Theory of the Eldest – By John Providence

Fool's Costume 3DLast year I had the privilege to work on The Fool’s Costume: A Strange ConfessionFilled with both tragic and extraordinarily supernatural events, this true story reads more like a novel than a biography. This book clearly demonstrates the power of God to turn evils into good, and I was greatly impressed at the author’s ability to tell his story. John’s book is available on his website for free. Below are excerpts from chapter two.

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In one of my first memories, Davey and I were gleefully jumping on the bed in our room when we collided in midair and knocked heads. Davey wailed in agony. The instant the sound escaped his lips, Mother flew into the room in full-on crisis mode and threw herself down beside her youngest child, hysterically inquiring what happened. Davey, about two, mustered between sobs, “Johnny hit my head.” At that, Mother grabbed a fistful of my hair and slapped me across the face while throttling me about. When her furry subsided, I tried to tell her about the accident. “Don’t lie to me! You hurt Davey on purpose because you hate him!” And the fury commenced.

Mother stalked me. Often while playing alone with Davey, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Looking about, I would see some part of Mom’s body sticking out from her hiding place, notice the shadows cast by her feet under the door, or hear the floor creak as she crept closer. Her presence made me feel terribly awkward, and I did not know what to do. I knew why she was there—to catch me hurting Davey. But I did not want to hurt him like she believed. Then I got a grand idea. While Mother was spying, I would play extra nice with Davey to show her how much I really loved him!

“AH, HA!” Mother yelled as she leapt into the open. “You sneaky little cheat. You knew I was there the whole time and tried to put me on with your act. Well, you’ll have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on me, Buster!” The next time she snuck up on me I said hello to avoid looking the deceiver. “So you think you’re pretty clever now, don’t you? You better enjoy this victory while it lasts. You may’ve won this time, but I’m in it for the long haul. We’ll see who’ll have the last laugh!”

Why did Mother treat me so? “You are the eldest, the firstborn child, just like your Grandma Pearl and Uncle Teddy were. As the eldest, you were born with the same character flaws as them. You have the Type-A personality and choleric temperament that every firstborn automatically does. Only I know who you really are, and it is my God-given duty as your parent to correct the personality flaws that come along with being the firstborn.

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The Grace of God Lost and Found in Translation – by Derek Mitchell

3DI had the privilege to work with Derek Mitchell in 2013 to publish his book Unlocking the Power of Grace: How Religion Uses the Bible Against Us. I found his insights into a number of biblical passages very helpful. Below is an excerpt from the book taken from chapter 16: Cannot Be My Disciple.

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Cannot Be My Disciple

Luke 14:25-27 – Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:33 – (Jesus speaking) “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” 

Scratching the Surface

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus sprinkles in what seem to be qualifications to follow Him and these look pretty daunting. Hate our father and mother? Carry our cross? Give up everything? What does He mean? It sounds like unless we walk away from our family, friends, job, material possessions, etc., we are disqualified from being a disciple of Jesus, that we cannot be saved. Wow! Could this be true? Is this consistent with the New Covenant of grace?

Law vs. Grace

We used this impossibly high expectation in my measure-up-or-else church to weed out those who were not willing to be sold out in following Jesus. If people were unwilling to live up to these standards, they could not become a Christian and be saved. It seems pretty harsh but, in our minds, it was the expectation Jesus set not us. We were just trying to follow the Bible and restore Jesus’ standards so that the church could be what it was meant to be.

With the help of this passage and others like it, we concluded that the biblical standard for being a true disciple of Jesus was someone who was willing to give up everything, go anywhere, and do anything for the kingdom (a.k.a. the church). Again, we were just trying to follow what we thought the Bible laid out. It might sound very controlling and legalistic, almost cult-like, but we were sincere in our faith and in our efforts to be close to God. We wanted to show our love for Him through our obedience and humility.

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God Speaks through Dreams, and He Wants to Speak to You

Find solutions you need during the day by just falling asleep at night.

Find solutions you need during the day by just falling asleep at night.

Everyone dreams every night, and your dreams can be an amazing source of encouragement and direction. Maybe you don’t remember them when you wake up, but if you pay attention, dreams can unlock the solutions you need while you sleep.

The excerpt below is from chapter eight of What Your Dreams Are Telling You: Unlocking Solutions While You Sleep by Cindy McGill and me, published by Chosen Books. The book is a positive, encouraging, insightful look at the language God uses to speak to us while we rest.

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Nebuchadnezzar the Great lived from 634–562 BC and ruled over one of the most powerful periods in Babylonian history. He is known for building the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. He also conquered Syria and Egypt (a rare and amazing feat) and destroyed the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, sending many Jews into exile. The Bible contains two detailed accounts of this ancient leader’s dreams. These historical events are a remarkable case study of a leader who received clear direction and warning dreams from God and what happened as a result. The accounts give evidence that God sends dreams to guide and warn world leaders, regardless of their religious loyalties.

King Nebuchadnezzar had only been on the throne for a couple of years when he was given a dream so astounding in its scope that it covered the rise and fall of world powers from the time of his rule until the rule of a Kingdom at the end of time. It is no wonder that trying to figure out its meaning worried him and kept him awake at night! He called together all the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and wise men in the kingdom to help him sort out the dream. The king must have thought that interpreting the dream would be too easy for these guys—they could make up anything once they heard it. But he was looking for accuracy, so he demanded that the dream interpreters tell him not only the interpretation, but also the actual dream itself. If they could not, he threatened that he would give the order to cut them to pieces and burn down their houses. Terrified by the king’s unusual demand, his interpreters replied,

There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. —Daniel 2:10–11

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Still Single, Searching, and Sick of It: Winning Over Loneliness by Adonis & Heather Lenzy

Dating in B&W BookBaby CoverI am excited to share the excerpt below  from chapter 21 of Dating in Black & White by Adonis & Heather Lenzy. I had the privilege of working with them on this book and if you’re dating or know someone who is, it’s a great read for “keeping relationships on target.”  Read after the excerpt for more about the book and the authors.

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Chances are that everyone has fought this battle at one time or another in their lives. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with the ability to take you on a journey in your mind, heart, and desires.

In an attempt to bring comfort and encouragement to Christian singles, the church coined a phrase that said, “Be single and satisfied.” The ironic part about that is the advice to be single and satisfied usually came from married people who had been married for years and had probably forgotten what it was like to be single. They came up with stuff like, “Fall in love with Jesus first and then love yourself.” Once again, I think this was an attempt to give a super spiritual answer rather than address the core issue of a single person who loves Jesus and themselves but was overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness and not being satisfied.

Loneliness is not a bad word, nor does it mean you are less spiritual and a weak Christian. It simply means that you have a desire to find that soul mate and spend the rest of your life with the person of your dreams. It’s like being content and discontent at the same time. You are passionate about God. You love yourself, but you still have a sense of being unfulfilled.

Don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. It doesn’t mean that you are failing in your Christian walk; it means that you are human.

I can recall all my single years of battling the feelings of loneliness. I’m not going to lie; it was horrible. Wanting to find that special someone and spend the rest of my life with them seemed like a fading dream that would become less attainable year after year. The worst part was being around dating and married couples and seeing them so happy. When you’re single, every married couple appears happy. They’re not, so don’t rush your dating process to get there.

Still, seeing other happy couples magnifies your feelings of loneliness and sends you off on a tangent of desperately trying to find what they have. The older I got, the worse the feeling became. Unfortunately, I didn’t respond correctly to the feelings of loneliness in the beginning and, therefore, lost that battle several times. It drove me to enter relationships I had no business being involved in.

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You Can Be Happy Again – by Nancy James

3dHave you experienced a loss of a child or know someone who has? I recently had the privilege of working with Nancy James, author of the beautiful book Mourning to Morning: 90 Days of Healing after the Death of a Child. Published last week on Valentine’s Day, Mourning to Morning is a 90-day devotional filled with personal stories and practical “prescriptions for healing” that will help you or someone you love process pain, grief, and anger, and come into wholeness after tragedy. Below is Day 2 from the book. As of the publishing of this post, the book is $2 off the normal price here.

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Feeling Happy Again

Have you had this experience? You awake from a nice sleep, lying in bed, without a care in the world. Suddenly, the reality of your situation hits you! You remember that there is a big hole in your life—your child is not with you. Slowly, the pain seeps back into your heart. But for three seconds, you enjoyed happiness as you once knew it.

Those three seconds are your hope for the future! You won’t always feel the awful dread and pain that you feel now. You will feel happy again. I remember attending a welcome home party for a friend who had been a relief worker in Africa. She contracted malaria and came close to death but miraculously recovered. Three weeks after her recovery, her husband contracted the same disease and died! It was a big shock to everyone.

Several years had passed, she had remarried, and she came to the USA to celebrate. During the party, I couldn’t get over how her joy was overflowing with radiance and laughter. I felt like I was dying in the desert after the death of my son, and she had the water that I longed so desperately to enjoy. As I was walking out to the car, my heart was bleeding. I cried out to God, “Am I ever going to be happy like her? Please, I want to be happy again; I hate being sad.” When I called out to God in my desperation, I felt like a hand compressed the gaping hole in my heart.

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