Quick Fixes to Deep Problems: an Excerpt from Radically Normal

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Today’s excerpt is from Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus by Josh Kelley. Josh has been a pastor for 15 years and holds a BA in biblical studies from Pacific Life College. Originally from northwest Washington, he is currently on a year-long, cross country speaking tour, joined by his wife Marilyn and their two daughters.

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One fine summer afternoon, I was working in the drive-through at Starbucks and had a customer order a Venti sugar-free, heavy-cream, no-whip Caramel Frappuccino Light. Allow me to translate. That’s a 20-ounce Frappuccino made with sugar-free caramel syrup, but instead of milk, she wanted unwhipped whipping cream. But (and she was very clear about this) she didn’t want any whipped cream on it.

As she pulled up to the window, I was curious to see what sort of person would order a Venti heavy-cream Frappuccino. I don’t want to be insensitive, so I’ll just say she looked the part. I chatted with her as her drink was being made and asked (as casually as I could) why she didn’t want any whipped cream on her drink.

“It’s because of the sugar in the whipped cream. I’m on a diet that lets me have as much fat as I want but no sugar.”

As I handed it to her, I said, “Just so you know, the base syrup we use has a little bit of sugar in it. Not much, but a little.”

“Oh,” she said. “That must be why I haven’t lost any weight.”

I’m rarely left speechless, but words failed me. I just grunted some sort of goodbye as she drove off. Let me get this straight—that drink had almost 70 grams of fat, and she thought a couple of grams of sugar was the reason she wasn’t losing any weight?

Even now I have to wonder. Did she really believe the sugar was the reason for her weight problem? Somewhere deep down, she must have known that losing all that weight might require a little more work than skipping the whipped cream on a 750-calorie drink. It’s easy to point fingers because her problem was so visible, but all of us crave quick fixes to deep problems. And quick fixes usually make problems worse. [Click to tweet!]

When I was young (but old enough to know better), I hated to stop playing when I had to go to the bathroom, so I’d just pee my pants. Cold days were the worst. I vividly remember that feeling of having to pee so bad but not wanting to go inside. There were a few glorious moments when I enjoyed the relief and the newly acquired warmth. But the relief was short-lived. Soon the warm turned to cold, and then came the chafing of my skin against the cold, wet denim, followed by that distinctive smell. I continued doing that until the third grade, my only year in public school. The shame of peeing my pants on a field trip motivated me to start using the bathroom.

Sin is the moral equivalent of peeing our pants. It begins as a shortsighted solution to a genuine problem or a short-lived pleasure at the expense of long-term happiness. I basically see God’s rules like him telling us to use the bathroom.

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What Are You Supposed To Do With Your Life?

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Today we have the pleasure of sharing an exclusive look at Johnnie Moore’s new ebook, What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life? This ebook aims to provide spiritual direction and clear guidance on the most frequently asked question Moore hears as the campus pastor at a Christian university. Take a look:

Young evangelicals are constantly told that our teen, college, and young adult years are a “waiting period.” We’re waiting for jobs, for spouses, for God’s calling. This isn’t the season to get to work, but the season to wait until God shows us what we’re supposed to do with our lives. So we’re supposed to pray and to wait for an answer, and when the answers don’t come, that’s when we start asking God to “send a yellow pigeon into our bedroom window at five p.m. on Thursday” if he wants us to be a missionary to a tribe of pigmy people. Since the end to the waiting period is vague, we start getting increasingly desperate to know what’s next, and then the prayers get crazier and crazier.

This kind of “spiritual waiting” isn’t helpful; it’s actually harmful. We may think it is grounded in faith, but it often comes out of fear. We are so afraid that we’ll do something God doesn’t want us to do that we demand proof after proof of his will so that we can make faithless, risk-free decisions. We are so afraid of taking a chance on what we might think is God’s will that we try to shift responsibility entirely to him, asking for him to give us a miracle and then while we’re waiting for the miracle we tell our friends that we are “waiting on God.” We want him to remove from the decision all of the ambiguity and uncertainty. That way, if things go wrong, we can shake our heads and tell ourselves that “everything happens for a reason,” and comfort ourselves with the thought that at least we did what God told us to do.

But did we? Is this how God speaks to us? This idea of “waiting for God to move” lulls us into the belief that these years—some of the most important years of our lives—when our habits and personalities are being formed, when we learn how to function in relationships and in the workplace, are not really that important after all. It shifts responsibility from us to God, leaving us free to waste our time with video games, fool around with relationships without serious intentions, and distract ourselves from our future plans with the technology and its drama we invite upon ourselves. This is one of the reasons why “thirty is the new twenty,” why our generation struggles to focus on serious things, and why we so egregiously delay adulthood. We agonize over decisions and often put them off, saying that we are waiting for confirmation from God that we are doing the right thing. In the meantime, we fill the space between “asking” and “hearing” by wasting valuable time on meaningless pursuits. Rather than swimming ahead, we’re just treading water, looking for a blinking sign to drop from the sky and tell us where to go and what to do.

We want God to answer all the “W” questions for us first—the who, what, when, and where. But is this really necessary? I don’t think it is. I don’t think we should embrace this type of attitude; instead we ought to embrace an attitude that believes that now is as important as the future, and that so much of the will of God is realized in the everyday decisions and moments that we can let roll by unrecognized while we’re waiting for God to answer bigger questions and to provide us with supernatural signs. Meanwhile, every season of life is equally important and every daily encounter matters just as much as future goals, and somehow these passing moments, which you’re tempted to discount, are actually the building blocks for your future.

Nearly every twenty something I know is playing this waiting game; rather than jumping in with both feet, they are twiddling their thumbs, waiting for a dove to descend from the sky or a dog to walk around the corner of a building. Meanwhile God has them—us—in lives that keep on ticking, day after day, and he’s given us a book filled with words of advice that we’re to apply to our lives every single day. There is always a logical direction to follow, a next nearest step to take, and often the will of God is more about following that next nearest step than it is about waiting for God to send a sign. It’s about being the person God would have you be in whatever situation he has you at the moment.

Sometimes we say that we’re “waiting on God” when God is actually waiting on us [Click to tweet!] He is expecting us to start taking life seriously and start taking advantage of the opportunities he has already given us, as opposed to waiting for the next new thing. He’s expecting us to live our current season to its fullest.

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Want to read more? Pre-order What Am I Supposed To Do With My Life? on Vyrso today!

Reprinted with permission from W Publishing Group, an imprint of Thomas Nelson.

 

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Knowing God: An Interview with J.D. Greear (Part 2)

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Today we are continuing our exclusive two-part interview with J.D. Greear, author of the new ebook Jesus, Continued. You can pre-order Jesus, Continued on Vyrso today! 

In some of your writing about the book you say, “Through depth in the gospel and fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we can go from guilt-driven to grace-driven and gift-driven.” Can you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

When we feel like we are responsible to save the world, we will feel like we are never doing enough—never being radical enough, never sacrificing enough. We’ll always feel guilty that we could be doing more. But when we focus on the fact that God doesn’t need us, that he multiplies loaves and fishes to feed multitudes and pulls $100,000 tax payments out of fish’s mouths if he wants, that burden is gone. When that burden is removed, we can be radically generous in response to God’s grace (that’s grace-driven), and fully surrendered to what God is telling us to do (gift-driven).

Recently I read that Pentecostals are the most effective mobilizers for mission on the planet. That is because they focus less on the enormity of the task and more on what God is directing you to do in his Spirit. The size of the task is crushing. Sensing that God has an assignment for you is empowering. The Baptist and Reformed communities are good at emphasizing the size of the task, which we need to hear, and feel. But we need to take our eyes off the field and look to the God who brings life back from the dead and multiplies our meager resources to feed thousands. Compared to the size of the task, we are nothing. Compared to the size of our God, the task is nothing.

God does not need us to accomplish the Great Commission for him, but wants to accomplish it through us.

For those that are currently mission-driven but burned out, weary, and longing for joy, what is one way they can start living a satisfied life in relationship with God through the Holy Spirit?

I sympathize with those who feel burned out from their mission-driven convictions. As I mentioned above, I would often pursue the mission with zeal, only to end up feeling paralyzed by the weight of it all. I toggled between summers of feverish activity and winters of guilt and fatigue.

The burden of that conviction nearly crushed me. My despair drove me to the Scriptures, and that despair eventually gave way to one of the most surprising insights I’ve ever had, one that has radically redefined how I see my service to Christ.

That discovery? God doesn’t need you! He never has. He never will. For anything. Ever. In Psalm 50:12 God says that if he were hungry, he wouldn’t come to me. God never approaches me as a needy God.

So it turns out I had vastly overestimated what I had to contribute. I didn’t have “more” I needed to give; I actually had nothing God needed to begin with. Nothing.

God is not now, nor has he ever, looked for “helpers” to assist him in saving the world. That doesn’t mean he isn’t calling us to give ourselves generously to that mission or to be sacrificially generous with our neighbors; it’s just that he’s not looking for people to supply his needs. He’s not short on money, talent, or time. He has never commanded us to go save the world for him; he calls us to follow him as he saves the through us.

So instead of asking the question, “What needs to be done in the world?” I should ask, “What is the Spirit of God leading me to do?” Just like Jesus told his apostles to wait on the coming of the Holy Spirit before they went out to the world, we are to look to the Holy Spirit for his direction in what God would have us do. We don’t “wait on” the Holy Spirit like they did, since we have him in our souls already, but we adopt the same posture of humble dependence on him that they had, looking for where he directs us to go.

Do you have any other examples of people that have moved from being weighted by the Great Commission to living empowered and focused based upon God’s gifting and speaking?

I am honored to be a part of a church where I hear stories about God empowering specific people for specific callings all the time. Their stories actually helped me to see how central the leading of the Spirit is in the pages of the New Testament. I could tell a dozen stories, but I’ll choose just one that makes the point beautifully.

I have a friend, Tony, who has adopted five kids, four from Ukraine and one from Kenya (and he says you have no trouble telling which ones are which!). The four from Ukraine he adopted at once. When I asked how he came to that, he replied that one summer he and his wife set out to study the book of Romans together. They felt struck by Paul’s admonition that those who know the gospel should become like the gospel. The more he learned about his own salvation, he said, the more he longed for a way to respond to Jesus for his great grace.

But how should they do this? As Tony and his wife prayed through that question, he came to Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1:5 that God has adopted all believers into his family; then he read Paul’s command in Ephesians 5:1 for believers to imitate their God. “What better way to put the gospel on display,” Tony thought, “than to adopt an unwanted child?”

Tony asked God for the opportunity to do just that, and did God ever open that door! Tony went on a mission trip to Ukraine. While there, the orphanage director told Tony that someone had just brought in a set of four siblings. The kids, ages two through eight, were about to be split up and placed in orphanages around the country . . . unless someone came forward to take all four. When a worker brought the kids out to Tony, he saw four scared little children, all holding hands. They thought they were being called in for discipline. In that moment, Tony knew the Spirit of God had answered his prayer. “Those are your kids,” the Spirit said.

“I know I can’t take care of all the orphans in the world,” Tony said. “But God told me to take care of these four. I know adoption is not God’s will for every family. But it was clear it was the Spirit’s direction for us. We wanted to respond to the gospel, and this is the way the Holy Spirit directed us to do that.”

What is one takeaway you hope people embrace after reading Jesus, Continued?

I want readers to see that personal, interactive relationship has always been God’s plan for his people. This book exists to lead people to that experience if they’ve never had it, and help clarify it for them if they have. God has always been a God who is close and present with his people—but only since Jesus returned to heaven has he taken up residence inside of us.

But how do we know when God is speaking to us, leading us? More havoc has been wreaked in the church following the phrase, “God just said to me…” than any other. How do we balance what God has clearly and definitely said in Scripture and how he moves, dynamically, in our world today?

I also want to help readers understand how closely the Spirit connects to the gospel. Many Christians today talk about the gospel and the Word; others talk all about the Spirit. But these connect at the deepest levels. The deeper you go in the gospel, the more alive you become in the Spirit. By believing the gospel message, Paul says, you are filled with the Spirit (Gal 3:1–3), and if you want to grow more full with the Spirit, you must keep plunging deeper into the gospel message.

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You can pre-order J.D. Greear’s new ebook Jesus, Continued and download his other titles today on Vyrso.com! 

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Knowing God: An Interview with J.D. Greear (Part 1)

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Today we have the wonderful opportunity of sharing with you the first of a two-part interview with J.D. Greear, author of the new ebook Jesus, Continued. You can pre-order Jesus, Continued on Vyrso today!

Tell us a little about the background for your latest title, Jesus, Continued.

Early in my ministry, I secretly felt frustrated with my faith, because it seemed like the people in the Bible had a fundamentally different experience with God than I had. My relationship with God seemed to be one-way. All of God’s presence seemed stockpiled in the past: he created the world, died on a cross, and then inspired a Bible to tell us about it. God was like a busy teacher who had given me an assignment and then stepped out of the room, leaving me to get it done on my own. I had a “relationship with God” in the sense of praying to him about my problems and trying to trust that he was working—somewhere, somehow—to help me. But I didn’t have any real interaction with him. God was a doctrine I knew about rather than a person I knew.

I related to the Holy Spirit the same way I related to my pituitary gland: grateful it’s in there; know it’s essential for something; don’t really relate to it. It certainly wasn’t a sense of the presence of God with me, or a living, moving, dynamic Person.

Jesus, Continued is a book for anyone who shares that feeling. It’s about how the Holy Spirit God is actually present with his people, and through him we have the kind of fellowship with God the disciples had with Jesus (1 John 1:3). He moves in us, speaks through us. He calls us to follow as he goes about accomplishing the Great Commission through us. Mission is not what we do for him, but what he does through us.

This book is for those Christians who want to see God move from being someone they know about to someone they feel is truly present in their lives, someone they interact with personally. It is also for those who have gotten a vision for mission but soon grew weary at the size of the task or their inability to accomplish it. I’m thinking here of everyone from burned out pastors and missionaries to zealous college students and weary mothers.

What was the inspiration behind Jesus, Continued?

I took the title from Acts 1:1, where Luke says that in his former book—the Gospel of Luke—he “wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach, until the day he was taken up” (Acts 1:1). The implication is that Acts is what Jesus is continuing to do.

What this means is that the work Jesus began in his earthly ministry he now continues through his Spirit by the church. It’s not that in the Gospels Jesus worked, and now we, in his absence, work for him; during his incarnation Jesus worked through his earthly body and now he works through us.

I believe this is a crucial message to recover. When we approach the Christian life as something we do for God, we quickly feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and eventually burned-out. But when we are filled by the Spirit of God, drudgery is transformed into delight, and the crushing weightiness of the task becomes empowerment for specific callings the Spirit gives to us.

Was there a particular moment that you encountered God speaking to you through the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit appears 59 times in the book of Acts, in 36 of those he is speaking. I see no reason to think he has ceased moving and speaking to his people today, though those movements of us never takes on the weight or authority of Scripture (that level of revelation has ceased; the canon is closed). Scripture is complete, and contains all we need to be complete (2 Tim 3:16-17) But just as we see in the book of Acts, we need the Spirit to move dynamically in our lives to show us how to pursue and execute his mission.

And as I explain in the book, we always need to weigh our experience of God’s Spirit speaking to our spirit with other factors, like the testimony of Scripture and the wisdom of our Christian community. But the Spirit of God can and does speak to us individually. One particular way I’ve experienced that is through what I call “holy ambitions.”

When the Spirit of God wants to work in his people, he often starts by stoking the fires of a particular, holy ambition for a particular ministry or need. The fire of passion for God to do something in your generation, or on your campus, or in your family, grows to a fever temperature inside of you. It’s less of a “word” from God that it is a holy discontent with a situation, a broken heart over injustice and pain, or a burning passion to see God glorified.

For example, Scripture does not record God ever telling David that he wanted him to fight with Goliath. God did not summon David to a “holy huddle” in the pasture in which he said, “OK, David, there will be a giant there, and he will say this . . . and then you get 5 rocks, and then . . . .”

David simply found himself in a place with a defiant giant, burning with holy zeal. He assumed that meant God wanted him to fight. Furthermore, God gave David no assurance that he would defeat Goliath on that day. David simply believed God wanted him to fight the giant and trusted God with the outcome.

I’ve had a few moments like that in my life. For instance, I spent two years living as a missionary in Southeast Asia. Shortly after I left, the worst tsunami on record swept onto the island, killing more than 100,000 people. When I returned and stood at the very spot where the tsunami had come ashore, I sensed God telling me that he would send a wave of salvation through that same area, and that our church was to continually place people there on the ground believing it, waiting for it to happen.

Not every ambition in our heart comes from God, but God certainly uses holy, burning desires like those as a compass to point true north for your life, to show you where he wants you to go and how he wants you to be involved in his mission. You likely will experience it as a holy discontent—a conviction that God wants something different than what the situation currently is. You sense him inviting you to lay hold of his willingness and release his power.

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that empowers people to live fruitful lives?

In John 16:7, Jesus told his disciples, “It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” In other words, if they understood what was being offered to them in the Holy Spirit, they would have been glad he was returning to heaven if that meant getting the Spirit. Having the Holy Spirit in them would be better than having him beside them.

That’s a staggering promise. How many Christians today are experiencing the fulfillment of that promise?

When the disciples had Jesus beside them, he wasn’t just a force or a principle. He was a person, someone they interacted with. Someone who spoke into their lives.

The Holy Spirit is to be the same for us. He desires to have fellowship with us (1 John 1:3). And he is to be our guide, as we see him guiding his church throughout the book of Acts. He powers our ministry the way he did those first Apostles. In some ways, the book of Acts can be seen as one extended commentary on Jesus’ promise in John 16:7. The Spirit inside the apostles was even more empowering than Jesus beside them.

He gives us resurrection power over sin, applies the promises and warnings of Scriptures to our hearts, and shows us what parts of the Great Commission belong to us. He turns “good” ideas into “God” ideas. These things make his presence inside us even better than Jesus beside us.

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You can pre-order J.D. Greear’s new ebook, Jesus, Continued, and download his other titles today on Vyrso.com. Be sure to check back Friday for part two of our interview with J.D. Greear.

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A Writer’s Life with Philip Yancey

What's So Amazing About Grace?

Today’s guest post is from Philip Yancey, a best-selling evangelical Christian author. You can get Yancey’s best seller, What’s So Amazing About Grace?, for free on Vyrso through the month of October!

A writer’s life is a strange combination of isolation and busyness.

The act of writing itself requires quiet, reflective time. I can’t write if someone walks into the room. I block out distractions by listening to music through my headphones, and by shutting off my cell phone and email program.

Eventually, though I have to pay for the isolation. Right now I’m sitting on an airplane frantically trying to catch up on the accumulated emails and scheduling details that I put off while writing. A new book is being released—Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News?—which I’ll be presenting to a group of pastors in Boston. While flying east for that event, I’m reviewing notes and fine-tuning a PowerPoint file. Soon I’ll take that presentation on a seven-city book tour.

When I’m writing, I focus on one thing only. When I’m catching up, I flit from place to place like a hummingbird. Flying across Ohio, suddenly I remember a strange and confusing passage I read in the Bible this morning. It appears in the latter part of Ezekiel, a series of very detailed instructions on the building of the temple and the resumption of animal sacrifices. Many of the rules described echo those in Leviticus, but some have changed. Why is so much space devoted to these details? I ask myself.  And what does this passage have to do with us today? I wonder how modern Jews, who have nothing resembling the temple described, interpret these chapters with their architectural specificity. Are the blueprints symbolic or literal?

When a line of questioning starts bugging me, I have great difficulty getting back to other tasks.  Magically, because I have Logos Bible Software, I can look up the answers right now, sitting in a chair in the sky zooming across the American heartland. I have access to hundreds of Bible resources on my laptop computer, and in a few minutes I can survey a variety of opinions from scholars who have addressed my very questions.

Last weekend I spent hours moving hundreds of books and reference works out of danger from a basement flood. Thinking back, I have to smile at the contrast between those books, which take up so much space in my office, and a software program I can carry in my coat pocket. In some ways I’m old-fashioned. I still listen to classical music, I stubbornly cling to my flip-style “dumb phone,” and I don’t use Twitter. I must tell you, though, that I am forever grateful to live in an age that makes it possible for me to carry the wisdom of the ages with me, wherever I go.

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Check out Yancey’s upcoming tour for his new book, Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? and download What’s So Amazing About Grace? for free all through the month of October.

 

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Great Leaders vs. Bad Leaders

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Today’s guest post is from Russ Crosson, president and CEO of Ronald Blue & Co., a  strategic wealth management firm that oversees over $7 billion in assets. Russ is the author of four ebooks including Your Life…Well Spent available through October 14 for $2.99.

There are several qualities which I’ve observed that I believe distinguish a good leader from a bad leader.

Great leaders support the strengths in others. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that in any entity, the men and women who emerge as tomorrow’s leaders will likely have more skills and abilities than the current leader. And therein lies the greatest distinction between a great leader and a bad leader.

Great leaders aren’t afraid of the strengths found in others. Bad leaders are intimidated by them. 

As a leader, you have the choice to either bring talented individuals along and allow them to grow by using their talents and gifts or be intimidated by their strengths and look for someone not as skilled and gifted so you will never be challenged. The latter is what bad leaders do. Great leaders build winning teams—teams that will endure for generations to come.

Great leaders have strong relational ability. A great leader is easy to have a relationship with; a bad leader is hard to have a relationship with. Leaders who are fearful of losing their positions or being overshadowed by others will continually be watching their backs. They won’t let themselves be vulnerable or get too close. They keep their cards close to the vest. In doing this, these bad leaders believe they will always be needed. The business relationships they do have will generally be at a surface level only.

Great leaders relate to others in openness and with transparency. These leaders spend time with their people training, coaching, mentoring, teaching and doing whatever is needed to prepare them for future leadership. When they’re at work, they’re “all in” and engage with others in order to be a holistic mentor to next-generation leaders.

Great leaders accept feedback. Because great leaders don’t fear strengths in others, they can listen and accept feedback without feeling threatened. Great leaders value input even when it’s not what they want to hear or they disagree with the opinion. Bad leaders tend to be threatened and go on the defensive, ignoring advice that’s contrary to what they think. These types of leaders tend to listen only to what makes them feel good and often misinterpret lack of agreement as disloyalty.

In conclusion, outstanding leaders willingly lay themselves aside and concentrate on the mission rather than on their personal goals. They help others grow and perform to the best of their abilities. They promote the success of others rather than promoting themselves. All leaders have a choice where they direct their focus: on others or themselves.

Great leaders focus on others . . . where will you choose to focus?

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Interested in reading more? Check out all of Russ Crosson’s ebooks on Vyrso today!

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Sneak Peek from The Way of Wisdom—Now Available!

The Way of Wisdom

Today’s post is an excerpt from Boyd Bailey’s newest devotional, The Way of Wisdom: A Journey Towards Spiritual Growth. This book of daily devotionals provides wisdom that is grounded in scripture and packed with practical guidance. Here are two excerpts from the ebook:

Comparison’s Crazy Cycle

When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:21-22

No one wins when comparison is the criteria for being valued. If people are the plumb line for a sense of success—then there are always those who are smarter, prettier, and richer. An unrealistic appraisal of others feeds a feeling of failure. On the other hand, pride puffs up with a subtle notion of superiority when it looks to others as a standard for living. Jesus smiles and says, “What is that to you?” Comparison is not a win for anyone. Yes, we can be inspired and instructed by a life that seeks to emulate the Lord, but we are not to idolize any individual. Of course, we are wise to learn from the mistakes of others, but not with a secret delight that believes we look better when the unfortunate look bad. Our discontent is compounded under the demanding nature of comparison. We cannot enjoy what we have for the allure of what we don’t have. Comparison kills contentment. It is a crazy cycle! “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves.

When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

Related Readings: Proverbs 8:11; Ecclesiastes 4:5-6; Romans 12:15; James 3:14-16

Demolish Strongholds

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Strongholds are Satan’s attempt to strangle spiritual life out of the saints of God. The enemy is not slack in his attacks, indeed he is always on the prowl to pronounce judgment and dispense shame. Some of his strategic strongholds are pride, addiction, and self-absorption. He sucks in a susceptible heart and a wandering mind with alluring sin. The devil builds a faithless fortress and launches missiles of doubt with false ideologies. How do strongholds take hold and grow in our lives? Ironically, a strength can become a stronghold. Healthy confidence drifts into arrogance. The gift of discernment grows into a judgmental attitude. The discipline to work out regularly and eat right becomes an obsession that consumes every minute of our discretionary time. The goal to get ahead financially grows into greed and a sense of superiority. A strength can be a stronghold. Divine strongholds defeat Satan’s. Trust in the Lord tears down demonic strongholds and erects His faithful fortress over them.

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him” (Nahum 1:7, NKJV).

Related Readings: Psalm 9:9; 27:1; 37:39; Lamentations 2:2-5


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Do you have any examples of a way you’ve demolished a stronghold of the enemy or became more content? We’d love to hear your stories—share a comment below! If you haven’t had a chance yet, you can get your copy of Boyd Bailey’s The Way of Wisdom today on Vyrso for just $7.49!  

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How to Entertain and Minister with Christian Fiction

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Today’s interview is with Miralee Ferrell author of Blowing on Dandelions, one of our featured titles in our 99-cent fiction sale.

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I had no plans to ever write for publication. In fact, I’d never written anything other than a journal, letters to friends, and term papers in high school and college. But God spoke to me through a pastor who prayed with me and told me he believed God was calling me to write—not just to write, but to be published. Even after having 10 books in print, it still amazes me that I’m published, but I’m to the point where I can’t imagine doing anything else. I truly love it and am so thankful He put my feet on this path.

How did you develop Blowing on Dandelions? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?

God spoke to my heart about writing that one after an experience I had at a conference. I believe it will minister to many hurting women who’ve experienced a less-than-happy relationship with a mother or grown daughter, as well as bringing enjoyment to romance readers. Blowing on Dandelions was birthed as a result of an encounter with an emotionally damaged woman who’d been hurt many, many times over the years by her emotionally abusive mother. I decided to place it in a historical setting and bring a romance element into play, but the underlying theme of ‘relationship’ is clear through the entire story.

Tell us more about the heroine and hero of the ebook—what do you like most about them?

Katherine Galloway is a very strong woman—and a widow—raising two girls on her own while running a boardinghouse and keeping peace in her household among some rather mysterious and cantankerous boarders. She has a sweet and gentle spirit, even with her mother who is determined to set Katherine straight on nearly everything Katherine does.  The hero is Micah Jacobs, a widower with a teen-aged son. Micah lost his wife 18 months earlier and is determined to guard his heart from any future relationships—until he meets Katherine—and encounters challenges he never expected. I love Micah’s tender and gentle spirit with Katherine and even with Katherine’s mother, who isn’t receptive to his suit toward Katherine. Both Micah and Katherine are gentle but very strong people who know what they believe and what they want in life. I love that!

Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?

Honestly, I’m not sure how to answer that, as it varies almost daily. Definitely from the Lord, but at times it just bubbles and flows, while other times it seems as though I’m trying to tap into a dry spring. When that happens, I go for a walk by myself and pray, or think about my characters, or think about what’s troubling me in the book as I’m going to sleep. Oftentimes I’ll wake with an answer so apparent that I wonder why I didn’t see it before.

What is the most challenging aspect of being a writer?

When I first started it was coming up with new story ideas, as I truly didn’t see myself as a creative person. As that creativity grew and blossomed, the challenge became learning all the ropes of the publishing industry. Now, I’d have to say the biggest challenge is keeping my life balanced between my home and family, writing new work, all the publicity and marketing that I do behind the scenes, and the editing and polishing that goes on while I’m in the midst of a new story. It’s amazing how much work that must be done to succeed in this business.

You have a new ebook, Dreaming on Daisies, releasing on October 1. Tell us more about this new ebook!

This is actually book 4 in the Love Blossoms in Oregon series. All of the others are set in the boardinghouse owned by Katherine Galloway and her two young daughters. Dreaming on Daisies follows all the same characters as the first three books, but the setting is a ranch on the outside of Baker City, although a number of scenes still take place in the boardinghouse, and we continue to follow many of the same characters.

I love writing anything with an Old West feel, and this one fits that criteria. I believe readers will enjoy the ongoing growth and development of characters they’ve come to love by this point, and will especially enjoy the romance that takes place in this story.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Blowing on Dandelions?

From the time I started writing I had one major goal and that was to minister to the hearts and lives of hurting women while (hopefully) offering a measure of entertainment to the rest of my reading audience. I’ve been involved in praying with and counseling women for years, and I feel that my writing is an extension of that ministry.

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You can stay up to date on all of Miralee’s upcoming titles on her blog, www.miraleeferrell.com. Be sure to get your copy of Blowing on Dandelions today before our 99-cent sale expires!

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Perseverance and Adventure: An Interview with Kate Lloyd

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Today we have the pleasure of interviewing author Kate Lloyd, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. She spends time with family and friends in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the inspiration for her bestselling novels Leaving Lancaster and Pennsylvania Patchwork. Forever Amish is the third novel in the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

You can get her first novel, A Portrait of Marguerite, for just 99 cents through September 26. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.  

When I was in college, an English professor told me I wrote well, but I paid little attention. In my twenties, I typed most of a romance novel on a lark, but never pushed it to completion because I got busy with life. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling. When our sons were young I made up tales and songs to entertain them.

How did A Portrait of Marguerite come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook?  

A Portrait of Marguerite began itself one morning while I was journaling. As I wrote, the characters sprang to life and the plot unraveled itself. I returned each morning to continue the fun. And I rewrote it ten times. Okay, it wasn’t all fun, but like Marguerite and all my favorite characters, I persevered.

Tell us about the heroine—what is your favorite quality about Marguerite?

I can relate to and admire Marguerite Carr’s determination to overcome her obstacles in spite of inner doubts. We all have them, those negative voices in our ears that are not from God.

You switched to writing Amish fiction. How does A Portrait of Marguerite differ from your later novels?

My passion is writing about challenging and entertaining relationships, plus a splash of romance. At first glance the Amish may seem to dwell at the opposite end of the spectrum from Marguerite, but they don’t. The Amish struggle with many of the same issues and in a manner I find fascinating.

Is there a particular message you want readers to gain when reading A Portrait of Marguerite

I know many who have allowed their childhood dreams to evaporate, be it an artistic endeavor or a relationship with God. It is never too late!

Tell us more about the Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy.

The Legacy of Lancaster Trilogy is composed of three novels: Leaving Lancaster, Pennsylvania Patchwork, and Forever Amish. I prayed and contemplated about writing an Amish novel. I wanted to honor the Amish, but stay true to my Christian beliefs. I think I accomplished my mission. Little did I know how much research would be required—not an easy task with people who aren’t allowed phones in the home or use the Internet, and are admonished to stay apart from the world. I traveled to Lancaster County, met Amish (we also have Mennonite relatives in the area), and continued to deepen and expand friendships. My journey has been exciting and rewarding.

What inspired you to write the trilogy?

I am fascinated with relationships and people in general. The story and characters for Leaving Lancaster leapt into action and off we went on an adventure. Often my characters lead and surprise me with their choices. One unexpected twist still catches me off-guard. Sometimes I’ll ponder an idea or word for days; occasionally the solution pops into my mind in the middle of the night or while walking. My brain is always at work.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? 

My first reaction is ‘no’, but I’m sure my own life experiences come into play. For instance, when writing about grief or exaltation, I reach into my memory to recall sad or euphoric times and use the emotions as a springboard. I became a Christian in my early thirties, an experience I incorporate in my novels. But the majority of my actual life is not similar to my characters’.

Do you have any new ebooks on the horizon?

I’m working on a new manuscript . . . always writing in my head and accumulating characters and their names. I’ll never grow weary of writing. I hope you enjoy stepping into my world of fiction!

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Through September 26, you can get Kate Lloyd’s A Portrait of Marguerite for just 99 cents as a part of our 99-cent fiction sale. Check out all of her ebooks on Vyrso, and explore the world of fiction she creates!

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Breaking Down Walls: An Interview with Joy Jordan-Lake

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The following interview is with Joy Jordan-Lake, author of Blue Hole Back Home, who has had an admittedly odd professional life including time working as a college professor, author, waitress, journalist, university chaplain, director of a homeless program, and head sailing instructor. 

Tell us about your background and how you started writing.

I was born in the inner city of Washington, D.C., but grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee. I was a pretty shy kid, and was sick a good bit in elementary school, so I read voraciously. Becoming a writer was absolutely the only thing I really wanted to do—though goodness knows, I’ve built in enough emergency back up jobs for the dry seasons (thus the Ph.D. in English Lit.) I feel fortunate that I do enjoy teaching a great deal, since it’s often helpful to bring in additional income.  Books meant so much to me, and so significantly shaped how I saw the world, the idea of trying to write books that created a world and characters and ideas for other people just seemed like a worthy thing to do with a life.

How did Blue Hole Back Home come about? Was there anything that particularly inspired this ebook? 

For Blue Hole Back Home, in paper and ebook form, the ideas came from my own hometown in the mountains of East Tennessee, and some events of racial violence that took place there. For the purposes of the novel, I conflated several events that actually happened about a year apart—including a riot in reaction to a racist court verdict, a cross-burning and a Ku Klux Klan road block—and put them in the same summer. Some of the characters were inspired by people from my hometown, but some were simply amalgamations of character traits I’ve found appealing or despicable or charming in the people around me. By taking actual events, I had a basic skeleton of an idea, and then felt free to fictionalize the narrative.

Tell us about the heroine. What is your favorite quality about Shelby?

Shelby Lenoir Maynard, known as Turtle to her friends, isn’t remarkably courageous or gorgeous or noble or possessing any of the traits of your typical heroine. But she has a basic stubbornness that she refuses to give in to the elements in her town who want to keep the world divided into “us” and “them.” As a pretty stubborn person myself, I guess I love the fact that sometimes this annoying and potentially ugly character trait can have its admirable side when its channeled into not giving up on situations or people.

Why did you decide to base the book in the summer of 1979?

This was around the time that several of the actual events, on which the book is drew its inspiration from, took place. Also it’s startling to a younger generation of readers, I’ve found, because it’s well past what we think of as the Civil Rights Era—it’s a time when things are supposed to be all peace and harmony on race relations, and the situation in the small-town South is far, far from that.

Do you base any of your characters or storylines on people, places, or events from your own life? If so, tell us more about the connections.

As I alluded to above, Blue Hole Back Home is, yes, inspired by some actual events in my own hometown. Interestingly, I don’t remember much talk about some of these events, including rioting over a terribly unfair, racially-biased court verdict, at that time—maybe because as teenagers, my friends and I were more focused on the next football game than the state of race relations and justice in the world. But since the book was published, I regularly hear from people who also recall various events around the KKK’s treatment of the Sri Lankan family who moved to our little town. It’s been fascinating to hear lots of different stories from folks who recall what they witnessed (such as a terrifying Klan rally back in the woods), or remember feeling like they didn’t know who to talk to about a frightening conversation they overheard. I think I’ve been haunted since age 16 by some of those events, and by my own inability to make sense of them for my Sri Lankan friend or for myself. I suppose when you’re haunted by something, that probably means it’s time to start writing about it.

What would you hope readers takeaway from Blue Hole Back Home?

Hmm, wonderful question. I hope the character Jimbo stays with them for a long time afterward, and what his ferocious hold on hope looks like. My faith tells me that hanging onto hope will look pretty foolish sometimes. Cynicism and skepticism look a lot more sophisticated, you know? I hope the book sort of turns the idea of foolishness on its head. I hope the story reminds us of the simple ways we let walls exist between groups of people, and the sometimes small, or sometimes enormously self-sacrificial acts that rock those walls and send them tumbling down.

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You can get Joy Jordan-Lake’s novel, Blue Hole Back Home on Vyrso for just 99 cents through Friday! Be sure to check-out all of our great fiction deals available for a limited time.

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