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  • Jeremy Camp - Continuing to Live Recklessly

    John

    Last year I had the privilege of sitting down with Jeremy Camp to talk about, then, his new album, Reckless (find the interview here). It was an honest conversation with a man who continues to struggle with what it's like to pursue Christ with his whole life. His whole being.

    I say down with Jeremy again because I wanted to "check in" and see what God has been teaching him through this journey. What follows is certainly a continuation of where we left off.

    John:               Jeremy, the thought behind the record is obviously living out this really reckless life with complete abandon to the call of what Christ has for you. What has that looked like in last few months for you?

    Jeremy:           Yea... We've been talking to some missionary friends in the Ukraine and Kurdistan. I didn't know much about Kurdistan at first and we were going, "Hey, let's do these outreaches. This has been in our heart to go to these places. Wherever God leads." Ukraine was coming at it pretty easy. We're like, "This is awesome." Everything was coming together. Churches were coming together. It was one of those, "Yeah, this is definitely the Lord's doing." Then, Kurdistan seemed like it was red flag after red flag. I'm getting all these papers and trying to get my government friends to get papers to say that the government of Kurdistan, "He's a legit person. It's okay." The KGB's looking at me and literally ...

    John:               This is serious stuff.

    Jeremy:           This is all serious. They were looking at YouTube videos and listening to my music and they were concerned. "Why does a Christian artist want to come over here?" I didn't really realize to the full extent that it was a Muslin country so I'm going, "Walking into this proclaiming Christ is not going to be well accepted." When we said we wanted to come over, there was a lot of question, "Why are you coming over?" What happened was it wasn't happening so I started feeling like there was some red flags, maybe we shouldn't go. That wasn't because I was afraid, but it was more like, "Wow. It didn't seem like it was coming together." My missionary friend who had been there for seven years, he emails me back and says ... I've been talking about going, "God, whatever you want, wherever you want me to go I will go." And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. He emails back and says, "Hey. If you don't feel like God wants you to come, that's fine, but just so you know, there's never been an outreach ever in Kurdistan. This is probably the last year that it'll happen because doors are closing very quickly." He said, "We need this. Churches are underground here. People are fearful in their faith."

    Here we are going, "Maybe we didn't really pray about this because my minister director's going, "If we started a non-profit called Speaking Louder Ministries to do these outreaches …" And he's going, "Should we do this? Because it seems dangerous." I go, "Listen, are you willing? Are you willing no matter what God has? We need to pray about this." So we prayed and God gave us, all of us, scriptures, instances where we go, "Yeah. This is definitely what we're supposed to do." We said, "We're going to go." I told my guys, I said, "Guys, here's the dangers: it's underground churches, persecutions, there's stuff going on. Are you willing? Because I don't know what's necessarily going to happen. This is trust in the Lord." I say all this and I'm going to share it tonight the more I think about it because I try to make sure that I'm not exploiting what I went through, "Look what I just did." Because that's not the point, but you're asking ... "Since you've been talking about being reckless. What's going on?" God said, "You want to do this?  You want to be completely surrendered and trust me in the mist of the hardest circumstances? Here you go." Not, "I'm going to teach you how to swim during this ... starting this new ministry that going to do that." I want to throw you in the water and say, 'All right. You're going to trust me.'" That's what it was. I was thrown in the water and said, "Okay God. I've got to look to you completely because I don't know what I'm doing."

    We get over there. Ukraine was amazing. We had 150 people plus come forward at the show and accept Christ in of Ukraine. It was amazing.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           We get to Kurdistan and I'm not going to get fully into it, but we had ...it wasn't well received. We had a cable news program; basically, spreading lies about us saying, "Don't come to the event." The main cable news program in Kurdistan saying, "Don't come." We were warned not to speak. I couldn't speak at the concert they said. They were like, "Jeremy can't speak." This is all the truth. It sounds like, "This really happened?" Even when I looked back, I was going, "This really happened?" I was there and I was in it. I was just in the warfare of it having to get on my knees, basically, and cry out to God. They said if we do something wrong, they were going to imprison one of the locals there for a year. Here we are, faced with reality, faced with like, "Okay God, we’re actually doing what you've laid on our hearts for a long time." I had to get to a point where I said, "Alrigh, God. My life's not my own. Called my wife weeping saying, "Okay. Here we are. What do we do?" It's so hard sharing this because I don't want it to be ... It's not ... I'm still processing it. I just got back a month and a half ago.

    John:               It's real. It's real life.

    Jeremy:           It's real what's happening and people being persecuted, people being afraid of sharing their faith. Their fear is gripping them, all that. I'm fine with the point where I'm weeping saying, "God, I can't do this." And he says, "Perfect, because you can't do it." We get there and hundreds of people left. Eight thousand people showed up, hundreds of people left when we said, "In the name of Jesus," because it was offensive. [inaudible 00:06:01] who were stumbling, in the name of Jesus is. To us, it's life. We saw that. Lyrics meant so much more to me than I can even ... I'm talking about not being ashamed of the Gospel. I'm going, "Oh, wow. We have lyrics on the screens huge in the stadium in their language so they can see what we're saying." It's not just hearing music. They know what we're saying. At the end, people came down to hear more about Jesus. The sad thing is, we got to leave and the missionary friends over there have a warning. If they speak at church anymore, then they'll be deported and they'll close the church down. That's what's happened from this. You know what they told me? The locals have all stepped up and they're on fire because people are wanting to do an event in the stadium, a worship event with the local people. Not an artist coming, but the local people saying, "Let's get together. Let's do this if we're going to really ... "

    I saw the affect of that and it was nothing I did. I was like, "I don't want to go." God goes, "You will go and be obedient." I was like, "Okay." Then, he just showed up and we said, "All right. This is not us, at all." We knew that. It wasn't anything we did. It was God leading and directing. That's what's happening. Speaking louder ministries is the next season of my life where we're ready to go and preach the Gospel. We're going to Japan next year. Going to the Philippines, going to Guatemala.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           That's what I feel like is the next step for us. Whatever it is, wherever he leads, I truly will go and lyrics mean a lot more than they used to because I realized I'd actually lived them out more than I ever have before.

    John:               How can we be praying for you and Addie and the kids? Especially in this next ... whatever this next season, year, whatever this is.

    Jeremy:           We need wisdom. We need wisdom because there's a lot of things we could be doing. Going, "Yeah. That sounds great. We're in a new season." We just need a lot of wisdom because we want to be ... I know it's the basic thing of Christians, "Always want to be in God's will." Honestly, stepping out into something like that, we don't want to be ahead of God's will. You know what I'm saying? It's a serious thing. When I realized the very words that I could have said could have affected the missionaries and the local people there in a heavy way, I realized that my very words and the very actions that I take, if I'm not led by the Lord, could be devastating. I want wisdom to be led by him in everything I do. That's where we're at and I don't really know what this next season looks like. I know what we're going towards, but we don't want to be on the side building our little kingdoms, I know that. That's very easy, especially in this industry. You know?

    John:               Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

    Jeremy:           Everyone had built their little kingdoms and where's the balance? I don't know. That's where we're going. Give us wisdom. I don't want to build my kingdom because that's going to crash and burn. We're here to build the kingdom of God and that's it. That's where we're at.

  • Absence Makes the Heart Grow Colder

    Shaunti

    Most couples call each other "beloved" and "friend" when they stand at the altar. But as the years roll along, it's easy to take each other for granted. A joy of marriage is being able to relax and not be "on" all the time. But problems arise when one day we realize our marriage relationships aren't as close as they used to be.

    This change can happen in any of our relationships — including with the Lord. It's so easy to wake up and discover we still love God, still love our spouse, our relative or our friend ... but there's a little distance there.

    Thankfully the rest of Song of Solomon provides a hint to the solution: This couple spent a lot of time together. And a lot of intimate time together, at that! When I was doing the research for my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, I learned the primary factor in creating close friendships isn't shared values, similar interests or compatible personalities: it's geographic proximity. You are closest to those you spend the most time with.

    If you've ever had a dear friend move away, you've discovered that truth. No matter how much you want to stay close, it just isn't the same. It works the same way in all our relationships. In my interviews with the happiest couples, I kept hearing the same thing: these folks were simply hanging out a lot. Not just formal date nights, but going to kids' activities, sharing a hobby or even watching their favorite TV series together.

    These happy couples acted as if their marriages were first and foremost friendships. Friendships they wanted to keep vibrant no matter what.

    One husband told me, "For me, getting married was because I wanted a lifelong companion. It wasn't about the sex or the tax write-off. I wanted a built-in best friend for the rest of my life. Most people probably do. So you need to look at the reasons you want to be in a relationship in the first place, and be intentional to make it happen."

    And that is what suffers when we begin to take God, our spouse, a friend or relative for granted — we stop being intentional. We stop spending as much time together. We get so busy with other priorities and don't make room for our main priority. Then as we become more distant, little irritations become bigger frustrations.

    And what do we do next? We spend even less time together. Our parents irritate us so it seems better not to have dinner together for a while. We're tired of marital conflict so we avoid our spouse. Or we are mad at God because a desperate prayer wasn't answered the way we wanted, so we stick our prayer journal in a drawer.

    All of those solutions are tempting, but they ensure that while we may still call the other "beloved," we will no longer feel like "friends." And after a while, "beloved" may become a casualty too.

    Do you want to be closer to your spouse? Are you irritated with a friend or relative? Feeling distant from God? Emulate those who enjoy their relationships the most — by hanging out more, not less. You may just find enjoyment welling up again in your relationships too.

    Lord, thank You for the special gift of these relationships: (mention by name). Forgive me for taking them for granted. Most of all, forgive me for taking You for granted. I am so grateful that even when I pull away, You are the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Help me to be intentional about investing more time where it is needed, especially with You, and [if married] with my beloved, my best friend. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: If you and your spouse (or other close relationship) haven't been spending enough time hanging out, what are some of the reasons? What can you do differently?

    What obstacles get in the way of hanging out with the Lord? What steps can you take to make more time together with God a reality?

    Power Verses: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Time to Go

    Boyd

    By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

    It is time to go when God says so, even though you are not sure where you are going. Abraham was a “friend of God” (James 2:23 nasb) who trusted the heart of God. He was secure in his faith, knowing his heavenly Father would not lead him astray. Are you okay with only the call of Christ as your next step? Is He calling you out of your comfort zone to a new level of faith and obedience? It is here that you hear Him quite clearly.

    Maybe He wants you to move with your company so your career can become the means of funding your passion for missions. Locals in foreign countries are keenly interested in teachers, housewives, doctors, bankers, and businessmen visiting their world. The marketplace is your ministry. It validates your value and confirms your character. The Lord will use your obedience to encourage the faith of others and especially the faith of your family.

    The faith of parents often procures the blessing of obedience on their posterity. When your teenage son sees you say yes to Christ’s challenge, he is more likely to say yes to wisdom when faced with issues of trust. Your daughter will not soon forget your family’s earnest prayers as you sought to see God’s best and to obey. Parents who obey God’s call create the same expectation for their children; so follow the Lord for them.

    Lastly, the call of Christ leads to His blessing on earth and in heaven. It may mean prosperity. It may mean poverty. Or it may mean somewhere in between. The most important reward is that of your eternal inheritance. Leave a legacy of loving the Lord, and you will have loved your children. Follow Him faithfully; there is a much higher probability they will as well. Is it time to go? Then go with your best friend Jesus.

    The Bible says, “God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4).

    Where is Christ calling me to a higher level of faith and obedience?

    Prayer: Related Readings: Nehemiah 9:7–8; Psalm 105:6–11; Acts 7:2–4; Galatians 3:6

    Taken from the February 23rd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 2”

    Post/Tweet today:Parents who obey God’s call create the same expectation for their children; so follow the Lord for them. #timetogo

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Love Always Perseveres

    Boyd

    Love always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

    Love always perseveres. It does not give up. This is why the love commitment of husbands and wives is “till death do us part.” This is the assurance that accompanies love, for it is loyal in the face of hard times. “I don’t love you anymore” is not an option for couples committed to Christ. Love always perseveres. It perseveres through problems; it perseveres through misunderstandings; it perseveres though uncertainty; it perseveres through knock down, drag out arguments; it perseveres through persecution, divorce, and abandonment; it perseveres through a lawsuit or being fired.

    Love becomes better instead of bitter when experiencing a raw deal. God’s grace and love provide you the lasting ability for extraordinary love. Indeed, if your heavenly Father didn’t personally love you, your love would be lethargic. It would be sluggish in its application to others if you were not daily loved by the Lord. You can’t be an unconditional lover if you don’t receive the unconditional love of Jesus. Therefore, love always perseveres in the process of being loved and extending love.

    This is why a parent perseveres in his or her love for their child. They can only give up on loving their loved one when their heavenly Father gives up on loving them. Parents persevere with their children because they love their children. Even through the hurt, rejection, selfishness, financial irresponsibility, and anger, love still stands. Love will not stand down to the devil’s strongholds in a young person’s mind and heart.

    Moreover, love perseveres in reminding them of the truth. Remind your children that their identity is in Christ . Your child is forgiven by you and by God; remind them of this. God has uniquely gifted your child; remind them of this. Love perseveres in reminding and revealing truth to those it loves. Pray the eyes of your child’s heart will see and understand the truth of who they are from God’s perspective. They are longing for love, so be the lead lover in their life.

    Lastly, persevere in your love for your parents. Parents can be distant and disinterested, but still love them. To some degree, they may still be licking the wounds of past hurts and disappointments. They need love as much as or more than anyone else. Love your mom and dad while they are still alive. One day they will not be around to love, so express all your love for your parents in this life. You plan for no regrets when you aggressively love them now.

    They may have chronically hurt you, but still love them. They may not love back, but still love them. They may be caught up in their own cares, but still love them. Love knows better, so it perseveres beyond bitterness and betrayal. You lose when the flames of love are extinguished by sheer exhaustion. You may need to rest in, receive, and be rejuvenated by the loving relationship of your friend, Jesus. Slow down and be loved. Persevere in your love, and one day you will be grateful you did. It is an invaluable investment because love leaves no regrets. It always perseveres.

    Taken from the February 22nd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”

    Post/Tweet today:Wecan only give up on loving a loved one when our heavenly Father gives up on loving them. #loveperseveres

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • God’s Will: Salvation

    Boyd

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9, NKJV

    Our gracious God desires all to know Christ through repentance, forgiveness, faith, and a lifetime of loving intimacy. Jesus came the first time to earth as our Savior. After His resurrection, as He ascended back to heaven, He promised to return. Christ will come again as our judge. However, our heavenly Father’s patient mercy delays His son’s return. Jesus waits, so the unredeemed have time to believe and become sons and daughters of the Almighty. God’s will is salvation in Jesus.

    Like the door to Noah’s ark eventually closed, so our opportunity to trust Christ is slowly slipping away. The flood waters of judgment will one day drown us in death. Will we be ready? Salvation and safety can only be found in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s patient love invites us to repent, trust and not perish. Yes, we still have time to warn others of the judgment to come. Some will mock, others will act apathetic, but a few will find refuge in Jesus.

    "Or do you show contempt for the richesof his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" (Romans 2:4)?

    Moreover, the patience of our heavenly Father is the model for us to follow. We are surrounded by a sea of those who need salvation. They are drowning in their sin and sorrow. By offering them the life preserver of faith, hope and love for Jesus we can rescue the perishing. A life preserver is useless unless it is deployed. Therefore, we pray daily how we might bless those we encounter with a buoyant belief in Jesus Christ. Once saved, we help others be saved.

    Lastly, regularly receive the Lord’s great love, so you can be a great lover. When you are loved well by Jesus, you can love well for Jesus. Love is patient. Love is kind. Patience and kindness are twins that draw the lost into a loving relationship with Jesus. People away from Christ, have no context for Christ, so be kind. An unsaved soul is an insecure soul, so be patient. We know a better way to salvation than do strangers. God’s will is for those without faith to find faith.

    "Who [God] wantsall people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4)."

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for Your patient love that allows others to repent and not perish.

    Related Readings: Habakkuk 2:3; Romans 11:14; Hebrews 10:37; 2 Peter 3:15; Revelation 2:21

    Post/Tweet today: Receive the Lord’s great love, so you can be a great lover of the lost. #God’swill

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • The Emotionally Destructive Marriage from Leslie Vernick

    Leslie

    Introduction

    Hanging On by a Thread

    It’s easy to find a plethora of good books about how to be a godly wife or what steps to take to build a successful and happy marriage. There aren’t many books written on how to wisely deal with a destructive and abusive marriage. As a counselor and coach, I have grown increasingly troubled by the advice hurting women receive from well- meaning pastors, Christian counselors, friends, and lay leaders when they seek help for their destructive and abusive marriages. Many times we’ve not understood the gravity of the problem. We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical.

    Each week e-mails flood my inbox from women desperate for answers, hanging on to their marriages and sometimes their sanity by a single thread. The details vary, but the questions are usually the same: “What do I do?” and “Where do I turn for help?” The woman’s spirit, and sometimes her body, is depressed and depleted from the distress she feels within the walls of her own home. She wants to honor God and do his will, but does that mean she must continue to allow herself to be destroyed by her husband, a man who has promised to love and protect her?

    Marriage and family are important to God, but just as important to him are the individuals within those marriages and families. God does not value men more than women, or the institution of marriage more than the people who are in it. He wants to help you know how to heal and what to do to bring true restoration to your destructive marriage. He also knows that because of the hardness of your husband’s heart, true reconciliation of your relationship isn’t always possible.

    Throughout this book you will clearly see what’s wrong and why keeping the marriage together at all costs or at any price can be dangerous. You will gain fresh insights and a new paradigm in which to understand your role in your marriage. You’ll learn strategies and be given tools so that you can find your own voice again and be able to develop the strength and courage to stand up against the destruction. Within these pages is a biblical road map to help you know whether genuine repentance and restoration is taking place, and what the specific steps are to get there. The Emotionally Destructive Marriage is divided into three parts. Part 1, “Seeing Your Marriage Clearly,” will help you distinguish the difference between a disappointing marriage and a destructive one. At the end of chapter 1, there is a self-administered test you can take to determine whether you are in a destructive marriage. In chapter 2 you will learn what a healthy marriage looks like and the three essential ingredients that are required for any relationship to flourish. Chapter 3 will open your eyes to the different types of destructive relationship patterns and why they are so damaging to you, your children, and your marriage. In chapter 4 you will see that God hates what’s happening to you. He is with you and for you and wants to help you make changes so that genuine healing can take place.

    Part 2, “Change Begins with You,” opens with chapter 5 showing you the ways you may be unknowingly enabling the destruction in your marriage to continue. You will understand how being a true biblical helpmate is very different than staying inappropriately submissive and silent about the destruction. In chapter 6 you’ll understand why trying harder in the traditional wifely ways will make a destructive marriage worse and how the common teachings on biblical headship and submission can lead to an abuse of power and entitlement thinking. Chapter 7 will help you build internal core strength, so that when the time is right, you will be empowered to take firm yet godly action to protect yourself and your children. Then, in chapter 8, you will know exactly what you need to do to prepare before you have a difficult conversation with your husband about his destructive behaviors.

    In part 3, “Initiating Changes in Your Marriage,” you’ll be given specific strategies to wake up your husband to his destructiveness and invite him to godly change. In chapter 9 you’ll discover how to speak up in love, using words that invite your spouse to stop his destructive behaviors and attitudes without shaming, scolding, or disrespecting him. In chapter 10 you will receive a plan on how to calmly confront your husband, together with examples of specific consequences you can implement if he refuses to listen. Chapter 11 takes you step by step through your biblical options if nothing changes in your marriage, and ways you can stay strong and God-centered in the midst of continued destructive behaviors. Lastly, in chapters 12 and 13, you’ll learn the specific changes that are required if a destructive marriage is to heal, and how you will know whether or not you’re making progress as a couple. In the closing epilogue, I invite you to read the words of an abusive man who is learning to become a better man.

    I debated whether to write this book just for women or to include men, as they, too, are in destructive marriages and feel distraught, impotent, and confused about how to change the damaging dynamics in their marriages. In the end I decided to write this book for women, but if you are a man who is looking for answers for your destructive marriage, you will find help within the pages here if you can overlook the stories and illustrations depicting men as the primary perpetrators. You can also find additional resources at www.leslievernick.com/the-emotionally-destructive -marriage, if your wife is the one who is the destructive partner.

    The individuals in each story are disguised except for those who have given me permission to use their real names. Some stories or characters are composites to illustrate a specific point. All are pictures of the painful realities some women must live with day after day, week after week, year after year.

    Please hear me: God doesn’t want you to hang on by a thread, my friend. He gives you a lifeline. Grab hold of it and live.

    Part 1

    Seeing Your Marriage Clearly The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Jesus, in Matthew 6:22–23

    One Are You in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage?

    For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. —Mark 4:22

    Several years ago, while speaking in Hungary, I was shocked to see the new title the Hungarians had given one of my books when they translated it into their language. It was now called How to Survive a D-Minus Marriage. My sister, Patt, who had accompanied me on this speaking trip, joked with me about whether or not people would admit their marriages were that bad. But during the event, the book sold like hot cakes. Marriages everywhere are in dire straits. Christian homes are no exception.

    You may feel as if you are in a D-minus marriage and have no idea what to do. I have help for you, but first it’s important to clarify the difference between a disappointing marriage and a destructive one.


    Excerpted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick Copyright © 2013 by Leslie Vernick. 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.

  • Jesus Came to Heal Hurting Hearts

    Suzie

    "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble." Luke 4:18 (NLV)

    "Why can't you get it together?"

    "If you would just try harder."

    Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you've even said them to yourself.

    Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement:

    I've come to open the eyes of the blind.

    I've come to set the prisoner free.

    I've come with good news for the poor in spirit.

    I've come to heal the brokenhearted.

    The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole ... through Him.

    For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God.

    When I became a believer, I didn't understand Jesus' mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me.

    Jesus didn't mean for us to do this alone. It's not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God ... and He's bigger.

    I also discovered I didn't have to earn God's love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together.

    Jesus' mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts.

    This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our "true selves, [our] child-of-God selves" (John 1:12, The Message).

    Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn't have to run away just because I felt broken.

    A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus' mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch.

    The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts.

    Dear Jesus, for the longest time I've been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Today, you read about what you don't have to do. You don't need to fix yourself, or earn God's love or run any more. In fact, the more you don't do these things, the more you live in Him. The more you don't do these things, the more you build a foundation of rest and trust. The more you don't do these things, the more joy you rediscover in your faith.

    What will you not do today?

    Power Verses: Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (NIV)

    Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • God’s Will: Purity

    Boyd

    It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4

    When we signed up to be a Christian, we signed away our old way of life. We became counter cultural in our character. We no longer tolerate sin in our actions, because we have a new life in Christ. Once saved, we were set apart for the will of Almighty God. We are separated from society's acceptance of deviant behavior. We are in the process of being purified by the Holy Spirit for our Savior’s purposes. Like a compliant child, we want to obey our heavenly Father.

    Yes, we have God given urges: to sleep, eat, drink, and have sex. However, these desires can be a blessing or a curse. It depends on our willingness to follow the Lord’s plan for these perfectly legitimate instinctive actions. Lazy behavior can be the fruit of too much sleep, gluttony feeds unbridled eating, shameful drunkenness comes from excessive drinking and immorality is the outcome of sexual behavior between a man and woman outside of marriage. God’s will is for our urges to be under the control of His Spirit. Sexual purity frees us from an obsessive appetite.

    "The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord,and the Lord for the body"(1 Corinthians 6:13).

    A flippant treatment of the body is unfaithfulness to the Lord. Sexual purity honors the Lord, sexual impurity dishonors the Lord. Sexual purity provides security, sexual impurity creates insecurity. Sexual purity protects from disease, sexual impurity invites illness. Sexual purity is free from regrets, sexual impurity wrestles with guilt. Sexual purity builds marriages, sexual impurity tears down marriages. God’s will is to live pure and free under the Spirit’s control.

    Therefore, present your body on the altar of God’s holiness. Be purified by His Spirit and set apart for obedience to His commands. Your relationship with your body reflects your relationship with God. Thus, love and nourish yourself physically, as you love and nourish yourself spiritually. Your Creator created your beautiful body for Himself. Your sanctified self makes God smile. Save yourself for physical intimacy in marriage and you will grow in intimacy with Jesus.

    "Therefore, I urge you,brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conformto the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:1-2).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I present my body to be purified on the altar of Your holiness.

    Related Readings: 1 Corinthians 5:9-11; Romans 6:19; Hebrews 12:14; 1 Peter 3:17

    Post/Tweet today: Our relationship with our body reflects our relationship with God. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Miss Brenda and the Loveladies from Brenda Spahn

    Brenda

    Introduction

    Make sure you are doing what God wants you to do—then do it with all your strength. —George Washington

    I was raised in a trailer. My parents struggled to feed and clothe me. Because I grew up without having much, I promised myself one day I’d be very rich.

    Decades later, I had built a successful business. I finally had what I could only dream of as a child—a big house, fancy cars, expensive jewelry, and all the material things I could ever want.

    At the height of success, I found myself under investigation for a crime I didn’t commit. I faced the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. All those possessions I had accumulated and cherished I was likely to lose. I had always felt I was in control of my life and my destiny. Once I was at the mercy of the legal system, I realized I was in control of nothing.

    I lost my business, but I found another calling. I lost my riches, but I discovered riches of the spirit. I lost my faith in the system, but I discovered another faith—a faith in things that never depreciate or corrode or collapse. I found faith in God and the indomitable power of redemption—for myself and for a group of incarcerated women who’d been catastrophically abused by the system, by spouses, by parents, and by themselves.

    Instead of chasing the American Dream, rehabilitating these women became my career. I learned that within each of them—even the most terrifyingly brutal felons—dwelled an undeniable spark of the divine.

    Junkies, grifters, armed robbers, prostitutes, drunks, dealers, and murderers became my new social circle. They were former inmates of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama—another monolithic bureaucracy that warehoused the forgotten until they disappeared, returned, or died. Its motto could have been “Abandon hope.”

    They became the Loveladies. In the beginning, no name would have been more improbable. In time, no name could have been more fitting.

    This is my story. This is their story. Meet the Loveladies.

    Chapter 1: Have I Lost My Mind?

    Fear is faith that it won’t work out. —Elbert Hubbard

    Oh my Lord, what have I done!” I gasped. I stared out the kitchen window as six violent criminals stomped up my driveway. Hunter, my four-year-old adopted son, stood on tiptoes trying to get a glimpse of what had me so terrified.

    “Your mama has messed up big-time,” I said.

    For the last month, I had pictured this moment time and time again—but it had looked very different. In my imagination, the women would skip up the driveway, giggling and talking excitedly. I’d open the door with a loud “Welcome!” and women would race toward me, enveloping me in big, grateful bear hugs. After they’d thanked me profusely for being so wonderful, we’d sit around the kitchen table, have lunch, drink tea, share laughs, and get to know each other. But these women stomping up my driveway didn’t look like they wanted tea. They looked like they wanted blood.

    Had I lost my mind?

    Jeff, my husband, had predicted this. “You’ll get yourself killed, Brenda,” he said when I first told him my plan to rehabilitate female convicts. “You’ve had a lot of wild schemes in your life, but this is the craziest I’ve ever heard.” Yes, but a lot of my schemes had worked out, and besides, this was different. This time it wasn’t about me.

    Now six very scary women, just released from the roughest women’s prison in the country, were in my driveway.

    I thought I had figured it all out. After spending months helping female convicts at a work release center, I thought I understood them. I had spoken with the inmates, we had prayed together, and they had seemed genuine in their desire to turn their lives around and start over.

    But now I doubted everything. How could I have been so stubborn, so driven, so foolish? How could I have put my little boy in danger?

    The night before, I’d combed through their “jackets”—prison files—and discovered with horror that the parole board wasn’t sending me the nonviolent offenders I’d visited at the work release center. Instead, the women who had just shown up in front of my house had spent, collectively, one hundred years behind bars for crimes such as armed robbery, possession, drug dealing, prostitution, and manslaughter. I found out later that these were the hopeless cases—cases stamped cannot be rehabilitated—that all other programs had rejected. At the work release center, I helped women who were struggling to get their lives together. But the women coming to my home were so hardened, so dangerous, that the system had given up on them. These were not the women I had bargained for.

    I was supposed to rehabilitate them? For the next nine months to a year? I wrapped my arms tight around Hunter. I should have dropped him off with the nanny, but I had been running late. My heart pounded so hard I was sure Hunter could hear it beating. I didn’t want to scare him, so I took a breath and tried to find a portion of calm.

    It wasn’t that I hadn’t prepared. I’d hired a housemother, a cook, and a driver. I owned a six-thousand-square-foot house with seven bedrooms and six bathrooms on ten acres of property that no one lived in. Hob Hill was perfect: it would become my “whole-way” house for parolees as they transitioned into the real world. This is a good plan, I reassured myself.

    These women would learn a skill and receive counseling, therapy, and, if need be, treatment for addiction. Since my program was faith-based, I’d teach them about Jesus, His unconditional love, the power of faith, and the reality of redemption. Then I’d get in my Cadillac Escalade and hightail it back to my new home in a gated community a few miles away.

    I reminded myself that I was just supervising this program. You see, I’d be able to supervise it without really getting my hands dirty. I wouldn’t give up my whole life. This would be more a hobby than a vocation.

    And this is how I’ll be able to keep that promise I made.

    Much of my family had been understandably furious with me for pressing forward with my plan, but Melinda, my twenty-eight-year-old, caught my passion and crazy vision. She and I had spent the last month preparing for the women’s arrival. I bought couches, chairs, and tables for the common areas and beds, comforters, dressers, and night tables for the seven bedrooms. I painted the rooms in calming colors—blues, yellows, and every shade of purple. Each bedroom was named after a fruit of the Spirit—joy, peace, self-control, love, patience, kindness, goodness—which I’d carefully painted on the bedroom doors. Each room had color-matching comforters and thick bath towels. I’d decorated the rooms with paintings—many of my favorite getaway, the beach—and supplied them with empty frames so the women could fill them with photographs of their children and families.

    I put the word out to churches that I was looking to hire a cook, a driver, and, most important, a housemother who would run the program in my absence. I soon found the perfect housemother—Claudia. She was forty-eight, single, big, and strong with a gruff, no-nonsense attitude. She had spent time volunteering at the work release center. When I met with her, she told me that God had called her into prison ministry and she was ready to get started.

    I asked if the thought of working with female ex-cons frightened her. She laughed as if I’d asked the most insane question. “I’ll take tigers by the tail,” she said. “This is the work I was meant to do. I’m not afraid. It’s my calling. I know I am going to change lives. The Lord sent me to do this.”

    I hired Claudia on the spot. She was so excited that she hired a moving company to haul all her bedroom and living room furniture into the upstairs master suite and office area. After she surveyed her new home, she nodded. “This is where I’m meant to be.”

    Likewise I’d hired a cook and a driver.

    I could make this work. I had to make this work. For months I’d pleaded with the parole board to release women into my custody so I could help them get their lives back on track. I had told the board their system didn’t work and needed an overhaul. After all, 30 percent of the women released from Alabama prisons returned to prison within the first six months.

    They laughed at me. “What do you know about rehabilitating these women?”

    “I know that giving them ten dollars and a bus ticket is just about the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. I know I can do better.”

    In Alabama, there were only two options for newly released prisoners: They’d get their ten bucks and transportation back to where they committed their crimes. In a short time they’d go back to old ways with old friends. Or they’d spend a few weeks in a halfway house, where they’d receive food and shelter but little else, then be put back on the street.

    No matter their destination—bus ticket home or halfway house—once they were released, these women had one thing in common: they had no hope. And they had no hope because they couldn’t envision a future outside of prison. To me, the solution was obvious. My whole-way house would be a place where they could change their lives by learning skills and receiving counseling. We would give them a picture of a future they themselves could create, one in which they could succeed.

    I have always considered myself visionary, but the parole board used a different term—delusional. Ultimately I wore them down and they finally agreed, probably just to make me go away.

    Now I realized they were trying to teach me a lesson. I was sure they were having a big laugh about it: “I wonder if that crazy redhead is scared senseless yet. How long until she calls us to take them all back?”

    I crouched lower and squinted through the window, hoping the awnings outside shielded me from the women’s view. My eyes landed on the scariest-looking woman I’d ever seen in my life. Was she even a woman? With a shaved head, baggy khakis, and an extra large navy-blue prison-issued polo shirt that covered her tanklike physique, she resembled a gangbanger looking for trouble. Her fists were clenched, and her eyes blazed with fury.

    Why is she so angry? Doesn’t she see how great her life is about to become? The other women were right behind her. She was the gang leader and they were her loyal followers, standing so close to each other they appeared connected—an impenetrable wall about to storm my house. A heavyset woman who seemed devoid of the fury the rest possessed stopped to gawk at my home. Shaved Head snapped her face toward her and the woman’s expression immediately turned grim.

    Ken, the driver of the van who had shuttled the women from prison to my place, opened the back of the truck. The women collected their belongings. One by one, each woman pulled out a brown paper sack with her name written large in black marker. A paper sack! These were all their possessions in the whole world!

    My heart sank. What about clothes? shoes? things? I hadn’t realized they’d show up with next to nothing. In my naivety, I thought they’d spend most of today unpacking their belongings.

    They were almost at the door—and I was paralyzed. Melinda, who hadn’t been watching them through the window and had no idea what awaited her, realized I wasn’t moving, so she headed to the door.

    Dear Melinda, what have I gotten you into, and why are you so calm? Of all the people in our family, Melinda was the one who had the most personal interest in my crazy dream. To be fair, my husband Jeff couldn’t be there at Hob Hill—he needed to provide income for our family, and our real estate business was located more than four hours away in Gulf Shores. But Jeff, who’d been through plenty of “harebrained Brenda schemes” before, was admittedly not a fan of my “whole-way” idea, even as he tried to be supportive of me.

    Melinda was the one who, ever since she’d been a little girl, had always been by my side. At eleven, she’d sit next to my desk and answer the phone as I filed clients’ tax returns. When she was old enough, she worked with me. When I started helping women at the work release center, she had accompanied me. She was just as passionate as I was to help women turn their lives around.

    I hadn’t mentioned to Melinda that these women might be different from the work release darlings we’d worked with. Apprehensive as I had become from reading the files, I still held out hope that things would work out fine. But one glimpse of the crew of ex-cons who had just shown up shook me. Melinda had spent her life trusting me. Now she was an unwitting partner in my crazy scheme.

    She opened the door wide.

    I scooted toward her. “Welcome to my home,” I blurted out, forcing a big smile.

    The women glared at me. I waited for someone to say something. Instead, they pushed into the house, squeezing through the door in one massive pile. They forced themselves past me as if I wasn’t even there.

    I wanted to stop everything and yell out an order: Get out of my house and get back in the van! Maybe I could just give them some lunch and send them off, saying this was a big mistake.

    Shaved Head came so close to me I could feel her breath on my face. I squeezed Hunter.

    “I ain’t gonna be no maid in a little white apron for you,” she spat out, her voice growing louder with each word. “What the h***’s a g**d***** white woman gonna do with us? Lady, what kinda sh** do you think you’re playing?”

    Sharon “Shay” Curry. Even though she looked different from the photo in the prison jacket (she had hair back then), I recognized her. She was a forty-five-year-old black woman who’d been in and out of prison her whole life. She’d done it all—armed robbery, dealing and using drugs, prostitution, attempted murder. Dear God, attempted murder!

    Shay’s nostrils flared and her eyes bore into me. I watched the other women study her. I could tell they were taking their cues from Shay. In the short time they’d been together—probably since the van ride over—Shay had become the unofficial ringleader.

    I knew if I didn’t win Shay over there would be no way to right this ship.

    Where was Claudia? She’d been watching as the van pulled into my driveway, but I had no idea where she’d gone. It was her job to get the women settled into their rooms—not mine or Melinda’s. Claudia, I told myself, would get the situation under control. She’d know how to handle Shay.

    I took a deep breath, finally answering Shay, speaking as calmly as possible: “Well, I’m gonna help you get your life in order.”

    As soon as the words slipped out, I knew I’d made a mistake.

    “You don’t know sh** about me, lady,” Shay hissed. “You’re just some crazy white lady. How the h*** do you think you’re gonna do that? What do you think you’re going to do for me?”

    My chest tightened and I felt dizzy. I scanned the room, searching for Claudia. The truth was, I didn’t have any plans beyond getting these women into the house and introducing myself. In prison, every second of the day is scheduled. I had wanted to give the women a little breathing room. But already Shay was in my face, angrily demanding answers.

    “What do you think you’re gonna do, lady?”

    I panicked and said just about the stupidest thing I could ever say: “I’m going to help you get your driver’s license.”

    The women burst into laughter.

    Shay looked like she’d just bit into something so vile she might be sick. “I’ve been driving my whole life, lady. I don’t need no driver’s license.”

    And then I said the second dumbest thing I could possibly say: “Well, how do you get insurance without a license?”

    There was another fit of laughter. These women had thought they’d seen it all, but they’d never met a flaming-red-haired fifty-five-year-old woman like me before. I knew they had determined right then that I was a complete idiot.

    I had an uprising on my hands. Where will we hide if they get violent? I had to regain some kind of control before Shay took over my house.

    “Oh, I forgot,” I said, managing an edge of sarcasm. “You’re all about breaking the law.” I rolled my eyes. “You’re real tough guys.”

    They stared at me, their mouths hanging open, shocked that I’d sassed Shay back. I was shocked too but couldn’t help it—throughout my life my big mouth has gotten me into a lot of trouble. But occasionally it saves the day. I was praying that was the case now. Melinda shot me a look that said, What are you thinking? Then she turned toward the women and broke the ice. “Okay, ladies,” she said, smiling sweetly, “how about I show y’all your rooms?”

    The women followed Melinda down the hallway. Some gasped at the bedrooms I had decorated for them. After years of living in a cramped dorm with 160 other women, these rooms with one, two, or three beds or bunkbeds seemed to them like paradise. From the corner of my eye, I saw two of them claim one of the downstairs bedrooms. I watched them stifle giggles as they ran down the hall to fetch their paper bags of belongings.

    Ken, the driver, was a director for alternative treatment programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). During the last few weeks he’d become an advocate, helping me prepare my house for the women. He must have thought I was doing fine because I had a big smile plastered on my face. Truth was, my smile was frozen. You’ve heard of people being scared silly? I was scared smiling.

    He smiled back. “I’m taking off,” he called out. “Is there anyone who wants to leave with me?” I heard some of the women giggling from the bedrooms. “No!” one called out from a bedroom. “We’re not going anywhere,” others said. Shay stood silently in the hallway, her arms folded.

    “What about you?” Ken asked Shay.

    Go, I silently begged. Tell him you want to leave. Now. I can handle these other women, but not you. Get your butt in that van. I never want to see you again. Shay scowled at Ken but didn’t answer.

    “Shay? You coming with me?”

    Stop asking and just flippin’ take her! I wanted to scream.

    “Shay?”

    There was a heavy silence. I could feel my future in that void. If she leaves, I stand a chance. If she stays, I’m doomed to fail.

    “I’ll stay,” she said, as if she were doing us all a big favor.

    And with that, Ken left me in a big house with five female ex-cons and one ringleader from hell.

    Shay and the other women headed upstairs to check out the remaining bedrooms with Melinda. As soon as they disappeared, I heard the click of a door unlocking. Claudia ran out, stopping in her tracks when she saw me.

    “Where have you been?” I asked. “I need you to help Melinda.”

    Claudia didn’t move. Gone was the tough broad who was going to take the tigers by the tail. In her place was a timid woman whose eyes were filled with panic.

    “I quit,” she choked out.

    I laughed. “You can’t quit.”

    “I just did. And you should too. You’re going to get yourself and your family killed.”

    Claudia couldn’t do this to me. I had a plan—she would run the program, the cook would cook, the driver would drive, taking the women wherever they needed to go. And me? I’d check in once in a while and make sure they were all doing their jobs. “I’m not even going to be there,” I told Jeff and my family when they expressed concern that I was putting myself in danger.

    I tried to sound calm, but I was a wreck. My heart pounded, and I thought I might collapse. I steadied my voice: “You told me God called you to work with these women. He wouldn’t just change His mind.”

    “The Lord might want me to work with prisoners, but not these prisoners! You’re crazy. I want nothing to do with this insanity.”

    I opened my mouth to beg her to stay, but she swatted her hand in the air, turned, and ran off.

    Just as she left, the cook and the driver came out from wherever they had been hiding. They too raced out the front door.

    I stood in the living room, holding Hunter tight and paralyzed with all kinds of fear. I’d always had a plan, a next move. Now, for the first time I could remember, I had no idea what to do. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for answers. I prayed that these women wouldn’t kill me.

    Was God listening to any of my prayers? Or had He quit on me too?


    Excerpted from Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell Copyright © 2014 by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell. 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.

  • Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".

    Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."

    As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.

    Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.

    John:               Thank you, Shane, for chatting with me today. I do appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you. Yeah.

    John:               I've got a few questions that I want to ask you and the first one, Shane, is extremely important, and I know a lot of people are actually very anxious trying to figure out exactly what you do because that may influence them. The question is, are you a coffee drinker or are you a Red Bull drinker?

    Shane:            Oh man, coffee, ten times out of ten. Always.

    John:               Is it like frou-frou coffee for you?

    Shane:            No. I love coffee. I love the art of making coffee. I am a coffee nut. Everything from pour over coffee to French press coffee to the whole thing. I just love it. I love buying coffee beans from different places and trying them out. It's kind of a process as well. It's a little bit therapeutic in a way, and I also am officially addicted as well. I can have 3, 4 cups of coffee in a day, and I don't really feel it which makes me kind of nervous and kid of excited and proud at the same time. I have reached ... there's that level of coffee love.

    John:               Yeah. You have become your own barista is what I hear you saying.

    Shane:            Exactly. Yes. I'm usually a latte guy unless I'm feeling in a real cappuccino mood. Generally, a good latte will really just make me smile. Generally.

    John:               Yeah. Very good. Because you answered that way I feel like I'm more of a friend to you now. I love coffee as well.

    Shane:            Yeah. It's great.

    John:               Shane I'm wondering maybe if we can transition into something that is a little bit more serious. I'm wondering would you share a little bit about how you came to the realization that Jesus is real and how you started to follow him?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. I grew up in church my entire life. Not just grew up, really was heavily involved in my youth group. I wasn't just a Sunday church guy. We were the mid-week church family, too.

    John:               You were all in.

    Shane:            We were all in. Yeah. I think there was always a genuine love for Jesus there. I really felt like I knew God from a young age. I don't think much it is was really phony or fake or like I was pretending, but I didn't realize the weight of what Jesus did for me or what the implications of Gospel centered Christianity meant until I was in my early teens.

    When you get a certain age you start asking questions, and you start saying, "Well, why do we do this and what's the purpose of that, and where did we get the Bible." Just one day I came, "Where did the Bible come from?" We're reading this as an authoritative book. We're living our lives for this book. Where did we get it?

    You grow up in the church community, and you almost kind of just take it as it comes because you're like, "Well, of course this is how it is, and this is how we do things, because we're Christians, and we go to this church."

    I think that honestly through a lot of different circumstances and also the beginning of my involvement in the entertainment industry, I started asking different questions. It was the beginning of, "Okay, well, what does my faith look like, and how do I talk to people about it, and what does it mean for me?"

    It just became a lot deeper and more settled in my soul. I was restless but kind of settled at the same time. I don't know how to describe it. Through a lot of really great Bible teaching by guys like Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll that the Gospel began to sink in more deeply. I remember sitting in my parents' room, and we were listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. He started to expand on Martin Luther’s “The Great Exchange.” Where Jesus gives free grace to you, and it's yours.

    You didn't do anything to earn it, and I remember at that moment thinking to myself this is so much more real and life changing than I could have ever even realized. Obviously it's along process of going through these walks and these seasons, but I do remember that well and just being like, "Wow. I haven't heard it like that," or I hadn't felt Jesus pressing on my heart like that saying, "Do you realize the weight of this, not only for your life, but in the life of your community, because you live in light of that."

    Tim Keller always talks about these floors in your soul. Where truth embraced or realized sinks lower. There's always another floor, and this elevator just drops lower and lower and it happens throughout your whole like and for me, it just started to plummet. It just dropped. I was like, "Wow." It’s really a wonderful thing to talk about because it brings a lot of joy to me to talk about.

    John:               I think, Shane, you bring up an incredible point here, and I want to expand on it. When you and your family were listening to a Driscoll sermon about Martin Luther talking about the Great Exchange. The truth is Christ on the Cross literally taking away the sins of the world, our sins, and putting them upon himself, and then taking his own righteousness and literally, like a robe going around us, giving us his righteousness, and so we have that Great Exchange between the two. That's so amazing to wrap your mind around and yet that's where we're supposed to be living every day.

    Shane:            Exactly.

    John:               My next question just kind of goes right along with that. Now your job is very different than a lot of other people's. You work within an industry that a lot of time goes is very contrary to that type of thought or ideal. What is it like being a Christian within Hollywood, and how do you live out your faith in that context?

    Shane:            It's a really good question. I immediately think of when I hear the question, "What's it like being a Christian in Hollywood?" I immediately think, "Well, being a Christian anywhere in the world more or less means the same thing from a heart perspective of how you're supposed to serve and love your community." Right? The culture that God puts you in, and we know to love Jesus first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live in a posture of service to those around us.

    That's what it means literally to be a Christian in any culture and any community it just literally means to share the heart of Jesus with people and have that posture that Jesus had. He's washing his disciples feet. The King is washing the feet. That kind of picture he paints for us in terms of how to live lives that are really emulating the heart of Jesus is so powerful. I think in terms of ... honestly the human heart has inclinations that are honestly kind of universal. C. S. Lewis would attest to that.

    There's kind of this universal thing that everyone's trying to get at, and a lot of times we try to find it within ourselves, some kind of thing we can do ... Or we try to find it outside, something that we can serve, something we can dedicate our lives to. Sometimes when you're working on a set or something, it's like, "Can you grab me a _____? Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me? Well, I need this, and I need that."

    Sometimes people naturally go into service mode. You're an actor on this set. How can we service you? It’s not right. That's so contrary to how you're supposed to live with someone saying, "Well, what can I do for you? How can I make your day easier?" That's awesome that there's people that want to do that. It's not like being on Hollywood set's this fanciful thing where people bring you lattes and doing your pampering you because that's honestly a lot of times it's not like that.

    John:               Really? (Asks with a smile).

    Shane:            It depends. God has called them to do their work well, and to serve well within that job, and within that community and culture, but for me, when I show up to a set to work, what my relationship with Jesus does for me, it tells me this is not just a job. This is not just a moment to be the most paid attention to person in the room or on the set.

    It's not an opportunity to indulge in that kind of natural narcissism that my heart wants to grab onto. I need to be saying “what can I do for those people on that set?” Those are people that you're there to serve. That's the idea. You're on a set, and your coworkers and the writers and lighting and props and the directors, the producers, the DPs, everyone involved is ... That's the community that you're called to serve on that day. Honestly it's funny because talking about it, it makes it sounds like I show up to these sets in all of my serving glory, and I just have this great mindset like, "Oh, I totally got it down in life. This is what I'm doing for the people that I work with."

    Honestly just being completely upfront, I forget about it constantly. Weeks will go by. Months can go by, and I'm like, "What am I doing? What does my job mean? What does my job mean today?" God's called me to do this, and to do my job really well, but how has he called me to treat the people around me. I think the Gospel always challenges your values and challenges what you believe to be the most important thing. That's what I mean by like ... People are always like, "Well, Hollywood. It must be so hard."

    It's like, it's hard everywhere. To live in a way ... I can't displace myself. Everyone in the world living in their communities and their cultures has a call to live a life of service. It's the same everywhere. To have a heart of Christ is the same everywhere. People are honestly the same everywhere. There's this innate human desire everywhere to find meaning and value in things, and as Christians our meaning and value is rooted and grounded in Jesus and what he's done for us.

    I think the call to live a Gospel centered life as Christians is really honestly the same everywhere. Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area, because I live in Los Angeles, and Hollywood is just a small part of it. This is my community and culture. I'm a part of this. These are my people. These are the people that I love. I go to a local church that longs to serve the community and be ... the church. I feel blessed to be a part of this.

    I think generally when people are ... Wherever people are living and doing their work, wherever God's called them, I think that's kind of a sense that we need to have in terms of where you've been placed. I don't know. I know that I'm really grateful to be here, and I never really thought I'd be living in LA, and being a part of this community. The diversity of culture in Los Angeles is really amazing. Honestly there's like a million different pockets of communities and cultures, and it's such a wonderful opportunity, I think and such an amazing place to grow.

    From the set of Disney's 'Good Luck Charlie'

    John:               In fact, as you were talking about the various pockets in LA, I do remember I went out there one time with some friends of mine that are in a Christian Reggae band, and they took me to Little Ethiopia. I don't even know if that's a real place or not, but we went to this Ethiopian restaurant. It was absolutely amazing. It was another community within this much larger community of what's going on there.

    I totally get it. I resonate with it. I think your answer is very true as far as what does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood. It's loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

    Shane:            Yeah. That would have been a simpler. It's just loving God and being infatuated with who He is and what He's done for you and really wanting to serve your community in a really honest way. Not like serve your community where everyone's watching you.

    Serve your community where it really means something to you to emulate the heart of Jesus which is ... I think that's life changing. I think it can be.

    John:               Real quick question. Yes or no answer. Are you sad that Good Luck Charlie is going off the air? I want a yes or no.

    Shane:            Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. We did 4 years, 4 seasons of work, a hundred episodes, and it didn't feel like it was supposed to be over when we finished up. I think it's almost like it wasn't supposed to end, but everyone's still kind of really, obviously proud of the work and really happy to have been a part of it. Honestly, I think the environment was so uplifting and wonderful to be a part of. I think that hopefully people will continue to enjoy it for a long time.

    Hopefully they can rerun it for a long time. It's not the last time it will ever air on TV, but having the last episode air, and having no new episodes come out feels strange. It does. It feels weird. Yeah. I'm sad it's over. It was really fun.

    John:               All right. You are stepping into a new category of work. You are participating in a motion picture film called God's Not Dead. It is, I guess, a fair statement would say this is a pro-Christian film, and you play a believer in the film as well. What is it like playing something that there's certainly a heart resonating there between whom Shane Harper is and who the character is in God's Not Dead. Has this been a good transition for you?

    Shane:            Yeah. It was really enjoyable. It was fun. It was challenging. I think with characters, as an actor, you step into this character, and you kind of zip it up, and put it on. When you're on set, you're that person certainly in the scene. It's cool because when you ... As an actor when I'm playing a character, there's always what will interest me in a project will be either me resonating with the story line, or me resonating with the character specifically. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.

    In this case, there is this thing involved in it and it happens to be something really kind of personal because it's faith. It's a faith-based movie. I've had a ton of them come down the pike and when I got the breakdown, I thought, "Well, this seems interesting. I'll check it out." It was exciting to me to see the orientation of the film being kind of driven by this character Josh Wheaton being challenged by his professor, his bossy professor, and him having to work out his faith and what it means to him and how it operates in his mind.

    He knows how it works in his heart, but the character has to pull out some apologetics and try and work his way through this. I think that seems really interesting to me, and so it's why I honestly went out for it. I didn't just do it because, "Oh, this is a faith based movie, and I just want to ... This will be cool to be in a movie like this because I'm a Christian you know, or whatever." It's specifically the story line, and the kind of character it was kind of drew me to it. I've always been interested in that since I was a young teenager.

    I've always been interested in apologetics. C. S. Lewis has always been a huge influence on me ever since I was young. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce was the first grown-up book I picked up from Lewis when I was 13 or 14. Books like The Great Divorce and The Problem of Pain and The Weight of Glory and these kinds of things really started to shape how I viewed my faith in life and in practice.

    It was something I naturally resonate with. It was fun. It was a lot to do. Have you seen a preview of the movie?

    John:               I have. Yeah.

    Shane:            There's these big scenes that Josh has, the character that I play. He kind of does these presentations for his class, these 3 big ones, and I had to memorize all that material, and it was a couple dozen pages of material that I had to memorize. It was all monologue. That was probably the most challenging part about the whole movie was doing those 3 scenes back to back to back 3 days in a row. The first things we ever shot in the movie. It was really rough. It was fun, but it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

    John:               That's very cool. Any other ... Did you get it first time, every single time, or were there a couple times where you just messed up?

    Shane:            No, no way. I needed that first huge mess up to make me relax, to calm the nerves. I somehow thought I was going to fly in there and be like superman or something and just do it perfectly every single shot fir 17 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and it was nice. That second of third run totally screwing up the cut. All right. Let's start over. Let's do pickup. It got the nerves out. It was dense with information. It's a college setting. The scene is that he is trying to give arguments for the validity of the existence of God.

    It was a lot to work through in my brain. I actually even made notes as my character to actually give me a little bit of help giving the presentation because I was like, in real life, if you're giving a college presentation that's 9 pages long, you're going to have notes as the character. I was up there journaling information and notes and stuff. It was fun. I had to kind of get creative with it, but-

    John:               Good for you. All right. We're going to change gears. What about music? You are a multi-talented individual. On the soundtrack to God's Not Dead, you do have a song. Do you see yourself coming out with a full length album sometime?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. One of my huge passions is music. I grew up playing music. I'm currently working on a record on a full-length record. That's kind of obviously a huge goal of mine to get it out and release as soon as I can. Getting to do a song for the movie, for the film, God's Not Dead was really cool. I'd love to continue doing that. It's fun being a part of the film, and then them coming to you after, in post production saying, "Hey, can you do a song for the movie? Because we know you write music."

    It's kind of a cool thing to be able to do. It's an interesting story behind the song because I actually written the chorus of Holds You Up probably 2 months before I ever auditioned for God's Not Dead. Then when they came to me to write a song for it, they said, "Hey, do you have a song that kind of goes with the flow and the vibe of this storyline, the narrative?" I said, "I don't." "Can you write one?" I was like, "Yeah. I guess I can write one."

    Then a couple days later I remember, "Oh my gosh. Half of it's already written. I wrote this song that's perfect. I just need to go finish it." We finished it, and it ended up working great for the movie. It's kind of a cool story of it working out.

    John:               That's awesome. Shane. Man, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you so much. It's been really fun. I enjoyed it. We should do this more often.

    John:               We should.

    Check out the "behind the scenes" videos with Shane on the set of God's Not Dead

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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