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  • Community Divine

    Posted on February 25, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

    From the very beginning God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have lived in community. There has never been a time they have not known each other and worked together. In fellowship all three collaborated and created the universe with human beings as the pinnacle of their creation. Their dynamic and divine relationship initiated the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God the Son left His divine community in heaven to grow a righteous community on earth.

    Indeed, the Trinity communes together in a love relationship as a model to all Jesus followers. We who know Christ are called into fellowship with one another. Together in awe, we submit to worship our loving and holy heavenly Father. Collectively we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit our counselor, comforter, and guide in life. And with great joy, we make known Jesus, the Savior of our soul to all who might believe and receive into their heart the Word made flesh!

    “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

    Moreover, the community of Christ followers gathers the first day of the week to worship with His church. You may say, "Can’t I be a Christian and not attend church?" Yes, of course. However, anyone serious in their commitment to Jesus will invest time with His bride the church. Being in community with other believers is about unselfish service, teaching and learning God’s word, joyful praise and worship, and remembering Christ’s love for us in corporate holy communion.

    Furthermore, seek regularly to commune with the holy Trinity in love and adoration. Your sweet fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit spills over into something special with your Christian friends. Community with the divine develops the divine within your intimate relationships. Perhaps you volunteer annually for a season of service at your church. Host a small group Bible study in your home or engage in a regular group prayer meeting. Gather together and you will become better. This is God’s will which He has modeled from the beginning with His Son and Spirit.

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to live the example of the Trinity in sweet fellowship with other followers of Jesus.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 48:16; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:4-6; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:3

    Post/Tweet today: We become better when we gather together in community with other Christ followers. #communitydivine

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Very Best Kind of Correction

    Posted on February 25, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:12 (NASB)

    "This is going to hurt a bit." Not exactly what you want to hear when someone has her hands in your mouth, even if she is a lovely person.

    Holding up the tiny loopy band, the orthodontist assistant tries to comfort me with the promise of results, "This power chain is going to pull your teeth together quicker. But over the next few days you are going to hurt. We need the power chain to correct your gap; to get your teeth where you want them to be."

    Wearing braces as an adult is bad enough, but some days I wonder if the pain is worth the benefits to my teeth.

    There are days when I open up God's Word and He delivers the same message as the orthodontist assistant: "This is going to hurt a bit, but the power of My Word working on your heart will help get you to a healthy place."

    Hurt a bit? What kind of pain are we talking about here?

    "The pain of correction," God answers.

    As an example, God points out my worrying heart. His Word says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6, NIV). Retraining my thoughts can be a painful progress. Prayer requires discipline instead of allowing my thoughts to naturally gravitate toward worry.

    God has more for me. He lovingly compares the rigid way I responded to my child in the rush of the school morning with His way, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, NIV). I am challenged to ask my child for forgiveness and choose gentleness instead of anger.

    He carefully draws my attention to the thoughts I allowed to brew about a rude email. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV). If my thoughts about her are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, He says they must go.

    My heart squirms. Though I don't want to, my mind wonders: Is the discipline needed to change going to be worth it? Other times shame tries to find a corner in my heart: You know better; you should be past this point.

    Then I remember today's verse, "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:12). My Father God corrects me because He knows I want to be a woman who honors Him. To become that woman there is going to be discomfort and sometimes pain involved.

    The phrases, "whom the Lord loves" and "in whom he delights" provide relief and encouragement when God's Word sets the power chain of correction into motion. My Father dearly loves me; He is crazy about me! As I dearly love and enjoy my children, the Father loves and enjoys me, only more so!

    This is the message I have to speak to my heart when it says God wants me to suffer because He is mad or disappointed in me. Not so. He wants what is best for me, including doing what it takes to grow more like Him.

    Lord, it can be hard to equate Your correction with Your love. Keep my heart soft and my mind open as I read Your Word. Discipline me because of Your devotion to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you struggle to equate God's correction with God's love? Make this a point of prayer with your Father God today. Ask Him to open your heart and mind to receive His love.

    In what area of your life is God applying correction?

    Power Verses:
    Job 5:17, "Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." (NIV)

    Hebrews 12:6, "because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Spiritual Cycles

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

    Some start their spiritual quest with a sense of inquiry. Who is God? What is my purpose? Is the Bible true? How do I deal with my guilt and pain? It is a cycle of seeking. We have more questions than answers. We look for answers in the church and within our heart. We question individuals about their faith and we pray for faith. In our seeking the Holy Spirit draws us into a belief in Christ and we are converted. We find Jesus in our search for spiritual answers.

    After our life changing and life giving salvation experience, we share the answers we have discovered with spiritual fervor. We have the solution to life’s greatest questions of sin, sorrow and death. We are able to say with confidence and gratitude,  "Once I was spiritually blind, but now I can see my Savior." This cycle of discovery brings peace to our mind and security to our soul. Since our faith is fresh and intoxicating, we are we wise to balance our zeal with depth.

    “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

    A third spiritual cycle expresses doubts and questions. Like John the Baptist in prison we ask, "Is Jesus really the son of God?" We seriously question our salvation, "Did I really believe or only have an emotional experience?" This time of honest evaluation can draw us closer to Christ or cause us to drift away. We are vulnerable to the disappointment of unanswered prayer. A test is meant to grow our trust in Jesus. This phase of uncertainty invites reassurance of God’s reality.

    Lastly, by God’s grace we graduate to the spiritual stage of healthy questions and answers. The more we mature in the faith, the more we realize the less we know. So, in a spirit of humility we seek to know and understand Jesus in oneness of heart. We inquire of the Lord to clarify how to apply His character to our behavior. We accept 100% the fundamentals of the faith, but we hunger to know the fullness of our heavenly Father’s love. Prayerful questions receive hopeful answers. In what cycle do you find yourself? Let God move you forward by faith in His loving process.

    “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Holy Spirit in Your seasons of spiritual growth.

    Related Readings: Exodus 34:21; Daniel 2:21; Matthew 11:2-6; Acts 14:17; Titus 1:3

    Post/Tweet today: Personal faith in Jesus brings peace to our mind and security to our soul. #spiritualseasons

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Shedding Light On the Story

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John

    Several years ago, when Matthew West invited people to share their stories to serve as inspiration for an upcoming album, he had no idea it would be the start of an amazing journey that would forever change his music, ministry and life. Armed with more than 10,000 stories from fans all over the world, the floodgates of inspiration opened and West crafted a landmark album, The Story of Your Life. Suddenly people were given a voice and a chance for their stories to be heard. It started a powerful wave that continues with even greater momentum on West’s new album Into the Light.

    “On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”

    I ran into Matthew at a recent festival and we decided to talk over what has been happening in his life.

    John:               Matthew, on your album The Story of Your Life you had letter after letter, story after story filling you with ideas for a new record. You went back to all those letters that were written to you and continued to go through that process of writing songs based on what people were telling you.

    Matthew:       Sort of, yes.  Well, what’s interesting is instead of going back to all the stories that I had read, the stories never stopped coming in, and so I really didn’t plan on making more than one record of songs inspired by peoples’ stories, but what happened is, after the first 10,000 or so came in, I release The Story of Your Life, which had songs like “My Own Little World” and “Strong Enough.

    What I began to notice is that as one story is told, two more were coming out and saying, “Okay, I want to tell my story now,” and people just began to come out of the woodwork, and at my concerts, it still happens now, at the end of a concert, I’ll go back to the bus with a handful of handwritten stories, and I began to just really feel it press upon me that what was happening by not just putting out a CD, but to put out a CD of songs really putting a new emphasis on, hey, these are the every day true stories of peoples’ lives was beginning to stir something within people, and it really kind of began to refine what I feel my calling is, which is to encourage and empower people to realize that God has a unique one-of-a-kind story that He’s telling through each and every life.

    In the last three years, we’ve received well over 25,000 stories.  In fact, I was just showing my friend this morning some new stories that had just come in, so I can read stories every day, and in many ways, this has just become … it’s not really volume two or volume three.  This is just part of my process now, and I've made a promise that as long as people share their stories with me, I’ll read their stories and turn as many of them as I can into hopefully inspiring music that will challenge and inspire other people.

    John:               Matthew, when read the stories, do you ever feel like a huge weight on your shoulders?  I mean, do you feel like, “Oh my goodness, these people are just pouring their hearts out to me.”  How do you …

    Let me just backtrack a year.  A friend of mine, he works in the ER, and there is a process you kind of have to go through as … things, for different patients that were kind of coming in that didn’t go the way the family were all hoping it would go.  I’m sure you encounter those same type of situations where you’re getting a story that is just like … this is wrong.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               How do you deal with that?

    Matthew:       I think it’s funny you mentioned someone who works in a hospital, or I think at one point in time, we could all say we’ve had a doctor that maybe didn’t have the best bedside manner, or maybe they seemed cold or distant, and I think I've begun to understand how maybe there is that need for a doctor to separate his own personal emotions from a heartbreaking story because he’s seeing it so often.

    And yet, what I've noticed is in my reading, as a songwriter, you’re not a good songwriter if you’re not completely connected with all of your heart when you’re writing that song.  I’m not really afforded that luxury of detaching myself from any emotion.  I have to be running full-speed ahead towards that and embracing what people are writing to me, and I think the only way I can really answer how that’s been able to happen is just I feel like God has really given me different eyes to see these stories.

    What I mean by that is the vast majority of the stories that come in, I’m not going to lie … people will … what I've realized is when you ask somebody “What’s your story?  What was the defining moment in your story?” very few people are going to point to the money in their bank account or their college diploma or what kind of puppy they had when they were growing up.  Instead, they’re going to talk about some of the most difficult moments of their lives or their battle with cancer, or their financial trouble, or their marital trouble, or the abuse they suffered as a child.

    You’re exactly right.  One by one, I've read stories that can be seen as heartbreaking, and yet somehow, some way, and this is no joke, in every story I read, what I can sense is God is still at work, and just in the fact that that person wrote to me, even if that person is writing to me saying, “I’m struggling to see where there’s any hope in my story,” the fact that they’re writing means that they’re searching, means that they’re reaching out, and so while it may be at different stages, God is at work in each and every one of these stories, and his work is not finished yet.

    I really feel like my job is to extract the hope from these stories and to be accurate and authentic with what I’m writing about.  For example, there’s a song on my CD.  It’s called “Two Houses” inspired by a teenage girl who’s dealing with the reality that her Dad just up and walked out, and now she’s having to go back and forth and learn what life and love and trust and all those words are starting to kind of be redefined for her.  Well, I’m not going to just tie a bow on that story and just make it neatly wrapped like the end of a Brady Bunch episode, but I want to be authentic and real and genuine, and yet just as real with the pain, I want to be just as real and authentic with the hope that I believe we all have no matter where we’re at in our stories, and that hope comes from one source, and that’s the hope we have in Christ that he somehow, some way, works all things for the good.

    John:               So life is not summed up in a Brady Bunch episodes.

    Matthew:       It is not, and I’ll tell you what, I’m 25,000 stories and counting.  I’m reading, and I’m realizing that, man, people walk in the doors of the church, and everybody’s trying real hard to act like they’ve got it all together.  These stories I've read, I didn’t advertise that I was collecting stories in People magazine.  There were no posters in bars downtown.  These were people who walk into family Christian stores.  These are people who listen to Christian radio stations or go to church on Sunday, and yet they’re carrying some pretty heavy weight.  They’re carrying some difficult parts of their story, and many of them are struggling to figure out how to move on and how to find healing for those broken places in their story.

    In many ways, I feel like these songs that are coming out of the experience have become sort of a soundtrack for broken people and kind of realizing that, man, there’s community here, and it’s not the fake “everybody’s got it all together” community.  What if it was, “hey, we don’t have it all together, but we all have a story to tell, and we realize that God loves us, and he's not finished with our story yet.”  That’s what fires me up to make music this way.

    John:               You’re a dad … are you a dad?

    Matthew:       I am a dad, yeah, two kids.

    John:               You’re married.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               You’re …

    Matthew:       You’ve got … like how many kids do you have?  Like 12?

    John:              You’re a successful singer/songwriter.  You’re nationally known.  Your face is on a can of Pepsi (so is Franny's, Matt Maher's, and TobyMac's - but still!).

    Matthew:       (laughs) Yes, it is.  I’m infamous, as the Three Amigos once said.

    John:               Infamous.  When … talk to the average Joe who’s just … you know, he's living life, and maybe he’s married, maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’s a single dad, single mom, whatever, and college student, just trying to get through life, and looks at you and says, “Oh yeah, Matthew West, man, he's got it all together.  If only I could be like that guy.”  I mean, how do you live your life on a day-to-day basis, because we know that, you know, being up on stage is not necessarily … that's not life.  I mean, it is who you are, but yet at the same time, how does someone like in your shoes pursue Jesus.

    Matthew:       To start off answering that question honestly, I would say that I've lived much of my life trying to present an image to people of not imperfection but that I've got it all together.  So here's my story.  I grew up as a preacher’s kid and felt an intense pressure as early as I can remember from the people in the church who were looking at me and maybe holding me up to a higher level of expectation, a higher standard, and I constantly just felt like I was living in a glass bubble, and everybody was watching me.

    No lie.  I got to this point where like I felt like I could manipulate and act a certain way.  I knew how to look and talk and act and say all the right things.  I knew that if I … I wrote about this in my book recently that I knew if I raised my hand to worship during the slow song in church that because I was in the front row that the ladies … yeah, everybody behind me would go, “Oh, okay, he’s okay.”

    I saw that as a way of, like, one, that’s a dangerous path to be on, because the authenticity continues to get edged out of your life, and the presentation becomes much more important, much more significant, and then that’s just an open door for sin to creep into your life and for you to realize that you can cover and that you don’t have to be the real deal as long as everybody sees you as the real deal.

    Honestly, reading the stories that I've read, they’ve actually challenged me.  Instead of me getting up on stage and wanting to present myself to somebody who’s got it all together, because guess what?  That preacher’s kid grew up to become a professional singer.  And what do we do?  We’re on stage all the time.  And what do we do when we’re on stage?  Air our dirty laundry?  No, we want to sing well, and we want to look good, and we want to perform.  We want people to applaud us.  These stories have begun to challenge me to realize that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about being authentic, it’s about being real, and it’s about telling your story.

    One of the things that I share from the stage is one of the things that God’s begun to teach me in my life over and over again is that a long time in my life I've spent holding up parts of my story to God, and saying, “God, here, you can use this part of me,” and so I would pick what I think are the best parts of me, and I would put only that under his care.  What these peoples’ stories have taught me and how good things have come out of broken beginnings is that all the while God’s looking at me and everybody else who tries to make everybody think they’re perfect and saying, “I know about your good stuff.  I’m the one who gave it to you.  Give me all the rest.  Give me the worst mistake you’ve ever made.  Give me the junk in your story and watch me work something amazing out of it.”

    I guess one of the songs I’ll be singing on stage tonight is called we are the broken.  That’s kind of like my anthem of going, “I don’t want the audience to look at me and see someone who’s got his act together.  I want them to see somebody who’s realized that we’re all the same, we’re all broken, and yet God somehow isn’t done with us, and when we show the world that we’re broken, the worlds not going to look at us and applaud us anymore.  They’re going to look at God and say, “Wow, God changed his life?  Maybe he can do the same with mine.”

    John:               Why do you think people are so apt to putting on a mask?  Why do you think followers of Jesus … we can understand that maybe somebody who does not know Christ, why they would put on a mask, but I mean, the Gospel calls us to be secure in Christ, but yet at the same time, we are scared to death to expose ourselves to our brothers and sisters in the church?  Why is that?

    Matthew:       For one, I think that’s one of the reasons why somebody who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God would be turned off by the church, and I've heard a lot of people say that.  It’s like, “Man, Christians are two-faced,” or “They’re not authentic,” and I think we could all agree that there’s times where I see more what looks like authenticity in the world.

    John:               Right.

    Matthew:       People that aren’t going to church because they’re not claiming to be anything, do you know what I mean?  I think one of the things that my dad always shared with me that has stuck with me my whole childhood and now where I’m at today because I grew up in church, and at times, I would be hurt or offended or turned off when I saw somebody who out of their mouth was claiming to be a Christian but by their lifestyle and the way they acted and the way maybe they treated my dad or my parents, they didn’t back it up.  It felt like it was two-faced or a double standard.  My dad always said to me, “People inside the church, they’re just as flawed.  The church is filled with broken people who don’t have it all together, and so you can’t let your relationship with God be defined by other Christians.  It has to be between you and God, because people will always let you down.”

    Yet, I think one of the things that I notice, and I travel around churches all the time is I see that sign on the door that says “Come as you are,” and yet when you walk inside, it oftentimes doesn’t feel like the people really believe that.  I think that’s one of the missions that I’m on in having people tell their story is that one of the enemies greatest tricks in our lives and tools is isolation.  If he can get us to feel like, one, you’re messed up, and two, you’re the only one.  If you get that in your head, you start to go back into the shadows, and you start to retreat, and what you do is you retreat in the shadows, but you still have to function in every day life.

    You come to church, but your heart, your soul’s still in the shadows, and you clean yourself off so that nobody will know that you’re in the shadows, and there that isolation goes, and I know that all too well, and that's why I feel like I’m encouraging people to tell their story because I feel like when one person steps up and says, “All right, here's my story, no more mask,” it draws other people out into that light just like that person saying, “I want to find the freedom that that person has.”  How else do you explain 10,000 stories becoming 25,000 stories, becoming what I believe is going to be a million stories?

    It’s not just about a million stories.  It’s about the fact that we’re going from a story-haver to a story teller.  We’re going from being a Christian to being a disciple, you know, to being somebody who believes in you’re head that you’ve been set free to somebody who’s willing to really step into the light and say, “I’m so set free and I've found such freedom in my life because of God that I’m willing to let him even use the not-so-good parts of my life.”

    When that starts happening, a powerful thing takes place in our world, I believe.

    Here is one last story to illustrate that, and it’s a story of a woman named Jenny, and she wrote to me, and she said, “I've never told this to anybody before, but I heard you in a conference talking about telling your story and finding freedom.”  And she said, “Thirty-five years ago, I was a scared teenager, and I got pregnant, and my boyfriend at the time didn’t want anything to do with me or the baby, and I was too scared to tell anybody because I was afraid I'd be judged.”

    So she terminated the pregnancy and never told anybody.  For 35 years, never told anybody, but that isolation made her feel separated from God because she just felt so much shame in her life, and she somehow just felt like, “I need to set this free,” and maybe she felt like sending her story to a complete stranger would be a safe thing.  In fact, I called her and I said, “Why did you send it to me?” and she said, “I never thought you’d actually read it.”  But I did, and I wrote a song about it called “The Healing Has Begun.”

    That woman in the progression in her life to me is a beautiful example of what can happen to all of when we stop wearing the mask and when we step out of isolation and begin to seek out community and mostly communion with God, is now, she just finished her training, and she’s a counselor at the crisis pregnancy center in the town where she lives in.  You see how God is uniquely redeeming her story.  That’s a full circle.  No more mask.  No more isolation.  After 35 years of feeling weighed down, she’s found freedom and joy, and now she’s seeing a purpose even for that most difficult part of her story.

    That’s an example of what I’m hoping to encourage people, and not just other people but myself to walk in that and to realize that, man, God’s going to change your story.  He's going to heal your most broken parts, and he's going to use it in powerful way if you'll let him.

    John:               Awesome.

    For more from Matthew West, click here.

     

  • Jeremy Camp - Continuing to Live Recklessly

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John

    Last year I had the privilege of sitting down with Jeremy Camp to talk about, then, his new album, Reckless (find the interview here). It was an honest conversation with a man who continues to struggle with what it's like to pursue Christ with his whole life. His whole being.

    I say down with Jeremy again because I wanted to "check in" and see what God has been teaching him through this journey. What follows is certainly a continuation of where we left off.

    John:               Jeremy, the thought behind the record is obviously living out this really reckless life with complete abandon to the call of what Christ has for you. What has that looked like in last few months for you?

    Jeremy:           Yea... We've been talking to some missionary friends in the Ukraine and Kurdistan. I didn't know much about Kurdistan at first and we were going, "Hey, let's do these outreaches. This has been in our heart to go to these places. Wherever God leads." Ukraine was coming at it pretty easy. We're like, "This is awesome." Everything was coming together. Churches were coming together. It was one of those, "Yeah, this is definitely the Lord's doing." Then, Kurdistan seemed like it was red flag after red flag. I'm getting all these papers and trying to get my government friends to get papers to say that the government of Kurdistan, "He's a legit person. It's okay." The KGB's looking at me and literally ...

    John:               This is serious stuff.

    Jeremy:           This is all serious. They were looking at YouTube videos and listening to my music and they were concerned. "Why does a Christian artist want to come over here?" I didn't really realize to the full extent that it was a Muslin country so I'm going, "Walking into this proclaiming Christ is not going to be well accepted." When we said we wanted to come over, there was a lot of question, "Why are you coming over?" What happened was it wasn't happening so I started feeling like there was some red flags, maybe we shouldn't go. That wasn't because I was afraid, but it was more like, "Wow. It didn't seem like it was coming together." My missionary friend who had been there for seven years, he emails me back and says ... I've been talking about going, "God, whatever you want, wherever you want me to go I will go." And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. He emails back and says, "Hey. If you don't feel like God wants you to come, that's fine, but just so you know, there's never been an outreach ever in Kurdistan. This is probably the last year that it'll happen because doors are closing very quickly." He said, "We need this. Churches are underground here. People are fearful in their faith."

    Here we are going, "Maybe we didn't really pray about this because my minister director's going, "If we started a non-profit called Speaking Louder Ministries to do these outreaches …" And he's going, "Should we do this? Because it seems dangerous." I go, "Listen, are you willing? Are you willing no matter what God has? We need to pray about this." So we prayed and God gave us, all of us, scriptures, instances where we go, "Yeah. This is definitely what we're supposed to do." We said, "We're going to go." I told my guys, I said, "Guys, here's the dangers: it's underground churches, persecutions, there's stuff going on. Are you willing? Because I don't know what's necessarily going to happen. This is trust in the Lord." I say all this and I'm going to share it tonight the more I think about it because I try to make sure that I'm not exploiting what I went through, "Look what I just did." Because that's not the point, but you're asking ... "Since you've been talking about being reckless. What's going on?" God said, "You want to do this?  You want to be completely surrendered and trust me in the mist of the hardest circumstances? Here you go." Not, "I'm going to teach you how to swim during this ... starting this new ministry that going to do that." I want to throw you in the water and say, 'All right. You're going to trust me.'" That's what it was. I was thrown in the water and said, "Okay God. I've got to look to you completely because I don't know what I'm doing."

    We get over there. Ukraine was amazing. We had 150 people plus come forward at the show and accept Christ in of Ukraine. It was amazing.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           We get to Kurdistan and I'm not going to get fully into it, but we had ...it wasn't well received. We had a cable news program; basically, spreading lies about us saying, "Don't come to the event." The main cable news program in Kurdistan saying, "Don't come." We were warned not to speak. I couldn't speak at the concert they said. They were like, "Jeremy can't speak." This is all the truth. It sounds like, "This really happened?" Even when I looked back, I was going, "This really happened?" I was there and I was in it. I was just in the warfare of it having to get on my knees, basically, and cry out to God. They said if we do something wrong, they were going to imprison one of the locals there for a year. Here we are, faced with reality, faced with like, "Okay God, we’re actually doing what you've laid on our hearts for a long time." I had to get to a point where I said, "Alrigh, God. My life's not my own. Called my wife weeping saying, "Okay. Here we are. What do we do?" It's so hard sharing this because I don't want it to be ... It's not ... I'm still processing it. I just got back a month and a half ago.

    John:               It's real. It's real life.

    Jeremy:           It's real what's happening and people being persecuted, people being afraid of sharing their faith. Their fear is gripping them, all that. I'm fine with the point where I'm weeping saying, "God, I can't do this." And he says, "Perfect, because you can't do it." We get there and hundreds of people left. Eight thousand people showed up, hundreds of people left when we said, "In the name of Jesus," because it was offensive. [inaudible 00:06:01] who were stumbling, in the name of Jesus is. To us, it's life. We saw that. Lyrics meant so much more to me than I can even ... I'm talking about not being ashamed of the Gospel. I'm going, "Oh, wow. We have lyrics on the screens huge in the stadium in their language so they can see what we're saying." It's not just hearing music. They know what we're saying. At the end, people came down to hear more about Jesus. The sad thing is, we got to leave and the missionary friends over there have a warning. If they speak at church anymore, then they'll be deported and they'll close the church down. That's what's happened from this. You know what they told me? The locals have all stepped up and they're on fire because people are wanting to do an event in the stadium, a worship event with the local people. Not an artist coming, but the local people saying, "Let's get together. Let's do this if we're going to really ... "

    I saw the affect of that and it was nothing I did. I was like, "I don't want to go." God goes, "You will go and be obedient." I was like, "Okay." Then, he just showed up and we said, "All right. This is not us, at all." We knew that. It wasn't anything we did. It was God leading and directing. That's what's happening. Speaking louder ministries is the next season of my life where we're ready to go and preach the Gospel. We're going to Japan next year. Going to the Philippines, going to Guatemala.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           That's what I feel like is the next step for us. Whatever it is, wherever he leads, I truly will go and lyrics mean a lot more than they used to because I realized I'd actually lived them out more than I ever have before.

    John:               How can we be praying for you and Addie and the kids? Especially in this next ... whatever this next season, year, whatever this is.

    Jeremy:           We need wisdom. We need wisdom because there's a lot of things we could be doing. Going, "Yeah. That sounds great. We're in a new season." We just need a lot of wisdom because we want to be ... I know it's the basic thing of Christians, "Always want to be in God's will." Honestly, stepping out into something like that, we don't want to be ahead of God's will. You know what I'm saying? It's a serious thing. When I realized the very words that I could have said could have affected the missionaries and the local people there in a heavy way, I realized that my very words and the very actions that I take, if I'm not led by the Lord, could be devastating. I want wisdom to be led by him in everything I do. That's where we're at and I don't really know what this next season looks like. I know what we're going towards, but we don't want to be on the side building our little kingdoms, I know that. That's very easy, especially in this industry. You know?

    John:               Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

    Jeremy:           Everyone had built their little kingdoms and where's the balance? I don't know. That's where we're going. Give us wisdom. I don't want to build my kingdom because that's going to crash and burn. We're here to build the kingdom of God and that's it. That's where we're at.

  • Absence Makes the Heart Grow Colder

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by ShauntiFeldhahn

    Shaunti

    Most couples call each other "beloved" and "friend" when they stand at the altar. But as the years roll along, it's easy to take each other for granted. A joy of marriage is being able to relax and not be "on" all the time. But problems arise when one day we realize our marriage relationships aren't as close as they used to be.

    This change can happen in any of our relationships — including with the Lord. It's so easy to wake up and discover we still love God, still love our spouse, our relative or our friend ... but there's a little distance there.

    Thankfully the rest of Song of Solomon provides a hint to the solution: This couple spent a lot of time together. And a lot of intimate time together, at that! When I was doing the research for my book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, I learned the primary factor in creating close friendships isn't shared values, similar interests or compatible personalities: it's geographic proximity. You are closest to those you spend the most time with.

    If you've ever had a dear friend move away, you've discovered that truth. No matter how much you want to stay close, it just isn't the same. It works the same way in all our relationships. In my interviews with the happiest couples, I kept hearing the same thing: these folks were simply hanging out a lot. Not just formal date nights, but going to kids' activities, sharing a hobby or even watching their favorite TV series together.

    These happy couples acted as if their marriages were first and foremost friendships. Friendships they wanted to keep vibrant no matter what.

    One husband told me, "For me, getting married was because I wanted a lifelong companion. It wasn't about the sex or the tax write-off. I wanted a built-in best friend for the rest of my life. Most people probably do. So you need to look at the reasons you want to be in a relationship in the first place, and be intentional to make it happen."

    And that is what suffers when we begin to take God, our spouse, a friend or relative for granted — we stop being intentional. We stop spending as much time together. We get so busy with other priorities and don't make room for our main priority. Then as we become more distant, little irritations become bigger frustrations.

    And what do we do next? We spend even less time together. Our parents irritate us so it seems better not to have dinner together for a while. We're tired of marital conflict so we avoid our spouse. Or we are mad at God because a desperate prayer wasn't answered the way we wanted, so we stick our prayer journal in a drawer.

    All of those solutions are tempting, but they ensure that while we may still call the other "beloved," we will no longer feel like "friends." And after a while, "beloved" may become a casualty too.

    Do you want to be closer to your spouse? Are you irritated with a friend or relative? Feeling distant from God? Emulate those who enjoy their relationships the most — by hanging out more, not less. You may just find enjoyment welling up again in your relationships too.

    Lord, thank You for the special gift of these relationships: (mention by name). Forgive me for taking them for granted. Most of all, forgive me for taking You for granted. I am so grateful that even when I pull away, You are the friend that sticks closer than a brother. Help me to be intentional about investing more time where it is needed, especially with You, and [if married] with my beloved, my best friend. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    If you and your spouse (or other close relationship) haven't been spending enough time hanging out, what are some of the reasons? What can you do differently?

    What obstacles get in the way of hanging out with the Lord? What steps can you take to make more time together with God a reality?

    Power Verses:
    Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, "Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

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

  • Time to Go

    Posted on February 23, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. Hebrews 11:8

    It is time to go when God says so, even though you are not sure where you are going. Abraham was a “friend of God” (James 2:23 nasb) who trusted the heart of God. He was secure in his faith, knowing his heavenly Father would not lead him astray. Are you okay with only the call of Christ as your next step? Is He calling you out of your comfort zone to a new level of faith and obedience? It is here that you hear Him quite clearly.

    Maybe He wants you to move with your company so your career can become the means of funding your passion for missions. Locals in foreign countries are keenly interested in teachers, housewives, doctors, bankers, and businessmen visiting their world. The marketplace is your ministry. It validates your value and confirms your character. The Lord will use your obedience to encourage the faith of others and especially the faith of your family.

    The faith of parents often procures the blessing of obedience on their posterity. When your teenage son sees you say yes to Christ’s challenge, he is more likely to say yes to wisdom when faced with issues of trust. Your daughter will not soon forget your family’s earnest prayers as you sought to see God’s best and to obey. Parents who obey God’s call create the same expectation for their children; so follow the Lord for them.

    Lastly, the call of Christ leads to His blessing on earth and in heaven. It may mean prosperity. It may mean poverty. Or it may mean somewhere in between. The most important reward is that of your eternal inheritance. Leave a legacy of loving the Lord, and you will have loved your children. Follow Him faithfully; there is a much higher probability they will as well. Is it time to go? Then go with your best friend Jesus.

    The Bible says, “God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (Job 29:4).

    Where is Christ calling me to a higher level of faith and obedience?

    Prayer: Related Readings: Nehemiah 9:7–8; Psalm 105:6–11; Acts 7:2–4; Galatians 3:6

    Taken from the February 23rd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 2”

    Post/Tweet today:Parents who obey God’s call create the same expectation for their children; so follow the Lord for them. #timetogo

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Love Always Perseveres

    Posted on February 22, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Love always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:7

    Love always perseveres. It does not give up. This is why the love commitment of husbands and wives is “till death do us part.” This is the assurance that accompanies love, for it is loyal in the face of hard times. “I don’t love you anymore” is not an option for couples committed to Christ. Love always perseveres. It perseveres through problems; it perseveres through misunderstandings; it perseveres though uncertainty; it perseveres through knock down, drag out arguments; it perseveres through persecution, divorce, and abandonment; it perseveres through a lawsuit or being fired.

    Love becomes better instead of bitter when experiencing a raw deal. God’s grace and love provide you the lasting ability for extraordinary love. Indeed, if your heavenly Father didn’t personally love you, your love would be lethargic. It would be sluggish in its application to others if you were not daily loved by the Lord. You can’t be an unconditional lover if you don’t receive the unconditional love of Jesus. Therefore, love always perseveres in the process of being loved and extending love.

    This is why a parent perseveres in his or her love for their child. They can only give up on loving their loved one when their heavenly Father gives up on loving them. Parents persevere with their children because they love their children. Even through the hurt, rejection, selfishness, financial irresponsibility, and anger, love still stands. Love will not stand down to the devil’s strongholds in a young person’s mind and heart.

    Moreover, love perseveres in reminding them of the truth. Remind your children that their identity is in Christ . Your child is forgiven by you and by God; remind them of this. God has uniquely gifted your child; remind them of this. Love perseveres in reminding and revealing truth to those it loves. Pray the eyes of your child’s heart will see and understand the truth of who they are from God’s perspective. They are longing for love, so be the lead lover in their life.

    Lastly, persevere in your love for your parents. Parents can be distant and disinterested, but still love them. To some degree, they may still be licking the wounds of past hurts and disappointments. They need love as much as or more than anyone else. Love your mom and dad while they are still alive. One day they will not be around to love, so express all your love for your parents in this life. You plan for no regrets when you aggressively love them now.

    They may have chronically hurt you, but still love them. They may not love back, but still love them. They may be caught up in their own cares, but still love them. Love knows better, so it perseveres beyond bitterness and betrayal. You lose when the flames of love are extinguished by sheer exhaustion. You may need to rest in, receive, and be rejuvenated by the loving relationship of your friend, Jesus. Slow down and be loved. Persevere in your love, and one day you will be grateful you did. It is an invaluable investment because love leaves no regrets. It always perseveres.

    Taken from the February 22nd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”

    Post/Tweet today:Wecan only give up on loving a loved one when our heavenly Father gives up on loving them. #loveperseveres

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • God’s Will: Salvation

    Posted on February 21, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us,not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9, NKJV

    Our gracious God desires all to know Christ through repentance, forgiveness, faith, and a lifetime of loving intimacy. Jesus came the first time to earth as our Savior. After His resurrection, as He ascended back to heaven, He promised to return. Christ will come again as our judge. However, our heavenly Father’s patient mercy delays His son’s return. Jesus waits, so the unredeemed have time to believe and become sons and daughters of the Almighty. God’s will is salvation in Jesus.

    Like the door to Noah’s ark eventually closed, so our opportunity to trust Christ is slowly slipping away. The flood waters of judgment will one day drown us in death. Will we be ready? Salvation and safety can only be found in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s patient love invites us to repent, trust and not perish. Yes, we still have time to warn others of the judgment to come. Some will mock, others will act apathetic, but a few will find refuge in Jesus.

    "Or do you show contempt for the richesof his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" (Romans 2:4)?

    Moreover, the patience of our heavenly Father is the model for us to follow. We are surrounded by a sea of those who need salvation. They are drowning in their sin and sorrow. By offering them the life preserver of faith, hope and love for Jesus we can rescue the perishing. A life preserver is useless unless it is deployed. Therefore, we pray daily how we might bless those we encounter with a buoyant belief in Jesus Christ. Once saved, we help others be saved.

    Lastly, regularly receive the Lord’s great love, so you can be a great lover. When you are loved well by Jesus, you can love well for Jesus. Love is patient. Love is kind. Patience and kindness are twins that draw the lost into a loving relationship with Jesus. People away from Christ, have no context for Christ, so be kind. An unsaved soul is an insecure soul, so be patient. We know a better way to salvation than do strangers. God’s will is for those without faith to find faith.

    "Who [God] wantsall people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4)."

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for Your patient love that allows others to repent and not perish.

    Related Readings: Habakkuk 2:3; Romans 11:14; Hebrews 10:37; 2 Peter 3:15; Revelation 2:21

    Post/Tweet today: Receive the Lord’s great love, so you can be a great lover of the lost. #God’swill

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Emotionally Destructive Marriage from Leslie Vernick

    Posted on February 21, 2014 by Family Christian

    Leslie

    Introduction

    Hanging On by a Thread

    It’s easy to find a plethora of good books about how to be a godly wife or what steps to take to build a successful and happy marriage. There aren’t many books written on how to wisely deal with a destructive and abusive marriage. As a counselor and coach, I have grown increasingly troubled by the advice hurting women receive from well- meaning pastors, Christian counselors, friends, and lay leaders when they seek help for their destructive and abusive marriages. Many times we’ve not understood the gravity of the problem. We’ve misdiagnosed a marriage that has terminal cancer and treated it as if it were only suffering from a common cold. We’ve also misplaced the responsibility for keeping the marriage alive by putting an extraordinarily heavy burden on a wife’s shoulders to somehow maintain a loving and warm relationship with a husband who treats her with cruelty, disrespect, deceit, and gross indifference. It’s not feasible, nor is it biblical.

    Each week e-mails flood my inbox from women desperate for answers, hanging on to their marriages and sometimes their sanity by a single thread. The details vary, but the questions are usually the same: “What do I do?” and “Where do I turn for help?” The woman’s spirit, and sometimes her body, is depressed and depleted from the distress she feels within the walls of her own home. She wants to honor God and do his will, but does that mean she must continue to allow herself to be destroyed by her husband, a man who has promised to love and protect her?

    Marriage and family are important to God, but just as important to him are the individuals within those marriages and families. God does not value men more than women, or the institution of marriage more than the people who are in it. He wants to help you know how to heal and what to do to bring true restoration to your destructive marriage. He also knows that because of the hardness of your husband’s heart, true reconciliation of your relationship isn’t always possible.

    Throughout this book you will clearly see what’s wrong and why keeping the marriage together at all costs or at any price can be dangerous. You will gain fresh insights and a new paradigm in which to understand your role in your marriage. You’ll learn strategies and be given tools so that you can find your own voice again and be able to develop the strength and courage to stand up against the destruction. Within these pages is a biblical road map to help you know whether genuine repentance and restoration is taking place, and what the specific steps are to get there.

    The Emotionally Destructive Marriage
    is divided into three parts. Part 1, “Seeing Your Marriage Clearly,” will help you distinguish the difference between a disappointing marriage and a destructive one. At the end of chapter 1, there is a self-administered test you can take to determine whether you are in a destructive marriage. In chapter 2 you will learn what a healthy marriage looks like and the three essential ingredients that are required for any relationship to flourish. Chapter 3 will open your eyes to the different types of destructive relationship patterns and why they are so damaging to you, your children, and your marriage. In chapter 4 you will see that God hates what’s happening to you. He is with you and for you and wants to help you make changes so that genuine healing can take place.

    Part 2, “Change Begins with You,” opens with chapter 5 showing you the ways you may be unknowingly enabling the destruction in your marriage to continue. You will understand how being a true biblical helpmate is very different than staying inappropriately submissive and silent about the destruction. In chapter 6 you’ll understand why trying harder in the traditional wifely ways will make a destructive marriage worse and how the common teachings on biblical headship and submission can lead to an abuse of power and entitlement thinking. Chapter 7 will help you
    build internal core strength, so that when the time is right, you will be empowered to take firm yet godly action to protect yourself and your children. Then, in chapter 8, you will know exactly what you need to do to prepare before you have a difficult conversation with your husband about his destructive behaviors.

    In part 3, “Initiating Changes in Your Marriage,” you’ll be given specific strategies to wake up your husband to his destructiveness and invite him to godly change. In chapter 9 you’ll discover how to speak up in love, using words that invite your spouse to stop his destructive behaviors and attitudes without shaming, scolding, or disrespecting him. In chapter 10 you will receive a plan on how to calmly confront your husband, together with examples of specific consequences you can implement if he refuses to listen. Chapter 11 takes you step by step through your biblical options if nothing changes in your marriage, and ways you can stay strong and God-centered in the midst of continued destructive behaviors. Lastly, in chapters 12 and 13, you’ll learn the specific changes that are required if a destructive marriage is to heal, and how you will know whether or not you’re making progress as a couple. In the closing epilogue, I invite you to read the words of an abusive man who is learning to become a better man.

    I debated whether to write this book just for women or to include men, as they, too, are in destructive marriages and feel distraught, impotent, and confused about how to change the damaging dynamics in their marriages. In the end I decided to write this book for women, but if you are a man who is looking for answers for your destructive marriage, you will find help within the pages here if you can overlook the stories and illustrations depicting men as the primary perpetrators. You can also find additional
    resources at www.leslievernick.com/the-emotionally-destructive -marriage, if your wife is the one who is the destructive partner.

    The individuals in each story are disguised except for those who have given me permission to use their real names. Some stories or characters are composites to illustrate a specific point. All are pictures of the painful realities some women must live with day after day, week after week, year after year.

    Please hear me: God doesn’t want you to hang on by a thread, my friend. He gives you a lifeline. Grab hold of it and live.

    Part 1

    Seeing Your Marriage Clearly

    The eye is the lamp of the body.
    So, if your eye is healthy, your
    whole body will be full of light,
    but if your eye is bad, your whole
    body will be full of darkness. If
    then the light in you is darkness,
    how great is the darkness!
    Jesus, in Matthew 6:22–23

    One
    Are You in an Emotionally Destructive Marriage?

    For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest;
    nor is anything secret except to come to light.
    —Mark 4:22

    Several years ago, while speaking in Hungary, I was shocked to see the new title the Hungarians had given one of my books when they translated it into their language. It was now called How to Survive a D-Minus Marriage. My sister, Patt, who had accompanied me on this speaking trip, joked with me about whether or not people would admit their marriages were that bad. But during the event, the book sold like hot cakes. Marriages everywhere are in dire straits. Christian homes are no exception.

    You may feel as if you are in a D-minus marriage and have no idea what to do. I have help for you, but first it’s important to clarify the difference between a disappointing marriage and a destructive one.


    Excerpted from The Emotionally Destructive Marriage by Leslie Vernick Copyright © 2013 by Leslie Vernick. 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.

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