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Family Christian

  • A God Hug

    Posted on October 10, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13

    A God hug is a timely gift. His hugs soothe, comfort and calm. He is never late in offering His affection or too busy to stand still and embrace His human creation. The Spirit gently caresses burdened shoulders and rubs out raw pain in the back of believers. His compassion has never failed. His mercy is fresh every day. Like a cool cream alleviates an itchy skin rash, so His balm of grace relieves a rash of worries. A God hug holds on until healing occurs. He holds on tight.

    Furthermore, a God hug does not happen on the run, but while we stand still. ‘Slow down my child,’ He says, ‘Hush, I have this,’ ‘Be still, let Me hold you.’ ‘Rest in My arms.’ So we learn to stay stationary by faith and trust the right activities will get done in the right time. When we schedule appointments to be loved by the Lord, we receive strength for the journey. Otherwise we exhaust our ability to encourage without the infusion of Christ’s courage. His hugs hearten.

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

    Affection from the Almighty makes us attractive to those who need our compassion and care. Our hugs from Jesus compel us to hug others with unconditional love. For example, we may receive an unexpected financial blessing, so we are able to show generosity to another’s cash challenge. An insight from Scripture or a kind word from a friend could be passed on to a person who needs our encouragement. God comforts us, so we can comfort others.

    Shout for joy in praise to your Creator for His comfort and compassion. Brag on His name and extol Him for His divine affection. Like the father of the prodigal son who came home, your Father in Heaven can’t wait to embrace you in your shame, stress or success. He runs to greet you with warm acceptance, so throw yourself into His arms. Cast your cares on Christ and abandon your life to the Lord. Invite His affections to become your affections. Yes, enjoy His sweet embrace!

    I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow. Jeremiah 31:13

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I receive your love and affection. Thanks for your comforting hugs just when I need them.

    Related Readings: Psalm 23:4; Jeremiah 8:18; Zechariah 10:2; Nahum 1:7; Ephesians 1:3

    Post/Tweet today: God comforts us, so we can comfort others. #aGodhug

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Isaiah

  • To Hollywood and Back - Colton Dixon

    Posted on October 10, 2013 by John van der Veen



    American Idol’s Season 11 finalist Colton Dixon’s powerful and iconic voice quickly earned him a loyal and enthusiastic fan following among the shows 20 million viewers that kept him from placing in the bottom three until his last week in the competition. Following a shocking early elimination, Colton hit the road with the other Idol finalists for the American Idol LIVE! Tour, where he performed in front of over 360,000 fans across the country.

    Colton’s musical journey has been a long time in the making, beginning with piano lessons at 7 years old. A lifelong fan of Christian music, he remembers his first concert at age 13 performing “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe. That’s when he knew he had found his calling. With a humble spirit, he answered the call. To be a messenger for a purpose greater than himself.

    I caught up with Colton at a recent festival to talk about American Idol, the fast rise to fame, and keeping a mind on Christ.

    John: Colton you made it to Hollywood and back. You have a record out called A Messenger.

    Colton: A Messenger, yeah.

    John: And you are the messenger?

    Colton: Well, I mean, it comes from John 13:16. It says that “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” So I called the record A Messenger just because it’s not … I don’t want it to be about me. You know?

    John: Mm-hmm.

    Colton: God chose people to write down His Word, so His message is already out there. So now it’s just up to us to carry it to my generation and generations to come. And it’s so important, so I just wanted people to connect with that and realize that God’s the priority here, you know, not me. So that’s where A Messenger comes from.

    John: Mm-hmm. You’re probably sick and tired of answering this question, but what does your sister feel about all of the success that you’ve had since American Idol?

    Colton: That’s a great question. Man, my sister, Schyler, is so mature and so cool.

    John: Yeah, I’m sure.

    Colton: So she’s really proud and really excited for me. It’s funny. We normally have her out with us whenever we drive and have space. You know?

    John: Yeah.

    Colton: We were a little crammed in the van this time, but we bring her along, and she loves it.

    John: Yeah. I’ve heard she’s been on stage with you guys a few times.

    Colton: Yeah, so she loves meeting artists, just like I do. I was just hanging out with Matthew West a little bit ago, and it still blows my mind. You know? It’s crazy. So she’s loving it, and she’s riding coattails and enjoying it just as much as I am (laughs).

    John: Good. Great deal.

    Colton: Yeah.

    John: That’s great. Just a little bit about the idea of going to quote-unquote “Hollywood” and living to tell about it. What was that like? I mean, everybody who is within the body of Christ kind of looks towards the entertainment community and goes, “Wow, it would be really tough to be a believer, an outspoken believer, within that type of culture.” What type of pressures did you experience while you were with American Idol, on tour, with any of those guys? I mean, was it something that was hard to deal with, or …?

    Colton: Honestly, it’s like … Let’s take religion out of it for a second.

    John: Okay.

    Colton: Or my faith. It’s like with anything. If you think a different way from somebody else or whatever, it’s about being polite and respecting what they do, and in return, hopefully, they’ll respect you back. Now, let’s plug faith back into it. It should be the exact same way. You know? Don’t get me wrong. I came across people … my heart just broke for them knowing that they’re missing out on something bigger, but the thing I had to realize, too, is some of these people will never crack open a Bible. They’re never going to go to church, so I’m the only Bible that they’re ever going to see just by the way I’m living.

    So just realizing that and that I really have to watch everything I say, everything I do, not that I’m necessarily doing or saying anything bad, but just being set apart, which is what Jesus called us all to, in our actions and our speech and everything in between. So that just made things difficult, just that you’re under a really fine microscope. Then, when it finally gets out there that you’re a Christian, like the papers have a heyday, and it’s like Tim Tebow. People are waiting to see him fall, and I’m so thankful he hasn’t. You know? He’s really representing us well.

    But he was an inspiration for me while I was on Idol. It’s like, man, if he can do it, I can do it. You know? It’s possible. With God, anything is possible, so … Yeah, I think that was the hardest part, just realizing that, not only if I slip up, Hollywood and the press or whatever are going to have a heyday, but that the people looking at me, it’s like I may be the only Bible that they see. So, God let them see you and me. You know? Let’s use this opportunity for that.

    John: Yeah. Would you give the same answer, Colton, to somebody who’s in high school or college that just kind of feels pressure to kind of give in to the world? Maybe they feel like they’re all alone in their faith or in their walk towards Christ. How do you speak to that person who’s not in the limelight, per se, but certainly feels kind of all alone? I mean, they’re here in culture, but they’re just having a hard time living out their faith among people that are so contrary to them.

    Colton: Yeah, it’s the exact same thing.

    John: Is it the same thing?

    Colton: You know, there were definitely times where I felt alone or whatever, and not just in my faith, but in general (laughs) while on the TV show. There was little communication to anybody except for the other contestants and …

    John: Really?

    Colton: And after a while … I mean, they’re all phenomenal people. Don’t get me wrong, but you miss your friends and family from back home after a while, so that’s that. But as far as feeling alone in your faith, something that really was a light-bulb moment for me--and it inspired one of my songs called “Never Gone”—is knowing that God’s with you the whole time, and He’s all that you need. You know? Contrary to belief, God is really all that you need to get through a situation. So I would just encourage whoever it is who feels like they’re alone to open their eyes a little bit more, you know? Focus your mind on God, and He’ll reveal to you that He promises in His Word that He’d never leave us nor forsake us. So He’s been with us the whole time. So that was a light-bulb moment for me on the show, and I’m glad I was able to write that song because of it, to answer that question.

    John: Let’s change tracks a little bit. Go back to when you were five, six, eight, 10 years old or whatever. Did you ever dream that this is what you would be doing?

    Colton: That young, no.

    John: (Laughs). At what point in your life did you say, “Okay, I think God is doing something here in me. I kind of want to pursue this.”?

    Colton: Yeah, it’s actually younger than most. I was 13, and I knew without a doubt that this is what I was going to do. I didn’t know that Idol was going to be the door, but…

    John: Right.

    Colton: I sang in public for the first time when I was 13. I’d been taking piano lessons for several years, and my piano teacher just kind of set up a microphone and said, “I think you need to sing tonight.”

    John: We’re doing it.

    Colton: Cool. So I sat down, and I was supposed to play “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe that night, and instead I played and sang it, which was a very, very difficult song for a kid going through puberty. But I got through it, and it was just the coolest thing because I really just felt the Holy Spirit just telling me deep down, it was like, “This is it. This is what I made you for.” And I gave up sports for music when I was 15. I finally gave in. It took me a couple years, but I just continued to pursue and pursue and pursue, and I got a lot of people telling me, “Nah, you can’t have that sound,” or, “You’re not going to be able to look that way,” or whatever, telling me no over and over and over again. Then, finally, just God just opened the door to American Idol, and, boom, there it was.

    John: The rest is history.

    Colton: Yeah.

    John: Colton, if there is one artist that you would love to go on tour with, either you open for them or they open for you, who would that be?

    Colton: Oh, look at this. I would have to say Switchfoot.

    John: Really?

    Colton: And it would feel totally wrong if they opened up for me.

    John: (Laughs).

    Colton: I would want to open up for them.

    John: You never know.

    Colton: That would be too strange.

    John: (Laughs).

    Colton: I don’t think I would allow it. But I would really enjoy that. I met them for the first time a few months ago, and they were great guys. But as far as the rock side of Christian music, they were really one of the first bands that got me into it, and then I just got heavier and heavier as time passed with Skillet and RED and you name it. But I really just enjoyed “Beautiful Letdown” by them, and it seemed like every single song on that record was an anthem at one point in my life, so I really appreciated that record a lot.

    John: Cool.

    Colton: Yeah.

    For more from Colton, click here.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews and was tagged with Featured, MercyMe, Switchfoot, Colton Dixon, RED, American Idol

  • Liz Curtis Higgs - The Women of Christmas

    Posted on October 10, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
    Let earth receive her King;
    Let every heart prepare him room,
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven and nature sing,
    And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
    —Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World,” 1719

    A sacred season is about to unfold for three women whose hearts belong to God. Elizabeth is barren, yet her trust in God remains fertile. Mary is betrothed in marriage, yet she is willing to bear God’s Son. Anna is a widow full of years, yet she waits patiently, prayerfully for the Messiah to appear in the temple courts.

    Following in their footsteps, you too can prepare for the Savior to enter your heart, your mind, and your life in a vibrant, new way this season. In The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, bestselling author Liz Curtis Higgs explores the biblical stories of these three women, unwrapping each verse with tender care and introducing you afresh to The Women of Christmas.

    Earlier this year, I sat down with Liz to talk about her new book. In reading this, you will notice a woman who is passionate about the birth of Christ and how it is the unveiling of a much larger start. The redemption of God's people.

    John: You have a new book coming out this fall called The Women of Christmas.

    Liz: Not The Good Girls of Christmas. (Laughs.) They are pretty amazing women.

    John: Elizabeth, Mary and Anna. Want to talk a little bit about that book?

    Liz: Sure. Of course they are in chronological order. Most people would say, "Well heavens, wouldn't you mention Mary first?" Not if you're going in chronological order. If you go in the order they unroll in the Bible, that's how it goes.

    It started as a message that I shared at a conference. It's fun to begin that way, because you get immediate audience response. You see what speaks to people's hearts and what you need to dig deeper on. One of the challenges of writing without having shared it anywhere else is you're like, "Well, I'm excited about this material, but will a reader be? Will an audience be?" I don't do it that way often, but that time it started with audience response and going, "Okay, I think there's something here." Then I blogged about it.

    I have a Bible study blog once a week. This summer I did the 20 verses you love most. I asked about 1,000 people to tell me their favorite verse in the Bible and then I tallied them up. So they're really my readers' favorites. You know, people I know as opposed to just a published list. So fascinating. We've done kind of a countdown style. Of course it still lives on the blog, so if you're curious what those 20 verses are, they're there.

    I just did a verse a week. You're thinking, "A verse a week? What would you say about a verse?" Oh dear, about 1,500 words of pulling it apart. I love to do that! Look at the different translations. Look what the commentators have to say. Though, before I ever look at a commentator, I look at the Word as it is, and ask God what He wants to show me. That's what I share. It's just been a pure joy.

    The Women of Christmas was five posts on my blog in December of 2012. Going a little deeper into their stories I thought, "Oh my word, there's so much here!" You've got angels showing up, the first one with Zechariah at the altar of incense, and then Gabriel next appears to Mary. We have Mary talking to Gabriel, then we have an angel appearing to Joseph in a dream, then the shepherds get one angel and then they get the Heavenly Hosts. Thousands, the Bible says, thousands of angels singing.

    Though I have to say, all the Bible says is "saying." It doesn't use the word "sing." But I think if thousands of angels were saying, "Glory to God in the highest," it would sound like music, simply because that many people trying to speak at once would have to have rhythm and movement. I think it must be a singing like nothing we've ever heard, a sound beyond anything human.

    So, you've got angels appearing. The Holy Spirit keeps showing up. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, that's how she knows that Mary is filled with Jesus. Then Mary bursts into song, and that song, those are not Mary's words. She was 12, 12½, uneducated and poor. Yet you look at The Magnificat, the words are exquisite. They're drawn from a deep well. You'll recognize little bits of Hannah and Hannah's words, and Isaiah's words in there. I mean it's a deep, rich well that had to be inspired by the Holy Spirit. It wasn't just this 12-year-old saying, "Wow!" It's really exquisite, beautiful wording.

    John the Baptist in his mother's womb leaps because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. That was an expectation promised by Gabriel, that the son would be filled with the Spirit even before he was born. Then later Simeon, by the Holy Spirit, sees that this is the baby Jesus, and Anna knows this is the Messiah she's waited her whole life for. We have angels, we have the Holy Spirit at work, we have unexpected appearances, we have visitors from afar. It's a remarkable story.

    You're going, "I know Liz. It's the Christmas story. We've all heard it 10 million times." It's the stories you've heard 10 million times that you need to look at most carefully, because we've had so many layers put on that story by culture, by movies. I mean, don't you always picture Mary riding in on a donkey just about to go into labor? That's how it's always shown, but that is not in the Bible. It never has her on a donkey. It never has her coming in at the moment of delivery. It just says, "While she was in Bethlehem, the time came to give birth." I know, I know. You're saying, "Liz, you just blew my image. My creche scene is already not looking right."

    John: What do I do with my nativity scene?

    Liz: That's right. What am I going to do with the scene? The wise men, when do they come? We don't know for sure. We know they come, but we don't know for sure when. We know that they're in a house when they come. The word that's used is house not a manger, not a barn or anything like that, so maybe it’s a little later than we're picturing it. I'm not trying to tear down Christmas or trying to tear down our image of Christmas. On the contrary, I want us to go as closely back to the real Christmas as we can, because in that is the power of the story that is so overwhelming. It's not red and green (laughs), but it is amazing. It's just amazing.

    These women in particular all touch Jesus. They all have an encounter with Jesus that brings out the most incredible things. When Mary walks in the house, Elizabeth is blown away. “How is it that the mother of my Lord… “My Lord”! He's, at most, two weeks in utero. “My Lord.” Wow. We struggle to commit to our Lord when He is a risen Savior and His whole story is told in the Word. I mean we have so much to go on.

    John: And she was right there.

    Liz: She was right there. That again is the Holy Spirit stirring in her. "I felt my baby move with joy," she says. It's interesting, the part about “with joy,” because babies can move for lots of reasons. She's six months pregnant at that time, so babies are moving around by then. You have what they call the quickening, the sense of life in you if you have something cold to drink or eat something sweet. Elizabeth knows it's joy. It wasn't, you know, a pomegranate. It was joy that moved her son.

    Amazing women. I'm so excited about this one. I'm so excited to do a real, I hope, substantive Bible study and to put it in a gift book so that it is gift-able. And for the one month of the year you can give somebody who doesn't know God, you can give them a book about Christmas and most people will receive it with joy. "Oh thank you, a book about Christmas." For whatever reason, they're not afraid of it as long as it's December (laughs). As long as it's December, you can give them a book about Jesus.

    I wanted a beautiful book. A book that would seem non-threatening. The Women of Christmas doesn't sound like, "Hi, I would like to change your life." But I would.

    Download the first chapter of The Women of Christmas by clicking here.


    This post was posted in Books, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Christmas, Liz Curtis Higgs

  • Moms: Let's Make This Pledge

    Posted on October 10, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

    I really want to be a great mom. I want to raise kids who love the Lord, are respectful, kind, and smart, and all the other things we want for our kids.

    So, I pray. I read parenting books. I teach manners, kiss the skinned knees, and help the teen process her first broken heart. I plan the family dinners, the date nights, and the vacations. I keep track of who needs what and when. I set the appointments and the discipline parameters and the alarm clock so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

    And through every minute, I am hyper aware of my frailties and faults.

    My heart wants to be incredibly patient and organized and excited about reading books out loud.

    But then I get tired. And overextended. And suddenly my day finds me getting snappy, losing track of all those papers sent home from school, and skipping pages to hurry to the end of the book that started off with such promise.

    There is a gap between my desires and my reality.

    I bet this is true for many moms, so we should all understand those hard places, right? But somewhere in the day-to-day, we can forget how important it is to support each other as moms and sisters in Christ. We can forget the need to foster a sense of community. And as soon as we forget these things, it's much easier for thoughts of judgment to creep in.

    In those moments, it's crucial to remember that being a source of encouragement for others is biblical. Our key verse, Hebrews 3:13 tells us to "encourage one another daily" so that we aren't "hardened by sin's deceitfulness" which causes us to judge.

    So, I was just wondering if we might all make a little pact together today. To build each other up. To not judge one another. Ever. Even when we parent differently. Even when my kids act like I never taught them manners.

    Might you give me the benefit of the doubt? Just assume it's a bad moment, but this isn't an indication of all our moments.

    And then I'll give you the benefit of the doubt when your child messes up.

    Or I hear you snap in Target and make threats to your kids that betray every good intention you had that morning. When you prayed. And read the parenting books. And taught manners, kissed skinned knees, planned the dinner, and all the other zillions of things you did so well.

    Instead of judging you, I will love you.

    And maybe you can love me too.

    Yes, I think we moms should pledge to encourage one another each day. And never judge one another. We're all desperately trying to do this mothering thing right.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for not extending grace at times to others. I am a woman who desperately needs it, so I should be a woman who freely offers it. Help me to build others up and to love them as You love us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Think of a mom you know who really needs encouragement and support in this season of her life. Make a list of three things you could do or say over the next few weeks that would communicate intentionality and love toward her.

    Power Verses:
    Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Hebrews, Mothers

  • Proud Grandparents

    Posted on October 9, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. Proverbs 17:6

    Grandchildren are a spectacular crown of God’s grace to be worn proudly and graciously by grandparents. They are a crown of joy and delight to the soul. They are a crown of purity to the heart. They are a crown of truth to the mind. They are a crown of energy to the body. They are a crown of worship to the spirit. They are a crown dedicated to Christ that is daily placed at the feet of Jesus. The crown of grandchildren sparkles in the moist eye of a grateful grandparent.

    Grandparents who are privileged to be in the lives of their grandchildren have an opportunity for influence. We sit on the floor with our grandchildren and develop little ones who want to sit on their grandparent’s lap. When we live and play on their level they feel safe. They sense we understand and care. It is an intimate invitation for them to venture into our secure space. A two foot tall perspective cannot be seen and understood by a five footer. It is only when we humble ourselves and get on the ground with them that we see their world. They need to see us kneel.

    May the Lord bless you...May you live to see your children’s children. Psalms 128:5-6

    We lower relational barriers when we invest time, love and money in the children of our children. Their little hearts open wide when they feel total love and acceptance. Thus, we love a grandchild well by learning what they like and offering them opportunities to experience their interests. Perhaps it’s a swing at the playground or a swim in the pool. Or maybe a small toy car for a boy or a doll for a girl. Grandchildren gravitate to grandparents who get to know them.

    Lastly, honor your child in the presence of their child. Be careful not to ignore or dismiss the parental guidelines defined by your grandchild’s mom and dad. Use your influence as a grandparent to build up and brag on your grand baby’s mother and father. Your child will want you to be with their child when they see you support and respect their expectations. Parents are meant to be the pride of their children, so facilitate this feeling. Proud grandparents help out.

    They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. Psalm 92:14

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me humility to be a proud grandparent who loves well my adult child and grandchild.

    Related Readings: Genesis 48:11; Job 42:16; Psalm 103:17; Isaiah 46:4; 2 Timothy 1:5

    Post/Tweet today: Your child will want you to be with their child, when they see you support and respect their expectations. #grandparents
    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Proverbs, Grandparents

  • A Remedy for Loneliness

    Posted on October 9, 2013 by Van Walton

    Van Walton

    "... those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Proverbs 11:25 (NLT)

    I've spent much of my life as the new kid on the block. My daddy's job took him to numerous foreign countries, so I grew up living in far-away and strange places. When we returned "home" to put down permanent roots in the United States, I felt like a lonely outsider.

    This nomadic childhood followed me into my adult life as my husband's career moved us cross-country many times.

    As the newcomer in school, women's Bible studies, and jobs, I experienced not having friends, being excluded, and feeling different.

    Though these isolating seasons were tough, something wonderful grew out of them: my relationship with God. Spending time with Him, I gained a new perspective on loneliness while reading Scripture. One verse in particular stood out to me: "... those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed" (Proverbs 11:25).

    Reading this challenged me. Rather than cast responsibility on others to reach out to me, I could reach out to them. By doing so, I found I could bless them and revive myself! It took some time, but over the years I've discovered several key elements to living out this verse: learn to be a good friend, intentionally include others, and develop an interest in diversity.

    Last year during the annual family night at the school where I teach, I spotted a mother sitting alone in a large room. God nudged me, and I knew what to do. I wasn't surprised she was by herself, because as I drew closer, I recognized her as the mother of one of our international students.

    We definitely had our differences: a gap in our ages, language barriers that made us struggle to understand each other, and our different cultures. But we persevered and after a while we found common ground. She admitted to being lonely as a stranger in a foreign country. That I understood. Also, we were women, wives, mothers, friends. Most importantly we had a common faith.

    That night, I gained a new friend.

    We began to meet regularly. She told me about her recent conversion to Christianity and asked lots of questions. She had a few friends, like her, who had come to the United States to expose their children to an American education. These women also wondered about Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus. Could they join us?

    We began huddling once a week around God's Word, talking about the creation, King David, and grace.

    School ended. Summer started. They flew home. We promised to resume our studies this fall.

    As this new season begins, I'm anticipating our weekly meetings; I miss my new friends and the happiness and laughter they bring.

    Loneliness, if left unchecked, can lead to isolation, which may produce weariness, sadness and discouragement. This is not God's plan for our lives. He has called us to live in community, reaching out to others, serving, comforting, and fellowshipping.

    Let me encourage you to be aware of others–in your neighborhood, your children's school, your church. Ask God to lead you to other women who are lonely. We long to be included, to feel like we belong, to have caring friends. One of the best ways to do this is to refresh someone else! You'll never experience that woman's amazing friendship, or be revived by her, until you reach out and invite her into your life.

    Father God, You are a friend to the stranger, the wanderer, the lonely. Forgive me for sitting in my comfort zone and ignoring those around me who long for community. Remind me to practice hospitality, not just with my friends but with outsiders also. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How has loneliness robbed you of life's joys?

    What are some ways you can practice hospitality? Perhaps become involved in welcoming newcomers to your church or neighborhood.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 12:10-13, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love...practicing hospitality." (NASB)

    Hebrews 13:2, "Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" (NLT)

    © 2013 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs, Loneliness

  • Problems at Work

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. Ecclesiastes 2:23

    Growing an enterprise is like raising a child. There are cycles of progress and enjoyment, and there are cycles of grief and pain. With great, even idealistic intentions, we launch a work around our passion, skills and experience only to see a set back at the inception. We question ourselves, ‘Did the Lord really call me to birth this new work endeavor or did I talk myself into this for the wrong reasons?’ Thus, wise are we to ride out the rough times and rely on God to get us through.

    Lack of vocational progress during the day can cause our minds restless nights. We remind ourselves of the preparation that preceded our step of faith to follow the Lord’s career change. We know in our heart that our Faithful Heavenly Father has foreseen the problems we face and He has solutions He wants us to apply. So, if money is sparse we creatively keep down expenses and maybe forgo a salary for a season. Finances test our motive to remain faithful.

    This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Revelation 14:12

    So, we honestly ask ourselves, “Are we laboring for the love of money or love for the Lord?’ The much grander goal of love for God will get us through uncertain times. Our work done unto the Lord positions us as candidates for His wisdom. Our loving Savior loves to give insight and assurance to incredible works done for His glory. Therefore, we lean into Jesus during lean times and He shows us a better way. We trust in The Way to show us the way. He owns the outcomes.

    Lastly look to the Lord’s people for counsel and even financial assistance to help you through this bump in the road. Dear friends are blessed when they can invest in your integrity and in the work of your hands. Your caring community is honored to pay forward what Christ has entrusted to them. Indeed, your work and business is His. Keep an open hand and heart. He will supply the means necessary to sustain the work. God’s work, done God’s way, never lacks God’s resources.

    The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me to trust You with work issues. I commit my career to You.

    Related Readings: Numbers 23:19; Nehemiah 6:3; Psalm 4:3; 1 Corinthains 1:9; Philippians 1:6

    Post/Tweet today: Lean into the Lord during lean times and He will show you the way. #leanintotheLord

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with Ecclesiastes

  • Clinging to Christ in the Middle of the Hurricane - Natalie Grant

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by John van der Veen



    In the opening lines of “In The End,” the spirited but poignant unplugged track that wraps her latest album Hurricane, Natalie Grant puts it as plainly as she ever has in dealing with the troubling storms we all face: “Can’t catch a break/You’ve had your fill of old clichés…”. Emerging from a dark, spiritually challenging time in her own life, the multi-talented singer/songwriter—a Grammy nominated, five time GMA (Gospel Music Association) Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the Year – breaks through the well worn and cheerful, but not completely truthful, phrases that often leave those who are struggling in need of more.

    Natalie and I sat down (with her daughter, Sadie, on her lap) and talked about what went into her new album. The ups and downs of life. Times of depression. Times of joy.

    After reading this, you'll hear what Natalie has always been and still is passionate about. Christ and His work.

    John: Natalie, it’s been a while since you have had some new music. Would you mind sharing about your new album, Hurricane?

    Natalie: I’ve had a lot of life happen in those three years. I think if you look back just even at my releases over the past 14 years, I’ve never made records quickly. Those artists that can turn around records every 18 months, my hats are off to them. I don’t know how they do it. I’ve always usually gone about two years, but this is the longest I’ve ever gone between a release. I knew about a year ago that they were going to come to me and say, okay, it’s time to start making a record, and I literally at that point thought I’m just going to say, fine.

    Bring me ten songs. I’ll sing them, whatever. I just don’t have space in my world for this right now. What’s funny is that it sounds like such a cliché, but it’s so true that when we’re completely at our end and thinking, “I’ve got nothing, I have absolutely nothing in the well,” God shows up and always says, “Okay, I finally have you where I want you, and you’ve got nothing, but I’ve got something.” I ended up writing more on this record than I’ve ever written on any other record.

    John: I was going to ask, to say, I think I read that you wrote about eight songs or so; is that right?

    Natalie: About eight out of the ten tracks, yes.

    John: What is that like compared to other records?

    Natalie: It’s way more … I’ve always written about at least half, but to write 80% of the record is more than I’ve ever done before, and those songs--those eight--were really my songs. Sometimes I’d be in a co-write situation, and even though I was in this, these songs were really birthed out of my own personal journey over the last three years. I think when I came into this process so empty, I had given birth to my third child and went through a lot of post-partum depression.

    That’s something that I didn’t give a voice to for a long time because first of all, I think that there is a stigma—or was in my mind--that women want to stay in their pajamas and eat ice cream all day if say they have post-partum depression. But I soon learned that that is not true, that it is a real problem and a darkness that can overtake a woman, and oftentimes as a Christian. I think we’re so ashamed to say that we are struggling with depression, because somehow it’s going to reflect on our faith or our relationship with the Lord, but then throw into the mix being a Christian artist where you’re supposed to have your life together and get on that stage and sing your encouraging songs about the Lord. Where you’re expected to say all the right Scripture verses, and I think that I put some of that undue pressure on myself, but really, I think, I enabled myself to stay in that pit for longer than I even needed to.

    I really struggled with a lot of depression after the birth of Sadie and found out that a very close family member was struggling, not just with drug addiction, but with heroine addiction, which was tearing my family apart. Three months after that, my father had died of cancer. It’s been quite a journey the last three years and a testing of my faith like I’ve never faced before, and so these songs have really come from a deeply personal place.

    I feel like I’ve always had songs that have been like that for people that are connected because they’ve been about a real life story or journey, but typically, they’ve been about someone else’s story, like “Held,” which was written about a couple who lost their baby and “In Better Hands,” which was written about a little boy and a fire. All of them were personal stories, but they weren’t my story. These songs are my stories, and I think that’s what really makes this project different for me.

    John: Do you think, be it a man or a woman, married or single, that one has to go through some form of wilderness or hardship in their life to really understand what it means to be that close, to identify that closely with Christ?

    Natalie: Absolutely. I think that the challenge is finding the closeness when there isn’t the hardship, because in our human nature, we’re just wired in our fallen state to do it on our own, and we’re wired that when things are going well, somehow we don’t “need,” or we don’t think we need the Lord quite as much. We don’t recognize, I think, our need for Him in the good. In the bad, we cling to the Lord like never before. I think the more hardships we walk through, the more we experience our faith at a deeper level; it’s what helps us understand that faith when we’re actually on the mountaintop.

    John: Those are good words. I think a lot of people forget about that as they encounter Jesus. I think they think that to some extent, being a Christian is all kind of the rose-colored glasses syndrome, that everything is hunky-dory and fine.

    Natalie: I think that that could be an entire interview for another day. Honestly, my soap box is because there’s so much false teaching that’s prevalent in our culture and especially in our nation that if you just have enough faith, if you just are a good enough Christian, then you’re going to not have any health issues. You’re going to have a big house. Your marriage is going to be perfect, and if somehow those things are not well in your life that that has some reflection on your faith in Jesus. I think that that teaching, which is especially prevalent in the United States, has done so much damage to the believer’s walk with Christ.

    John: Natalie, as an individual, if I or my wife were to open up to a close friend, we know that a lot of times, what we share if I’m sharing with another brother in Christ, what I’m sharing is very personal, and it usually stays just between the two of us. It seems to me that what you have more or less outlined on this album is that type of conversation where you’re just kind of allowing everyone to see what’s been going on in your heart. What is that feeling like to know that people are going …

    Natalie: When you say it like that, it’s not so fine! [laughing]

    John: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you, but to some extent, you’re throwing yourself out there to say, here I am. I’m a follower of Jesus, and I’ve seen that wilderness. What is that like?

    Natalie: Yes. You know, honestly, it has been very scary, and it would have been a lot easier just to have them bring me ten really nice, say all the right Christian cliché songs that would have pushed all the right buttons and gone number one on Christian radio, but I think there is so much beauty in the wrestle. Do you know what I mean? In the struggle. And in the dialogue of honesty, there is such beauty in that, and I’ve only discovered that in the last several years that the more honest and transparent I become, the greater connection people seem to have to my artistry.

    I feel like it started when I allowed myself to start talking about how I struggled with an eating disorder. I started to have this connection, which went so far beyond a song. I loved that. I thrived on that because I felt in that, I found my ministry more than just a musician but having something that I felt was going to be lasting fruit. I think that in finding my own voice, and I say this all the time, giving voice to the depression I was facing, that is when my healing started. I think that oftentimes, when we’re facing hardship or we’re walking through the wilderness, it’s almost easier to stay there than … I know that sounds backwards, but it’s … I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but …

    John: You are.

    Natalie: Sometimes it’s easier to stay in our mess than to actually get out of it, and the things that we know we need to do to get out we almost run from because we become so used to being a victim and all that. It’s just easier to stay there. For me, when I started to give voice to what I was facing and be honest and real in my own life, it became more than just, oh, I’d write some good honest songs. It actually is where I started to find my own healing, and I have to believe that having the courage to be honest will help others do the same thing.

    John: Now for the record, I’ve listened to the album I think three or four times since I got it yesterday morning. For the record, this album is not a sad album. This is not a dark album. You certainly are confronting those things, but there’s a string of hope that goes through every single song on this record, and it is powerful.

    Natalie: Thank you. I giggle when I hear that because it thrilled me because that is what I think is the mark of this record is that I’m going to say all the stuff that I went through. You’re going to listen to this record, and I think it just bursts with hope, and that’s what’s so, so just amazing to me about what God did through the process. I can say, listen, I have these songs that are full of light, even like full-on pop like “Closer to Your Heart,” the opening track, sounds like it could be on Top 40 radio, but the lyric says, “Here I am once again crying out on the floor,” so it still has this lyric that is this weighty heavy lyric to this really full of hope track and music.

    That’s what I wanted because that’s the result of hope to me. It’s not that in the moment everything is right and perfect, but it’s that’s why I’m singing these songs because that’s what I was living. I was singing these songs because that’s where I know I was going, and I was going to get there, and so I wanted the song and the record to reflect the truth that hope is what keeps the light on in our darkest moments.

    Hope is what keeps us taking one step forward and continuing to move. Maybe we’re barely crawling, but we’re moving forward. I feel like hearing you say that that’s what this record sounded like to you. It really does make me giggle with joy because that’s what I wanted it to be.

    John: That’s awesome. Natalie, you are a wife. You’re a mom. You’re Dove Award winning. You’re Grammy nominated. You’re an actress. You’re a philanthropist.

    Natalie: [laughs] Who are you talking about [laughing]?

    John: Natalie, some people look to you and say, obviously, you have it all together, and I think from the testimony that you just gave, you would say, hey, yeah, I am doing those things, but at the same time, I’m also normal. What would you say to the mom who has got babies at her ankles right now, and she kind of feels like she can barely get through just one day, let alone juggle small group, Bible study, nursery duty, church, all those other extra things?

    Natalie: For me, it’s one of the reasons as well that it’s important to me to be so honest and transparent, because I feel consistently in my life like there is this myth that surrounds me that I have it all together, and I get asked about this all the time. “How do you do it all?” I’m like, I have no idea because if you would have been at my house today, you’d clearly say that I don’t have it all together [laughing]. I might do a lot, but doing a lot does not mean that we’re doing a lot well.

    I feel like in my own life… I can only speak from my own experience… most days, I fall flat on my face and something struggles, something fails, something isn’t quite what I hoped it would be. I fall in bed at night, and by the grace of God, He wakes me up the next day, and I try it all over again, and hopefully what I learn is that I can’t do it without a personal relationship with the Lord, and that’s aside from trying to plug into the Lord with my husband or trying to make sure that my kids are learning the Bible verses.

    All of that aside, I’m talking about just me and Jesus, and if that means 15 minutes when I can hear my kids at 6:00 am in the morning on the baby monitor, for 15 minutes, nothing’s going to happen to them. If they’re kind of crying in their crib, if they’re talking, they’re going to be just fine. I’m going to take 15 minutes for Him, or even hit the floor to cry out to God and say, “Okay, I do not have the ability to do what I need to do today on my own, but if You called me to it, then You anoint me to be able to do it.”

    I have to believe that that’s true, and I have to believe that He’ll equip me to be able to do it. Some days, I feel like empowered like, yep, He did. Other days, I feel like He forgot me today. Clearly, He completely forgot about me today. You know, that is a daily process, and I think that right now in my own life, I’m figuring out that there are just some things that we just have to say no to and that that fear of disappointing someone or … I think that that’s a constant fear, especially in women, that oh, well, if I say no to this or that, well then this person will get upset. Whether it’s my kids or this or that, my job, or my husband. There are just some things that we have to learn to say no to, and I’m trying to learn that same thing right now.

    John: Good words. All right, real quickly, just a couple of bullet questions here. On “Born to Be,” you have a duet with Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts. What brought that about?

    Natalie: He was awesome. You know, I wrote the song with Brett James who’s a great songwriter. He wrote “Jesus Take the Wheel” and just lots of other incredible songs, and when we wrote it, also with my husband, I just immediately thought this needs to be a duet. I actually had somebody else in mind from the CCM world, and I was like, okay, I think this person would be great on this, and he said, “You know, I think that Gary from Rascal Flatts would be great.” I was like, well, yeah, that would be great, but I don’t know him [laughing]. What’s going to make him want to all of a sudden be on a Christian record? I didn’t really know his story about in the last couple of years, he has rededicated his life to Christ, that he, and his wife, and his mom, and their daughter all got baptized together just last year …

    John: Amazing.

    Natalie: And has had this real rebirth of his faith in his life, and his story, his testimony is really quite beautiful. Brett knows him well because he’s written a lot of Rascal Flatts songs, and so he sent the song to Gary, and he fell in love with the song. What I didn’t know is that he was a huge fan of my music, and so he said it had always been on his bucket list to sing with me, which just sounds funny, but it was so easy. I guess it was just meant to be.

    John: That is incredible! Natalie, what is on your bucket list?

    Natalie: [laughs] I want to see the Great Wall of China. I’ve never been to the Orient and … well, I’ve been to Asia because I’ve been to India, not really close to Asia, right? I’m a failure at geography, so don’t judge me.

    John: Join the club.

    Natalie: I want to see the Great Wall of China. That is near the top of my bucket list. Let’s see what else is on my bucket list. I would love to do a duet with CeCe Winans. She and Whitney Houston were my vocal heroes growing up, and I’m a huge fan of CeCe’s and just everything about her. My other bucket list item would be to really teach my children to swim [laughing]. I’ve put them in swimming lessons twice, and they still can’t so I think I’m going to have to get in the pool with them and really help them figure it out.

    John: That is so awesome. I love that for a bucket list idea. That’s great. Natalie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I really appreciate it.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Mothers, Natalie Grant, Cece Winans

  • Lord, I Need Your Help

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help." (Psalm 18:6 NIV)

    One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.

    But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.

    I was determined to figure out what J. J.'s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That's when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.

    Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.

    King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, "'In my distress' refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David's] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help."*

    That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn't have.

    My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.

    Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.

    As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.

    By the way, I'm crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.

    Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember
    Hurts from your past can hold you hostage. God is there, waiting to heal you.

    Reflect
    In what ways do you file complaints against your husband (or other loved one) in what you might call a prayer?

    Respond
    Determine if your hurts are too deep to heal without outside help. If they are, consider seeing a pastor or counselor.

    Power Verses
    Psalm 46:1; Deuteronomy 4:7

    *Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983).

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • Spend Time Together

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd Bailey

    For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 1 Corinthians 16:7

    Time invested in people is an eternal investment. Like money spent on a hobby develops an interest, so more time spent with a person or group of people grows trust and understanding. Indeed, our quantity time with each other deepens our quality of relationship. Loyalty lasts in the hard times and grows in the good times. Deep relationships affirm our worth and confirm our sense of security. When we say, “Good to see you,” we peer into the eyes of the soul. Love invests time.

    Social media is no substitute for interactive intimacy. When we can be ourselves in each other’s presence, we enjoy the dynamic of being together. So in the moment over dinner, sitting on the porch or walking together we are physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually engaged. Yes, we take time for safe relationships, so the superficial melts away and revels the real. Fears are discussed and prayed over. Hurts are diagnosed and released. Sin is confessed and forgiven.

    So that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed. Romans 15:32

    Are you on a relational deserted island, alone--fearful of selfish sharks in the water? Are you reticent to reveal your true feelings, because someone from an emotional safe zone in your past exploited your vulnerability? You are right to feel cautious, but do not allow fear of what one or two might do to keep you from the few who really care about you. Love is risky, but it is also the most rewarding. Thus, take a chance to give community a second chance. Ask the Spirit to lead you.

    Pray the Lord will permit you to have ample time to really know and be known by a small group of caring saints. His will is for you to trust Him for all those things that you feel need to get done, but not at the expense of your soul becoming undone. Your house can be cleaned later, but relational clutter needs to be unpacked and organized now. Start doing less, so you have time to do more to refresh relationships and be refreshed. Be available by faith to spend time together.

    Not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches. Hebrews 10:25, The Voice

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to really know those who know You deeply and who want to know me deeply.

    Related Readings: Acts 2:46-47, 12:12-14, 18:21; Romans 1:10; 2 Corinthians 1:16; 1 Peter 4:9

    Post/Tweet today: Start doing less, so you have time to do more to refresh relationships and be refreshed. #spendtimetogether

    © 2013 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhuntersdevotional.com / www.wisdomhunters.com


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Wisdom Hunters and was tagged with 1 Corinthians

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