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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:
Worthy Publishing; Reprint edition (July 16, 2013)
***Special thanks to Leeanna Case of Worthy Publishing for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Visit the author's website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
List Price: $11.22
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Worthy Publishing; Reprint edition (July 16, 2013)
AND NOW...THE EXCERPT:
Know Your EnEmY
a Call to the ChurCh
On the afternoon of February 5, 2009, I was in Guatemala City, enjoying a meal with friends and colleagues at the home of Roberto Lopez, my spiritual son. We were rejoicing over what had happened the night before at the stadium where I had preached. Thousands had responded to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ, streaming down to the front from their seats all over the stadium. It was no wonder that the next day, we were all in a lighthearted mood, laughing and talking loudly.
Then the phone rang.
Pastor Bobby Cruz Jr. (no blood relation to me) answered it and let me know that the call was from my home office in Colorado. Bobby started joking on the phone with my assistant, Karen Robinson, but then his face fell and he quickly carried the phone into another room.
Right then I knew something was wrong.
When Bobby came back a few minutes later, his face was grave. “You’d better call your nephew Tato,” he told me. Tato is the son of my younger brother Rafael in Puerto Rico.
“Call my nephew? For what?” I asked. Then I started crying. “Is my brother dead?” Rafael had recently undergone a heart opera- tion, and I was sure he had died.
Bobby started crying, too, and I could tell his heart was heavy with the news he had been given. But as I found out later, Karen had emphasized to him that I should get the facts straight from my nephew, because the information she had received might not be accurate.
“Call Tato,” Bobby repeated.
So I did. It took awhile to get through to my nephew, and in my heart I was already grieving Rafael, but when Tato finally came on the line, he said it was my older brother Frank who had died.
Frank had been murdered.
Frank was four years older than me. He preceded me to New York back in the 1950s, and it was his apartment I lived in when I first arrived in that city. He became a Christian not long after I did, going on to spend forty-two years as a pastor in New York and Puerto Rico. When he could have been retiring and taking it easy, he instead opened a rehab center in our hometown of Las Piedras, Puerto Rico. Rock Christian Center was very success- ful at weaning addicts off drugs and showing them a better way through Jesus.
As I learned in time, it was one of the addicts connected with the rehab center who killed Frank. His name is Jomar Otero, and he was twenty-two at the time of the murder.
Some months earlier, Frank had tried to help Otero and had often spoken to him about the Lord. But the young man had dropped out of the drug rehab program. Then, on the evening of February 4, this young man suddenly showed up at the home of my brother and his wife, Mary. Otero said his car had run out of gas nearby.
Unbelievably, Otero spent awhile sitting in Frank and Mary’s home and talking with them about the Bible. There he was, with a terrible plan in his mind for Frank, and he was casually discuss- ing Jesus! It reminds me of Judas sharing the Last Supper with the Lord.
Finally Otero asked Frank to take him to get more gas. Mary warned Frank to be careful. The streets of their neighborhood can be dangerous at night, and driving around with a young man like Otero wouldn’t make them any less dangerous. But for most of his seventy-four years Frank had tried to help people, and on this evening, the last of his life, he was still trying to help, thinking of others to his last breath.
What seems to have happened that night is this: Someone else, presumably a friend of Otero’s, got into the car at some point. The two young men took Frank to a secluded location, beat him, then grabbed his belt and choked him to death with it. Then they threw his body into the trunk and used his car in a couple of robberies. They wanted to get money to buy drugs.
Police found Frank’s car abandoned near a river early the next morning. My brother’s body was still in the blood-soaked trunk, his face unrecognizable from the beating he’d taken as well as from the decomposition that was already under way in the intense Puerto Rican heat. It took forensic scientists to officially identify the body later that day. Only then did the awful news make its way to me in Guatemala via Colorado.
Was it necessary for Otero and his presumed accomplice to kidnap my brother and kill him in order to carry out their rob- beries? Of course not. They could have stolen a car anywhere, with much less trouble and risk. Even if you take into account their drug-addled thinking, there is nothing reasonable about what they did. It’s a sad truth, but the only reasonable explanation for my brother’s brutal murder is this: the devil deceived these young men into taking out this servant of God for him.
Our family had turned our back on the devil, whom we previ- ously served. For many years, we had been doing our best to take ground from him for the sake of Christ. And so—without mini- mizing the responsibility of the young men who committed the murder—I believe that my brother’s death was a case of the devil lashing out at us. Unexpectedly. And oh so painfully.
A former gang member, I had flirted with danger and tempted death many times. I kept thinking that if a murder was going to happen to anybody in the family, it should have been me, not Frank. It seemed incredible to me that my gentle, loving brother— the soft-spoken peacemaker in our family—would have his life ended for him like this, a casualty of spiritual and earthly violence. But it was true. It had really happened.
The press called my brother a martyr, and I believe they were right about that. He won many people to Christ in life, and he has won—and is still winning—more to Christ through his death. But this truth does only so much to make his loss easier to bear for those of us who loved him.
Dear, wonderful Frank. We played together as boys. We shared an apartment as young men. We served God side by side. We kept in touch down through the years, and our families remained close. He was my brother. And now he was gone.
Score one for the dark side.
thirst for revenge
Here’s another sad truth. Evil is not only out there. It’s also in here. It’s in our hearts. Even though we have been redeemed, our sinful nature is all too ready to cooperate with any scheme the devil might have up his sleeve. I was reminded of this truth when I returned to Puerto Rico later in the year to attend the court hearing for my brother’s killer.
While violence is common in my beloved homeland of Puerto
Rico, the killing of an old man who was also a pastor outraged the community. The mayor himself got involved in expediting efforts to find the killer. And it wasn’t long before Jomar Otero was taken into custody and brought to trial. (His accomplice, if indeed there was one, has not yet been brought to justice.)
And now I must confess to you that, before the hearing, I was struggling mightily with my sinful nature.
The pain of my grief was unbelievable, almost unbearable. It hurt so much! And not surprisingly, I couldn’t sleep the night before the hearing. If it had been the old days—my gang days—I could have killed Otero without thinking twice about it. Now I wasn’t seriously thinking about taking such extreme measures. But I was struggling with my human nature, feeling hate and wanting deep inside to get some kind of revenge. Thankfully, though, Jesus has control of our human nature!
The next morning, I fell into the arms of my nephew Tato and told him about the thoughts of revenge going through my mind. Three years earlier, God had used me in bringing Tato to faith (a story to be told in a future chapter). And now Tato was saying to me, “Uncle, you cannot do this. You have too much to lose. You have a God of justice. You have your family and your reputation. You must forgive.”
I knew he was right. I have often preached that when you have been hurt by others, forgiveness is a choice you have to make for your own spiritual well-being. And when we forgive, we give up our right to hurt somebody. We cannot retaliate.
Not long after, I admitted to interviewers from the secular media in Puerto Rico that I had been seriously contemplating how I could harm the man who had murdered my brother. But I also told them that, on the day I talked to Tato, I forgave Jomar Otero. And in fact, the same is true for everyone in my family—Frank’s widow, my other brothers, my sister, my nephews and nieces, all of us. We have all forgiven this young man. This testimony on TV made a big impact throughout Puerto Rico.
The judge ordered Otero to life in prison without the possibil- ity of parole. He is in isolation so that none of the other prisoners will kill him for murdering a community leader. If I get a chance to speak to Jomar in prison (and I hope I do), I will tell him that I forgive him. And I will tell him that Jesus wants to forgive him too. It’s what Frank would want.
So, no, I’m not going to take revenge against my brother’s killer. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to strike back against the real enemy. And who is that, again? The apostle Paul said it: “Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”1
My brother’s blood cries out to me to tell the world about the danger of the evil that’s afoot in the world. In fact, the blood of allthose harmed by Satan and his demons cries out for the truth to be known.
Satan must be unmasked. He is not a harmless caricature or a myth left over from humanity’s primitive past. He’s not a symbol of human wrongdoing. He’s not the personification of some gen- eralized force. He’s a real being—and the most awful one we could imagine. A hopeless case.
the Devil has no Mother
There is an old Spanish saying I remember well from my days as a child in Puerto Rico. It’s something adults would often say when referring to a boy who seemed bent on evil and destruction—a child who lived in rebellion against authority. People would say, “Ese hombre no tiene madre.” Translated, this phrase means, “This guy has no mother.” I remember the phrase well . . . because adults would often use it when referring to me. In other words, I was a lost cause!
When I was a young man, my heart was filled with evil and rebellion. I ran amok in the streets of Las Piedras and then New York, looking for trouble and finding it around every corner. I was bent on destruction, constantly revolting against authority. And I knew what the people of my neighborhood thought of me—I could see the disdain in their eyes. To my face, they cowered in fear. But behind my back, they whispered among themselves, “Ese hombre no tiene madre.” I was like a child who had no mother.
The devil has that same problem: he has no mother. He’s hope- less. He lacks any soft spot. He roams the earth with nothing but hate in his heart, despising all that is good and wholesome, schem- ing to warp and destroy everything that God has made. His being is rotten to the core.
This is our true enemy.
Ese hombre no tiene madre.
My friend, none of us is safe from attack by the devil and his forces. And it’s time we realized it.
I’ve been an evangelist for more than half a century now. During that time, by God’s grace, I’ve visited numerous countries, trav- eled hundreds of thousands of miles, and spoken before millions of people. And as you might guess, I’ve noticed many changes taking place.
One of the most disturbing trends I’ve noticed within the Church in recent years is a growing blindness toward the reality of the devil and the enormity of the threat he poses. It seems that many of us have forgotten that we have an enemy, one who hates us and would love to see us destroyed.
Paul said that he and other early Christians would not be outwit- ted by the devil, because they were “not unaware of his schemes.”2
But that’s no longer true of us. We are unaware. We’re focused on wars taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’ve forgot- ten the more important war that’s going on in the spiritual realm. Mesmerized by world events and personal sagas, we’re desensitized to the devil. And as a result, we’re apathetic. Distracted. Naive. Gullible. Hardly a threat to the devil and his wicked plans.
This book is a message—no, a shout—to the Church: Wake up! The devil is real and active in this world, and we’d better under- stand what he’s doing before it’s too late. We need knowledge of his power, as well as of the even greater power for good that is available to us, if we are to serve God faithfully as soldiers in the spiritual war that’s going on. And if we don’t get that knowledge in time, then I fear that the devil may take control all over the world. He’s gone far enough as it is.
In this book we’ll take a deep and honest look into the tactics of the devil and see how evil works. I’m not the ultimate authority on the subject, but I’ve had more experience with the evil one than most, and I feel called to warn and educate the body of believers. Because of that, I plan to pull no punches. I’m going to be com- pletely honest and transparent with you regarding the things I’ve seen and experienced. It’s information you’ve got to have.
Maybe you’ve heard accusing words in your mind.
Maybe you’ve struggled again and again with temptation. Maybe you’ve been gullible toward devilish lies.
Maybe you’ve seen disturbing manifestations of evil. Maybe you’re just curious about the topic of the devil. Whatever your experiences related to personal evil, this
book will explain to you what it means—and what you can do about it.
I wish I could tell you that if you read this book, you will be able to escape all the devil’s attacks and live in blissful freedom from harm. But it doesn’t work that way. Such bliss is to come for us only in heaven. In this world there is no place to run away from the spiritual war taking place. There are no noncombatants, whether you are a believer or not.
But I can assure you that knowing the demonic threat that faces you will make you better prepared to fight. In The Devil Has No Mother, you will learn the limitations of the devil’s influence. You will gain confidence in the Lord’s ability to defeat evil. And you will learn how to take up the weapons God gives you to fight in his name.
Some of the stories you are about to read about the devil may make you uncomfortable, even scare you. But I encourage you to stay with me. Don’t stop reading. This is a message God wants you to hear.
Also, keep in mind that we’re not just going to talk about the devil; we’re also going to discuss God’s magnificent glory and some of the incredible things he has done in my life and in the lives of others. You’ll be both informed and encouraged by these stories. The overriding message of this book is one of confidence and reas- surance. The devil has no mother, but we have a heavenly Father who gives us the victory as we continue to trust in him.
As you read, please know that I’ve already been in prayer for you, your family, and your walk with God. I’ve prayed that he will reveal his power in you. Therefore, I’m confident that as you call on the name of Jesus Christ and the power of his blood, the demons will tremble before you. And God will receive all the glory.
Now it’s time to move on. We have to understand more about our enemy. Who is the devil? Where did he come from? How did he get to be “motherless,” the central player and chief instigator of evil?
For those answers, we must go back in time—back even before the creation of the earth. Back to the origin of the spiritual conflict that has since caught up my brother Frank, me . . . and you.