Book Review: The Gift for All People

The Gift for All People
by Max Lucado

In The Gift for All People, Max Lucado offers up sweet and simple thoughts on grace.  This collection of short stories is a perfect gift to give away because it is so very accessible (clear and easy to read, quick-moving chapters) and offers a clear presentation of salvation, grace, and forgiveness.  More particularly, this could be a perfect Easter gift as Max spends time talking about the gift of Jesus’s death and resurrection.  giftforallpeople

Many (but not all!) of the stories will be familiar to long-term Max Lucado fans as they’ve been compiled from his longer works.  As a long-term Christian book reader and Max Lucado fan, I wasn’t sure that there was anything new in this book for me. Even so, I still enjoyed it.  Sometimes it’s just a joy to celebrate the clear and simple Gospel.  What a great reminder, especially during the season of Lent, of how God loves us.   I could see reading one of these small chapters each morning or evening in preparation for Easter  and it being a blessing.

I think this book would be even more fitting, though, for those seeking and asking questions, new believers, or even those in a season of struggling to accept forgiveness and grace.  The book description itself says, “If you’ve already accepted it, you’ll thank Him again. And if you’ve never accepted it, I pray that you will. For it’s the gift of a lifetime. A gift for all people.” That’s a perfect description.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

Book Review | Glory Days

Glory Days
by Max Lucado

In his new book, Glory Days, Max Lucado offers a study of the book of Joshua and a reminder that we too often settle for less than God’s best for us.  As Christians, we can slip into complacency or even defeatism.  We can think that God only intends for us to have victory in heaven, but never here on earth.  This isn’t about material wealth or status; it’s about overcoming strongholds and no longer being held back by shame, fear, or underestimating God’s power.glory-days-max-lucado

Some of that comes from the faulty metaphor we’ve adopted of Canaan or the Promised Land as being heaven, which means our Christian life becomes little more than the wilderness between Egypt and the land flowing with milk and honey.  From the beginning of this book, though, Max counters that.  He says, ‘Canaan, then, does not represent the life to come. Canaan represents the life we can have now.  God invites us to enter Canaan.  There is only one condition. We must turn our backs on the wilderness.’

In true Max-style of simplicity and master-storyteller, this book tracks the journey of Israel from sitting outside the Promised Land to finally taking the territory from the enemies within.  Max covers remembering what God has done in the past, trusting in God and not ‘stuff,’ praying audacious prayers, overcoming failure, and trusting God to fight on your behalf.  The book also includes a study guide that could help individuals and small groups dig deeper into the content.

I felt it was Max’s best Bible study in years, offering Christians both encouragement and a challenge to actually claim your inheritance in Christ: “more victory than defeat, more joy than sadness, more hope than despair.  These days are Glory Days.”

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Disclaimer:   Heather King is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

What’s This Gonna Cost?

I tell my daughters about the email.

Their teacher at church sent us information about an upcoming missions project.  They’ll be collecting money as a class for a ministry in our area, but she doesn’t want the parents to just give kids money to contribute.

Sure, I could stuff a few dollars and some coins into that empty container and send it in with my  kids.  And sure, they could hand it in and feel like they participated and did the good Christian thing that good Christians are supposed to do.

But giving should cost something.

In fact, giving should be costly.

It should require some effort or sacrifice.   We shouldn’t just give when we have more than enough.

True generosity and true love require giving out of need and giving out of not-enough.

My girls protest the fact that they have empty piggy banks, no allowance and no source of renewable income since birthdays only come once a year.

So we return to our tried-and-true method:  Extra chores allow them to earn money to give to missions or charities or ministries.1peter2

The King girls will be sweeping floors and scrubbing toilets to earn those coins to give away.

On Sunday morning, I hold the cup and bread in my hand and pray before Communion, thinking this is a lesson for me, too.

I think about the cost of giving, the cost of generosity.

Surely God has given generously to us.

Maybe it’s complacency from long-term faith, from hearing those same lessons taught in the same ways.  Maybe it’s selfishness.  Maybe it’s forgetfulness.

Whatever the cause, sometimes I cling selfishly to what I have and forget the abundant generosity of God’s gift to me.

Could anything be more generous than grace?

Yes, I mean the cross, but even before that.

Adam and Eve stood in the aftermath of forbidden fruit and witnessed the ugly truth for the first time:  Grace demands sacrifice.

They sinned.  They felt shame in their nakedness and they tried to fix things on their own, fitting leaves together to form a makeshift outfit.

Genesis 3:21 says it wasn’t enough:

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them (Genesis 3:21 NIV).

I’ve read that verse so often and just ran over the words without thought, but here’s the truth of it.

They sinned.  So God slayed an animal at their feet.  He couldn’t just pick a few animal skins off of a store shelf or drop by the tailor’s so they could be custom-fitted with a faux-leather outfit.

God handcrafted the clothes for His wayward children.

Adam and Eve stood in the garden and watched another creature die for their own offense.  They witnessed the blood running red for the first time ever.

Max Lucado writes:

 “God slays an animal.  For the first time in the history of the earth, dirt is stained with blood.  Innocent blood.  The beast committed no sin.  The creature did not deserve to die……….” (A Love Worth Living).

Then they had to wear the result and remember the high cost of their God-designed outfit.

As Max Lucado puts it: “As a father would zip up the jacket of a preschooler.  God covers them.”  

It’s the act of a dad, helping a little one fit arms into arm-holes and socks onto feet.  It’s tenderness and gentleness and love when they deserved wrath.

And God did this for us, too:

For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness (Isaiah 61:10 NIV).

Right there in the garden it began: Outrageous, undeserved, generous, complete sacrifice of one life for another.isaiah1

I read Leviticus and wonder what it must have been like to watch the whole gory mess of atonement with its blood and guts and death.

It became routine to the Israelites.  How could that be routine?  How could the stench and the bleating of the lambs become routine?

Yet, has the cross become routine to us?

Sin should be shocking.

Grace should shock us all the more.

Maybe if I had to stand and watch God pay the price for my mess with my own two eyes, I’d be less complacent and more overcome.

Maybe if I had to let God silently drape my shoulders with a covering of His own making to hide my nakedness, maybe my heart would break with sorrow at my sin.

Maybe if I watched someone die in my place, knowing how little I deserved it, I’d learn what true generosity is: giving abundantly and without complaint even when it’s undeserved and even when it costs me dearly.

The truth is that Jesus did just that:  He died for us and then He dressed us in His righteousness.

May we be overcome by grace anew.

 

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

Having Hope When You’ve Been Stepped On

My daughter was about two-and-a-half when she stepped on a butterfly.

We do this every spring as we prepare for Easter, order a cup of caterpillars and follow their journey to new life.  We watch the change, marvel again at the miracle: how the tomb doesn’t always mean death; maybe it means resurrection.

We remember that we are the ones who die to self and then gain new life in Christ, like caterpillars willingly spinning themselves into tight dormancy only to be made new.psalm 31

We watched those caterpillars climb all over the tiny plastic cup for about a week.  Then they scaled the sides of the cup, flipped themselves upside down and wrapped themselves into a chrysalis.

They looked dead for a week.

One morning, I shuffled around the kitchen, moving through routine with my eyes barely cracked open.  Poured cereal. Made tea. Oversaw teeth-brushing and hair-brushing.

Then I saw the wings.

The chrysalis had cracked open and there in the morning light sat our first butterfly, fanning his wings slowly, testing the air, while the other caterpillars remained entombed.

Over the next day or so, the other new butterflies pushed their way out and flexed their wings.

We squeezed drops of sugar water on freshly cut chrysanthemums and watched the butterflies strengthen.  First they sat in stillness.  Then they hopped to the bottom and explored.  Then they started flying around in circles, eager for freedom.

So, we set them free.

We gathered into the garden in the warm sun of a spring Saturday and one by one released each butterfly into our garden.

But we forgot to explain the difference between butterflies and bugs to my youngest daughter, I suppose.

When one of the butterflies flew up and then back to the ground, she squashed it.  Quick as any reflex, she just stomped down her tiny foot on the ‘pest’ just like we would any spider.

We all tried to stop her.  It was like a slow motion moment in a film, with us leaping to try to rescue the butterfly and prevent the impending doom, but failing in the end.

Amazingly enough, that butterfly still lived.  We eased him and his bruised wing onto a flower where he could enjoy some food without needing to fly.

Maybe you’ve been that butterfly.

Eager to fly.  Excited for freedom.  Hoping for beauty.

Then crushed, bruised, broken.

Maybe you’ve started this year with anticipation, holding your breath for that first sign of good news.

And you’ve already felt like a giant foot has squashed you to the ground.

Maybe it seems like nothing ever changes even though you desperately long for it to change.

Proverbs 13:12 says:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Hope isn’t a fickle whim, a fanciful impression that maybe good things will come your way.

Hope is a steadfast knowledge, an anchor of truth that without a doubt you know: God is good and He will take care of you.

And when you feel a little bruised and battered, like a butterfly crushed at that first taste of freedom, hope can feel a little shaky, a little elusive, a little hard to see in the deep of the dark.

Surely Noah must have had those days, floating on that ark long, long after the rain had ceased and the world was covered in a blanket of endless water.

How long, Lord?  When will this end, Lord?  Will we ever get off this ark, Lord?

Are we stuck here forever?  Will we walk on dry land again?  Can we please live without the stench of a floating zoo in our nostrils day and night?

He started sending out messengers of hope: ravens and doves.

He was desperate for the sign, the assurance of dry, solid ground.

The dove brought him an olive leaf.  More than that, the dove brought him renewed hope.

Max Lucado writes:

“An olive leaf.  Noah would have been happy to have a bird but to have the leaf!  This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise.  The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope.  For isn’t that what hope is?  Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after flood… (From A Love Worth Giving)

And so, when we are weary and defeated, we can seek hope.  We can send out those doves and ravens and ask God for a sign of dry land after flood.

And so, when we are strong, we can be the dove for another.  We can bring olive leaves to the hurting. We can bring reminders of hope and God’s faithfulness to those who can’t see the solid ground.

Do you need an olive leaf today?  Do you need to bring an olive leaf to someone else who is hurting?

Here are 30 Bible Verses on Hope to help.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2015 Heather King

One Minute Devotional – Devotions From My Garden: Whatever It Takes

A few summers ago, I tried my gardening hand at tomatoes for the very first time.  I was pushed into it by my tomato-loving daughters who wanted to grow their own food.  Loving mom that I am, I trekked to the store and returned home with soil, two tiny plantlings, and some plant food.

Through the summer months, my tomato plants grew full with abundant leaves.  You couldn’t see any space between the branches, just all green and all beautiful.  I was pretty proud of my gardening prowess.

But my mother-in-law showed me that some leaves weren’t producing any fruit.  They just looked beautiful and diverted nutrients from the shoots that actually had baby tomatoes on them.  So, she encouraged me to trim the plant.

This was hard.  And sad.  I sucked in my breath one day and finally started snipping away with my scissors.  The leaves fell to the ground.  My tomato plant that was once so full and beautiful now looked spindly and bare.

Yet, just as promised, within a week or two it grew bigger and more green.  More flowers appeared to produce fruit.

Drastic measures that seemed so harmful at the time produced a greater harvest.

When I read through the Lord’s Prayer, it strikes me that we are petitioning God for some drastic measures at times.  Do we really mean it?

When we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” are we willing to let God trim away the dead, the diseased, the unfruitful, and the wasteful so that He can really be holy in our lives?

“Thy will be done.”  Are we ready for His will to be done–regardless of our desires or expectations?

Max Lucado wrote, “The phrase is a petition, not a proclamation. A request, not an announcement. Hallowed be your name. Do whatever it takes to be holy in my life. Take your rightful place on the throne. Exalt yourself …. You be Lord, and I’ll be quiet.”

We can look beautiful and full, untrimmed by God, allowed to grow as we see fit.

Yet, if we let God cut and prune, painful as it is, as harmful as it first appears, the end result is His holiness, His glory, His lordship in our lives.

More Devotions From My Garden:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King