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Judy Downs

I was pretty sure I was something special.

I was the only writer/editor at Arrowhead Springs.  I was the associate editor of Collegiate Challenge Magazine.  My boss was Bill Bright.  My first year on Campus Crusade staff included trips to Seattle, Berkeley, UCLA, Balboa Beach, Palm Springs—all to write up activities of CCC among college students.  Pretty heady stuff for a just-graduated, new-on-the-job young woman.

I loved my job!  And, deep inside, I thought the ministry got a good deal when I said “yes” to God’s call.

However, apparently my arrogance was not buried so deeply inside me.  Others could see my self-important attitude.  And they were offended by it.

At the end of my first year on staff, Dr. Bright invited me into his office.  We talked about the magazine, articles he and I were writing, the effectiveness of this tool on campus.  Then he asked a penetrating question:

“Judy, are you walking in the Spirit?”

Pause.

“I think so,” I stammered.

He responded, “Others are not so sure of that.”  He elaborated on the pride that was evident to others working beside me.

Bill Bright

Then he asked, “Are you sure you are called to be on Campus Crusade staff?”

That was easy for me to answer:  “I am sure that God called me to this ministry.”

His next words reminded me of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery:  “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Dr Bright said kindly, “Then go and walk in the Spirit.”

A sobering conversation, for sure.  But transformational for me.  No, I haven’t always walked in the Spirit since then.  But I am consistently conscious of the incredible grace God has extended to allow me to serve Him in ways I have.   I know that I am unworthy and inadequate.  Yet, as I live by His Spirit, He continues to give mercy and strength and wisdom and ideas—and even fruitfulness.

I am grateful Bill Bright did not shrink back from the hard question, but I am so glad he also offered mercy and grace at the same time.

What about you?  Has someone asked you a hard question?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Texans are often characterized as independent, strong, loners.

Maybe that’s where I got it—growing up in Texas.  Or maybe God just put it in me.  I like to be independent.  I love to be by myself—even for weeks.  I have always had to deal with wanting my own way.

But God has refused to let me live in my independence.

He has repeatedly clarified for me that I cannot do anything all by myself.  He has created me for community and he has amplified the holes in my life so that I will be forced to let others in to fill in those many gaps.

I am so grateful for those he has put me in community with.  Here are just a few and some of the life lessons I have learned:

My family:  Steve believes the best of others—and especially me—all the time.  He always tells me I can do it—whatever it is.  Debbie loves what is right and has often called me on less than stellar behavior.  Michelle has helped me to enjoy the journey and appreciate the process.  And Josh has revealed to me God’s unconditional love, that He never gives up on me and that He loves to meet with me on my knees.

Some very close friends:  Susan floods my mind with her ideas and holds me accountable when I get too independent.  Jan has walked and worked by my side for many years, loving me and my children amazingly well.  Tricia has listened and encouraged and prayed through dark times.  Dayle has reminded me to laugh even when life hurts.  And many others…

Special mentors:  I had the privilege of working with and observing Bill Bright for 39 years.  He lived out  real faith and great compassion and a passion for excellence.  Vonette Bright has demonstrated such faithfulness and astounding energy.  In so many ways God has used them to transform me.

The staff of Women’s Resources:  They have been amazing servants and helpers and prayer warriors.  But most of all they have owned the vision to help every staff women be and do all God has for her—and have pursued that best contribution in their specific arenas.

Our mission’s Executive Team and Area Team Leaders’ wives:  These women have broadened my understanding, given me global eyes, stretched my faith, become my friends.

My prayer teams:  These warriors have held me up, interceded, encouraged, advised.  They have been faithful partners in my life and ministry.

And I’ve only just begun.  There are so many more on the job, in my church, next door, around the world.  Can I live just “me and God”?  If necessary, of course.  But God has put us in community, in His body, needing each other in so many ways.  He wants us to lean on and learn from and walk with others.

Yes, He is the source of all I need for life, godliness, ministry.  But most often His Spirit is poured out into our lives, filling our gaps, by the sisters and brothers God calls us to live among.

What about you?  Who’s in your community?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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This is the fourth in a weekly series of mini-devotionals on GRACE, which is the theme of the 2012 June 2 Worldwide Day of Prayer for Prodigals.

Grace stoops.

God’s grace has stooped to reach us.

“We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.” (Romans 5:7-8,MSG)

Do you realize how far God had to stoop to pour out His grace on us?

…from heaven to earth

…from deity to humanity,

…from holiness to depravity.

Chuck Swindoll reminds us:

Don’t miss the absence of conditions in the Romans passage above. God didn’t  look down and say, “When those scoundrels show the least bit of interest in  cleaning up their act, then I’ll meet them more than half way.” No, while we were  sinning and loving it, the Father stooped and extended supreme grace in the person of His Son.

 He didn’t ignore our sin. He didn’t excuse our sin. He looked past our sin and accepted us in spite of it. And so? Let’s go there on behalf of others. Embrace others in spite of how unworthy or how unlovely they are to you. (From “It’s Time to  Embrace Grace by Embracing the Unlovely”)

When do we say “Stop!”

Of course, we can feel that our prodigals are unworthy, and their behavior is surely unlovely.   After all, we have endured, waited, encouraged, helped, pleaded, wept.  At some point do we say, “Stop.  No more grace.”?

Not unless we are better than God.  He extends unending grace. He loves us and accepts us and keeps His welcoming arms open to our return.

But what about consequences?  What about standards in our home?  What about safety for our family?  What about requiring responsibility.  Yes, all needful and appropriate. But grace is still possible.

Swindoll adds:  No one expects you to excuse the sin of the unlovely, nor should you become their doormat. Extending grace doesn’t send the message that you approve of their behavior. And don’t fall into the trap of fearing that grace enables people in their sin. In fact, grace brings conviction to the heart of the sinner much more quickly than a rebuke.

How do you extend grace to a rebellious prodigal?

So how do you extend grace to a rebellious, unappreciative prodigal?  Perhaps there will be a major opportunity—like a repentant request to return home.  But most often it will be in little things—doing the unexpected favor, returning a curse with a blessing, taking them out to dinner, sending a note….

When Josh was still a minor living at home and would do something aggravating, I would do his laundry for him.  That was his responsibility, but I would say, as I put each piece in the washing machine, “I choose to bless you, not curse you.”  I don’t know if he was grateful for that grace, but it did wonders for me.

Bill Bright provided an amazing model for me in giving grace.  When a Christian leader would fall because of some immorality, most of the body of Christ would criticize, judge, reject, condemn.  But Dr. Bright would always be one of the first to call, to pray for, to listen to…to extend grace.

Can we stoop to give grace to our loved ones?

What about you?  What one act of grace could you do for your prodigal?

c2012 Judy Douglass

If you would like more information, to request prayer for a prodigal, or to join our full-of-grace community, please write to prayerforprodigalsatgmaildotcom with your questions or names, or for an invitation.

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I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

The first week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  Then we discovered how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  Last week we met the remarkable Henrietta Mears.  We conclude this week with what he had to say about his beloved wife, Vonette.

The third key woman in my life has been my beloved wife, Vonette.  Since 1948 she has been my partner in everything I have done, as well as my wife, lover and friend.  I value her counsel more than anyone else’s because she truly is a wise and godly woman.  Frequently we bounce ideas off each other and sometimes challenge each other’s ideas to help the other person think more clearly about his opinions.

Though God gave the vision of Campus Crusade to me, Vonette has been a vital part of the movement from the beginning.  In fact, we began this ministry

Bright wedding with parents

as partners even though Vonette was becoming an outstanding teacher.  At the same time she was writing a column to teach young men manners.  The column was picked up by the King Syndicate and featured in newspapers in different parts of the country.  But in spite of her success in teaching and writing, we both agreed that it was better to serve the Lord together rather than to go separate ways in our vocations.  And God has used her in a remarkable manner.

I remember that, as we went into different sororities and dormitories that first year at UCLA, Vonette led 50 young women to Christ through one-to-one appointments.  Not a single one said “no” to Christ.  Of course, the students were hungry to know the Lord, but still it was a phenomenal experience.  And she did not stop there, but would spend long hours each day  following up these young women.

Our partnership was especially evident in the influence she had on our two sons.  Although I was spending as much as 85 percent of my time traveling to establish the ministry in many countries of the world, she didn’t complain and made it clear to our two sons that they were a part of everything I was doing.  As I traveled they would study the geography and history of various countries I was visiting, study the Bible and follow me with their prayers.

Even to this day my sons are asked, “Do you feel cheated that your father was often away from you during your growing up years?”  Many times I’ve heard them say that they felt a vital part of my ministry.  It is obvious to me that Vonette helped to give Bradley and Zachary a positive attitude.

I often tell husbands, “Encourage your wives.”  Our wives are our number one disciples and therefore, our number one priority as our Lord commands in various portions of Scripture such as Ephesians 5:25-30.  Don’t be intimidated if you think your wife is smarter or more gifted than you – encourage her!

I have tried to do this through the years.  Vonette is a very naturally gifted, outgoing person, but at the same time her writing, speaking, organizational and leadership skills were somewhat underdeveloped in the early stages of our marriage.  I wanted to help her maximize her natural gifts and abilities, so I sought to encourage her, and she has sought to encourage me.

As she developed those skills that God had given her, she brought great blessing to the body of Christ, to the Campus Crusade ministry and to me as well.  In 1971, she began the Great Commission Prayer Crusade with my encouragement.  It is possible that through her worldwide influence she has encouraged more people to pray than almost anyone in our time.

She also has served on the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization for 10 years and served as co-chairman in the planning and success of the International Prayer Assembly in Korea in 1984.  When Vonette is honored with honorary doctorates or named International Church Woman of the Year or when God uses her to lead others to Christ, I rejoice.  In many ways I am more blessed when she receives honors than when they are given to me personally for something I have done.

Another way that Vonette has been a blessing to me is that by nature she is more of an extrovert, while I am somewhat shy and could be very happy as a hermit reading good books and listening to beautiful music.  Because Vonette is more outgoing, it has caused me to relate more to people and to deliberately be more outgoing than I would be naturally.  She has helped me to balance my reserve and shyness with her outgoing, joyful personality.

But the greatest blessing of all that I receive from Vonette is her godly walk with our Lord.  It is a great encouragement to see her in the morning reading her Bible and consulting her prayer diary, where she keeps her list of prayer requests and the names of people for whom she prays.  It is a wonderful assurance to have a godly wife who truly seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  It is a great encouragement and strength to me to know that my wife is undergirding me and this ministry with her prayers and Christ-like lifestyle.

I have been privileged to have been blessed with a godly mother, a godly teacher for my early days as a Christian and a godly wife.  It serves as a reminder again of the crucial roles God has given women in our society.

If you are a mother with little children, you may be frustrated and feel that you’re not being maximized for the glory of God.  Yet my mother, although she had a sensitive heart for our neighbors, felt her primary ministry was rearing her seven children.  And all our lives were dramatically touched by her influence.

Wives, you can have a phenomenal role in helping to maximize the effectiveness of your husbands, even as Vonette has helped to strengthen my ministry.  She has done this through her encouragement, her wise counsel and through communicating a positive, loving, gracious spirit to me and to our children.  And you can discover the ways God wants to use you.

Single women, you need to do what God has called you to do with a joyful, happy heart.  Don’t feel that the Lord has shortchanged you.  In fact, as a single person you can give even more time to loving and serving Him because you do not have the responsitibility for children or for responding to a husband.  Dr. Henrietta Mears was a single woman and was used of God to touch the lives of multitudes.

All that I am or ever hope to be is, in no small measure, because of these three women whom God has used in my life.  Without question mothers, wives and single women can make a difference in our world as they trust the Lord for His resurrection power and obey His commands.

What about you?  How is God using you in your season of life?

C1987 ccci

<<<  Jesus’ View of Women       <<  Bill’s Mother       < Dr. Henrietta Mears

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Dr. Henrietta Mears

I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

The first week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  Last week we discovered how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  This week we meet the remarkable Henrietta Mears.

The second woman to greatly influence my life was Dr. Henrietta Mears, who was director of Christian education and in charge of the college and young adult people at First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood.

Miss Mears built the largest Sunday school in America at that time.  Some 6,500 were involved in an efficiently run program with highly trained teachers.  Dr. Mears had written most of the curriculum for the Sunday school herself—materials that have since been used by thousands of other churches.  [She also founded Gospel Light, Regal Books and Forest Home Christian Conference Center.]

I have had the privilege of knowing many godly pastors and great Christian leaders, but no one has influenced my life more than Dr. Mears.  Many of the things that I believe and teach today were inculcated into me by watching her life and listening to her teaching.

Bill Bright as young businessman

I had come to Southern California in 1944, where I began my own business.  At First Presbyterian Church, I met several dynamic Christians after attending a number of meetings.  I began to study the Bible for myself.  I was at that time an agnostic, but very open to truth.  Though I was a seeker after truth, I pursued my quest privately for the most part.  When I did go to church, I would usually sit in the back row so I could slip out before anybody had a chance to talk to me.

One evening Dr. Mears was speaking to the college group about Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.  By this time I had become convinced that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and Savior of men.  Dr. Mears quoted Paul’s words::  “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

She challenged us to go home, get on our knees and say, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”  I did exactly that, and I trace my conversion experience to that evening.  Alone on my knees in my home, I prayed a prayer similar to the apostle Paul’s and I chose to dedicate the rest of my life to serving God.

For whatever reason, Dr. Mears felt that I had some potential for the Lord, so she encouraged me to become one of a handful who met with her regularly for prayer and study of the Scripture.  Every Saturday we met at 6 a.m. for most of the morning to read the Bible and pray.  Without my realizing it, I was being introduced to a kind of Christianity that was rare.  I discovered a vital, dynamic, personal walk with the Lord.

Though I can never remember her teaching a class in soul winning, Dr. Mears led many people to Christ in my presence.  When witnessing opportunities did come for me, it was only natural to do it the way I had observed her do it.

Dr. Mears also introduced Vonette to Christ and played an important part in discipling her.  Dr. Mears had a phenomenal impact on Vonette’s and my spiritual growth.

Billy Graham and Bill Bright at Forest Home

During the early years of the Campus Crusade for Christ ministry, Vonette and I had the privilege of sharing her home for 10 years.  Located near the UCLA campus, it was a perfect place for student meetings and all types of Christian gatherings.  The home was so designed that Vonette and I lived in one part of the home, and Dr. Mears in another.  We shared our meals together.  We also shared the costs for operating the home, where many hundreds of students met Christ and were discipled.

Dr. Mears was always attractively attired, and her humor and outgoing personality made her shine.  Many were attracted to her as she challenged them to big things.  She was a master at motivating and inspiring people to do great things for God.

At the time of her death, more than 400 people had gone into Christian service as a result of her influence.  The lives she touched included Billy Graham, Young Life founder Jim Rayburn, Navigators founder Dawson Trotman, U.S. Senate Chaplain Richard Halverson and many, many others.

Next week I will post the final article about the third woman who has influenced Bill Bright, his wife, Vonette.

c1987 CCCI

What about you?  Who has influenced you?  Whom have you influenced?

<<  Jesus’ View of Women   <  Bill’s Mother   Vonette Bright  >

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Mary Lee Bright

I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

Last week I posted some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.  This week we discover how his mother, Mary Lee Bright, had great impact on him.  Elsewhere he has written that he attributes his finally coming to Christ to his mother’s persistent prayers.

The first of the three women [who greatly influenced my life]was my mother.  I remember her reading to our family gathered around the fire when we were snowbound at the ranch where I grew up.  She was familiar with the classics and, as we sat eating popcorn, she read to us.  With seven children in the family, there was always a book report due from one of us for school, so we all benefited year-round from her reading.

But I gained much more than an appreciation for good books from my mother.  She modeled authentic Christianity before me in dozens of ways.  Although we rose early to begin our dawn-to-dusk hard work on the ranch, my mother was always up before the rest of the family, reading the Bible and praying.  I remember her softly humming hymns of worship to the Lord all day long, and after the rest of us had gone to bed, she would again read her Bible and pray.

At the time I supposed all mothers were like that.  It never occurred to me that mine was unusual.  Now, of course, I realize that she was truly one of God’s choicest servants.

Bill Bright with his mother and father

Among the many lessons I learned from her were the importance of hard work, a gracious spirit, humility and unselfishly looking after the needs of others.  Even though our nearest neighbor was at least a half mile away and others even farther, my mother was always there when a neighbor was ill or hurting.

She also had a great love for her family.  We never felt that she singled any of us out as her favorites, but we felt as though we were all her favorites.

We lived about five miles from the nearest community, so I had quite a walk home after athletic practice or school plays.  Frequently my mother would meet me about a mile or two from home and we would walk back to the house together, talking about whatever was on my mind.

My mother had a profound spiritual influence on my life.  She dedicated me to the Lord before I was born, and her prayers, enhanced by her godly lifestyle, undergirded me daily for the next 62 years, until her death in December, 1983.

Next week we will learn how Dr. Henrietta Mears had significant impact on Bill Bright’s life.

c1987 CCCI

What about you?  How did your mother influence you?  As a parent, how are you impacting your children?

<  Jesus’ View of Women   Dr. Henrietta Mears  >   Vonette Bright  >>

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I had the great privilege of writing and editing with Bill Bright for 14 years.  One my favorite articles of his was one about the three people who had influenced him the most in life:  his mother, a single church leader/educator and his wife, Vonette.  I am going to let him tell you about each one over the next few weeks.

First, though, he shares some of his perspective on Jesus’ view of women.

For thousands of years, with few exceptions, women have occupied a lowly place in society.  Prior to the time of Christ, women were regarded as little more than slaves or sex objects.  Frequently they were looked upon as merely property to be dealt with as the men wished, or as something of no importance.

Even the Orthodox Jews then (and some still today) said in their prayers, “Blessed are You, Lord God… for not having made me a woman.”

Our Lord performed a revolutionary role in elevating women from their bondage.  In the case of the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus broke several social customs to speak to her about her spiritual needs.  He knew she had a heart.  As a result she brought practically the entire town to hear the words of life.

Women of wealth, women of no wealth, religious women and immoral women were liberally sprinkled among the multitudes who crowded around our Lord to hear His words.  He had a special concern for the spiritual condition of women.

Through spending His time and exercising His compassion for them, Jesus showed that women are very important in God’s plan.  And women are equally important in our day as well.

Today women in our society are taking on roles that have much more visibility than in the past.  Others still work in more traditional, behind-the-scenes ways.  Women in both roles are vitally important.  Both have the potential of making a long-lasting influence for Christ on our world.

I suppose that I appreciate as much as anyone the impact women can make in our world.  The three most influential people in my life have been women.

Next week:  Bill’s mother.

C1987 Campus Crusade for Christ, inc.

Bill’s Mother  >   Dr. Henrietta Mears  >>   Vonette Bright  >>>

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Bill Bright

I had the amazing privilege for many years of working closely with Bill Bright.

He was editor-in-chief of the two magazines I edited–Collegiate Challenge and Worldwide Challenge.  I helped him write the first five Transferable Concepts and the first edition of Come Help Change the World.  I edited many articles that he wrote.

Needless to say, his thinking, his faith, his ideas have made an indelible impression on me.  Of course, Bill Bright and I did not agree on everything, and I was grateful that he would listen to my ideas.  And sometimes agree and even change.

What did I learn from Dr. Bright?  More things than I can recount here.  But here are a few of the most enduring truths he taught—by his life.

  1.  The priority is to love God above all else.  If you ever asked him what to pray for him, he always said:  “Pray I never leave my first love.”
  2. Believe God.  Trust God.  Have faith in God.  Bill always believed God for big things—even impossible things.  He would make sure he had heard from God, then ask the rest of us to join him in going for it, in faith.  There is a good reason his biography was called Amazing Faith.
  3. Live every day, every moment in the power of the Holy Spirit.  “The Christian life is not difficult.  It’s impossible.”  So we must depend on the indwelling, empowering Spirit of God to live it through us.
  4. Love others.  He wept when he heard that surveys showed that many students wanted to know Jesus, but they didn’t know how.  A humble, shy man, Bill shared the love of Christ with everyone he encountered.  He never badgered them—he just reached out in love.

I could go on. Be  assured, he was not perfect.  But Bill Bright lived out the love of God as well as anyone I have known.

Fortunately, he made sure the things he had learned were made available to others.  He wrote dozens of books, prepared numerous training videos, appeared on many TV shows, did hundreds of daily radio programs (with my husband).

Here are four books he wrote that have had profound impact on me:

God:  Discover His Character:  “We can trace all our human problems to our view of God” was one of Dr. Bright’s favorite comments.  So he wrote a book to help expand our understanding of who God is and what He is like.   A powerful picture of the God we love and serve.

The Secret:  How to Live with Purpose and Power  Bill Bright probably did as much as anyone else to help believers understand what it meant to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit moment by moment.  He also played a key role in bridging the chasm between evangelicals and charismatics—opening communication and growing trust.

The Journey Home:  Finishing with Joy Written from his sick bed, as he slowly succumbed to pulmonary fibrosis, Dr. Bright paints a beautiful picture of what it means to finish well with the Lord.  He gives a strong but gentle challenge to make life meaningful to the very end!

My Life Is Not My Own:  Following God No Matter the Cost  I can’t count how many times I heard Bill say, “I am just a slave of Jesus Christ.”  In this book he
portrays that all he did to serve God had little to do with his own excellence and everything to do with becoming a “royal slave” to the King of kings.  He presents a compelling vision of the freedom that comes from giving ourselves to Jesus as a bond slave.

So here’s an invitation.  Get to know this man God used to touch so many lives.  Pick one of these books to read and you will be led straight to the feet of Jesus.

How has God used Bill Bright to help you in your walk with Him?  What book or teaching of his was encouraging to you?

C 2011  Judy Douglass

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I just came off a 2-week personal rest/prayer/reading/writing retreat.  Here are a few books I was able to read, plus some I’ve read previously.  All of these have been added in the Transforming Reads tab.

Strengthening My Soul

The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning—a love story for the broken-hearted, of God’s fierce love for us

Hungry for God: Hearing God’s Voice in the Ordinary and Everyday by Margaret Feinberg—pursuing a divine appetite for a deepening relationship with God

Invitations from God: Accepting God’s Offer to Rest, Weep, Forgive, Wait, Remember… by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun—a study of the healing and restoring God gives so graciously

Grumble Hallalujah: Learning to Love Your Life Even When It Lets You Down by Caryn Dahlstrand Rivadeneira—a serious, humorous look at the reality and results of grumbling with some helpful responses

From the Past

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire:  What Happens When God’s Spirit Invades the Heart of His People by Jim Cymbala—now is the moment to ask God to ignite His fire in your soul

Witnessing Without Fear by Bill Bright—the secrets that turned a shy businessman into a confident, caring witness for Christ

 

Widening My World

The Stoning of Soraya M: A Story of Injustice in Iran by Freidoune Sahebjam—an horrific tale of the madness people are capable of

 

Lives that Inspire

Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot—the amazing story of 5 young men who gave their lives for the gospel of Christ in the jungle of Ecuador

A Little Help

The 11 Secrets of Getting Published by Mary DeMuth—an e-book that will get you on your way to being a published writer

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