Gaining by Losing: An Interview with J. D. Greear

Gaining by Losing

Tuesday J. D. Greear released his newest title, Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Church Belongs to Churches that Send. 

Vyrso got the inside scoop on why Greear wants big givers, key volunteers, some of the best leaders and friends in his church to leave . . . .

In the last few years, you have not only written multiple titles, but also maintained a blog, preaching career and grown The Summit Church substantially. What inspired you to write your latest release Gaining by Losing?  

I wrote Gaining By Losing because it is so easy for those of us in church leadership to focus on the wrong things when celebrating success. We only celebrate size. A large size is not bad, of course—we should be grateful when large numbers of people gather to hear our message like they did with Jesus.

But the promises Jesus gave about the greatness of the church related to sending, not gathering; through losing, not gaining.

The kingdom grows by the principle of the harvest—only what you give away can you really keep (John 12:24).

It’s taken me a while to really let that truth sink in. And the more I talk to other people in ministry, the more I realize that I’m not alone. Is it possible for us to be praying, “Thy kingdom come,” when what we mean in reality is, “My kingdom come?”

The true measure of success for a church shouldn’t be its seating capacity, but its sending capacity[Click to Tweet!]

Tell us more about the title Gaining by Losing.

Churches should be more excited about the people they lose than the ones they gain. When we raise up and send out leaders, we multiply the kingdom. It feels like loss, and it’s painful, but it is really gain.

Just as you can’t out-give God in your finances, you can’t out-give him with your leaders, either.

The more leaders we give away, the more leaders God raises up in their place. Again, it is the principle of the harvest: ministry surges when it gives, not when it hoards.

In Gaining by Losing, you confess to your original focus on filling the seats in your church and not growing the church by sending. When did you realize your focus was set on growing your kingdom instead of God’s kingdom?

It was embarrassing, but I remember it vividly.

One afternoon I was praying for massive revival in our city. In the midst of that prayer, it seemed as if the Spirit of God asked, “And what if I answer this prayer . . . and send a revival into Raleigh-Durham beyond all you’ve asked or imagined . . . one that they will talk about for hundreds of years. . . but I choose another church through which to do it? What if that church grows, and yours stays the same?”

I would love to say that my answer was an emphatic, “Yes, Lord! You must increase and I must decrease!”

But the answer that bubbled up from my heart was, “No.” 

Yes, I wanted to see the city reached, but I also wanted to see my church succeed, my kingdom enlarged, my name magnified. Somehow “thy kingdom come” had become all jumbled up with “my kingdom come.”

At that point, I knew that I needed to repent for my idolatry in ministry.

That afternoon marked a turning point in which, by God’s grace, the eyes of my heart began to shift to building God’s kingdom instead of my own.

What is the biggest challenge to being a “sending church”?

I am.

“Sending” preaches well, but it can be painful when it’s really executed. [Click to Tweet!]

I remember sitting at a table with our four church-planters-in-residence for the year, listening to them give their final report before being sent out from our church. We had given them a head-hunting license, and they had recruited 150 of our active members to go with them. I knew I was supposed to be excited, and I was . . . but I was also feeling a bit of panic.

Their lists included big givers, key volunteers, and leaders—even members of our pastoral team. Leaders whose absence would leave significant gaps.

As I listened to those four leaders give their reports, I put my hands under the table and literally forced them open to God. Opened in surrender. Open in the belief that God builds his kingdom as we let go, not as we hold on.

Tell us more about the myth of a calling, and what a new mindset around calling can mean for believers.

In the church I grew up in, “missionary” was a sacred and scary title, bestowed only upon the spiritual elite, the Navy Seals of the Christian world. We considered them heroes, sat in awe through their slideshows, and gladly donated our money to their ministries.

It was years later that I first realized that every Christian was a missionary, that all Christians were called to leverage their lives and talents for the kingdom.

God’s calling into mission is not a separate call we receive years after our salvation; it is inherent in the very call to salvation. Every believer is given a spiritual gift and a role to play in the spread of the Great Commission. [Click to Tweet!]

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Read more insights from Greear and dig into why it’s so essential for the church to send out leaders in Gaining by Losing: Why the Future Church Belongs to Churches that Send! This new release will inspire and challenge you to reorient your church’s priorities around God’s mission to reach a lost world. 

 

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Big Hurts, Bitterness, and the Path to Forgiveness: An Interview with Sara Horn

Proverbs 10: 12

Today we are sharing the second part of our interview with Sara Horn. Read the first part of her interview on Faithlife Women!

Sara Horn is the author of  How Can I Possibly Forgive? Rescuing Your Heart from Resentment and Regret. Get it today!

In your ebook, How Can I Possibly Forgive?, you talk about your original desire to avoid conflict by focusing on success and less on the people you worked with. How have you worked to shift your focus? What inspired you to do so?

People are messy! Relationships can have drama!

I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel that way some days. For a long time, especially in my twenties, my way to avoid conflict or drama or the “messy” parts of life was to focus more on accomplishments than relationships. I mistakenly took it as a badge of honor when friends always started their phone calls to me with the words “I know you’re busy but . . . .”

If I was too busy to be bothered with relationships, than I would never have time to be bothered with fixing relationships.

But as I started really digging into what the Bible says, I realized that Jesus never put work ahead of people. His work included people. Messy ones, sinful ones, hurting ones. [Click to Tweet!] Learning this hasn’t happened overnight, but as I’ve slowly tried to view people the way Jesus does, starting with my family, I’ve moved from always putting work first to putting people first.

How would you define “big hurts” and bitterness? 

Big hurts are painful disappointments, betrayals of trust, a realization that a friendship or a marriage or a relationship isn’t what you thought it was. We can experience deep wounds. We can also experience small cuts—someone repeatedly puts us down or breaks their promises or talks about us behind our backs— that, if received over and over, can feel the same as a deep wound.

Bitterness grows when our cuts refuse to heal and an infection of unforgiveness and resentment spreads.

What are ways we can free ourselves of bitter feelings?

I’ve found in my own life that to work free from bitterness, I have to first give myself permission that it will take time but it’s important to refuse to hold on to the hurt and let forgive. Expecting to work through forgiveness overnight isn’t realistic. Can God work in someone’s heart and completely wipe away hurt so she feels only peace? Yes, absolutely. But that doesn’t happen on our own.

Hurts often remind us of loss—so it’s important to focus on what we have. Adjusting our perspective to remember everything we’ve been given versus what’s been taken away can sometimes help us realize that we are more okay than our feelings might want us to think in the moment.

When we choose to forgive, we let go of something negative so it’s important we fill that space with something positive.

Often it’s easy to recognize what went wrong, but what are practical ways on how we can look forward recognize what needs to happen?

Forgiveness doesn’t happen by accident but with intention. [Click to Tweet!That means you may not have planned for the hurt in your life to happen but you need to make a plan to let go of it and move on.

This starts with addressing how you’ve been hurt and what you can do about it. If someone else has hurt you, the most straight-forward way to move past it is to address it with the person guilty of the hurt. Write out what you want to say; practice saying it. Avoid making it personal towards the other person but keep it personal to you. Instead of saying “You were a horrible human being for doing what you did to me,” say “I was deeply hurt when you did what you did” and explain why you were hurt.

If the person who hurt you is unwilling or unable to talk or apologize, you still need to let go of the bitter feelings you hold onto. Focus on what you have learned from the conflict—are you stronger? Are you more understanding of others who have been in the same situation? Are you now able to offer encouragement to someone else who has gone through the same thing?

Saying sorry can be difficult, what are some milestones you have had to overcome in admitting you were in the wrong?

Well, first, I’ve had to be willing to admit I was wrong! That’s hard! We don’t like to think of ourselves as capable of doing wrong—it’s much easier to look at someone else and all of their flaws and mistakes.

Admitting that you’ve made a mistake—like the time I passive-aggressively unloaded on Facebook about a situation involving a nameless friend instead of going directly to her to deal with it—is a humbling experience but important for your relationships with friends and family as well as your relationship with God. Because we are going to do wrong things. When we refuse to apologize, even for our part in something we think is someone else’s fault, we’ll also find it difficult to truly forgive someone else when they apologize.

Often we are hardest on ourselves and our own mistakes. What are the best ways we can work towards self-forgiveness?

I think we have to remember that God gives us second chances when we acknowledge our wrongs, and we have to give ourselves second chances as well. As my mother likes to remind me often, I am my own worst critic. I can have three things go well but the fourth thing that I didn’t do as well, or messed up or disappointed myself or someone else will stay with me for days.

God didn’t create us to be perfect, He created us to be available. [Click to Tweet!Recognize that with each failure, we can learn and grow. And then be intentional about it.

How can we overcome angry feelings with God’s love?

When life brings overwhelming disappointment—the death of a loved one, the death of a dream, the death of something we held dear—it’s tempting to point our finger at God and accuse him of no longer loving us, of no longer caring for us. But what we have to remember is that this life ISN’T about us.

Look to the two most important commandments that Jesus gives us: “. . .Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31.)

It takes faith to believe and trust God has our best in mind. But I can believe that and I can trust God with my life when I hold onto his truth like we find in Romans 8:28 —“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” We live to fit with God’s purpose, God does not exist to simply fulfill our own idea of purpose.

Tell God when you’re disappointed (it’s okay—he already knows anyway!). But instead of putting up angry walls, ask God to help give you clarity and understanding. Ask him to help you move on from the anger and frustration and disappointment you feel, and replace those feelings with joy.

Paul probably stated it best when he talked in Philippians about the contentment he knew in living for Christ instead of himself. “I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

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To learn more get Sara Horn’s How Can I Possibly Forgive? today!

 

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Empire’s End: An Interview with Jerry Jenkins

Empire's End

 Recently we were able to interview Jerry B. Jenkins, American novelist and biographer, best known as co-author of the Left Behind series with Tim LaHaye. Jenkins has written over 185 books, including romance novels, mysteries, and children’s adventures, as well as non-fiction. 

Jenkins’ latest release, Empire’s End is a novel telling the story of the apostle Paul from a first person narrative. In this fictional account, Paul, a devout Jewish scholar, emerges as the greatest Christian theologian in history.

Get Empire’s End today as Jenkins brings to life the Roman Empire and Biblical world through the eyes of Paul.

You have an impressive resume of accomplishments from co-authoring the best-selling Left Behind series to writing over 185 books in a variety of genres over the past 40 years. What drives you to continue to produce more content?

Had my goal been to become a successful writer, I suppose I could have quit a long time ago, and certainly after the triumph of the Left Behind series. But my goal has always been to obey my calling, and the only way to succeed at that is to continue to obey.

Tell us about your new release Empire’s End, was there anything that inspired you to write this novel?

I’ve long been intrigued by Paul as one of the most zealous and convicting personalities in the Bible. I had written fiction based on the gospels in The Jesus Chronicles (Matthew’s Story, Mark’s Story, Luke’s Story, and John’s Story) and Paul was the next logical place to go.

For a writer, working with an author whose work has stood the test of two millennia was an intimidating prospect. And thrilling. I teach writers to never let the Scripture become a mere text book [Click to Tweet!], and believe me, the writings of Paul can never become that. The majesty of his words lifted me out of my chair daily.

Empire’s End is set in Biblical times, what kind of research did you have to do in order to ensure that the historical setting was as accurate as possible?

The Scriptures themselves are the main source, but fortunately I also have access to countless commentaries and Bible dictionaries, as well as detailed texts on manners and customs of Bible lands and times.

As you brought Paul to life, we get to see beyond the pages of the biblical letters and into his heart, what was it like envisioning Paul and seeing through his eyes as you wrote?

Very convicting. Here was a man devoted to God even before he became a believer in Christ. He sincerely believed he was doing God’s will when he railed against the people of The Way, the Nazarenes he was convinced were worshipping a cursed martyr because He had been hung on a tree. Then, when Paul was forced to face the fact that he had been wrong, that Jesus was alive and had assigned him to be His messenger to not only the Jews but even the reviled Gentiles, Paul became the most zealous missionary ever.

Here was a man who proved every day that he meant it when he said that for him “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” He was stoned and left for dead, flogged, imprisoned, shipwrecked thrice, snake bit, tried, sentenced, and finally beheaded, but never once flagged in his determination to preach Christ and Him crucified.

Did you ever find it hard to identify with him?

Daily. Whose life holds a candle to such an example of devotion?

Can you shed light on the character of Taryn and her influence on Paul?

In the end Paul was not free to take her with him on his missionary journeys, despite that she was willing. I believe that could have been his thorn in the flesh—a longing to enjoy what others have, the privilege to love and be loved. And in my fictional construct, she went beyond beauty and virtue to bestow divine forgiveness, which put her on a plane that only endeared her to him all the more.

How do you see Empire’s End influencing and challenging your readers?

I believe in our culture we are getting only a glimpse of persecution—and even that is from our brothers and sisters overseas. We “suffer” when we are ridiculed or laughed at or scorned or marginalized. Paul faced the threat of death everyday and used it as fuel.  There is much to learn from his example. [Click to Tweet!]

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Don’t miss out on a great read, get best-selling author Jerry Jenkins’s novel Empire’s End today!

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In Our Backyard: An Interview with Nita Belles

In Our Backyard

Recently we had the pleasure of interviewing author Nita Belles about her newest release, In Our Backyard. Currently she serves as the Managing Director of the non-profit In Our Backyard and the Regional Director for Central Oregonians against Trafficking Humans (OATH). A former Associate Pastor, she holds a Master’s Degree in Theology with a concentration in Women’s Concerns. 

Add In Our Backyard to your library today! You’ll get an ebook that is dedicated to raising awareness on human trafficking and it’s effects.    

Tell us more about your new release, In Our Backyard. What was your main inspiration behind writing it?

I felt there was a need for an easy-to-read book that tackled the horrific, but hushed facts about both labor and sex trafficking.

Some of my biggest inspiration was and continues to be notes and emails from those who have been informed by the book and are now doing something to stop human trafficking. Even more than that, I am overwhelmingly inspired by the notes and emails from survivors and/or their families who have read In Our Backyard and are receiving services and getting their lives back. I said when I started this, “If I could only help one person. . .” and I’m filled with enormous praise for a God who continues to multiply that number.

The book includes many stories of labor and sex trafficking victims, both children and adults. I tell stories of what it’s like to be a victim of these crimes, as well as stories of being a perpetrator—how the drive for more money and power feeds and increases that monster within. Woven throughout the stories are statistics and facts about human traffickingand ideas of ways that anyone can become involved in this fight. There are study questions at the end of each chapter to facilitate small groups who want to learn together.

What are some experiences that you have had in the field when trying to find and help set free victims of human trafficking?

Victims are often traumatically bonded to their captor, a condition commonly known as Stockholm syndrome. Often times I get word that someone wants out of the life, or has escaped, only to find that by the time someone arrives to help them, they have gone back to their trafficker.

The most rewarding moments are seeing survivors begin to come alive after they have been recovered. After her escape, one survivor was taken to a beautiful shelter. I stayed with her all day while she recanted her horrific story to multiple law enforcement personnel. As I was leaving the shelter that evening, she grabbed my arm. She said to me words I will never forget, “Today I am free. I am no longer a prisoner.” After living as a prisoner, locking herself inside closets so she wouldn’t be sexually assaulted in the middle of the night, she now lives free and happy. She sees her family, works full time, has her own home and is a valuable asset to her community. She is happy and free to love, to laugh, to worship regularly at her church. She is a beautiful example of a person coming alive.

Does your definition of human trafficking differ from how the public typically understands it? If so, what is your definition and what are the main differences?

The public rarely thinks of labor trafficking when human trafficking is mentioned, but labor trafficking is rampant in our country. It happens in restaurants, nail salons, farming, in people’s homes as maids/nannies, factories, really, any place that labor occurs could be an opportunity for a human trafficker to exploit someone. Typically, but not always, labor trafficking victims are foreign-born nationals.

Sex trafficking is often thought of as Asian women brought over in containers and kept in massage parlors. While that does happen, the large majority of sex-trafficking victims in the United States are American born [Click to Tweet!]. Once they are in “the life” it is very difficult to get out.

This world is real. While all trafficking stories share some similarities, here is no “ordinary” way that people are trafficked.

Many conversations about human trafficking focus on what happens in other countries, yet you emphasize that it is happening in the United States, literally “in our backyard.” How does trafficking in the U.S. differ from that in other countries? 

In some foreign countries, human trafficking is a part of their accepted culture to the point that there are laws that protect it. In the United States it is a part of our culture, but in more subtle ways.

In foreign countries it’s not uncommon for a person to go to a corner cop and ask them where they can buy sex. Here in the United States, for the most part, our law enforcement and other government do everything they can to enforce laws. Now we just need to continue to improve those laws, improve training and awareness about human trafficking for law enforcement, and provide better and more services for those who are getting free from this atrocity.

What are the best ways we can educate ourselves and our loved ones about the dangers of modern-day slavery?

My first suggestion must be to read In Our Backyard.  I compiled the best information I know in the book.

Second, talk about it! All the traffickers ask is that we remain silent about this, or pretend it doesn’t happen. We must not do either of those things. Go ahead and organize a community or church event. Bring in a speaker and then have opportunities at the end of the event for people to get involved in some way.

Awareness of the warning signs is the best prevention for our loved ones. [Click to Tweet!]

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Keep yourself informed and get In Our Backyard today!   

 For more information on Nita Belles and her work, please visit www.inourbackyard365.org

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No Fear in Love: An Interview with Andy Braner

Andy Braner

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing our Author of the Month, Andy Braner. Andy is an author, blogger, speaker and founder of Ahava Ministries, a nonprofit youth ministry for teens and college students. We were able to talk with him about his newest release, No Fear in Love: Loving Others the Way God Loves Us.

This ebook encourages readers to trade condemnation for compassion.

From founding to Ahava Ministries to driving influence through blogging, you seem to be busy and full of energy. Tell us more about what drives you.

I think what drives me is part biological, part spiritual, and part environmental.

I come from a family who works hard, and helped me understand the value of work early in my life.  I believe that we’ve all been given a certain number of days on the earth, so I try and make those count. [Click to Tweet!] And, as I look around the world, I like to be involved in interesting discussions.

What ignited your desire to write your newest release No Fear in Love

I’ve been working in and around the Middle East for the last decade.  It was my own fear of Islam that forced me to investigate what Islam really stands for.  As I developed deep friendships in Muslim countries, I found much of my fear was based on something I was trying to defend, rather than on something I wanted to grow and flourish.  I found that people were people, not objects of my own apologetical mission.  And to that end, I found some of the most important friendships of my life.

So when I sat down and looked at the landscape of faith, I believe fear has a lot to do with how people set up their faith, and how they practice their faith in their own communities.  I wanted to help people identify their fear, and then be encouraged to jump over the fear keeping them from some important friendships.

In the foreword you write, “My whole life I’ve been taught how to be right and how to point out someone else’s wrongs.” Do you see a lot of Christians further launching themselves into the “I’m right and you’re wrong” camp still today? 

Of course there are. It’s kind of how we are created. We need that assurance that we’re right, and everyone else is wrong to develop our tribes, no matter what segment of society we’re living in. Just take a little individual survey and look around in your community. Why are there churches on every street corner? And—if there are—ask yourself, do they work together for the common good?

My experience has been that the churches in a particular town are as competitive as the the small restaurant businesses vying for business during the week. So the only way a certain church can stand out is by making sure they are on the “right” side, and everyone else is on the “wrong” side. If that’s the case in our own faith circles, then how much more is it when you encounter someone outside of your faith circle?

How do you define fear as it relates to the Gospel?

I’m deeply discouraged by people who use the gospel message to fear monger people to faith.  They use the old fire and brimstone message to compel people to accept the gospel, but to what end? To just go to heaven instead of hell?  Any well-healed person will choose heaven, but the Kingdom Jesus speaks of is so much more intricate than the heaven/hell question.

I find it interesting when Jesus decides to use deep personal relational care with people to lead them to God’s Kingdom. [Click to Tweet!]  He doesn’t “scare the hell” out of anyone, but rather; gives people hope, especially to people who have been disenfranchised from the “normal.”

Chapter four in No Fear in Love discusses different worldviews and says that oftentimes “fear drives us to the shadows of ignorance.” What are practical ways we can safely rid ourselves of our fears in order to be more understanding and loving of other cultures?

We’ve got to stop living in these echo chambers where people just inform us what we already lean toward as truth. [Click to Tweet!]  We need to challenge our ideas, wrestle with tough concepts, and stop being satisfied with soundbites on the news. Fear is a place where we just don’t know.

I believe when we sit down with people who are different than we are, and learn the how’s and why’s that make them see the world the way they do; relationship emerges, and it’s tough to be afraid of someone who is your friend.

How do you see your readers’ lives being transformed by this book?

My hope is people will read stories that will give them hope. We don’t need to be afraid of a majority of things we’re fearing now. We can step out in faith, and develop a friendship with our next door neighbor, or the people down the street who are from a different faith background than we are.

We don’t need to get all riled up every time a political decision seems to threaten our way of living. We don’t need to create anxiety where there is none. I believe we can trust in the hope that God is still on the throne of heaven and earth, and we can live life in freedom not in fear.

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Don’t wait—read Andy Braner’s newest ebook, No Fear in Love: Loving Others the Way God Loves Us, today!

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Heartfelt: An Interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby (Part 2)

Dr. Joneal Kirby

Today we are continuing our exclusive two-part interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby, author of the new ebook Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, recently released by Worthy Publishing. Heartfelt takes a look at the importance of inter-generational relationships for women in the church, and how women can begin to develop deep friendships with other women.

In Heartfelt, you write that the ultimate goal of the book is for the reader, “to understand what it means to be vulnerable and relational, so the wise women in your life can reach into your heart and help you.” What are some major roadblocks that stop women from being truly vulnerable with one another?

This is the evil one’s great trap for women. “Don’t be real. Hide who you really are. Because no one will like the authentic, natural person you are.” Women begin this hiding as girls, early as pre-adolescence and it hits hard in the middle school years and we continue to become good at wearing masks as we mature into adults. In addition to society, Church has not been a safe place for many of us. The expectation of “being good” “doing good” “be on your best behavior” that children hear about church life is unfortunately one that many churches reinforce in their social culture.

A lot of Christian women don’t think it’s a smart move to really share feelings, struggles, hurts, pains, and sins. We wear our masks to the church building and don’t really get it that we are all needing the Cross!  None of us have any special favors from God. His mercy and forgiveness is for all.

Churches need to create intimate spaces, small groups – safe prayer groups, Bible study sessions, counseling and conversation groups – where their members know they are loved on, cared for, befriended and it is safe to be real with your struggles, hurts, doubts, fears, worries, mess-ups and mistakes. Safe places for healing of all the hurts, bad habits and kooky hang-ups that every human being alive lives with!

And women need to be led in this and be leaders in this movement of vulnerability and authenticity. There’s no place for gossip, back-biting, racism, husband/wife/mom-bashing in God’s Kingdom. [Click to Tweet!] We need to love ourselves – and one another – as sinners who are dead without that Cross.

In your personal life, how have you been impacted by cross-generational relationships between women? 

My personal history of godly women speaking into my life began in my own family through the influence of my grandmothers, who were both faith-filled, precious women. I was very close to my maternal grandmother and loved hearing her sing the old hymns and cannot remember a time when her Bible wasn’t open in her house. My mother is my greatest example of walking out a Christian life. I still want to be like her when I grow up!

I was doubly blessed because I had them and then when I married right out of college, God gave me some of the most wonderful friends who were 10-20 years older than I was. These women were part of the church my husband and I joined right after our wedding and we moved to a new town to new jobs. As a young woman in my twenties, I spent a great deal of time in these “older” women’s homes and just hanging out with them and their families. They were willing, lovely friends to me.

Perhaps the memory  I cherish most of these dozen women is remembering they were the ones who encouraged me to teach my first women’s Bible study (even tutoring me through the prep) and my first speaking engagement at a women’s conference was created by them.

Some younger women struggle to have authentic relationships with older women in their church communities. Do you have any specific advice to offer to encourage these young women in their journey?

First pray for a relationship with an older, wiser godly woman in your church or community.

Then seek out getting to know them personally. Ask with a humble heart for help with a particular challenge you are having for some wisdom and advice. This will allow you to hear this woman’s heart to see if she is one you can learn from and grow through a relationship with. If she has never been a mentor and isn’t sure what that looks like, suggest you study together, either a Bible study book or a book on mentoring, like Heartfelt. Do not assume because a woman seems shy, or busy, or uninterested that she is. She may be feeling like you. She may even think you don’t like her!

Older women may also find it hard to connect with the younger women in their congregation. What suggestions do you have for older women looking to build relationships with younger women in their church?

Get to know the younger women. Become a friend. Ask to help with their children. Or to take them to lunch or dinner as a “mom’s day out” event. Have a personal Bible study with a few of them in your home. Bringing them into your most personal space – your home –immediately sets a friendly tone.

Hospitality in your home says without words, “I like you. I want to be your friend. I accept you and want you here with me.”  Begin a small group women’s Bible study with some women your age and a few younger women. Start a Heartfelt Friends ministry in your church—you’ll share this message soon with hundreds of women who have a heart for deep meaningful connections!

Towards the end of Heartfelt, you admit to the reader that, “Mentoring is not always easy, but it should always be intentional”. In what ways can women seek to intentionally mentor one another?

Seek this ministry with prayer and an open heart. Mentoring costs. It means you are going to get to know people who are not like you. It means you will spend some time with someone other than your best friends and closest family. Approach mentoring as you would any other service in the Kingdom- with hands and hearts open to God’s leading. Seek His purpose and passion and plan for your life’s work. [Click to Tweet!] Telling your story of God’s love, sharing your salvation story, telling of how your marriage survived because you didn’t give up and God didn’t give up on you, strengthens a younger struggling wife.

Seek out a younger woman. Notice someone struggling. You don’t have to have a counseling degree. Or even be great at anything! Just love on her. Care for her. Be her friend. And pay attention as God gives you opportunities to teach, train, guide and nourish her soul.

Do you see any new opportunities around the horizon for the Heartfelt ministries?

Many. My phone, email, and snail mail are full and ripe with opportunities to go and share about Titus 2 mentoring. I am so thankful for this blessing. I am totally convinced God has prepared me and this ministry for such a time as this.

I am hearing a hunger for relationships that matter among the women of God like I have never before. And the acceptance by church leaders for women’s ministry programs is greater than it has ever been. Many vital, dynamic churches are searching for quality plans to help their women to grow in the Lord and to deepen their relationships in the church.

What’s next for you? 

I feel a call on my life and my Kingdom service to speak and teach how to live out this scripture for the rest of my days. So I am planning a speaking schedule to Conferences, traveling where I am asked to train churches, and building a team of leaders to help continue building a legacy of generational faith passing ministries.

I have ten years of Bible studies I’ve prepared for use by women’s small groups I hope to have published in the next few years. I also host a daily radio program and if God opens doors in more communities for this ministry I will be blessed to continue this.

My love for marriage ministry will never diminish and my husband and I are planning soon to launch a new format of marriage conferences with Alan and Lisa Robertson. I trust God will tell me if there’s more he wants me to do.

Oh, and I plan to play with my grandkids a lot. And teach them a lot about Jesus.

———

Get Dr. Joneal Kirby’s ebook, Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, and check out great new titles from Worthy Publishing today. 

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Heartfelt: An Interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby (Part 1)

Dr. Joneal Kirby

Today we will be sharing the first of a two-part interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby, author of the new ebook Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, recently released by Worthy Publishing. Heartfelt takes a look at the importance of inter-generational relationships for women in the church, and how women can begin to develop deep friendships with other women.

 

You have an impressive resume of accomplishments—your books and career in counseling have made a huge impact on thousands of women. Tell us more about the everyday you.

I am blessed to enjoy a close relationship with all of my children. They are busy, faith-filled, godly people. And God has blessed them with amazing mates and children. I am so proud of them and who they are and am humbled by the fact they are so much more than I ever was at their young ages.

My husband and I are the closest of friends and we have worked hard to build a lifetime love in our marriage. We certainly do not do it perfectly and some days not even well. But we love Jesus Christ and embraced on our wedding day that our love for Christ would always be the foundation of our covenant love. I think our marriage is even stronger and healthier because we have done marriage ministry together for almost 20 years. That will keep you on your toes!

My husband and I enjoy 40 years of marriage, 130 acres of rolling hills and woods which we share with our daughter and her husband and children, and are planning on staying healthy and strong so we can do our marriage ministry together and I can continue traveling to teach women’s ministry workshops.

Were there any major life events that inspired you to write your book, Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships?

I’ve been doing women’s ministry for over 30 years. I wrote and developed our women’s ministry, now known as Heartfelt Friends, then it was Heart to Home, in 2003 just for my church. I knew we needed some way to connect the bright, eager, growing and yet less mature young women in our church with the vitality, faithfulness, and wisdom of our older women.

Titus 2 created a fire and passion in me to carry out verses 3-5 in our church. I wrote a program, a PowerPoint and a training manual that I could take with me and for the last 12 years, I’ve traveled all over the country teaching in churches and workshops and conferences.

Missy Robertson and Kay Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, are members of our church and have participated in Heartfelt Friends since the beginning. Missy Robertson and Kay decided to have a women’s conference, then at this women’s conference we’d have the opportunity to share our women’s ministry. In the planning days of the conference, the ministry and I attracted the interest of Worthy Publishing and together we shaped and wrote Heartfelt.

Heartfelt challenges readers to either join or create a Titus 2 ministry—why is it important for women to learn to open up their homes and hearts and experience a Titus 2 ministry?

There is nothing that builds closeness, unity, fellowship, intimacy and true loving feelings like having folks in your home.

Women crave these kind of deep connections and relationships, but we do not have time in our busy lives to do this routinely without a PLAN! A program with consistency, guidelines, structure, and intentionality helps everyone to get this scripture out of their heads and hearts and into their hands. It’s important that church leaders take this plan seriously, just as they do their children’s ministries, men’s ministries, leadership trainings and other discipling programs in their churches.

We need this program to encourage the passing of faith from the older generation to the younger. We older people need the energy, courage and openness of the younger people to help us stay focused and passionate for God. We need these cross- generational relationships like we need air! [Click to Tweet!]

Why do you think so few women follow the calling in Titus 2:3-5, to teach what is good and to train young women to love and follow the Lord? What can church communities do to make sure this calling is not forgotten?

I have asked this question hundreds of times. In fact, I just asked it to a group of women last night when I was training them to become Titus 2 Mentors. There are probably one hundred answers to it also. What I believe some of the main causes for reluctance or avoidance of being a Titus 2 woman is a lack of understanding of what it means and what that would look like if you did it in the year 2015.

We no longer live as we did in America for hundreds of years when we lived in communities that were stable and consistent and which included much of your own family. Women are not spending the majority of their day thinking, planning and focusing on their families and their homes as women had done for centuries. The church has been fairly silent, I believe, on how to intersect the life of the modern woman with the Biblical tradition in a way that makes sense to an entire generation.

That’s why I believe having a structured plan for churches to implement is so needed. It’s more than helpful. It’s a program and a functional way to teach mentoring the younger generations in faith and family.

I know these facts: Women want to serve. Women want relationships. Women want to learn of God together. Women want to support one another. [Click to Tweet!] But most, I’ve found, do not have any way of doing this in a routine, organized, intentional way. That’s why I believe Heartfelt feels so nice and hits a tender spot in women’s hearts when they learn of its message and its method.

You include stories from Missy and Kay Robertson, in what ways have they been involved in Heartfelt ministries?

I have been so blessed to minister with Kay for about twenty years to many young women in our church and community.

Kay is a terrific Heart Mom and has been doing mentoring before the word was ever mentioned in a church setting. She has a deep love for helping anyone who is hurting. She is a genuine, caring friend to many and she has supported our ministry and me since the beginning of Heart to Home.

Missy has grown up at our church and in our Titus 2 mentoring program. She was a young wife, young mom, with 3 children when she started coming to our small groups. Missy has been in my group several times over the years, and her love and commitment to soaking up the wisdom of the “senior saints” is very deep and true.

I am very grateful for Missy and Kay’s love of Titus 2 ministry and beyond blessed by their love and support over the years. We are very close friends and have served in our church together in many different ways.

———

Get Dr. Joneal Kirby’s ebook, Heartfelt: A Woman’s Guide to Creating Meaningful Friendships, and check out great new titles from Worthy Publishing today. Check back tomorrow for part two of our interview with Dr. Joneal Kirby.

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Exclusive Interview with David Platt: Counter-Cultural Living

David Platt

Featured on our list of top 15 authors to watch in 2015, David Platt has written numerous books, including What Did Jesus Really Mean When He Said Follow Me? and Follow Me: A Call to Die. A Call to LivePlatt’s new release, Counter Culture, tackles hot-button social issues present in the world today and how Christians can address them. We had a chance to ask him a few questions about his new book and what is means to live counter-culturally.

You’ve written quite a few books that aim to inspire Christians to break away from comfort zones within their faith (as seen in Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.) Were there any encounters or events in your life that initiated this desire to write, preach, teach, and be active on the topic of “uncomfortable Christianity”?

I was immersed in comfortable Christianity. Years ago, I found myself living what seemed like the American church dream—pastoring a large church, living in a large house, and surrounded by all the comforts this world has to offer. But inside I had a sinking feeling that I was missing the point. When I read the Word, I saw a cost to following Christ that I knew little of in my own life, and I saw an urgency for mission that was virtually absent from my own life. At that time, God used his Word and a renewed awareness of urgent spiritual and physical need around me in the world to awaken my heart in a fresh way to who he is and what he has called his people to do in this world. As I looked at material and spiritual poverty in the world around me, including approximately 2 billion people who haven’t even heard the gospel, I knew that I needed to make some major changes in my life. This prompted a journey that began to affect me, my family, and the church I pastored, and Radical was the overflow of that journey.

 

What does it mean for Christians to live counter-culturally? And why is it important?

In Luke 9:23, Jesus makes an extremely counter-cultural statement. He says to potential disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In a world where everything revolves around yourself—protect yourself, promote yourself, comfort yourself, and take care of yourself—Jesus says, “Crucify yourself. [Click to tweet!] Put aside all self-preservation in order to live for God’s glorification, no matter what that means for you in the culture around you.” From the very beginning, then, the Christian life involves going against the grain of the culture around (and for that matter, within) us. It is a daily discipline for Christians to die to themselves and to live for Christ with conviction, compassion, and courage, particularly in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christ and the church.

 

In Counter Culture you discuss quite a few hot-button issues, such as pornography, poverty, racism, abortion, and same-sex marriage. How can Christians address and come into contact with these issues in a Christ-centered way?

We need to begin by believing what the Bible says about these issues. We need to know what the Bible says about abortion and marriage, poverty and slavery, and we need to see how all of these issues fundamentally relate to the gospel. Conviction from the Word then must lead to courage in the world, for actually believing the Bible is increasingly costly in our culture. And while we stand with conviction and courage, we must live with compassion. Amid a world with massive social needs around us, ranging from desperate poverty and orphan crises and millions of girls being trafficked for sex, to the degradation of marriage and the abortion of babies, we need to speak and act with selfless love on all of these issues.    

 

You make the point that some social issues are easier for the church to address, such as poverty and slavery, than others. Why do you think this is?

On popular issues like poverty and slavery, where Christians are likely to be applauded for our social action, we are quick to stand up and speak out. Yet on controversial issues like homosexuality and abortion, where Christians are likely to be criticized for our involvement, we are content to sit down and stay quiet. It’s as if we’ve decided to pick and choose which social issues we’ll contest and which we’ll concede. And our picking and choosing normally revolves around what is most comfortable—and least costly—for us in our culture.

 

What inspired you to choose the topics you unpack in Counter Culture?

Elizabeth Rundle Charles, commenting on Martin Luther’s confrontation of key issues in his day, said, “It is the truth which is assailed in any age which tests our fidelity. . . . If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proven, and to be steady on all the battle fronts besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Consequently, my goal in Counter Culture was to identify nine of the most pressing social issues in our day, and to bring the gospel to bear on each of them. Admittedly, there are other social issues that could have been addressed and may need to be addressed in the days to come, but poverty, abortion, orphans and widows, slavery, marriage, sexual morality, pornography, religious liberty, racism, immigration, and the unreached seem most pressing.

 

How can Christians stay encouraged to be engaged and act with compassion when it comes to tough issues in today’s culture?  

Every Christian has unique opportunities to engage the most pressing social issues of our day by praying, proclaiming the gospel, and participating with God in all that he is doing in the world. We act, though, not under a utopian illusion that you or I or anyone or everyone together can rid this world of pain and suffering. That responsibility belongs to the resurrected Christ, and he will do it when he returns. But until that day, we do with an undivided heart whatever God calls us to do. Some will say that these social problems are complex, and one person, family, or church can’t really make much of a difference.

In many respects, this is true, and each of these issues is extremely complicated. But we can’t underestimate what God will do in and through one person, one family, or one church for the spread of his gospel and the sake of his glory in our culture. So we act with the unshakable conviction that God has put us in this culture at this time for a reason. He has called us to himself, he has saved us by his Son, he has filled us with his Spirit, he has captured us with his love, and he is compelling us by his Word to counter our culture by proclaiming his Kingdom, not worried about what it will cost us because we are confident that God himself is our great reward.

***

What does it look like for you to live counter-culturally? How do you escape “comfortable Christianity”? Let us know in the comments! Don’t forget to download Counter Culture by Daivd Platt and start reading!

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Being Faithful with a Multitude of Small Things: An Interview with Josh Kelley

Josh_kelly

Today we have the pleasure of interviewing our author of the month, Josh Kelley. Josh is the author of Radically Normal: You Don’t Have to Live Crazy to Follow Jesus and has been a pastor for 15 years. Originally from northwest Washington, he is currently on a year-long, cross country speaking tour, joined by his wife, Marilyn, and their two daughters.

Josh has graciously offered to give away Radically Normal for free when you sign up to receive Vyrso’s daily deal email alerts! With Vyrso’s daily deals, you can get a new 24-hour deal through November 27. Enter your email address on the Radically Normal product page and you’ll receive your free ebook in an email and daily deal alerts through November 27.

 

Could you provide a little background for us on your story?

The backdrop for Radically Normal was the year and a half I spent as a bi-vocational pastor/Starbucks barista. As challenging as that time was, it really helped me see things through the eyes of my congregation. Pastors can easily forget what it’s like to be a Christian in the midst of everyday life, when you are not being paid to study the Bible and pray!

 

Tell us about the inspiration behind Radically Normal.

Radically Normal is basically the book I wish I had when I was younger. I worked very hard to be a good Christian (which is a good thing) but I never felt like I was going far enough. If giving 10% was good, was 20% better? Was 100% the gold standard? I also struggled to understand why the people who looked and sounded the most radical were the ones I couldn’t stand being with, and why the Christians I really enjoyed were pretty normal. Radically Normal is about 50% my stories and 50% guidebook to loving Jesus without being a religious nut.

 

What’s one of your favorite Scriptures that encourages people to live ordinary lives as they follow Jesus?

“Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (1 Corinthians 7:20 NIV).  C. S. Lewis put it this way:

“Before I became a Christian I do not think I fully realized that one’s life, after conversion, would inevitably consist in doing most of the same things one had been doing before, one hopes, in a new spirit, but still the same things.” (On Learning in Wartime)

While God does call some to go out and do spectacular things (Billy Graham and Mother Teresa come to mind), most of us are called to be faithful in a multitude of small ways. I think that the church needs to do a better job of honoring daily faithfulness instead of just focusing on the “great” Christians.

 

In the book you say, “Wholehearted devotion to God consists of radical obedience lived out in surprisingly normal, joy-filled ways. This is what I mean by being radically normal. It’s the biblical art of fully engaging this life while focusing on the next.” Can you give us an example of what that looks like in practice?

Imagine three Christians who all work as programmers at Microsoft. The first programmer does his job, but not much else. He isn’t interested in advancement. All he cares about is getting through his day so he can get to church. In his mind, that’s where he does stuff that really matters.

The second programmer works hard and is very ambitious. In fact, nothing will get in his way as he climbs the ladder. Taking credit for another person’s ideas or sabotaging their work, it’s all part of the game. At church, he sings just as loud as the next person and doesn’t even think about his questionable ethics. Work is work, church is church. Besides, he reasons, it just means more money to tithe on. Maybe.

The third programmer also works hard and is ambitious. He loves his job and feels God’s pleasure when he does well. He works hard to advance, but isn’t crushed if he gets passed over. He believes that his day job and his weekend at church are inextricable connected. He sees work as part of his worship and it’s obvious to his coworkers.

I want readers to think about which one of those three they are more like. Are they so heavenly-minded that they are of no earthly good? Or is it the other way around? Instead, the Bible calls us to be fully present in this life, while never forgetting that we are citizens of heaven. [Click to tweet!]

 

For someone that is conflicted with their Christian faith, what advice would you give them to live a satisfied life following Jesus?

I think Chapter 11, “Happy Holiness” might be very helpful to them. I can’t cover it all here, but the key point is that obeying God brings joy. The church frequently praises “obedience for obedience’s sake,” but the Bible consistently calls us to obedience for joy’s sake. (Speaking of joy, did you know that the Bible talks about joy more often than peace, grace, or even love? I share my research on joy in Chapter 8, “In Defense of Earthly Joys.”)

Just as my daughters have an easier time obeying me when they know it is for their benefit, it becomes easier to avoid sin and follow Jesus when we know “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

 

What is one takeaway you hope people embrace after reading Radically Normal?

I hope they walk away understanding that they can, by God’s grace, live fully pleasing to God right where they are—without becoming a missionary or going to Bible college. And furthermore, I want them to learn that they’ll have more (not less) joy in by doing so.

 

Get Radically Normal for free when you sign up for daily deal email alerts! Through November 27, you can get a new 24-hour deal each day. Once you enter your email address, you’ll receive your freebie in an email. Be the first to know what’s on sale—sign up for the daily deal!

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

greearj_portrait

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.

***

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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