“The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out” (Proverbs 13:9).
Righteousness shines the brightest when dimming days become the darkest. We are called and compelled as Christians to glow for God during gloomy times. Are you caught up in our culture’s chaos, or do you see a chance to burn brightly for Jesus? Hard times can harden our hearts or humble them, but it is a broken heart that burns the brightest.
Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Light left unattended extinguishes, but light exposed to the air of almighty God’s love illuminates. Difficult days demand dependency on the Lord; so, in fact, your acts of service are fueled by faith. If you panic instead of praying, you will miss out on the opportunities to love others.
“We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).
I often ask, “In my uncertainty, am I more worried about my stuff or the window of opportunity to serve others?” It may mean inviting someone to live in my home for a season, paying three month’s mortgage payments for a friend, volunteering at a local shelter, or increasing my gifts to the church. Righteous light longs to love liberally.
Christ in us invites others to know Him, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Perhaps you invite some neighbors over for a six-week Bible study on money or marriage, and watch what God does.
“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (Philippians 2:14–15).
Prayer: Where can I bring the light of Christ’s love to someone’s dark circumstance?
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)
When my daughter was just a toddler she began having reoccurring infections. With every one, she ran a high fever that sometimes resulted in a small seizure. This illness required that she stay on a low-dose antibiotic to prevent infection.
Sadly, the infections kept happening. Soon the doctor feared that this infection could cause damage to her kidneys. So by the time she was two years old, my husband and I had to make some serious decisions.
We could keep her on the antibiotics and hope she would outgrow the illness with minimal damage. Or, she could have surgery. There were risks either way.
Keeping her on antibiotics for a long period of time could make them less effective if she got future illnesses. Plus, we had to consider the risk of her kidneys being damaged. Then there was surgery—which had risks all it's own.
Faced with a decision that required wisdom beyond us, I kept thinking, "There's got to be an easier way."
At times the road before me seems long, steep and challenging. I can feel lost. Uncertain. Afraid. Sometimes I'm not sure I have the strength for the journey.
It's in those times that God wants me to remember I'm not traveling alone. He is my ever-present guide. He knows where the road leads. He can see what lies ahead. And that's not all.
God also knows my concerns. He knows what I feel. The pain I cannot explain to someone else ... God knows. The fear of the unknown—He knows. And He offers me Himself.
Perhaps you feel overwhelmed today. You may be experiencing some sadness, loss or worry. You may find that God has called you to a difficult path. "Surely," you think, "God has an easier road for me to travel."
The truth is, we aren't wise enough to assume another path would be best for us. Maybe the easier road won't make us into the person God intends us to be.
Perhaps the difficult road is a path of grace—protecting us from the worst.
Maybe this road is about learning something new about God or ourselves. Could it be the difficult journey is the path that prepares us for a greater purpose or a greater faith in God?
After much prayer, we felt led to have the surgery. It went well. Our daughter was able to come off her medicine and live a healthy life!
So, what did I learn? Out of all the possible paths, God knows the best path. Our key verse reminds us, "His ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts." Because of this, we can take the path God has laid out for us today. We can trust, and not fear, in His infinite wisdom and love. And we can be certain that God will never lead us down the wrong road.
Dear Lord, because You will never lead me down the wrong road, I can trust You when I need to make decisions about my family, my career, and my health. Thank You for Your wisdom and guidance. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Discover a faith stronger than all your fear in Micca Campbell's book, An Untroubled Heart.
Reflect and Respond:
God sees a million other connections to your situation than you do. Therefore, He knows the best path to take.
Seek His guidance through prayer, a godly friend, counselor, and in His Word. Watch for a reoccurring answer marked by peace. Then choose to walk that path.
Psalms 32:8, "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you." (NIV)
“Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9
Children of God have the privilege to rely on the only One who raises the dead. He raised His son Jesus from the dead and today He still brings life from death. Indeed, even a dead relationship He can bring back to life. A dead deal He can resurrect. A dead end job He can breathe life into with opportunities and new ideas. A dead marriage He can call forth like Lazarus, and by His grace remove the grave clothes of bitterness and unforgiveness. God gives life—He is reliable!
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is reliable because His track record is 100% trustworthy. It is when we rely on ourselves that our faith becomes stale and irrelevant. However, when we choose to chase after the comfort of Christ, we are comforted. When we wait and seek out His wisdom before we react, we are protected. When we bow in humble worship of the Almighty, we avoid worshipping at the altar of our ego or economics. We rely on God, because He is totally reliable!
“This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh?and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5
Self-reliance is subtle in its servitude. We can say we depend on God, but if we scramble around in a panic we act like He is out of control. Your teenager needs to see you—not just hear you—accountable to God. If you want them to be accountable in their conversations, then you must model words and behaviors that don’t flirt with sin. Perhaps you come off the road and reengage with your family, so your relational equity is built back up. God can fill in the financial gaps.
Furthermore, make sure not to place too much trust in those who cannot bring the dead to life. Mere human beings have no capacity compared to their Creator’s capacity. Excessive reliance on people leads to unhealthy expectations. Yes, you need the support of friends, but not to the same degree you need your Savior’s support. Your Heavenly Father neither sleeps nor slumbers, so seek out His intimacy in your moments of insomnia. The Spirit is your Guide to lead you into His will!
“Stop trusting in mere humans, who have but a breath in their nostrils. Why hold them in esteem?” Isaiah 2:22
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am grateful for Your reliability; make me Your reliable representative.
"He said: 'Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is the Lord says to you: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's."'" 2 Chronicles 20:15 (NIV)
When some exercise-loving friends suggested we join them for a moderate family hike while we were all vacationing in the Adirondack Mountains, we thought that was a great idea.
Turns out their definition of moderate came from an entirely different dictionary than mine. Actually, an entirely different planet, if I'm being completely honest. Honey ... this was no moderate hike.
I had pictured a path with a gently winding, upward slope. But what we actually experienced was more like scaling a cliff face made entirely of rocks and roots.
And we were at an altitude so high my lungs felt like they were stuck together and incapable of holding more than a thimbleful of breath. Lovely. And forget about conversation. All I could do was mutter a few moans between gasps for air.
Up, up, up we went. And when another group of hikers passed us on their way down and cheerfully quipped, "You're almost halfway there!" I wanted to quit. Halfway? How could we be only halfway?!
I pushed. I pulled. I strained. I huffed and puffed. And I might have even spent a few minutes pouting. But eventually, we reached the top. I bent over, holding my sides and wondering how a girl who runs four miles almost every day could feel so stinkin' out of shape!
Climbing up the mountain against the force of gravity was hard. Really, really hard. But coming down was a completely different experience. I navigated the same rocks and roots without feeling nearly as stressed. I enjoyed the journey. I noticed more of the beautiful surroundings and had enough breath to actually talk.
About halfway down the trail, it occurred to me how similar my experience of this hike was to my Christian walk. Starting at the top of the mountain and working with the force of gravity was much easier than starting at the bottom of the mountain and working against it. Although I had to navigate the exact same path both directions, being in the flow of gravity made the journey so much better.
It's just like when I face a hard issue in life. Operating in the flow of God's power is better than working against the flow of God's power. Seeking to obey God in the midst of whatever circumstance I'm facing is what positions me to work in the flow of God's power.
I still have to navigate the realities of my situation, but I won't be doing it in my own strength. My job is to be obedient to God, to apply His Word, and to walk according to His ways—not according to the world's suggestions. God, in His way and timing, works it all out.
That's what happened with King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Jehoshaphat was in an overwhelming situation. Three countries had banded together, forming a massive army to attack his much smaller country of Judah. If ever there were a time for a king to feel unglued, this would have been it. But Jehoshaphat didn't fall apart.
He stayed in the flow of obeying God in his actions and reactions. I'm sure if he had tried to figure out how to win this battle based on his limited strength and numbers alone, he would have surely given up. Judah was outnumbered. No question. But instead of counting themselves out, the king and his army counted God in and determined to do exactly as He instructed.
I want to participate in God's divine nature rather than wallow in discouragement and fear. Then I won't have to huff and puff and pout while trying to figure everything out on my own.
I stay in the flow.
Dear Lord, help me to trust that You've got it all figured out and to remember that I don't. Help me to say yes to You even when it's hard. Help me to say no to anything that doesn't align with Your Word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
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The accompanying 6 week Unglued Bible Study is perfect for your individual devotion time or a group study. To order your copy of the workbook, click here. For the accompanying DVD, click here.
Reflect and Respond:
Are you facing what seems like an impossible situation?
Stop right now and ask God to show you how to walk in His perfect will. Instead of counting yourself out, count God in and determine to do exactly as He instructs.
Isaiah 55:12, "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." (NIV)
Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (NIV)
“Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Isaiah 49:23
Everyone deals with disappointment—some more than others. These let downs vary in scope: another year of no raises at work, a friend’s forgetfulness, a lost opportunity, a teenager’s poor choices, a missed deadline, a relative’s financial woes, a boss’s oversight, an injured body or unexpected dental work. In this world troubles abound, but in Christ His peace is profound. Yes, disappointment is a fact that forces us to make appointments with Jesus. He doesn’t disappoint.
Moreover, disappointments left unattended lead to disobedience. The hole in our heart is meant to grow our dependency on God. He brings wholeness and holiness to a lacerated soul. The Lord heals hurt feelings when we offer forgiveness. Yes, disappointment feeds selfishness when we don’t get our way. So be wise, if your frustration replaces your faith you can lose patience and respect. Allow your trust in Jesus to trump testy relationships. Adjust your expectations to His concerns.
“My soul, wait silently for God alone,?For my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5, NKJV
Appointments with God help us to deal with disappointment. He gives us rest when we are restless. He gives us calm when there is calamity. He gives us peace when there is chaos. He gives us trust when there is distrust. But how do we respond to those who disappoint us? We see them as our Heavenly Father sees them—sheep in need of a shepherd. Friends falter, so will we judge them from a distance or love them up close and personal? Disappointment is cause to care.
What is your greatest disappointment? Is it you? Have you appropriated God’s forgiveness and have you forgiven yourself in Christ? Regret is like a large rock on your chest—it is a burden you are not meant to bear. By God’s grace open up to a trusted friend about your past embarrassments—even shameful behavior. Let another’s love cover your disappointment in yourself like a warm blanket on an exposed body. By faith, accept your Savior’s acceptance.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, take my disappointments and grow my love and obedience to You.
"Here's another old saying that deserves a second look: 'Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.' Is that going to get us anywhere? Here's what I propose: 'Don't hit back at all.'" Matthew 5:38 (MSG)
Jack tossed the papers on my desk. His eyebrows knit into a straight line as he glared at me.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Next time you want to change anything, ask me first," he grunted, turning on his heels.
One small change. Wasn't that what I was paid to do? It's not that I hadn't been warned. One co-worker cautioned me, "He's personally responsible for two different people leaving the firm."
As the weeks went by, I grew to resent Jack, although my anger went against what I believed in: turning the other cheek and loving my enemies.
However, many days I felt justified. Jack had been given plenty of chances to be kind, yet inevitably he slapped a verbal insult on any cheek I turned his way.
Other days I felt convicted, and prayed about my indignant feelings toward Jack. But to be honest, I wanted to put him in his place, not love him.
I knew I had to give him what he deserved. I went into his office to tell him how I felt.
When I opened the door, Jack glanced up.
"What?" he said abruptly.
God help me, I prayed.
"Jack, I've never had anyone speak to me the way you do. As a professional, it's wrong. And it's wrong for me to allow it to continue," I said.
You see, even though I wanted to give Jack an "eye for an eye" to treat him the way he treated others, I couldn't. Because earlier the Lord had shown me something Jesus taught on in Matthew 5:38.
Under the Law, punishment was to match the crime. But a group of men named the Pharisees had taken that specific rule and made it literal. If a person stole a loaf of bread, even if they were starving, the punishment no longer matched the crime—they cut off the hand of the thief.
Rather than an eye for an eye, Jesus said that when we meet someone who is evil (in this case that word can mean a person who is stingy, a bad friend, one who exerts authority over you in the wrong manner, or someone with wrong motives) and they hit us on our right cheek, rather than meet violence with violence, we do the opposite.
We meet a stingy person with generosity.
We respond to a person who is overbearing with patience.
This was not only contrary to the Pharisee's interpretation of the Law, but a peaceful response founded in love that introduced self-control and gentleness into an offense.
"Jack, I want to make you a promise. I will treat you with respect and kindness. You deserve that. Because that's what friends do." I slipped out of the chair and closed the door behind me.
One year later, I discovered I had breast cancer. I was 32, the mother of three beautiful young children, and scared. Even after surgery, chemo, and radiation, the diagnosis was grim.
People didn't know what to say. They were afraid for me. There were days that the news was so grim that I asked God for just one word of hope.
On the last day in the hospital, the door darkened and Jack stood awkwardly on the threshold. He walked over to my bed and, without a word, placed a bundle beside me. Inside were several bulbs.
"Tulips." He cleared his throat. "If you plant them when you get home, they'll come up next spring." He shuffled his feet. "I just wanted you to know that I think you'll be there to see them when they come up."
His words were just what I needed to hear. They gave me hope.
I watched those tulips push through the soil that next spring, and the next. In fact, last month I celebrated 21 years of survival.
In a moment, years ago, when I prayed for just the right word and actions, a man with very few words said and did all the right things.
And isn't that just what friends do?
Dear Lord, thank You that You are a friend to me, even on those days that I am gruff. You are patient. You are kind. Help me to be more like You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Turning your cheek simply means that you meet an unmerciful action with mercy or peace.
Describe one way you can respond differently.
1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." (NIV)
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7
Worry is a weight that is self-imposed. It uses up today's strength on tomorrow's concerns. Worry worries most when others don't seem worried. It feels the responsibility to be anxious on behalf of friends or family members who are not engaged in anxiety. A fearful person may even get mad because other people are not concerned enough. If left unchecked, worry crushes confidence and grows into an all consuming fear and faith killer. Worry becomes dramatic and ignores intimacy with Christ.
The remedy for worries is to give them to God for His safekeeping. Like a secure vault inaccessible to man, lock up your worries in the Lord's bank of trust. Your salvation is His safety deposit box of eternal security. Because you trust Him with the eternal, You can trust Him with the temporal. Worry given away stays at bay, but worry held on to—controls you. Anxiety is a discontent master who is never satisfied with future preparations—the worst case is already assumed.
“I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’ “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that!” Matthew 25:25-26, The Message
However, when you leave your worries with Jesus, He removes the warts of worry with His liquid love. Your Savior soothes your soul with His sweet presence. Christ is your compassionate advocate who takes your petitions of concern and presents them to your Heavenly Father. He empathizes with your predicament, because He understands the physical pain, rejection, anger, betrayal and aloneness that Jesus experienced. His severe sufferings are for your present hope.
Hope hits at the heart of worry. It removes its fangs of fear and calms you under its peaceful influence. Therefore, embrace hope and drink in this encouraging elixir for emotional wholeness. Your hopeful waiting dismisses worry and invites intimacy. Clear communication with Christ and His followers facilitates faith and casts out fears. Verbally process your inner pain and then gaze out at your soul’s portal of hope. Jesus is your living hope—your resurrected Lord and Savior!
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” 1 Peter 1:3
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for hope in Christ that overcomes my worries.
With his new autobiography Finally FreeMichael Vick opens up about his past, controversy and a brighter future ahead. We caught up recently to meet a little bit of the man behind the cleats.
Family Christian: Michael, can you start by giving us a synopsis of your childhood?
Michael Vick: My childhood consisted of pretty much a little bit of everything. Almost like any other kid. A lot of ups and downs. Situations that occurred – where you have to think through. Some you do, some you don’t. [I got] a lot of spankings, a lot of learning, and a lot of football games that I played at a young age. A lot of trophies and relationships that I was able to build.
As a kid, I always set my sights on doing the right thing. [My goal was to] make my mom proud. Before I did anything, I always thought about her.
FC: As you look back at your childhood, would you it was a good one?
Michael: Yeah. Looking back at my childhood, I would say that I had great childhood. You know a lot of things that I went through shaped and molded me into the person that I was. Growing up into a young man there were times that it was tough. My mom and dad faced difficulties that reflected on us as kids. We managed to keep the faith and pull it through. My mom was the rock of our family. Her faith is through the roof… like out of this world. Even when we were going through trying times, she was always somewhere praying. Even talking to her now, she is always telling me that God has answered so many of her prayers… prayers that He answered while I was in prison.
FC: Fast forward from your childhood, you obviously at some point started getting an interest in football. Was that something that was born instinctively within you or was that as a result of family members or people in your neighborhood? How did you start experiencing the desire for football, then recognizing your own talent?
Michael: When I was six years old, my grandmother was a Washington Redskins fan. She always watched the Redskins on Sundays. So I used to sit and watch the games with her. Then I would go outside and play the same type of football with my friends. Even though we didn’t have pads on, we still played aggressive-style football. I tried to emulate everything that I had seen on TV. Which, I think, [plays] into the player that I have become. That and [eventually] a lot of coaching and great people [who came] into my life. When I was younger, I thought it was one of the best games ever created.
FC: You obviously played it in high school, as well as college. Did you have a good time playing football in college? Was it that a good experience for you?
Michael: Yes. College football was a great experience, because I knew I was one step away from a accomplishing my lifetime goal; making in to the NFL. When I played, I had so much confidence, belief in myself and a higher power, I was able to just enjoy it. I wasn’t out worrying about having great stats. So putting up tremendous numbers just kind of happened. And I think because I enjoyed it so much was the reason why I was able to go number 1. Because I had a great time playing football.
FC: You then signed with the Atlanta Falcons and had a great career with them – about 5 years. What were some of the highlights that you had with being with them?
Michael: Some of my greatest highlights were from the playoff game against Green Bay. Beating them for the first time, when they had never lost a playoff game. Obviously playing in an NFC Championship game in which I took them to 2004, which was a great milestone for me at such a young age in my career.
All of the relationships that I was able to make – Roddy White, Michael Jenkins, Jim Mora, who was a great coach. Dan Reeves. The people that I was able to meet while I was there. Anybody that I left out – they know who they are. Just a lot of great people. More than anything, I still have those relationships.
FC: And then it all came crashing down in 2007.
FC: Are you okay talking a bit about that time?
Michael: It’s okay. In 2007, I was convicted of a crime that I was involved in. And everything kind of came crashing down. I lost everything. I was put into prison. I didn’t have any money. My family didn’t have any money.
All I could do was depend on God, my Higher Power – and to keep
the faith. My faith was through the roof. I just felt like something was going to happen. Especially while I was praying. That’s when I grew closer to God, and the things that I needed the most. [To move] away from disobedience.
Michael: I met Coach Dungy one time in 2005. But [it was] really when he came out to visit me during my prison sentence [that we got to know each other]. We just sat and talked for a long time. Shared a lot of life experiences together. He just told me that he believed in me. He told me that my future was bright. I may not be able to see it, but that he had faith in me. That’s where we made that connection. I do appreciate Coach Dungy so much to this day.
FC: Michael, where was God in all of your life up to that point? In your childhood, you talked about…
Michael: He was always there.
FC: He was always there.
Michael: I always knew that I had to have a form of obedience, a form of belief in God and the Holy Spirit. When I was in high school, I slept with the Bible under my pillow, I talked about that in my book – because I believed that the only way that I could get there with all the adversity and controversy that I was facing then as a black quarterback… that I needed to do something different. I felt like I just had to have a great deal of faith. A great deal of understanding and to comprehend by doing the right things.
During all that – the only answer I could come up with was “put my faith in God.” Still to this day, I find myself doing it. I did it this morning. I am doing it right now. I’ll be doing it Sunday before the game. So on and so forth for the rest of my life.
FC: Is there a particular Scripture that you have in mind that continually comes back to you? That you find a lot of encouragement from?
Michael: Psalms 23. You know Scripture.. Everyone pretty much knows there is so much merit to it. It gives you confidence, plus it gives you strength. It gives you faith in yourself. Belief in yourself. And whatever you are about to endure, you can always walk through it with confidence if you read that Scripture before it. Off the top of your head, you can just rehearse it in your mind. It puts you in a different mindset.
FC: As you look over your life, your past and your present, and obviously on into the future, without stating the obvious Michael, you are a famous person. There are thousands, if not millions of kids and adults that certainly look to you, some with a critical eye and some with fondness. What do you hope that people would know about Michael Vick above everything else?
Michael: I want people to know that I was true to my faith and that I was true to myself. When things weren’t going so well, I acknowledged it, and I accepted it. I believe that change can come and that it happened. I couldn’t have done it without God... and I’ve got to give all the glory and thanks to Him.
So I just hope that everybody sees that I am changed person. That it’s my faith that really got me through it. It was me believing that something was really going to happen. For that next day. Or the next day. Or the next day. Whether it was just me changing my mindset, or life was changing, or my financial situation changing. My living situation. Or the situation with my family. It all came to fruition – and it was all because of my faith.
FC: What do you think of the upcoming season?
Michael: I’m excited about the upcoming season. I think it will be one that we will all remember. I have been doing a lot of work and preparation. I believe in myself. I believe in my team. And I know that we can kick this off.
From the unexpected beginnings of Desperation Band, to the ups and downs of serving in his local church during a tumultuous public scandal, Jared Anderson has learned that he’s never walked alone. His new album, The Narrow Road calls believers to trust and walk a God-centered life, even through the toughest times.
Family Christian: So where did you get your start leading worship? At New Life Church in Colorado Springs?
Jared Anderson: I did grow up at New Life but I went away to Oral Roberts University [in Tulsa, for college] where Glenn [Packiam] was my next door neighbor and Jon [Egan] was on my wing. I met all those guys that are in Desperation Band. And we all ended up at New Life together. None of us intended to go to the same place or thought we’d be working together at all, so it’s pretty cool how that all happened. Came back, [although] I swore I’d never go back to Colorado…
FC: …And you left because Oklahoma was so beautiful?
Jared: (laughs) Ha, yeah… no. In high school I always thought, “I can’t wait to get out of here.” But it didn’t take too long of living in Oklahoma before I realized, you’ve got a pretty sweet spot in Colorado. I did not see myself working in a church or leading worship – [but I] started helping out and kind of didn’t realize that I became a worship leader until I was one. I was just trying to help out and serve, but the Lord had me there.
FC: Did you go back to Colorado with this idea, “hey, we’re Desperation Band”?
Jared: No, not at all, the only reason Desperation Band happened was because David Perkins wanted to start a conference and he asked Glenn to lead worship at it, because Glenn was there about nine months before Jon and I came on staff. So once that happened, David was like, man, these guys are writing songs, it would be great to record a CD to help get the word out about the conference. And when they said we’re going to record a CD at the first conference Glenn didn’t want to do that by himself so he asked the two of us to be a part of it. [And] that was our start. So the band started for the conference, but then we started getting asked to do stuff, and we were like, we gotta call this something.
FC: So then how long was it before you decided to go out on your own?
Jared: Glenn stepped down in ’08, the first conference was in 2002 so that was 6 years, then I stepped off the staff in ’09 and moved to Nashville and that’s really when Jon started running with the band. I was doing solo stuff on the side anyway, so we felt like that was the right fit for all of us.
FC: And are you still in Nashville?
Jared: No, I was there for one year writing and trying to figure out – I knew I wasn’t supposed to be on staff but I didn’t know what the next step was. We had sold our house and we were going to build a house, but I said, before we build I want to make sure this is the right thing for me.
FC: Please keep in mind that if we ask anything uncomfortable you don’t have to answer, but we’d like to talk a little about the massive transition New Life went through a few years ago, which led to Pastor Ted Haggard stepping down. Obviously people on the outside had a lot of feelings about how the church handled it and you were on-staff at that point. Everybody could kind of imagine your response corporately, but how about you individually? How did that unfold or affect your walk?
Jared: It was massive. (pauses) I think… it is really difficult to lead while you’re processing, yourself. It was really a vulnerable [time] because you’re like “there’s no handbook for this. I don’t know that I want to lead or even have anything to give at this point.” But somebody’s gotta lead – I mean, what are we going to do, all stay home? It’s a point of decision to put one foot in front of the other. We’re going to worship the Lord. Really, the fire has a purpose of reducing to the gold. The gold is only refined in the fire and I feel like every church, every Christian has to walk through that to realize, to know if there’s anything there or not.
FC: So now 6 or 7 years ago when you look back at that, we’re assuming you don’t look at it fondly, but what is your feeling of that time? Specifically concerning your own personal walk with Christ, or your view of what happened corporately as a body, your family. Would you characterize it as a wilderness?
Jared: Totally. I mean, it’s what makes you who you are, ya know? Anyone has a testimony, it’s not something you would ever wish on anyone to have to go through the struggles that you went through, but everybody’s going to have to go through struggles. So if this is the thing that makes me who I am, great, because the Lord was with me the entire time. With my wife, with our marriage, with our church and we’re still standing. I think that’s a testimony.
FC: As a follower of Jesus, outside of this job of leading worship – how did you walk through, what sustained you?
Jared: I went through several seasons of doubt like, well I just drank the Kool-Aid, I’ve been living a lie, my leader had been leading something that wasn’t true, self-admittedly so! [I wondered] maybe there’s a lie inside of me that I have to discover and so [it led to] this question of okay, what do I believe? If none of this structure still stands, what do I carry inside of me? And it’s the faith – following Jesus. It was just one foot in front of the other, He’s still there, He’s still faithful. We’d get together as friends – the staff – night after night after night. We’d play it all out in our heads and try to analyze it, discover it, but then finally you just gotta quit talking about it and go back to living, ya know? I think what it did primarily is change my “success criteria” of ministry. That’s the bottom line. What a trial will do is make you go okay, what does it mean to be successful? And that’s to follow Jesus, to raise godly children, to have a great marriage that reflects Christ and to minister to people in authentic ways that lead them by the Holy Spirit to the person of Jesus.
FC: So your family has grown, you have four kids and you’re in the process of adopting. When do you hope to have these 2 additional children?
Jared: Last year we had two miscarriages in the span of about 8 months and my wife really started to feel like her desire to bear more children was lifting – which I never thought would happen because she loves having kids. We’d had miscarriages before, and they’re hard, but you get through them. So we decided to start the adoption process in November [of 2011]. We went down to Haiti in January to meet the director and we met John Diego then.
FC: So what has the adoption process been like for you so far?
Jared: When we lived in Nashville our neighbors were in the process of adopting when the earthquake hit [in Haiti], so they went down and got their kids out – and we watched that process happen. We thought this is amazing, when we’re done having our own, we want to do this. So that’s kinda how we got started. We went down there with our old neighbors and met all of the people that they already knew and were just kind of curious about this little boy, John Diego, when we were tucking all of the kids in at night. We thought he probably had a home because his crib was decorated with little toys and stuff and that usually comes from the parents who come to visit, so we’re like oh, isn’t that fun, he’s got a little family waiting for him. So the last night we’re there we’re like, we should check and see if he’s available at all and turns out he was, so we thought we’ll take him. They called us about 6 months later, [and] they were not supposed to have any girls available for 2 years and to get a baby girl was even more distant. But they called us at the end of May and said – we have a 5 month old girl for you. So we hung out with her in June. So we’re just going to keep going down there to visit our kids until we get them and it will probably be at least another year. The orphanage is called New Life Link and we work with an adoption agency called Love Beyond Borders.
FC: Here at Family Christian our calling is James 1:27 “…to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” so that’s what all of our efforts are really for; to help propel that Kingdom calling. We want kids adopted and foster kids in homes.
Jared: One of the things the Lord laid on our heart was that we’re not supposed to carry this burden on our own, so we had this puzzle made. We took a picture of John Diego and had a 250 piece puzzle made of it then asked people to sponsor just a piece of the puzzle. We’ll write their names on the back of each piece and then at the end, we’ll get a 2-sided frame and hang that in his room so he’ll know who helped to bring him home. The time has come upon us to have all of the finances and we have to raise about $15,000 [more] in the next 40 days so we’re on an active mission to get the word out.
FC: Let’s talk briefly about The Narrow Road, your new record. Everything you’ve talked about today, Colorado to Oklahoma to Nashville to Colorado, then everything you went through at your church and now the adoption. Do all of these things feed into the record? What’s the theme?
Jared: Yes, for sure. When I left the staff position at church I felt very much like the instruction God gave Abraham leave your country and go to a place I’m sending you felt very much like [what He was saying to] me. Two things really helped shape my psyche in this transition: First was reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. It’s all about the journey of Christian away from the city of destruction to the Celestial City. And his wrestling with distraction and meeting all of those characters along the way. And the other was the experience of visiting one of our missionaries in Mexico and going from house to house with him; his process of making disciples. Discipleship is you come with me and we go here. And I think in the mega-church world that had become to me kind of a lost art. Training people to just pick one [person] at a time, and [say] you and I are going to live life together and go forward. That’s reducing discipleship to its most basic format and anyone can do that. The road is narrow and only a few find it. That’s a hard message to swallow sometimes, but this is calling people to holiness, a separateness away from worldly wisdom and away from morality and religion and these things that take our focus and distract us and make us think that we’re successful. [These places] where we can have the appearance even when we’re not really on the road. That’s sort of the journey I’ve been on.
FC: In talking about “the narrow road” you mentioned Abraham being called out of something and into something. How much of this record reflects this idea of I’m moving and I don’t know where? Is that part of the story for you?
Jared: I think every season builds on itself so I don’t know that I’d say… well like, there’s a line between leaving and disowning. I’m not disowning anything of my past. That has brought me to what I am, but I do feel called to run with a message that the Lord has given me and it’s a new season for me doing this full-time. Going and ministering to people on the road it’s like – ok, what is the message? I’m not just a songwriter or a song leader – I’m a message bearer, an ambassador. To go and preach the Gospel really is the goal, so that’s kind of a new effort.
FC: What do you hope this record will do?
Jared: I think it’s the soundtrack for that road, for the journey of life in Christ.
FC: When you write your songs, do you write for yourself, for individuals you know, for the broader audience who is participating in worship music?
Jared: I write what I need for me for the day. That’s the Lord’s reveal. I can’t give anybody anything that I haven’t experienced. A lot of times I feel like I write a message or a burden that’s in my heart, and the Lord causes me to have to live that out. For instance, the song “Jesus Makes the Impossible Possible.” It’s something I needed and am still walking through with this adoption, like man, what a burden, what a journey, how’s this ever going to work out? How long is this going to take? It’s my ‘impossible’ right now, it feels like a huge mountain to climb. And yet I know that this is what God has called us to do and He’s going to make a way. He’s going to reveal Himself through it. So that’s joyous… There’s joy in that.
FC: Has there ever been a song in your catalog that you go back to and you’re like – I don’t know how I wrote that song, but it was for me?
Jared: Yeah, well like, “The Great I Am” totally. I couldn’t go back and just sit down and say, I’m going to write a song like that today, ya know? [laughs] But that has been a journey for me to draw near to the Lord and then to see how big, vast and overwhelming He is. To ask, why have I ever had any trace of fear when I’m included in a God of this magnitude…?