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Family Christian

  • Hitting the Bottom

    Lysa

    "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

    Why is it that the hardest person for me to be honest with is sometimes myself?

    I'm usually a happy, optimistic person. I want to look at life as half full. I like seeing the good in situations and in people.

    I believe those are good qualities about me.

    But sometimes the glass is half empty. And sometimes, I need to see the not-so-good in situations. Other times, I need to admit that there's not-so-good in people.

    I don't need to dwell on it and get all negative. But I do need to allow myself the freedom to be honest. To process with honest thoughts and feelings and hurt.

    Otherwise, I get this knotted feeling deep inside. And my smile on the outside doesn't match the sinkhole on the inside.

    Am I the only crazy person who deals with this? I don't think so. Actually, I think there are a lot of people walking around smiling and sinking at the same time.

    Have you ever had that dream where you are falling, falling, falling and then you gasp and wake up before you hit the ground?

    When I was a small girl swapping playground wisdom between the swing set and the seesaw, I admitted to my friend I had that falling dream. A lot. She whispered, "You know it's a good thing you wake up before you hit the ground in your dream. Because if you didn't, you'd die."

    And right then and there, I decided to never hit the ground. I decided to always be on guard to control that dream.

    Crazy, right?

    That's an exhausting way to sleep.

    And it can be an exhausting way to live. This not ever hitting the ground. This not being honest that sometimes people and situations in life can be completely disappointing.

    There is a bottom. Sometimes we hit it. Sometimes we can't wake up in time.

    And while this gut honest realization about people and situations can feel devastating or like a setback, I think there's a better way to look at it.

    Yes, maybe it's better to consider it an opportunity to grow in dependence on the Lord. An opportunity to embrace the freedom found in our key verse, Psalm 55:22, to bring my feelings to Him and to ask for His help.

    Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken." So I took God at His Word.

    As I prayed, I told God about my feelings in a recent situation. Lord, this stinks. It just does. The way this person treated me isn't good. What they said, it really hurt. Help!

    In praying through that situation, God challenged me not just to talk with Him and be honest about my feelings. But also to be honest with the person who had hurt me. God challenged me to hit the bottom I had ever-so-carefully been avoiding.

    So, I sat down with that person. I was honest. With myself and with them. I hit the bottom and I'm actually glad, because the internal sinkhole started to close.

    And the best part? I didn't die!

    Dear Lord, thank You for caring deeply about each detail of my life. Your ability to take my burdens upon Your shoulders is amazing. You are worthy to be praised! In Jesus' Name. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Have you been putting on a smile when you feel everything but happy on the inside?

    Bring all of your feelings and burdens to the Lord. Ask Him for direction and freedom as you hand over your control of the situation to Him.

    Power Verse: Isaiah 41:10, "... do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dailogue Daily

    Boyd

    Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Proverbs 16:24

    Busyness is the uncaring culprit of inconsistent communication in marriage. Couples exhausted from a calendar of frantic activity have no emotional energy at the end of the day to engage in meaningful conversation. Like two sleepy ships they pass through the night unaware of the other’s tattered soul. However, hearts that dialogue daily are intentional with intimacy. It may be only 30 minutes of focused conversation after dinner, but wise couples stay verbally connected.

    Often, woman starve for words and men lack language. So husbands, make sure you unselfishly express yourself to your sweetheart. Ask the Lord to give your conversation clarity, compassion, and depth. And wives, be patient with your man who wants to share his heart, but his speech needs a safe environment for expression. Your respect and approval frees him up to speak freely. Daily dialogue gives couples emotional connection that facilitates trust, security and love.

    "Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).

    Make sure your children know your priority of communication as a married couple. Tell your little ones that mom and dad need to grow their friendship with each other, so they can become better parents. Teach your children to respect the space you need as husband and wife to grow a healthy home. Next to salvation in Jesus, the best gift you can give your son and daughter is a maturing marriage. Hence, growing relationships require regular doses of meaningful discussion.

    Have heart-to-hearts and your heart will grow fonder, and your faith will grow fresher. When you talk with each other make sure you talk together to your Heavenly Father. Communication with Christ as a couple draws you closer to Him and to each other. Words birthed out of prayer build up and bring great joy. Love is the language you employ to engage each other’s heart, mind, and soul. Indeed, dialogue daily and like dollar cost averaging, your relational equity will compound.

    "How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:103)

    Prayer: Heavenly Father I pray for an open, loving heart that shares daily with my spouse.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 22:11; Malachi 3:16; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Ephesians 4:15

    Post/Tweet today: Daily dialogue gives couples emotional connection that facilitates trust, security, and love. #marriage

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Greatest Words Ever Spoken from Steven K. Scott

    Steven

    The Greatest Words Ever Spoken I tell you, I know men, and Jesus Christ was no mere man! Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. –NAPOLEON BONAPARTE

    “The greatest words ever spoken.” How could such a claim be made about any collection of statements? With all the life-changing words spoken by so many great men and women throughout history, how could the words of one person rise above all the others?

    To qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to reveal incredible truths that would otherwise go undiscovered. They would have to bring extraordinary, perhaps even near-miraculous benefit to the hearts, minds, and lives of those who read them. Certainly, to qualify as the greatest words ever spoken, they would have to produce life-altering changes not just for a few people but for millions. They would have to impart hope to those in despair, joy to those whose hearts are broken, and peace that subdues even the most paralyzing fears.

    To earn the ranking of the greatest words ever spoken, the words would have to exert enough power to transform a hateful heart into a loving one, a mind driven by greed into one overflowing with generosity, a life ruled by arrogance into one that is driven by the desire to serve others. And if they were truly the greatest words ever spoken, they would have the power to give sight to the blind, deliverance to the captive, forgiveness to the wrongdoer, and life to the dead. If anyone’s words could accomplish these things, they would certainly rise above all other words in history. They would deserve to be called The Greatest Words Ever Spoken.

    These words exist; they have been spoken and recorded. And, yes, they have accomplished remarkable, miraculous results. The greatest words ever spoken are the words of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be the Son of the living God. The If-Then Statement That Can Change Your Life If Jesus is who He claimed to be, then everything He said must be fully, absolutely true. If He is the Son of God, He would never speak in error. Think of the implications. First, if Jesus’ words are absolute truth, they are the standard by which all other purported truths must be measured. Second, everything Jesus said about you, your life, and your circumstances is true. His words describe your life and reveal your immediate and long-term future. To succeed in life, to understand yourself, and to gain wisdom about your present and your future, you need to learn everything Jesus said about you. In that way you will discover what He wants for you and from you.

    And then there are the promises Jesus made. If you choose to follow Him, then all of his 108 promises are promises you can count on–promises that will produce peace in a troubled heart, joy in the midst of tragedy, success in place of failure, and most important, a glorified life that lasts for eternity. And this leads to the most important question you will ever face. Is Jesus of Nazareth the person He claimed to be, or was He a mere man?

    Napoleon Bonaparte, the emperor of France and one of the greatest military geniuses who ever lived, concluded that Jesus was no mere man. Once when Napoleon was discussing various emperors and their empires with his most trusted advisors, the name of Jesus came up. To the surprise of his generals, Napoleon exclaimed:

    I know men; and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison! Superficial minds see a resemblance between Christ and the founders of empires, and the gods of other religions. That resemblance does not exist.… Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me. He is truly a being by Himself. His ideas and sentiments, the truth which He announces, His manner of convincing, are not explained either by human organization or by the nature of things… The nearer I approach, the more carefully I examine, everything is above me–everything remains grand, of a grandeur which overpowers.… One can absolutely find nowhere, but in Him alone, the imitation or the example of His life… I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ. Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature, offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or explain it. Here everything is extraordinary.i Jesus of Nazareth What did Napoleon know that some of us do not? He was a student of history and a student of men, and he had diligently studied the life and words of Christ. In light of this, he believed that no one in history could compare to Jesus of Nazareth. Think about it: how could one man from an obscure village in the Middle East have changed so many millions of lives as well as the course of history? If ever a man should have been overlooked by history, it was Jesus.

    Consider the facts:

    Jesus was born to a peasant couple in a village in the middle of nowhere. He lived in a country occupied by foreign conquerors. His only means of transportation was His legs.

    He was a carpenter until He turned thirty, and only then did He begin to teach and speak in public. For three short years He proclaimed His message, mostly in small villages.

    After being falsely accused and then convicted in a rigged trial, He was sentenced to death by an official who believed Him to be innocent. He died the death of a criminal and was executed on a cross between two convicted criminals. Only His mother and one of His close followers were present at His execution. The rest of His closest disciples had fled, hiding from the mob and the Roman officials.

    It was only after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to His followers that His disciples were transformed from distraught cowards into confident, fearless believers and preachers of Jesus’ message. But they had no means to spread His story and teachings to a mass audience. There were no radios, televisions, or printing presses. In fact, paper as we know it had not yet been invented. Every papyrus scroll had to be painstakingly written by hand. The only way to make a copy was to read the original and laboriously copy it word by word.

    In first-century Palestine, the thought that Jesus’ life might make a significant impact on anyone beyond the Judean countryside was laughable. Any history of this itinerant rabbi who appeared in public for only three years should have been lost–either burned or buried–in the rubble when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman legions less than forty years after Jesus walked the earth. Against such a background, you can begin to understand the miracle of His life and words. Jesus’ short earthly life–far from being lost to the generations who have followed–became the focal point of history.

    How could one man’s life impact humanity to a greater extent than any other person or any series of events in history? As you read The Greatest Words Ever Spoken, you will get to know this man who changed everything…forever. Jesus did it all, not with money, armies, science, or politics, but with the witness of His life and the power of His words. His life and the miracles He performed attracted the attention of the crowds, but it was what He said that melted their hearts and transformed their lives. The apostle John said, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” ( John 1:14) . The Tragedy of the Information Age Today we have more information about everything than any past generation had, yet most people know less of what Jesus said. Countless people are so unaware of first-century history that they are swayed by baseless myths perpetuated by works of fiction such as The Da Vinci Code. Many Christians have built their beliefs and values on the words of Bible teachers, authors, and television and radio preachers rather than on the words of Christ. As wonderful as the words of preachers and writers may be, they can’t begin to compare in wonder and power to the pure, undiluted words of Jesus Christ. After all, He alone claimed to be the embodiment of all truth when He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life” ( John 14:6). He made incredible promises to those who would build their lives on His words.

    It’s important to realize that Jesus did not make these promises to people who followed the words of any other teacher, prophet, or leader. The words of Jesus stand alone in truth, power, and authority. For example, He promised, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” ( John 8:31-32, NASB). And that was just the beginning. Here are a few of the many promises Jesus made to those who choose to abide in His Word:

    • You will receive eternal life. • Your desires will be fulfilled in answer to your prayers. • God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit will be your constant companions, both with you and within you. • You will receive a level of peace and joy, direct from God, that is otherwise unattainable. • You will impact the lives of others in ways that can’t be achieved strictly by human effort. • You will be loved by God in a unique way. • You will avoid God’s ultimate judgment. • You will see miracles in your life that others can’t understand or explain. • You will learn eternal truths that will set you free from all that holds you captive. Jesus Was Not a Religious Leader! Jesus Christ did not come to earth to start a new religion. In fact, He leveled His harshest criticisms at the religious leaders of His day. He accused them of not knowing God and said they had used religion to bind people to a life of misery, frustration, and failure. He claimed they were blind and had blinded the “spiritual eyes” of their followers (see Matthew 15:13; 23:13-24).

    When He described Himself, Jesus claimed that He had come from God and that His mission was to reveal who God was and what God wanted. Most important, Jesus claimed that He could lead anyone into an intimate relationship with the only true God and that in doing so He would lead them into eternal life. In His final prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus stated, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” ( John 17:3).

    Think about getting to know the God who created the universe. What would it be like to know Him on a first-name basis–or, even better, to know Him so intimately that you could call Him your best friend, even your dad? Imagine what it would be like if you could consistently experience His presence and a level of peace and joy that no adversity could vanquish. That’s exactly what will happen as you begin to focus on the words of Christ.

    The words of Jesus have changed the course of history by changing millions of lives, one life at a time. His words were first believed by those who witnessed His miracles. He turned water into wine and caused the blind to receive their sight, the lame to walk, and the dead to rise. Fortunately for us, He promised even greater blessings to those in later generations who would believe in Him without seeing Him in person. For two thousand years Jesus has kept that promise. He extends the same promise to you. As you begin to store up His words in your mind and heart, you will discover their life-changing power in ways you never thought possible. The Life Issues That Jesus Addressed In this book you will find every word of Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament, organized in more than two hundred topics. This will enable you to read everything Jesus said without the interruption of commentary, transitional scenes, and details about the activities of the people who surrounded Him. As you read this book, you can immerse yourself in Jesus’ words. You can reflect on every statement He made about things that are important to you. You’ll see everything the Lord said on such subjects as prayer, faith, eternal life, fear, your life priorities, His incredible promises, and the claims He made about Himself.

    Because Jesus’ words are organized by topic, you can easily grasp the breadth of what He said on each one. In a matter of minutes, you can read everything He said about a topic, which will help you gain a deeper understanding of His teachings. People who have read Jesus’ words as they are organized in this book say they gained a depth of wisdom and experienced a life-changing power far greater than they could have imagined. The two hundred-plus topics have been grouped into nine chapters, each addressing a general category. At the beginning of every chapter, I added a few thoughts about the topics addressed in that chapter. The chapters are:

    1. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Jesus 2. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God the Father 3. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About the Holy Spirit 4. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Eternity 5. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken to Jesus’ Followers 6. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Humanity 7. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About God Reaching Out to Us 8. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About How to Know God 9. The Greatest Words Ever Spoken About Personal Relationships The Only Foundation That Is Truly Secure Jesus made a number of incredible promises to men and women who learn, embrace, and follow His words. He said we should base all our values, beliefs, and behaviors on the foundation of His words. Unfortunately, most of us base our lives on a mixture of things we’ve learned from every source we’ve been exposed to. As a result, the foundation of our beliefs is a combination of truth and falsehood, including contradictory information and false assumptions. My hope is that as you study the words of Christ, any weaknesses in your current foundation will be revealed, and you will replace them with the undiluted, indestructible concrete of Jesus’ words. May He bless you in your pursuit of intimacy with God and the eternal truths revealed by His incomparable words. How to Get the Most Out of This Book This is not a book you will read cover to cover in a few sittings. You won’t find even one of the chapters to be a quick read. Instead, this book is a resource you can use for the rest of your life. The two hundred-plus topics offer great variety. If you’re seeking an answer to a specific question, a quick reading of Jesus’ words on that topic will meet that need. If you’re wrestling with an important decision, the wisdom and inspiration you seek can be found by reading His words on the appropriate topics. At the same time, a focused study of a topic can provide a rock-solid foundation for your faith. It will deepen your love for God and will provide an anchor in the greatest trials of life.

    This book can easily be adapted to the need of the moment. Depending on the topic and how you approach it, the spiritual meal can range from a quick-energy bar to an entire buffet. Because the wisdom offered on each topic comes solely from the undiluted statements of Christ, their breadth, depth, and power are enlightening, faith building, and life changing.

    Here are two suggestions that will help you get the most out of reading this book. Use It as a Quick Reference Whenever you are studying a biblical subject, considering a spiritual question, or seeking guidance for a decision, the first question you should ask is “What did Jesus say?” His words will provide the foundation for all your values, beliefs, and doctrines.

    To locate a topic, check the book’s table of contents, which lists the nine general categories (one per chapter) and the specific topics within each of the nine categories. You can also go to the back of the book and search the two hundred-plus topics in alphabetical order. Once located, each topic includes every direct statement Christ made on that topic and most of the implied references. Because context is so important, the verses surrounding the key points are usually provided.

    As you begin to read Jesus’ statements, underline the key points. For example, in chapter 5 under the heading “The Promises of Christ,” you will find more than one hundred promises that Jesus made to His followers. Here is one of the crucial promises Jesus made:

    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. (John 5:24-25, NKJV) In this promise, I underlined the condition to be met so the promise can be fulfilled. The condition is you must hear (follow) Christ’s words and truly believe in the God who sent Him. The promised benefits, set in boldface type, are you’ll receive eternal life and you won’t be subject to God’s judgment.

    When you underline or highlight the key points of every statement of Jesus as you study them, something wonderful happens. Each statement becomes like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle. As you read all of Christ’s statements on a given topic and underline or highlight the key points, you’ll see the pieces of the puzzle come together to create a clear picture of what He is teaching. Any other Bible verses you read on that subject will serve as additional pieces for the picture.

    Use This Book for Topical Studies for You and Your Family One of the greatest values of this book is that it will enable you to quickly and effectively study any subject that Christ spoke about. Individuals, couples, and families can select topics to study during morning or evening devotions, in-depth individual Bible studies, or group Bible studies. I suggest going through the table of contents and placing a check by the topics that interest you the most. One of my friends asked his wife and his children to put their initials beside each topic they wanted to study. This helped them prioritize the subjects they wanted to study first. They decided not only to study the topics individually but to use that list for selecting topics for family devotions.

    As you study the words of Christ, you will receive the benefits He promised in John 16:13 and John 14:26. The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth, He will tell you things to come, and He will glorify Christ. Jesus also promises that the Holy Spirit will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all the things that Christ has spoken to you.

    You will notice that most of the Scripture sections begin with verses from the gospel of John, followed by verses from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and sometimes Acts, 1 Corinthians, or Revelation, in that order. I begin the topical sections with verses from John because his gospel is more direct and more intimate. John referred to himself as “the disciple…Jesus loved” (John 21:20). John’s account of Jesus’ life conveys an unmistakable warmth and a sense of immediacy. Reading his gospel is like receiving an invitation from an old friend. I hope you will accept his invitation as you read Jesus’ words addressing various subjects in this book.

    Jesus’ greatest promises were made to those who will hear His words and do them. His words will provide abundant light and perfect wisdom for any decision you face and all the power you will need to overcome any adversity. But the promises He makes and the power He offers will never be known by those who refuse to hear His words. In my forty-three years of discovering and relying on His words, I have experienced miraculous outcomes in every area of my life. What His words have done for me, I know they will also do for you. May you learn their meaning and experience their power as never before.


    Excerpted from The Greatest Words Ever Spoken by Steven K. Scott Copyright © 2008 by Steven K. Scott. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

  • Growing in Christ

    John

    There are a bunch of "how to" books, seminars, conventions, pamphlets, etc. out there that deal with almost every topic under the sun. In fact there is even a great web site that shows one how to do most of everything. Click here to see for yourself.

    Now I am one that doesn't know a lot of information about much. In fact I know very little information about a lot of stuff. Which pretty much makes me dangerous. Don't ask me to come to your house to fix your plumbing, sew a hem on your pants, or help you train your dog to do tricks. I guarantee you, it would end up in a mess. I do know to how do the dishes though... (please don't ask me to help you with that)

    OK - I feel like I am rambling now. Back to the "how to's."

    In my head, I am always thinking on how to grow in Christ. So for fun, I thought I would check out the site to see if it could give me some good advice. Not really. Religious listing can be found here (with over 4,500 entries), but I wasn't satisfied. The closest thing I could get to actually growing in my Christian walk was found in this article on how to convert to Christianity.

    It's not what I was looking for.

    I guess, I should have known. The internet is good for a lot of things, but certainly not everything.

    Here are some basic principles that I have gathered through the years that, perhaps, would help you in your pursuit of Christ.

    1. The Word. First and foremost be in the Bible. Read the Bible. Pray the Bible. Share the Bible. Teach the Bible. Listen to the Bible. If you want to see Jesus, you must read the Word. I would suggest that most of us say that we are "lovers of the Word," but few of us actually live that out well. I don't want to guilt you into reading your Bible, but I do want to say that you will miss out on so much joy if you don't get into the Word.
    2. Exalt Christ. Many of you are probably saying, "Of course John. Duh." Let me must just say from my own personal experience that the draw of the things of this earth are so extreme it is very hard to keep a focus on exalting Christ. Of of life is about Christ and our goal should be to lift His name higher than any other name. When we do, it seems that the things of this earth are easier to deal with. Problems are easier. Life is easier. It's mainly because we aren't keeping our eyes focused on ourselves, but on Christ. Worship Him today. It will make your heart glad.
    3. Worship God in Every Area of Your Life. This is very different from item #2. Worshiping God in every area of our lives means to live doxologically. You know the hymn, work the lyrics of that song into your soul. Living doxological means to worship God in every moment of your life. When you are kissing your best friend - worship God. When you are riding your bike - worship God. When you are washing the dishes (did I say I wash dishes well?) - worship God. You get the picture here.
    4. Pray. Pray for everyone and everything. Bring it all to the Father. He hears and He cares. Bring every question, every thought, every concern, every tiff to your Father. Pray because we are at war. The devil prowls around ready to pounce. Have a stance of constant prayer puts us in the right mindset. Pray for your neighbors. Pray for your family. Pray for your school. Pray for your job. Pray for your spouse, or future spouse. To borrow the Nike phrase, "Just do it."
    5. Serve. Serving others helps us get our minds off of our own circumstances. As I have already noted, we get so bogged down by the stuff of earth. So do others. When we are serving someone else we quickly loose site of our own problems. We often forget to serve others. It's one of the hardest things to do, but once we do, we find that it actually was very easy. Serve someone today. If you need ideas, check out this book.
    6. Fellowship. Get together with your church family. Get together with someone's heart. Get to know me. I need to get to know you. Have people over for a meal, or dessert, or coffee, or a game night. It doesn't matter. Spend time together encouraging one another in a pursuit of Christ.

    Phil. 3:8 says "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ"

    So there are some thoughts on growing in Christ. Let me also say that growing or sanctification is not just your doing. The Holy Spirit is doing a lot "behind the scenes" in your life as well. Trust Him and He will lead you.

    Now - I need to figure out to change the coolant in my car...

  • Finding Your Sweet Spot

    Suzie

    “There are different kinds of gifts. But it is the same Holy Spirit Who gives them. There are different kinds of work to be done for Him. But the work is for the same Lord." 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NLV)

    This past year I fell into the Pinterest frenzy. My Christmas gifts were wrapped in burlap, tied with twine and adorned with decorative pinecones and silver snowflakes.

    I repurposed a hutch, painting it creamy white with grey edging.

    I happily pinned new recipes, remedies and decorating ideas to my boards in hopes of one day seeing them come to life.

    Well, that is, until my daughter surveyed my work on the hutch. She walked around it, one time, then again, shaking her head. And in her honest way she said, "Mom, sometimes you just have to know what your sweet spot is ... and what it isn't."

    The hutch was a Pinterest fail. The paint was streaky. There were brown spots shining through, and not in the cool, distressed way like in the picture. My burlap presents were a hit, but the amount of time it took ... did it really make me happy? I love cooking, but lettuce wraps with hoisin sauce? They were so bad I wondered if I'd picked up "poison" sauce instead.

    There's nothing wrong with learning something new, and if your sweet spot is repurposing furniture and making your home beautiful, I love that about you. But we often spend a lot of time trying to be something we aren't.

    In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church (you and me) as multi-faceted and uniquely gifted. We were designed differently on purpose so that we can come together to make a whole.

    What is your sweet spot? How has God gifted you for His purposes?

    Apparently I'm not the next decorating diva, but I am still gifted. Here are a few of my sweet spots:

    • Sitting in my living room and writing words to encourage others. • Teaching the Bible and seeing it come to life in the heart of a woman. • Making a hearty meal and having people around my table. • Dancing in the living room with my grandbabies.

    God can use these sweet spots for His purposes. In a devotion like this. Or opening my home to study the Bible with friends. God uses my unique design when I invite a neighbor or friend for dinner and board games after.

    And my dancing with my grandbabies? I love to think this sweet spot matters as I plant the joy of the Lord in their tender little hearts.

    How has God formed and fashioned you? If it's hospitality and making a home beautiful, then there are people who will be touched by that gift. If it's humor and laughter, then someone needs to find that joy, too. If it's teaching, teach. If it's dancing in the living room with your babies, then dance away.

    And then, together, let's use those sweet spots to draw people to a God who loves them and is waiting to reveal their gifting, too.

    Dear Lord, I've often compared myself to others, or underestimate what You can do through me. Today I offer up those things I love the best, and ask that You show me creative ways that I can use them to impact others for You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Brainstorm! Write down your sweet spots (those things you love or areas where you are naturally gifted), even if it seems insignificant.

    Then pray this prayer: God, I love You and I love {fill in the blank}. How can I use these two things to bring glory to You?

    Power Verses: Romans 12:6-8, "In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Holy Desire

    Boyd

    I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection and participation in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death. Philippians 3:10

    There are special people we would love to know better. Our spouse, our children, our parents, our siblings, our pastor and his wife, our friends and our co-workers, for a start. The deeper we know them and they know us, the richer our relationship. As our knowledge of one another grows, our trust and understanding grow. We appreciate and love noteworthy individuals with whom we have deep feelings and affection. A desire to go deep relationally pays rich rewards.

    What does this desire to dive below the surface of relationships look like? We know the names of those they love and care about. We pray with and for their wants and needs. We understand their heart: what motivates and frustrates, what causes fear and what brings joy. We love them in and through their weaknesses. We admire and celebrate their strengths. Robust relationships require a desire to develop intimacy during the good and bad times. It is a life long process of loving well.

    Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?'"(John 14:9)

    In the same way with holy desire, we pursue knowing Christ. Yet it takes more than time. It takes engagement and comprehension of our heavenly Father’s heart. The Holy Spirit draws our heart to His for us to listen and learn. The longing of every lover of the Lord is to know Him and to be known by Him. So, our passionate prayers rocket toward heaven like a space shuttle en route to orbit the earth. We crave Christ, because we are hungry and thirsty for His peaceful presence.

    Therefore, seek to know Jesus in resurrection power and in the pain and suffering of the cross. Your are in training for reigning in eternity. Any headwinds of adversity are an opportunity to go deeper with the One who calms the seas. You know you know Jesus when you live like He died: in deep fellowship with His heavenly Father. He forgave others for their ignorant indiscretions and He cared for those closest to Him. Holy desire for Christ, lives with Christ and like Christ.

    "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:13).

    Prayer: Dear Lord, my heart longs to know You as Christ knew You, in deep abiding faith.

    Related Readings: Psalm 20:6; 2 Corinthians 2:14, 4:6-14; Ephesians 1:9; 1 John 4:6-7

    Post/Tweet today: Headwinds of adversity are an opportunity to go deeper with the One who calms the seas. #holydesire

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Like Giving from Brad Formsma

    Brad

    The giving journey for Tracy Autler started on Thanksgiving Day 1993. Away from her family, living in an apartment on the lower end of town, a single mom to a three-year-old and eight months pregnant, she was relying on welfare and food stamps to get by. While other families were preparing for their Thanksgiving feasts, Tracy would do the best she could with canned food.

    Standing in her apartment and looking at the sparse collection of cans on her shelf, Tracy heard a knock at the door. What in the world? she thought. Who would be coming to her door on Thanksgiving Day? Weren’t people at home with their families, eating turkey and watching football?

    She opened her door and simply couldn’t believe her eyes. Standing there was a man from a local restaurant with a delivery for Tracy: a full Thanksgiving dinner, complete with all the trimmings. He said it was from an anonymous donor, and before Tracy could ask any questions, he handed it over and left. Tracy was so overwhelmed that she spent the rest of the day crying.

    Surprised and amazed, Tracy decided she needed to know whom to thank for this extravagant and timely gift. However, she couldn’t fi gure it out. She called her parents, but it wasn’t them. She asked her friends, but no one knew. Tracy couldn’t believe that someone outside her circle of friends and family had noticed her situation and done something about it without drawing any attention to himself.

    Years went by, and Tracy still had no idea whom the mysterious Thanksgiving dinner had come from. In time she moved out of that apartment and began working as a nurse at a local hospital.

    And then it happened. Seven years after that special Thanksgiving meal, a woman named Margot was admitted into Tracy’s care. Margot had multiple sclerosis, and her condition was becoming critical. Tracy remembered Margot from her time on welfare. She had lived in the same apartment building as Tracy. It was clear that Margot didn’t have much longer to live.

    Three days before her death, Margot took Tracy’s hand in hers and, in a frail voice, whispered two words: “Happy Thanksgiving.”

    In that moment Tracy knew who had given her that Thanksgiving dinner. She would never have guessed that Margot—the unassuming neighbor with multiple sclerosis—was behind that generous gift. Tracy still gets tears in her eyes when she tells the story today.

    I’d call that story “I Like My Neighbor.” Margot saw Tracy’s situation that Thanksgiving Day and did something extraordinary—she gave her the perfect gift without anyone asking her to and without asking for anything in return.

    That one gift had a massive impact on Tracy’s life. Moved by the anonymous donor’s generosity, Tracy purposed in her heart to do generous things for other people too. The very day she got off assistance, she took a basket of gifts down to the welfare office for anyone to take. The welfare officer was stunned. Can you imagine the look on his face? Who does something like that?

    And that was just the beginning. Since then, Tracy and her husband have become foster parents and adopted a son. She regularly looks for opportunities to give. The last time I heard from her, she was getting ready to volunteer her Saturday afternoon at the local Humane Society. One of her latest ideas is to leave fi ve-dollar Starbucks gift cards with little notes for her coworkers to fi nd, just to make their day better. This year Tracy and her family made a New Year’s resolution to find one hundred opportunities to give to other people. How inspiring is that?

    What I appreciate most about Tracy is that she doesn’t do her giving to be noticed by others. Since that Thanksgiving Day in 1993, she has discovered the joy that comes from giving. Now she’s hooked. She doesn’t give to make herself look good—she gives because she likes giving. It makes her feel more alive. “It’s how life should be,” she says.

    There is something incredible about giving when it’s our idea. Opening our eyes and ears to the people around us and asking “How can we give?” is a profoundly life-giving and satisfying way to live. One of Jesus’s ideas was that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I have found that to be true. The generous life is the only life worth living.

    Just imagine—what if every single person on the planet woke up and, like Tracy, looked for ways to give? What sort of world could we create through the simple, powerful decision to live generously? Whoever you are, no matter how much or how little you have to share, making the decision to give regularly to others—daily, weekly, or monthly—will enrich your life and change the lives of the people around you.

    When we choose to give, we change, and the people around us change. When we move from awareness to action, miracles happen. When we allow giving to be our idea, a world of possibilities opens up before us, and we discover new levels of joy. If you, like Tracy, get hooked on giving, you’ll find yourself asking, “How generous can I be?” When that happens, you’ll realize that, not only are you loving life more than ever, but you’re also a part of creating a more generous world—a world that is better for all of us. If you haven’t ever experienced the joy of giving, or it’s been a long time, this book will show you where to start. We will walk with you as you take your first steps, and we’ll stick with you as you grow in the art of generosity.

    Or if you’re nodding your head right now, saying, “I’ve known this for years,” then we’re here to encourage you to keep growing and to empower you to spread the joy. We never arrive. I’ve been discovering the joy of generous living for many years, and I still feel as if I’m just getting started!

    The best things in life are like that—they grow and never end.


    Excerpted from I Like Giving by Brad Formsma Copyright © 2014 by Brad Formsma. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

  • Today's New Releases (2/11/14)


    The middle of February brings out some great new releases. New books, new music and new DVDs. There is enough here for your whole family to enjoy, for personal growth or to give as a gift of encouragement.

    WOW Gospel 2014

    Filled with songs that lived at the top of the gospel radio charts in 2013, this double CD set is chock full of hits, including songs from Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp, Tasha Cobbs, Deitrick Haddon, Lecrae and more. WOW Gospel 2014 is a must-have for fans of modern worship music, and it's perfect for singing along to all year!

    Don't forget the companion DVD as well.

    Grace Unplugged

    In Grace Unplugged, Grace Trey aspires to more than just singing at her church, where the worship leader is her former pop-star father. With the help of Mossy, her dad's former manager, Grace records a cover version of her dad's old Top-10 hit, runs off to Los Angeles and begins to experience the kind of fame she's always dreamed about.

    Stardom offers Grace a hit song - but will the fame be too much for Grace to handle and blind her faith? Or will she rediscover it? Starring actress and musician A. J. Michalka, Grace Unplugged is an inspiring story about chasing your dreams.

    Soundtrack for the movie can be found here.

    The Storm Inside

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith.

    In The Storm Inside, you will find strength in the most profound truths - that you are always a child of God no matter how you feel. This simple teaching will be the difference between a life of joy and one of despair. Sheila powerfully reminds us that God offers no guarantee of a life without storms, but He does provide the strength and grace to make it through them.

    Glory

    When a band’s first priority is to declare God’s glory through song, it doesn’t worry too much about fitting into one particular genre of music. Perhaps that’s why some fans have alternating definitions of Kutless, the best-selling rock . . . , no, worship . . . no, rock/worship hit makers from Portland, OR. On the inspiring new studio album Glory, its eighth with BEC Recordings, a perfect balance is struck as lead singer Jon Micah Sumrall, guitarists James Mead and Nick de Partee, and drummer Kyle Peek celebrate with electrifying abandon not their collective identity but the mighty name of Jesus.

    “Our goal with Glory was simply to worship louder and clearer than ever before,” de Partee says of the amped up and sometimes stripped down set. “We felt led to create original songs that could be sung on an acoustic guitar in a Bible study or in an arena with the masses shouting God’s praises.”

    Kutless kicks off 2014 with Glory, featuring the single "You Alone." Continuing their transformation from "new band" to established act that began with 2012's Believer, the album showcases the band's massive range, featuring a more mature tone and stunning performances.

    Crash the Chatterbox

    Inside your head and heart is a chatterbox. Its lies are keeping you from realizing your God-given potential. What can you do about it? In Crash the Chatterbox: Hearing God's Voice Above All Others, Pastor Steven Furtick focuses on four key areas in which negative thoughts are most debilitating: insecurity, fear, condemnation and discouragement. He asks, "What great deeds are in danger of remaining undone in your life because of lies that were planted in your past or fears that are looming in your future?"

    With personal stories, inspiring examples, and practical strategies, Pastor Furtick shows you how to silence the lies and embrace the freeing affirmation of God. You'll learn how to crash the chatterbox - and hear God’s voice above all others.

    City Harbor

    City Harbor presents their debut, self-titled album, featuring their first radio single, "Come However You Are." The duo of Molly Reed and Robby Earle brings a unique creative, organic pop sound, which skillfully showcases their songwriting, dual lead vocals and playing. The songs on City Harbor come from a desire to know Christ and to make Christ known to the world around.

    Besides the new releases, there are plenty of prebuy opportunities as well. New music from MercyMe and Francesca Battistelli. New DVD from VeggieTales and a new movie from Kirk Cameron. Click here to see them all.

  • The Relentless Love Affair

    John

    Oh my. The relentless pursuit of Christ for His Bride. We can look at ourselves all we want. We can dress ourselves all we want. We can spend on ourselves all we want. We can work ourselves all we want. But nothing. Nothing will make us look any better than what we are.

    AND YET.

    And yet in the midst of all of our contradictions, Jesus, who knows everything about us, says that we are His.

    Last night we talked about how God's fierce love for His Bride is often found in discipline. We often will react to God's discipline in a negative way, but it's really His discipline that is also His grace. This is what Hosea was sharing with Gomer, or Israel rather. God was issuing a call of repentance. For He has loved her with an everlasting love. One that could not be shaken or disturbed. This was a promise He made first with Adam, then Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Isaiah, Hosea and culminated in Christ.

    In Hosea 2:19, God says to Israel that He will betroth her to Him. Forever. That in Him is found righteousness, justice, steadfast love, mercy and faithfulness. And these attributes are found in the robe of Christ. This very robe that He puts around us. In the midst of our sin, we washes us with His robe. So that now we can walk as Peter tell us in 1 Peter 2.

    You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received God's mercy, but now you have received mercy.

    Praise God for who He is and what He has done for us!

  • Creative Reminders to Pray

    Wendy

    "I will pray morning, noon, and night, pleading aloud with God; and he will hear and answer." Psalm 55:17 (TLB)

    Why is it so easy to remember every word to my favorite 80's songs, but so hard to remember to pray for others?

    There have been many times when I've told a friend, "Yes, I will pray for you." Then time goes by and that promise slips my mind. Guilt fills my heart as days later I remember the forgotten prayer request.

    My heart's desire is to pray with purpose for each person and every need because I know God listens. The psalmist knew this too, and wrote these words in Psalm 55:17, "I will pray morning, noon, and night, pleading aloud with God; and he will hear and answer."

    That's my intention too. Unfortunately, life's busy schedule and my dwindling memory keep me from praying the way I want to.

    So I asked the Lord to help me in this area. And He answered that prayer in an unusual way.

    For some strange reason, I have the uncanny ability to remember the make and model of my friends' cars. God used this ability to help me generate prayer prompters. Seeing the make and model of a friend's car prompts me to pray for them.

    But God didn't stop there. He also showed me how to use other prayer prompters besides cars. Maybe my list will help you generate your own prayer prompts.

    • A red Honda minivan: Renee Swope and family (She used to drive one) • When my ears ring: Lysa TerKeurst (She had some damage to one ear) • Leopard print: Lisa Allen (She loves leopard print) • Purple, especially pens: Sharon Sloan (She loves purple) • Fog or low lying clouds: Kristi Butler (We call low lying clouds the glory of the Lord) • Wonderful, Merciful Savior: My former pastor (It is one of his favorite songs)

    There are many ways we can remember to pray. Enter prayer requests as an appointment on your phone with an alarm to remind you. Write names and requests on a calendar to pray on specific days for specific people. Keep a notebook with you and record prayer requests.

    Prayer prompts make it easier to pray morning, noon and night as the psalmist did. We can use red minivans or reminders on the calendar. Whenever the Holy Spirit prompts us to pray, God will hear and answer. Our prayers don't have to be long, with big and lofty words. We just have to remember and pray with a sincere heart.

    Dear Lord, I know that You hear and answer prayers morning, noon and night. Help me to be faithful to pray. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Think of one person you want to pray for faithfully. Ask God for a prayer prompt for this person.

    Purchase a spiral notebook to keep as a prayer journal. Ask God to help you fill it.

    Power Verses: 1 Thessalonians 5:17, "Pray without ceasing." (ESV)

    James 5:16b, "The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with." (The Message)

    © 2014 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

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