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December 31, 2013#

Resolutions and Leaving Fear Behind: One Year Later

fear

Exactly one year ago, I preached a sermon at my church entitled “Leaving Fear Behind.” It was a messy sermon in both how I preached and what was shared back to me afterwards. You see, I asked members to write down or text me their greatest fear; what they wanted God’s help to leave behind for the new year. Mine was the I wouldn’t lose weight over the course of the year and I shared that with the congregation because, I believe, fear loses much of its power when shared in a community of believers that spur one another on to fearless living through the power of the Gospel. By God’s grace I’m happy to testify that I’ve lost 30 pounds so far with more to go in the coming new year. I’ve consolidated hundreds of responses from the sermon in the following list of most mentioned fears, for both general reference and anonymous, specific reflection:

Being alone
Loss of finances
Loss of family members
Failure
The unknown/future
Losing loved ones
Death
Health
Not being able to provide
Not being good enough
Being rejected
Darkness
Not being in control
Storms
Spiders
Future of our country
Change
Loss
Family members may not be saved
Losing my job
Not being loved
Worry
Not being perfect
Cancer
Losing a child
Economic collapse
Not letting go of things out of my control
Snakes
Evil people/robbers/kidnappers
Not living long enough to take care of my sick child
Acceptance
Dreams never coming true
Sharing my faith with others
Loss of freedoms
Divorce
God not being able to overcome in my life
Disappointing others
Heights
Not being able to have kids
What people think of me
Not being provided for
Evil spirits
Failing to do what God wants me to do
Retirement
Health of business
Getting lost
Trusting God with my children and spouse
Losing my only parent
Bullies
Syringes
The start of a new life
Child’s baptism
Anger
Fear itself
Relationship failure
Satan
Failing as a spouse and/or parent
Losing self-suffiency
Having to rely on my children
Failing to find a career
Missing God’s plan
Starting a new business
Not knowing where my life is going
Fear my spouse will cheat on me
Fire
Failing school
Acting like a “real” Christian
Losing my mom and dad
Disease
Embarrassment
Not finding a friend
Ministry concerns
Not being able to lose weight
Not living up to family expectations
Intimidation
People walking over me
Leaving
Approval
Failing to follow God
Health of a child
Not being loved
Losing another child
Brokenness
Spouse being alone and sick after I’m gone
Bad grades
Blood
My family falling apart
Someone I care for
Not good enough spiritual leader
Drug abuse
Homelessness
Not trusting others
Fear of failing God
Being unwanted/unneeded
Success
Letting go of my marriage
Going back to school
Evil taking my soul
Leaving friends behind after I move
Leaving Nashville
Public speaking
Lack of trust in God
Anxiety
Wasting my life
My past
Going to Hell
Being different
The fear of man
Loss of reputation
Not being cured of cancer
Moving out on my own
Singleness
Family will never get along
Loss of security
Coming down and getting baptized
School future
That God will let go of me
Not being able to do sports
Plane crash
Losing my faith
My children won’t follow Christ
Addictions
College
Spouse won’t stop addiction
Getting involved
Being a martyr
Being forgotten
Being hurt again by the one I love

What is your greatest goal for 2014 and what is the greatest fear that you’d like to leave behind, with God’s help, in 2013?

November 15, 2013#

The best book (I wrote) for Christian teens wanting to date (so far)

b4ud8_sm

I wrote a book for Christian teens back in 2009 called B4UD8 (Before You Date) along with my wife Hayley. Hayley was known more infamously for co-writing a 2003 release Dateable, but few know that we never speak on Dateable and that B4UD8 was a game changer on how we began to change the way we talked about guys, girls, and relationships. We wish we could say that B4UD8 was as commercially successful as its predecessor (Dateable outsells it 8:1,) but we’re proud to say that B4UD8 won the highest honor in Christian publishing, the 2010 Christian Book Award for Youth.

We reached out to our publisher to request that they offer B4UD8 available for free on ebook readers so you can read for yourself how we communicate to Christian teens on the subject of dating, though five years later it needs a little refresh (yes, there’s a K-Fed reference.) That’s why Hayley and I are working on a new book on the subject to go even deeper spiritually into why we look for love in another. Bad news: that won’t be written for awhile. Good news: as of 2pm, Friday, 11/15/13, the Kindle version of B4UD8 is now listed on Amazon for $0.00. Our publisher has agreed to do this through the weekend until Monday morning. Thanks to Revell Books and Baker Publishing Group for this gift.

Here’s the link: http://www.amazon.com/B4UD8-Before-You-Date-Things-before-ebook/dp/B002E7ARVE/ 

October 28, 2013#

Why I left D6 fuming mad

It’s been a little over a week since the D6 Conference in Louisville and me driving away fuming mad. Here are three things that have stuck with me since the weekend (and why I eventually left enraged:)

1. I’m not alone.

Thinking that churches need to rethink their approach to kids and student ministry is one thing. Talking about it to pastors and churches is another; it gets pretty lonely when the eyes glaze over. Being in a place where there are so many fellow speakers and attendees that get the need for a seismic shift in family ministry is beyond refreshing, it’s catalytic.

2. I’m on the right track.

Even though I wasn’t a main stage speaker at this conference, hearing the reactions from the people who attended my sessions was hugely confirming that I’m on the right track in helping parents and leaders change the cultures in their homes and churches to better help their young people own their faith.

3. I need to do more.

Up until this post, I haven’t told anyone this except for my wife, but I left the conference early after listening to one of the main speakers because I was so mad. I wasn’t mad in disagreement, but that I agreed in lockstep. In fact, I have been sitting on a book idea and outline for years that I felt I had no voice or standing to write that would address the issues the speaker raised. But I’ve been sitting on it out of fear of rejection. Not rejection of the manuscript by a publisher, but rejection of the public and rejection from the ‘experts’ in parenting and ministry, some of them dear friends.  So, my face flushed with the redness of fury, I left the ballroom in mid-session, went to my room, packed my bags, checked out early, and jumped into my truck to head South back to Nashville. I called Hayley and poured out my anger and frustration with myself for not doing this sooner. I was furious in recounting to her how, in conversation with a publisher the night before the event, I purposely didn’t bring up the book idea/title when he opened the door in conversation. So with cruise control engaged, I furiously poured out the outline, the scripture, the anecdotes, and the meat of the book while I heard the clicking of Hayley’s keyboard on my headset. “We’re writing this book!” I said. “Sounds like, you’re writing this book,” she replied.

So less than two weeks later, the outline, table of contents, introduction, and first two chapters are done. Neither Hayley nor I have ever written a book before shopping it to a publisher; we’ve secured deals for over 40 titles up to now with just a proposal. But this one is getting written before I shop it. Why? Because I don’t want to wait any longer to write this book. So that no one steals my joy teaching on the topic of families, church, and faith.

So no one steals my fury. 

I have to do more.

So thanks again to the whole D6 team. Because of you I know that I’m not alone, I’m on the right track, and I need to be furiously engaged in the faith/family conversation.

October 22, 2013#

House Fire

You can’t save someone from a burning building if they don’t think it’s on fire. Problem is, if you spend too much time trying to convince them from the inside of the building, you’re likely to lose your strength to smoke inhalation. Make your best efforts, then get yourself outside. And if you love the people on the inside, grab a bullhorn and a hose.

October 19, 2013#

Reviews can make an author’s day

audiobooks

Even though we’ve published over 40 books now, we’ve only had three released as audio books and all three were books that Hayley and I co-authored. The first was “Over It” and we had the option of being the narrators but we passed due to scheduling conflicts. When I heard the recording, I grimaced because they only used one narrator because chunks of the book are written by me in the first-person and while the narrator sounded very professional, she didn’t sound like us. And our tone in books is casual and conversational, not formal. It just didn’t work.

So the next time we were asked to record one of our books, we made time to do the narration. The funny thing is I used to work in radio and Hayley used to do voiceovers for commercials, so this type of work comes naturally to us. That second book was “True Purity.” And just this past summer, we recorded the audio book for “Own It: Leaving Behind a Borrowed Faith.” Hayley and I came away from the two-day recording session deepening our love of that book and the circumstances surrounding us getting the opportunity to write it (the book appears in the movie, “Grace Unplugged.”

So when this review of the audio version of “Own It” popped up on Amazon this week by Dr. Nicholson from the Desert Bible Institute, we were overjoyed. Please indulge me by allowing me to post it here:

In my reviews, I generally say very little about the narrators of an audiobook, and I have never started a review by talking about one: Own It by Michael and Hayley DiMarco is an exception to this rule however. I found myself wondering, in the first few chapters, which male reader had such an animated, basso voice and which female narrator has such an energetic while professional tone. I knew right away that I hadn’t heard either of them before or it would have stood out in my memory. Imagine my surprise when I found out it was the authors. I occasionally (okay perhaps more than occasionally) complain about how narrators don’t get the tone or nuance of the writer correct, but I understand since so many authors have such deplorable speaking voices. I was especially pleased with Hayley since too many female readers take on a sing-song quality that irritates me. I have to admit to a penchant towards avoiding female narrators when at all possible. Both authors did an outstanding job however.

The DeMarcos’ book was as refreshing as their reading of it. The format of this book is unlike anything I have come across before. The first half of the book is written in a largely persuasive format. The authors seem to presume resistance from their audience. They regularly acknowledge their audience’s logic, trials, and counter-arguments in a way that is both engaging and entertaining. This quality alone makes this a book you would likely want to share with someone who is either considering entering the Christian faith or who is starting to have doubts about their faith. My one fear was that the author would be so excessively compromising and understanding that their book would lack the meat and conviction so many people need to hear. My worries were quickly set aside.

The DeMarcos focus in on their theme of “saving faith verses imitation faith” early on. While they have a patient and respectful tone towards new or non-believers, they still pack their book with rich, valuable information. One of the most striking examples of this is how they seamlessly work scripture into the narrative. I caught myself, more than a few times, saying, “Hey that’s a Bible verse!” Rather than bombarding listeners with every proof-text imaginable, they regularly just work the biblical text into what they’re saying. They do this so well that I found myself really enjoying this technique, which surprised an old stickler like me.

Towards the middle of the book, the authors accelerate like an Italian sports-car from persuasive writing into informative writing. I didn’t even notice the transition until the last third of the book and had to go back and listen for where it changed. The assumption seems to be, if you’re still listening to the book after a hundred pages that you either already agree with their position or that you are being persuaded. This was such a refreshing approach, since so many writers are able to only pursue one of these styles of writing. Own It was a revitalizing book that was over too quickly. I look forward to being asked to review another of the DeMarcos books in the future.

Dr. Nicholson reviews academic, Christian living, and fiction books for a variety of publishers in an array of formats. He is never paid for any of his reviews. He writes these strictly as a courtesy to his students at Desert Bible Institute and for any other readers that might find his insights valuable. For more reviews or information, visit Dr. Nicholson’s blog at drtnicholson.wordpress.com.

A copy of the book was generously offered to Dr. Nicholson by christianaudio.com in exchange for this unbiased review.

Wow. Thanks Dr. Nicholson for making our day! Have you read a book that impacted you or you were impressed by? Go to Amazon and write a review. It will make the author’s day.

October 13, 2013#

The top reasons junior or princess leave the church

Leaving

The top reasons junior or princess leave the church, in reverse order:

5. They hear sermons that are either self-help driven (what you get out of it,) church/money-driven (building campaigns, volunteers/workers needed,) or bible trivia-driven (head knowledge) instead of gospel-driven (heart knowledge.)
4. They don’t WANT to belong to a country club and, conversely, they don’t NEED to belong to a night club or comedy club.
3. Church is seen as either a rigid place enslaved to non-essential tradition or a pandering “look how cool and relevant we can be.”
2. After being exposed to university-level thought and debate, the sermons are seen as light and shallow.
1. As they come to understand what the Bible says about Jesus, they don’t see those qualities in their parents or the church.

My friend David Kinnaman has written a good book on the topic called, You Lost Me. It’s worth a read. DISCLAIMER: I titled the book and contributed content as well. I get no royalties though. :/

What would you add to the list?

October 10, 2013#

When your wounds itch

cone of shame

“Medicating to feel complete just treats the symptoms rather than the cause. Whether you are looking for the one person or the one drug to stop the pain, you are ultimately looking for a numbing agent rather than a healing one. But there is an answer to all of this wound stuff and that is in the one place you’ve probably looked at but never fully considered to treat your wounds, and that is the cross. On it the Savior was wounded and at that point in time His wounds became the balm for yours. As we see in Isaiah 53:5, “He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds.” (HCSB)

As long as your wounds are more important than His they will remain gaping and foul. They will sting and ooze discontentment and fear, and they won’t be healed but only numbed. But once you see that His wounds took away your pain, that they have the power to heal your wounds in an instant, all you have to do is look away from yours and onto His and you will find complete healing. Your wounds suffer from your focus. When your focus is on your unattended to or neglected needs, pain, dreams or hopes then you are emotionally picking the scabs of your life and not allowing healing to take place. But once you take your eyes off of your wounds and put them onto His, you give your scabs the space to heal. And your heart is no longer broken, but whole and complete and with that comes the release of your doubt, fear, and worry over future woundedness, because you are certain that His wounds are enough to cover even those. So your self-protective urges may find rest from your incessant emotional itching.”

 

Excerpt from Own It. Get the rest of it here.

 

October 9, 2013#

The New Narcotic

needle

“The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that in 2008 there were 1.9 million cocaine users. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, there are an estimated 2 million heroin users in the United States, with some 600,000 to 800,000 considered hardcore addicts. Compare these numbers to the 40 million regular users of online pornography in America.

Neurological research has revealed that the effect of internet pornography on the human brain is just as potent—if not more so—than addictive chemical substances such as cocaine or heroin. In a statement before Congress, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, physicist, and former Fellow in Psychiatry at Yale, cautioned:

With the advent of the computer, the delivery system for this addictive stimulus [internet pornography] has become nearly resistance-free. It is as though we have devised a form of heroin 100 times more powerful than before, usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes. It’s now available in unlimited supply via a self-replicating distribution network, glorified as art and protected by the Constitution.

Though pornography, in one form or another, has been around for most of human history, its content and the way people access and consume it have drastically changed in the past few decades with the advent of the internet and related technologies.

There are three main reasons internet pornography is radically different from earlier forms: its (1) affordability (K. Doran, Assistant Professor of Economics at Notre Dame University, estimates that 80% to 90% of porn users view free content online), (2) accessibility (24/7 access anywhere with an internet connection), and—most importantly—(3) anonymity. Those three factors combined with internet pornography’s experiential depiction of real people performing real sex acts while the viewer observes has created a potent narcotic—in the most literal sense.

Yet many would argue that pornography is merely “speech,” a form of sexual “expression” that should be protected as a constitutional right under the First Amendment.

The question of First Amendment rights is undeniably the ultimate hurdle to clear from a legal standpoint—and I take up that question in tomorrow’s Public Discourse essay. Today I begin my analysis from a scientific perspective, because recent neurological findings have exposed internet pornography to be something much, much more than mere “speech.””

Read the rest here.

John Piper says this in response:

“Physical reality affects the heart. And the heart affects physical reality (the brain). Therefore, this horrific news from brain research about the enslaving power of pornography is not the last word. God has the last word. The Holy Spirit has the greatest power. We are not mere victims of our eyes and our brains. I know this both from Scripture and from experience.”

As someone who’s been classified as an addict in another realm in the past, I know these words from Piper to be true. The Holy Spirit has, not a greater power, but the greatest power. That is where we find rest, peace, and the severing power from what enslaves us. And it should be said that the most formidable and cruel master is our own desires of our hearts.

October 6, 2013#

The things students and youth need from their church

Slash-Dodgeball

Here are the things kids and students need from their church (in order of importance:)

1. An emphasis on discipling parents to know how to disciple their kids.**
2. Paid staff and volunteers emphasizing one-on-one time with students over group activities.
3. Stop using bible stories as moral lessons for behavior modification.
4. Elevation of the quiet, awkward, and outcast.
5. Less mountain-top experiences (camps, conferences) and more living room experiences.
6. Honest Q&A that allows for doubt and dissent.
7. Student initiated service projects, not adult coerced or commanded.
8. Identify, equip, and encourage young bible teachers. Allow them to teach adults.
9. Emphasize teaching on Pride vs. Humility.
99. Shiny new facilities and tech.
100. Dodgeball

**If just #1 happened, churches and families would explode in spiritual growth and health.

After I posted this list on Facebook, my friend John added, “0. The Gospel.” I purposely left it off because it’s so ridiculous that you have to put the gospel on such a list (but I agree it’s item zero.) Also I left it off to see who would gospel juke me. John wins!

October 3, 2013#

Go see this movie this weekend

GU_FacebookCover1

My wife Hayley and I need your help with something. Do you like movies? Do you like music? Do you like great stories? Then I need you to take time and spread the word about a fantastic movie with a great story AND great music that releases this coming Friday, Oct. 4th. The movie is Grace Unplugged and even though it’s not out yet, I’ve seen the movie four times already and I can’t say enough about it. But before I say more, watch the trailer:

Awesome right? Let me tell you about the cast of this movie because it’s top notch! Grace is played by AJ Michalka. You might know her from her time at Disney as half of the sister group, Aly & AJ. She’s starred in such big films like Super 8. Combine her with James Denton as her dad, Kevin Pollak as her music manager, Jamie Grace as her best friend, and Michael Welch (from Twilight) and you get a true Hollywood cast for a movie about life and faith.

I should probably also mention that the book you see in the trailer (and movie,) Own It, is a book that me and my wife Hayley I wrote and it’s in stores now. So we’re kind of in the movie too!

OwnIt

Click the cover to read about the book on Amazon

So here’s where I need your help: Grace Unplugged is releasing this weekend to over 500 screens nationwide. That’s a good sized release, but in Hollywood the first weekend is crucial and decides if the movie goes to more screens or if its scaled back the following weeks. Would you consider helping us get the word out and pack out the theaters this weekend? You going to see a movie like this sends a message to Hollywood that we want more movies made with this kind of message but also with this quality of acting and music. Not sure if there’s a theater near you showing the movie? Here’s a list of all the theaters (so far) that will be showing GU this coming weekend:

http://www.graceunplugged.com/tickets

And if you want to go the extra mile, here’s the link to free downloadable GU avatars, banners, posters, and Facebook covers:

http://graceunplugged.com/downloads

So share this post with your friends, parents, co-workers, and pastors. I’ve never recommended a “faith-based” movie before, but this one is absolutely worth recommending. So share, like, and comment on this post and I’ll see you at the movies!