Monday, August 31, 2009

When God Writes Your Love Story

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!

This is a wonderful book for our young people who want to honor God as they seek their mate for life. It's easy to read, full of honest stories from the authors, and very focused on trusting God's plan for our lives. I highly recommend it!

Today's Wild Card authors are:


and the book:


When God Writes Your Love Story

Multnomah Books (June 2, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Eric and Leslie Ludy are the best-selling authors of more than a dozen books – known for tackling some of the toughest issues of our day. The Ludy’s unique “insider perspective” on the sexual and spiritual climate of contemporary culture has given them a powerful platform with audiences around the world. Eric and Leslie Ludy live with their children in Windsor, Colorado and can be found blogging and podcasting at www.setapartlife.com.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (June 2, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1601421656
ISBN-13: 978-1601421654

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Part One

The Author

of Romance

Giving God the Pen




One

The Babes and

the Big Egos

The day I made my choice

ERIC

All the Kens and Barbies sat around the table.1 Amid glistening smiles and Coppertone tans, the fragrance of Polo with a hint of Skin So Soft (yes, this was the good old nineties!) wafted through the café booth. I nibbled at my burrito as the conversation around me finally arrived at its ultimate destination.

“So, Kevin,” Barbie no. 1 flirted across the table, “Tell us who you’re seeing now.”

Kevin, the son of a state senator, was used to having eyes upon him. Being a Tom Cruise look-alike has a way of boosting the ego. As he crunched a chip between perfect teeth, an “I thought you’d never ask” smirk found its way across his face.

As all of us camp counselors leaned in, eyes bulging with expectancy, Kevin finally revealed the secret in a low monotone: “Her name is…Sandra!”

This only added to the excitement and wonder, because no one had any idea who Sandra was.

“Is she a babe?” crooned the resident Brad Pitt, alias Mike from Wyoming.

Say no more! Swift as the bionic man, Kevin whipped out his wallet. Moments later we all observed a photograph of the “hottest girl on the planet,” as Kevin so proudly referred to her.

“Niiice!” Came the rumble of approval from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (Wayne from Denver).

“I think she has a huge nose!” grumbled one of the girls under her breath.

I continued to pick at my burrito.

Barbie no. 2, sitting beside Top Gun, was next in the heartthrob inquisition. She displayed a photo of her boyfriend to cheers of “You go, girl!” from the Barbies and disapproving rumbles about his skinny neck from the Kens, Brads, Matts, and Toms.

After a week of having to exhibit saint like behavior to all the little campers and being super spiritual while around the camp leaders, it was time to let our hair down—time to let the real passions of life come out. I mean, in your late teens and early twenties, you can sing only so many spiritual camp songs before you need an infusion of good old-fashioned romance.

One year earlier, talks like this had really lit my fire. I used to love to brag about my love life at camp and exaggerate about my “sexy new girlfriend” in a way that would make all the guys jealous and all the girls insecure. You could say just about anything and get away with it; no one was going home with you to check out your story.

I used to crave these love life chats, but something about Eric Ludy had changed—something big. Something that made me want to slide under the table when all those inquisitive eyes turned my way.

I’ll never forget the moment. There I was, my fork poking at the jalapeño stranded on the corner of my plate and my mind screaming over and over, Please don’t ask me…please don’t ask me.

They asked.

“So, Eric, tell us about your exciting love life!”

All the periwinkle, emerald, and dark brown eyes were twinkling at me with expectation. I gulped.

“Uh,” I mumbled. My palms were sweaty. My tongue was dry and thick, like I had a felt eraser in my mouth. Finally, I found my voice. “Uh, I uh, actually, uh, I am waiting on God.”

But to be honest, it didn’t really come out as clearly as I just wrote it. The last part of my sentence was mumbled under my breath, sounding something like, “Ima waying on Gaw.”

I hoped a brief answer would encourage them to move on to Elle Macpherson (a.k.a. Kayla from Utah) seated next to me, poised and ready with a photo of her hunk. The plan backfired. They became even more interested.

“Uh, I think we missed that, Ludy, ”Tom Cruise sarcastically challenged. “Was that a girl’s name or some kind of Chinese food?”

After the laughs subsided, I began again, this time a little more clearly.

“I know this may sound strange, you guys, but I’ve decided that I won’t give my heart to another girl until God shows me it’s my wife.”

I have often wished I could have been more eloquent, that I could have made my resolve sound a little more appealing to my audience, now staring at me with mouths ajar. But I guess God wanted me to know that I was following a different path, that I was not to seek the approval of the Kens and Barbies of this world but simply to honor and love Him.

It was a lonely moment. Silence filled our corner of the restaurant, and all eyes focused on the jalapeño I was ruthlessly stabbing to death.

“That’s…interesting!” Barbie no. 1 awkwardly noted, her eyes large with disbelief.

Wayne from Denver was not quite as subtle in his disapproval. “Oh, give me a break!” he exploded in disgust. “How in the world do you expect to find someone, Ludy, if you’re not out there looking? ”His words incited a chorus of yeahs and exactlys from around the booth.

After a moment of reflective silence, I took a deep breath and stated, “I believe that if God wants me to be married”—another deep breath—“He will pick her out for me.”

A dark cloud settled over the entire group and rained down bewilderment in the form of pursed lips and rolled eyes. I glanced up from my tortured jalapeño to discover a long bony index finger pointing at me, about twelve inches from my nose. Kevin used that finger like Clint Eastwood used a gun. He didn’t shoot to maim—he shot to kill. His bronzed face had turned red with annoyance, and his lips were quivering with indignation, like a lava pool ready to explode. After three long seconds, he finally erupted.

“I totally disagree with you!” he fumed, his index finger still targeting my right nostril. “God doesn’t want us hanging around nagging Him about something like that!”

A few “amens” from the crowd textured his passionate sermon. He continued. “I believe God wants us to pick,” he preached, “and then He blesses our choice!” He paused and then came to a climactic finish: “It’s sappy Christianity like yours that gives us Christians the image of helpless orphans! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that God would care that much about your love life!”

The finger held fast for another few long seconds, then slowly dropped as if to say, You show any sign of life, and I’ll shoot again!

I was the ultimate bummer to their titillating conversation. If ever you want to drain the juice right out of romance, just bring God into the picture. I had committed the unpardonable camp counselor sin, and all the eyes around the table were letting me know it.

Growing up, I had always gotten along with everybody. I knew how to be liked by the crowd and not offend anyone. I was careful to say the right thing in order to avoid disagreements. Eric Ludy had never been known for his backbone…well, except maybe in championing the Denver Broncos. But when it came to things that really mattered, I was just plain spineless. This was one of the first times in my life I can remember actually standing up for something I believed in (that wasn’t orange and blue).

Ironically, I didn’t even know exactly what I was talking about. Just twelve months before, I, too, would have “totally disagreed” with what I had just said. But over the past year, God had been challenging me to apply my Christianity to every area of my life. Was it ridiculous to think God would be interested enough in my love life to direct me to the girl He wanted me to spend my life with?

I shifted in my seat, stabbed my jalapeño one last time, and spoke. “All I know,” I said, “is that every time I’ve tried to find someone myself, I realize in the long run that I have horrible taste.”

All eyes were wide with amazement as I concluded, “Kevin, if God had ten women line up in front of me and said, ‘Eric, you pick,’ I would fall flat on my face before Him and say, ‘God, You know me better than I know myself…You pick! ’ ”

I’ll bet no one present other than myself remembers that scene. To them it was probably just the ramblings of a lunatic named Ludy. But for me it was a defining moment. It was almost as if God was saying, “How seriously are you going to trust Me, Eric?”

So there it was, in front of the babes and the big egos, that God challenged me to officially trust Him with the pen of my life. I had held onto that pen for twenty years, and now, over a chicken burrito and a mangled jalapeño, I handed it over to the great Author to allow Him to work His wonders.

I’ve never regretted it for a moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A son's inheritance, part 2

Yesterday we discussed the value of sons in God's design. Be sure to read that post before this one.

A son in ancient times had extreme value.

He perpetuated the life of his father. We understand genetics enough to know that a son would carry on many of his father's traits. We get the image of a father perpetuating himself in his son.

In Homer's Odyssey, which provides another glimpse into ancient thinking, nothing had higher honor than a worthy son. God used that ancient understanding to explain his view of his children.

Sons were seen as the strength of their fathers, something seen in Jacob's remark about his first-born son Reuben: “my might and the beginning of my strength” (Gen 49:3)


To sons were given the right to inherit family property and to carry the family name.
Overall, the image of sons in ancient times was of cherished people who grew into their family name and inheritance.

When we think of being "sons" in God's view, we can see ourselves as cherished people who carry his name and his image.

Yesterday we discussed how Paul intended to show that we all sons in God's design. We all are cherished, given his name and promised his inheritance.

There's no second place in God's plan.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A son's inheritance

Linda leaned forward over her open Bible and glared at me. "So does this apply to me?"

We were reading from Ephesians where Paul used the metaphor of adoption to explain God's redemption. But the kicker for Linda was that Paul said "Because you are sons...."

As a new believer, Linda detested language which seemed to exclude her. The text appeared to be for men and raised her suspicions that Christianity was a sexist religion that wanted to shut her out.

I hastened to assure her that ancient texts said "son" but really mean "sons and daughters," so she was included. Her feathers smoothed and she settled back for the rest of the lesson.

But I may have been partly wrong in my answer to her. Although I am absolutely convinced that God does not prefer males over females, I have been challenged recently by an observation from Russell D. Moore in his book, Adopted for Life, to look at this text in a different way.

Moore, dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, points out that Paul could have included the Greek word for daughters had he meant to include daughters in his statement. So Paul, by Moore's thinking, said "sons" because he meant "sons."

I have to be honest. As I read Moore's opening statements, my feathers bristled a little bit. But Moore went on. In the ancient culture where Paul wrote, sons and daughters received different inheritances. Had Paul said "sons and daughters," his readers would have assigned different inheritance practices to each.

In other words, they'd have recognized the complete inheritance given to sons while then applying the limited inheritance to the daughters. So, to the ancient reader, God would have given different inheritance to sons and daughters.

They wouldn't have questioned that. In fact, it would have fit their understanding well.

But if Paul intended for them to know that both male and female in Christ got the son's inheritance, they would have understood better the full provision of God's redemption.

The ancients couldn't apply their cultural biases to God. Instead, they could see that God treated all like first-born sons - male and female.

We are all "sons" in God's design.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Iran: Women: We Love Christ!

UPDATE: On Aug. 8, Marzieh and Maryam were summoned to an Iranian court and ordered to deny their faith verbally and in a written statement, according to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts.

Marzieh and Maryam were pressured to recant their faith after the chief interrogator recommended they be charged with apostasy. Praise God, they stood firm and replied, “We love Jesus. We will not deny our faith.”

VOM contacts reported the deputy prosecutor, Mr. Haddad, aggressively questioned the women during the court proceedings. Haddad asked them if they regretted becoming Christians. They replied they had no regrets. When Maryam and Marzieh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit, Haddad told them, it was impossible for God to speak with humans. Marzieh boldly asked him if he was questioning God’s authority and he replied she was not worthy for God to speak to her.

The court adjourned when Haddad told the women a judge would render the verdict although it is not clear which judge is handling their case. Marzieh and Maryam were arrested by Iranian security forces in March and labeled "anti-government activists."

Marzieh and Maryam's apartment was searched and their belongings were confiscated. "Their only crime is that they are committed Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus. They are being unfairly labeled as 'anti government activists' because of the hostility of the government towards practicing Christians.

The women have reportedly been interrogated numerous times and were held in three different police detention centers before being sent to Evin Prison. They are still being held in Evin prison. VOM encourages you to continue praying for Marzieh and Maryam’s release. Ask God to heal, encourage and protect them. Pray they will continue to stand for Christ during this difficult time.

Please visit the Voice of the Martyrs website here.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lance in Africa

I've known Lance since he was born. He's now 24 and piloting an airplane for AIM-AIR for three months in Nairobi and places beyond.

He's posting a blog with some colorful insights regarding his look at Africa. Take a look here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Morning bouquet

Outside my window, beyond the orange lilies of summer, a gold-tassled cornfield shimmers in the breeze. The praise of birds and the clean scent of dewey morning drifts through the window.

This morning God gave me a precious bouquet as I gazed outside my window. Believe me, this came not because of my efforts in any way but because of his marvelous love.

I am like the psalmist who asked, "O LORD, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him?" (Psalms 144:3)

We know we are a fleeting breath and a quick breath, as the psalmist described.

Yet here it is: we are blessed. Not because we are worthy but because He is.

He is my loving God and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,

Psalms 144:2

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Withholding

Lyle wanted prayer a few weeks ago because "God's not answering my prayers. Things aren't going so good for me."

Lyle reported that he prayed every morning and had even tried fasting one day last week. But he still couldn't get all his bills paid and his girlfriend was having problems with her ex-husband. "I been wondering what God has against me, you know? I'm trying but He's not doing what I need."

After God created time, one of his first gifts was lush provision. "Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food..." (Gen 2:9) Yet Adam and Eve shortly were convinced by a serpent that God withheld from them.

What do we make of Lyle's problem, which is so common today? Does God withheld?

J.B. Phillips, in his marvelous classic Your God is too Small, comments:

God will inevitably appear to disappoint the man who is attempting to use Him as a convenience, a prop, or a comfort, for his own plans. God has never been known to disappoint the man who is sincerely wanting to co-operate with His own purposes.

The next time I talk to Lyle, I hope to point him to God's awesome power and wisdom. Blaming God when our prayers fall flat leads nowhere except to show we don't know him very well.

You can't worship a Disappointment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Awakening America

I got information today about a new prayer effort called "Cry Out America." Planners are hoping to have prayer meetings coordinated across America on Sept 11 to ask God for a new awakening in
our country.

Quoting from Joel 1:14, which says, "...and cry out to the Lord," organizers say that "America is in a Spiritual Crisis."

Their website can be found here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

From the ground

Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils,
and the man became a living being. (Gen 2:7)


We are formed from earth. Yesterday, I wrote about the root word for humility being humus - where we get our word for ground.

But I missed this connection, that God formed Adam out of the dust from the ground. Our beginnings are ground - humus - and at that point, before sin, we had God's breath poured into us.

Humility is our foundation, our beginning. We were created to be humble and our sin comes when we try to supplant our humus with pride.

We have our model. Jesus, fully God and fully man, came from the perfection of heaven to serve:

Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head
and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Grounded

Interestingly, the root word for humble is humus, from which we get our word for ground.

Being humble means being grounded - and being under people's feet. Today, be humus!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where's joy?

Joy can feel as elusive as a far-flung star in the deepest night. When you look at it, it's gone but when you look to the side, it's there.

C.S. Lewis called joy “unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction.”

Sometimes the joy blossoms unbidden, like a spring bubbling up and flowing unbidden. And sometimes joy hides its face and we wonder if we ever felt it.

Lewis defined joy further: it “must be sharply distinguished both from happiness and from pleasure.” We crave happiness and pleasure, rushing from entertainment to diversion in hot pursuit.

But happiness and pleasure don't morph into joy. They fade in the noon sun and we're left wondering what fulfills.

Joy is a by-product of life with God. We don't find it on a joy expedition. God is the source of joy and he gives it: "He will yet fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with shouts of joy." (Job 8:21)

Today may be dusty and dry or sweet as ripe grapes. But joy is not elusive.Lewis found joy because he found God as its source. We can search for joy or we can search for God.

They feast on the abundance of your house, and
you give them drink from the river of your delights.

Psalms 36:8

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adopted for Life


I agreed to review Russell D. Moore's book, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches, because of my interest in pro-life issues. If we ask women in crisis pregnancy situations to bear their children, we should be willing to take those children into our own homes.

However, Moore's book is not a nuts and bolts book about adoption. Neither is it a recruiting manual for wanna-be adopters. In adopting two Russian boys a few years ago, Moore and his wife bring a tapestry of emotions and experiences to the table.

Moore weaves those experiences and emotions into our adoption as children of God, bringing a new vividness to those themes.
He compares our adoption by God with bringing two little boys home from Russia, finding common themes in the situations.

Although Moore does include information on how to adopt if you feel God's leading, and the considerations involved in that decision, his insights into our spiritual adoption is worth the cost of the book alone.

This is a thoughtful book and one that will enrichen your walk with your heavenly Father. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sweet fruit


Abundant lush red grapes hanging from thick green vine appeal to me. So, when Jesus compared himself to a vine, promising fruit to those who cling to him, the imagery grabs me.

I can taste the sweetness of the juice and savor the fruit.


But when Jesus said to remain in his love, that is more abstract. How do I remain in his love?

Jesus answered the question in a talk with his disciples. To remain in his love comes on the path of obedience. ("If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love..." John 15:10)


Well, OK. But what is his command? Jesus must have been fielding questions from his disciples, because he answered that question shortly: "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12)


So we are to love others as he loved us. That seems easy enough when the object of our love is a newborn or a dear family member. We get warm fuzzies back and feel good about it all.

Jesus expanded the circle, however. He wasn't speaking of the love that seeks return but of a tougher sort. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)
Now we're getting to it. How do I remain in his love? By laying down my life for others. That's what he commands.

When Susan washed clothes behind the scenes for weeks when a family was struck with a terrible illness, she laid down her life for others. When Sam hauled out trash and pulled weeds for a neighbor who could not- and was bitter about it- he laid down his life for another. When Nate spent his vacation feeding orphans in Haiti, he laid down his life.

Laying down our life isn't always rewarding except in one sense. Jesus promises his presence to those who remain in his love. And that is sweet fruit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What denies

James explained it first but Paul put it in bold-faced type in his letter to Titus.

Titus was left on the island of Crete to do some corrective work there. Leadership had to be placed and bad doctrine replaced. Paul didn't hold back in describing some of the troublemakers.

"They claim to know God," he wrote to Titus, "but by their actions they deny him." (Titus 1:16)

Strong words. I have rushed by them too many times but they grabbed my ankle this time. James warned us that our actions reveal our faith and Paul makes it clear that words aren't enough.

These people of Crete claimed to know God. But their actions denied him. Their actions didn't simply reveal their faith; in this case, they denied God by what they did.

That's a major disconnect and one we need to take seriously. By looking at my actions, I can know where my allegiance lies. If it's not where I want it to be, I need some strategic adjustments.

For just as the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without works is also dead.

James 2:26

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The name Jacob means "grabby" or "supplanter," not a bad description of the son of Isaac who scammed his brother and deceived his father for personal gain.

Jacob, as described in Genesis, was a liar and a deceiver. To my shame, I know plenty about those traits as well.

I'd like to think I've never scammed another or lied, but honesty says otherwise. Jacob gives me hope, because God reached out to a determined swindler and utterly changed him. God even changed his name to Israel, which means "one who strives with God."

In Psalm 135, as the praises swell to honor God's name, the question "why?" comes up. Why would we sing anthems to God's beautiful name?

Here's the answer: "Because God chose Jacob, embraced Israel as a prize possession." (Psalms 135:4)

Jacob was locked in his sin, running from its consequences, when God snagged him. God chose Jacob while Jacob's thoughts were on self-preservation. And then God changed him.

Jacob had a new name and a new label: a prize possession.

That's God's grace: to choose Jacob the Grabby and turn him into Israel the Prize Possession. Hallelujah!

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!
Romans 5:8 (HCSB)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Looking back

When Russell and Maria carried their newly adopted sons from the orphanage in Russia, the babies cried. The boys didn't know that their days in a gray institution were over.They didn't know they wouldn't have to contend with flies on their faces anymore or lie in their own waste.

They didn't know that an airplane ride would soon take them to America where they would be part of a family. Meals would be nutritious and plentiful. They'd have their own room, their own toys and parents who would love and nurture them.

They were going to a better place but the orphanage was familiar and comfortable. They wanted to go back.

There are times, when God takes us as his adopted children, to a better place while we're crying for the orphanage. God's path is filled with adventure, color, nurture and fullness. But it's not always comfortable.

Next time he takes you out for a ride, don't cry for the orphanage. Hang on for what lies ahead because it'll be good.

(This story was developed from Russell D.Moore's new book, Adopted For Life, which I will be reviewing as soon as I finish reading it. But the nuggets in it are too good to wait til then to share, so I'll be sharing gems as I uncover them.)