He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:15-16

Friday, January 23, 2015

Living and Powerful Word of God

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

This week I was reminded of the truth of Hebrews 4:12 when God used scripture to expose my sinful tendencies to be critical and judgmental.

In Community Bible Study this year we are studying the Servants of God which includes the books of 1 & 2 Samuel.  I had done this study a couple of years ago and was familiar with the people in the scripture, not only with how they started, but how they finished. 

Though the Israelites have rejected God as their King and desire an earthly king, so they can be like the other nations, God answers their request.  He gives them Saul as their first king, but not without ample warnings about the consequences of being governed by an earthly king instead of God.  Saul started out with promise, but his life took a left turn and he did not finish well. 

As I completed this lesson, listened to the lecture and read this week’s notes the Holy Spirit has convicted me and revealed my sinful tendency to be critical and judgmental.  When I read about Saul’s beginnings, I found myself doubting his good intentions and didn’t want to acknowledge some of the good things that he had done.  He demonstrated humility after Samuel had first anointed him as king.  He chose not to take revenge against naysayers who were against him.  He rose up to defend people who were being threatened by an enemy.  I didn’t want to see the good because I know what’s coming down the line and the left turn that Saul will take.  

To reinforce that conviction, early on in the lecture our teaching director Dave said, “Don’t dismiss or think you can’t learn something from someone who turns out to be a bad person.”  He also reminded us that this story isn’t about Samuel or Saul…its God’s story. 

When reading this week’s notes I encountered the same thing when it talked about some of the things that Saul did that were good and right. 

So how come I want to dismiss that or cast aspersions on his motives and think he wasn’t sincere?  The bottom line is that I don’t know the genuineness of Saul’s heart, only the Lord knows that.  He alone is the One who knows the thoughts and intentions of a person’s heart.  Unless God reveals someone’s motives in scripture then I am imposing my thoughts and interpretation on the text…eisegesis verses exegesis.   

Lord…thank You for revealing where my heart and attitude was not right before You.  Thank You for the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God which is true and unchanging.  Please forgive me for my arrogance in presuming that I could be the judge and jury against someone.  Help me to recognize and repent of a critical, negative and judgmental spirit.  Help me have a heart like Yours.  Thank You that You have given me a heart of flesh and have removed my heart of stone.  Keep doing Your mighty life-changing work in my life.  It’s in Jesus powerful and transforming name I pray…Amen!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Daniel Patterson – One Chance – This author knows how to write good Christian fiction

I came across author Daniel Patterson via an email suggesting that I might like his books.  I checked out them out and the reviews were promising.  So I selected his book One Chance and boy oh boy, I was pleasantly surprised. 

Daniel does a great job on developing the characters, slowly unveiling them as the story progresses.  One Chance was intriguing and I liked trying to figure out who done it in the midst of all the twists and turns.  I highly recommend this book.

The thing I appreciate most about Daniel Patterson’s writing is that this is a man who knows how to write good Christian fiction.  He gets it.  He knows how to weave Christian faith into his character’s lives.  He has ordinary people, dealing with trying or difficult circumstances and relying on their faith.  They grow in their faith or they may stumble, but their faith is an integral part of their life.  I found the characters very believable.

Not only is Daniel a gifted writer, he understands that he has the greatest message, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to share with his readers.

I came away from reading One Chance encouraged and strengthened in my faith.  I very much look forward to reading more of Daniel Patterson’s books in the future.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Waiting on God by Charles Stanley – Very Encouraging

In Pastor Charles Stanley’s newest book, Waiting on God – Hope for Today Strength for Tomorrow, I found him to be very compassionate towards hurting people.  He’s realistic about the struggles believers face and encourages us to trust God no matter what. 

Readers learn what it looks like to wait on God.  There are times when it may seem like what we are waiting for will never happen.  Even then, we are reminded that there is meaning and hope during the times of waiting and that the Lord has a purpose and plan He is working out in our lives. 

One of the definitions Charles Stanley shared is that when we wait upon the Lord it’s demonstrated with a directed, purposeful, active and courageous attitude of prayer.  He shows examples from scripture what waiting on God looked like in the lives of King David, Abraham, Jacob and Joseph, what lessons they learned and the work that God was doing in their lives and behind the scenes.  Throughout this book he also shares experiences from his own life. 

Charles Stanley goes in-depth to examine God’s character and who He is.  He helps us to look at: what our focus is on and potential idols; how we can discern God’s will; stand firm on God’s word and His promises to believers; how we can wait courageously; and experience joy and reap the rewards of waiting. 

I especially appreciated the prayers at the end of each chapter.  They are beautifully written with an attitude of humility, thanksgiving, praise, confession of sin and weakness, reminders of God’s greatness, wonder and sovereignty and submission to God’s will and His purpose and plan. 

Readers are challenged at the end of each chapter with Points for Active Waiting which included scripture memorization, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ and questions to help us examine ourselves. 

In chapter 5, Claiming God’s Promises, I wish that early on Charles Stanley had warned readers about taking verses out of context and claiming promises that were not intended for us.  In the chapter, he does go into understanding God’s promises and if they are limited vs. general and conditional vs. unconditional.  However, with the abuse of the name it and claim it mentality of some churches today, I think it is imperative for Christians to understand God’s word in context and not misapply it. 

I would have also liked to have had smaller chapters.  There’s a lot of meat to chew on in each of the chapters.  Having smaller chapters would have helped break it down into bite size pieces to chew on.  

I recommend Charles Stanley’s newest book Waiting on God.  I think it will help strengthen and encourage believers who are waiting on God or going through various trials.  

I would like to thank Net Galley and publisher Howard Books for the opportunity to read Waiting on God in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Past

Can it only be a few minutes since you’ve departed
It feels like it’s been such a very long time

I can’t quite imagine
What Christmas would have been like without you

You filled a big house on a hill
With warmth, fun, love and laughter

For just a few days
I got to forget how lonely I’ve been

I was able to spend time with someone filled with grace
Who overlooks my faults and loves me anyway

This Christmas, I truly realized
A house is not a home without love

To Ron and Carol…thank you for a wonderful Christmas!

by Susan Wachtel
December 28, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

You shall call His name Jesus

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Storm by Jim Cymbala – A Good and Important Read

It was my privilege to read Jim Cymbala’s newest book Storm – Hearing Jesus for The Times We Live In, coauthored with Jennifer Schuchmann.  I’ve never read a Jim Cymbala book before, but after reading this one I look forward to reading more of his work.

In Storm, Jim Cymbala Pastor of the Brooklyn Tabernacle came across as humble, concerned and broken over some of the trends he’s seeing in today’s Christian church in America.  He also wielded authority as he spoke truth and warnings from scripture. 

This book was well balanced.  Too often I’ve read books in which Christians share their concerns about the church, but they seem judgmental and lack grace and mercy and aren’t speaking the truth in love.  Jim Cymbala came across as the man who after removing the log from his own eye, he gently helps the reader to remove the speck from their eye. 

Jim speaks, not only to Pastors and church leaders in this book, but also to congregants and challenges each of us to live in the light of Jesus soon return.  He knows the power of the Gospel to change hearts, minds and lives of those who truly repent and receive Christ as Lord and Savior.  He also conveys the importance of daily reading and studying God’s Word for yourself and being a prayer warrior dependent upon God. 

Jim shares warnings that there is a storm approaching and we need to beware of the tempest within the church and prayerlessness.  I especially appreciated the personal stories he shared about the radical transformation of some of the people in his church. 

I’m one who likes to underline and make notes in my books.  I did a lot of that in Storm.  I found myself convicted, challenged, corrected and encouraged. 

I highly recommend Storm by Jim Cymbala with Jennifer Schuchmann.  It’s a book you will want to read, reread and share with others.

I would like to thank the people at BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.