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  • In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day from Mark Batterson

    Posted on March 7, 2014 by Family Christian

    Mark

    Locking Eyes with Your Lion

    You are responsible forever for what you have tamed.
    --Antoinede Saint-Exubery

    There is an obscure passage in Scripture that I doubt any Sunday school teacher has ever assigned as a memory
    verse. It wasn’t exegeted in any of the systematic theology classes I took in seminary. It has absolutely no bearing on any major biblical doctrines. You may have read it a few times in a one-year Bible, but it probably didn’t even make a blip on your radar screen.

    Buried in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, the twenty-third chapter, the twentieth and twenty-first verses,
    is one of the most inconceivable and inspirational passages in Scripture:

    There was also Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant warrior from Kabzeel. He did many heroic deeds, which included killing two of Moab’s mightiest warriors. Another time he chased a lion down into a pit. Then, despite the snow and slippery ground, he caught the lion and killed it. Another time, armed only with a club, he killed a great Egyptian warrior who was armed with a spear. Benaiah wrenched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with it.

    It’s easy to read verses like this in the comfortable confines of your home or office and totally miss the monumental acts of courage displayed by Benaiah. Have you ever met anyone or heard of anyone chasing a lion? Sure, Barnum & Bailey have lion tamers. But lion chasers? Benaiah didn’t have a hunting rifle or Land Rover. And this was no game-park safari.

    Scripture doesn’t tell us what Benaiah was doing or where he was going when he encountered this lion. We don’t know the time of day or Benaiah’s frame of mind. But Scripture does reveal his gut reaction. And it was gutsy. It ranks as one of the most improbable reactions recorded in Scripture. Usually, when the image of a man-eating beast travels through the optical nerve and registers in the visual cortex, the brain has one over-arching message: Run away.

    Normal people run away from lions. They run as far and as fast as they possibly can. But lion chasers are wired differently.

    For the vast majority of us, the only lions we’ve ever encountered were stuffed or caged. And few of us have experienced hand-to-hand combat that forced us to fight for our lives. But try to put yourself in Benaiah’s snow shoes.

    Out of the corner of his eye, Benaiah sees something crawling. I don’t know how far away the lion is—and their vision is probably obscured by falling snow and frozen breath—but there is a moment when Benaiah and the lion lock eyes. Pupils dilate. Muscles tense. Adrenaline rushes.

    What a Hollywood moment.

    Imagine watching it on the movie screen with THX surround sound. Your knuckles turn white as you grip the theater seat. Blood pressure escalates. And the entire audience anticipates what will happen next. Lion encounters tend to script the same way. Man runs away like a scaredy-cat. Lion gives chase. And king of the beasts eats manwich for lunch.

    But not this time! Almost as improbable as falling up or the second hand on your watch moving counterclockwise, the lion turns tail and Benaiah gives chase.

    The camera films the chase at ground level.

    Lions can run up to thirty-five miles per hour and leap thirty feet in a single bound. Benaiah doesn’t stand a chance, but that doesn’t keep him from giving chase. Then the lion makes one critical misstep. The ground gives away beneath his five-hundred-pound frame, and he falls down a steep embankment into a snow-laden pit. For what it’s worth, I’m sure the lion landed on his feet. Lions are part of the cat genus, after all.

    No one is eating popcorn at this point. Eyes are fixed on the screen. It’s the moment of truth as Benaiah approaches the pit. Almost like walking on thin ice, Benaiah measures every step. He inches up to the edge and peers into the pit. Menacing yellow eyes stare back. The entire audience is thinking the same thing: Don’t even think about it.

    Have you ever had one of those moments where you do something crazy and ask yourself in retrospect: What was I thinking? This had to be one of those moments for Benaiah. Who in their right mind chases lions? But Benaiah now has a moment to collect his thoughts, regain his sanity, and get a grip on reality. And the reality is this: Normal people don’t chase lions.

    So Benaiah turns around and walks away. The audience breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Benaiah isn’t walking away. He’s getting a running start. There is an audible gasp from the audience as Benaiah runs at the pit and takes a flying leap of faith.

    The camera pans out.

    You see two sets of tracks leading up to the pit’s edge. One set of foot prints. One set of paw prints. Benaiah and the lion disappear into the recesses of the pit. The view is obscured to keep it PG-13. And for a few critical moments, the audience is left with just the THX sound track. A deafening roar echoes in the cavernous pit. A bloodcurdling battle cry pierces the soul.

    Then dead silence.

    Freeze-frame.

    Everybody in the theater expects to see a lion shake its mane and strut out of the pit. But after a few agonizing moments of suspense, the shadow of a human form appears as Benaiah climbs out of the pit. The blood from his wounds drips on the freshly fallen snow. Claw marks crisscross his face and spear arm. But Benaiah wins one of the most improbable victories recorded in the pages of Scripture.

    A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    Right at the outset, let me share one of my core convictions: God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place at the right time. A sense of destiny is our birthright as followers of Christ. God is awfully good at getting us where He wants us to go. But here’s the catch: The right place often seems like the wrong place, and the right time often seems like the wrong time.

    Can I understate the obvious?

    Encountering a lion in the wild is typically a bad thing. A really bad thing! Finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day generally qualifies as a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. That combination of circumstances usually spells one thing: death. I don't think anyone would have bet on Benaiah winning this fight—probably not even the riskiest of gamblers. He had to be at least a one-hundred-to-one underdog. And the snowy conditions on game day didn’t help his chances.

    Scripture doesn’t give us a blow-by-blow description of what happened in that pit. All we know is that when the snow settled, the lion was dead and Benaiah was alive. There was one set of paw prints and two sets of footprints.

    Now fast-forward two verses and look at what happens in the next scene.

    2 Samuel 23:23 says: “And David put [Benaiah] in charge of his bodyguard.”

    I can’t think of too many places I’d rather not be than in a pit with a lion on a snowy day. Can you? Getting stuck in a pit with a lion on a snowy day isn’t on anybody’s wish list. It’s a death wish. But you’ve got to admit something: “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day” looks pretty impressive on your résumé if you’re applying for a bodyguard position with the King of Israel!

    You know what I’m saying?

    I can picture David flipping through a stack of résumés. “I majored in security at the University of Jerusalem.” Nope. “I did an internship with the Palace Guard.” Nada. “I worked for Brinks Armored Chariots.” Thanks but no thanks.

    Then David comes to the next résumé in the stack. “I killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.” David didn’t even check his references. That is the kind of person you want in charge of your bodyguard. Lion chasers make great bouncers.

    Now zoom out and look at the story through a wide-angled lens. Most people would have seen the lion as a five-hundred-pound problem, but not Benaiah. For most people, finding yourself in a pit with a lion on a snowy day would qualify as bad luck. But can you see how God turned what could have been considered a bad break into a big break? Benaiah lands a job interview with the King of Israel.

    I’m sure the bodyguard position was the last thing on his mind when he encountered the lion, but Benaiah wasn’t just chasing a lion. Benaiah was chasing a position in David’s administration.

    Here’s the point: God is in the résumé-building business. He is always using past experiences to prepare us for future opportunities. But those God-given opportunities often come disguised as maneating lions. And how we react when we encounter those lions will determine our destiny. We can cower in fear and run away from our greatest challenges. Or we can chase our God-ordained destiny by seizing the God-ordained opportunity.

    As I look back on my own life, I recognize this simple truth: The greatest opportunities were the scariest lions. Part of me has wanted to play it safe, but I’ve learned that taking no risks is the greatest risk of all.

    Giving up a full-ride scholarship at the University of Chicago to transfer to a small Bible college was a huge risk. Asking my wife, Lora, to marry me was a huge risk. (Of course, not as big a risk as Lora saying yes!) Packing all of our earthly belongings into a fifteen-foot U-haul and moving to Washington DC with no place to live and no guaranteed salary was a huge risk. Each of our three children was a huge risk. Jumping into a church plant with zero pastoral experience was a huge risk, both for me and for the church.

    But when I look in the rearview mirror, I realize that the biggest risks were the greatest opportunities. Some of those life-altering decisions caused sleepless nights. The steps of faith were accompanied by acute fear that caused nausea. We experienced some financial hardships that required miraculous provision. And we had to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off after falling flat on our faces a few times.

    But those were the moments that I came alive. Those were the moments when God set the stage. Those were the moments that changed the trajectory of my life.


    Excerpted from In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson Copyright © 2006 by Mark Batterson. 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.

  • Three Ways to be the Best Friend Ever

    Posted on March 7, 2014 by Micca Campbell

    Micca

    "Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself." 1 Samuel 18:1b (NIV)

    Growing up, my best friend knew everything about me. She knew which boy I liked, my favorite song and all my dreams. She knew my secrets too, like who kissed me at the skating rink. Friendships like that are rare, and these days I find myself longing for a friend like that.

    Making good friends in our constantly-moving society is getting harder. It's not that we don't want close relationships, but people come and go so fast it's difficult to establish long-lasting friendships.

    But it's more than that. Some of us have been hurt and betrayed so often we keep others at arm's length. Perhaps you had a close friend once who proved to have looser lips than you thought. Behind your back she spilled your secrets to others. You felt betrayed and rightly so. Now, you suffer from hurt, unforgiveness and distrust.

    While it's tempting to wish God would bring me a good friend, more often than not, He asks me to be a good friend to someone else first. That's when I need to go to Scripture for a reminder of what true friendship looks like.

    God knows the agony of broken relationships and our need for godly role models. That's why we're allowed to look into the lives of two biblical characters who succeeded at a long, intimate friendship. Their names are David and Jonathan.

    We find their story in 1 Samuel 18 and 19. Jonathan, son of King Saul, was David's closest friend. The king despised David because he was growing in popularity and because God had anointed David to be king — instead of Saul's own son. These facts enraged King Saul, and he commanded his aids and Jonathan to assassinate David. But because of Jonathan's love for his friend, he refused to betray David.

    Love isn't the only fruit of true friendship. It consists of sacrifice too.

    Jonathan is a picture of sacrifice. He removed his robe and gave it to David, along with his armor, sword, bow and belt. Jonathan was the potential heir to his father's throne, but we see him sacrificing his future as he gives David his place as king. We learn from Jonathan's action that true friendship means a willingness to sacrifice for each other. It's the choice to put another's needs, desires and wishes above our own.

    Loyalty is also a mark of true friendship.

    We're told that Jonathan went to his father and spoke well of David. He reminded the king that David had done nothing wrong. In fact, David had been loyal to Saul.

    Jonathan impresses me. It's tough to do the right thing and stand up to authority. We learn by his actions that a true friend is a loyal defense before others, and one who won't talk badly about you when you're not around. True friends stick up for each other and are ready to defend when others attack.

    Finally, true friends trust each enough to be themselves.

    When Jonathan told David that his father was out to kill him, the two were forced to say goodbye. The text in 1 Samuel 20:41 tells us that they "wept together." I love that.

    When your heart is broken, you can fall apart and a good friend understands. She won't try to correct you in your misery or tell you to straighten up. True friends let each other hurt. They weep together. They listen to fears. They don't bail; they stay. They allow you to be yourself — no matter what "self" looks like.

    God challenges me to be a better friend with the story of Jonathan and David. I check my heart to see if I'm loyal, loving, selfless and trustworthy, then I ask God to help me be that kind of friend and bless me with the same.

    A good friendship takes time. If things get rocky, don't walk out. Work it out. Give your relationship time to grow because a true friend is a rare and precious gift.

    Dear Lord, help me be a friend like Jonathan. And bless me with the same. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What kind of friend am I?

    What can I do this week to show loyalty, love, sacrifice and trust to a friend?

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 17:17, "A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • Disciples Are Made

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. John 1:39

    Disciples are made, not born. God makes them. God makes them for His glory. He makes them so they in turn will make disciples. The Lord makes disciples who serve the needy, feed the poor, and reach out to the rich. Disciples are trained by the Holy Spirit to follow the Spirit’s leading. They learn to make much of their master Jesus and make less of themselves. Disciples schooled by the Spirit bear the fruit of the Spirit. They are made to invite others to meet their Savior Jesus.

    Disciples begin as followers of Jesus at their new birth, but they quickly learn that to grow in Christ requires time with Christ. Unhurriedly they seek to be still at the feet of Jesus in prayer. They listen and learn from their Lord. Moreover, disciples of Jesus are not infatuated by gifted men and women of the faith. They respect and learn from these seasoned leaders, but only for the purpose of growing in their devotion to Jesus Christ. Disciples are made to follow God, not man. Like John the Baptist, humble and wise Christian leaders point people away from themselves to Jesus.

    “He [Jesus] must increase, but I [John] must decrease” (John 3:30, NKJV).

    Are you engaged in discipleship training? Are you intentional in your intimacy with Jesus? Start today to be a stronger disciple tomorrow. Aging is meant to mature a heart to become more like Christ. Similar to a good wine aging well, so a disciple’s faith grows robust in intentional intimacy with the Lord. Just as these two early disciples accepted Jesus’ invitation to come and see Him, Jesus invites us to come and see. Spend a day seeing your Savior’s heart and hearing His voice.

    Furthermore, invest time in those around you to grow in their faith. God makes disciples, but you can be a facilitator in their faith development. Perhaps you start a monthly book club with three or four like-minded friends. Read Christian classics like, A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God. Sign up for iDisciple: https://www.idisciple.org. Most of all, do life with a few equally committed individuals who love God and love people. Search the Scriptures together for God’s answers to life’s questions. Disciples are made by their Maker to grow with each other and remain faithful.

    “Strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith” (Acts 14:22).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, make me into a dedicated and loving disciple of Jesus so I can disciple others for You.

    Related Readings: Mathew 28:19; John 13:5, 35; Acts 6:7, 19:9, 20:1

    Post/Tweet today: God makes disciples, but we can be a facilitator in their faith development. #disciplesaremade

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • The God I Never Knew from Robert Morris

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Family Christian

    Robert

    The God I Never Knew, Chapter 1

    The knock at the door startled Irene Adkins. The seventy-nine-year-old great-grandmother wasn’t expecting any visitors. A cautious peek through the peephole revealed a well-dressed silver-haired gentleman with a kind face that struck her as vaguely familiar. It was something about the eyes and nose. As she opened the door, her certainty grew—the stranger definitely reminded her of someone. But who?

    It would take her a while to realize that the man’s face indeed bore an uncanny resemblance to one she knew better than any other—her own. Irene’s seventy-three-year-old brother, Terry, had come for a surprise visit. It was quite surprising because Irene never knew she had a brother. Back in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, a desperate and confused young English couple unhitched their tattered camper trailer on the side of the road and drove away. Police later found three small, hungry children inside. Irene, at ten months of age, was the youngest. The three were placed in separate foster homes and grew up unaware of the others’ existence. Meanwhile, the young couple eventually achieved some stability a few years later and had another child—their son, Terry.

    When Terry was fourteen, his parents revealed their shameful secret. They told him of the desperate straits in which they’d found themselves and of the wrenching decision to abandon the trio of hungry mouths they could not feed. Shortly thereafter Terry began a lifelong quest to find his siblings, especially the sister his parents had named Irene. He searched in vain for almost sixty years. Then came a breakthrough. He learned the name of the agency that had placed Irene and her siblings in foster homes.

    Not long thereafter came the day—April 3, 2010—when Irene Adkins discovered the wonderful brother she never knew. In the discovery the rootless orphan found a source of answers to questions she had carried around in her heart all her life.

    I believe I know how Irene felt. Several decades ago, after many years of struggling to live the Christian life and even working “successfully” in fulltime ministry, I finally discovered the God I never knew. And in the discovery I found not only the source of answers to every question I’ve ever had but a dear friend as well. One who has made my life richer, fuller, and more exciting than I ever dreamed possible. I am referring, of course, to God—the Holy Spirit.

    An Amazing Relationship

    I grew up in church. However, this church was part of a denomination that avoided mentioning the Holy Spirit whenever possible. Our denominational leaders treated Him a bit like the crazy uncle who shows up at Thanksgiving once every few years and horrifies everyone with his inappropriate behavior. You can’t help being related to this uncle, but you hope that if you don’t mention his name or send him a Christmas card, he will stay away.

    In fact, many years ago when I prepared to leave home to attend Bible college, my pastor had just one parting word of counsel for me. I had recently given my life to Christ, and I was burning with desire to serve Him. So I eagerly waited to hear what encouragement my pastor would deliver as I entered this season of learning and preparation for ministry. His only advice to me was, “Watch out for people who talk about the Holy Spirit.”

    At the time I didn’t know any better. So I simply nodded and filed his warning away in my mind. Now—after twenty-five years of discovering what a wonderful, kind, helpful, gentle, and wise person the Holy Spirit is; after developing an intimate friendship with Him that has made my life better and more fulfilling in countless ways; after watching the Holy Spirit help and bless people—I am grieved to think back on my pastor’s advice. To be honest, it offends me. Of course, most of us feel offended when someone thinks badly of a person we love and respect, especially when the opinion is based on lies or misunderstandings. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of hearing bad things about someone through a third party and forming a negative impression, only to meet that individual later and discover that he isn’t the bad person you envisioned at all. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably been misinformed about the Holy Spirit to some degree. After more than twenty-five years of experience in ministry, I’ve seen firsthand that most Christians hold a distorted, inaccurate, or incomplete view of the third member of the Trinity. In fact, many frustrated believers are just as Irene Adkins was for most of her life—utterly unaware that a loving and amazing person desires to know them and to fill their empty lives with good things. Too many have resigned themselves to perpetual defeat in their battles with temptation or to stumbling through life, making decisions with nothing more than their own flawed reason to guide them. Others live a dull, powerless brand of Christianity, completely at odds with the picture of the vibrant, overcoming, advancing church of the book of Acts.

    The dynamic, full life Jesus promised to believers is a natural outgrowth of intimate friendship with God, the Holy Spirit. Today I have an amazing relationship with the Holy Spirit, though that wasn’t always true. By the time we’re finished exploring this topic, you’ll realize what an amazing relationship you can have with Him too.

    Chapter 2: Who Is This Person?

    Helper

    Like a lot of newly married couples, Debbie and I didn’t have much at first. Even the possessions we could call our own were mostly hand-me-downs from our parents. Our financial situation improved after a couple of years of marriage, and one day Debbie asked if I was okay with her buying a new comforter. Our current bedcover was so faded and threadbare that you could practically read the newspaper through it. Being a typical guy, I thought we’d buy a plain bedspread. So when we went shopping, I was shocked to learn that the comforter Debbie had in mind might require taking out a second mortgage on the house. Of course, I’m exaggerating. But the big and soft and puffy and colorful comforter we purchased was much fancier and more beautiful than I could have imagined.

    Despite its cost, I was excited about our new acquisition. On the day we bought it, several times I caught myself imagining what it would feel like to slip beneath that soft comforter and be all toasty warm. At bedtime I walked into our room and, to my horror, the beautiful new comforter was gone. With my best exasperated yet perplexed voice, I asked Debbie, “Sweetie, where’s the new comforter?” She gave me that look. You know the one—the “you can’t seriously be that dense” look. The truth is, yes, we husbands really can be that dense!

    Realizing the level of my denseness in this moment, Debbie explained, “That new comforter isn’t for use. It’s for looks.” In the years since that night, we’ve accumulated many household items that I’ve discovered are for looks, not use. We have plates I’m not allowed to eat on and fancy goblets I can’t drink from. We have beautiful towels that you can use if you stay at our house, but I can’t. In fact, there are towels hanging in my bathroom right now that I’m not allowed to use.

    In the same way, millions of Christians have been given a comforter, but they treat Him as if He’s just for looks. If we think that way, we’re wrong. The wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit is meant to be so much more than an ornamental feature in our lives.

    Introducing a Helper

    Just who is the Holy Spirit? That’s a big question—one as big as God Himself. When you want to get to know someone new, often the first step is to be introduced by someone who already knows that person well. During His years of ministry on earth, Jesus knew the Holy Spirit better than any human ever had or has since. So perhaps the best place to learn about the Holy Spirit begins with Jesus and the words He used to introduce the Spirit to the disciples, as recorded in John 14.

    It’s helpful to know chapters 14–16 of John’s gospel contain a record of Jesus’s conversation with His disciples at the Last Supper. Jesus isn’t publicly teaching a large crowd of casual followers and curious gawkers on a Galilean hillside. He’s not debating the Pharisees or speaking cryptically in parables to the Sadducees. Instead, Jesus is in a small room, having dinner with His closest friends. He knows that in just twelve short hours, He will be put to death on the cross. In this unbelievably serious moment, a leader who knows He is about to be killed gives vital instructions and information to His followers.

    Jesus begins with words of comfort: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. I’m going away, but I will come back” (paraphrased). Then, in John 14:16–17, Jesus gets to the core of what He wants these men to understand: And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. Don’t get hung up on the fact that Jesus says, “I will pray the Father.” Using the word pray this way sounds a little odd to our modern ears. But the Greek word translated “pray” here is translated “ask” in many other parts of the New Testament. Jesus is simply saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper.” Note the word “Helper.” The person the Father will send sounds mysterious, but Jesus tells the disciples that the role and nature of this person is to “help.” Jesus also assures them that the Helper won’t be a complete stranger. “But you know Him,” Jesus says.

    How could they already know this coming helper? Jesus explains by saying, “For He dwells with you and will be in you.” The verb “dwells” is in the present tense, while the phrase “will be in you” is clearly future tense. At the moment Jesus was speaking, the disciples had experienced the Helper dwelling “with” them to a certain extent. But the Helper was about to be sent in a way that would make Him not only “with” them but “in” them.

    Although Jesus spoke these words to a small group of His closest friends and followers, they are also meant for us. The truth of the Holy Spirit’s living with and in us assures us that we never have to feel alone.

    How the Holy Spirit Helps

    What kind of “help” will the Holy Spirit provide? Jesus gives part of the answer in John 14:25–26: These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. This is the second time Jesus chooses the word “Helper” to describe the One the Father is sending. Here Jesus lists two of the many ways this person will be of help.

    First, “He will teach you all things.” What an incredible promise. There’s no subject in which God isn’t an expert. He has all the answers. The second way the Holy Spirit helps is by bringing “to your remembrance all things that I [Jesus] said to you.” This is one reason the Gospels are so detailed and in such agreement about the words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit helped the disciples remember everything Jesus said to them.

    Jesus Must Leave

    A little later in this conversation with the disciples, Jesus gives the third mention of the coming Helper being sent from the Father: But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. ( John 15:26)

    Notice that Jesus calls Him “the Spirit of truth.” Jesus presents the Holy Spirit to us as the ultimate answer to overcoming and undoing the work of Satan, the great Deceiver and “the father of lies” ( John 8:44, NIV). For thousands of years, since the fall of Adam and Eve, mankind had stumbled in the darkness of the devil’s lies. Then Jesus, who declared Himself to be “the way, the truth, and the life” ( John 14:6), announced He would soon be sending a helper who would make it possible to live a life free from deception.

    In John 16, Jesus gives the disciples His most thorough introduction to the Holy Spirit. “So wonderful is this One who will be sent,” Jesus tells them, “that it is a much better thing for you if I go away. Because if I don’t go, He can’t come!” That’s how I like to paraphrase it—here’s the actual translation: Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. ( John 16:7)

    The first thing that always strikes me when I read this passage is that Jesus feels compelled to say, “Now, I’m telling you the truth here.” He knows that the next words He speaks will truly seem unbelievable to the disciples. The disciples were grief stricken at the idea that Jesus would be going away from them. They loved Him. They depended on Him. He was their miracle working leader. How could it possibly be good that He is about to leave them? Jesus immediately explains that only if He goes to the Father can the Helper be sent.

    Jesus continues by explaining some more ways the Holy Spirit will provide help, and we’ll look at those in a moment. Right now, notice John 16:12–14. There, Jesus says, I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

    These verses contain an amazing promise. Jesus wants to tell the disciples the whole amazing story of what lies ahead, but He knows that the truths He wants to deliver would just overwhelm and confuse them at this moment. But He has good news for them. Who better to deliver important truths than the Spirit of truth? “When He…has come, He will guide you into all truth,” Jesus says. “All truth.” That’s quite a benefit of friendship with the Holy Spirit. No wonder Jesus refers to Him as the Helper. But Jesus mentions yet another form of help the Spirit will provide: “He will tell you things to come.” Let me put it a little differently. Jesus is saying, “The Holy Spirit will tell you the future.” Would it occasionally be helpful to know what’s around the corner? Have you ever been blindsided by some event and thought to yourself, If only I’d known this was coming, I’d have been better prepared?

    One of the elders at the church I pastor is a wonderful model for allowing the Holy Spirit to show us things to come. Steve built a large and successful business in the ultracompetitive construction industry, largely by regularly getting alone with God and allowing His Spirit to direct him where his business is concerned.

    In addition to having daily quiet times of Bible study, private worship, and prayer, Steve makes it a point to go away two or three times each year for several days at a time. He rents a cabin or lake house and takes little more than his Bible and a notebook. His testimony is that he invariably receives instruction from the Holy Spirit in these sessions of private communion about what lies ahead and how to lead his business accordingly. Steve can share instance after instance in which a seemingly counter intuitive instruction from the Holy Spirit resulted in a profitable breakthrough. Or in which a warning enabled him to avoid unnecessary losses or bad hiring decisions. Yes, a key role of the Holy Spirit is to lead us supernaturally into truth and reveal what lies ahead. No wonder Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Helper four times in three consecutive chapters! The promises in these passages are absolutely incredible. In each of these four instances, the Greek word translated “helper” is parakletos. The Greek word appears only five times in the entire New Testament, and we’ve just looked at four of them.

    When the typical first-century Greek speaker or writer used this word, he was talking about a person who pleads your case like a lawyer before a judge, or someone who goes before you to intercede with someone on your behalf. What an amazing way to think of who the Holy Spirit is and how He is our helper!

    The Bottom Line

    The key message about the Holy Spirit’s role is very simple: He helps me. He helps me know what to say when I’m speechless. He helps me know when to speak and when to keep my mouth closed. I’m sure you can think of situations where both kinds of help would be welcome. For example, a friend shares a serious problem and you have no idea what to say that will help or encourage her. Then a thought suddenly comes to mind, you speak it aloud, and the person says, “Wow, that’s exactly what I needed to hear!” That’s what the Holy Spirit can do—giving you the very words you need to say.

    Sometimes He tells you what not to say. Have you ever had that happen? Maybe you’ve been involved in a conversation with someone who got a little emotional. Just as you are about to throw out a really clever comeback, you have a little cautionary thought: I shouldn’t say that. Of course, the problem is that most of us say what we’re thinking anyway. Invariably, we end up concluding, I shouldn’t have said that! This happens a lot in marriage. Maybe you come home from work, and although you don’t know it at that moment, your spouse has had a tough day. You start to say something, and the Holy Spirit nudges you and whispers, I wouldn’t go there if I were you, My friend. Sometimes He adds, As a matter of fact, if I were you, I’d take her out to dinner. If you’re smart, you’ll listen and choose wisely in that moment. If you’re not so smart—like me sometimes—you’ll ignore that advice and speak your mind. I’ve learned to listen to that voice. I’ve discovered how wonderful it is to have a helper.

    You might be wondering if the Holy Spirit really speaks to us in such clear ways. The simple answer is yes. The truth is that most of us don’t have any trouble believing that God speaks to us. We just get frustrated because we don’t know exactly what He’s saying. Almost every one of us has a desire, even a desperation, to hear with confidence the voice of God. Who wants to stumble through life without the benefit of the clear direction and inward peace that comes from hearing God’s voice? The great news is that God doesn’t want that for us either.

    Hearing God’s voice is vital to breaking out of old comfort zones and into exciting new levels of effectiveness. Hearing God and responding to Him can take us to new places of intimacy and purpose in Him. Hearing God’s voice begins by recognizing which member of the Trinity is tasked with speaking to us in this season of history. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. The Father is on His throne. Jesus has been seated at His right hand and, according to Hebrews 10:12–13, will remain there “waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.” The Holy Spirit, however, is active and present and commissioned to interact with us on the earth today. As we’ve just seen, Jesus went away so the Spirit could come to us and live in us. He leads us into all truth, shows us things to come, reveals heavenly mysteries, and imparts vital direction.

    The main reason many people aren’t sure if they can really hear the voice of God is because they have refused to engage and embrace the member of the Trinity whose job it is to speak to them.

    Other Ways the Spirit Helps

    Let’s look at John 16:8–11. In these four verses Jesus gives additional detail about how the Holy Spirit helps us. In fact, He mentions three more key aspects to the Helper’s ministry. Let’s look at the whole passage and then analyze it one piece at a time:

    And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

    Conviction

    Jesus names three areas in which the Holy Spirit will “convict” the world: sin, righteousness, and judgment. What does Jesus mean by the word convict ? To our modern ears this word conjures up thoughts of a criminal prosecution. However, Jesus is talking about conviction in the sense of “belief ” or “persuasion.” Simply put, to convict means to convince. And in this role of helping, the Holy Spirit will convince the world of God’s truths concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. He will persuade people that certain things are true.

    In verse 9, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world “of sin, because they do not believe in Me.” We need to understand that when the Holy Spirit convicts lost people of sin—in other words, convinces them that sin is ruling their lives—that’s a good thing! This conviction is the only way people become aware that they need the Savior. The truth is that no one ever comes to believe in Jesus as Savior without first coming to the conviction that he or she needs the Savior. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

    I was saved in a shabby little motel room. Of course, you don’t have to be in church to be saved. After all, you’re probably not going to die in a funeral home. It’s convenient if you do, but it probably won’t happen. More than anything else, during that lifechanging moment in a run-down motel, I remember the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I’d been in church my whole life, but in that encounter I was completely and thoroughly convinced—to the very core of my being— that I was a sinner and needed Jesus. That conviction was the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and I am more grateful than words can express that He brought it to my life. Think about the hour you were saved. Do you remember the conviction, your overwhelming sense of need? That was the Holy Spirit leading you to Jesus! In fact, 1 Corinthians 12:3 says that “no one can declare that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

    Righteousness

    The Holy Spirit also convicts us of righteousness. Before we explore this particular ministry of the Holy Spirit, we need to have a clear understanding of what the word righteousness means. Contrary to common belief, righteousness doesn’t mean “right behavior.” Perhaps you’ve even heard someone with high moral standards referred to as “a righteous person.” Of course, it’s good to have high moral standards, but that’s not righteousness. Instead, righteousness means having a “right standing” with God. Please note that this verse doesn’t say the Holy Spirit will convict us of the need for righteous living. While a right standing with God will indeed lead to righteous living, that’s not the message in John 16:8–11. Rather, Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict the world of righteousness because, “I go to My Father.” The reason we can have a “right standing” before God is because Jesus ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand as an eternal reminder that our sins have been paid for (see Hebrews 10:8–14).

    When Jesus says the Holy Spirit will convict us of righteousness, He is referring to the fact that we all need to be convinced that righteousness exists—that it’s even possible to have a right standing with God. In addition, once we’re born again, the Holy Spirit’s role is to convince us that we have been made righteous through the blood of Jesus Christ. He helps by providing an inner confidence of the wonderful reality of 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For [God] made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Understanding that you have been made righteous is a wonderful gift. The Holy Spirit helps you become fully convinced that you have a right standing with God, and you can come to His throne with confidence and the full assurance that you are received, welcomed, and embraced by Him.

    Judgment

    Finally, the Holy Spirit was sent to convince the world of “judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” ( John 16:11). To understand this aspect of the Holy Spirit’s activity, we need to know who Jesus refers to as the “ruler of this world.” A number of Bible passages establish that He is talking about Satan. For example, in John 12:31, Jesus says, “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” In John 14:30, Jesus says, “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.”

    This is clearly the enemy Jesus is talking about. Satan was the ruler of the world, but he was judged two thousand years ago through Jesus’s sacrifice and subsequent victory over death, hell, and the grave. The Holy Spirit convicts us of this truth by convincing us that the former ruler of this world, Satan, has been judged and kicked out. He no longer has any authority in our lives. He’s an outlaw.

    A Proper Understanding

    It can be easy to misread and misunderstand the Holy Spirit’s role. We’ve just looked at how the Holy Spirit comes to convince us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. But many people interpret these verses to mean the Holy Spirit’s basic message is, “You’re a horrible person. God is mad at you. And He’s going to get you.”
    That’s not the Holy Spirit’s ministry at all! In fact, that is Satan’s role. The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). If you allow him, Satan will keep you feeling unworthy of God’s acceptance and unwelcome in His presence by reminding you of every time you’ve blown it. The Holy Spirit was sent to make us aware that we’re lost and in need of Jesus; to lead us to Him; then to persuade us that we are in right standing with God through Him; and, finally, to fill us with the conviction that Satan is a defeated enemy who no longer has any authority over us.

    When you open yourself to this ministry of the Holy Spirit, you’ll find that He helps you in every area of your Christian life. That makes sense, because the Holy Spirit is our helper. But that’s not all He is. He is also our friend, which we will explore next.

    From the Hardcover edition.


    Excerpted from The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris Copyright © 2011 by Robert Morris. 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.

  • New Releases Have Arrived

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Family Christian

    God’s Not Dead: The Motion Picture Soundtrack by Various Artists
    Hymns by Gaither Vocal Band
    Love Will Have the Final Word by Jason Gray
    Your kids will like these reads!
    Back Before Dark by Tim Shoemaker
    Whatever You Grow Up to Be by Karen Kingsbury
    $5 & 50% off Select Kids
    Be a voice for child sponsorship. Volunteer & learn more
  • New REMIXD Album from Capital Kings

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Family Christian


    After finishing the popular “Hits Deep Tour” with TobyMac, electronic-pop duo Capital Kings (Jon White and Cole Walowac) is gearing up for the release of their new project, REMIXD. REMIXD will compile several remixed tracks from their self-titled album, which released last year, as well as the brand new song “Be A King.” The album will be available exclusively at Family Christian beginning March 25.

    The remix project will also feature the winning track from Capital Kings’ U:REMIX campaign, which called for fans to take an original Capital Kings song and remix it as their own. Through an online contest, the winning contestant and remix ("I Feel So Alive [Matthew Parker U:Remix]") was chosen and will be featured on REMIXD.

    The dynamic remix masters continue to build on the momentum of their early success with recent remixes for Colton Dixon, Natalie Grant and Crowder while working on a brand new album. They also made waves at the 2014 Passion Conferences in Houston and Atlanta earlier this year, opening with a thrilling and energetic performance for over 20,000 students representing 1,200 universities and 33 countries. They kick-off the exclusive “Summer Shed Tour” with TobyMac, Skillet and Lecrae in May.

  • Don't Say You'll Pray for Me

    Posted on March 6, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Proverbs 25:11 (NIV 1984)

    I've been convicted about empty statements. These are words I say to make a conversation a little more comfortable in the moment. But do I really mean what I say?

    Empty statements can also be little promises that give a needed lift to someone. Yet without a plan to actually keep that promise, do I really intend to keep it?

    It's not that these statements are wrong, bad or ill-intentioned. But they are empty at best and potentially hurtful at worst. People in my life deserve better than that.

    I want to be a woman who exemplifies God's Word by keeping my word.

    The Bible is clear that our words matter; our words carry weight. Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." Our words can be gifts.

    But if we speak words with no follow-through, they can be hurtful. It's like holding out a gift but refusing to give it.

    Here are three empty statements I want to stop saying if I don't have a plan for follow-through:

    1. I'm praying for you.

    Obviously, I do want to pray for people. And sometimes when I say this, I have great follow-through. But other times I forget.

    A great intention doesn't make for a great prayer.

    So, I need to pray for that person right then and there, or I need to keep a journal in my purse to write down prayer requests.

    2. Let's get together sometime.

    Either I need to pull out my calendar and schedule time with someone or be honest about my current time constraints. The people-pleaser in me struggles with this.

    When people say this to me without any follow-through, it hurts. While I can't change what others say to me, I can make a heart policy to not do this to others.

    3. I'm good, how are you?

    Understandably, sometimes this is the right, polite statement to say when I'm quickly greeting someone. But I will also say this to others with whom I really should be more open and honest.

    I'm reluctant sometimes to let even close friends know needs bubbling below my "I'm good" statements.

    If I will be braver to open up, it will give my friends permission to do the same.

    So, there they are. My three empty statements and my convictions to do a better job of saying what I mean and meaning what I say.

    Let's commit to being women who keep our word. Right now. Today. Not only will it strengthen our friendships but it will make our relationship with the Lord more authentic as we live out His Word.

    Dear Lord, thank You for convicting me about using empty statements. My words can be powerful tools and I want to use them for Your purposes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Which one of the three empty statements resonates with you the most? (Keep a prayer journal in your purse, schedule a specific time to get together with someone or open up with how you're honestly feeling.)

    This week, make it a point to put action into place when using that statement.

    Power Verses:
    1 John 3:18a, "My dear children, let's not just talk about love; let's practice real love." (MSG)

    James 1:23-25, "Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

  • No More Guilt

    Posted on March 5, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29

    Before beholding and believing in Jesus as the Lamb of God, we were all guilty before the Lord. Guilt is the result of being born a human being. None of us escapes sin’s influence and control, until we come to know Christ. Regardless of our degree of unrighteousness, we still need a sinless Savior to lighten our darkened hearts. Our own efforts at eradicating sin are a picture of pouring a bottle of water into an active volcano; pointless. Only Jesus removes the guilt of our sin.

    Has guilt got the best of you? Have you confessed your sin, but still feel crummy? Yes, guilt can come and go, based on our trust in God to remove its residue. Like the discarded, scaly skin of a snake, guilt is the empty shell we left behind when we believed in Jesus. Just like God gave Abraham a lamb to sacrifice for his sins, the Lord has provided a sacrifice for our sins in His son Jesus. Therefore, we place our faith in our sin bearer Jesus Christ, for He frees us from sin’s guilt.

    “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

    Moreover, we will make mistakes after we make Christ our master and Lord. Mistakes in the way we address someone with our words--harsh or insensitive. Mistakes in sloppy money management causing marital conflict. Mistakes in overindulgence of food or drink creating health issues. But, the grace of God is what keeps us from flagellating our conscience with guilt. Christ gives second, third, and fourth chances. Thus, we give in to grace and give up on guilt.

    Furthermore, by God’s grace we let go of holding guilt over the head of someone who has hurt us. Since Jesus has forgiven them, we can forgive them. “I can never forgive them,” is not an option for a Spirit filled follower of Christ. Because God is the judge of the guilty, we do not play God by holding offenders hostage with guilt’s manipulation. We are administrators of God’s grace, not man’s guilt. In Christ we are not condemned, so we are free to forgive another’s guilt.

    “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am grateful to You for removing the guilt of my sin, by Jesus, the precious Lamb of God.

    Related Readings: Genesis 22:8; Hebrews 10:22; James 2:10; 1 Peter 1:19; Revelation 5:6, 13:8

    Post/Tweet today: Give in to grace and give up on guilt. #nomoreguilt

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • When the Hurt Runs Deep from Kay Arthur

    Posted on March 5, 2014 by Family Christian

    Kay

    Chapter One

    “It Wasn’t Supposed to Be This Way!”

    At some point in life, nearly every one of us finds ourselves pulled under by a tsunami wave of pain, overwhelmed by something large, sudden, and personally devastating.

    It can come crashing into our lives in any of a thousand ways.

    A phone call from the doctor about a lab report that looks suspicious.

    A wooden-faced supervisor who calls you into his office just before lunch and says, “We’re downsizing the company. We have to let you go.”

    A brief, cold conversation with your spouse one morning, and then the shocking words: “I’m leaving. I’ve found someone else.”

    A late-night knock on your door from a highway-patrol officer. “Your daughter has been in an accident. I’m sorry to tell you this, but she didn’t make it.”

    A quick, stricken glance from the obstetrician. “I’m not picking up any heartbeat from the baby.”

    At such times heartache and despair rush over us, pulling us down into a place of darkness until we wonder if the light of hope will ever again penetrate our lives.
    This is when the hurt runs deep.

    As human beings, hurts and wounds, bumps and bruises, disappointments and sorrows come bundled along with our birth certificates.

    Every one of us, starting in childhood, had to learn how to deal with the skinned knees, hurt feelings, dashed hopes, and heartbreaking setbacks common to fallen humanity. How well we coped with these difficulties, challenges, and unexpected obstacles determined in large measure what sort of man or woman we’ve become and how we navigate our way through life.

    But there are storms…and there are storms.

    It’s one thing to get caught in a spring thundershower; it’s another to find yourself in a Category 5 hurricane. It’s one thing to trip over a hose and fall in your backyard; it’s another to fall out of a third-story window. It’s one thing to be rejected for admission to college; it’s another to be betrayed and rejected by the one you love with all your heart. It’s one thing to lose your car keys; it’s another to lose a longed-for baby in a miscarriage. It’s one thing to get knocked off your feet by a surprise ocean wave, when you’re looking in the other direction; it’s another to be swallowed by a tsunami of pain.

    Sometimes the pain we experience goes much, much deeper than surface pain. Sometimes the heartache we have to endure pierces deeper than we ever thought possible, utterly overwhelming us.

    In my own life…

    If you had told me four years ago the events and circumstances that would come crashing down around me in just forty-eight months, I never would have believed you.

    I could have never anticipated—or even imagined—such things.
    It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It didn’t have to be this way!

    But now, there’s no denying the backwash of pain and sadness I feel. These aren’t the common, garden-variety wounds that we all encounter in the course of life; this is pain that goes bone deep.

    So where do we turn when we find ourselves beyond our own ability to cope? What hope do we have that the pain will ever go away?

    I’m thinking of a family, not so very different from many of the families you know.

    Neither rich nor poor, they were respected within the community but not especially well known. The dad in the family was a pastor.

    The little girl living under that family’s roof was just eight years old on the evening her dad first slipped into her bedroom to do her harm while her mother was out of the house. The sexual abuse that began that night lasted for eight horrible years. The little girl essentially became her dad’s slave, always at hand to satisfy his sexual whims.

    Her betrayer was her own father. The pastor.

    It wasn’t supposed to be this way! Fathers are supposed to protect and stand up for their little girls, not molest them, not destroy their lives. She was too young at eight to realize how profoundly her dad had betrayed her—along with her mom and the trusting people of the congregation. But it all came to light when she was sixteen.
    (Sixteen…isn’t that supposed to be a fun, lighthearted time of life?)

    In that year, her mother had an affair with a deacon in the church. And then the whole sad, sordid story about her father’s serial sexual abuse was revealed.

    Her father went to prison for having sex with a minor—his own daughter. That prison sentence, just and right though it was, only drove the feelings of shame and guilt deeper into the girl’s heart. Now her father was in prison because of her. And to her disgust, her mother made her socialize with the deacon and his family—as if nothing evil or out of the ordinary had ever happened!

    The adults tried to sweep the ugly truth under the rug, but they could not brush away the pain from this sixteen-year-old’s heart. The wounds and scars and unanswered questions have left her bitter and confused. Why, why did this happen to her? And what about God? Where does He fit into all of this? Does He even exist? If so, was He too busy or too indifferent to care…or too impotent to do anything about it?

    Had God betrayed her?

    Just a week ago, I received the following e-mail, and my heart just broke for this dear woman:

    Dear Kay,
    My husband died three years ago…

    Then three weeks ago my very strongly Christian, happy-go-lucky, nineteen-year-old son committed suicide. He thought he was going to lose his career when he failed a PT test.

    I am in despair and clinging to your studies on spiritual warfare, which I know attacked him, and your study on why bad things happen.

    Everyone said he was the strongest Christian they knew, so it is almost impossible to understand.

    My only other child is a daughter who is eighteen and very ill.

    Why do these things happen? I had it all. We were the perfect Christian family, happy, serving God, loving each other. Now we are left with rubble. Does God care?

    This woman’s questions are the ones we all wrestle with at times in our lives: Why us? Why now? Does God care?

    Where will she turn for answers, for hope? Where can you and I turn?

    I read an article not long ago in Vanity Fair magazine about the family of Bernie Madoff.

    Madoff, of course, was the former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange and the admitted operator of the Ponzi scheme that has been characterized as the largest investment fraud in Wall Street history. In March of 2009, he pleaded guilty to eleven felonies, admitting to turning his wealth-management business into a scheme that defrauded thousands of investors of billions of dollars.

    So much for the headlines; what about the real human lives behind the media frenzy? I want to consider, for a moment, the two young men who also carry the name “Madoff”: Mark and Andrew, Bernie’s sons.

    Were his sons in on the great swindle that swallowed billions of dollars and devastated countless lives? Did they even know what their father was doing? Maybe, and maybe not. But let’s just say they didn’t know. Can you imagine how absolutely humiliated and betrayed they must have felt to learn the truth? Can you begin to gauge the depth of their pain? Their dad—their own father—had done what?

    Bernie’s dramatic confession to his sons on December 10, 2008, would forever alter their lives. Mark was angry; Andrew fell to the floor sobbing. As a consequence, that very afternoon one of those young men picked up the phone and called the Securities and Exchange Commission, setting up an appointment for the next morning.

    Can you imagine turning your own father over to the authorities? Maybe you weren’t always pleased with him or wished he were different. But it was still your father. You bore his name, you loved him, and at one time you were very proud of him.

    Maybe you can put yourself in this situation all too well. Perhaps you’ve uncovered a devastating family secret that forever changed your relationship with a family member, someone you’d previously trusted and respected.

    In 2000, according to one source in the magazine article, the Madoff family was a contented lot. Mark Madoff had said it was fun to go to work and find all his family members there working together.

    In eight years, however, they went from contentment to sorrow, from prosperity to utter desolation. With each new revelation of their father’s unethical and criminal behavior, Mark and Andrew’s pain went deeper and deeper.

    Take a moment to put yourself in their shoes. These sons claim to have had no part at all in their father’s appalling mismanagement and dishonesty. But how many people will look askance at them for the rest of their lives? Can you imagine being totally innocent yet not have others believe you? Maybe you don’t have to use your imagination; maybe you’ve experienced the injustice of having your own reputation tainted by the actions of someone close to you.

    And how would you feel knowing that one of your dad’s clients committed suicide eleven days after your father’s arrest? Before taking an overdose of sleeping pills and slashing his wrists, the distinguished French financier René-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet, who had invested $1.4 billion with Madoff, wrote in his suicide note, “If you ruin your friends, your clients, you have to face the consequences.” Would Madoff’s sons feel that blood spill onto their own hands, just because they shared the last name of Madoff?

    And what would go through your heart when you thought about all the widows, retirees, charities, and hardworking families who’d lost all their savings because of your dad?

    Madoff apologized to his victims, saying, “I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren. This is something I will live in for the rest of my life. I’m sorry.”

    But what about the grandchildren and generations yet to come who will also carry the name “Madoff”?

    Story after story could be told of the deep hurts we endure; particularly agonizing are the horrendous accounts of man’s inhumanity to man.

    And so the questions come…for all of us.

    Will the pain ever go away?

    Is there anything left to hope for? Or is life just about pain?

    What do you do, where can you go for help, who can you turn to when the hurt runs deep?

    Let’s explore those questions together in the pages that follow.

    From the Hardcover edition.


    Excerpted from When the Hurt Runs Deep by Kay Arthur Copyright © 2010 by Kay Arthur. 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.

  • Overcoming the Doubts of Motherhood

    Posted on March 5, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God." 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 (NIV)

    It was another one of those days when I wondered why God ever thought I was capable of being a mother.

    I haven't always thought that way. When my children were younger, parenting seemed easier. I nursed their little wounds, played their favorite games, helped with homework and tucked them into bed each night with prayers and goodnight kisses.

    But years passed and my sweet little ones started maturing, with their own opinions, hormones, friends, social lives and tempers. My heart broke with each disagreement. Frustration rose with every disrespectful word. My fears elevated, worry became my middle name and at times it seemed every ounce of patience had dripped out of my body.

    So on that particular day, when it seemed I could do nothing right, insecurities and doubts flooded my mind.

    With a heavy sigh, I slipped away to my room, sunk onto my bed, rested my head in my hands and prayed. I asked God for guidance, understanding and patience (lots of it). I prayed for the strength to continue standing strong in my parenting beliefs, even if they made me unpopular with my children and their friends. I prayed for peace and joy to fill my heart, even when our house didn't seem peaceful or joyful.

    But then a confession slipped from my lips: "Lord, I obviously don't know how to be a parent now. I feel painfully inadequate and incapable of doing it right."

    Through a quiet whisper to my spirit, the word "confidence" popped into my thoughts. God gently reminded me that depending on my own strength would eventually shake my confidence because deep down, I know my weaknesses.

    Despite how hard I tried to be the mom God called me to be, I always fell short in my own eyes. Plus, I allowed difficult situations or comparison to other parents to shake my confidence. I needed to start depending on His strength to find my confidence instead.

    Later that day, I searched for scriptures relating to "confidence" and came across today's key verses, which soothed this mama's heart. The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians reassures us that although life can cause us to doubt our capabilities, we can always find strength and confidence by trusting in the Lord.

    When we rely on God in everything we do, including raising our children, we can be confident He will equip us for this calling of motherhood.

    On those days when we doubt our strength, we can ask God for His strength to persevere.

    On those days when we feel like the least-liked person in our homes, we can ask for confidence to stand strong in our beliefs.

    On those days when we question whether or not we're cut out to be a parent, we can find assurance knowing God will surely stay beside us during the journey.

    Most importantly, on those days when we find ourselves hiding in our bedrooms, we can boldly approach the throne of God, knowing with full confidence He hears our prayers and will give us wisdom to carry out this task of parenting.

    That was not the last day I felt inadequate and insecure about my parenting skills. But now when those feelings creep in, I remember to pause and seek holy confidence.

    The question we should ask ourselves when doubt creeps in isn't whether we're perfect parents. Instead, we can ask whether our children will look back and be thankful we loved them enough to pray and persevere through the hardest of days.

    And that alone will be a rich reward.

    Jesus, please strengthen me to persevere through the trying days of parenting children. Let me not waiver, but stand firm in what I know to be right, despite peer pressure from children, friends, other parents or society. Help me remember to be confident by believing You have equipped me to be the parent my children need. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have I allowed the challenges of parenting to cause me to doubt my abilities?

    Consider the most difficult struggles weighing on your heart today with respect to raising your children. Pause and talk to God about your feelings. Seek support and confidence in Him.

    Power Verses:
    Jeremiah 17:7, "But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." (NIV)

    1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    630 Team Rd., Suite 100
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org

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