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Family Christian

  • Blog Summary for January 2014

    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of January.

    MercyMe's Shake - Q&A

    MercyMe's new album, Welcome to the New releases later this year. Their first single from the album, Shake, hit stations already and is climbing the charts.

    We thought we would ask a few questions about Shake and their new album.

    Your new song, Shake, is a bit of different path for traditional MercyMe singles. What is the inspiration behind the song?

    Read the full q&a by clicking here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    Lecrae, how much was music or the arts part of your life growing up? Did you realize early on that there was some talent in your life, or did that come later?

    "Absolutely. I was a latchkey kid so I would sit at home for hours while my mother was at work. I had to use my imagination. I’d sit in front of the television so much. Sometimes she would allow me to watch television and she would come home to see if it was warm so I had to figure out what I could do with my time. It just became an outlet to start writing, experimenting, and just trying to be creative. I knew I had a passion for the arts, but we didn’t recognize it. It was one of my fifth-grade teachers who recognized it and suggested to my mother that I be put in a special class. That special class led me to audition for a special school so I actually went to a performing arts middle school for a couple years. That’s really where I started to hone my writing skills."

    Read the full interview here.

    Free Wallpaper for Your Mobile, Tablet or Computer

    February is also a month for love. We would be amiss if we didn't mention Valentines Day and what that stands for. As followers of Jesus, Valentines Day is much more than a once-in-three-hundred-sixty-five-days type of holiday. For we have been loved well, so we are compelled to do the same to all around us. AND not just on one day, but every day.

    Look below for some free wallpaper to decorate your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. These are completely free to download. Just right click on the size that you need and you will be all set. To find out which size you need, click here.

    Both images are taking from our Coupon Calendars that we sell online and in our stores. Click here to find the Growth in Faith Calendar and the He Refreshes My Soul Calendar.

    See the whole selection of sizes here.

    What if the Trouble Is in Me?

    "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b (NIV)

    When Barry and I were first married I came up with a nickname for him: "Velcro-Boy."

    He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

    If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

    "I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

    I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

    I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

    Read this whole devotional from Sheila Walsh here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us. Read the full blog post here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says. “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Read the full interview here.

    Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Michael, what do you think that the lack of family type of entertainment has done to the family unit, you know, the idea of sitting down and all watching stuff together on a regular basis? What do you think that that causes in a family dynamic?

    "It's hard to probably calculate exactly what the repercussions are. I can't imagine it not having some detrimental effect to the family. I mean, technology is amazing, the way we use it, the way we can quickly disseminate information back and forth between each other. But at the same time, obviously, there is this fragmented aspect of being together, where everybody is in the same room and yet not really present with each other. They're on their phone and tweeting, or emailing or texting their friends. It's definitely breaking down the family unit in a way. It doesn't allow for intimacy to really grab hold of families. And also, I can't imagine that the increased and different content isn't breaking down the family unit as well. It clearly is. The messaging that's coming out of a lot of these shows sometimes is sexually promiscuous or shows a lack of respect for authority whether it be for parents or teachers or whoever. I mean, these are messages that our children are being bombarded with constantly--no holds barred. It seems nothing is really off limits. If you advocate limits, then you're against freedom of speech. It's always spun off in a very kind of negative tone."

    Read the full interview here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith. Sheila shares insightful biblical teaching, intimate stories of her own storms and the chaos other women have faced and overcome.

    Read the full blog post and watch a video from Sheila here.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    As a high-school athlete, Phil was All-State in football, baseball, and track which afforded him the opportunity to attend Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship. There he played first string quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw. Phil's been quoted as saying "Terry went for the bucks, and I chased after the ducks." After receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and a Master's in Education, he spent several years teaching. While his students claim he was an excellent teacher, spending time in a classroom brought Phil to the conclusion that his time and talents would be better spent in the woods.

    Read our full interview with Phil here.

    If you like these blog posts. Make sure that you check out our blog regularly. Or add our blog url to your blog reader.

  • He Really Loves Me!

    Darlene

    "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

    Our hearts long to be loved. We want to know someone treasures and values us. Truly. Faithfully. Lavishly. Would someone, anyone, be willing to give up an item of great value for us?

    I'm stunned God willingly paid so much for me to know Him. It's mind-boggling to grasp that Jesus left His Father in heaven to come to this earth as a baby, then die by crucifixion. I can hardly comprehend a love that cost so much.

    I can't imagine sacrificing any of my three children to save someone else's life. Yet Peter writes, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed ... but with the precious blood of Christ ..." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NIV). What love!

    What makes it even more costly is God the Father knew He would need to turn away from His son during Jesus' death.

    When Jesus was hanging on a wooden cross, God the Father withdrew His presence because of the sin His Son bore on our behalf. Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46b, NIV). A great shadow had come between Jesus and the Father. Jesus was excruciatingly alone on that cross because of you and me.

    A story from the mission field illustrates a similar kind of love. For years, Dr. Margaret Brand served as a missionary eye surgeon in southern India. In the rural areas she would sometimes do 100 cataract surgeries in a day.

    In one instance where there was no electricity, Dr. Brand asked a 12-year-old boy to hold a large flashlight so that its beam gave her enough light to operate. Dr. Brand doubted whether the boy would be able to endure the sight of eyes being sliced open and stitched. For the first five operations he did his job impressively. During the sixth, however, he faltered.

    "Little brother, show the light properly," Dr. Brand instructed him. But she could sense that he simply could not bear to look at the eye. When she asked him if he felt well, she saw tears running down his cheeks. "Oh, doctor, I cannot look," replied the boy. "This one, she is my mother."

    You see, God loves us so much, "For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21, NRSV) when we put our faith in Him. The high price Jesus paid makes us incredibly valuable — no matter how worthless we may feel at the end of the day.

    Here's another way to look at it. When it comes to placing a value on a piece of art, that value is derived from three things:

    • Who made it? • How many are there like it? • What is someone willing to pay for it?

    You are a priceless work of art. The greatest Artist in the universe hand-crafted you. God gave the life of His only Son to have a relationship with you. That's how valuable you are. I'm clearly a sinner, not holy like God. But God loves me, and He loves you enough to pay an enormous price so that we could have our sins forgiven.

    With a word the universe was brought into being. With a touch lepers were healed. But when sin was forgiven, Jesus the Son of God willingly died. What amazing love!

    And the focus of that love? You and me.

    May we pause in this moment to absorb the depth of God's love for us. And may our lives be filled with thankfulness that He was willing to pay the price!

    Loving God, help me always remember that my only true worth is found in You. Thank You for the gift of Your Son; thank You for loving me so much that You thought I was worth Christ's life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Knowing how treasured you are by God, what part of you doesn't feel like a "priceless work of art"?

    What would your day look like if you thanked Him for this "flaw" all day long?

    Power Verses: 1 John 3:1a, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (ESV)

    1 John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us." (KJV)

    © 2014 by Darlene Sala. All rights reserved.

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

  • Joy Is Gone

    Boyd

    Joy has gone from our hearts; our dancing has turned to mourning. Lamentations 5:15

    What happens when the joy is gone? It’s not fun anymore. What we are experiencing is not what we signed up for. Indeed, a joyless state is not a good place to stay over a prolonged period of time. It may be that you just lost a loved one suddenly,without warning. You grieve because of your tremendous loss, but their great gain is that they knew Jesus. It is not unusual for joy to rise from the ashes of our grief. Joy does come at dawn after the dark night of the soul (Psalm 30:5). Your heart laments and longs for one more conversation and warm embrace from the dear one departed to heaven. But joy comes when you know they are with Jesus.

    Jesus and joy go hand in hand. He understands that joy comes from obedience and faithfulness to God’s call. It was for the joy that was set before Him that He endured the cross and despised its shame (Hebrews 12:2). Consider Christ, along with His model of endurance and obedience, in the middle of opposition and persecution. Do not grow weary and lose heart. The Lord is your lesson in joyfulness. Jesus never forgot the bigger picture of hope for a better tomorrow. Hope ultimately leads to heaven. Just the thought of heaven’s hallelujahs brings a smile to the face of the faithful. Joy is set before us in the person of Jesus Christ, reigning on His throne of grace. It is imperative that we stay fixed on Him. Our faith flees when it loses perspective from the Prince of Peace. Joy is found in Jesus. He wrote the book on experiencing joy in the midst of misery.

    Joy, at the very least, lies dormant within every disciple of Jesus Christ. Therefore, awaken it from its slumber if you have slid into a joyless state. Look to the Lord for an infusion of His eternal joyfulness. Joyfulness is found in His hopefulness. Do not allow joy killers to rob you of hope and peace. A naysayer will always be around to remind you of his reality. But for the follower of Jesus Christ, a definition of reality without hope is wrong.

    Reject joyless jabs from revisionists of a hopeless reality. Instead, seek out companions of Christ set on seeing Him as the joy giver. Jesus is a dispenser of joy. Navigate toward His lighthouse of love, and enjoy Jesus. You know His love; this is joy. You know His forgiveness; this is joy. You know His faithfulness; this is joy. You know His mercy; this is joy. Joy is not based on changing circumstances, but on knowing an unchanging Christ. Seek Him in your sad state, and you will not have to search far for joy. When you find Jesus you have found joy. Confusion will try to keep you from Christ, but want of joy motivates you to your Master. Make joy a juggernaut of obedience in your relentless pursuit of Him. Give joy to the world. Giving joy brings joy. Thus, receive Jesus and give Jesus, because He is joy.

    Taken from the February 2nd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1."

    Post/Tweet today: Jesus is a dispenser of joy. Navigate toward His lighthouse of love, and enjoy Him. #joyisgone

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Respectable Leaders

    Boyd

    “Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:2–3).

    Respectability invites respect. You may say, “I cannot get any respect.” If so, on what do you base your expectations? Is it your charm, charisma, or ability to converse well? None of these mean you are respectable; in fact, they can repel respect and garner disrespect. Your skills and gifts require character to garner the admiration of others.

    Respect is earned, not demanded. It is sustained by influence, not position. Presidents, preachers, and parents are given respect by their position, but if they consistently under perform or lack integrity, respect is lost. It is not a right of the irresponsible but a privilege of the dependable. Respectable leaders get right results in the right way.

    Respectable leaders also rise to the occasion and do the right things. They persevere and provide stability instead of panicking and creating chaos. They take responsibility by espousing the values of the organization, not by gossiping and blaming others. There is a depth of character that runs deep within their souls, not to be stolen by sin.

    Lastly, respectable leaders are well thought of when their track record is one of trustworthiness, honesty, and follow through. However, the goal is not for people to like you. They may not like you when you lovingly hold them accountable, but they will respect you. They may not like your discipline, but they will respect your consistency. They may not embrace your beliefs, but if expressed in humility they will respect you. Perhaps you ask, “Am I respectable?” If so, you can expect respect.

    Prayer: What area of my character needs growth and transformation so as to solicit respect?

    The Bible says, “A sensible person wins admiration, but a warped mind is despised” (Proverbs 12:8 nlt).

    Related Readings: Exodus 18:21; Proverbs 15:27; John 10:12–13; Romans 16:18

    Taken from the February 1st reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 2."

    Post/Tweet today: Respectable leaders persevere and provide stability instead of panicking and creating chaos. #respectableleaders

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Best Business Practices

    Boyd

    What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God... Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them. Nehemiah 5:9, 11

    The best business practices are founded on the fear of the Lord. Almighty God, not the almighty dollar, is the standard for doing business. Just because the majority support an unseemly brand of commerce, does not give Christ followers permission to do the same. A Christian business leader can be shrewd without being selfish. They can take advantage of an economic opportunity without exploiting individuals. Best business practices are based on generosity, not greed.

    Nehemiah rebukes the business leaders of his day for monetarily kicking their people while they were down. During the famine crisis those with more took all from those who were starving, in exchange for food. Desperate times expose the desperate to exploitation. However, for those who love Christ it is our opportunity to be Jesus by giving, not taking. A person who has fallen needs a lift up, not a push down. Best business practices help those in need with economic solutions.

    If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest. Exodus 22:25

    Regardless of the industry, we can exemplify integrity. If ministers, we can model care for the poor. If bankers, we can offer full disclosure in our financial dealings. If manufacturing, we can constantly upgrade the safety conditions of the workplace. If insurance, we can reward policy holders who have an excellent claims history. If a service company, we can exceed the expectations of the customer. If medical, we can offer affordable healthcare. If education, we can maximize technology. In all work sectors we have daily opportunities to employ best practices.

    Furthermore, by God’s grace create a culture of generosity in your company. A company known for giving back to the community will be supported by the community. A generous leader is worth following. Much better to be known as a benevolent George Bailey than a crusty old penny pinching Mr. Potter. Most of all look to your Heavenly Father as the ultimate Giver of all things good, beginning with His son Jesus. Best business practices have their genesis in God.

    “We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.” You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, “If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.” James 4:13-15, The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me in my work to model Your best practices for Your glory.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 2:22; Proverbs 12:14, 27:23; Luke 12:18-20; 2 John 1:8

    Post/Tweet today: Almighty God, not the almighty dollar, is the standard for doing business. #bestbusinesspractices

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Embrace Grace from Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    I’ve been waiting for you. Holding this good news close to my heart, longing to share it. And now here you are, standing on the threshold. To say that I’m glad to see you is a major understatement. Thrilled is more like it.

    Curb my enthusiasm? No way. Not when it’s you. There are a few things about you that I don’t know: your age, your appearance, your occupation. Facts that describe you but don’t define you and have little bearing here. There are also things about you that I do know because we share them: the need to be loved unconditionally, the desire to live a life that truly matters, the longing to shed a tightly woven mantle of guilt.

    Or am I the only woman who wears past failures and present mistakes like an old wool coat, scratchy and uncomfortable, chafing the skin around my neck? Ah. You too.

    Sadly, heavy overcoats get in the way of a good hug. Our arms are too stiff, our bodies too padded. No one can sense our warmth through the thick fabric. In the same way, remorse and shame insulate us. And isolate us.

    If only we could toss those miserable garments into some dark closet and tiptoe away. If only the ratty things didn’t feel so cozy and familiar. If only we could shake off the conviction that we need to wear our guilt—deserve to wear it, must wear it—whatever the season.

    Maybe it’s time to release that burden and lift our arms toward the One who loves us most. That’s what this visit is all about: slipping off the old and putting on the new. Letting go of the past and embracing freedom with our whole hearts. Come inside where it’s warm, beloved. Let me help you with your coat.

    “Take hold of the life that is truly life.” - 1 Timothy 6:19

    The forgiven life. The grace-filled life. It begins with an embrace, which is more than an elegant word for hug. Hugs are short-lived and friendly, handed out like after- dinner mints to acquaintances and strangers alike. Here, have one.

    An embrace is more intentional. Longer. Warmer. Far more personal. We gather someone close—a spouse, a child, a friend, a sibling—and murmur words of comfort and affection. Or we simply let the strength of our embrace express the depth of our thoughts and feelings. I believe in you. I support you. I treasure you. I love you.

    Wherever you are spiritually, whatever you have been through emotionally, you are already wrapped in the Lord’s embrace. Held close by nail-scarred hands. Enfolded in the arms of One who believes in you, supports you, treasures you, and loves you.

    He is waiting for you to embrace him in return. To accept the gift he’s offering you. To listen for the whispered words you’ve longed a lifetime to hear: You are loved. All is forgiven.

    “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” - Titus 3:4–5 6

    “Mercy.” An old-fashioned word, fraught with meaning.

    “Mercy!” my friend Sara says, her hand pressed to her heart. Mercy, God says, yet it’s our hearts he touches.

    “And God is able to make all grace abound to you.” - 2 Corinthians 9:8

    A single syllable, grace is God’s word for love, expressed through divine forgiveness. Sometimes we respond with an even shorter word. No. We persuade ourselves we have good reason to shrug off the Lord’s touch and refuse his gift of grace. Consider the heartfelt words of one of my readers: “I don’t feel I am worthy of having God forgive me of my sins and weaknesses. I feel like a failure.” How poignantly she states what we often feel! Unworthy? Me too. A failure? Oh yes. We get it.

    “I feel like I have let God down, and I can’t seem to find the forgiveness I seek. Even on Sundays I don’t feel his presence or direction, and I long for it.” We understand that longing: to sense the realness of God, to know that he is with us, no matter what we’ve done. For all our good days, we’ve stumbled through bad ones too.

    “I am struggling not to lead two separate lives—the Good Girl versus the Bad Girl.” We’re with you, sis. The battle is genuine, yet the grace of God prevails. I cherish such words from our sisters because they remind us we’re not alone. You’ll hear dozens of women’s voices echoing throughout Embrace Grace.

    Honest women. Hurting women. Hopeful women. I carefully omitted any identifying details—no names or initials, no locations or occupations—and included only brief comments that speak to our shared experience of yearning for freedom, yet feeling encumbered by previous mistakes and current challenges.

    “Even though I belong to God, I sometimes feel so unworthy because of my past.”

    “I still get that heavy feeling in my chest over who I used to be.”

    We feel it too—that woolly overcoat sensation—making our shoulders sag in defeat. Whether our “past” refers to some crucial mistake we made a decade ago or a poor decision last week, regret can weigh us down.

    “I often carry the guilt of ‘if only they knew who I used to be, they would not like me as much as they do.’ ” I cannot speak for what “they” think, but I am certain of what God thinks. He does know who you used to be. And he not only likes you, he loves you. Completely. Always has. Always will.

    “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” - Psalm 100:5

    Incredible, isn’t it? To imagine God’s love reaching across the boundaries of time, encircling us in his ceaseless embrace. Do you yearn to feel his heavenly arms around you? Holding you, comforting you, cherishing you?

    “I want to want a relationship with God. I also want somebody to tell me that they love me and to know they mean it.” Be assured, no one—man, woman, or child—says “I love you” with more certainty than the Lord. His regard for us goes far beyond kind words and warm feelings; his is a show-and- tell love, held up for the whole world to see.

    “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” - 1 John 4:9

    At times living through him seems too daunting; just living is hard enough. “I’ll never be perfect, and God is never going to forgive me for this, so what’s the point?”

    “I have no strength left, and I don’t feel like I belong anywhere.”

    You belong right here, dear one. Looking for answers. Seeking encouragement.


    Excerpted from Embrace Grace by Liz Curtis Higgs Copyright © 2013 by Liz Curtis Higgs. 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.

  • Secrets of Happily Married Couples

    Shaunti

    "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!" Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)

    My dear friend's marriage was crumbling; her husband's heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

    Despite my friend's deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

    For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn't deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn't ... he doesn't.

    Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn't care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

    Have you ever believed someone didn't like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

    There's a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!"

    My research confirms this truth. I've spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

    Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person's intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn't completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

    And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I've anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don't.

    For most of us, "searching for good" when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

    Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren't good. But in most cases, they don't want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

    The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the "good" explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is "for" you.

    Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

    Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don't deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: The next time you are faced with a hurtful situation, pray to God for wisdom and ask yourself:

    1) What is the truth in this situation and is there a more generous explanation for what this person did? 2) Is it really true that this person doesn't care about me, or am I allowing my thoughts to be controlled by my hurt feelings?

    Power Verses: James 1:19, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (NLT)

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient and kind ... It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

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

  • Prayer and Action

    Boyd

    But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night. Nehemiah 4:9

    Prayer does not preclude action and action does not dismiss prayer. Being and doing are necessary for God’s will. Nehemiah and his team tethered their hearts to God in trust, but they also assigned a guard 24/7 to watch out for attacks from the enemy. Yes indeed, prayer empowers the person praying to be bold in the work of God. It produces an inner resolve to serve as unto the Lord. Prayer and watchfulness work together to accomplish the Almighty’s purposes.

    What tension do you feel between doing your part and trusting God’s part? Wisdom seeks Christ daily to determine how He is leading. His Holy Spirit will guide you in what needs to be done for today. Don’t allow unnecessary interruptions to rob you of experiencing God’s best. Beware of those who live frantic and faithless lives. Their problems need not become your crisis lest you are led astray. Pray for needy people and help them as the Spirit leads. Watch out for distractions.

    But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Luke 10:40

    Prayer produces the right actions. Activities without insight from Almighty God can miss being the most effective. Like a sailor on deck looks up to the captain on the bridge for a clearer view, so we are wise to peer into the Lord’s perspective as our guide before moving forward. Heaven’s telescope of truth is able to focus in on what needs to happen on earth. When we seek wisdom from above, we better understand what to do below. Actions led by prayer get the best results.

    So, what are you facing that invites prayer and support from other saints of God? Who can you summon into your confidence for comfort, love and intercession? Signs of trouble aren’t meant to be faced alone, but in the strength of the Spirit and undergirded by a caring community. You may be used to assisting others, but now is your opportunity to receive. It blesses believers to be a blessing to you. The Body of Christ is healthy when it prays and acts in love toward one another.

    Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do. Jeremiah 42:3

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray You will lead me in where I should go and in what I should do.

    Related Readings: Jeremiah 42:20; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 6:5-7; Acts 9:40; 2 Corinthians 13:7

    Post/Tweet today: When we seek wisdom from above, we better understand what to do below. #prayerandaction

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Having Faith in a Marriage - Tony & Lauren Dungy

    What is the key to an "uncommon" marriage? Tony and Lauren Dungy answer this question.

    Tony: Lauren and I have been married over 30 years now. I think our faith has been a big part of our marriage. To me, faith is so important in marriage because everything isn't going to to perfectly and you do have to come together as two people becoming one partnership. You have to trust in the Lord and you have to put the Lord first, in the center of a relationship, to make it work. That's easier said than done. When you tell other people about it or you counsel other people, it's easy to say, "Here's where you've got to have faith. Just believe and go forward." But when it is happening to you and things are coming up in your marriage, to really concentrate on the Lord and say, "I know he's in the middle of this." That becomes difficult at times, but it's what you have to do.

    Lauren: We've found that you have to really rely on your Christian principles and the biblical principles that you know and believe in, because you have to expect there will be conflict, there will be challenges in your life. That's going to happen in any marriage, but the world has a way of dealing with the challenges and problems, or you can follow God's ways, and God's ways are always going to keep you united. Even in your conflicts and challenges, there should be joy in the midst.

    Tony: We really do feel like that has been really the basis for how we have stayed together and grown, is that we have listened to the Lord and listened to the Bible, as opposed to listening to worldly wisdom or what our society says about marriage. We've tried to rely on those biblical principles and let them guide us and not what society says.

    Interested in hearing more from the Dungy's? Click here for their line of books.

  • Enemies of the Heart from Andy Stanley

     

    Andy

    It Came from Within

    It came from within. But at first I wasn’t sure.

    It was a Tuesday night. I was lying in bed, trying to go to sleep, when I felt a thump in my chest that actually shook my whole body.

    I sat up and looked over at Sandra to see if perhaps she’d felt it too. No pain. No pressure. Just a larger-than-normal thump in my chest. I lay back down and tried to pretend it hadn’t happened. And then it happened again.

    This time I said, “Did you feel that?”

    No answer.

    As I laid there staring at the clock, I put my hand over my heart and tried to listen as well as feel my pulse. About a half minute later I noticed that my heart skipped a beat and then, THUMP! This happened over and over. About a minute of normal heartbeat and then nothing. And then the big thump that literally coursed through my entire body.

    Needless to say, I didn’t sleep much that night.

    The next day I called my doctor. He sent me to the hospital with a prescription for this nifty device that records what’s happening to your heart while you go about your normal routine. I say normal. There are a few “normal” activities I would advise anyone against trying while wearing such a device.

    The following day I went back to the hospital and they plugged the device into a computer to see what they could find. An hour later the technician came out and informed me that I had an irregular heartbeat. I was shocked. “Really? An irregular heartbeat? You don’t say. You mean my heart isn’t supposed to miss a beat every minute and then make up for it with increased seismic intensity?”

    Of course, I didn’t say that. He was about to draw some blood, and I’ve always tried to stay on the good side of anyone who’s about to poke me with a needle.

    They ran some tests. A lot of tests. After a couple hours of blood work, an EKG, an ultrasound—I told them there was no way I was pregnant, but they insisted—and a chest X-ray, a doctor came in to see me. He sat down with his clipboard and started asking me all the usual questions. Eventually he came to the “What medications are you taking?” question.

    Ordinarily that’s an easy one: “Nothing.” But it just so happened that I was taking something for my annual case of poison ivy. I’m never certain how I got it, but I always manage to come down with it every spring. Truth is, I don’t even know what poison ivy looks like—which may be part of my problem.

    I tried to pronounce the name of the drug I was taking. After three or four failed attempts, the doctor deciphered what had been prescribed and wrote it down. Then he asked, “They didn’t prescribe a steroid as well?” No, they hadn’t. The reason being, I’d insisted that my family doctor give me the steroid in the form of a shot. Two shots, actually. When I shared this bit of seemingly insignificant news with the doctor, he put down his pen and smiled. “I think I know what your problem is.”

    This was good news. Sandra has been wondering since we were married.

    “What?” I asked.

    “It’s the steroids. You’re going to be fine. Once it works its way through your system your heart will settle back down.”

    And you know what—he was right. The problem took care of itself.

    Wonderful…and Confusing

    As you’ve probably guessed from this story, I’m not a doctor. And this is not a book about your physical heart. It’s about your other heart. You know, that invisible part of you that philosophers, poets, and preachers refer to all the time. That thing that got broken in the ninth grade when what’s-her-name said she just wanted to be friends. I’m talking about that part of you that swells up with pride when you see your kids do something great.

    It’s that thing that gets all nostalgic when you hear an old Journey tune (or whatever music served as the soundtrack for your senior year). It’s that part of me that fills up when Sandra sits down next to me on the front row at church every Sunday morning. Amazing how that still happens after all these years… 

    And to be fair, the heart I’m talking about is also that part of me that wanted to wring the coach’s neck for keeping my son on the bench throughout an entire all-star game.

    The heart I’m speaking of is that mysterious, wonderful, confusing part of you that enables you to love, laugh, fear, and experience life. It’s the sphere in which relationship happens. And it’s the sphere in which relationships are broken.

    Damage Control

    Life can be hard on the heart. The world is full of outside influences that have the power to disrupt the rhythm of your heart. Most are subtle. Some may even appear to be necessary as protection from further disruptions. Over time you develop habits that slowly erode your heart’s sensitivity. The inevitable pain and disappointment of life have caused you to set up walls around your heart. Much of this is understandable. But at the end of the day, there’s no way around the truth:

    Your heart is out of sync with the rhythm it was created to maintain. These disrupters that throw your heart out of sync are not like the steroid that eventually worked its way out of my system without any effort on my part. Those things that disrupt the rhythms of the invisible heart linger. If left alone, some will linger for a lifetime. After a while we come to accept these disrupters as part of us, part of our personality. And so we catch ourselves saying, “That’s just the way I am.” But you weren’t always that way. And those closest to you know it. So let me ask you, how are things with your heart?

    Close the book and think for a moment. How are things with your heart? Not your career, your family, or your finances. Your heart. Chances are, you’ve never stopped to consider your heart. And why should you? There are meals to fix, calls to return, interviews to prepare for, and bills to pay. If at the end of the day you’re all caught up with these things and someone asks, “How are things?” you can smile and sigh and say, “Fine.”

    But this is a different question.

    It’s a more important question.

    And yes, it’s an awkward question.

    Another Me

    Perhaps the major reason we rarely stop to monitor our hearts is that it was never encouraged. As children, we were taught instead to monitor our behavior. In other words, we were taught to behave. If we behaved properly, good things happened, regardless of what was going on in our hearts. If we misbehaved, not-so-good things happened. My parents believed in spanking. So the not-so-good things got my attention early. I modified my behavior so as to avoid pain, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I bet you have too.

    Years ago a buddy and I decided to move a road sign. We thought it would be funny to route traffic up an entrance ramp that led to a highway that was under construction and not opened yet. As a result, I spent the good portion of a night in jail. So I modified my behavior. I never moved another road sign.

    Pain, embarrassment, fines, and spankings are generally considered effective ways to focus an individual’s attention on his or her behavior. Consequently, you and I have become much better at monitoring our behavior than our hearts.

    But it’s not just the avoidance of pain that drives us. Good behavior can be rewarding. As a professional Christian—a pastor, by trade—I’m paid to be good. So I’ve learned to modify my words and behavior so as not to damage my reputation and, thus, my career. You’ve no doubt done the same thing. Whatever your job, there are some things you just won’t do. Not because you don’t want to, but because of the professional ramifications.

    Perhaps there are some words and phrases you won’t use, in spite of the fact that they would accurately convey what you’re feeling. I’ll bet there are some people you pretend to like because it’s beneficial to you. And all of that is fine. More than fine, it’s necessary. After all, like my buddy Charlie is fond of saying, everybody’s got to eat and live indoors. 

    But all this pretending can be problematic because pretending allows you to ignore the true condition of your heart. As long as you say the right thing and do the right thing, you’re tempted to believe that all is well. That’s what your childhood experience taught you. But when your public performance becomes too far removed from who you are in your heart, you’ve been set up for trouble. Eventually your heart—the real you—will outpace your attempts to monitor and modify everything you say and do.

    The unresolved issues stirring around undetected in your heart will eventually work their way to the surface. Specifically, they’ll seep into your actions, your character, and your relationships. If your heart continues to go unmonitored, whatever “thing” is growing in there will worsen to the point that you’re no longer able to contain it with carefully managed words and behaviors. 

    So let me ask you again: How’s your heart?

    Slippage

    Maybe you’ve already noticed things starting to slip a bit. Maybe you’ve always been able to contain your anger, but lately there’s an edge in your voice that scares even you. And what about those occasional outbursts that slip through your normally ironclad facade?

    You know you ought to be happy for Frank on his promotion, but for some reason you’re not. The truth is, Frank represents that person from your past who bought something or won something or was given something you wanted, and now you find yourself resenting Frank for it.

    Ladies, how about your sister-in-law who wears those jeans you know better than to try and fit into. She looks great, but you aren’t about to let her know that. But why? Why does it bother you? You know it shouldn’t. So you behave like everything’s okay. But it’s not. These are merely symptoms of a deeper struggle. Your heart is under assault, and it could be that you’re losing. Primarily through neglect. After all, nobody ever told us to keep a close check on our hearts.

    Evidence of an internal battle are statements like:

    “I can’t believe I just said that.”

    “I don’t know where that came from.”

    “I can’t believe I did that.”

    “That’s not like me.”

    Heart Exam

    Cardiologists use a procedure called an arteriogram to diagnose the health of a patient’s heart. An arteriogram is an X-ray of the arteries taken after a dye is injected into the bloodstream. The dye allows doctors to pinpoint blockage in the arteries that serve as conduits carrying blood from the heart.

    If blockage is discovered, a skilled cardiologist is able to insert a stent through an artery in the patient’s leg, navigate it up into the heart, and open up the blood vessels so that blood can again flow freely to blocked or damaged regions. It’s an amazing procedure to watch on video. You can actually see the dye making its way through the arteries and then stopping when it reaches an area that’s blocked. Even an untrained eye can spot the problem area once the dye has been injected—it’s that obvious.

    But apart from an arteriogram, a life-threatening heart problem can go undetected for years. An individual who has blockage will experience symptoms, but these symptoms may not seem to be directly associated with the heart. Arterial blockage can manifest itself through back pain, inability to sleep, anxiety, loss of appetite, indigestion, nausea, vision change, even loss of memory.

    What were we just talking about? Oh yes.

    All of these are symptoms that can be and often are treated as isolated issues unrelated to the health of the heart. And the right medication can take the edge off most of these symptoms. The problem, of course, is that treating the symptoms masks the real culprit. Worse, it delays treatment of the problem, thus leaving the problem to worsen.

    Heart of the Matter

    Likewise, we’re tempted to treat the ancillary, symptomatic challenges that stem from an unhealthy heart while ignoring the deeper issues. But as is the case with the physical heart, eventually the root problem will become a real problem. And just as a heart attack has the potential to destroy your body, so spiritual heart disease has the potential to destroy you and squeeze the life out of your most valuable relationships.

    So for the next couple hundred pages, we’re going to do some poking around. I’m going to do my best to expose your heart to the penetrating light of God’s truth. Like the dye used in an arteriogram, truth can help us to pinpoint the blockage in our spiritual condition. Once the problem area has been identified, the solutions are usually pretty obvious. Actually, the solutions are quite simple. But first we must familiarize ourselves with the most common blockages, their causes, and their symptoms.

    In these pages I'll deal with four primary enemies of the heart—four life-blocking agents that can become lodged there for various reasons. Each has the potential to erode your relationships, your character, and even your faith. We’ll spend several chapters looking at each of these in detail. I’ll then challenge you to embrace four new habits. I often refer to these as “habits of the heart”—habits that exercise the heart and allow it to maintain the rhythm for which it was designed.

    Each of these habits specifically addresses one of four maladies that can infect your heart. Three of the four habits will probably sound familiar; the fourth one may be new to you. When applied consistently, these four disciplines will bring healing and wholeness to your heart, whatever your current condition. There’s some evidence to suggest that these habits can positively impact your physical health as well. Personally, I believe these habits have the potential to change everything.

    If this all sounds too good to be true, let me remind you of a declaration God made generations ago that’s still true and extraordinarily relevant today. He claimed that he could give a man or woman a new heart (see Ezekiel 36:26). The interesting thing is that he said this to a people who already had God’s List of Top Ten Behaviors to guide them. But clearly it wasn’t enough for them to know what to do; they needed to change from the inside out in order to follow through. Each of them needed, as we need, to drop the public persona and become one whole and healthy person.

    What we need is a heart that can keep pace with our outward obedience.

    Take Two

    If you grew up going to the kind of church I grew up in, the notion of God’s still needing to do some work in your heart may cause a bit of inner tension. Perhaps you prayed a prayer some time ago inviting Jesus to come into your heart. And like me, you may have assumed that once he was in, all was well. I mean, Jesus has made himself at home in my heart, so everything’s copasetic, right? But somewhere along the way each of us is forced to face the painful truth that all is not well. So we pray the prayer a second or third time for fear that the first one didn’t take. And yet we continue to see disturbing signs that our heart isn’t entirely new. So what’s up?

    What’s up is this: What God begins at the moment of our salvation is not completed in that same moment. I bet you already knew that about yourself, didn’t you? If you didn’t know it, I’d bet your best friend does. At the risk of oversimplifying, let me put it this way: Jesus may have moved into your heart, but he may not have been given full access. That’s why as happy as you are about being forgiven, you’re not always willing to extend forgiveness to others. That’s a heart thing. As excited as you are about the success you’re experiencing, you aren’t always excited about the success someone else is enjoying. That’s a heart thing too. Both are evidence that God has not completed in you what he has begun. You’re still a work in progress. There’s still some heart work to be done.

    One last thing before we move on. Your heart didn’t arrive at its present condition overnight. It won’t become healthy overnight either. You can’t overcome in an instant the effects of years of blockage caused by guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. Adopting new habits of the heart is a process, but it’s a process that will yield some immediate results. My hope is that these immediate dividends will encourage and motivate you to continue cultivating these new habits until you arrive at a place where your Creator desires and made you to be.


    Excerpted from Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley Copyright © 2011 by Andy Stanley. 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.

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