Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Break

We're going to take a short break from our discussion on The Bait of Satan due to the busyness of the Christmas season. We'll resume our discussion starting with Chapter 8 in just a few weeks. Merry Christmas and remember that "Jesus is the reason for the season."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 7 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 7 - The Sure Foundation

This chapter marks our halfway point! Seven chapters down and seven more to go.

In this chapter, the author explains that the revealed Word of God is the foundation or "rock" in which we are to build our Christian lives. The revealed Word of God is an annointing; it comes to us when we open our hearts and receive what God says to us.

It is not just about reading and hearing the Word of God, but actively seeking wisdom from God and listening to what He places on our hearts. When listening to a minister preach or reading a Christian book or the bible, we should pay attention to words that seem to explode in our hearts and spirits.

Jesus used a parable of two houses, one built on a rock and another built on sand to illustrate two different kinds of people. Those whose foundation is built on a rock (the unveiled Word of God) are able to withstand adversity and weather the storms of life. Those whose house is built on the sand will crumble and fall when adversity strikes.

Chapter 7 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Isaiah 28:16 - I believe the tried stone, the precious cornerstone, the sure foundation in this verse is referring to Jesus. Jesus is the living Word of God. When we have a strong foundation, we will not act in haste, but in wisdom and understanding.

Matthew 16:13, 15 - 17 - Jesus asks His disciples who the crowd is saying He is. He thens asks His disciples who they say He is. Only Simon Peter is able to answer. He says, "You are Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus tells Simon that it was God the Father who revealed Jesus' correct identity to him. Simon's answer was not based on the opinions of other people or by what he was taught.

1 John 2:27 - The annointing that we have received from God is within in us and teaches us.

Matthew 16:18 - Jesus will build His church on the rock, the foundation, the revealed Word of God. In this verse, Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter. The name Simon means "to hear" and the name Peter is derived from the Greek word "petros" which means "a stone." As the result of hearing the revealed Word of God, Simon became the substance of which a foundation is built with.

Psalm 119:130 - When His Word enters our hearts, it gives light and understanding.

Mark 4:16-17 - A repeat from previous chapters, that those who are not rooted or have a strong foundation are easily swayed and offended.

1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 24 - This verse explains the covenant of marriage. We are to stay with our spouse even if we were not a Christian when we were married and did not seek the counsel of the Lord when selecting a marriage partner.

1 Peter 2:5 - We are living stones. Stones are small pieces of a large rock.

1 Corinthians 3:11 - Jesus is the living Word of God; He is our foundation.

John 5:16 & John 6:15 - Jesus was being persecuted by religious leaders and the Jews. When His followers wanted to make Him king by force, He refused and walked away, which caused many of His followers to became offended.

John 6:53, 60, 61, 66 - Many of Jesus' followers didn't understand the statement He made in John 6:53, and therefore, became offended. After that, many of His disciples (but none of the original 12) refused to follow Him anymore. Those followers did not have the foundation of the revealed Word of God.

John 6:67-69 - Jesus confronts His 12 disciples and asks them if they, too, want to leave. Simon Peter once again confirms that he knows Jesus to be the son of God. In the face of adversity, Simon Peter stands firm in his beliefs and refuses to cave.

Day 13 and Day 14 - Devotionals: Days 13 & 14, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 7 of The Bait of Satan.

How does the Word illuminate your life weekly? Check each of the following ways you hear God's voice for your life?

I checked: bible study, bible reading, preaching, teaching, reading Christian books.

When you hear a Word from God that contradicts a feeling, thought or behavior, what is your immediate response? Prioritize from most often (1) to least often (7):

I get angry: 5
I am confused: 2
I feel hurt: 3
I repent: 5
I rejoice in learning what God is saying: 3
I get offended: 4
I blame others or God: 6

Write a prayer thanking God for His Word and the many ways to illuminate it for your life:

Dear Father, Thank you for providing us with your steadfast Word. Help me to keep my heart open to hearing from You. Please bless me with wisdom and understanding. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Describe a time in your life when you took offense at the Word and did not obey. What were the consequences?

It's hard for me to think of a specific instance off hand, but what comes to mind is that until recently, I never took obedience to God's Word seriously. Throughout most of my life, I did what I wanted and that lifestyle came with some serious consequences. I would say the dominant consequences have been guilt, regret, and damaged relationships. I regret that I can never erase my actions or my words and have often felt plagued with guilt because of the sins I committed. However, I realize that through repentence, the blood of Jesus has washed away my sins and He has forgiven me.

Have you attempted to build a house on the sandy foundations of this world's system? Check any of the wordly foundations listed below that you have been tempted to use. Briefly describe the result:

I checked money, success, power, and possessions. These things were all important to me in my young adult years, however, I have found that nothing in life is permanent and that these things do not bring happiness. Everything here belongs to God and He has the authority to give and take at any given time. Therefore, I realize that I cannot base my happiness and spiritual well-being on things of this world.

Write a prayer asking God's Spirit to reveal His Word to you and to help you to build your life upon the Rock of Christ:

Dear Father, I open my heart to You and ask You to speak to me and reveal your Word to me. I believe that I have a good start in building my life upon the Rock. Please help me to stay strong and stand firm and to be like the house that was built on the rock. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 7 - My Thoughts

I love the story of Simon Peter. I love how he was so deeply rooted in his faith that when many of Jesus' followers left in offense, Simon Peter stood fast and firm. I love how Jesus recognized that in Simon Peter and gave him a new name.

Looking back on my life, I can see where many times I have abandoned my beliefs in order to be part of the popular majority. What actually comes to mind as I write this is a situation at my son's wedding this past year. My son made a specific request, which I passed onto others, and many people in my family did not honor it. Instead of speaking up about it, I chose to "keep the peace" by not saying anything. Looking back, I wish that I would have confronted those people, gently, but firmly.

I don't believe that I am carrying offense in my heart about this situation, I just wish that I had chosen to handle it in the way that I believe God would have wanted me to handle it. I know that I will face situations similar to this one in the future, and I pray that I will stand firm and strong and not waver.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 6 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 6 - Hiding From Reality

The author states that we should not leave a church out of offense, but wait upon the Spirit's leading so that we can depart peacefully without offense. The decision to leave a church depends on the will of God, not on the condition of the church, or how bad things are, or the behavior of other people.

You will know that you are released when you are at peace and don't feel the need to justify your departure to others.

We become children, or "teknon" of God when we receive Jesus as our Lord. "Teknon" means babies or immature sons. Baby/immature Christians are unlikely to follow the leading of the Spirit and tend to react selfishly to circumstances.

We become "huios," or mature sons, when we follow the leading of the Spirit instead of our own will.

Spiritual maturity and growth come as the result of obedience. We often flee from experiences that would cause us to grow spiritually, develop character, and heal hurts, because it's painful and uncomfortable for us. It means swallowing our pride and becoming humble, something that our flesh rebels against.

Sometimes God will release us from doing His will if we are intent on following our own will. However, as long as we are avoiding God's will, we will continue through the cycle of offense and remain trapped. The problem will not go away and, in fact, will affect other relationships. We can only be healed when we face the problem and seek healing and forgiveness.

Chapter 6 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

2 Timothy 3:7 - Some Christians never come to the knowledge of truth because they don't apply what they learn to their lives.

Isaiah 55:12 - When God instructs you to leave a church, you will go out in peace, regardless of the condition of the church.

Romans 8:15 - 16 - The word "children" in this verse is based on the Greek word, "teknon," which means a child by birth, or babies or immature sons. We become "teknon" of God by accepting Christ as our Savior.

Romans 8:14 - The word "sons" in this verse is based on the Greek word, "huios," which means one who can be identified as a son because he displays the characteristics of his parents. We become "huios" through spiritual maturity.

Hebrews 5:8 - Jesus was already a "huios," but learned obedience through the things He suffered.

1 Peter 4:1 - When we cease sinning, we become a mature Christian, choosing God's ways over our own.

John 20:23 - When we don't forgive others, we are holding on to offense.

1 Kings 18-19 - Sometimes God will allow us to flee a situation if our heart is set on it, even if it's against His will. God allowed Elijah to flee from Jezebel even though it was God's desire for Elijah to face her. God's will was then fulfilled in people other than Elijah.

Numbers 22 - Balaam's intent to follow his own desire was unshakable and caused God to release him.

Day 11 and Day 12 - Devotionals: Days 11 & 12, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 6 of The Bait of Satan.

Describe a time when God released you from a church and allowed you to maintain peaceful relationships until you left.

This is not applicable to my situation.

What are you learning about suffering and obedience right now in the church in which you find yourself? How are you growing in your attitudes, thoughts and emotions so as to avoid taking up offense against others or God when you face suffering or are required to fulfill obedience?

Again, since I don't physically attend a church, but watch on TV from home, this really doesn't apply to me.

Complete the following sentences:

When I suffer, I respond: by feeling sorry for myself.

When I must obey, my attitude is: sometimes humble, sometimes rebellious.

Write a prayer surrendering all in obedience to God and offering yourself as a vessel willing to suffer for Christ:

Dear Father, Help me to be obedient to you, even when it means leaving my comfort zone. Give me the strength to stand alone when obeying you makes me unpopular with others. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Read the following verses and jot down what they say to you about judging and blaming others:

Matthew 7:1-5 - The manner in which we judge others is the manner in which God will judge us.

Matthew 5:21-26 - We are not to hold anger against other people in our hearts. We need to seek peace and forgiveness.

Luke 6:36-37 - We are to be merciful to others as God is merciful to us.

Romans 2:1-2 - We should not judge others, for many of the things we judge we, ourselves, are guilty of.

Romans 12:17- 21 - Repay evil with good. Be kind to your enemies. Do not take revenge.

Romans 14:10-13 - Do not judge others. We will all stand before the judgement seat.

James 4:11-12 - Do not judge or speak evil of others.

Write a prayer asking for God's help to face offenses and not run from them:

Dear Father, Help me face offenses so that I can grow spiritually and become a mature Christian. I understand that as much as I hate adversity, it is necessary for me to grow and become more like You. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 6 - My Thoughts

This chapter was a clarifier for me. In Chapter 5, I had perceived that the author was telling us that we aren't to leave a church for any reason. In actuality, he is saying that shouldn't leave a church out of offense, but wait for God to release us from that church if that is what His desire is. That makes sense to me!

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

2007 Shoebox - Operation Christmas Child

Today, me and my son, Cody, put together a shoebox for a boy in the 10 - 14 age range. This shoebox was for Operation Christmas Child, a project run by Samaritan's Purse.

We had so much fun picking out items for the shoebox. The items we ended up selecting were:

  • a long sleeved t-shirt
  • toothbrush & toothpaste
  • a bar of soap
  • a washcloth and handtowel
  • a package of mechanical pencils
  • a solar calculator
  • a package of 2 small notebooks
  • 2 decks of playing cards
  • and a Rubik's Cube

Cody and I pondered as to who would receive the shoebox and what area of the world it will end up at. Regardless, we prayed that whoever receives it will be greatly blessed by it. Cody and I certainly were blessed by the quality time we spent together in selecting items and packing the shoebox and knowing that we were doing something worthwhile.

Here is a picture of Cody with our packed shoebox. See ya next year!

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 5 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 5 - How Spiritual Vagabonds Are Born

In Chapter 5 of The Bait of Satan, we are dealing with leadership, particularly leadership in the church and in ministries.

We begin this chapter by quickly reviewing what we learned in Chapter 4. David could have taken the life of Saul, and it appeared that he would have been justified in doing so. Instead, he rightly chose not kill Saul and allowed God to justly deal with the situation.

We often look to avenge ourselves in our own way and in our own terms rather than allowing God to avenge us. God will often place us in situations where it appears that we are justified in avenging ourselves. He does this in order to test our obendience. We are to remember that God commands us not to seek revenge.

While we are to correct those we are in a leadership position over, we are not to correct those in authority over us (church leaders, pastors, ministry leaders, etc.)

It is imperative that we stay where God plants us so that we can grow and flourish (God wants us to stay in the church he has planted us in.) We are to face adversity by deepening our roots and relying on Him for strength. He does not desire for us to uproot ourselves and flee the situation. Eventually, as we grow and strengthen, adversity, tribulation and persecution will actually cause us to bear fruit.

If we flee adversity and refuse to face conflicts, we become spiritual vagabonds, darting from place to place (church to church) rootless and unable to bear fruit. We become suspicious and believe that everyone is out to get us. We isolate ourselves and continue in the same cycle of offense over and over again.

Chapter 5 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

1 Samuel 24:6 - 7 - God tested David to see if he would take Saul's life. From a human perspective, David would have been justified in doing so. From God's perspective, only He is to seek vengeance.

Romans 12:19 - God orders us not to avenge ourselves; He will avenge us.

1 Samuel 2-5 - God put Samuel under the authority of Eli and Eli's sons, all of whom were corrupt.

1 Samuel 3:1 - Samuel ministered to the Lord and served Eli and did not judge him. He knew that God was capable of judging and dealing with His own.

Isaiah 55:12 - If we are to leave a church, we are to leave in joy and peace, not in offense.

1 Corinthians 12:18 - God has placed us in the church He wants us to be in.

Proverbs 26:20 - Even when the correct information is being passed around, it tends to add fuel to the fire of offense.

Psalm 92:13 - You can only flourish if you stay where God has planted you. When trees and plants are faced with the harsh elements, they deepen their roots which makes them stronger and more durable. We are to do the same when faced with adversity.

Luke 13:6-9 - God does not want us to be like a tree that does not bear fruit.

Psalm 1:1-2 - Choosing to meditate on the law of God during adversity will keep us from offense.

Psalm 119:165 - Loving the law of God will keep us on the right path and prevent us from being offended.

Psalm 1:3 - When we meditate on the law of God, our roots will deepen and seek nourishment and strength from the Spirit. We will be like a tree that bears fruit and prospers.

Mark 4:16-17 - Those without roots will stumble when faced with adversity or persecution.

Genesis 4:11-12 - God told Cain the ground he tilled would be barren and fruitless because he sinned and murdered his brother; When living in offense, Christians also cut off their ability to bear fruit. God told Cain he would become a fugitive and a vagabond; Offended Christians also become fugitives and vagabonds by purposely isolating themselves from others.

Genesis 4:14 - Cain became a vagabond with an "everyone's out to get me" mentality. Offended people have the same mindset.

Proverbs 18:1 - When we isolate ourselves from others, we seek after our own selfish desires, not Gods.

Day 9 and Day 10 - Devotionals:

Days 9 & 10, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 5 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 9

Think of a time when you took vengeance into your own hands and did not wait upon God. Describe the situation and its outcome or consequences.

I'm really not one to take revenge or to try to get even. My dominant reaction to offense is to shut people out, and at the extreme level, refuse to have anything to do with them. Anytime that I have refused a relationship with someone has resulted in years of bitterness and resentment at my own hands.

Give yourself the following test:

1. Do I run from God's refining power? We are only given the choices of yes or no, but in this case, I have to answer sometimes.
2. Do I complain when under pressure? Again, sometimes, depending on what the situation is. I'm working on it.
3. Do I justify my sin and condemn sin in others. Sometimes.
4. Do I expect spiritual leaders to be perfect when I am not? No.
5. Am I willing to listen to God and wait on His leading? Yes.
6. Read Isaiah 55:12. Am I willing to live in peace? Yes.

Write a prayer asking Jesus to be your perfect Shepherd and to fill you with His love for the human shepherds He has placed in your life.

Dear Jesus, You are my perfect Shepherd and no person can come close to comparing to your goodness and righteousness. Help me to love and respect the human shepherds that you have placed in my life despite their shortcomings. Amen.

Day 10

List all the churches to which you have belonged in the past 10 years:

I have not belonged to a church since young adulthood. I have made the choice to no longer attend a physical church primarily because I am hard of hearing and unable to follow along at a regular church service. I take advantage of ministries on TV that offer closed captioning. I consider myself to be a member of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, because John Hagee is my preferred TV minister and because I was baptized by his church last summer.

If you have changed churches, why?

When I was 20, I left the church that I had attended since age 11 due to a number of reasons:

  • I believed that the church taught and pushed doctrine that wasn't biblically-based.

  • The youth pastor at the church had a tendency to hang out with the popular kids and ignored the not-so-popular kids (the group I was in). He had personally treated me rudely a number of times.

  • Most of the church members were rude and snobbish and I perceived they looked down on me.

  • The church seemed money-focused and not Christ-focused.

I felt that I was stagnant in that church. I dreaded going and eventually just quit going at all. In truth, by leaving that church, I also left my faith behind for a number of years.

Looking back, it is obvious that I was offended by the behavior of people in leadership and other members, but I also feel that it was more than just offense. It was a situation where the church put it's own beliefs and doctrine above the Bible. And while giving and tithing is indeed very important, the church chose to focus on money issues far more than teaching the Word of God.

Read the following scriptures, and then jot down what they have to say about the relationship between God's law, offense, spiritual growth and bearing fruit.

Psalm 1:1-3 - He who delights in the law of God and meditates on it day and night will be like a properous tree that bears fruit.

Psalm 119:165 - Great peace comes to those who love the law of God and nothing causes them to stumble.

Mark 4:16-17 - Those without roots endure for only a short time, then stumble when tribulation or persecution strikes.

List 5 benefits that come to you when you refuse to take up an offense and are planted in a church fellowship:

1. We will grow spiritually.
2. We will deepen our roots and become stable or grounded.
3. We will not stumble and we will be able to face adversity.
4. We will bear fruit and prosper.
5. We will rely on God for strength.

Write a prayer thanking God for the church He has planted you in and asking Him to mature and prosper you there.

Dear Father, while I am not able to physically attend Cornerstone church, I do consider myself to be a member of that church and I believe You have a reason for placing me in that church. Help me to stand strong and allow my roots to grow deeply there. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 5 - My Thoughts

While I do agree with most of what the author says in this chapter, and appreciate his insight, I question his teaching that we should stay in a church no matter what. What if the teachings of the church are not biblically-based? What if the church is consistently caving into political-correctness? What if there is clergy sex abuse in the church?

Perhaps these situations are outside the scope of offense that John Bevere is covering right now. Or maybe he is saying that we are to stay in our church even if these things are occuring. After all, he did bring up the fact that Eli's sons were committing fornication with the women assembled at the door of the tabernacle, which I guess would be comparible to clergy sex abuse.

Does anyone have any words of wisdom or insight on this issue?

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 4 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 4 - My Father, My Father!
In Chapter 4 of The Bait of Satan we learn about dealing with offenses from fathers and father figures by studying King Saul's betrayal of David, found in 1 Samuel 16-31.

The story begins with the prophet Samuel anointing David to be the next king of Israel, though at the time he was just a shepherd boy. Soon after, David was called to the palace to play his harp in order to soothe Saul's soul which was being tormented by an evil spirit (Saul was out of God's will due to his disobedience). This allowed David to get his foot in the palace door, so to speak.

David experienced more favor with Saul when he killed Goliath. In doing so, he also won Saul's daughter's hand in marriage and moved to the palace. It seemed like everything was going well for young David and that God's plan was in place to make David the next king.

Then everything changed one day when David and Saul returned together from a successful battle. The women of Israel sang, "Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands." Saul immediately became jealous of David and despised him. The rest of Saul's life was spent hunting David down and trying to kill him.

David had several chances to kill Saul and chose not to. He desired to be reconciled with Saul to the very end. When David found out who killed Saul in battle, David sentenced that man to death. After Saul's death, David continued to remained loyal to him by showing kindness to his descendants and by writing a song that honored Saul and his sons.

Chapter 4 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

1 Samuel 24:11 - David wonders why Saul continues to try to kill him even though he has proved to Saul that he has no evil intentions against him.

Malachi 4:6 - God wants fathers to turn their hearts to their children.

1 Samuel 26:8 - David's friend Abishai wants to kill Saul when they were able to sneak up on him during the night when God put all Saul's guards into a deep sleep.

1 Samuel 26:9-11 - Even though God had given David the opportunity to kill Saul by putting all Saul's guards into a deep sleep and allowing David and Abishai to sneak up on Saul, David refused to kill him. He left it in God's hands.

Proverbs 18:21 - We no longer kill each other with swords, but instead ravage each other through the sword of our tongue.

Proverbs 6:16-19 - When we speak things to others with the intention of damaging relationships, even if it is true, it is an abomination to God.

2 Samuel 1:14-15 - David ordered death to the man that killed Saul.

Day 7 and Day 8 - Devotionals:

Days 7 & 8, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 4 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 7

Think of the "fathers" in the past from whom you have experienced rejection. Circle any who have rejected or hurt you:

I circled: Biological father, Stepfather, Pastor, Church Staff, and Teacher.

One biblical example of a father's rejection was Saul's rejection of David. Carefully read pages 34 - 36 of The Bait of Satan. As you read, jot down all the ways David could have been tempted to take up an offense from Saul:

- Saul tried to kill David twice while David played the harp for him.

- David was forced into the wilderness and had to hide in caves from Saul.

- Saul killed 85 innocent priests and the entire city of Nob when he found out they had been hospitable to David.

- David proved to Saul that he meant him no harm when he cut a piece from Saul's robe when instead he could have killed Saul or harmed him. Even knowing this, Saul still sought to kill David.

Now complete these sentences:

David treated Saul: compassionately, with love and respect.

Instead of revenge, David: sought reconciliation.

Read 1 Samuel 24:11 and then complete these sentences:

When someone attacks me, God wants me to: humble myself before them and try to make things right with them.

When someone rejects me, God wants me to: seek restoration and reconciliation through forgiveness.

Write a prayer asking God to work in the lives of your father figures and enable you to pray for them and forgive their faults:

Dear Father, Please help me to pray for and sincerely forgive the father figures in my life who have wronged me. Please work in both their hearts and mine. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 8

Look over the following list. Check whether or not you believe that Saul should have received the death penalty for such a crime:

1. Saul had murdered 85 innocent priests and their families (multiple counts of first-degree murder):

2. Saul, along with three thousand men, attempted in every possible way to kill David and his men (multiple counts of attempted murder): I checked DESERVING OF DEATH

3. Saul continued to function as king even when the anointing to rule had been taken from him and given to David: I checked DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT

4. Saul lied about David, sought to turn everyone against David, and broke his promises to David: I checked DESERVING OF PUNISHMENT

Write a prayer asking God to humble yourself before those who offend you and to ask for forgiveness:

Dear Father, please help me to rid myself of my prideful ways and humble myself before You and those who offend me. Help me to ask for forgiveness. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 4 - My Thoughts

I'm in awe of David's compassion and love for a man who despised him and attempted to murder him almost every chance he got.

It was huge for me to learn in this chapter that God will put us in circumstances that will test us to reveal the true condition of our hearts. When God put Saul's entire army to sleep and allowed David and Abishai to sneak up on Saul, it seemed like God was giving David the perfect opportunity to kill Saul. It seemed so absolutely crystal clear that it was God's will for David to take Saul's life! But David refused, and in doing so, proved the purity of his heart. He passed the test with flying colors! It's easy to see why David was called "a man after God's own heart."

I have had major issues with the father figures in my life. I spent many, many years living with anger and bitterness in my heart, but I did reach a point in my life when I realized I needed to forgive and let go of the bitterness. While these relationships have mostly been restored, I fully recognize that I have a long way to go before I can love these men to the same extent that David loved Saul.

How about you? Do you think you can love the fathers and father figures in your life the way that David loved Saul?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

FREE Ebook - Miss Humbug

Miss Humbug is a short story about power executive, Elaina Houston, who wants nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, Elaina consumes herself with work in order to block out the pain of a tragic event that occurred on a Christmas Eve 12 years ago.

Then one cold December night, everything changes, and unless Elaina learns to open her heart and capture the true Spirit of Christmas, she will not live to see another December 25th.

My Review of Miss Humbug:

I have nothing but nice things to say about this FREE 55-page PDF ebook written by Marnie Pehrson. The story is engaging. The plot is cleverly written. The characters are interesting, likeable, and easy to relate to. It's a little bit of mystery, a touch of romance, and a life-changing lesson all bundled together into a story that only takes about an hour to read.

When I was a child, Christmas was a magical time of year. I have so many fond memories of Christmas during my childhood years...baking cookies with my mom, going to the Christmas display at Dayton's in downtown Minneapolis with my grandma, and watching the Christmas specials on TV with my family.

Then I grew up and everything changed. Christmas went from magical to stressful and I began to dread the holiday season. While Elaina's reason for disliking Christmas is different than mine, I could definitely relate to her anti-Christmas Spirit.

Miss Humbug is a heart-warming story with an important message that all of us need to hear...and that is that we need to once again capture the true Spirit of Christmas. It's not about extravagant gifts, holiday parties or sparkling decorations. The true Spirit of Christmas is about love, laughter, family, peace, unity, warmth, generosity, forgiveness and kindness!

Download your free copy at And may the true Spirit of Christmas be with you and your loved ones this holiday season!

If you liked Miss Humbug, you will like Marnie's other books. Find them at and

11/12/07 - The paperback version of Miss Humbug is now available at

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"Taking Offense" Article

Today I received a devotional from Life Today called "Taking Offense" by Randy Robison. This devotional compliments our study on The Bait of Satan by giving us an excellent, real-life example of how people often perceive that they are being offended when they really are not.

With the author's permission, I have republished his devotional in full below:

Taking Offense by Randy Robison

“A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)

Recently, Cody Goodnight walked into a Family Dollar store in east Fort Worth to buy a couple of sodas for his five-year-old son and himself. The clerk, Ricky Young, had some difficulty with the scanner and attempted to make small talk while handling the register. Cody did not respond.

Once the sodas rang up, Cody paid in cash. Ricky felt insulted for being ignored, so he threw the change at Cody, scattering it on the floor. The 31-year-old father bent down to pick it up and at that point, Ricky later told police, muttered a racial slur and threatened him. So Ricky picked up a crowbar from behind the register and clubbed the man behind the ear.

Cody left the store without a word, went home and reported the incident to his mother. She and her husband contacted the police. When officers arrived at the discount store, Ricky was still working. They checked the surveillance video, but it had mysteriously been erased. They took Ricky’s statement claiming racism and self-defense and then informed him of one significant fact.

Cody Goodnight is deaf. When Cody was a toddler, high fever robbed him of his ability to hear. He can make guttural noises, but tries to maintain silence because people have made fun of him. He communicates via sign language.

"When you're deaf, you don't make a point of starting conversations with people," Cody’s mother said. Yet at least one person took offense at this deaf man’s behavior, misconstruing it for disrespect.

Often we take offense -- even when it’s not ours to take. Offense will come our way. We don’t have to go looking for it. When we do, we find offense in places where there is little or no cause for it. This is not simply foolishness, it is dangerous. It can lead to an overblown sense of victimization. Those who constantly take offense begin to feel as if life is not fair or that the world is out to get them. This mindset is diametrically opposed to Jesus declaration that Christians should “rejoice and be glad” when persecuted by the world (Matthew 5:11-12).

Dennis Prager, a brilliant author, lecturer and radio host, calls victimhood “the greatest single cause of evil.” He points out that Nazism arose from a sense of German victimhood, communism from a belief that the working man is the victim and Islamism from the idea that Muslims are victims of an oppressive Jewish-American conspiracy.

“The preoccupation of much of America with telling whole groups that they are victims -- of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and classism, among other American sins -- can only increase cruelty and evil in America,” Prager asserts.

Christians should not give in to the temptation to play the social martyr. We should stand up for our beliefs and defend the assaults on our faith, but never look for reasons to take offense. To the contrary, we must proactively forgive those who offend us, whether that offense is real or merely perceived. Otherwise, we play the part of the angry, bitter, reactionary victim. In that state of mind, we cannot respond with patience and love. Instead, we respond in a manner that genuinely gives offense.

This is true in society, church and family. Taking offense leads to conflict, strife and separation. It is the tool of the enemy. If we are to rise above the sins of this world and truly shine the light of Jesus Christ, we must move beyond giving or taking offense.

This Week: Forgive those who have offended you, just as God forgives our offenses. Resist the temptation to give in to the offenses of the world.

Prayer: “Father, forgive my trespasses, as I forgive those who trespass against me. Help me resist the temptation of victimhood, so that I can be delivered from anger, bitterness and vengeance. Give me your patience and grace so I can radiate your life and love.”

To read about Cody Goodnight’s progress since his attack, visit

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 3 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 3 - How Could This Happen To Me?

In Chapter 1 of The Bait of Satan, we learned that there are 2 different groups of offended people: 1) Those who have truly been mistreated and 2) Those who perceived they were mistreated, but actually were not. In Chapter 3, we focus on those who have truly been mistreated by taking a look at the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-48).

Joseph was brutally sold into slavery by his brothers. Joseph was their father's favorite son and because of that, they were jealous of him. His brothers were also upset about Joseph's dreams in which he claimed they bowed down to him.

As a slave, Joseph was separated from his family, forced to go to a foreign country and made to endure prison and many years of hardships before God's plan for him as 2nd in command to Pharoah was fulfilled.

Joseph was reunited with his brothers many years later when they were forced to go to Egypt for food during the famine. What if Joseph had stayed offended at his brothers instead of forgiving them? Had he chosen to kill his brothers, he would have murdered 10 of the 12 patriarchs and wiped out the lineage to Jesus. (Imagine how happy that would have made satan!) Joseph would have fallen out of the will of God and would have fulfilled the will of the devil.

Since Joseph was wise enough to realize that it was God's will for him to be 2nd in command in Egypt in order to save the lives of his family and many others, he did not hold offense against his brothers. Instead, he blessed them by keeping them alive during the famine and giving them the best land in Egypt.

The bottom line is that nobody, no man, woman, child or devil can keep you out of God's will for your life. Only you can, through offense and disobedience. Stay obedient and submitted to God and free from offense and God will make sure that His plans for you are fulfilled.

Chapter 3 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Genesis 50:19-20 - Joseph recognizes that God turned the evil his brothers did into good.

1 Kings 22:27 - Prisoners in Joseph's day suffered by just getting enough bread and water to survive.

Psalm 105:18 - Joseph's feet were hurt with fetters and he was laid in irons. It was not a fun situation to be in.

Genesis 37:20 - Joseph's brothers deliberately set out to destroy Joseph and his dreams.

Matthew 5:44 - Joseph blessed those who cursed him and did good to those who hated him when he forgave his brothers and took care of them during the 7 years of famine.

Genesis 45:5-8 - Joseph tells his brothers that it was not they that sent him to Egypt, but it was God. God wanted Joseph in Egypt to become 2nd in command to Pharaoh which would allow him to save his brothers and family from starvation during the famine.

Psalm 105:16-17 - The psalmist also confirms that it was God who sent Joseph to Egypt.

1 Corinthians 10:13 - God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able to resist. He will provide the way of escape.

James 4:7 - Resist the devil and he will flee from you. We resist the devil by not becoming offended.

Day 5 and Day 6 - Devotionals:

Days 5 & 6, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 3 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 5

From the following list, rank your normal responses to offense from 1 (most likely response) to 5 (least likely response):

I get mad: 2
I immediately forgive: 3
I get even: 5
I work hard at forgiving the person: 3
I get away from the person: 2
I seek to be reconciled: 3

Consider the story of Joseph (read Genesis 37-48.) How do evaluate Joseph's words and actions?

(Each statement has a horizontal line.)

One the first line, it says "He became offended" at the far left of the line, and at the far right of the line it says "He forgave." I put an X above "He forgave."

One the second line, it says "He blamed others for his circumstances" at the far left of the line, and at the far right of the line it says "He trusted God." I put an X above "He trusted God."

One the third line, it says "He sought revenge" at the far left of the line, and at the far right of the line it says "He sought to be reconciled." I put an X above "He sought to be reconciled."

Write a prayer asking God for the wisdom of Joseph to avoid taking offense and to trust Him instead of blaming others or circumstances for difficulties in life:

Dear Father, Help me to be content and loving no matter what situation I am in. Help me to trust that You always have a perfect plan for my life. Help me to learn from my circumstances and not to blame others. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 6

Read Genesis 45:5-8 and Psalm 105:16-17. Jot down all the reasons why God sent Joseph through his trials.

Genesis 45:5 - God sent Joseph to: Preserve life.

Genesis 45:7 - God sent Joseph to: Preserve future generations and save lives.

Genesis 45:8 - God sent Joseph to: Become a ruler of Egypt, 2nd in command to only Pharaoh.

Psalm 105:16-17 - God sent Joseph to: Go before his family to prepare for the famine.

Think of the greatest problem you have faced in the last year. Describe it in one sentence.

One of the biggest problems I faced in this past year is losing my luggage on the way to the Denver airport when leaving for a trip to Alaska.

Now complete these sentences:

My response to the problem was: I was upset, but I dealt with it the best I could by replacing almost all my luggage in Seattle. It would have been easy to blame others in this situation, but I immediately recognized that blame would not solve the problem and that things sometimes happen that I don't understand.

God's plan was: At this time, I don't know what God's plan was, but I felt that losing my luggage was an attack by satan since we were going on a Christian cruise. We had such a wonderful time on the cruise and it was such a blessing to us, that it's easy to see why satan would have not wanted me to go.

What I learned about myself was: By God's grace, I can get through any situation that He puts before me.

Write a prayer thanking God for having a good plan for your life and for working for good all the circumstances of your life:

Dear Father, Thank you for having a plan for my life. Help me to remember that whatever my circumstances are, that your plan for me will prevail so long as I am obedient to you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 3 - My Thoughts

Joseph has always been one of my favorite people in the Bible. I have always admired how he lived his life with integrity and godliness no matter what his circumstances were.

As I get further into the study on The Bait of Satan, I am beginning to feel like my brain is in need of reprogramming. Our culture here in the United States is extremely "me" oriented. Through television, movies, and books, we've been taught from a young age on to focus on our own wants and needs and feelings, to put ourselves above others. However, to do that, to put others first before ourselves and to not hold offense, seems to be against our culture and go against our very nature.

Several times this past week, I caught myself getting easily offended in situations where I went out of my way to do something for someone else and it doesn't seem to get appreciated. The closer I am to that person, the more upset I tend to get. The good thing is that I am catching myself and recognizing what I am doing. I am working on not expecting anything out of others, and let me tell you.... it's hard!

Are you finding that you are recognizing your offense with others as soon as it occurs? How are you handling it?

This past week, I went through a very difficult situation with our school district. Through the grace of God, everything turned out perfectly in the end, but it is very likely that a person or two in the district might not be too happy with me and they are people that I will need to deal with for the next few years until my son graduates. I am determined to put this situation behind me, to not hold offense with these people and to treat them kindly when I have contact with them.

What kind of offensive situations have you dealt with these past few weeks? How are you dealing with them?

If you'd like to learn more about the life of Joseph, one of the best resources I know is a series called "God Meant It For Good: The Life of Joseph" by David Jeremiah of Turning Point.

This is truly one of my favorite studies and something that I have listened to time and time again. It is a very thorough study and very inspiring. The teacher and preacher, David Jeremiah, is a very articulate speaker. Through his illustrations and explanations, he brings Joseph and the Bible to life.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 2 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 2 - Massive Offense

In Chapter 2, the author of The Bait of Satan states that we are living in the end days, the time period Jesus describes in Matthew 24:10-13.

One of the signs that Jesus gives us of the end times is that Christians will be offended. He tells us that false prophets will rise up and deceive Christians who are living in offense by telling them what they want to hear versus what they need to hear.

The Bible says we need to show love to others even when we don't receive love in return. Spiritual law says that we *will* reap what we sow, though the harvest doesn't always come in the manner we expect. Therefore, in order to avoid offense, we should love others without expecting anything in return.

We build walls around ourselves when we become offended. Love does not go out and love does not come in, which results in selfishness, betrayal, and hatred. Offended people justify their behavior rather than repent of unforgiveness.

Jesus did not take revenge on those who did Him wrong, but rather repaid evil with good and trusted in God to judge righteously. We need to follow His example.

Chapter 2 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Matthew 24:10-13 - Jesus said in the last days that "many will be offended." The "many" Jesus refers to are Christians. Then Jesus states that "false prophets will rise up and deceive many." The false prophets will deceive those who are offended and whose love has grown cold.

Galatians 6:8-9 - When we sow love, we will eventually reap love, though it may take a long time and the harvest may come in an unexpected way.

Matthew 5:44-47 - If we only love those who love us, we are no better than non-Christians. We must love, bless, and pray for our enemies.

Proverbs 18:19 - When we are offended, we build walls around us to keep others out. Those walls eventually become our prison. Love neither comes in nor goes out and we become self-centered & useless to the kingdom of God.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 - The New Testament describes our walls as strongholds.

Numbers 23:19 & Isaiah 55:8-9 - God cannot lie. His ways and thoughts are not like ours.

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 - Knowledge without love is destructive and deceiving. Offended people often justify themselves by incorrectly interpreting Scripture.

Matthew 7:15 - Jesus refers to false prophets as wolves in sheep's clothing. "Sheep's clothing" means that they give the appearance of being Christians, but are wolves in their hearts. They win people over by telling them what they want to hear, rather than what they need to hear.

2 Timothy 3:1-5, 4:3-4 - In the end times, people will claim to be Christians, but they will deny the power of Christianity.

2 Timothy 3:7 - People will have a hunger for knowledge, but won't apply it to their own lives. The author says: "If you are offended and in unforgiveness and refuse to repent of this sin, you have not come to the knowledge of the truth."

Matthew 24:10 - Offense leads to betrayal and betrayal leads to hatred. After betrayal, a relationship cannot be restored without true repentance. Betrayal is the ultimate abandonment of covenant.

1 John 3:15 - Those who hate their brother are a murderer.

1 Corinthians 6:7, Matthew 5:44, Philippians 2:3 - The laws of love.

1 Peter 2:21-23 - Jesus did not repay wrong with wrong, but committed Himself to God who will judge righteously.

Day 3 and Day 4 - Devotionals:

Days 3 & 4, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 2 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 3

Put an X on the line to indicate your level of offense for each statement:

This is hard to demonstrate online, but each statement has a horizontal line. At the far left of the line, it says "Usually True" and at the far right of the line, it says "Seldom True." We are supposed to put an X somewhere on that line to indicate our level of offense for each statement.

- Church people seem to be easily offended. My X was towards "Usually True."
- I offend easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- Friends seem to offend easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- People at work get offended easily. My X was in the middle of the line.
- Relatives get easily offended. My X was towards "Usually True."

On a scale of 1 (very little) to 5 (very much), how would you rate each of the following statements in your own life?

- I expect much of others: 3
- I am easily disappointed: 2
- I love conditionally: 3
- I bless to be blessed: 3

Write a prayer asking God to replace your expectations of others with unconditional love for them.

Dear Father, Help me to love unconditionally. Help me to give love to others without expecting anything in return. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 4

Check any attitudes you find in yourself: From within our walls, we become:

I checked: Selective about relationships, Less open and vulnerable to others, Closed to those we fear will hurt us.

Complete the following lists, listing both those who have the right to hurt you and those you have shut out with walls.

Those who can hurt me: I listed 7 people
Those I have walled out: I listed 3 people

Write a prayer, asking God to help you tear down your walls, become vulnerable and repent of any offenses.

Dear Father, Help me to tear down any walls that I have up and help me to repent of any offenses I hold in my heart. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 2 - My Thoughts

Wow! This was an extremely insightful chapter for me. I've heard of false prophets deceiving people in the end times, but I always thought the people who were being deceived were non-Christians. Because of that, I believed that I could not and would not be deceived.

John Bevere explains that not only will the people deceived be Christians, but the false prophets will also claim to be Christians! Now I see that I could easily be deceived if I have offense in my heart.

Another big insight for me was that just because someone quotes scripture and claims to be a Christian doesn't mean that they are a Christian. We need to ask God for discernment so that we can recognize these false prophets. The author says that many of these false prophets are in the pulpit and in the pews. Satan loves to infiltrate the church.

Another thing that moved my heart is that the author pointed out that we need to love people unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. We have to trust that God will make sure that we reap what we sow. That's a tough one to live out, and something that I will have to work very hard at. I have no doubt that I will experience failure in that area at times.

This past week, I tried to put what I learned in this chapter in action. Two people who are on my "deeply offended me" list (that we wrote out in the devotional section of Day 1) had birthdays. I bought these people birthday cards, got them signed by the appropriate people in my family, and mailed them. It really wasn't that hard for me to do, as a matter of fact, it was actually a lot easier than I anticipated. That's probably due to the fact that I know I cannot expect anything in return from these people.

What insights did you find helpful in Chapter 2? Do you think that you can repeatedly extend love to someone who doesn't give it in return?

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Bait of Satan - Chapter 1 - Book Discussion

The Bait of Satan, Chapter 1 - Me, Offended?

The Bait of Satan deals with the issue of personal offense. In Chapter 1, The author explains that offense is "bait" that Satan uses to try to "trap" us with. When people - especially those closest to us - wrong us in some way, we are deeply hurt and feel betrayed.

Sometimes, due to inaccurate information or miscommunication, we perceive that someone has wronged us, even though that might not actually be the case.

Either way, we are offended and if it's not dealt with we live our lives with bitterness, anger and resentment festering in our hearts.

Chapter 1 - Key Points/Bible Verses:

Luke 17:1 - "It is impossible that no offenses should come." Jesus Himself said we are going to be offended at some point in our life; there's no getting around it.

Psalm 55:12-14 - In this verse, King David cried out that the sting of betrayal from someone he was especially close to was unbearable for him. The author, John Bevere, points out that "The closer the relationship, the more severe the offense." How true that is!

2 Timothy 3:2 - In the last days, Christians will become selfish and self-centered.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 - Pride can cloud our minds and harden our hearts. It prevents us from seeing and dealing with the truth and keeps us trapped. Pride causes us to view ourselves as victims and to justify our actions.

Revelation 3:14-20 - Pride caused the Laodiceans to be deceived.

Hebrews 3:13 - If we don't deal with the offense, it will produce more fruit of sin and further harden our hearts. We need to examine our hearts and ask God to reveal it's true condition.

1 Peter 1:6-7 & Isaiah 48:10 - When gold is refined, it is put through a purifying process that uses intense heat to remove the minerals that harden it and make it unpure. As a parallel, sometimes God allows us to go through trials and tribulations so that our sins will be revealed to us. We can purify ourselves through repentance.

Revelation 3:18 - We need to open our eyes and see the true condition of our hearts and stop blaming others. The author states: "Often when we are offended we see ourselves as victims and blame those who have hurt us." The truth will bring us freedom.

Day 1 and Day 2 - Devotionals:

Days 1 & 2, in the devotional at the back of the book, cover Chapter 1 of The Bait of Satan.

Day 1

In the following list of the fruit of offense, circle the feelings you have experienced when offended in the past:

I circled: hurt, anger, bitterness, resentment, & hatred.

List 5 (with 1 being the closest, & 5 being the most distant relationship) the names of 5 people who have offended you:

I ended up actually listing 9 people who I've felt a deep offense with at some point in my life. While I am on good terms with about half the people on my list and believe that I have worked through forgiveness with them, I recognize that I still hold some degree of bitterness and resentment towards several of them.

Write a prayer asking God for help and wisdom to avoid the bait of Satan.

Dear Father, please open my eyes and give me wisdom. Help me to use compassion when dealing with people and situations that could cause offense. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Day 2

Read 1 Peter 1:6-7 and then summarize how God purifies us:

He purifies us by allowing us to go through trials and tribulations that test our faith.

Think about your own life. What are the impurities in your heart that are hindering the character of God from growing in your life?

Impatience, irritation, resentment, bitterness.

Write a prayer repenting of blaming others and asking the Lord to give you eyes to see the condition of your heart.

Dear Father, Please forgive me for the times that I have blamed others for situations and offenses that I should have taken responsibility for my part in. Help me to examine my heart and reveal to me it's true condition. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Chapter 1 - My Thoughts

I think the author, John Bevere, is on to something here. In reflecting upon my own life, I can see that it is very easy for me to allow myself to get offended over minor things or make negative assumptions.

Just recently I went through a situation where I had called someone and left a voice message for them to call me back. A week later, I hadn't heard back, so I sent them a text message with the question I had for them. A few days later, I hadn't gotten a reply, so I emailed them. At that point, I was starting to get annoyed and frustrated.

It turned out that the person was just really busy. They did get back to me shortly after I emailed them and everything was fine, but it's easy to see how a simple situation like that can cause offense. Satan uses situations such as this to plant seeds of doubt in my mind. It's easy to start questioning my relationship with that person and start making assumptions.

What is your perception of what we've learned so far in The Bait of Satan? Do you struggle with offense on a daily basis? Are there people that you have been holding onto offense with for more than 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

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Monday, October 8, 2007

The Power of a Simple Gift

Christmas is a time to reach out to other people who are less fortunate and show them the love of Christ and offer them hope. While many people turn a deaf ear to "preaching", hearts are opened when we show other people kindness and love.

Let me tell you about one Christian ministry that has been a true blessing to me and my family.

Operation Christmas Child is a mission project of Samaritan's Purse, headed by Billy Graham's son, Franklin. Operation Christmas Child provides an opportunity for people and families to reach out and touch a child's heart at Christmas time...through a simple shoebox.

A few years ago, my youngest son, Cody, and I decided to do our very first shoebox. We chose to do one for a boy in Cody's age group. Once we got started, we had so much fun with it that we actually ended up doing a total of 3 shoeboxes!

Some of the items we put in the shoeboxes were: crayons and pencils, stickers, baseballs, toothbrushes and toothpaste, handheld games, hard candies, beanie babies, washclothes, socks and more.

Rather than using a cardboard shoebox, we bought shoebox-size Sterlite plastic containers and filled them up. We figured they were more durable and would hold up better than a cardboard box. When we dropped our shoeboxes off at a drop-off location, we noticed that other people had used them as well as regular shoeboxes.

Cody is a teenager now, so this year we are asking his girlfriend to get involved with us. It's truly a great way for us to spend quality time together and make a difference in a child's life at the same time.

Drop off week is November 12 - 19, 2007, so now is the time to start getting them ready!

This Christmas, reach out across the world and bless a child...through a simple shoebox! (See the Samaritan's Purse web site for complete details.)

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14