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The Father’s Love

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A Letter from the Publisher

The month of June is one of excitement! For many of us, we welcome the coming summer months in anticipation of upcoming vacations, retreats, and some much-needed rest. I believe we are looking forward to summer even more so this year than in previous years after so many dark months. It is during the beginning of our R&R that we have the opportunity to celebrate those in our lives who have stepped up to the plate to fill the role of Father Figure. Whether they be a father by blood or a father by choice, they serve equal importance and give ample love and advice. For those who do not have an earthly father to celebrate this year, let us not forget that we all have a Heavenly Father who will never let us down, who will never leave us nor forsake us, who is always there for us, and who loves us more than any human father ever could.

 

Daniel Burkhart’s Hopes for His Readers

Daniel Burkhart illustrates our Heavenly Father’s love and forgiveness so vividly in his book, Prodigal. He tells the story of his own life and how he turned away from his Christian faith in order to pursue a lifestyle that he thought would be more fulfilling only to discover that without Christ in his life, it was empty.

I believe many of us can either relate to Daniel from our own experiences or from watching someone we love go through this. His story, found within the pages of Prodigal, serves not only as a message of caution, but also as a message of hope and forgiveness. Redemption is for all people. We can always find rest within the loving embrace of our Heavenly Father.

Daniel tells readers that the goal in writing this book…

“Is that the reader can see how easy bad decisions happen, how we justify them with our reasoning, and how even though people may look like they are having a great time, many people have an empty, hollow feeling living deep within them.

I also want readers to take away from this story the love and forgiveness we have in our Heavenly Father. No matter who you are or what your background is, God loves you and wants you to be part of His family. Once we are part of His family, we need to look at our relationship with Christ as a father-to-child relationship. This means we can serve the Lord out of love for Him, not out of a sense of obedience to your Master as a servant.

The change in this dynamic is key for all Christians. I serve my Father because of my love for Him; I serve my boss due to a sense of fear of losing my job. My Father forgives me no matter what I have done; my boss will fire me if I do not do what he says. My Father yearns for a stronger, richer relationship and wants me to be successful, to have peace, and to have joy. My boss desires only for me to serve his purpose, my success in life is not his main concern for me. Obedience is his main concern for me.

God has always and will always be the same, we just need to see Him more clearly. I hope [this book] inspires you to have a deeper relationship with the Lord. No matter what your past is, God can give you a bright future.”

 

The Prodigal Son

“The parable, or story, of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is one most people hear as a child. The story begins with a rich man who had two sons: the oldest son was faithful to his father and would stay busy working in the fields tending to the crops, while his youngest son was curious of what the world would be like to explore and what adventures he had yet to experience. The father told his sons that when they were older, he would give them their inheritance. His younger son, wanting to experience more of the world, came to his father and asked for his portion immediately instead of waiting. The father loved both of his sons very much and wanted them to be happy, so he gave the younger son his portion as the son had wished.

The younger son began his journey into life recklessly squandering his money on the new friends he had made and the sinful lifestyle he had acquired. He quickly lost all his riches and money and soon he was left with only the clothes he was wearing. All his friends disappeared once his money was gone. In order to live, he began to work for a farmer and took care of the swine. He was famished from hunger, even eating the slop for the pigs. He sat in the mud, miserable form the lifestyle and choices he had made. He thought that it would be better to be a servant in his father’s house than to eat the slop with these beasts. He thought that if he went back to his father and begged for forgiveness, his father would grant him this wish.

The younger son embarked on the long journey back to his family. He smelled of pigs and his clothes were dirty and tattered. The rich man looked out from his fields and saw someone coming toward his house. When the father realized it was his prodigal son, he ran to meet him. The younger son begged his father for forgiveness and asked him if he could be a servant for his father. The son was willing to live in the servants’ quarters and not be considered part of his family anymore. The father, hearing this, replied, “My son who was once lost is now found. He was once dead but is now alive.”

The father had his servants take the younger son and bathe him. They clothed him in the finest apparel and prepared a feast to celebrate the return of the prodigal son.”

 

Forgiveness for the Sons: The Tender Embrace of the Father

Through Daniel’s own journey of rebellion (much like the prodigal son in the Bible), God, his Heavenly Father, showed him what true life, love, and forgiveness really are. In his own words he says…

“In the story of the prodigal son, the most disappointing character in the story was not the prodigal son, but the older brother. The older brother was faithful to his father and worked in the fields. When he saw that his father gave the fatted calf to his younger brother upon arrival after years of rebellion, he was upset and frustrated instead of overwhelmed with joy. The older son did not know how to receive grace freely and became upset when his brother received it so easily. The older son failed to realize that the only qualification for him to receive his inheritance was to simply be a child of the rich man.

I had felt the pain of both sons. I had walked away from the comfort and security of my Father, and when I returned to the Lord, I did not feel worthy of receiving my inheritance which was rightfully mine – His peace. Once I remembered that I was a child of God and part of God’s family, I saw myself differently.

I lost my desire to live in this world without living fully in the will of my Father. I now had freedom to live in peace through Christ. This prodigal son shared the same struggles as both of the brothers in the parable and came back to the tender embrace of his Father. I truly felt that it was well with my soul.”

 

Extending and Accepting Forgiveness: The Father’s Love

It is easy to be swept up in the cares and sinful desires of this world. It is easy to hold onto grudges and never forgive. But this is like us drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. The only person that it hurts is us. If we are to live like Christ, then we have to forgive and love in the same way He has forgiven and loved us.

However, before we can ever extend this forgiveness, we have to accept it, just like Daniel did in his own life. We have to accept that we are children of God. Our Heavenly Father will always be waiting to receive us with outstretched arms and no condemnation.

So, on this Father’s Day, whether we have an earthly father or only our Heavenly Father, let us be thankful for them and make sure they know how much we appreciate them in our daily lives. And to every father out there, Happy Father’s Day.

“Whoever hears my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”
John 14:21

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. For I give you sound teaching; do not abandon my directive.”
Proverbs 4:1–2

To read the previous letter from our publisher, click here!

From the Publisher’s Desk: A Month to Remember

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Honoring the Past, Present, and Future

A Letter from the Publisher

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May is a month of celebration. We take a day to celebrate women of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life as we show the love our Mothers deserve. We then transition to the end of the month to remember and honor all military personnel who have died while performing their military duties in the United States Armed Forces on Memorial Day. Then, as May ends and we head into June, many students are completing their studies for the year and moving into the summer break. I feel that each of these celebrations deserves to be not only mentioned but also highlighted with a work of literature. And so, this month I have decided to choose various titles for each celebration.

 

Mothers work so hard each and every day supporting, caring for, and raising their children to the best of their ability. One mother, in particular, has gone above the call of duty and has risen above many hardships and obstacles that have sought to bring her down. Author Vanna Nguyen has recently published her novel, The Life She Once Knew, which chronicles the deeply spiritual and emotionally powerful journey of her own escape from Vietnam and her daughters fight for survival after a brutal attack outside of a library which led to a traumatic brain injury.

Vanna shares her story about being a mother to her girls and how her journey of motherhood changed so drastically. She went from being the average, American, working mom to becoming (as she says in her own words), the “fierce defender of my daughter’s quality of life. After she was brutally attacked one night, Queena suffered a severe traumatic brain injury causing her to need continual care. Decades earlier, I had survived my own trauma, escaping to America to raise my family. I worked hard to make a home for my girls that was safe and secure. Before the attack, the daily routine of our family life felt normal – rhythmic. I focused my time and energy on my business in order to support my two girls. As a single mother, my desire was to set my two daughters on a healthy path in life and protect them from danger. I encouraged them to be responsible, independent girls. As they grew, I felt as though my hopes and expectations for them – which I’d focused on since their births – were coming to fruition. My daughters had become young adults. Ordinary life felt fabulous.”

This is the ultimate desire for most mothers, to protect their children and see them grow up into young, independent, and strong adults. For Vanna, this wonderful course of life for her and both of her daughters changed forever the night Queena was attacked. This was a devastating night that created many obstacles Vanna and her family had to overcome. For any mothers or families striving to make it through hardship, Vanna offers the following advice from one mother to another, “Through the past decade, my family has learned many lessons. One of which is to focus on making the best of each day rather than allowing fear to guide our thoughts about the present or the future. With God so close to us in our heartache, we learned that the impossible is truly possible. To other people who may be traveling with me on a similar path, I humbly offer the following words of wisdom: To parents: I can’t help but think that if Queena’s attacker had experienced understanding and love in his own life, this tragedy could have been avoided. Listen to your children, not just with your ears but with your hearts. Tell them they are loved and wanted and that there is a special place for them. If your child has a friend who is not receiving this at home, show them the same love. Show love to everyone, even the ones who are difficult to love. We must all reach for the fruit that hangs on our collective tree of victory.”

What an encouragement for mothers to continue on in their work of loving and caring for their children. Even if you are not a mother, you can learn from Vanna’s words and be a mother figure by showing love to someone in your life who may be struggling.

 

As we celebrate our mothers this month, offering encouragement, we also celebrate and honor those who have served our country giving the ultimate sacrifice in order to ensure we continue to have our freedom. In Nuggets of Truth by Dr. John Mannion, we see that we can have peace each day as we spend time studying God’s Word. Although we may experience pain, suffering, and the sorrow that accompanies the loss of loved ones, we do not have to mourn as those with no hope.

In Nuggets of Truth, Dr. Mannion explores the Bible on a deeper level in a day-to-day format. This work examines scriptures and how we can apply them in our daily lives. On Memorial Day it is important for us to look back and appreciate the sacrifice so many gave in the service of our nation and give honor as one nation… to be at peace. Our religious freedom is one of the greatest freedoms we can appreciate as we celebrate the lives of those who have died. “The people of God are described metaphorically as ‘God’s household’ (Eph. 2:19). It is ‘household’ (singular) and not ‘households’ (plural). Division can only exist amid plurality. You cannot divide ‘one.’ There must be at least two tribes for ‘tribalism’ (division, discrimination, and prejudice) to exist. One tribe cannot discriminate against itself!

 

In Ephesians 2:14, Paul writes about making ‘both groups one’ by breaking ‘down the barrier of the dividing wall.’ In the early church, they needed to realize that Christ came to break down the wall between them. We, too, must allow Christ to break down any walls that divide us. Those walls might include denominational walls, racial walls, ethnic walls, and social class walls. These walls, and any other ‘tribal barriers’ that stand as walls, must be broken.” Dr. Mannion is addressing Christians in this passage; however, I believe we can apply this in our everyday life as a nation as well. As we move into Memorial Day, we should strive to remember that just as the church is to be united as one so we should also seek to be united as a nation being thankful and honoring the sacrifice given for our freedoms.

 

After giving so much love, support, encouragement, honor, etc. many students look forward to the opportunity to take some time off from studying, take some time for themselves to unwind, and move into their summer break. A good book can be the best escape from everyday life and can offer the ultimate adventure. D. K. Doulos offers a thrilling ride in his latest novel, WoE is Us. It follows the story of Lyrian Wallace. She “was only ten years old when the Malevolence struck on October 10, 2056. She thought the next decade had numbed her to the grief, the death, the bots, and the daily struggle for survival. She lost her parents when they became Sleepers, but like everyone else, she had pieced together a new family. Lyrian was almost content when the Alliance began taking them… The world always took things away from her. She could only live for today and never dared to hope for any heaven. But when her circumstances change, Lyrian must choose how she might live for both this life and the next.”  WoE is Us offers an exciting look at what could be with many adventures.

 

However, if Science Fiction is not your cup of tea, Jasmine Fischer paints an entirely different picture in her novel, The Sword in His Hand. Jasmine decided, while writing her literary work, that she wanted it to be written as “a testimony of [her] own faith journey and would be written with the primary purpose of glorifying God.” The Sword in His Hand is “the result of that firm conviction.” Her hope is that “you can see this humble story as part of a much greater one: a Story which has been and is being lovingly and skillfully authored since well before we were breathed into existence, and by an Author with far finer penmanship than mine.” Her story follows the lives of Torsten and El: two individuals from vastly different worlds. Yet, they may have more in common than they think.

“For hundreds of years, strange things have been washing up on the shores of Darcentaria. But when a young foreign woman named El is found unconscious on the beach amidst the burning wreckage of a strange metal craft, the villagers of Odessa are immediately suspicious—is she an agent of the Dalriadan Empire, their cruel oppressors for as long as they can remember? Or does she come from the Outside, the vast and legendary lands beyond their borders from which no man or woman alive has ever returned?

Torsten Eiselher, a talented young swordsman, has spent the last nine years of his life wrongfully imprisoned by his uncle, the Empire’s ruler. Betrayed and deceived at every turn, Torsten has survived by keeping a firm grip on his sword—and by staying well away from anything to do with the Outside. But when his young sister is murdered, Torsten finds himself irrevocably drawn to El despite her Outsider heritage—and he begins to question everything he has been told about her world.

Intrigued by the existence of a powerful and dangerously advanced world within his reach, the Empire’s ruler, Jurien Arminius, launches a hunt for El and the two Outsiders that arrived with her—the ones who could help him win his war against Torsten and the rebellion that threatens to topple his Empire.

Suddenly, Torsten is forced to choose between defeating his long-term enemy or saving the woman he has come to love . . .”

 

Whether you are looking for an escape into a different world or encouragement from day to day, these works of literature have a unique way of changing our perspective of our current circumstances and helping us look outside of ourselves. As we continue to celebrate our mothers, as we honor the memory of those who have given their lives by living united, and as we look towards the upcoming summer with excitement and determination, let us strive to remember that the piece of truth which unites these titles is the message of love. Let us strive to live a life of love for others.

 

“Jesus replied: `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Matthew 22:37-39 

 

 

God’s Incredible Love

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As the seasons change from summer to fall and the air becomes cool and crisp, I am reminded of Ecclesiastes verse three, chapter one, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” During the past months, we have seen and experienced things none of us could have imagined or predicted. There has been much fear of the present and the future. But as Believers in Christ, we can be at peace. This verse reminds us that there is a time, place, and reason for everything…even sickness and unrest. Although this year has taken many of us by surprise, we would be foolish to think that God, in all of His glory, did not see it coming. And even though the seasons and everything around us may change, God “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). We cannot blame Him for current events because the Bible clearly states that, “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (1 Chronicles 16:11-12). If God is the same and gives good and perfect gifts, and there is a time for everything, then even in the year we have experienced, we can be at peace and at rest in Him. We can find comfort in His Word by searching out and memorizing the many truths that it offers us. Malinda Fugate’s book, The Other Three Sixteens, does precisely that. Many of us can recite John 3:16 from memory with no prompt. However, were we to be asked to recite Genesis 3:16 or Romans 3:16, we would be at a loss. Throughout Malinda’s book, she dives into each book of the Bible and expounds upon each chapter three, verse sixteen to show the numerous truths that can be found throughout the God’s Word and not just in John 3:16. She shows how a loving God and His mercy are woven throughout each chapter and verse of Scripture in seemingly unexpected ways.

***

“John 3:16 is a central sentence, one of many anchors we find in the pages of Scripture. But every single chapter and verse has eternal value, from the eloquently poetic to the seemingly mundane, historical details. The words of the Bible weave a tapestry of love, particularly the love that our Heavenly Father has for His children. A love so deep and so wide that it cannot be contained in one memorized phrase. It takes multiple authors of sixty-six individual books to begin to explore the mystery of God’s care for us. I propose an adventure. It will be an expedition through the living and active Scriptures we hold in our hands and yet can’t truly contain. If every phrase in God’s word connects us to His love, then there are gems to uncover wherever we dare to seek them. Let’s take a cue from John and look at the third chapter and sixteenth verse in each book and see what we find. Now, it should be noted that “3:16” is not a magic code. The books of the Bible were written as individual documents and letters, only to have chapter and verse notations added after for our reference purposes. 3:16 will be the guide we choose for this particular quest.”

“Genesis 3:16 is one piece in the first story we read when we open the Word. Almighty God has masterfully created an entire universe and then concentrated His efforts on planet Earth. He carefully crafted sky and sea, mountain and tree, and creatures beyond imagination. Then it was time for His most precious creation – human beings – specifically, a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.

The devil, as a serpent, offered Eve the very fruit that God previously told His children to avoid. After brief hesitation, Eve decided that the serpent was on to something. She took the fruit and shared it with a willing Adam. There was no avoiding the consequence of sin.

Jump back to Genesis 3:16: “To the woman he said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very sever; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’” Where is God’s love in these harsh words to Eve? We must remember the subtle differences between punishment and discipline. Punishment seeks to somehow even a score, answering a negative action with another equally bleak negative action. Discipline allows for necessary consequences, but it makes way for growth and redemption. Relationships are damaged by punishment, but they mature through discipline.

On the surface, the curse of Genesis 3:16 appears to be nothing but pain and suffering. Yet, it is rooted in the care of a loving God who refused to cast aside His daughter, Eve, despite her disobedience.
We know for certain that the Lord disciplines His children because He loves them. He loved Eve. He loved Adam. And He loves you.”

***

“’For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice’ (James 3:16). A heart focused on self is toxic. We have only so much energy and effort available to us, and if we focus it all on ourselves, little to nothing is left for others and God. Few things are more destructive to our souls than selfishness. God knows this and will not tolerate anything that is harmful to His children.

Envy is another beast that needs to be tamed. If we allow jealousy to consume us, it will destroy us from the inside out. It transforms our hearts from caring for our neighbor to viewing our neighbor as a competitor.

Because God loves us, He wants to protect us from the toxins of envy and selfish ambition. First, He calls attention to the problem with Scriptures like James 3:16 and Romans 2:8. Once we recognize that our heart is poisoned by selfishness and envy, we are moved to do something about it. We must reach out beyond ourselves to the One who is able to break that cycle and bring us into freedom.

God lovingly designed this world and our existence. His gifts are good and for our benefit. He is not about to allow even one of His precious children to waste away in the desert of selfish ambition and envy. He loves us far too much for that.”

***

“So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). The Laodiceans thought they were rich but didn’t realize they were in poor shape. They needed to return to the Lord once more. Jesus reminded them that He disciplines those He love and that He is figuratively standing at their door and knocking. He was available to them, but they needed to welcome Him into their church and into their hearts again.

Throughout time, God has gone to extreme lengths to actively love His people. He is a passionate God. When His love fills the hearts of His dear children, we display His zeal in our own lives. Enthusiastic, exuberant love spills over onto everyone we encounter. It is not like any earthly love and is immediately recognized by anyone who experiences it. The Laodiceans were missing this love, and many of us miss it as well. It wasn’t too late for them to turn back to it, and it’s not too late for us. When we ask the Lord to pour out His fiery love on us, He is happy to fulfill our need. When we ask for anything in the name of Jesus, the Lord will provide. The passionate love of God is intended to overwhelm us, and it is limitless. Like a blazing fire, we are consumed by love. It is a love that cannot be tamed and a love that will satisfy our deepest longing as we constantly cry out for more. A love so extreme is beyond accurate description, but we can know it intimately. It is alive and crashing over us like unrelenting ocean waves.”

***

During these trying times, we need remember who we serve. We serve a God of second chances, a God of restoration, a God of forgiveness and peace, a God who disciplines those He loves for their benefit and growth, and most importantly, a God of love. If we are to be imitators of Christ, then we need to have a character like His. We can do this by accepting His peace in the place of the fear the world tries to tie us down with, by forgiving even when we feel wronged, and by accepting God’s love so that we, in turn, can show that same love to our neighbor instead of putting them down when their views or ideas are different than ours. We need to remember the other three sixteens in the Bible and how they show the love and mercy of God. Then, as Melinda Fugate states in the closing remarks of her book, we can “rest in the promise of His love that is faithful from generation to generation. Amen.”

To learn more about Malinda and The Other Three Sixteens, visit HERE.

The Truth Will Set You Free

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From our Publisher’s Desk
In a world full of white lies, fibs, exaggeration, near truths, and stretching of the truth, it can be hard to know what is fact and what is fiction. In the past few months, we can see this firsthand if we look closely at our politicians, media, and especially posts and pictures on Facebook from those we know. Everyone wants that picture perfect family appearance, that impeccable dinner picture, that cause worth sharing, and that Instagram worthy outfit and pose to photograph. In fact, that is all we see. Life is filtered through a camera lens so that only the perfect moment is captured, while the tantrums, tears, trials, and hard work are left off camera…behind the scenes. This filtered, idealistic living is so prevalent in today’s culture that it is hard to know who, and what, to believe.
   Christine Paxson and Rosemary Spiller address the fact that the Bible has all the answers, not just for the past, but for present circumstances as well in their book and study guide, No Half-Truths Allowed: Understanding the Complete Gospel Message. It is important that, as believers, we know the truths found within God’s Word so that we can share those truths with others and not get caught up in what society thinks of us and how they perceive us. They explore what Jesus has done for you and me. With society’s ever-changing cultural standards, we have to be rooted in the truth… God’s truth. We have to let Him reign in our hearts and lives so that we can bring glory back to Him by not compromising what is right and true, by reflecting that truth in and through our lives. We can do this by standing up and saying, “No more half-truths are allowed in my life!”
***
    “A person’s experience with the Gospel can be a lot like quilting. The beauty and seemingly simplistic message of the grace and love of God displayed in His only Son dying for us can draw our longing hearts in like moths to a flame, but if we do not take the time to study and understand the full message of the Gospel, we are selling ourselves – and God – short. The Gospel is the Word of God and the main message of the entire Bible. It is the saving power of God! Its power is not contained in the eloquence of the messenger, but in the message itself. That is why we need to get it right.”
“Most of us have asked basic, fundamental questions about the Gospel – and others like them – and have had them run through our heads at one time or another. For some of us, the Bible has been taught in a way that makes us believe many things are right. For others, culture, other religions’ ideas, and even TV commercials have planted ideas firmly in our minds. But we need to know what the Bible says about [the questions we have]. Remember, the goal for this book is to make sure that by the end, you have a clear understanding of what the full Gospel message is – not only for yourself, but also so that when you share it with others, they fully understand what they are either accepting or rejecting.”
“The bottom line is, if we emphasize that God is remaking or renewing the world but do not include how He is redeeming people to be in it, we have not proclaimed the Good News to them. We have left them ignorant of the saving message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Why does the Church, the Bride of Christ, want to shove sin, and death, and the glorious message of the cross out of our vocabulary? Have we tried to become too relevant? Are people so self-centered that even the Church has to make their focus all about people and no longer God? Is it because our good deeds make us feel good about ourselves, but we find it hard to bring up the Gospel to someone? Are we believing some of these half-truths ourselves? Are we more intent on what God can do for us than we are about studying His Word? Is it because we just don’t know any better? Christian, it’s time for that examination, and we start with the question to ourselves, ‘Am I really a Christian?’
If you are a Christian, as we’ve described over and over again in this book, then the next questions should be, ‘Am I sharing the whole Gospel message?’ ‘Is my church sharing the whole Gospel message?’ If not, then what do we do about it?
Let’s make it our aim to glorify God by taking the message of the cross and making it central to everything else. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).” (Text taken from No Half-Truths Allowed book)
***
    “As God’s chosen people, we need to make sure we are doing what we were created to do – glorify Him and enjoy Him forever! To do that, we need to know His Word, and we need to follow it. We need to spread the Gospel message, and we need to do it correctly! Will it be easy? Sometimes. Will it be hard? Sometimes. But it needs to be done. Therefore, let’s make it our aim to glorify God by taking the message of the cross and making it central to everything else.” (Text taken from No Half-Truths Allowed study guide)
***

    When we are tempted to get caught up in making our lives look perfect over Facebook or Instagram, or when we are unsure what to believe about our friends, neighbors, leaders, pastors, or politicians, let’s try to remember that we live in a fallen world, and no one is perfect. Let’s try to focus on showing our reality, and not a watered-down version of it. But most importantly, let us remember that  we are here to glorify God and help lead others to do the same. Be an example to those around you, don’t compromise, and don’t settle for sharing any half-truths!

To learn more about Christine and Rose and No Half-Truths Allowed, visit HERE.

 

Will You Chicken IN?

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From our Publisher’s Desk

  I believe we can all agree that the past two months have not gone as any of us anticipated this year would. It feels as though there is no escape from the constant battering of news, safety updates, and personal social distancing requirements. The good news is that as believers in Christ, we do have an escape, a refuge from the storms of life, and a constant peace in times of trial. God is our strength and salvation, so we do not have to fear the unknown. He has a plan to work all things for good in our lives, even things that the enemy tries to use to come against us.
  Life has become much simpler. There has been much more time spent with family and/or resting. We have been forced to slow down and change our pace. But instead of looking at our current circumstances as devastating, we should take the extra time we have been given to focus on what is truly important in life: building strong relationships with family, friends, and those around us, encouraging them in their walk with Christ, and for those who do not have a relationship with Him, to continually point them to God and to show His love. Let us use this time to better ourselves and grow spiritually.
JJ Gutierrez talks about building a life of faith instead of fear in her book entitled Chickening IN. She examines how things around us may be scary, due to the unknown, but if we have a relationship with God, we can have a courageous faith.
Although, we may be living in unpredictable and uncontrollable times, we can defeat feelings of fear, doubt, and anxiety by reconstructing them into faith in God and His promises, by stepping into the calling that God has placed on each of our lives, and by not backing down or chickening out.

***

   “The Bible is full of examples of people who acted upon God’s word in faith. They couldn’t see the end result, but without action they were sure not to arrive at the destination. This is the key difference between the stuck and the unstuck, being trapped in a broken, discouraged life or being transformed into a new life of healing, joy, and wholeness. The key is action.”

“During times of fear, self-preservation, and retreat, we often need someone to speak encouragement into our lives – a friend, mentor, or coach – someone to wake us up, to shake us up. That’s exactly what Mordecai did for Queen Esther when he spoke these wise and powerful words, “What’s more, who can say but that you have been elevated to the palace for just such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? This is the most well-known verse in the book of Esther and for good reason. Esther was in a position of influence unlike anyone else. Her identity as a Jew had been concealed. She was beautiful and found favor with the king. She had learned the customs of the palace and understood how to behave in her new culture. What appeared to be many coincidences was actually God’s providence for the Jewish people – Esther was positioned for this moment.
Have you ever experienced being positioned well and you knew it was your time to execute? It was as if God prepared you all along through your past, your resources, and your relationships lining up, and what seemed disconnected was coming together for a single purpose.”

“Taking risks, living with courage, and following God will most likely lead to unfamiliar roads. There are many kinds of unknown roads. Think of them not just as physical places, but mental, emotional, and spiritual places you’ve never been. Most often they will steer us to climb steep mountains, cross desert plains, sail uncharted oceans, or soar to new heights. If we are willing to travel these unknown roads, we will be challenged by our fears and doubts, and we may be temped to turn back. However, if we refuse to give in to the fear bully, we might discover something new and amazing about ourselves, God, and life.”

“Over and over God invites us to have courageous faith. In fact, there are more than 300 Bible verses commanding us to fear not, don’t be afraid, or to have courage. Christine Caine says in her book Undaunted, “He knew that we would be afraid, that we would doubt. That’s why He tells us again and again in the Bible, ‘Fear not.’” Maybe that’s why God dedicates a chunk of Scripture to encouraging us to be brave – He knew we would need reassurance and support not just once, but on an ongoing basis. However, in order be strengthened by God’s Word, we have to know it. We must study and learn the Scriptures to become the courageous and fearless women [and men] we desire to be.”

***

These past two months have been extremely trying for everyone regardless of age, ethnicity, or status. We have all experienced many of the same feelings and emotions. We have fought back fear of the unknown, worry of what tomorrow will hold in store, and the crushing disappointment of a lost job, trip, etc. But we can all stand to learn a powerful lesson from JJ Gutierrez’s book, Chickening IN. We can still have faith in God and His Sovereign plan for us. We can still be obedient to Matthew 6:34 when it tells us, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” And most of all, we can be courageous in our walk with God and grow in His likeness during these times by being obedient to Him. We can’t let fear hold us back from living to the full potential for which God has created and called us. Now, more than ever, is the time to step out of fear and into a courageous faith. We need to start Chickening IN.

To learn more about JJ and Chickening IN, visit HERE.

It’s Time to Breathe. . .

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As we move into March, many of us are already feeling the weight of business and the rush of life pulling us in a million different directions. It can be hard to find the time in our busy schedules to slow down, be still, and just breathe and rest in God’s presence.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, it is important for us not to get caught up in the festivities of the day, and instead to think about what the day actually represents. Instead of focusing on wearing green or not being pinched, we should take a moment to get away from the noise around us, take a breather, and spend some time alone with God. The real St. Patrick would emphasize the importance of us maintaining our spiritual health in order to be spiritual leaders and make disciples for Christ. How can we show and reflect who Christ is in our own lives if we don’t take time out of each day to spend with Him and learn more about who He is?
A Whisper in the Woods    Martin Wiles emphasizes the importance of stepping into quiet escapes with God in his book A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World. This book provides weekly devotionals that can transport readers out of the noisy world around them and into the quiet escape of a beautiful forest with tall trees where the voice of God is more clearly heard throughout nature. In his book, Martin provides tools that help readers hear God’s words of comfort as they face the mountains and the valleys that this life often and unavoidably brings. Throughout A Whisper in the Woods: Quiet Escapes in a Noisy World, Martin lays out ways to take a step back, adjust our focus, and spend some quiet time resting in God’s presence.

***

     “The psalmist was a morning person. He had no alarm clock to awaken him, but he rose early and took his requests to the Lord.
While God doesn’t dictate morning as the time we must come to Him, He does have a lot to say through those who followed Him about the advantages of coming to Him in the morning. Jesus Himself did.
Our minds are fresher in the morning. I may still be sleepy, but the clutter of the day hasn’t cluttered my mind yet. Some function better at night, but the advantages of the morning are weighty. Quiet reigns, which allows me to focus.
When I approach God in the morning, the day is before me. I’ve not made any mistakes or decisions yet. The potential, however, is there. What day doesn’t involve decisions, temptations, or potential mistakes? Coming to God in the morning allows me to petition Him for guidance, strength, and wisdom.

Regardless of what time I come before God, coming consistently is important. Just as regular communication with others stabilizes friendships, so spending time each day with God cements our relationship with Him.
Morning by morning – or whenever is good for you – spend time with God.”

***

     “Since life has many paths – represented by the numerous decisions I have to make – knowing the right one is essential. Otherwise, I might find myself in unnecessary debt, broken relationships, jail, or any other number of unpleasant situations.Martin Wiles
Taking the right path is possible when I consult the guidebook. God calls it His Word. We call it the Bible. Any direction I need is found there. Life progresses, scientist discover, and technology advances, but the principles of God’s Word never get outdated. They are good for all time.
Prayer keeps me on the right path. Through prayer, I petition God to give me full understanding of His Word, to help me know how to apply it to daily situations, and to guide others in the same path I’m traveling. Prayer helps the guidebook come alive in daily life.
Communing with other believers is also wise. Passing other hikers who were coming from the direction we were going assured us we were traveling tin the right direction – even if we had not seen any blazes. There is strength and comfort in numbers.
Don’t guess about whether or not you’re on the right path. You can know.
Prayer: Father, lead us along the right paths in life so we’ll end up where You want us to be.”

***

     Instead of getting caught up in the world’s celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, take a moment to remember the real St. Patrick, take time out of your busy day to sit down, take a breath, stop worrying, and rest in God’s presence and purpose. Let Him refresh you and make you more like Him. And in doing so, let God use you (just as He used St. Patrick) to share His word and make Him known.

To learn more about Martin and A Whisper in the Woods, visit HERE.

Choosing Love

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From our Publisher’s Desk

As the new year continues to unfold, it brings with it a very special holiday. Whether single, dating, or married, Valentine’s Day can be a very special day for everyone. It is a day where we can show the loved ones in our life (whether that be family members or a significant other) just how much they mean to us and how much we care. Not only that, but we can also remember how much our heavenly Father loves us and wants what is best for us. It is important that in any relationship (no matter what stage it is at) that we keep God first.

Lindsey Holder explores how to keep God at the center of life while dating in her book, Waiting While Dating. Although dating can be a challenge in today’s culture, Lindsey focuses on the questions we should be asking as we take steps towards that special person and grow deeper in our relationship them. Some of these questions include how much time should be spent together, should we serve in the same area at church, and what do social media boundaries look like?
“[God] is not to be argued with, half listened to, or disputed against. You do not doubt God’s direction. There is no option of partially obeying the Lord without bearing the consequences of shame and separation. Partial faithfulness is non-existent. It is one way to believe God’s Word, and it is another to obey it. It is one way to believe God’s Word and another to admit what you are actually doing.”
“In today’s culture, we plan and prepare for our future with education, training, and working diligently to be successful in our business ventures and career. We thirst for knowledge, crave to be the best, and chip at it every day to be the guru in our field. But in relationships, we tend to fail ourselves so easily. We allow our hearts to be carefree, not planning for our heart’s future, for our emotional health, or for the memories we make. We easily connect, giving so much of ourselves before it is time and without truly understanding who we are giving that to and without having received an ordained commitment of marriage in return. Why are the most precious gifts given so freely?”
“It’s easy to read and be clear on paper prior to reality. To get to know someone requires you to share gradually to establish if indeed they are that marriage partner. What questions do you ask your potential partner and when? What boundaries do you set? At what point in the relationship do you bring Christ into it? What is over the limit and appropriate?
As you study His Word, you will find God provides you all of the wisdom you need to find the qualities and characteristics of a marriage partner. But He expects you to study His Word, obey His Word, and have a faithful heart in the interim.”
“God’s Word is God’s protection. Your free will is not free, as every choice has its consequences. It is up to you to decide whether you want positive or negative ones. However, those set boundaries may be different for every couple. May this book help you along your way to finding your partner with holiness, faithfulness, and obedience, with God’s word at the center.”

For those who have passed the dating stage, Randy Blankenship, Sr. in his book, The Mystery and the Masterpiece, discusses what a Biblical portrait of marriage should look like. There are many who are no longer dating and have moved into the next stage of life: marriage. But do we understand the message that marriage was designed to teach us? Randy shows this message throughout the pages of The Mystery and the Masterpiece.
“Marriage is the picture God painted to portray and reveal the kind of relationship He desires to have with mankind. He painted this picture in the beginning, and this has been His intent from the start.
I have heard many teach about marriage. I have read many books on marriage. The vast majority of them miss the main point of God’s purpose for marriage. It seems to me, in most teachings today, the main purpose of marriage and human sexual behavior is completely absent.”
“The first brushstroke in God’s great portrait of marriage begins with man being made in the image of God. Our marriages are intended to be an illustration of the relationship God wants with us! He made us in His image. We are to show forth His picture.”
“I have used terms like portrait, picture, and masterpiece to illustrate what I believe to be this central truth: that Christ will be eternally married to His people and our earthly marriages are intended to be the greatest illustration of that truth.”
“As followers of Christ, sometimes we try so hard at getting other people to also follow Christ. We make all kinds of efforts – that’s not bad. Marriage is work too. We should work at our marriages – but if it is only work, it’s not a happy marriage.
If we will simply allow Jesus to come into us – if we will experience the joy of Him coming into us, new life will automatically happen. It can’t not happen!”
“Marriage is God’s masterpiece. It is His great piece of artwork designed to show the relationships that He wants to have with us. It can only be what the Master Painter painted. It should be cherished and highly valued as He intended. It should be our desire to live that out before the world in our relationships.”

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, let us remember to keep God at the center of our relationships, strive to serve Him and His plan, and to follow His purpose in both dating and marriage.

New Year’s Resolutions: A Letter from Our Publisher

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Every year millions of people make resolutions of changes they would like to make in their lifestyle with a “New Year’s Resolution.” Some common changes people want to make are becoming more active, getting into shape, and getting back on track spiritually. In fact, many of us can probably say that we have followed this trend and made a resolution at some point in our life that matches up with one of these three changes. Many of us can probably also say that we have fallen short when it came time to keep the resolution we made. Change can be hard when it means we have to step outside of our comfort zone in order to accomplish a task that we previously couldn’t.

Kelly Wypych talks about stepping outside of your comfort zone and pushing through difficult changes and challenges in life within her book Ten Iron Principles: Persevering Through Difficult Situations. She tells her story of becoming an endurance racer, and how, through God’s grace and mercy, she came to salvation through a triathlon. As she became stronger physically, she found that she was also becoming stronger spiritually. By making changes to her lifestyle and old routines, she found her Kingdom purpose. We can learn about the power of perseverance from Kelly’s experience and words of wisdom.

“Many parallels existed in my life between the quest for physical endurance and my trek to salvation. During this unbelievable life voyage, I completed the race and accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. He became real to me. As I inched nearer and nearer to race day, I grew closer and closer to God.”Ten Iron Principles

“My achievement definitely did not result from my inner strength because I demonstrated incredible weakness. God wanted to settle His love unequivocally in my heart and mind. I am not alone; I never have been. God carried me to the finish. He showed me my life is powered by God.”

“Nothing is wasted. [God] uses whatever sufferings occur in our lives to mold us, teaching us the necessary lessons, so we may change our behaviors. This growth enables us to become the sons and daughters God needs us to be. He knows you, too.”

“My words of advice? If He calls you, go. Bring all you’ve got. But don’t take it from me; remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 14:27, ‘Take courage! It is I. don’t be afraid’ (NIV).”

“The road to the Ironman proved to me that change is a process and occurs even when I take a few steps backwards. Chipping away requires dedication and persistence, especially when the road is long, and the outcome is unknown.”Ironman

Iron Principle #1 – You Are Not the Driver
“The biggest self-perpetuated delusion of my life (and possibly your life, too) is I retain control of it…As much as we sometimes wish we were in control, think we are in control, or even try to be in control, God holds the reins.”

Iron Principle #2 – Show Up
“Showing up is one of the hardest things for people to do and one of my greatest frustrations in relationships…Things are tough? Show up. Don’t give up. Do not give in. Keep participating to the fullest in your life and in the steps God has shown you for your recovery and inevitable victory in Him. Do not fall short of your pledged commitment. But if you do: smile, shake it off, and start again. Forgiveness is always available.”

Iron Principle #3 – Rounding the Bend
“Perseverance produces power. But take heart. You will make it through this time and “round the bend.” I call it “rounding the bend” because of the way I visualize it. Think of a learning curve depicted on a graph. The line on the graph steeply rises and then begins to arc as it plateaus and levels out. I imagine myself as a stick figure or cartoon running up the curve as if on a mountain. My little stick figure self struggles and sweats, huffing and puffing up the steep climb. Then, like magic, I go over the curve and things get easier, and I get faster because the trajectory flattens.”

Iron Principles #4 – Buoy to Buoy
“In my first open water swim, I heard a coach nearby ask his athletes how far they had to swim. After mumbled responses, he told them they only had to “Swim to the next buoy.” I stood transfixed thinking what an amazing philosophy this was. Sometimes looking ahead to a big goal can be disarming and overwhelming. Keep the big goal or the finish line always in in the back of your mind but remember to focus on the next upcoming goal or ‘buoy.’”

Iron Principle #5 – The Skittle Philosophy
“In the Beach to Battleship iron-distance triathlon, I altered my nutrition strategy from sports products to Skittles and Sweet Tarts because I could not stomach the nutrition products any longer. The Skittles tell the twisted tale of how we all need to be adaptable. Not all things will go according to plan, and you need to roll with the punches. Create the plan and follow it step by step, rounding the bend, and aiming for the next buoy.”

Iron Principle #6 – Run the Mile You Are In
“No matter how long the race, you can run only one mile at a time; you can run only the mile you are in…While keeping your eye on the prize, do not forget today is all you have. Try to ensure every day you are doing something, however small, to push you closer to your goal, to your “finish line” even if it means resting. Make the most of every effort and avoid getting so caught up in the finish line that you miss the journey.”

Iron Principle #7 – Use Whatever You’re Doing as a Time for Worship
“In whatever you attempt, remember God blesses you with the necessary gifts to be able to attack your goal. Be thankful and show your gratefulness through your efforts… You can easily incorporate prayer into your job, relationships, or into the dark times.”

Iron Principle #8 – Some Days Just Suck
“A few big misconceptions are that successful people never fail, they never experience pain or doubt, and they have it all together. No, they don’t… You will fail now and again when trying to reach your goals. Failure happens, but do not dwell on it. Get back up and dust yourself off… If the day beats you up, go to sleep and remember tomorrow is another day.”

Iron Principle #9 – CFM (Continuous Forward Motion)
“No matter how far, no matter how big the goal, no matter how insurmountable the task, if you keep moving forward, regardless of speed, you will get to the finish line. Whether with big strides or baby steps, keep moving forward.”

Iron Principle #10 – We Win
“It is easy to get engrossed in our problems and trials and how they affect us. It is easy to get stuck in the pain and hurt. But, try to keep a part of yourself focused on the eternal reward even if only a teeny, tiny bit. You may not understand or see the outcome of your situation, your struggle, or your life, however, if you are saved, you know how your soul turns out. You realize the result of the final fight. Jesus wins. He triumphs in victory. The battle was fought and won two thousand years ago on a cross. Jesus defeated Satan and death. Boo-yah.

Try to remember this. Try to keep the hope of spending eternity in heaven with the Lord in your mind’s eye! Amazing! Keeping salvation at the forefront helps us to remember the right choices are not always the easy choices, and it gives us the strength to move in the proper direction. Focusing on our deliverance helps us to stand up when we feel more like sitting. It guides us to remain in His strength when we feel weak.”

As you head into your new year, take Kelly’s advice and her Ten Iron Principles to heart. Don’t become overwhelmed by the length of the coming year, the amount of work required to reach your goals, or the many daunting tasks you may have to accomplish. But instead, try to take it day by day, one task at a time, hour by hour, or even minute by minute. Remember the words of Ecclesiastes 9:11, “The race is not given to the swift nor the strong but he who endures until the end.”

Is Christ in Your Christmas?: A Letter from Our Publisher

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For many adults and children alike, Christmas truly is “the most wonderful time of the year.” Families come together, gifts are exchanged, and plenty of food is eaten. But with so much going on, we can find ourselves so wrapped up in the business and blur of the season that we miss what Christmas is all about. We become so enveloped in trying to find the perfect Christmas tree, sing the perfect Christmas songs, and find that perfect gift for loved ones that we forget that these minor things are not the true meaning of Christmas. It is so important for us to realize that we need to slow down and be reminded of our Savior’s birth and the story of the first Christmas.
 Author Karen Straszheim shares her experience and thoughts about Christmas in her book A Sanctuary in Our Midst. She walks readers through that first Christmas night, shares of the events leading up to it, and explores what it means to us today. She reminds us not to get caught up or strung out in the midst of the holiday madness and rush. Her book helps place the focus where it should be during the busy Christmas season: on Jesus.

“People in the Bible were glad for what they learned about God from prophecy. At Christmas, we also can be glad for what we learn about God from Scripture. One day, we will enter heaven with everlasting joy. For now, we can enter Christmas with singing, gladness, and joy. He came so we can know Him.”

“If God had not loved and protected Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, what would have been the outcome for them? In Matthew, it says that “Herod gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under.” There was heard among the people “weeping and great mourning . . . Parents weeping for their children . . . because they [were] no more” (Matt. 2:16,18). But Joseph and Mary returned to Israel with their child still living. God’s love was shown to them through the protection of their child’s life.

“Some people feel unloved or abandoned throughout the year and these feelings are noticed even more in the Christmas season. Our culture says this is a time to be with family. But for some, the people they’d like to be with are absent. A parent hasn’t been there for them as a child or an adult. For others, an important person has left, quit, walked out or died, leaving them feeling deserted, cast off, or rejected. A person who has been abandoned can feel lonely, forgotten, forlorn, or sometimes hopeless.
”God, however, says, ‘I will live among the [people] and won’t abandon my people’ (1 Kings 6:13). Jesus had a Father who loved Him and didn’t abandon Him to permanent death. We have the same Father who gives the same love and care to us He gave to His son Jesus (John 17:23, 26). We have hope in a love that is unfailing (Ps. 147:11). He shows us His love with the forgiveness He of­fers us. His compassions are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23). He is merciful and faithful to us (Heb. 2:17). God is a parent who is there for His children. He listens to us attentively: ‘ . . . You will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’ (Jer. 29:12-13).

“If you are feeling lonely or forgotten this Christmas, call on your heav­enly Father. A Sanctuary in Our MidstPray and let Him know how you are and what you need. He will be there for you.”
“God is both supremely above us and with us. Jesus, He who saves, is also Immanuel, God with us. He is a king who is a servant to His people (John 13:1-16). God gave me a banquet of knowledge about Himself and then proclaimed a holiday. He “distributed gifts with royal liberality,” which included the gift of rest (Esther 2:18). This idea changed my thinking about Christmas.

“Christmas, for me, now isn’t the usual, a time to be busy. It has become a time for understanding what rest is: rest from sin and rest from work; a time for having joy in who Jesus is and what He came to do. Ezekiel 37:28 says, “The nations will know that I the LORD make Israel holy when my sanctuary is among them forever.” As a sanctuary, God shelters His people. He watches over us and takes care of us. He is in our midst to help us in the ways we need. This Christmas, may you, too, find Him doing the unexpected in your life in ways that show you He is a sanctuary.”

To learn more about Straszheim and A Sanctuary in Our Midst, visit HERE.