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Family Christian

  • His Princess from Sheri Rose Shepherd

    Posted on February 14, 2014 by Family Christian

    Sheri Rose Shepherd

    From My Heart to Yours...

    Recently I was flying home from speaking at a weekend women’s retreat. I leaned back in my seat, exhausted, and began to reflect on the last few days spent with such wonderful women. We laughed, we cried, we ate too much and slept too little. I felt privileged that so many of the ladies felt safe enough to share with me the painful parts of their lives that few had seen.

    As I sat there staring out at the clouds below and the heavens above, I wanted desperately to see a miracle in the lives of my new friends. I couldn’t help but wonder if anything I said would give Evelyn the encouragement she needed to start over again, help heal Joyce’s heart from her past, give Kim the ability to forgive those who hurt her, or provide Jan the strength to get through her trials. Life can be so hard to handle. Could one weekend of truth, transparency,
    and teaching give them what they needed to complete God’s call on their lives?

    I began to reflect on my own life and the years I wasted not knowing God’s plan, His purpose, and the power that was mine for the asking. I regret the poor choices I made that led me down a road of selfdestruction to a life filled with drugs, depression, and eating disorders. In the midst of my misery, I was convinced that all I needed was to lose weight and be pretty and popular. Even after I overcame my addictions and lost weight, I found myself driven by money and success and desperately needing the approval of others. Even achieving a successful career and winning
    beauty crowns could not complete me.

    In the midst of my emptiness and pain, a missionary couple shared with me about the great, eternal crown offered to me by God. I knew I had finally found the answer when I accepted His gift of eternal life, yet it still took me years to truly discover freedom from my past and the call He had on my life. Today, I am a new creation and I have left the past where it belongs…at the cross.

    The airplane brought me safely home that weekend, but my heart ached for the countless women who would go home that night feeling anything but safe—or at home. With these thoughts tugging at my heart and after reviewing my own life, I realized we can live beyond our pain and our past, our fears and failures, and become…His princesses.

    I know how hard it is for us to look at our lives and think of ourselves as royalty. But the truth is, God is our King and we are chosen by Him (1 Peter 2:9). Unfortunately, many of us have traded the truth of who God says we are for a tarnished version of ourselves, fashioned by the approval of others and adorned with our own insecurities.

    I searched the Scriptures over the next few months and wrote what I thought God might say personally to us if we would really hear Him with our heart, take Him at His Word, and have enough faith to believe what He says.

    I pray as your soul soaks in these “love letters” that you will never again doubt who you are, why you are here, and how much you are loved.

    Love,
    Sheri Rose


    Excerpted from His Princess by Sheri Rose Shepherd Copyright © 2004 by Sheri Rose Shepherd. 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, Sheri Rose Shepherd

  • When We Belong to Jesus

    Posted on February 14, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "For your Maker is your husband — the LORD Almighty is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. The LORD will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit — a wife who married young, only to be rejected,' says your God." Isaiah 54:5-6 (NIV)

    We had what felt like a storybook Christian romance. Mike was tall, dark and handsome. He had a successful business and he loved Jesus. But to top it all off, instead of asking me for a date, Mike asked if we could "court."

    Our lives were connected on so many levels. We lived on the same floor of the same apartment complex. We attended the same church. And we had several mutual friends. We loved when people told us we made a great couple, in life and in ministry.

    Eventually we started praying about marriage and talked to our pastor. Not long after, Mike proposed.

    But two weeks into our engagement he looked into my eyes and said: "I've made a horrible mistake. You are not the one God wants me to marry."

    I was devastated and wondered what I'd done to make God change His mind.

    After counseling and walking through a painful process of forgiveness, I eventually recovered. Much to my surprise, Mike showed back up in my life and asked me to consider rebuilding our friendship.

    I was shocked and hesitant. But I also wondered if God wanted to redeem our story. Eventually I gave Mike a second chance. We spent time with friends and took things slowly. But in time, the topic of marriage came up. He proposed again. And he dumped me again!

    That time I got smart and kept the ring, holding it as collateral to get Mike to counseling with me. In our first session, the counselor explained that Mike had a fear of commitment. Having a name for it helped me feel better, but Mike felt embarrassed and ashamed.

    One night I woke up with a deep sense of concern for him, so I drove to his apartment. Sitting in the parking lot, I felt compelled to get in his van and pray for him. Afterwards I opened my eyes and noticed his journal sitting on the console.

    Though I shouldn't have opened it, I turned to the entries he had written when he called off our engagement. I came face-to-face with why he didn't want to marry. There were many things about me he wished were different.

    After reading Mike's journal, every time I stood in front of a mirror, doubt whispered: No man will ever want you. You'll never be good enough.

    Rejection. Betrayal. Abandonment. Our greatest fears can become reality. Maybe your father abandoned you, or your husband betrayed you. Maybe your best friend broke your trust, or your teenager has shut you out.

    The deep pain from broken relationships can make us doubt our value. We begin to see ourselves as disposable. Easily replaced. Not good enough.

    One morning, I woke up and felt the heavy weight of rejection. Opening my Bible, I read through the book of Isaiah and landed in chapter 54. There, God showed me He is my Maker, Husband and Redeemer - the One who bestows the honor and acceptance I long for.

    As devastating as it was, I learned two life-changing lessons from the pain:

    • I have to choose to separate myself, and my worth, from a man's decision to want me or not.
    • I have to hold others' words and preferences up to God's Word and choose which one I will rely on.

    Although people's preferences will change, God's desire for us won't. Others might not think we're good enough, but God always will. And even if someone decides they don't desire us anymore, God most certainly does!

    The truth is, when we belong to Jesus we are loved and accepted forever. We are covered in His goodness, and His goodness makes us good enough!

    Lord, I want to know and rely on the love You have for me and live in Your love. Remind me each day that Your goodness makes me good enough! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Has someone ever made you feel like you're not good enough?

    Ask God to help you separate yourself, and your worth, from their opinion. Hold their words and preferences up to God's Word and choose to believe and rely on His instead.

    Power Verse:
    Isaiah 30:18a, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. 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 Isaiah

  • Date Weekly

    Posted on February 13, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Song of Songs 2:3

    Couples who calendar weekly dates subscribe to not taking themselves and life too seriously. A night of romance and fun is a surefire way to keep the flames of marriage burning brightly. Work and children are put on pause during this window of intimacy, so emotions can lovingly engage. A date is meant to be free from distractions (no electronics) and mental clutter. Indeed, weekly dates recalibrate a husband and wife’s relationship around love and laughter.

    When you sit in the shade of your spouse’s tree of trust, you find acceptance and affirmation. No one can give you more meaningful approval than your best friend. If he or she seeks approval elsewhere, you are in danger of emotional estrangement. Yes, dating gives you an excuse to pursue your precious marriage partner with romantic anticipation. You clean up and dress up just for them. Perhaps you take turns planning the date experience, so it stays fresh and exciting.

    "Like a lily among thorns is my darling among the young women" (Song of Songs 2:2).

    Date night can require a financial commitment, so budget accordingly. There is a cost, but you can’t afford not to invest in your most important relationship. It’s less expensive than a counselor or divorce. Be creative: a coffee shop, bookstore, walk in the park or park the car and quietly watch a sunset. Use date night as an excuse to buy new shoes or get a haircut. Do something special just for your special friend. Conversation and connection can lead to physical intimacy.

    Lastly, use your weekly time together to reminisce about fun times from the past. Ask questions like: What was your favorite trip we had together? What getaway would you like to plan together going forward? What past answered prayers are you grateful to God for answering? Your weekly date night is a remedy for getting stuck in the crazy cycle of no conversation and growing apart. Focused time with your sweetheart honors them and honors the Lord. Plan to date weekly.

    "Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me" (Song of Songs 2:13).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father give us conviction and creativity to calendar a weekly date night.

    Related Readings: Song of Songs 1:4; 1 Samuel 1:19; 1 Corinthians 7:3; 1 Peter 3:7

    Post/Tweet today: Couples who calendar weekly dates subscribe to not taking themselves and life too serious. #datenight

    © 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 Song of Songs

  • When God Writes Your Love Story from Eric Ludy

    Posted on February 13, 2014 by Family Christian

    Eric Ludy

    All the Kens and Barbies sat around the table. (Note: technically, it’s now supposed to be “Blaine and Barbie,” but I still have a soft spot for good old Ken.) Amid glistening smiles and Coppertone tans, the fragrance of Polo, with a hint of Skin So Soft (yes, this was the good ol’ nineties!) wafted through the café booth. I nibbled at my burrito as the conversation around me finally arrived at its ultimate destination.

    “So, Kevin,” Barbie No. 1 flirted across the table, “tell us who you’re seeing now.”

    Kevin, the son of a state senator, was used to having eyes upon him. Being a Tom Cruise look-alike has a way of boosting the ego. As he crunched a chip between perfect teeth, an “I thought you’d never ask” smirk found its way across his face.

    As all of us camp counselors leaned in, eyes bulging with expectancy, Kevin finally revealed the secret in a low monotone: “Her name is…Sandra!”

    This only added to the excitement and wonder, because no one had any idea who Sandra was.

    “Is she a babe?” crooned the resident Brad Pitt, alias Mike from Wyoming.

    Say no more! Swift as the bionicman, Kevin whipped out his wallet. Moments later we all observed a photograph of the “hottest girl on the planet,” as Kevin so proudly referred to her.

    “Niiice!” came the rumble of approval from Brad Pitt and Matt Damon (Wayne from Denver).

    I think she has a huge nose!” grumbled one of the girls under her breath.

    I continued to pick at my burrito.

    Barbie No. 2, sitting beside Top Gun, was next in the heartthrob inquisition. She displayed a photo of her boyfriend to cheers of “You go, girl!” from the Barbies and disapproving rumbles about his skinny neck from the Kens, Brads,Matts, and Toms.

    After a week of having to exhibit saintlike behavior to all the little campers and being superspiritual while around the camp leaders, it was time to let our hair down—time to let the real passions of life come out. I mean, in your late teens and early twenties, you can sing only so many spiritual camp songs before you need an infusion of good old-fashioned romance.

    One year earlier, talks like this had really litmy fire. I used to love to brag about my love life at camp and exaggerate about my “sexy new girlfriend” in a way that would make all the guys jealous and all the girls insecure. You could say just about anything and get away with it; no one was going home with you to check out your story.

    I used to crave these love chats, but something about Eric Ludy had changed—something big. Something that made me want to slide under the table when all those inquisitive eyes turned my way.

    I’ll never forget the moment. There I was, my fork poking at the jalapeño stranded on the corner of my plate and my mind screaming over and over, Please don’t ask me…please don’t ask me.

    They asked.

    “So, Eric, tell us about your exciting love life!”

    All the periwinkle, emerald, and dark brown eyes were twinkling at me with expectation. I gulped.

    “Uhhhh,” I mumbled. My palms were sweaty. My tongue was dry and thick, like I had a felt eraser in my mouth.

    Finally, I found my voice. “Uhh, I uhh, actually, uh, I am waiting on God.”

    But to be honest, it didn’t really come out as clearly as I just wrote it.The last part of my sentence mumbled under my breath, sounding something like, “Ima waying on Gaw.”

    I hoped a brief answer would encourage them to move on to Elle Macpherson (a.k.a. Kayla from Utah) seated next to me, poised and ready with a photo of her hunk. The plan backfired. They became even more interested.

    “Uh, I think we missed that, Ludy,” Tom Cruise sarcastically challenged. “Was that a girl’s name or some kind of Chinese food?”

    After the laughs subsided, I began again, this time a little more clearly.

    “I know this may sound strange, you guys, but I’ve decided that I won’t give my heart to another girl until God shows me it’s my wife.”

    I have often wished I could have been more eloquent, that I could have made my resolve sound a little more appealing to my audience, now staring at me with mouths ajar. But I guess God wanted me to know that I was following a different path, that I was not to seek the approval of the Kens and Barbies of this world but simply to honor and love Him.

    It was a lonely moment. Silence filled our corner of the restaurant, and all eyes focused on the jalapeño I was ruthlessly stabbing to death.

    “That’s…interesting!” Barbie No. 1 awkwardly noted, her eyes large with disbelief.

    Wayne from Denver was not quite as subtle in his disapproval. “Oh, give me a break!” he exploded in disgust. “How in the world do you expect to find someone, Ludy, if you’re not out there looking?” His words incited a chorus of yeahs and exactlys from around the booth.

    After a moment of reflective silence, I took a deep breath and stated, “I believe that if God wants me to be married”—another deep breath—“He will pick her out for me.”

    A dark cloud settled over the entire group and rained down bewilderment in the form of pursed lips and rolled eyes. I glanced up from my tortured jalapeño to discover a long bony index finger pointing at me, about twelve inches from my nose. Kevin used that finger like Clint Eastwood used a gun. He didn’t shoot to maim—he shot to kill.

    His bronzed face had turned red with annoyance, and his lips were quivering with indignation, like a lava pool ready to explode. After three long seconds, he finally erupted.

    “I totally disagree with you!” he fumed, his index finger still targeting my right nostril. “God doesn’t want us hanging around nagging Him about something like that!”

    A few “amens” from the crowd textured his passionate sermon. He continued. “I believe God wants us to pick,” he preached, “and then He blesses our choice!” He paused and then came to a climactic finish: “It’s sappy Christianity like yours that gives us Christians the image of helpless orphans! It is absolutely ridiculous to think that God would care that much about your love life!”

    The finger held fast for another few long seconds, then slowly dropped as if to say, You show any sign of life, and I’ll shoot again!

    I was the ultimate bummer to their titillating conversation. If ever you want to drain the juice right out of romance, just bring God into the picture. I had committed the unpardonable camp counselor sin, and all the eyes around the table were letting me know it.

    Growing up, I had always gotten along with everybody. I knew how to be liked by the crowd and not offend anyone. I was careful to say the right thing in order to avoid disagreements. Eric Ludy had never been known for his backbone…well, except maybe in championing the Denver Broncos. But when it came to things that really mattered, I was just plain spineless. This was one of the first times in my life I can remember actually standing up for something I believed in (that wasn’t orange and blue).

    Ironically, I didn’t even know exactly what I was talking about. Just twelve months before, I, too, would have “totally disagreed” with what I had just said. But over the past year, God had been challenging me to apply my Christianity to every area of my life. Was it ridiculous to think God would be interested enough in my love life to direct me to the girl He wanted me to spend my life with?

    I shifted in my seat, stabbed my jalapeño one last time, and spoke.

    “All I know,” I said, “is that every time I’ve tried to find someone myself, I realize in the long run that I have horrible taste.”

    All eyes were wide with amazement as I concluded, “Kevin, if God had ten women line up in front of me and said, ‘Eric, you pick,’ I would fall flat on my face before Him and say, ‘God, you know me better than I know myself…You pick! ’ ”

    I’ll bet no one present other thanmyself remembers that scene.To them it was probably just the ramblings of a lunatic named Ludy. But for me it was a defining moment. It was almost as if God was saying, “How seriously are you going to trust Me, Eric?”

    So there it was, in front of the babes and the big egos, that God challenged me to officially trust Him with the “pen” of my life. I had held onto that pen for twenty years, and now, over a chicken burrito and a mangled jalapeño, I handed it over to the great Author to allow Him to work His wonders.

    I’ve never regretted it for a moment.


    Excerpted from When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy Copyright © 2009 by Eric and Leslie Ludy. 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, Eric Ludy

  • Hitting the Bottom

    Posted on February 13, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

    Why is it that the hardest person for me to be honest with is sometimes myself?

    I'm usually a happy, optimistic person. I want to look at life as half full. I like seeing the good in situations and in people.

    I believe those are good qualities about me.

    But sometimes the glass is half empty. And sometimes, I need to see the not-so-good in situations. Other times, I need to admit that there's not-so-good in people.

    I don't need to dwell on it and get all negative. But I do need to allow myself the freedom to be honest. To process with honest thoughts and feelings and hurt.

    Otherwise, I get this knotted feeling deep inside. And my smile on the outside doesn't match the sinkhole on the inside.

    Am I the only crazy person who deals with this? I don't think so. Actually, I think there are a lot of people walking around smiling and sinking at the same time.

    Have you ever had that dream where you are falling, falling, falling and then you gasp and wake up before you hit the ground?

    When I was a small girl swapping playground wisdom between the swing set and the seesaw, I admitted to my friend I had that falling dream. A lot. She whispered, "You know it's a good thing you wake up before you hit the ground in your dream. Because if you didn't, you'd die."

    And right then and there, I decided to never hit the ground. I decided to always be on guard to control that dream.

    Crazy, right?

    That's an exhausting way to sleep.

    And it can be an exhausting way to live. This not ever hitting the ground. This not being honest that sometimes people and situations in life can be completely disappointing.

    There is a bottom. Sometimes we hit it. Sometimes we can't wake up in time.

    And while this gut honest realization about people and situations can feel devastating or like a setback, I think there's a better way to look at it.

    Yes, maybe it's better to consider it an opportunity to grow in dependence on the Lord. An opportunity to embrace the freedom found in our key verse, Psalm 55:22, to bring my feelings to Him and to ask for His help.

    Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." So I took God at His Word.

    As I prayed, I told God about my feelings in a recent situation. Lord, this stinks. It just does. The way this person treated me isn't good. What they said, it really hurt. Help!

    In praying through that situation, God challenged me not just to talk with Him and be honest about my feelings. But also to be honest with the person who had hurt me. God challenged me to hit the bottom I had ever-so-carefully been avoiding.

    So, I sat down with that person. I was honest. With myself and with them. I hit the bottom and I'm actually glad, because the internal sinkhole started to close.

    And the best part? I didn't die!

    Dear Lord, thank You for caring deeply about each detail of my life. Your ability to take my burdens upon Your shoulders is amazing. You are worthy to be praised! In Jesus' Name. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have you been putting on a smile when you feel everything but happy on the inside?

    Bring all of your feelings and burdens to the Lord. Ask Him for direction and freedom as you hand over your control of the situation to Him.

    Power Verse:
    Isaiah 41:10, "... do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. 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 Psalm

  • Dailogue Daily

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

    Busyness is the uncaring culprit of inconsistent communication in marriage. Couples exhausted from a calendar of frantic activity have no emotional energy at the end of the day to engage in meaningful conversation. Like two sleepy ships they pass through the night unaware of the other’s tattered soul. However, hearts that dialogue daily are intentional with intimacy. It may be only 30 minutes of focused conversation after dinner, but wise couples stay verbally connected.

    Often, woman starve for words and men lack language. So husbands, make sure you unselfishly express yourself to your sweetheart. Ask the Lord to give your conversation clarity, compassion, and depth. And wives, be patient with your man who wants to share his heart, but his speech needs a safe environment for expression. Your respect and approval frees him up to speak freely. Daily dialogue gives couples emotional connection that facilitates trust, security and love.

    "Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).

    Make sure your children know your priority of communication as a married couple. Tell your little ones that mom and dad need to grow their friendship with each other, so they can become better parents. Teach your children to respect the space you need as husband and wife to grow a healthy home. Next to salvation in Jesus, the best gift you can give your son and daughter is a maturing marriage. Hence, growing relationships require regular doses of meaningful discussion.

    Have heart-to-hearts and your heart will grow fonder, and your faith will grow fresher. When you talk with each other make sure you talk together to your Heavenly Father. Communication with Christ as a couple draws you closer to Him and to each other. Words birthed out of prayer build up and bring great joy. Love is the language you employ to engage each other’s heart, mind, and soul. Indeed, dialogue daily and like dollar cost averaging, your relational equity will compound.

    "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I pray for an open, loving heart that shares daily with my spouse.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 22:11; Malachi 3:16; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Ephesians 4:15

    Post/Tweet today: Daily dialogue gives couples emotional connection that facilitates trust, security, and love. #marriage

    © 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 Proverbs

  • The Greatest Words Ever Spoken from Steven K. Scott

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven K. Scott

    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken

    I tell you, I know men, and Jesus Christ was no mere man!
    Between Him and every other person in the world
    there is no possible term of comparison.
    –NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

    “The greatest words ever spoken.” How could such a claim be made about any collection of statements? With all the life-changing words spoken by so many great men and women throughout history, how could the words of one person rise above all the others?

    To qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to reveal incredible truths that would otherwise go undiscovered. They would have to bring extraordinary, perhaps even near-miraculous benefit to the hearts, minds, and lives of those who read them. Certainly, to qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to produce life-altering changes not just for a few people but for millions. They would have to impart hope to those in despair, joy to those whose hearts are broken, and peace that subdues even the most paralyzing fears.

    To earn the ranking of the greatest words ever spoken, the words would have to exert enough power to transform a hateful heart into a loving one, a mind driven by greed into one overflowing with generosity, a life ruled by arrogance into one that is driven by the desire to serve others. And if they were truly the greatest words ever spoken, they would have the power to give sight to the blind, deliverance to the captive, forgiveness to the wrongdoer, and life to the dead. If anyone’s words could accomplish these things, they would certainly rise above all other words in history. They would deserve to be called The Greatest Words Ever Spoken.

    These words exist; they have been spoken and recorded. And, yes, they have accomplished remarkable, miraculous results. The greatest words ever spoken are the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Son of the living God.

    The If-Then Statement That Can Change Your Life

    If Jesus is who He claimed to be, then everything He said must be fully, absolutely true. If He is the Son of God, He would never speak in error. Think of the implications. First, if Jesus’ words are absolute truth, they are the standard by which all other purported truths must be measured. Second, everything Jesus said about you, your life, and your circumstances is true. His words describe your life and reveal your immediate and long-term future. To succeed in life, to understand yourself, and to gain wisdom about your present and your future, you need to learn everything Jesus said about you. In that way you will discover what He wants for you and from you.

    And then there are the promises Jesus made. If you choose to follow Him, then all of his 108 promises are promises you can count on–promises that will produce peace in a troubled heart, joy in the midst of tragedy, success in place of failure, and most important, a glorified life that lasts for eternity.

    And this leads to the most important question you will ever face. Is Jesus of Nazareth the person He claimed to be, or was He a mere man?

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France and one of the greatest military geniuses who ever lived, concluded that Jesus was no mere man. Once when Napoleon was discussing various emperors and their empires with his most trusted advisors, the name of Jesus came up. To the surprise of his generals, Napoleon exclaimed:

    I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison! Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist.… Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things… The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me–everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers.… One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life… I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.i

    Jesus of Nazareth

    What did Napoleon know that some of us do not? He was a student of history and a student of men, and he had diligently studied the life and words of Christ. In light of this, he believed that no one in history could compare to Jesus of Nazareth. Think about it: how could one man from an obscure village in the Middle East have changed so many millions of lives as well as the course of history? If ever a man should have been overlooked by history, it was Jesus.

    Consider the facts:

    Jesus was born to a peasant couple in a village in the middle of nowhere. He lived in a country occupied by foreign conquerors. His only means of transportation was His legs.

    He was a carpenter until He turned thirty, and only then did He begin to teach and speak in public. For three short years He proclaimed His message, mostly in small villages.

    After being falsely accused and then convicted in a rigged trial, He was sentenced to death by an official who believed Him to be innocent. He died the death of a criminal and was executed on a cross between two convicted criminals. Only His mother and one of His close followers were present at His execution. The rest of His closest disciples had fled, hiding from the mob and the Roman officials.

    It was only after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His followers that His disciples were transformed from distraught cowards into confident, fearless believers and preachers of Jesus’ message. But they had no means to spread His story and teachings to a mass audience. There were no radios, televisions, or printing presses. In fact, paper as we know it had not yet been invented. Every papyrus scroll had to be painstakingly written by hand. The only way to make a copy was to read the original and laboriously copy it word by word.

    In first-century Palestine, the thought that Jesus’ life might make a significant impact on anyone beyond the Judean countryside was laughable. Any history of this itinerant rabbi who appeared in public for only three years should have been lost–either burned or buried–in the rubble when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions less than forty years after Jesus walked the earth. Against such a background, you can begin to understand the miracle of His life and words. Jesus’ short earthly life–far from being lost to the generations who have followed–became the focal point of history.

    How could one man’s life impact humanity to a greater extent than any other person or any series of events in history? As you read The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, you will get to know this man who changed everything…forever. Jesus did it all, not with money, armies, science, or politics, but with the witness of His life and the power of His words. His life and the miracles He performed attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was what He said that melted their hearts and transformed their lives. The apostle John said, “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)
    .
    The Tragedy of the Information Age

    Today we have more information about everything than any past generation had, yet most people know less of what Jesus said. Countless people are so unaware of first-century history that they are swayed by baseless myths perpetuated by works of fiction such as The Da Vinci Code. Many Christians have built their beliefs and values on the words of Bible teachers, authors, and television and radio preachers rather than on the words of Christ. As wonderful as the words of preachers and writers may be, they can’t begin to compare in wonder and power to the pure, undiluted words of Jesus Christ. After all, He alone claimed to be the embodiment of all truth when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” ( John 14:6). He made incredible promises to those who would build their lives on His words.

    It’s important to realize that Jesus did not make these promises to people who followed the words of any other teacher, prophet, or leader. The words of Jesus stand alone in truth, power, and authority. For example, He promised, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” ( John 8:31-32, NASB). And that was just the beginning. Here are a few of the many promises Jesus made to those who choose to abide in His Word:

    • You will receive eternal life.
    • Your desires will be fulfilled in answer to your prayers.
    • God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will be your constant companions, both with you and within you.
    • You will receive a level of peace and joy, direct from God, that is otherwise unattainable.
    • You will impact the lives of others in ways that can’t be achieved strictly by human effort.
    • You will be loved by God in a unique way.
    • You will avoid God’s ultimate judgment.
    • You will see miracles in your life that others can’t understand or explain.
    • You will learn eternal truths that will set you free from all that holds you captive.

    Jesus Was Not a Religious Leader!

    Jesus Christ did not come to earth to start a new religion. In fact, He leveled His harshest criticisms at the religious leaders of His day. He accused them of not knowing God and said they had used religion to bind people to a life of misery, frustration, and failure. He claimed they were blind and had blinded the “spiritual eyes” of their followers (see Matthew 15:13; 23:13-24).

    When He described Himself, Jesus claimed that He had come from God and that His mission was to reveal who God was and what God wanted. Most important, Jesus claimed that He could lead anyone into an intimate relationship with the only true God and that in doing so He would lead them into eternal life. In His final prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus stated, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” ( John 17:3).

    Think about getting to know the God who created the universe. What would it be like to know Him on a first-name basis–or, even better, to know Him so intimately that you could call Him your best friend, even your dad? Imagine what it would be like if you could consistently experience His presence and a level of peace and joy that no adversity could vanquish. That’s exactly what will happen as you begin to focus on the words of Christ.

    The words of Jesus have changed the course of history by changing millions of lives, one life at a time. His words were first believed by those who witnessed His miracles. He turned water into wine and caused the blind to receive their sight, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise. Fortunately for us, He promised even greater blessings to those in later generations who would believe in Him without seeing Him in person. For two thousand years Jesus has kept that promise. He extends the same promise to you. As you begin to store up His words in your mind and heart, you will discover their life-changing power in ways you never thought possible.

    The Life Issues That Jesus Addressed

    In this book you will find every word of Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament, organized in more than two hundred topics. This will enable you to read everything Jesus said without the interruption of commentary, transitional scenes, and details about the activities of the people who surrounded Him. As you read this book, you can immerse yourself in Jesus’ words. You can reflect on every statement He made about things that are important to you. You’ll see everything the Lord said on such subjects as prayer, faith, eternal life, fear, your life priorities, His incredible promises, and the claims He made about Himself.

    Because Jesus’ words are organized by topic, you can easily grasp the breadth of what He said on each one. In a matter of minutes, you can read everything He said about a topic, which will help you gain a deeper understanding of His teachings. People who have read Jesus’ words as they are organized in this book say they gained a depth of wisdom and experienced a life-changing power far greater than they could have imagined.

    The two hundred-plus topics have been grouped into nine chapters, each addressing a general category. At the beginning of every chapter, I added a few thoughts about the topics addressed in that chapter. The chapters are:

    1. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Jesus
    2. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God the Father
    3. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About the Holy Spirit
    4. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Eternity
    5. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken to Jesus’ Followers
    6. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Humanity
    7. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God Reaching Out to Us
    8. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About How to Know God
    9. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Personal Relationships

    The Only Foundation That Is Truly Secure

    Jesus made a number of incredible promises to men and women who learn, embrace, and follow His words. He said we should base all our values, beliefs, and behaviors on the foundation of His words. Unfortunately, most of us base our lives on a mixture of things we’ve learned from every source we’ve been exposed to. As a result, the foundation of our beliefs is a combination of truth and falsehood, including contradictory information and false assumptions. My hope is that as you study the words of Christ, any weaknesses in your current foundation will be revealed, and you will replace them with the undiluted, indestructible concrete of Jesus’ words. May He bless you in your pursuit of intimacy with God and the eternal truths revealed by His incomparable words.

    How to Get the Most Out of This Book

    This is not a book you will read cover to cover in a few sittings. You won’t find even one of the chapters to be a quick read. Instead, this book is a resource you can use for the rest of your life. The two hundred-plus topics offer great variety. If you’re seeking an answer to a specific question, a quick reading of Jesus’ words on that topic will meet that need. If you’re wrestling with an important decision, the wisdom and inspiration you seek can be found by reading His words on the appropriate topics. At the same time, a focused study of a topic can provide a rock-solid foundation for your faith. It will deepen your love for God and will provide an anchor in the greatest trials of life.

    This book can easily be adapted to the need of the moment. Depending on the topic and how you approach it, the spiritual meal can range from a quick-energy bar to an entire buffet. Because the wisdom offered on each topic comes solely from the undiluted statements of Christ, their breadth, depth, and power are enlightening, faith building, and life changing.

    Here are two suggestions that will help you get the most out of reading this book.

    Use It as a Quick Reference

    Whenever you are studying a biblical subject, considering a spiritual question, or seeking guidance for a decision, the first question you should ask is “What did Jesus say?” His words will provide the foundation for all your values, beliefs, and doctrines.

    To locate a topic, check the book’s table of contents, which lists the nine general categories (one per chapter) and the specific topics within each of the nine categories. You can also go to the back of the book and search the two hundred-plus topics in alphabetical order. Once located, each topic includes every direct statement Christ made on that topic and most of the implied references. Because context is so important, the verses surrounding the key points are usually provided.

    As you begin to read Jesus’ statements, underline the key points. For example, in chapter 5 under the heading “The Promises of Christ,” you will find more than one hundred promises that Jesus made to His followers. Here is one of the crucial promises Jesus made:

    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25, NKJV)

    In this promise, I underlined the condition to be met so the promise can be fulfilled. The condition is you must hear (follow) Christ’s words and truly believe in the God who sent Him. The promised benefits, set in boldface type, are you’ll receive eternal life and you won’t be subject to God’s judgment.

    When you underline or highlight the key points of every statement of Jesus as you study them, something wonderful happens. Each statement becomes like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As you read all of Christ’s statements on a given topic and underline or highlight the key points, you’ll see the pieces of the puzzle come together to create a clear picture of what He is teaching. Any other Bible verses you read on that subject will serve as additional pieces for the picture.

    Use This Book for Topical Studies for You and Your Family

    One of the greatest values of this book is that it will enable you to quickly and effectively study any subject that Christ spoke about. Individuals, couples, and families can select topics to study during morning or evening devotions, in-depth individual Bible studies, or group Bible studies. I suggest going through the table of contents and placing a check by the topics that interest you the most. One of my friends asked his wife and his children to put their initials beside each topic they wanted to study. This helped them prioritize the subjects they wanted to study first. They decided not only to study the topics individually but to use that list for selecting topics for family devotions.

    As you study the words of Christ, you will receive the benefits He promised in John 16:13 and John 14:26. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth, He will tell you things to come, and He will glorify Christ. Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that Christ has spoken to you.

    You will notice that most of the Scripture sections begin with verses from the gospel of John, followed by verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and sometimes Acts, 1 Corinthians, or Revelation, in that order. I begin the topical sections with verses from John because his gospel is more direct and more intimate. John referred to himself as “the disciple…Jesus loved” (John 21:20). John’s account of Jesus’ life conveys an unmistakable warmth and a sense of immediacy. Reading his gospel is like receiving an invitation from an old friend. I hope you will accept his invitation as you read Jesus’ words addressing various subjects in this book.

    Jesus’ greatest promises were made to those who will hear His words and do them. His words will provide abundant light and perfect wisdom for any decision you face and all the power you will need to overcome any adversity. But the promises He makes and the power He offers will never be known by those who refuse to hear His words. In my forty-three years of discovering and relying on His words, I have experienced miraculous outcomes in every area of my life. What His words have done for me, I know they will also do for you. May you learn their meaning and experience their power as never before.


    Excerpted from The Greatest Words Ever Spoken by Steven K. Scott Copyright © 2008 by Steven K. Scott. 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, Steven K. Scott

  • Growing in Christ

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    There are a bunch of "how to" books, seminars, conventions, pamphlets, etc. out there that deal with almost every topic under the sun. In fact there is even a great web site that shows one how to do most of everything. Click here to see for yourself.

    Now I am one that doesn't know a lot of information about much. In fact I know very little information about a lot of stuff. Which pretty much makes me dangerous. Don't ask me to come to your house to fix your plumbing, sew a hem on your pants, or help you train your dog to do tricks. I guarantee you, it would end up in a mess. I do know to how do the dishes though... (please don't ask me to help you with that)

    OK - I feel like I am rambling now. Back to the "how to's."

    In my head, I am always thinking on how to grow in Christ. So for fun, I thought I would check out the site to see if it could give me some good advice. Not really. Religious listing can be found here (with over 4,500 entries), but I wasn't satisfied. The closest thing I could get to actually growing in my Christian walk was found in this article on how to convert to Christianity.

    It's not what I was looking for.

    I guess, I should have known. The internet is good for a lot of things, but certainly not everything.

    Here are some basic principles that I have gathered through the years that, perhaps, would help you in your pursuit of Christ.

    1. The Word. First and foremost be in the Bible. Read the Bible. Pray the Bible. Share the Bible. Teach the Bible. Listen to the Bible. If you want to see Jesus, you must read the Word. I would suggest that most of us say that we are "lovers of the Word," but few of us actually live that out well. I don't want to guilt you into reading your Bible, but I do want to say that you will miss out on so much joy if you don't get into the Word.
    2. Exalt Christ. Many of you are probably saying, "Of course John. Duh." Let me must just say from my own personal experience that the draw of the things of this earth are so extreme it is very hard to keep a focus on exalting Christ. Of of life is about Christ and our goal should be to lift His name higher than any other name. When we do, it seems that the things of this earth are easier to deal with. Problems are easier. Life is easier. It's mainly because we aren't keeping our eyes focused on ourselves, but on Christ. Worship Him today. It will make your heart glad.
    3. Worship God in Every Area of Your Life. This is very different from item #2. Worshiping God in every area of our lives means to live doxologically. You know the hymn, work the lyrics of that song into your soul. Living doxological means to worship God in every moment of your life. When you are kissing your best friend - worship God. When you are riding your bike - worship God. When you are washing the dishes (did I say I wash dishes well?) - worship God. You get the picture here.
    4. Pray. Pray for everyone and everything. Bring it all to the Father. He hears and He cares. Bring every question, every thought, every concern, every tiff to your Father. Pray because we are at war. The devil prowls around ready to pounce. Have a stance of constant prayer puts us in the right mindset. Pray for your neighbors. Pray for your family. Pray for your school. Pray for your job. Pray for your spouse, or future spouse. To borrow the Nike phrase, "Just do it."
    5. Serve. Serving others helps us get our minds off of our own circumstances. As I have already noted, we get so bogged down by the stuff of earth. So do others. When we are serving someone else we quickly loose site of our own problems. We often forget to serve others. It's one of the hardest things to do, but once we do, we find that it actually was very easy. Serve someone today. If you need ideas, check out this book.
    6. Fellowship. Get together with your church family. Get together with someone's heart. Get to know me. I need to get to know you. Have people over for a meal, or dessert, or coffee, or a game night. It doesn't matter. Spend time together encouraging one another in a pursuit of Christ.

    Phil. 3:8 says "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ"

    So there are some thoughts on growing in Christ. Let me also say that growing or sanctification is not just your doing. The Holy Spirit is doing a lot "behind the scenes" in your life as well. Trust Him and He will lead you.

    Now - I need to figure out to change the coolant in my car...


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Books, John van der Veen and was tagged with Missions, Philippians

  • Finding Your Sweet Spot

    Posted on February 12, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie Eller

    “There are different kinds of gifts. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who gives them. There are different kinds of work to be done for Him. But the work is for the same Lord." 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NLV)

    This past year I fell into the Pinterest frenzy. My Christmas gifts were wrapped in burlap, tied with twine and adorned with decorative pinecones and silver snowflakes.

    I repurposed a hutch, painting it creamy white with grey edging.

    I happily pinned new recipes, remedies and decorating ideas to my boards in hopes of one day seeing them come to life.

    Well, that is, until my daughter surveyed my work on the hutch. She walked around it, one time, then again, shaking her head. And in her honest way she said, "Mom, sometimes you just have to know what your sweet spot is ... and what it isn't."

    The hutch was a Pinterest fail. The paint was streaky. There were brown spots shining through, and not in the cool, distressed way like in the picture. My burlap presents were a hit, but the amount of time it took ... did it really make me happy? I love cooking, but lettuce wraps with hoisin sauce? They were so bad I wondered if I'd picked up "poison" sauce instead.

    There's nothing wrong with learning something new, and if your sweet spot is repurposing furniture and making your home beautiful, I love that about you. But we often spend a lot of time trying to be something we aren't.

    In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church (you and me) as multi-faceted and uniquely gifted. We were designed differently on purpose so that we can come together to make a whole.

    What is your sweet spot? How has God gifted you for His purposes?

    Apparently I'm not the next decorating diva, but I am still gifted. Here are a few of my sweet spots:

    • Sitting in my living room and writing words to encourage others.
    • Teaching the Bible and seeing it come to life in the heart of a woman.
    • Making a hearty meal and having people around my table.
    • Dancing in the living room with my grandbabies.

    God can use these sweet spots for His purposes. In a devotion like this. Or opening my home to study the Bible with friends. God uses my unique design when I invite a neighbor or friend for dinner and board games after.

    And my dancing with my grandbabies? I love to think this sweet spot matters as I plant the joy of the Lord in their tender little hearts.

    How has God formed and fashioned you? If it's hospitality and making a home beautiful, then there are people who will be touched by that gift. If it's humor and laughter, then someone needs to find that joy, too. If it's teaching, teach. If it's dancing in the living room with your babies, then dance away.

    And then, together, let's use those sweet spots to draw people to a God who loves them and is waiting to reveal their gifting, too.

    Dear Lord, I've often compared myself to others, or underestimate what You can do through me. Today I offer up those things I love the best, and ask that You show me creative ways that I can use them to impact others for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Brainstorm! Write down your sweet spots (those things you love or areas where you are naturally gifted), even if it seems insignificant.

    Then pray this prayer: God, I love You and I love {fill in the blank}. How can I use these two things to bring glory to You?

    Power Verses:
    Romans 12:6-8, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. 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 1 Corinthians

  • Holy Desire

    Posted on February 11, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. Philippians 3:10

    There are special people we would love to know better. Our spouse, our children, our parents, our siblings, our pastor and his wife, our friends and our co-workers, for a start. The deeper we know them and they know us, the richer our relationship. As our knowledge of one another grows, our trust and understanding grow. We appreciate and love noteworthy individuals with whom we have deep feelings and affection. A desire to go deep relationally pays rich rewards.

    What does this desire to dive below the surface of relationships look like? We know the names of those they love and care about. We pray with and for their wants and needs. We understand their heart: what motivates and frustrates, what causes fear and what brings joy. We love them in and through their weaknesses. We admire and celebrate their strengths. Robust relationships require a desire to develop intimacy during the good and bad times. It is a life long process of loving well.

    Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?'"(John 14:9)

    In the same way with holy desire, we pursue knowing Christ. Yet it takes more than time. It takes engagement and comprehension of our heavenly Father’s heart. The Holy Spirit draws our heart to His for us to listen and learn. The longing of every lover of the Lord is to know Him and to be known by Him. So, our passionate prayers rocket toward heaven like a space shuttle en route to orbit the earth. We crave Christ, because we are hungry and thirsty for His peaceful presence.

    Therefore, seek to know Jesus in resurrection power and in the pain and suffering of the cross. Your are in training for reigning in eternity. Any headwinds of adversity are an opportunity to go deeper with the One who calms the seas. You know you know Jesus when you live like He died: in deep fellowship with His heavenly Father. He forgave others for their ignorant indiscretions and He cared for those closest to Him. Holy desire for Christ, lives with Christ and like Christ.

    "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:13).

    Prayer: Dear Lord, my heart longs to know You as Christ knew You, in deep abiding faith.

    Related Readings: Psalm 20:6; 2 Corinthians 2:14, 4:6-14; Ephesians 1:9; 1 John 4:6-7

    Post/Tweet today: Headwinds of adversity are an opportunity to go deeper with the One who calms the seas. #holydesire

    © 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 Philippians

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