for years, wounds from the past can still rush in like an unexpected storm.
In just the past couple of weeks, for example, the waters started to rise as I returned from a weekend speaking engagement. As is my custom, I texted my husband, ‘’Landed!’’ when the wheels of the plan touched down on the tarmac. I’ve come to expect his return message, ‘’Yay!’’ This time he added that he was picking up our son from a sleepover at his best friend’s house.
At a little after 10:00pm I retrieved my bad and headed out to my car. We live about thirty minutes from the airport, so I felt sure Barry and Christian would bear me home. As I turned into our driveway, however, the house was dark.
What a desolate feeling, seeing a dark house where I expected welcome lights flooding from the windows!
Oh well, I told myself. It’s probably taking longer than expected to retrieve Christian’s stuff from places only teenage boys would think to leave them. I shrugged off the small wave of fear and busied myself with unpacking.
By 11:00pm, however, I still hadn’t heard anything. I called Barry’s cell, but he didn’t pick up. I texted him: ‘’Where are you guys?’’ Nothing. No reply.
When by almost midnight I still hadn’t heard anything, I felt the water raising over my head and the suffocating fingers of panic close in around my throat.
It’s an all-too-familiar emotion. It’s the hated voice way down in the cellar of my soul, whispering, They’re gone! You’ve always known it would happen one day. You lose what you love, Sheila. Always have, always will.
I felt myself going under for the third time when a few moments later I finally heard Barry’s car pull into the garage. It could have been – should have been – a moment of warmth and joy, a happy and relieved family reunion complete with a group hug.
But it wasn’t.
God's Love Letters to You
This is an extract from God's Love Letters to You by Larry Crabb.
To buy the book now, click here
Day Two: Exodus
Consider the lengths I go
to, just to be with you
Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.
— exodus 25:8 nkjv
God says: I can and I will detach you from everything
that numbs your sacred hunger for Me and makes you
feel hungrier for something other than Me.
You will never on this earth depend fully enough on My
power to live exactly as I want you to live. When you see how
particular I am about all the rules you should obey but never
do, let the weight of My holiness draw you into the delights
of My love. I still want to be with you.
Don’t ever forget: I do have a plan, a plan to make you
deliriously happy in the circle of My love. As you read Exodus
25–40, where I record all those architectural details about
the tabernacle, realize the lengths I’m willing to go to be
with you. Imagine Me, the God of the universe, clothed in
splendor and arrayed in glory, living in, by My standards, a
simple tent set up in a barren wilderness. Sure, it was fancy,
but compare it to what you imagine heaven to be. But that’s
where I lived, just to be near people like you.
As you consider all the laws I gave that you’ve never kept,
and as you see My willingness to go camping to be with My
people, know this: I will do whatever it takes to fully restore
My family and to be with them forever.
Take a Moment to Reflect
• Unknowingly, we often find ways to numb our hunger for
God with things like coffee, shopping, sex, sports—you
name it. In what ways might you numb your sacred hunger?
• How is our failure to keep God’s rules intended to draw us
into the delights of His love?
• What does the final sentence—“I will do whatever it takes
to fully restore My family and to be with them forever”—
provoke in your heart?
Take a Moment To Pray
Father, give us the courage to identify and live in our deepest
hunger for You. Redeem the truth that You as a holy God
desire to live with us even amid our sin. In Jesus’ name, amen.
God's Provision for your Every Need
I cannot think of a greater living example
of the consistent ability to draw on the
anointing of the Lord. T.D. Jakes is a man
without equal. There is much we can all
learn from his words, his spirit and his passion
in delivering the word of the Lord. Just
watching him is a wonder in itself. The Presence
of the Lord flows so freely from him as
he teaches. He is simple, clear and honest in
his delivery. Sometimes urgent, sometimes
gentle, but always accurate and penetrating.
He is a man whose inner focus is on the
Lord Himself. Even in his most emotional
presentation, you can also see the rest and
peace in his eyes. The Holy Spirit will always
move freely through those who have no
other desire than to give the word of the
Lord to hungry people. And make no mistake
about it, God has much to say to His
people. He has much He wants to communicate
to the world around us. There is much
to learn from the Bishop’s words, but also
his method, his passion and his love of the
Lord Jesus Himself.
I first met the Bishop at a small conference
in the Pocono Mountains where he was ministering.
That was just before he wrote Woman,
Thou Art Loosed. We literally walked into each
other that fateful afternoon in the basement
area of the conference center where vendors
were displaying their products. The moment I
touched him I prophesied about a book
churning in his heart. A few weeks later he
called me and the rest, as they say, is history.
There are three criteria we use when determining
the possibility of publishing a new
author. We look at the person, his message,
and his ministry. In the Bishop’s case, all
three were intricately wrapped with integrity,
gentleness and truth. We are proud to offer
this work to the world. He is a man who has
allowed the Lord to mold him into a vessel
He can use to change the lives of millions
around the world. We are grateful to be a part
of God’s plan for the life of Bishop T.D. Jakes.
Jehoram the son of Ahab began to
reign over Israel in Samaria the
eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of
Judah, and reigned twelve years. And
he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord;
but not like his father, and like his
mother: for he put away the image of
Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless
he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam
the son of Nebat, which made
Israel to sin; he departed not there
from. And Mesha king of Moab was a
sheepmaster, and rendered unto the
king of Israel an hundred thousand
lambs, and an hundred thousand
rams, with the wool. But it came to
pass, when Ahab was dead, that the
king of Moab rebelled against the king
of Israel. And king Jehoram went out of
Samaria the same time, and numbered
all Israel. And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat
the king of Judah, saying,
The king of Moab hath rebelled against
me: wilt thou go with me against Moab
to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am
as thou art, my people as thy people,
and my horses as thy horses. And he
said, Which way shall we go up? And
he answered, The way through the
wilderness of Edom (2 Kings 3:1-8).
When you speak of the wilderness, your
mind immediately imagines a dry place
where nothing green grows. Everything in
the wilderness is brown and unappealing to
the eye. The environment of the wilderness
is not brightened with any color. Everything
in the wilderness has adapted itself to live in
this type of climate. Rarely does it rain in the
wilderness and when it does, plants store
the moisture they need because there is no
guarantee when it will rain again. When we
are going through our wilderness experience,
we must be like the trees and the other
animals of the wilderness. We must learn to
adapt our faith to the challenges a wilderness
The animals in the wilderness have
learned to travel and hunt at night because
it is cooler at night. Spiritually, we too must
learn to find a place where the Lord can
minister to us in our wilderness. It is a place
where He can give us instruction about what
to do next. Like the trees that store up
water, uncertain of when it will rain again,
we must store up His Word in our hearts.
Many of us are living in the wilderness for
The wilderness is a place of dying, where
all the things that cause you to stumble in
your walk with God are killed. If you have ever
watched a movie where people dared to enter
the wilderness, with little or no understanding
of life in the wilderness, they often did not
survive there. Since they had no one to help
or advise them, they tried to fight the elements
in their own strength.
Grace by Max Lucado
This is an extract from Grace by Max Lucado. To buy the book now, click here
The Grace-Shaped Life
See to it that no one misses the grace of God…
Christ lives in me.
I'll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that's God-willed, not self-willed.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 MSG
The Christian is a man to whom something has happened.
Should anyone knock at my heart and say, “Who lives Here?” I should reply, “Not Martin Luther” but the Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you.
Some years ago, I underwent a heart procedure. My heartbeat had the regularity of a telegraph operator sending Morse code. Fast, fast fast. Slooooow. After several failed attempts to restore healthy rhythm with medication, my doctor decided that I should have a catheter ablation. The plan went like this: a cardiologist would insert two cables in my heart via a blood vessel. One was a camera, the other was an ablation tool. To ablate is to burn. Yes, burn, cauterize, singe, brand. If all went well, the doctor, to use his coinage, would destroy the “misbehaving” parts of my heart.
As I was being wheeled into surgery, he asked if I had any final questions. (Not the best choice of words.) I tried to be witty.
“You‟re burning the interior of my heart, right?‟
“You intend to kill the misbehaving cells, yes?”
“That is my plan.”
“As long as you are in there, could you take your little blowtorch to some of my greed, selfishness, superiority, and guilt?‟
He smiled and answered, “Sorry, out of my pay grade.”
Indeed it was, but it‟s not out of God‟s. He is in the business of changing hearts.
We would be wrong to think this change happens overnight. But we would be equally wrong to assume change never happens at all. It may come in fits and spurts, an “aha” here, a breakthrough there. But it comes. “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared” (Titus 2:1). The floodgates are up and the water is out. You just never know when grace will seep in.
Could you use some? You stare into the darkness. Husband slumbers next to you. Ceiling fan whirls above you. In fifteen minutes the alarm will sound and the demands of the day will shoot you like a clown out of the cannon into a three-ring circus of meetings, bosses, and baseball practices. For the millionth time, you‟ll make breakfast, schedules, and payroll…but for the life of you, you can‟t make sense of this thing called life. Its beginnings and endings. Cradles and cancers and cemeteries and questions. The “why?” of it all keeps you awake. As he sleeps and the world waits, you stare. You turn the page of your Bible and stare at the words. You might as well be gazing at a cemetery. Lifeless and stony. Nothing moves you. But you don‟t dare close the book, no siree. You trudge through the daily reading in the same fashion you soldier through the prayers, penance, and offerings. You dare not miss a deed for fear that God will erase your name. You run your finger over the photo of her face. She was only five-years-old when you took it. Cheeks freckled by the summer sun, hair in pigtails and feet in flippers. That was twenty years ago. Three marriages ago. A million flight miles and e-mails ago. Tonight she walks down the aisle on the arm of another father.
You left your family bobbing in the wake of your high-speed career. Now that you have what you wanted, you don‟t want it at all. You could kick yourself. You listen to the preacher. A tubby sort with jowls, bald dome, and a thick neck that hangs over his clerical collar. Your dad makes you come to church, but he can‟t make you listen. At least, that is what you‟ve always muttered to yourself. But this morning you listen because the Reverend speaks of a God who loves prodigals, and you feel like worst sort of one. You can‟t keep the pregnancy a secret much longer. Soon your parents will know. The preacher will know. He says God knows already. You wonder what God thinks.
The meaning of life. The wasted years of life. The poor choices of life. God answers the mess of life with one word: grace.
We talk like we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and pre-meal prayers. We talk like we know what grace means.
Especially at church. Grace graces the songs we sing and the Bible verses we read. Grace shares the church parsonage with its cousins: forgiveness, faith, and fellowship. Preachers explain it. Hymns proclaim it. Seminaries teach it.
But do we really understand it?
Here‟s my hunch: we've settled for wimpy grace. It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?
What Happens When Grace Happens—line edited manuscript
This book asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace? God‟s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A whitewater, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God-secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly. Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.
When grace happens, we receive, not a nice compliment from God, but a new heart. Give your heart to Christ and he returns the favor. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you” (Ez. 36:25-26 NKJV). 3
You might call it a spiritual heart transplant.
Tara Storch understands this miracle as much as anyone might. In the spring of 2010, a skiing accident took the life of her thirteen-year-old daughter, Taylor. What followed for Tara and her husband, Todd, was every parent‟s worst nightmare: a funeral, a burial, a flood of questions and tears. They decided to donate their daughter‟s organs to needy patients. Few people needed a heart more than Patricia Winters. Her heart had begun to fail five years earlier, leaving her too weak to do much more than sleep. Taylor‟s heart gave Patricia a fresh start on life.
Tara had only one request: she wanted to hear the heart of her daughter. She and her husband flew from Dallas to Phoenix and went to the home of Patricia. The two embraced for a long time, soon to be joined by Todd. After a few moments, Tara took a stethoscope and placed it against Patricia‟s chest and heard her daugther‟s heartbeat again:
“It‟s so strong,” the mother whispered.
“She is very strong,” Patricia assured.
Mom and Dad took turns listening to Taylor‟s heart. Even though it indwells a different body, they heard the still-beating heart of their daughter. And, when God hears your heart, he hears the still-beating heart of his Son. As Paul said: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20 NKJV). The apostle sensed within himself, not just the philosophy, ideals, or influence of Christ, but the person of Jesus. Christ moved in. He still does. When grace happens, Christ enters. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col.1:27 NKJV).
For many years, I missed this truth. I believed all of the other prepositions: Christ for me, with me, ahead of me. And I knew I was working beside Christ, under Christ, with Christ. But I never imagined that Christ was in me.
I can‟t blame my deficiency on Scripture. Paul refers to this union 216 times. John mentions it twenty-six.4 They describe a Christ who not only woos us to himself, but “ones” us to himself. “Whoever confesses that Jesus in the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God” (1 Jn.4:13, 15 NKJV emphasis mine).
No other religion or philosophy makes such a claim. No other movement implies the living presence of its founder in his followers. Mohammed does not indwell
Muslims. Buddha does not inhabit Hindus. Hugh Hefner does not inhabit the pleasure-seeking hedonist. Influence? Instruct? Entice? Yes. But occupy? No.
Yet, Christians embrace this inscrutable promise. “The mystery in a nutshell is this: Christ is in you” (Col. 1:27 MSG). The Christian is a person in whom Christ is happening.
We are Jesus Christ‟s, we belong to him. But even more, we are increasingly him. He moves in and commandeers our hands and feet; requisitions our minds and tongues. We sense his rearranging: debris into divine, pig‟s ear into silk purses. He re-purposes bad decisions and squalored choices. Little by little an image emerges. “He decided at the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as his son” (Rom. 8:29 MSG).
Grace is God as heart surgeon cracking open your chest, removing your heart, poisoned as it is with pride and pain, and replacing it with his own. His dream isn‟t just to get you into heaven, but heaven into you. What a difference this makes! Can‟t forgive your enemy? Can‟t face tomorrow? Can‟t forgive your past? Christ can, and he is on the move, aggressively budging you from grace-less to grace-shaped living. The gift-given giving gifts. Forgiven people forgiving people. Deep sighs of relief. Stumbles a-plenty, but despair seldom.
Grace is everything Jesus. Grace lives because he does, works because he works, and matters because he matters. He placed a term limit on sin and danced a victory jig in a graveyard. To be saved by grace is to be saved by him, not by an idea, doctrine, creed, or church membership, but by Jesus himself, who will sweep into heaven anyone who so much as gives him the nod.
Not in response to a finger snap, religious chant, or a secret handshake. Grace won‟t be stage-managed. I have no tips on how to get grace. Truth is, we don‟t get grace. But it sure can get us. Grace hugged the stink out of the prodigal and scared the hate out of Paul, and pledges to do the same in you.
If you wonder if you‟ve written too many checks on God‟s kindness account, drag regrets around like a broken bumper, huff and puff more than you delight and rest, and most of all, if you wonder if God can do something with the mess of your life, then grace is what you need.
Has God Spoken?
The Bible is the chief moral cause of all that is good, and the best corrective
of all that is evil, in human society; the best Book for regulating the temporal
concerns of men, and the only Book that can serve as an infallible guide . . .
the principles of genuine liberty, and of wise laws and administrations, are to
be drawn from the Bible and sustained by its authority. The man therefore,
who weakens or destroys the Divine authority of that Book may be accessory
to all the public disorders which society is doomed to suffer.
Writing a book is an arduous process. In the early years all I had at my
disposal were a yellow pad and a Pentel with an eraser invariably worn
down to the nub. Thankfully, those days were short-lived. Greg Laurie,
one of the best evangelists on the planet, dropped by my office and sold
me on “the gospel according to Mac.” I instantly converted, enrolled in
typing classes at a community college, found my way to the nearest Apple
store, purchased a computer, and never looked back. Today, more than two
decades later, I can’t even imagine going back to writing a manuscript with
a pen and a yellow pad.
Yet for thousands of years a Pentel and a piece of paper would have
been considered a luxury. Throughout history people etched their words
on materials ranging from stone and silver to papyrus and parchment.
Paul references his etchings on parchment when he implores Timothy to
bring “the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially
the parchments” (2 Timothy 4:13), and John mentions the use of “paper
and ink” in his second epistle (2 John 1:12). Someone writing some seven
centuries before Christ etched the priestly benediction found in Numbers
6 on silver amulets uncovered in a burial chamber outside the Old City of
Jerusalem at Ketef Hinnom—these tiny, rolled-up silver sheets representing
the oldest of all extant Hebrew manuscript fragments.1 And Joshua,
son of Nun, one of two legendary figures who survived the wilderness
wanderings to lead the Israelites into the promised land, “copied on stones
the law of Moses, which he had written” (Joshua 8:32).
Those who copied the autographs of biblical writers likewise faced
an arduous task. Imagine being an Old Testament copyist engaged in the
practice of hand-copying biblical manuscripts prior to the invention of
computers. Perhaps you were one of the exiles who had just exited Babylon
and reentered the land of promise. Your hero might well have been Ezra—
the Michael Jordan of scribes. Thrilled to be back in the homeland, you
coupled yourself to a community of copyists committed to the preservation
of the sacred text. In your wildest imagination you could not have conjured
up the image of movable type—much less a Mac computer or a mechanized
Each day, you engaged in the tedious process of hand-copying an Old
Testament missive—letter by letter by letter. No letter could be inscribed
without looking back at it and verbalizing the text. As a Sopher (literally, a
counter), you had to tally the words and letters to make certain that nothing
was amiss. You must ever remain aware of the middle letter of the middle
word of the manuscript so as to have an enduring reference point by which
to make certain that not a jot was found missing. You must even allow for a
prescribed number of letters and words in each column of the painstaking
practice. Should the most exalted dignitary address you during your labors,
you must ignore him, for you are a copyist in the employ of the King of
kings and Lord of lords. And you must not so much as hazard to write the
sacred name YHWH with a freshly dipped reed lest it blotch and desecrate
the name of your God. Indeed, as part of the Jewish Sopherim, you would
have had such an exalted view of the Old Testament text that you would perceive
the missing of a mere tittle—a microscopic appendage at the end of a
Hebrew letter—to be an affront to the holiness of your Creator. In short, you
would make certain that your copy was as good as the copy that preceded it.
In time the Jewish Masoretes would succeed you. And they would be
ever as vigilant. As underscored by professor of Old Testament Dr. Kenneth
Barker, the Masoretes developed a system of checks and balances to ensure
that every copy produced was as perfect as humanly attainable.
To make certain they had not added or left out even a single letter, they
counted the number of times each letter of the alphabet occurred in
each book. They noted and recorded the middle letter of the entire Old
Testament. They recorded the middle letter on each page and the number
of letters and words in each column. They examined every copy of the
Old Testament and withdrew from circulation all copies in which any
error was discovered. These carefully copied Hebrew texts have remained
virtually unchanged since about 600 to 700 AD. In 1947 the discovery of
the Dead Sea Scrolls yielded copies from all the major sections of the Old
Testament, except Ruth, dating back more than a century before Christ.
When compared to these ancient copies, the Masoretic texts were found
to be virtually identical.
The point here should not be missed. The Dead Sea Scrolls predated the
earliest extant text—Masoretic—by more than a millennium.3 Yet when
compared to one another, differences in style and spelling were noted but
no significant difference in substance. The Great Isaiah Scroll (c. 100 BC),
discovered in the first of the Qumran caves, is an apt illustration. When
compared to the text of the Masorites (c. AD 1000), it was found to be virtually
identical—despite the passage of eleven hundred years. The famous
fifty-third chapter contained only seventeen variants from the Masoretic
text. Ten were a matter of spelling, four a matter of style, and three accounted
for by the Hebrew letters in the word light. None substantially alters the
meaning of the text. Even where copyist errors exist in the text, they are generally relegated to mere matters of mistaken names or numbers. A classic case in point is 2 Chronicles 22:2—riveted in our minds due to a memorable address as well as the political intrigue involved. Some translations of 2 Chronicles, such as
the King James Version and New King James Version, identify Ahaziah—
youngest son of Jehoram (fifth king of the Southern Kingdom)—as
forty-two years of age. The parallel passage (2 Kings 8:26) has him exactly
twenty years younger when he mounted the throne. Thus, the problem. Was
Ahaziah twenty-two or forty-two when he became king? As with other copyist
errors, this question is easily resolved by a cursory look at context. Two
verses prior to the error, we read that Ahaziah’s father, Jehoram—whose
death, like that of Judas, includes a description of spilled-out bowels—was
forty years old when he died (2 Chronicles 21:20). Thus, the “aha” moment.
Ahaziah would, obviously, not have been older than his father!
In sum, Old Testament scribal luminaries ranging from Ezra to the
Masorites set an unimaginable standard of excellence in their copyist practices—
a standard that should provide us with complete confidence in the
Old Testament canon. Says Barker, “Bible students of today can be confident
that the text available to us is not significantly different from the texts
which Jesus and his disciples read twenty centuries ago.”
In contrast to Old Testament copyists, New Testament counterparts
were not constrained by the same systematized copyist practices. Instead
they were rather like you and me. They likely loved the Lord and thus willingly
sacrificed themselves to the tedious practice of copying the sacred
text. And considering the hardships involved, copying the text was more
than a career; it was a considerable calling.
Some stood at writing desks, and others worked in unbearable cold.
One New Testament copyist describes the physiological effects in daunting
terms: “Writing bows one’s back, thrusts the ribs into one’s stomach, and
fosters a general debility of the body.”6 Another adds a marginal warning
akin to that found in the Apocalypse of John: “If anyone adds anything
[words] to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.
And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take
away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are
described in this book” (Revelation 22:18–19). Guided by the admonition
“Do not add to it or take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32), New
Testament copyists engaged their copyist practices with reverential awe
akin to their Old Testament predecessors.
Did they make mistakes? Of course! While they engaged their craft
with care, they were far from infallible. Unlike preprogrammed automatons,
they were subject to all the frailties that are part and parcel of the
human condition. The beauty from a biblical perspective, however, is the
wealth of manuscripts by which textual critics can sort out their errors
even apart from context and common sense.
While fundamentalists on the left7 obsess over their many errors, textual
critics render them trite, trivial, and easy to resolve. What is more difficult
to resolve is public sentiment to the contrary. People en masse are being
deluded by books such as Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed
the Bible and Why, in which Bart Ehrman alleges “mistakes and changes that
ancient scribes made to the New Testament and shows the great impact they
had upon the Bible we use today.”8 Says Ehrman, “The more I studied the
manuscript tradition of the New Testament, the more I realized just how
radically the text had been altered over the years at the hands of scribes, who
were not only conserving scripture but also changing it.”9 Worse yet, according
to Ehrman, were the dark and sinister motives of the copyists. According
to Ehrman, “the anti-Jewish sentiment of early Christian scribes made an
impact on the texts they were copying.”10 For in text after text, “it was anti-
Jewish sentiment that prompted the scribal alteration.”11 In evidence he
offers the following copyist variant from Matthew 27:26:
Pilate is said to have flogged Jesus and then “handed him over to be crucified.”
Anyone reading the text would naturally assume that he handed
Jesus over to his own (Roman) soldiers for crucifixion. That makes it
all the more striking that in some early witnesses—including one of the
scribal corrections in Codex Sinaitius—the text is changed to heighten
even further the Jewish culpability in Jesus’ death. According to these
manuscripts, Pilate “handed him over to them [i.e., to the Jews] in order
that they might crucify him.” Now the Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ execution
is absolute, a change motivated by anti-Jewish sentiment among the
If anything, Ehrman succeeds only in demonstrating his own anti-
Christian bias. Had copyists genuinely been motivated by anti-Jewish
sentiments, the very next words (Matthew 27:27) would attribute the stripping,
mocking, and crucifying of Jesus to Jews, not Romans. Moreover, it is
instructive to note that the variants in question occur only in two manuscripts
and are at best ambiguous.
While the public has taken a significant bite out of this poison apple,
textual critics are well aware of the fact that Ehrman has presented the skin
of the truth stuffed with a lie. Even if Ehrman has rightly judged copyists as
anti-Semitic, the notion that their sinister motives lie undetected in modern
Bibles would be laughable if it were not so tragic. The sheer volume of extant
manuscripts is more than sufficient to retrieve the original message of New
This, however, has not deterred the sophists. A new generation of scholars
is now disseminating the notion that not just copyists, but the gospel
writers themselves were singularly anti-Semitic. As noted, William Klassen
(Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?), like Ehrman, suggests that John wanted
“to vilify Judas,” thus his gospel gets “caught up in anti-Jewish propaganda.”
14 Robert Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar, took it one step further
by suggesting that Judas might well have been invented as an anti-Semitic
slur. As we have seen, Funk claims the story of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus was
“probably a fiction because Judas looks to many of us like the representation
of Judaism or the Jews as responsible for His death. If it is fiction it was
one of the most cruel fictions that was ever invented.”
The problem here, of course, is not anti-Semitism but ahistorical sophistry
and vindictive prejudice. New Testament writers and their copyists
clearly proclaimed that salvation through the Jewish Messiah was given
first to the Jewish people and then to the rest of the world (Matthew 15:24;
Romans 1:16). Additionally, Peter’s vision followed by Cornelius’s receiving
the Holy Spirit (Acts 10) and the subsequent Jerusalem council (Acts 15)
clearly demonstrate both the inclusive nature of the church as well as the
initial Jewish Christian resistance to Gentile inclusion (Galatians 2:11–14).
Far from being anti-Semitic, New Testament manuscripts simply
record the outworking of redemptive history as foretold by the Jewish
prophets who foresaw that one of Christ’s companions would betray him
(Psalm 41:9; John 13:18). There is nothing subtle about the crucifixion
narrative. The Jewish gospel writers explicitly state that it was their leaders
who condemned Christ of blasphemy (Matthew 26:57–68; Luke 22:60–71;
John 19:1–15). There would be no motive to fabricate a fictional Judas to
represent the quintessential Jew.
As is obvious to any unbiased person from scholar to schoolchild, the
New Testament is anything but anti-Semitic. Jesus, the twelve apostles,
and the apostle Paul were all Jewish! In fact, Christians proudly refer to
their heritage as the Judeo-Christian tradition. In the book of Hebrews,
Christians are reminded of Jews from David to Daniel who are members
of the faith hall of fame. Indeed, Christian children grow up with Jews as
their heroes! From their mothers’ knees to Sunday school classes, they are
treated to Old Testament stories of great Jewish men and women of faith
from Moses to Mary and from Ezekiel to Esther.
The Bible goes to great lengths to underscore the fact that when it
comes to faith in Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile
(Galatians 3:28) and that Jewish people throughout the generations are
no more responsible for Christ’s death than anyone else. As Ezekiel put it,
“The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the
guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20). The “cruel fiction” referred to by Funk is
not Judas but the notion that Christian copyists were anti-Semitic. Truly,
such scholars owe the world an apology for an idiosyncratic brand of fundamentalism from the left that foments bigotry and hatred by entertaining
the absurd notion that the biblical accounts of Judas were fabricated because
“‘Judas’ meant ‘Jew.’”
While biblical authors and their copyists were clearly not anti-Semitic,
they were, as previously acknowledged, far from perfect.
This is an extract from Has God Spoken? by Hank Hanegraaf. For more information about this book, please click here.
He Chose the Nails
This is an extract from He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado. To buy the book now, click here
He deserves our compassion. When you see him, do not laugh. Do not mock. Do not turn away or shake your head. Just gently lead him to the nearest bench and help him sit down. Have pity on the man. He is so fearful, so wide-eyed.
He’s a deer on the streets of Manhattan. Tarzan walking through the urban jungle. He’s a beached whale, wondering how he goes here and how he’ll get out.
Who is this forlorn creature? This ashen-faced orphan? He is – please remove your hats out of respect – he is the man in the women’s department. Looking for a gift.
The season may be Christmas. The occasion may be her birthday or their anniversary. Whatever the motive, he has come out of hiding. Leaving behind his familiar habitat of sporting goods, stores, food courts, and the big-screen television in the appliance department, he ventures into the unknown world of women’s wear. You’ll spot him easily. He’s the motionless on in the aisle.
Were it not for the sweat rings under his arms, you’d think that he was a mannequin.
But he isn’t. He is a man in a woman’s world, and he’s never seen so much underwear. At the Wal-Mart where he buys his, it’s all wrapped up and fits on one shelf. But here he is in a forest of lace. His father warned him about places like this. Though the sign above says ‘linger-ie’, he knows he shouldn’t….
… Not only do we enter unusual places, we do unusual things. We assemble bicycles at midnight. We hid the new tires with mag wheels under the stairs. One fellow I heard about rented a movie theater so he and his wife could see their wedding pictures on their anniversary.
And we’d do it all again. Having pressed the grapes of service, we drink life’s sweetest wine – the wine of giving. We are at out best when we are giving. In fact, we are most like God when we are giving.
Have you ever wondered why God gives so much? We could exist on far less. He could have left the world flat and gray; we wouldn’t have known the difference. But he didn’t.
He splashed orange in the sunrise
And cast the sky in blue.
And if you love to see geese as they gather,
Chances are you’ll see that too.
Did he make the squirrel’s tail furry?
Was he obliged to make the birds sing?
And the funny way that chickens scurry
Or the majesty of thunder when it rings
Why give a flower fragrance? Why give good its taste?
Could it be
He loves to see
That look upon your face?
If we give gifts to show our love, how much more would he? If we – speckled with foibles and greed – love to give gifts, how much more does God, pure and perfect God, enjoy giving gifts to us?
This is an extract from He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado. To buy the book now, click here
Heaven Changes Everything
This is an extract from Heaven Changes Everything by Todd Burpo. To buy the book now, please click here
In the passenger seat, Sonja turned so that she could see our son, whose car seat was parked behind mine. I pictured his blond crew cut and his sky-blue eyes shining in the dark. ‘Do you remember the hospital, Colton?’ Sonja said.
‘Yes, Mommy, I remember,’ he said. ‘That’s where the angels sang to me’.
- Heaven is for Real
Have you ever been watching a television show or listening to the radio and suddenly a voice says something like, ‘We interrupt this program for an important message from XYZ News’? If you’re familiar with that kind of interruption, you understand how the story we shared in Heaven is for Real unfolded for us. Again and again our young son interrupted our lives with little strings of words that stopped us in our tracks:
‘That’s where the angels sang to me.’
‘I was sitting on Jesus’ lap.’
‘You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?’
Hearing these statements, we wondered, How did you know that?
In casual, little-boy language, Colton would mention something that had happened to him in heaven or something he has learned there. These little interruptions became life-changers for us as we realized his story was true and that it held huge implications for our lives – and for others’.
We began to let God teach us through our son. In addition to writing Colton’s story in Heaven is for Real, we began sharing our experience with audiences around the country. Along the way, we encountered more ‘interruptions’ or memorable moments and life lessons as people shared their own stories or responded with new insights that reinforced what God was teaching us about heaven.
We’ve written this book to share those new ‘interruptions’ and insights that came to us either through an idea God sparked in our hearts or through people who shared their own story in response to ours. Each one is drawn from one of Colton’s ‘interruptions’ or from some other part of his astounding story shared in Heaven is for Real.
Some chapters will be short, others longer; like most interruptions, their length and impact are unpredictable. Put together, they reveal how our experience continues to show how heaven changes everything about our life here on earth.
We understand now that Colton’s little-boy descriptions of heaven interrupted our days were actually God’s interruptions of our lives. He nudged us unexpectedly with moments that made us gasp – and then grasp the truth, again, that heaven is for real.
We pray that the thoughts and lessons we share here will interrupt your life with heavenly perspective the way they interrupted ours and that living every day with eternity in mind will change everything for you too.
- Todd and Sonja Burpo, June 2012
Maybe you’re like me and wonder sometimes, as your feet hit the floor, Is this going to be a good day or a bad day? Wouldn’t we all like to know the answer to that question? Then we could just stay in bed some mornings and avoid the calamity awaiting us.
Maybe, like me, you’ve gone through some kind of gut-wrenching experience or some heartbreaking loss that makes you apprehensive as you begin each day now. Enduring a life-altering trauma can make you want to play the turtle and go inside your shell.
After seventeen days of watching my toddler suffer, I’d managed only about five nights of sleep. My life had been so painful during that time that I had been wounded so deeply that it took almost four months after Colton’s hospitalization before I could really function again.
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo
This is an extract from the #1 New York Times best-seller Heaven if for Real by Todd Burpo. To view the book, click here
The family trip when our nightmare began was supposed to be a celebration. In early March 2003, I was scheduled to travel to Greeley, Colorado, for a district board meeting of the Wesleyan church. Beginning the August before, our
family had traveled a rocky road: seven months of back-to back injury and illness that included a shattered leg, two surgeries, and a cancer scare, all of which combined to drain our bank account to the point where I could almost hear sucking sounds when the statements came in the mail.
My small pastor’s salary hadn’t been affected, but our financial mainstay was the overhead garage door business we owned. Our medical trials had taken a heavy toll. By February, though, we seemed to be on the other side of all that. Since I had to travel anyway, we decided to turn the board-meeting trip into a kind of marker in our family life—a time to have a little fun, revive our minds and spirits, and start moving forward again with fresh hope.
Sonja had heard of a neat place for kids to visit just outside Denver called the Butterfly Pavilion. Billed as an “invertebrate zoo,” the Butterfly Pavilion opened in 1995 as an educational project that would teach people about the wonders of insects as well as marine critters, the kinds that live in tide pools. These days, kids are greeted outside the zoo by a towering and colorful metal sculpture of a praying mantis. But back in 2003, the giant insect hadn’t taken up his post yet, so the low brick building about fifteen minutes from downtown Denver didn’t shout “Kid appeal!” on the outside. But inside, a world of wonders waited, especially for kids Colton’s and Cassie’s ages.
The first place we stopped was the “Crawl-A-See-Um,” a room filled with terrariums housing creepy-crawly critters from beetles to roaches to spiders. One exhibit, the Tarantula Tower, drew Cassie and Colton like a magnet. This stack of terrariums was, exactly as advertised, a tower of glassed-in habitats containing the kind of furry, thick-legged spiders that either fascinate you or give you the willies.
Cassie and Colton took turns climbing a three-step folding stool in order to get a look at the residents of the Tarantula Tower’s upper stories. In one terrarium, a Mexican blonde tarantula squatted in a corner, its exoskeleton covered with what the exhibit placard described as hair in a “lovely” pale color. Another habitat contained a red-and-black tarantula native to India. One of the scarier-looking residents was a “skeleton tarantula,” so named because its black legs were segmented with white bands so that the spider looked a little like an Xray in reverse. We later heard that this particular skeleton tarantula was a bit of a rebel: once, she had somehow engineered a jailbreak, invaded the habitat next door, and eaten her neighbor for lunch.
As Colton hopped up on the footstool to see what the rogue tarantula looked like, he glanced back at me with a grin that warmed me. I could feel my neck muscles begin to unknot, and somewhere inside me a pressure valve released, the emotional equivalent of a long sigh. For the first time in months, I felt I could simply enjoy my family.
“Wow, look at that one!” Cassie said, pointing into one of the terrariums. A slightly gangly six-year-old, my daughter was as smart as a whip, a trait she got from her mom. Cassie was pointing to the exhibit sign, which read: “Goliath Birdeater . . . females can be over eleven inches long.”
The one in this tank was only about six inches long, but its body was as thick as Colton’s wrist. He stared through the glass wide-eyed. I looked over and saw Sonja wrinkle her nose. I guess one of the volunteer zookeepers saw her expression, too, because he quickly came to the birdeater’s defense. “The Goliath is from South America,” he said in a friendly, educational tone that said, They’re not as yucky as you think. “Tarantulas from North and South America are very docile. You can even hold one right over there.” He pointed to where another zookeeper was holding a smaller tarantula in his palm so that a group of kids could take a closer look.
Cassie darted across the room to see what all the fuss was about, with Sonja, Colton, and me bringing up the rear. In a corner of the room decorated to look like a bamboo hut, the keeper was displaying the undisputed star of the Crawl-A-See-Um, Rosie the Spider. A rose-haired tarantula from South America, Rosie was a furry arachnid with a plum-size body and legs six inches long, thick as pencils. But the best thing about Rosie from a kid’s point of view was that if you were brave enough to hold her, even for a moment, the zookeeper would award you with a sticker.
Now, if you have little kids, you already know that there are times they’d rather have a good sticker than a handful of cash. And this sticker was special: white with a picture of a tarantula stamped in yellow, it read, “I held Rosie!”
This wasn’t just any old sticker; this was a badge of courage!
Cassie bent low over the keeper’s hand. Colton looked up at me, blue eyes wide. “Can I have a sticker, Daddy?”
“You have to hold Rosie to get a sticker, buddy.”
At that age, Colton had this precious way of talking, part-serious, part-breathless, golly-gee wonder. He was a smart, funny little guy with a black-and-white way of looking at life. Something was either fun (LEGOs) or it wasn’t (Barbies). He either liked food (steak) or hated it (green beans). There were good guys and bad guys, and his favorite toys were good-guy action figures. Superheroes were a big deal to Colton. He took his Spider-Man, Batman, and Buzz Lightyear action figures with him everywhere he went. That way, whether he was stuck in the backseat of the SUV, in a waiting room, or on the floor at the church, he could still create scenes in which the good guys saved the world. This usually involved swords, Colton’s favorite weapon for banishing evil. At home, he could be the superhero. I’d often walk into the house and find Colton armed to the teeth, a toy sword tucked through each side of his belt and one in each hand: “I’m playing Zorro, Daddy! Wanna play?”
Now Colton turned his gaze to the spider in the keeper’s hand, and it looked to me like he wished he had a sword right then, at least for moral support. I tried to imagine how huge the spider must look to a little guy who wasn’t even four feet tall. Our son was all boy—a rough-and-tumble kid who had gotten up close and personal with plenty of ants and beetles and other crawling creatures. But none of those creepy-crawlies had been as big as his face and with hair nearly as long as his own.
Cassie straightened and smiled at Sonja. “I’ll hold her, Mommy. Can I hold Rosie?”“Okay, but you’ll have to wait your turn,” Sonja said.
Cassie got in line behind a couple of other kids. Colton’s eyes never left Rosie as first a boy then a girl held the enormous spider and the zookeeper awarded the coveted stickers. In no time at all, Cassie’s moment of truth arrived. Colton braced himself against my legs, close enough to see his sister, but trying to bolt at the same time, pushing back against my knees. Cassie held out her palm and we all watched as Rosie, an old hand with small, curious humans, lifted one furry leg at a time and scurried across the bridge from the keeper’s hand into Cassie’s, then back into the keeper’s.
“You did it!” the keeper said as Sonja and I clapped and cheered. “Good job!” Then the zookeeper stood, peeled a white-and-yellow sticker off a big roll, and gave it to Cassie. This, of course, made it even worse for Colton, who had not only been upstaged by his sister but was now also the only stickerless Burpo kid. He gazed longingly at Cassie’s prize, then back at Rosie, and I could see him trying to wrestle down his fear. Finally, he pursed his lips, dragged his
gaze away from Rosie, and looked back up at me. “I don’t want to hold her.”
“Okay,” I said.
“But can I have a sticker?”
“Nope, the only way to get one is to hold her. Cassie did it. You can do it if you want to. Do you want to try? Just for a second?”
This is an extract from the #1 New York Times best-seller Heaven if for Real by Todd Burpo. To view the book, click here
Colton looked back at the spider, then at his sister, and I could see wheels turning behind his eyes: Cassie did it. She didn’t get bit. Then he shook his head firmly: No. “But I still want a sticker!” he insisted. At the time, Colton was two months shy of four years old—and he was very good at standing his ground.
“The only way you can get a sticker is if you hold Rosie,” Sonja said. “Are you sure you don’t want to hold her?” Colton answered by grabbing Sonja’s hand and trying to tug her away from the keeper. “No. I wanna to go see the
starfish.” “Are you sure?” Sonja said. With a vigorous nod, Colton marched toward the Crawl-A-See-Um door.
Heaven is for Real Conversation Guide -Todd Burpo
This is an extract from Heaven is for Real Conversation Guide by Todd Burpo. To buy the book now, Click here
What Is Heaven Like?
We all have questions about what heaven is like; but trying to describe heaven is a lot like trying to describe New York City to someone from an ancient time. Heaven is beyond our world, outside our dimension. It is a spiritual realm, and we live in a physical one. We can only use our own limited words, knowledge, and experiences to communicate things that are beyond our physical world. Some things Colton saw during his visit to heaven have been the source of disagreement and much discussion. We understand that.
All we can do is share what he saw in the best way we know. But there are certain truths about heaven that cannot be denied. In this session, we want to focus on those truths as Colton experienced them and, most important, as Scripture
Jesus said, “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” (John 14:2–3 nkjv). He also confirmed to us that His Father is our Father (Luke 11:2). What amazing truth: Jesus has prepared a place for us in our heavenly Father’s house! Colton’s favorite place in God’s house was His throne room. Colton sat there with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. You may find yourself wishing you could experience that same presence of the one true God. You can! God’s throne room is a place where all who believe on the name of Jesus are welcome. God has issued an open invitation to live forever with Him in His house; to accept, we must simply believe in Christ as our personal Savior. Jesus is the door to God’s house, giving us entrance into our true home of pure joy, meaning, and purpose.
We can have discussions about particular details of heaven, such as the presence of animals or whether or not we will have wings, but the ultimate truth is that heaven is very real, and we can live there eternally with God. Now let’s go a little further in Colton’s journey, exploring the Word of God as we find out even more about what heaven is like.
What are some specific questions you’ve had about heaven? So far in our study, has the idea of heaven become more real to you? Why or why not? If it has become more real to you, in what way?
When considering what heaven is like, it is often tempting to be overwhelmed by complicated theories or details. Trying to describe an unknown place, much less a heavenly one, can be a massive challenge. We can get caught up in discussions about things such as streets of gold, or whether or not we’ll see our
pets there. And those aren’t bad discussions. But perhaps the essence of what heaven is like doesn’t have to be that complex. In the midst of all the details, what is it that truly defines heaven? Very simply, heaven is God’s house. God’s presence is there, and that is what makes heaven, heaven.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that we are created in God’s image. But here on earth, it can be difficult to look in a mirror and see a reflection of the divine. It is easy to get caught up in our shortcomings, failures, and sometimes decidedly ungodly
behavior. Yet, we are created in the image of God, and we are the very object of His affection (John 3:16). We were created by Him and for Him, so living eternally in His presence will be our ultimate fulfillment.
Heaven is meant to be our eternal home. As masters of our own homes, we do not grant entry to uninvited, unknown people; they cannot come in and do as they please. We welcome people into our homes who have requested entrance; we open our doors to those we know. We learn through God’s Word that Jesus is the door to God’s house and the only way into that perfect place (John 10:9). Heaven was prepared for us before the foundation of the world (Matthew 25:34), but entrance into that perfect place will be granted only to those who know heaven’s Master, Jesus. None of us can follow our own road to heaven; neither can we map out our own strategies to gain entrance. There is no alternate door.
Jesus told us that He went to prepare a place for those who know Him, and that He will one day return to take them home with Him (John 14:2–3). No sin will be able to break in to God’s house; it is not allowed through the door. But even though sin is a fact of all our lives (Romans 3:23), because of Jesus’ love and sacrificial death on the cross, our sin is erased and heaven is available to all who will call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). To be assured of entrance into God’s eternal kingdom, to know the perfect joy and peace of heaven, we need only to believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that in dying for us He conquered sin, and that in rising from the grave, He conquered death. Through Jesus we can know eternal life in God’s presence because Jesus said, “Where I am, there you may be also” (nkjv).
God’s house is amazing—a home where no sin, shame, grief, or pain can follow us; an eternal dwelling into which we are all invited; a place where Love Himself rules. If sinful humanity can give and receive love, we can only imagine the love that pours forth from the One who is the very source of love. For you see, God is love (1 John 4:7–16), and all are invited to come to know Jesus and be granted entrance into God’s timeless kingdom of love.
Have you previously thought of heaven as God’s house?
How can this image make heaven seem more personal to
Why do you think Jesus chose to use the image of His
Father’s house to describe heaven?
How does being reminded that you’re made in the image of God affect the way you think of yourself? How does it influence the way you see God? Imagine what it will be like to live without sin and its effects. How will it feel to live without temptation? Without shame? Without the destructive consequences that sin always brings? In the place where Love Himself rules?
This is an extract from Heaven is for Real Conversation Guide by Todd Burpo. To buy the book now, Click here
Holy Spirit, Here and Now by Trevor Hudson
This is an extract from Holy Spirit, Here and Now by Trevor Hudson.
To buy the book now, click here
Why Another Book on the Holy Spirit?
Why write another book about the Holy Spirit? This is what a close friend asked me when I told him I was writing this book. It is a good question. Many good books about the Holy Spirit are already available. Certainly I have benefited a great deal from reading some of them. Yet for some time now I have wanted to write about how the Holy Spirit works in our daily lives. Several reasons come to mind when I think of why I want to do this. Let me share these with you.
First of all, I know that many people feel like second-class Christians when it comes to experiencing the Holy Spirit. They hear others speaking confidently about their experiences of the Spirit, either at their church or on religious TV programmes, and feel that they have never had such experiences. These people often end up thinking that the Holy Spirit is for the religious professionals, or the charismatically inclined, or the really weird, but not for them. You may be one of these. If you are, I hope this book will help you to recognise that the Holy Spirit is deeply at work in you, right at this moment, whoever you are.
Secondly, I meet many people who have been through off-putting, scary and even painful experiences when it comes to the Holy Spirit. I think of my own mother. She very seldom went to church. On one occasion when she did, she was taken into a side room where well-meaning people prayed for her ‘to receive the Spirit’. Tremendous pressure was put on her to speak in tongues. She was deeply traumatised by the experience. It was only years afterwards, in response to the gentle, accepting and thoughtful ministry of one of my ministerial colleagues, that she was willing to go back into a church building again.
Perhaps you have also been through something similar. Now, whenever the topic of the Holy Spirit is raised, you become defensive and close up. I can understand this. However, you may be robbing yourself of some good and important things that God wants you to experience. So I hope you will consider some of the lessons about the Holy Spirit that I have been learning over the past forty years. You do not need to be afraid. More than anything else, the Holy Spirit wants you to know deep down that you are infinitely loved by a beautiful, good and loving God whose human face we have seen in Jesus Christ.
A third reason for writing is because I meet many spiritual seekers who are looking for ‘something more’ in their relationship with God. They are tired of a superficial, shallow and second-hand faith. They long for intimate interaction with the living God. They yearn to know the fire of God’s presence burning in their hearts. They know that unless God becomes a living reality for them, they may as well throw in the towel when it comes to their relationship with God. After all, when we do not experience God’s life within us, our Christianity usually deteriorates into a lifeless and dreary system of rules and empty rituals.
If this describes you at the moment, please know that you are not alone. Ever since I began following Jesus at the age of sixteen, I have sought a deeper, closer and more power-filled experience of God. This search has taken me down many different pathways. Some have turned out to be dead-ends. Others have been useful for a time. One or two have proven themselves enduringly helpful. I hope that in sharing some of these experiences with you, I will guide you down some practical and life-giving avenues in your search for a real sense of the living God in your life.
Fourthly, I want to bridge the deep chasm that often exists between our experience of God’s Spirit and our everyday lives. Many of us tend to confine our encounters with the Holy Spirit to the religious zone of our lives like worship moments, Bible study groups, church conferences and the like. As a result, we don’t recognise the activity of the ever-present Spirit in our personal struggles, or in our messy and muddled relationships, or in our eight to five jobs with all their stresses and strains, or in the overwhelming social challenges that we face here in South Africa. We think that we have to leave behind us our material day-to-day lives and enter the so-called ‘spiritual’ world of church activities to experience the Holy Spirit. The consequences are tragic. We develop a split spirituality and usually end up living double lives.
If there is one thing that I want to convey about the Holy Spirit, it is this: The Holy Spirit is continuously at work in all of our lives, from our very beginnings, in every encounter, in our daily work, in our communities, indeed throughout the whole universe. I hope that this conviction will become clearer as you read this book. For when we are able to recognise the Holy Spirit at work in and around us, and respond to this divine activity, we begin to heal that tragic gap between our relationship with God and what happens in our everyday lives. Rather than trying to make religion our life, our life becomes our religion. The effects are life-transforming.
Lastly, I want to hold out a vision of our relationship with God as an invitation to go on a lifetime journey with the Holy Spirit. Too often, we interpret Paul’s command to be filled with the Holy Spirit as having a ‘one-off’ experience that we live off forever. I want to suggest something different. This challenging instruction by the apostle invites the total renovation of who we are by the Holy Spirit. It challenges us to allow every part of our lives – our hearts, our minds, our emotions, our bodies, our souls, our relationships, our work – to become an arena where the Holy Spirit can work. This is what it means to be truly filled with God’s Spirit. Are you willing to embark on this Spirit-propelled adventure of restoration, renewal and transformation?
I trust that at least one of these reasons connects with where you are at this moment. If so, I hope you will read on. In this exploration into who the Holy Spirit is and what it is that the Holy Spirit does, I will turn frequently to what the biblical writers said about these things. I will also share some stories of my own struggles and joys in seeking to be more responsive to the Holy Spirit, as well as reflect on some of the encounters that friends and colleagues have had with the Holy Spirit in their lives. At the end of each chapter, I will describe a simple practice that will help you to interact more intentionally with the Holy Spirit. This will be followed by some wonderings that I hope will lead to some good conversation and group-sharing if you are reading this book together with others.
May the Holy Spirit be with you as you read! Here is a prayer that you might like to pray as you begin. It is one of my favourites. (1)
Spirit of God,
Lord and Giver of Life,
moving between us and around ,
like wind or water or fire;
breathe into us your freshness that we may awake;
cleanse our vision that we may see you more clearly;
kindle our senses that we may feel you more sharply;
and give us the courage to live
as you would have us live,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Hope for your Heart|
This is an extract from Hope for your Heart.
To buy the book now, click here
Hope is putting faith to work when doubting would be easier - Author Unknown
The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him... -LAMENTATIONS 3:25
Tears don't have to end in sadness and pain... they can lead us into a new space of change and growth. If our tears are allowed to tell their stories, they can become the means by which our lives are transformed. Whether they flow down our cheeks, or represent our cry for help, or the silent needs of our grieving and broken hearts, our tears can become the agents of resurrection and newness. - Trevor Hudson
Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. - Psalm 126:5
Hope is the word which God has written on the brow of every man. - Victor Hugo
Do you now know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary; and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
- Isiah 40:28-31
In this life you are either busy living or busy dying. The difference is hope.
- From The Shawshank Redemption
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes form him. - Psalm 62:5
God's economy is upside down... God says that the more hopeless your circumstance, the more likely your salvation.
- Max Lucado