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Tag Archives: Featured

  • The God of the Dark

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by John van der Veen

    Close your eyes for a second. Well, close your mind's eye. Think back at all the beautiful moments you have seen throughout your life. Some of us may have less than others and that's ok. Just bring some of them back.

    Perhaps you were standing on the edge of the crashing waves on the Pacific Ocean. Others may have experienced the rocks of Zion National Park. Some have lain on a grassy plains in the middle of Nebraska and have been in awe of such a grand land. Perhaps you have enjoyed the peacefulness of a bubbling brook along the Appalachian Trail. It doesn't matter where you have been in life, I am fairly certain that each one of us has been able to capture a moment when beauty was lit up for us.

    There we stood. In amazement as the God of the universe was showing His handiwork. In moments like those, it's almost as if our breath is knocked out of us. Such beauty. Such glorious artwork in the creation. How do we behold such artistry?

    Now picture those places in the middle of the night. The ocean waves still crash against those rocks at 1 AM. Don't they? The majesty of mountains, plains, brooks are all still there in the darkest part of the night.

    Who enjoys those times? God could have given His creation a break in those hours when no one is looking. The ocean could rest. The brook wouldn't have to bubble up. You see what I mean. Why is all the beauty of God's creation that is visible during the day is still there in the darkest hour?

    Perhaps the intent is to remind us of something.

    There are moments in all our lives when we face dark times. The doctor shares bad news with us. We lose our jobs unexpectedly. We discover that our closest friend is actually not as close as we thought. Life is hard. It's not all sunny. It's not all roses. There are dark times.

    And yet, God never leaves us, does He? For even when we don't see Him, we hear Him. Even when we don't believe He is close, He is there. Those dark moments in life, yes, He is still there. Right with us. Just like a crashing wave at 1 AM. We may not see it, but it's still there. We may not see the vastness of the plains of Nebraska in the darkness of night, but they are still there. Reminding us that God is the God of the light and the God of the dark.

    “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4)


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion and was tagged with Featured, Psalm

  • The Letter Black - Up From the Ashes

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by John van der Veen

    Have you heard the new album from The Letter Black yet?  Continuing on sonic strength of their previous albums, Breaking the Silence and Hanging By a Thread, their new release Rebuild, proves to be just as strong.

    Rebuild is produced by former RED guitarist Jasen Rauch and mixed by David Bendeth, It is a full of energy-infused, hard-hitting collection of songs.

    Check out their new single, Up from the Ashes, here.

    What do you think?


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, RED, The Letter Black

  • What God is Teaching Me - Ernie Haase

    Posted on February 3, 2014 by John van der Veen

    I recently sat down with Ernie Haase from Signature Sound and asked him a single question, "what is God teaching you now?"

    Now if you know anything about Ernie, you will know that he is a fun loving man. Not only is he a great singer in one of America's top southern Gospel quartets, but he is a husband, a father and practically a stand-up comedian. At first blush, I thought that Ernie would answer this in a really simple way. Or tell an elaborate joke first.

    Neither. He simply answer the question is a honest way. A real way.

    Ernie: It's very, very simple.

    Be still, just be still.

    There could be 100 amazing things good that happen at a concert and I'll go back and lay in my bunk on the bus and stress and fret over the one thing that didn't go right.

    Now I know that at this point in my life I know that I have ever been in control. God's always been in control, steering me. So I'm just going to relax and enjoy the trip. I'm just going to be still and enjoy the moment.

    So what about you? What has God been teaching you lately?


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Signature Sound, Ernie Haase

  • Praying For Your Husband From Head To Toe from Sharon Jaynes

    Posted on February 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    Sharon Jaynes

    The Power and Purpose of Prayer

    I can still remember being sequestered in the “bride’s room” of our church just moments before the organist began to play for the early arrivals. As I sat in front of an oversized gilded mirror, trying not to wrinkle my dress, I daydreamed about the man who would become my husband by day’s end. He was everything I had ever hoped for: handsome,
    smart, ambitious, and strong. And most important, he had a deeply intimate relationship with Jesus.

    My delicate white gown fit snugly around my upper frame, and a flowing satin train trailed behind. A veil rested on a nearby table, ready to be positioned on my head. My bouquet of white roses stood at attention, waiting to be placed in my hands. The most important people in my life gathered in the sanctuary to witness the “I do’s.”

    Yes, this was a good day.

    As I stared at my reflection, my heart so full of hope and promise, an unwelcome thought interrupted my musing. Doesn’t every woman feel this way on her wedding day? What could go so terribly wrong that such a high percentage of marriages end in divorce? Am I fooling myself ? Am I that much different from the thousands who have walked the aisle before me?

    I decided right then and there that I would do everything in my power to make my marriage a success. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the words in my power were a problem. “My power” was not enough.

    Fairy tales always end with the words “And they lived happily ever after.” But if we could read the epilogue to those rides off into the sunset, we’d most likely find daily struggles, potentially divisive decisions, and angry arguments sprinkled throughout. Fairy tales stop short of telling us about tension over whose turn it is to wash the dishes, pay the bills, or put the kids to bed. They leave out the part about stress over holidays with in-laws, frequency of intimacy, and who gets to spend what when. We naively repeat the words “for better or for worse” and then are shocked when the first hint of “worse” rears its ugly head.

    Prayer Can Change Everything

    If you’ve been married for more than a few days, then you have most likely figured out that the blessed union doesn’t stay so blessed without a lot of work. And I dare say, the most important “work” we can do as wives is on our knees. The psalmist wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain” (Psalm 127:1). Only God can truly protect your marriage and your man. And He invites you to participate in the unleashing of His power by praying for your husband and turning the key to the storehouse of heaven’s door for blessings outpoured. Louise saw this happen with her husband, Allan, in a miraculous way.

    Allan was a tough man. Raised by a single mom with five siblings during the Depression in the early 1930s, Allan learned how to scrap his way through life and climb to the top of humanity’s heap through sheer determination and grit. He married at nineteen, had his first son at twenty, then a baby girl at twenty-five. Over the next two decades he
    advanced from driving a delivery truck at a lumberyard to becoming part owner and president of a building supply company in eastern North Carolina.

    Allan drank heavily, fought with his wife physically, and terrorized his children emotionally. He gambled, dabbled in pornography, and had questionable relationships laced with a host of unsavory vices. But when his teenage daughter became a Christian and began praying for her family, God grabbed the chisel of grace and began chipping away at Allan’s proud heart of stone. Three years after his daughter’s decision to follow Christ, his wife, Louise, became a believer as well. His wife, his daughter, and a host of other prayer warriors began interceding with God on Allan’s
    behalf.

    When Allan was forty-six years old, his life took several hairpin twists and troublesome turns. Because of a business deal gone terribly wrong, he was sued for breach of contract for breaking a noncompete clause with a former employer. Fearing exposure in court and, more important, in his small community, Allan teetered on the brink of a
    nervous breakdown. From man’s perspective, it appeared he was on the verge of losing it all. From God’s perspective, Allan was right where he needed to be.

    One day, in a surge of panic, Allan drove home from work, only to remember his wife was at a meeting in Pennsylvania. He got back in his car and drove five hundred miles to try and find her. As he drove into the town where he expected to find his wife, he passed a church. Immediately, Allan made a U-turn, parked his car, and ran inside the ornate building.

    “Excuse me, ma’am,” he said with tears in his eyes. “I need someone to pray for me. Is the preacher available? I need help.” “I’m sorry, sir,” the church receptionist said. “He’s not in, but I know a man who can help you. Here,” she said as she sketched out directions on a scrap of paper. “The pastor of the Baptist church down the street is out doing some construction work on their new church building. Why don’t you drive on over there? I bet he can help you.”

    So Allan got back in his car, followed the receptionist’s crude map, and found the country preacher out in the woods working on his church. With a hammer in his hand and Jesus in his heart, the pastor turned to Allan and asked, “What can I do for you?”

    “I need you to pray for me,” Allan explained as tears ran down his weathered cheeks.

    “Let’s sit down on this log while you tell me what’s going on.” For several hours Allan sat with a fellow builder and told him all he had ever done. When he had finished his confession, the pastor put his arm around this broken man and said, “Now, Allan, let me tell you what I’ve done.”

    The way Allan later explained it, “I told this man everything I had ever done. Then he told me he had done the very same things. And I knew if God could forgive him, and he could be a preacher, then God could forgive me too.”

    Allan knelt in the woods of Pennsylvania with angels hovering low. Heaven’s host celebrated as he gave his heart to Christ and made Jesus the Lord of his life. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” But for me, this is more than a sweet story. It is a miraculous memory. Allan was my dad.

    From my earliest years as a Christian, I experienced the power of prayer to change a man’s life—to strengthen a man’s resolve, to protect a man’s heart, and to mature a man’s faith. My firsthand encounter with God’s faithfulness to hear our pleas began with my father and continues today as I witness it in the lives of my husband, my son, and a host of husbands whose wives call out to God in prayer.

    As a wife, you have the power to open the floodgates of heaven through prayer on your husband’s behalf. Whether your husband hasn’t yet decided to follow Christ, has a lukewarm fledgling faith, or lives a fiery firm faith, there is no one more qualified to pray for his relationship with Christ than you. No matter where your husband is on the continuum of faithlessness to faithfulness, I encourage you to pray with “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, nasb).

    Before we jump into praying for our husbands, let’s take a look at your position as a prayer warrior, the power and purpose of intercession, and the promises of persistent prayer.

    We’ll begin by looking at the first married couple ever: Adam and Eve.

    Then God Created an Ezer

    “In the beginning…”

    Those three little words are pregnant with anticipation, and God does not disappoint. Genesis 1:1 tells us, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” God said, “Let there be,” and there was. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). God decorated the sky with the sun, moon, and stars, separated the seas from the land, scattered seed of every kind in the soil, and released flocks of birds into the sky, swarms of insects into the air, and schools of fish into the sea. On the sixth day, God created
    all the creeping animals. And He wrapped up His work with a masterful flourish. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). Then, as if the writer really wanted us to fully grasp what transpired during the first week of the earth’s existence, he picked up his pen and told the story again. In Genesis 2:4, he starts over: “This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.”

    This time when the writer got to the part about God creating man, he interjected God’s musing after He formed Adam and breathed the breath of life into his lungs. God sat back, considered the lone male, and decided, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This is where you come in.

    “I will make a helper suitable for him,” God declared. So God set out to fashion His final masterpiece. The crowning touch of His creation. Woman.

    Up to this point in the creation account, we have no recorded words from Adam. However, when he laid eyes on the fair Eve, I imagine he said, “Now this is good!” His exact words were, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man” (Genesis 2:23). Woman—the inspiration of man’s first poetry and the grand finale of God’s creative genius.

    Let’s back up, replay the scene, and take a look at one particular word God used in the creation account. God said, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The Hebrew word translated here as “helper” in reference to the woman is ezer. This term is derived from a Hebrew word used of God and the Holy Spirit: azar. Both mean “helper”—one who comes alongside to aid, assist, or rescue. The ESV Study Bible notes that the “helper” is one who supplies strength in the area that is lacking in “the helped.”

    Ezer appears twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Two times it is used of the woman in Genesis 2, and sixteen times it is used to describe God or Yahweh as the helper of His people. The remaining three references appear in the books of the prophets, referring to military aid. Interestingly the sixteen times the word ezer is used of God, it also carries military connotations. “O Lord, be my helper,” David cried (Psalm 30:10, nasb). “My father’s God was my helper; he saved me from the sword of Pharaoh,” Moses proclaimed (Exodus 18:4). Clearly, the word ezer suggests a role of great honor. It is a portrait of great strength. Theologian William Mounce painted a poignant picture:
    With so many references to God as our helper, it is obvious that an ezer is in no way inferior to the one who receives help. This is important because this is the word that God uses in Gen. 2:18, when he says about Adam, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God then forms Eve as his ezer. According to God’s design, therefore, the man and the woman, the husband and the wife, have been designed by God to stand together and help each other fight the battles of life. And God is there as the divine ezer to fight with them.1

    I was surprised to discover that even the Proverbs 31 woman, the model for godly wives and mothers through the centuries, was also referred to in military terms. “An excellent wife, who can find?” the passage begins. “Her worth is far above jewels” (Proverbs 31:10, nasb). The New International Version calls her “a wife of noble character.” The Amplified Bible describes her as “a capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman.” The Hebrew word that is translated “excellent” or “virtuous” can also mean “wealthy, prosperous, valiant, boldly courageous, powerful, mighty warrior.”
    2 Did you catch that? Mighty warrior.

    In my book What God Really Thinks About Women, I noted the following:

    God did not create woman simply because man was lonely.… He [fashioned] woman to complete man—to love with him, work with him, rule with him, live life with him, procreate with him, and to fight alongside him. She was a female image bearer in this mysterious union of marriage. Woman was and is a warrior called to fight alongside man in the greatest battle that was yet to come—a battle not fought on the battlefield with guns, but on our knees in prayer.3

    I’m not suggesting you replace your jeans with battle fatigues and your cute shoes with army boots. But I am suggesting that God has given you an amazing role as a prayer warrior on your husband’s behalf. The apostle Paul urges believers to enter into spiritual battle armed and ready with the Word of God.

    Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions.… Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10–18) A spiritual battle is going on all around us, and Paul urges us to be prepared, spiritually armed and physically alert. He emphasizes this again
    in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish
    strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3–4).

    While we don’t have authority over our husbands, we do have authority over the Enemy who seeks to harm him (Luke 10:19). Through prayer, the Enemy’s plans are intercepted; the principalities and authorities are defeated. Through prayer, the power and provision of God flow into the lives of His people.

    Paul tells us that marriage between a woman and a man is an earthly example of a heavenly relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:22–33). So of course the devil, Satan, wants to destroy that microcosmic snapshot. He began with the first couple in the Garden of Eden, and he continues his all-out assault on the God-ordained institution of marriage today. The words of Genesis 3:1, “Now the serpent,” continue to slither into marriages just as surely as they did with the first couple of all time.

    But here’s the good news. Jesus said, “But take heart! I have overcome the world” ( John 16:33). Not only that, Jesus said He has given you power and authority to “overcome all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19). “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). You are an ezer, uniquely fashioned and supernaturally
    equipped to do battle on your knees in prayer for your marriage and your man.

    The Purpose of Prayer

    “Well, I guess the only thing left to do is pray about it.” How many times have I heard those words? How many times have they slipped past my lips? But what if we looked at prayer from a different perspective…God’s perspective? What if we viewed prayer as our first course of action rather than a last resort?

    The vast majority of the e-mails I receive through my ministry center on marriage problems. Women struggle with husbands who aren’t living up to their expectations: men who work too much and love too little, men who withdraw emotionally and advance sexually, men who initially appear to be Prince Charming but later reveal the villain within.

    Some wives describe their husbands as hardhearted, meanspirited, and verbally combative. Others complain that their husbands are aloof, passive, and emotionally withdrawn. Perhaps your man fits one of those descriptions.

    On the other hand, perhaps you have an adoring husband who cherishes you, cares for you, and encourages you to be all that God has created you to be. Praise God for such a man!

    Regardless of where your man or your marriage falls on the continuum of terrific to tolerable to terrible, there is always room for improvement. Prayer can make a bad marriage good and a good marriage great. Before we start, I want to make this very clear: Prayer is not a means of gaining control over your husband, to whip him into shape and make him the man you want him to be. Prayer is a means of relinquishing control of your husband and asking God to shape him into the man that He wants him to be. Prayer involves turning the finger that points out your man’s faults and folding it along with the others in prayer.

    The Bible tells us in Isaiah 29:16, “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘He did not make me’? Can the pot say of the potter, ‘He knows nothing’?”

    God is the Master Potter, and He certainly doesn’t need you or me to tell Him how to shape and mold that marvelous piece of pottery called husband. Oh, we’d like to. That’s for sure. But God’s ultimate goal is for that lump of clay to be fashioned according to His design and for His purposes, not ours. “We are the clay, you are the potter,” Isaiah writes,
    “we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). I am. You are. Your husband is.

    God shapes and molds. You pray and intercede. James warns about the danger of praying with wrong motives ( James 4:3). Check your desire to control at the door of the prayer closet and don’t let it in.

    Prayer is not for the purpose of getting your husband to do what you want him to do when you want him to do it. Let me take that a bit further. Prayer is not for the purpose of getting God to do what you want Him to do when you want Him to do it. It is not for twisting God’s arm to convince Him to do your bidding. He already has your best interests in mind. He already has your husband’s best interests in mind. Amazingly, He invites you to play a part in the miracle of making your husband into the man He created him to be. Your role is not to nag, manipulate, cajole, or control. Your part is to love him and pray for him. And as you pray, God aligns your desires with His desires, your thinking with His thinking, and your heart with His heart.

    God is not hoarding His blessings, waiting for us to say the right words to pry those blessings out of His stingy hand. He longs to lavish us with His goodness! (Ephesians 1:7–8). And yet He often waits for us to ask. I am not saying I understand it. Prayer is simply how He chose to engineer the flow of His power and activity from the spiritual realm into the physical realm. Prayer is the conduit through which God’s power is released and His will is brought to earth as it is in heaven.

    It is not that God cannot act without the prayers of His people. He can do anything He pleases (Psalm 115:3). However, He has established prayer as the gate through which His blessings flow. James reminds us: “You do not have, because you do not ask” ( James 4:2).

    Ezekiel gives us a glimpse into the heart of God regarding prayer.

    Israel had sinned in every possible way, and her people were doomed for destruction. God said, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). God looked for someone to pray, to intercede, to stand in the gap for Israel, but there was no one.

    Today God is looking for women who will stand in the gap for their husbands, wives who will pray for their men to experience the fullness of God’s blessing. I’m so glad He has found such a woman in you.


    Excerpted from Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Jaynes. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Prayer, Sharon Jaynes

  • Blog Summary for January 2014

    Posted on February 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of January.

    MercyMe's Shake - Q&A

    MercyMe's new album, Welcome to the New releases later this year. Their first single from the album, Shake, hit stations already and is climbing the charts.

    We thought we would ask a few questions about Shake and their new album.

    Your new song, Shake, is a bit of different path for traditional MercyMe singles. What is the inspiration behind the song?

    Read the full q&a by clicking here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    Lecrae, how much was music or the arts part of your life growing up? Did you realize early on that there was some talent in your life, or did that come later?

    "Absolutely. I was a latchkey kid so I would sit at home for hours while my mother was at work. I had to use my imagination. I’d sit in front of the television so much. Sometimes she would allow me to watch television and she would come home to see if it was warm so I had to figure out what I could do with my time. It just became an outlet to start writing, experimenting, and just trying to be creative. I knew I had a passion for the arts, but we didn’t recognize it. It was one of my fifth-grade teachers who recognized it and suggested to my mother that I be put in a special class. That special class led me to audition for a special school so I actually went to a performing arts middle school for a couple years. That’s really where I started to hone my writing skills."

    Read the full interview here.

    Free Wallpaper for Your Mobile, Tablet or Computer

    February is also a month for love. We would be amiss if we didn't mention Valentines Day and what that stands for. As followers of Jesus, Valentines Day is much more than a once-in-three-hundred-sixty-five-days type of holiday. For we have been loved well, so we are compelled to do the same to all around us. AND not just on one day, but every day.

    Look below for some free wallpaper to decorate your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. These are completely free to download. Just right click on the size that you need and you will be all set. To find out which size you need, click here.

    Both images are taking from our Coupon Calendars that we sell online and in our stores. Click here to find the Growth in Faith Calendar and the He Refreshes My Soul Calendar.

    See the whole selection of sizes here.

    What if the Trouble Is in Me?

    "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b (NIV)

    When Barry and I were first married I came up with a nickname for him: "Velcro-Boy."

    He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

    If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

    "I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

    I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

    I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

    Read this whole devotional from Sheila Walsh here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us. Read the full blog post here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
    physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
    enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
    rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
    there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
    style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
    history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says.
    “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in
    the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole
    would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.


    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Read the full interview here.

    Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Michael, what do you think that the lack of family type of entertainment has done to the family unit, you know, the idea of sitting down and all watching stuff together on a regular basis? What do you think that that causes in a family dynamic?

    "It's hard to probably calculate exactly what the repercussions are. I can't imagine it not having some detrimental effect to the family. I mean, technology is amazing, the way we use it, the way we can quickly disseminate information back and forth between each other. But at the same time, obviously, there is this fragmented aspect of being together, where everybody is in the same room and yet not really present with each other. They're on their phone and tweeting, or emailing or texting their friends. It's definitely breaking down the family unit in a way. It doesn't allow for intimacy to really grab hold of families. And also, I can't imagine that the increased and different content isn't breaking down the family unit as well. It clearly is. The messaging that's coming out of a lot of these shows sometimes is sexually promiscuous or shows a lack of respect for authority whether it be for parents or teachers or whoever. I mean, these are messages that our children are being bombarded with constantly--no holds barred. It seems nothing is really off limits. If you advocate limits, then you're against freedom of speech. It's always spun off in a very kind of negative tone."

    Read the full interview here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith. Sheila shares insightful biblical teaching, intimate stories of her own storms and the chaos other women have faced and overcome.

    Read the full blog post and watch a video from Sheila here.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    As a high-school athlete, Phil was All-State in football, baseball, and track which afforded him the opportunity to attend Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship. There he played first string quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw. Phil's been quoted as saying "Terry went for the bucks, and I chased after the ducks." After receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and a Master's in Education, he spent several years teaching. While his students claim he was an excellent teacher, spending time in a classroom brought Phil to the conclusion that his time and talents would be better spent in the woods.

    Read our full interview with Phil here.

    If you like these blog posts. Make sure that you check out our blog regularly. Or add our blog url to your blog reader.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Movies, Interviews, Proverbs 31, Alex Mosoiu, Dan Hubka and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, MercyMe, Francesca Battistelli, Nick Vujicic, Capital Kings, Phil Robertson, Michael Landon Jr., Wallpapers, Sheila Walsh

  • Embrace Grace from Liz Curtis Higgs

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs

    I’ve been waiting for you. Holding this good news close to my heart, longing to share it. And now here you are, standing on the threshold. To say that I’m glad to see you is a major understatement. Thrilled is more like it.

    Curb my enthusiasm? No way. Not when it’s you. There are a few things about you that I don’t know: your age, your appearance, your occupation. Facts that describe you but don’t define you and have little bearing here. There are also things about you that I do know because we share them: the need to be loved unconditionally, the desire to live a life that truly matters, the longing to shed a tightly woven mantle of guilt.

    Or am I the only woman who wears past failures and present mistakes like an old wool coat, scratchy and uncomfortable, chafing the skin around my neck? Ah. You too.

    Sadly, heavy overcoats get in the way of a good hug. Our arms are too stiff, our bodies too padded. No one can sense our warmth through the thick fabric. In the same way, remorse and shame insulate us. And isolate us.

    If only we could toss those miserable garments into some dark closet and tiptoe away. If only the ratty things didn’t feel so cozy and familiar. If only we could shake off the conviction that we need to wear our guilt—deserve to wear it, must wear it—whatever the season.

    Maybe it’s time to release that burden and lift our arms toward the One who loves us most. That’s what this visit is all about: slipping off the old and putting on the new. Letting go of the past and embracing freedom with our whole hearts. Come inside where it’s warm, beloved. Let me help you with your coat.

    “Take hold of the life that is truly life.” - 1 Timothy 6:19

    The forgiven life. The grace-filled life. It begins with an embrace, which is more than an elegant word for hug. Hugs are short-lived and friendly, handed out like after- dinner mints to acquaintances and strangers alike. Here, have one.

    An embrace is more intentional. Longer. Warmer. Far more personal. We gather someone close—a spouse, a child, a friend, a sibling—and murmur words of comfort and affection. Or we simply let the strength of our embrace express the depth of our thoughts and feelings. I believe in you. I support you. I treasure you. I love you.

    Wherever you are spiritually, whatever you have been through emotionally, you are already wrapped in the Lord’s embrace. Held close by nail-scarred hands. Enfolded in the arms of One who believes in you, supports you, treasures you, and loves you.

    He is waiting for you to embrace him in return. To accept the gift he’s offering you. To listen for the whispered words you’ve longed a lifetime to hear: You are loved. All is forgiven.

    “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” - Titus 3:4–5 6

    “Mercy.” An old-fashioned word, fraught with meaning.

    “Mercy!” my friend Sara says, her hand pressed to her heart. Mercy, God says, yet it’s our hearts he touches.

    “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.” - 2 Corinthians 9:8

    A single syllable, grace is God’s word for love, expressed through divine forgiveness. Sometimes we respond with an even shorter word. No. We persuade ourselves we have good reason to shrug off the Lord’s touch and refuse his gift of grace. Consider the heartfelt words of one of my readers: “I don’t feel I am worthy of having God forgive me of my sins and weaknesses. I feel like a failure.” How poignantly she states what we often feel! Unworthy? Me too. A failure? Oh yes. We get it.

    “I feel like I have let God down, and I can’t seem to find the forgiveness I seek. Even on Sundays I don’t feel his presence or direction, and I long for it.” We understand that longing: to sense the realness of God, to know that he is with us, no matter what we’ve done. For all our good days, we’ve stumbled through bad ones too.

    “I am struggling not to lead two separate lives—the Good Girl versus the Bad Girl.” We’re with you, sis. The battle is genuine, yet the grace of God prevails. I cherish such words from our sisters because they remind us we’re not alone. You’ll hear dozens of women’s voices echoing throughout Embrace Grace.

    Honest women. Hurting women. Hopeful women. I carefully omitted any identifying details—no names or initials, no locations or occupations—and included only brief comments that speak to our shared experience of yearning for freedom, yet feeling encumbered by previous mistakes and current challenges.

    “Even though I belong to God, I sometimes feel so unworthy because of my past.”

    “I still get that heavy feeling in my chest over who I used to be.”

    We feel it too—that woolly overcoat sensation—making our shoulders sag in defeat. Whether our “past” refers to some crucial mistake we made a decade ago or a poor decision last week, regret can weigh us down.

    “I often carry the guilt of ‘if only they knew who I used to be, they would not like me as much as they do.’ ” I cannot speak for what “they” think, but I am certain of what God thinks. He does know who you used to be. And he not only likes you, he loves you. Completely. Always has. Always will.

    “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” - Psalm 100:5

    Incredible, isn’t it? To imagine God’s love reaching across the boundaries of time, encircling us in his ceaseless embrace. Do you yearn to feel his heavenly arms around you? Holding you, comforting you, cherishing you?

    “I want to want a relationship with God. I also want somebody to tell me that they love me and to know they mean it.” Be assured, no one—man, woman, or child—says “I love you” with more certainty than the Lord. His regard for us goes far beyond kind words and warm feelings; his is a show-and- tell love, held up for the whole world to see.

    “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” - 1 John 4:9

    At times living through him seems too daunting; just living is hard enough. “I’ll never be perfect, and God is never going to forgive me for this, so what’s the point?”

    “I have no strength left, and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.”

    You belong right here, dear one. Looking for answers. Seeking encouragement.


    Excerpted from Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs Copyright © 2013 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Grace, Liz Curtis Higgs

  • Having Faith in a Marriage - Tony & Lauren Dungy

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by John van der Veen


    What is the key to an "uncommon" marriage? Tony and Lauren Dungy answer this question.

    Tony: Lauren and I have been married over 30 years now. I think our faith has been a big part of our marriage. To me, faith is so important in marriage because everything isn't going to to perfectly and you do have to come together as two people becoming one partnership. You have to trust in the Lord and you have to put the Lord first, in the center of a relationship, to make it work. That's easier said than done. When you tell other people about it or you counsel other people, it's easy to say, "Here's where you've got to have faith. Just believe and go forward." But when it is happening to you and things are coming up in your marriage, to really concentrate on the Lord and say, "I know he's in the middle of this." That becomes difficult at times, but it's what you have to do.

    Lauren: We've found that you have to really rely on your Christian principles and the biblical principles that you know and believe in, because you have to expect there will be conflict, there will be challenges in your life. That's going to happen in any marriage, but the world has a way of dealing with the challenges and problems, or you can follow God's ways, and God's ways are always going to keep you united. Even in your conflicts and challenges, there should be joy in the midst.

    Tony: We really do feel like that has been really the basis for how we have stayed together and grown, is that we have listened to the Lord and listened to the Bible, as opposed to listening to worldly wisdom or what our society says about marriage. We've tried to rely on those biblical principles and let them guide us and not what society says.

    Interested in hearing more from the Dungy's? Click here for their line of books.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Marriage, Tony Dungy, Lauren Dungy

  • Enemies of the Heart from Andy Stanley

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    Andy Stanley

    It Came from Within

    It came from within. But at first I wasn’t sure.

    It was a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, when I felt a thump in my chest that actually shook my whole body.

    I sat up and looked over at Sandra to see if perhaps she’d felt it too. No pain. No pressure. Just a larger-than-normal thump in my chest. I lay back down and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. And then it happened again.

    This time I said, “Did you feel that?”

    No answer.

    As I laid there staring at the clock, I put my hand over my heart and tried to listen as well as feel my pulse. About a half minute later I noticed that my heart skipped a beat and then, THUMP! This happened over and over. About a minute of normal heartbeat and then nothing. And then the big thump that literally coursed through my entire body.

    Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

    The next day I called my doctor. He sent me to the hospital with a prescription for this nifty device that records what’s happening to your heart while you go about your normal routine. I say normal. There are a few “normal” activities I would advise anyone against trying while wearing such a device.

    The following day I went back to the hospital and they plugged the device into a computer to see what they could find. An hour later the technician came out and informed me that I had an irregular heartbeat. I was shocked. “Really? An irregular heartbeat? You don’t say. You mean my heart isn’t supposed to miss a beat every minute and then make up for it with increased seismic intensity?”

    Of course, I didn’t say that. He was about to draw some blood, and I’ve always tried to stay on the good side of anyone who’s about to poke me with a needle.

    They ran some tests. A lot of tests. After a couple hours of blood work, an EKG, an ultrasound—I told them there was no way I was pregnant, but they insisted—and a chest X-ray, a doctor came in to see me. He sat down with his clipboard and started asking me all the usual questions. Eventually he came to the “What medications are you taking?” question.

    Ordinarily that’s an easy one: “Nothing.” But it just so happened that I was taking something for my annual case of poison ivy. I’m never certain how I got it, but I always manage to come down with it every spring. Truth is, I don’t even know what poison ivy looks like—which may be part of my problem.

    I tried to pronounce the name of the drug I was taking. After three or four failed attempts, the doctor deciphered what had been prescribed and wrote it down. Then he asked, “They didn’t prescribe a steroid as well?” No, they hadn’t. The reason being, I’d insisted that my family doctor give me the steroid in the form of a shot. Two shots, actually. When I shared this bit of seemingly insignificant news with the doctor, he put down his pen and smiled. “I think I know what your problem is.”

    This was good news. Sandra has been wondering since we were married.

    “What?” I asked.

    “It’s the steroids. You’re going to be fine. Once it works its way through your system your heart will settle back down.”

    And you know what—he was right. The problem took care of itself.

    Wonderful…and Confusing

    As you’ve probably guessed from this story, I’m not a doctor. And this is not a book about your physical heart. It’s about your other heart. You know, that invisible part of you that philosophers, poets, and preachers refer to all the time. That thing that got broken in the ninth grade when what’s-her-name said she just wanted to be friends. I’m talking about that part of you that swells up with pride when you see your kids do something great.

    It’s that thing that gets all nostalgic when you hear an old Journey tune (or whatever music served as the soundtrack for your senior year). It’s that part of me that fills up when Sandra sits down next to me on the front row at church every Sunday morning. Amazing how that still happens after all these years… 

    And to be fair, the heart I’m talking about is also that part of me that wanted to wring the coach’s neck for keeping my son on the bench throughout an entire all-star game.

    The heart I’m speaking of is that mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear, and experience life. It’s the sphere in which relationship happens. And it’s the sphere in which relationships are broken.

    Damage Control

    Life can be hard on the heart. The world is full of outside influences that have the power to disrupt the rhythm of your heart. Most are subtle. Some may even appear to be necessary as protection from further disruptions. Over time you develop habits that slowly erode your heart’s sensitivity. The inevitable pain and disappointment of life have caused you to set up walls around your heart. Much of this is understandable. But at the end of the day, there’s no way around the truth:

    Your heart is out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain. These disrupters that throw your heart out of sync are not like the steroid that eventually worked its way out of my system without any effort on my part. Those things that disrupt the rhythms of the invisible heart linger. If left alone, some will linger for a lifetime. After a while we come to accept these disrupters as part of us, part of our personality. And so we catch ourselves saying, “That’s just the way I am.” But you weren’t always that way. And those closest to you know it. So let me ask you, how are things with your heart?

    Close the book and think for a moment. How are things with your heart? Not your career, your family, or your finances. Your heart. Chances are, you’ve never stopped to consider your heart. And why should you? There are meals to fix, calls to return, interviews to prepare for, and bills to pay. If at the end of the day you’re all caught up with these things and someone asks, “How are things?” you can smile and sigh and say, “Fine.”

    But this is a different question.

    It’s a more important question.

    And yes, it’s an awkward question.

    Another Me

    Perhaps the major reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it was never encouraged. As children, we were taught instead to monitor our behavior. In other words, we were taught to behave. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. If we misbehaved, not-so-good things happened. My parents believed in spanking. So the not-so-good things got my attention early. I modified my behavior so as to avoid pain, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I bet you have too.

    Years ago a buddy and I decided to move a road sign. We thought it would be funny to route traffic up an entrance ramp that led to a highway that was under construction and not opened yet. As a result, I spent the good portion of a night in jail. So I modified my behavior. I never moved another road sign.

    Pain, embarrassment, fines, and spankings are generally considered effective ways to focus an individual’s attention on his or her behavior. Consequently, you and I have become much better at monitoring our behavior than our hearts.

    But it’s not just the avoidance of pain that drives us. Good behavior can be rewarding. As a professional Christian—a pastor, by trade—I’m paid to be good. So I’ve learned to modify my words and behavior so as not to damage my reputation and, thus, my career. You’ve no doubt done the same thing. Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do. Not because you don’t want to, but because of the professional ramifications.

    Perhaps there are some words and phrases you won’t use, in spite of the fact that they would accurately convey what you’re feeling. I’ll bet there are some people you pretend to like because it’s beneficial to you. And all of that is fine. More than fine, it’s necessary. After all, like my buddy Charlie is fond of saying, everybody’s got to eat and live indoors. 

    But all this pretending can be problematic because pretending allows you to ignore the true condition of your heart. As long as you say the right thing and do the right thing, you’re tempted to believe that all is well. That’s what your childhood experience taught you. But when your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble. Eventually your heart—the real you—will outpace your attempts to monitor and modify everything you say and do.

    The unresolved issues stirring around undetected in your heart will eventually work their way to the surface. Specifically, they’ll seep into your actions, your character, and your relationships. If your heart continues to go unmonitored, whatever “thing” is growing in there will worsen to the point that you’re no longer able to contain it with carefully managed words and behaviors. 

    So let me ask you again: How’s your heart?

    Slippage

    Maybe you’ve already noticed things starting to slip a bit. Maybe you’ve always been able to contain your anger, but lately there’s an edge in your voice that scares even you. And what about those occasional outbursts that slip through your normally ironclad facade?

    You know you ought to be happy for Frank on his promotion, but for some reason you’re not. The truth is, Frank represents that person from your past who bought something or won something or was given something you wanted, and now you find yourself resenting Frank for it.

    Ladies, how about your sister-in-law who wears those jeans you know better than to try and fit into. She looks great, but you aren’t about to let her know that. But why? Why does it bother you? You know it shouldn’t. So you behave like everything’s okay. But it’s not. These are merely symptoms of a deeper struggle. Your heart is under assault, and it could be that you’re losing. Primarily through neglect. After all, nobody ever told us to keep a close check on our
    hearts.

    Evidence of an internal battle are statements like:

    “I can’t believe I just said that.”

    “I don’t know where that came from.”

    “I can’t believe I did that.”

    “That’s not like me.”

    Heart Exam

    Cardiologists use a procedure called an arteriogram to diagnose the health of a patient’s heart. An arteriogram is an X-ray of the arteries taken after a dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye allows doctors to pinpoint blockage in the arteries that serve as conduits carrying blood from the heart.

    If blockage is discovered, a skilled cardiologist is able to insert a stent through an artery in the patient’s leg, navigate it up into the heart, and open up the blood vessels so that blood can again flow freely to blocked or damaged regions. It’s an amazing procedure to watch on video. You can actually see the dye making its way through the arteries and then stopping when it reaches an area that’s blocked. Even an untrained eye can spot the problem area once the dye has been injected—it’s that obvious.

    But apart from an arteriogram, a life-threatening heart problem can go undetected for years. An individual who has blockage will experience symptoms, but these symptoms may not seem to be directly associated with the heart. Arterial blockage can manifest itself through back pain, inability to sleep, anxiety, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vision change, even loss of memory.

    What were we just talking about? Oh yes.

    All of these are symptoms that can be and often are treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart. And the right medication can take the edge off most of these symptoms. The problem, of course, is that treating the symptoms masks the real culprit. Worse, it delays treatment of the problem, thus leaving the problem to worsen.

    Heart of the Matter

    Likewise, we’re tempted to treat the ancillary, symptomatic challenges that stem from an unhealthy heart while ignoring the deeper issues. But as is the case with the physical heart, eventually the root problem will become a real problem. And just as a heart attack has the potential to destroy your body, so spiritual heart disease has the potential to destroy you and squeeze the life out of your most valuable relationships.

    So for the next couple hundred pages, we’re going to do some poking around. I’m going to do my best to expose your heart to the penetrating light of God’s truth. Like the dye used in an arteriogram, truth can help us to pinpoint the blockage in our spiritual condition. Once the problem area has been identified, the solutions are usually pretty obvious. Actually, the solutions are quite simple. But first we must familiarize ourselves with the most common blockages, their causes, and their symptoms.

    In these pages I'll deal with four primary enemies of the heart—four life-blocking agents that can become lodged there for various reasons. Each has the potential to erode your relationships, your character, and even your faith. We’ll spend several chapters looking at each of these in detail. I’ll then challenge you to embrace four new habits. I often refer to these as “habits of the heart”—habits that exercise the heart and allow it to maintain the rhythm for which it was designed.

    Each of these habits specifically addresses one of four maladies that can infect your heart. Three of the four habits will probably sound familiar; the fourth one may be new to you. When applied consistently, these four disciplines will bring healing and wholeness to your heart, whatever your current condition. There’s some evidence to suggest that these habits can positively impact your physical health as well. Personally, I believe these habits have the potential to change everything.

    If this all sounds too good to be true, let me remind you of a declaration God made generations ago that’s still true and extraordinarily relevant today. He claimed that he could give a man or woman a new heart (see Ezekiel 36:26). The interesting thing is that he said this to a people who already had God’s List of Top Ten Behaviors to guide them. But clearly it wasn’t enough for them to know what to do; they needed to change from the inside out in order to follow through. Each of them needed, as we need, to drop the public persona and become one whole and healthy person.

    What we need is a heart that can keep pace with our outward obedience.

    Take Two

    If you grew up going to the kind of church I grew up in, the notion of God’s still needing to do some work in your heart may cause a bit of inner tension. Perhaps you prayed a prayer some time ago inviting Jesus to come into your heart. And like me, you may have assumed that once he was in, all was well. I mean, Jesus has made himself at home in my heart, so everything’s copasetic, right? But somewhere along the way each of us is forced to face the painful truth that all is not well. So we pray the prayer a second or third time for fear that the first one didn’t take. And yet we continue to see disturbing signs that our heart isn’t entirely new. So what’s up?

    What’s up is this: What God begins at the moment of our salvation is not completed in that same moment. I bet you already knew that about yourself, didn’t you? If you didn’t know it, I’d bet your best friend does. At the risk of oversimplifying, let me put it this way: Jesus may have moved into your heart, but he may not have been given full access. That’s why as happy as you are about being forgiven, you’re not always willing to extend forgiveness to others. That’s a heart thing. As excited as you are about the success you’re experiencing, you aren’t always excited about the success someone else is enjoying. That’s a heart thing too. Both are evidence that God has not completed in you what he has begun. You’re still a work in progress. There’s still some heart work to be done.

    One last thing before we move on. Your heart didn’t arrive at its present condition overnight. It won’t become healthy overnight either. You can’t overcome in an instant the effects of years of blockage caused by guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Adopting new habits of the heart is a process, but it’s a process that will yield some immediate results. My hope is that these immediate dividends will encourage and motivate you to continue cultivating these new habits until you arrive at a place where your Creator desires and made you to be.


    Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley Copyright © 2011 by Andy Stanley. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Andy Stanley, Heart

  • Crash the Chatterbox from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    Chatterboxing

    I wish I had a little devil on my left shoulder. I could flick him off and tell him to go to hell. Then I could fist-bump the angel sitting on my right shoulder and get on with doing all the things God has called me to do. That would change everything.

    I’d discover an unshakable confidence. It wouldn’t be borrowed from the ever-changing assessments of others. I would instinctively offer my weaknesses as a platform for God’s power instead of typecasting myself as someone God
    couldn’t use due to my endless character flaws.

    I’d be unstoppable because the devil wouldn’t be able to dominate my mind with the kinds of fears that control me a lot of the time. Then I would be able to move forward in faith without being scared of failure or rejection or the sacrifice required to obey God.

    I’d never again be paralyzed by condemnation or bullied by feelings of unworthiness. And at the end of each day I’d go to sleep in perfect peace because I’d be finishing the day with no shame, no regrets, no need to sew any fig leaves to conceal anything.

    I’d be nearly immune from discouragement, because I would stop wondering if the sky was falling every time I faced a new challenge. I’d see my biggest obstacles as my greatest opportunities…and all the other stuff you read on Starbucks cups.

    Unfortunately, there’s no devil on my shoulder.

    What’s worse, there’s no angel either.

    Instead, I’ve got this ceaseless war going on inside my heart and my head. I’m waging it every millisecond of every minute of every hour of every day—nights, holidays, and weekends too.

    The Chatterbox on Insecurity from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    I wake up every day to the crow of the chatterbox.

    Here’s a transcript of my internal dialogue from a recent morning. It’s a real-time example of the kind of chatter that can derail my day before it even gets started. Sometimes over the most ridiculous things you can imagine.

    The thoughts are flying so fast now that I can’t keep track, much less sort them out and put them where they belong. Thinking about these thoughts at all only seems to feed them. That’s why they keep overpowering me, because I keep feeding them. I know this, but it never stops me from doing it. Not this time, not ten years ago, and it won’t be any different ten years from now, I’m beginning to believe.

    This is so stupid. I’m being so stupid.

    It’s only a light bulb.

    A burned-out light bulb has turned into a mini-midmorning meltdown in my mind, and I can’t find the switch to shut it off. The meltdown, I mean, not the light bulb.

    So I’m standing in the shower, and the light bulb is out, and it’s like the sky is falling.

    As soon as I stepped into the shower, I noticed, for the third time, that the middle bulb was out over the sink on the other side of the bathroom. Now that I’m in the shower, stranded, phoneless, how am I going to put in Evernote that the light bulb is out? With my pathetic attention span, what are the chances I’ll remember to replace the light bulb after I get out?

    I definitely don’t have time to change the light bulb—I’m already going to be ten minutes late for this meeting. If there’s no traffic. I’m always running late for meetings. I’m a late person. It’s because I hit the snooze button three times every morning, because I’m spiritually apathetic. Pastor Mickey used to get up at 5 a.m. and spend two hours with God, and he said, “He who runs from God in the morning will scarce find Him throughout the day.” They should put that on a Starbucks cup too.

    Either way, God is gone for the day, and it’s not even 9 a.m. And now I’m running twelve minutes late, and the light bulb is still out.

    I’m screwed.

    And who am I kidding? Even if I had time to change the light bulb, yeah, right, like I have a clue where Holly keeps them. Now that’s really pathetic. What would people think if they found out about that one: the woman changes all the light bulbs around that house! What kind of example am I setting for my kids?

    Did I even pray with the kids last night? the night before that?

    Dunno. But I did Instagram that sunset shot with the kids at the creek last Friday. So there’s that.

    “Cock-a-doodle-do.” The chatterbox informs me that I’m fourteen minutes late…and I suck as a person.

    I’m feeding the machine, and it’s eating me alive.

    And the chatter will continue to race through my mind until I decide to downshift and put things back in perspective: Calm down, Furtick. It’s. Just. A. Light bulb.

    Just like that, if only for a split second, the chatterbox gives way. And I get on with my day.

    Unfortunately, it won’t be long until the chatterbox sounds off again. Probably next time about something much more serious than a light bulb. So much doubt, panic, raw impulse, and bogus conjecture stream through my mind. My
    soul sometimes feels like a Twitter feed where I’m following a million of the most annoying people ever, and I can’t find the Unfollow button.

    The Chatterbox on Fear from Elevation Media on Vimeo.

    ####

    But God is faithful to speak too. His voice rises from the pages of His Word, which is the exact expression of His will. He speaks, not only on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary where the congregation is gathered, but also in the stillness
    of His works scattered across the night skies. His Spirit speaks with promptings that are not audible—often they are much louder than that—always in perfect harmony with the Scriptures and always resounding with perfect wisdom.

    And in every season of my life, God has sent reminders to confirm that He has perfectly designed me and totally enabled me for everything He’s called me to do. Sometimes He’ll do that through a simple picture, song, text, or conversation that rings with affirmation for days.

    Other times, at critical junctures, God has spoken dramatic words of encouragement over my life.

    A few years ago I was on a plane headed home, and I looked out the window during the descent. The sunset seemed to be painting the skyline in neon orange, illuminating the city where I had just moved to start a church. It was a glowing visual that set the scene for God to speak to my heart: This is your city. I’ve called you here to pour out your life for My cause. Be confident, because everywhere you set your foot belongs to Me, and you belong to Me, and together we’re going to take this city for My glory.

    I’m sure my translation of this conversation isn’t word perfect, because you know how tricky cross-cultural communication with God can be. Plus, I can’t find the notebook where I frantically scribbled every word of those impressions. The part I’m sure of is that I heard God encouraging me at a time when I really needed it. We were only a couple of months into getting our new church off the ground. I needed some reassurance, and God delivered.

    And it was His voice piercing through the roar of my doubts that lifted my perspective. It was just enough to keep me moving forward in faith.

    ####

    Now I’d like to ask you a few questions.

    Is it possible to be the kind of person who can be distracted to the point of utter despair by a blown light bulb and still hear God calling you to do great things as you stare down at your city through a sunset?

    Can God’s voice coexist with maniacal chatter—within the same person?

    And how can I silence the voice of the enemy when the enemy is in me? Can you relate to this contradiction?

    I used to think that someone who struggled with the kinds of weaknesses I deal with daily was useless to God. I felt so often like I was drowning in internal dialogue I couldn’t control. It had been the soundtrack of my life for as long as I could remember. I had hoped these problems would finally be fixed when I became a committed Christian. And I hoped for it again each time I experienced spiritual highs along the way in my journey of faith.

    But the beat went on.

    Yet everything changed when I began to realize God has given us the ability to choose the dialogue we believe and respond to. And once we learn how, we can switch from lies to truth as deliberately as we can choose the Beatles over Miley Cyrus on satellite radio.

    Choosing to believe this, moment by moment, and acting on it is the most important habit you will ever develop. It is the key to pressing ahead and doing God’s will anyway, even as you are bombarded with thoughts, feelings, and even facts about why you can’t do it. Why you shouldn’t do it. And why you’ll never be able to do it. Why you’re too dysfunctional, too petty, too immature, too melancholy, too impulsive…

    I’m now awakening to the reality that we can access the power of God’s promises to constantly crash the system of our broken beliefs. I’m learning how to overpower the shouts of the Enemy by bending my ear to the whisper of God’s supernatural truths about my identity in Him and His strength in me. This isn’t something I did once and now it’s over or something I can afford to do occasionally when it’s convenient. It requires constancy. It’s the only way I know to be the father, husband, leader, friend, and believer that God says I already am, the kind of person I am straining to believe I can become. Winning the war of words inside your soul means learning to defy your inner critic. But that’s easier said than done. And I think many times, as believers, we sense we are losing this war. But we don’t know what to do about it because we don’t know where to find the weapons, and we wouldn’t know where to aim them if we did.

    In other words, we feel powerless to crash the chatterbox. And now would probably be a good time to explain exactly what I mean by that.


    Excerpted from Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2014 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Steven Furtick

  • The Sun Stand Still Devotional from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    The Prayer That Stopped the Sun

    Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

    “O sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
    So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.
    —Joshua 10:12–13

    Today’s Bible reading: Joshua 10:1–14

    Right here on Day 1, I’m going to throw out a challenge to you: If you’re not daring to believe God for the impossible, you’re sleeping through some of the best parts of your Christian life. And further still, if the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God. You should be living by audacious faith every day. Audacity is not just for “elite Christians.” It’s intended for every believer. So today we’re beginning a spiritual  journey toward trusting God for what seems impossible. I’m thrilled to think about what it’s going to do for our lives and our world.

    A story from the life of Joshua serves as our template for audacious faith.

    The Israelites unleash a surprise attack on the Amorites, and right from the beginning the battle goes well. But as the sun sinks toward the horizon, General Joshua faces a decision. The victory isn’t complete, and once it gets dark, the rest of the Amorites will slip away. Joshua sizes up the situation and delivers one of the most gloriously unorthodox prayers in the Bible. He has the audacity to ask God to make the sun stop in the sky. To freeze time on behalf of His people.

    And God gives Joshua exactly what he asked for.

    With everything in me, I believe God still desires to make the sun stand still over the life of every believer. Obviously, not in the unique way He did for Joshua, but in ways that are equally spectacular (although not always quite as dramatic), God is perfectly willing to perform the impossible in our everyday lives. If we have the audacity to ask.

    RT God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible.
    #sunstandstill

    I tried this one time.

    My wife and I moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, with seven other families. We set a goal of reaching over one thousand people in our first year of ministry. Since the average church size in America is fewer than ninety, I guess we were overshooting a bit. But we wanted to see God accomplish something so exponentially amazing that it would leave no doubt who deserved the credit.

    So we shamelessly asked God to exceed our wildest dreams. The story of our church is still being written. But here’s what I can tell you now. After seven years of ministry, our church has grown to more than twelve thousand people in regular attendance. Since our opening day, thousands of people have publicly professed faith in Christ.

    Sometimes when we consider the rate at which God has multiplied this ministry, we feel like we’re living in a warp-speed dream world. But the story is real. We are living in the middle of a move of God.

    Is there something that is seemingly impossible that you’d like to see God do through you? Maybe God has already been working in your spirit, planting a desire, sparking ideas about the much bigger things He wants to accomplish.

    There’s nothing our world needs more desperately today—in individuals, families, businesses, churches, and communities—than God’s saving, supernatural acts. And God is ready to act if we will be bold enough to ask, not just for a good day or a better life, but for the impossible and then will step forward to act in audacious faith.

    Prayer Focus: Over the next forty days, pray for God to build audacious faith within you and to show you where He wants you to apply it.


    Excerpted from Sun Stand Still Devotional by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2013 by Steven Furtick. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Joshua, Steven Furtick

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