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  • Max Lucado Before Amen

Family Christian

  • Moms: Let's Make This Pledge

    Posted on October 10, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

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

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

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

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

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

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

    There is a gap between my desires and my reality.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Instead of judging you, I will love you.

    And maybe you can love me too.

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Proud Grandparents

    Posted on October 9, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • A Remedy for Loneliness

    Posted on October 9, 2013 by Van Walton

    Van

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    That night, I gained a new friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2013 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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

  • Problems at Work

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by John van der Veen



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John: What is that like compared to other records?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John: You are.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    John: Amazing.

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

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

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

    John: Join the club.

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

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

  • Lord, I Need Your Help

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Power Verses
    Psalm 46:1; Deuteronomy 4:7

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

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

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

  • Spend Time Together

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Clergy Appreciation Month

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Family Christian

    photo

    You may not realize this, but your pastor works more than just one day a week. A lot oftimes pastors are taken for granted, because people don’t understand the amount of work it takes to prepare and deliver a sermon, visit with people who are sick, counsel others, and lead a church staff all at the same time. It is not easy to juggle all of these duties, and it can be physically, mentally, and spiritually taxing on them.

    Now it is time to show how thankful you are. This month is Clergy Appreciation Month. It is a time to do something above and beyond the norm, in order to give back to your pastor.

    Below are eight different ways you can express your gratitude to your pastor. While this list is not all-inclusive, it does provide you with a number of ideas to get you started thinking about how you can celebrate.

    1. Do Something Special During The Service: This could be anything from a testimony shared by a couple people, to a video or slideshow presentation, or even a thank you flash mob.
    2. Do Something Publicly: Connect with your local Christian bookstore or radio station, and have them recognize your pastor through activities or advertising about them. You could also ask local businesses to put up signs, or put up a special message if they have signs already.
    3. Plan A Big Event: You could organize a big banquet, or just a little after church picnic one Sunday. You could also try and plan a fun night out of bowling, or something similar.
    4. Create Special Decorative Pieces: Create a giant banner and have as many people as you can sign it, put together a memorial scrapbook, or gather people in front of the church and take a picture of everyone together.
    5. Renovate: Maybe your pastor’s office is a little dark and plain. Brighten things up with a new paint job and a new picture. You could also buy them a new desk, or other office supplies. Don’t limit your interior design skills to just the office. Their homes may be in need of a makeover as well.
    6. Purchase A Large Gift: You could either use the church budget, or collect special donations, and then purchase one big item for your pastor.
    7. Purchase A Lot Of Small Gifts: Does your pastor love a certain kind of candy? Get a lot of people to bring in a small bag, and you’ll be able to give over a month’s supply.
    8. Often Overlooked, But Most Important: Your pastors are always in need of prayers, love, and support, just as much as anyone else. These are gifts that should not be saved for clergy appreciation month, but given every day.

    These are all great gifts that your pastor will surely be grateful for, but you don’t need to wait until next October to give them again. Some of these gifts can be weekly, or even daily, and can really grow your community.

    For gift ideas, click here.

  • Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Give Up

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Nicki Koziarz

    Nicki

    "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people." Colossians 3:23 (NLT)

    For years I've dreamed of writing a book. Not to see my name on a cover or personal benefit. Rather, I want others to see God's faithfulness. Most days I'm motivated to press on, but other days it's difficult to maintain my "oomph."

    Another rejection letter hits hard. My toes get stomped on by a hurtful comment on my blog. Or defeat attacks, making me want to quit.

    But I believe this is a God-calling. These are words He has entrusted to me. A book He's asked me to write to tell others about His goodness. And so I try to push these negatives off. Colossians 3:23 inspires me to faithfully plug away another day: "Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."

    Maybe you can relate? For every step you take to fulfill your calling, something knocks you back three feet. Might I encourage you, as one who has been there—is currently there—to keep at it?

    Here are five habits I've discovered which characterize a woman who doesn't give up:

    1. She gets up each morning and follows through with her commitments, despite how she feels.

    Her feet are firmly positioned in the day's tasks. While quitting may seem like an option, she refuses to become someone others or God can't count on. Her heart understands that she must be found faithful in small steps to be trusted with big steps. "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much ..." (Luke 16:10 NIV)

    2. She approaches the Word of God with reverence.

    She opens God's Word and believes each day He has a personal message for her. She listens to sermons and teachings. Instead of automatically thinking of the friend who needs to hear that message, she knows there's something there for her. "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)

    3. She longs for the grace of refinement rather than the grace of relief.

    She doesn't have a personal agenda to fulfill when she faces refinement. In fact, she longs for the grace of refinement, rather than the grace of relief, because she trusts how God will use this season of growth. She accepts the perspective godly people offer her in difficult situations. And she embraces the process of becoming better through her mistakes. "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life." (NLT)

    4. She chooses to invest in the world with joy.

    Though life may turn on her, she chooses not to reciprocate. Instead, she strives to be emotionally generous towards others by investing in them with joy. As a result, when darkness threatens to loom over her she can easily chase it away by giving joy. "A joyful heart is good medicine." (Proverbs 17:22a ESV)

    5. She has a spirit of unbreakable determination.

    Though she may feel a little [or a lot] bent many days, she never lets the bending break her perseverance toward the things God has assigned her. In the midst of rejection, she thrives by standing firm on this verse, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10 NIV)

    Though I don't have all these down quite yet, I'm working on them. And each day I can see progress ... in my perseverance, hope, and manuscript.

    What about you? What has God called you to do? Start by adopting one habit today and commit your work to the Lord.

    Lord, thank You for filling me with purpose, faith and determination. Help me continue to do the work You've given me. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have you given up on a calling God has given you? Why?

    What habit can you choose to begin today and what steps will you take to begin working for the Lord?

    Power Verses:
    Ecclesiastes 9:10, "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . . ." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Obey Him

    Posted on October 6, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… Hebrews 5:8-9

    Obedience to God is the heartbeat of Jesus. He learned and modeled obedience, and suffering was the incubator in which His obedience grew. The best lessons we learn seem to come out of suffering. Anyone can obey when it is easy, but in the fire of adversity and pain, our obedience is put to the test. Will we obey even when it hurts, even when it costs us dearly, even when we don’t want to, even when we are uncertain of the outcome? Obedience’s tests unmask our motives; untested obedience may just be the result of convenience.

    So, be prepared to obey, just because you know it is the right thing to do, when no one else but God will ever know. He is watching to see if we will obey Him when no one else knows.  Jesus knows from first-hand experience that obedience is what makes us more like Him. We experience Him in our acts of obedience; He assures us in our obedience; He loves us in our obedience; He empowers us in our obedience; God shows up in the middle of our obedience. It is so important to Him, that He makes it a priority to bless our obedience. His blessing may not be recognized immediately. It may take months or years before we enjoy the fruit of our obedience to pray.
    This is especially true when things are going well. It seems like we don’t need God when we are fine. We unwisely drop our prayer guard and are exposed to a punch in the face by our adversary, Satan. The reality is that success and prosperity need to propel us to pray more. Progress demands prayer. How can we maintain this level of achievement or move forward to conqueror new horizons without obedience in prayer? Success reveals a different type of suffering. We suffer from isolation, greed, and pride. Without obediently seeking Him, we fail where it matters most. God smiled on our efforts and brought success. He is the author of progress by His providence. Therefore, we obey Him with our prayers. We obediently point our prayers toward heaven, often and aggressively.
    When you passed from death to life, from darkness to light, you became a new creation in Christ. Your name changed from self to selfless, you went from control to trust, from disobedient to obedient. As Jesus-followers, you represent heaven on earth; you are the face of your heavenly Father. You obey Him because there is a higher purpose in life. You are ambassadors for Almighty God, hosts for heaven, and greeters for God. Therefore, even in hypocrisy you obey, so you obey your way to obedience. You obey because you are His, you learn obedience from what you suffer. Obedience is God’s ointment for living. The Bible says, “See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). You obey Him because you are His.

    Post/Tweet: Jesus learned and modeled obedience. Suffering was the incubator in which His obedience grew. #obeyHim

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

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