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  • Mission: Possible - an interview with Mark Schultz

    Posted on August 20, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Even though he has a new record on a new label and is dad to a new baby, Mark Schultz is returning to his roots in so many ways. With his soon-to-be-released album All Things Possible, Mark is rediscovering what’s at the heart of his faith and ministry – the unconditional love of God… a love that makes all things new, and well… possible.

    Family Christian: So, it’s been a few years since your last album. You came out with an instrumental record Renaissance that was exclusive to Family, but the last one that you did with Word was back in ’09, correct?

    Mark Schultz: Yes, I think it was 2009.

    Family: So since you’ve had a quieter couple of years from the music scene, what has been keeping you busy?

    Mark: Well, we had a baby—number one. My wife Kate, who’s an OB-GYN has had like eight years of schooling, school then residency. She told me after her first week of residency where she worked 100 hours, “You might as well just find something to do for four years and just come back and see me when I’m done because I don’t think I’m going to see you ‘til then.” So that was a busy touring time and record time and we knew she was going to be busy. Well she’s now done with that and has her own practice here in Nashville, and so for the first time, we’ve gotten to really hang out with each other since we’ve been married anyway. In some ways it feels like we’ve been married for seven years, but in other ways it feels like we’re newlyweds, which is nice. And we’re about five months into a new family with Ryan here. I would say since my last record, this season has been very family-oriented, which has been pretty awesome.

    Family: So when you wrote your last record you were married, but moving into this one you’re in a new season of parenthood. Do you feel like the writing process has changed a little?

    Mark: I do. When I was a youth director, my most productive time was like five o’clock in the afternoon until about eleven o’clock at night. I’d just go to the chapel and lock the door and make a pot of coffee and write songs. I realize now that we’ve got a child and my wife works regular hours, that 5-10 pm is when people hang out. So I’ve had to adjust that a little bit and realize that now I’m not just a singer and a songwriter, now I’m a dad and we’ve got kind of a normal family structure. I’m just kind of learning how to balance all of those things together.

    Family: You’ve written some pretty impactful “love songs” through the years. Now that you’re married and a dad are those songs still part of your repertoire? Do you still find yourself writing those songs?

    Mark: Interestingly enough for this new record, I wrote a song for my son, Ryan before he was born. It talks about what all went on before he arrived. Like, I talk about marrying his mom and about us getting ready for him to come. And how excited I am. I can see his smile, and his mom holding him and how it’s really great. And the chorus is that I’m imagining these things. So it was kind of fun to write that for my son. Someday when he gets old enough to hear that song and appreciate it, I think that’s going to be a cool thing. I’ve never had that in my life before. Usually I’m writing songs for other people. And then I wrote a song called “I Will Love You Still,” which is the last song on the record, which I actually wrote with my wife. Funny enough, a lot of songs I write with my wife because I’ll be walking through the kitchen, and I’ll get stuck on something – I can get stuck on it for three months. I’ll be singing it and she’ll just say, “What do you need?” I’ll tell her and she’ll just come up with a line. And I’ll be like, “Hey, where were you three months ago?” She’s a great songwriter. But we actually sat down and wrote this one together, and it turned out really neat. So that’s fun as well. This is more than you asked, but I’ll say even in a broader sense, when he was just a few weeks old, I was driving somewhere – I think we dropped his mom off at Target so she could go get some baby stuff. She said, “Hey, just drive around the block a couple times. I’ll be right back.” So I did, and my song “I Am” came on the radio, and man, I got choked up as I was driving. I looked in the rearview mirror and said, “Hey Ryan, it’s your dad singing.” And for the first time I realized that, “Oh my gosh. He doesn’t even know that this is what I do” you know? And it was really neat for me to share that with him even though he’ll never remember it. For me, it was kind of a neat moment.

    Family: Tell us a little about the thematic elements of All Things Possible. We can obviously hear those three words and a few Bible verses come to mind, but what does Mark Schultz think about when he hears those words “all things possible”?

    Mark: Well, I’ll tell ya. I came up with that idea a few years ago. I was riding my bike across the country. I tell this story in my concert sometimes. I feel like God was with me when I first started, even though I was a little out of shape and everything. I dipped my back tire in the Pacific Ocean and started down California and I knew I was heading to Maine, and I felt like, “Hey, God’s with me.” I got about 20 miles into the trip and I thought, “Yeah, He’s with me. He’s not trying as hard, but He’s still with me.” And then I got the top of my first mountain and it just wore me out. And I was like, “Okay, He left me for a little while.” And we got to the first church for the first concert to raise money for orphans and I remember there were about 400 people at the church and I said, “Hey, I thought you told me that this was packed.” And they said, “It is. It only holds 400 people.” But as soon as I started talking about being adopted and what I was doing and threw out the set list and just started singing, man, my heart just opened up and poured out for orphans. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. I felt like God was taking over. At the end of that night they took up some money that we had raised and took an offering. The minister came over and said, “Hey, this isn’t bad for our little church. I’m not sure what you’re used to.” Well, we hadn’t done it before, so I wasn’t used to anything. That little church of 400 people had raised $20,000 for orphans that night. I remembered a quote from Bono of U2. He used to say, “God bless my records, bless the singles.” And then he had a friend tell him, “Hey, why don’t you quit asking God to bless what you’re doing and just do what God’s doing because it’s already blessed.” And, of course, I wrote for The James Fund, and The James Fund having the verse [about how] true religion is taking care of orphans, and it hit me that night after that concert riding my bike across the country, “Man, God said true religion is taking care of orphans, so if I’m riding my bike for that cause and I’m doing concerts for that cause, I’m not in control of it anymore because it’s God who’s doing it and I’m just following along with Him in what He’s already doing.” And that’s how we raised all the money for that. I thought, “I want to live like that. I want to live for God’s purposes, not my own purposes ‘cause I know they’re already blessed.” I know the Bible verse, “With man it’s impossible. With God all things are possible.” And that’s where this record took root.

    Family: What a great story. Do you find that statement resonating in every area of your life?

    Mark: It’s interesting. We just had a meeting about this this morning as we were talking about the record. I think what’s so interesting is people might have a time when they experience God and say, “That was impossible without God. I know that was God that did that.” But our memories are short-term when it comes to those things. We’ll say, “Oh, we’ll never forget this mountaintop experience where God has done these things.” And it feels like we get about a year away from that and we’re like, “Ya know, I just haven’t felt the presence of God in anything.” And then He does something again and we’re like, “Oh, I do remember.” We’re called to remember, ya know? And so I just start thinking about all these things. I have a great example. I did a tour and made the last record. We were in Italy, and I was just [feeling like], God’s forgotten me a little bit and I need a place to play the record. And I just feel like I need a place to play the piano. And my wife said, “We should pray about it.” So we did, and later than night we went out to get something to eat and we walked down the street. And here we are in Florence, Italy and she looks over and says, “Hey, is that a church?” I looked, and I said, “It is.” We walked in the church, and there’s all kinds of art on the ceiling and everything. And my wife is like, “Oh my gosh. That’s awesome!” But it didn’t mean anything to me. Then I saw a grand piano and I was like, “Oh my gosh. That’s awesome!” I went and talked to the minister, and said, “Hey can I play this piano sometime?” And he said, “Sure. Come tomorrow and play it.” So I went the next day to play the piano. It was about five o’clock in the afternoon, and about five kids came in. They were American kids that were studying in Florence. The minister said, “Hey, will you play a song?” And I said, “Sure.” And they were like, “Hey, will you play another song?” And I was like, “Sure.” So I played about four or five of my songs. And then one of the kids raised his hand and said, “Hey, you play an awful lot of Mark Schultz songs.” I said, “Listen, I’m a big fan.” But, I stayed there for the next few weeks that we were over there and became their praise and worship leader for those five kids and their youth director. I just loved it. Then by the time we were finished with the record and were leaving there, there were thirty kids coming to that church. They were excited and they felt like they [had] won. I was excited and felt like we’d won just from the experience of being there. I feel like that was a moment for me when God said, “Hey, you know what? I’m with you, and you can do ministry anywhere.” It doesn’t have to be what you’re used to. I think about that. I think about the bike trip. I think about meeting the youth minister on accident that I ended up working with for ten years, who’s still my mentor, just running into him at a restaurant one day. I tried so hard to get into the music business when I first got here and I was going nowhere fast. And then I ran into a youth minister who was just crazy enough to hire me from being a waiter. It really changed the direction of my life.

    Family: So before you started your musical career, you were a youth pastor and it still sounds like it’s in your blood. Do you miss that to some extent?

    Mark: Oh man! I really do. At some point in time I want to get back into that because I feel like I became so energized when we were over in Italy. The kids would come in and we were so excited to see them, and hug them, and encourage them in what they were doing. It’s so interesting. My wife comes away from really deep one-on-one conversations and that energizes her. For me, I’m more of the guy who’s slapping high-fives with people and hugging them and encouraging them and showing up at their events. That energizes me and that wears her out. So having deep conversations for too long with me starts to wear me out. We’re “opposites attract” in that way. Man, I love being involved with youth, whether it’s the college age or high school age. Plus, I think when you’re writing songs and telling stories, you kind of run out of material for yourself. And it’s so refreshing to see what God’s doing in the lives of others and their families and with them personally. I think God sets things in our hearts that make us come alive. Definitely, hanging out with youth and leading them and helping them grow spiritually is a thing that is awesome for me. It makes me come alive.

    Family: Let’s talk a little bit more about the record, then we have some quick bullet point questions for you. It seems like there’s always a song that’s put on a record but for some reason or another, you never hear it on the radio. What song is that from All Things Possible?

    Mark: I hope it’s not most of them. (Laughs) It’s true, there’s always a song that you go, “Hey, that didn’t turn out how I thought it was going to.” I always kind of think of songs as kids. Like when you’re first writing them they’re young and just being born and you’re so excited. And you hope they grow up and go out and reach their full potential. That’s always exciting to see. There’s always some of them that over-achieve, and you’re like, “How in the world did you become president?” And there are always the ones that you just knew great things were going to happen [from] and they’re never heard from again. So I think writing songs are kind of like being a parent in seeing how your kids are going turn out, not knowing. But I’ll tell you one song that probably won’t be a radio single, but one that I just absolutely love [called “One Day”]. The genesis of it happened when I was doing a concert. I was playing the song “I Am,” and it was just me and the piano and I was singing. I look out in the audience and people have their eyes closed and a lot of people are singing along with the song. I look about half-way out into the audience and there was a row where there are a couple kids in wheelchairs. As I hit the chorus for “I Am,” I look out there and this boy is smiling with his head thrown back and both his arms straight up in the air celebrating, making fists and pushing them straight up in the air like he’s just watched somebody score a touchdown. I’m singing “I Am,” and I just get choked up. I have to stop. I thought to myself, “That kid gets his own song.” For him to hear these words about who God is and what God can do and people thinking in their seats that they’re trusting God and loving God. But for this kid, in my mind he’s thinking, “You know, someday I’m going to meet God face to face and I’m going to kick this wheelchair to the curb. I’m going to start running and I’m never going to turn around and look back at this wheelchair again.” The chorus is “One day we’ll touch the Healer’s hand. One day we’ll be whole again. One day He’ll take every sorrow and wipe our tears away. One day.” When I started writing this song and thinking about that kid, man, I gotta tell ya, it reminded me that there are things in my life that I know God could touch and heal. People with cancer, He can touch and heal them. And what that day is going to look like compared to what this world looks like. I love singing that song in concert. Like I say, it may never be a single, but I think about that little boy with his hands up in the air in his wheelchair, knowing that better things were coming when he gets to heaven.


    Family: Mark, what are you listening to currently?

    Mark: Whatever my wife has on her computer. I wish I could be better at telling. I’m like a radio guy. So I listen to whatever’s on the radio and I hop around a lot. I wish I could be the guy that tells you, “Hey, here’s my favorite artists that I listen to.”

    Family: Well not necessarily your favorite, but currently, who are you listening to? And if you can’t think of one, that’s okay.

    Mark: I will say this. I’m real encouraged. I think, and I could be wrong, but I think Christian music, as far as artists that are singing, as far as their voices and everything, I think they’re getting better. I think they just keep getting better. Now, of course, I can’t think of any of their names, but (starts singing) “there’s got to be more to life.” No, not that one. That’s like ten years old. I’m thinking about two girls. The one that sings the song about the rip in her jeans and the dent in her fender.

    Family: Francesca Battistelli.

    Mark: Man! Unbelievable voice! Just unbelievable voice! And there’s another girl singer, and I can see her face. She had a record called Gold.

    Family: Britt Nicole.

    Mark: Oh my gosh! Dude! You can find any of those girls on mainstream radio. They would compete with anybody in my opinion. I think they’re unbelievable. The Afters. When I hear a great song on the radio, my antenna goes up. I just go, “That’s a great song.” I’m a big fan of those artists for sure. And as well, I listen to country and I listen to pop and I listen to talk radio and it’s just whatever’s on the radio. I just switch back and forth.

    Family: Are you a book reader?

    Mark: I am getting to be more of a book reader. My wife has a problem with book reading – she loves it so much. I’m just joking but, when she was in residency, she had to study medical books like all day long, so to relax she would just get a novel and read it before she went to bed. I was like, that’s hard for me to believe someone can do that. But I do enjoy books, especially when we’re traveling. It feels like we’re always delayed or something’s going on. If you’ve got a book in your hand, you’ve got a better way to pass the time.

    Family: Alright, these are short questions. I don’t know how short the answers will be, but what is your favorite cookie?

    Mark: (Laughs) You mean, you’ve got short questions, and I just go on for fifteen minutes about my favorite ingredients ever?

    Family: If you want…

    Mark: Man, I need to be careful what I say about this because somebody might bring me one to a concert. You know what? I really love chocolate chip cookies. I’ll just be honest with you. I do. And, here’s where I start to get longer on my answer, my mom makes these, they’re kind of peanut butter but they got the Hershey’s Kiss in the middle. My mom makes those for Christmas every year so I tell her those are my favorites, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and say that.

    Family: Those are the bomb. What is your favorite restaurant?

    Mark: Favorite restaurant, you know what? I would say it’s Bin 54 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They’re all about steaks and French fries. I love ‘em!

    Family: Have you ever been cow tipping or snipe hunting?

    MS: (Laughs) I think I was involved in snipe hunting without knowing about it when I was younger. I have an older brother and cousins, so they had me do several things where I made a fool out of myself, so snipe hunting was in that I believe. I lived in Kansas and never tipped a cow, my whole life. So, no, I’ve never tried. I never wanted to tip a cow, just for reasons of not wanting to get hurt.

    Family: If Family Christian invited you on a cow tipping trip, would you come?

    Mark: (Laughs) If I were to be officially invited to a cow tipping, I would have to believe that I would give it a try. I was never formally invited, but...

    Family: One last question, and Mark, you sort of answered this, but in a concise answer, what is God doing in Mark Schultz’s life right now?

    Mark: Man, that’s an interesting question. I would say this, and let me think about where I… oh yeah, I remember. My wife and I have been watching sermons from Andy Stanley in Atlanta, and he just did a series. I’ll never forget, this happened just a few months ago, but this is kind of revolutionary in my life, to realize that I’m accepted by Christ and that I’m loved unconditionally. And I gotta tell ya, most of the music artists that I know or just in general, really are approval-seeking people. I know I am. I’m a big approval seeker. Like, I would rather not have any conflict at all. I would just rather people just like me and be really happy with me. That’s a hard way to live your life. When you’re reinforced on the stage, when you write a song and people clap, it’s reinforced. You say, “They like it. I did something that people like.” I don’t know why it’s taken this long to realize that I’m loved unconditionally and accepted by Christ, that that’s the highest order. That’s the thing that I focus on. And I gotta tell ya, I’m glad we’re talking about this because I have to go do something right after this conversation to remember this. But I think that’s the biggest thing, living my life free of people’s opinion. Their opinion of you can go up and down as the day goes on, but knowing that I’m accepted by Christ lets me live a little freer and a little happier and a little not so much walking on egg shells around hoping everybody likes me. You know what I mean?

    Family: To be perfectly honest, Mark, it’s not just artists. It’s everybody. We all have that problem. Don’t you think that every person struggles with selfishness and pride, at times?

    Mark: Yeah. I think that’s right. Ya know, there’s something in a study where I’m thinking I’m accepted by Christ and loved by Christ that, in a weird way, it kind of takes the pressure off me to have to be everything to everybody or feel like I need to live up to this great standard or to not let anybody be mad at me. And just say, Hey, you know what, some decisions are tough to make, but knowing that if I’m living fully for Christ, if I’m wanting his okay more than man’s okay, ya know? I think it’s all that wrapped up together. But, man, when I’m not focused on that, it gets to be a huge trap. It’s a huge trap to fall into.

    Family: You hit it right on the head. It’s understanding that Christ loves us. Christ took our sin and so He comes to us and says, “You know what? I see it all. You don’t understand how depraved you are and I do… but this is how much I love you.” The more we can contemplate that, it seems that some of those battles with pride and self-worth tend to dissipate.

    Mark: Yeah. I know when I first heard these words, when I first watched that sermon and I really let it set in, I felt more peaceful than I had in a long time. You know, because you’re making a record, especially this record, and you want people to like it and you want radio singles and you want the record label to like it. You want your family to like it. There’s so much pressure and you feel like you have to live up to this and you don’t want to let people down. I remember having almost a moment with God one time when I was praying several years ago and I was like, “God please help this record to sell. Let it have a great single. Let it be great.” And I felt God saying to me in my heart, “Hey, do you love to write songs about Me? Do you love getting up in the morning and writing a song about Me? And then go to bed at night still excited about that song and excited about the next one tomorrow? I’m not going to stop you at the gates of heaven and say, ‘If you’d only sold 10,000 more records I’d think about letting you in.’” He goes, “You were born to do this, so I just want to cheer you on. I want you to love what you do and love what you’re doing. I don’t care about the record sales. I’m not keeping tabs on that. I’m just keeping tabs on your heart and are you being true to who you are?” And it took me back to that moment and was just really freeing for me.

    Family: Mark, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. We so appreciate your wisdom and your honesty here. You’ve really encouraged us, and we’re so thankful for that.

    Mark: Oh, thanks to you too. I love it.

    For more "Four Questions With..." check out these blog posts.

    All Things Possible is now available for prebuy and releases September 4th. Click here to order it now.

  • God's Glory Revealed

    Posted on August 20, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    "So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!” Exodus 3:3-4


    The glory of God is revealed through humility, not pride. He chose a humble thorn bush, not a proud oak tree. It's to the lowly lovers of the Lord that he shows Himself in His regal righteousness. Indeed, the fire of the Holy Spirit burns brightly in a life combustible for Christ. The fire of faith will not be extinguished in a humble heart that burns for God.

    As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be His humble servants. It is not the places of honor that we seek, but the place of dependency that we desire. The lower the status of self is relegated, the higher we look up to our Lord in reverence. Christ is within us for salvation and companionship, but He is above us for worship and praise. He is our confidant and our Lord—our Savior and our Master.  We are His friend and follower. 

    "Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me." John 8:54

    When you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you glorify your Father in heaven.  When your behavior follows the behavior of Christ you bring Him glory. God reveals His glory through your humble service in your home. Your gracious attitude at work is a commercial for the Lord's glory. His glory is revealed when you revel in His forgiveness toward you and are gracious to extend forgiveness toward others.

    You are the Lord's light that carries His glory. The enemy tries to extinguish your eternal illumination, but your integrity shines forth. He wants to hide your light under his bushel of disbelief, but you add fuel to the fire by quoting Christ's transforming truth to him. God's glory is your rear guard, your covering overhead, and your torch for Him to guide your next step. He reveals His glory in you and through you for His own glory!

    "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 God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6

    Related Readings: Isaiah 6:8; Philippians 1:11; 1 Peter 1:7; 4:13

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray I will be a pure and humble vessel that reveals the light of Your glory.

    Post/Tweet: The fire of faith will not be extinguished in a humble heart that burns for God. #faith #humility

    Get free eBook “Infusion” by inviting 5 friends to Wisdom Hunters http://bit.ly/PEbaBJ

  • Confident in Crisis

    Posted on August 19, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident. Psalm 27:3


    A crisis is in the eye of the beholder. One man’s crisis is another man’s opportunity. In a crisis, faith either moves front and center or to the end of the line. During a moment of crisis our heart can feel overwhelmed by the perception of an encamped enemy. Fear creeps into our feelings and we begin to falter in our faith. An encamped enemy can instill as much dread as the actual battle. It is during these interim times that we sometimes fear the most. Crises, of course, come and go. A terminal patient does not linger forever. There is a beginning and an end. A financial shortfall may require layoffs and budget cuts, but at some point the hemorrhaging of cash stops. A marriage malfunction may blow up in divorce, or get better by dealing in the realities of communication, love, and unselfish service. Relationships develop or decay. It is in crisis mode that we can reject our instinct to panic and become desperate.

    Instead, faith trumps feelings. God has brought us safely thus far. He faithfully guides all who follow by faith. Fear erodes our confidence in Christ and replaces it with anger and defensiveness. We capitulate to our feeling that we have to be in control. We believe we have to take charge and corral the cause in our own strength and ingenuity. However, “If God be with us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). He is our light and our salvation, whom shall we fear? The light of His love illuminates our uncertain path. We do not have to fall prey to the tactics of the dark side and thereby doubt Him. We can go forward by faith. There is one thing we need in the middle of a crisis. It is imperative that we dwell in the house of the Lord, that we seek Him in His temple. In the day of trouble He will keep us safe in His dwelling. He hides us in the shelter of His tabernacle and sets us high upon a rock (Psalm 27:4-5). In a crisis, we have joyful confidence in Christ.

    Confidence during a crisis means we are collaborative and not combative. Confidence takes the high road of respect. There is no need to blame others or beat them down with verbal attacks. Persuasive people are prone to pride. They are forceful with their feelings. However, people confident in Christ are collaborate. Collaboration seeks out the opinion of others. There is an invitation for intellectual engagement. There is an investment in blocks of time for deep dialogue and discussion. A crisis tries to cause shortcuts, but confident and collaborative teams take the time for convergence of the best thinking to take place. A crisis needs our pride in perception to respect another’s ideas. Our past experience may not be what’s best for the future direction of the enterprise. 

    It is a confident and courageous leader who can give up control, trusting the Lord and others with the process. Those who are collaborative for Christ are positioned to be more than conquerors through Christ. Where there is no confidence in Christ, there is no continuance with Christ. Overcome your fears by faith in Jesus. He is just what you need. Hold your family, job, and opinions with an open hand. Trust Him and others in the process of crisis management. In a crisis we can be confident in Christ. With faith in God you have no fear.

    Taken from Reading #18 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet this today: One person’s crisis is another person’s opportunity. #crisis #opportunity

    Click on the free download “How to Have a Quiet Time”… http://bit.ly/KWDrkJ

  • Sin of Silence

    Posted on August 18, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “‘If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.’”  Leviticus 5:1


    Responsible people speak up when necessary. Sometimes, it is easier to remain silent, but God has not called us to a path of least resistance. We can stay silent but eventually it will come out. It may come out in angry passive-aggressive reactions related to our uncommunicated observations or it may express itself in built-up resentment or bitterness that eats away at our good nature and steals our joy. Suffering in silence is not God’s design. He wants us to speak up under the influence of His Spirit. Even if the words are hard and direct, God’s Spirit can deliver them in a loving manner.

    When you speak up, it means you care. We love the person too much to allow them to hurt themselves and others with self-inflicted attitudes and inappropriate actions. This is especially hard for men. Pride and ego keep us from being vulnerable to rejection or relational controversy, but we owe it to God, to others, and ourselves to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Love compels you to take a relational risk and say something. Be faithful to speak the words, and trust God with the results.

    Furthermore, make sure to speak up and defend those who are defenseless. Rise to the defense of widows, orphans, and the poor who are crushed under the weight of the world’s injustice. You may not have to look very far. There may be family members who need your attention. Second, third, and fourth chances are called for to model Christ’s attitude of acceptance. Your reputation may become soiled because you choose to speak up on behalf of a seedy soul, but trust God. We can relate best to sinners because we suffer from the same temptations and sorrows. Christians are sinners saved by the grace of God, no one is beyond God’s reach.

    Lastly, speak up for and serve the poor. The poor need a person they can trust. The poor need us to give them a voice against the greedy souls who seek to take advantage of them. They need financial training; they need medical supplies and education; they need nutrition; they need jobs; they need indoor plumbing; they need shoes on their feet and clothes on their backs. Mostly, they need a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The poor are drawn to Jesus when they see God’s people stand up for them. They are attracted to those who care enough to sit in their homes and drink coffee, create jobs, and speak up on their behalf. It may be building Christian schools so that the poor can receive a quality education in a loving environment. It is time some of us break out of our bubble of affluence and expose ourselves to the sufferings of the poor

    You sin if you remain silent over those who are defenseless. The Bible says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

    Taken from August 19th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet this today: When we speak up in love, it means we care. #speak #love

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  • God of Second Chances

    Posted on August 17, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24


    God does not hold grudges. He is quick to forgive and anticipates receiving His children back from the foreign land of foolish living. Regret and pain may haunt the human heart, but heaven loves to love someone who is tired of trying to live without the Lord. Misery is the object of pity, thus the compassion of Christ is pregnant with possibility to a contrite and repentant heart. Second chances await those who seek their heavenly Father.

    Once we tire of sin’s consequences there is a righteous reunion we can expect from our loving heavenly Father. He is not waiting with an “I told you so”, condescending attitude. Rather, God our Father can’t wait to wrap us in His arms, weep over our return and rejoice with a great celebration. He saves His best for when we are ready to rest in Him. Second chances are at the heart of mercy. Christ’s love removes our guilt by His grace. 

    “The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” Zechariah 3:4

    Are you in need of a second chance? Or, do you need to give someone else a second chance? Second chances mirror mercy. Because God has given you a second chance, you can extend a second chance to those who hurt you. Grace and mercy are not about what you or someone else deserves; it is about what your heavenly Father has already done for you in Christ. You get over your guilt by going to God in heart-felt repentance. He forgives you.

    Since you serve a second chance God, who can you serve who has broken your trust? Jesus teaches you to extend forgiveness to others in the manner that He forgives you—ongoing and unconditionally. Perhaps your spouse, child or friend needs to know that your love for them is grace based and not conditional on their performance. Create an environment of acceptance at home and at work—then celebrate when loved ones return to righteous living. By faith risk being taken advantage of—offer a second chance. God has!

    “At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?" Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22, The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for giving me a second chance, and give me the grace to extend second chances to others.

    Related Readings: Malachi 3:17; Ephesians 2:1-9; 1 Timothy 5:6; 2 Timothy 4:11

    Post/Tweet this today:  Second chances mirror mercy. #mercy

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  • Fanning the Flame - An interview with Hayley and Michael DiMarco

    Posted on August 16, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Sitting down with the DiMarcos feels a little like staring at a lit match: they’ve been struck by something that’s ignited them, they’re passionate about speaking truth and they’re full of potential. We recently sat down with Hayley, Michael (and their sweet little daughter) to discuss the journey that brought them together and to where they’re headed…


    Family Christian: We like to begin our interviews with a little background. Where are the two of you from and how did you meet?

    Hayley DiMarco: We’re both actually from Oregon, but we met when I was living in Nashville and he was living in Washington state. We met on the internet.

    FC: Through a service?

    Michael DiMarco: Yes, hotchristianwives.com (laughs).

    Hayley: Christianmingle.com

    Michael: Yes, but don’t give them free advertising—until they write us a check (laughing).

    Hayley: Yes, so we both grew up there and then he started working and moved to Bellingham. And I went to work for Thomas Nelson in Nashville. I started there just as a lowly sales person, helping in the sales department, and then started working on their teen brand. That’s when the Extreme Teen Bible and all of that stuff was just starting. This is kind of an interesting story because it started selling really well. Ya’ll up here really liked it. And the buyers up here were like “What else do you have for teens?” So all of the publishers at Nelson, seven of them, started to get together around a table, and I was there, and they started talking. And I said, “We should create a brand.” And they said, “Oh that’s interesting.” And then I said, “I want to be the brand manager.” And they said, “What’s that?” because they had literally never heard of it.

    Michael: Which is subtext for “you’re hired.” Before Hayley got to Nelson, she was with Nike in Portland, helping them create sales tools and stuff like that, so they listened to her.

    Hayley: Yes, so that is what I came from, it was what I was trained in. So I wrote up a job description and showed it to them. They said “That sounds good. Why don’t you do it?” So then I became the brand manager for the Teen Extreme for Jesus brand. And we did pretty well. After two years, we sold $9 million worth of product (just in that brand). So that was pretty successful and it let people know who I was a little bit. So then I was looking at a lot of the content and thought some of the products that were coming through could use a little help. So I started rewriting some of this stuff and pretty soon started writing it and it started selling better than the other product that we had for teens. And so I thought maybe I should start doing this on my own; maybe I should go out and write exclusively.

    Hayley: So I left and I shopped eight titles, which was kind of shocking to go out and say “I want to write eight books.” And so every published looked at me like “What? We’ll do one of them.” But Baker said, “We’ll take them all.” So I said, “Let’s go!” And that stared with Dateable, and it just kind of took off. And so right when Dateable was launching, we met on the internet. I always joke to everybody, but I did a kind of “executive” search.  And some people look at me like I’m a dangerous woman, and some people admire me. I wanted someone that would work with me. I didn’t want to see him in the morning and at night, I wanted him all day.

    Michael: This is a cold, calculated love (laughing). She couldn’t pay well; the salary was affection and a promise to grow in her cooking skills.

    Hayley: So I saw his profile and he was working for Logos Bibles Software, he was speaking, he was traveling. I was like “Oh, he could travel with me.” He was writing. He had an active blog. And so that was kind of how it all came to be and how we met online.

    FC: So Michael, you were in Bellingham at this time?

    Michael: Yes, I was working for Logos Bible Software – traveling around, making presentations at seminaries and pastors’ conferences and churches, training ministry leaders like Kay Arthur at Precept and her crew [on] how to use the Bible study tools for their research and writing as a time saver and things like that. So, I was traveling 10-15,000 air miles per year and Nashville was one of my ports of call. So I actually signed up for the whole Christian dating service as just kind of a joke—a joke between me and God because I felt like I had lived a pretty wild life in my twenties and into my early thirties. I was finally good with not dating anyone and living for Christ through my job, but felt convicted. I didn’t want to, but I felt God was leading me to look for someone that was a believer and was living out their faith for the first time in my life. So, I thought as a joke, I would joke with God and I signed up for a free 7 day trial for the service. And I was amazed that I didn’t do anything and all these nice Christian women started emailing me. I was like, “Whoa!” I wasn’t ready for that. But I got all these matches and they were all like 50, 60% match. And on the eighth day of my seven-day trial, I get an email with an 83% match, and that was Hayley. And so God’s sense of humor returned to me, and I had to pay to contact [her].

    Hayley: But I was [still] in my free trial. I never had to pay!

    Michael: Yes, she was still in her free trial, so we overlapped within fourteen days at least. Because I did a lot of work with Precept, that’s how we got to meet. Had a horrible first date—it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good. I decided to dump all of my past on our first date just as a big disclaimer.

    Hayley: Which didn’t bother me... I didn’t care about any of his sordid past. But I just cared that he didn’t let me talk. He talked the whole time! (laughing)

    Michael: Well, I had a lot to get out and a short amount of time. Our second date was actually at ICRS (Internation Christian Retailing Show) when she was promoting Dateable in Orlando in 2003. That’s why we’ve been back to ICRS every year. Not so much to have meetings, but just as an anniversary. (There’s something about Kerusso t-shirts...) We got married New Year’s Day 2004. I was still working for Logos, but now I was commuting from Nashville. She was very sneaky. I was like a frog in a frying pan. I was keeping Hungry Planet stuff separate. That was hers. I had my deal. And she would bring me book cover comps from the publisher and say, “I don’t think I like this,” or would just play the damsel in distress thing with writing, editorial, branding.

    Hayley: I wasn’t playing. I just needed your help.

    Michael: What? You weren’t playing me? Miss Executive Search? (laughing) So, I ended up quitting my job with Logos and tackling the branding, marketing and design side of things, and then she drew me into the writing side.

    FC: So, do you either of you have Christian upbringing?

    Hayley: We were Lutheran, if we were anything. We went [to church] for Christmas and Easter. I always loved Jesus. I think I went to VBS and stuff like that, so I always loved Jesus and believed he was the Son of God and all that. But I went to a Catholic high school and they taught me a lot what you had to do to be saved, and I couldn’t do it. I had to be too perfect. So by the time I was in college, I was sad because I didn’t think I was saved.

    Michael: Immersed in moralism.

    Hayley: Right. So I was driving limousines in Portland…

    Michael: Oh wait, wait, wait. Before you get to that, you have to tell them about the weekly evangelist…

    Hayley: Yes, okay, so literally every weekend I would watch Jimmy Swaggart… all through high school and college and [I would] accept Christ every weekend. I thought I had to do it every weekend, because during the week I would mess up. I wasn’t a bad kid. I wasn’t doing drugs. I just wasn’t perfect. And I wanted to be perfect, so I just kept accepting Christ. By the end of college, I was like, “Ugh, I’ve been doing this for like eight years and I still don’t fell like anything has changed.” So I was driving limousines and I decided I was going to get a little more wild, which to me was cussing and stuff. I was thinking of drinking, but I had one drink. So this boy I liked that was a limo driver said to me—because I told him I was a Christian—he said, “If you’re a Christian why do you cuss like a sailor?” And I said, “I just figure if I’m going to hell I might as well have fun on the way.” And he was like, “What? What are you talking about?” And he said a weird statement which probably doesn’t relate to what I was thinking, but he said, “Don’t you know that once you’re saved, you’re always saved?” I must have told him about Jimmy Swaggart. And I was like, “What?” And he had an old Bible that had writing all over it, and he opened it up and showed me Romans 10:9, “If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth, you will be saved.” I stood up and I put my hands on my hips and I screamed, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me! I am 27 years old and no one has told me this?” I’d been begging people to tell me this. If I had just known that, my life would have been different. And that was it. That was my conversion. That was my acceptance. That was it. So he gave me the Bible and said, “Here, you need this,” and he laughed. I read it from cover to cover in three months. I lost my job at the limo place because I was leading Bible studies and converting everyone. And the owner was a Jew. He used to come and talk to me and say, “What are you doing?” and I’d say, “The Bible says this, this, and this.” I’m telling everyone. And he’d say, “Just a minute,” and he’d call his rabbi. He’d come back and tell me and I’d say, “No, no. The rabbi’s wrong,” and I’d show him in scripture. And he’d go back and talk to the rabbi and pretty soon he just said, “I’ve got to lay you off,” and he got rid of me. That was the point where I decided I’m going to tell the world this because they need to know. I shouldn’t have had to wait so long. I’ve got to tell them. And that was the fire behind having a teen brand because that was around the age where I was lost. I have to tell these guys. They want to know. I know they want to know. Who doesn’t want to know? They all do whether they know it or not.

    Michael: I was raised in an old school religious home too—Catholic. For me, it was all about being a good boy. My mom wanted me to be Pope and I liked girls too much so that wasn’t going to happen… (With a side-eye toward his daughter) and someday we’ll have a child that I will truly love (laughs). I’m just dreaming. But it could happen.

    Daughter: It already did happen. (Punches Michael in the stomach)

    Michael: Obviously, we home school because we’re so good with kids. Aren’t we!? (laughs) So, that’s how I was raised. I was raised to be a good boy. I was the youngest of six kids in an Italian-Irish family. No passion, no temper. I grew up trying to be a good boy. Instead of watching Jimmy Swaggart every weekend, I went to a Young Life group just because all the cute girls went to Young Life. (Daughter laughs) So uh, not many filters in our house. So there was a brief gospel presentation with crazy singing and a skit. It was probably the worst gospel presentation ever, but it made sense. And I said, “Oh, personal relationship with Jesus, that’s something I haven’t heard at church,” and I thought, “Oh yeah, that makes sense.” And literally in like ten seconds, bow your head and everybody pray. And it was just kind of a quick prayer to get to the snacks. I prayed the “magic prayer,” and then I went and had snacks. I really didn’t tell anybody, but then started attending a Baptist church in Eugene—a great church. The college pastor there at the time is still there after like twenty-five years. Unfortunately, kind of like Hayley going to college and not processing the gospel right, I just saw it as [just changing from] a Catholic to a protestant moralism, “Well now I’ve gotta practice this, do everything right while I had a personal relationship. And living that kind of moralism leads to destruction and weakness. So in college I basically lived a double life. I said one thing but lived another until right after I turned thirty-two. It was in my early thirties that my life had devolved into a secret life. Part of the secret private life was gambling. It was where I went to escape the life that I had come to hate in public. It involved me getting arrested from work for stealing. And it was in a jail cell where there was an old, tattered—it was so cliché… I love God’s sense of humor because just like the dating story, I looked at this old, tattered Bible sitting there, and I’m just like, “Really, God? Really? I don’t want to have one of these cliché moments. I don’t want to have a Chuck Colson moment.” So I pulled it out, opened the Bible and it opened up right to 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creation. The old is past away. Behold, the new has come.” So the cool thing was, from right there, I knew I was a new creation. I wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t striving to be perfect. So, for me, that was totally new. And so within six months, I basically said, “I want a job where I can learn more about God and His Word. So within four months, I had an entry level job. I went from making really good money in my prior career to getting an entry level, hourly customer service job at Logos Bible Software answering phones and technical questions because I got a free copy of their scholarly library that was worth like six hundred bucks for their Greek and Hebrew tools. I did that during the day, and then I studied at night and they moved me up to doing what I did when I met Hayley. It’s been incredible.

    FC: Let’s talk about Hungry Planet. What is it? Hayley, you started it first, right?

    Hayley: Yes. It started with me when I was at Nelson as I kind of “assessed” the state of youth publishing. I felt like it was a little bit anemic. I thought, I can either stay here at Nelson and build this brand or if I left, yeah I want to write, but maybe I can get out and help other authors, publishers and stores even. So I came up with this idea of Hungry Planet that would be just kind of a—I don’t know what I was calling it at the time—but, I started contracting to help ministries and publishers and anyone who wanted help reaching that audience that we had started to reach so well. I was looking for authors that might not get a voice because they wrote for teens, which wasn’t a huge market at the time. And so that was the beginning of it and at the time I worked a few initial titles like Dateable. Since then, when Michael has come on, everything was in the beginning of changing and it’s kind of just morphed. He can tell you a little about that.

    FC: So the premise behind it was basically to help build awareness, or it was more of a gathering place for those authors?

    Hayley: No, I wanted to build an awareness. I wanted to build a category. I felt that when you walked into a store, there were so few titles to choose from. And a lot of them were adult titles with “for kids” stamped on there.

    Michael: Or stuff that looked like it was designed in 1992. There are other quality titles that come out in the youth category, but they tend to gravitate toward either the student/teen edition. Like Not a Fan Teen Edition. Great book and it’s selling really well, but once again it wasn’t created specifically for teens from its genesis. And that’s what we’ve wanted to do. The other titles that have been good and have succeeded in the marketplace are generally personality driven or amazing story driven. Not amazing story-telling, but for instance an amazing testimony like Bethany Hamilton. Great content. Great story. Very touching story of God at work in her life through tragedy. But that’s pretty much what you have there, and you don’t really have any authors or content creators that are dedicating their lives to creating content just for that market. Well, there are a few. But to answer your question about Hungry Planet, I think that I would explain it as there’s the content creation side and then there’s the B to B side, which is consulting with churches, businesses, publishers, retailers or ministries about connecting to youth through the written word and visual stuff. Like, I consulted as a marketing consultant for Teen Mania for six months for their Acquire the Fire tours and things like that, so even teen ministries that seem to have it figured out, if they hit kind of a rough patch, we’ll come in and do that. Even titling and branding, David Kinnaman’s latest book You Lost Me, I titled that book for him. He has a pretty funny blog post about going through the titling with the publisher and me calling him and saying, “Hey, I have a title for your book.” He hated it, and he was like, “then I loved it.” So it’s kind of two-fold. We want to do more on the consulting side and helping ministries and retailers and publishers, but the funny thing is we found that it’s a chicken and egg sort of thing. There’s not a lot of market for it. Or it’s a smaller category. But on the content side, we’re proving that it can be profitable, it can be successful. We had five of the top ten on the July CBA bestseller’s list. We’ve got the top three, and five of the top ten, and two in the top fifty of all Christian titles with Devotions for the God Girl and Devotions for the God Guy. So, we’re doing it, but the thing is we don’t want to have all of that success to ourselves. It’s an important category. At times we feel like we’re Don Quixote, charging at the windmill—literary reference—but it’s a worthy pursuit, and all the while our readers are aging out of the teen years. Not emotionally, but physically (laughing). So, we are doing more and more adult titles now.

    FC: Great segue. So now that your original core age-group has begun to grow up, how has that transition gone? Are you strategically writing for those aging into adulthood, or are you just feeling like God is moving you in that direction?

    Michael: Strategically we made the decision a couple of years ago to start writing all of our youth books so that adults could read them. So, number one, we did that. There are men’s groups and women’s groups at churches that are going through God Guy and God Girl because they bought it for their son or daughter and started to read it as a good parent will, to look at the content. And they’re like, “Oh, this is good.” So, like, Hayley’s going to speak at a church where their women have been going through Devotions for The God Girl as their daily devotion. We intentionally did that because we dipped into the waters of the adult market a few years back and what we kind of already suspected is true, it’s way more competitive there. The funny thing is in the adult market, it’s all based on platform. Like whom you’ve heard of. There’s good storytelling, there’s good writing there, but most of it is “Who has a big church? “Who has a radio ministry?” And we don’t have that. Even through social media, if you remove all of the duplicates between all of our Facebook and Twitter followers, we’re probably looking at a reach of 500. Literally! (Laughing) If we were coming out with a book right now with no backlist and go to a publisher they’d say, “Well, it’s a really good idea and yeah, it’s a needed topic, but you’ve got no platform.” It’d be like, “Are you a youth pastor anywhere?” “No.” “Okay, well how many Twitter followers do you have?” “Well, I’ve got about 400 or so and I think some of them are just spam that follow me, or they confuse me with some psychologist in New York named Michael DiMarco.” So, literally, our success has been based on—and this is why we’re huge fans of Christian retail is because you all get us, we think, and put our books on the shelves and a lot of times they’re face-out. We try and create books that sell themselves, but in the Christian Living section, that’s a huge area to not have a platform. So what we decided was, “Okay, in order to keep doing books that we believe in and the topics we believe in, we’re going to start our youth books so that adults can read them.” So that way we can reach adults through the books that we sell in the youth department. Now we’re starting to see some movement and Die Young has been a good indicator of that because, it isn’t selling at the same rate as God Girl and God Guy, it had a really good launch. So we’ll see if it has legs, but that’s the intentionality that we’ve gone through.

    FC: So let’s talk a little bit about Die Young. What’s the premise behind it, the thought process?

    Michael: (To Hayley) Do you want to talk about the human laboratory?

    FC: To preface this, we should say that the videos that you guys did…

    Michael: They’re bad, aren’t they?

    FC: No, ha! There are moments where you guys share some rather vulnerable things.

    Hayley: There’s a lot that goes into our books, but that’s kind of where our books come from. We allow our life to be a petri dish for God. Our life explodes a lot. We have a lot of explosions, and in each one of those we’ll talk it out as far as, “What is God trying to teach us in this individually?” So Die Young came from that concept that we are two human beings who are going to clash, and what God wants us to do is die to ourselves. Not to keep the argument going. Not be comforted. Maybe sometimes we don’t even work it out, but the impetus behind the book was just this notion that if you can die to yourself, there’s no longer anything that can harm you, nothing can attack you, nothing can destroy you—because you’re just living for Him, and He cannot be destroyed or stopped. We’ve just had to work that out in our marriage because when we were first married, as we say in the book, I bought plates at the dollar store and threw them against the wall to get rid of my anger, and he got a punching bag. We didn’t know what to do. We were living for ourselves. That’s the average American, we live for ourselves.

    Michael: The whole thing of ‘deny yourself and pick up your cross daily and follow Me.’ Picking up the cross is not a triumphant visualization. It’s not a ‘pick up your overnight bag because we’re going on an adventure.’ It’s a death march. And that’s what we’re called to do. We’re asked to joyfully do that as well, that it’s a joyful act to die to ourselves. A three-letter version of the word self is sin—that self is steeped with sin. One of the confirming books that I have to give a shout out to, that didn’t breathe into this book but was confirming that we were onto something when we were conceptualizing and started to write was when David Platt’s Radical came out. I had met David when he was still at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in their homiletics department when I was traveling with Logos Bible Software. When I saw that book come out and that it actually resonated with people, I was like, “Okay, so there is hope for this” because we really feel like the concept of dying to self, dying young, which means dying to yourself anytime before your actual physical death, is young. So if you’re 77 and you’ve decided then to die to self, that’s young enough. We felt like this was the underpinning, the foundational principle underneath everything that David was writing about in that book. Without dying to self, why would you go? Why would you care about unreached people groups? Why would you care about that instead of the American dream? It’s a death to ourselves and our self interests that really gives life to the Great Commission.

    FC: As you guys write books, are you writing them as a result of change in your own life or are you writing them because you are seeking change?

    Michael: Both/And.

    Hayley: Yeah, I think that’s exactly right. I think it’s because we’ve seen something. It’s like, you can see through the ice. I can see a little light and so we start to research and study the topic because we’ve experienced it, even momentarily perhaps.

    Michael: I think it’s a three-stage thing. We’ve discovered some need for it; we’ve exercised some mastery of the topic. And then once we exercise that mastery and we’ve done the biblical research on the topic and also the internal, spiritual research, we realize we don’t have this mastered at all. We’re so far away from it. It’s like, “Oh there’s this problem, here’s the solution.” And it really is a solution, but then in finding the solution, we realize we’re nowhere near close enough to dying to ourselves, nowhere near close to unstuffing our life of the idols in our life and things like that. So it’s like that progression that Paul takes in the New Testament in his epistles—chronologically he calls himself the least of all apostles, and then the least of all brothers or believers, and his last reference that’s similar to that is when he calls himself the worst of all sinners. And so, did he backslide through all of this? No, he just has a greater realization of his sin and a greater realization of his need for Christ and the gospel. So I think that breathes into how we write our books. Like, the worst part is doing interviews on Die Young. We already did that. We already wrote that. Now we have to dig this up again. (laughs)


    FC: So in your process of going through life right now, whether it’s at a conference or Hungry Planet or writing a book or seeing a book launched, you guys have the ability to not only speak to the church, at least here in the west, maybe outside the U.S. as well. What do you guys think about the church right now?

    Michael: I don’t know if I have a public answer for this. That’s an interesting question. Platt wrote a lot about the American dream. I think his observations regarding our love and pursuit of the American dream are spot on. But I would go from that sniper position to maybe more of an atomic bomb position. I think it’s not just the dream, but specifically for the U.S., it’s our feelings of entitlement to the pursuit of happiness which is etched in our founding documents that is wholly un-Biblical. I think every Christian should have a declaration of dependence, not independence. I think the church would be smart – and I’m giving this out for the public domain, some pastor, some other author can write it, I don’t have any problem with that – I think we need a declaration of dependence on Christ. We should not be entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I think we all should declare our dependence of death of self, servant hood, not liberty, a bond servant to Christ, who bought and purchased us with His blood. So we belong to Him. We don’t belong to ourselves. And the pursuit of holiness, instead of the pursuit of happiness. That’s our underpinning as far as all of us as Christians should be pursuing. The most common thing we see within churches is muscle memory to the contrary, but a heart that resonates with this idea. I think when people hear these ideas, they’re like, “Yes, that resonates.” We have a culture that has created muscle memory to the contrary. We visit a lot of churches. With the disclaimer that this might not be the right heart, we might be at fault here, but one of the first things I personally, I think Hayley does as well, is when we walk into a church, we say, “Where are the prostitutes and tax collectors?” And if we see those in a church, that encourages us. And I’m saying figuratively, not like they have a section cordoned off with signage, near the narthex. I think we have slipped into “church as country club” mentality or social club. I think the church is doing a really good job of taking care of our own and a lousy job at defining who “our own” is. Lousy is probably too strong of a word for print—a less than stellar job.

    FC: Ok, one last question. What artists do you listen to? What kind of music, Hayley, are you listening to?

    Hayley: I prefer worship music. I like Kari Jobe, she’s my favorite.

    Michael: An unknown band out of Buna, Texas, (like tuna spelled with a B), called the Micah Tyler Band. I think local radio is giving them some play down there. They’re really good. They’re working on their first studio album right now up in Nashville where we’re at. Great guys.

    FC: And you? (Speaking to Michael) Who are you listening to?

    Hayley: He’s eclectic.

    Michael: I tend to listen to artists that come up in the news for whatever reason. I tend to listen to people that I know personally, like the Micah Tyler band because I know the guys and I know their hearts, so there’s a connection there. I listen to a lot of old stuff from when I was growing up like when Robin Gibb died, I had Pandora on and had the Bee Gees channel streaming. In living in Nashville, I listen to a lot of country music. We were listening to 70s and 80s music on XM driving up from Nashville.

    FC: Well, we can’t say enough good about what you are doing for your genre and the Kingdom. We really appreciate the time you’ve taken to sit down with us today. Here’s to many great books and years to come!

  • Support Your Husband

    Posted on August 16, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    "The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." Genesis 2:18


    Husbands have a God given support system in their sweet spouse. Heaven has provided just the right wife for a husband to receive help.  This divine strategy is a blessing, because left to himself, a husband is incomplete—he maintains at best. The Lord's plan gives a wife the opportunity to make her man feel confident and in control. Most of all her love for Jesus is the fuel that fuels her faith in her husband. She is his best helper.

    What if your husband is ungrateful and hard to please? Your model of unselfish support is a testimony to your trust in God. If your husband takes you for granted, pray the Holy Sprit will convict him of his need for appreciation. A supportive attitude attracts your husband to your heart. Trust the Lord will grow him in grace and gratitude. A woman of prayer wisely waits on God to work, without rushing ahead with sincere solutions.

    "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..." Ephesians 1:18a 

    Support him when he is mad and your patient smile will make him glad. Support him when he is sick and your compassionate heart will bring quicker healing. Support him when he is successful and your unselfish celebration will cause mutual joy. Support him in his work and your loyalty to his labor will grow his feelings of significance. Above all, support him as your spiritual leader, as your validation gives him courage to continue.

    As a husband you may seem self-sufficient, but you are really not a lone ranger. You are one flesh with your bride and you need her help. So, acknowledge your dependence on God and your need for your wife's support. Invite her into your hopes and fears. Be vulnerable with your emotions that are hard to express and receive her comfort and counsel. It's bad to be alone at home with your wife, but it is very, very good to have her selfless support.

    "He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD." Proverbs 18:22

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for loving me so that I can love and support my husband.

    Related Readings: Job 42:5; Proverbs 31:11; 1 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Corinthians 4:6

    Post/Tweet this today: A supportive wife gives life to her husband. #life #husband

    Click on the free download “How to Have a Quiet Time”… http://bit.ly/KWDrkJ

  • Protect Your Wife

    Posted on August 15, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.” Ephesians 5:23


    A wife is vulnerable to emotional exploitation. She needs her husband’s loving care and protection. Insensitive friends and family can take advantage of her sweet and sensitive spirit. So, a husband who takes seriously his role of protector is ever vigilant to shield his bride from bad behavior. What was once a blossoming flower of faith can wither under the assault of rejection and disrespect. Thus, you guard her heart with your strong stand.

    Every woman of faith prays for a godly knight in shining armor who will bear the sword of the Spirit on her behalf. She longs for a godly man who by faith walks in the fullness of the Spirit: courageous and confident in Christ. Are you that husband? Are you active in safeguarding your wife’s mind, will and emotions? Is her spirit in safekeeping with you? Wife, your husband is God’s buffer against bad people. So rest, his role is to defend you.

    “May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope, LORD, is in you.” Psalm 25:11

    Men, don’t shrink back from stepping up for your woman. Just like Jesus is the head of the church and gave Himself up for His bride, so you do the same for yours. Yes, it is daunting at times and we are sometimes defeated, but we do not despair for the Lord is our ultimate defender. Our battle is with His weapons of prayer, faith and hope. He saved you to save her from being crushed by criticism and deceived by lies. You are her guard.

    Ultimately, it is your heavenly Father who spreads His protective coat of character over His children. Your integrity gives you the moral authority to speak the truth in love. Courage follows commitment. Like a calf, caught in a hailstorm, moves for cover, so you get under Christ’s calming cleft. All hell can break loose around you, but you stay put in prayer at the feet of Jesus. He will protect you from the evil elements that swirl about. Therefore, trust in God’s protection first and protect your wife second. She needs you!
    “For he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” Proverbs 2:8 

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for being my protector, so I am able to protect my wife.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 2:11; Malachi 2:16; John 17:11-15; 1 Corinthians 13:7

    Post/Tweet this today: Courage follows commitment to Christ. #commitment #courage

    Click on the free download “How to Have a Quiet Time”… http://bit.ly/KWDrkJ

  • Tempered Talk

    Posted on August 14, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).


    Tempered talk is evidence of wise conversation. When our words are many we run the risk of soliciting sin. Increased words increase the probability of improper speech. For example, respectful conversation does not repeat the same words and phrases in a confined period of time. This impatient cadence frustrates.

    Perhaps a look of misunderstanding requires questioning for clarification or definitions for comprehension. Proud conversationalists can hijack a listener’s understanding with a hoard of words with no meaning. If your goal is to communicate, then take the time to listen to the needs of your audience. People who feel cared for and understood have a keener sense of hearing and understanding.
    “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28).

    Wise people weigh their words before they speak. They allow their minds to catch up with their hearts. Furthermore, in the face of wrong behavior, emotions sometimes need to express themselves. Let the other person know if you feel mistreated or misinformed. Concealed anger leads to living a lie (see Proverbs 10:18), but tempered talk is truthful and to the point.

    Lastly, you reserve your words out of respect for the other person. If you do all the talking, you are the center of attention.  Conversation becomes condescending when the other individual does not feel important enough to speak up. So, honor others by speaking less, listening more intently to how you can love them. Wisdom can be found in the words of each person you meet. Therefore, intentionally talk less and be wise.

    “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).

    Prayer: Dear Jesus, whom do I need to listen to more while speaking less? 

    Related Readings: Job 2:3; Amos 5:13; Titus 1:10; James 3:2

    Post/Tweet this today: Wise people weigh their words before they speak; their minds catch up with their hearts. #wise #speech

    Click on the free download “How to Have a Quiet Time”… http://bit.ly/KWDrkJ

  • Between Heaven and Earth - an interview with Heather Burch

    Posted on August 13, 2012 by John van der Veen

    We’ve learned from the book of Esther that God’s timing is perfect – and that He allows character and a wealth of experiences to grow in us for an ordained season. In the case of Heather Burch, the journey toward becoming an author started the day she was born into a family of publishers. But it hasn’t been until recently that God has chosen to open the doors for her. And isn’t it interesting that just as society’s fascination with the supernatural is peaking, we get Halflings? It’s clear to us that Heather has been called to write “…for such a time as this.”


    Family Christian: Where do you currently live?

    Heather Burch: We live in Southern Florida, maybe going on six years now. Branson, Missouri is where I grew up and we lived in Branson and Springfield. That’s where all of our family is. We felt like we wanted to move down here and like that was what God had for us. When we came down my husband said, “You really need to just stay home and write. Write full-time and really put everything into it because forever you’ve sort of put that on hold to do other things.” We’ve been in full-time ministry in different times of our lives, and we love that. He said, “This is really your dream and we should just do it.” So, I wrote four books before I started Halflings. It was sort of a learning process really. Halflings was, of course, the book that sold to Zondervan and that I got an agent with. My agent offered it as a three-book deal, which was little bit scary because at that time publishing companies were buying more single books. I think they didn’t necessarily know the climate and what was around the corner, so for her to offer it that way was kind of scary. But it was a leap of faith. And, of course, Zondervan grabbed it up. I have such a fabulous team there. Of course Jonathan (who works in some areas) and my editor are just amazing. She really has a big vision for Zondervan and where it’s headed in the next few years. I just feel very blessed to be part of the team there.

    FC: Now the four books you had written previously, did you publish those?

    Heather: No, they are still hidden on hard drives here and there on different computers. There are a couple of them that I might go back and revisit and clean up. But at this point, my writing has changed and grown so much that any of the four would mean major rewrites. Right now I’m so busy writing Halfling books, I’m not really even thinking too much about them, but, you know, maybe one day.

    FC: You grew up in an environment where writing was certainly talked about and discussed. Do you want to talk a little about that?

    Heather: When I started dating my husband, his mom and his sister wrote romances for Harlequin and Silhouette. At that time Harlequin or Silhouette didn’t have a specific line for inspirational books. But [his mom and sister] were Christians, and so they wrote what they called the sweeter romances, which are ones that are a lot cleaner. That was the first time I noticed that real, normal people write books. I’d always done a lot of writing. I grew up in a house [where] we were in publishing. We did school yearbooks as my family’s business. So I’d always been around publishing. Print shops are kind of hard to find anymore, but I love that smell because it reminds me of home. So I was kind of all over that already, then married into a family of authors. When they found [that] out it was like, “Write a book! Write a book! You need to write a book!” So I dabbled with that off and on for years. Five years ago [is] when I really got serious about my writing and was able to set aside time to invest in learning how to construct a great story—there are so many nuances of fiction...


    FC: So Halflings is your first published book with Zondervan, and you have two more coming out. What is the series actually called?

    Heather: It’s called the Halflings Trilogy. On each book it will say “A Halflings Novel,” and they’re each numbered. I actually do have more storylines beyond the three, so there’s a lot that can be played out. But the three are definitely a complete story arc for Nikki Youngblood, who’s the main character.

    FC: In the process of writing this, how much of your friends and family or personal experiences were part of the story?

    Heather: The two halfling boys, Raven and Mace – the two main male characters – are carbon copies of my boys. One of them is a very much a by-the-book person, a strong leader [like Mace]. The other one is my musician. He’s very much a free spirit, more like Raven. So anytime I have trouble with Mace or Raven, thinking “what would this character do at this point?” I would think “okay, what would my son do?” So there is a lot of it. And I’ve probably borrowed a lot more from my teenage sons’ friends, as far as teen lingo and language, and just how they communicate with each other. It really honors me when people say, especially teenagers, “Wow, you definitely know teenagers. You know how we talk and how we interact.” That’s one of the biggest compliments I can get.

    FC: It doesn’t appear that this book is specifically for teens, although the main characters certainly are within that age-group. Since it’s not confined to just that group, what is your goal with the book?

    Heather: Really the deepest internal goal that I would have is for us to realize that we’re sort of all halflings. Halflings are creatures that are caught between heaven and earth. When you get saved that’s sort of what you are: kind of caught between heaven and earth. You have the same address, but a new place in the world. I wanted people to really stop and think about the fact that there is a supernatural realm. Of course all that happens [in the book] is fictional, completely fictional. Not to be confused with anything biblical or theological, but there are nuances to it that I think can really ring true for people. And really understanding that there is a much bigger picture for each one of us. And understanding that we can walk out what we have on this earth, but making sure that we’re doing it to glorify God. One of the things about the Halflings is that they are serving God and they don’t know what their fate is, but God is so good they are still going to serve Him because they have a revelation of Who He is. If you have that revelation you’re going to serve Him. If you don’t have that revelation, you may or may not. Another thing that was close to my heart was that salvation is such a gift. My thought was that if you have beings that aren’t offered salvation, they’re very aware of what they don’t have a privilege to experience. I thought that was a neat way to show that. Beings, all people, should be thinking about the next step. I did say I had a purpose, and my purpose in writing Halflings was to tell a great story that teenagers and anyone couldn’t put down. I wanted to tell a story that they couldn’t walk away from. I’m a teacher by nature (my husband and I are youth pastors), and actually as I was writing it I would get in a groove and say “Oh this is good stuff!” And it felt like God was saying, “Wait a minute. Back up here. You’re getting into preach mode.” And that’s not what I think He intended to do in this book and series. I think it’s a great thing to lay questions out there and let people start to question and find out for themselves.

    FC: Do you think that the series would be good to give to an unbeliever?

    Heather: Very much so. I get a lot of feedback. One sad thing that has happened is if people think that a book has been put in their hand to preach or to teach them something, they’ll set it aside, even if they like it. I have at least as many reviews from people who are not in the Christian community as I do from people who are. It is a book that is crossing barriers—that is a crossover. I think that’s a delicate thing to be able to do. I think that if you can, it’s phenomenal because you’re reaching out to a wider market, you’re reaching more people and more young people. By the grace of God we’re doing that with this book. This book was actually birthed about fifteen years ago when we were youth pastors at a church that experienced a really fabulous revival up in Missouri. The young people in the youth group were really burdened that there weren’t that many books out there for teenagers that really pointed to God, and started praying. Some of them fasted. We had some of our teenagers do extended fasts with pastor approval and parents in mind, everything. They were concerned about this. They said, “We need more books for Christians.” Not just clean books that are in the regular market, but books that have a Christian world view. So there’s a big stroke of the brush with those. You’ve got books with a very clear message, and that’s awesome. And then you’ve got books that are a little more subtle. Those tend to be a little bit easier to crossover in some markets, which is exciting because you’re reaching more people with the message than you have.

    FC: Heather, as parents, we can certainly relate to both your concern for your own kids and those within your church community. If a teenager or college student has a stack of books on their nightstand or in their family room, Halflings would be a good book to see. What other titles?

    Heather: Zondervan has some fabulous books for the young adult market, for kids that are not Christians especially. Those kids are readers. They want that voice of the regular young adult market. We haven’t always necessarily nailed that in the Christian market. It kind of had its own tone and its own voice, which is fabulous, but now it’s branching out more. People can pick up Halflings and it reads very much like secular books other than the fact that it has a Christian worldview. Obviously there are no cuss words, no drinking, no smoking. The characters have a much higher moral standard. Also in the Christian market, Jill Williamson has a book called Replication, which is a wonderful book. She was on book tour with me. She, Bill Myers and I were together on book tour throughout the month of April. Bill Myers has a fabulous series right now that deals with the occult that is great for young people if they are teetering in that area at all. Melanie Dickerson has a few. She does fairytale retellings. They are like a nice, hot cup of tea, curled up in a blanket, sitting by the fire. They’re just really beautiful reads. Of course, I’ve got Halflings. We’ve got book two coming out, which is already in, and that will release in October. I know that Jill’s working on another storyline too. I’m not sure when it releases. I’m very excited about what Zondervan is doing right now.

    FC: You touched in this a little bit earlier when you said that the book itself and everything you’ve written in the book is not based on actual events – it’s a fictional tale. Have you ever had anyone approach you and use Halflings as some sort of doctrinal treatise for their Christian faith?

    Heather: No. I was all geared up with such a great answer for that! (laughs) I was ready to explain the differences in fiction and how we can use biblical truths to tell a fictional story. I kind of expected to get more angel stories too. I [also] expected to hear from some people, “Well that’s not biblical. That’s not in the Bible. It didn’t happen.” I haven’t, I’ve been really surprised – maybe because I was ready for it.

    FC: How would you answer that type of question? If someone came up to you and said “I’ve been using your book as a guide for my own personal and spiritual walk.”

    Heather: I would say that there’s only one Word of God. Find out what His Word says, because anytime you add to it or take away you’ve lost everything that it is about. It’s easy for people to want a new set of rules. The Gospel is a simple message, but it’s relational. You cannot have a relationship with Jesus any other way than learning through the Bible. There’s no other book that will lead you to what you’re looking for.

    FC: Heather, what do you do to relax? When you’re not writing, what are you doing?

    Heather: We just went to see Brave, so that was great fun. I loved it! It was great and had a great message. We live in Florida, so we’re in a really beautiful area. We drive around a lot; we look at the area, and go to different beaches. I’m a big theme park junky, so I was actually up at Disney last week which is very close. We also go to Sea World and Busch Gardens once in a while. They have great deals for Florida residents. Of course we’re youth pastors too, so that keeps me busy. We pretty much love the water.

    FC: Heather thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. We appreciate everything that you’re doing and looking forward to book 2.

    Heather: Thank you so much. I can’t wait for it. I’m sure this is the thing you should never say, but I actually think it’s a better book than Halflings. Now that the characters are established, we [can] get into the meat of the story a little bit more. We have book two, Guardian, coming out in October and book three, Avenger, in April, next spring.

    To download a sample of the Halflings book, click here.
    Experience Halflings for your ereader now!

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