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Family Christian

  • God’s Will: Purity

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Miss Brenda and the Loveladies from Brenda Spahn

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by Family Christian

    Brenda Spahn

    Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Chapter 1: Have I Lost My Mind?

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

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

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

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

    Had I lost my mind?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Likewise I’d hired a cook and a driver.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    She opened the door wide.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The women burst into laughter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “What about you?” Ken asked Shay.

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

    “Shay? You coming with me?”

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

    “Shay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

    “I quit,” she choked out.

    I laughed. “You can’t quit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Excerpted from Miss Brenda and the Loveladies by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell Copyright © 2014 by Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Brenda Spahn

  • Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by John van der Veen



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

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

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

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

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

    Shane:            Thank you. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Shane:            Yeah. It's great.

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

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

    John:               You were all in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Shane:            Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

    John:               Really? (Asks with a smile).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John:               I have. Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John:               We should.

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


    This post was posted in Music, Movies, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, God's Not Dead, Shane Harper

  • A Grace Place

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

    "Does God ever get tired of my issues?"

    I've asked myself this question many times throughout my lifelong struggle with emotional eating.

    Over the course of my journey, I've whined to God, gotten mad at God and often ignored God. And I've worried I was going to use up all my grace with God.

    I felt He would be justified to say, "Enough! Go away. I'm tired of your issues. Figure it out for yourself!" That is, until I read again the "first story" of God's grace with fresh eyes.

    We often think of God's grace beginning at the cross. But as I read through the Scripture from the point of view of someone struggling with food issues, I saw a revelation of God's grace right from the start in Genesis.

    Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden tree and ushered sin in to the world. God handed down the consequences of their actions, which included banishment from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). They must have believed they had pushed past the boundaries of God's grace. After all, He was sending them out of the garden.

    Whenever I've read that story, I thought they had to leave paradise because God was punishing them. God was disappointed in them. God was giving them what they deserved. But I was wrong. Their relocation was not a place of abandonment — it was a place of grace.

    You see, there were two special trees in the Garden of Eden. One was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; this was the one with the forbidden fruit. The other was the tree of life. This was the one that gave Adam and Eve perpetual life — no diseases, no death, no sagging body parts. (Okay I'm not sure about that last benefit, but I'm banking on this reality in heaven.)

    Anyhow. When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, sin entered in. Sin corrupted everything. And at that point, it was God's absolute love and most tender mercy that ushered Adam and Eve out of the garden. Not His anger or retaliation. They had to leave.

    If they'd been allowed to stay, they would have kept eating from the tree of life and lived forever, wallowing in sin. Wallowing in all the brokenness sin brings with it: disease, fear, heartbreak, separation from God.

    An unending life of shame and sin would have been their fate.

    God couldn't stand that for the people He loved. So, His love made them leave and allowed them to die. So that they could experience the resurrected life His Son would one day provide.

    Brokenness to redemption.

    God did not run out of grace at the dawn of humankind. And He will not run out of grace for you or for me. He does not want us to ever stay in a perpetual state of sin and despair. We were not created with a food struggle or physical cravings because God is angry at us. It is because He loves us so much that He allows our struggle with food to be a physical indication of a spiritual situation.

    God is asking for us to go to a new place as well — and it is a place of grace!

    Receive grace and let it wash away all shame and guilt from every unhealthy choice you've ever regretted and fretted over. Yes, there is work to do and progress to be made, but we will walk from here with a clean slate.

    This grace and the unfathomable depth of God's love settle me. Breathes hope into my dread. And trust into my doubts.

    So when I stumble along on this journey, I know this grace is there for me, and I will come running back. And once again, it will give me a soft place to land.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your grace. Help me to rely on You in the midst of my struggle today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What issues are you tired of battling?

    Bring them all to God in gut-honest prayers. Soak in the truths of His grace found in our key verse and power verse today.

    Power Verse:
    2 Timothy 2:1, "You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus," (ESV)

    © 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 Hebrews

  • God’s Will: Thankfulness

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

    Thankfulness is abnormal for the unbeliever, but normal for the believer. A heart void of God’s grace is incapable of consistently initiating gratitude, but a heart governed by grace can’t hold back a thankful expression. It erupts in public worship and praise to God. It naturally flows from joyful lips in private prayers. Like a small child ecstatic over the gift of a new doll or toy truck, so those who have received the gift of salvation are exuberant over their abundant life in Christ.

    Indeed, grace is the gift of God that keeps on giving. Not only are we its recipient at conversion, but His grace continues to infuse our faith day by day, until that day we appear with Him. Yes, gratitude keeps our attitude focused on the Lord’s goodness. He is still good, when others are bad. He is still good, when we are sad. He is still good, when we are mad. He is still good, when we doubt. He is still good, when we struggle. So, we remain thankful regardless of our situation.

    "And we know that in all things God works for the goodof those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).

    There are obstacles to exercising God’s will of thanksgiving in all circumstances. A wounded heart can’t see beyond its own hurt and anger. There is no gratitude, only disappointment with God and people. Why would my Savior allow me to be hurt? The heart of Jesus hurts when we hurt. His Spirit enters into our pain with comfort and compassion. Our pain is not an excuse to pout, but to pour out our emotions to the Healer of our heart. Gratefulness is God’s antibiotic.

    What can you release to Jesus for Him to handle? A relationship? A health issue? A past pain? Let go and let God do His work of grace. Perhaps you daily journal the blessings of God. Thank Him for your joy in Jesus Christ. Thank Him for the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the food you eat. Thank Him for physical shelter from the elements and spiritual shelter from the enemy. God’s will for you is to be grateful. Your thanksgiving inspires others to be thankful!

    "Let the peace of Christrule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am thankful for Your grace and peace You provide in all situations.

    Related Readings: Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 5:20; Hebrews 12:28

    Post/Tweet today: Our pain is not an excuse to pout, but to pour out our emotions to the Healer of our heart. #God’swillthankfulness

    © 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 Thessalonians

  • Girls with Swords from Lisa Bevere

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Family Christian

    Lisa Bevere

    You Are a Target

    Christianity is a battle, not a dream.
    —Wendell Phillips

    In a world already overrun by violence, you may wonder why I would suggest that women of all ages take up arms and join the fight. As you turn these pages, I hope you will discover the many reasons why there is no neutral territory. We do not live by the violence of a sword, but the time has come to live by the power of one.

    The first reason you need a sword is that, whether you realize it or not, you are part of an epic battle, and God does not want his daughters unarmed or caught unaware.

    The poignant need for addressing these issues head-on was brought home in an unexpected way. It was early June in the summer of 2010, and I had just returned home from traveling and speaking in five different countries in the short span of four weeks. Mind you, these were not nations clustered together, so traveling meant crossing date lines, exchanging night for day, and bouncing between the northern and southern hemispheres.

    Overcome by a persistent strain of jet lag, I was wandering a bit dazed through my second evening home when I realized I was alone with my youngest son, Arden. As I approached him, he patted the sofa and invited me to join him in watching a movie. Thrilled to have a chance to perhaps cuddle with my son, I settled myself in as close as possible and asked, “What are we watching?”

    “The Terminator,” he answered.

    Okay, before you react, stay with me. I am not endorsing the movie, nor am I suggesting that you watch it. I saw an edited TV version, and even then it was eighties awful! But amid the ridiculous hair, disjointed music, and bad acting, I found something valuable I want to share here, because it perfectly sets up the why behind the journey of this book. In case you’re not familiar with The Terminator, allow me to paint a vastly shortened version of the movie for you. It is the story of Sarah Connor, a moped-riding waitress who is living a boring, mundane life in the hope that one day love will find her. Every twenty-four hours plays out pretty much the same. By day she serves pie and coffee; by night she hopes that one of her blind dates will turn into Prince Charming. By day she works, and by night she waits.

    This predictable 1980s pattern is radically interrupted when a robotic assassin from her future shows up. Our hero, Sarah, first learns she might be at risk when she is taking a break at work and realizes a number of women who share her full name have turned up dead.

    Apparently the terminator, a.k.a. Arnold Schwarzenegger—actor, former governor of California, and ex-husband of Maria Shriver—has time traveled, and anyone bearing the name Sarah Connor is his target.

    There seems to be no way this cyborg assassin can possibly fail. Not only does he possess the strength and processing capabilities of a robot; he also is loaded down with the latest in automatic weapons. In addition to all this technology, he has in his possession what would have been the height of eighties data, a sheet torn from the white pages, which supplies him with the phone number and address of all the Sarah
    Connors who reside in his target area. As the futuristic terminator systematically works his way down the list of Sarahs, our heroine becomes a bit concerned.

    After work she returns to the apartment she shares with a friend only to learn via an answering machine that yet another blind date has canceled, so Sarah heads out to a club. That way, if the threat is real, she will be able to hide in a crowd. It isn’t long until the terminator is on her trail, and after a brief visit to her apartment, Arnold shows up at the club with guns blazing and begins wreaking mayhem. Chaos, bloodshed, and screaming displace bad dance moves as everyone scrambles to escape. But wait, there is yet another player in this dark drama.

    You see, at the same time as her assassin from the future shows up, her protector from the future makes his presence known while extending Sarah this compelling invitation: “Come with me if you wanna live.” With the choice so obvious, it doesn’t take Sarah long to decide: she wants to live. Sarah runs from the bar, jumps in a car with a total stranger, and the two of them try to escape. But the terminator assassin
    is relentless. A high-speed chase ensues. Bullets shatter the car windows and frazzle Sarah’s nerves. No matter where they go or what they do, they just can’t seem to shake her futuristic assailant.

    This mild-mannered waitress and wannabe girlfriend has no idea why this epic battle rages around her. As bullets fly and cars crash, her protector begins to tell her who she is. He explains that in the future she is a legend and that an entire army wages war equipped with the foresight and strategies she recorded and passed on to her son. In the future she is part of a heroic fight against the enemy of all humanity.

    Sarah just can’t buy that she is a player in this absurd story and is confident there has been a case of mistaken identity. There is no reason for her to be viewed as a threat in the present or the future! In an attempt to bring clarity and some sanity, Sarah counters the claim of her protector from the future. She isn’t a hero…she is just a waitress! She doesn’t even have a boyfriend, so certainly there’s no son! This nightmare is all a grave mistake; she’s been confused with someone else!

    But her guardian insists that she is, in fact, Sarah Connor the hero and that his mission is to equip and protect her. Understandingly overwhelmed and suddenly undone, Sarah yells out, “I didn’t do anything!”

    To which her future guardian counters, “No, but you will!”

    At that moment, sitting with my son on the couch, I was arrested.

    This line from decades past, “No, but you will!” crashed into my present with the realization that our enemy often knows who we are before we discover who we are. And it is high time we each realize the two things Sarah learned that night.
    Lovely One,
    1. You are a target.
    2. You might be a hero.
    I say might be, because the choice is ultimately yours.


    Excerpted from Girls with Swords by Lisa Bevere Copyright © 2013 by Lisa Bevere. 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, Lisa Bevere

  • Top Albums of 2013

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Ok. You are right. I am a little late in getting our "Top Albums of 2013" out for you all. Believe me, I know. I mean, being so far into the month of February already, it seems that 2013 is so far ago. I hope that my lapse in time doesn't allow you to miss the value of each one of these albums.

    So here they are. The top albums of 2013. Chosen from you, our followers.

    How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection

    As one of the most-sung artists in the church, Chris Tomlin writes music that connects people to the heart of Jesus and leads them to a greater worship of him. After six studio albums and numerous appearances on Passion live worship albums, Chris released his first-ever greatest hits collection, How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection, featuring three all-new recordings of classic Tomlin worship songs. Included is a new recording of "How Great Is Our God," which features guest appearances from renowned international worship leaders, singing parts of the song in their native language.

    Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition

    Renew your spirit with this collection of the Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition! Featuring twenty-five of the most refreshing worship songs made popular by today's best selling artists, this 2-CD compilation is a must-have for fans of praise and worship music.

    A sampling of the songs include: 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord),  Our God, Forever Reign, - Glory To God Forever, Your Love Never Fails, Jesus Messiah, How He Loves, Hosanna and Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).

    Come To The Well

    Come To The Well is an appeal to Christians to let the "living water" of Christ well up in them, overflowing into the relationships we have around us, both inside the church and beyond.

    Inspired by the story of Jesus talking to the woman at the well, the title track, "The Well," illuminates that main theme. With no-fluff lyrics and a genuine heart of worship, Casting Crowns sings truth about the Christian life journey, rewarding their listeners with a musically progressive sound that has widespread appeal.

    WOW Hits 2014

    Only one record a year brings you the biggest Christian artists and songs! Featuring your favorite artists and their best songs of the year, WOW Hits 2014 captures the songs that are impacting our world. With songs about finding strength, placing your hope in Jesus and the promise of everlasting life, WOW Hits 2014 is filled with 30 uplifting songs from top artists, as well as three bonus tracks from up-and-coming artists.

    Also available is the deluxe version that contains features six additional songs.

    Burning Lights

    Is it fair that Chris Tomlin have two albums listed on our Top Albums of 2013? Only if they are good enough. And yes, Burning Lights is just that.

    One of the most storied worship leaders of our time, Chris Tomlin returns with his latest album, Burning Lights. As the songwriter behind the worship favorites "How Great Is Our God," "Jesus Messiah," "Holy is the Lord" and "Forever," Chris continues to write songs that connect people to the heart of Jesus and lead them to a greater worship of Him.

    Burning Lights features the single "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)" and an all-new recording of the radio hit "White Flag."

    Miracle

    Third Day spent a generous part of 2012 immersed in the recording of its studio album, Miracle. The album, Third Day's 17th career offering, was recorded within the walls of the band's own state-of-the art studio, The Quarry, in Atlanta, GA, with the help of veteran rock producer Brendan O'Brien.

    From the opening track, "Hit Me Like A Bomb," it is clear that Third Day means business when they say they want to bring something new to the table. Musically, there are sounds that have never been on a Third Day album, including layered guitars, layered harmonies and sing-a-long gang vocals. Music styles range from pulsating rock to acoustic pop-rock, yet the classic Third Day sound everyone loves is still there - but refreshed and rejuvenated.

    The Hurt & The Healer

    The Texas-based band does so yet again on their seventh studio album, The Hurt & the Healer, a compelling collection of songs that rock with the authority of a seasoned band, yet also insinuate themselves into the souls of listeners through insightful, heartfelt lyrics. “We’ve been doing this for 17 years,” Bart Millard says of the group. “You still need a fresh perspective. You still need to have these moments where you are like, ‘Oh I totally get it. I see something new.’ That is what this album has been for us.”

    The Hurt & The Healer is a celebration of the moment when these two worlds collide - the deep need for healing and the God Who provides it. Produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckula, The Hurt & The Healer features signature MercyMe anthems, engaging pop songs and worshipful and intimate moments.

    10,000 Reasons

    As the writer of many popular worship songs including "Blessed Be Your Name," "The Heart of Worship," "You Never Let Go" and "Better is One Day," Matt Redman’s songs are sung by millions of people every Sunday. He has a unique ability to craft songs that teach deeply spiritual truths and remind us of God’s steadfastness, which he displays again on 10,000 Reasons. The album features 11 all-new songs and was recorded live.

    The first single, "Never Once" speaks of God’s faithfulness in our lives as he is always with us, and never abandons us. Inspiring and hopeful, this album will resonate with fans of worship music everywhere.

    The Struggle

    After two highly acclaimed albums, Tenth Avenue North takes a bold creative leap forward on its new album, The Struggle. Inviting fans all over the country to lend their voices to the process as they recorded this album in cities along its tour route, the songs explore themes of forgiveness, redemption and grace.

    "We really fostered the dance of both the music and they lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says lead vocalist Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there." With The Struggle the band offers up lyrically substantive songs people have come to expect from Tenth Avenue North.

    Overcomer

    Coming up her most successful album ever, American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee Mandisa returns with Overcomer. Produced by Christopher Stevens and David Garcia, Overcomer showcases her powerful vocals and pop-leaning hooks that blend effortlessly through all 11 tracks.

    With caution-to-the-wind melodies weaved throughout the record, anchored by emotional songs like her open letter to her brother in "Dear John," Overcomer may be Mandisa’s most impactful release to date.

    So there you have it. The 2013 Top Albums. What do you think? Do agree with the list? Would you add any titles to it? What is your top albums of this past year?


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Tenth Ave. North, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Third Day, Matt Redman, Casting Crowns, Mandisa

  • Live so That ...

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy Blight

    "He died for us so that we will all live, not for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose from the dead." 2 Corinthians 5:15 (The Voice)

    As I stood in the kitchen of our new house, gut-wrenching loneliness swept over me. My heart ached for all that was familiar. Doubts plagued my mind. Had we made a mistake? Did we really hear God? Was this really His plan?

    We had just moved from Dallas, Texas to Charlotte, North Carolina, but moving had not been on our original agenda. It meant leaving an amazing circle of friends, a wonderful church family and great jobs. But we both felt God calling us away from Dallas, away from all that was comfortable and familiar. In fact, He orchestrated circumstances in such a way that we could not not move to Charlotte. But it was still unclear why He brought us here.

    Although Jesus was clear about His mission, I wonder if He experienced similar sensations of loneliness and heartache as He left all that was familiar to follow God's plan.

    Jesus willingly consented to His Father's plan and did the incomprehensible. The One who was rich in everything became poor, making Himself nothing. He assumed our debt of sin and paid it with His very life so that you and I could become beloved children of God.

    And His sacrifice, when accepted by us, gives us not only new life but also a new role in life!

    Our key verse from 2 Corinthians teaches that Jesus died so that we will live ... not for ourselves but for the One who died for us. And when we read a bit further in 2 Corinthians, verse 20 clarifies our role: "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors ..." (NIV).

    Ambassadors are connectors. They connect the lives of those they represent with the lives of those in their sphere of influence. And to be effective, the chosen appointees must live so that people are drawn to and find favor with them and those they represent.

    Friend, we too are ambassadors. We are ambassadors appointed by Christ, not by a nation or an organization. God intentionally placed us on this earth to live for Him.

    What a privilege and honor to be hand-picked by God to live fully engaged lives in this generation, in our communities, in our neighborhoods and in our families so that He can use us to shine His love and light!

    It took time, but I came to understand that God had not abandoned me years ago when we moved. He intentionally placed me in that home and neighborhood to be His ambassador. He brought friends into my life who invited me to my first Bible study. He gave me an insatiable hunger for His Word that led to teaching and writing Bible studies. He continues to open doors for me to speak and write for Him.

    God had a plan that day in the kitchen that I could not see. And He faithfully equipped me through the years so that I could live out that plan ... so that I could impact my sphere of influence and represent Him well.

    Will you join me in being an ambassador? Together let's invite God to help us live a so that life ... a life that truly makes a difference for the Kingdom of God.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your amazing grace ... a gift that gives me new life. Help me to live a "so that" life, one that pours out Your love and grace. Equip me with all I need to be Your ambassador. Father, I want to represent You well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How well do you represent Christ?

    Read Romans 6:12-13 (see below). Prayerfully consider how you use your new life in Christ. Commit to take one action step this week to live so that ... to live as God's ambassador in your sphere of influence.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 6:12-13, "Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. 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

  • God’s Permissive Will

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. John 7:17

    The will of God is what He wills for His children, but it is not forced. What our heavenly Father wants for us is Himself, His plan and His provision, but only at our instigation. God’s will is a choice. It is an option between a conflicting system of understanding and the Spirit’s process of revealing His clear path. What the Lord wills is what’s best. When we are willing, He is more than willing to show us the next step of faith. A little walk with Jesus unveils His vast love for us.

    When we choose the will of God, we choose to follow God no matter what. It is a capitulation to Christ and Christ alone. Belief is what brings discernment into focus. Belief creates clarity, but unbelief clouds our choices. Like the scary sensation of a pitch black bedroom, we stumble toward the bathroom in the middle of the night. So, we cannot see unless we flip on the switch of faith. It's from the bright light of trust that we find the Lord’s best. His will starts with our Savior.

    "The Lord confidesin those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them" (Psalm 25:14).

    Are two conflicting choices staring you in the face of your faith? Both are good, but you want to know the Lord’s best. Where to work? Who to date or marry? Where to live? Where to attend church or school? Rise above your affections for your options and set your affections on Jesus. Release your earthly attachments and set your heart on heavenly outcomes. What you let go of, God gives back in what’s best for you. Prayer and patience produce your best choices for Christ.

    Faith is confidence in Christ; a total trust in His character and His claim to be God.  Once you settle this, submit your will to the Lord’s will. Surrender your right to know what’s right and take the next right step. Your choice to do God’s will does not guarantee instant revelation, but it does mean you move forward under the Spirit’s guidance. Follow by faith, even if you don’t feel a spiritual sensation. Obedience to what you know, may eventually answer what you don’t know. Choose God’s will and He will affirm His truth in your heart. You are a confidant of His will.

    "For the Lord detests the perversebut takes the upright into his confidence" (Proverbs 3:32).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I submit my will to Your will, so I can joyfully follow Your ways.

    Related Readings: Job 29:4; Psalm 111:10; Mark 3:35; Acts 18:21; Romans 12:1-2

    Post/Tweet today: Obedience to what you know, may eventually answer what you don’t know. #chooseGod’swill

    © 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

  • The Holy Land Key from Ray Bentley

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Family Christian

    Ray Bentley

    These Are the People the Prophets Saw

    The Holy Land Key is not a book that renews familiar debates over a prophetic time line or argues for or against a particular interpretation of John’s Revelation. We will not try to narrow down the most likely candidates for the Antichrist. It is important to read prophecy carefully, to handle its interpretation with great care, and to anchor all our conclusions in God’s Word, but we also want to explore some new territories in Scripture that have prophetic
    significance.

    In the chapters that follow, we will look at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective. We also will study what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations. We will look at the testimony of history, we will study the Jewish calendar and the biblical feasts, and we will even find startling insights based on research done by NASA on blood moons. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that we are without excuse if we fail to see God and His character in the signs that are clear in His creation. God has left signs for us in more places than we can imagine. It would be a mistake to ignore any of them.

    God’s Covenant with His Chosen People

    One of the clearest and most enduring signs is God’s unbroken relationship with the Jewish people. The people living today in the Holy Land are the people the ancient prophets saw in the end times. They are the descendants of Jesus’s family and of His disciples. They are living evidence of God’s plan to gather His people back to Israel after two thousand years of exile.

    Israel is a witness to the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that when we look at Israel, we are looking into the eyes of God. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. We will explore this further in the chapters that follow. We also will look at patterns throughout history that open our eyes to what the very near future holds. Some of the patterns that most clearly reveal God’s plans as well as His heart are found in the Hebrew calendar and the timing of the feasts of the Lord listed in Scripture. The significance of these Jewish holidays is far greater today than was the original purpose of each feast.

    Further, it has been revealed that the timing of the feasts—right down to the specific dates—coincides with repeated cycles of astronomical events and patterns. The full meaning of this correlation remains to be seen, but it is significant that God confirms the testimony of history, of the Scriptures, of religious observance, and of the signs He has put in the heavens. All these together point to the coming—and the return—of the promised Messiah. Ultimately, they point to Israel’s destiny and to the destiny of humanity. The Jews were given the predictions of the ancient prophets long before the Christians inherited those Scriptures along with the New Covenant of God’s Word. It is important to look carefully at the way Jews understand the written testimony of the Hebrew prophets. Familiar prophecies from thousands of years ago are being fulfilled today in Israel. It is no overstatement to say that God’s plan is being moved forward by committed Jews, and this, too, is a revelation to us. God called Israel the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). That never has changed, and when God looks at His chosen people today, He sees His plans unfolding at the end of this age. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. I will introduce you to modern-day Israelis who—no matter if they are Jewish or Gentile, Christian or otherwise—are answering the call of God on their lives. These current-day brothers and sisters of Jesus have much to show us of the ways and the heart of God.

    But the people of Israel and their work to restore the Holy Land is only a start. In addition, we will look at the signs of what God will bring to pass on earth. This includes a study of the heavens, the way time is recorded, and more. A  guiding principle here is to identify and learn from patterns that are repeated throughout Scripture and described in 1 Corinthians 15:46: “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” What God does in the natural realm is a picture of what He is doing in the spiritual realm. God reveals His plans and His future work, including what is in store at the end of the age, first in the natural world.

    Bringing Prophecy to Life

    Prophecy and its interpretation are a fascinating study. You can get lost in the words of God’s ancient messengers, studying their dreams and visions and seeking to piece together the larger picture. It is important to know what God has said through His prophets. However, we need to avoid the tendency to study prophecy with a sort of academic detachment that separates us emotionally—and spiritually—from the impact of what God is doing on earth. Prophecy is a biblical teaching to be lived out. We need to bring prophecy to life by connecting it to our lives and the lives of
    others.

    By getting to know people who live in the Holy Land (Jews, Christians, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians), we are drawn into more than just the facts of prophecy. We go beyond end-times theories and encounter the people who are involved in the fulfillment of prophecy. These descendants of Jesus are witnessing events He prophesied when He lived in the same land two thousand years ago.

    More and more, Christians are taking action by joining with God’s people of Israel. The Israelis witness daily what God is doing in their ancestral land. They are eyewitnesses to the unfolding of God’s work. You and I—and all people of  faith who join with Israel in an active way—are part of the prophetic story. A Jewish friend who helped me go much deeper in my study and understanding of prophecy opened my eyes to this truth.

    Ron Nachman, the mayor of a small Israeli city in the West Bank, took great risks to help rebuild Israel after the Jews started returning to their homeland after 1948. He read the Hebrew prophets and studied the ways their visions were becoming reality in the Holy Land—the land he was committed to help restore.

    Men such as Ron see the solidarity of Christians who work alongside Israelis as an important sign of prophecy being fulfilled. The people living in Israel are already on the scene of God’s culminating work on earth: the return of His Son to claim His own. As God brings this age to a close, Israelis are having their eyes opened to God’s dealings with humanity. It is not simply the building of a nation, protecting Israel against the enemies that surround it, or arguing the issues related to territory and boundaries as part of the so-called Palestinian question. All those are important,
    of course, but there is a growing sense that developments are taking place that transcend political, military, and nationalistic concerns. These are spiritual issues and spiritual concerns shared by Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike.

    For years we have seen the Arab-Israeli conflict dominate the headlines. As I was writing this book, Israel was criticized for sending aircraft into Syria to destroy missiles supplied by Iran and stored near Damascus. The missiles were said to have a two-hundred-mile range and were en route to Hezbollah fighters. Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, typically operates in Lebanon but also has joined the fighting in Syria’s civil war.1 Global tensions have focused in and around Israel since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948. Just about everything concerning Israel—even its
    right to exist—remains the focus of international debate in spite of decades of negotiations, wars, shifting boundaries, and treaties.

    What Are Israelis Hearing from God?

    Many of the signposts we have missed in our past study of prophecy come clearly into view only when we study Scripture in tandem with committed Israelis. How do the people of Israel read the signs of the times? What do they anticipate for the future as they face the hostility of enemies bent on their destruction?

    To study prophecy apart from the people who live in the Holy Land is similar to studying a road atlas and pretending you’ve visited the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Parks. Reading words on a page is only one of the steps in learning the deeper meaning of prophecy. The prophets delivered their prophecies to people who needed to have their eyes and hearts opened to God’s plans. None of this has changed since the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. God has not changed His plans, nor has He stopped speaking to His people—as we will see.

    Many of the people I am working with in Israel are hearing from God. He is opening the eyes of His people to the reality of His power, His involvement in world affairs, His never-ending love for His people, and His plans. He is setting things in order to bring about His kingdom on earth, just as His prophets foretold.

    In The Holy Land Key you will be introduced to contemporary Israelis—from national leaders to local leaders to ordinary citizens. You will begin to hear from God just as those in Israel hear from Him. Let’s start making introductions.


    Excerpted from The Holy Land Key by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie Copyright © 2014 by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie. 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, Ray Bentley

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