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  • Burned Out on Religion

    Posted on November 5, 2014 by Kerri Weems

    KERRI

    "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

    Tired. Worn out. Burned out on religion. All of those words described the state I found myself in just over three years ago. After being in full-time ministry for more than 12 years, I was so frustrated, frazzled and numb on the inside I was ready to quit! Nobody, not even my husband, knew how I was feeling.

    I was living a double life, in a way, but I was tired of the charade. I didn't want to fake it anymore ... I just wanted to let it go. The funny thing is, letting it all go was just exactly what I did. Only, I didn't let go by walking away from it all. I let go by learning to lean into God's grace.

    Jesus' invitation to let Him set the pace of our lives seems tailor-made to fit this generation of weary souls, even though He spoke these words two millennia ago. Recover your life ... real rest ... unforced ... free and light living. This lifestyle of unbroken fellowship with Jesus is the goal of the rhythms of grace. Rhythms of grace are God's divine tempo for your life. It's not about what we do or don't do. It's about Who is setting our pace.

    Think for a moment about rhythm and our most basic response to it: movement. I have a few playlists on my iPod that I listen to when I'm working out. There are different kinds of music for different kinds of movement.

    When I engage in the slow and sustained movements of stretching, I listen to ethereal tunes or piano instrumentals. But when it comes to cardio workouts, that won't do. I need energy! So I pump my favorite Christian hip hop artist into my headphones. Why? Because the rhythm makes me move. How I move — the speed, the motion, the duration — is a response to the beat I am hearing.

    The rhythm of the music sets my workout pace, but when it comes to the pace of my life, I have to ask, Who is setting the rhythm? The answer depends on who has access to my ears, mind and heart in that moment.

    People have different responses when it comes to dealing with the demands of life. Some people hop on the hamster wheel and keep going faster and faster, as if they can outrun the stress or even run away from it. Some people feel so helpless they just stop moving altogether. Others ignore problems hoping they will somehow go away.

    I understand each of those reactions — and I have experienced them plenty of times! Somewhere between the hamster wheel and the full stop, there is a perfect pace — a rhythm that's a custom fit for your life and the leg of the race you are running right now. This perfect pace is God's rhythm of grace for your life, His perfect tempo.

    Scripture encourages us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1, NASB). Our Father's desire for all of His daughters is that we go the full distance of our life's race — and not just so we can crawl exhausted across the finish line. He wants us to enjoy the race and come to the end with our heads held high, a smile on our faces and our arms lifted in a double fist-punch! Reaching that moment, dear friend, begins with keeping time with God's perfect tempo for your life.

    Dear Heavenly Father, Help me tune into Your voice above all others. I want to move to Your rhythm and at Your pace so I can finish the race You have marked out for me with joy and wholeness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 14:27, "My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don't give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful." (VOICE)

    2 Corinthians 12:9, "... and finally He said to me, 'My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.' So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on — I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me." (VOICE)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What tempo is playing the loudest in your ears right now? How would you describe your "movements" in response to that pace?

    © 2014 by Kerri Weems. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • The Ultimate Promise Keeper

    Posted on November 4, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    LEAH

    "The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does." Psalm 145:13b (NIV)

    A couple years ago, a loved one broke a promise to me. At first, I was shocked. This was someone I completely trusted. Someone I had shared my secrets and dreams with for years. We did life together and I believed with all my heart I could rely on this person.

    My shock quickly turned to anger and regret. Anger that I'd been betrayed. Regret that I trusted this person in the first place. Moments of awkward silence and days of heartache followed.

    How would I ever trust again? Could this relationship ever be repaired? What good is making a promise if it's going to be broken?

    Anyone can make a promise, but let's be honest. How many of us have actually kept every promise we've made in our lifetime? A promise only has real value if it holds hands with commitment, faithfulness and perseverance.

    Broken promises hurt. They have the potential to sever relationships, bring heartache and wound deeply.

    In this tough world we live in, struggles and heartache are inevitable, and they may leave us wondering: Whom can we trust? Is there anyone out there who actually keeps every promise?

    The answer is a glorious YES and we find proof in today's key verse. Psalm 145:13b tells us, " ... The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."

    If you're like me and someone you love has broken a promise to you, this verse is like a brilliant sunrise, illuminating hope in the midst of your dark and dreary circumstances.

    I've discovered three truths in this passage I'd love to share with you today:

    God makes promises. Who are we that God would promise us anything? Yet, out of His love for us, He established many promises that are not hidden or secret. We can easily find them in Scripture. "God is not a human that He would lie ..." (Numbers 23:19a, NIV). When God makes a promise to us, it will be accomplished through His sovereignty.

    God is trustworthy. We can count on God to fulfill His promises. He is dependable, reliable and worthy of our trust. God has already kept His greatest promise, by sending Jesus to die on our behalf so we can have eternal life in Him (John 3:16). If God fulfilled this sacred promise out of love for us, how can we doubt He will keep the other promises He has made?

    God is faithful. Not just sometimes or when He wants to be. God is faithful in all He does (Deuteronomy 7:9). God is loyal to those He loves. He is 100 percent devoted to His children and nothing will ever change that. The vow He made to you is eternal.

    Life is challenging. People will disappoint us. And, yes, as much as we try, we may even fall short in keeping some of our promises to others. But no matter what happens in life, we can hold on to this profound truth: God will never break His promises. Never. He is trustworthy and faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

    God will do what He says He will do. And that, dear friend, is something we can confidently rely on forever!

    Lord, thank You for always keeping Your promises and loving me even in those moments when I haven't been faithful to You. Grow my faith and help me see You working in my life, so I can come to know You more. Let my trust in You increase as I learn to rely on Your faithfulness. Help me keep the promises I make to others. And when others have broken promises to me, let me never forget that Your promises and devotion extend for all of eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 18:30, "God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." (NLT)

    2 Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Has someone broken a promise to you recently? Have you resolved the situation? If not, pray and ask God to show you how He wants to mend this relationship and your broken heart.

    Reflect on how trustworthy God is from today's key verse (Psalm 145:13b) and ask Him to help you become more trustworthy and faithful to others. Ask Him to give you wisdom and perseverance when it comes to keeping those promises you've already made.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Power of a Simple Prayer

    Posted on November 3, 2014 by Max Lucado

    MAX

    "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers." Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

    Want to see a father's face ashen or hear a mother gasp? Then sit nearby as they discover three words on the box of a new toy: "Some assembly required." What follows are several late night hours of squeezing "A" into "B," bolting "D" into "F," and hoping no one notices if steps 4, 5 and 6 are skipped altogether.

    Parents want a gift for their child. What they get is a project — sometimes a project for life.

    "Some assembly required." It's not the most welcome sentence, but it's an honest one. Marriage licenses should include those words, in large print. Job contracts should state them in bold letters. Babies should exit the womb with a toe tag: "Some assembly required."

    Life is a gift, albeit disassembled. It comes in pieces and sometimes falls to pieces. Part A doesn't always fit Part B. The struggle seems large and inevitably, something is missing.

    It's such a common problem. Who among us doesn't have an area of life that isn't working? How do you respond when the pieces don't fit? In frustration? In anger? In prayer?

    I'd like to say I always respond in prayer. The truth? I am a recovering prayer wimp. I doze off when I pray. My thoughts zig, then zag, then zig again. If attention deficit disorder applies to prayer, then I am afflicted.

    But I also know there's power in prayer, even simple prayers. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew this too.

    Maybe you've heard the story. A couple thousand years ago there was a common wedding in Cana. The bride wasn't the daughter of an emperor. The groom wasn't a prince. Apart from one detail, the event would've been lost in time. But we remember it because Jesus was on the guest list.

    While Jesus was there, the wedding party ran out of wine. Enter Mary, mother of Jesus. For my nickel, she appears too seldom in Scripture. After all, who knew Jesus better than she did? So, on the rare occasion she speaks, we perk up. "The mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine'" (John 2:3b, NKJV).

    Consider this prayer of Mary. The pieces didn't fit, so she took the problem to Jesus. Mary wasn't bossy. She didn't say: "Jesus, they are out of wine. So, here is what I need. Go down to the grove at the corner. Accelerate the growth of some Bordeaux grapes. Turn them into wine." She didn't try to fix the problem.

    Nor was she critical. "If only they had planned better, Jesus. People just don't think ahead. What is society coming to?"

    Nor did she blame Jesus. "What kind of Messiah are you? If you truly were in control, this never would have happened!"

    She didn't blame herself. "It's all my fault, Jesus. Punish me. I failed as a friend. Now, the wedding is ruined. The marriage will collapse. I am to blame."

    None of this. Mary didn't whine about the wine. She just stated the problem.

    Then, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Whatever he says to you, do it'" (John 2:4-5, NKJV).

    Apparently Jesus had no intention of saving the wedding banquet. This wasn't the time nor the place He had planned to reveal his power. But then Mary entered the story: Mary, someone He loved, with a genuine need.

    So what did He do? Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, and that water became wine the entire party enjoyed.

    Problem presented. Prayer answered. Crisis avoided. All because Mary entrusted the problem to Jesus. Her simple request prompted a divine response!

    Like me, you might think if you take your problems to Jesus every time you have one, you'll talk to Jesus all day long. I think that's the point. After all, the writer of Philippians reminds us in our key verse, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers" (Philippians 4:6).

    When life doesn't fit, it's easy to worry or be critical or try to fix it. But let's let Mary be our model. She took her problem to Jesus and she left it there. She stated her problem simply, presented it faithfully and trusted Him humbly.

    Father, You are good. I need help to lay my problems at Your feet. Help my friends to do the same. Thank You for hearing my cries for help and being faithful to respond in love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 6:18, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what areas of your life do you find yourself reclaiming problems even after you've given them up?

    What one thing do you need to trust Jesus with today?

    © 2014 by Max Lucado. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    Posted on October 31, 2014 by Family Christian

    The Life Of A Page-Turning Adventurer:

    How Being Well-Read Makes You Well-Rounded

    Guest post by: Ciera Horton

     

    I have traveled for miles on a raft down the Mississippi River.  I’ve been on a circus train in the Midwest. I have journeyed into the heart of the Congo with ivory traders, I’ve burned books, I’ve witnessed a fisherman wrangle a marlin on open waters.  I have hitchhiked to the edge of the galaxy, flown to Neverland and back and time traveled to dozens of decades, all while never leaving my house.  I am a traveler, a wandering adventurer, a lover of the mystery of prose and all because I am a reader.

     

    Books were a foundational part of my childhood.  Growing up, I was memorizing Dr. Seuss stories at age two and reading chapter books before the first grade.  This sparked a passionate love for literature and has led me to pursue studies in English and creative writing.

     

    But in our culture, I am part of a shrinking minority.  Believers and non-believers alike increasingly reject the pastime of reading and replace books with gaming consoles and cell phone apps.  Mindless entertainment becomes the sole priority because the gratification is more immediate and the participation is passive.  However, this shift away from valuing books and their influence has detrimental consequences.  Literature not only expands readers’ comprehension of the outside world, but also aids internal, personal development of the mind and heart.  Christians should value reading because being well-read leads to a well-rounded worldview.

     

    With the rising popularity of Kindles, Nooks and e-books, people often turn in a library card for digital downloads they can take with them anywhere.  Much of the debate regarding the declining trend in paper books commonly relates to nostalgia.  Passionate readers assert that nothing beats holding a physical book in their hands — while I agree with this, I believe there is much more to the debate than simply sentimentality vs. practicality.  A study from 2006 with Nielsen Norman showed that the more people read words on a screen, the more they read in the “F” pattern, reading the top line and then scanning down the left hand side for information.  This nonlinear format makes it difficult to concentrate.  When you have an actual book in your hands, the sense of movement in actually turning and reading a different physical page instead of the same tablet screen helps you feel a sense of progression in the text, which aids in memory.  This increased focus and the ability to remember information helps readers formulate enlightened opinions and perspectives.

     

    Furthermore, an exposé in The Guardian illustrated how reading quality literature increases the three major categories of intelligence as commonly recognized by psychologists.  The first is “crystallized intelligence” which refers to the catalog of sensory information you retain.  The more books you read, the more vocabulary you learn and the more apt you are to recall the knowledge you gained.  “Fluid intelligence” means the ability to think critically, to be discerning and to strategize.  The relationship between reading and fluid intelligence is unique because the more you read, the better you learn to think analytically and with greater critical thinking you have better reading comprehension.  The final category, “emotional intelligence”, is perhaps the most telling.  Readers have been shown to have greater ability to interpret and react to their own and others’ feelings.  The journal Science published a study showing that reading literary fiction improves interpersonal relationships and responses to emotional situations.  Perhaps this is because readers have a wider depth of experiences they have encountered from the texts, which gives them discernment, empathy and emotional maturity.

     

    But the most essential part of reading is how it influences our worldview, our particular philosophy or way of looking at the world.  As Christians, we should be acutely aware of what things are filling our minds and changing our perspectives.

     

    Writer Pat Williams says, “We are changed by what we read. Close that book, and you are not the same person anymore. Because of what you just read, your worldview—your understanding, your compassion for others, your ability to engage intelligently with others—has expanded a little. Books help us grow….”

     

    When we read, we become a witness to the narrative of someone’s life, for all books offer us a glimpse into the tapestry of various ideologies and life-shaping encounters.  It is a formative investment of time and during this time we are being molded.  The active undertaking of immersion in the text stimulates our minds as we engage with the words.  While we are suspended in the illusion between fantasy and reality, the way we view others and ourselves is being influenced.

     

    Through Jane Eyre, I gained a greater appreciation for the difficulties that someone can face.  Through Fahrenheit 451, I became aware of the dangers of extreme censorship.  I saw myself as every single March sister from the beloved Little Women and Heart of Darkness opened my eyes to the plights of other cultures.

     

    The way I view my society and the manner in which I interact with others has all been influenced by the words that have filled my mind.  Yes, reading has its cognitive benefits.  But the power of the written word transcends the scientific.  It shapes who we are as individuals.  Quite simply, being well-read makes you well-rounded.  As Christians, we should read well because books are a glimpse into the human psyche, an illustration of the human condition, a reflection of God’s creation.  We should not be satisfied with the simplistic or the passive, but we should be challenged by intellectual pursuits and the joys in the pages of a novel.

     

    So be a page-turning adventurer.   Read and read well.

    Ciera Horton

    Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her vintage typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, Ciera enjoys sharing her outlook on culture and life through speaking and writing. You can read more on her blog: www.cierahorton.blogspot.com

  • Sponsorship keeps a future "doctor" healthy

    Posted on October 30, 2014 by Family Christian

    By Eugene Lee of World Vision

     

     

    Six-year-old Belen likes to play with her dolls. Like many young girls in Namotivas, Nicaragua, she models what she sees around the home. She likes to pretend her dolls are sick with a cough and fever, and then help them get healthy again.

     

    “I give them syrup so they can get better,” says Belen, who also has two younger sisters. In this game, her doll’s make-believe sickness is a reflection of her own real-life experience as an underweight, malnourished child.

     

     

     

     

    The effects of malnutrition are often underestimated. Even though many children may eat enough to feel full, the lack of nutrients contributes to weaker immune systems and limits mental and physical development. Undernourished children are more likely to get sick and not perform as well in school.

     

    The World Bank classifies Nicaragua as the second poorest country in the Latin America and Caribbean region, and the World Food Programme estimates that chronic malnutrition affects 22 percent of children under 5[1].

     

    Belen used to be one of them—but not anymore.

    Determined to find Belen a sponsor, Family Christian store manager, Shari Kuiken in Frisco, TX started asking her customers if they’d be willing to change Belen’s life through sponsorship. She finally found a sponsor for Belen in her dear friend and Family Christian customer, Margo.

     

    Sponsorship feeds a growing mind

     

    Through Margo’s support, Belen is able to get school supplies, new shoes, and a backpack. More importantly, her mother is able to attend World Vision nutrition workshops to improve the family’s eating habits. This in turn reduces illness and trips to see the doctor.

     

    “I could say that before she was having a fever or cold most of the time, but now she has improved a lot,” says Telma, Belen’s grandmother who lives with the family.

     

    In these nutrition workshops, called “Common Pot,” mothers learn to cook with more nutritious—and less expensive—ingredients such as soybeans and fresh vegetables grown in community gardens. And to specifically help Belen’s family, sponsorship funds provided Belen’s family with five hens so they can eat protein-rich eggs every day.

     

    “It [the new cooking techniques] can prevent illness with children. This is important to pass on the trainings to the children” says Geraldine, a facilitator of one Common Pot group. Her 9-year-old daughter is also sponsored.

     

    Because of what her mother learned in the Common Pot workshops, Belen’s nutrition has improved and she’s well enough to go to school.

     

    Hope for the future

     

    “I like to read. And I like to study with my dad,” Belen says. One of her favorite stories is Pinocchio and she loves to hear stories about princesses. Her teacher, Francisco, mentions Belen likes to learn about math and Spanish literature. He describes her as very disciplined — on time for class, never misses a day, and always has her homework done. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up, so she already has the right study habits.

     

    “As a teacher, we have a big task,” says Francisco of his students. “It’s to prepare them for the future … we are taking care of those dreams we talk about here and how we accompany them through the path to fulfill that dream.”

     

    Sponsorship has also shown Belen and her family a tangible expression of God’s love. Margo is a very active sponsor, sending letters, photos, and gifts to Belen. Belen is equally active in sending cards—and even drawings back!

     

    Shari explained that Margo would bring the cards she received from Belen back to the Family Christian store to show the team “They always traced her little hand, and we’ve just watched it grow. It’s neat, you know, we always put our hand on it ‘cause it made you feel like you were holding her hand when you did it.” When Shari had the chance to meet Belen, she couldn’t wait to tell Margo that Belen had kept all of the pictures she had sent, “She had a picture of Margo’s grandson that she sent her. He’s four now, and she still has his baby picture with her in her backpack. So, I mean the impact—they really do feel like they’re part of your family.”

     

    “It’s very special that these people who don’t know us personally, really care for us and have this love for us,” Telma says. “I’m really thankful.”


    [1] http://www.wfp.org/content/country-programme-nicaragua-2013%E2%80%932018

     

    Photos and article are by Eugene Lee from World Vision.

  • Fatherhood: Reflections

    Posted on October 25, 2014 by Family Christian

     

    After writing his first post titled Fatherhood, Steve felt led to continue the conversation.

    As I continue to reflect on my friend Joel from Bolivia, who was born with severe permanent disabilities, I am stirred by an expanding respect and even love for Joel’s parents. Even though I only met his Mom briefly on a site visit in a local child development center supported by World Vision, she is impacting me today.

     

    What stirs me is the requirement of endurance and steadfast love to care for a disabled child. The parents of a special needs child, upon reflection, are some of the most dedicated, committed, and selfless people I can think of. It stirs and inspires me as I dwell on this.

     

    Think about it:

    ·         Quite possibly the same routine, every day, for a life time

    ·         The setting aside of personal freedoms and independence quite possibly for a life time

    ·         The requirement to serve every day in the most back stage out of sight ways – for a life time…

     

    Yet they are faithful.

     

    Then I think about who I cheer for and give encouragement to. I cheer on the quarterback of the local team, or the lead actress in the musical. I cheer on the artist or musician who stuns me with their gifts and talents. I congratulate the parents of the valedictorian for their accomplishments in raising a stellar student. Now to be clear, these are all good and worthy of support. What eats at me is that I have not cheered as enthusiastically for the parents of the child with disabilities who are serving with endless dedication for the well-being of that special child. For these too I should and must raise my voice.

    BOLIVIA

     

    I am convicted that when I meet or happen across these incredible children and their inspiring parents it will be my privilege to call out in them the profound nature of their faithfulness. I am learning that faithfulness is one the most admirable character traits, yet incredibly difficult to achieve.  Faithfulness, when it is displayed, as with so many parents serving special needs children, it is over looked or under appreciated. Faithfulness is such a powerful attribute and so incredibly difficult to accomplish.

     

    Think about it:

    ·         It requires that I execute the mundane and routine as unto the Lord… every day for a life time

    ·         It requires that I set aside the pursuit of independence to be dependent on God and His will for me…every day for a life time

    ·         It requires that I may need to serve in the most back stage out of sight ways, out of love for Jesus…every day for a life time

     

    These parents are motived by a powerful love that compels them to serve. They faithfully serve, and serve and serve. They are doing what I am called to do – Wake Up – Serve – Repeat.

     

    To the amazingly faithful parents of special needs children, I can say, “Well done good and faithful servant”. I will cheer on the faithful servant in them that is such an example to me.

     

    May each of us run in such a way that we hear the cheer of our Lord and Savior, even now in the daily routine of service, “Well done good and faithful servant”.  This life we lead as followers of the Christ is hard, yet may we be found faithful.

    Written by:

    Steve Biondo

    SVP, HR & Organizational Development at Family Christian

  • The Slavery of Striving

    Posted on October 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Angela

    "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

    "Why are you doing all these things?" she asked me over iced tea.

    Her boldness startled me. Sure, I had just filled my friend's ears with my true feelings about the craziness of my life. But I figured I was only doing what everyone else was doing. All the things I had to do.

    She could see I was drowning in all sorts of good activities that were taking the joy out of motherhood. I woke up daily with knots in my stomach and struggled through days as a homeschooling mom, shadowed by four little people. I was a hurried, overwhelmed mom who wished life could somehow be different.

    To my friend, it was simple. What if you just did less?

    I objected immediately. I was already convinced I should have been doing so much more — and performing so much better. But as I considered her question, my yoke became obvious. I realized that in my striving, I was living under a yoke of slavery. I was missing the freedom Jesus came to earth to give me.

    In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the believers that Christ came to set us free from the yoke of the Law. Or in other words, freedom from having to follow all the rules perfectly.

    Obeying the Law without error was impossible. But before Jesus came, this was how followers of God had to live. Then Jesus removed this heavy burden and provided freedom through His sacrifice on the cross.

    Yet, just as freed slaves sometimes ran back to their old masters, the first followers of Jesus were easily deceived into living under the Law again. Slavery was all they knew.

    The Apostle Paul knew it would take effort to walk the new way of freedom, to walk in the truth. In our key verse, Paul challenged the church: Stand firm, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by this yoke.

    In many ways, my striving resembled theirs. Sure, I wasn't technically a slave and I didn't have to worry about keeping the Law. And in my head, I knew I didn't need to prove my worth to God. But I found myself trying to prove my significance in some way. I lived under imaginary laws and unwritten expectations.

    I didn't even know what those laws were, just that I was bent on keeping or exceeding them. Because I needed to. Or so I thought.

    My friend's direct question that day helped reveal to me I was indeed living under a yoke. I desperately felt the need to prove myself as a mom. I reflected long on that realization and continued to ask why.

    Because of Jesus, I don't need to prove myself anymore. Jesus is enough. His grace alone is sufficient. When God looks at me, He sees His Son. He sees that I am His and He is mine. The more I grasp this truth, the more I'm changed.

    Do you know that weight of expectation too? Today the Word of God has good news. Instead of striving, we can rest confidently, standing firm in our freedom, our gift from Jesus.

    Stand firm, friends.

    Lord, help me live my days centered in this freedom You've given me. You did not die for me to remain a slave to perceived expectations or anything else. Thank You for breaking the bars of this yoke. Help me walk as a free woman. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Leviticus 26:13, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high." (NIV)

    Romans 6:19, "Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think about the whys behind all you do in a typical week. Are you striving to meet unrealistic expectations and then stressed because of them? How are you burdened by a heavy yoke of slavery?

    Ask God to help you discern where you need to do less and to enable you to walk in freedom.

    © 2014 by Angela Parlin. All rights reserved.

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

  • Nutrition Group Means Life for Orphaned Boy

    Posted on October 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Nutrition Group Means Life for Orphaned Boy

    By Laura Reinhardt

    Derre ADP, Mozambique

    Maternal Child Health, Food

    Thank you World Vision for providing us with this post and the photos.

     

    Summary: Madalena took in her orphaned nephew, but he suffered from severe malnutrition. Then a group of parents from a nutrition group provided her with training and he began to grow. Now he’s a healthy & hearty 3-year-old.

     

    A mother feeds a healthy porridge, which she’s just learned to make at a community training, to her young infant. Then she tries in vain to feed her younger child suckling at her breast. The child refuses to be comforted. The mother herself is malnourished and has no milk with which to feed the child.

     

    In 2011, Madalena Mulimba found herself in a similar situation. Only the malnourished infant was her sister’s boy, Betinho. Her sister died from complications during childbirth.

     

    Madalena took Betinho home to care for him, despite having children of her own.  “I felt compassion for the child,” says Madalena. “If God allows it, the child will grow up with us.”

     

    Madalena took cassava root, squeezed the juice from it, and added sugar to feed Betinho. But he failed to thrive. “The baby was so thin,” Madalena says. She puts her hand around her wrist to show how tiny he was. “The other children didn’t want to hold him, because he was so small.”

     

    Then she took Betinho to the hospital to get his vaccinations. Madalena remembers the doctor’s question to her: “Where will I vaccinate him because he’s so thin?”

     

    Hope Through Nutritional and Health Training

    Madalena’s first cousin, Anastacia Pais Barroso, came to visit with a group of parents. Thanks to child sponsorship in their area, World Vision’s Derre Area Development Program (ADP), community members had funds to form the Galave Health Committee in 2000. Part of the committee was a parents’ group who received training from World Vision.

     

    This group of mothers and fathers then scouted their community to find malnourished children. They taught the struggling parents or guardians new ways to increase the nutrition of the food they were feeding their children.

     

    The key to the success of the program was that the healthy meals used local foods that were readily available. Parents didn’t have to buy expensive ingredients since these items could be found right in their own community.

     

    Joao Siquissone, World Vision’s Health Assistant, says it’s important that parents learn from other parents within the community. “When it’s moms and dads teaching the interaction, the community is more receptive.” It can be difficult for one World Vision worker to reach as many people as the committee would.

     

    Those committee meets once a month for planning, once a week for training, and each person visits between 10 to 15 families each week to look for signs of child malnutrition and answer questions parents might have.

     

    Joao says that the local health clinic used to see between 15 and 20 malnourished children per month. Now they might not even see one case.

     

    The training also focuses on diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and HIV. They learn how to prevent diseases but also about the special nutritional needs of patients with HIV.

     

    As a result of this group, the community now understands the nutritional value and importance of each locally grown food group.  They’ve even started to change the crops they’re growing. Where they used to grow lots of cotton, now they grow foods like sesame.

     

    Another component of the Galave Health Committee is a group of community volunteers who go into the community to teach about sanitation and hygiene. They encourage people to build latrines to eliminate disease. They teach people the importance of a drying rack for the dishes instead of just washing and drying on the ground. And they instruct people in the proper way to dispose of their garbage.

     

    The final group of the committee is composed of community leaders who support the other two groups. When those nutrition group or the sanitation and hygiene group face problems they can’t solve, they can escalate them to the community leader group.

     

    World Vision helped set up this type of committee format to encourage the community to take charge of their own health, spreading their knowledge about nutrition, disease prevention, and sanitation and hygiene. This method allows the news to travel faster and reach more people.

     

    Betinho’s Turnaround

     

    The nutrition group taught Madalena to take cornflour, sugar, and egg together and make it thin enough so that Betinho could take it. He began to grow.

     

    They also demonstrated to Madalena how to take sweet potato or cassava leaves to serve over chima, a dish somewhat similar to soft polenta, but with finer cornmeal to make a healthier curry for her whole family.

     

    The new nutrition affected more than Betinho. “All the children have good health,” she says. Madalena, her husband Francisco, and her children all learned new sanitary practices.

     

    They built a drying rack on which to put their wet pots, pans, and dishes. They began to sweep the area around the house so as to make it less appealing to mosquitos and other bugs. They also learned to dig holes for trash to keep away bugs and rodents.

     

    The training has made a world of difference to Madalena, Betinho, and the entire family.

     

    “I was desperate,” says Madalena about when Betinho was malnourished. “But after [the training] I felt a kind of hope.” Now the family jokes that Betinho is so big that he’ll soon be the man of the house.

  • The Crushing Times

    Posted on October 23, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be a part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don't snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.

    We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive ...

    ... when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    ... when the teacher sends one of "those" emails about my child.

    ... when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    ... when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let's journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.

    Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples" (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest said to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.

    And I don't think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.

    The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit ... and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes:
    washing,
    breaking,
    soaking,
    sometimes salting,
    and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well ... the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.

    Then the olives can be picked and preserved.

    And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

    The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are "pressed ... but not crushed"? Let's read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ..."

    This was one of the biggest "aha" moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn't the olive's end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It's also the way to get what's most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed ... pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    But here's the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I'm being processed, I forget it's for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I'm being crushed, I forget it's for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    Are you going through a crushing time? Look back on the points Lysa made: crushing times are necessary, and allow for processing and preservation. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why I Quit Depending on My Own Plans

    Posted on October 22, 2014 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

    Everything in me wanted to plow headlong into my next project. I yearned to get started. People were excited about my participation. And with only one older child living at home, my time was freer than ever.

    There was no reason for me not to move forward. Or so I thought.

    And so I planned. Created to-do lists. And tried to get busy.

    But strangely, nothing happened. Inspiration refused to bubble up. Over and over I tried. Over and over I accomplished nothing. I began to wonder what on earth the issue could be.

    So I prayed. Over the following weeks as my plans stubbornly refused to progress, I began to sense the Lord's gentle hand of restraint on my shoulder, holding back my ever-forward movement.

    And then my heart heard one word. Wait.

    I sensed God inviting me into a holy pause. And though I didn't understand why waiting was necessary, the Lord graciously brought my heart into alignment with His.

    Wait is one of my least favorite words because it's one of my least favorite things to do. Over the years I have waited for eternally important things, like the salvation of loved ones. I've also waited for medical test results, some hard teen years to be over, a sickness to pass and houses to sell.

    And while waiting is unavoidable, it can feel like a waste of time, primarily because waiting feels unproductive to my task-oriented nature. The truth is I enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. And that's okay.

    But is our productivity or desire for an easy, wait-free life more important than our obedience to God? Productivity, the desire for an answer or our longing for the wait to be over cannot hold more weight in our hearts than God's timing, His will and His perfect plans for that particular time in our lives.

    Sometimes a holy pause doesn't make sense to us.

    Yet our key verse reminds us not to depend on our own understanding, and instead to seek God's plans for our lives: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Had I failed to heed God's promptings, I probably would have been facing a project deadline in the midst of what turned out to be intense family-wide health issues, including many which were quite serious.

    What I learned during this holy pause is that down time does not equal wasted time. In God's economy and wisdom, down time — when prompted by Him — can spare us, equip us, refresh us or prepare us.

    If we are wise, we will use our down time, that holy pause, to allow our hearts to connect with His on a more frequent and deeper level. At some point the wait will be over and we will be free to move forward, with Him, into all He has for us at that particular time.

    When we seek God's will in all we do and learn to trust more in the Holy Spirit's promptings than our own desire for productive accomplishments, our hearts will come into alignment with His. And He will show us the right path, in His perfect timing.

    Lord, I long to obey You in every respect, even when I don't understand. Help me not to rush forward when You are inviting me into a holy pause. Bring my heart into alignment with Yours, and cause my thoughts to become agreeable to Your will. Thank You for accomplishing Your will in my life during every wait. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 40:31, "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (NLT)

    Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me." (AMP)

    Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write down the things you are currently waiting for on an index card. Then write Isaiah 40:31 directly beneath your list. Allow this verse to settle in your heart when you feel frustrated or weary, knowing that God is strengthening you while you wait.

    © 2014 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

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