Charisma Magazine | Informing Christians from Spirit-filled Perspective. Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:38:28 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb WATCH: The 1 Thing the Devil Doesn't Want to Hear You Say

While we live in a world where it seems that anything goes, I've found that the majority of people believe God is mad at them. Burdened with guilt and shame, and reflecting upon life's difficulties, too many believe what they're going through is from the hands of a god trying to get them back.

Maybe you've said something like this:

"I'm sick because I sinned."

"I'm in financial struggle because I did something wrong."

"This disaster happened because God is punishing us."

These are lies! Sickness, poverty and disaster aren't the works of God. No, they are the works of the devil, which Jesus came to destroy (see 1 John 3:8). As I explore in my book, Silence Satan, it's a slick deception of Satan to ascribe his works to God, through which he accomplishes at least three goals.

First, Satan removes himself from the limelight and places the focus on God as the author of all evil. Secondly, he seeks to keep you in misery, believing that it's God's will for you to suffer in such ways.

Ultimately, believing that God's mad at you, and is therefore afflicting you, holds you back from an intimate relationship with Him. And that's Satan's greatest ambition.

The Key to Intimacy with God

Think about a relationship with God in terms of your human relationships. You only get as close to someone as how much you perceive that they care for you. If you feel as if they are mad and angry, you'll hold yourself at a distance, afraid of what they might do. But if you believe they love you, you'll naturally want to spend time in their presence. This works the same in how you interact with God.

You don't have to fear God's anger against you! The wonder of the cross is that Jesus took the punishment that you and I deserved. For the Christian, the wrath of God was satisfied as wave upon wave of our judgment afflicted Jesus' sinless body. It wasn't the nails that held Jesus on the cross; it was the love He had for you and me. How unfathomable! Only someone so infatuated would die for people who had yet to accept Him. Only someone so madly, deeply in love would go to the point of death for the very people who sentenced him to die. Truly, there is no greater love (see John 15:13).

God Is Not Mad at You

In whatever situation you face today, hear this: God is not mad at you; He's mad about you! Yes, the creator of this vast universe absolutely cherishes you. The devil wants nothing more than to erode your confidence in this. He knows that when you're assured of God's love for you, even despite all you've done, then you'll draw close to God. And when you're close to God, you'll hear His whispers above the devil's shouts.

Declare It!

Paul boasted, "I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love" (Romans 8:38). "Nothing" means nothing! That is, neither death, nor life, nor fears, nor the powers of hell. Nothing!

Why don't you declare this right now: "God loves me!" Say it again: "God loves ... me." Making the declaration, "God loves me!" is one of the most powerful statements you can say in spiritual warfare, because God's love links you in an unbreakable bond with God that no person, no past and no devil can separate. {eoa}

]]> (Kyle Winkler ) Featured Spiritual Warfare Spirit Tue, 09 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
Spirit-Filled Believers, Help Ted Cruz Gain Momentum

Congratulations to Sen. Ted Cruz for an upset victory in Iowa last Monday. It's clear evangelicals (and maybe a few charismatics) gave him the 6,000-vote margin he needed. Now he's headed for the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, where evangelicals make up a much smaller percentage of the vote.

So I'm appealing to my readers in New Hampshire (and to those of you who forward this to your friends in New Hampshire) to make a difference. Even if we have small numbers, if we get motivated and turn out to vote, we can make a difference. You probably know I have endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, and I urge you to get out the vote for him.

To my friends in New Hampshire: If you're a Spirit-filled Christian, shouldn't you be making your light shine? And aren't you tired of being marginalized and no one taking you seriously? Here's a chance to make a difference!

While it takes more than winning New Hampshire to gain the nomination and presidency, there is a lot to be said about "momentum" in these early voting states. So anything our friends in New Hampshire can do get out the vote for Ted Cruz will be significant. Consider how much momentum Marco Rubio got in Iowa coming in only 1 percentage point behind Donald Trump, who now is acting spoiled. If you missed Dr. Michael Brown's insightful commentary about Trump, read it here.

An evangelical friend told me Pentecostals/charismatics usually have a "tin ear" when it comes to politics. He said we're usually on the sidelines and don't seem to understand the political dynamic or how a few votes and momentum can make a huge difference. But maybe that is beginning to change. My longtime friend, Rev. Canon Mark A. Pearson, a frequent contributor to Charisma magazine, is a case in point. He's gotten very active in the Ted Cruz campaign and spoke as his surrogate last Wednesday night in a meeting where several of the candidates actually spoke at the same meeting. We published his remarks here.

Statistically, New Hampshire is only .0042 percent of the U.S. population. Of that, only 13 percent are evangelical Christians. Conservatives and Christians don't dominate elections in the Granite State. But in close elections, we can make a difference because while the numbers may be small, "each has an average of 300 contacts on his or her cellphone." If we use our networks, the numbers can be huge.

Pearson, who has have become a sort of activist in New Hampshire for Cruz, put it this way: "He who rules over man justly who rules in the fear of God" (2 Sam. 23:3, MEV). And of course, we remember the verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14: "If My people ..."

Pearson believes Cruz is the only one who has a chance to beat Donald Trump. "So we have a responsibility not just to elect a person who would rule in the fear of God but we must be that God-fearing people ourselves," he says. "We exercise that responsibility, in among other ways, by voting for a godly person."

What happens in New Hampshire influences the rest of the race for nomination in the Republican Party. Spirit-filled Christians are not many on the ground in New Hampshire, but we have an incredibly disproportionate influence on who the next president will be.

Estimates are 40-55 million Bible-believing Christians stayed home last election. We are watchmen on the wall. We must not fall asleep this time.

Many candidates are dropping out right now. The mainstream candidates (Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie) may have good numbers in New Hampshire because it's more "moderate" than other states. But these candidates do not poll well in other states. So the nomination will probably come down to Trump (who is way ahead in New Hampshire), Cruz and Rubio.

In addition, a fourth candidate (the standard bearer of the mainstream party) may emerge, but it's not sure who that will be.

While Christians cannot speak of the faith of the unknown fourth candidate, we can speak of the Christian faith of the first three.

Pearson had this response to the faith of those in the New Hampshire primary:

"Trump. Really? By their fruits you shall know them. I don't have to bash Trump for you to know his lifestyle, his past record of supporting liberal causes and candidates, and the way he spouts off in a most un-Christlike way.

"Rubio is a good man," Pearson told me. "He's a strong believer. He gives honor to Jesus publicly (and I think sincerely), but he bounces around, splitting his allegiance/attendance between RC and evangelical.

Continues Pearson: "Ted Cruz is by far and most clearly the most dedicated believer in the race. Also, it's not just what is he saying (which is important) but what he been saying and doing.

  • "Cruz is unquestionably pro-life. Has said many times he will open an investigation into the allegations against Planned Parenthood people to see if crimes were committed and if there's enough evidence, he will move to indict.

  • "He will not just support bills that are pro-life, he will push for them.

  • "The next president will name one to three Supreme Court justices, and Ted's litmus tests include pro-life from conception.

  • "Ted strongly states that marriage is between one man and one woman.

  • "He will instruct all agencies to stop the harassment of individuals and groups based on their religious convictions. The IRS (which he hopes to abolish) will stop targeting faith-based groups.

  • "He will move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem."

The question remains: What momentum will come out of New Hampshire? I believe a strong showing by Cruz will improve his chances. I urge my readers in New Hampshire to support Ted Cruz. And if we forward this to our New Hampshire friends or put this on social media, we make a small but important shift in Cruz's direction.

Canon Mark Pearson, who helped me with his insights from within the Granite State, is chief executive officer of New Creation Healing Center, 80 Route 125, Kingston, New Hampshire. He described it as a God-honoring center bringing together family practice medicine, massage, Christian counseling and healing prayer ministry. He also pastors Trinity Church at the same location. He may be reached at

]]> (Steve Strang ) Featured The Strang Report Blogs Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:20:00 -0500
How Would You Know if You Had a Religious Spirit?

The question is significant.

Indeed, it was the seminal point of the conversation between Jesus Christ and a man named Nicodemus. They were discussing Jesus' teaching ministry and Jesus turned the conversation to the issue of being born again. Nicodemus was confused. "How can these things be," he asked Jesus.

"Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things," Jesus asked. Nicodemus, one of the leading men of Israel, did not comprehend the difference between a person being born again and one who is religious?

That is not uncommon in the church today. Many who would consider they are devoutly Christian do not know the distinction between being religious and being born again. It is not a casual difference. Jesus thought it of paramount importance for a leader of Israel to understand the distinction.

Jesus said this one point makes the difference between having eternal life and perishing eternally. "Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ... Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. ... Do not marvel that I say unto you, you must be born again" (John 3:3, 5, 7).

The apostle Paul emphasized the distinct difference between being religious and being born again in his letter to Titus. "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:4-5).

Notice, the apostle said, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done." That is being religious. All religions of the world are seeking to appease God and trying to reach Him though the works of their hands; whether that is doing spiritual acts of worship and service or by denying their fleshly appetites and personal pleasures. Jesus' words to Nicodemus and the apostle Paul's instructions to Titus declare religious activity may have an appearance of godliness, but no amount of human effort will bring someone into the kingdom of God.

Are you born again or religious?

The distinct difference between true Christianity and all other religions is God came seeking mankind not the other way around. "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared" ... take careful notice. God is reaching to mankind, NOT mankind trying reach to God. Almighty God showed His mercy and kindness by coming to redeem mankind through the person of Jesus Christ. Every person's sinful condition separates them from God and prevents them from reaching Him.

The only way a man or woman can be transformed is "through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." A person's heart can be changed from sinful to righteous and they may enter the kingdom of God. It is only by the washing of a person's heart in the blood of Jesus Christ and the resurrection power of the Holy Spirit in their life that a sinful human being can be born again into a child of God who is "holy, without blame, before Him in love" (Eph. 1:4). The born-again experience gives one a new heart that has been made the righteousness of God. The born-again experience gives the person a new identity and a new standing with God declaring them to be justified (just-as-if-they-had-never-sinned). The born-again experience adopts the person into the family of God, so they are no longer a sinner but a saint and an heir of God and joint-heir with Jesus Christ. "Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things have passed away. Look, all things have become new" (2 Cor. 5:17).

The mission Jesus Christ gave to His church was not "go and make people religious." It was "go and make disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The Apostles understood this to be the mission. The apostle Peter declared, "Therefore repent and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord" (Acts 3:19).

Attending church is vitally important in a person's life. Reading the Bible and prayer are critical for consistent, daily living the Christian life. But these things are not what make someone a Christian. They are the fruit of a life that has been transformed by the regenerating power of new birth through faith in Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection.

Dr. F. Dean Hackett has served in full-time Christian ministry since October 1971. He has ministered throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, serving as pastor, conference speaker and mentor. He has planted four churches, assisted in planting 15 others, and currently serves as lead pastor of Living Faith Church in Hermiston, Oregon. Dr. Hackett founded Spirit Life Ministries International in 2001 to facilitate ministries in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina and to open a training center for workers in those nations. You can find him at F. Dean Hackett - Foundational, Facebook, Twitter and  Pinterest.

]]> (Dr. F. Dean Hackett) Featured Women Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
48 Days Before Easter: The Dead Sea Scrolls

In this video filmed on location near the Dead Sea in Israel, Jamie Buckingham describes how the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and recalls the baptism of Jesus. He also encourages all of us in our walk with Christ:

"As you approach this Lenten season, remember you are part of a great process bringing the kingdom to this world."

Here is the entire video:

To learn more about Jamie Buckingham, visit

]]> (Shawn A. Akers) Featured Evangelism Evangelism & Missions Spirit Mon, 08 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
3 Questions a Dad Might Not Have the Courage to Ask His Daughter

Since the launch of the book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, I've been using John Gray's terminology to describe my awareness that I live on Venus and you, dad, live on Mars. Truth be told, I've been "planet hopping" these past six years since the launch of The Abba Project.

And the more traveling I do between our respective planets, the more I've sought to transport observations from life on your sphere back to mine. And vice versa.

One of the observations I've collected is something that I've discovered about many men. Essentially it's that you are often motivated by crisis or need. Stated otherwise: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I think we're all wired a bit that way, in all honesty.

Case in point. My mom is almost 80 years old and was still working as an RN at the VA (Veterans Affairs) just a year ago. As a vibrant and active woman she has always made time for exercise, walking five days a week for an hour or so. But then last February she started noticing a slight shortness of breath so figured she'd better have things checked out. This started the fastball rolling when my dad rushed her to the ER one night. Four days later she was in emergency open-heart surgery.

Her surgeon said he'd performed 14,000 heart surgeries during his career and had never seen an aortic valve so calcified—86 percent. The question then became: How could my mom have been so active and in seemingly fine health with that much blockage to her heart?

Answer: Things had gradually been taking place in her body such that she had acclimated to the changes over time. And because there hadn't been a crisis, there was no motivation to explore the apparent minor signs and symptoms.

But reality suddenly became clear when the crisis arose. It was the crisis that changed everything. It would have been so much better had she tuned into the warning signs before it got to the desperation-emergency-almost-lost-her point.

But that's the way most of us are, don't you think? Again, if it ain't broke, don't check it out or tune in to it or fix it.

Dad, I share that story to highlight that sometimes it's the same way with your daughter (and son, of course). It may seem like things are fine. It may seem like there's not a crisis or a need because she seems OK and hasn't gotten into trouble or given you cause for concern. Or maybe she's been a great kid who follows the rules, gets fantastic grades, and hasn't rebelled. So you assume she's all good and that she'll stay that way.

I want to suggest being proactive rather than reactive. I want to suggest attending to her overall heart health now rather than waiting until there's a crisis. I want to suggest getting close enough to hear her words and listen to what she's really saying, to look in her eyes and see how she's really doing.

Why not take the time now to tune in by taking steps to "connect with her insides" (a.k.a. her heart—and her mind, thoughts, ideas, fears, doubts, wonderings, questions, opinions, needs, longings, feelings, dreams, etc.) rather than risking the potential of emergency treatment down the road? At that desperation point it's ten times harder to get a handle on things.

After all, isn't this what you do with your medical and dental health? You go for your annual physical or bi-annual prophylaxis—teeth cleaning (can you tell I was a dental assistant for 19 years?!). I'm encouraging you to take the same type of healthcare steps in relation to your fathering role. Think of it as "preventive maintenance."

To accomplish this goal I have three questions that you can ask your daughter which will allow her to weigh in on how you're doing as her dad. This may be scary to ask but I challenge you to do it anyway.

Your daughter may or may not be honest with you, but you can still invite her to respond. She may not feel safe to answer if she fears your reaction. Promise her that you won't blow up in anger or get defensive. Tell her that you truly want to hear her heart. If she doesn't have the courage to tell you her thoughts face to face, suggest that she write her response or text it to you later.

The key is that you use her as a reference point for evaluation on how you're doing as a dad. Let her be your guide since it's her heart you're wanting to connect with and it's her heart you want to win.

I don't know if you'll have the courage to ask these questions. I say that not because I don't think you can do it but because oftentimes it's easy to avoid the things we don't want to hear or know. And because you have no control over her answers, coupled with risking vulnerability in order to have an open-ended conversation like this with your daughter, I realize that it could easily be dismissed. Expect to have every reason in the book NOT to initiate this conversation.

Yet I guarantee that you will have a better, stronger, healthier, and more vibrant relationship with your daughter if you ask these three questions a minimum of once a year (option: meet every six months to re-evaluate).

Are you in?  Here's your script should you dare to accept this challenge!

Why not take your daughter on a date and ask:  

  • How am I doing as your dad?  
  • On a 0 to 10 scale, what rating would you give me (with 10 being the best)?
  • In your eyes, what could I work on to be a better dad to you?

I'd love to hear from you after you ask your daughter these questions. Write me at

  • Was it as hard as you thought it would be?  
  • Did she say what you thought she would say?
  • Did you learn anything about yourself after hearing what she told you?
  • Did she give you feedback that you can actually use to change course with her and better connect with her needs and heart space?

Dr. Michelle Watson has a clinical counseling practice in Portland, Oregon, and has served in that role for the past 17 years. She is founder of The Abba Project, a 9-month group forum that is designed to equip dads with daughters ages 13 to 30 to dial in with more intention and consistency, and has recently released her first book entitled, Dad, Here's What I Really Need from You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter's Heart. She invites you to visit for more information and to sign up for her weekly Dad-Daughter Friday blogs, where she provides practical tools so that every dad in America can become the action hero they want to be and their daughters need them to be. You can also follow or send feedback on Facebook and Twitter.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Michelle Watson) Featured Men Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
5 Cost-Effective Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself

Do you want to take better care of your body? Each year in the U.S., literally billions of dollars are spent on the following items: diet plans, fitness centers, health-conscious cookbooks, gym memberships, home exercise machinery, athletic footwear and apparel.

At the same time, obesity, Type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and other so-called "lifestyle-related" maladies have continued to increase in prevalence, severity and financial impact. The cost to the economy is staggering; the cost to your family is beyond calculation.

In other words, what we're doing isn't working. We're putting our futures and our families at risk because we're not doing what's necessary to take good care of ourselves. The cost is not only financial. The scope of the loss also includes work productivity, family stability, time with children, quality of life and life itself—all from what turns out to be a largely preventable set of circumstances.

But don't be dismayed; all is not lost. The fact is, there's good news. Discover five simple and cost-effective ways to take care of yourself and be a better role model as a dad.

1. Cut your calorie intake by one-quarter. So the other day I measured the "serving size" for my favorite cereal against what I actually throw in the bowl, and it turns out I eat more than double, plus a whole banana. Then I tried the same for every meal for a week. The recommended calorie intake for a "moderately active" man my age is 2,400. Let's just say my first number is a 3. The simple act of monitoring calorie intake turns out to be a powerful intervention. Ditto measuring how long you exercise. Here is some more information on The Obesity Crisis.

2. Add 30 minutes of steady walking exercise each day. No matter what else you're doing, add thirty minutes of walking. If that sounds daunting, step out for 10 minutes, three times. You'll likely increase your work productivity as a side benefit. More oxygen to the brain, more time to think, more calories turned into muscle, more support for aging bones—it's a win-win.

3. Never skip another annual checkup. Many insurance companies offer reduced deductions just for getting a checkup. It's that important. Part two is to follow through on the doctor's recommendations. Health maintenance is like any other preventative program. It's considerably more effective than repair, significantly less time-consuming, and a fraction of the cost.

4. Eliminate all sugary drinks and most candy. Sugary sodas, sweet tea, spoonfuls of sugar in coffee, and gratuitous candy consumption significantly increase calorie intake while providing little to no nutritional value. In other words, if you're looking to be more healthy, save those calorie expenditures for more beneficial foods.

5. Covenant with a "fitness buddy" to follow this plan. Accountability is huge when it comes to change. Collar one of your friends and challenge each other to shape up. And a huge parenting plus is being a health role model. Covenant to meet once a week and talk about what's working and what's hard. Then encourage each other daily. Text, email, phone. No shaming, just support.

Derek Maul is the author of five books, a nationally recognized men's resource, a committed encourager and a pilgrim in progress. He divides his time writing and traveling to speak about the fully engaged life.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Derek Maul/For All Pro Dad) Featured Health Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
4 Things the Enemy Wants From You

I lay in the hospital bed and listened to the woman next to me cry out, "Why me?"

A few days earlier they had found a lump on her breast, something every woman fears. She was still in a state of shock as she walked about the room crying and asking no one in particular: "Why me? Why must I have to be the one to suffer this way?"

In order to be truly victorious in our lives, we must learn to recognize our real enemy. When you think God is against you, remember this!

This week we've read similar words as Job cries out: "Why me, God? Why must I suffer this way?"

In the Job 19:21, we read: "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has struck me!" However, when we look back on chapter 1, we see that in fact it isn't God who has struck Job but Satan. Satan had created a strategy to destroy Job and turn him against God.

Although that strategy didn't work, Job did not recognize his true enemy.

Do you know that Satan has a strategy to destroy you? This isn't something we need to fear because God's power is a million times stronger than anything Satan can strategize; and just as he was not allowed to completely destroy Job, God won't let him destroy you either.

But he does have a strategy, and he knows how to create a good one.

  • To steal your desire to pray
  • To steal your desire for God's Word
  • To steal your desire for church
  • To steal your boldness to share your testimony

"The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).

And we see these missing elements in our lives and feel guilty, because we suppose the problem is with us ... when actually we have become a target for Satan's strategy.

And the question is: What do we do about it?

We plan a better strategy!

My dear sisters, we are in a war. Sometimes we forget that we are not prisoners of war but warriors in God's army! God has already given us everything we need to defeat Satan!

"Stand therefore, having your waist girded with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, having your feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace, and above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you will be able to extinguish all the fiery arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:14-17).

But don't forget this final weapon in our arsenal:

"Pray in the Spirit always with all kinds of prayer and supplication. To that end be alert with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" (Eph. 6:18).

God isn't against you, just as He wasn't against Job; rather, we are in a war, and Satan's strategy is for our utter destruction. This is why we must arise, put on our armor, take up our weapons and fight against him—strategically!

We see that we have four items of defense:

1. Belt of truth

2. Breastplate of righteousness

3. Shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace

4. Shield of faith

But we only have two offensive weapons

1. Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God

2. Prayer

And it is with these offensive weapons that we battle Satan!

First, we find verses from Scripture that address our current situation and that encourage our hearts:

"Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who has called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:2-3).

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with gratitude, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7).

"Therefore guard your minds, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 1:13).

"Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with rejoicing, to the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen" (Jude 24-25).

"For our fight is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12).

Keep a Prayer Journal

I can't wait to share more on this! I have a whole post planned about this. In short, I have a notebook where I keep record of all my prayer requests, dated requests and answers to prayer.

But I have a special page: That page is for warfare! I write down areas of my life (or people for whom I am praying) where I feel I have a specific battle and what strategy I think Satan is using.

Then I write down verses and strategic prayers that pertain to that battle.

Dear sisters, we can live defeated, discouraged and disappointed ...

Or we can arise in the mighty power of Jesus Christ, put on our armor, take up our weapons and be victorious over our enemy!

No—God is not against us, He is for us!

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. 8:31).

Rosilind Jukic, a Pacific Northwest native, is a missionary living in Croatia and married to her Bosnian hero. Together they live with their two active boys where she enjoys fruity candles, good coffee and a hot cup of herbal tea on a blustery fall evening. Her passion for writing led her to author her best-selling book The Missional Handbook. At A Little R & R, she encourages women to find contentment in what God created them to be. You can also find her at Missional Call, where she shares her passion for local and global missions. She can also be found at on a regular basis. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google +.

]]> (Rosilind Jukic) Featured Women Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
The Top Lesson to Teach Your Children

The pressure put on Christian parents today is enormous. Most of us feel the unreasonable expectations that our kids be successful in practically everything they do. They must be liked by everyone (which can be dangerous), display high moral character (which they will never measure up to), be excellent at sports (which most are not), and make perfect grades (for if they don't, they won't get into the right college, and their lives will be ruined). No wonder most parents are exhausted.

While many kids are aware of these pressures, it is the parents who carry the greatest burden. And sadly, it is parents who often place these adult-sized pressures on the backs of our tender young. We care about these things, so our kids must be made to care about these things.

But what if parents are caring about all the wrong things?

It might be a good idea for followers of Jesus to look to Him about what objectives deserve our focus. In a well-known incident we read about in Luke 10, Jesus found Himself dealing with a conflict between two sisters. One, Martha, found herself overwhelmed with a long list of important tasks that needed to be done. The other, Mary, was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to His voice. The response of Christ was succinct and clear: "Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary."

The "one thing" that is necessary for any believer is that we learn to listen to the voice of Jesus. If He declares this as true in the lives of His followers, then why do we continue to focus on staying busy pursuing everything but that? If being with Jesus—talking to and listening to Him—is truly the most important thing in our lives (according to Him), then shouldn't that be the core focus of our parenting?

The most important thing a parent can do is teach his or her children to talk God.

Most Christians talk a good game about having a "personal relationship with God," yet few actually have the experience. We treat God like a distant judge who wants to keep us in line. Or as a spiritual Santa Claus whose job is to give us what we ask for. I know of few Christians who freely talk about a love relationship with a God who is near. One we can talk to openly. And one who speaks to us, just as you might do with a good friend. Our kids learn what they see in us. If we don't have an intimate relationship with Jesus, our kids won't have a clue what it looks like. They will miss out on the thing Jesus said was the only thing that is necessary.

We can verbally affirm the value of prayer in our lives, but we have to model it, teach it and help our kids to boldly approach God with the things that matter to them. We have to teach our kids to talk to God.

There's a brand-new resource designed to help kids learn to pray.

I am blessed to serve on the board of a ministry based in Texas called PrayerCare. They are committed to "encourage and equip you to begin and develop a deeply personal relationship with God—one that is increasingly intense, intimate and interactive." Their newest project is called KidsPray. It is just getting started, but they are striving to create videos and tools (created by kids and for kids) to help children learn to pray.

You can visit their website at or find their first video on YouTube. It is great to watch with your children. Timothy, the young man in the first video, has a call to preach and is already using his gifts to encourage kids to talk to God. The KidsPray strategy of S.N.A.P. stands for "Stop Now And Pray." This is a simple and clear way that parents can help their kids regularly talk to God and develop a "pray without ceasing" relationship with Him.

Our families live crazy, busy lives. The way our culture is moving, I don't see any of us slowing down any time soon. But in the midst of the madness, Christian families have the opportunity to be different. No ... opportunity is the wrong word. We have the imperative obligation to be different. We know a God who loves us and who is pursuing an intimate relationship with us. As parents, we must teach our kids that talking to Jesus and listening for His voice is the most important thing in their lives. KidsPray is a tool that can help you do that.

Please check it out and share it with others!

Adapted from, a ministry founded by Barrett and Jenifer JohnsonAfter serving in the local church for 25 years, Barrett and Jenifer launched INFO for Families as a ministry designed to encourage people through speaking, personal coaching and resource development. Barrett served for 15 years in youth ministry before serving for 8 years as the Family Minister at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Atlanta, one of the largest churches in the South. He has degrees from Texas A&M University and Southwestern Seminary, but he and Jenifer have received their best education through the no-holds-barred nature of everyday family life. 

]]> (Barrett Johnson) Featured Women Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
Diamond Anniversary Couple Still on Fire for the Lord

Couples who celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary can count themselves very fortunate these days. Couples who are able to celebrate their 75th anniversary, like Charles and Millie McGregor, count themselves extremely blessed and favored by God.   

The McGregors, of Edmond, Oklahoma, marked their diamond anniversary on Monday. And they both continued to serve the Lord with the infectious fervor they felt many years ago when the Holy Spirit touched both of their lives.

At 95 and almost 97, the McGregors are physically unable to attend church on a weekly basis. But on any given Sunday they can be found in front of their television, enjoying the messages of preachers such as Robert Morris and Charles Stanley. During the week, both Charles and Millie read their Bible daily, underline passages and pray with the youthful exuberance of teenagers at a YWAM rally.

"They are still teachable and learning and hungry," said Paula McGregor-Sterns, one of four of the McGregors' daughters. "I am so thankful for my heritage."

For their 75th anniversary, the McGregors have received letters and cards from ministry leaders like Jack Hayford, Pat Boone Billy Wilson, Beth Moore, James Robison, Rob Hoskins, Jonathan Brooks and Micah Davis.

Both third-generation farmers, from Kansas and Oklahoma, the McGregors met as children. The couple's parents were also good friends. Charles and Millie eventually married on Feb. 8, 1941, before Charles enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve his country in Europe during World War II. The McGregors' first child, Judy, was born in 1944, but because of his tenure in the Army, he didn't meet her until she had turned 18 months.

"My parents ended up raising four daughters on their farm in Oklahoma," McGregor-Sterns said. "They planted wheat, oats and barley and raised Black Angus cattle and sheep. My mother went back to school to receive her nursing degree at the age of 43, and all of their daughters received a college education, which was unheard of for a farming family. Our parents retired debt-free (thanks to his business background) off the farm in Kansas 11 years ago when they moved to Edmond." 

McGregor-Sterns said her parents were raised as Christians in two different denominations. Yet Charles never considered himself a true follower of Christ until a significant event occurred.

"We went to church all of our lives, but we weren't believers until we encountered the Holy Spirit," Charles said.

It was the McGregors' faith and prayers, Paula said, that helped save her sister, Dianne. Born a "blue baby" in in 1947, Dianne had an irregular heart with valves that didn't work correctly, so her heart enlarged to three times the normal size. She wasn't expected to live past the age of seven, but Charles' mother, Viola, whom Paula said was a "woman of great faith" and "who had recently had an experience/awakening with the Holy Spirit," invited Charles and Millie to bring Dianne to a Foursquare church in Kansas City, where there was a man there who prayed for healing. When they visited the doctor again, Dianne's heart was completely normal! She is now 68 and has grandchildren of her own.

Later the McGregors met a woman named Anna Rains, who introduced them to the Holy Spirit. Rains would teach all four of the McGregors' daughters in Sunday school at a Caldwell, Kansas, Assemblies of God church.

"My parents faithfully served the Lord all of their lives with great enthusiasm to see the Word come alive by the power of the Holy Spirit," McGregor-Sterns said. "They taught Sunday school classes, had Bible studies in their homes, supported many missionaries over the years, invited itinerant preachers and evangelists into their home. They raised their four daughters to wholeheartedly serve the Lord all of their lives. We all remember seeing our dad kneeling by his bedside before he went to sleep at night, Mother always prayed with us, and my dad always had his tithe check written out on Saturday night to present on Sunday morning. We prayed over each meal whether it was at home in private or out in public, for we weren't ashamed."

The McGregors have supported many missionaries financially and they were senders of those going on short-term missions. They also hosted many itinerant preachers, evangelists and prophets in their home.

The McGregors' family legacy will continue for generations to come. They have 11 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren, which include five nurses, two doctors, eight businessmen and businesswomen, five teachers, one head of an international airline, two mathematics teachers, two attorneys, one coach and one pastor.

]]> (Shawn A. Akers) Featured Family & Parenting Life Mon, 08 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
AsuzaNow: Acts 2 and the Power Climate of Unity

"They were all together in one place. Suddenly ... " (Acts 2:1-2)

In our movement, a trusted dreamer had a dream. In his dream, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was full for the gathering we are calling AzusaNow, to be held April 9, 2016, which marks the 110th anniversary of the Azusa Street Outpouring.

From the upper reaches of Section 22 three men watched over the assembled throng as they worshipped and prayed. In the dream, these three held hands in agreement and joy: Derek Prince, T.L. Osborne and Billy Graham. While the symbolism in this dream could speak to many things regarding those particular men, we feel the 22 is also of note, as it points from one "2" to another "2"—from the process of Joel 2 to the answer given in Acts 2.

Even more specifically, Acts 2:2 reveals the power of united prayer to produce acceleration in divine activity for the fulfillment of prophetic promises. We call this moment in time Pentecost, but it was actually the fulfillment of prophecy, prayer and process.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). While the Holy Spirit moves uniquely in every age, the patterns of prophecy, prayer and process are largely consistent from one generation to the next. For example, Martin Luther's reformation was prophesied 100 years prior by the martyr Jan Huss, while the famous Moravian prayer community that flourished at Herrnhut under Count Nicolas von Zinzendorf was similarly foretold as a "hidden seed" that would arise 100 years after the persecuted Christian reformer, John Comenius. In every case, Luther, Zinzendorf and even the apostle Peter, chose to see themselves in the story as part of the fulfillment. At Pentecost, Peter looked at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as promised in Joel 2, and declared, "This is that!"

Part of the faith to fulfill a promise comes from receiving the invitation to see yourself in the storyline and act in faith. We believe a 100-year prophecy of revival hangs in the air. We believe we are in another moment of "this is that!" It's new, but it's old. It's different, but it's the same.

The same ingredients of unity, love and prayer press upon us. Both Acts 2 and Azusa Street were microcosms of racial unity in deeply prejudiced times. This unity is not achievable according to the wisdom of man. It both precedes and permits a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit, yet is paradoxically only capable where the Spirit is already being poured out. The "power climate" of revival is thus prayer and unity.

For this reason, for young and old, the manifesto of the new Jesus Freak is blessedly simple: Jesus Love. Jesus Power. Jesus Unity. This is Jesus Movement 2.0. We refuse to suffer our previously self-imposed isolation—factioned, fickle and suspicious of one another's doctrine or motives. In our common imperfections, we are gloriously one. He is our righteousness, period.

So because Scripture is true, we gratefully rally around the main and the plain, blessing our minor differences rather than divorcing over them. Evangelical, Pentecostal, Catholic, African, Anglo, Hispanic, Asian. Those whom Christ saves, He defines. We are His Tribe. His race. Our color is the Jesus color. As such, we choose to agree, honor and uplift, neither boasting in the flesh, nor dreading the days ahead. For all these reasons, casting the shackles of the past aside, we find our agreement around the simplicity of the gospel.

Deep in our bones we know we either fly united, or we do not fly at all. Is this not the atmosphere for miracles? I tell you the truth, if there has been a dimension of waiting and wondering, it has surely passed. The question is no longer when will revival come, but where and how will it first strike, how deep will the crater be and where will it spread next? The invisible silver cord connecting heaven and earth has no more slack.

Intercessors across the earth are engaged in a relentless barrage a la Luke 18; Psalm 2, 110 and 133; John 17; Isaiah 60 and 54; Zechariah 4; Revelation 12 and others. Even now, the needle on the divine Richter Scale shivers. Soon it will dance a wild, healing dance as God comes down in power.

In light of this, we boldly proclaim: Creation, ready yourself. Redemption draws nigh! Is that three years, 10, 20, 50? It doesn't matter if it is nigh to you by faith. The writer of Hebrews warns against the cynical, unbelieving heart, for it is ever in danger of missing the "nowness" of God. "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts" (Heb. 3:7-8).

If in the past we have been the generation of John, it was always for the joy of seeing the Bridegroom finally come. But the last word of John was not "Repent." It was, "Behold the Lamb!" This is why TheCall has existed, to move us from the voice of prophets to the Final Word, Jesus, Redeemer and High Priest of humankind. This is why we are shifting from prayer to prayer and proclamation. Knowing this, we cannot but rejoice for where we have come from because it tells us where we are going. Our faces are no longer in the dust. We are not ashamed to look one another in the eye, for love has conquered and we stand reconciled together in Christ.

Zeal for the next great move of the Holy Spirit is the prize for which we contend and believe. We have taken up the great, lingering prophecies of William Seymour and Maria Woodworth-Etter, that in about 100 years, something greater than Azusa would come.

With fervor, not passivity, we add our yes: Holy Spirit, come! We invite the nations to join our common cry. AzusaNow 2016 is not about pomp or production, but the readiness of a revival generation prophetically welded to the coliseum legacy of the martyrs of old. It is awakening in action. Heavens soaked with prayer. An overdue promise.

Our playbook isn't trendy and clever, but ancient: Unity. Prayer. Fasting. Worship. Love. Faith. Proclamation. Healing. Salvation. Miracles.

An apostolic day of power has been scheduled. We dare not say April 9, 2016, is the fullness, no.

But we dare not shrink back from hope. Could it be tinder and flint? Could it be one of many matches about to be struck across the earth? History can no longer dismiss the decades and centuries of faithful intercession. Where will you be on the day the world begins to burn? Your sofa has never been the catalyst of history. In Acts 2, 120 souls bore witness to the resurrected Christ descending on the ladder of prophetic promise.

On April 9, 2016, 120,000 will gather to a new Upper Room at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. An entire generation has wondered. When is revival?

Now is the answer. Now. Now. Now! {eoa}

Dean Barkley Briggs is an author and a disciple who serves as national director for a diverse family of contending houses of prayer called Ekklesia Prayer Communities. He has written several books including Ekklesia Rising: The Authority of Christ in Communities of Contending Prayer.

]]> (Dean Briggs ) Featured Revival Spirit Mon, 08 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500
How to Overcome the Pain of Regret

Many of us can look back on our lives and regret the damage done through bad choices. For most, we didn't see it coming.

For example, the enemy doesn't show a couple the pain and anguish and the years of regret that adultery brings; he deceives them with the temporary enjoyment of sex and a false sense of freedom from responsibility. If the full story was known beforehand, no doubt different choices might have been made. We often overlook the pain of sin because we're enticed by the temporary pleasure of it.

In life, we experience either the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. There are countless examples: a young parent loses visitation rights because of an addiction to pain pills, or a family is destroyed because of drug or alcohol abuse—situations vary but the outcome doesn't. Sin promises pleasure and escape but only brings regret and imprisonment. The enemy doesn't show a person the pain and anguish and the years of regret that addiction brings, he deceives them with temporary enjoyment. We're led down one step at a time, one compromise at a time; one wrong choice at a time.

Regret often leads us back into addiction and the vicious cycle continues. Our private sin will eventually become public disgrace. But there is tremendous hope if we turn to God and encounter the pain of discipline over the pain of regret. The pain of discipline produces joy—the pain of regret produces anguish. The pain of discipline produces peace—the pain of regret produces fear. The pain of discipline produces assurance—the pain of regret produces confusion.

Psalm 107:10 opens with a true portrayal of sin's bondage, "Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, bound in affliction and irons." Have you ever been there? Those held captive by sin can no doubt relate—darkness and depression overshadow everything.

The wisdom in Psalm 107 continues to expose the root of bondage, "Because they rebelled against the words of God, and despised the counsel of the Most High, therefore He brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help" (vs. 11-12). The imagery denotes a person stumbling through life or locked in a prison where no one can help. The heart is heavy and burdened as the result of despising God and rejecting His truth.

God often allows trials so we turn to Him. The only one who can truly help is the One who created us. But we must cry "out to the Lord" in our trouble and He will save us out of our distress (vs. 13). That promise will not fail. He will bring us "out of darkness and the shadow of death" ... He will break our chains in pieces (vs. 14).

What a wonderful God we serve. He warns us about wandering from Him, but when we do wander and experience the anguish of regret, He invites us back. But the invitation is conditional—we must come with a broken and contrite heart. We must cry out to Him in full surrender, "Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two" (vs. 15-16).

Bronze and iron are very strong materials. God can break any addiction, any bondage, and any sin if we turn everything over to Him. Your first and most profound choice is to say "no," and let God handle the rest. There may be withdrawals, consequences, and pain as we heal, but again, it's better to experience the pain of discipline rather than the pain of regret. Jesus speaks out against those who continually return and enjoy wallowing in sin, but His love and mercy reaches out to those who regret and hate their condition. Do you enjoy sin, or cry out for help? That's the difference maker.

Be encouraged, regret can redirect a person back to God's will. Psalm 51:17 (NIV) says, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." Regret, when used as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block, can rebuild marriages, families, and lives. Don't let it continue to drive you down; let it build you up.

Regret can also lead to salvation: 2 Corinthians 7:10 (MEV) says, "Godly sorrow produces repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but the sorrow of the world produces death."

You may be in your fifth recovery home, on your third marriage, or living in the twilight years with a past full of regret, but God can rebuild and restore. He can bring peace in the midst of pain and joy in the midst of regret if we call on Him. Regret, pain, depression, fear, and anxiety are often the result of wandering from God, much like a ship that has drifted off course. But as soon as the correct course is set, hope, peace, and joy return. He will bring "them out of darkness and the shadow of death"... He will break their chains in pieces (vs. 14). 

Don't let discouragement and failure define you or stand in your way. I could write an entire book on my failures, but instead I try to follow the apostle Paul's advice, and I encourage you to do the same: "Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead" (Phil. 3:13). Forget your past mistakes, but remember the lessons learned because of them. We overcome the pain of regret by allowing God to rebuild our life.

Watch the entire sermon here.

Shane Idleman is the founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. Shane's sermons, articles, books, and radio program can all be found at or Follow him on Facebook at:

]]> (Shane Idleman ) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Mon, 08 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
Are You Looking for Love in the Right Places?

Hardly a day goes by that I don't see a TV commercial advertising a site where you can meet Mr. or Mrs. Right. Some cater to young singles, others to the more mature and still others to those of like faith or ethnic background.

I know of a few couples that actually met and courted their spouse online and have successful marriages. I'm not sure of the percentage of failed ones.

Valentine's Day is coming up, and we are bombarded with hearts, flowers, decorations, candy and sweet recipes. Restaurants and jewelry stores gear up for what will be a busy and lucrative time, while children exchange "Valentines" in school or other functions, and even "Charlie Brown" gets in on the act with a TV special.

Invariably there will be the surprise proposal with man on bended knee being photographed as he pops the question to his intended amid sighs of "Aw" and cheers from onlookers.

For some, it's an exciting time and, for others, not so much. There are those who may not hear the words "I love you" or "Be My Valentine," and for them it may be a very long and tedious day.

All of us are born with a need for love and acceptance. God made us this way. Studies show that babies who are held and loved do far better than those who are not.

Because of this innate need, many of us spend our lives looking for love—sometimes in all the wrong places. We want to belong, to be part of something or someone. We seek acceptance and a sense of belonging wherever we go.

Being driven by this need can cause all kinds of problems. It might lead us to cling to our children, smothering rather than loving them and stifling their growth and development. Or it might tempt us to live in a fantasy world, dreaming of a knight in shining armor who will fill the void in our lives.

This need may cause us to look to others for affirmation: family members, friends, co-workers and so on. We rely on their esteem to convince ourselves we are worthy of esteem.

The truth is that as Christians, we are already fully accepted in the Beloved. We are members of God's family, precious daughters and sons of the King who are totally and unconditionally loved!

There isn't anything we can do to earn this love and acceptance. Jesus assures us, "All whom the Father gives Me will come to Me, and he who comes to Me I will never cast out" (John 6:37, MEV). We are secure in Him.

We have no need to look for satisfaction anywhere else. Yet there were times I had sought affirmation from others—and felt unloved and rejected when I didn't receive it. Has that ever happened to you?

When I asked the Lord about my actions and responses, He said: "Whenever you look to others for love or acceptance, you will be disappointed. You are already loved; you are already accepted by Me. Come to Me and receive your fill, then you will be able to be a giver of love. Share My love with others rather than looking to receive it from them. As you give, you will receive because you will reap what you sow. Accept others even as I have accepted and continue to accept you—not because you're perfect but because I love you and count you worthy of the price of My blood. You are a gift to me, bought and cherished. Cherish others as I cherish you. Love others as I love you."

Wow! That gave me a new perspective, and it was very liberating. Because I am already accepted and loved beyond measure, I don't need others to love me. I can love them without any expectation of reciprocity. I can release them to be who they are without placing demands upon them.

I can set them free not to do something for me just because I did something for them. In fact, Jesus told us it is better for us to invite those to dinner who can't repay us. What He meant is that we actually receive a greater reward when we do something for people who can't or don't pay us backit is a greater indicator of our love.

Make a decision today to stop looking for love in all the wrong places and find it in God. Then you will be a vessel through which His love can flow out to others. Receive it from Him that you may give it out—and watch how you reap what you sow!

Prayer Power for the Week of Feb. 7, 2016

As you pray this week, embrace God's unconditional love for you, let it fill you heart, express it back to Him and share it with others. Ask Him to direct your steps to those who desperately need to know they are loved so that you can be a vessel of reconciliation and acceptance. Pray for those struggling through personal and economic loss as well as the ravages of winter weather. Continue to pray for worldwide revival and the soon return of our Lord. Lift up our nation and its leaders, the upcoming elections, more laborers for His harvest fields, Israel and the persecuted church (Jer. 31:3; John 6:37; 1 John 1:4; 1 John 4:19).

]]> (Ruth Lopez Whitfield) Featured Power Up! Blogs Sun, 07 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
Why Winning the Lottery Isn't God's Answer for Prospering You

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn't taken a moment to imagine what they'd do if they won the lottery. As Americans, we have a tendency to think that most, if not all, of our problems would be solved if we only had a little more money. At a minimum, we assume we'd be happier. But that's actually not the case. Research shows that people – regardless of income levels – said they'd need 25 percent more money to be happy. Research also tells us that if we get an increase in finances, we change our lifestyle to match our new income level and then quickly start thinking we need an additional bump to continue to be happy. It's a cycle that never results in contentment.

So, how do we change our relationship with money so we can be content with what we have now and not longingly wish we could win the lottery? Consider reevaluating your relationship with money.

Finding contentment with what you already have

What is your emotional relationship with money – how do you really feel about it? Oftentimes contentment and peace come by managing our expectations and finding our happiness rooted in a realistic understanding of life. Anyone can get to and maintain a healthy relationship with money at nearly any income level; it just requires evaluating deeply held views around money.

In our culture, we have bought into the lie that money is the easiest route to happiness. And the easiest, fastest, biggest way to acquire money is to win a jackpot or the lottery. We know this isn't true – the idea that winning the lottery is the key to happiness – but we still find ourselves fantasizing about what we would do if we could cash in that big ticket!

This gambler's mentality often plays out in more socially acceptable ways. We observe it in people who are always maneuvering to make a fast buck rather than execute plans that bring steady, sustainable growth. Instead of repeatedly betting on yet another high-risk venture to grow our wealth, we can invite God to guide our steps and shape our plans. What we acquire in the end is up to him. And if we can learn to trust Him and find contentment with what we have, we can reach that healthy money mindset at any earning stage.

Live a generous life – right where you're at!

Many people might dream of winning money and using a portion of it to make a difference in their community. Maybe you want to set up a scholarship fund, start a nonprofit, or even quit your job and volunteer full-time for a cause you care about. These are all noble ideas – but they also bring up another question – what is holding you back from making a difference right now?

Generosity is both the prescription and the evidence that you are on the right path to a healthy relationship with money, and thankfully living generously isn't limited to extravagant gestures or outlandish financial donations. You can support causes you care about with your time and your money right now by prioritizing your financial goals and making sure to fit those areas you care about into your financial picture. If your bank statement and your calendar don't reflect your desire to give, take steps to realign how you spend your time and money – regardless of receiving a financial windfall.

Practice gratitude

We live in a world where are constantly bombarded by consumerism – messages telling us that what we currently possess isn't enough. We see billboards on our way to and from work; magazines in the grocery store check-out aisle full of advertisements about clothing, gadgets and exotic vacations; the Internet and television parade lifestyles that are filled with things we may or may not have. If we allow ourselves to focus on messages of what we don't have, it becomes difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with money.

The good news is there's a relatively simple solution to get your money mindset back on track: practice gratitude. When you start to focus on all the things you could buy and places you could go if you only had more money, stop and start to think about the things in your life you're grateful for. You can take it one step further by being generous. Generosity doesn't have to be complex. It can be something simple that takes the focus off of you and puts it on making a difference for someone else. Gratitude reframes our wants and needs and helps us realize that God had and will continue to provide for us. This is a powerful tool to create and maintain a healthy relationship with money.

Creating a healthy money mindset is not about how much you have

Remember: A healthy relationship with money isn't about how much you have. It's a conscious choice to think and act differently about everything you own or might wish you did. A healthy money mindset means deciding you have enough for yourself and enough to share.

Maintaining that healthy mindset comes from regularly examining whether your views on finances and generosity line up with your values and actions. As you create that mindset, you will soon realize that winning the lottery isn't necessary to bring you joy or contentment because you already choose to live in it every day.

Brad Hewitt is the CEO of Thrivent Financial, a not-for-profit Fortune 500 organization dedicated to helping Christians be wise with money and live generously. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin — River Falls — and has completed the Harvard Business School's program for management development. Hewitt and his wife, Sue, have two adult children and live in Minnesota.

Learn more at

]]> (Brad Hewitt) Featured Women Life Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
Miracles Happen When She Plays the Violin

When I first heard LaDonna Taylor serenading the Lord with her violin, I discerned a strong anointing on every note as sweet melodies washed over the congregation like rivers of living water. But when I watched Taylor play her violin over people at the altar, I witnessed the anointing that breaks the yoke in action as people were healed and delivered in puddles of tears.

It's been said that music soothes the savage beast—and we know David's harp caused evil spirits to flee from Saul (1 Sam. 16:23). We also know there are sounds that set the captives free. David wrote a Psalm that holds the key to this mystery of heaven: "Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance" (Ps. 32:7, KJV).

Can songs actually come to our rescue? Can music really be an agent of healing? Are there sounds from heaven that usher us into the glory realm of God where all things are possible? Do certain songs compel God to move? What role does faith play in this artistic equation? Can we "soak" our way to freedom? How does this work?

"Psalm 32:7 offers big clues about songs of deliverance: He is your hiding place," says Taylor, a violinist who has played with the San Jose and Knoxville Symphonies and travels around the nation watching God open blind eyes and deaf ears—and perform other miracles against the backdrop of her instrument. "When you are hidden in Him, everything else is insignificant, like the old hymn It Is Well With My Soul. When you get to that place in Him, you get to the glory. (Pentecostal revivalist) Ruth Ward Heflin taught me the map to the glory: You praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes, and you stand in the glory."

Can Music Really Set the Stage for Miracles?

Beyond David's harp pushing back darkness around Saul, we see plenty of evidence in Scripture for music setting the stage for miracles. The Holy Spirit came upon Elisha after a musician started playing, and he prophesied provision (2 Kin. 3). God brought miraculous deliverance and victory in war to the children of Israel through singers, musicians and worshippers (2 Chr. 20:22-23). Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises in prison, and God sent an earthquake to free them, bringing deliverance to the jailer and his family (Acts 16:25-34).

"On a spiritual level, music bypasses our mind and goes straight to our heart, soul and spirit," says Julie True, a musician whose ministry is marked by soaking music. "It touches places that nothing else can reach. When we sing songs of praise and worship, we have the power to defeat the enemy as well. Worship opens up the heavens and moves God's heart."

Sid Roth, host of the television program It's Supernatural, has interviewed many musicians and singers through the years about songs that set the captives free. He has discovered that a combination of the Word of God and music that glorifies Him sets the stage for the supernatural. "The spoken word is powerful," says Roth. "But that same word when sung, is more powerful. When I lay hands on the sick in the name of Jesus, people are healed. But when I sing 'Be healed in Jesus' name' over them, more are healed!"

Even science agrees that music has healing power, and there are at least 5,000 registered "music therapists" in the U.S. who play sounds that set the captives free in hospitals, special needs classrooms, nursing homes and other environments. Harvard University researchers, among others, are reporting that music is a healing balm for stroke, Alzheimer's disease and the physical stress of premature birth. Harvard scientists have also learned that music can improve surgical outcomes, restore lost speech, reduce side effects of cancer therapy, relieve pain, improve mood and battle depression.

"Music might provide an alternative entry point to the brain because it can unlock so many different doors into an injured or ill brain," Dr. Gottfried Schlaug, a Harvard University neurologist, told the Los Angeles Times. Schlaug's research shows that pitch, harmony, melody, rhythm and emotion, which are all components of music, engage different parts of the brain—parts of the brain that are also important for speech, movement and social interaction.

Powerful Sounds That Bring Heaven Down

Music is a powerful force that originated in the heart of God—it has always existed in heaven; it is the language of heaven and plays a role in everything God does. Consider the few glimpses of the throne room we see in Scripture. The four living creatures are shouting "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty," accompanied by the music of heaven as they fall down before God's throne (Rev 4:8, MEV).

"Music is the primary, concentrated and connecting vehicle that joins us between heaven and Earth or hell and Earth," says Maurice Sklar, a musical prodigy who was accepted into world-class arts schools as a youth before launching into full-time ministry. "It is a concentrated expression of expressive power through sound that directly brings us into union from our hearts to God or to Satan. Whenever I play the violin, it speaks perfectly to every heart, no matter what language they speak. That is the greatest blessing of instrumental music—it does not require words."

When God created the world, He did it with words—sound. Sklar, who says he visited heaven and heard its sounds, explains that all matter started in the form of light, and light and sound travel in spectrums of wave frequencies that are part of the building blocks of our natural world. Light, he says, is the boundary between the Spirit realm and the natural realm. Since sound—and with it, music—is part of light, it connects us to the spirit realm.

"When we worship, we create an open heaven over our lives," says Janie Duvall, the program producer for the It's Supernatural television program for 23 years who has launched her own music ministry to teach the power of soaking in God's presence. "Worship changes the atmosphere, invites His manifest presence and sets the stage for encounters with the Father that can change our lives—and heal our bodies."

Do Certain Sounds Move God's Heart?

We've established that God's power can travel on sound, but do certain sounds move His heart—or move us into His presence—more than other sounds? Kathryn Kuhlman had her favorite songs, such as "How Great Thou Art," "Alleluia" and "Spirit of the Living God" that helped the masses enter into the miraculous healing presence of God. But are these personal preferences of healing ministers, or do particular songs attract the tangible manifestation of the Holy Spirit?

"Certain keys seem to take us to different places in the Spirit, and to open up different places inside my heart," True says. "Also, major keys and minor keys each have their own sound and applications. Different instruments also open up different places in the spirit. For instance, cello always affects me like a 'wooing' of the Lord. It draws my heart into the love of God and is able to so beautifully express human emotion through the sound when played with excellence."

Taylor believes songs set an atmosphere for healing but encourages believers not to overanalyze the concept. Ultimately, healing comes from God—not music that hits certain frequencies or 650 beats a minute. She knows this all too well because she was on her deathbed after a physician error during a simple surgery. Her colon was deteriorating, and she dwindled down to 89 pounds, having nine surgeries in 90 days before she emerged from the trial.

"I believe healing comes from the stripes on Jesus' back—that's it," Taylor says. "If we go back to Psalm 32:7, it's simple. He is our hiding place. Just keep worshipping Him, and you'll find the hiding place. There are not 50 steps to healing. There's one mysterious secret to getting set free from disease or anything else in your life. You need one good encounter with God. That's all. Music can set the stage for an encounter with God."

Soaking in the Presence of God to Rest and Receive

You don't need to go to a conference and have Taylor play her violin over you to get healed, either. Soaking music—longer, slower versions of worship songs that flow like a river of life—emerged about a decade ago and can be a tool for entering the healing presence of God in your own home.

Scriptures such as Psalm 4:4 (Meditate in your heart on your bed and be still.), Psalm 37:7 (Rest in the Lord and wait patiently.) and Psalm 91:1 (He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.) support the concept of soaking. Soaking is a time to quiet your soul and awaken to His presence, to hear from the Lord and receive what you need.

"Soaking is an interactive experience with God that has no agenda, no limitations on His goodness and is often accompanied by healing," True says. "Soaking is a time to fix our eyes on Jesus, cease all striving and lay our burdens at His feet. It's a time to receive fresh healing in our body and soul. Soaking is a time to rest in the shadow of His wings and to know His peace that passes all understanding."

This next question is vital: Does faith have anything to do with the power of music to heal? Yes and no. Kuhlman once told the story of an unbeliever who walked into one of her meetings thinking it was some sort of convention. With music thundering in the background, the Lord healed him of a hearing disorder—and, at the time, he was still in unbelief.

Music can play a role in healing and so can faith, but God is sovereign and can heal whom He wants when He wants, and we don't have to feel anything in the process. Duvall echoes Roth's comments: "Pairing Scriptures with music helps people put their faith on the Word," she says. "When we worship the Lord, we may not feel anything, but we can believe that when we draw near to Him, He draws near to us and He inhabits the praises of His people—and miracles can happen."

When God Shows Up to Minister Healing Miracles

Healing music is not merely a scientific theory—it's a kingdom reality. Worship unites our spirit, soul—our mind, will and emotions—and body with the Lord, and we create a stairway to heaven, piercing a veil between heaven and Earth and inviting the King of glory to have His way. His way—His will—is always to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers and cast out devils.

Sklar says he's seen thousands of healing miracles while playing his violin and many more salvations in the past 25 years. He tells of a 12-year-old girl in Fort Wayne, Indiana, who was born with a deformed right foot—and the Lord gave her a creative miracle in the form of a new foot. In Canada, Sklar says he watched God heal over 40 people with knee problems—including one man who had been born without kneecaps.

"I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the Prayer Center pastored by Dave Roberson when I saw God create a shoulder joint that was not there before," Sklar says. "This man had never been able to move his arm from birth. As I played the violin over him, he said that he felt his shoulder begin to heat up as God healed him. He was doing windmills with his arm, jumping and shouting: 'Look, I'm healed! I'm healed!'"

True has seen similar miracles through her soaking music. When people play her CDs, God shows up. She reports improvements in Alzheimer's patients, reduced pain among women laboring to give birth, better sleep and inner healing. "Inner healing, peace and comfort is the type of healing I've seen most with my music, and the way God has uniquely wired me to worship and minister to others," she says.

Taylor can share story after story from over 20 years of playing sounds that set the captives free. She beams when she speaks of Sylvester, a man whose wife made him fill out a card declaring he received his healing even though he felt nothing. After he signed the card, all the pain left his body. Then there's Margie, a middle-aged woman who had lumps in her breast. After Taylor played her violin over Margie, a miracle happened—the lumps disappeared. When she went to the bathroom to check herself, everyone heard her scream: "Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You, Jesus."

So how do you get to this place where the sounds can set you free? How do you embrace songs of deliverance? Sometimes it can be quite by accident. But we shouldn't forget Ruth Ward Heflin's map to the glory: Praise until the spirit of worship comes, worship until the glory comes, and stand in the glory.

"When you want to know what something is worth, you call an appraiser, and you don't want an appraiser unless he's certified—and the certification comes from the book," Taylor says. "The book—the Bible—tells you what God is really worth. So you call God what the Word says He is, and He becomes that to you. Somewhere in your praise, you'll lock eyes with Him and step into worship—and somewhere in that worship, you'll touch Him, and He'll touch you. You'll enter the glory, and that's when deliverance and healing come."

Watch LaDonna Taylor play her violin on It's Supernatural and talk about how God heals through her music at

]]> (Jennifer LeClaire) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
Are 'Wedleases' What Our Society Is Coming To?

I recently heard of an initiative in Mexico to create something called wedleases. The idea is based on the studies that show half of all marriages don't last.

So, instead of wedlock, a better way would be to allow a couple to lease a spouse, with the option to buy or marry them later. I can probably end this post right now based on the level of absurdity right there.

This week happens to be National Marriage Week which, Newsweek says, "presents a chance to focus on rebuilding a culture of marriage for this generation." Ideas like wedleases make things like National Marriage Week important, but on a smaller scale, we can all do our part. If we want to rebuild the culture of marriage, we must start with our own marriage.

Here are five ways to help rebuild the importance of marriage—starting with your own:

1. Set a foundation of sacrificial love. One of the first big lessons I learned in marriage was about myself: I was selfish. We must love our wives in a way that puts their needs above ours.

2. Make our wives feel special. Our wives are to be set apart, to stand out from every other relationship. This even includes our kids. Take a look at your calendar and your bank account. How much of both are you investing in your wife?

3. Get rid of some stuff. Early in my marriage, I realized I couldn't keep the same crew. I couldn't go to the same places and I couldn't spend time on things that could potentially cause challenges in our marriage. For you, that could be as minor as less golf or fewer hours at work to something as major as changing careers or no longer visiting certain sites on the Internet.

4. Talk, but listen more. Communication is key in our marriages. Be transparent in sharing what's on your heart and mind. Even more important, take the time to listen to your wife, without going into problem-solving mode. My challenge is that I immediately attempt to solve my wife's problems, but sometimes she just wants me to listen.

5. Be the example. As you get right internally, it's time to show what marriage can look like. I'm not saying parade all over the place talking about your marriage. But find a couple or couples to spend time with and share what you've learned and experienced. Go on dates and hold hands, post pictures of you and your wife experiencing the joys you have in marriage. Don't be afraid to show that you love your wife and your marriage.

I agree that the culture of marriage needs to be rebuilt, but it won't happen overnight. It will take all of us who love our wives, value marriage and understand how important it is to our society. I am going to do my part, will you?

Jackie Bledsoe is an author, blogger and speaker, but first and foremost a husband and father of three who helps men better lead and love the ones who matter most.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Jackie Bledsoe/For Featured Men Life Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:00:00 -0500
10 Tips to Physical Resiliency Through Rest

We know that stress is the hidden culprit behind disease, and we know that we can't avoid stress altogether. In the face of so many toxins in our environment—our food, our water, and our air—we MUST develop strategies of living that counterbalance that stress and build strength and resiliency.

One of the best ways to do that is to get a good amount of quality sleep. You've heard that sleep is important, but maybe you don't really know why. What really happens when you are asleep?

Repair and Restore

Many of us tend to skip sleep when we get stressed or overly busy. This is especially a struggle during the holidays when we may be traveling or hosting a houseful of guests, doing too much, and wired up from increased activity and interaction with others.

Unfortunately, that tendency causes our bodies to be more stressed, while robbing them of the chance to repair and restore. When you fall asleep, it seems like your body powers down, but in reality the "rest and digest" functions are amped up to repair and restore any damage done during the times of wakefulness. While you sleep, your brain releases substances that encourage tissue growth. This helps heal cuts, bruises, and even sore muscles from your workout. You should get 7-8 hours of sleep every single night.

Quality Sleep Helps Your Brain

All the information bombarding you each day stresses out your brain and your body, whether you realize it or not. When you sleep, all that information is analyzed, synthesized, and put away in your brain for future reference. Like some fairy godmother that tidies up your bedroom while you sleep, the brain is able to put all that random information in the proper "drawers" where it will make sense to you. Often memory problems or nor being able to retrieve information is the result of too little sleep, or poor quality sleep.

Quality Sleep Helps Your Hormones

Some very important hormones are controlled during sleep. Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones responsible for hunger and satiety. When you sleep well, your leptin levels are enhanced, which means that you won't be feeling hungry all the time. But when you skimp on sleep, your ghrelin levels surge causing you to crave sweets and have less self-control over your eating. In fact, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that those who got good quality sleep consumed an average of 300 fewer calories the next day. Sex hormones are affected as well. Women who sleep well generally desire more sex than those who don't.

Sleep and Mental Health

We all know that cranky feeling when we haven't gotten enough sleep. Everything bothers us more, and we tend to be more irritable and less patient and positive when we've skipped a few hours of sleep. But chronic sleep deprivation can truly mess with your mind. In the journal SLEEP, researchers reported that those who sleep 7-9 hours per night had far fewer bouts of depression than those who slept less than that amount.

Sleep Boosts Immune Function

While sleeping, your body produces more white blood cells than it does when awake. This translates into a better resiliency to viruses, bacteria, and germs in general. Those who sleep seven hours or less are three times more likely to come down with the common cold than those who sleep for eight hours.

Takeaway: Sleep is a good counterbalance after the stress of the holidays. Don't skimp on good, quality sleep. Sleep helps both your body and your brain be more resilient.

Tips for better sleep:

1. Keep your room cold. Best sleep temperature is 60-68 degrees.

2. Keep your room dark. Get black out curtains and don't fall asleep to the television.

3. Turn off all electronics as they provide ambient light and electromagnetic frequencies that can disrupt sleep.

4. If you snore, address that with a professional so your breathing will be unimpeded.

5. Don't exercise too late in the evening as your body will be energized. But DO exercise. Those who regularly exercise sleep better than those who don't.

6. Try natural relaxation solutions like lavender essential oils and Epsom salt baths instead of relying on sleeping pills or alcohol. Artificial sedatives have a rebound affect that keep you from naturally deep sleep.

7. Keep a regular schedule for sleep; retiring and rising at the same time each day.

8. Get 20-30 minutes of sunshine each day. This stimulates the production of melatonin in the brain that will help you sleep.

9. Avoid screen time for two hours before bed. That means television, tablet, e-reader, or playing games on your phone. Exposure to electronics stimulates the left brain hemisphere that can keep you awake—wired but tired.

10. Let it go. Tomorrow is another day, and worrying will just keep you awake.

America's leading stress expert, Dr. Pete Sulack is a highly sought-after teacher, lecturer, and author. His studies on the effects of stress, coupled with over one-million patient visits and attention from medical communities led him to write and create Unhealthy Anonymous ( to help individuals, corporations and non-profits mitigate the immense effects of stress on health and human behavior. Use code to try out the program and receive $1 off.

]]> (Pete Sulack) Featured Health Life Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
When a 'Radical' Muslim Finds Jesus

Growing up in the United States, there is a common belief that the very nature of prison itself is so awful that it would inspire in criminals a conviction never to return, and therefore to stay on the "straight and narrow." This perspective, though, doesn't account for the reality that numerous factors – education, access to jobs, a stable family life, and a sense of purpose – impact recidivism (the rate at which people return to prison).  In fact, a sense of purpose – faith – may be the most important among these factors that influence change. And faith is something that can develop inside prison walls.

Walking through the gates that separate R.J. Donovan State Prison from the rest of the world, it's difficult not to imagine what it would be like to come into this place knowing that you wouldn't be coming back out.  This is the reality for the majority of the inmates I met on my visit to the prison with The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI.) TUMI facilitates a seminary class for interested inmates that teaches coursework on spiritual disciplines, and I was invited with a group of colleagues to catch up with these inmates on their work. I was not prepared for what I encountered there.

A group of about 30 men, varying in appearance and racial background, but sharing a bodybuilder's physique, trickled into a nearly empty room, which housed only a piano and some bookshelves. On the shelves were copies of the Bible. These men eventually mingled into conversations with my group, and it was in this scenario – like a school dance, where two sides of the auditorium eventually, warily, intermingle with one another – that I found myself face to face with Matthew, who was wearing a skullcap and a cross necklace.

He warmly shook my hand and asked how I was. When I returned the question, Matthew smiled, and a flood of warmth flowed from his lips: "Sister, I am so beyond blessed. You know, God is good, and I have so much joy in my life. He's transformed me." This was not an answer that I expected from a man who would be locked behind doors for the majority of his life. I was stunned as Matthew continued his story, a tale of redemptive transformation.

Matthew, by his own admission, entered prison as a devout, but angry, Muslim. He actually used the term "radical Muslim" in reference to himself, and admitted harboring deep hatred and violent thoughts towards Christians. He said he blamed them for the social ills that plagued the world and eagerly sought out others who shared his beliefs. Also, Matthew was afflicted with cancer in his stomach that required weekly doctor's appointments. He wasn't expected to live, and I can only imagine how that dark knowledge must have colored his already stormy worldview.

At one point during his cancer treatment he was given a new cellmate, a young man who was originally from Egypt, a fact that Matthew hopefully clung to, expecting his new cellmate to share his radical anti-Christian sentiments. Instead, to Matthew's horror, his new cellmate happened to be a faithful Christian, whose reaction to Matthew's cancer diagnosis was to pray fervently for him. In fact, Matthew told me this young man enlisted his own mother to pray for the cancer as well – and she traveled all the way to California from Egypt to do so. Having never seen one another before, the woman prayed over Matthew and praised God for what was to come. He had never before experienced the love and kindness that would prompt a person to travel far and wide just for him, motivated by the desire to help.

In the midst of others' faith – people who were essentially strangers to him – and commitment to God's healing powers, Matthew found himself grappling with his own fundamental beliefs about Christians and God, and tenuously he began to hope that their convictions were correct. After a few weeks of ceaseless prayer from his cellmate and his own fledgling hope for himself, Matthew was overcome one night by a feeling of warmth spreading through his stomach. It's this sensation that finally provoked in him an uncontrolled outpouring of prayer to the same God as his cellmate, and he found himself prostrate on the ground, begging God for a miracle and for forgiveness, and finally, worshipping Him in the same manner as he'd witnessed his cellmate doing many times before.

The following morning was the day the doctor came, and Matthew was scheduled for an MRI, where he was diagnosed cancer-free. Literally overnight, Matthew had been healed from the cancer that was devouring him from the inside out, and ever since then he has been filled with an indescribable sense of joy, and even love.

"I had never felt love before," he admitted to me with happiness in his eyes, "and now I am filled with love for God."

Every time I minister in the prison I am reminded of Matthew 9 where Jesus says, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." God is at work in America's broken prison system. He is quenching the thirsts of those who have longed for something to drink. It is time to for Christians to overcome stereotypes, and realize that prisoners are not outside the bounds of God's grace. Now is the time to help with this harvest.

Kristen Tritt is the media and communications coordinator for Serving California, a foundation committed to building a community of empathy for those who are struggling and provide them with resources to transcend their situations. Kristen is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz with a degree in pre- and early-modern literature. She has worked with various nonprofits and is most interested in social justice issues and work that serves others and builds community.

]]> (Kristen Tritt) Featured Women Life Fri, 05 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
How to Handle Crucial Moments of Transition

Are you facing a moment of transition in your life? We can learn much from the example of Jesus as He transitioned from the private life of His first thirty years to His public life of His last three years. His baptism by John marks the turning point.

"In those days Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Coming up out of the water, He immediately saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, 'You are My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:9-11).

First, Jesus identified with John. Although Jesus had no need for a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, His example teaches us to position ourselves on the side of those whose hearts and motives are pure.

Politicians talk a great deal about change, but change can move us from good to bad or bad to worse depending on whether we identify with the wrong person or persons. In your time of transition, are you closest to those who truly know the Lord? Have you sought the counsel of those who walk near to Him or are you just charging ahead because it seems like a good idea to you?

Second, Jesus received confirmation personally from the Father—the heavens opened. Interestingly, none of the Gospels report that anyone else saw the heavens open except Jesus. He, not "they," saw the heavens open.

Your journey in life will involve experiences with God that you alone will observe and apply. You must be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit shows you in your personal times of waiting on Him. When you act in obedience, as Jesus did by going to the Jordan, God will reveal Himself to you. That revelation may not be something outward or spectacular—it may be an inner, still small voice—but get the mind of the Spirit before you set forth with transition.

Third, Jesus experienced the peacefulness and gentleness of God in the descent of the Spirit as a dove upon Him.

Transitions need to be marked by calmness. Any hyperactivity by Jesus at His baptism would have shooed away the dove of peace. If you are filled with anxiety, fear, and stress as you anticipate transition, back off until you are filled with peace.

Fourth, Jesus experienced the Father's honest and wholesome perspective—"You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Jesus emerged from the transition with the unmistakable assurance that the Father both loved and approved of Him.

Do you really know deep inside yourself that God dearly loves you, that you are known to Him, and that He is pleased with all who put their trust in His Son? What greater security or sense of wholeness is there than this?

Jesus knew He was not alone because He knew in His time of transition that the Father approved of Him, and the Holy Spirit descended and remained on Him. It is the same with you. You are not alone in your time of transition. God is with you!

A Prayer: Lord Jesus, may I never make decisions that exclude You. In every transition moment, may I remain centered in Your will, seeking Your voice and experiencing Your favor and blessing.

Excerpted from Dr. Wood's book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources. 

George O. Wood is the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit

]]> (George O. Wood ) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Fri, 05 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500
Are You Sure God Said That?

There is a story in the book of Genesis that is remarkable for many reasons. Firstly, it is the story of a man taking the most precious thing he had (his son) and offering him up as a sacrifice to God in faith. Secondly, it is a story of redemption as God provides a substitute for the sacrifice and in doing so gave us a picture of what was to come when Jesus became the substitute for us. But in the midst of the story, there is also a remarkable realization about the way that God speaks to His people.

"After this the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, 'Do not fear, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward' He brought him outside and said, 'Look up toward heaven and count the stars, if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So will your descendants be.' Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness" (Gen. 15:1, 5-6).

God speaks to Abram.

God's word was clear and precise. God told Abram that his children that would outnumber the stars. To a man who had no children, this was a big deal. This was a grand promise toward Abram. So, Abram believes God. Sarai, who was not as sure about having a baby, doesn't initially believe God, but God tells her it will happen in spite of her unbelief. God changes both of their names—Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah—resetting their identity before answering the prayer for a child. Sarah becomes pregnant and once the child is born, they name their son Isaac because he is the delight of their lives.

Then God does something that Abraham does not expect.

"After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, 'Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, 'Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.' So Abraham rose up early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place that God had told him" (Gen. 22:1-3).

You have to remember the context for this story. Imagine you have been waiting for a son for years. You have been waiting so long that your body was beyond childbearing. And even though you thought there was no possible way for things to change, you continued to believe God. Then everything changes. The answer comes. Your son is born. Then God tells you to do something that seems the opposite of everything you think is right.

Take your son and offer Him as a burnt offering.

You heard God say it. This is a clear word. This is not vague, not a maybe—this is clear.

I'm not sure how I would have reacted, but Abraham continued to believe God. He obeys, and with his son in tow, they head up the mountain to the place of sacrifice.

"Then they came to the place that God had told him. So Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on the wood. Then Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called to him out of heaven and said, 'Abraham, Abraham!' And he said, 'Here I am.' Then He said, Do not lay your hands on the boy or do anything to him, because now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your only son from Me.' Then Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up as a burnt offering in the place of his son" (Gen. 22:9-13).

Here is where things get tricky. You see, God had clearly spoken to Abraham. He was to go up the mountain and sacrifice his son. But when Abraham was about to plunge the knife into his son, God speaks again. And again, the word is clear, but it is the exact opposite of the previous word. This creates a bit of a problem.

What if Abraham had said to himself something like this: "I know what God told me before and I am going to follow through on what He said even if I feel something different now. This new word must not be God because it doesn't align with what God said in the past. I have to be faithful to what I originally heard from God."

The knife would not have stopped and Isaac would have died. In fact, Abraham heeding the original word from God would have actually been in direct disobedience to the present will of God. He would have killed the very thing that God was trying to save. Sometimes the will of God is a progressive will. It might begin with "go sacrifice Isaac," but end with "do not touch the boy." Each step in the journey is part of God's plan to teach us about who He is, enable us to stay in the present journey with Him and remain dependent upon Him.

At the ripe old age of 14, I read a book about a man named Keith Green. He was a Christian musician who challenged the status quo, spoke the truth and impacted millions of lives. I wanted to be just like him. I felt like I had heard the word of the Lord and began to pursue a career in music. I traveled all over the world as a musician and singer to some modest success. But year after year, my career did not take off like I thought it would. I kept forging ahead, believing things would change. But it didn't. I started to feel like a failure. In my mid-30s, I hit a point of crisis in my life. All of a sudden, I didn't know how to reconcile my current situation with what I thought my life should look like.

God, I thought you told me to become a great musician and singer and prophetic voice to my generation? I thought my destiny was to be the next Keith Green? What happened? Did I miss it somewhere?

I knew who God was, but I was struggling to hear His voice. I realized that I had become so attached to what I had heard in the past that it had become an idol in my life. In fact, I was scared to listen to what He was saying because it would probably mean I had to lay down the dreams I had spent 20 years of my life chasing.

I had made the dream of being a world-changing musician an idol. In doing so, I had stopped asking the Lord what he was currently saying. God may have spoken to me all those years ago, but now He was speaking again and I needed to hear his present voice. God may have used the dream of being a rock star to get me moving up the mountain, but now he wanted to give me a new word for a new season.

I wonder how many times we have missed what God was doing in the present because we got so attached to what He had said in the past. How many times have we actually made an idol out of an idea that was only ever meant to get us moving in a particular direction?

Often, the word of the Lord comes to us to get us moving in a certain direction. But, if we are not careful, we will attach ourselves to the previous word and not the present voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us. When that happens, we are in danger of doing something that could be damaging to our future.

Am I actually present enough in the moment to ask the question—what are you saying now? Do I have spiritual ears to hear His voice in the present or is my life so full of noise that I can't hear anything?

Ben Woodward is a worship leader, speaker, author and songwriter from Australia. As you will find out by reading his book You Shall Know the Truth, he is passionate about helping people discover Jesus through worship and prayer. He lives in Kansas City with his wife, Kathryn, and three children, Eliana, Cohen and Paisley. 

]]> (Ben Woodward) Featured Women Life Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
If You Are Too Busy, Read This and Break Free

Are you one of the millions who feel constantly busy? Do you wake up thinking: "I might as well stay in bed. There's no way I can get everything done!"?

Obviously that's not a good way to live. God would much rather see you relaxed and confident in Him, peaceful and fulfilling your purpose in life. So if you're in a habit of feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I want to help you fix that.

You may think time is the problem—that there just isn't enough of it. But God gives everyone the same amount. We all have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I guess that's God's way of saying that's all the time we need to live a well-balanced life with plenty of time for work, rest and play.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (AMPC) says, "To everything there is a season, and a time for every matter or purpose under heaven."

Instead of dreading that you don't have enough time, you can make the decision to have more wisdom with the way you spend your time.

You know, we spend time just like we spend money. When we spend it, it's gone, and we can't get it back. So we need to think about what we are spending it on and decide whether or not we are making the right choices. 

No matter what's on your to-do list today, I want to encourage you to know God hasn't called you to be busy. He wants you to live purposefully and be fruitful.

And the secret to being fruitful is simply to have a close, personal relationship with God.

John 15:5 (AMPC) says, "I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing."

No matter what you have to do to make time with God your top priority, you are never going to regret doing it. There is absolutely no better way to spend your time than to pray and study God's Word. It will bring you peace, joy, confidence, wisdom and understanding. You'll be encouraged. You can be healed. There's just no end to the good things that can happen in your life when you put God first.

You may have to wake up extra early or stay up later at night, but I encourage you to set aside time daily to spend with God. And when you do, listen for His voice. One reason people feel pressured and under so much stress is that they're listening to every voice around them except the voice of God.

Matthew 11:28-29 (AMPC) says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls."

Even Jesus spent time alone with God before He went out into the world to do ministry, and He only did what God put before Him to do. He didn't let other people determine His schedule. If we will do the same, then our lives can be peaceful and purposeful as well as fruitful.

Are you living purposefully or just being busy? Have you ever had a day when you were busy all day long but couldn't tell what you accomplished at the end of it? We don't have to live that way.

God wants to encourage us through His Word to live as people of purpose, making the most of the time we're given.

John 15:8 (AMPC) says, "When you bear (produce) much fruit, My Father is honored and glorified, and you show and prove yourselves to be true followers of Mine."

Following God can sometimes sound like a huge, impossible task. But you can be a great witness for God just by being productive and resting in His presence as you go about your daily life.

When you feel like you've lost your balance again, and things are getting busy, don't just drag yourself through the day. Make time with God your priority. He will give you the strength you need to live each day with peace and purpose as you accomplish everything He's calling you to do. {eoa}

Joyce Meyer is a New York Times best-selling author and founder of Joyce Meyer Ministries, Inc. She has authored nearly 100 books, including Battlefield of the Mind and The Mind Connection (Hachette). She hosts the Enjoying Everyday Life radio and TV programs, which air on hundreds of stations worldwide. For more information, visit

]]> (Joyce Meyer ) Featured Straight Talk Blogs Fri, 05 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
Prayer Power: Shopping With the Holy Spirit

I am not a hobby shopper. Some women salivate at every sale sign and peruse the racks and shelves for entertainment.

But for me, shopping is like having my teeth cleaned—a necessity that must be endured. I might still be wearing last decade's styles if God had not infiltrated my aversion to stores, taken the pain out of purchasing—and transformed my understanding of prayer.

It all started with an orange carpet stain. My daughter, who was in elementary school at the time, accidentally spilled juice on the carpet in our family room. Discovering the dried stain days later, I shot up a desperate prayer: "Lord, help me find something to get rid of this stain so that she won't feel bad about the spill (and so I won't be upset)."

Carpet stain removers lined the lowest shelf of cleaning supplies at Walmart, forcing me to kneel down to examine them. Miraculous claims of stain-cleaning power shouted at me from every can. I pondered all the choices, wondering how to choose the best one. To my relief, hardly a soul graced the store at 8 in the morning as I, a usually dignified physician, scooted on my knees sideways down the aisle asking God about stain removers. Did He really care about something so insignificant? Would He be angry if I asked?

With a smidgen of faith and a mountain of self-consciousness, I placed my hand on top of a can of cleaner, closed my eyes and asked God, Is this the right one? I waited a few seconds. No answer. What was I expecting, thunder from heaven? I moved on to the next. Nothing. As my hand rested on the fourth can a voice proclaimed, "That is the best stain remover." It was an audible voice! An angel? My eyes flew open. I heard it again. "That is the best stain remover."

I turned toward the direction of the voice. Two frail-looking, white-haired women were ambling down the aisle toward me—not exactly my concept of angelic beings. I paused, my hand motionless on the can. But as they passed behind me one of the duo declared for the third time, "That is the best stain remover." I bought the product and the stain vanished.

That incident revolutionized shopping for me. If God cared about a carpet stain, would it be OK to seek His wisdom for other purchases? I needed to buy shoes for our daughter, for instance. What was the harm in asking? God is omniscient; He would know where to find the perfect fit.

After all, nothing rivaled trying to find shoes for Amelia's narrow feet. Her pint-sized patience evaporated in seconds, catalyzing an avalanche of anger in store after store as she tried on dozens of shoes, only to leave empty-handed. Since binding her feet was not an option, I despaired at shoe shopping with her.

This, however, was a new day. Before clambering into the car together, we asked God to show us where to purchase her new shoes. As we waited expectantly, a certain store came to my mind. Would we really find the right fit on our first try? We decided to test it out. Less than an hour later, an adorable pair of new shoes adorned her feet. We were on to something huge.

The next lesson involved Amelia's Christmas present. She had her heart set on a new bicycle to replace the one she had outgrown. Just days before the holiday, I suddenly realized there was only a one-hour window to purchase the bike and hide it before she got home from school. I had no idea what color she wanted or where to buy it. Why had I not checked? Was it expecting too much to ask God for the store and the color? Would I be able to hear God in just a few minutes?

I quieted my thoughts and prayed. Pink was her favorite color, but purple was the impression I received. What store had a purple, 24-inch girl's bike? In my mind's eye I saw a retailer in an area of town that I normally do not frequent. Desperation and doubt intermixed with faith as I drove to the store and hurried to the sporting goods section. There in the center of the aisle stood a purple, 24-inch girl's bike, waiting just for me. All the other bikes hung from the wall. God's provision could not have been more obvious. When Amelia received the bicycle on Christmas day, she exclaimed, "Purple is the color I wanted!"

Not only did these experiences help me begin to look at shopping as an adventure and teach me to be a good steward of our finances, but something much greater took place: I sensed that this was just the beginning of learning to pray with power.

Excerpted from 7 Secrets to Power Praying. Jane Glenchur, M.D., has an extensive medical background as well as a passion for prayer. She was recently invited to serve as a medical associate for the Global Medical Research Institute, which was begun by Randy Clark for the purpose of documenting medical miracles.

]]> (Jane Glenchur) Featured Prayer Spirit Fri, 05 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500
AzusaNow: The Power of the Silver Cord Between Heaven and Earth

If one can see it, there is a silver thread that stretches from heaven to earth. Hunger draws the cord taut, faith makes it vibrate, but prayer is the outstretched hand that pulls upon the cord.

When this happens, invisible realities shift. Angels ascend and descend on the ladders of our dreams. We pull down answers as treasures from heaven; the mysterious Eternal becomes the throbbing Now. The curtain on the stage of history lifts and God once again reveals Himself as the central character. Many descriptive words could be used to capture this action. Unveiling. Presence. Breakthrough. Historically, we have used another word: Revival.

But revival, so often equated to obvious actions of God, like the visible evidence of a bloom on a flower, is typically preceded by arduous years of cultivating soil and roots. For 15 years, Lou Engle and TheCall have invited millions of believers around the world to go deep, to follow both the humility of Joel 2 and the bold witness of John the Baptist. Lou dared to mimic a few simple exonerations from Scripture, and we dared to follow his lead.

I, like many of you, am one of those who heard. In a small, imperfect way, we answered the call. In a wilderness of moral decline, rather than abandon hope, Lou taught us to press our faces into the deep soil of our mother nations during times of great solemn assemblies with fasting and whispered prayers for mercy. These were wild, foolish years, 15 of them. At times it seemed as if the simple message of repentance was too small, too hidden, to matter. Would revival ever bloom?

Yet beneath our feet, the ground knew better. As earth grew heavy with groans and tears, we came to know better, too. Deep within our souls the Spirit bore witness to an everlasting cry: "God is faithful! He will answer in the day of power!"

Imperceptibly, year after year, that silver cord tightened. Our vision expanded. Voices raised. A necessary climate of expectation began to ferment in our souls. What began in weakness and trembling slowly became a broken, deafening roar. A glorious storm of expectation gathered on the horizon. Something was shifting. Yes, we knew the revival stories of old: Great Awakenings. Wales. Azusa. Hebrides. Tent Revivals. Healing Revivals. Latter Rain. The Jesus Movement. African Crusades. The Chinese Underground Church explosion. The Argentine Revivals. Toronto. Brownsville.

But where were we in this crescendo? Would history and heaven bend toward our cries? We seized this hope, only to eventually realize that an unshakable hope had seized us in the process. We had come to what physicists call an Event Horizon. There could be no turning back. Hungry, thirsty, full of faith, we cried out all the more: we must have revival now. For whom? For our children, our grandchildren. For the future of the nations and—dare we say it?—the final harvest, we did not pray from what we lacked in the Spirit, but from the position of what we had gained. We sensed the Psalm 110 Christ marching into history again.

Aslan was on the move.

How does God move? "See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them" (Is. 42:9, MEV). God speaks. He declares. The principle is this: before something occurs, He calls it forth. This is the instrumentality of faith, and the Spirit was telling us to believe again. Sometimes we are too timid to name the thing and call it forth because it is easier to hedge our bets and shrink back, lest we be disappointed.

Yet love and desperation has finally surpassed our fear.

Thus, we call for revival. We call for it now.

Across the earth, intercessors are haunted and compelled by the possibility that God has scheduled an even greater visitation for our day than the most glorious revivals of old. Could something already be en route to eclipse every movement of the recent and distant past? In the invisible realm, intercessors of every stripe—evangelical, charismatic, Pentecostal and Catholic—felt the silver cord tremble in our hands. If prayerless vacuums have been responsible for eventually swallowing every previous revival, then the patient wisdom of God has been made plain. The Holy Spirit has preemptively architected a massive, global Worship-Prayer-and-Missions movement. Could this sustain the next wave in perpetuity unto His return? Since any true awakening brings enormous pressure and conflict, the next great revival now has a global anchor in prayer. "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes" (Ps. 118:23).

But there is still more. Not only has prayer been made central, but this generation lives and moves with a rare combination—I'll call it "desperate confidence"—that our Father has indeed heard our cry and that history actually pivots around prayer. This is no small thing. It means we are coming to know that are no longer orphans; we are growing in maturity as sons and daughters.

Why? Because we are no longer defined by unbelief, but by the loving expectation that our Father is pleased and will surely answer our cry. While the shift is not complete, we no longer beg, we believe. We stare skyward not with fear but a smile, knowing that the promised rain shall surely come. Already, we declare, drops are falling. Mercy has heard our invitation and is arrayed for the full battle of love. This was never a natural battle. It was always a supernatural groan; God within His people, on earth, crying back out to Himself.

My friends, such prayer shall surely be answered. Such love will surely prevail. Salvation will surely come in the day of power. Reach up and reach out. Do you feel it? The silver cord is tight.

There is no slack. Revival is ready.

Dean Barkley Briggs is an author and a disciple who serves as national director for a diverse family of contending houses of prayer called Ekklesia Prayer Communities. He has written several books including Ekklesia Rising: The Authority of Christ in Communities of Contending Prayer.

]]> (Dean Briggs) Featured Prayer Spirit Fri, 05 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
How God Speaks While You're Sleeping

Throughout the pages of Scripture, visual realities erupted and revealed subtle mysteries of God's kingdom. This may seem strange today, but the ancients believed that God would speak to them in the midst of their dreams.

In this nocturnal state of mind, unparalleled insight and understanding were sometimes accessed. Reflecting on this, Job once declared, "In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, he may speak in their ears" (Job 33:15-16).

In one instance, God conveyed the immensity of His covenant with Abraham through the image of a smoking firepot and a blazing torch passing through the sacrifice.

"As the sun was setting, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a thick and dreadful darkness came over him. ... When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking fire pot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, 'To your descendants I give this land'" (Genesis 15:12, 17-18). 

Many haven't considered this, but Abraham's experience with God took place in his "mind" while he slept. Through visceral images, he began to understand something of who God was and what He intended to do in his life.

The pattern of the Lord speaking through dreams continued to have a lengthy heritage in the Bible; shaping the lives of the Patriarchs (Genesis 28:12; 37:5; 46:2), Prophets (Daniel 7:1-9), and Kings (1 Kings 3:5). It even comes into play in the New Testament with the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 1:20-21; 2:12-13; 2:19) and the expansion of the church (Acts 2:17; 16:9-10; 18:9-10).

Dreams were a form of divine encounter widely accepted in the Middle East (and are still valued by Semitic people today). What was being conveyed during slumber, tended to shape their understanding of the purposes of God. The children of Abraham weighed out every dream; considering what the Lord might be sharing with them.

We obviously place our greatest trust in Scripture. Yet, in the pages of the Bible, men and women were often impacted by intense spiritual encounters. Are modern Christians willing to follow the ancient biblical pattern? Do we truly have an openness to encountering God's purposes in trans-rational ways?

How would you respond if God whispered to you tonight while you were slumbering?

J.D. King, author and speaker, is the director of the World Revival Network and associate pastor of World Revival Church.

]]> (J.D. King) Featured Women Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
Prophetic Art That Points to Salvation

Imagine Christ's view from atop the mountain where He preached to the multitudes about the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the merciful and the pure of heart. As He preached the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus looked down on a sea of faces that hung on His every word because He didn't teach as the scribes did but as one with authority—and He was moved with compassion for their souls.

A new book, Multitudes, helps readers imagine what Christ saw as He taught about anger, adultery, oaths, revenge, loving your enemies and charitable giving, fasting and heaven. Steffi Geiser Rubin, an artist commissioned by Jews for Jesus to create original art for the Messianic Jewish evangelistic organization's new book, says its cover gives Jesus' eye view perspective from that mount in Galilee.

"The cover, which is made up of faces from the illustration of Matthew 5-7, is to show what Jesus saw when He looked out," Rubin says. "He was able to see beyond the exterior into the hearts and souls and needs of the people. This is an image of Jesus that Jewish people can understand because there has been a lot of suffering among Jewish people, and, therefore, a lot of compassion toward those who suffer."

Reaching Jewish Multitudes

The coffee table book—combining the Messianic Jewish Tree of Life version of the book of Matthew with 20 original, full-scale paintings—is part of an artistic outreach to share Yeshua's love for the "multitudes" with the Jewish people and, ultimately, the entire world.

"I love that verse and the way Matthew paints such a graphic picture to help us understand what Jesus was feeling," David Brickner, executive director of the San Francisco-based ministry, wrote in Multitudes. "If we are to care with the compassion of Messiah Yeshua, we need to see past the veneers to understand people and circumstances as He sees them. We need to see that the multitudes who are without Yeshua are lost and without hope because they are without God in this world."

Multitudes is not just a coffee table book; it's also a traveling exhibition. The paintings were displayed at recent art shows in San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and New York City, an exhibit that drew 500 people its first night. More shows are planned this year in Paris, Tel Aviv and across Israel.

Susan Perlman, associate director at Jews for Jesus, says the shows attract the curious—just like Jesus did when He walked the earth. That curiosity opens the door for Jews for Jesus staff to introduce the curious to Yeshua.

"People are really taken by these art shows," Perlman says. "It does cause dissonance: 'Wait a minute, they're Jewish, but they believe in Jesus. But what we're experiencing is especially very Jewish and Christian at the same time.' The combination—it makes people do a double take."

Multitudes' Prophetic Inspiration

Inspiration for the project began when Marc Sternberg was teaching on Matthew and realized the apostle was a Jew writing to Jews who didn't yet believe in Yeshua as the Messiah. He thought: "Wouldn't Matthew be a great vehicle to reach Jewish people today."

Later, while driving home, Sternberg says the Lord inspired him in a "waking vision-dream" to begin work on the illustrated Gospel of Matthew book that is now Multitudes.

"I believe that the art of Multitudes is a non-threatening platform for sharing the gospel," says Sternberg, director of the Jews for Jesus Store. "Almost each of the paintings has a Messianic prophecy that Jesus is actually fulfilling in that passage of the Bible, or that He is quoting directly from the Old Testament Scripture."

Following the "vision-dream," Jews for Jesus commissioned Rubin, its first art director and a founding member, to create original artwork as a vehicle for communicating the Jewishness of the Gospel of Matthew. Rubin joined Jews for Jesus after encountering ministry Founder Moishe Rosen at a Bible study at University of California, Berkeley in 1971. He asked her, "What do you think God wants from you?" After reading the Gospels, she put her faith in Yeshua.

Rubin's paintings represent the major themes, events and messages within the book. The key verses, Old Testament references and image ideas were a collaborative effort between Rubin and Jews for Jesus.

Disrupting Jewish Thinking

"Multitudes is Jesus' perspective of the gospel," Rubin says. "(It's) what inspired Him when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount. The whole background, the whole history of Jews for Jesus, is one of disruption—changing what people think when they hear 'Jesus,' changing what people think when they hear 'Jews.' These paintings are all so disruptive."

Perlman hopes the project will not only touch hearts, but will expand the understanding Jews have of Yeshua.

"Most importantly, it will transform them in terms of their understanding of the Creator Himself, and how both visually and in the written word, we can find that He is the way, the truth and the life," Perlman says. "It's a gospel tool and also a validation of our faith."  

Watch how Jews for Jesus can reach people for Christ through the Multitudes Art Project at

]]> (Troy Anderson) Featured Culture Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
7 Steps for Our Daily Commute With God

It was time for me to get a new Suburban. I had driven my 2004 GMC Yukon XL 457,000 miles.

The hour meter showed that I had spent over one year of 24-hour days in that leather seat. It still looked great. I had worked hard to keep it maintained and clean. I had purchased eight sets of Michelin tires. It had a few issues. One in particular I've yet to live down.

My wife, Kay, traveled with me to a speaking engagement in Texas. The summer heat was an unbearable 115 degrees. The air conditioner went out! By the time we arrived at the hotel, she was soaking wet. Now, anytime I mention Texas she says, "It is too hot there."

After a diligent search, I found a dealership in Dallas that specialized in Suburbans. I wanted a low-mileage, clean, black Suburban. They had several to choose from. The salesman, Mike, was awesome. Without the typical negotiation tactics we were able to reach a good price. He asked, "Do you want to trade in your Yukon? We'll give you the best price that we can."

"Sure, but I know what I have," I replied. When I revealed to Mike how many miles that I had put on my Yukon, he exclaimed, "What in the world do you do to drive that much?"

I was able to tell Mike about FivestarMan and what I do to encourage men. I shared with him how grateful I was for that Yukon. I said, "Mike, I've spent more time in prayer in that truck than anywhere else on earth."

He said, "Neil, the earth is about 25,000 miles in circumference. You could have encircled it about 18 times!"

Your world is only as big as the trails that you travel.

There are a lot of men who have limited their world simply because they're not willing to travel new trails. Their path is the same path they've always beaten. It's easy to get in a rut and stay there. It's difficult to cut a new swath. The greatest temptation in a man's life is comfort.

I was working in a coal mine in Oklahoma when I had to make the decision to leave everything and go to college. It was hard. I had to quit my job, sell my possessions, pack my suitcase and move to another state. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary. As I drove away from everything I was comfortable with, I prayed to God.

It was during that drive that I began to discover that God relates to men in the daily commute.

"The steps of a man are made firm by the Lord; He delights in his way" (Psa. 37:23-24, MEV).

I realized that my steps had directional intent—an overwhelming realization that God had a destination in mind for me. Some call it providence, while others call it destiny. This revelation encouraged me that God would be very involved in my decisions. Along with this new understanding came the personal responsibility to seek Him for guidance. This lesson has been extremely valuable for me and has given me the self-assurance that I am in step with Him.

Here are seven steps for our daily commute with God:

1. Spend time with God in the cool of the day.

"Then they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden" (Gen. 3:8, MEV).

It had become a habit for Adam to walk with God in the cool of the day. We do not have sufficient evidence to determine how long Adam and Eve lived in daily communion with God before the horrific events of the fall. What we do know is his decision on that day would have a global and generational impact upon mankind.

Not only was Adam expelled from his management of the garden—the Storehouse of Seed, of which he was to "cover the earth" with the vegetation—he was also cut off from his daily commute with God.

It's interesting that the day begins in the evening—when three stars are visible. The creation account always points to the evening and morning of the day. The cool of the day is referencing the evening, when the heat of the sun has gone down.

When you're driving home from work, leave the radio off and ask God to prepare you for your responsibility as a husband and a father to be a blessing to your family.

As a husband, your words are like seeds that are sown for a determined harvest. Ask God to give you the right words to speak over your wife. You don't know exactly what her day may have been like, but the Holy Spirit does and He will help you have the right words—the best words—to speak to her. As Solomon advised, "A man has joy by the answer of his mouth, and a word spoken in due season, how good it is!" (Prov. 15:23, MEV)

Rather than coming in and plopping down on the sofa, ask God to strengthen you so that you can go into the house with energy and excitement to be with your family. Before you turn on the evening news, get the news in your own world. That's what matters most at home.

2. Determine that you will commute with God 365 days of the year.

"So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:23, MEV).

I am very intrigued by the great-grandfather of Noah, namely Enoch. Although he was a prophet we have very little evidence of his life in our canonized Bible, although most Christian historians and theologians recognize his importance. Jude references him, "Enoch, who lived in the seventh generation after Adam, prophesied about these people. He said, "Listen! The Lord is coming with countless thousands of his holy ones ..." (Jude 1:14).

What we can see is that he invested 365 years walking with God. The writer of Hebrews lists Enoch in the Hall of Faith, "By faith Enoch was taken to heaven so that he would not see death. He was not found, because God took him away. For before he was taken, he had this commendation, that he pleased God" (Heb. 11:5, MEV).

Enoch walked so closely with God that he didn't experience death. He was the first person to experience what we would refer to as the rapture, the snatching away.

I've determined that I want to invest 365 days of each year walking with God. I don't want to miss a day. I don't want to wander or roam without directional intent.

3. Walking with God in the daily commute will give you promptings of future events.

"These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a just man and blameless among his contemporaries. Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9, MEV).

As Noah walked closely in communion with God—in the daily commute—he discovered that a great deluge, a water baptism of the earth was going to take place. The rest of mankind had given their hearts over to wickedness and violence. This cleansing was required in order to remove this scourge from earth. However, with this warning of things to come, Noah was given the blueprints of a large ship. Noah's motivation is clear—he built the ark to save his family members.

Many people have the erroneous idea that Noah was a radical environmentalist and animal rights activist. Obviously, we should be diligent stewards of the earth's resources and Solomon said that righteous men are kind to their animals, but Noah had one thing in mind when he spent decades building the ark—he wanted to save his family.

As you have a daily commute with God, you begin to think long-term. You'll see further into the future. Your decisions will be more accurate for things to come. Your responsibility as the progenitor of the family will take on a keen sense of destiny.

4. Trust that God knows where you need to be to receive His best for you.

"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out into a place which he would later receive as an inheritance. He went out not knowing where he was going" (Heb. 11:8, MEV).

Abraham was given directional intent. Even though as he was traveling he didn't know where he would end up. He did know there would be an inheritance awaiting him upon his arrival. He had to trust the Voice he was hearing. He had to have confidence that he was hearing from God.

Sometimes I meet men who don't want to let go of their own plans. They've schemed up a good idea of what they think would be best for their lives and for their families.

However, I've learned that my schemes are not as good as God's dreams for me. He has a greater capacity of imagination than I do. His ways are much higher than my ways. His thoughts are much greater than my thoughts. To be honest, that is probably one of the greatest challenges for men. To yield their lives and the lives of their family members to the purpose of God above our plans for ourselves or for our family members.

I've had to do that with my children. Now that they're grown, I've had to sit back and watch God lead them in different directions. Sometimes, I want to raise my voice and say, "Are you serious? Do you really think this is a good idea?" Yet, I must allow them to develop an ear to hear the directional intent that God has for them.

Abraham had to "leave his father and his family household" in order to go to the inheritance that God had for him.

5. A typical day at work can become an encounter with God.

"He said, "Do not approach here. Remove your sandals from off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground" (Exod. 3:5, MEV).

Moses was very well-educated and powerful in speaking (Acts 7:22). He had a strong sense of leadership and justice; however, his first attempt to exercise leadership backfired. Now, exiled from Egypt and led into a wilderness, he had become a shepherd managing his father-in-law Jethro's sheep.

During a typical day of work, Moses sees the burning bush that is not being consumed by the fire. As he approached to investigate the phenomenon, he encountered God.

Some men don't realize how involved God is in their work.

As you're driving to work, leave the radio off and have a daily commute with God. Ask God to strengthen your hands to prosper. Make the commitment that whatever your hand finds to do, you will do it with strength and skill.

Ask God to bless your company. Ask God to give you ideas and witty inventions. Commit to God that you consider your work as meaningful, not trivial. God made you a cultivator. Whatever you touch should be better after you've handled it.

6. When you're facing your greatest challenges, it's important that you walk with God.

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me" (Ps. 23:4, MEV).

When David was a young man, he attended his father's sheep. He spent nights under the stars strumming his guitar and singing Messianic songs. It was during those intimate and isolated times that David had to learn to "fear no evil." It was during those nights that he wrestled a lion and a bear, protecting the sheep from predators. He would later take those lessons to the valley of Elah (Oak Tree), where he would face the champion Goliath.

Facing Goliath, David recalled his past experiences of victory over the lion and the bear, and he also recalled the anointing that flowed upon his young head when the prophet spoke over him that he would become a king.

When you have a daily commute with God, you will be reminded of the steps that God has guided you through. They may seem small now, but at the time, they were important lessons to learn. You will also be reminded of the important words of promise that you've received.

So, when you're facing a big-time problem, you can know that God is walking in this valley with you.

7. Jesus descended so that He could walk with man.

"He said, 'Come.' And when Peter got out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus" (Matt. 14:29, MEV).

Peter and the other disciples had worked for hours, rowing to get across the lake. A storm was opposing all of their efforts. They were getting nowhere. As tired as they were, they looked over to see Jesus walking on the water, during the storm, making more progress than they've made all night!

Sometimes we read these accounts as if they're fairy tales, yet this actually happened. You can imagine how frustrating it would have been to have worked all night trying to get somewhere, only to see Jesus passing you by without hardly an effort.

Maybe that hits close to home for you. Your life may be at the place where you're tired of the opposition. You may have reached your limit, and you're just frustrated with the lack of progress. You may be so ready to make progress that you're willing to take steps you've never tried before. That's what Peter did.

When Peter saw the progress Jesus was making compared to the lack of progress all his co-laborers were experiencing, Peter said, "Hey, if it's really you, Jesus, invite me to walk with you" (my paraphrase).

Jesus came to this earth to walk with man in the daily commute. Jesus' response to Peter was "Come." In other words, get out of the boat!

Remember, your world is only as big as the trails that you're willing to travel. {eoa}

FivestarMan was founded in 2008 by Neil KennedyKennedy has passionately promoted God's Word for 25-plus years of ministry. He is known for practically applying biblical principles that elevate people to a new level of living. As a business, church, ministry and life consultant, Kennedy has helped others strategize the necessary steps to reach their full potential.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Neil Kennedy/FivestarMan) Featured Men Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:55:00 -0500
The Crucial Missing Ingredient in Your Workout

In this week's post, I thought I'd discuss something that will enhance your workouts while simultaneously decreasing your risk of injury.

For most of us, exercise can only compose a small part of our day, say an hour before work or 30 minutes during our lunch break. As such, we get into the gym and, understandably, devote all our precious time and attention to the weights (or to your preferred form of cardio if you're giving the dumbbells a break!). While weightlifting is undeniably important, it needs to be supplemented with the following activity to ensure you're getting the most out of your training. The missing ingredient is ...

A Specific Warmup

When I visit different gyms, I often see people warm up for a few minutes by jogging on the treadmill, cycling on the recumbent bike, or rowing on the ergometer. When they get off their machine of choice, it is easy to see by their red faces and sweaty clothes that, technically, they're "warmed up." A general warmup such as what I've just mentioned is an excellent way to begin your warmup, but it shouldn't be the only thing you do before jumping into your main routine.

My friend, Michael Prince, owner and trainer at 360 Fitness in my hometown of Tyler, Texas, taught me years ago that our muscles and our joints need to be specifically prepared for whatever exercises await them. Our muscles and joints are like rubber bands. If they're cold, they'll snap, but if they're nice and warm, they'll be resilient, responsive, and flexible. Movements like arm circles and arm swings are a great way to warm up the shoulders, whereas front-to-back leg swings and cross-the-body leg swings while holding onto something stable is recommended for warming up the hips.

After you've warmed up your shoulders and/or hips—depending on what you're training—it's time to move on to movements that more closely resemble what you'll be doing in your workout. For example, if you're planning to work out your chest with exercises such as the dumbbell bench press or cable flies, doing a set of 20 push-ups, whether regular, incline, or knee push-ups, is a terrific way to activate your pectoral muscles, as well as your stabilizing core muscles around your lower back and abdomen.

If you're working out your back, doing a set of light dumbbell rows followed by a set of assisted pull-ups will wake up the pulling muscles you want properly engaged during heavier sets.

You get the idea! Just jumping into your workout after hopping off the treadmill not only prohibits your muscles from gradually acclimating, if you will, to the loads that will yield strength gains and muscle hypertrophy, but it also increases your risk of injury. Below you will find a specific warmup from my most recent chest workout. As a general warmup, I did five minutes of steady-state rowing on the ergometer, which got my blood pumping and body warm! This will give you an idea of the amount of time and number of exercises that should precede your main workout. If you'd like more warmup ideas, please tweet me @dandersontyler!

NOTE: Each of the following movements can be easily modified to suit your personal fitness level. Use a weight at which you can safely perform the given number of repetitions.

Specific Warmup

  • 30 small arm circles, forward and reverse
  • 30 medium arm circles, forward and reverse
  • 30 arm swings
  • 20 PVC pass-throughs
  • 10 PVC around-the-worlds each direction
  • 20 incline push-ups (do regular push-ups if incline push-ups are too easy)
  • 15 side dumbbell raises with 7-pound dumbbells
  • 15 front dumbbell raises with 7-pound dumbbells
  • 15 overhead dumbbell presses with 7-pound dumbbells
  • 50 flat bench dumbbell presses with 7-pound dumbbells

After that, I did two warmup sets of my first exercise, which happened to be flat bench dumbbell presses. I did one set of 15 repetitions with 20 pounds, one set of 12 with 25 pounds, and then began my first working set of 12 reps with 35 pounds.

Exercise Instructions, in the order listed above

Arm Circles

  1. Stand in a neutral position with feet hip-width apart. Your arms should be straight out to the sides so your body forms a "T."
  2. Begin making slow circles in a forward motion with your arms, then gradually make larger ones and complete the given number of repetitions. Do 30 small-to-medium-sized circles, then 30 medium-to-large-sized circles.

Arm Swings

  1. Stand with feet comfortably apart, knees slightly bent, arms at shoulder level.
  2. Stretch arms straight out to the side and back behind you, contracting shoulder blades together. Then, bring them all the way across the torso, gradually speeding up and increasing the range of motion.

PVC Pass-Throughs

  1. Hold a PVC pipe or broomstick, and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the PVC with a wide grip at your waist, palms facing to the rear.
  3. Keeping your arms locked out, bring the PVC overhead and down to your lower back.
  4. Return the PVC to the starting position by passing it back over your head.
  5. Try to bring your hands closer together after few repetitions as your chest and shoulders open up. If you have to bend your elbows, your hands are too close together.

PVC Around-the-Worlds

  1. Hold a PVC pipe or broomstick, and stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hold the PVC with a wide grip. The movement is like the pass-through exercise, except you're moving one shoulder through at a time. Think of punching your right hand down to the floor as your left hand comes up over your ear, moving all the way to the back. Follow with the right hand punching the left hand down to the floor.
  3. Switch directions, leading with the left hand, and repeat for the given number of repetitions.

Incline Push-Ups

  1. Place hands on a bench or plyometric box. Spread your hands so that they are slightly wider than the width of your shoulders. Feet are slightly apart, legs straight with weight in your toes.
  2. Bend your arms as your body slowly lowers to the bench or box. Make sure your entire body is straight by keeping your navel pulled in towards your spine.
  3. Concentrate on your chest muscles as you push your body back up to the starting position.

Side Lateral Raises

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells resting at your sides. Your knees and elbows should be slightly bent, bellybutton pulled in.
  2. Keeping a slight bend in the elbows, raise upper arms to your sides until elbows are at shoulder height. Maintain elbows' height at above or equal to your wrists.
  3. Lower and repeat for the given number of repetitions.

Front Dumbbell Raises

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, dumbbells resting on the tops of your thighs.
  2. Your knees and elbows should be slightly bent, bellybutton pulled in.
  3. Keeping a slight bend in the elbows, raise your arms to the front of your body until the dumbbells are level with your eyes.
  4. Lower and repeat for the given number of repetitions.

Overhead Dumbbell Presses

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and lift dumbbells the sides of your shoulders, palms facing out. Your knees should be slightly bent, bellybutton pulled in.
  2. On an exhale, press the dumbbells over your head until elbows are locked out.
  3. Lower and repeat for the given number of repetitions.

Flat Bench Dumbbell Presses

  1. Lying on your back on a bench, hold a light pair of dumbbells directly above your chest with your arms fully extended.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together, slightly stick out your chest, and point your palms forward.
  3. Slowly lower both dumbbells to the sides of your chest. Pause, then press the dumbbells back to the starting position. Repeat for the given number of repetitions.

For over 100 at-home workouts, check out my book Perfect Fit!

Stay fit, stay faithful. {eoa}

Diana Anderson-Tyler is the author of Creation House's Fit for Faith: A Christian Woman's Guide to Total FitnessPerfect Fit: Weekly Wisdom and Workouts for Women of Faith and Fitness, and her latest book, Immeasurable: Diving into the Depths of God's Love. Her popular website can be found at and she is the owner and a coach at CrossFit 925.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Diana Anderson Tyler ) Featured Health Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
6 Things to Know When Facing Temptation

"At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him" (Mark 1:12-13).

Mark gives us the Reader's Digest condensed version of Jesus' temptation. It tells us all the essential elements we need to know when facing our own temptations.

1. How are we tempted in the first place? Three forces are always at work in the process of temptation: (1) our personal tendency to desire what is opposite of the Spirit, (2) the activity of the enemy, and (3) the prodding of the Spirit that directs us into engagement with the devil. For Jesus, it was the third one—but for us, it can be any or all of these three.

2. The place of temptation is the wilderness, at least symbolically. The wilderness represents the barren and dry place. When you find yourself relationally, emotionally, and spiritually empty, you are far more vulnerable to temptation. When everything is going well—in your life, your family, your marriage, your finances, your health, and your walk with the Lord—you are far less likely to fall into sin. But the desert represents the places where you don't have many resources to fall back on and you are most likely to give an ear to the Devil's pitch.

3. The time of temptation is always for a period. It isn't forever—at least, in its intensity. For Jesus, the period of time lasted forty days, and then the devil left Him for a season (Luke 4:13). Your temptation, likewise, will not last forever. It will come at you thick and furious, but when you steadfastly resist the devil he will flee from you (James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:9).

4. The agent of temptation is your adversary, Satan. For Jesus, no intermediate agent of testing was used—just the devil himself. For you, the temptation may come through the world or the sinful human nature. But never forget, no matter how temptation comes to you, the devil stands behind the curtain. He is the puppeteer, pulling the strings. Your contest is with him (Ephesians 6:12).

5. The atmosphere of temptation may involve frightful dimensions. Mark is the only gospel writer to note the presence of wild animals. When the devil came to Jesus with the three temptations (as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4), he seems to have donned a rather civil appearance, as he often does when he wants to beguile. But temptation may also involve a nightmarish time of danger. Jesus experienced in the wilderness things similar to what Daniel experienced in the lion's den. What "wild beasts" are present in your own time of temptation?

6. God will protect you in the place of temptation as you put your trust in Him. Arrayed against the wild beasts are the angels of God. The angels didn't assist Jesus in saying no to the devil, but they protected Him from the other ravages of the wilderness. Likewise, the Lord will protect you from whatever seeks to tear you apart. He has promised to provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13).

A Prayer: Strong Lord, help me to understand that I will never be tempted by what is unattractive or by that for which I do not have an appetite. Help me to say yes to You and no to everything that harms my relationship with You.

Excerpted from Dr. Wood's book, Fearless: How Jesus Changes Everything, available from Vital Resources. 

George O. Wood is the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God. For the original article, visit

]]> (George O. Wood) Featured Spiritual Warfare Spirit Thu, 04 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500
The Isaiah 1:17 Fight Every Believer Is Called To

It seems that injustice is constantly peering over our shoulder. Whether we witness acts of unfairness firsthand or read about them in a magazine, will we be women who battle against them, or will we turn our gaze away in hopes of seeing something more pleasant?

In Isaiah, we see only one of the many decrees in the Bible toward justice.

"Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of the orphans. Fight for the rights of widows" (Is. 1:17, NLT).

It is obvious that Jesus has a heart for uprightness, so we must fight with everything in us against anything that opposes it. Human trafficking is only one of many evils in the atmosphere (Eph. 6:12). The day I read about young girls being kidnapped and thrown into brothels was the day my heart roared with a cry against injustice. These women being robbed of their freedom are not willingly in prostitution. They are our courageous sisters, and like a lioness, we must boldly fight to protect our own.

But what does fighting look like? To battle against something so dark is to do more than volunteer time to a cause or donate money to an organization. These acts are necessary but if we do them without diligent prayer, they are fruitless.

We've probably all heard the myth that if you pluck one gray hair, many others will grow back in its place. Operating against injustice without prayer is quite similar. To continue on the matter of human trafficking, if we rescue one person or even a handful of people from the despair of such a crime, we are not tackling the root of the problem. While every single life matters, the only way to abolish such darkness is to eliminate the demand for it. If we are not praying for a shift in the atmosphere—in the way people think and live—the cycle will continue, and more people will fall victim to injustice.

I ardently urge you to discover what fills your heart with passion and righteous anger so deep that you can't help but to learn more, consistently pray and earnestly fight to resolve. As women, I pray that we rise up as a sisterhood with one heart—the heart of Jesus.

To learn more about the fierce role you were created to fulfill, check out Lisa Bevere's book Lioness Arising.

]]> (Lisa Bevere) Featured Women Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
5 Things Women Can Learn From Mary Magdalene

With many new movies portraying the life of Jesus on the big screen, including Risen, which is released February 19th and The Young Messiah on March 11th, some viewers may overlook the impact and role that women have in the great commission that Jesus gave. One of the most prominent women around Christ's ministry here on earth is Mary Magdalene, who has a poignant scene in Risen. Here are five things women can learn from this important biblical figure.

1. God loves to use women to spread the gospel.

Mary Magdalene is one of the many Marys mentioned in the Bible. Most of the time, she is mentioned as being with Jesus or with those following Jesus. Mary was very devoted to serving the Lord. She was so deeply passionate about following Jesus that numerous unsupported and heretical rumors have appeared speculating that she was in a conjugal relationship with Jesus. The most important thing that Mary Magdalene shows us in Scripture is that the Lord loves to use women to spread the gospel. Mary was the very first person that Jesus appeared to after He was resurrected. She was the first person to receive the Great Commission to go tell the world that she had seen Jesus. "If the resurrected Savior used women to proclaim to the male disciples that He was alive, we should also make full room for women in the proclamation of the eternal Gospel." (Rodriguez, Angel – Biblical Research Institute)

2. Jesus gives you ultimate peace of mind.

The first time that Mary Magdalene is mentioned in the Bible she is listed among women whom Jesus had rescued from demons. Mary is listed as the first of these women and Scripture says that she had been afflicted with "seven demons". Most Bible scholars believe that because Mary is listed first and is the only women to have a specific number of demons listed, Mary was the most tortured of these women. When Jesus saw her, He recognized her tormented mind and immediately banished the spirits that possessed her. He restored her peace of mind and allowed her to follow Him. No matter what we are going through or what plagues our minds, we can always look to this story in Luke 8 and know that Jesus has the power to give our minds supernatural peace.

3. Be persistent in your walk with Jesus.

Throughout Mary's walk with Jesus, she had to face many obstacles. Mary was with Jesus and the disciples while Jesus was being persecuted. She is also listed among the women standing close to him during the crucifixion. "There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James." (Mark 15:40) While many of the disciples of Jesus, like Peter, were quick to leave Jesus during a time when following him was dangerous, Mary stayed and followed Christ no matter the cost to herself.

4. Serving God is never in vain.

Even after Jesus was crucified, Mary did not give up her position of service to God. Like others, Mary Magdalene was discouraged and sad, but she still believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Mary was the first to see Jesus alive because she continued to serve God. "But at daybreak on the first day of the week [the women] took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus" (Luke 24:1-3). Mary could have stayed home and mourned or even waited till later in the day to bring the spices to the tomb, but Mary had a servant's heart. She rose early in the morning to serve Christ and to honor him in the best way that she knew how.

5. Don't be afraid of what other may think; simply follow Jesus.

When Mary saw the angels after the Resurrection she was ecstatic. She and the women with her never questioned the words of the angel. He reminded her of Christ's words previous to his crucifixion. "'Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.' And they remembered his words" (Luke 24:6-8). Mary never questioned the words of Jesus. She went immediately to tell the other disciples of what she had seen and what she had heard. Never once did Mary question what people would think about her while she was following Jesus or spreading the news about His Resurrection.

The Bible does not mention much before Mary's life of following Jesus, but through the small glimpse given into the life of this devoted disciple, we are able to learn so much. Mary proves that sacrificing everything to follow Jesus brings along a reward that is greater than we can ever imagine, a life with Jesus himself. The next time you see Mary Magdalene portrayed on a movie or in a television show like Risen or A.D. The Bible Continues, remember the truth of Scripture and the things we can apply to our own lives for His glory.

Reprinted from Movieguide: The Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment. Want to watch a Hollywood Awards show that celebrates your Christian values? Find out more here!

]]> (Moriah Dee) Featured Women Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
Could Thought Curses Be Oppressing Your Mind?

If you're a charismatic believer, you've probably heard of word curses. A word curse is a form of witchcraft that taps into the power of death that's in your tongue—or someone else's tongue. This spirit of Jezebel can work through people to release thought curses.

When we speak negatively over someone's life—"They will never hold down a job acting like that," "Their marriage is bound to fail the way he treats her," "The doctors said he's going to die in 30 days. Isn't that sad?" "I catch that flu every year!" "I'll never get a raise at this dead-end job"—we are agreeing with the enemy's plan and giving power to it with our anointed mouths. When we speak word curses over someone's life—or our own lives—we are opening the door to the devil.


Remember, Proverbs 18:21 says the power of death and life are in the tongue. Unfortunately, I hear many people speaking continual death over their lives, their children, their finances—and other people. Since words come from thoughts, word curses actually begin as thought curses.

The Reality of Thought Curses

Recently, as I was praying to break word curses, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the reality of thought curses. One of my prophetic mentors instructed me about 15 years ago that someone was releasing thought curses against me and it was causing me emotional distress. I forgot all about that until the Holy Spirit brought it back up again—and then I found theology to back up the theory.


The preacher said, "Even in your mind do not curse the king; and in your bedchamber do not curse the rich; for a bird in the sky may carry your voice, and a winged creature may declare the matter" (Eccl. 10:20).

The word "curse" in that Scripture means, "to make despicable, to curse, to make light, to treat with contempt, bring contempt, or dishonor," according to the KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon. The Bible says even in your mind—another translation says in your thoughts—not to curse people. Even in your mind! A word curse gives voice to an evil thought, but how can a thought take voice in the spirit realm?

From Thought Curses to Word Curses

When we think wrong thoughts about people—or about ourselves—we're violating Scripture. Paul tells us, "Whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

When we're thinking wrong thoughts about people—or ourselves—we're agreeing with the Accuser of the Brethren. We're getting on the devil's side and allowing him to feed our minds ammunition that will eventually come out of our mouths and become a word curse. Think about it for a minute. If you meditate on how angry and upset you are about someone because they wronged you, how long will it be before you speak out those thought curses and transform them into word curses?

Have you ever walked into a room and the atmosphere was tense or gloomy? And then when you speak to the person in the room, you discover they are tense or gloomy. Could it be possible that their thoughts have impacted the atmosphere in the room? I believe so. I believe if thoughts are powerful to change our own mind, they must be powerful enough to change the atmosphere around us and may be powerful enough to release witchcraft at people.

What I do know is this: Witches believe in negative thought forms. Negative thought forms are described as "structured interdimensional energy" that witches work up against victims for a specific purpose. These are intentional psychic attacks that come through negative thinking, jealousy, anger, fear, revenge and other negative thoughts. If there is power in positive thinking, there must be power in negative thinking.

Combating Thought Curses

As Christians, we need to obey Scripture. Second Corinthians 10:5-6 talks about casting down imaginations, but we often forget the part that says to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being willing to punish all disobedience when your obedience is complete."

Combating thought curses starts with our own thoughts. If we're cursing ourselves in our thoughts, we need to intentionally think the opposite of what the enemy is telling us, what people say about us, or what we think about our own shortcomings. We need to declare the truth out of our mouths. By the same token, we need to guard our thoughts about others. We don't want to be used of the enemy against anyone and violate the law of love.

Now, if you discern thought curses are coming against you, move in the Luke 6:28 principle—bless those who curse you even if you don't know who they are. Next, bind thought curses and word curses in the name of Jesus with the Matthew 16:19 key. Finally, take authority over every demonic thought that has been formed against your life and gird up the loins of your mind, for that is where the root of the battle really lies.

Have you read my new book, Jezebel's PuppetsCheck it out and determine to drop the curtain on Jezebel's show.

]]> (Jennifer LeClaire) Featured The Plumb Line Blogs Thu, 04 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
Why Inner Healing Is Relevant for Everyone

Like deliverance, inner healing is a rediscovery of an ancient ministry. Inner healing is actually a misnomer. It was first called the "healing of memories," which was even more incorrect. What it truly is and should be called is "prayer and counsel for sanctification and transformation."

It is not merely a way to restore hurting people, though it does that. It is a ministry within the body of Christ to enable believers to come to more effective and continual death on the cross, and resurrection into the fullness of life in Christ. Inner healing is a tool the Lord uses to mature His people. "Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:15).

Inner healing is actually the application of the crucified and resurrected life of Jesus Christ and His blood to those parts of my heart and yours that did not fully "get the message" when we first received Jesus as Savior. Paul wrote, "Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God" (Heb. 3:12). Because some areas deep in our hearts have not believed and accepted the good news of our death and rebirth in Him, the fullness of His work has not yet happened for us. We are new creatures in Christ, but some of our old self-centered, selfish character continues to act in its ugly, old ways, as though we had not yet received the Lord.

Inner healing, then, is evangelism to the unbelieving hearts of believers. (We will explore this in much detail in chapter 3.)

Paul refused to regard any Christian from merely a human point of view. To him, every born-again believer has been recreated: "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ" (2 Cor. 5:17-18). But the same passage goes on to say, "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (verse 20, NIV). He also called us to work out that salvation "with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). It is a "both-and" message. Positionally we have been made perfect, but we have to take hold of that salvation and make it effective in every area of our lives.

Inner healing is a tool of prayer and counseling to make salvation fully effective in all dimensions of our life and character.

When Abraham came through Canaan, God gave him the land. From that time on, therefore, positionally the Jews owned the land. But then the Lord told him that he and his people would have to go down to "a land that is not theirs," Egypt, and be slaves there for 400 years (Gen. 15:13–16). Then they had to cross the Jordan, kill the giants and conquer the fenced and walled cities to possess what they already owned.

In like manner, when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, positionally we possess the perfection of our souls. But we must yet cross our own inner Jordans, kill our own giants and conquer the fenced and walled areas of our own stony hearts to possess what we already own. Inner healing is a discipline of prayer and counsel to accomplish that task.

Inner healing practitioners look at character, therefore, to discover what practices in the old man we did not fully yield to the cross when we first received Jesus as Lord and Savior.

There exist at least two areas of conflict between inner healing and deliverance.

First, looking at character structures has seemed to many deliverance ministers too close to psychology, and thus possibly hooked into the deceits of the occult.

Second, inner healing ministers maintain that practices of the "old man" in our character serve as houses for demonic inhabitation. They have often been grieved, therefore, when some deliverance ministries have cast out demons as though they alone were the cause of trouble, and failed to dismantle their dwelling places on the cross of Christ. The result: Outcast demons have wandered around in waterless places and then come back, bringing seven others worse than themselves (Matt. 12:43–45).

All too often, Paula and I have had to "mop up" after immature deliverance ministries—just as deliverance people have had to mop up after certain inner healers' efforts, casting away demonic presences they failed to see or deal with.

Inner healing has thus been besmirched and become unnecessarily controversial.

Excerpted from Deliverance and Inner Healing by John Loren Sandford and Mark Sandford. John Loren Sandford is co-founder of Elijah House Ministries, an international ministry established in 1975 that teaches the principles of repentance and forgiveness while highlighting the power of Jesus' death and resurrection. John is considered a pioneer in the prophetic and inner healing movements. His work in the kingdom has brought reconciliation and restoration of relationships to countless thousands, from individuals and families to denominations and people groups, ultimately for reconciliation to the Father.

Mark Sandford, one of John's children, has an M.Div. in counseling from Denver Theological Seminary and is spiritual director of Elijah House. He ministers to individuals and couples in all areas of inner healing and deliverance and teaches at Elijah House schools and seminars.

]]> (John Loren Sandford, Mark Sandford) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Thu, 04 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500
How to Love and Forgive When You Have Been Wounded in a Relationship

As I minister among the body of Christ, I am finding an increase in the revelation that people don't trust other people.

There has been so much hurt in the past through relationships and family dissension that people don't know how to trust the new people God is putting in their lives. They don't know how to trust the ministers God has sent to minister to their hurts and wounds, and they often don't know how to trust God Himself.

A spirit of distrust is evident and common. How can we assist each other in the freedom Christ purchased for us if we can't trust each other? We need to learn that what people have done in the past, will not manifest in the present and future, if we get the help we need in order to fix ourselves.

Yes, I said fix ourselves.

The hurts and wounds that we take in from others often start with us. It is our perception of the way things were said or done, that we take in as rejection, offense or whatever emotion sets us off when another person speaks words toward us that make us act in an unhealthy emotional manner.

We set up walls and self-defenses based on our past experiences and circumstances. We need to discover the hurt's entry point and heal it so we don't allow the same pattern and cycle to repeat itself. We need to break the behavior patterns of thoughts and habits of believing the next person will treat us that way. We need to have confidence and trust in the heavenly Father, that each relationship will improve and get better for the glory of Christ.

We see many brothers in disarray in the story of Joseph. Joseph was starting to dream about the future and share the dreams with his brothers. This caused dissension in the relationships. Many different emotions arose. In keeping peace among your family, it isn't always wise to share everything. Pray when determining what you should share with your family and what you should hold back. We should be receiving much of our discernment from the Father in prayer.

As humans, we have a tendency to talk too much. We need to go to our heavenly Father and talk things out with Him and rely on Him to show us what to share and what not to share. Much family brokenness could be avoided if some words weren't spoken. The enemy's power is limited without involving another human being, and the weapon the enemy chooses to use is our mouths. 

Serious dissension arises in the story of Joseph. Jealousy is what destroys many relationships. Jealously occurs when a sibling is a favorite, more successful or loving. It can occur when a sibling is more cooperative with their parents or acts like a best friend to a parent. These factors can make a person jealous to the point of anger, offense or withdrawal from their family.

Jealousy was the issue with Cain and Abel, as we read in Genesis. The spirit of jealousy got so great that murder was committed. Even though most of us haven't committed murder when we feel like we hate a person, feelings of rage, violence and deep hate, are similar to an emotional murder. It is still sin in God's eyes to hate your brother or sister. We need to make sure we get the inner healing and assistance we need to deal with our emotions in a healthy, balanced way so that it doesn't get to the point of hate, rage and violence. We need to be held accountable for our own feelings and find peace within ourselves, even if the person on the other end won't receive that peace from us.

We need to remember that God has been working in our hearts for repentance and reconciliation and perhaps He has also been working in their lives. You usually don't know if He has been working in their lives since you don't talk to the person anymore. You don't know what they are experiencing, the emotional battle they are going through or how much they love you. I realize this isn't always the case. I do understand. Sometimes people are just as bitter and angry as when the dissension happened. I do know if we don't give them a chance we will never know. Everyone deserves a second chance. I know I am putting myself out there to say that, but the truth of the matter is, they do.

Everyone can be changed by the power and love of God. Give the person another chance. Allow God to use His love and presence in you to overcome the conflict the enemy has thrown your way. I encourage you to wait on God's timing. I know God's timing is perfect, and if you wait until He tells you to act and listen to what He tells you to do, the healing will begin.

It is a known fact that "hurting people hurt people." It is evident in the above Scriptures and Bible stories. These people were hurt and went off to hurt others. If you were to examine your life and the relationships you have had that didn't edify, exhort and build up, you would probably find that those people you were involved with, whether family or friends, had some deep issues in the past that hurt them. Because those people never sought the freedom from their bondage that Christ has to offer; now these people take out their hurts, subconsciously of course, on the people around them. Remember the saying, "We hurt those we love the most."

Think about a time you tried to reach out or minister to a person. Did they reject you, shut you down or totally blow you off? This could be an example of a person who is so bitter and full of hate that they don't know how to love or be loved. These people genuinely love others, but you can't see their hurt or pain until you really get to know them and try to reach out to them. We need to reach out to people with the love of Christ and encourage them to get the inner healing they need. 

When you lean on the Holy Spirit, His leading, His guiding, He will guide you into the steps of reconciliation. If the Lord is calling for reconciliation then we need to ask Him to prepare our hearts for that relationship and we need to learn how to love that person unconditionally again.

Kathy DeGraw is the founder of DeGraw Ministries a prophetic ministry releasing the love and power of God, igniting people in the prophetic and releasing people from emotional bondage. She's passionate about teaching people the power of prayer through declaring. She speaks at conferences and travels hosting evangelistic love tours. She has written her own prophetic and deliverance training manuals in order to assist other ministries. She is the founder of Change into Colorless, an anti-racism corporation and co-pastors a church. Kathy is the author of Spiritual Warfare Declarations, A Worship Woven Life, Time to Set the Captives Free and Flesh, Satan or God. Connect with Kathy at

]]> (Kathy DeGraw ) Featured Relationships Life Thu, 04 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
Why You Should Require Your Child to Obey

Two years ago, I must have struck a nerve with the article "Parents, Require Obedience of Your Children." It has proved to be one of our most visited resources.

In view of that, I thought it might be helpful to go behind that article, and give a deeper, wider biblical basis for rearing and disciplining children. My guess is that most of us parent by intuition and tradition. That's not all bad. Parenting is an art, not a science. And artists do not consult manuals as they paint.

But our human intuitions and traditions should be shaped by God's revelation. So think of this article as a short lesson about some things God has revealed in the Bible that give foundation and guidance for our parenting. We'll start with the very basics.

1. Marriage between one man and one woman for life is God's plan for the procreation and rearing of children.

The lifelong covenant of marriage between a man and a woman is God's original idea for the human race. It is modeled on, and rooted in, God's eternal plan to redeem a bride for his Son—the church.

"Therefore a man will leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh" (Gen. 2:24).

"But from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.' 'For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, 8 and the two shall be one flesh.' So then they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Mark 10:6-9).

"'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.' This is a great mystery, but I am speaking about Christ and the church" (Eph. 5:31-32).

2. The covenant union of marriage was the way God planned to fill the earth with human beings who would reflect His glory by their faith and creative productivity.

God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on the earth'" (Gen. 1:28).

3. Children were not to be conceived outside the covenant of marriage. For that reason—and others—sexual relations were denied to the unmarried, and adultery was forbidden to the married.

"Escape from sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18).

"You shall not commit adultery" (Rom. 13:9).

4. Children are a gift from God; they are not of our own making.

Job tells us that it was God who gave him his children. The psalmist says our children are a heritage from the Lord. And Ruth illustrates that, when a child is conceived, that conception is the work of God.

"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked will I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

"Look, children are a gift of the Lord, and the fruit of the womb is a reward" (Ps. 127:3).

"So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. When they came together, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she bore a son" (Ruth 4:13).

5. Parents, therefore, are to provide for their children's needs.

Parents are to provide for the basic needs of their children, from their first nursing at the breast to their establishment of self-sufficient maturity. Paul taught the fathers of Ephesus to "nourish" or "nurture" their children. This is the basic meaning of the Greek ektrepho in Ephesians 6:4—"bring them up."

Paul modeled the providing father in his relation to his spiritual "children" in the church of Corinth:

"And I will not be burdensome to you, for I do not seek what is yours, but you. For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children" (2 Cor. 12:14).

6. Parents are to instruct their children in the basic skills of cultural life, the truths about God and His way of salvation and the path of wisdom in this world.

"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates" (Deut. 6:6-9; see also Ps. 78:5-7).

"Hear, O children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. For I was my father's son, tender and the only beloved in the sight of my mother. He also taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart retain my words; keep my commandments, and live" (Prov. 4:1-4).

7. Parents are to discipline disobedient children with proportionate and loving measures of punishment.

God teaches us this through direct commands in Scripture.

"Chasten your son while there is hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18).

"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him" (Prov. 22:15).

"Do not withhold correction from a child, for if you beat him with the rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod, and deliver his soul from death" (Prov. 23:13-14).

"The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15).

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4).

God also teaches us to discipline our children by examples where fathers failed to do it.

"For I told (Eli) that I will judge his house forever, for the guilt which he knew, because his sons are cursed, and he did not rebuke them" (1 Sam. 3:13).

"Then Adonijah (David's son) the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, 'I will be king,' and he assembled chariots and horsemen and fifty men to run before him. His father had not confronted him at any time by asking, 'Why have you done this?' He also was a very attractive man, and he was born next after Absalom" (1 Kin. 1:5-6).

And, thirdly, God teaches us to discipline our children by setting us an example in the discipline of his own children. This is especially relevant for Christian parents, because God has already covered the sins of His children by the blood of Christ, yet He believes they need discipline in the shaping of their faith and character.

"My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be weary of His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, even as a father the son in whom he delights" (Prov. 3:11-12).

"Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3:19).

"Endure discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? If you are without discipline, of which everyone has partaken, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers, and they corrected us, and we gave them reverence. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed disciplined us for a short time according to their own judgment, but He does so for our profit, that we may partake of His holiness. Now no discipline seems to be joyful at the time, but grievous. Yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness in those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:7-11).

No one loves his children more than God does. And no one is more attentive to discipline us for our good. Every Christian parent should consider seriously that when our children are under our care, we are God's representatives to prepare them for their heavenly Father's discipline when they are no longer under ours. If they find God's discipline surprising, we may have left something undone.

8. Parents are to encourage their children.

We receive this instruction through direct commands in the Bible to encourage our children rather than discourage them. The commands come in the negative form of warning, perhaps because we are so prone to dishearten our children with criticism, and so inept at authentic, spontaneous, non-manipulative praise.

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they become discouraged" (Col. 3:21).

"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger" (Eph. 6:4).

God gives us His own fatherly example of the encouragement of His own children.

"He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. ... Like a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord gives compassion to those who fear Him" (Ps. 103:10, 13).

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget" (Is. 49:15).

And the apostle Paul gave himself as an example of this kind of encouraging treatment of children.

"As you know, we exhorted, comforted, and commanded every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk in a manner worthy of God, who has called you to His kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:11-12).

9. The responsibility of parents to require obedience is underlined by the duty God gives to children to obey.

We see this in the Bible's direct commands to children.

"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Ex. 20:12 = Deut. 5:16; Matt. 15:4; Mark 10:19).

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with a promise, 'so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Eph. 6:1-3).

"Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord" (Col. 3:20).

And we see our duty as parents to require obedience of our children in the way the Scriptures indict those who do not obey their parents.

"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind, to do those things which are not proper. ... They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty ... disobedient to parents" (Rom. 1:28-30).

"Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy" (2 Tim. 3:2).

And the elders of the church are told to model for their people a home life with submissive children.

"... and one who manages his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence" (1 Tim. 3:4).

10. The both-and task of parenting—encouraging and discipling—is rooted in God's purpose that true biblical faith flourishes when Christians (and their children) are regularly reminded of God's kindness and his severity.

You stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. ... Note then the kindness and the severity of God. (Romans 11:20–22)

"Faith flourishes when Christians (and their children) are reminded of God's kindness and his severity."

The kind of fear we should cultivate in ourselves as Christians, and in our children, is not the cowering fear that slaves have of their masters, but the reverential fear of the one we love and delight to please — a fear that awakens when we are drifting from him, and sends us hurrying back. Such is the fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It is what we feel toward our Father in heaven (1 Peter 1:17; Psalm 103:13), and what we expect our children to learn from our fatherly kindness and discipline. "My son, fear the Lord" (Proverbs 24:21).

Faithful Parenting Takes Sacrifice

Parenting is a very high calling from God. It is one of the most influential roles in the world. It portrays God to children before they know what God is like. It shapes them profoundly. It is the way God designed for His saving truth to pass from one generation to the next. It is not easy but costly.

Passive parenting is easy, and bears bitter fruit. Faithful parenting demands sacrifice and self-denial. It is not guaranteed success. The best-reared children may rebel. God's did. "Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me" (Is. 1:2). This is a great sorrow. But it is not the bitter fruit of parental neglect.

Pour out your prayers to God, and give your heart to your children. Give them your strength, and give them God's truth. The rewards will be great. And you will not regret it.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

For the original article, visit

]]> (John Piper) Featured Women Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
7Song: When Music Preaches the Gospel

Imagine the powerful message of the gospel communicated through seven songs that tell the full story of creation, the fall and redemption. Imagine a musical narrative that crosses cultural boundaries without losing the heart of the message. Imagine a symphonic presentation that could allow millions of lost souls around the world to experience the love of Christ.

Laura Cooke and her team at Let There Be Hope have imagined all of these things—and with their new project, 7Song, they're turning those imaginations into gospel realities. Tapping into the universal language of music, 7Song could mark a revolutionary shift in the way the 21st-century church approaches evangelism and missions, which has long been marked by tracts and Bible translations that fall on illiterate eyes.

Indeed, nearly 17 percent of the world population can't read, according to a 2010 UNESCO study. If effective communication is based on two parties that speak the same language, then the church needs to find a way to speak the language of oral cultures to fulfill the Great Commission. As Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

7Song presents the gospel, the greatest story ever told, in an engaging way to oral learners and illiterate people worldwide. In the process, the team at Let There Be Hope has harnessed the artistic power of music as an evangelistic instrument. As Laura says, "A lot of the closed countries we go to will let us sing anything we want, but won't let us preach. ... It's easier to get people to come to a concert than it is to get them to come to a service."

Discovering a Gospel Disconnect

The 7Song concept has been swirling in Laura's spirit for years—and it all started during her missionary travels.

"Six years ago, I was in Paraguay leading a worship concert, and a bunch of people who spoke Spanish—but not English—showed up," says Laura, who started leading worship internationally 11 years ago. "I thought, 'There's got to be more that we can do than just show up and sing songs.' Music has such a big pull and draws a crowd. What if there's a way we could share the gospel without necessarily needing to speak it?"

The vast majority of the 775 million adults UNESCO identified as functionally illiterate—again, nearly 17 percent of the world's population—live in key areas for international missions work: South and West Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab states. Africa, in particular, has illiteracy rates between 27 percent and 40 percent, depending on the study consulted. Cultures in these areas are largely oral, with narratives told verbally to one another.

Thomas Bracciale, music director for Let There Be Hope and co-writer of 7Song, says this reality creates a vast disconnect between Western culture and the cultures missionaries are trying to reach.

"Most of the world are oral learners," Bracciale says. "That's the way religion, history, art and tradition have always been passed down. Generation to generation, it's through hearing and speaking. We in the Western world teach in the way we learn, and it comes naturally to us—but Laura realized there's a disconnect there."

Missionary and author Stephen Kuert, who also serves on 7Song's board of directors, has witnessed this disconnect firsthand: "When I lived in Burundi, we always tried to get evangelistic literature to distribute, but when 60 percent of the country hasn't been taught how to read or go to school, it's worthless," he says. "Even when you have the Scriptures or simplify it just to the Gospel of John or a tract, it doesn't mean much to them."

Researchers have also called out this historic disconnect. In a 1991 article, Dr. James Slack observed that oral communicators remembered only 29 percent of a message when the knowledge was communicated through logic, outlined arguments or printed materials. But when the message was told as an oral story, subjects remembered over 75 percent of the information.

Phil Cooke, a Hollywood producer and founder of Cooke Pictures (no relation to Laura), says Jesus tailored His messages to an oral culture. He points to Mark 4:33-34: "With many such parables, He spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. Without a parable, He did not speak to them."

In a 2004 article in the International Journal of Frontier Missions, Rick Brown explained what this means for evangelists: "Messages are more likely to be enjoyed and remembered if they are presented in narrative forms, such as stories. ... Since oral communicators depend on memory rather than reference books, important texts such as translations of Scripture or stories from the Bible should be phrased in a way that makes the text easy to say, listen to, recite and memorize."

Laura came across these and similar proof points and felt compelled to give oral learners the gospel in a way that matches how they learn. She evaluated her own strengths as a worship leader and reached a simple, life-changing conclusion: "I do music. Let me see if we can put the Bible into music."

Embracing the Challenge

Of course, it all starts with Creation. Bracciale remembers his first meeting with Laura to create 7Song. The two had met at Oral Roberts University (ORU) while Bracciale was a student and Laura was worship director at the school, and she asked him point blank: "Has someone already done this?" No one had, and they soon discovered why: It's not easy. In fact, they wondered at one point if they could pull it off.

The first challenge—transforming the gospel into a series of songs—is ambitious. When compounded with the second challenge—making songs that could be easily translated and arranged for a variety of instruments—the task was daunting enough to make the composers feel like pulling out their hair. Bracciale, who makes his living as a professional Nashville songwriter, still calls 7Song "undoubtedly the biggest work I've ever been a part of."

To overcome the first challenge, Laura and Bracciale spent a lot of time seeking God's will.

"It's certainly a challenge, but we realized we have to come into this with prayer and humility every day," Bracciale says. "We can't think about this lightheartedly; we need to do this intentionally. We need to be somewhat heavy-hearted. The gospel is going to go out into the world, and we have to represent the gospel."

After much prayer, the pair felt led to pull lyrics directly from the Bible. Every line of all seven songs has a matching chapter and verse. This system ensured no personal biases could enter the finished product.

"It's funny, we co-wrote 7Song, but we really didn't write 7Song," Bracciale says. "We wrote the music and melody, but the words come from Scripture itself. We wanted to ensure that our personal beliefs, background or denominational beliefs were, not even in a subconscious way, present. We wanted to make sure it's Scripture from the first line to the last line."

This approach killed two birds with one stone. With Scripture offering the lyrics, translators could simply replace English verses with the matching verses in the target language.

"Our goal is to have 7Song translated in every language there is," Laura explains. "We wanted to make it easier for people to translate. They can pull in verses and avoid translation issues and cultural nuances."

The pair wrote full orchestration to accompany the songs, taking inspiration from film scores. This allows the music to be used in anything from acoustic sets—such as the digital EP they recorded last year—to elaborate, culturally specific concerts.

"We've created a base orchestration, and then each region that records over it adds their own culturally appropriate instruments," Laura says. "When we work with African countries, they use a lot of drums. When we work in the Middle East, there's a lot of string instruments. They use well-known instruments. We've done seven so far and we haven't had to change the music yet."

Though Laura sings the English version, she says she has no plans to sing on the international versions—"No one wants to hear that." Instead, the international translations use native singers already on the ground as the vocalists. Many of them are worship leaders working with other ministries, but some are simply singers who are fascinated by the project.

Bearing Eternal Fruit

7Song has been provoking powerful reactions among listeners, even in the United States. Bracciale recounted a story from a concert they held in the Chicago area. After the service, the Let There Be Hope team set up a small booth where they greeted people, prayed for them and answered questions about 7Song. One woman stopped by the booth and told them an inspiring salvation story.

The woman had come to Christ years ago—through the influence of a doctor from ORU—but fell away from the faith and called herself an atheist. When she woke up that morning, she felt "compelled" to come to church for the first time in years. When she walked in the doors, the band was performing 7Song. She was reminded of her long-dormant love for Christ and described how the music set the stage for a "coming home."

As the band replied with awe, the woman concluded, "What are the odds that I was saved by ORU people and now, after I've fallen away from the Lord, ORU alumni brought me back to Him?"

Thomas says those kinds of stories are common. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for example, a Buddhist monk requested a copy of the CD in order to help him better learn English. Since then, he's been playing the CD for the monastery, ministering to the entire community of monks. In Southeast Asia, a pastor emailed a digital copy of 7Song to 25 underground house churches. Members of those churches share it with their friends and family. One year later, and those music files have reached around 1 million people in the area.

Laura cites several reasons the 7Song project has been successful. Technology, for example, has been one of the key factors in their marketing strategy: "Technology is amazing at getting the music out there. One upload and suddenly our songs are available in hundreds of countries. ... We ask people to burn it and give it away. Our copyright is the right to copy."

7Song is effectively tapping into the power of music to reach an oral culture. "When you make it music or song, you speak in the language of the people's hearts, especially if it's translated in your local dialect," Kuert says. "You put all that together, and the potential for 7Song to be one of the most effective tools to reach our generation can't be overstated."

Or as Laura more succinctly put it, "People are really drawn to music. When we say we have music for them, no one's turned us down yet."

Yet the team acknowledges that the most important factor underlying 7Song's success has been the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Bracciale says he has seen the Spirit ministering powerfully to people through 7Song.

"It's an inspiring thing to be a part of," he says. "I am extremely humbled to have any connection to this at all. I know without a shadow of a doubt, 7Song is the most important project I have been or ever will be involved with in my life. It's so inspiring to hear stories of 7Song being spread throughout the Middle East and Southeast Asia and Africa. And to think we wrote that on a very old piano in Laura's loft."

Redeeming Heaven's Sound

The success of 7Song demonstrates the oft-untapped potential of art to change hearts and win souls. "I think art as ministry is wholly underutilized in a lot of our Western churches," Laura says. "I think it is easy for ministries to downplay the use of art."

She suspects the church may have diminished its role in the arts because of a misguided ambition to separate the secular from the sacred. A false dichotomy was created, and the creative arts were unfairly lumped in with the secular, unless the Christian message was explicit.

Kuert rejects that notion. He says worship, missions and art are inextricably linked together in God's ultimate plan: "Missions have to be directly connected with worship, and worship is one of the arts. How are we going to be effective in the 21st century as a church to engage in Christ? Missional purpose must incorporate the arts because missions and arts are married together so beautifully."

Beyond a missional context, Bracciale believes music has intrinsic spiritual power. "All throughout Scripture, we see countless references to music," he says. "We know there's music in heaven. ... I think the Lord is really smart. I think music is not just a mental thing or an emotional thing; music is one of the things that can impact someone spiritually, emotionally and mentally. You can hear a song and you bop your head to it, or it reminds you of something. It can connect you to the Father. Music is, undoubtedly, the most powerful medium in the world."

That power did not go unnoticed by the early church. In fact, centuries ago, the church used to be one of the biggest patrons of art. Stained-glass windows were constructed and entire orchestras conducted to convey the majesty of Christ. Phil believes the same artistic fervor needs to be embraced by this generation.

"For creative artists who are Christians, I think it's absolutely important, necessary and critical that we explore our art platform to share the gospel," Phil says. "In the very first verse of the Bible, God chose to introduce Himself as a creator. I have a Ph.D. in theology, and I understand there are many attributes of God, but I find it very fascinating that His first introduction in the Bible is as a creator. If we are made in the image of God, it is imperative that we express ourselves in forms of creating art. I think what we're seeing now is a new generation that embraces the importance of sharing His story, the eternal story, through art."

Laura hopes 7Song can be a positive step forward for the church: "The church needs to get back to utilizing creativity. That's what I think the purpose of art is for: to tell stories."

Expanding Its Reach

Though the groundbreaking is complete, the story of 7Song has only just begun. Laura's mind is already brimming with ideas and initiatives for the near future. She hopes to partner with MegaVoice, a manufacturer of solar-powered audio Bibles, to minister more effectively to unreached people groups.

The ministry is also raising funds for additional translations. Within two years, Let There Be Hope plans to record in Mandarin, Spanish, French, Arabic, Hindi and Russian—which, when combined with English, represent 30 percent of first-language speakers in the world. But that's not 7Song's final goal; it's just the starting point.

"The goal has always been spreading the gospel and reaching believers," Bracciale says. "It's a lot easier to not get in the way when you know what your vision is. I think that's where a lot of ministries and people can struggle. But since the beginning, we've known it's not about us. Anything we receive immediately goes back into 7Song. I don't get paid for this. We do this because we believe in the power of the gospel."

The team admits there is definite room for growth and improvement. For instance, Kuert believes 7Song needs a consistent follow-up mechanism for discipleship. "We don't really have a good grasp on follow-up, mostly because it's completely free and can be distributed to anyone," Kuert says. "We would have no way of following up on what the results would have been from people who listen to it, so that's something we're talking about: figuring out how to get more feedback, from both evangelistic and discipleship contexts."

But early victories and the Holy Spirit's favor have the team excited about the project's potential. "As we are coming into contact with different churches and ministries overseas, everyone we come into contact with has been very receptive and excited," Laura says.

She hopes 7Song can follow in the footsteps of the Jesus Film Project, which has been seen in every country and translated into hundreds of languages since the film's 1979 release. The project that put the gospel story in film is considered by many to be the greatest evangelistic success story of all time. Can putting the gospel into music produce similar fruit?

Phil says he has "no idea" whether the project will be successful long-term. "It's a huge, daunting challenge," he says. "I welcome everyone's effort to try and express the gospel in an artistic medium. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. But there's no question that one of the most important ways to engage today's culture is through art."

Bracciale compares the project to a mustard seed, planted humbly in faith and growing beyond their wildest dreams. Wherever God takes the project next, Bracciale says he's in it for the long haul.

"My biggest hope is that God keeps doing what He's doing now and gets 7Song into the hands of people who need to know Him and to understand His message of hope ... ," he says. "That's the beauty of the gospel. It never stops being relevant. It never stops changing lives."  

Taylor Berglund is the assistant online editor at Charisma Media and a co-host of the "Charisma News" and "C-POP" podcasts.

Laura Cooke shares the story behind Let There Be Hope, a ministry ready to share the gospel through seven songs at

]]> (Taylor Berglund) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
The 5 Best Apps Available for Christian Men

As of 2015, reports show over 1.5 million apps are available for download from both Google and Apple. That, my brothers, is a lot of apps!

Over the last month, I started making my way through those apps (on the Apple Store) in an effort to find the very best apps available to men, more specifically Christian men.

I want to be honest with you, I reviewed nearly 20 different apps, but found that most hadn't been updated in months or you had to spend too much money in order to access the content.

With that in mind, ALL of the apps listed below appear to be updated often and are FREE!

Listen, guys, if you're too busy or if you feel like you simply don't have the time to maintain your walk with Christ, then I highly suggest you review the app options listed below, pick at least two and start engaging with them on a daily basis.

My goal with this post is not only to expose the best apps available to Christian men, but also to feature the best part of each app. I'd encourage you to go through each one and choose which one you think will suit you best, based on what sets it apart from the crowd.

I'll let the apps speak for themselves now, and pray that your walk with Christ and the relationships around you are re-established or transformed by at least one of the powerful apps listed below.

Here are the five best apps available for Christian men:

1. Man Up God's Way

Unique feature: The interaction

The possibilities to meet and interact with other men on this app are endless. After sign-up, you'll find the Home Screen & Navigation Screen friendly and easy to use. From there you can dig into the latest challenge, read the latest resources or post a hurdle. The "Hurdles" section is a powerful place where you can share your heart anonymously and get replies from real brothers supporting you and sharing their advice. Man Up and download it today! (Download Options Here)

2. Giant Slayers

Unique feature: Daily notifications

This app is unparalleled if you are looking for daily notifications on Scripture and hard questions every man needs to answer. These notifications are picked and built just for you after you sign-up and take a short assessment based on your current spiritual walk. From there, you can set up "My Tracks." My Tracks offers you multiple choices from daily or weekly notification plans, and also offers you timed plans (7-14 days) for specific topics such as pornography and human trafficking. You pick the Track and you pick the notification times. Become a fellow Giant Slayer today! (Get more info here, visit your App store to download)

3. Uncommon Men

Unique feature: The challenges

Once you sign up for the Uncommon Men app, you'll be immediately faced with a handful of challenge options. From being a better father or role model, to offering fun ways to improve your marriage. The "U Can Lead" challenge was my personal favorite because it impacts every man who joins the app. This challenge hit me with hard questions such as who I could count on during an emergency and how to spend some real time thinking about my purpose in life. Jump on this app today and pick the challenge that best suits your needs now! Finish it like a man and move onto the next one! (Download Here)

4. Live Bold

Unique feature: The resources

Get ready to set up camp, guys! Once you sign up for free, you'll find the app easy to search and loaded with tons of great resources. Click on the "Campfire" tab and you'll find the latest video and article specifically relevant to men. If you're not sure what a Christian man is, then scroll down the menu where you'll find resources specifically built to answer your questions about the Christian life. And one of the best parts of the app is the Daily Kickstart. This is a great way to start your day off with a quick word of encouragement and Scripture. Grab some kindling and set up camp today! (Download Here)

5. He Reads Truth

Unique feature: The reading plans

If you have some extra time before work or are looking to grow a deeper relationship with Christ, then this is the devotional app you've been looking for. From the menu, you'll find full access to the Bible and great-looking Lock Screen images which are perfect for your phone. But the real power of this app is the reading plans. Once you choose your plan, you'll engage in a great journey. Each plan offers a tab for relevant Scriptures, then you'll be challenged with devotional questions, and at the end you'll have a chance to share your personal thoughts about the devotional of the day. Download this app and experience real growth in your faith! (Get more info here, visit your App Store to download)

Guys, I strongly encourage you to check out these apps this week and download a few of them. These all contain powerful content that can help you get back or stay on track in your daily walk in life and in your faith.

No more excuses!

If you have one of these apps already, please share your thoughts about it! If you download one and try it, please share your experience with us!

(Also, please feel free to add a link in the comments to an app I might have missed. Please make sure the app is up to date and is meant to serve men.) {eoa}

Manturity is a blog built on establishing spiritual maturity in today's man. The goal is to assist men in building better marriages, help men in grow in maturity and explore different aspects of manhood. features new weekly blog posts, daily social media updates and a powerful resources page. Stay up to date with the Manturity blog communities on Facebook and Twitter.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Bryan Van Slyke/ Featured Men Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:00:00 -0500
3 Strategies to Help Prevent Alzheimer's

New evidence of a link between Alzheimer's and heart disease may provide new ways to prevent the dreaded brain ailment, a top cardiologist says.

"The more we learn about Alzheimer's disease, the more similarities we find to heart disease, which should give us new ways to prevent it," Dr. Chauncey Crandall tells Newsmax Health

It's estimated that 5.3 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer's disease, including 5.1 million over the age of 65 and 200,000 over the age of 85. By 2020 that number is expected to balloon to 7.1 million, a 40 percent increase in less than a decade.

"While scientists say that they don't know the exact cause of Alzheimer's, there's growing evidence that this disease is caused by the same process that results in coronary heart disease," says Dr. Crandall, chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. 

Previous research has shown that the same risk factors that result in cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity, put people at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease as well as other forms of dementia.

These risk factors lead to atherosclerosis, and now researchers at the Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis find this process does occur not only in the cardiovascular system—which includes the heart—but in the brain as well.

Atherosclerosis occurs when deposits of cholesterol and other substances (plaques) build up in your arteries and narrow your blood vessels. This process can cause heart-attack-causing blood clots, and may also lead to Alzheimer's by reducing the flow of blood that nourishes your brain, they noted.

The researchers used mice, as well as tissue samples from patients, and exposed them to cells to types of fats known to lead to atherosclerosis. They found that in the absence of a certain type of cell, ability to clear waste became dysfunctional and that this protein builds up in the brain.

They hope this finding could lead to new ways to clear this protein from the brain and lead to a new way to treat Alzheimer's disease, they said of their study, which appears in Science Signaling. 

"Atherosclerosis not only causes clots to form that interrupt the blood flow, which causes heart attack and stroke, but it also results in a toxic situation that leads to inflammation, and there's growing evidence that inflammation may play a role in Alzheimer's disease, notes Dr. Crandall, author of the Heart Health Report

"These findings give added weight to the brain-heart connection, and provide us with ammunition to show that steps to prevent heart disease also pays off in Alzheimer's prevention as well," he adds.

Here are Dr. Crandall's tips to protect both your heart and your brain:

1. Control high blood pressure. One-third of people with high blood pressure do not have it under control, putting them at risk for heart attack, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. Take your blood pressure medicine as directed and if you are not at goal, talk to your doctor.

2. Get active. Numerous studies find aerobic exercise is helpful because it increases blood flow to the brain. Get in the habit of a one-hour daily walk.

3. Reduce inflammation. Toxic bodily inflammation is linked to many diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. Here's how to reduce inflammation:

  • Take low-dose aspirin daily. You may already be on aspirin therapy, but if you're not, ask your doctor about taking a dose of 81 mg.
  • Follow a plant-based or Mediterranean diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables; get your protein from plant-based sources such as tofu, beans or cold-water fish such as salmon or trout; use olive oil for fat; and eat nuts and whole grains.
  • Take vitamin C. Taking 2,000 grams of vitamin C daily will ease inflammation.
  • Supplement with fish oil. Take 2,000 grams 
of fish oil, and make sure it comes from a high-quality source. If you are on both daily aspirin therapy and a blood-thinner, cut back on the fish oil if you notice bruising.
  • Choose cherries. Fresh cherries or tart cherry juice is a natural anti-inflammatory.
  • Drink fresh juice. Combining fresh vegetables in a juicer creates a healthful inflammation-reducing beverage. You can choose just about any colorful fruit or vegetable concoction that suits your taste.

    For the original article, visit
]]> (Charlotte Libov/Newsmax Health) Featured Health Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
Jarrid Wilson: Thoughts on Racism From a Suburban White Man

Let me start this post by saying how sorry I am that it's taken me almost 30 years to personally digest the reality of racism in our country. Let me apologize for never truly seeing what was taking place right in front of me.

And, let me admit my fault in keeping quiet as a white, male pastor when hate and harm affected the lives of millions each and every day that passed, all while I had a platform to bring light to this horrific situation. I'm sorry.

This not an apology for being white, but instead an apology for being a white man who had yet to publicly stand up against the injustice directed towards my brothers and sisters of all ethnic backgrounds.

I'm a privileged white man (as I've been told) who grew up in the suburbs of southern California, attended schools that were a melting pot of ethnicity, went to a church that was primarily Hispanic, had friends and girlfriends from all different ethnic backgrounds, and never made it a hundred miles outside of my city limits until I was twenty-two years old. I guess you could say I lived in a bubble, and the idea of racism was something that seemed foreign to me—as if it was something that only took place in movies or really rough parts of our country. Straight ignorance, right?

I've been told I'm a privileged white man because of the following:

  • I've never been pulled over because of the color of my skin.
  • I've never been followed in a store because of the color of my skin.
  • I've never been treated unfairly because of the color of my skin.
  • I've never been unaccepted by the family of someone I was dating because of the color of my skin.
  • I've never been bullied because of the color of my skin.
  • I've never been treated unfairly by law enforcement because of the color of my skin.

All these statements are in fact, true regardless of how much I dislike the term #WhitePrivilege. 

It wasn't until I moved to Memphis, Tennessee that all my assumptions about racism changed. The KKK just so happened to be hosting a rally the same day I got into town, and at that very moment, racism wasn't just an idea or foreign happening anymore; it was taking place right in my own backyard. I couldn't believe it. It was eye-opening. I felt the pit of my stomach turn. I was blindsided by the fact that not everyone had parents like mine who taught me to never judge someone by the color of their skin or where they're from, but to instead love all people the same way Christ loved the Church, without partiality (Rom. 2:11).

Little did I know this wasn't out of the norm for the south, let alone for our entire country if I were to open my eyes a bit. If I'm transparent, I think the concept of racism was something I didn't want to believe, so I purposely shut myself out from seeing it even if it was in plain sight. I was scared to admit that there were people in this world who would hate others because of their skin color. I was afraid to admit that our country hadn't fully moved on from the dreadful past of enslaving African-Americans for personal gain.

My experience of living in Memphis changed my life completely, and I was no longer hiding from the reality of racial discrimination but instead leaning into it, wanting to learn more about its origin, and how I could help be a voice towards finding reconciliation.

The only problem was I didn't know where to start. I was a bit scared. I didn't know what I was allowed to say or not allowed to say, or whether or my voice would be taken seriously if anything was said at all. All I knew was this; Jesus stood against injustice, and it was time for me to man up do the same regardless if I was taken seriously. It's the right thing to do. It's what Jesus would have done. We're called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).

Over the last few years I've found myself leaning into influential African-American leaders—meeting them in person, reading their books, studying their blog posts, listening to their sermons and even attending their racial reconciliation classes. I still have no clue exactly what I'm doing, but I know that I need to learn from people whom I believe are prominent voices in racial reconciliation and in the multi-ethnic church.

I'm realizing the importance of not just using photos of good-looking white people in my blog posts. I'm realizing the importance of having friends who don't look like me. I'm realizing the importance of seeking unification as it pertains to race and ethnic diversity.

Although we may look different, we were all created by the same God. We are family. Every life has meaning, and nobody should be discriminated because of the color of their skin.

"... where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Col. 3:11, MEV).

If I'm honest, I think I'm just fed up with people not acknowledging the fact that racism is an obvious issue in our country, especially those who have influence within Christian culture but remain silent because they don't want to be seen as controversial. Racism isn't controversial, it's just wrong.

Trust me, I've been that guy for a long time but I'm starting to change dramatically. I'm not going to do things perfectly, but I'm still going to try. Why? Because I'd rather be deemed controversial than let my silence be conveyed as pacifism or purposeful ignorance as it pertains to racial discrimination and affliction.

"I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word."—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We as Christians are called to stand up against injustice no matter where it's from or what it looks like. One of the most purposely ignorant things we can do as humans would be to ignore the reality of racism in our country. The local church should be forerunners in the journey toward reconciliation and examples as to how we are to love one another without limitation.

I'm sorry it took me this long to admit my faults as a white pastor/individual living in a multi-ethnic world.

"God's desire is for us to experience multi-ethnic fellowship now in the local church as it will be for eternity. God's heart is total reconciliation."—Derwin L. Gray (The High-Definition Leader: Building Multiethnic Churches in a Multiethnic World){eoa}

Jarrid Wilson is a husband, pastor and author relentlessly sharing the love of Jesus. For the original article, visit

For the original article, visit

]]> (Jarrid Wilson ) Featured Culture Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500
When the Church Ignores Immorality

Why would anyone actually choose to accept deception over truth?

It makes no sense, or does it?

A person's morality will always determine their theology. When people make the choice to follow Christ casually and to loosen their moral standards, they must adjust their theology accordingly.

We are living in such a time. Many professors, pastors and church leaders are teaching and publishing that the infallible Holy Bible "contains God's Words." According to them, many of the facts are inaccurate and many of the principles are cultural ethics of ancient times and cultures.

The creation story is replaced with theistic evolution, opening the way for the devaluing of human life.

Mankind is not a special creation made in the image of a loving heavenly Creator but the product of spontaneous generation.

The principles of divine design, purpose and destiny are removed, and every person has the right of self-determination.

This opens the gateway for women to discard unexpected fetal tissue to protect their future and career from unwanted encumbrance. A woman has the right to determine what happens within her own body. Couples may enjoy "hooking up" and living together without the demands of outmoded marriage ceremonies. A man might be born with the desires and passions of a woman and seek relations with another man. A woman may have desires for another woman. Sexual orientation is no longer a divinely prescribed moral standard.

Should any of this be questioned, sociology, psychology and junk science will ensure enough disinformation is reported to verify these new truths. Pastors and teachers who do not accept the infallibility of the Holy Bible are subject to such distortion and will give way to the "new truth" and avoid the labels of intolerant, homophobic and bigoted.

These "new truths" will not bring about a "Great Society" but create a "Brave New World" filled with greater hatred, bigotry and a moral landslide.

These "new truths," and their accompanying freedoms, become addictions and bring new forms of sickness, creating a broken society that mankind cannot cure. The social epidemic quickly becomes pandemic and will become a moral tsunami of proportions not seen since the Roman Empire. All of this is made possible by a church that has turned their ear from hearing the true Word of God and built upon sand.

The church is becoming a social club embracing political correctness and historical rewrite.

Authentic worship is being replaced with performance and very professional music.

Entertainment is being delivered instead of powerful spiritual awakening.

As the church adopts this "new truth," they also adopt the medical model for dealing with moral issues. "Disease" replaces the old teaching of sin; this to prevent further emotional damage from being inflicted upon the broken.

Twelve-step programs replace "a broken and contrite spirit."

Years of counseling and psychotherapy take the place of repentance and cleansing of the heart through the blood of Jesus. Universal grace replaces redemption and salvation through new birth.

The great danger of deception is one does not know when they are deceived unless someone loves them enough to show them the truth. That is the great responsibility placed upon the church. Jude challenged the apostolic church. "Beloved, while I diligently tried to write to you of the salvation we have in common, I found it necessary to write and appeal to you to contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. For there are some men who secretly crept in, who were marked long ago for this condemnation. They are ungodly men, who pervert the grace of our God into immorality and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ" (Jude 3-4).

May God move the heart of spiritual leaders to seek Him earnestly; commit their hearts to love and honor the infallible inerrant Word of God; then boldly teach, preach and publish the uncompromised Holy Word with anointing that will convict and purity the hearts of men and women.

Dr. F. Dean Hackett has served in full-time Christian ministry since October 1971. He has ministered throughout the United States, Canada and Europe, serving as pastor, conference speaker and mentor. He has planted four churches, assisted in planting 15 others, and currently serves as lead pastor of Living Faith Church in Hermiston, Oregon. Dr. Hackett founded Spirit Life Ministries International in 2001 to facilitate ministries in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina and to open a training center for workers in those nations. You can find him at F. Dean Hackett - Foundational, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

]]> (Dr. F. Dean Hackett) Featured Women Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
Jesus: Author of the Women's Liberation Movement

I have to admit that before I wrote my book Fashioned to Reign, I never understood the radical message of gender equality that the Gospel writers were trying to convey through the life of Jesus.

Yes, I knew that Jesus hated religion. I was very aware that He was a counterculture radical who overturned the deceptive tables of hypocrisy and drove the moneychangers out of the holy place. I have read the Bible every day for 30-plus years, so I understood that quite a few women hung around Jesus. Yet because I didn't have a real grasp on the first-century oppressive culture of Judaism and the massive mistreatment of women during the days of Christ, I totally missed one of the most profound messages of the Gospels: Jesus championed the equality of women.

It's all through the four Gospels—it's almost impossible to miss the message. Like wanted posters in a train station or warning signs at a nuclear site, the Gospel writers etched their surprising decrees with alarming frequency throughout their manuscripts. But somehow I managed to stumble blindly through the hallways of freedom and step over the feminine treasures of womanhood. In my search for the wellsprings of revival, I somehow missed the fountain of beauty, flowing ever so gracefully from the Book of Life.

The Samaritan Woman

In the book of John, we see Jesus again, tired and thirsty from a long day's journey sitting at the edge of the well in the hot noon sun with no way to draw water from the deep spring. His disciples went to town to get some lunch, so He's alone but not for long. By a divine coincidence, a Samaritan woman emerges on the scene with a water pot in her hand ... just in time to quench His thirst.

Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." (I love the way Jesus gets right to the point and doesn't waste words).

The Samaritan woman said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans). I'm sure she's being a little sarcastic here because Jews look down their noses at the Samaritans and women ... she is obviously both. There's a deeply rooted prejudice on the part of the Jewish people against her race and her gender. James and John, for example, want to call fire down on the Samaritans. Yet Jesus is asking the Samaritan woman for some help.

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, "Give Me a drink," you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." OK ... stop and think about what's really happening here. Step back in time with me once again. Let's go all the way back to the first century. Jesus is offering a woman—a Samaritan woman—living water! Remember, men don't talk to women; women are possessions. They are not taught, they are not valued, they are not celebrated, their heads are covered, and they definitely are not spiritual.

Turning the Tables

She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?" This girl is smart and intuitive. When she met Jesus a few minutes earlier, she emphasized to Him that He was a Jew and she was a Samaritan. But suddenly the tables have turned. The thirsty Man is honoring her; He is treating her like she is a person, so she rushes to find common ground. Even though she is a half-breed, she claims "Jacob as her father." She knows how to make a connection with a Jewish man; she reminds Him of their common roots.

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw." OK, we can see that the woman is hungry and that Jesus is eager to give her a river of life. But now the story gets a little sticky. Jesus is about to uncover a painful cycle of dysfunction in her life. Will she lie to cover up the fact that she's a fornicator or will she trust Him enough with her heart to let Him unearth decades of abandonment, divorce and betrayal?

He said to her, "Go, call your husband and come here."

The woman answered and said, "I have no husband."

Jesus said to her, "You have correctly said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly." Jesus shows her respect in the midst of her sin and compliments her for being honest.

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

This woman may have a messed up personal life, but she has a deep hunger for the things of God. In a culture that refused to educate women, this Samaritan girl is well-read and obviously has been exposed to the Scriptures. Her story reminds me of so many people I've met throughout life. When you view their story from a distance (five husbands and now she is living with her boyfriend), they seem to have no interest in God whatsoever.

The religious world often writes these people off, speaks piously about them from the podium and uses their stories to illustrate wickedness. But underneath years of dysfunction and a mountain of pain (much like the story of Rahab of old), there lies a hungry heart—a passion to know God.

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Wow! The most profound teaching ever revealed on worship was taught to a Samaritan woman who's living with her boyfriend!

The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Five husbands and one boyfriend later, the woman is still looking for the Messiah, the Anointed One, who will release the oppressed and set the captives free!

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He." Did you get that? Jesus just revealed Himself personally as the Messiah for the first time in recorded history, and it was to a Samaritan who was a woman.

At this point, His disciples came, and were amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, yet no one said, "What do You seek?" or "Why do You speak with her?" Are you getting this? The disciples are shocked that Jesus is talking to a Samaritan who is a woman, but they aren't about to confront Him about His inappropriate behavior. They have seen this movie too many times before.

So the woman left her water pot, and went into the city and said to the men, "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" They went out of the city, and were coming to Him. From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, " He told me all the things that I have done."

So when the Samaritans came to Jesus, they were asking Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." (Read John 4:7-41.)

The First Evangelist

Look at what's happening here—a Samaritan, a woman, who's been married five times and is now living with her boyfriend, who the religious world would not even allow to step foot in the synagogue, just became the first evangelist in history. This woman, who would never qualify to be an elder in anyone's church, has just turned a Samaritan city upside down with one encounter with her Messiah.

I'm telling you that disqualifying women from leadership is costing us our cities. You say, "She wasn't a leader." You're right, she didn't have a title. But she led people and they followed her to Christ. Leadership is more than a title, a plaque on a desk or name on some flowchart. Leadership means people follow you, they listen when you speak, they value your words, and they emulate your experience.

There are a lot of people running around with a plaque on their desk, their name on some flowchart, or they have some lofty title; but nobody's following them. John Maxwell puts it like this, "He who says he's leading and has no followers is just taking a walk."

Not only were those Samaritan people following her, they learned about Jesus from her! She taught men and women that Jesus was the Messiah. We'll talk more about this later, but if Paul's words to Timothy were universally applied, "I don't allow a woman to teach," many Samaritans would not have found Christ.

Some may argue whether or not a woman should carry the title of leader, elder, apostle or prophet. But true leaders are acknowledged by titles, not created by them. Calling somebody an elder doesn't make them an elder anymore than calling somebody an engineer makes them an engineer. A builder is somebody who builds. A skydiver is a person who jumps out of a plane with a parachute. A dancer is someone who dances. A leader is someone people follow, and a teacher is a person people learn from. You get the picture.

You can choose to redefine these roles to protect your understanding of the Scripture but you're just refusing to acknowledge that when a man is learning from a woman, she is teaching him, and when people follow a woman, she's leading them ... PERIOD!

For more on this subject, check out my book Fashioned to Reign.

How is God changing your view of women in leadership? Let me know in the comments below. {eoa}

Kris Vallotton is the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM). Kris travels internationally training and equipping people to successfully fulfill their divine purpose. He's a best-selling author, having written more than a dozen books and training manuals to help prepare believers for life in the kingdom. He has a diverse background in business, counseling, consulting, pastoring and teaching, which gives him unique leadership insights and perspectives. Kris has a passion to use his experience and his prophetic gift to assist world leaders in achieving their goals and accomplishing their mission.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Kris Vallotton) Featured Women Life Wed, 03 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
The United States Is Not the Center of the Universe

My friend Kelechi is a brave Nigerian evangelist who has gotten himself kidnapped several times so he could share Christ with armed militants. More recently he has been involved in dangerous evangelism efforts in northern Nigeria, where Islamic jihadists have killed 17,000 people in the past five years.

A few days ago, Kelechi sent me a disturbing email, asking for prayer. He had just learned that a young man he was discipling, Boulous, was killed by militants while trying to get some Christians out of a village that had been targeted for a surprise attack.

Kelechi wrote: "Please would you pray for me and ask your friends to lift us before the Lord? It is a very trying time. We are the only people doing evangelistic work there, so we cannot stop. Also pray for me as I go to the area next week when I think it will be safer."

I feel helpless trying to raise awareness of Kelechi's cause. One of the worst waves of terrorism on planet earth has hit Nigeria, yet the world's media gives it scant attention. The Islamic group operating there, Boko Haram, killed more people in 2014 than ISIS terrorists in Syria. Last week in the Nigerian village of Dalori, Islamic militants bombed homes and burned children alive.

The death toll in Dalori was 86. But did you hear anything about the attack? It wasn't on any news channel I listen to. All the major networks were talking nonstop about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and the Iowa presidential caucus—along with the controversy stirred by Beyoncé's new music video.

In April 2014, Boko Haram kidnapped 276 Christian schoolgirls from the Nigerian town of Chibok—and for a few weeks people on this side of the Atlantic Ocean paid attention, especially after First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her support for the girls.

Almost two years have now passed, and the girls are still missing. They are most likely living as slaves in a Boko Haram camp on the Chadian border. Most likely they have been forced to marry their abductors. And most people have forgotten about them.

All these foreign problems are just too stressful to think about. And too far away. Besides, we have a Super Bowl to watch.

I'm not trying to put anybody under a guilt trip. I am blessed to live in the United States, and there isn't much I can do to stop Boko Haram from torching African villages. But it concerns me that so many of us are completely oblivious to the needs of the rest of the world.

Just a few days ago, Islamic terrorists linked to the group Al Shabaab killed four Christian in Kenya. One of the believers was beheaded. I have to rely on a relatively obscure Christian news service for this information because mainstream media outlets rarely report on Christian persecution.

Wars are going on today in Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Ukraine, Israel, Iraq, Nigeria and South Sudan—which is also dealing with a famine. But when I checked the latest headlines in USA Today, the focus of the news was on the New Hampshire presidential primary and pro football star Peyton Manning's legacy.

And this just in! Beyoncé will perform during the Super Bowl halftime show!

That's a shame. Especially when you do the math and realize that the United States has a population of 319.4 million while the global population is about 7.2 billion. That works out to a 4.4 percent share of the world's population. Who do we think we are?

We are not the center of the universe.

I'm not going to hold my breath until mainstream media improves its reporting. People are always going to be more interested in Kim Kardashian's latest reality show than in how we can stop global sex trafficking, how we can help abused women in Somalia or how we can protect Syrian refugees while they flee the terror in their country.

But Christians should care. We may live in the United States, but we are citizens of God's kingdom and we are called to pray—and care—for the whole world. Paul told Timothy: "Therefore I exhort first of all that you make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, for kings and for all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty" (1 Tim. 2:1-2, MEV).

Please be a global Christian. Look at the big picture. Stay informed of world events so you can pray with understanding. Make friends with people from other cultures and see the world through their eyes. Pray for the nations.

You can start by praying for Nigeria—and for my friend Kelechi, who will be risking his life to share the gospel this weekend while millions of Americans watch a 17-minute halftime show that will cost $12 million.

]]> (J. Lee Grady) Featured Fire in My Bones Blogs Wed, 03 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
2 Reasons You May Not Be Seeing Fruit in Your Life

We are designed to produce fruit in our lives, manifesting the ways of God through changed lives and relationships that display His ways. Yet there is nothing more discouraging than feeling like your life is not producing any fruit.

If we are honest, a lot of accusation and condemnation can pummel the mind, keeping us wondering whether our lives even make a difference.

Although I never try to answer questions with pat answers, I do think there are two critical things to keep in mind if you honestly feel that you are not seeing the fruit you believe God can manifest in your life.

1. Your investment needs more time. In the natural, we all understand that when you plant a seed in the ground it is utterly foolish to expect fruit the next morning. But we tend to treat our spiritual lives as though the fruit should show right away.

It doesn't work that way in the natural, nor does it in the spiritual. Seeds need to grow into plants. Then plants over time begin to blossom and produce fruit. A lot of time and care go into the full process.

There are seasons of growing a harvest and you need to know what season of life are you in. If you are an overcoming believer, odds are you are planting seeds everywhere. You would never drop a seed in the ground and expect to eat fruit the next day. But we tend to do this with our spiritual life.

The quick results mindset of today does not fit into the Kingdom of God. Most major changes often work through a lifetime of investment. Even bigger changes can take generations to take place. So we must keep the bigger picture in mind of what we are contending for, long term.

We also need to find who we are in the process of what God is doing. If we connect to our role effectively, the overall work that God is doing will increase in effectiveness.

There is no overnight success, no matter what people may think. Those who appear to manifest overnight success have years of investment and faithfulness that brought about the fruit. It appears to others that fruit just appeared overnight. Yet behind the scenes, there was a lot of prayer, contending, disappointment and tenacity involved.

Fruitfulness takes steady perseverance, the ability to hang in there when everyone around you has quit. It also takes resilience, the ability to bounce back from falling down or being hurt.

The most fruitful people learn to live as overcomers. They don't let life push them back from their potential. They keep the big picture in mind and they daily invest into that larger vision.

I have a hunch that you may just need to stay it and not quit. Millions start strong, but a minuscule amount of people remain to see it through.

2. You are being pruned. As pruning helps a tree in the natural, so does it in the spiritual. Our Father in heaven is the vinedresser, who loves us deeply. He cares for us so much that He prunes off areas that are not who God made us to be. He also prunes off areas that can be hindrances to us producing the maximum amount of fruit over the long term.

Most believers hate pruning, but it doesn't need to be a dreaded process. The reason the pruning process is so painful for some is that the areas God is pruning have become so much a part of their life that living without these areas becomes painful.

It's hard when God starts causing us to face our fears rather than running from them. We get pruned when God wants us to stop blaming other people and grow up into greater maturity.

Pruning gets hard when we have to let go of our addictions as comforts for our life. The anger has to go. The false coping has to go. The pity parties have to stop.

God is so loving. He knows exactly how to prune us, because He is the perfect vinedresser. He doesn't condemn us, use guilt or accuse us into conformity. He knows in the beauty of love how to address the areas of our life that will hurt us in the long run.

But most avoid this process at all costs.

A lot of our coping patterns and reliance agents become idols. We focus on them so much we cannot see God in our situations. We lean on them for life, but they are killing us in the long run. Our self-loathing, fears, unworthiness and addictions, to name some, seem to serve us, but are destroying our fruitfulness.

Pruning only works well if you get to the root of that particular branch. Otherwise it just grows back. So many waste their time trying to clip the ends of the branches, when God needs to get to a deeper root system. When we hit the root system, we address the areas that get to the heart. It exposes what we live by to cope, heal and function. Our Father wants us firmly rooted in Christ and established in the love relationships He has for us as the perfect Dad. Everything else is a cheap imitation.

The issues that God did not create us with all need to eventually die and burn away. As a planting of God, we must know there are areas of our life that are not in alignment with who God made us to be. The pruning addresses this.

During pruning seasons, things seem slow and fruit doesn't seem to be popping up everywhere. But just wait. If you let the process of transformation have its effect, you will have more fruit than you will know what to do with!

Many people try to avoid or medicate away their pruning process instead of letting a loving Father teach them into the next stage of breakthrough. We wander around the mountain over and over.

Why avoid it, when amazing fruitfulness is right around the corner? {eoa}

Mark DeJesus has been equipping people in a full-time capacity since 1995, serving in various roles, including teaching people of all ages, communicating through music, authoring books, leading and mentoring. Mark is a teacher, author and mentor who uses many communication mediums, including the written word, a weekly radio podcast show and videos. Out of their own personal renewal, Mark and his wife, Melissa, founded Turning Hearts Ministries, a ministry dedicated to inside-out transformation. Mark also founded Transformed You, a communication platform for Mark's teachings, writing and broadcasts that are designed to encourage people in their journey of transformation.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Mark DeJesus) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Wed, 03 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500
How to Avoid Self Deception in Your Walk With Christ

For most of my adult I life, I believed James 1:22-25 didn't apply to me. I had convinced myself that I was a "doer" of God's Word and not simply a "hearer."

After all, I went to church. I tithed. I listened to well-known preachers and agreed with what they said. Here and there, I told people about Jesus.

Wow, did I buy into Satan's lies. And he did a fantastic job of selling it, too.

Over the past year of my transformation as a believer, however, I slowly began to realize that I was the epitome of James 1:22, which says, "Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does" (MEV).

Every Sunday I would hear a good sermon at church, and every Sunday it would be the same. I got fired up and knew I was going to have a great week after being filled with a good word and great fellowship. But then something would happen in traffic or my children would say something that shouldn't have upset me but did, or I would worry about our family finances, and my joy would dissipate.

Immediately, I had forgotten what kind of man I was. I was a "hearer" of the Word and not a "doer." Immediately, I had become exactly like the sower in Matthew 13:20-22, "But he who received the seed on rocky ground is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, eventually he falls away. He also who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful" (MEV).

As a believer in Jesus Christ, you've heard the good news of the gospel. Most know of God's promises of provision and protection, and most know they have the ultimate victory in Jesus. Yet when trials and tribulation come, and they deceive themselves into believing that God doesn't really care for them. They deceive themselves by thinking he's distant and isn't listening to their problems. The word is choked from them as the weeds have grown among the good seeds that were planted.

In other words, if I hear the word of God but do not do what it says, I am treating the Word as if it were useless. I am deceiving myself about the very nature and purpose of the Word of God.

"... for the hearers of the law are not justified before God, but the doers of the law will be justified" (Rom. 2:13, MEV).

So what can you do to make sure this doesn't happen to you, that you don't become a "hearer" only and deceive yourself?

* Realize that trials WILL come in this life, and let your faith be tested, because it produces patience (James 1:3-4). It's all part of the growing process.

* Get connected with a small group at church. I'm not saying that you can trust everyone, but find people within that small group to discuss your life issues—people with whom you can be transparent and vulnerable.

* Pray that God will teach you how to be a "doer" of His Word and not simply a "hearer." Pray that you will know better than to deceive yourself. 

* Adhere to Proverbs 3:5-6 and trust God "with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding." Don't be one of those nominal Christians who simply won't allow that.

* Continually seek wisdom. Don't just read your Bible every day, study it. Realize that the Bible reveals God's wisdom to us (Prov. 2:10).

* When you make sinful or mistaken choices, learn from them, repent and recover. God will be right there with you. 

Rather than be the sower from Matthew 13:19-22, don't you want to be the sower from verse 23? "He who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit. Some produce a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown" (MEV).

Bearing fruit is what your walk with Christ is all about. It's all about being a "doer." 

And as I always like to say, "there is that." {eoa}

]]> (Shawn A. Akers) Featured Step Out of the Boat Blogs Wed, 03 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
Are You Taking Care of Your Mind?

The doctor showed us two pictures. One was of a little boy on crutches. She said it was obvious that he was injured, and people at school would be offering to sign his cast and carry his backpack. The other picture was of a teenage girl sitting on bleachers, and the doctor told us she looked just fine but had a concussion we couldn't see.

"Save the Brain," they call themselves. It's an organization that educates people about the needs of students who have concussions.

If the name weren't already taken, I might steal it and re-brand my blog.

Paul David Tripp has had me thinking a lot about thinking. I'm now on my second pass through his book, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, except this time with a highlighter. I never, ever mark my books, so you know this is a big find.

Tripp says this:

"We are always organizing, interpreting, and explaining what is going on inside us and around us. We all think, though some of us do it better than others."

Another Paul is on a mission to save the brain. He says:

"Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

We can look fine on the outside but have destruction going on inside our minds, much like those neurons the doctor was telling us about. They start to die when they've been violently jolted. The damage from a concussion spreads and sometimes doesn't manifest itself in symptoms until 48 hours later. In the same way, one bad thought can cause death around it in our thinking—spreading damage into our minds.

Do you know the brain is the most fragile organ—like gelatin in substance?

I was kind of watching football with Matt the other day (trying hard to care), and I witnessed two players violently bash heads.

"Oh, they'll call him on that," Matt said.

"But it looked like an accident," I said.

Matt told me it didn't matter. They were being extra careful these days about head injuries and not accepting any actions that might cause one.

Skull bones. Helmets. Brains need extra protection.

The brain is fragile but not just physically. It's fragile in the thoughts we allow to pass between neurons as well. As followers of Christ, we are commanded to take charge of our thoughts and only think what is excellent, because anything else is dangerous.

Sometime in the next 24 or 48 hours, our thoughts are going to manifest themselves. People are going to see if our minds our healthy.

So are you thinking well today?

Christy Fitzwater is the author of A Study of Psalm 25: Seven Actions to Take When Life Gets Hard. She is a blogger, pastor's wife and mom of two teenagers and resides in Montana. Visit for more information about her ministry.

]]> (Christy Fitzwater) Featured Women Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
Gay Activist Has Road-to-Damascus Experience

What the devil has trained you to do, God will use for His glory." That prophetic word redeemed over a decade of lasciviousness in Greg Quinlan's life and set him on a journey to see LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) captives everywhere set free.

Quinlan found Jesus when he was 9 years old, but turned away from Him after he inclined his heart toward pornographic images that opened the door to sexual perversion. He still remembers the day he and his friends found a Playboy magazine. A year later, he and one of those friends started a homosexual relationship.

"I knew it was wrong, but I kept going back for more because I got affection, approval and affirmation," Quinlan says. "Someone touched me without hitting me and talked to me without cussing at me. That sent me on the journey of double-mindedness. I never denied the existence of God or His love for me but I could not reconcile this woundedness from my father who beat me. I had a desire to be with the Lord and same-sex attraction at the same time."

As he grew up, the internal struggle became so intense that, at 24, he faced a demonic ultimatum: come out of the closet or commit suicide. Quinlan chose life—but the wrong kind of life. He fully embraced a homosexual lifestyle and started passionately lobbying for the gay agenda. But Proverbs 19:21 rang true in his life: "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but the Lord's purpose will stand."

Call him a modern-day apostle Paul. Twenty-five years after finding a Playboy issue that led him into a lifestyle of lust, Christ knocked him off his high horse of homosexuality, spoke to his heart, opened his blind eyes and sent him on a mission to turn the hearts of hurting people back to the Father.

With faith in one powerful prophetic word that answered the cry of his heart, Quinlan walked away from a decade of gay activism and started lobbying for biblical marriage. But he didn't stop there. In 2008, he co-founded Living Free Ministries, which helps people who want to exit the homosexual lifestyle by dealing with issues that led to gender-identity confusion. Quinlan is also the president and executive director of The Center for Garden State Families, a newly organized family advocacy group; a Chairman for New Jersey for a Conservative Majority Political Action Committee; and founder and president of the Pro-Family Network, a Christian family advocacy organization defending the natural family and confronting the homosexual agenda.

Quinlan came out of the kingdom of darkness with a vengeance against the spirits that took him captive. What the enemy meant for harm, God is using for good. Today, he can comfort struggling LGBT people with the love of Christ—and he can boldly and convincingly speak the truth about the deceptive wiles of the wicked one—because he understands how the enemy snared him. He's living proof that anyone can break free from the homosexual ties that bind.

As Radical as They Come

But for the grace of God, though, Quinlan could have had a much different story. When it comes to gay activists, he was about as radical as they come. In 1988, he formed a branch of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay and lesbian political organization in the U.S., in his hometown of Dayton, Ohio. He actually thought he found his life's calling, but the evidence of sin's wages was ever before him, and his soul was sore-vexed.

A nurse by trade, Quinlan cared for many men who were dying of AIDS. Knowing he once walked with Christ, they would ask him heart-breaking questions such as: "Am I going to hell?"; "Would you read my favorite Bible verse at my funeral?"; and "Would you tell my little girl what happened to Daddy?" Despite Quinlan's backslidden condition, his witness for Christ led some of them to repentance before they died.

Soon, Quinlan's disgust for his lascivious lifestyle grew greater than his uncontrollable same-sex lust, and he started wrestling with the Lord. A stream of light broke in when an ex-gay man with AIDS shared his testimony on a TBN broadcast. Quinlan was so touched he called the station and confessed: "I'm gay. I don't want to be like this anymore."

Quinlan recited the "sinner's prayer," and then it happened. Proverbs 19:21 started taking over his life. That night in 1992, 10 years after fully embracing a gay identity, Quinlan rededicated his life to Jesus. He still questioned, though, if God would ever fully embrace him again.

On Easter Sunday 1993, that nagging question was settled in his heart forever when evangelist Peggy Richards preached a sermon on the Father's love at Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio. The message exposed the broken, spiritually hungry places in Quinlan's heart.

"I was boo-hoo snotting and slobbering at the altar," he recalls. "I said in my heart, 'Lord, if You have taken me back and You want to use me, then tell me now."

God immediately answered his heart's cry when Richards turned to him and prophesied, "Son, there's a call on your life. What the devil has trained you to do, God will use for His glory."

Finding His True Calling

With that life-giving prophecy, Quinlan's heart was filled with a joy and zeal he had never experienced before. After starving himself spiritually for a decade, he began meditating on the Word of God, listening to Bible cassettes in his car and consuming as much preaching and teaching as he could get in his spirit.

Quinlan also plugged into Solid Rock Church, where the pastors not only embraced him but saw the call of God on his life and suggested he help start a church ministry to serve people who struggled with overcoming addictions, including sex, alcohol and drugs.

From that point on, there was no stopping him. Quinlan started working with the Christian Coalition in Ohio, lobbying for legislation such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He labored to get porn out of school libraries, fought against partial-birth abortions and lobbied for the Defense of Marriage Act in Ohio, which passed in 2004 and mandated that the state only recognize marriages between one man and one woman.

"What was interesting about that was I was doing exactly what I was doing with HRC (Human Rights Campaign), but now I was doing it for the right side," says Quinlan, who soon became the president of Parents and Friends of Gays and Ex-Gays (PFOX). PFOX promotes awareness of ex-gays and provides community for people struggling with same-sex attraction and for their family members.

At a time in U.S. history when the Supreme Court has sanctioned immorality through the same-sex marriage ruling, Richards' prophetic word continues to fuel the righteous fire within Quinlan. He's not about to give up the fight for souls now and he's committed to contending for God's Word despite the persecution. Indeed, he feels he has been called for such a time as this.

Battling Great Opposition

Beyond the dangerous ramifications for families, children and culture, Quinlan is concerned about how the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling will restrict religious freedom. He points to Houston Mayor Annise Parker's subpoena of five pastors' sermons as one example. Another is Kim Davis' landing in jail for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses in Kentucky. There are many cases of bakers, pizza shop owners, and bed and breakfast facilities that have come under fire for not catering to gays.

"The bottom line is, this is an attack on Christianity," Quinlan says. "It's an attack on Him; therefore, it's an attack on us." He stresses that the right response is neither to fear or hate. "All I know is we have to become more devoted and dedicated to our walk with Jesus Christ."

Quinlan's passion for Christ and biblical marriage has caused some to cheer him on—and others to persecute him. He's not afraid to call homosexuality sin, which causes many gay lobbyists to gnash their teeth at him. The opposition doesn't faze him, though. In fact, the opposition seems to fuel his passion to push back the darkness that keeps captives bound.

Michael Brown, founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry, host of the apologetics TV show "Answering Your Toughest Questions" and author of Can You Be Gay and Christian? Responding With Love & Truth to Questions About Homosexuality, appreciates every voice fighting the good fight of faith to see God's truth reign in America.

Brown says various opposing groups, as disconnected as they may be, are remarkably united when it comes to the gay revolution. Christians must also unite.

"Without a doubt, we are in the midst of a massive cultural revolution, a significant downturn in faith and biblical morality, an attempt to cast off God and His standards. Yet so much of the church seems soundly asleep, content with lovely services and entertaining sermons," Brown says.

"It's high time we awake to righteousness; to desperate, fervent prayer; and to preaching Jesus without shame or apology. God's answer to a godless counterculture revolution is a fresh Jesus Revolution. Why not now?"

A question just as appropriate is: If not now, when? The church has been quiet for too long on many social issues. If we remain silent now, we can't cry out later when our religious liberties are further eroded. Quinlan understands this reality all too well.

"Greg is a courageous guy who goes into lions' dens such as corporate stockholders meetings and legislative hearings and tells them what they don't want to hear—that being gay is not genetic nor is it unchangeable," says Robert Knight, a conservative commentator and senior fellow at the American Civil Rights Union. "This really messes with the liberal worldview, which is based on junk science and media propaganda."

Quinlan says it's important to be vocal because the goal of the secular left is to silence ex-gays so no one knows change is possible. Matt Barber, an attorney focused on constitutional law and editor of, says Quinlan is a powerful weapon against the enemy's deception because he escaped the homosexual lifestyle and proved that people are not "born that way." Being "born that way"—in other words, being born homosexual—is a subject of heated debate between Christians and the gay activist camp.

"Greg is an articulate voice on matters of human sexuality and redemption," Barber says. "His own story of how Christ saved him has been an inspiration to many. According to the Left, Greg doesn't even exist. He's like the abominable snowman."

But he does—and Quinlan says there are countless thousands of ex-gays just like him. The problem is, most don't speak up. "It's not safe to come out," Quinlan says, because being mocked and physically assaulted isn't uncommon for ex-gays. "I've been assaulted. I've been sued. When I tried to talk to a young gay man in Chicago about PFOX, the man punched me in the face."

Quinlan says there are two reasons ex-gays are silent: They want to forget their past, and they don't want to face the persecution or expose their families to backlash. But there are others, such as gospel singer Donnie McClurkin and activist Janet Boynes, who are willing to stand up and speak the truth despite the cost.

"I'm convinced that the active, prayerful, Spirit-anointed compassion of God's people is the key to bringing deliverance and hope to those caught in the homosexual lifestyle," says Boynes, author of Called Out: A Former Lesbian's Discovery of Freedom and founder of Janet Boynes Ministries. "If someone had confronted me with a judgmental attitude or even a hint of condemnation, I would've turned away. You see, I already had enough condemnation boiling deep inside me. What I needed most was an active demonstration of God's love and mercy breaking into my prison of sin and guilt."

Driven by a Mission

As for Quinlan, he is driven by the life-changing prophetic word he received Thanksgiving Day in 1992: "What the devil has trained you to do, God will use for His glory." He believes that prophetic word can apply to many others like him who struggle with same-sex attraction—and he's intentional about helping people and their families through the struggle.

Now, Quinlan is writing a curriculum to equip churches to help people who struggle with same-sex attraction. But it all boils down to one word: hope. There's always hope—hope for those struggling with same-sex attraction; hope for those with a horrible past; and hope for those whose loved ones are stuck in sin.

"I'm telling my story of hope because people need to know," he says. "I would encourage anyone who left the homosexual lifestyle to do the same thing. The Bible says, 'Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.' We have to get the word out. We cannot be silent. We have to speak the truth in love, but it isn't love if you don't tell the truth. The truth will set people free."  

Jenny Rose Curtis is a copy editor for Charisma Media and a co-host of the "Spirit-Led Woman" and "Charisma News" podcasts.

Adam LiVecchi interviews Greg Quinlan about how pornography hurts people and creates strongholds at

]]> (Jenny Rose Curtis) Featured Culture Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
The New Morality: Raising Kids in a Confused Culture

The world is changing—that's always a true statement—but perhaps never as fast as it has been changing the last few decades, and never more evident when it comes to issues of morality and sexuality.

The reality is, we as parents have an obligation to teach our children, in the midst of a culture that is confused, to have confident values that are based on both a Christian worldview and the teachings of the Scriptures. So the obvious question is: how do we, living in the new morality, express the teachings of Scripture and a God-honoring lifestyle rooted in a biblical morality? In this brief article, I will suggest five things.

1. We need to remember that our identity is rooted in Christ. Children and teens who see their Christian identity as a list of rules and regulations that they need to follow in order to keep God or their parents happy, will ultimately rebel against those rules, or will take pride in those rules and become haughty and judgmental of others. Instead, if their identity is rooted in who Jesus is and who they are in Christ, they can both value the teachings of Scripture, but also love others who may have different views in the midst of cultural changes around us.

2. We need to be unashamed and unembarrassed to teach what the Scriptures teach, but to do so in a way that acknowledges that this is different than what the world teaches. I think we are in a key moment in our culture where appealing to commonly held values to help our children to make better decisions makes less sense today than perhaps ever before. I am not saying that things have always been right or correct, and I don't think there was ever a perfect era in the past, but when it comes to issues of morality in our culture, particularly around sexual values, there have been certain standards influenced by our Judeo-Christian worldview that have been perceived as the "right" thing to do and that "good" people would do. That consensus no longer exists.

We need to remember that our identity is rooted in Christ.

And if that consensus no longer exists, we can no longer appeal to "this is the right thing to do, as everyone knows" and "this is what good kids do" because good kids in our culture's worldview are now increasingly doing things that Christians don't believe and increasingly valuing things that Christians don't value.

Therefore, in this new reality, we need a few key things, such as:

  • Greater grounding in worldview of what Christians believe and why
  • An understanding of the Scriptures and what the Scriptures teach and why
  • A worldview that says to children and teens "you do these things not because they are the things that the 'good' kids do but because we are followers of Jesus and we live differently than the world in some ways."

3. They need to be unapologetic about speaking about the brokenness of the world, our culture and ourselves. The reality is, if we hold up a standard of moral superiority, we will either drive our kids to despair or to pride—despair in that they can't live up to it, or pride in that have. Both are sins, though different expressions of sin.

Instead, a better approach is to help our children to realize that we are all sinners and that we all struggle with sin; that brokenness impacts who we are and that it impacts our morality. But perhaps, and maybe even most importantly even for this moment, it impacts them and because it impacts them, we can have a humble approach recognizing the brokenness of the world and individuals that will cause us to rely, by grace, on the work of Christ in the midst of this broken world.

Who we are in Christ shapes how we live, and how we live is different than the world around us.

4. We need to break the tyranny of conformity that is so prevalent in the lives of our children. When I was young, the most terrifying thing was to be different than everyone else, of course as you age, the reality of this shifts and you're much more open to being different. But, too many children and teens often function like the well-known Japanese proverb "a nail that stands out gets hammered down," therefore they work exceedingly hard to fit in. However, that does not work for the Christian.

Thus, let's look to scriptural teachings that speak about how we shine like lights in the world and how we stand out in the midst of a darkened culture by reflecting the light of Christ (Phil. 2:16).

Embrace early, and embrace often, the idea that conformity is not a value, but instead that we might be confirmed to the image of Jesus.

5. We have to share with our children our own struggles, brokenness, and failures so that they might see that we are imperfect creatures seeking to follow a perfect God and His standards. The reality is, you and I have done things or made mistakes that maybe our children don't know—that we have been tempted or that we have even succumbed to that temptation. So when appropriate, we want to share. When the opportunity arises, we want to be fellow strugglers, yes struggling at different times and in different ways, but fellow strugglers in the midst of the world's brokenness.

Where From Here?

So in conclusion, the advice of this article can be summed up in one thing—teach your children to embrace that we are a peculiar people "set forth that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light," (1 Pet. 2:9, HCSB). As a peculiar people we have to embrace the difference to find a better way—a way that is rooted in the identity of who we are in Christ—that is made secure in who God is and as our Creator who wants to shape us for a better way.

He has created us, therefore He knows us, and because He knows us He gives us guidelines and directions to guide us. Those guidelines and directions are worthy of living a life different of the world.

In the midst of this new morality we go back to the morality that is rooted, not even in history, but ultimately in the nature of God himself. Who we are in Christ shapes how we live, and how we live is different than the world around us.

That's raising kids in a confused culture.

Ed Stetzer is the executive producer of LifeWay Research. The original article appeared in an issue of Home Life Magazine.

]]> (Ed Stetzer) Featured Men Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:00:00 -0500
Can We Be Certain It Is Always God's Will to Heal?

Before people can have a steadfast faith for the healing of their body, they must be rid of all uncertainty concerning God's will in the matter. Appropriating faith cannot go beyond one's knowledge of the revealed will of God.

Before attempting to exercise faith for healing, one needs to know what the Scriptures plainly teach, that it is just as much God's will to heal the body as it is to heal the soul. The sermons in this book point out and explain those portions of Scripture that will forever settle this point for you. It is only by knowing that God promises what you are seeking that all uncertainty can be removed and a steadfast faith is made possible. His promises are each a revelation of what God is eager to do for us. Until we know what God's will is, there is nothing on which to base our faith.

It is important that the mind of those seeking healing be "renewed" so as to be brought into harmony with the mind of God. This is revealed in the Bible and pointed out in the following pages. Faith for the appropriation of God's promised blessings is the result of knowing and acting on God's Word (Romans 10:17). The right mental attitude, or the "renewed mind" (Romans 12:2), makes steadfast faith possible to all.

We are constantly receiving testimonies from those who, though prayed for repeatedly without success, were afterwards wonderfully healed while reading this book. Many also have been happily converted while reading these instructions.

It would surprise the world if they could read the wonderful testimonies that have come to us from all over the country. We have received more than 225,000 letters from our radio listeners and their friends, most of whom we have never seen.

The truths discussed in this book of sermons, together with "the prayer of faith," have brought healing within the grasp of many thousands of sufferers, who would not have recovered without the direct action of the Holy Spirit. To God be all the glory.

While we rejoice in these miracles, we remember that they are only external manifestations of a thousand times greater and more precious miracle that has transpired within the sacred chamber of the inner soul. The inner cause is so much more precious than the outward effect. External results from prayer are like figures in a bank book that show that you have gold deposited in the bank. The gold is more valuable than the figures.

Jesus said, "The Word is the seed." It is the seed of the divine life. Until the person seeking healing is sure from God's Word that it is God's will to heal him, he is trying to reap a harvest where there is no seed planted. It would be impossible for a farmer to have faith for a harvest before he was sure the seed had been planted.

It is not God's will that there shall be a harvest without the planting of the seed—without His will being known and acted on. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Freedom from sickness comes from knowing the truth. God does nothing without His Word. "He sent His Word and it healed them" are the words of the Holy Spirit (Ps. 107:20, Fenton's translation). "All His work is done in faithfulness" to His promises.

For each sick person to know that it is God's will to heal him, it is necessary for the "seed" to be planted in his mind and heart. It is not planted until it is known and received and trusted. No sinner can become a Christian before he knows that it is God's will to save him. It is the Word of God, planted and watered and steadfastly trusted, which heals both soul and body. The "seed" must remain planted and be kept watered before it can produce its harvest.

For one to say, "I believe the Lord is able to heal me" before he knows from God's Word that He is willing to heal him, is like a farmer saying, "I believe God is able to give me a harvest, without any seed being planted and watered." God can't save the soul of a man before the man himself knows God's will in the matter. Salvation is by faith—that is, by trusting the known will of God. Being healed is being saved in a physical sense.

Praying for healing with the faith-destroying words, "if it be Thy will," is not planting the "seed"; it is destroying the seed. "The prayer of faith" that heals the sick is to follow (not precede) the planting of the "seed" (the Word). Faith is based on this alone.

It is the gospel, which the Holy Spirit says, "is the power of God unto salvation" in all its phases, both physical and spiritual. All the gospel is for "every creature" and for "all nations." The gospel does not leave a man in uncertainty praying with an "if it be Thy will"; it tells him what God's will is. The Holy Spirit's words, "Himself ... bare our sicknesses" (Matt. 8:17), are just as truly a part of the gospel as His words, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" (1 Pet. 2:24).

Neither the spiritual nor the physical phase of the gospel is to be applied by prayer alone. Seed is powerless until it is planted. Many, instead of saying, "Pray for me," should first say, "Teach me God's Word, so that I can intelligently cooperate for my recovery." We must know what the benefits of Calvary are before we can appropriate them by faith.

Excerpted from Christ the Healer. During the first half of the 20th century, F.F. Bosworth conducted evangelistic and healing campaigns across the country and launched the "National Radio Revival" ministry. At age 75, he went to Africa to preach and teach. He died in 1958. His son, Robert V. Bosworth, editor of the Present Edition, continues the ministry through World Outreach, Inc., African Evangelical Mission, and Morning Watch.

]]> (F.F. Bosworth) Featured Health Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
Why Is a Large Segment of the Church Powerless?

Anyone who is half-honest will admit that the church of the 21st century is powerless when compared to the church in the first century and at other times of great blessing. The problem is that making such a statement is akin to saying the emperor has no clothes since most feel quite content with their situation.

I know generalizations are exactly that, and I also freely admit that there are differences between the church in the West and other places where there still is a visible sense of God moving among His people. In broaching this topic we also have problems with terms, so allow me to define what I do, and do not, mean by power.

Power is not measured in noise, hype or even large numbers, just as the "anointing" is not measured in shouting, sweat and spit. Power cannot be measured in statistics, budgets, buildings or programs. A telling statement comes from a Third-World believer after visiting churches in the West: "It is amazing what the church in the West has been able to achieve without the Holy Spirit."

Power must be defined by the Scripture itself, and the definitive text is Acts 1:8: "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." This promise of the Lord Jesus is made manifest by the disciples in the book of Acts as "with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 4:33).

This power is visible in sinners powerfully transformed, in powerful preaching and, yes, in powerful miracles. And yes, I am painfully aware that my own church and ministry fall into the category of the powerless!

The Greek word for "power" is dunamis. Many point out that the word "dynamite" stems from this word. While that is true, I do not believe that dynamite is what Jesus had in mind when He used this word, simply because dynamite results in a huge explosion, the release of great power, and then destruction and silence in its wake.

The word "dynamo" also comes from the word dunamis. A dynamo generates a constant flow of (electrical) power. The dunamis of the Spirit should not result in a momentary explosion (as in some questionable "revivals") but in a constant empowering from within—driving the individual and the church forward in the face of difficulties and attacks, empowering lives that powerfully witness to the power of the gospel and the power of the cross.

This stands in stark contrast to modern conversions that seem to be more about joining, behavior modeling, and superficial assimilation; preaching that is clever, eloquent and impressive, but that leaves the sinner and the rebel unconverted; and a reliance on medical science, hype and advertising as a replacement for miracles.

The decline in the manifestation of God's power among His people cannot be ascribed to cessationism, or hyper-dispensationalism. That there is a decline is beyond dispute, but the weakening of the church cannot have been part of God's original design since the power of Acts 1:8 is intimately connected with the Great Commission, which has not yet been fulfilled. If the dunamis was specifically given to empower the witness of the church, and the Great Commission has not yet been withdrawn nor fulfilled, then the power must still be available.

Concerning the gifts, Harry Ironside said: "There are commentators who insist that some of these gifts have absolutely disappeared, but I do not know of any Scripture portion that tells us that. I do not know of any passage that says that the age of miracles has passed and I would not dare to say that the sign gifts all ended with Paul's imprisonment. I know from early church history that this is not true ... Therefore I do not think it is correct to take the position that these sign gifts have necessarily disappeared from the church. I do, however, believe that many of the gifts are not often seen today, and I think there is good reason for that. In 2 Corinthians 11:2 the apostle wrote, 'I have espoused you ... as a chaste virgin to Christ.' Paul was writing to a separated company, the affianced bride of the Lamb, and it was the delight of the blessed risen Lord to lavish upon her gift after gift. The Corinthians '[came] behind in no gift,' ... However, it seems to me that we can see in the book of Acts that as time went on and the church began to drift a little, and as dissension and other things that grieved the Lord arose, there was more reserve on His part in bestowing gifts. That, I believe, explains the lack of many of these gifts today. The church has gotten so far away from what she should be and there is so much strife, division, worldliness, and carnality that the Lord no longer delights in lavishing His gifts as freely as He did in the beginning."

Before I continue, I also need to make it clear that while we are solely responsible for our anemic state, God remains sovereign, and we cannot manufacture a revival by applying a formula by which God then becomes obliged to fulfill our wishes. In a church I recently visited I was rebuked by an elder for not believing that we could absolutely bring about a revival as long as we simply prayed and believed hard enough!

But we cannot control, manipulate or force God into doing anything. At best, we can simply obey Him and then trust Him to do what He alone wills. The revivalist who touts various formulas for revival is no different than the prosperity teacher, who believes we can bribe God to prosper him, or the Word of Faith evangelist, who believes that God is subject to his faith. To all these, God simply becomes a puppet on a string that dances to the tunes of men.

But, at the same time, it is very evident that we can do much that would hinder the work of the Spirit and that would prevent the Lord from pouring out His blessings on us. One of the misconceptions taught during the last century is the idea that the Holy Spirit and the attendant power is a gift and, since a gift cannot be earned, God will pour His Spirit on anyone who asks, irrespective of the individual or church's spiritual condition. Thus there have been accounts of unbelievers, drunkards, and other vile persons "filled with the Spirit". This is not the truth. There are clear conditions set for the receipt of the power of God.

Conditions to the Outpouring of the Spirit

God does not give His Spirit to those who are disobedient to the Divine will. The Bible does not teach that God will bless and empower those who are disobedient but, on the contrary, there is a clear connection between our obedience and God's blessings in general, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit in particular: "... the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32). Obedience obviously covers a huge area and would include things like holiness, obedience in ministry, and obedience to any of the many commands contained in the New Testament. The prime reason for a lack of power in the lives of individuals and churches is clear when one looks at the general disobedience so prevalent in churches today.

In John 14:15-16, Jesus said: "If you love Me, keep My commandments. "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever." Jesus Himself predicates the giving of the Spirit on loving Him, and the consequent obedience that flows from such love. Believers that love themselves, the world, pleasure, ease and comfort are clearly excluded from this promise, as are those who do not love Him sufficiently to obey Him.

These two principles—love and obedience—cover everything else. But under these main principles there are a number of other more specific conditions.

On the day of Pentecost, Peter said: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Notice again the conjunction "and" which indicates that receiving the Holy Spirit will happen once the conditions had been met. Baptism here is symbolic of obedience. However, repentance seems to be the first condition.

By repentance Peter was referring to two main areas in which repentance is necessary. We need to repent from religion void of the cross. Peter was preaching to religious Jews but calls them to repent from their religiosity and to believe on the Lord Jesus. But clearly implied in the word "repent" is repentance from any form of sin and disobedience.

It is interesting that all great and true revivals are always accompanied and preceded by deep sorrow for, and repentance from, sin. The notion that the Lord will give His Spirit to a rebellious, sinful and unrepentant heart is utterly contrary to both Scripture and the holiness of God. Also, leaders cannot demand that their followers repent if they themselves are not truly broken before God.

The connection between obedience, sanctification, and the presence of God is illustrated in Exodus 40:18-38 where the tabernacle is a type of the individual believer, and also of the church. The text explains the final erection of the tabernacle and between verses 19-32; it says seven times that Moses did everything "as the Lord commanded Moses."

Repeating that many times that Moses did as He was commanded is highly significant. Following these seven repetitions, verse 33 says: "So Moses finished the work." This statement is immediately followed by: "Then the cloud covered the tabernacle of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle" (Exodus 40:34, emphasis mine).

Note the clear connection between Moses' obedience, completing the work as he had been commanded, and the descent of the glory of the Lord.

One of the very real reasons the believer and the church are powerless is our disobedience and sin. God will simply not anoint our disobedience, laziness and sin.

Many who desire the power of God in their lives, ministries, and churches also do not have it because they want it for the wrong reasons: "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures" (James 4:2-3). Some want God's power to make them look good, others want power over people, and others want power so their churches can grow for selfish reasons. While any reason other than the Lord's will is bad, nothing is worse than those who want God's power so they can make money out of it. This is not new. Simon the sorcerer seemed to be motivated by ego and money, and was even willing to offer money to purchase the gift of God (Acts 8).

Even without the real anointing of God, there is still good money to be made in selling books, videos and conferences on revival. If the peddlers of such books were serious about wanting revival, they would give the books away. Yet it is a lucrative segment of the Christian market. lists over 1500 titles on "revival" and over 6200 on "renewal."

The Lord will never bless our greed, lust for power, or desire for the honor of men. The thousands of prayers going up every day for power for the sake of power are a stench in the nostrils of God and will forever go unanswered. Only the desire for more of Him, and not just His gifts, will be answered. Once again there is little difference between those who follow the Lord for financial riches and those who follow Him for spiritual gifts—both are rooted in selfishness, a lack of gratitude for the cross, and lack of true love for the Lord.

Those who have a pure motive pray that they may be consumed, broken and humbled in order to gain more of the Lord. They understand that when God's fire falls, all of the flesh must be consumed. They are not only willing to pay that price, but they desire the loss of all that they may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8). Only those with the right motive pray John's prayer: "He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:30).

Anton Bosch has been in the ministry for over 40 years shepherding, writing and teaching. For the past ten years he has led Sun Valley Community Church in California and he also speaks at conferences and churches internationally. It has been his life-long quest to rediscover New Testament Christianity and to call Christians and churches back to knowing, believing, and living the Bible.

]]> (Anton Bosch) Featured Church & Ministry Spirit Tue, 02 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500
Why You Shouldn't Drop Out of Church When You Have Kids

At 6:05 p.m. I just walked into the door from a long day at work and the kids have not been fed. We grab a bowl of cereal and load our toddler into his car seat. His big brother straps himself into the back seat of the van. The van floor is riddled with crumpled wrappers of hamburgers, cheerios and sippy cups.

We're five minutes from church and Alex got out of his car seat. Again. He is hitting me on the back of the head. We pull over and I put Alex back into his car seat.

We're exhausted and I'm wondering if hauling two kids on a week night to church is worth the effort. After all, they have school tomorrow morning and I have no idea what they are going to wear. We drop off the boys at their ministries and go into the church prayer service.

We start singing worship songs and refreshing strength surges in me. "Wow I feel good," I tell my husband, Jerome, standing next to me. He smiles and squeezes my hand. As we worship together, we feel the presence of something bigger and stronger pulling us together.

When we go to pick up the boys from their ministries, they don't want to go home. They are smiling and talking to their friends. Jerome has to literally pick up Alex and drag him out of the Infant Toddler Ministry. We chat with some of our friends who are in the same boat as we are, struggling to pay bills and bringing their multiple littles to church.

I spent several years in the foyer with my daughter with special needs who struggled to sit still and had issues with the sound. I wondered if it was worth getting her dressed just to get to church so I can stand in the foyer with her. There were many years of tears and frustration with her situation.

Today the squirmy toddler, Alex, who couldn't stay in his car seat is a worship leader in the youth group. His big brother, Chris, also loves God and helps at church when he isn't working or going to school. And my special needs daughter, D'Andra, literally runs us over to get to church.

I've seen single guys and girls pray for a mate. God answers their prayers and then kiddos show up. Then they quit attending church or drop their participation dramatically because of the struggle of bringing multiple littles. I totally understand the struggle of getting kids cleaned, dressed and ready for church.

But here's why I encourage you to continue to bring your child to church even though you may need to feed them fast food to get there:

  • You're establishing the priority of going to church. There are so many benefits of going to church. A 2010 Child Trends' review indicates that kids from religious backgrounds are less likely to be involved in violence, theft and vandalism or to struggle with substance abuse problems than their peers. Here's a link to the 10 Benefits of Attending Church. More importantly, the Bible is clear as to how this is a priority for God. "Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but let us exhort one another, especially as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25, MEV).
  • Your children can develop social skills in a safe, faith-based setting. Church is the perfect place for children to learn how to get along with other people who don't look like them; how to share and how to carry on a conversation.
  • Your children will learn about God and values that will set a strong foundation for their life. I have never had to have a long, drawn-out conversation with my kids on why they shouldn't do drugs or commit crime. We've touched on those issues but they already have within them teachings and training from years of hearing sermons, delivering sermons themselves and participating in prayer and a faith community.
  • Your children will develop relationships with key people in their community of faith that could mentor them and open doors for them. I know that God brought certain people into my sons' lives that have influenced them as musicians and creatives who want to change the world. Our senior pastor, Steve Gray, has been an incredible example of a passionate creative with a message who is not afraid to experiment and take risks in writing, movie making and music. They have had other models in their life to follow such as Integrity Music recording artist Dustin Smith and Pastor Eric Thomason, another Integrity Music songwriter and artist. If I never brought them to church and they never participated, they would have never made these incredible connections.

So moms and dads of multiple littles, I know how hard it is to get the kids bathed, dressed and fed to get to church. But the benefits far outweigh the temporary season of hardship. Don't cave into our culture that makes faith secondary to sports, success in business and entertainment. Don't give into the voices of your family that tell you that you don't need to bring your kids to church. My heart goes out to you and I pray that God strengthens you and backs you up as you do what is right. Believe me, bringing all the littles to church is well worth the investment.

Leilani Haywood is the Online Editor for SpiritLed Woman and author of Ten Keys to Raising Kids That Love God. Follow Leilani on Facebook or Twitter.

]]> (Leilani Haywood) Featured Women Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
The Force That Shaped the World

One of the greatest gifts the Bible gives us is that it is filled with substance. It is riddled with the history of how a personal God walked and worked with people. How He took a no-name group of people and made them into the most powerful nation on the earth.

It is about how to live in community, how to be a family, how to work, play, teach and train. It is full of wisdom, romance, grace, consequences, choices and colorful characters. The Bible is rich in history, deep in understanding, full of mystery and glorious in expression. It tells of men, women and children, it includes the young and old, it is a book for the slave and the free, the lost and the found. People such as Henry Ford found wisdom in it to invent the automobile, and George Washington quoted it when he was establishing a brand new nation.

People have tried to burn the Bible, kill the ones who printed the Bible, destroy the followers of the Bible and to this day mock the ones who believe the Bible, but it is not moved. It is an ancient text that is unshakable, unbreakable and unstoppable in its ability to inflict change. It is full of substance, secrets, mysteries, over and covert ways of doing life and it is a love letter, a manual, a blueprint for success. No wonder people wanted to take prayer out of school, change the definition of marriage and ban Christian T-shirts—the Word of God is powerful, no matter what format it is presented in.

In Matthew 24:35 Jesus says, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away." – Jesus

In a system that is seeking to dumb you down so they can feel as if they have control over you, there is one book that will lift you up, correct you up and build you up from the inside out, and that is the Word of God. If you want to be strong inside, you must know the Word of God; memorize it, not so you can quote it or slap somebody with the truth you know but so you can learn to be a lover of God and a lover of people. The Word of God transforms you from the inside out.

The world is going to shake, challenges will arise, but if you are established in the Word of God, you will be immovable, unshakable and undeniably able to speak less, but say more. And we need some people who have something to say, not just people who talk about a whole lot of nothing. So think deep, pray wide, sing loud, worship hard and watch God dig a well in your life that produces the oil of joy, the rivers of the life and the power of an indestructible life.

Lisa Great is an author, speaker and blogger with Mouthpiece Ministries International. She has been in ministry for over 25 years, she has a BA in Youth and Family Studies, a MA in Education. She can be reached at;; or on her Facebook page Lisa Great

]]> (Lisa Great) Featured Women Life Tue, 02 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
'I Am Raising Up the Unlockers'

I hear the Father saying that He is raising up the "unlockers!"

Those that have been given keys of: authority, revelation and assignment. They are being released to unlock plans and purposes in regions—territories. They have been commissioned by the Spirit of the Lord.

As they move into their assigned places, there is divine ability in them to bring release of things in the spirit that have seemingly been locked. These things have not been locked away from the children of God but reserved for the children of God.

"And the key of the house of David will I lay on his shoulder. Then he shall open, and none shall shut. And he shall shut, and none shall open" (Is. 22:22, MEV).

There has been a "timing element" upon some of these plans. Those that have been mantled with the assignment to unlock will step into a divine timing and alignment moment. They are being released in the timing of the Father. They go with His keys in their hands!

I see prophetic keys being given to the servants of the Lord in this hour. I see key revelations being provided that access realms of deliverance and breakthrough for the people of God.

Embrace His Mighty Exploits!

He is writing great exploits upon the hearts of His people. He is releasing dreams and pictures of destiny to fuel faith and unlock potential. Open the eyes of your inner man and begin to see what He is declaring over you.

Some are not able to embrace the exploits because they are trapped in the stinging memories of past disappointments.

I hear the Father saying, "My healing balm is available for those. They have not understood why it did not work, they have not been able to escape the pain and the bitter waters, but I have fresh waters of redemption to release over them. I am calling My bride forth to 'dream with Me'—to move up higher and allow Me to write My exploits upon their hearts. I have great adventures of faith and powerful glory to reveal."

Some have been unable to embrace the exploits because they are looking through the lens of limitation. They are seeing what they can or cannot do but there is immeasurable power available in the inner man! There is power for exploits, breakthrough and wonder. Begin to live, move and advance from the spirit realm. "I have provided FULL ACCESS—nothing lacking."

Be Free of the Enemies Lies!

"Some are operating under the weight of condemnation and lying accusation. Have I not said that your righteousness is of Me?"

2 Corinthians 5:21: "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."

"I have desired to paint visions of powerful exploits upon your heart, but you were unable to see them because of lying accusations. The enemy has been hurling his lies at your mind, speaking of past failures and present struggles.

"You must boldly stand upon My promises of freedom and appropriate the wonder-working power of My Blood! Your righteousness is of Me and is appropriated by faith. His accusations must be met with My redemption so that your heart can go free!

A free heart is: free to love, free to dream, free to soar! Free hearts take My hand and run forward with Me. Free hearts are blank canvases for My dreams of exploits."

It is time to navigate the exploits of God and unlock His plans for us. It is time to let go of the past hurts, wounds and pain in order to embrace His powerful plans for the hour.

The unlocking mandate is upon us! The keys have been given. Now it is time to run forward with Abba.

Ryan LeStrange started in ministry after training and serving under his spiritual father Dr. Norvel Hayes. Ryan and his wife, Joy, lead Impact International Ministries based in Bristol, Virginia, which consists of several local churches and revival ministries. Through Ryan LeStrange Ministries, he travels the globe preaching, igniting revival, and moving in the power of God. Ryan can be seen weekly on his television program, Power 4 Today, airing around the world on GodTV. He is the founder and apostle of Impact International Apostolic Fellowship, networking and fathering ministers around the world. Ryan has authored several books releasing an apostolic and prophetic perspective to the body of Christ. Please visit

For the original article, visit

]]> (Ryan LeStrange) Featured Prophetic Insight Blogs Tue, 02 Feb 2016 10:00:00 -0500
WATCH: One Ultimate Act to Silence Satan's Accusations—Forever!

Our adversary, Satan, launches temptations and obstacles designed to cause us to slip up, trip up or fall flat. He then comes as the accuser with arguments as to why we're no longer good enough or deserving of God's affection.

"Look what you've done!" he torments. "Who do you think you are?"

Who you are. This is precisely what the enemy attempts to put in to question. Scripture reveals that his "imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). The "knowledge of God" is the truth that God says in His Word. To put it personally, it's the reality about who we each are in Christ: made new (2 Cor. 5:17) and declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

Satan: The Original Identity Thief

As I explore in my book, Silence Satan, the devil is scared stiff of anyone armed with the knowledge of who he or she is in Christ. Satan knows that a man fully convinced about God's love holds himself with a confidence that poses a huge threat to plundering his sham kingdom. He realizes that a woman assured that her past is crucified lives with a boldness that neither he nor his minions can counter.

And so, Satan comes as the great identity thief, seeking to conceal or steal your identity in Christ and replace it with his defeated one. He often does it by insisting, "You'll always be who you always were."

Perhaps you've heard one of these arguments:

  • "You were abused by men all of your life; you can't trust any man.
  • "You are a victim."
  • "Drugs and alcohol will always be a temptation; you can't ever overcome it. You are a junkie."
  • "You'll always live with bouts of sadness. You are depressed."

Using situations from the past or feelings from the present, Satan attempts to define who you are. The moment you confess, "I am ___________" (fill in the blank with a negative feeling, symptom or situation), he succeeds.

My Story

Like so many, I was a victim of Satan's identity theft long after my salvation. The devil used the effects of rejection in my childhood to create a lens through which I viewed my everyday situations. If I walked into a room and people were laughing in the corner, I instantly became insecure, believing that the people must be laughing at me. I was so accustomed to being laughed at as a child that I expected it to continue as an adult. "I am a reject," I pitifully thought.

For more than a decade, I constantly lived with the tension of, "I'm supposed to be a new person in Christ, yet I still feel like the old me." Thankfully, God heard my cries. Nearly 13 years after my salvation experience, in the climax of a profound revelation at Christ's cross, He revealed to me the key to finally end the tension and the torment—to finally identify with my newness in Christ.

The key? I had to "put on Christ."

Putting on Christ

At my salvation at 16 years old, I came to the cross and confessed my sins. With this, I certainly was forgiven and my record of wrongs was erased. But God showed me that forgiveness of sin is only half the significance of the cross.

I saw that during the events of crucifixion, Jesus was disrobed. Yes, He hung on the cross naked. Scripture informs that His robe laid at the foot of the cross where the soldiers cast lots for it (John 19:23).

This robe that the soldiers celebrated as a trophy to their "accomplishment" that day actually represented Jesus' identity—His perfection and righteousness. This is what Isaiah prophesied: "He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness" (Is. 61:10).

Through this, God revealed to me that Jesus' robe of righteousness still lies at the foot of the cross for whoever will go there to pick it up and put it on. The meaning of this is profound! Jesus takes our old identities of sin and offers us His identity of sinlessness. This is the second half of the significance of the cross. And this is the part of God's salvation transaction that I had to go back to receive and "put on." But when I did, I heard God declare me righteous (2 Cor 5:21). "It is finished!" He assured.

An Identity No Devil Can Accuse

Perhaps you too need to return to the cross to put on Jesus' identity. Why don't you do this now? It's simple. Envision yourself at Calvary; not an inch of you is untouched by Jesus' blood. Now declare this aloud: "I clothe myself in You, Jesus. I put on Your righteousness."

Hear Jesus reply, "It is finished!" Slavery to sin is finished. Guilt and shame are finished. The question of "Does God love me?" is finished.

God wants you to know this: You are not your past, your feelings or what anyone has ever spoken about you. His Word is your reality. And covered in Christ, He declares that you are spotless, clean, pure, holy and righteous. This is incredible! To God, you look like Jesus because you're covered in Jesus. Yes, you have an identity that no devil can accuse, because it's not about you, but about Him in whom Satan can find no fault.

Here's a new "I am" to confess: "I am the righteousness of God in Christ!"

For the rest of Kyle's message, watch this video:{eoa}

Kyle Winkler equips people to live in victory. His mobile app, Shut Up, Devil!, is the No. 1 spiritual warfare app; and his recent book, Silence Satan, has helped thousands shut down the enemy's attacks, threats, lies and accusations. Kyle holds a Master of Divinity in biblical studies from Regent University. Get daily encouragement from Kyle on Facebook and Twitter.

]]> (Kyle Winkler ) Featured Spiritual Warfare Spirit Tue, 02 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500
A Historic Season: Connecting Heaven and Earth

We have entered into a new prophetic season.

As I shared in my blog last week, one aspect of this historic timeframe is A Season of Celebration. Today let's look at another one of the prophetic seasons we are now in:

A Season of Divine Connection

This is a year of divine connection with heaven. Both in the Hebrew calendar and our Gregorian calendar, the current year ends in six: 5776 and 2016. The number six in Hebrew is the letter waw, representing the connection between heaven and earth.

I know the number six is generally only viewed with negative connotations, due to the way the book of Revelation correlates six to fallen mankind. There is truth here.

However, when you look at the entirety of God's Word, six also carries redemptive spiritual significance.

In the beginning, it was in six days that God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1). The Hebrew word and in the phrase "the heavens and the earth" starts with the letter waw. Then in the New Testament, there were six jars that Jesus filled with new wine when He performed His first miracle (John 2:6-11).

When we talk about divine connection, we're talking about the reality of heaven coming to earth. The Lord's Prayer teaches us this truth:

'In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven'" (Matt. 6:9-10).

The reality of God's kingdom is more real today than ever before. Why? The church has been praying His kingdom to earth ever since Jesus first commissioned us to do so.

That is why I believe we are going to see greater miracles, greater healings and greater supernatural encounters today than we did yesterday.

This is a year of the supernatural!

Divine Connection With One Another

Another facet of this Season of Divine Connection has to do with your relationships. This is a time of walking in unity, a season when new relationships will bud and existing relationships will flourish.{eoa}

For more of this message, watch this video:

Ché Ahn (MDiv and DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is the senior pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, a vibrant multiethnic congregation dedicated to fulfilling the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. He is also the president and founder of Harvest International Ministries, an apostolic network of more than 5,500 churches in more than 35 nations.

]]> (Ché Ahn ) Featured Supernatural Spirit Tue, 02 Feb 2016 08:00:00 -0500
When You Can't Pray Anymore

What is your heart longing for? A godly mate? The return of a prodigal? A satisfying job? You are waiting. You are praying. You are fasting. You are forgiving. You are doing everything you know how to do, yet the longing remains unfulfilled. Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Prov. 13:12, NKJV).

I love this compelling Scripture: "You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing ... And, He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him (Ps. 145:16, 19, NKJV). You can trust the Lord God.

Launch Into the Deep  In Luke 5, we read the story of Simon Peter fishing. He had been up all night fishing and had caught nothing. NOTHING! He, a professional fisherman, had worked all night for nothing. His livelihood was fishing. His friends were into fishing. He lived in a fishing village. If anyone could make a catch, surely it was Peter. But he fished all night in vain.

You can easily relate to Peter. You have been up all night fishing unsuccessfully – the loneliness continues, the rebellious child has not returned home, the bills keep piling higher. ... and, you know how to fish! Your heart feels sick.

Jesus arrives on the scene. He is not known for being a bass pro. He was a carpenter's son from landlocked Nazareth. Jesus did not own a boat. Had He ever cast a net? In this fascinating story, He has the audacity to tell the fisherman two things to do – launch into the deep and let the nets down for a catch (Luke 5:4).

Might He be saying the same to you? Launch into the deep. Let your net down. What is this deep? What is the net you need to lay down? Can you trust Him with these most vulnerable heart longings? These questions demand an answer.

The Mighty Lion of Judah  Some years ago, I had a heavenly encounter in which I saw the Mighty Lion of Judah. He was a magnificent Lion, strong and all-powerful. He was slowly walking around His throne in heaven. In this encounter I knew deep in my being that He was fully aware of all things on earth, both good and bad. Yet, He was unshaken. The Lion of Judah was strong. He was in control. Following this experience I am much better at trusting Him regardless of what things look like in this physical realm. Dan (my husband) and I even had a serious car wreck in which we easily could have been killed. We were totally at peace as the car rolled again and again.

The Lion was there with us, fully in control. He was, He is, and He will be trustworthy. You can trust Him with the deep things – the wounds and disappointments in your past, the fears and uncertainties in your present, the heart desires and hopes for your future. Dare you launch into the deep?

Drop Your Nets – It's Fishing Season  And the nets? The secure nets – the default actions and reactions, the personal traditions and habits, the independent way of thinking – these nets need to be dropped. Letting down our nets releases another wave of insecurity or fear, doesn't it? Sometimes layer after layer of nets must be released until we get to the secure place of, yes, you guessed it – trust.

Peter reminded Jesus that they, the pros, had been fishing unsuccessfully all night long. Then he makes the all-important statement, "... at Your word I will let down the net" (Luke 5:5). And you know how this story ended, they caught a great number of fish, so many that their nets were breaking from the tremendous catch.

Simon Peter heard the clear directive given by Jesus. He immediately responded in spite of his own experience with fishing. He then pulled in a massive, astonishing load of fish. Peter's desire was abundantly fulfilled.

It is fishing season. The Holy Spirit is granting fishing licenses to all. Trust God in the deep. Release your net to Jesus. Listen. Hear. Obey. And, you will be astonished as you realize the desires of your heart.

In Jesus' mighty name I decree:

• You will trust in the Lord, and He will give the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:3-4).

• As a righteous one, you will not lean on your own understanding, trusting God to direct your steps (Prov. 3:5-6).

• You will heed what you hear (Mark 4:24).

• You will hear swiftly (James 1:19).

• You will walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

Reprinted from The Elijah List. Linda Wilson, along with her husband Dan are the co-founders of Supernatural Marriage & Missions. They have taken their message of Spirit-led intimacy to numerous countries throughout the world in an effort to encourage the kingdom and prepare the bride for the bridegroom's return. Together they have published five books, including 7 Secrets of a Supernatural Marriage and Lovemaking. Dr. Dan & Linda were also executive producers of the popular worship album "CHOSEN." The Wilsons have been happily married 34 years. Email Linda at

]]> (Linda Wilson) Featured Women Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 18:00:00 -0500
3 Keys to America's Spiritual Resurrection in 2016

In this year's presidential election, America's greatest hope is spiritual resurrection.

What St. Augustine prayed in the fifth century should be on the lips of 21st-century Christians: "Revive Thy Church, O Lord, beginning with me," says David Lane, founder of the American Renewal Project, an organization helping energize pastors to mobilize their congregations to "register and vote their faith."

"We are asking 100,000 American Renewal Project senior pastors to hold weekly prayer services asking God for mercy for what we have allowed to a once-Christian nation," Lane says. "As we begin to re-establish prayer in America, Christ's disciples can expect an increase in wickedness as we prepare to return our nation to a biblically based culture. Men and women of faith must pick up the shield of faith, for nothing else can quench Satan's fiery darts."

At a time when several caucuses and primaries—including the all-important Iowa Caucus—are beginning, faith leaders are calling on believers to pray and vote. Of the nation's 80 million self-identified evangelicals, only half are registered to vote, and only half of those actually voted in the last presidential election. If 4 percent more had voted differently in 2012, the nation would have a different president today.

"I truly believe that if evangelical Christians will begin now to seriously pray for a national spiritual awakening and turn out to vote en masse that America can be saved and taken in a new and godly direction," says Eddie Hyatt, a historian and pastor. In his book, America's Revival Heritage, Hyatt has written about what it takes to ignite another Great Awakening.

Traditionally, the Iowa Caucus has garnered mass attention as an early indicator of which candidates may win the party nominations. The top three finishers will benefit from an increase in fundraising and millions of dollars' worth of free media.  For many years, Dr. Michael Brown, host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show "The Line of Fire" and president of the FIRE School of Ministry, says pundits have pointed to each election as being "very, very important, and on some level, that was true."

"It's all the more true this time," Brown says. "We've seen the radical policies that were encouraged and aided by President Obama. We've seen the bad fruit of that. We've seen the weakness of the Republican establishment to stand up for many of the values of its constituency. So we have very serious challenges, and in my view, we need a strong, godly candidate who will also face down the political establishment."

Lane, Hyatt and Brown understand, though, that it's going to take far more than a righteous president to change the nation.

"I want to emphasize that another election in and of itself will not change anything," Hyatt says. "But if the people of God will begin now to seriously pray for spiritual awakening throughout the land, such an awakening will provide the spiritual and moral strength and backing for a Christian president to make the difficult decisions that will take the nation in a different and godly direction."

If America is to survive, men and women of Issachar (1 Chr. 12:32) must bring their values to the public square, Lane says. His effort to inspire 1,000 pastors to run for city council, school board, county commissioner, mayor and Congress this year is "taking off."  So far, more than 2,000 pastors and their spouses have attended Issachar Training seminars, and 350 have said they will run for office this year.

With all this momentum, Hyatt says believers must seriously and fervently pray for a national spiritual awakening. "It is not enough to just elect a 'Christian' president," Hyatt says. "We have done that in the past and continued to lose the culture to secular godlessness. A genuine spiritual awakening that restores morality and a virtuous mindset will provide the social and spiritual force for a Christian president to initiate positive change.

"Five years ago, I had given up hope that America would see another national spiritual awakening, but God surprised me with a visitation that lasted for several hours and made it very real to me that America can see another great spiritual awakening."

As the nation turns its attention to the presidential election, many say prayer is vital. Brown says Christians should pray for "God's best choice for America."

"We should ask God to have mercy on our country," Brown says. "We should go into prayer, repenting of our corporate sins, which transcend political differences. We have sins on all sides of the aisle."

Hyatt encourages people to pray the prayer of Jesus: "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. As the people of God, it is His kingdom (administration) that we desire to see expressed, and His will that we desire to see done in this election."

]]> (Troy Anderson) Featured Culture Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:00:00 -0500
Young Men: How to Avoid Heading Down a Path to Nowhere

What I see: Unfortunately, I see a lot of young men without any direction. Since I've already walked through their path, I can understand their mentality at this point, but don't necessary agree with their motivations or lack thereof.

There are too many distractions and not enough time spent on the things that matter. The scary part is, time is passing by and the years will catch up to you faster than you could imagine.

What I see though can be fixed with some diligent effort and focus. Since myself, and many other successful men were able to do it, I know you can too!

My experience: I graduated from college almost 10 years ago. I attended one of the hardest trade schools for young men in the country. I would recommend it to any young man looking to be successful in the trades. You can find out more about it here.

If there was one thing I remember about this college was that it was tough, really tough. Up at 6 a.m. every morning, attended the raising of the flag followed by an inspection of our clothes, shoes and general appearance. We had to work hard every day. And every day, I wanted to quit!

I didn't particularly enjoy making my bed every morning, being stuck 6 hours away from home with no vehicle and living in a place I was not familiar with. But, and this is a big but, I knew that this school could help me become a successful man in life. So every day, I got up and worked hard!

My hope: I don't share my story to brag or to say my situation was any harder than yours; I share it to offer you some perspective. Perspective is a big tool missing from young men these days. Don't ever believe that you have it harder than everyone else.

Don't ever think that what you're facing is unachievable. Some of the most successful people have had to endure multiple hardships on their way to the top. My hope for you is that you will get off your butt and work hard every day to achieve the life you hope to have some day.

Here are five areas where I see young men need to improve upon in their life. And since this isn't a complete list, I encourage you to share your thoughts in the comments below.

1. Get off the phone and get into your books. As a man in my early 30s, I grew up in a time when cell phones were not as "smart." All we could do was make calls and send texts on them, and that was enough of a distraction in itself. I see young men today on their phones nearly every minute they have available. Is this wrong? No. But it does take away time from things that are of much more importance, like your studies. I would strongly encourage you to realize how much time you spend on your phone or computer and make sure it is not taking away from your learning.

2. Make money, save money. Let me ask you a simple question, do you know how much you're paying for college each year and do you realize how much money you are going to owe later? If you have no idea, I would encourage you to be active in this area. Take the time to find out those numbers and then figure out if there's any way to start making payments on them now. Have you spoken to anyone about scholarships that could be available to you? Again guys, I'm not trying to say that having a part time job or writing essays for scholarships will be easy, but now is the time to push!

3. Work hard now and find success later. This is a simple motto I'd encourage you to think about every day! Maybe post it on the wall in your room or have it come up as a reminder on your phone every day. It's simple, the harder you work now, the better chance you have at success in the future! Trust me, the last thing you want to do is look in the mirror four years from now and realize you wasted a bunch of time and have a lot of debt. Step it up guys! I know you can do it!

4. Find a mentor and listen to him. One of the toughest parts of being a young man is realizing that you need help. As I said, now that I'm in my 30s, I feel like I can't learn enough from people. I realize now that there are plenty of men that have gone before me and have been through the same trials that I am or have gone through. I would strongly encourage you to find a mentor. Find someone who you can just talk to. Find someone that will allow you to open up and just share what's truly on your mind and heart. And of course, learn the value of listening. How can you apply his or her advice and where can it help you out? Find a mentor, find one soon and maintain the relationship!

Speaking to someone at church or joining the Man Up App Community would be two great places to start!

5. Establish goals now and achieve goals later. And finally, I would challenge you to consider your goals. Where would you like to be in five years? How about 10 years? What would you like to accomplish? How successful do you hope to be? What is it going to take to achieve these goals?

Take the questions above and apply your answers. Establish a set of goals now and achieve your goals later!

Don't make excuses. Don't complain about things being too hard. Success doesn't come to those that sit around, it comes from those that take affirmative action and stick to their goals.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, experiences and challenges on this topic. {eoa}

Manturity is a blog built on establishing spiritual maturity in today's man. The goal is to assist men in building better marriages, help men in grow in maturity and explore different aspects of manhood. features new weekly blog posts, daily social media updates and a powerful resources page. Stay up to date with the Manturity blog communities on Facebook and Twitter.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Bryan Van Slyke/ Featured Men Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 16:00:00 -0500
7 Foods That Build Your Body's Resiliency

Over the years I have reviewed hundreds of diet and fitness plans, and I have to say that most of them focus on what foods you can't eat. Sometimes these plans focus on cutting sugar, or carbohydrates, or meat, or even solid food.

Seriously, I once saw a plan called "The Cabbage Soup Diet," and one called the "Grapefruit Diet." To paraphrase the words of Jesus: Man can't live by grapefruit alone!

These plans are destined to fail because they deny a basic truth—humans love to eat. We love the taste of food and the feel of food and the joy and celebration surrounding food. Normal people don't like to feel hunger pangs, and they don't like to feel deprived. When your brain does without certain chemicals that can come from food, it definitely begins sending the signal of deprivation!

So what is a person to do in this stress-filled world? In our country, where the law of supply and demand rules our economy, if there is a demand for something, then someone will create it. And if someone creates it, then a competitor will create it better and cheaper. Guaranteed.

Sadly, when this comes to food, your body can suffer. Cheap, highly processed foods not only taste good, but they hit that pleasure center in your brain (called the ventral tegmental area) that makes you feel less stressed—for the moment. Unfortunately, the chemicals, preservatives, and excessive sugar and salt in these products guarantee more stress on your body in the long run.

How can we hit that "sweet spot" in the brain that makes us feel relaxed and happy without causing ourselves more stress in the long run? What foods can we eat that not only increase our resiliency to stress, but also make our brains and bodies feel satisfied? Here are some ideas:

1. Asparagus – A mood enhancing vegetable thanks to tons of folic acid. Because they are cruciferous, they help open up detoxification pathways. Try them marinated in olive oil and rosemary and grilled.  Delicious leftover diced up in an omelet or frittata.

2. Avocado – High in B vitamins that give you a mood boost. High in healthy fats that lower blood pressure which reduces body stress. Eat them as guacamole, or added to any smoothie, soup, or stew. Try them salted and spread on toast instead of butter or peanut butter. Delicious sliced into eggs.

3. Blueberries – Deliciously sweet and tart, just a handful can reduce oxidative stress in your body. Add a bit of coconut cream to them for a late-night dessert. Add them to cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, or freeze them for a cold snack.

4. Almonds – Almonds boost your immune system during times of stress; making your body more resilient. Keep baggies with about 20 almonds in your desk at work, in the car, or in the snack cabinet at home. Eat them every day for best results. Add slivered almonds to green beans, or on top of casseroles.

5. Oranges – High in vitamin C which supports good immune function. Lowers blood pressure and cortisol—the stress hormone. Eat the whole orange; not just the juice for a lower glycemic response. Try segments of fresh oranges mixed with coconut shreds for a delicious ambrosia at dessert time.

6. Oily fish – Put more oily fish like sardines, anchovies, herring, tuna, and salmon in your diet to keep cortisol levels from spiking when you encounter stressful situations. Most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids found in these fish. Make sure to get only wild caught, not farm raised. Try to get about 4 oz. three times a week for optimal resilience.

7. Spinach – Packed with magnesium that lowers blood pressure and the stress response. Make sure to get organic. Try a handful in your omelet, or in place of lettuce on your sandwich. Put a cupful in your smoothie or in any soup, stew, or salad.

By focusing on foods that you can eat instead of focusing on those you can't eat, you will be happier, healthier, and more resilient to the inevitable stresses of life!

America's leading stress expert, Dr. Pete Sulack is a highly sought-after teacher, lecturer, and author. His studies on the effects of stress, coupled with over one-million patient visits and attention from medical communities led him to write and create Unhealthy Anonymous to help individuals, corporations and non-profits mitigate the immense effects of stress on health and human behavior. Use code to receive a $1/month discount!

]]> (Pete Sulack, M.D.) Featured Health Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 15:00:00 -0500
6 Steps to Bringing Your Prodigal Home

I can see it in their faces. They are parents who cry and pray for prodigals but nothing seems to work.

They privately long for a rebellious son or daughter to turn from their sin and start serving the Lord. They live for the day when their wayward child comes home.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, the father did everything right. His example gives us insight into what we should do for the Lord to get the attention of the one we love.

Here are six things you can do to help bring your prodigal child back to Christ.

1. Stop feeling guilty and start walking in victory. As parents, we often feel we are responsible for the sinfulness of our children. It is easy to think that perfect parenting equals perfect kids. Then we assume the opposite must be true: imperfect kids are the result of imperfect parenting.

Satan, who is the accuser of believers, takes that thought and starts inflicting guilt on us. We start spending our time wondering, "What did I do wrong?" The answer is probably nothing.

God didn't do anything wrong with Adam and Eve but they rebelled. Judas walked with perfect love for three years and still betrayed Christ. You can be the world's greatest parent and still have a child who walks away. Until the Holy Spirit reveals your error, you must spiritually walk as though you did nothing wrong. If you don't, guilt will destroy your joy and will enable your prodigal to manipulate you.

2. Remove the barriers. Sometimes we know what we did wrong. The Holy Spirit convicted and showed us our sin. We pleaded for His forgiveness and He granted it. Yet, we never went to our rebellious son or daughter and asked for their forgiveness.

Satan often uses our inability to seek forgiveness as a spiritual barrier between our children and the Lord.

The way to remove the barrier is to be honest, admit your sin to your child, and ask for their forgiveness. Be warned: they may not grant it but you have removed the barrier by acknowledging your sin. They no longer have an excuse.

3. Extend unconditional love. Unconditional love says, "I love you for who you are, not for what you do." It sounds easy, but it's not. How do you react when your child's name is mentioned? Ever secretly wish your son was dead? Or wished your daughter belonged to someone else?

In the days of Jesus, a Jewish boy dishonored his family when he fed pigs. If the story of the Prodigal Son occurred today, the boy probably would engage in sexual sins, become addicted to every known drug, commit as many crimes as possible, and publicly humiliate his parents every chance he got.

Jesus set the example. Unconditional love bears the shame, endures the pain, and hopes for the best.

4. Let consequences occur. Rescuing your prodigal every time they get in a pigpen is not unconditional love. No, love allows a person making wrong choices to face the consequences of their sins. The father in Luke 15 could have sent a servant with some money for his son. But he didn't. Rescuing the son would get him out of the embarrassing pigpen but it would not get him home.

The father allowed his son to leave with his inheritance. He refused to follow him and he refused to rescue him from the pain his decisions caused. Discomfort caused by their decisions often is the tool the Holy Spirit uses to break prodigals. Real love stays out of the way.

5. Guard your words. Too often we give Satan ammunition for keeping our prodigals in the far country. It is the words we speak.

Don't like the pastor at your church? Keep it to yourself. Dislike the music or the leader of the student ministry? Tell the Lord but not your prodigal.

The person you criticize the most may be the one person God can use in the life of your rebellious child. If you aren't careful, your criticism of others will destroy any impact they are having, including their influence in the life of your child.

6. Pray specifically for friends. Nothing impacts a wayward son or daughter like a friend who has a heart for God! Ask God to bring godly people into your prodigal's life.

Pray for the Lord to bring co-workers into their workplaces that love Christ. Pray for God to put godly neighbors next door and to put kids on the same sports team with parents who seek the Lord. Pray that your prodigal will develop friendships with people controlled by the Holy Spirit and for their friendships to have an impact on your prodigal.

The Gospel of Luke omits the amount of time between the prodigal leaving home and his return. Like you, the father prayed for the day his son returned. The father, however, never lost hope and neither should you.

Keep your eyes on the road because one day your prodigal is coming home.          

Phil Waldrep leads Phil Waldrep Ministries based in Decatur, Alabama. He is the author of Reaching Your Prodigal: What Did I Do Wrong? What Do I Do Now? (Worthy Publishing, February 2016).  

]]> (Phil Waldrep) Featured Family & Parenting Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 14:00:00 -0500
5 Reasons You Can Trust God With Your Children

A friend of mine once said she didn't know what fear was until she had children. I sometimes feel the same. As a mother to three precious boys, I have become practiced in fearing imaginary futures for them. Over the course of my eight years as a mother, I have feared everything from terrorist attacks to disease to my child being separated from God. When I looked to God's Word for help, I found encouragement—not to care less about what happens to my children but rather to fear God more.

Navigating the complexities of motherhood is not easy, but Proverbs 9:10 says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom." When we fear God most of all, many of the puzzle pieces come together.

This Proverbs 9 style of fear arises out of a strong, unshakable conviction that God is better, stronger, and wiser than you or anything else in the world.

Does the fear of the Lord motivate your parenting decisions? If you are trusting in anything other than Him for your child's happiness and security, here are five reasons you should trust God instead.

1. Because God Has the Power to Save Your Kids

Paul prays that the Ephesians would know "the immeasurable greatness of his power" toward those who believe (Eph. 1:19–20). He wanted them to know that the God who raises the dead also intercedes powerfully for His people.

Moms who feel weighed down by the responsibilities of raising children can rest easy knowing that Jesus has the power to give their kids eternal life and no one can snatch a believer out of His hand (John 10:28).

We don't need to frantically look for the magic formula to produce healthy, successful, and God-fearing kids. Instead, we look to the Lord for hope, help, and salvation and resist the temptation to trust in less-worthy things.

2. Because Christ Is More Attractive Than Anything the World Has to Offer

Sometimes we try to shelter our children from certain people, worldviews, or activities because we are worried they will draw our children away from the faith. But if kids see that Mom and Dad understand the world they live in, they are not afraid of it, and they think that Christ is so much better, then that gives them a certain confidence about Christ's supremacy.

Of course, we don't want to expose our kids to things they are too young to deal with. We need to wait until they are mature enough to understand and discriminate. But we must always remember that there is nothing out there so sophisticated, beautiful, or alluring that Christ pales in comparison.

3. Because Pleasing People Won't Get Your Kids into Heaven

A common temptation for us mothers is to care too little about God's opinion and too much about other people's opinions.

Jesus spoke against this temptation in Matthew 10:28. He said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

It's tempting for us to put pressure on our kids to be something they were never meant to be. Kids are not a walking vindication of all the time and energy we have poured into them. They were made for more than this. Their job is not to please other people or to make us us feel good about ourselves. They are sinners in need of a Savior, just like anyone, and their purpose in life is to give God glory.

Proverbs 29:25 says, "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe." So whether you are criticized or applauded in your parenting methods, let it rest lightly on you. God will ultimately judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5), and He has a straight, steady view into the heart of the matter. He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love (Ps. 103:8), and those who trust in Him are kept safe.

4. Because Worldly Achievements Provide No Eternal Security

Many of us are consumed with guilt or anxiety when other parents do more for their kids than we do for ours. We are afraid to slow down because our kids will be left behind.

But God will not favor our children if they grow up to be successful adults by worldly standards. God shows no partiality, "but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him" (Acts 10:35, emphasis added).

From God's perspective, the fear of the Lord trumps achievement every time.

"His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love" (Ps. 147:10–11).

Our achievements and ingenuity may make us feel secure, but they can be taken away in a moment. Our life is short like a "mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes" (James 4:14), but the fear of the Lord holds eternal value.

5. Because We Can't Control the Future

This is maybe the hardest one for a mother. We need to trust that God is both sovereign and good, even if our children's future holds something that we would not want for them.

None of us know whether the future holds war, disability, broken relationships, or other suffering for our children. And the horrible truth is that we can't protect them from it. But God doesn't leave us alone in our struggles. He tells us:

"Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (Is. 41:10).

The most natural expression of our trust in God is prayer. When we ask God to intercede on behalf of our children, we are saying that we fear Him more than anything. He may not answer in our timing, and He may choose something harder than we would have wanted for our children, but we can be sure that He will act according to His good character (Ps. 136:1).

Pleasing people won't get our kids into heaven and the best opportunities won't save them, but God has the power to transform our children and keep them secure for eternity.

What motivates your parenting decisions? Do you know you can trust God with your children?

Reprinted from Christel Humfrey is a pastor's wife and mother. She has a B.A. in music with a minor in ballet. Against all odds, she fell in love with a cowboy. Together they have three sons and minister in Calgary, Canada. In her free time she enjoys blogging at

]]> (Christel Humfrey ) Featured Women Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
When We Let the Father Name Us

It was just my second time to be with her.

Her history, all nine years of it, was tainted with stories we'd rather not believe.

Now she was orphaned and alone, and the oppression of her years hung over her, pressing her with a ruthless and heavy hand.

Her pain had forged her identity.

She had no father to name her. So instead, her abrasive history told her who she was.

That day, I'd come to visit her in the children's home where she lived. I looked into empty eyes that both told and hid a story. Eyes that held fear and insecurity and despair and pain.

I pulled out my bag where I'd put pictures, tape and a paper with her name typed on it with big, bold letters.

"So I looked up what your name means, just like I told you I would the last time we were together," I said to her.

Her eyes were suddenly at attention. "What does it mean? Is it something bad?" she asked apprehensively.

Her excited curiosity mingled with hesitation. People who hadn't been able to love her well had spoken many names over her through the years. And harsh circumstances had pinned her as an unwanted orphan.

And now, it was hard for her to imagine that a good definition could be ever attached to her.

"Oh no. It means something really good. It's perfect for you, actually. Your name means PURE and BEAUTIFUL," I said to her.

An almost embarrassed smile spread across her face. "My name means ... that?" She couldn't quite bring herself to say those two words yet.

"Yep. I looked in several different books and searched the Internet. It's the truth, girl. Your name means pure and beautiful, and there's no gettin' around it."

For the next 45 minutes, we made a collage of her name, finding pictures of things that were "pure and beautiful" and taping them to a large poster board. She rummaged through magazine clippings, pulling out shots of waterfalls, sunsets, flowers and oceans. She commented on each one as she chose it, saying things like, "Oh that's really beautiful ... we should definitely use that one."

In the center of her collage, she taped her name and then wrote the words pure and beautiful next to it.

The initial embarrassment that had crept into her eyes started turning to joy, and a little bit of confidence sneaked in. The names that others (and she) had pinned to her heart in past years were being called into question.

And the door of her heart cracked open, even a little—and Truth began to speak a new name.

I have something in common with that girl.

I think maybe we all do.

Lots of thoughts run through my mind every day, so normal to my human mode that I hardly realize I'm really thinking about anything.

Our minds run constantly with words and names and daydreams and to-do lists.

And some of those thoughts that pass through our minds are about us. Sometimes they're whispers, and sometimes they're declared with large, bold letters. Thoughts like "failure" or "lazy" or "burdensome" or "hopeless" or "unseen" or "too much" or "not enough" lash the heart.

And devastatingly, these toxic thoughts sometimes feel normal. And so we drink them in.

I remember days of hanging my head low, walking my college campus, truly believing that my beauty was measured by the numbers that appeared on the scale when I stepped onto it each morning.

I've known too well, too many days of feeling mostly like God was disappointed in me, feeling like He was angry, feeling like I'd failed Him. Again.

As a wife, with a mountain-sized pile of laundry (and there are only two of us in this house) waiting for me to fold it, and out of ideas of what to cook for dinner, and sadly having said those words that I know hurt his heart—sometimes I want to grovel in thoughts of "He deserves so much better."

Truth is, I—we—tend to see our weaknesses as our blaring attributes. And subtly, we let them define us. We wear them like name tags pinned to our hearts while still trying to keep everything looking neat on the outside.

But people, do we really know who we are? Where did those names we've attached to ourselves come from?

Are those God's thoughts? Or mine? Or the devil's? Or the world's?

We're in a war, friends. We have an accuser, and sometimes he comes with a disguised voice, a voice that we maybe even think is our own. A voice that sounds so believable.

But we've got to break away from the auto-file our minds thumb through, the normalcy of believing anything other than the truth—that we are cherished, beautiful and beloved.

We've got to reach for—and fight for—our true name in Him. We've got to fight for our hearts and expose every lie.

And it happens when we take every thought, and every name, captive—holding them under the weight of God's Word ... to see if they can still hold up.

What are we letting define us? Or maybe better said, who are we letting define us?

We've got to ask: What has the Father named me?

What do You see, Father? What do You feel when you look at me?

Identify me.

Name me. 

His Word is the final Word. And the name He gives us is our true name.

And He has called us clean.

He has called us beloved.

He has called us no longer orphans, but His own.

He has called us wanted.

He has called us worth dying for.

He has called us beautiful.

And we have to stare at these truths, have to ingest them, have to pray them over our tattered hearts, have to let them soak into our beings ... so that the truth of His Word, His names for us and His love over us become what define us through and through.

Kinsey Thurlow is a minister at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. She is an advocate for the fatherless and her husband, Jon, is a worship leader and minister at IHOPKC.

]]> (Kinsey Thurlow) Featured Women Life Mon, 01 Feb 2016 11:00:00 -0500
How to Break Free From the Spirit of Jealousy

The spirit of jealousy can cause a lot of damage in your church or ministry if it's not dealt with properly. The spirit of jealousy will cause striving and ungodly competitions to flourish.

Gossip, backbiting and pettiness will be evident in a ministry where the spirit of jealousy exists. Numbers 5:14 (MEV) talks about an actual demonic spirit called jealousy, it reads, "If the spirit of jealousy comes on him and he is jealous of his wife." Leadership can actually develop an atmosphere for this spirit to stir when they are promoting favorites and family members, instead of promoting people based on a their merits and abilities.

Second Corinthians 10:12–13 (MEV) says, "They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise. But we will not boast beyond measure, but within the boundaries which God has appointed us, which reach even you."

God instructs us not to compare ourselves with others, because that really is just another form of covetousness. When we are watching what others have and we are comparing ourselves to them, we are allowing the spirit of jealousy access to our lives.

I was working in a ministry and I had pastored for years so I had gathered a lot of office furniture and wall art over the years. In our home, I just didn't have anywhere to put those things, so I brought them all to my new office. One of the individuals got really jealous over my office décor and went off on me one day about how "I came in like I owned the place with all my office furniture." I was trying to work through some other issues with that person and they really exposed their heart with that statement.

Second Corinthians 10:12 tells us that comparing ourselves to others is wrong, and it will cause us to have a jealous spirit if we continue to do that. Faith understands that what God did for one, He will do for another. Romans 2:11 (MEV) says, "For there is no partiality with God." The King James translation says, "There is no respect of persons with God."

The word respect simply means to show partiality or favoritism to someone. God loves all His children the same way. I had simply exercised my faith through the years for a nice office and had gathered a few things. We should never despise someone's harvest because we do not know what they have sown to receive it, and the Bible simply says it is not wise to compare with others.

I remember on one occasion, I was honored to preach in another man's church. I was just getting started in ministry and had recently pioneered a church. I went into this pastor's church, and they had so many nice things—big TV screens on the walls, TV equipment and camera's displaying the speaker on the big screens. I was amazed at all the technological advancements in this church.

The next day, the Lord spoke to my heart early in the day and told me to "rejoice at others' blessings because He could do the same for me." When we are faced with someone else's prosperity, we are at a crossroads to either covet or decide to be encouraged. We must learn to rejoice at another's blessings because God can do the same thing for us! God doesn't show favoritism or partiality. Romans 12:15 (MEV) says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice."

Come on, church, we know that without faith it's impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6), so there is no reason for us to compare, to covet and to be jealous over anyone's blessings because what God will do for one, He will do for you. {eoa}

Steve Trexler is a minister and a writer for Father's House Ministries in Tulsa, OK. Steve pastored for over 18 years and is the author of Gathering God's Promises, Name Droppers and God's Personality Test, which can be found at his website, You may also contact Steve at

]]> (Steve Trexler ) Featured Spiritual Growth Spirit Mon, 01 Feb 2016 09:00:00 -0500