He Gives and Takes Away …

Hello TD,

Well, in a very rare and nearly unprecedented move, the Academy rescinded the nomination for Best Song that Joni recorded, “Alone Yet Not Alone” citing campaigning that gives the “appearance of an unfair advantage.”  The song’s composer apparently “had emailed members of the branch to make them aware of his  submission during the nominations voting period.”  Now, whether that was the real reason or whether the Academy buckled to the pressure of the flak it was getting for nominating a low budget, faith-based film’s unheard of song, we may never know.  However, we do know that God got highlighted and that Joni was a faithful ambassador.

Here’s what Joni had to say about it:

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve had to occasionally pinch myself and wonder, “Is the song I recorded ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’ really up for an Oscar nomination?!” Well, it turns out that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just rescinded its nomination. But amidst this wild roller coaster of a ride, “I will praise [the Lord] more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long” (Psalm 71:15). Aren’t you glad some things don’t change?! Like the higher plans of our wonderful, sovereign Lord :-). I am grateful that this media flurry has, no doubt, generated interest in the release of Alone yet Not Alone which will be out in theaters this June!

My Thoughts on the Oscar Decision…

While I can only imagine the disappointment of the composers of “Alone Yet Not Alone” in the rescinding of their Oscar nomination, it in no way detracts from either the song’s beauty or its message. I was humbled and honored to have been asked to sing it for the film, and was as surprised as anyone when I learned of the song’s nomination.  I am grateful for the attention the nomination brought to this worthy song and the inspirational film behind it, as well as to the ongoing work of Joni and Friends to people affected by disabilities. The decision by the Academy to rescind the nomination may well bring even further attention, and I only hope it helps to further extend the message and impact of the song.

Regarding the reasons for the nomination being rescinded, it is not my place to speculate as I have no insights into the workings of the entertainment industry.  If it were for reasons connected with the faith-based message of this film, we shouldn’t be surprised that Hollywood shuns Christ and His message.  He was shunned by weightier adversaries than those in the field of entertainment.  I was honored to be invited to sing the song and it will always be a treasured experience!

Well said, well said!  Once again, I say, “And the winner is … Joni!”

– Arthur

Prayer Requests from Joni

Hey TD!

Thanks a bunch to those of you who told me you are praying for Joni.  That touched her.  I just heard from Joni and she is asking for specific prayers from us at TD.  I promised her that we would be faithful to do so.  Will you join us in doing so?  Here’s what she writes:

Wow, Arthur, I’m so GRATEFUL for all this prayer support from you and my friends at Total Devotion!  And prayer is needed:  I just came down with a terrible head cold this morning (am leaving the IDC as soon as my meeting with the Zondervan folks is finished).  My head is stuffy, my throat is sore, my nose is running (and I sound like a Mucinex commercial).  All this to say, I need big prayer, asking God that this not descend into my chest (you know how colds can develop quickly into pneumonia when you’re a quad)! 

Please, please tell Total Devotion how grateful to God I am for their prayers.  Here’s how they can intercede…

  • That my health and strength be bolstered and these cold germs be eradicated
  • That God will give me His words and His wisdom with all these many interviews lining up, both Christian and secular.  I want to keep pointing people to the God of the Bible!
  • That the Lord will cover Ken and me with His protection – after watching just 10 minutes of the Grammys on Sunday evening, it is abundantly clear that there are huge dark, spiritual strongholds that grip the minds and hearts of Hollywood people.  In other words, Ken and I feel like there is a bigger target on our back now.  So ask God to give protection, humility, focus on Jesus, and a prayerful spirit!  (The National Day of Prayer this year is going to focus on the entertainment industry; what a wonderful coincidence)!

Thanks for all your interest and support in this Oscar rollercoaster.  Many blessings, dear friend, and love to your family…

Joni

“The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16)  If you are a Christian, Christ’s righteousness is yours.  That makes you righteous!  And that makes your prayers effective.  So, would you please pray earnestly and become a tangible part of the work God is doing through this nomination?  Thank you! – Arthur

And the Winner is …

Hey TD!  Well, in a few a months, the world will be watching the Acadamey Awards show (aka The Oscars), the entertainment world’s biggest night.  “And the winner is …” will be said over and over again.   Well, one incredible David vs. Goliath story is in the category of Best Song.  Out of the blue, an unknown, unheralded song (with under 4,000 Youtube views) from an unheard of Christian movie received one of the five nominations for best song.  The song “Alone Yet Not Alone” (from the movie of the same name) has Hollywood up in arms.  Passed over are songs sung by the likes of Taylor Swift, Coldplay, Beyonce, and Jay Z.

What’s even crazier is that the song is sung by a singer who has never been professionally trained, who has only 51% lung capacity, and who is a … quadriplegic.  You guessed it.  The singer is none other than our beloved Joni Eareckson Tada!

And what has been happening since last week’s nomination?  A floodgate of national write ups, interview requests, television news stories, and other opportunities to give testimony to the God who will never truly leave His children alone.  The interviews are giving Joni a chance to discuss things like Christianity, suffering, and sin with the secular world.  And Joni is being faithful.

We’ve been in communication with Joni and she needs our fervent prayers and requests them from us.  Would you please be in prayer for Joni during this time, so she can fulfill and carry out what God has intended through this unlikely nomination?  Thank you!

And whether the song wins or not really isn’t the issue.  The victory has already been won.  And the winner is … Joni Eareckson Tada!

Here is the video of the song itself, followed by a link to a GREAT interview/story done on ABC7 News:

ABC7 story on Joni’s Oscar Nominated Song

The Deadliest Sin

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Hey TD!

What sins are you battling in your life right now?  That’s not even really the right question, for there’s only one real over-arching sin: defiance of God and His authority over us.  However, there are many expressions of that sin.  And that may be the more precise question.  Which expressions of defiance of God are you battling with now?  They come in all shapes and sizes.

In this latest episode of the TD Commotion (our shorter topical podcasts), there is one in particular that Eunice wants to talk to you about that may well be at the root of many of your sinful expressions. Some call it … the deadliest sin.  It’s worth the 4 minutes!  Please listen and consider. – Arthur

The Deadliest Sin

Dear “Daddy” in Seat 16C

shanell mouland

Hey TD! You know, opportunities abound on a daily basis for us to allow God’s goodness, kindness, and tender care for His creation to be communicated and tangibly felt through us.  We are to be channels of displaying Him.  He could display Himself any way He wants, but one of His primary avenues of displaying His perfection is through us broken and imperfect vessels – jars of clay as 2 Corinthians 4 terms it.

Jars of clay.  How fitting.  Jars are designed to hold and contain something of value that is to be used and poured out.  Clay is brittle and fragile and must be handled with care.  That about sums us up doesn’t, it?  As humbling as it may be to hear that we are merely receptacles to dispense God’s grace, and not the grace itself, it is a fact that we need to embrace.  We exist to display God, and when we do, it engenders a hope and faith that the world desperately needs to experience.

Here is an open letter that was posted from a mother to a man she doesn’t even know, thanking him for the way he treated her 3-year old daughter with autism on the airplane.  The letter found its way to him and they reconnected.  It’s moving.  I don’t know if the “Daddy” in seat 16C was a Christian, but God used him to show His tender love.  Let’s do the same! – Arthur

Dear “Daddy,”

I don’t know your name, but Kate called you “daddy” for the entire flight last week and you kindly never corrected her. In fact, you didn’t even flinch as you could probably tell that she was not confusing you with her own “daddy,” but instead making a judgment regarding your level of “safety” for her. If she calls you “daddy” then you better believe she thinks you are alright.

I sat Kate, my 3-year-old who has autism, in the middle seat knowing full well that there would be a stranger sitting next to her for the duration of this flight. I had to make a quick decision and based on her obsession with opening and closing the window shade, I figured she might be less of a distraction if she sat in the middle. I watched the entire Temple basketball team board the plane, and wondered if one of these giants might sit by Kate. They all moved toward the back. She would have liked that, she would have made some observations that I would have had to deal with, but she would have liked those players. I watched many Grandmotherly women board and hoped for one to take the seat but they walked on by. For a fleeting moment I thought we might have a free seat beside us, and then you walked up and sat down with your briefcase and your important documents and I had a vision of Kate pouring her water all over your multi-million dollar contracts, or house deeds, or whatever it was you held. The moment you sat down, Kate started to rub your arm. Your jacket was soft and she liked the feel of it.  You smiled at her and she said:  “Hi, Daddy, that’s my mom.” Then she had you.

You could have shifted uncomfortably in your seat. You could have ignored her. You could have given me that “smile” that I despise because it means; “manage your child please.” You did none of that. You engaged Kate in conversation and you asked her questions about her turtles. She could never really answer your questions but she was so enamored with you that she kept eye contact and joint attention on the items you were asking her about. I watched and smiled. I made a few polite offers to distract her, but you would have none of it.

Kate: (Upon noticing you had an iPad)  Is dis Daddy’s puduter?

You: This is my iPad. Would you like to see it?

Kate: To me?????? (I know she thought you were offering it to her to keep)

Me: Look with your eyes, Kate. That is not yours.

Kate: Dat’s nice!

You: (Upon noticing that Kate had an iPad)  I like your computer, too.  It has a nice purple case.

Kate: Daddy wanna be a bad guy? (She offered shredder to you and that, my friend, is high praise)

You: Cool.

The interaction went on and on and you never once seemed annoyed. She gave you some moments of peace while she played with her Anna and Elsa dolls. Kind of her to save you from playing Barbies, but I bet you wouldn’t have minded a bit.  I bet you have little girls, too.

Not long before we landed Kate had reached her limit. She screamed to have her seatbelt off, she screamed for me to open the plane door and she cried repeating, “Plane is cwosed (closed)” over and over. You tried to redirect her attention to her toys.  She was already too far gone at this point, but the fact that you tried to help your new little friend made me emotional.

In case you are wondering, she was fine the moment we stepped off the plane. Thank you for letting us go ahead of you. She was feeling overwhelmed and escaping the plane and a big, long hug was all she needed.

So, thank you. Thank you for not making me repeat those awful apologetic sentences that I so often say in public. Thank you for entertaining Kate so much that she had her most successful plane ride, yet. And, thank you for putting your papers away and playing turtles with our girl.

This post originally appeared on Go Team Kate.

Get the “Fighting For God’s Absolute Best” Bible Study Here!

Hello TD’ers!

Fighting for God’s absolute best isn’t just a message title.  It is what biblical Christianity is.  It’s what we are obligated to do if we wear the title “Christian.”  Will you commit to fight to give God your absolute best this week?

Jenny has written up a very powerful Bible study for us!  But its power can only be unleashed if we spend the time to actually work on it, wrestle with it, and engage with the living God.  If we do, though, our lives will experience great impact and our small group time this Friday will be really meaningful.  It’s one of those studies that needs us to think upon it and work upon it all week, not just for an hour.

PLEASE give God a chance to rock you!  Please prayerfully work on the study each day this week and give God your absolute BEST!  Just click below to download the study and to listen to the message again.  See you all prepped and prayed up on Friday! – Arthur

“Fighting For God’s Absolute Best” (Bible Study)

“Fighting For God’s Absolute Best” (message) – Jenny

Building Character Even in Your Thirsts

Hey TD’ers!  How many of you often end up coming to the River, yet find yourself coming short of actually drinking from it? Or how about going into a situation with the intention of doing right, but not getting yourself to actually do right?  Or committing to giving God your best, but not being able to actually give up what it takes to do so when presented with that sacred opportunity?

It is the decisions we make during those times of testing that reveal what we’re really made of, who we really are.  They reveal our character.  If you are in need of strengthening your character, please remember that true character is developed one choice at a time, and that every decision made informs your habits and begins to shape your character … for better or for worse.

Romans 5:3-5 speaks powerfully to this and shows why the true Christian can exult, even in tribulation; because “tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint.”

But it all starts with taking the first step of trusting and obeying God, even and especially in the most fundamental area of our lives: our hungers and thirsts.  You all know where that hits home for you.  Will you surrender and obey Him in the deepest parts of you?  No one is better to listen to and obey than God Himself. – Arthur

CS Lewis depicts this elementary struggle well in The Silver Chair: 

“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.

“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.

“Then drink,” said the Lion.

“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.

“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion—no one who had seen his stern face could do that—and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping up water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.

Ask the Right Question

Hey TD!  When you begin living out God’s calling and purpose for your life, that’s when life begins to hum.  That’s when life gets powerful, fulfilling … and satisfying!  I personally know and know of accomplished Christians who are struggling mightily in the art of living well and living effectively for the Lord.   And then come the myriad of questions.  But rarely come the right questions, based on the right assumptions and facts.  Your starting point, your first step, determines the direction you’ll be heading.  You have to start with the right question.

This 15 minute podcast, “Ask the Right Question,” can make a WORLD of difference in your life if you listen and act with open ears and an open heart.  We pray it will.  (sorry about the sound quality 😦  I didn’t have my normal mic)

We look forward to seeing you at TD this week as Jenny will be teaching on “Fighting for God’s Absolute Best.” (Luke 4:1-13)  It’s going to be deep, challenging, and impacting.  See you there! – Arthur

Who Are You, God? A Lover of the Broken and Contrite

Hello TD!  I hope your start to the year has been just what God has wanted it to be for you, even if not what you had planned.  That’s been the case for me, where God has been revealing and exposing my heart and showing me this boy still has a long way to go.  Though humbled, it is objectively a great start to the new year.  That’s why our first meeting of 2014 was on Job, of all people.

And now, I’d like to introduce a new series of essays, entitled, “Who Are You, God?”  Written nearly 5 years ago, in today’s inaugural essay of the series, you can feel the struggle, fight, and pain, our dear E.I. was going through.  The fight still continues today.  When I approached her about the possibility of posting her essay, though it is vulnerable and sensitive, she agreed if it could minister to anyone.  It will.  Thanks, E.I.! – Arthur

The existence of suffering is an issue that many people raise against the existence of God. If a loving God exists, of course there wouldn’t be any suffering in this world, right? Although it is often used as an argument against His existence, without suffering, many people would not seek Him, including myself.

I remember the moment when I first heard the news of my parents’ divorce. I knew that my parents didn’t share the most exciting of relationships, that they had their share of arguments, and that there was a slight possibility of them separating. Knowing this was not enough to prepare me for this moment. When my mom shared the news with me, my mind went blank. Something inside me died. To this day I cannot easily talk about those memories without reliving them and freshly feeling the pangs of hurt deep within me.

Before you pity me, let me share with you why it hurt so much. My rosy perception of life was shattered. I clearly saw the depravity of my parents. Even worse, I stood face to face with a true reflection of my artificial faith.

Growing up as a pastor’s daughter, I knew the Gospel, well, at least technically. It made sense that God exists and I could understand why Jesus had to come die on the cross for us. I could see why I had to accept Christ into my heart. However, deep inside, the main reason why I called myself a Christian was because I was the pastor’s daughter. It was an obligation. When it came to my day-to-day living, I remained ultimately accountable to a different person—myself.

Still, I can argue, God didn’t have to make it such a painful process for me to realize that I didn’t have true faith. Did He really have to break my family apart? God, did you really have to do that?!

Scripture sheds some light onto this question through the life of Israel’s greatest human king. After committing heinous sins of adultery and premeditated murder and after a confrontation with the prophet Nathan, David says:

“Behold You desire truth in the innermost being,

            And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.

            For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;

            You are not pleased with burnt offering.

            The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;

            A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Psalm 51:6, 16-17)

David here realized that God doesn’t need our sacrifices or physical offerings. He wants us. He wants the allegiance of the heart, the inner man. Also, note that David did not coincidentally come to this revelation. It was after he was exposed to God’s scrutiny and after he was broken and distressed over his sins that he came to a deeper and fuller knowledge of God.

This is what He did with me. He had to literally bring me to my knees in pain in order for me to truly see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God,” specifically, “in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

Although my memory of that time saddens me, I strangely look back with fondness. It was then that I felt closest to God. When grief over sin crushed my spirit, I found delight in the Gospel. When my eyes were filled with bitter tears, I could see more clearly the radiant glory of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:3). When it seemed that my world was crashing in, I felt deeply secure knowing that my God is Faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:24). During that moment of sorrow, I found true joy.

In the end, Romans 8:28 stands true: He really does “[cause] all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Even when hard times come, we know that even suffering is used for His good purpose of sanctifying His people to, like Jesus Christ, rightly worship Him. “Come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” (Psalm 95:6-7) There is nothing better than kneeling your heart before the throne of the true, living God.

– E.I.