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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Charisma House (September 7, 2010)
Ron Phillips is senior pastor of Abba’s House (Central Baptist Church) in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Under his ministry, this Southern Baptist church has experienced tremendous growth and has exploded into new realms of renewal and spiritual awakening. In 1989 he had an encounter with the Holy Spirit that changed his life forever and produced a deeper passion to reach the world with the powerful message of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. He is a sought-after conference and crusade speaker and the author of 17 books.
Visit the author's website.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (September 7, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
In the classic movie Shenandoah, Jimmy Stewart portrays a widowed patriarch over a large farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. As the Civil War erupts, he longs to keep his family intact and mind his own business. Soon the war comes to his house with a son and daughter murdered and another son missing. But in the climatic scene while the family is worshiping, the young lost son finds his way home.
This pictures human life. Despite all of your efforts, Satan will soon make your life a battleground. I had both a great awakening and a rude awakening that brought me to the battlefront.
A Great Awakening
Some of the most miserable people I know are active, professing Christians. As I sped westward toward Albuquerque, I knew I had become one of that tribe! For whatever accumulated reasons, after ten years of a busy, successful ministry I wanted to quit.
This was not normal ministerial wanderlust―a disease that affects the clergy and whose symptoms include a mad belief that another place of service can fill the void of a lost spiritual relationship. No, this awful agony was a desire to leave the ministry.
While I was flying at six hundred miles an hour toward a speaking engagement, I was writing out my resignation from the ministry. Was this burnout? I had no idea that the living God had different plans. I was about to begin a journey to fullness.
I arrived the night before my scheduled morning speaking time and was immediately frustrated by my room assignment. It was the only one on the hall―far away from the action. I checked the program to see who the other speakers would be. I knew the preacher scheduled to speak, but I had never heard the woman on the program.
But it would be her message on prayer and knowing God that would utterly crush my proud heart.
The next day I sat in the back of the auditorium and listened to her story unfolding. As the wife of a seminary professor who became a state denominational executive, she was thrust into crisis by her husband's sudden death. He had been her spiritual resource and rock. In the back of an ambulance, she faced the reality that all of their shared life was abruptly ending. Now she needed Jesus as never before, and He proved Himself faithful.
This message hammered at my self-pity and self-sufficiency. I believed right. I worked hard. I had read all the deeper-life books, yet I had lost the reality of God's presence. Joyless and burned out, God's Word hammered at my desire to go AWOL.
Struggling inside, I made my way back to my room and collapsed on the bed, weeping. That night, out of a deep sleep I heard my name being called. Awakened, I went to the door and found no one. Soon I was sleeping again and was startled awake by hearing my name called a second time. Th e same thing had happened again. Like Samuel, I knew God awakened me.
This proved to be a great awakening for me. I was led to pick up my Bible and turn to Psalm 91-95. Graciously God spoke to me out of that ancient account. You see, God had not moved; I had! He was still in the secret place awaiting my fellowship. Further, He had “fresh oil” with which to anoint my stale spiritual life. That little room became a sanctuary, and the presence of Jesus swept over me.
In Psalm 91:1-2 we read, “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.'” I rediscovered the importance of a devotional life. I became aware that we are in spiritual warfare, facing infernal and invisible forces of wickedness. Prayer came alive in me again. “He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him” (v. 15).
Prayers poured forth from my aching heart―prayers of repentance, worship, and intercession. Through the night God visited me with a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.
These scriptures came alive! God spoke to me through His precious Word. Here was the message I received that evening.
Psalm 92:10-15 challenged my heart to understand the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Verse 10 says, “I have been anointed with fresh oil.” As I read the verses in that psalm, I could see what had been available to me all the time through the anointing of the Holy Spirit.
My eyes and ears would be open and perceptive to the things of God (Ps. 92:11). My life could again flourish and grow (v. 12). The house of God would again be a place I would enjoy (v. 13). Th e aging process would have no effect on my spiritual life (v. 14). My mouth would be open to praise the Lord for His goodness (v. 15).
After speaking later that day, I flew home thinking everything was going to be better! Little did I know that I had begun a hard journey with Jesus― a journey that contained dark valleys between the mountaintops. I had no idea how desperately I would need the resources I had rediscovered.
The year ahead would be, in the words of Charles Dickens, “the best of times . . . the worst of times.” Th e Spirit-filled life is not only a life of spiritual worship. The enemy saw what God was beginning, and he unleashed a relentless attack on everything precious in my life.
A Rude Awakening
I heard of a boxer who was taking blow after blow. His manager kept hollering, “Stay with it, Joe. You are winning.” After several rounds of this, Joe turned to his manager and said, “If I am winning, I wish somebody would tell him.”
This is the way I felt as my life became a veritable battleground on all fronts for a two-year period. Depression lived at our house. When I returned from that life-changing encounter with the Lord, I found myself immediately in a struggle at home.
Difficulties at Home
In the fall of 1990, both my daughter and my wife totaled their cars on
days. Heather, my daughter, was not seriously injured, and miraculously her car did not go into the flooded creek nearby. She did, however, suffer a blow to the head that has created recurring difficulties, including minor seizures.
My wife, Paulette, was nearly killed. I remember that September morning and the man on the telephone telling me Paulette had been in an accident not far from the house. I drove over the hill on Highway 153 and saw a terrifying scene before me.
Paulette was trapped for forty-five minutes in her little Sunbird. All the bones on the left side of her upper body were broken or crushed. Even some of her teeth were cracked from the blow. She went into shock and nearly died, but the rescue team saved her life. For three months she had to have constant care.
In March of 1991, my dad died suddenly. After struggling all his life with alcohol addiction, he was saved and ordained a deacon at the age of fifty-nine. We had become very close. On Sunday night before his death, he and I talked by phone for an hour. He was my great encourager. Now, at age sixty-nine, Dad was gone.
Trouble at Church
On the church front a woman committed suicide. Then her best friend was hospitalized in a mental unit. She threatened suicide unless I came immediately to see her. I and my associates went up to visit. When we sat down in the room, other voices poured forth from the woman. One of my associates who is gifted in the area of prayer and spiritual warfare began to identify and dismiss these cursing infernal enemies.
In less than an hour thirteen demonic entities identified themselves as suicide, lust, death, cancer, depression, fear, rebellion, rejection, and others. All of them had English names, but as they were asked their real names, in the authority of Jesus, they would reveal their real natures only after a struggle. This dear lady is still recovering and needs counseling because of past wounds of the enemy, but she is better and, I believe, will be totally well in the future.
This experience opened my eyes to another world, another realm. Suddenly I realized that what had been theory was real warfare! Had I been, as a pastor, some kind of spiritual Don Quixote, fighting with windmills while my people were living in bondage? I fell to my knees, and God's Spirit spoke gently to my spirit. He said, “This is what you asked Me for.” Yes, I wanted the reality of God, and I was discovering from my own pain and from the bondage of others a new direction and passion for ministry.
Immediately the Lord led me to invite a gift ed minister friend to come and lead a spiritual warfare conference. He was a longtime friend in whom God had brought renewal. He and I, along with others, prayed together for months for God to move in life-changing power.
Bishop J. Tod Zeiger came and began to preach on “Strongholds in the Believer's Life.” From the very first service God began to set people free. Revival came to the church, and the meeting had to be extended. Literally hundreds of people had their lives changed during the meeting. Since that day we have seen hundreds more set free through prayer and spiritual warfare. Some of their stories will be found later in this book.
Some were not happy. Years before, through the ministry of Jack Taylor, God had revealed to me the truth of praise and worship. Later, in a worship seminar with Dr. Jack Hayford, God convicted me of my own lack of worship and taught me to worship and love Jesus publicly. As old forms, ideas, and traditions fall, some people grow uncomfortable. Surprisingly, a staff member came and accused me of frightening the people and of not being a true Baptist. Already the enemy had rallied a small group to try to kill the revival and renewal that had come.
At this point one of our members lost her husband to a sudden heart attack. She was left with a teenage son and daughter. She was diagnosed with a bad heart and faced the possibility of life-threatening surgery. When I got the news, my wife and I went immediately to pray for her before she went into the hospital. The Holy Spirit spoke clearly to me and told me, “This sickness is not from Me and will not stand.” I prayed over my friend, rebuking a spirit of infirmity and death. Miraculously, when they examined her the next day, all the symptoms were gone!
Subsequently the staff and members who opposed the renewal and delivering ministry left. For three years the church went through ups and downs of turmoil. Eventually all of the opposition was exposed, and some were found to be guilty of criminal acts. The church survived the difficulty and a multimillion-dollar lawsuit.
In the middle of these struggles I was attacked with a life-threatening situation. One Thursday evening, Kelli, my grown daughter, came over to spend the night because she had dreamed that I was sick. Th at night around 1:00 a.m. I awoke sick and dizzy. I went to the bathroom and collapsed there, losing consciousness. My daughter heard the fall in the other room and came in to see what it was.
In my unconscious state I was at peace. I caught a fleeting glimpse of the brightness and glory of another world, and for a moment I smelled the sweet atmosphere of the other world. Then, as if far away, I could hear Kelli's voice calling, “Dad, Dad . . . ,” and I came back. I was hospitalized for a week with stress-related heart problems and still take a pill every day to keep the heartbeat steady.
It was this experience that taught me the key truth of spiritual warfare: the battle is not ours but His. My heart doctor walked in to see me and said, “Pastor, you must practice what you preach if you are going to live.” Out of this time God taught me what I will be sharing with you in the rest of this book. God can equip you to do His work and His will.
Season of War and Peace
I have discovered that spiritual warfare's intensity is seasonal. God cycles include seasons of rest, and yet it is His will that we “fight the good fi ght of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12).
We must be alert to our enemy at all times. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). It is our task to resist his schemes. “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will fl ee from you.” (James 4:7).
The material that follows is designed to equip you to do battle over the spiritual darkness that comes against you. Th e Christian walks through a war zone. Yet the victory is ours. God rarely removes difficulty, but He walks us through these valleys. God is determined to teach us that we cannot live without Him. We need to be fully furnished with the spiritual armor and resources that are already ours.