Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pause for Power A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures by Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe

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:

Pause for Power A 365 Day Journey in the Scriptures

David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karen Davis, Assistant Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe is an internationally known Bible teacher and the former pastor of The Moody Church in Chicago. For ten years he was associated with the “Back to the Bible” radio broadcast, first as Bible teacher and then as general director. Dr. Wiersbe has written more than 160 books. He and his wife, Betty, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Product Details:

List Price: $16.99
Hardcover: 368 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; 2 edition (November 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 078140374X
ISBN-13: 978-0781403740


A Year in the Word

In the pages that follow, you’ll hear Isaiah’s invitation to wayward hearts, wrestle with Job’s dilemma, examine what Hebrews says about the breathtaking work of Christ, and listen in as Paul writes letters to infant churches. Such a task might seem daunting at first, but with the help of Pause for Power, it will take you only a few minutes a day. And here’s the best part: Over the course of a year, you’ll have read fifteen books of the Bible.

The devotions are undated, so you can start any day of the year. They’re also blended, so you can enjoy a variety of biblical voices and themes each week. One day you might contemplate Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and the next you might consider a wise saying from Ecclesiastes.

To get started, simply turn to Day 1, read the associated Bible passage in your favorite translation, spend time with the devotion, then ponder the question of the day. Repeat daily. In twelve months you’ll have studied Job, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, and 1 John. But more importantly, you’ll have gained insight into God’s Word—insight that will bring you closer to the Author Himself.

Day 1

Consistent Actions

Read Romans 2:1—3:20

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Romans 2:7–8

God had given Israel great material and spiritual riches: a wonderful land, a righteous law, a temple and priesthood, God’s providential care, and many more blessings. God had patiently endured Israel’s many sins and rebellions, and had even sent them His Son to be their Messiah. Even after Israel crucified Christ, God gave the nation nearly forty more years of grace and withheld His judgment. It is not the judgment of God that leads people to repentance, but the goodness of God; but Israel did not repent.

In Romans 2:6–11, Paul was explaining a basic principle of God’s judgment: God judges according to deeds, just as He judges according to truth. Paul was dealing here with the consistent actions of people’s lives, the total impact of their character and conduct.

True saving faith results in obedience and godly living, even though there may be occasional falls. When God measured the deeds of the Jews, He found them to be as wicked as those of the Gentiles.

Something to Ponder

Is it possible for people to grow to have consistently good (not perfect) character and conduct? If so, how? How does this fit with Paul’s claim that no one is righteous apart from Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:9–10)?

Day 2

Devoted to Devotions

Read Colossians 4:2

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

Colossians 4:2

It has well been said that the purpose of prayer is not to get our will done in heaven, but to get God’s will done on earth. Prayer is not telling God what to do or what to give. Prayer is asking God for that which He wants to do and give, according to His will (1 John 5:14–15). As we read the Word and fellowship with our Father, we discover His will and then boldly ask Him to do what He has planned. Richard Trench (1807–1886), archbishop of Dublin, said it perfectly: “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of His willingness.”

Of course, it is possible to pray in our hearts and never use the gift of speech (1 Sam. 1:13), but we are using words even if we don’t say them audibly. True prayer must first come from the heart, whether the words are spoken or not.

Something to Ponder

As you pray, in what ways are you “watchful”? In what ways are you “thankful”?

Day 3

The Mark of Maturity

Read Philippians 1:6–10

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.

Philippians 1:9–10

Paul found joy in his memories of the friends at Philippi and in his growing love for them. He also found joy in remembering them before the throne of grace in prayer.

This is a prayer for maturity, and Paul began it with love. He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment.

The ability to distinguish is a mark of maturity. When a baby learns to speak, he or she may call every four-legged animal a “bowwow.” But then the child discovers that there are cats, mice, cows, and other four-legged creatures.

One of the sure marks of maturity is discerning love and loving discernment.

Something to Ponder

With daily decisions, do you tend to seek what is good, or do you try to discern what is truly best?

Day 4

Avoiding Oblivion

Read 1 John 2:17

The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:17

Every great nation in history has become decadent and has finally been conquered by another nation. Some nineteen world civilizations have slipped into oblivion. There is no reason why we should think that our present civilization will endure forever. “Change and decay in all around I see,” wrote Henry F. Lyte (1793–1847), and if our civilization is not eroded by change and decay, it will certainly be swept away and replaced by a new order of things at the coming of Christ.

Slowly but inevitably, and perhaps sooner than even we Christians think, the world is passing away, but those who do God’s will abide forever. Long after this world system—with its vaunted culture, its proud philosophies, its egocentric intellectualism, and its godless materialism—has been forgotten, and long after this planet has been replaced by the new heavens and the new earth (Rev. 21:1), God’s faithful servants will remain, sharing the glory of God for all eternity. And this prospect is not limited to Moody, Spurgeon, Luther, or Wesley and their likes—it is open to each and every humble believer. If you are trusting Christ, it is for you.

Something to Ponder

If you are expecting to share the glory of God for all eternity, what things are you doing now to prepare for such an encounter?

Day 5

Sovereignty and Responsibility

Read Romans 9:14–33

Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”

Romans 9:14–15

Moses was a Jew; Pharaoh was a Gentile, yet both were sinners. In fact, both were murderers! Both saw God’s wonders. Yet Moses was saved and Pharaoh was lost. Pharaoh was a ruler, and Moses was a slave, yet it was Moses who experienced the mercy and compassion of God—because God willed it that way. Nobody can condemn God for the way He extends His mercy, because God is righteous in His judgments (see Ps. 19:9 KJV).

Paul wrote of divine sovereignty and then human responsibility. Here is a paradox: The Jews sought for righteousness but did not find it, while the Gentiles, who were not searching for it, found it! The reason? Israel tried to be saved by works and not by faith. They rejected “grace righteousness” and tried to please God with “law righteousness.” The Jews thought that the Gentiles had to come up to Israel’s level to be saved, when actually the Jews had to go down to the level of the Gentiles to be saved.

Something to Ponder

When you can’t fully understand God’s working, what do you do to maintain your faith?

Day 6

Sins of the Saints

Read Hebrews 2:3–9

This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him.

Hebrews 2:3

We have the idea that believers today “under grace” can escape the chastening hand of God that was so evident “under law.” But to whom much is given, much shall be required (Luke 12:48). Not only have we received the Word from the Son of God, but that Word has been confirmed by “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:4). The phrase “signs and wonders” here refers to the miracles that witnessed to the Word and gave confirmation that it was true. Today we have the completed Word of God, so there is no need for these apostolic miracles. God now bears witness through His Spirit using the Word. The Spirit also gives spiritual gifts to God’s people so that they may minister in the church (1 Cor. 12:1–11).

I have often told the story about the pastor who preached a series of sermons on “the sins of the saints.” He was severely reprimanded by a church member. “After all,” said the member, “sin in the lives of Christians is different from sin in the lives of other people.”

“Yes,” replied the pastor, “it’s worse!”

Something to Ponder

Do you agree that sin in the lives of Christians is worse than sin in the lives of other people? Why?

Day 7

Heart Gifts

Read 2 Corinthians 8:10–24

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it.

2 Corinthians 8:11

During my years of ministry, I have endured many offering appeals. I have listened to pathetic tales about unbelievable needs. I have forced myself to laugh at old jokes that were supposed to make it easier for me to part with my money. I have been scolded, shamed, and almost threatened, and I must confess that none of these approaches has ever stirred me to give more than I planned to give.

We must be careful here not to confuse willing with doing, because the two must go together. If the willing is sincere and in the will of God, then there must be a “completion of it” (2 Cor. 8:11; see Phil. 2:12–13). Paul did not say that willing was a substitute for doing, because it is not. But if our giving is motivated by grace, we will give more willingly.

God sees the “heart gift” and not the “hand gift.” If the heart wants to give more, but is unable to do so, God sees it and records it accordingly. But if the hand gives more than the heart wants to give, God records what is in the heart, no matter how big the offering in the hand may be.

Something to Ponder

Think about a time you gave willingly and a time you gave grudgingly. What made the difference?

Finding the Light of Jesus by Cindy Tuttle - Reveiwed


Face it; life is full of stress. Whether we must deal with daily mild irritations like spilled milk or traffic jams, or extreme problems like the death of a family member, divorce or job loss, each of these events�as well as those that fall in between these opposite ends of the scale�cause anxiety, worry, or even ill physical health.

Finding the Light of Jesus provides reflections and revelations which allow us to step back from our problems, reflect on what is most important in the present moment, and rely on spiritual healing - the Light - to experience inner peace and calm in the midst of trouble.

This is a book that reflects the heart of the author. You can tell that she truly desires that everyone enjoy a close personal relationship with Christ. Her thoughts are reflected in poem-like prayers that the reader can read or pray as the need suits them as they read. The author shares a variety of circumstances that are common to all believers' walk through this life, and she makes practical application through her thoughts and prayers to guide readers toward Christ in any and every situation. There are even pages included for the reader to journal as the progress through the book.

I think many will enjoy this book as a tool for worship. I do wish there were more direct quotes from the Bible or at least Scripture references for the reader to refer to, but overall, I think Christians will find this an encouraging and helpful book to use in their daily walk with Christ.

Cindy Tuttle is a writer who writes from the heart. I have a joy of life that I want to share. My books try and offer hope and encouragement. I see writing as my ministry and showing the love Jesus has for all of us. Below are some of the ways I try and live my faith.

In addition to Finding the Light of Jesus, she also has a book called Joining in the Dance of Life. This book assists us with looking at the simple joys in daily life that we might miss. It is thirty days dedicated to helping you live a joyful life.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Emily of Deep Valley
Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (October 12, 2010)
Mitali Perkins


A word from Mitali: Who In The World Is Mitali Perkins?

That's a good question. I've been trying to figure it out myself, spending most of my life crossing borders.

I was born Mitali Bose in Kolkata (Calcutta), India, and always tried to live up to my name—which means “friendly” in the Bangla language. I had to! Because my family moved so much, it was the only way I could make new friends.

By the time I was 11, I'd lived in Ghana, Cameroon, London, New York and Mexico before settling in California just in time for middle school. Yep, I was the new kid again, in seventh grade, the year everybody barely makes it through.

My biggest lifeline during those early years was story. Books were my rock, my stability, my safe place as I navigated the border between California suburbia and the Bengali culture of my traditional home.

After studying political science at Stanford and public policy at U.C. Berkeley, I taught in middle school, high school and college. When I began to write fiction, my protagonists were often—not surprisingly—strong female characters trying to bridge different cultures.

Mitali Perkins is the author of several books for young people, including SECRET KEEPER (Random House), MONSOON SUMMER (Random House), RICKSHAW GIRL (Charlesbridge), and the FIRST DAUGHTER books (Dutton).


This is an "old-timey" book. It really does remind me of Little Women in the classical sense. Truly, it was a nice change of pace from the more modern fare I normally read. The issues Emily faces are rather universal for all of us. At some point in time, all of us experience a time when life just seems to pass us by in some point or another. We see others moving on, as we would like to do, and yet circumstances just don't allow us to move forward.

Yet Emily learns, as do we all, that God's plans are always best, and despite the hardships we must face, all things are working for our good and His glory. This story is a classic in the truest sense, and I think it is appropriate for young and old alike.


Often cited as Maud Hart Lovelace’s (of Betsy-Tacy fame) best novel, Emily of Deep Valley is now back in print, with a new foreword by acclaimed young adult author Mitali Perkins and new archival material about the characters’ real lives.

Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High School in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can’t leave her grandfather. Emily resigns herself to facing a “lost winter,” but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. And with a new program of study, a growing interest in the Syrian community, and a handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed...

In addition to her beloved Betsy-Tacy books, Maud Hart Lovelace wrote three more stories set in the fictional town of Deep Valley: Winona’s Pony Cart, Carney’s House Party and Emily of Deep Valley. Longtime fans and new readers alike will be delighted to find the Deep Valley books available again for the first time in many years.

If you would like to browse inside Emily of Deep Valley, go HERE.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Once again I am thankful to GOD alone for being born in the United States! I am thankful for the many friends and family I have in my life who love me and fill my heart with joy! Most of all, I am thankful for the gift of salvation and the promise that I will spend eternity worshiping my blessed Savior!

Blogging book reviews is a very special blessing in my life, and I thank all of you who faithfully comment and keep me encouraged as I try to accomplish this task. God is so faithful to guide me through this process, and I give Him all the glory for everything and anything that is accomplished for Him through this blog.

I'll see you back here on Monday with more great books!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The American Patriot's Almanac by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

365 reasons to love America!

The fife and drum of history mark the time of each passing day. And within their cadence, personalities, conflicts, discoveries, ideas, and nations peal and fade. American history is no different. From the starving time of Jamestown during the Winter of 1609, through the bloody argument of the Civil War, and to today, the United States is a tale best told one day at a time. Dr. William J. Bennett distills the American drama into 365 entries—one for each day of the year. Fascinating in its detail and singular in its grasp of the big themes, Bennett’s Almanac will make anyone a fan of history. Even better, it will make of everyone a patriot.

This revised edition includes:

A new preface and updated facts and figures Updates to the American History Parade lists and daily readings New special sections on "Faith and the Founders," "State Facts and Symbols," and "Fifty American Quotes"

My Thoughts:

What a TREASURE!! For each day of the year you can read about a significant event in history. Following that, you can read about other significant historical events that occurred on that same date in other years. This is truly inspirational and fascinating details of our great country that everyone should know and enjoy! The book also includes the facts of how our Constitution was written and ratified, as well as a copy of the Constitution and its amendments. This incredible book includes prayers, poems and significant information about each state in our great nation.

There has never been a time more important for patriotism to be renewed in the heart of the American people. This almanac is sure to inspire both patriotism as well as grateful unto God for allowing us to enjoy the freedom so unique to the United States. I cannot recommend this book highly enough! There should be a copy in every home in America!

God Bless the USA!!

About the Authors:

Dr. William J. Bennett is one of America’s most important, influential, and respected voices on cultural, political, and educational issues. A Brooklyn native, Bill Bennett studied philosophy at Williams College (B.A.) and the University of Texas (Ph.D.) and earned a law degree from Harvard. Host of the top-ten nationally syndicated radio show Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, he is also the Washington Fellow of the Claremont Institute. Former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (1981-1985), and Secretary of Education (1985-1988), and first director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (1989-1990), Bennett is a regular contributor to CNN and has contributed to America’s leading newspapers, magazines, and television shows. He is the author and editor of seventeen books, two of which—The Book of Virtues and The Children’s Book of Virtues—rank among the most successful of the past decade. He, his wife Elayne, and their two sons, John and Joseph, live in Maryland.

John Cribb is a writer and president of the Palmetto Creative Group, a communications firm. A native of Spartanburg, S.C., he studied literature at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. His previous work includes co-authoring The Educated Child (with William J. Bennett and Chester E. Finn), co-editing The Human Odyssey, a 3-volume world history text, and developing on-line history courses. During the Reagan administration, he served at the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is also a co-founder of BulletinNEWS, an electronic publishing company. He lives in Spartanburg, S.C., with his wife Kirsten and his daughters Molly and Sarah.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Who Are You Really, Why? by Ed Renegar - REVIEWED

About The Book:
Go deeper into the thrilling story of the gospel. Learn how sinful, fallen, incomplete mankind can become whole again through Who Are You Really, Why? Due to the sin of Adam and Eve, the spirit linking them to God died and they became less than complete. As the children of Adam and Eve, we were born after the image and likeness of our sinful,fallen, incomplete parents. Therefore, all people come into this world alienated from God, and this alienation can only be erased by the miracle working of the Holy Spirit giving sinful humanity a new birth and entrance into the family of God. Using in-depth word studies of the original Hebrew and Greek biblical texts, Who Are You Really, Why? explores the intriguing and often complex story of the human condition and answers the questions of how we can be made right with God and experience a happy, contented, and fruitful Christian life. The message of the Bible is how God, through love, planned the restoration of His children by the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.

My Thoughts:
This is a pretty neat, yet brief, book that explains the state of the natural, unsaved man, and the need for salvation. It goes on to take a look at what the Bible has to say about the way we come to Christ as well as explains the process of sanctification and the way that Christians grow in their knowledge and understanding of their new relationship with God. I think this would be an excellent tool in the hands of mature Christians as they nurture new Christians in their faith walk. It is good for all Christians to understand how the Lord works in our lives to save our souls and transform our lives into living sacrifices to Him.

I appreciate the succinctness of this volume (only 93 pages) and the way the author uses Scripture to explain his thoughts. This volume has a lot of Scripture references and is not confusing nor hard to understand. The author also uses clear explanations for basic theological ideas that all Christians will encounter as they grow up in their faith. This is not only a good study for more mature Christians, but is a book that many new Christians will appreciate as they gain understanding of their new life in Christ.

About the Author:
Born on August 24, 1917, David Edward Renegar is a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and has been an ordained minister for over sixty years, serving as pastor to numerous Presbyterian congregations in the Appalachian region.

In 1940, Ed graduated from Moody Bible Institute, where he studied Hebrew. Ed finished work for his AB degree from Maryville College, Maryville, Tenn. while working as a chemical analyst for the Aluminum Co. of America. He later completed his Bachelor of Divinity and his Master of Theology degrees at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, where he studied Hebrew and more Greek. Currently retired from full-time ministry, Ed has four grown children and lives with his wife in Patrick Springs, Virginia.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Lightkeeper's Bride by Colleen Coble - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)
When Katie answers the call of duty, she awakens the call to her heart.

Katie Russell loves working as a telephone operator in Mercy Falls, California. But since childhood she has been expected to marry well. Her family presses for an engagement to wealthy bachelor Bartholomew Foster and though he doesn't stir her heart, their engagement promises a secure financial future.

Working the phone lines one evening, Katie overhears a chilling exchange between her friend Eliza and a familiar male voice. Katie soon learns that Eliza has diappeared, and the crime may be linked to another investigation by handsome new lighthouse keeper, Will Jasperson. Katie and Will soon form an alliance. An alliance that slowly blossoms into something more.

Despite the danger surrounding her, Katie is powerfully drawn to Will. But she is not at liberty to marry for love. And though society forbids their growing affection, Katie can't help but notice Will's sense of peace. It's a peace that rests on his trust in God--a trust that Katie has never had to depend on, with her future so clearly mapped out before her.

But the more Katie uncovers of the mystery, the more she discovers about herself, her past, and the brilliant future that could be hers if only she has the courage to trust in God and follow where her heart so fearlessly leads.

My Thoughts:
Well folks, this story has a bit of everything...secret relationships, messed up families, pirates, good-looking weathermen, you name it, this story has it! And at the center of all the information flying around...is the telephone operator....that is until smallpox breaks out. This was a very interesting story, and there really are a lot of story lines that keep the pages rolling along at a quick pace.

A neat and enjoyable get away between the pages! Check it out!

About the Author:
RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several bestselling romantic suspense series, including the Lonestar series and the Rock Harbor series. She lives with her husband, Dave, in Indiana.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More Glimpses of Heaven by Trudy Harris, RN - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from the publisher)

More true stories of the tender beauty of life's end

There is more to death than simply ceasing to live. In Glimpses of Heaven, retired hospice nurse Trudy Harris offered an intimate look at the final days and moments of terminally ill and dying people. Now she shares more of her stories and also stories from other medical and hospice professionals, allowing the veil to be drawn back on God's handiwork, while we are both living and dying.

If you have lost a loved one, are facing a terminal illness, or are simply curious about what happens when we pass from life to death, More Glimpses of Heaven offers you an even deeper insight into God's plan for our lives every day.

My Thoughts:

This book contains a touching look into the lives of a variety of people during their final moments on earth. It's not a morbid book, but rather, it is a very real account of the unique opportunities afforded to hospice worker's as they fulfill their calling. I truly think these people have to be called to this work, because they must deal with people during the most trying episodes of life.

This book deals with this topic from a Christian world view, and the accounts tend to be positive and uplifting - a reassurance that God does indeed provide a special grace to His children and their families as they face the transition from life unto death. I imagine an entire library of books could be written on these types of experiences if they could be collected.

I have never been beside a loved one when they passed through the veil of death into the presence of the Lord, but I have talked with those who have, and God is indeed faithful to provide comfort to His children during this time. This is not light reading by any means, and not a book you would sit down and read from cover to cover. However, to read a few vignettes at a time is indeed an encouragement.

About the Author:

Trudy Harris, RN, is the author of Glimpses of Heaven, a former hospice nurse, and former president of the Hospice Foundation for Caring. Since retirement, Harris remains active in connecting the needs of terminally ill and dying people in her community with the hospice program she knows can best meet their needs.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flashback Friday - Thanksgiving

What was Thanksgiving like when you were growing up? What days did you usually have off from school? Do you remember any Thanksgiving activities at school, such as a play or a meal? During the Thanksgiving weekend, did you travel to spend it with relatives or did you stay home? Or did relatives travel to you? What was your family's day typically like? Did you watch the Macy's Parade or something else on TV? Have you ever attended a Thanksgiving parade? Was football a big part of the day? And of course, we have to hear what your family ate! Were there any traditional foods that were part of your family's meal? Which of your growing-up traditions do you do with your family today? And if you are married, how did it go merging your two traditions/expectations?

In my early years…probably up until I was 10-12 years old, my mother’s extended family celebrated Thanksgiving at my house. We had a very average size house with a full basement, and while it was more than enough room for the six people in my family, when you stuffed another 50 or so people into it, the space became very crowded! (I grew up with 12 aunts and uncles – mom was one of 13!) I remember getting ready for the event was pretty stressful for my mom, but she always loved having her family around her! Eventually we moved the gathering to my uncle’s house – with a lot more room – and it is still celebrated there today. It is the one holiday my mom’s family gets together. I grew up very near both sides of my extended family, so traveling was not an issue.

I also remember that the Macy’s Parade was the main distraction used to keep we young- ones entertained while the food was being prepared. It was an amazing thing to see! I also remember the Rose Bowl parade – but am not sure this was at Thanksgiving. Anyway, I have vivid memories of watching the Macy’s Day parade with my cousins! Football may have been in there somewhere, but I don’t think so. There were too many people to set aside room for a ballgame. I also remember that Thanksgiving night – after all of the company left, we got to watch Rudolph, and Frosty the Snowman and other Christmas shows! I remember being very excited about that!

Food was very traditional…ham, turkey and more casseroles, desserts and vegetables than you could count. No matter how large the crowd swelled, there was always a LOT left over!

When I got married we initially tried to alternate between families during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. (families were 3 hours apart) It worked out, but was kind of stressful. While we were on active duty in the military Thanksgiving was celebrated on the military base and with friends from church – 1000 miles from family. If you want to have a heart moving experience, eat Thanksgiving with the soldiers in the chow hall! I’ll never forget that experience! Gives a whole new meaning to being thankful for your country.

For the past several years we have celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended in-law family, (Christmas is with my family) and we have a 2 ½ day event! Thursday includes all of the traditional foods, and then Friday includes football (the Iron Bowl between Auburn University and Alabama dominates the afternoon) and, music (several members of the family play guitar, banjo and standup bass – and we have had a mandolin thrown in from time to time!) and ends with a bonfire and wiener roast! We threw in a hay ride year before last! Then Saturday is spent saying goodbye as family members travel home. This year we are doing the traveling, so it will be a big change from the past several years.

I have been abundantly blessed with family, and we have a great time together making memories that will last a lifetime!

Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski - REVIEWED

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:

Under the Overpass

Multnomah Books; Later Printing edition (March 31, 2005)

***Special thanks to Staci Carmichael, Marketing and Publicity Coordinator, Doubleday Religion / Waterbrook Multnomah, Divisions of Random House, Inc. for sending me a review copy.***


MIKE YANKOSKI and his wife, Danae, are both graduate students in theology at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. Mike is a board member for World Vision, and a frequent speaker for World Vision, Compassion International, Union Gospel Mission, and colleges across North America. The Yankoskis make their home in a community house on Vancouver's east side where they seek to live authentically among people in need.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books; Later Printing edition (March 31, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1590524020
ISBN-13: 978-1590524022

My Thoughts:

“If we believers choose to forget that everyone – even the shrunken soul lying in the doorway – is made in the image of God, can we say we know our Creator? If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven’t we entirely missed the point of the gospel?” (p. 103)

“Despite all the indications to the contrary, we are not adrift on a shoreless sea of human need and misery. There is hope – hope of an approaching wholeness and redemption. The Lord has come to us and is coming still. Coming over the dark and chaotic mess of our world, all the more breathtaking in the unexpected ways He makes Himself known.” (p. 111)

“We’re responsible to help others toward hope in Jesus’ name. But we’re not responsible for their choices.” (p. 212)

My words seem inadequate to describe the experiences the Mike Yankoski has recorded in his book, Under the Overpass. What an amazing story! How thankful I am that God has allowed me to have similar experiences – not through living on the streets – but in the years I have volunteered at a resident home for women with addiction. My husband has also afforded me many experiences with the broken and hungry as he is often led by God to pick up the wanderer on the roadside, feed them and pray with them. I remember one time he picked up a man and took him to a local church in order to find him a safe place to stay for the night – and he was turned away.

The last few years of my life have been filled with powerful experiences of God working in the lives of broken people and shedding His love abroad in their hearts. God loves everyone, and we should never miss an opportunity to minister to people around us – with a meal, a warm coat, a prayer and a smile.

This book will challenge your heart and mind and make you really look at your own life and the opportunities you have to reach out to others with the love of Christ. Oh what a world we would live in if everyone would love and give of themselves fully and freely through the love of Christ!

Don’t miss this book!!


by Francis Chan

I would like to write a few words about Mike Yankoski, and then I’ll give some thoughts about his book. . . I am a very skeptical person, and I struggle with cynicism. Like most people, I have heard so many lies that now I have a hard time trusting. I even struggle when reading a good book, because in the back of my mind I’m wondering if the person who wrote it is for real.

So what is it about Mike that inclines me to trust him? The sacrifices he has made.

Sacrifice promotes believability.

The apostle Paul defended his ministry in 2 Corinthians 11 with a list of hardships he endured. It was his suffering for the sake of the gospel that gave credence to his message. Paul showed that he genuinely believed what he taught. Why else would he suffer as he did? His argument in 1 Corinthians 15 is similar as he explains the foolishness of his lifestyle if the gospel isn’t true.

While there are many who say they live for eternity, Mike and his wife, Danae, are among the few I actually believe. Their actions have shown me that I can trust them. You can too.

Now about the book. . .

I was warned when entering seminary that if I was not careful, a dangerous habit could form: I could learn to read the Bible and do nothing in response. I still remember our seminary president warning us that study to the neglect of action becomes easier and easier with each occurrence. We should be terrified if we have mastered the art of becoming convicted and doing nothing in response. Don’t read Mike’s book if you’re not willing to change your attitude and actions toward the homeless.

As a person who considers himself sensitive to the needs of the rejected in our country, I learned from this book that I still have a ways to go. I look forward to seeing the changes God will bring about in my life because of it.

Mike shows much grace in pointing out weaknesses our churches may have in caring for the poor. It is embarrassing to admit, but I have often struggled with pride when encountering the homeless. I can’t say that I usually see them as having equal worth with me, much less consider them as “better” than myself (Philippians 2:3). Like many, I have found myself at times working to avoid rather than seeking to engage.

Far from condemning, this book actually causes me to look forward to my next encounter with those living on the streets. I believe it will do the same for you. As I followed Mike’s journey and tried to put myself in his shoes, it caused me to love Jesus more. As I thought of what a struggle it would be for me to leave my comforts, it stirred a greater adoration toward my Savior, who emptied Himself to dwell with us.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

(1 John 3:16–18)

I pray that the story of Mike and Sam’s five-month journey causes you to eagerly anticipate your next encounter with a homeless man or woman, created in the image of God. —FRANCIS CHAN

Twenty Minutes
Past the World
Real punches aren’t as sharp and clean as Hollywood makes them out to be. They’re much deeper, thicker. If you happen to hear them from close-up, the sound doesn’t give you a rush of adrenaline. It makes your stomach sink.

The punches, screams, cursing, and kicking we witnessed that night in the park were real. The blood was real, too. It was another cold night in San Francisco. . .


I had walked against the wind over to where Sam was sitting, his back up to the concrete and brick wall that circles the planter at the Haight Street entrance to Golden Gate Park. All I’d had to eat that day was a ninety-nine-cent hamburger, and it sat uncomfortably in my stomach. I groaned, stretched, and sat down next to Sam, rubbing my hands together to try to get some feeling back in my fingers.

“You know you’re cold when your fingers are too stiff to play the guitar,” Sam said.

He had laid his guitar carefully across some dead flowers in the planter behind us. Fog billowed high above us, and every now and then, a cold gust pushed trash and dust into our faces. The air was rank with the stench of alcohol, cigarettes, body odor, and joints. Even with the wind it was sickening.

Nearby, six street people played quarters, a game in which the person throwing a quarter closest to the wall but not touching it took everyone else’s quarters. It was a good way to pass the time and make a little cash.

One of the girls threw a quarter that clanked sharply against the wall. A horrible throw. She let out a string of curses, then ambled over to a heavily tattooed guy leaning against a cast iron fence and smoking a joint. She kissed him, not seeming to notice that she was interrupting his conversation with the man next to him.

“Can I have a quarter, baby?” she pleaded, looking into his eyes.

“Sure,” he growled. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two dirty quarters.

The girl snatched them and ran back to the game, ready for the next round.

“You’ll pay me back later,” he yelled after her.

“You bet I will,” the girl said with a wry smile in his direction.

A fresh gust of wet wind pushed me further into my filthy sweatshirt. San Francisco cold is weird—heavy and penetrating. Two months earlier on the streets of Washington, D.C., Sam and I couldn’t do enough to escape the heat.

Sam was talking. “There is this mountain back home we used to hike up early in the mornings just to watch the sunrise. One time we wanted to play worship music up there, so we carried a guitar all the way to the top. But when we got there, no one could play it because we were all so cold.”

Sam looked deeper into Golden Gate Park, stretching away from us for two miles to the Pacific Ocean. “Man. Seems like such a long time ago.”

“Yep, sure does,” I said, my own thoughts turning back to take comfort in familiar wonderings: My family would probably be sitting down to eat dinner together, while my friends back at school might be heading out to watch a movie.

“It sure does,” I said again.

That’s when the chaos hit.

“Who you think you are? You piece of. . . !” Marco, the undisputed leader of the gang at the mouth of the park, was screaming at a guy in front of him. Then with all eyes on him, Marco slammed both fists into the guy’s chest, forcing all the air out of the man with a sickening whoosh and knocking him down.

Instantly the park erupted with screams and profanity as everyone seemingly rushed to join the fight. The coin tossers next to us ran to join in, too, the last throw spinning unheeded until it clinked to a stop.

Within seconds, about twenty guys were throwing punches, kicking, yelling, cursing, and tearing wildly at each other. Dogs barked and snarled. And thirty or so other park people, many of them drunk and staggering, gathered around to cheer.

In the center of it all, Marco was pulling on one end of his victim while the man’s friends were pulling from the other. Allies of Marco saw their opportunity and set about to pound the defenseless man’s face or plant steel-toed boots in his gut.

When blood started dripping onto the cement, the brawl seemed to get more feverish. “Take him in! Take him in!” someone yelled. They wanted to drag their prey deeper into the park, away from the cops or any passerby who might try to spoil their fun.

By now, Sam and I were standing, looking around for a squad car—for any sign that this wouldn’t end with a dead man in Golden Gate Park. Nothing.

“We probably need to get out of here,” I mumbled. Sam agreed.

As we picked up our stuff and shuffled off, the brawl shifted further into the park. All I could think to do was pray—and wonder again what Sam and I had been thinking when we decided to step out of our comfortable world. . . and into this.

A Flicker of Lightning

The idea had dropped into my brain one Sunday morning while I sat in church. The pastor was delivering a powerful sermon about living the Christian life. The gist of it was, “Be the Christian you say you are.”

Suddenly I was shocked to realize that I had just driven twenty minutes past the world that needed me to be the Christian I say I am, in order to hear a sermon entitled “Be the Christian you say you are.” Soon I would drive back past that same world to the privilege of my comfortable life on campus at a Christian college.

Thinking ahead to my next week, I knew several things would happen. I knew I’d hear more lectures about being a caring Christian or living a godly life. I’d read more books about who God is and about what the world needs now. I’d spend more time late at night down at a coffee shop with my friends kicking around ultimate questions and finely delivered opinions about the world.

Then I’d jump into my warm bed and turn out the light. Another day gone.

But we were created to be and to do, not merely to discuss. The hypocrisy in my life troubled me. No, I wasn’t in the grip of rampant sin, but at the same time, for the life of me I couldn’t find a connecting thread of radical, living obedience between what I said about my world and how I lived in it. Sure, I claimed that Christ was my stronghold, my peace, my sustenance, my joy. But I did all that from the safety of my comfortable upper-middle-class life. I never really had to put my claims to the test.

I sat there in church struggling to remember a time when I’d actually needed to lean fully on Christ rather than on my own abilities. Not much came to mind. What was Paul’s statement in Philippians? “I have learned what it means to be content in all circumstances, whether with everything or with nothing” (Philippians 4:11–12).

With nothing?

The idea came instantly—like the flash of a camera or a flicker of lightning. It left me breathless, and it changed my life. What if I stepped out of my comfortable life with nothing but God and put my faith to the test alongside of those who live with nothing every day?

The picture that came with that question was of me homeless and hungry on the streets of an American city.

Hard on the heels of the idea came the questions: What if I didn’t actually believe the things I argued with so much certainty? What, for example, if I didn’t truly believe that Christ is my identity, my strength, my hope? Or worse, what if I leaped in faith, but God didn’t catch me? My mind reeled.

And then there were the practical questions. Could I survive on the streets? How much did I really want to learn to be content always with nothing? What would my friends think? What would my parents think? My pastors? My professors? Would I be okay? What if I got sick? What if I starved? What if I got beat up? What if I froze?

What if I’m wrong?

Am I crazy?

Will I die?

But already, I had decided. I walked out of church that morning seized by a big idea, assaulted by dozens of questions, and sure that I had heard deep in my heart a still, small voice saying, “Follow Me.”

“Why Would You Want to Do That?”

Of course, what my idea might actually require took a while to sink in. I would have to put the rest of my life on hold, leave school, and sign up for months of risk, rejection, and plain old misery. There aren’t too many brochures for that kind of thing.

I started with my family. When I called to give them my long, excited ramble, I heard only silence on the other end. Then a few expressions of stunned disbelief.

“Why would you want to do that?” my dad asked.

Determined to hear him out, I asked him to explain what he meant.

He did. “Why would you want to leave school, leave your friends, leave your family, leave your life, and do this? Why would you put your mother and me through the stress, confusion, and worry? Why would you jeopardize all that you’ve worked so hard for, all that we’ve paid for, all that you have to look forward to—for this? ”

Each of his questions hit home. I thought for a moment. “Well,” I said finally, “that’s sort of complicated. I believe I must. I don’t know for certain yet that I will do this, I still have a lot of people to talk with. But I believe that it is something I must do.”

I would be heading home for the summer in a couple of months at which time my parents said we could discuss this crazy idea a little more. We agreed to talk about it face-to-face. It would be a hard conversation.

I plunged into researching homelessness on the streets of America. I read firsthand accounts, sociological studies, autobiographies of people who had given their lives to work with the homeless and addicted.

Even at first glance, the scope of homelessness in America was much worse than I’d imagined. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, in the United States, more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness during any given year. That means that more than one percent of our population this year will be eating out of trash cans and sleeping under bridges.

Soon I was meeting every month with the director of the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. Then I began volunteering at the mission twice a week to learn more about the men and women who came through its doors.

Over the next year, I probably looked like any other college student—studying hard, playing hard, juggling classes and work. But all the while I kept pushing on my crazy idea. To my surprise, at every turn and with every conversation, the idea was only confirmed. Even people who should have been telling me no encouraged me to press on.

The Counsel of Friends

One day I sat in the office of the president of the Denver Rescue Mission, laying out my thoughts. I figured if anyone would know enough to tell me to turn back, he’d be the one. But after he thought for a while, he looked up at me, puzzled by what he was about to say.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he said, “but I think your idea is a good one. And I have a feeling that it is very important for you to do this. It will be dangerous, of course, and there are no guarantees. But if you plan well, you can succeed. And you certainly won’t come back the same person.”

I walked out of his office convinced for the first time that what I wanted to happen actually would happen. And something else—an invitation to begin my journey by checking in to his facility just like any other transient off the street.

About this time I also became convinced that I needed some kind of advisory group that would give me guidance and hold me accountable. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” I wanted to be wise, and to succeed, and more than that, I wanted to bring glory to the Lord in everything this idea entailed. So I began praying that God would lead me to the right men.

It didn’t take long to develop a list of men who had been, and still were, having a significant impact on my life as a Christian: my campus pastor, my youth pastor, two rescue mission presidents, a close friend from Oregon, and a professor. Each man I talked to responded positively to my proposal and agreed to mentor and advise me.

With their help, I began putting a travel plan together. After considering a lot of alternatives, we settled on six cities: Denver; Washington, D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego. These cities seemed representative of the American urban homeless scene as well as being places where I would have a backup personal contact of some kind in case of emergency.

My advisers also helped me fine-tune my overall purpose. We boiled it down to three objectives:

1. To better understand the life of the homeless in America, and to see firsthand how the church is responding to their needs.

2. To encourage others to “live out loud” for Christ in whatever ways God is asking them to.

3. To learn personally what it means to depend on Christ for my daily physical needs, and to experience contentment and confidence in Him.

Enter Sam

Then there was the issue of companionship. Jesus sent His disciples out two-by-two—a model that seemed right for my new undertaking as well. Besides, I wanted a traveling partner. I pictured long, lonely nights huddled in a stairwell. I worried about attacks. Another person would make everything easier.

But a traveling partner turned out to be hard to come by. Some friends I approached didn’t catch the vision. Others couldn’t take time off from school or work. Three months before I was to depart on the streets, it looked as though I would be going alone. And then I met Sam Purvis.

At six-foot-three or so, Sam was big—about the same size as me, which was an added bonus. Two big guys are much less likely to get messed with on the streets. He was easygoing and he needed a haircut. Right away, I saw possibilities.

Sam had gone to the University of Oklahoma for a semester but was taking a semester off. He happened to be on my campus, and heard through the grapevine about my proposed journey. The more we talked, the more interested he became in joining me. I was encouraged by Sam’s excitement about the trip and passion for serving the Lord. Although we only had a few conversations, I felt a real connection and unity in our hearts and vision.

We agreed to take two weeks to think and pray about it, and for Sam to meet with his mentor and pastor back in his Oregon hometown. Two Saturdays later, during a two-hour telephone conversation, Sam and I struck a deal.

Traveling Papers

Sam and I decided we would be gone for five months. We would begin at the rescue mission in Denver, then travel to and live on the streets of Washington, D.C.; Portland; San Francisco; Phoenix; and San Diego.

From the start, Sam and I understood that we would not actually be homeless. We’d only be travelers through this underworld of need—privileged visitors, really, because any time we wished, we could leave the streets and come home. Most people on the streets have no such option.

Yet, as truly as we could, Sam and I wanted to experience homelessness. That meant, among other things, that we’d carry only the bare essentials, taking no cell phones, credit cards, or extra clothes. We would survive as most other men and women on the streets do—panhandling for money, eating at rescue missions or out of garbage cans, and sleeping outside or in shelters.

We would take only what we could carry. Our clothing for the five months would consist of a pair of boxers, a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, and a sweatshirt. Add books and journals, and a couple of battered guitars to support our panhandling, and that was it.

We would keep our background and purpose a secret because if a person or an organization knew we were choosing to be homeless, their response to us would be different. As much as possible, we wanted to experience the real thing.

We’d travel by Greyhound Bus, using our panhandling earnings to buy fare between cities. But because we wanted to spend our time homeless in the cities rather than stuck on a bus for two weeks crossing the country, we made two exceptions: we would fly between Denver and Washington, D.C., and between D.C. and Portland.

To stay in contact with our families, our advisers, and those who were praying for us, we’d use e-mail at local libraries plus an occasional phone call. In case one of us got stabbed or needed to make an immediate trip to the hospital, we took enough cash for a one-way cab ride, praying we wouldn’t ever use it (we didn’t).

That left two major purchases for our new life on the streets. A few days before we left, Sam I went down to a local thrift store and bought two sleeping bags (at three dollars apiece) and two backpacks (at four dollars).

Seven dollars each.

We were ready.

Invitation to the Journey

On May 27 we stepped out of our old lives. From then until November 2, Sam and I slept out in the open or in shelters or under bridges. We ate out of trash cans and feeding kitchens. We looked disgusting, smelled disgusting, were disgusting. We were shunned and forgotten and ignored by most people who walked past us—good, acceptable people who looked just like Sam and I used to look, and maybe just like you.

Although our journey took us to many destinations that were challenging, cold, and even brutal—like the night in Golden Gate Park—by God’s grace we did what we set out to do, and learned a lot along the way. For example: that faith is much more than just an “amen” at the end of the sermon on Sunday mornings; that the comfort and security we strive so hard to create for ourselves doesn’t even come close to the “life in the full” that Christ promises; and that God is faithful and good, even when we’re not.

Perhaps you, too, have felt a nudging toward a life on the edge—some place or task in your life where, as Frederick Buechner put it, “God’s great mercy and the world’s great hunger meet.” If you haven’t yet, is your heart open to that moment when it comes?

Either way, I invite you to take this journey with Sam and me through the everyday world of the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who make up America’s homeless population. We decided to go past the edge with God. One day soon, I pray you will, too. And when you do, I think you’ll find what we did . . .

A bigger world, and more reason to care for it.

More forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption.

A greater God, and more reason to journey with Him anywhere.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Costly Grace, A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship by Jon Walker - Brief Review

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:

Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship

Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Jon Walker has worked closely with Rick Warren for many years, first as a writer/editor at Pastors.com, later as vice president of communications at Purpose Driven Ministries, and then as a pastor at Saddleback Church. He's also served as editor-in-chief of LifeWay's HomeLife magazine and is founding editor of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox. His articles have appeared in publications and web sites around the world. He is also the author of Growing with Purpose. Jon currently lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Acu/Leafwood Publishing (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891126767
ISBN-13: 978-0891126768

My Thoughts:
Oh reader! This is something you should NOT miss! I'm not finished yet, but it is a book that cannot be rushed. Exploring what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ, the true definition of grace, placing biblical truth side by side with worldly viewpoints so that you can distinguish the difference...these are but a few things that I've found just within the first few chapters! My heart is soaking this in, and I want to use it as a daily study guide for myself - and then share it with others. This is a great learning/teaching tool, and I am sooo glad to have the opportunity to learn more about the boundless grace of my Savior!

Don't miss this!!


Grace and Discipleship

What shall we say, then? Should we continue to live in sin so that God’s grace will increase? Certainly not! We have died to sin—how then can we go on living in it?
Romans 6:1-2

Dietrich Bonhoeffer declared cheap grace the deadly enemy of our church in 1937. “We are fighting today for costly grace,” he said. We are in that same fight today.

By cheap grace, Bonhoeffer means the arrogant presumption that we can receive forgiveness for our sins, yet never abandon our lives to Jesus. We assume, since grace is free, there is no cost associated with the free gift. We assume we can go on living the way we have been because our sins are now forgiven.

The gift is free, but Jesus paid a bloody price to offer us the gift; the gift is free, but that doesn’t mean there is no cost to following Jesus once we step into his grace.

Costly grace justifies the sinner: Go and sin no more. Cheap grace justifies the sin: Everything is forgiven, so you can stay as you are.

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession,” says Bonhoeffer. “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

And this means cheap grace is “a denial of the incarnation of the Word of God,” says Bonhoeffer. Did Jesus die so we could follow a doctrine? Did he suffer a cruel and bloody crucifixion to give us a code of conduct? Did he give up all he had, take on the nature of a servant and walk through Palestine as a human being so we could give an intellectual assent to the grace he freely gives? Did he humble himself and walk the path of obedience all the way to death so we could live in disobedience to him? (based on Philippians 2:8)

When the forgiveness of sin is proclaimed as a general truth and the love of God taught as an abstract concept, we depersonalize the incarnation; yet, it can’t be anything but personal: the God of the universe launching a rescue mission for you, his beloved creation, at the expense of Jesus, his only begotten son. Jesus didn’t come in the abstract, as a nebulous idea of love, grace, and forgiveness; rather, “he became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7b).

You can’t get more personal than that.

The Incarnation is totally personal. When Jesus calls you it is absolutely personal; and the cost of grace is personal. Jesus paid personally to provide us with free grace and we must pay personally to live within that grace. Why do you think Jesus died for you, if not for the personal? What do you think he expects from you, if not something personal?


We too easily slip into a corporate concept that Jesus died for sins in general and so he becomes to us something like a huge corporation: we don’t really expect to get personal, individualized attention. And because everything, in our thinking, is impersonal, it is easier for us to dodge responsibility.

In the case of the cross, it is the difference between “Jesus died for the sins of mankind” or “Jesus died to pay for my lie last week at work.”

This is how we rationalize our way into cheap grace. But we are called—in truth, we are designed— to come face-to-face with Jesus, which allows us get to know him and the Father as we are know by them: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

On the one hand, costly grace cost Jesus his life and he gives it to us as a gift of righteousness that includes the forgiveness of sin; it is something we can never earn and it comes to us as we open our hearts in repentance: “Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me” (Psalms 51:1-4, 10 NLT).

On the other hand, Bonhoeffer says cheap grace requires no contrition; we need not even have a desire to be delivered from our sins, just forgiven. He says, “Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.” It’s okay, God will forgive me.

“Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which auses him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.” Costly grace comes when we come to the end of ourselves, ready to abandon our current lives in order to give our lives whole-heartedly to Jesus. It comes when it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). It comes when we submit ourselves to the will of Jesus, doing what he tells us to do day-in-and-day-out, altering our lives in obedience to him.

Costly grace means we change our habits, thoughts, behaviors, attitudes, and relationships according to the will of Jesus. Nothing can remain the same because we are no longer the same. We are uniquely connected to the divine nature through Jesus and we no longer “live under law but under God’s grace” (Romans 6:14; see also Colossians 2:9-10).

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. “It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.”


“When he spoke of grace, [Martin] Luther always implied as a corollary that it cost him his own life, the life which was now for the first time subjected to the absolute obedience of Christ,” says Bonhoeffer. Costly grace does not exempt us from discipleship or give us a pass on obeying the commands of Jesus. In fact, it demands “we take the call to discipleship more seriously than ever before.”

And grace doesn’t make our sanctification automatic; Jesus transforms us into his image as we follow him down the hard path through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. Luther quickly understood that discipleship must be tested in the world, outside the cloister, as Jesus pushes us from self-centered to other-centered.

While it is true Luther said, “Sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly still,” Bonhoeffer notes his intent was not to teach cheap grace but to help us understand our position in Christ. When we get serious about discipleship, we will want to be obedient to God. This is why Jesus said the way we show our love for him is by being obedient to his commands. Our obedience brings us in line with the will of God; we become one with his agenda. And that’s the essence of love: when we love we want to do the things the people we love want to do; we become one with our loved one’s wishes.

Yet, our obedience will never make us perfect. The only way we can approach the throne of grace boldly is by stepping into the costly grace of Christ, where he becomes our righteousness before God; he acts as our mediator. Luther’s point, then, was when we sin we need not despair. Jesus covers all our sins. He died for the sins you’ve already committed and he died for the sins you will commit tomorrow. Luther means we can stop being afraid of ourselves; stop being afraid that we may make mistakes. Just love God and live your life—and when you stumble, fall into the grace of Jesus Christ.

By trusting the grace of God, we can be courageous in following Jesus and equally courageous in confessing our sins before him. There is no need to hide our sins or to posture as if we have not sinned. We can just admit it and keep on following Jesus, even if we have to confess sins to Jesus every day.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of costly grace, we’re more likely to play games with God, pretending we haven’t sinned, maintaining the delusion that we’re not that bad, and that leaves us stuck in immaturity right at the threshold of discipleship. And our posturing is part of how we undermine grace. If we’re so cheaply forgiven, then we never have to face the ugliness of our sin. It doesn’t seem so bad. The bloody work and resurrection of Jesus become a generic work, a blanket forgiving of sins, a prettified passion meant to God bless us, everyone.

Cheap grace flips Luther’s sin without fear upside-down, recreating it as a justification of sin instead of the justification of the sinner. Bonhoeffer says the real “outcome of the Reformation was the victory, not of Luther’s perception of grace in all its purity and costliness, but of the vigilant religious instinct of man for the place where grace is to be obtained at the cheapest price.” “The justification of the sinner in the world degenerated into the justification of sin and the world,” Bonhoeffer says. “Costly grace was turned into cheap grace without discipleship.”

This is exactly what Paul addresses with the church in Rome, where the religious instinct of man—that desire for self-justification—was in full assault against the sovereignty of God, attempting to prove God wrong in his bloody sacrifice of Jesus.


“So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving?” asks Paul. I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land! That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means” (Romans 6:1-3 MSG). The costly grace of Jesus means to take us into a new land, the kingdom of heaven. We follow Jesus obediently along a difficult path through a narrow gate into his kingdom.

A simple glance across the evangelical landscape reveals that we’ve overwhelmingly embraced the lesser grace. We’re barely willing to adjust our schedules let alone our lifestyles. We make decisions based on common sense, robbing the Holy Spirit of his role of counsel. We stash away our 401k’s and plan for when we will do kingdom work in the future, never trusting God to provide. We take the risk out of ministry by always leaning on our own understanding and then we wonder why our faith is weak. When do we exercise our faith?

We’re glad to follow Jesus. His yoke does seem easy: a few hours each week in worship, a Bible study, a small group, a bit of service at the church and perhaps a mission trip each year. We try to be good people, to help others, and to thank God for our blessings. When things are going well, we don’t want to bother God and, when things are going badly, we can camp out with God and say a holy “Amen” that he’s always there in our darkest times.

But a peculiar people? A royal priesthood set apart? What? Does Jesus really mean I’m supposed to abandon my ________ (fill in the blank)?

We preach, we teach, we publish. We have the internet and Christian radio. “We poured forth unending streams of grace,” says Bonhoeffer. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way is hardly ever heard. Have we presented the gospel in such a way that we’ve left people feeling secure in their ungodly living?

Cheap grace has been “disastrous to our own spiritual lives,” says Bonhoeffer. “Instead of opening up the way to Christ, it has closed it. Instead of calling us to follow Christ, it has hardened us in our disobedience.”

We’ve settled for cheap grace for so long that we’ve allowed it to become the norm for Christian living. We know there must be something more but life just gets in the way. We’ve taught people to live disconnected from Jesus and we wonder why they struggle in their Christian walk, why they are so tired all the time.

Bonhoeffer says, “To put it quite simply, we must undertake this task because we are now ready to admit that we no longer stand in the path of true discipleship. We confess that, although our Church is orthodox as far as her doctrine of grace is concerned, we are no longer sure that we are members of a Church which follows its Lord. We must therefore attempt to recover a true understanding of the mutual relation between grace and discipleship. The issue can no longer be evaded. It is becoming clearer every day that the most urgent problem besetting our Church is this: How can we live the Christian life in the modern world?”


Grace is a restaurant where you can eat anything on the menu for free. The cost for you to dine is hefty, but your whole bill has been paid by Jesus.

“You mean, I can eat anything I want here? Then I’ll have a lust burger with a side of lies.”

I’m sorry. We don’t serve lust burgers or lies here. But you are welcome to anything on the menu. Everything here is hand-made by the Father and all of it is specifically designed to keep you healthy.

“I thought you said I could eat anything I wanted if I came into this grace restaurant?”

You can eat anything you want, but we only serve what is on the menu. If you look, you will see there are thousands of choices we’ve prepared specifically for your taste buds.

“But not a lust burger? No lie fries. What kind of restaurant are you running here? Don’t you want me to be happy, to feel good?”

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

“What if I go outside the restaurant, get a lust burger and some lie fries, and bring them back in here to eat?”

That would be cheap grace.


If you asked most evangelical Christians about the meaning of grace, they’d probably tell you it’s the unmerited favor of God. Not a bad answer, but one that’s just academic enough to keep you distracted from the truly transformational nature of costly grace.

Grace is powerful, audacious, and dangerous, and if it ever got free reign in our churches, it would begin a transformation so rapid and radical that it would cause skeptics to beat a path to our door.

What is grace? Consider this illustration from Les Miserables, Victor Hugo’s timeless tale about a peasant who is sentenced to hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread. Released from jail, Jean Valjean is offered brief sanctuary in the home of a priest.

Despite being treated with dignity for the first time in years, Valjean, steals the bishop’s valuable silverware and runs away. The next day, Valjean is brought back to the priest’s home by the police, who tell the priest that Valjean has claimed the silver as a gift. The police obviously expect the priest to deny the claim.

The priest immediately addresses Valjean, saying, “Ah, there you are! I am glad to see you. But I gave you the candlesticks also, which are silver like the rest, and would bring two hundred francs. Why did you not take them along with your plates?” When he hands the candlesticks to Valjean privately, he tells him, ”Jean Valjean, my brother, you belong no longer to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I am buying for you.”

It’s a Christ-like moment—and one that shows the tremendous cost of grace, both for the giver and the receiver. Valjean goes on to live a life of grace, supporting the poor and adopting a young orphan whom he must ransom out of servitude.

Do you suppose for a minute that a harsher approach by the priest could have gotten a better response from Jean Valjean? Then why do we expect people to behave better when we “Tsk, tsk, tsk” and shame them into behaving properly rather than modeling the kind of grace that will change them radically and permanently. Grace allows people to make choices and assumes they’ll make the best choice. Grace is free and flowing and unencumbered by guilt or shame or fear, for true grace says, “I know all about you, and I still love you with a godly acceptance.”

We see this in John 4, when Jesus meets the woman at the well. When she offers to give him a drink, he says, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh living water” (John 4:10 MSG).

Note that he talks about how gracious God can be. Yet most of us, if we were gut honest, function as if God were stingy with his grace. We fear his punishment, in the sense that we think he’s the high school principal walking the halls, taking down names. Who did what and who’s to blame?

But God already knows who did what and who’s to blame, and he still loves us anyway. His interest is in redeeming us, not in keeping us on the hook for our sins.

Unfortunately, many of us—Christians—live our lives as if we’re still on the hook, and as if we have to keep everyone else on the hook. We use weapons of the flesh—the sarcastic comment, the angry stare—all designed to get people to straighten up and live right.

In contrast, when the woman at the well goes back to her village, she says, “Come see a man . . . who knows me inside and out” (John 4:29 MSG). Nothing is hidden from him, and yet he communicates with her in such a fashion that she leaves feeling loved and accepted. That’s the aroma of grace.

Did she get away with her sins? No. They cost Jesus plenty, yet you don’t see him lording it over her, or putting a guilt trip on her, or even using the time for a lecture on sexual ethics. Jesus trusts that once she is confronted with God’s generosity—his grace—that she will be eager to change and conform to God’s commands.

It’s a classic Christian paradox, isn’t it? Just when you think it’s time to pull out the Law and read someone the riot act, Jesus shows by his behavior that it’s better to embrace that person with a costly love.

And grace does cost. It obviously cost the Son of God everything, and for you to extend grace will cost you, just as it cost the priest his silver. In fact, one way to distinguish the difference between grace and mercy is that grace costs while mercy does not. Mercy says, “I won’t press charges.” Grace says, “I not only won’t press charges, I’ll pay for your rehab program.”


Grace is powerfully other-focused. It gives without fear of depletion. Love, forgiveness, and mercy are handed out with no thought of exhausting the supply. Someone enveloped by grace is rooted deeply in soil next to a river that never knows drought.

The prodigal’s father offers a picture of the paradox of grace. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. Every time he touched a pig, the young Hebrew boy was reminded how far he was from the will of God. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.

What was going through his mind as he headed home? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or maybe he thought about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved.

Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response!

Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shamefully shuffles home. Then he sees an unidentifiable person running toward him. Then he recognizes his father and he prepares himself for the worst.

The prodigal was probably bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. After a few minutes of wrestling, the son’s heart is finally overcome by the father’s passionate embrace. He goes limp in his father’s arms unable to hold back the tears.

The father is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hopes for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness. The father’s extraordinary grace continues as he places a ring on his son’s hand and sandals on his feet and then wraps him in an extravagant robe. Each gift is a visible sign of full son-ship.

The father completes his bountiful behaviors of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.

Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is trust yourself at all cost. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway?

We must go to Jesus to be personally tutored in Grace 101. As we receive his grace, we can then pass his grace to others.