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Monthly Archives: October 2012

  • Made to Make

    Posted on October 22, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

     

    God makes things beautiful, so in turn they can make beautiful things. For instance, an artist who has tasted the grace of God is able to take a blank canvas and create a complex and attractive expression of Christ’s love. A writer can take a blank sheet of paper and describe, in desirable detail, what it looks like to worship the Lord, despise sin and serve people. Architects make plans, builders make houses, homeowners make warm homes and chefs make meals. Senators make laws, technicians make systems, leaders make decisions and gardeners make gardens.

    What are you making for your Maker? Perhaps you have made loved ones who love the Lord and people, a legacy of wise living, eternal financial investments and relationships built on respect and unselfish service. You are God’s wonderful workmanship created in Christ for good works. Yes, He molds you with messy circumstances, painful processes and daily discipline. Your spiritual formation in Christ is not always easy, but it is fulfilling. Indeed, Jesus doesn’t make any junk.

    “When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” Isaiah 29:23

    The Lord has prepared beforehand what needs to constitute the work of our hands. The world tempts us to spend abnormal amounts of time in time bound busyness. However, our heavenly Host frees us to focus on faith and timeless significance. Christ’s desire is that we integrate our being with our doing. He wants us to assimilate what we learn at church with what we do at work and home. We are joint-heirs with Christ to advance His Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven.

    Furthermore, the last words of Christ to us, His disciples, were to make disciples. This is the end game for our Lord. Are you in the disciple-making business? Do you pour into others—so out of their overflow—they pour into others? Yes, disciples are made not born. You learn Scripture, so that you can share Scripture with other students of the Word. Disciple making invites the power and presence of Christ. Thus, ask God who you can invest your time in to help make them a mature disciple of Jesus. Model for them how their Maker wants to make them a disciple maker!

    “Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 The Message 

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for those who invested in me, so I can invest in others.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 49:6; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 4:24; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 2:14

    Post/Tweet: Disciple making invites the power and presence of Christ. #Discipleship

    Download the free Wisdom Hunters app… http://bit.ly/OVrYb9


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Ephesians, Matthew, Isaiah

  • You Were Designed For More...

    Posted on October 22, 2012 by Family Christian

    The following is an excerpt taken from Surfing For God by Michael Cusick.

    Have you ever wondered what makes a certain act sinful and another not sinful? Why is it wrong to lie? Or kill? Or commit adultery? Who says viewing porn is wrong when our culture tries to reassure us that it’s natural and normal—in fact, based on popular consumption and the ten-billion-dollar industry it generates, you’re abnormal if you don’t view porn!

    One way of thinking about why something is sinful is to respond, “It says in the Bible that it’s wrong.” While true, God put dos and don’ts into the Bible because they reveal something much deeper about us. When God tells us not to commit adultery, He is telling us that doing this goes against our design. “Do not commit adultery” is God’s version of “Do not brush your teeth with a toaster” or “Do not grill steaks on a block of ice.” It just can’t accomplish what it was designed to do. Like sailing the seven seas in a Chevy pickup—it doesn’t get the job done, and you put yourself at great risk.

    Or consider porn this way. Wouldn’t it be rather odd if a trained fighter pilot never left the hangar for fear of not knowing how to fly the jet? Or consider a gifted sculptor who never picked up his hammer and chisel because he couldn’t find the perfect block of marble.

    What if a major-league baseball player didn’t show up for practice because he spent all his time playing baseball on his Xbox? Or a master shipbuilder never sailed the open waters because his fantasy of the perfect seaworthy vessel kept him on dry ground?

    This is what porn is like. It allures us with the image or fantasy of being with a woman, while preventing us from being able to actually engage with a real woman. Porn keeps us from flying the jet, getting in the game, or sailing the high seas. All because we settle for something that doesn’t exist and will never satisfy us.

    So how does porn go against our design as men and sabotage God’s dream for us to live out our true identities? C. S. Lewis spoke to the heart of this question when he wrote about the soul damage caused by sexual fantasy (whether through masturbation or pornography) and what he called “imaginary women.” Lewis described these imaginary women this way: “Always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival. Among those shadow brides he is always adored, always the perfect lover; no demand is made on his unselfishness, no mortification ever imposed on his vanity.”

    Lewis began with the assumption that sex is good, not bad—a gift to be enjoyed within God-designed boundaries. He also framed his words against the backdrop that “the main work of life is to come up and out of ourselves.” Lewis assumed that God designed us to mature and become less focused on ourselves and more focused on loving others. When we fixate on porn, we choose to remain selfishly anchored to our own pleasure above all else. When we preoccupy ourselves with meeting our own needs and ignoring the needs of others—in this case, our wives, flesh-and-blood women, and not some Photoshopped model—then we stifle our spiritual growth. Lewis summed up the problem with pornography this way: “In the end, [imaginary women] become the medium through which he increasingly adores himself. After all, the main work of life is to come out of ourselves, out of the little, dark prison we are all born in. . . . All things are to be avoided which retard this process. The danger is that of coming to love the prison.”

    Lewis calls us to remember what a man is made for: our deepest longing is to know God in the center of our being, and out of that place to offer ourselves for the sake of others. Augustine taught about the theological idea of incurvatus se—a life turned in on itself. Porn successfully accomplishes this—it causes our soul to turn in on itself in self-absorbed isolation and shame. It diminishes our souls. It seduces a man to use women to meet a need in himself—without meeting any of her needs. And this act of “using” comes not only at her expense but also at the devastating cost of his own heart. We don’t realize the price we pay until we feel empty and bankrupt inside.

    You were created for something bigger than yourself.

    You were created for excurvatus se—a life lived outward. Not outward as in codependent or being a martyr. Not dying to self in a way where legitimate needs are neglected. But a life that flows from a deep source. A life that bears fruit. A life lived outwardly enhances, builds up, and causes the heart to flourish. Donald Miller has suggested that we are trees in the story of a forest. And that story of the forest is better than the story of the trees.5 Pornography perverts and upends this idea with titillating images that invite us to live as if the story of the trees were the only story, and the story of the forest doesn’t exist.

    The purpose of this book is to go beyond the common “Just don’t do it” strategy of sin management. Together, we will explore the truth of how you were meant to live and how you can get there so you can enjoy a new and better life in the forest. I invite you to stop looking at pictures of F-18s in combat and ships on the high seas, or playing baseball on your Xbox instead of eating the dust of a real baseball diamond. We’ll do much more than that. You’ll discover the thrill of getting into the game, flying the F-18, and sailing the ship so that pornography and lust lose their grip on your soul.

    Please read closely: the deepest truth about you is that you are the F-18 pilot, created for combat. God designed you to be a hero— to focus your strength and courage on behalf of something and someone bigger than yourself. You are the major-league ballplayer, created with the offensive and defensive abilities to get in the game with a team of others on a common mission. God uniquely fashioned you to win games. To hit home runs. To steal bases. God chose you to play on His team.

    Adapted from Surfing for God: Discovering the Divine Desire Beneath Sexual Struggle by Michael Cusick. Copyright ©2012. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Marriage, C.S. Lewis, Michael Cusick, Pornography, Donald Miller

  • Our Thoughts Have Wheels

    Posted on October 22, 2012 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7a (KJV)

    The day started off just fine, but ended with confusion and tears. As a timid middle-schooler, I climbed the steps of my school bus eager to get home after a long afternoon.

    Sitting quietly in my seat, all of a sudden I got this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Although my surroundings appeared to be the same, something was not right.

    The bus was the normal sunshine yellow. The seats were standard black vinyl, displaying rips and tears from years of students. The floor was littered with the usual misplaced pencils, erasers and wadded-up papers. Yet, I felt out of place.

    That's when I realized I did not know any of the kids sitting around me. And I had never seen the bus driver before. Frantically, I searched for anything familiar. My cheeks grew hot and my heart raced with panic as I realized I was on the wrong bus.

    Although I WAS headed somewhere, it was NOT where I wanted to go.

    I'd been distracted by conversations with friends, thoughts of sleepovers, and how much homework I had. My thoughts were not focused on where I was going. The actions that followed caused me to end up somewhere I did not want to be.

    Thinking back on that day, I've considered how our thoughts determine a lot about the direction of our lives. Like my school bus, our thoughts will always take us somewhere, but it may not be somewhere we want to end up.

    If we spend time thinking about how our boss does not appreciate us, our thoughts will take us straight to a bad attitude at work and possibly poor performance.

    If we focus on how much we do for others and how little we feel appreciated, our thoughts will take us to a place of resentment, with lack of patience and love.

    If we spend an entire day fuming over something our husband or kids did, and mentally practice the harsh words we plan to say to them, those thoughts will lead us into a place of arguments, hurt feelings and damaged relationships.

    If we dwell on why God has allowed certain problems in our lives, we will transport ourselves into a state of insecurity and unhappiness as we stop trusting God.

    If we focus our thoughts on money, career, success and pleasure, we will find ourselves in the land of the lost—feeling frustrated and discontent.

    Our thoughts are powerful and need our navigation. If we allow them to run rampant in negative directions, focusing on things that lead us away from God's perspective, we will eventually end up stressed out - from the inside out.

    In today's key verse, God shows us why we should choose carefully what we think about, because our thoughts determine who we are and how we live.

    Reacting to stressful situations by becoming a chronically negative thinker will eventually increase our stress and possibly take us to a destination we would never choose.

    My childhood memory reminds me to consistently ask God to help me keep my mind on Him and on the thoughts He has for me. That way I can live according to His plans and with His perspective, seeking to be acutely aware of where my thoughts may lead me.

    Our thoughts really do have wheels. Where are your thoughts taking you today?

    Dear Lord, please help me take my thoughts captive, and focus on things that are pleasing to You. Please give me the desire to control my thoughts and maintain a Godly perspective about the circumstances in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    For more to manage stressful emotions and navigate negative thoughts, consider Tracie Miles' new book Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace In Your Chaotic World.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have you been guarding and guiding your thoughts, or have your thoughts been leading you to a place you don't want to go? Is it possible that you've allowed negative thoughts to bring more stress into your life?

    Make a list of all the negative thoughts you have had lately. Ask God to help you replace those emotions and start new with a fresh attitude and a healthy, Godly perspective.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 12:2a, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." (NIV)

    Ephesians 4:23-24, "Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy." (NLT)

    © 2012 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs, Tracie Miles

  • Enjoy Great Peace

    Posted on October 21, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace. Psalm 37:11

     

    Meekness is a bridge to blessing. It is an attitude God honors with the enjoyment of His great peace. Meekness meanders, moving in and out of the halls of heaven. It sets us up to be served by our Savior. Meekness is the manner by which our Master can move us forward in His will. Our meekness transports us toward absolute surrender and obedience to God. It is the meek who tend to trust God. It is the meek who most want to faithfully follow Jesus. Indeed, meekness is most like Jesus. Jesus said of Himself, “I am meek…” (Matthew 11:29, KJV). It is here, with meek Jesus, that we find rest for our souls. However, meek does not mean we are weak; on the contrary, we are strong in our Savior.

    Meekness is a conduit for what Christ has for us. He has an inheritance for His children. What is His is ours. He owns the land and all that is within its expanse. We see His quiet white clouds cover the mountaintops like soft sheets. As the sun rises, its warmth pulls back the submissive sheets of cloud cover and introduces us to the day. He has given us His earth for our great enjoyment. It is on the side of the green mountain of His creation that we sit quietly and contemplate Christ. His peace prods our pride to be still and know Him. He hushes our hurried spirit to be silent before Providence. A silent tongue often exhibits a wise head and a holy heart. We have His earth to enjoy now and to inherit in eternity. The meek understand this priceless privilege. They enjoy great peace. 

    Even as we suffer, we topple tribulations with trust in Jesus while we rest in His great peace. Christ’s consolations carry us along the way. His peace is a platform for His faithfulness to perform. As if watching an engaging drama on stage or in film, we wait until the end for the plot to fully unfold. If we jump to conclusions or draw premature assumptions, we may get caught up in bad beliefs or false fears. So life is a stage where God’s great drama plays out. We are not to fret over what seems to be fearful or a forgone conclusion. God’s plot is still unfolding by faith. His will is being revealed. His cast of characters is still in development. While His plot thickens, we trust. Until the end, enjoy His great peace.

    We may not have an abundance of stuff, but we have great peace. It is better to do stuff with our Savior than to have stuff without Him. He is our wisdom when we face complex circumstances. He is the one to whom we cling during a crisis. We silence our murmuring so that we can be silent before Him. It is in silence before our Savior that His great peace saturates our soul. It engulfs our edginess with eternal assurance. On earth we may seem deprived of some things from an  enjoyment aspect. But, there is coming a day where this accursed earth will be no more, and we will enjoy the benefits of His new earth without sin, sickness, or sorrow. We will inherit the land of our Lord. In the meantime, go to God for His great peace. Like a river of love, it attends to our soul with soothing security and peace. Enjoy God’s great peace in Christ. Fret not, but have faith in Him. He seeks the meek.

    Taken from Reading #26 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”…  http://bit.ly/InvUdR

    Post/Tweet this today: Even as we suffer, we topple tribulations with trust in Jesus. #trust

    Download the free Wisdom Hunters app… http://bit.ly/OVrYb9


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Psalm, Matthew, Peace

  • Profitable Patience

    Posted on October 20, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

     

    Life is normally lived waiting. We wait in lines; a teenager waits for his or her next birthday; we wait for job promotions; we wait for news from the doctor; we wait for the next meal; we wait for our future spouse; we wait for a lawsuit to be settled; we wait for a meeting to conclude; we wait for those who have yet to keep their commitment. Every time we turn around we have an opportunity to wait. Why wait? Because most of the time, it’s what’s best and most beneficial. A vegetable gardener is a prisoner to waiting, but this is an asset, not a liability. A tomato is much tastier when it is red, large, and juicy, rather than green, small, and hard. The smart gardener will wait for the vegetables to ripen, though he will nurture the soil along the way and keep the weeds out.

    There is a waiting cycle that must be completed before there is worthwhile fruit. If you didn’t have to wait, you may have been satisfied with how things have always been done. Now you have the opportunity to think differently. Maybe there are other people or resources that can contribute to your project or plan. So, when things do not go as planned, see it as an opportunity to improve the plan. Or providing help to another may be the very thing, as waiting is a lesson in loving others in spite of themselves; even providing valued assistance during this parenthesis in your own life. 

    Most importantly, learn how to wait for the Lord. What a valuable asset to wait upon. The Lord God Almighty is worth the wait. It is worth waiting for His joy, because it comes to uplift you, and bring a smile to your face; it is worth waiting for His peace that calms your soul, and allows you to sleep at night; it is worth waiting for His wisdom that provides discernment in the middle of conflicting options; it is worth waiting for His strength that propels you through adversity and gives you confidence and perseverance for life’s journey; it is worth waiting for His hope that lifts you up and out of your despair and depression.

    People camp out to see a rock star, or pay big bucks to meet the President; so waiting on God should be a cinch. Waiting is being fundamentally patient with God. He is running the universe, He knows what is going on, and He knows what is best for you. He knows. He knows. He knows. You can trust Him in your waiting. Use this sabbatical-like time to get to know your heavenly Father more intimately. Use this time to love your family and others, like no other time in your life. Allow Him to mold your character so that others will comment to themselves that you are somehow different. You are different because you have been with Jesus. Waiting is not just a passage to God’s blessing. It is God’s blessing. Wait for the Lord, because He is worth the wait. The Bible says, “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

    Taken from October 20th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/InvUdR

    Post/Tweet: Waiting is not just a passage to God’s blessing. It is God’s blessing. #wait

    Download the free Wisdom Hunters app… http://bit.ly/OVrYb9


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Psalm, Patience

  • Gift of Evangelism

    Posted on October 19, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:11-12

     

    Every follower of Jesus can and should be a witness of His amazing grace. But, there are some specifically gifted to share the gospel. The good news of salvation from sin in Christ somehow makes its way into the conversations of an evangelist. These bold believers are compelled by the love of God to share the love of God. This gift of evangelism cannot be silent about the need for a Savior. Because their conversion to Christ was transformational, they pray for all to come to know Him.

    Many of us became believers because of the message we heeded from an evangelistic messenger. Maybe we heard on the radio, “You must be born again.” Perhaps a visiting preacher at church proclaimed Christ’s death on the cross as the payment for our sin, and His resurrection as the power to live the Christian life. A friend may have asked us about our assurance of going to heaven when we die. Or, in reading the Bible the fiery faith of the Apostles may have ignited our faith.

    “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38

    Do you actively share the good news of Jesus Christ? Is your gift of evangelism vigorous and alive? Any gift that is unused becomes ineffective. Like a piece of idle, rusty machinery your gift can lock up for lack of use. If this is the case, ask the Holy Spirit to fall fresh on your faith. Let the Lord lubricate your life with courage—to loosen your lips as Christ’s witness. Yes, you share the gospel with humble passion, not in proud judgment. But don’t stay silent—be bold for Jesus!

    You talk about what you love. If you love cars, you read about, discuss and drive cars. If you love your family, you spend time with them and you tell others how they are doing. If you love Jesus, you are loved by Jesus, so that you can love others to Jesus. Love compels you to grow closer to Christ and out of your intimacy with Him, engage your lost world with soul saving truth. You can’t be quiet, because you have the cure for the curse of sin—faith in Jesus. Love speaks up.

    Furthermore, use your gift of evangelism to equip the saints of God to do the work of God. Your experience, passion and theological understanding are a bridge to help other believers share Jesus. You teach others who in turn teach others to turn to God. Don’t be shy in multiplying your influence by training up faithful evangelists for Kingdom advancement. Yes, stay in the reality of reasoning with others about Christ—but also, be wise to mobilize an army of witnesses for Jesus!

    “They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:4-5

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for those who shared the gospel with me Now use me to love others to Jesus with my words and deeds.

    Related Readings: John 3:14-15; Acts 13:46; Romans 1:2,16; Galatians 3:8; 2 Timothy 1:8

    Post/Tweet: Bold believers are compelled by the love of God to share the love of God. #bold

    Know your gift? Get a free “Spiritual Gifts Assessment” http://bit.ly/P4FYlw


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Acts, Ephesians, 2 Timothy, Evangelism

  • Why Should I Care?

    Posted on October 19, 2012 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matthew 9:36 (NIV)

    Our van drove snake-like, around tight corners and up steep mountain grades to reach a neighborhood in the hills above Quito, Ecuador. No fresh mountain air greeted us as we stepped carefully on to the streets. Instead the thick smells of garbage, outdoor cooking and animal droppings blanketed us.

    Walking through the tin shacks I understood helplessness as I never had before. There was no government support, no food bank down the street. Unless someone stepped into these people's lives with a helping hand, they would stay trapped in poverty.

    Something shifted in my heart that day. I had always been committed to missions and evangelism in an academic way. Sadly, however, there was always this secret part of me that thought people could ... no they should ... help themselves.

    This experience changed my motivation to reach out. Rather than simple obedience, urgency gripped me. I was starting to understand Jesus' compassion. Was this what He felt like? The disciple Matthew captured Jesus' heart with these words: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36 NIV).

    Jesus saw the helplessness of those He loved. Standing on a dirt street just south of the equator I got it. The helpless cannot help themselves. Just as the lost cannot find their way back on their own. They need someone to step in to their despair, into their darkness, and bring hope and help.

    My heart burned with a new understanding. It's not just those broken under the weight of poverty and injustice that Jesus cares about - although He loves them desperately. He cares about all who feel helpless. Like the divorced woman who wonders if anyone will ever love her again. Or the man who can't find a job. And the teenager looking for approval and acceptance in all the wrong places.

    These are the lost and helpless living on my street. And they need to hear about the hope that only Jesus can bring.

    Jesus gave His disciples an important command before He returned to heaven. He said, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20 NIV)

    If I close my eyes I can see myself on another dirt road filled with the smell of animals and cooking, and I see Jesus' eyes of compassion staring at me. "Glynnis," He says. "Listen carefully. I'm going back to My Father, and I need you to go to those who are helpless. They don't all look the same, so don't make any assumptions. And you don't have to go everywhere, because I'm going to tell your sisters and brothers the same thing. But I want you to go where I send you."

    This command isn't just another Bible verse now. It doesn't go on my to-do list. It's been engraved on my heart. Now I get it.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for my lack of mercy. Help me to see the helpless, lost and hurting all around me. I want to have Your heart of compassion, and be willing to go where You send me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Read Matthew 28:18-20. This passage is called "The Great Commission." Does this command from Jesus have a high priority in most Christians' lives? Why or why not?

    Many Christians read this passage and think about traveling abroad to fulfill it. However, this command starts in our own homes, work places and churches. What changes can you make in your own life to start fulfilling the command of Jesus?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (NIV)

    Luke 19:10, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." (NIV)

    © 2012 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Matthew, Glynnis Whitwer

  • Gift of Leadership

    Posted on October 18, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “If it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:8

     

    Gifted leaders are first and foremost good followers of God. They recognize the Gift Giver as their authority, so they do not lord over others—rather they submit themselves to the Lord. Because the leader respects Christ, he or she respects those they lead. Because they love the Lord, they love their team. Because they serve Jesus, they serve those who serve with them. Yes, a gifted leader is able to influence and educate a group toward an agreed upon goal. Leaders have followers.

    Are you called to lead but feel inferior? If so, seek your confidence in Christ. Go to the Resourceful One for reassurance. Resistance does not mean you are a bad leader; on the contrary it may be a validation that you are moving in the right direction. Indeed, some struggle in getting on the bandwagon of change—it threatens their security. So stay the course and lead prayerfully, patiently and lovingly. Trust the Spirit’s small voice that affirms your actions—God is with you.

    “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:9-12

    You know you have the gift of leadership if you can see the big picture and inspire others toward that God-given vision. You understand the sequence of steps required to reach the objectives. You perceive potential problems and are courageous and wise to make adjustments. You motivate the team to embrace transitions as necessary to stay relevant. You create a culture of accountability with real-time updates. No one wants to let anyone down in the execution process.

    Your gift of leadership is a weighty responsibility, but you are not alone. Almighty God is your “go to” for humility, holiness and wisdom. God gives you what you need to accomplish what He wants. Furthermore, use your leadership role to invest in other emerging leaders. It is harder to grow leaders than it is to lead. Therefore, be intentional and prayerful to train up faithful men and women who will train others. You steward your leadership best by birthing other leaders!

    “And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” Psalm 78:72

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me, so that in humility I can lead others in Your ways.

    Related Readings: Exodus 32:21; 1 Samuel 18:16; Isaiah 48:21; 1 Timothy 6:11-12; 1 Corinthians 1:10

    Post/Tweet: God gives us what we need to accomplish what He needs. #leadership

    Know your gift? Get a free “Spiritual Gifts Assessment” http://bit.ly/P4FYlw


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Psalm, Romans, Leadership

  • Christians and Halloween

    Posted on October 18, 2012 by Family Christian

    The following post is from a Grace To You blog post. It was written by Travis Allen. Grace to you is a ministry of John MacArthur. John is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, as well as an author, conference speaker, president of The Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry.

    Halloween. It's a time of year when the air gets crisper, the days get shorter, and for many young Americans the excitement grows in anticipation of the darkest, spookiest holiday of the year. Retailers also rejoice as they warm up their cash registers to receive an average of $41.77 per household in decorations, costumes, candy, and greeting cards. Halloween will bring in approximately $3.3 billion this year.

    It's a good bet retailers won't entertain high expectations of getting $41.77 per household from the Christian market. Many Christians refuse to participate in Halloween. Some are wary of its pagan origins; others of its dark, ghoulish imagery; still others are concerned for the safety of their children. But other Christians choose to partake of the festivities, whether participating in school activities, neighborhood trick-or-treating, or a Halloween alternative at their church.

    The question is, How should Christians respond to Halloween? Is it irresponsible for parents to let their children trick-or-treat? What about Christians who refuse any kind of celebration during the season--are they overreacting?

    The Pagan Origin of Halloween
    The name "Halloween" comes from the All Saints Day celebration of the early Christian church, a day set aside for the solemn remembrance of the martyrs. All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints Day, began the time of remembrance. "All Hallows Eve" was eventually contracted to "Hallow-e'en," which became "Halloween."

    As Christianity moved through Europe it collided with indigenous pagan cultures and confronted established customs. Pagan holidays and festivals were so entrenched that new converts found them to be a stumbling block to their faith. To deal with the problem, the organized church would commonly move a distinctively Christian holiday to a spot on the calendar that would directly challenge a pagan holiday. The intent was to counter pagan influences and provide a Christian alternative. But most often the church only succeeded in "Christianizing" a pagan ritual--the ritual was still pagan, but mixed with Christian symbolism. That's what happened to All Saints Eve--it was the original Halloween alternative!

    The Celtic people of Europe and Britain were pagan Druids whose major celebrations were marked by the seasons. At the end of the year in northern Europe, people made preparations to ensure winter survival by harvesting the crops and culling the herds, slaughtering animals that wouldn't make it. Life slowed down as winter brought darkness (shortened days and longer nights), fallow ground, and death. The imagery of death, symbolized by skeletons, skulls, and the color black, remains prominent in today's Halloween celebrations.

    The pagan Samhain festival (pronounced "sow" "en") celebrated the final harvest, death, and the onset of winter, for three days--October 31 to November 2. The Celts believed the curtain dividing the living and the dead lifted during Samhain to allow the spirits of the dead to walk among the living--ghosts haunting the earth.

    Some embraced the season of haunting by engaging in occult practices such as divination and communication with the dead. They sought "divine" spirits (demons) and the spirits of their ancestors regarding weather forecasts for the coming year, crop expectations, and even romantic prospects. Bobbing for apples was one practice the pagans used to divine the spiritual world's "blessings" on a couple's romance.

    For others the focus on death, occultism, divination, and the thought of spirits returning to haunt the living, fueled ignorant superstitions and fears. They believed spirits were earthbound until they received a proper sendoff with treats--possessions, wealth, food, and drink. Spirits who were not suitably "treated" would "trick" those who had neglected them. The fear of haunting only multiplied if that spirit had been offended during its natural lifetime.

    Trick-bent spirits were believed to assume grotesque appearances. Some traditions developed, which believed wearing a costume to look like a spirit would fool the wandering spirits. Others believed the spirits could be warded off by carving a grotesque face into a gourd or root vegetable (the Scottish used turnips) and setting a candle inside it--the jack-o-lantern.

    Into that dark, superstitious, pagan world, God mercifully shined the light of the gospel. Newly converted Christians armed themselves with the truth and no longer feared a haunting from departed spirits returning to earth. In fact, they denounced their former pagan spiritism in accord with Deuteronomy 18:

    There shall not be found among you anyone...who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord (vv. 10-13).

    Nonetheless, Christian converts found family and cultural influence hard to withstand; they were tempted to rejoin the pagan festivals, especially Samhain. Pope Gregory IV reacted to the pagan challenge by moving the celebration of All Saints Day in the ninth century--he set the date at November 1, right in the middle of Samhain.

    As the centuries passed, Samhain and All Hallows Eve mixed together. On the one hand, pagan superstitions gave way to "Christianized" superstitions and provided more fodder for fear. People began to understand that the pagan ancestral spirits were demons and the diviners were practicing witchcraft and necromancy. On the other hand, the festival time provided greater opportunity for revelry. Trick-or-treat became a time when roving bands of young hooligans would go house-to-house gathering food and drink for their parties. Stingy householders ran the risk of a "trick" being played on their property from drunken young people.

    Halloween didn't become an American holiday until the immigration of the working classes from the British Isles in the late nineteenth century. While early immigrants may have believed the superstitious traditions, it was the mischievous aspects of the holiday that attracted American young people. Younger generations borrowed or adapted many customs without reference to their pagan origins.

    Hollywood has added to the "fun" a wide assortment of fictional characters--demons, monsters, vampires, werewolves, mummies, and psychopaths. That certainly isn't improving the American mind, but it sure is making someone a lot of money.

    The Christian Response to Halloween
    Today Halloween is almost exclusively an American secular holiday, but many who celebrate have no concept of its religious origins or pagan heritage. That's not to say Halloween has become more wholesome. Children dress up in entertaining costumes, wander the neighborhood in search of candy, and tell each other scary ghost stories; but adults often engage in shameful acts of drunkenness and debauchery.

    So, how should Christians respond?

    First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year; in fact, any day is a good day for Satan to prowl about seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). But "greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God has forever "disarmed principalities and powers" through the cross Christ and "made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through [Christ]" (Colossians 2:15).

    Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom. Some people fear the activity of Satanists or pagan witches, but the actual incidents of satanic-associated crime are very low. The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior--drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

    Like any other day of the year, Christians should exercise caution as wise stewards of their possessions and protectors of their families. Christian young people should stay away from secular Halloween parties since those are breeding grounds for trouble. Christian parents can protect their children by keeping them well-supervised and restricting treat consumption to those goodies received from trusted sources.

    Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. It isn't just the experience of death, but rather what the Bible calls "a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume [God's] adversaries" (Hebrews 10:27). Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner--now that is truly terrifying.

    Christians should use Halloween and all that it brings to the imagination--death imagery, superstition, expressions of debauched revelry--as an opportunity to engage the unbelieving world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. God has given everyone a conscience that responds to His truth (Romans 2:14-16), and the conscience is the Christian's ally in the evangelistic enterprise. Christians should take time to inform the consciences of friends and family with biblical truth regarding God, the Bible, sin, Christ, future judgment, and the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ for the repentant sinner.

    There are several different ways Christians will engage in Halloween evangelism. Some will adopt a "No Participation" policy. As Christian parents, they don't want their kids participating in spiritually compromising activities--listening to ghost stories and coloring pictures of witches. They don't want their kids to dress up in costumes for trick-or-treating or even attending Halloween alternatives.

    That response naturally raises eyebrows and provides a good opportunity to share the gospel to those who ask. It's also important that parents explain their stand to their children and prepare them to face the teasing or ridicule of their peers and the disapproval or scorn of their teachers.

    Other Christians will opt for Halloween alternatives called "Harvest Festivals" or "Reformation Festivals"--the kids dress up as farmers, Bible characters, or Reformation heroes. It's ironic when you consider Halloween's beginning as an alternative, but it can be an effective means of reaching out to neighborhood families with the gospel. Some churches leave the church building behind and take acts of mercy into their community, "treating" needy families with food baskets, gift cards, and the gospel message.

    Those are good alternatives; there are others that are not so good. Some churches are using "Hell House" evangelism to shock young people and scare them into becoming Christians. They walk people through rooms patterned after carnival-style haunted houses and put sin on display--women undergoing abortions, people sacrificed in a satanic ritual, consequences of premarital sex, dangers of rave parties, demon possession, and other tragedies.

    Here's the problem with so-called Hell House evangelism: To shock an unshockable culture, you have to get pretty graphic. Graphic exhibits of sin and its consequences are unnecessary--unbelieving minds are already full of such images. What they need to see is a life truly transformed by the power of God, and what they need to hear is the truth of God in an accurate presentation of the gospel. Cheap gimmickry is unfitting for Christ's ambassadors.

    There's another option open to Christians: limited, non-compromising participation in Halloween. There's nothing inherently evil about candy, costumes, or trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. In fact, all of that can provide a unique gospel opportunity with neighbors. Even handing out candy to neighborhood children--provided you're not stingy--can improve your reputation among the kids. As long as the costumes are innocent and the behavior does not dishonor Christ, trick-or-treating can be used to further gospel interests.

    Ultimately, Christian participation in Halloween is a matter of conscience before God. Whatever level of Halloween participation you choose, you must honor God by keeping yourself separate from the world and by showing mercy to those who are perishing. Halloween provides the Christian with the opportunity to accomplish both of those things in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It's a message that is holy, set apart from the world; it's a message that is the very mercy of a forgiving God. What better time of the year is there to share such a message than Halloween?

    Travis Allen
    Managing Director


    This post was posted in Kids and was tagged with Featured, 1 Peter, Romans, Hebrews, Deuteronomy, Colossians, John MacArthur, Halloween, 1 John, Travis Allen, Grace To You

  • Is My Pain Talking?

    Posted on October 18, 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5b (NIV)

    Have you ever been in a situation where something little felt really big? Maybe a look from someone that suddenly made you feel like they didn't like you. Or when someone doesn't return your phone call and you feel like it's an indication that you're not important.

    Usually these things aren't true.

    The look was just a look with no hidden meaning.

    The missed phone call was just a slip on that person's to-do list.

    But if we're not careful, those misguided feelings can create issues that distract us, discourage us, and trigger past pain that starts taunting us. They can fill our minds with thoughts that are not accurate.

    It happened to me on a certain Friday. My sister Angee and I got up at 3:00 a.m. and were in line at a store thirty minutes later. I know. I agree. That's crazy.

    But like a hunter stalking prey, I was after something. In this case, the buy-one-get-one-free washer and dryer. Angee was after a half-priced computer. When the store doors opened at 5:00 a.m., we both scored. Happiness abounded. Then we left to get some breakfast. This is the part of the story where the happiness faded.

    In the drive-thru, my credit card was "not approved."

    Let me get this straight. It was approved at the store just five minutes ago when I made a major purchase. But now for a little two-dollar bundle of egg, cheese, Canadian bacon, and an English muffin, suddenly I'm not approved?

    Not approved.

    Ouch.

    My sister wasn't fazed. She whipped out cash, paid for my breakfast, and headed to the next store on our list. But those words "not approved" hung like a black cloud over my head. It bothered the stink out of me. I knew it was just some technical glitch, but that's not what it felt like.

    When that girl leaned out of the drive-thru window and in a hushed tone said, "I'm sorry, ma'am, but your card keeps showing that you're not approved," it felt personal. Really personal.

    Suddenly, past pain from other times I'd felt rejected and my current embarrassment started running their mouth inside my head. You're nothing but a loser. You are unwanted. Unloved. Disorganized. Poor. Not acceptable. You are not approved.

    I wish I could tie up this story in a nice bow and give you a pretty ending, but I can't. It was anything but pretty. I felt awful. And I went to bed wondering if the Lord Himself might come down and say, "Lysa TerKeurst, I have had enough of your immature reactions. You are no longer approved to be a Bible study teacher. Look at you!"

    But that's not the Lord's voice. Our Lord doesn't whisper shameful condemnations.

    Spiritual convictions, yes. Personal condemnations, no.

    As I stared wide-eyed into the darkness that enveloped the room, I whispered, "Give me Your voice, Jesus. I need to hear You above all these painful thoughts. If I don't hear You, I'm afraid this darkness is going to swallow me alive." Nothing came. I couldn't hear a thing.

    I had a choice. I could lie in the dark replaying the awful events of the day, or I could turn the light on and read God's Word—His truth—which is the best thing to do when lies are swarming and painful thoughts are attacking like a bunch of bloodthirsty mosquitoes.

    Lies flee in the presence of truth. Comfort comes into our pain when we bring it to Jesus. And while reading God's truth that night didn't change the fact that I needed to make things right in my thoughts, it gave me the courage to do so.

    Dear Lord, please drown out the other voices ... please hush them ... and speak. I want to hear You above all the noise. Help me discern Your convictions and the devil's condemnations. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    For more encouragement and practical advice on how to remain self-controlled, check out Lysa TerKeurst's new book, Unglued. Available now!

    The accompanying Unglued Bible Study will help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. To order your copy, click here.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are there lies you have believed about yourself? Bring them to light. Write 2 lies down on a piece of paper.

    Now get out God's Word and read about who He says you are. Use the power verses below to refute Satan's attacks against you and remember, Jesus doesn't speak in condemning tones but the enemy and our past pain often does.

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 139:14, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." NIV

    Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." NIV

    2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here." NIV

    © 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Corinthians, Lysa TerKeurst

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