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!
Bruce Van Natta is a mechanic by trade and a Christian by faith. Since being crushed under a semi-truck and witnessing the angels that the Lord sent in response, he has gone into full-time ministry. Through Sweet Bread Ministries, he shares his gripping, everyday testimony nationwide. He and his wife, Lori, have four children.
Visit the author’s website.
God wants us to stay plugged into Him so that we can live a supernatural life of victory. We should expect this to be “normal” Christianity. This book is filled with stories of what the miraculous looks like in daily life—plus it gives key points to help you walk in the supernatural.
A Miraculous Life tells of the miracles that Bruce Van Natta has personally experienced, including when he received a hug from Jesus at age five, when God called his name in a church service at nineteen, and when he saw the angels sent to save his life during an out-of-body experience at the point of death. Each encounter is given as an example of the knowledge and insights he has learned within the context of Scripture.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (January 8, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
A CULTURE FULL OF NOISE
There is a passage in Isaiah that is almost impossible to believe. In it the Lord declares: “I’m promising now no more anger, no more dressing you down. For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces, my love won’t walk away from you, my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.’ The God who has compassion on you says so” (Isa. 54:9–10, The Message).
No more anger. No more dressing you down. My love won’t walk away from you. I often wonder how, with promises such as these in Scripture, so many people can believe God is angry with them. But the fact is, the noise from the culture is simply overwhelming. In fact, it can be absolutely deafening. It seems today that everyone is an expert on the subject of God.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is responsible for helping to start the noise. In the late 1800s he pronounced that “God is dead” in his famous book The Gay Science.1 After this declaration secular humanism took off at lightning speed. Since Nietzsche’s death more than a hundred years ago, his humanistic philosophy has only continued to spread.
Nietzsche and other heretical voices throughout history have, over time, done their very best to devalue God and who He is in our culture. As I have studied the lives of early humanists, I’ve been amazed at how many of them came from deeply religious backgrounds. For example, Nietzsche’s father was a Lutheran pastor,2 and at one time Nietzsche attended the University of Bonn as a theology and philology student.3 Yet somewhere along the way he, like so many others, lost his faith.
It is a dangerous thing to declare there is no God. The psalmist said it best, “Bilious and bloated, they gas, ‘God is gone.’ Their words are poison gas, fouling the air; they poison rivers and skies; thistles are their cash crop” (Ps. 14:1, The Message). Nevertheless the poison of the secular humanistic agenda has worked its way from the university to the White House, from the courtroom to small-town city councils, and it has redefined the way this generation thinks.
Author Josh McDowell recently tweeted that “only 6% of this generation even believes that moral truth is absolute.” 4 In other words, 94 percent of this generation believes truth is in the eye of the beholder. “Don’t force me to believe something is fact,” they say, “because my opinion, my feelings, and my history define my truth!” Adding to the noise coming from politics and education is the mainstream media’s constant attack on our nation’s concept of God. At times I hear statements about God or religion in the media, and I wish so badly I could set the record straight. News pundits scream their opinions of God as if they are absolute truth. Whether it is Disney, Nickelodeon, ABC, NBC, ESPN, or the twentyfour- hour news channels, it seems Christian values are always under assault. In 2005 James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, correctly observed in a Time magazine article that “we’re involved in what is known as a culture war that is aimed right straight at the institution of the family.”5
There was a time when people’s views about God and truth were shaped at home, largely by their parents. But that is no longer the case. Today there are six Ps shaping how our nation, schools, churches, and families think about who God is, how He feels, and what He does to get our attention. Those six Ps are:
Those six Ps have influenced culture in so many ways it’s difficult to calculate their impact. For many of us our early definitions of God came from at least three of the Ps: our parents, peers, and pastors. But with marriages dissolving at the fastest pace in history and the absence of fathers who lead their households, there is a lost sense of family values in most homes. According to author Tony Zuniga, in the 1950s the top five influences in a child’s life were: parents/home, church, school, friends, and television. Today this is the list of the top five influences in a child’s life:
Their peers shape the way people think about everything from sexuality to addictions to what’s right and wrong. And that’s not good. An article about peer pressure gave this list of possible effects: “Peer pressure can lead to a loss of individuality. . . . You tend to blindly imitate the masses; you adopt their tastes of fashion, clothing, hair, music and general living. Peer pressure can actually lead you to lose your tastes of life and force yourself to begin liking what they like. Peer pressure is the human tendency to join the bandwagon, in which, the person loses his/her original way of looking at life.”7
The older we get, the more professors, politicians, and media pundits begin to influence us. In fact, nationwide the university campus is currently the greatest proponent of what I call “God misconceptions.” Most university professors are sociological humanists. Students head off to college, and their very concept of God changes almost as soon as they take their first class. They listen to professors espousing atheism and humanism for hours each day; then the indoctrination continues for two, four, or six more years of higher education.
Because of colleges’ incredible influence on young people, atheist groups are no longer hiding in closets on university campuses. According to the New York Times, anti-God groups are growing at a faster rate on college campuses than evangelical organizations. The Times reported that the student- led atheist group called the Secular Student Alliance has 146 chapters, up from 42 in 2003.8 What’s more, there has been a decline in the percentage of people in the United States who claim to be Christians while the number of those who claim no religious affiliation is on the rise. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, those who claimed “no religion” was the only group that grew in all fifty states in the last eighteen years.9
This is because the noise of the culture has helped to misconstrue people’s view of God. They either see Him as impotent or they think He doesn’t exist. Of course, thinking something about God doesn’t make it true. One of my favorite quotes is from apologist C. S. Lewis, who wrote in his book The Problem of Pain, “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”10
One huge example of the way truth is being tarnished in our culture is the popularity of the view that all religions lead to God. The idea is that no matter what god you serve, it all works out in the end because all religious paths lead to the same god. This simply is not true. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And again in John 6:44 He said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
I am reminded of the number one bumper sticker in America. Symbols from the major world religions spell out the word coexist. The C is the symbol for Islam, the O is the symbol for peace, the E is the symbol for males and females, the X is the symbol for Judaism, the I is dotted with a Wiccan pentangle, the S is the symbol for the yin-yang representing Confucianism, and the T is a cross, the symbol for Christianity.11
What most do not understand is that this view is actually Hinduism, which declares that all religions lead us to the same goal of serenity and paradise. I have seen this bumper sticker all over the world. With so many nations at war it is understandable that peace and harmony among the various faiths would be encouraged. But that bumper sticker is not really saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” It is saying all religions are the same.
Yet the more I studied that bumper sticker, the more I saw how God could use it to change lives. It starts with Islam, the religion practiced by the children of Ishmael, and it ends with Christianity, the religion practiced by the descendants of Isaac, the children of promise. It starts with a crescent and ends with a cross. In other words, you can try all of these other religions, but sooner or later everything ends at the cross. Romans 14:11 says, “It is written: ’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.” The “noise” coming at this generation is overwhelming. That is why we must raise our voices to share the ultimate Truth.
HOW AMERICANS VIEW GOD
A recent book titled America’s Four Gods, written by Baylor University professors Paul Froese and Christopher Bader, is an in-depth study of how Americans view God. With the help of the Gallup organization, thousands of people were interviewed. The findings were remarkable. Roughly 5 percent of respondents identified themselves as atheists, but after analyzing the rest of the results, the professors surmised that America has four main views of God.
The Authoritative God. Some 31 percent of Americans believe God is both engaged in the world and judgmental, meaning He will use any way to get our attention and wake us up.
The Benevolent God. Twenty-four percent of respondents believe God is engaged in our daily life, yet nonjudgmental.
The Critical God. Some 16 percent of those surveyed said God is judgmental and disengaged from our lives.
The Distant God. Twenty-four percent believe God is nonjudgmental but also disengaged from our lives.12
By studying the landscape of belief in America, the authors ascertained that roughly 95 percent of Americans believe in God. But believing in God isn’t the same as knowing Him. I have to wonder how many people surveyed perceive God to be an awesome and holy Savior. I have to wonder how many have ever heard God calling their names. I wonder how many of them have felt the touch of His Spirit. God reveals Himself through His Word and His Spirit. He doesn’t reveal Himself only to a special few. He is calling out to all of us, wanting us to awaken to Him. And you know what? Our spirits cry out to know Him.
The spirit of a man searches past his intellect and knowledge to discover his Creator. First Corinthians 2:10–13 tells us: “It was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths” (NLT).
God is not moved by opinions or polls. He speaks through His Word and His servants, and to our spirits through the Holy Spirit. He still speaks to His creation!
It is my goal in this book to give proof of who God really is to humanity. It would blow our minds if we truly understood how incredible our Creator is. The problem is, we have allowed others to define God. It is so easy to believe God is mad at you simply by listening to what others have declared.
But look at what the prophet Micah said about God: “Where is the god who can compare with you—wiping the slate clean of guilt, turning a blind eye, a deaf ear, to the past sins of your purged and precious people? You don’t nurse your anger and don’t stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That’s what you love most!” (Mic. 7:18, The Message). I love that verse. Mercy is God’s specialty—not wrath or pain, but mercy!
I believe with all my heart that if we truly want to change the world, we will have to be faithful to the walk God has placed in front of us. If we don’t stand for something, we will fall for anything. Together we can prove who God truly is and what He wants to do for His people. We must get back to God’s specialty, which is love, compassion, repentance, and a life of victory.
My personal mantra has always been, “love without reason and holiness without compromise.” My prayer is that this book will revolutionize your mind and heart concerning the things of God. I believe right now that He, the living and awesome God, is calling out to you!