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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:
David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
Best-selling author Greg Laurie (Gold Medallion winner for The Upside-Down Church, Lost Boy, and more) is senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, one of the largest churches in America. Founder of the Harvest Crusade, Laurie’s nationally syndicated radio program, A New Beginning, is broadcast on more than 500 radio outlets around the world. Along with his work at Harvest Ministries, Laurie serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, among others.
Visit the author's website.
The first-century believers who followed Jesus Christ were men and women who turned their worlds upside down to follow the Messiah, and they lived the Christian life as Jesus presented it to them personally. They didn’t have the luxury of a passive and lukewarm existence. Instead, they had to draw clear lines in the sand about what following Christ really looked like. The good news is that, even in our current culture, we too can participate in this kind of lifestyle.
In Let God Change Your Life: How to Know and Follow Jesus, evangelist Greg Laurie describes the factors that impact true life change in clear, practical, and thoroughly biblical terms. His conclusions will challenge Christians to trade in their passive preconceptions about God for an active faith that reflects the image of Christ. A call to shed the skin of cultural Christianity, Let God Change Your Life details the transformation that occurs when we take what Christ really said and live as if His words were actually true.
What we often perceive as the Christian life is, in many ways, not what the Bible teaches. Imagine what it would have been like to be a follower of Jesus; first-century Christians walked away from their old lives just to be where He was. What they learned, sitting at His feet, was discipleship. And when His work on earth was done, first-century Christians took His words and example and spread out, teaching the gospel to everyone.
We need to ask ourselves whether we are living the Christian life as Jesus meant for us to live it. Are our lives challenging? Exciting? Do they have purpose and direction? Or do we find ourselves depressed and afraid? If your Christian experience is dull, unfulfilling, or boring, then it’s time to seriously examine the statements of Jesus regarding discipleship. What you’ll find is that the call of Christ on your life was never meant to be half-hearted and partially powerful. The natural outworking of a Christ-transformed life is a vibrant and revolutionary desire to know God, learn His ways, and lead others to Him.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
HEAR T TROUBLE
Have you ever felt so stressed out that it seemed like everything was going wrong—all at once? Then, when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, they did? Or, let me put it another way: Do you have kids? And more specifically, do you have teenagers? If so, you know what I’m talking about.
One of the downsides of the information age, in which we have our iPhones, BlackBerrys, Treos, and other devices that can send and receive the latest data, is that we are constantly barraged by information. This information gives us even more to stress out about. And stress is serious stuff. Studies have suggested that high levels of stress can lead to obesity and trigger a raft of diseases, from heart attacks to ulcers. Depression, nervous breakdowns, and even cancer can be stress related. In the United States, up to 90 percent of visits to physicians may be triggered by a stress related illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
We all stress out about the many frightening things in our world today. Since 9/11, there are certain fears all Americans share. A March 2005 Associated Press article stated, “Though the Soviet Union is gone, the nuclear fears that fueled the Cold War haven’t disappeared. Most Americans think nuclear weapons are so dangerous that no country should have them.”
North Korea claims to possess nuclear weapons and to be manufacturing more. Iran is widely believed to be within months of developing such weapons. And lurking in the background is the threat that worries U.S. officials the most: the desire on the part of terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons. Fifty-three percent of Americans think a nuclear attack by terrorists is at least somewhat likely.
That brings us stress, worry, and fear.
You may know someone who has a fear of heights, small spaces, or flying. But according to a Time magazine cover article on the topic of fear, people have phobias for just about everything imaginable.
According to the article, over fifty million people in the U.S. have some kind of fear or phobia. Some are pretty unusual, if not slightly humorous. For example, there is kathisophobia, the fear of sitting; ablutophobia, the fear of bathing; dentophobia, the fear of dentists; allodoxaphobia, the fear of opinions; and cyclophobia, the fear of bicycles.
And they get even weirder. There is alektorophobia, the fear of chickens; anuptaphobia, the fear of staying single; arachibutyrophobia, the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth; automatonophobia, the fear of ventriloquist dummies; ecclesiophobia, the fear of church; ouranophobia, the fear of heaven; and peladophobia, the the fear of baldness and/or bald people.
Finally, there is my personal favorite: phobophobia, which is the fear of phobias.
Perhaps your life is filled with fear, worry, and intense stress of some kind right now. Without a doubt, life is certainly filled with troubles. The book of Job tells us, “Man is born to trouble” (Job 5:7).
Disappointment is a trouble, and in life there are many disappointments. We are disappointed with ourselves, because we are not always what we want to be. We want to be strong, but we are weak. We want to be successful, yet we experience many failures. We want to be loved, but people are often indifferent toward us.
Circumstances can also be a source of trouble: the loss of a job, relationship issues, events not going the way we want them to, or even uncertainty about the future. All these things can cause us stress and fear.
But my intention here is not to add to your stress. Instead, I want to share with you the words of Jesus to a stressed-out, agitated people.
This is God’s cure for heart trouble:
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in
God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are
many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told
you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go
and prepare a place for you, I will come again and
receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you
may be also. And where I go you know, and the
way you know.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we
do not know where You are going, and how can we
know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way,
the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through Me.” (John 14:1–6)
When Jesus spoke these words, His disciples were afraid.
He had just revealed that Judas Iscariot would betray Him, and that Simon Peter would deny Him. Then He dropped the bombshell: He was going to leave them! They didn’t understand that He would die on the cross for them and that He would soon live in their hearts. They only heard the part about Him leaving.
And that caused stress, worry, and fear. So the phrase He utters, let not your heart be troubled, in verse 1 could be translated, “Don’t be agitated, disturbed, or thrown into confusion.” Or, “Don’t let your heart shudder!” Or even more casually, “Relax!” Troubled is a strong word. Jesus told the disciples, in light of the imminent cross, “It may look like your world is falling apart and that darkness will overtake you, but don’t let your heart be troubled!” Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “Mull over your problems a bit.” Instead, He said, “Don’t be troubled.” And then He laid out three reasons why.
As Christians, regardless of what cause we may have to be troubled, there is greater cause not to be.
This brings us to God’s first cure for heart trouble: His Word is true. Jesus said, “Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). In the original Greek, this is a command. Jesus tells them, “Believe that I know what I’m doing here! My Word is true. You will see that in time.”
God has given us a user’s manual for life called the Bible. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hate to read user’s manuals. This is a problem, because I also love electronic gadgets. If you’re like me, you try out your gadgets first and read the directions later (and usually end up doing the first thing the user’s manual told you not to do!).
While many products come with user’s manuals, some products also come with warning labels. Some warning labels are helpful, others seem just plain ridiculous. But we all know those ridiculous labels are there because someone, somewhere, did what the label warns you not to do.
Consider these goofy but real warning labels. A cardboard sunshade for windshields had this warning: “Do not drive with sun shield in place.” This warning came with a hair dryer: “Do not use while sleeping.” An electric rotary tool included the caution, “This product not intended for use as a dental drill.” A warning on a bathroom heater stated, “This product is not to be used in bathrooms.” A manual for a microwave oven contained this warning: “Do not use for drying pets.” This statement was found on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” A warning label on children’s cough medicine cautions, “Do not drive or operate machinery.” A string of Christmas lights was intended “For indoor or outdoor use only.” A child-sized Superman costume came with this warning: “Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.” A sign at a railroad station declared, “Beware! To touch these wires is instant death. Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.” A shipment of hammers came with the notice, “May be harmful if swallowed.” And a bottle of sleeping pills forewarned, “May cause drowsiness.”
Think of the people who tried to blow dry their hair while they were asleep, swallow a hammer, or fly because they wore S on their chests. If only they had read the directions and warning labels first!
The same is true of life. The Bible gives us directions and warnings to guide us. In 2 Timothy 3:16–17 we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (NLT).
This passage reminds me of a story I heard about a young man who was graduating from college. His father hoped to give his son a new car for his graduation present. Many of the other graduates were getting new cars from their dads, so this young man wanted one too. He had even picked out the car he wanted and told his father about it.
When the day of his graduation finally arrived, his dad shocked the young man when he did not hand him car keys, but rather, a brand-new Bible. The son was so outraged that he turned and walked away, leaving his father holding the Bible. In fact, he was so bitter, he cut off all contact with his father and never spoke to him again.
When the father died, the young man went to his house to prepare for the funeral and to help get his father’s affairs in order. There, sitting on a shelf, he noticed the Bible his father had given him for his graduation years before. He blew off the dust and, with tears in his eyes, opened it for the first time. Much to his astonishment, he found an envelope tucked inside the Bible with his name on it. Inside was a cashier’s check, made out to him, for the exact price of the car he had picked out. The check was dated the day of his graduation.
His father gave him the car he wanted, but he had to open the Bible to get it. He never realized what his father had done for him, because he did not open his Bible.
As sad as that story is, we essentially do the same thing when we never open the Book our heavenly Father gave to us. Inside this book is something far more valuable than a cashier’s check. The Bible contains the words of life. In it we find the truth about how to get to heaven.
What could be more valuable than that?
God’s second cure for heart trouble is this: We are going to heaven. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14:2). This is only true for the people who put their faith in Christ. The unbeliever does not have the promise of heaven. No matter what happens to you on this earth, it pales in comparison to this great hope.
As 2 Corinthians 4:17–18 tells us,
For our present troubles are small and won’t last
very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly
outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t
look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix
our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the
things we see now will soon be gone, but the things
we cannot see will last forever. (NLT)
Deep inside, we all long for this place we have never been. C. S. Lewis called this “the inconsolable longing.” He said, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.”5 We all have a longing for heaven, whetherwe know it or not.
Heaven is waiting for the children of God; you have His word on it. And there is only one thing that God cannot do, and that is lie. Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). And this is a key element of our comfort. When you have guests stay in your home, you prepare the room for them. You might know they like certain books or treats, so maybe you customize the room. You do this so that when your guests arrive, they will feel at home.
In the same way, God prepares a place for you.
I heard about an eighty-five-year-old couple who had been married for almost sixty years before they were killed in a car accident. They were in good health over the last ten years of their lives, mainly as a result of her interest in healthy food and exercise. When they reached the pearly gates, St. Peter took them to their mansion, which was decked out with a beautiful kitchen and a master suite, complete with a sauna and Jacuzzi. As they ooh’ed and aah’ed over their new residence, the man asked Peter how much all this would cost.
“It’s free,” Peter replied. “This is heaven.”
Next, they went outside to survey the championship golf course behind their new home. They would have golfing privileges every day, and each week, the course would change, allowing members to play one of the great golf courses on earth.
The man asked, “What are the green fees?” “This is heaven,” said Peter. “You play for free!”
Then, they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch with the finest cuisines of the world laid out.
“How much to eat?” asked the man.
“Don’t you understand yet? This is heaven,” Peter replied, withsome exasperation. “It’s free!”
“Well, where are the low-fat and low-cholesterol tables?” the
“That’s the best part,” Peter replied. “You can eat as much as you like of whatever you like, and you never get fat, and you never get sick. This is heaven!”
With that, the man threw down his hat, stomped on it, and screamed wildly. Both his wife and Peter tried to calm him down, asking what was wrong.
The man looked at his wife and said, “This is all your fault! If it weren’t for your blasted bran muffins, I could have been here ten years ago!”
I don’t believe that the description of mansions in heaven is literal in the sense of a Beverly Hills–type mansion. Rather, I think the mansions we hear spoken about in the Bible refer to the new bodies God will give to us when we get to heaven.
The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:1–2, “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing” (NLT).
Our hearts should not be troubled because His Word is true and we are going to heaven. God’s final cure for heart trouble is this: He is coming back for us. We read in John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” In our fallen world, we find relief for our troubled hearts in the promise that Jesus will come back to receive us unto Himself.
When General Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines in the early months of World War II, he fled Corregidor in apparent defeat. Upon reaching Australia, he sent back the now-famous declaration, “I shall return!” And he kept his promise. Three years later, he stood on Philippine soil and made his second historic statement, “I have returned!”
Jesus told us that He will come again, and someday, in the nottoo- distant future, He will set foot on planet earth once again and say, “I have returned.”
And it may be sooner than we think. The Lord Jesus will not merely send for us, but will come in person to escort us to HisFather’s house.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16–18 we read,
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven
with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and
with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ
will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain
shall be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always
be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another
with these words.
Notice that Jesus does not say that He will take us to Himself, rather He will “receive us” (John 14:3). It is not something that He will do against our will. He will return for those who are watching and waiting. Not just the place, heaven, but the person, Jesus, will be ours!
These three reasons, or three cures for heart trouble, that Jesus offered can comfort and strengthen you:
1. His Word is true.
2. We are going to heaven.
3. He is coming back for us.
These promises were made only to the children of God who have received Christ.
Jesus revealed these truths to His disciples with this somewhat mysterious statement: “‘And where I go you know, and the way you know’” (John 14:4). I think Jesus wanted them to ask what He meant. But Thomas was the only one bold enough to do so.
Thomas has been given the title “Doubting Thomas,” but he was really more of a skeptic. The doubter doubts, even when the facts are clear, while the skeptic looks carefully, wanting to see the truth for himself or herself. Thomas wasn’t one to let others do his thinking for him. He behaved more like “Honest Thomas” when he said, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5).
It seems to me that the disciples acted as though they understood when they did not. Thomas was honest enough to speak out and say, “But I don’t know where You are going!”
Aren’t you glad Thomas said that? Thomas didn’t understand and said so, causing Jesus to utter this incredible statement, one of His most famous and profound statements in all of Scripture. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas, but rather took his question as an opportunity to expand His revelation.
Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
This statement is one of the most, if not the most, controversial aspects of our faith. By believing this, we are saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. The majority of Americans today do not hold this belief.
But if you believe the words of Jesus and think and act biblically, then you must believe that Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross is the reason you will get to heaven.
As Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” And Acts 4:12 tells us, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Then in 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “But that is being so narrow-minded!” some would say. “As long as people are sincere in their beliefs, they can follow any path they want.”
What would you think of an airline pilot who announced just before takeoff, “Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to flight 293 bound for Honolulu. Our cruising altitude today will be thirty-two thousand feet, and we will be showing an in-flight movie. By the way, I am not sure about this whole fuel thing. I see the gauge is indicating that we don’t have enough fuel to reach our destination. But I feel good about this, so don’t panic.
“Also, I am not really using our navigation devices or any maps today, because I feel that is too narrow a mind-set. We’ll just flow with it, because after all, all roads lead to Hawaii. “One last thing, folks. Don’t worry, because I’m very sincere!”
All I would want to know at that point is, “How can I get off this plane? There is a psycho in the cockpit.” Of course, we know it is serious business to pilot a plane. Yet how much more serious is our eternal destiny?
God has the cure for your heart trouble. He has the answer to all your questions. He is the way for you to get to heaven. So, what do you need to do to know with certainty that you’re going there?
First, realize that you are a sinner. Every one of us has broken God’s commandments. The Bible says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). The Greek word translated as sin means “to fall short of a standard” or “to miss the mark.” We have all fallen short of God’s standards, because the Bible says, “Be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Who is perfect? Not one of us.
It also means no more excuses. Stop blaming your parents, addictive behavior, or someone or something else. Like one man in the Bible, you need to say, “God, be merciful to me!” (Luke 18:13).
Second, recognize that Jesus died on the cross for you. When the movie The Passion of the Christ was released, there was considerable controversy over who was responsible for the death of Jesus. Newsweek
magazine ran a cover article entitled “Who Killed Jesus?” The debate raged. Who was really responsible? Do we put the blame on the Romans? Do we put the blame on the Jewish people? I thought the debate was absurd, because I will tell you who killed Jesus: I did. You did. Our sins did. And more to the point, Jesus did not go to the cross against His will. He willingly went, because there was no other way to satisfy the demands of a righteous God, whom we offended. Nails did not hold Jesus to the cross of Calvary. Love did—love for you and love for me.
Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). No one forced Him to go to that cross. Christ willingly died for our sins.
Third, repent of your sin. The Bible says that God “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV). This is missing in many people’s so-called conversions. It is not enough to be sorry for doing something wrong. We must also be sorry enough to change our ways.
So if you want to get right with God, let go of your sins. You need to be willing to follow Him and do what He has called you to do.
Fourth, receive Christ into your life. Salvation comes not just by believing that He is the Son of God, but by receiving Him into your life. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). And John 1:12 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” You see, there has to come a moment when you say, “Lord, forgive me of my sin. Come into my life.” I can’t do that for you. Another Christian can’t do that for you. You have to say, “Lord, I need Your forgiveness.” You must receive Him.
Fifth, do it publicly. Jesus said, “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32). But He also said, “Whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:33). The point is this: If you want to be a true follower of Jesus, you need to do it in a public way.
Sixth, do it now. The Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2), reflecting the earlier command, “Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isa. 55:6).
The Lord is here with us right now. He is calling us to Himself. There are some of you who need to get right with God, and I am going to give you an opportunity to do that as we continue. There are some of you who have fallen away from the Lord and need to come back to Him. Later, I will give you an opportunity to return to Christ, if you haven’t already.
Permission line: ©2011 Greg Laurie. Let God Change Your Life published by David C Cook. Publisher permission required to reproduce. All right reserved.