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  • Scurrying or Seated?

    Karen

    "She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations." Luke 10:39-40 (NASB)

    I glanced at the clock on the wall. How was it 11:45 already? Where had the time gone? It was nearly noon and I wasn't even halfway through my to-do list for the morning.

    My day had started hours earlier when I had bounded out of bed with a goal of knocking off a bevy of tasks around the house, on the computer and in my little hometown. Scrawled out on a baby-blue legal pad, my plan included things to cook, calls to make and errands to run.

    I'd started whittling down my list as soon as my family left for school and work. Now at mid-day, I still had four or five items left undone and no way to accomplish them before my 1 p.m. dentist appointment to get a crown on my tooth.

    My spirit sank. What's my problem? I wondered. Did I underestimate how long each task would take? Or did I overestimate my ability to execute them quickly? Or, perhaps, it was a little bit of both.

    I also hadn't factored in the interruptions. A text from my daughter needing help on a tax form. An email from a friend wanting a recipe for company coming over later that day. A neighbor whose computer was on the blink and needed to borrow ours to make an order online. More distractions and delays.

    A little nervous about my dentist appointment, I called my friend Mary to ask for prayer. As we visited, I shared the details of my frustrating morning, and asked how her day was going. She replied that she hadn't completed what she'd hoped to either, concluding, "But I had a good long time alone with God this morning praying and reading my Bible which is what I needed most, so it's okay."

    My heart sank as I realized my problem: I hadn't taken time for the most important detail of the day. Spending time with God wasn't even on my radar. Maybe if I had spent time with the Lord I wouldn't have felt so much frustration at my lack of productivity.

    Our key verse today tells of another woman who put chores ahead of spending time with Jesus. The story in Luke 10 tells of two sisters and how they spent their time when Jesus came to visit. Martha was busy scurrying to get to the end of her "to-do list," but Mary chose a different path. She settled herself at Jesus' feet, soaking in His words and His presence.

    Later on we read that when Martha complained to the Lord that Mary wasn't helping her, He replied, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42, NASB).

    There's no doubt Martha's sister Mary also had things to do. So did my friend Mary. But in the case of each Mary, they chose to do the best thing first: position themselves where they could clearly hear from the Lord.

    Perhaps today we can set aside our to-do lists until we've mimicked the Marys. Let's vow to meet with God before we attempt to meet the challenges of the day. Yes, maybe that's the key. Let's stop scurrying and be seated instead.

    There is always plenty of room at His feet.

    Dear Lord, help me to take time today to meet with You before I try to tackle the tasks of the day. Give me the perspective that You are more important than my never-ending list of tasks. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Can you remember a time when you didn't get to the end of your to-do list? Now, think back. Did you have a time alone with God that day? How, if so, how did it make a difference?

    Power Verse: Psalm 27:8, "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'" (ESV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • God With Us

    Boyd

    And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth. John 1:14, Amplified Bible

    Just as the Lord dwelt with His people in the tabernacle of worship, so He also came to earth and tabernacled with us in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He gave us the gift of His presence. It is soothing to our souls and brings security to our hearts when Jesus is present. In the same way the presence of a parent calms a fearful child, so Christ encouraged those around Him with the grace of His healing and truth of His teaching. God is with us for us to be with Him.

    Furthermore, the tabernacle was where the Lord revealed the fullness of His glory. Jesus was and is the totality of God’s glory. He came to earth as our Savior to show us the character of Almighty God. He displayed love to society’s outcasts. He extended mercy and hope to the downtrodden. He rebuked the greedy rich and praised the generous poor. He comforted the dying, healed the sick, and raised the dead back to life. God is with us to reveal Himself to us.

    “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:9-10, NKJV).

    Moreover, the tabernacle was a place of sacrifice. Jesus came to earth as the final sacrifice for our sins. The perfect Lamb of God, without spot or blemish, wiped clean our blemished soul by His precious blood. What an unparalleled sacrifice from the One without sin on behalf of sinners. Thus, we follow our Lord’s example by offering ourselves as a living and spiritual sacrifice by praising and servicing Him. God is with us to convict our sin, and He is our strength not to sin.

    Lastly, the tabernacle was the place to meet with God. After the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, we’ve become privileged to continually dwell with Christ, today in real-time. Indeed, His presence is not confined to buildings made by human hands, but His Spirit lives within us by faith. Do you meet with your Maker in prayer so you are better prepared to meet your Maker in death? Just a little talk with Jesus goes a long way towards walking in His will. God is with us to draw our hearts to Him in loving obedience.

    “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for living among us, so we can learn how to live for You.

    Related Readings: Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7-8; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 1:1

    Post/Tweet today: We meet with our Maker in prayer, so we are better prepared to meet our Maker in death. #Godwithus

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Blog Summary for February 2014

    Here are the most popular blog posts as read by you. Thank you for following us!

    Diving Deep with Casting Crowns

    Like a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:7-8) we should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    I caught up with Mark, Melody and Juan from Casting Crowns at a summer festival this year. I wanted them to feel me in on their new album and what has been going on in their life as a band.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    I had gotten into trouble my senior summer. Financial trouble, trouble with other people, trouble with women – I was just running myself into a dead end. So I’m thinking, “I’m seventeen, let me do the mature, adult thing, and go to church.” Grandma was a Christian so the roots of the foundation I had established of the Christian God were through my grandmother. And that was where I needed to go. By grace, there was a young lady that I went to high school with that invited me to a Bible study. I went, and I had never seen Christians who dressed like me or talked like me, so I thought they were Martians from another planet! When I saw them, I said, “Oh you guys are human!” They loved me genuinely and that’s really what started it.

    To read the full interview, click here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    Read our full interview here.

    Saying "I Love You"

    Many people say that Valentines Day is a made up holiday, put in place by the greeting card companies of the world. Well, truth be told, I don't care. It is a day to help us remember to say "I love you" to those around us. Taking the time each day to show love is certainly important, but it's also fun to get caught up in a holiday such as this day.

    So how do you say "I love you" to someone you love? Perhaps it's packing two cookies in the kid's school lunch. Maybe it's a surprise delivery of flowers for your spouse at work. Maybe it's even a call to your mother-in-law. How do you say "I love you?"

    Read the full blog post here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    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. With

    Read the full blog post here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.

    Skillet. The Rock Band That Doesn't Quit

    Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old—known as Panheads—whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).

    As soon as the master was turned in to the studio to finish post production on the new album, I sat down with John Cooper (lead singer) to talk through what was behind Rise. As you will see, while reading this, John is a passionate man. He is passionate about his music. His wife. His family. About Christ.

    Read the full interview here.

    Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    Read the full interview here.

    So which blog post was your favorite? Is there an author or an artist that you would like us to interview? Leave a comment below and let us know.

  • I'm Scared to Pray Boldly

    Lysa

    "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16b (NIV)

    I have to admit I'm sometimes scared to pray boldly.

    It's not at all that I don't believe God can do anything. I absolutely do. I'm a wild-about-Jesus girl. Wild in my willingness. Wild in my obedience. Wild in my adventures with God.

    After all, I think Jesus would rather rein in a wild stallion than kick a dead mule any day of the week.

    So, my hesitation isn't rooted in any kind of doubt about God. It's more rooted in doubts about myself and my ability to absolutely discern the will of God. The reality is sometimes God chooses not to do things. And if His will is no, while I am boldly praying for a yes, it makes me feel out of step with God.

    Can you relate?

    I so desperately want to stay in the will of God that I find myself praying with clauses sometimes, like: God please heal my friend, but if it's Your will to take her, I will trust You.

    I wonder why I don't just boldly pray: God, please heal my friend. And then stand confidently knowing my prayers were not in vain no matter what the outcome.

    The reality is, my prayers don't change God. But I am convinced prayer changes me. Praying boldly boots me out of that stale place of religious habit into authentic connection with God Himself.

    Prayer opens my spiritual eyes to see things I can't see on my own. And I'm convinced prayer matters. Prayers are powerful and effective if prayed from the position of a righteous heart (James 5:16).

    So, prayer does make a difference — a life-changing, mind-blowing, earth-rattling difference. We don't need to know how. We don't need to know when. We just need to kneel confidently and know the tremors of a simple Jesus girl's prayers extend far wide and far high and far deep.

    Letting that absolute truth slosh over into my soul snuffs out the flickers of hesitation. It bends my stiff knees. And it ignites a fresh, bold and even more wild fire within. Not bold as in bossy and demanding. But bold as in I love my Jesus with all my heart, so why would I offer anything less than an ignited prayer life?

    Jesus speaks specifically about igniting our prayer lives in Matthew 6, verses 6-8, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (NIV).

    So let's ask. And ask again. Not so that we can cause God to move, rather so that we can position our souls to be able to see our sweet Jesus move in any which way He pleases.

    Dear Lord, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to bring all of my worries and cares to You. Thank You for providing me with exactly what I need. I trust that You have my best interest in mind today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: How have you been praying lately? In boldness or in timidity? Why?

    Write down three bold prayers you would like to pray today. Pray them again tomorrow. And again the next day. Pray them for the next month even. And know with full assurance that the tremors of your prayers will extend far wide and far high and far deep. Pray and wait for God to respond.

    Power Verse: Psalm 145:18, "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Life Giving Light

    Boyd

    In Him [Jesus] was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness,and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

    Light gives life. It makes things grow. Plants and flowers bend toward the sun to gain needed nourishment. Photosynthesis is the process of converting light energy into chemical energy that can be released later for the organism’s growth. A green house becomes a brown house if moved into the darkness of a cave. It needs light for its budding vegetation to thrive. Yes, darkness cannot extinguish light and Jesus is ever present by faith to shine into a soul’s dark night.

    In a manner similar to photosynthesis, the light of the Lord’s love shines on a lost soul and converts it by grace through faith, providing spiritual nourishment. Just as vitamin D is absorbed by the body when exposed to the sun of God, so the spiritual vitamin F (faith), is soaked up by the soul when exposed to the Son of God. We are wise when we pray in the Spirit for the eyes of our heart to be enlightened, as we meditate on Scripture. Biblical truths are an eternal flame of faith.

    “They grope in darkness with no light” (Job 12:25).

    Just as John the Baptist was not the light, but was sent to reveal the light, so we are like proud Olympic torch bearers for the Almighty. We who have the light of God living in our life, shine beacons of light to those groping in darkness. Even shining a single ray of light may give another courage needed to take the next step of faith. A smile, a kind word or a Bible verse can shed light. A gentle spirit, a humble heart or self control can all reveal Christ’s life.

    Does the light of your heart glow by grace, does it flicker with doubt or is it turned off by fear and unbelief? Regardless, stay engaged with the Lord as your source of power, so you burn brightly for Him. Your consistent time with Christ and His followers charges your soul and sets you ablaze for Him. Faith on fire burns away the dross of doubt, so you glow for God. Avoid those whose spiritual apathy quenches your flame, instead seek out the true light found in Christ.

    “For with You is the fountain of life;in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, may the light of Your love burn brightly in my life.

    Related Readings: Job 29:3; Psalm 18:28; John 8:12, 12:46; Acts 3:15; Revelation 1:18

    Post/Tweet today: Faith on fire burns away the dross of doubt, so we glow for God. #lifegivinglight

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • When the Storms Rage and the Winds Blow

    Sharon

    "... we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul ..." Hebrews 6:18b-19a (ESV)

    The howling, frigid wind whipped and beat the house mercilessly. The old spruce tree bent and screeched against the siding so loudly I couldn't go back to sleep.

    The ferocious storm raging outdoors matched the fierceness of the ones that had been buffeting my family for months. Storm after storm had hit us with no breathing room in between. Our son-in-law's heart surgery. My father-in-law's cancer diagnosis. Our daughter totaled one of our cars. Our only other car broke down. My husband's lingering kidney stone. Bills piling higher and higher. And the list went on ...

    My heart was tossed back and forth. Would our son-in-law's heart condition improve? Could my father-in-law's strength hold up through treatment? Worry battered my weary soul against the rocks of reality. What if Dale needed surgery? How would we pay off this mounting debt

    I lay awake pleading with the Lord for safety, reprieve and encouragement. Not from the storm outside my window, but from the one in my heart.

    Perhaps my pleading was similar to what Jesus' disciples did when they were in a boat and a windstorm suddenly came on the lake. As the boat filled with water, they wondered why Jesus continued to sleep and didn't respond to the raging storm as quickly as they wanted.

    The disciples feared the potential outcome of the storm. They pleaded with Jesus to help them — and He did (Luke 8:24, ESV).

    He calmed the storm and then asked, "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25a, ESV).

    I felt that same desperation that night as I called for Jesus' help with a questioning heart: Why? Why does it have to be so hard Jesus? The storms have been unrelenting. Instead of an answer, I sensed a question in return: Where is your faith?

    The question prompted an honest assessment of where I'd been putting my trust. The depth of my worry revealed I'd misplaced it. When the storms rage and the winds blow, and they will, my faith needs to be in Jesus, not the outcome of my circumstances.

    Hebrews 6:18a-19b tells us "... we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul ..."

    If we compare ourselves to a ship and the hardships of life to storms, then hope is the anchor that keeps us from being shipwrecked. But an anchor is dependent on two things: the cable that tethers it to the ship, and the solid ground.

    The cable connecting us to hope is faith ... an assurance of Jesus' love, goodness and power. Our faith believes He still speaks to storms and with a word, can calm them. Faith is being confident that His promises will carry us through this life safely into an eternity spent with Him. Now that's hopeful!

    And the ground to which our anchors need to be fixed? That is Jesus. He is firm and unchanging. As the waves rise and the winds howl, sometimes it's tempting to pull away from Him, especially when we ask, Why? But storms are opportunities to dig deeper in to our relationship with Jesus through reading and memorizing Scripture, and praying to and worshipping Him.

    The storms will rage, and the winds will blow. But to believe in the middle of it all, to have faith that leads to hope in Jesus, that's the secret to riding out the storms in life.

    Today, if circumstances and worry are tossing you about, cast your anchor of hope into Jesus and pray for the faith to believe His promises are true. He is powerful enough to calm your storms and keep you safe.

    Lord, help keep my eyes on You in the middle of the strongest storms. Increase my faith in You, in eternal things and be my hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What causes you to lose hope in the storms of life? Ask a few friends or family members to share with you about a difficult time that Jesus brought them through.

    Find a Bible verse to memorize that encourages your faith in Jesus.

    Power Verse: Hebrews 11:1, "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Community Divine

    Boyd

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1

    From the very beginning God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit have lived in community. There has never been a time they have not known each other and worked together. In fellowship all three collaborated and created the universe with human beings as the pinnacle of their creation. Their dynamic and divine relationship initiated the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God the Son left His divine community in heaven to grow a righteous community on earth.

    Indeed, the Trinity communes together in a love relationship as a model to all Jesus followers. We who know Christ are called into fellowship with one another. Together in awe, we submit to worship our loving and holy heavenly Father. Collectively we pray in the power of the Holy Spirit our counselor, comforter, and guide in life. And with great joy, we make known Jesus, the Savior of our soul to all who might believe and receive into their heart the Word made flesh!

    “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ,and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

    Moreover, the community of Christ followers gathers the first day of the week to worship with His church. You may say, "Can’t I be a Christian and not attend church?" Yes, of course. However, anyone serious in their commitment to Jesus will invest time with His bride the church. Being in community with other believers is about unselfish service, teaching and learning God’s word, joyful praise and worship, and remembering Christ’s love for us in corporate holy communion.

    Furthermore, seek regularly to commune with the holy Trinity in love and adoration. Your sweet fellowship with the Father, Son and Spirit spills over into something special with your Christian friends. Community with the divine develops the divine within your intimate relationships. Perhaps you volunteer annually for a season of service at your church. Host a small group Bible study in your home or engage in a regular group prayer meeting. Gather together and you will become better. This is God’s will which He has modeled from the beginning with His Son and Spirit.

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me to live the example of the Trinity in sweet fellowship with other followers of Jesus.

    Related Readings: Isaiah 48:16; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 4:4-6; Hebrews 9:14; 1 John 1:3

    Post/Tweet today: We become better when we gather together in community with other Christ followers. #communitydivine

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Very Best Kind of Correction

    Lynn

    "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights." Proverbs 3:12 (NASB)

    "This is going to hurt a bit." Not exactly what you want to hear when someone has her hands in your mouth, even if she is a lovely person.

    Holding up the tiny loopy band, the orthodontist assistant tries to comfort me with the promise of results, "This power chain is going to pull your teeth together quicker. But over the next few days you are going to hurt. We need the power chain to correct your gap; to get your teeth where you want them to be."

    Wearing braces as an adult is bad enough, but some days I wonder if the pain is worth the benefits to my teeth.

    There are days when I open up God's Word and He delivers the same message as the orthodontist assistant: "This is going to hurt a bit, but the power of My Word working on your heart will help get you to a healthy place."

    Hurt a bit? What kind of pain are we talking about here?

    "The pain of correction," God answers.

    As an example, God points out my worrying heart. His Word says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6, NIV). Retraining my thoughts can be a painful progress. Prayer requires discipline instead of allowing my thoughts to naturally gravitate toward worry.

    God has more for me. He lovingly compares the rigid way I responded to my child in the rush of the school morning with His way, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1, NIV). I am challenged to ask my child for forgiveness and choose gentleness instead of anger.

    He carefully draws my attention to the thoughts I allowed to brew about a rude email. "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8, NIV). If my thoughts about her are not true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable, He says they must go.

    My heart squirms. Though I don't want to, my mind wonders: Is the discipline needed to change going to be worth it? Other times shame tries to find a corner in my heart: You know better; you should be past this point.

    Then I remember today's verse, "For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:12). My Father God corrects me because He knows I want to be a woman who honors Him. To become that woman there is going to be discomfort and sometimes pain involved.

    The phrases, "whom the Lord loves" and "in whom he delights" provide relief and encouragement when God's Word sets the power chain of correction into motion. My Father dearly loves me; He is crazy about me! As I dearly love and enjoy my children, the Father loves and enjoys me, only more so!

    This is the message I have to speak to my heart when it says God wants me to suffer because He is mad or disappointed in me. Not so. He wants what is best for me, including doing what it takes to grow more like Him.

    Lord, it can be hard to equate Your correction with Your love. Keep my heart soft and my mind open as I read Your Word. Discipline me because of Your devotion to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Do you struggle to equate God's correction with God's love? Make this a point of prayer with your Father God today. Ask Him to open your heart and mind to receive His love.

    In what area of your life is God applying correction?

    Power Verses: Job 5:17, "Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty." (NIV)

    Hebrews 12:6, "because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Spiritual Cycles

    Boyd

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. Ecclesiastes 3:1

    Some start their spiritual quest with a sense of inquiry. Who is God? What is my purpose? Is the Bible true? How do I deal with my guilt and pain? It is a cycle of seeking. We have more questions than answers. We look for answers in the church and within our heart. We question individuals about their faith and we pray for faith. In our seeking the Holy Spirit draws us into a belief in Christ and we are converted. We find Jesus in our search for spiritual answers.

    After our life changing and life giving salvation experience, we share the answers we have discovered with spiritual fervor. We have the solution to life’s greatest questions of sin, sorrow and death. We are able to say with confidence and gratitude,  "Once I was spiritually blind, but now I can see my Savior." This cycle of discovery brings peace to our mind and security to our soul. Since our faith is fresh and intoxicating, we are we wise to balance our zeal with depth.

    “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers” (Psalm 1:3).

    A third spiritual cycle expresses doubts and questions. Like John the Baptist in prison we ask, "Is Jesus really the son of God?" We seriously question our salvation, "Did I really believe or only have an emotional experience?" This time of honest evaluation can draw us closer to Christ or cause us to drift away. We are vulnerable to the disappointment of unanswered prayer. A test is meant to grow our trust in Jesus. This phase of uncertainty invites reassurance of God’s reality.

    Lastly, by God’s grace we graduate to the spiritual stage of healthy questions and answers. The more we mature in the faith, the more we realize the less we know. So, in a spirit of humility we seek to know and understand Jesus in oneness of heart. We inquire of the Lord to clarify how to apply His character to our behavior. We accept 100% the fundamentals of the faith, but we hunger to know the fullness of our heavenly Father’s love. Prayerful questions receive hopeful answers. In what cycle do you find yourself? Let God move you forward by faith in His loving process.

    “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing” (Ezekiel 34:26).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Holy Spirit in Your seasons of spiritual growth.

    Related Readings: Exodus 34:21; Daniel 2:21; Matthew 11:2-6; Acts 14:17; Titus 1:3

    Post/Tweet today: Personal faith in Jesus brings peace to our mind and security to our soul. #spiritualseasons

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

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

  • Shedding Light On the Story

    John

    Several years ago, when Matthew West invited people to share their stories to serve as inspiration for an upcoming album, he had no idea it would be the start of an amazing journey that would forever change his music, ministry and life. Armed with more than 10,000 stories from fans all over the world, the floodgates of inspiration opened and West crafted a landmark album, The Story of Your Life. Suddenly people were given a voice and a chance for their stories to be heard. It started a powerful wave that continues with even greater momentum on West’s new album Into the Light.

    “On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”

    I ran into Matthew at a recent festival and we decided to talk over what has been happening in his life.

    John:               Matthew, on your album The Story of Your Life you had letter after letter, story after story filling you with ideas for a new record. You went back to all those letters that were written to you and continued to go through that process of writing songs based on what people were telling you.

    Matthew:       Sort of, yes.  Well, what’s interesting is instead of going back to all the stories that I had read, the stories never stopped coming in, and so I really didn’t plan on making more than one record of songs inspired by peoples’ stories, but what happened is, after the first 10,000 or so came in, I release The Story of Your Life, which had songs like “My Own Little World” and “Strong Enough.

    What I began to notice is that as one story is told, two more were coming out and saying, “Okay, I want to tell my story now,” and people just began to come out of the woodwork, and at my concerts, it still happens now, at the end of a concert, I’ll go back to the bus with a handful of handwritten stories, and I began to just really feel it press upon me that what was happening by not just putting out a CD, but to put out a CD of songs really putting a new emphasis on, hey, these are the every day true stories of peoples’ lives was beginning to stir something within people, and it really kind of began to refine what I feel my calling is, which is to encourage and empower people to realize that God has a unique one-of-a-kind story that He’s telling through each and every life.

    In the last three years, we’ve received well over 25,000 stories.  In fact, I was just showing my friend this morning some new stories that had just come in, so I can read stories every day, and in many ways, this has just become … it’s not really volume two or volume three.  This is just part of my process now, and I've made a promise that as long as people share their stories with me, I’ll read their stories and turn as many of them as I can into hopefully inspiring music that will challenge and inspire other people.

    John:               Matthew, when read the stories, do you ever feel like a huge weight on your shoulders?  I mean, do you feel like, “Oh my goodness, these people are just pouring their hearts out to me.”  How do you …

    Let me just backtrack a year.  A friend of mine, he works in the ER, and there is a process you kind of have to go through as … things, for different patients that were kind of coming in that didn’t go the way the family were all hoping it would go.  I’m sure you encounter those same type of situations where you’re getting a story that is just like … this is wrong.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               How do you deal with that?

    Matthew:       I think it’s funny you mentioned someone who works in a hospital, or I think at one point in time, we could all say we’ve had a doctor that maybe didn’t have the best bedside manner, or maybe they seemed cold or distant, and I think I've begun to understand how maybe there is that need for a doctor to separate his own personal emotions from a heartbreaking story because he’s seeing it so often.

    And yet, what I've noticed is in my reading, as a songwriter, you’re not a good songwriter if you’re not completely connected with all of your heart when you’re writing that song.  I’m not really afforded that luxury of detaching myself from any emotion.  I have to be running full-speed ahead towards that and embracing what people are writing to me, and I think the only way I can really answer how that’s been able to happen is just I feel like God has really given me different eyes to see these stories.

    What I mean by that is the vast majority of the stories that come in, I’m not going to lie … people will … what I've realized is when you ask somebody “What’s your story?  What was the defining moment in your story?” very few people are going to point to the money in their bank account or their college diploma or what kind of puppy they had when they were growing up.  Instead, they’re going to talk about some of the most difficult moments of their lives or their battle with cancer, or their financial trouble, or their marital trouble, or the abuse they suffered as a child.

    You’re exactly right.  One by one, I've read stories that can be seen as heartbreaking, and yet somehow, some way, and this is no joke, in every story I read, what I can sense is God is still at work, and just in the fact that that person wrote to me, even if that person is writing to me saying, “I’m struggling to see where there’s any hope in my story,” the fact that they’re writing means that they’re searching, means that they’re reaching out, and so while it may be at different stages, God is at work in each and every one of these stories, and his work is not finished yet.

    I really feel like my job is to extract the hope from these stories and to be accurate and authentic with what I’m writing about.  For example, there’s a song on my CD.  It’s called “Two Houses” inspired by a teenage girl who’s dealing with the reality that her Dad just up and walked out, and now she’s having to go back and forth and learn what life and love and trust and all those words are starting to kind of be redefined for her.  Well, I’m not going to just tie a bow on that story and just make it neatly wrapped like the end of a Brady Bunch episode, but I want to be authentic and real and genuine, and yet just as real with the pain, I want to be just as real and authentic with the hope that I believe we all have no matter where we’re at in our stories, and that hope comes from one source, and that’s the hope we have in Christ that he somehow, some way, works all things for the good.

    John:               So life is not summed up in a Brady Bunch episodes.

    Matthew:       It is not, and I’ll tell you what, I’m 25,000 stories and counting.  I’m reading, and I’m realizing that, man, people walk in the doors of the church, and everybody’s trying real hard to act like they’ve got it all together.  These stories I've read, I didn’t advertise that I was collecting stories in People magazine.  There were no posters in bars downtown.  These were people who walk into family Christian stores.  These are people who listen to Christian radio stations or go to church on Sunday, and yet they’re carrying some pretty heavy weight.  They’re carrying some difficult parts of their story, and many of them are struggling to figure out how to move on and how to find healing for those broken places in their story.

    In many ways, I feel like these songs that are coming out of the experience have become sort of a soundtrack for broken people and kind of realizing that, man, there’s community here, and it’s not the fake “everybody’s got it all together” community.  What if it was, “hey, we don’t have it all together, but we all have a story to tell, and we realize that God loves us, and he's not finished with our story yet.”  That’s what fires me up to make music this way.

    John:               You’re a dad … are you a dad?

    Matthew:       I am a dad, yeah, two kids.

    John:               You’re married.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               You’re …

    Matthew:       You’ve got … like how many kids do you have?  Like 12?

    John:              You’re a successful singer/songwriter.  You’re nationally known.  Your face is on a can of Pepsi (so is Franny's, Matt Maher's, and TobyMac's - but still!).

    Matthew:       (laughs) Yes, it is.  I’m infamous, as the Three Amigos once said.

    John:               Infamous.  When … talk to the average Joe who’s just … you know, he's living life, and maybe he’s married, maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’s a single dad, single mom, whatever, and college student, just trying to get through life, and looks at you and says, “Oh yeah, Matthew West, man, he's got it all together.  If only I could be like that guy.”  I mean, how do you live your life on a day-to-day basis, because we know that, you know, being up on stage is not necessarily … that's not life.  I mean, it is who you are, but yet at the same time, how does someone like in your shoes pursue Jesus.

    Matthew:       To start off answering that question honestly, I would say that I've lived much of my life trying to present an image to people of not imperfection but that I've got it all together.  So here's my story.  I grew up as a preacher’s kid and felt an intense pressure as early as I can remember from the people in the church who were looking at me and maybe holding me up to a higher level of expectation, a higher standard, and I constantly just felt like I was living in a glass bubble, and everybody was watching me.

    No lie.  I got to this point where like I felt like I could manipulate and act a certain way.  I knew how to look and talk and act and say all the right things.  I knew that if I … I wrote about this in my book recently that I knew if I raised my hand to worship during the slow song in church that because I was in the front row that the ladies … yeah, everybody behind me would go, “Oh, okay, he’s okay.”

    I saw that as a way of, like, one, that’s a dangerous path to be on, because the authenticity continues to get edged out of your life, and the presentation becomes much more important, much more significant, and then that’s just an open door for sin to creep into your life and for you to realize that you can cover and that you don’t have to be the real deal as long as everybody sees you as the real deal.

    Honestly, reading the stories that I've read, they’ve actually challenged me.  Instead of me getting up on stage and wanting to present myself to somebody who’s got it all together, because guess what?  That preacher’s kid grew up to become a professional singer.  And what do we do?  We’re on stage all the time.  And what do we do when we’re on stage?  Air our dirty laundry?  No, we want to sing well, and we want to look good, and we want to perform.  We want people to applaud us.  These stories have begun to challenge me to realize that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about being authentic, it’s about being real, and it’s about telling your story.

    One of the things that I share from the stage is one of the things that God’s begun to teach me in my life over and over again is that a long time in my life I've spent holding up parts of my story to God, and saying, “God, here, you can use this part of me,” and so I would pick what I think are the best parts of me, and I would put only that under his care.  What these peoples’ stories have taught me and how good things have come out of broken beginnings is that all the while God’s looking at me and everybody else who tries to make everybody think they’re perfect and saying, “I know about your good stuff.  I’m the one who gave it to you.  Give me all the rest.  Give me the worst mistake you’ve ever made.  Give me the junk in your story and watch me work something amazing out of it.”

    I guess one of the songs I’ll be singing on stage tonight is called we are the broken.  That’s kind of like my anthem of going, “I don’t want the audience to look at me and see someone who’s got his act together.  I want them to see somebody who’s realized that we’re all the same, we’re all broken, and yet God somehow isn’t done with us, and when we show the world that we’re broken, the worlds not going to look at us and applaud us anymore.  They’re going to look at God and say, “Wow, God changed his life?  Maybe he can do the same with mine.”

    John:               Why do you think people are so apt to putting on a mask?  Why do you think followers of Jesus … we can understand that maybe somebody who does not know Christ, why they would put on a mask, but I mean, the Gospel calls us to be secure in Christ, but yet at the same time, we are scared to death to expose ourselves to our brothers and sisters in the church?  Why is that?

    Matthew:       For one, I think that’s one of the reasons why somebody who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God would be turned off by the church, and I've heard a lot of people say that.  It’s like, “Man, Christians are two-faced,” or “They’re not authentic,” and I think we could all agree that there’s times where I see more what looks like authenticity in the world.

    John:               Right.

    Matthew:       People that aren’t going to church because they’re not claiming to be anything, do you know what I mean?  I think one of the things that my dad always shared with me that has stuck with me my whole childhood and now where I’m at today because I grew up in church, and at times, I would be hurt or offended or turned off when I saw somebody who out of their mouth was claiming to be a Christian but by their lifestyle and the way they acted and the way maybe they treated my dad or my parents, they didn’t back it up.  It felt like it was two-faced or a double standard.  My dad always said to me, “People inside the church, they’re just as flawed.  The church is filled with broken people who don’t have it all together, and so you can’t let your relationship with God be defined by other Christians.  It has to be between you and God, because people will always let you down.”

    Yet, I think one of the things that I notice, and I travel around churches all the time is I see that sign on the door that says “Come as you are,” and yet when you walk inside, it oftentimes doesn’t feel like the people really believe that.  I think that’s one of the missions that I’m on in having people tell their story is that one of the enemies greatest tricks in our lives and tools is isolation.  If he can get us to feel like, one, you’re messed up, and two, you’re the only one.  If you get that in your head, you start to go back into the shadows, and you start to retreat, and what you do is you retreat in the shadows, but you still have to function in every day life.

    You come to church, but your heart, your soul’s still in the shadows, and you clean yourself off so that nobody will know that you’re in the shadows, and there that isolation goes, and I know that all too well, and that's why I feel like I’m encouraging people to tell their story because I feel like when one person steps up and says, “All right, here's my story, no more mask,” it draws other people out into that light just like that person saying, “I want to find the freedom that that person has.”  How else do you explain 10,000 stories becoming 25,000 stories, becoming what I believe is going to be a million stories?

    It’s not just about a million stories.  It’s about the fact that we’re going from a story-haver to a story teller.  We’re going from being a Christian to being a disciple, you know, to being somebody who believes in you’re head that you’ve been set free to somebody who’s willing to really step into the light and say, “I’m so set free and I've found such freedom in my life because of God that I’m willing to let him even use the not-so-good parts of my life.”

    When that starts happening, a powerful thing takes place in our world, I believe.

    Here is one last story to illustrate that, and it’s a story of a woman named Jenny, and she wrote to me, and she said, “I've never told this to anybody before, but I heard you in a conference talking about telling your story and finding freedom.”  And she said, “Thirty-five years ago, I was a scared teenager, and I got pregnant, and my boyfriend at the time didn’t want anything to do with me or the baby, and I was too scared to tell anybody because I was afraid I'd be judged.”

    So she terminated the pregnancy and never told anybody.  For 35 years, never told anybody, but that isolation made her feel separated from God because she just felt so much shame in her life, and she somehow just felt like, “I need to set this free,” and maybe she felt like sending her story to a complete stranger would be a safe thing.  In fact, I called her and I said, “Why did you send it to me?” and she said, “I never thought you’d actually read it.”  But I did, and I wrote a song about it called “The Healing Has Begun.”

    That woman in the progression in her life to me is a beautiful example of what can happen to all of when we stop wearing the mask and when we step out of isolation and begin to seek out community and mostly communion with God, is now, she just finished her training, and she’s a counselor at the crisis pregnancy center in the town where she lives in.  You see how God is uniquely redeeming her story.  That’s a full circle.  No more mask.  No more isolation.  After 35 years of feeling weighed down, she’s found freedom and joy, and now she’s seeing a purpose even for that most difficult part of her story.

    That’s an example of what I’m hoping to encourage people, and not just other people but myself to walk in that and to realize that, man, God’s going to change your story.  He's going to heal your most broken parts, and he's going to use it in powerful way if you'll let him.

    John:               Awesome.

    For more from Matthew West, click here.

     

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