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  • A Father's Growing Faith

    Boyd

    The royal official said, “‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’Go,’ Jesus replied, ‘your son will live.’” John 4:49-50

    A father whose faith in Christ is imperfect, will grow the more he gets to know Christ. This nobleman had heard about Jesus, but did not realize the Lord could speak a word, and instantly yet virtually, heal his son. Geographic distance does not limit the healing power of God’s grace. We petition our heavenly Father on behalf of our distant child, and He hears us with a heart to heal their hearts. Job number one as a father is to stay faithful in bold prayers for our progeny.

    Included in the job description of fathers is to fix things. We fix leaky faucets or call a plumber! We fix toys trampled by little feet. We fix cars, lawn mowers and bicycles. Often we repair broken lamps, brittle chairs, wobbly tables and washing machines. As the servant leader of the family, financial shortfalls, relational conflict, and problem solving in general, fall under our responsibility. However, the real test of faith is when we face something out of our control.

    “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him” (Isaiah 64:4).

    Faith can be an irritant for controlling fathers, because it sometimes means they have to wait. Results may depend on God and other people. Perhaps you are waiting for your adult son to become a better leader. You need him to take on more responsibility. He may, but there are some leadership lessons that come only with experience. Your son needs to hear you say it’s ok to fail and you will always be there to support him. Learning to wait on God grows your faith in God.

    Furthermore, what is our reaction as a dad when our child is stricken by a severe illness, injury, or insult? Will we seek the Lord’s mercy, or will we ignore the Lord, since we are mad? Our faith grows when we go to God for our suffering child. Our son or daughter may be made fun of for their faith in Jesus. If so, we need to pray with them for their offenders. Model for them forgiveness, not retaliation. If your child is sick, go boldly to God’s throne of grace--receive mercy, seek healing. God hears and often heals. Our needy children need to see our faith grow.

    “The living, the living—they praise you, as I am doing today; parents tell their children about your faithfulness” (Isaiah 38:19).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the blessing of my needy children. By Your grace, I need You to grow my faith.

    Related Readings: Genesis 20:17; Daniel 4:3; Mark 5:34; Hebrews 2:13, 11:1; 1 John 5:1

    Post/Tweet today: Learning to wait on God grows our faith in God. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Man Alive from Patrick Morley

    Patrick

    As stories began to emerge after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, several survivors from the South Tower mentioned a courageous young man who mysteriously appeared from the smoke and led them to safety. They did not know who this man was who saved their lives, but this they remembered: wrapped over his mouth and nose was a red bandana.

    For fifty-six minutes the man in the red bandana shouted orders and led people down a stairwell to safety. “I found the stairs. Follow me,” he would say. He carried one woman down seventeen flights of stairs on his back. He set her down and urged others to help her and keep moving down. Then he headed back up.

    A badly injured woman was sitting on a radiator, waiting for help, when the man with the red bandana over his face came running across the room. “Follow me,” he told her. “I know the way out. I will lead you to safety.” He guided her and another group through the mayhem to the stairwell, got them started down toward freedom, and then disappeared back up into the smoke.

    He was never seen again.

    Six months later, on March 19, 2002, the body of the man with the red bandana was found intact alongside firefighters in a makeshift command center in the South Tower lobby, buried under 110 stories of rubble.

    Slowly the story began to come out. His name was Welles Crowther. In high school he was the kid who would feed the puck to the hockey team’s worst player, hoping to give his teammate that first goal. He became a junior volunteer firefighter in Upper Nyack, New York, following in his dad’s footsteps.

    Welles graduated from Boston College, where he played lacrosse, always with his trademark red bandana. His father had always carried a blue bandana.

    After college he worked as an equities trader on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He had a habit of putting change in his pocket in the morning to give to street people on his way to work.

    Not long before September 11, Welles told his father, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this work.” He was restless for more. Crunching numbers for invisible clients just didn’t seem like what he was born to do. He dreamed of becoming a firefighter or public servant.

    On September 11, 2001, at the age of twenty-four, Welles Crowther became both. And also a hero, because he was willing to go up while everyone else was coming down.

    There Must Be More

    This story touches a need deep inside me—something so primal that I find it hard to put into words. But it makes me yearn to feel more alive. And every man with whom I’ve ever shared it has felt the same way.

    Like Welles, we all want to make a contribution and leave the world a better place. It is a primal need—one among many. By “primal,” I mean that as men we have a raw, restless energy that’s different from women. It needs to be channeled, chiseled, transformed.

    Over the last four decades, I’ve met one-on-one with thousands of men over coffee, in restaurants, in offices, online, after Bible studies, or just hanging out at the racetrack—men like you. I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve heard what they said and didn’t say. Christian men know—or strongly sense—that we were created to lead powerful lives  transformed by Christ.

    But something is blocking them. With a few inspiring exceptions, most men I talk to are confused about what a powerful, transformed life really looks like, regardless of how much “I love Jesus” they’ve got. They have high hopes for what Christianity offers but little to show for it. Their instincts are screaming, There must be more! When men try to put into words what keeps them from feeling fully alive, they invariably describe one or more of these seven symptoms:

    - “I just feel like I am in this thing all alone.” - “I don’t feel like God cares about me personally—not really.” - “I don’t feel like my life has a purpose. It seems random.” - “I have a lot of destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.” - “My soul feels dry.” - “My most important relationships are not working.” - “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will make a difference and leave the world a better place.”

    Do you feel the angst? Do you see yourself on this list? As you can see, as men, our similarities dwarf our differences. These inner aches and pains—these yearnings—correspond to the seven primal, instinctive needs we’ll be exploring in this book.

    The High Cost of Being Half Alive

    I’d estimate that as many as 90 percent of Christian men lead lukewarm, stagnant, often defeated lives. They’re mired in spiritual mediocrity—and they hate it. Despite their good intentions, after they “walk the aisle” and “pray the sinner’s prayer,” most men return to their seats and resume their former lives. They don’t take the next steps. Almost imperceptibly, one disappointment at a time, the world sucks out their newfound joy and passion for life in Christ.

    Men lose heart, go silent, and anesthetize their pain. Then they give up, burn out, drop out, or just slowly drift away. It’s not just getting older; it’s an assassination of the soul. And isn’t that exactly what the enemy of our souls wants? As Jesus said, referring to the devil, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).

    No man fails on purpose. None of us wakes up in the morning and thinks, I wonder what I can do today to irritate my wife, neglect my kids, work too much, and have a moral failure. But many of us will.

    The statistics are jarring:

    - 80 percent of men are so emotionally impaired that not only are they unable to express their feelings, but they are even unable to identify their feelings. - 55 percent of marriages experience financial dishonesty, and it’s usually the husband. - 50 percent of men who attend church actively seek out pornography. - 40 percent of men get divorced, affecting one million children each year.

    The collateral damage is staggering. Tonight, one-third of America’s seventy-two million children will go to bed in a home without their biological dad. But perhaps the greatest cost to the physical absence of fathers is the practical absence of mothers. Essentially, one person must now do the work of two. As a young woman who grew up without a dad said, “When my mom and dad divorced, I didn’t just lose my dad. I also lost my mom, because she had to work long hours to support us.” A man leaves. A woman weeps herself to sleep. A little girl prays, “God, why is my daddy always so angry with me?” The men problem has made Dr. Phil a very rich man.

    There has to be a better way.


    Excerpted from Man Alive by Patrick Morley Copyright © 2012 by Patrick Morley. 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.

  • I'm a Meddler

    Lynn

    "... aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you." 1 Thessalonians 4:11 (ESV)

    I did it again. Stepped in to a situation that didn't concern me. I told myself I was helping, but it wasn't my place to speak up. As usual, it backfired.

    Contemplating all that had happened that evening, Jesus spoke to me. Of course, not literally spoke to me, but He nudged my heart: You're a meddler, Lynn, and you need to be done with it. When you meddle, you are not trusting. When you meddle, you are saying I can't handle it. You know I can. So be done with it. No more.

    I'm a meddler.

    I like to say I'm a "fixer." That's what I have called it in the past, but truth is, that's just a nicer way of putting it.

    Not a gossiper. No, that is someone who intentionally separates and that's not my heart. I want to help. Really I do.

    I'm a meddler. Dictionary.com defines the verb "meddle" this way: "To involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation; interfere officiously and unwantedly."

    Without right or invitation. That's what I do. Seeing an unhappy, unhealthy or unholy situation I listen to the whisper in my head. Since I see it, I think I'm instructed to do something about it.

    But most often, I am not. In fact, 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says "... aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you."

    My place is to be quiet and pray. But I still prefer to fix, manipulate and get involved.

    In other words, I meddle.

    So, there you have it. Now that I see my actions for what they are, it's my responsibility to change. And in order to change, I will have to slow down before I take action or open my mouth. I'll have to ask myself: Are you meddling?

    Will I be tempted to meddle? Every day. Will I mess up? I hope not, but it's highly probable. I'm human. My desire, though, is to mind my own affairs and let Jesus get involved. I will ask Him for prayers to pray, not words to say.

    This change is going to be hard. But I know Jesus is serious about not meddling. Proverbs 26:17 says, "Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears" (ESV). In other words, meddling isn't smart! And that is not what I want to be; I want to be wise.

    Any other meddlers out there? Can you think of times when you got involved and you shouldn't have? Especially when the thing Jesus wanted you to do was to pray — and only pray? Let's pray for each other and ask Jesus to open our eyes to see and leave our troubles up to Him.

    Jesus, I'm a woman who wants to be a fixer. But that's not really my place; it's Yours. Open my eyes before I step in, and empower me to resist the temptation to get involved. Teach me to pray instead, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What particular circumstances draw out the meddler in you? Trouble between friends? Arguments between family members? Right now, ask the Holy Spirit for prayers to pray for those you love instead of words to say.

    Often meddling is fueled by fear. Ask yourself: What do I fear?

    Power Verses: Matthew 7:3-5, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Refreshed to Refresh

    Boyd

    But whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14

    Christ refreshes us, so we are equipped to refresh others. His internal energy is not contingent on external circumstances. Like an old fashioned water wheel creates power by the constant flow of a creek or river, so our hearts are energized by our faith in Christ’s fountain of living water. Our appetite for Almighty God grows in intensity through our intimacy with Him. Temporary escapes are like soft drinks, there is a short-term satisfaction, but they only prolong the thirst cycle. But spiritual hydration from drinking in Jesus through prayer and worship, truly refreshes our heart.

    Are you in need of the Lord’s refreshment? Who comes to mind that you can refresh? Single adults fearful of not getting married need refreshment. Senior adults fearful of dying need refreshment. Widows and widowers fearful of loneliness need refreshment. Divorcees need refreshment. Hard charging leaders need refreshment. Perhaps you ask a close confidant how you can be a refreshment to them. The Lord refreshes our hearts, so we can refresh other weary hearts.

    “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

    The benefit of being a refresher is its reciprocal nature. By God’s grace we unexpectedly receive refreshment, for this is the Lord’s cycle of refreshment. This principle of receiving back new energy is humbling and life giving. So, a man or woman who spends much of their waking hours investing in relationships, may one day find themselves on their backs. Illness or injury may strike them down, only to find their spirits lifted by friends. Emails fill their inbox, texts flood their phone, and calls flow in full of encouragement. If we refresh others we will be refreshed!

    Furthermore, learn to enjoy reciprocal refreshment. Be a generous receiver, as well as a generous giver. What does it mean to be a generous receiver? We say thank you to the ones who refresh us and in our spirit we whisper a thank you to our heavenly Father for sending us His agent of encouragement. Most of all, our Savior’s living water wells up to eternal life for our souls. It’s not our proud, stoic independence that’s life giving. Instead, it’s our humble dependence on Jesus, whose life giving water flows from us. So, drink often: sip, swig or guzzle, but drink of Him!

    “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the refreshment of Your living water in Christ.

    Related Readings: Psalm 23:3, 68:9; Jeremiah 31:25; 1 Corinthians 16:18; Philemon 1:7, 20

    Post/Tweet today: Christ refreshes us to refresh others. His internal energy is not contingent on external circumstances. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • If God is Good from Randy Alcorn

    Randy

    Why Is the Problem of Evil and Suffering So Important? The problem of evil and suffering moves from the philosophical to the personal in a moment of time.

    During my research I read all sorts of books–philosophical, theological, practical, and personal. It’s one thing to talk about evil and suffering philosophically; it’s another to live with it. Philosophy professor Peter van Inwagen wrote,

    Angels may weep because the world is filled with suffering. A human being weeps because his daughter, she and not another, has died of leukemia this very night, or because her village, the only world she knows, is burning and the mutilated bodies of her husband and her son lie at her feet.

    Three weeks after his thirty-three-year-old son, Christopher, died in a car crash, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie addressed a crowd of twenty-nine thousand at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. “I’ve talked about Heaven my whole life,” Laurie said, “and I’ve given many messages on life after death. I’ve counseled many people who have lost a loved one, and I thought I knew a little bit about it. But I have to say that when it happens to you, it’s a whole new world.” The day his son died, he told the crowd, was “the hardest day of my life.”

    When I spoke with Greg ten months later, his faith was strong, but his profound sense of loss remained. Pain is always local. It has a face and a name. And sometimes, for now, it doesn’t go away.

    The American response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, demonstrated that large-scale evil and suffering usually remain distant from us.

    In Sudan, millions, including children, have been murdered, raped, and enslaved. The 2004 Asian tsunami killed more than 280,000 people. Malaria causes more than two million fatalities annually, the majority of them African children. Around the world, some 26,500 children die every day; eighteen every minute.

    The loss of American lives in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, numbered 2,973–horrible indeed, yet a small fraction of the terror and loss of life faced daily around the world. The death toll in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, for example, amounted to more than two World Trade Center disasters every day for one hundred days straight. Americans discovered in one day what much of the world already knew–violent death comes quickly, hits hard, and can be unspeakably dreadful.

    If we open our eyes, we’ll see the problem of evil and suffering even when it doesn’t touch us directly.

    A friend of ours spoke at a Christian gathering. On her way back to her car, someone raped her. She became pregnant and gave birth to her first child. Because racial differences would have made it clear her husband hadn’t fathered the baby, the couple placed the infant for adoption. Since then, they’ve been unable to conceive another child. Her lifelong dream of raising children remains unfulfilled.

    I once had to tell a wife, son, and daughter that their husband and father had died on a hunting trip. I still remember the anguished face of the little girl, then hearing her wail, “Not Daddy, no, not Daddy!”

    Years ago I had to tell my mother that her only brother had been murdered with a meat cleaver.

    A Christian woman tipped over on her riding lawn mower and fell into a pond. The machine landed on top of her, pinning her to the bottom and drowning her. Such a bizarre death prompted some to ask, “Why, God?” and “Why like this?”

    After his wife died, in great pain C. S. Lewis realized, “If I had really cared, as I thought I did, about the sorrows of the world, I should not have been so overwhelmed when my own sorrow came.”

    Our own suffering is often our wake-up call. But even if you aren’t now facing it, look around and you’ll see many who are.

    Why Talk About the Problem?

    More people point to the problem of evil and suffering as their reason for not believing in God than any other–it is not merely a problem, it is the problem.

    A Barna poll asked, “If you could ask God only one question and you knew he would give you an answer, what would you ask?” The most common response was, “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?”

    John Stott says -

    The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.

    Richard Swinburne, writing in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy, says the problem of evil is “the most powerful objection to traditional theism.”

    Ronald Nash writes, “Objections to theism come and go.… But every philosopher I know believes that the most serious challenge to theism was, is, and will continue to be the problem of evil.”

    You will not get far in a conversation with someone who rejects the Christian faith before the problem of evil is raised. Pulled out like the ultimate trump card, it’s supposed to silence believers and prove that the all-good and all-powerful God of the Bible doesn’t exist.

    The problem of evil is atheism’s cornerstone. German playwright Georg Büchner (1813—37) called the problem of evil “the rock of atheism.” Atheists point to the problem of evil as proof that the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. Every day the ancient argument gets raised in college philosophy classes, coffee shops, dinner discussions, e-mail exchanges, blogs, talk shows, and best-selling books.

    Atheists write page after page about evil and suffering. The problem of evil never strays far from their view; it intrudes upon chapters with vastly different subjects. It’s one of the central reasons Sam Harris writes, “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply an admission of the obvious.”

    Harris then scolds Christians, saying about intelligent people (such as himself ), “We stand dumbstruck by you–by your denial of tangible reality, by the suffering you create in service to your religious myths, and by your attachment to an imaginary God.” (At least we know what he’s thinking!)

    Many suppose that scientific evidence is the cornerstone of atheism. But the famous one-time champion of atheism, Britain’s Anthony Flew, renounced his atheism due to the complexity of the universe and his belief in the overwhelming evidence for intelligent design. After examining Richard Dawkins’s reasoning in The God Delusion–that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance”– Flew said, “If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over.” However, although he abandoned his atheism, Flew did not convert to the Christian faith, but to deism. Why? Flew could not get past the problem of evil. He believes that God must have created the universe, then abandoned it. A faith that leaves us unprepared for suffering is a false faith that deserves to be lost. A lot of bad theology inevitably surfaces when we face suffering. John Piper writes, “Wimpy worldviews make wimpy Christians. And wimpy Christians won’t survive the days ahead.”

    Auschwitz survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “Just as the small fire is extinguished by the storm whereas a large fire is enhanced by it, likewise a weak faith is weakened by predicaments and catastrophes whereas a strong faith is strengthened by them.” When people lose their faith because of suffering, it’s usually a weak or nominal faith that doesn’t account for or prepare them for evil and suffering. I believe that any faith not based on the truth needs to be lost. The sooner, the better.

    Believing God exists is not the same as trusting the God who exists. A nominal Christian often discovers in suffering that his faith has been in his church, denomination, or family tradition, but not Christ. As he faces evil and suffering, he may lose his faith. But that’s actually a good thing. I have sympathy for people who lose their faith, but any faith lost in suffering wasn’t a faith worth keeping. (Genuine faith will be tested; false faith will be lost.)

    If you base your faith on lack of affliction, your faith lives on the brink of extinction and will fall apart because of a frightening diagnosis or a shattering phone call. Token faith will not survive suffering, nor should it.

    Suffering and evil exert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward him. I know a man who lost his faith after facing terrible evil, suffering, and injustice. My heart breaks for him, and I pray that my family and I will never suffer what he did. But if personal suffering gives sufficient evidence that God doesn’t exist, then surely I shouldn’t wait until I suffer to conclude he’s a myth. If my suffering would one day justify denying God, then I should deny him now in light of other people’s suffering.

    The devastation of tragedy feels just as real for people whose faith endures suffering.But because they know that others have suffered and learned to trust God anyway, they can apply that trust to God as they face their own disasters. Because they do not place their hope for health and abundance and secure relationships in this life, but in an eternal life to come, their hope remains firm regardless of what happens.

    Losing your faith may be God’s gift to you. Only when you jettison ungrounded and untrue faith can you replace it with valid faith in the true God–faith that can pass, and even find strength in, the most formidable of life’s tests.

    In her moving book The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion writes about the sudden, unexpected death of her husband. As I read, my heart broke not only for what happened to her, but for the first six words of the book’s concluding sentence: “No eye is on the sparrow.”

    Didion apparently means that so far as she can tell, there is no God, or at least, no God who cares and watches over us. She’s most likely a normal hurting person who needs men and women around her who can see God in the midst of their suffering, so they might help her see him in hers. Suffering will come; we owe it to God, ourselves, and those around us to prepare for it.

    Live long enough and you will suffer. In this life, the only way to avoid suffering is to die.

    Bethany Hamilton grew up surfing on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. At age five she chose to follow Jesus. When she was thirteen, a fourteen-foot tiger shark attacked her, severing one of her arms. Bethany returned to surfing one month later. A year later, despite her disability, she won her first national title.

    Bethany says, “It was Jesus Christ who gave me peace when I got attacked by the shark.… And it was what God had taught me growing up that helped me overcome my fears…to get back into the water to keep surfing.”

    She continues, “My mom and I were praying before the shark attack that God would use me. Well, to me, 1 Timothy 1:12 kind of tells me that God considered me faithful enough to appoint me to his service. I just want to say that no matter who you are, God can use you even if you think you’re not the kind of person that can be used. You might think: why would God use me? That’s what I thought.… I was like thirteen and there God goes using me!”

    Bethany and her parents had given careful thought to the God they served and his sovereign purposes. Obviously not every tragedy leads to winning a national title, but Bethany began where all of us can, by trusting God; in her case, with a support system of people having an eternal perspective. Hence, she was prepared to face suffering when it came, and to emerge stronger.

    Unfortunately, most evangelical churches–whether traditional, liturgical, or emergent–have failed to teach people to think biblically about the realities of evil and suffering. A pastor’s daughter told me, “I was never taught the Christian life was going to be difficult. I’ve discovered it is, and I wasn’t ready.”

    A young woman battling cancer wrote me, “I was surprised that when it happened, it was hard and it hurt and I was sad and I couldn’t find anything good or redeeming about my losses. I never expected that a Christian who had access to God could feel so empty and alone.”

    Our failure to teach a biblical theology of suffering leaves Christians unprepared for harsh realities. It also leaves our children vulnerable to history, philosophy, and global studies classes that raise the problems of evil and suffering while denying the Christian worldview. Since the question will be raised, shouldn’t Christian parents and churches raise it first and take people to Scripture to see what God says about it?

    Most of us don’t give focused thought to evil and suffering until we experience them. This forces us to formulate perspective on the fly, at a time when our thinking is muddled and we’re exhausted and consumed by pressing issues. Readers who have “been there” will attest that it’s far better to think through suffering in advance.

    Sometimes sufferers reach out for answers to those woefully unprepared. A physician’s assistant friend of ours wrote -

    When I was admitted to the hospital in sepsis with a 50/50 chance of survival, I asked the chaplain how we could believe that God is love, when this felt like the antithesis of love. I said I wouldn’t inflict this much suffering on someone I hated, let alone someone I loved. She told me she would “look it up,” then left my room and never came back. I posed the same question to the social worker who came to visit me a few days later. She told me that God’s like a giant and we’re like little ants, and sometimes He accidentally steps on our ant hills and some of us get hurt. She said our suffering is random and God’s probably not even aware of it.

    Pastor James Montgomery Boice had a clearer perspective. In May 2000, he stood before his Philadelphia church and explained that he’d been diagnosed with liver cancer:

    Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you’re free to do that, of course. My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles–and He certainly can–is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition.…Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have.…God is in charge. When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental. It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by.… God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good. Everything He does is good.… If God does something in your life, would you change it? If you’d change it, you’d make it worse. It wouldn’t be as good.

    Eight weeks later, having taught his people first how to live and then how to die, Pastor Boice departed this world to “be with Christ, which is better by far” (Philippians 1:23).

    On the other side of death, the Bible promises that all who know him will fall into the open arms of a holy, loving, and gracious God–the greatest miracle, the answer to the problem of evil and suffering. He promises us an eternal kingdom on the New Earth, where he says of those who come to trust him in this present world of evil and suffering, “They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:3—4).


    Excerpted from If God Is Good by Randy Alcorn Copyright © 2009 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.

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  • If You're Feeling Overlooked and Unappreciated...

    Lysa

    "After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'" Acts 13:22 (NIV)

    Sometimes I wake up in the morning feeling a little grumpy. Time to do it all again. I'll buy food that gets eaten. I'll wash clothes that get dirty again. I'll sweep floors that will be littered with crumbs an hour later.

    Is there more to all this than just doing the tasks of everyday life?

    Before I jumped into the normal routine this morning, I sat with Jesus. And I found some big truths as I read my Bible and took a little glance into David's life. Despite how others saw him, his own tendency to sin, and lack of position in his own family, David had the sweet reassurance of God. And that was enough.

    Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

    To his older brothers, David was a pest. To his father, Jesse, he was just the youngest son. To onlookers, he was just a shepherd boy. But to God, David was the one destined to be king. And not just any king. He was from the bloodline from which Jesus would come.

    Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

    Even the way David was anointed to be the future king is a telling story. In 1 Samuel 16, God tells Samuel that He has rejected Saul as king and chosen one of Jesse's sons to be the replacement.

    Think of the list of qualifications that must have run through Samuel's mind for such a position: tall, smart, articulate, brave, groomed, well-mannered, a natural-born leader. Samuel saw some of these characteristics in Eliab, David's brother. "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his outward appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7, NIV 1984).

    Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

    Samuel had Jesse line up all of his sons before him. All of them were to be considered. Yet, Jesse didn't call David in from tending sheep. Was this an oversight? An assumption? A judgment call? A deliberate choice?

    Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

    Samuel passes on each of Jesse's sons and then asks, "Are these all the sons you have?" I imagine Jesse with a quizzical expression replying, "There is still the youngest ... He is tending the sheep." (1 Samuel 16:11, NIV) Surely one who spends his time taking care of animals is not the one to take care of a nation.

    Overlooked by everyone else. Handpicked by God.

    As soon as Samuel saw David, he knew he was the one. David was anointed to become king. But he was not immediately ushered to the throne. It would be many years before David was recognized by the world. So, where did he go after being anointed as king? To a refining school? A government academy? Military training? Nope.

    He went back out to the fields and continued to shepherd his flock. A king doing lowly tasks. A king whose character was being refined in the fields of everyday life to prepare him for his calling.

    How like us. In the midst of smelly laundry, dirty dishes, snotty noses, misplaced keys, overdue library books, bills, and that birthday gift that still needs to be mailed to Grandma – there is training there. There is character building. There is attitude shaping. There is soul defining. All of which must take place for us to become what God intends.

    Do you ever feel overlooked by the world? Take heart – we are handpicked by God.

    I am not just doing tasks. I am building a legacy. I am shaping God's Kingdom. I am in the process of not only discovering my calling but that of my family as well. And I don't know about you, but it sure does make me look at my everyday tasks (yes, even the smelly laundry) in a whole different light.

    Dear Lord, I'm grateful that even when I feel overlooked, I can rest in the fact that I am handpicked by You. Help me to live my life for an audience of One. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What tasks have you viewed as mundane or pointless?

    Determine to change your perspective on those tasks today. When you're feeling discouraged speak these words out loud: "I am handpicked and called by God. This is my assignment today from Him and I'm choosing to see how important it is!"

    Power Verse: 1 Corinthians 15:58b, "Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort." (MSG)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Source of Satisfaction

    Boyd

    Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10

    Every soul longs for satisfaction--a feeling of fulfillment. A dissatisfied soul is discontent and distant from God, but once satisfied, it’s content and close to Christ. Dissatisfied emotions look for love in all the wrong places, but once satisfied, receive genuine love from Jesus and His followers. A dissatisfied state of mind is ever learning, but unsatisfied with simple truth. Dissatisfied, we drive ourselves to unhealthy extremes, but we find peace when satisfied with our Savior Jesus.

    This dear woman at the well--whom Jesus loved, lacked fulfilling love from her previous husbands. The yearning and thirst in her heart could only be quenched by the living water of her Lord. Has your heart been broken by a lost love? Are you thirsty for someone you can totally trust? Look to your heavenly Father who loves unconditionally and wholeheartedly. The purified water of God’s love--filtered in heaven, is your gift to be received by faith. Christ’s love satisfies.

    “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

    We can dig wells in our own strength, but they will eventually run dry. A well of wishful thinking cannot replace Christ’s well of living hope. A well of good works cannot take the place of God’s gift of grace. A well of financial security is no substitute for the eternal security we have by faith in Jesus Christ. The world’s wells are subject to becoming stale, but the well of our Savior Jesus flows with fresh and residual living water. Draw often a cup of joy from the wellspring of life.

    Furthermore, go deeply into the well of God’s grace. The deeper we go, the darker it may seem, but such is the process of Oneness with our heavenly Father. As we patiently draw out the depths of the Lord’s love, we have an abundance to share with others. Living water is meant to flow from heart to heart. It’s not stagnant like the landlocked Dead Sea, rather is it full of life like a cascading waterfall. Faith in Christ is the satisfying source for all souls in search of true life.

    “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:38).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are the source of my satisfaction. Lead me to draw from Your well the depths of Your living water.

    Related Readings: Psalm 78:15-16; Isaiah 41:18; Jeremiah 17:13; Revelation 7:17, 21:6

    Post/Tweet today: Dissatisfied we drive ourselves to unhealthy extremes, but we find peace when satisfied with our Savior Jesus. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Bad Girls of the Bible from Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    Introduction

    Turn Signal

    And when she was good She was very, very good, But when she was bad she was horrid. --Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

    Ruthie never saw it coming. His fist flashed toward her so fast she couldn’t duck or turn away in time.

    “Nooo!” Her cry echoed off the windshield of the Pontiac but went no further. Who would hear her in this parking lot anyway? With trash cans and alley cats for neighbors, she could hardly expect some hero in a white Ford Mustang to drive by and rescue her, not at this late hour. Hayden was leaning inside the open car window now, rubbing his knuckles as if to say, “There’s more where that came from.” As if she hadn’t figured that out. As if she wasn’t watching his every move. Ruthie was nineteen, but she was nobody’s fool.

    Except Hayden’s.

    She stared at the dashboard, feeling her cheek swell as the pain inched around her eye, along her nose, toward her temple. In her whole life no one had ever deliberately hit her. Even as a child, she hadn’t been spanked at home or paddled in school.

    She was a good girl. National Honor Society. State chorus. Editor in chief of her small-town high-school newspaper.

    Nobody ever needed to hit Ruthie, for any reason.

    So much for that claim to fame. She’d been hit now, and hard. Slowly, hoping Hayden wouldn’t notice, she moved her jaw back and forth, grateful it could move.

    He snorted, obviously disgusted with her. “I didn’t break anything. But I could have. Now slide over or get out.”

    Not much choice there.

    The time for making choices was behind her—that was clear. Weeks ago she’d chosen to spend that Thursday night at the Village Nightclub, knowing the kind of men who went there. And the kind of women. Women like me. She’d chosen to drag Hayden home with her because he was the right size and the right age and in the right state of mind: drunk. Too drunk to care whether or not she had a pretty face.

    Her face wasn’t pretty now, of that Ruthie was certain.

    And her choices were nil. If she got out of the car, he might hit her again. If she stayed in the car, he might drive like a maniac and wrap her new Pontiac around a telephone pole, with them in it.

    Her new car. The one he routinely borrowed without asking. The one they’d been arguing about, right up until he parked his fist in her face. She moved across the seat toward the passenger side, sliding her keys out of the ignition as she did so, feeling her head begin to throb. Don’t let me pass out! Please…Somebody. Anybody. Resting her hand on the door handle, then carefully wrapping her fingers around it, she waited for her chance. As Hayden moved into the driver’s seat and dug in his pockets for his keys, she took a deep breath, then shoved the door open, nearly falling out on the gravel-strewn pavement.

    “Get in the car, Ruthie!” Hayden’s bark was deadly.

    She felt him grab for her and miss. “He-e-elp…” It was such a pitiful cry, like a kitten needing milk. Straightening awkwardly to her feet, Ruthie slammed the car door just as Hayden reached for her again. Judging by his curses, she’d unintentionally jammed his fingers in the process. Maybe not so unintentionally.

    She had one goal now: to locate her apartment key among the dozen on the ring she held in her trembling hands. Stumbling toward her security door as she heard the car door open, she found the key at last and forced it in the lock. C’mon, c’mon!

    When the deadbolt turned, she fell through the entrance with a sob of relief, then turned to bolt the door behind her. But she was too late. He’d already wedged his leg in the doorway and was muscling his way inside. Her heart sank through the linoleum floor, and the taste of dread filled her mouth.

    Hayden was taller, wider, older, stronger. And meaner, so much meaner. Why hadn’t she seen that? Tasted it in his kisses that first night, discovered it in his eyes that first morning?

    His hatred for her was a living thing, rolling off him in waves. “Don’t you understand?” His chest was heaving, but not from the effort—from the anger. “That Pontiac is mine. You’re mine. This apartment is mine. Nothing you do or say is gonna change that, Ruthie.”With one hand he slammed the door with a noisy bang.

    With the other hand he reached in his jacket and pulled out a gun.

    Her heart thudded to a stop at the sight of it.

    His cold smile told her all she needed to know.

    “Upstairs.” He waved the ugly black revolver at the staircase that led to her second-floor apartment. Her apartment. Hers! She’d scrimped and saved to have her own place. For what? So this…this…

    It was no use. She started up the steps, doing her best not to trip, not to cry, not to let him see that he was tearing apart everything that made her Ruthie, step by awful step…

    Define Bad . . .

    Few of us made it our ambition in life to be a Bad Girl. Ruthie wasn’t bad; she was abused. But after several years of making bad choices—dating Hayden among them—she’d given up on ever being good.

    Some of us stumbled through a rebellious youth or wandered into an addictive habit or walked down the aisle with the wrong guy for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps our sense of self was so skewed we decided we weren’t worthy of goodness or figured we’d gone too far to ever find the road home or concluded we enjoyed our favorite vice so much we weren’t about to give it up—no way, no how.

    There are some women who even wear badness like a badge of courage.

    As Tallulah Bankhead put it, “If I had to live my life over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”

    What labels a woman as “bad” hasn’t changed since Eve. All the usual suspects are there: disobedience, lust, denial, greed, anger, lying, adultery, laziness, cruelty, selfishness, idolatry.

    Badness—in other words, sin—doesn’t have to be that dramatic. It can be something on the sidelines: an unkind word, a whisper of gossip, a neglected request, an unrepentant attitude, an intentionally forgotten event.

    Ouch.

    It all boils down to a heart that’s hardened against God—however temporary the condition, however isolated the tough spot.

    To that extent, we’ve all been Bad Girls.

    And to a woman, we long to be Good Girls.

    I have trouble learning, though, from women who get it all right. I spend my energy comparing, falling short, and asking myself, How do they do that? It’s discouraging, even maddening. It also doesn’t get me one step closer to God.

    So, for a season, I thought we’d look at women who got a lot wrong. I must admit I went into these stories with a bit of pride between my teeth and soon found my jaw hanging slack at the similarities in these women and me. How is it possible, Lord? I love you, love your Word, love your people…How can I see so much of myself in these sleazy women?

    Ah, sisters. Our sins may be a surprise to us, but they are no surprise to the Lord.

    For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths. Proverbs 5:21

    Come, then, and meet our counterparts—for good and for bad. My introduction to these ten Bad Girls of the Bible began many years ago when I prepared a series of messages about famous women in Scripture for a national Christian convention. For a girl who loves to have fun, I found it the “meatiest” stuff I’d ever tackled. I savored every juicy minute of time spent studying the Bible and reading various commentaries. Not to mention examining my own life in juxtaposition with theirs.

    Oops. Big mistake there. Ruth was so faithful. Esther was so courageous. Mary was so innocent. I was so none-of-the-above.

    Then I happened upon Jezebel, and something inside me clicked. I identified with her pushy personality, I understood her need for control, I empathized with her angry outbursts…and I was aghast when I got to her gruesome ending.

    She was a Bad Girl, all right, but boy did she teach me what not to do in my marriage! It was then the seeds for this book were planted in my heart. These stories are in God’sWord for his good purpose—and for ours. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

    Where to begin? With the First Bad Girl: Eve. Of course. Badness had to start somewhere.

    Next, I found three women who were Bad to the Bone: Potiphar’s wife, Delilah, and Jezebel. These were women of whom not a single kind word was recorded. Women who had a pattern of sinning, with no evidence of remorse or a desire to change, who sinned with gusto from bad beginning to bitter end. Because they were made in the image of God, as we were, these Bad Girls weren’t truly rotten to the core. They just behaved that way—and very convincingly!

    Another three women were Bad for a Moment. Lot’s wife, Sapphira, and Michal were three good…uh…bad examples of women who made one colossal blooper—one big, life-changing mistake that was such a bell ringer it was recorded for posterity, chiming across the centuries. These three women were, by all appearances, believers in the one true God at the start, but when forced to make a choice, they each chose disastrously. Finally, my favorite women—those who were Bad for a Season, but Not Forever: Rahab, the Woman at the Well, and the Sinful Woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears. Yes, they all had plenty of sin in their past, but they also were willing to change and be changed. What a joy to watch their encounters with God redeem them for eternity!

    Because I love writing fiction, and because I wanted to make these women come alive for all of us, I’ve opened each chapter with a contemporary, fictional retelling of the biblical story that follows. The names have been changed to protect the guilty, but you’ll spot their stories right away. You might identify yourself in these narratives too…I certainly did.

    The same weaknesses, the same temptations, the same choices, and some of the same sorry results. Thanks to the tale of Lila from Dallas, Delilah will never again be a mere flannelboard cutout figure to me. And Lottie from Spirit Lake made me look at my beloved farmhouse in a whole new light, bless her misguided heart—and mine.

    May these fictional stories speak to you as well.

    Without missing a beat, we’ll jump right into a verse-by-verse look at the real woman’s story as it appears in the New InternationalVersion of the Bible, with plenty of “Lizzie style” commentary to keep you smiling as you learn what made that particular Bad Girl tick. Don’t faint when you see footnotes—a research paper this isn’t! But I believe in handling theWord of God with great care, so I studied more than fifty commentaries from the last two hundred years, along with ten different translations of the Scriptures. Funny: The older scholars blamed the women for everything and painted the men as heroes. The newer writers blamed the men for everything and described the women as victims and the men as jerks. The truth lies somewhere in the middle, so that’s what I aimed for: balance. And truth.

    As writer Elisabeth Elliot phrased it, “The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian does make me a different kind of woman.”1

    Here’s something you may not know about me, even if you’ve read many of my books: My incredible husband, Bill, has a Ph.D. in Old Testament languages. The man not only reads the Biblia Hebraica, he understands it. He combed through my manuscript for errors—in translation, in interpretation, in application. You can breathe easier, girlfriend, knowing I’m not alone on this project!

    You aren’t alone either. That’s the point of Bad Girls of the Bible. I want you to know, categorically and absolutely, that whatever your story is, you are not alone. There are lessons here for all of us; each chapter ends with four of them. In the back of the book you'll find a short list of Discussion Questions for book clubs and a longer StudyGuide formore in-depth, chapter-by-chapter Bible study.

    I had four kinds of readers in mind while I wrote: (1) Former Bad Girls who have given up their old lives for new ones in Christ and are struggling to figure out how and where they “fit” in God’s family; (2) Temporary Bad Girls who grew up in the church, put aside their devotion to God at some point, and now fear they can’t ever be truly forgiven; (3) Veteran Good Girls who want to grow in understanding and compassion for the women around them who weren’t “cradle Christians”; and (4) Aspiring Good Girls who keep thinking there must be something more to life but aren’t sure where to look.

    This is the place, dear ones. Join in.

    Find out what a twenty-first-century woman who loves God can learn from an ancient Egyptian temptress who did not: plenty!

    All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean…As it is with the good man, so with the sinner. Ecclesiastes 9:2

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

    In closing, a reminder that each chapter opens with fiction. Except this one. Ruthie is me. That’s a small slice of my own early life as a Bad Girl, and, yes, it was very hard to write.

    It got so much worse before it got better. Only a few trusted souls on this earth know how bad. Jesus knows. He knows every inch of my heart. He knows how bad I was, am now, and will be, before I leave behind this transient shell and go on to undeserved glory.

    Here’s the good news: He loves us anyway.

    He loves us so much he will put people in our paths to lead us to him, just as he did for me—for Ruthie—decades ago. After years in the wilderness, I found myself at the end of my proverbial rope, so despondent I was willing to swing from that noose by my own stiff neck—anything to end the pain of disappointment and shame.

    In my pursuit of earthly, fleshly pleasures—the whole sex, drugs, and rock-’n’-roll experience that many of us sampled—I discovered a sad truth: Fun and joy are not the same thing at all. Fun is temporary at best; it’s risky, even dangerous, at worst. Joy, on the other hand, was a mystery I couldn’t seem to decipher.

    Oh, girlfriend!When I think of the shallow relationships, the misspent dollars, the wasted years, I can taste that bitter despair all over again. I was a woman without hope—a Bad Girl by choice and by circumstance—convinced that if I could just find the “right man,” he would save me from my sorrows.

    One wintry day in 1982 I met that “right man”—a man of sorrows—who willingly had given his life to set me free. Me! Sinful, disobedient, rebellious Ruth Elizabeth. My friends Tim and Evelyn, who’d shared their hearts, their hugs, and their lives with me, now shared the truth with me: I was a sinner in need of a Savior.

    Finally I understood the depth of my badness and the breadth of God’s goodness and so embraced his gift of grace with both hands. Yes, I was Bad for a Season, but Not Forever.

    And my, oh my, have I found real joy!

    With the courage of Rahab, the humility of the Sinful Woman, and the curiosity of the Woman at the Well, let’s press on, my sisters, and see what good news our Lord might have waiting for us within these pages. I promise I’ll be with you every step of the way.


    Excerpted from Bad Girls of the Bible by Liz Curtis Higgs Copyright © 2013 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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