Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday Worship: Unrestrained

Another time that I heard a song in church and couldn't wait to get near the Internet so I could Google to find it.

This singer/songwriter, Calvin Nowell, wrote such a beautiful worship song, Unrestrained. Don't these words just capture what you desire to tell the Lord?

I pour my love on You,
My whole life belongs to You,
I worship You completely unashamed,
I give you my heart unrestrained.

Baking tonight. Hubby's birthday is tomorrow, and although he's been on as much of a weight loss kick as I have, birthday cakes are nearly sacred in our house. So he shall have his cake, and eat it too!

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, August 24, 2009


Thinking about God-thoughts. Not what I think of God, but more importantly, what He thinks toward me.

Still studying The Attitude of Faith by Frank Damazio.


How does God see me?

What does God desire for me?

What does God have planned for me?

What does God believe for me?

Sometimes we slip up--not in a bad, criminal or hurtful to others way, but certainly hurtful to ourselves--because we forget about the God-thoughts. We forget what God has said in His Word as an encouragement and reminder for us, about what He thinks. Thoughts like:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. -- Jeremiah 29:11 NLT


This is what the LORD says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. -- Isaiah 44:2-3 NIV
See, God thinks more highly of us than we could ever think of ourselves. He crafted and created us. He desires more for us than we could ever desire for ourselves. He believes the best of us, even when we and others believe the worst. He has the best of plans for our lives, despite the bad or negative things that surround us.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. -- Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV
We may never know the full mind of God, but we need to steep ourselves in God-thoughts and push aside everything else. With God-thoughts, we'll believe and expect more for our lives. God-thoughts will fuel our faith, and thereby propel our actions in ways that are pleasing to God.

Have you been having God-thoughts?

Peace & Blessings,

Friday, August 21, 2009

How To Raise A Modern-Day Joseph

The story of Joseph has always intrigued me. This boy, one of many brothers, who was mistreated and sold into slavery out of jealousy, who then goes on, with no animosity in his heart, to do great things for the king, his country, and the very family that did him wrong. A boy who grew into a man and dared to dream big dreams even when his life had been filled with what most might have deemed misery. A man who allowed himself to be used by God in a mighty way and yet remained humble and open, not vindictive. A tremendous man of faith and service.

So when I heard about the book, How To Raise A Modern-Day Joseph, as the mother of three sons, I was intrigued.

The original tour date was June 29th, when I was in San Diego, but as parents around the nation send their sons and daughters back to school, many parents return not only to school during the fall but also to emphasis on religions training. Hoping to imbue their children with character traits that will lead to success, parents will find this book worthy of examination.

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:

How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph

David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)


Linda Massey Weddle is a children’s author and regular contributor to publications including Women’s Day and Christian Parenting Today. She develops Bible-based curriculum for young people and has been involved in children’s and youth ministry for the past twenty years. She has two grown children and six grandchildren and resides in suburban Chicago.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition edition (June 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1434765318
ISBN-13: 978-1434765314


I n t r o d u c t i o n

A Journey Worth Planning

For parents like you…in churches like yours…this book is practical guide for a child’s spiritual

development—a journey in which parents and churches work together to raise kids who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Much of the vision and purpose for such a journey is discussed in my friend Larry Fowler’s book, Raising a Modern-Day Joseph. The book you hold in your hands—How to Raise a Modern-Day Joseph—focuses more on the practical side of that. It gives parents a workable plan for putting this vision and purpose to work in their everyday family life.

No Guarantees?

Like Larry’s book, this one is needed because we’re in the midst of a crisis. The statistics stagger us as we read about, hear about, and see young people walking away from their faith.

We surprised that this could be happening, since after all…

• our churches provide nurseries, Sunday school, vacation Bible School, Awana, youth ministries, and every other kind of kid or youth program imaginable.

• our children’s ministry curriculum is more entertaining, colorful, and professional looking than ever before.

• the market is flooded with “Christian” action figures, mugs, pencils, wallpaper, wallets, posters, linens, T-shirts, and toys, many decorated with clever “Christian” sayings.

• radio stations play Christian music twenty-four hours a day, and television channels broadcast a never-ending selection of messages from both local churches and polished, smooth-talking televangelists.

And here’s an even tougher dilemma: Why does a kid from one home walk away from the Lord while a kid in another home stays true to Him—yet the families in both homes have attended the same church, Sunday school, vacation Bible school, Awana clubs, etc.?

What happened? What’s the difference?

Before going further, I need to say this:

No plan,

no curriculum,

no humanly written book,

no pastor,

no teacher,

no parent…

can absolutely guarantee that a young person will not walk away from what they’ve been taught.

God works with His people individually, and each individual must make the choice to trust Christ as Savior. Each one chooses to walk with the Lord or to walk away from Him. After all, even with the first two kids we read about in the Bible, one had a criminal record.

The absence of such a guarantee is due to sin.

Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised,

being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

(Galatians 3:22)

So yes, unfortunately, children don’t come with guarantees.

But God’s Word does come with a guarantee: If we trust the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior,

believing that He died and rose again, we’re promised…

• the forgiveness of sin (bridging the separation between imperfect people and a perfect


• eternal life.

• a future in an unimaginably perfect heaven.

That’s some guarantee!

No, we as parents don’t have guarantees, but we do know that children who grow up in strong, Christ-centered homes—where God’s Word is both taught and lived—are more likely to live godly lives as adults.

But lets take a glimpse at what’s typically going on in many families.

A Church and Pastor Problem?

I grew up as a preacher’s kid, and as an adult became a preacher’s wife—I know firsthand how often the preacher and the church get blamed for parental failures.

I remember one Sunday morning after the church service when my husband was shaking hands with people filing out of the auditorium. Suddenly a mother stormed into the lobby, yelling and visibly upset. She said her son had been knocked over by other boys in the parking lot.

My husband’s first reaction was to call an ambulance, but the mom said that wasn’t necessary; her son just scraped his knee. “But,” she shouted, pointing to my husband. “This was your fault.”

“Why?” he asked. He could see our own two kids talking with friends nearby, so it wasn’t them who had knocked down the woman’s son. So why was this his fault?

“Because it’s your church,” the lady screamed. “And so they’re your responsibility.” (Well, that wasn’t true either; the church belongs to the people.)

But that true story is a picture of what many people do spiritually.

Just as many parents leave the physical well-being of their children up to the church (the drop-them-off-in-the-parking-lot syndrome), so many parents do the same with their children’s spiritual well-being, training, and guidance: Drop them off in the parking lot and let the church do the nurturing (whether or not the parents are even in the same building).

Maybe you feel this way too—at least to some extent. After all, you make sure your children go to church for every kids’ activity possible, so you figure the church’s pastors, teachers, and leaders are covering that spiritual training part of your kids’ lives. You’re busy doing other things, like working long hours to provide for your family, which is your responsibility.

Deep inside, you hope those people at the church are doing it right. And if your kids walk

away from the Lord someday, you’ll certainly have something to say about the church’s failure,

since spiritually raising your kids is their job.


Well, no!

From the Start

Let’s review some essentials of what the Bible says about the family.

The Family Is the First Group God Created

The family came before towns or countries, and before churches, youth programs, basketball

teams, or Facebook. God immediately created the marriage partnership—in fact, by the second

chapter of Genesis, God had already established marriage:

For Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib He had taken out of the man, and He brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:20-22)

And already by the fourth chapter in Genesis, we learn about children.

The Family (Marriage Partnership) Is a Picture of Christ and the Church

Paul says it this way:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:21–27)

Family “Rules” Are Listed Throughout the Bible

Here’s an example:

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:18-21)

Family Members Need to Encourage Each Other

Paul pointed to family encouragement as a model for the entire church:

But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into His kingdom and glory. (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11–12)

The family has the primary responsibility in the spiritual training of children. But families also

need the church to come alongside them to nurture their kids, to provide Christian friendships

from likeminded families, and to give complementary spiritual training. (We’ll look at all that

more closely later.)

Someone Who Knew, Loved, and Served God

The goal of Awana (the ministry I serve with) is to train children and youth to grow into adults who know, love and serve the Lord. We’ve come to see that this is also an outstanding goal for parents in training their children.

And as a biblical example of a young person who grew up to know, love, and serve the Lord, it’s hard to beat Joseph in the Old Testament. Not that he came from a perfect family.

Most children know about Joseph. They know he received a unique coat from his father—and our perception of that is a knee-length coat with rainbow-colored stripes. But why would grown men (his older step brothers—see Genesis 30:1-25) care about their little brother’s multicolored coat? The Hebrew word here for “coat” refers to a full-length tunic—sleeves to the wrist, the hem to the ankles. This was the style of coat worn by rich young men. They didn’t have to work (they had slaves or servants to do that), and they had a position of honor both in the home and in the community.

Joseph’s full-length coat was probably made of white linen, with bands of colorful embroidery as trim. By contrast, working men wore looser fitting, shorter garments so they could climb over rocks and take care of their sheep—they needed to move quickly and not be hindered by long clothing. So the brothers weren’t jealous of the colors of Joseph’s coat, but rather the implied position Joseph held in wearing such a garment.

Joseph lived in Hebron. The word Hebron means “community” or “fellowship.” Joseph had fellowship with his father, but this wasn’t a family who had a lot of fellowship with one another. I don’t think dinnertime conversations were leisurely discussions about the price of sheep feed or the Hebron weather.

The truth is, Joseph came from a dysfunctional family. This is obvious when you read in Genesis 30 about the intrigue involving his mother, his mother’s sister, their servants, and drugs (mandrakes—which were seen as narcotics or aphrodisiacs). Rachel and Leah were both jealous women who were willing to have their servants lie with Jacob so they could win the who-can have-the-most-sons race. And when Rueben brought home some mandrakes, Rachel desired them so much she was willing to “sell” Leah a night with Jacob to get her hands on them.

This of course isn’t part of the biography we read about in Sunday school, but these events are worth noting here. Out of this mess, the Lord brought Joseph, a young man who never wavered from the assurance that God was with him; a young man with a true heart-desire to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt. We know he quickly gained power and influence in Potiphar’s house, then quickly lost it when fleeing the temptations of Mrs. Potiphar. Yet even when put in prison, Joseph knew God was with him, and he remained faithful. Later, because he interpreted the king’s dream, he was made a VIP and placed in charge of the entire land of Egypt. In that position, he was able years later to publicly forgive his brothers.

Through it all, Joseph concluded that it wasn’t his brothers who sent him to Egypt, but God. God had a plan for him, and Joseph listened to God and fulfilled His plan—something he was later able to testify about to his brothers: “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Joseph’s life in particular reflected five godly character qualities—we’ll call them “master life threads”— that were woven into the very being of who he was and how he lived his life.

• Respect for the awesomeness and authority of God (Genesis 39:6-9.

• Wisdom for living life, based on a knowledge of God (40:5-8).

• Grace in relationships with others (41:51-52).

• A sense of destiny and purpose that came from God (45:4-10).

• A perspective for life based on the sovereignty of God (50:15-21).

These master life threads are also desired characteristics in the lives of our own children—as they learn to know, love, and serve the Lord.

We know that Joseph knew about the Lord. God was the God of his father, Jacob. As Joseph’s life continued in surprising new situations—as head of Potiphar’s household, as a prisoner, and finally as the man in charge of all of Egypt—he continued following the Lord. Over and over in the biblical account of Joseph’s life, we read that the Lord was with him, as in Genesis 39:21: “The LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.”

We know that Joseph loved the Lord because of the way he lived his life, refusing to be drawn into the temptations of a rich and powerful household, and because of his exemplary forgiveness toward the brothers who had wronged him: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’ And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them” (Genesis 50:19-21).

And we know that Joseph served the Lord—by making righteous choices, by administrating the seven years of plenty, and by giving food not only to the people of Egypt but to other countries as well. As the famine intensified, and “the people cried to Pharaoh for food,” Pharaoh responded, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (Genesis 41:55).

Modern-Day Josephs

What Christian parent wouldn’t want their child to grow up to be a modern-day Joseph—a young person who reflects those five master life threads, and who knows, loves, and serves the Lord?

For many parents (and maybe this includes you), their children are already becoming Josephs. They do excellent jobs spiritually nurturing their children. They daily teach their kids God’s Word by guiding them toward recognizing the need to trust Christ, praying with them, reading the Bible together, encouraging Scripture memorization, explaining difficult words and concepts and talking about the qualities of the Christian life. Then they live out God’s Word in everyday life. They take their responsibility seriously.

Then there are other parents simply don’t think about their child’s spiritual training. These parents flounder through life, not learning much themselves about what the Bible actually says, and they couldn’t begin to explain the difference between Genesis and Galatians. Yet they’re law abiding citizens and church-attending Christians. They figure their kids will turn out okay. After all, they get their kids to Sunday school and even sent them once to a Christian summer camp.

But the majority of Christian parents are somewhere in the middle. They desire to be spiritual nurturers of their children, but they don’t know how. They might be intimidated that they might not say the right words. (What if my child asks me to explain eschatology or something?) Or they don’t know where to find a plan that shows them how to be a spiritual nurturer. (They may not even realize they should have a plan).

Furthermore, you probably know some adults who grew up without any spiritual nurturing in the home, yet who are now pastors, missionaries, church leaders, or shining witnesses in the secular workplace. The Lord used someone besides a parent to mentor that child, or gave the child a desire for Bible study that transformed her into someone who truly wants to know, love, and serve the Lord.

Goal and Plan

If our destination for our children is having a child who develops Joseph-like characteristics—knowing, loving, and serving the Lord—what’s the itinerary or plan for that journey?

The lack of such a plan often becomes the roadblock in our children’s spiritual development—and getting past that roadblock is what this book is all about. This book is not a step-by-step itinerary, but more of an atlas where you pick and choose which stops to make in your own family journey—because we know all families are different, with different schedules, different interests, and different personalities.

Our desire is to give your family (and your church) ideas—lots of ideas for helping to spiritual nurture your children. But as the parent, you need to devise the route.

It’s a plan that involves both parents—and the church as well.


The father is the head of the house and the God-ordained leader of the home. Dads and moms need to work together to spiritually raise their children.

A spiritually strong dad will…

• pray with his children.

• lead the children in Bible study and worship.

• take an interest in what the child is learning at church.

• teach his children Bible verses, Bible concepts, and Bible truths.

• discuss challenging questions, cultural events and concepts with his children.

• model a Christlike attitude in his daily life.

Unfortunately in too many homes, Mom is by herself in doing all of this. Dad might drive the family to church, but he doesn’t take any real responsibility in the child’s spiritual development.

If you’re a father, know this: God has given you a job to do. Your responsibility is to do it. You can’t expect your child to grow into a God-honoring adult when he sees you ignore the Bible, find every excuse possible to avoid church, and live a life that’s inconsistent with what God says in His Word.


Children need both parents involved in their spiritual training, and that’s the basic scenario presented throughout this book. It’s a sad situation when Dad is faithfully living for the Lord, but Mom doesn’t want any part of it.

Mom needs to be an active part of the praying, teaching, discussing, and modeling too. For example, sometimes Mom’s the one who spends a half-hour before or after school helping her children work on a memory verse, and when Dad gets home, he can enthusiastically listen to the children recite the verse. This is a joint effort. Both parents are huge influencers.

You might be a single mom and already feel defeated because you don’t have a husband to help you out. You can still teach your children from God’s Word and live an exemplary life. In your situation, the partnership of the church may be more important than usual. Hopefully your church has good male role models teaching younger children, so your children can profit from a masculine influence.

A good example of one parent spiritually training a child is that of Eunice and her son Timothy (2 Timothy 1:4-5). Eunice did have the help of her own mother, Timothy’s grandmother, but she didn’t have any help from her unbelieving Gentile husband. Timothy’s mom and grandma taught him the Old Testament Scriptures and exemplified godly lives. When the apostle Paul came along and taught Timothy about the Son of God and His sacrifice on the cross, Timothy was ready to trust Christ as Savior. Timothy became Paul’s son in the faith (1 Timothy 1:2), and Paul recognized of the foundation which Timothy’s mom and grandma had laid.

Many single parents do great jobs in spiritually training their children. If you’re a single parent, or your spouse isn’t interested in God and His Word, you need to surround yourself with likeminded adults who can give you and your children support and encouragement.

Fitting into Your Schedule

When, where, and how do we spend time spiritually training our children?

The following verses from Deuteronomy give clear instruction that our entire daily lives should provide teaching opportunities to spiritually train our children:

Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land that the LORD swore to give your forefathers, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21)

In a real sense, spiritual training in the home is ongoing and never-ending. It’s really a part of everything you do.

But we also need to set aside specific times when we come together as a family to pray, honor, and worship the Lord and to study and memorize His Word. Some families enjoy singing or playing instruments together. Others read a page from a devotional book.

One teenager said, “Our family wasn’t musical, so that wasn’t part of our activities. But we did other things, such as making rebuses of Bible verses.”

You might set aside a time each day for spiritual focus—at the breakfast or supper table, or before bed. Or you could plan family nights when an entire evening is dedicated to a lesson, an activity, and a special treat. (Be careful you don’t present the activity as more important and fun than the lesson. Bible study can and should be a great experience.)

Maybe your family’s schedule is so complicated that you can’t have a regular set time for spiritual focus, but you can still conscientiously meet together as a family to pray, worship, and learn about the Lord.

A couple considerations in all this:

• Sometimes families are diligent in having family devotions, but that’s the only time their children hear about the Lord. Because Dad prays and reads a page from a devotional book, he feels he’s taken care of his spiritual leadership responsibilities. Five minutes later, the children hear him swear when opening the gas bill, or see him confront a neighbor because the neighbor’s dog messed up the lawn. What he verbally taught is negated by the way he lives his life.

• Families are different. One guy diligently teaches his kids from the Bible, helps them with their memory verses, and consistently lives a godly life, yet he feels guilty. He knows of another family that spends thirty minutes of concentrated training at the supper table each night, but his irregular work schedule doesn’t allow him to do that. He is, however, doing a great job. We need to focus on our own families, not on what someone else is doing.

We as parents need to work together to develop the itinerary for our own families, keeping

our eyes on the goal of raising children who know, love, and serve the Lord.

Your Church

Whether large or small, your church is your best partner in raising your children.

In fact, the size of the church doesn’t really matter. Mega churches have the money and staff to provide exciting programs for both parents and children, and those programs can be good. But smaller churches can be better at giving a child a sense of security, family, and nurturing that you don’t always find in a larger church.

So church size isn’t important. What is important is the attitude of the church and the pastor toward kids. Does your church leadership really care about kids? Do they see the value in children’s ministry, and provide necessary resources to spiritually disciple children? Do they occasionally visit children’s or youth ministry times to give the lesson, answer questions, or simply greet the children or youth? Do they make an effort to learn the names of the kids, or do they know your three teenagers (who have been attending the church since birth) only as the Hansen kids?

If your church doesn’t see the importance of encouraging families, maybe you could be the catalyst to begin the initiative.

After this book’s Part One (which focuses on giving parents specific age-appropriate suggestions for their child’s spiritual development), Part Two will focus especially on practical ways the church can partner with you in this task. Be sure to explore what’s presented in Part Two, and become familiar with ideas of how churches and families can work together.

Planning Your Family’s Spiritual Journey

The ideas in this book are suggestions. No parent can do everything, just as no church can do everything either. Our goal is to give you plenty of ideas to help get you started and keep you going.

So let me lay out what you’ll find in each chapter in Part One, which is especially geared for you as a parent. (Keeping the journey idea in mind, most of these components have travel-related labels.)

Life Threads

Each chapter targets a different stage of a child’s life, and will focus on an appropriate life thread

(reflecting a quality that Joseph displayed in his life).

Here are these life threads for each age category:

Preschoolers (ages 2-5) Respect

Early Elementary (ages 5-8—kindergarten to second grade) Wisdom

Older Elementary (ages 8-11—third through sixth grades) Grace

Middle School (ages 11-14—seventh and eighth grades) Destiny

High School (ages 14-18—ninth through twelfth grades) Perspective

At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find listed again the life thread to focus on for that stage in your child’s life.

By the way, if you’re looking at this list and thinking, “Great, but my child is already twelve years old!”—that’s okay. Yes, you’ve missed some prime training opportunities, but you can catch up. Review the sections for preschoolers and elementary age children, and teach the principles to your child using explanations and activities appropriate for a twelve-year-old. Instead of regretting what you missed, focus on the present and look to the future. These concepts are good for all ages—including adults.

What They’re Like

Early in each chapter, this section lists ten characteristics about that particular age category. Understanding these characteristics will give you a great head start in helping your child grow spiritually.

What They’re Asking

This section in each chapter lists the kinds of questions that kids in this age group typically ask about God and the Bible. You’ll also find suggested answers to a few of the questions.

These questions came from a “Biggest Question Survey” sponsored by Awana. A few years back, we asked 4,000 children and teenagers, “What’s your biggest question about God and the Bible?” These children and teenagers all had some Bible background (though, after looking at their questions, we surmised that some didn’t remember much of it). Then we determined the most-asked questions for each age group.

But don’t stop with reading what other kids have asked; ask your own children for their biggest questions about God and the Bible.

What You Can Do

In this section of each chapter you’ll find a wealth of practical suggestions for what you as a parent can do to help in your child’s spiritual growth in each stage. This begins with a short section about helping your child make the all-important decision to trust Christ as Savior.

Bios and Verses

Here you’ll find appropriate Bible biographies and Scripture memory verses to explore and learn with your children.

(At Awana, we substitute the word “biography” for “story” to emphasize that what comes from the Bible is true and not fictional. We explain that a biography is a true story about someone.)

What Not to Do

Sometimes we hinder more than we help. Each chapter includes this section where you’ll find common errors to avoid in each stage of your child’s life.


Each chapter also includes a checklist of basic attainments to look for in your child’s spiritual development.

Family Itinerary

Finally, the section in each chapter labeled “Family Itinerary” is a worksheet to help you develop your plan and goals for your child’s spiritual journey in each stage.

Here are a couple of samples of completed itineraries from two families, one with younger children and one with teenagers:

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Young Children

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Teach Emma and Jacob that God created the world.

2. Teach Emma and Jacob that God loves each one of us.

3. Teach Emma and Jacob that the Bible is God’s book.

4. Teach Emma and Jacob that Jesus is God’s Son.

5. Teach Emma and Jacob that we’re to obey God.

Our family verse for this year is:

Genesis 1:1

We’ll also study the following six additional verses (one every two months) about God and His character:

1. Psalm 33:4

2. Proverbs 3:5

3. Matthew 28:20

4. Romans 3:23

5. Ephesians 6:1

6. 1 John 4:14

We’ll also study the following six Bible biographies (one every two months):

1. Adam

2. Joseph

3. Heman

4. Josiah

5. David

6. Christ’s birth

We will also do a more extensive study on this person in the Bible:

Heman in 1 Chronicles 25:5–7. We’ll learn how he and his family sang in the temple. We’ll learn a song together and sing at church.

Here are other activities our family will do together to learn about Bible characters:

1. We’ll watch a series of DVDs on Bible characters (a set we were given that’s factual).

2. We’ll visit Grandma and Grandpa and look at their pictures they took in Israel.

3. We’ll study Josiah and other Bible characters who served God even though they were young.

4. We’ll do several crafts using natural materials from the outdoors as we talk about God’s creation. These will include leaf-tracings, pictures on sun-sensitive paper, and drying flowers.

5. We’ll teach Emma and Jacob to identify five birds and five flowers, explaining that

they were all created by God.

Here are some themes for family fun nights we would like to do this year:

1. We’ll build a birdhouse together and learn about ten birds in our area of the country, and we’ll talk about creating a wonderful variety of birds.

2. We’ll make a mural for the basement wall of David watching his sheep.

3. We’ll invite Grandpa and Grandma to family night so they can hear Jacob and Emma say their verses.

4. We’ll make a book of all the different Bible biographies Jacob and Emma have learned at church this year.

5. We’ll visit the zoo.

6. We’ll make cookies for the lady down the street who’s homebound.

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

A Sample Itinerary for a Family with Children in High School

Our spiritual goals for the year are:

1. Study the book of Ephesians together.

2. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to teach and mentor their younger siblings.

3. Discuss biblical worldview and what that means as Andrew and Amanda head off to college.

4. Have open, honest discussions about difficult cultural issues.

5. Encourage Andrew and Amanda to write down any questions they may have about God and the Bible and to work through those questions as a family.

6. For Andrew and Amanda to serve by singing and playing guitar at the rescue mission once a month.

Our family verse for this year is:

Joshua 24:15

This year we’ll do the following family research project:

On creation. The project will culminate with a week at creation camp this summer.

We’ll memorize this chapter from the Bible:

Ephesians 2

We’ll read (either as a family or individually) the following books:

1. Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell

2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

Our family service project this year will be:

Serving at the soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and Christmas

Our family has completed this year’s family itinerary and met our spiritual goals.

(Signed by each family member)

Say a prayer for all of our children that they might be like Joseph.

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wednesday Worship: My Savior My God

Sometimes I just thing we need to remember the words of this song, "My Savior loves, my Savior lifts, my Savior's always there for me..."

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, August 17, 2009

Another Pound and...a Bag of Chips

I haven't talked much here about my weight loss journey recently. Not even a peep.

Now, don't take that to mean that I've given up because I haven't. In fact, I'm more committed than ever. It's one of the few things I think about every single day. Losing weight requires that.

But actually, I'm not doing too shabbily. I'm down 26 lbs on the year. Now I lost most of that in the first three months so it's been pretty much like uphill climbing since April. But I've had a lot going on that has conspired to work against my success.

Still, I'm committed, which has amounted to about 6 lbs off in the past four months.

I'll take it! Makes me that much closer to my goal weight.

Of course now, it doesn't help, right after weighing myself, as I did Friday at lunch time, and seeing that I was down another lb, that I immediately snagged a bag of potato chips out of the vending machine. A place I hadn't been for the past month or more. (Golden brown Lays Honey Barbecue chips, just like the ones pictured.)

What makes me think that bad foods are a reward for the hard work of losing weight?


I might fall off the wagon but I never let go of the reins so I righted myself and had a pretty good weekend.

Here's hoping to four more lbs by the end of the month, for a full 30 lbs off.

Do you have something that is your constant, daily struggle? How do you stay committed to change? How do you reward yourself for small successes?

Peace & Blessings,

Friday, August 14, 2009

Faith Unimaginable?

Still in a season of faith renewal, and looking to God for the unimaginable.

Just what do I mean by "unimaginable"? What does that look like?

That I'll finish a novel manuscript, submit it and get the agent of my dreams who will then sell it to the publisher of my dreams, after which it will become a best-seller, followed by another and another and another...

Odds are against me?

Maybe. But it could happen. So this is only slightly unimaginable.

That I'll be get a brand new car for my family even though everything suggests that's never gonna happen, and that with no money down (and maybe some "Cash for Clunkers", my payments will be lower than I currently pay.

Possible although not probable, but it will happen. Likely in some way that I least imagine.

Okay, maybe those things aren't so daring. How about this? That my brother and my mother, both of whom suffer from multiple sclerosis--my mother for over 40 years--are 100% healed.

What say you to that one?

See, the thing about unimaginable faith is that it is a daring kind of faith. It doesn't ask how or why. Rather it asks "why not?" and doesn't limit itself to the "how's" for which my mind can make sense.

But it's not an illogical kind of faith. Oh noooo...

No, there's nothing illogical about it. It might be, if we didn't have the word of God. But we do.

See, faith in God is preceded by knowing God. It comes from hearing and reading about God's promises and blessings, and by seeing God at work everyday all around us. It's remembering how God blessed Abraham and Sarah with a baby of their own seed, even as they should have been resting in their rocking chairs and eating a diet of soft foods. It's remembering how God first kept, then delivered Daniel from the den of lions that logic says should have destroyed him. Raising Lazarus from the grave. Healing the bleeding woman and the blind man. It's remembering how Christ rose from the grave and reappeared to prove that He had before ascending into heaven.

Don't you know stories of people who have survived horrific car crashes or fires? People who've been healed from fatal diseases, like cancer and even AIDs? Babies who weren't supposed to make it? People who swear they "died" on an operating table yet are walking and talking like you and I?

It's not just remembering, but embracing these and many other unimaginable things. Meditating on the stories and allowing the Holy Spirit to whisper a word into your spirit. For you. Today. In your current situation.

Because when you do, it doesn't seem quite so daring, so ill-conceived, so risky to believe God for BIG things. In fact, you begin to feel as though you are short-changing yourself by not expecting great things.

One of my favorite Scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Let me recap:
  • God has a plan for you.

  • God knows what it is.

  • God plans to prosper you.

  • God plans not to harm you.

  • God plans to give you hope.

  • God plans to give you a future.
Isn't that exciting stuff? Knowing this, how can we expect little and accept even less? God is bigger than that.

And I'm not talking simply material things here or even healing. I'm talking peace in the midst of a storm bigger than you've ever experienced. Joy when you are alone in the darkest of places fighting to stay sane and alive.

How big is your faith? Is your faith of the unimaginable variety?

Peace & Blessings,

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday Worship: Just Wanna Say

I'm still in Israel mode. Goes with the Word that's swimming around in my head and with the word on expectations that I'm receiving. More on that later.

Peace & Blessings,

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Expecting The Unimaginable

I'm reading Frank Damazio's The Attitude of Faith. I've been a churchgoer my entire life. I came to know Jesus as my Savior in my teens, although it took me well into my twenties to embrace living like I knew him.

Now in my forties, I'm examining my faith anew. I've seen and heard of God doing miraculous things in the lives of others, and in my own life. My family has never slept on the street or missed a meal, even in times when I surely thought we might.

Everything hasn't been a bowl of cherries. I spent my childhood watching my mother grow increasingly debilitated by multiple schlerosis. I lost my father right after I graduated from college, before I had a chance to discuss with him, one adult to another, his life and his perspective on how the world was evolving. I gave birth to a stillborn baby girl and felt like I was folded up into myself, that taking care of my toddler son, being a wife, and going to work everyday was an out of body experience. I've experienced eviction and losing 99% of my material goods.

Through all of that and more, God has always in my mind still been God, capable of more than I could ever imagine. I've never questioned His love for me. Yet, there have been times when I've felt bound by my past, stuck in a rut and found myself considering whether I truly expected Him to do the unimaginable in my life.

I think it's easy to get into a mental and emotional pattern of life that includes God but doesn't embrace all that God is moment by moment. It's the reason so many Christians, in my opinion, "live beneath their privilege", as the old folks used to say. We believe in God and all that He is; we just don't expect God to be and do all that He can in our lives. We're the first to shout "Praise the Lord" when He blesses someone else, then we go about our way with the same doubts and negative thoughts filling our hearts and minds.

This is what Damazio addresses in his book. One's attitude toward their faith.

I discovered that my faith attitude needed a wake-up call. It needed to be aired out, brushed off, shined up, and fluffed. I need to renew it so that I could once again live within my privilege as a child of God.

There's a prayer in the first chapter of Damazio's book that I find myself now reciting throughout the day, and that I plan to teach to my children:
Lord, I believe that You are good, and that You desire to release into my life wonderful, unimaginable, miraculous, great, and mighty things. Today, I pray with large expectations by the power of the Holy Spirit. Enlarge my vision. Increase my faith. Secure my future. Amen.
Out of habit, I always insert a "In Jesus name" before the "Amen", but I find myself meditating on the words of this prayer and really thinking about the extent to which I believe them and what they mean for my life.

The word that twirls around most in my head is unimaginable. It's more than just things that I haven't imagined. I know that God can do above and beyond the things that I imagine. Yet, it's more than that. To me, unimaginable also means that even after God has worked His work, that I see and experience the benefits thereof, that it's more than my mind can imagine, more than I can envision, more than I can comprehend.

That's the level of expectancy that I desire in my faith.

It's not about God being a genie and granting my wildest wishes. No, it's about living securely in the knowledge and sure belief that God is able. Period. In my life as much as in anyone else's.

What's your attitude regarding your faith? What do you expect from God? Do you believe your tomorrow is destined to be the same as your today, or do you expect great things from God?

Try it. It's liberating.

Peace & Blessings,

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Perfect Mess by Lisa Harper

It will be rare for me to feature two books here back-to-back, but this is only because I was way late on Friday's The Attitude of Faith by Frank Damazio. Yet, although I haven't begun reading Ms. Harper's book yet, I can see how these two--his book about one's faith attitude and her book with its subtitle "Why You Don't Have to Worry About Being Good Enough for God" might dovetail nicely.


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:

A Perfect Mess

WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)


Lisa Harper is a master storyteller whose lively approach connects the dots between the Bible era and modern life. She is a sought-after Bible teacher and speaker whose upcoming appearances include the national Women of Faith Conferences. A veteran of numerous radio and television programs and the author of several books, she also is a regular columnist for Today’s Christian Woman magazine. Lisa recently completed a master’s of theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. She makes her home outside Nashville.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1400074797
ISBN-13: 978-1400074792


Walk This Way

What Psalm 1 reveals about avoiding potholes in the path of life

God’s words, creating

and saving words every one,

hit us where we live.

—Eugene H. Peterson

I’m a sucker for fashionable shoes. Unfortunately, cool “kicks” are often synonymous with wincing in agony. Which was the case a few months ago when I became madly infatuated with a pair of black, knee-high, leather boots while shopping in Chicago. When I tried them on and pranced around in a circle to impress my friends Kim and Sharon, they both looked dubious. Kim even asked, “Are you sure they’re comfortable? Because you look like you’re walking funny.”

I replied flippantly, “Yeah, they’re comfortable. And aren’t they the most gorgeous boots you’ve ever seen?” while intentionally taking slower steps so as not to teeter in front of them anymore.

Of course, they weren’t comfortable at all. I should’ve done the smart thing and put those boots back into the box they came from. I should’ve told the solicitous Nordstrom clerk, “No thank you,” and walked out of the store empty-handed. But I’m more of an impulse shopper than an intelligent consumer, especially when it comes to shoes. So I surrendered the Visa and assured myself, They’re just a little stiff because they’re made of such high-quality Italian leather. It won’t take long for them to get broken in, and then they’ll be as comfortable as a pair of slippers.

I foolishly decided to break them in that very night at a business event because they complemented the outfit I was wearing. I was convinced the cuteness factor far outweighed the possibility of discomfort. Besides, I reasoned, a little pinch is nothing compared to how hip these boots will make me look.

Less than an hour later I was hobbling around like a geisha. And by the time the emcee introduced me, I no longer had any sensation in my toes. I limped mincingly to the podium and tried to focus on speaking while fearing my feet were in the initial stages of gangrene. All the while, my friends sat on the front row wearing “I told you so” expressions. Afterward they teased that I should’ve explained the new-shoe shuffle to the audience. They mused that some people might have wondered if I’d been boozing it up beforehand since I couldn’t walk right all night!

Walking right is the theme of Psalm 1. This first song in the Psalter emphasizes how we must follow our heavenly Father’s path instead of being lured off course by what ungodly people proclaim to be fashionable. And this ode to obedience includes a warning as well: attempting to be hip in ways that aren’t cool with God will ultimately lead to hobbling around in pain, separated from the only One who loves you unconditionally.


I can’t help but grin over the fact that the book of Psalms begins with the word happy. And I find it especially intriguing that the happiness in Psalm 1 isn’t associated with eating dark chocolate or finding a pair of designer shoes on the clearance rack. Instead this literary smiley face refers to the profound joy and satisfaction that accompany walking closely with God:1

Happy are those who don’t listen to the wicked,

who don’t go where sinners go,

who don’t do what evil people do. Psalm 1:1, NCV

?When was the last time you hobbled around in pain due to your own foolish choices?

One Sunday when I was in junior high school, I was sitting in church beside a cute lothario named Gary. You can imagine how I felt when this suave young man, who was five years older than I and the object of a huge crush on my part, put his arm around my shoulders. We were sitting a few pews in front of Dad, and although Gary’s attention was so titillating I couldn’t pay attention to the sermon, I could sense Dad’s disapproval wafting through the sanctuary. When the service was over, my normally soft spoken father pulled me aside and declared, “I’d better never catch you swapping slobber with that boy.” Then he tersely told me to get in the car.

We drove home in uncomfortable silence, my dad staring straight ahead and me staring out the window thinking, I hope none of my friends heard Dad. I can’t believe he actually said “slobber”! Ugh, I wish he wasn’t such a fuddy duddy. After we had pulled into the driveway and I had started walking toward the house,

Dad finally broke the silence by saying, “Lisa, come over here for a minute.” He motioned for me to join him by the picnic table. I approached with a cautious “Yes sir,” and he said, “I want you to get up on the table.” I thought, Oh man, Dad’s losing it! But he looked so serious that I obediently climbed on top of the picnic table.

Then he held up his arms and said, “Take hold of my hands. Now when I say go, I want you to try to pull me up while I try to pull you off.” Of course, the minute he said go and pulled, I had to jump down because I couldn’t keep my balance. Dad smiled—sort of sadly—and patted the bench beside him. When I sat down, he said, “Honey, you need to realize that it’s almost impossible to raise someone else up to your standards. If you choose to be with people who have lower morals, nine times out of ten they’ll pull you down to their level.”



The Hebrew word for

“happy” in Psalm 1:1 is

’ašr-ey, which can also be

translated “blessed.”2

It wasn’t until a year or two later, after Gary had thoroughly rebelled against his Christian upbringing and gotten a young girl pregnant, that Dad’s backyard object lesson really hit home. I realized he wasn’t being a fuddy-duddy when he warned me about sharing spit with the community Casanova; he was protecting me. Dad knew what my adolescent heart had yet to learn: bad company is as corrosive as battery acid. Lounging around with unrepentant rebels is a sure way to lose your joy.

Which is the bottom line of the beginning of Psalm 1: happiness can’t keep company with wickedness.


My first tour of Israel ranks way up there on the “a few of my favorite things” list. The Mount of Beatitudes left me speechless. The Wailing Wall left me in tears. And the Garden Tomb left me giddy with gratitude. But the parched terrain of the Promised Land initially left me puzzled. I guess I’d always imagined Israel as a lush green landscape dotted with fluffy white sheep and bearded guys playing harps under big shade trees (largely due to the influence of flannel-graph lessons in Vacation Bible School). It took a few days after landing at the Tel Aviv airport for me to get used to the wind-swept panorama of thorn bushes, rocks, and scruffy little acacia


In a recent research project on the

source of happiness, psychologists

found that “the more virtue-building

activities people engaged in, the happier

they said they were both on the day in

question and on the following day.” But

they noted with some surprise, “there

was no relationship between pleasure seeking

and happiness.”3

trees. As if I were using an Etch A Sketch, I had to shake the image of a garden from my mind and twist the dials to redraw Israel as a desert.

The reality of Israel’s arid topography is what makes the lush imagery in the next two verses so striking.

They love the LORD’s teachings,

and they think about those teachings day and night.

They are strong, like a tree planted by a river.

The tree produces fruit in season,

and its leaves don’t die.

Everything they do will succeed. Psalm 1:2–3, NCV

It’s unlikely this psalmist had ever seen a big tree unless it had been transplanted, which is a more accurate translation of the word “planted” in verse 3.4 As a matter of fact, quality lumber was such a scarcity in Israel (except for olive trees, which are more valuable for their oil than their timber) that Solomon actually had to arrange for cedar beams to be floated in from Lebanon when they were building the temple in Jerusalem.5 That’s why this arbor metaphor is an unmistakable reference to God’s blessing; only He could make a tree grow strong and tall in the sweltering heat and sandy soil of Israel. Only He could cultivate vegetation so perfectly that its leaves wouldn’t wither in a drought.

What this means for us is that whoever has been transplanted into God’s garden will flourish. And I really dig (pun intended) the psalmist’s use of the term “transplanted” here, because it implies that salvation is by grace, that because we can’t plant ourselves, God plucks us from the dark, sunless place where we’d been decaying and lovingly replants us in a perfect spot where we’re guaranteed to flourish. We will get bigger and more beautiful, to the point of actually bearing fruit, as we absorb the living water our Creator provides. Plus, when our roots are anchored in Him, even figurative droughts like critical in-laws or financial crises or cancer diagnoses won’t destroy us. The “leaves” of those loved by God don’t die.

Our heavenly Father—who also happens to have a supernatural green thumb—promises to nourish and protect His saplings.

Before we go any further, you may be wondering about the assertion that “everything they do will succeed” at the end of verse 3, which at first glance seems about as truthful as the weight listed on my driver’s license until our government chose to omit that data (maybe because most people fudged on the amount). How can the psalmist label broken relationships or rebellious children or infertility or crippling depression a success? How can he sincerely sing, “Everything they do will succeed,” when all of God’s children experience failure of some kind or another? Has he been guzzling cough syrup, or is he just wearing overly optimistic blinders?

Neither. Because this promise of prosperity is preceded by the context “everything they do”—which in this passage is defined by spiritual obedience—“ succeed” in verse 3 is in reference to walking closely with God.6 It’s essentially an Old Testament version of Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

It doesn’t mean we’ll get everything we want exactly how and when we want it. And it sure doesn’t mean everything we do will be judged successful by human standards. What it means is that ultimately our sovereign Redeemer will work everything out for our good and His glory because we are His people and He loves us. It means being in a real,



Psalm 1 doesn’t have a formal

title or author’s name, which

puts it among the orphan psalms.

redemptive relationship with the Creator of the universe is the true measure of success.


God-haters, by contrast, aren’t deep rooted or taken care of by a divine gardener; they’re more like tumbleweeds that roll across the ground, only to inevitably disintegrate in barbed wire:

But wicked people are not like that.

They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Psalm 1:4, NCV

I recently had oral surgery because the root of an upper molar had fractured in half, leaving me with no option but to have the tooth yanked out of my head. My dentist advised me to get an implant as opposed to an old-fashioned partial or bridge. This means that after the gaping wound from the extraction heals, the surgeon will drill a titanium screw into my jawbone, then when it grafts sufficiently, she’ll affix a porcelain crown to the screw and—presto!—I’ll have a shiny new molar that, according to the brochure, will last over two hundred years. (I’m not sure why the longevity of the implant is considered a selling point since the rest of me will presumably be long gone by then.)

Of course none of this six-thousand-dollar procedure is covered by insurance, and the whole process takes about a year, but I was too loopy from laughing gas to stop and think about the consequences. The worst one being that in place of my trusty old tooth, I now have a “flipper” (common dental vernacular for the fake tooth patients wear prior to getting the actual implant). Furthermore, because this flipper clips on instead of being secured with adhesive, I have a gap between it and my gum that causes me to talk with a noticeable lisp. Believe me, this is a real bummer when you gab for a living!

My dentist told me the tooth trauma actually started with a substandard root canal I had in college, which left me with a compromised chomper that probably cracked when I fell headfirst off a ladder onto a concrete floor a few years ago. He also broke the news that I’ll likely need another implant in the near future.

Like the hair color I was born with and the steel-trap memory I had in young adulthood, even my permanent teeth have proved to be temporary.

Verse 4 explains that the wicked won’t last either. Oh, they may have their season in the sun when it seems as if they’re sitting on top of the world. But their days are numbered. It won’t be long before God yanks those who defy Him out of their abscessed existence. Their chance of survival matches that of a snowball in the Sahara!


All three of my aunts have worked in public education. One has been a middle-school teacher for decades, and the other two have taught in the classroom and also worked in administration. One of them recently told me about having to expel a high-school senior for attempting to sell prescription drugs two weeks before the end of the school year. This kid was all set to start college in the fall when he chose to become a Vicodin vendor.



In Hebrew, the book of

Psalms is titled tehillim, which

(when translated) means

“songs of praise.” And since

each psalm was originally

crafted as a song, that makes

Psalms essentially the first

hymnal of God’s people!7

But my aunt didn’t have the luxury of lenience, despite his status as a soon-to-be graduate. She had no choice but to call the police, because her high school has a zero-tolerance policy with regard to drugs.

When this student should have been laughing with his buddies in the locker room, he was instead being handcuffed and hauled off to jail. When he should have been striding across the stage to receive his diploma and then smiling into the camera lens of his proud papa, he was instead ostracized and alone. When he should’ve been listening to the lectures of university professors as a baby-faced freshman, he was instead repeating lessons from his last semester in high school. Because of very bad choices, this young man was severely punished. He was effectively barred from the life he could have enjoyed.

And so it is with the wicked. Instead of being happy and content in communion with our Creator, unrepentant sinners will ultimately be cut off from the land of the living. They will not pass Go, they will not collect two hundred dollars, and they will not get to graduate to glory with their classmates:

So the wicked will not escape God’s punishment.

Sinners will not worship with God’s people.

Psalm 1:5, NCV


I recently had a motion-activated camera installed on my back porch by the Williamson County Sheriff ’s Department (chapter 7 tells the Paul Harvey part of this story). Unfortunately I didn’t realize that along with the ability to capture burglars in a digital format, it also recorded me every time I opened or closed the back door. A week later one of the detectives came by to change the battery and started teasing about arresting me on animal-cruelty charges. He explained how he and several other deputies had gotten a big kick out of watching the footage of my leg stepping through a crack in the door, followed by my cat Lazarus sailing through the air like a Frisbee.

I was so embarrassed, because I love animals. But my recently adopted, houseplant-shredding tabby is a feisty little critter. Whenever I gently place Lazarus outside, he races back in before I can close the door and then attempts to shred something else before I nab him again. So I’ve gotten into the habit of tossing him a short distance so I can close the door without squashing any part of his anatomy in the process. (Don’t worry. He always lands unharmed on his feet.) Little did I know that my nightly cat toss was being viewed in living color by local law-enforcement officials.


The 150 individual psalms that make up the book of Psalms (also referred to as the Psalter) were written over a time span of almost one thousand years, from Moses’s era (1400 BC) until the southern Jews returned from captivity in Babylon (around 500 BC). That means these poems were penned while God’s people were wandering around in the desert, when they made their bittersweet return to Jerusalem only to find the land of milk and honey had become a mess, and every season in between. It’s an understatement to say the historical landscape of these lyrics is diverse; Psalms is like a comprehensive musical anthology that covers everything from Rachmaninoff to rap!

They were privy to everything; in fact, their vantage point was so intimate, they could even tell the color of my pajamas! The next section of Psalm 1 is all about God’s observation of us. In fact, the English Standard Version of the Bible puts it like this:

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous. Psalm 1:6

God knows His people. He has intimate awareness of all our ways…pet hurling and otherwise. Which makes me wonder: if we could actually see the red light of God’s “camera” being activated by every thought that runs through our heads, every word that crosses our lips, and everything we do in public and private, how would we behave? Wouldn’t you rather have holy inscribed on your divine DVD than heinous?

Finally, just as the sheriff-cam was bad news for the convicted criminal who used to lurk around my house, so is God’s complete knowledge of human character bad news for the wicked at the end of this opening psalm:

But the wicked will be destroyed. Psalm 1:6, NCV

Which means that unbelievers aren’t simply sitting ducks who might get wiped out; their annihilation is assured. God’s people will be the ones hiking along the path of hope and happiness, but the wicked dudes are blithely prancing straight toward obliteration. They’re going to be burned up faster than petty cash at Target!


The guaranteed security of God’s people, in contrast with the definitive destruction of those who don’t follow Him, in Psalm 1 reminds me of this sermon Jesus preached in the New Testament:

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.”

Then those “sheep” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?” Then the King will say, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.”

Then he will turn to the “goats,” the ones on his left, and say, “Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,

I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

I was homeless and you gave me no bed,

I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,

Sick and in prison, and you never visited.”

Then those “goats” are going to say, “Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?”

He will answer them, “I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.”

Then those “goats” will be herded to their eternal doom, but the “sheep” to their eternal reward. Matthew 25:31–46, MSG

While this story portrays the “good” group as being more giving—they volunteer with Prison Fellowship and cook dinner for down-on-their-luck neighbors and share their soda with cotton-mouthed strangers—they’re only emulating their Master. Because they’ve walked closely with Jesus, they’ve begun to mirror some of His mannerisms. It’s not that they’re inherently better than the wicked guys; sheep and goats are both stinky, hairy manure machines. (Believe it or not, I actually have a bit of firsthand experience on this issue.) Furthermore, my veterinarian friends tell me that goats are actually smarter than sheep. That means sheep don’t have more intrinsic value than goats. The real reason they’re elevated in this gospel imagery is their relationship with the Shepherd. He’s the reason sheep get to be on the right side. He’s the reason they’re spared.

Just like the smelly farm animals in Matthew 25, Psalm 1 reminds us that our salvation is tied to our Shepherd. Without Him, we would surely follow a delinquent gang of goats down the path of destruction. But God’s perfect grace blazes a trail of hope and happiness for messy people like us. When we follow our Father’s directions, we’ll be able to “walk right,” even when teetering on a pair of ill-fitting, too-cool-for-school boots!

The right-now relevance of Psalm 1

God’s love frees us to steer clear of the path of destruction and keep step

with Him in joyful obedience.


1. It’s been said that the primary purpose of biblical poetry (like that of Psalms) is not so much to teach us as to reach us. What kind of poetry or song lyrics do you emotionally resonate with the most?

2. Reread Psalm 1:1. List the top five people you’re most likely to listen to when you need advice. Do you typically walk away happy after listening to their counsel? Why or why not?

3. Describe a situation in which you were metaphorically “pulled off the picnic table” as a result of hanging around with ungodly rebels.

4. Read Jeremiah 17:7–8 and Matthew 5:3–12. How are the common themes in these passages connected to the overall theme of Psalm 1?

5. Compare Psalm 1:4 with Luke 3:15–17. Why do you think God “winnows” wicked people from His followers? Have you ever felt the need to separate yourself from some people because of their cruddy attitude about our Creator-Redeemer? How did you make the break?

6. What movie or book can you think of that reflects the theme of Psalm 1? Explain the parallels you see.

Peace & Blessings,

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Attitude of Faith by Frank Damazio

Occasionally, I plan to feature non-fiction books here, books that provide information and inspiration to help me (and you) live our best lives.

I missed the tour date for this one, somewhere in my mid-summer fog, but I'm reading this book now. And it's powerful. I'm in chapter one, and I'm already planning to get a highlighter so that I can mark the passages I want to recall and study.

So even though the tour date is past, I'm still sharing. Read chapter one below and you'll see what I mean. I'll be talking more about what I learn from this one in days to come.

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:

The Attitude of Faith – Saying Yes to God’s Power in Your Life

Whitaker House (July 7, 2009)


Frank Damazio is known worldwide as a “minister to ministers” and for his volumes of written work including 30 books. Together with his wife Sharon he serves as pastor of City Bible Church, a thriving multi-site, multi-cultural church in Portland, OR. Pastor Damazio holds a Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry from Oral Roberts University. He serves as president of Portland Bible College and vice president of Ministers Fellowship International, a network of pastors and missionaries from 45 countries.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Whitaker House (July 7, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1603741143
ISBN-13: 978-1603741149


Chapter 1

Yes to Expectation

Two men walked through an empty field. One saw exactly what he expected to see--nothing. He waded through tall weeds toward a desolate orange grove, thinking, What a useless wasteland! The other man bounced over the weeds with excited expectancy. ÒThis is it! This is the place! This is where my dreams come true! Can you see it? Over here is going to be a merry-go-round and over there I will put a roller coaster. This is what I have always wanted!Ó

The second man knew beyond the shadow of a doubt exactly what was going to happen with that empty field and its surrounding orange groves. He could not see it with his physical eyes, but he knew inside what it was going to look like, and he knew what it would take to make it happen. He could not see the dream; he could not touch it, but he lived with expectation for the day when it would become reality. It was a wild expectation that his friends laughed at, but today, that wild expectation is a multimillion-dollar theme park called Disneyland.

Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she has wild expectations. If Walt Disney had been willing to settle for a small dream, not only would Disneyland never have happened, but neither would have Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland Resort Paris in France, or Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

Have Great Expectations

What are your expectations for your life? Do you have high expectations or low expectations? Or do you not have any and not care? Are you excited about your future, or are you facing it with deep apprehension and perhaps with fear?

Say yes to expectation. Expectation determines what you will have in your life and future, but it also represents what you are willing to settle for. Are you going to settle for an empty field, or are you going to expect the fulfillment of the lifelong dream? Expectation is a very powerful force in your life, and you must learn how to cultivate it fully. If you believe that whatever you expect with faith and certainty will enter your life, then you will examine your expectation level and cultivate it to its highest potential.

Expectation is the power to have an idea that becomes so real that you see it and feel it before you can hold it. It is like a giant magnet that attracts what you expect into your life. Expectation empowers you to think the unthinkable and do the undoable, and it turns uncertain hoping into certainty.

Everyone has expectations, and these expectations come in a variety of sizes. Some are huge, such as the dream job, the business you hope to create, the person you dream of sharing your life with, or the family you hope to raise. You may have expectations about how you will live life, about your health, about your happiness, or about your level of success.

Expectation can be defined simply as fixing your eyes on the promised blessing with an eager anticipation of its arrival. An expectation is a strong desire that is filled with anticipation and confidence about obtaining what is expected. To live with expectation is to live with hope, dreams, imagination, and desires.

Desire Is a Strong Feeling with an Intentional Aim

Desire is more than just wishful thinking. It is the passionate and resolute determination of the will to achieve that which is sought. When you desire something, you long for it and crave it. You have a passion for it, yearn after it, and strive to obtain it. A desire is a concentration of deep feelings, and it often implies strong intention and aim. It is not simply a bland wish but a desperate yearning that will give anything to obtain that which is desired. Desire is a longing for something that saturates the entire soul.

Psalm 20:4 encourages us, ÒMay He grant you according to your heart's desire, and fulfill all your purpose.Ó God can grant you your heart's desire. The thing you long for--that which you earnestly and passionately reach for--God can give to you.

The famous evangelist D. L. Moody reportedly spoke these powerful words of expectation to his sons from his death bed: ÒIf God be your partner, make your plans large.Ó God is our partner, and our plans can and should be large. Will you allow the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see what God has in store for you?

Desire Is Focused in Christ

Psalm 37:4 says, ÒDelight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.Ó Desire is a God-given purposefulness for your life that is first fulfilled when you surrender your life to Christ and allow Him to take control. When you surrender to Jesus, you belong to Him, and He has the keys to your life's fulfillment. As you allow Him to be the Lord of your life, and as you walk in obedience to Him, He will direct your path, focusing your desires into alignment with His will for your life. He will give you the strength and ability to see those desires become reality.

Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, ÒAnyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self.Ó
(Mark 8:34-35 msg)

The disciples made the decision to walk away from their own desires and to follow Christ's desires. We scarcely lack desire; we just focus it on the wrong things. Pure desire to follow Christ cannot be achieved until your desire for self is extinguished. Make a decision to focus your desire on loving and serving Christ; then, God will take your life and fill it with the desires that bring true success and true satisfaction.

Desire is anticipation that is founded in God, an attitude of the soul that believes in the greatness of God's will and in His work yet to be done. It is the cry of the soul as heard in Jeremiah 33:3: ÒCall to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.Ó You cannot know God's desires until you know Him and He reveals them to you.

You have a choice. You can slumber and sleep your way through life, or you can wake up and live life to the maximum. Life is meant to be filled up with all the great things God seeks to do for you, in you, and through you. Expectation is best received and lived out as you align your total life to God and His Word, living with abandonment to His desires for you and setting yourself to be in agreement with God. Jeremiah 29:11 declares,

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Expect Good Things from God

This is the part of your life I hope to help you change. I want to see you begin to grasp--or recover--real, heart-felt expectation. I want you to recover your will to desire. Without the power to desire something good, you will have great trouble nurturing expectation for your life.

Proverbs 10:24 says, ÒThe fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted,Ó and Proverbs 13:12 states, ÒHope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.Ó

Hope by itself does not bring expectation. Desire by itself cannot bring expectation. It is the desire to see the promises fulfilled, fueled by faith in God, that brings a sense of expectation. The power to hope comes from a faith in God and a belief that He is good and that He will be good to you.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
(Romans 15:13 msg)

The Best Is Yet to Come

A story is commonly told about a terminally ill woman who had three months left to live. She was the last person you would expect to have hope, but hope is exactly what she had. She sat down with her pastor and discussed her own funeral arrangements--her favorite songs to be sung, the Scriptures to be read, the dress to be buried in, and finally, the most important part of the funeral arrangements: ÒWhen you place me in the casket, put a fork in my hand.Ó

The pastor sat there, his mind racing as he tried to figure out how to respond. Was she beginning to lose her mind?

The woman smiled at him and explained, ÒWhen I was a little girl and we had guests for dinner, I always waited with bated breath at the end of the meal. Sometimes, my mother would simply clear the dishes, and the adults would sit around and talk. But sometimes, my mother would say, 'Keep your fork,' as she picked up the plates. Then, I would get excited, because I knew that the best part of the meal was coming. It could be my grandmother's deep-dish apple pie or my mother's velvet chocolate cake, but it was always the best part of the evening.Ó

Her eyes glistened with joyful tears as she continued, ÒAs my family and friends come to my funeral and see me lying in the casket with the fork in my hand, I want you to give them a message from me. Tell them that I said I'm keeping my fork because the best is yet to come.Ó

As you read Romans 15:13 again, I want you to reach out and take hold of it in faith, knowing that the best is yet to come.

May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! (msg)

What Are God's Thoughts toward You?

Before you read any further, think about that question. What are God's thoughts toward you? What does He think about you? What does He have planned for your life? What desires does He want to plant into your heart? What does He want you to expect?

You have been called to greatness. You must grasp how good God is and how great His thoughts are toward you. Right expectation is rooted in God's thoughts, intentions, and purposes for your life. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells you what His thoughts are toward you.

ÒFor My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,Ó says the Lord. ÒFor as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.Ó

You have been called to walk through doors of opportunity that you have not yet seen. God said He has plans for your future, and they are good plans. Expect good things from God. Expect Him to open new doors for your life. As you travel on your personal Christian road, God will set doors of opportunity in front of you for your personal life, your family, your business, your relationships, and your church. In Revelation 3:8, Christ declared,

I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

Let me paraphrase this verse. ÒI have set before you an open door, and it will remain open until you are able to enter it. You will enter in sooner than you think, and when your moment of opportunity comes, your strength will not be wasted in efforts to make the conditions favorable. You will enter in at once because I have opened the door!Ó

Expect to open new doors of faith adventures that will necessitate getting out of your comfort zone, the area where you feel the most comfortable trusting God. Getting out of your comfort zone requires a leap of faith. When the door is open, move through it. Take a risk. Move into the unknown. To find bigger oceans, you must not be afraid to lose sight of the shore.

What doors might the Lord open for you if you expect some new doors? What doors have you ignored or fastened with a ÒNo EntranceÓ sign, even though you could hear God saying, ÒGo through the doorÓ? Expect new doors. Knock on doors of opportunity and keep knocking.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7 nlt)

Personal Testimony

Mark and Jennifer,
Married Couple in Their Thirties

Since our courtship time, we knew that God would lead us to adopt. We decided that we would have three children and then adopt a fourth. After twelve years of marriage without children and the disappointments and heartbreaking effects of infertility, it seemed that our dream of a family would never happen. That is when the Lord told us in a very clear way that we should start the adoption process, so we did. In our quest for the rest of our family, we faced even more heartbreak.

While we waited, we even built a four-bedroom house to have room for our children, knowing for sure that they were coming. We didn't expect this new season of adoption to be even harder than infertility! We were to adopt twin baby boys, and we waited excitedly for their birth. The day they were born, the fifteen-year-old birth mother changed her mind, and our hopes were crushed. We knew all along that God wanted us to have children. We just didn't know when, who, or how, so we pressed on in what seemed to be an uphill battle, trusting and believing that the Lord was the one who would form our family.

After we had spent two years of looking for our children, God gave us a set of four--yes, four--siblings. They had been in foster care for two years, and we were chosen as their placement family. What a joyful day it was when we brought them home! A couple weeks after they arrived, we found out that one of the birth parents was trying to get our four-year-old back! After several months, he decided to relinquish all parental rights. We are now a family of six, with a house reverberating with noise and overflowing with love.

Expectation Requires Faith

Cultivate an optimistic faith outlook based on God's desires for you and His commitment to you. Psalm 37:23 promises, ÒThe steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.Ó Tell yourself, ÒMy steps are ordered by God Almighty. My life and future are in His hands. I expect good things to happen, and I declare the greatness of God to be released upon my life. The same God who has supported me in the past, who met the needs of those in Scripture, who faithfully takes care of other people today, can do the same thing for me.Ó

Faith is an exceedingly hopeful perspective of confidence and trust.

Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

Expectation moves us to pray for great things from God. This is the attitude that is constantly diligent in fully expecting God to do the impossible. Remember: if God be your partner, make your plans large.

How is your expectation right now, today, at this precise moment? How filled with faith and expectation are you about your future? Do you have a heart that throbs with deep feelings of hope and a great outlook on the future? Do you believe Psalm 16:6? ÒThe lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.Ó Do you believe Ephesians 3:20? ÒNow to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in usÉ.Ó

The Enemies of Expectation

Natalie's dream was to become part of the Olympic swim team. She spent hours training and preparing, expecting to make the team. At age sixteen, she barely missed qualifying for the 2000 Sydney games but knew that she could make the 2004 games. But in 2001, she was hit by a car, crushing her left leg.

If you had known Natalie, which of the following two responses would you have given her? The first option is, ÒDon't give up. You can still expect to qualify for the Olympics. You still have a chance.Ó The second is, ÒThat's one dream that has died. Such a shame. She gave her whole life to one dream and then had that dream crushed in a few short seconds. What a waste! She will never know what she could have done if she had not had that accident. She will never reach her full potential or come close to realizing her dreams.Ó

Expectation doesn't just drop into your lap without a fight. When you begin to look to the future with faith, when you begin to step through new doors of opportunity, there will be challenges and adversaries. In 1 Corinthians 16:9, Paul stated, ÒA great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.Ó

Natalie had many adversaries. Her first adversary was her physical limitations. She was a swimmer with only one leg. Her other adversaries were her own doubts, fears, and the negative words that others spoke to her, telling her that her dream was over. Her expectation should have been crushed with her leg, but it was not. She refused to give up. She continued working out, doing physical therapy, and eventually began to train again. In 2008, she qualified for and went to the Beijing Olympics.

Expectation is willing to take on the adversaries that lie in wait at the doors of new opportunity. In The Message Bible, 1 Corinthians 16:9 reads, ÒA huge door of opportunity for good work has opened up here. There is also mushrooming opposition.Ó The Amplified Bible says it this way: ÒA wide door of opportunity for effectual [service] has opened to me [there, a great and promising one], and [there are] many adversaries.Ó

The Hebrew word for adversary contains the idea of someone who fights against you and endeavors to shackle you and push you into a tight and cramped place where you have no way out. Your adversary hates you and is determined to defeat and overcome you. He is your enemy. What adversaries stand between you and your open door? What adversaries endeavor to bind and limit your opportunities? What is it that tries to defeat you and prevent you from seeing your expectations become realities?

1. The Enemy of Expectation Is Fear and Worry

Walter Chrysler, founder of Chrysler Motor Company, had a box sitting on his desk. Every time he worried about something, he would not deal with it then but would write it down and put it in the box to deal with the following week. When he opened the box later, he would find that most of the worries from the previous week had already resolved themselves without any ongoing concern or attention on his part.

The word worry can mean Òto choke or strangle.Ó The idea is to harass by tearing at or disturbing repeatedly. It is a nagging persistence that drains you of energy. The things you worry about and the fear you bring upon yourself must not be allowed to have power over your life or rob you of expecting great things from God.

What are the things that persistently whisper in the back of your mind? What are the nagging worries and fears that eat at you? Peter tells us, ÒGive all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about youÓ (1 Peter 5:7 nlt).

A farmer was sitting on his porch and looking at his fields when a friend stopped by to visit. Any conversation between two farmers inevitably comes around to their crops, so the friend asked, ÒHow's your wheat?Ó

The farmer replied, ÒAin't got none. Figured the weevils would get into the wheat and ruin me, so I didn't plant any.Ó

The friend nodded his understanding and asked, ÒSo, how about your corn?Ó

ÒAin't got none,Ó was the reply. ÒDidn't plant any because I was afraid the crows would eat it and ruin me.Ó

ÒWell, what about your potatoes?Ó

ÒAin't got none of them, neither. Was afraid to plant 'em because the 'tater bugs will get to 'em, and I'd be ruined.Ó

By now, the friend was perplexed. ÒWell, what did you plant this year?Ó

ÒNothing. I just played it safe.Ó

Don't allow your worries to determine your future! If you play it safe, you will have nothing. So throw all your hopes and all your fears into God's hands and know that He cares about you.

2. The Enemy of Expectation Is Negativity

Expectation can be drowned easily in our lives by tragedy or disappointment. A sense of hopelessness or failure can kill the desire or ability to expect things to change. Deep inside, a voice whispers, ÒYou want to be somebody, but it's not going to happen.Ó In the inner place of your soul, deep in your heart, a war rages against expectation with thoughts such as, You don't have a chance. It's just not going to happen. Life is against you, so give up. You can't recover from this. People like you should never have dreams like this. Why expect anything when you know you will be disappointed?

Proverbs 4:12 promises, ÒWhen you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble.Ó Do not let pessimism hinder your steps from fulfilling your God-given expectations. Dread and fear feed a pessimistic attitude that seeks to make God smaller than your problems. Pessimism makes it easy for you to visualize a negative outcome for your life and then live in a way that fulfills that negative outcome.

Say no! This is not what God desires for your life. Make a concrete decision to remove the negative spirit, attitudes, and thoughts from your life. The mind-set that says, ÒGod is not for me,Ó is destructive and is an expectation killer. Do not allow yourself to become a doom and gloom forecaster of your own life. A negative outlook builds a wrong mind-set that dominates your thinking and results in a negative belief that your expectations cannot and will not come to pass. Compare the size of your problems to the greatness of God. The size of your God must grow!

3. The Enemy of Expectation Is Apathy

Another adversary of expectation is an apathetic mind-set that resists change and is content with the status quo. The attitude that thinks expectation costs too much thinks things like this: It requires breaking habit patterns that are impossible to stop. It requires change--and maybe the cost won't be worth the reward. It is safer not to dream, not to hope, and not to expect good, because you will be disappointed. Instead, be satisfied with where you are today, and do not expect anything better for tomorrow.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the primary crop in Alabama was cotton. As you traveled across the state, cotton fields stretched out as far as you could see. Then, in 1915, the boll weevil immigrated into Alabama from Mexico and began a rampage of destruction. By 1918, farmers were losing entire crops and going bankrupt.

A man named H. M. Sessions refused to give up and determined that the success of his small town depended on finding a new crop to plant. After research, he determined that peanut farming would restore the town's agricultural success. The problem was that the local farmers had planted cotton their entire lives, their fathers had planted nothing but cotton before them, and their grandfathers had planted cotton before their fathers. They did not want to take the risk and try something new. It took Sessions a year to find someone who was willing to buck the status quo and plant this brand-new crop. One year later, those who had followed Sessions had paid off their debts and were in the black. All of the other farmers quickly followed suit, and not only the town but the entire county was saved from bankruptcy.

All people have boll weevil times in their lives. Things are at a dead end, and the problems facing them are huge. It is easier simply to give up than to expect that something better is ahead. It is easier to keep doing what you are doing than to risk something new to discover God's best.

If you are in a boll weevil time, you must remember that you were created for more than this! God has a plan for your life, and it is a plan for a good future--a future of hope and fulfilled expectations. (See Jeremiah 29:11.) God promises that hope placed in Him is hope that will not bring disappointment. It is hope fulfilled.

Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
(Romans 5:5)

Abraham Overcame Discouragement

Be like Abraham. In Genesis 13, Lot had just turned his back on Abraham and walked away. Abraham had treated him like a son and had given him everything, and Lot had washed his hands of their relationship and walked out. Abraham could have given up. He could have cried out to God, ÒOh God, I'm so discouraged. My family has left me all alone in a strange country. I have nothing to show for it. Maybe I should just go back to Ur, where life was easier before You called me out here to this strange land.Ó What did God tell Abraham during this time?

The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: ÒLift your eyes now and look from the place where you are; northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.Ó
(Genesis 13:14-15)

Lift up your eyes and look out from the place where you are. Do not wait for things to look perfect before you begin to develop hope and expectation. Start now. Look from where you are right now. Look north, south, east, and west from right where you are, because that is the land that God is going to give you.

By faith Abraham, while he was being called, obeyed to go out into a place which he was about to be receiving as an inheritance, and he went out, not troubling his mind as to where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner without rights of citizenship in the land of the promise as in a land not his own, having settled down to live in tents with Isaac and Jacob, joint-heirs with him of the promise, the same one, for he was constantly waiting for and expecting the city having the foundations, the architect and builder of which is God.
(Hebrews 11:8-10 wuest)

Abraham had an expectation that God was going to fulfill His promise and that the land was going to belong to him and his descendants. Hebrews says he was Òconstantly waiting for and expectingÓ the fulfillment of the promise. Abraham did not allow fear of the future, worry about the present, or regret about the failures of the past deter him from that attitude of faith and expectation in God.

Abraham knew that his chances of becoming a father were diminishing as he got older, but he persistently held to the promise God had given him of being the father of many nations. Even though he had walked away from a land of comfort and ease, Abraham knew in faith that he would see the promise fulfilled. And Scripture never shows him looking back to the land of his forefathers. Instead, he always looked ahead for the city whose Òarchitect and builderÉis God.Ó

Life is filled with expectation robbers--people and circumstances that seek to steal your expectations. Fear and anxiety grip people's minds with uncertainty and fear of what may happen, overshadowing hope. One of the great challenges of life is to lift yourself out of your current circumstances and rise up to the level that your expectation can take you.

Jabez Overcame Negativity

Jabez had an excellent reason to have low expectations. When his mother named him, she did not give him a name that indicated she had great hopes for his future. She named him for pain, sorrow, and affliction. (See 1 Chronicles 4:9.) He was not reminded of who he could be; instead, he was constantly reminded of the pain he had caused. Yet Jabez was not content to live within those low expectations.

Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ÒOh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!Ó So God granted him what he requested.
(1 Chronicles 4:10)

Jabez had large expectations that God could surpass the stigma placed on him by others. He believed that God would bless him and use him to be a blessing to others.

God's blessings for us are limited only by ourselves--not by His resources, power, or willingness to give. Refuse any obstacle, person, or opinion that restricts your expectations for your future. There are great, God-given opportunities before you, great open doors, and great rewards lying within your reach. Stretch. Expect. Believe. Persist. Possess.

The culture around you says, ÒDon't get your hopes up. You may be disappointed. Aim low and be safe.Ó You have to break away from the autopilot of the masses that settles for the ordinary life, the no-hope life, the aim-low-and-be-happy life. This is not the expectation that God has for your life. Think of yourself as the pregnant mother who expects only the best from her pregnancy. With her imagination, she is able to live the result in magnificent detail until, eventually, the baby is born and she physically holds her ÒexpectationÓ in her arms.

You do not need a high IQ, special skills, or an amazing education to raise your expectation. You simply must make a decision to partner with God and His Word and to believe what He says about you and your future. Lift your vision to match God's vision for your life. Decide. Expect. Change. Lift your vision and take the limitations off your life.

Ruth Overcame Apathy

When Naomi's husband and sons died, her two daughters-in-law were faced with a difficult choice. If they stayed in their homeland, they returned to the security of their families, but it was security with a limited future. They were widows, but they were widows with family who would care for them. If they chose to go with Naomi, they risked losing everything.

When Ruth chose to follow Naomi back to Israel, she walked away from a life of security into a life of the unknown. As a widow in a foreign land, she had no husband, no family, and no protector. There was no security for her future and no reason for her to expect anything other than an arduous and lonely life.

Ruth refused to give in to apathy and reluctance to change. She declared to Naomi, ÒYour God will be my GodÓ (Ruth 1:16 nlt), and she walked into the unknown with the confident expectation that she had all she needed for a full life. In so doing, she walked into a future that extended past her present-day fulfillment of a life with a rich and good man, Boaz, and into the fulfillment of being the great-grandmother of the king of Israel and part of the lineage of Jesus.

Simeon Overcame Prolonged Waiting

Luke 2 tells the story of Simeon, who expected to see the Messiah before he died. He waited for years with an attitude of expectancy for the fulfillment of that promise. He did not give up, but he persevered in waiting, expecting, and knowing that God would fulfill His promise.

When he finally held the child Jesus in his arms, he said, ÒLord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvationÓ (Luke 2:29-30). He had waited for years, faithfully coming to the temple, knowing that if God had told him this was going to happen, it was as good as done. There was no doubt, no questioning, no fear--only a simple faith that God would do all He had promised.

Don't Give Up

Abraham could have spent his life looking back at Ur of the Chaldeans in regret for what he had left. Ruth could have looked back to the life that she could have had in her home country. Simeon could have looked back at a long and happy life and been satisfied with settling for the blessings he had already received. But none of these people was content to settle. None was willing to give up his or her expectations. They set their faith in the God who does not change, who promises and fulfills every word. They set their hope on His words and lived lives of expectation, alert and waiting for the fulfillment of all that He had spoken.

Whatever your situation is today, whatever you fear in the future, whatever you regret from the past, lay them aside and fix your eyes on God. Set your hopes on Him. Place your faith in His Word. Focus your life and your desires on Him. The best is yet to come.

Prayer of Expectation

Lord, I believe that You are good and that You desire to release into my life wonderful, unimaginable, miraculous, great, and mighty things. Today, I pray with large expectations by the power of the Holy Spirit. Enlarge my vision. Increase my faith. Secure my future. Amen.

Peace & Blessings,