Just Announced: 70% Off Father’s Day Bundles

Daddy DaughterThe next two weeks are all about celebrating dad. Every weekday through June 13, we’ll offer a new 24-hour ebook bundle that offers wisdom and encouragement for dads everywhere. For today’s bundle, get four fatherly resources for just $8.99 with the Wisdom, Prayer, and Laughter Bundle.

Wisdom, Prayer, and Laughter Bundle

1. 31 Days with God for Fathers: Powerful Devotions, Prayers, and Quotations Find encouragement and wisdom every day of the month with this 31-day devotional, specifically designed to energize dads with the Word. Covering guidance, contentment, discipline, and responsibility, these real-life, Bible-based meditations will help guide men to be the fathers God intended them to be.

2. Prayers and Promises for Fathers by John Hudson Tiner Get 150 Scriptures and prayers specifically written for dad. Every verse offers a compelling reminder of God’s promise to bless fathers who speak to him with humility and live faithfully. Covering compassion, protection, teaching, and more, this is a perfect way for dads to start their day and draw closer to God’s Word.

3. God’s Wisdom for Your Life: Men’s Edition by Ed Strauss What fatherly topics do you have questions about? Leadership? Success? Temptation? This easily digestible book dissects the 70 key life topics for dads and draws from Scripture to respond to each one. Each category is accompanied with practical application tips, quotations, and prayers.

4. Heavenly Humor for the Dad’s Soul: 75 Inspirational Readings from Fellow Fathers (and Those Who Love Them) With just the right blend of mirth and spiritual refreshment, these 75 lighthearted readings by fellow fathers remind you of the joys of fatherhood and the wisdom of our Father in heaven. Learn about relationships, leadership, peace, and trusting God in this inspirational book—sure to make you smile, laugh, and reflect.

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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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Gender Roles: Goodness and Grace in God’s Design

Recovering biblical manhood

What does it mean to be a man or a woman? Christians from all walks of life ask this pressing question every day. Recent news events regarding kidnapped girls in Nigeria and domestic violence against women have troubled me deeply. How could these things happen? What kind of man would willingly commit these awful crimes? I’m not alone. Many Christians are asking the hard questions concerning how men and women should treat one another.

There’s no doubt that at the heart of God’s plan for humanity lies the goodness of gender. God created male and female to live in right relationship with one another. However, our first parents broke covenant with God and one another by sinning—eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We now live with the fruits of that history-changing event in the midst of broken relationships.

The Bible is full of stories that capture sin’s hold on us as women and men who exploit and manipulate one another. I always shudder at the story in Judges 19 of the Levite’s concubine, who was left on his porch to be violently raped and murdered so that he could be safe inside his home. This isn’t merely a problem that happened in biblical times and doesn’t pertain to us now. Broken relationships that produce hurt and sorrow are ubiquitous. Maybe you can relate—you’ve lived, or are living, with the brokenness that can come from being female or male in this world, whether it’s in relationships that have soured or in the realization that being a man or woman is more than just having a steady income and grown-up responsibilities.

However, brokenness and confusion isn’t the end-all, be-all of living. Christ has come! Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, says:

“. . . for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:26–28).

Christ has come to redeem us from our feelings of worthlessness and confusion. He has also given us a better way to live and interact: through love and mutual submission to one another.

Understanding God’s design for the Christian man or woman is important. Even better is seeking guidance from mature Christians who have thought about these issues and want to help others grow in godly femininity and masculinity. Here are a few resources to guide you through a deeper look at gender roles:

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Souls of the Brave: The Untold Stories of Sacrifice across the Globe

Global HungerToday’s guest post is by 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 offers the 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.

In the heart of high-rise Boston is a quiet, shaded acre called the Old Granary Burying Ground, the resting place of founders, patriots, and some of the first who fell in America’s fight for freedom. As I walk through the flag-festooned cemetery, I think about what it must have seemed like in 1776 when the first battle casualties arrived here and the hopes of a new nation were vested in an army distinguished for its retreats and knack for digging graves. The years and fortunes of our nation would turn, but in 1776 it seemed very much like a lost cause. Even today, though the tombs of governors and signers and the Paul Reveres are revered, for many of the common soldiers who lie here time has effaced their headstones and no traces of their names remain. Sometimes the greatest sacrifice goes unnoticed.

The struggles and soldiering of kingdom work, too, are mostly done in obscurity. In many parts of the world, believers suffer in silence—years in prison or refugee camps pass unnoticed by the outside world. Nothing online, no biographies, no blogs, nobody. The view of most everyone around them is that they’re fools who have wasted their lives on a lost cause. This is nothing new—from the first century and the first martyrs, who were burned to ash or became the food of wild beasts, to the twenty-first century in places where Christians suffer in silence every kind of hateful act, and where missionaries often labor in loneliness and the constant grip of opposition. This seemingly uneven struggle is what some have called “the long defeat.” The lines of an old epic come to mind: “Whither depart the souls of the brave that die in the battle, die in the lost, lost fight, for the cause that perishes with them?”

The ultimate sacrifice

Once in southern Egypt, I came across an old Christian cemetery where a number of missionaries were buried long ago. The desert heat shimmered over a scattering of crumbling mud-brick markers and broken epitaphs. It was so desolate. I thought of how these men and women, when they set out for the field, must have parted from their families with kisses and tears but also with the joy that rushes the heart when Jesus is near. They crossed the Atlantic to tell people about their friend and savior. They crossed an ocean but never recrossed it. For them, missionary service was a one-way ticket. Of course, cross-bearing is a one-way ticket, too.

In fact, just days before Gethsemane and Calvary, as Jesus dined with his followers, a woman came and broke open a costly flask of fragrant spikenard and poured it without reservation upon the head of the Lord. He knew that in just a few days his head would be torn with thorns, and the hair that now glistened with fragrant oil would be matted with blood and spit. Somehow, perhaps because she had been listening, Mary knew too. To their shame, it was the disciples who shook their heads and said, “Why this waste?” Sometimes the strongest and most hurtful voices of opposition to this kind of lavish, loving, risk-taking abandonment come from other Christians. But Jesus said, “Why do you trouble the woman, for she has done a beautiful thing to me?”  Suddenly these words speak peace and purpose over that old Egyptian graveyard and over those I love, brothers and sisters who walk lonely paths in his service.

Much of the world remains unreached. If we look at statistics, listen to the voices of unbelief in our own ranks, or focus on our fears, then the cause seems lost and the effort too risky. But Christ, who is our king and has no rival, has simply told us, “Follow me.” And for those with a heart for him, he will lead them through impossibilities as he builds his kingdom in every land. Pray for such men and women to follow him there. Pray that you would follow him there, too.

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Discover the untold stories of today’s bravest disciples, and embrace your role in sharing the gospel: get Tim Keesee’s Dispatches from the Front: Stories of Gospel Advance in the World’s Difficult Places on Vyrso today.

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A.W. Tozer on Why We Need Modern-Day Prophets

Voice of a Prophet

Today’s guest post is by Dr. James L. Snyder, author and curator of My Daily Pursuit—Vyrso’s best-selling book of 2013—and the new book Voice of a Prophet. Dr. Snyder is an award-winning author who has written or edited 28 books, and whose work has appeared in more than 80 periodicals. Dr. Snyder’s first book about the life of A.W. Tozer won the 1992 Reader’s Choice Award from Christianity Today. His latest book offers previously unpublished content by Tozer, in which Tozer examines the lives of prophets—like Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist—to underscore the importance of prophets’ ministry in today’s church. Get Voice of a Prophet: Who Speaks for God? today!

Throughout Voice of a Prophet, Dr. Tozer emphasizes that the modern church desperately needs a new group of prophets. In fact, just a casual look at the conditions of today’s church would bring anyone to such a conclusion.

Now, when Tozer talks about a prophet, he’s not talking about someone who foresees the future—he’s talking about someone who tells the truth from God’s perspective, regardless of how it might contradict modern thought. The prophets were in complete harmony with the entire Bible. In one chapter of Voice of a Prophet, Dr. Tozer says it takes all of the Bible to make it the Bible. The prophet’s job was to bring all of the Bible to bear upon the life of the believer.

The prophet was the man who listened to God, and therefore God would listen to him. The prophet was to speak for God and communicate what was on God’s heart. That surely was the passion of Dr. Tozer throughout his ministry, for he often prayed that God would raise up a new generation of prophets. We have, he would argue, enough theologians, enough philosophers, enough promoters, enough everything else—what we desperately need today are prophets.

Throughout this book, Dr. Tozer emphasizes the ministry of the New Testament prophet. Just as in every organization, there are gatekeepers to keep out destructive influences so the church can continue in the right direction. That was, of course, the ministry of the New Testament prophet. They were to be the gatekeepers; they were to take out the heresies from the church as well as the heretics.

However, Dr. Tozer went a step further and said that the New Testament prophet was to speak God’s truth concerning a particular situation. They were not to be ambiguous or make generalizations, but offer specific truths for specific situations. Now, Dr. Tozer muses, that will make many people uncomfortable and even angry, but the purpose of the prophet isn’t to soothe the people, but to stir them up and shake loose the dead weight of heresy and get them moving in the straight line of truth.

When we come to the New Testament prophet, we see a man not always accepted into the church, but—according to Dr. Tozer’s perception—desperately needed by the church. If the prophet is worried about his reputation, he can no longer do the work of a prophet. Today we need a fresh group of men called of God to be New Testament prophets, so his church can move in the right direction.

It is my prayer that this new Tozer book, Voice of a Prophet, will do just that.

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Learn more about the need for modern-day prophets from one of the most respected theologians of the twentieth century: get Voice of a Prophet: Who Speaks for God?, by A.W. Tozer and Dr. James L. Snyder 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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The Number One Obstacle Facing Today’s Family

Faith and the Modern Family

Today’s guest post is by Craig Jutila—an author, coach, international-communications consultant, and president and founder of Empowered Living. Jutila has more than 25 years’ experience of public speaking, and he served as pastor at two churches, including Saddleback Church for 13 years and The Grove Community Church for seven years. His latest book, Faith and the Modern Family: How to Raise a Healthy Family in a “Modern Family” World, offers biblically sound advice for creating strong and healthy families in the modern world—get it on Vyrso today!

If you were to ask me what I think the biggest obstacle facing today’s modern family is, I’d tell you, “too many choices.” Those choices are rarely between good and bad; they’re mostly between good and better. This changes our way of thinking. We say to ourselves, “If one is good, then more must be better,” but that is rarely, if ever, the case.

Parents today are faced with a unique opportunity,

and that’s too much of a good thing.

Too many choices, too little time

Twenty years ago, the pace of life was more predictable because our choices were somewhat limited. As far as sports, we could play baseball, football, or basketball, and that was it. When we went to a movie, we had two options—the movie playing in theater A or the movie playing in theater B.

My family went to the movies last week, and the same movie was playing in four different theaters: one version of the movie was playing with enhanced RPX sound technology, another was being shown in 3D, a third option was the IMAX large-screen experience, and the fourth was to see the movie in a normal room on a normal screen with normal sound and a normal experience. But who wants normal?

Who wants to be normal when you can have an amazing experience? Bigger sound, bigger picture, bigger experience, bigger drinks. (Don’t get me started on the beverage sizes at the movies. My bladder couldn’t even hold a “small drink” at the local theater.)

What about crayons? Did you know when Crayola produced its first batch of crayons in 1903 there were only eight colors? In 2010, there were about 133 options and at the current rate we will have over 330 choices by 2050! What if I just want a brown crayon? Can’t I just find brown? No! I have to sift through coffee, cinnamon, mocha, sienna, cocoa, and toast before finally settling on russet! What the heck is russet?

And how about TV? Not too many years ago, there were five television channels, and there was no such thing as a remote control. Actually, I was the remote control! My son Alec was standing in front of the TV the other day holding the remote to cycle through channels like an ADD hamster out for a run on its wheel. After a minute of crash-course channel surfing, he tossed the remote on the couch and said, “There’s nothing good on.”

What? Nothing good on? Was he kidding? I said, “You have a thousand channels!” (The definition of “nothing good on” when I was a kid was five channels and a speech by the president being broadcast––when he was speaking, he was on all five channels at once!). During my childhood, there were no laptop computers or wireless anything. We had phones with cords on them!

Running on empty

Moments of rest used to come more naturally to us back then than they do today. Life’s pace, though, is viewed by each generation as moving too fast, and each generation struggles with time-life balance.

“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels. I look around for the friends that I used to turn to, to pull me through. Looking into their eyes I see them running too; running on, running on empty.”

Before Jackson Browne penned those lyrics for his classic song “Running on Empty” (1977), the nineteenth-century British theologian Frederick William Faber wrote:

“It is very unusual for there to be completely quiet in the soul, for God almost continually whispers to us. And whenever the sounds of the world subside in our soul, we hear the whispering of God. Yes, he continues to whisper to us, but we often do not hear him because of the noise and distractions caused by the hurried pace of our life.”

And before Faber wrote his words, Solomon said:

“I discovered that there is ceaseless activity, day and night.” —Ecclesiastes 8:16 (NLTse)

Apparently running on empty, distractions, hurry, and ceaseless activity have been a topic for a while. Each generation must solve busyness within the context of their world. However, regardless of what generation we were born and raised in, over-work comes down to the same thing for each of us: choices.

When we were growing up, phone cords and paper mail kept us on a choiceless leash, whereas today we have more choices than we know what to do with. So, how do we reduce our life choices? That can be summed up in one word: simplify.

What do you think about the statement, “the biggest obstacle facing today’s modern family is too many choices?” Does that describe your family life? In what way? Leave a comment below!

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Learn more about establishing healthy, Christ-focused families: download Jutila’s new book, Faith and the Modern Family: How to Raise a Healthy Family in a “Modern Family” World, on Vyrso today!

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Does Motherhood Signal the End of Beauty?

anorexia1Today’s guest post is by Nicole Whitacre, the main blogger at girltalk and coauthor of Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood and Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed. She loves being a wife to Steve and mother to two boys and two girls, two of whom were adopted from Ethiopia. 

For a bunch of college girls, it was a shocking sight. Our friend, and the mother of twins, showed us her stretch marks and we, rather impolitely, stared back in dismay. Did pregnancy really carve such strange designs into a woman’s body?

“You will all look like this some day,” she warned, laughing at our expressions. “Of course, mine are worse, because I had twins, but if you get pregnant, you will get stretch marks.”

I’m glad I didn’t know then that in addition to stretch marks I would also have a C-section scar, plus two more long scars from emergency surgery following the delivery of my first child. My stomach now looks like a crudely drawn road map.

Pregnancy wreaks havoc on a woman’s body. Stretch marks and fat deposits, C-section scars and varicose veins . . . the list goes on. Then there’s motherhood. Sleep deprivation digs dark pits underneath our eyes, bottle washing dries out our hands, our clothes don’t fit anymore and are dotted with spit-up. Our joints are stiff from hours of carpool and our muscles sore from carrying children and baby bags and pack and plays (and don’t forget the stroller!).

Whatever beauty we thought we had before we had children feels like a thing of the past. We worry about whether our husband will still find us attractive. We feel self-conscious and insecure about how we look to others.

But motherhood is not the end of beauty, it is an opportunity to become more beautiful. Moms may not get much time at the spa, but they have the chance to apply the godly woman’s beauty regimen every day, all day long.

What is this beauty regimen? Scripture says that the woman who applies trust in God (“a gentle and quiet spirit” 1 Pet. 3:3–5) with good works (1 Tim. 2:9–10) will not fail to become genuinely beautiful. And who, I ask you, has more opportunities to apply this beauty treatment than a mother with young children?

Every day she must trust God with the physical safety, the emotional well-being, and the state of her children’s souls. Every day she must do endless, repetitive acts of service on behalf of her husband and for the sake of children. And every day, as moms, we have countless opportunities to take our eyes off of ourselves, to serve others, and to look to God for strength and help. This makes us truly beautiful.

So think of it this way: you can make yourself beautiful all day long! Not only when you shower and style your hair, but also when you clean up vomit and wipe dirty bottoms, when you encourage your husband and serve your family with gladness. You are trusting God and doing good works. This will make you beautiful in the eyes of your husband and your children, and precious in the sight of God.

Motherhood is not the end of beauty; instead it can be the beginning of a deeper, more profound beauty that transforms us from the inside out. So instead of mourning the loss of a smooth, flat, stomach, let’s give thanks for the opportunity to pursue a beauty that will never fade (1 Pet. 3:3–5).

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Learn more about the beauty of motherhood and glorifying Christ with relatable resources from Nicole Witacre. Discover how to better communicate with your daughter and show her what it means to be a godly woman with Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. Then learn how to cope with the demands of being a busy mom with Shopping for Time: How to Do It All and Not Be Overwhelmed. This book offers five key tips for excelling at your daily responsibilities without becoming overwhelmed. Get both books on Vyrso today!

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The Healthy Church: Tony Merida on Christ-Centered Exposition

Tony Merida

Today’s guest post is by Tony Merida—a pastor, professor, and author, and a leading evangelical voice on the importance of Christ-centered exposition, global missions, and orphan care. After adopting five children, Merida coauthored Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care, which unveils the grassroots movement to serve hundreds of millions of orphans and “functionally parentless” children across the globe. His latest project is coediting the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series (CCE) along with David Platt and Daniel Akin. Get the CCE’s Exalting Jesus in Matthew and Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus today!

When I was in college, I became a disciple of Jesus. After about a year of following Christ, I sat under the expository preaching of Jim Shaddix for three consecutive nights at a worship event, and it changed my life. My heart “burned within me,” like the disciples on the Emmaus Road, as he unfolded the glories of Scripture. Since then, my aim in the pulpit has not changed: to expound the Bible and point people to Jesus. So when Dr. Daniel Akin, another mentor and model expositor, approached me about contributing to the new Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary Series (CCE) and serving as a general editor with him and my friend David Platt, I was deeply honored and thrilled.

There are lots of commentaries out there, so what makes this series different? Let me mention some hopes of CCE.

First, we (the editors) hope that the CCE helps pastors teach the Word of God, and helps people understand the Word. God builds his church by his Word. One may build a crowd in some other way, but you won’t build a church apart from the God-breathed Scriptures. So we want people to know the Bible and see the church flourish.

Second, we want to exalt Jesus. While we don’t approve of wild allegory or fanciful typology, we do have the conviction that the whole Bible is Christian Scripture. We believe that the Bible is a unified book, and that Jesus is the hero of the storyline of Scripture. In the words of our denominational statement of faith, “Christ is the center of divine revelation” (BFM 2000).

Third, we hope that the various voices, many of whom are younger pastors, will provide helpful models for expounding books of the Bible. Exposition is both science and art. The scientific piece involves the rules of exegesis; the artistic piece involves sermon design and style. Our hope is that this series will provide some good examples of expositors that communicate the Bible with exegetical accuracy and with artistic effectiveness, and in so doing, show teachers what it looks like for someone to expound a book of the Bible. By reading exposition after exposition, the younger aspiring teacher or preacher should catch the nature and rhythm of doing Christ-centered exposition week by week.

Fourth, we expect this series to have a missions focus. We believe that this missional focus is a natural outflow of the Bible’s Messianic focus. As we unfold the Bible’s drama, we will unfold God’s global plan. The Bible’s storyline is moving to the climactic, Christ-exalting end that we read about in Revelation. In addition, we also anticipate that each author will provide missional applications and illustrations to both challenge and inspire readers to make disciples of all nations.

In the words of Platt, “If you have a Bible . . .  and I hope you do,” then I invite you to study along with us through the CCE as we seek to both know the Word of Christ and worship the Christ of the Word.

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Get the CCE’s Exalting Jesus in Matthew and Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus on Vyrso today! Then download Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan Care to get biblically sound advice and heartwarming stories to encourage you to help God’s children all over the globe.

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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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