Top 20 Authors to Watch in 2016

Authors to Watch

With so many upcoming releases from talented Christian authors, 2016 is shaping up to be an exciting year for readers. We reached out to the most popular Christian publishers and asked them about their top picks for authors to watch in 2016.

Packed with seasoned authors and up-and-coming writers alike, we’ve compiled a list of our top 20 authors who have new books coming out this year and put them in order based on their books’ release dates.

There are so many exciting and new projects coming this year! Take a look:

1. Dave Willis

Dave Willis is a pastor and the founder of StrongerMarriages.org, which has a total weekly reach in the millions. He speaks regularly at conferences and churches across the country, as well as on podcasts and webinars, on issues ranging from leadership to social media strategies to marriage. Don’t miss Dave’s new bookThe 7 Laws of Love. In his ebook, he presents seven laws of love found throughout the Bible, then works through the practical insights offered when these truths are lived out in any significant relationship—including with one’s self, God, spouse, family, friends, neighbors, and even enemies.

2. Lauren Chandler

Lauren Chandler is a wife and mother of three. Her husband, Matt Chandler, serves as the lead teaching pastor at The Village Church in Dallas, Texas. The Lord has taken Matt and Lauren on a challenging journey, beginning with the November 2009 discovery of a malignant brain tumor in Matt. Lauren and her family have been given a deeper trust in clinging to the Lord and his cross during this appointed season of valleys and storms. Learn from Lauren about God’s unchanging love for his people, even when we don’t feel like it’s there in her new release, Steadfast Love, available now.

3. Nabeel Qureshi

In 2014 Nabeel Qureshi released, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim’s Journey to Christ which details former his journey as a former devout Muslim describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with the friendships, investigations, and dreams and visions he encountered along the way. Since his conversion Nabeel has made ministry his full-time occupation and he now serves as a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in religion from Duke University. Nabeel is releasing two new ebooks that build off of his first release including a study guide and a ebook exploring if there can truly be no God but one.

Releasing in April, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Study Guide: A Former Muslim Shares the Evidence that Led Him from Islam to Christianity, builds on the powerful story and arguments Nabeel shared in the orginal, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Both Nabeel Qureshi and co-author Kevin Harney take viewers deeper into apologetics and evangelism among Muslims with this complete study course.

Available in August, look for Nabeel’s No God But One: Allah or Jesus?, where he examines Islam and Christianity in detail, exploring areas of crucial conflict and unpacking the relevant evidence. Both religions teach that there is only one God, but who deserves to be worshiped, Allah or Jesus?

4. Alli Worthington

Alli Worthington has set a goal focused on helping women live the life they were created to live. As an author, speaker, blogger, the Executive Director of Propel Women, and co-founder BlissDom Events, Alli has helped individuals, small business owners and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on motherhood, parenting and balance has led to appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. And we are looking forward to Alli’s new ebookBreaking Busy releasing at the end of January. In Breaking Busy, learn how to stop chasing what leaves you empty and start doing what you were created to do.

5. Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson

Bethany Hoang and Kristen Deede Johnson are on a mission to prove that Christians are called to bring justice. Bethany engages leaders around the world with the critical connection between justice and spiritual formation and regularly speaks on behalf of the Institute for Biblical Justice for International Justice Mission. Kristen is the teacher and writer in areas of theology, culture, formation, and political theory at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. These two have teamed up to write The Justice Calling, releasing in February, an ebook that dives into different justice movements and shows how the Bible calls us to engage in the battle against injustice. Bethany and Kristen connect justice to Scripture, the character of God, and the long traditions of the church so that our passion meets perseverance and justice becomes an enduring and integrated part of our life and faith.

6. Paul Pastor

Paul J. Pastor is a writer, editor, and grassroots pastor living with his family in Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge. His work finds beauty and timeless wisdom in issues of faith, culture, and modern Christian ministry. Coming in Febuary, look for his first ebook, The Face of the Deep: Exploring the Person of the Holy Spirit. The Face of the Deep invites you on a quest for the Holy Spirit that journeys through our world and Bible. The adventure is infused with wonder and symbolic imagination—from the black void of Genesis 1 all the way through the explosive re-creation at the close of Revelation.

7. Voice of the Martyrs

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting persecuted families worldwide with five main purposes that include: to encourage and empower Christian to fulfill the Great Commission to provide practical relief and spiritual support, to equip persecuted Christians to love and win to Christ those who are opposed to the gospel, to undertake projects of encouragements, helping believers rebuild their lives, and to promote the fellowship of all believers by informing the world of the faith and courage of persecuted Christians.

Coming this March, the Voice of the Martyrs is releasing a collection of true stories from Christians facing persecution in the Middle East, I-Am-N: Stories of Christians Facing Islamic Extremism. Wherever we live, we have camaraderie with those who are persecuted—come meet their families, read their stories, and deepen your faith in a God who gives us the courage to shine in a dark and hurting world.

8. Holley Gerth

Holley Gerth loves Jesus and enjoys encouraging the hearts of women through her popular blog as well as books like You’re Already Amazing, You’re Going to Be Okay, and You’re Loved No Matter What. Not only is she a successful author, but she is also a certified life coach, a writer for Day Spring, has her Masters in Counseling, and helped cofound (in)courage.me. Coming in March you’ll find Holly’s new ebook, You’re Already Amazing: LifeGrowth GuideWith more than 80,000 copies sold, You’re Already Amazing has clearly resonated with the hearts of women. Now Holley Gerth fans have the opportunity to go deeper into the book and into their own hearts with the accompanying LifeGrowth Guide, perfect for either small group use or individual study.

9. Logan Wolfram

Logan Wolfram is the executive director and host of Allume, a conference for Christian women to meet up and encourage one another. Logan loves to write, connect, and encourage women. This March don’t miss Logan’s first release Curious Faith: Rediscovering Hope in the God of Possibility. Curious Faith focuses on the innate curiosity to explore, marvel, and believe there is more to life, and explores the possibility of a god who is unlimited, unpredictable, and ever-loving. In these pages, Logan invites you to overcome feelings and outside circumstances that inhibit growth and rob you of hope.

10. Andy Crouch

Andy Crouch is the executive editor of Christianity Today and the author of books such as Culture Making and Playing God. Andy serves on the governing boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and Equitas Group, a philanthropic organization focused on ending child exploitation in Haiti and Southeast Asia, and is also a senior fellow of International Justice Mission’s Institute for Biblical Justice. This March look for his new releaseStrong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishingan ebook all about true flourishing and that it surprisingly requires being both strong and weak.

11. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, co-authors of the bestselling ebook, unChristian, have teamed up to write a new release coming this March, Good Faith: Being a Christian When Society Thinks You’re Irrelevant and Extreme. Good Faith works through the growing problem of trying to live faithfully in a culture that seems increasingly hostile. Written with a hope to help Christians understand what they believe and why, Good Faith invites readers to understand the heart behind opposing views and show them how to be loving, life-giving friends despite profound differences. David is president and majority owner of Barna Group, where he has supervised or directed interviews with more than 500,000 individuals and overseen hundreds of nationwide, representative research studies. Gabe created Q, a learning community that mobilizes Christians to think well and advance good in society.

12. Gwen Smith

Gwen Smith is the author of Broken into Beautiful and one of the three co-founders of Girlfriends in God, a conference and devotional ministry with more than 500,000 subscribers from all across the world. This March don’t miss Gwen’s new release, I Want It All: Exchanging Your Average Life for Deeper Faith, Greater Power, and More Impact. Smith knows how easy it is to think I can’t make a big difference for God because I’m just an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. But she is confident that God created us to join him in doing amazing work in the world. He created us to live with abundant joy, courage, and influence. I Want It All will ignite a fire in your heart to experience more faith, more power, and more impact.

13. Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell is an educator and a popular speaker at schools, churches, and conferences nationwide. He is author of Ethix: Being Bold in a Whatever World, coauthor of 77 FAQs About God and the Bible, Experience Your Bible, and Understanding Intelligent Design, and is currently pursuing a PhD in apologetics and worldview studies. His latest project, coming in March, is the ebookA New Kind of Apologist. McDowell edited and collected contributions from more than 20 leading apologists for A New Kind of Apologist, and it will be your new favorite go-to resource for effectively defending the Christian faith in our changing culture. Readers will discover and adopt fresh strategies for reaching those who are outside the church with the truth of the gospel.

14. John Piper

John Piper is a widely respected theologian and bestselling author who served as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church for 33 years. He still serves as chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary. In 1994, Piper founded Desiring God Ministries, which provides Piper’s sermons, articles, and information on titles he has authored. Several of Piper’s books have been Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Christian book award winners including What Jesus Demands from the World, Pierced by the Word, and God’s Passion for His Glory.

You won’t want to miss his new release coming late March, A Peculiar Glory, that explores why Christians have declared the Bible to be the Word of God. Piper unpacks what Scripture teaches about itself from Genesis to Revelation, its unique “self-authenticating” nature, and its unparalleled ability to showcase God’s peculiar glory. In it you’ll find a solid foundation for Christians’ unshakable confidence in the Bible.

15. Bobby Conway

Bobby Conway serves as lead pastor of Life Fellowship Church near Charlotte, NC. He is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary (ThM), Southern Evangelical Seminary (DMin), and is a PhD candidate at the University of Birmingham, England. He is the author of The Fifth Gospel and Doubting Toward Faith and is the founding host of The One-Minute Apologist. Look for his new ebook, coming this April, Does God Exist? Bobby has spent time answering a lot of the hard, and sometimes confusing, questions and mysteries of the Bible. In Does God Exist? you’ll discover life-changing answers to these questions and more: If God is good, why is there evil? How can a loving God send people to hell? Who made God anyway?

16. Jen Wilkin

Jen Wilkin is a speaker, writer, and teacher of women’s Bible studies. She has a background in women’s ministry, and has organized and led studies for women in home, church, and parachurch contexts. She is the author of Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. Look for her newest release coming at the end of April, None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing). In None Like Him, Jen Wilkin leads readers on a journey to discover 10 ways God is different from us—and why that’s a good thing. In the process, she highlights the joy of seeing our limited selves in relation to a limitless God, and how such a realization frees us from striving to be more than we were created to be.

17. Lecrae Moore

Lecrae is a Grammy award winning hip-hop artist whose 2014 album, Anomaly, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200, Rap, Digital, Christian, Gospel, and Independent charts. His seven studio albums and mixtapes have sold more than 1.5 million copies. You won’t want to miss his first book, coming late spring. Written as an autobiography, Unashamedis the story of Lecrae’s journey to faith and freedom. He holds nothing back as he divulges the most sensitive details of his life, answers his critics, shares intimate handwritten journal entries, and powerfully models how to be Christian in a secular age.

18. Andrew and Rachel Wilson

Andrew Wilson is a pastor at Kings Church in Eastbourne in the United Kingdom, a columnist for Christianity Today, and the author of numerous books. This June look for a book co-authored by both Andrew and his wife, Rachel, The Life We Never Expected: Hopeful Reflections on the Challenges of Parenting Children with Special NeedsThe Life We Never Expected details how Andrew and Rachel answered the question, what do you do when hard or painful circumstances turn your world upside down, resulting in a life you never expected? after both of their children were diagnosed with regressive autism. Refreshingly honest, this book explores the highs and lows of raising children with specials needs, reflecting on the broader question of how to cope with suffering of all kinds.

19. Perry Noble

Perry Noble is the author of Unleash!: Breaking Free from Normalcy and Overwhelmed: Winning the War against Worry. He is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church, which was rated #2 on the Outreach 100 America’s Fastest-Growing Churches list in 2013. His primary concerns are being a servant to Jesus Christ; a husband to his wife, Lucretia; and a father to their daughter, Charisse. Perry is also passionate about seeing people meet Jesus, leading his church staff, and pouring himself into other church leaders on a local and global level.  This summer don’t miss his new release, 20 Questions to Ask Before You Date.

20. Raechel Myers and Amanda Williams

Amanda Williams and Raechel Myers are the co-founders of She Reads Truth, a blog, app, and social platform to encourage women to stay in the Word of God everyday. Their ministry started as a small group of strangers on the internet who wanted to be more intentional about reading God’s Word. What began as a casual conversation is now an entire community of women all over the world in pursuit of Jesus.

Amanda is crazy about words. True words are her favorite, one of many reasons she adores her role as Chief Content Officer of She Reads Truth. Amanda enjoys dancing with her kids, reading herself to sleep, and explaining that her maiden name really is Bible. And Raechel loves God’s Word. A reluctant writer but lover of story, she delights in the evidence of God’s beauty, goodness, and truth in everyday life—just ask her kids. Look for their upcoming ebook She Reads Truth coming this fall. Born out of the experiences of hundreds of thousands of women who Raechel and Amanda have walked alongside as they walk with the Lord, She Reads Truth is the message that will help you understand the place of God’s Word in your life.

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The Real Christmas: Remembering Jesus

Names of Jesus

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Spend time reflecting with an excerpt from Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, published by Zondervan.  

Discover today’s devotional, written specifically for the Advent season by author Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

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

Sometimes Christmas does not feel like the season of joy and light that it should.

Sometimes Christmas feels like a giant snowball of expectations and activities that roars in the Friday after Thanksgiving and doesn’t roll out until the new year has been rung in.

If we aren’t careful, it can squash us flat.

I have ordered Christmas cards, purchased Christmas presents for my family, organized the advent calendar, decorated the house, bought the tree, decorated the tree, marched in a Christmas parade, and gotten Christmas packages together for our kiddos we sponsor in Africa. And I am exhausted. If you need me, I will be in bed until January.

Maybe you have also been squashed by the Christmas snowball. (I may have picked you up when I was rolling down the mountain of bills I was paying yesterday . . . sorry about that.)

But here is the thing. Almost none of these activities that are flattening me or you are really Christmas. They are all the trappings we have added to Christmas.

We don’t need more parties, or decorations, or gifts, or worries, or expectations to be added to Christmas.

What we really need is some grace. For ourselves and others. And we need to love people.

My husband just told me that all of us need at least eight hugs a day. He read it somewhere. It sounds about right.

And mostly, we need to remember Jesus. Jesus. The Savior. Emmanuel. Breath of Heaven. Redeemer. Bright and Morning Star. Friend. He loves us. There is nothing snowballish about Him. He came so that we could be free . . . not flattened. So breathe.

Grab some grace and spread it around. Hug somebody. And remember that the Light of the World loves you. Completely. Wholly. Without reservation. (Click to Tweet!)

And that is the real Christmas.

FAITH STEP: Repeat the names of Jesus out loud, slowly, pondering their meaning and letting the knowledge that He loves you completely penetrate your heart.

———

Interested in getting encouragement like this daily in 2016? Get Zondervan’s Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul today!

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While We Were Still Sinners

While We Were Still Sinners

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by Brett Parks, the founder and president of Second Shot Ministry. Brett travels around the nation speaking to schools, businesses, and churches about hope, faith, and how he overcame a 99.999% mortality rate.

Christmas’ Gift To Us: Cleanliness

December 24, 2015: Cold gusts of wind races down the empty streets as I sit within the warm confines of my home, basking in holiday cheer.  In the background, Bing sings the old familiar tune of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” the way only Mr. Crosby can sing it.

Its Christmas Eve and my wife and I just finished setting up a plastic red “Radio Flyer” wagon (for the third time).  Sitting on our couch, staring at our Christmas tree, illuminating the living room like a beacon of hope, I can’t help but think about the true meaning of Christmas.  

Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners…” kept playing over in my head and I pondered my “need for Jesus”.

In a nutshell, this world was made perfect as we were made perfect.  Then, a guy named Adam and a girl named Eve sinned against our God (or our creator).  

Because of that, it knocked this world and human kind into chaos, opening our eyes to good and evil. God (our Creator) told us from the moment Adam and Eve chose to sin, that He was going to send someone to be the ultimate sacrifice so that, those who recognized their need for Him, would become clean and be able to enter Heaven.

That someone was Jesus of Nazareth.  He was our creator’s son who was sent to earth for one reason: to become that ultimate sacrifice.  

Jesus lived a perfect life and took on the sin of everyone that had sinned in the past, sinned in the present and would sin in the future, and placed it on Himself; as he was nailed to a cross and died (fulfilling many prophecies that were recorded hundreds of years earlier).

This is what Christians mean when they say that we all have the “need for Jesus”.

As a Christian, I understand the “need for Jesus”.  I’ve experienced my share of pain and heartache to the very brink of death, only to be comforted by my “need for Jesus”.  

But this verse in the bible, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Gives me so much encouragement.  

We are all train wrecks, are we not?  Some more than others, but, train wrecks nevertheless.

We are, by very nature, selfish creatures.  From the moment we are conceived, we take.  It’s called survival, really, and we could explain it away as such in hopes to justify our actions.  But this isn’t what God wants us to do.  

He wants us to go against everything that feels natural to us and do what is right in his eyes: live according to his principals. (Click to Tweet!)  

This is why it’s so important to recognize our “need for Jesus”, because in order to truly live the way our Creator wants us to live and become clean the way he wants us to be, we have to understand our “need for Jesus”.

But here’s the amazing thing about our creator:  He didn’t wait until we got our act together to send Jesus to die for our sins.  

God didn’t look down from the sky with his arms crossed and his face contorted in disappointment and chastise us about how he wouldn’t move a finger until we stopped sinning, and let me tell you something, I am so glad he didn’t.  If he did, we would still be waiting for a savior and we’d never get to experience true salvation: true cleanliness.  Honestly, we’d still be sacrificing animals on alters.

But we have a God that loves us so much, that he sent his son (Jesus) to die on the cross, for our sins, allowing us a second shot at life. (Click to Tweet!)

He allowed us a second shot at being clean.  

We know this, because of what Paul said in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The “Christ” in this verse is Jesus and the “sinners” in this verse are we.  We is you; it’s me, it’s all of us.  

From the worst of the worst to the kindest and the most selfless, we are all sinners.  That’s why Christians express the “need for Jesus”.  

It would be great if we could just keep on living forever and not have to worry about the next stage in our life.  But, unfortunately, the expression is true: “Death and Taxes” are the two things that cannot be avoided.  Your lifeline will end.  You will cease to exist in this world.  What happens after you pass on is what we need to be thinking about at this moment in our lives.

On Christmas day, a little boy was born in an environment that would make even the toughest stomachs turn.  On that Christmas day, the world as was known, was changed forever.  

Jesus, the Christ child, was introduced to a world of sin: a world of need.  He would grow up blameless and die an innocent man.  But, in His death, there was life for all of mankind: past, present and future.

I have a “need for Jesus”; you have a “need for Jesus”.  This was the Creator’s purpose all along.  It wasn’t an easy decision for Him, but one He made out of love for us.       

So enjoy this holiday season.  Enjoy the winter wonderland/Santa Clause atmosphere.  Enjoy Bing Crosby and Michael Bublee’s Christmas album, but never forget the reason for the season: the gift that our Creator gave us, and our “need for Jesus”.  Merry Christmas!

———

Find inspiration about God’s goodness in Brett’s story, when he was shot in the abdomen while breaking up a robbery, spent 20 days in a coma, and woke to find he lost a kidney, a third of his colon, and the lower part of his right leg. Read more about Brett’s life-changing experience in his ebook, Miracle Man: A Bullet That Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life today.

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More than You Ever Wished For . . .

More than you wished for..

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Spend time reflecting with an excerpt from Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, published by Zondervan

Discover today’s devotional, written specifically for the Advent season by author Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV)

Recently we watched an old video of a Christmas that took place nine years ago.

Our boys were so small and sweet. Our oldest son, Jack, will be fourteen this year.

He couldn’t take his eyes off his five-year-old self. In the video, he was so excited about each present he opened he could barely contain himself. He was especially thrilled with an art kit he had received. He looked straight into the camera and said, “Hey! I think I wished for that!” I heard myself, off camera, laugh and say, “You did wish for that, Jack! How fun that you got it!”

More often than not, we don’t expect the things we wish for. We are not sure they will come to pass. We are incredibly surprised when the things we wish for come true, just like Jack was when he got the art kit he wanted so much.

But what is even better than getting what we wish for is when our hopes and dreams are surpassed and we receive more than we ever thought possible.

As Christ followers, we get far more than we ever asked or hoped or wished or dreamed for. (Click to Tweet!)

When we asked Jesus to save us from our sins, He didn’t stop there.

He is an over-the-top gift-giver.

He didn’t just save us, He offered us forgiveness, mercy, restoration, grace, healing, freedom, hope, joy, peace, a new way of thinking, a new way of living, a clean heart, and the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. He does more in us and for us than we could ever begin to wish for.

FAITH STEP: Thank Jesus for five different ways that He has exceeded your expectations in your life.

———

Interested in getting encouragement like this daily in 2016? Get Zondervan’s Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul today!

 

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Improve Your Marriage with Matt and Lauren Chandler!

Mingling of Souls

On February 19–20, Matt and Lauren Chandler are hosting the Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference in Jacksonville, Florida to talk about God’s good design for love, marriage, sex, and redemption.

The Chandlers are dedicated to making their conference available to everyone, not just those who can afford to travel and attend the event in person, so they are extending the invite to couples, small groups, and churches with the option to virtually attend the conference.

Stream the live conferenceget your ticket to attend virtually, now

After you get your ticket, follow Matt and Lauren’s Mingling of Souls Faithlife Group. Here you’ll be able to stream the live conference, get free access to The Mingling of Souls ebook from January 15 through February 15, join a reading plan where you can interact with Matt and Lauren, and you’ll even be entered to win an iPad Air 2.

Join thousands of others from the comfort of your home or church to watch this event. There are a variety of ticket types available with prices based on the size of your church or group, making it affordable for all!

Here are the three ways to attend:

  • As a couple: up to two people can attend, watch the conference with your significant other or spouse from the comfort of your living room for just $19.99
  • As a small group: share the experience and host your friends to strengthen your marriage together, 1 house is only $69.99
  • As a church: transform your church campus into a host site. For just $2.00 per person (or less, depending on the church size) you can invite every couple in your church and watch the conference on your own schedule. Depending on church size your ticket price will range from $199.99$399.99..

Don’t wait—get your ticket today!

After you get your ticket, simply log in and go to the Faithlife Group on February 19 to stream the live event!*

*Your ticket is connected to the Faithlife account it was purchased through. Login to the specified Faithlife account to stream the event from the Faithlife Group.

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Enter to Win an iPad and Learn from Matt and Lauren Chandler

BlogImage

On February 19 and 20, Matt and Lauren Chandler are hosting The Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference to talk about God’s good design for love, marriage, sex, and redemption.

Enter to win an iPad when you follow the Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference Faithlife Group!

You can even increase your chance of winning when you introduce yourself to the group—worth one additional entry, and when you invite your friends to the group—each friend you invite will bring you an additional entry in the giveaway.

Plus when you follow the group you’ll get free access to Matt Chandler’s ebook, The Mingling of Souls, from January 15–February 15.  

In The Mingling of Souls,  Matt Chandler takes a look at The Song of Solomon and unpacks it’s candid—and timeless—insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex. He applies it through practical, real-life examples helping the reader to connect with the text.

When your copy of the ebook is unlocked, you’ll be able to follow along with Matt and Lauren as they lead a book study, so you can ask questions about marriage and intimacy as you read.

Increase your chances of getting a free iPad when you:

Plus all are great ways to grow and establish community with other Christians and take part in meaningful conversations around romance, dating, marriage, and sex!

Then when you get your ticket for the Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference on Vyrso, you’ll be able to stream the live event for your home, small group, or church all from within the group!

Follow the Mingling of Souls Marriage Conference today—enter to win an iPad, gain insights from the Chandlers, and take part in meaningful conversations!

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What It’s Like to Convert from Islam to Christianity

Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi—an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and bestselling author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, was recently featured on the November/December issue of Bible Study Magazine.

Qureshi was raised in a close-knit Pakistani-American family devoted to Islam—so when he became convinced of the truth of the Bible and the claims of the Christian faith, he knew everything would change. “I knew from studying the Gospels that I was called to give up everything. Jesus says in Matthew 10, ‘He who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ ”

In Jessi Strong’s interview with Qureshi, he opened up about some of the barriers he faced in his conversion to Christianity:

“In responding to the gospel, Qureshi realized his relationship with his family presented two barriers to Christian faith.

The first was intellectual. From an early age, he had been taught Islamic apologetics—he learned to defend his minority faith in a majority Christian context.

‘Islam and Christianity teach such disparate things, and my parents needed a way to teach their son—who was growing up in the United States—to hold his beliefs against Christian teachings. I was taught Bible verses that seemed to argue against the deity of Jesus.

One was Mark 13:32, where Jesus talks about no one knowing the day or the hour of the end of times, “not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Qureshi had to re-examine everything he had long assumed to be fact.

The second barrier was social. Even before he seriously considered Christianity, Qureshi knew how devastating his conversion would be to his parents. His close ties with them stemmed from their Eastern, communal-minded family structure—compounded by the isolation they experienced living as a minority race, religion, and culture in the U.S.

To describe Qureshi’s family as devout doesn’t truly portray their religious legacy: “My mom was a missionary kid who grew up in Indonesia, where my grandfather preached to tribes in the jungles. My great-grandfather was a missionary and physician in Uganda.

From a social perspective, there were two things that gave my parents a sense of respect and standing in the Muslim community: the family legacy and their children. My conversion would mean taking everything away from them.”

While in college and medical school, one of Qureshi’s Christian friends challenged him to examine the Bible more seriously to see if its claims could be verified. It took years, but he began to respect the Bible as a historical document—even before he recognized Jesus as God.

“We know through biblical archaeology that some of the things Luke mentioned were not corroborated until archaeological digs confirmed them. (Click to Tweet!) I came to the conclusion that they had compelling historical truths.

I researched textual transmission, wanting to find out if what the Bible says today is what the Bible has always said. We have so many manuscripts of the New Testament in ancient Greek that we can be very confident in our reading of its text. Understanding the nature of the evidence began to change my perspective on the reliability of the Bible.” (Click to Tweet!)

As his respect for the Bible grew, Qureshi began to look more closely at the Gospel of Mark’s claims about Jesus.

“Muslim apologists will usually say that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, but he didn’t claim to be God. They expect Jesus to identify himself using certain words. It’s not a bad expectation, given how God identifies himself in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 45:22, for example, God very powerfully says, ‘I am God, and there is no other.’ When he meets Moses in Exodus 3:14, Moses asks him who he is, and God says, ‘I am that I am’—in other words, ‘I eternally exist.’ ””

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Embracing Both Holiness and Happiness

Happiness and Holiness

Today’s guest post is by Vyrso’s Author of the Month, Randy Alcorn. Check out his new ebook, Happinesson Vyrso now!

As a young pastor, I preached, as others still do, “God calls us to holiness, not happiness.”[i]

There’s a half-truth in this.

I saw Christians pursue what they thought would make them happy, falling headlong into sexual immorality, alcoholism, materialism, and obsession with success.

I was attempting to oppose our human tendency to put preferences and convenience before obedience to Christ. It all sounded so spiritual, and I could quote countless authors and preachers who agreed with me.

I’m now convinced we were all dead wrong.

There were several flaws in my thinking, including inconsistency with my own experience. I’d found profound happiness in Christ; wasn’t that from God? Furthermore, calling people to reject happiness in favor of holiness was ineffective. It might work for a while but not in the long run.

My study of Scripture and church history since then has helped me understand that true holiness always manifests itself in authentic happiness. Psalm 1:1 says, “Blessed [happy] is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.”

Tony Reinke gets it right: “Sin is joy poisoned. Holiness is joy postponed and pursued.”[ii]

Holiness doesn’t mean abstaining from pleasure; holiness means recognizing Jesus as the source of life’s greatest pleasure. (Click to Tweet)

Spurgeon put it this way: “Holiness is the royal road to happiness. The death of sin is the life of joy.” For those of us who are Christ-centered believers, our lives should overflow with both holiness and happiness.

In Revelation 20:6, makarios, meaning “happy,” is joined with hagios, meaning “holy.” The following versions capture this beautiful combination:

  • Happy and holy [is] he who is having part in the first rising again. (Young’s Literal Translation)
  • Those who are raised from the dead during this first time are happy and holy. The second death has no power over them. (Revelation 20:6, NLV)
  • Happy and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! (PHILLIPS)

Sadly, too often our message to the world becomes a false gospel that lays upon people an impossible burden, as in “to be a Christian, you must give up wanting to be happy and instead choose to be holy.” In fact, happiness and holiness are inseparable. “Give up happiness; choose holiness instead” is not good news, and therefore it is not the “good news of happiness” spoken of in Scripture (Isaiah 52:7)!

God has made holiness and happiness to enjoy a similar relationship: each benefits from the other. For those of us who are Christ-centered believers, our lives should overflow with both.

When Jesus says, “Be perfect” (Matthew 5:48), we should recognize that true happiness in him is part of what he intends. Our pleasure is won in the “Aha!” moments of discovering firsthand why God’s ways really are best. The more we discover God’s ways and experience the goodness of his holiness, the less we try to find happiness apart from him. (Click to Tweet)

[i] Richard Mansel, “God Calls Us to Holiness, Not Happiness,” Forthright Magazine, March 4, 2008, http://forthright.net/2008/03/04/god_calls_us_to_holiness_not_happiness_1/.

[ii] Tony Reinke, “The World’s Joy-Tragedy,” Desiring God, August 30, 2014, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-world-s-joy-tragedy.

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Read Randy Alcorn’s Happiness to learn more about celebrating happiness and joy.

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3 Ways to Strengthen a Long-Distance Marriage: An Interview with Hope Griffin

Finding Joy

We had the privilege to ask author Hope Griffin questions about what she’s learned as a military wife, authors that inspire her, and about her new release, Finding Joy: The Year Apart That Made Me A Better Wife.

All month long, keep up with Vyrso’s author recommendation blog series, where you can read exclusive interviews with Christian authors and get great recommendations on ebooks that have impacted their walk with Christ.

What drives you to write?

I have always used writing as an escape, a way to process my thoughts, and to dig deeper into my faith. For as long as I can remember I have believed in Christ, the details and theology came with time.

I pursued my love for writing in both my undergrad and graduate studies, minoring in Creative Writing at the University of Central Arkansas and in addition to Biblical Studies pursuing the Creative Writing classes available at Dallas Theological Seminary.

I find that when I’m not writing my world is unbalanced.

What inspired you to write your newest release, Finding Joy?

Being a part of the military community is a great honor. It brings new challenges to marriages, family, and self-care. When my soldier first deployed I needed an outlet for my thoughts and fears so I wrote. 

The more I wrote about my own struggle through deployments and our daughter’s cancer the more I began to see the same struggles in the community around me.

Finding Joy is a testimony to not just surviving long distance marriages but finding purpose and passion in them. Whether it is the military, health, or careers that geographically separate us, it does not mean that our marriages have to suffer.

What are three pieces of advice you would give to military wives to help strengthen their relationship with God and their husband?

First communication.

We can’t always talk to our spouse but when the opportunity presents itself we need to be purposeful about what we say. Clear, loving words need to be spoken over distances. Distance from our spouse also presents us with the opportunity to go to God more. God’s love and companionship, even when unfelt, is our one constant in life. Go to Him. (Click to Tweet)

Second is letting go.

Give up the control. Absolutely pursue dreams and make plans but when life gives you a detour adapt accordingly. Learn to cherish the unseen future and don’t stress or worry about what may or may not happen. Live today, dream for tomorrow, but be flexible in what may come. (Click to Tweet)

Third is don’t compare your relationship with your spouse or with God with someone else.

The only closed doors you see what happens behind is your own. Cherish and and enjoy your story.

Which authors have influenced you and your writing as you’ve grown in your faith?

Over the years I have fallen in love with the writings of:

  •  Philip Yancey, he reintroduced me to Christ.
  • Leonard Sweet, he made me dig deep into my faith and ask hard questions.
  • Amy Julia Becker, she offered a simplicity to deep theological questions and reminded me that we are all on a journey and do not hold all the answers.
  • Jocelyn Green and Judy Davis, both women are fellow military spouses and were voices of encouragement during deployments.

More recently, I discovered Cynthia Ruchti. Her story telling and authenticity are refreshing and uplifting. She addresses the struggles of long distance marriage in her book As Waters Gone By. She reached into my life and pulled out encouragement from some of the most tattered places.

There have been to many authors who have influenced me through the years to pinpoint them all down. It often seems that they have a peek into my life and know exactly where I need to be ministered to.

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Get encouragement to grow and thrive despite hard circumstances in these words of wisdom from Hope Griffin in Finding Joy: The Year Apart That Made Me A Better Wife.

All month long, read exclusive interviews with Christian authors and get great recommendations. Don’t miss a post in this series—subscribe to Vyrso’s RSS feed, follow Vyrso on Twitter, and like Vyrso on Facebook!

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Should We See a Difference Between Happiness and Joy?

Happy

Today’s guest post is by Vyrso’s Author of the Month, Randy Alcorn. Check out his new release, Happiness.

An ungrounded, dangerous separation of joy from happiness has infiltrated the Christian community.

The following is typical of the artificial distinctions made by modern Christians: “. . . There is a big difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is an emotion and temporary; joy is an attitude of the heart.[i]

Judging from such articles (and there are hundreds more out there), you’d think the distinction between joy and happiness is biblical. It’s not. [Click to Tweet!]

John Piper writes, “If you have nice little categories for ‘joy is what Christians have’ and ‘happiness is what the world has,’ you can scrap those when you go to the Bible, because the Bible is indiscriminate in its uses of the language of happiness and joy and contentment and satisfaction.”[ii]

Here’s a sampling of the more than one hundred Bible verses in various translations that use joy and happiness together:

  • For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. (Esther 8:16, NIV)
  • I will turn their mourning into joy. . . and bring happiness out of grief. (Jeremiah 31:13, HCSB)
  • Give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy. (Proverbs 23:25, NLT)

The relationship between joy and happiness in these passages refutes two common claims: (1) that the Bible doesn’t talk about happiness, and (2) that joy and happiness have contrasting meanings. In fact, the Bible overflows with accounts of God’s people being happy in him.

Depicting joy in contrast with happiness has obscured the true meaning of both words. Joyful people are typically glad and cheerful—they smile and laugh a lot. To put it plainly, they’re happy!

Consult English dictionaries and you’ll see how contrived this supposed contrast between joy and happiness is. The first definition of joy in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is “a feeling of great happiness.”[iii] The American Heritage Dictionary defines joy as “intense and especially ecstatic or exultant happiness.”[iv]

Happiness is joy. Joy is happiness. Virtually all dictionaries, whether secular or Christian, recognize this. [Click to Tweet!]

As I explore in Happiness, according to the vast majority of the usages of these two words in (1) English history, (2) English literature, (3) Bible translations, and (4) English dictionaries, the words have far more in common with each other than not.

For too long we’ve distanced the gospel from what God created us to desire—and what he desires for us—happiness.

We need to reverse the trend. Let’s redeem the word happiness in light of both Scripture and church history. Our message shouldn’t be “Don’t seek happiness,” but “You’ll find in Jesus the happiness and joy you’ve always longed for.”

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[i] Brian Cromer, “Difference between Joy and Happiness,” Briancromer.com (blog), April 28, 2008, http://briancromer.com/2008/04/28/difference-between-joy-and-happiness/.

[ii] John Piper, “Let Your Passion Be Single,” Desiring God, November 12, 1999, http://www.desiringgod.org/conference-messages/let-your-passion-be-single.

[iii] Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary (Britannica Digital Learning, 2014), s.v. “joy,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/joy.

[iv] American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed., s.v. “joy.”

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Read Randy Alcorn’s Happiness to learn more about celebrating happiness and joy.

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