Posted on April 29, 2014 by Shelene Bryan
"When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" 1 Kings 19:13 (NIV)
When I was about 13 years old, my family vacationed in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with friends. We heard about a local waterfall with a smooth slide carved into the rocks. We were up for the adventure, so we went to check it out.
The water slide looked spectacular. As we made our way to the top of the rocks that formed the slide, I noticed a handful of local kids jumping off of the adjacent towering cliffs into the water. Whew, that looked scary!
After about an hour of fun on that wonderful natural slide (it's still the best water slide I've ever been on in my life), we started eyeing the cliffs and the local kids who were jumping. We looked at each other to see who would conjure up the guts to be the first mainlander to climb the cliff and jump.
Seeing how I always wanted to beat the boys, I volunteered.
I made my way up a path cut into the rock wall. As I stepped up to the edge of the cliff, where the overhang suspended me 30 feet above the water, I began to seriously appreciate how high I was. Basically I started to freak out.
Tim, one of the younger boys in our group, joined me on the cliff. He said, "If you're not going to jump, move over and I'll jump. Are you chicken?"
Before I could answer his challenge, a local man, who must have been watching me for five minutes as I contemplated jumping, said, "Just step off."
"What?" I yelled.
"Just step off," he repeated.
"Yeah," Tim echoed. "Just step off."
Just taking a step seemed easy. I took steps all day long. What was the big deal? It's just a step. With that, I moved to the edge, closed my eyes tight and simply took a small step forward. My body instantly plunged into space and I free fell with a scream of thrill all the way to the water. I came up out of the water feeling like a stunt girl on Hawaii Five-0.
Are you standing on a "cliff," unable to jump? Are you feeling like God wants you to make a radical change, but you just can't? Some people are born jumpers. Others are more like I was: frozen on the edge of that cliff, unwilling to jump but willing to take a small step.
Throughout history God has prodded His people with questions and suggestions to help us figure out what we are doing for Him. Kind of like that man's comment to me to step off the cliff.
An example of this kind of question is asked of one of my favorite Bible characters: A prophet named Elijah. Elijah had a deep love of God. And in 1 Kings 19, God quietly called out to Elijah through a whisper in the midst of a series of riotous distractions.
God asked a very simple question: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
The question was not for God's benefit and certainly not for His information. God already knew the answer before He whispered the question. God designed that question to help Elijah come to grips with what he was going to do.
Nearly three millennia later, God asks the same question of me: "What are you doing here, Shelene?"
His question asks me to consider where I am. It challenges me to see where I need to go. And then it prompts me to take my next step.
I may not be a jumper, but I can take a step.
Lord, help me recognize Your voice when You call. Help me recognize Your trustworthy character and trust that You have my best interests in mind. Burn into my heart the desire to do the tasks You want me to accomplish for You. Give me the strength and courage to take the first step toward what You want me to do. In His Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What insecurities are holding you back from taking a step toward the things God is calling you to?
What small steps can you start taking this week?
Psalm 37:23-24, "The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." (NIV)
© 2014 by Shelene Bryan. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Boyd Bailey
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32, NKJV
Forgiven people forgive, because they are eternally grateful for the grace of God’s forgiveness in their heart. They are keenly aware that outside of Christ, they are cursed to a cycle of unforgiveness—lost in their sins. Thus, the Lord raised them up forgiven, so they in turn can forgive. Forgiveness on earth flows from forgiveness in heaven. It is something to be passed on today, not to be stored away for some unique future occasion.
Unforgiveness encroaches on the health of our relationships. Its cancerous affect eats away at our enjoyment of God, family and friends. Suddenly, without advance notice, we lash out at those we love—because of someone we don’t love. Unforgiveness, like an inactive but rumbling volcano, waits to explode at any moment of disappointment. The embroiled embers smolder like sin and will erupt when pressure shakes its foundation.
Do you hold a grudge that has a hold of you? Does resentment hang over you like a bad dream, only you never wake up? This level of emotional upheaval is no way to live for the Lord. His will is not for you to be preoccupied with people who have stolen your joy and hindered your fellowship with Jesus. Forgiveness frees you from the bitter taste of bitterness and replaces it with the sweet taste of grace. Thus, forgive like you’re forgiven.
True forgiveness is sincere and all-inclusive. We are not in the position to judge who deserves forgiveness and who does not.. One test is to ask if you are tender hearted or hard hearted toward another. A hard heart has yet to be broken by heaven’s caring crush, it may take extended adversity to soften your heart to forgive.
Why wait in anxious resentment when you can be freed today from hatred and relational apathy? Moreover, make your forgiveness specific. Communicate clearly you are forgiving an exact amount of money—they are no longer in debt to you. Did a relative abuse you as a child? Were you fired over office politics? Talk with them—if they have abandoned you or are dead, write a letter expressing Christ’s love and your forgiveness.
What if you forgive someone and they are unresponsive and unrepentant? You cannot control another’s response, only your own. Trust that the Lord is working and that your humble and sincere example will begin a work of grace in their heart. Love and kindness tear down walls of anger—grace and forgiveness build bridges of hope. Satan’s destructive deception is exposed and destroyed in the face of your forgiveness.
“And that I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10b-11).
Prayer: Who needs my total forgiveness? What is the best method for me to forgive them?
Related Readings: Micah 7:18; Jeremiah 33:8; Luke 7:47; Hebrews 8:12
Post/Tweet today: Forgiveness frees us from the acidic taste of bitterness and replaces it with the sweet taste of grace. #wisdomhunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Family Christian
Hello and welcome to my first Christian devotional. This book draws on material from two of my previous books, Life Without Limits and Unstoppable. It is intended to provide you with a series of quick inspirational and faith-building stories to be read daily or whenever you feel you need them. There are no rules other than God’s.
I do want to comment on the title, Limitless, which refers not to my abilities or your abilities but to God’s limitless love and power. As you may already know from my speeches, books, and videos—or you may suspect from photographs— I am technically more limited physically than most people.
I was born without arms or legs. Though I lacked limbs, I was blessed with a loving and supportive family that includes not just my parents and my brother and sister (both of whom came fully equipped) but also many cousins, aunts, and uncles. Even better, I was given the gift of Christian faith.
That’s not to say I did not struggle with my faith, especially when I reached those difficult adolescent years when we all try to figure out our place in the world—where we fit in and what we have to contribute. I prayed to God that I would wake up with arms and legs. Those prayers were not answered. I grew angry and then depressed. Thoughts of suicide drove me to make an attempt on my own life, but I stopped short when I realized my death would burden my loved ones with guilt and grief.
Over time, I came to understand that God had not brought me into the world without limbs to punish me. Instead, He had a plan for me, an incredible plan to serve Him by inspiring and leading others to lives of Christian faith.
If God can take someone like me, someone without arms and legs, and use me as His hands and feet, He can use anybody. It’s not about ability. The only thing God needs from you is a willing heart.
What do you need to live in faith on this earth and then to be blessed with eternal life in the kingdom of heaven? You need a relationship with Jesus Christ as your personal savior. Where you are weak, God is strong. When you walk in faith each and every day, your life has no limits.
You can take that on faith, which I highly recommend, or you can take it from the pages that follow, which offer my life as testimony to the incredible power of the Lord our God. I am a man who is not disabled but enabled. I travel the world on God’s business, reaching out to believers and sinners, rich and poor. I’m allowed to deliver my messages of faith, hope, and love in nations where many Christians fear to tread.
I have a ridiculously good life, and now since my marriage in 2012, I have the honor and the joy of sharing it with a strong Christian wife who is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. In my days of despair, one of my most depressing thoughts was that no woman could ever love a man without arms or legs. I was so, so wrong. My vision was limited. I forgot that ours is a loving God, wise in ways that we cannot comprehend.
Like me, you may not be able to see or even imagine what He has in store for you. My goal with this devotional is to help you expand your vision and build your faith by sharing what God has done for me and for the special men, women, and children I’ve met in my travels around the world.
I hope you enjoy the devotions and you benefit from them. But more important, I hope they help you get on the right track with God so that you are transformed with Him and come to trust that, through Him, all things are possible.
Excerpted from Limitless by Nick Vujicic Copyright © 2013 by Nick Vujicic. 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.
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Tracie Miles
"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)
As soon as I answered the phone, I heard the panic in her voice.
My daughter had called to ask if she had possibly left her new iPod in the car that morning. After searching thoroughly to no avail, her worst fears became a reality — the music player was missing.
I immediately went to the school and met with the principal to file a report about the missing iPod, where I learned there had been a rash of thefts since school had resumed after the holidays. When my daughter joined us, I could see the sadness in her eyes, hear the loss in her voice and sense the overwhelming regret pouring out of her heart.
As she settled into the chair beside me, I knew she was beating herself up inside. The lost item had been a special gift. Now it was gone.
Soon the tears she'd been holding back could no longer be restrained, as she expressed how desperately she wished she could go back in time. What if she had left it at home or in the car? Or not left her purse unattended? What if she had been more responsible?
Hugging her tightly, I sent her off to class. But as she walked away, slumped shoulders carrying the weight of regret and sorrow, maternal emotion overcame me.
I wanted to sprint down the hall like a mom on a mission, scoop her up into my arms, and whisk her home where we could snuggle up in a blanket, drink hot chocolate and watch silly cartoons. I felt an overwhelming compassion building up inside me.
Although my daughter's pain was over a material item that could be replaced in time, in that moment, I just wanted to take away her hurt and regret.
Could it be that my parental compassion is even a hint of what God feels for us?
Today's verse reminds us that God feels an immense compassion for us, which far exceeds mine. In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah (believed to be the author) told God's people that although they had been unfaithful for many years, God would still have compassion on them. And because of that compassion, they could have hope.
Thinking back on that day at school, I thought of the many years I lived with regret, desperately longing to go back in time and get a second chance. But shame and regret held my heart captive.
I remembered the heaviness that came with shouldering all the "what ifs" and "if onlys," while beating myself up inside, knowing I couldn't change the past.
But all those regrets lost their grip on me the day I embraced God's promises of unconditional forgiveness and love. When I finally understood His compassion, I realized that just like the iPod, my past mistakes were history too.
When we struggle with our own set of "what ifs" and "if onlys," God wants to show us His faithfulness and shower us with compassion, even if we have been unfaithful or messed up more times than we want to count. If we accept Him as our Savior, we open the door for Him to erase our regrets and shame once and for all.
Last week, on Easter Sunday, we came face to face with the depth of God's mercy, as we celebrated the greatest act of compassion ever known — the death and resurrection of Jesus.
God was a Father on a mission, compelled by overwhelming compassion and a willingness to do whatever it took to scoop us up into His arms and atone for our mistakes, making them nothing more than history. He died to carry our burdens so we wouldn't have to, and so we could be free to live in peace, not regret.
Jesus was resurrected so we can experience His mercies anew every day. Now that is an act of compassion worth celebrating.
Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me, so that I might be freed from my past and have eternal life with You. I praise You for Your undeserved compassion and mercy. I love You. In Your Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Have I been carrying the weight of regret rather than allowing Jesus to carry it for me?
How can I live my life in such a way that expresses praise and thankfulness for His compassion and daily mercies?
Psalm 78:38, "Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath." (HCSB)
© 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
Posted on April 27, 2014 by Boyd Bailey
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 1:12
Worldly wisdom has a way of reducing heaven’s wisdom to an afterthought. Using our worldly wisdom, we pray and seek to discern the Lord’s ways only after our ways do not work. It is tempting to rely on what seems to work instead of asking what the principles to live by are, based on God’s economy. Worldly wisdom is not only inferior but also competes with God’s grace.
The Lord sees the world’s wisdom as foolishness, and the world sees His wisdom as foolishness. Some who embrace the wisdom of the world say there is no personal God, but God in His wisdom says this thinking flows from a fool. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). Sadly, the world’s wisdom has no room for Jesus.
“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
Worldly wisdom is flashier and sexier in its appeal. It invites pride to perch over those who have not yet achieved a superior standpoint. Ironically, the created dismisses the Creator as antiquated and out of touch. The traditional tenants of an all-knowing and ever-present Sovereign God are silly and irrational to this irreverent system of belief. But what worldly wisdom embraces as the truly enlightened, the Lord defines as educated fools.
“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20).
Therefore, do not try to outsmart your Savior Jesus Christ with intelligence void of humility and the fear of God. Academics, without an infusion of faith in almighty God, lead down a reckless path of disconnection from Deity. However, wise is the man or woman who is full of the grace of God and studies truth long and hard for the glory of God.
Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God is not a leap in the dark; rather, it is a step into the light. Christian belief is based on the historical fact of His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. For some, the Lord’s wisdom wins out over their own, and they begin to seek out those people and places that possess His knowledge. “I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness” (Ecclesiastes 2:13).
Prayer: Am I embracing and believing the wisdom of the world or almighty God’s wisdom?
Related Readings: Isaiah 29:14; Jeremiah 8:9; James 3:13–18
Post/Tweet this today: What worldly wisdom embraces as the truly enlightened, the Lord defines as educated fools. #wisdomhunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Posted on April 26, 2014 by Boyd Bailey
I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. Isaiah 50:6
The sufferings of Jesus cannot be totally comprehended. One thing is clear: Jesus experienced voluntary suffering. He offered himself as a sacrifice on behalf of the human race, and it was a volitional act on His part. He willfully submitted to the will of His heavenly Father, which meant suffering. His heartache and mistreatment were the will of His heavenly Father (Mark 8:31-33). This principle is hard to process for those who want to enjoy problem-free living. The way of the cross is not always a smooth road, for it is marked with its own bumps along the way. Jesus suffered for the sake of others, and He calls His followers to be willing to do the same.
The Bible says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…”(Philippians 1:29).
Suffering leads you to your Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus offered Himself to His tormentors as His adversaries plotted and schemed to bring Him down. They wanted to put Jesus on display as a madman. If He were truly God, they reasoned, He would not allow this injustice to occur. However, the Creator allowed His creation to beat and bludgeon His only Son. Christ’s back was bruised and beaten for your sake. His ribs were whipped with sharp bits of rock that dug into His flesh indiscriminately. These mob-motivated men inflicted inhumane lashes across His body; facial hair was torn from His flesh. He did not hide his face or scowl back.
Rather, with a gaze up to heaven, as if to say, “Father this is for your glory,” He displayed a grim face of grace. This face of forgiveness was baptized in the sick spit of sinful man. They desecrated His friendly face with determined drool. The frenzy of the crowd took over with verbal lashes. These ungrateful sinners beat Him down emotionally and mentally, as well as physically. It was a horrific sight, one man’s concentration camp. Jesus submitted to this suffering only because He first submitted to God. Ironically, those committing these hideous crimes were the very ones who could benefit from its results. They could embrace His atonement for sin and receive His resurrected life.
Jesus carried this burden on your behalf and all mankind's. It was not an exercise in how much pain could be endured by one person. It was love, as Jesus loved you all the way to the cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Without the love of God, the events at the cross would not have happened. The dreadful day’s activities would have culminated in the death of just another good man. Death would have been the end. But Jesus conquered death, sin, and Satan so you could do the same. His pain was your gain. He bore the cross so you could bear your cross.
The way of the cross is the path to redemption. He bought you from the servitude of sin. No longer are you bound up in yourself and others, for He has set you free. You are exonerated by faith because He endured the cross, despised its shame, and is now interceding on your behalf at the right hand of His heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:2). This is cause for celebration. God really does use all things for His good on behalf of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Therefore, allow gratitude to well up and burst forth from your heart. You can because of the great love of God exhibited in the sufferings of Christ Jesus. He suffered for you. Can you do any less? You serve a suffering Savior. You worship a suffering Savior who rose from the dead so He could save you to the uttermost.
Post/Tweet this today: Jesus suffered for the sake of others, and He calls His followers to be willing to do the same. #wisdomhunters
Taken from the April 26th reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Posted on April 25, 2014 by Boyd Bailey
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
God’s will is the goal of every sincere seeker of the Lord. His will is not allusive, but attainable to His children—it is good and acceptable. But discernment is a process of testing and approving—so that a Christian’s faith and character grows—and Christ’s best is clarified. Discerning God’s will is a spiritual exercise in divine due diligence.
God’s will does not contradict God’s word. For instance, the Lord does not lead couples to live together outside of marriage. Men and women are meant to come together in marriage. It is the commitment of “becoming one” that God blesses. Indeed, the general principles for living are already outlined in the Bible—to know Him is to know His will.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Ephesians 1:17).
What about career decisions? How do you know God’s will for work? If you are single you have the freedom and risk tolerance to travel the world. If you are married, it is a joint decision for Jesus. His will resides in righteous motives. Don’t be afraid to leave and don’t feel guilty for staying—just make sure His peace precedes your decision-making.
Christ’s best for you consists of wise stewardship, the alignment of your passions, gifts and experiences, and your investment in others. You can be certain Jesus wants to use you to draw people unto Himself—and family is your first priority for ministry. So, don’t run ahead and leave them exposed to the enemy. Patience produces right relational results.
“Being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience” (Colossians 1:11).
God does not delight in keeping His children in the dark, so pray often and pray believing. It is in prayer that the Holy Spirit reveals His ways. Clarity may come in the form of a scripture verse, another person’s example or godly counsel. The flesh pressures for a decision, but the Spirit leads. You can trust the Lord to lead you in His providential path.
His will is not forced, contrived or manipulated. It’s not a complex Rubik’s cube; instead it aligns around your God-given unique purpose on the planet. Why did He create you? What gives Him the most pleasure? Place your life, skills, gifts, experiences and calling in the best environment to glorify God. Peace accompanies the discernment of God’s will.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Prayer: Am I waiting on the peace of God, as I am prayerfully determining the will of God?
Related Readings: Isaiah 53:10; Acts 21:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; James 4:15
Post/Tweet today: God’s will does not contradict God’s word and peace accompanies the discernment of God’s will. #wisdomhunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.