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  • Randy Singer on The Advocate

    Randy

    Randy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 12 legal thrillers, and a veteran trial attorney. In addition to his writing and law practice, he serves as a teaching pastor for a church in Virginia.

    In this interview, he talks about his latest book, The Advocate.

    1. As a novelist, pastor, and trial attorney, you seem uniquely qualified to craft this story. Do you feel that you were meant to write this novel, The Advocate?

    It does feel like I was born to write this book—that everything else has just been practice. I know that I’m more excited about this book than any other I’ve done. And it took longer—nearly five years from concept to completion.

    Unlike my previous books, The Advocate is historical fiction. It’s focused on the two greatest trials in the history of the world: the trial of Jesus (which has been written about extensively) and the trial of Paul in front of Nero, which we know next to nothing about. Both changed the lives of all those associated with them as well as the trajectory of history.

    So yes, it does feel like this story, more than any other, brought together my roles as storyteller, pastor, and trial attorney. It also tapped into my experience as a history teacher before I went to law school. Until I started writing The Advocate, I had forgotten how much I loved studying this period of history.

    2. How does The Advocate relate to the gospel message?

    In two ways. First, The Advocate is the story of a man who played a central role in both the trial of Jesus and the trial of Paul in front of Nero. As you read the story, you are literally face-to-face with the two greatest proponents of the Christian faith in the midst of their greatest trials. There is no middle ground. You are forced to choose.

    Second, I believe the strongest evidence for the authenticity of the Christian faith is the faith and courage of the first-century Christians. They are the ones who literally bet their lives on the reality of the Resurrection. They had seen the risen Christ and had been totally transformed by the Spirit. Their courage, humility, strength, and resolve cannot be explained away apart from the supernatural.

    The day after I called my publisher with the idea for this book, I had dinner with a friend. Not knowing anything about this book, he was telling me how he had rejected the Christian faith his entire life until he started studying the earliest Christians and asked himself some simple questions. Why would they pledge their lives to a cause they knew to be a fraud? If they hadn’t actually seen Christ come back from the dead, why would claim they did? Where did they find the courage to confront the kingdoms of their day with the claims of the Kingdom of Christ? Those questions, and his search for answers, led him to put his faith in Christ. I knew after that dinner conversation that God had called me to write this book and bring this story to life.

    3. This book is obviously a departure from your normal fare of writing contemporary legal thrillers. What elements of a typical Randy Singer novel are present in The Advocate? Do you plan on writing more historical novels like this or returning to legal thrillers?

    The Advocate is a unique blend of legal thriller and historical fiction. The protagonist is one of Rome’s greatest lawyers and is involved in the first-century trials that determined the fate of the empire. The stakes are even higher and the intrigue greater than in modern courtrooms.

    Whether I’m writing a legal thriller or a historical piece like this one, my goal is that each of my books will feature realistic and compelling characters, intricate plots with lots of surprises, and a story line that entertains the reader while causing him or her to think about the bigger issues in life. My hope is that this book will have the authentic “feel” of a Randy Singer novel, just in a different place and time. Only the readers can say whether I’ve accomplished that.

    I do plan on writing legal thrillers again, but I’ve also got a sequel to The Advocate in mind. I’d like to see how this book is received before I make any decisions.

    4. Who is the advocate, your titular character—the man who defended the world’s greatest missionary in front of the world’s cruelest tyrant?

    The advocate is Theophilus, the man to whom Luke addressed the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. My premise is that he was Paul’s advocate, chosen to plead Paul’s case in front of Nero, the most despised ruler in the history of Rome (and that’s saying a lot). Theophilus accepted the assignment because he had previously served as Pilate’s assessore, or law clerk, and was there for the trial of Jesus. The crucifixion of an innocent Jewish Rabbi, and the events that followed, changed Theophilus in profound ways. Thirty years later, he sought redemption for his role in the trial of Christ by defending the Rabbi’s most strident disciple.

    5. In your novel, you suggest that the books of Luke and Acts were written as evidentiary briefs for Theophilus in defense of Paul. Can you help us understand this?

    As a novelist, I always wondered why the book of Acts ended with Paul imprisoned in Rome, waiting for his trial in front of the infamous Nero. Luke is a great storyteller, but it seemed like a strange way to end a great story—right at the climax. Combine this with the fact that Luke spends five chapters at the end of Acts telling about the minute details of Paul’s trials that preceded his appeal to Caesar. And finally there is that intriguing hint in the salutation of the two books, where Luke tells the “most excellent Theophilus” that he has written this account so that Theophilus will “know the certainty of the things you have been [told]” (Luke 1:4).

    When you put all those things together, it seems to me that these two books were written to assist Theophilus, as Paul’s court-appointed advocate for his trial in front of Nero, to understand Paul’s story and better defend him. Perhaps Theophilus visited Paul when he was under house arrest and heard an earful from Paul and his companion Luke about this Nazarene named Jesus and the reasons for Paul’s arrest. Perhaps Theophilus, recognizing that Luke was a great historian and storyteller, urged the doctor to write the whole thing down in a form that could be submitted as evidence at the trial. In Roman courts, written submissions were just as valued as oral testimony. And when I read the books of Luke and Acts with this thesis in mind, I realize just how much they read like a legal brief—arguing the case that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah (because Judaism was still legal in the Empire) and that both he and Paul had been prosecuted based on trumped-up charges of sedition.

    6. The trial of Jesus Christ has been studied and dissected for centuries. What made you want to examine the trial of the apostle Paul? What do you most want to share about this trial?

    I would love to know what happened at the trial of Paul. He was the world’s greatest missionary, a brilliant advocate in his own defense who was not afraid to call even kings and rulers to repentance. And sitting on the throne judging him was Nero, the cruelest, most depraved and self-possessed tyrant the world had ever seen. Paul was accused of starting a new religion and of sedition against Rome. What did Paul say when he testified? What would I say as an advocate if I were the one defending him? How did the haughty Nero react? We know from Acts 26 that when Paul was brought to trial before Agrippa, he tried to convert the Roman king. Did he do the same with Nero? Is this trial part of the reason that Nero hated Christians so much?

    You would think that Paul would have no chance of winning. But you would be wrong. In 2 Timothy, Paul said that the message was fully proclaimed at his trial so that the Gentiles might hear it. And yet miraculously, he was “delivered from the lion’s mouth.” The phrase “the lion” was a common way of referring to Caesar. How could this be? How could Paul and his advocate possibly convince the notorious Nero that Paul was an innocent man? Those are the questions I wanted to explore in this book.

    7. The concept of Christian martyrdom comes up in this novel. How did the deaths of these early Christians set the stage for the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire?

    Romans were fascinated with death. They watched brave gladiators die and honored them for their courage. They experimented with the mechanics of death, thinking up new and horrific ways to kill condemned prisoners or captives of war. They made a spectacle of death, perfecting things like crucifixion.

    But they had never seen men and women die like the Christians. Yes, they had seen courage in the face of death—something the Christians exhibited along with the noblest gladiators. But they had never seen such commitment to a cause, such peace in the face of torture, such grace and forgiveness for those whom the Christians should have been cursing.

    I discovered in writing this novel that most of us don’t believe we have the kind of faith and courage that would allow us to be a martyr. But I’ve also found that God gives boldness and grace for each step of the journey, equal to what the situation demands, even grace unto death. Jesus himself wrestled in the garden before submitting to the Father’s will and embracing the cross.

    I’ve also discovered how powerful it is when others know that our faith doesn’t just help us to live well; it also helps us die well. In AD 197, in a letter to Roman authorities, Tertullian said it this way:

    “Kill us, torture us, condemn us, grind us to dust; your injustice is proof that we are innocent. Therefore God allows that we thus suffer. . . . Nor does your cruelty, however exquisite, avail you. . . . The oftener we are mown down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is seed.”

    8. Reviewers suggest that this book weaves together secular history and biblical history in a unique way. How is this book different from other historical novels set in first-century Rome?

    I’m not sure I can speak for all historical novels, but I do think that many books set in the first century tell the story from the point of view of a biblical character or a person on the bottom rung of Roman society. By contrast, The Advocate is told from the point of view of one of Rome’s leading advocates, a man who experienced Jesus firsthand but also interacted with Roman emperors and the Roman Senate. We sometimes lose sight of the fact that the Christian faith was incubated in a hostile world ruled by Rome. Christian leaders like Paul and Roman rulers like Nero crossed paths. We should not isolate church history from what was happening in the broader political context.

    9. How accurate is the book historically? How can readers know what parts are fiction and what parts are historical reality?

    As a history lover, I have worked hard on the historical details. That’s one reason it took me so long to write the book—I felt like I first needed to really understand the culture, politics, and people of the time. People who have read the book have many questions that start with “Did [fill in the blank] really happen?” For the most part, my answer is “yes.” I did not knowingly fudge the history just to make the story work. Plus, the reality of what happened in first-century Rome is quite often stranger than any fiction writer could imagine. That said, the book is fiction, so there are fictional characters and the main story line is fictional, though I’ve woven it into the actual history of the era (if that makes sense). At the beginning of the book is a list of characters that notes which ones are historical and which are fictional. I also intend to put up notes for each chapter on my website to detail which parts of the story are real and which parts I imagined.

    10. It could be argued that our modern-day society is reminiscent of first-century Rome. What are some of the similarities? What lessons can we learn in this novel that still ring true today?

    This was shocking to me—how much first-century Rome was like twenty-first–century America. Rome was the greatest power in the world, but it had abandoned the values that originally made it great. A Roman poet decried this state of affairs, calling the Caesars “emperors of bread and circus.” What he meant was that Rome’s rulers garnered public approval not through exemplary service but through creating a state of entitlement among the Romans (more than 400,000 Romans got free bread from the state) and by entertaining them with elaborate gladiator games and chariot races. Moreover, Rome’s rulers and intellectual elites led Rome down a path of sexual degradation, and the gap between the rich and poor became greater and greater. Treason trials were the order of the day and nobody dared say anything that was “politically incorrect.”

    In terms of lessons, we should look at how Christianity grew and flourished in such a culture. The early Christians didn’t try to reform the government through laws but chose to live differently in a hostile culture, winning the hearts of individuals. The power of the Spirit and the message of the gospel would eventually sweep the Empire, resulting in reform and cultural change that never could have been ushered in politically.

  • Influential Grandparents

    Boyd

    One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. Psalm 145:4

    Grandparents have a significant role of influence in the lives of their grandchildren. Second only to the parents’ is an opportunity to lead their precious little ones toward a discovery of the Lord’s ways. Love qualifies us, while imagination inspires us. The one sentence job description for grandmothers and grandfathers is to influence them while leading the next generation to love God and people. We commend the works of God to our grandchildren so they learn to fear God.

    Gray hair does not guarantee wisdom, but it is indicative of a life that may have experienced lean times and perhaps prosperous days. Yes, bumps along life’s path prepares us to prepare our grandchildren. Setbacks and successes are the Lord’s crucible to purify our character. As we grow older and our hearing begins to falter, we must learn to listen better, speaking wise words like, “What we give away in life, we keep forever--what we keep in life, we have for a brief moment.”

    Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31).

    Children and youth need our undivided attention and unhurried presence. We are a rock of unrivaled acceptance for them to run to. BiBi and Pop’s home is a haven of rest, an arena to be understood. We have the privilege of knowing them in a unique way--a way they have yet to understand themselves. We give them permission to be themselves. We compliment the inner and outer beauty of our granddaughters. We build up our grandson’s confidence to be a man of character with stellar skills. In their search for security, they see us as trusted confidants.

    Furthermore, make sure you are intentional in spending time with your grandparents. You may or may not have many occasions left to love them, learn from them, and be loved by them. You honor your parents when you honor your grandparents with your presence. Holiday trips may be an inconvenience, but nothing compares to their influence in your life, nurturing growth similar to a sprawling vineyard. If you take time for them to invest in you now, the seeds of their speech and the fertilizer of their faith will bear fruit throughout your life. Embrace and be embraced by the elderly.

    Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent” (Psalm 71:9).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me opportunities of quantity time to become a trusted confidant for my grandchildren.

    Related Readings: Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 92:14-15; Isaiah 46:4; 2 Timothy 1:5; Titus 2:1-5

    Post/Tweet today:. Our one sentence job description as grandparents is to influence the next generation to love God and people. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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  • You're Stronger Than You Think

    Glynnis

    "And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone." 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (NIV)

    The first day of class, the exercise leader replaced the lighter weights I'd chosen with heavier ones. I tried to hide my skepticism as he said, "You're stronger than you think!"

    I shook my head in disbelief as he moved on to assess the next participant. No, I thought. I'm weaker than you think!

    It had been a few years since I'd been in an exercise class, and my confidence level was low. Never an athlete, I couldn't even do one push-up. And my legs felt like rubber bands after the first set of "warm-ups."

    I'd signed up for the early morning class out of determination to do things differently. It wasn't at all where I wanted to be at 5:30 a.m. two mornings a week, but earlier in the year, God challenged me to break out of my comfort zone.

    As I struggled to lift the heavier weights, I decided to glance at the women next to me. Normally when exercising I keep my head down and just try to survive. But that day I looked closer at my classmates. Some were older and spoke of grandchildren. Some looked like they were struggling too. I overheard one say she'd had a knee replacement.

    Hmmm ... if they can do this, certainly I can, too. Maybe I could try another class or two before quitting.

    The next class we all showed up, finding connection points over sore muscles. We laughed as we struggled to get off the mat. One said how hard it had been to walk up the stairs. I agreed.

    Maybe I wasn't the only one feeling weak. Somehow the idea encouraged me.

    Each morning, the thought of those other ladies showing up and rubbing sleep from their eyes motivated me to lace on my tennis shoes and head to the gym. Little by little, I felt more comfortable admitting my weakness, even laughing about it.

    In one particularly hard class, as I was the last one struggling to finish sit-ups, I heard a voice from my left, "You go, girl!" Something bold rose up in me at those words, and I thought, I can do this! Determination surged through me as I finished the last few sit-ups to the counts of my classmates.

    My positive attitude surprised me. Where did that come from? Although I was getting stronger physically, that wasn't the only area gaining strength. The encouragement from my classmates was making me stronger mentally, too.

    The first class, I wanted to keep to myself and hide my pain. But as the weeks progressed, the more I shared my struggles, the more others could speak into them. Their words encouraged me. Their presence reassured me I wasn't alone. Once again, God was teaching me how good it is to let others know I'm not perfect.

    This has been a problem for me all my life. I'd much rather be the one obeying our key verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:14: "And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone."

    I like being the one who warns, encourages and helps. I'm not so good at being patient, but otherwise I'm pretty good at obeying this verse. But for God's plan to be fully realized in the church at Thessalonica and in our lives today, at some point we need to be on the receiving end of this verse.

    This is the beauty of the body of Christ. God designed a loving check-and-balance system to deepen our faith and relationships. But in order for it to work, we have to accept being warned, encouraged and helped — allowing others to see our frailties.

    Unfortunately, there's a fierce and faulty independent streak in my thinking that fights being on the receiving end of help. My default approach is to hide my weaknesses, fears and insecurities, which opens a crack for unhealthy pride to sneak in.

    And yet what freedom there is in simply admitting: I can be a mess at times. When I acknowledge that, others can pray for me. They can encourage me. It's a double blessing of God's strength and that of others.

    God needs me to learn this truth. Admitting I need help breaks down my pride. It humbles me, which softens God's heart toward me. And it allows others to be obedient in caring for me.

    So, am I stronger than I think I am? Apparently so. But the best way to discover my strength is to admit my weakness.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for bringing friends into my life who help me grow stronger. Forgive me for the sinful pride that has kept others from getting too close. Help me to understand it doesn't make me weaker to admit my weaknesses. In fact, it opens me to get stronger. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Acts 15:40-41, "... but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is it hard for you to share your struggles with others? What holds you back from being more open?

    Commit to telling one friend about a worry, fear or weak area of your life. Ask her to pray for you.

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Generous Grandparents

    Boyd

    A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. Proverbs 13:22

    Grandparents have an opportunity to invest financial, emotional and spiritual capital into their children’s children. This return on investment may prove to be the most significant, if done prayerfully and proactively. Thus we pray, “How can I give to our grandchildren in a manner that blesses them the best, while honoring their parents and the Lord in the process?” Ultimately we trust God to take our generous gifts and use them to grow faithfulness for future generations.

    Therefore, our generosity is not a subtle scheme to control our desired outcome (no matter how noble it might be), rather the goal of our gifts is to be a catalyst for God’s will. Our role as grandparents is not to tell our adult children and grandchildren what to do, but to support them in what they do. They are their own persons, hopefully under the authority of the Spirit’s leading, so we bring the most lasting value when we value them over their chosen path to follow in life.

    “Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it” (Ezra 10:4).

    Grandparents show respect when they confer with their adult children, before they give to their grandchildren. It could be as small a matter as a cream filled donut for breakfast, or as big an issue as opening a college fund. We ask permission before our big-hearted acts, so we have the full support of mom and dad. Well-meaning help will hurt if done outside the intentions of the parents. Next generation generosity is most effectively done in collaboration with our children.

    Most of all, invest spiritual capital into your grandchildren. Make sure your influence for the Lord is allocated heavily on the asset side of their spiritual balance sheet. Pray with them. Go to church with them. Read Bible stories to them. Share God examples of life change and answered prayer. Teach them old hymns while you feed the ducks. Having fun without instilling a faith influence is like taking a fevered child to the amusement park without offering any comfort or medication. Yes, your intimacy with Jesus is the most precious gift you can give your grandchild.

    “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children” (Psalm 103:17).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, grant me wisdom to know how to be the most generous with my grandchild.

    Related Readings: Genesis 48:11; Ezra 9:12; Psalm 128:6; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Timothy 5:4

    Post/Tweet today: Our role is not to tell our adult child what to do, but to support them in what they do. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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  • From Failure to Faithful Follower

    Derwin

    "And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Matthew 4:19 (NASB)

    If you've ever felt like a loser, I've got great news today! Jesus is looking for you, because He still transforms people who feel like failures into faithful disciples who change the course of history.

    My life is the perfect example. I come from a family brutalized by drugs, a lack of education and criminal activity. My childhood friends laughed at my house because it was a disaster. And I didn't go to church growing up. I was spiritually lost!

    I didn't even own a Bible my first few years in the NFL, but when the team would travel and stay in hotels, I noticed Gideon Bibles in the rooms. One weekend, I decided to steal one. It wasn't until I became a Christ-follower that I realized the Gideons intentionally place Bibles in hotel rooms so people can take them for free!

    Did you know all of Jesus' disciples would have been considered losers by their culture? No rabbi (or teacher) in the first-century Jewish world would have chosen any of the 12 guys Jesus called to be His followers.

    Let me give you some historical context to grasp the significance of Jesus choosing these men. For Jewish people, the education of their children was not only important, it was the key means of survival as the people of God.

    Beginning at age 6, children would begin to learn and memorize the Jewish Scriptures. Those who were particularly talented would move up the ranks and apply to become followers of a particular rabbi. Those who didn't qualify would be encouraged to learn the family trade.

    Jesus took the very opposite approach. Instead of waiting for the best of the best to apply to be His students, He went after the dropouts and asked them to become His apprentices.

    Jesus dumbfounded the world and transformed the course of history through 12 individual "failures."

    When Jesus called Peter to follow Him, Peter was shocked. The story of the day they met is in Matthew's telling of Jesus' life:

    Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him." (Matthew 4:18-22)

    When Jesus called Andrew and Peter, they immediately dropped their nets and followed Him. Perhaps for the first time, Peter didn't see himself as a loser.

    I wonder if Peter remembered back to the days when he'd realized he wasn't smart enough to be disciple-potential. Perhaps the day Peter met Jesus, Peter looked into the eyes of his father, who had taught him to fish, and no word was spoken. Perhaps the expression on his father's face conveyed pride and told Peter it was okay to go with the rabbi.

    Can you imagine Peter and Andrew's daddy going home to their mother and saying, "Sweetheart, you will never believe this! A rabbi called our sons to follow Him. This rabbi believes in our sons. He believes they can be like Him!"

    Andrew and Peter dropped their nets. They left their daddy and followed Jesus. And as they did, they left their former identity to find a new one, forged by the limitless love Jesus had for them.

    As I look at my life and all the things God has done, I cry. How could I not drop the nets of my pain, my insecurities, my doubts and fears and follow Jesus, too?

    Have you dropped your nets to follow Him? Or have you held back because you think you are unqualified?

    The truth is, you're not qualified to follow Him. And neither am I. But Jesus is calling losers and failures — like us — to become faithful followers of HIS!

    Dear Lord, thank You for removing the labels my past has given me. Thank You for seeing my potential and for calling me to follow You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5a, "For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction." (NIV)

    Isaiah 62:2, "You will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you ever put the label of "loser" or "failure" on yourself? How has Jesus replaced that label in your life?

    Think about what "nets" you might be holding onto in your life. What positive changes could happen if you were to let go, and allow God's grace into that circumstance?

    © 2014 by Derwin L. Gray. All rights reserved.

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

  • Thorough Works

    Boyd

    The Israelites had done all the work just as the Lord had commanded Moses. Moses inspected the work and saw that they had done it just as the Lord had commanded. So Moses blessed them. Exodus 39:42­43

    We live in an instant society. We want relationships, money, and our eating experiences in an instant. In the process of making everything instantaneous, we have lost something. We have lost an appreciation for thoroughness in our work and in our relationships. We take shortcuts to finish on time, sacrificing quality, just to end up with an inferior outcome. Or even worse, we misrepresent the facts or lie outright to reach a goal because of the pressure we feel to produce. Thoroughness requires attention, trust, and tenacity.

    Whatever happened to thoroughness‹the discipline to plan ahead, provide accountability, cover the details, create a beautiful result, and celebrate the success? Instead, we plow ahead without proper understanding and procedures. Everyone does what is right in his own eyes, and we miss the opportunity to learn and benefit from one another.

    Indeed, thoroughness begins with a good example from the leader. Like Moses, Nehemiah stayed focused on the work at hand.

    "So I sent messengers to them, saying, 'I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?' They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way" (Nehemiah 6:3­4 nasb).

    Moses was a thorough leader. He listened patiently to God and then delivered in detail to the team what was expected and required to accomplish the project. He understood and applied wise management of people. He understood each of their individual gifts and skills. People who take pride in their work are the most thorough when they are competent in their area of responsibility and clear on expectations. They understand what is needed and when it is to be complete. Details and deadlines are friends of thoroughness.

    Lastly, thoroughness is dependent on the needed resources and relationships to carry out the project. Do not be afraid to be resourceful. Seek out the people and information needed to carry out your job. Your thoroughness will speak volumes to your boss and to your peers. Your thorough and excellent work is the best testament to your trust in Christ. In the end you are blessed because of the quality product or service you created. God is glorified through thoroughness and the enduring influence of your work experience.

    "I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:4­5).

    Prayer: What current project requires my thorough attention to detailed implementation?

    Related Readings: Genesis 7:5; Exodus 23:21­22; Matthew 28:20; 2 Timothy 2:15

    Post/Tweet today: Details and deadlines are friends of thoroughness. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Wedding Celebration

    Boyd

    On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus' mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. John 2:1-2

    A wedding is a celebration of two people committed to Christ and committed to each other. This is cause for raucous laughter and tearful gratitude. The solemn vows of the bride and groom are accented by their smiles and kisses. The parents celebrate God's goodness in all its facets. It's good to see your child embrace a spouse who will cherish and respect your "baby." It's good to see your child happy and content. And it's good to see your child make wise choices and dance with joy. It is good to see your child obedient to his or her heavenly Father.

    Weddings where Jesus is invited are the best!

    A wedding is a preamble to the constitution of marriage. It is a declaration of independence from self-interest. It is interdependence on each other and dependence on God. A wedding is costly, but not nearly as expensive as the marriage. A wedding mirrors a marriage's need for mentors, prayer support, and planning. A wedding done well is a template for marriage. You keep the fires of romance burning brightly. You plan together and communicate constantly. You spend budgeted money. You involve your family in ways that are appropriate and honoring. You keep God as the centerpiece of your life. A wedding is not a fleeting moment, but rather a memory to be relived over and over again. A wedding is a reminder of God¹s beautiful work of grace in a world full of hurt. It reinvigorates stale marriages. It staves off the pending demise of others. It affirms those who, by God's grace, have grown deeper and deeper in love since their own special day.

    Invite Jesus to your wedding. He is the ultimate wedding planner. He is interested in every detail of your public expression of faith in Him. Indeed, your public display of faith begins with your private devotion. Once you have developed a personal love relationship with Jesus, you can humbly exalt Him before friends, family, and the world. Private dedication precedes public declaration. An engaged couple who lack individual engagements of faith, is not ready for a wedding. A wedding requires much more than starry-eyed looks of love. Its prerequisite is a deep and abiding faith in God. Otherwise, the wedding becomes a big, expensive party lacking the teeth of commitment and follow through.

    A wedding without Jesus is like an orchestra without a conductor. There is a ton of potential represented by a lot of well-meaning individuals, but there is no defined direction. There is no overall harmony of the musical instruments of husband, wife, family, friends, and faith. Jesus integrates the lives of all these well-meaning players into a beautiful concert called marriage. The wedding is but a prelude of the marriage concert, but what a beautiful beginning it births. Jesus is a gracious guest always looking for ways to intercede on your behalf‹as the new couple‹and on the behalf of your guests. His model of servanthood will mark your marriage for a lifetime. Your faith in Christ is a marriage analogy, for He is the groom and you are the bride. Your wedding is a picture of the joy of your salvation. Your marriage is a lifelong consecration of that commitment. Keep inviting Jesus, the initiator of your wedding and the sustainer of your marriage.

    Post/Tweet today: A wedding mirrors a marriage¹s need for mentors, prayer support, and planning. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Unsolicited Blessings

    Boyd

    After saying this, he [Jesus] spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means "Sent"). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:6-7

    Sometimes God blesses us out of the blue. We don't see it coming, but when we encounter His goodness, we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Such was the experience of the blind man, who minding his own business, became the recipient of Christ's mercy. This feeble man of sorrows was touched by the Man of Sorrows. Our Lord does not look at a misfortunate man with contempt, but with compassion. Jesus came to save not judge, though His coming is judgment for those who stay stuck in their unbelief. God's unsolicited blessings manifest from His mercy.

    Moreover, there will always be contemporary critics who can't handle Christ's miraculous intervention. Strangely, instead of celebrating the wholeness of this man's body, the spiritually blind leaders shifted the discussion to a theological debate. Because they were not the instigators of this healing or the recipient of God's grace, they were opposed to Christ's act of mercy. We can expect the unenlightened to explain away our experience of the Lord's favor. Jealous distractors will try to demean Jesus by dismissing His divinity, but His blessings still remain.

    "Her (Elizabeth's) neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy" (Luke 1:58).

    Furthermore, when Christ calls us to obey, we obey. Though it may not seem as strange as allowing Him to smear the saliva stained mud of His mercy on our eyes with us washing it away, we will still trust and obey. Faith without obedience is without effect, but faith with obedience sees the Spirit's effect. Thus, we don't sit around and pridefully debate the origin of a man or woman's misfortune, instead we get our hands dirty in the mud of God's mercy and we lovingly serve!

    How do you regularly rejoice in God's unsolicited blessings? Perhaps over a meal with your family, each one shares how they've been surprised by joy. Or, as you engage people in every day life, make note of the Lord's favor in their lives. Pass on these nuggets of encouragement to friends and loved ones. Jesus miraculously intervenes all around you, so be aware and share. Be a steward of God's stories of faithfulness. His unsolicited blessings deserve your recognition and rejoicing!

    "Surely you have granted him unending blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence" (Psalm 21:6).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I praise you for the blessings prayed for and for the unexpected blessings.

    Related Readings: Job 33:26; 2 Kings 5:10; Isaiah 35:5; John 11:37; Hebrews 10:23

    Post/Tweet today: Faith without obedience is without effect, but faith with obedience sees the Spirit's effect. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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