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Family Christian

  • All or Nothing from MIKESCHAIR

    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.

  • Hope for When You Feel Hard Pressed


    "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

  • Freedom In Christ


    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

  • The Ragamuffin Gospel from 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.

  • The Latest and Greatest

    Veggies in Space: The Fennel Frontier DVD
    Love Come to Life: The Redeemed Edition by Big Daddy Weave
    A Father’s Son DVD
    David Lomas Google Hangout - 3/13
    Son of God - in Theaters Now
  • The Right Order of Love


    "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV)

    "I just want a boy to like me," she said with a sigh.

    My heart understands her desire. As I sat around my kitchen table with my small group of high school girls, I realized again how some things never change.

    We all want to be wanted. Whether you're a girl wanting a date with the guy in math class or a woman hoping for an invitation to lunch with a friend, each one of us wants to be wanted. To know we matter. To be chosen.

    Wanting to be wanted is a good thing. It doesn't mean we're incredibly needy. It means we're normal. In fact, God created us with this desire. Here are two reasons:

    1) So we would want a relationship with Him.

    God created us for the sake of love. He has so much love to share and He wants a relationship with us. He chose us; now we choose Him.

    2) So we would want relationships with others.

    God also created us with the desire to share our lives with others, for friendships and family too.

    Things get tricky and difficult when we reverse the order of these desires, which we easily do.

    Whether we want to be loved by a boyfriend, a friend or a husband, when we go looking to "the one" to meet our needs before we fall in love with The One, we can get ourselves in a world of trouble.

    Today's key verse from Matthew confirms the importance of this order. In this passage, an expert in the law asked Jesus the most important commandment. Jesus answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:37-39).

    Jesus is clear on the order. The first command is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. Then we are to love others.

    God didn't intend for people to fill our hearts with love. In fact, they couldn't even if they tried! We aren't equipped to do a job that big, as God never wants another to take His proper place.

    When we love God with all we have first, our love expands, multiplies even, and we have more love to give to others. And that love is healthy because our hearts' needs are met by Him first.

    However, when we reverse God's order and seek the love of others before God, our love source and its purity diminishes. Then love can become self-focused and unhealthy because our own God-designed needs aren't met.

    God created a love gap in us only He can fill. When we try to love others out of our human love, we can run out of love. We begin looking to others instead of overflowing on others.

    God's order is best. Get filled by Him first. Spill over to others after that.

    Lord, it can be so much easier to look for love from those around me, those I can touch and see. Help me to keep love in order by first loving You with everything in me, and then allowing Your love to spill over on those around me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What negative effects can occur in our lives when our need to be wanted drives our actions?

    What positive effects occur when we love God first and others second?

    Power Verse: Deuteronomy 10:12, "And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, ..." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Active With God


    The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 1:43

    Jesus sought out Philip and found him. This is the heart of our Lord: to seek us out and to find us. He seeks us out in our sin to find us. He seeks us out in our success and failures to find us. He seeks us out at school and work to find us. He seeks us out in our singleness or in our marriage to find us. He seeks us out in new seasons of life to find us. He seeks us--even if, we haven’t sought Him. He came to seek and to save us, because He loves us. He seeks us, so we will seek Him.

    Like a loving shepherd looks for one lost sheep, our Lord comes after us with compassion. Like a focused woman searches her home for a misplaced piece of silver, God does what’s required to reach out and find us--His valuable possession. Like a loving father runs toward his repentant son, so our Savior meets us in our pain to minister His healing grace. Jesus finds us, so we will follow Him. He discovers us, so we will do something with Him. Disciples are active with God.

    “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

    What a privilege to follow the One who formed us in our mother’s womb and who formed the heavens and the earth. What a joy to join the One who rescued us from fighting for the devil, instead enlisting us to fight against the devil. Christ is our Commander-In-Chief from whom we take orders with an attitude of instant obedience. He is our Savior; we follow by faith. Christ is our model of character whom we seek to imitate with our actions. He’s our intimate friend with whom we commune.

    Time is short--so, be an active follower of Jesus. Your love for the Lord and people can’t sit still. Heavenly intentionality defines engaged disciples. Be occupied with Christ’s agenda upon His return. There are a variety of opportunities to partner with the Spirit’s work. Perhaps you serve at Celebrate Recovery. Volunteer at a woman’s shelter or girl’s home. Lead at a men’s retreat or boy’s club. Facilitate a new believer’s class at church or park cars. Yes, just as exercise benefits bodily function, so active faith flushes out your soul’s spiritual toxins. Stay active with God!

    “The same is true with faith. Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead” (James 2:17, The Voice).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your loving grace activates my faith to lovingly engage others on Your behalf.

    Related Readings: Ezekiel 35:12, 16; Matthew 7:21; Luke 15:3-31; Galatians 5:6; James 1:22

    Post/Tweet today: Jesus rescued us from fighting for the devil, instead enlisting us to fight against the devil. #activewithGod

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Peter Furler - Bringing 3-Piece Rock Back

    After 22 years as the main creative force behind Newsboys, followed by his 2011 solo success On Fire, Peter Furler could be excused if he'd decided to mellow out a bit or rest on his laurels. Instead, the writer behind 27 #1 radio singles has come back with one of the strongest albums of his career, Sun and Shield. Reteaming with longtime producer/lyricist Steve Taylor for the first time since Newsboys gold-certified Adoration album,Sun and Shield finds Furler & Band — featuring Dave Ghazarian (Superchick, Audio Adrenaline) on bass and Jeff Irizarry on drums — combining an ambitious collection of new songs with a more muscular, band-driven sound that harkens back to the glory days of Take Me To Your Leader. Sun and Shield is the sound of an artist at the peak of his creative powers.

    I recently had a one-on-one interview with Peter to discuss his new album, his family and what he's excited for.

    Dan:                Peter. New album, Sun and Sheild. Can you tell me a little about it?

    Peter:              Yeah, it's called Sun and Shield. It comes out March 11. Of course, you can get it at Family Christian. Dan's already had a little preview of it so we were talking about that earlier and really happy with it. I kind of went in to make a record that was three-piece rock. We set some limitations. These days you can go into a studio and you can fix a good performance or an average performance. We were just hoping to capture a great performance, as opposed to... Everyone's got their Instagram accounts and they can capture a good photo and put some filter on it. Or someone goes out and hunts for that right shot. So we were hunting for the right shot on this record, just trying to capture the moment, what happened there on the day and not having to embellish it with a lot of tracks and repairs and such, with software. I'm really happy with it. It's kind of a photo album for me when I hear certain tracks. I remember the day and the time recording it.

    Dan:                So the title is Sun and Shield and that's also the first single.  Can you tell us what that means to you and what the title and the track is about?

    Peter:              Well, it comes from the Psalm 84. It talks about God bestowing honor and glory, and that he doesn't withhold favor from us. And He is... There's times we need the sun. We need... It was actually talking about the times of battle, back when David was fighting battles. There was a time where they needed the sun, and there's obviously another time where they need the shield.  It's really just that.  That's what that was about. It's about hanging in there in our faith and moving forward, and getting rid of the clutter that holds us back, and traveling light, so to speak. The whole record is again, just another piece of the journey of our faith. And as a singer and a songwriter, just trying to express that, how I've experienced it.

    Dan:                Very cool. There are some familiar faces on the cover.  It isn't just Peter Furler.  It's Peter Furler and Band. Can you tell us about the new lineup?

    Peter:              When I finished up with the Newsboys I never really, at first I didn't know if I was going to make music again, but then the songs kept coming. So I put out a solo record which I never thought I would do. I never had any aspirations to be a solo guy. In fact, that scared me. When I did make that record, I put it out, and then I'd gone on tour with that record. As I was touring that record, I began to put together a band. Dave Ghazarian, formerly of Superchick and Audio Adrenaline, has been a great friend of mine for a long time, and he was playing in that band, and Jeff Irizarry who's been playing drums for me since I left the Newsboys.

    It just seemed natural. It was one of those natural things. It wasn't like a strategic marketing plan. It was like, we were just on the road touring, and I'd come to this record. It was like, man, I want to do this as a band, I want to do it as a three-piece. I want to keep it just simple and go back to reintroduce three-piece rock into CCM. We haven't seen or heard of that for a while. And again, uncluttered without the performance tracks and all that stuff. I didn't even plan that. It's not that there's anything wrong with that. That's up to somebody if they want to do that. But for us, it was like, man, this new generation of crew that are coming through, we need to show them that it can be done live and you can make a lot of sound with just three guys.

    Dan:                There's another familiar name on the album - Steve Taylor.  Can you talk a bit about the mystery there?

    Peter:              Steve and I, we obviously co-wrote all of the Newsboys songs, or most of them, together. He's been a collaborator with me for many years, a great friend. I just got off the phone from him. He says, "Hi." He's somebody that I've just always looked up to and admired his integrity. He was somebody that when I was making this record I knew I would need help and the right kind of help. I was working on a project with him. I'm also playing drums in Steve's band. We had been working on a record for a few years which is coming out later. It had John Painter and Jimmy Abegg in that band. I was the drummer in that band. We kind of moved from making that record to making the Peter Furler Band record. It was just natural, just cool things were happening, and we were making music just for the love of it. No record deal. No management. No anything, except just kind of wild ambition and just loving music. It's been a really cool time. I don't know what happens after this but that's not for me to worry about.

    Dan:                I saw Mylon LeFevre's name on the song “Yeshua.” How did you get to having him on the record and the connection there?

    Peter:              That took about 23 years, that one, because I married his daughter 23 years ago. Mylon, for those that don't know, should know, he's one of the pioneers of contemporary Christian music. He's been my father-in-law for 23 years. We've talked about making music together and doing things through the years. That was a song that actually my wife and I wrote together. It might have even been her idea. She might have said towards the end... We'd actually tracked most of the music on it, and I'd sung it, and it did feel like something wasn't quite finished. I had Phil Joel come in and sing some BGBs, and I'm like, we're still not where it should be yet. My wife might have suggested or I might have thought this is the ones to get Mylon on. So he came in. We sent the tracks down to Texas. He lives in Texas. And he sang on them there. And he really took it to a new place.  It's awesome to be able to sing with your father-in-law.

    Dan:                So what's the process like for you working on music?

    Peter:              Well, it's changed so much. It's kind of gone full circle in some ways. When we first started out, we had no budget. We were making records on probably the budget that mainstream acts had for catering. For us it was a, you had to really hone your chops, you had to really know all your tunes, and you'd have to go into the studio. I think our first record we made in 24 hours. We cut the ten songs; we mixed it; we did everything. And as time went on, technology helped us a little bit where you could track some stuff at home. Budgets got bigger for us as a band and as a group. But it did cost a lot to make records. Now, it's coming down to... we're sitting here chatting to each other, and people are watching in different parts of America. And it's like, I could be sitting here now recording a record on this laptop because that's where it's come. There's good and bad to that. I think the good for us is that we still want to limit ourselves. There's something really cool when artists have a limitation. The Beatles were a group that only had four tracks, or a couple tracks to record with when they first started so the song had to be great. We live in a day and age now where you can put a lot of lipstick on that piggy, you know what I mean?

    Dan:                Right.

    Peter:              So for us, we still want to keep within the limitations of working with not a ton of gear, but just the right gear and making sure the part is the right thing and the song is the right thing. I think in the future for us, I'd like to go back to that time of, not go back to the time, but go back to that process of writing the song in the change room and getting the lyric where you're satisfied, and getting the tune where you're satisfied, and the arrangement, and going in the studio and just knocking the song out in a day, and then releasing it, or something, doing something with it. You could do a record in 24 hours or something. It'd be fun to get back to that, put that challenge back.

    Dan:                When you are not hanging out in the bus and doing an interview with us, what keeps you busy?

    Peter:              I drive a lot. My wife and I bought an RV. People think I'm a bit crazy, but I do a lot of the driving. I enjoy that. Today I'm in a tour bus, because we had the weather up here so I just jumped on the bus. I kind of like it. It's different. That keeps me pretty occupied. I sleep at a lot of KOA campgrounds and Walmart Supercenters. But there's something about that that I like, in its season. Otherwise, you have  walk and have a look at the city you're in. I took a walk today down in Grand Rapids, had a look around and grabbed a coffee, and chat with friends, and maybe grab a guitar and practice; write some songs.

    Dan:                Are there any RV experiences of people getting mad or experience that you've had?

    Peter:              There's always -- the RV community is this huge subculture in America. In Australia, they call them skiers and that's they're spending their kids' inheritance. Here there's like a real... What I love about it is when you're in these communities, and I've had many experiences. People are really friendly. And they don't know who you are which is really cool. They don't know what you do. You're just some Aussie guy who happens to be in the RV next to them. They're more curious how much water can your RV hold or where did you get your LP gas from? What's the best stop up here?

    The other thing too is the simplicity of living, traveling light. When you're living in that environment, you're in a small space. You have to conserve your water, you have to conserve things, you have to be aware of the road ahead, or surviving that way. And these people are all kind of like that. Some of them have sold their houses. It's a real marriage connector because they're all these married couples and they're always, they’re really united. A lot of them have sold their houses and they're living in this RV and they're just traveling. They'll spend two months, when it's cold, down South, and then they'll head up North. They're continually on the move. They're very nomadic. There's something about that, they remind me maybe of some of the early Bible stories of people just looking for a home.

    Dan:                How did you make that transition to trying out that RV style, going from the lead of the Newsboys to driving around an RV?

    Peter:              I started the RV thing when I was in the Newsboys. We had done every form of travel. We started out in a beat-up old Dodge van, sleeping in that, no air conditioning, no heating, through Death Valley, CA, 110 degrees; to New York City- freezing. Then as you get more successful as a band, we moved to an RV then, and we'd all drive it ourselves. Then we moved up to a bus. Then we moved to several buses with drivers. Then we moved to our own plane. We kind of traveled just about every way you could as far as touring goes. For me, after doing it for so long so many ways, I just had this idea... I don't know really where it came from... but just to spend more time really with my wife. I just saw the future and I saw that someday the Newsboys will pass. But my relationship with my wife and building memories with her, that's what's going to have to last and last well.

    So while I was sitting on a tour bus, I was online and looking at RV traders and trying to find an RV.  We got back after one tour and I bought an RV. Everyone thought I was just crazy. The band thought I was crazy. The management thought I was crazy. I am crazy. So I bought this RV and I drove it. I did about 40,000 miles in that one. And we just loved it. We were having the greatest time. Then I bought another one and did about 70,000, so I did about 110,000 miles. And in that time, that's really probably where I began to learn to simplify. My wife and I, here we are, we're living in this RV, in this little space, conserving water, living just kind of day to day. You can't store a lot of things on it. And it really changed our lives. So we went back from that and we began - we really felt the Lord telling us to simplify. So we did. We began to pull out everything out of our lives that was pulling us, as opposed to... We want to be led by spirit of God but we were getting pulled in directions. And sometimes we're pulled in directions because of finances or because of ambition, or ideas we get where we were pulled in directions because of the culture. So for me, it was, we just wanted to cut some ties. It's not that they were all bad ties or all bad things. There were some great times and great memories. No regrets. But for us, now that's how we live. I have one pair of shoes, man, and I like it. That's all I have to take care of.

    Dan:                That sounds good.

    Peter:              It is good. It might not be for... I don't know if it's for everybody. I'm not anybody's judge. You know, I look at people... That's one thing the Lord's really showed me lately. Judge not lest you be judged. I've seen that happen in my life. I've seen it in others. You see people that are really critical of other people. They judge them. Something... There's just a law that operates where something happens that all of a sudden the judgment gets turned on them and so I think that's a good Scripture as one of your life scriptures. For me it is. I'm not saying what we do is for everybody. Every household has to work out its own gig.

    Dan:                Absolutely. And Peter, in closing, I want to thank you for your time. We absolutely love the new album and we can't wait for more people to hear is. So before we close, is there anything that you would like to say about the record or anything before we say goodbye?

    Peter:              Just thanks to Family Christian, thanks for taking my music and getting it to people and fair enough, I encourage people to support you guys. It's awesome. It’s work. I'm so thankful for my life that I get to do what I love to do. And I hope that for everybody, watching and listening, that you're doing what you love to do. So that's it. Best wishes to everybody. And Family Christian, thank you. I don't take it lightly. It's a big deal that you take my music and you get it to the people. That's a message that I feel to encourage people to lift them up.  And when they hear music, they feel inspired. And you pour your heart into this music. It's so funny. You can go and buy a cup of coffee and a bran muffin, it costs you $7 now, and a CD that costs... that bran muffin and coffee probably cost $.50 to make and some dude made it in 30 minutes. Where a record you pour your heart and your life into it and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and you sell that for 10 bucks. That's a good deal. So I do appreciate you getting the music out. It means a lot to us. Thank you.

    Dan:                We're glad to do it. So thanks for taking the time today.

    Peter:              Cheers, mate, you're a good man.

    Check out Peter's new album by clicking here.

  • Redeeming Love from Francine Rivers


    NEW ENGLAND, 1835

    Alex Stafford was just like Mama said. He was tall and dark, and Sarah had never seen anyone so beautiful. Even dressed in dusty riding clothes, his hair damp with perspiration, he was like the princes in the stories Mama read. Sarah’s heart beat with wild joy and pride. None of the other fathers she saw at Mass compared to him.

    He looked at her with his dark eyes, and her heart sang. She was wearing her best blue frock and white pinafore, and Mama had braided her hair with pink and blue ribbons. Did Papa like the way she looked? Mama said blue was his favorite color, but why didn’t he smile? Was she fidgeting? Mama said to stand straight and still and act like a lady. She said he would like that. But he didn’t look pleased at all.

    “Isn’t she beautiful, Alex?” Mama said. Her voice sounded strange…tight, like she was choking. “Isn’t she the most beautiful little girl you’ve ever seen?”

    Sarah watched Papa’s dark eyes frown. He didn’t look happy. He looked angry. Like Mama looked sometimes when Sarah talked too much or asked too many questions.


    “Just a few minutes,” Mama said quickly. Too quickly. Was she afraid? But why? “That’s all I’m asking, Alex. Please. It would mean so much to her.” Alex Stafford stared down at Sarah. His mouth was pressed tight, and he studied her silently. Sarah stood as still as she could. She’d stared at herself in the mirror so long this morning, she knew what he would see. She had her father’s chin and nose, and her mother’s blonde hair and fair skin. Her eyes were like her mother’s, too, although they were even more blue. Sarah wanted Papa to think she was pretty, and she gazed up at him hopefully. But the look in his eyes was not a nice one.

    “Did you pick blue on purpose, Mae?” Papa’s words startled Sarah. They were cold and angry. “Because it brings out the color of her eyes?”

    Sarah couldn’t help it, she glanced at her mother—and her heart fell. Mama’s face was filled with hurt.

    Alex glanced toward the foyer. “Cleo!”

    “She’s not here,” Mama said quietly, keeping her head high. “I gave her the day off.”

    Papa’s eyes seemed to get even darker. “Did you? Well, that leaves you in a fix, doesn’t it, darling?”

    Mama stiffened, then bit her lip and glanced down at Sarah. What was wrong? Sarah wondered sadly. Wasn’t Papa happy to see her? She had been so excited that she was actually going to be with him at last, even for a little while.…

    “What would you have me do?” Mama’s words were directed at Papa, so Sarah stayed silent, still hoping.

    “Send her away. She knows how to find Cleo, I would imagine.”

    Pink spots appeared on Mama’s cheeks. “Meaning what, Alex? That I entertain others in your absence?”

    Sarah’s smile fell in confusion. They spoke so coldly to one another. Neither looked at her. Had they forgotten she was there? What was wrong? Mama was distraught. Why was Papa so angry about Cleo not being home? Chewing her lip, Sarah looked between them. Stepping closer, she tugged on her father’s coat. “Papa…”

    “Don’t call me that.”

    She blinked, frightened and confused by his manner. He was her papa. Mama said so. He even brought her presents every time he came. Mama gave them to her. Maybe he was angry that she had never thanked him. “I want to thank you for the presents you—”

    “Hush, Sarah,” her mother said quickly. “Not now, darling.”

    Papa flashed Mama a thunderous look. “Let her speak. It’s what you wanted, isn’t it? Why are you shushing her now, Mae?”

    Mama stepped closer and put her hand on Sarah’s shoulder. Sarah could feel Mama’s fingers trembling, but Papa bent toward her now, smiling. “What presents?” he said.

    He was so handsome, just like Mama said. She was proud to have a father like him.

    “Tell me, little one.”

    “I always like the candies you bring me,” Sarah said, feeling warm and proud beneath his attention. “They are very nice. But best of everything, I love the crystal swan.”

    She smiled again, glowing with joy that Papa listened to her so carefully. He even smiled, though Sarah wasn’t sure she liked his smile. It was small and tight.

    “Indeed,” he said and straightened. He looked at Mama. “I’m so pleased to know how much my gifts mean.”

    Sarah looked up at her father, thrilled at his approval. “I put it on my windowsill. The sun shines through it and makes colors dance on the wall. Would you like to come and see?” She took his hand. When he jerked away, she blinked, hurt, not understanding.

    Mama bit her lip and reached out a hand toward Papa, then stopped suddenly. She looked afraid again. Sarah looked from one parent to the other, struggling to understand. What had she done wrong? Wasn’t Papa pleased that she liked his presents?

    “So you pass on my gifts to the child,” Papa said. “It’s good to know what they mean to you.”

    Sarah bit her lip at the coldness in Papa’s voice, but before she could speak, Mama touched her shoulder gently. “Darling, be a good girl and go outside and play now.”

    Sarah looked up, distressed. Had she done something wrong? “Can’t I stay? I’ll be very quiet.” Mama couldn’t seem to say more. Her eyes were moist and she looked at Papa.

    Alex bent down to Sarah. “I want you to go outside and play,” he said quietly. “I want to talk to your mother alone.” He smiled and patted her cheek.

    Sarah smiled, utterly enchanted. Papa had touched her; he wasn’t angry at all. He loved her! Just as Mama said. “Can I come back when you’re done talking?”

    Papa straightened stiffly. “Your mother will come and get you when she’s ready. Now, run along as you’ve been told.”

    “Yes, Papa.” Sarah wanted to stay, but she wanted to please her father more. She went out of the parlor, skipping through the kitchen to the back door. She picked a few daisies that grew in the garden patch by the door and then headed for the rose trellis. She plucked the petals. “He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, he loves me not.…” She hushed as she came around the corner. She didn’t want to disturb Mama and Papa. She just wanted to be close to them.

    Sarah dreamed contentedly. Maybe Papa would put her up on his shoulders. She wondered if he would take her for a ride on his big black horse.

    She would have to change her dress, of course. He wouldn’t want her to soil it. She wished he had let her sit on his lap while he talked to Mama. She would have liked that very much, and she would have been no bother. The parlor window was open, and she could hear voices. Mama loved the smell of roses to fill the parlor. Sarah wanted to sit and listen to her parents. That way she would know just when Papa wanted her to come back again. If she was very quiet, she wouldn’t disturb them, and all Mama would have to do was lean out and call her name.

    “What was I to do, Alex? You’ve never spent so much as a minute with her. What was I to tell her? That her father doesn’t care? That he wishes she had never even been born?”

    Sarah’s lips parted. Deny it, Papa! Deny it!

    “I brought that swan back from Europe for you, and you throw it away on a child who has no appreciation for its value. Did you give her the pearls as well? What about the music box? I suppose she got that, too!”

    The daisies fluttered from Sarah’s hand. She sat down on the ground, careless of her pretty dress. Her heart slowed from its wild, happy beat. Everything inside her seemed to spiral downward with each word.

    “Alex, please. I didn’t see any harm in it. It made it easier. She asked me this morning if she was old enough yet to meet you. She asks me every time she knows you’re coming. How could I say no to her again? I didn’t have the heart. She doesn’t understand your neglect, and neither do I.”

    “You know how I feel about her.”

    “How can you say how you feel? You don’t even know her. She’s a beautiful child, Alex. She’s quick and charming and she isn’t afraid of anything. She’s like you in so many ways. She’s someone, Alex. You can’t ignore her existence forever. She’s your daughter.…”

    “I have enough children by my wife. Legitimate children. I told you I didn’t want another.”

    “How can you say that? How can you not love your own flesh and blood?”

    “I told you how I felt from the beginning, but you wouldn’t listen. She should never have been born, Mae, but you insisted on having your own way.”

    “Do you think I wanted to get pregnant? Do you think I planned to have her?”

    “I’ve often wondered. Especially when I arranged a way out of the situation for you and you refused. The doctor I sent you to would have taken care of the whole mess. He would’ve gotten rid—”

    “I couldn’t do it. How could you expect me to kill my unborn child? Don’t you understand? It’s a mortal sin.”

    “You’ve spent too much time in church,” he said derisively. “Have you ever thought that you wouldn’t have the problems you do now if you had gotten rid of her the way I told you. It would’ve been easy. But you ran out.”

    “I wanted her!” Mama said brokenly. “She was part of you, Alex, and part of me. I wanted her even if you didn’t.…”

    “Is that the real reason?”

    “You’re hurting me, Alex!”

    Sarah flinched as something shattered. “Is that the real reason, Mae? Or did you have her because you thought bearing my child would give you a hold over me you otherwise lacked?”

    “You can’t believe that!” Mama was crying now. “You do, don’t you? You’re a fool, Alex. Oh, what have I done? I gave up everything for you! My family, my friends, my self-respect, everything I believed in, every hope I ever had.…”

    “I bought you this cottage. I give you all the money you could possibly need.”

    Mama’s voice rose strangely. “Do you know what it’s like for me to walk down the street in this town? You come and go when and as you please. And they know who you are, and they know what I am. No one looks at me. No one speaks to me. Sarah feels it, too. She asked me about it once, and I told her we were different from other people. I didn’t know what else to say.” Her voice broke. “I’ll probably go to hell for what I’ve become.”

    “I’m sick of your guilt and I’m sick of hearing about that child. She’s ruining everything between us. Do you remember how happy we were? We never argued. I couldn’t wait to come to you, to be with you.”


    “And how much time do I have left with you today? Enough? You’ve used it up on her. I told you what would happen, didn’t I? I wish she had never been born!”

    Mama cried out a terrible name. There was a crash. Terrified, Sarah got up and ran. She raced through Mama’s flowers and across the lawn and onto the pathway to the springhouse. She ran until she couldn’t run anymore. Gasping, her sides burning, she dropped into the tall grass, her shoulders heaving with sobs, her face streaked with tears. She heard a horse galloping toward her. Scrambling for a better hiding place in the vines about the creek, she peered out and saw her father ride by on his great black horse. Ducking down, she huddled there, crying, and waited for Mama to come fetch her.

    From the Trade Paperback edition.

    Excerpted from Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers Copyright © 2005 by Francine Rivers. 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.

  • Meet the Duggars

    Growing up Duggar by Jana, Jessa, Jill and Jinger Duggar Meet the Duggars Thursday, March 13, at our Alexandria store Growing up Duggar by Jana, Jessa, Jill and Jinger Duggar

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