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  • The Crushing Times

    Lysa

    "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be a part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don't snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.

    We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive ...

    ... when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    ... when the teacher sends one of "those" emails about my child.

    ... when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    ... when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let's journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.

    Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples" (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest said to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.

    And I don't think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.

    The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit ... and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes: washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well ... the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.

    Then the olives can be picked and preserved.

    And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

    The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are "pressed ... but not crushed"? Let's read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ..."

    This was one of the biggest "aha" moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn't the olive's end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It's also the way to get what's most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed ... pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    But here's the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I'm being processed, I forget it's for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I'm being crushed, I forget it's for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    Are you going through a crushing time? Look back on the points Lysa made: crushing times are necessary, and allow for processing and preservation. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why I Quit Depending on My Own Plans

    Julie

    "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

    Everything in me wanted to plow headlong into my next project. I yearned to get started. People were excited about my participation. And with only one older child living at home, my time was freer than ever.

    There was no reason for me not to move forward. Or so I thought.

    And so I planned. Created to-do lists. And tried to get busy.

    But strangely, nothing happened. Inspiration refused to bubble up. Over and over I tried. Over and over I accomplished nothing. I began to wonder what on earth the issue could be.

    So I prayed. Over the following weeks as my plans stubbornly refused to progress, I began to sense the Lord's gentle hand of restraint on my shoulder, holding back my ever-forward movement.

    And then my heart heard one word. Wait.

    I sensed God inviting me into a holy pause. And though I didn't understand why waiting was necessary, the Lord graciously brought my heart into alignment with His.

    Wait is one of my least favorite words because it's one of my least favorite things to do. Over the years I have waited for eternally important things, like the salvation of loved ones. I've also waited for medical test results, some hard teen years to be over, a sickness to pass and houses to sell.

    And while waiting is unavoidable, it can feel like a waste of time, primarily because waiting feels unproductive to my task-oriented nature. The truth is I enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. And that's okay.

    But is our productivity or desire for an easy, wait-free life more important than our obedience to God? Productivity, the desire for an answer or our longing for the wait to be over cannot hold more weight in our hearts than God's timing, His will and His perfect plans for that particular time in our lives.

    Sometimes a holy pause doesn't make sense to us.

    Yet our key verse reminds us not to depend on our own understanding, and instead to seek God's plans for our lives: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Had I failed to heed God's promptings, I probably would have been facing a project deadline in the midst of what turned out to be intense family-wide health issues, including many which were quite serious.

    What I learned during this holy pause is that down time does not equal wasted time. In God's economy and wisdom, down time — when prompted by Him — can spare us, equip us, refresh us or prepare us.

    If we are wise, we will use our down time, that holy pause, to allow our hearts to connect with His on a more frequent and deeper level. At some point the wait will be over and we will be free to move forward, with Him, into all He has for us at that particular time.

    When we seek God's will in all we do and learn to trust more in the Holy Spirit's promptings than our own desire for productive accomplishments, our hearts will come into alignment with His. And He will show us the right path, in His perfect timing.

    Lord, I long to obey You in every respect, even when I don't understand. Help me not to rush forward when You are inviting me into a holy pause. Bring my heart into alignment with Yours, and cause my thoughts to become agreeable to Your will. Thank You for accomplishing Your will in my life during every wait. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 40:31, "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (NLT)

    Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me." (AMP)

    Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Write down the things you are currently waiting for on an index card. Then write Isaiah 40:31 directly beneath your list. Allow this verse to settle in your heart when you feel frustrated or weary, knowing that God is strengthening you while you wait.

    © 2014 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

  • How God Turns Your Past Into Purpose

    Tracie

    "'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39 (NIV)

    As I sat in the church pew with my head bowed in prayer, I heard a voice reverberate so thunderously in my heart that it startled me.

    The voice was blaringly loud, as if it had been announced over the loudspeakers. I opened my eyes surprised to see that no one else was taken aback. All was calm.

    And so began my encounter with God.

    I felt God speak loud and clear a short message that held life-altering repercussions. Three powerful, commanding words: "Go and share!"

    I became overwhelmed with emotion. I was awestruck that God had spoken to me at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

    Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, "Surely You can't mean share my past, Lord. Surely You don't mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret." Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I didn't like it.

    I didn't want to go, much less share. I didn't want to be transparent or vulnerable. I gratefully accepted His forgiveness and healing, but I wasn't ready to accept His call to give me a purpose. The man who was healed from demon possession in today's key verse experienced similar feelings.

    This tormented man lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

    He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

    What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man's past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

    The man's story became a testimony when he was willing to share it with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

    People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God's transformational power in someone's life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God's faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

    I've since learned it is always God's desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

    God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a plan for great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

    Lord, help me find the courage and the desire to share what You have done in my life. Turn my past into my purpose and refuse to let my pain be for nothing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Isaiah 61:3, "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you been thankful for God's spiritual healing, but hesitant to share what He has done in your life?

    In what ways have you become an overcomer and found victory in Christ? How could you share that with others to impact their lives?

    How might God be able to use your past for a specific and unique purpose for ministry?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • My Morning Prayer

    Wendy

    "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35 (NIV)

    I've always been indescribably drawn to the private life of Jesus.

    The Jesus who was led into the wilderness.

    The Jesus who agonized over His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    But the moments that interest me most are when Jesus withdrew to quiet places to pray — each prayer time a compelling picture of the Son's intimate connection with His Father.

    Mark tells us in our key verse that while it was still dark, Jesus slipped out of the house and went to a secluded place to meet with His Father. Mark doesn't tell us what morning this was. But we do know this prayer time followed a full day of healing the sick and casting out demons.

    After that kind of day, you would think Jesus might have slept in ... just for an hour or two. I would have. But not Jesus. He awakened before the sun peeked over the horizon to be refreshed and renewed for the ministry awaiting Him that day.

    Oh, how I long to know what Jesus said. How long did He pray? What did He pray? Could He audibly hear His Father's response? Were the angels with Him?

    And more practically, did His mind wander? Mine does. Sometimes I find myself praying and my mind travels to my "to do" list. Or I begin praising God but then the concerns weighing on my heart push through and usher out my praise.

    I imagine Jesus' mind didn't wander because He knew in those solitary places He was sitting in very presence of His Father. And what I forget — perhaps many of us do — is that when we pray, we too sit in the very presence of God, our Father.

    Although our eyes cannot visibly see Him, I picture Him drawing near, bending close to hear our every word. His Spirit surrounding us. His hands lifting our faces heavenward. His ears fixed on every cry of our hearts ... the praises, the confessions, the anxieties, the fears, the doubts ... He hears them all.

    Sometimes it's hard to awaken early. Hard to focus. And most of all, it's hard to fathom that the God of the universe, who holds the entire world in His hands, has time to hear our little prayers. But not only does He have the time, He calls us to come to Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (NIV).

    So, let's band together this week for morning prayer. Each morning, find a solitary place to pray ... your own secret spot. Below, I've written a special prayer for us to open our time with God.

    Our Morning Prayer:

    Dear Lord, I don't know who or what will cross my path today. But I do know that You are my Rock and my Fortress. You are my Shield and my Strong Tower. Help me to anchor myself to You today. Teach me how to stand strong in You and choose only Your way today. Help me walk by Your truth and not my feelings.

    Help me to embrace anything that comes my way as an opportunity to see You at work and as an opportunity to point others to You.

    Thank You that You love me and nothing can ever take that away from me! Even if I fail today and fall short, You whisper Your unconditional love deep into my soul and remind me that Your mercies are new every morning.

    That truly amazes me, Lord.

    Thank You for meeting with me today. Would You wake me again tomorrow with the same sweet whisper of Your love? I can't wait to meet with You again. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Imagine the marvelous sight before God's eyes! Each morning this week, as Elohim, the God who created us, peeks over the edge of heaven, gazes across the continents, and spans the time zones, He will find His girls gathering to pray with one voice: Our morning prayer.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Write our Morning Prayer on a notecard or in a journal and pray it out loud each morning. At the end of the week, record how God has used this time to transform your heart for prayer.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Fatherhood

    Throughout my life as I considered or even dreamt about fatherhood, my thoughts always focused on me nurturing, supporting, and loving on children that were 100% healthy. The thought never crossed my mind that I may be called upon to serve a child that was disabled.

     

    By God’s grace, my wife and I were given three children who are in every way healthy. We have invested our energy, time and resource into each of three children over the past 27 years. Each of them thrives, loves the Lord and is independent of our parenting for the most part.

     

    What I marveled at as the kids grew was their drive for independence:

    ·         In the early years they wanted to do things under their own power – crawl, feed themselves, walk, tinkle, etc. As they made progress, they became less dependent on us and we in essence gained a bit of “freedom”.

    ·         As adolescents they tested their own power and independence as they did sleep overs, traveled with friends, honed their own skills, and could find their way back home. Their independence and confidence grew, and we accomplished another level of freedom.

    ·         As teens they wanted to do things with power – take the car, travel abroad, shave, mow my grass and certainly state their own point of view. For us we enjoyed greatly expanded freedom and far less parenting input as we watched them grow and thrive.

    ·         Into early adulthood now, each serves and functions with total independence. We enjoy vast amounts of freedom and our own independence.

     

    As I looked into the eyes of Joel, my Bolivian friend who is served at the Children’s Rehab Center of Colomi in partnership with World Vision, I was hit hard by the fact that God gave me three healthy children and they were very easy for us to raise. Hard in the sense that I was deeply grateful for our children, but in the depth of my spirit challenged as I wondered what kind of Dad would I have been to a child like Joel?

    It hit me hard knowing that Joel was not going to do many things under his own power – not crawl, not walk, not feed himself. He would not do sleep overs, travel with friends, nor could he get himself back home. He won’t likely drive a car, travel abroad, shave or mow anybody’s grass. It struck me that Joel will not know the independence many of us enjoy, or our children achieve as they progressively take on skills and abilities.  As I visited with Joel it hit me that he will require support and assistance all his life from his parents. That this assignment in vast in scope, long in duration, it requires constant sacrifice, it requires endurance, and it is nearly impossible to do alone. What kind of Dad would I have been when faced with this challenge and a boy like Joel?

    BOLIVIA and Joel

    BOLIVIA

     

    While I cannot give an answer to that question, I knew with absolute certainly that a child like Joel would require more of me than I had given to three healthy kids. I knew that for Joel’s parents it must be simply hard and that they would face weariness often. As precious as Joel is, it was apparent that his parents would need to be constantly active in every aspect of Joel’s life for as long as Joel lives.

     

    In that moment I was able to give praise and thanksgiving for the World Vision work in Colomi at the Children’s’ Rehab Center. Most third world or emerging nations do not have resources like this to aid in child development for special needs children. By God’s grace, there is one in Colomi, and it serves Joel and so many others. It is a respite for fatigued parents. It provides support to parents who otherwise would have no support at all in a community that often casts out the disabled or at best hides them. It is a place where caring professionals can develop skills in children and pass teaching techniques to parents who are starving for help in developing their precious child.

     

    While I wrestled with what kind of Dad I would be to a boy such as Joel, I knew with certainly that I would depend on place like this, The Children’s Rehab Center. Because of it, Joel is making progress and learning new skills. His parents are being given what I call “rescuing support” without which they might simply give up. Joel knows love. His parents have hope. Together they are making progress to lead fuller lives under the compassionate care of World Vision in Colomi.

     

    Written by:

    Steve Biondo

    SVP, HR & Organizational Development at Family Christian

     

  • The Desire to Belong

    “so in Christ we who are many form one body…” Romans 12:5 (NIV)

     

    We are all familiar with it… the desire to belong. Even as adults, there is an urging within that says we would like to find that special group of friends.

    Several years ago, before we joined our current church, we visited several churches. We were looking for the right fit for our family.  We had two young children at the time, so we answered a variety of questions from church members: Homeschool vs. public school. Breast feeding vs. formula. Working mother or Stay at home. It was as if we were being interviewed and unfortunately found lacking in a few areas. We are now settled at our current church and loving it. We don’t feel the pressures to cave to one social group and attribute that to the preaching. When you have a strong pastor leading the flock, it helps to keep such issues in perspective.

    While praying about what to write for this blog, those memories came flooding back.  Now, I can laugh over some of the comments that originally left painful scars on my soul.  I wondered, who else has endured similar moments? How did they handle it? So, I asked a group of people who have become my friends online. I met most of them before my 9-year-old daughter was born.  I was thankful that they were willing to open up to me, because religion isn’t a topic easily discussed.

    The overwhelming response to my message board post told me that this is a bigger issue than I realized.  These friends shared from their hearts and I was moved to pray for many.

    I heard from a divorcee, who struggles with taking her children to church functions and not feeling like she has a place any longer. She will often drop them off and leave to avoid the awkward feeling. This is a woman who has a church home, she is involved, but no longer feels like she has a place among her friends.

    How about a person who is married without children? They would love to have friendships with the other couples, but doesn’t know how to relate or start those friendships when the first question asked is, “Do you have kids?” When they answer, the families lose interest. It isn’t easy to form a friendship with someone in different life circumstances, but it also isn’t impossible. God can teach us so much through other people. We only have to look at the New Testament church for an example of how diversity can serve the church body as a whole.  Jesus used a variety of men and women from various backgrounds to start his ministry.

    We are all children of God. We are members of one body. We only need to look down the pew on a Sunday morning to see a few of our own church members feeling they don’t belong.  How long will people continue to come, if they feel they don’t fit in?

    We are not perfect people, we are sinners saved by grace. Let’s leave the plastic smiles at the door. Let’s be real and take a moment to reach out to those who need a friend. A divorcee who needs someone to sit with, a man looking for a friend to talk with, the list goes on. I heard from twenty different people, each with a story, a hurt, and a heart that needs healing. Some of them no longer attend church. Each of them needs to know that God hasn’t forgotten them, that the church body works better as a whole. We are individuals who God created for a greater purpose. One of those purposes is to serve Him. When we leave the church fellowship because of hurts, it not only hurts you, but also the church as a whole.

    You can read this blog post, then move on to the next interesting thing to read online. Or we can pray for healing in our church body. Let’s take it one step farther, next time you are at church ask someone, “How can I pray for you this week?” Then, commit to praying for that person.

    Pray for hearts to be opened and healed. That people within the church would see the need to repent and ask for the forgiveness for the wrongs they have done, and that those who have been offended would seek to return to the church. May His healing touch be felt in each of your lives today.

    “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalms 147:3

     

    Bio:

    Stacey Zink lives in Houston, Texas with her husband, two children, and the goldfish that will never die. She enjoys reviewing books and sharing about life at: http://suburbanthoughts.wordpress.com/

  • Interview with We Are Leo

     

    By: Kristen Jeffery, Social Media Coordinator at Family Christian

    This week I had the opportunity to speak with David from We Are Leo.  Read the full interview below.

    FC: Hello! Thank you for your time today.  I hear you all are gearing up for a new tour.  Can you tell us about it?

     

    David from We Are Leo: Absolutely.  We are on for part of the Acquire the Fire tour that is starting in Spring.  We’ve done Acquire the Fire in the past, and it came to Lansing and I think there was about 7,000 people there.  I think the greatest thing about it to me is that I get to talk to all the fans after the show and just pray with them and talk to them and share our stories with them.

    FC: I have actually been enjoying your new single “You’re the Best Thing”, here in my office.  What does this song mean to you?

    David from We Are Leo: This is for my testimony.  I came out my teenage years sort of feeling really lost and  just fighting a lot of depression and loneliness.   And with my story of reaching out to Christ and Him coming and rescuing my life, that was such an epic change for me to be like God  loved me and to feel loved instead of rejected and at that point I realized this is what I have been looking for my whole life and for me singing this song “You’re the Best Thing” is coming back to that point and being thankful and remembering that God changed my life and despite the busyness or whatever else comes along in my day to day life I want to remember that He is always the best thing.

    FC: Your new album is called “Fightback Soundtrack” and it releases tomorrow (10/14).  What do you hope that people take away from your new album?

    David from We Are Leo: Yes. I think the overarching theme of this is bravery and not being afraid.  In the Bible it talks so much about not being anxious and Paul talks about not being anxious and I love that relationship and the idea of being strong and courageous.  Fightback Soundtrack,  the whole idea of it is ‘Yeah,  you need to be strong in the Lord and when things come against you and things happen you’re not defeated and you can overcome those things and keep your head up. ‘  And to be brave because God’s love can make us brave.  That’s what I hope people will take away.

    FC: What changes can your fans expect from “Hello” to “Fightback Soundtrack”?

    David from We Are Leo: That’s an awesome question!  Way to go!   This record we made it on our own.  In November we decided it was decision time.  We felt like God was telling us to keep being persistent and that we have things to share and talents that He was calling us to use.  We put it up on Kickstarter and it came through on the last hour of the last day. 

    FC: Awesome! Making it even more of a God story right?

    David from We Are Leo: It is totally a God story!  Totally.  I really can’t even believe it really happened. I think on this album you will hear a more mature sound and get a feel for what we truly sound like.

    FC: We have a prayer team here at Family Christian and we meet daily to pray for others.  How can we specifically be praying for you?

    David from We Are Leo: Thank you.  Be praying for wisdom.  And be praying that these songs will be heard by those who need it the most.    

  • Do you know what you believe?

    Do you know what you believe? Do you believe that God’s Word is true? Every word of it? This is something on my heart as a mom. I want to make sure our family is certain of what we believe in and I want to make sure we are leading our children to understand that every ounce of God’s Word is true, without a doubt. What can we do to ensure our children are being taught this truth? Here are a few things that we do in our family:

     

    • We read God’s Word with them and give them time to ask questions and we like to have them tell us in their words what we have read. Narration is a great way to ensure they understand what we have read.
    • We read devotionals with them nightly that helps to expand on this knowledge.
    • We memorize scriptures together daily as a family.
    • We pray multiple time together each day, especially before meals and bedtime.
    • We help them to recognize when God has answered a prayer, even the small ones, so that we can give thanks to Him.
    • We sing praises to Him, especially when we are scared or worried or anxious about something.
    • We also want to make sure that they realize that we can’t believe in only parts of the bible. We either believe it all or we believe none of it. We can’t believe in Creation and yet not believe in the Flood. We can’t believe in Jesus’ death upon The Cross and yet not believe in His resurrection.

    The most important part of making sure our children know what they believe, is to make sure we know what we believe! As parents, we need to spend time in God’s word, praying and building our relationship with Him. We must have assurance in what we believe in so that we can better lead our children. We need to be that example to them so that they can see us living out our beliefs as well.

    Will you join me in a challenge? Let’s spend time with Our Lord. Let us be certain of we believe in so that we can be the example that our spouse needs, that our children need, that our loved ones need…..that this world needs!

    I leave you with a scripture and ask that you meditate on it, memorize, pray over it:

    Now Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

    GodlyGlimpsesBioPic

    Jennifer is a wife and homeschooling mother to three (plus one more on the way!) She is also a blogger at Godly Glimpses where she shares about marriage, parenting, homeschooling and faith. You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

  • Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

    Tracie

    "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

    All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

    Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

    I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

    As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, "Awww. I wish we could have seen her." My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

    After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: "Mom, she is ugly!"

    Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, "Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary." Little Michael was too stunned for words.

    We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

    They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

    Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else's opinions would change that.

    As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God's eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

    Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

    In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

    In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

    Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God's love for them was immeasurably more.

    Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

    Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

    You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

    Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

    Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I've made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you allowed the opinions of others to convince you that you are not valuable to God?

    In what ways have your past experiences equipped you to serve God in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Family Secrets

    Nancy

    "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

    Growing up, I was drawn to TV shows where the perfect family lived in the perfect home and their problems were always solved in 30 minutes. I especially loved the shows where the mom was always kind and gracious to her children. Oh, how I wanted a mom like that.

    But when the TV was off, my family life was anything but perfect.

    As much as we loved her, my father, sister and I lived in fear of provoking a reaction from my mom. Something was wrong, but I didn't know what. It became our family secret.

    Night after night, I lay in bed crying, God, why are my parents arguing? Why does my mom talk that way to my dad? I thought she loved him.

    I kept asking, God, can you help us? Can you make it stop? I would go to school each day carrying that burden, and no matter what I did or how many friends I had around me, I always felt alone. I thought I was the only one with a dark family secret.

    This family crisis caused my dad to seek God in prayer and Bible study. He often told my sister and me, "Your mom is not well; she doesn't mean what she says or does." His amazing example of dependence on God during those years showed me about how someone receives true healing when life is full of pain.

    As the years went by, I discovered my mother was a victim of an illness, not a villain on a mission. Though her pain was my pain, I began to separate what she did from who she was. I learned to extend her unconditional love.

    I also realized that our family wasn't the only one with a secret. Depression and mental illness affect multitudes of people.

    Through treatments, and by the grace of God, my mother's condition improved. She even gave her life to Christ. But sometimes I wonder if my dad would have grown as spiritually mature if my mother had not struggled. Would my sister and I have been exposed to as much prayer, patience and service at a young age if my father hadn't been such a godly servant to our family?

    My father followed Jesus by remaining faithful as he picked up his cross each day. Like our Savior, he learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8). And the power of a life dependent on Christ became the greatest witness to my sister and me.

    My family secret changed over time — from having a mother who was ill to discovering that God is my true source of healing. Today's key verse became truth in my life: "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Through my mom's struggles, God's works were displayed in our home in a way that they might not have been otherwise.

    Maybe you have family secrets. Maybe you are struggling to keep the faith and find it hard to be obedient. Trust me: He will remain faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). God may seem silent or absent today, but His purpose will become loud and clear in the future. Letting go of having life our way is always worth living in Christ and trusting in His way.

    Heavenly Father, help me remember that no matter what the crisis, no matter how much pain, and no matter how hopeless, Your goal is to always bring me closer to You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 9:23, "Then he said to them all: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.'" (NIV)

    Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Identify any painful secrets you are keeping to yourself. How are they affecting you?

    How do you think knowing Christ and depending on Him could help you through this difficult time?

    © 2014 by Nancy McGuirk. All rights reserved.

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

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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