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Family Christian

  • The Day I Almost Gave Up

    Posted on February 7, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah DiPascal

    "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help ... The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:15-18 (HCSB)

    I gripped the steering wheel of my car and stared at the hospital emergency doors. My heart pounded furiously, like a time bomb waiting to explode. The pressure in my head was almost unbearable. The invisible weight on my chest felt like someone dropped a sledgehammer on me.

    Thoughts raced through my mind. I wanted to scream but could barely breathe a whisper. I just sat there lonely, afraid, shattered and completely empty inside.

    Should I check myself into the hospital?

    What if they admit me in the psychiatric ward and won't let me go home?

    Who will take care of my children?

    Will my husband still love me?

    What if my friends find out?

    Reaching for my phone, panic rushed over me like a tidal wave. A pool of tears cascaded down my face, as I cried, Jesus, please help me!

    Sitting in my car, unable to move, I continued to pray and ask God questions like, How did I get here? I'm a Christian for heaven's sake! Things like this just don't happen to Christian women – or do they? I feel like such a failure.

    Looking back now, I can see how years of worry and stress had brought me to that day.

    Concerns about my family's finances kept me up most nights. Stress over a high-pressured job caused erratic panic attacks. Worry about my children's health created knots in my stomach. Struggling to help my aging parents resulted in midnight crying sessions.

    My concerns consumed me. Worrying became an addiction, demanding my ongoing attention. I was trying to "hold it all together" on the outside, but on the inside, a sea of doubt and fear haunted me.

    Maybe you're in a similar place. Have the stresses of life caught up with you too? Are you worried about your finances, health, marriage, job or kids? Do you wonder if anyone sees your pain or even cares? If you're brave enough to cry out for help, will anyone rescue you?

    In today's verse, we are reminded we do have a Rescuer:

    "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry for help ... the righteous cry out, and the LORD hears, and delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is near the brokenhearted; He saves those crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:15-18).

    God sees you and hears your cries for help, even when no one else does. He knows your heartache. He sees your pain. If your heart is broken and you feel crushed from all sides, God promises to be close to you. Though you may not see Him with you physical eyes, He is there.

    God rescued me that day in the hospital parking lot. After several hours of prayer, God calmed my heart and I called my husband. I reached out to close friends for help, and the healing started. Although I wanted an instant miracle, it took time, but God never left my side. He gently mended my broken heart and renewed my mind through His Word. He guided me along a journey that led to true freedom, for which I am forever grateful.

    Has the stress of life taken its toll, causing you to feel afraid, lonely or ready to give up? Is your heart broken today? Let God rescue you, friend. He is ready. He is willing. He is able.

    Dear Lord, it feels like my life is falling part. I desperately need You to rescue me. Thank You for hearing my cries and for delivering me from my troubles. Even when I am hidden from others, You see me, Lord. Thank You saving me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Read Psalm 139 and highlight every verse that tells of God's presence and protection over you.

    Write out a prayer thanking God for all the things you are grateful for today.

    Power Verse:
    Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV 1984)

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. 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

  • Too Polite

    Posted on February 6, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong. Matthew 5:37, The Message

    When we are too polite we can be guilty of deception. In the process of trying not to hurt someone’s feelings, we can communicate a false trust or conceal a hidden agenda. Certainly we are to avoid harshness and use kind words. However, if our conversation remains shallow and sentimental it only disrespects the need to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). It's patronizing to be too polite. Politeness that masks fear is merely a poor player at courtesy.

    So, how can we be truly honest with our words? One wise approach is to ask questions, so our language is not accusatory, but helpful in discovery of what needs to be done. For example, a wife may feel alone in her role as a mom and wife. A encouraging question could be, What can your husband do to support you? Or, a husband may feel insecure in his position as the spiritual leader. Perhaps ask, How can your wife make you feel affirmed as the spiritual leader at home?

    "These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other" (Zechariah 8:16).

    Furthermore, trust is foundational to effective, forthright speech. Trust assumes the best and is not fearful of rejection. A feeling of goodwill between two parties gives everyone permission to speak freely. Trust builds over time as two people really know and understand each other. They accept one another, forgive one another’s weaknesses, and celebrate one another’s strengths. Mostly, trust in the Holy Spirit to heal hearts, apply truth, and create a spirit of loving dialogue.

    Lastly, let your words flow over your lips, but only after you have prayed to the Lord. Prayer is a buffer that keeps the flesh from making a fool of itself. Speech sanctified by the Spirit is kind, but clear. It keeps the conversation cordial, but corrective, if necessary. Our talk with God prepares us to talk with people. It engages our hearts with an emotional and spiritual connection. In a spirit of politeness we can still be to the point and trust the Lord for redemptive outcomes.

    "Speak to David privately and say, ‘Look, the king likes you, and his attendants all love you; now become his son-in-law'" (1 Samuel 18:22).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the faith to speak forthrightly in a spirit of comfort and love.

    Related Readings: Psalm 119:103; Proverbs 22:11; Ezekiel 33:31; 1 Corinthians 13:1

    Post/Tweet today: Prayer is a buffer that keeps the flesh from making a fool of itself. #toopolite

    © 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

  • Every Man's Battle from Stephen Arterburn

    Posted on February 6, 2014 by Family Christian

    Stephen Arterburn

    Our Stories

    “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of

    any kind of impurity” (Ephesians 5:3).

    If there’s a single Bible verse that captures God’s standard for sexual purity, this is it. And it compels this question: In relation to God’s standard, is there even a hint of sexual impurity in your life?

    For both of us, the answer to that question was yes.

    FROM STEVE: COLLISION

    In 1983 my wife, Sandy, and I celebrated our first anniversary. One sunsplashed Southern California morning that year, feeling good about life and our future, I hopped in our 1973 Mercedes 450SL–the car of my dreams, white with a black top. I’d owned it for just two months. I was tooling northbound through Malibu on my way to Oxnard, where I’d been asked to testify in a court hearing about whether a hospital should add an addiction treatment center. I always loved driving along the PCH, as locals called the Pacific Coast Highway. These four lanes of blacktop hugged the golden coastline and provided a close-up view of L.A.’s beach culture. With the top down and the wind blowing in my face, I found that summer morning a good day to be alive.

    I never intentionally set out to be girl-watching that day, but I spotted her about two hundred yards ahead and to the left. She was jogging toward me along the coastal sidewalk. From my sheepskin-covered leather seat, I found the view outstanding, even by California’s high standards. My eyes locked on to this goddesslike blonde, rivulets of sweat cascading down her tanned body as she ran at a purposeful pace. Her jogging outfit, if it could be called that in those days before sports bras and spandex, was actually a skimpy bikini. As she approached on my left, two tiny triangles of tie-dyed fabric struggled to contain her ample bosom.

    I can’t tell you what her face looked like; nothing above the neckline registered with me that morning. My eyes feasted on this banquet of glistening flesh as she passed on my left, and they continued to follow her lithe figure as she continued jogging southbound. Simply by lustful instinct, as if mesmerized by her gait, I turned my head further and further, craning my neck to capture every possible moment for my mental video camera.

    Then blam!

    I might still be marveling at this remarkable specimen of female athleticism if my Mercedes hadn’t plowed into a Chevelle that had come to a complete stop in my lane. Fortunately, I was traveling only fifteen miles per hour in the stop-and-go traffic, but the mini-collision crumpled my front bumper and crinkled the hood. And the fellow I smacked into didn’t appreciate the considerable damage to his rear end. I got out of the car–embarrassed, humiliated, saturated with guilt, and unable to offer a satisfying explanation. No way would I tell this guy, “Well, if you’d seen what I saw, you’d understand.”

    TEN MORE YEARS IN THE DARKNESS

    Nor could I tell the truth to my beautiful wife, Sandy. That evening, I put my best spin on the morning’s unfortunate event in Malibu. “You see, Sandy it was stop-and-go, and I was reaching down to change the radio channel, and the next thing I knew I rammed into a Chevy. Lucky no one was hurt.”

    Actually, my young marriage was hurt–because I was cheating Sandy out of my full devotion, though I didn’t know it at the time. Nor was I aware that although I’d vowed to commit my life to Sandy, I hadn’t totally committed my eyes to her. I continued in the darkness for another ten years before realizing I needed to make dramatic changes in the way I looked at women.

    FROM FRED: WALL OF SEPARATION

    It happened every Sunday morning during our church worship service. I’d look around and see other men with their eyes closed, freely and intensely worshiping the God of the universe. Myself? I sensed only a wall of separation between the Lord and me.

    I just wasn’t right with God. As a new Christian, I imagined I just didn’t know God well enough yet. But nothing changed as time passed. When I mentioned to my wife, Brenda, that I felt vaguely unworthy of Him, she wasn’t the least bit surprised.

    “Well, of course!” she exclaimed. “You’ve never felt worthy to your own father. Every preacher I’ve known says that a man’s relationship with his father tremendously impacts his relationship with his heavenly Father.”

    “You could be right,” I allowed.

    I hoped it was that simple. I mulled it over as I recalled my days of youth.

    WHAT KIND OF MAN ARE YOU?

    My father, handsome and tough, was a national wrestling champion in college and a bulldog in business. Aching to be like him, I began wrestling in junior high. But the best wrestlers are natural-born killers, and I didn’t have a wrestler’s heart. My dad was coaching wrestling at the time at the high school in our small town of Alburnett, Iowa. Though I was still in junior high, he wanted me to wrestle with the older guys, so he brought me to the high-school workouts.

    One afternoon we were practicing escapes, and my partner was in the down position. While grappling on the mat, he suddenly needed to blow his nose. He straightened up, pulled his T-shirt to his nose, and violently emptied the contents onto the front of his shirt. We quickly returned to wrestling. As the up man, I was supposed to keep a tight grip on him. Reaching around his belly, my hand slid into his slimy T-shirt. Sickened, I let him go.

    Dad, seeing him escape so easily, dressed me down. “What kind of a man are you?” he roared. Staring hard at the mat, I realized that if I had a wrestler’s heart, I would have cranked down tightly and ridden out my opponent, maybe grinding his face into the mat in retaliation. But I hadn’t. I still wanted to please Dad, so I tried other sports. At one baseball game, after striking out, I remember hanging my head on the way back to the dugout. “Get your head up!” he hollered for all to hear. I was mortified. Then he wrote me a long letter detailing my every mistake.

    Years later, after I’d married Brenda, my father felt she had too much control in our marriage. “Real men take charge of their households,” he said.

    THE MONSTER

    Now, as Brenda and I discussed my relationship with my dad, she suggested I might need counseling. “It surely couldn’t hurt,” she said. So I read some books and counseled with my pastor, and my feelings toward Dad improved. But I continued to feel that distance from God during the Sunday morning worship services. The true reason for that distance slowly dawned on me: There was a hint of sexual immorality in my life.

    There was a monster lurking about, and it surfaced each Sunday morning when I settled in my comfy La-Z-Boy and opened the Sunday morning newspaper. I would quickly find the department-store inserts and begin paging through the colored newsprint filled with models posing in bras and panties. Always smiling. Always available. I loved lingering over each ad insert. It’s wrong, I admitted, but it’s such a small thing. It was a far cry from Playboy, I told myself. I peered through the panties, fantasizing.

    Occasionally, a model reminded me of a girl I once knew, and my mind rekindled the memories of our times together. I rather enjoyed my Sunday mornings with the newspaper. As I examined myself more closely, I found I had more than a hint of sexual immorality. Even my sense of humor reflected it. Sometimes a person’s innocent phrase–even from our pastor–struck me with a double sexual meaning. I would chuckle, but I felt uneasy.

    Why do these double entendres come to my mind so easily? Should a Christian mind create them so nimbly? I remembered that the Bible said that such things shouldn’t even be mentioned among the saints. I’m worse…I even laugh at them! And my eyes? They were ravenous heat-seekers searching the horizon, locking on any target with sensual heat. Young mothers leaning over in shorts to pull children out of car seats. Soloists with silky shirts. Summer dresses with décolletage.

    My mind, too, ran wherever it willed. This had begun in my childhood, when I found Playboy magazines under Dad’s bed. He also subscribed to From Sex to Sexty, a publication filled with jokes and comic strips with sexual themes. When Dad divorced Mom and moved to his “bachelor’s pad,” he hung a giant velvet nude in his living room, overlooking us as we played cards on my Sunday afternoon visits. Dad gave me a list of chores around his place when I was there. Once I came across a nude photo of his mistress. On another occasion I found an eight-inch ceramic dildo, which he obviously used in his kinky “sex games.”

    HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS

    All this sexual stuff churned deep inside me, destroying a purity that wouldn’t return for many years. Settling into college, I soon found myself drowning in pornography. I actually memorized the dates when my favorite soft-core porn magazines arrived at the local drugstore. I especially loved the “Girls Next Door” section of Gallery magazine, featuring pictures of nude girls taken by their boyfriends and submitted to the magazine.

    Far from home and without any Christian underpinnings, I descended by small steps into a sexual pit. The first time I had sexual intercourse, it was with a girl I knew I would marry. The next time, it was with a girl I thought I would marry. The time after that, it was with a good friend that I might learn to love. Then it was with a female I barely knew who simply wanted to see what sex was like. Eventually, I had sex with anyone at any time.

    After five years in California, I found myself with four “steady” girlfriends simultaneously. I was sleeping with three of them and was essentially engaged to marry two of them. None knew of the others. (These days, in my class for premarital couples, I often ask the women what they would think of a man with two fiancées. My favorite response: “He’s a hopeless pig!” And I was hopeless, living in a pigsty.)

    Why do I share all this? First, so you’ll know that I understand what it’s like to be sexually ensnared in a deep pit. Second, I want to provide you with hope. As you’ll soon see, God worked with me and lifted me out of that pit. If there’s even a hint of sexual immorality in your life, He will work with you as well.

    FORM FRED: KNOWING WHO TO CALL

    Despite the deepening pit I occupied in my single days, I didn’t notice anything wrong with my life. Oh, sure, I attended church sporadically, and from time to time the pastor’s words penetrated my heart. But who was he? Besides, I loved my girlfriends. No one’s getting hurt, I reasoned. My dad had eventually remarried, and when I visited back home in Iowa, my stepmother occasionally dragged me across the river to the Moline Gospel Temple in Moline, Illinois. The gospel was clearly preached, but to me the whole scene was clearly ludicrous. I often laughed cynically. Those people are crazy!

    After graduating from Stanford University with an honors degree in sociology, I decided to take a job in the San Francisco area as an investment advisor. One spring day in May, I stayed late at the office. Everyone else had gone home, leaving me alone with some troubling thoughts. I swiveled my chair around and propped my feet on the credenza to gaze into a typically grand California sunset.

    That evening, as the sun dipped beneath the horizon, I suddenly saw in full clarity what I had become. What I saw was hopelessly ugly. Where once I was blind, now I could see. Instantly, I saw my deep, deep need for a Savior. Because of the Moline Gospel Temple, I knew Whom to call upon.

    My prayer that day was born out of the simplicity of a certain heart: “Lord, I’m ready to work with You if You’re ready to work with me.” I stood up and walked out of the office, not yet fully realizing what I’d just done. But God knew, and it seemed as if all heaven moved into my life. Within two weeks I had a job back in Iowa and a new life ahead of me. And no girlfriends!

    FEELING GOOD

    Back in Iowa, I began attending a marriage class led by Joel Budd, the associate pastor of my new church. It wasn’t long before I realized that I knew nothing about treating women properly. Perhaps it was because my mom and dad were divorced, and I never saw a loving relationship modeled at home. More likely, however, it was because of my own selfishness and sexual sin. Everything I knew about women came from one-night stands and casual dating relationships.

    I didn’t date during that year under Joel’s teaching. I might have been the only man in history to attend a married couples’ class for a whole year without even having so much as a single date! But just before the twelvemonth mark, I prayed this simple prayer: “Lord, I’ve been in this class for a year and have learned a lot about women, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen these things in real life. I’ve never really known any Christian girls. Please show me a woman who embodies these godly characteristics.” I wasn’t asking for a date, girlfriend, or spouse. I just wanted to see these teachings in practice, in real life, that I might understand them better. God did far more than that. One week later, He introduced me to my future wife, Brenda, and we fell in love.

    Out of our commitment to Christ, Brenda and I decided to stay pure before marriage. She was a virgin–and I wished I were. We did kiss, however, and whoa! Our lip smacking was wonderful! It was my first experience of something I would later discover far more deeply: the physically gratifying payoff that comes from obedience to God’s sexual standards.

    In a song made popular during my senior year in college, the singer mourned about trying to remember how it used to feel when a kiss was something special. The lyrics from the song resonated sadly with me because, at that point in my life, a kiss meant nothing to me. It was a joyless prerequisite on the path to intercourse. Something was deeply wrong. But now, having cut way back, in my experience with Brenda the simple kiss became thrilling again. To an old sex-hog like me, this was totally unexpected.

    As God continued to work in my life, Brenda and I married, honeymooned in Colorado, then settled into a new apartment building on the edge of a cornfield in a Des Moines suburb. Is this heaven? I surely thought so. Time passed, and at first, I was feeling good. While I was once engaged to two women at the same time, I was now happily married to one woman. While I once drowned in pornography, since my wedding day I hadn’t purchased a pornographic magazine. Given my track record, this was remarkable.

    STOPPING SHORT

    I threw myself into my sales career and my leadership roles at church. Then I became a dad. I relished it all, and my Christian image shined brighter and brighter.

    By worldly standards, I was doing great. Just one little problem. By God’s standard of sexual purity, I wasn’t even close to living His vision for marriage. Clearly I’d taken steps toward purity, but I was learning that God’s standards were higher than I’d ever imagined and that my Father had higher hopes for me than I had dreamed. It soon became clear that I’d stopped far short of holiness. There were the ad inserts, the double entendres, the heat-seeking eyes. My mind continued to daydream and fantasize over old girlfriends. These were more than a hint of sexual immorality.

    I was paying the price, and the bills were piling up. First, I could never look God in the eye. I could never fully worship Him. Because I dreamed of being with other women, and rather enjoyed mentally recalling past sexual conquests, I knew I was a hypocrite, and I continued feeling distant from God.

    People around me disagreed, saying, “Oh, come on! Nobody can control their eyes and mind, for heaven’s sakes! God loves you! It must be something else.” But I knew differently. My prayer life was feeble. Once my son was very sick and had to be rushed to the emergency room. Did I rush into prayer? No, I could only rush others to pray for me. “Have you called our pastor to pray?” I asked Brenda. “Have you called Ron? Have you called Red to pray?” I had no faith in my own prayers because of my sin.

    My faith was weak in other ways as well. As a full-commission salesperson, if I lost a number of deals in a row to the competition, I could never be sure if those setbacks weren’t somehow caused by my sin. I had no peace. I was paying a price for my sin.

    My marriage was suffering as well. Because of my sin, I couldn’t commit 100 percent to Brenda out of fear that she might dump me later. That cost Brenda in closeness. But that’s not all. Brenda told me she was experiencing frightening dreams in which she was being chased by Satan. Was my immorality causing spiritual protection to be taken away from her? My wife was paying a price.

    At church, I was an empty suit. I came to church desperately needing ministry and forgiveness. I never arrived ready to minister to others. Of course my prayers were no more effective in God’s house than anywhere else. My church was paying a price.

    I remember listening to one sermon in which the pastor talked about “generational sin”–patterns of sin passed from father to son (Exodus 34:7). Sitting in my pew, I recalled that my grandfather had run off from his wife in the middle of the Great Depression, leaving her with six kids to raise. My father left his family to pursue multiple sexual affairs. That same pattern had been passed to me, proven by my own multiple affairs in college. Though saved, I now found that I still didn’t have this purity issue settled in my life, and I was scared by the thought of passing this pattern on to my kids. My children could be paying a price.

    I finally made the connection between my sexual immorality and my distance from God. I was paying hefty fines in every area of my life. Having eliminated the visible adulteries and pornography, I looked pure on the outside to everyone else. But to God, I’d stopped short. I’d merely found a middle ground, somewhere between paganism and obedience to God’s standard.

    DESPERATION

    God desired more for me. He had freed me from the pit, but I’d stopped moving toward Him. Having seen the prices I paid and my distance from God, I decided it was time to move closer. I expected the journey to be easy. After all, I had decided to eliminate pornography and affairs, and they were gone. I figured I could stop the rest of this sexual junk just as easily. But I couldn’t. Every week I said I wouldn’t look at those ad inserts, but every Sunday morning the striking photos compelled me. Every week I’d vow to avoid watching R-rated “sexy” movies when I traveled, but every week I’d fail, sweating out tough battles and always losing. Every time I gazed at some glistening jogger, I’d promise to never do it again. But I always did.

    What I’d done was simply trade the pornography of Playboy and Gallery for the pornography of ad inserts and other magazine ads. The affairs? I’d simply traded the physical liaisons for mental affairs and daydreams– affairs of the eyes and heart. The sin remained because I’d never really changed, never rejected sexual sin, never escaped sexual slavery. I’d merely exchanged masters.

    A couple of months slipped by, then a couple of years. The distance from God grew wider, the bills stacked higher, and my impurity still ruled me. My faith waned further with each failure. Each desperate loss caused more desperation. While I could always say no, I could never mean no. Something was gripping me, something relentless, something mean. Like Steve, I eventually found total freedom. Since then, both Steve and I have had the chance to talk to men ensnared in sensual pits. Trapped and desperate to be free, their stories grip the heart. Now that you’ve heard my story, maybe you’ll relate to the men in these next few pages as well.


    Excerpted from Every Man's Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey Copyright © 2000 by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey. 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, Men, Stephen Arterburn

  • Five Scriptures to Pray Over Your Marriage

    Posted on February 6, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "[Jesus] also told them this parable: 'Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?'" Luke 6:39 (NIV)

    I sat down to write some thoughts for a young friend getting married. I wanted these words to be encouraging but also realistic. I didn't want to pen the typical "best wishes on your wedding day." Wishes might be sweet for a church full of flowers and white tulle, but it takes a whole lot more for a marriage to go the distance.

    So I wrote honest thoughts as they came to me:

    "Being married is incredibly difficult. Being married is amazing. Being married can seem impossibly hard. Being married can seem incredibly beautiful. There is no other person who can frustrate me the way my husband can. There is no other person who can make me feel as loved as my husband can."

    As these words tumbled out I wondered if my friend would think me a bit crazy. One minute I painted marriage as blissful as a kite catching wind and rising to the sky. And the next minute it was as if the string had gotten caught in a thorny bush and sent the kite crashing to the ground with thuds of disappointment.

    So which is it? Bliss or disappointment?

    It's a fragile blend of both.

    In the end, I crumpled up my original note and simply wrote this: "Determine to pray more words over your marriage than you speak about your marriage."

    I wrote that note not because it had been true for my relationship but because suddenly I wanted it to be true.

    The teacher being taught by her own lesson.

    And you know what I've discovered in the weeks since? I haven't been praying nearly enough for my marriage.

    I think about things. Discuss things. Complain about things. Attempt to fix things. Work on things. Apologize for things. Want to change things. And then I discuss things some more.

    But talking about things, thinking about things and working on things ... these are not at all the same as praying for them.

    In Luke 6:39 Jesus asks an important but simple question, "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?" My husband and I need Jesus leading us, guiding us, teaching us, redirecting us and showing us how to have a marriage that honors Him and each other.

    This year, my goal is to spend a lot less time in the pit. And I think praying more words over my marriage will certainly be key to this.

    Here are some Scriptures I'm praying:

    "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters ... You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (2 Samuel 22:17 and 29, NIV).

    "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6, NIV).

    "What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NIV).

    "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

    "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

    Actually getting intentional about praying for something in my marriage today is the first step toward that marriage I've been dreaming of—the one that seemed so possible for Art and me 20 years ago in that church full of flowers and tulle.

    Making sure I'm headed in that direction as a wife is only a few intentional prayers away.

    Dear Lord, I want to honor You completely with my marriage. Help me to remain dedicated to praying over my relationship with my husband. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    It's so tempting to think praying for your marriage would be a good idea but then not take the next step.

    Assign yourself the next step you want to take with getting more intentional in praying for your marriage. Choose one of the Scriptures above and pray it out loud each day for the next week.

    © 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 Luke

  • Strength From Joy

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

    Believers in Jesus find joy and strength in their Savior. Joy begins with God, because we are created for His enjoyment, and He for our enjoyment. Just as a husband and wife find great pleasure in a marriage of growing commitment and love, so an overflow of joy comes to a committed Bride of Christ. Strength is the fruit of this quality of relationship. Security and peace support a cheerful heart. Joy is the attitude of all who bow to Almighty God in worshipful awe.

    Any cynical soul can focus on a cow patty in a luscious green pasture. Ironically, it's the cow patties that grow the green grass. In the same way, we can count it all joy for the trials that grow our faith. We find strength in the Lord during severe circumstances. He brings a smile to our heavy hearts. The drought of grief is for a season, followed by heaven’s rain of happiness. A joyful disposition awaits us, when we wait on Christ. His enjoyment creates internal energy.

    "I always praywith joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (Philippians 1:4-5).

    Furthermore, the memories of meaningful experiences with other Christ followers bring joy and strengthen our faith. We celebrate answered prayers for our children to grow in God’s grace and make wise choices. We thank the Lord for the rich community of honesty, shared emotions, love, forgiveness and laughter. We muse on hard truths like hell and the joylessness that accompanies disobedience to Jesus. Sustaining strength comes from the joy of an intimate faith fellowship.

    Lastly, we put our hope in the Lord, who richly provides us everything we need for our enjoyment. We need not feel guilty for the blessings of good health, a loving family, a solid job, fun friends, financial freedom or a dynamic church. We gratefully enjoy Christ’s favor. However, what keeps us grounded in God’s strength is not putting our hope in anything but Him. He is our generous Heavenly Father who gives good gifts. Hope is heaven’s strategy for strength and joy!

    "Put their hope in God,who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (1 Timothy 6:17).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, may my strength and joy come from Your Spirit, not from my stuff.

    Related Readings: Psalm 19:8; Isaiah 35:10; Luke 10:21; 2 Corinthians 1:24; Philemon 1:7

    Post/Tweet today: What keeps us grounded in God’s strength is not putting our hope in anything but Him. #strengthfromjoy

    © 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 Nehemiah

  • The Unstoppable Kirk Cameron

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by AlexMosoiu



    Kirk Cameron wrote, "It's easy to get excited about your faith when things are going well in your life. But when your whole world comes crashing down on you, the questions start: 'Where is God when I need him most? Why do bad things happen to good people?' Unstoppable is a journey, based on a true story, that has become the most personal and transparent project I have ever made regarding my faith."

    I recently had a video chat with the man-formally-known-as Mike Seaver. I wanted to know what was behind his latest DVD, Unstoppable. What follows are his honest answers.

    Alex:               Kirk, tell me how Unstoppable came to be.

    Kirk:                I’d love to. Unstoppable was by far the most personal project that I’ve ever made, and it really started out as something quite different from what you see when you watch the movie in the theaters or when you get the DVD. It actually started out as the story that would have taken place before the Monumental story, the story that I made about the Pilgrims. I was going to talk about the unstoppable gospel and how it landed in England before the Pilgrims to grab the baton and take that on.

    It eventually became something very different, and I think providentially, God brought a very personal story home to me in the form of my young friend, Matthew, 15 years old, died of cancer. That just stopped all production and really refocused my attention on what needs to be unstoppable and that is our faith in God in the midst of our own pain and tragedy and suffering on a very personal level. That really took over the main theme and plot line of Unstoppable.

    Alex:               Lots of things happened with Unstoppable, from being blocked by YouTube and Facebook at the beginning to setting box office records in the way that you released it. Tell us some of the things that God’s done in bringing Unstoppable out. What are some of the things he’s done?

    Kirk:                It’s fun for me to think about the providence of God and his omniscience, and knowing that these kinds of things happen ahead of time and us only finding out about it on the fly. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but when you spend a whole year, making a movie and then YouTube and Facebook block your trailers, so no one can see it, you can freak out a little bit and you think, “What? What happened?” Apparently what happened was, there were a group of people who clicked the spam button or the inappropriate, abusive button there on Facebook and got it ejected from the system. You know there’s a lot of inappropriate videos on YouTube and Facebook, but my movie trailer wasn’t one of them.

    When I put that picture of the gag in my mouth with the Facebook logo over the top of it, that reached about 20 million people and many of you spoke up to Facebook and they quickly reversed the status of the video. So many people saw it, went to the movie theaters that was set records and actually beat big movies like Gravity and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on the days that we were in the box office. It’s almost as though God likes to use things that others intend for harm for our good and his glory. It seems like that’s what he did.

    Alex:               That’s awesome. I know there’s a lot of folks out there that maybe haven’t even had a chance to see it yet; the unusual release schedule, playing as a live event in theaters. There was about 700 theaters throughout the country and set a record for that type of release. As it releases on DVD, what are some of the things … What do you hope that people use this for in their personal ministry? How do you hope that it speaks to folks?

    Kirk:                First of all I want to say that this is very exciting and encouraging to me, to see 270,000 people drive sometimes hours just to get to a movie theater to see a movie about faith, hope and love, to find an answer to a question like, “Where is God when bad things happen to good people?” That’s sending a very loud message to Hollywood about the kinds of movies that many, many people want to see. I’m very encouraged about that and want to just high-five everybody who’s getting up off their couch and not saying, “Uh, let’s let the culture go to hell and count on the rapture getting us out of here before gets real bad.”

    No, let’s go make a difference by getting involved in shaping the culture. Let’s support movies that we like. Let’s talk to our friends about it. Let’s inject the gospel into every area of life, and that’s what you’re doing and what we’re doing together by partnering on movies like this. Alex, I thank you for what you’re doing and what we’re doing in future projects. Actually, I’ve lost track of your question. What was it that you asked?

    Alex:               What do you hope that now that the movie’s more accessible on DVD, that obviously it will get into many more hands? What do you hope God does with it?

    Kirk:                Well, you know how you listen to a music album for the second or third or fourth time and finally say, “Well, wait a minute. I heard the greatest hit on the radio, you know, the one hit that the radio’s playing, but there’s four other songs here that are so great. I never would have known if I didn’t buy the album.” Same thing with a DVD. You can watch a movie like Unstoppable in a movie theater and everything’s going by so quickly that you miss many of the things that are little gems that you see the second time you watch it or the third time you watch it.

    Everything from the theological points about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the rainbow with Noah’s Ark; these kinds of things will give you an opportunity to really discuss the meatier issues of Unstoppable, to dive deeper in, have conversations about the gospel with someone who’s not a Christian. The question of where is God in the midst of pain and tragedy is universal. Atheists love to ask that question, because they think it will destroy our faith or maybe was destroyed theirs years ago when he used to go to church. Everyone has to wrestle with this.

    The DVD gives you an opportunity to watch this with people and pause and say, “Now, what do you think about that?” or fast-forward to a chapter or get a behind-the-scenes look about what was going on. I actually even got a special deluxe version of this at my website with six hours of study materials. My goal is truly to give you materials to mature your family, to build your faith to strengthen your understanding of the gospel so that you can apply it to every aspect of your life.

    Alex:               That’s great. I got to tell you, you know, you and I talked a year and a half, maybe two years ago and you are telling me what the film is going to be about. You touched on it a little bit earlier that it changed focus a little bit. When I started seeing the promotional materials and you asking the questions in the trailer about, “Where’s God in the midst of suffering?” I had doubts. I’m like, “Is this movie really going to deliver on that strong of a premise?” I got to tell you when I watched it, it very much did for me. The thing that I really liked about it is, it did it in a very different way. It wasn’t a talking head, a drama. It wasn’t a complete fabrication, but it was such a nice mixture of theology, as well as personal stories, which I think makes everything more impactful. Me personally, there several folks that I can’t wait to sit down and watch this with, including some of my neighbors; so very excited about that. Let me … Go ahead.

    Kirk:                Oh, I was just going to say I’m thrilled that you liked it. I was very excited when I made it, couldn’t wait for people to get a hold of it and see it. You know the truth is, when we ask a difficult question like, “Where is God when bad things happen to us,” we can look at bad people, wicked people, and we say, “”Well, they had it coming,” right. You look at a murderer or a rapist and you say, “Wow, you know, that’s justice coming.” We don’t think of ourselves as people who should be on the receiving end of difficulty because we think we don’t deserve things like that.

    When we look into God’s word he gives us the answer to the question. He tells us that God is gracious and kind and everything, including the fact that we can sit on a Google chat session like this with millions of people around the world and talk about movies. That’s gravy. That’s grace. That’s mercy. God’s not giving us what we deserve. If he gave us that, we’d be in hell. What he’s giving us is kindness, patience, and long-suffering. We become so used to that, that when difficulty comes, we don’t know what to do with it.

    God says it’s for our good. It’s for our patience. It’s for our faith and character and compassion, but even though we know that up here, it helps to drive it into the heart when we climb up to heaven’s balcony, so to speak, which is what I tried to do in Unstoppable and give you a big picture view of the story God is writing. Remember he took thousands of years between the time of Abraham and Jesus, between the first Adam, and the last Adam. He didn’t just resolve the sin issue like that.

    He took thousands of years and wrote a story called history where the last Adam comes, and crushes the serpent’s head, but he does it in a way that looks horrible on the surface. He dies on the cross, an innocent victim, but we trust the author now because we know what happens a few chapters later. He busts through the grave. He receives all authority and he pours out his spirit and says, “Now, let’s go finish this job and I’m with you to the end of the age.” When we experience tragedy and we put it in the context of that big picture story, we say, “Let’s trust the author. He’s up to something. In a few chapters, all of this will make sense.”

    Alex:               Amen, amen. Well, you definitely have a zeal. It’s clear that you have a clear message from the Lord, and that you have the passion for serving him. Let me ask you …

    Kirk:                it’s either that or I had too many cups of coffee this morning.

    Alex:               Let me ask you this. How in the world did Mike Seaver end up sitting here on a Google chat talking about the sovereignty of God? How did that whole transition happen for you?

    Kirk:                Oh boy. The short version is, I’d still be an atheist today if it wasn’t for God. Think about that. The truth is, I tell people I’m a recovering atheist and I am because God was kind and gracious to me. I mean, the bottom line is I never really thought about it much. I just thought smart people didn’t believe in a God you can’t see, but the truth is, is that I had a hidden agenda for my atheism. You know the dirty little secret behind atheism is; without God there is no ultimate accountability, so that means there’s no one really up there holding you accountable for what you do in the dark this weekend. Once you understand that you can look around and you begin to see, “Wait a minute. There’s evidence staring me in the face.” It’s the great big cosmic, “Duh” that there is a Creator.

    That’s why everyone from Einstein to fathers of medicine and science and astrophysicists and the smartest folks on planet Earth understand that this is wonderfully and powerfully made. Someone took me to church and I heard a sermon from a pastor named Chuck Swindoll. He convicted me what the gospel. I started asking questions. A good friend gave me a great book, by Josh McDowell called More Than a Carpenter. I started reading the Bible and I became convinced that if I died and found out that there was a heaven, I would not be going, because of my attitude toward the one who made me. I’d never once said thank you and so I prayed; very clumsily, but I said, “God make me the man you want me to be. If you’re real, please show me. Open my eyes and make me who you want me to be.” That was the beginning of my understanding of the gospel and following Christ.

    Alex:               How did that impact your family life, your marriage, your relationships? What change happened as you began to grow in your faith?

    Kirk:                Fortunately, I married an amazing woman. She was Mike Seaver’s girlfriend. I stole Mike’s girlfriend away from him and married her before he could. He had phenomenal taste in women. Chelsea and I have shared our faith in Christ together since the very beginning of our friendship and relationship. With our six kids, we move together as a unit. I would say that the biggest challenge and impact that my faith has had is more in my work. I’m going against the flow of the current here in Hollywood, at least the current current. I think it’s going to change because there are so many people who want to see great movies that honor and glorify God and build up the family that we’re going to be seeing more and more of these kinds of movies.

    When you lose jobs and you are put in the categories of, you’re the bad guy; because you believe in a four thousand year old moral code that has established the greatest civilizations on earth. When you say that you believe in God’s word and that he cares enough to save us from sin, you get put in funny little categories by your peers here. The truth is, it’s challenging, but light doesn’t shine anymore brightly than when it’s surrounded by darkness. God just so happened to make the world in such a way that all the darkness in the universe cannot overcome the tiniest light. I’m one guy out here, but I know there’s millions of the rest of you all over the world and darkness, what’s left of it doesn’t have a chance.

    Alex:   Amen, amen. Obviously, as husbands and as fathers, one of our jobs is to pass that message on to the next generation, and to train up our kids to fight the same battles. Kirk, I hope to see you soon. God bless you.

    Kirk:                That sounds great, Alex. God bless you.

    Bonus video: Kirk Cameron - Christianity is not what I thought


    This post was posted in Movies, Interviews, Alex Mosoiu and was tagged with Featured, Kirk Cameron

  • A God Story in the Writing

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by Family Christian

    This past Thanksgiving, Family Christian had the privilege of being part of something amazing. After much prayer, we felt that God was asking us to step out in faith. To take a risk. To live dangerously for His Kingdom. He asked us to not do it alone.





    With you, our friends, we dedicated the Thanksgiving weekend to build an orphanage in Haiti. We dedicated the profits that were received on that weekend to God's Littlest Angels in Haiti for the Family Christian Angels House - a neonatal and infant orphanage.





    So, thank you for the generosity and selflessness. Together, we raised enough funding for a year of construction on this building. We join God’s Littlest Angels in prayer and belief that God will see this project through to completion!

    "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:40


    This post was posted in Missions and was tagged with Featured, Adoption, Orphans, God's Littlest Angels

  • Dare to Drop the Pose from Craig Groeschel

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by Family Christian

    Craig Groeschel

    I Had Been Living a Lie

    One Sunday, I stood before my church, filled with fear. Fear that they would think I had failed them as their pastor, that I had let them down. But I was finally ready to tell the truth—I was sure it was what God wanted me to do.

    I hadn’t had an affair or stolen from the church funds. In fact, my sins were small, everyday things; they were all just hidden from view. From the pews, it looked as if I had become everything and done everything a pastor should—and I worked very hard to keep it that way. I had played the part to perfection.

    And that was the problem.

    I’m going to share the story of an impostor exposed. It’s more than the story of one Sunday morning, though. It’s about how, over a lifetime, a reasonably well-intentioned follower of Jesus can succeed at building an impressive exterior but fail miserably at being the real thing—the person God so lovingly created in the first place.

    You may not like me after reading this book. But on the chance God might use my story to help you put down the masks and reclaim the real you, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

    Factors That Made the Actor

    From my earliest childhood memories, I remember “playing the game.” Maybe you played it, too. I’d try to say the right things at the right times to the right people. When the people or circumstances changed, so did I.

    As a young child, I tried my best to please my parents. In school I made sure my teachers got my grandest act. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that, but looking back, I see that those were just practice runs for what would come later.

    As a teenager I did almost anything for acceptance from my buddies. I partied, swore, lied, cheated, and stole. I thought these things would help my popularity. Whether that lifestyle gained me friends is debatable. What it could have cost me in the long run is not. By the time I started college, I was playing so many different roles that I began to lose track of the “real me.”

    Honestly, I began to wonder if there was a real me.

    At nineteen I became a follower of Christ. And the parts of my life He changed, He changed miraculously. He cleaned house. But in a darkened corner here, a locked closet there, I continued to believe I was better off putting up a front.

    Except now it was a new front, a spiritual one. It was still the same old game, just played out on a different stage.

    Within a few years, I became a pastor. You’d think that becoming “a man of the cloth” (whatever that means) would have shaken the deceit right out of me. But as a young pastor, I simply turned pro. My church members observed my finest performances. And I fooled many of them, but I didn’t fool myself...

    And I didn’t fool God.

    I entered seminary after I had been a pastor for a while. One of my professors taught me many invaluable ministry principles. In fact, I still practice most of what I learned from him, and I’m eternally grateful for his friendship and leadership. However, one of the things he shared with me I now believe was not only wrong, but incredibly dangerous. He called it the “pastor’s mystique.” And he told us ministry trainees that we had to guard it at all cost. “People think they want their pastors to be normal, everyday people,” he used to tell our class, “but they really don’t. They want to see you as superhuman, better than the average person. Church members want to believe your marriage is always strong, your faith never falters, and you are virtually without sin.”

    I hung on every word, soaking up his advice.

    Week after week, my professor returned to his warnings about a pastor’s mystique: “Keep your guard up,” he’d say. “Don’t let them know the real you. Always dress the part. Always talk the part. You’re a pastor now. And you can never let them into your life. Or you’ll regret it.” This sounded logical to me.

    He’d obviously been deeply wounded in his ministry and wanted to help us avoid similar pain. I knew then—and still believe—that he meant well. So I took what he said to heart and continued perfecting my “good pastor” act. I’d smile big at the church members, shake each hand with both of mine, and end each conversation with the pastor’s best line: “God bless you.” Somewhere on my journey, though, I forgot that God called me...not to be like a pastor, but to be like Christ.

    That’s when my spiritual struggles started. I wasn’t living with gross, unconfessed sin—at least not the kind that gets pastors fired. And my motives weren’t bad. I loved Jesus and His people. Every bone in my body desired to make a difference for God in this world. I poured my heart fully into ministry, enduring long hours, boring meetings, grueling classes, temperamental people, and plenty of good, old-fashioned church conflicts—all for Jesus.

    After a few years, I became good at being a pastor. Ministerial words flowed from my mouth. I learned what to say and what not to say. Weddings were a breeze, and funerals were becoming easier. Preaching came naturally, and my counseling skills gradually improved. Most people said I was an “up ’n’ comer,” the kind of pastor who’d rise quickly through the ranks to a bigger church. From the outside, everything looked good. But God doesn’t look at the outside.

    The First of Many Confessions

    One Sunday, after another week of performing my best for God, I stood to preach His life-changing Word. As I approached the pulpit, the truth hit me squarely between the eyes. I hadn’t prayed at all. Not that day. Not the day before. Not the day before that. To the best of my knowledge, I hadn’t prayed all week. And I called myself a pastor. That’s when it dawned on me:

    I had become a full-time minister and a part-time follower of Christ.

    From the outside, I looked the part. “God bless you,” I’d say, followed by the promise, “I’ll be praying for you.” But that was usually a lie.

    Stepping onto the platform to preach that morning, I admitted to myself that I was not a pastor first, but a regular, scared, insecure, everyday guy whose life had been changed by Jesus. And if Jesus really loved me as I was (I knew He did), then why should I go on trying to be someone I wasn’t?

    I stumbled through that sermon, forcing the words to come out. The message was superficial, plastic, shallow...but true. I held nothing back. It was the biggest public risk I’d ever taken. It was also my first authentic sermon. I had preached many times before, but this was the first time the real me made a showing. In the middle of my talk, something started to happen, something new...

    God made Himself known.

    The reality of His presence is hard to describe, but it’s even harder to miss. Some people cried quietly in their seats. Others sobbed openly—not so much for my sins, but for their own. Before I had finished my confession, many gathered at the altar to repent along with me.

    As the tears and words flowed, God’s peace replaced my fear. His assurance pushed away my doubts. Christ’s power invaded my weakness. In that moment, Jesus became as real to me as He had ever been. The Savior was with me...and I believed He was pleased. “Well done,” I felt, more than heard.

    That’s when it all changed. I became a full-time follower of Christ who happened to be a pastor. No more make-believe. No posing. And no playing games. From that moment on, I would be who I am. Or nothing at all.

    Leap of Faith

    Why would you want to read a book about a pastor’s confessions? Maybe you don’t. But then again, maybe if you give Him a chance, God will do something in you that you didn’t expect. Like He did for me. Be honest with yourself. Are you tired of pretending? Living to please others? Acting a part? Doing everything to cover up who you really are? Stop hiding. Be who God called you to be. Live for an audience of ONE.

    Am I saying you have to confess all your garbage in front of a whole church? No. With some issues, that might be what God requires of you. But with more personal matters, it’ll be wiser to divulge them only to a small, trusted circle of friends or a lone accountability partner. But playing the fugitive from truth will never bring you peace. The problem is that it’s easier to stay the way you are—to coast and live an average, complacent life.

    You could avoid risk and keep acting. That’s what most people do. In fact, you’ll often be rewarded for faking it. No one will complain. The status quo is always comfortable. You’ll blend in. Even though you know you were created to stand out. But if you’re sick of shallow, empty relationships—if you’re craving deep, sincere community—then you’re going to have to take a chance. You’ll risk harsh judgments, misunderstandings, criticism. But think about the reward.

    Imagine living in the freedom and holiness of God. Dream about releasing guilt, shame, fear, and doubts. See yourself closer to God—and the people around you—than you’ve ever been before. The choice is yours: Life as it has been, or life as it could become.

    It is my goal to live the most authentic, transparent, vulnerable life a Christ follower can. And here is what I’ve found:

    Some people don’t like me. But that would be the case no matter what, wouldn’t it? On the other hand, others not only like me, they love me deeply. And they don’t love the image I once portrayed. They love the real me who God created. And I love them.

    The more honest I have become with God, myself, and His people, the richer and deeper my relationships have grown. Before, I was always afraid of being found out. I lived in constant fear of exposure—but not anymore. I overcame my fear because I took a chance. And I’ll continue to take obedient, truthful chances.

    This book is all about risks. As you turn each page, you’ll likely experience new discomforts. This road of honesty is the path I chose to take. I won’t play it safe. And neither should you. In fact, you can’t play it safe and please God.

    The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Even when our faith is small, God can do great things. I pray that my confessions will help you take that first step toward living a life free of fear...and secrets...and doubts... and insecurities. A life of honesty. A life that pleases God.

    The life you were created to live.


    Excerpted from Dare to Drop the Pose by Craig Groeschel Copyright © 2014 by Craig Groeschel. 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, Craig Groeschel

  • The Things We Do For Love

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "What a person desires is unfailing love ..." Proverbs 19:22a (NIV)

    I had everything I wanted yet felt empty and confused.

    My life was full of relationships and accomplishments I'd worked hard to gain, but none could fill or fulfill me.

    Frustrated by my aching emptiness, tears streamed down my face as I thought about the guy I dated through high school and college. Our future plans had crumbled under the pressure of me expecting him to be all I needed. I had been crazy about him — a little too crazy.

    I'll never forget the time a friend mentioned my ex-boyfriend was heading to our hometown for the weekend. We worked near each other, so Friday afternoon I parked by his office and waited for him to leave.

    We both "happened" to be at the same fast food restaurant, at the same time and bumped into each other. After getting my order, I got in my car and followed behind him, hoping he'd see me, realize he couldn't live without me and signal to pull over so we could talk.

    Seriously, what was I thinking? As you can guess, he never stopped. I was hopeless and humiliated.

    A few weeks later, I was taking a walk around my college campus. My eyes drifted to the buildings, dorms and other landmarks of memories. Suddenly my mind filled with a collage of faces, reminding me of my efforts to win the approval of advisors, friends and professors — hoping their affirmation could fill my emptiness.

    Although I was graduating soon, had a few great job offers and achieved success in many ways, my heart still felt restless. And I couldn't help but wonder: Why was all that I had never enough?

    A thought rushed through my soul, stringing together two words I had never put next to each other. I sensed God answering me.

    Renee, all you have ever wanted is unconditional love.

    Unconditional love? I didn't know there was such a thing. Then God whispered into my soul: You'll never find the love you long for in anyone or anything but Me. I AM the unconditional love you're looking for.

    The thought of God loving me without any conditions was inconceivable, yet something deep in my soul told me it was true. I'd been looking for love that didn't have to be earned. Love I didn't have to fear losing.

    Honestly, it was hard to see how God's love could fill the emptiness in my heart. It took time, but I came to understand that God created me with that need for fulfillment so He could meet it.

    Our key verse, Proverbs 19:22a, says, "What a person desires is unfailing love."

    The word "desire" comes from the Hebrew word ta'avah, which means: to greatly long for, deeply desire or crave. Interestingly, unfailing love is mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, and not once is it attributed to a person. It is only attributed to God.

    God gave us a desire for unfailing love because He knew it would lead us back to Him.

    His love draws us to Him. Only we can stop God from reaching the deep and hidden parts within us that need Him most.

    Will you invite Jesus to look into your heart today so He can show you what, who and where you might be looking to be filled and fulfilled? Then ask Him to fill and fulfill you with the promise and reality of His unfailing love instead.

    Jesus, help me stop searching for fulfillment in anything or anyone but You. Will You satisfy me with Your unfailing love and help me depend on You to meet my deepest desires and needs. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What or whom do you look to, to fill and fulfill you?

    Write down steps you can take to transfer your hope from other things and people to God to satisfying your longings. Start by talking to God and processing this struggle with Him.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 90:14, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (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 Proverbs

  • Attentive to Instruction

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. Nehemiah 8:8

    The Lord God Almighty instructs individuals from His Word the Bible. His gift of an instruction manual for living is necessary to know how to live life purposefully. If we wonder what is the wise thing to do, we look into the pages of Scripture and learn from those who made smart and foolish decisions. Yes, people who already experienced what we have not experienced can show us what to do and what not to do. The Bible is full of practical teachings that demand our keen attention.

    However, it takes our intentionality to be instructed well. The education process in eternal matters engages our heart and mind. So we learn, not to impress with our newfound information, but to humbly apply insights for living. We are not just moved by emotion, but we are moved to make Jesus Christ the Lord of our lives. We grow intensely attentive to the Holy Spirit’s work the more we grow in understanding of Scripture. Instruction frees us from ignorant assumptions.

    "Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Proverbs 9:9-10).

    Moreover, wise are we to learn from those who study and give clear meaning to the inspired written word of the Lord. Seek to sit under those who rightly divide the word of truth. Find those absent of pretense in their presentation and who instruct out of weakness from their own struggles. Clear teaching comes from one who is clear about their own propensity to sin. Yes, those who instruct well in the ways of God, walk in the ways of God. Learn from a humble heart.

    We know we are attentive to instruction from God’s Word, if we read and apply Holy Scripture. We gain insight, as we read books that give fresh meaning to ancient writings. We are perceptive when we discuss the life principles we are learning with other honest individuals who help us refine our thinking. Regular attendance at a church that gives practical understanding of the Bible is an indicator of our attentiveness. Most of all, humbly learn from the Spirit’s instruction.

    "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them" (Nehemiah 9:20).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to learn from those who can instruct me well in Your ways.

    Related Readings: Psalm 25:12, 32:8; Daniel 11:33; Romans 15:14; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16

    Post/Tweet today: Those who instruct well in the ways of God, walk in the ways of God. #attentivetoinstruction

    © 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 Nehemiah

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