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Monthly Archives: April 2012

  • The Caped Crusader

    Posted on April 30, 2012 by John van der Veen


    an interview with Frank Peretti

    Writers in the suspense/thriller genre are a unique breed. They weave words so you sense the tempo of each paragraph (and your heart rate) quickening toward crescendo; crafting stories with near-superhero ability. Frank Peretti is the quintessential suspense novelist. Like most superheroes, it took Frank awhile to discover his unique talent. But unlike them, he was far from alone in his journey…

    John: Good afternoon Frank, why don’t you kick things off by telling us a little about your upbringing.

    Frank Peretti: Well, I was born in Alberta, Canada. I was Canadian for a month or so and then my folks moved right down to Seattle. I was up in Canada just long enough to mess up my citizenship, so now I can’t run for president or anything…

    John: Oh, did you have aspirations for that?

    Frank: Well, no, I wouldn’t know the first thing about that! (Laughs) My dad was an American citizen who grew up in Seattle, went up to Canada to work for the summer and met my mom who was a Canadian citizen. About a month or so after I was born they came [back] down to Seattle.

    John: So that’s where you grew up. Well now we know you didn’t want to be president, but you did have aspirations of becoming a musician…?

    Frank: Yeah I did, that was clear back when I was just getting married. Man, I was between the ages of 19 and 22, right in there [somewhere]. I was starving (laughs), but yeah, I traveled with a couple of groups…

    John: And you played banjo for a band called Northern Cross, right?

    Frank: Oh my, yeah! I’ve played [banjo] for over 30 years. I’m learning the guitar now, maybe that’s because I’m mellowing in my old age (laughs).  Well way back when I was first playing, [my wife] Barb wasn’t even old enough to come in and hear us play. We were playing in lounges and things and the banjo was my primary instrument. I actually played the bass too, come to think of it. Then we got out that group and traveled with a Christian ministry group called Living Waters for two years. I think that was the sum and total of my musical efforts. I tried to do some solo ministry and that bombed (laughs), so I ended up being a carpenter and a printer working in a print shop, doing whatever I could to make a living. The thing is, after all of those early years of just doing this and doing that, I didn’t really figure out that I was supposed to be a writer until I was pushing thirty.

    John: So how did you make that transition from musician and print shop worker to your first novel?

    Frank: I think two significant things happened. Number one (I don’t remember the exact year, close to about 1982 or 83 but I remember where I was), I was at Deception Pass in Washington. Barb and I were on a little mini-vacation just to get away – we were so burnt out in ministry we didn’t know what to do. I had pastored a church with my dad for five years and we were just worn to a frazzle. I was kinda feeling like, well, here’s another thing I’ve failed at – I didn’t succeed at being a musician, didn’t succeed at being a carpenter and now I’ve kind of burned-out of the ministry. What am I supposed to do? I remember sitting on this bluff above the ocean just talking to the Lord and it was so clear, such a peace, such a joy, the Lord finally confirmed in my heart, “Frank you’re supposed to be a writer.” That’s what I’d always wanted to do. Through all this other stuff I was doing, I always went back to the writing, and it was writing that made me feel whole, complete. So, man! That was when I finally figured that out. Now the second thing that happened: I had started This Present Darkness, [but] I’d been pecking away at it for five years, so I just concentrated and got that book done. Then I went through the process of trying to get it published, which was long and tedious - about fourteen different publishers... and finally it got published in 1986 – 26 years ago… 26 years!

    John: Wow, so did you have other books in the works before that time?

    Frank: I’d written screenplays mostly. I was trying to get something going in movies and television (laughs), but [those scripts are] still sitting in a drawer somewhere… Interestingly, back in 1983 I told a story to some junior high kids at a camp and the other camp folks and pastors said, “You should write that down and get it published.” And so I wrote and sent it to Crossway Books and that was The Door in the Dragon’s Throat which turned out to be the first of the Cooper Kids’ Adventures [Series]. So that was published and (I think) Escape from the Island of Aquarius before This Present Darkness. As a matter of fact, it was The Door in the Dragon’s Throat that kind of opened the door for This Present Darkness because Crossway turned that [proposal] down the first time. But they liked the kids’ books and that convinced them that I knew how to write. So they said “Could you send us that other idea you had?” I hadn’t even typed [This Present Darkness] up yet, it was still in rough draft form, so Barb and her mom and I got three typewriters going, typed that up and mailed it to them (that was back in the old days when you mailed things) and by cracky! They published it! (In a booming voice) And the rest is history.

    I was working in a ski factory up until just about 1988, and I didn’t really become a full- time writer until Crossway decided they needed the sequel, so I started Piercing the Darkness. They asked me how long it was going to take, and so I told them “well it took me five years to do This Present Darkness,” so they said, “well how much do you need to live on?” (laughs) They gave me an advance to live on, so I knuckled down, finished Piercing and sent it to them. I remember my first day as a full-time writer. I got out of bed (I didn’t have to go to the ski factory!) and I turned on my very first computer: a Corona 4 megahertz computer with a big five-inch floppy drive. And so I wrote Piercing on that computer…

    John: What kind of computer did you write Illusion on?

    Frank: I have a Mac! I’ve moved up in the world.

    John: After both of the Darkness books you wrote a book called Tilly which was quite a departure from the other two. What brought about that transition?

    Frank: Wow, that’s a good question. Let’s see, I’ve got to turn back the pages of time here… Tilly had her beginning clear back before I was a published author. I was working odd jobs and thinking, Boy I’d like to do a movie or TV and so I came up with this story of Tilly. I realized I couldn’t do that [TV], but I did have a tape recorder, so I thought, I’ll write and produce a radio play. So I had this reel-to-reel tape recorder and I borrowed some microphones from my church. I was living in a 25-foot travel trailer at the time with Barb (laughs), so we hung sleeping bags and blankets up in the trailer to make a sound studio and I brought in actors (just people from my church), and we recorded this story. I managed to get it broadcasted on KCIS, the local radio station in Seattle at the time. From there we had a little bit of interest perked [so] then (they did, or I did, or someone) sent it down to Focus on the Family, and I remember someone told me that copies of Tilly (on little cassette tapes) were passing each other in the hallways at Focus... So they bought the rights to produce their own version for the radio and broadcasted it, and I think maybe they still are! That turned out to be one of their most popular broadcasts. Somewhere down the road [after that], I’ve got books out with Crossway and the radio show’s popular, so [my publisher] said “maybe we should come out with a book version” so then I wrote Tilly as a novel. So see, she had a history going way back before I wrote my other books but then became a book much later.

    John: Very interesting. You’ve been consistently keeping people on the edge of their seats with your suspense thrillers for years now. Tell us a little bit about your mindset for Illusion.

    Frank: Any book [I write] is just a whole bunch of different ideas that fall together. I wanted to do a book that was relational – which would talk about the marriage relationship – that was kind of a metaphor or parable of the body of Christ and its longing to be with the Bridegroom, Jesus. Ya know, that whole pervasive spiritual longing to be reconciled to our Creator and to be right with things. So those were kind of the thematic elements. I created Mandy as a metaphor for a lost soul wandering around wondering who am I, where do I belong, why do I feel lost? And then there was the cool story-vehicle that I found: let’s use stage magicians, because then we can create this situation where Mandy is reverting in time through some kind of a weird inter-dimensional “timewarpy” thing that also enables her to make these incredible illusions. [Then] that opens up the opportunity to create mystery and suspense and good guys and bad guys and the chase at the end. So all of these things come together and finally form a story, but those are the essential ingredients I started out with.

    John: At the end of the book you make reference to the story being a lot about you and your wife. How much of Illusion is actually you and Barb?

    Frank: Oh it’s woven through there! Mandy and Dane are their own characters, but boy-oh-boy yeah, as far as the spiritual journey and the emotion – really getting into the heart of the matter – I drew upon my own love and relationship with Barb. Mandy’s devotion to Dane, I modeled that after Barb’s devotion to me. And Dane’s (shall we say) awe at this wonderful woman that would love him and be so tenaciously devoted to him for 40 years, well that’s drawing upon my own feelings and experience. See, I’m 61 now and it’s interesting, you get to this age and you start looking back and reflecting on the journey you’ve been on. And that’s what Dane does. A lot of that happens in this book; Dane is looking back and reflecting on his journey and his relationship with Mandy over the years. So you don’t see a direct correlation between Barb and me with Dane and Mandy, but the content, the fiber, the grist, the experience from which the writer writes – that’s Barb and me.

    John: Have you ever approached a book and found it emotionally difficult to write?

    Frank: Yeah, The Wounded Spirit is the first one that pops into my mind. That was a very difficult book because it was talking about all of the bullying and harassment I got growing up. Dealing with wounds that go way back, it was still kind of a cathartic experience for me because there’s all of this stuff in there [that] just lies in there all your life. So I started writing about it and I had to dredge all that up and start dealing with it. So that was a real tough book emotionally. Illusion wasn’t difficult emotionally, but it was emotional. I went through a lot of emotions writing that because I was reflecting on my own love for Barb and what that’s been all about. It’s a very, very human book. The Wounded Spirit was human too, but also very difficult.

    John: At certain points in your career various people have used your books as sort of “manuals” for dealing with the spiritual realm. How comfortable are you with that?

    Frank: I’m not comfortable with that. That opens up this whole conundrum that (maybe other fiction writers haven’t run into, but for some strange reason I have, where at least in the realm of spiritual warfare) readers have a hard time distinguishing between fact and fiction. Maybe it’s because the books came out at a time when fiction was not a widespread genre in Christian publishing. Maybe Christians weren’t used to fiction being fiction! (laughs) But, I’ve had folks ask me, “Are you going to come out with a study guide to go with your Darkness books?” No, no! Study the Bible, don’t study these books. These are just an imaginative treatment on a theme, ya know, they’re just to paint a picture that inspires, uplifts and provides a fictional, imaginative model of what it could be like. Over the years, my books (as far as that goes) have been given a lot more credence than they should. I don’t think people should take them quite that seriously. They’re not a theological treatise; they were never intended to be. I find myself in awkward situations sometimes because people think I’m some great authority on spiritual warfare, but I’m not. I never have been.

    John: So, when you’re confronted with that, how do you respond?

    Frank: When I wrote those books and afterward, I opened myself up to all kinds of people with all kinds of experiences, some real and some delusional. I’ve gotten letters and books and conversations from people with the most sordid stories of demonic, satanic abuse and all kinds of things. I’ve talked to some who are clearly in need of professional help, who have a serious problem but now they’ve attributed it all to demons. Ya know, the second coming, the rapture, there are certain topics out there that are just juicy; they’re appealing, there’s a certain fascination with things like that. Over the years, I’ve taken a much more balanced and sober view of all of this. I believe in the realities of what I’ve written about, but [I think] we can get a little too obsessed with it and start getting into realms that really aren’t healthy, I don’t like going there anymore. I tell people I’m not a specialist about spiritual warfare… it was 26 years ago I wrote that book. I would hope as any Christian should, that I’ve grown and I’ve gone through other seasons and lessons of my life, and that the Lord is leading me on to other things... That’s the interesting thing about it: you write this book that [becomes] so popular that it’s the book you are known for, and people are still picking up it up and enjoying it – which is fine with me, but then I have to make an adjustment because wow, I’m not there anymore! (laughs) So when I meet people in the bookstores and that’s what they’re all excited about, I still have to engage them in conversation and show my appreciation (of course!) for how they’re enjoying [This Present Darkness]. You can look at all of the books I’ve written over the years, and each book reflects a different place I was in my Christian walk. In The Oath, I was concerned about sin, how we were harboring sin and being cavalier about it. Then in The Visitation I wrote from my own frustrations with my ministry and with Christianity in general, how we can go through times of darkness and disillusionment but the Lord is still with us. I wrote Prophet to talk about my concern at how the gatekeepers of information can control what we think. I wrote Monster just to take a stab at evolution, and Illusion because I’m reflecting on how beautiful it is – the gift of marriage and the gift of love – and how it’s so sorely needed in our culture right now. I sure would like people to catch a spark when they read this book [and say] wow, I’d love for my love to be like that or I’d like to find a love like that, instead of all this flaky stuff going on. It would be nice to find something that really endures.

    John: Frank, we really appreciate you giving us grace to ask a question like that. Switching gears a bit, are you a book reader?

    Frank: Oh yeah! Usually the pattern I fall into is reading fiction, to keep my own creative juices under discipline, keep learning. It’s the same way I learned how to play the banjo. I’d listen to other banjo players and pick up licks and see what they’re doing – that’s how I learned. I read other fiction readers and see what they’re doing, keep a good awareness of style and where fiction’s going. So I’m always learning. The other area of reading I do is usually whatever I’m interested in at the time, whatever God’s speaking to me about at the time. For example, right now I’m gravitating toward books that deal with church history, worship, where the church is now and where it’s going. I’ve got just a few pages left and I’ll be done with Where in the World is the Church? by Michael Horton. That was a good book because it shook me up in terms of the old “four wall syndrome.” [He talks about how sometimes] everything the church has to be within the four walls and we can’t touch the outside culture because that’s worldly. He’s just addressing hey, God made music, He made beauty, He made literature, and it’s to be created and used everywhere. We don’t want to get into a Christian ghetto where we stop engaging the culture and just come up with a Christian version of everything – staying within our four walls. So it’s a neat book anyway. And then I read Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley and that was good because it gave a whole history of the church, real nice read for a layman like me to go through there and see where the church has been. That really provides context for what I’m thinking about now because I’m struggling a lot with what the church is doing, where it’s going, so that’s where I feel God prodding, ya know? It’s like when I write a book I try to figure out, what’s God saying to me? What’s the subject for today, or this year? And The Church is [the current subject], so that’s what I’m reading now.

    John: One last question: what do you do to relax?

    Frank: (laughs) Well I’ll tell you, I go out and work in the yard. I hadn’t been out to work in awhile and the weather finally broke a little bit, we had a little sunshine. So I went out and spaded the garden, pulled weeds, worked on our water fountain a little bit, and boy that felt good. (In a booming voice) There’s something to be said for nice manual labor out in the sunshine! (laughs)

    John: Well Mr. Peretti, we are huge fans of your work, and we appreciate how you’ve always been a witness for Jesus.

    Frank: Well, I appreciate that, ya know - I just want to let Jesus work through me. That’s the big lesson I’m working on from the Lord right now, “Frank, write from your heart and be honest.” There’s so many strains on the market ya know, write this, write that, this is what’s hot right now, and I’m dealing with what is God saying to me. What am I going to write about? What is from my heart and not just my wallet (laughs). I’m glad what I’ve written resonates with you.

    *To purchase Illusion, click here. Just now discovering Frank for the first time? Consider picking up the Peretti Three-Pack of his bestsellers including This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness and Prophet right here for a great price!


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Fiction, Frank Peretti, This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, Illusion

  • No Shame

    Posted on April 30, 2012 by Family Christian

    “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

     

    Satan sometimes shames seekers when they begin to take God and His word seriously. The enemy plants seeds of doubt related to intellectual honesty and the fear of being labeled a religious fanatic. The devil wants Jesus believers to be apologetic and embarrassed to live for the Lord, not declaring His teachings as the gospel truth. But, there is no shame in standing up for Christ and His commands. Faith reveals His fame. 

    Instead, we are to be ashamed of sin and its deplorable outcome, while embracing wise living. Shame enslaves us in our selfish behavior, but we are emancipated by our selfless service to others. Our Savior Jesus does not seek to motivate us out of disgrace; rather He infuses His grace into our inner being for bold initiatives. The good news of salvation in Christ gives us the confidence to love all people. God’s power is shameless.

    “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:38

    Your prayer is for Jesus to be unashamed of you. Offer Him your daily attitude and actions that He can anoint with His favor. Can your conduct pass the scrutiny of your Savior’s examination? Is there anything in your life that could bring reproach to His name? Holy reverence for God runs from any potential embarrassment to His name. Because you deeply respect your heavenly Father you honor Him with a life that brings Him glory.

    His power rests on you when the gospel governs your worldview. The Lord’s power exerts itself with quiet influence over individuals and loud declarations over crowds. God entrusts you with the power of His ideas to do good for Him. Harness the Holy Spirit’s energy for eternal purposes. For example, take your family to feed the poor so they can experience giving the riches of God’s grace and hope. Love lingers longer for Jesus’ sake.

    Perhaps the Lord has empowered you to foster or adopt a child. Take the next step of faith to create a culture of care and acceptance for a rejected and abused one. Use your energy to engage the handicapped and mentally ill. Look for ways to get the gospel to those who are sick, in prison, neglected in nursing homes, and hungry in housing projects. There is no shame in representing your Savior Jesus, so be stunningly shameless.

    Prayer: Lord, how can I be shameless in declaring and living out your good news?

    Related Readings: Genesis 2:25; Psalm 25:3; Isaiah 54:4; Romans 6:21; Philippians 1:20

    Post/Tweet this today: Faith reveals God’s fame. #faith #God


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Trouble Makers

    Posted on April 29, 2012 by Family Christian

    The trouble he causes recoils on himself; his violence comes down on his own head. Psalm 7:15

     

    Troublemakers tend to self-destruct. There is no need to get worked up over their acts of deception. They are dishonest. They lie when the truth will suffice. The harm they intend to inflict on others comes back to hurt them. Troublemakers attempt to discredit those they are jealous of, and in the process, discredit themselves. Troublemakers conceive elaborate plans with evil intent. It is all about them and their agenda. They can easily tell you one thing and do another. With delight, they can push your buttons to get what they want. With a straight face, they can make up stories to embolden their position. Their deception is a means to an end. In their mind a good outcome justifies a polluted process. It doesn’t matter how they get to the goal as long as they reach the goal.

    Beware of troublemakers but do not urge them on with too much attention. Keep an eye on them, but do not be consumed by them. Stand up to them in the right spirit without crushing their spirit. They are totally insecure and fearful, afraid to admit their insecurities. Because their acceptance is based on performance, they are always looking for ways to impress others. They miss the point that they are totally and unconditionally accepted in Christ. He is our stability for security. It is not what we do that keeps us secure; it is who we are and whose we are. In Christ we have all we need. We do not have to impress others; we just need to be who we are in Him. The fruit of the Spirit will do the talking for us. People are impressed with follow-through, not fancy false promises.

    Trust God with troublemakers. You are not their judge and jury. He can handle them in His timing and in His way. We have our own sins to confess and repent of on a regular basis. Our sins may not be as blatant, but they are still present. We may not sin in as pronounced a manner as a troublemaker; nonetheless we still struggle with dishonesty and deception. It may be on a smaller scale, but we still weigh in as ones who struggle with being troublemakers. So let’s contrast the life of a troublemaker by being a blessing maker. Let’s be a blessing instead of a curse. Let’s extend consolation instead of consternation. Let’s focus on giving instead of taking. Let’s be a solace instead of a pain. Let’s serve instead of being served. Let’s encourage instead of discourage. Kill them with kindness, and watch God turn their hearts toward Him.

    Furthermore, pray for troublemakers to trust God. Pray they will offer Him their lives for His glory. Replace gossip with prayers to God on their behalf. At the right time and in the right way, help them understand their destructive ways. Otherwise, they will destroy themselves. They prepare destruction for themselves by preparing themselves for destruction. Be a catalyst of Christ’s to guide them away from this path of self-destruction. Be willing to spend money on a coach who can give them objective feedback and a reality check. But do everything out of love and respect in the context of your relationship. Give them the respect they never had, and they may begin to respect themselves. God’s grace can change troublemakers into blessing makers. We are proof.

    Taken from Reading #4 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet this today: Stand up to others in the right spirit without crushing theirs. #courage #calm


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Sound Doctrine

    Posted on April 28, 2012 by Family Christian

    “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”
    Titus 1:9

     

    Doctrine is a belief system that is accepted as authoritative. For followers of Jesus Christ, the Bible contains Christian doctrine that is believed, understood, and lived. Doctrine is critical because what you believe can be the difference between heaven and hell; it is critical because it determines your behavior.  Doctrine is valuable because it provides structure around faith, bolstering and encouraging you toward a lifetime of growth and learning. Doctrine is not to be feared but accepted as a support for abundant living.

    Doctrine helps you understand what you believe in a logical fashion, so you in turn, can explain it to others inside and outside of the faith.  Yes, doctrine can be abused, used as a club to knock others into line. But doctrine is not designed to discourage, but to encourage. Doctrine is not meant to be an intimidator. Rather, it is designed to lovingly lead disciples toward the ways of God. Your motive for understanding and learning doctrine is that you can know God more deeply and intimately. Doctrine is not an end in itself. If your desire is to simply gain more knowledge then doctrine will work against your Christian maturity. Sound teaching also helps you discern false teachers.

    The Bible says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14). Indoctrinate your children at an early age with God’s belief system so that they can begin lifelong learning. What better way to mold their tender and teachable hearts than with the doctrine of the Christian faith?
       
    Some of the doctrines of the Christian faith are the Deity of Christ, His death and resurrection for man’s redemption, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers. God is your loving heavenly Father who judges fairly. Traditional tenets of the faith are the inerrancy of the Bible, the second coming of Christ, salvation by grace through faith in Christ, and the reality of heaven and hell. Other compelling truths are eternal rewards, God’s ownership of everything, and the power of prayer.

    Allow your mind and heart to marinate in these and other doctrines. Let them become the foundation of your belief and behavior. Read about them, learn about them, and let them give you confidence that God has laid out a logical and inviting explanation for living and dying. This applies equally to His followers and those who still need Christ. Be sure doctrine has been distilled into a life change for you. This is evidence of authenticity in disciples.

    Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31b). The major teachings of the Christian faith are clear; camp out there and do not be confused over other distracting issues. Make sure your doctrine leads you to evangelism and discipleship as it exists for your encouragement and defense of the faith.  Above all, keep doctrine from feeding your pride and boring others. Use it wisely and do not abuse it.

    Taken from April 29th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet this today: Humble disciples distill doctrinal teachings into personal life change. #doctrine #disciples


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Love Strangers

    Posted on April 27, 2012 by Family Christian

    “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:18,19, NKJV

     

    Strangers can seem strange and distant, but they are still human beings created in the image of God. They may smell different, look odd, be eccentric, and speak unclearly, nevertheless their heart longs for encouragement and acceptance. It is out of a strange place that a person can find their heavenly Father and begin their journey of knowing Him. The Holy Spirit daily directs His disciples to be a conduit for a stranger’s salvation.

    Therefore, we have an opportunity every day to expose unfamiliar people to a picture of God’s grace. If they know Jesus, our act of kindness emboldens their belief. If faith living is foreign to the new acquaintance, our generous gratuity may solicit their soul to ask why. We love strangers, because we were all once strangers to Christ’s intimate love.
    Love goes to strange places, for strange people, so they are no longer strangers to God.

    “I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the needy.” Job 29:16

    Do you rush across the path to an unfamiliar face, or do you look for divine encounters? Is your momentary prayer kept just for yourself, or do your prayers seek unknown souls? Hospitality and generosity for those who are without is your bridge to invite them into a relationship with you. Maybe a single adult just moved into your apartment complex or a new family visited your church for the first time; if so, see them as a candidate for your care. Your initiative to invade another’s aloneness illustrates Christ’s caring community.

    Remember the strange and uncomfortable feeling of being a stranger in a new place? Then look for those lost in their unfamiliar surroundings. A new mom may need your mentoring. A new employee may need your apprenticeship. A new Christian may need your discipleship. A new father may need your wisdom. Strangers will not remain strangers after you invest in their lives. Love welcomes guests as new friends.

    “For I [Jesus] was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” Matthew 25:35

    Prayer: Lord, who can I reach out to that is lost in their strange circumstance? 

    Related Readings: Leviticus 25:35; Job 31:32; Psalm 119:19; Hebrews 11:9

    Post/Tweet this today: Love goes to strange places, for strange people, so they are no longer strangers to God. #love #missions


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Ambushed by God

    Posted on April 26, 2012 by Family Christian

    “Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28

     

    God does not let go of His children; in fact there are times that a faith exercise feels like a wrestling match. Life can be good and uneventful, then all of a sudden change ambushes a Christian with a surprise attack. It could be the mental gymnastics of doubting God when a very committed Christian friend seems to be trapped in an unfair circumstance. Or, out of the blue, the deep depression blues can assault the most ardent saints.

    Indeed, when we wrestle with the Lord there is a blessed outcome. It is not a contentious engagement but one of comprehending Who is really in control. If we fight against God conducting the course of our life, His loving pressure increases—even to the point of intense pain. If, however, we recognize His loving face during these pressure points, we patiently rest in this close proximity to Christ. He energizes our exhausted, feeble soul.

    “From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.” Jonah 2:1-2

    Has the Holy Spirit surprised you with a detour in what you thought was God’s will? Have you asked Jesus what blessing He wants to bestow on you and your family? Your spiritual struggle is not without spiritual significance. Blessings are birthed from friction and a feeling of resistance in your faith. Thus, embrace your confrontation with Christ and others as a prayerful process to build your character. His love will not let go of you!

    Stay engaged with the Almighty and experience His relentless favor. His desire for you is a partnership of prayer that produces a fulfilling life. Change is inevitable as you grow in your intimacy with the Lord. Like the secure sensation of a roaring fire in a fireplace, the closer you get to the heat of the Holy Spirit’s heart, the more He will warm you to His ways. When you feel ambushed by God, see it as your “burning bush” blessing of glory!

    “So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:3-5

    Prayer: Lord, thanks for not letting go of me and for giving me your blessing of glory.

    Related Readings: Genesis 32:27-29; Mark 1:13; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33

    Post/Tweet this today: The closer we get to the heat of the Holy Spirit’s heart, the more He will warm us to His ways. #Holy Spirit


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Humility Not Hubris

    Posted on April 25, 2012 by Family Christian

    “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” 1 Timothy 1:15

     

    Humility is modest and respectful; hubris is proud and arrogant. Humility practices an egoless attitude; hubris exhibits an egocentric persona. Humility has a proper perspective of its capabilities; hubris is overconfident. Humility depends on God and others; hubris thinks it is self-contained. Humility is an aspiring virtue; hubris is a venomous vice. 

    We cultivate humility in our hearts when we remember how far the Lord has brought us by His grace. We are sinners saved by God’s grace, kept by God’s grace, and empowered to live the Christian life, by God’s grace. Our humble living sacrifice to Christ is all of grace or none at all. We need not forget where we came from, less we lose our fiery faith.

    “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5b

    Do you daily dress yourself in the clothes of humility? Consider a hat of submission to authority, a t-shirt of trust, a blouse of belief, a collared shirt of care, pants of prayer, a dress of dependence, a belt of boldness, socks of service, and shoes of gratitude. Humility lived out for the Lord requires intentionality in your body, soul, and spirit. Hubris hopes you dismiss humility as a strategy for the weak, but humility gives you access to grace.

    Perhaps you take the lead in doing chores around your house, or schedule a 24-hour silent retreat to get quiet before the Lord and listen to His gentle voice. Your humility checkmates hubris when you are intentional in your behavior and instructional in your beliefs. Jesus emptied Himself of self so His heavenly Father could fill Him with grace.

    Hubris says quiet times are electives, humility says they are required. Hubris says prayer is passé, humility says there is nothing more relevant. Hubris says personal achievement is the ultimate goal, humility says it’s for the glory of God. Your position of power and influence at home and work is a platform for humble service. See your role in life as a conduit for Christ and His kingdom. Your humility is heaven’s leverage in other’s lives.

    “Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5b-8, NASB

    Prayer: Lord, teach me to walk in the humble steps of Your son Jesus.

    Related Readings: Exodus 10:3; 2 Kings 22:19; Daniel 5:22; Romans 12:3

    Post/Tweet this today: Are you dressed daily in the clothes of humility? #humilty


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • More than Conquerors

    Posted on April 24, 2012 by Family Christian

    Filled with gritty resolve and a special measure of God’s grace, Marvin Sapp’s newest record (and life) reminds us that we can defeat any obstacle through Christ.

    FC: What was the biggest inspiration for I Win?

    Marvin: I titled this CD I Win because I want to affirm for myself and for others that the winning is in the enduring. People have a perception that the winner is the one who crosses the finish line first – but I maintain that winning is not a destination but an attitude. I discovered the song I Win at a pastor’s conference a while ago – a young singer named Brittney A. Wright co-wrote and performed it. I was so very impressed by the song I asked her if she would allow me to record it, and a year and a half later I did.

    Family Christian: To date, your live albums have been recorded in your hometown of Grand Rapids, MI. What led to choosing to record this album near Washington D.C.?

    Marvin Sapp: I recorded the album near D.C. at Evangel Cathedral, simply because that was one of the first places I ever did a concert when I first started in the Gospel music industry some 22 years ago. I was in Commissioned and one of our first concerts was [there]. I’ve had a great relationship with that church for literally 22 years. As bad as I wanted to do the new recording in Grand Rapids where I’ve done all of my live recordings, it was just too close of a reminder of having buried my wife. She was always a part of my recordings because she managed my career. So, since I wasn’t going to do the recording in my city, the only place I could think to take it was to [the] family that’s not here, and that was Evangel Cathedral.

    FC: Your Twitter page includes the quote “I’m a preacher that happens to sing, not a singer that happens to preach.” How do you balance these two distinct roles?

    Marvin: I always say that I don’t balance, I prioritize. Because, when you try to balance or juggle, something inevitably is going to fall. The call on my life is to preach. I started preaching when I was 22 years of age, and that is what I prioritize. The music is an extension of my ministry, it is a gifting, but I keep it in its rightful place based on God’s call on my life. The gifts come without repentance. I’ve learned that you can be gifted and anointed and live like the devil. In order to be successful in your call, though, you have to tap into the Source. The only way that you can maintain being connected to the Source is you have to live a life that’s holy and acceptable in the sight of God. That’s one of the things we don’t talk about anymore in the church, and that’s trying to live holy. I challenge people who live close to me, next to me, with me that they have to learn to strive to live holy at all costs. Everything else springs forth from that.

    FC: Your life took an unexpected turn in 2010 with the loss of your dear wife. How has that affected your approach to ministry/music?

    Marvin: One of the blessings was that all of my contracts were negotiated by MaLinda already so it hasn’t affected my business at all. My booking office still does what it does. I’m still turning down a bunch of different dates… Opportunities are still there because we built a great staff so it hasn’t been difficult to move forward. Musically, I continue to record songs that I connect with because I know that those are the songs that will connect with people. MaLinda also laid out in great detail how things would move forward at our church, where she was the administrative pastor. So my approach in both ministry and music has been to adopt a motto that MaLinda had and said all the time:  “keep it moving.” That is what she wanted me to do.

    FC: What helped you through that time?

    Marvin: For me, prayer, praise and worship absolutely sustained me through the bereavement of my wife. I know I would not have been able to endure that great pain without God.

    FC: What is your favorite moment/song on the record, and why?

    Marvin: A standout moment was definitely the “Hymns Medley.” I grew up on hymns and my mom kinda taught me almost every hymn I know. When we were doing the recording, the “Hymns Medley” just happened. We were transitioning between songs and I just started singing hymns. At first, it wasn’t even supposed to go on the record. We were going to drop it and then the staff was like, “No, this is unbelievable. It’s gotta stay.” So, we just ended up putting it on the record - but I was just singing things I grew up listening to from traditional hymns to Andrae Crouch. And [so] we just went back and forth and people were blessed by it and I enjoyed doing it. Hopefully, people will love it when they hear it on the record.

    FC: For all of the recognition you’ve received over the years – is there a specific honor that has meant the most to you? And if so, why?

    Marvin: [laughing] The BET Award for Best Gospel Artist – because my kids were so excited about that! Honestly, every award and recognition is a very humbling experience.

    Click here to experience the passionate Gospel-energy of I Win.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Marvin Sapp

  • Plan Ahead

    Posted on April 24, 2012 by Family Christian

    “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest”. Proverbs 6:6-8

     

    Wisdom works hard now, but is wise about planning for the future. Planners have an innate discipline that prevents immediate urgent matters from distracting them as they stay focused on important issues. Their discipline determines what choices they make during the day; always keenly aware that their actions affect their future. The best planners take the time to process through assumptions and the implications of best and worst case scenarios.
     
    Self motivated and disciplined planners do not require rigid management and control. They thrive in autonomy, but still submit to the accountability of authority. Wise planners save time and money because there is a decision making filter in place that results in more no’s than yes’s to good opportunities. The Holy Spirit works through a prayerfully crafted plan to guide you into God’s best, so stay aligned with the plan.
     
    “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

    Ants are small in stature but, with the unified effort of many, are large in results. A clearly defined, well-executed plan brings your team together producing outstanding outcomes. A plan creates creditability giving courage to those who carry it out. So be sensitive to your season of strategic service. If you are in the preparation phase, be patient and focused on the plan.

    If you are in the execution phase, remain diligent and focused on the task at hand. As you harvest success make sure to save for the future. Abundance is not meant to be spent all at once, but to be saved for the down times. Use your church, business, or home as a platform of provision for others in need. You plan ahead so that you can be an ambassador for Almighty God.

    “Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.” I Timothy 6:18-19

    Prayer: What opportunities do I need to put on hold so that I stay focused on implementing the current strategic plan with excellence?

    Related Readings: Genesis 41:28-43; Job 12:7-8; Luke 14:28; Hebrews 6:12

    Post/Tweet this today: A plan creates creditability giving courage to those who carry it out. #plan #courage

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

  • Tested Faith

    Posted on April 23, 2012 by Family Christian

    “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32

     

    Satan is always on the prowl to discredit the faith of sincere disciples. He asks the Almighty if he can flush out the mercenaries who only see Jesus as a means to their own end. The Lord does give the devil permission at times (like with Job) to strain His children with temptation and trials. However, the enemy learns quickly that Jesus increases the intensity of His intercession for those being badgered by Satan’s schemes.

    A tested faith is an opportunity to grow from inspiration to transformation. We may deny Christ at times, but He does not deny us. We may lose faith, but He remains faithful. In our weakness, He is strong. Stumbling in our faith provides an opportunity for faith building. Emotional expression converts to willful commitment—post our predicament. Out of our tests of faith He brings success, so that we can help other followers of Jesus.

    "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Satan replied. "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face." (Job 1:9-11 NIV)

    Are you ready for God's next step? Have you prayerfully prepared? Indeed, God may have a small step of suffering for you before your next significant step of faith. See a temporary delay as a divine detour to build your faith before your next move. As you spiritually spar with Satan, be brave, since your Savior prays for you. Your inner strength forged in spiritual fights becomes energy to effectively engage your external challenges.

    Like a trusted trainer who cares for and instructs a boxer who collapses on a stool in his corner, so Christ soothes your emotional cuts and bruises with His loving grace, He teaches you with wisdom. However, the Lord strengthens you so you can strengthen those whose faith is sputtering. There is a tear in every church pew—a dear saint who is waiting for a Christ follower like you to share from caring eyes your own liquid love. Your tested faith transformed by the Holy Spirit welds heaven's salvation to save souls!

    “And with many other words he [Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” Acts 2:40-43, NKJV

    Prayer: Lord, whom can I strengthen in the faith by the strength You have given me?

    Related Readings: 2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 11:17; James 1:3; Revelation 2:10

    Post/Tweet this today: There is a tear in every church pew waiting for you to share from caring eyes your own liquid love. #tears #compassion


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion

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