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  • 7 Ways to Pursue Spiritual Growth in 2017

    Prayerfully reflect on the year that has passed and ask God to guide you in the year to come.

    Physical fitness, wholesome nutrition, quality sleep – chances are you’re hoping to improve at least one area of your health in 2017. But what about your spiritual wellbeing? As you get ready to ring in the New Year, take some time to prayerfully reflect on the year that has passed and ask God to guide you in the year to come.

    Focus on Prayer Prayer is a powerful and essential part of spiritual growth. Set yourself up for success by laying your goals down at God’s feet and relying on Him for strength. If prayer has felt more like a burden than a blessing lately, energize your prayer life with these four tips.

    Get Into God’s Word If you’re resolving to read the Bible this year, The One-Year Bible will help you stay on track with daily readings from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the book of Psalms and Proverbs. Maybe you’re just getting started on your walk with God or picking up a Bible for the first time. Get into the Word and begin to better understand the Gospel with these Bible study tips.

    Be Thankful When we flood our minds and hearts with everything we want to change, it can be easy for the goodness of God to escape us. While we certainly need to pray for our needs and the needs of others, it’s important to intentionally thank God for all the good He is doing in our lives. Cultivate a spirit of joy by focusing on your blessings not your burdens.

    Consider a Second Bible If you read your Bible book by book, try a chronological Bible. If you typically take notes in a separate journal, experiment with a journaling Bible. Supplementing your daily reading with a second Bible can help bring clarity to God’s Word.

    Commit to a Daily Devotional Whether you’re diving into your faith for the first time or you’ve been connecting with God for years, these devotionals will keep you encouraged. Focus your heart on God’s faithfulness with 8 daily devotional books that will strengthen your faith in 2017.

    Join a Small Group Faith flourishes in the presence of community. Consider joining a small group or a Bible study at your church or identify a spiritual mentor who can lovingly challenge you to grow. Surround yourself with believers you can learn from.

    Put Your Faith Into Action As Christians, we are called to serve. Be the hands and feet of Christ by volunteering through your church or another organization in your community. Serving can also be a great way to spend time growing together as a family.

    We hope you feel encouraged and equipped to make spiritual growth a priority in the New Year.

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  • A Season of Joy: Jesus Christ is Born

    Keep Christ at the center of your family's Christmas celebration by reflecting on the birth of Jesus.

    With Christmas quickly approaching, stress levels are at an all time high and to do lists are longer than ever. Keep your family focused on the reason for the season by reflecting on the birth of our Lord and Savior.

    The Christmas Story: Luke 2:1-20 NLT

    At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

    And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

    That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

    Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

    They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

    The great news from an angel of the Lord filled the shepherds living nearby with absolute joy. The most amazing event in history had happened — the Messiah had been born! With Jesus’ birth came hope for the entire world, hope we continue to believe in today. We encourage you to look toward Christ’s second coming with a joyful spirit and a hopeful heart.

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  • 4 Ways to Energize Your Prayer Life

    Has prayer become yet another item on your busy to do list? If we’re honest, we’ve probably all felt this way at times. As humans, it can be easy to get swept up in the demands, distractions and disappointments of this world. But as Christians, we know that prayer is a powerful and essential part of our spiritual walk. If prayer feels like a burden instead of a blessing, these tips will help you get excited about spending time in prayer.

    Be Thankful When our prayers are a laundry list of all the things we want to change, we’re not likely to approach the throne of grace with excitement. We certainly need to pray for our needs and the needs of others, but let’s remember to thank God for all the good He is doing in our lives.

    Rework Your Routine Prayer should be a regular part of our life, but that doesn’t mean we have to do it at the same time, in the same way, at the same place. If you normally pray in your living room, try going for a walk. If you normally use a prayer journal, try praying verses in the Bible. Don’t be afraid to change it up!

    Learn To Listen Relationships are a two-way street and our relationship with God is no exception. We often develop a pattern of listing off our needs without pausing to hear from God. It’s important to sit silently in God’s presence and simply listen.

    Pray Without Ceasing Don’t compartmentalize your prayer life. God’s door is always open which means we have the opportunity to present our requests to Him all day long, not just during our designated prayer time. Say short prayers during those busy moments in life, then go back and pray more in depth when the events of the day have settled.

    God never intended prayer to be dull, mundane or boring. We hope these tips inspire you to approach your prayer time with a joyful spirit and a hopeful heart.

    What tips have helped you improve your prayer life?

  • What Is It About Small Children?

    Have you noticed the super powers small children wield?

    I was riding the NYC subway one morning, when the doors opened and into the car walked a little child.

    She was maybe 2.

    Instantly, all of us—these defended New Yorkers, all avoiding eye contact, all guarding our space—were transformed. We smiled at her. At her mother. At each other.

    Her gentleness disarmed us. Barriers of race and age and status vanished.

    She changed everything.

    When people asked Jesus, “Who’s the greatest in your Kingdom?” Jesus showed them a little child and said, “Become like this little child.”

    It’s not always all about what we teach children.

    It’s about what they teach us.

    I’ve learned that from writing for children. Writing for children keeps you honest. You have to dig deeper. Work harder. Understand it better. Your job is to distill—to take the profound and make it simple enough for a child to understand.

    When I was writing THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE, I couldn’t rely on jargon. A little child has no concept of what sin is, for instance. I had to find other ways to describe it. I wrote that: sin is not just about breaking the rules, it’s breaking God’s heart; it’s like poison that makes your heart sick and stops it from working properly; it’s like running away from God and hiding in the shadows.

    Writing for children demands nothing short of excellence.

    The funny thing is—if you write with the excellence that children deserve you reach everyone. C S Lewis said: “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.”

    Excellence, it turns out, is the most inclusive thing.

    THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE has broken out of the boundaries typical for a children’s bible storybook—read by college students, theologians, pastors, couples; read in schools, prisons, old people’s homes. (It’s so popular with adults that we have published their own edition: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.)

    I think it has something to do with that place inside of us all that remains a child still, the place God loves to speak to us—the place where we are undefended, humble, open to wonder. Open him. The place that tiny child spoke to us all, in that NYC subway car that morning.

    In THE JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE I captured the plotline of the Bible. As adults when do we ever hear that plotline? Even if we go to church regularly, we may never hear the whole story in one sitting.

    But when you distill the story down so that you can read it in one sitting, immediately it is startling. Because most of us think we know what the Bible is about—and it’s not good. We think it’s a book of rules you follow so God will love you. Or a book of heroes you copy so God will love you.

    But it’s none of those things.

    It’s most of all a Story.

    The Story Of a God who breaks into History and comes down to rescue his children. A God who moves heaven and earth to be near them, to love them—though it would cost him everything.

    The Story of a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. The Story of a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything—to rescue the one he loves.

    The Bible is simply this: THE STORY OF GOD’S LOVE FOR YOU.

    And I don’t know anyone—young or old—who doesn’t need to hear that story.

    Sally Lloyd-Jones is a New York Times bestselling author whose books include: Thoughts To Make Your Heart Sing, a children’s devotional which won the ECPA Christian Book of The Year award in adult inspiration, and The Jesus Storybook Bible, now available in a format for adults with a new design and title, The Story of God's Love for You. Sally also has a new picture book coming this spring, Baby Wren and the Great Gift.

  • Introducing Widow Connection

    In 2006, Miriam Neff became a widow after her husband, Bob, lost his battle to ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Shortly thereafter, she sought out resources that could provide her with advice for dealing with grief and her new financial situation. Unfortunately, she couldn’t find a comprehensive book for widows with a spiritual perspective.

    On the seven-month anniversary of Bob’s death, she was in Burkina Faso, Africa teaching a group of widows who were hungry to hear the Word. That evening in her hotel room, she knew God was calling her to serve widows and their children.

    That was when Widow Connection was born.

    Today, Miriam is educating and encouraging widows all over the world through her:

    Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with Miriam, her daughter and even one of the widows she has connected with and helped.

    We had a wonderful time getting to know her and her story. She is extremely passionate about serving widows in need. One such case was that of Lori Fox-Ritter, a widow who connected with Miriam after reading her book. After reading the first few pages, Lori learned that Miriam’s husband also passed away from ALS—and four years to the day earlier than her husband, Eric.

    Next month, we’ll dive deeper into the past, present and future of Widow Connection, as well as share the rest of Lori’s story with you.

    Stay tuned!

  • A Distant Shore by Levi Lusko

    Her pink bike is in the garage with her helmet hung by its strap from one of the handlebars. It has white-walled tires. Just like mine. Every time I walk by it I take a deep breath in and let it out slowly as I think about how spring will come and the snow will melt and we will go on family bike rides in the evenings, but her bike will stay parked in that spot. Her helmet will stay there too, dangling from the handlebars. Lenya will not ride that bike again. Eventually Daisy will use it and then Clover, but not Lenya. Not ever.

    She isn’t going to play with her toys anymore. Neither will she wear any of her dresses or other clothes that are hanging in her closet and folded in her drawers. She used to transform all the pieces from this wardrobe into three or four wild and wonderful outfits, and as many messy piles on the floor by lunchtime each day. Her room is far too clean and tidy now. Everything stays as we put it. Her Jesus jar is empty because she brought her tithe to church the weekend before she left us, but the money she saved up in her “spend” jar will not be spent by her.

    I know this all to be true because my daughter has gone to heaven. She is on a distant shore. Though we can’t see her she is near. Heaven can’t be that far away because when you leave this earth you are able to be instantly with the Lord. At most it is a day’s journey away because Jesus promised the thief on the cross that, “today you will be with Me in paradise,” and when He said that they had already been on the cross for hours. Maybe it’s extremely close, just unseen to us presently. Doesn’t that seem to be how Stephen makes it sound, in the book of Acts, when, in his final moments, he gave us a description of of glory that seemed to appear before his eyes right before he died? I wonder, and long to find out. Perhaps if we knew how close Heaven was we would be more motivated by it and live to fill it more ardently than we do.

    In Lenya’s final moments on earth her mother’s voice was in her ears and she was held by her father’s hands. Those were frantic, desperate and frightening minutes to us as we sought to keep her here through CPR. God chose instead to bring her to His country. A place without sin or pain or fear. No, she can’t ride her pink bike on the cracked pavement of this tired world any longer, but I don’t suspect that brings her much concern as she swims with dolphins or rides down the beach on a horse with a tropical wind whipping her hair up behind her. Or maybe it’s a unicorn. If she has the option I guarantee you she is picking the unicorn.

    It is true that Lenya died. It is also true that she is more alive today than she has ever been. More alive than me. I take great joy in thinking about the fact that she is in a place without death. We had to attend her funeral but she did not. She never attended one in her life and she never will. She is in the land of the living.

    What anchors us in this storm of our separation from her is the promise that she is with Him and He is in us. The more we are filled with His Spirit the greater our connection to her grows. I would lose heart if I did not believe that I will see the Lord. But I do. Someday soon my ship will set sail for the distant shores of that perfect place, where Lenya lives and laughs and plays, and I will finally be Home.

    ------

    Levi Lusko is the pastor of Fresh Life Church in Montana, as well as the author of Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power.

    Through the Eyes of a LionIn it, Lusko tells the story of how he lost his daughter, Lenya, but not in the form of a manual for grieving. Instead, he provides a manifesto for high-octane living, and teaches you to turn your journey into a "roar story."

    Whether you’re currently facing adversity or want to prepare yourself for inevitable hardship, it’s time to look at the adventure of your life through Jesus’ eyes—the eyes of a Lion.

    Head over to the product page for more info and to read a sample chapter >

  • The Comeback: Louie Giglio's Favorite Chapters

    We all know what it is like to have life disappoint us. That feeling when things do not work out as we'd hoped. And we all know what it is like to long for something different, something better or something more.

    But your current circumstances do not get the final say in your life.

    This is what The Comeback is all about—providing you with perspective and encouragement, no matter the challenge you're facing.

    In the book, author Louie Giglio celebrates new beginnings. From personal stories to Bible stories, he shows how God is in the business of giving fresh starts, and how His plans always prevail, even when ours don't.

    Check out Giglio's three favorite chapters now:


    Get your copy today!

  • Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.

    “Whatever we do, we must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Much like his namesake, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a reformer. But rather than facing off against the Roman Catholic Church, he fought as a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. TalkingIn 1953, at the ripe age of 25, the newly married King and his bride Coretta moved to Montgomery, Alabama, where he became the minister at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

    Two years later, Rosa Parks, also of Montgomery, was arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus, and the Civil Rights Movement began.

    Local pastors created the Montgomery Improvement Association, elected King as president and brought together the black community to establish a citywide bus boycott.

    A year later, bus discrimination ended and he became a nationally-known figure.

    Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s life and Henry David Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience, King led the MIA, and the movement as a whole, as a nonviolent activist. Even after his home was bombed, he refused to allow the people guarding his home to carry guns.

    And when he almost died from a stab wound, he “became convinced that if the movement held to the spirit of nonviolence, our struggle and example would challenge and help redeem not only America but the world.”

    Even as he was speaking and leading nonviolent protests, King continued serving as a minister. Sometimes in his sermons he would incorporate political topics and during his public speeches, he would often incorporate biblical themes. This is because he didn’t see his civil rights involvement as separate from his ministry.

    “The Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one hand, it seeks to change the souls of men, and thereby unite them with God; on the other hand, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so the soul will have a chance after it is changed.”

    Next Monday, January 18, we remember all that Martin Luther King, Jr. did for his community, his country and the world.

    We honor his courage and his steadfast faith, even in the face of constant danger.

    And we can learn from his example by “keeping God at the forefront.”

  • A New Resolution

    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV

    While most of us make them every year, New Year’s resolutions have a terribly low success rate. Could it be that we fail because we have misguided goals for ourselves? Or, are we concerned too much with the physical results?

    Even though we’re just over a week into the New Year, some of you may have already given up on one or more of your resolutions. Others of you may be still trying to better yourself through dieting, exercise or more, but regretting your decision.

    But what if we told you that you can make this the best year of your life? Hint: it just won’t happen through extra trips to the gym, or by trying out the new fad diet. Nothing is inherently wrong with these pursuits, but it is important to keep them from becoming idols. Strive to use your resolutions as ways to grow more dependent on God, because to make this the best year of your life, you have to make it your best year spiritually.

    In Matthew 6:3–18, Jesus is in the middle of giving His Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, He speaks specifically of giving, prayer and fasting. Not just that we should do these things, but that He expects us to.

    Verse 3: “But when you give…”

    Verse 5: “And when you pray…”

    Verse 16: “And when you fast…”

    Later on, in verse 33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    So, how can we have the best year spiritually? Seek first the kingdom of God.

    And how do we do that?

    We give to the needy, so as not to be overcome with greed and envy.

    We pray, exercising our dependence on God and our desire to be in relationship with Him.

    And we fast, saying no to earthly things and saying yes to God.

    The practice of all these disciplines of the Christian life will help motivate you to stick with your resolutions when you want to quit, and—most important—help you grow spiritually.

  • Happy Thanksgiving from Family Christian: What We Are Most Thankful For

    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – 1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

    With Thanksgiving just two days away, we’d like to share with you some of the many things we are thankful for here at Family Christian. In response to a survey, almost 20 team members from many different roles within the organization gave the top three things they were thankful for this year. With all the answers provided, this list could go on forever, but here are just a few.

    Without a doubt, we are most thankful for God and His grace.

    Family Christian would not exist without the grace of God. All the work that we do would be impossible without Him.

    And while Family Christian would not exist without God, we would not function without you. We are so thankful for your prayers and support, and all of your purchases that help us fulfill our mission of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

    Thankful to Serve

    We are so thankful for the lives we touch.

    We are also thankful to work for a company which whose mission is to put purpose over profits, striving to make a difference in the lives of so many people all over the world.

    From widows and orphans to all of you, our main goal is to share the love of Christ every single day.

    We are blessed to be able to provide you with products that will help you find, grow, share and celebrate your faith, and at the same time give hope to widows and orphans all over the world.

    Finally, we are thankful for all of our family and friends. They enrich our lives so much, by sticking with us through our ups and downs, promoting our spiritual growth, and helping mold us into the people we are today.

    There are so many other things we are thankful for: health, the seasons and second chances to a name few, but ultimately everything comes from God. To Him all thanksgiving and praise is due.

    As you celebrate this year, go beyond just thinking about food and football, and remember to give thanks to the Lord for every gift He has given you, including the most important gift of all: the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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Activate Your Faith - Phillipians 4:13
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