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Daily Devotion

  • Emotional Manipulation

    Posted on November 13, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead. Mark 15:9-11

    Emotional manipulation can be subtle or not so subtle. The Jewish leaders, in fear of losing their power, preyed on the fear of the crowd in losing their rebel leader Barabbas. In a mob-like environment the hearts of the masses were motivated by jealous religious leaders to free the guilty and punish the innocent. Yes, fear is the favorite method of those who are afraid of losing control over people and circumstances. Like a bully club, they use fear as an intimidation tool.

    Beware of those who manipulate your emotional pain for their gain. Guilt is a ‘go to’ tactic used to get your attention and coerce you to make a foolish decision in the moment, forgetting the fall out of long term consequences. The pressure from peers needs to be filtered by your prayers. A friend’s agenda is probably not the Lord’s plan for your life. So, allow the Spirit to calm your emotions and give you His outlook. Holy Spirit persuasion trumps unholy spirit manipulation.

    This is what the Lord says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, even though I did not send him, and has persuaded you to trust in lies. Jeremiah 29:31

    On the other hand, it is good to be persuaded by the Holy Spirit and those filled with the Spirit. Listen to saints who love the Lord and learn from them. Be influenced by individuals of integrity, whose only goal is for you to enjoy God’s game plan. So, be wise. Wait to validate a person’s reputation. Total trust too quickly can be manipulative on your part. For example, you may crave a friendship, so during your first visit, you immediately share a confidential issue expecting a reciprocal response. But, healthy expectations give emotional space. Godly persuasion is patient.

    Finally, in the power of the Holy Spirit seek to persuade others of God’s love for them and of the judgment to come. The fear of the Lord compels us to urge the unsaved to fear God. The Lord is the beginning and end of wisdom. Jesus is King and Lord over all. His salvation is freedom from sin, self and Satan. God’s grace is good and life giving. Our Lord has risen from the grave. He is alive to live in and over all who call on His name in repentance and faith. We persuade, because someone persuaded us. Emotional manipulation is temporary, but spiritual persuasion is eternal!

    Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 2 Corinthians 5:11

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, move my heart not to manipulate but trust, to persuade in the Spirit, not push in my power.

    Related Readings: Luke 20:45-47; Acts 28:23; Romans 4:21; 2 Timothy 4:14-16; Colossians 2:8

    Post/Tweet today: Emotional manipulation is temporary, but spiritual persuasion is eternal. #emotionalmanipulation

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Faith in Action

    Posted on November 13, 2013 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." James 2:17 (NIV)

    When I was 31 years old I received a diagnosis of breast cancer and affected lymph nodes.

    Three months later I stood in front of a mirror. One breast misshapen from surgery. Twenty extra pounds after a second surgery and early menopause. Skin translucent from chemotherapy meds flowing through my veins.

    I didn't recognize myself. I didn't recognize this new season. Life was uncertain at best, and scary on most days.

    I wanted to be strong for my three babies.

    I wanted to be strong for my husband, who was in protective mode, but also vulnerable as his young wife battled cancer.

    I wanted to be strong for my mom, who snapped pictures when I wasn't looking, to capture memories of the daughter she loved, but feared she'd lose.

    Where was I to find strength?

    In the midst of what often felt like rough seas, my faith in Christ became my anchor. Additionally, God provided people who helped carry my burden.

    Their strength became mine in a hundred small and large ways. How? By putting their faith into action as James 2:17 tells us to do: "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (NIV)

    Throughout the hard days of my treatment and recovery, I saw this verse lived out over and over.

    A neighbor and his wife mowed our yard every week while I sat through chemo. Many brought groceries. Others cleaned our house. Put gas in our car. Cooked meals.

    This faith in action eased the burden of physical and financial needs I felt I had to carry alone.

    Friends sat in the waiting room with Richard while I was in surgery. They took our children out to eat and brought them treats.

    This faith in action lifted the weight of worry over my beautiful children and husband.

    One friend noted my need for humor in the midst of so much bad news; her attempts at being funny were just the right prescription. Another brought balloons to chemotherapy. I sat with a needle in my vein, bright balloons attached to my chair, and a smile on my face.

    This faith in action bore my weight of sadness as I laughed out loud.

    There are days I pinch myself; it's hard to believe 23 years have passed since then. My "babies" grew up and have given me grandchildren. Richard and I are growing older together.

    Cancer is a word in my past, but faith in action is woven in my present.

    I'll never forget how small acts, piled upon one another, equaled big relief for a family in crisis.

    Sometimes we might think that faith in action is doing big things, and certainly it is; but small actions matter too.

    James 2:17 doesn't diminish the beauty of faith, but rather tells us to put action with it. Action moves your faith from being one of words to life-changing impact on others.

    Right now in your church, across the street, or somewhere in your community there is someone in crisis. Perhaps there's a friend or family member who is sick, grieving, confused or afraid, and you aren't sure what to say, or what to do.

    Take a look at their needs and your means to meet them. Determine what you are able to do, then put your faith into action. Serve up a hearty dose of food, love, laughter, babysitting, or comfort!

    Dear Lord, thank You for showing me someone who needs You. May my faith in action be a blessing today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond:
    Sometimes when a friend or family member is battling cancer, you might not know what to say. Ask about what mattered to them the day before they were diagnosed with cancer. Family, faith, interests, etc.

    Who do you know in need, and what is one act of kindness that would relieve their burden? Do that today.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 12:13, "When God's people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Money’s Betrayal

    Posted on November 12, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. Mark 14:44-45

    Money betrays with false promises and conflicting loyalties. Seductively, it lures in a once godly ambition and converts it into a scheme to secure cash at all costs. Once firm boundaries between work and home were in place but drifted through circumstantial suggestions, eventually to be ignored when more money could be made. Ironically, someone can spend a lifetime consumed by accumulating wealth, only to lose their health and exhaust their net worth paying for their physical care. Judas betrayed a friend for financial gain. Beware of those enamored by the image of being wealthy.

    How do we know if we have been betrayed by money? How do we know if we are being betrayed for money? If our lifestyle has surpassed our modest means and handcuffed our home, we have been betrayed by money. If we worry more about stuff and having a status symbol, we have been betrayed by money. Moreover, we may be in the process of being exploited for money if our company or boss owns us. No margin for relationships, health, hobbies, emotions, family and faith is a warning sign to slow down, stop and objectively evaluate. Money’s betrayal steals.

    But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages. John 12:4-5

    Cash is the number one competitor with our devotion to Jesus Christ. Some even spiritualize their intentions to get rich by declaring that one day they will have a benevolent heart, once they acquire excess cash. However, generosity is not governed by the amount given, but by the capacity to give. This is why a widow’s mite means much more to God than a rich person who publicly tips the Lord only to be seen. Yes, the remedy to money’s betrayal is generous living in the moment.

    By God’s grace we release the unrighteous motivation to make money and replace it with devotion to Jesus and generosity to our community. We rest in who we are in Christ, not being tossed back and forth emotionally by feelings of letting people down, because eventually, we will let them down. Our heart is to fear the Lord, not fear what people say, do or think about us. The reality is people think very little about us anyway. So, we die to self and stuff, and we live for Christ. We turn our backs on money’s betrayal and turn in trust to God and His loyalty.

    Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us. Isaiah 8:10

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I turn from money’s betrayal and turn toward You in trust of Your loyalty to me.

    Related Readings: Psalm 118:6; Luke 12:18-21, 16:13; Acts 5:3-5; Hebrews 13:5; 1 Timothy 6:17-19

    Post/Tweet today: Generosity is not governed by the amount given, but by the capacity to give. #moneysbetrayal

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Lonely

    Posted on November 12, 2013 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn't have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him!" Ecclesiastes 4:10 (NIRV)

    Lonely. It's not a word I thought I'd ever use to describe myself, but that's how I felt.

    For many years after a hard move I felt alone.

    Close friends had always been a part of my life, and the absence of intimate friendships left me feeling sore-hearted. I longed to have someone to meet for coffee or help me expend some of my many daily words on the phone. It would have been wonderful to have a woman who would both listen and share.

    Over time, I made new friends and re-established older friendships, and most days I feel connected and content. But I still remember what it felt like to be lonely. Recently, I read a study published by the American Sociological Review that cited statistics that showed half of Americans only have two close friends. And one out of four Americans say they don't have any close friends.

    Not a single one. That's a lot of lonely hearts.

    Why should we care? Scripture tells us in Ecclesiastes 4:10 that our friends are our helpers. When times get tough, they can help us navigate through them. "Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn't have anyone to help him up. Then feel sorry for him!" (NIRV)

    So how can we be part of the solution, to help guarantee no one falls down without having a friend to pick them up?

    If you're lonely ...
    During my lonely days I told myself this over and over: When you don't have a friend, BE the friend to others that you would like to have.

    "Amy," I'd say ...

    • "Would you love a friend who takes time to show that she cares by picking up the phone and asking about your day? Then pick up the phone and ask about someone's day."

    • "Would you love a friend who keeps confidences and is trustworthy? Then be trustworthy."

    • "Would you love a friend who asks you to go the movies or for a walk? Then ask someone to go along when you do these things."

    It's easier to stay isolated sometimes than to reach out, especially if you've been hurt or disappointed many times. I know too well. But I want to encourage you to reach out, show love and care about others.

    God taught me so many things during my loneliness. I learned to be more dependent on Him. I learned to appreciate the friendship of my family more. I took a hard look at some things that weren't so wonderful about myself and worked to change them.

    During lonely times of life, be intentional about connecting to God and others. There's so much to be learned in these times.

    If you're not lonely ...
    Think about your neighborhood, church, or an organization you are part of. If there are 40 women there, 10 of them feel like they don't have even one friend. Could God be calling you to be that friend?

    Look for ways to open your circle of friends to new people. Watch for that woman at church sitting by herself, the co-worker who eats lunch alone, or the neighbor who never seems to be invited.

    Reach out today to be part of one less life feeling lonely.

    Dear Lord, You are the friend who is closer than a brother or sister. In this time of loneliness and seeming friendlessness, show me how precious friendship with You can be. Please teach me everything I need to learn in this phase of life. Would You also prepare a friend for me and prepare me to be a trusted, valued friend? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond:
    If you are lonely, take a step to be around people with whom you have things in common. Sign up for a class, join a book club, or attend a women's small group at your church.

    What is God teaching you about friendship with Him through loneliness?

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times. He is there to help when trouble comes." (NIRV)

    © 2013 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • God Provides

    Posted on November 11, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” Mark 14:13-15

    Often God’s provision includes specific instructions of what we need to do or not do. Jesus instructed His disciples to find a man with a water pot and follow him to his master's house. The Lord had already moved the heart of the generous master to have an upper room prepared for Christ’s work. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is at work all around us in preparation for God’s people. Many times He uses people as a channel for His provision. He blesses them to bless others.

    So, we first listen intently to the Spirit’s instruction, before we move forward to discover where He is working. Wait and don’t worry that the timing may be too late. A premature provision lacks the fulfillment that patient prayer brings. If we short cut the Spirit’s work we strive in our own strength and we trade God’s glory for our ego. Also, waiting gives other giving hearts time to position their stuff for sharing. Yes, God provides in His way, so we celebrate Christ’s salvation!

    Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17

    Furthermore, God’s provision is normally a process of trust and obedience. We meet one new relationship that leads to another resourceful acquaintance, who has been praying about how they can support their Savior’s work. The Holy Spirit directs us as we move by faith from one genuine God fearer to another. Like a multicolor, intricate tapestry the Lord weaves His people together on the loom of His love. The Spirit brings us together in a spirit of generosity for His purposes.

    Most of all, place your hope in Christ, who richly provides you with everything for your enjoyment. Do not feel guilty because God gave you more stuff than other good souls. Use your platform of belongings to brag on Jesus and be hilariously generous. The genuine joy you find in aggressive giving will be someone else’s nervous laughter. Keep both hands open to be a pass through of trust for God’s blessings. He provides for you to be His gracious provision for others!

    If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I trust You for Your provision in Your timing. Use my life to be a pass through of Your provision to other needy souls.

    Related Readings: Exodus 15:22-27; Job 38:41; Luke 12:24; 1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 6:10

    Post/Tweet today: A premature provision lacks the fulfillment that patient prayer brings. So, wait for God’s best. #Godprovides

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Choosing a Centerpiece

    Posted on November 11, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "He's the centerpiece of everything we believe, faithful in everything God gave him to do." Hebrews 3:2 (MSG)

    I thought my Thanksgiving decorations were securely packed away last year, but when I pulled out the decorative cornucopia something was different.

    Apparently a few hungry mice had nibbled on the Styrofoam bread loaf and plastic apples, thinking they were a tasty treat.

    I had planned on putting the cornucopia in the middle of my dining room table, like I always do. But lack of proper packing had taken its toll, and my centerpiece was now full of holes.

    As I assessed how to repair the damage, I felt a holy nudge on my heart. It was a prompting me to consider if I was concerned about the right centerpiece for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.

    The previous months had been full of busyness and challenges. My heart had been burdened at times. I'd fallen into a pattern of focusing on my problems and to-do list instead of taking time to give thanks to God for His goodness in my life.

    I intended to make Jesus the center of my attention, but didn't keep that commitment. My distracted focus reminds me of the Christians to whom the author of the book of Hebrews wrote.

    These believers were in danger of losing their focus on Christ as their deliverer. People had begun putting their trust in prophets, angels, and even Moses. So in Hebrews 3, the people are reminded that Jesus is the only one worthy of trust and is where our faith should be centered.

    The writer of Hebrews wanted Christians to stop putting themselves, other people, or material items, at the center of their attention, and instead draw their gaze back to Jesus.

    Just like the people of that time, we can quickly get distracted, become busy, and inadvertently make our obligations and celebrations the focus of our attention. We gradually become self-centered instead of Jesus-centered.

    Hypothetically, we may put Him in a box in the attic of our heart, only pulling Him out when the time is "right." This eventually leads to a life off-kilter and a heart full of holes, as challenges and pressures nibble away at our joy and peace.

    It's one thing to believe in Jesus. It's another to make Him the center of our lives. When we make that important choice and remember to focus on Him and be thankful in all things, our hearts and lives stay in balance.

    This Thanksgiving (and every day), let's praise God and commit to making Him our focal point. When we choose to make Jesus the emphasis of our holidays and our lives, we are blessed with the most beautiful centerpiece of all.

    Lord, I never intended to put You on a shelf and allow life's distractions to alter my attention on You. Give me the spiritual desire to stay intently focused on You during this holiday and into the new year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:


    Reflect and Respond:
    Consider what areas of your life need to be more Jesus-centered and less self-centered.

    How can you make sure your attention stays on Jesus and not on life's distractions?

    Power Verses:
    Colossians 3:15, "And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful." (NLT)

    Psalm 117:1-2, "Praise the LORD, all you nations. Praise him, all you people of the earth. For he loves us with unfailing love; the LORD's faithfulness endures forever. Praise the LORD!" (NLT)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Christian Mediation

    Posted on November 10, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 1 Corinthians 6:4

    A lawsuit is not an option for two believers in Christ; otherwise there is no difference between followers of Jesus and non-believers, which means there is no distinction in values, standards, beliefs, and morals. So, Christian mediation has a much greater effect for two individuals who are locked in a relational crisis. There is a much greater purpose at work; to be a good example to the church and to those outside the church. Your obedience with this mediation opportunity matters.
    Your family is watching; your friends are watching; your foes are watching; God is watching. In the middle of conflict and disagreement, it is of great consequence that you remain true to the process of mediation. Do not be discouraged or downtrodden. God can be trusted to work it out. Yes, it takes time, and yes, it is painful at times, but this may be the result of not dealing with issues in a timely fashion. Early on, if you are mad or disagree with a decision or behavior, talk it through. If you wait for the misunderstanding to fester, the foundation of trust begins to crack. Your communication ceases and lies begin to creep into your thinking. Before long, there becomes a standoff, and both parties feel hurt and disrespected.
    Bad news needs to travel quickly so it can be processed and corrected. Your current situation calls for Christian mediation because a severe disagreement has occurred. Hurt hovers over the relationship. It is extremely critical, at this point, to check your anger at the door before you enter the room of mediation. Make it your goal to restore the relationship rather than getting what you feel you deserve; the relationship is what’s most important. What you think you deserve may be inflated compared to what you really deserve. This is why a trusted, fair, and wise mediator is invaluable. Whatever the mediator decides is to be accepted by both parties. The mediator will define the facts and listen objectively to both sides. After verifying the facts and processing the information, the mediator will offer a solution that is beneficial and fair to both parties. At this point, you can chose to forgive, trust, and move forward, or you can chose to stew in your self-pity.
    Everyone wins when everyone chooses to grow through this process. If you listen intently with a heart to learn, you will come away a better person in Christ. It is through conflict that pride and arrogance either flame up or fizzle out. The goal is the latter. Do not see this disagreement as an affront to you or an opportunity to get even. See this process of Christian mediation as purging your own sin. You will learn from this, and will not assume certain things in the future. Make sure you value the relationship over riches. Money can be made up, but an offended brother may be lost forever. It is not worth living in relational disrepair. People are more important than getting what you want. Focus on the spirit of the original agreement. You have the opportunity to serve them instead of demanding from them, so take the high road. Die to your expectations, and watch God work; His mediation is masterful.

    Post/Tweet: Value the relationship over riches. Money can be made up, but an offended brother may be lost forever. #Christianmediation

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Eternal Energy

    Posted on November 9, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30–31).

    There is a good weary. We can be weary in the Lord’s work and not be weary of the Lord’s work. Sleep is sweet knowing we have exhausted our efforts toward the will of God. Trust and hope in the Lord send us into a real rest. We grow weary, but our fatigue is bolstered by faith. Our smile may be faint, but our heart is full of God’s grace.

    In contrast, there is an unhealthy type of weariness that strives in the power of the flesh. It is the result of misguided motives. Perhaps we become driven by the fear of people. We are preoccupied with not wanting to let someone down. Our fear of people transcends our fear of God. We default into performance-based living. It saps our energy and leaves us feeling depleted. Worry is wearisome, fear fatiguing. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).

    Indeed, the Lord is your hope and strength. Even as you experience accomplishments, you can quickly lose faith because you have not cultivated a hopeful heart. Present practitioners of hope can extend hope to other fainthearted souls. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

    An eagle soars somewhat effortlessly. He cannot create or direct wind, but he greatly benefits from its silent effect. He is hopeful that the wind will blow again tomorrow. But if it is boisterous or too mild, he may wait in his nest, positioned in the cleft of the rock. He experiences rest and renewal while he anticipates the energizing power of the unseen wind. In the same way, the Holy Spirit lifts those who wait to be empowered by Him.

    You can run God’s race with patient endurance, but it comes through the process of hope and renewal. Hope in God expands your capacity. You can run harder and farther in the renewed strength of the Holy Spirit. This is eternal energy that comes from God. Hope in the Lord renews your strength in your weariness. Thus, rest in God. Let the wings of your faith carry you as you wait on the wind of the Holy Spirit to empower you.

    “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

    Prayer: Does hope in the Lord renew my strength? Do I engage with eternity’s energy?

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 30:6; Psalm 42:5; Micah 7:7; Romans 5:5; Galatians 3:3

    Post/Tweet: We can be weary in the Lord’s work and not be weary of the Lord’s work. #eternalenergy

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Extraordinary Love Gives

    Posted on November 8, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But, you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Mark 14:6-8

    Mary was overwhelmed by Christ’s extraordinary love. He brought her brother Lazarus back to life so she couldn’t wait to express her love to Jesus. Her flesh and blood was dead but now alive again. Mary thought she had lost her brother until they would be reunited in eternity, but now, because of the compassion of Christ, he was back with her to enjoy more days together on earth. Yes, God’s extraordinary love generously gives His children life and significance for living.

    Thus, Mary did what she could to lavish love back on Jesus. She took her most valuable asset and gave it to her Lord. Unknowingly, she participated in God’s will through the symbolic preparation of Christ’s body for His death and burial. Simultaneously, she celebrated Lazarus’ life and anointed Jesus for His forthcoming crucifixion for the sins of the world. Whose life can you celebrate that has passed from death to life in salvation? What remaining assets of yours can you dedicate to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Extraordinary love gives generously!

    This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. John 3:16, The Message

    Furthermore, we feel like Mary, overwhelmed with gratitude by the extraordinary love of Jesus. Perhaps Jesus has forgiven a sibling who was dead in their sins and given them new life in Christ. Or a parent in the twilight of their life came to the end of themselves saying yes to Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Yes, we celebrate friends and family who were lost in their iniquities but have been made righteous by faith in Jesus Christ to forgive them and make them whole.

    We can never pay back Jesus for His generous love, even over eternity, but we can express extraordinary love in His name to those who need life in Christ. By God’s grace we dedicate our time, talent and treasure for His Kingdom. Yes, we anoint our assets with the precious oil of the Lord’s lavish love in dedication to Him and His will. We prayerfully use our stuff to point people to Christ’s sin-stained cross and empty tomb. Critics within and without are silenced and made irrelevant by extraordinary love that gives generously for God’s glory. Love beautifully for Him!

    How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns! Isaiah 52:7, NKJV

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, Your extraordinary love is beautiful to behold. Make my love extraordinary and beautiful to You.

    Related Readings: Numbers 14:19; Nehemiah 1:5; Psalm 5:7; John 5:20, 19:40; 1 John 3:1

    Post/Tweet today: God’s extraordinary love generously gives His children life and significance for living. #extraordinarylovegives

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • The Struggle

    Posted on November 8, 2013 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 (NIV)

    "Why can't we just get past this?"

    The agitation in my voice revealed the frustration in my heart. I just wanted to fix this relationship problem and move on to happy. My mind and heart were weary from the extended battle.

    I'm a fixer at heart, especially when it comes to my kids. When I see one of them hurting or needing help, I want to make it better. Forget your cleats? I'll run them to school. Overwhelmed by a test? Let me help you study. Don't understand the instructions? We can figure them out together.

    Since I don't like to see my children struggle, I imagine God as our heavenly parent feeling the same way about us. Unlike me, rather than trying to help us avoid struggles, God understands they are often for our good. As James 1:2-4 says, trials can be precisely the thing that makes us grow into maturity.

    Too often when it comes to my kids, it initially seems kinder to step in and relieve the pressure. Yet more than once I have overstepped my bounds and done more harm than good. My help stunted them from gaining a new skill or needed attribute.

    As hard as it is, as my children are growing up, I'm standing back when they wrestle a bit in order to allow them to fully mature. Handling troubles with teachers, working out schedules, and doing their own laundry have been areas where my kids have learned responsibility on their own.

    Their struggle reminds me of the butterfly, wiggling this way and that until it is able to shed its cocoon. The fight allows the butterfly to gain the strength it needs to eventually spread its wings and soar once free of the cocoon. If the cocoon is split by hand, the emerging butterfly won't survive long.

    Jesus, in His wisdom, knows we need the strength that can be gained from struggles we face as adults as well. Struggles to display love in our relationships, to trust Him with our kids' futures, or His provision when finances are tight. Our part during life's battles is to lean into these struggles, getting every ounce of learning and maturing we can. We may think of maturing as a stage a teen goes through. But in the original Greek this passage was written, maturing means "perfect or finished" and complete means "whole."

    God uses difficult times to mold us to become more like Him. When life flows smoothly, it's tempting to go at it on our own. But when it is difficult, it is our reminder to run to the One who has the power we need to respond to life His way. As we do, our faith and level of perseverance will increase, which prepares us for the next struggle. All the while, we are becoming more like Him.

    Scripture strengthens our resolve and fills in the overwhelming places as we trust God for the strength we need. Instead of begging to be let out of the trial, we can pray to grow in the trial.

    Recently, I felt misunderstood and frustrated with someone I love. Opening my Bible, I asked the Lord to help me know how to respond like Him when I wanted to react in anger. The first verse I read after that prayer was Ephesians 5:1, "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (NIV 1984) He could not have been more clear!

    Scripture tells us when we look at our trials as instruments of training and learn from them, we will come out mature and complete. We'll be stronger than we were before—ready for all that God has ahead for us.

    Jesus, I feel anything but joy in the middle of this trial. Open my eyes to help me see these hard times as tools to strengthen me and bring me to a new level of maturity. Help me see them as preparation to take me even further in You. Amen.

    Related Resources:


    Reflect and Respond:
    What area in your life feels like a fight? How could you partner with God to grow in both your faith and perseverance in this area?

    Power Verse:
    Romans 5:3, "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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