What do you get when you cross sophisticated, elegant bridal finery with chic, personalized nursery style, and tie it all up with a smart bowtie fit for the most dapper Southern gentleman? Though it may sound like quite the hodgepodge at first glance, Joni Harrison Lay has managed to combine these distinct ventures into a design endeavor that honors the Lord through her skillful talents, while producing stunning, one-of-a-kind results for her clients and meeting the demands of her young family.
I first met Joni when she was in elementary school, as my wife and I were in her father’s Sunday School class. From that young age, God was developing Joni’s heart to love and serve Him and developing her hands to craft true masterpieces. Since loving all things art related since childhood, she graduated from Georgia Tech with a degree in Industrial Design. Read more
The words of Charles Wesley adorn the pages of almost every hymnal published. Writing an average of ten lines a day, his songs would transform the content of worship in our churches. Wesley was not only a hymn writer, he was a preacher. Charles, his brother John, and George Whitfield gave their lives in the 18th century to preaching the gospel across England and the United States.
Wesley was a well educated scholar at the biblical languages. He, like John, studied at Oxford where he was a part of the Holy Club, a group of men devout in their devotional life and well studied in the Scriptures. The ‘methodology’ of their faith was duly noted, and the group took on the name “Methodist,” and would later be expounded upon by both John and Charles.
In 1735, the two brothers would venture to Savannah, GA, on a missionary journey to a prison colony. Their efforts were not well received and caused both men to return to England to examine their own faith. In 1738, Charles fell ill, which resulted in him becoming unsure of his own salvation. Read more
I am not sure if Chick-fil-A invented the chicken sandwich or just reinvented a way of doing business. There are not many companies that do more for our communities, our families, and our appetites than Chick-fil-A. Behind the brand of Chick-fil-A stands a family even stronger than the company. Dan, Bubba, and Trudy Cathy grew up in Hapeville, GA, serving at their father’s restaurant, the Dwarf House. Little did they know that they were learning the habits and character qualities that would one day land them leading one of the nation’s most respected companies, Chick-fil-A.
As the restaurant business grew, Truett Cathy wanted more than simply serving people an impeccable chicken sandwich- he wanted to raise children who loved God, feared Him, and were willing to take great risk to impact the lives of others. This was not lip service to leaving a legacy; it was how he structured his life and business, something his children would continue to walk in. Read more
The son of a Jewish German immigrant and a high school dropout, Lehman Strauss developed a callous heart towards religious rhetoric. His days were filled with finding satisfaction by every standard set forth by the world, until Christmas Day of 1927, when a young lady who had faithfully invited Strauss to church purchased him a Bible and shared the gospel with him. Strauss’ life would be changed forever. After two years passed, he married that young girl and began a sixty-year journey of ministry with her.
When they had their first child, Strauss studied to obtain his GED and complete a college degree. Soon, he would gain a reputation as a New Testament Scholar and teach at the Philadelphia Bible Institute. Read more
There are few men that when you walk into their presence, whether in an airport or a church on Sunday, that you become quaintly aware of the presence God in their life. I count it God’s favor and blessing each time I get to know and spend time with one of these men who challenges my personal walk with Christ and encourages my spirit. Tom Elliff is a sixty-six year old gentle-spirited man, whose passion for pursuing the heart of God seems to be relentless. His love for God’s church and His people motivate his passion for God’s glory.
He is the third-generation of preachers in his family, a shepherd at heart, a missionary by calling and a preacher by gifting. Four decades of ministry, from Zimbabwe, to Oklahoma, to the President of the International Mission Board, Elliff has been a preacher of the gospel. His heart is led by the Spirit of God and is unconcerned with anything else but the glory of God. For that, God’s favor and hand of anointing has rested on Elliff and his ministry. Read more
In the 17th century, the Church of England forced Puritan pastors out of the pulpit of the established church. One of the two thousand pastors forced out was the father of Matthew Henry. A young Henry went to college to study law, but mid-semester changed his studies to answer God’s calling to preach. Henry would spend his life studying the Scriptures and guiding others to understand the deep truths of God’s Word.
The expulsion of Henry’s father by the Church of England would force Henry to be taught in the home. This would allow his father to invest deeply in him the things of God. By an early age, Henry was reading passages of Scripture, and from his own accounts gave his life to Christ before the age of eleven. Until he left for college, Henry’s father would continue to teach his sons the oracles of God through their education.
Upon graduating from college, Henry was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He would take a small church in the town of Chester, England, where he would faithfully preach God’s Word for twenty-two years. During his time there, Henry ministered to the people of Chester and started a ministry to the people of London. This zealous work led to him becoming ill, and eventually he died while on a preaching circuit in 1714.
Today, Henry’s influence far exceeds the small town of Chester and the outskirts of London. In 1704, he began working on his commentary of the Scriptures. This would be an extensive work that would last ten years, but would become one of the most helpful tools for studying the Bible. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Bible has found it’s way into almost every pastoral library and Bible teacher’s home. The books would also greatly influence the ministry of George Whitfield and Charles Wesley, who were born in the wake of Henry’s death.
Henry’s last work was the Directions for Daily Communion with God. Through all of his studies and all of his preaching, Henry found that man needs, more than anything, to walk with God. He looked around to see very few men knew Jesus in prayer and devotion. Thus, his last work and his last words would be a challenge to men to walk in intimate prayer and devotion before the Almighty.
When you think of the great men of faith from the past centuries, you hear names such as Charles Spurgeon, D.L. Moody, E.M. Bounds, and Billy Graham. If there were one man whose influence spanned further than any of these, it would be that of Dr. Bill Bright. In 1944, Bright walked into a local church in Hollywood, California, as a businessman and a self-proclaimed happy-pagan, and left as a man saved by the grace of God. Immediately, Bright gave himself to the study of Scripture to gain an understanding of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.
In 1951, God gave Bright and his wife Vonette a vision with an immense burden. It was a vision to fulfill the Great Commission on college campuses around the world. Starting on the campus of UCLA, Bright established what is now called CRU (Campus Crusade). God’s hand would do a mighty work in Campus Crusade as their ministry expanded to 190 countries and 27,000 missionaries working on their staff. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of people have responded to the gospel since 1951 as a result of CRU’s ministry. Read more
When Ken Jenkins was a young boy, his parents would often load him and his brother into their old station wagon and head out across the country hiking, camping, and enjoying the great outdoors. Growing up in the foothills of the Great Smokey Mountains, and making the annual camping trip birthed a great love for nature in Jenkins’ heart. This passion for the great outdoors takes him to national parks, great American rivers, and tops of mountains to capture creation in a way very few ever see it.
Jenkins is an award-winning photographer. From his early twenties, Jenkins has taken his camera on trips across the world studying nature and wildlife in order to encapsulate the beauty of God’s creation. This led Jenkins to establish Pathways to Nature in the early 90’s that allowed him to release his photographic findings for others. Today, Jenkins makes his photography available in note-cards, posters, and pictures at Beneath the Smoke in Gatlinburg, Tn. Read more
Randy Alcorn is most widely known for writing more than 40 books and starting a ministry that reaches to the far corners of the world. However, the thing that stands out about him is the decision that he made in 1991 when Alcorn decided the glory of God was more important than being a successful pastor, wealthy author, or famous leader. As a boy, Randy grew up in the fields of Oregon, playing ‘war’ with the other boys from the neighborhood, returning home at dark each evening, to a mother who cared deeply for her children. Although Randy was familiar with church, it was not until he was teen chasing after a cute little girl to the local youth group (who would eventually become his wife) that his heart was awakened to the grace of God.
After graduating college and seminary, Randy began pastoring a large church in Oregon- a place he would call home, start a family and a ministry, and would also be a place of great spiritual battle. While growing in ministry, Alcorn became deeply convicted and burdened by the devastation in his community as a result of sexual immorality. In 1985, he would write his first book Christians in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution. Soon, Randy would find himself in a real battle, unlike the days of playing ‘war’ in the Oregon wheat fields.
“… No two things are more essential to a spirit-filled life than Bible-reading and secret prayer; no two things more helpful to growth in grace; to getting the largest joy out of a Christian life; toward establishing one in the ways of eternal peace. The neglect of these all-important duties presages leanness of soul, loss of joy, absence of peace, dryness of spirit, decay in all that pertains to spiritual life.” –E.M. Bounds
There are very few people outside of Scripture who have taught men more on the subject of prayer than E.M. Bounds (Edward McKendree Bounds). At age 19, Bounds was the young practicing lawyer in the state of Missouri. In the late 1850’s, a spiritual awakening that swept across the nation in would alter the course of Bounds’ life forever. He would leave his law practice and begin preparing for the ministry; in 1860 would be named the pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The next few years would prove tough for the pastor of a congregation during the Civil War, especially one who stood so firmly against slavery. His leadership of a church would lead to his arrest and exile from Missouri by Union soldiers. In 1863, with no where to go Bounds served the Confederate Army as a chaplain tending to the wounded soldiers from the battle of Vicksburg, MS; Atlanta, GA; and Franklin, TN. As the soldiers moved into a city, Bounds would also enter the local church to preach revivals while ministering to war-torn families and societies. During those days of the Civil War, Bounds grew to understand the depth and necessity of a prayer. Daily he would rise at 4:00am and spend three hours of uninterrupted time in fellowship with God. A habit he would practice until his death in 1913. Read more