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  • Gift of Service

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve.” Romans 12:6-7

     

    The gift of service sees a need and seeks to meet that need. It is the Spirit inspired ability to see beyond the surface to what really requires attention. Service motivated servants of Jesus get joy from rallying resources to raw realities. They are not shy about challenging the abundantly resourced to resource the woefully under resourced. The gift of service convenes other gifted people to collaborate for a cause. They are called by Christ to facilitate action and results.

    We all can serve the Lord and people, but for those gifted to do so it comes more naturally and easily. Indeed, self and Satan compete for our service to God and others. The flesh longs to be served rather than serve, and Satan seeks to divide our loyalties with the Lord. So purity in service flows from a heart harnessed by the Holy Spirit. When we first see ourselves as bondservants to our Savior Jesus we are compelled to serve for Him. Servants of Christ serve.

    “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ” Matthew 4:10
    Moreover, steward well your service gift, so you are not overwhelmed with the avalanche of needs that surround you. If you try to meet everyone’s needs you may meet no one’s needs. Even Jesus chose to give attention to some but not others. Your gift requires prayerful stewardship so it is not prostituted by pride. Approval may or may not come from those you serve unselfishly, so make sure you serve as unto the Lord. Serve Christ alone and you will not be alone in Him.

    Furthermore, lavish love on those whose service is exemplary and enthusiastic for Jesus. When you recognize and reward servants of the Lord, you place value on what God values. Those who consistently serve well need double doses of encouragement. If servants are not served they grow weary and weak in the Lord’s work. Yes, stay true to serve during trying times but also receive the service of others. Sometimes those who serve the most are served the least—so allow yourself to be served!

    “Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.” Ephesians 6:6-8 

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use my service for Your glory and for Your people!

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 12:24; Psalm 22:30; Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:22

    Post/Tweet: If you try to meet everyone’s needs you may meet no one’s needs. #serve

    Know your gift? Get a free “Spiritual Gifts Assessment” http://bit.ly/P4FYlw


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Ephesians, Matthew, Romans, Service

  • Asking the Wrong Question - Sharon Jaynes

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian

    Sharon Jaynes

    Could it be that we have made our relationship with God far too difficult? We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (nasb).

    Cease striving

    For over a half of a century, I had been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing its tail, I had been going in circles. Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness, wandering, ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

    And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God.2 During a recent poll, 65 percent of churchgoers said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth.3 On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need to experience the evergrowing, continually maturing, abundant life. So why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

    “God, what do you really want from me?”

    I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their hearts through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot. And somehow we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

    I had asked the question a thousand times, but on that one frosty January morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that I and my busy sisters have been asking the wrong question.

    Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

    I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year, after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those ten little words. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

    Glory Defined

    Have you ever wondered why you were created? You were created for God’s glory and to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), because it pleased Him to do so (Ephesians 1:5). The concept of glory can be a difficult idea to wrap our human minds around. It seems so otherworldly. We can catch glimpses of its meaning throughout Scripture, but then like a shooting star that appears for just a moment, it quickly slips away into the vast expanse of God’s infinite wisdom. But let’s see what we can know about this bigger-than-life word.

    In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “glory” is kābod, meaning “weight, honor, or esteem.” The Bible associates God’s glory with how He manifests Himself or makes His presence known. Some theologians refer to these as theophanies. He made His presence known in a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16–17), a moving cloud (Exodus 13:21), and a still small voice

    (1 Kings 19:12). His glory is reflected in creation (Psalm 19:1) and in His sovereign control of history (Acts 17:26). His glory is made known through the life of simple human beings like you and me.

    The same concept of God’s glory is in the New Testament in the Greek word doxa, which means “glory, honor, and splendor.” John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14). After Jesus’ first miracle, turning the water into wine, John wrote:

    “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” ( John 2:11). In Hebrews 1:3, the writer reveals this about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

    The verb form,“to glorify,” is doxazo, and primarily means “to magnify, extol, praise, to ascribe honor to God, acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts,”4 i.e., His glory. It is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When we glorify God, we are giving a display or manifestation—or a reflection—of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy to see. Jesus said that the disciples would glorify God when they bore fruit (John 15:8). Through their actions, they would point others to God and make Him easy to see.

    God’s glory is how He makes Himself known. It is almost incomprehensible to think that He would choose mere human beings to accomplish such a task. But as Scripture tells us, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and as a display of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). You were created to make God recognizable to others—to show others what God is like. He makes Himself recognizable to us and through us. The glory of any created thing is when it is fully fulfilling the purpose for which it was created…and that includes you and me.

    Glory is a big word—a weighty word. In this book we are going to zoom in on one aspect of glory—how God makes Himself known in your life as you live and move and have your being in Him.

    Can you remember a time when you sensed God’s presence and you were absolutely sure it was Him? Perhaps it was when you first believed, or maybe it happened just yesterday. You may have felt an overwhelming sense of His love, received an answer to prayer, felt an inexplicable peace, or witnessed a miracle. But when it happened…oh, when it happened…you knew you had encountered the Divine. The moment came and went, and you were awestruck. Do you remember it? That was God making Himself known to you personally. I call that a sudden glory—an intimate moment with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, a genuine “inloveness,” a glimpse of heaven.

    To illustrate what I mean by this, consider how Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, describes the moment he knew he was in love with his wife, Davy:

    One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the “real thing” happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows [full] well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.

    I have been in the jungle and heard the lion’s roar. I knew full well it was Him. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Jesus and me. A sudden glory. Time and time again.

    All throughout our lives, I dare say, throughout our days, we will experience a sudden glory in unpredictable moments. Or, at least we could.

    A friend shared a moment of sudden glory in her life:

    Life was hard after my divorce. With no child support and only a part-time job for income, there were days when I didn’t know how I would put dinner on the table for myself and my four children. I often had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. On one such day, I walked to the mailbox praying I wouldn’t find another cut-off notice from the utility company. Thankfully there was nothing of the sort. Instead I found an envelope that had no return address, and inside it was a note that read, “Jesus loves you.” Tucked behind the note was a grocery store gift card for an amount that would buy groceries for at least a week.

    In that moment I felt as if God had wrapped His arms around me and whispered to my heart, “I see you. I love you. I care.” His presence was suddenly so real that all I could do was stand there and cry.

    These moments are the salve for the glory ache. They are the manna moments to stay the hunger until we finally reach heaven’s home. Do you yearn for those glory moments? Well, guess what. God longs to give them to you even more than you yearn for them!

    Excerpted from A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Jaynes. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

    Could it be that we have made our relationship with God far too difficult? We strive so hard to draw closer to the heart of God. And all the while, God’s outstretched hand is reaching to draw us in. Another translation of Psalm 46:10 reads, “Cease striving and know that I am God” (nasb). Cease striving.

    For over a half of a century, I had been striving, pursuing, and seeking God. And like a cat chasing its tail, I had been going in circles. Circling in the wilderness with the Israelites, if you will. Saved from slavery, for sure. Headed to my own personal Promised Land, hopefully. But somehow stuck in the wilderness, wandering, ever circling but not quite reaching Jordan’s shore.

    And I am not alone. Statistics show that one of the top desires of Christians is to grow closer to God.2 During a recent poll, 65 percent of churchgoers said they were declining or on a plateau in their spiritual growth.3 On the other hand, Peter wrote: “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). We have everything we need to experience the evergrowing, continually maturing, abundant life. So why aren’t we? Why are most of us languishing on the desert plateaus of mediocrity and complacency? Why are most of us satisfied munching on the predigested truths of teachers rather than pulling up to the banquet table and feasting with God at a table set for two?

    “God, what do you really want from me?”

    I’ve pondered that question since the genesis of my relationship with Christ. Perhaps you have too. When you boil down all the water from the diluted soup of questions men and women have simmered in their hearts through the centuries, this is the one question left in the pot. And somehow we feel that if we could answer that one question, we would discover why that glory ache persists and how to satisfy our yearning.

    I had asked the question a thousand times, but on that one frosty January morning, I got quiet enough to listen. And then, in the stillness, He showed me that I and my busy sisters have been asking the wrong question.

    Rather than ask God what He wants from us, we need to ask Him what He wants for us.

    I meditated on Acts 17:28 throughout the following year, after the day God whetted my appetite with the possibilities wrapped up in those ten little words. I came to realize that what He wants for us is to sense His presence, experience His love, and delight in intimate relationship as we live and move and have our being in sacred union with Him. And when we do, He opens our eyes to His glory all around and the ache for something more is soothed.

    Glory Defined

    Have you ever wondered why you were created? You were created for God’s glory and to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7), because it pleased Him to do so (Ephesians 1:5). The concept of glory can be a difficult idea to wrap our human minds around. It seems so otherworldly. We can catch glimpses of its meaning throughout Scripture, but then like a shooting star that appears for just a moment, it quickly slips away into the vast expanse of God’s infinite wisdom. But let’s see what we can know about this bigger-than-life word.

    In the Old Testament, the most common Hebrew word for “glory” is kābod, meaning “weight, honor, or esteem.” The Bible associates God’s glory with how He manifests Himself or makes His presence known. Some theologians refer to these as theophanies. He made His presence known in a consuming fire (Exodus 24:16–17), a moving cloud (Exodus 13:21), and a still small voice

    (1 Kings 19:12). His glory is reflected in creation (Psalm 19:1) and in His sovereign control of history (Acts 17:26). His glory is made known through the life of simple human beings like you and me.

    The same concept of God’s glory is in the New Testament in the Greek word doxa, which means “glory, honor, and splendor.” John wrote, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14). After Jesus’s first miracle, turning the water into wine, John wrote:

    “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him” ( John 2:11). In Hebrews 1:3, the writer reveals this about Jesus: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.”

    The verb form,“to glorify,” is doxazo, and primarily means “to magnify, extol, praise, to ascribe honor to God, acknowledging Him as to His being, attributes and acts,”4 i.e., His glory. It is the revelation and manifestation of all that He has and is. When we glorify God, we are giving a display or manifestation—or a reflection—of His character. To magnify God is to make Him easy to see. Jesus said that the disciples would glorify God when they bore fruit (John 15:8). Through their actions, they would point others to God and make Him easy to see.

    God’s glory is how He makes Himself known. It is almost incomprehensible to think that He would choose mere human beings to accomplish such a task. But as Scripture tells us, we were created in His image (Genesis 1:26) and as a display of His glory (Isaiah 43:7). You were created to make God recognizable to others—to show others what God is like. He makes Himself recognizable to us and through us. The glory of any created thing is when it is fully fulfilling the purpose for which it was created…and that includes you and me.

    Glory is a big word—a weighty word. In this book we are going to zoom in on one aspect of glory—how God makes Himself known in your life as you live and move and have your being in Him.

    Can you remember a time when you sensed God’s presence and you were absolutely sure it was Him? Perhaps it was when you first believed, or maybe it happened just yesterday. You may have felt an overwhelming sense of His love, received an answer to prayer, felt an inexplicable peace, or witnessed a miracle. But when it happened…oh, when it happened…you knew you had encountered the Divine. The moment came and went, and you were awestruck. Do you remember it? That was God making Himself known to you personally. I call that a sudden glory—an intimate moment with your Creator, the Lover of your soul, a genuine “inloveness,” a glimpse of heaven.

    To illustrate what I mean by this, consider how Sheldon Vanauken, author of A Severe Mercy, describes the moment he knew he was in love with his wife, Davy:

    One who has never been in love might mistake either infatuation or a mixture of affection and sexual attraction for being in love. But when the “real thing” happens, there is no doubt. A man in the jungle at night, as someone said, may suppose a hyena’s growl to be a lion’s; but when he hears the lion’s growl, he knows [full] well it’s a lion. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Davy and me. A sudden glory.6

    I have been in the jungle and heard the lion’s roar. I knew full well it was Him. So with the genuine inloveness. So with Jesus and me. A sudden glory. Time and time again.

    All throughout our lives, I dare say, throughout our days, we will experience a sudden glory in unpredictable moments. Or, at least we could.

    A friend shared a moment of sudden glory in her life:

    Life was hard after my divorce. With no child support and only a part-time job for income, there were days when I didn’t know how I would put dinner on the table for myself and my four children. I often had to choose between buying groceries or paying the electric bill. On one such day, I walked to the mailbox praying I wouldn’t find another cut-off notice from the utility company. Thankfully there was nothing of the sort. Instead I found an envelope that had no return address, and inside it was a note that read, “Jesus loves you.” Tucked behind the note was a grocery store gift card for an amount that would buy groceries for at least a week.

    In that moment I felt as if God had wrapped His arms around me and whispered to my heart, “I see you. I love you. I care.” His presence was suddenly so real that all I could do was stand there and cry.

    These moments are the salve for the glory ache. They are the manna moments to stay the hunger until we finally reach heaven’s home. Do you yearn for those glory moments? Well, guess what. God longs to give them to you even more than you yearn for them!

    Excerpted from A Sudden Glory by Sharon Jaynes Copyright © 2012 by Sharon Jaynes. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Psalm, 2 Peter, Sharon Jaynes, Questions

  • A Story to Tell - a conversation with Matthew West

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Family Christian

    Matthew West loves stories. And those stories sometimes turn into songs. Matthew recently spoke with Family Christian about how the stories he's been collecting ended up on his new album – and touching his life.

    The songs on Into the Light are inspired by true stories from people's lives. How have those stories impacted you personally?

    Matthew - Since first giving people the opportunity to share their story with me a couple of years ago, I've received over 20,000 stories from all over the world. I've made it my mission to read each story in the hopes of giving those stories a voice through song.

    What I didn't expect is how much opening myself up to the stories of other peoples' lives would affect me. One by one, they have opened my eyes to see how God is uniquely at work in each and every one of our lives. I;ve been so inspired by all of these people who are willing to allow God to use their stories, even the parts that may be less than perfect. These storytellers are heroes to me and have taught me what real, authentic Christianity looks like. Just imperfect people allowing a perfect God to shine through them!

    The story behind the first single, "Forgiveness," is really powerful. How have you seen God using that song and its message in people's lives?

    Matthew - I think at one point in time every one of us has been wronged by somebody, maybe hurt by a family member or betrayed by a friend. And for me personally, I've been known to be able to hold a grudge with the best of them.

    Renee's story of how God helped her to forgive the drunk driver who took the life of her precious daughter is a powerful reminder that there is freedom in forgiveness. It’s not that we have to forget, but we are not meant to carry the weight of bitterness. It's too heavy and it will hold us back from finding that freedom that comes when we set it free.

    I'm hearing so many stories from people about how Renee's story and this song are challenging them to deal with some situations in their lives where they know God wants to break the stronghold of bitterness. I think the neatest thing I'm hearing is how, really, this story can bring us all back to the reminder of just how much we are all in need of forgiveness. God offers us that gift over and over again, and He calls us to do the same.

    What do you hope listeners take away from the songs on Into the Light?

    Matthew - I hope that stepping Into the Light will become contagious. I believe these people who have stepped forward to tell their story to me and inspired these songs will cause a chain reaction encouraging others to do the same.

    Something special takes place when a person stands up, brings their story into the light and says, "This is who I am. Look what God has done!" The rest of the world takes notice, and it's like “Hey, I'm not alone. Maybe God can use my story too.” That's what I hope people take away from these stories and songs. We discover our life's purpose when we step out of the shadows and trust God with our whole lives, holding nothing back.

    You recently traveled to Haiti. Tell us a little about that trip.

    Matthew - My band and I traveled to Haiti with Compassion International to see firsthand what life is like in this poverty stricken country. Honestly, it was quite difficult to even begin to process the darkness and despair that we witnessed. My heart breaks as my mind replays the images of that trip.

    But, in the middle of what at times looked like a hopeless situation, I saw God at work restoring lives and communities through the work of Compassion. This trip really lit a fire in me to make sure that I am not simply talking about being God's hands and feet, but actually doing something about it.

    Christmas will be here before we know it, so we wanted to know: what's on your "must listen" Christmas playlist?

    Matthew - Well, my CD, The Heart of Christmas, of course! No, seriously, I love the classics. Put on some Bing Crosby, Eddie Arnold or Nat King Cole and I'm happy. Also love Amy Grant's classic Christmas CD.

    And what are some of the traditions your family celebrates every Christmas?

    Matthew - A Christmas Eve candle light service is a family tradition we've observed ever since I was growing up in my dad's church in Chicago. There's something about standing with my family, singing "Silent Night" and lighting a candle that always seems to rescue my heart from the chaos of the season and help me return to what it's really all about: Jesus.

    Matthew's Christmas album, Heart of Christmas, can be found by clicking here.


    This post was posted in Interviews and was tagged with Forgiveness, Matthew West, Christmas

  • Gossip

    Posted on October 9, 2012 by Nicki Koziarz

    Nicki Koziarz

    "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NIV 1984)

    We hadn't seen each other in a few weeks so I was excited to catch up on my friend's life. Arriving at the restaurant we hugged, took our seats, and ordered some sweet tea. Immediately, we started talking about what had been going on in our lives and dug into a discussion about the previous month's events.

    Just a few minutes into our catch-up session, a person's name {who I didn't care for} came up. My friend told me a story that made me dislike this person even more. I then told my friend a story about this same person that made her dislike them more too.

    And so our conversation went ...

    When I left the restaurant, there was a sick feeling inside me. My thoughts wandered through our conversation and I felt deeply convicted it'd been nothing but idle talk.

    The crazy thing was, in the midst of the conversation, I didn't even realize what was happening. I thought I was just catching up with an old friend. But the reality is, I was gossiping.

    I wish I could tell you this eye-opening moment changed me and I never spoke badly of someone again. But I am a woman who consistently finds herself in need of God's grace, mercy and forgiveness.

    Today's key verse, Psalm 19:14, has been helpful for me to remember how God desires my heart and words to be filled with things that honor Him.

    Scripture is teaching me so much about my words. I'm learning I am accountable to God for them (Matt. 12:36). I see by guarding my words, I can keep myself from a lot of problems (Prov. 21:23). And I'm understanding how I have the ability to speak life or death through the words I use (Prov. 18:21).

    As I've been allowing these Truths to shape my character, I've begun to understand how my slip-ups (sin) move me further away from God. One of the greatest deceptions of sin is that we often don't realize what we've done until it's too late.

    But thankfully God is always willing to forgive us and empower us to become stronger in Him.

    So how should we handle conversations like these?

    Preventing gossip is one of the greatest ways to not get caught up in it. Some days I have to consciously say to myself, "I don't want to dishonor anyone with my words today." I've asked God to make me aware of conversations that don't bring honor. "A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly." (Prov. 12:23 NIV 1984)

    Another way we can handle gossip-centered conversations is by ignoring them. Just because we've heard the latest juicy scoop doesn't mean we have to continue to spread it. "A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret." (Prov. 11:13 NIV)

    Lastly, confronting the friend who we're gossiping about is important. If we have an issue with someone, we should go directly to that person. It takes more courage to confront someone than it does to ignore him or her, or talk about them behind their back. If something's bothering us, we should deal with it with the right person. "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over." (Matt. 18:15 NIV)

    I'm still working through this. I felt horrible for how my conversation went that day at the restaurant. But, I'm challenged to prevent, ignore or confront conversations like these. I want my words and my heart to be pleasing to God.

    Dear Lord, as I continue to work out my word-struggles with You, thank You for Your grace, mercy and forgiveness. Please help me to keep these Truths close to my soul so I can better represent You with my words each day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Visit Nicki's blog today for 10 ways to speak life to someone today.

    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

    30 Days to Taming Your Tongue by Deborah Smith Pegues

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you have a friend you easily gossip with? Why not share this devotion with her today and commit to hold each other accountable to prevent, ignore or confront?

    Why do you think gossip is such a struggle? Leave a comment today and let's discuss this.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 18:21, "The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." (NIV)

    © 2012 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm, Proverbs, Matthew, Gossip

  • Self-Flattery

    Posted on October 8, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    There is no fear of God before his eyes. For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin. Psalm 36:1b-2

     

    Self-flattery is foolish. It has no fear of God. Self-flattery follows a false faith that is forged out of convenience, not commitment. Self-flattery sees itself as the center of attention instead of Almighty God. It is enamored with itself. It defines and executes its own agenda. It is soft on sin. However, God-fearers see their sin and flee from its presence. It is not invited into their circle of influence. Furthermore, a person who flatters himself has neither a proper view of God nor any respect for Him. Respect for God flows from fear of God but self-flattery demands respect. They need to know that others hold the same high opinion of themselves as they do.

    Self-flattery heaps praise on itself in substitute for penance. This is dangerously absurd. Even the silliest bird does not set a trap for itself. Smoothing over our conduct or soothing our conscience may set us up for failure. We can justify anything, but we had better be ready to suffer the consequences. There is a limit to our self-congratulation. Eventually, God and others grow impatient with our obnoxious ways. Our inability to own up to our actions—or lack thereof—lowers our standing with God and man. Self-flattery is a losing proposition. It loses respect instead of gaining respect. It grows discontent instead of being content. It feels worse instead of feeling better. Self-flattery fails.

    There are many forms of self-flattery. When we think we are smarter than God, ignoring the principles laid out in His word, we flatter ourselves. When we think we have hope in heaven but we act like hell, we flatter ourselves. When we live for today as if death were a million miles away, we flatter ourselves. When we treat others with contempt, then expect them to follow our ways, we flatter ourselves. When we say we trust in the Lord, but borrow money and presume on the future, we flatter ourselves. Self-flattery longs for approval, but it is denied from those who really matter. There is a better way. The better way rises above self-flattery's deception. It needs awakening from its slumber, as did the church Jesus spoke about (Revelation 3:17).

    The road away from self-flattery is self-denial. Self-denial refrains from flattery. It is determined to know God. It is sensitive to sin and loves the Lord. The fear of God is in the forefront of those who deny themselves for the cause of Christ. Self-denial keeps God in holy awe, keeping self away from unhealthy admiration. It makes much of God and little of self. When we see God we admire Him and cease to flatter ourselves. Knowing God allows us to really know ourselves and discern between the two. The wisdom of God instructs us to place proper weight on what God wants versus what we want. Self-denial sends us into a whole other mindset, away from self-flattery. Its focus is being who God wants us to be and doing what God wants us to do. Self-denial serves others, deferring to them and what they value. It thinks more highly of God and His children. Self-denial replaces self-flattery with faith in God. Faith in God frees us to be secure in Him. Our identity is in Christ. We do not have to impress others or ourselves. He is all that matters. Replace self-flattery with faith in God. Faith in Him energizes an eternal self-esteem.

    Taken from Reading #25 in the 90-day devotional book, “Seeking God in the Psalms”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet this today: Knowing God allows us to really know ourselves. #intimacy 

    Get free eBook “Infusion” by inviting 5 friends to Wisdom Hunters http://bit.ly/PEbaBJ


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Psalm, Revelation

  • Why I Wear a Toe Ring

    Posted on October 8, 2012 by Karen Ehman

    Karen Ehman

    "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." 1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

    I remember begging my mom to get my ears pierced. I was in 5th grade and only one other girl in my class had hole-less lobes. I pleaded my case. "But Mooooooom! EVVVVV-ERYONE has their ears pierced but Heidi and me!"

    That year on my birthday, she took me to the Meijer Thrifty Acres grocery store where a nice lady in the jewelry department pierced them for me.

    The pain was worth the cool.

    When I was in college, my friend Carmen got one ear double pierced. She said she did it to remind her that she belonged to the Lord; that she was His slave.

    You see, in the Old Testament, slavery wasn't unjustly forced like in our modern world. It was more of an occupation; a servant with civil and religious rights. A slave worked for his master for six years and then had the option to leave. However, if he wanted to continue his servanthood, he could. As a symbol of his loyalty, his ear was pierced. Exodus 21:5-6 says this about slaves:

    "But suppose the slave loves his wife and children so much that he won't leave without them. Then he must stand beside either the door or the doorpost at the place of worship, while his owner punches a small hole through one of his ears with a sharp metal rod. This makes him a slave for life." (CEV)

    I loved Carmen's idea of having a small hole in her ear as a sign of life-long service to the Lord. An earring to remind her that she chose to serve God in all areas of her life. However, I am a wimp. And the pain of the first ear piercing was enough for me!

    But a few years ago, while shopping downtown with some friends I had an idea. What if I wore a sterling silver toe ring as a sign of my service to the Lord? My friends and I each bought one.

    I wear this toe ring everyday to remind myself that I am a voluntary slave of Christ. And that I love my Master and the things He's given me to serve, like my family, church, neighbors and others.

    When I see it, it reminds me that I'm not in control, God is. And it helps me realign my preferences with His when I want to be the boss of my life and my circumstances. When I grow weary of serving God selflessly, I am reminded that I belong to Him.

    My toe ring also reminds me that my relationship with the Lord is for life.

    Yes, I am free to do as I'd like. There are no laws in my country against chucking my faith and running away.

    However, my toe ring reminds me:

    "Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." (1 Peter 2:16 NIV)

    Are you willing to commit to God with all your heart, mind and soul? To serve rather than be served? To carry out the wishes of your Master willingly and joyfully? Even though you are free, will you choose to be His slave today?

    A pierced ear or toe ring is optional.

    Dear Lord, may I be reminded continually that it is You that I serve, not the other way around. May my life show my love and devotion to You and my loved ones. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    If you liked this devotion, check out Karen's new book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith. It will enable you to control what you should and trust God with what you can't.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Although the term slave rightly has a negative connotation given history and current-day sex trafficking, how can the word "slave" properly describe how we should relate to God?

    On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being never, 10 being always), how often do you react to life's circumstances with a joyful attitude and "whatever Your will is" perspective? What can you do to make that number go higher?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 119:17, "Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word." (ESV)

    © 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 Peter, Exodus, Toe Rings, Karen Ehman

  • Spiritual Gifts

    Posted on October 8, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    "Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed"... "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them"... "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good." 1 Corinthians 12:1,4,7

     

    One of Satan's schemes is to keep God's children ignorant or confused concerning spiritual gifts. However, His gifts are what empower followers of Jesus to carry out His will. The Great Commission to make disciples of all people, and the Great Commandment to love God and to love people are implemented best by the Spirit's inspired gifts. There are a variety of gifts, but they originate and are distributed by one Holy Spirit. All spiritual gifts come from God.

    Like the multi-colors of a rainbow make a compelling commercial for God, so His diverse gifts glorify Him. We are gifted by God for the glory of God. Moreover, we are gifted as a gift to the Body of Christ. Our spiritual gifts are for service, not self. They are for the good of the whole, not just the benefit of one. A gift's manifestation is suspect if the result leaves observers in awe of a person. Spiritual gifts flourish with humble and wise users.

    "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us." Romans 12:6

    We can admire another person's giftedness, but we reserve our reverence for Christ alone. It's ok to acknowledge how a gifted brother or sister in the Lord has blessed us, but it’s with the Lord that we leave the glory. Yes, enjoy the beauty of a gifted worship leader's worship, but without worshiping the man or woman. Learn from a gifted Bible teacher or writer without idolizing them or their abilities and give your primary praise to the Gift Giver, God Almighty! 

    Do you acknowledge your skills and abilities as a gift from the Holy Spirit? If so, have you dedicated your spiritual gifts to works of spiritual service? Thank God often for endowing you with the eternal energy and ability to carry out His will. Use your skills for service in the Kingdom of God, do not waste them on worldly pursuits. Also, be content with what Christ has given you, without comparison to others. Your unique giftedness is Christ's canvas of you. A world wakes up to watch your gifts glow for God. Your spiritual gifts are meant for spiritual service.

    "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms." 1 Peter 4:10

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving me the gifts of Your Spirit which I use for Your glory!

    Related Readings: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12: 8-10, 28; Ephesians 4:11

    Post/Tweet: We are gifted by God for the glory of God.

    Know your gift? Get a free “Spiritual Gifts Assessment” http://bit.ly/P4FYlw


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with 1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, Romans, Gifts

  • Strength in God

    Posted on October 6, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. 1 Samuel 23:16

     

    Strength in God is significant, as it is our stronghold when we are in serious trouble. It is our source of encouragement and motivation to persevere. Strength in God is easily accessible and always available. His strength is an unlimited reservoir of resolve. It may see us through the dying and death of a loved one. It lubricates the grinding grief of our heart and keeps us from total despair. The Lord’s strength is what gives us hope when our financial fortunes are tentative at best or have been swept away altogether. But His strength will see us through a maze of money mishaps.

    The sovereign strength of God is strong, unbending, and unyielding. Our confidence may be crumbling, our health may be hemorrhaging, or our relationships may be a complexity of confusion. Perhaps you discovered someone is not who he claimed to be. He lives two lives. Now the truth is unfolding and it is not pretty. In fact, he is coming after you because you are a threat to his secret life. So lean on the Lord, drawing your strength from your Savior. Prayer to the Almighty positions you to receive His power, so punctuate the power of God in your life with faith-filled prayer.

    Moreover, God’s instruments for infusion of His strength are His people. Invite the encouragement of the Lord’s angelic agents. They are His ambassadors of goodwill and their righteous aura reflects His strength. These are special friends who remain true when challenging things happen to you. Stick with the ones who stick with you and do not be embarrassed to lean on others during these lean times. Like a transfusion of blood, you may need a transfusion of faith. Your prayer platelets have fallen below what’s normal to a level of dangerous discouragement. Ask for prayer so that God will strengthen you and keep you focused in the middle of your own gnawing needs. Ask in prayer to be an encouragement to those who have encouraged you. Do not deny others the opportunity to strengthen you with their presence and prayers.

    Lastly, be quick to strengthen others in the name of the Lord. Write a note of encouragement to a friend or leave an encouraging prayer on a coworker’s voice-mail. In some creative way, let those who are struggling know you are thinking of them. Prayer retains employees and engages friends. They will never forget those who reached out to them in their time of need. Each day, seek someone you can strengthen in your Savior’s name. In a sense, you are strength coaches for those you come in contact with on behalf of Christ. Your goal is to get them to God. His strength will stretch their faith way beyond your initial encouragement. Strengthen your family in the Lord and you will be strong. Strengthen your peers in the Lord and you will find eternal energy. Unselfishly strengthen others in the Lord and you will find strength for your soul.

    The Bible says, “Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12).

    Taken from October 12th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE

    Post/Tweet: Stick with the ones who stick with you, lean on others during these lean times. #loyal 

    Get free eBook “Infusion” by inviting 5 friends to Wisdom Hunters http://bit.ly/PEbaBJ


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with 1 Corinthians, 1 Samuel, Strength

  • Budget Your Time

    Posted on October 5, 2012 by Boyd Bailey

    “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

     

    There is enough time to do God’s will, thus He desires your stewardship of time. Just as money can be overspent, so can time. The twenty-four hours in a day, the seven days in a week and the fifty-two weeks in a year need budget restraints. Some days may go by slowly, but years seem to fly by quickly. A life well spent and prayerfully invested pays dividends for a lifetime and into eternity. But, a chronically reactive life wakes up one day, weary, wondering what have I done.

    Therefore, we are wise to lay out a life plan and adjust it over time. We prayerfully modify our calendar regularly so over commitment does not overcome us. It is much better to have fewer obligations than to find ourselves emotionally and physically spent—unable and unwilling to follow through. Time is a treasure from heaven that needs close attention and protection. We number our days, so at the end of each day, we are satisfied that we were successful for God.

    “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:12 

    Time can torture us or reward us. It can be a blessing of margin or a curse of busyness. Our life can feel like a boring treadmill of monotony, or a focused life of fulfillment. How do you budget your time? Do you invest time with Christ each day to hear His voice? Prayer is a time saver. Intimacy with your Lord Jesus gives you courage to say no to the unnecessary and yes to the necessary. The Holy Spirit’s discernment fills your mind when you spend time in quiet reflection.

    Furthermore, create boundaries that protect you from yourself. The enemy of the best is good opportunities. Your flurry of activity can easily facilitate fatigue and broken promises. Perhaps you review your calendar each week with your spouse or accountability partner. Invite another objective eye to monitor your appointments. Perhaps you wait to look at email or answer calls until after lunch. Use your mornings for creative thought, writing, reading and exercise.

    Avoid going into spiritual, emotional and physical debt for lack of attention. You have to be whole before you can help others become whole. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others. Like a crisis on a plane; place the oxygen on yourself first so that you can assist others. Your relational accounts may be overdrawn; if so, quickly pay the penalty of alone-ness with honest and vulnerable conversations. Spend your time wisely with prayer and planning. By God’s grace manage your calendar or it will manage you. Trust the Lord to lead you along His timetable.

    “I am the LORD; in its time I will do this swiftly.” Isaiah 60:22

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, my desire is to steward well each day along Your timetable.

    Related Readings: Job 14:5; Psalm 39:4; Luke 1:20; Acts 17:26

    Post/Tweet: Christ gives us courage to say no to the unnecessary and yes to the necessary.

    Get free eBook “Infusion” by inviting 5 friends to Wisdom Hunters http://bit.ly/PEbaBJ


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Psalm, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Time

  • Renewing My Vows

    Posted on October 5, 2012 by Stephanie Clayton

    Stephanie Clayton

    "Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:14-15 (NIV)

    As a young girl I wanted desperately to be thin. Instead, I was the "chunky girl" on the swim team, the slightly overweight dancer, and always felt awkward in a two-piece swimsuit. When I turned 15, I discovered weight loss shakes and exercised constantly.

    It worked! I lost a good deal of weight and starting hanging out with the group I'd always admired.

    At that point I made an internal vow: I will never be overweight again.

    During my first pregnancy I was so paranoid about weight gain I ran three miles a day until the day I gave birth to my son Ryan. I was willing to pay any price to keep my vow. I served my need and desire to be thin.

    After Ryan was born, I craved being even thinner. My diet consisted mostly of sugar-free drinks and hard candy. Every now and then I'd squeeze in a meal or a few small bites of real food. Quickly I dropped another 10 pounds.

    When I got pregnant with my daughter, I had a scare that landed me on bed rest and forced me to discontinue exercise and to eat more. After Lauren's birth, I went the complete opposite direction and ate everything in sight, putting on over 40 pounds.

    I never really understood my battle with eating until a few months ago when I heard a sermon about generational bondage and internal vows.

    Growing up, I remembered my parents struggling with their weight. In fact, my family has struggled with food issues for generations. It was a pattern I vowed not to repeat.

    But rather than giving this bondage to the Lord, and looking to Him for freedom, I made a commitment to control things myself. I will NEVER be overweight again.

    But the vow I made took me not just one way in the wrong direction, but to both extremes. The only way I would find a healthy balance was to give my struggle to the Lord.

    I had to make a new vow with God, not myself, in a way that relinquished control to Him.

    Today's key verse reminds us that we can call on the Lord in times of trouble and He will deliver us as we seek to honor Him with our lives. Yet many times we choose to see if we can get through life's difficulties on our own.

    But what if we chose to sacrifice one of the greatest thank offerings of all? What if we sacrificed our need to control?

    Internal vows lead to self-centered striving.

    Vows made to the Lord lead to Christ-centered peace.

    Can you think of any internal vows you've made as a result of pain or struggles you've experienced in your family? Are there patterns that have existed in your family for years? It doesn't have to be overeating. Other examples of generational bondage are substance abuse, anger, sexual abuse, physical violence, etc.

    Internal vows may seem good on the surface, but they can be detrimental to our spiritual growth. We begin to serve our vows instead of the Lord. While it was good for my health that I did not want to repeat my family's patterns of unhealthy eating, it wasn't possible until I surrendered this area of my life completely to the Lord.

    I am now on my way to a healthy weight. Not because of my own strength, but because I have made my vow to Jesus. I'm learning to trust Him to help with every area of my life, including my food cravings.

    Dear Lord, when I rely on my own strength I become weary and fall. Help me place my trust in You. Your Word says that when I call on You, You will deliver and honor me! Thank You that there is freedom in the power of Your Name. I choose to look upon Your strength and guidance as I move forward. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst

    Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles

    Reflect and Respond:
    Draw your family tree. As you write down names, think about any internal vows they may have made. Also think about any internal vows you may have made from witnessing their struggles. Take time to reflect on any behavioral patterns you may identify.

    Write down one internal vow you have made. How you can begin to offer this struggle as a thank offering to the Lord, trusting in His strength and guidance as you begin to move forward?

    Power Verse:
    1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." (NIV 1984)

    © 2012 by Stephanie Clayton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm, Stephanie Clayton

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