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Family Christian

  • God's Unfolding Story In the Life of Laura Story

    Now Martin is thankful he's alive; The doctors said he might not survive. That was seven years ago... What a miracle.

    And now there's this new baby girl And with one breath she's changed our whole world. Some say she looks like dad, But she looks like grace to me. Your grace to me.

    You're the God of every story, You see each tear that falls. We may not understand but one thing is certain. You are faithful, You are faithful.

    It’s one thing to write compelling, heart-stirring, emotionally rich songs of worship, praise and honor to Christ. People have been doing it for centuries, forming the backbone of faith traditions the world over.

    It’s another thing entirely to bare your soul, share your vulnerabilities and risk criticism and career success by challenging the mold and daring to say that God is not necessarily a God of happy endings.

    Instead, He is the God of every story. This is what Laura Story is learning day by day.

    On her new album, God of Every Story, Laura becomes the most vulnerable. In Great God Who Saves and Blessings we certainly heard the heart of who Laura is, but it was within the established relationship of artist and listener. With her new title, she attempts to bring those walls down, bridging the separation.  God of Every Story is an album where we don't just see Laura's heart in some sort of abstract way - from a distance, but she asks us to join her in seeing what God is writing in Laura's life.

    Mountains high. Valleys low. The ebb and flow of life. The daily grind. The spiritual high. Often in our own lives we get frustrated with the minutia of all that is around us. Be it the piling laundry, the undone devotions, the angry spouse, the undisciplined children... LIFE. Laura, in her tender way, gives us a glimpse into how a family deals with life. No pat answers. No this-problem-will-be-solved-in-a-30-minute-sitcom-on-TV type of thing. This is the real life. How do we deal with the here and now?

    John: Laura, you started your musical career with a band called Silers Bald that was signed with Essential Records.

    Laura: Actually, I left them six months before they landed the deal with Essential.

    John: Oh, you did?

    Laura: So, part of me was thinking … We did this process eating cheese food out of the back of a van and all of a sudden they get a record deal and I’m thinking, “Man, I really missed out.” But the truth of it was I feel like God let me leave right before all that happened just because I was supposed to finish school.

    I had gone to school part time for probably six years and I needed to go back and do one full year on campus in order to finish it up. It’s just something I had been meaning to do and I probably would have never done it if it hadn’t of been for me leaving that band.

    John: So you were part of this indie band out of the Carolinas and then you finished school and you started working at your church as a worship leader, is that correct?

    Laura: Well, not really. I finished school and wasn’t sure what I was going to do but I had gotten reconnected with my high school sweetheart, Martin. I played bass guitar for Silers Bald and then I met Andrew Peterson through that and I went on the road with Andy for a couple of tours. I continued to play bass, I was in a bluegrass band, I was kind of doing a few different things. Then Martin and I got married, so I did about a year of college ministry with him. That’s when we got the call from Perimeter Church and that’s where I have been serving for eight years now.

    John: You came out with your first record and it did incredibly well. “Mighty to Save” certainly was a song that you helped both catapult you on radio. Then you came out with Blessings and shocked the world again by having your song being played on mainstream radio. What has that been like since that has happened?

    Laura: Well, it’s been a little bit crazy, John. It’s been a wild thing. The thing with recording “Mighty to Save,” was just that it was so much fun because there was this church in Australia that was writing these fantastic songs that a lot of churches in the U.S. had been playing, but not all of them. So it was nice to get to be one of the artists who helped get those songs here to the states and to the church here in the United States. That was huge in and of itself. Then the thing with “Blessings,” was just that God used me as a songwriter to share about truly one of the most personal things that I’ve walked through with my husband and the fact that as I was processing everything with Martin’s health.

    What that’s looked like over the past few years is that I process all that through song form and all of a sudden it ends up on the radio. It was the most honoring thing, yet it left me… well, it’s a pretty vulnerable song. But what we found is the more honest we’ve been before God about our doubts and our questions--and admitting that sometimes faith is just an obedience thing, where you just trust God even when it doesn’t make sense--the more we are honest with other people about our feelings, the more we see God’s faithfulness in using those stories really to bless others. And that’s been a beautiful thing. It’s been such a beautiful thing to see how the trials that we’ve walked through (which we’re nowhere near the other side of), God has used through song-form to reach a lot of other people in the midst of their hard journey.

    John: When you have a song like “Blessings,” you talk about the vulnerability of something. Has that opened up a door of conversation with people that perhaps you would have not been able to talk to five years ago about?

    Laura: Oh, absolutely. I meet people at my concerts that don’t listen to Christian music. That never heard of me before, but someone at their workplace that was battling cancer would send them the YouTube link of a video that someone made with this song as a background. And all of a sudden, they end up at this event and they’re hearing this thing called the gospel. That there’s a God that is bigger than the here-and-now and that He has a plan for our lives that’s bigger than the pain we’re walking through in this life. The fact that we’ve been able to talk to people about that, that really weren’t interested in spiritual things at all, that’s just a pretty amazing thing.

    John: Yes, for sure. When you set out to write a song, Laura, do you feel like you’re writing a song to yourself, or do you have people in mind? Do you have your family in mind, or your church in mind? Do you have the faces that you see while you’re out touring in mind? Who do you write your songs for?

    Laura: That’s a great question. I’d say that it’s a little bit of both. Sometimes I’ll write songs just as a worship leader at my church. Like this past Easter, my Pastor was in a servant series and I knew exactly what kind of closing point it was going to be and I thought, “Man, I wish there was a song out that really could just allow people to soak in that truth that he’s going to land on right here.” So, I start looking through songs and kind of feel like God is saying, “No, no that’s a song you’re supposed to write.” And so, one of the new songs on my record is song called “You Gave Your Life For Me,” and it was written out of necessity. They needed a song in church that Sunday about that very truth, so a lot of times it is having the church in mind and it’s having other people in mind.

    There’s another song on my new CD called “Forgiven,” written for that girl in the very back row who doesn’t feel worthy to be in church. She doesn’t feel worthy to ever experience the love of Jesus. It’s a song declaring the heart of forgiveness and the grace of God, and the more you get into that song, you realize that each of us is that girl on the back row. None of us are worthy of God’s grace. And not to get too deep into the different songs on the record, but all of them are written for other people, yet they’re all written for me as well in a way. A lot of times people have this misconception of songwriters, that we have mastered this truth and now we’re going to bless everyone with it.

    That’s usually not the case--at least with me. It’s usually the truth of God that I’m struggling to believe myself. Those are the truths that God will sneak into these song formats and I myself sing them each night. Not as a truth that I’ve mastered, so much, that I want to share with others, but a truth that God is wanting to seep into the depths of who I am. The truth that God wants to be an anchor for my soul, and so I share it with other people, as one theologian said, “One beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” That’s very much how I feel. I’m just another follower of Jesus trying to hang on to His truth in the midst of life’s trials. So yes, all the songs I’ve written, they’re for other people but they’re also always for me.

    John: Then there’s “God of Every Story.” You do look at those individual faces to some extent, and at the same time, you keep yourself in mind recognizing that there is this greater story going on. How did you come to the point of saying, “Okay, God, you are involved in every story going on here?”

    Laura: Well, that song is kind of a funny one how that came about. At the very beginning, before I had written any songs for this new CD, I came to Ed Cash, the producer, and said, “I want the whole CD to be called God of Every Story. And, I want to write a song called “God of Every Story,” and I want the whole CD to be about how every story finds their ultimate purpose within the context of God’s overall story. And if I’m trying to find purpose in my individual story, I’m just going to be frustrated because all of our lives are meant to be lived out like that bigger picture, that bigger story. So I came into it saying that, but then we never did it. We just wrote all these other songs and it ended up being a sweet CD.

    When we were at the very end of it and had two songs left until we were done, all of a sudden, Ed said, “Yes, it does feel like we were supposed to write that song called ‘God of Every Story.’” Literally, we wrote it probably a week before we turned the CD in and it so captured the theme of the whole CD that we actually, at the very last minute, changed the name of the whole CD to God of Every Story. So, I guess that’s kind of what the CD is about. It is about all of our individual stories, whether it’s those really fun, joyful chapters or the really hard, grueling chapters. In every single story, in every life out there, our stories find their greater purpose in the context of a bigger story. It’s this beautiful story of redemption when God is in the process of redeeming all people in all things. I know that’s probably too big to even talk about. I hope I’m giving you something helpful.

    John: It is and it is a huge story or a huge concept to behold, but I think as people are reading this blog, Laura, obviously everyone’s struggles in finding identity. And if they recognize that God is doing something in their life, hopefully they will be able to find themselves in Him.

    Laura: Yes, and the song “Blessings” was such a good example.

    John: Yes.

    Laura: That song was written by a wife struggling with her husband’s disability. It’s just as simple as that. Although I found people think it was some huge thing, it was nothing like that. It was just a life struggle with her husband’s disability, struggling with the unanswered prayer’s that I’ve prayed for the past 10 years. And being honest with people about that and I also suddenly just saw God through this beautiful thing, where he has used this song to help people mourn the loss of children.

    John: What was the writing and recording process like?

    Laura: Writing and recording this record, honestly, was a fantastic experience. I got to work with Ed Cash, who’s someone I have been friends with and done ministry with for the past 16 years. So it was kind of a natural thing that we would get to be working on a record about God being the God of every story because our families’ stories have been so intertwined just because of our relationships. And also, because he and I are both storytellers as well as worship leaders. So, it was just so easy to work with him and it was a great experience. There were a lot of wonderful co-writing experiences and yet some of those experiences on that album were just of writing some songs in my car by myself. Those real tender moments just alone with the Lord, it probably is the best experience making a record I’ve ever done in a long time.

    John: How is this different than Blessings? What do you feel like God is teaching you at this point in your life and how does that relate to the songs or theme of this record?

    Laura: The last record, Blessings… I like the record, but the song “Blessings” seemed a little out of place from the rest of the record. I tried to really figure out what it is about the song “Blessings” that seemed to stand out, not just in my heart, but seemingly in the hearts of so many other people. What I’ve been realizing is that I wrote the song “Blessings” from just such a vulnerable place. I was willing to tell a story that isn’t a finished story. It’s not a story where I understand every component of the story. It’s about God being faithful and blessing us in the midst of our open-ended stories.

    It’s not a story with Martin and I and his perfect health; it doesn’t have a tidy bow on it. It’s still very much playing out right now. And writing “Blessings” from that place of authenticity and vulnerability was a new experience for me. But in this new record, I really sought to write from that same place and even writing some songs about the new stage of life I’m in, which is being a mom. There’s so much about being a mom that impacted my songwriting. You know, writing about a father’s love for his kids that I understand a lot better being a parent now.

    John: Tell us the story behind the title track “God of Every Story.”

    Laura: “God of Every Story” is a song written about this life lesson I’m learning of seeing God in the midst of every story. Not just in my story, but in so many stories I’ve been privileged to hear over the past couple of years since the release of “Blessings.” It seems like I was unaware of how many people really felt that same way of struggling and pressing on believing that God is faithful and God is good in the midst of hard circumstances. And after hearing all of these stories, I became more convinced than ever that God is in the midst of every story--both in the joyful and in the hard chapters--and not just that He’s in the midst of every story, but that He has purpose for every story.

    A lot of times I feel like we get hung up in trying to find out the purpose for why things happen in our lives. As you look to the Scriptures, you see that God doesn’t necessarily promise us that our lives will make sense. He doesn’t promise that our stories will always have happy endings in and of themselves, but the thing He does promise is that our stories find their greater purpose in context of His story of redemption. It’s not so much that we’re supposed to figure out why this happened to us, but more, how might God use what’s happened to bring glory to Himself and to further His kingdom.

    I play a good many roles in my life. Worship leader, songwriter, artist, mom, wife of a disabled husband. And often I find myself trying to play the extra role of God. I find myself trying to take on tasks I was never meant to do. Not necessarily trying to part of the sea of Atlanta traffic, but I find myself trying to manipulate situations that are out of my control. That’s not just blasphemous; it’s futile. I would be a terrible God. I’m barely a decent me. I hate to appear that I’m needy, but I am a needy person because God created me that way. I’m learning just to submit and honor His role as God in my life.

    That’s the journey…the heart…the transparency that makes God Of Every Story more than just another album or great collection of songs. It’s more than eloquent words to an infinite, omnipotent, omnipresent God.

    More than another happy ending…

    More than just another story.

    It’s every story.

  • My Super-Sized Reactions are Hurtful

    Glynnis

    "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." Proverbs 17:9 (NIV)

    My teenage son took an extended mission trip this summer with a friend. It was the longest we'd been apart. By the time he returned home, my mama's heart was looking forward to spending time alone with him.

    I envisioned it all-he would have missed me and be overflowing with stories. We'd lounge on the couch, talking and laughing, going through his photographs.

    The night he returned we planned a welcome-home celebration with the family of his travel friend. Holding plates of chips and salsa, munching on tacos and sipping icy soda, the night was wonderful until I overheard my son making plans to work out the next day ... with the same friend he'd just spent two months with.

    The wise-mama in me, the one who'd worked hard to come to terms with her children wanting to be with their friends more than her sometimes, tried to keep me quiet.

    But the hurt-mama in me ignored that good advice as something prickly started growing in my heart. Trying to appear jovial but still wanting to make my point, I said, "I might not let you out of my sight ... ha, ha, ha." The potentially awkward moment was laughed off. At least I thought it was.

    Later my son kindly asked, "Mom, please don't make a big deal if I want to work out tomorrow, okay?"

    Knowing in my head he was right, I promised, "I won't." I gave him a tight squeeze before he headed to bed exhausted.

    Collapsing in a chair, weary from an emotionally tiring day, I should have been overflowing with gratefulness. However, the prickly response I'd felt earlier started to grow again.

    Based on one comment about working out, I started to build a case. Well, if he'd rather be with his friend, then I'll let him. I won't say anything. In fact, he can just go spend the entire day with his friend. I'm not going to ask him to spend any time with me, that's just what I'll do!

    Staring across the room, tears banked like an infinity pool, threatening to overflow. Hurt and indignation swirled for a few moments.

    Thankfully the wise-mama didn't completely abandon me. Before my wayward thoughts could go further, I recognized the need to get to the bottom of my super-sized response. For heavens sake, my son only wanted to work out. Why was I acting so out of sorts?

    Digging into my thoughts and emotions, I realized I was hurt because my son hadn't met my expectations for how his return would be. The simple truth was he hadn't worked out in two months. It had nothing to do with his feelings for me-yet my reaction selfishly made it about me.

    Then clear as could be, I "heard" God speak to my heart: Can you love someone who doesn't meet all your expectations?

    Pondering this question, I had to acknowledge the many times I don't meet the expectations of others. I'd certainly let God down many times, and I hadn't met my son's expectations that day either. So why was I expecting him to meet mine?

    My unfair expectations led me to an unfair interpretation of his motives, which led me to a potentially hurtful reaction. My desire was to love my son; my super-sized reaction would have sent an entirely different message.

    Proverbs 17:9 say, "Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends." The only offense that day was made up in my mind. Yet the truth of this verse applied.

    The next day ushered in a fresh chance to react in a loving way. Having set aside unrealistic expectations, I was able to enjoy time with my son. And he was able to work out with his friend and come home to a much more gracious mama.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me in spite of the fact that I'm not perfect. You continually see the best in me. Help me to see the best in others and stop super-sizing my reactions. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Do your feelings get hurt often by others? Dig into your thoughts and emotions to determine why.

    Can you love those who don't meet all your expectations?

    Power Verses: Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV)

    1 Peter 4:8, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Evil Intent Exposed

    Boyd

    Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Matthew 22:17-18

    Beware of those with evil intent. Their motivation is to make others look bad so they can look good. Unscrupulous individuals seek to weaken another’s authority so they can step into the power vacuum and take control. They use flattery to gain favor from their victim. They acquire trust so they can discredit their opponent’s character. A heart with evil intent uses truth to set a trap of confusion. Thus, wisdom and discernment are required to confront confusion with clarity.

    Has another attempted to question your character? Have you answered their clever questions directly with insight from Scripture? Pray the Holy Spirit reveals the heart of God to your heart, so you righteously respond to unrighteous inquiries. Questions with evil intent are fishing for an evil reaction. But in the power of the Holy Spirit you don’t have to lower yourself to acting like your agitators. Be bold, but respectful. Be direct, but with grace and truth.

    But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Matthew 5:44

    Furthermore, pray for those in authority who use others to do their dirty work. They indirectly infuse their influence through their subordinates who wish to avoid insubordination. Thus, we don’t shoot the messenger, but by God’s grace we grow in our compassion and empathy for their no win situation. Perhaps they are a puppet of their boss’ pride. They fear losing his or her approval or they don’t want to jeopardize their promotion, so they give in to being used. So, be like Joseph and his jailer, seek God’s favor and serve. You may gain more influence for Christ.

    Finally, guard your heart if you feel betrayed, attacked, dismissed or marginalized. Let go of hurt and be healed. Release anger and forgive. Lovingly confront critics with grace and truth. When you feel wronged, pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the right words with the right spirit. The battle is the Lord’s, so you can trust Him to deal with evil intent in His timing. Yes, trust in the Lord with all your heart, so your heart is free from fear and retaliation. He exposes evil intent.

    For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:12

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me Your heart to lovingly confront another’s evil intent with grace and truth.

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 12:19; Psalm 141:5; John 17:15; 2 Thessaloinians 3:2

    Post/Tweet today: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, so your heart is free from fear and retaliation. #evilintentexposed

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

  • Will You Share Your Story?

    Lysa

    "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

    Whenever I've stepped out to do something I felt God calling me to do, the voices of criticism and condemnation have been there to greet me. Early on in ministry the voices were loud and cruel. "You'll never be a speaker." "You are not wanted." "Look at you. Do you really think God could use someone like you?"

    Sometimes I measured myself against other people. "She's so clever. She's so educated. She's so connected. Who am I compared to all that?" Gradually, I shrank back. I pulled away. I put up a front of perfection with carefully crafted words and a house and kids that looked just right.

    Polished on the outside, yet completely undone on the inside.

    Eventually the Lord called my bluff. I was simultaneously going through the books Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby and Victory Over the Darkness by Neil Anderson. Often tears streamed from my eyes while attempting to get through the lessons. But one day it was more than just tears. It was sobs pouring from a chest so heavy with burdens I thought I might literally break apart.

    Down on my face, I asked God to speak to me. What I heard in reply was one simple, life-changing question: Will you share your story?

    "Yes, I will share my story. The good parts that are safe and tidy and acceptable."

    But safe and tidy and acceptable were not what God was looking for. He wanted the impossible.

    Absolutely impossible ... in my strength.

    God met every one of my arguments with scriptures about relying not on my strength, but on His.

    He untangled my need for approval with the challenge to live for an audience of One. He helped me see where the voices of doubt were coming from and challenged me to consider the source. And, quite simply, God kept whispering He loved me over and over again.

    The first time I shared my story was an act of absolute obedience. I kept my head down and my guard up. I expected the ladies listening to stone me ... especially when I got to the part about my abortion. The shame of childhood abuse and rejection was nothing compared to the shame of my choice to abort my child.

    I'd wept over that choice.

    I'd repented.

    I'd gone to God hundreds of times and asked for forgiveness.

    I'd laid it down every time there was an altar call.

    But nothing brought the redemption that day brought. As I shook at that podium, I shared exactly what God asked me to.

    And then the miracle happened.

    When I finished and dared to look up, tear-stained faces were looking back at me. Mouths were whispering, "Me too. Me too."

    In that moment, I finally understood the meaning behind Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

    Seeing God use the very thing that made me feel utterly worthless to help others changed everything. I was finally breaking free from Satan's chains of shame and could see his lies for what they were. In that moment, I felt victorious—not in my own power, but in the Lord's strength and ability to use all things for good.

    My saying yes to God gave others the courage to say yes to Him as well. Burdens were lifted. Lives were changed. Hidden secrets were touched by grace. It's a beautiful thing when women say yes to God. In what way is He calling you to say yes?

    Dear Lord, thank You for making the impossible, possible. Thank You for taking every event in my life and using it for good. You are worthy to be praised. I want to follow Your plan for my life. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What has God placed on your heart to share with others?

    Be intentional in encouraging someone with a compliment, positive note, or text message today. The Lord wants to use our words in our own lives, as well others'.

    Power Verse: Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Taken from What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional © Copyright 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. Published by Harvest House Publishers. Eugene, OR. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Children Praise God

    Boyd

    Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him. “Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read, ‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’”? Matthew 21:9

    The Lord calls forth praise from the lips of precious children to Him. They praise Him for they know He loves them. They praise Him because He cares for them. They praise Him for His goodness. They praise Him for His forgiveness. They praise Him for the beauty of His holiness. Their praise is pure, unsoiled by skeptics. A child has yet to be defiled by the cynical sorts Satan sends to confuse adults. Their authentic air of worship drifts a pleasing aroma into the nostrils of God.

    A child is positioned by their honest intentions and trusting hearts to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Thus, as parents we are responsible to encourage their growth in grace and truth. We teach them songs of praise at an early age so words of worship make their way into the depths of their moldable hearts. ‘Bless the Lord and all that is within me’ will not be soon forgotten by a son or daughter who sings this to Jesus. Yes, praise revels Christ’s salvation.

    The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness. Isaiah 38:19

    Furthermore, make it fun for your child to praise Jesus. Play uplifting and joyful music in the car and at home. A chorus like, ‘Obedience is the very best way to show that you believe,’ is an easy phrase to recall and it reflects the heart of Christ. He says, ‘If you love me keep my commands’ (John 14:15).  A simple and appropriate way for a child to honor their parents is to obey them. Instant obedience is an indicator of a person whose praise to God is life changing.

    A family who worships together grows in grace together. Yes, there are times you wonder if all the Sunday morning ruckus is worth the physical energy and emotional stress to get your little ones to church. Absolutely yes, keep your family in a healthy, faith filled environment. Like a greenhouse grows luscious fruit and vegetables, so your child’s heart warms to God in worship. Encourage your child to praise God by your passionate praise to God. He inhabits His praises!

    But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3, KJV

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your goodness, humility and mercy. May I praise with the purity of a child.

    Related Readings: Exodus 15:2; Psalm 8:2, 71:22; Luke 10:21; 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

    Post/Tweet today: Like a greenhouse grows luscious fruit and vegetables, so your child’s heart warms to God in worship. #praiseGod

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

  • Behind the Song with Britt Nicole

    Produced by Britt Nicole’s longtime collaborator Dan Muckala, along with producers Chris Stevens, David Garcia and Josh Crosby, Gold merges her passionately thoughtful lyrics with infectious beats and soaring melodies. The sweeping, slow-building "All This Time" recounts Britt’s struggle to overcome the pain of her parents’ divorce, while "Stand" blends high-powered beats with sweetly inspirational lyrics about rediscovering your strength. On "Ready or Not," sunny acoustic strumming gets elegantly layered over stomping rhythms and in-your-face electro effects.

    Whether delivering a soulful ballad or a beat-soaked dance track, Britt strikes a stunning balance between vulnerability and self-assurance all throughout the album. This re-release of 2012's Gold features new mixes of "Gold" and "All This Time."

    Here is Britt's story behind the song, "Ready Or Not" featuring Lecrae.

    Here is the lyric video.

    What do you think?

  • Sacrificial Love

    Samanatha

    "You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (Mark 10:21 ESV)

    I had some misplaced priorities. I suppose at some level I'd known it for some time. But I didn't fully recognize how misplaced they were until I took a trip to El Salvador with a Christian humanitarian organization.

    I met two children on a home visit. They lifted their tarp door and invited me into mud puddles and dirt walls with just one bed where their family of five rested at night. One bed for dreaming dreams of being a doctor and police officer.

    I'd come to offer gifts of detergent and food. But the children's gifts exceeded anything I had to give. A tiny beaded bracelet smudged with dirt, drenched in love. They wanted it to be mine. They filled my hands with selfless love. Love shared in smiles and what few tangible gifts they owned.

    Feeling too shy to hand me the bracelet herself, the girl nudged her brother. He presented it to me as if it were a royal crown and slid it gently on my wrist. I declare, diamonds couldn't match the worth of their hearts, their gift in that moment.

    The next morning as I was getting dressed, I felt a nudge. Give your bracelet away like those children gave theirs to you.

    You see, I had another precious bracelet with me. It was one my dad had given me over twenty years ago. Just a simple wooden bracelet from South Africa, but it meant the world to me.

    How could I part with it? I wrestled with indecision. My heart soared, anticipating the moment I'd spot a mama to whom I would give my bracelet. Then my heart sank, anxious at the thought of giving up one of my treasures.

    And there lay the problem. My misplaced treasure.

    I'm embarrassed ... heartbroken. I'm sad to say I couldn't give it away. Couldn't? No; more like I wouldn't. Both bracelets journeyed back home with me. One bearing selflessness; the other, selfishness.

    I thought I was really something, bringing gifts to those kids in the form of beans and rice. Little did I know, I was the one in need. I needed God's mercy. I needed a new perspective. I don't want possessions if I'm not willing to use them to love others.

    I needed the one thing I lacked ... more love for the Lord than for my possessions. My heart held tighter to my bracelet than it did to what God had asked me to do. He beckoned, "Give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." A simple request, yet so difficult to follow.

    I don't want to be lacking in love for the Lord or those He cares for. Next time I'm giving it all. I'm starting by opening my hands and heart and looking for opportunities today. Are you with me?

    Dear Lord, You are the perfect example of giving. Thank You for new mercies, second chances, and a heart capable of responding to Your prompting. Help me to respond to Your prompting this day. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember You need more love for the Lord than for your possessions.

    Reflect You can choose each day to bear selflessness or selfishness. Why is it sometimes easier to hold more tightly to earthy possessions?

    Respond Set up a time to volunteer with those who have less than you to help gain perspective on what's important.

    Power Verses Matthew 6:20; 1 Timothy 6:18-19

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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

  • God’s Total Care

    Boyd

    The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. Psalm 23:1

    No one lacks anything when they are cared for by the Lord who provides everything. He may not give His children all they want, but His extravagant goodness provides all they need. God’s stature as the Great Shepherd over His sheep is without comparison. No bank account can account for the One who owns all the wealth of the world. No insurance policy can cover the assurance of Him who gives eternal life to all who believe. God’s total care is comprehensive.

    We lack nothing, when we hand everything over to God. We are free when we are unshackled from our stuff. Yes, some will say we are silly, even irresponsible to see the Lord as our provider. But God’s wisdom is foolishness and far out to those who view Him as distant and impersonal. Matters of the spirit are only discerned by the Spirit, so those who have yet to taste of the Spirit’s goodness cannot see and understand His ways. The Lord’s sheep lack nothing of consequence!

    The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. Psalm 34:10

    You are totally loved, led, protected and provided for by the Lord. He makes you feel secure and safe in His presence. As you walk through trials He is with you to comfort and encourage. Even in the face of death, His peace and rest are ever present for you to access and enjoy. When you unwisely stray toward sin, His rod and His staff gently bring you back into His faithful flock. Oh, what a good and loving Shepherd who shepherds your heart, mind and soul for His name’s sake.

    So, we seek the Lord while He may be found. We rest beside His secure shores of salvation before He has to make us to lie down. God is our personal protector and guide. The green grass of His word and the calm waters of His Spirit are ever available for our mind to be fed and for our soul and body to rest. He gives us the courage and emotional energy to face our enemies so we fear no evil. We are privileged and grateful to be with Jesus now and forever. He cares for us!

    And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for personally shepherding my life by Your goodness, mercy and love.

    Related Readings: Psalm 34:9, 84:11, 107:9; Matthew 14:17-21; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20

    Post/Tweet today: We lack nothing when we hand everything over to God. #God’stotalcare

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

  • Turn the Light On

    Ann

    "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Isaiah 60:1-3 (NIV)

    If you are a news junkie like me, you're aware of all the bad news in the world. Or maybe hard things have come your way. Either way, most of us can resonate with how the prophet Isaiah colors the earth in Isaiah 60:1-3.

    Rather than using stunning blues and greens to describe our world, Isaiah speaks of Earth's spiritual atmosphere in other terms. He says, "See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples . . ." (vs. 2a)

    Not long ago, I received a touching email. "The death of children overseas and the senseless murder of people at their place of work, have been pockmarking and spray painting over what I knew to be true of God." The young woman who wrote me went on to explain that these things and more had been "defacing the image of Christ I have in my heart."

    I was struck by the imagery she used. It made me wonder what had been marring my own view of God. In the midst of difficulties both near and far, how can I hold onto an image of God that highlights His power and goodness? So many questions come in the midst of darkness. "Why doesn't God do something?" "Why is there so much evil in the world?" And more personally, "Why doesn't God help me?"

    Isaiah didn't offer answers to these questions. Instead, he listened for God's voice and then spoke the word God gave him. He painted a picture of an earth covered in thick darkness, yet he also spoke of a light so strong it would pierce the darkness. "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you." (vs. 1).

    He spoke not so much of a happy present, but of a blessed future. Though he didn't know Jesus' name, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Jesus approximately 700 years before His birth. Jesus is our answer when we wonder where God is. He's the light that dispels the darkness and shows us God's great love.

    Like Isaiah and the people he spoke to, we sometimes feel mired in gloom. There is so much darkness in the world. Fortunately, we are not left alone to stumble in the darkness. We have been given Jesus, the light by which we filter life's hardships.

    Today, let's take a few moments to move our focus from the world's problems to God. As we do, let's ask Jesus, to give us a deeper vision of who He is, praying that His character will shine like a light through us. Let's also ask for His help in seeing tragedies and bad news through His eyes, trusting that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).

    As you pray, remember that darkness is nothing but the absence of light. It's a negative—a nothing. As soon as you flip the switch, the darkness vanishes. Today, ask God to turn the light on in you, so that others will see His power and come to know His goodness.

    Lord, I need a deeper vision of who You are. As I seek You, please draw me close and fill me with Your presence. Then turn the light on in me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Think about the media you expose yourself to each day. How do you feel after you listen, read, watch?

    What is one thing you could do today that would add more light to your life? Consider adding something positive to your life like more time for prayer, Scripture reading, or service.

    Power Verse: John 1:4-5, "In him [Christ] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (NIV)

    Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Ann Spangler. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Be With Jesus

    Boyd

    He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:14

    First and foremost, Jesus calls His children to be with Him. A disciple’s devotion to God precedes his or her duty for God. Otherwise, the primary goal becomes executing the mission of the Lord, instead of His first ministering to the heart of the mission-minded disciple. Obedience is critical, but not before receiving the love of Jesus. Intimacy defines compliance to His commands with grace. Solitude with the Savior prepares a disciple to serve for the Savior.

    Yes, our primary call is to be with God on earth, before we go to be with Him in heaven. Sweet communion with Christ sustains our public zeal for His great commission of disciple making. We go into the world to make disciples after the Holy Spirit molds us into spirit-filled followers through intimate prayer. Yes, as we experience the Lord’s greatest command to love and be loved by Him, we are ready for His great commission to make disciples. Be with Jesus to share Jesus!

    You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. John 6:67-69

    We are tempted to turn our backs on Jesus when it is too hard or too easy. It may feel too hard because nothing seems to work: our prayers remain unanswered, our relationships teeter on the rocks and our finances are a wreck. We want to give up on God, because He does not give us what we need. Or, life may be really good for now, so we feel the freedom to be free from real faithfulness to God. Our prayers can become perfunctory and our obedience an obligation.

    However, whether times are hard or easy, we still need our time with Jesus. We need to be with Jesus because our souls remains needy regardless of our external failures or successes. The Lord loves to walk with us through our valleys and to our mountain tops. And most times the good and the bad things in life happen simultaneously. Thus, we go to be with Jesus for no one else has words of eternal life. We want to be with Him in love, so we can go out and love others for Him!

    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, my heart longs to be with You so I can best love for You.

    Related Readings: Hosea 3:1; Matthew 11:28; Mark 6:31; Romans 1:7; Galatians 2:20

    Post/Tweet today:,. As we experience the Lord’s greatest command to love, we are ready for His great commission to make disciples.

    © 2013 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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