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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!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Charisma House (June 5, 2012)
***Special thanks to Althea Thompson for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
If your life has suddenly gotten more difficult, you may be up for promotion with God.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is this happening to me?” Often when trouble comes, we wonder what we have done wrong. But in reality, it may be God’s preparation for the next blessing He has for you.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (June 5, 2012)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
The SELF TEST
'The Self 'Test gives believers an opportunity to look into the mirror of love and determine how they rate in com parison to Jesus, who is love personified. 'Love is not selfish or self-focused. Our Christian walk must be marked by a greater concern for others than ourselves. Every day we spend mired in self-centeredness is another day we miss out on the benefits of our spiritual inheritance.
It's FRUSTRATING FOR me as a pastor to pray for the people in my congregation to experience all the benefits of our spiritual inheritance and then not see those blessings mani fest in their lives oftentimes. I know the reason they are not walking in the fullness of what God has for them is because they're not mature enough to handle His blessings yet.
I have to remind myself that God is a good father and knows what is best for His children. I am a father, and I love my children with all my heart. But if I had decided to buy them brand-new cars the year my daughter turned ten, my older son turned eight, and my younger son turned four, I would have put them in danger. I’m sure they would have enjoyed having their own cars, but they weren’t mature enough to handle them. They likely would have been hurt or even killed had they tried to use the gifts they had been given.
When you were born again, God released many things to you. You may have felt greater peace, joy, and contentment. Perhaps He healed you of an addiction or freed you from crip- pling fear. But for all the blessings you received at salvation, there were other things that are part of your inheritance as a child of God that were not released to you. Our Father will be able to give those gifts to you only as you mature spiritually and demonstrate that you are ready to handle them.
We read in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; now that I have become a man, I am done with childish ways and have put them aside” (amp). When babies come out of the womb, they are concerned only with themselves. They don’t care if their parents had only two and a half hours of sleep that night. When they’re ready to eat, they want to eat—and they will cry until someone feeds them.
Babies don’t care if there’s an important game on TV. If they’re wet, they want to be changed—and they don’t want to wait for a commercial. From the moment babies are born, they are self-centered, and children will remain that way until you, as their parent, teach them to be considerate of others. One of the major signs that a child is growing up is when he stops acting out of only self-interest and starts acting in love.
First Corinthians 13 tells us, “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices when- ever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” (vv. 4–8, nlt). As we mature spiritually, we grow in love; and as we grow in love, we grow in spiritual maturity—which is why love is the key to passing The Self Test.
The Self Test gives believers an opportunity to look into the mirror of love and determine how they rate in comparison to Jesus, who is love personified. Love is not selfish or self- focused. Our Christian walk must be marked by a greater con- cern for others than ourselves. Every day we spend mired in self-centeredness is another day we miss out on the benefits of our spiritual inheritance.
The Bible says that our access to our inheritance changes as we mature: “Now what I mean is that as long as the inheritor (heir) is a child and under age, he does not differ from a slave, although he is the master of all the estate” (Gal. 4:1, amp). In other words, if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed and an heir according to the promise God made to Abraham. But heirs don’t receive all the benefits of their inheritance until they grow up enough to show they have the maturity to handle them.
When my son, Kaden, was three years old and getting ready for the K-3 program at our church’s school, he had to go through the process of getting potty trained. Every time he would successfully go to the restroom, he would come out dancing and shouting, “I’m going to K-3!”
In the weeks leading up to the first day of school, Kaden would tell everybody, “I’m going to school! I’m going to school! I’m going to school!” He woke up on the first day of school extremely excited: “I’m going to school!” It was the same the second day. But I don’t think he factored in his mind that this would continue every day of the week.
On about the fourth or fifth day of school, my wife went to wake Kaden up, and he didn’t want to get out of bed. He was no longer excited about K-3. “Kaden, don’t you want to go to school?”
“No,” he replied. His eyes were still closed.
“No?” she said. “Come on, Kaden. Don’t you want to go to school?”
“Where do you want to go?” “Disney World!”
Many times that’s how it is in our lives. We cry out to God: “Oh, Lord, use me! I’m available to be used by You. Grow me up, Lord. Send me, Lord. Work through me, Lord.” Then, as soon as He starts the process of growing us up and getting us ready to be used, we say, “I want to go to Disney World, Lord!” God does not wait around for people who are not ready to mature. God has a mission to complete. Time is short. He doesn’t have time to babysit and placate people who don’t really want to grow up. God is ready to use those who are willing to empty themselves out and say, “Lord, whatever You want to do through me, I’m open to being used.”
In order to grow up enough to be ready for God’s use, you have to empty yourself out and put some of your own plans and thoughts on the shelf. You must be willing to be uncom- fortable and go through some things. If you expect to be used by God, you can’t be the type of person who is ready to cry and give up at the first sign of trouble.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted from God; for God is incapable of being tempted by [what is] evil and He Himself tempts no one” (James 1:13, amp). Occasionally you will find yourself in tests and trials because you allowed your desire to obtain or accomplish something to override what God had planned for you in that season of your life. In fact, if you find yourself pursuing a variety of personal interests instead of what God has ordained for you, you may find your- self experiencing some tests you wouldn’t have had to deal with if you’d simply followed the will of God.
A big part of The Self Test is learning how to say no. You must constantly say no to what your flesh wants to do and say yes to the will of God. This includes the obvious sins— fornication, cursing, murder, cheating, stealing—as well as some things that are not necessarily categorized as a sin. It may not be wrong to go back to school or pursue a
business venture, but if that is not God’s will for you right now, you will have to say no. There are some things that are good and that God does want you to pursue, but it may not be His will for you to go after them now. So saying no can mean you’re going to submit to what God wants for you in that season of your life instead of what you want for yourself.
For example, I’ve known people who wanted a new house so badly they were willing to pursue it at all costs. They refused to give financially to God so they could purchase the home, and they ignored common sense. They would add up every dime from the husband’s and the wife’s income, then consider about 286 banks in search of a lender willing to manipulate the nu bers to give them a loan at some ridiculous interest rate.
They’d be “approved” all right, but the problem is, they manipulated the system to get something God really didn’t want them to have just yet. Consequently there would be no grace from God to help pay for that house, and they’d end up in a financial jam every month. They’d always have more month than money. This would also put them in a spiritual dilemma. They’d have to decide, “Do I pay this house note, or do I give to God?”
Where did this big mess come from? Self-interest. They were saying, “I want this house right now. I deserve this house right now.” Again, it’s not that God doesn’t want us to have a house—He wants us to have all good things to enjoy—but there’s a right time and a right way for everything. In like manner I’ve seen people pursue cars, clothes, boats, jobs, and many other things at any cost. They will go into debt, maxing out their credit cards, yet not have anything to show for it because everything they bought had no genuine value. Most of us know we must seek God about the big stuff like discovering what He called us to do. But sometimes we fail to
realize God wants us to get rid of all of our self-interest, even in the small things. The Bible says, “In all your ways, know, recognize, and acknowledge Him” (Prov. 3:6, amp).
Everything we have must be dedicated to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And when He comes knocking on our door, instructing us to use what we have for the kingdom or to give it away, we must be ready to release it immediately. We can’t hold on to anything God has put in our hands; we must be willing to give it away for kingdom purposes. If we have a gift, talent, or resource in our hands and we won’t use it to advance the kingdom, that is a clear sign that we are allowing our self-interest to determine our actions instead of God.
THe fAST WAY OuT
Self-interest and self-pursuit have destroyed many things God intended to be blessings in our lives. A lot of marriages have broken up because of selfishness. Spouses became so
consumed with what they wanted that they ignored the needs of their partner. Parents have become estranged from their children because they put their dreams and ambitions over the needs of their family.
We may wonder, “How could that have happened?” But it could happen to any of us if we allow our own selfish desires to override what God wants done in our lives. We can pass The Self Test, Jesus tells us, when we stop being so focused on our own needs.
Therefore I tell you, stop being perpetually uneasy (anxious and worried) about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink; or about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life greater [in quality] than food, and the body [far above and more excellent] than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father keeps feeding them. Are you not worth much more than they?
And who of you by worrying and being anxious can add one unit of measure (cubit) to his stature or to the span of his life? And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his magnificence (excel- lence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear? For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all. But seek (aim at and
strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.
—Matthew 6:25–33, amp
God doesn’t want us living with a self-focused mentality. He tells us, “Don’t even take any thought about what you’re going to eat. Don’t be consumed with concerns about what you’re going to wear. Don’t worry about what you’re going to drive or where you’re going to live.” People of this world often become concerned about what they have on, or impressing somebody with the car they drive, or feeling good about themselves because they live in a certain neighborhood. But the moment we get consumed with our desires, we’ve flunked The Self Test. Remember, if we flunk this test, we’re going to have to take it all over again.
The fastest way to get out of the kindergarten level of spiri- tual maturity is to do what Jesus says: “Seek first the kingdom of God.” Stop focusing on what you need or want. Take your requests to the throne of God. Pray about it and then leave it at the altar. Get busy doing what the Lord told you to do. Then you’ll pass The Self Test and get promoted to the next assignment. Jesus operated this way. He was not self-focused. He was not consumed with self-interest. Instead, He always had the plan of God on His mind, which was to minister to other people. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
I wonder what would happen if more believers were con- sumed with doing the will of God more than they were with fulfilling their own desires. What if more Christians put ministering to others before their personal schedules? What if they made ministry a priority instead of squeezing it in after they did everything for themselves? Could it be that your choice whether to help at your local church and give some of your personal time is your Self Test? Could it be that God really wants to show you that your ser-
vice to the kingdom is more important than what you want to
POWeR fOR PROMOTION
It’s frustrating to see people continually come to church and just shout about inheriting the promises of God. It’s time for them to begin receiving the promises! It’s not enough to say riches are stored up for the just. It’s time for the just to start possessing the riches of their inheritance in Christ—and that won’t happen until they pass The Self Test.
Remember, God won’t just throw you in the game. He’ll wait until your due season. It could be that failing to pass The Self Test has disqualified you for promotion. If you’re too good to do the small and humbling jobs God might place on your heart to do—such as helping to clean the church or serving as a parking attendant—then maybe you’re not ready to preach from the pulpit either.
Are you going to put your own desires ahead of the will of God? Are you going to let what you want to do, what you feel, what you’re going through become more important than what God has ordained for your life right now? If so, that might mean you’re failing The Self Test. Fortunately, God gives us the grace—the supernatural power—we need to overcome our selfishness.
But He gives us more and more grace (power of the Holy Spirit, to meet this evil tendency and all others fully). That is why He says, God sets Himself against the proud and haughty, but gives grace [continually] to the lowly (those who are humble enough to receive it). —James 4:6, amp
The word more in this verse is used in the continual sense: “He gives us more and more and more and more of the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to fully meet this evil tendency.” What evil tendency is the Word of God speaking of? It’s the tendency to become self-focused. There is a grace God gives that will allow you to not focus on you.
Are you a selfish person? To find out, don’t go look at your- self in the mirror and say, “Self, dost thou thinketh thou art a selfish person?” The best way to know if you come across as selfish is to ask the people around you. Ask your family mem-bers, your friends, and your coworkers. They will tell you.
If you are a selfish person, you cannot just say, “Well, I’m going to stop being selfish.” You have to trust God to give you what you need to conquer this evil tendency. Then, when selfish tendencies try to rise up, this grace from God will manifest, empowering you to focus on somebody else’s need instead of your own.
But you have to be willing to yield to that grace because the Bible says it comes only on the humble. You must be willing to search your own heart and then yield to the power of God so He can help you.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. —Philippians 2:3–7
Notice the attitude portrayed here. This passage is basically saying, “Don’t get consumed with your own needs, but become consumed with the needs of others.” When you pass The Self Test, it means you’ve stopped focusing on yourself and you’ve taken on the attitude of a servant. A servant is not interested in getting credit. A servant doesn’t care if he receives a pat on the back.
A bona fide servant is happy just knowing he was able to be a blessing to the person he was serving. Ultimately, the One we are serving is God Almighty. Take on the heart of a true servant of God, and you will find The Self Test an easy one to pass every time.