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  • Desiring God from John Piper

    John

    Foundation for Christian Hedonism The ultimate ground of Christian Hedonism is the fact that God is uppermost in His own affections:

    The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.

    The reason this may sound strange is that we are more accustomed to think about our duty than God’s design. And when we do ask about God’s design, we are too prone to describe it with ourselves at the center of God’s affections. We may say, for example, that His design is to redeem the world. Or to save sinners. Or to restore creation. Or the like.

    But God’s saving designs are penultimate, not ultimate. Redemption, salvation, and restoration are not God’s ultimate goal. These He performs for the sake of something greater: namely, the enjoyment He has in glorifying Himself. The bedrock foundation of Christian Hedonism is not God’s allegiance to us, but to Himself.

    If God were not infinitely devoted to the preservation, display, and enjoyment of His own glory, we could have no hope of finding happiness in Him. But if He does in fact employ all His sovereign power and infinite wisdom to maximize the enjoyment of His own glory, then we have a foundation on which to stand and rejoice. I know this is perplexing at first glance. So I will try to take it apart a piece at a time, and then put it back together at the end of the chapter.

    God's Sovereignty: The Foundations of His Happiness and Ours

    “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). The implication of this text is that God has the right and power to do whatever makes Him happy. That is what it means to say that God is sovereign. Think about it for a moment: If God is sovereign and can do anything He pleases, then none of His purposes can be frustrated.

    The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. (Psalm 33:10–11)

    And if none of His purposes can be frustrated, then He must be the happiest of all beings. This infinite, divine happiness is the fountain from which the Christian Hedonist drinks and longs to drink more deeply.

    Can you imagine what it would be like if the God who ruled the world were not happy? What if God were given to grumbling and pouting and depression, like some Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant in the sky? What if God were frustrated and despondent and gloomy and dismal and discontented and dejected? Could we join David and say, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1)?

    I don’t think so. We would all relate to God like little children who have a frustrated, gloomy, dismal, discontented father. They can’t enjoy him. They can only try not to bother him, or maybe try to work for him to earn some little favor.

    Therefore if God is not a happy God, Christian Hedonism has no foundation. For the aim of the Christian Hedonist is to be happy in God, to delight in God, to cherish and enjoy His fellowship and favor. But children cannot enjoy the fellowship of their Father if He is unhappy. Therefore the foundation of Christian Hedonism is the happiness of God.

    But the foundation of the happiness of God is the sovereignty of God: “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). If God were not sovereign, if the world He made were out of control, frustrating His design again and again, God would not be happy.

    Just as our joy is based on the promise that God is strong enough and wise enough to make all things work together for our good, so God’s joy is based on that same sovereign control: He makes all things work together for His glory. If so much hangs on God’s sovereignty, we should make sure the biblical basis for it is secure.

    The Biblical Basis for God's Sovereign Happiness

    The sheer fact that God is God implies that His purposes cannot be thwarted—so says the prophet Isaiah:

    “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’” (Isaiah 46:9–10)

    The purposes of God cannot be frustrated; there is none like God. If a purpose of God came to naught, it would imply that there is a power greater than God’s. It would imply that someone could stay His hand when He designs to do a thing. But “none can stay his hand,” as the newly awakened Nebuchadnezzar says:

    His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:34–35)

    His Sovereignty Covers Calamities This was also Job’s final confession after God had spoken to him out of the whirlwind: “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (Job 42:2). “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

    This raises the question whether the evil and calamitous events in the world are also part of God’s sovereign design. Jeremiah looks over the carnage of Jerusalem after its destruction and cries:

    My eyes are spent with weeping; my stomach churns; my bile is poured out to the ground because of the destruction of the daughter of my people, because infants and babies faint in the streets of the city. (Lamentations 2:11)

    But when he looked to God, he could not deny the truth:

    Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? (3:37–38)

    “Shall We Receive Good from God and Not Evil?”

    If God reigns as sovereign over the world, then the evil of the world is not outside His design: “Does disaster come to a city, unless the LORD has done it?” (Amos 3:6).

    This was the reverent saying of God’s servant Job when he was afflicted with boils: “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10). He said this even though the text says plainly that “Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and struck Job with loathsome sores” (Job 2:7). Was Job wrong to attribute to God what came from Satan? No, because the inspired writer tells us immediately after Job’s words: “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

    The evil Satan causes is only by the permission of God. Therefore, Job is not wrong to see it as ultimately from the hand of God. It would be unbiblical and irreverent to attribute to Satan (or to sinful man) the power to frustrate the designs of God.

    Who Planned the Murder of Christ?

    The clearest example that even moral evil fits into the designs of God is the crucifixion of Christ. Who would deny that the betrayal of Jesus by Judas was a morally evil act?

    Yet in Acts 2:23, Peter says, “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” The betrayal was sin, but it was part of God’s ordained plan. Sin did not thwart His plan or stay His hand.

    Or who would say that Herod’s contempt (Luke 23:11) or Pilate’s spineless expediency (Luke 23:24) or the Jews’ “Crucify, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21) or the Gentile soldiers’ mockery (Luke 23:36)—who would say that these were not sin? Yet Luke, in Acts 4:27–28, records the prayer of the saints:

    Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

    People lift their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion is unwitting service in the wonderful designs of God. Even sin cannot frustrate the purposes of the Almighty. He Himself does not commit sin, but He has decreed that there be acts that are sin, for the acts of Pilate and Herod were predestined by God’s plan.


    Excerpted from Desiring God, 25th Anniversary Reference Edition by John Piper Copyright © 2011 by John Piper. 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.

  • New Releases for January 28

    Ahhh, the doldrums of mid-winter are over. At least that's what it seems like in our stores today. There are a slew of new releases available. Many people of all ages have been waiting for these. From Casting Crowns to Kirk Cameron. From a modern day parable of the story of Joseph to a Bible that points to Jesus throughout the whole book.

    Here are the new releases for today, January 28, 2014.

    Casting Crowns - Thrive

    So many of us today are simply surviving. But we were not made to survive, we were made to Thrive! We should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    Thrive, the seventh studio album from Casting Crowns, is packed with the band’s signature style of songs about real life that redefine our identity in Christ, pointing us to our purpose from Him so that we may carry it out through Him. Featuring 12 brand new songs, including the lead single "All You've Ever wanted," the album centers on the themes of "Reaching Out" and "Digging Deep."

    Jamie Grace - Ready to Fly

    In 2012, Jamie Grace received her first GMA Dove Award - for New Artist of the Year - and now she returns with her second album, Ready to Fly. The record's first single, "Beautiful Day," continues her message of staying strong and experiencing life to the fullest. Ready to Fly is about waiting, yet while you’re waiting being ready to move - ready to fly - when the timing is right.

    The Jesus Bible

    Jesus isn’t just found in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. His presence can be felt throughout the whole Bible, even in Genesis. The Jesus Bible contains the complete New International Version (NIV) with daily study helps that point to Jesus and show how he fulfilled the prophecies for the Messiah found in the Old Testament.

    Kirk Cameron - Unstoppable

    Kirk Cameron presents the follow-up to his bestselling film, Monumental. In Unstoppable, Kirk takes you on a personal and inspiring journey to better understand the biggest doubt-raiser in faith: Why? He goes back to the beginning - literally - as he investigates the origins of good and evil and how they impact our lives and our eternities.

    Reminding us that there is great hope, Unstoppable creatively asks and answers the age-old question: Where is God in the midst of tragedy and suffering?

    Seasons of Gray - A Modern Day Joseph Story

    Seasons of Gray is a modern day retelling of the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors. This uplifting feature film is quality family entertainment with strong morals and an enduring message of hope.

    What man intends for evil, God intends for good . This simple, yet powerful, message is all Brady Gray has left. His brothers, driven by jealousy, cast away their own flesh and blood in the same way that Joseph was sold into slavery by his siblings. Heartbroken and separated from his family, Brady holds tightly to his faith and begins to build a new life for himself - but there are more challenges in store for this servant of God.

    False accusations land Brady in prison, where his God-given gift of interpreting dreams helps him forge friendships that will play an important role in his ultimate salvation. Upon his miraculous release from prison, Brady discovers, as his dreams predicted, that his brothers direly need his help. Despite the pain and suffering caused by his betrayal, Brady must find the strength to embrace one of the Bible’s most important messages: We forgive because we are forgiven.

    Girls of Grace - Live. Love. Lead.

    Girls of Grace: Live Love Lead is an in-depth look at God’s grace and how it marks our daily lives. Simply put, a Girl of Grace is a girl who lives freely, loves fiercely and leads fearlessly. To live freely means to live in the light of the Gospel of Grace; to love fiercely is to actively demonstrate Christ’s love to the world around us; and to lead fearlessly is a charge to be brave and to take a stand.

    A soundtrack to the "Girls of Grace" conferences held nationwide, Girls of Grace: Live Love Lead is full of chart-topping hits that will inspire and encourage teenage girls everywhere. With popular songs from top Christian artists, this compilation is the perfect soundtrack for her life as she finds her way in the world through faith.

    Besides the new releases, there are plenty of prebuy opportunities as well. New CD from Francesca Battistelli. New DVD from VeggieTales and a new movie from Kirk Cameron. Click here to see them all.

  • Free Wallpaper for Your Mobile, Tablet or Computer - February

    February is that month of the year that seems to be a jumpstarter. I don't even think "jumpstarter" is a word, but for this post, we'll just say it is.

    Many of us have been trapped into an endless cycle of winter - the month of January. (Why does January seem like it's the longest month of the year?) Some of us are still digging out from the snow. We never knew what Polar Vortex was until now.

    Although now we are in February and it's different. We feel that winter may actually not have a hold on us like we thought. There are spots of Spring all over. Be it the fact that some of the snow has melted, or the birds seem to be singing more or we may just be seeing the sun more. Rejoice!!! Winter is losing.

    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.

    Let's pledge that. As we embark on some new warmer air (hopefully) let's declare that every day is Valentines Day. Love more.

    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.


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  • Thankfulness Changes Lives

    Karen

    "I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3 (NIV)

    A winter Saturday afternoon found me cleaning our basement storage room. There were boxes of papers to sort, bins of holiday decorations to shuffle and other assorted items to realign neatly on the shelves. I'd estimated it would take me an hour or so to tidy up the space. Except I hadn't factored in one thing.

    Memories.

    The items I straightened and stacked weren't spectacular; they were common articles found in many basements and garages. But the fragrance of precious memories clung to them. Memories of events that changed my life. Memories of people who touched my heart. My pace slowed significantly.

    I gently folded the ivory lace dress my daughter wore for her baby dedication at church over two decades ago. My mother bought it for her and continues to think of her grandchildren, picking up special trinkets and treats for them. She has a knack for making others feel loved.

    I thank my God every time I remember my mom.

    A hand-sewn stuffed bunny rabbit sat perched on a corner shelf. My college roommate Kelly lovingly crafted it for one of my children when they were young. For over 30 years, Kelly has been a thoughtful friend who never forgets my birthday and faithfully prays for my family.

    I thank my God every time I remember my friend Kelly.

    I found an old key on a greyed leather keychain. Turning the keychain over I saw a simple word scrawled across the back: pool. Our former neighbor, a widow and retired school teacher, had a built-in swimming pool and we did not. Without children or grandkids nearby, she gave us a key so our young family could take a dip any time we wished.

    I thank my God every time I remember Mrs. B.

    Memories surrounded me as I sorted through yearbooks and photo albums. Old friends. Precious relatives. Former church members and coworkers. Pieces of my past. So many of these dear folks played a part in my life. Remembering them brought a smile to my face and a few salty tears to my eyes.

    I whispered a prayer of sincere thankfulness for all of those people who helped shape my life. Their encouragement, advice and sometimes mere presence were blessings to me. God even used the relationship bumps to help mold my character and teach me life lessons.

    In today's key verse, Paul writes to the believers at the church in Philippi declaring, "I thank my God every time I remember you." Just calling to mind the image of these loved ones gave the apostle reason to be grateful to God. But Paul didn't only thank God, Paul also told his friends of his thankfulness.

    Could we do the same today? To not only thank God for those in our lives but also let them know how grateful we are for them? Dare we divert from our daily routine to take a moment or two to shoot off an email, make a phone call, or even send a hand-written note to someone we thank God for each time we remember them?

    Gratefulness brings contentment and contentment brings peace—peace in knowing all the pieces of our lives string together to make us who we are today.

    Grab a pen or pick up your phone. Someone is waiting to hear how thankful you are for them. It might just make their day. And yours.

    Dear Lord, help me to take time today to not only thank You for the many special people in my life but to joyfully tell them as well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Who in your life are you grateful for? Make a list. Then, after each name, mention a few reasons why.

    Take time today to contact at least one of these people and let them know why you are thankful God placed them in your life.

    Power Verse: Colossians 2:6-7, "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude." (HCSB)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Resourced by God

    Boyd

    The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven. Nehemiah 2:5

    God resources His children for whatever is needed in the moment. If grace, He pours out His grace. If mercy, He shows mercy. If hope, He serves up hope. If love, He loves us to the fullest. If comfort, He comforts and calms. If peace, beyond our understanding, He provides peace. If strength, He gives strength for the journey. If direction, His Spirit directs. If patience, the Lord’s long-suffering seeps its way deep into our soul. If wisdom, He generously gives His perspective. When resourced by God, we are ready for whatever comes our way. He takes care of His own.

    Nehemiah desired comfort and confidence. He needed the support of his boss to send him on his way with the resources he needed to rescue his people. God used the creditability of the King to carry out His will for Nehemiah. We may experience similar circumstances out of our control, but the Lord lays on the heart of an earthly authority to support heaven’s plan for our life. When we are honest with our godly intentions, God opens doors for their fulfillment. He resources us.

    I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. Philippians 1:19

    Our prayerful attitude is an agent of Almighty God’s activities. Like a private investigator seeks out the truth of a matter, so our prayers seek the heart of God on a matter. Before we tell a person what we want, we ask God what we need. Sometimes in the process of seeking the Lord’s provision, He shows us an idea bigger than our original request. What we thought a bold request, was modest compared to what Christ wants to accomplish. He resources us beyond our desires.

    What do you need right now? Financial relief? Physical healing? Spiritual nourishment? A child to follow God? A parent to love you? A spouse to support you? A reasonable boss? Opportunity? Humility? Forgiveness? Whatever you lack, seek the Source for your resources. The Lord longs to give you what you need, once you are ready to receive. Be honest about your motives, ask Christ for cleansing so you can be trusted with His favor. He resources a repentant and grateful heart.

    And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. Nehemiah 2:8

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, purify my heart, so I am ready to receive Your resources for my life and work.

    Related Readings: Judges 6:39; 1 Chronicles 4:10; Psalm 20:5; Daniel 9:20; Philippians 4:6

    Post/Tweet today: Before we tell a person what we want, we ask God what we need. #resourcedbyGod

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Unstoppable from Nick Vujicic

    Nick

    Faith in Action

    Near the end of my 2011 speaking tour in Mexico, an official with the US embassy in Mexico City called to inform me that my US work visa had been put on hold for “a national security investigation.”

    I live in the United States on that visa because I am a native of Australia. I could not return to my California home without it. Since my staff had scheduled an upcoming series of speaking engagements in the United States, this was a serious problem.

    I scrambled to the US embassy with Richie, my caregiver, early the next morning to try to figure out how my visa had anything to do with national security. When we arrived, we found the large reception area packed with people dealing with their own issues. We had to take a number, like in a bakery. The wait was so long I had a nice nap before we finally were called to meet with an official.

    When I’m nervous, I turn to humor. It doesn’t always work. “Is there a problem with my fingerprints on the visa?” I joked. The embassy person glared at me. Then he called his supervisor. (Maybe my sense of humor was posing a threat to American security?)

    The supervisor arrived, also looking quite grim. Visions of being behind bars crept into my head. “Your name has been tagged as part of an investigation,” the supervisor stated robotically. “You can’t return to the United States until this is cleared up, and that will take up to a month.” The blood drained from my body. This cannot be happening!

    Richie collapsed to the ground. At first I thought he’d fainted, but he had dropped to his knees in prayer in front of two hundred people. Yes, he’s a very caring caregiver. He raised his arms and his hands together, asking God for a miracle to get us home.

    Everything around me seemed to be in fast-forward and slow motion at the same time. As my head whirled, the embassy official added that my name probably was flagged because I travel so much around the world. Did they suspect me of being an international terrorist? An arms dealer with no arms? Honest, I hadn’t laid a hand on anyone. (See what happens when I’m nervous? Make me stop!)

    “Come on, seriously, how dangerous could I be?” I asked the embassy official. “I’m meeting with Mexico’s president and his wife at the presidential house tomorrow for a Three Kings Day party, so obviously they don’t see me as a threat.”

    The US official was not moved. “I don’t care if you’re meeting with President Obama, you aren’t reentering the United States until this investigation is completed,” he said. The situation might have been funny if my schedule hadn’t been packed with a long list of speaking engagements back in the good old US of A. I had to get home.

    I was not about to sit around and wait for someone to decide that Americans were safe with Nick in the house. I pleaded with the embassy official for several more minutes, explaining my obligations, dropping the names of important people, stressing that I had employees who counted on me and orphans who looked up to me.

    He checked with someone higher in rank on the phone. “All they can do is try to expedite the process. It will still take at least two weeks,” he said.

    I probably had a dozen appearances scheduled for those two weeks. But the embassy official was not sympathetic. All we could do at that point was return to our hotel, where I frantically began calling everyone I knew for help and prayers.

    I was tapping into the power of faith in action.

    To simply say “I believe” in something is not enough. If you want to have an impact in this world, you must put your beliefs and your faith into action. In this case I tapped into my belief in the power of prayer. I called our team at my nonprofit organization, Life Without Limbs (LWL), in California and asked them to start a prayer chain. “We’re moving up the chain of command—way up!” I told them.

    The staff at LWL made a flurry of phone calls and sent out a flood of e-mails, tweets, and text messages. Within an hour, one hundred fifty people were praying for a quick resolution to my visa challenge. I also put out calls to friends and supporters who might have influence, relatives, neighbors, or former classmates in the US State Department.

    Three hours later, someone from the embassy in Mexico called me. “I can’t believe this, but you’ve been cleared,” the official said. “The investigation is over. You can come pick up your renewed US visa tomorrow morning.”

    That, my friend, is the power of faith in action! It can move mountains, and it can move Nick out of Mexico too.

     

    Acting in Faith

    In my travels around the world, people faced with challenges ask me for my advice and my prayers. Often, they know what they need to do, but they are afraid to make a change or to take the first step by asking for help or trusting in God. You, too, may be facing challenges that have you feeling helpless, scared, stuck, paralyzed, uncertain, and unable to act. I understand. I’ve been there. When teens and young adults come to me and tell me they are being bullied, that they feel lost and alone in the world, or that they are scared because of disabilities, illness, or self-destructive thoughts, I know exactly where they are coming from.

    My physical challenges are easy to see, yet people only have to talk to me or hear me speak for a few minutes to understand how much joy I have in spite of that. So they often ask me how I stay positive and where I find the strength to overcome my disabilities. My answer, always, is, “I pray for God’s help, and then I put my faith in action.”

    I have faith. I believe in certain things that I have no tangible proof of—things I cannot see, taste, touch, smell, or hear. Most of all, I have faith in God. Though I can’t see or touch Him, I believe He created me for a purpose, and I believe that when I put my faith and my beliefs into action, I put myself in a position for God’s blessings.

    Will I always get what I want? No! But I will always get what God wants. The same is true for you. Whether you are a Christian or not, you must never think that simply believing in something is enough. You can believe in your dreams, but you have to take action to make them happen. You can believe in your talents and have faith in your abilities, but if you don’t develop them and put them to use, what good are they? You can believe that you are a good and caring person, but if you don’t treat others with goodness and care, where is the proof?

    You have a choice. You can believe or not believe. But if you believe—whatever you believe—you must act upon it. Otherwise, why believe? You may have had challenges in your career, your relationships, or your health. Maybe you have been mistreated, abused, or discriminated against. All those things that have happened to you do define you or your life if you fail to take action to define yourself. You can believe in your talents. You can believe that you have love to give. You can believe that you can overcome your illness or disability. But that belief on its own won’t bring positive change in your life.

    You must put it into action.

    If you believe you can change your life for the better or make a positive mark in your town or your state or your world, act upon those beliefs. If you think you have a great idea for starting your own business, you must invest your time, money, and talents and make that business happen. Otherwise, what good is just having the idea? If you have identified someone whom you’d like to spend the rest of your life with, why not act upon that belief? What have you got to lose?


    Excerpted from Unstoppable by Nick Vujicic Copyright © 2012 by Nick Vujicic. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, 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.

  • I Once Was a Shell of a Girl

    Lysa

    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

    Have you ever believed the injustices of the world were too big for you to make a difference? I have felt that way. So instead of doing something, even something small, I did nothing.

    I thought big, world-sized problems required big, powerful people.

    But then a friend told me about spending time with rescued victims of sex trafficking. I knew that conversation was meant for more than just two friends connecting. I couldn't just say, "Wow, how awful," and go about my normal life. I had to do something. Even if it was something very small.

    My small act didn't solve the evils of the world, but it did help combat the evil being done against one. And that small gift tendered my heart to do more.

    A few years later, I spent almost a week living and serving in a shelter for girls rescued from sex trafficking. Coming face to face with those affected by evil was starkly different than just hearing about it. I listened to their stories, saw their tears, and held their hands.

    What I heard and saw horrified me on deep, deep levels. I kept thinking, How can this be going on in America? How was I so unaware?

    And yet the reality is I personally know the horrors of being taken advantage of and feeling powerless. As a young girl I was caught in a vicious cycle of sexual abuse by a family "friend" for years.

    His threats kept me silent. Over time that silence turned into overwhelming shame. Hatred cloaked my soul in darkness. And that bitterness seeped into the deepest crevices of my heart, changing how I saw myself. A girl can get completely lost inside the caverns of hate and lose every bit of what used to make her feel alive.

    I once was a shell of a girl ravaged by evils done to me.

    But now I'm a girl who has hope bigger than the hurt. Light brighter than the darkness. And a life full of truth as God set me free from those death chains of hatred.

    How did I find that pathway to healing? Someone told me about Jesus.

    Jesus promised me a new life by following Him. As I did, He saved me by His love, comforted me by His grace, and freed me by His truth. Christian counseling helped me understand how to forgive and challenged me to share the hope I'd found. Every time I shared my story, it miraculously deepened my own healing. Every time I comforted another hurting woman, my own soul found deeper comfort.

    The Bible reminds us that God has comforted us "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:4b-5, NASB).

    Your story and circumstances may be different, but we all need healing and comfort of some kind. Seek that comfort from God today. But don't stop there.

    God doesn't comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-ABLE ... able to help others.

    Seek out someone to help today. And if you need a small place to start, I want to introduce you to a friend named Becky who was rescued and gave her life to Jesus just a few weeks ago. (For more on Becky's story, read the related resources portion below.)

    If you want to be part of the miracles happening in Becky's life and the lives of other women being helped right now, here are three ways:

    * Be aware there are women needing help.

    * Pray for these women and the organizations seeking to rescue them.

    * Buy a bracelet made by Becky or one of the other women being helped by a ministry we've partnered with called Fashion & Compassion. When you buy a bracelet, you get the name of the "rescued" woman who made it. You can pray for her specifically as you wear this beautiful reminder that small gifts matched with your prayers make a big difference.

    And if you have a story of hope like me, share it. Love. Comfort. And believe small gifts aren't small at all.

    Dear Lord, thank You for being our Comforter. Wrap Your loving arms around each woman struggling with hurt and pain in the world right now, Father. Please show me how I can help them specifically. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What small thing could you do today to help those who are hurting in the community around you? Pray for them and then take action however you can.

    Power Verse: Psalm 62:7, "My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Put Into Practice

    Boyd

    “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”  Matthew 7:24

    The purpose of learning truth is so that it can be used. Unused truth expires and becomes stale. When you hear truth and put it into practice, you are wise. When you hear truth and ignore its application, you are foolish. Foolish is the man who acknowledges truth outwardly but never applies it inwardly. His foundation for faithfulness is fragile, so when the winds of adversity swirl and blow, his character collapses under the crushing power.

    Someone may show up for the Bible study or attend a soul-stirring retreat and hear truth but never change for the better. How can this be? This happens when people do not follow through with what they know to be right and true. There is a disconnect between their head and their heart. The discipline to stop bad habits and start new ones is rationalized away with convincing excuses. We deceive ourselves by saying, “I don’t have enough time,” “I am not spiritual enough,” “I will get around to this one day,” or “God will understand if I wait.”

    John described self-deception’s affect on truth: “We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8b). Truth and deception can never coexist. So, jettison deception and apply truth now. If you wait, you will wander from its application. Right now is the wisest time to receive His gift of grace and to engraft it into your life. You are responsible for the truth you have received. Therefore, steward it wisely. Use it before you lose it, and become a practitioner of truth.

    Lastly, apply truth in doses that can be ingested into your character. Do not be overwhelmed by multiple things in your life that need to change. Choose one thing, such as loving your spouse with abandon and sensitivity. Paul said in Ephesians 5:25 that the husband should “give himself up” for his wife. Without saying a word, serve in secret so your spouse can experience your unselfish care and concern. Get into their world by loving them at their point of interest. It may relate to entertainment, cooking, or yard work.  Whatever it may be, serve them in ways that tell them you care.

    At work, you have the opportunity to put the radical teaching of Jesus into practice by treating others as you want to be treated (Matthew 7:12 NASB). Think of a colleague who let the team down and is in need of forgiveness. If you were in their shoes, you would appreciate this gift of mercy. You can put into practice the Golden Rule because you are golden now that God has graced your life. God has filled you with His grace so you can live a gracious life. Focus on building the foundation of your life and your character one brick of truth at a time. This architecture designed by the Almighty will endure. Leave a lasting legacy to your children by putting into practice what you know to be truth. The teachings of Jesus are truth. Therefore, believe and apply. Put His principles into practice, and persevere. Post/Tweet today: Put into practice the Golden Rule because you are golden now that God has graced your life. #putintopractice

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • God’s Silence

    Boyd

    “When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him” (1 Samuel 28:5–6).

    Sometimes God is silent. He is silent in our prayers. He is silent in our circumstances. He is silent in our relationships, and He is silent in His Word. His silence can be deafening because it seems that His silence is ill timed. In most cases, His silence revolves around a real need you are experiencing. You may feel that God is disinterested or that He does not care. The silence of God can be an overwhelming place to occupy and still trust Him.

    Your predicament could be like a heavy bar bell on your chest with no spotter available to assist you. You feel all alone and unable to fix the problem or correct the issue. You do not even know where to start. You are in despair, at the tipping point of depression. Anger has clouded your reason, and heaven seems indifferent to your hurt.

    Or, on the other hand, you are “suffering” from success and prosperity; yet God feels distant and disconnected. You have honored Him in the process, but He has not seemed to honor you with His warm and affirming presence. What is going on?  What is God up to? What does He want you to do next for the good of His kingdom?

    Indeed, God’s silence is your opportunity to remain faithful, even when you are unsure of His intentions for your life. He is God and we are not; therefore, we do not have to pressure ourselves to figure out everything that is going on. Managing the big picture is in His job description, not yours; so rest in His silence. Refuse to become restless, resentful, or rebellious. But still you ask, “Why the silence?”

    There may be two possible reasons for God’s silence—sin or sanctification; or it may be a combination of both. When God withholds His blessing and direction for your life, it may be the direct consequence of the sin in your life. This is why regular confession and repentance of sin are critical for the follower of Christ. This is like breathing for your soul. Sin is like cotton in the ears of our heart; thus, God’s voice becomes muffled, unclear, and eventually silent. Your removal of sin clears the wax from the ears of your heart.

    God’s silence may be used for your sanctification. He is in the process of making you more and more like His Son Jesus Christ. This is not always fun, though it is needed to learn God’s ways and His purpose for your life. Even if He is silent, do what you know is right today, and trust Him with the next step for tomorrow. Do not let silence overwhelm you; rather, use it as a springboard to trust God’s faithfulness.

    “O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent” (Psalm 109:1).

    What do I need to learn during my silent times with the Lord? Will I still trust Him? Related Readings: Psalm 83:1; Isaiah 62:1; John 12:29; 2 Peter 1:18

    Post/Tweet today: God’s silence is our opportunity to remain faithful, even when we are unsure of His intentions. #God’ssilence

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Transparent Behavior

    Boyd

    So the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid. Nehemiah 2:2

    Transparent behavior is authentic action. What we do matches who we are in our heart. The opposite of transparency is hypocrisy. A hypocrite hides behind a mask to manipulate their image into something it’s not. A transparent person, on the other hand, gives a true representation of themselves, what you see is what you get. The good, the bad and the ugly. Authenticity does not conceal real feelings to keep up a false identity. Transparent behavior is comfortable being real.

    Nehemiah normally was full of joy, but on this day his countenance communicated distress. His family and friends were in trouble. We can chose to stuff our pain with a plastic smile or we can express our hurt with a saddened face. Trust is what facilitates our transparent behavior. If we trust God and others we take the risk to be real. There is freedom in letting go and letting the Spirit lead the conversation. Transparent behavior trusts God to work through honest interaction.

    Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7

    Do people feel comfortable around you? How can you make them feel safe to be themselves? One way is to be open about your own struggles and challenges. When someone hears of your temptations and need for accountability they feel you understand them. As individuals are understood they open up and feel the freedom to share their true feelings. Your love and confidentiality give people permission to be real. Acceptance encourages transparent behavior. A person’s vulnerability is an opportunity for us to help them, not hurt them. Reward being real.

    Furthermore, we are wise to not hide who we are with those who know us the best. When we are afraid, angry or hurt, ‘fine’ is not an acceptable answer to “How are you doing?” It blesses our spouse, family and friends when we let them in on our heart. Transparency deepens authentic relationships. A word of caution: being real does not mean to emotionally throw up on someone, but it does mean to prayerfully share struggles, dreams and joys. Let’s be honest with ourselves and God. He already knows, but it honors Him and helps us when we share our heart in prayer.

    I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. Psalm 142:1

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to be real so others feel comfortable being themselves around me.

    Related Readings: Psalm 15:2; Proverbs 22:21; Matthew 6:16; Luke 22:42; Ephesians 4:15, 25

    Post/Tweet today: A person’s vulnerability is an opportunity for us to help them, not hurt them. #transparentbehavior

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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