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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Girls with Swords from Lisa Bevere

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Family Christian

    Lisa

    You Are a Target

    Christianity is a battle, not a dream.
    —Wendell Phillips

    In a world already overrun by violence, you may wonder why I would suggest that women of all ages take up arms and join the fight. As you turn these pages, I hope you will discover the many reasons why there is no neutral territory. We do not live by the violence of a sword, but the time has come to live by the power of one.

    The first reason you need a sword is that, whether you realize it or not, you are part of an epic battle, and God does not want his daughters unarmed or caught unaware.

    The poignant need for addressing these issues head-on was brought home in an unexpected way. It was early June in the summer of 2010, and I had just returned home from traveling and speaking in five different countries in the short span of four weeks. Mind you, these were not nations clustered together, so traveling meant crossing date lines, exchanging night for day, and bouncing between the northern and southern hemispheres.

    Overcome by a persistent strain of jet lag, I was wandering a bit dazed through my second evening home when I realized I was alone with my youngest son, Arden. As I approached him, he patted the sofa and invited me to join him in watching a movie. Thrilled to have a chance to perhaps cuddle with my son, I settled myself in as close as possible and asked, “What are we watching?”

    “The Terminator,” he answered.

    Okay, before you react, stay with me. I am not endorsing the movie, nor am I suggesting that you watch it. I saw an edited TV version, and even then it was eighties awful! But amid the ridiculous hair, disjointed music, and bad acting, I found something valuable I want to share here, because it perfectly sets up the why behind the journey of this book. In case you’re not familiar with The Terminator, allow me to paint a vastly shortened version of the movie for you. It is the story of Sarah Connor, a moped-riding waitress who is living a boring, mundane life in the hope that one day love will find her. Every twenty-four hours plays out pretty much the same. By day she serves pie and coffee; by night she hopes that one of her blind dates will turn into Prince Charming. By day she works, and by night she waits.

    This predictable 1980s pattern is radically interrupted when a robotic assassin from her future shows up. Our hero, Sarah, first learns she might be at risk when she is taking a break at work and realizes a number of women who share her full name have turned up dead.

    Apparently the terminator, a.k.a. Arnold Schwarzenegger—actor, former governor of California, and ex-husband of Maria Shriver—has time traveled, and anyone bearing the name Sarah Connor is his target.

    There seems to be no way this cyborg assassin can possibly fail. Not only does he possess the strength and processing capabilities of a robot; he also is loaded down with the latest in automatic weapons. In addition to all this technology, he has in his possession what would have been the height of eighties data, a sheet torn from the white pages, which supplies him with the phone number and address of all the Sarah
    Connors who reside in his target area. As the futuristic terminator systematically works his way down the list of Sarahs, our heroine becomes a bit concerned.

    After work she returns to the apartment she shares with a friend only to learn via an answering machine that yet another blind date has canceled, so Sarah heads out to a club. That way, if the threat is real, she will be able to hide in a crowd. It isn’t long until the terminator is on her trail, and after a brief visit to her apartment, Arnold shows up at the club with guns blazing and begins wreaking mayhem. Chaos, bloodshed, and screaming displace bad dance moves as everyone scrambles to escape. But wait, there is yet another player in this dark drama.

    You see, at the same time as her assassin from the future shows up, her protector from the future makes his presence known while extending Sarah this compelling invitation: “Come with me if you wanna live.” With the choice so obvious, it doesn’t take Sarah long to decide: she wants to live. Sarah runs from the bar, jumps in a car with a total stranger, and the two of them try to escape. But the terminator assassin
    is relentless. A high-speed chase ensues. Bullets shatter the car windows and frazzle Sarah’s nerves. No matter where they go or what they do, they just can’t seem to shake her futuristic assailant.

    This mild-mannered waitress and wannabe girlfriend has no idea why this epic battle rages around her. As bullets fly and cars crash, her protector begins to tell her who she is. He explains that in the future she is a legend and that an entire army wages war equipped with the foresight and strategies she recorded and passed on to her son. In the future she is part of a heroic fight against the enemy of all humanity.

    Sarah just can’t buy that she is a player in this absurd story and is confident there has been a case of mistaken identity. There is no reason for her to be viewed as a threat in the present or the future! In an attempt to bring clarity and some sanity, Sarah counters the claim of her protector from the future. She isn’t a hero…she is just a waitress! She doesn’t even have a boyfriend, so certainly there’s no son! This nightmare is all a grave mistake; she’s been confused with someone else!

    But her guardian insists that she is, in fact, Sarah Connor the hero and that his mission is to equip and protect her. Understandingly overwhelmed and suddenly undone, Sarah yells out, “I didn’t do anything!”

    To which her future guardian counters, “No, but you will!”

    At that moment, sitting with my son on the couch, I was arrested.

    This line from decades past, “No, but you will!” crashed into my present with the realization that our enemy often knows who we are before we discover who we are. And it is high time we each realize the two things Sarah learned that night.
    Lovely One,
    1. You are a target.
    2. You might be a hero.
    I say might be, because the choice is ultimately yours.


    Excerpted from Girls with Swords by Lisa Bevere Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Bevere. 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.

  • The Holy Land Key from Ray Bentley

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Family Christian

    Ray

    These Are the People the Prophets Saw

    The Holy Land Key is not a book that renews familiar debates over a prophetic time line or argues for or against a particular interpretation of John’s Revelation. We will not try to narrow down the most likely candidates for the Antichrist. It is important to read prophecy carefully, to handle its interpretation with great care, and to anchor all our conclusions in God’s Word, but we also want to explore some new territories in Scripture that have prophetic
    significance.

    In the chapters that follow, we will look at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective. We also will study what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations. We will look at the testimony of history, we will study the Jewish calendar and the biblical feasts, and we will even find startling insights based on research done by NASA on blood moons. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that we are without excuse if we fail to see God and His character in the signs that are clear in His creation. God has left signs for us in more places than we can imagine. It would be a mistake to ignore any of them.

    God’s Covenant with His Chosen People

    One of the clearest and most enduring signs is God’s unbroken relationship with the Jewish people. The people living today in the Holy Land are the people the ancient prophets saw in the end times. They are the descendants of Jesus’s family and of His disciples. They are living evidence of God’s plan to gather His people back to Israel after two thousand years of exile.

    Israel is a witness to the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that when we look at Israel, we are looking into the eyes of God. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. We will explore this further in the chapters that follow. We also will look at patterns throughout history that open our eyes to what the very near future holds. Some of the patterns that most clearly reveal God’s plans as well as His heart are found in the Hebrew calendar and the timing of the feasts of the Lord listed in Scripture. The significance of these Jewish holidays is far greater today than was the original purpose of each feast.

    Further, it has been revealed that the timing of the feasts—right down to the specific dates—coincides with repeated cycles of astronomical events and patterns. The full meaning of this correlation remains to be seen, but it is significant that God confirms the testimony of history, of the Scriptures, of religious observance, and of the signs He has put in the heavens. All these together point to the coming—and the return—of the promised Messiah. Ultimately, they point to Israel’s destiny and to the destiny of humanity. The Jews were given the predictions of the ancient prophets long before the Christians inherited those Scriptures along with the New Covenant of God’s Word. It is important to look carefully at the way Jews understand the written testimony of the Hebrew prophets. Familiar prophecies from thousands of years ago are being fulfilled today in Israel. It is no overstatement to say that God’s plan is being moved forward by committed Jews, and this, too, is a revelation to us. God called Israel the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). That never has changed, and when God looks at His chosen people today, He sees His plans unfolding at the end of this age. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. I will introduce you to modern-day Israelis who—no matter if they are Jewish or Gentile, Christian or otherwise—are answering the call of God on their lives. These current-day brothers and sisters of Jesus have much to show us of the ways and the heart of God.

    But the people of Israel and their work to restore the Holy Land is only a start. In addition, we will look at the signs of what God will bring to pass on earth. This includes a study of the heavens, the way time is recorded, and more. A  guiding principle here is to identify and learn from patterns that are repeated throughout Scripture and described in 1 Corinthians 15:46: “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” What God does in the natural realm is a picture of what He is doing in the spiritual realm. God reveals His plans and His future work, including what is in store at the end of the age, first in the natural world.

    Bringing Prophecy to Life

    Prophecy and its interpretation are a fascinating study. You can get lost in the words of God’s ancient messengers, studying their dreams and visions and seeking to piece together the larger picture. It is important to know what God has said through His prophets. However, we need to avoid the tendency to study prophecy with a sort of academic detachment that separates us emotionally—and spiritually—from the impact of what God is doing on earth. Prophecy is a biblical teaching to be lived out. We need to bring prophecy to life by connecting it to our lives and the lives of
    others.

    By getting to know people who live in the Holy Land (Jews, Christians, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians), we are drawn into more than just the facts of prophecy. We go beyond end-times theories and encounter the people who are involved in the fulfillment of prophecy. These descendants of Jesus are witnessing events He prophesied when He lived in the same land two thousand years ago.

    More and more, Christians are taking action by joining with God’s people of Israel. The Israelis witness daily what God is doing in their ancestral land. They are eyewitnesses to the unfolding of God’s work. You and I—and all people of  faith who join with Israel in an active way—are part of the prophetic story. A Jewish friend who helped me go much deeper in my study and understanding of prophecy opened my eyes to this truth.

    Ron Nachman, the mayor of a small Israeli city in the West Bank, took great risks to help rebuild Israel after the Jews started returning to their homeland after 1948. He read the Hebrew prophets and studied the ways their visions were becoming reality in the Holy Land—the land he was committed to help restore.

    Men such as Ron see the solidarity of Christians who work alongside Israelis as an important sign of prophecy being fulfilled. The people living in Israel are already on the scene of God’s culminating work on earth: the return of His Son to claim His own. As God brings this age to a close, Israelis are having their eyes opened to God’s dealings with humanity. It is not simply the building of a nation, protecting Israel against the enemies that surround it, or arguing the issues related to territory and boundaries as part of the so-called Palestinian question. All those are important,
    of course, but there is a growing sense that developments are taking place that transcend political, military, and nationalistic concerns. These are spiritual issues and spiritual concerns shared by Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike.

    For years we have seen the Arab-Israeli conflict dominate the headlines. As I was writing this book, Israel was criticized for sending aircraft into Syria to destroy missiles supplied by Iran and stored near Damascus. The missiles were said to have a two-hundred-mile range and were en route to Hezbollah fighters. Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, typically operates in Lebanon but also has joined the fighting in Syria’s civil war.1 Global tensions have focused in and around Israel since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948. Just about everything concerning Israel—even its
    right to exist—remains the focus of international debate in spite of decades of negotiations, wars, shifting boundaries, and treaties.

    What Are Israelis Hearing from God?

    Many of the signposts we have missed in our past study of prophecy come clearly into view only when we study Scripture in tandem with committed Israelis. How do the people of Israel read the signs of the times? What do they anticipate for the future as they face the hostility of enemies bent on their destruction?

    To study prophecy apart from the people who live in the Holy Land is similar to studying a road atlas and pretending you’ve visited the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Parks. Reading words on a page is only one of the steps in learning the deeper meaning of prophecy. The prophets delivered their prophecies to people who needed to have their eyes and hearts opened to God’s plans. None of this has changed since the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. God has not changed His plans, nor has He stopped speaking to His people—as we will see.

    Many of the people I am working with in Israel are hearing from God. He is opening the eyes of His people to the reality of His power, His involvement in world affairs, His never-ending love for His people, and His plans. He is setting things in order to bring about His kingdom on earth, just as His prophets foretold.

    In The Holy Land Key you will be introduced to contemporary Israelis—from national leaders to local leaders to ordinary citizens. You will begin to hear from God just as those in Israel hear from Him. Let’s start making introductions.


    Excerpted from The Holy Land Key by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie Copyright © 2014 by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie. 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.

  • And Life Comes Back from Tricia Lott Williford

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    Tricia

    October 2012

    Gas tank: full. Cell phone: charged. iPod: stocked. I drive up I-70 toward the mountains. A decision of classic, spontaneous impulsion on my part. Once I’ve decided I want to do something, I want to do it today. This is no exception.

    Robb and I weren’t a perfect match. We were different in every way. But maybe the differences make the perfect match. He liked a planned agenda; I thrive on spontaneity. He was a filer. He put everything in its place. I am a piler, and I can’t find anything once it leaves my hands. He liked to visit the same restaurants and order favorite dishes; I like to try new places and taste new things. He went to bed at the same time every night, just after the nightly weather report at 9:17 p.m.; I come alive at night, often thinking and writing and creating into the early morning hours. He was deeply invested in the decisions of the government and any election; I am apolitical and often handed him my ballot since it mattered so much more to him. He believed in the thrill of competition; I enjoy the commercials and believe in the gracious social merits of the game. I always have a book in my hands; he was nonliterate. Not illiterate, but nonliterate; he hated to read. We parented differently. I read books, conduct Internet research, post on parenting blogs, and study consequences based on love and logic. He wrestled on the floor, tickled and roughhoused, and earned respect by saying things like, “Dude, just obey. I’ve pooped bigger than you.”

    But we both loved road trips and loud music on the iPod. (I like mine louder than he preferred.) We loved having people in our home (although I could quickly and seamlessly add a chair to our dinner table while he preferred a guest list in advance). We both loved serving people; I would listen and learn their favorites and their fears, while he
    would grab his tool belt and fix any problem at hand.

    Years ago I stopped trying to make us match—him the same as me, me the same as him. I learned that his relationships, although far less verbal, were in no way inferior to mine; they were just different. His experiences and his preferences were different from mine, but they were equally valuable. The ways he chose to love me were, in fact,
    loving me. The face of love depends on one’s willingness to understand two vernaculars of the same language. We were not the same.

    We didn’t always understand each other. And we made a great team. In the passenger’s seat is the white paper bag with handles. It looks like it could come from a candle shop or a quaint boutique. No one might guess that it holds the canister of my husband’s ashes.

    I drive on a two-lane road that becomes more winding, less crowded, and finally utterly secluded as I arrive at a lake just below the mountain’s highest elevation. I turn off the car. I step out. The air is crisp and silent. I button my coat, grab the handles of the white bag, and click the remote to lock the car as I walk toward the water.

    Part 1
    I Will Love You Forever

    Life was rich. No matter what the future held, this was a marvelous moment.
    —Madeleine L’Engle, Two-Part Invention

    October 2009

    As I scrambled with the many dishes on the stove and in the microwave, two-year-old Tyler cried because he wanted to sit in his chair, twenty-five minutes before it was time to eat. Four-year-old Tucker needed, needed, needed to be in the kitchen with me, standing at my feet, asking to help.

    Please. Help. Please.

    Tyler wanted to be held. Then Tyler wanted to wear his Superman shirt. It could not be found. He could not think of eating without it, so he organized a search party, looking high and low. When we found it, he didn’t want to wear it. He put on a Power Ranger costume instead. Meanwhile, Tucker endlessly blew the pinwheel he had made at preschool, sending spit flying all over everything and everyone. That’s fun, just before dinner.

    The kitchen door opened from the garage, and the familiar jangle of car keys exploded into boisterous, joyful shouting. “Daddy! Daddy!” The boys tumbled over each other in their race to greet Robb, which became a fest of shoving and blaming and claiming. I stood by the stove, stirring the spanish rice to accompany the chicken enchiladas in the oven. I watched the greeting unfold, aware of two things: he was finally home to help referee such scenes, and we would have our own hello once the hubbub settled. I could leave them to their wrestling match. Sure enough, they dispersed as quickly as they had commenced, spinning and bouncing like pinballs.

    “Hey, babe,” he said as he came behind me, one hand on my waist, one hand holding the mail. I gave him a quick kiss over my shoulder.

    “Hi, love. Welcome home. How was work?”

    “Eh, you know. Work.” He flipped through the mail, sorting the wheat from the chaff. “How was the day here?”

    “Eh, you know. It was the day here.” I pulled the enchiladas out of the oven, balancing the casserole dish in one hand, clicking the beeping timer off with the other hand, and giving a quick, upward exhale to blow my bangs out of my eyes.

    “Anything you need help with before dinner?”

    “Yes, you can pour drinks and have them go potty and wash their hands.” (Perhaps in another life stage I won’t say “potty.” Lots of grownups say “bathroom”—so I’ve heard.)

    “Boys! Go potty and wash your hands! Time for dinner!” He headed up the stairs and returned in a frayed T-shirt and athletic shorts. He wore shorts 350 days of the year, even when there was snow on the ground.

    Robb and I had a silly joke between us. About trivets. Really, that’s what marriages are made of: silly little nothings that add up to a decade of important somethings. As you probably know, a trivet is the little doodad that goes under a hot plate or dish to keep the heat from scorching your table or countertop. Robb insisted on calling it a trinket. I insisted on calling it by its name, trivet.

    I carried the hot dish to the table. “Could you hand me a trivet?”

    “You mean a trinket?”

    “No. I mean a trivet.”

    “Sure, babe. Here you go. Here’s your trinket.”

    “Thank you for the trivet.”

    “Trinket.”

    “Trivet.”

    We did this, I kid you not, every single time one of us set the table for dinner. It was a nightly dialogue, a playful banter. The trinket/trivet debate. One night he said, “You know, when I’m dead and gone, you’ll look at that trinket and smile. You’ll remember me, and you’ll call it a trinket.”

    “Doubt it.” Lower my vocabulary standards? Hard to wrap my mind around that.

    The dinner scene unfolded with arguments over washing hands with soap and water versus sanitizer and whether dinnertime is an appropriate opportunity for such shortcuts. There were spilled drinks and excessive napkins. Any semblance of real conversation was replaced instead with interruptions and incomplete sentences. Someone wise once said, “Where two or more are gathered, someone will spill his milk.” I envisioned my family dinner table looking so much more collected than this.

    Tyler didn’t want to eat at all; he simply wanted out of his chair. No dice, kiddo. You have to take the three obligatory “thank-you bites.” That’s the rule. And he could have his share of yogurt and grapes. I support the idea of children eating what the adults are having, but sometimes I don’t want to argue and negotiate every bite of the one meal we all eat together each day. Some might call me a short-order cook. I’m willing to risk the name calling. I prefer to describe myself as a mom who doesn’t want to argue incessantly and in the end throw away food that her son doesn’t want to eat. Bring on the kid-friendly side dishes.

    Tucker got in trouble for shouting potty words at the table. He didn’t need to go. He just thinks he is hysterically funny. We try to discourage these syllables as appropriate dinner conversation, so he spent a few minutes in time-out.

    Robb tossed in some adult humor for me—his teammate and captive audience. “Listen, Tucker. We need to redefine your mission statement. There is about to be some corporate restructuring around here, and I don’t think you’ll be pleased with your performance review.” I smile in spite of myself; I couldn’t have said it better. Time for a disciplinary action plan, I’m pretty sure. We’ll consult with the board.

    Oh, wait. We are the board.

    “Tuck, when you’re ready to use polite words, you can come back.”

    “Can I come back now?”

    “Are you ready to use polite words?”

    “No.”

    “Then you can keep sitting on the steps.”

    Tyler had no interest in dinner, his meal, his chair, or his life as he knew it. He wanted Mommy. In his whiniest, most tearful voice, he cried for me. Since I was enjoying my enchiladas, as much as I could in such an environment, Robb tried to encourage him to eat instead. “Tyler, can you eat your chicken? This is Daddy’s favorite chicken. Very favorite. Taste it.”

    “No. Mommy. Mommy, mommy, mommy.” Cry, cry, cry.

    Tucker announced from the living room: “I’m ready now.”

    “Okay, come join us.”

    He announced upon his arrival that he had to go potty now. Robb and I exchanged glances over the table: to allow or not to allow? We were still freshly out of the potty-training graduation ceremony, so we were reluctant to keep the boy from going when he said he had to go. Go. Now. Quickly. Then eat. Now. Go.

    Tucker yelled from the bathroom, “Soap! Soap! SSOOOAP!” It was hard to know if he was yelling at us or at the soap. Especially since he didn’t need a single bit of assistance when I arrived at his side to help him reach the soap. He was fine, thanks.

    Tyler cried.

    Enchiladas, anyone? Are you kidding me? Is it time for bed yet? And then the negotiations started. Because try as I may, dinner almost always ends with a negotiation.

    “Boys who eat their dinner can have a cookie.”

    “I want a cookie!”

    “Did you eat your dinner?”

    “No.”

    “Then no cookie.”

    “But I want a cookie!”

    “Eat your grapes or your chicken.”

    “I want a cookie.”

    “I want Mommy!”

    I want a stiff drink.

    Robb raised his voice above the din. “Boys, enough. Mommy fixed this dinner for you. Stop complaining. Start eating.” What is it about the dad’s voice? It evokes a moment of trepidation, just enough to make them remember who’s boss. He is. And he says I am.

    In an adult moment above it all, I whispered to him, nearly in pig Latin, “I made chocolate raspberry trifle for dessert. I’m not sure they’ve earned it. I’m pretty sure we have. After their baths and bedtime, let’s eat it. Just us.” In the end they didn’t eat their dinners, chicken and grapes notwithstanding, so they didn’t get their cookies. But we held the promise of delayed gratification: our dessert to come after bedtime. Everything tastes better after bedtime.

    After dinner we took a family walk around the neighborhood, down the street and around the corner to the path with the mountain view. With four wheels and a handle, our sturdy Radio Flyer had a large capacity: jackets, sunscreen, water bottles, one boy or two climbing in and out, the ever-growing collection of rocks and pine cones, and alternating rhythms of whining and laughing. We put a lot of miles on those four wheels, one evening stroll at a time.

    We arrived home once more, and after the choreographed tag team of baths (Robb handled the bubbles, soap, and shampoo while I handled the fluffy hooded towels and the jammies); after the goodnight songs, the bedtime stories, and one hearty round of “I’m thankful for” (Robb was thankful for me, I was thankful for umbrellas, Tucker was thankful for his soccer ball, and Tyler was thankful for crinkly, wrinkly eyeballs); after the prayers and kisses and glasses of water and night-lights and more water and the list of just-one-more things, they were in bed.

    I came slowly down the stairs, feeling spent and poured out, wishing I could muster more energy to stay up late and maximize the remaining quiet moments of the day.

    He unfolded his reclining chair and opened his arms. “Come here, baby girl.”

    I climbed, knees first, into his chair, then turned myself to find the spot that had taken us a while to map out, the one I’ve now known for years—the nook-and-cranny puzzle pieces that fit the two of us into a chair made for one. He groaned as I sat down on his lap, as if the bulky weight of me were too much to hold. One of his favorite jokes.

    “I really wish you wouldn’t do that when I sit on you.”

    “I was just being funny.”

    “Well, that’s not funny.”

    “You’re grumpy,” he teased.

    I craned my neck to look at him.

    “Yes, it’s possible that I am. You’ve been here for slightly more than one hour of this day, thank you very much, and I have spent the entire day navigating an obstacle course in which I am Public Enemy Number One. What you saw tonight was only one of today’s meals. At lunch today Tyler was angry because he didn’t want me to cut his spaghetti noodles. But he doesn’t know how to eat them otherwise, so then he was also angry because he was hungry. During the same meal Tucker was just as angry. I don’t really know why; it’s hard to keep track. At naptime Tucker was angry again because I wouldn’t let him jump on the bed. Simultaneously, Tyler was irate because he couldn’t wear his shoes to bed. I found both of them running across the length of the coffee table and launching themselves into my chair. Olympic training, right here.” I pointed to the coffee table, their running track.

    “Do you know something else? At one point I actually heard myself tell Tyler that I didn’t like him very much today. I told him I didn’t like him! For crying out loud, who was the adult in that situation, anyway? ‘I don’t like you,’ I said. My mom coached me through that one. She said, ‘He doesn’t understand yet. You’ll want to change that sentence by the time he’s five. For now, it bounces right off.’ Apparently her own mother used to say she was going to give her back to the Indians. So I guess it’s all relative. Still, I earned no points for Mother of the Year today. This day had angry written all over it. So, yes, perhaps I am grumpy. And by the way, you didn’t exactly keep your cool at the dinner table tonight, either.”

    He pulled my shoulder gently into the crook of his arm, softening me. He rested his scruffy chin on my head. We fit so perfectly. My voice quieted. “I’m pretty sure they will be disappointed tomorrow when they wake up to learn I am still their mom and I still live here.” With my ear against his chest, I listened to the vibrations of his voice. “Well, I’m glad you live here. You’re stuck with me. And them.” “Thank you. You’re not allowed out of this.”

    “Neither are you, baby girl.” He poked my knee for emphasis and then rested his hand on the curve of my worn, gray sweatpants. “They’re in bed now anyway. At the end of the day, they always go to bed.” “In bed” is relative. I could still hear Tucker making that silly clicking sound in his throat, which he had just discovered and was abundantly proud of. “In bed” is not asleep. But it is a step in the right direction.

    “Can we just be quiet, please?” I asked Robb, immune to the irony that I had been the one doing all the talking in that most recent tirade.

    “Can I watch baseball?”

    “Can I read my book?”

    “Yes.”

    “Deal.”

    “Dessert?”

    “Um…yes.” Isn’t that what we’ve all been waiting for?

    With dessert served in the deep ice cream bowls we found on clearance at Kohl’s, I moved back to my own chair—the oversized, comfier, more realistic place for me to sit for the duration of the night. Several chapters and innings later, it was time for the weather segment of the evening news—9:17 every night. Robb moonlighted as a closet meteorologist. He had installed two weather stations in our home, apps on his phone, and updates on his desktop. He was routinely one click away from the five-day forecast. I found this nicely helpful in my decisions about shoes and cute cardigans, since I would otherwise pay no attention to the weather until I was uncomfortable enough to notice it.

    My goodness. Sometimes we seem so old. What happened to the two who watched movies late into the night and boasted the occasional 2 a.m. run to Taco Bell? We used to have more to say to each other. Dinner conversations, chats on that walk around the neighborhood, pillow talk late at night—we always had a few more things to say. Where have those conversations gone? Are we too comfortable? Are we too familiar? Maybe we’re just too tired.

    He followed his meticulous routine of locking every door, turning off each light, then double-checking that each door was locked. Leaving him all the practical tasks, I checked on the sleeping little boys. I straightened this one’s blanket and found that one’s teddy bear. I stroked the tall one’s head; I rubbed the small one’s back. I kissed this one’s fingers, that one’s eyelids.

    I breathed a prayer over them. “God, arm them with strength. Make their way perfect.”

    Little do they know that I love nothing more than them. They are as big as I love.


    Excerpted from And Life Comes Back by Tricia Lott Williford Copyright © 2014 by Tricia Lott Williford. 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.

  • His Princess from Sheri Rose Shepherd

    Posted on February 14, 2014 by Family Christian

    Sheri

    From My Heart to Yours...

    Recently I was flying home from speaking at a weekend women’s retreat. I leaned back in my seat, exhausted, and began to reflect on the last few days spent with such wonderful women. We laughed, we cried, we ate too much and slept too little. I felt privileged that so many of the ladies felt safe enough to share with me the painful parts of their lives that few had seen.

    As I sat there staring out at the clouds below and the heavens above, I wanted desperately to see a miracle in the lives of my new friends. I couldn’t help but wonder if anything I said would give Evelyn the encouragement she needed to start over again, help heal Joyce’s heart from her past, give Kim the ability to forgive those who hurt her, or provide Jan the strength to get through her trials. Life can be so hard to handle. Could one weekend of truth, transparency,
    and teaching give them what they needed to complete God’s call on their lives?

    I began to reflect on my own life and the years I wasted not knowing God’s plan, His purpose, and the power that was mine for the asking. I regret the poor choices I made that led me down a road of selfdestruction to a life filled with drugs, depression, and eating disorders. In the midst of my misery, I was convinced that all I needed was to lose weight and be pretty and popular. Even after I overcame my addictions and lost weight, I found myself driven by money and success and desperately needing the approval of others. Even achieving a successful career and winning
    beauty crowns could not complete me.

    In the midst of my emptiness and pain, a missionary couple shared with me about the great, eternal crown offered to me by God. I knew I had finally found the answer when I accepted His gift of eternal life, yet it still took me years to truly discover freedom from my past and the call He had on my life. Today, I am a new creation and I have left the past where it belongs…at the cross.

    The airplane brought me safely home that weekend, but my heart ached for the countless women who would go home that night feeling anything but safe—or at home. With these thoughts tugging at my heart and after reviewing my own life, I realized we can live beyond our pain and our past, our fears and failures, and become…His princesses.

    I know how hard it is for us to look at our lives and think of ourselves as royalty. But the truth is, God is our King and we are chosen by Him (1 Peter 2:9). Unfortunately, many of us have traded the truth of who God says we are for a tarnished version of ourselves, fashioned by the approval of others and adorned with our own insecurities.

    I searched the Scriptures over the next few months and wrote what I thought God might say personally to us if we would really hear Him with our heart, take Him at His Word, and have enough faith to believe what He says.

    I pray as your soul soaks in these “love letters” that you will never again doubt who you are, why you are here, and how much you are loved.

    Love,
    Sheri Rose


    Excerpted from His Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd Copyright © 2004 by Sheri Rose Shepherd. 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.

  • When God Writes Your Love Story from Eric Ludy

    Posted on February 13, 2014 by Family Christian

    Eric

    All the Kens and Barbies sat around the table. (Note: technically, it’s now supposed to be “Blaine and Barbie,” but I still have a soft spot for good old Ken.) Amid glistening smiles and Coppertone tans, the fragrance of Polo, with a hint of Skin So Soft (yes, this was the good ol’ nineties!) wafted through the café booth. I nibbled at my burrito as the conversation around me finally arrived at its ultimate destination.

    “So, Kevin,” Barbie No. 1 flirted across the table, “tell us who you’re seeing now.”

    Kevin, the son of a state senator, was used to having eyes upon him. Being a Tom Cruise look-alike has a way of boosting the ego. As he crunched a chip between perfect teeth, an “I thought you’d never ask” smirk found its way across his face.

    As all of us camp counselors leaned in, eyes bulging with expectancy, Kevin finally revealed the secret in a low monotone: “Her name is…Sandra!”

    This only added to the excitement and wonder, because no one had any idea who Sandra was.

    “Is she a babe?” crooned the resident Brad Pitt, alias Mike from Wyoming.

    Say no more! Swift as the bionicman, Kevin whipped out his wallet. Moments later we all observed a photograph of the “hottest girl on the planet,” as Kevin so proudly referred to her.

    “Niiice!” came the rumble of approval from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (Wayne from Denver).

    I think she has a huge nose!” grumbled one of the girls under her breath.

    I continued to pick at my burrito.

    Barbie No. 2, sitting beside Top Gun, was next in the heartthrob inquisition. She displayed a photo of her boyfriend to cheers of “You go, girl!” from the Barbies and disapproving rumbles about his skinny neck from the Kens, Brads,Matts, and Toms.

    After a week of having to exhibit saintlike behavior to all the little campers and being superspiritual while around the camp leaders, it was time to let our hair down—time to let the real passions of life come out. I mean, in your late teens and early twenties, you can sing only so many spiritual camp songs before you need an infusion of good old-fashioned romance.

    One year earlier, talks like this had really litmy fire. I used to love to brag about my love life at camp and exaggerate about my “sexy new girlfriend” in a way that would make all the guys jealous and all the girls insecure. You could say just about anything and get away with it; no one was going home with you to check out your story.

    I used to crave these love chats, but something about Eric Ludy had changed—something big. Something that made me want to slide under the table when all those inquisitive eyes turned my way.

    I’ll never forget the moment. There I was, my fork poking at the jalapeño stranded on the corner of my plate and my mind screaming over and over, Please don’t ask me…please don’t ask me.

    They asked.

    “So, Eric, tell us about your exciting love life!”

    All the periwinkle, emerald, and dark brown eyes were twinkling at me with expectation. I gulped.

    “Uhhhh,” I mumbled. My palms were sweaty. My tongue was dry and thick, like I had a felt eraser in my mouth.

    Finally, I found my voice. “Uhh, I uhh, actually, uh, I am waiting on God.”

    But to be honest, it didn’t really come out as clearly as I just wrote it.The last part of my sentence mumbled under my breath, sounding something like, “Ima waying on Gaw.”

    I hoped a brief answer would encourage them to move on to Elle Macpherson (a.k.a. Kayla from Utah) seated next to me, poised and ready with a photo of her hunk. The plan backfired. They became even more interested.

    “Uh, I think we missed that, Ludy,” Tom Cruise sarcastically challenged. “Was that a girl’s name or some kind of Chinese food?”

    After the laughs subsided, I began again, this time a little more clearly.

    “I know this may sound strange, you guys, but I’ve decided that I won’t give my heart to another girl until God shows me it’s my wife.”

    I have often wished I could have been more eloquent, that I could have made my resolve sound a little more appealing to my audience, now staring at me with mouths ajar. But I guess God wanted me to know that I was following a different path, that I was not to seek the approval of the Kens and Barbies of this world but simply to honor and love Him.

    It was a lonely moment. Silence filled our corner of the restaurant, and all eyes focused on the jalapeño I was ruthlessly stabbing to death.

    “That’s…interesting!” Barbie No. 1 awkwardly noted, her eyes large with disbelief.

    Wayne from Denver was not quite as subtle in his disapproval. “Oh, give me a break!” he exploded in disgust. “How in the world do you expect to find someone, Ludy, if you’re not out there looking?” His words incited a chorus of yeahs and exactlys from around the booth.

    After a moment of reflective silence, I took a deep breath and stated, “I believe that if God wants me to be married”—another deep breath—“He will pick her out for me.”

    A dark cloud settled over the entire group and rained down bewilderment in the form of pursed lips and rolled eyes. I glanced up from my tortured jalapeño to discover a long bony index finger pointing at me, about twelve inches from my nose. Kevin used that finger like Clint Eastwood used a gun. He didn’t shoot to maim—he shot to kill.

    His bronzed face had turned red with annoyance, and his lips were quivering with indignation, like a lava pool ready to explode. After three long seconds, he finally erupted.

    “I totally disagree with you!” he fumed, his index finger still targeting my right nostril. “God doesn’t want us hanging around nagging Him about something like that!”

    A few “amens” from the crowd textured his passionate sermon. He continued. “I believe God wants us to pick,” he preached, “and then He blesses our choice!” He paused and then came to a climactic finish: “It’s sappy Christianity like yours that gives us Christians the image of helpless orphans! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that God would care that much about your love life!”

    The finger held fast for another few long seconds, then slowly dropped as if to say, You show any sign of life, and I’ll shoot again!

    I was the ultimate bummer to their titillating conversation. If ever you want to drain the juice right out of romance, just bring God into the picture. I had committed the unpardonable camp counselor sin, and all the eyes around the table were letting me know it.

    Growing up, I had always gotten along with everybody. I knew how to be liked by the crowd and not offend anyone. I was careful to say the right thing in order to avoid disagreements. Eric Ludy had never been known for his backbone…well, except maybe in championing the Denver Broncos. But when it came to things that really mattered, I was just plain spineless. This was one of the first times in my life I can remember actually standing up for something I believed in (that wasn’t orange and blue).

    Ironically, I didn’t even know exactly what I was talking about. Just twelve months before, I, too, would have “totally disagreed” with what I had just said. But over the past year, God had been challenging me to apply my Christianity to every area of my life. Was it ridiculous to think God would be interested enough in my love life to direct me to the girl He wanted me to spend my life with?

    I shifted in my seat, stabbed my jalapeño one last time, and spoke.

    “All I know,” I said, “is that every time I’ve tried to find someone myself, I realize in the long run that I have horrible taste.”

    All eyes were wide with amazement as I concluded, “Kevin, if God had ten women line up in front of me and said, ‘Eric, you pick,’ I would fall flat on my face before Him and say, ‘God, you know me better than I know myself…You pick! ’ ”

    I’ll bet no one present other thanmyself remembers that scene.To them it was probably just the ramblings of a lunatic named Ludy. But for me it was a defining moment. It was almost as if God was saying, “How seriously are you going to trust Me, Eric?”

    So there it was, in front of the babes and the big egos, that God challenged me to officially trust Him with the “pen” of my life. I had held onto that pen for twenty years, and now, over a chicken burrito and a mangled jalapeño, I handed it over to the great Author to allow Him to work His wonders.

    I’ve never regretted it for a moment.


    Excerpted from When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy Copyright © 2009 by Eric and Leslie Ludy. 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.

  • The Greatest Words Ever Spoken from Steven K. Scott

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven

    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken

    I tell you, I know men, and Jesus Christ was no mere man!
    Between Him and every other person in the world
    there is no possible term of comparison.
    –NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

    “The greatest words ever spoken.” How could such a claim be made about any collection of statements? With all the life-changing words spoken by so many great men and women throughout history, how could the words of one person rise above all the others?

    To qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to reveal incredible truths that would otherwise go undiscovered. They would have to bring extraordinary, perhaps even near-miraculous benefit to the hearts, minds, and lives of those who read them. Certainly, to qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to produce life-altering changes not just for a few people but for millions. They would have to impart hope to those in despair, joy to those whose hearts are broken, and peace that subdues even the most paralyzing fears.

    To earn the ranking of the greatest words ever spoken, the words would have to exert enough power to transform a hateful heart into a loving one, a mind driven by greed into one overflowing with generosity, a life ruled by arrogance into one that is driven by the desire to serve others. And if they were truly the greatest words ever spoken, they would have the power to give sight to the blind, deliverance to the captive, forgiveness to the wrongdoer, and life to the dead. If anyone’s words could accomplish these things, they would certainly rise above all other words in history. They would deserve to be called The Greatest Words Ever Spoken.

    These words exist; they have been spoken and recorded. And, yes, they have accomplished remarkable, miraculous results. The greatest words ever spoken are the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Son of the living God.

    The If-Then Statement That Can Change Your Life

    If Jesus is who He claimed to be, then everything He said must be fully, absolutely true. If He is the Son of God, He would never speak in error. Think of the implications. First, if Jesus’ words are absolute truth, they are the standard by which all other purported truths must be measured. Second, everything Jesus said about you, your life, and your circumstances is true. His words describe your life and reveal your immediate and long-term future. To succeed in life, to understand yourself, and to gain wisdom about your present and your future, you need to learn everything Jesus said about you. In that way you will discover what He wants for you and from you.

    And then there are the promises Jesus made. If you choose to follow Him, then all of his 108 promises are promises you can count on–promises that will produce peace in a troubled heart, joy in the midst of tragedy, success in place of failure, and most important, a glorified life that lasts for eternity.

    And this leads to the most important question you will ever face. Is Jesus of Nazareth the person He claimed to be, or was He a mere man?

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France and one of the greatest military geniuses who ever lived, concluded that Jesus was no mere man. Once when Napoleon was discussing various emperors and their empires with his most trusted advisors, the name of Jesus came up. To the surprise of his generals, Napoleon exclaimed:

    I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison! Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist.… Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things… The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me–everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers.… One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life… I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.i

    Jesus of Nazareth

    What did Napoleon know that some of us do not? He was a student of history and a student of men, and he had diligently studied the life and words of Christ. In light of this, he believed that no one in history could compare to Jesus of Nazareth. Think about it: how could one man from an obscure village in the Middle East have changed so many millions of lives as well as the course of history? If ever a man should have been overlooked by history, it was Jesus.

    Consider the facts:

    Jesus was born to a peasant couple in a village in the middle of nowhere. He lived in a country occupied by foreign conquerors. His only means of transportation was His legs.

    He was a carpenter until He turned thirty, and only then did He begin to teach and speak in public. For three short years He proclaimed His message, mostly in small villages.

    After being falsely accused and then convicted in a rigged trial, He was sentenced to death by an official who believed Him to be innocent. He died the death of a criminal and was executed on a cross between two convicted criminals. Only His mother and one of His close followers were present at His execution. The rest of His closest disciples had fled, hiding from the mob and the Roman officials.

    It was only after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His followers that His disciples were transformed from distraught cowards into confident, fearless believers and preachers of Jesus’ message. But they had no means to spread His story and teachings to a mass audience. There were no radios, televisions, or printing presses. In fact, paper as we know it had not yet been invented. Every papyrus scroll had to be painstakingly written by hand. The only way to make a copy was to read the original and laboriously copy it word by word.

    In first-century Palestine, the thought that Jesus’ life might make a significant impact on anyone beyond the Judean countryside was laughable. Any history of this itinerant rabbi who appeared in public for only three years should have been lost–either burned or buried–in the rubble when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions less than forty years after Jesus walked the earth. Against such a background, you can begin to understand the miracle of His life and words. Jesus’ short earthly life–far from being lost to the generations who have followed–became the focal point of history.

    How could one man’s life impact humanity to a greater extent than any other person or any series of events in history? As you read The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, you will get to know this man who changed everything…forever. Jesus did it all, not with money, armies, science, or politics, but with the witness of His life and the power of His words. His life and the miracles He performed attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was what He said that melted their hearts and transformed their lives. The apostle John said, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14)
    .
    The Tragedy of the Information Age

    Today we have more information about everything than any past generation had, yet most people know less of what Jesus said. Countless people are so unaware of first-century history that they are swayed by baseless myths perpetuated by works of fiction such as The Da Vinci Code. Many Christians have built their beliefs and values on the words of Bible teachers, authors, and television and radio preachers rather than on the words of Christ. As wonderful as the words of preachers and writers may be, they can’t begin to compare in wonder and power to the pure, undiluted words of Jesus Christ. After all, He alone claimed to be the embodiment of all truth when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” ( John 14:6). He made incredible promises to those who would build their lives on His words.

    It’s important to realize that Jesus did not make these promises to people who followed the words of any other teacher, prophet, or leader. The words of Jesus stand alone in truth, power, and authority. For example, He promised, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” ( John 8:31-32, NASB). And that was just the beginning. Here are a few of the many promises Jesus made to those who choose to abide in His Word:

    • You will receive eternal life.
    • Your desires will be fulfilled in answer to your prayers.
    • God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will be your constant companions, both with you and within you.
    • You will receive a level of peace and joy, direct from God, that is otherwise unattainable.
    • You will impact the lives of others in ways that can’t be achieved strictly by human effort.
    • You will be loved by God in a unique way.
    • You will avoid God’s ultimate judgment.
    • You will see miracles in your life that others can’t understand or explain.
    • You will learn eternal truths that will set you free from all that holds you captive.

    Jesus Was Not a Religious Leader!

    Jesus Christ did not come to earth to start a new religion. In fact, He leveled His harshest criticisms at the religious leaders of His day. He accused them of not knowing God and said they had used religion to bind people to a life of misery, frustration, and failure. He claimed they were blind and had blinded the “spiritual eyes” of their followers (see Matthew 15:13; 23:13-24).

    When He described Himself, Jesus claimed that He had come from God and that His mission was to reveal who God was and what God wanted. Most important, Jesus claimed that He could lead anyone into an intimate relationship with the only true God and that in doing so He would lead them into eternal life. In His final prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus stated, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” ( John 17:3).

    Think about getting to know the God who created the universe. What would it be like to know Him on a first-name basis–or, even better, to know Him so intimately that you could call Him your best friend, even your dad? Imagine what it would be like if you could consistently experience His presence and a level of peace and joy that no adversity could vanquish. That’s exactly what will happen as you begin to focus on the words of Christ.

    The words of Jesus have changed the course of history by changing millions of lives, one life at a time. His words were first believed by those who witnessed His miracles. He turned water into wine and caused the blind to receive their sight, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise. Fortunately for us, He promised even greater blessings to those in later generations who would believe in Him without seeing Him in person. For two thousand years Jesus has kept that promise. He extends the same promise to you. As you begin to store up His words in your mind and heart, you will discover their life-changing power in ways you never thought possible.

    The Life Issues That Jesus Addressed

    In this book you will find every word of Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament, organized in more than two hundred topics. This will enable you to read everything Jesus said without the interruption of commentary, transitional scenes, and details about the activities of the people who surrounded Him. As you read this book, you can immerse yourself in Jesus’ words. You can reflect on every statement He made about things that are important to you. You’ll see everything the Lord said on such subjects as prayer, faith, eternal life, fear, your life priorities, His incredible promises, and the claims He made about Himself.

    Because Jesus’ words are organized by topic, you can easily grasp the breadth of what He said on each one. In a matter of minutes, you can read everything He said about a topic, which will help you gain a deeper understanding of His teachings. People who have read Jesus’ words as they are organized in this book say they gained a depth of wisdom and experienced a life-changing power far greater than they could have imagined.

    The two hundred-plus topics have been grouped into nine chapters, each addressing a general category. At the beginning of every chapter, I added a few thoughts about the topics addressed in that chapter. The chapters are:

    1. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Jesus
    2. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God the Father
    3. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About the Holy Spirit
    4. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Eternity
    5. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken to Jesus’ Followers
    6. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Humanity
    7. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God Reaching Out to Us
    8. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About How to Know God
    9. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Personal Relationships

    The Only Foundation That Is Truly Secure

    Jesus made a number of incredible promises to men and women who learn, embrace, and follow His words. He said we should base all our values, beliefs, and behaviors on the foundation of His words. Unfortunately, most of us base our lives on a mixture of things we’ve learned from every source we’ve been exposed to. As a result, the foundation of our beliefs is a combination of truth and falsehood, including contradictory information and false assumptions. My hope is that as you study the words of Christ, any weaknesses in your current foundation will be revealed, and you will replace them with the undiluted, indestructible concrete of Jesus’ words. May He bless you in your pursuit of intimacy with God and the eternal truths revealed by His incomparable words.

    How to Get the Most Out of This Book

    This is not a book you will read cover to cover in a few sittings. You won’t find even one of the chapters to be a quick read. Instead, this book is a resource you can use for the rest of your life. The two hundred-plus topics offer great variety. If you’re seeking an answer to a specific question, a quick reading of Jesus’ words on that topic will meet that need. If you’re wrestling with an important decision, the wisdom and inspiration you seek can be found by reading His words on the appropriate topics. At the same time, a focused study of a topic can provide a rock-solid foundation for your faith. It will deepen your love for God and will provide an anchor in the greatest trials of life.

    This book can easily be adapted to the need of the moment. Depending on the topic and how you approach it, the spiritual meal can range from a quick-energy bar to an entire buffet. Because the wisdom offered on each topic comes solely from the undiluted statements of Christ, their breadth, depth, and power are enlightening, faith building, and life changing.

    Here are two suggestions that will help you get the most out of reading this book.

    Use It as a Quick Reference

    Whenever you are studying a biblical subject, considering a spiritual question, or seeking guidance for a decision, the first question you should ask is “What did Jesus say?” His words will provide the foundation for all your values, beliefs, and doctrines.

    To locate a topic, check the book’s table of contents, which lists the nine general categories (one per chapter) and the specific topics within each of the nine categories. You can also go to the back of the book and search the two hundred-plus topics in alphabetical order. Once located, each topic includes every direct statement Christ made on that topic and most of the implied references. Because context is so important, the verses surrounding the key points are usually provided.

    As you begin to read Jesus’ statements, underline the key points. For example, in chapter 5 under the heading “The Promises of Christ,” you will find more than one hundred promises that Jesus made to His followers. Here is one of the crucial promises Jesus made:

    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25, NKJV)

    In this promise, I underlined the condition to be met so the promise can be fulfilled. The condition is you must hear (follow) Christ’s words and truly believe in the God who sent Him. The promised benefits, set in boldface type, are you’ll receive eternal life and you won’t be subject to God’s judgment.

    When you underline or highlight the key points of every statement of Jesus as you study them, something wonderful happens. Each statement becomes like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As you read all of Christ’s statements on a given topic and underline or highlight the key points, you’ll see the pieces of the puzzle come together to create a clear picture of what He is teaching. Any other Bible verses you read on that subject will serve as additional pieces for the picture.

    Use This Book for Topical Studies for You and Your Family

    One of the greatest values of this book is that it will enable you to quickly and effectively study any subject that Christ spoke about. Individuals, couples, and families can select topics to study during morning or evening devotions, in-depth individual Bible studies, or group Bible studies. I suggest going through the table of contents and placing a check by the topics that interest you the most. One of my friends asked his wife and his children to put their initials beside each topic they wanted to study. This helped them prioritize the subjects they wanted to study first. They decided not only to study the topics individually but to use that list for selecting topics for family devotions.

    As you study the words of Christ, you will receive the benefits He promised in John 16:13 and John 14:26. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth, He will tell you things to come, and He will glorify Christ. Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that Christ has spoken to you.

    You will notice that most of the Scripture sections begin with verses from the gospel of John, followed by verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and sometimes Acts, 1 Corinthians, or Revelation, in that order. I begin the topical sections with verses from John because his gospel is more direct and more intimate. John referred to himself as “the disciple…Jesus loved” (John 21:20). John’s account of Jesus’ life conveys an unmistakable warmth and a sense of immediacy. Reading his gospel is like receiving an invitation from an old friend. I hope you will accept his invitation as you read Jesus’ words addressing various subjects in this book.

    Jesus’ greatest promises were made to those who will hear His words and do them. His words will provide abundant light and perfect wisdom for any decision you face and all the power you will need to overcome any adversity. But the promises He makes and the power He offers will never be known by those who refuse to hear His words. In my forty-three years of discovering and relying on His words, I have experienced miraculous outcomes in every area of my life. What His words have done for me, I know they will also do for you. May you learn their meaning and experience their power as never before.


    Excerpted from The Greatest Words Ever Spoken by Steven K. Scott Copyright © 2008 by Steven K. Scott. 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.

  • I Like Giving from Brad Formsma

    Posted on February 11, 2014 by Family Christian

    Brad

    The giving journey for Tracy Autler started on Thanksgiving Day 1993. Away from her family, living in an apartment on the lower end of town, a single mom to a three-year-old and eight months pregnant, she was relying on welfare and food stamps to get by. While other families were preparing for their Thanksgiving feasts, Tracy would do the best she could with canned food.

    Standing in her apartment and looking at the sparse collection of cans on her shelf, Tracy heard a knock at the door. What in the world? she thought. Who would be coming to her door on Thanksgiving Day? Weren’t people at home with their families, eating turkey and watching football?

    She opened her door and simply couldn’t believe her eyes. Standing there was a man from a local restaurant with a delivery for Tracy: a full Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the trimmings. He said it was from an anonymous donor, and before Tracy could ask any questions, he handed it over and left. Tracy was so overwhelmed that she spent the rest of the day crying.

    Surprised and amazed, Tracy decided she needed to know whom to thank for this extravagant and timely gift. However, she couldn’t fi gure it out. She called her parents, but it wasn’t them. She asked her friends, but no one knew. Tracy couldn’t believe that someone outside her circle of friends and family had noticed her situation and done something about it without drawing any attention to himself.

    Years went by, and Tracy still had no idea whom the mysterious Thanksgiving dinner had come from. In time she moved out of that apartment and began working as a nurse at a local hospital.

    And then it happened. Seven years after that special Thanksgiving meal, a woman named Margot was admitted into Tracy’s care. Margot had multiple sclerosis, and her condition was becoming critical. Tracy remembered Margot from her time on welfare. She had lived in the same apartment building as Tracy. It was clear that Margot didn’t have much longer to live.

    Three days before her death, Margot took Tracy’s hand in hers and, in a frail voice, whispered two words: “Happy Thanksgiving.”

    In that moment Tracy knew who had given her that Thanksgiving dinner. She would never have guessed that Margot—the unassuming neighbor with multiple sclerosis—was behind that generous gift. Tracy still gets tears in her eyes when she tells the story today.

    I’d call that story “I Like My Neighbor.” Margot saw Tracy’s situation that Thanksgiving Day and did something extraordinary—she gave her the perfect gift without anyone asking her to and without asking for anything in return.

    That one gift had a massive impact on Tracy’s life. Moved by the anonymous donor’s generosity, Tracy purposed in her heart to do generous things for other people too. The very day she got off assistance, she took a basket of gifts down to the welfare office for anyone to take. The welfare officer was stunned. Can you imagine the look on his face? Who does something like that?

    And that was just the beginning. Since then, Tracy and her husband have become foster parents and adopted a son. She regularly looks for opportunities to give. The last time I heard from her, she was getting ready to volunteer her Saturday afternoon at the local Humane Society. One of her latest ideas is to leave fi ve-dollar Starbucks gift cards with little notes for her coworkers to fi nd, just to make their day better. This year Tracy and her family made a New Year’s resolution to find one hundred opportunities to give to other people. How inspiring is that?

    What I appreciate most about Tracy is that she doesn’t do her giving to be noticed by others. Since that Thanksgiving Day in 1993, she has discovered the joy that comes from giving. Now she’s hooked. She doesn’t give to make herself look good—she gives because she likes giving. It makes her feel more alive. “It’s how life should be,” she says.

    There is something incredible about giving when it’s our idea. Opening our eyes and ears to the people around us and asking “How can we give?” is a profoundly life-giving and satisfying way to live. One of Jesus’s ideas was that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have found that to be true. The generous life is the only life worth living.

    Just imagine—what if every single person on the planet woke up and, like Tracy, looked for ways to give? What sort of world could we create through the simple, powerful decision to live generously? Whoever you are, no matter how much or how little you have to share, making the decision to give regularly to others—daily, weekly, or monthly—will enrich your life and change the lives of the people around you.

    When we choose to give, we change, and the people around us change. When we move from awareness to action, miracles happen. When we allow giving to be our idea, a world of possibilities opens up before us, and we discover new levels of joy. If you, like Tracy, get hooked on giving, you’ll find yourself asking, “How generous can I be?” When that happens, you’ll realize that, not only are you loving life more than ever, but you’re also a part of creating a more generous world—a world that is better for all of us. If you haven’t ever experienced the joy of giving, or it’s been a long time, this book will show you where to start. We will walk with you as you take your first steps, and we’ll stick with you as you grow in the art of generosity.

    Or if you’re nodding your head right now, saying, “I’ve known this for years,” then we’re here to encourage you to keep growing and to empower you to spread the joy. We never arrive. I’ve been discovering the joy of generous living for many years, and I still feel as if I’m just getting started!

    The best things in life are like that—they grow and never end.


    Excerpted from I Like Giving by Brad Formsma Copyright © 2014 by Brad Formsma. 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.

  • Crash the Chatterbox from Steven Furtick

    Posted on February 10, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven

    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.

    ####

    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.

    ####

    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.

  • One Nation, Under Attack from Grant R. Jeffrey

    Posted on February 7, 2014 by Family Christian

    Grant

    There Is Far More at Stake Than Most of Us Realize

    The United States of America is unique. In the last five thousand years kingdoms, nations, and empires have risen to power, extending their reach and rule over others. But never has there been the equal of the United States in power and world influence.

    America is the only nation that was conceived as a limited republic based on divinely inspired biblical principles. God’s revealed truth undergirds the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

    These documents clearly reflect an intentional recognition of God and His work in the world as well as the necessity of basing laws, liberties, and rights on His revealed moral law.

    In various ways, all of this helped to transform the thirteen colonies that broke away from England in 1776 into history’s most influential and dominant world empire. By the end of World War II, America was unsurpassed in military might and unequaled in technology, manufacturing, economic vitality, and world leadership. The nation that began with New World immigrants seeking independence from Britain replaced the British Empire by virtue of America’s international presence, economic leadership, and military power.

    The American Empire has been richly blessed by God from the beginning, but in recent decades America has given in to forces that oppose and deny God’s intentions for this great nation. The country that has done more than any other to guarantee personal liberties at home and to defend freedom around the world is seeing its power and influence diminish day by day. The American Empire soon will fall from its position as world leader, and its fall will affect every one of us.

    America is being pushed to the brink by economic reversals brought on by decades of unsound economic policy and more recently by an overextended military, a deadlocked Congress, and a federal government that chooses again and again to turn its back on the clear intent and wisdom of the Constitution. In a very short time, the United States will be pushed to the sidelines of world events. The center of power and influence will shift away from the nation that has served since the eighteenth century as the model of democracy and individual freedom.

    All of this is taking place just prior to the emergence of the prophesied Antichrist. Satan’s representative on earth will consolidate his power and first establish his dictatorship over the revived Roman Empire and then over the entire world. The American Empire that rose to power with the blessing of God will be so weak it won’t play a notable role in the culminating events of the last days.

    This is the greatest of ironies. The only nation in history that was intentionally founded as a limited republic based on God’s principles will be powerless to oppose the coming global tyranny of evil.

    The Rise and Decline of the American Empire

    America’s leaders from the start honored God and looked to God’s Scriptures for guidance. The colonies won their independence from England in 1783, adopted a constitution, and enjoyed steady growth in political, economic, and military power. By the early twentieth century the United States was coming to the aid of democratic allies around the world and winning the First World War. Then, in World War II, America accepted the responsibility to defend freedom by waging war in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. At the end of the Second World War, America was the unquestioned, unrivaled leader of the free world. No other world power was positioned to block the threatened expansion of Soviet Russia and Communist China during the Cold War.

    In fact, the United States of America was far more than a powerful nation. It was rising to the status of a world empire. Empires expand gradually as they amass power, extend their reach, and assert their influence over the rest of the world.

    A commentator on global politics, Harvard professor Michael Ignatieff, wrote about the identifying characteristics of the American Empire. “Ever since George Washington warned his countrymen against foreign entanglements, empire abroad has been seen as the republic’s permanent temptation and its potential nemesis. Yet what word but ‘empire’ describes the awesome thing that America is becoming? It is the only nation that polices the world through five global military commands; maintains more than a million men and women at arms on four continents; deploys carrier battle groups on watch in every ocean; guarantees the survival of countries from Israel to South Korea; drives the wheels of global trade and commerce; and fills the hearts and minds of an entire planet with its dreams and desires.”

    Like all great empires, America could not hold the course and preserve the things that made it great. A gradual decline began before the end of the 1950s. In recent years external forces orchestrated a coordinated attack that has hastened the empire’s decline. Soon the American Empire will fall, and the collapse will come rapidly.

    Why Is America Absent from Biblical Prophecy?

    The United States is not mentioned specifically in biblical prophecy. It does not appear by name or by geographical reference in the detailed descriptions of events that will occur during the last-days generation. Jesus Christ will return at the Battle of Armageddon to destroy the Antichrist and establish His eternal kingdom on earth.

    But the one nation in the West that has benefitted from God’s blessing is absent from the prophetic accounts of the critical last-days events.2 There is a strange silence regarding the political and military presence and strategic influence of the United States leading up to the two major prophesied wars. In accounts of the War of Gog and Magog (see Ezekiel 38–39), when Russia and its Islamic allies will attempt to invade Israel and annihilate its Jewish population, there is no mention of America’s involvement. Ezekiel tells us that the Lord will intervene to supernaturally destroy the millions of invading Russian and Islamic soldiers. He will use earthquakes, fire and brimstone, plagues, and even madness to defeat the invading armies to save His chosen people from genocide. Where in all this is America, the declared ally of Israel?

    The Bible’s prophecies are equally silent regarding the role of America in the cataclysmic Battle of Armageddon at the end of the seven-year dictatorship of the Antichrist. The prophetic Scriptures provide significant details regarding virtually all the Eastern and Western nations and their military alliances as they relate to this final war on earth. Since every nation on earth will be involved at the Battle of Armageddon, it is certain that America will be present in some fashion, but the lack of a specific mention of America as a key player indicates that the United States will no longer be a leading power in the world.

    How can this be? The United States invests more in its military defense than the next ten top nations combined. America dominates the world with more power than any previous empire, including ancient Rome and the British Empire at the height of its supremacy. What can explain the lack of any prophetic reference to the American Empire?

    What combination of forces will be capable of draining America’s power in only a few short years?

    A study of history shows that world empires often were defeated by military conquest, but they also are vulnerable to internal forces. For example, while the British Empire found itself on the winning side of World War II, within weeks British citizens voted Prime Minister Winston Churchill out of power. They elected a liberal Labor government that created an enormously expensive and unsustainable welfare state.

    Wealth was drained from the private sector, and the governing Labor Party virtually disarmed the British military. Within three years the ruling regime dismantled the British Empire that had reigned over almost one-quarter of the globe for more than a century. The left-wing Labor Party abandoned the empire by withdrawing from the Commonwealth nations; Northern Ireland was the lone exception. It took only three years for the socialist Labor Party to destroy the legendary British Empire.

    One Nation, Under Attack

    The American Empire that saw its birth in the world’s first experiment in limited representative government has been undermined by international financiers working together with powerful socialist forces both inside America and overseas. These enemies of free-market capitalism are prepared to launch the final stage of a multipronged attack against America.

    Already they have succeeded almost beyond belief in weakening the U.S. economy. For evidence that their strategies are working you need look no further than any newspaper or television news program. They will not stop until they have crippled the national economy, transforming the once-great United States into an impoverished nation with a severely weakened military and no influence on the world stage. A powerless America serves their purposes because it will not be able to resist the movement—being led from within the European Union—that seeks to achieve global governance.

    The developments we will examine in the chapters that follow are deliberate and carefully planned. International financiers and other global interests have recruited hundreds of willing accomplices who occupy the most powerful positions in the federal government as well as officials of the European Union who are more than happy to do the bidding of globalist multibillionaires.

    No longer will there be a freedom-defending global superpower that works for human rights and fights against the military aggression of other nations. There will no longer be a world power that is committed to advancing free enterprise and the prosperity that comes as a result of free-market capitalism.

    One Nation, Under Attack will reveal the blunt truth, and much of it will be difficult to accept. If you love your country, you may not want to believe that your nation’s leaders are selling America to the highest bidder. But it is far better to know the truth than be deceived by the Washington propaganda machine.

    You need to understand what is taking place so you can protect your family’s financial future and safeguard your assets and your property. You need to act now so you will be positioned to withstand the coming collapse of the American Empire. The United States will fall into a state of near oblivion, becoming little more than a helpless bystander, while the most dramatic events in history unfold in Europe, the Middle East, and beyond.

    The Antichrist soon will rise to power and enslave the nations of the revived Roman Empire. Initially, he will rule the member nations of the European Union (EU) as well as a number of Mediterranean nations. Once the Antichrist has consolidated his power over this confederation, he will gain control of the entire world.

    At a time in history when the political influence, economic power, and military force of the United States could be called into service to oppose this unprecedented spread of evil in the world, America will be sliding into obscurity. The fall of the American Empire is already at an advanced stage. In fact, the end of America’s story will come in your lifetime.


    Excerpted from One Nation, Under Attack by Grant R. Jeffrey Copyright © 2012 by Grant R. Jeffrey. 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.

  • Every Man's Battle from Stephen Arterburn

    Posted on February 6, 2014 by Family Christian

    Stephen

    Our Stories

    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of

    any kind of impurity” (Ephesians 5:3).

    If there’s a single Bible verse that captures God’s standard for sexual purity, this is it. And it compels this question: In relation to God’s standard, is there even a hint of sexual impurity in your life?

    For both of us, the answer to that question was yes.

    FROM STEVE: COLLISION

    In 1983 my wife, Sandy, and I celebrated our first anniversary. One sunsplashed Southern California morning that year, feeling good about life and our future, I hopped in our 1973 Mercedes 450SL–the car of my dreams, white with a black top. I’d owned it for just two months. I was tooling northbound through Malibu on my way to Oxnard, where I’d been asked to testify in a court hearing about whether a hospital should add an addiction treatment center. I always loved driving along the PCH, as locals called the Pacific Coast Highway. These four lanes of blacktop hugged the golden coastline and provided a close-up view of L.A.’s beach culture. With the top down and the wind blowing in my face, I found that summer morning a good day to be alive.

    I never intentionally set out to be girl-watching that day, but I spotted her about two hundred yards ahead and to the left. She was jogging toward me along the coastal sidewalk. From my sheepskin-covered leather seat, I found the view outstanding, even by California’s high standards. My eyes locked on to this goddesslike blonde, rivulets of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran at a purposeful pace. Her jogging outfit, if it could be called that in those days before sports bras and spandex, was actually a skimpy bikini. As she approached on my left, two tiny triangles of tie-dyed fabric struggled to contain her ample bosom.

    I can’t tell you what her face looked like; nothing above the neckline registered with me that morning. My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh as she passed on my left, and they continued to follow her lithe figure as she continued jogging southbound. Simply by lustful instinct, as if mesmerized by her gait, I turned my head further and further, craning my neck to capture every possible moment for my mental video camera.

    Then blam!

    I might still be marveling at this remarkable specimen of female athleticism if my Mercedes hadn’t plowed into a Chevelle that had come to a complete stop in my lane. Fortunately, I was traveling only fifteen miles per hour in the stop-and-go traffic, but the mini-collision crumpled my front bumper and crinkled the hood. And the fellow I smacked into didn’t appreciate the considerable damage to his rear end. I got out of the car–embarrassed, humiliated, saturated with guilt, and unable to offer a satisfying explanation. No way would I tell this guy, “Well, if you’d seen what I saw, you’d understand.”

    TEN MORE YEARS IN THE DARKNESS

    Nor could I tell the truth to my beautiful wife, Sandy. That evening, I put my best spin on the morning’s unfortunate event in Malibu. “You see, Sandy it was stop-and-go, and I was reaching down to change the radio channel, and the next thing I knew I rammed into a Chevy. Lucky no one was hurt.”

    Actually, my young marriage was hurt–because I was cheating Sandy out of my full devotion, though I didn’t know it at the time. Nor was I aware that although I’d vowed to commit my life to Sandy, I hadn’t totally committed my eyes to her. I continued in the darkness for another ten years before realizing I needed to make dramatic changes in the way I looked at women.

    FROM FRED: WALL OF SEPARATION

    It happened every Sunday morning during our church worship service. I’d look around and see other men with their eyes closed, freely and intensely worshiping the God of the universe. Myself? I sensed only a wall of separation between the Lord and me.

    I just wasn’t right with God. As a new Christian, I imagined I just didn’t know God well enough yet. But nothing changed as time passed. When I mentioned to my wife, Brenda, that I felt vaguely unworthy of Him, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

    “Well, of course!” she exclaimed. “You’ve never felt worthy to your own father. Every preacher I’ve known says that a man’s relationship with his father tremendously impacts his relationship with his heavenly Father.”

    “You could be right,” I allowed.

    I hoped it was that simple. I mulled it over as I recalled my days of youth.

    WHAT KIND OF MAN ARE YOU?

    My father, handsome and tough, was a national wrestling champion in college and a bulldog in business. Aching to be like him, I began wrestling in junior high. But the best wrestlers are natural-born killers, and I didn’t have a wrestler’s heart. My dad was coaching wrestling at the time at the high school in our small town of Alburnett, Iowa. Though I was still in junior high, he wanted me to wrestle with the older guys, so he brought me to the high-school workouts.

    One afternoon we were practicing escapes, and my partner was in the down position. While grappling on the mat, he suddenly needed to blow his nose. He straightened up, pulled his T-shirt to his nose, and violently emptied the contents onto the front of his shirt. We quickly returned to wrestling. As the up man, I was supposed to keep a tight grip on him. Reaching around his belly, my hand slid into his slimy T-shirt. Sickened, I let him go.

    Dad, seeing him escape so easily, dressed me down. “What kind of a man are you?” he roared. Staring hard at the mat, I realized that if I had a wrestler’s heart, I would have cranked down tightly and ridden out my opponent, maybe grinding his face into the mat in retaliation. But I hadn’t. I still wanted to please Dad, so I tried other sports. At one baseball game, after striking out, I remember hanging my head on the way back to the dugout. “Get your head up!” he hollered for all to hear. I was mortified. Then he wrote me a long letter detailing my every mistake.

    Years later, after I’d married Brenda, my father felt she had too much control in our marriage. “Real men take charge of their households,” he said.

    THE MONSTER

    Now, as Brenda and I discussed my relationship with my dad, she suggested I might need counseling. “It surely couldn’t hurt,” she said. So I read some books and counseled with my pastor, and my feelings toward Dad improved. But I continued to feel that distance from God during the Sunday morning worship services. The true reason for that distance slowly dawned on me: There was a hint of sexual immorality in my life.

    There was a monster lurking about, and it surfaced each Sunday morning when I settled in my comfy La-Z-Boy and opened the Sunday morning newspaper. I would quickly find the department-store inserts and begin paging through the colored newsprint filled with models posing in bras and panties. Always smiling. Always available. I loved lingering over each ad insert. It’s wrong, I admitted, but it’s such a small thing. It was a far cry from Playboy, I told myself. I peered through the panties, fantasizing.

    Occasionally, a model reminded me of a girl I once knew, and my mind rekindled the memories of our times together. I rather enjoyed my Sunday mornings with the newspaper. As I examined myself more closely, I found I had more than a hint of sexual immorality. Even my sense of humor reflected it. Sometimes a person’s innocent phrase–even from our pastor–struck me with a double sexual meaning. I would chuckle, but I felt uneasy.

    Why do these double entendres come to my mind so easily? Should a Christian mind create them so nimbly? I remembered that the Bible said that such things shouldn’t even be mentioned among the saints. I’m worse…I even laugh at them! And my eyes? They were ravenous heat-seekers searching the horizon, locking on any target with sensual heat. Young mothers leaning over in shorts to pull children out of car seats. Soloists with silky shirts. Summer dresses with décolletage.

    My mind, too, ran wherever it willed. This had begun in my childhood, when I found Playboy magazines under Dad’s bed. He also subscribed to From Sex to Sexty, a publication filled with jokes and comic strips with sexual themes. When Dad divorced Mom and moved to his “bachelor’s pad,” he hung a giant velvet nude in his living room, overlooking us as we played cards on my Sunday afternoon visits. Dad gave me a list of chores around his place when I was there. Once I came across a nude photo of his mistress. On another occasion I found an eight-inch ceramic dildo, which he obviously used in his kinky “sex games.”

    HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS

    All this sexual stuff churned deep inside me, destroying a purity that wouldn’t return for many years. Settling into college, I soon found myself drowning in pornography. I actually memorized the dates when my favorite soft-core porn magazines arrived at the local drugstore. I especially loved the “Girls Next Door” section of Gallery magazine, featuring pictures of nude girls taken by their boyfriends and submitted to the magazine.

    Far from home and without any Christian underpinnings, I descended by small steps into a sexual pit. The first time I had sexual intercourse, it was with a girl I knew I would marry. The next time, it was with a girl I thought I would marry. The time after that, it was with a good friend that I might learn to love. Then it was with a female I barely knew who simply wanted to see what sex was like. Eventually, I had sex with anyone at any time.

    After five years in California, I found myself with four “steady” girlfriends simultaneously. I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others. (These days, in my class for premarital couples, I often ask the women what they would think of a man with two fiancées. My favorite response: “He’s a hopeless pig!” And I was hopeless, living in a pigsty.)

    Why do I share all this? First, so you’ll know that I understand what it’s like to be sexually ensnared in a deep pit. Second, I want to provide you with hope. As you’ll soon see, God worked with me and lifted me out of that pit. If there’s even a hint of sexual immorality in your life, He will work with you as well.

    FORM FRED: KNOWING WHO TO CALL

    Despite the deepening pit I occupied in my single days, I didn’t notice anything wrong with my life. Oh, sure, I attended church sporadically, and from time to time the pastor’s words penetrated my heart. But who was he? Besides, I loved my girlfriends. No one’s getting hurt, I reasoned. My dad had eventually remarried, and when I visited back home in Iowa, my stepmother occasionally dragged me across the river to the Moline Gospel Temple in Moline, Illinois. The gospel was clearly preached, but to me the whole scene was clearly ludicrous. I often laughed cynically. Those people are crazy!

    After graduating from Stanford University with an honors degree in sociology, I decided to take a job in the San Francisco area as an investment advisor. One spring day in May, I stayed late at the office. Everyone else had gone home, leaving me alone with some troubling thoughts. I swiveled my chair around and propped my feet on the credenza to gaze into a typically grand California sunset.

    That evening, as the sun dipped beneath the horizon, I suddenly saw in full clarity what I had become. What I saw was hopelessly ugly. Where once I was blind, now I could see. Instantly, I saw my deep, deep need for a Savior. Because of the Moline Gospel Temple, I knew Whom to call upon.

    My prayer that day was born out of the simplicity of a certain heart: “Lord, I’m ready to work with You if You’re ready to work with me.” I stood up and walked out of the office, not yet fully realizing what I’d just done. But God knew, and it seemed as if all heaven moved into my life. Within two weeks I had a job back in Iowa and a new life ahead of me. And no girlfriends!

    FEELING GOOD

    Back in Iowa, I began attending a marriage class led by Joel Budd, the associate pastor of my new church. It wasn’t long before I realized that I knew nothing about treating women properly. Perhaps it was because my mom and dad were divorced, and I never saw a loving relationship modeled at home. More likely, however, it was because of my own selfishness and sexual sin. Everything I knew about women came from one-night stands and casual dating relationships.

    I didn’t date during that year under Joel’s teaching. I might have been the only man in history to attend a married couples’ class for a whole year without even having so much as a single date! But just before the twelvemonth mark, I prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, I’ve been in this class for a year and have learned a lot about women, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen these things in real life. I’ve never really known any Christian girls. Please show me a woman who embodies these godly characteristics.” I wasn’t asking for a date, girlfriend, or spouse. I just wanted to see these teachings in practice, in real life, that I might understand them better. God did far more than that. One week later, He introduced me to my future wife, Brenda, and we fell in love.

    Out of our commitment to Christ, Brenda and I decided to stay pure before marriage. She was a virgin–and I wished I were. We did kiss, however, and whoa! Our lip smacking was wonderful! It was my first experience of something I would later discover far more deeply: the physically gratifying payoff that comes from obedience to God’s sexual standards.

    In a song made popular during my senior year in college, the singer mourned about trying to remember how it used to feel when a kiss was something special. The lyrics from the song resonated sadly with me because, at that point in my life, a kiss meant nothing to me. It was a joyless prerequisite on the path to intercourse. Something was deeply wrong. But now, having cut way back, in my experience with Brenda the simple kiss became thrilling again. To an old sex-hog like me, this was totally unexpected.

    As God continued to work in my life, Brenda and I married, honeymooned in Colorado, then settled into a new apartment building on the edge of a cornfield in a Des Moines suburb. Is this heaven? I surely thought so. Time passed, and at first, I was feeling good. While I was once engaged to two women at the same time, I was now happily married to one woman. While I once drowned in pornography, since my wedding day I hadn’t purchased a pornographic magazine. Given my track record, this was remarkable.

    STOPPING SHORT

    I threw myself into my sales career and my leadership roles at church. Then I became a dad. I relished it all, and my Christian image shined brighter and brighter.

    By worldly standards, I was doing great. Just one little problem. By God’s standard of sexual purity, I wasn’t even close to living His vision for marriage. Clearly I’d taken steps toward purity, but I was learning that God’s standards were higher than I’d ever imagined and that my Father had higher hopes for me than I had dreamed. It soon became clear that I’d stopped far short of holiness. There were the ad inserts, the double entendres, the heat-seeking eyes. My mind continued to daydream and fantasize over old girlfriends. These were more than a hint of sexual immorality.

    I was paying the price, and the bills were piling up. First, I could never look God in the eye. I could never fully worship Him. Because I dreamed of being with other women, and rather enjoyed mentally recalling past sexual conquests, I knew I was a hypocrite, and I continued feeling distant from God.

    People around me disagreed, saying, “Oh, come on! Nobody can control their eyes and mind, for heaven’s sakes! God loves you! It must be something else.” But I knew differently. My prayer life was feeble. Once my son was very sick and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Did I rush into prayer? No, I could only rush others to pray for me. “Have you called our pastor to pray?” I asked Brenda. “Have you called Ron? Have you called Red to pray?” I had no faith in my own prayers because of my sin.

    My faith was weak in other ways as well. As a full-commission salesperson, if I lost a number of deals in a row to the competition, I could never be sure if those setbacks weren’t somehow caused by my sin. I had no peace. I was paying a price for my sin.

    My marriage was suffering as well. Because of my sin, I couldn’t commit 100 percent to Brenda out of fear that she might dump me later. That cost Brenda in closeness. But that’s not all. Brenda told me she was experiencing frightening dreams in which she was being chased by Satan. Was my immorality causing spiritual protection to be taken away from her? My wife was paying a price.

    At church, I was an empty suit. I came to church desperately needing ministry and forgiveness. I never arrived ready to minister to others. Of course my prayers were no more effective in God’s house than anywhere else. My church was paying a price.

    I remember listening to one sermon in which the pastor talked about “generational sin”–patterns of sin passed from father to son (Exodus 34:7). Sitting in my pew, I recalled that my grandfather had run off from his wife in the middle of the Great Depression, leaving her with six kids to raise. My father left his family to pursue multiple sexual affairs. That same pattern had been passed to me, proven by my own multiple affairs in college. Though saved, I now found that I still didn’t have this purity issue settled in my life, and I was scared by the thought of passing this pattern on to my kids. My children could be paying a price.

    I finally made the connection between my sexual immorality and my distance from God. I was paying hefty fines in every area of my life. Having eliminated the visible adulteries and pornography, I looked pure on the outside to everyone else. But to God, I’d stopped short. I’d merely found a middle ground, somewhere between paganism and obedience to God’s standard.

    DESPERATION

    God desired more for me. He had freed me from the pit, but I’d stopped moving toward Him. Having seen the prices I paid and my distance from God, I decided it was time to move closer. I expected the journey to be easy. After all, I had decided to eliminate pornography and affairs, and they were gone. I figured I could stop the rest of this sexual junk just as easily. But I couldn’t. Every week I said I wouldn’t look at those ad inserts, but every Sunday morning the striking photos compelled me. Every week I’d vow to avoid watching R-rated “sexy” movies when I traveled, but every week I’d fail, sweating out tough battles and always losing. Every time I gazed at some glistening jogger, I’d promise to never do it again. But I always did.

    What I’d done was simply trade the pornography of Playboy and Gallery for the pornography of ad inserts and other magazine ads. The affairs? I’d simply traded the physical liaisons for mental affairs and daydreams– affairs of the eyes and heart. The sin remained because I’d never really changed, never rejected sexual sin, never escaped sexual slavery. I’d merely exchanged masters.

    A couple of months slipped by, then a couple of years. The distance from God grew wider, the bills stacked higher, and my impurity still ruled me. My faith waned further with each failure. Each desperate loss caused more desperation. While I could always say no, I could never mean no. Something was gripping me, something relentless, something mean. Like Steve, I eventually found total freedom. Since then, both Steve and I have had the chance to talk to men ensnared in sensual pits. Trapped and desperate to be free, their stories grip the heart. Now that you’ve heard my story, maybe you’ll relate to the men in these next few pages as well.


    Excerpted from Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey. 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.

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