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God Cares About Your Story: John Eldredge & Bradley Walker

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Wild at Heart author John Eldredge is a counselor and teacher who is devoted to helping people through their recovery process. He shares how he himself “cried out to God,” as a young man, looking for hope wherever he could find it. This lifelong search for hope came to a pinnacle when he realized how many people he knew also lacked hope in their lives. He wrote a book about his findings, observations, and inspirations called “All Things New: Heaven, Earth and the Restoration of Everything You Love.” Our second segment features country music singer Bradley Walker, whose latest album, “Blessed,” reflects his attitude toward his life. Born with muscular dystrophy, Bradley’s story has not been without heartache, but he reflects how God can bring joy even in the midst of pain.

Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling podcast. Today, we speak with author, counselor, and teacher John Eldredge. John has written numerous books, including the best-seller “Wild at Heart”. John is devoted to helping people through their recovery process and shares how he himself was “crying out for help,” as a young boy, looking for hope wherever he could find it.

God Cares About Your Story: John Eldredge & Bradley Walker – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 64

John Eldredge: I’m John Eldredge and I am–first off–a husband of Stasi Eldredge. I’ve been married thirty-four years this year. I’m glad I remembered that. Father of three sons–married sons now–and therefore newly grandpa, or Poppi, as they call me–but probably more widely known as author of a number of books: Wild at Heart, Beautiful Outlaw and Captivating with my wife Stasi.

I was raised in the suburbs of L.A, born into kind of a traditional American home. Dad worked, mom stayed at home in the early years, but not a believing home. I was not raised in any faith–kind of popular American agnosticism. Then our family was pretty much blown apart by my father’s alcoholism. That was a very defining thing for me, that wounding, abandonment, and betrayal and all of that, that got in a young boy’s heart. I actually became a pretty wild kid. I was kicked out of high school, had a police record, and all of that was just this cry for help.

I think some of those early years, some of the wounding experiences, and then the rescue actually came through my grandfather’s ranch. Every summer I was shipped off to my grandfather’s ranch when I was young, and we had this precious relationship. He had a faith and those were golden, golden summers for me; riding horses, herding cattle. Of course that ended up shaping the book I wrote called Wild at Heart.

I actually didn’t start my writing career till I think I was in my late thirties, and now I just love it. It’s about story, and the story God is telling, our stories, and how those intersect.

Learning The Personality Of Jesus

I met Christ when I was 19. I had a pretty remarkable salvation experience where I was hungry. I was looking into eastern mysticism and New Age movement. I was really hungry for something. Jesus actually just came to me–one of those personal encounter experiences—of course, that Sarah writes about so much. He’s real.

Sarah, thank you. I wrote a book called Beautiful Outlaw about the personality of Jesus. You know, He’s real and kind, and good, and playful. He has a sense of humor. Sarah has done so much to help people fall in love with Jesus again. Wonderful, thank you. I love Jesus. I want people to fall in love with Him.

I came to Christ at 19. It was the talk of the town because I used to hunt down Christians in high school and talk them out of their faith. So it was kind of a “Saul to Paul” thing where I became this passionate evangelist for Jesus.

You can’t generate hope for weird bizarre religious things you can’t generate hope for misty, vague you know spiritual things. God wants to make it very concrete.

For me, I actually wasn’t looking for religion. I never went to church as a kid. I was looking for the truth. I was looking for a worldview, like what does this mean for the arts? Because I cared about the arts. What does this mean for nature, and the environment, because I care so much about the earth.

C.S. Lewis said you can only hope for what you desire. You can’t generate hope for weird bizarre religious things; you can’t generate hope for misty, vague you know spiritual things. God wants to make it very concrete. So we’re going to take this whole journey and it’s going to be so fun.

What Are We Supposed To Be Hoping For?

Narrator: As John flourished as a writer, counselor, and seeker of truth, he began to observe a distinct lack of hope in the people he was talking to. He started to look closely at how Scripture gives us the ultimate hope, the promise of an eternity with God our Father and a new earth. As he began to delve further into the Bible and into ancient texts, he came away with a desire to instill hope into our world today with his findings, observations, and inspirations. He has compiled this into a new book called, All Things New: Heaven, Earth and the Restoration of Everything You Love.

John: We’re in a crisis of hope right now in the world. I was reading some research that the World Health Organization reports that depression is the third leading cause of disability worldwide. Suicides are up, and addictions are up, and anxiety medication now is going through the roof–humanity is not well. I think part of what we’re hitting right now is a huge crisis of hope. Christianity was meant to be this incredible offer of hope to the world, but it really got ripped off. We have these cartoon images of harps and halos and, “What is heaven? It’s the eternal sing-a-long in the sky?” People just didn’t know what to put their hopes. I have been a therapist for many years and I meet so many dear people of God who actually don’t have a lot of hope in their future. The future is something that they fear.

Bradley Walker's book, All Things New.Last year was a year of a lot of loss for us as a family. We had suicide in our extended family, and I got the phone call. Then we lost our first grandson to just a brutal, brutal miscarriage, my son and daughter’s first child. Then I lost my dear friend of 40 years to cancer.

I really began digging into the scriptures to say, “Jesus, what is it we’re supposed to be hoping for?” I know we’ll unpack this, but the little nugget is this: In Matthew 19, Peter has asked Jesus the exact same question. He’s just asked him in verse 17, he say, “What is it we’re supposed to be hoping for,” like that. “This has actually cost us a lot to follow you.” Jesus doesn’t rebuke the question, and He doesn’t tell him, “Hey, come on, Peter, virtue is its own reward.” Listen to what He says: He says, “I tell you the truth. At the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his throne,” and He gets very specific, He says, “all of you who have lost loved ones or even houses, dear places to you, even careers. It will all be given back to you.”

God Gives Us The World

Actually, Jesus says what is coming is a day of enormous and total restoration–restoration of our own lives. He’s trying very hard to make it very tangible because He knows that we push these things off into heavenly realms, and then you can’t hope for the vague. You cannot hope for the bizarre. But when you begin to understand, God is actually going to restore you, your life, your body, your soul, your personality your spirit. He’s going to restore you, your body your personality, your soul. He’s going to heal all your wounds. He’s going to restore the earth. Then the really cool thing is, if you follow the story, He then tells us to do exactly what he told Adam and Eve to do. Revelation says, “And they will reign with Him on the earth.”

OK, so you go back to Genesis and we have this beautiful creation, and God gives us the world. We were artists, and we were musicians, and somebody was a scientist, and somebody was a teacher, and somebody was an architect–all that gifting in you that makes you, you–that’s what it meant to reign on the earth. He’s like, “Yep, live all that out. Write the symphonies, explore the rivers, teach them, create literature. Our Father is going to restore us very soon, and restore the cosmos, the heavens, and the earth. Then we get to do exactly what we were created to do. We get to do what we were born to do.”

Hope is actually something that God breathes into you.

Your story matters to God. One of the most exquisite things that happens in the coming Kingdom, for centuries the Saints had a very rich concept of reward, that your life’s choices, your suffering, the losses that you’ve suffered, your perseverance. All those choices to forgive that friend one more time, or the choice to hang on to your faith when it just doesn’t feel real anymore. Your story matters and your story is going to be told rightly in the Kingdom.

Hope Is A Powerful Thing

All that misunderstanding that you’ve lived with, those choices that your family just judged you for, and all of those desires that no one else shared. No one else understood. Your story will be told intimately, and it will be told beautifully, and you will be rewarded. You will be vindicated by God. There’s this beautiful dispensation of rewards. There’s this exquisite moment–again back to Revelation 21–when it says, “The domain of God is with men,” the next thing He says is, “and He will wipe every tear from their eyes.” The tenderness of that moment–like every tear? That must mean that we go back through our story. Our Father takes care of, He wipes away those 8-year-old tears, and He wipes away those 16-year-old tears and He wipes away those 48-year-old tears and those 77-year-old tears. Your story will be intimately restored.

I think what this book is going to do for people is it opens our hearts to let hope in. And then I’m telling you, crack that door to Jesus, and say, “I would love some hope.” I mean, He would love to restore your hope.

Wild at Heart by author John Eldredge.

People who are filled with hope, love better. When you lose hope, it’s like, who cares? Love gets pretty hard when you don’t have hope. People who are filled with hope dream–because they’re not so fearful and also clutching about their life they’re able to take risks. People that have hope are able to share hope with the world. I’ve been reading some research on hope lately and it’s absolutely incredible. The data shows that cancer patients who are actually filled with hope have higher rates of recovery and lower rates of recurrence. Hope literally affects the human body.

Hope is actually something that God breathes into you. You don’t have to generate it, like, “I feel more hopeful.” It doesn’t work. In Romans 15, Paul says, “I pray that the God of all hope would fill your hearts to overflowing with hope by the power of His spirit in you.”

Hope is a powerful thing.

Narration: To find out more about John’s new book, “All Things New: Heaven, Earth and the Restoration of Everything You Love,” please visit his website at RansomedHeart.com.

We’ll be back with more of the Jesus Calling podcast after this brief message from Audible.


As a special offering to you, the listeners of The Jesus Calling Podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out their service.

Find your favorite Sarah Young titles, including Jesus Calling and Jesus Always in an audiobook version and get it for free by trying audible.com. Check out a small sample of the Jesus Calling audiobook, featured at the end of this podcast. To download an entire free audiobook today, go to audibletrial.com/JesusCalling. Again, that’s audibletrial.com/JesusCalling for your full, free audiobook. Now, on to the second half of our show.


Bradley Walker: The Passion To Pursue A Dream

Narrator: Our next guest is country music singer Bradley Walker. Bradley is a DOVE Award nominee who has just completed an all-new, studio recording and LIVE concert DVD of Gospel songs and hymns that released earlier this year. On this new gospel album, Walker is joined by Vince Gill, and award-winning songstress Alison Krauss, bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent, The Oak Ridge Boys and others. Born with muscular dystrophy, Bradley faced challenges growing up that were difficult, but his family and friends smoothed the path for him and his faith in God gave him the passion to pursue his dream of becoming a country music performer.

Bradley Walker: My name’s Bradley Walker, and I’ve been a singer my entire life, from the time I was about three- or four-years-old; a time when most kids are just learning how to talk good, I was singing already. And that’s been my goal in life; to become a singer and to be able to impact people through music.

I knew from a very early age that giving my life to the Lord was something that I wanted to do and needed to do. I grew up in church from a very early. Grew up singing in church, and I can’t remember what age I was when I made that decision, but I remember making the decision and knowing that it was the most important decision I would ever make.

A picture of singer Bradley Walker.

I was born with muscular dystrophy. That’s why I’m in a wheelchair. Of course, people see right away that I’m in a wheelchair and that this is the hand I’ve been dealt. You know, living life from a chair and doing things, and things in my life being a little bit different from most. Most certainly from an early age, my mom–and all my family–but her especially, she had to do a lot of fighting at an early age. Meaning, fighting for me to have the opportunities that I’ve had to be able to attend a normal school, to be able to ride a school bus like any other child. Things like that matter. To a young kid going into kindergarten, he wants to ride the bus just like everybody else. She fought so that I could do that. Attending a normal school–I went to a regular school from the time I was in kindergarten until I graduated.

Things like that were able to show me early on, that there’s not anything that I couldn’t do. Even though I was dealt a different hand in life, don’t let that hold you back. Don’t use that to get any kind of special treatment or anything. Go at it full force, and anything that you dream over, anything that you want to do or accomplish in life, you can do it. With the right attitude and with that support that I was talking about from family and friends.

The Joy Of Music And The Oak Ridge Boys

When I was 10 years old I had known the Oak Ridge Boys, even at that time, for many years. We met when I was much younger and had actually sang together once before. They invited me to be on the Nashville Now TV show, which was a very popular show on TNN back in the 80s and early 90s. That was what I consider to be my very first exposure to the real professional side of the music business. So it was pretty cool for a 10-year old.

 

I think that exposure and that experience really opened my eyes and made me know that music was something I wanted to pursue and wanted to try to make a career out of it.

My day job is it the Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant in my hometown, Athens, Alabama. I’ve been at that plant for 15 years now. Of course, the whole time I’ve always sang, you know. I feel like that it’s a blessing to have this job because it affords me the opportunity to take the time off, when I can, to chase my dreams you know. Without that, I think it would be a much tougher thing to do. It’s a good balance. I think that keeps you grounded to a certain extent. There’s some stability there too, to know that you’ve got a paycheck coming in every couple of weeks while you’re out here trying to chase your dream in music. Who knows.

Bradley Walker at age 10.

I would love to be a full-time singer one day, but until then I’m thankful to have this job and to work in a place where my coworkers are so supportive. I couldn’t do it without that–without that kind of support–and that kind of people behind you–knowing that they love what you do and they are behind you 200 percent. So thankful for that.

I’ve had people tell me from time to time that they look up to me, or that they get inspiration from me. I don’t think I ever really purposely set out for that. To me, it’s just all goes back to the music. It goes back to just making great music and doing what I love. I’ve always said that if I can impact somebody’s life in the process of doing that, then that’s wonderful.

Singing Songs With A Message

I’ve just always said, “Pick songs that say something; pick songs that have a message within them that can touch people’s lives. Because music is a powerful thing.” It’s a responsibility. As long as I’m able to make music and make records, I want to choose the greatest songs I can to record.

Even though that I was dealt a different hand in life, don’t let that hold you back. Don’t use that to get any kind of special treatment or anything.

So many people down through the years–I’ve tried to learn from everybody. Just pay attention to the people who are professionals and the ones that have had long-standing careers. Pay attention to what has made that a long-standing career. To me, just great songs define the people that have had the most impact. In my musical career and my style, it all goes back to great songs and just trying to learn from all those people. People like Merle and George Jones and George Strait and Alan Jackson and the ones that have been around for a lot of years and they’ve given us a lot of great music to keep and to have forever. That’s what I hope to do.

Bradley Walker with the Oaks today.

This new album is something that I’ve had in my mind, and something I’ve wanted to do, and prayed about, and dreamed about doing for a long time. I go back to those country music heroes of mine. So many of them, at some point in their career, always made a point to make a gospel album. Make an album full of hymns that they grew up singing, and so that’s what I always wanted to be able to do. This record is full of those type songs. Songs like Amazing Grace, The Old Rugged Cross, Victory In Jesus, Because He Lives. Songs that we all grew up singing in church. If you’ve stood holding a Baptist hymnal or holding any kind of church hymnal, you’ve sang those songs. That is such a blessing to me to be able to do this and to do an album that people have asked me to record for many years, really. Family and friends have always said, “When are you going to do a gospel album?” So to have this opportunity now is just such a huge blessing. That’s that’s why I chose that title “Blessed” because that’s how I feel to have this opportunity at this point in my career and in my life; it’s just amazing. I hope it’s something that people will enjoy hearing for many years.

God Has A Bigger Plan Than We Can See

This whole opportunity to make these records with Bill and Gloria Gaither came because I sang at the home-going service of a dear dear friend, Joey Feek, from Joey & Rory. People fell in love with Joey and Rory. I had no idea that afternoon, out behind their farmhouse, singing, “Leave it There” for Joey–I sang it because I knew that was her request. I had no idea that one of the saddest times in my life, that just a few days later I would get one of the greatest blessings of my life. That’s God. That’s God bringing something good out of something so terrible. You think about it, because I’ve thought a lot in the last couple of years, and how I wish she were here.

Bradley Walker with Joey from Joey + Rory.

I don’t know how people face the trials that we have in this life without faith in God. I just can’t imagine going through life without that. It’s where I get my direction and where I try to get my direction and guidance from. There’s no doubt that the good Lord brought me to this point. To be able to accomplish what I have, and to be able to realize so many dreams. That’s not me that’s Him, that’s the good Lord above.

Bradley Walkers's new album, Blessed.

It all goes back to what is said in the book, that trust in Him is what it’s all about. Knowing that He’s got a bigger plan; bigger than what we can see or understand a lot of times. But just trust Him and always know that He’s going to put us in the right place and where He wants us to be.

Narrator: To find out more about Bradley Walker’s new gospel record, “Blessed,” please visit BradleyWalker.com


Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling podcast, we visit with legendary songwriter Gloria Gaither. Gloria, along with her husband Bill, has written over 700 songs, including the iconic “Because He Lives.” Gloria talks about what inspired she and Bill when they wrote the songs that have powerfully spoken to several generations.

Gloria Gaither: When we wrote “Because He Lives”, we wrote that because of our baby was born at the end of the 60s—he was born in 1970 and the Vietnam War had just torn up the country. The drug culture was really in full swing. We looked at this little baby, and said, “If it’s like this now, what will the world be in 17 years when he has to face it?” So we wrote, “How sweet to hold our newborn baby and feel the pride and joy he gives, but greater still, the calm assurance this child can face uncertain days because He lives and because He lives, I can face tomorrow.”

Narrator: Our featured passage from today comes from the February 26th excerpt of the Jesus Calling audiobook.

I am leading you, step by step, through your life. Hold My hand in trusting dependence, letting Me guide you through this day. Your future looks uncertain and feels flimsy–even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.

Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me. I will show you the next step forward, and the one after that, and the one after that. Relax and enjoy the journey in My Presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go.

Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.

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