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  • Less is More

    Boyd

    But the LORD said to Gideon, “There are still too many men.  Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there.  If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.”  Judges 7:4

    Less of some things can mean opportunity to trust in God with more things. This is why the sifting by your Savior need not be discouraging. His goal is not to harm you, but to strip from you any dependence on yourself or others and to rely solely on Him. Your financial limitations are an opportunity to watch Him provide in ways that give Him the glory in your life. Less money means you have the occasion to trust Him with His creative provision.  When some of your friends fall away, itstings; but your best friend, Jesus, still remains. You can become involved in numerous relationships and miss engaging in intimacy with your heavenly Father. Fewer true friends will lead to richer relationships and more time with God. If your life is driven by one new relationship after another, you will drown in shallow living. Having fewer earthly relationships means you have more time for your Heavenly One. Less is more.

    Take the time to shed the weight of worry and watch God work. A surrendered life can be efficiently leveraged. However, a life independent of God is severely limited in its influence. He is positioning you for unprecedented leadership and influence. Now is the time to quit mourning your losses and move on. You have a new lease on life with the Lord, so follow His lead. Watch Him take your “five loaves of bread and two fish” (Matthew 14:17-19) and multiply them far beyond your efforts and enthusiasm. What God breaks, He rebuilds to be dependent on Him and more influential. This rebuilding process has simplified your life; so don’t revert to complicated living. Less is truly more.

    If “more is more” is your motto, you can easily become mean-spirited and hard to live with. A “more is more” mantra eventually becomes meaningless. You achieve and receive more, but to what end? There is no fulfillment outside of Kingdom-minded motives. If it is all about you, you will become miserable. If, on the other hand, it is less of you and more of Him, everyone is happy. This is how God works. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52).

    Therefore, lower the volume of activity and wait in quietness. It may be time to talk less and listen more. The calming presence of Christ is priceless, so tap into His reservoir of renewal. Less worldly thinking and more heavenly thinking leads to discerning the will of God. Don’t just stand in awe of His robust accomplishments through your meager efforts. Now is the time to use this momentum generated by your Master. God is on a roll, and you have the privilege of joining Him. By faith, stop doing two things before you add one. Slow down so God can speed up. Focus on quality, and watch Him multiply the quantity. God wants to do more with less, so He gets the glory.  Decrease, so He can increase (John 3:30, KJV). Less is more—less of you and more of Him.

    Post/Tweet today: Focus on quality and God can multiply the quantity. God can do more with less, so He gets the glory. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Doubt Paralyzes

    Boyd

    Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you?’” (Exodus 4:1).

    Moses experienced the “what if” trap. “What if they do not believe me or listen to me?” Several thousand years later we struggle with the same doubts. What if they reject me? What if they say no? What if they say yes? What if I fail? What if I am hurt? What if they do not understand? If God has led us thus far and if His track record is one of faithfulness, are we not really saying, “What if God does not do what He said He will do?” Doubt detaches us from trust in the character of Christ.

    If we are not careful, our beliefs and behavior can reflect this kind of irrational thinking about God. We really struggle at times (right before we take that step of faith) and wonder if God is really true to His Word and if He will come through for us. Yet we know that God has never failed us. His timing may have been different than we expected, but He has not failed us, and He will not fail us. Knowing this, we still struggle with doubt. Why is this?

    “Then he [Jesus] said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’” (John 20:27).

    Doubt is a normal part of the trust process. We go through doubt on the way to trust in the Lord. Even the most faithful followers of Jesus deal with doubt (see Matthew 11:2). However, the danger of doubt is to remain in doubt. Extended striving over doubt can paralyze you. It can paralyze your relationships, your finances, your career advancement, and, worst of all, your obedience to God. He is either trustworthy or He is not.

    Lastly, the greatest difficulty is when we are in the middle of tremendous adversity or uncertainty. God’s posture is one of continual compassion and sincere love. He is there to walk with you. He is leading you, and He will provide the needed skills, finances, health, and relationships for you to accomplish His will. Let Him use this time of trial to once again, show that He is God.

    “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory”(Ephesians 3:20–21).

    Prayer: Lord, how do You want to empower me to face my doubts and fears by faith in You?

    Related Readings: Jeremiah 1:6; Mark 11:23; James 1:6; Jude 1:22

    Post/Tweet today: Doubt is a normal part of the trust process. We go through doubt on the way to trust in the Lord. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Enemies of Jesus

    Boyd

    Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.” John 7:33-34

    Enemies of Jesus are ever looking for ways to dismiss, discredit, and destroy Jesus. Like the lost religious leaders of His day, they want to drive Christ out of their presence. The agnostic intellectuals of today dismiss Christ as a crutch for their cultured conscience. Contemporary theologically liberal leaders try to discredit Jesus’ miracles as mere myth. Proud atheists seek to justify their godless behavior by destroying the absolutes that accompany God’s existence.

    The sad news is those who seek to drive out God from the culture are unable to simultaneously seek the good news of Jesus Christ. Enemies of the Lord do not know and understand the Lord. Ironically, the more the faithless attempt to flush faith from society the more faith is fueled. Like migratory birds move together toward a warmer climate as harsh weather arrives, so the faithful move closer to the warm heart of Christ when religious intolerance is tolerated. Enemies of Jesus may seem to be winning, but they’ll soon be surprised they have lost their chance to seek Christ.

    “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10)

    Furthermore, a persecuted people of God is an opportunity to display the power of God. History proves that a church under fire is positioned to receive the Holy Spirit’s fire. It’s when the church blends in with the culture that it becomes irrelevant and impotent. So, praise God for the enemies of God. Their fight against faith must mean that faith means something. It does. It means freedom. Authentic freedom is inward before it’s outward and where freedom is, the Spirit takes up residence.

    Thus, we who know Jesus must pray for the enemies of Jesus. We pray for them to seek to know Him, not ignore Him. We pray for them to seek to worship Him, not dismiss Him. We pray for them to seek to glorify Him, not discredit Him. We pray for them to seek to be saved by Him, not destroy Him. Lastly, fight the faithless with grace, love, and acceptance. It’s the irresistible life of Christ that draws others to Christ. Let’s use surrender as our strategy to engage the enemies of God. Our surrendered life to Jesus disarms His antagonists and challenges them to seek Christ!

    “Once you were alienated from God and were enemiesin your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciledyou by Christ’s physical bodythrough death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21-22).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me how to pray for Your enemies and model for them the life of Christ. #wisdomhunters

    Related Readings: Psalm 74:10; Nahum 1:2; Matthew 5:44; Romans 5:10; James 4:4

    Post/Tweet today: Its the irresistible life of Christ in us that draws others to faith in the gospel of Christ. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Primal from Mark Batterson

    Mark

    Chapter 1 Two Thousand Stairs The farther backward you look, the further forward you are likely to see. —WINSTON CHURCHILL

    We hopped on a double-decker bus and headed toward the heart of Rome. Lora and I had spent a year planning the trip, but nothing prepares you to stand in the very place where Caesars ruled an empire or gladiators battled to the death. As we walked the Via Sacra, we were stepping on the same two-thousand-year-old stones that conquering armies marched on. Of course, I’m guessing they weren’t licking gelatos. Our three days in the Eternal City went by far too fast. And I wish we hadn’t waited until our fifteenth anniversary to take the trip.

    Few places on earth are as historic or romantic as Rome. We thoroughly enjoyed strolling the ancient streets, people-watching in the piazzas, and eating leisurely meals at sidewalk cafés. And like good tourists, we also hit all the must-see travel-book destinations. We threw pennies over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, enjoyed an unplugged concert by an electric guitarist outside the Colosseum one moonlit evening, and took a three-hour tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. And all the sites lived up to their travel-book billing. But one of the unexpected highlights of our trip was an unplanned visit to a rather nondescript church off the beaten path. It wasn’t referenced in our travel guides. And if it hadn’t been right around the corner from our hotel, we would never have discovered it. The Church of San Clemente was named after the fourth pope, who was martyred for his faith. According to legend, anchors were tied around his ankles and he was thrown into the Black Sea.

    From the outside, the church appeared weather-beaten and timeworn. But the frescoes, statues, and altars on the inside were remarkably well preserved. We quietly explored every nook and cranny of that twelfth-century church. Then we discovered that for five extra euros we could take an underground tour. As was the case with many of the ruins we visited in Rome, there were several layers of history in the same place. The Romans had a habit of building things on top of things. Some emperors, for example, would tear down their predecessor’s palace and build their own palace right on top of it. Such was the case with the Church of San Clemente. The twelfth-century church was built over a fourth-century church. And beneath the fourth-century church were catacombs where second-century Christians secretly worshiped God before the legalization of Christianity by Constantine in 313.

    I’ll never forget my descent down that flight of stairs. The air became damp, and we could hear underground springs. We carefully navigated each step as we lost some of our light. And our voices echoed off the low ceiling and narrow walkway. Almost like the wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia, that flight of stairs was like a portal to a different time, a different place. It was as if those stairs took us back two thousand years in time. With each step, a layer of history was stripped away until all that was left was Christianity in all its primal glory.

    As we navigated those claustrophobic catacombs, I was overcome by the fact that I was standing in a place where my spiritual ancestors risked everything, even their lives, to worship God. And I felt a profound mixture of gratitude and conviction. I live in a first-world country in the twenty-first century. And I’m grateful for the freedoms and blessings I enjoy because of where and when I live. But when you’re standing in an ancient catacomb, the comforts you enjoy make you uncomfortable. The things you complain about are convicting. And some of the sacrifices you’ve made for the cause of Christ might not even qualify under a second century definition.

    As I tried to absorb the significance of where I was, I couldn’t help but wonder if our generation has conveniently forgotten how inconvenient it can be to follow in the footsteps of Christ. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have diluted the truths of Christianity and settled for superficialities. I couldn’t help but wonder if we have accepted a form of Christianity that is more educated but less powerful, more civilized but less compassionate, more acceptable but less authentic than that which our spiritual ancestors practiced.

    Over the last two thousand years, Christianity has evolved in lots of ways. We’ve come out of the catacombs and built majestic cathedrals with all the bells and steeples. Theologians have given us creeds and canons. Churches have added pews and pulpits, hymnals and organs, committees and liturgies. And the IRS has given us 501(c)(3) status. And there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those things. But none of those things is primal. And I wonder, almost like the Roman effect of building  things on top of things, if the accumulated layers of Christian traditions and institutions have unintentionally obscured what lies beneath.

    I’m not suggesting that we categorically dismiss all those evolutions as unbiblical. Most of them are simply abiblical. There aren’t precedents for them in Scripture, but they don’t contradict biblical principles either. I’m certainly not demonizing postmodern forms of worship. After all, the truth must be reincarnated in every culture in every generation. And I am personally driven by the conviction that there are ways of doing church that no one has thought of yet. But two thousand years of history raises this question: when all of the superficialities are stripped away, what is the primal essence of Christianity?

    In the pages that follow, I want you to descend that flight of stairs with me. I want us to go underground. I want us to go back in time. Think of it as a quest for the lost soul of Christianity. And by the time you reach the last page, I hope you will have done more than rediscover Christianity in its most primal form. I hope you will have gone back to the primal faith you once had. Or more accurately, the primal faith that once had you.

    THE FAR SIDE OF COMPLEXITY My kids are at that stage in their mathematical journey where they are learning about prime numbers. That means that, as a parent, I am relearning about prime numbers (along with every other math concept I have long since forgotten). A prime number is a number that is divisible only by itself and the number 1. And while an infinitude of prime numbers exists, the only even prime is the number 2.

    Certain truths qualify as prime truths. Bible-believing, God-fearing, Christ-loving Christians will disagree about a variety of doctrinal issues until Jesus returns, whether that be pre-, mid-, or post-Tribulation. That is why we have hundreds of different denominations. But prime truths have an indivisible quality to them. And chief among them—the even prime, if you will—is what Jesus called the most important commandment. We call it the Great Commandment. It could also be called the Primal Commandment because it is of first importance. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.1

    Jesus was a genius. He had the ability to simplify complex spiritual truths in unforgettable and irrefutable ways. I’m afraid we tend to do the opposite. We complicate Christianity. That religious tendency to overcomplicate simple spiritual truths traces all the way back to a sect of Judaism known as the Pharisees. Over the span of hundreds of years, the Pharisees compiled a comprehensive list of religious dos and don’ts. Six hundred and thirteen, to be exact.2 Jesus peeled them back with one primal statement. When all of the rules and regulations, all of the traditions and institutions, all of the liturgies and methodologies are peeled back, what’s left is the Great Commandment. It is Christianity in its most primal form.

    Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? If only it were as simple as it sounds.

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, once made a perceptive distinction between two kinds of simplicity: simplicity on the near side of complexity and simplicity on the far side of complexity. He said, “I would not give a fig for simplicity on the near side of complexity.”

    Many Christians settle for simplicity on the near side of complexity. Their faith is only mind deep. They know what they believe, but they don’t know why they believe what they believe. Their faith is fragile because it has never been tested intellectually or experientially. Near-side Christians have never been in the catacombs of doubt or suffering, so when they encounter questions they cannot answer or experiences they cannot explain, it causes a crisis of faith. For far-side Christians, those who have done their time in the catacombs of doubt or suffering, unanswerable questions and unexplainable experiences actually result in a heightened appreciation for the mystery and majesty of a God who does not fit within the logical constraints of the left brain. Near-side Christians, on the other hand, lose their faith before they’ve really found it.

    Simplicity on the near side of complexity goes by another name: spiritual immaturity. And that’s not the kind of simplicity I’m advocating. God calls us to simplicity on the far side of complexity. For that matter, He calls us to faith on the far side of doubt, joy on the far side of sorrow, and love on the far side of anger. So how do we get there? Well, there are no easy answers or quick fixes. It involves unlearning and relearning everything we know. It involves deconstructing and reconstructing everything we do. It involves the painstaking process of rediscovering and reimagining the primal essence of Christianity. But the result is simplicity on the far side of complexity. And that is where this flight of stairs will take us if we have the courage to go underground.

    THE PRIMAL PROBLEM It goes without saying that Christianity has a perception problem. At the heart of the problem is the simple fact that Christians are more known for what we’re against than what we’re for. But the real problem isn’t perception. We as Christians are often quick to point out what’s wrong with our culture. And we certainly need the moral courage to stand up for what’s right in the face of what’s wrong. I live in the bastion of political correctness, where it is wrong to say that something is wrong. And that’s wrong.  If we have to choose between political correctness and biblical correctness, we must choose biblical correctness every time. But before confronting what’s wrong with our culture, we need to be humble enough, honest enough, and courageous enough to repent of what’s wrong with us.

    I pastor a church in Washington DC that is nearly 70 percent single twenty-somethings. Unfortunately, our demographics are an anomaly. By and large, twenty-somethings are leaving the church at an alarming rate. According to some statistics, 61 percent of twenty-somethings who grew up going to church will quit going to church in their twenties.3 And the temptation is to ask this question: what’s wrong with this generation? But that is the wrong question. The right question is this: what’s wrong with the church?

    My answer is simply this: we’re not great at the Great Commandment. In too many instances, we’re not even good at it.

    That, I believe, is our primal problem. That is the lost soul of Christianity. If Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is the most important commandment, then doesn’t it logically follow that we ought to spend an inordinate amount of our time and energy trying to understand it and obey it? We can’t afford to be merely good at the Great Commandment. We’ve got to be great at the Great Commandment.

    The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins with rediscovering what it means to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Jesus used those four kaleidoscopic words to describe four dimensions of love. And there is certainly overlap among them. It’s hard to know where loving God with your heart ends and loving God with your soul begins. But one thing is sure: loving God in one way isn’t enough. It’s not enough to love God with just your heart or soul or mind or strength. We are called, even commanded, to love Him in all four ways. Think of it as love to the fourth power.

    So the quest begins with rediscovery. But it ends with reimagination. Some truths can be deduced via left-brain logic. Others are better induced via right-brain imagination. Love falls into the latter category. So what follows is not a strict exposition of the Great Commandment. It’s a reimagination of the four primal elements detailed by Jesus in the Great Commandment:

    The heart of Christianity is primal compassion. The soul of Christianity is primal wonder. The mind of Christianity is primal curiosity. And the strength of Christianity is primal energy. The descent down this flight of stairs into primal Christianity will be convicting at points, but the end result will be a renewed love for God that is full of genuine compassion, infinite wonder, insatiable curiosity, and boundless energy. Anything less is not enough. It’s not just unfulfilling, it’s also unfaithful. The quest is not complete until it results in catacomb-like convictions that go beyond conventional logic. The goal is a love that, as our spiritual ancestors understood, is worth living for and dying for.

    THE WAY FORWARD My aim in this book is to take you to new places intellectually and spiritually so that you discover new ways of loving God. But I also hope this book takes you back to a primal place where God loved you and you loved God. And that’s all that mattered.

    I’ve discovered that when I’ve lost my way spiritually, the way forward is often backward. That is what we experience when we celebrate Communion, isn’t it? Communion is a pilgrimage back to the foot of the cross. And going back to that most primal place helps us find our way forward. So before going forward, let me encourage you to go backward. Go back to that place where God opened your eyes and broke your heart with compassion for others. Go back to that place where the glory of God flooded your soul and left you speechless with wonder. Go back to that place where thoughts about God filled your mind with holy curiosity. Go back to that place where a God-given dream caused a rush of adrenaline that filled you with supernatural energy.

    Every year our entire church staff goes on a pilgrimage to the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. During one of the sessions this past year, our team was sitting in the balcony of the Gwinnett Center listening to my friend and the pastor of LifeChurch.tv, Craig Groeschel. And he asked this question: “Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God?”

    I felt a tremendous sense of conviction when Craig asked that question. As I sat in that balcony, surrounded by twelve thousand other leaders, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit said to my spirit in His kind yet convicting voice, Mark, what happened to the college kid who used to pace the chapel balcony seeking My face?

    There are few things I hate more or appreciate more than the conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is so painful. But it is so necessary. And I’m so grateful that God loves me enough to break me where I need to be broken. Can I make an observation? You cannot listen to just half of what the Holy Spirit has to say. It’s a package deal. If you aren’t willing to listen to everything He has to say, you won’t hear anything He has to say. If you tune out His convicting voice, you won’t hear His comforting voice or guiding voice either. As I was seated in that balcony, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the raw spiritual intensity I once had. He revealed how calloused my heart had become. And I realized that I had somehow lost my soul while serving God. And it wrecked me.

    Does your heart break for the things that break the heart of God?

    If it doesn’t, you need to repent. And that’s what I did that day. Our team is typically the first to hit the exit after the last session at conferences because, quite frankly, the first one to the restaurant wins. And we had reservations at one of my favorite restaurants, P.F. Chang’s. Love their lettuce wraps and spare ribs. I could almost taste them. But we couldn’t leave until we brought closure to what God was doing in the depths of our souls. So we delayed our reservation, found a conference room, and spent some time crying, confessing, and praying as a team. I think we were the last ones to leave the auditorium.

    In the providence of God, I happened to be scheduled to speak at my alma mater in Springfield, Missouri, the next week. So a few days later I found myself in the chapel balcony where I had logged hundreds of hours pacing back and forth seeking God. It was during prayer times in that balcony when my heart began to break for the things that break the heart of God. It was there that God began to shape my soul to seek Him. It was there that God began to fill my mind with God ideas. It was in that balcony that God energized me by giving me a God-sized vision for my life.

    Returning to that chapel balcony fifteen years later, I realized that in many ways I had become a paid professional Christian. My heart didn’t beat as strongly as it once did. My pulse didn’t quicken in the presence of God like it once had. So God took me back to a very primal place. And the Holy Spirit lovingly reminded me that the college kid with a huge heart for God was still somewhere inside me. I knew that getting back what I once had meant getting back to basics. It meant doing what I had once done. It meant rediscovering and reimagining what it means to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. And somewhere along the way, in my personal quest for my lost soul, I found it. Climbing those stairs into that chapel balcony was like descending those stairs into that ancient catacomb. God gave me back the compassion, wonder, curiosity, and energy I once had, along with an even greater appreciation for what I had lost and found.

    Is there a personal catacomb somewhere in your past? A place where you met God and God met you? A place where your heart broke with compassion? A place where your soul was filled with wonder? A place where your mind was filled with holy curiosity? A place where you were energized by a God-ordained dream? Maybe it was a sermon that became more than a sermon. God birthed something supernatural in your spirit. Maybe it was a mission trip or retreat. And you swore you’d never be the same again. Or maybe it was a dream or a vow or a decision you made at an altar. My prayer is that this book will take you down two thousand stairs back to that primal place—the place where loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all that matters.

    The quest for the lost soul of Christianity begins there.


    Excerpted from Primal by Mark Batterson Copyright © 2009 by Mark Batterson. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

  • Losing This Battle is Not an Option

    Sharon

    "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

    By the time our daughter Heather turned 2, all my prideful pre-parenting thoughts had come back to me. How many times had I unfairly judged another mama and promised myself my kids would never act like that?

    You know that behavior: flailing around in their mother's arms, pitching a fit on the grocery store floor or throwing a tantrum in line at the movies. However, my daughter's strong will was unrelenting. She tried my patience constantly ... and often acted like that.

    I'll never forget one particularly difficult night. It had been a long grueling day of battles, and it was bedtime. (Praise God for bedtime.) Heather had hurt her baby sister, so I told her to apologize. She refused.

    Everything in me wanted to just put Heather to bed, but I knew I couldn't let this go. So in a stern voice, I told her, "Go to your room and I'll meet you there." Thankfully, she obeyed and walked to her bedroom.

    I thought a battle had been avoided ... until she looked back at me with that iron will glaring. She stood there with one foot in the room and one foot in the hall.

    "Get in your room, Heather." My tone meant business, but she wouldn't budge. I thought to myself, I'm just too stinking tired for this.

    At that point, I remembered Proverbs 3:11-12, a verse I memorized before Heather was born: "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."

    As I weighed my choices, the Lord spoke to me through that verse. And I knew He was saying: Losing this battle is not an option. I took a deep breath and decided no matter how long it took, I would not allow Heather's disobedient will to triumph over my exhaustion. I loved her too much.

    She finally sat down, half in the room, half out. And I joined her in the hall. We stayed there for hours that night. I wasn't mad, just determined. My daughter would know after this night that her mama means what she says. There was no TV. No toys. Not even a scrap of paper to draw on.

    While she sat, I folded laundry, paid a few bills and made my grocery list — in between asking if she wanted to apologize. Her eyes were getting heavy, and I knew she wanted to win the battle, but I remained firm.

    Finally, three hours after her bedtime she apologized to her sister and to me. I kissed her goodnight as I tucked her in bed; she hugged me and smiled like I was the greatest mom in the world. All was good in our home, at least for that night.

    That wasn't our last battle. But over time they became fewer and fewer as I consistently disciplined my children, just like the Lord disciplines those He loves. Why? Because He longs for us to be wise, to avoid making harmful mistakes and to grow in His grace. That's what I want for my five daughters.

    I spent a lot of time in prayer and sitting in doorways as my girls grew up. Each one was different from the other, each requiring a different form of discipline. They're grown up now, and I'm delighted to say that Heather and her sisters love the Lord and walk in His ways.

    I love my children and know they are worth all the time invested in the disciplining. Even the many long, sleepless nights.

    Lord, I need You more than ever. I need Your strength, wisdom and leading to raise my children up in the way they should go. Help me! I feel inadequate most days. I know that through You I can do all things. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Raising children takes a lot of mental, spiritual and physical bandwidth. Are there things in your schedule you could delete that would give you greater ability to parent well?

    Are you consistent in disciplining? Do you follow through with the rules? Do you discipline in love? Write a list of things you need to work on to be the parent God calls you to be.

    Power Verse: Proverbs 29:17, "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • Temptation and Accountability

    Boyd

    No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. 1 Corinthians 10:13  The Message

    Temptation loses its teeth in the face of accountability. Just as a home security system alerts us when an intruder invades the premises, so loving accountability warns us of pending danger. Yes, temptation has its greatest influence when operating in isolation, but when exposed to a caring community, its illusions are dismissed. People who love us want what’s best for us. They are more objective and expose our unwise inclinations. Accountability keeps us honest.

    Everyone’s battle is everyone’s battle. Thus, we are wise not to fight alone. There is a very practical reason foxholes are not manned by one individual. We cover each other’s backs when in close proximity to one another; we engage the enemy. Victory comes to a band of brothers or sisters who seeks the best interest of the group. Prayers for purity push back the taunts of lustful thoughts from the tempter. We do better when we know our friends closely observe our lifestyle.

    “So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

    Pornography is a rampant problem that grips our culture. It destroys relationships, corrupts the moral infrastructure of society, and steals the respect of its victims. We’re all one mouse click away from unseemly images on the worldwide web. How can we guard our hearts and minds from pornographic pain? An effective plan is to give 24/7 access to our computers and mobile devices to our spouse and accountability partners. Invite them to inspect what’s expected of us.

    Until we get real about our real issues of temptation, we will not experience lasting change. In our independent pride we will fall, but out of our interdependent humility we will stand. We all struggle with similar sins, why not name them and confess to friends our need to come clean. Our heavenly Father shows us favor when we are not ashamed of sharing our struggles. It’s much better to be humbled before a small group that loves us than humiliated before a large group who doesn’t know us. Temptation suffered alone succumbs, but together we overcome!

    “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me the courage to confess my temptations to a small group who care about me.

    Related Readings: Job 31:33; 2 Samuel 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:27; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Timothy 3:7

    Post/Tweet today: Temptation suffered alone succumbs, but together we overcome! #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved

  • The Chasm from Randy Alcorn

    Randy

    Chapter One

    For most of a day, I’d been climbing a sharp incline of rocks and shale, for an outcropped ledge that would afford a better view than anywhere else in this strange land. Finally, scrambling up the last twenty feet, I stepped out on that ledge and looked. What I saw took my breath away.

    There it lay, stretched out against the horizon as far as I could see—the thing I’d been warned about, the thing I’d been told was ultimately unavoidable. The sight of it was even more devastating than I’d feared.
    Here I was, hoping to travel to the distant shining city, a world of wonders I absolutely had to reach. For my first thirty years, I’d never dreamed such a place even existed. Then when I started to believe it might, I tried like the devil to avoid thinking about it, for reasons I still don’t understand. And now here I stood, all hopes of reaching that magical place dashed. Before me lay the biggest obstacle imaginable.
    No, it was absolutely unimaginable. That great yawning chasm took my breath away. An abyss of staggering proportions. I had once stood with my family, when I had one, gazing down into the Grand Canyon. I’d been swept away by its grandeur for a few minutes before needing to pack up the kids, grab a hamburger, and get them to the hotel. But this endless rift, this hole in the universe, made the Grand Canyon appear in comparison as the grave I dug when ten years old, to bury my old dog Ranger. It seemed infinitely large, deep and foreboding, containing not a shred of beauty. It stripped my heart of hope. For clearly the Chasm meant that the city calling to me from the great beyond, if it were real at all, lay forever out of reach.
    All that mattered for me was the place I could still glimpse on the horizon, far beyond the impassible barrier spread out below me. I had to get there—I had to reach that stunning capital of a great undiscovered country, that shining city that rested on the great white mountain. The place named Charis.
    My name is Nick Seagrave. My story is true, though what world it happened in is hard for me to say. The memories burn in my brain, more real and weighty than what we call the real world. Before I tell you the incredible events that unfolded next, what happened to me at that chasm, I must first take you back to explain what led up to the moments I have just described. Only then can you understand me and my story, and perhaps unfold its meaning.
    I remember like it was yesterday that moment when I caught my first glimpse of Charis, glimmering in the distance. Initially I thought the remote city seemed cold, even oppressive. Our band of travelers that day had rounded a bend shaded by rock towers, and there it was, off to the west, rising high on a ridge. Silently, we all stared at it.
    From where we stood, all we could see between us and the mountain crowned by Charis were rolling green hills scrawled with various pathways, including a ribbon of red. This was the “red road” I’d first learned of in some ancient inscriptions in a cave I’d entered one evening to escape a pounding rain and crashing thunderstorm—and something far worse. But that’s another story, to tell another time.
    As my traveling companions and I continued absorbing our first glimpse of the faraway city on the summit, it took only a moment for my heightened vision to pierce its walls. How did this happen? I can’t explain it, but I was as certain of my perception as I could be. My intuition told me that the light was but a ruse, that inside the city all was dank and shadowy. And enthroned there sat a dreadful, intolerant tyrant, squashing creativity and initiative, enslaving any subjects foolish enough to have entered the city. I envisioned him granting his slaves freedom enough to make a mistake just so he could condemn them for it and command their execution.
    I’d long ago learned to trust my instincts, which had helped make me such a successful businessman and entrepreneur. And those prized instincts assured me this city was a monument to the pride of some self-proclaimed, glory-hungry sovereign who delighted in robbing men of their dignity. A strangely confident assessment for one who knew so little. But if I lacked something in those days, it was not confidence.
    As this insight percolated within me, our silence was broken by one of my companions—a white-haired, craggy-faced man they called Shadrach, dressed in a tattered toga. “Behold,” he said, air moving through a gap in his teeth, “Charis, the City of Light.”
    Light? What about the shadows I felt certain lie within? How could that old geezer be fool enough to trust that light on the outside meant light within?
    Then suddenly another traveler, a young African woman named Malaiki, her face glowing, gasped, “Do you hear it? Music!
    I heard nothing. Who was she trying to trick, and why?
    With enchanting fervor Malaiki exclaimed, “Songs of life and learning, choruses of pleasure and adventure! In a thousand languages!” She broke into dancing, soon joined by some of the others.
    Were they trying to make fools of themselves? The uncomfortable thought struck me that perhaps I envied them, wishing I had a reason to dance. I quickly pushed the thought away.
    Even as they twirled and high-stepped, they kept looking toward the city. Following their gaze, I found my perception changing, despite my resistance. The coldness of the place was gradually replaced by light and warmth and by what seemed to be the radiant energy of people there celebrating. The city began to shimmer on the horizon, touched by sparkling blues and greens and golds that blended with the sky and sunlight, pulsing in and out of my vision.
    Soon I, too, could hear music from the city and then what sounded like a geyser of laughter exploding from a fountain of joy.
    My traveling comrades went on to speak of Charis as the city of a certain king whom they described in fantastic language. But my ingrained skepticism welled up and overtook me again. How could they make such claims? For reasons I couldn’t grasp, I refused to let myself fall in with these people or be drawn to this city that enchanted them. I could not surrender control of my life’s journey or its destination. I was master of my fate and captain of my soul. Besides, I reminded myself, I knew of someone who could take me elsewhere, to a better place.
    I’d met Joshua on the morning I stumbled out of that cave, when I’d wandered in a daze, not knowing where I really was. I started running, and as I came into an oak grove, a man bounded in my direction. He was tall, muscular, and handsome, with a neatly trimmed copper beard. He wore sandals and an emerald toga, cinched at his slender waist with a braided red cord. Though his dress was like a statesman’s from another era, he somehow appeared modern and fashionable.
    “Welcome, Nick,” he called in a rich, clear voice, smiling broadly.
    I wanted to grill him with a dozen questions, starting with, “How do you know my name?” and “Where are we?” and “How did I get here?” But I didn’t want to reveal too much about myself and my ignorance.
    “Call me Joshua,” he said, extending his arm. I was struck by the strength of his grip. I couldn’t help staring into his eyes—morning-glory eyes, radiant blue windows of experience and knowledge and promise, deep-set eyes I could get lost in.
    He invited me to join a group of travelers he was with, but at the time I preferred to go farther on my own. Joshua put his arm around me. “Go if you must,” he said, then gave me a solemn look. “But be careful whom you trust.” This country, he explained, was beautiful but not always safe.
    Here was a man with inside information, and I wanted to know what he knew. Still, for some reason, I held back from asking him. As I turned to go on my way, Joshua smiled broadly and waved his great right arm, bronzed and powerful.
    Soon I met him again, after I’d joined another group—the travelers on the red road who’d shared with me that first faraway glimpse of Charis. The old man Shadrach—who seemed overly confident about what was true and what wasn’t—had warned me against nearly everything I found interesting, including spending time with Joshua. But by now I wasn’t sure about the red road and where it led, and I certainly wasn’t sure I wanted to stay in the company of those travelers, Shadrach in particular. I told Joshua, “I’d like to check out some other options.”
    “I’d be happy to serve as your guide,” he answered. He led me off the red road and down a series of roads that were gray—roads that promised me all the things I’d ever wanted.
    When we first set out, Joshua pointed ahead and told me, “Lead the way, my friend.” Though he was my guide, he showed me respect by walking to my side, a step behind me, giving me a sense of control. I liked that. I was in conquer mode, so we marched down the terrain at a fast clip. It was a plunging path at first, filled with sharp turns and lined with thornbushes that kept nipping at my pant legs. After an hour, we hadn’t reached a single rise in the trail.
    “Does this path only go down?” I asked.
    Joshua laughed and answered, “To the very heart of things!”
    The path kept descending, and our pace kept accelerating.
    Finally, after dropping into a treacherous bog, we came to an intersecting path that rose upward toward firmer ground. Reaching the top of a slope and emerging from some trees, I came to a halt. Before me, positioned amid a half-dozen towering spires of rock, stood a glass and granite high-rise building. The sight of it was dreamlike yet so vivid, down to every detail. As I walked toward the structure, heart pounding, I stopped abruptly. This was the office building where I worked! I’d never seen it like this, isolated from the surrounding cityscape, as if it had been uprooted by some alien power and transported here.
    I entered the familiar ground-level front door with Joshua a step behind. We took the elevator to the twenty-fifth floor, and I instinctively walked through the maze of work stations toward my corner office. Joshua gazed approvingly at the view through the windows towering beside us. “You belong here, don’t you?” he asked me.
    I nodded. This was my world, and I had sailed its waters as expertly as any sea captain had ever commanded his ship and his men.
    Inside my office, Joshua said with a gesture of his hand, “This is what you were made for, isn’t it?” Before I could answer, my attention was drawn to a photograph on the desk, a picture of my wife and two children. It had been taken three years earlier, when we still lived together. I hadn’t been able to get away from the office that day to make the appointment at the studio, but my wife told the photographer to take the picture anyway. “It’s more realistic with just the three of us,” she said to me later, twisting the knife.
    Joshua and I left the office. But after stepping off the elevator and out the front door, everything went out of focus—until I suddenly found myself with Joshua in my condo, listening to classical music. The absence of transition made me think I must be dreaming, yet I was completely lucid, and my blue recliner was as tangible as could be, right down to the little coffee stain on the right arm.
    For a few hours, I was immersed in a whirlpool of melancholy and reflection, going wherever the melodies led, over the mountains and valleys and through the deserts of my life. Especially the deserts.
    “The music’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Joshua said.
    “Yes. Beautiful.”
    I followed him as he walked down a hallway lined on one side with oak shelves filled with books. “Commendable,” Joshua commented as he pulled out volumes here and there. “You have a genuine thirst for truth.”
    He fixed those radiant blue eyes on me. “I know you can find what you seek on one of the roads traveled by the great minds. Choose any of them. I’ll take you there in an instant. And if you don’t like one of them, I’ll take you to the next and then the next.”
    For some reason I shook my head, believing there was something more I wanted, something no great thinker could lead me to.
    No sooner had I turned down this offer than we materialized back on a gray road. Before us stood more buildings rising up from the rocks and sagebrush. We entered a maze of mall interiors, where my eyes were drawn to displays of home theaters, power tools, antique guns, shiny knives, snow skis, camping gear, sports clothing. We looked over a balcony to see spotlights zooming over showroom floors filled with the latest-model cars and pickup trucks, boats and RVs, snowmobiles and motorcycles.
    Then the spotlights melted into marquee lights. Joshua and I walked into a fine restaurant filled with people in fine clothes drinking fine wines. My heart suddenly buoyed when I saw a woman alone at one of the tables, a woman who’d been part of the group of travelers I was with earlier. She looked so beautiful tonight, so slight and delicate, dressed so elegantly. I studied every inch of her. The longer I looked, the more she filled my heart. “Go sit with her,” Joshua suggested. He led me by the arm and took me to her table, then excused himself. “I have other things to take care of.”
    The woman seemed pleased to see me. We dined alone and toasted with champagne. When the music began, we danced. I felt intoxicated.
    She kissed me, then smiled and said she had to go.
    “Can I…go with you?”
    “Not tonight,” she whispered, but she smiled as she walked away, and her eyes said yes.

    Excerpted from The Chasm by Randy Alcorn Copyright © 2011 by Randy Alcorn. Excerpted by permission of Multnomah Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

  • See how you're giving!

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  • The 5 Best Things to Say to a Friend Today

    Lysa

    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:12-13 (NIV)

    I remember sitting in the smelly middle school gym like it was yesterday.

    I'd survived the awkward and much-dreaded moments of changing into my PE uniform in the girls' locker room. And now I sat on the hard bleachers listening to the squeak of tennis shoes, the uneven cadence of bouncing balls, the teacher's sharp whistle and the girls laughing behind me.

    They weren't laughing with me. That would have meant I was accepted, wanted and invited in to be a part of their group.

    No, they were laughing at me.

    I was the subject of their gossip. I was the punch line of their jokes.

    And it hurt.

    I imagine you know that hurt too. Change the scenery and people, and this same hurt can be found in most of our lives.

    • When your co-workers all make plans to go to lunch, but you weren't invited. • When that other preschool mom says, "Several of us moms are concerned with how aggressive your child seems on the playground." • When everyone else's social media makes marriage look dreamy and uber-romantic as you're crying yourself to sleep.

    Then a friend steps in with a gentle smile and a few simple words of encouragement and suddenly you're not alone.

    I want to be that friend for you today.

    In the midst of whatever it is that's made your heart feel knocked off-kilter, can I whisper what I believe are the 5 best things one can say to a friend? And then might you give the gift of saying these things to a friend today?

    This list is from our key verses, Romans 12:12-13, in a section titled "Love."

    1. "You're wonderful."

    (Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope ...")

    What a loving thing to infuse joyful hope into your friend's life by reminding her why you think she is wonderful.

    The world is quick to tell us girls all the ways we fall short. We are hyperaware of our faults and frailties.

    So, what a precious gift to remind a friend of specific ways she's a wonderful friend, a wonderful mom, a wonderful Jesus girl, a wonderful wife, a wonderful co-worker, a wonderful person.

    2. "Me too."

    (Romans 12:12, "... patient in affliction ...")

    What a gift to remind a friend we all have afflictions, hurts, faults and tender places. We all get sick both emotionally and physically.

    The patient friend freely gives grace because she so desperately needs it herself. "Me too" acknowledges that I'm no better than you, but together we can get stronger. It is such a loving and disarming admission that we're all in this together.

    3. "I'll pray."

    (Romans 12:12, "... faithful in prayer.")

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to tell a friend you will absolutely be faithful in your prayers for her? I have someone who prays for me faithfully and even texts me Scriptures she's praying.

    But here's what I really love about her. She doesn't just pray about my situations. She prays me through them. I honestly don't know how she hasn't gotten tired of praying for some of my same issues for so long. I get so tired of me ... but she never does. What a gift. A gift I know I must pass on by being faithful in my prayers for others.

    4. "I'll share."

    (Romans 12:13, "Share with the Lord's people who are in need ...")

    When we notice a need in a friend's life, might we be willing to step in and be part of the solution?

    I have a friend who lost every possession she owned due to a chemical spill in her home. So, we threw her a "Job (like the man in the Bible) Party." Each of us brought a few things to help her family start over.

    We didn't come close to fully meeting their financial needs. But we helped build a foundation of restoration and gave this family the assurance that God was working on their behalf.

    5. "Come over."

    (Romans 12:13, "Practice hospitality.")

    Welcoming a friend inside the sacred space of our home is such a needed gesture. There's just something about relationships that are less pixilated when we get eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice and talk. Really talk.

    Over broken bread we share broken hearts. And then we celebrate the parts of us that are still intact. We reach across the table and across our differences to grab hold of the glorious bond of friendship.

    Yes, these are 5 great things, maybe even the best things, to say to a friend. So, today, I pause and say them to you.

    Now, I haven't quite figured out how to do that last one. It would be such a hoot trying to fit you all in my kitchen, but I sure am dreaming about it!

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship. Please show me who I can encourage today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Think of a friend in need. Of the five statements above, which one can you put into practice with her today?

    Power Verse: Hebrews 13:16, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Tempter’s Tricks

    Boyd

    The tempter [the devil] came to him [Jesus] and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:3

    The devil tempted Adam and Eve to doubt God. He tempted Job to give up on God and he tempted Jesus to disobey God. Satan’s tactics have not changed. He still subtly and not so subtly seeks to steal, kill and destroy our faith. He sows seeds of doubt into our  taking seriously Christ’s commands. He plays mind games to get us to go against what we know is clearly right or wrong. The evil one masks a sinful choice by causing us to doubt God’s clear expectations. What God says does not require a second opinion, so we are wise to first do what He says to do.

    The devil also tempts us to give up on God when our world is shaken. Like Job we may lose our children and see our finances slip away. Our health may fail and we may be tempted to think the Lord has failed us. However, it’s our faith in Jesus that offers stability during unstable situations. Almighty God is unmovable. He is a rock, refuge, and strong fortress against the deceptive tricks of the tempter. Yes, we lean into the Holy Spirit when unholy forces seek to force unfaithfulness.

    “In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing” (Job 1:22).

    Moreover, Satan appeals to our pride by tempting us to use power powered by the flesh. Our pride can easily run ahead of the Lord. Though a good outcome may come about, God does not get the glory when we are out in front of Him. Humility waits to be led and empowered by the Spirit. The devil also misapplies Scripture in an attempt to spiritualize his suggestions. He will twist the truth to sound inviting: “everything if done in moderation is ok.” Really? One click to a pornographic site is not ok, one car ride with a drunken driver is not ok, and one lie is not ok.

    Therefore, we come against the enemy’s tricks, lies, and deceit with the Word of God. We are naive and defenseless if we try to defeat the devil with our own clever devices. We will win however, if we keep our prayer guard up and if we spend time meditating on and applying  biblical principles to our behavior. This is why we are engaged, not nonchalant in our spiritual disciplines. We stay aware of devilish schemes that try to convince us we are the exception to the Lord’s expectations. By God’s grace we win the battle of the mind by renewing our mind with truth.

    “‘Why are you sleeping?’ he asked them. ‘Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’” (Luke 22:46).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, expose the enemy’s errors by the Holy Spirit’s illumination of truth.

    Related Readings: Genesis 3:1; 1 Thessaloinains 3:5; Philippians 2:16; James 5:11

    Post/Tweet today: What God says does not require a second opinion, so we are wise to first do what He says to do. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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