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Family Christian

  • 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

  • Gary Chapman - Believing God in All of Life


    Married more than 45 years to Karolyn, Dr. Gary Chapman is just the man to turn to for help on improving or healing our most important relationships. His own life experiences, plus over forty years of pastoring and marriage counseling, led him to publish his first book in the Love Language series, The Five Love Languages. Millions of readers credit this continual #1 New York Times bestseller with saving their marriages by showing them simple and practical ways to communicate their love to their partner.

    I talked with Dr. Chapman not too long ago and what I found was a man that was very concerned with followers of Christ being just that - followers of Christ.

    Gary speaks to thousands of couples nationwide through his weekend marriage conferences. He hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, Love Language Minute, and a Saturday morning program, Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, that air on more than 400 stations. He also serves as senior associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

    John: Was The Five Love Languages your first book?

    Dr. Chapman: No, it was my third book. I wrote two books before that. One was called Toward a Growing Marriage, which was been retitled To the Marriage you’ve Always Wanted. Then I wrote Hope for the Separated: Wounded Marriages Can Be Healed, which is written to people who are separated but not divorced and encouraging reconciliation. Then I wrote The Five Love Languages.

    John: The Five Love Languages certainly has taken off and catapulted your career. I think it sold over 6 million copies. Has that book changed your life, has it changed your marriage in a sense? I mean obviously it has been quite a few years since you wrote that book, but has what you’ve done some years ago impacted you today?

    Dr. Chapman: My personal life, yes. In fact in my life greatly. My language is words of affirmation. My wife’s language is acts of service, so in the early years of our marriage, I would give her words of affirmation. I would speak my language. I would tell her how nice she looks. I would tell her how much I appreciate what she did. I would tell her a dozen times a day I love you but after a while she said to me one night, “You know, you keep on saying ‘I love you, I love you.’ If you love me, why don’t you help me?” I was blown out of the saddle because in my mind I was loving her. In her mind, if I loved her I would be helping her. I would be doing acts of service. Yeah, it radically changed my life and that’s why to this day, I’m vacuuming floors, I wash dishes; I start the dishwasher. I take the trash out. I live with a happy woman.

    John: That’s awesome. I just have a few questions, basic questions. From your experience of being a counselor, when God calls two people together, why is it that they forget, together to be married, why is, Dr. Chapman, that more often than not they forget that they are still sinners being called into that marriage?

    Dr. Chapman: I think, John, we don’t typically go around thinking of ourselves as sinners. We like to think of ourselves of being pretty good people. The reality is we are all sinners. That means that we are self-centered, which leads often to selfishness. Two people who are selfish will never have a good marriage because marriage has to do with love, which means we are looking out for the other person’s interest. I think just by nature we are selfish and we are more concerned about being loved than we are loving. Consequently, if my spouse is not speaking my love language I begin to feel like they don’t love me, then the differences arise, the irritations arise, and we get into conflicts and often into arguments about those things. Before long we don’t even like each other and we tend to blame the other person because they are not doing this, that or the other thing. Essentially they are not speaking our love language, but I think the root problem is always selfishness.

    I don’t know why, except I think it is just a good tool of the enemy to keep us focusing on the other person and it is their problem and consequently we don’t get around to looking at ourselves and where the real problem was.

    John: Dr. Chapman if someone is engaged to be married, what would you say is the single most important piece of advice that you would give them?

    Dr. Chapman: Well, I think that there are many things but if I have to choose only one… I would say that the foundation of spiritual unity would be the most important and the reason I say that is because I believe in God and I believe what God has said and I believe that how He revealed himself in Christ deeply impacts every other aspect of life. If we are not in unity on those key fundamental spiritual issues, we are far more likely to have severe problems in the marriage relationship. I wrote a book maybe two or three years ago called, “Things I wish I had known before we got married” which was my attempt to help singles by sharing with them 12 things that I know now that had I known before we got married would have made my marriage much easier. That is one of the things I will do within that book. I think the chapter title is I wish I had known that spirituality is not to be equated with going to church because so many people feel like we would both go to church. We are both Christians without really exploring what that means and what the real spiritual foundation is. I think that’s the one I would focus on.

    John: Do you think the Bible allows for people to marry an unbeliever?

    Dr. Chapman: I really don’t think the Bible encourages that. The Scriptures say, I asked the question can two walk together if they are not in agreement? I think the answer is something like, not very well and probably not very far. I just think that the fundamental issues, now let’s face it, there are many people who are married and one is a Christian and one is not a Christian. There are people who marry when either one of them is Christians and one of them becomes a Christian and the other doesn’t. There are certainly many marriages where one is a Christian and one is not, but if you are on the fly and looking at marriage I think the Bible would encourage you to discuss the spiritual issues and particularly one’s relationship with Christ and the nature of their relationship, the depth of their relationship, to make sure you are marching to the beat of the same drummer. I just think that’s fundamental.

    John: Dr. Chapman do you mind if I ask you a few questions about what you think about the church here in the U.S.?

    Dr. Chapman: No that’s fine.

    John: What do you think, are we in a healthy state when you look at … you obviously do a lot of speaking? You have a radio program. You are heard all over. There are many churches that have utilized your books. You probably know a lot of pastors as well and counselors at work in lay ministry. Do you think the church is as proactively seeking those that are having problems or troubles in their marriage and attempting to fix them as the church used to be?

    Dr. Chapman: I think, John, my short answer would be I wish we were doing much more. My goal has always been and I challenge churches to this, that every church large or small would have an ongoing marriage enrichment program; that is, that they are doing something all the time throughout the year to enrich marriages. Most churches, at least most smaller churches, a pastor will preach on marriage once a year maybe a two or three week series and that’s basically all that’s done. I just believe we’ve got to do more than that but even the smaller church can have one couple in the church who has a passion for marriage enrichment. You can send them to get training. Many marriage seminars provide them books and they can begin to lead a small group with maybe just five or six couples to start with, take them through some curriculum whatever curriculum and then one of those couples will say “Hey we can do this” and so now you’ve got another lead couple. I believe if we are taking our people through various curriculums during each year and people know in the church it’s always a place where we can go to get help in our marriage, I think they will begin to invite non-Christians to get into that kind of program. It can be a door into the church for those who are non-Christians.

    I wish we were doing much more. I think many of our larger churches do have members who are fostering marriage and family life programs in the church and I think that’s wonderful but I wish we were doing much more.

    John: Do you think the church has kind of stepped back from doing that because the church to some extent kind of follows what’s going on in culture, or do you think there is something else going on?

    Dr. Chapman: I don’t know that we’ve stepped back from doing it. I don’t think we ever did really a good job to be honest with you. Back when things were more stable in our culture, the churches I don’t think even sensed much of a need to be doing anything about marriage because the most famous were stable families, but it is as things have unraveled in our society and the family has become so dysfunctional in our society that the churches have begun to take it seriously and I think many of them are still taking it seriously. My priority would be that it would just permeate more of our churches and that more of our pastors would see the need for this. I think a part of it, John, is that pastors don’t have time to do it themselves and they don’t have quite the vision of asking God to give them a couple in their church who will have a passion for this. It just takes one couple who has a passion for it and they can begin something that will go on. I just challenge pastors to pray for that couple, look for that couple and then seek to empower that couple.

    John: Dr. Chapman you have a new book that’s hitting called Extraordinary Grace: How the Unlikely Lineage of Jesus Reveals God's Amazing Love. I can speculate about that book but I’d love to hear what your thoughts are going into it.

    Dr. Chapman: You know, John, that book grew out of a sermon that I gave at our church last Christmas on Matthew 1 on the lineage of Jesus, looking at the ancestors of Jesus who are listed in that chapter. It is very dry reading for most people. It is just the list of all these names, but I gave a sermon on that then pointed out that many of those people who were in the lineage of Jesus were people who committed really pretty bad things in their lives, experienced forgiveness and God used them and they are in the lineage of Jesus. The message of that book bottom line is I say, “Look. If God can use these people with the things that they committed, then God can use you. His grace is real. His forgiveness is real and God can use you.” I’m hoping that this book is going to help a lot of people who look at themselves and look at their history and say, “You have done this, this, this, and this … and God can never use me.” The reality is God can use anyone who turns to him in repentance and faith.

    In the book we kind of flesh out those biblical characters and just look at the real life they lived and used that as an illustration of the grace of God. I’m very excited about it. Chris Fabry my coauthor is someone, you might you know Chris. Chris is a great fiction writer and he was very instrumental in fleshing out some of those stories in the book.

    John: What do you and your family enjoy doing?

    Dr. Chapman: It is just my wife and I. The kids are grown and gone. We enjoy a lot of things. We both enjoy being involved in the life of the church. We were heavily involved in the life of the church. My wife is involved in the women’s ministry, in our music ministry. Of course, I’m still involved in counseling and various other administrative things in the church but a lot of our lives have centered around the church. We are in a large church and have a lot of staff members that we work with. I’m not the single pastor. I’m just one of the associate pastors. We enjoy that.

    We also enjoy our grandchildren. We have two and they are two and half hours away from us but we see them about every six weeks. I just took my 12-year-old grandson with me to Brazil. He wanted to see the rainforest, so my publisher in Brazil had asked me to come down. We just launched The Love Languages Devotional Bible in Portuguese and he asked me to come down. I said, “Okay, if you will arrange for me to have two days in the rainforest with my 12-year-old grandson I will come.” They did and we had a great time together.

    John: Was that your first time doing that?

    Dr. Chapman: Actually to go to the rainforest, yes. I’ve been to Brazil once before about four years ago but I’ve never been to the rainforest and so we had fun with marquees and the snakes, the alligators, mosquitoes and …

    John: Were the mosquitoes as big in Brazil as they are in North Carolina?

    Dr. Chapman: The mosquitoes were not what I had anticipated. They, maybe because it was wintertime there but still hot and is in the 80s, but maybe they have more mosquitoes in the summer time but we really didn’t have as many mosquitoes as I anticipated. Of course we took our yellow fever shot and our typhoid shot and all that. We were ready.

    John: Whatever may come.

    Dr. Chapman: That’s right.

    John: Dr. Chapman I thank you very much for the opportunity to chat with you today and we are extremely looking forward to Extraordinary Grace coming out.

    Personally speaking, I want to thank you for The Five Love Languages. You helped two scrawny very self-centered people, my wife and I. About 22 or 23 years ago we got your book and didn’t necessarily read it; got married and similar story, to be perfectly honest, as you and your wife. I was kind of doing my thing; my wife was kind of doing her thing. I kept telling her how much I loved her and she kept wanting me to wash the dishes or do something. We had a couple of kids and I continued to just tell her how much I loved her and I wasn’t necessarily taking an active role in that. You certainly helped her realize what her love language was and then she told me what her love language was and told me what mine was as well. Praise God we are still married and we have six kids and we are doing great. We are just so thankful for you and for many others who have counseled us through great books. Again I appreciate your ministry.

    Dr. Chapman: Thanks for sharing that John. I think that’s the story of a lot of people. I have just been so encouraged with the way God has used that book to help couples and I never tire of hearing stories like that. All of us, as we said earlier, are selfish. If we don’t find an answer to that, of course the answer is found in Christ, but in the practical sense of how do you express that love and love language concept really, really does help. Thanks for sharing that.

    John: You are welcome. God bless you brother.

    Dr. Chapman: Thank you. Goodbye.

  • Keeper of the Stars - Behind the Song with Laura Story

    Laura Story is a sharer of stories. She has a way of sharing something from her personal life, while yet still making it completely relate-able to someone else.

    Perhaps it’s her quiet spirit. Perhaps it’s the story itself.

    Regardless, when Laura starts to tell a story, one can’t help but stop and listen.

    If you haven’t heard Laura’s new album, God of Every Story yet, you have been missing something. Laura has returned to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord and honesty with herself.

    She is joined by producer Ed Cash on the making of God of Every Story. Together, they incorporated acoustic and epic instruments into a worshipful pop album. Lyrically, God of Every Story draws from Laura’s own life. Her husband’s brain tumor early in their marriage led the young family down a painful path she wouldn’t have chosen, but one that deepened her faith and her music. The resulting songs show God’s love and grace intersecting with real life, making this album a wonderful reminder that despite our questions or circumstances, God is the ultimate author of our story.

    Watch as Laura describes her new song, Keeper of the Stars

  • Battle in the Night

    Lynn

    "By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42:8 NIV)

    How could this have happened? What could I have done to stop it?

    One of my kids had made a decision that sent my emotions into a tailspin and another sleepless night was upon me; my mind wouldn't shut off. During the day I had managed to focus on God's promise to make all things work together for good. But as day faded into night, the struggle to trust became more than I could take.

    Many nights as I lie in bed, my mind pulls me into a downward spiral of focusing on my troubles. It's then and there that the battle is most intense. A war wages between my faith and fears.

    What if my loved one never knows Jesus? Will my kids make the right choices with their peers? What can I do for my friend who struggles with cancer?

    Even though my body is still, my thoughts are at war.

    Do you struggle in the quiet of the night? Maybe you have thoughts like these ... Nobody else has troubles. Other people are just enjoying their lives. Why is mine so hard? The battles we face are real, and rob us of joy as well as sleep.

    This is why I love King David's encouraging words in Psalm 42. During the day he allowed the Lord's love to direct him. Knowing he was loved gave him the strength to make the hard choices that were the best choices. At night he put away all the words and hard thinking and devoted himself to praising God.

    I want to do the same. When the lights are turned out, I want to choose a song of praise, arming myself with truth and worship for the only One who can carry and fix my troubles. When my mind tries to take a turn and go around that problem one more time, I want to make the choice to stop and sing (even if only in my head).

    I gave this a try the other night while stewing over my worries. It reminded me of a sign my mom has in her home: "Give me all your troubles before you go to bed. I'm going to be up anyway."—God

    Pick a song you can sing at night when trouble comes knocking and worry wants to run rampant in your heart and mind. Make your prayer a song to God and choose a song of praise to sing to Him all day long—from sunrise to late in the evening. Watch your heart go from fear to faith as you trust in the Lord.

    Dear Lord, I feel stronger in the day than in the night. Bring to mind a song of praise I can sing that will lift my thoughts and strengthen my faith in you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember When you are tired and quiet at night, you can be more susceptible to runaway emotions. You can guard your heart from fear by singing praises to your King as your mind and body find their rest.

    Reflect Think about what song you would choose as your song of praise.

    Respond Write Psalm 42:8 down, and put it next to your bed to remind you to look to the Lord as you go to sleep.

    Power Verses Psalm 94:18–19; Exodus 15:2

    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

  • Profitable Patience

    Boyd

    Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

    Life is normally lived waiting. We wait in lines; a teenager waits for his or her next birthday; we wait for job promotions; we wait for news from the doctor; we wait for the next meal; we wait for our future spouse; we wait for a lawsuit to be settled; we wait for a meeting to conclude; we wait for those who have yet to keep their commitment. Every time we turn around we have an opportunity to wait. Why wait? Because most of the time, it’s what’s best and most beneficial. A vegetable gardener is a prisoner to waiting, but this an asset, not a liability. A tomato is much tastier when it is red, large, and juicy, rather than green, small, and hard. The smart gardener will wait for the vegetables to ripen, while nurturing the soil along the way and keeping the weeds out. There is a waiting cycle that must be completed before there is worthwhile fruit. If you didn’t have to wait, you may have been satisfied with how things had always been done. Now you have the opportunity to think differently. Maybe there are other people or resources that can contribute to your project or plan. So, when things do not go as planned, see it as an opportunity to improve the plan. Or the very thing may be to provide help to another, as waiting is a lesson in loving others in spite of themselves; even providing valued assistance during this parenthesis in your own life. Most importantly, learn how to wait for the Lord. What a valuable asset to wait upon. The Lord God Almighty is worth the wait. It is worth waiting for His joy because it comes to uplift you and bring a smile to your face; it is worth waiting for His peace that calms your soul and allows you to sleep at night; it is worth waiting for His wisdom that provides discernment in the middle of conflicting options; it is worth waiting for His strength that propels you through adversity and gives you confidence and perseverance for life’s journey; it is worth waiting for His hope that lifts you up and out of your despair and depression.

    People camp out to see a rock star or pay big bucks to wait and meet the President; so waiting on God should be a cinch. Waiting is being fundamentally patient with God. He is running the universe, He knows what is going on, and He knows what is best for you. He knows. He knows. He knows. You can trust Him in your waiting. Use this sabbatical-like time to get to know your heavenly Father more intimately. Use this time to love your family and others, like no other time in your life. Allow Him to mold your character so that others will comment to themselves that you are somehow different. You are different because you have been with Jesus. Waiting is not just a passage to God’s blessing, it is God’s blessing. Wait for the Lord, because He is worth the wait. The Bible says, “I wait for you, O LORD; you will answer, O Lord my God” (Psalm 38:15).

    Post/Tweet: Waiting is not just a passage to God’s blessing, it is God’s blessing. #profitablepatience

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

  • Too-Familiar Leaders

    Boyd

    “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).

    Leaders can become so familiar with their team that they dilute their effectiveness to lead. They are not one of the boys or one of the girls—they are the leader. Parents have to learn this. They are not the child or teenager’s friend—they are first the dad or mom. Friendship can come later with adult children; in the meantime, they need leadership.

    So how familiar are you with those you lead? Are you respectful of others so you invite their respect? Do you lift them up with commendation or tear them down with coarse kidding? Joking around on the job is not a pattern great leaders model. This may have been your behavior in the past, but in the present your role requires more maturity.

    Does this mean leaders are not transparent about their weaknesses? No, because humble leaders are the first to confess their struggles and blind spots. But it does mean that wise leaders approach their God-given role with solemn responsibility and serious resolve. People need leaders they can trust and look up to as the Lord’s leaders for this season.

    We do not want those we lead to pray as David did: “May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership” (Psalm 109:8). Followers want to be led by a wise leader.

    Moreover, when we become too close to a team member, it creates jealousy, rivalry, and resentment. This happens with children. If we play favorites with a child, other siblings will notice and spew out their frustrations on the parent’s pet. We can reward good behavior and praise obedience, but we should not overdo it by crossing the line of becoming too familiar.

    Leadership can be lonely, but we are not alone as followers of Jesus. Wise leaders keep their emotions under the Spirit’s control in the presence of their team, but in the presence of the Lord they bare their soul. You cannot become too familiar with your heavenly Father. He already knows more about you than you do. Pour out your frustrations and fears to Him, and He will listen, forgive, and lead you in the way you should go.

    “My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:3–5).

    Prayer: Do I look to the Lord to lead me? How can I lovingly lead with honesty and respect?

    Related Readings: Exodus 18:13–16; Zechariah 12:5–6; John 12:42; Hebrews 13:7

    Post/Tweet: Leaders can become so familiar with their team that they dilute their effectiveness to lead. #toofamiliarlearders

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

  • Approachable Jesus

    Boyd

    Another time Jesus was praying, and when He finished, one of His disciples approached Him. Teacher, would You teach us Your way of prayer? John taught his disciples his way of prayer, and we’re hoping You’ll do the same. Luke 11:1, The Voice

    Jesus is approachable to all who desire His company. God did not create the earth like a watch, winding it up and then stepping back to let it run without His intervention. No, the Lord is personal and approachable. He invites His children to ask honest questions on how to pray, how to love, how to forgive and how to give. Yes, He loves to engage and instruct in His ways. Jesus moves the mind with clear teaching and He captures the heart with riveting and relevant stories.

    A disciple who walked with Jesus on earth struggled with his prayers to heaven. He watched Jesus pray, but the student still needed some direction in how to pray. So, even today as we grow in our faith, we still need the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the ways of God. We are disciples who sincerely want to know how to live for the Lord. He is not shy in showing us what to say and how to serve. Just as we love giving to our children, God loves to give His Spirit to all who ask.

    At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 1 Kings 3:5

    Are you approachable? Do others feel the freedom to seek your counsel and ideas? When people see the fruit of your character they want to ask you about how you live life. As you lovingly lead others, learners will want to know why you lead so unselfishly. Questions are your opportunity to point people back to the Lord’s love for you and your reciprocal approach to leading others. Tell stories of your struggles to lead in love and how you grew in grace over time. Invite questions.

    Approachability is the outcome of acceptance. When your children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers know you accept them for who they are, they will want to know who you are. Your unconditional acceptance of someone is an invitation to love them for Jesus' sake. Lastly, approach the Lord often with your fears, dreams and desires. He delights in your prayers and He unleashes His Spirit to all who call on His name. Humbly approach Him and expect to be loved!

    Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for receiving me just as I am and answering my questions around my struggles.

    Related Readings: Exodus 20:21; Ephesians 2:18, 3:12; Hebrews 7:19; 1 John 4:17, 5:14

    Post/Tweet today: Jesus moves the mind with clear teaching. He captures the heart with relevant stories. #approachableJesus

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

  • Donald Lawrence - Leading Others in Worship


    The man who wears many musical colors...

    Those seven words eloquently capture the multifaceted essence of who Donald Lawrence is. He is a songwriter. He is a producer. He's a composer, a music/choir director, recording artist, and the list goes on... The guiding force behind such No. 1 hits as “Encourage Yourself,” “Back II Eden” and “The Blessing of Abraham.” Equally at home in both the inspirational and contemporary arenas, the multiple Grammy and Stellar Award winner has collaborated with a diverse roster, including such marquee names as Karen Clark Sheard, Donnie McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, En Vogue and Mary J. Blige.

    The question is, "What is behind the eyes of such a talented man of God?" I sat down with Donald in search of the answer for that question in particular.

    John: Donald, I personally appreciate your history within our industry and the amount of talent and records that you have brought forth to encourage people in their walk with Christ. I’m wondering, Donald, if you’d be willing to share a few moments about how you were introduced to Jesus, or at least how you began your walk as a follower of Him.

    Donald: Okay. I think that we all have different journeys when it comes to our Christianity, our relationship. Me, I was brought up in a Christian household, so I’ve been in church since I was a little baby. I can never remember not ever being in church. I think you grow, and as you grow and as you mature, you look at your relationship with Jesus Christ differently. I can’t say I remember one particular time when I became a believer, because I never ever remember not ever being in church. Church was just part of my upbringing. It’s a part of my culture.

    However, I think that as you mature, you realize your purpose, and I think I started realizing my purpose when I was in my late teens. I realized that there was a calling on my life to do what I do, to inspire people, to help people live a better life based on biblical and spiritual principles, and that it was going to come through the music. And it has turned into something else as I matured, and I’m learning that, and I’m still learning to see my path as it continues to open up and becomes more visible to me.

    I would definitely say that me learning my purpose is really what I call the beginning stages of my relationship because that’s when I knew why I was put here. I really believe that everybody who is born, God sent here for a reason. The biggest reason is to restore the earth and to bring people back to Him. Once I learned that, that is what I considered, and still do, my connection, because then I know what my job is to do here. I would say definitely that was in my teens; since then, it’s just been listening and following my heart. God is in my heart, and that is just why you still have me here doing what I do now.

    John: Don, you’re a singer, a songwriter, a producer, a composer and a choir director. You are the epitome of a recording artist. When somebody looks at your life and says, “I want to be like that guy,” what would you say to them? Let’s say to someone who is in high school or college who says, “Hey, I want to … I feel like God has given me that purpose, that sense of direction, and I want to move into that same type of calling that Donald has.” How would you communicate with that person in their walk?

    Donald: I would really tell them, based on what I’m doing now and what I’ve studied now, that I do think that there are people who inspire us, that we may see ourselves in them, but we all have our own individualized grace, and our grace is our gift. So if you have a calling, if you have a gift in you, it might be similar to mine, but God has stylized us all to have our own thing. You’ll see people that will inspire you and make it wake up, and then you have to learn what your direct path is. What I would tell everybody is when you awaken and you realize that there’s this gift and it’s likened to someone else’s, let that inspire you, but listen to God because I think He’s given us all people that are assigned just to us and things that are assigned just to us. Listen and follow your heart, and don’t let anybody tell you or anything make you doubt what you know has been called on your life.

    I think that’s the time that we live in now that because, especially in the music business, because somebody thinks that this work, they’ll come to you and say, well, you don’t need to do that. You need to do this like that person, but that’s not my grace. My grace is to do this, and we have to trust the grace that’s been bestowed on us. If you do that, if you honor that, God will find ways to open up doors and paths for you that nobody can even close and nobody would even have thought of, and I’ve just learned to trust the grace that’s been put on my life, and that’s what I would tell anybody. Just be you. Be who God ordained you to be, and trust it.

    John: Donald, you sound like a theologian. You sound like a pastor. Do you feel like at certain times, God has called you into that ministry as well?

    Donald: No, I really don’t (laughing). I know that’s usually the typical thing that people will say when you can speak like that, but the one thing that I do feel like I am directed in is what I kind of think like would be more of a spiritual therapist. I think my music is like revelation music. It’s spiritual. It’s biblical principles and song, but it teaches you kind of how to live from Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday with real life situations; so if there was anything that I would ever do, it would be a center where people could go talk to spiritual people like a therapist that maybe had a music component, so I see myself being more of a spiritual teacher, more of a person that is like a spiritual psychologist or with a music element. That’s how I see myself.

    I don’t see myself as a pastor. I don’t think that’s my path. I don’t think my path has ever been a normal path. It’s always had its own odd road, and that’s what makes me uniquely me, and I just kind of know that, so that’s why. I know that pastoring is what it seems like it should be, and counseling and pastoring is very much the same thing. I just don’t see myself with the church, and with the choir, and with the band, and with the praise team, and with anything like that. I don’t think that’s my path. I know that’s not my path, but I do think that being a spiritual teacher and a person that teaches people how to use biblical principles to live life every day is in my path but not the way somebody would think it would be.

    John: Donald, you have a new recording out called Best for Last. You’ve recorded basically a day and a half, and you decided to put one album out this fall and another album out next spring, correct or am I mixed up here?

    Donald: Actually, one in the fall and one next fall like …

    John: Oh, a year from now. Okay. It’s Best for Last volume one and then volume two?

    Donald: Best for Last: Donald Lawrence 20 Year Celebration, Volume One, Best for Last. Volume two might be titled something else like Donald Lawrence Celebration Continues, and then another title cut, but volume one definitely comes out September 24th. It’s featuring a lot of people. Actually, the title song, “Best for Last,” features Yolanda Adams, and I have a lot of guests who show up and join me: Kelly Price, Lalah Hathaway, Faith Evans, Hez Walker, Vanessa Bell-Armstrong, Natalie Grant, Karen Clark, Kierra Sheard; just a lot of people join to come in and celebrate with me these 20 years because I’ve worked with so many people. It was great to have a lot of them come back, and we’re going to still do it. Tri-City came back together to sing two songs on volume one, and they’re coming back together again to do more of a live thing on volume two, so we’re really excited about all of that.

    John: I’m glad that you brought up all the guest appearances that you have on the records. You certainly have worked with a lot of artists through the years both within the gospel community as well as out in the mainstream community. What is that like being a man of God, and how do you stay faithful to your calling and your purpose even though you may be doing a job per se out in just secular culture or mainstream culture?

    Donald: I think that everybody that’s on this planet does a job in secular culture, just about. If you work at McDonald’s, that’s not church. The post office is not at church, so secular culture is secular culture. Sometimes people put a different law on top of it when it’s music. I think sometimes people don’t think of music as an occupation, but what we have to realize is that when you have a call on your life, your call is for you to deal with whoever is assigned to you; and where some people might be assigned to more believers, there’s some people who are assigned to believers and people who potentially will be believers, people who are believers who are not necessarily inside the church.

    For me, I don’t look at it like that. I look at it as people, and God loves the whole entire world; so when I’m working with people, I just show them the love of God. That’s it. I don’t beat them over the head with a Bible. I don’t tell them what they’re not doing right or wrong unless they ask me my opinion. I just show them love, and love draws. I’ve learned that over time, so that’s how I can go work with anybody, come back out because when I go there, I’m going to be me; and when I leave, I’m going to be the same me that went in, and I’ve learned that since I was a younger person, and that’s why I don’t even think about it.

    I just look at it as people, and this is my assignment, and I’m going to go and do my assignment well. Pastor Winston says that, and that’s the pastor that I go to, Dr. Winston from the Living Word Christian Center. He said something so powerful for me, and he really, really spoke about how I am in life and what my path was. He says that there is a mechanism that’s not in the church that will ignite God’s glory inside of you. I just thought that was such a profound statement because God’s glory inside of us is His attributes. Usually, when His attributes, which is His glory, shows up in the earth, it shows up through something that you’re graced with, something that’s great about you like when a dancer dances a beautiful line. That’s God’s glory in the earth.

    We see something that is beautiful, and you just go, wow, that’s breathtaking! That’s an attribute of God; or when a tree grows or when somebody’s voice sings a great operatic note, you just go, wow! That’s His attributes. Whenever I go out and I get a chance to do something that I wouldn’t do or I learned something in a secular system that I can come back and apply in the kingdom, that is waking up something in me that wouldn’t have woken in church.

    You can’t learn how to produce great records in church because they don’t (or rarely) have studios. Sometimes the best engineers are not in the church. They’re somewhere else where you can go and learn great things, and you can come back and make the kingdom great. I’ve learned that, and that statement stays with me, that there’s a mechanism that’s not in the church that will awaken God’s glory inside you. That’s really what happened to me. I learned how to produce and be who I am outside of the church, and I got to do it with some of the top people because that’s where they were, and He needed to send me there so I could come back here and be who I am now. I just always thought that was a powerful statement.

    John: Donald Lawrence, 20th year anniversary. I’m excited. Congratulations, my friend, and may God bless you, and let’s hope for another 20 years.

    Donald: Thank you.

    John: God bless you, brother.

    Donald: God bless you as well.

  • Give What You Need

    Nicki

    "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Luke 6:38 (NIV 1984)

    Last week we were out of milk, so I headed to the store with my party of five.

    Even though we were in a time crunch, I wanted to make the most of our trip and pick up a few other things. Our family divided up—my husband went to the row of toilet paper, our oldest daughter walked off to get bread, our middle daughter headed out for fruit, and the youngest one, Kennedy Grace, trekked to the milk fridge with me.

    Everyone quickly got what they needed and met back at the register—except my husband. At the self-checkout with my three girls, I scanned our items thinking Kris would be there any second. But he wasn't. As the line behind me quickly grew long and impatient, I wondered if I should cancel my order and step out of line.

    But time was short and we were already running late. So in this unnerving moment, I instructed my youngest daughter to run and get the toilet paper from her daddy. She took off, found my husband, and secured the rolls under her arm. But, on her way back to the self-checkout, a sparkly cereal display distracted her.

    In a calm, yet firm voice, I made sure my daughter heard me. "Kennedy Grace, come here right now please."

    Now, she figured the fastest way to get that toilet paper to me was to slide it down the aisle. Without hesitation, she whooshed the package right to me.

    The people standing behind me thought my daughter's idea was quite amusing. Everyone except one woman.

    As Kennedy Grace giggled, jumped and bounced her way to the register, I knew this wasn't the time or place to have a teachable moment, so I just muttered quietly for her to calm down.

    That one woman, feeling it was a good time to teach my daughter a lesson, said to me, "Well, isn't she something?"

    I didn't want to get into a hot confrontational mess, so I ignored her and bagged my items.

    But then she asked Kennedy Grace, "Why are you acting up so much?"

    Kennedy replied, "I'm just tired."

    And then the woman responded with a statement no stressed-out-momma needs to hear, "Well maybe your mom should put you to bed earlier."

    What did she just say? Unh-huh. I gulped and took a deep breath, ready to blurt out something sassy.

    But in the midst of this chaos, in the midst of this tension, I felt the presence of God hold me back with this thought, give her what you need most.

    Say what, God? I need to give this woman a piece of my mind, is what my soul screamed.

    But it was true. I need a lot of grace these days. Grace. Grace. Grace.

    So, I said nothing. I extended grace. I smiled, grabbed Kennedy's hand and walked out of the grocery store, challenged by the thought of Luke 6:38 "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    I make a lot of mistakes. I forget about important things. And I too have judged stressed-out mommas in the grocery store with misbehaving children. But Scripture tells us that when we give to others what we need, something very freeing happens: We receive what we need too.

    When we offer emotional generosity to others, we create the atmosphere for God to do something powerful in us and through us. I don't always want to give others what I need. My initial reaction is often to give others what I think they deserve.

    A quick comeback. A nasty look. An unforgiving heart.

    But none of these things have ever brought me anything I needed.

    As I continue to live this verse in Luke out, I'm focusing on other's needs and reacting based on them, not myself.

    But next time we need milk, I'm going to the grocery store, alone.

    Jesus, help me give to others the things I need. Make me emotionally generous and able to bless in the midst of a conflicting mess. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Write down three things your soul needs. Is it joy? Hope? Love? Friendship?

    Ask God for the opportunity to give it away and see what happens.

    Power Verse: Philippians 1:27, "Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel." (NIV 1984)

    © 2013 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

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