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!
Arron Chambers, author of Running on Empty: Life Lessons to Refuel Your Life (Life Journey, 2005), Scripture to Live By (Adams Media, 2007), and Remember Who You Are! (Standard Publishing, July 2007), Yendo Con El Tanque Vacío (Spanish Translation of Running on Empty--Zondervan, November 2007), Go! (Standard Publishing, July 2009), and Eats With Sinners (Standard, November 2009) is the Lead Minister of Journey Christian Church in Greeley, Colorado.
He is also an Adjunct Professor at Florida Christian College, Contributing Editor and Blogger for The Christian Standard, President & Founder of Tri Life, Inc., an inspirational speaker, husband and the father of 4 kids.
Arron is also the Executive Producer and on-air host of the prime-time TV program, Enjoy the Journey with Arron Chambers. Arron holds the following degrees: Master of Arts (Church History/Theology): Abilene Christian University, May 2000; Bachelor of Theology: Florida Christian College, May 1993; Bachelor of Arts (Major-Preaching; Minor-Counseling): Florida Christian College, May 1992.
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List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Standard Publishing (November 20, 2009)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
People, on the other hand, aren’t always trustworthy. We’re all over the place, so we have to sign contracts, put our right hand on the Bible, pay deposits, and back up our word by saying, “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” (Stick a needle in my eye? Who comes up with this stuff . . . the CIA?)
My friend Gary Mello from Orlando told me a story from his high school days. He worked on a 125-foot scallop boat, the Rodman Swift IV, that sailed out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Hard and dangerous work, scalloping paid well, and many young men jumped at the chance to fish for scallops in the North Atlantic. The crew worked long hours, rotating shifts and manning every station during all hours of the day and night.
One evening they put out from New Bedford on an eight-hour trip that would take them past Nantucket to the scalloping grounds in the Atlantic. Early in the trip Gary was assigned to the wheelhouse and told not to touch anything but to watch the steering compass and make sure the boat stayed on course. The gyro repeater (a steering compass) had been set to a heading of 280 degrees N, so the ship was set to autopilot to its destination. A gyro repeater steers the ship to the coordinates determined and set by the captain. It’s a complicated system that works extremely well because of the dependability of the magnetic pull of true north. Gary was simply to make sure that the ship didn’t deviate off course.
“No problem,” Gary replied, as he took his seat next to the compass and prepared for a long—and boring—night.
At some point early in the evening, Gary became thirsty, so—knowing he couldn’t leave his post—he hollered to his friend Stoney to bring him a canned soft drink. Gary finished his Coke, set it next to the compass, and returned to intermittent glances at the compass and the nautical maps he had secured to figure out where the boat was heading.
Hours passed, and Gary started to grow concerned because he was sure that he was starting to see land out of the window on the starboard side.
The compass still pointed at 280 degrees N, which would be taking them away from land and far out to sea for an early-morning rendezvous with the fishing ground, so he figured he was mistaken and tried to relax. But something didn’t feel right.
Eventually his concern grew to the point that he felt compelled to leave his post and tell the captain. Into the damp darkness of the captain’s quarters, connected to the wheelhouse, Gary softly whispered, “Cap, I’m not sure we’re heading in the right direction.”
Half asleep, the captain asked if the compass still pointed to 280 degrees N.
“Yes,” Gary replied.
“Then I’m sure we’re fine. You’re probably just seeing ground fog. Don’t worry about it.”
With the captain’s reassurance, Gary made his way back to his post, convinced that if the captain wasn’t worried, then he shouldn’t be either. Several hours passed as the ship steamed toward its early-morning appointment with a multitude of mid-Atlantic scallops. And everything seemed OK until the first light of morning confirmed Gary’s worst nightmare.
In a panic he interrupted the captain’s slumber one more time. “Captain,”
Gary whispered, “I think I’m seeing land.”
“It’s just ground fog,” the captain muttered.
Convinced that something was amiss, Gary shouted, “No, I’m seeing land!”
“Impossible!” the captain grumbled as he quickly dressed and headed to the wheelhouse, where he verified Gary’s fears. The ship was not heading 280 degrees N, but south down the coast to Long Island, New York!
“Gary, what did you do?”
“Nothing. I just sat here and stared at that compass all night long like you told me to.”
“Did this compass stay on 280 degrees N all night?”
“Yes, sir. And I haven’t left the wheelhouse except to get you.”
The captain reset the compass while he searched for some reason for the deviation. It didn’t take too long to identify the source of the problem. “Gary, is this your can of soda?”
“The metal in your #@%$#@#$ soda can messed with the magnet in the compass, and it’s caused the whole #@%$#@#$ ship to deviate off course! Do you see what you did?!” the captain shouted.
The can had disrupted the magnetic field around the compass, and the Rodman Swift IV and her crew went eight hours off course. Gary learned an important lesson about compasses, magnets, navigation, and the ability of a scallop-boat captain to invent new curse words when he is extremely angry. He also learned how easily a ship can be pulled off course by something as simple as a soft drink can.
Jesus had integrity. Like true north, his life was a fixed point of reference that others could follow and find their way to God.
The apostle Mark described an encounter between Jesus and some Pharisees and Herodians (Jews who were supporters of Rome), who tried to trap Jesus in his words and find some way to accuse him of being a fraud, a false prophet, or a threat to Judaism. They began by confirming Jesus’ reputation, saying, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance
with the truth” (Mark 12:14).
Understanding the importance of pointing people to God—and his role as the way—Jesus, with hair still damp with the waters of baptism and with the loving words of an approving Father ringing in his ears, followed the Holy Spirit into the desert. For forty days he was tempted by the devil. His mission to find wayward people began with allowing himself to be led away—into the desert—and having his integrity confirmed through testing, testing that was essential to the success of his ministry and the key to his understanding our struggles.
If Jesus had fallen in the desert, there would have been no hope for this fallen world, so it’s a good thing that he did the good thing when tempted. In the desert and throughout his life, Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Hebrews 4:15), but he did not sin—an example of both the reality and power of integrity.
I believe that before we can truly help lost people find their way through the desert of temptation and back to the Father, we must, like Jesus, survive our own deserts of temptation—defining moments when we grow into more or shrink into less. Jesus’ ministry to reach lost people began with a defining moment in the wilderness when he had to choose (three times, actually) between right and wrong. Would he give in to temptation, become just another sinner, and hinder his ministry; or would he do the right thing? He chose to do the right thing.
Unlike Jesus, we are not perfect. We all sin, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be people of integrity. In the end, for people who aren’t going to die on a cross for the sins of the world, a life of integrity is not defined by a moment of weakness. We are going to make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t be used by God to make a difference, if we’ll only learn from our mistakes and refuse to let them pull our lives off course and away from integrity.
Living a life of integrity is essential if we want to have a truly effective ministry. You can have integrity without a ministry, but you can’t have a ministry without integrity.
This is why God required the high priest, under the old covenant, on the Day of Atonement, to clean himself before entering God’s presence. The high priest was to bathe before putting on the sacred garments (Leviticus 16:4) and to deal with his own sins before dealing with the sins of the people. Before he shed one drop of animal blood to atone for someone else’s sin, the high priest had to shed the blood of a bull for his own sin and the sin of his household (vv. 6, 11).
God required that the high priest make his first ministry to himself and his household, because if that ministry failed, no one would care to hear what he had to say about God. The priest was God’s representative to the people, so it was essential for him to be godly and to have integrity.
This is why God led Jesus, our high priest (Hebrews 4:14), from the waters of baptism into the wilderness to prove his integrity.
This is why God wants us, his priests (1 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 1:6; 5:10), to be people of integrity before we begin our ministry to lost people.
It’s the purpose behind the whole log-in-the-eye story that Jesus told on that mountain near Capernaum. Trying to teach us the importance of dealing with our own integrity issues before attempting to help others with theirs, Jesus said, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41, 42).
What a hilarious picture!
What important truths for each of us to remember before we eat the first morsel of food with a lost person!
First, Jesus does want us to get specks out of other people’s eyes. Don’t miss that point.
Second—which really comes first—before we attempt to get specks out of other people’s eyes, we must first take the planks out of our own eyes. Pretty humbling. But Jesus wants our ministries to be characterized by integrity, not hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is cancerous to evangelism, rendering Jesus a joke and his message a punch line in the hearts and minds of lost people.
Integrity Produces Authenticity, Not Hypocrisy
One of my favorite Hans Christian Andersen fables describes the life of an emperor who was arguably the most famous hypocrite of all time.
The emperor loved new clothes. One day two swindlers came to his city. They made people believe they were weavers who could manufacture the finest cloth to be imagined—but that the quality of the clothes was so high, the clothes would be invisible to anyone who was not very discerning or was unpardonably stupid. These charlatans worked hard but made nothing. Nonetheless, when the emperor was shown his “new outfit,” he acted impressed even though he saw nothing, and he agreed to wear the outfit in a parade through his kingdom.
As the emperor marched through the streets, everyone who saw him cried out, “Indeed, the emperor’s new suit is incomparable! What a wonderful suit!” The people didn’t want others to know they saw nothing. The universal praise continued until the emperor passed by a little child who cried out, “The emperor’s not wearing any clothes!” At this, everyone in the kingdom acknowledged the same fact and joined the child in proclaiming, “The emperor’s not wearing any clothes!” The charade was over.
Our charade must end too.
Just as sure as that delusional emperor was buck naked and needed to admit it, you and I are sinners who need to get authentic and admit both our tendency to sin and our need of salvation. We’re all sinners who fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Let’s be authentic and admit it.
Integrity Produces Courage, Not Fear
Integrity doesn’t just manifest itself in authenticity; it also manifests itself in courage.
Telemachus, a fifth-century monk, was a man of integrity who faced his fears and in so doing saved lives and pointed lost people to God. The story is told of how Telemachus followed the crowds to the Coliseum in Rome and watched sadly as two gladiators fought to the death. Telemachus tried to get between them, shouting, “In the name of Christ, stop!” Enraged that this man was interrupting their entertainment, the crowd stoned Telemachus. When the people came to their senses and saw the monk lying dead in a pool of blood, they fell silent and left the stadium. According to tradition, because of Telemachus’s death, three days later the emperor ended the practice of gladiators fighting to the death.3
“The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). Telemachus was as bold as a lion, and we should be too.
To reach this world with the saving message of Jesus Christ, we’re going to have to be courageous, and we will be . . . if we are also righteous.
Sin makes cowards of us all.
A father who smoked pot in college may be afraid to tell his son to say no to drugs.
A mother who slept with other men before marriage may feel intimidated about trying to persuade her eighteen-year-old daughter to save herself for marriage.
The pastor who struggles with an addiction to pornography may find it impossible to preach against the very monster that privately stalks him late at night while his family sleeps upstairs.
Private sin is an evil warden that Satan employs to keep us locked up, silent, and hopeless in a dungeon that reeks with fear. But private sin is also an illusion. We can’t fool God.
God searches our hearts (1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalm 7:9; Romans 8:27; Revelation 2:23) and knows the sins we struggle with. He stands ready to “forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). His forgiveness, and his forgiveness alone, makes us righteous—people with integrity who should be courageous in the face of sin…and sinners.
Integrity Produces Faithfulness, Not Perfection
Men and women with integrity are unstoppable.
You can be unstoppable.
When Nehemiah needed someone to make sure the gates in the newly rebuilt walls around Jerusalem were not opened until the right time, he called on a man named Hananiah, “because he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do” (Nehemiah 7:2).
When Satan wanted a man to prove human frailty, God offered him a man of integrity who would be faithful to the end, saying, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 2:3).
These men were faithful—not perfect.
Think about King David, the man who slept with a woman who was not his wife (Bathsheba) and then had her husband killed in battle. The apostle Paul reminds us of what God thought about David: “I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). God said this not because David was perfect, but because David was faithful (Hebrews 11:32, 33). Yes, David was a sinner, but he didn’t allow himself to be defined by sin but by faithfulness. He was a man who—when confronted about his sin by the prophet Nathan—admitted he was a sinner (2 Samuel 12:13) and took significant steps to mend his character.
David’s life was not defined by a moment of weakness.
God told Solomon, David’s son, to follow his dad’s example: “If you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, . . . I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever” (1 Kings 9:4, 5). God wanted Solomon to look at his father’s life as a point of reference. Not because David was perfect, but because he was faithful. And David was faithful because he had integrity. God wants us to be people of integrity.
Meal Prep • Walking with Integrity
1. Personal Devotions: Get your Bible, find a quiet place, and start reading the book of Luke. After reading for a while, stop and spend some time in prayer. Ask God to help you identify the areas in your life that are not as pure as they should be.
2. Find an Accountability Partner: I meet with other Christians every week for the sole purpose of ensuring that I’m growing in my faith and living the kind of life I should be living. Find a Christian—of the same gender—with whom you can meet on a regular basis and by whom you can be held accountable for living a life of integrity.
3. Church Attendance: Are you regularly meeting with a local church? If not, it’s time to get involved with one. This will put you in fellowship with other Christians and in a place where you will be exposed to biblical teaching—both of which will help you to live a life of integrity.
Why does God call us to be people of integrity? First, for our own good. And second, he doesn’t want our lives to pull off course the lives of the lost people who are following us.
Delmar, one of the elders at the church where I serve, is a man of integrity.
Delmar leads a Saturday morning Bible study at a local bar called The Fort. This gives him the opportunity to reach people with the gospel in a place where they feel comfortable. He reaches people for Jesus because his life is a fixed point that the people at The Fort can follow straight to Jesus.
Those people at The Fort don’t realize it, but they need Delmar to be a man of integrity. They need us to be people of integrity . . . fixed points of reference they can follow to find themselves . . . not lost, not heading south to Long Island . . . not even heading 280 degrees N, but heading back to where they were supposed to be all the time.
For Personal Study and Reflection: In the space below write the name of a Christian you think is a person of integrity. List three adjectives that describe this person and prove he or she is a person of integrity.
For Group Study and Discussion: Ask your group members to each bring a photo of someone they believe to be a person of integrity. As the group time begins, have people show their photos and tell why they believe the person in the photo has integrity.
1. Who first introduced you to Jesus Christ? Describe what happened.
2. As you reflect on your conversion and how God used this person to introduce you to Jesus, which of the following had the biggest impact: what the person said to you, how the person lived, or some other factor?
3. Describe a time when God gave you a chance to share your faith. What were your three biggest concerns during this evangelistic experience? Read Luke 4:1-13. In this passage Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. Satan wanted Jesus to lose his way in the wilderness, but Jesus withstood the test and became “the way” (John 14:6) for us.
4. Jesus was hungry, and then Satan tempted him to turn some stones into bread (Luke 4:3). What does this teach us about Satan? What can we do to prepare ourselves for attacks like this?
5. Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and then offered them all to Jesus (v. 6). Understanding that Satan doesn’t own anything, what does this temptation teach us about him?
6. The devil quoted Scripture to Jesus. What does this reveal about Satan? What is one thing you can do this week to learn more Scripture?
7. Jesus rebutted Satan’s attacks by quoting Scripture (vv. 4, 8, 12). What can we learn from this example about the power of God’s Word to help when we are being attacked by the devil?
8. What would have happened to Jesus’ ministry if he had given in to any of these three temptations?
9. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23) who will, at one time or another, experience a moral failure of some type. How does a moral failure that has not been dealt with impact our efforts to share our faith with lost friends? On the other hand, how does a moral failure that has been dealt with help us as we share our faith?
10. What did this time of testing reveal about Jesus’ character? How did this time of testing prepare him for his ministry to lost people? How have your times of spiritual testing prepared you to be a better evangelist?