• ABOUT
    Did you know?
    All of our earnings go to Christian charities.
    Click to learn more about us!
  • SHOP
    View the latest sales and promotions going on now!
    When you shop, you give.
  • GIVE
    See our latest Giving Challenge.
  • GROW
    Our blog shares devotionals, interviews, contests & more—all to help you grow in your faith.

  • 1:27 Rewards

Family Christian

  • Why Shopping Will Never Satisfy

    Posted on March 14, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah DiPascal

    "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

    We only had ten days to get everything packed and ready for the movers. Shipping boxes, wrapping paper and rolls of tape were everywhere. Every room called for attention, and I didn't know which direction to go first.

    With a squeezing economy and company cutbacks, our family made the hard decision to sell our home and do some major downsizing. Deep inside I knew it was the right choice, but the process was hard. Although I tried to put on a happy face, my heart was aching.

    Dragging myself from room to room, the amount of accumulated stuff overwhelmed me. Clothes, furniture, linens, accessories and enough kitchen appliances to open a diner filled every room.

    As I viewed all the things left to pack, I thought about my past shopping sprees where I'd picked up so many of the items. The early-bird door busters and all those neon yellow clearance stickers lured me in. The endless rows of shiny metal racks, boasting 50-percent-off treasures sealed the deal.

    I had prided myself thinking of all the money I saved buying everything on sale. Who was I kidding?

    The truth was our checking account balance was shrinking, yet I kept wanting new things and buying more. All the while, insisting these were purchases we "needed."

    But now, all of these bargains had to be boxed up, moved and put into storage. My "treasures" had become burdens. As I looked around at all the clutter, I wondered if it was my heart, not my home, needing to be de-cluttered.

    It was time to make some major adjustments in my thought life and begin living out today's verse in Hebrews 13:5, "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'"

    God spoke to me that day with gentle conviction that it was time to stop making excuses for buying so much and be content with less.

    Kneeling in my storage room, I prayed and asked God to forgive me. I told Him I wanted to change but I needed His help. The process wasn't easy, but it was necessary.

    Ten days later when the movers arrived, everything was boxed and ready to go. Instead of heading to a storage facility, we delivered many of those boxes to a local children's home in desperate need of household items and clothing.

    It felt freeing to give away more and keep less. To experience the Giver instead holding onto the material gifts. To trust the Provider and stop worrying about having enough. To simply be content.

    Maybe you struggle sometimes with contentment too. Do you ever find yourself buying something you really don't need? I know, it was probably on sale.

    Perhaps God is asking you to keep less and give away more. To be content with what He's given you and not feel like you have to buy more to be more.

    Friend, don't fall for the lies I did. Trust that God will provide what you need when you need it. If you have extra items, consider giving them away to someone in need and experience the freedom of being content with less.

    Dear Lord, You know me better than I know myself. Help me to be content with what You've given me. Take away my cravings for always wanting more. Teach me to desire You above all else. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    In what areas are you least content? Write them down in your journal along with the two Scripture verses below. Pray and ask God to help you become content with what you have as you trust Him to provide all you need.

    Get a box or kitchen trash bag and go through your closets. Place at least one item from each closet into the box or bag and take to a local charity.

    Power Verses:
    1 Timothy 6:6-8, "But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content." (ESV)

    Matthew 6:33, "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Hebrews

  • Believing Is Seeing

    Posted on March 13, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” John 1:50

    Believing sees with eyes of faith. Faith looks into the face of God to face the unknown. What may not be apparent to logic and reason is revealed by looking beyond the material to the spiritual. Belief in God opens up a vista of breathtaking spiritual formations. We see the mountains of His majesty and the fertile valley of His faithfulness. Belief in Jesus allows us to behold the sun of His salvation and the heavens of His hope. Believing sees what God sees.

    Furthermore, our initial belief in Christ as our Savior cracked open the door into His house of wisdom and understanding. By faith through grace, we will spend a lifetime exploring the eternal truths decorated throughout the Lord’s spiritual residence. Our continued faith opens doors to God’s will. We walk down a hallway of hope and discover a prayer closet with Christ’s comfort. Up the stairs takes more effort, but we walk with Jesus in trust and He reveals His life changing truths. Our adventurous journey with Jesus is fostered by faith. Believing sees the ways of God.

    “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you” (Ephesians 1:18).

    Moreover, believing may allow us to see God do greater things. We believe God for our child’s heart to turn back to Him, so in His time they grow tired of their ways and return to God’s ways. We believe God to heal our friend’s body with greater stamina. We believe God to open a financial door with His great provision. We believe God to get the gospel to thousands with His great power, resulting in new churches. We believe God for a great revival, so He changes us, our family, church, city, state, nation, and the world. Faith can facilitate God’s greater works.

    Older faith can become stale faith if not revitalized by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, avoid spiritual coasting, just getting by on past blessings. We can anticipate the better days to come and not be complacent with the good old days of the past. What greater work does God want to do in your life? Double, triple, quadruple your giving? Plant a church? Sell your business? Write a book? Have a child? Attempt great things only your great God can accomplish. Believe Him and watch Him work!

    “Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the eyes of faith to believe You for greater works to come.

    Related Readings: Job 42:5; Matthew 21:212; Luke 10:17; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Hebrews 11:1

    Post/Tweet today: Believing sees with eyes of faith. Faith looks into the face of God to face the unknown. #believingisseeing

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with John

  • For Men Only (Revised and Updated Edition) from Shaunti Feldhahn

    Posted on March 13, 2014 by Family Christian

    Shaunti Feldhahn

    Rethinking Random

    Why you need a new map of the female universe.

    Like some guys I know, you might be tempted to skip this introduction and jump right to the sex chapter. And if you’re chuckling right now, it probably means you already did it. Or were about to. It’s not a bad choice, actually. Just a little self-defeating. If you’ve been in a committed relationship with a woman for more than, say, a day, you know that going just for what you want isn’t actually going to get you what you want for very long.

    A week, maybe?

    But let’s be honest—one of the main reasons you’re looking at this book is because you are trying to get something you want. Not sex (well, not just sex), but a more fulfilling, harmonious relationship with your wife, one that isn’t quite so hard or confusing. And the back cover gave you the wild idea that understanding her might actually be possible.

    Either that or for some reason the woman in question just handed you this book.

    Hmm.

    Well, either way, take a look at the revelations we’ve uncovered. We think you’ll be convinced. Each chapter explains things about the woman you love that may have often left you feeling helpless, confused, or just plain angry. Each chapter points out simple, doable solutions. The only genius required is that you make a decision up-front that you’re willing to think differently. This is a short book, but if you read it cover to cover, you’ll walk away with your eyes opened to things you may have never before understood about your wife or girlfriend.

    Each chapter points out simple, doable solutions.

    That’s what happened with me—Jeff. And I’m just your average, semi-confused guy. (Actually, sometimes totally confused is more accurate.) And since we average, semi-confused guys have to stick together, that’s why, even though Shaunti and I are both authoring this book, I’ll be the one doing the talking.

    First, Some Background

    In 2004 Shaunti published For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men, which quickly became a bestseller. Based on nationally representative surveys, focus groups, personal interviews, and other research with thousands of men, it opened women’s eyes to things that most of us guys had always wished our wife or girlfriend knew. Things like most of us need to feel respected even more than loved. Or that men, besides just getting enough sex, also have a huge need to feel sexually desired by their wives.

    I’m not sure exactly why, but women everywhere were shocked. And by the flood of letters from around the country—from both women and their grateful husbands—Shaunti and I have seen how much good can come when the opposite sex finally has their eyes opened to things they simply didn’t understand about us guys before.

    In this book, the shock is on the other foot. Now it’s their turn to exclaim to us, “I can’t believe you didn’t already know that!”

    When Shaunti’s publisher first approached us about doing a companion book to For Women Only to help men understand women, I had two major concerns. First, I didn’t think guys would read a “relationship” book. For most of us, the last relationship book we read was in premarital counseling—and only because we were forced to. But more to the point, I doubted that women could ever be understood. Compared to other complex matters—like the tides, say, or how to figure a baseball pitcher’s ERA—women seemed unknowable. Random even.

    I’m not sure exactly why, but women everywhere were shocked by how men thought.

    I explained my skepticism to one early focus group of women:

    Jeff: Guys tend to think that women are random. We think, I pulled this lever last week and got a certain reaction. But when I pulled that same lever this week, I got a totally different reaction. That’s random!

    Woman in group: But we aren’t random! If you pull the lever and get a different reaction, either you’re pulling a different lever or you’re pulling it in a different way.

    Shaunti: What men need is a sort of map to their wives or girlfriends. Because we can be mapped. We can be known and understood—firm ground.

    Jeff: Uh, no. See, guys think of a woman as a swamp. You can’t see where you’re stepping, and sooner or later you just know you’re going to get stuck in quicksand. And the more you struggle to get free, the deeper you get sucked in. So every guy on the planet knows that the best thing to do is just shut down and not struggle and hope somebody comes along to rescue you.

    When I came to, Shaunti and the other women in the focus group assured me—and I have since seen for myself—that guys don’t have to live in a swamp. That realization led us to the eventual subtitle of this book: A Straightforward Guide to the Inner Lives of Women.

    We have been astounded and humbled at the reaction to these simple, eyeopening truths. In fact, the book you are holding is actually the second edition of this book—which is needed because there was clearly a desire for this ongoing research.

    Both For Women Only and For Men Only sparked a huge wave of encouragement and hope among ordinary men and women just like me and Shaunti, selling more than 1.5 million copies in twenty-two languages. We were flooded with e-mails and comments from men and women at our marriage conferences, saying things like “This saved my marriage” and “After ten years together, I finally know how to make my wife happy” and even “Jeff, I owe you one, buddy.”

    But since we’ve continued to learn new things, we also wanted to keep the book current. For this new edition, we have included some fascinating new findings, including the brain science behind why women sometimes think as they do. Plus we’ve added a new chapter—“She’s Not Making Sense”—that decodes those unpredictable reactions that she thinks of as, uh, normal. After seeing the impact of this research, I realize that we really did uncover life-changing insights. Surprising truths that average guys like me need to hear from an average guy and be encouraged that if someone like me can learn it and do it, they can too.


    Excerpted from For Men Only, Revised and Updated Edition by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn Copyright © 2013 by Shaunti Feldhahn. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Shaunti Feldhahn, Jeff Feldhahn

  • Three Questions You Must Ask Before Reacting

    Posted on March 13, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1 (NIV)

    My heart raced when I saw the number pop up on my phone. Nothing in me wanted to have this conversation. I was beyond aggravated. Hurt. Angry. And tired of being misunderstood.

    I answered the call with two goals in mind — to prove how right I was and how wrong the other person was.

    How do you think that conversation went?

    Not well.

    This conflict happened over five years ago so the rush of emotion has dissipated, and I can see more clearly how wrong my approach was.

    I learned from that conflict. Hopefully, I learn something from every conflict — especially how to have better reactions. I'm so far from being in a place where I can shine my halo.

    But I'm getting better.

    While my initial thoughts when a conflict arises are usually those same old "I'll show you" thoughts, I've progressed by not letting those leak into my reactions.

    How?

    By asking myself three questions:

    1. What part of this issue can I own and apologize for?

    There are always two sides to every issue. And no side is perfectly right or all the way wrong.

    If I make peace with the part I need to own and apologize for before the conversation, there's a greater chance I'll stay calm in the conversation. Our key verse, Proverbs 15:1, is a verse I've memorized and recall often, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

    2. How can I soften my heart toward this person so I honor them despite how they react?

    This one is hard. Really hard. But I know hurt people hurt people.

    Usually the person with whom I'm having a conflict has some kind of past or current hurt in their life feeding this issue. Chances are that hurt doesn't have anything to do with me but is adding to their emotional response in this conflict.

    Softening my heart is easier if I can sympathize with the hurt I can't see. If I can duck below my pride, honor will be my reward. Proverbs 29:23 reminds us, "Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor" (NIV).

    3. If I knew this conversation was being recorded and then shared with people I greatly respect, how would this change my reaction?

    What if I showed up to church this week and my pastor directed everyone to watch the screen for an example of a bad reaction? And then my face appeared. Have. Mercy. I. Would. Surely. Faint.

    While it is highly unlikely that our conversation would be recorded and viewed, it is very likely others are watching our reaction. Children. Co-workers. Friends. But here's the one that really grabs my heart – my Jesus is very much present. Philippians 4:5 reminds us, "Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near" (NIV).

    Every conflict has variables that must be considered. Some conflicts have escalated to the point where professionals must be asked to help. Be mindful and prayerful about this.

    But for the everyday conflicts we all have, these questions are good to consider. If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don't have to live with "reaction regret" in the long-term!

    Dear Lord, I'm inviting You into my reactions today as I realign my perspective. Help me to use words and choose actions that honor You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Which of Lysa's three questions resonates with you the most?

    Write down the accompanying Bible verse Lysa provided. Then, write three action steps you can take the next time you are faced with conflict that will implement the teaching in this verse.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 18:21, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit — you choose." (MSG)

    James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs

  • Doubter to Disciple

    Posted on March 12, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip... Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel. John 1:46, 49

    Nathanael was without deceit, he spoke his mind. Not taking Jesus at face value, he questioned His origin. Nathanael doubted a person of importance could hail from a small, insignificant village. He hesitated. He judged Jesus as unfit, since He did not fit into Nathanael’s profile of a prophet, much less Messiah. In similar fashion, some people today don’t take Jesus seriously. Christ’s credentials don’t meet the standards of their cultural bias. They doubt His credibility.

    However, Jesus did not defend the quality of His origin. His hometown was not the focus of their discussion. Instead, He complimented His critic as being a good man, one without guile. Because Jesus knew his heart, Nathanael’s heart was drawn to Jesus. Thus, when someone seeks first to know Jesus, they quickly realize, they are known by Jesus. Sometimes a serendipitous spiritual moment happens when we are honest with God. Yes, a guileless heart easily reaches God in faith.

    “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2, NKJV).

    Furthermore, our role as disciples of Jesus is simply to present Jesus. “Come and see Christ for yourself,” should often be our first step in apologetics. Seekers of God can weary over arguments for God. It’s not our flawless logic that finally converts them to Christ, but the Spirit’s wooing. God’s love is what’s irresistible. Perhaps instead, we challenge them to rest in the Lord’s presence and quietly read His words in the Bible. The Holy Spirit will draw them to Himself.

    Therefore, we move from doubter to disciple when we take Jesus at His word. Wherever He leads, we follow. Whatever He says, we do. We obey His commands, because we love Him. Anyone can find reasons to doubt, but few choose to unconditionally follow Christ. Since we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, we can trust in Jesus. Where do you struggle to trust Him? Your future career? Your present problem with a child? Your past divorce or addiction? Trust. Stay in a prayerful process, as you process pain. Be a trusting Nathanael, not a doubting Thomas.

    “Jesus said, ‘You [Nathanael] believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that’” (John 1:50).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, calm my fears. Replace my doubts with trust. I place my faith in You.

    Related Readings: Genesis 28:12; Psalm 17:1, 26:4; Matthew 4:3; John 12:13, 14:12

    Post/Tweet today: Stay in a prayerful process, as you process pain. #doubtertodisciple

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with John

  • Every Young Man's Battle from Stephen Arterburn

    Posted on March 12, 2014 by Family Christian

    Stephen Arterburn

    Introduction

    There’s a time-honored code that almost every male I’ve known has followed. I’m positive that my father and my brothers followed what I call the “Sexual Code of Silence.” The code states that it’s okay to joke about sex or even lie about it, but other than that, it’s your solemn duty—as a male—to keep silent whenever a serious discussion about sex takes place.

    Since everyone is determined not to talk about this, or maybe is embarrassed to do so, you probably don’t have a clear picture of what healthy sex is all about. In fact, you’re probably thinking that some very wonderful things are not normal and that some very normal things are pretty weird. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to write this book for you. We wanted you to have accurate information about a wonderful subject that’s prone to misinformation and ignorance. You’re a sexual being and deserve to know what’s right and true about your sexuality so you can have the greatest chance possible for a fantastic sexual relationship with the person you marry.

    It’s sad that in the Christian community, where we have access to God’s truth, we operate with so many lies and myths about sex. Some teens and young men with a low sex drive think they’re not real men, when in reality they may have a chemical or hormonal variance that lowers the drive. Some teens and young men with a strong sex drive may view themselves as slightly crazy and in need of major help to squelch their urges.

    You may be vacillating between those two extremes, especially if you’re in the middle of your adolescent years. Because your body is in a constant state of growth, you feel driven one minute and almost asexual the next. Don’t let this concern you. You’re right on schedule, and everything you’re experiencing is normal.

    One of the most difficult assignments you’ll ever have is to integrate your sexuality with the emotional, spiritual, social, and relational person you want to be. Many have the tendency to see their sexuality as something shamefully separate and distinct from themselves, but that shouldn’t be the case at all.

    Let me illustrate by using a good old hypocrite as an example. You probably know some people who are very religious when they go to church on Sunday, but you’d never know they were Christians by the way they act during the rest of the week. Sure, they say all the right words and go through the right motions on Sunday, but that part of their lives is reserved for Sunday. Come Monday morning, they sound more like they went to hell on Sunday rather than church. Those people haven’t fully integrated their spiritual life with the rest of their lives.

    The same could happen to you in the area of sexuality. This is an area you want to fully integrate with your Christian walk. When you do, you’ll have a much healthier outlook regarding relationships with the opposite sex, premarital sex, and even what your marital relationship will be like in bed.

    I have a friend whose son turned twelve a couple of years ago. He’s a great dad, and he has a great kid. When the boy turned twelve, it’s as if the spigot labeled Hormones was turned wide open. Stuff was happening inside his body, but he didn’t understand why he was experiencing certain feelings. All he knew was that he had some urges that were difficult to control. The young boy then did a very courageous thing. He approached his
    father and said, “Dad, I just feel like taking off my clothes and standing in front of a girl naked.”

    That was an honest expression of feelings and an accurate description of what it felt like to be a twelve-year-old boy. The fact that he could comfortably talk with his father about his feelings indicated that he wanted some answers to what was happening to him. All of us would benefit from a similar attitude.

    In fact, attitude is everything when it comes to winning the battle for sexual integrity. If there’s a single Bible verse that captures God’s standard for sexual purity, this is it: “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity” (Ephesians 5:3).

    For teens and young adults, this is a scary verse that prompts more questions. What does a “hint” mean? How far can I go with a girl when we’re alone? How far can I go with myself when I’m alone? Is masturbation okay?

    These are great questions, and we’ll answer them straight up. That’s why you’re going to find Every Young Man’s Battle to be the most honest and forthright resource on teen and young adult sexuality out there. Ready to get started? So are we. We’re going to begin by letting Fred tell you his story and, as we say in Texas, it’s a humdinger.

    Chapter One

    When Football Was King

    FROM FRED: THE START OF MY STORY
    Growing up amid the Iowan cornfields, I made football my god. The sport dominated everything about me, and I happily played and practiced year round. I even liked two-a-days in hot, muggy August. Football was such a big part of my life that I let the noble sport dictate what I did off the field. After the games, I never joined my teammates at Lake McBride for the kegger parties. Drinking beer, I believed, would weaken my focus and soften my drive. As for girlfriends, I viewed them as high-maintenance commitments
    that would distract me from my goal—becoming an all-state quarterback.

    Like any red-blooded football player, however, I had more than a passing interest in sex. I’d been hooked on Playboy centerfolds ever since I found a stack of the magazines beneath my dad’s bed when I was in first grade. I also discovered copies of From Sex to Sexty, a publication filled with naughty jokes and sexy comic strips.

    When Dad divorced Mom, he moved to his bachelor pad, where he hung a giant velvet nude in his living room. I couldn’t help but glance at this mural-like painting whenever we played cards during my Sunday afternoon visits. On other occasions, Dad gave me a list of chores whenever I dropped by to see him. Once, while emptying the trash can in his bedroom, I came across a nude photo of his mistress. All this caused sexual feelings to churn deep inside me.

    Hollywood movies filled me with lustful curiosity and burning passion. In one film, Diana Ross poured a bucket of ice on her boss’s belly just as he orgasmed, which seemed to intensify the experience. My mouth dropped open. What’s up with this? I pondered such scenes in my mind for days upon days. On those rare occasions that I went out on a date during the off-season, these deep churnings often stirred and bubbled over. Too often, I’d push a girl’s boundaries while I tried to get a hand under her bra.

    Still, my passion for football kept my sexual yearnings in check. I performed well on the gridiron and was named “Athlete of the Year” at Thomas Jefferson High School—a 4-A powerhouse in Cedar Rapids. I received full ride scholarship offers from the Air Force Academy and Yale University.

    I had bigger dreams, however—PAC-10 football, even if it meant trying out for the team as a walk-on. I wouldn’t settle for anything less. Soon I stood before my locker at Stanford University, staring in awe at the familiar white helmet with the red S and the name Stoeker taped across the front. Strapping on my helmet and chin strap, I proudly raced onto the field in my attempt to win a spot on the team. Before long everyone in the country would know my name when I tossed long rainbow passes into the end zone. I was living my dream.

    In one afternoon, that dream shattered into a thousand pieces. I was one of eight quarterbacks warming up that day. From the corner of my eye, I saw Turk Shonert, a blue-chip recruit from Southern California, throwing thirty-five-yard bullets! Three other quarterbacks zipped the ball through the air as if it were on a string. These QBs were so good that all four would later start at Stanford and play in the NFL.

    I, along with Corky Bradford, an all-state quarterback from Wyoming, and my dormmate at Wilbur Hall, stared in disbelief. There was no way either of us had the skill level to compete with these blue-chippers. When my football dreams died that afternoon, I turned my attention to…women. Pictures of naked women.

    As I settled into normal college life without sports or dreams, my churning sexuality broke through every dike, and I was soon awash in pornography. I actually memorized the date when my favorite soft-core magazine, Gallery, arrived at the local drugstore. I’d be standing at the front door at opening time, even if I had to skip class to do it. I loved the “Girls Next Door” section in Gallery, which featured pictures of nude girls taken by their boyfriends and submitted to the magazine for publication.

    While I waded into porn waters up to my neckline, I somehow kept sexual intercourse on some higher moral dry ground. From where I stood, making love was something special for when you were married. I still felt that way after I returned to Iowa following my freshman year. I got a summer job on a roofing crew to make some quick, big cash, and I began dating an old friend named Melissa, entering a relationship that quickly mushroomed into a heavy love affair. When I wasn’t pounding nails on someone’s roof, Melissa and I spent endless hours together. Just before I got set to return to Stanford for my sophomore year, we decided to spend a secluded weekend together at Dad’s property on Shield’s Lake in southern Minnesota.

    Beneath a bright, full moon on a crystal-clear night, we lay down to sleep with a cool breeze blowing gently over us. The setting was romantic, and I was getting more excited by the minute. I quietly reached for Melissa, and she knew exactly where I was headed. Melissa looked up at me with a deep sadness in her big brown eyes, the moonlight framing her innocent face. “You know that I’m saving myself for marriage—hopefully ours,” she said. “If you push forward with this, I want you to know that I won’t stop you. But I will never be able to respect you as much as I do right now, and that would make me very sad for a very long time.”

    Laying her virginity on the line, she had delivered the ultimate pop quiz. How would I answer? Who did I love most—her or me? My head spun. My desire and passion pounded away as I gazed into that sweet face glowing softly at me. We became silent for a long time. Finally, I smiled. Snuggling in next to her, I dozed off to sleep, passing her test with flying colors. Little did I know that it was the last test I’d pass for many years.

    When I left Melissa behind on my drive back to Stanford University, a deep loneliness settled in. Far from home and with few Christian under-pinnings, I wandered aimlessly through my days, feeling sorry for myself. Then one day during an intramural football game, my eyes caught sight of a female referee. She looked like a grown-up version of my childhood sweetheart, Melody Knight, who had moved to Canada when we were in
    the third grade.

    I was in love! Since there was nothing holding us back, it wasn’t too long before we were in bed making love. I justified it because I was having sex with the girl I knew I would marry. It seemed like such a small step away from my values. Sadly, the flame of our relationship burned out as quickly as it began, but sadder still: This small step led to many more steps down the hill.

    The next time I made love, it was with a girl I thought I would marry.

    The time after that, it was with a good friend that I thought I could love and maybe marry. Then came the pleasant coed I barely knew who simply wanted to experience sex before she left college.

    Within twelve short months, I’d gone from being able to say no in a secluded camper on a moonlit night to being able to say yes in any bed on any night. Just one year out of college in California, I found myself with four “steady” girlfriends simultaneously. I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others.

    Why do I share all this?

    First, so you’ll know that I understand the fiery draw of premarital sex. I know where you’re living. Second, if you’re already sleeping around but know that you shouldn’t, I bring you hope. As you’ll soon see, God changed my whole mind-set about having sex before marriage.


    Excerpted from Every Young Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey Copyright © 2009 by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Stephen Arterburn, Fred Stoeker

  • All or Nothing from MIKESCHAIR

    Posted on March 12, 2014 by Family Christian

    Acclaimed pop band MIKESCHAIR will release its highly-anticipated third studio project, All or Nothing, April 1. The album will be available exclusively at Family Christian.
    “I’ve always been a fan of what MIKESCHAIR has done from a music and ministry standpoint. With the release of All or Nothing, they challenge us to be fully engaged in our walk of faith,” says Family Christian Senior Music Buyer, Dan Hubka. “I am thrilled that Family Christian can come alongside them as we go ‘all in’ together.”

    Since its 2009 major-label debut, MIKESCHAIR has become a core artist at AC and CHR radio with hits like “Let The Waters Rise,” “Keep Changing The World,” “Someone Worth Dying For” and “All For You.” All or Nothing is the band’s first studio project in three years and builds on the trademark pop sensibilities MIKESCHAIR has maintained since the beginning, but also introduces more organic instrumentation for a fresh sound. Fans have already gotten a preview of what they can expect from the full-length album through popular single “All I Can Do (Thank You),” which released last year, and current radio single “People Like Me,” already a Top 10 hit.

    Produced by Matt Bronlewee (Plumb, Jars of Clay), All or Nothing is a clarion call for believers unsatisfied with lukewarm faith to completely surrender every part of their lives to the cause of Christ. The anthemic title track was the first song lead singer Mike Grayson wrote for the album, and it immediately became a creative foundation for the record.
    “Throughout the span of the whole project, the goal is to inspire people to be sold out, to be on fire for God, to choose the ‘all’ side of the phrase ‘all or nothing,’” Grayson shares. “It’s the first time where I actually wrote a song and then followed a theme throughout the whole process of writing the record… I feel like this is a season of challenging our fans to really take that step with us and say, ‘Hey! This is it! I’ve made a choice, and I want to see it through.’”

    MIKESCHAIR will join Aaron Shust, Jonny Diaz and Lauren Daigle on “The Morning Rises Tour” in support of the band’s new project. The tour will visit 20-plus cities throughout the spring, beginning March 14. Moreover, this summer, the band will perform at a variety of festivals across the country. A full list of tour dates can be found at www.MIKESCHAIR.com/tour.


    This post was posted in Music and was tagged with Featured, Jars of Clay, Aaron Shust, Plumb, MIKESCHAIR, Jonny Diaz

  • Hope for When You Feel Hard Pressed

    Posted on March 12, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon Glasgow

    "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 (NIV)

    We watched as our only working vehicle was hoisted onto the back of a tow truck. How would we manage without it?

    In an attempt to be wise with our money, we had chosen the cheapest place around to fix the car. But week after week passed and the car wasn't finished.

    Finally the repair shop called. Hope and relief faded instantly when the mechanic said, "No, your car isn't ready." He told me we needed to come and pay more because there was a leak. I was perplexed, as there hadn't been a leak prior to us taking it there.

    As we pulled into the parking lot, I was shocked to see the car! The leak was the least of the new problems. Three of the four windows were gone or broken! Our car had been vandalized, and the shop didn't have insurance to cover it. How? What? Why? No!

    Our trouble doubled when we learned our insurance deductible was higher than the cost of the new windows. Needing a working vehicle desperately, we ordered and paid for the windows out of pocket. Obviously, with the delays and windows, that repair shop was no longer cheap!

    To top it off, the guys from the glass shop called. They'd never had this happen, but each window they ordered for us arrived broken!

    These costly frustrations and time delays aggravated me to say the least. Everything in me felt like falling apart. Instead, I pressed pause before that could happen and tried to find perspective.

    The only way I know to find any perspective when facing hardships is to view them in light of God's Word. When trials come, and they will, it helps me to confront them with truth from Scripture. Without this perspective, it's hard to triumph over feelings of despair, anger and worry.

    God's Word reminds us that nothing surprises God, and nothing can overcome Him. A good place to turn for truth is our key verse today, 2 Corinthians 4:7-9:

    "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."

    The "treasure in jars of clay" referred to is the Word of God stored within us. The truth we find and believe in the pages of our Bibles gives us the perspective, hope and encouragement we need when we feel pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down.

    I definitely could have felt pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down with all that happened. Not having a vehicle to get my family around was hard. Health issues and mounting medical bills compounded the situation. But using God's Word as my perspective reminded me that God is my provider (Matthew 6:26), and I shouldn't worry (Philippians 4:6-7). Trusting in His truths gave me freedom from despair.

    We eventually got our car back — working and with all the windows — along with a pretty big bill. But we didn't have the stress and frustration, thanks to trusting in God and His Word.

    Life will always have seasons where we are hard pressed on every side. Yet in the crushing moments, God's all-surpassing power will prevail. What a comfort to know that truth in the middle of trying times. In the midst of despair, let's combat trials with Scripture. When we do, we are triumphant!

    Lord, open my eyes that I may see the wondrous things in Your Word while I'm in the middle of my trials. Help me to see Your glory and power. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Write down the things that are making you feel hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down.

    Now, find a Bible verse that speaks truth to those specific situations. Write the verses next to your situation and leave space to record how God provides.

    Power Verse:
    James 1:12, "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Corinthians

  • Freedom In Christ

    Posted on March 11, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 1 Corinthians 7:22

    The desire for freedom is a longing of the human heart. It is the heartbeat of God. Liberty for all is foundational to free nations. Let freedom ring is the battle cry of republics who have sacrificed lives, so future generations can live free. It opens door of opportunities, like freedom to worship and work. We are free to be sad or glad, free to pursue God or money, and free to experience good or evil. Freedom in Christ is fundamental to the faith. By faith in Jesus, we are free indeed.

    However, we have an enemy to freedom: slavery. Slavery to sin, self, and Satan. A soul’s bondage brings despair and dread. We are not free to make wise choices, until our minds have been freed from the confusing claims of lies. But, truth clarifies. Moreover, there is a hideous slavery to sinister human beings. Human slavery treats people like property, not as precious people created by almighty God. Those imprisoned by evil need the righteous to rise up. Yes, freedom in Christ bears the responsibility to rescue those trafficked by greedy perverts. We must help the captives!

    “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6:22).

    Furthermore, freedom in Christ comes from being a slave to Christ. Before Christ, our master was evil, after Christ our master was good. Before Christ our master was selfish, after Christ our master was generous. Before Christ our master was mean, after Christ our master was merciful. In Christ, we cannot serve two masters, only one: God Almighty. Thus, our glad servitude to the Lord frees us to serve for the Lord. Grace binds us to God’s love, so we are free to love for God.

    Human slavery is against the will. Spiritual slavery is free to choose. Human slavery is bondage. Spiritual slavery is freedom. Human slavery is hurtful. Spiritual slavery is healing. Human slavery is exploitation of helpless humans. Spiritual slavery is glorification of holy God. Thus, we ask ourselves, “Does anything other than Jesus Christ master any part of my life?” “Who in my life needs to be set free by faith in Jesus?” “How can I bring awareness to the atrocities of human trafficking?” Freedom in Christ comes from being a slave to Christ. So, live free for Him!

    “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours, especially the hideous sin of human trafficking.

    Related Readings: Genesis 2:16; Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Peter 2:16

    Post/Tweet today: Human slavery treats people like property, not as precious people created by Almighty God. #freedominChrist

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with 1 Corinthians

  • The Ragamuffin Gospel from Brennan Manning

    Posted on March 11, 2014 by Family Christian

    Brennan Manning

    Chapter One

    On a blustery October night in a church outside Minneapolis, several hundred believers had gathered for a three-day seminar. I began with a one-hour presentation on the gospel of grace and the reality of salvation. Using Scripture, story, symbolism, and personal experience, I focused on the total sufficiency of the redeeming work of Jesus Christ on Calvary. The service ended with a song and a prayer.

    Leaving the church by a side door, the pastor turned to his associate and fumed, “Humph, that airhead didn’t say one thing about what we have to do to earn our salvation!”

    Something is radically wrong.

    The bending of the mind by the powers of this world has twisted the gospel of grace into religious bondage and distorted the image of God into an eternal, small-minded bookkeeper. The Christian community resembles a Wall Street exchange of works wherein the elite are honored and the ordinary ignored. Love is stifled, freedom shackled, and self- righteousness fastened. The institutional church has become a wounder of the healers rather than a healer of the wounded.

    Put bluntly, the American church today accepts grace in theory but denies it in practice. We say we believe that the fundamental structure of reality is grace, not works—but our lives refute our faith. By and large, the gospel of grace is neither proclaimed, understood, nor lived. Too many Christians are living in the house of fear and not in the house of love.

    Our culture has made the word impossible to understand. We resonate to slogans such as:

    “There’s no free lunch.”

    “You get what you deserve.”

    “You want money? Work for it.”

    “You want love? Earn it.”

    “You want mercy? Show you deserve it.”

    “Do unto others before they do unto you.”

    “Watch out for welfare lines, the shiftless street people, free hot dogs at school, affluent students with federal loans—it’s a con game.”

    “By all means, give others what they deserve but not one penny more.”

    A friend told me she overheard a pastor say to a child, “God loves good little boys.” As I listen to sermons with their pointed emphasis on personal effort—no pain, no gain—I get the impression that a do-it-yourself spirituality is the American fashion.

    Though the Scriptures insist on God’s initiative in the work of salvation—that by grace we are saved, that the Tremendous Lover has taken to the chase—our spirituality often starts with self, not God. Personal responsibility has replaced personal response. We talk about acquiring virtue as if it were a skill that can be attained, like good handwriting or a well-grooved golf swing. In the penitential seasons we focus on overcoming our weaknesses, getting rid of our hang-ups, and reaching Christian maturity. We sweat through various spiritual exercises as if they were designed to produce a Christian Charles Atlas. Though lip service is paid to the gospel of grace, many Christians live as if only personal discipline and self-denial will mold the perfect me. The emphasis is on what I do rather than on what God is doing. In this curious process God is a benign old spectator in the bleachers who cheers when I show up for morning quiet time. We transfer the Horatio Alger legend of the self-made man into our relationship with God. As we read Psalm 123, “Just as the eyes of slave are on their masters’ hand, or the eyes of a slave-girl on the hand of her mistress,” we experience a vague sense of existential guilt. Our eyes are not on God. At heart we are practicing Pelagians. We believe that we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps—indeed, we can do it ourselves.

    Sooner or later we are confronted with the painful truth of our inadequacy and insufficiency. Our security is shattered and our bootstraps are cut. Once the fervor has passed, weakness and infidelity appear. We discover our inability to add even a single inch to our spiritual stature. There begins a long winter of discontent that eventually flowers into gloom, pessimism, and a subtle despair—subtle because it goes unrecognized, unnoticed, and therefore unchallenged. It takes the form of boredom, drudgery. We are overcome by the ordinariness of life, by daily duties done over and over again. We secretly admit that the call of Jesus is too demanding, that surrender to the Spirit is beyond our reach. We start acting like everyone else. Life takes on a joyless, empty quality. We begin to resemble the leading character in Eugene O’Neill’s play:

    “Why am I afraid to dance, I who love music and rhythm and grace and song and laughter? Why am I afraid to live, I who love life and the beauty of flesh and the living colors of the earth and sky and sea? Why am I afraid to love, I who love love?”

    Something is radically wrong.

    Our huffing and puffing to impress God, our scrambling for brownie points, our thrashing about trying to fix ourselves while hiding our pettiness and wallowing in guilt are nauseating to God and are a flat denial of the gospel of grace.

    Our approach to the Christian life is as absurd as the enthusiastic young man who had just received his plumber’s license and was taken to see Niagara Falls. He studied it for a minute and then said, “I think I can fix this.”

    The word itself, has become trite and debased through misuse and overuse. It does not move us the way it moved our early Christian ancestors. In some European countries certain high ecclesiastical officials are still called “Your Grace.” Sportswriters spoke of Michael Jordan’s “easy grace,” while business mogul Donald Trump has been described as “lacking in grace.” A new perfume appears with “Grace” on the label, and a child’s report card is called a “disgrace.” The word has lost its raw, imaginative power.

    Fyodor Dostoyevsky caught the shock and scandal of the gospel of grace when he wrote:

    At the last Judgment Christ will say to us, “Come, you also! Come, drunkards! Come, weaklings! Come, children of shame!” And he will say to us: “Vile beings, you who are in the image of the beast and bear his mark, but come all the same, you as well.” And the wise and prudent will say, “Lord, why do you welcome them?” And he will say: “If I welcome them, you wise men, if I welcome them, you prudent men, it is because not one of them has ever been judged worthy.” And he will stretch out his arms, and we will fall at his feet, and we will cry out sobbing, and then we will understand all, we will understand the Gospel of grace! Lord, your Kingdom come!

    I believe the Reformation actually began the day Martin Luther was praying over the meaning of Paul’s assertion that the gospel reveals the righteousness of God to us—it shows how faith leads to faith. In other words, the righteous shall find life through faith (see Romans 1:17). Like many Christians today, Luther wrestled through the night with this core question: How could the gospel of Christ be truly called “good news” if God is a righteous judge who rewards the good and punishes the evil? Did Jesus really have to come to reveal that terrifying message? How could the revelation of God in Christ Jesus be accurately called “news” since the Old Testament carried the same theme, or for that matter, “good” with the threat of punishment hanging like a dark cloud over the valley of history?

    But as Jaroslav Pelikan notes:

    Luther suddenly broke through to the insight that the “righteousness of God” that Paul spoke of in this passage was not the righteousness by which God was righteous in himself (that would be passive righteousness) but the righteousness by which, for the sake of Jesus Christ, God made sinners righteous (that is, active righteousness) through the forgiveness of sins in justification. When he discovered that, Luther said it was as though the very gates of Paradise had been opened to him.

    What a stunning truth!

    “Justification by grace through faith” is the theologian’s learned phrase for what Chesterton once called “the furious love of God.” He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, the central affirmation of the Reformation stands: Through no merit of ours, but by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved Son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace.

    With his characteristic Robert Capon puts it this way:

    The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellarful of fifteen- hundred-year-old, two-hundred proof grace—of bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel—after all those centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your bootstraps—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home before they started... Grace has to be drunk straight: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale; neither goodness, nor badness, nor the flowers that bloom in the spring of super spirituality could be allowed to enter into the case.

    Matthew 9:9–13 captures a lovely glimpse of the gospel of grace:

    As Jesus was walking on from there he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him. Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When he heard this he replied, “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick. Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.”

    Here is revelation bright as the evening star: Jesus comes for sinners, for those as outcast as tax collectors and for those caught up in squalid choices and failed dreams. He comes for corporate executives, street people, superstars, farmers, hookers, addicts, IRS agents, AIDS victims, and even used-car salesmen. Jesus not only talks with these people but dines with them—fully aware that His table fellowship with sinners will raise the eyebrows of religious bureaucrats who hold up the robes and insignia of their authority to justify their condemnation of the truth and their rejection of the gospel of grace.

    This passage should be read, reread, and memorized. Every Christian generation tries to dim the blinding brightness of its meaning because the gospel seems too good to be true. We think salvation belongs to the proper and pious, to those who stand at a safe distance from the back alleys of existence, clucking their judgments at those who have been soiled by life. In the name of Grace, what has been the verdict of the Christian community on the stained life of the late Rock Hudson? To the disclosure (the $4.5 million settlement to his lover Marc Christian notwithstanding) that he called a priest to his deathbed, confessed his sins, and cried out to God for forgiveness?

    Jesus, who forgave the sins of the paralytic (thereby claiming divine power), proclaims that He has invited sinners and not the self-righteous to His table. The Greek verb used here, has the sense of inviting an honored guest to dinner. In effect, Jesus says the kingdom of His Father is not a subdivision for the self-righteous nor for those who feel they possess the state secret of salvation. The kingdom is not an exclusive, well-trimmed suburb with snobbish rules about who can live there. No, it is for a larger, homelier, less self-conscious caste of people who understand they are sinners because they have experienced the yaw and pitch of moral struggle.

    These are the sinner-guests invited by Jesus to closeness with Him around the banquet table. It remains a startling story to those who never understand that the men and women who are truly filled with light are those who have gazed deeply into the darkness of their imperfect existence. Perhaps it was after meditating on this passage that Morton Kelsey wrote, “The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.”

    The Good News means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry, and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.

    As C. S. Lewis says in “Grace substitutes a full, childlike and delighted acceptance of our need, a joy in total dependence. The good man is sorry for the sins which have increased his need. He is not entirely sorry for the fresh need they have produced.” As the gospel of grace lays hold of us, something is radically right. We are living in truth and reality. We become as honest as the ninety-two-year-old priest who was venerated by everybody in town for his holiness. He was also a member of the Rotary Club. Every time the club met, he would be there, always on time and always seated in his favorite spot in a corner of the room. One day the priest disappeared. It was as if he had vanished into thin air. The townsfolk searched all over and could find no trace of him. But the following month, when the Rotary Club met, he was there as usual sitting in his corner. “Father,” everyone cried, “where have you been?” “I just served a thirty-day sentence in prison.” “In prison?” they cried. “Father, you couldn’t hurt a fly. What happened?” “It’s a long story,” said the priest, “but briefly, this is what happened. I bought myself a train ticket to go into the city. I was standing on the platform waiting for the train to arrive when this stunningly beautiful girl appears on the arm of a policeman. She looked at me, turned to the cop and said, ‘He did it. I’m certain he’s the one who did it.’ Well, to tell you the truth, I was so flattered I pleaded guilty.”

    There’s a touch of vanity in even the holiest men and women. They see no reason to deny it. And they know that reality bites back if it isn’t respected.

    When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.

    To live by grace means to acknowledge my whole life story, the light side and the dark. In admitting my shadow side, I learn who I am and what God’s grace means. As Thomas Merton put it, “A saint is not someone who is good but who experiences the goodness of God.”

    The gospel of grace nullifies our adulation of televangelists, charismatic superstars, and local church heroes. It obliterates the two-class citizenship theory operative in many American churches. For grace proclaims the awesome truth that all is gift. All that is good is ours, not by right, but by the sheer bounty of a gracious God. While there is much we may have earned—our degree, our salary, our home and garden, a Miller Lite, and a good night’s sleep—all this is possible only because we have been given so much: life itself, eyes to see and hands to touch, a mind to shape ideas, and a heart to beat with love. We have been given God in our souls and Christ in our flesh. We have the power to believe where others deny, to hope where others despair, to love where others hurt. This and so much more is sheer gift; it is not reward for our faithfulness, our generous disposition, or our heroic life of prayer. Even our fidelity is a gift. “If we but turn to God,” said St. Augustine, “that itself is a gift of God.” My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.

    In my ministry as a vagabond evangelist, I have extolled certain saints and contemporary Christians, speaking of at what cost they have struggled to surpass lesser men and women. O God, what madness I have preached in sermons! The Good News of the gospel of grace cries out: We are all, equally, privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God’s mercy!

    Besides, as Henri Nouwen notes, the greater part of God’s work in the world may go unnoticed. There are a number of people who have become famous or widely known for their ministries, but much of God’s saving activity in our history could remain completely unknown. That is a mystery difficult to grasp in an age that attaches so much importance to publicity. We tend to think that the more people know and talk about something, the more important it must be.

    In Luke 18, a rich young man comes to Jesus, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. He wants to be in the spotlight. It is no coincidence that Luke juxtaposes the passage of Jesus and the children immediately preceding the verses on the young aristocrat. Children contrast with the rich man simply because there is no question of their having yet been able to merit anything. Jesus’ point is, there is nothing that any of us can do to inherit the kingdom. We must simply receive it like little children. And little children haven’t done anything. The New Testament world was not sentimental about children and had no illusion about any pretended innate goodness in them. Jesus is not suggesting that heaven is a huge playground for Cajun infants. Children are our model because they have no claim on heaven. If they are close to God, it is because they are incompetent, not because they are innocent. If they receive anything, it can only be as a gift.

    Paul writes in Ephesians, “Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit” (2:8–9).

    If a random sampling of one thousand American Christians were taken today, the majority would define faith as belief in the existence of God. In earlier times it did not take faith to believe that God existed—almost everybody took that for granted. Rather, faith had to do with one’s relationship to God—whether one trusted in God. The difference between faith as “belief in something that may or may not exist” and faith as “trusting in God” is enormous. The first is a matter of the head, the second a matter of the heart. The first can leave us unchanged; the second intrinsically brings change.

    Such is the faith described by Paul Tillich in his famous work:

    Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. It strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life... It strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. Sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying: “You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything now; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.” If that happens to us, we experience grace.

    And Grace calls out, Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted.

    Paul writes, “The Lord said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus. Unlike Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, we need not hide all that is ugly and repulsive in us. Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace. As we glance up, we are astonished to find the eyes of Jesus open with wonder, deep with understanding, and gentle with compassion.

    Something is radically wrong when the local church rejects a person accepted by Jesus—when a harsh, judgmental, and unforgiving sentence is passed on homosexuals; when a divorcée is denied communion; when the child of a prostitute is refused baptism; when an unlaicized priest is forbidden the sacraments. Jesus comes to the ungodly, even on Sunday morning. His coming ends ungodliness and makes us worthy. Otherwise, we are establishing at the heart of Christianity an utterly ungodly and unworthy preoccupation with works.

    Jesus sat down at table with anyone who wanted to be present, including those who were banished from decent homes. In the sharing of a meal they received consideration instead of the expected condemnation. A merciful acquittal instead of a hasty verdict of guilty. Amazing grace instead of universal disgrace. Here is a very practical demonstration of the law of grace—a new chance in life.

    Any church that will not accept that it consists of sinful men and women, and exists for them, implicitly rejects the gospel of grace. As Hans Küng says:

    It deserves neither God’s mercy nor men’s trust. The church must constantly be aware that its faith is weak, its knowledge dim, its profession of faith halting, that there is not a single sin or failing which it has not in one way or another been guilty of.

    If the church remains self-righteously aloof from failures, irreligious and immoral people, it cannot enter justified into God’s kingdom. But if it is constantly aware of its guilt and sin, it can live in joyous awareness of forgiveness. The promise has been given to it that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted.

    The story goes that a public sinner was excommunicated and forbidden entry to the church. He took his woes to God.

    “They won’t let me in, Lord, because I am a sinner.”

    “What are you complaining about?” said God. “They won’t let Me in either.”

    Often hobbling through our church doors on Sunday morning comes grace on crutches—sinners still unable to throw away their false supports and stand upright in the freedom of the children of God. Yet their mere presence in the church on Sunday morning is a flickering candle representing a desire to maintain contact with God. To douse the flame is to plunge them into a world of spiritual darkness.

    There is a myth flourishing in the church today that has caused incalculable harm: once converted, fully converted. In other words, once I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, an irreversible, sinless future beckons. Discipleship will be an untarnished success story; life will be an unbroken upward spiral toward holiness. Tell that to poor Peter who, after three times professing his love for Jesus on the beach and after receiving the fullness of the Spirit at Pentecost, was still jealous of Paul’s apostolic success.

    Often I have been asked, “Brennan, how is it possible that you became an alcoholic after you got saved?” It is possible because I got battered and bruised by loneliness and failure; because I got discouraged, uncertain, guilt-ridden, and took my eyes off Jesus. Because the Christ-encounter did not transfigure me into an angel. Because justification by grace through faith means I have been set in right relationship with God, not made the equivalent of a patient etherized on a table.

    We want ever-sharp spirituality—push, pull, click, click, one saint that quick—and attempt to cultivate a particular virtue at a given point in time. Prudence in January, humility in February, fortitude in March, temperance in April. Score cards are provided for toting up gains and losses. The losses should diminish if you expect to meet charity in May. Sometimes May never comes. For many Christians, life is a long January.

    According to an ancient Christian legend, a saint once knelt down and prayed, “Dear God, I have only one desire in life. Give me the grace of never offending You again.”

    When God heard this, He started laughing out loud. “That’s what they all ask for. But if I granted everyone this grace, tell Me, whom would I forgive?”

    Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last “trick,” whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school; the deathbed convert who for decades had his cake and ate it, broke every law of God and man, wallowed in lust, and raped the earth.

    “But how?” we ask.

    Then the voice says, “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

    There they are. There are—the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to the faith.

    My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.


    Exerpted from The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning Copyright © 2002 by Brennan Manning. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Brennan Manning

Items 331 to 340 of 1918 total

Helping you find, grow, share and celebrate your faith
Who doesn't love free shipping!? At Family Christian, you can qualify TWO ways:

1. To your door (just $50 minimum)*

No coupon required! Simply add $50 worth of merchandise to your cart and select the "Free Shipping" option under "Shipping Method." Easy as pie.

* Valid on merchandise totaling $50 or more before taxes. Please keep in mind this is valid on domestic ground shipping to addresses within the U.S. only, not valid toward international delivery. Additional charges apply for express shipping. Terms subject to change without notice.

2. To your store (no minimum order required!)*

At checkout, select "Ship to your local Family Christian store" and enter your zip code to find our closest location. Not sure if there is a Family Christian nearby? Find your local store now.

* Valid on select merchandise only
Loading... Loading...