Bookish Musings, Banter & More
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!
About the Authors:
Dr. Henry Blackaby, president emeritus of Blackaby Ministries, is the author of more than a dozen books, including the bestselling classic, Experiencing God. He has spent his life in ministry, serving as a music director and as a senior pastor of churches in California and Canada. Today he provides consultative leadership on prayer for revival and spiritual awakening on a global level. He and his wife make their home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Dr. Melvin Blackaby serves as senior pastor at First Baptist Church Jonesboro, GA. Heâ€™s the author of several books including Going the Second Mile and the Gold Medallion-winner A God Centered Church, which he coauthored with his father, Henry Blackaby. He and his wife, Gina, live in the greater Atlanta area with their three children â€“ Christa, Stephen, and Sarah. (ISBN#9781590529119, 224pp, $16.99)
â€œEye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.â€ But God has revealed them to us
through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.
â€”1 CO R I N THI A N S 2:9 â€“ 10
The person who does not know the Holy Spirit of God does not know God. Itâ€™s that simple. Itâ€™s true that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to provide eternal salvation and that, through His death and resurrection, we have victory over sin and new life in Christ. But apart from the Holy Spirit, Godâ€™s great salvation is of no relevance to us. Apart from the active work of the Spirit in our lives, we would neither know God nor have the ability to respond to Him. Divine truth is not something we â€œdiscoverâ€; it is revealed by the Holy Spirit of God. As such, no other reality in the Christian life is as important as being filled with the Spirit. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit is distinctive to the Christian faith. No other religion has anything like it. What believers in Jesus Christ have come to know and experience through His gift of the Spirit brings them into a relationship with God thatâ€™s inaccessible in all other religions of the world. For just as God did not create the world and then step back and watch it spin, but chose to enter time and space and interact with His people, so also God did not just deliver a set of laws for us to follow in the hope of earning our way to heaven. Instead He chose to enter a relationship with His people on earth through His indwelling Spirit.
TRAPPED IN ATTIC DARKNESS
When I (Mel) was sixteen years old, I had a summer job as a laborer on a construction crew. My boss was a small contractor who built homes, but he also renovated older homes. One day he sent me to an old house to install pink Fiberglass insulation in the attic. The outdoor temperature that day reached 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so you can imagine how hot it was in that dusty old attic. I felt like I was working in a convection oven.
It was a nasty job. As I shone my flashlight around the attic, I saw a cloud of Fiberglass particles floating through the air. All day long I worked in that dark and dusty deathtrap. It was one of those labor jobs that encouraged me to later go back to school and get an education.
That night I was exhausted when my head hit the pillow. I guess the dayâ€™s work had had an impact on me, because I had a nightmare about being trapped in the attic. I got up in the middle of the night in a cold sweatâ€”yet I wasnâ€™t fully awake. I started to panic, thinking I was still in the attic and couldnâ€™t find my way out. I scrambled frantically around the room looking for the atticâ€™s crawl-out door and nearly destroyed my room in the process. I threw my dresser across the room and pulled down bookshelves. I was lost in the closet when suddenly a light shone through the crack under my door.
â€œMel?â€ It was my motherâ€™s voice. â€œIs everything okay?â€ Seeing the light, I got my bearings and knew exactly where I was and the reality of my situation. It was just a dream! My mom opened the door and saw my demolition work. â€œWhatâ€™s going on?â€ she questioned.
â€œOh, itâ€™s nothingâ€¦Just got a little disoriented.â€
Iâ€™d been in a nightmare I couldnâ€™t escapeâ€”trapped in darkness and unable to perceive realityâ€”until the light was turned on. Only when a little light shone under the door did my situation become clear to me.
In the same way, unless the Holy Spirit turns the light on, your life will be kept in complete darkness, disoriented to the things of God. Thereâ€™s absolutely nothing you can do to find the light; youâ€™re at the complete mercy of God to reveal it. All you can perceive is what you see and experience in the physical world, but thereâ€™s a spiritual reality to which youâ€™re blind.
Look at Paulâ€™s description in Romans 3 of sinâ€™s damage:
â€œThere is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.â€
â€œTheir throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceitâ€;
â€œThe poison of asps is under their lipsâ€;
â€œWhose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.â€
â€œTheir feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.â€ (verses 10â€“18)
Paul went on to say, â€œAll have sinned and fall short of the glory of Godâ€ (verse 23). Everyone has fallen short; everyone has sinned. And sin has fatal consequences. Not only has it separated you from God, but it also keeps you from restoring that relationship. Paul emphasized these points in Romans 3:
â€¢ Sin makes you unrighteous and separates you from God.
â€¢ Sin keeps you from understanding God.
â€¢ Sin keeps you from seeking God.
â€¢ Sin causes you to turn to other things, leaving you worthless and setting you on the road to depravity.
â€¢ Sin ultimately causes you to lose the fear of God. And when you lose the fear of God, thereâ€™s no deterrent to sin; you canâ€™t stop your downward plunge into eternal destruction. The reality of our spiritual state can look pretty depressing. Is there any hope? Many would answer no. Some have committed suicide. Many more have attempted suicide, and even more have contemplated it.
One of the most influential opponents of Christianity was Friedrich Nietzsche, who called Christianity â€œthe one great curseâ€ and â€œthe one immortal blemish of mankind.â€ He proclaimed â€œthe death of Godâ€ as a cultural fact and claimed atheism as the last evolutionary phase in the search for truth. Nietzsche later was debilitated by mental illness; having no hope, heâ€™d gone mad. If not for the grace of God, we all would be in the same conditionâ€” without hope. For we have all sinned, and sin prevents a relationship with Godâ€”and life apart from God leaves no hope.
PROOF OF GOD AT WORK
But if you find yourself experiencing a desire to seek God, we have great news for you: God is already at work in you. The fact that youâ€™re searching for Him is an indication that God is pursuing you and drawing you into a relationship with Him thatâ€™s real and personal. Apart from His active work in your life, you would never have the desire to seek Him. For as weâ€™ve seen, because of sin, â€œThere is none who understands; there is none who seeks after Godâ€ (Romans 3:11).
Theologians use the term prevenient grace to describe Godâ€™s work of drawing us to Himself. Before we in our fallen state can seek God, He must first create the desire within us for spiritual realities. There must be a work of enlightenment done within us before weâ€™re aware of our need for salvation. Thatâ€™s why we believe no one can go to church or open Godâ€™s Word â€œby accident.â€ God is drawing them, whether or not they realize it. If you find yourself wanting to consider spiritual truth, itâ€™s not because of some funny feeling, but because God Himself draws you. King David showed us something about this when he cried out to God, â€œMy soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds meâ€ (Psalm 63:8, NASB). When we reach out to cling to Him, itâ€™s God who is drawing us, and itâ€™s God who holds us there. Thereâ€™s no contradiction in this divine upholding and human following. For our part, there must be a response to Godâ€™s drawing power if weâ€™re to experience a relationship with Him.
Itâ€™s like a man trying to draw a womanâ€™s affection; the relationship will not blossom unless the woman responds. And when you do respond to Godâ€™s leading, He will give you the ability to answer the call. As James told us, â€œDraw near to God and He will draw near to youâ€ (4:8).
Listen carefully: Recognizing God is not the same as coming to Him. Hearing God in your heart is not the same as answering. Working for the kingdom of God does not mean living in the kingdom of God. Christianity is not believing the truths of the Bible; itâ€™s acting upon them and allowing God control of your life. You must respond to God and make the choice to interact personally with Him. Have you gone beyond accepting the fact that thereâ€™s a God? Have you moved beyond accepting Christ as Godâ€™s Son and made Him Lord of your life? If you believe thereâ€™s a God, that He sent His Son to die for you, that God raised Jesus from the dead after three days, and that Christ is coming back for His disciplesâ€”thatâ€™s great. But Satan also believes all that! What makes your life any different from Satanâ€™s? To be different, you must come to Christ, pursue Him, give your life to Him, and keep growing in your relationship with Himâ€”for Heâ€™s a Person to be loved, not an idea to be accepted.
NO LONGER DORMANT
All that weâ€™ve been talking about is the active work of the Holy Spirit in your life. If God had not sent the Holy Spirit to open your eyes, you wouldnâ€™t see Him. If the Holy Spirit hadnâ€™t opened your ears, you wouldnâ€™t hear Him. If the Holy Spirit hadnâ€™t touched your heart, you wouldnâ€™t have the slightest desire to know Him. Weâ€™ve all been taught that we have five sensesâ€”sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. By using them, we can apprehend most realities. But when it comes to apprehending God, we struggle. We donâ€™t see Him, smell Him, taste Him, hear Him, or touch Him. But there is within us another sense by which we can know God as certainly as we know material things by our five familiar senses. Because weâ€™re spiritual creatures created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), we have spiritual faculties that allow us to truly know Him. We can apprehend Him; we can experience Him; we can love Him. In non-Christians, this faculty lies dormant. Itâ€™s asleep in their nature. For all practical purposes it is dead because of sin. But this faculty is quickened to life by the work of the Holy Spirit when weâ€™re born again.
The sending of the Spirit was part of Godâ€™s plan from the beginning, and that plan was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost. In fact, the sermon delivered by Peter that day was focused primarily on God the Father working in and through the life of His Son, Jesus. This brief selection from that sermon shows Peterâ€™s emphasis: Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also knowâ€”Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. (Acts 2:22â€“24) Notice that God the Father was the one who orchestrated the events in the life of Jesus. In the same way, the Father brought forth the dramatic coming of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Itâ€™s true that Jesus sent the Spirit, but only after He had â€œreceived from the Father the promise of the Holy Spiritâ€ (Acts 2:33). So we see that the coming of the Holy Spirit was in the heart of God from the very beginning.
Furthermore, the text of Peterâ€™s sermon that day was from the Old Testament prophet Joel. Peter said, But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
â€œAnd it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, â€œThat I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams.â€ (Acts 2:16â€“17; see Joel 2:28)
Long before Jesus arrived in the flesh, God the Father was talking about this day. It was always planned as the next significant event after Jesus died and rose againâ€”as the necessary event to bring the work of Christ to bear upon those who would believe. Why then do many Christians fail to experience the depths of what God has purposed for their lives? The reason is their insufficient personal dealing with God. When our faith is based primarily on the wisdom of men and not on the power of God, weâ€™ve just nullified most of what God intended for our lives. When our faith is built only on a collection of doctrines, we miss out on the Person who wants to be our life. Like all personal relationships, this spiritual relationship is activated through faith. When faith is defective, the result is numbness toward spiritual things. Some have never given their whole heart to God yet wonder why they havenâ€™t experienced Him. To live the Christian life in its fullness, you must have faith. â€œThe just shall live by faithâ€ (Romans 1:17), Paul said, and in Hebrews we read, â€œWithout faith it is impossible to please [God]â€ (Hebrews 11:6). You must take God at His word! Every positive response to the Lord will open up new opportunities to know Him more and more. The more you pursue Him, the more Heâ€™ll reveal Himself to you.
WIND IN THE SAILS
To get a picture of the Spirit, consider the image of a sailing ship. The sailors make sure everythingâ€™s ready to go. The decks are swabbed, the trim freshly painted, and the galley stocked with food for the voyage. The anchorâ€™s up, the ropes are in, the sails are raised, and the captainâ€™s at the helm. But the ship doesnâ€™t move. Why? Because the sails need wind to propel the ship forward. You can prepare everything in your life to go forward with God, but without the wind of the Spirit, thereâ€™s no movement. On a sailing ship youâ€™re at the mercy of nature and the necessary wind to move; in life, youâ€™re at the mercy of God and the Spiritâ€™s power. Without that power, we canâ€™t follow God and experience life to its fullest. Interestingly, the Greek and Hebrew words for Spirit (pneuma and ruah) can both be translated as â€œwindâ€ or â€œbreath.â€ Unless the wind of the Spirit blows, youâ€™ll drift aimlessly along on the currents of life.
Even after youâ€™ve done everything you know to connect with God, itâ€™s all in vain without action on His part. With this in mind, can you understand why â€œblasphemy against the Spiritâ€ is so serious? Look at the amazing and even terrifying statement about this from Jesus: Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31â€“32) Why would Jesus make such a statement? Why is it more dangerous to speak against the Holy Spirit than to speak against the Son of Man, Jesus Himself? Simply this: the Holy Spirit is the only one who moves upon a person to bring conviction of sin and the desire to be in a right relationship with God.
Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, â€œWhen He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgmentâ€ (John 16:8). Without this work of the Spirit, youâ€™re incapable of responding to God. So the Holy Spirit is not to be ignored or taken for granted. Heâ€™s not to be cast aside as insignificant in comparison to God the Father and God the Son. The Spirit of God is essential to your life and to your relationship with the entire Godhead. Heâ€™s the illuminator of all spiritual truth and the doorway into the divine. He takes that which is unknown to fallen humanity and makes it a clear and unmistakable reality in our lives.
THE SPIRIT IS SPEAKINGâ€¦
When you consider your life, do you need somebody to turn the light on? Thatâ€™s the role of the Holy Spirit. Do you need some wind in your sails? Invite the Spirit to breathe new life into your soul. Do you want a deeper and more meaningful relationship with almighty God? Then you must understand the Holy Spiritâ€™s role in your life. Once you come to know the Spirit in all His fullness, youâ€™ll see heaven opened up before you. Consider what you do know about God. Oh, thereâ€™s much more to learn, but take a moment and thank God for revealing Himself to you. The fact that youâ€™re reading this book is an indication that God wants you to experience a deeper relationship with Him. So ask the Holy Spirit to help you see God more clearly. Ask Him to communicate the deep things of God to your spirit. Finally, commit your life to respond to everything He says. A heart of ready obedience frees the Holy Spirit to speak into your life, because He knows youâ€™ll respond when He speaks.
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