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User Archives: Family Christian

  • Enemies of the Heart from Andy Stanley

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    Andy Stanley

    It Came from Within

    It came from within. But at first I wasn’t sure.

    It was a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, when I felt a thump in my chest that actually shook my whole body.

    I sat up and looked over at Sandra to see if perhaps she’d felt it too. No pain. No pressure. Just a larger-than-normal thump in my chest. I lay back down and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. And then it happened again.

    This time I said, “Did you feel that?”

    No answer.

    As I laid there staring at the clock, I put my hand over my heart and tried to listen as well as feel my pulse. About a half minute later I noticed that my heart skipped a beat and then, THUMP! This happened over and over. About a minute of normal heartbeat and then nothing. And then the big thump that literally coursed through my entire body.

    Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

    The next day I called my doctor. He sent me to the hospital with a prescription for this nifty device that records what’s happening to your heart while you go about your normal routine. I say normal. There are a few “normal” activities I would advise anyone against trying while wearing such a device.

    The following day I went back to the hospital and they plugged the device into a computer to see what they could find. An hour later the technician came out and informed me that I had an irregular heartbeat. I was shocked. “Really? An irregular heartbeat? You don’t say. You mean my heart isn’t supposed to miss a beat every minute and then make up for it with increased seismic intensity?”

    Of course, I didn’t say that. He was about to draw some blood, and I’ve always tried to stay on the good side of anyone who’s about to poke me with a needle.

    They ran some tests. A lot of tests. After a couple hours of blood work, an EKG, an ultrasound—I told them there was no way I was pregnant, but they insisted—and a chest X-ray, a doctor came in to see me. He sat down with his clipboard and started asking me all the usual questions. Eventually he came to the “What medications are you taking?” question.

    Ordinarily that’s an easy one: “Nothing.” But it just so happened that I was taking something for my annual case of poison ivy. I’m never certain how I got it, but I always manage to come down with it every spring. Truth is, I don’t even know what poison ivy looks like—which may be part of my problem.

    I tried to pronounce the name of the drug I was taking. After three or four failed attempts, the doctor deciphered what had been prescribed and wrote it down. Then he asked, “They didn’t prescribe a steroid as well?” No, they hadn’t. The reason being, I’d insisted that my family doctor give me the steroid in the form of a shot. Two shots, actually. When I shared this bit of seemingly insignificant news with the doctor, he put down his pen and smiled. “I think I know what your problem is.”

    This was good news. Sandra has been wondering since we were married.

    “What?” I asked.

    “It’s the steroids. You’re going to be fine. Once it works its way through your system your heart will settle back down.”

    And you know what—he was right. The problem took care of itself.

    Wonderful…and Confusing

    As you’ve probably guessed from this story, I’m not a doctor. And this is not a book about your physical heart. It’s about your other heart. You know, that invisible part of you that philosophers, poets, and preachers refer to all the time. That thing that got broken in the ninth grade when what’s-her-name said she just wanted to be friends. I’m talking about that part of you that swells up with pride when you see your kids do something great.

    It’s that thing that gets all nostalgic when you hear an old Journey tune (or whatever music served as the soundtrack for your senior year). It’s that part of me that fills up when Sandra sits down next to me on the front row at church every Sunday morning. Amazing how that still happens after all these years… 

    And to be fair, the heart I’m talking about is also that part of me that wanted to wring the coach’s neck for keeping my son on the bench throughout an entire all-star game.

    The heart I’m speaking of is that mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear, and experience life. It’s the sphere in which relationship happens. And it’s the sphere in which relationships are broken.

    Damage Control

    Life can be hard on the heart. The world is full of outside influences that have the power to disrupt the rhythm of your heart. Most are subtle. Some may even appear to be necessary as protection from further disruptions. Over time you develop habits that slowly erode your heart’s sensitivity. The inevitable pain and disappointment of life have caused you to set up walls around your heart. Much of this is understandable. But at the end of the day, there’s no way around the truth:

    Your heart is out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain. These disrupters that throw your heart out of sync are not like the steroid that eventually worked its way out of my system without any effort on my part. Those things that disrupt the rhythms of the invisible heart linger. If left alone, some will linger for a lifetime. After a while we come to accept these disrupters as part of us, part of our personality. And so we catch ourselves saying, “That’s just the way I am.” But you weren’t always that way. And those closest to you know it. So let me ask you, how are things with your heart?

    Close the book and think for a moment. How are things with your heart? Not your career, your family, or your finances. Your heart. Chances are, you’ve never stopped to consider your heart. And why should you? There are meals to fix, calls to return, interviews to prepare for, and bills to pay. If at the end of the day you’re all caught up with these things and someone asks, “How are things?” you can smile and sigh and say, “Fine.”

    But this is a different question.

    It’s a more important question.

    And yes, it’s an awkward question.

    Another Me

    Perhaps the major reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it was never encouraged. As children, we were taught instead to monitor our behavior. In other words, we were taught to behave. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. If we misbehaved, not-so-good things happened. My parents believed in spanking. So the not-so-good things got my attention early. I modified my behavior so as to avoid pain, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I bet you have too.

    Years ago a buddy and I decided to move a road sign. We thought it would be funny to route traffic up an entrance ramp that led to a highway that was under construction and not opened yet. As a result, I spent the good portion of a night in jail. So I modified my behavior. I never moved another road sign.

    Pain, embarrassment, fines, and spankings are generally considered effective ways to focus an individual’s attention on his or her behavior. Consequently, you and I have become much better at monitoring our behavior than our hearts.

    But it’s not just the avoidance of pain that drives us. Good behavior can be rewarding. As a professional Christian—a pastor, by trade—I’m paid to be good. So I’ve learned to modify my words and behavior so as not to damage my reputation and, thus, my career. You’ve no doubt done the same thing. Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do. Not because you don’t want to, but because of the professional ramifications.

    Perhaps there are some words and phrases you won’t use, in spite of the fact that they would accurately convey what you’re feeling. I’ll bet there are some people you pretend to like because it’s beneficial to you. And all of that is fine. More than fine, it’s necessary. After all, like my buddy Charlie is fond of saying, everybody’s got to eat and live indoors. 

    But all this pretending can be problematic because pretending allows you to ignore the true condition of your heart. As long as you say the right thing and do the right thing, you’re tempted to believe that all is well. That’s what your childhood experience taught you. But when your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble. Eventually your heart—the real you—will outpace your attempts to monitor and modify everything you say and do.

    The unresolved issues stirring around undetected in your heart will eventually work their way to the surface. Specifically, they’ll seep into your actions, your character, and your relationships. If your heart continues to go unmonitored, whatever “thing” is growing in there will worsen to the point that you’re no longer able to contain it with carefully managed words and behaviors. 

    So let me ask you again: How’s your heart?

    Slippage

    Maybe you’ve already noticed things starting to slip a bit. Maybe you’ve always been able to contain your anger, but lately there’s an edge in your voice that scares even you. And what about those occasional outbursts that slip through your normally ironclad facade?

    You know you ought to be happy for Frank on his promotion, but for some reason you’re not. The truth is, Frank represents that person from your past who bought something or won something or was given something you wanted, and now you find yourself resenting Frank for it.

    Ladies, how about your sister-in-law who wears those jeans you know better than to try and fit into. She looks great, but you aren’t about to let her know that. But why? Why does it bother you? You know it shouldn’t. So you behave like everything’s okay. But it’s not. These are merely symptoms of a deeper struggle. Your heart is under assault, and it could be that you’re losing. Primarily through neglect. After all, nobody ever told us to keep a close check on our
    hearts.

    Evidence of an internal battle are statements like:

    “I can’t believe I just said that.”

    “I don’t know where that came from.”

    “I can’t believe I did that.”

    “That’s not like me.”

    Heart Exam

    Cardiologists use a procedure called an arteriogram to diagnose the health of a patient’s heart. An arteriogram is an X-ray of the arteries taken after a dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye allows doctors to pinpoint blockage in the arteries that serve as conduits carrying blood from the heart.

    If blockage is discovered, a skilled cardiologist is able to insert a stent through an artery in the patient’s leg, navigate it up into the heart, and open up the blood vessels so that blood can again flow freely to blocked or damaged regions. It’s an amazing procedure to watch on video. You can actually see the dye making its way through the arteries and then stopping when it reaches an area that’s blocked. Even an untrained eye can spot the problem area once the dye has been injected—it’s that obvious.

    But apart from an arteriogram, a life-threatening heart problem can go undetected for years. An individual who has blockage will experience symptoms, but these symptoms may not seem to be directly associated with the heart. Arterial blockage can manifest itself through back pain, inability to sleep, anxiety, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vision change, even loss of memory.

    What were we just talking about? Oh yes.

    All of these are symptoms that can be and often are treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart. And the right medication can take the edge off most of these symptoms. The problem, of course, is that treating the symptoms masks the real culprit. Worse, it delays treatment of the problem, thus leaving the problem to worsen.

    Heart of the Matter

    Likewise, we’re tempted to treat the ancillary, symptomatic challenges that stem from an unhealthy heart while ignoring the deeper issues. But as is the case with the physical heart, eventually the root problem will become a real problem. And just as a heart attack has the potential to destroy your body, so spiritual heart disease has the potential to destroy you and squeeze the life out of your most valuable relationships.

    So for the next couple hundred pages, we’re going to do some poking around. I’m going to do my best to expose your heart to the penetrating light of God’s truth. Like the dye used in an arteriogram, truth can help us to pinpoint the blockage in our spiritual condition. Once the problem area has been identified, the solutions are usually pretty obvious. Actually, the solutions are quite simple. But first we must familiarize ourselves with the most common blockages, their causes, and their symptoms.

    In these pages I'll deal with four primary enemies of the heart—four life-blocking agents that can become lodged there for various reasons. Each has the potential to erode your relationships, your character, and even your faith. We’ll spend several chapters looking at each of these in detail. I’ll then challenge you to embrace four new habits. I often refer to these as “habits of the heart”—habits that exercise the heart and allow it to maintain the rhythm for which it was designed.

    Each of these habits specifically addresses one of four maladies that can infect your heart. Three of the four habits will probably sound familiar; the fourth one may be new to you. When applied consistently, these four disciplines will bring healing and wholeness to your heart, whatever your current condition. There’s some evidence to suggest that these habits can positively impact your physical health as well. Personally, I believe these habits have the potential to change everything.

    If this all sounds too good to be true, let me remind you of a declaration God made generations ago that’s still true and extraordinarily relevant today. He claimed that he could give a man or woman a new heart (see Ezekiel 36:26). The interesting thing is that he said this to a people who already had God’s List of Top Ten Behaviors to guide them. But clearly it wasn’t enough for them to know what to do; they needed to change from the inside out in order to follow through. Each of them needed, as we need, to drop the public persona and become one whole and healthy person.

    What we need is a heart that can keep pace with our outward obedience.

    Take Two

    If you grew up going to the kind of church I grew up in, the notion of God’s still needing to do some work in your heart may cause a bit of inner tension. Perhaps you prayed a prayer some time ago inviting Jesus to come into your heart. And like me, you may have assumed that once he was in, all was well. I mean, Jesus has made himself at home in my heart, so everything’s copasetic, right? But somewhere along the way each of us is forced to face the painful truth that all is not well. So we pray the prayer a second or third time for fear that the first one didn’t take. And yet we continue to see disturbing signs that our heart isn’t entirely new. So what’s up?

    What’s up is this: What God begins at the moment of our salvation is not completed in that same moment. I bet you already knew that about yourself, didn’t you? If you didn’t know it, I’d bet your best friend does. At the risk of oversimplifying, let me put it this way: Jesus may have moved into your heart, but he may not have been given full access. That’s why as happy as you are about being forgiven, you’re not always willing to extend forgiveness to others. That’s a heart thing. As excited as you are about the success you’re experiencing, you aren’t always excited about the success someone else is enjoying. That’s a heart thing too. Both are evidence that God has not completed in you what he has begun. You’re still a work in progress. There’s still some heart work to be done.

    One last thing before we move on. Your heart didn’t arrive at its present condition overnight. It won’t become healthy overnight either. You can’t overcome in an instant the effects of years of blockage caused by guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Adopting new habits of the heart is a process, but it’s a process that will yield some immediate results. My hope is that these immediate dividends will encourage and motivate you to continue cultivating these new habits until you arrive at a place where your Creator desires and made you to be.


    Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley Copyright © 2011 by Andy Stanley. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Andy Stanley, Heart

  • Crash the Chatterbox from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    Chatterboxing

    I wish I had a little devil on my left shoulder. I could flick him off and tell him to go to hell. Then I could fist-bump the angel sitting on my right shoulder and get on with doing all the things God has called me to do. That would change everything.

    I’d discover an unshakable confidence. It wouldn’t be borrowed from the ever-changing assessments of others. I would instinctively offer my weaknesses as a platform for God’s power instead of typecasting myself as someone God
    couldn’t use due to my endless character flaws.

    I’d be unstoppable because the devil wouldn’t be able to dominate my mind with the kinds of fears that control me a lot of the time. Then I would be able to move forward in faith without being scared of failure or rejection or the sacrifice required to obey God.

    I’d never again be paralyzed by condemnation or bullied by feelings of unworthiness. And at the end of each day I’d go to sleep in perfect peace because I’d be finishing the day with no shame, no regrets, no need to sew any fig leaves to conceal anything.

    I’d be nearly immune from discouragement, because I would stop wondering if the sky was falling every time I faced a new challenge. I’d see my biggest obstacles as my greatest opportunities…and all the other stuff you read on Starbucks cups.

    Unfortunately, there’s no devil on my shoulder.

    What’s worse, there’s no angel either.

    Instead, I’ve got this ceaseless war going on inside my heart and my head. I’m waging it every millisecond of every minute of every hour of every day—nights, holidays, and weekends too.

    The Chatterbox on Insecurity from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    I wake up every day to the crow of the chatterbox.

    Here’s a transcript of my internal dialogue from a recent morning. It’s a real-time example of the kind of chatter that can derail my day before it even gets started. Sometimes over the most ridiculous things you can imagine.

    The thoughts are flying so fast now that I can’t keep track, much less sort them out and put them where they belong. Thinking about these thoughts at all only seems to feed them. That’s why they keep overpowering me, because I keep feeding them. I know this, but it never stops me from doing it. Not this time, not ten years ago, and it won’t be any different ten years from now, I’m beginning to believe.

    This is so stupid. I’m being so stupid.

    It’s only a light bulb.

    A burned-out light bulb has turned into a mini-midmorning meltdown in my mind, and I can’t find the switch to shut it off. The meltdown, I mean, not the light bulb.

    So I’m standing in the shower, and the light bulb is out, and it’s like the sky is falling.

    As soon as I stepped into the shower, I noticed, for the third time, that the middle bulb was out over the sink on the other side of the bathroom. Now that I’m in the shower, stranded, phoneless, how am I going to put in Evernote that the light bulb is out? With my pathetic attention span, what are the chances I’ll remember to replace the light bulb after I get out?

    I definitely don’t have time to change the light bulb—I’m already going to be ten minutes late for this meeting. If there’s no traffic. I’m always running late for meetings. I’m a late person. It’s because I hit the snooze button three times every morning, because I’m spiritually apathetic. Pastor Mickey used to get up at 5 a.m. and spend two hours with God, and he said, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarce find Him throughout the day.” They should put that on a Starbucks cup too.

    Either way, God is gone for the day, and it’s not even 9 a.m. And now I’m running twelve minutes late, and the light bulb is still out.

    I’m screwed.

    And who am I kidding? Even if I had time to change the light bulb, yeah, right, like I have a clue where Holly keeps them. Now that’s really pathetic. What would people think if they found out about that one: the woman changes all the light bulbs around that house! What kind of example am I setting for my kids?

    Did I even pray with the kids last night? the night before that?

    Dunno. But I did Instagram that sunset shot with the kids at the creek last Friday. So there’s that.

    “Cock-a-doodle-do.” The chatterbox informs me that I’m fourteen minutes late…and I suck as a person.

    I’m feeding the machine, and it’s eating me alive.

    And the chatter will continue to race through my mind until I decide to downshift and put things back in perspective: Calm down, Furtick. It’s. Just. A. Light bulb.

    Just like that, if only for a split second, the chatterbox gives way. And I get on with my day.

    Unfortunately, it won’t be long until the chatterbox sounds off again. Probably next time about something much more serious than a light bulb. So much doubt, panic, raw impulse, and bogus conjecture stream through my mind. My
    soul sometimes feels like a Twitter feed where I’m following a million of the most annoying people ever, and I can’t find the Unfollow button.

    The Chatterbox on Fear from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    But God is faithful to speak too. His voice rises from the pages of His Word, which is the exact expression of His will. He speaks, not only on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary where the congregation is gathered, but also in the stillness
    of His works scattered across the night skies. His Spirit speaks with promptings that are not audible—often they are much louder than that—always in perfect harmony with the Scriptures and always resounding with perfect wisdom.

    And in every season of my life, God has sent reminders to confirm that He has perfectly designed me and totally enabled me for everything He’s called me to do. Sometimes He’ll do that through a simple picture, song, text, or conversation that rings with affirmation for days.

    Other times, at critical junctures, God has spoken dramatic words of encouragement over my life.

    A few years ago I was on a plane headed home, and I looked out the window during the descent. The sunset seemed to be painting the skyline in neon orange, illuminating the city where I had just moved to start a church. It was a glowing visual that set the scene for God to speak to my heart: This is your city. I’ve called you here to pour out your life for My cause. Be confident, because everywhere you set your foot belongs to Me, and you belong to Me, and together we’re going to take this city for My glory.

    I’m sure my translation of this conversation isn’t word perfect, because you know how tricky cross-cultural communication with God can be. Plus, I can’t find the notebook where I frantically scribbled every word of those impressions. The part I’m sure of is that I heard God encouraging me at a time when I really needed it. We were only a couple of months into getting our new church off the ground. I needed some reassurance, and God delivered.

    And it was His voice piercing through the roar of my doubts that lifted my perspective. It was just enough to keep me moving forward in faith.

    ####

    Now I’d like to ask you a few questions.

    Is it possible to be the kind of person who can be distracted to the point of utter despair by a blown light bulb and still hear God calling you to do great things as you stare down at your city through a sunset?

    Can God’s voice coexist with maniacal chatter—within the same person?

    And how can I silence the voice of the enemy when the enemy is in me? Can you relate to this contradiction?

    I used to think that someone who struggled with the kinds of weaknesses I deal with daily was useless to God. I felt so often like I was drowning in internal dialogue I couldn’t control. It had been the soundtrack of my life for as long as I could remember. I had hoped these problems would finally be fixed when I became a committed Christian. And I hoped for it again each time I experienced spiritual highs along the way in my journey of faith.

    But the beat went on.

    Yet everything changed when I began to realize God has given us the ability to choose the dialogue we believe and respond to. And once we learn how, we can switch from lies to truth as deliberately as we can choose the Beatles over Miley Cyrus on satellite radio.

    Choosing to believe this, moment by moment, and acting on it is the most important habit you will ever develop. It is the key to pressing ahead and doing God’s will anyway, even as you are bombarded with thoughts, feelings, and even facts about why you can’t do it. Why you shouldn’t do it. And why you’ll never be able to do it. Why you’re too dysfunctional, too petty, too immature, too melancholy, too impulsive…

    I’m now awakening to the reality that we can access the power of God’s promises to constantly crash the system of our broken beliefs. I’m learning how to overpower the shouts of the Enemy by bending my ear to the whisper of God’s supernatural truths about my identity in Him and His strength in me. This isn’t something I did once and now it’s over or something I can afford to do occasionally when it’s convenient. It requires constancy. It’s the only way I know to be the father, husband, leader, friend, and believer that God says I already am, the kind of person I am straining to believe I can become. Winning the war of words inside your soul means learning to defy your inner critic. But that’s easier said than done. And I think many times, as believers, we sense we are losing this war. But we don’t know what to do about it because we don’t know where to find the weapons, and we wouldn’t know where to aim them if we did.

    In other words, we feel powerless to crash the chatterbox. And now would probably be a good time to explain exactly what I mean by that.


    Excerpted from Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2014 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Steven Furtick

  • The Sun Stand Still Devotional from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    The Prayer That Stopped the Sun

    Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

    “O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
    So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.
    —Joshua 10:12–13

    Today’s Bible reading: Joshua 10:1–14

    Right here on Day 1, I’m going to throw out a challenge to you: If you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life. And further still, if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God. You should be living by audacious faith every day. Audacity is not just for “elite Christians.” It’s intended for every believer. So today we’re beginning a spiritual  journey toward trusting God for what seems impossible. I’m thrilled to think about what it’s going to do for our lives and our world.

    A story from the life of Joshua serves as our template for audacious faith.

    The Israelites unleash a surprise attack on the Amorites, and right from the beginning the battle goes well. But as the sun sinks toward the horizon, General Joshua faces a decision. The victory isn’t complete, and once it gets dark, the rest of the Amorites will slip away. Joshua sizes up the situation and delivers one of the most gloriously unorthodox prayers in the Bible. He has the audacity to ask God to make the sun stop in the sky. To freeze time on behalf of His people.

    And God gives Joshua exactly what he asked for.

    With everything in me, I believe God still desires to make the sun stand still over the life of every believer. Obviously, not in the unique way He did for Joshua, but in ways that are equally spectacular (although not always quite as dramatic), God is perfectly willing to perform the impossible in our everyday lives. If we have the audacity to ask.

    RT God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible.
    #sunstandstill

    I tried this one time.

    My wife and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, with seven other families. We set a goal of reaching over one thousand people in our first year of ministry. Since the average church size in America is fewer than ninety, I guess we were overshooting a bit. But we wanted to see God accomplish something so exponentially amazing that it would leave no doubt who deserved the credit.

    So we shamelessly asked God to exceed our wildest dreams. The story of our church is still being written. But here’s what I can tell you now. After seven years of ministry, our church has grown to more than twelve thousand people in regular attendance. Since our opening day, thousands of people have publicly professed faith in Christ.

    Sometimes when we consider the rate at which God has multiplied this ministry, we feel like we’re living in a warp-speed dream world. But the story is real. We are living in the middle of a move of God.

    Is there something that is seemingly impossible that you’d like to see God do through you? Maybe God has already been working in your spirit, planting a desire, sparking ideas about the much bigger things He wants to accomplish.

    There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today—in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities—than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible and then will step forward to act in audacious faith.

    Prayer Focus: Over the next forty days, pray for God to build audacious faith within you and to show you where He wants you to apply it.


    Excerpted from Sun Stand Still Devotional by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2013 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Joshua, Steven Furtick

  • God Alone Get's the Glory - New Album from Kutless

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Kutless kicks off 2014 with Glory, featuring the single "You Alone." Continuing their transformation from "new band" to established act that began with 2012's Believer, the album showcases the band's massive range, featuring a more mature tone and stunning performances.

    Kutless will kick off 2014 with their brand new album Glory on February 11, 2014. The album will feature “You Alone,” which is currently charting at AC Indicator and Hot AC/CHR.

    With over 1.7 million units in career sales, a RIAA Gold Certified album (Strong Tower), and a RIAA Gold Certified Longform Video (Live From Portland), Kutless continues their streak in making big impacts in the last several years. Their 2009 album It Is Well reached the top of the charts for weeks on end with their hit song “What Faith Can Do.” “What Faith Can Do” topped the 2010 MediaBase Christian AC Song of the Year and was the No. 2 Billboard Hot Christian Song of the Year. Kutless was also named the No. 7 Billboard Christian Artist of the Year, and It Is Well was the No. 10 Billboard Christian album of the Year. 2012’s Believer continued the success Kutless found with It Is Well; Believer saw the release of hit singles “Carry Me To The Cross,” “Even If,” and “Need.” The album has scanned over 100k units since its release.

    Here is their latest single, In the City.

    What do you think of the video and song?

    BONUS - lyric video for Rest.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Kutless

  • Desiring God from John Piper

    Posted on January 28, 2014 by Family Christian

    John Piper

    Foundation for Christian Hedonism
    The ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in His own affections:

    The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.

    The reason this may sound strange is that we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God’s design. And when we do ask about God’s design, we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the center of God’s affections. We may say, for example, that His design is to redeem the world. Or to save sinners. Or to restore creation. Or the like.

    But God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These He performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to Himself.

    If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in Him. But if He does in fact employ all His sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of His own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. I know this is perplexing at first glance. So I will try to take it apart a piece at a time, and then put it back together at the end of the chapter.

    God's Sovereignty: The Foundations of His Happiness and Ours

    “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). The implication of this text is that God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy. That is what it means to say that God is sovereign. Think about it for a moment: If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated.

    The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:10–11)

    And if none of His purposes can be frustrated, then He must be the happiest of all beings. This infinite, divine happiness is the fountain from which the Christian Hedonist drinks and longs to drink more deeply.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression, like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? What if God were frustrated and despondent and gloomy and dismal and discontented and dejected? Could we join David and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)?

    I don’t think so. We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor.

    Therefore if God is not a happy God, Christian Hedonism has no foundation. For the aim of the Christian Hedonist is to be happy in God, to delight in God, to cherish and enjoy His fellowship and favor. But children cannot enjoy the fellowship of their Father if He is unhappy. Therefore the foundation of Christian Hedonism is the happiness of God.

    But the foundation of the happiness of God is the sovereignty of God: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). If God were not sovereign, if the world He made were out of control, frustrating His design again and again, God would not be happy.

    Just as our joy is based on the promise that God is strong enough and wise enough to make all things work together for our good, so God’s joy is based on that same sovereign control: He makes all things work together for His glory. If so much hangs on God’s sovereignty, we should make sure the biblical basis for it is secure.

    The Biblical Basis for God's Sovereign Happiness

    The sheer fact that God is God implies that His purposes cannot be thwarted—so says the prophet Isaiah:

    “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

    The purposes of God cannot be frustrated; there is none like God. If a purpose of God came to naught, it would imply that there is a power greater than God’s. It would imply that someone could stay His hand when He designs to do a thing. But “none can stay his hand,” as the newly awakened Nebuchadnezzar says:

    His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35)

    His Sovereignty Covers Calamities
    This was also Job’s final confession after God had spoken to him out of the whirlwind: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

    This raises the question whether the evil and calamitous events in the world are also part of God’s sovereign design. Jeremiah looks over the carnage of Jerusalem after its destruction and cries:

    My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city. (Lamentations 2:11)

    But when he looked to God, he could not deny the truth:

    Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? (3:37–38)

    “Shall We Receive Good from God and Not Evil?”

    If God reigns as sovereign over the world, then the evil of the world is not outside His design: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

    This was the reverent saying of God’s servant Job when he was afflicted with boils: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). He said this even though the text says plainly that “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). Was Job wrong to attribute to God what came from Satan? No, because the inspired writer tells us immediately after Job’s words: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

    The evil Satan causes is only by the permission of God. Therefore, Job is not wrong to see it as ultimately from the hand of God. It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan (or to sinful man) the power to frustrate the designs of God.

    Who Planned the Murder of Christ?

    The clearest example that even moral evil fits into the designs of God is the crucifixion of Christ. Who would deny that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act?

    Yet in Acts 2:23, Peter says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The betrayal was sin, but it was part of God’s ordained plan. Sin did not thwart His plan or stay His hand.

    Or who would say that Herod’s contempt (Luke 23:11) or Pilate’s spineless expediency (Luke 23:24) or the Jews’ “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21) or the Gentile soldiers’ mockery (Luke 23:36)—who would say that these were not sin? Yet Luke, in Acts 4:27–28, records the prayer of the saints:

    Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

    People lift their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion is unwitting service in the wonderful designs of God. Even sin cannot frustrate the purposes of the Almighty. He Himself does not commit sin, but He has decreed that there be acts that are sin, for the acts of Pilate and Herod were predestined by God’s plan.


    Excerpted from Desiring God, 25th Anniversary Reference Edition by John Piper Copyright © 2011 by John Piper. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, John Piper, Sovereignty

  • Free Wallpaper for Your Mobile, Tablet or Computer - February

    Posted on January 28, 2014 by Family Christian

    February is that month of the year that seems to be a jumpstarter. I don't even think "jumpstarter" is a word, but for this post, we'll just say it is.

    Many of us have been trapped into an endless cycle of winter - the month of January.
    (Why does January seem like it's the longest month of the year?)
    Some of us are still digging out from the snow.
    We never knew what Polar Vortex was until now.

    Although now we are in February and it's different. We feel that winter may actually not have a hold on us like we thought. There are spots of Spring all over. Be it the fact that some of the snow has melted, or the birds seem to be singing more or we may just be seeing the sun more. Rejoice!!! Winter is losing.

    February is also a month for love. We would be amiss if we didn't mention Valentines Day and what that stands for. As followers of Jesus, Valentines Day is much more than a once-in-three-hundred-sixty-five-days type of holiday. For we have been loved well, so we are compelled to do the same to all around us. AND not just on one day, but every day.

    Let's pledge that. As we embark on some new warmer air (hopefully) let's declare that every day is Valentines Day. Love more.

    Look below for some free wallpaper to decorate your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. These are completely free to download. Just right click on the size that you need and you will be all set. To find out which size you need, click here.

    Both images are taking from our Coupon Calendars that we sell online and in our stores. Click here to find the Growth in Faith Calendar and the He Refreshes My Soul Calendar.


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    This post was posted in Art and was tagged with Featured, Wallpapers, February

  • Unstoppable from Nick Vujicic

    Posted on January 27, 2014 by Family Christian

    Nick Vujicic

    Faith in Action

    Near the end of my 2011 speaking tour in Mexico, an official with the US embassy in Mexico City called to inform me that my US work visa had been put on hold for “a national security investigation.”

    I live in the United States on that visa because I am a native of Australia. I could not return to my California home without it. Since my staff had scheduled an upcoming series of speaking engagements in the United States, this was a serious problem.

    I scrambled to the US embassy with Richie, my caregiver, early the next morning to try to figure out how my visa had anything to do with national security. When we arrived, we found the large reception area packed with people dealing with their own issues. We had to take a number, like in a bakery. The wait was so long I had a nice nap before we finally were called to meet with an official.

    When I’m nervous, I turn to humor. It doesn’t always work. “Is there a problem with my fingerprints on the visa?” I joked. The embassy person glared at me. Then he called his supervisor. (Maybe my sense of humor was posing a threat to American security?)

    The supervisor arrived, also looking quite grim. Visions of being behind bars crept into my head. “Your name has been tagged as part of an investigation,” the supervisor stated robotically. “You can’t return to the United States until this is cleared up, and that will take up to a month.” The blood drained from my body. This cannot be happening!

    Richie collapsed to the ground. At first I thought he’d fainted, but he had dropped to his knees in prayer in front of two hundred people. Yes, he’s a very caring caregiver. He raised his arms and his hands together, asking God for a miracle to get us home.

    Everything around me seemed to be in fast-forward and slow motion at the same time. As my head whirled, the embassy official added that my name probably was flagged because I travel so much around the world. Did they suspect me of being an international terrorist? An arms dealer with no arms? Honest, I hadn’t laid a hand on anyone. (See what happens when I’m nervous? Make me stop!)

    “Come on, seriously, how dangerous could I be?” I asked the embassy official. “I’m meeting with Mexico’s president and his wife at the presidential house tomorrow for a Three Kings Day party, so obviously they don’t see me as a threat.”

    The US official was not moved. “I don’t care if you’re meeting with President Obama, you aren’t reentering the United States until this investigation is completed,” he said. The situation might have been funny if my schedule hadn’t been packed with a long list of speaking engagements back in the good old US of A. I had to get home.

    I was not about to sit around and wait for someone to decide that Americans were safe with Nick in the house. I pleaded with the embassy official for several more minutes, explaining my obligations, dropping the names of important people, stressing that I had employees who counted on me and orphans who looked up to me.

    He checked with someone higher in rank on the phone. “All they can do is try to expedite the process. It will still take at least two weeks,” he said.

    I probably had a dozen appearances scheduled for those two weeks. But the embassy official was not sympathetic. All we could do at that point was return to our hotel, where I frantically began calling everyone I knew for help and prayers.

    I was tapping into the power of faith in action.

    To simply say “I believe” in something is not enough. If you want to have an impact in this world, you must put your beliefs and your faith into action. In this case I tapped into my belief in the power of prayer. I called our team at my nonprofit organization, Life Without Limbs (LWL), in California and asked them to start a prayer chain. “We’re moving up the chain of command—way up!” I told them.

    The staff at LWL made a flurry of phone calls and sent out a flood of e-mails, tweets, and text messages. Within an hour, one hundred fifty people were praying for a quick resolution to my visa challenge. I also put out calls to friends and supporters who might have influence, relatives, neighbors, or former classmates in the US State Department.

    Three hours later, someone from the embassy in Mexico called me. “I can’t believe this, but you’ve been cleared,” the official said. “The investigation is over. You can come pick up your renewed US visa tomorrow morning.”

    That, my friend, is the power of faith in action! It can move mountains, and it can move Nick out of Mexico too.

     

    Acting in Faith

    In my travels around the world, people faced with challenges ask me for my advice and my prayers. Often, they know what they need to do, but they are afraid to make a change or to take the first step by asking for help or trusting in God. You, too, may be facing challenges that have you feeling helpless, scared, stuck, paralyzed, uncertain, and unable to act. I understand. I’ve been there. When teens and young adults come to me and tell me they are being bullied, that they feel lost and alone in the world, or that they are scared because of disabilities, illness, or self-destructive thoughts, I know exactly where they are coming from.

    My physical challenges are easy to see, yet people only have to talk to me or hear me speak for a few minutes to understand how much joy I have in spite of that. So they often ask me how I stay positive and where I find the strength to overcome my disabilities. My answer, always, is, “I pray for God’s help, and then I put my faith in action.”

    I have faith. I believe in certain things that I have no tangible proof of—things I cannot see, taste, touch, smell, or hear. Most of all, I have faith in God. Though I can’t see or touch Him, I believe He created me for a purpose, and I believe that when I put my faith and my beliefs into action, I put myself in a position for God’s blessings.

    Will I always get what I want? No! But I will always get what God wants. The same is true for you. Whether you are a Christian or not, you must never think that simply believing in something is enough. You can believe in your dreams, but you have to take action to make them happen. You can believe in your talents and have faith in your abilities, but if you don’t develop them and put them to use, what good are they? You can believe that you are a good and caring person, but if you don’t treat others with goodness and care, where is the proof?

    You have a choice. You can believe or not believe. But if you believe—whatever you believe—you must act upon it. Otherwise, why believe? You may have had challenges in your career, your relationships, or your health. Maybe you have been mistreated, abused, or discriminated against. All those things that have happened to you do define you or your life if you fail to take action to define yourself. You can believe in your talents. You can believe that you have love to give. You can believe that you can overcome your illness or disability. But that belief on its own won’t bring positive change in your life.

    You must put it into action.

    If you believe you can change your life for the better or make a positive mark in your town or your state or your world, act upon those beliefs. If you think you have a great idea for starting your own business, you must invest your time, money, and talents and make that business happen. Otherwise, what good is just having the idea? If you have identified someone whom you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, why not act upon that belief? What have you got to lose?


    Excerpted from Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic Copyright © 2012 by Nick Vujicic. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Nick Vujicic, Faith

  • Lioness Arising from Lisa Bevere

    Posted on January 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Lisa Bevere

    Awaken a Lioness
    Nature is made to conspire with spirit to emancipate us. —RALPH WALDO EMERSON

    The year was 1994, and it was a night like any other in that season of my life. I had tumbled into bed later than I should have after a desperate attempt at putting my house in order. As a pregnant mother of three sons, I slept deeply in those days. I would shut my eyes and fall right to sleep, only to be roused by the sound of an alarm, children, or late-morning sunlight streaming into my room. But this night I fell asleep and woke at dawn, shaken to my core.

    In the predawn hours I’d experienced a vivid and unusual dream. Actually, to call it a dream makes it sound as though it came to me in the form of sleep or shadow; this imagery did not. I dream regularly, but not at this level of intensity. In my world of sleep, I found myself vibrantly awake. Before me was a scene set in another place and time. I sensed I no longer walked the pathways of earth. I stood in some heavenly realm, a place of illumination, without glare.

    Radiant light was everywhere and appeared to come from everything. There was no mist or shadow, only glorious color. These saturated hues of living color were comprised of shades so concentrated that I am without earthly reference to name them. The pigments were layered and multidimensional. For some reason I best remember the tones of purple (but not quite our purple) and blue (yet unlike ours). There were no edges, sides, or upper border, yet the backdrop of color enwrapped what it showcased—an elevated platform of flawless, cream-colored stone, and on this platform reclined a golden lioness.
    She was feline perfection—majestic, powerful, and richly textured. She didn’t move, but there was no doubt in my mind that she was alive—far more alive than any earthbound animal I’d seen in motion. Her head was erect but not tense, and her forelegs stretched out in front of her. Her fur and eyes gleamed golden. Beneath her flawless, tawny coat, I could see every curve of her perfectly formed muscles. This stunning, still lioness was far more substantial, vivid, and vibrant than any of the lionesses that now walk our earth. I couldn’t help thinking I beheld a heavenly prototype. Etched on the front of the flawless pillar platform were both a word and a roman numeral: Numbers XXIII.

    In contrast with this lioness, my form felt transparent, insignificant, and strangely out of place. I felt detached from my body and unaware of being pregnant. I knew I was there to behold and see, to keenly observe—and in doing so, to learn something unrealized. I sensed an urgency to grasp the weight of the imagery. Even though I was alone with a lioness, I felt no alarm or threat. I felt only wide-eyed wonder, as though by seeing, my spirit was being enlarged and connected. I absorbed all I could of what was around me. My focus shifted, and I looked into the eyes of the lioness.

    As I did, I heard a voice somewhere behind me announce: With the birth of this son,you will awaken a lioness.
    In a blur of golden light, majesty, and wonder, it was over. The next thing I knew, it was morning, and I was fully awake. All my senses were in a state of high alert, not out of fear as much as out of shock. What had I just witnessed? As time has passed, I have come to believe our earth is the time tethered, shadowed form or partial revelation of what is original, timeless, and whole in heaven.

    RISE UP LIKE A LIONESS
    As I lay in the gray of dawn, wide awake, heart racing, and body trembling, I sensed God had sent me this vision of a lioness to reveal something I would have easily missed in the day-to-day. He had my full attention. I was listening with every sense engaged. My room seemed faded and hollow, a stark contrast to the world of color I’d just left. The morning sounds of earth were muffled compared to the clarion voice in the otherworldly place. I paused, afraid to move and lose the last remnants of the vision. I closed my eyes. Yes, it was all there—the lioness, the platform, the inscription, the backdrop, and the voice.

    Time passed, my heart slowed, my body calmed, and I opened my eyes. Curious about the inscription on the front of the platform, I reached out and drew my Bible into bed with me. I wondered, was there a connection with a literal chapter or verse? If so, what did Numbers 23 hold? As I flipped through the pages, my heart sank when I noted the translator’s heading and discovered the passage was an oracle of Balaam. I knew he was an accurate, but dishonorable, prophet. I read on, not sensing much of anything until I came to verse 19.

    “God is not a man, so he does not lie.
    He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
    Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
    Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
    Listen, I received a command to bless;
    God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!
    No misfortune is in his plan for Jacob;
    no trouble is in store for Israel.
    For the LORD their God is with them;
    he has been proclaimed their king.
    God brought them out of Egypt;
    for them he is as strong as a wild ox.
    No curse can touch Jacob;
    no magic has any power against Israel.
    For now it will be said of Jacob,
    “What wonders God has done for Israel!” (Numbers 23:19–23, NLT)

    These words contain so much about the faithfulness of God. His promises are sure and certain, and his blessings are irreversible. Because of God’s faithfulness, Israel had a future secure and free from the tainted and twisted effects of witchcraft or curses. All this was reassuring, but the next verse was riveting.

    These people rise up like a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself. They refuse to rest until they have feasted on prey, drinking the blood of the slaughtered! (Numbers 23:24, NLT)

    Trembling, I reread the fierce words printed on the fragile page: rise up
    like a lioness, like a majestic lion rousing itself. The raw imagery hit me. I could
    see it: a lion and his lioness, rising up out of the grass. As they rose, the dynamics of the plain changed from peaceful to electric. Every living creature sensed the lions’ change of posture and watched attentively. The golden ones were awake, stretching, testing the air, surveying their domain, ready to make their move. Perhaps they were hungry. Maybe they were agitated by the presence of an enemy who had violated the marked boundaries of their territory, and it was time to make their presence known.

    Once they were up, tensions would be high until their movements ceased. If the lions were restless, there’d be no rest for the other creatures until the lions had fought or feasted, then resettled. With their rising, I sensed a stirring of their strength in my spirit as well. Who isn’t awed and captivated when a lion or lioness rises and moves out from its resting place? It is a wonder to behold. But what was this to me? How could I possibly be connected to any of this wild, golden might? While the imagery thrilled me, it also repelled me. I liked the idea of lionesses napping in the sun as their young frolicked, but images of the hunt and kill frightened and even disgusted me. When I watched National Geographic or Wild Kingdom, I averted my eyes as the big cats took down impalas and zebras. As these thoughts flashed through my mind, I recalled the words of the night vision: “With the birth of this son, you will awaken a lioness.” What could this mean? I saw no connection between the powerful, fearless lioness and the large, pregnant woman who lay in my bed. To say I was a lioness was laughable. I was a tofu-eating, borderline vegan, not a bloodthirsty predator. I was terrified by almost everything outside my control and intimidated by the majority of the people I met. I found strong, dominant women especially frightening.

    My pregnancy had been somewhat of a reprieve. In an impassioned moment of prayer a few months before my son’s conception, I’d laid aside all my protests and told God, “Okay, okay! I’m yours. Have your way in my life! I’ll do anything you want. I’ll even talk to women if you want me to.” Though at the time I had no idea what I might say. When I became pregnant, I figured all bets were off. I imagined the commission and my compliance had been a test of sorts—like Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. Perhaps I’d get bonus points for being willing and I’d never have to follow through on my pledge. But with this vision, it appeared my pre-pregnancy deal still stood. And what was this about a son?

    Throughout my pregnancy I’d assumed I was carrying a daughter. Everyone I came in contact with told me I was having a girl. No one had mentioned the possibility of a boy. I was the only one who harbored the secret hope for another son. I shook my head in disbelief. If any of this was true and I was about to morph into a lioness of sorts, then surely someone else would see this impending transformation as well. This vision was going to require some serious secondary confirmation.

    LOOKING FOR AFFIRMATION
    A few weeks passed, and a woman evangelist I had immense respect for came into town. Here was my chance! She’d invited another pregnant friend and me to join her for lunch. My friend was an exceptional businesswoman who’d experienced a radical conversion and was shaking her region of Asia with the gospel. Perhaps the lioness vision was for her…I decided to casually bring up the idea over lunch and watch her reaction.

    Our lunch date fell on a gorgeous, sunny day in Winter Park, Florida. After the three of us roamed the streets for a while, I finally plopped my pregnant self down for lunch and wondered how I could introduce the lioness into our girlfriend-shopping conversation. Later as we ate, my opening came. My friend told us she was expecting a girl, and the evangelist said she was excited about the prospect of me having a daughter as well. “But what if it’s another boy?” I asked. She was aghast that I would even raise such a possibility. After all, she reasoned, I had three sons, and John needed a girl to dote on. Right then I decided to relay the story of the lioness and the proclamation of a son. I’m not certain what I said made sense. Actually, I know it didn’t. After all, I was far from convinced myself. I knew the vision was real, but in my nervousness I still discounted my connection with the lioness imagery. I kept talking, trying to process my encounter, but how could I expect them to understand when I was confused? My ramblings reflected on their concerned faces. Realizing I had hit an impasse, I stopped abruptly. There was a long pause in the awkward aftermath as the minister looked doubtfully at me and then asked, “When is your baby due?” “October tenth,” I answered sheepishly, relieved to say something that made sense. Leaning back, she shook her head and said with confidence, “No, no, you could not possibly be a lioness by then.”

    I wanted to yell, “I agree!” but feeling slightly ridiculous, I merely nodded. On one level I felt relief and on the other slightly annoyed, definitely embarrassed, and possibly insulted. What did she mean I couldn’t be a lioness by then? It was only springtime, and October was more than five months away! After all, how long could this lioness transformation take? Why had I shared my vision anyway? I should have waited until I found out if I was carrying a son. She sensed my confusion and explained, “There is still too much stuff in you that God needs to work out…You will not be free by October.”

    Well, there you go. Even though I didn’t like the woman’s bluntness, I agreed with her assessment. Slowly the conversation returned to its previously normal rhythm as I closed my mouth and allowed my thoughts to turn inward. She had only voiced what she saw obviously reflected in me. I was plagued by doubt and insecurity on many levels. Even my husband, John, was constantly saying to me, “It must be so hard to live in your mind, Lisa, with so many worries and fears crowding in on you.” He was right. And it was getting harder and harder all the time. I was tired of being a long term restoration project.

    NO MORE EXCUSES
    For years I’d been making excuses for myself. I was a cancer survivor and a stay-at-home mom with a dysfunctional past, who just wanted to survive her preschool children. Was it possible that God thought I was destined for more? Was something powerful and slightly fierce waiting to be awakened inside me? Maybe I’d wear courage well. After all, hadn’t I been adventurous when I was young? There was a time when my dream job ideas ranged between assassin and astronaut.

    Yes, I wanted to recover some of the strength I’d forfeited while trying to fit in as a pastor’s wife and a nice Christian woman. I was ready to stretch a bit and rise up in strength and beauty. I was tired of being thought of as weak and whiny. I was tired of revisiting the pain of my past. I was up for a challenge. I loved that my husband was passionate and strong, but I was tired of hiding behind him. Tired of wearying my mind with so many things that didn’t matter. Tired of pretending. Maybe the vision of a lioness was just what I needed! Rather than nice and safe, I was ready to be seen as slightly fierce and definitely focused.

    I drove home after lunch that day, gripping the steering wheel more tightly than necessary. I was willing to try on this lioness vibe in the relative safety of my Honda Civic. I rolled down the windows and bounced to the latest in contemporary Christian music, and I let the wind rather than the air conditioning shake my “mane.” It all seems a bit silly now (especially since lionesses don’t have manes). Through my cat-shaped Ray-Ban lenses, I saw my frizzy, highlighted hair in the side-view mirror…Wait, do I see wild lioness gold in those tresses? Not ready by October? Ha! I’ll show you! I’m a lioness! Somehow through the combination of my lunch faux pas, my friend’s blunt assessment, and a series of other unrelated events, an interesting transformation began to take shape. It was as though a gauntlet had been thrown down and a challenge had been issued. With the birth of my son Arden Christopher (his name means “fiery, determined, anointed one”), something within me shifted. Even though another child meant more of a mother load, I became a focused daughter. You see, like many other mothers, my God-connected self had been strained. I was almost at the point of drowning in my day-to-day life. I was so caught up with my ever-expanding and increasingly demanding to-do list, I’d forgotten who I was. I was full of self-doubt. My life was small, self-centered, isolated, petty, safe, and ineffective. I remembered my name, whom I was married to, and who my kids were, but what I did and who I was responsible for overshadowed my sense of being God’s daughter.

    As I paused, God began to whisper strength to me and to call me by another name. To everyone else I had a name that was attached to a job description. I was mother to my children, wife to my husband, pastor’s wife to the congregation, but to God Most High I was simply daughter. As I focused on just being his and what all that meant, life and strength flowed into my days, and rest entered my soul. My heart enlarged. After Arden’s birth, I began to step out of the shadow of my insecurities, fears, comfort zone, and failures and began to reach out to others. I wrote my first book, Out of Control and Loving It!, while nursing Arden. Writing this book opened up another world to me.

    Suddenly I was out speaking to women across our nation who were hungry for authenticity. In response to their hurt and hunger and the glaring need for healthy female connections, I wrote more books. Time passed, we moved from our home in sunny, hot, and humid Florida to another home in sunny, cold, and dry Colorado. The move to Colorado drew our family indoors and around the table more. It also positioned us to weather many transitions. A few times over the next decade (almost too few to note), I was singled out or called a lioness. I would just smile, content that I was no longer a frightened, timid, domestic cat. I imagined the lioness story was over and my personal transformation almost complete. But I was wrong.

    IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU, LISA
    In the fall of 2007, the lioness visited me again. I was one of many women ministering at a women’s conference in the stunning land of New Zealand. This event was so well attended that the host church had to do two back-to back conferences to accommodate all the women.

    The first conference was held at the church, and the second was held in an Auckland arena. We had finished conference number one and were at the arena for conference number two. The sessions had begun. The ministers were able, compassionate, faithful stewards of the Word. But for some unknown reason, I felt troubled during the afternoon break. It wasn’t that I felt pressured to prepare—I would be duplicating what I had said in the first conference. Still, I felt an urgency to pray before my session. It was as though there was some sort of resistance. I knew it was not from the attendees, who had chosen to be there, nor from any of the speakers or the host church. We were all of one heart and had come ready to worship, preach, and encourage the women. But there was something else in the mix. Perhaps God was trying to get my attention. I had to get alone and sort my way through it, so I headed off to my hotel room, which overlooked the Auckland harbor. I paced my room, stretching my arms out toward the harbor, praying for God’s direction and insight and singing along with the music on my iPod, “Shout unto God with a voice of triumph.” To position my heart, I began to thank God for various things he was doing in my life. I had just completed the final edits on my Nurture manuscript and began to thank God that the writing and editing process was over. For me, writing a book is like going through labor, so my prayer went something like, Thank you, God. It is finished! I exalted, I don’t want to write again anytime soon! Suddenly I sensed God speak to my spirit. I am sorry you feel that way…because I need you to write again. What? God needed me?

    He went on. I am releasing strategies from heaven. They will be found in my Word. You will not have all of these strategies by any means, but you will have a measure of them. You must write and record what I speak to you so that when my daughters gather, there will be a whole picture. If you do not bring your piece of the puzzle, the picture will not be complete.

    Suddenly the lioness was again before me. As I beheld her in all her strength and fierce beauty, I heard the Voice say, I said with the birth of your son, you would awaken a lioness. I did not say you were the lioness.
    Immediately I saw how limited, silly, and human my perspective had been. The Voice went on to say, Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and it is time his bride awakens a lioness. Study the ways and aspects of the lioness. Then I heard the first strategy: Lionesses hunt together.

    I was taken aback. Was what I was hearing even scriptural? What could all this mean? Women were beginning to get used to the idea that there is power in femininity and value in their capacity to nurture. Now God was telling me to call them lionesses? How did this fit in? I wondered, Could it be God wants to awaken something fierce and wildwithin his women?

    Numbers 23 came before me once again, and I saw in it a charge for Christian women to rise up. Right then and there I set my heart to study the lioness and to search out the parallels for God’s daughters. I’ve spent the last two years researching, observing, and writing about lionesses. Initially I thought of making connections between women and lionesses only on a literary level—without sharing the vision God gave me—but as time passed, I realized this vision was not meant to remain mine alone. I was not shown the lioness because I am favored or special. Nor did I experience this imagery because I am highly visionary. I was shown this because God knew one day I’d be someone with a voice.

    Time and time again as I have spoken the phrase “you will awaken a lioness,” I have literally seen it impact women. Sometimes they respond with quiet tears as something within them is watered. At other times they gasp as though they’ve breathed in the revelation and realized it is okay to be beautiful and fierce. I believe the response has been so overwhelmingly positive because, just as there is a lamb of sorts hidden within, there is also a lioness within every one of God’s daughters. And it is time she awakens.

    When I think of a lioness, a smile plays along my mouth. I throw back my shoulders and stand a bit straighter. More than any other creature, the lioness makes me proud to be a female. There is no doubting her strength. I also imagine there is no creature that makes a man prouder to be a male than the lion. The lion is the king of the jungle, and there is no question about who is the queen.

    LOOK…AND LEARN
    This isn’t the first time God has pointed us back to the simplicity of creation to restore our perspective. Jesus admonishes us to consider the flowers and to learn from them that God will clothe and care for us (see Matthew 6:28; Luke 12:27). Likewise, the heavenly realms declare God’s glory and make an open show of his righteousness (see Psalm 19:1; Psalm 50:6). The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples see His glory. (Psalm 97:6, NKJV)

    The wild, fierce beauty of creation is but a window that offers a glimpse of the God who created us. We need to throw open this window and allow God’s untamed, limitless beauty to awaken a heavenly awe within us. As we open our eyes to the wonder of creation, it arouses a God-yearning. Our spirit will respond to what it sees. Creation declares, “There is more! More than what you see. More than what you hear. More than mere human mortality. There is the Immortal God who is seated on high.”

    Jesus our Christ came as the Lamb slain before the foundations of the earth, but the book of Revelation also reveals him as a Lion: But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory. He is worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5, NLT)
    He is both our Lion and our Lamb. I wonder, could there be a combination of two more contrasting images? The Message version says this lion of Judah “can rip through the seven seals.” John, the author of Revelation, wept because after a search of all of heaven, earth, and even the underworld, not one was found worthy to tear open the seven seals and begin the progressive reveal. Then the elder nearest John encouraged him to look, for there was a revelation of a Lion in our Lamb. He alone is worthy and initiates this work of unsealing. A rip or tear is a violent release. I am immediately reminded of the thick curtain of separation in the temple as it was ripped or rent in two (see Mark 15:38).

    The tear began at the highest place and ended at the lowest. I love this, for our God is always tearing asunder that which would hinder or separate any of us from all of him. In the divinely mysterious book of Revelation, this act of unsealing the scrolls of heaven sets things in motion on earth. Even now I sense God longing to unseal and reveal a portion of Himself to and in every one of us. If not, why would he have written this dramatic end of our earth story if it did not contain a revelation for each of us? I believe we are invited again not to despair or to weep but to lift up our eyes, look, and truly see.

    Our earth echoes the revelations and wisdom of heaven. How amazing that our heavenly Father designed his creation to open our hearts. Each plant, animal, element, and landscape says, “Arise and be all you were created to be.” According to Job, nature has the potential to teach us. God sets out the entire creation as a science classroom, using birds and beasts to teach wisdom. (Job 35:11) The wonder of God’s love and the extent to which he will go to impart his wisdom to us is almost too vast to grasp. But we should not be surprised by this. He is, after all, the Creator, who declares:

    Every creature in the forest is mine,
    the wild animals on all the mountains.
    I know every mountain bird by name;
    the scampering field mice are my friends.
    If I get hungry, do you think I’d tell you?
    All creation and its bounty are mine. (Psalm 50:10–12)

    We isolate ourselves from the creatures of the earth, but God knows them by name. Do we imagine that he cares nothing for his creation? He fashioned creation for himself. Nature has much to reveal about its Creator, if we will but listen to it. In Proverbs we are charged, “You lazy fool, look at an ant. Watch it closely; let it teach you a thing or two” (6:6). I believe God is asking us to do something similar now. He is asking us to look at the lioness and to learn. He invites us: Daughters, look at the lioness. Watch her closely. Let her awaken your untamed nature, your fierce beauty, and your unbridled strength so you can rise up and be the courageous women I have called you to be.
    How does a lioness reveal strength and courage in women? And how can women rise up like the lioness? Each of us will have our unique response, but this glimpse of lioness characteristics may give you insight. In the following chapters, we’ll look at several reasons a lioness arises from her leisurely repose in the African sun:

    She rises to gather strength.
    She rises to greet and groom others.
    She rises to hunt.
    She rises alongside other lionesses.
    She rises to move the young to safety.
    She rises to confront enemies that threaten the pride.
    She rises to walk with her king.

    I have come to see the lioness as a picture of how every daughter of the Most High can embrace her strength, develop courage, and effect change in her world. Is there a lioness hidden within you? It is my prayer that by the time you finish this book, you’ll have your answer, and with that answer something fierce, beautiful, and wild will be awakened in you.


    Excerpted from Lioness Arising by Lisa Bevere Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Bevere. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Numbers, Lisa Bevere

  • The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages from Shaunti Feldhahn

    Posted on January 23, 2014 by Family Christian

    Shaunti Feldhahn

    How a Handful of High-Leverage Secrets Unlocks Delight in Your Marriage

    The very first e-mail I received after the release of For Women Only came from an anonymous woman. I’ll never forget her note. It was just one line:

    I got a divorce five years ago, and now I know why. I read it and gasped. I knew the book revealed some surprising insights about men that most women just didn’t get. I had been continuously shocked myself during my years of research!

    But her e-mail brought home the importance of this knowledge in a whole new way.

    That was nearly ten years ago. Since then, my husband, Jeff, and I have researched and written For Men Only and other books. We have spoken at hundreds of conferences, seminars, churches, simulcasts, and stadium events. And during that time, literally thousands of men and women have come up to us at the book table or stopped us in a hallway. With a stunned look in their eyes, they say things like “I wish I had known this before I got married!” or “This book saved our marriage” or even “I’m going to cancel the divorce filing on Wednesday.”

    I’m not making this up.

    Trust me, they’re not talking about any special wisdom that Jeff or I have conjured up. They’re talking about a before-and-after experience. What they mean is “I used to be clueless about what my spouse needed, and I didn’t realize it.” What they mean is “Knowing now what I totally missed before—about my spouse’s inner fears and needs and desires—changes everything.”

    And they are right.

    I started calling these breakthroughs of sudden insight “light bulb on!” moments. They land in your relationship like a bright orange marker. Before, you thought and acted one way. After, you think and act differently. You suddenly see what you didn’t before. How you do a relationship—how you feel about it, what you expect, and what you get from it—changes. Light bulb on! This book on highly happy marriages is packed with moments like that.

    Without a doubt, the dream of a happy marriage is one of the most consistent longings of the human heart. Most of us deeply want to experience an abundant, delightful, lifelong companionship that we can thank God for every day. Forget the bleak statistics we’ve seen, forget the bad rap that committed, lifelong marriage gets in the media—we want to marry our best friend, then enjoy our spouse and enjoy being married. And many people do!

    But I’ve also noticed that many others feel stuck in a rut and don’t know how to get out of it. Some not-yet-married couples aren’t sure they can navigate the transition to a lifetime commitment—or whether the dream of a forever marriage is even realistic.

    And many married couples—especially in times of heartache—harbor secret doubts about whether a great marriage is possible for them. Some have stopped hoping for better.

    Instead of highly happy, they’ve settled for sometimes happy or even mostly mediocre.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way. You’d be surprised what a few sudden flashes of insight can do for a couple. Let me show you what I mean.

    Why Do Some Marriages Turn…Good?

    You may have noticed that many marriage books and efforts at relationship improvement try to increase a couple’s happiness by digging into key relationship problems. Essentially, they’re asking things like, “What’s the underlying reason for this particular problem?” Or, bigger picture: “Why do marriages turn bad?” Identify the reason, identify the problem—and fix it. Indeed, this is great because all of us need that sort of help sometimes.

    For this book, though, I aimed my research in a different direction. I wanted to know: Why do marriages turn good? If a so-so union became delightful, I wanted to know what made the difference. Millions of couples truly enjoy each other in strong, rewarding relationships. What do they do right, and what can we learn from them that would make our relationships just as strong and rewarding?

    It makes a lot of sense to study the winners. Aspiring athletes who want to improve how they throw a ball, swing a racket, or twist gracefully in the air to land at just the right angle on the ice spend hours studying those who do it best. Psychologists, change management experts, and counselors have consistently found that in any endeavor of life, if we want to change, improve, or be inspired, we have to study what some call the bright spots, not just the problems. After all, if you want to be more like Jesus, you don’t spend the bulk of your time studying the Pharisees, His religious-leader opponents, in order to figure out how to not be like them. You study Jesus.


    Excerpted from The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages by Shaunti Feldhahn Copyright © 2013 by Shaunti Feldhahn. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Marriage, Shaunti Feldhahn

  • Greater from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 22, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    Steve and Me

    I used to want to do great things for God. That was before I found something greater.

    My mom says she’ll always remember that she was sitting in a social studies class when the loudspeaker beeped and crackled and someone announced that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. All the kids would be going home for the day.

    I wonder if I’ll always remember that my two sons and I had just shared kung pao shrimp at P.F. Chang’s when I stopped in my tracks on the way out the door. I had to make sure I had correctly read the words that were scrolling across every television within sight:

    Apple founder Steve Jobs—dead at 56.

    I can’t explain why, but my hands were shaky and sweaty as I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to verify.

    One of the first things I saw was a statement from President Obama. He said that Steve Jobs “was among the greatest of American innovators.” That “he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.”

    Then I looked at my Twitter time line to see what the rest of the world was saying about Jobs. Everybody seemed to be weighing in. The outpouring was overwhelming.

    “R.I.P. Steve Jobs. You led the world into the 21st century.”

    “R.I.P. Steve Jobs. You improved life as we know it.”

    “Steve Jobs—On behalf of every dreamer sitting in his or her garage who is crazy enough to try to change the world, you will be missed.”

    I suddenly felt the urge to tweet my own thoughts about his passing. But it felt melodramatic for me to share some deep thought about a person I’d never met. Still, he was the greatest business leader of my lifetime. So I fired off a three-word tweet:

    Steven Furtick @stevenfurtick 5 Oct
    “What a life.”

    My next thoughts made my stomach hurt. Or was it the kung pao? Either way, I got downright introspective. I was wrestling with a tension:

    Steve Jobs was a great man. He changed the world through technology.

    I’m a pastor. I have a mission to change the world through the gospel.

    But am I really achieving that mission? I’m doing well by some standards, I guess.

    I love Jesus. I have integrity. I love my family.

    But still…

    I’m not redefining an industry. I’m not accomplishing one of the greatest feats in human history. So what am I really doing? That matters? That will matter?

    That will set my life apart?

    In short, I was processing the nauseating feeling that, when I stack it all up, I don’t feel like I’m anything close to being the great man of God I want to be. Some days, actually, I feel like I sort of suck as a Christian. I didn’t tweet any of that. But I couldn’t stop thinking it.

    I’m guessing you’ve had thoughts like that too. I’m not saying you want to be the next Steve Jobs or build your own technology empire. But I think we all have these honest moments when we’re gripped by a desire to feel that what we’re doing matters more. That who we are matters more. A few hours later, after I tucked my boys into bed and prayed for them, I sat on my bed and opened my MacBook.

    For some reason I felt compelled to pull up a certain Bible verse. It’s one of the most staggering statements Jesus ever made.

    I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    I’d read that verse so many times. But I had a new context for it.

    And it sliced me with the edge of fresh challenge. Greater things than Jesus, the greatest man who ever lived? What does that even mean? How can we do greater things than Jesus?

    Does it mean that we’re able to do more powerful miracles than Jesus? Have a bigger impact than Jesus? I don’t think so. After all, I don’t know many people who have walked on water, multiplied fish and loaves to feed thousands, opened the eyes of the blind, or given salvation to the world.

    If you’re looking to be greater than Jesus, put down your crack pipe, my friend. That’s not happening.

    By leaving and then sending His Spirit to dwell inside His followers—ordinary people like you and me—Jesus released a greater power for us to do extraordinary things on an extraordinary scale. The kinds of things the early church saw and did.

    The kinds of things He still wants to do today through us. Jesus isn’t calling us to be greater than He is.

    He’s calling us to be greater with Him through His Spirit within us.

    Meant for More

    As I tried to process the brain-bending implications of that claim, I thought through some conversations I’d had recently with people who were feeling disappointed and stuck in their relationship with God and their place in life.

    I’m meeting more and more believers who are unsatisfied with the kind of Christians they’re becoming and the version of the Christian life they’re experiencing. These aren’t bad people. They aren’t gangbangers and ungodly pagans. If they were, their discontent would make more sense.

    The thing is, most believers aren’t in imminent danger of ruining their lives. They’re facing a danger that’s far greater: wasting them.

    These are some of the very people Jesus talked about in John 14:12. People who are supposed to be doing greater works than—forget about Steve Jobs—Jesus Christ Himself.

    Yet it’s not happening. For most of us, the experience of our daily lives is a far cry from the greater works Jesus talked about in John 14:12. Or even the achievements of a luminary like Steve Jobs.

    We’ve had some big dreams about what God might want for our lives. But so many of us are stuck in the starting blocks. Or are dragging along at the back of the pack.

    We know we were meant for more. Yet we end up settling for less.

    We’re frustrated about where we are. But we’re confused about how to move forward.

    I wonder if you can relate.

    What a life…


    Excerpted from Greater by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2012 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, John, Steven Furtick

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