Audio Adrenaline - Prologue II: Return of the Singer
For the previous episode from AA, click here.
Posted on October 26, 2012 by Family Christian
Audio Adrenaline - Prologue II: Return of the Singer
For the previous episode from AA, click here.
Posted on October 22, 2012 by Family Christian
The following is an excerpt taken from Surfing For God by Michael Cusick.
Have you ever wondered what makes a certain act sinful and another not sinful? Why is it wrong to lie? Or kill? Or commit adultery? Who says viewing porn is wrong when our culture tries to reassure us that it’s natural and normal—in fact, based on popular consumption and the ten-billion-dollar industry it generates, you’re abnormal if you don’t view porn!
One way of thinking about why something is sinful is to respond, “It says in the Bible that it’s wrong.” While true, God put dos and don’ts into the Bible because they reveal something much deeper about us. When God tells us not to commit adultery, He is telling us that doing this goes against our design. “Do not commit adultery” is God’s version of “Do not brush your teeth with a toaster” or “Do not grill steaks on a block of ice.” It just can’t accomplish what it was designed to do. Like sailing the seven seas in a Chevy pickup—it doesn’t get the job done, and you put yourself at great risk.
Or consider porn this way. Wouldn’t it be rather odd if a trained fighter pilot never left the hangar for fear of not knowing how to fly the jet? Or consider a gifted sculptor who never picked up his hammer and chisel because he couldn’t find the perfect block of marble.
What if a major-league baseball player didn’t show up for practice because he spent all his time playing baseball on his Xbox? Or a master shipbuilder never sailed the open waters because his fantasy of the perfect seaworthy vessel kept him on dry ground?
This is what porn is like. It allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. All because we settle for something that doesn’t exist and will never satisfy us.
So how does porn go against our design as men and sabotage God’s dream for us to live out our true identities? C. S. Lewis spoke to the heart of this question when he wrote about the soul damage caused by sexual fantasy (whether through masturbation or pornography) and what he called “imaginary women.” Lewis described these imaginary women this way: “Always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadow brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.”
Lewis began with the assumption that sex is good, not bad—a gift to be enjoyed within God-designed boundaries. He also framed his words against the backdrop that “the main work of life is to come up and out of ourselves.” Lewis assumed that God designed us to mature and become less focused on ourselves and more focused on loving others. When we fixate on porn, we choose to remain selfishly anchored to our own pleasure above all else. When we preoccupy ourselves with meeting our own needs and ignoring the needs of others—in this case, our wives, flesh-and-blood women, and not some Photoshopped model—then we stifle our spiritual growth. Lewis summed up the problem with pornography this way: “In the end, [imaginary women] become the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. After all, the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. . . . All things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”
Lewis calls us to remember what a man is made for: our deepest longing is to know God in the center of our being, and out of that place to offer ourselves for the sake of others. Augustine taught about the theological idea of incurvatus se—a life turned in on itself. Porn successfully accomplishes this—it causes our soul to turn in on itself in self-absorbed isolation and shame. It diminishes our souls. It seduces a man to use women to meet a need in himself—without meeting any of her needs. And this act of “using” comes not only at her expense but also at the devastating cost of his own heart. We don’t realize the price we pay until we feel empty and bankrupt inside.
You were created for excurvatus se—a life lived outward. Not outward as in codependent or being a martyr. Not dying to self in a way where legitimate needs are neglected. But a life that flows from a deep source. A life that bears fruit. A life lived outwardly enhances, builds up, and causes the heart to flourish. Donald Miller has suggested that we are trees in the story of a forest. And that story of the forest is better than the story of the trees.5 Pornography perverts and upends this idea with titillating images that invite us to live as if the story of the trees were the only story, and the story of the forest doesn’t exist.
The purpose of this book is to go beyond the common “Just don’t do it” strategy of sin management. Together, we will explore the truth of how you were meant to live and how you can get there so you can enjoy a new and better life in the forest. I invite you to stop looking at pictures of F-18s in combat and ships on the high seas, or playing baseball on your Xbox instead of eating the dust of a real baseball diamond. We’ll do much more than that. You’ll discover the thrill of getting into the game, flying the F-18, and sailing the ship so that pornography and lust lose their grip on your soul.
Please read closely: the deepest truth about you is that you are the F-18 pilot, created for combat. God designed you to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. You are the major-league ballplayer, created with the offensive and defensive abilities to get in the game with a team of others on a common mission. God uniquely fashioned you to win games. To hit home runs. To steal bases. God chose you to play on His team.Adapted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael Cusick. Copyright ©2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Posted on October 18, 2012 by Family Christian
The following post is from a Grace To You blog post. It was written by Travis Allen. Grace to you is a ministry of John MacArthur. John is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.
Halloween. It's a time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Americans the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $41.77 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $3.3 billion this year.
It's a good bet retailers won't entertain high expectations of getting $41.77 per household from the Christian market. Many Christians refuse to participate in Halloween. Some are wary of its pagan origins; others of its dark, ghoulish imagery; still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick-or-treating, or a Halloween alternative at their church.
The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season--are they overreacting?
The Pagan Origin of Halloween
The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. "All Hallows Eve" was eventually contracted to "Hallow-e'en," which became "Halloween."
As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in "Christianizing" a pagan ritual--the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That's what happened to All Saints Eve--it was the original Halloween alternative!
The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds, slaughtering animals that wouldn't make it. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today's Halloween celebrations.
The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced "sow" "en") celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days--October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living--ghosts haunting the earth.
Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought "divine" spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world's "blessings" on a couple's romance.
For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats--possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably "treated" would "trick" those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.
Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it--the jack-o-lantern.
Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:
There shall not be found among you anyone...who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (vv. 10-13).
Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century--he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.
As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to "Christianized" superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a "trick" being played on their property from drunken young people.
Halloween didn't become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.
Hollywood has added to the "fun" a wide assortment of fictional characters--demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. That certainly isn't improving the American mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.
The Christian Response to Halloween
Today Halloween is almost exclusively an American secular holiday, but many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That's not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.
So, how should Christians respond?
First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God has forever "disarmed principalities and powers" through the cross Christ and "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]" (Colossians 2:15).
Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior--drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.
Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble. Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.
Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn't just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God's] adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner--now that is truly terrifying.
Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination--death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry--as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian's ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.
There are several different ways Christians will engage in Halloween evangelism. Some will adopt a "No Participation" policy. As Christian parents, they don't want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities--listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don't want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives.
That response naturally raises eyebrows and provides a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It's also important that parents explain their stand to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers.
Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called "Harvest Festivals" or "Reformation Festivals"--the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. It's ironic when you consider Halloween's beginning as an alternative, but it can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, "treating" needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.
Those are good alternatives; there are others that are not so good. Some churches are using "Hell House" evangelism to shock young people and scare them into becoming Christians. They walk people through rooms patterned after carnival-style haunted houses and put sin on display--women undergoing abortions, people sacrificed in a satanic ritual, consequences of premarital sex, dangers of rave parties, demon possession, and other tragedies.
Here's the problem with so-called Hell House evangelism: To shock an unshockable culture, you have to get pretty graphic. Graphic exhibits of sin and its consequences are unnecessary--unbelieving minds are already full of such images. What they need to see is a life truly transformed by the power of God, and what they need to hear is the truth of God in an accurate presentation of the gospel. Cheap gimmickry is unfitting for Christ's ambassadors.
There's another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There's nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children--provided you're not stingy--can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.
Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?
Posted on October 17, 2012 by Family Christian
Amidst the speculation and rumors that have been circulating for weeks, Audio Adrenaline officially announce their return. With the same heart, passion and infectious musical prowess they developed as a band in the 1990’s, multi-GRAMMY® award-winning Audio Adrenaline is indeed back and putting together a new lineup of like-minded musicians with the same common goal; to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. The Know Hope Foundation, supporters of Audio Adrenaline and Hands & Feet Project, as well as record label Fair Trade Services, have joined them in this renewed mission to fund and market a new record from which net proceeds will go to Hands & Feet Project to continue growth and support of the nearly eight-year-old charity.
Five years ago, the band gathered in Hawaii along with their biggest fans for what they thought was their last performance. Since that emotional finale concert, founding members Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss have tirelessly worked to raise awareness and support for the 100 orphans currently being cared for in Jacmel and Grand Goave, Haiti. Now, with additional new band members and a larger mission goal, there is no question the world is ready for the “new” Audio Adrenaline.
Stuart and McGinniss are still very much a part of the re-formed band. McGinniss continues his role as the band’s bassist while Stuart, although stepping down as lead vocalist due to his spasmodic dysphonia, causing involuntary muscle spasms of the larynx, is very much a part of band decisions and writing on many of the songs for the new album. Taking over lead vocals is former dcTalk member and industry mainstay Kevin Max, while CCM vets Dave Ghazarian (Superchick) is on guitar, Jared Byers (Bleach) is the band’s drummer, and singer-songwriter Jason Walker plays keys.
"I've never been more excited about an Audio A record,” shares Stuart. “We've collectively poured into each song for months, and I love every track. Being able to help write and direct the process of putting the band back together has been an absolute joy. I can't wait to see our fans sing along with Kevin on the AA classics and fall in love with the new songs."
As just released in Billboard, the brand new album is slated to release March 2013. The first single, “Kings And Queens,” will hit Christian radio in November. "It's just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these, God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens," Stuart says of the song. "It gives you that idea that these are God's favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There's going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they've been through here. It's just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands & Feet and the message of Audio A right now."
When the decision was made to re-launch the group, there was a lot of thought to who would be the right selection to carry on the mantle of lead vocalist for Audio Adrenaline. When conversations were had with the band’s new manager, Wes Campbell of First Company Management, the idea was raised to talk to Kevin Max, a long-time friend of the band. Most of all, Max understands the passion for orphan care and Hands & Feet because he, just like many of the children at Hands & Feet Project, had been orphaned as a small child.
McGinniss shares, “We have joined together under the new banner of Audio Adrenaline, yet the common thread that brings all of us together is for a much greater reason. We are beyond excited to finally share why we are putting the band back together.”
Fair Trade Services, the new label home for Audio Adrenaline, could not be more excited in their unique partnership with Know Hope Foundation and the Hands & Feet Project, and name the band as part of their stellar roster. Shares Jeff Moseley, Fair Trade Services President, “We would like to see the orphans in Haiti taken care of and given a chance to succeed in life. As believers and leaders, we must do good while we are doing well. This is our mandate as followers of Christ and this is our mandate as humans.”
Prologue #1 - The Ballad of Mark Stuart
Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian
Could it be that we have made our relationship with God far too difficult? We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (nasb).
For over a half of a century, I had been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing its tail, I had been going in circles. Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness, wandering, ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.
And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God.2 During a recent poll, 65 percent of churchgoers said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth.3 On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need to experience the evergrowing, continually maturing, abundant life. So why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?
“God, what do you really want from me?”
I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their hearts through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot. And somehow we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.
I had asked the question a thousand times, but on that one frosty January morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that I and my busy sisters have been asking the wrong question.
Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.
I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year, after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those ten little words. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.
Have you ever wondered why you were created? You were created for God’s glory and to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), because it pleased Him to do so (Ephesians 1:5). The concept of glory can be a difficult idea to wrap our human minds around. It seems so otherworldly. We can catch glimpses of its meaning throughout Scripture, but then like a shooting star that appears for just a moment, it quickly slips away into the vast expanse of God’s infinite wisdom. But let’s see what we can know about this bigger-than-life word.
In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “glory” is kābod, meaning “weight, honor, or esteem.” The Bible associates God’s glory with how He manifests Himself or makes His presence known. Some theologians refer to these as theophanies. He made His presence known in a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16–17), a moving cloud (Exodus 13:21), and a still small voice
(1 Kings 19:12). His glory is reflected in creation (Psalm 19:1) and in His sovereign control of history (Acts 17:26). His glory is made known through the life of simple human beings like you and me.
The same concept of God’s glory is in the New Testament in the Greek word doxa, which means “glory, honor, and splendor.” John wrote, “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). After Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine, John wrote:
“This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” ( John 2:11). In Hebrews 1:3, the writer reveals this about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”
The verb form,“to glorify,” is doxazo, and primarily means “to magnify, extol, praise, to ascribe honor to God, acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts,”4 i.e., His glory. It is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When we glorify God, we are giving a display or manifestation—or a reflection—of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy to see. Jesus said that the disciples would glorify God when they bore fruit (John 15:8). Through their actions, they would point others to God and make Him easy to see.
God’s glory is how He makes Himself known. It is almost incomprehensible to think that He would choose mere human beings to accomplish such a task. But as Scripture tells us, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and as a display of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). You were created to make God recognizable to others—to show others what God is like. He makes Himself recognizable to us and through us. The glory of any created thing is when it is fully fulfilling the purpose for which it was created…and that includes you and me.
Glory is a big word—a weighty word. In this book we are going to zoom in on one aspect of glory—how God makes Himself known in your life as you live and move and have your being in Him.
Can you remember a time when you sensed God’s presence and you were absolutely sure it was Him? Perhaps it was when you first believed, or maybe it happened just yesterday. You may have felt an overwhelming sense of His love, received an answer to prayer, felt an inexplicable peace, or witnessed a miracle. But when it happened…oh, when it happened…you knew you had encountered the Divine. The moment came and went, and you were awestruck. Do you remember it? That was God making Himself known to you personally. I call that a sudden glory—an intimate moment with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, a genuine “inloveness,” a glimpse of heaven.
To illustrate what I mean by this, consider how Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, describes the moment he knew he was in love with his wife, Davy:
One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the “real thing” happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows [full] well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.
I have been in the jungle and heard the lion’s roar. I knew full well it was Him. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Jesus and me. A sudden glory. Time and time again.
All throughout our lives, I dare say, throughout our days, we will experience a sudden glory in unpredictable moments. Or, at least we could.
A friend shared a moment of sudden glory in her life:
Life was hard after my divorce. With no child support and only a part-time job for income, there were days when I didn’t know how I would put dinner on the table for myself and my four children. I often had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. On one such day, I walked to the mailbox praying I wouldn’t find another cut-off notice from the utility company. Thankfully there was nothing of the sort. Instead I found an envelope that had no return address, and inside it was a note that read, “Jesus loves you.” Tucked behind the note was a grocery store gift card for an amount that would buy groceries for at least a week.
In that moment I felt as if God had wrapped His arms around me and whispered to my heart, “I see you. I love you. I care.” His presence was suddenly so real that all I could do was stand there and cry.
These moments are the salve for the glory ache. They are the manna moments to stay the hunger until we finally reach heaven’s home. Do you yearn for those glory moments? Well, guess what. God longs to give them to you even more than you yearn for them!Excerpted from A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Jaynes. 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.
Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian
Matthew West loves stories. And those stories sometimes turn into songs. Matthew recently spoke with Family Christian about how the stories he's been collecting ended up on his new album – and touching his life.
The songs on Into the Light are inspired by true stories from people's lives. How have those stories impacted you personally?
Matthew - Since first giving people the opportunity to share their story with me a couple of years ago, I've received over 20,000 stories from all over the world. I've made it my mission to read each story in the hopes of giving those stories a voice through song.
What I didn't expect is how much opening myself up to the stories of other peoples' lives would affect me. One by one, they have opened my eyes to see how God is uniquely at work in each and every one of our lives. I;ve been so inspired by all of these people who are willing to allow God to use their stories, even the parts that may be less than perfect. These storytellers are heroes to me and have taught me what real, authentic Christianity looks like. Just imperfect people allowing a perfect God to shine through them!
The story behind the first single, "Forgiveness," is really powerful. How have you seen God using that song and its message in people's lives?
Matthew - I think at one point in time every one of us has been wronged by somebody, maybe hurt by a family member or betrayed by a friend. And for me personally, I've been known to be able to hold a grudge with the best of them.
Renee's story of how God helped her to forgive the drunk driver who took the life of her precious daughter is a powerful reminder that there is freedom in forgiveness. It’s not that we have to forget, but we are not meant to carry the weight of bitterness. It's too heavy and it will hold us back from finding that freedom that comes when we set it free.
I'm hearing so many stories from people about how Renee's story and this song are challenging them to deal with some situations in their lives where they know God wants to break the stronghold of bitterness. I think the neatest thing I'm hearing is how, really, this story can bring us all back to the reminder of just how much we are all in need of forgiveness. God offers us that gift over and over again, and He calls us to do the same.
What do you hope listeners take away from the songs on Into the Light?
Matthew - I hope that stepping Into the Light will become contagious. I believe these people who have stepped forward to tell their story to me and inspired these songs will cause a chain reaction encouraging others to do the same.
Something special takes place when a person stands up, brings their story into the light and says, "This is who I am. Look what God has done!" The rest of the world takes notice, and it's like “Hey, I'm not alone. Maybe God can use my story too.” That's what I hope people take away from these stories and songs. We discover our life's purpose when we step out of the shadows and trust God with our whole lives, holding nothing back.
You recently traveled to Haiti. Tell us a little about that trip.
Matthew - My band and I traveled to Haiti with Compassion International to see firsthand what life is like in this poverty stricken country. Honestly, it was quite difficult to even begin to process the darkness and despair that we witnessed. My heart breaks as my mind replays the images of that trip.
But, in the middle of what at times looked like a hopeless situation, I saw God at work restoring lives and communities through the work of Compassion. This trip really lit a fire in me to make sure that I am not simply talking about being God's hands and feet, but actually doing something about it.
Christmas will be here before we know it, so we wanted to know: what's on your "must listen" Christmas playlist?
Matthew - Well, my CD, The Heart of Christmas, of course! No, seriously, I love the classics. Put on some Bing Crosby, Eddie Arnold or Nat King Cole and I'm happy. Also love Amy Grant's classic Christmas CD.
And what are some of the traditions your family celebrates every Christmas?
Matthew - A Christmas Eve candle light service is a family tradition we've observed ever since I was growing up in my dad's church in Chicago. There's something about standing with my family, singing "Silent Night" and lighting a candle that always seems to rescue my heart from the chaos of the season and help me return to what it's really all about: Jesus.
Matthew's Christmas album, Heart of Christmas, can be found by clicking here.
Posted on September 27, 2012 by Family Christian
Here are some things my bride likes: fireworks, parades, a company bathroom that’s welcoming, babies, cute babies, goofy-looking babies, well produced television commercials with cute or goofy-looking babies, scones, sparkly glassware on her Thanksgiving dinner table, hanging out with her children, bling for Christmas, warm feet, lying on a beach with a book, fresh flowers, fresh snow, frozen Cokes, lightly buttered popcorn, drinking straws, craft magazines, etcetera.
It’s a good list. And I’ll probably think of a few more things in the normal course of life. I’ll have to make sure my editor checks with me right before going to press to see if there are a few more things to add. Actually, just writing this list has been a valuable exercise. Th inking about what my bride likes literally strengthens my marriage.
A couple of things worth noting about this kind of list. It focuses on the positive. I could have included items such as “chili that’s not filled with cayenne pepper” and “kitchen countertops without a bunch of appliances.” But that would essentially be a list of things she doesn’t like (spicy chili and cluttered counters). Everything on the list gives off mostly positive vibes. Of course, we husbands should be well aware of what our wives don’t like, but that’s not the point of this chapter.
The other thing about this list is that these are not emotional needs or love languages exclusive to the husband-wife relationship. These are things Rita likes anytime, anyplace, no matter who provides them. If a scone, fresh flowers, or craft magazine mysteriously appeared on our kitchen table, she would enjoy that thing simply because she likes it. Sure, part of the fun of parades and fireworks is sharing them with others, but I’m pretty sure Rita would enjoy them in the company of strangers.
You probably know where I’m going with this. A wise husband will make a similar list particular to his own wife. Using it and updating it frequently. In random order, provide one of those items to your bride once a week for the rest of your life. Be intentional about it. Find a scone bakery on the way home from work. On movie night, make sure you have some microwave popcorn in the cabinet. Book a beach vacation.
Or better, keep the list at the top of your mind and allow it to trigger spontaneous moments when you provide your wife one of her favorite things. While you’re waiting for a prescription, if you notice a craft magazine, pick it up. If one of those cute-baby commercials comes on when she’s in the kitchen, pause the DVR and play it for her when she returns. If you notice the sun glinting off a fresh snowfall, stop what you’re doing and share the moment with your bride.
The goal here is not selfish. It’s easy to think, If I give her what she likes, she’ll give me what I like. That’s not it at all. The goal is to fully integrate into your marriage the “two becoming one” idea from Matthew chapter 19. Maybe think of it this way: If I give her what she likes, it gives me joy as well.
Making sense? No? It makes total sense to me, but perhaps that is because I started this chapter out with a list specific to my bride. I’m pretty sure that if you make a similar list for yours, it will all be clear. Don’t just do it in your head. Get out a yellow pad or open a new Word doc and just start thinking about what makes your wife smile. Your mind may start to wander to the stuff that ticks her off or launches an unwelcome bout of nagging, but don’t go there. Stay positive.
I promise, just making that list will give you all kinds of fresh insights, warm fuzzies, and a new appreciation for your bride. You’ll begin to see her as only a devoted husband can. There are things you know about her that no one else does. Which means only you can intentionally and regularly provide those moments of joy. Only you can prompt that intimate smile that makes marriage different than any other relationship in the world.
The longer you’re married, the more you know how to push your wife’s buttons. Which ones to push and how often is really your choice.Excerpted from 52 Things Wives Need from Their Husbands by Jay Payleitner. Copyright ©2012 by Jay Payleitner. Excerpted by permission of Harvest House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Family Christian
Joy gives fuel to our faith and it allows us to fuel the faith of others. It lights up a room with its genuine gladness and delights to hear another’s heart. Indeed, our countenance stays soft and kind when joy, like emotional lotion, has been applied to our face by the Spirit. Just as sunblock protects us from overexposure to harmful rays of light, so joy shields our soul from the lies of defeat and depression. Joy in Jesus generates gladness.
“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.” Psalm 100:2
We worship the Lord with gladness when we reflect on the gift of His son Jesus. How can we not explode with joy when we celebrate our eternal salvation in Christ? Praise to God releases our soul to lift up and proclaim joyful songs to our Great Shepherd, our Great Savior and our Great Spirit—the Godhead, three in one. Gladness in God can’t help but give Him glory. We are recipients of blessings that transcend our temporary trials.
Therefore, be a joy giver—not a joy killer. Joy givers smile—joy killers scowl. Joy givers build up—joy killers tear down. Joy givers laugh out loud—joy killers sneer inside. Joy givers see opportunities—joy killers see obstacles. Thus, be an agent of joy on behalf of Jesus. Perhaps you take yourself less seriously and the Lord more seriously. Laugh at yourself, sing in the Spirit and extend encouragement. A smiling soul molds the mouth.
“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8-9
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may I be a conduit of Christ’s joy to those I encounter.
Related Readings: Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 19:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2:19; Philemon 1:7
Post/Tweet this today: Gladness in God can’t help but give Him glory. #gladness #God
Get free eBook “Infusion” by inviting 5 friends to Wisdom Hunters http://bit.ly/PEbaBJ
This post was posted in Daily Devotion
Posted on August 22, 2012 by Family Christian
Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.
Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us.
FC - You came to Christ at a young age; have you ever felt despondent enough (as a Christian) to consider taking your own life?
Nick - I gave my life to Jesus at age fifteen when I read in the Bible that Jesus knew that the works of God would be displayed through the blind man in John 9. However, before having faith in Jesus, I was angry at God and blamed Him for my lack of limbs and the fact He didn't seem to care. I thought He’d forgotten me or wasn't real at all was because He didn't answer me when I asked with much faith for limbs miraculously. Neither did He answer me when I asked why He had done this. Because of being bullied at school, experiencing a lot of negative attention, feeling like I was a burden to my parents, and not seeing a right future, I attempted to commit suicide by drowning myself in a bath tub. As I was in the process, the thought of leaving my parents with much grief helped me to not go through with the suicide. It was by God's grace that I am still here, and I can hear the words ring true in Jeremiah 29: 11-14.
FC - What advice can you offer to other people who are mentally or physically disabled, and feel like their life is "over" and worthless?
Nick - Any negative lies and thoughts that come in are not from God if the statements are not in-sync with the Word, the heart of God. Every day, we must pray that the Lord guards our hearts and minds as we battle with principalities and powers of darkness. We have the truth. Remind yourself of the truth of your identity, purpose and destiny in Christ. Put on the full armor of God. Ask God for the gift of faith to believe every loving word of the Bible and the discipline to have time in worship or prayer or reading of the Scriptures to further the growth of your faith. Take one day at a time. We all have a fear of being lonely. Some have been abandoned, but Jesus is with you. Trust Him, and if you don't know Him, seek Him.
FC - Describe an average day for Nick? How long it takes to get ready in the mornings?
Nick - As a teenager, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be independent, and it would take me an hour to get ready, brush my teeth, go to the restroom, shower and dress myself. These days I like to focus on what gives me more joy and save my energy for the things that are truly rewarding after proving to myself that I could be independent. So, I have caregivers who take care of me and get me ready especially when traveling.
FC - How did you meet your wife?
Nick - My wife Kanae and I fell in love at the top of a Bell Tower in McKinney, Texas at the "Adriatica.” The fully story is in my book, but it was at a night where I only spoke to 16 people, and we watched the Butterfly Circus. I shared about the ministry's goals and heart in reaching the world. Fireworks were in our minds and hearts when our eyes connected that night... and for the rest of the story, get the book.
FC - What qualities or characteristics attracted you to her? Do you plan to have children soon?
Nick - She is my best friend, and I adore her. She has unimaginable grace, love, patience and meekness. She is such a focused and gentle giver. We are hoping to have children in a few years, but you never know what the Lord wants.
FC - Where do you live/attend church?
Nick - With living in Southern California but traveling quite a lot over the years, it has been difficult to find a home church that we truly see our children growing up in long term. But we genuinely enjoy the fellowship of the Apostolic Christian Church in Pasadena and love their hearts in valuing the family-style congregation.
FC - You minister around the world to children, churches and businessmen. What message is on your heart at the moment?
Nick - In such a world and generation, there is so much information and entertainment and vicious pressure to be someone you're not yet or to get something you don't have yet. The message to preach is the truth. To know our true worth, knowing that we are all loved, and we are here for a greater purpose.
FC - Tell us about your book - what inspired you to write it, what do you hope it will achieve, who is it for?
Nick - Before writing Unstoppable, I personally went through two major life-changing experiences that I learned so much in and through. I went through a personal crisis in December 2010. Then I met my wife and started courting her at the end of 2010. That's why I wrote Unstoppable. I love how God lets us go through difficult challenges to help each other and encourage one another. I want to communicate a message of hope and love that continues to evolve as I walk closer to Jesus.
Bonus: Check out Nick on a recent sky diving excursion.
Pick up Nick's other book title, Life Without Limits, by clicking here.
Posted on August 11, 2012 by Family Christian
Take a generous helping of soul...splatter it with bouncing rhythms, blistering guitars, engaging vocals, stellar musicianship and catchy pop melodies that make you want to move--all textured with the truth of God's grace--and you have Royal Tailor.
Rarely has music collided with ministry in a more explosive mash up than on Royal Tailor's Essential Records debut Black & White. Fusing pop, rock, R&B, hip hop and worship into a distinctive musical blend, Tauren, Blake, Jarrod and D.J. deliver the Gospel in a high-energy style that makes audiences want to dance, pray, shout and sing along.
"We like to get down," Tauren says with a smile. "That's how we roll. If you ever spend any time with the four of us, you will be dancing. If it's the Electric Slide, the dougie, free-styling or whatever, at some point we're going to turn up the music, and we're going to have a good time. That's just who we are."
Check out their new single, Freefall (lyric video).
For your further listening pleasure... here is the acoustic version.