The Perfect Time for Prayer

The Perfect Time for Prayer

This guest post was written by David R. Smithauthor of Christianity. . . It’s Like ThisHe pastors First Baptist Church in Linden, Florida, where he lives with his wife, Jenn, and their son, Josiah. When he’s not preaching, he’s usually looking for great barbeque joints or golfing.

Today’s churches offer different prayer opportunities throughout the week. Some do Wednesday nights while others meet on Sunday evenings. A few even gather on Monday mornings for prayer. But there aren’t very many that offer prayer meetings at 3 a.m.

Yet one church group proved it could be the prime time to pray.


The Early Church’s Late Nights

There’s a fascinating story found in the 12th chapter of Acts that makes a great case for nocturnal prayer meetings. Here’s the skinny: King Herod (Agrippa I) has just killed James and tossed Peter in prison intending to do the same to him. However, Herod must wait until Passover has ended before carrying out his murderous plan. (Hey, you can’t go around killing people while celebrating the goodness of your God.)

But while Herod was waiting for the feast’s end, the very first church was “earnestly praying” for God to rescue him. Consequently, on the last night before Peter was to be killed, an angel of the Lord visits the former fisherman in his jail cell, wakes him from his sleep, and sets him free from his captors. Step by step, the angel led Peter past the guards, through the gates, and out of the prison into the city. Peter then made his way through the dark alleys of Jerusalem and eventually arrived at John Mark’s house where he found his spiritual family in prayer for him. . . in the middle of the night!  

There’s much more to this story, but let’s pause in the shadow of the early church long enough to be challenged by their example.

When Peter was imprisoned, the church didn’t turn to Facebook or Fox News to raise awareness. They didn’t petition the authorities or picket Herod’s palace. Rioting in the streets and protesting in the public sector would only have gotten them a matching jail cell (and death sentence).

No, the early church prayed. Earnestly. Through the night.

Granted, they were praying at night, partly because it was the safest time to gather. (This was in the days before it was wise to post prayer meetings on Twitter. #youwoulddie) But they were also praying that night because God hadn’t yet answered their request on behalf of Peter. This midnight prayer meeting was one last effort to bring Peter’s case before God.

As a result of their earnest “middle-of-the-night” prayer they received a miracle: Peter was rescued from prison.

 

Practicing Prayer

Hear me clearly: I’m not suggesting we discontinue prayer groups that happen during “regular business hours.” Nor am I saying that God can’t perform miracles in broad daylight. I’m merely suggesting that we do what the early church did: pray until God answers . . . even if that means we must pray through the night.

If you think it sounds crazy to pray late at night, consider our preferred method of dealing with trouble: worrying through the night. Yep, the early church willingly forfeited sleep to pray, like Jesus often did; today’s church mindlessly loses sleep to worry.

In the end, both churches lose sleep. . . but only one gets the miracle.

Take a moment to reflect on these questions.

1. When was the last time you prayed until God gave an answer?

2. What’s your first reaction to trouble: worry or prayer? Why?

3. How much more time could you devote to prayer if you cut your TV viewing and Internet surfing in half?

4. How would your life be different if you (and your church) prayed like the early church in Jerusalem?

So, what’s the perfect time for prayer? That’s simple: anytime. God invites us to speak with him about our lives (and those we love) at any given moment. [Click to tweet!]

Check out David R. Smith’s new ebook, Christianity. . . It’s Like This, for an uncomplicated look at what it means to be a Christ follower.

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Last-Minute Super Bowl Dish: Cheesy Broccoli Bites  

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Tomorrow the Seattle Seahawks will take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX. Wherever your loyalties lie—whether with the Seahawks, the Patriots, or the creative commercials—you’ll want to bring an incredible dish to your Super Bowl party. We’ve asked Dashing Dish blogger and Vyrso author Katie Farrell share an incredible dish that will wow your friends and family.

Cheesy Broccoli Bites

Estimated Time: 35 minutes

These broccoli bites are salty, cheesy, and almost too good to be true! I can honestly say this is one of the tastiest ways I have created, to date, to eat your veggies! These broccoli bites make for a delicious protein and veggie-packed light meal, side, or snack. Who knows, this may just be YOUR favorite new way to get your veggies as well!

3 cups frozen broccoli florets, thawed, steamed, and squeezed dry (or fresh broccoli, steamed)

1/8 cup low-fat cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt

Pinch of pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon dried minced onion

Optional:

Pinch of sweetener that measures like sugar

3/4 cup Mozzarella cheese for topping

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line 12-cup muffin tin with silicone or foil muffin liners. Spray muffin liners with nonstick cooking spray.  Chop florets into small pieces (no bigger than the size of a marble).  In a large bowl add the broccoli, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg whites, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and minced onion. Stir until everything is well combined.  Scoop 1/8 cup broccoli mixture into each muffin cup. Lightly press broccoli mixture down with fingers in each muffin cup.  Sprinkle each bite with shredded cheese, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top. Remove from the oven and enjoy warm!

Yields 12 servings (1 broccoli bite per serving)

Nutritional Information: 20 calories (without extra cheese) per serving; 1 gram fat; 1 gram carbohydrate; 3 grams protein

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Get even more recipes to prepare for your Super Bowl party with a wide selection of cookbooks on Vyrso!

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Maintaining Spiritual Vitality: Wellness in Aging

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Today’s guest post is by John Dunlop, MD, the author of Wellness for the Glory of God and Finishing Well to the Glory of God: Strategies from a Christian Physician. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University and practices geriatrics in Connecticut.

Spiritual vitality is key.

After 40 years of practicing geriatrics I have seen a lot of believers grow older. Some have done it well; some have not. One lesson I have learned is that when we consider the six areas of potential wellness (physical, mental, social, financial, emotional, and spiritual), the one that is least likely to decline is the spiritual.

I have observed that when our spiritual lives remain vigorous we can continue to feel well. [Click to tweet] Our bodies begin to show wear and tear. Our minds begin to slip and our social networks deteriorates.  Finances don’t last forever and it gets harder to summon the emotional resilience that allows us to press on. But there is no compelling reason our spiritual lives must decline. In fact, I have seen spiritual growth in people approaching the century mark.

Spiritual vitality may be maintained as we continue to practice spiritual disciplines, see our characters transformed, find ways to serve, and grow in personal holiness. Let’s unpack these:

  • Spiritual disciplines

Our older years begin to slow down giving us more time to practice spiritual disciplines.  We can be more committed to prayer, studying the Bible, and savoring the beauty of God’s presence.

  • Character transformation

God is not finished with us and he will further develop our characters. His plans for us are perfect, but the means he uses may not be the ones we choose. Many of us are inspired to think of God being the potter while we are the clay, but the reality of being plopped down on a wheel, spun around at 500 RPM’s, and having our rough edges knocked off may not be our first choice. Yet who could we trust more to transform our characters than our loving heavenly father? Some of the fruit of the Spirit is late blooming; such traits as gentleness, patience, and self- control are more commonly developed in the elderly.

  • Spiritual service

Seniors are blessed with many opportunities to serve. We must remember that when Scripture says all believers have spiritual gifts there is no age limit specified. Elderly people are still uniquely equipped to serve the body of Christ. The nature of their service may change but the fact that they can make a significant impact on others does not. Their service may be more to pray and encourage others than the active things they did in earlier years, but these quieter ministries may have even more benefit to the kingdom of God. Leaving a legacy of spiritual vigor to your family is a frequent way of serving during the later years of life. It is wise to live near children and grandchildren to assure what you leave them is not just a financial blessing but a deep appreciation for God’s love and a desire to love and glorify him in return.

  • Personal holiness

Victory over sin is another area of potential growth for seniors. The temptations faced may not be the same ones they encountered in earlier years but there will still be temptation to sin at any age. Common sins in seniors are self-pity, worry, pride, anger, and being overly focused on self. Whatever our age, we need to look to God to keep our hearts pure before him.

Unfortunately many churches do not strategize how to make the most use of their seniors. Some set them aside in senior groups where they have limited exposure to younger people and no opportunity to minister to young adults. It is important to provide intergenerational relationships where all ages together can love and serve each other—”Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven” (Psalm 148:12-13 ESV).

Our later years may face many losses, but with deliberate planning and a bit of perseverance, our spiritual lives can continue to grow and allow us to feel well—even as other areas of life may be in decline.

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Get both of John Dunlop’s wellness ebooks on Vyrso today for just $8.44!

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Dashing Dish: A Simple Recipe From Katie Farrell

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Today we have a treat for you—literally. Katie Farrell has shared with us one of her authentic Dashing Dish recipes! Enjoy this this tasty treat straight from the recipe book, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating. If you havent read Katie’s guest post from yesterday, check out her simple four-step process for easy meal planning.

Mini Mexican Pizzas

Estimated time: 20 to 25 minutes

These mini pizzas make the perfect, well-balanced snack or meal! The refried beans serve as the “sauce” for these pizzas, which also make them high in fiber. They are also packed with protein, thanks to the ground turkey and cheese! They’re so tasty that you’ll never believe they’re actually good for you!

3 to 4 large whole-wheat tortillas, or enough to cut out 12 small circles (such as La Tortilla wraps)

1 1/2 cup lean ground turkey (or lean ground beef), cooked

1/2 cup salsa of choice

2 teaspoons dry taco seasoning

1/2 cup low-fat refried beans

1/2 cup low-fat shredded Mexican blend (or 2% cheddar cheese)

Optional toppings: salsa, sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, low-fat sour cream, chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 12-count muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Start by laying each tortilla on a flat surface.  Using an empty can, glass cup, or cookie cutter, cut 3 to 4 medium circles out of each wrap. Press each wrap circle into muffin tin using your fingers. (Note: it doesn’t have to cover the entire side of the tin, it should just fit snug.)

In a small bowl, mix together the ground meat, salsa, taco seasoning, and refried beans. Stir until well combined. Scoop 1/8 cup of meat mixture into each wrap. Top with shredded cheese, dividing evenly between each pizza.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Wait for pizzas to cool and remove from muffin tin using a fork or knife. Pizzas should pop out with ease! Serve with a side of salsa, sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, low-fat sour cream, and/or chopped tomatoes.

Yields 12 servings (1 mini pizza per serving)

Nutritional information: 80 calories per serving; 3 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 8 grams protein

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Get 99 more simple and delicious recipes from Katie when you pre-order her book today for just $17.99! Enjoy innovative recipes that are gluten free, sugar free, and abundant in whole grains.

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4 Easy Steps for Healthy Meal Planning by Katie Farrell

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Today’s guest post is by Katie Farrell, one of our top 15 authors to watch in 2015, and the author two new ebooks, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating and Devotions for a Healthier You. She is a registered nurse in Michigan, where she lives with her husband of five years.

I have found that meal planning is one of the best strategies for living a healthy lifestyle. The benefits to planning your meals every week will save you time, money, stress, and unwanted calories. If the thought of meal planning seems overwhelming to you, here are four tips to help you simplify the process:

Step 1: Plan and shop

Write out the meals and snacks you want for the week. You can use a calendar or just make a list. Make a grocery list for the ingredients you need and get to shopping!

Step 2: Prepare the food

Take everything out of the bags and organize groceries according to your recipes.

Step 3: Put everything together to make the recipe

Breakfast ideas: Many of the Dashing Dish breakfast recipes are quick and easy to make. For this reason, you don’t necessarily need to prepare your breakfasts ahead of time, but it never hurts to plan ahead! When planning ahead, you can make something such as protein muffins for the week and pack them in a ziplock bag for busy mornings, or make overnight oatmeal the night before.

Lunch ideas: Lunches can be easily be made ahead of time and put together in an assembly-line fashion. If you’re making salads or sandwiches, you can prepare for the entire week by making them all at once in a Tupperware container or by wrapping them individually in foil. You can also plan ahead by making a big batch of soup or chili and divide it into portions for the week.

Dinner ideas: You can either make a few different main dishes and a couple of side dishes, or you can just cook your meat and chop your vegetables ahead of time. This is helpful if your recipes call for cooked chicken—by preparing ahead of time, it will be ready to put right into your recipes for the week!

Step 4: Put everything away

After all the food is prepped and the recipes are made, I put everything in airtight containers and place it in the fridge. That way I have something to throw in a cooler if I am heading out for the day or to put in the microwave or oven to heat up and have a delicious dinner on the table in minutes! This whole process from start to finish takes anywhere from two to three hours. I typically pick a block of time on the weekend to get it done.

I hope this post helps show you how easy it can be to prepare meals for the week in just one day. It can take time to learn and get in the swing of things, but before you know it, it will become a part of your routine and you may even find yourself loving it!

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Get more tips on healthy, clean eating, and devotions for a healthier lifestyle in Katie’s new ebooks, Dashing Dish for $17.99 and Devotions for a Healthier You for $10.99. Pre-order both ebooks on Vyrso today!

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New Releases: Our Favorite New Ebooks for February

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February is going to be an incredible month for Christian ebooks! There are new titles releasing from authors you know and love, like Beth Moore and David Platt, but this month’s list is primarily filled with up-and-coming authors like Annie Lobert, Katie Hurley, and Sean Lowe. Here are our picks for the top 10 Christian Living ebooks releasing in February:

Looking Up: Trusting God With Your Every Need by Beth Moore

If you enjoyed any of the free ebooks that Beth Moore and B&H gave away last January, then you’ll love this new devotional from Beth Moore! Looking Up is bestselling author Beth Moore’s timeless message of hope and deliverance taken from Psalm 40 in a new deluxe edition. Each entry includes a verse, a daily reading, and a prayer. You’ll discover indeed you are not alone and that God’s gracious provision of love and faithfulness is at work, pointing you toward a life of wholeness. Daily readings gently lead you into his arms, helping you find lasting purpose and peace.

Counter Culture by David Platt

After reading David Platt’s Radical, I had a completely different understanding of the meaning of authentic discipleship. In his newest ebook, Counter Culture, Platt redefines social justice from a biblical standpoint and makes a compelling case for why Christians are called to fully and actively surrender themselves to every cause—regardless of personal cost or consequence.

After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles by Bryan Litfin

After Acts opens up the world of the Bible, right after it was written. Follow along with New Testament scholar Dr. Bryan Litfin as he explores the facts, myths, legends, archaeology, and questions of what happened in those most early days of Christianity.

Cupid Is a Procrastinator: Making Sense of the Unexpected Single Life by Kate Hurley

We’ve all been there, sitting alone on Valentine’s Day or not having a date to yet another wedding. While Kate Hurley doesn’t offer a magic formula to help you find a spouse, she does give you permission to grieve your unmet expectations while opening your heart and life to unforeseen possibilities.

Christianity . . . It’s Like This by David R. Smith

Christianity . . . It’s Like This exposes the most important elements of the Christian faith, as well as the underlying weaknesses that threaten to corrupt it. This perfect fusion of precise doctrinal instruction and real-world application offers an uncomplicated, life-changing understanding of the Christian faith.

Brave New Discipleship by Max Anders

As a small group director, I wish I could have had this book three years ago. There are a lot of ebooks about how to format and structure small groups for growth, but very few that discuss what I call the bedrocks of ministry. Brave New Discipleship integrates the best of modern educational research to guide the most effective discipleship strategy possible. Max Anders explores Scripture and sheds light on what is negotiable and what is nonnegotiable for modern ministry. For the reader looking for biblically sound ways to grow their church, Brave New Discipleship is a must-read.

Wrestling for My Life: The Legend, the Reality, and the Faith of a WWE Superstar by Shawn Michaels

In Wrestling for My Life, WWE superstar Shawn Michaels shares from his heart about the highs and lows of his life inside the WWE. Included are some never-before-shared stories and an intimate look into his career, as well as stories of hunting, family, and faith.

For the Right Reasons: America’s Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First by Sean Lowe

While I’ve never watched an episode of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, I know that there are millions of people who are “in love” with the show. Therefore, I know that at least one of your friends will want to read this new ebook by the “virgin Bachelor” Sean Lowe. A Texas boy from a Baptist home, Lowe tells the story of how he went from a Division I college football player to a fan favorite on reality television, taking readers behind the scenes ofThe Bachelor and The Bachelorette to see the challenges of living out his values and faith—and ultimately winning his true love’s heart.

The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You by Jessica N. Turner

In this practical and liberating book, Jessica Turner empowers women to take back pockets of time they already have in their day in order to practice self-care and do the things they love. Turner uses her own experiences and those of women across the country to teach readers how to balance their many responsibilities while still taking time to invest in themselves. She also addresses barriers to this lifestyle, such as comparison and guilt, and demonstrates how eliminating these feelings and making changes to one’s schedule will make the reader a better wife, mother, and friend.

Fallen: Out of the Sex Industry and into the Arms of the Savior by Annie Lobert

We’re excited about this new release from one of our Top 15 Authors to Watch in 2015! Fallen is the account of Annie Lobert’s 16-year journey in the sex industry. Through Lobert’s harrowing account in the clutches of the sex-trafficking industry and the miraculous deliverance she experienced in the arms of Jesus, readers will be encouraged knowing this: no matter how far you have fallen, God loves you and wants to save you from the depths of any pain, trauma, addiction, or abuse. And he longs to give you a new life. Today, Lobert is redeemed, healed, free, and rescuing other victims through her organization, Hookers for Jesus.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to save big on 2014′s best-selling titles!

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New Ebook from Tullian Tchividjian: It Is Finished

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Today we have an exclusive look at Tullian Tchividjian’s newest ebook It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News. Tullian is the senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, a Lecturer of Pastoral Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, and grandson of Evangelist Billy Graham. He has written numerous ebooks including customer favorites Surprised by Grace: Gods Relentless Pursuit of Rebels and One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World.

 

January 23   |   Romans 9:8

How often have you heard the gospel equated with a positive change in a believer’s life? “I used to __________, but then I met Jesus and now I’m ___________.” It may be unintentional, but we make a serious mistake when we reduce the good news to its results—such as patience, sobriety, and compassion—in the lives of those who have heard it. These are beautiful developments, and belief in the gospel does produce such fruit. But the results should not be confused with the gospel itself.

Well-meaning Christians sometimes adopt a narrative of improvement that becomes a functional law for them through which they filter their experiences. The narrative can be as simple as “I was worse, but now I am better,” or as arbitrary as “I used to have a difficult relationship with my mother, but now it’s much easier.” Soon we wed our faith to these narratives, and when an experience or feeling doesn’t fit—for example, when we have a sudden outburst of anger at someone we thought we had forgiven—it disturbs our security or causes us to doubt.

If the narrative we’ve adopted says that our lives have to get better in order for our relationships with God to be legitimate, we twist the gospel into a moral improvement scheme.

God is not interested in what you think you should be or how you should feel. He is not interested in the narrative you construct for yourself or that others construct for you. He may even use suffering to deconstruct that narrative. Rather, He is interested in you, the you who suffers, the you who inflicts suffering on others, the you who hides, the you who has bad days (and good ones). And He meets you where you are. Jesus is not the man at the top of the stairs; He is the man at the bottom, the friend of sinners, the Savior. [Click to tweet]

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Get an entire year of devotions by Tullian Tchividjian when you download his new ebook, It is Finished for just $10.19 today!

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Four Habits that Changed my Life: An Adventure in Healthy Living

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Have you made a big health resolution for 2015? Maybe you’ve resolved to go to the gym three times a week, lower your cholesterol by 10 points, or lose 20 pounds. Whatever your goal, changing your habits is key to making the change.

For me getting healthy wasn’t initiated at the beginning of 2014, but rather as a result of a six-month battle with a parasite. In total desperation, I gave up—I gave up trying to figure out what was wrong, I gave up wanting answers, I gave up hoping for a miracle, and I gave up the thought of a quick medical fix. Have you ever been in this sort of situation? Maybe you’re ready to give up on your resolution this year or give up on trying to be healthy. Instead of giving up completely, give up and let God. My health battle only started to turn when I gave up control and began to rest in scriptures like Psalm 46:10, Psalm 73:26, and Romans 5:8. If you begin to rest in scripture, I think you’ll start to see God change your heart and your habits. I made four key changes after I gave up my health battle last year and my health has dramatically improved.

Here are four habits worth changing for a healthier life:

Rest

Getting proper rest plays an important role in our overall health. With proper rest our brains begin to function at a higher level, our emotions improve, and our body is able to repair itself.[1] Rest gives us the time to recharge and get a clear picture of where we’re going. For me, getting rest has meant stepping down from a few volunteer roles, making sure I get a full eight hours of sleep, and not overworking myself.

Eat Smart

I’m learning that eating smart looks different for everyone, and changes as we age. Over the past six months I’ve cut out most dairy products, almost all sugary snacks, and soda. I’ve seen a number of friends make significant changes to their diets as well and their lives are changed. Some removed gluten, others cut out all sugars, and some avoid dairy. Whatever your view point, finding a healthy diet usually makes a huge difference in your physical health, your energy levels, and your attitude. If you’re looking to make changes to your diet, check out our health and fitness section for a plethora of resources to help you evaluate your diet and even cook healthy meals.

Get active

In my opinion, this habit is the hardest to change in the middle of winter. Finding options outside of classic exercises like running, biking, and swimming can be key to staying active in the dreary winter months. Here are just a few ideas for staying active: join a rec-basketball team, rock climb, dance with your kids, play soccer, shovel snow for your neighbors, or play table tennis.

Think positive

Dr. Caroline Leaf has a PhD in communication pathology specializing in neuropsychology—she studies how the brain operates—and often shares how our “thought life” is tied to our physical health. She has published numerous articles, speaks at nation-wide conferences, and has written a new ebook, Switch On Your Brain. In chapter one Dr. Leaf shares this astounding finding, “Research shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical, and behavioral illness comes from one’s thought life. This staggering and eye-opening statistic means only 2 to 25 percent of mental and physical illnesses come from the environment and genes.” She goes on to explain that our thoughts actual influence our DNA and physical wellbeing. Needless to say, when I started thinking positively about my outlook my situation, both my health and actions started to change.

Whether you’ve resolved to make a big change, or maybe you—like me—hit a bump in the road, I hope you’re able to stick to your resolutions and keep some healthy habits all year!

 


[1] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Why Is Sleep Important, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why  (accessed January 19, 2015)

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Author Snapshot: Tony Merida

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Today we have the privilege to dive a little deeper into Tony Merida’s new ebook, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down. Tony is one of our top 15 authors to watch in 2015 and the author of Faithful Preaching and Orphanology. He is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina and happily married to Kimberly with their five adopted children. Enjoy this excerpt:

There is nothing more ordinary than a meal. In preparation for a message on hospitality (Luke 14:12–24), I asked my kids at the dinner table, “What are your all-time favorite meals?” The answers included meals at birthday parties (especially those with piñatas!), Thanksgiving dinners, and Christmas dinners. My wife included a Passover meal that we had with some friends. My top pick was our wedding dinner. I’ll never forget the music, the friends, the amazing food, and of course, eating with my new beautiful bride, my dear companion, Kimberly.

What are your all-time favorite meals?

My guess is that the majority of people wouldn’t select meals based solely on taste; they would pick meals that involved special company. Friends, family, fun, and good food are ingredients for unforgettable meals. You want these nights to last forever.

Few people would select the burrito they grabbed one night at a Taco Bell drive-thru as their all-time favorite meal, or eating Ramen Noodles alone as a broke college student, or grabbing a chicken wrap as they scurry to their gate at the Atlanta airport. We long for more. So much more.

How does something as ordinary as a meal become extraordinarily meaningful? Why is it that when a loved one dies in your family, one of the most precious memories you have of them is around the dinner table? Their absence is felt particularly strong when you sit down without them. What is this saying to us?

All of these experiences are pointing us toward the kingdom of God. The apostle John tells us of a marriage supper in Revelation 19, in which we enjoy a meal with our King. Christ is the Groom and we are His bride. It’s a picture of total satisfaction. Isaiah prophesied about this messianic feast, saying:

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. . . . He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces. [Isaiah 25:6,8]

Think about this vision. The Lord Himself will prepare a meal with the finest of meats and the finest of wines for His people. He will serve the best, and we won’t have an ounce of disappointment.

The reason we long for companionship and good food with great friends and family is that we’re made for this experience. This life is pointing us to the next life. Unfortunately, too many of us have underdeveloped notions about heaven. Some think it’s an endless sing-along. Others have a cartoon concept of heaven, like sitting on a cloud in a diaper playing a harp. Still more have an Eastern idea of heaven. When they think of heaven, they think of an ethereal realm of disembodied spirits.

Let’s think again. Think new heaven and new earth, with our real, glorified bodies, with Jesus, and all His people, feasting and rejoicing in the grace of God.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re not only going to feast in heaven, but one of the pictures that we should see is this idea of a messianic banquet. Jesus told a parable saying that all are invited to His banquet, yet sadly many decline the invitation because other things are more important.[Luke 14:12-24] How kind of the King to invite us to His party!

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You can download Ordinary for just $4.99 through January 27! Explore how doing ordinary things, such as humble acts of service and hospitality, can create a huge impact on the world.

Excerpted from Ordinary: How to Turn The World Upside Down by Tony Merida. Copyright 2015 B&H Publishing Group

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Author Snapshot: Emily P. Freeman

Emily P. Freeman's A Million Little Ways

In today’s author snapshot, we learn what it looks like to live like an artist in an excerpt from Emily P. Freeman’s new ebook, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live. Emily is one of our top 15 authors to watch in 2015 and the author of Graceful (For Young Women): Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life and Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast Moving World. She is a writer and speaker from North Carolina, where she lives with her husband John and their three children. The following excerpt from A Million Little Ways  is used by permission of Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Copyright © 2013.

In his book Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton makes a pretty good argument that the poets of the world understand the beauty of life more freely than do those who are always trying to figure things out.

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion . . . To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.[1]

It is enough to think about for a long time. I can’t say I fully understand all the implications of what he says here, but it stirs something in me that I can’t easily let go. I consider what living life like a poet might mean.

The girls asked me to come read to their class today.

I pull into the school parking lot, Ivy and Bean tucked into my purse, anxiety pulsing in my chest. I sign in at the computer in the office, think about living art and what it means for a mom frazzled in the lobby. I walk slowly through the hallway, savor the quiet before the third grade eyes find me.

What does it mean to live life like an artist in the midst of this everyday hustle?

The question brings a shift. The word poet comes to mind.

I realize I am clenching my jaw, moving to the next thing like a chess player. I’ll make this move and then this will happen. I am in control of everything.

In this small moment standing outside their classroom, I am compelled to approach these next few moments like they are lines in a poem rather than items on my agenda.

I don’t feel overwhelmed with the responsibility to do this in everything.

Just in this one thing, right now.

I don’t know exactly what it means, but the mystery of the concept draws me in. I stand in this one moment and for the next twenty of them, I have agreed to read to the class. This, right here, is all my life is right now.

Emily, don’t just show up with your body. Show up in your soul. Be fully alive. Let me be fully alive in you.

I do not change the world today. But I decide to show up where I already am. The God of the Universe lives in me on a Friday in their third grade classroom. There is much left undone at home, in the sink, on my laptop, in my heart. I don’t feel ready to live like a poet.

In this, there is no ready. There is only belief.

Show up as a poet once, and chances are, you’ll do it again.

Uncovering the art alive within me and releasing it into my world is what it means to worship God. Showing up in their classroom is worship when I do it as the person I fully am. Living as an artist profoundly affects how I relate in community with others.

This is what it looks like to take small steps toward the mystery. You aren’t moving to figure things out or to catch up to an expectation, but you are moving because you are alive. You have a glimpse of what it might feel like to live life as an artist in the middle of your ordinary day.

You are aware of your desire for a map, but all you sense is a mystery. Instead of a plan, you are simply asked to show up in this day the same way you did the day you were born, with empty hands and an instinct to depend on someone bigger than you.

[1] G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (Chicago: Moody, 2009), 31-32

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