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Family Christian

  • MercyMe's Shake - Q&A

    Posted on January 22, 2014 by John van der Veen

    MercyMe's new album, Welcome to the New releases later this year. Their first single from the album, Shake, hit stations already and is climbing the charts.

    We thought we would ask a few questions about Shake and their new album.

    Your new song, Shake, is a bit of different path for traditional MercyMe singles. What is the inspiration behind the song?

    "The inspiration behind the song really came out of a new season we're in, and that I'm in personally, in learning about God's grace. The idea that, because we've been changed and because He sees us with no condemnation we should be floating on air because we have something that most of the world doesn't. Ironically, we're the power ballad band, so I'm excited about "Shake" because it's energy and beat offer a small glimpse of how I feel, and where I am right now.

    I'm a horrible dancer. But I'm allowed to dance in front of my kids (even though they think I'm horrible too). But everybody can shake or shimmy. And I hope the sound of this song will inspire people to do just that.

    My favorite line says "Brand new looks so good on you" and that's where the title of the album came from. I think we as a whole we need to understand that no matter what we've done we remain new, and we can't mess it up because of the cross. The old is dead and gone and we're redeemed, no matter what the world or the enemy tells us. So that's what the album is about. You're going to hear a lot of the same grace message throughout the album, and that is on purpose. So that being said, we just thought "Shake" was the perfect song to start with. And we hope it gets people excited."
    - Bart

    You guys look like you had a lot of fun making the video. What was that experience like?

    "Making the "Shake" video was a fun time for us. We hadn't made a real music video in 6 or 7 years. So it was fun to finally have an idea and make it come to life. We blocked off downtown streets in Huntsville, had a remote controlled octo-copter camera, and over 100 extras including some choreographed dancers, so it was a blast. We are all just a bunch of goofball dads, so we wanted to show that Christians could have fun and have a good time. We wanted to encourage others to get up and shake like we have a reason to.

    In fact we even created the "Shake" dance you see in the video, and it seems to be catching on with people. We've been seeing others posting their own "Shakes" with the #MMShake hash tag, and have gotten to record some additional videos doing the dance with radio stations. So it's been a lot fun to see people getting into it."
    - Robby

    Anything specific we can look forward to on your new album?

    "We're really excited about the record. I think we're supposed to say that every time we make an album, and hopefully it's better than the last one. But, I can honestly say this one is different for us. The title "Welcome To The New" really speaks on behalf of a lot of things. We're in a new season as a band, but also for me personally. I'm in a place where the Gospel seems brand new to me. I grew up in a very legalistic church. They didn't directly say that it was about works, but there always seemed like there was an opportunity to try harder. And I was taught that the better you were, the more you were in God's favor. Then about 2 years or so ago I was in a place personally where I felt so many things were just hanging by a thread. I was doing everything to try to succeed because I thought that's what I was supposed to do. So I wanted to be really good at it and thought that God would be pleased. It didn't make any sense until a friend came into my life and spoke the truth of God's grace to me. That there's nothing I can do to make Christ love me more than he already does. And for some reason I somehow never really heard that before.

    If I don't do another great thing; if I have the ability to sabotage everything good about my life. Because I know Christ, his Grace will still be enough. And I realize that I probably speak on behalf of a lot of the church that tries really hard. We keep ourselves busy thinking that if we do the song and dance long enough God will say "I see you amongst all those people, way to go!" And I realized that this whole time he's been screaming out, "I have been pleased with you since the day you called my name, and I have never stopped. Even at your worst I'm madly in love with you." Even at our ugliest and at our worst the Bible says to come boldly to the throne. We were all unworthy, broken vessels who didn't deserve it before. But now the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells inside of us, and we're holy as he is holy.

    There's a song on the album called "Flawless," and the chorus says: "No matter the bumps, no matter the bruises, no matter the scars or how deep the wound is. The cross has made me flawless." So, I'm hoping this record can speak that grace message to people. The same message that has become brand new to me. And I've never been more excited about telling people that they are redeemed, and holy and righteous."
    - Bart


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, MercyMe

  • Greater from Steven Furtick

    Posted on January 22, 2014 by Family Christian

    Steven Furtick

    Steve and Me

    I used to want to do great things for God. That was before I found something greater.

    My mom says she’ll always remember that she was sitting in a social studies class when the loudspeaker beeped and crackled and someone announced that President John F. Kennedy had been shot. All the kids would be going home for the day.

    I wonder if I’ll always remember that my two sons and I had just shared kung pao shrimp at P.F. Chang’s when I stopped in my tracks on the way out the door. I had to make sure I had correctly read the words that were scrolling across every television within sight:

    Apple founder Steve Jobs—dead at 56.

    I can’t explain why, but my hands were shaky and sweaty as I pulled my iPhone out of my pocket to verify.

    One of the first things I saw was a statement from President Obama. He said that Steve Jobs “was among the greatest of American innovators.” That “he transformed our lives, redefined entire industries, and achieved one of the rarest feats in human history: he changed the way each of us sees the world.”

    Then I looked at my Twitter time line to see what the rest of the world was saying about Jobs. Everybody seemed to be weighing in. The outpouring was overwhelming.

    “R.I.P. Steve Jobs. You led the world into the 21st century.”

    “R.I.P. Steve Jobs. You improved life as we know it.”

    “Steve Jobs—On behalf of every dreamer sitting in his or her garage who is crazy enough to try to change the world, you will be missed.”

    I suddenly felt the urge to tweet my own thoughts about his passing. But it felt melodramatic for me to share some deep thought about a person I’d never met. Still, he was the greatest business leader of my lifetime. So I fired off a three-word tweet:

    Steven Furtick @stevenfurtick 5 Oct
    “What a life.”

    My next thoughts made my stomach hurt. Or was it the kung pao? Either way, I got downright introspective. I was wrestling with a tension:

    Steve Jobs was a great man. He changed the world through technology.

    I’m a pastor. I have a mission to change the world through the gospel.

    But am I really achieving that mission? I’m doing well by some standards, I guess.

    I love Jesus. I have integrity. I love my family.

    But still…

    I’m not redefining an industry. I’m not accomplishing one of the greatest feats in human history. So what am I really doing? That matters? That will matter?

    That will set my life apart?

    In short, I was processing the nauseating feeling that, when I stack it all up, I don’t feel like I’m anything close to being the great man of God I want to be. Some days, actually, I feel like I sort of suck as a Christian. I didn’t tweet any of that. But I couldn’t stop thinking it.

    I’m guessing you’ve had thoughts like that too. I’m not saying you want to be the next Steve Jobs or build your own technology empire. But I think we all have these honest moments when we’re gripped by a desire to feel that what we’re doing matters more. That who we are matters more. A few hours later, after I tucked my boys into bed and prayed for them, I sat on my bed and opened my MacBook.

    For some reason I felt compelled to pull up a certain Bible verse. It’s one of the most staggering statements Jesus ever made.

    I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

    I’d read that verse so many times. But I had a new context for it.

    And it sliced me with the edge of fresh challenge. Greater things than Jesus, the greatest man who ever lived? What does that even mean? How can we do greater things than Jesus?

    Does it mean that we’re able to do more powerful miracles than Jesus? Have a bigger impact than Jesus? I don’t think so. After all, I don’t know many people who have walked on water, multiplied fish and loaves to feed thousands, opened the eyes of the blind, or given salvation to the world.

    If you’re looking to be greater than Jesus, put down your crack pipe, my friend. That’s not happening.

    By leaving and then sending His Spirit to dwell inside His followers—ordinary people like you and me—Jesus released a greater power for us to do extraordinary things on an extraordinary scale. The kinds of things the early church saw and did.

    The kinds of things He still wants to do today through us. Jesus isn’t calling us to be greater than He is.

    He’s calling us to be greater with Him through His Spirit within us.

    Meant for More

    As I tried to process the brain-bending implications of that claim, I thought through some conversations I’d had recently with people who were feeling disappointed and stuck in their relationship with God and their place in life.

    I’m meeting more and more believers who are unsatisfied with the kind of Christians they’re becoming and the version of the Christian life they’re experiencing. These aren’t bad people. They aren’t gangbangers and ungodly pagans. If they were, their discontent would make more sense.

    The thing is, most believers aren’t in imminent danger of ruining their lives. They’re facing a danger that’s far greater: wasting them.

    These are some of the very people Jesus talked about in John 14:12. People who are supposed to be doing greater works than—forget about Steve Jobs—Jesus Christ Himself.

    Yet it’s not happening. For most of us, the experience of our daily lives is a far cry from the greater works Jesus talked about in John 14:12. Or even the achievements of a luminary like Steve Jobs.

    We’ve had some big dreams about what God might want for our lives. But so many of us are stuck in the starting blocks. Or are dragging along at the back of the pack.

    We know we were meant for more. Yet we end up settling for less.

    We’re frustrated about where we are. But we’re confused about how to move forward.

    I wonder if you can relate.

    What a life…


    Excerpted from Greater by Steven Furtick Copyright © 2012 by Steven Furtick. 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, John, Steven Furtick

  • Things Have Got to Be Different This Year

    Posted on January 22, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break." Luke 5:4-6 (NIV)

    "Something's got to change!"

    Have you ever said that in January? I sure have.

    It's usually when I'm frustrated with myself for something I'm not doing. For example, my broken-record complaints focus on the same three things: losing weight, better managing my work load, and spending more time with people I love.

    It's not for lack of trying my situations don't change; I work hard. But recently it dawned on me that I keep trying the same things in varying measures. I tried adding five minutes to my elliptical routine, and spent more time on my emails. Results: clothes still tight, inbox still overflowing. Time with family? I'm not sure more trips to the grocery store together qualify.

    The problem isn't my effort; it's my approach. Something has to change.

    There's a story in the Bible where Jesus told a disciple to change his approach. It happened at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, as He was identifying and calling His disciples.

    In Luke 5, Jesus borrowed the boat of the fisherman called Simon Peter to teach the people on the shore. When He finished teaching, Jesus told Simon to put the boat in deep water and let down the nets.

    Simon surely was skeptical. Can't you see him raising his eyebrows as he looks at Jesus then at the water? He explains he's been fishing all night and hasn't caught anything. What he doesn't say, but might have thought is: Day isn't the best time to fish. Besides, all these people on the shore have probably scared them away. And no disrespect intended Jesus, but you are a carpenter/preacher—I am a fisherman. I might know a little something about fishing.

    But to Simon's credit he obeys Jesus' unusual request to fish differently. The Scripture records they caught so many fish the nets began to break.

    This story challenges my status quo. It's a call to change my approach to problem solving. If I want things to be different this year, I must do things differently.

    For me, like Simon Peter, this starts with listening to and obeying the voice of Jesus for new directions.

    This is hard for a routine-loving girl like me. I'm not a fan of different because it often feels uncomfortable. I prefer to keep things the way they are ... except that doesn't always work.

    So I prayed about these three areas in my life, and asked God to show me a fresh approach for each. Being a faithful God, He gave me some options to shake up my routines.

    1. Rather than go to the gym at night and stick with the elliptical machine, He asked me to go in the morning and incorporate strength training. So I signed up for a morning exercise class at church.

    2. Rather than try to manage my emails by spending more time on them, I'm unsubscribing to every list. I'll visit websites and blogs on my schedule.

    3. Realizing I've become too inward focused, I've made a list of special days, activities, and places I want to go where I can invite others to join me.

    That day on the lake, Jesus invited Simon Peter to go into the deep waters—a place Simon had been many times before. But under Jesus' direction and with a new approach, Simon saw amazing results.

    Can the same be true for me? For you? As we start 2014, may we become women who listen for the voice of Jesus as He speaks new ways into old habits. May we raise our faces to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. And may we trust Jesus as He takes us in to deep waters, where under His direction, we'll see amazing results.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being a God of new things. You have called me in to new life with You, and Your ways are higher than mine. Help me see those areas of my life that need a breath of the newness of Your Spirit. I want to be a woman who sets aside her comfort and routine to fish in deep waters with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What problem have you been trying to solve in your life by using the same approach as always?

    Pray and ask God to show you one thing you can do differently starting today.

    Power Verse:
    Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. 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

  • Covenant of Love

    Posted on January 21, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments. Nehemiah 1:5

    Just as the Lord God made a covenant of love with His chosen people Israel, He covenants in love with His church the Bride of Christ. We are united with Christ in the bonds of love forever. Yes, those who fall in love with Jesus stand at the altar of trust and vow to remain faithful until death brings them into eternal oneness with their Lord. Our fidelity of faith is evidence of our genuine love and commitment to God. His covenant of love compels us to be loved and to love.

    We are loved by God unconditionally, even when we fail to reciprocate His love. Though the Lord’s love is jealous, He does not jettison us from His presence when we ignore Him. We may drift away from Him with our unwise decisions, but His love is available to bring us back to the security and serenity of His presence. Christ’s covenant of love to His forgiven bride keeps us humble and grateful. Like Esther, we seek to adorn ourselves with the beauty of His holiness.

    And Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her. Esther 2:15

    We love the Lord, because He first loved us. We pursue the Lord, because He first pursued us. We serve the Lord, because He first served us. We remain faithful to the Lord, because He remains faithful to us. Yes, we love Him and keep His commands, because of what His grace and love have already done for us. It is a divine gift that provides what we need most. Our greatest need is to be loved by our Heavenly Father. Christ’s covenant of love grows love in our heart.

    God’s covenant of love is not to be taken for granted. It is not an emotional acknowledgement we act on only when our feelings cooperate. No, when we entered into covenant with Christ we committed to Christ and to all He represents: love, obedience, generosity, holiness, service, worship, prayer, scripture, mercy, grace, forgiveness, evangelism, discipleship and the church. Since He keeps His covenant of love, we are the bride of Christ who loves, cherishes and obeys.

    And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 1 John 4:16

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your covenant of love that invites me to be loved by You and compels me to love You and others.

    Related Readings: Daniel 9:4; Matthew 22:37-40; 1 Corinthians 13:13, 16:14; Galatians 5:6;    1 John  4:7-12

    Post/Tweet today: Since He keeps His covenant of love, we are the bride of Christ who loves, cherishes and obeys. #covenantoflove

    © 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 Power of a Half Hour from Tommy Barnett

    Posted on January 21, 2014 by Family Christian

    Tommy Barnett

    My name is Tommy Barnett.

    I’m a pastor and have devoted my entire adult life to helping people connect with God and find better ways to live. I could fill up this book and more with all kinds of spiritual and practical ideas about what works in life and what doesn’t. I think it would be good stuff, but I have one practical idea that I know from my own experience rises far above all the others.

    I admit it’s not an overly unique concept, like the invention of the Internet, for example. However, it’s an idea that has helped me realize success and great satisfaction in all aspects of my personal and professional life. I mean everything—from personal goals and dreams to marriage to raising a family to relationships to work.

    I believe the idea can change your life, though, as it has changed mine.

    Most importantly, it has helped me serve God and others more effectively. Trust me, my idea is not rocket science; in fact, it’s so simple that anyone can understand and benefit from it.

    I believe the idea can change your life, though, as it has changed mine. I call it the power of a half hour.

    Many people think of a half hour as a minimal or meaningless gap in time, downtime to catch your breath between periods of major effort. But the truth is your half hours can determine the difference between success and failure. Your half hours direct and shape your future.

    You can literally change your world in thirty minutes. In the same way that your effect on the world is felt one life at a time, so is that effect delivered through the careful and thoughtful investment of your half hours. The beauty of this reality is that anyone can do it. You don’t need a PhD, and you don’t need a life coach to pull it off. All you need is to accept the idea, have a clear sense of your God-given purpose, examine your activity patterns, sensitize yourself to your time choices, and start taking advantage of the power of a half hour.

    Every half hour in your day is a power-loaded resource. Your choice of how to spend those minutes is the focus of this book, which I intend to make a practical conversation about a resource that we misunderstand, abuse, take for granted, and ignore.

    I want to help you become the person God intends you to be and accomplish His plans for your life. And in order to do that, you need to use your small increments of time wisely—not just the big slices of time that are devoted to both routine daily activities and major life events.

    I agree with Harvey Mackay who said, “Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.”

    I know that it’s not easy to find even a “free” hour in the world we live in. I also have learned that it’s difficult to accomplish a great deal in a quarter hour—especially if you need to communicate graciously and genuinely with another person within that time frame. But a half hour—it works!

    Claiming the Power of a Half Hour

    Here’s how we will approach turning your half hours into life-changing blocks of time. In the seven parts of this book, I will outline how seizing the power of a half hour can make such a difference in these major areas:

    • Impact
    • Purpose and goals
    • Faith
    • Character
    • Dreams
    • Relationships
    • Advancing God’s kingdom

    To help you remember key themes in this book, each chapter contains a Half-Hour Power Principle.

    By the way, researchers tell us that most people never finish reading the books they start. Because I think there’s too much helpful information in these pages for you to abandon the content before you get to the end, let me suggest that you do four simple but practical things as you read this book.

    First, read the book in half-hour spaces in your schedule. Each of the chapters in the book is short enough to read easily in a half hour. You might want to have more than one block during a day when you read the book, but start this practice as you engage with this book. In addition, at the back of this book you will find a Personal Power of a Half Hour Action Plan. This plan is set up to help you, over a thirty-day period, fully incorporate The Power of a Half Hour concepts into all major areas of your life. You have heard that it takes about a month to establish a new habit? I urge you to use this thirty-day plan to make the power of a half hour a habit you will never break!

    Second, if something strikes you as personally helpful, jot down notes about changes you need to make. Too often we are so intent on getting through a book that we forget some of the useful insights or challenges it provided.

    Third, pray that God will help you to implement the things you discover in these pages (or in your related reflections) that will improve your life experience. Fourth, and finally, express a commitment to someone you know and trust that you are going to integrate these simple changes into your lifestyle. Ask that person to check up on you once or twice a month to see how intentional you are being with your half hours. That simple act of accountability will help prevent the reading of this book from being just another helpful but forgotten task. (You may also wish to find mutual encouragement in learning the half-hour concepts by attending a small-group discussion. A guide for such a study is included at the end of the book.)

    I’ve been practicing these principles so long that I can now say I am a product of my half hours. I don’t always get it right, but I’m very much aware of the gift of life and the value of time. My half hours—the ones I carefully plan, as well as the unplanned ones I discover—are committed to doing His will in my life because I want to serve our God and others.

    I’ve been practicing these principles so long that I can now say I am a product of my half hours.

    If you get your half hours right, God will not only change your life but also use you to alter the lives of the people and organizations you influence. I sincerely believe the future is not going to be defined by those who rely on their intelligence, their talent, or their good looks. Instead, the future is dependent on the choices made by God’s people in the time that He has placed at our disposal.


    Excerpted from The Power of a Half Hour by Tommy Barnett Copyright © 2013 by Tommy Barnett. 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, Change, Tommy Barnett

  • I Hate Saying "No"

    Posted on January 21, 2014 by Crystal Paine

    Crystal Paine

    "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

    I wanted to run away from it all. I was exhausted, stressed to the max, and overwhelmed.

    We'd recently moved to a new city so my husband could start a new job. I had a newborn, a two-year-old, and a four-year-old. Not only that, but my online business was keeping me busy.

    There were never enough hours in the day to do it all. It felt like no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had a massive weight of guilt hanging over me and whispering in my ear. They were actually more like hisses telling me I should be ten other places, focusing on ten other priorities that were desperate for my attention.

    My house was constantly a mess, and I was forever behind. Most days, I couldn't think straight or get much accomplished. I was just plain bone-tired from late nights working on projects, middle-of-the-night feedings for the baby, and early mornings completing business tasks before my kids woke up.

    But my Type A self wouldn't allow me to admit how bad things were to anyone. I just kept pressing forward, kept saying "yes" to that opportunity, and "yes" to this project, and "yes" to that responsibility. I told myself if I'd get a little more organized, or try a little harder, or sleep a little less, somehow I'd find a way to do it all.

    Like Martha in Luke's Gospel, I was an expert at staying busy with serving and doing. But I was never able to take time to slow down because I placed my worth and value in my productivity.

    So I just kept right on saying yes — even though it was destroying my health and my sanity ... and threatening to take my marriage, family, and business right down with it.

    Finally, I got to the end of my rope. I couldn't keep going like that. Something had to give. So I sat down with my husband and tearfully told him, "I can't do this anymore. I'm overwhelmed. I'm exhausted. Help!"

    I was expecting a big hug or words of sympathy. But instead, my husband looked at me sympathetically and said, "Crystal, you know that you are the one who is bringing most of this on yourself."

    That was the last thing I wanted to hear, and his words stung! However, I ended up having to admit he was right.

    I didn't have to say "yes" to every commitment and opportunity that came my way. Nobody and nothing was obligating me to do anything except me!

    Since that difficult time in my life, I've grown to love the word "no." Not because it's fun to say, but because I've realized that when I say "no" to one thing that's a lower priority, it allows me to say "yes" to my highest priorities.

    As the story of Martha powerfully illustrates, Christ didn't come to make us Superwomen. He didn't come to give us the tools to become powerhouses of productivity. Instead, He came to give us abundant life, rest, peace, and joy.

    Saying "no"—even though it's hard to do—frees me up to say "yes" to what matters. And that's a beautiful thing.

    Dear Lord, help me to remember that You care much more about my heart than what I accomplish on my to-do list. Give me the courage to say "no" to those things in my life that are keeping me from being able to say "yes" to the best. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How am I bringing stress into my life by being unwilling to admit that I can't do it all?

    What mediocre things do I need to say "no" to in order to start saying "yes" to the best?

    Power Verse:
    Matthew 11:28, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Crystal Paine. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    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

  • Saddened by Sorrow

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah 1:4

    Affluence tends to insulate individuals from society’s sorrows. An emotional wall is easily erected between one who has stuff and one lacking stuff. Those who once went without can quickly forget the stories of those who still suffer without. Nehemiah enjoyed the privileges of the upper crust in another country while his people back home groveled for a crust of bread. But word from his brother put a real face of the reality of the poor’s suffering. He wept in sadness.

    Society’s woes do matter to men and women who walk with Christ. He was a Man of sorrows who is our sympathizing Savior. Jesus was poor and He cared for the poor. He lived among them as one of them. Christ wept with those who wept over their sorrow. He cried with those who lost loved ones to death. He healed children gripped by dreadful diseases. He forgave guilty hearts of sin and freed hearts possessed by evil. Jesus was saddened by sorrow and He initiated solutions.

    He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Isaiah 53:3, NKJV

    Like helium in a ballon lifts it heavenward, so the Lord lifts up individuals encumbered by sorrow’s emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. Thus, as we seek to serve society we first go forth in the name of Jesus. Remedies for physical infirmities without the good news of Christ prolong sin’s sickness. So, we are unashamed to share the gospel with social justice for it is the power of God unto salvation. The source of sorrow finds salvation in God’s grace and mercy.

    Yes, we mourn, fast and pray before the Lord of heaven before we go out in His name on earth. The Holy Spirit strips our heart of pride and replaces it with humility, lest we be an obstacle to engaging the culture with Christ’s love. Sadness is the outcome of sorrow, but gladness is the fruit of hope. Once resourced by God and man, we gladly go out to serve in Jesus’ name. His mercy changes our mourning into dancing. His salvation in Christ turns our sorrows into joy.

    Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me; Lord, be my helper!” You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever. Psalm 30:10-12, NKJV

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, in my sorrow I seek Your face. Use me to bring joy to those who suffer in sadness.

    Related Readings: Exodus 15:20; Isaiah 53:10; Psalm 31:9;  Hebrews 5:8; 2 Corinthians 7:7-11

    Post/Tweet today: Like helium in a ballon lifts it heavenward, so the Lord lifts up individuals encumbered by emotional fatigue. #sorrow

    © 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

  • Creative Extremists - Martin Luther King

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by John van der Veen

    "Though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love:
    "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you."
    Was not Amos an extremist for justice:
    "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
    Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel:
    "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."
    Was not Martin Luther an extremist:
    "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God."
    And John Bunyan:
    "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience."
    And Abraham Lincoln:
    "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free."
    And Thomas Jefferson:
    "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. . ."
    So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.
    Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative
    extremists."


    The above is taken from Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail. Written April 16, 1963. You may find the whole letter here.

    This post was posted in Uncategorized and was tagged with Featured, Martin Luther King

  • How God Makes Men from Patrick Morley

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by Family Christian

    Patrick Morley

    When I travel and meet strangers, someone will often say, “You work with men. That must really be hard.”

    My response is always the same. “You’ve got the wrong guy! I have the best job in the world. Every day we see men coming to Christ and growing as disciples. God is powerfully at work in men’s lives!” With that said, we need to do a reality check. Men today are under severe attack. A counter-Christian pop culture ridicules men in general and Christian men in particular. The battle line against biblical manhood is clearly drawn and fiercely contested. As a result, legions of men struggle to sustain what they started and finish the race.

    Because I get to work with men as my vocation, I’ve been watching this battle play out and intensify at an alarming rate. Every week at our Bible study, I meet men who have professed faith in Christ but who, for the last five, ten, fifteen, or more years, have been living by their own wisdom. Many were told, “Just pray this prayer and everything
    will turn out okay.” But it hasn’t. They enlisted and were issued a weapon they’ve never learned how to clean and shoot. These men are not bad, just confused.

    Most men I talk with feel like there’s another man coiled up inside of them who desperately wants to get out. How about you?

    • Maybe your faith is being tested to the breaking point.
    • Maybe you’ve been down so long you feel God has abandoned you.
    • Maybe you thought God was going to use you, but now you feel like you’ve been sidelined.
    • Maybe you feel inadequate for your roles in life.
    • Maybe you’re in a tough situation and see no way out.
    • Maybe you are not genuinely content with who you are and what you do.
    • Maybe you feel like giving up.
    • Maybe you find it difficult to let go of the cares of this world.

    Can you relate? If so, I’ve got some really great news for you. It’s all wrapped up in the one sentence that best describes my own life: Because God is good, your life will not turn out like you planned. That’s because God has a better plan. A much better plan. So what is this plan, and how can you make it your own?

    God’s plan is made up of strikingly relevant, time-tested lessons written down and preserved for us in the Bible. It pulsates with stories about men who released and sustained the passion of their faith. They became the men God created them to be.

    And you can too.

    However, it’s shocking how many of these life-changing principles are gathering dust. It’s as though we’re afraid to tell men, “Following Christ is harder than it looks and takes longer than expected. But God does have a plan, and it comes packed with real answers and genuine hope.”

    So in How God Makes Men, I want to share with you the most powerful principles of manhood from ten of the most well-known men in the Bible. In each of their epic stories, we can see the hand of God at work—shaping them, leading them, making them into the men He always planned for them to become. That “always planned for them to become” is for you too. And it’s one of the main features we’ll be exploring together.

    How did God mold and mobilize these men? What were the obstacles they faced? What held them back? How did God get them uncoiled? And what was their part? As we spend time listening to their lives, we will come face to face with the gritty truth that can release and sustain the passion of our faith too. When added together, they’re not just ten amazing stories but one big story—yours!

    Here’s the promise of How God Makes Men. And it’s a huge one. If you will absorb and embrace the timeless principles offered by these ten men, you can get past the shallow cultural Christianity that wants to gut your manhood and get to—or back to—a more biblical Christianity.

    If you will let these ten men mentor you, then, like them, you will become the man God created you to be. You will release the power of God in every direction and detail of your life. You will know how to sustain the passion of your faith. And you will be well on the way to writing your own epic story. Why? Because God is way too good to let our lives merely turn out like we planned!

    You always knew that one day you would be called upon to take your place on the battlefront, right? This is that call. Together, we can turn this around. This is a battle we can win. We cannot, we must not, and by God’s grace we will not fail.

    If this is what you want, turn the page. I have some guys I want you to meet.


    Excerpted from How God Makes Men by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2013 by Patrick Morley. 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, Men, Patrick Morley

  • Home-Shaping

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen Ehman

    "My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." Psalm 62:7 (NIV)

    They piled high on the living room coffee table: colorfully wrapped boxes with curly, coordinating bows and snappy gift bags with crisp tissue paper peeking out of their tops in anticipation. They accented the festivities as nearly three-dozen friends eagerly gathered for an open house for my friend Thida.

    A Cambodian native, Thida met Keith when he was studying abroad in her country. Now married and living in the United States, our circle of friends showered Thida with well-wishes and the heartfelt welcome of an old-fashioned housewarming party.

    What domestic treasures she opened that night! New fluffy towels in deep jewel tones, contemporary metal candleholders and spicy-scented candles, kitchen utensils and casserole dishes, picture frames and pots. Ever a soft-spoken and grateful soul, this sweet twenty-something new bride was visually humbled and verbally thankful with each package she unwrapped.

    Every so often, she would look at the crowd and utter the same phrase, "Oh ... I want to thank you so much for helping me to shape our home."

    We knew what Thida meant. She meant to "furnish" her home, to decorate and outfit it with needed and useful items. However, somehow when trying to get her sentiments across by speaking in English (her second language) the phrase she continually chose was "shape our home."

    As I heard sweet Thida utter these words many times that night, it struck a chord within my soul. In essence this group of siblings, aunts, cousins, and grandparents-by-marriage, along with an abundance of new friends, were doing exactly that!

    Thida is from a country where, of the 14.5 million inhabitants, only a few thousand claim to follow Christ. Over 95% of Cambodians are practicing Buddhists.

    Thida began a relationship with Jesus through the example of an aunt and, although the rest of her family is still Buddhist, this strong woman now loves and serves the God of the Bible. She chose to break from her parents' tradition to begin a new life with Christ. And, aside from her aunt, she had no one who could help her learn what it meant to live as a woman and wife according to God's ways.

    Thida made a choice. Rather than choosing the false god of her ancestors, she chose the true God of the Bible. And she and her husband desire nothing more than to build their home and grow a family someday according to the ways of the Lord. And now we, as her circle of support in her new country of residence, will try our best to encourage her in her endeavors; to model a Christian home with our actions and decisions. Yes, you could say in essence that we all have made a covenant to help precious Thida do exactly what she declared—"shape her home."

    Do you know another woman who has made a decision for Christ? One who left her former ways to walk in the ways of the Lord? If so, there are eyes upon you, watching, soaking and learning. What will she see? Will you help her shape her earthly home, and her heart's home, with God's truths while building on the foundations of Christ?

    Home shaping is significant business. May we all be mirrors that reflect Christ to those who are watching, soaking and learning. And yes...perhaps even shaping.

    Dear Lord, may I be ever mindful there are others looking to me for an example of how to shape our lives according to Your ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What are some ways you try to weave the Bible's commands into your home life?

    How can you help others who are new in the faith to ground their hearts in God, His Word and His ways?

    Power Verse:
    Luke 4:8 "And Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve."'" (ESV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. 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

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