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  • Fruit of Repentance

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Luke 3:8-9

    A surrendered life to the Lord produces fruit of repentance. Like a well kept vineyard of grapes seasonly tills rich soil and meticulously removes weeds, so a Spirit-filled life is watered with grace, love and mercy. Character cultivation happens to a heart turned toward heaven, captivated by trust in Jesus. Hail storms damage, even destroy the best kept crops, but the sun’s life giving rays and the nurturing farmer bring them back. So, God grows a disciple into His hearty harvest.

    Spiritual fruit from the past is no substitute for fruit produced in the present. Praise God for our faithful ancestors of the faith, but their fruit was for their time. The Spirit of God looks to harvest fruits of repentance for this generation. The good old days of spiritual renewal are inspiring to reminisce, but today the Lord calls those of us with a little gray hair to grow up in His grace. We who identify with Jesus have a significant role and responsibility to produce fruit of repentance.

    I [Paul] preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. Acts 26:20
    How do we know if we produce fruit of repentance? Private belief for salvation and public confession in baptism are the first fruits of repentance, but just the beginning point. The ongoing fruit bearing process is a lifetime of leaning into the Lord. So, the Spirit reminds us when we drift into bad habits or wrong thinking. We confess spiritual pride and we remember that only by the grace of God can we do good. We turn from self righteousness and turn to God’s righteousness.

    What is the proof of fruit produced by repentance? Good deeds from a heart of humility and grace arefruit that glorifies God. Your Spirit-filled actions of abstinence, generosity, tutoring, publicservice, faith sharing, foster care and orphan adoption please your Heavenly Father. Jesus smiles when you are hospitable and when you visit the sick and those in prison. Your authentic repentance keeps you broken to care for the broken. What breaks God’s heart breaks your heart!

    Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of known and unknown sin in my heart, I turn to Your heart for forgiveness and the faith to produce good deeds.

    Related Readings: Deuteronemy 4:30; Jeremiah 18:11; Ezekeil 47:12; Acts 11:18; Galatians 3:7

    Post/Tweet today: Our authentic repentance keeps us broken to care for the broken. #fruitofrepentance

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

  • Liz Curtis Higgs - She's Smart. Witty. Serious. (And a cat lover.)

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by John van der Veen


    In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God’s grace anew.

    Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Dinah, Ruth, and Naomi to eighteenth-century Scotland, also have invited readers to view these familiar characters in a new light.

    Liz is the author of nearly 30 books, with more than 3 million copies in print. Her popular nonfiction books include Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, Rise and Shine, and Embrace Grace.

    Liz is married to Bill Higgs, Ph.D., who serves as Director of Operations for her speaking and writing office. Liz and Bill enjoy their old Kentucky home, a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Louisville, and are the proud (and relieved!) parents of two college grads, Matthew and Lillian.

    Liz was traveling through the area and stopped by our offices. I had never met Liz before and honestly, I didn't really know what to expect. What I met was a genuine follow of Christ. Or, in other words, a sinner/saint. Liz is not perfect. She has a "past." But more importantly, she is a child of a Great King. She stands as a testimony of God's grace and mercy.

    Thankfully, Liz is now a friend. No, she's a sister. For that I am thankful.

    John: How is Jack, your cat? (In case you, reader, didn't know this, Liz is a lover of her cat, Jack.)

    Liz: Jack the cat is wonderful. Jack the cat has a story.

    John: Oh, does he really?

    Liz: Oh, yes. Well, when cats adopt you they always come for a reason. I was doing a book called Mine is the Night. The book, by the way, is based on the Book of Ruth but set in 18th century Scotland. The hero was going to be strong just as the Bible says Boaz is. In the Bible that means a man of warfare, a man of battle. But I wanted him softened by something, and I decided he would have a cat! I was all prepared to do a Facebook bit where I said to people, "Send me pictures of your cat, and I'll choose one to be Jack's, the hero, Jack's cat." Before I could, literally the day I was going to start the contest, a cat walked into our house.

    John: Oh, so you didn't go seeking him?

    Liz: I did not.

    John: He came seeking you.

    Liz: My husband is not a cat person. My husband walked in with this cat in his arms and turned to my daughter and I—we're total cat people—and said, "Have you ever seen this guy before? Because he's hanging around the back door like he wants to come in." We took one look at him and said, "Hello!"

    I have him on my website. He's so handsome. He really is. He's just a very handsome cat. I knew right away he was Jack's cat and therefore, his name really ought to just be Jack. So we have Jack the hero, but we also have Jack the cat. He is described verbatim in the book. I just used him as my example. It's just fun.

    John: I love it.

    Liz: Jack has been with us ever since, and he's the best cat I've ever had. Don't tell Big Cat, Tiger or Mac—cats of the past.

    John: Liz, you write fiction, non-fiction, children's literature, you're a speaker, you're a Bible study teacher, a Bible study leader, and you have DVDs out. You wrote a column for Today's Christian Woman for how many years?

    Liz: I think it was right at ten years for them.

    John: You're a mom. You're a wife.

    Liz: I am, and I sing alto in the choir (laughing). I do! When they let me.

    John: How does a mom with a couple of young kids at her feet, or a single parent dad who's in the midst of life, a business leader not look at you and think, "Look at everything that she's doing. She must have everything all together and everything seems to be always falling apart for me." What do you say to that person, Liz?

    Liz: Well, first of all, things always look like they're falling apart from where I'm sitting too. I feel like I'm juggling so many balls in the air, and some of them do slip out of my hands.

    I think the hardest thing for us to deal with, whatever we're doing, whatever our situation, whether our kids are younger, older or we don't have them, there's always the fear I haven't done enough or I haven't done it well enough. Those are the two big challenges for me: I haven't done enough or haven't done it well enough. This is when we rest. We just have to rest in, "I did everything I could with all the hours I was awake, and now I'm going to trust God with this and keep going."

    If you're a perfectionist—and I most assuredly am—it's very difficult because you're never going to be finished with a task. You're never going to be fully happy. I've never turned a book in where I've said, "Yup, nailed it," ever, ever. I'm always so anxious for the first draft to come back to me so I can write the second draft. Then I think at the end of the second draft, "It's better, but it's still not right." I'm always really grateful when I get it back again from another set of editors and I get to write the third draft. Eventually, you know, they just come take them away and they won't let you have them anymore.

    John: It's time to turn it in.

    Liz: Exactly, so that's the rest piece. You finally have to rest in this: "I did the best I could, and it was God's work anyway. If God is working through me, then I think He is at peace with this as well." So many times we deal with a nagging voice. Maybe it's just me, but I know that nagging voice. I know it's never God. God is not a nag. He will convict by the power of the Holy Spirit. He'll convict us when we need to go a different direction, when it's time to have ears to hear and eyes to see and do something different. But conviction is healthy. That's the Holy Spirit drawing you to God.

    The other voice is condemnation drawing you away from God, telling you you're not good enough, not finished enough, do better, this is terrible, all those kinds of messages. You're not a good enough father, you're not a good enough wife, and your husband deserves someone better than you. All that kind of condemnation is never from God.

    That leaves one other option: It's from the enemy of our souls. I think when we can hear the difference between conviction and condemnation, we can take the conviction as the gift that it is. It's a gift. God wants to change us. He loves us so much He wants to change us. As for the condemnation, you need to send the one dishing out those lies back where he came from, because it's untruth and we don't need any more untruth pouring into our ears. That's one thing I try to do is to discern the voice.

    John: Earlier today, you shared a short testimony about how you came to know the Lord. How did you move from that experience of saying, "Okay, Jesus and me together," to now, "I have a voice and I need to start sharing my life experiences with others”?

    Liz: The truth is you start sharing them immediately with the people around you. You're already moving from experiencing it yourself to sharing it with other people, because it's the most natural thing to do. If you see a movie you love, you are texting people before you leave the theater. If you read a book you love, you want everybody to hear about it. You jump online and leave a review, whatever your deal is.

    It is our nature when we have good news, any kind of good news, to tell people. When you get the best news in town, you tell people.

    The only reason we stop telling is because we hit some resistance, or we begin to become self-conscious about it, or people treat us a little differently and we're not sure we like that. We begin to grow quiet about the Lord. I know sometimes people will say, "I have a quiet faith," but I don't think we're called to be quiet.

    You have to find a way, and God will certainly show you, to share your faith in a way that is congruent with who you are. I mean, I'm loud and carry on and I'll stop complete strangers. I've had situations where I've gone into a restaurant alone, but I strike up such a conversation with the people in front of me that when the waiter comes over he expects to seat me with the people. He's sure I'm with them. Because it's just my nature to talk to anybody, anywhere; but that is not everybody's thing.

    Quiet people find other ways. Sometimes they become writers. Ann Voskamp is a most extraordinary writer, and that is how her gift happens, that's how her sharing happens—on the page. Other people are incredible servants, they are doers behind the scenes, but their actions speak more loudly than my words would ever speak because it's done with such grace and such humility.

    We all do have ways to do it, but I don't think doing nothing is one of the options. I think we all have to find a way to walk Christ out among the people around us.

    John: Liz, is there anything left on your bucket list?

    Liz: Oh, what a great question. I used to want to jump out of an airplane, you know, with a parachute attached. I've decided that, even with the parachute, it would be such an ugly thing to watch, that we're not going to be seeing that one in my lifetime (laughs). So, no jumping out of a parachute.

    There are many places in this world I long to go. As it happens, because I write historical novels set in Scotland, I just keep going back to Scotland. The truth is, I would love to get to Italy. I've never been there, I'm anxious to go. I mean I'd love to go anywhere. I'd love to go to Russia. I'd love to go to India, very high on the list. I've never even been to Ireland, and it's 20 miles across the Irish Sea from the coast of Scotland. So there are many places. My bucket list is full of travel.

    In our family, travel is what we do for each other. When the kids graduated from school, we never gave them stuff. We took them on a trip. That was the deal for graduating—a trip anywhere they wanted to go. It's so fun, because then you're making memories as well as expanding your understanding of the world and seeing what a small part of the world this country is. We kind of think we are big. We are big, but we're not the only game in town. It's so healthy to go outside our shores. Humbling, really.

    John: From Bad Girls of the Bible to Really Bad Girls of the Bible to Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, those books have certainly done well. Why do you think there is such an affinity towards identifying with those "bad girls"? When people look at Rahab or they look at any character in the Bible, they see themselves so well. Why is that?

    Liz: It's interesting, because every once in a while I'll take a little heat for focusing on the bad girls. I always say first of all I didn't put them there. They were already in the Word. All I did was bunch them up together. I did that I think because we do tend to gloss over the bad.

    At least in the "women of the Bible" books that I've seen, they tend to focus on the good girls. You know, Esther Lydia, Priscilla. I thought, "Well, the Lord has put these bad girls in the Bible for a reason." Of course I'm a former bad girl, so I'm coming from that very personal place of saying, "What does God want me to see in these women's lives?"

    I have to say this. In Bad Girls of the Bible, and for that matter in the other books as well, I found a bit of myself in all of them. You have to cut away the cultural differences. We eat different foods, we wear different clothes, we live in different kinds of houses and have different transportation than they did two or three thousand years ago. But the bottom-line stuff is the same whether it's lust or greed or whatever—any kind of sin you want to come up with. Pride is always the basic one. That hasn't changed at all. Human nature is the same as always.

    When we identify something about that bad girl that resonates with us, then we read her story with a different eye and we see how things turn out for her. It didn't turn out too well for Jezebel, who turned her back on the one true God and worshiped her daddy's god, Baal. It didn't turn out well at all. Shoved out a window, trampled by horses, eaten by dogs, such that there was nothing left that identified her even as woman, let alone as Jezebel. This is God's statement on what happens when you turn your back on Him permanently, when you have no interest in Him, when you shut Him out completely.

    She's a cautionary tale, but one worth looking at because it not only shows the big picture Jezebel, killing off the prophets, but her story in the Bible shows the small domestic scene with her husband, which for many of us who are strong-willed women will look really familiar. She kind of takes over: "I'll get you the vineyard. I'll take care of it. Give me your seal. I'll write the letter. I'll take care of it." Those of us who, as we used to say back in the day, like to wear the pants in the family—that's a funny phrase, isn't it?—we can learn from Jezebel. We can see the ugliness on the page and go, "I don't want to go there."

    I think there is something to be learned from all of them. Of course our favorite ones are the ones who are redeemed. Those are the ones that really give us hope. Those are the ones that prove you can't go too far. God's arm is not short. He's going to reach you. Those are the stories I tend to speak about from the platform.

    I'll touch on the other women, but hope is the main thing we offer our readers, our audiences, our friends. Hope! So the stories of the "Rahabs," and the woman at the well, and the sinful women of Luke 7 … incredible story. She never even speaks. She's kind of a little cage-rattler that one, because she never speaks, she never asks His forgiveness, she never prays the sinner's prayer, she never confesses her sin. Wow!

    Does it count? It must, because Jesus says twice, "You are forgiven." It's repeated twice, just in case, just to make sure. Then He says, "Your faith has saved you." Wow. I thought Jesus saved her. Yeah, He did. Her faith in Him saved her. "Go in peace." I love that story. "Go in peace."

    To my knowledge, that's what everybody in the world wants: peace. We take some pretty convoluted paths to get there. Jesus says, "My peace I give to you." He's the one who is all about peace.

    I love the women of the Bible, and I do especially love the bad girls. I won't ever be writing a book called Good Girls of the Bible. I'm asked a lot to do that. But the stumbling block for me is the Bible says in Jesus's own words, "No one is good except God alone." It's the truth.

    I mean even if I do a good thing, it wasn't Liz. It was God kindly doing a good thing through me. It's His righteousness, not mine. I just can't go down that road of finding all the good qualities in these women, unless I just pointed every one back to God. I could do that. Bad girls and I, we still have a little more ground to tread. I haven't done them all yet.

    John: There's more to come?

    Liz: Well, probably nothing called Bad Girls of the Bible in any shape, slightly, really, mostly, somewhat (laughs). I think we're done. There are still more women I want to write about. There's some that I've tucked in my pocket, thinking, "Someday." They're jumping out of my pocket now one by one. It's really fun.

    John: Who do you write for? Do you write for Liz, or do you write for the people you go to church with, or do you write for the people who have read your books before? Who do you have in mind?

    Liz: I have in mind Liz at 26. I came to know Jesus at 27, but I always think about Liz at 26. In other words, I make no assumptions about what people know or don't know about the Bible. I try and really spell it out. It might therefore come out as a little bit simplistic to somebody who's deep, deep, deep in the Word. But hopefully, because I also do tons of research and use about 40 English translations, there's also plenty of meat there for a believer who's been at it a while. I try to keep my language really accessible and not turn off Liz at 26.

    Actually, she's not the only person I write to because we write to more than one. There is kind of this group of people. I can see them, right behind my screen. There's Liz at 26 and there's my mother-in-law. I think about who she is. She's an avid reader, 84, so an older woman. Presbyterian her whole life. There's a particular something she's going to respond to. I'm also thinking about other women of other ages and stages, married and single, deeply in the Word, new to the Word. You kind of have this little group of women and they're all peering over the screen at me. "Got something for me?" And I say, "Here, this is for you, Liz at 26, and this is for you, Mary Lee. I know that you'll really resonate with this, and this is for you."

    John: Are you a reader?

    Liz: Oh, yeah. This, I don't know what this will do to my credibility, but what I read is fiction. I'm a fiction reader.

    John: Any authors that we know?

    Liz: Well, Francine Rivers has always been my hero. She's always written boldly. Redeeming Love was bold for Christian readership. She put it all out there. Actually, I read Redeeming Love in the original. She wrote it for the general market first. Then when she came to know Christ, she got the rights back and Multnomah was able to publish it for her. There were some adjustments made in the book, but it was powerful in either form for sure.

    I love fiction. I love historical fiction especially. Obviously, when I'm writing non-fiction I've got all sorts of research books around me. I love all the classics. I love Practicing His Presence, a book like that, small, powerful. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity was really the book that spoke loudest to me as a new believer.

    Actually, before I came to know Christ, when I was on that journey of the sun growing brighter and brighter, it was just overwhelming to me because I come from a family who really values education so everybody has master's degrees and are just very impressed with being educated. Which is great, obviously. But Jesus asked us to come as simple as a child.

    To read Lewis, who's obviously brilliant and yet sees also the simplicity in some ways, just blew my mind. A man that’s smart thinks this is the answer? I was having a hard time arguing with him. Of course, he presents arguments so skillfully. He'll present the argument and then lay out 1 through 10, here's all the reasons why. You can't come up with 11. It's like, "I agree!" (Laughs.)

    John: You twisted my arm! HA!

    Liz: That's right. You have very effectively twisted my mind. You've taken this very intellectual journey and come to a very spiritual place. It's unique. Of course, I marvel that he wrote not for a Christian publisher, he wrote for the world. He did radio broadcasts for everybody.

    John: What has God been teaching Liz Curtis Higgs lately?

    Liz: So many things. It's hard to know where to start. One word He's pressing down so hard into me is "gratitude" and the responsibility that goes with all those gifts. I don't mean gifts as in talents; I mean just the blessings.
    To be really grateful and always expressing that gratitude, and never, never letting myself indulge in even a moment of, "Hey, I did a pretty good job there." We just can't go there. We can't say, "I did a pretty good job." You might say to yourself, "Wow, God. Wow, God, I had a sense of You at work there. How did I get to be a part of that? I don't know, but thank You." It's just so different.

    I heard an interview with an author on NPR and I learned so much and was greatly convicted. After every sentence the unstated was, "Aren't I brilliant?" "I did this, I did this, I did this." That's what I heard behind the words. It was convicting because I thought, "Oh, my word. I've got to go back and listen to my interviews and say, 'Is that what I was also saying? Aren't I brilliant?'" So, I'm not. I know that. I think that's the one thing God is trying to make really clear to me. That if there is any good thing, it's just Him.

    And Liz continues to write. To be an influence. At the time of this interview she was just finishing up her new Christmas title, The Women of Christmas.

    Liz is here to stay and for that we all can be thankful.

  • Sacrifices of Praise

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD." Psalm 4:5 (NLT)

    I have a confession to make. After many years of walking with Jesus and seeking Him to fill me, I still struggle with unmet longings.

    Maybe you can relate. Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached with each thought of it? It seems like life would be so much better if you had that one thing.

    There would be more happiness.

    More contentment.

    More fulfillment.

    More satisfaction.

    More peace.

    You can envision yourself with this thing, this person, this opportunity. And all things are better. So, why doesn't God give you this longing of your heart? This longing of my heart?

    Could it be because He wants us to willingly let it go?

    Ouch.

    That's not the answer I want. Why would God let the aching desire linger and not make things happen? He could. He's certainly able. But when He doesn't, it seems unfair. Not good. Confusing.

    It's easy to get down when we're constantly let down. We hope this thing will happen ... we'll meet this right person ... we'll get this job ... we'll finally be healed ... we'll get that chance ... we'll see that family member turn his or her life around. Time and again it doesn't happen. That's when it's easy to slip.

    That's where trust steps in and reminds us we can't ever learn how to live real faith if we never need real faith.

    As an offering of trust, we must give up that which could so easily bring us down.

    Not give up as in discouraged surrender. But give up as in placing this desire in the hand of God and saying, "Either way, I will see Your answer as the good answer and walk in trust."

    I like to call these types of releases in my life sacrifices of praise, like Psalm 4:5 tells us to do: "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD."

    Lord, I sacrifice chasing this so I might more fully and with more focus chase You. I release this grip of desire. I praise You for who You are, what only You can bring, and how You will fill whatever gap this release might leave.

    Yes, I still struggle with unmet desires.

    But not as much today as I did yesterday.

    And that is good. Not easy. But good.

    Dear Lord, I want to offer You sacrifices of praise with a willing heart. Cultivate in me an attitude of obedience as I choose to trust Your plans above my desires. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What can you offer up as a sacrifice of praise to the Lord?

    Take small steps each day as you walk in obedience and give that thing up to God.

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 62:8, "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." (NIV)

    Isaiah 26:4, "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Everyone Has a Story

    Posted on October 2, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Philippians 3:4-7

    Everyone has a story. Maybe your story is similar to mine. A story of my parent’s divorce at age five followed by confusion, hurt and blame. A story of insecurity and distrust based on a constant state of transition and multiple moves. Embarrassed by being the new kid in the class, over and over again. A story of a coach who loved Christ and loved his wife, who led Bible studies and encouraged me in my undeveloped faith. At 19, Jesus entered the screen play of my life as Lord.

    Married my high school sweetheart, whose family’s faith in God flourished. My bride was and is my best friend. She is also the best wife and mom I know. My father-in-law became my mentor of hard work and how to love my family. Sold my service business, graduated with a Masters of Divinity, worked in large churches, started three ministries and experienced the joy of my Dad’s salvation. Blessed with four daughters, three sons-in-laws and four grand babies. Have survived by God’s grace, prostate cancer, abusive stepfathers, rejection and financial challenges. My story.

    I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5

    So, each day we look into the eyes of each person the Lord sends our way and we inquire about their story. A rough persona may  mask  a big, insecure heart. A hyper happy person may be hiding  intense hurt that needs the healing touch of God’s grace. A fatigued face may have been up most of the night with a special needs child. A sad soul may struggle under a financial burden and a joyful co-worker could use our support and affirmation. Learn another’s story.

    Above all else, the story of Almighty God’s grace, love and judgment is the main attraction. Our stories are the warm up band, but His story is what others really want and need to hear. When we submit our story to Christ’s story our story becomes complete and His story becomes the focal point of our life. His humility becomes our humility. His love becomes our love. His sacrifice becomes our sacrifice. His forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. His story becomes our story.

    The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master. Philippians 3:7-9, The Message

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray Your story of love and forgiveness becomes my story of love and forgiveness.

    Related Readings: Jeremiah 9:23-24; Psalm 73:25; Matthew 1:1-17; Acts 16:1, 22:22-29

    Post/Tweet today: Our stories are the warm up band, but His story is what others really want and need to hear. #everyonehasastory

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

  • Five Questions with Cindy Woodsmall

    Posted on October 2, 2013 by Family Christian

    Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times and CBA best-selling author of numerous works of fiction and one of nonfiction. Her connection with the Amish community has been featured widely in national media. She lives in the Foothills of the North Georgia Mountains with her family. Her new book, The Dawn of Christmas, is heart-warming tale of second chances.

    Below are a few questions for Cindy and her answers.

    What is your favorite and least favorite aspect of writing novellas?

    My favorite part of writing novellas is that I find them remarkably energizing and inspiring. If writing a novel were compared to running five miles every day during the dog days of summer, writing a novella is like a two-mile jaunt in fall.

    I think part of the reason novellas foster that feeling is the timing. I’ve been blessed to write two of my three Christmas novellas during winter, which includes Christmastime. Every morning, I would walk into my office, open the windows a little, and enjoy the rush of cold air with its aromas of evergreens and winter Daphne. Invigorating! I would get a large mug of hot chocolate, bundle up in a blanket, put my fingers on the keyboard, and slip into another world. There’s nothing quite like penning a Christmas story during that holiday season.

    As for my least favorite part, that’s clear in my heart too. The most difficult part of writing a short work of fiction is that I long to have at least three hundred thousand words to tell the story, which is what I have when writing a three-book series. When I’m writing a novella, I have to stop myself from allowing a character to fascinate me to the point of adding another subplot to the book. Without exercising restraint, I could turn any novella into a three-book series. For example, in The Dawn of Christmas, there’s a character named Andy. He’s the older brother of the main character, Levi Fisher. He doesn’t have any POV (point of view) scenes. But Andy’s story grabbed my heart and would not let go. So next fall a stand-alone novel of Andy’s story will hit the bookstore shelves. To be honest, even three hundred thousand words isn’t always enough for me to develop a story. Sometimes I need four hundred thousand words—which is why book four in the Amish Vines and Orchards series comes out this spring.

    Do you outline your books before writing or "wing it" as you go?

    I spend a lot of time outlining. A lot. Research is quite time consuming too. But while outlining for extended periods, I get my first glimpses into who the characters are, what motives them, what breaks them, strengthens them, terrifies them. And why. While outlining, I come to know the goal, motivation, and conflict for each character in each scene. I wish I didn’t need to outline. But even when an entire story comes to me through inspiration, I have to break it down into chapters and dig to uncover the background of each character. Once I start writing, the story doesn’t always follow my outline, certainly not as I hoped it would. But outlining is like planning for a child’s birthday party. You make meticulous lists and purchase all the items and make detailed plans for each activity. But once the party is under way, you meld the planned with the unexpected and enjoy it for what it is: exhausting and joyful.

    Is Sadie Yoder a real person?

    Sadie is based on a real person. With many brushstrokes of creativity, I used aspects of her personality as well as some details of her real-life journey. When it came time to write that first scene, I cried at the heartbreak Sadie Yoder went through. But with all of her overwhelming insecurities and her obsessive desire to please everyone, she found a way to blossom into someone God could use and someone she herself liked.

    Can you share more on the Amish and their view of foreign mission work?

    Most Amish don’t travel overseas to do mission work. It’s not unheard of, but it’s not a part of their traditional ways to do outreach ministry. At the same time, if an Amish person felt pulled by God to go, the church leaders would prayerfully consider it.

    The typical way the Amish minister overseas is through their Plain Mennonite neighbors. Plain Mennonites are heavily involved in overseas ministry. It’s expected of most Mennonite young people to spend a year or more in service, and that service is often overseas.

    So the Old Order Amish will join hands with the Plain Mennonites and sacrifice time and money to help get goods overseas. Miriam Flaud, a good friend of mine who’s Old Order Amish (and my coauthor of the only nonfiction book I’ve written), touches on this topic in Plain Wisdom: An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women.

    The charity the Old Order Amish are most involved in is Christian Aid Ministries. Amish women make quilts, blankets, and clothes for poor people in other countries. They also gather clothing items and spend weeks washing, ironing, and mending them. They then go to a Christian Aid Ministries outlet and spend days or weeks boxing up the goods in individual packages to send overseas. (Think “shoebox” giving, only with larger packages.) Amish men help load the goods on trucks and also contribute money to purchase goods to send overseas—soaps, toothbrushes, toothpaste, books, etc.

    Because their hearts are very home oriented, the Amish rarely leave the US. However, they are extremely active in helping rebuild domestic communities after disasters. Whether they travel by hired driver, bus, or train, large groups of Amish will go to a devastated area to pitch in. As excellent carpenters and tradesmen, their help is highly valued. More men participate in these activities than women, because the women need to stay home with the children. But in a crowd of ten to twenty men, up to three women will go. They help with cleanup as well as provide meals and clean clothes for the workers.

    Every year or two, Amish districts work together to build a home from money the community members have donated. Once it’s built, they sell it for the best price they can get and give away all the proceeds, usually to families—either Amish or Englisch—who are dealing with overwhelming health issues and/or medical bills.

    What kinds of struggles do women who read your books have?

    From talking to readers over the years, I get the sense that they’ve experienced the wonders of love, the depths of grief, and everything in between. In other words, they’ve struggled with, either personally or through a loved one, every challenge my characters face. My readers seem to be very self-aware (able to see themselves for who they are and accept the beauty and challenges of this wonderful, difficult, fleeting life). They’re energized by faith, hope, and love, and they want to make a difference with their lives.

    I think that’s why they enjoy inspirational fiction. It reminds them of things they’ve experienced or heard about, but it takes them down a new path, opening their minds and hearts and bringing healing and understanding.

    For them, reading is similar to watching a heartwarming new movie that’s set in the hometown where they grew up or went to college. The experience feels both welcomingly familiar and yet fully original. And whatever their struggles, when they finish the book, they feel strengthened to walk or keep walking by faith. And to trust that there is hope in every battle.

    For more from Cindy's new book, The Dawn of Christmas, click here.

    For all of the books from Cindy, click here.

     

  • Going Solo

    Posted on October 2, 2013 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)

    The toll of an emotionally draining week had reached its peak. Though I was trying to use various diversions to clear my mind, my thoughts were overpowering. All I wanted was to curl up in a ball and fall apart. Worry was winning.

    My husband sensed the pain that was showing from my welling eyes. Like any good friend, he asked, "What's going on?"

    Determined to keep my composure, I chose to fight my battle alone. "I'm okay" slid out before I caught my lie.

    Minutes later he asked again, "What's wrong?" My resolve couldn't hold up any longer and I blubbered, "I just can't get past this anxiety." Greg listened as the thoughts swirling in my mind came out. After I emptied my heart, he shared a story from Scripture, which helped me override my stress with thankfulness and trust.

    I am so glad the Lord preserved stories in the Bible of those who had issues as well. During this hard season I was in, Greg reminded me of Elijah. Like Elijah, sometimes when I struggle, I opt to struggle alone.

    In 1 Kings 19:3, even after seeing God work miracles, Elijah was undone by a threat. A queen was trying to kill him and he decided the way out was to run.

    We get a look into his thought process in 1 Kings 19:3-4, "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. 'Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.'" (NIV)

    I don't blame Elijah one bit for running when trouble hit. I have that instinct myself some days. Running to social media or a chocolate goodie when my emotions are a jumbled mess is the easiest way out—at least temporarily.

    Where Elijah missed it, and I did too on my bad day, was when he chose to go solo.

    Elijah had a servant who was traveling with him, but he left the servant behind. He went farther into the desert alone, where his emotions only turned darker.

    Elijah and I both could have used the truth in Ecclesiastes 4, "Two are better than one ... if either of them falls down, one can help the other up." When we share our troubles with another godly friend, she can often help us to see what we cannot. Her different perspective opens a new way of thinking that can lead to hope and faith and away from despair.

    When you add the power and presence of the Holy Spirit to that friendship, Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us our relationships become "... a cord of three strands... not quickly broken." Our pain, when shared, can be transformed to peace. Strength can take the place of sorrow.

    I eased my stress that difficult week by sharing my worries with my husband. Thankfully he directed me to God's Word where I found hope and encouragement in the midst of my anxiety. Is there a burden you are carrying that would be lighter if you shared it with someone? Make a way today to allow them to help you handle your load.

    Jesus, thank You that You have given us the gift of relationships. Give us the wisdom to know when and with whom to share our personal problems. Please strengthen us so we can help strengthen another. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Who is your "go to" friend who lifts you up when you fall down? Give them your thanks today!

    If you need a friend who makes you stronger, ask the Father to give you the type of friend described in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron; so one person sharpens another." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Uniquely Gifted

    Posted on October 1, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    I wish that all of you were as I am.But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. 1 Corinthians 7:7

    Our generous Heavenly Father uniquely gifts His children for His glory. It may be the gift of service, encouragement, teaching, mercy or administration. Regardless of one’s role, all gifts are necessary in the Body of Christ. One may quietly serve as a prayer intercessor behind the scenes, while another may boldly proclaim truth in front of the faithful. Yes, the Lord specially equips individuals for His good works. God’s gifting is His distinctive stamp of value on each one of us

    What do you do well? How can you discover your sweet spot of service for your Savior Jesus? One way is to develop abilities that come natural for you and engage in activities that energize you. The Spirit wires you in a way that brings both of you pleasure when you exercise your gift. For example, a generous giver finds great joy in giving and an evangelist is ecstatic when they share the gospel. An administrator is not content until everyone and everything is in its place.

    For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

    You may be an analytical thinker who loves crunching numbers, managing data and interpreting trends from both. Your gift of linear deduction is critical for business, finance and engineering. Perhaps you are great with people. People love your company, because they sense you know, understand and care for them. Thus, your ability to network, convene and lead others is valuable for accomplishing a big vision or executing a strategic initiative. Yes, steward well God’s gift.

    Moreover, seek to marry your passion with your giftedness. For instance, if you love to see someone encouraged, use your gift of writing to convey God’s love to their hungry heart. If you love children, use your ability to nurture and train, as a conduit for Christ’s truth. If you love sports, use your teaching gift to lead athletes in Bible study. If you love travel, use your aptitude for business to help entrepreneurs here and abroad. Be who God has uniquely gifted you to be!

    We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:6

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use my gift from You to bring you glory. Marry Your gift with my passion.

    Related Readings: Romans 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, 14:12; Ephesians 4:11-12

    Post/Tweet today: Develop abilities that come natural for you and engage in activities that energize you. #uniquelygifted

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

  • God's Not Dead

    Posted on October 1, 2013 by Family Christian

    God's Not Dead is a new film about faith and the limits one young man will go to in order to defend his belief in God. Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), a freshman college student, enrolls in a philosophy class taught by an infamous and dictatorial professor. Dr. Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) demands that all of his students must sign a declaration that "God is dead" in order to get a passing grade. Josh refuses. But, he needs to take this class to meet his academic requirements. And so the professor strikes a bargain: Josh must defend his position that "God is alive" in a series of debates with him in order to stay in the class. If he loses, he flunks. When Josh accepts the challenge, he gets more than he bargained for -- jeopardizing his faith, his relationships and even his future.

    Watch the trailer here:

    The movie stars Kevin Sorbo (Hercules, Andromeda, Soul Surfer), Shane Harper (Good Luck Charlie, High School Musical 2), Willie and Korie Robertson (Duck Dynasty) and features a concert appearance by Gold Record award-winning and Christian super-band Newsboys. The movie also stars Dean Cain (Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman) and David A. R. White (Evening Shade, The Moment After 1 and 2, Jerusalem Countdown).

    Listen to the new song from Shane Harper here:

    When your faith is tested, can you explain what you believe?

  • Laura Story - I Can Just Be Me - Story Behind the Song

    Posted on October 1, 2013 by Family Christian

    Talented worship leader and songwriter Laura Story is best known for her inspirational hit "Blessings" and for co-writing "Indescribable," a Chris Tomlin anthem. Now, with her third studio album, God of Every Story, Laura returns to that deep place of vulnerability before the Lord and honesty with herself.

    Award-winning producer Ed Cash helmed the deeply personal project, and their shared Carolina roots led to the incorporation of acoustic and epic instruments into this worshipful pop album. Lyrically, God of Every Story draws from Laura’s own life. Her husband’s brain tumor early in their marriage led the young family down a painful path she wouldn’t have chosen, but one that deepened her faith and her music. The resulting songs show God’s love and grace intersecting with real life, making this album a wonderful reminder that despite our questions or circumstances, God is the ultimate author of our story.

    Below, is her new story behind the song, I Can Just Be Me.

  • Voices of Accusation

    Posted on October 1, 2013 by Melissa Taylor

    Melissa

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NIV)

    Do you ever hear the whisper of condemnation? It hisses: you're not what you should be ... your past sins define you ... you'll never change.

    Unfortunately I do. Self-condemnation is a default for me. If I let it, it can wipe out my confidence as a woman, wife and mom.

    Thankfully, I'm just as familiar with God's truth as I am with Satan's lies. My heart has heard Jesus' gentle reminders of His love and goodness, like "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

    Although I know this truth God speaks over me, I've learned it's up to me to respond correctly. If I don't keep my ears tuned to His voice and my mind set on His thoughts, I forget God's truths.

    Condemning thoughts come back and drown out the confidence I have through Christ.

    One morning I was struggling with self-condemning thoughts when I read these words written in my morning devotion: "Do not listen to voices of accusation for they are not from Me [God]."*

    I opened my journal and responded from my heart:

    Hello Lord, I often feel disappointed in my decisions and who I am and call myself names. But my negative thoughts aren't the only ones I hear. My feelings have been hurt by someone else's comments that cut me down and stole my confidence. Instead of feeling worthy, I feel like a loser. I hear You telling me not to listen to voices of accusation. Thank You for this reminder right when I needed it.

    The devotion continued, "Pause before responding to people or situations, giving My Spirit space to act through you. Hasty words and actions leave no room for Me."

    Again, I reached out to God:

    Lord, I spoke unkind words back to my friend. Thank You for gently reminding me to "pause before responding." You are so faithful to remind me of what You want from me.

    If left to defend ourselves from self-condemnation or the condemnation of others, we'd be defeated every time. Thankfully, we have the greatest defender in God and His Word. His truths re-build the confidence that condemnation breaks down.

    Our part is to know God's promises and believe and apply them! Staying saturated in His Word and taking time to listen to the Holy Spirit is the best way to overcome condemnation. We can supplement these through reading devotions, digging into books on our specific area of struggle, and participating in Bible studies. All these things help re-build our confidence that is in Christ.

    As we take the time to listen to Him today, let's ask God to remind us that He is with us; He loves us, and His Word is true: "There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." That means you and me!

    Dear Lord, when I forget, please remind me that because of the cross and because You are my Savior, I am not condemned. Help me keep my eyes and thoughts on You. And to accept Your Word as truth so my confidence stays strong in You. In Jesus' Name, amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What condemning thoughts do you believe about yourself?

    What are some of God's promises you can use to replace your accusing thoughts?

    Power Verses:
    Exodus 14:13-14, "Don't be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm." (NLT)

    Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (NIV 1984)

    * Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Young

    © 2013 by Melissa Taylor. All rights reserved.

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

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