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Family Christian

  • I Didn't Sign up for This

    Karen

    "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good ..." Genesis 50:20a (NLT)

    "I didn't sign up for this!" my friend moaned as we reviewed the printed class schedules we'd just picked up in the school office.

    While I had gotten all my desired classes, she had been assigned one she had absolutely no interest in taking. She couldn't imagine spending four months stuck in a classroom studying something she disliked.

    I tried to empathize, but truthfully I felt she was whining about a very minor issue. Her life, in my estimation, was absolutely fantastic. She came from a well-to-do family. Her parents had been happily married for over 25 years. She had a big extended family and fun get-togethers. She had straight teeth and a nearly-new car.

    I, on the other hand, came from a family rocked by divorce and financial struggles. I had only one brother with whom I didn't get along. My car was old and ugly. My teeth needed braces, but the funds had never been available.

    Hearing her complain about her schedule started my descent into self-pity as I compared my circumstances to hers.

    The more I thought about the unfairness of my life, I reached the same conclusion she had when she spied that unwanted class: "I didn't sign up for this!"

    My friend and I both felt stuck. However, our situations weren't life-threatening. They were issues we could work to change. We could learn the lessons God had for us by not always having a perfect life. And if truly unable to change parts of our circumstances, we could still change our attitudes.

    A young man in Scripture, Joseph, also found himself smack dab in a heap of hassles and difficult situations he never signed up for. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery. He was whisked away to live in a foreign land. To top it off, he was falsely accused of raping his master's wife even though he tried his best to stay away from her. He even wound up in prison.

    These unjust circumstances could have had him complaining, "I didn't sign up for this!" He could have retaliated against those who had caused his turmoil. But he didn't.

    Joseph maintained a God-fearing, God-honoring attitude throughout his ordeals, even as a slave with no freedom in sight.

    At the end of his life we get a glimpse into his continual Christ-like behavior. He'd risen from slave to governor of Egypt through his discernment and wisdom. When his brothers came to buy grain during a famine from the Egyptian authorities, they were shocked to see their younger brother—long thought dead—sitting in a position of power. They feared he would retaliate for the cruel things they did to him, but Joseph's response? "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good ..." (Genesis 50:20a).

    Joseph refused to let life's hard knocks knock him off course, preventing him from living a life that pleased God. He believed in a God Who works all things together for good. By recognizing God's redemption of horrific circumstances, he found true spiritual freedom from self-pity, anger and retaliation. Instead he characterized what God wants of us in Micah 6:8b, "And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" (NAS).

    Today when I am tempted to whine as I compare my life with someone I perceive has an easier one, I remember Joseph, the slave-by-force. I want to emulate his attitude, be spiritually free, and walk in the ways of God.

    It also prompts me to remember that today forced slavery still exists; women and children are forced into the sex-trafficking trade every day. These precious ones sit in atrocious circumstances due to no fault or choice of their own.

    We enjoy simple freedoms they never get to experience. Unless ... we band together, purposing to do something about this awful practice. Could we dare to get our eyes off of our sometimes minor problems and spend time doing justice, acting kindly and humbly walking with God to help free these slaves?

    No matter our circumstances, it's never too late to be free. Our God-honoring attitude that comes from a shift in perspective can help us find spiritual freedom. And our intentional actions can help others imprisoned in slavery find freedom, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

    Dear Lord, help me take my eyes off of my circumstances and fix them solely upon You and Your plan so I can find true spiritual freedom and offer freedom to others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis

     

     

     

    Reflect and Respond: When you can't change the circumstances, how might you change your attitude, bringing it in line with Scripture?

    Power Verse: Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." (HCSB)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Cultural Christianity

    Boyd

    She [Lydia] was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. Acts 16:14-15

    Cultural Christianity has a form of godliness but no faith in Christ. There is a resemblance to righteousness, but not an authentic heart change. Because the culture may understand the tenets of Christianity, a citizen may think their birthright into that society makes them a Christian. However, understanding without conversion is just head knowledge. Familiarity does breed contempt where cultural Christianity replaces personal faith with a general "feel good" faith.

    Yes, there are those like Lydia who may even worship God but are worshiping as an unsaved sinner, not as a saint. As Paul taught, she came under conviction from the Holy Spirit to believe in and accept the resurrected Christ into her life. Her baptism was an outward confession of her inward conversion to Jesus Christ. Conversion Christianity is a person who came to the end of themselves and confessed their need for Jesus as Savior. Transformation is from the inside out.

    Assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3, NKJV

    Have you been genuinely converted to Christ? Have you humbled your heart like a little child and embraced Jesus Christ as the resurrected Lord and Savior of your life? Your individual conversion to Christ is a significant source of strength for your church, community and family. You become “salt and light” for a society in search of its soul. Preachers, lawyers, judges, students, mechanics, coaches, teachers, homemakers, executives, artists and athletes who love Jesus begin to influence friends for Jesus. Converted Christians change the culture for Christ.

    Cultural Christians blend into the culture. Converted Christians influence the culture. The apron strings of your parents' faith can not make you right with Almighty God. Your beliefs cannot be a barnacle on the cruise ship of someone else’s conversion. Personal conversion is your only qualifier for heaven after death and abundant life on earth. Cultural Christians are only an imitation of real intimacy and salvation in Jesus. Repent therefore and be converted to Christ.

    Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Acts 3:19, NKJV

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me out of the comfort of cultural Christianity to the transforming power of being an authentic convert of Christ.

    Related Readings: Psalm 51:13; Romans 16:6; Acts 9:1-6, 15:3; 1 Timothy 3:6

    Post/Tweet today: Your beliefs cannot be a barnacle on the cruise ship of someone else’s conversion. #personalsalvation

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • The Cost of Freedom - Jenny Simmons

    written

    Two days before my wedding, my dad received a call. He was being called up on a surprise deployment for the first anniversary of 9/11. He would leave in two days. By God's kindness, this was extended to four days and he was able to stand on the alter and lead my husband and I through our wedding vows before leaving to serve. He is a Chaplain- and as long as I have been alive- he has been in the military. I am 32.

    My mom could tell you the same kind of stories about her dad. My grandpa spent the better part of her growing up years deployed to Vietnam. He has four daughters and they all have moments where dad couldn't be there.

    My sister has a similar story. She and my brother-in-law tried to get pregnant for several years without luck. Then one day, they found out they were pregnant. The next week- literally the next week- he was deployed to Afghanistan. His third deployment to the battle zone since graduating from West Point nine years ago. My little sister is the most brave woman I know. As are most military spouses. He deployed and she journeyed through her very first pregnancy alone. Stationed half way across the world from our family, with her husband in eminent danger each and every day, she grew a baby. In the military, you get something called R&R, rest and relaxation. It's a two week escape from war. He chose his R&R for two days before her due date. He flew from Afghanistan to Hawaii- and I promise you my sister coaxed that sweet baby girl out of her the second he landed on Hawaiian soil! They knew they were on borrowed time. He watched his daughter come into the world. He spent two weeks with her. And then? He flew back to the war zone of Afghanistan.

    No new momma should have to figure out motherhood alone by day and pray that her husband will come home alive by night. But she did it. With grace. Strength. And bravery. She did what was required.

    Freedom is never free. It always requires sacrifice. And sacrifice hardly follows our plans. It doesn't check to see if anyone is getting married, buried or having a baby. It doesn't inquire about whether this is good for the kids or good for the spouse or even good for the man or woman being asked to serve and put their lives down on the line. And still, for hundreds of years, men and women have voluntarily said that this experiment in freedom is worth it. If, as Thomas Jefferson wrote, we truly hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among those are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; then someone has to bear the cost of those liberties both at home and abroad.

    As we celebrate the birth of our nation and this grand experiment in freedom and self-governance, I am so grateful for the men, women, children and families who understand that freedom is never free. To those who offer themselves up as willing and ready- no matter when the call comes in- we thank you for protecting our inalienable rights. Life. Liberty. And the pursuit of happiness. We remember and celebrate you, and the many men and women who have served America before you, as we remember and celebrate our own freedom. Thank you for paying for the cost.

    "Our great modern Republic. May those who seek the blessings of its institutions and the protection of its flag remember the obligations they impose." ~Ulysses S. Grant

     

     

     

  • "Blondes Do Have More Fun" Says Chonda Pierce

    Chonda Pierce Is The RIAA's Top Certified Female Comedian

    Chonda Pierce is known for Southern charm, neck snapping wit and a consistent ability to fill an arena, so it's no surprise that the sassy sensation was recently honored as the 'Top Certified Female Comedian' by the RIAA for career certifications comprising eight gold and three platinum long-form DVDs.

    In addition, on Saturday, June 22, Pierce performed to a sold-out, hometown crowd at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. The venue echoed with laughter as she delivered three hours of non-stop hilarity. The event was captured on film and will become her 10th long-form DVD. From Spanx and plastic surgery to men and 'tips for speaking Southern' Chonda's infectious style has earned her spots on The Wanda Sykes Show and The View.

  • Love & the Outcome to Release Self-Titled Debut

    Word Entertainment’s Love & The Outcome, recently included in Billboard’s “Bubbling Under” feature on new and noteworthy acts, are gearing up to release their self-titled debut album on August 27. The 11-track album recalls the highs and lows of the journey vocalist Jodi King and bass player/vocalist Chris Rademaker have braved since departing their homeland of Canada, risking it all to pursue their musical dreams. That Jodi and Chris are also husband/wife makes the story that much more vivid. The album features the duo’s debut single, “He Is With Us,” which skyrocketed to the Top 25 on Billboard’s Christian Songs chart and No. 10 on Canada’s CCRC chart in a little over a month since its release.

    Co-Produced by Seth Mosley (Newsboys), Ben Glover (for KING & COUNTRY), David Garcia (TobyMac) and Jeff Pardo (Matthew West), Love & The Outcome balances Chris’ rock sensibilities with Jodi’s love of melodic pop artists. In addition, the duo’s influence is also revealed in the lyrics as they had a hand in writing each of the 11 tracks on the album.

    “We want these songs to become the soundtrack to people’s lives, and hope that the truth of these songs goes beyond the thrill of the live show to plant a seed in people’s hearts: to go for the things that they might be afraid to go for and join this joyful revolution,” said King. “That’s the whole point. A life that requires faith is worth living, and a life on the edge is one where you live hand-in-hand and arm-in-arm with God. That’s what we’re living for.”

    Love & The Outcome Track Listing:

    1.       When We Love 2.       He Is With Us 3.       No Mistaking (It’s You) 4.       City Of God 5.       Ask 6.       The Story You’re Building In Me 7.       Closer To You 8.       Bring Us Back 9.       King Of My Heart 10.   Heart Like You 11.   What A Promise

    Currently Love & The Outcome are on the road playing dates with the following upcoming shows:

    June 29 – Marina Park – Menominee, MI July 18 – India Hook United Methodist Church – Rock Hill, SC July 19 – Topeco Church of the Brethren – Floyd, VA July 20 – AllOutPraise! Festival – Donegal, PA July 23 – Celebration Community Church – Celebration, FL July 28 – CornerStone Church – San Antonio, TX August 3 – Covenant Ranch – Caddo Mills, TX August 9 – Knoebels Amusement Resort – Elysburg, PA August 10 – Royal Tailor @ Back to School Bash – Harrisonburg, VA August 11 – Indiana State Fair – Indianapolis, IN August 17 – First Baptist Church – Newcastle, OK August 19 – Young Harris College – Young Harris, GA August 21 – Cornerstone Church – East Longmeadow, MA August 22 – Crossroads Church – Pelham, NH August 23 – Sunday River Resort – Newry, ME August 24 – Keswick Landing Mall – Keswick, Canada August 31 – Van Wert County Fair – Van Wert, OH

  • "Grace Unplugged" Film Soundtrack to Release in August

    Soundtrack Features Songs From The Film's Stars AJ Michalka And Jamie Grace, Also Includes Songs From TobyMac, Colton Dixon, Chris Tomlin And More

    Sparrow Records and Capitol Christian Music Group announce the "GRACE Unplugged" movie soundtrack, set for release on August 27th at both retail and online. "GRACE Unplugged," a Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions feature film starring AJ Michalka, James Denton, Kevin Pollack, Jamie Grace and more, is slated to hit theaters nationwide October 4.

    The soundtrack features the music heard throughout the movie, including three brand new recordings from Michalka ("Grace Trey"), such as the key song "All I've Ever Needed." Additionally, the soundtrack features songs from TobyMac, Chris Tomlin, Jamie Grace (who plays "Rachel"), Colton Dixon, Luminate, Josh Wilson, Shawn McDonald, and Nine Lashes.

    ABOUT "GRACE Unplugged": A talented young singer and aspiring songwriter’s Christian faith and family ties are tested when she defies her worship-pastor father and pursues pop-music stardom in "GRACE Unplugged," a moving and inspiring new film that explores the true meaning of success.

    Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey (James Denton), a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian. Grace longs to escape his shadow and make a name for herself singing songs about something other than God, but Johnny warns her that fame is not as glamorous as it looks and reminds her that serving and worshipping God with the talent she’s been given is a far more worthwhile goal.

    When Johnny’s former manager, Frank “Mossy” Mostin (Kevin Pollak), shows up 20 years after the two parted ways to offer him another shot at the big time, Johnny declines the opportunity. But Grace takes it – without telling her parents. She records a cover version of her father’s old Top 10 hit, runs away to Los Angeles and, under Mossy’s guidance, begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of.  But with each rung of the ladder she climbs, Grace feels pressure to compromise her Christian values and learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is. The one exception is Quentin (Michael Welch), an intern at her record company and a fellow Christian who urges Grace to reassess her choices and put God first again in her life. Will everything she experiences lead her to reject her faith … or rediscover it?

    "GRACE Unplugged" soundtrack song listing*: "All I've Ever Needed" – AJ Michalka "Desert Song" – AJ Michalka "You Never Let Go" – AJ Michalka "Misunderstood" – AJ Michalka "Holding On" – Jamie Grace "Our God" – Chris Tomlin "Steal My Show" – TobyMac "In and Out of Time" – Colton Dixon "The Void" – Nine Lashes "The Space Between Us" – Shawn McDonald "Welcome to Daylight" – Luminate "Amazing Grace" – Josh Wilson *Track listing subject to change

  • A Gentle Touch

    Glynnis

    "Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed'" Mark 1:41 (NASB)

    The labor and delivery of my second child was fast. In fact, within two hours after the first inkling of pain, I was in the hospital being prepped for delivery. The intense pain surprised and overwhelmed me. Because of the rapid progression, I had no pain relief.

    With my husband's hand squeezed in my left one, I looked into the face of the young nurse standing at my right, coaching me through the delivery. After an excruciating contraction, I asked, "Will you hold my hand?" She smiled and grabbed hold of my right hand while another wave of pain radiated through my body.

    It sounded pitiful and needy to ask someone to hold my hand, but at that moment I needed her strength.

    There have been other times I've needed to hold someone's hand. The first time I went snorkeling, I thought I was going to pass out I was hyperventilating so badly. I held my husband's hand on my left and my son's hand on my right until I could control my breathing and enjoy the incredible sights.

    Hiking up Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, I held someone's hand when I wasn't grasping on to rocks.

    I've held my mother's hand and my sisters' hands as we've walked through the pain of losing loved ones.

    There's something about physical touch that brings comfort and stability in an uncertain world. The New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus touching those around Him. He laid His hands on women who had been scorned, children who were dancing at His feet and lepers ashamed of their faces.

    In this world of virtual relationships, conversations managed via electronic devices and fear of inappropriate touch, I wonder if we are losing our physical connections to each other. And yet God designed us to need touch. In fact, it is critical to our health-both emotional and physical. Babies need touch for their brains to develop and children need touch for their emotions to develop. Experts say appropriate touch has a profound effect on the brain's programming and re-programming.

    Perhaps it's time to become more intentional about offering loving and appropriate touch to others. We all need it, but often find it's awkward to accept and offer. My immediate family is very comfortable with touch, as my children have grown up with lots of physical affection. But I have to be intentional about reaching out to others in gentle and creative ways.

    I have discovered reading the New Testament that the first believers were very affectionate with each other. In fact, at the end of Acts 20, we read that all the believers embraced and kissed Paul as he was leaving for a journey. They were also encouraged to greet each other with a holy kiss.

    While I realize not everyone is ready to be touched with such intimacy, I am challenged to bring healthy touch into my relationships in greater measure. Whether it's a hug, pat on the head, stroke on the arm, or a holy kiss, touch is needed in our society. Maybe if we brought more healthy touch into our relationships, people wouldn't be driven to seek it in inappropriate ways.

    For whatever reason, God designed us to need the physical touch of others. The next time you are at church, a family get-together or out with friends, challenge yourself to offer healthy touch to two or three people, especially those seniors in your midst. Become the person who offers a hug, rather than waiting for one.

    Dear Lord, I know You designed us to need the touch of other people. It's not always easy to admit we need someone to hold our hand, or give us a hug. Help me to be more aware of the needs of those around me and to offer gentle touch in natural ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Study different Scriptures where Jesus reached out and touched someone in the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women. We've sprinkled 366 devotions, written by our team, throughout this Bible to help encourage you.

    Reflect and Respond: What are some reasons you refrain from offering a gentle touch to others?

    How can you emulate Jesus' care for others, as seen in Scripture?

    Power Verses: Matthew 19:14-15, "But Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.' And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left." (NLT)

    1 Peter 5:14, "Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Consumer Christianity

    Boyd

    Then he [Jesus] said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

    Consumer Christianity is about me: what I receive from my experience with God, what I gain in the worship service, what I learn from the Pastor’s sermon, how I will be blessed because I attended church. Consumer Christianity is a receive, not a give mentality. If I am not intentional, I can drift into a totally selfish scenario regarding my expectations in my spiritual life. I place my needs above the needs of everyone else and I leverage my relationship with the Lord for myself.

    However, Jesus describes His followers as cross carriers, not consumers. He said the role of His disciple is death to self and life for Him. Christ meets the needs of cross bearers. For example, in the process of pointing others to Jesus our need for significance is met. We worship Him in the glory of His grandeur and experience peace. Cross carrying Christianity means what we learn in Bible study, the Holy Spirit applies to our hearts. His truth transforms us into His likeness.

    Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to 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. Romans 12:1-2

    Our churches need to guard against creating a consumer Christianity culture. Relationship with Christ is a covenant. Salvation is free, but discipleship is costly. Our trust in Jesus requires our letting go of our trust in anything else. Our confession and contrition over sin longs to grow in the grace and holiness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our repentance turns from old selfish thinking and replaces it with new selfless thinking. Cross carrying churches create cross carrying Christians.

    Furthermore, our ability to follow Christ is sustained by grace through faith. Grace governs our heart in humility. Faith feeds our mind in hope. We follow hard after Jesus when we have been with Jesus. It is in our intimate moments of prayer that the Holy Spirit gives us the spiritual energy to engage the world with truth and grace. Therefore, be a cross carrying Christian who challenges consumer Christians to engage in discipleship. Self denial frees us to follow Jesus!

    Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, create in me a cross carrying heart and not a consumer Christian heart.

    Related Readings: Leviticus 16:31; Philippians 1:21; Galatians 5:13; Hebrews 9:15

    Post/Tweet today: Self denial frees us to follow Jesus. #freedominJesus

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com

  • New Spirit-Filled Life Bible Now in New Living Translation

    The best-selling New Spirit-Filled Life Bible has already captured the attention of two million readers around the world and can now be purchased in the easy-to-understand New Living Translation. This latest edition of the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, is published by Thomas Nelson and available now.

    Presented in a crisp, new modern packaging, the NLT New Spirit-Filled Life Bible features the popular verse-by-verse study notes written by Editor Dr. Jack Hayford, founding pastor of The Church on the Way, and a team of anointed leaders. A great resource for gaining a deeper understanding of God’s Word, Hayford and his team are thrilled to have these notes now available in the New Living Translation.

    “There is a 'breathing' that comes through the New Living Translation which will assist readers in opening them to the essence of the Holy Spirit, actively transmitting the truth and wisdom of God's Word,” shares Dr. Hayford. “With His 'breath' comes understanding that will always relay the life and graces He originally 'breathed' (II Tim. 3:16).  Such reading with understanding and receptivity will always help us see Jesus Himself in the Word.
I welcome the NLT as a fresh, timely assist to our experiencing Christ revealed in our hearts and minds; increasingly making us “more and more like Him”--transforming of our daily worship and practical living as promised (II Cor. 3:18).”

    Compiled for Christians who want a fuller, more in-depth understanding of the Scriptures, the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible follows Dr. Hayford’s balanced biblical teaching and preaching ministry that will encourage daily Bible reading and study. The New Spirit-Filled Life Bible equips Christians through the power of the Word with content such as Kingdom Dynamics, Truth-In-Action charts, annotations that give clear verse-by-verse explanation to thousands of scriptures, Word Wealth, and maps, plus introductions and outlines for every book of the Bible.

    “Two decades! That’s how long the Spirit-Filled Life Bible brand has been serving Christians with best-selling Bibles,” said Robert Sanford, Vice President & Associate Publisher at Thomas Nelson. “We’re so pleased, now, to have partnered with our friends at Tyndale House Publishers to bring the New Spirit-Filled Life Bible in the popular New Living Translation.”

    The New Spirit-Filled Bible is also available in the NKJV translation, which was recently updated with a fresh, new packaging that complements the look of the NLT.

  • A Pastors Goal to Restore Manhood

    The earthly crisis within manhood will be there until Jesus returns, but in Christ men are pointed toward the gospel as the vision for renewal. Manhood Restored by exciting new pastoral voice Eric Mason combines theological depth with practical insights, putting men in step with a gospel-centered manhood that will enrich every facet of their lives.

    John: I’m wondering if you could just give us some background information, Eric, where did you come from? What is your overall background? How did you become a Christian? A short synopsis on who you are and what brought you to this point.

    Eric: Short synopsis. I grew up in a quasi-Christian home, more non-Christian than fully Christian. I grew up in inner city Washington, D.C. and didn’t trust Christ until I went to college through my campus ministry on my campus. A couple of years later I received the call to ministry, went to Dallas Seminary and was on staff at Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas. I played some roles there in ministry. Took a pastoral role at a church in Houston for a couple of years and started to listen to the call to plant a church. I went back to Dallas for a while and then went through a program and fellowship in Little Rock with Fellowship Associates and got commissioned by a multiplicity of churches to plant.

    In Philadelphia, I have my wife and two sons. We’ve been married almost 16 years and the church is now six years old and we are a multi-ethnic church in the inner city of Philadelphia, and that’s where we are now.

    John: That’s great. Eric, you wrote a book about restoring manhood. And in the introduction you ask a rhetorical question, “Another book on manhood?” What drove you to write this book?

    Eric: Several things. I think people around me, the disciples. They’ve watched me make disciples for 20 years and have seen or heard when I’ve been to a conference somewhere ministering. Or just on a very, very personal level with people, feeling like there was a deep need to communicate the Word of God to this generation in dealing with humanity issues. They kind of connected with me and extracted and affirmed that’s what I needed to do through prayer and in getting with the Lord. That’s kind of how it came about, and the pandemic in our minds with the challenge of manhood and masculinity as it relates to Jesus Christ across economic lines.

    John: Eric, when you look at that topic, do you see this as a pandemic within our country alone, or do you think this is something that’s going on worldwide?

    Eric: Well, it’s interesting because I’m getting people from Australia, South America, Europe, all over the world contacting me about this. It has been not just an American phenomenon but it is also a global phenomenon in which manhood needs to be restored. I think that there are other contextual issues. I can’t personally say from every single country where it is, but everybody has attested to me from different backgrounds in a context that there is a pandemic need for men to be restored by the gospel.

    John: And Eric, where is this problem coming from? Where is it stemming from? Obviously we could easily quantify it and say hey, we are sinners. To some extent, do you think that’s been hitting a little closer to home in this last generation? First of all, let’s identify what is that problem and then is it associated specifically with today’s generation?

    Eric: Yes, I think that you really don’t see the impact, it’s just like being the president. A president can be in a presidency with a great economic upswing. But they say it takes eight years later to feel the economic impact of a presidency. I think that there has been a pendulum swing within our culture as it relates to manhood. And so I think that is what this generation is experiencing. We had the civil rights generation and their philosophy of America being as a hippie generation/black power/immigrant/bourgeois generation. And then after that we had the hip-hop/pop generation. We have what I call now the eclectic generation and I think that in light of all of those threads, there has really been a decline in manhood. And I’m talking specifically in America. There’s a good book on the father of the American economy, the kind of talks about the downswing of manhood over the last 60 years. It was written in the mid-90s and kind of gives some sociological forecasts that fatherlessness consists of not only being physically absent from the home, but can be presently absent as well. I think the fatherlessness issue is a big issue. I think there are some aspects of technology that play into man’s detached connection to the home, too. For instance, a guy that’s 35 years old and a deeper gamer, that kind of thing. And some of the quote-unquote urban context where there’s a phenomenal downswing of fatherlessness that has been a huge part of the crisis that’s in manhood today.

    John: What do you think is the biggest problem? Guys not seeking Christ or guys not seeking their wives well?

    Eric: Of course the bigger issue is Christ. Everything starts with that. Jesus says, “Apart from me you can’t do anything,” so I think that’s the main issue. I think it’s both an evangelical issue and it’s a branding issue. In relation to the world and in the Western culture, the church seems to be in the mind of the loss as more of an entity that there’s more robust females in Christianity versus men. So that detachment has created a lack of an apologetic for why the church can’t put a dent in this issue of fatherlessness. When seeking out why as a result to me, of having a robust relationship with Jesus Christ.

    John: Eric, did you write this book for the church, for lay leaders, or did you write this for individuals?

    Eric: I wrote it for both. I think the curriculum part of it is more for the church, and the DVD set. But the book I wrote for people who are not believers and believers so that, you know, I saturated it with Scripture because I believe the Word of God is alive and active in my mind. Whether or not they know that the verses are there, I think the biblical reasoning of the book can connect with the lost guy and the found guy. I wrote it for both, but I wanted it to be discipleship material that transcends the time. So that it can continue to be something of a tool in the hands of men to be able to walk with men, so we are not just pointing out a whole bunch of problems, but tooling this generation hopefully with solutions that are willing the person to work with Jesus Christ.

     

    John: Eric, you wrote and I think I’m quoting here, “Jesus is the prototype man for men. All of us men are only as manly as it relates to the standard set by Jesus.” Do you want to explain that statement?

    Eric: Yes, I think one of the things I didn’t want to do was alienate the fact that Jesus is an example for women. So my point isn’t to really alienate women because the book is on manhood I wanted to voice it, if you will, to men. And so it’s all about being the prototypical man. You know the Bible talks of him being the firstborn above among many and he’s the first fruit. Not only that, but it talks about the Word became flesh and blood and dwelt among us. There’s a Greek word in that verse which means to pitch a tent and to take residence, which points back to the Old Testament covenant of the presence of God being among men. And so Jesus Christ became the prototype of what the church based on 1 Corinthian 3 and 1 Peter 2 , was eventually going to be a house of God. And so, in light of that indigenizing that to men, what I see there is Jesus Christ being the prototype of what it means to be a man because he came to restore all things, but God chose to send him in a masculine form. And since Jesus is in every aspect of who he is based on Hebrews is the greatest of all. That would include him being the greatest man because God made him a man and he is the perfect man. Watching him in his incarnation, I wanted to extract principles from his incarnation that reflect a robust biblical masculinity.

    John: Do you think there’s, I want to be careful how to say this, but do you think that there is controversy in that statement because you’re telling guys to look at Jesus because he was a man. You talked about the fact that you’re not alienating women here. How do women look at Jesus? How was your wife or my wife supposed to look at Christ?

    Eric: This is like what the Scripture talks about. In relation to their was suffering. You’re looking at the first of Peter four, and it says and he left his example for us to follow. He’s not just talking to women. However, I think it’s very important that Jesus, there is a neutral part of his character that is applicable to both men and women.

    John: Yes.

    Eric: The other issue though, is because He’s a man, He directly images Himself in a way that helps men to see that Jesus Christ was a man and a real man. He didn’t come in the form of a woman. Now that doesn’t mean He’s better for men than He is women. It’s interesting that you asked what women are saying. It’s funny. I have had many women comment—either through Twitter or Facebook or through Instagram—that they’re buying the book for their husbands because they’re excited about it. I’ve had some people say some stuff on the Christian profile group, and the Christian Post did a great job discussing this. And of course, some of the comments are just from people that are in different places in their spirituality.

    The main point of what I’m trying to do is to encourage men to live up to their God ordained role. And it’s interesting. The Bible calls Jesus the second Adam. The fact that there was a first Adam who sinned, and what we have learned about our masculinity from that, well, we wouldn’t have learned it from Eve. We learned it from Adam. Jesus is the second and better Adam based on Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. As the second and better Adam, he’s a better man than the first. And since God made them male or female, in Genesis 1, he made them male or female, Jesus Christ is the remade, upgrade maleness of Adam and therefore, we would have learned masculinity from Adam, I think we can do so with Jesus Christ a lot better.

    John: Needless to say, you wrote the book to men. It’s about men and you wrote it to men. At some point, may be a year or a couple of years from now, you may write a book to women.

    Eric: Yes, I just finished a series on Eve this spring.

    John: Well, there you go.

    Eric: Yes.

    John: So the people that are reading this blog post, the women that you had just mentioned that are tweeting you and Facebook messaging you and are excited about it. If the lady is married to a gentleman who is not proactively seeking Christ, reading His Word, leading his family, what would you say, Eric, in that context to that woman?

    John: What would she do with her husband in that state? Is that what you are asking?

    John: Yes, if she comes to you, hypothetically, and says, “Pastor, my husband seems to be unengaged in all of those areas that you’re talking about.” How would you encourage her? What would you say?

    Eric: I think the Bible answers this question so simply. First Peter 31 talks about her serving her husband, respecting her husband and praying for her husband. That he may be one with the Word. I think that there can be some nonthreatening ways that God graces us to facilitate her to get this resource and I think this resource is, of course, engaging. And basically, everything in the book pretty much comes from pastoring people. And having heard that a billion times and having discipled men and telling her about that, that’s what I would let her know. For me, when you’re looking at a pastor’s husband, I think she needs to pray for him and then talk to him about some of the challenges. And we’re assuming he’s a Christian. I think if he’s a nonbeliever it’s a little bit different. I think that when it’s a believer, she needs to communicate, which women do. Communicate her challenges with her desire to see him be the man that God wants him to be in whatever way she can serve him. And then I would hope that she’s in the church, which hopefully they are talking to leadership and asking them to help facilitate the man being more effectively engaged. The last chapter of the book is on restoring man’s relationship with the church because I think the church has to be intentional about facilitating what it is for men to be fully engaged and be the men that God has called them to be. And when that gets in order, then I think by God’s grace, the women won’t have to push towards their husbands to beg them to lead them.

    John: Eric, who are you influenced by? What authors are you reading, what music are you listening to?

    Eric: You know, I’m a research reader but I’m also a real man. Right now, I’m deeply influenced by Dr. Tony Evans, Dr. Carl Ellis and others. Those are spiritual fathers to me. All of them have influenced me. What am I currently reading? I’m currently reading Anthony Carter’s book, Blood Work, which is a phenomenal, pastorally theological work talking about the blood of Christ on our lives. That’s been helpful. And then I’m going back to a book by Richard Lovelace that’s called, Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal. I’m excited about that. And then I’m going through the book of Esther as well. In Scripture.

    John: Eric, one last question here. You started an organization called Thriving.

    Eric: Yes.

    John: Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

    Eric: Yes, Thriving is an organization that we started in planning a First Peter fellowship in in a really difficult area in Philadelphia. God has graced us to see tons of people meet Jesus and to be able to really get stability, financially. It’s almost a full sustainability there, then seeing it be multiethnic and engaging our neighborhood and doing work over in Malawi and planting churches in difficult areas to bring the hope of the gospel there. And so as that began to happen, people began contacting us asking us how we did it, and it got so overwhelming to the point we, for the better of the Lord, thought that an organization to help facilitate training urban leaders to be able to engage contacts with the gospel so that churches can be planted and ministry can be done in places that people don’t want to go but has a rich potential with what’s needed to engage the unreached people groups in all areas.

    The redemption of manhood sets Jesus as the true standard of biblical manhood, looking to his perfect example to redeem and restore a man's life in the areas of sexuality, home, and work.

    Look for Eric's book by clicking here.

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