When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Colossians 2:13-15
The cross is compelling because Christ is compelling. His character is compelling by the depth of its delivery; His love is compelling by the extent of its capacity; His holiness is compelling by the respect it demands; His forgiveness is compelling by the thoroughness of its cleansing; His power is compelling by its ability to disarm the enemy and deem him powerless.
Therefore, the cross compels Christ’s followers to be like Him. There is nothing neutral about the cross. Either it compels you or it repels you. The cross either frees you to forgive or it drives you away, stuck in a cycle of cynicism. The cross either leads you into a life of hope or it discourages you to remain in a state of fear and uncertainty. You cannot embrace the cross and self at the same time. It is not possible.
If it were possible, it would not be advisable. "A house divided will not stand" (Luke 11:17). A heart divided will collapse under the weight of diluted loyalties. Therefore, the cross compels you to make a radical commitment to Christ. For a moment, the cross looked like man’s torture chamber. But it turned into God’s remedy for redemption. The cross is not a symbol of compassion; it is compassion. Man won the physical battle that day, but God won the spiritual one. It took physical death to triumph over the enemy in the spiritual realm. Thus, the cross gives you the power to overcome.
Go back to the foot of the cross. This is where the love and the blood of Christ flowed down together for you. This is a rare combination that for generations has compelled millions to extend the love of God to the lost and the least. The foot of the cross is compelling because it is the location for the most leverage. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). But what about the suffering we incur as we bear His cross?
The cross you bear is compelling (Luke 14:27). It is compelling because it reflects the sacrifice and salvation of the cross of Christ. Moreover, the cross you hold high in word and deed draws all men to Jesus (John 12:32). Christ compels all cultures, denominations, races, and socio-economic classes. His cross invites and even demands a response.
To remain neutral is not an option. The cross either compels you to repent, or it repels you to remain in your sin. You can choose a divine destiny or one of your own making. The cross means death to self and sin, but life in Christ. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34b).
Prayer: Am I compelled or repelled by the cross? How can I bear Christ’s cross with grace?
Related Readings: Galatians 6:12-14; Philippians 2:8; 3:18
Post/Tweet today: There is nothing neutral about the cross of Jesus Christ. It either compels us to repent or it repels us to reject. #wisdomhunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry email@example.com /www.wisdomhunters.com
As Samuel was helping Rhoda gather cards, Landon’s cell phone buzzed, and he reached into his pocket. He usually glanced at it and slid it back into his pocket unless his grandmother was calling. But this time his smile faded, and he held the phone out toward Samuel. “It’s the number from your family’s farm in Pennsylvania.”
Since the only phone for this place was in the barn office and they spent very little time out there when it was below freezing, Samuel had given Landon’s number to his Daed in case of an emergency. The room grew quiet, and all eyes were on Samuel. He took the phone and slid his finger across the screen. “Hallo.” “Samuel, what’s going on up there?”
His Daed’s tone was severe, and a bad feeling washed over Samuel. “Can you hold for a few minutes and let me get elsewhere?”
Samuel got up, hitting the mute button. “I need to talk to him, but apparently there isn’t an emergency.”
Leah tossed her cards onto the pile. “I’m done.”
Landon and Steven nodded and gathered the cards. Clearly, the mood was broken. Samuel had fielded many more calls from his Daed lately, each one less tolerant of this new settlement than the previous call.
Leah moved from the floor to the couch. “For him to stay this riled, he must be on that Amish chat line again, hearing negative stuff about us.” She sighed and rolled her eyes. “They ought to call it what it is—the Amish gossip line.”
“Leah, kumm alleweil.” Steven’s gentle correction was meant to settle her, and as the only church leader for this new settlement, his words carried weight.
While walking into the kitchen, Samuel turned off the mute. “Hey, Daed. I’m surprised you’re using Landon’s cell when there’s no emergency.”
“It might be a crisis. What’s this rumor I’ve heard about Leah seeing that Englisch assistant of Rhoda’s?”
Samuel pressed his lips together. Which of the new Amish families that had moved here over the last six months had shared that information? Apparently someone intended to end the relationship.
“Leah is in her rumschpringe, Daed.”
“But I let her leave Pennsylvania under your charge, and I’m not going to put up with these rumors.”
Dozens of arguments ran through Samuel’s mind. As he opened his mouth to rebut, he saw movement in the living room that caught his attention.
The three women—Rhoda, Leah, and Phoebe—had moved to the couch. Arie was sitting in Leah’s lap, and her hair had been taken down from its bun. Leah brushed Arie’s hair as the women whispered and giggled. They worked hard and loved deeply. He’d never witnessed the kind of unison they had.
“Samuel,” his Daed growled, “are you even listening to me?”
Samuel’s mouth went dry as angst grabbed hold of him. He’d been clinging to the hope that if he handled the situation right between his Daed and Leah, he could keep all the relationships intact. Had it been a false hope?
The Amish had ways of applying constant pressure when they disagreed with someone’s behavior, and if that failed to change the person’s actions, he or she was shunned. Not officially through the church, but through mandatory actions that said you’re not welcome here anymore unless you change. How could he possibly shun Leah? Worse, how could Rhoda and Phoebe do so? But if it came to the point of shunning her and they didn’t do as told, they would be subject to the same treatment.
Besides, Steven was a church leader now. He and Phoebe would have to uphold the Ordnung, or the consequences would be unbearable. Maybe Daed just needed a reminder of who was the spiritual head here.
“Steven is working with Leah, praying for her, guiding her as he sees fit.”
“He’s young, not yet thirty, and some don’t think he’s handling the Old Ways as carefully as he should. Others doubt he should’ve been chosen since his sister remains under a shadow of doing witchcraft.”
“That’s absurd. Rhoda doesn’t—”
“Save it, Samuel. I heard on the chat line that a bishop in Berks County is thinking of moving his family to your area. If he does, he’ll outrank Steven and bring the kind of order Orchard Bend Amish should’ve had all along.”
Every Amish person who’d helped establish this new settlement firmly believed in the Amish ways and culture, but they had pushed a lot of lines since arriving here sixteen months ago. Their hearts were in the right place, but sometimes the Amish rules got in the way of believers following their consciences. That’s when those on Orchard Bend Farms bent the rules, and Samuel didn’t regret doing so.
Somehow Samuel had to stop his Daed from doing anything that would cause the Old Ways to move into this home like a poisonous gas, choking the breath out of the relationships.
Excerpted from Seasons of Tomorrow by Cindy Woodsmall Copyright © 2014 by Cindy Woodsmall. 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.
"I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes." 2 Samuel 6:21b-22a (NIV)
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something zip by me. What was that? A minute later, I saw it again. Someone was running up and down the side aisle of the church.
Joyful voices filled the church that Easter Sunday morning as we sang, "What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus,"*
Although I tried to focus on the words of the song, my thoughts were distracted by the runner. I looked inquisitively at the woman next to me, hoping for an explanation.
She whispered an answer to my unspoken question: "He was a drug addict. A couple of months ago he surrendered his life to Christ and is now free from his addiction. He's overcome by love for Jesus!"
About that time an elderly woman and man started to dance with him. They were his grandparents. For years, this couple had steadfastly prayed for their grandson.
Watching this freed man and his joyful grandparents worshipping reminded me of King David returning to Jerusalem. David explodes with love for his Lord. He couldn't contain his awe and gratitude for all God had done for him: winning a huge battle, restoring the ark of the Lord and appointing him king. Coming down the road, everyone could see "King David leaping and dancing before the LORD" (2 Samuel 6:16 NIV).
Stories of people being overcome by love for God are awesome. But there is one example of love that tops them all: the gift of the cross. I know John 3:16 is a familiar verse to most of us and can be easy to skim. But let's read it again with the view of God's love for us.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)
The young man and his grandparents probably gave up some self-consciousness to display their love for the Lord through dance. In our key verse, we learn that King David admitted he let go of pride to show his love through worship: "I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes" (2 Samuel 6:21b-22a). He sacrificed his dignity for the Lord.
And God the Father sacrificed a most precious gift, His Son, Jesus. And Jesus surrendered His very life for us!
Why? They were overcome by love.
As a mama of five daughters, I'm hit hard by the depth of God's love to offer His Son in our place. It seems impossible for me to even think about giving up my children for the sake of someone else. Let alone sacrificing my own life!
Yet out of unfathomable love, God sent Jesus to death on a cross to pay our debt of sin. By this sacrifice, Jesus secured eternal life for those who surrender their lives to Him. That truth makes my heart overcome by love!
When we're overcome by love for God, the way we show that will look different for everyone. For some, it's quietly praising the Lord in their hearts. For others, it is worshipping at the top of their lungs or dancing in the aisles.
However you express your praise to God, take a moment to reflect on all the Lord has done in your life and give thanks for His overcoming love. You may just find your toes tapping and your feet moving!
Lord, thank You for sacrificing everything for me, for sending Your only Son to die on a cross for my sins. Thank You for loving me and offering me eternal life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: Today is Good Friday. As you consider what God has done for you, what can you sacrifice to show your love for Him? Time visiting the lonely? Clothes to give to the less fortunate? Food to share with the hungry? Determine today what you will give and put a plan in place to follow through.
Are you so overcome by God's love that you are willing to tell others about it, even if you're self-conscious?
Power Verses: 1 John 4:10, "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (ESV)
1 John 3:16a, "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us." (NIV)
*Nothing but the Blood written by Robert Lowry, 1876.
© 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org
"If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over." Matthew 18:15
Christians tend to skirt conflict. Some perceive it as unspiritual, however Jesus teaches it is spiritual. Healthy conflict is necessary for relational and spiritual growth. It is required to keep clean accounts with others and stay focused on Kingdom priorities. Conflict resolution can be uncomfortable, but if ignored, it can become ugly, even explosive.
There are two roles in the beginning stages of conflict resolution. One role is the confronter—the other is the receiver. If you are the confronter, it is critical to communicate the facts of the situation. If you are loose with the truth and cavalier in your confrontation, the situation will worsen—so have the details documented and verified.
The second critical aspect of the confronter is the spirit of the conversation. Do not inflict an accusatory tone in your voice. You are there in a spirit of reconciliation and healing. Avoid a condescending attitude, as you are a potential candidate for the same concerns you are bringing to your friend. It is with a spirit of humility and grace that you confront.
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
You speak the truth in love. The receiver on the other hand needs to beware of defensiveness, denial and defiance. When confronted, the receiver needs to listen carefully and not interrupt with petty excuses. After hearing out the accuser, the receiver can correct any misconceptions and inaccuracies with a mature and level headed spirit.
In most cases, the receiver of correction needs to apologize. Nine out of ten times a sincere apology from the one receiving the rebuke remedies the situation. On the other hand, a combative environment will just escalate the debate into a stalemate. It is better to lose an argument and win a relationship. Treat each other as God does and everyone wins.
If there is not a private resolution, then there is the option of mediation. Mediation can involve one or two additional people. If two more are invited, it is an effective practice for each party to select one person each who is respected by all. Everyone one should agree that the conclusion of the mediator(s) is the final word.
To engage with another is to care. To ignore and even gossip about another is betrayal. The mature follower of Christ seeks to lovingly warn others of the consequences of unwise decisions. When you take the time to confront another you could save them from embarrassment and humiliation. Grace gives an opportunity for change. Praise God for those who have done the same for us. We need each other. Confronting now, precludes confrontation later. Diffuse the conflict bomb now and avoid an explosion of egos later.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (Proverbs 27:6).
Prayer: Whom do I need to lovingly confront over a concern, because I care for them?
Related Readings: Genesis 21:25; Job 6:24; Mark 8:33; Galatians 2:11-13
Post/Tweet today: It is better to lose an argument and win a relationship. #wisdomhunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry firstname.lastname@example.org /www.wisdomhunters.com
Western North Carolina September 1787
To Jesse Bird’s reckoning, any man charged with driving forty head of Overmountain cattle to market best have three things in his possession—a primed rifle, a steady horse, and a heap of staying power. Jesse had the first two, one balanced across his thighs; the other tired, fly bitten, and dusty between them. As for staying power…with miles to go before he’d be shed of those forty beeves, he was making a studied effort to let patience have its perfect work in him.
Looking back across their brown and brindled ranks, he spotted Cade and the packhorses rounding a bend in the river trace, where sunlight still speared the hazy air in moted streaks of gold. Riding behind the drove at the mercy of its dust, Cade had a kerchief tied across his mouth and nose, hat pulled low to shield his eyes. Though Jesse hadn’t ridden rear guard since midday, the choke of that same dust gritted his throat. Grime coated the foot drovers too, spread out through the summerfattened herd, armed with rifles and staves, eyes darting glances at the crowding wooded slopes.
Grasshoppers whirred beside the trace, leaping clear of trampling hooves that crackled the weeds. The sun hung to westward, its warmth fading, leaving rivulets of sweat drying on Jesse’s neck, sticking his shirt where the straps of bullet-bag and knapsack crossed. He was thinking they’d reach their next camp a nip ahead of dark, with time to pen the cattle before swimming the dust off his hide, when something with the force of a slung stone clipped his hat brim. Thinking a deer fly had marked him for a meal, he reached for the hat, meaning to swat the pest. The hat was gone clean off his head. It dangled from a nearby tulip poplar, pinned by a feathered arrow.
Jesse gave a whoop, then was out of the saddle and ducking behind a clump of rhododendron, putting his horse crosswise between himself and the beeves. From across the river came a spotty rain of arrows, pinging off rocks, thunking into trees along the bank. The drovers ducked behind the cattle on the hill-slope side of the trace, rifles shouldered.
Jesse’s mind raced. Was it Creeks or Chickamaugas? Either held an everlasting grudge against the Overmountain settlers. Hang it all, it could be Shawnees. With a wordless prayer that it wasn’t, Jesse aimed his rifle at a tawny flash across the river and fired. Powder smoke plumed out white from the barrel. On the tail edge of the report, he heard Cade’s war whoop. An answering ululation came shrill and defiant from across the water, raising the hairs on Jesse’s arms.
The cattle milled and bunched, kicking up a dust blind. One took an arrow in the flank and went down in the middle of the trace, bawling in pain but thwarting the bulk of the herd’s bolting.
Rifle shot cracked. Powder smoke hung on both sides of the river now, sharp and sulfurous. For the moment they had the water for a buffer. The attacking warriors wouldn’t risk exposing themselves to cross unless sure of taking them down. Surprise was a weapon spent.
A brindled cow broke from the jostling herd. It plunged down the riverbank and crumpled in the shallows, shot through the neck. The front of the herd not blocked by the downed cow pressed up against the hillside and then shifted in Jesse’s direction, threatening to stampede off down the trace. More broke for the river. Busy reloading, Jesse could do little but pray his horse stood its ground.
A musket ball ripped through rhody leaves near his head. Back down the trace Cade’s rifle fired. A warrior across the river fell through brush, lay thrashing, and was dragged back into cover. Another such loss and the warriors would likely break and run. If they could hold them off a few more seconds…
New voices shattered a lull in the firing. Tremolo cries like the warble of crazed turkey cocks sounded up the slope behind them.
Fear jarred through Jesse. Faster than thought, he yanked free his belt ax and whirled to throw it—and almost too late recognized the two Cherokee warriors. He shouted to the drovers to stop them firing on the blueshirted figures leaping down the rocky slope, dodging frightened cattle.
The Cherokees took cover on the bank, both with rifles, and commenced to putting them to use.
Jesse blazed a grin of welcome at the younger of the two now at his side, rammed patch and ball to powder, and fired across the river. A final arrow sailed over the cattle’s backs. Then stillness fell, with smoke and dust drifting high on the river breeze.
The drovers moved among the beeves, soothing them with staves and words, settling their own nerves with rapid glances toward the river. The warriors had melted back into the forest, taking their wounded with them. It had been a hunting party, taking their chances on an unplanned raid. If it had been a tracking party out for scalps, there were far better spots to stage an ambush along their steep and winding route from Sycamore Shoals. A second attempt was unlikely. Jesse knew the thinking of such men as well as he did his own.
After sliding his rifle into its saddle sling, he mounted and wheeled his horse after the few cows that had bolted up the trace. By the time Jesse had them headed back, Cade had sorted the herd and ridden up through their ranks, leading the packhorses. His gaze raked Jesse head to heel, relief deepening the creases beside his eyes. He took in the cow with the arrow in its flank, then the dead one reddening the river shallows, and yanked down his kerchief to show a mouth narrowed in regret. “That dead one looks like Tate’s.”
“’Fraid so,” Jesse said. It was always a risk, pushing beeves down the mountains under the noses of Chickamauga warriors eager to cripple the Watauga settlers who depended on the sale of their stock. Jesse and Cade had hired on for this drove each September since the war with the British ended, tracing the Watauga River east to its mountain headwaters, then down to the Catawba River and the Carolina piedmont. The beeves were bound for the market cow pens, Jesse and Cade for Morganton to barter furs and hides for supplies and then hire on as guides for any settlers heading back Overmountain before snow fell.
“We’d have lost more’n cows had these wild turkeys not flushed from hiding.” Jesse nodded at the late arrivals to the fray, both Overhill Cherokees. While the drovers cast half-wary looks at the two, Cade and Jesse slid off their horses to greet them.
“Friends of yours, Cade?” asked the white drover, owner of ten head of cattle and the two slaves helping drive them.
“Yours too, I’d say.” Cade looped his mare’s reins around a sapling and grasped the arm of the elder Indian, a stocky man with gray threading the hair flowing from under his turban. “Whatever brings you across our path, brothers, you’ve our thanks.”
Despite Cade’s half-breed Delaware blood, little distinguished his looks from the men he greeted, save that his black hair was tailed back, not plucked to a scalp-lock, as was the younger Cherokee’s. Cade’s hat brim, pinned with a hawk’s feather, shaded eyes one expected to be as dark as the battered felt but were instead as golden brown as Jesse’s—nothing to remark upon for a man of Jesse’s coloring. In Cade’s tawny face, they often drew a second look.
“Thunder-Going-Away,” Cade said, naming the elder Cherokee first, by way of introduction. “And Catches Bears, his son.”
The drover gave a wary nod. “Elijah Rhodes.”
“Jabez and Billy,” Jesse added, with a nod at Rhodes’s slaves. Billy, fourteen and on his first drive, was shaking in the wake of the attack—with excitement as much from shock, Jesse thought. “Think one them Injuns was Dragging Canoe? Them bad Injuns, I mean,” Billy added with a sidelong look at the Cherokees.
“Doubt it.” Jesse grinned at the boy, who’d prattled on about the infamous Chickamauga war chief since starting from Sycamore Shoals.
“Dragging Canoe would’ve crossed right over that river and lifted our scalps. Ain’t you heard? He can swim like a fish and fly like a raven.” The boy’s eyes whitened around the rims.
Jabez, an old hand at droving, slapped Billy’s back, raising dust. “He pulling yo’ leg, boy. Canoe ain’t no demon-bird. Just a man like me and you.”
“Huh,” Billy said, looking unconvinced.
Cade was eying Thunder-Going, a question in his eyes. “You’re a long way from Chota.”
Thunder-Going raised his chin, nodding back toward the northwest. “Tate Allard said we missed you by three sleeps. We trailed you.”
“Not hard to do,” Bears said, nostrils flaring wide, “with the stink these cows leave.”
Thunder-Going hid a smile in the lines carved beside his mouth. “We meant to catch you coming back from Morganton, to invite you to a feast. My daughter is to join blankets with a husband.”
“White Shell? ’Bout time.” Three pairs of eyes turned to Jesse when he spoke. The Cherokees and even Cade were looking at him as if he ought to say more on the matter. “What?”
Bears snorted. “You see? He does not know.”
Jesse frowned. “What don’t I know?”
“My sister wanted you,” Bears said. “But you had no eyes to see her, so she chose one who does.”
“My daughter was not the one for you,” Thunder-Going said and shrugged away what looked to Jesse like mild disappointment. Then the Cherokee inquired of Cade, though he still eyed Jesse, “Is it to be Allard’s girl, who follows this one like a puppy?”
Jesse cut in before Cade could answer that. “I have not found the one. I will know when I have, and maybe then I will tell you about it.” They’d fallen into Tsalagi, the Cherokee tongue. Switching to English, he said, “Oughtn’t we to be pushing on?”
Rhodes was in agreement. “How far to the next camp?”
“Mile or two,” Cade said. “Have to tend the downed cows first.”
Bears and his father exchanged a look. Thunder-Going said, “You go on with the herd. We will skin out the dead one. Better the hide than nothing, eh? For a share of the meat, we will bring that along as well. As much as we can carry.”
The plan agreed to, Jesse mounted up. Behind him Cade said, “Where’s your hat got to, Jesse?”
It still hung from the poplar, neat as on a cabin wall. Cade reached it first. He wrenched out the arrow, his face gone a shade like greened copper. In his eyes a heap of words clamored to be said, but he handed Jesse the hat and went to deal with the wounded cow on the trace. Fingering the hole in the hat’s brim, Jesse watched Cade snap the arrow nearer the wound, leaving enough to grasp. Cade urged the cow to its feet. If the cow made camp, he would take the arrow out there.
Thunder-Going descended the bank toward the cow lying dead at the river’s edge. With a wolfish grin, Bears drew the hunting knife from his belt. “If the other cow does not make it, leave it lying. We will see to it as well. Then you can tell Allard and the rest you got every one of their stinking cowhides to market.”
Excerpted from The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn by Lori Benton Copyright © 2014 by Lori Benton. 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.
"'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'" Matthew 15:8-9 (NIV)
God wants us to have a relationship with Him. But what does this really mean?
A few years ago, I met a woman at a conference where I was speaking. I didn't know many details about her life, but I did learn she'd been going to church for a long time.
And she'd been serving, giving and doing all the right church stuff.
But something was missing.
"I never could quite put my finger on it until I heard your message," she whispered. "I never knew what it really meant to have a relationship with Jesus. But hearing you explain it, something clicked. I walked forward today. I gave my heart to Jesus."
I wondered, What part of that day caused the profound click in her soul?
Of course, it was the Holy Spirit moving ... somehow in the midst of my sharing the broken places of my life, things came together in hers.
It got me thinking about us doing life together here through this daily devotion. Each day, we spend a few minutes together over the Internet learning how to navigate life as Jesus' girls. But all that talk is for nothing if our hearts stay far away from Jesus.
It's not about momentary motivation to make it through today.
It's not about spiffy quotes to ponder and put into practice.
It's not about relationship tactics and turnkey solutions.
It's not about bite-size pieces of peace to make life a little more manageable.
It's not about making our lives look and feel a little better.
It has to be about Jesus. And drawing our hearts into His reality. His grace. His love. His hope. His forgiveness. And most of all, the free gift of salvation because of Him.
Have you ever felt like you couldn't put your finger on what was missing? Maybe you bounce from one religious activity to the next, but your heart feels far from God? Oh, sweet sister, can we chat?
God doesn't want us to have a religion. A religion is where we follow rules hoping to do life right, and serve God out of duty because we think we have to.
God wants us to have a relationship. A relationship where we follow Him. A relationship where we serve God not out of duty, but out of delight because we've realized who we are in Him. A relationship where our obedience is born out of love.
For years, I went to church to get a little "God goodness" in my life. But it was like putting fresh paint on rotting wood. I was living just like those talked about in Matthew 15:8-9, "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'"
I realized I didn't need to be just following the rules ... I needed to be following Jesus. God Himself.
I didn't need a little "God goodness" to rub off on me ... I needed God to invade the deepest parts in me.
So, I knelt down in the midst of my messy, chaotic, confused life and started a relationship with Him by simply saying, "Yes."
Yes, I am a sinner in need of a Savior.
Yes, I acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Son of God, sent to die on a cross and resurrected on the third day to save me from my sins.
Yes, I want Jesus to be the Lord and Master of my life.
Yes, I am now and forever will be a forgiven and saved child of the Almighty God.
Yes, I will follow Jesus today, tomorrow and every other day I'm blessed with life on this earth.
Let me quiet the voice of Satan screaming to resist this process. He wants to trip us up by whispering how we won't be able to live this out perfectly. Jesus has never ever asked us to be perfect. He simply wants us perfectly surrendered. I often pray, "Oh Jesus, I am such a mess, but I am Yours. Show me ... help me ... forgive me ... reassure me ... and pour Your tender mercy upon me."
And He does.
And He always will.
My imperfections are safely resting in the reality of His perfection.
And I simply press on by continuing to say yes moment by imperfect moment ... day by imperfect day.
Dear Lord, I am such a mess, but I am Yours. Show me ... help me ... forgive me ... reassure me ... and pour Your tender mercy upon me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond: In this devotion, Lysa said, "So, I knelt down in the midst of my messy, chaotic, confused life and started a relationship with Him by simply saying, 'Yes.'"
Think of simple ways you can say yes to God today. How would that look? What would change in how you live your life?
Power Verse: Psalm 53:2, "God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God." (NIV)
© 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org
“Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart.'” Matthew 22:37a
Emotionally love God for faith has feelings: feelings of gratitude for God’s grace, feelings of joy for friendship with Jesus, and feelings of hope for a heavenly home. Emotions are meant to engage eternity, not be wed to the world. Worry can wreck a life if a heart is consumed with what it can’t control—so trust Jesus with your feelings.
Because the heart is the seat of emotions, we are wise to guard our hearts. Wisdom appoints the sentinels of grace and truth to protect feelings by grounding them in faith. Pride makes promises to your heart it cannot keep. For example, it may capture your emotions with selfish-ambition, only to ruin relationships. Humility on the other hand, handles your heart with tender care. It leads it into unselfish service and true fulfillment.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23).
We can trust our feelings with the object of our love - Jesus. Our heavenly Father wants to hear our heart - when it breaks under the weight of worry - or when it explodes in joy.
Love for the Lord is more than a mental exchange of information and learning - it is a heart engagement that feels affection for Almighty God. Faith feels what God feels.
Truth transforms how we feel: what breaks the heart of God breaks our heart. Lost sinners break our heart - injustice breaks our heart - murdering the innocent breaks our heart - starvation and disease breaks our heart. Also, what brings Jesus joy brings us joy: love, faith, forgiveness, hope, trust, service and generosity all bring a smile to His face.
“The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (John 16:27).
Indeed, a heart moved by God is moved to action. You are faithful to the Lord and His priorities when your emotions feel His pain and celebrate His pleasures. It is not enough to just feel good, sense empathy or experience guilt - true love expresses itself in action. Your heart-felt love for your heavenly Father moves you to write a generous check, roll up your sleeves to serve, intentionally forgive and earnestly pray for others.
Release your emotions to Christ and He will channel your energy into productive activity. Emotionally love the Lord and He will empower you for eternity’s agenda. Lovers of God are known by God and are able to radically receive His love and give it liberally.
“Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3).
Prayer: How can I love the Lord, so I am able to express my positive and negative feelings?
Related Readings: Joshua 22:5; Proverbs 24:12; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Philippians 4:7
Post/Tweet today: A heart moved by God is moved to action. #wisdomunters
© 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry email@example.com /www.wisdomhunters.com
The girl with the haunted eyes reentered his life on the other side of a lowering casket, humidity and the shrill song of cicadas tangling together in the South Carolina heat. Aunt Marilyn pressed trembling fingers against her lips and swayed as if the wet ground had risen up and pitched her forward. Davis Knight tightened his grip beneath his aunt’s elbow and looked away from her pain. That’s when he saw her—standing like a statue, her waif-like form shrouded in grief.
Ivy Clark. All grown up.
A distant rumble of thunder rolled across the blackened sky, leftover remnants from a tropical storm. A raindrop brushed his ear; another grazed the tip of his nose. Pastor Voss bowed his head. So did everyone else, including Ivy. A slight breeze ruffled wisps of hair around her downturned face and fluttered the butterfly sleeves of her dress. The last time he’d seen her in the flesh, he had just returned to Greenbrier for a short summer stint after completing his freshman year at NYU. Ivy had been twelve going on fifty. Tall and gangly with eyes too large for her face—twin souls the color of honey, staring and deep as if she saw and understood every sadness in the world.
Then she had disappeared, and so did he, in a way. A few years later he began following her career because it was in his interest to follow it, but even with all professional motives stripped bare, he would have followed it anyway.
Pinpricks of sweat beaded along Davis’s temples. His sister, Sara, wrapped her arm around his and squeezed. Pastor Voss’s prayer ended in time for Ivy Clark to look up and catch him staring. Familiar territory to her, no doubt, given her career. Not so familiar to him.
He would have looked away, but her awareness of his attention triggered an intriguing metamorphosis. It seemed her eyes had learned some tricks over the years. Like how to bat in just the right way. How to dance in invitation. How to swallow the grief that had wrapped around her shoulders moments ago, when she thought nobody watched. She smiled a smile Davis knew well, one he’d seen hundreds of times on a hundred beautiful faces—the type of smile that had lost its allure two years ago.
He glanced down at the grass—thick green blades framing his black loafers—and patted his sister’s hand, his own personal reminder of why a woman like Ivy Clark could not be a part of his life. Ivy belonged to a world that took and took and took so subtly and connivingly that a person didn’t notice until there was nothing left to give. It was a world he never wanted to be a part of again.
Still, he looked one more time. Ivy stared back, a smirk on her face.
“Now’s not the time to talk about this, Ivy.” Bruce strode through the long grass toward a line of cars parked along the brick path, texting a message into his phone.
The drops of rain turned into a mist that settled over Ivy’s arms, cooling her skin. If only the drizzle could quench her fear. Who was he texting? She lengthened her stride, trailing him like a long evening shadow. “You’re the one doing business.”
“How do you know it’s business?” He dug into his pocket, pulled out his keys, and clicked the button on the remote to unlock the car doors. Two short beeps interrupted a chorus of chirping birds hiding somewhere in the Spanish moss that dripped from gnarled tree limbs overhead.
Ivy rolled her eyes. Only Bruce would lock his car inside a cemetery in Greenbrier, South Carolina. “This isn’t New York City.” The two places existed on opposite poles. “I don’t think any burglars are prowling around waiting to break into your car.”
He stopped in front of the black Lexus with rental plates.
She stopped too. “I need to know, Bruce. It’s my future we’re talking about here.”
“If you were so concerned, you should have kept your mouth shut.”
“I made one lousy suggestion. You’re telling me O’Banion’s getting bent out of shape because of one small—”
“It’s not your job to make suggestions, especially not to a photographer like Miles O’Banion.”
Ivy’s stomach knotted. What would happen if that one slip cost her two years of security? Her twenty-fifth birthday crept closer each day. As hard as she tried, she wasn’t getting any younger and people were starting to notice. If she wanted to continue modeling, she needed that contract. Bruce ran his hand down his face. “It’s your job to keep your mouth closed and work for the camera. That’s what you get paid for. Nobody cares about your opinions.”
“So I’ve been told.”
“Then why didn’t you listen?”
A small group of women dressed in black stopped conversing. Bruce painted on a smile and gave them a polite wave. He leaned close to Ivy and spoke from the corner of his mouth, his smile unwavering. “We’re not talking about this here. Let’s show a little respect.”
Her muscles coiled. Respect? James didn’t deserve her respect. She didn’t care how touching the eulogy, how beautiful the flowers, or how crowded the funeral. Why should she care about losing a man who never wanted her in the first place? Why should his unspoken I love you echo in her mind? She refused to pretend her father’s death had any bearing on her life. Because it didn’t. She wouldn’t let it. She gathered her mounting anger and stuffed it in the empty place inside her chest.
Bruce opened the passenger-side door. “Get in the car.”
She folded her arms. “If you know something, as my agent, you have no right to keep it from me.”
“I don’t know anything. And when I find out, we can discuss it back in New York.”
“Why did Annalise tell me I lost the contract?”
“Because Annalise feeds off gossip, or haven’t you figured that out yet?”
Despite the stagnant heat, a chill crept across Ivy’s skin. As her friend, Annalise wouldn’t have pulled this out of thin air. It had to have some substance. She gripped her elbows, as if the harder her fingers dug into flesh, the less any of this would matter. “Gossip always starts with a seed of truth.”
“Look, either get in the car or I’m leaving you here. Your choice.”
Ivy looked over her shoulder at the rows of polished tombstones. Her throat tightened. She hugged her arms and stepped closer to the car. “I want to go to the airport.”
“We’re going to the luncheon.”
“He was my brother and your father. We’re not leaving now.”
“He was hardly my father.” The emptiness expanded, carving her out like a pumpkin-turned-jack-o-lantern. She was nothing but a shell. A beautiful, empty shell.
An SUV pulled out from behind them. An engine rumbled in front. Except for a few stragglers in the distance lingering over her father’s grave, the cemetery cleared.
Bruce drummed his fingers on the top of the car.
“I’m not going to sit in that house, eat cucumber sandwiches, and pretend to care that he’s gone.”
“You don’t have a choice.” Bruce opened the door wider.
Her shoulders sagged. Ivy slid into the passenger side, pulled the seat belt across her body, snapped it into place, and stared straight ahead. Why had she said anything to O’Banion? So what if he wanted to keep her in the same overdone pose? She shouldn’t have said a word. If there was one mistake to avoid in her world, it was wounding the pride of a notoriously prideful photographer.
Bruce’s door opened. He got inside and set his phone in the cup holder. As soon as he started the ignition, the phone vibrated, rattling loose change in the console. He swept up the device and held it against his ear. “Bruce Olsen.”
Nothing but the unintelligible chatter of a female voice from the other end.
A muscle pulsed in Bruce’s jaw. He scratched his chin and looked out the window, hiding his expression. “I’ll be back tomorrow. Could we meet then and talk this over?” He clicked his seat belt into place and nodded. Another long pause. More unintelligible chatter. A sigh from her uncle. “I understand. Thanks for getting back to me.”
He hit the End button and started the car.
Ivy pressed her fingers against her sweat-dampened palms.
Bruce pulled out onto the brick street and steered toward the iron gate. “It seems Ms. Reynolds wants a fresh face for her cosmetic line.” He flipped on the radio. Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” blasted Ivy’s ears. “Sorry, kid. They’re not renewing your contract.”
Excerpted from A Broken Kind of Beautiful by Katie Ganshert Copyright © 2014 by Katie Ganshert. 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.