Tackling the Top 5 Questions from Bible Skeptics: Why Truth Matters

Truth Matters

About four out of ten young adults leave the church and never return. Today’s guest author, Andreas Köstenberger, tackles this issue head on in his new book: Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World. The issue—according to Dr. Köstenberger, senior professor of New Testament and biblical theology—is that today’s youth are embarrassingly ignorant of our faith, making them incapable of properly defending it. His book offers well-reasoned responses to the most common accusations Christians receive, and for just one week you can get it for only $4.99—download Truth Matters for 50% off today!

My colleagues Josh Chatraw, Darrell Bock, and I wrote our latest book, Truth Matters, as a passionate plea for the importance of truth in our culture today, especially among younger Christians. This is nowhere more important than in the college classroom where skeptical professors often await biblically illiterate students in order to strip away vestiges of their religious faith. “We’re not in Sunday School anymore,” the book opens. And then the professor enters the classroom: “Students, meet Dr. Bart Ehrman, one of the leading voices attacking the reliability of the Christian faith.” Over the course of a semester, students are treated to the following menu of critical contentions:

  • The Bible was put together to suit an agenda.
  • The Bible is basically a forgery.
  • The Bible doesn’t contain the real words of God after all.
  • The Bible can’t seem to keep its story straight.
  • The whole basis of Christianity is in question.

And then, the trump card:

  • God doesn’t care. Maybe God isn’t even there.

Yet the problem isn’t primarily atheistic or agnostic professors out to destroy (or, as they would see it, more properly inform) your children’s faith. The problem is that many of them enter college like sheep led to the slaughter, an easy prey for the wolf who awaits them, ready to tear apart the belief that the Bible is reliable, Jesus is true, and God really is there and certainly does care.

1. The skeptical mystique: what makes unbelief so terribly believable?

In short, detractors of the faith speak young people’s language, know many of their students have probably never contemplated some of the ideas before with which they’re presented in the classroom, and stand ready to comfort and confirm an air of unbelief. Most importantly, they constantly reinforce the view that faith is at odds with reason.

2. Is God there? Does God care? Then why can’t he do any better than this?

Turns out, it’s not that the Bible doesn’t have any answers to the questions of evil and human suffering (in fact, the answers it gives are the best there are). No, the problem is rather that people like our college professor don’t like the answers the Bible gives (not that they have any better ones to offer—but they don’t have to, they’re sitting in the critic’s chair).

3. Let’s make a Bible: who picked these books, and where’d they come from?

Good questions! What you’ll hear in many college classrooms is that the choice of the books in our Bible was merely arbitrary, the result of power, politics, and a set of conspiratorial forces. Kind of like Washington politics. What we show in Truth Matters is that the 66 books in our Bibles and other supposed candidates for inclusion are leagues apart—not even close!

4. Contradictions, contradictions: why does my Bible have all these mistakes?

Rather than wax eloquent about matters in general, we address several specific issues raised by the likes of Dr. Ehrman: (1) different accounts of the crucifixion; (2) the virgin birth; (3) Jesus’ miracles (called signs in John’s Gospel); and (4) saved by works or by grace? Along the way, many supposed contradictions dissolve into different, yet equally legitimate, ways of looking at things.

5. I’ll need an original: how can copies of copies be the same as the real thing?

Essentially, we see that many critics of the Bible play a kind of cat-and-mouse game. To be sure, we have 5,800 manuscripts containing all or parts of the Scriptures, but because we have so many manuscripts, there are also many (mostly inconsequential) variations in the wording of individual passages. Not a problem—unless, of course, you really, really want to find one!

Finally, we chronicle the triumph of apostolic Christianity in the early church and defend the veracity of the Resurrection. Truth Matters concludes that faith need not be unreasonable. In fact, honest faith welcomes critical inquiry, as long as it is not excessively skeptical.

Truth Matters is a wonderful, winsome tool equipping the next generation to understand and defend their faith in a culture that is all too often out to destroy it.

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Arm yourself to answer life’s toughest questions and live out your faith with confidence: get Köstenberger’s new book, Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World, for 50% off! This deal only lasts through April 28, so download Truth Matters for just $4.99 today!

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The Wonder of Resurrection: Why You Should Celebrate Easter All Year Long

God's love to peopleToday’s guest post is from Gloria Furman, a busy mom, author, blogger, and passionate follower of Jesus Christ. In 2008, Furman moved to the Middle East with her husband and young daughter to plant Redeemer Church of Dubai. Since then, she’s had three more children, written two books, and been named one of Vyrso’s top authors to watch in 2014.

Furman’s books offer fresh humor and a vibrant spirit that speaks to busy and tired wives and mothers everywhere. Get Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home and her new book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditation for Busy Moms on Vyrso today!

“Down, dooown. Up! UP!

My three-year-old was deeply concerned for the young woman who waded into the shallow end of the swimming pool.

Although he had seen dozens of people being baptized in his short life, this time it was different. The young woman in the water was his favorite babysitter.

Moments earlier, Bethany had stood on the platform with a microphone and shared her testimony. She had been raised in a Christian home and regularly attended church with her family. When she was a young teen, she came to understand that she was a sinner, and that her sin separated her from our holy God. Our heavenly father used several circumstances in her life to show her just how much she needed Jesus to be her hiding place from the just wrath of God against her sin. My young children sat at the edge of the pool and listened to her story with rapt attention.

After Bethany was baptized, the two elders brought her up out of the water and she sloshed her way over to the steps. I heard my three-year-old exhale loudly, “Wow!” The thought occurred to me that his observation and response to baptism were spot on. We go down. God brings us up. And our words fall so short that our hearts just say, “Wow!” In our baptism we’re  essentially showing the world what has happened to us in Christ. Romans 6:4 says,

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

That poolside scene made me think—I wonder how many times we miss the wonder of resurrected life in Christ? We expend so much energy getting ready to celebrate Easter because it’s right around the corner. But in reality, “Easter” is all the time, now, and forever. Two thousand years ago, God’s son was crucified in our place to pay for our sin, the father raised him from the dead, and his spirit now abides in us forever and has sealed us as God’s forever.

Some days I go about my life as though I’m  waiting for Jesus to be raised from the dead. But he is alive! The power of canceled sin is broken. And because of our union with Jesus, by faith we have been called into an actual sharing of his life. This is true on Sunday morning, Tuesday midnight, and Friday when you’re staring at the clock waiting for the weekend. Because of Christ’s work on the cross and his triumphant resurrection from the dead, we can carry that “Wow!” about in our hearts everywhere we go. We can be about what we’re going to be about thirty trillion years from now. Seeing and savoring Jesus every day.

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Discover how to pursue a vibrant and ever-growing relationship with Christ and experience true joy in God and your family: get Furman’s new book, Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full: Gospel Meditation for Busy Moms, for just $6.74 on Vyrso today.

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You Have the Power to Change a Life this Easter

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Today’s guest post is by Poncho Lowder, a college pastor at City Bible Church, cofounder of the Bible and Journal App Company, and author of Pursue God: How Do You Develop a Thriving Relationship with God?, which, for a limited time, you can get for only 99 cents!

For many people, Easter is the one day they set aside each year to be with Jesus. Some people are bothered by this fact, but I’m inspired and motivated by this! My hope is that this one encounter could catapult them into a deep relationship with Jesus like what happened to Peter in Luke 5. This one encounter stirred up a new passion in Peter; so much so that he chose to walk away from everything to follow and serve Jesus.

One encounter with Jesus can change your life

The story goes that Peter and his crew had just finished a long night of fishing. A fisherman by trade, Peter had experienced an exceptionally bad night. They had caught nothing and undoubtedly, he was exhausted. It was most likely shaping up to be one day he’d rather just forget about. We’ve all had days like this, where we fail to be productive and nothing seems to go as planned. But sometimes, even amidst these failures, Jesus intervenes.

Luke tells the story like this:

“On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat” (Luke 5:1–3).

One can only imagine Peter’s frustration at Jesus’ request. He’d just finished an unproductive night of fishing and was most likely ready to go home. Now, he not only had to sit through a sermon, but Jesus had the audacity to tell him to go fishing again! “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch,” Jesus said after he finished preaching. In this moment, Peter had to choose between heading home and getting some sleep like a rational man after a hard day’s work or responding to Jesus’ request. He chose to respond.

“Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets’” (Luke 5:5).

This response led Peter to a supernatural experience. The nets that had been empty all night began to burst at the seams because the catch was so large. Not only was his net full, but his friends’ boat was overflowing as well!  This natural catch of fish opened his spiritual eyes to the supernatural reality of who Jesus was. It was this one experience that caused him to leave everything and pursue God!

“But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him” (Luke 5:8–11).

Immediately, Peter was awakened to who Jesus was and also his own flaws. He saw himself as unworthy, but Jesus pulled him closer and proclaimed purpose and destiny over his life. Imagine witnessing such a miracle and then being told that you would do even greater things! Jesus awakened Peter to the plan he had for his life.

It’s up to you: invite someone to Easter Sunday

Jesus wants to do this for you, your neighbors, friends, and enemies! This is what I’m hoping for as people step into church for the first time this year for Easter Sunday. I’m inviting everyone I can to church Easter Sunday. I pray that they have an encounter with Jesus that leads them into deep water, and ultimately causes them to pursue God wholeheartedly.

Take some time today and ask God if there is anyone in your life that you should be inviting to church Easter weekend. Read Luke 5 and let your faith be stirred for the people God puts on your heart. Unsaved people are very open to going to church on Easter if invited by someone they know. Let’s not pass up on this awesome opportunity we have to introduce people to Jesus!

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God Sightings: How Often Has He Passed through Your Life Unnoticed?

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Today’s guest post is by Don Cousins, trusted teacher, leadership coach, and author of Unexplainable: Pursuing a Life Only God Can Make Possible—an intuitive resource designed to help people find true fulfillment by shifting their life view from outside-in to inside-out. Discover how to pursue a joyful life that can only be found in Christ—download Unexplainable on Vyrso today!

Did you make note of God when he passed by your life today? I would bet he gave you several chances to spot him. He may have shown up in the form of an answered prayer, or in a conversation that went in a very different, but wonderful direction than you expected. He may have provided wisdom, direction, or discernment for some matter that’s been puzzling you, or maybe a word of encouragement at just the right time from an unexpected source. God is making appearances in, through, and around our lives on a regular basis. Unfortunately, we all too often fail to see him.

God longs for you to see him

It was August of 1998, and I was seated at our dining-room table having my morning time with God. It was early, and MaryAnn and our three kids were still sound asleep. I opened my Bible to Mark 6 and began reading. It turned out to be a very familiar chapter, filled with familiar stories. Jesus summoned the 12, gave some quick instructions, and sent them out to do ministry. They returned at the end of the day, and Jesus suggested they get away to a “lonely place” where they could rest and catch dinner. Mark tells us it had been a long and busy day and that they hadn’t had time to eat. As their boat came ashore, they discovered that their “lonely place” wasn’t so lonely. Word of their ministry that day spread and a crowd of people wanted more. What unfolds is the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.

I asked God for some fresh insight as I read and reread the story of the feeding, but nothing new came to mind. Hoping to get something more out of my time in God’s Word, I read on to when Jesus walks on water:

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified” (Mark 6:48–50).

I was struck by the words “He meant to pass by them,”—why would he pass by them? Why wouldn’t he just get in the boat? What came to mind was this: he wanted to see if they truly knew who he was. Sadly, they didn’t “get it.” They saw him, but concluded it was a ghost; after all, real men don’t walk on water. The cultural beliefs of the day led them to believe that evil spirits dwelt in the sea and came out at night. They were frightened.

Jesus got in the boat and the wind stopped and they were greatly astonished. Why would they be astonished? They had just watched him feed 5,000 men (the crowd including women and children was far greater) with five loaves and two fish. Certainly, he was capable of walking on water. Verse 52 in Mark 6 provides the explanation: “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Jesus had displayed his true identity to his disciples at least twice that day. God made an appearance, yet they failed to see him. Oh what a difference it would have made that night with the wind and the waves against them had they seen the one who controls the wind and the waves. Fear would have turned to peace.

Take note of your God sightings

As I sat at my dining-room table, I asked myself: how many times has Jesus passed by my life unnoticed? I made a commitment that morning to a new practice that I’ve done every day since then, and will do for the rest of my life: I take time every few days to consider the events of my life—all of them—and make note of all my God Sightings, writing them in my prayer journal.

When the wind and the waves of life come against me, and my fist is clenched in frustration with God, I often go to that section of my journal and read through my God Sightings. And upon doing this, my fist opens and my palm is raised heavenward in worship. Oh what a difference it makes when we see God in everyday life. I call this the “Unexplainable,” apart from God life. This is the life I want to live.

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Learn more about noticing God every day and discover how to pursue a fulfilled life only found through Christ: download Don Cousins’ Unexplainable: Pursuing a Life Only God Can Make Possible on Vyrso today!

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6 Ways to Worship God Outside of Church

iStock_000015408259SmallGod is worthy of worship through the duration of our days. Oftentimes it’s difficult to unravel how this works outside of our church attendance on Sundays. However, God has crafted our souls, designed our world, and granted us every tool necessary to worship him whenever, wherever, and basically, however.

Here are six ways you can worship God outside of church at any given moment:

1.   Accept the fact that you’re accepted

Genuinely accepting the fact that we’re loved, welcomed, and fully accepted by God outweighs any other style of worship. The truth is there’s nothing about you that needs to improve, develop, or change in order for you to be more loved by God. You’re already loved in full regardless of how you look, act, or feel.

God is most highly worshipped when we are most satisfied in his love. We are most satisfied in his love when we accept that it’s free. We must accept the fact that we’re accepted.

2.   Read the Word

We must guard our time in God’s Word. Consistently reading and dwelling in our Bibles is a sure way to expand our worship. Scripture is a primary tool God has entrusted us with for the purpose of worshiping him through knowing him.

3.   Pray

Jesus came to claim us and connect us as children of God. Just like children have open access with their dads to voice their concerns, express their feelings, and ask silly questions, we have open access as God’s children to do the same through prayer. Here’s what’s stunning: we don’t burden him with our puny voices and requests. He is passionate about us. He longs to hear from us and respond to us in love.

We worship God by communicating with God. We can pray often and expectantly, that when we knock, our loving God will open the door.

4.   Serve & love people

God lives in us—through the Holy Spirit—to be known through us. By simply spending time in community with the people God has placed in your life, you get to know God more as he has the potential to interact with you through their words and love.

Here’s the beauty: this goes both ways. God has purposefully placed you in the lives of others for them to know him better through your words and love. Whether you’re aware of it or not, God lives in you to be known through you.

When we encourage, serve, and love people, God is worshipped as he interacts with the people around us, through us.

5.   Rest

Slowing down can seem impossible as our lives become crowded with never-ending plans and to-do lists. We can worship God by loosening our grip on our “have to” tasks, allowing God to destruct our plans and tear apart our to-do lists in the name of rest and refreshment.

A beautiful way to do this (and a strategy used by Jesus) is to go to a quiet place in the wilderness. Today, our wilderness may simply be a place distant from the distractions of our everyday lives—our phones, jobs, etc. Drop them off and rest. Stare at God’s creation in wonder of its beauty, and rest. This is worshipful to God.

6.   Do what you love

Here’s the catchall: we can worship God by simply doing the things we love. God has given our hearts enjoyment, and our enjoyment pleases God. These enjoyments vary on an individual basis. Do you love to paint? Paint. Do you love to read? Read. Do you love to be with your family? Be with your family.

We can worship God by doing the very things he has made us love.

Check out these powerful resources to help guide you into natural, daily worship:

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Ends Soon: Get 32 Books for Just 99 Cents Each!

Shepherding a Child's Heart

You only have four more days to take advantage of huge savings on 32 Shepherd Press titles! Last week, we launched our new partnership with Shepherd Press—a publishing company committed to printing gospel- and heart-focused books—by offering 32 of their titles for just 99 cents each.

Regularly, all Shepherd Press titles combined would cost $155.68, but download these books today and save $124. Get all 32 titles for just $31.68!

Prices increase after April 14, so get these great deals on books about parenting, grace, marriage, and ministry today.

99-cent books

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

Written for parents with children of any age, this widely popular book provides perspectives and procedures for shepherding your child’s heart into the paths of life. In this revised edition, Dr. Tedd Tripp draws on 30 years’ experience as a pastor, counselor, and school administrator to help parents address heart issues—like selfishness, rebellion, and unhappiness—with biblically sound guidance.

Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad by Paul David Tripp

Sin has ravaged the house God created. Our world sits slumped, disheveled, and painfully waiting for restoration that can only come from Christ. The bad news is that we’re living amidst the restoration process. The good news is that our divine builder won’t give up until his house stands tall and strong again. In this powerful book, Tripp uses the image of a broken-down house to illustrate God’s unceasing and all mighty power that encourages us to live productively in a damaged world.

Rediscovering Family Worship by Jerry Marcellino

For many, the idea of “worship” is the 20 minutes spent singing at church. But that’s not God’s plan. Worship should take place every single day, and it should start at home. This compact and practical guide clearly presents Scripture’s call to family worship and offers powerful suggestions for worshipping with your family every day. Download Rediscovering Family Worship for just 99 cents, and get inspired for genuine worship.

Free Indeed: Escaping Bondage and Brokenness for Freedom in Christ by Richard Ganz

In this book, Dr. Richard Ganz—a pastor for over 25 years—exposes the patterns of thought and behavior that trap Christians and keep them from finding freedom in Christ; not self-centered freedom, but true freedom found through Jesus that affects every area of your life. Discover what you’re a slave to, and how to break through spiritual barriers to find lasting freedom.

Get Outta My Face! How to Reach Angry, Unmotivated Teens with Biblical Counsel by Rick Horne

Teenagers of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds are confused, insecure, and completely focused on what they want right now. Regardless of their misplaced desires, all teenagers were made in the image of God. Get Outta My Face! offers an honest approach to both helping Christian teens mature and evangelizing to unsaved teens. This book is perfect for parents, teachers, and youth pastors wanting to rebuild bridges between adults and teenagers and help shape teens into who God created them to be.

Red like Blood: Confrontations with Grace by Bob Bevington and Joe Coffey

Explosive, pervasive, sweet, powerful, relentless, amazing, devastating, raw, beautiful—these are all words used to describe a single reality: grace. Grace is not flat or one-dimensional; it’s a jewel with many facets that when held up against the light is absolutely captivating. In this book, find story after story of brokenness redeemed through grace, as told through the lives of two men.

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Save over $120 by downloading all 32 titles before April 14! Download all Shepherd Press titles for $31.68 or shop individual books for just 99 cents each.

Hurry—prices increase in four days!

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When Sinners Say “I Do”: 99-Cent Books on Marriage, Parenting, and More!

When Sinners Say I Do

For a limited time, get When Sinners Say “I Do” and 31 other Shepherd Press titles for only 99 cents a piece! Get all 32 books for just $31.68.

When Sinners Say “I Do”

No matter how you cut it, all marriages are composed of damaged, selfish, and incredibly optimistic people. In his When Sinners Say “I Do”: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for MarriageDave Harvey shares gospel strategies for encouraging sinners to learn to be lovers.

As he says in the preface:

“If you are married, or soon to be married, you are discovering that your marriage is not a romance novel. Marriage is the union of two people who arrive toting the luggage of life. And that luggage always contains sin. Often it gets opened right there on the honeymoon, sometimes it waits for the week after. But the suitcases are always there, sometimes tripping their owners, sometimes popping open unexpectedly and disgorging forgotten contents. We must not ignore our sin, because it is the very context where the gospel shines brightest.

The focus of marriage is God’s glory

Harvey begins to lay out the purpose of marriage with this powerful bombshell:

“When we begin to orient our marriages around biblical truth, we see something amazing. Marriage was not just invented by God, it belongs to God. He has a unique claim over its design, purpose, and goals. It actually exists for him more than it exists for you and me and our spouses.”

In the rest of When Sinners Say “I Do,”  Harvey lays out the best practices for reorienting ourselves to this powerful truth.

The power of this book lies in the focus. It doesn’t offer us a to-do list of things that every successful spouse needs to do to make their marriage work. Instead, it encourages us to do the more profound and difficult work of changing our perspective and seeing our marriages—no, scratch that—our lives in a different light.

Get 32 titles for 99 cents each!

For a limited time, When Sinners Say “I Do” and other Shepherd Press books are only 99 cents each!

You’ll get a great deal on the bestselling Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, and on these other helpful books:

Save on all 32 Shepherd Press titles now!

 

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Finding Time for Jesus in Your 24/7 Life

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You’re busy. Between your job and family, home hardly feels like a place of rest. If you want to make time for yourself, you have to check it against what’s going on in your kids’ lives—school, sports, music lessons, homework, and friends. You make time for your family, or for your job, but are you making time for yourself?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the busyness of life. When you stretch yourself so thin, stress and anxiety can get the better of you. When your schedule is packed to the brim, any little hiccup in your day can push you over the edge.

What’s stress saying to you?

Sometimes, the stress and anxiety we experience are signals that it’s time to cut back. Or maybe you need to recognize the things you can’t control. Jesus offers us a gentle invitation when we experience stress. He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28–30).

When life keeps piling on, ask yourself, “What’s holding it all together?” Your determination? Your dreams? Your children’s happiness? If your answer is anything but Jesus, that might just be why the stress and anxiety feel like too much to bear. God isn’t necessarily telling you that you have to do less. But living life to the fullest doesn’t mean filling all 24 hours of your day either (John 10:10).

Where are the cracks in your life?

It’s easy to feel like you don’t have time for God. Spending time with God is just one more thing that you would do more if you didn’t have so much going on. People depend on you. They need things from you. You feel selfish for even thinking about taking time for yourself. But time with God is different, and you do have time for it.

If your life is already packed, start by filling in the cracks with Jesus. While you’re standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re waiting in the car for your kids. At lunch. These are the perfect times to open up a daily devotional and see what God has to say to you right there, in that moment. And here’s the thing: when you give time to God, the rest of your time is worth more.

The God who exists outside of time strips stress of its power. When you let God restore you daily, you can put anxiety in its place (Psalm 23:1–4). God wants you to live life to the fullest, and when you let him into the cracks, he shapes you into a better parent, employee, spouse, friend, and leader.

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Today Only: Get 70% Off the Inside-Out Transformational Bundle

The Jesus Life

For one day only, get 70% off the Inside-Out Transformational Bundle! With this bundle, get The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning, Unexplainable: Pursuing a Life Only God Can Make Possible by Don Cousins, and Stephen Smith’s latest book, The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity!

The Jesus Life offers eight compelling ways to help us rediscover what it really means to follow Jesus, even amongst the busyness of twenty-first-century life. In today’s guest post by Stephen Smith, he explores the consequences of seeking the life Jesus never offered.

The busy life we’re living—running on empty and spinning and spinning on the proverbial hamster cage—is not the abundant life. To put it simply, the exhausted life is not the abundant life. We’ve lost our idea and notion about what it looks like to live the abundant life that Jesus promised. We’re clueless, and we feel trapped by all our appointments, agendas, and schedules.

In my work with thousands of leaders throughout the world, I’ve discovered that most leaders feel imprisoned by their lifestyles. They feel like they can’t make changes that would help them navigate the whitewater they’re experiencing.

We violate the words of Jesus because we have not understood them. We live in a state of perpetual breathlessness—moving on, hurrying there, and scurrying here. It’s an awful way to live.

In my book, The Jesus Life, I talk a lot about rhythm. I explain that living in rhythm works, while trying to live in balance doesn’t work. Balance is bunk! The word balance can’t be found in the Bible, which means many people are trying to live the life that Jesus never actually offered. He never offered us balance. He offered us rhythm—the key is learning to live our lives in a rhythm that sustains us rather than drains us.

If you’re tired, worn out, and burned out, I highly encourage you to try the ideas I lay out for you. It’s not rocket science, and you don’t have to have a PhD to understand the words of Jesus and his promises. But it does require a paradigm shift in how you look at balance and rhythm.

Here’s to the life Jesus offered us—the life that you and I can foster, nourish, and actually live.

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Today only: get Stephen Smith’s The Jesus Life, along with The Furious Longing of God and Unexplainable, for 70% off with the Inside-Out Transformational Bundle!

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Return to the Vine: How to Confront Spiritual Drought

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John 15:1–17 contains one of the Bible’s most powerful metaphors. Jesus says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” Your relationship to the vine affects whether this passage offers you encouragement, a challenge, a warning, or some combination of the three. No matter where you are physically, spiritually, or emotionally, Jesus calls us to remain in him—and by remaining in him, we can bear fruit. So ask yourself: are you remaining?

After years of following Jesus out of duty, nineteenth-century preacher and missionary Andrew Murray discovered the passionate, fruitful life to which Jesus calls his followers. Murray prayed, “May not a single moment of my life be spent outside the light, love, and joy of God’s presence.” Murray pursued a life filled by the joy of Jesus, and put missions work at the forefront of his ministry. Thousands of miles from the place where he discovered his faith and far from his home, Murray remained in Jesus.

Running on empty

Murray understood the feeling of being withered. He knew what it was like to feel spiritually empty, emotionally drained, and weary from the troubles of life. In the devotional Abiding in Christ, he responded to the euphoric joy of experiencing God’s provision, “And yet you have had some disappointment. As time went on, your expectations were not always realized. The blessings you once enjoyed were lost; the love and joy of your first meeting with your savior, instead of deepening, have become faint and weak. And you have often wondered why, with such a mighty and loving savior, your experience of salvation was not a fuller one.”

Maybe you used to read the Word more. Maybe you used to pray more. Maybe you’ve stopped going to church, or meeting with a friend to talk about what Jesus has been teaching you. Murray writes that when we experience this spiritual dryness, “The answer is very simple. You wandered from him. The blessings he bestows are all connected with his ‘Come to me,’ and are only to be enjoyed in close fellowship with him. You either did not fully understand, or did not rightly remember, that the call meant ‘Come to me and remain with me.’”

Refuel your spirit

Murray sought to live every moment for Christ, and to continually find the joy that comes with abiding in him. In the midst of this, Murray wrote over 240 books and treatises. He poured out his passionate pursuit of Jesus in his prolific writing, encouraging you to answer Jesus’ call to “come” and “abide.”

If you’re experiencing spiritual drought, Jesus is still there for you—he wants you to remain in him as he remains in you. There are so many resources out there that help us remain in the vine. Scripture and prayer are crucial, but when you’re in a season of drought, sometimes those spiritual elements can feel dry, too. Sometimes it takes a little inspiration from another imperfect human to point you back to the perfection of Jesus and to remember that apart from the vine, us branches shrivel, and our fruit dries up.

To learn more about abiding in Christ, and to find the encouragement to remain in him, I highly recommend Andrew Murray’s daily devotional, Abiding in Christ, as well as Teach Me to Pray. Explore all of Murray’s powerful titles on Vyrso today.

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