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Family Christian

  • What Counts?

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 1 Corinthians 7:19

    What counts in the Kingdom of God? What counts most in the Kingdom is obeying King Jesus. He has all authority and power to do what’s right and just. He never rules unrighteously or unwisely, so wise are we to submit to His Lordship and His reign over our lives. The starting and ending point for a follower of Christ is to keep His commands. Obedience is evidence of our love for Him. Our spiritual linage is established by knowing and doing the Word of God. He counts!

    Your life counts when you do what counts to Christ. Thus, when you invest time in prayer, you do what counts. When you hear, understand and apply Holy Scripture, you do what counts. When you help a helpless child, you do what counts. When you sacrifice for your family, you do what counts. When you work as unto the Lord, you do what counts. When you are grateful and generous, you do what counts. When you lovingly share the gospel of God, you do what counts!

    Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother. Mark 3:35

    What counts is not your denominational label, but who you are as a new creation in Christ. Institutions can expect more than is required by the Lord, so discern what He is saying before you add additional obligations. What counts is how your service for God flows from your devotion to God. Yes, your inner character development means much more than outward religious rituals. Do what counts to God and He will make your life count to the utmost.

    Do you feel your life counts for something significant? In Christ you are incredibly valuable! You count because you are counted among those called by God. You count because you are a new creation in Christ. You count because you are a daughter or son of your Heavenly Father. You count because you can count your many blessings. You count because Jesus died on the cross for your sins. You count because Christ is coming back for you to reign with Him in glory!

    What counts is the new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule. Galatians 6:15-16

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep me focused on what counts to You, so I can count for You.

    Related Readings: Exodus 20:1-17; Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 11:28

    Post/Tweet today: Do what counts to God and He will make your life count to the utmost. #dowhatcounts

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

  • Nicole C Mullen on Life, Family, Ministry, and Worship

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by John van der Veen


    Few artists in any genre of music possess a more diverse resume than Nicole C. Mullen. From her early days as a background vocalist/dancer/choreographer to writing and recording such classic hits as “Redeemer” to mentoring young women through her Baby Girls Club, Mullen’s creativity and compassion have fueled a life of ministry that has had global impact.

    Nicole's newest album Crown Him, contains hymns old and new like, "All Hail The Power," "It Is Well," and "Redeemer" along with a new song "Teach Me."
    Nicole C. Mullen just happens to be one of the most inspirational communicators of our time. Her ability to captivate an audience by telling a story, sharing from the scriptures or singing a song has earned her many awards as well as bringing her into the company of greatness. Nicole’s gifts have allowed her to travel all over the world, and they have brought her many accolades. She has won multiple Dove Awards, for Song of the Year ("Redeemer," and "On My Knees"), Female Vocalist, Contemporary Song of the Year ("Call on Jesus"), and the first African American to win Songwriter of the Year. She has also been nominated for two Grammy awards.

    I joined Nicole for a quick minute to catch up on "all things" with her life.

    John:               Nicole, you have a new record that you are coming out with, with Family Christian. And it is a hymns record.

    Nicole:           A hymns album, yes, it is.

    John:               A hymns album. How much, what would you say would hymns be a part of your background? I mean, how much were they a part of your life?

    Nicole:           Oh, we grew up singing hymns a bit. Not all hymns, because I grew up in an African-American nondenominational church we borrowed from a lot of different styles of worship, so hymns were a part, but not a huge part. I grew up hearing hymns because my parents knew them and my grandparents were singing them at their churches. As a songwriter, one of my goals is to write songs that will not just affect people today, but will affect people in their worship tomorrow and in future generations. Because of that, one of the subtitles is ‘Hymns Old and New’, but the main title is ‘Crown Him’, and it comes from the hymn “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name” because we crown Him Lord of All. I'm very excited about people hearing it!

    John:               Yeah. You mentioned, Nicole, that you're a songwriter. You certainly have written a lot of songs. Is it easy for you to write a song? Or does it just kind of flow out of you? Because that's what it seems like it would.

    Nicole:           Ish. I mean, sometimes an idea will come and it flows immediately. Then other times it's kind of laborious. It takes a minute. Redeemer took me a year to write. There are other songs that I've written in an afternoon. So it kind of varies. For me, getting the idea and the melody is normally easier part for me. But the part that really takes work that I'm probably the most anal over, are the lyrics, what's being said. And so I want to make sure that I am conveying the message and the sentiment that I'm going after with the right words. I want to paint the picture correctly. And so that can take time. And so, again it varies. Sometimes it's a short period of time, and sometimes it's forever, it seems. But at the end of the day, for me the litmus test is not, was it a number one single? It's not if it did great on the charts. But really, did it move someone's heart to worship Christ. Did their heart, eyes and focus to turn toward Him? To bow low and worship Him’? If that answer is yes, then I feel as if my mission has been accomplished.

    John:               When one looks through your discography, your catalog of songs, there are a lot of songs that seem to be very personal to Nicole Mullen. When you set out to write songs, do you have yourself in mind? Are you thinking of your family? Are you thinking of your church? Are you just thinking of a broader audience? Who are you writing songs for?

    Nicole:           All of the above. Oftentimes, though, when I'm writing, I'm thinking of the wounded, the abused, the hurt, the discouraged. You know, people that I meet often, whether I'm in a grocery store or I'm in an autograph line at the end of the night. These are the people's faces that I see, and that when I'm writing a song I'm thinking of them. Like, how do I convey this message of hope to Angela, to Ellie, to Melissa, to Lisonja. You know, how do I convey this message of hope to them. And so that's where I have to go back and I ask the Lord, "What is it that you want me to say? What is it that you want to convey? What message do you want me to deliver to your people that will heal them, that will lead them to you?" And so then it's a process of listening and writing. And so often I feel like I'm His secretary, or I'm the mailman. I'm called to deliver what He wants to say to them. And so these are the faces that I see when I write.

    John:               A lot of your songs have literally been . . . Let's see, how do I phrase that question. So many of your lyrics have contained passages of Scripture. The way you talk, when you're live on stage, you incorporate Scripture throughout your entire show. Every single one of your songs has Scripture in there. What do you say? And I'm going to lead you down a road here, and I think I know what you're going to say because I know you. But what would you say to the person who is attempting to walk out their faith in a daily life, and is not a songwriter. They're not a professional singer. They're just a mom, or they're a single dad, or they're in college right now. What do you do to get through life, in a sense?

    Nicole:           For me it starts with first of all having a personal relationship with Christ, and then being in fellowship with Him by talking to Him, which is prayer, and listening to Him. And then getting to know Him through His Word. In the Bible there are . . . I tell people all the time, if you want the supernatural, it's in there. If you want romance, it's in there. If you want, even like blood and guts, it's in there. The Bible was not rated G, just so you know. It's not rated G. But it is fantastic, and it's for everyone. It's E for everyone. But there's something for everyone. But really this is a formula for life for me. Successes will come and they will go. Good days will come. They will go. And love will come, and it may go. The Word of God, the Person of Jesus Christ will remain steady throughout life, throughout eternity. And so it is Him that we build our hope upon and our lives upon. So when it's all said and done, for me, it's Christ. And it's getting to know Him--not just learning about Him or meeting Him, but getting to know Him. And we get to know Him by inviting Him into our daily life, our every day life, whether we're doing the dishes, driving or having a conversation in Walmart. He is a part of everything that we do. And His Word is our standard. It's our guide for how we live life and how we treat people, and how we worship God. That's what I know. I'm not perfect at it. I haven't mastered it. But I when I fall off, this is the standard for which I get back on track with. In regards to where people are right now in their walk with Christ, whether they are one with Him, my urge would be, get to know Him. Give your life to Him. If you know Him and you've fallen away, or you're kind of doing this, get back on the path. Get back into His Word. Get back into fellowship with Him by talking to Him, and listening. And then do what He says to do. And so that's really the only formula for a successful life that I know and that I've seen that really actually works. So that's what I know. Jesus.

    John:               As a songwriter, what would you say is the most important song ever sung?

    Nicole:           Oh, that's a hard one. That's a hard one. And people ask me often, "What's your favorite song that you've written?" I can't pick. It's like picking your favorite child. That could get you in trouble.

    John:               That's for sure.

    Nicole:           Not like the songs are going to get me. But it's like on different days, there are different songs that really speak to me differently. Some days it might be “It Is Well,” which I didn't write. Other days it might be “ShooBee,” you know, in which I wrote, I believe in Jesus and I won't apologize. Some days it might be “Redeemer.” Other days it might be “Homemade Love” or “Wholly Captivated.” There are different songs that speak to me in different places and in different times in my life and different seasons. And so for me, the criteria for a song being my favorite for the moment is something that it is one that moved my heart, my attention and focus closer to Christ. And I don't want to sound redundant, but for me, that's the only thing that has any weight. I don't want songs that just entertain; I want to sing songs where, at the end of the day hopefully you didn't just hear a good beat, or weren't just moved emotionally, but my heart is that you'll be moved spiritually toward the One who is worth our worship, and that's Jesus. And so those are the kind of songs I like to listen to as well. And something that's well crafted, I love well crafted songs. Yeah.

    John:               I agree. What's on your bucket list?

    Nicole:           Probably to go to Israel. I don't have many things on there, but probably Israel would probably be one of them.

    John:               Do you have that planned?

    Nicole:           Not yet.

    John:               Not yet.

    Nicole:           Not yet. I mean, I have had it planned.

    John:               You've been to other countries.

    Nicole:           I've been all over in the world. Yes, I have.

    John:               Just Israel was not on there.

    Nicole:           Not yet, but I would love to go there. And I don't have very many places. I mean, I love going wherever God calls me. So if you hear me speaking and you're from another country, I want to come to your country. But Israel is one of those places that just, ah, I would love to. At the right time and the right season, if it's the Lord's will. And if not, hey, when we come back with a new Jerusalem, I'm going to be there anyway.

    John:               Are you a coffee drinker? Tea drinker? Red Bull?

    Nicole:           No, I'm a water drinker.

    John:               Water.

    Nicole:           I'm really boring. My daughter works at Starbucks, so she's a, she drinks coffee and tea. My husband's a coffee drinker. H2O people.

    John:               H2O.

    Nicole:           H2O, yeah, that's la-la.

    John:               The drink of heaven.

    Nicole:           Yes, the drink of . . . Ah! I love that you said that.

    John:               Cool. Well, that's great. Thank you again.

    Nicole:           Oh, but let me tell you. Wait, wait, wait, wait! Oh, I've got to tell you something else.

    John:               All right.

    Nicole:           Okay. Wait, wait, wait. I've got to tell you what I did for real, okay?  I know most of you all know me as the singer and all of that.

    John:               Oh, yes, I'm sorry.

    Nicole:           Let me tell you how I really feel about what’s important in my life, okay? This is like, I love this season of life, too. I love singing. I love writing. We're in the studio working on albums. I love that. But, let me say this. This is part of my fuel. During the week, about four days a week, we have two mentorship programs, mentorship and discipleship. One is Baby Girls Club, and it's for girls only. And I'll tell you a little bit about that in a second. Then we have Team NCM, which is Nicole C. Mullen. Team NCM is a group of kids that have to audition every year at the beginning of the year. They're between the ages of 8 to 18. They have a bent in singing, dancing, arts, drama. They audition. They have to love Jesus Christ as well. They audition. We get together twice a week after we've chosen them. We practice, practice, practice. We memorize Scripture. We do Bible study. We laugh. We giggle. We eat. We do all kinds of crazy things.

    John:               This is at your house?

    Nicole:           No, this is actually at a place called the Clubhouse, up in Tennessee. Because you know, I live out in the boonies. Nobody's coming out there. So we get these kids together, and a lot of them have traveled all over the world with me. A lot of kids from Team NCM, not necessarily currently, but we've had many years. So that's one of the discipleship programs that we have. And we're discipling kids who will, in turn, disciple other kids. And other people, because it could be their elders that they're discipling. Then we have another group called Baby Girls Club, and that's for girls only. And it's more of a whosoever will. You don't have to be a believer to come, but you're going to hear about Christ. We have a wide range of economically influenced kids. Some are from the haves, and some are from the have nots. Probably more from the have nots. We bring kids in from housing projects. We get them after school. We sing. We dance. We do Bible study. We memorize Scripture. We eat. We do conflict resolution, which is that we break up fights. We do all kinds of things. We are, me and some other women, it's not just myself. We're in their lives. It's our way of investing in them with the hope of Christ. And we've seen a lot of these kids give their hearts to Jesus. And as a response, some of their family members, their parents, have given their hearts to Jesus as well. Last year we had some of them get baptized, and it was just really great. So we've seen the Lord work in that. And even now from the Baby Girls Club, we've had people all over the world now who are asking us to help them set up theirs. We've actually started one in the country of Belize, so we have the Baby Girls club there. We have a place in Kenya. They're asking us to help them set up theirs. In South Africa, help them set up theirs there. In Burundi there's a request for us to help them there. Even in our own country, the people are asking throughout the United States. So, we're praying that the Lord will continue to give us wisdom as to how to facilitate this, and to really help them in the right way. I believe right now we have a great opportunity to effect the future of our nation and the future of our world. Because whoever gets the seed, gets the tree, and gets the fruit. So if we can influence the seed of these young lives for Jesus Christ, then He will get their tree and their fruit off the tree. And they're the ones who are going to be affecting nations and generations. So we have a great opportunity. And so we get to do Mondays through Thursdays, and that's where I am, hugging, loving on kids, doing Bible study. Just Stephanie and I, we're like mamas, and we love these kids. These are our babies. Then we have another girl, Karen, she's in Belize helping over there. I'm really excited about that aspect and would love to just have people to pray for us. When they think about us, pray for us. If they want more information, they can go to my website, nicolescmullen.com and they can find out about it there. Or babygirlsclub.com.

    John:               That is cool.

    Nicole:           I love it. Yeah.

    John:               That is so cool. I'm so glad that you shared that as well. That's great.

    Nicole:           They sing with me, too, so they inspire me. They do.

    John:               That's so awesome. I love that. This is great. Because it says so much more than just, I'm an artist and that's what I do. This is what I really do.

    Nicole:           Ministry starts when you get off stage. Ministry's not just about what you do on stage. It's when you take those steps off that stage, the real question is are you going to live it out, or are you just going to talk about it. And we're called to live it out. And Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations." So it's not making coverts that we're after. We're after making disciples, and that's messy. It's time consuming. That costs money. It costs energy. But that's what he called us to do. And so that's our aim. When it's all said and done, we're not looking for pats on the back. We're looking for Him to say, "Well done. You were faithful at what I called you to do." And then we can go forth and say, "Lord, you've given us five talents. We've gone out and we’ve multiplied it. We're bringing back 25, 25 lives," or whatever it might be. So yeah, that's what I do. I love doing that.

    Nicole is excited about this new season in her life and sharing the worship songs on “Crown Him.” “My mom told me a long time ago ‘when you sing, never sing to the people, always sing to the audience of One and invite the people to worship along with you,’” Mullen says, “and so that’s my new aim these day is to sing to the ‘Audience of One’ and hopefully it becomes so contagious and the melody becomes so soothing and so inviting that people will want to sing along.”

  • Five Questions With Author Tracy Groot

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by Family Christian


    Tracy Groot is the critically acclaimed and Christy Award–winning author of several novels. Her most recent books exemplify her unique style of storytelling—reimagining biblical stories within other historical contexts. Tracy's novels have received starred Booklist and Publishers Weekly reviews and have been called "beautifully written" and "page-turning" by Publishers Weekly and "gripping" with "exquisitely drawn" characters by Library Journal. Tracy and her husband have three boys and together run a coffee shop in Holland, Michigan.

    Tracy has a new book coming out early 2014 titled, The Sentinels of Andersonville. We thought that we would sit down with her and ask her a few questions about life.

    What got you interested in writing about the Civil War era?
    I watched a film when I was a kid called The Andersonville Trial. I was a film buff even then, and one element of the story stayed with me: a man testified that the commandant of Andersonville turned away four wagonloads full of food donated for the starving prisoners. He refused to allow Southern citizens to feed Yankees--even dying ones. The story haunted me. Then, in my twenties, a friend loaned me a book called John Ransom's Andersonville Diary. It was another heartbreaking story that never left me.

    In doing your research, how were you challenged the most?
    I had to get into the mind of a Confederate Southerner. I had to think like one in order to write like one. So to put it into a context I could relate to, I imagined how I would feel if, 10 miles from Hudsonville, Michigan, a prison had been built that housed up to 33,000 Muslim terrorists--and one of my sons had died at the World Trade Center on 9/11. How would I feel about feeding them, if I knew they were starving? Would I do what God told me to, and feed my enemy regardless? Or would I feel that to feed them is to be a traitor to my nation and to my son? And if I was inclined to help, then what would I do if my government actually forbade it?

    Are any of the characters in your books based on your personal life?
    Not any one particular character. I suppose they all have a little bit of me in them, because I have to tap into a lot of Me in order to get to Them. In early development, I tend to give characters recognizable elements from people I know, and then the characters take off with it and become who they are; I've found that real human beings defy getting trapped on paper. They won't stand for it, and fictional characters won't stand for it either. They want to be who they are, not Aunt Helen or my brother Rick. But when I start out with Aunt Helen or Rick, I start from a place where I am familiar with certain personality traits and I can write strongly--then the characters get some feet under them, and take it from there.

    What has God been teaching you lately?
    He's been reminding me that I need to put action to my thinking. G.K. Chesterton said that right thinking is a waste without right action. I believe that's true. Then we'd all just be a bunch of philosophers on a rock. I heard on the radio today that the action people took in the Bible brought about divine response. I've been meditating on this, from Psalm 50:23--"He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me, and to him who orders his way aright, will I show the salvation of God." Basically--God helps those who help themselves. It's not enough for me to mentally assent. God wants action, whatever it is. I may not feel like taking action at all. I may not feel like I have faith. But, as I also heard today, "You can be full of faith and no feeling." And this: "You believe by following through on the action proscribed." If I know I need to bite my tongue about something, mental assent does no good unless I bite my tongue. I believe God blesses the most faltering steps, if step out, we do. I believe he even honors and blesses it when I holler, "You know what, God?! I sure as heck don't feel like biting my tongue right now--so if you want me to, then you're gonna have to pull off a miracle--give me the want to." If I can at least tell God how displeased I am about having to obey something, that opens up a line of communication between us--it shows me and it shows God that I know who I need to go to for the hard things, when I just can't pull it off myself. I've also been meditating on a George McDonald quote: "He gave man the power to thwart His will, that when he comes at last to do His will, he may do so in a higher kind and way than otherwise would have been possible to him."

    What is on your "bucket list?
    A few bucket list things: I'd like to visit Norway, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, and the Scottish Hebrides. Not necessarily in that order. I'd like to be on the NY Times bestseller list. I'd like to have lunch with the entire cast of BBC's Merlin for a cast reunion to talk about old times. (Well--they'll talk about old times; I'll interject pithy comments and take pictures.) Then I'd talk them into a new series, where Arthur comes back. Finally, I'd like to co-star on Alphas, my current favorite sci-fi series; I'd hang out all day with my favorite Alpha, Gary.

    For more information on Tracy, click here.

  • Imprisoned by Shame

    Posted on September 9, 2013 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "But you, LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high." Psalm 3:3 (NIV)

    They were only boots. On their own, boots are good. They are functional, sturdy, insulated. But that day they were an embarrassment, the last resort of a 7th-grade girl whose only pair of shoes was soaked. I couldn't walk through the foot-high snow to the bus stop without the boots.

    Maneuvering my dad's huge size 11 boots with my size six feet was a clumsy effort. Slide, slide, lift. Slide, slide, lift. My cheeks burned as I climbed the school bus steps, desperately hoping no one would notice. When the bus dropped us off in front of the junior high, I slide-slide-rushed inside and immediately pulled off the boots. In my stocking feet, I raced through the dirty snow accumulating on the hallway floors, eager to stow the humiliating footwear in my locker.

    All day long friends and teachers glanced at my wet socks and asked why I was walking around without shoes in the dead of winter. "My shoes are soaked," I told them, which was true. I didn't mention that they were at home, or that I'd worn the humiliating oversized boots that belonged to my dad.

    My heart was imprisoned in shame that day at the age of 12. And the shame only multiplied with constant hunger pangs, my parent's ongoing violent fights, and being left in charge of my four siblings more often than was wise.

    As I stepped into young adulthood, shame followed closely. I tried to push it away with other things and tragically sought love and attention from men, believing their affections could somehow make up the deficit of dignity I felt.

    On my own at 17, I was determined to earn my way, determined never to borrow from my neighbors, and determined to have a full pantry. I worked hard and bought lots of nice shoes to line my closet and heart. And I obsessively filled my cupboards with every food I had been denied much of my life.

    No matter what I did, shame clung to my heart and tainted my perception. I believed others saw me as less-than because deep down, that's how I felt about myself. I struggled to overcome the embarrassment from my childhood, but it refused to let me go. Though I was no longer in my shameful past, my shameful past was still in me.

    And then I met Jesus, and He gently began working in my heart. Slowly, through praying for myself, He began a transforming work in me.

    It wasn't an easy or instant process. When I was afraid to believe He could make me whole, He said, "Anyone who believes in [me] will never be put to shame" (Romans 10:11 NIV). When the wardrobe of my heart felt stained and embarrassed, He said, "[You are] clothed with dignity" (Proverbs 31:25 NIV). When I felt condemned by my past sinful choices, He said, "Then neither do I condemn you ... Go now and leave your life of sin" (John 8:11 NIV).

    As my relationship with Jesus grew, it struck me that He treated me with the dignity and honor my soul longed for. As I continued to pray for myself, His exquisite love covered my shameful past and made me feel beautiful. Cherished. Unashamed. Free.

    The mortified young girl who wore her dad's boots to school now walks unfettered with the One her soul loves. As I continue to pray for myself, He continues His transforming work. And now, instead of defining myself by shame and embarrassment, I cling to the truth that Jesus treasures, esteems, and beautifully clothes me.

    Dear Lord, You know the shame and embarrassment of my past, both from what happened to me and through my own choices. Please bring the healing and transformation that only You can. Thank You that in Christ I am cherished, unashamed and free. In the Name of Jesus, amen.

    Related Resources:
    Billy Graham - The Reason for My Hope: Salvation

    In The Reason for My Hope, Graham presents the core message that has guided his life and calling for more than 70 years. Filled with new stories and timeless truth, he once again calls the world back to its spiritual priority as only he can.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Is your heart imprisoned by shame, guilt, or fear? Pray, forgive your offender, and ask God to bring healing and freedom to you both.

    Power Verse:
    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Julie Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

  • Stay Focused

    Posted on September 8, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
    John 17:4

    Focus is the fuel to productivity and frees you to stay on task. Focus facilitates God’s will, and  has the ability to bring intensity to a situation, problem, or opportunity. There is a sense of urgency that pushes out distraction and brings clarity back to the matter at hand. Focused individuals understand that some things naturally drift out of focus, so they intentionally refocus. “Mission drift” ensues when the leader becomes distracted and unfocused as well-meaning activities can distract the team or the individual from the original purpose.
    The opposite of focusing on a task is to ignore or disregard it. We lose focus when we lose interest or assess a lower value to a person or opportunity. We lose focus when something else more attractive draws us away, and like a moth to a flame we can get burned if we are not careful. We are forever fighting to stay focused because of bad distractions and good attractions. But we don’t have to remain unfocused or get focused on the wrong things. When we stay laser beam-focused on the Lord, important things become priority and our minds become centered on Christ.
    We focus all the time. We may not focus on our most important options, but we focus. We focus on sports. We focus on having fun. We focus on finances. We focus on fitness. We focus on frustrations. Indeed, your mind and your heart tend to follow your focus. Your life aligns around where you focus, so by God’s grace stay focused on Him and His will for your life. Focused faith goes a long way toward experiencing God’s very best. Focused intensity on the Almighty’s agenda leverages His plan for your life. Focus brings freedom to do His will without reservation; so stay focused on the one thing He has called you to do and you will be amazed at the results. Become an expert in your field.
    Above all else, become an intensely focused person of faith and character. Your character determines your credibility with people. Your influence grows as your character grows; so stay focused on becoming more like Jesus. Laugh more and complain less. Relax more and worry less. Pray more and talk less. Give more and control less. One idea is to focus on your family. Focus more intently on your family than you do your work or your hobbies. Put a puzzle together, take scuba diving lessons, plan a family reunion, organize a trip, or take care of a pet. Intentionally focus on your family now while you have the opportunity and while they are interested. Your children deserve your intense focus. They will be gone soon, so zero in on them. Finally, focus on God in prayer. Prayer brings into focus what matters most.
    Prayer dismisses distractions and invites priorities. Jesus says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

    Post/Tweet: Our character determines our credibility with people. #belikeJesus

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

  • Get Up

    Posted on September 7, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus” (Matthew 17:6–8).

    The world can get us down, but God gets us up. The cares of this world can choke out our motivation to move forward, but Christ is close-by to release the pressure and resuscitate our resolve. What has you down? Is it finances, faith, family, foes? Is it a deal gone south or a relationship that has gone awry? Whatever has you down, the Lord can lift you up!

    “But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head” (Psalm 3:3).

    We bow down in humility and reverence to almighty God so we can get up, full of grace, to go on our way in quiet confidence. It is humble worship and praise that brings us back to the foot of the cross in gratitude to God for the gift of His only Son Jesus. We kneel at the cross overwhelmed by the forgiveness of our Savior Jesus, and we get up to forgive.

    “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).

    If fear has you down, get up and walk by faith. If regret has you down, get up and go make restitution. If a relationship has you down, get up and initiate interest. If your job has you down, get up and go after excellence. If misunderstanding has you down, get up and clarify your concerns. If life in general has you down, get up and live a life for God.

    Jesus gently admonishes us to lift our eyes off our circumstances and onto Him. So first get up and go to God in trusting determination. Ask Him for directions, and He will lead you in the way you should go. How do you get to your next destination in life? Ask the Lord. How do you solve your most pressing problem? Ask the dispenser of wisdom, holy God. It is from your humble posture in the low place that He lifts you up to see His face.

    “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

    Prayer: How can I humble myself before God? Where does He want me to get up and go?

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 2:8; Psalm 30:1; Psalm 145:14; Luke 22:46; Acts 22:16; Acts 26:16

    Post/Tweet: The cares of this world can choke out our motivation, but Christ is close by to resuscitate our resolve. #Christresuscitates

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

  • Better Together

    Posted on September 6, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

    The flesh tends to roam alone with a false sense of security, but the Spirit knows the value of walking with like-minded friends and resting in Christ’s security. Even a lion, the respected King of the jungle, needs other lions to watch his back. Money may create a bubble of comfort, but genuine camaraderie cannot be bought with cash. Believers in Jesus are better together, they thrive holistically where intimacy is alive. Humility trusts in another to be better together.

    We are all better together. God’s divine math calculates one plus one equals ten on His scale of effectiveness. Your management skill set needs the complementary skill of leadership, and vice-versa. Your gift of encouragement is balanced by the gift of prophecy. Your ability to innovate requires someone who can implement. Your generosity needs a trusted budget planner. Your comfort and nurture is stronger when supported by disciplined accountability. Two trumps one!

    The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. Genesis 2:18

    An American dream may be autonomy, but the Lord’s plan is community. If we strive for self containment, we miss blessing others and being blessed. Engagement and integration with another requires prayerful intentionality. For example, at work we ask a team member how we can support their project; at home we use our strengths to cover another family member's weaknesses. Wise living rejects a silo approach to relationships but embraces the common good.

    Pride makes you feel like you are bulletproof, in need of no one; but all fall down. Pity those who have no one to pick them up, but what a joy to journey through life with ones who watch out for you. Your faith stays warm when insulated by faithful friends. Most of all, you are truly better together with God. Trust in Jesus Christ guarantees you are never, ever alone. He walks with you, He talks with you and you are complete in Him. Yes, you are better together, forever!

    And surely I [Jesus] am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I need You; we are better together, just as my faith flourishes within a community of Your faithful followers.

    Related Readings: 2 Samuel 10:11; Mark 10:8; Acts 2:44; Philippians 2:1; 2 Timothy 2:20

    Post/Tweet today: Believers in Jesus are better together, they thrive where intimacy is alive. #bettertogether

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

  • A New Way to Process Conflict

    Posted on September 6, 2013 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly." Proverbs 31:26 (MSG)

    It was like we were speaking two different languages. Even though my friend and I were both talking in English, we couldn't seem to understand each other. I started the conversation with the assumption we would see things the same way, but emotions rose, opinions conflicted, and wounds were inflicted. How did we get to that frustrated place?

    After cooling off, I called a wise, truth-telling friend. I told her the basic outline of the conversation, trying to keep it neutral. Finally I asked, "What do you think went wrong?"

    She astutely turned the question back to me. "What could you have done differently?"

    Initially, I couldn't think of one thing. After all, the conflict wasn't my fault! But then I took some time to reflect, and God began to soften my heart, revealing my part in the conflict.

    I had called my friend during an extremely busy time in her life with a suggestion that would have added to her overloaded schedule. Instead of being sensitive, I pushed and pushed my own agenda. As our emotions escalated, my defensiveness increased, making my responses sharp.

    The friend I had called for advice gently prodded, "How could you have listened more carefully? Would truly listening have made you more compassionate? How could you have responded with more grace?"

    For the rest of the afternoon, God etched a new way of interacting in hard situations on my heart. This is the truth He carved: Listen with compassion. Speak with grace.

    Listen with Compassion. Years ago my pastor shared an invaluable method for re-adjusting his attitude when dealing with conflict. He asks, is this behavior consistent with the person's general character?

    Wow! If I had applied that question in the conversation with my friend, I would have remembered her kindness, her servant’s heart, and her calm nature. Then, I might have wondered what was changing her normal response. Compassion would have flooded my heart toward her and the stress she was under. My heart would have been positioned to serve her, rather than insisting on my own way.

    At its core, listening with compassion is simply obeying the biblical commands to die to ourselves (John 12:24-25) and to consider others more highly than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

    Speak with Grace. Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (NIV). There is no downside to a gentle, grace-filled answer. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've often viewed responding this way as losing or giving in. That's simply not true. Needed truths can be told in kind and gentle ways. Just think about how my wise friend treated me when I sought her advice.

    Before I called my friend to ask for forgiveness and clear up the misunderstanding, I prayed for a Jesus-sized dose of compassion and grace.

    Since then, I've been rehearsing "Listen with Compassion - Speak with Grace" over and over in my mind. Last week I had a chance to put it into practice when I received a difficult email. My first response was defensiveness, but then I started to repeat my new way of processing until I could hear the needs in the email with compassion and respond with grace.

    I love how God gave me the chance to practice what He had taught me after I had time to take a breath, pause, rehearse my new motto and then respond. Life and relationships are filled with conflict, so I have no doubt I'll have a chance to practice again. Next time, I'm praying I'll be ready!

    Dear Lord, sometimes it seems like conflict pops up out of nowhere. One minute the conversation is going fine and before I know it, hurtful words are being said. Please help me listen and respond as You would. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond:
    Who are you focused on during a hard conversation? Are you trying to understand the person speaking or already working on your defense?

    If you feel yourself becoming defensive, make yourself pause and put yourself in the other person's shoes.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 17:27, "A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered." (NLT)

    Proverbs 18:15, "The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; for the ears of the wise seek it out." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Relational Equity

    Posted on September 5, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:9-10

    Relational equity is the trust and goodwill we build up over time with those we love. The goal of other centered people is to make more relational deposits than withdraws. They serve more than they are served. They love more than they are loved. They honor more than they are honored. They care more than they receive care. They give more than they take. They generate emotional energy more than they withdraw emotional energy. They pray more than they request prayer.

    Yes, when we honor another above ourselves we grow our relational equity. When we are devoted to one another in love we develop our relational equity. But, what happens when we overdraw our relational equity? How are we to correct our misaligned expectations? There are two options. Either we make additional relational deposits by speaking their love language or they forgive our debt of love. Ideally, both of these options can by God’s grace, occur together.

    Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

    Genuine affection flows freely like an underground spring regularly refreshes a lake or pond. Thus, quietly but deliberately look for ways to sow seeds of service into those the Lord brings into your life's path. Be a blessing in small things like reaching out to encourage a child of your adult friend. Lead them in Bible study. Perhaps you pray for a person who seems alone in their singleness. Pray for them to feel the camaraderie of Christ and the closeness of a community.

    Your deep heartfelt love is determined to love like Jesus loves. He loves: Sacrificially, yes. Sensitively, yes. Sacredly, yes. Sincerely, yes. Soothingly, yes. Secretly, yes. With a servant-spirit, yes! Indeed, the love of the Lord builds up relational equity in all who surrender to His heart of affection. The relational equity of Jesus is eternal. Because His love is everlasting, He never runs out of compassion for people. Thus, your devotion to Christ creates unending relational equity.

    Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:2

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, use me to invest in people with relational equity that points them to You.

    Related Readings: Psalm 133:1; John 13:34, 15:12; Philippians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 John 4:10

    Post/Tweet today: Relational equity is the trust and goodwill we build up over time with those we love. #relationalequity

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

  • A Different Kind of School Year

    Posted on September 5, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV)

    As we get back into the routine of a new school year, I'm making a commitment: no more unglued mama mornings. I want our mornings to go better this year with less frustration, yelling, and chaos.

    This idea developed last spring when we had a string of really hard mornings.

    One day, as I pulled up to the school, the atmosphere inside the car was thick with tension. Not wanting the last words spoken to my daughter to be harsh, I tried to change the course of our conversation. "Sweetheart, I love you. I'm sorry we had a rough morning."

    "We always have rough mornings," she shot back before slamming the car door.

    Nothing quite makes a mom feel more successful than a little dialogue like that.

    As I rubbed the stabbing feeling in my chest, I thought, Something has got to change. Each day I promise myself I won't yell at the kids. But each morning something triggers me and I lose it.

    Ever been there?

    It's not like we wake up in the mood to get frustrated with our people, right? I usually wake up in a good mood. But then the stress of getting everyone ready and out the door on time makes the crazy creep in.

    This one can't find her shoes. That one needs a report printed and we have no ink. The bread for sandwiches is still at the grocery store because I forgot to buy it the day before. And to top it all off, I don't have any cash to give the kids so they can buy lunch at school.

    The whining. The complaining. The feeling that I can't ever get it together. It all escalates and sends me over the edge.

    I want this school year to be different. I want to be like Ephesians 4:22-24 describes: "made new in the attitude of my mind." The Greek word for "made new" is kaino. One of its definitions is uncommon. I want to be an uncommon calm in the midst of chaos and an example of peace for my kids. For that to happen, I came up with a plan:

    Tell the world to wait. When I wake up, my mind is like a dry sponge. What I soak up first will saturate me most deeply. If I don't want to be consumed with the stresses of my day, I must put the world on hold to soak up what will renew my mind—God's Word.

    Remember I'm managing blessings. If I want my attitude to be made new, I must keep things in perspective. While my frustrations seem big, things like lost shoes and less than perfect lunches aren't big problems. They are small aggravations that come with managing blessings.

    Let my kids own their irresponsibilities. My kids' irresponsibilities will not become my emergencies. I need to communicate my expectations so they know they're going to have to own the consequences of their choices. For example, if they wait until the last minute to print their report and the printer doesn't have any ink, they'll have to print it at school or turn it in late. Either way, I can't own this situation and let it throw me into frantic, fix-it mode. I can let the consequences of my kids' choices scream, so I don't have to.

    All of this is going to take some intentionality, and I doubt I'll do it perfectly. But I'm excited about trying. I'm excited to "put on my new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Which is another way of saying, I'm excited to have less unglued mama mornings and more peace this school year.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the grace You give. I don't want to live in the same pattern of coming unglued anymore. Help me put these principles into practice. In Jesus' Name, amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond:
    Which of the following action points can you put into practice?
    1. Tell the world to wait.
    2. Remember you're managing blessings.
    3. Let your kids own their irresponsibilities.

    Power Verse:
    2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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