Making Wise Choices: Thoughts on Choosing the Best Yes

LysaTerKeurst

Today’s interview is with Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries. Her new ebook The Best Yes, artfully paints a picture of how to make wise decision amidst a sea of endless choices. Get it on Vyrso today!

1. You have an impressive resume of accomplishments, and you’ve made a huge impact on thousands of people. Tell us more about the everyday you.

I just chuckled at “an impressive resume of accomplishments” because it makes me sound way more polished than I really am! At my core, I’m just a simple country girl who lives in North Carolina with my husband, Art, and my five priority blessings—Jackson, Mark, Hope, Ashley, and Brooke.

In my everyday life, I feel like a success if I get through the day having spent time with the Lord, exercised in some way, had a laugh with one of my kids, had clean underwear in my husband’s drawer when he needed them, and made a friend smile.

2. Why did you write your new book, The Best Yes?

I wrote this message because I NEED this message. I wrote it because I’m tired of rushing and stressing and missing out on the sweet parts of life. I always found myself saying, “I’ll do that thing that makes my soul come alive when I find time.” But no one in the history of the world has ever found more time or made more time.

We all get 168 hours a week. No more. No less. And too many of us are missing out on too much.

Honestly, when I set my life to the rhythm of rush, I don’t like who I am.

Rushing robs me of the sweetest parts of life—the parts of life that feed my soul. When a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she’ll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul.

I’m tired of that deep ache. I think a lot of women are.

So with The Best Yes, I really want to help equip women to slow the rhythm of rush in their lives so the best of who they are can emerge.

3. What does it mean to become a “powerfully effective decision maker”?

A powerfully effective decision maker is a person who uses a combination of knowledge, insight, and discernment when faced with a decision. We must get into God’s Word and let God’s truth get into us (Philippians 1:9–10).

Knowledge is wisdom that comes from acquiring truth.

Insight is wisdom that comes from living out the truth we acquire.

Discernment is wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit’s reminders of that knowledge and insight.

The Holy Spirit helps us remember that knowledge and insight so we can display it through good judgment in our everyday life decisions.

4. What’s your decision-making strategy for going through big life transitions?

I think it’s always good to use wisdom, knowledge, and an understanding of your resource capacity to assess your decisions.

For many situations, my husband and I run our decisions through these five questions that I talk about in the book:

• Do we have the resources to handle this along with our current responsibilities?
• Could this fit physically?
• Could this fit financially?
• Could this fit spiritually?
• Could this fit emotionally?

I’ve learned to really pay attention to my emotional capacity and be honest with myself when I’m stretched too thin. When I allow myself to get overloaded emotionally, which can happen so easily in big life transitions, the worst version of me emerges. And that’s not good for anyone. So this five-question filter helps us to be realistic when facing a decision.

5. How do you recommend parents teach their children to make wise decisions at school?

As parents, we need to get intentional with teaching our kids to think through their choices. But we must get intentional about modeling good choices as well.

Satan is a master of keeping the cost of our decisions hidden until it’s too late—for us and for our kids. Explain that to your child and consider age-appropriate examples of how costly wrong choices can be. Be real, raw and bold as you walk your children through different scenarios of temptations they might face.

Think how different life might be if we all paused and asked ourselves this crucial question: How much will this choice really cost me? If we teach ourselves and our kids nothing else today than to ask this one question, we will have invested wisely.

6. How do you choose “the best yes” when you have to decide between multiple good choices?

That’s a great question. More often than not, I find myself stuck between a good choice and another good choice, trying to figure out which one is perfect.

These good vs. good decisions happen every day. But when you’re trying to pick the perfect choice, here’s the secret answer: there is no perfect choice. If you understand this, it sets you free from the fear of making a mistake.

As long as you desire to please God with your decisions, no decision you make will be completely awful. Nor will any decision you make be completely awesome. Every decision carries a dose of both. Every thrill has an element of risk. Every leap of faith has moments of uncertainty. And every great success story has elements of failure.

In other words, since there is no perfect choice, I don’t have to be paralyzed by the fear that I’m not making the perfect choice.

But here’s where the certainty is: My imperfections will never override God’s promises. God’s promises are not dependent on my ability to always choose well, but rather on his ability to use well. And I’m so thankful for that.

7. What are some of the hardest decisions you’ve ever had to make?

Discerning God’s will at different crucial steps in my life was so hard for so long. With all the needs in the world, how can I determine which ones are my assignments? Here’s what really helped me: making enough space in my day to really be able to pay attention to God.

Often we want big directional signs to God’s will. He just wants us to pay attention. The one who obeys God’s instruction today will develop a keen awareness of His direction for tomorrow.

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Learn what it means to make wise decisions while you are making thousands of choices everyday. Get Lysa’s new ebook, The Best Yes, on Vyrso today!

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Learning to Believe You’re Enough in an Insecure World

Kate Conner

Today’s interview is with Kate Conner, author of the viral post, “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” she is a wife, mother of three, and accomplished speaker and blogger. She has authored two new ebooks, Ten Things for Teen Girls and Enough which both eloquently communicate the true worth teenage girls have and equips parents to show their teen girls how much they’re loved and valued.

1. Your blog post, “Ten Things I Want to Tell Teenage Girls,” went viral—what was that like? What sort of feedback did you get and how did you respond?

Going viral was like winning the lottery: surreal, then amazing, then overwhelming. All of our websites crashed for days. The response was unbelievable. I received thousands of comments, emails, and messages saying, “I wish someone had told me this 30 years ago,” and “This isn’t just for teenagers, this is for me.” I’d say 90% of the feedback was positive – but just 10% of 2,000 comments is still a whole lot of hateful things to read about yourself and your work.

I read and re-read my post asking myself if there was any truth behind what the critics were saying. Am I a misogynist? Do I blame women for their own harassment? Am I vain? Judgmental? Snobby? Desperate for attention?

I am able to stand by what I wrote because I actually believe it. I’m thankful that the books afford me the chance to clarify some sound bytes from the blog post that were confusing or offensive to people. No doubt some will still be offended, but at least they’ll be offended for the right reasons. Context is everything. I also learned to never read Reddit, ever, no matter what.

2. What were you like as a teenage girl and how does that affect how you speak to teens today?

I was chronically, compulsively shy until halfway through my sophomore year. I would have preferred to fail a test than to raise my hand and ask a question. There was a shift in the 10th grade. There was no watershed life event; I just slowly mustered the courage to start doing things I liked, even if they scared me all the way to death. I just kept saying yes and showing up. The more I took those little risks, the more I started coming into myself. I actually remember the moment, right down to what I was wearing, when I realized, “You know? I like me.”

The difference between the first and second half of high school for me cannot be overstated. I was like a different person. After that moment in the 10th grade, I was an always-there leader at church, I became an editor on yearbook staff (I started to enjoy writing in the 11th grade), I did really uncool things that I liked, like French club. I graduated surrounded by a pretty big, diverse group of friends. I didn’t do anything magical—I just decided I liked myself, and I showed up and was nice to people.

The things that changed the game for me in high school didn’t hinge solely on my relationship with God, but they weren’t independent of it either. It’s no coincidence that I went on a mission trip in the 9th grade which God used to restore joy and perspective in my life in a dramatic way. That trip set the stage. My faith was the foundation for the growth that happened over the next 4 years. Joy and humility freed me to like myself, and to love people, and to start being brave.

I want young women to fall in love with Jesus—to encounter him in such a jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, intimate, scary-awesome way that they are never the same. That happened to me. But I also want them to like themselves and be nice to people. Enough and 10 Things for Teen Girls are a mix of both of those things. The radical love and truths of Jesus and the practical social skills like how to not be annoying on Facebook. It’s both things together, because that was my experience.

3. I think now more than ever, teen girls feel insecure. They feel like they’ll never be pretty enough, smart enough, skinny enough, or popular enough. How do these feelings start and how can young girls fight them?

In the first grade, I remember noticing that some of my friends were more petite than I was, and I wished I was like them. My daughter is in the first grade now—she’s six. I believe that these feelings are natural. By natural I mean a part of the human experience; they’re going to happen.

Insecurity takes root and becomes a problem when girls start thinking, “I’d be happier if I were more . . .” and when they start to think that “perfect” is the goal. We don’t try to eradicate their insecurities—that’s silly because it’s impossible. Instead we put insecurity in its place by modeling gratitude, passion, and joy. I think often about a Pinterest pin I saw that said, “Mother Teresa didn’t walk around worrying about her thighs. She had things to do.” I love that. Insecurities can only get the best of us when perfection and beauty and being adored become our goals.

The best way to combat rampant, crippling insecurity is to teach young women to care about bigger things than their own images and preferences. It’s on us grown-ups to teach this. As they watch us live, we show them that respecting our bodies is normal. Being thankful is normal. Finding and choosing joy is normal. Using our bodies as tools to do a job, instead of as shrines to physical beauty and sex appeal and fitness, is normal. My body needed to bear and feed babies, and it did. My body needs to help my neighbor move in, and it can. My hands need to feed people, and they can.

We’ve been trying to end insecurity by telling girls they’re “perfect just the way they are,” but it’s not working. Insecurity is part of the human experience, like grief and anger and sadness. It needs to be accepted and then put in its place. The solution to insecurity is the same as the solution to almost every other thing: love, gratitude, humility, community, grace, passion, perspective, and Jesus. Just look up.

4. You mentioned this briefly in your blog post, but pornography is seriously hurting the value men place on women, and women place on themselves. How can we begin alleviating the damage this is doing?

Oh my stars. This topic has been so normalized and so stigmatized that it’s nearly impossible to discuss with any kind of perspective. I feel raw when I think about this. I’m not going to discuss here why I think it’s damaging, and to whom, and in what circumstances, and in what ways. But I can tell you how I think we can alleviate some damage once it has been done and acknowledged. This is obviously not a long-term solution.

Here is one thing I would like to tell boys that have been hurt by pornography. Looking at porn does not make you a deviant, or an embarrassment, or a sex addict, or unredeemable. But don’t be naïve enough to think that the consumption of it does not affect the way you view women, sex, and intimacy. And don’t be naïve enough to think that the way you view those things won’t affect your real-life relationships. What you think will come out in how you act, always. You must recognize the attitude of entitlement implicit in pornography and fight like heck against it. You are not entitled to sex with a woman. The immediate gratification in porn does not exist in real life. Neither does the ability to search for exactly the woman, body type, hair color, or sex act you’re feeling in the mood for. Girls do not want you, or sex, all the time. They never owe you. They are not the prize you win at the end of the game, or the girl that always comes around at the end of the movie. Contrary to what porn implies, flirtation does not equal a desire to have sex. You are not entitled to sex every time you want it. I believe that the surest, safest, wisest way to protect yourself and your relationships—to demonstrate respect for women and to honor the emotional, relational component to intimacy—is to STEER CLEAR. WAY CLEAR.

Here is one thing I think we must teach girls that have been hurt by pornography. You can require emotional intimacy before sex. You can be desirable without “putting out.” You are worthy of love, not just attention. Being desired is not the same thing as being valued. You can insist on being valued. If a man pressures you for sex and cites his desire and “appreciation” of you as evidence that he values you, do not buy it. And do not confuse the two and find yourself, years down the road, feeling used and wondering why. The difference that value makes in a woman’s heart and mind cannot be overstated. The emotional component in intimacy is paramount—and it’s 100% absent in pornography. Do not manipulate men, relishing the ability to turn their brains to mush, when doing so means you’re being objectified. No matter what you get in return—a discount at the mechanic, a date, a pass on a speeding ticket—it’s not worth being devalued as a person. You are a whole person. You can insist that people see you and treat you as a whole person. Women are whole people, and the nature of pornography is to present them as less than such. I believe that the best way to insist on respect, value, love, honor, esteem, and real intimacy is to STEER CLEAR. WAY CLEAR.

5. How do a teen girl’s insecurities differ from a teen boy’s?

You know, I think they’re all the same deep down. People are people. We want to be enough. We want to be heard, seen, understood, validated. We want connection, passion and purpose. We want to be welcome, and liked. Culturally, “enough” looks different for boys and girls, and boys and girls often cope differently, but the insecurities are the same. We all want to be enough.

6. How can the church help empower today’s youth?

Start actually believing that God calls young people. Actually believe that they can do hard things. Listen to them; don’t dismiss their experience because you don’t understand it, or you think it can’t possibly be as bad or as dramatic as they’re saying. It probably is. Include them. Mentor them. Show up for them. It takes a village to raise a person, but we’re really bad at the village thing in 2014. Start building a village around them. Live like what you’re singing about is true.

When I was in college, I looked around and realized that I didn’t know many adults whose souls were on fire for Christ. I knew Christians, but not many “I will go anywhere, do anything, wholly surrendered” Christians. I resolved to be that kind of person, so that my children and the young people around me would know that spiritual zeal doesn’t have an expiration date. Press in and practice some real abiding, some real trust. Don’t minimize the gospel in your life—show young people what it looks like for an adult in middle-class America to hang their life on the gospel. They will notice. They will be encouraged, inspired, challenged and carried.

7. We all know that talking to teenagers can be difficult. What’s the first step in better connecting with them and getting them to open up?

Teenagers are people. So I read that question as, “What’s the first step in better connecting with anyone?” The answer is empathy—empathy to the zillionth power. You can’t just listen to a teenager and then jump in with your, “Yes, I hear you and I understand that you are mad, but. . . .” That’s dismissive.

If your interactions are 20% “I see and acknowledge you” and 80% “Here’s what I want to teach you,” you’ll get nowhere. With anyone. With your angsty co-worker, your difficult spouse, or your teenager.

We’ve got to flip it. 80% empathy, 20% teaching. Or maybe 90/10. Empathy eliminates defensiveness, it builds trust, it creates safe space. Anais Nin said, “You cannot save people, you can only love them.” However much empathy you think is appropriate, whatever your “I see where you’re coming from, BUT” disclaimer is, quadruple it.

8. You’ve said “follow your heart,” is the worst advice ever—why?

“Follow your heart” does not translate. I understand the spirit of it, but to a teenager, “Follow your heart” sounds an awful lot like “Do whatever you want the most” which is obviously problematic. Following your heart is all well and good until things get hard and you find yourself thinking, “My heart just isn’t in this anymore.” Our hearts are naturally selfish. They set off after things that are new and flashy, they are comfortable in places where we receive high praise or feel fulfilled and cozy. Our hearts change their minds a lot. I would substitute the word heart with passion, or dreams, or skills, or brain, or intuition, or sound advice. All of those things are great things to follow, and I address them all in my book. “Follow your heart” is vague. It’s incomplete advice at best, and at worst it’s a recipe for disaster.

9. What’s next for you?

I’m going to make dinner for my kids. Oh, you mean writing. There will be more books, definitely. Enough (and 10 Things for Teen Girls) was such a surprising project. The post struck a nerve and went viral without my planning—without my knowledge even—overnight. I am so thankful for it, because I was a gift. I could never have created something that touched so many people if I’d tried. Those books chose me, but now I get to choose the books. The proposal I’m working on now is the book I dreamed about writing when I thought about the possibility of being an author some day. And of course there will be blogging. I love blogging. I get to use ALL THE CAPS LOCK I WANT, SUCKA’S! And I get to say things like “sucka’s.” The interaction I get to have with readers is amazing, too; their feedback is often better than the post itself. I will be parenting, loving my neighbors, and writing. This season of my life is about those three things, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Discover what true worth really looks like and how teen girls can know how much they’re loved and valued in Kate’s new ebooks, Enough & 10 Things For Teen Girls, on Vyrso today!

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Never Too Late to Be Found: Treating the Wounds of Hurting People with Grace

Lost and Found

Today’s interview is with Sarah Jakes, a businesswoman, media personality, and author of the new book Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life. This memoir is a captivating look at Jakes’ journey, including her struggles with being a teen mom and the daughter of T.D. Jakes—a high-profile preacher. This honest and vulnerable story is a reminder that God can turn even the deepest pain into his perfection. Download her memoir and call to action, Lost and Found, today!

1. You said your story is “not always pretty.” What prompted you to share the life lessons you have experienced in Lost and Found?

I never set out to write a book. When I first started writing my blog, I started it as a source of healing for me. I started it as a place to release the pain I was going through dealing with infidelity and still fighting for my marriage. I started the blog as a place I could just tell my truth, and the more I blogged, the more people responded. I then realized that by being transparent and sharing my struggles, I was able to inspire other people, and together, we all started to dream again.

2. What have been some of the detours in your life?

I have faced a few detours in my life: having my son at age 14, getting married and divorced young, and even some of the choices I’ve made. But what I learned through it all is that the detours may make things more difficult, but they don’t make things impossible. I thought I couldn’t achieve success in my life because of past mistakes. I thought I had to create a perfect picture to present to God in order for him to use me, but what I found out what exactly opposite. God is using my life as an example to others that no matter how “lost” they may be, they can still be “found.”

3. In what ways do you mean you were “lost?”

I spent many years focusing on who I didn’t want to become. I knew because of the statistics that come with being a teen mother, I would have to be determined if I wanted to break the mold. I focused so intently on who I didn’t want to become that it became the only thing I could see. Unintentionally, I became everything I hoped I wouldn’t be. The most difficult thing about being lost is knowing you should have been somewhere else. I started grieving that I could never be that person, then one day decided I still had time to find my way.

4. How did living in the public eye affect you during these challenging times?

It was certainly challenging to go through some of the things I went through under the spotlight of the public eye. My father was continually rising. He was one of the most influential pastors in the country, so it certainly made it more difficult to be his daughter, 14 and pregnant. I still remember the murmurs of the people in the church and the shame I felt as they would talk about me as they passed by. It was even more challenging to go through a divorce with the public spotlight once again on my personal life. One thing I am really hoping people get from this book is that we need to treat the wounds of hurting people with grace, rather than infecting them with judgment.

5. You mention that the birth of your son “saved” you. Will you please explain that?

I loved my son more than I loved myself. His life grounded me. No matter how tempting becoming complacent seemed, I couldn’t deny that even if I didn’t feel like I deserved more out of life, I knew that he did. He and his sister, Makenzie, constantly remind me that I can’t stay lost. I want them to have the best possible start in life and I know that begins with loving myself and God, who gave them to me, fully.

6. How did you become found again?

I had to humble myself enough to admit I was lost. We get forced into playing this game where we all pretend to have it together, but suffer silently. I opened up little by little to the people who were in my life when I once felt the most whole. It was their reminder of who I used to be that made me miss myself. I missed laughing from the heart and smiling from the soul. I retraced my steps back to when I felt the most peace and updated it to fit my new reality.

7. You write, “No matter how lost you feel, it’s not too late.” Will you please explain what that means to you?

It is never too late to be “found.” As long as you still have life, you have another chance to get it together, to change your life, and to be found. Too often, we focus on our deficiencies, what we don’t have, or what we lack! It is time for us to stop focusing on what we don’t have and start focusing on what we DO have. We also allow people to put boundaries, expectations and definitions on us. I believe that we can revolutionize the way we do things, if we revolutionize the way we think. Who says a divorcée can’t be an author? Who says a teen mom can’t be successful? I say I can, and I say I will!

8. In the foreword, your father writes that you have become “a tool fit for the Master’s use.” In what ways do you partner with your parents in ministry?

I oversee the women’s ministry at The Potter’s House of Dallas, which is a church led by my parents, Bishop T.D. Jakes and Mrs. Serita Jakes. I also serve as the senior editor of eMotions, our digital magazine. I occasionally serve as a television host on The Potter’s Touch and a speaker at our conferences. It is amazing how God works because I also wanted to work with and support my parents, but I didn’t think I could because of my past mistakes.

9. How is Lost and Found more than a memoir, and who is it for?

Lost and Found is more than a book—it’s a call to action. It’s an opportunity for us to be more aware of the ways we engage one another, or more aware of the ways we treat each other. It’s an opportunity for us to be transparent and bare our scars, but it’s also an opportunity for others to handle them with care. Lost and Found is an opportunity for people to learn that no matter how bleak the situation is, they still have another opportunity to get it right.

Lost and Found is for everyone. It’s for teen moms who are trying to navigate motherhood and carve out a future for themselves and their children; it’s for men and women who are trying to redefine their lives; it’s for people who have failed at something in life and need the courage to try again. Lost and Found is for anyone who has ever felt lost at some point in their life. In a nutshell, it’s for everyone, and my hope is that it will inspire everyone who reads it to truly start living, celebrating, and enjoying their lives.

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Learn to dream, laugh, and hope again with Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, Sarah Jakes’ inspirational new book. Get her story today!

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Recovering Redemption: Revealing Our Weaknesses As a Church

Matt Chandler

Today’s interview is with Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church, which has grown from just 160 people to over 11,000. Chandler is also president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization, and has authored several books, including The Explicit Gospel and Creature of the Word. His latest book, Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, is written with a pastor’s intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, and it takes you deep into Scripture as you evaluate your personal weaknesses, anxieties, and points of shame. With this book, Chandler will show you how to find confidence, contentedness, and freedom through Jesus Christ.

1. What inspired you to write Recovering Redemption?

We wrote the book Recovering Redemption because of what we saw in the lives of people here at The Village Church, and in my travels and interactions with others: there seems to be a disjoint between people’s external struggles and their ability to track that back to heart-level issues. Recovering Redemption is about creating a biblical pathway to help people see that the issues they struggle with externally almost always have heart-level roots that need to be addressed. We’ve learned that people tend to spend all their energy and strength working on external issues, when in reality it’s the internal issues getting solved through the person and work of Jesus Christ that leads to victory.

2. How has The Village Church benefited from the lessons taught in Recovering Redemption?

When I first got to The Village Church, I had in mind a specific type of church I wanted us to be. I come from a background where there was some abuse and some neglect, so I always found a lot of Christian circles unsettling. It seemed like the church lacked an ability to be honest about weakness, and it wasn’t a safe place to be honest about struggle. So I really wanted to, as best I could by the power of the Holy Spirit, show from the Word of God that the people of God should be open and honest in their struggles.

A lot of times, our weaknesses are part of how God chisels and moves and grows our confidence in him. When I started preaching on the confession of sin and the safety found in confession, I realized that the amount of hurt, fear, anxiety, shame, and addiction in our church was overwhelming. We set out to create a discipleship program specifically for the person who was stuck in these cycles of what we called “secret sin.” From there we built out our recovery ministry.

3. Has the church lost the beauty of redemption? How?

I think the church loses the beauty of redemption the moment we think there is no more sin, no more error, to be redeemed from. I don’t think we need to fear the future, but there’s definitely an increased marginalization of believers that could cause us to say, “There is no error that we need to be redeemed from,” if we’re not rooted deeply in the gospel and the Word of God.

I think Christian history will show that—the moment we remove the atoning work of Jesus Christ from the equation, the moment preachers are motivational or inspirational speakers, rather than the heralders of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you lose redemption all together . . . because there’s nothing to be redeemed from.

4. What kind of struggles does Recovering Redemption address?

We address fear and anxiety, guilt and shame, anger and lust, and doubt. We tackle the gamut of issues, even explaining the process of forgiveness and reconciliation, when to do that, and when to forgive but not necessarily reconcile.

5. Some churches have difficulty determining how to help people recovering from substance abuse, divorce, anger, etc.  What does Recovering Redemption have to say about this? 

I think some churches struggle with helping people in those situations because they’re difficult; they take time and are messy. I don’t know where it came from, maybe even the pit of hell, but at some point there began this idea that the church was to be this really pretty group of people. We should always be moving toward maturity, but if the church continues to see converts to Christianity, that means there are always babies around, and anyone with children knows that a house full of children is not always neat and orderly. There’s almost always a mess somewhere that needs to be addressed, training that needs to take place, conversations that need to be had. When you’re dealing with men and women who are struggling, there is an inherent messiness to all that. I think that some churches find it easier to pretend that the mess isn’t there. It’s not helpful for anyone. It’s not helpful for the people in that church who think they’re clean, and it’s not helpful for those who need to hear the good news of Christ: forgiveness and grace. That’s why it’s difficult.

What I hope Recovering Redemption does is help churches create environments where it’s OK to not be OK, while simultaneously saying it’s not OK to stay there.

6. How do we experience more of God’s love? 

Experiencing and understanding the supremacy and beauty of Jesus Christ is what ultimately conquers and overcomes the other desires of our hearts. There will be some variance in how we go about it, but here’s what should be true about everyone: we should be rightly seeing Jesus Christ for who he is and what he’s done. Once we see Jesus for who he is according to the Scriptures and understand who we are—and are honest with ourselves about who we are—we can begin to marvel at God’s long suffering with us, his grace and mercy toward us, and his love of us despite us. In that moment, we can begin to see and savor Jesus like we’ve always wanted to.

7. What’s the difference between guilt and shame, and how can we free ourselves from them?

Guilt is almost always tied to an infraction of some kind. We’ve broken a rule, so we’re guilty. But shame doesn’t necessarily work like that. In fact, we can feel shame when there is no breaking of the law at all. We can feel ashamed of where we live, or what we drive, or our education level.

Another reality is that shame can combine with guilt; breaking a rule can lead to not just guilt, but shame over the infraction. This is because shame is almost always built around identity and how I see myself. And the answer to both guilt and shame is found once again, no surprise, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our guilt upon himself on the cross and absorbed God’s wrath toward our guilt fully so that there is not condemnation found against us. In fact, in Romans 8, Paul asks who can bring a charge against God’s elect—who can even charge me? Because my sin and guilt have been paid for, it’s not that I’m innocent as much as it is I’m forgiven and justified completely. So that takes care of guilt, and then shame can vanish when I understand God’s delight in me as his child. Not only have I been forgiven, but I’ve also been adopted and been called son. To understand God’s delight in me does a lot to eradicate and destroy shame in a way that nothing else can.

8. What do you most want to say to the church?

The thing that really burns in my heart for the big-C Church is that there isn’t anything past the gospel. So it’s the message of Christ’s wrath-absorbing death and his victorious resurrection that saves us, keeps us, and sustains us in and out of every season that comes. If you drift from the gospel, if you move on to something that you may perceive to be more important, then you will leave the safety of the ship God has given you for the storm or the calm sea that is meant to protect you, shelter you, feed you, and care for you.

Ultimately, let’s not move away from the gospel—let’s drop our anchor there and preach that message over and over and over again to ourselves, to our congregation, to our home groups or small groups. Let it inform the mission, let it inform our marriages, let it inform how we parent, let it inform how we fight, let it inform how we engage the world around us, but let us first and foremost be known as gospel people.

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Discover your areas of weakness and how to transform them into pivot points for growth and freedom: get Matt Chandler’s latest book, Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, on Vyrso today!

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The Plight of the Pastor’s Kid: John Piper’s Son on What Needs to Change

The Pastor's Kid

Today’s interview is with Barnabas Piper, an author who explores the connections between ideas, faith, and people. He writes weekly for WorldMag.com and The Blazing Center blog, and he has contributed to Leadership Journal, Tabletalk Magazine, RelevantMag.com, The Gospel Coalition blog, and DesiringGod.org. He is also the son of bestselling author and popular pastor John Piper. In his first book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Piper addresses the challenges of being a pastor’s kid (PK) first hand. With empathy, humor, and personal stories, he addresses the pervasive assumptions, identity issues, and accelerated scrutiny PKs face. Get his brand-new book for just $8.44 on Vyrso today!

1. What challenges have you faced as a pastor’s kid, and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge was an internal one. I grew up knowing all the answers about all things biblical. I knew so much I could fool the people asking the questions into thinking I believed with all my heart. The problem was I didn’t know the difference between what I knew and what I truly believed. I didn’t really overcome this, per se, so it fell apart on me. I went through a really hard time where my spiritual hollowness and the sin that had grown in my life left me broken. It was in that place of spiritual emptiness that I finally saw Jesus as the powerful, personal, beautiful savior he is. Then all those truths I knew began to come to life, like a black-and-white picture turning to vibrant color.

2. A recent Barna Group report found that 40 percent of pastors’ kids have experienced times when they seriously question their faith, and 33 percent are no longer active in the church—why do so many pastors’ kids abandon their faith and church?

People often have the assumption that a PK should not struggle with his or her faith because of dad’s spiritually influential position, but that dehumanizes PKs. We struggle like our peers do (and the statistics bear that out). The most significant difference between PKs and our peers is the intensity and secrecy of much of the struggle. PKs often don’t feel free—because of our parent’s position—to question or search openly, so the doubts get bottled up until they overflow.

3. What can the church do to support pastors’ kids?

A couple big things come to mind. First, let them be normal kids. Do not expect anything of them that you wouldn’t expect of the car salesman’s kids or the painter’s kids. Too often PKs are expected, even subtly, to be better behaved, more knowledgeable, more mature, better leaders. But we’re not. We’re kids who were born to people in ministry.

Second, don’t scrutinize them—befriend them. You might not even know you’re doing it, but I guarantee that you know 100 times more about the PK than you do that random kid in the fourth pew. When you approach the PK and ask, even innocently, about something you wouldn’t rightly ask another kid about, it just adds to the pressure on him because he knows you’re watching. Instead make it a point to get to know PKs as who they are, as individuals, the same way you would want someone to know you as a friend.

4. A recent study found that 42 percent of pastors wish they had spent more time with their kids—how can today’s church leaders make more time for their children?

It takes intentionality and a commitment to the reality that their kids are their first calling, not their church. Every pastor will have to pour long hours into the church and will miss some significant family times. That’s the nature of on-call work that serves others. But pastors need to aggressively limit those times. Maybe it means finding a way to rotate availability with other church leaders (lay or staff depending on church size and context). Maybe it means telling people “no” or “later” when they call. Or maybe it means not answering sometimes.

The other big thing is making sure you’re really present in your kids’ lives. Converse with them, know them, and let them know you. Spend time doing what they love and include them in what you love. (This means get a hobby besides reading and studying; those aren’t kid-friendly or group activities.)

5. Many pastors’ kids turn away from the church after spending most of their childhood in the front-row seat of church politics and drama. Should we be sheltering our kids from church conflict? Why?

Pastors can’t shelter their kids from conflict. It’s impossible. Kids are too smart and aware for that and conflict is too constant, even if it is trivial. What pastors can do is show their kids the profound nature of grace and forgiveness, and of loving others. They can also honestly talk their kids through (when they’re of a good age) the nature of the conflict to help them learn to navigate such matters with godly wisdom. Some situations are so toxic that the kid will get burned. Many, however, are opportunities for the PK to learn much about relationships, ministry, and what grace looks like in action.

6. What is your greatest hope for this book?

I want to see God use this to restore broken pastor-PK relationships. I want to see PKs who have struggled with pressure, faith, and identity issues find hope and a direction through something I wrote. I hope to see pastors take stock of their ministry and parenting and make some changes. Some might be encouraged by what they read; others might feel like it’s a gut punch. I’m OK with either so long as it leads to a closer relationship with their kids. And I want to see church members learn to support and care for their pastor’s family better.

7. What was it like growing up with John Piper as your dad?

He was my dad, the only one I’ve ever had so all the good things and bad things of having a dad fall to him!  He is a devoted dad, a consistent and moral man who can be implicitly trusted. What people read in his books or see in the pulpit is who he really is, albeit a bit quieter at home with fewer arm gestures. I love my dad, and we work through our differences in the healthiest ways we know how.

If you’re asking more specifically about growing up with a “celebrity pastor” as a dad, that didn’t really become full blown until I was in my teens and in college. I didn’t always respond well. I got annoyed at people’s fascination with him and the intrusions into my life, especially at the Christian college I attended, but I’ve come to realize that I’m in no position to not show grace. And most people have good motives about it and kind hearts—they’re just a tad invasive with their good motives sometimes.

8. What’s next for you?

The big thing is that I’m working on is another book, set to be released in the summer of 2015 from David C. Cook. It’s about what it means to believe. I’ll continue to write regularly for WorldMag.com and The Blazing Center and to cohost The Happy Rant podcast.

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Whether you’re a pastor, a pastor’s kid, a church member, or someone who wants to help struggling people grow—this book is for you. Discover how to relieve the pressure felt by PKs and learn to share the one thing they need more than anything else: get The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity on Vyrso today!

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Authority, Discipline, and the Modern Parent: What Went Wrong (and How to Fix It)

Shepherding a Child's Heart

Today’s interview is with Tedd Tripp, senior pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Hazleton, Pennsylvania and author of the incredibly popular book, Shepherding a Child’s Heart. Tripp draws on more than 30 years’ experience as a pastor, counselor, and school administrator to offer unique and practical ways to instruct your child’s heart. According to John MacArthur, “Tedd Tripp offers solid, trustworthy, biblical help for parents. If you are looking for the right perspective and practical help, you won’t find a more excellent guide.” Get Shepherding a Child’s Heart for just $3.74 on Vyrso!

1. You’ve said, “Our culture has lost its way with respect to parenting. We are a rudderless ship without a compass.” Why do you feel this way?

We lack both a sense of direction and the capacity to direct ourselves. Parents are confused and often tentative in parenting. I spoke with a young mother recently who had no ready-to-hand answer to her three-year-old’s question, “Mommy, you don’t obey me; why should I obey you?” Many young people dislike authority, so we have no ability to winsomely teach our children to live joyfully under authority. If one sees authority as negative, not the blessing God’s Word shows it to be, there is little wonder that parents are not teaching their children the blessings of Ephesians 6:1–3.

2. What are the biggest differences between how children were raised 50 years ago and how they’re raised now? Are these changes hurting or helping children?

Our culture has lost any sense of hierarchy. We see authority as derived either from consent or from overwhelming force. Therefore, we can only respond with rebellion or with servility. We have lost the concept of equals willingly placing themselves under the authority structures that God has built into his world. Children raised in such a milieu see themselves as peers of the adults in their world. The incarnation of Christ and his perfect submission to the Father is an example to the submission of an equal to the authority of another for the purpose of a greater good. This idea is lost in contemporary culture—hence we do not see submission as dignified and noble; we see it as servile and foolish.

3. How can parents be both firm authoritarians and loving supporters to their children?

We must make a winsome and attractive presentation of the necessity of obedience. “Honey, there is a God in heaven who is good. In love and kindness he has put you in a family. He has given you parents who have wisdom, maturity, and life experience and who love you very much. We insist on your obedience because we know that is what is good for you. God promises if you obey and honor mom and dad it will go well with you and you will enjoy long life (Ephesians 6:1–3). We want those blessings for you. We love you and want to encourage you that you can trust God to work through your mom and dad to bring good things into your life.” Notice that obeying is not about the parent desiring control, but is about God who is good and who is full of love and kindness. I am not God; I am only God’s ambassador to my children.

4. What’s the number-one issue parents face in raising healthy, Christian children in the modern world, and how can they overcome this?

Video technology, gaming, smartphones, computer access across a variety of platforms, and the incredible amount of screen time children have are all huge challenges to raising children with wisdom and a biblical perspective. One might say that the technology is neutral, and even that can be debated at least in terms of healthy development of children both physically and cognitively, but the content conveyed is not neutral. It provides a narrative that works against everything a Christian parent wants to instill in their children. You overcome this problem by limiting access and the amount of time children spend with technology.

5. How does unbiblical parenting affect the church?

Most parents focus on getting the children to jump through behavioral hoops. The concern is far too much on control and not enough on nurture—helping my children understand their hearts and how behavior that has strayed from God’s ways reflects a heart that has strayed. When behavior is the goal, then methods to produce right behavior become the methods of choice. The problem is that it’s hard to get from controlling behavior to shepherding the heart. If my focus is the heart and attitudes of heart, then the gospel and the transformation that the gospel produces becomes the heart of my parenting. Unbiblical preoccupation with behavior leads to hypocrisy and moving kids away from their need of grace.

6. Many children end up leaving the church once they hit their early twenties—what can parents do to prevent this from happening?

I truly believe this exodus reflects the poor ways we have handled the narrative that is provided to our children by all the competing voices that influence our children. How much time is spent on providing Christians a viable alternative narrative to the one offered by culture? What structures do we provide that demonstrate to our children the Christian faith? How many families are having family worship or talking daily to their children about the wonder of who God is? How many parents are living in true integrity before their children, dealing honestly with their own sins and failures, and showing their children a life of daily repentance and faith? Children are idealistic and looking for authenticity; sadly they are not finding it at home.

7. You’ve received some backlash for your views on spanking and discipline—how do you respond to your critics?

I understand some of the reasons why people react against spanking. Many Christians were abused as children by parents who struck them excessively or in anger, and they promised themselves they would never do that. I want to stand in solidarity with those parents. I also know that the idea of spanking children is not popular in our culture. The culture makes no distinction between an angry parent who hits their children in frustration and a parent who is making timely and appropriate use of physical discipline out of a conscientious belief that this is right and something God’s Word calls them to do. I also think parents must make a clear distinction between correction and discipline. There are many things children do that require correction, but do not require discipline. For example, if my three-year-old bowls over his 18-month-old sister and takes her toy, that is not a situation for discipline; it calls for correction. My three-year-old is not being defiant—he is being impulsive. I corrective impulsivity; I don’t discipline it. If he responds to this intervention, then there is no need for discipline.

I would have never spanked my children if I had not seen physical discipline as something I was called to by the Word of God. I have three adult children and nine grandchildren with whom I enjoy very close relationships. I have seen nothing but good fruit in my family from obedience to God on this issue. People often ask, what about the studies that say children who are spanked turn out to be insecure and often abusive adults? My answer is I do not know of any study that studies what I advocate, which is very controlled and timely use of discipline. Studies of people whose parents spanked them in anger or excessively do not examine what I advocate, but rather what I speak against.

8. One of the biggest issues young people face is low self-esteem. What can parents be doing better to raise confident kids?

What children need isn’t high self-esteem, but accurate self-image. They need to understand that each of us possess strengths and weaknesses, abilities and disabilities. That is how God has made us. Our self-image does not come from thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought to, but from understanding that God loves me and I am complete in Christ. I have all the abilities and strengths he gave me to be equipped for everything he called me to do. My self-image cannot come from comparing myself with others. I am who I am. God made me like this, and God doesn’t make inferior people.

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Discover how you can be a better parent today: get Tedd Tripp’s bestselling Shepherding a Child’s Heart for just $3.74. Then get the accompanying parent handbook and leader’s guide for $3.74 each.

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The Best Advice for the Modern Dad and His Growing Daughter

That's My Girl

Today’s interview is with Rick Johnson, founder of Better Dads, a fathering-skills program that empowers men to lead and serve in their families and communities. He’s the bestselling author of ten books on marriage, family relations, and parenting, and he’s a highly sought-after keynote speaker at parenting and marriage conferences. His popular book, That’s My Girl: How a Father’s Love Protects and Empowers His Daughter, shows men how to develop close relationships with their daughters that teach them how they should be treated by men. Whether you’re a soon-to-be-dad, a counselor, or just a man wanting to be a better role model, this book is for you: get That’s My Girl for just $8.44 today. 

1. What are some of the greatest challenges you see parents facing today? And how do you encourage them in the face of these challenges?

The biggest challenge parents face today is the continual onslaught of negative cultural influences that their children experience every day. Everything from early sexualization of our children to the promotion of unhealthy lifestyles seem to grow our children too fast and rip away their natural innocence and naiveté. Combine that with our ultrabusy lifestyles, which keep us from spending quality time together, and you have some significant challenges facing families.

Parents need to remember that despite what our culture promotes, you are the most important influence in your child’s life. Even teenagers when surveyed consistently rate their parents as bigger influences than peers, friends, movie stars, or singers. That means we need to actually use that influence or we lose it. We use that influence best by spending time with our children and intentionally teaching them what’s important in life.

2. What’s the most important step in developing a close father-daughter relationship?

Females greatly value verbal communication. They not only process information and their emotions by talking about them, they also develop closeness and intimacy with loved ones through verbal communication. Most females tell me what makes them feel most loved is to have the undivided attention of the important male in their life. Dads, if you want a close relationship with your daughter spend your most valuable commodity on her: your time. The most-asked question I get from teen girls at our father-daughter conference is, “Why won’t he talk to me?” You don’t necessarily have to talk, but you do have to listen—intently.

3. What advice do you have for dads who desire a healthy relationship with their daughter, but feel constantly rejected or even hated by their kids?

Dads who don’t live with their daughters often experience this, but even dads in the same household report this issue once their girls enter puberty. Dad suddenly goes from being the center of his daughter’s life to an invisible nonentity (or at best an inconvenient ATM). But these are often the times our children need us most. All relationships have peaks and valleys. Dads who persevere through these low seasons in their relationship reap the rewards later. Having the courage and steadfastness to continue to reach out—even in the face of rejection—tells our children that they’re so important to us that we’re willing to risk rejection to connect with them.

As a man of faith, I always told my kids that I would one day be accountable to God for how I raised my children. I didn’t want to have to explain to him why I allowed my kids to do harmful activities or why I didn’t do everything in my power to father his most valuable creation to the best of my ability. The fact that I was accountable to the creator of the universe seemed to mollify their scorn to a lesser degree.

4. How can dads be a part of their daughter’s world while still giving them the space they need to grow into an independent young woman?

It’s important for dads to provide a rudder in a young woman’s life. His calm and objective (nonemotional) perspective can give her balance, especially during the wild ups and downs of adolescence. His experience can also protect her from life’s dangers.

I think it’s important that dad be an enforcer of family rules and boundaries. As teens, many girls rebel against these boundaries—but they’re in place to protect her, so enforcing them tells her she’s loved. This can be difficult, but getting worn down and letting her do what she wants is often destructive. I’ve had too many broken and wounded girls tearfully tell me their daddies didn’t love them enough to fight for them. They equate dad letting them do destructive things to dad not loving them enough to protect them from harm. Stand by your values, guys, even when she objects to them. She might not like you sometimes (by the way, your job as a parent is not to be “liked”) but she will respect you. In the long run, that’s better for you and for her.

5. What’s something your daughter has taught you?

As a dad, I didn’t truly understand how much my words meant to my daughter until she was an adult. Guys, as a dad you are your daughter’s first and most important example of a man. She internalizes how much value she has as a female (and a human being) by the way you treat her and her mother. She develops her self-image and self-esteem by how much her father values her. She learns how to expect a man to treat her and love her by your model. She learns what healthy male sexuality and respect look like through your example. Remember, your actions speak louder than words.

6. How can parents correct undesired behavior and pass on personal values without restricting their child’s development as a unique individual?

I’m not sure the two are necessarily mutually exclusive. Everyone who has raised a child realizes that no matter how much you correct them or try to teach them your personal values, the fact is that the child is a unique individual with free will to choose the path they want. Sometimes that’s great, andother times the choices they make don’t work out so well. Regardless, I think it is a parent’s job to raise a child with the best possible chance to live a healthy productive life, while achieving their full potential. That means putting healthy boundaries in place and correcting destructive behaviors. It also means giving them a healthy value system in order to have a foundation to leap off into life from. Perhaps having the goal of that “bigger-picture” view (that you are raising a healthy adult, not that you are raising a child) makes it easier to balance those objectives.

7. Children who have irresponsible or uninvolved fathers are much more likely to experience behavioral issues, like low self-esteem and sexually promiscuous behavior. With divorce rates at 50 percent in the US, how can fathers be active participants in their daughter’s life, even when they don’t live with them?

Despite the overwhelming evidence pointing to the negative outcomes for kids living in father-absent homes, I know many men who have been successful fathers even though they did not live with their children. The biggest factor in those success stories is the willingness of both former spouses to place the best interests of the child ahead of their own selfish needs and desires. That means working together as a team to parent, even though they’re no longer married. Couples who are able to do that effectively seem to be able to overcome the challenges of divorce. Unfortunately, very few couples can actually pull this off. I would encourage noncustodial fathers to jealously guard your time with your children. In the face of not living together, it is so easy to slip into the lethargic milieu of letting time together slip away. Face time is important. But your child knowing that you cared enough to make the effort (sometimes in the face of overwhelming obstacles) to stay connected is also important. Even if they reject your efforts, continue to call and write cards and notes to them on a consistent basis. That may be difficult, especially if you are continually rejected, but it matters—especially later in life.

9. How is Better Dads equipping men and women to become better parents and spouses?

My books, CDs, and other materials are ongoing resources for parents and spouses. In addition, we provide numerous seminars and workshops for men and fathers, moms on raising boys to become good men, marriages, and healthy relationships. Better Dads also hosts a free summer camp for single moms and their kids called Foundations in Life, a father-daughter conference for men and their teenage or adult daughters, and a father-son campout for noncustodial fathers and their sons. We also speak in prisons and at military installations.

* * *

Discover what it takes to be a strong leader and compassionate father: get Rick Johnson’s That’s My Girl: How a Father’s Love Protects and Empower His Daughter for just $8.44!

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Discipleship in the Most Destitute Places: Tim Keesee on the Front Lines of Missions

Dispatches from the front

Today’s interview is with Tim Keesee, a veteran missions mobilizer and author of the new book Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places. This captivating travelogue gives incredible accounts of Christians testifying and spreading the gospel across the globe. With stories spanning from China to Pakistan to Iraq, this book highlights the bold faith and sacrificial bravery of God’s disciples. Keesee has traveled for Frontline Missions International for over 20 years: download his firsthand account of global missions today!

1. When and how did you first get involved in missions?

My first foray into missions was years ago when I worked on behalf of persecuted Christians behind the Iron Curtain by organizing letter-writing campaigns for Christian prisoners and raising funds to smuggle Bibles into the Soviet Union. After the Berlin Wall came down, I was in Eastern Europe with pastors—teaching and learning from them. It was there that I first saw the power of gospel partnerships.

2. How have these experiences of witnessing the gospel’s advance affected your view of God?

God has become so much bigger to me! My understanding and love for the gospel has grown as well. I’ve seen the transforming work of the gospel in scores of very diverse cultural contexts all over the world, and you can’t see that and not glory in the truth that the “gospel is the power of God unto salvation” and that he is bringing people to himself from “every tribe and language and people and nation.” What the apostle John saw in Revelation 5:9 is unfolding before our own eyes!

3. Are some people “called” to be missionaries? If so, what does the call look like? How can someone know if they are called?

In Matthew 16:24–25, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” That’s the first calling we have—to take up our cross and follow Christ—to fully identify with him, fully embrace him, fully “follow” him. So in “losing” our life in this way, we truly begin to find it. Unfortunately, we add so much mystery to all of this that I’m afraid many people wait for “the call” as if it’s a lightning-strike experience or a voice from heaven, when what we’re called to is radical obedience to the one who said “follow me.”

Obviously, the Lord uses our experiences, gifts, and relationships for unique kingdom impact. For some, that means taking those skills and experiences to reach people in distant cross-cultural settings. I’m grateful that more and more believers are seeing that their professional skill sets as teachers, nurses, pilots, entrepreneurs, baristas, and more are the very skills needed to gain long-term access to restricted-access countries.

4. What are the pros and cons of short-term mission trips?

Short-term mission trips can be great eye-opening and learning experiences about cross-cultural ministry, or they can be an enormous waste of energy and resources on purposeless “feel good” projects that actually do more harm than good to the ongoing work on the field. Here is my advice about how to avoid such a pitfall:

  • Before you leave: Careful screening and preparation of team members in the context of the local church is the place to start.
  • Attitude and longitude: Short-termers should go in humility as learners, and the host veterans should be committed to mentoring them and pursuing ministry goals together. This will likely mean keeping the group small.
  • Follow up: Systematic follow-up is important not just for accountability, but also to continue to disciple (How did the short-term experience stretch them? How did it grow their faith? Deepen their prayer life? How has it changed them now that they are back in their comfort zone?).

5. What are some of the differences you’ve seen between Christians in the US and those you’ve met around the world? What are some of the similarities?

Other than the obvious differences like language, dress, food, culture, and worship styles, one of the differences I have observed is that “church” is more about people than about buildings and services. I work primarily in countries of persecution or where the rapid growth of Christianity forces believers to meet in apartments or in a rented hall or under a mango tree. Therefore, “church” for them is more about the people involved than the building they meet in.

Actually, when you get past the obvious cultural differences I mentioned above, we are remarkably similar. We are all subject to sin and fear, yet we are all transformed by the power of Christ who saves sinners. Christ’s kingdom has no borders, so I don’t really think in terms of an “American Christian” or a “Chinese Christian.” We have a tendency to think of the greatest Christians as being “over there” or “over here,” but we have to lay aside those questions of greatness and guilt and focus on the grace that is available to all whom Christ has called.

6. How can someone who lives in the US help spread the gospel around the world?

First of all, be part of a vibrant, Word-centered church here. Be faithful and active in speaking the gospel to others. Get to know cross-cultural gospel workers in other countries—invest in them, pray for them, and, if the opportunity presents itself, visit them. All of these things will fuel your love for Christ and the gospel. As John Piper has famously remarked, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Missions isn’t about passport stamps and frequent-flyer miles—it’s about Christ and gathering more and more worshipers from every nation to praise the Lamb who is worthy!

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Learn more about the powerful work God is doing all over the globe, then discover how you can join the movement: get Keesee’s new book, Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places, on Vyrso today!

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Saying “Yes” to God—and Ending Up on the Other Side of the World

Love, Skip, Jump

Today’s interview is with Shelene Bryan, author of the new book, Love, Skip, Jump: Start Living the Adventure of Yes. Bryan is an energetic speaker and passionate advocate for helping needy children across the globe. After a spontaneous trip to East Africa , Bryan founded Skip1.org, a charity dedicated to providing food and clean water to children in America and around the world. Her first book, Love, Skip, Jump, tells her incredible story of abandoning her comfort zone and saying yes to the inspirational journey God planned for her. Her book will show you how to love your creator, skip comfort and safety, and jump into the grand adventure of life. Download Love, Skip, Jump today! 

1. Tell us about the inspiration behind Love, Skip, Jump.

At a party at my house one night, a woman I’d never met before pointed to my refrigerator. On the door hung pictures of the two kids we sponsor in Africa: a little Ugandan girl named Omega for our daughter, Brooke, and an adorable Ugandan boy named Alonis for our son, Blake—all to teach our kids how blessed they are living in America.

Boldly, the woman said, “You fell for that?”

“Excuse me?”

“How do you know that those kids on your refrigerator are real?” she continued. “They might be 40 years old, and they are just taking your money.”

Shocked, I said, “I don’t. I guess I’m just having faith that the money’s getting there.”

She proceeded to boast, “Yeah, well, I never fall for those things.”

That night, after all the party guests were gone, I was left with a nagging, unsettled feeling. I couldn’t get that woman’s words out of my head. What if what she said was true? What if we were being scammed?

When I got into bed, I shook my husband, Brice, awake. He groggily glared at me with a “This better be important” look. I told him about our nameless guest and her comments about 40-year-olds in Africa stealing our kids’ money and said, “So honey, I want to go to Africa and see where our 25 bucks a month is going.”

He said, “Cool. Let’s spend three thousand dollars so you can see where our 25 bucks a month is going.”

In the next few days we decided to take a trip to meet our two sponsored children, but the night before we were supposed to leave Brice got very sick. He’s rarely sick, but about 3:00 a.m., he looked at me with reddened, fever-glazed eyes and said, “Honey, I can’t go. I have no strength to get out of bed.”

“Brice, you’ve just got to suck it up. We have to make it to Heathrow.”

“Honey, there’s no way I can go.”

“It’s a sign,” I declared. “We were going to die on the plane and leave our two kids orphaned while we try and find these kids in Uganda who are probably forty.”

Brice said, “Shelene, you are so dramatic, and you’re not sick.”

“What are you saying?” I asked.

“I’m saying you’re not sick. You need to go.”

“Brice,” I whined, “you are going to send your only wife alone to the other side of the world? Who’s gonna carry my luggage?”

He got very quiet. Then he said, “Honey, you don’t like to go anywhere but the day spa. The fact you want to go to east Africa is astonishing. You need to go.”

As I sat on the edge of our bed, touching my husband’s feverish forehead repeatedly with the quickly diminishing hope that the raging fever would break, I knew I had a decision to make. What was I going to do? All my dreams and plans about this trip had always included my husband—my rock and my protector. But now it was painfully obvious he would not be going.

It was at that moment, sitting on the edge of our bed, that I (with the help of my husband’s quiet, calm confidence) said yes to God and made the decision to jump! I would get out of my comfort zone and jump.

What I found on the shores of Lake Victoria in Uganda changed my life.

I found my little girl, Omega, dressed in her little school uniform, in her mud hut with a sheet for a front door. I bent down and gave her a huge hug. And as I was hugging her, my eye caught the Christmas-card photo of our family embedded in her mud wall. She had been getting my mail! $25 per month was keeping her fed, in school, and providing her basic needs.

That was the inception of Love, Skip, Jump.

2. How did your organization, Skip1.org, get started?

At Skip1.org, we challenge people to give out of their own excess. We want everyone to skip one thing—a lunch, a manicure, a latte, a new outfit—and take what they would have spent on that item and donate it to care for the poor and needy. It’s really that simple: skip it for the sake of someone else.

People always ask me “Do I really have to ‘skip it’ to donate? What if I want to just donate?” My answer to that is no you don’t have to skip something, but I encourage you to try. There’s a connection in the brain when you deliberately forego something for the sake of someone who can never repay you. If you skip your dinner one night and feel a pang of hunger for a few hours, you get a tiny taste of how some kids feel every night. It might just change your perspective.

3. Why is “jumping” so important?

Some people aren’t living life to their fullest potential because they’re afraid to JUMP. The idea of jumping begins with the story of Peter and Jesus (Matthew 14:23-33). In the midst of a terrible storm, the 12 disciples were all on a small boat and saw Jesus walking on the water:

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

What I love about this passage is that Peter actually jumped out of the boat. And by jumping, he had the amazing opportunity to walk on water. Eleven didn’t jump, but Peter took that leap right out of the comfort and safety of the boat to go be with his Lord. It’s not that the other disciples weren’t followers of Jesus. Indeed, they were passionate followers, and most would soon lose their lives as a consequence of their true devotion to Peter. But Peter was willing to do something that no one else was—jump.

For those of us who’ve lived our lives way too long in a self-centered “me world,” this passage is very instructive. Just like the 11 disciples who did not jump, we each have our own personal “boats” of comfort and safety that keep us from jumping into the exciting waters God has prepared for us. The question is, what’s holding you back from being like Peter and making the jump?

4. You refer to “wannabe jumpers” as “sideline sitters, constant consumers, and casual clappers”—what do you mean by this?

If you look at your life and can’t identify how you’re helping others, you should ask yourself if you need to make changes.

A sideline-sitter is someone who’s willing to watch but not get involved. A constant consumer is someone who goes to church and sucks up all kinds of great information but never does anything. A casual clapper is someone who’s willing to cheerlead but refuses to get involved.

My question to those who are on the fence is: what’s holding you back from really jumping in with your creator? Your job?, A relationship? An addiction? Laziness? Comfort?

For me it was success in business and the admiration from others that came with it. I craved the accolades that accompanied being a successful businesswoman. For many years, I fought God on the direction he wanted to take my life because I liked the praise that tickled my ears, and I loved the comfort of luxury.

5. What are the biggest challenges facing Skip1?

When we started Skip1, I made a commitment to use 100 percent of our public donations for food, clean water, and the building of our projects. It’s important to people to have a trust like that. It was important to me. I also made a commitment to never ask anyone for a donation. We leave it to God to put it on people’s hearts to give.

Due to these commitments, sometimes I wonder if our hard costs, like office supplies and website costs, are going to be covered. These expenses have to be covered by people who make special private donations specifically for those expenses. Sometimes I wonder where these funds will come from, but God has always come through, sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

6. What are some ways people can tangibly help people abroad?

Skip it. By skipping something and donating that money you can make a real difference. If you want to go deeper, take a trip. It doesn’t even need to be to another country. Go bring some socks, a lunch, some water or chapstick to a homeless person on a street corner. Engage somebody and say “I see you and I care.”

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Discover how saying “yes” to God will transform your life: download Love, Skip, Jump today!

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Can the Church Still Change the World?

Passion and Purpose

Today’s interview is with Jimmy Seibert, founder and senior pastor of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, and president of Antioch Ministries International—the church-planting missions arm of the church that has planted 70 churches across the globe and is one of the fastest growing evangelical movements in the country. Seibert also started World Mandate, an annual conference aimed to equip people to live missionally that draws more than 7,000 attendees. In his latest book, Passion & Purpose: Believing the Church Can Still Change the World, Seibert gives a firsthand account of a church that’s cultivating a global impact. With an intentional focus on intimacy with Jesus, discipleship, church planting, and evangelism, this book is perfect for pastors, missionaries, and disciples wanting to get inspired to make a real change in the world. Download Passion & Purpose today!

1. Why did you write Passion & Purpose, and why now?

Revival is only a prayer away. We chose to write this book now because I believe there’s a deep need for more voices calling people to a radical devotion to Jesus. We wanted to inspire others to believe in the Church again—not just biblically, but practically—as we rally together to be the moral conscience of our nation and the hands and feet of Jesus in the earth.

In our world, there is a desperate cry for the church to really be the church. As we look to the future, I have great hope that God’s plan will not be thwarted! Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I think what it all comes down to is this: will we partner with him?

2. What do you think God’s plan is for the church?

The church is God’s “Plan A” for seeing his glory distributed on the earth—not just for salvation, but for the transformation of lives and entire societies. The question I’m often asked is, “Can that really happen?” My answer is definitively, YES! Our experience over the last 26 years has been that the church is alive and well. When people fall in love with Jesus and passionately pursue him with all their hearts, their lives are transformed. They become change agents in the lives of others and amidst the social issues around them. So I’m passionate that the church is God’s answer to our broken world. Now more than ever we must restore the faith for what the church can be.

3. How has writing this book stirred your faith for what God is doing in the world?

As I recounted all the stories from our journey, I came to a place of renewed joy and hope for the church as God’s vehicle for transformation in the world. In our culture, there’s this gap that the government can’t fill, that businesses can’t fill; it’s not only a moral gap, but also a gap of resources. We’ve found that the church can not only be a part of filling that gap in our cities—whether it’s through education or healthcare—but it can also do the job in such a way that’s stronger than before. My personal faith has been stirred by seeing what God is doing in America and in the Muslim world—it’s stunning. We’re seeing Muslims come to know Jesus and establish themselves as his people more than ever before in history. It’s a thrilling time, and I’m so inspired by what God is doing right now in the nations!

4. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

My deepest hope is that through this book, more people would fall in love with Jesus and start to believe in the Church again. It isn’t about me or about Antioch; it’s all about Jesus, who is calling each of us to experience him in an intimate and renewed way. It’s his story. My hope is that in telling this story, there is a stirring of the heart, both personally and corporately, as the light of Jesus is poured out in our cities, our nation, and in the nations of the world.

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Get fired up to make a difference in the world with this firsthand account of Antioch Ministries’ humble beginnings and life-changing effects: get Jimmy Seibert’s Passion & Purpose: Believing the Church Can Still Change the World today!

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