The Power of Your Story

Billy Coffey

Today’s guest post is by Billy Coffey, author of When Mockingbirds Sing and The Devil Walks Mattingly. Coffey dreamed of being a published author ever since high school, but vowed he would never be a novelist. Four novels later, God had a different plan in mind. Coffey’s novels tackle faith’s big questions against the backdrop of the rural South, where history is long and things are seldom as they seem. His latest book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, is about how a suspicious murder that changes the lives of three small-town people—download it on Vyrso today!

As hard as it is for someone like me to believe, there are people out there who’d have you believe they don’t like stories. They’ll say that they don’t have time for books, that they’re too boring and require too much effort. They’ll say they have no need for imaginary things, for characters born of thought rather than flesh, or for places conjured rather than built. It’s reality in which they are most interested. So they would have you believe . . . In the real world, there is little time for fairy tales. Living is serious business, but stories aren’t. Those who waste their time in tales are the ones who fall behind—they’re the ones who lose the game.

I suppose that means I’m losing at best. And at worst, I’m contributing to the delinquency of otherwise good and responsible people. Not only do I enjoy reading stories, but I enjoy writing them. I enjoy seeking them out. And what I’ve found in my seeking is something those interested in the serious business of living would perhaps find very disconcerting—stories are everywhere. They’re buried in every person we meet and every conversation we overhear. They are present in the pictures that adorn our walls and the music that fills our ears. They wait in every rock and puff of wind. In everything there is a beginning, middle, and end, and nestled in the spaces between those three legs of every journey lies all the magic and knowledge any of us care to seek. The poet Muriel Rukeyser once said, “The universe is made up of stories, not atoms.” I believe finer words have never been spoken.

What’s your story?

There’s more to Rukeyser’s maxim than poetic truth, however. There’s a deeper meaning as well. Whether you call yourself a writer or a reader or an unbeliever in both, the truth is that you’re a storyteller. That fact cannot be ignored. It cannot be brushed aside. And most of all, it cannot be denied. You are the chronicler of your own tale. Your every day is but one small chapter in the larger story of your life, some part of the beginning or the middle or the end, written upon pages granted by whatever God or random chance you ascribe meaning to. Pages bound together by time itself, filled with your minutes and hours.

Perhaps that sounds a little too metaphysical for the serious minded. They may disagree with my notion. Doesn’t matter. Doesn’t change a thing. Good people can stand on either side of a truth, but that doesn’t alter where that truth lies or what that truth means. We can deny that our lives are a story, but that will make our story one of renunciation. We can choose not to respect our place as authors of our own accounts, but that will make our accounts ones of failure. Do you see? There is no escaping it. You have no choice but to write your story, just as you have no choice but to live your life.

So I say live it for all it’s worth. I say wring every bit of beauty and truth from it. Let it drip down your hands and arms. Let it pour into your mouth and quench your every thirst. Bore down into your every moment and mine the gold you find. Scribble and scrawl on your pages. Write furious and true. Do not waste your days. Time is not a flat circle, it is an arrow that stretches from now into eternity. There is where you should look, on to that final chapter, because God put our eyes in front of us so we can see where we’re going, not where we’ve been. Whether quiet literary or screaming thriller, lustful romance or heartbreaking tragedy, bawdy comedy or uplifting inspirational, when all is finished and the final period is put to the last sentence on the end page, your life in this world will stand for something. Your tale will be set down, and that is what you’ll be remembered by.

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Coffey is a passionate and powerful storyteller—get his latest book, The Devil Walks in Mattingly, on Vyrso today! 

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A Devout Muslim’s Powerful Journey to Christ: An Interview with Nabeel Qureshi

Seeking Allah

Today’s interview is with Nabeel Qureshi, a former devout Muslim who was convinced of the gospel’s truth through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God. Since his conversion to Christianity, Qureshi joined the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias ministries, and has dedicated his life to spreading the gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating. In Qureshi’s first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim’s Journey to Christ, he details his emotional journey from Islam to Christianity, while setting forth powerful arguments for Christianity. The book offers both a personal account and scholarly research, and aims to break down the barriers between Christians and Muslims—download it today.

1. What are the biggest factors that keep Muslims from converting to Christianity?

The environment and community they’ve been raised in keeps them from converting. For Muslims, Christianity is shameful, so to become a Christian would be dishonorable.

Also, for Muslims, believing Jesus is God is a sin. In fact, it’s the biggest sin there is. When I told my mom I’d converted, she said she’d rather I was an atheist or a homosexual. This belief precludes them from ever thinking about Christianity.

2. You said Christians’ reputation also keeps Muslims from converting—what sort of reputation do they have in the Muslim world?

Within Muslim culture, especially in places where there aren’t many Christians, Christianity is seen as a religion for lesser people, for people who need a crutch—who need forgiveness, and status. Especially in Pakistan and Indonesia, Christianity is viewed as a religion for lower-class people. Also, the Koran views the Trinity as polytheistic, so if you’re a Christian, you’re a polytheist. This isn’t the view all Muslims have, but it is in places where there are few Christians—like Pakistan, where my family is from.

3. How can Christians better understand and reach out to Muslims?

By spending time with them and being good witnesses. Everyone thinks other people are the same as them, so we transpose our character and feelings on other people. But not everyone thinks like a Westerner; this is why we have to build relationships. And this is why Christ spent time with the prostitutes and tax collectors—so he could relate personally to them, and that’s what Christians need to do too.

We need to show Muslims that Christians are loving, are intelligent, have thought through their faith, and honor God. Words won’t fix our reputation, but witnessing will. To reach Muslims, you must build relationships and friendships so they have a corrected image of what the gospel is.

4. What led you to first start pursuing Christianity?

I’d been challenging a Christian friend, telling him that the Bible wasn’t trustworthy and the Trinity was blasphemous. But throughout our debate, he gave me strong arguments for Christianity, and I began to see the strength in his case. He then asked me if I’d ever applied the same level of skepticism to Islam, which I hadn’t. When I began to apply the same critical criteria to my own religion, I realized the case for Christianity wasn’t just strong—it was the strongest. That’s when I began to accept the gospel.

5. In what ways are Islam and Christianity similar?

Christianity and Islam have two of the most similar views out there. They both believe in one omnipotent, omniscient creator; they both believe this creator established morality and that our eternal life is based on our sins, which send us to hell or heaven; they believe in angels and demons, and that there are holy scriptures that have been sent to us. We also share many of the same biblical characters—Adam, Eve, Abraham, Job, Noah, and many more—they’re all in the Koran.

They also believe in Jesus’ miraculous birth, his ability to perform miracles, and that his return to earth will initiate the final days. So superficially, Christianity and Islam are quite similar.

6. In what ways are Islam and Christianity most different?

In their understanding of who God is. In Christianity, God is your unconditionally loving father. He’s the most humble being in the universe, he’s willing to suffer for our sake, and he makes a way to heaven for everyone. That’s not the case for Islam. For Muslims, God is very conditional, he’s not willing to lower himself and enter the world, he’s unknowable, and unlike Jesus, he doesn’t live within you. This ultimately means he’s a more arbitrary God who chooses who to forgive and who not to forgive; he can send anyone to hell or heaven.

For Christians, we are children of God. We do things out of love for him—not to earn his favor. Whereas with Islam, most of what’s done is to please God and earn his favor so you don’t go to hell.

7. What are Christians doing wrong when it comes to Muslims?

If the Christian message is true, then the reason we’re here on earth instead of heaven is so that we can proclaim it. We are here to know him and to make him known. It’s not just a thing we can do—reach out to Muslims—it’s why we’re here: to love our God with all our hearts, and love our neighbors as ourselves.

We need to put aside our comforts and keep our eyes on God’s mission—to spread his name. And frankly, we’ve only sent one missionary per every million Muslims, and that’s shameful. We’re not reaching out to Muslims ourselves, so the Lord is sending immigrants here, so love them and share the gospel. Don’t just love people to convert them. No—God loves us because we’re his children. Love the Muslims in your life because that’s what God wants us to do—and that’s our whole purpose for being here.

8. What was your experience like being raised Muslim in the US?

We were very proud to be Muslim. We believed we had the truth, and that Christianity was false. We felt like a small group of people who had the truth amongst a sea of darkness. And looking at the immorality in culture and TV—like promiscuity, adultery, and immodesty—we set ourselves apart from that. I was taught to always tell the truth, to be the best student, and to be the best in everything I do, so we were proud to be Muslim.

Obviously, being Muslim in the US was difficult at times—9/11 and Desert Storm, especially. After 9/11, people broke the windows of our mosque. In Desert Storm, my aunt got punched in the stomach and my grandpa was refused service at a gas station. But we viewed all of this as suffering for the sake of the truth.

9. What do you hope to achieve with your book?

I hope to accomplish two things: one, to help Muslims understand the gospels and why they’re true, and two, to help Christians understand Muslims and love them as their neighbors and as themselves. I want my book to serve as a bridge to start sharing the gospel.

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Learn more about Qureshi’s powerful story and how Christians can effectively reach and understand Muslims: download Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus on Vyrso today.

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Stop Trying to Tame God: Rediscovering Dangerous Christianity

Yawning at Tigers

Today’s interview is with Drew Dyck, managing editor of Leadership Journal, a publication of Christianity Today. He’s written more than 100 articles for Christian and secular publications, and is the author of Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith . . . and How to Bring Them Back. His latest book, Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying, releases May 13 and explores our dangerous attempts to domesticate our holy, awe-inspiring God. Yawning at Tigers directs people away from a “safe” harbor of sanitized Christianity into a deeper understanding of God’s majesty—pre-order it on Vyrso today!

1. You’ve said that this book “was born out of a deep burden.” What burden led you to start writing?

I worried we were losing sight of God’s holiness. Listening to the language we use in Evangelical circles is what tipped me off. We love talking about God’s love, but we don’t talk much about his holiness. Most of our worship choruses could be sung to God—or a girlfriend. Sermons drip with assurances of God’s affection but rarely seem to mention his holiness, let alone his wrath. We relate to God, it seems, almost entirely on therapeutic terms. Since many people find God’s majesty and holiness disconcerting, we gloss over those attributes and focus exclusively on love. Don’t get me wrong—we need to be reminded of God’s love. But something is missing. That’s why I wrote this book.

2. What is the danger of the church teaching a safe, one-sided God?

Without God’s holiness, we can’t understand the gravity of sin. And without an understanding of sin, there’s no need for forgiveness. You can’t proclaim the full gospel while teaching a one-sided God. Our worship also suffers. We lose the awe of God. We no longer marvel at his greatness and grandeur.

3. What has your experience been like walking away from a tame and shallow faith into a deeper relationship with Jesus?

I’m as guilty as anyone of domesticating God, of choosing to live in the shallows rather than following Jesus into the deep. The times I have let go, when I’ve resisted the impulse to edit God, it’s frightening and invigorating. When I live with an awareness of both God’s love and holiness it brings a new depth and sobriety to my worship. This isn’t some buddy I’m engaging; it’s the Lord of heaven and earth, the one who Isaiah says, “dwells in unapproachable light.”

4. Why do you call God “dangerous” and “untamed?”

Because he can kill you. He can bring judgment in this life and the next. In Matthew 10:28 Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Some assume he’s talking about Satan, but theologians agree he’s talking about God. God’s the only one who can destroy both body and soul. I’m not saying we should sit around just waiting for God to zap us. Paul assures us there “is no condemnation for those in Christ.” But for those who continually defy God, he is the ultimate enemy—omniscient, omnipotent, inescapable. He pursues in love but there comes a time when he pursues in judgment. We shouldn’t forget that.

5. How does the millennial generation fit into all this?

Millennials are skeptical of institutional religion, but they’re still thirsty for transcendence. But we’ve sidelined God’s transcendence and focused almost exclusively on his immanence. We’re seeing some young people gravitating to historical traditions. It’s not just because they like “smells and bells.” I believe it’s because they find a sense of the sacred there that is missing from most of contemporary evangelicalism.

6. How can today’s church redirect its course to focus on a more authentic and reverent understanding of God?

I believe it starts with a commitment to teach “the whole counsel of God.” Today nine out of ten sermons are preached from the New Testament. There’s nothing wrong with preaching from the New Testament, but I fear that ignoring the Old Testament is often a way of circumventing passages that portray God in a way that makes us uncomfortable. I also think we need to change the way we worship. There needs to be more reverence and sobriety in the way we approach God. Contemporary worship tends to be loud and celebratory, which is fine. But I think we need a little more of what the hymnist Isaac Watts described: “A solemn reverence checks our songs, / And praise sits silent on our tongues.”

7. For the younger generation of parents, teaching your children the “fear of the Lord” seems outdated and harsh. How can parents and children start accepting this fear as something healthy and necessary?

I have two young children, so this is something I think about a lot. We evangelicals pride ourselves on our high view of Scripture, but as soon as it comes to teaching the Bible to children, we’re quite content to mangle it. This usually involves extracting dubious moral lessons (the story of Joseph was about being nice to your brothers) or twisting the meaning of a text to avoid sin or judgment. In the children’s Bible I have, Jonah goes to Nineveh to tell the Ninevites that “God can’t stop loving you!” Well, kind of.

So we need to teach the Bible honestly. That doesn’t mean we get unnecessarily graphic. If someone dies, just say they died. You don’t have to get into details—but don’t say they went to sleep. Ultimately though, I think the best way to teach children the fear of the Lord is to model it. A lot more is caught than taught, as the old expression goes. And when they see a reverence for God in their parents’ faith it makes a big impression.

8. How does understanding God’s otherness and holiness help us engage culture?

I’m convinced the model for engagement is found in the very nature of God. The divine otherness and intimacy provides the clue for how we can relate to outsiders with both conviction and love. We are a “peculiar people,” citizens of a kingdom that Jesus said was “not of this world.” Yet we’re not called to withdraw from the world. We’re called to love people, and you can’t do that at a distance. So we dive into the needs and hurts of the world while maintaining our distinctiveness, which is precisely what God did in the person of Jesus.

9. You say that prayers for safety are not found in the Gospels. Is it bad to ask God for safety?

No, I don’t think it’s bad to ask for safety. Asking God to protect us and our loved ones is wise. But when petitions for safety dominate our prayer lives, it’s a sign our spiritual house is not in order. In Acts, when the disciples were threatened, they prayed for boldness, not safety. Praying for safety is okay, but if we’re too focused on our safety, we become paralyzed with fear and fail to carry out God’s mission.

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

A renewed appreciation for both God’s holiness and love. I hope it deepens their worship and inspires them to pray. I know that’s asking a lot of a book, but I believe if we open our eyes a little wider to God’s holiness, a lot of things start to change. We begin to see God for who he truly is and understand who we truly are. We gain a greater appreciation for his love, because we get a glimpse of how far he’s stooped to redeem us. We rediscover the awe of God.

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Learn to enter into a genuine and reverent understanding of Christ, and leave behind benign and predictable Christianity: pre-order Yawning at Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying on Vyrso today!

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24-Hour Deal: Get 70% Off the James Montgomery Boice Bundle!

To the Glory of God

Today’s Journey to the Cross Bundle highlights the inspirational work of James Montgomery Boice—a Reformed theologian and pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1968 until his death in 2000. Today only, get two of his devotionals, To the Glory of God: A 40-Day Devotional on the Book of Romans and Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment, for just $10.50 with the James Montgomery Boice Bundle—that’s 70% off!

Boice wasn’t only a beloved inner-city pastor—he also traveled to more than 30 countries to teach the Bible and share the gospel. He received degrees from Harvard University, Princeton Theological Seminary, University of Basel in Switzerland, and Theological Seminary of the Reformed Episcopal Church. He also served as the president and cofounder of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, the parent organization of The Bible Study Hour radio broadcast on which Boice spoke for more than 30 years.

To the Glory of God: A 40-Day Devotional on the Book of Romans

Throughout history, the book of Romans has had a profound influence on Christians across the globe. Romans 13 helped lead Augustine of Hippo to a life of holiness, and Romans 1 led Martin Luther to realize that the righteousness of God was a gift, not a threat. To help draw Christians closer to Romans, Boice wrote an entire commentary dedicated to Romans and spent eight years preaching it to his church. This 40-day devotional pulls together key aspects of Boice’s nearly 240 sermons on Romans and offers rich reflections on doctrine and beloved sources for encouragement.

Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment

According to Boice, the “study of the Bible must be the consuming passion of a believer’s life.” This powerful devotional offers 365 days’ worth of the grace and mercy found in Scripture. With content pulled from Boice’s incredible lifetime of ministry, Come to the Waters traces the story of salvation to God’s sovereignty from Genesis to Revelation and encourages you to obey and glorify God in every aspect of your life.

Each reading includes a Scripture text, as well as topical and Scripture indexes to help you find the perfect devotion for your day.

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Today only: get Boice’s To the Glory of God and Come to the Waters for 70% off! Download the James Montgomery Boice Bundle now.


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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


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?


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.

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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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