Dave is a native Southern Californian and avid sports fan of the Dodgers, Lakers, Rams and USC Trojans. Dave is married to Jen and has identical twin boys who attend rival military academies (Jacob - Naval Academy & Joshua - West Point). Dave is on staff with Cru and ministers primarily to Young Professionals in Orange County.
The third and final installment of Joel Rosenberg’s J.B. Collins trilogy does not disappoint.
Without Warning lives up to its name with unexpected plot twists and turns that keep the reader engaged right up until the very end.
Packed with drama, intrigue and plenty of action, Rosenberg once again weaves together a story that includes themes of redemption, forgiveness, justice, love and sacrifice. Like many of Rosenberg’s novels, the characters and story-line are fictional, but the political climate and circumstances seem so current and real that the reader is left to sift through what is fictional and what isn’t.
Rosenberg is gifted in writing political thrillers that mirror our current political environment, and his knowledge and understanding of the Middle East political climate is once again on display.
A few weeks ago, I left the house for my daily run. I had my phone to track my route and also provide the tunes to keep me moving during the 6 mile trek.
As I was nearing the end of my run, I noticed I was not getting any sound out of my left earbud.
I tried pushing the earpiece harder into my ear, but that didn’t work. I wondered if maybe the earphone jack was not in all the way. No, that wasn’t the problem.
I jiggled the wire, thinking maybe there was a short. That didn’t work either. I started thinking maybe these earbuds had reached the end of their lifespan and I was bummed at the thought of having to buy new ones. I’ve been told I’m cheap that way!
When I finally got home, I thought I’d try one more thing. Perhaps it was a software issue. I figured a reboot of my phone would solve it if that was the issue. But that didn’t work either.
I had one more idea to determine if it was a problem with my phone or the earbuds. I decided to plug the earbuds into my computer and listen to some music. If the earbuds still only gave sound out of only one ear, then I would know it’s the earbuds and not the phone.
However, as I was getting ready to plug the earbuds into my computer, I looked more closely at the earpiece that wasn’t producing sound and I quickly realized the issue. There, in the small opening where the sound was supposed to come out, was a small glob of ear wax that was fully covering the opening.
Yes, I know it’s kind of gross, but we all produce the stuff, and to be honest, I really can’t tell you the purpose. I just know that when I removed the small piece plugging the hole, I was suddenly able to hear perfectly again out of both earbuds.
I had a problem hearing and all of my initial thoughts were that it was a problem with something else – my phone, the earbuds, the jack, the wire, etc. The reality is that I was having issues hearing clearly because of me – something I produced and wasn’t even aware of.
I think there’s a spiritual illustration here. Often I’m wanting to hear from the Lord and He’s not responding, at least not the way I want. I wonder why He’s not answering my prayers or responding clearly to my requests.
Sometimes, the reason I’m not hearing from God is because of me. Sometimes the Lord IS wanting to speak to me but my attitude, or my heart blocks my spirit from hearing the Lord.
I’ve found that there are often several reasons why I’m not hearing from the Lord.
One reason I sometimes don’t hear from God is because of unconfessed sin in my heart. Psalm 66:18 says “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, my Lord would not have listened.”
Sometimes, I’m not even fully aware of my own sin, such as unresolved conflict or anger. This is why it’s so important to invite the Lord to examine our hearts and reveal to us any areas in our lives and hearts that may be keeping us from experiencing His presence (See Psalm 139:23, 24).
A second reason I may not be hearing from the Lord is distractions. Sometimes Jen will be telling me something important but my focus is on something else, like my computer screen or the TV. I find that when I’m not fully engaged in what she’s saying I often have to ask her to repeat what she’s just said.
I often do the same thing with the Lord. I read my Bible but my mind is thinking about something else. I’m spending time in prayer but distracted by notifications that are popping up on my phone.
I cannot always expect to hear directly from the Lord when I want. But as a follower of Christ, I can make sure that the airways are clear and that there are no impediments that would keep me from hearing His voice when He does speak to me.
What keeps you from hearing clearly from the Lord?
What have you found to be helpful in keeping you focused and tuned in to hearing the Lord’s voice?
We appreciate your continued prayers for us as we continue to wait on the Lord during this challenging season!
If you’d like us to pray for you, click on the Prayer tab and send us your request!
How many times have you heard a local candidate state that they’re running as a Washington outsider who aims to “clean up the system”? And yet, year after year, we find that nothing in Washington really ever changes, as those outsiders always seem to be quickly absorbed and corrupted by the system they pledged to overhaul.
I’ve long been an advocate for term limits for Congress because of the influence of special interest groups. It is believed by many that special interest groups have corrupted our politicians, making them especially susceptible to being bought.
However, in his book “Extortion”, Peter Schweizer paints a much uglier and troubling picture than I had imagined. Schweizer outlines a system in which the Permanent Political Class (i.e. congressmen & congresswomen) aren’t being bought as much as they are using their influence to extort money from corporations in a mafioso-like scheme that boils down to an elaborate protection scheme. And it’s all perfectly legal.
With pain-staking detail and specific examples, Schweizer explains exactly how congressional leaders use and abuse their influence to milk large corporations and industry executives to contribute to their campaigns and PACs.
Schweizer also outlines the many ways congressional leaders make money off the system – from loaning their campaigns personal funds from which they extract insanely large amounts of usury, to using PAC money for lavish trips and personal expenditures.
I’ve always wondered how career politicians were able to become lavishly wealthy on the meager salaries they receive. Schweizer will open your eyes to how they do it, demonstrating the many different ways politicians are milking the system, milking corporations and rewarding friends and family….all for personal and political gain.
This book is well-researched and the foot-notes are extensive. Schweizer holds nothing back and gives examples from both sides of the aisle.
This is one of those books that is both good and bad. It’s good in that it’s well written and well-researched and very interesting to read as Schweizer navigates the reader through specific bills and laws and shows how the shake downs work.
But it’s also bad in the sense that, if you’re like me, you’ll finish this book with an extremely sick feeling in your stomach as you realize that the depth of greed and corruption from career politicians is much deeper than maybe you had previously thought!
What is resilience? Is it a skill? Is it an ingrained character quality?
Marcus Buckingham, researcher and developer of the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment addressed this question last month at the 2020 Global Leadership Summit, which Jen and I had the opportunity to attend virtually.
Buckingham and his team of researchers were interested in understanding this quality of resilience that some people seem to have, which gives them the ability to face incredible challenges without breaking or buckling.
Buckingham’s research determined that resilience isn’t a skill but a quality that can be developed. His talk focused on how to build resilience in others and in ourselves. Specifically, he shared 3 different ways we can build resilience in ourselves.
First, Buckingham talked about a concept he called Agency, which simply refers to items we can control. One of the things we can control is the rhythms in our lives. Remember the morning and evening commute? As much as you might have hated that time in the car, it created an obvious separation between home life and work life. For many, that natural break is gone, disrupting the natural rhythm that existed.
The research on resilience, according to Buckingham, suggests that resilient people work hard and then take a break – they recognize the value of recovery. This sounds a lot like the idea of sabbath (rest), doesn’t it?
What are some ways you can create natural breaks in your schedule that would lead to rest, recovery and resilience?
Secondly, Buckingham elaborated on the idea of Compartmentalization, which means that different parts of our lives have different feelings and different outcomes. The most resilient people seem to understand that we have many different lanes in our lives and if we’re not doing well in one lane, there are other lanes. This doesn’t mean we deny the things that are going bad in that one area of life, but it’s a realization that there are other areas where I can see success and progress.
Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes that Heal calls this the Good/Bad split, referring to our tendency to look at life as either “all good” if everything is going well, or “all bad” if something unexpected or undesirable happens.
The truth is, life is a mixture of good and bad. Resilient people are able to separate the good and bad and recognize that even when things happen that we wouldn’t prefer, there are often many other things that are going well which we can celebrate and for which we can be grateful.
What are the different lanes in your life where you’re seeing success? How can you leverage your experience in those areas to help you in the areas where you’re struggling?
According to Buckingham, the third way to develop resilience in ourselves is through our Strengths in Work. Resilient people have figured out how to utilize their strengths to derive meaning, purpose and joy from the circumstances they’re in.
Interestingly, Mayo Clinic research indicates that you don’t need to fill up your whole week with those invigorating activities in order to create resilience. If we can fill up just 20% of our schedules with the kinds of activities that bring life to our souls, we can develop resiliency that enables us to withstand the more difficult life circumstances which we may encounter.
What are the things that bring life to you? How can you inject a few of these joy-producing activities into your schedule to help build resilience?
Young Professionals face unique challenges, even apart from Covid, that makes resilience an important quality to develop. Many are struggling to find a supportive community while dealing with extreme financial issues and an uncertain job market.
We’re privileged to be able to help Young Professionals develop resiliency through coaching, Strengths assessments and awareness and Leadership Development.
If you’d like to learn more about resources and opportunities we provide to help people grow in their resilience, please contact us!
This book was not what I expected. I thought it would be the typical auto-biography of one of the greatest sports stars of the last 25 years, complete with details of his upbringing, family history, introduction to basketball, high school years and then a detailed description of his nearly 20 years as a Los Angeles Laker.
I was expecting detailed stories of what happened before the draft and what it was like to be a 17 year old in the NBA.
I wanted to know about his rookie year and growth as a player….the real story on his relationship with Shaq and Phil along with his decision to remain a Laker when he had the chance to leave via free agency.
This book really isn’t about any of that.
Instead, it’s a first person account of Kobe and his approach to the game. Most pages are short vignettes on a thought Kobe expounds on. It might be a name of a player he faced followed by Kobe’s thoughts on that player or how he would defend him or exploit him on offense. Or it might be thoughts on his pre-game ritual or his off-season training regimen.
Kobe gives analysis of dozens of players he faced over the years and how he prepared to defend and attack them. He also shares his personal thoughts on numerous team-mates he played with over the course of his career, including Olympic team-mates.
I found this book to be pretty easy to read and very entertaining. There were lots of photos from long-time Laker photographer Andrew Bernstein. It was interesting to hear Kobe share his thoughts on the game and as I read the words on each page, I imagined his voice speaking to me as if I were listening to an audiobook.
If you’re a Kobe fan, you’ll love this book. It doesn’t give the complete picture of who Kobe was or how he came to be the competitor that he was; we probably need an autobiography to fill in all those details for us. But this book was an interesting peek into the mind of a Laker legend and a basketball icon who sadly left us way too early.
It may be the worst fear of every parent – to be awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call telling you your child has been in a car accident.
For my friends Doug and Doris Griffin, their worst fears became reality in the early morning hours of February 22nd, 2015 when they received news that their 23 year old daughter, Molly, had died earlier in a fatal car crash caused by a drunk driver.
I cannot even imagine the searing pain and unthinkable grief that one experiences as a result of such a tragedy.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m hurting and experiencing extreme emotional pain, I’m not a generally kind person. I remember a pastor once say that “a wounded animal is a dangerous animal.” It’s true of people too. When we’re wounded emotionally, we can be dangerously unkind, hurtful and even volatile to those around us.
Amazingly, my friends Doug and Doris, when first confronted by reporters regarding the tragic death of their daughter, did not respond as you might expect.
As word spread and people started showing up at our house, it came rather quickly to me that I had to forgive the driver. Even before knowing any details. I wish I could say that by my willpower and through some courageous act I made this decision. But that would be a lie. This time, perspective came quickly calling through the Holy Spirit: “Do you not remember driving as a young man while intoxicated yourself? Did you not come within an eyelash of dying in a car accident yourself when you were 22? Are you not commanded to forgive in order to be forgiven? And what is it that you hate more than anything? Hypocrisy.”
Later, when the first reporter showed up at their house, Doug said that the first words out of his mouth were, “I just want you to know that we have forgiven the driver.”
In this era of cancel culture and vigilante mobs who demand immediate and swift justice, what would compel a person to so quickly forgive a person they’ve never met, who’s committed an egregious crime and taken away one of the most precious things we love? This response does not seem natural, as evidenced by the reporter’s shocked expression.
Indeed, Doug and Doris’s response WASN’T natural….it was Supernatural!
Doug continued his explanation to the reporter:
“You see we are Christians and we are commanded to forgive. Did you know that Jesus forgave the very men who murdered him from the cross? If he can do that, I can forgive the driver.”
Doug also admitted that he “didn’t want to become known as the angry father who screamed for retribution or revenge.”
Later, when the time came for the driver to be sentenced, Doug and Doris were in the courtroom. California law requires that judges allow anyone who was impacted by a crime be allowed to speak at the time of sentencing. When it was Doris’s turn to speak, she pushed through the pain and the grief and expressed her forgiveness to the driver. Then Doug spoke. He writes,
…as I then rose to speak, I fought through the tears, I shared with the drunk driver what I was sure Molly would say: “You took my life, you nearly killed my friends and you hurt every person I ever loved…And I forgive you.”
(Side Note: You can read my related blog post about cancel culture and Forgiveness here.)
How does one move on after losing a loved one? As Doug asked, “how do we lean into this unceasing grief?”
Many people will do something to try to preserve the memory of their loved one. Some may set up a scholarship fund. Others may set up a charitable foundation. Doug and Doris opted for a different avenue to honor Molly’s memory and legacy.
Doug writes, “I told Doris that we needed to celebrate Molly’s life on her birthday and not focus on how she died. I said we needed to have an annual Molly Day. Doris, with a little help from her friends, took my idea and put it on steroids. She turned it into #LiveLikeMolly and came up with the perfect way to honor her: perform acts of kindness for others to establish her legacy as the kind, loving, wonderful person she was.”
And so every year in early August, we get a postcard from Doug and Doris that reminds us of Molly and her birthday. This Wednesday, August 26th would have been Molly’s 29th birthday. Instead, it’s the 6th annual “Molly Day”, where those who knew Molly and those who have come to know her story are encouraged to #LiveLikeMolly by participating in random acts of kindness to those around them.
I wish I could say that I live EVERY day like Molly Day, but I don’t. I’m selfish and I often just think of my own needs instead of others. But this Wednesday, I invite you to join me in “Molly Day 2020”. Use the hashtag #LiveLikeMolly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share your stories of something kind and unselfish that you were able to do for someone else.
Together, we can help honor the memory of Molly while at the same time providing small moments of cheer and joy, something I think we all could desperately use right about now!
The First Hostage is the second in a trilogy of political thrillers by author Joel Rosenberg involving JB Collins, an international journalist for the New York Times.
Collins finds himself in the middle of a massive manhunt as American and Middle Eastern forces align themselves in a race against the clock to prevent an Isis-initiated jihadist Armageddon.
Rosenberg once again weaves a tale that mixes current affairs in the middle east with fictional scenarios that, a few years from now, might seem like historical narrative.
For example, given the current political climate in the Middle East, it’s not hard to imagine a joint military operation between Israel and neighboring Jordan. After all, these neighbors, once enemies, are now allies and have been allies for a number of years.
But who would imagine a joint Israeli-UAE military campaign? Nobody but Rosenberg. Yet, in just the last few weeks, we’ve learned that these two nations, long opposed to one another, have formally announced diplomatic relations.
If you read any of Rosenberg’s books, you’ll find that he often appears to be clairvoyant, including political details in his stories which seem far-fetched at the time yet often seem to develop not long afterwards in real life.
The First Hostage will keep you glued to the page and, as is the case with many of Rosenberg’s books, when the last page is turned, your next step will be to search when and where you can get the next book in the series!
Here’s a simple litmus test to tell if a movie deserves to be in your Top 10 list of favorites.
Imagine you’re channel surfing and you see a movie playing that you have to watch, even though you’ve seen it dozens of times before. That movie, which you find yourself tuning into any time you see it on the TV is likely one of your favorites.
I have several movies that fit that category for me, including Braveheart, Tommy Boy and The Shawshank Redemption.
Recently, Pastor Rick Warren gave a sermon on “Experiencing Hope During Difficult Times.” I was reminded of The Shawshank Redemption, since one of the main themes in that movie is “hope”.
The Shawshank Redemption is based on a short story by Steven King (yes, that Steven King), but it’s not a horror movie. It’s a movie about prison. Some have dubbed it the greatest prison movie of all time.
The story centers around Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) who is wrongly convicted of double murder and sent to the notorious Shawshank prison to serve back to back life sentences.
Dufresne quickly befriends Ellis “Red” Redding, played by Morgan Freeman, a murderer who has already served 20 years of a life sentence, and though he sees the error of his foolish teenage act, nevertheless, sees no hope of ever being paroled.
There’s a critical scene about midway through the movie. Andy receives an unexpected shipment of books and vinyl records for the prison library and decides to blare music from an opera record to the entire prison population via the prison loudspeaker system.
This infuriates the warden, who punishes Andy with two weeks in “the hole” – solitary confinement in a room with no light source.
When Andy emerges from confinement his inmate friends are amazed to see him so upbeat after such a harsh punishment.
“Easiest time I ever did” is Andy’s response. “I had Mr. Mozart to keep me company.”
Andy’s prison-mates are understandably confused. Andy explains that Mozart is inside…in his mind and in his soul and then he declares, “there are places internally that they can’t touch.”
Andy’s friend Red asks, “What are you talking about?”
“Hope”, Andy replies.
Red gets a stern look on his face and says, “Listen here friend. Let me tell you something about hope. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane. It’s got no use on the inside. You better get used to that idea.”
Pastor Rick, in his sermon, stated that we can have hope because we know that the situation we’re in is temporary….it will pass. He encouraged us to focus on that which is eternal instead of things that are temporary.
This is certainly good advice, but sometimes hard to implement. It’s difficult to focus on “eternal” things when there are so many immediate needs staring at you in the face, and often screaming for your attention.
We personally know people who have lost their jobs, are struggling financially, have lost their housing, have lost loved ones, are scrambling to figure out childcare and schooling options for the fall, are dealing with major health concerns with limited access to doctors, and many more issues that are magnified and amplified in this current Covid environment.
How exactly do we experience hope when there is so much pain and struggle in our lives?
I think Andy Dufresne provides a clue. Hope is something internal, rather than external.
Hebrews 6:19, speaking of Jesus, says,
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (emphasis mine)
The context of this passage is that Jesus is our High Priest. Through His death, He provided atonement for sinful humanity, making it possible for us to experience a relationship with Him.
For the Christian, Jesus is our anchor. He alone provides hope and meaning because He alone can provide ultimate fulfillment and purpose in life.
But what about all of the tremendous struggles we are facing? They seem overwhelming!
As we navigate life’s current realities, I realize how important the body of Christ is. We need others who can come alongside us when we’re struggling and offer real, tangible, material help, while reminding us of God’s goodness and pointing us to the hope that only Jesus can provide.
At the end of The Shawshank Redemption, Andy writes these fitting words to Red – “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies.”
How are you doing in this current crisis? Are you more like Red – tired, disillusioned and lacking hope?
Or are you more like Andy, with a hope anchored to an internal, immovable source (Jesus).
Whatever your situation, let us know how we can pray for you! (Just click the Prayer tab at the top of the page)
Personally, we are grateful to our family and many friends who have been a source of encouragement and hope to us through the many struggles and trials we’ve faced over the past few months and years. You have helped us to continue to keep our hope anchored in Jesus!
“Steve McQueen was the biggest movie star in the world in the 1960’s and ’70’s”.
This is the claim from Greg Laurie, author of the recent biography on Steve McQueen published in 2019.
The truth is, Steve McQueen was a bit before my time. By the time I reached high school, Steve McQueen had passed away from cancer. I didn’t grow up watching him on the TV show, Wanted Dead or Alive, that had made him a household name, and I wasn’t even born yet when he moved to the big screen with his breakout role in the 1963 movie “The Great Escape“.
So, even though I was familiar with McQueen, he was never an actor I idolized or paid much attention to. To those a bit older than me though, McQueen was “the man.” For a generation of guys, McQueen epitomized what it looked like to be cool. He was “the king of cool”, as Laurie says numerous times in his book.
Greg Laurie is a pastor of a large church in Southern California. He’s older than me and he’s definitely part of that generation that grew up admiring McQueen. Laurie’s fixation with McQueen runs so deep that he even has a replica of the famous Mustang car McQueen drove in the epic 1968 movie Bullitt.
As a pastor, Laurie had heard that McQueen had come to faith before his untimely death in 1980 at the age of 50. However, none of the biographies of McQueen’s life included any details about his faith journey. Being such a fan of McQueen, Laurie set out to learn the details, not only about McQueen’s life, but his journey toward God.
Laurie’s book, Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon, is a detailed biography of the legend’s life but also shares important details about McQueen’s last few years, in which he experienced a transformation spiritually.
McQueen’s life was one of contrasts. He grew up poor but became wealthy. He was abandoned but became a loving husband and father. He could be harsh on the set but he seemed to care deeply for the underdogs, especially troubled youth like he had been.
McQueen was a self-made man who epitomized the macho spirit of the 60’s and 70’s. Though he could not save himself physically, succumbing to the harsh and painful effects of Mesothelioma in 1980, he did find salvation spiritually.
Laurie documents McQueen’s life and career and highlights a number of key encounters and relationships that were instrumental in McQueen finding God late in life.
I found the book to be interesting and engaging as I learned about McQueen’s childhood and his professional career. The details about his turn to God were inspiring while the events surrounding his sickness and death were tragic to say the least.
If you’re a McQueen fan, you’ll likely love this book, as it fills in a lot of details of the actor’s life and career. McQueen’s life isn’t glamorized. The veil is pulled back and you get a picture of the man warts and all.
One thing to note about the book though is that Laurie takes every opportunity to insert his own story into the narrative. It’s obvious from the beginning that Laurie is a McQueen fan but it turns out that there are many similarities between the two men, mostly in the stories of their family upbringing.
Laurie uses these similarities to try to help the reader understand how McQueen might have felt emotionally regarding the circumstances of his childhood and adult life. While it’s helpful in some degree to paint a deeper picture of what might have been happening on the inside, there are times when it appears that the story becomes more about Laurie than McQueen.
Still, the book is full of interesting information about an American film legend who passed well before his time. If you’re a McQueen fan or just like a good redemption story, you’ll likely enjoy this book.
The Third Target is the first in a series of political thrillers by Joel Rosenberg with journalist JB Collins as his central character.
Rosenberg draws on his years in the political arena and his extensive understanding of the current Middle East political climate as he weaves a story that draws on historical facts to create a possible modern scenario that is plausibly believable, emotionally engaging and action packed.
Rosenberg is an evangelical Christian whose novels often contain spiritual elements without being overly preachy or dogmatic. His characters are real. Rosenberg doesn’t give you the James Bond or Jack Bauer type, which you might think is required for a political spy thriller novel. Instead, he gives you characters who experience the kind of emotions you might experience if you were faced with the scenarios created in the story. His characters are faced with moral dilemmas and they think about deeper issues of identity, meaning and purpose.
Rosenberg continues to churn out novels that are a mix of modern day politics coupled with intrigue, action and suspense. The Third Target will keep you engaged and glued to the pages until the final page, at which point you will be shaking your fist at Rosenberg for creating a scenario that forces you to reach for the next book in the series!