Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Art of the Follower, Using the Lessons of Jesus to Be the Follower God Wants Us to Be - by Dag Heward-Mills

Tour Date:  June 28

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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:

Carpenters Son Publishing (June 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


 As the author of more than 75 books distributed worldwide, Pastor and Medical Doctor, Dag Heward-Mills also leads a worldwide ministry and presides as Bishop of Lighthouse Chapel International, with almost 1,300 churches spread across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Australia, including 63 churches in 24 U.S. states.  Heward-Mills holds highly-successful evangelistic outreaches throughout Africa and other emerging countries and leads a myriad of other endeavors, including a Medical Missions Team, Bible training centers, schools, a hospital, an orphanage, church leader conferences, a host of media outlets including an on-line television site and more.

Visit the author's website.


Some twenty centuries ago, Peter and his brother Andrew were the first to respond when they heard Jesus say, "Come, follow me ..." Since that day, millions have answered that same noble call to follow in his steps.

However, in today's Christian culture of shallow commitments and half-hearted discipleship, where many believers deem it their right to choose when, where and how far they will follow, unconditional obedience is often perceived as a legalistic and lifeless proposition. In his newest book, "The Art of the Follower" (summer 2013), Dag Heward-Mills, world-renowned pastor, author and evangelist, assures readers of the joys of unbridled pursuit of God and encourages them to follow from a sincere heart of gratitude for his great grace and love.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Carpenters Son Publishing (June 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0988396270
ISBN-13: 978-0988396272



Following is Eternally Significant


At first glance the practice appears innocent and simple enough.

. . safe . . . and usually rewarding. But, beware my friend! Following is actually a very powerful practice . . . frequently risky . . . sometimes life-threatening . . . and always consequential.

In everyday language we often hear and speak about following.  Notice these common expressions:

Follow the leader
You’re following too close Just follow me!
Don’t follow me. I’m lost too! (bumper sticker) Follow your nose
She/he has quite a following Follow the money
Follow directions
I think I’m being followed I was just following orders
Follow-up Follow-through

So, who are you following? I don’t mean breaking news, a favourite performer or sports team. I’m asking about the beliefs you follow -- the ones that shape your personal values and attitudes. What defines the true significance of your life? Who do you look to for guidance? Which teacher has the answers that satisfy your soul? Whether intentionally or unknowingly, everyone is following someone.

If we’re truthful, the first answer is usually “me.”  I follow me! Indeed, every one of us begins in life following ourselves, our own wants, our desires, our personal passions. Eventually, most of us also notice the value in altruistic efforts that bless others. But, truth be told, without the “feel good” rewards of these activities, we eventually struggle to sustain them. For, at our core we are all sons of Adam and products of “the Fall.” Our carnal hearts march to the drumbeat of “self” -- alienated from the Maker who created us to know and enjoy an intimate and personal relationship with Him. It is our untamed “me” -- our selfish rebellion -- that bars us from this righteous pleasure.

Paul declares in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no not one.” The prophet Isaiah penned, “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Fortunately, he prophetically adds the solution: “but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus said of himself in Matthew 20:28, “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” You may have recited from your childhood the familiar words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

This promise of salvation -- the redemption opportunity each of us needs so badly -- was fulfilled in the life and death of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. This salvation gift from God himself becomes real for you when you receive it. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Salvation cannot be acquired by working diligently to imitate Christ. Ephesians 2:8-10 instructs us, “For it is by grace [unmerited favor] you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God pre- pared in advance for us to do.”  When correctly understood, this amazing redemption and new standing with God daily motivates our love and obedience to Jesus Christ.

The true Christian believer “follows” Jesus Christ. And following him is serious business -- a life-long commitment to being his disciple as a mature follower. Some twenty centuries ago, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew were the first to hear and respond when Jesus said, “Come, follow me . . .” (Matthew 4:19).

Since that day, thousands of millions have followed their example -- heeding Christ’s eternity-changing invitation to “Follow Me!” Jesus is the only worthy one to follow because he is the Christ, the only begotten of the Father and the only Saviour of all mankind.

Over the next five chapters, I pray your mind will be illuminated and your heart will thrill to a deeper understanding of the Art of the Follower.


What Is The Art of Following?

Throughout your Christian journey, many leaders will request your allegiance. Always the first question you must ask is, “But, who are you following?” If, upon examination, that leader’s life validates that he or she is truly following Jesus, then you may follow safely. However, one must never lose sight of the truth that only Jesus Christ can forgive your sins and one-day present you faultless before the Father. So, first and always, follow Jesus!

Defining The Art Of Following

• The art of following is the art of copying

• The art of emulating someone

• The art of imitating something

• The art of trying to be like someone

• The art of reproduction

• The art of cloning

• The art of becoming a double

• The art of becoming a twin

• The art of catching up

• The art of surging forward

Success Follows Following

Children naturally and instinctively employ the art of following. By copying, children surge forward with leaps and bounds -- learning to speak complex languages in very short periods of time. Following, copying or emulating accomplishes almost all the learning younger children do.

Following, however, isn’t just a personal practice of individuals. Many nations -- rich for centuries -- became so by following. Europe and America largely used the art of following to become among the oldest and most prosperous nations in the world. Through emulation, each European country became like their neighbours and developed into an almost identical wealthy state. Their roads, buildings, and other infrastructures are similar. Their banking and economic systems are almost identical. Their military capabilities match. The lifestyles of the people and the conditions of living are similar in each of these countries. Indeed, through emulation, the nations caught up with neighbours -- refusing to be left behind in the race for prosperity.

Similarly, nations more recently rich also employed following. Taiwan, China, and Korea are well known for their ability to follow and copy. Indeed, most nations that have become wealthy in the last fifty years are masters at the art of following. These wealthy nations are well known for their ability to copy. Indeed, many of their products are clearly imitations. They produced cars that were virtually exact replicas of well-known European models. The Koreans are not embarrassed by modelling their Daewoo cars after Opel, and the Ssangyong after Mercedes Benz and the Hyundai after Toyota. Through their shameless copying, they quickly caught up and surged forward to become leading carmakers.

In almost every field of technology and endeavour, they have caught up and surged forward, creating wealth that others could only dream of. Those who were ashamed to copy could only stand by as the masters of copying surged ahead to become millionaires and billionaires.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Used the Art of Following

Jesus, too, used the art of following to transform illiterate fishermen into leaders and managers of a worldwide movement. If the Son of God would use the art of following as His method of training, it must be the highest and most superior method of learning, training and teaching.

The art of following is the art of imitating and copying someone. The art of following is the art of becoming like the person you admire. The art of following is the art of becoming a replica of a person that is ahead of you. Through the careful and thoughtful use of the art of following, you will be able to catch up and surge forward in your life and your ministry. Even more importantly, you will become a wiser, more mature, more passion- ate, and more effective disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lock, Stock, and Over a Barrel by Melody Carlson

Tour Date: June 27, 2013

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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:

B&H Books (June 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Laurel Teague for sending me a review copy.***


Melody Carlson has written around 200 books for teens, women and children. That's a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a "storyteller." Her books range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She's won a number of awards (including the Rita and Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.

Visit the author's website.


With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.

And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (June 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1433679302
ISBN-13: 978-1433679308


When Daphne Ballinger graduated top of her class with her degree in journalism, in the memorable year of 2000, she had promptly moved to the city to launch her illustrious career writing for The New York Times. And why not dream big? Because really, how many grads landed such an impressive job straight out of college?

Her plan had been to work hard and quickly scale the ladder to success. By thirty she would have a corner office with a window overlooking the river as well as an apartment on the west side. By her midthirties, she would have published her first book. But similar to the plans of mice and men, Daphne’s best-laid schemes had gone awry.

She stuffed a worn pair of brown Prada pumps into her Hermès bag (splurges she’d indulged in back when she still believed you should dress for the job/life you wanted). Then she sat down to put on her comfy-yet-unfashionable white sneakers. After tying the first shoe, she sat up straight and looked around the messy apartment.

Daphne knew it was cliché but, on gloomy days like today, it truly did feel like the walls were closing in on her. Most of the time, she could overlook the crowded space. She could walk right past piles of papers and miscellaneous pieces of clothing and empty take-out boxes . . . and not even notice. But this morning, the apartment actually seemed to stink. When was the last time they’d really cleaned this place?

She shared this three-bedroom apartment with Greta and Shelby. And in previous years Greta, the lease owner, had always proclaimed April as spring-cleaning month. But it was already mid-May and no one had lifted a finger. And Greta, obsessed with a new job promotion, hadn’t complained once. Daphne’s gaze skimmed over gritty windows, dingy curtains, dust-covered surfaces, piles of clutter, sun-faded carpet. . . . How had she stayed here so long?

“I can’t promise to be here more than a year,” Daphne had informed Greta Phillips when she first moved to the city right after graduation.

A coworker at The Times had tipped off Daphne about a friend looking for a third roommate for an apartment in Brooklyn. And although the location was lackluster, it was near the subway and the rent was affordable. Besides, it would just be a temporary stop—the bottom rung on her ladder to success—or so she had naively believed.

“And after a year?” Greta had asked Daphne with a single arched brow.

Daphne simply smiled . . . perhaps a bit smugly upon reflection. “Oh, I plan to move into my own place by then.”

“Your own place?” Greta seemed humored by this declaration. “Really?”

“Oh yes. This is just the first step for me.”

“Well, I still need you to sign a one-year lease. After that, we’ll see.”

Daphne had hesitantly signed that “confining”  lease, wondering how Greta would react if she was forced to break the contract before the year was up. Although numerous other roommates had come and gone during the next thirteen years, climbing their own ladders to success, Daphne had stayed . . . and stayed . . . and stayed. Remembering the arrogant assumptions of her youth was embarrassing.

“Hey, Daphne,” Shelby called out cheerfully. Shelby was the most recent roommate, less than six months ago she’d moved here straight from her family’s Connecticut home. “I’m heading out early this morning. So you’ll have to put Oliver in the bathroom. Okay?”

Daphne looked over to see Shelby looking sparkly and stylish as she opened a golden shoe box. After tossing the lid, tissue paper, and red shoe bags aside, Shelby extracted a dark-colored shoe with a sole that flashed like a stoplight. Shelby slipped on the first high-heeled pump, pointing her toe to admire the sleek black patent leather. “Classy, huh?”

“Another pair of Louboutins?” Daphne frowned, knowing she probably sounded like somebody’s mother. But really, Shelby couldn’t afford such extravagances.

“Yes. Can you believe it?” Shelby giggled. “I think I’m going to need a twelve-step program before long.”

“Or a raise.”

Shelby waved a hand, hopping on one foot as she tugged on the other shoe. “I’d rather settle for a nice, big diamond.”  Shelby was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, and sometimes Daphne worried that the pretty young woman had seen How to Marry a Millionaire one time too many.

“So how is that working for you?” Daphne knew Shelby had been flirting with her boss’s son for the past several weeks. She also knew the boss’s son had recently divorced his second wife.

Shelby stood up straight, pushing her short, sassy blond hair back into place with a confident-looking grin. “As it turns out, John Junior is taking me to Club 21.”

“21?” Daphne was impressed. The whole time she’d been in New York, she’d only been there once. And here Shelby was going after just a few months. This girl worked fast.

“Yes. I told John Junior that I’d been dying to go there ever since I moved to the city. And we’re going there tonight. Can you believe it?”

“Can you believe it” was Shelby’s favorite expression and sometimes, after hearing it a few dozen times in the course of an evening, Daphne sometimes wanted to gag the girl. “That’s wonderful, Shelby.” She stood and smiled. “I hope you and John Junior have a lovely time.” Did Shelby really call him John Junior—to his face?

“Oh, we will.” Shelby reached for her hot pink umbrella, holding it in front of her like a scepter. “The weatherman predicted showers this morning. So don’t forget your umbrella.”

“I hope the rain doesn’t ruin your pretty new shoes.”

“No worries.” Shelby shrugged. “John Junior is picking me up in his car this morning.”

“He’s driving you into Manhattan at this time of day?”

“No, silly, that would be insane. He’s giving me a ride out to his parents’ home in the Hamptons. John Senior is working at home today, so I’ll be working there too.”

“Oh . . .” Daphne nodded. That explained the new shoes, stylish suit, perfect hair. Shelby was out to impress Mrs. John Senior. “Well, have a good day.”

“Oh, I’m sure I will.” Shelby opened the door to peek out. “There he is now—right on time. You should see his car, Daphne.” She stepped outside, then looked back in. “Don’t forget to put Oliver in the bathroom.”

Daphne went over to the front window, watching as Shelby skipped down the cement stairs in her new shoes, swinging her bright umbrella in time with each step. Sometimes it was as if Shelby were starring in her own movie. She paused midway down the steps, waving to the man who was just getting out of the silver Jaguar in front of their building. From her vantage point, Daphne could see the balding patch on the top of the man’s dark hair, and for some pathetic reason this comforted her.

Still, as she stepped away from her voyeurism, she didn’t wish ill for young Shelby. If John Junior was truly a nice guy, she hoped he would produce a diamond . . . in due time. Daphne hadn’t known Shelby long, but she knew the old-fashioned girl dreamed of a big white wedding and a houseful of kids. It was sweet, really.

“Oliver,” Daphne called out as she grabbed a yogurt carton from the fridge. “Here, kitty-kitty.” She reached into Greta’s bag of kitty treats, singing out enticingly. “Here’s a treat for you, Oliver. Here, kitty-kitty.”

She was not fond of Greta’s fat gray cat and, unfortunately, Oliver seemed to sense this. Still, she kept her voice sugary as she walked around calling for him, “Come on, Oliver, come get your yummy-yummy kitty treat.”

She eventually found him hunkered down in Greta’s bedroom with a guilty expression, but if he was doing something he shouldn’t, Daphne did not want to know. She had learned the hard way to keep her own bedroom door closed. For some twisted reason Oliver sometimes preferred a nice soft bed to his smelly litter box in the bathroom.

“There you are, you darling little scoundrel,” she said in a saccharine tone. As he looked up, she curled her arm around his hefty midsection. “Got you.” Then she quickly packed him off to the bathroom, tossing in the treat with him behind it. “Have a good day, you spoiled fat cat.” Daphne closed the door firmly. It wasn’t that she disliked cats in general. She just didn’t care much for Oliver.

By the time Daphne locked up the apartment and was on her way to the subway, it was already starting to rain. And despite Shelby’s reminder, Daphne had set off without her umbrella and there wasn’t time to run back and get it now. Consequently, as the clouds opened up and let loose, she got thoroughly drenched in the short distance to the subway. Waiting with the other dampened commuters, she tried to shake off some of the moisture before the train arrived, then she hurried in with the crowd, finding a spot in the back of the car where the air was smelly and muggy and close.

Firmly planting her feet, Daphne held tightly to a pole and, shutting her eyes, attempted to imagine herself in a happier, cleaner, dryer place. Like the Grand Canyon where her dad had taken her as child one summer. She breathed deeply as she recalled the beautiful painted mountains changing hues of golds, reds, and russets at sunset.

This was a trick she’d taught herself years ago, her way to combat the claustrophobia that she sometimes suffered in the city. One would think she’d be over her dislike of tight spaces by now, but on days like today the anxiety seemed to lurk just below the surface. She remembered when she had been in love with New York. Some called it the Big Apple Honeymoon Phase, but it had lasted several years for her. However, like so many other things in her life, it had gotten a little tarnished and dull over the years. And as she emerged from the subway, back into the drizzling rain and noisy traffic, she didn’t much like the city.

By the time Daphne reached her cubicle at The Times and peeled off her soggy jacket and slushy sneakers and stashed them in a sodden pile in the corner, her long auburn hair, which she’d spent thirty minutes straightening this morning, now resembled Bozo the Clown. Not that anyone would particularly notice or care since most of her day was spent on her own.

Daphne was a wedding writer—one of several—and she had been doing the same thing for more than ten years. She could write one of these pieces in her sleep. In fact, sometimes she did. Oh, not for the paper, but she would lie in bed writing another piece. They ran about 250 words, five or six paragraphs, all meant to impress the bride and the groom and their family and friends.

She turned on her computer and perused her e-mail, sifting through junk and flagging some, and then on to read today’s assignments. This time of year was usually fairly busy, but to her surprise there was only one happy couple waiting for the spotlight, and she managed to spend two whole hours on making them seem larger than life. Hopefully they would appreciate her efforts.

Then with still an hour until lunch, she imagined what she’d write for Shelby’s wedding announcement, and because she was bored and didn’t like to appear idle or get caught playing Spider Solitaire, she decided to hack a phony baloney announcement for her romantic roommate.

Miss Shelby M. Monroe and John Junior Millionaire were married on Friday night in May at Club 21 in downtown Manhattan. Family friend and celebrity entrepreneur Donald Trump, who became an ordained minister for this monumental occasion, officiated the extravagant
event where no expenses were spared.

The beautiful bride, twenty-three, and the prematurely balding bridegroom, of undetermined age, met at the bride’s place of employment, which is also the bridegroom’s father’s multimillion-dollar investment corporation.

Miss Monroe, who will not be keeping her name since it’s not really her name, will give up her career, which wasn’t really a career, in order to raise a houseful of boisterous children. She is the daughter of a once-prestigious family who resided in Westport, Connecticut, until her father’s investment corporation was dissolved in a scandal involving insider trading. Now, despite some diminished wealth, the bride’s parents are enjoying an early retirement abroad.

Mr. Millionaire, who goes by John Junior, holds some mysterious position in his father’s corporation, where not much actual work is required of him. John Junior graduated from some Ivy League school,
where his family probably had some really good connections.

Following an over-the-top honeymoon, which probably involved
a beach in an exotic locale, the happy newlyweds will reside
in a penthouse apartment on the upper west side.

The bridegroom’s first two marriages ended in divorce.
Hopefully the third time will be the charm.

Feeling a bit juvenile, not to mention catty, Daphne hit the select all and delete buttons. Best not to leave something like that lying around for too long. She was about to shut down and go to lunch when her cell phone rang. She got up and grabbed her bag. After digging for her elusive phone and expecting it to be Beverly since they were meeting for lunch today, she was surprised to discover it was actually her father. He rarely called her in the middle of the day. Not unless something was wrong.

“Dad?” she said with concern. “What’s up?”

“Hello, Daphne. I’m afraid it’s bad news.”

“What?” Her throat tightened. He’d had some health issues last winter. Hopefully it wasn’t worse. She’d lost her mother as a small child. Dad was all she had left of her immediate family.

“It’s Aunt Dee . . . she passed away this morning. Her lawyer just called to inform me, and I thought you’d want to know.”

“Aunt Dee.” Daphne sank back down in her chair. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Dad. I know how much you loved her. I loved her too. And I’d been hoping to get out there to visit you and her this summer. I can’t believe she’s gone.”

Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly recalled the summers she’d spent at Aunt Dee’s house as a child when Dad was busy with work. Aunt Dee had tried to make up for Daphne losing her mother. Daphne and Aunt Dee had always enjoyed a special connection and a shared name.

“If it’s any consolation, she died peacefully. In her sleep.”

“How old was she?” For some reason, Daphne couldn’t recall her aunt’s age. She knew she was older than Dad, but in a way Aunt Dee had seemed timeless. Maybe it was her youthful spirit.

“She would’ve been ninety-one in July.”

“Ninety-one? Wow, I had no idea she was that old.”

“Yes. She never really told anyone her real age. But she enjoyed a good, full life.” He sighed. “Even though she never married or had children, she seemed to have a good time in whatever she did. She traveled. Had lots of friends. Dee lived life on her own terms. And she always seemed happy.”

“She did—didn’t she?” Daphne let out a choked sob as she reached for a Kleenex, wiping the tears now streaming down her cheeks.

“I’m sorry, honey. I hate to be the bearer of sad news. But I knew you’d want to know.”

“Yes. I appreciate that. I don’t know why I’m taking this so hard.” She blew her nose.

“Will you be able to make it out here for her memorial service?”

“Yes, of course, Dad.” She reached for another tissue.

“Oh, good. I’m in charge of everything. And I could really use your help with the arrangements. I mean, if you can come out here soon enough . . . I’ll understand if you can’t drop everything.” His voice sounded tired and weak, but maybe it was just sadness.

“How are you feeling? I mean, with your heart and cholesterol and everything. Are you okay?”

“Oh, sure, honey. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” He sighed. “When do you think you can get away?”

“I’ll find out as soon as we hang up. And I’ll get right back to you,” she promised.

“Thanks, Daph. I can’t wait to see you.”

They said good-bye, then she grabbed her purse and hurried up to her boss’s office, feeling she’d get better results if she asked in person. Hopefully Amelia wouldn’t have left for lunch yet. However, when she got up there, Daphne could tell by the darkened office that Amelia was already gone.

“Amelia left early for a lunch meeting,” her assistant told Daphne. “Want me to leave her a message for you?”

“No. I’ll come after lunch. When do you expect her back?”

Fiona shrugged. “Well, you know how those working lunches can drag on forever. I wouldn’t expect her until three or maybe even four.”

“Thanks. I’ll stop by later.” Daphne headed out to meet Beverly, calling her as she walked toward their favorite dining spot. She left a message saying she was running late. Then she called Dad and explained that her boss was out. “As soon as I know, I’ll call,” she assured him.

Fortunately, the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared and the city, now scrubbed fresh and clean, should be shimmering in the sunshine. And yet, as Daphne hurried down the street, everything around her still felt dull and gray and dismal.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion by Gordon Dabbs

Tour Date: June 25th

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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:

Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


Gordon Dabbs currently pastors a large congregation in Dallas, Texas. He holds a PhD in philosophy, advanced degrees in theology and ethics, and has ten years of experience as a church planter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he hosted a weekly television program.

Visit the author's website.


Why would our loving God choose to forever record the stories of men and women whose lives collapsed in sin and shame? Why share biographies of people like Jezebel and Judas, whose lives didn’t have happy endings? Perhaps the Lord recognized that their stories could powerfully inform and shape us. Their loss can become our gain. Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion is God’s invitation to learn and grow from the great collapses of the Bible.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 089112232X
ISBN-13: 978-0891122326


A Problem with Pride

A short time back, my wife and I visited the home of some good friends who are parenting two spirited young boys. Upon our arrival, the oldest boy proceeded to show us the mountain of trophies and medals he had won in Taekwondo tournaments. I made a mental note to stay on this kid’s good side. After their sons had gone back to their room to play, the mother whispered to me, “Don’t be too impressed. At these competitions, all the kids get a trophy regardless of how they perform. They just want all the boys and girls to feel good about themselves.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

In America, whatever we’re doing to make us feel better about ourselves seems to be working. A recent survey of high school students revealed seventy percent of them believe they have above-average leadership skills. Only two percent believe they are below average. Back in the 1950s, twelve percent of high school seniors regarded themselves as a “very important person.” Recently, that percentage has risen to eighty percent.

Americans are more self-confident than ever. In a culture that magnifies self and injects children with daily doses of pride, it’s no wonder we’ve been labeled a generation of praise addicts.6 In this climate, we would do well to heed the warning of an ancient proverb, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2 niv).

Growing Up as a God

What would it be like to grow up believing you were the center of the universe, or to be told by adults you should be worshipped as a god? What kind of a person would be produced by this kind of upbringing? How easy it would be, for pride to overwhelm the heart of a person indoctrinated to believe in their own divinity.

Welcome to Pharaoh’s world. From the elaborate royal protocol that surrounded every meeting with him, to his ornate garments, to the magnificent palace that was his home, everything surrounding the young prince was orchestrated to convince onlookers he was no mere mortal. Those who had dealings with Pharaoh believed that he was special. His people understood that he was a descendent of the gods; yes, this god-man was exceptional. After all, he was the leader of the world’s technological, economic, religious, cultural, and military superpower.

To be sure, there were a lot of Pharaohs during Egypt’s proud history. One, however, came to be remembered as the Pharaoh. This one would gain a unique status because his rule would intersect with the life of a man named Moses, with the multitude of Hebrew slaves he represented, and with the God he worshipped.

Four hundred years earlier, the Hebrews had first migrated to Egypt to escape a massive famine. Since Joseph, one of their own, had risen to become the right-hand man to the Egyptian ruler, the Hebrews were originally viewed as partners and friends of Egypt. Over four centuries, however, their status changed dramatically. The Hebrews came to be viewed as a social underclass; they were drafted into service to build grandiose monuments in honor of the Pharaohs, and mistreated as the miserable slaves of the Egyptian social elite.

Along came Moses with his brother Aaron into the royal court of Pharaoh. Moses claimed to have been sent by a foreign God who demanded that his people, the Hebrews, be released from their bondage in Egypt. As absolute ruler, the decision of how to respond to this demand was entirely up to Pharaoh.

Hard Heart Syndrome

Why would Pharaoh give in to the demand that the Hebrews be released from their enslavement? Well, God, through Moses, made a pretty compelling case. It was a shock and awe display of divine power the likes of which Egypt (and the world) had never seen. One by one, the Hebrew God dueled Pharaoh and his pantheon of Egyptian deities who proved to be no match for his power.

After each devastating plague brought against Egypt by God, after each demonstration of Yahweh’s divine power, Pharaoh was asked to release the slaves. Time after time, the mulish king dug in his heels, closed his heart, and proudly refused to be pushed around by any man or any god. At moments like this, when an individual is convinced they are the center of the universe, all the ingredients for an impending catastrophe are present.

The Bible depicts Pharaoh’s heart as hard. Unchecked ego can strip a person of perspective and wisdom. A pride saturated heart morphs into a closed system that refuses to accept any circumstance or opinion that does not bow its knees to the god of self. The absence of checks and balances that come through humility handicaps a person’s capacity for self-reflection and wise judgment.

Something which troubles many when it comes to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the role God played in the process. “. . . The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron . . .” (Ex. 9:12 niv). Frankly, it seems wrong for God to do such a thing. Why would God hijack his free will? Shouldn’t Pharaoh be free to make his own choice?

A closer reading of the entire narrative reveals an important nuance of how Pharaoh’s will became closed. In reality, Pharaoh did a bang up job of hardening his own heart before God ever got involved.
The first time his stubbornness is mentioned, the Bible relates, “. . . he hardened his heart and would not listen . . .” (Ex. 8:15 niv). Repeatedly, during the first half of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

So, how exactly did God participate in making Pharaoh’s prideful heart inflexible? For starters, it was God who provided multiple opportunities for Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Over and over again, God made the exact same request through Moses: “let my people go.” By providing these decision points, God gave Pharaoh opportunities to either humble or harden himself. Pharaoh chose the latter. Just as calluses are formed on the hands of a laborer through repetitive use, a heart becomes callused when the same prideful decision is reconfirmed over and over.

God also became a participant in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart because God ultimately decided to honor the king’s own choices. In his sovereign power, the Lord could have hijacked Pharaoh’s heart and mind and reprogrammed it to say yes instead of no to the demand of
Moses. Yet God, in his love and respect for human beings, preferred to honor Pharaoh’s freedom to make his own decisions. Only after the Egyptian leader had unilaterally chosen to ignore God’s demand, does the Bible say the Lord hardened his heart.

Pharaoh had transformed himself into a self-absorbed man, a closed system, a person unable to interpret the signs of his time and unwilling to listen to wise counsel. Even voices within his own inner circle could not break through his fortress of pride. “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is God’s doing.’ But Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn’t listen” (Ex. 8:19 msg).

A wise person once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is six feet.” Every time Pharaoh chose to ignore the pleas of God, Moses, and his own counselors, he was digging a rut. That rut would become a grave for thousands of Egyptians, for his army, for his son, and for his legacy.

The Way of Humility

Hopefully, you were not raised in a home where you were allowed to be the ruler of the household or were worshipped as a god. But whatever our upbringing, a lot of us tend to struggle with pride. I certainly do.

One such struggle took place when I was finishing my master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. My course work was completed and all that was left was for me to take what were known as the General Exams. People around me, many of whom had already passed the exams and were working on their doctorates, told me I need not spend much time studying for the exams; they were really quite easy. The testing, I was told, was more of a rite of passage. Based on their opinions and experiences, and more than that, on an over-inflated estimation of my own knowledge and ability, I didn’t study. I was convinced the exams would be a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, I got a slice of humble pie.

A week after the testing, I received devastating news: I had failed. After all the course work, time, and money that had gone into my graduate studies, I was without a diploma. Suddenly my future plans seemed to be up in the air. My ego, however, came crashing down to earth. Thankfully, the merciful faculty allowed me to retake the exams and, after much study, I passed. Eventually, by the grace of
God, I was able to complete my doctorate in philosophy. To this day, I thank God for that painful and humbling lesson.

Whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, which is far more often than I’d like to admit, it seems God sends something or someone along to deflate my swollen head. One afternoon, I walked into a meeting and strode confidently to shake a fellow’s hand. As we greeted each other, he awkwardly observed I had a plastic toilet freshener suspended from the back of my belt. Ouch. Not cool. Sometimes, I’ve found, humility is pine scented.

A great measuring stick for how open a person is to growing in humility is to recognize how they tend to respond to losses. No one likes to lose, but being gracious in defeat, being able to laugh at yourself, and being open to learn from past mistakes prepares us to handle both future success and failure. Quite simply, Pharaoh didn’t know how to lose. He didn’t know how or when to accept defeat. Since we live in a “win at all cost” culture, this lesson may be difficult for us to learn, but learn it we must. Humility is needed.

While Pharaoh was a self-absorbed pride junkie, another leader in the Exodus story shows us a better way to live. In contrast with the Pharaoh, the Bible says, “Moses was a very humble man” (Num. 12:3 niv).

It is worth noting that, in all likelihood, Moses had been raised in the very same household as Pharaoh. They knew each other before Moses arrived in the palace to appeal for the liberation of the Hebrews. Moses had spent the early years of his life studying with the top teachers, enjoying the finest food and luxury accommodations, and reveling in all the perks and privileges of being a royal in Egypt’s court. Just like Pharaoh, Moses had been raised as a prince of Egypt, yet Moses was not an arrogant person.

When God appeared to him at a burning bush in the desert, inviting Moses to become the leader and liberator of the Hebrew people, Moses politely declined, citing his own inadequacies. “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:11 msg)? Understanding his faults and past failures (which included homicide), Moses basically said, “Lord, surely you can do better than me!”

After the successful exodus from Egypt, Moses found himself overwhelmed with the constant demands of leading a nation of people. Jethro, his father-in-law, challenged him to think about a new leadership structure that delegated authority to other capable leaders: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex. 18:24 niv).

Humility is a vital element of successful and balanced living. Humility is so valuable and necessary that it is the very first quality Jesus listed when he gave his famous description of the blessed life during his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3 niv).

Cultivating Personal Humility

An important way that people move against their own pride is to admit their limitations, while remaining open to stretching those limitations by embracing new challenges. In Exodus 4, Moses offers to God his own self-appraisal, revealing he does not believe he possesses the requisite public speaking aptitude required to lead. He understood he was never going to dazzle crowds of people with the turn of a well-crafted phrase, or with stirring orations. He was a great leader, but he was keenly aware he was not a great orator.

The lesson for us is this—Moses did not allow his limitations to close his leadership horizons. God had called him to lead. God would equip him with whatever he needed. This calling from the Lord gave him a quiet confidence. The humility of Moses permitted him a balanced, realistic, and faith-oriented appreciation for what God could do with his life. As Gordon Smith writes, “Humility means recognizing both our limitations and our potential. . . . With sober judgment we simply accept who we are.”8 Enormous potential for growth and future accomplishment is unleashed when people tear up their selfadmiration society membership card.

Another way that humility is cultivated is by listening to the wise counsel of others, then making the necessary adjustments. When his father-in-law came with leadership advice in Exodus chapter 18, Moses didn’t scoff and say, “Look old man, I’m the chosen one here! God made me the leader of Israel, not you!” Instead, he humbly considered the counsel of this older, more seasoned man, and decided to tweak his leadership style accordingly.

What a contrast between Pharaoh and Moses. One arrogantly stuck to his guns and paid an incredible price for his hubris, the other listened and learned.

No one is saying that Moses was perfect. He had some failures on his résumé. For starters, most of us can say with confidence that we’ve never committed murder. Moses could not say this. At one point, he disobeyed the explicit instructions of God which were that he speak to a rock so that water would come forth from it to refresh the thirsty people of God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he stuck it with his staff. But even though his initial meeting with God revealed he was well aware of his weaknesses, and even though he had been forced to flee Egypt after committing a capital crime, he still made an impact on the world around him like few others ever had.

Giving a short overview of the life of Moses, a New Testament writer says, “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25 niv). One thing we learn about Moses is he embraced his identity as one of God’s people. He could have bought into all the pomp and pride of being part of the royal family, but he chose to identify with God and with God’s family.

Like Moses, people also cultivate humility when they prepare themselves for spotlight moments by living their daily life understanding who, and whose, they are. In choosing Moses, the Lord chose to work through a person who was willing to serve a community and a cause greater than himself. Pharaoh’s ego left no room for any agenda but his own.

In an ancient sixth century Christian text, Gregory the Great wrote, “No one can learn humility in a high position unless he ceases to be proud when in a lowly position. No one who learned to long for praise when it was missing knows how to flee from praise when it abounds.”10 Once I humbly accept who I am, and that my value comes from the God I bow my knees to, then I am ready to open my eyes to a new reality. Then I find myself in a world shaped by an acute awareness of the constant movement of God in and around my life.

What about Moses? The Bible reveals that, “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27 nlt). Whatever obstacle he came up against, he kept right on going.
What about you? An awareness of God’s presence in your life and in your world allows you to have the spiritual and emotional traction needed to pull through difficult and painful seasons of life. Whether in victory or loss, joy or sorrow, Moses kept on going. Why? Because he kept his eyes on the Lord.

This means the cultivation of humility is aided by recognizing the presence of Almighty God in day to day life. Consider this helpful insight of C. S. Lewis: “In God you come up against something, which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself…. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you are going to have a balanced and well-informed view of your potential and limitations, then you have to be awake and alert to your own spiritual brokenness, grateful and awestruck in the shadow of the Cross, and acutely aware of the greatness of God Almighty. Truly, if your eyes don’t turn upward to God, you will never have a clear-headed view of your own place in the world.

The more a person grows in the way of humility, the more room they give for God to operate in them and through them. Tender mercies and great strength are unlocked in the life of the humble believer.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5–6 niv).

So, where is your source of perspective? Where are you grounding your identity? Where does your sense of worth come from? Are you a praise addict, clinging to the shiny medals and trinkets of a self-magnifying culture? Or, do you look upward? May God make you secure in his love so you can humble yourself, believing that only then, his grace will be released, and his mighty right hand will lift you up.