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  • The Holy Land Key from Ray Bentley

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Family Christian

    Ray Bentley

    These Are the People the Prophets Saw

    The Holy Land Key is not a book that renews familiar debates over a prophetic time line or argues for or against a particular interpretation of John’s Revelation. We will not try to narrow down the most likely candidates for the Antichrist. It is important to read prophecy carefully, to handle its interpretation with great care, and to anchor all our conclusions in God’s Word, but we also want to explore some new territories in Scripture that have prophetic
    significance.

    In the chapters that follow, we will look at certain passages of Scripture from a Hebrew perspective. We also will study what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations. We will look at the testimony of history, we will study the Jewish calendar and the biblical feasts, and we will even find startling insights based on research done by NASA on blood moons. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that we are without excuse if we fail to see God and His character in the signs that are clear in His creation. God has left signs for us in more places than we can imagine. It would be a mistake to ignore any of them.

    God’s Covenant with His Chosen People

    One of the clearest and most enduring signs is God’s unbroken relationship with the Jewish people. The people living today in the Holy Land are the people the ancient prophets saw in the end times. They are the descendants of Jesus’s family and of His disciples. They are living evidence of God’s plan to gather His people back to Israel after two thousand years of exile.

    Israel is a witness to the world. It is not an exaggeration to say that when we look at Israel, we are looking into the eyes of God. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. We will explore this further in the chapters that follow. We also will look at patterns throughout history that open our eyes to what the very near future holds. Some of the patterns that most clearly reveal God’s plans as well as His heart are found in the Hebrew calendar and the timing of the feasts of the Lord listed in Scripture. The significance of these Jewish holidays is far greater today than was the original purpose of each feast.

    Further, it has been revealed that the timing of the feasts—right down to the specific dates—coincides with repeated cycles of astronomical events and patterns. The full meaning of this correlation remains to be seen, but it is significant that God confirms the testimony of history, of the Scriptures, of religious observance, and of the signs He has put in the heavens. All these together point to the coming—and the return—of the promised Messiah. Ultimately, they point to Israel’s destiny and to the destiny of humanity. The Jews were given the predictions of the ancient prophets long before the Christians inherited those Scriptures along with the New Covenant of God’s Word. It is important to look carefully at the way Jews understand the written testimony of the Hebrew prophets. Familiar prophecies from thousands of years ago are being fulfilled today in Israel. It is no overstatement to say that God’s plan is being moved forward by committed Jews, and this, too, is a revelation to us. God called Israel the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8). That never has changed, and when God looks at His chosen people today, He sees His plans unfolding at the end of this age. When we look at Israel, we see God’s intentions for the world. I will introduce you to modern-day Israelis who—no matter if they are Jewish or Gentile, Christian or otherwise—are answering the call of God on their lives. These current-day brothers and sisters of Jesus have much to show us of the ways and the heart of God.

    But the people of Israel and their work to restore the Holy Land is only a start. In addition, we will look at the signs of what God will bring to pass on earth. This includes a study of the heavens, the way time is recorded, and more. A  guiding principle here is to identify and learn from patterns that are repeated throughout Scripture and described in 1 Corinthians 15:46: “However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.” What God does in the natural realm is a picture of what He is doing in the spiritual realm. God reveals His plans and His future work, including what is in store at the end of the age, first in the natural world.

    Bringing Prophecy to Life

    Prophecy and its interpretation are a fascinating study. You can get lost in the words of God’s ancient messengers, studying their dreams and visions and seeking to piece together the larger picture. It is important to know what God has said through His prophets. However, we need to avoid the tendency to study prophecy with a sort of academic detachment that separates us emotionally—and spiritually—from the impact of what God is doing on earth. Prophecy is a biblical teaching to be lived out. We need to bring prophecy to life by connecting it to our lives and the lives of
    others.

    By getting to know people who live in the Holy Land (Jews, Christians, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians), we are drawn into more than just the facts of prophecy. We go beyond end-times theories and encounter the people who are involved in the fulfillment of prophecy. These descendants of Jesus are witnessing events He prophesied when He lived in the same land two thousand years ago.

    More and more, Christians are taking action by joining with God’s people of Israel. The Israelis witness daily what God is doing in their ancestral land. They are eyewitnesses to the unfolding of God’s work. You and I—and all people of  faith who join with Israel in an active way—are part of the prophetic story. A Jewish friend who helped me go much deeper in my study and understanding of prophecy opened my eyes to this truth.

    Ron Nachman, the mayor of a small Israeli city in the West Bank, took great risks to help rebuild Israel after the Jews started returning to their homeland after 1948. He read the Hebrew prophets and studied the ways their visions were becoming reality in the Holy Land—the land he was committed to help restore.

    Men such as Ron see the solidarity of Christians who work alongside Israelis as an important sign of prophecy being fulfilled. The people living in Israel are already on the scene of God’s culminating work on earth: the return of His Son to claim His own. As God brings this age to a close, Israelis are having their eyes opened to God’s dealings with humanity. It is not simply the building of a nation, protecting Israel against the enemies that surround it, or arguing the issues related to territory and boundaries as part of the so-called Palestinian question. All those are important,
    of course, but there is a growing sense that developments are taking place that transcend political, military, and nationalistic concerns. These are spiritual issues and spiritual concerns shared by Jews, Arabs, and Christians alike.

    For years we have seen the Arab-Israeli conflict dominate the headlines. As I was writing this book, Israel was criticized for sending aircraft into Syria to destroy missiles supplied by Iran and stored near Damascus. The missiles were said to have a two-hundred-mile range and were en route to Hezbollah fighters. Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel, typically operates in Lebanon but also has joined the fighting in Syria’s civil war.1 Global tensions have focused in and around Israel since the rebirth of the Jewish state in 1948. Just about everything concerning Israel—even its
    right to exist—remains the focus of international debate in spite of decades of negotiations, wars, shifting boundaries, and treaties.

    What Are Israelis Hearing from God?

    Many of the signposts we have missed in our past study of prophecy come clearly into view only when we study Scripture in tandem with committed Israelis. How do the people of Israel read the signs of the times? What do they anticipate for the future as they face the hostility of enemies bent on their destruction?

    To study prophecy apart from the people who live in the Holy Land is similar to studying a road atlas and pretending you’ve visited the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Parks. Reading words on a page is only one of the steps in learning the deeper meaning of prophecy. The prophets delivered their prophecies to people who needed to have their eyes and hearts opened to God’s plans. None of this has changed since the days of Isaiah and Jeremiah. God has not changed His plans, nor has He stopped speaking to His people—as we will see.

    Many of the people I am working with in Israel are hearing from God. He is opening the eyes of His people to the reality of His power, His involvement in world affairs, His never-ending love for His people, and His plans. He is setting things in order to bring about His kingdom on earth, just as His prophets foretold.

    In The Holy Land Key you will be introduced to contemporary Israelis—from national leaders to local leaders to ordinary citizens. You will begin to hear from God just as those in Israel hear from Him. Let’s start making introductions.


    Excerpted from The Holy Land Key by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie Copyright © 2014 by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Ray Bentley

  • How to Ruin Your Appetite for God

    Posted on February 18, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful." Joshua 1:8 (NIV)

    With the summer season just a few calendar pages away, the media is preparing to bombard us with information about new diets, exercise programs and creative ideas for healthy eating. So in light of all the buzz, I considered my own health goals for this season and wondered what changes I need to make.

    My thoughts soon wandered away from my physical health, to my spiritual health. As I pondered the junk food I need to remove from my diet and toss from my cupboards, I considered what spiritual junk food needed to go as well.

    Junk food is usually delicious in flavor, low in nutritional value, but high in fat and calories. While okay once in awhile, if I fill myself with junk food on a daily basis, I won't be hungry for nutritious food.

    In the same way junk food derails our health goals, succumbing to the temptations of spiritual junk food throws us off track and curbs our appetite for God.

    Today's key verse addresses this subject of filling ourselves with God's Word, instead of the temptations of the world. In this first chapter of Joshua, God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses. To prepare Joshua for the task, God gave him instructions and encouragement. God explained the importance of meditating on His Word to avoid temptation and sin, and the importance of keeping His commands on Joshua's lips.

    God knew the distractions and discouragements of the world could easily derail Joshua from God's chosen path. So He commanded Joshua to have a daily menu of God's truth — to meditate on the Law every day and talk about it often — so that His ways would always be fresh in Joshua's mind. In other words, God wanted Joshua to be filled with His Word, so that he would have no hunger for the temptations of the world.

    An infinite amount of spiritual junk food tickles our fingertips every day through television, movies, computers, smart phones, books, radio and more. Even though these mediums can offer good "food" as well, if we don't use spiritual discernment to selectively choose what we are consuming, we may find ourselves filled with the wrong things, and a curbed appetite for what is spiritually nutritious.

    If we aren't careful, the spiritual junk food the world offers might inadvertently become our primary source of nourishment, diminishing our appetite for God's Word and lessening our desire for healthy portions of His instruction.

    Too much junk food of any kind will weaken our bodies and our spirits. But spending time with God and keeping His Word on our lips will bring strength and health, inside and out. Might we put His words on our lips today and pray for an insatiable hunger from this day forward?

    Dear Lord, open my eyes to the spiritual junk food I have fed my heart and mind. Help me see where I need to make some changes in order to be spiritually healthier. Give me the courage and perseverance to break unhealthy habits and focus on what You know is best for me instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What "junk food" have I been consuming that is possibly curbing my appetite for God and His Word, and negatively impacting my relationship with Him?

    Ask yourself these three questions, and then pray over your honest answers:

    1. In what ways do I feed my heart and mind on a daily basis? (TV, radio, books, God's Word, devotions, etc.)
    2. Does my hunger for God outweigh my hunger for other "foods"?
    3. What two changes can I make in my daily life to increase my appetite for God?

    Power Verses:
    1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment, now that you have had a taste of the Lord's kindness." (NLT)

    Matthew 4:4, "Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Joshua

  • God’s Sovereign Will

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    He [Jesus] fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cupbe taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." Matthew 26:39

    The cross of Jesus Christ was a decree of God. It was the Lord’s sovereign will for Jesus to die for our sins and forgive all who believe. Yes, even Christ in His last hours struggled with the intensity of His suffering. Yet in humble prayer He cried out, “Not my will, but Your will be done.” There are times, events and people that were prepared beforehand by the triune God. Nothing stops their influence for they are from the Lord, for the Lord. God’s will, will reign.

    Furthermore, the Lord uses sinful men and women to carry out His righteous outcomes. What some meant for evil, our Savior Jesus uses for good. Abandoned children are found and adopted by a loving Christian family. Released prisoners are trained and given a second chance to work. Heroism rises from the ashes of a terrorist attack, as individuals unselfishly serve the injured, the unconscious, and the dead. God is not finished with pain until something comes out of the hurt.

    "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14).

    Yes, we are wise to bend our wills to God’s will. We can make a request, but we trust He will do what’s best. For example, we can ask for physical healing on earth, but God’s best may be ultimate healing for eternity in heaven. We can ask for our heart’s desire, but God’s best may be to change the desires of our heart. We can ask for favor with the student body, but God’s best may be only a few who follow. Thus, we can ask anything, according to His will in Christ Jesus.

    Therefore, surrender to the sovereign will of the Lord for your life. If it is to suffer, then do good while you suffer. If it is to financially prosper, then be aggressively generous with your wealth. If it is to live with less, then learn contentment with what you have and not obsess over what you don’t have. If it is to struggle in a family relationship, then model the gospel with your love. If it is joy and peace or sadness and fear, thank God in (not for) all kinds of circumstances. God’s sovereign will is a decree that will happen, regardless. His will is what’s best for all parties.

    "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will"(Proverbs 21:1, ESV).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I surrender to Your sovereign will, so I will follow wherever you lead.

    Related Readings: Daniel 4:35; Ephesians 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:18; 1 Peter 3:17; 1 John 2:17

    Post/Tweet today: We are wise to bend our wills to God’s will. We can make a request, but we trust He will do what’s best. #God’swill

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • And Life Comes Back from Tricia Lott Williford

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    Tricia Lott Williford

    October 2012

    Gas tank: full. Cell phone: charged. iPod: stocked. I drive up I-70 toward the mountains. A decision of classic, spontaneous impulsion on my part. Once I’ve decided I want to do something, I want to do it today. This is no exception.

    Robb and I weren’t a perfect match. We were different in every way. But maybe the differences make the perfect match. He liked a planned agenda; I thrive on spontaneity. He was a filer. He put everything in its place. I am a piler, and I can’t find anything once it leaves my hands. He liked to visit the same restaurants and order favorite dishes; I like to try new places and taste new things. He went to bed at the same time every night, just after the nightly weather report at 9:17 p.m.; I come alive at night, often thinking and writing and creating into the early morning hours. He was deeply invested in the decisions of the government and any election; I am apolitical and often handed him my ballot since it mattered so much more to him. He believed in the thrill of competition; I enjoy the commercials and believe in the gracious social merits of the game. I always have a book in my hands; he was nonliterate. Not illiterate, but nonliterate; he hated to read. We parented differently. I read books, conduct Internet research, post on parenting blogs, and study consequences based on love and logic. He wrestled on the floor, tickled and roughhoused, and earned respect by saying things like, “Dude, just obey. I’ve pooped bigger than you.”

    But we both loved road trips and loud music on the iPod. (I like mine louder than he preferred.) We loved having people in our home (although I could quickly and seamlessly add a chair to our dinner table while he preferred a guest list in advance). We both loved serving people; I would listen and learn their favorites and their fears, while he
    would grab his tool belt and fix any problem at hand.

    Years ago I stopped trying to make us match—him the same as me, me the same as him. I learned that his relationships, although far less verbal, were in no way inferior to mine; they were just different. His experiences and his preferences were different from mine, but they were equally valuable. The ways he chose to love me were, in fact,
    loving me. The face of love depends on one’s willingness to understand two vernaculars of the same language. We were not the same.

    We didn’t always understand each other. And we made a great team. In the passenger’s seat is the white paper bag with handles. It looks like it could come from a candle shop or a quaint boutique. No one might guess that it holds the canister of my husband’s ashes.

    I drive on a two-lane road that becomes more winding, less crowded, and finally utterly secluded as I arrive at a lake just below the mountain’s highest elevation. I turn off the car. I step out. The air is crisp and silent. I button my coat, grab the handles of the white bag, and click the remote to lock the car as I walk toward the water.

    Part 1
    I Will Love You Forever

    Life was rich. No matter what the future held, this was a marvelous moment.
    —Madeleine L’Engle, Two-Part Invention

    October 2009

    As I scrambled with the many dishes on the stove and in the microwave, two-year-old Tyler cried because he wanted to sit in his chair, twenty-five minutes before it was time to eat. Four-year-old Tucker needed, needed, needed to be in the kitchen with me, standing at my feet, asking to help.

    Please. Help. Please.

    Tyler wanted to be held. Then Tyler wanted to wear his Superman shirt. It could not be found. He could not think of eating without it, so he organized a search party, looking high and low. When we found it, he didn’t want to wear it. He put on a Power Ranger costume instead. Meanwhile, Tucker endlessly blew the pinwheel he had made at preschool, sending spit flying all over everything and everyone. That’s fun, just before dinner.

    The kitchen door opened from the garage, and the familiar jangle of car keys exploded into boisterous, joyful shouting. “Daddy! Daddy!” The boys tumbled over each other in their race to greet Robb, which became a fest of shoving and blaming and claiming. I stood by the stove, stirring the spanish rice to accompany the chicken enchiladas in the oven. I watched the greeting unfold, aware of two things: he was finally home to help referee such scenes, and we would have our own hello once the hubbub settled. I could leave them to their wrestling match. Sure enough, they dispersed as quickly as they had commenced, spinning and bouncing like pinballs.

    “Hey, babe,” he said as he came behind me, one hand on my waist, one hand holding the mail. I gave him a quick kiss over my shoulder.

    “Hi, love. Welcome home. How was work?”

    “Eh, you know. Work.” He flipped through the mail, sorting the wheat from the chaff. “How was the day here?”

    “Eh, you know. It was the day here.” I pulled the enchiladas out of the oven, balancing the casserole dish in one hand, clicking the beeping timer off with the other hand, and giving a quick, upward exhale to blow my bangs out of my eyes.

    “Anything you need help with before dinner?”

    “Yes, you can pour drinks and have them go potty and wash their hands.” (Perhaps in another life stage I won’t say “potty.” Lots of grownups say “bathroom”—so I’ve heard.)

    “Boys! Go potty and wash your hands! Time for dinner!” He headed up the stairs and returned in a frayed T-shirt and athletic shorts. He wore shorts 350 days of the year, even when there was snow on the ground.

    Robb and I had a silly joke between us. About trivets. Really, that’s what marriages are made of: silly little nothings that add up to a decade of important somethings. As you probably know, a trivet is the little doodad that goes under a hot plate or dish to keep the heat from scorching your table or countertop. Robb insisted on calling it a trinket. I insisted on calling it by its name, trivet.

    I carried the hot dish to the table. “Could you hand me a trivet?”

    “You mean a trinket?”

    “No. I mean a trivet.”

    “Sure, babe. Here you go. Here’s your trinket.”

    “Thank you for the trivet.”

    “Trinket.”

    “Trivet.”

    We did this, I kid you not, every single time one of us set the table for dinner. It was a nightly dialogue, a playful banter. The trinket/trivet debate. One night he said, “You know, when I’m dead and gone, you’ll look at that trinket and smile. You’ll remember me, and you’ll call it a trinket.”

    “Doubt it.” Lower my vocabulary standards? Hard to wrap my mind around that.

    The dinner scene unfolded with arguments over washing hands with soap and water versus sanitizer and whether dinnertime is an appropriate opportunity for such shortcuts. There were spilled drinks and excessive napkins. Any semblance of real conversation was replaced instead with interruptions and incomplete sentences. Someone wise once said, “Where two or more are gathered, someone will spill his milk.” I envisioned my family dinner table looking so much more collected than this.

    Tyler didn’t want to eat at all; he simply wanted out of his chair. No dice, kiddo. You have to take the three obligatory “thank-you bites.” That’s the rule. And he could have his share of yogurt and grapes. I support the idea of children eating what the adults are having, but sometimes I don’t want to argue and negotiate every bite of the one meal we all eat together each day. Some might call me a short-order cook. I’m willing to risk the name calling. I prefer to describe myself as a mom who doesn’t want to argue incessantly and in the end throw away food that her son doesn’t want to eat. Bring on the kid-friendly side dishes.

    Tucker got in trouble for shouting potty words at the table. He didn’t need to go. He just thinks he is hysterically funny. We try to discourage these syllables as appropriate dinner conversation, so he spent a few minutes in time-out.

    Robb tossed in some adult humor for me—his teammate and captive audience. “Listen, Tucker. We need to redefine your mission statement. There is about to be some corporate restructuring around here, and I don’t think you’ll be pleased with your performance review.” I smile in spite of myself; I couldn’t have said it better. Time for a disciplinary action plan, I’m pretty sure. We’ll consult with the board.

    Oh, wait. We are the board.

    “Tuck, when you’re ready to use polite words, you can come back.”

    “Can I come back now?”

    “Are you ready to use polite words?”

    “No.”

    “Then you can keep sitting on the steps.”

    Tyler had no interest in dinner, his meal, his chair, or his life as he knew it. He wanted Mommy. In his whiniest, most tearful voice, he cried for me. Since I was enjoying my enchiladas, as much as I could in such an environment, Robb tried to encourage him to eat instead. “Tyler, can you eat your chicken? This is Daddy’s favorite chicken. Very favorite. Taste it.”

    “No. Mommy. Mommy, mommy, mommy.” Cry, cry, cry.

    Tucker announced from the living room: “I’m ready now.”

    “Okay, come join us.”

    He announced upon his arrival that he had to go potty now. Robb and I exchanged glances over the table: to allow or not to allow? We were still freshly out of the potty-training graduation ceremony, so we were reluctant to keep the boy from going when he said he had to go. Go. Now. Quickly. Then eat. Now. Go.

    Tucker yelled from the bathroom, “Soap! Soap! SSOOOAP!” It was hard to know if he was yelling at us or at the soap. Especially since he didn’t need a single bit of assistance when I arrived at his side to help him reach the soap. He was fine, thanks.

    Tyler cried.

    Enchiladas, anyone? Are you kidding me? Is it time for bed yet? And then the negotiations started. Because try as I may, dinner almost always ends with a negotiation.

    “Boys who eat their dinner can have a cookie.”

    “I want a cookie!”

    “Did you eat your dinner?”

    “No.”

    “Then no cookie.”

    “But I want a cookie!”

    “Eat your grapes or your chicken.”

    “I want a cookie.”

    “I want Mommy!”

    I want a stiff drink.

    Robb raised his voice above the din. “Boys, enough. Mommy fixed this dinner for you. Stop complaining. Start eating.” What is it about the dad’s voice? It evokes a moment of trepidation, just enough to make them remember who’s boss. He is. And he says I am.

    In an adult moment above it all, I whispered to him, nearly in pig Latin, “I made chocolate raspberry trifle for dessert. I’m not sure they’ve earned it. I’m pretty sure we have. After their baths and bedtime, let’s eat it. Just us.” In the end they didn’t eat their dinners, chicken and grapes notwithstanding, so they didn’t get their cookies. But we held the promise of delayed gratification: our dessert to come after bedtime. Everything tastes better after bedtime.

    After dinner we took a family walk around the neighborhood, down the street and around the corner to the path with the mountain view. With four wheels and a handle, our sturdy Radio Flyer had a large capacity: jackets, sunscreen, water bottles, one boy or two climbing in and out, the ever-growing collection of rocks and pine cones, and alternating rhythms of whining and laughing. We put a lot of miles on those four wheels, one evening stroll at a time.

    We arrived home once more, and after the choreographed tag team of baths (Robb handled the bubbles, soap, and shampoo while I handled the fluffy hooded towels and the jammies); after the goodnight songs, the bedtime stories, and one hearty round of “I’m thankful for” (Robb was thankful for me, I was thankful for umbrellas, Tucker was thankful for his soccer ball, and Tyler was thankful for crinkly, wrinkly eyeballs); after the prayers and kisses and glasses of water and night-lights and more water and the list of just-one-more things, they were in bed.

    I came slowly down the stairs, feeling spent and poured out, wishing I could muster more energy to stay up late and maximize the remaining quiet moments of the day.

    He unfolded his reclining chair and opened his arms. “Come here, baby girl.”

    I climbed, knees first, into his chair, then turned myself to find the spot that had taken us a while to map out, the one I’ve now known for years—the nook-and-cranny puzzle pieces that fit the two of us into a chair made for one. He groaned as I sat down on his lap, as if the bulky weight of me were too much to hold. One of his favorite jokes.

    “I really wish you wouldn’t do that when I sit on you.”

    “I was just being funny.”

    “Well, that’s not funny.”

    “You’re grumpy,” he teased.

    I craned my neck to look at him.

    “Yes, it’s possible that I am. You’ve been here for slightly more than one hour of this day, thank you very much, and I have spent the entire day navigating an obstacle course in which I am Public Enemy Number One. What you saw tonight was only one of today’s meals. At lunch today Tyler was angry because he didn’t want me to cut his spaghetti noodles. But he doesn’t know how to eat them otherwise, so then he was also angry because he was hungry. During the same meal Tucker was just as angry. I don’t really know why; it’s hard to keep track. At naptime Tucker was angry again because I wouldn’t let him jump on the bed. Simultaneously, Tyler was irate because he couldn’t wear his shoes to bed. I found both of them running across the length of the coffee table and launching themselves into my chair. Olympic training, right here.” I pointed to the coffee table, their running track.

    “Do you know something else? At one point I actually heard myself tell Tyler that I didn’t like him very much today. I told him I didn’t like him! For crying out loud, who was the adult in that situation, anyway? ‘I don’t like you,’ I said. My mom coached me through that one. She said, ‘He doesn’t understand yet. You’ll want to change that sentence by the time he’s five. For now, it bounces right off.’ Apparently her own mother used to say she was going to give her back to the Indians. So I guess it’s all relative. Still, I earned no points for Mother of the Year today. This day had angry written all over it. So, yes, perhaps I am grumpy. And by the way, you didn’t exactly keep your cool at the dinner table tonight, either.”

    He pulled my shoulder gently into the crook of his arm, softening me. He rested his scruffy chin on my head. We fit so perfectly. My voice quieted. “I’m pretty sure they will be disappointed tomorrow when they wake up to learn I am still their mom and I still live here.” With my ear against his chest, I listened to the vibrations of his voice. “Well, I’m glad you live here. You’re stuck with me. And them.” “Thank you. You’re not allowed out of this.”

    “Neither are you, baby girl.” He poked my knee for emphasis and then rested his hand on the curve of my worn, gray sweatpants. “They’re in bed now anyway. At the end of the day, they always go to bed.” “In bed” is relative. I could still hear Tucker making that silly clicking sound in his throat, which he had just discovered and was abundantly proud of. “In bed” is not asleep. But it is a step in the right direction.

    “Can we just be quiet, please?” I asked Robb, immune to the irony that I had been the one doing all the talking in that most recent tirade.

    “Can I watch baseball?”

    “Can I read my book?”

    “Yes.”

    “Deal.”

    “Dessert?”

    “Um…yes.” Isn’t that what we’ve all been waiting for?

    With dessert served in the deep ice cream bowls we found on clearance at Kohl’s, I moved back to my own chair—the oversized, comfier, more realistic place for me to sit for the duration of the night. Several chapters and innings later, it was time for the weather segment of the evening news—9:17 every night. Robb moonlighted as a closet meteorologist. He had installed two weather stations in our home, apps on his phone, and updates on his desktop. He was routinely one click away from the five-day forecast. I found this nicely helpful in my decisions about shoes and cute cardigans, since I would otherwise pay no attention to the weather until I was uncomfortable enough to notice it.

    My goodness. Sometimes we seem so old. What happened to the two who watched movies late into the night and boasted the occasional 2 a.m. run to Taco Bell? We used to have more to say to each other. Dinner conversations, chats on that walk around the neighborhood, pillow talk late at night—we always had a few more things to say. Where have those conversations gone? Are we too comfortable? Are we too familiar? Maybe we’re just too tired.

    He followed his meticulous routine of locking every door, turning off each light, then double-checking that each door was locked. Leaving him all the practical tasks, I checked on the sleeping little boys. I straightened this one’s blanket and found that one’s teddy bear. I stroked the tall one’s head; I rubbed the small one’s back. I kissed this one’s fingers, that one’s eyelids.

    I breathed a prayer over them. “God, arm them with strength. Make their way perfect.”

    Little do they know that I love nothing more than them. They are as big as I love.


    Excerpted from And Life Comes Back by Tricia Lott Williford Copyright © 2014 by Tricia Lott Williford. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


    This post was posted in Books and was tagged with Featured, Tricia Lott Williford

  • Marks of a Spiritual Father

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    A few years ago, I was teaching a Sunday School class through the book of 1 Corinthians.  In it we learn of both Paul's love for this motley crew and his passion for their pursuit of Christ.

     

     

    In chapter four he encourages them to think about the various marks of a spiritual father.  At this point in time I think it would be good for us to consider these.  Keep in mind that the list that Paul uses is defiantly not exhaustive, nor is it just for "spiritual" fathers.  Us "regular" dads would be good to take to Paul's words of encouragement here.

    Admonishes
    Paul writes in verse 14, "I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as a my beloved children."  He is urging them to move beyond the sin that they have become so comfortable with.  How often do you seek a father who would be willing to speak truth into your life?  Telling you to leave the sin behind?  How often as a father do you do the same to the ones that you love?

    Loves
    As stated above, Paul calls this group of people his "beloved children."  There is a genuine care here.  There are times in my past where I would find it much easier to shun someone that has disappointed me.  Paul's approach to discipline is to love them greatly.  I am reminded that because we have been loved greatly, so we are called to love greatly.

    Teaches
    Paul continues in verse 15, "though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers."  Paul knows that there are a lot of people that are more than willing to give advise.  Good advise doesn't do much for us, does it.  We need a good teacher.  A father can certainly be that for us.

    Lives by Example
    "I urge you, then, be imitators of me."  What a verse.  How bold of Paul to state something like this verse.  At first glance it may look intimidating for us.  We think that we would never be able to say something like that to someone else.  Listen here to what Paul is saying; he is not saying that he is perfect and that we need to be perfect like him.  That is the furthest thing from the truth.  What Paul is saying is that he is a sinner, but regardless of his sin, he continues to find his life hidden with Christ.  That statement is true for you and I, dear friend.  When we know that, we can boldly say, "be imitators of me."  Because we know that our lives are hidden in Christ - and that is where we have all the confidence we need.

    Disciplines
    In verse 21, Paul writes, "What do you wish?  Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in spirit of gentleness?"  Proverbs 13:24 says, "Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him."  Paul was not afraid of using a "rod" to bring discipline to his children in the church of Corinth.  They needed it.  To some extent, if Paul did not use it, he would showing them that he hates them.  Often times in our lives, as fathers, it may be easier to not bring the "rod" to our children, but in doing so we are communicating hate.  God disciplines those He loves and as fathers (spiritual or regular) we need to bring discipline.  In some cases, it's a matter of love or hate.


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion and was tagged with 1 Corinthians, Fathers

  • Being Right Doesn't Mean I'm Righteous

    Posted on February 17, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy Carroll

    "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:4b-5 (NIV)

    I still have pounds to lose and overflowing closets, but this year my resolution isn't based on external goals. Instead, there's a heart issue clambering for attention, and God is filling me with a simple prayer: Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous.

    The word righteous means, "acting in accord with divine and moral law, free from guilt or sin" according to Webster. But being righteous and looking righteous are two different things.

    Looking righteous is something I've mastered.

    I know how to follow the rules, play the game and fit into the church crowd. Maybe you're like me and are wired to work hard to get things done "right." I like to please my peers and check items off my to-do list.

    Often it wins me the approval I crave. I get pats on the back, and it all looks good on the outside.

    But on the inside — in the quiet moments — I can find myself exhausted. Defeated. Numb. Those feelings let me know I've crossed from being righteous through Christ into trying to earn righteousness myself.

    Sometimes my self-righteousness leaks out and reveals its ugliness through judgmental thoughts and attitudes towards others. That's when I find myself looking down my nose at those struggling while thinking I have it together or snapping with impatience when someone delays my next task.

    Then I read Revelation 2 in a new light. In this passage, Jesus commends the church at Ephesus for their good deeds. He praises them for hard work, perseverance, intolerance of wickedness, sound doctrine and endurance. It's a list of wonderful works indicating righteousness.

    But Jesus follows with a stunning and scathing indictment, "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Revelation 2:4b-5).

    Those verses highlight the root of the issue and reveal the Ephesians were in the same predicament as me. They were working hard, but without love they had become self-righteous, and God won't tolerate that.

    Could I have lost my first love? Was that the cause of my self-righteous thoughts? I began to think back to the days when I first fell in love with my husband. I was crazy about him, and couldn't get enough time with him. Love for him filled me with an explosive joy bubbling over on everyone around me. Not only did I want to hug him, everyone else was in danger of being hugged too!

    The same is true when my heart is overflowing with love for God. That joy bubbles over to those around me. It makes my heart sincere and gracious, rather than hard and judgmental.

    To maintain the right heart, God asks us to keep returning to our first love with Him. To rediscover the newness, lightness and joy we felt at first. He urges us to constantly rekindle passion for Him, which will deepen our love for Him and others.

    The beautiful part is God doesn't call us to love without Him setting the ultimate example. His love is "wide and long and high and deep" (Ephesians 3:18, NIV), and it surpasses our thoughts and the works done in our own strength.

    Pursuing righteousness solely through good works is an empty endeavor, always leaving us impossibly short of the goal. Returning to our first love ensures full righteousness as we follow Jesus, for He is our righteousness. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Corinthians 1:30, NIV).

    Renewing our first true love produces righteousness. True righteousness creates more love for God and others. It's a beautiful cycle, and it's a goal that transforms us.

    Lord, please make me completely righteous and not a bit self-righteous. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What can you remember about your first days of falling in love with Jesus? Write down your memories of how you felt and what you did during that time.

    Has that first love faded? Spend some time in the quiet today offering a worship/love song to Him. Ask Him to rekindle your passion.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 21:21, "He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor." (NIV)

    Luke 6:33, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Revelation

  • Love Forgives

    Posted on February 16, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    It keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:5

    Love forgives continually and it forgives comprehensively. Forgiveness wipes clean the slate of offense, hence it is freeing for everyone. Indeed, forgiveness was the heartbeat of Jesus. Some of His last words requested forgiveness from God for the ignorant acts of His offenders (Luke 23:34). Christ’s greatest act of love was the forgiveness He extended by His voluntary death on the cross (Colossians 2:13-15). Jesus described His own act of love when He said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus was the epitome of love and forgiveness; He owns the trademark.

    Forgiveness is the fuel for living a life free from the clutter of cutting words or unjust acts. A life without forgiveness is a lonely life locked up in the solitary confinement of sin. Forgiveness flows when you have been authentically and thoroughly forgiven. Half-hearted forgiveness is the destiny of those who have not tasted the tender touch of forgiveness from their heavenly Father. Unless the forgiveness of God has graced your heart and soul, your capacity for forgiveness will be foreign and futile.

    It is the grace of God and faith in Him that fuels forgiveness in followers of Christ. The job description of Christians is to love with forgiveness because we have been forgiven (Colossians 3:13). Think about the depth and breadth of your forgiveness. Ignorant acts, they are forgiven; drunkenness, it’s forgiven; lust, it’s forgiven; immorality, it’s forgiven; hate, it’s forgiven; ignoring God, it’s forgiven; unbelief, it’s forgiven. Love forgives because it has been forgiven.

    Remember where you were BC (before Christ), and reflect on where you would be today without His love and forgiveness. Recall what it was like to be lost and bound up in your sin, and celebrate how far God has brought you. Love is extremely grateful for God’s goodness and redeeming power. Forgiveness is second nature and somewhat automatic for followers of Jesus who are consumed with Christ’s love. They are enamored with God’s love for them and others. When you have been forgiven much, you love much (Luke 7:47).

    Your capacity to love is directly tied to your willingness to receive Christ’s forgiveness. Accept the Almighty’s forgiveness so you can extend forgiveness. Let go of unforgiveness and replace it with His unconditional love. Love looks for excuses to eliminate hard feelings, as it replaces resentment and bitterness with love and forgiveness. Love by forgiving your family member who may not even know they hurt your heart. Love by forgiving your friend who volitionally violated your confidence. Love by forgiving your father and mother who are preoccupied parents.

    Love by forgiving your child who is ungrateful and selfish. Love by forgiving yourself for your stupid decisions. Forgiveness forgets the past, engages in the present, and hopes in the future. Extend forgiveness indiscriminately and receive it graciously. Delete any record of wrongs from the hard drive of your heart. Call, write, or initiate a freeing conversation of forgiveness. Reject the temptation for indignation and humbly receive God’s grace instead. Love liberally by regularly relying on forgiveness. Love forgives.

    Taken from the February 16th reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”

    Post/Tweet today:Unless God’s forgiveness has graced a soul, its capacity for forgiveness is fleeting. #loveforgives

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Influential Wife

    Posted on February 15, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Genesis 21:12

    Listen to your wife; she can be God’s voice of wisdom and/or His heavenly sandpaper. Especially when you are in distress over a decision, she can bring perspective and calm to the situation. If you are tempted to make a dumb decision, she is there to remind you of your convictions. She is built-in accountability, even when you do not want to hear her voice. It may rub you the wrong way, but this irritation is how the Lord gets your attention.

    Why does God frequently speak through your wife? One reason is that she has your best interest in mind. You became one in marriage; as your decisions go, so go your marriage and family. She wants you to be successful because your success or failure is a reflection of your relationship with her. Furthermore, she wants you to make wise decisions because she loves you. “Love…rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

    Still it is sometimes hard to listen to your wife, even when you know it is God’s desire, and the benefit it provides is obvious. Perhaps you question her motive, or her way of communicating is overbearing. If it is a question of motive, ask her why she is suggesting her advice. If her method of communication is harsh or untimely, address this with her, but still receive the truth. Suggest to her how and when to speak the truth in love.

    You benefit by making wiser decisions, and she benefits by becoming a better communicator of truth. Value her objectivity, as she intuitively knows if someone or some situation does not feel right. God gives her uncanny discernment. So wives, share in love and in a timely fashion; and husbands, listen intently and respectfully with an eye toward implementation.

    Are you listening to learn from your lover? “It [love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7).

    Prayer: What wisdom is my wife imparting that I need to heed and follow?

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 8:7–9; Isaiah 46:10; Romans 9:7–8; Hebrews 11:17–18

    Taken from the February 15th reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 2”

    Post/Tweet today: Truth may rub us the wrong way, but this irritation is how the Lord gets our attention. #influentialwife

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Radical Romance

    Posted on February 14, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah. 1 Samuel 1:19

    A radical romance is based on a rock solid relationship with Jesus Christ. When the Lord lights the flames of love between two faithful hearts it's heavenly. Their allegiance to the Almighty makes their allegiance to each other easy. Their love for the Lord ignites their love for one another. Their faith in God fuels their trust in each other. Their passion to know Christ produces a deep desire to know their lover’s heart. Radical romance flows from a radical worship of God.

    A romance with radical results starts in the margins of our relationship with our spouse. Margin is the white space in our schedule that makes us available to support our husband or wife. She may sign up for a couple's cooking class and would really enjoy your eager participation. He may love for you to accompany him to a sporting event, all decked out in his favorite team’s colors. Serve your spouse in a way they want to be served. Since it makes them happy, you are happy.

    “Our Master [Jesus] said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting’” (Acts 20:35, The Message).

    Radical romance comes to couples who intentionally invest emotional energy in each other. It is the prayerful art of administering comfort before injecting truth. It is confronting Christ with my own sin before I confront my spouse with their shortcomings. Romance is the fruit of being engaged with our mind, will, and emotions, as we communicate respect and value. Intimate encounters flow from encouragement. Radical love shows a lost world that faith in God works!

    Most of all, be intentional in your time investment with one another. Perhaps you plan a long weekend to organize your calendar and budget for the next twelve months. Spend half your time working and the other half playing. Make it an annual goal to attend a marriage seminar. Study the Bible with other married couples and apply marriage best practices. Pray together for your children and aging parents. Radical romance blossoms from a radical resolve to love well.

    "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband" (1 Corinthians 7:3).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, fill my heart with unconditional love so I radically love my spouse.

    Related Readings: Song of Songs 2:3; 1 Corinthians 13:8; Ephesians 5:23-33; Colossians 3:19

    Post/Tweet today: Radical romance comes to couples who intentionally invest emotional energy in each other. #radicalromance

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Le/Re - The Prefix Says it All

    Posted on February 14, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Back when I was in high school, the French car company, Renault, made a very unique car. Actually, I take that back, it wasn't very unique. It was just a car. It looked similar to that of my 1978 Honda Civic. What made this car stand out, I guess, was that it was not just any old car, but the French company added a "Le" to the front of it. They made "Car" into "Le Car."

    Perhaps the people who purchased and drove Le Car felt that they were experiencing the fullest extent of French living. In all honesty, I never owned or even drove a Le Car. I thought they looked funny.

    What intrigued me most, was the prefix. I assume that Renault felt that it would stand out more with the "Le" in front of the name. The prefix said it all. It wasn't just another car. It was "Le Car."

    I am not here to really blog about Le Car, but about prefixes. If you would like to know about Le Car, go here.

    So if the prefix "Le" can change the uniqueness of a car, I wonder if there are more significant prefixes...

    Wikipedia offers the following as samples:

    • unhappy : un is a negative or antonymic prefix.
    • prefix, preview : pre is a prefix, with the sense of before
    • redo, review : re is a prefix meaning again.

    I love the "re" prefix. Not so much the prefix itself, but rather how it radically changes words.

    For instance, think of the word "new." At one time we were all new. When we were born, we were new. Now, on the other hand, we are not new. We are all getting older. We are losing our innocence. We are losing our strength. We are not new.

    BUT

    If you add the "re" in front of the word "new" something dramatic happens. What was once old becomes new again. RENEW.

    Revelation 5:21 says, "And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”

    The good news is that God is renewing. Right now. He is renewing you. Sometimes you may not feel it, and some days you may even doubt it. I assure you though, He who began a work in you is faithful to complete it. You are being renewed.

    How about generating. For many of us our lives consisted of generating the wrong things. Sin. Rebellion. Angst. Hate.

    BUT

    When you add the prefix "re" in front of generating, you find a completely different meaning. REGENERATED.

    Titus 3:5 says, "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit."

    Think of all the possibilities here:

    1. restored/restoring
    2. recreated/recreating
    3. redeemed/redeeming
    4. reconciled/reconciling
    5. reformed/reforming
    6. resurrection
    7. relearning
    8. recreating
    9. replacing
    10. revitalizing
    11. reborn

    Never forget my friends, what our Savior is doing in us. Psalm 65:5 says, "By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas."

    Live in the freedom of the prefix today. It says it all.


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, John van der Veen and was tagged with Psalm, Titus, Revelation

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