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  • A Broken Kind of Beautiful from Katie Ganshert

    Posted on April 16, 2014 by Family Christian

    Katie Ganshert

    The girl with the haunted eyes reentered his life on the other side of a lowering casket, humidity and the shrill song of cicadas tangling together in the South Carolina heat. Aunt Marilyn pressed trembling fingers against her lips and swayed as if the wet ground had risen up and pitched her forward. Davis Knight tightened his grip beneath his aunt’s elbow and looked away from her pain. That’s when he saw her—standing like a statue, her waif-like form shrouded in grief.

    Ivy Clark. All grown up.

    A distant rumble of thunder rolled across the blackened sky, leftover remnants from a tropical storm. A raindrop brushed his ear; another grazed the tip of his nose. Pastor Voss bowed his head. So did everyone else, including Ivy. A slight breeze ruffled wisps of hair around her downturned face and fluttered the butterfly sleeves of her dress. The last time he’d seen her in the flesh, he had just returned to Greenbrier for a short summer stint after completing his freshman year at NYU. Ivy had been twelve going on fifty. Tall and gangly with eyes too large for her face—twin souls the color of honey, staring and deep as if she saw and understood every sadness in the world.

    Then she had disappeared, and so did he, in a way. A few years later he began following her career because it was in his interest to follow it, but even with all professional motives stripped bare, he would have followed it anyway.

    Pinpricks of sweat beaded along Davis’s temples. His sister, Sara, wrapped her arm around his and squeezed. Pastor Voss’s prayer ended in time for Ivy Clark to look up and catch him staring. Familiar territory to her, no doubt, given her career. Not so familiar to him.

    He would have looked away, but her awareness of his attention triggered an intriguing metamorphosis. It seemed her eyes had learned some tricks over the years. Like how to bat in just the right way. How to dance in invitation. How to swallow the grief that had wrapped around her shoulders moments ago, when she thought nobody watched. She smiled a smile Davis knew well, one he’d seen hundreds of times on a hundred beautiful faces—the type of smile that had lost its allure two years ago.

    He glanced down at the grass—thick green blades framing his black loafers—and patted his sister’s hand, his own personal reminder of why a woman like Ivy Clark could not be a part of his life. Ivy belonged to a world that took and took and took so subtly and connivingly that a person didn’t notice until there was nothing left to give. It was a world he never wanted to be a part of again.

    Still, he looked one more time. Ivy stared back, a smirk on her face.

    “Now’s not the time to talk about this, Ivy.” Bruce strode through the long grass toward a line of cars parked along the brick path, texting a message into his phone.

    The drops of rain turned into a mist that settled over Ivy’s arms, cooling her skin. If only the drizzle could quench her fear. Who was he texting? She lengthened her stride, trailing him like a long evening shadow. “You’re the one doing business.”

    “How do you know it’s business?” He dug into his pocket, pulled out his keys, and clicked the button on the remote to unlock the car doors. Two short beeps interrupted a chorus of chirping birds hiding somewhere in the Spanish moss that dripped from gnarled tree limbs overhead.

    Ivy rolled her eyes. Only Bruce would lock his car inside a cemetery in Greenbrier, South Carolina. “This isn’t New York City.” The two places existed on opposite poles. “I don’t think any burglars are prowling around waiting to break into your car.”

    He stopped in front of the black Lexus with rental plates.

    She stopped too. “I need to know, Bruce. It’s my future we’re talking about here.”

    “If you were so concerned, you should have kept your mouth shut.”

    “I made one lousy suggestion. You’re telling me O’Banion’s getting bent out of shape because of one small—”

    “It’s not your job to make suggestions, especially not to a photographer like Miles O’Banion.”

    Ivy’s stomach knotted. What would happen if that one slip cost her two years of security? Her twenty-fifth birthday crept closer each day. As hard as she tried, she wasn’t getting any younger and people were starting to notice. If she wanted to continue modeling, she needed that contract. Bruce ran his hand down his face. “It’s your job to keep your mouth closed and work for the camera. That’s what you get paid for. Nobody cares about your opinions.”

    “So I’ve been told.”

    “Then why didn’t you listen?”

    A small group of women dressed in black stopped conversing. Bruce painted on a smile and gave them a polite wave. He leaned close to Ivy and spoke from the corner of his mouth, his smile unwavering. “We’re not talking about this here. Let’s show a little respect.”

    Her muscles coiled. Respect? James didn’t deserve her respect. She didn’t care how touching the eulogy, how beautiful the flowers, or how crowded the funeral. Why should she care about losing a man who never wanted her in the first place? Why should his unspoken I love you echo in her mind? She refused to pretend her father’s death had any bearing on her life. Because it didn’t. She wouldn’t let it. She gathered her mounting anger and stuffed it in the empty place inside her chest.

    Bruce opened the passenger-side door. “Get in the car.”

    She folded her arms. “If you know something, as my agent, you have no right to keep it from me.”

    “I don’t know anything. And when I find out, we can discuss it back in New York.”

    “Why did Annalise tell me I lost the contract?”

    “Because Annalise feeds off gossip, or haven’t you figured that out yet?”

    Despite the stagnant heat, a chill crept across Ivy’s skin. As her friend, Annalise wouldn’t have pulled this out of thin air. It had to have some substance. She gripped her elbows, as if the harder her fingers dug into flesh, the less any of this would matter. “Gossip always starts with a seed of truth.”

    “Look, either get in the car or I’m leaving you here. Your choice.”

    Ivy looked over her shoulder at the rows of polished tombstones. Her throat tightened. She hugged her arms and stepped closer to the car. “I want to go to the airport.”

    “We’re going to the luncheon.”

    “Why?”

    “He was my brother and your father. We’re not leaving now.”

    “He was hardly my father.” The emptiness expanded, carving her out like a pumpkin-turned-jack-o-lantern. She was nothing but a shell. A beautiful, empty shell.

    An SUV pulled out from behind them. An engine rumbled in front. Except for a few stragglers in the distance lingering over her father’s grave, the cemetery cleared.

    Bruce drummed his fingers on the top of the car.

    “I’m not going to sit in that house, eat cucumber sandwiches, and pretend to care that he’s gone.”

    “You don’t have a choice.” Bruce opened the door wider.

    Her shoulders sagged. Ivy slid into the passenger side, pulled the seat belt across her body, snapped it into place, and stared straight ahead. Why had she said anything to O’Banion? So what if he wanted to keep her in the same overdone pose? She shouldn’t have said a word. If there was one mistake to avoid in her world, it was wounding the pride of a notoriously prideful photographer.

    Bruce’s door opened. He got inside and set his phone in the cup holder. As soon as he started the ignition, the phone vibrated, rattling loose change in the console. He swept up the device and held it against his ear. “Bruce Olsen.”

    Nothing but the unintelligible chatter of a female voice from the other end.

    A muscle pulsed in Bruce’s jaw. He scratched his chin and looked out the window, hiding his expression. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Could we meet then and talk this over?” He clicked his seat belt into place and nodded. Another long pause. More unintelligible chatter. A sigh from her uncle. “I understand. Thanks for getting back to me.”

    He hit the End button and started the car.

    Ivy pressed her fingers against her sweat-dampened palms.

    Bruce pulled out onto the brick street and steered toward the iron gate. “It seems Ms. Reynolds wants a fresh face for her cosmetic line.” He flipped on the radio. Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” blasted Ivy’s ears. “Sorry, kid. They’re not renewing your contract.”


    Excerpted from A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert Copyright © 2014 by Katie Ganshert. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Katie Ganshert

  • BookBites - Vol. 2

    Posted on April 16, 2014 by Catherine Rivers

    Craving a new read? You’ve come to the right place. We love books. And we love sharing our thoughts on them. Welcome to Bookbites, where we give the latest books a grade, brief review and include an excerpt—a “bookbite”—that grabbed our attention.

    Happy reading!





    GOD IS NOT MAD AT YOU:  You can Experience Real Love, Acceptance and Guilt-Free Living

    Joyce Meyer

    Grade A  - Practical, down-to-earth teaching with real life examples explaining God's love for us although we are not and cannot be perfect, releasing us from the guilt and shame often caused by our performance mentality.

    Appeals to readers of all ages who've felt that God holds a grudge against them for things they have done.

    Bookbite:  "To live in the reality that God is not mad at us is the most freeing truth we will ever find.  Knowing that we will sin, probably every day, and that God knows that and has already decided to forgive us eliminates the fear of failure.  The beautiful truth is that when we no longer focus on our sin, we find that we do it less and less.  As we focus on God's goodness instead of being afraid of our weaknesses, we become more and more like Jesus."

    UNSEEN:  Angels, Satan, Heaven, Hell and Winning the Battle for Eternity

    Jack Graham

    Grade B - Pastoral teaching on subjects that are difficult to comprehend, somewhat textbooky and not very original, but the chapters on spiritual warfare are dynamic.

    Appeals to readers of books about heaven, a popular subject these days, and those dealing with spiritual warfare (really all of us whether we know it or not).

    Bookbite:  "This is how Satan wages war against us, isn't it?  He loves to break into our thoughts.  He introduces doubt, which leads to fear, which leads to confusion, which leads to pain.  He is a terrorist, in every sense of the word, seeking to oppress us and then to occupy us, seeking to make us slaves to our very own sin."

    MISS BRENDA AND THE LOVELADIES:  A Heartwarming Story of Grace, God and Gumption

    Brenda Spahn and Irene Zutell

    Grade B-  - Eye-opening view of one woman with the gumption to do what few are doing, being Jesus to former women prisoners and giving them the chance at a new life that they never had before.  The writing is limited but these women's stories are fascinating and inspirational, you'll never look at Walmart the same again.

    Appeals to biography readers and to those who might consider a similar ministry.

    Bookbite:  "God is calling us like we've never been called before. He wants believers like me to quit being afraid of getting their hands dirty and help women like you.  And He wants you to see that there is hope.  Because trust me there is hope.  And what we do today, tomorrow and the next day could have a tremendous impact on the entire system.  We could change the way it works.  We could change women's lives."


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Joyce Meyer, Brenda Spahn, BookBites, Jack Graham, Irene Zutell

  • Spoken For from Robin Jones Gunn

    Posted on April 15, 2014 by Family Christian

    Robin Jones Gunn

    One bright April morning Alyssa and I (Robin) were busy in my kitchen preparing food for a youth event at church. All the windows were open. A gentle breeze cooled us.

    The television was on in the background, but we weren’t paying much attention. I reached for the remote to turn it off but accidentally changed the channel.

    “Oh, wait,” Alyssa said. “Leave it there. I love this part.”

    I had happened upon an oldie-but-goodie chick flick at just the right moment. It was one of my favorites too. Alyssa and I stopped what we were doing. We stood together in a sweet silence and watched as the fair maiden ran into the arms of her hero. We sighed and looked at each other. Alyssa had tears in her eyes. So did I. We pointed at each other and laughed.

    “Why are we crying?” I asked. “I’m sure we’ve both seen this a dozen times.”

    “I know,” Alyssa said wistfully. “But it’s such a great love story. And love stories get me every time.”

    It’s true, isn’t it? Love stories draw us in. Honestly, who doesn’t love a good love story? The pursuit. The suspense. The drama. The mystery. We cry, we laugh, we cheer—all for love. We are captivated by our favorite movies, television shows, and books when the romantic elements capture our imaginations and enliven our hopes.

    Even if you don’t see yourself as a girlie girl and didn’t have a favorite Disney princess when you were growing up, you know in your core that you want to be loved like the heroines in all the best films and stories. You want to see love conquer all.

    The desire to be loved, cherished, and adored never goes away. All of us long to believe someone is out there who wants us. Someone who will come for us. Someone who will take the role of the hero in our lives and love us, deeply love us, not for what we do or how we look but simply for who we are.

    What if you could know that you are loved that intensely? You are sought after. You are the bride-to-be in a love story that’s unfolding in your life right this minute. You are spoken for.

    This love story began once upon a time long ago before you were even born. Almighty God, the Creator of the galaxies, thought of you. He carefully fashioned you—your voice, your fingers, your mind, even every one of your eyelashes. He carefully and deliberately crafted you. For all time there only has been and only will be one of you.

    He saw all your days before you took your first breath. He knows all your thoughts before you speak them. He knows everything about you. From the very beginning you were known, and you were wanted. He is pursuing you like a tenacious bridegroom with a perfect proposal. He has set his affections on you. Why? Because he loves you, and he will never stop loving you. You are his first love, and he wants you back.

    How do you respond to such unwavering, unending, unstoppable love?

    In this book we will unwrap the ancient truths from God’s Word about what it means to be loved, to be sought after, to be spoken for. You will see how the Bible is a love letter written to us.

    Through that love letter God makes it clear that he desires to be with us forever. Alyssa and I will share details from forever-love stories and show how our love for God grew as he pursued us.

    Our goal is simple. We want you to see what happens when you respond to the invitation of the true Bridegroom and step into the center of an epic love story—yours.


    Excerpted from Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke Copyright © 2014 by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke. 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, Robin Jones Gunn

  • Stand Strong from Nick Vujicic

    Posted on April 14, 2014 by Family Christian

    Nick Vujicic

    I am a bully’s dream, no doubt about it.

    No arms. No legs. No defense.

    Born without limbs for reasons never determined, I was blessed in so many other ways. My greatest blessing was a loving and supportive family. They sheltered and encouraged me for the first years of my life. But once I left the protective shelter
    of family for the hallways and playgrounds of elementary school, I felt like I had a target on my chest that said, “Bullies, aim here.”

    I felt alone in my fear of bullies, but I wasn’t alone. And neither are you.

    If you’ve been bullied, the first thing you need to understand is that their attacks, taunts, and mean acts aren’t really about you, any flaws you might have, or anything you might have done. Bullies have their own issues. They pick on you to make themselves feel better, to vent their anger, to feel more powerful, or even because they can’t think of anything else to do.

    I know it’s lame, but it’s true.

    When I was a teenager, I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out why bullies picked on me. There was one guy in particular who really got inside my head. He bullied everybody, but for some reason I took it personally. I obsessed over his motives.
    Finally I realized that his bullying wasn’t about my problems. It was about his.

    You may have a bully who has had the same impact on you, getting inside your head, knotting your stomach with stress, and tormenting your dreams because you can’t figure out why you are the target. I’m here to ease your mind and lighten that burden. Your bully’s motives don’t matter. You do.

    Your safety and your happiness are important to me and everyone else who loves and cares about you; so instead of focusing on why a bully is picking on you, let’s focus on helping you feel secure and happy again.

    Does that sound like a plan? I think so!

    But before we move on, I want you to know that there is no single infallible strategy for dealing one-on-one with bullies. And I certainly don’t recommend you resort to violence if you can help it! Don’t ever let a bully lure you into a fight. If a bully attacks you, defend yourself but get away as fast as you can. If you have any reason to think a bully is going to harm you physically, you need to talk to an adult who can help you before that happens.

    The Bullying Epidemic

    It’s important to understand from the beginning that many people share your pain in dealing with this problem. Being bullied, sadly, is as common as catching a cold or stubbing your toe. I travel all over the world talking to young people about this issue. No matter where I go, bullying is a major topic of concern. Teens in every school in every town and every country tell me they have mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual pain because of being bullied.

    A teen in China told me that he’d tried to commit suicide eight times because of being bullied at school. A cute little Korean girl in Boise, Idaho, came up to me crying after I gave a speech on bullying. She said, “I get teased every day about being Korean because I’m the only Asian in the whole school.” I hear similar stories from bullying victims in Chile, Brazil, Australia, Russia, Serbia, and around the world. Bullying is everywhere, and it takes many forms. Most of us are familiar with childhood bullies who threaten to beat us up, make fun of us, or turn friends against us. Adults may experience bullying in the form of sexual harassment or as discrimination based on race, religion, sexual identity, or disabilities. Bullies can be your boss, coworkers, teachers, coaches, boyfriends, or girlfriends—anyone who abuses his power or position.

    It’s sad to say, but parents can be bullies too. Suicides are a major problem among young people in Asia, and part of the problem is that many teens are under incredible pressure to earn top grades so they can make it into the best schools and get the best jobs for the most pay. Parents naturally want their children to do well, but when a mother and father give love and support only if their child is successful in their eyes, it is a form of bullying. There was one case in which the parents burned their child with cigarettes because her grades were not up to their standards. That’s an extreme case to be sure, but I’ve encountered similar stories around the world.

    The most common bullying experience is being taunted or ridiculed for being “different” in some way. I’m the poster child for this. For most of my life, I’ve been a bully magnet. I’ve heard every imaginable nasty comment about my lack of limbs. Cruel jokes. Even physical threats.

    It didn’t help that my family moved a couple of times when I was in school. We went from one side of Australia to the other, then we moved to the United States and back again. At each new school, I wasn’t just the only kid with no arms and no legs; I was usually the only kid in a wheelchair. When we moved to the United States, I hit the bully-target trifecta: I was the only kid in my school with no arms and no legs, the only kid in a wheelchair, and the only kid with an Australian accent! Different? Me, mate?

    Sure, I stood out from the crowd, and the fact that I was often the new kid without friends made me an even easier target. But I realized early on that bullies would find a reason to pick on anyone. They called the smart kids “nerds,” the tall kids “bird legs,” and the short kids “runts.” If perfect people existed, bullies probably would mock them for being “too perfect.”

    Still, if you are being bullied, it hurts. It’s a terrible experience that often seems like it will never end. As someone who endured it throughout my teenage years and still runs into it from time to time, I want to give you hope and peace. You can rise above and beyond it.


    Excerpted from Stand Strong by Nick Vujicic Copyright © 2014 by Nick Vujicic. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Nick Vujicic

  • Meet MercyMe's Latest

    Posted on April 8, 2014 by Family Christian

    Welcome To The New by MercyMe
    Revealing lyrics and stories
    Real Life/Real Worship by Anthony Evans
    Into His Presence by The Perrys
    You Can Begin Again by Joyce Meyer
    Prebuy Son of God on DVD or Blu-ray and get Music Inspired by Son of God free.

    This post was posted in Music, Books and was tagged with Featured, MercyMe, Joyce Meyer, The Perry's, Anthony Evans

  • Man Alive from Patrick Morley

    Posted on April 4, 2014 by Family Christian

    Patrick Morley

    As stories began to emerge after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, several survivors from the South Tower mentioned a courageous young man who mysteriously appeared from the smoke and led them to safety. They did not know who this man was who saved their lives, but this they remembered: wrapped over his mouth and nose was a red bandana.

    For fifty-six minutes the man in the red bandana shouted orders and led people down a stairwell to safety. “I found the stairs. Follow me,” he would say. He carried one woman down seventeen flights of stairs on his back. He set her down and urged others to help her and keep moving down. Then he headed back up.

    A badly injured woman was sitting on a radiator, waiting for help, when the man with the red bandana over his face came running across the room. “Follow me,” he told her. “I know the way out. I will lead you to safety.” He guided her and another group through the mayhem to the stairwell, got them started down toward freedom, and then disappeared back up into the smoke.

    He was never seen again.

    Six months later, on March 19, 2002, the body of the man with the red bandana was found intact alongside firefighters in a makeshift command center in the South Tower lobby, buried under 110 stories of rubble.

    Slowly the story began to come out. His name was Welles Crowther. In high school he was the kid who would feed the puck to the hockey team’s worst player, hoping to give his teammate that first goal. He became a junior volunteer firefighter in Upper Nyack, New York, following in his dad’s footsteps.

    Welles graduated from Boston College, where he played lacrosse, always with his trademark red bandana. His father had always carried a blue bandana.

    After college he worked as an equities trader on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He had a habit of putting change in his pocket in the morning to give to street people on his way to work.

    Not long before September 11, Welles told his father, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this work.” He was restless for more. Crunching numbers for invisible clients just didn’t seem like what he was born to do. He dreamed of becoming a firefighter or public servant.

    On September 11, 2001, at the age of twenty-four, Welles Crowther became both. And also a hero, because he was willing to go up while everyone else was coming down.

    There Must Be More

    This story touches a need deep inside me—something so primal that I find it hard to put into words. But it makes me yearn to feel more alive. And every man with whom I’ve ever shared it has felt the same way.

    Like Welles, we all want to make a contribution and leave the world a better place. It is a primal need—one among many. By “primal,” I mean that as men we have a raw, restless energy that’s different from women. It needs to be channeled, chiseled, transformed.

    Over the last four decades, I’ve met one-on-one with thousands of men over coffee, in restaurants, in offices, online, after Bible studies, or just hanging out at the racetrack—men like you. I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve heard what they said and didn’t say. Christian men know—or strongly sense—that we were created to lead powerful lives  transformed by Christ.

    But something is blocking them. With a few inspiring exceptions, most men I talk to are confused about what a powerful, transformed life really looks like, regardless of how much “I love Jesus” they’ve got. They have high hopes for what Christianity offers but little to show for it. Their instincts are screaming, There must be more! When men try to put into words what keeps them from feeling fully alive, they invariably describe one or more of these seven symptoms:

    - “I just feel like I am in this thing all alone.”
    - “I don’t feel like God cares about me personally—not really.”
    - “I don’t feel like my life has a purpose. It seems random.”
    - “I have a lot of destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.”
    - “My soul feels dry.”
    - “My most important relationships are not working.”
    - “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will make a difference and leave the world a better place.”

    Do you feel the angst? Do you see yourself on this list? As you can see, as men, our similarities dwarf our differences. These inner aches and pains—these yearnings—correspond to the seven primal, instinctive needs we’ll be exploring in this book.

    The High Cost of Being Half Alive

    I’d estimate that as many as 90 percent of Christian men lead lukewarm, stagnant, often defeated lives. They’re mired in spiritual mediocrity—and they hate it. Despite their good intentions, after they “walk the aisle” and “pray the sinner’s prayer,” most men return to their seats and resume their former lives. They don’t take the next steps. Almost imperceptibly, one disappointment at a time, the world sucks out their newfound joy and passion for life in Christ.

    Men lose heart, go silent, and anesthetize their pain. Then they give up, burn out, drop out, or just slowly drift away. It’s not just getting older; it’s an assassination of the soul. And isn’t that exactly what the enemy of our souls wants? As Jesus said, referring to the devil, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

    No man fails on purpose. None of us wakes up in the morning and thinks, I wonder what I can do today to irritate my wife, neglect my kids, work too much, and have a moral failure. But many of us will.

    The statistics are jarring:

    - 80 percent of men are so emotionally impaired that not only are they unable to express their feelings, but they are even unable to identify their feelings.
    - 55 percent of marriages experience financial dishonesty, and it’s usually the husband.
    - 50 percent of men who attend church actively seek out pornography.
    - 40 percent of men get divorced, affecting one million children each year.

    The collateral damage is staggering. Tonight, one-third of America’s seventy-two million children will go to bed in a home without their biological dad. But perhaps the greatest cost to the physical absence of fathers is the practical absence of mothers. Essentially, one person must now do the work of two. As a young woman who grew up without a dad said, “When my mom and dad divorced, I didn’t just lose my dad. I also lost my mom, because she had to work long hours to support us.” A man leaves. A woman weeps herself to sleep. A little girl prays, “God, why is my daddy always so angry with me?” The men problem has made Dr. Phil a very rich man.

    There has to be a better way.


    Excerpted from Man Alive by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Morley. 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, Patrick Morley

  • If God is Good from Randy Alcorn

    Posted on April 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    Randy Alcorn

    Why Is the Problem of Evil and Suffering So Important?

    The problem of evil and suffering moves from the philosophical to the personal in a moment of time.

    During my research I read all sorts of books–philosophical, theological, practical, and personal. It’s one thing to talk about evil and suffering philosophically; it’s another to live with it. Philosophy professor Peter van Inwagen wrote,

    Angels may weep because the world is filled with suffering. A human being weeps because his daughter, she and not another, has died of leukemia this very night, or because her village, the only world she knows, is burning and the mutilated bodies of her husband and her son lie at her feet.

    Three weeks after his thirty-three-year-old son, Christopher, died in a car crash, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie addressed a crowd of twenty-nine thousand at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. “I’ve talked about Heaven my whole life,” Laurie said, “and I’ve given many messages on life after death. I’ve counseled many people who have lost a loved one, and I thought I knew a little bit about it. But I have to say that when it happens to you, it’s a whole new world.” The day his son died, he told the crowd, was “the hardest day of my life.”

    When I spoke with Greg ten months later, his faith was strong, but his profound sense of loss remained. Pain is always local. It has a face and a name. And sometimes, for now, it doesn’t go away.

    The American response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, demonstrated that large-scale evil and suffering usually remain distant from us.

    In Sudan, millions, including children, have been murdered, raped, and enslaved. The 2004 Asian tsunami killed more than 280,000 people. Malaria causes more than two million fatalities annually, the majority of them African children. Around the world, some 26,500 children die every day; eighteen every minute.

    The loss of American lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, numbered 2,973–horrible indeed, yet a small fraction of the terror and loss of life faced daily around the world. The death toll in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, for example, amounted to more than two World Trade Center disasters every day for one hundred days straight. Americans discovered in one day what much of the world already knew–violent death comes quickly, hits hard, and can be unspeakably dreadful.

    If we open our eyes, we’ll see the problem of evil and suffering even when it doesn’t touch us directly.

    A friend of ours spoke at a Christian gathering. On her way back to her car, someone raped her. She became pregnant and gave birth to her first child. Because racial differences would have made it clear her husband hadn’t fathered the baby, the couple placed the infant for adoption. Since then, they’ve been unable to conceive another child. Her lifelong dream of raising children remains unfulfilled.

    I once had to tell a wife, son, and daughter that their husband and father had died on a hunting trip. I still remember the anguished face of the little girl, then hearing her wail, “Not Daddy, no, not Daddy!”

    Years ago I had to tell my mother that her only brother had been murdered with a meat cleaver.

    A Christian woman tipped over on her riding lawn mower and fell into a pond. The machine landed on top of her, pinning her to the bottom and drowning her. Such a bizarre death prompted some to ask, “Why, God?” and “Why like this?”

    After his wife died, in great pain C. S. Lewis realized, “If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came.”

    Our own suffering is often our wake-up call. But even if you aren’t now facing it, look around and you’ll see many who are.

    Why Talk About the Problem?

    More people point to the problem of evil and suffering as their reason for not believing in God than any other–it is not merely a problem, it is the problem.

    A Barna poll asked, “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The most common response was, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”

    John Stott says -

    The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.

    Richard Swinburne, writing in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, says the problem of evil is “the most powerful objection to traditional theism.”

    Ronald Nash writes, “Objections to theism come and go.… But every philosopher I know believes that the most serious challenge to theism was, is, and will continue to be the problem of evil.”

    You will not get far in a conversation with someone who rejects the Christian faith before the problem of evil is raised. Pulled out like the ultimate trump card, it’s supposed to silence believers and prove that the all-good and all-powerful God of the Bible doesn’t exist.

    The problem of evil is atheism’s cornerstone.
    German playwright Georg Büchner (1813—37) called the problem of evil “the rock of atheism.” Atheists point to the problem of evil as proof that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. Every day the ancient argument gets raised in college philosophy classes, coffee shops, dinner discussions, e-mail exchanges, blogs, talk shows, and best-selling books.

    Atheists write page after page about evil and suffering. The problem of evil never strays far from their view; it intrudes upon chapters with vastly different subjects. It’s one of the central reasons Sam Harris writes, “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious.”

    Harris then scolds Christians, saying about intelligent people (such as himself ), “We stand dumbstruck by you–by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God.” (At least we know what he’s thinking!)

    Many suppose that scientific evidence is the cornerstone of atheism. But the famous one-time champion of atheism, Britain’s Anthony Flew, renounced his atheism due to the complexity of the universe and his belief in the overwhelming evidence for intelligent design. After examining Richard Dawkins’s reasoning in The God Delusion–that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance”– Flew said, “If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over.” However, although he abandoned his atheism, Flew did not convert to the Christian faith, but to deism. Why? Flew could not get past the problem of evil. He believes that God must have created the universe, then abandoned it.

    A faith that leaves us unprepared for suffering is a false faith that
    deserves to be lost.

    A lot of bad theology inevitably surfaces when we face suffering. John Piper writes, “Wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians won’t survive the days ahead.”

    Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.” When people lose their faith because of suffering, it’s usually a weak or nominal faith
    that doesn’t account for or prepare them for evil and suffering. I believe that any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost. The sooner, the better.

    Believing God exists is not the same as trusting the God who exists. A nominal Christian often discovers in suffering that his faith has been in his church, denomination, or family tradition, but not Christ. As he faces evil and suffering, he may lose his faith. But that’s actually a good thing. I have sympathy for people who lose their faith, but any faith lost in suffering wasn’t a faith worth keeping. (Genuine faith will be tested; false faith will be lost.)

    If you base your faith on lack of affliction, your faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it.

    Suffering and evil exert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward him. I know a man who lost his faith after facing terrible evil, suffering, and injustice. My heart breaks for him, and I pray that my family and I will never suffer what he did. But if personal suffering gives sufficient evidence that God doesn’t exist, then surely I shouldn’t wait until I suffer to conclude he’s a myth. If my suffering would one day justify denying God, then I should deny him now in light of other people’s suffering.

    The devastation of tragedy feels just as real for people whose faith endures suffering.But because they know that others have suffered and learned to trust God anyway, they can apply that trust to God as they face their own disasters. Because they do not place their hope for health and abundance and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

    Losing your faith may be God’s gift to you. Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true God–faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.

    In her moving book The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion writes about the sudden, unexpected death of her husband. As I read, my heart broke not only for what happened to her, but for the first six words of the book’s concluding sentence: “No eye is on the sparrow.”

    Didion apparently means that so far as she can tell, there is no God, or at least, no God who cares and watches over us. She’s most likely a normal hurting person who needs men and women around her who can see God in the midst of their suffering, so they might help her see him in hers.

    Suffering will come; we owe it to God, ourselves, and those around us
    to prepare for it.


    Live long enough and you will suffer. In this life, the only way to avoid suffering is to die.

    Bethany Hamilton grew up surfing on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. At age five she chose to follow Jesus. When she was thirteen, a fourteen-foot tiger shark attacked her, severing one of her arms. Bethany returned to surfing one month later. A year later, despite her disability, she won her first national title.

    Bethany says, “It was Jesus Christ who gave me peace when I got attacked by the shark.… And it was what God had taught me growing up that helped me overcome my fears…to get back into the water to keep surfing.”

    She continues, “My mom and I were praying before the shark attack that God would use me. Well, to me, 1 Timothy 1:12 kind of tells me that God considered me faithful enough to appoint me to his service. I just want to say that no matter who you are, God can use you even if you think you’re not the kind of person that can be used. You might think: why would God use me? That’s what I thought.… I was like thirteen and there God goes using me!”

    Bethany and her parents had given careful thought to the God they served and his sovereign purposes. Obviously not every tragedy leads to winning a national title, but Bethany began where all of us can, by trusting God; in her case, with a support system of people having an eternal perspective. Hence, she was prepared to face suffering when it came, and to emerge stronger.

    Unfortunately, most evangelical churches–whether traditional, liturgical, or emergent–have failed to teach people to think biblically about the realities of evil and suffering. A pastor’s daughter told me, “I was never taught the Christian life was going to be difficult. I’ve discovered it is, and I wasn’t ready.”

    A young woman battling cancer wrote me, “I was surprised that when it happened, it was hard and it hurt and I was sad and I couldn’t find anything good or redeeming about my losses. I never expected that a Christian who had access to God could feel so empty and alone.”

    Our failure to teach a biblical theology of suffering leaves Christians unprepared for harsh realities. It also leaves our children vulnerable to history, philosophy, and global studies classes that raise the problems of evil and suffering while denying the Christian worldview. Since the question will be raised, shouldn’t Christian parents and churches raise it first and take people to Scripture to see what God says about it?

    Most of us don’t give focused thought to evil and suffering until we experience them. This forces us to formulate perspective on the fly, at a time when our thinking is muddled and we’re exhausted and consumed by pressing issues. Readers who have “been there” will attest that it’s far better to think through suffering in advance.

    Sometimes sufferers reach out for answers to those woefully unprepared. A physician’s assistant friend of ours wrote -

    When I was admitted to the hospital in sepsis with a 50/50 chance of survival, I asked the chaplain how we could believe that God is love, when this felt like the antithesis of love. I said I wouldn’t inflict this much suffering on someone I hated, let alone someone I loved. She told me she would “look it up,” then left my room and never came back. I posed the same question to the social worker who came to visit me a few days later. She
    told me that God’s like a giant and we’re like little ants, and sometimes He accidentally steps on our ant hills and some of us get hurt. She said our suffering is random and God’s probably not even aware of it.

    Pastor James Montgomery Boice had a clearer perspective. In May 2000, he stood before his Philadelphia church and explained that he’d been diagnosed with liver cancer:

    Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles–and He certainly can–is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the
    first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition.…Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have.…God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by.… God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good.… If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good.

    Eight weeks later, having taught his people first how to live and then how to die, Pastor Boice departed this world to “be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

    On the other side of death, the Bible promises that all who know him will fall into the open arms of a holy, loving, and gracious God–the greatest miracle, the answer to the problem of evil and suffering. He promises us an eternal kingdom on the New Earth, where he says of those who come to trust him in this present world of evil and suffering, “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:3—4).


    Excerpted from If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn Copyright © 2009 by Randy Alcorn. 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, Randy Alcorn

  • Here is your next ebook

    Posted on April 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    The Last Bride by Beverly Lewis
    Fire up your Kobo
    Woman of Courage by Wanda E. Brunstetter The Amish Groom by Mindy Starns Clark & Susan Meissner Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke and Laurel Oke Logan
    Distortion by Terri Blackstock Water Walker by Ted Dekker Take This Cup by Bodie and Brock Thoene
    Fire up your Kobo

    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Terri Blackstock, Beverly Lewis, Bodie Thoene, Brock Thoene, Ted Dekker, Wanda E. Brunstetter, Kobo, Janette Oke

  • Bad Girls of the Bible from Liz Curtis Higgs

    Posted on April 2, 2014 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs

    Introduction

    Turn Signal

    And when she was good
    She was very, very good,
    But when she was bad she was horrid.
    --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Ruthie never saw it coming. His fist flashed toward her so fast she couldn’t duck or turn away in time.

    “Nooo!” Her cry echoed off the windshield of the Pontiac but went no further. Who would hear her in this parking lot anyway? With trash cans and alley cats for neighbors, she could hardly expect some hero in a white Ford Mustang to drive by and rescue her, not at this late hour. Hayden was leaning inside the open car window now, rubbing his knuckles as if to say, “There’s more where that came from.” As if she hadn’t figured that out. As if she wasn’t watching his every move. Ruthie was nineteen, but she was nobody’s fool.

    Except Hayden’s.

    She stared at the dashboard, feeling her cheek swell as the pain inched around her eye, along her nose, toward her temple. In her whole life no one had ever deliberately hit her. Even as a child, she hadn’t been spanked at home or paddled in school.

    She was a good girl. National Honor Society. State chorus. Editor in chief of her small-town high-school newspaper.

    Nobody ever needed to hit Ruthie, for any reason.

    So much for that claim to fame. She’d been hit now, and hard. Slowly, hoping Hayden wouldn’t notice, she moved her jaw back and forth, grateful it could move.

    He snorted, obviously disgusted with her. “I didn’t break anything. But I could have. Now slide over or get out.”

    Not much choice there.

    The time for making choices was behind her—that was clear. Weeks ago she’d chosen to spend that Thursday night at the Village Nightclub, knowing the kind of men who went there. And the kind of women. Women like me. She’d chosen to drag Hayden home with her because he was the right size and the right age and in the right state of mind: drunk. Too drunk to care whether or not she had a pretty face.

    Her face wasn’t pretty now, of that Ruthie was certain.

    And her choices were nil. If she got out of the car, he might hit her again. If she stayed in the car, he might drive like a maniac and wrap her new Pontiac around a telephone pole, with them in it.

    Her new car. The one he routinely borrowed without asking. The one they’d been arguing about, right up until he parked his fist in her face. She moved across the seat toward the passenger side, sliding her keys out of the ignition as she did so, feeling her head begin to throb. Don’t let me pass out! Please…Somebody. Anybody. Resting her hand on the door handle, then carefully wrapping her fingers around it, she waited for her chance. As Hayden moved into the driver’s seat and dug in his pockets for his keys, she took a deep breath, then shoved the door open, nearly falling out on the gravel-strewn pavement.

    “Get in the car, Ruthie!” Hayden’s bark was deadly.

    She felt him grab for her and miss. “He-e-elp…” It was such a pitiful cry, like a kitten needing milk. Straightening awkwardly to her feet, Ruthie slammed the car door just as Hayden reached for her again. Judging by his curses, she’d unintentionally jammed his fingers in the process. Maybe not so unintentionally.

    She had one goal now: to locate her apartment key among the dozen on the ring she held in her trembling hands. Stumbling toward her security door as she heard the car door open, she found the key at last and forced it in the lock. C’mon, c’mon!

    When the deadbolt turned, she fell through the entrance with a sob of relief, then turned to bolt the door behind her. But she was too late. He’d already wedged his leg in the doorway and was muscling his way inside. Her heart sank through the linoleum floor, and the taste of dread filled her mouth.

    Hayden was taller, wider, older, stronger. And meaner, so much meaner. Why hadn’t she seen that? Tasted it in his kisses that first night, discovered it in his eyes that first morning?

    His hatred for her was a living thing, rolling off him in waves. “Don’t you understand?” His chest was heaving, but not from the effort—from the anger. “That Pontiac is mine. You’re mine. This apartment is mine. Nothing you do or say is gonna change that, Ruthie.”With one hand he slammed the door with a noisy bang.

    With the other hand he reached in his jacket and pulled out a gun.

    Her heart thudded to a stop at the sight of it.

    His cold smile told her all she needed to know.

    “Upstairs.” He waved the ugly black revolver at the staircase that led to her second-floor apartment. Her apartment. Hers! She’d scrimped and saved to have her own place. For what? So this…this…

    It was no use. She started up the steps, doing her best not to trip, not to cry, not to let him see that he was tearing apart everything that made her Ruthie, step by awful step…

    Define Bad . . .

    Few of us made it our ambition in life to be a Bad Girl. Ruthie wasn’t bad; she was abused. But after several years of making bad choices—dating Hayden among them—she’d given up on ever being good.

    Some of us stumbled through a rebellious youth or wandered into an addictive habit or walked down the aisle with the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps our sense of self was so skewed we decided we weren’t worthy of goodness or figured we’d gone too far to ever find the road home or concluded we enjoyed our favorite vice so much we weren’t about to give it up—no way, no how.

    There are some women who even wear badness like a badge of courage.

    As Tallulah Bankhead put it, “If I had to live my life over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”

    What labels a woman as “bad” hasn’t changed since Eve. All the usual suspects are there: disobedience, lust, denial, greed, anger, lying, adultery, laziness, cruelty, selfishness, idolatry.

    Badness—in other words, sin—doesn’t have to be that dramatic. It can be something on the sidelines: an unkind word, a whisper of gossip, a neglected request, an unrepentant attitude, an intentionally forgotten event.

    Ouch.

    It all boils down to a heart that’s hardened against God—however temporary the condition, however isolated the tough spot.

    To that extent, we’ve all been Bad Girls.

    And to a woman, we long to be Good Girls.

    I have trouble learning, though, from women who get it all right. I spend my energy comparing, falling short, and asking myself, How do they do that? It’s discouraging, even maddening. It also doesn’t get me one step closer to God.

    So, for a season, I thought we’d look at women who got a lot wrong. I must admit I went into these stories with a bit of pride between my teeth and soon found my jaw hanging slack at the similarities in these women and me. How is it possible, Lord? I love you, love your Word, love your people…How can I see so much of myself in these sleazy women?

    Ah, sisters. Our sins may be a surprise to us, but they are no surprise to the Lord.

    For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord,
    and he examines all his paths. Proverbs 5:21

    Come, then, and meet our counterparts—for good and for bad. My introduction to these ten Bad Girls of the Bible began many years ago when I prepared a series of messages about famous women in Scripture for a national Christian convention. For a girl who loves to have fun, I found it the “meatiest” stuff I’d ever tackled. I savored every juicy minute of time spent studying the Bible and reading various commentaries. Not to mention examining my own life in juxtaposition with theirs.

    Oops. Big mistake there. Ruth was so faithful. Esther was so courageous. Mary was so innocent. I was so none-of-the-above.

    Then I happened upon Jezebel, and something inside me clicked. I identified with her pushy personality, I understood her need for control, I empathized with her angry outbursts…and I was aghast when I got to her gruesome ending.

    She was a Bad Girl, all right, but boy did she teach me what not to do in my marriage! It was then the seeds for this book were planted in my heart. These stories are in God’sWord for his good purpose—and for ours. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

    Where to begin? With the First Bad Girl: Eve. Of course. Badness had to start somewhere.

    Next, I found three women who were Bad to the Bone: Potiphar’s wife, Delilah, and Jezebel. These were women of whom not a single kind word was recorded. Women who had a pattern of sinning, with no evidence of remorse or a desire to change, who sinned with gusto from bad beginning to bitter end. Because they were made in the image of God, as we were, these Bad Girls weren’t truly rotten to the core. They just behaved that way—and very convincingly!

    Another three women were Bad for a Moment. Lot’s wife, Sapphira, and Michal were three good…uh…bad examples of women who made one colossal blooper—one big, life-changing mistake that was such a bell ringer it was recorded for posterity, chiming across the centuries. These three women were, by all appearances, believers in the one true God at the start, but when forced to make a choice, they each chose disastrously. Finally, my favorite women—those who were Bad for a Season, but Not Forever: Rahab, the Woman at the Well, and the Sinful Woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Yes, they all had plenty of sin in their past, but they also were willing to change and be changed. What a joy to watch their encounters with God redeem them for eternity!

    Because I love writing fiction, and because I wanted to make these women come alive for all of us, I’ve opened each chapter with a contemporary, fictional retelling of the biblical story that follows. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, but you’ll spot their stories right away. You might identify yourself in these narratives too…I certainly did.

    The same weaknesses, the same temptations, the same choices, and some of the same sorry results. Thanks to the tale of Lila from Dallas, Delilah will never again be a mere flannelboard cutout figure to me. And Lottie from Spirit Lake made me look at my beloved farmhouse in a whole new light, bless her misguided heart—and mine.

    May these fictional stories speak to you as well.

    Without missing a beat, we’ll jump right into a verse-by-verse look at the real woman’s story as it appears in the New InternationalVersion of the Bible, with plenty of “Lizzie style” commentary to keep you smiling as you learn what made that particular Bad Girl tick. Don’t faint when you see footnotes—a research paper this isn’t! But I believe in handling theWord of God with great care, so I studied more than fifty commentaries from the last two hundred years, along with ten different translations of the Scriptures. Funny: The older scholars blamed the women for everything and painted the men as heroes. The newer writers blamed the men for everything and described the women as victims and the men as jerks. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, so that’s what I aimed for: balance. And truth.

    As writer Elisabeth Elliot phrased it, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.”1

    Here’s something you may not know about me, even if you’ve read many of my books: My incredible husband, Bill, has a Ph.D. in Old Testament languages. The man not only reads the Biblia Hebraica, he understands it. He combed through my manuscript for errors—in translation, in interpretation, in application. You can breathe easier, girlfriend, knowing I’m not alone on this project!

    You aren’t alone either. That’s the point of Bad Girls of the Bible. I want you to know, categorically and absolutely, that whatever your story is, you are not alone. There are lessons here for all of us; each chapter ends with four of them. In the back of the book you'll find a short list of Discussion Questions for book clubs and a longer StudyGuide formore in-depth, chapter-by-chapter Bible study.

    I had four kinds of readers in mind while I wrote: (1) Former Bad Girls who have given up their old lives for new ones in Christ and are struggling to figure out how and where they “fit” in God’s family; (2) Temporary Bad Girls who grew up in the church, put aside their devotion to God at some point, and now fear they can’t ever be truly forgiven; (3) Veteran Good Girls who want to grow in understanding and compassion for the women around them who weren’t “cradle Christians”; and (4) Aspiring Good Girls who keep thinking there must be something more to life but aren’t sure where to look.

    This is the place, dear ones. Join in.

    Find out what a twenty-first-century woman who loves God can learn from an ancient Egyptian temptress who did not: plenty!

    All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean…As it is with the good man, so with the sinner. Ecclesiastes 9:2

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that
    each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in
    the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

    In closing, a reminder that each chapter opens with fiction. Except this one. Ruthie is me. That’s a small slice of my own early life as a Bad Girl, and, yes, it was very hard to write.

    It got so much worse before it got better. Only a few trusted souls on this earth know how bad. Jesus knows. He knows every inch of my heart. He knows how bad I was, am now, and will be, before I leave behind this transient shell and go on to undeserved glory.

    Here’s the good news: He loves us anyway.

    He loves us so much he will put people in our paths to lead us to him, just as he did for me—for Ruthie—decades ago. After years in the wilderness, I found myself at the end of my proverbial rope, so despondent I was willing to swing from that noose by my own stiff neck—anything to end the pain of disappointment and shame.

    In my pursuit of earthly, fleshly pleasures—the whole sex, drugs, and rock-’n’-roll experience that many of us sampled—I discovered a sad truth: Fun and joy are not the same thing at all. Fun is temporary at best; it’s risky, even dangerous, at worst. Joy, on the other hand, was a mystery I couldn’t seem to decipher.

    Oh, girlfriend!When I think of the shallow relationships, the misspent dollars, the wasted years, I can taste that bitter despair all over again. I was a woman without hope—a Bad Girl by choice and by circumstance—convinced that if I could just find the “right man,” he would save me from my sorrows.

    One wintry day in 1982 I met that “right man”—a man of sorrows—who willingly had given his life to set me free. Me! Sinful, disobedient, rebellious Ruth Elizabeth. My friends Tim and Evelyn, who’d shared their hearts, their hugs, and their lives with me, now shared the truth with me: I was a sinner in need of a Savior.

    Finally I understood the depth of my badness and the breadth of God’s goodness and so embraced his gift of grace with both hands. Yes, I was Bad for a Season, but Not Forever.

    And my, oh my, have I found real joy!

    With the courage of Rahab, the humility of the Sinful Woman, and the curiosity of the Woman at the Well, let’s press on, my sisters, and see what good news our Lord might have waiting for us within these pages. I promise I’ll be with you every step of the way.


    Excerpted from Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs Copyright © 2013 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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

  • Spoken For from Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke

    Posted on April 1, 2014 by Family Christian

    Robin Jones Gunn

    One bright April morning Alyssa and I (Robin) were busy in my kitchen preparing food for a youth event at church. All the windows were open. A gentle breeze cooled us.
    The television was on in the background, but we weren’t paying much attention. I reached for the remote to turn it off but accidentally changed the channel.

    “Oh, wait,” Alyssa said. “Leave it there. I love this part.”

    I had happened upon an oldie-but-goodie chick flick at just the right moment. It was one of my favorites too. Alyssa and I stopped what we were doing. We stood together in a sweet silence and watched as the fair maiden ran into the arms of her hero. We
    sighed and looked at each other. Alyssa had tears in her eyes. So did I. We pointed at each other and laughed.

    “Why are we crying?” I asked. “I’m sure we’ve both seen this a dozen times.”

    “I know,” Alyssa said wistfully. “But it’s such a great love story. And love stories get me every time.”

    It’s true, isn’t it? Love stories draw us in. Honestly, who doesn’t love a good love story? The pursuit. The suspense. The drama. The mystery. We cry, we laugh, we cheer—all for love. We are captivated by our favorite movies, television shows, and books
    when the romantic elements capture our imaginations and enliven our hopes.

    Even if you don’t see yourself as a girlie girl and didn’t have a favorite Disney princess when you were growing up, you know in your core that you want to be loved like the heroines in all the best films and stories. You want to see love conquer all.

    The desire to be loved, cherished, and adored never goes away. All of us long to believe someone is out there who wants us. Someone who will come for us. Someone who will take the role of the hero in our lives and love us, deeply love us, not for what we do or how we look but simply for who we are.

    What if you could know that you are loved that intensely? You are sought after. You are the bride-to-be in a love story that’s unfolding in your life right this minute. You are spoken for.

    This love story began once upon a time long ago before you were even born. Almighty God, the Creator of the galaxies, thought of you. He carefully fashioned you—your voice, your fingers, your mind, even every one of your eyelashes. He carefully and deliberately crafted you. For all time there only has been and only will be one of you.

    He saw all your days before you took your first breath. He knows all your thoughts before you speak them. He knows everything about you. From the very beginning you were known, and you were wanted. He is pursuing you like a tenacious bridegroom
    with a perfect proposal. He has set his affections on you. Why? Because he loves you, and he will never stop loving you. You are his first love, and he wants you back.

    How do you respond to such unwavering, unending, unstoppable love?

    In this book we will unwrap the ancient truths from God’s Word about what it means to be loved, to be sought after, to be spoken for. You will see how the Bible is a love letter written to us.

    Through that love letter God makes it clear that he desires to be with us forever. Alyssa and I will share details from forever-love stories and show how our love for God grew as he pursued us.

    Our goal is simple. We want you to see what happens when you respond to the invitation of the true Bridegroom and step into the center of an epic love story—yours.


    Excerpted from Spoken For by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke Copyright © 2014 by Robin Jones Gunn and Alyssa Joy Bethke. 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, Robin Jones Gunn, Alyssa Joy Bethke

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