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Monthly Archives: October 2012

  • Gift of Administration

    Posted on October 12, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28 NASB

     

    The gift of administration likes for people, projects and processes to be properly organized. Efficiency and effectiveness energize their efforts. They keep chaos at bay by bringing consistency and calm to a work or home culture. This supportive gift takes time to plan and then they implement the plan. Gifted administrators understand the long-term needs and define the short-term steps needed to accomplish future goals. They are intentional with strategic initiatives.

    Those who keep us in line logistically bless us with sustainable systems. It may be a financial manager who is tedious in stewarding well the income and expenses at work or home. The budget is their accountability partner. They give daily oversight to the proper allocation of resources and are able to discern positive and negative trends. They are worth their weight in gold. A gifted scribe who captures critical items in the minutes of a meeting makes follow up more feasible.

    “Dominion and awe belong to God; he establishes order in the heights of heaven.” Job 25:2

    Do you have the gift of administration? If so, perhaps you partner with a visionary leader who needs organizational legs to see God’s game plan come to fruition. Your support of a senior manager may make the difference between success and failure or excellence and mediocrity. Your organizational efforts at home are a blessing to your family. Don’t obsess over perfection; rather rejoice in doing what you can with the time you have. Yes, value relationships over results.

    Almighty God is the ultimate administrator. He placed the stars and planets in the sky in meticulous order and He organized an intricate human body. The wisest administrators get their marching orders from their Master, Jesus. So, seek favor from the Lord first, so that you serve, not lord over others. Be patient when people do not live up to your standards or execute precisely your expectations. Your administrative gift will place you in a seat of great influence! 

    “Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank.” Proverbs 22:29

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me how to value and appreciate those who are gifted administratively.

    Related Readings: 1 Chronicles 24:19; Daniel 2:49 NASB; 2 Corinthians 8:20 NASB

    Post/Tweet: Don’t obsess over perfection; rather rejoice in doing what you can with the time you have. Value relationships over results. #relationships

    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 1 Corinthians, Proverbs, Job

  • Gift of Mercy

    Posted on October 11, 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

     

    The gift of mercy is compelled to be compassionate. Its sensitive spirit hurts when others hurt and rejoices when others rejoice. Merciful followers of Jesus find great satisfaction in alleviating suffering and applying God’s grace to a wounded heart. Their tears of concern flow freely; they are pained to see others in pain. The merciful can be soft spoken and gentle in disposition. Behind the scenes they do quiet acts of kindness. They know how you are doing without asking.

    We all need those gifted with mercy to give us comfort in our time of need. We need their unconditional love when we don’t feel loved. We need their affirmation when we don’t feel affirmed. Just like our sympathetic Savior brings empathy to our empty soul, so those gifted in mercy empathize with our emptiness. Therefore, be open to their suggestion to visit the doctor, attend church or join a small group. Mercy is concerned for the condition of our body and soul.

    “Even though I [Paul] was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.” 1 Timothy 1:13

    Furthermore, if you have the gift of mercy, guard against being oversensitive. Your desire for harmony—at any cost—may suffer significant losses from unhealthy compromise. Your interest in pleasing everyone may result in pleasing no one. Mercy by nature is easily taken advantage of, so be careful not to cave in to the loudest voice or the most persuasive persona. Seek solace in Jesus and find certainty in His commands. Use your gift of mercy as a conduit for Christ’s truth.

    Ultimately the source of all mercy resides with the Merciful One, our Heavenly Father. His mercy rains down from above, as He reigns over all living creatures below. Because of His great mercy toward you, you can appropriate abundant mercy.  By God’s grace be quick to forgive and slow to anger. Look at those who are stuck in selfishness with sympathy. Indeed, pity people who are trapped in the pit of pride. Pursue the apathetic with authentic love—mercy initiates.

    “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the merciful, and grant me Your mercy to give away.

    Related Readings: Psalm 6:2, 9; Isaiah 55:7; Matthew 23:23; Jude 1:2

    Post/Tweet: Our desire to please everyone may result in pleasing no one. Mercy needs boundaries. #mercy

    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 Romans, James, 1 Timothy, Mercy

  • Getting Unstuck from My Thinking Rut

    Posted on October 11, 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:2 (NIV)

    Have you ever had the thought, "What's the use? I'm just a stuffer." Or, "What's the use? I'm a just a yeller."

    That may be partially true, but I believe there is more to it than just claiming because we act a certain way, that's the way it will always be.

    Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive known as the cerebral cortex. Each thought scratches the surface much like an Etch A Sketch.

    When we have the same thought again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what's called a memory trace. With each repetition the trace goes deeper and deeper, forming and embedding a pattern of thought. When an emotion is tied to this thought pattern, the memory trace grows exponentially stronger.

    We forget most of our random thoughts that are not tied to an emotion. However, we retain the ones we think often that have an emotion tied to them. For example, if we've had the thought over and over that we are "unglued," and that thought is tied to a strong emotion, we deepen the memory trace when we repeatedly access that thought. The same is true if we decide to stuff a thought—we'll perpetuate that stuffing. Or if we yell, we'll keep yelling.

    We won't develop new responses until we develop new thoughts. That's why renewing our minds with new thoughts is crucial. New thoughts come from new perspectives. The Bible encourages this process, which only makes sense because God created the human mind and understands better than anyone how it functions.

    A foundational teaching of Scripture is that it is possible to be completely changed through transformed thought patterns. That's exactly the point of today's key verse, Romans 12:2.

    Scripture also teaches that we can accept or refuse thoughts. Instead of being held hostage by old thought patterns, we can actually capture our thoughts and allow the power of Christ's truth to change them:

    "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)

    I don't know about you, but understanding how my brain is designed makes these verses come alive in a whole new way. Taking thoughts captive and being transformed by thinking in new ways isn't some New Age form of mind control. It's biblical, and it's fitting with how God wired our brains.

    I can't control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, "I have a choice to have destructive thoughts or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what's wrong and make things worse, or I can ask God for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don't feel good."

    Indeed, when we gain new perspectives, we can see new ways of thinking. And if we change the way we think, we'll change the ways we act and react.

    Dear Lord, teach me to trust You and to believe that even though my situation is overwhelming, You always have the best for me in mind. Give me Your perspective today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    For more encouragement and practical advice on taking our thoughts and actions captive, check out Lysa'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:
    What is one area of your life where destructive thoughts seem to take control? Ask God to show you how to see the good in this area even though you don't necessarily feel good about the situation.

    Start right now, and continue each morning for the next 5 days to pray the verses below over the area of your life you described above. Sometimes changing our perspective requires an initial act of obedience.

    Power Verses:
    2 Corinthians 4:8, "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair." (NIV)

    Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (NIV 1984)

    John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (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, Romans, Lysa TerKeurst

  • Gift of Prophesy

    Posted on October 10, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith.” Romans 12:6-7

     

    The gift of prophesy is compelled by the Spirit to tell the truth. It is not shy to confront sin and call out injustice. The prophetic calling has the courage to speak the claims of Christ with humble boldness. They have a vision of God’s holiness and are constrained to communicate His high standards of behavior. Moreover, some serve prophetically by praying over other believers with affirmation and instruction. They perceive where the Spirit is leading His servant to go next.

    We are blessed when those in our lives warn us of unwise opportunities and unscrupulous individuals. We are wise to embrace those who speak the truth in love and not marginalize their message. Wisdom flows from friends who clearly discern situations as detrimental. We win when they lovingly point out that our schedule is not sustainable. When we adjust our attitude of fear to faith, based on prophetic preaching, we feel protected. Wisdom honors the prophetic gift.

    “I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.” 1 Corinthians 7:7

    Perhaps your perceptive spouse sees things you have not considered. Instead of dismissing their discernment, see them as a gift from God for your protection. Furthermore, if you have the gift of prophecy, be careful not to ignore the individual. Soften the relationship with the oil of love before you deliver the hard truth. Comfort is an affectionate appetizer that needs to precede the prophetic entrée of admonishment. A discerning heart gets to the heart of the matter with truth.

    Godly people who communicate a prophetic word in love deserve a listening ear. If you heed their concerns, your ultimate decision will benefit from weighing the worst-case scenario. Doom and destruction can be avoided by taking seriously the words of Christ’s warriors. Fools plow ahead with deaf ears, while the wise take a time-out and assess a variety of outcomes. So, slow down and listen to the discerning. A prophetic voice is God’s gift to walk wisely and patiently.

    “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry. And a wise friend’s timely reprimand?is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.” Proverbs 25:12, The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, place people with the gift of prophecy in my life so I can be the wiser, having listened to their words.

    Related Readings: Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 13:18; Ephesians 4:11, 15; 2 John 1:1-3

    Post/Tweet: The prophetic calling has the courage to speak the claims of Christ with humble boldness. #gift #prophecy

    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 1 Corinthians, Proverbs, Romans, Prophesy

  • Shedding Light On the Subject - a interview with Bebo Norman

    Posted on October 10, 2012 by John van der Veen

    Just as mountaintop experiences are a part of the Christian faith, so are valleys; moments of struggle and searching for truth. Bebo Norman’s new album Lights of Distant Cities was forged through just such a time. What Bebo discovered through the process was this: sometimes it takes a dark time to see just how beautiful the light is...

    Family Christian: So could you start by giving us some personal background?

    Bebo Norman: I grew up in a town called Columbus, Georgia, about 90 miles south of Atlanta. Not a super-small town – probably a couple hundred-thousand people. Definitely off the beaten path, a little bit. I honestly grew up in a Christian home, in a strangely functional family. I say that with a grain of salt, because we definitely have our dysfunctions just like any family. But it was a pretty beautiful environment to grow up in, honestly. [I had] believing parents, but also parents who sort of gave us… well we grew up under their strict guidelines in a lot of ways. [However], they also allowed each of the four kids in our family to have their own sort of freedom in finding our way to faith, if that makes any sense. And so all four children did, in their own unique time through some labor and struggle. That’s were I grew up and what my back ground was.

    FC: Where did the name “Bebo” come from?

    Bebo Norman

    Bebo: My younger sister; the youngest in the family. When I was probably 4 or 5 years old, she couldn’t say “big brother” and started saying “Bebo” instead. Which is super cute when you’re four, and not quite as cute when you’re about to be 40. Know what I mean? [laughs] So I have had to sort of adjust, but it is what it is.

    FC: It is what it is.

    Bebo: People ask me a lot if it’s a stage name that I made up. And I’m like “seriously?” If I was going to make up a stage name I can promise you it wouldn’t have been Bebo. It would have been something much cooler like “Sting” or something… Well, I suppose Bono is not exactly too cool, but he is a pretty cool guy.

    FC: So at some particular point the persona out weighs any type of difficulty with the name.

    Bebo: That’s what I like to tell myself anyway.

    FC: So how did you get introduced to music and songwriting? Was that a part of your upbringing?

    Bebo: It was. My dad played this thing called a Uke which is basically a four string guitar or an oversized ukulele. He [also] played guitar. And he didn’t play it extremely well. And honestly I haven’t seen him play it since I was a kid. He used to play these old folk songs, Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez songs and really old folk traditional folk songs. And he would make up songs about our dogs and anything random that he could. That’s my first real memory of loving music – my dad playing those songs to me and my brother. We shared a room, and when we would go up to bed at night, he would come and play a song every now and then. And the truth is, he may have only done it a handful of times… I don’t really remember, but it was enough to make a significant impact. And I think the interesting thing was he was playing these old songs that were really written about kind of plain, ordinary life. And sort of finding these strangely profound things within the context of playing in a plain and ordinary life. And I think in a lot of ways that’s why I write the way that I write. And of course that has a lot to do with what influenced me once I started playing music and once I started writing music.

    I still listened to a lot of singer/songwriters at that point. But it has a lot to do with the fact that that’s how faith is played out in my life... in finding the profound and the extraordinary in a plain and ordinary life. I think that is kind of how God has moved in my life. And so it tends to be why I write about the things that I write about. So I think my dad’s influence early on had a lot to do with that.

    FC: So at some point did something happen in your heart or your head where you said “I want to switch gears and maybe make this a full-time gig”?

    Bebo: Well, honestly, it was definitely an end-of-college/post-college sort of thing. I tell people all the time that I have a degree in biology – that is what I studied in college – and my plan was to go to medical school. Which is just insane in my mind to think about now. Mostly because that was almost 18 years ago now. The thing was, I started writing songs and playing the guitar when I was probably 16 or 17 years old. I started writing songs pretty quickly after that. Once I knew a few chords – and ironically I write most of my songs with the same few chords. It was an interesting process going through college and starting to really focus on songwriting more as my own sort of personal therapy sessions, more than anything else. There was no desire in my mind at that point to play my songs for people. I mean, I did, but that was not at all where it came from. I played them for friends and every now and then for small groups of people, but I never really performed for people – it was more just something that I did. And if somebody heard me singing they might ask me to play it for them or something. Right before I was graduating from college I just started feeling this intense sense of “Hey I need to at least see what would happen with this music.” A lot of that came from people in my life where they sort of forced me to ask that question, and they would say, “Hey, you need to at least see what would happen with music.” So, I tell people all the time I took a year off after college before I was going to go apply for medical school just to see what would happen. If I am honest about it, it was probably a little more intense for me than that. It was more of an intense “Yeah, I am thinking about taking a year off to see what happens, but this is really what I feel like what I am supposed to do.” In an intense calling sort of way. And oddly enough that year has turned into seventeen years.

    You asked me if it was a hard decision or if there was a definite moment where I felt compelled to see what would happen with it. But I never felt like “hey this is going to be my life or my career.” I just thought that this was something that I needed to dive into and see what could happen – and still [all these] years into it, I feel kind of surprised a lot days that I am seventeen years into it. So, it’s been an interesting journey to say the least.

    FC: So then you met the guys in Caedmon’s Call? Or somehow you were introduced to Watershed Records and did a deal there... How did you feel after that first record came out when you realized that you had national exposure?

    Bebo: Well I was completely surprised by it. I was in the independent music world for years. So I really didn’t know what I was doing. Honestly I took out a loan when I graduated from college. My dad co-signed the loan for me to make an independent CD. And it was the beginning of the days of being able to make a CD digitally. We recorded it on these digital machines back in 1996. And that is when it released. So it was one of those things where I didn’t have any real expectations except, I am going to make this record and if I am making a record then maybe I should try to find places that I can go play, because I made a record before I played any real concerts. Then I started playing for Young Life camps and things like that back in the day. And that led from one thing to another…

    [So] this independent music scene was sort of rising up at that point and I had heard of this band Caedmon’s Call through independent music circles. And they had heard of me. And oddly enough, I was traveling through my home town, (I wasn’t living there at the time, I was living up in North Carolina), to go play a show in Florida and Caedmon’s Call happened to be playing a show in my home town and a friend of mine was promoting their show. So I went over to see the show. It ended up that these guys knew of my music and I knew of their music and we sort of hit if off that night. They asked me that night if I would tour with them the next spring. They were releasing their first national record at that point.

    So that was the beginning of this process of getting real national exposure. That’s when record labels started talking to me. And I ended up on Watershed/Essential Records with Caedmon’s Call and Jars of Clay. Andrew Peterson came shortly after. That record label is now Provident Records which is probably one of the largest record labels in the Christian music world. Definitely an interesting journey. That is how it all sort of unfolded early on.

    FC: So was it in your time with Young Life that you learned how to play wiffle ball so well?

    Bebo: [Laughs] Such an obviously leading question.

    FC: Well I remember reading something about that a couple of years ago – didn’t you break a bone?

    Bebo: Yeah, I did. That was it. I would love to be able to tell people that I broke my leg doing some extreme sport like sky diving or something, right?

    FC: I was going to say, don’t you play wiffle ball with a plastic ball and a plastic bat?

    Bebo: In my way of wiffle ball, it’s a high collision sport. That’s the way I see it. High impact. It was a random, random thing on a Memorial Day. I can’t even remember how many years ago it was now. In fact, it probably was six years ago, because I broke my leg right before we had my first son, who is five now. So anyway all that to say – yeah, I had to have surgery, three pins put in my leg all from a silly, little game of wiffle ball. I was running home and jumped up and landed funny. Just a complete freak accident.

    FC: Did your team win?

    Bebo: No! [laughs] I tied the game up when I landed on the home base. And then we went into the bottom of the last inning. The other team scored. Not even worth it… It was not even worth it.

    FC: Great story, nonetheless. Maybe someday wiffle ball will be at the Olympics.

    Bebo: That’s right. That’s right. And if it is, I won’t pretend to be a player, maybe I can be an honorary coach or something.

    FC: So since your time at Watershed, you’ve moved labels and are now with BEC Recordings. You’ve been really active since signing with them and have a new record coming out called Lights Of Distant Cities. We came across this quote recently and wondered if you could kind of talk us through what you meant a little bit. “The last few years have been pretty intense - a long, slow progression, or digression, into a spiritual desert. I struggled to write anything hopeful. But I wanted to be true to the season I was in, so I simply wrote about the hopelessness I was experiencing.” Now often times, Bebo, throughout the history of Christendom, there are people who follow Jesus and they say “there is absolutely no darkness once you are with Jesus.” From your quote, it doesn’t sound like that’s necessarily the case.

    Bebo: Well, I certainly don’t fall into that camp. It wasn’t given to me as my spiritual gift. And I say that honestly. There was a time in my life where I really found great frustration with God in the sense that, in the fact that I felt like, that was sort of the thorn in my side, in my flesh, if you will. Which makes me question the whole [idea] that when you become a believer, there is no darkness. Just because Scripture doesn’t seem to back that up, at least the Scriptures that I have studied. So I struggled with the fact that I had this tendency towards that doubt. Tendency toward questioning. And this tendency toward this idea that I sort of spiral at times into a place where I look around the world and it seems – and this is where I was writing from on this record originally – looking around the world and seeing so much that is dark and difficult and confusing. So much that is broken about the world.

    I just started asking this question “It just doesn’t look like love is winning in this world. So well, if love is not winning, then is God not winning? And if God is not winning, then who is God? And if I am wondering who God is, then, who am I within the context of who God is?” So much of my identity is wrapped up in what I believe and not just in just my Christian world view, but in how I have been transformed by who I believe God is.

    So that’s where I started this record. And even coming out of my last record which is really a record that is a lot about longing for something and being honest in writing about being in that place of longing for something. And I think this record, in a strange way, ended up becoming about finding that something. Because where I started writing from has a lot to do with the quote that you just read, this place of really struggling with the idea that our faith has these two counterpoints to it. One side is what we know to be true, and the fact that we make choices and the “decision” part of our faith. The willing ourselves toward love and toward faith because we know that truth is truth. There is a decision part of that and a will part of that. The other end of the spectrum is the emotional part – the part that feels what we feel. The things that when the Holy Spirit sort of overwhelms us, and gives us a sense of what it means to really fall in love with God. With a real understanding of what God is doing in the world.

    I think when we are young, our tendency is toward that emotional side, and it can tend to really sway and lean heavily on what it feels like to have a faith experience with God. Then we get older and we begin to realize that our emotions ebb and flow. They wane at times. Then they are full of hope at times. They are full of desperation at other times. We can start to really rely heavily on that decision. That “will” part of faith. I think I just found myself in a place, that slow digression that I mentioned, where I have been praying for so long to God. To find that first love again. To experience that feeling of falling in love again. That emotion of faith. That being overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit. I had been relying on for so long – it felt like years really – on the will part of my faith, on the decision part of my faith, to trust that truth is truth, regardless of what I feel. I just started praying real honestly to God as I looked around the world and saw all things that were wrong with it. Love was not winning. Just praying that God would really give me a sense in my heart and in my emotions again, that He really is who He says He is. And that He still really is in control of the world that just feels so out of control from time to time.

    What ended up being profound to me while writing for this record is that I started writing in that place of desperation and kind of about half-way through the writing process. And by that I don’t mean that I had written half of the songs, and then wrote the next half of songs. I had written half of all the songs. All eleven. They were all, kind of, half-written. I was writing again from that honest place, wanting to convey those emotions. The desperation. About half way through that process, God sort of met me in a really profound way.

    There were three days that I went and spent in solitude by myself. And God just showed up in a pretty moving way. For me. In an intense way. I just felt overwhelmed with a sense of what it means to fall in love again. To be moved by what God is doing in this world that feels so out of control at times.

    So in a strange way, all the songs on this record sort of represent that transition. That transition from the season of desperation to the season of recovery and renewal. So the title, Lights in Distant Cities, that’s what that song and this record is about in a lot of ways. As I look back on the writing process, it’s that moment when you come around the bend and you see something in the distance that is beautiful. And mysterious. And moving. And that thing, sort of likening that to lights in distant cities, it’s what pulls you forward in life. It’s what draws you in that direction again.

    And that is how I would describe what God did. How He pulled us into those places where He gives us those glimpses of who He is. A profound sense of who He is. That really draws us forward in life, and pulls us out of a season of darkness that we might have been in.

    So that is really where it was written from, where the title comes from and really what I was hoping to convey. Or what turns out was conveyed on the record in the long run as a whole.

    FC: Do you think that’s indicative of the Christian walk? That there are times in our lives – in a true, authentic walk – that we go through periods of wilderness or desperation?

    Bebo: Absolutely. I don’t know how… well… it certainly has been in my life. Like I mentioned earlier, there was a time in my life where I really felt frustration with God. That He gave me this tendency to doubt, this tendency to sort of move into the wilderness places. I sort of came into this place of real gratitude for that. Because in a lot of ways I think it sort of keeps us as a church, at least from my perspective. I think most often in walks of faith that I have seen in my life, from people, whether they are authors or friends in my life, they have all gone through these seasons of real wilderness. A sort of dark night of the soul.

    It kinda keeps us from becoming that church of Ephesus. The church that Revelation 2 talks about, the one that becomes the “loveless” church. They were the ones that had done so many profound things in their faith, but then became [the church] that lost it’s first love. I think when we go into those seasons of desperation, when everything else gets stripped away, we can’t become fat and warm and lazy. Or sort of lukewarm as a church. Because we feel desperate. And we feel lost. And we realize that we can’t pull ourselves out of it. It’s really about relying on a God Who’s bigger than the burdens of this world to pull us out of it.

    So absolutely, I think that’s indicative of what it means to walk and live our faith. Do I absolutely understand it? Absolutely not. Do I wish in a lot of ways that it wasn’t that way? Absolutely, because it can be painful at times. But my goodness, it makes for a beautiful experience. And one of the real quotes that moved me in the writing process for this whole record was a quote from an old German mystic from the late 1300’s, Meister Eckhart was his name. A lot of times when I have fallen into that place where I say “God, why did you build us this way, where we have to go through these seasons of the desert? Why is the world the way it is with all this darkness built into it?” Meister Eckhart said simply “If the soul could have known God without the world, God would have never created the world.” So, in some way we are built so that our soul, to really truly know God, has to go through those seasons; has to go through a world that really is a bit broken and dark, in order to really know who God is.

    That quote was a pretty massive turning point for me in the writing of this record. As simple as it is, it was pretty profound and foundational for me in a lot of ways.

    The Broken - lyric video

    FCS: We so appreciate your honesty. Bebo, what would you say to brother or sister who is struggling right now in the wilderness? Who seems either overwhelmed by sin, whether it be their own, or sin in the world, or just overall darkness. That they just don’t feel like their prayers are getting to God. Like they would feel like their prayers are just hitting the ceiling. How do you speak to somebody like that?

    Bebo: The first thing that comes to mind and that would come out of my mouth is I’m with you. I mean, I have been there. I will be there again. I happen to be in a season right now where God has really kind of “shown up” for me. In a way that I was just describing to you before. But it came out of a long season. A really long season, honestly, of feeling like my prayers were going unanswered. Feeling like… you know there is a song on the record called “Collide” and it’s probably the most indicative song of what you are talking about. That talks about these kingdoms that we build. When I don’t feel love. When I don’t feel saved. When I feel emotion-less in my faith. When I am thriving and surviving only on will and decision. Knowing that truth is truth, regardless of what I feel. When I go through long, long seasons of that, which I have done several times in my life, my tendency is to start looking for that feeling elsewhere. So I start to build these kingdoms up. And I might be peoples’ tendency to be in a dark place right now, or overwhelmed with their own sin or the sin of the world or the brokenness of the world or their own brokenness. We start to build these kingdoms up that are our attempts to fill that emotional need in our life. And those kingdoms can really be beautiful things. Things like family. Like our children, or our spouses. Or community. Even my music, for me, has become a kingdom at times. Where I seek to find my value and my worth in that kingdom. And I seek to be filled in that emotional sense. Or what strangers think of me as a musician. Of filled or completed by what my wife thinks of me. Or how I am as a father with my children. Those can be beautiful things, but when they become the center, when they become what we are drawing our emotional value from, they are bound to crumble. And truthfully, every single kingdom that I have ever built in my life has crumbled in one way or another, because they are all temporal.

    My wife is not meant to be the source of life for me. And I am not meant to be the source of life for her. My kids are not mean to be that for me. That’s too heavy for them to carry, and my wife to carry or for me to carry. Certainly our music or our career is not meant to be those things for us. They are meant to be beautiful things, but they not meant to be the source. So the song “Collide”, that is what the whole song talks about, is these kingdoms that we build. And we continue to do it over and over. The whole song is written from this desperate place and the very last line of the song says “I build these kingdoms. I continue to build them. I continue to watch them fall.” Then the last line of the song says “And then You say to me, “You’re mine.’” Here I am, this desperate guy, seeking to find you in all these other ways, and you still continue to manage to show up in some way, and remind me that I am still yours.

    And that’s what I would say to someone who is in a desperate place. Hang on for that “bend” that comes when we go around the corner as we see lights in the distance. [Lights] that are mysterious and beautiful and intriguing and they pull us forward in life. Because that to me, is how God has worked profoundly in my life and in the course of writing this record.

    FC: Are you a book reader?

    Bebo: I am. I love to read. I am slow book reader. So I tend to read just a handful books a year. And a lot of times I read them several times, to try to soak them all in.

    FC: What are you currently reading?

    Bebo: I am reading a couple right now. I have gone back to sort of start a book again. I love Tim Keller. He is one of my favorite authors, or really pastors. He has a book called Reason for God. Which every now and then I just need to go back and be reminded of the details of what a real, healthy Christian worldview is. I am also reading a book by Bob Goff right now called Love Does. He is a friend of mine. So both of those I love. But my staple, that I go to a lot is an author named Annie Dillard. They are not novels in any sense, but she has a profound spiritual sense in how she writes and what she writes about. That’s what I go to a lot. I am reading a book from her right now call the Maytrees that I just started. So those are the ones that I am reading currently. I read a whole bunch all at the same time.

    FC: One last question for you.  When you go into a Starbucks, what drink do you order?

    Bebo: A decaf triple-tall, Americano. That’s my drink. I haven’t done caffeine in ten years, but I love coffee. So I pay a little bit more to get good coffee, because bad decaf is horrible. So good decaf may seem like a misnomer to some people, but I am here to vouch for the fact that it’s true. So that’s my drink at Starbucks.

    The making of Lights of Distant Cities:


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, Bebo Norman, Jars of Clay, Andrew Peterson, Caedmon's Call, Tim Keller, Bob Goff, Brokeness, Starbucks

  • A One-Cup Life

    Posted on October 10, 2012 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens ..." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV)

    Flour dusted shirts, sticky hands and happy faces gathered in my kitchen for an afternoon of baking. The counters were covered with bowls, spoons and ingredients as my young daughters eagerly helped with the culinary creation we were assembling.

    Part of the learning process involved reading the recipe, getting out ingredients and gathering utensils. So when the recipe called for 1-1/2 cups of milk, I directed one girl to get the two-cup measuring cup from the cabinet. She made it to the right cabinet, but picked out the one-cup measuring cup instead.

    Instead of correcting, I showed my daughters how to make that size work. But I also wanted them to learn why we had to make the change. I wanted them to learn that you can't put 1-1/2 cups of liquid into a 1-cup container.

    As I thought about this principle of measurement, I realized it doesn't work with milk and it doesn't work in life. Yet so many of us try to cram 12 hours of work into 8 hours of our day. We have more books than can fit in the bookcase and more clothes than closet.

    We say "yes" to more activities than we have time, and take on more responsibilities than we have the energy to manage. Then we wonder why we can't find a healthy balance to life.

    For years I tried to put too much into my schedule. "Yes" slipped off my tongue with little thought and no prayer. I'd collapse at night, exhausted and annoyed.

    The priorities of my family and home were neglected in my over-busy life. It was an exhausting way to live, as I constantly felt like I should be doing something. And when I was doing something, it never felt like enough.

    It's defeating to believe you are always disappointing someone ... especially God.

    One day I decided to write down everything I had to do on one piece of paper ... which turned in to two. I included phone calls to make, emails to send, projects to start and others to finish. The list included things I needed to do that day and things I needed to do in a month. It included ongoing responsibilities like grocery shopping and one-time events like coordinating the t-shirt sales at my children's schools each fall.

    It was painful and overwhelming. But it was also a relief. Once all my responsibilities were in one place, the problem was obvious. I was trying to fit 1-1/2 cups worth of responsibilities into my 1-cup life. It would never all fit, and I would never find balance or peace.

    My life had to be simplified, which meant reducing the demands on my time. A year of cutting commitments resulted in a manageable, more focused and more productive life. It took making hard decisions, but it was worth the peace I gained.

    That year I learned I have exactly enough time to do what God wants me to do. No more. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens" (NIV). The key to balance is seeking God's will for me in this season, and not spending time on assignments meant for other people.

    I'll probably always struggle with over-committing myself due to my personality. But with God's wisdom and an updated master list of all my commitments, I get ongoing reality checks. And although I'm not really good at math, I do remember that 1-1/2 cups of something will never fit in a 1-cup container.

    Dear Lord, You have uniquely created me and equipped me for the service You've determined. And yet so many times I try to take on responsibility that's not mine. Help me to be content with my assignment and to work at it joyfully. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Visit Glynnis' blog for a checklist to help determine God's will for you in this season of your life.

    Reflect and Respond:

    What are some reasons women over-commit themselves?

    Consider those responsibilities over which you have control. Which ones should be pruned from your schedule?

    Power Verses:
    Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)

    1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (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 Ecclesiastes, Glynnis Whitwer

  • Gift of Service

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve.” Romans 12:6-7

     

    The gift of service sees a need and seeks to meet that need. It is the Spirit inspired ability to see beyond the surface to what really requires attention. Service motivated servants of Jesus get joy from rallying resources to raw realities. They are not shy about challenging the abundantly resourced to resource the woefully under resourced. The gift of service convenes other gifted people to collaborate for a cause. They are called by Christ to facilitate action and results.

    We all can serve the Lord and people, but for those gifted to do so it comes more naturally and easily. Indeed, self and Satan compete for our service to God and others. The flesh longs to be served rather than serve, and Satan seeks to divide our loyalties with the Lord. So purity in service flows from a heart harnessed by the Holy Spirit. When we first see ourselves as bondservants to our Savior Jesus we are compelled to serve for Him. Servants of Christ serve.

    “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10
    Moreover, steward well your service gift, so you are not overwhelmed with the avalanche of needs that surround you. If you try to meet everyone’s needs you may meet no one’s needs. Even Jesus chose to give attention to some but not others. Your gift requires prayerful stewardship so it is not prostituted by pride. Approval may or may not come from those you serve unselfishly, so make sure you serve as unto the Lord. Serve Christ alone and you will not be alone in Him.

    Furthermore, lavish love on those whose service is exemplary and enthusiastic for Jesus. When you recognize and reward servants of the Lord, you place value on what God values. Those who consistently serve well need double doses of encouragement. If servants are not served they grow weary and weak in the Lord’s work. Yes, stay true to serve during trying times but also receive the service of others. Sometimes those who serve the most are served the least—so allow yourself to be served!

    “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:6-8 

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use my service for Your glory and for Your people!

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 12:24; Psalm 22:30; Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:22

    Post/Tweet: If you try to meet everyone’s needs you may meet no one’s needs. #serve

    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 Ephesians, Matthew, Romans, Service

  • Asking the Wrong Question - Sharon Jaynes

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian

    Sharon Jaynes

    Could it be that we have made our relationship with God far too difficult? We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (nasb).

    Cease striving

    For over a half of a century, I had been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing its tail, I had been going in circles. Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness, wandering, ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

    And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God.2 During a recent poll, 65 percent of churchgoers said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth.3 On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need to experience the evergrowing, continually maturing, abundant life. So why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

    “God, what do you really want from me?”

    I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their hearts through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot. And somehow we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

    I had asked the question a thousand times, but on that one frosty January morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that I and my busy sisters have been asking the wrong question.

    Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

    I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year, after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those ten little words. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

    Glory Defined

    Have you ever wondered why you were created? You were created for God’s glory and to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), because it pleased Him to do so (Ephesians 1:5). The concept of glory can be a difficult idea to wrap our human minds around. It seems so otherworldly. We can catch glimpses of its meaning throughout Scripture, but then like a shooting star that appears for just a moment, it quickly slips away into the vast expanse of God’s infinite wisdom. But let’s see what we can know about this bigger-than-life word.

    In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “glory” is kābod, meaning “weight, honor, or esteem.” The Bible associates God’s glory with how He manifests Himself or makes His presence known. Some theologians refer to these as theophanies. He made His presence known in a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16–17), a moving cloud (Exodus 13:21), and a still small voice

    (1 Kings 19:12). His glory is reflected in creation (Psalm 19:1) and in His sovereign control of history (Acts 17:26). His glory is made known through the life of simple human beings like you and me.

    The same concept of God’s glory is in the New Testament in the Greek word doxa, which means “glory, honor, and splendor.” John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14). After Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine, John wrote:

    “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” ( John 2:11). In Hebrews 1:3, the writer reveals this about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

    The verb form,“to glorify,” is doxazo, and primarily means “to magnify, extol, praise, to ascribe honor to God, acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts,”4 i.e., His glory. It is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When we glorify God, we are giving a display or manifestation—or a reflection—of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy to see. Jesus said that the disciples would glorify God when they bore fruit (John 15:8). Through their actions, they would point others to God and make Him easy to see.

    God’s glory is how He makes Himself known. It is almost incomprehensible to think that He would choose mere human beings to accomplish such a task. But as Scripture tells us, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and as a display of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). You were created to make God recognizable to others—to show others what God is like. He makes Himself recognizable to us and through us. The glory of any created thing is when it is fully fulfilling the purpose for which it was created…and that includes you and me.

    Glory is a big word—a weighty word. In this book we are going to zoom in on one aspect of glory—how God makes Himself known in your life as you live and move and have your being in Him.

    Can you remember a time when you sensed God’s presence and you were absolutely sure it was Him? Perhaps it was when you first believed, or maybe it happened just yesterday. You may have felt an overwhelming sense of His love, received an answer to prayer, felt an inexplicable peace, or witnessed a miracle. But when it happened…oh, when it happened…you knew you had encountered the Divine. The moment came and went, and you were awestruck. Do you remember it? That was God making Himself known to you personally. I call that a sudden glory—an intimate moment with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, a genuine “inloveness,” a glimpse of heaven.

    To illustrate what I mean by this, consider how Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, describes the moment he knew he was in love with his wife, Davy:

    One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the “real thing” happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows [full] well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.

    I have been in the jungle and heard the lion’s roar. I knew full well it was Him. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Jesus and me. A sudden glory. Time and time again.

    All throughout our lives, I dare say, throughout our days, we will experience a sudden glory in unpredictable moments. Or, at least we could.

    A friend shared a moment of sudden glory in her life:

    Life was hard after my divorce. With no child support and only a part-time job for income, there were days when I didn’t know how I would put dinner on the table for myself and my four children. I often had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. On one such day, I walked to the mailbox praying I wouldn’t find another cut-off notice from the utility company. Thankfully there was nothing of the sort. Instead I found an envelope that had no return address, and inside it was a note that read, “Jesus loves you.” Tucked behind the note was a grocery store gift card for an amount that would buy groceries for at least a week.

    In that moment I felt as if God had wrapped His arms around me and whispered to my heart, “I see you. I love you. I care.” His presence was suddenly so real that all I could do was stand there and cry.

    These moments are the salve for the glory ache. They are the manna moments to stay the hunger until we finally reach heaven’s home. Do you yearn for those glory moments? Well, guess what. God longs to give them to you even more than you yearn for them!

    Excerpted from A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Jaynes. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Could it be that we have made our relationship with God far too difficult? We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (nasb). Cease striving.

    For over a half of a century, I had been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing its tail, I had been going in circles. Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness, wandering, ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

    And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God.2 During a recent poll, 65 percent of churchgoers said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth.3 On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need to experience the evergrowing, continually maturing, abundant life. So why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

    “God, what do you really want from me?”

    I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their hearts through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot. And somehow we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

    I had asked the question a thousand times, but on that one frosty January morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that I and my busy sisters have been asking the wrong question.

    Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

    I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year, after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those ten little words. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

    Glory Defined

    Have you ever wondered why you were created? You were created for God’s glory and to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), because it pleased Him to do so (Ephesians 1:5). The concept of glory can be a difficult idea to wrap our human minds around. It seems so otherworldly. We can catch glimpses of its meaning throughout Scripture, but then like a shooting star that appears for just a moment, it quickly slips away into the vast expanse of God’s infinite wisdom. But let’s see what we can know about this bigger-than-life word.

    In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “glory” is kābod, meaning “weight, honor, or esteem.” The Bible associates God’s glory with how He manifests Himself or makes His presence known. Some theologians refer to these as theophanies. He made His presence known in a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16–17), a moving cloud (Exodus 13:21), and a still small voice

    (1 Kings 19:12). His glory is reflected in creation (Psalm 19:1) and in His sovereign control of history (Acts 17:26). His glory is made known through the life of simple human beings like you and me.

    The same concept of God’s glory is in the New Testament in the Greek word doxa, which means “glory, honor, and splendor.” John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14). After Jesus’s first miracle, turning the water into wine, John wrote:

    “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” ( John 2:11). In Hebrews 1:3, the writer reveals this about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

    The verb form,“to glorify,” is doxazo, and primarily means “to magnify, extol, praise, to ascribe honor to God, acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts,”4 i.e., His glory. It is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When we glorify God, we are giving a display or manifestation—or a reflection—of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy to see. Jesus said that the disciples would glorify God when they bore fruit (John 15:8). Through their actions, they would point others to God and make Him easy to see.

    God’s glory is how He makes Himself known. It is almost incomprehensible to think that He would choose mere human beings to accomplish such a task. But as Scripture tells us, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and as a display of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). You were created to make God recognizable to others—to show others what God is like. He makes Himself recognizable to us and through us. The glory of any created thing is when it is fully fulfilling the purpose for which it was created…and that includes you and me.

    Glory is a big word—a weighty word. In this book we are going to zoom in on one aspect of glory—how God makes Himself known in your life as you live and move and have your being in Him.

    Can you remember a time when you sensed God’s presence and you were absolutely sure it was Him? Perhaps it was when you first believed, or maybe it happened just yesterday. You may have felt an overwhelming sense of His love, received an answer to prayer, felt an inexplicable peace, or witnessed a miracle. But when it happened…oh, when it happened…you knew you had encountered the Divine. The moment came and went, and you were awestruck. Do you remember it? That was God making Himself known to you personally. I call that a sudden glory—an intimate moment with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, a genuine “inloveness,” a glimpse of heaven.

    To illustrate what I mean by this, consider how Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, describes the moment he knew he was in love with his wife, Davy:

    One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the “real thing” happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows [full] well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.6

    I have been in the jungle and heard the lion’s roar. I knew full well it was Him. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Jesus and me. A sudden glory. Time and time again.

    All throughout our lives, I dare say, throughout our days, we will experience a sudden glory in unpredictable moments. Or, at least we could.

    A friend shared a moment of sudden glory in her life:

    Life was hard after my divorce. With no child support and only a part-time job for income, there were days when I didn’t know how I would put dinner on the table for myself and my four children. I often had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. On one such day, I walked to the mailbox praying I wouldn’t find another cut-off notice from the utility company. Thankfully there was nothing of the sort. Instead I found an envelope that had no return address, and inside it was a note that read, “Jesus loves you.” Tucked behind the note was a grocery store gift card for an amount that would buy groceries for at least a week.

    In that moment I felt as if God had wrapped His arms around me and whispered to my heart, “I see you. I love you. I care.” His presence was suddenly so real that all I could do was stand there and cry.

    These moments are the salve for the glory ache. They are the manna moments to stay the hunger until we finally reach heaven’s home. Do you yearn for those glory moments? Well, guess what. God longs to give them to you even more than you yearn for them!

    Excerpted from A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Jaynes. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Psalm, 2 Peter, Sharon Jaynes, Questions

  • A Story to Tell - a conversation with Matthew West

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian

    Matthew West loves stories. And those stories sometimes turn into songs. Matthew recently spoke with Family Christian about how the stories he's been collecting ended up on his new album – and touching his life.

    The songs on Into the Light are inspired by true stories from people's lives. How have those stories impacted you personally?

    Matthew - Since first giving people the opportunity to share their story with me a couple of years ago, I've received over 20,000 stories from all over the world. I've made it my mission to read each story in the hopes of giving those stories a voice through song.

    What I didn't expect is how much opening myself up to the stories of other peoples' lives would affect me. One by one, they have opened my eyes to see how God is uniquely at work in each and every one of our lives. I;ve been so inspired by all of these people who are willing to allow God to use their stories, even the parts that may be less than perfect. These storytellers are heroes to me and have taught me what real, authentic Christianity looks like. Just imperfect people allowing a perfect God to shine through them!

    The story behind the first single, "Forgiveness," is really powerful. How have you seen God using that song and its message in people's lives?

    Matthew - I think at one point in time every one of us has been wronged by somebody, maybe hurt by a family member or betrayed by a friend. And for me personally, I've been known to be able to hold a grudge with the best of them.

    Renee's story of how God helped her to forgive the drunk driver who took the life of her precious daughter is a powerful reminder that there is freedom in forgiveness. It’s not that we have to forget, but we are not meant to carry the weight of bitterness. It's too heavy and it will hold us back from finding that freedom that comes when we set it free.

    I'm hearing so many stories from people about how Renee's story and this song are challenging them to deal with some situations in their lives where they know God wants to break the stronghold of bitterness. I think the neatest thing I'm hearing is how, really, this story can bring us all back to the reminder of just how much we are all in need of forgiveness. God offers us that gift over and over again, and He calls us to do the same.

    What do you hope listeners take away from the songs on Into the Light?

    Matthew - I hope that stepping Into the Light will become contagious. I believe these people who have stepped forward to tell their story to me and inspired these songs will cause a chain reaction encouraging others to do the same.

    Something special takes place when a person stands up, brings their story into the light and says, "This is who I am. Look what God has done!" The rest of the world takes notice, and it's like “Hey, I'm not alone. Maybe God can use my story too.” That's what I hope people take away from these stories and songs. We discover our life's purpose when we step out of the shadows and trust God with our whole lives, holding nothing back.

    You recently traveled to Haiti. Tell us a little about that trip.

    Matthew - My band and I traveled to Haiti with Compassion International to see firsthand what life is like in this poverty stricken country. Honestly, it was quite difficult to even begin to process the darkness and despair that we witnessed. My heart breaks as my mind replays the images of that trip.

    But, in the middle of what at times looked like a hopeless situation, I saw God at work restoring lives and communities through the work of Compassion. This trip really lit a fire in me to make sure that I am not simply talking about being God's hands and feet, but actually doing something about it.

    Christmas will be here before we know it, so we wanted to know: what's on your "must listen" Christmas playlist?

    Matthew - Well, my CD, The Heart of Christmas, of course! No, seriously, I love the classics. Put on some Bing Crosby, Eddie Arnold or Nat King Cole and I'm happy. Also love Amy Grant's classic Christmas CD.

    And what are some of the traditions your family celebrates every Christmas?

    Matthew - A Christmas Eve candle light service is a family tradition we've observed ever since I was growing up in my dad's church in Chicago. There's something about standing with my family, singing "Silent Night" and lighting a candle that always seems to rescue my heart from the chaos of the season and help me return to what it's really all about: Jesus.

    Matthew's Christmas album, Heart of Christmas, can be found by clicking here.


    This post was posted in Interviews and was tagged with Forgiveness, Matthew West, Christmas

  • Gossip

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Nicki Koziarz

    Nicki Koziarz

    "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NIV 1984)

    We hadn't seen each other in a few weeks so I was excited to catch up on my friend's life. Arriving at the restaurant we hugged, took our seats, and ordered some sweet tea. Immediately, we started talking about what had been going on in our lives and dug into a discussion about the previous month's events.

    Just a few minutes into our catch-up session, a person's name {who I didn't care for} came up. My friend told me a story that made me dislike this person even more. I then told my friend a story about this same person that made her dislike them more too.

    And so our conversation went ...

    When I left the restaurant, there was a sick feeling inside me. My thoughts wandered through our conversation and I felt deeply convicted it'd been nothing but idle talk.

    The crazy thing was, in the midst of the conversation, I didn't even realize what was happening. I thought I was just catching up with an old friend. But the reality is, I was gossiping.

    I wish I could tell you this eye-opening moment changed me and I never spoke badly of someone again. But I am a woman who consistently finds herself in need of God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.

    Today's key verse, Psalm 19:14, has been helpful for me to remember how God desires my heart and words to be filled with things that honor Him.

    Scripture is teaching me so much about my words. I'm learning I am accountable to God for them (Matt. 12:36). I see by guarding my words, I can keep myself from a lot of problems (Prov. 21:23). And I'm understanding how I have the ability to speak life or death through the words I use (Prov. 18:21).

    As I've been allowing these Truths to shape my character, I've begun to understand how my slip-ups (sin) move me further away from God. One of the greatest deceptions of sin is that we often don't realize what we've done until it's too late.

    But thankfully God is always willing to forgive us and empower us to become stronger in Him.

    So how should we handle conversations like these?

    Preventing gossip is one of the greatest ways to not get caught up in it. Some days I have to consciously say to myself, "I don't want to dishonor anyone with my words today." I've asked God to make me aware of conversations that don't bring honor. "A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly." (Prov. 12:23 NIV 1984)

    Another way we can handle gossip-centered conversations is by ignoring them. Just because we've heard the latest juicy scoop doesn't mean we have to continue to spread it. "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret." (Prov. 11:13 NIV)

    Lastly, confronting the friend who we're gossiping about is important. If we have an issue with someone, we should go directly to that person. It takes more courage to confront someone than it does to ignore him or her, or talk about them behind their back. If something's bothering us, we should deal with it with the right person. "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over." (Matt. 18:15 NIV)

    I'm still working through this. I felt horrible for how my conversation went that day at the restaurant. But, I'm challenged to prevent, ignore or confront conversations like these. I want my words and my heart to be pleasing to God.

    Dear Lord, as I continue to work out my word-struggles with You, thank You for Your grace, mercy and forgiveness. Please help me to keep these Truths close to my soul so I can better represent You with my words each day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Visit Nicki's blog today for 10 ways to speak life to someone today.

    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

    30 Days to Taming Your Tongue by Deborah Smith Pegues

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you have a friend you easily gossip with? Why not share this devotion with her today and commit to hold each other accountable to prevent, ignore or confront?

    Why do you think gossip is such a struggle? Leave a comment today and let's discuss this.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 18:21, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (NIV)

    © 2012 by Nicki Koziarz. 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 Psalm, Proverbs, Matthew, Gossip

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