• Clearance

Family Christian

  • Spend Time Together

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Clergy Appreciation Month

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Family Christian

    photo

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

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

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

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

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

    For gift ideas, click here.

  • Habits of a Woman Who Doesn't Give Up

    Posted on October 7, 2013 by Nicki Koziarz

    Nicki

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    2. She approaches the Word of God with reverence.

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

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

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

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

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

    5. She has a spirit of unbreakable determination.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2013 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Obey Him

    Posted on October 6, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

  • Pursued by God

    Posted on October 5, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (Matthew 18:12–14).

    The Lord’s great love is not passive in its pursuit of people. He longs for every last, lost soul to be saved from the snares of sin, the devil’s deception, and the world’s allure. The Lord Almighty is personally engaged in engaging a human heart with heaven. Christ’s love crosses all cultures and socioeconomic levels. He is in humble, hot pursuit of those He loves. Have you yielded to the Holy Spirit’s tender wooing of your heart to God?

    Left to our own whims and desires, we are prone to wander away from the Lord. Our culture competes with our heavenly affections until we grow indifferent to eternal matters. But Jesus does not quit His traversing for our heart’s allegiance. Even during our darkest days, He is a light of hope that hovers over our head as a reminder of His love.

    “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

    Like wandering sheep, bad things distract us, and good things attract us. When we lose our way, we have a loving Shepherd ever present to show us the way. We are never out of His sight or out of reach from His sympathetic staff. The Lord looks for us and looks out for us because He loves us unconditionally. No one is too far from the love of God.

    “May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20–21).

    When Jesus found you, how did you feel? Was it forgiven, grateful, relieved, and ready for heaven? You probably felt these few emotions and many more. If you have not given in to God’s good intentions, you can come to Christ now. Turn and look to Him. He loves you as no other can love you. Heaven rejoices when the pursued are persuaded by God.

    “‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:6–7).

    Prayer: How is God pursuing me? How does Christ want me to respond to His compelling love?

    Related Readings: Job 19:22; Isaiah 41:2–4; Luke 19:20; John 10:3

    Post/Tweet: The Lord’s great love is not passive in its pursuit of people. He longs for every last, lost soul to be saved. #pursuedbyGod

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

  • Share Extra Stuff

    Posted on October 4, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same. Luke 3:10

    Those with none need those with some and those with some need to be generous with those with none. Our love for the Lord does not let us sit still when another needy soul is without. We pray for a need to be met, but we also offer our stuff in answer to our prayers. Like a holy offering to God we place our stuff on His altar of compassion. Christ can entrust more to those who hold an open hand. Our life is a canal for cargo ships of care to carry our stuff to others.

    Instead of complaining of a single parent’s unkept yard, consider its anonymous care. Invest in a monthly bus or train ticket for a friend who needs transportation to look for a job. Take the children of a family out of work to buy school clothes and supplies. Create work around your house or at your work that gives others opportunity to work. Look up your local food bank and become a volunteer and/or contributor. Share your extra stuff with those in need in Jesus' name.

    Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:7

    Helping hands are heaven’s call for those who have extra. How can we enjoy self indulgence and ignore one who has none? Thus, we pray for a couple we can give gas gift certificates to, so they can travel to visit a friend. Maybe for every bottle of water we consume, we provide a bottle of water for a child where water is not easily accessible. For every pair of shoes we buy, we provide a pair of shoes for some other barefoot believer. Maybe our prayer is for anything we buy ourselves,  who can we purchase the same for? Those with none need our extra some.

    Lastly, look to the Lord for who to help and how much to help. The Holy Spirit will lead you and your family in the creative care process. You could match every dollar a person invests to pay down their debt. Use your small investment in another to leverage a large feeling of being loved. A little bit of encouragement may be all another needs  not to give up and keep going for God. Jesus gave His all, so we could be forgiven of all. Those with none need those with some!

    I [Jesus] needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Matthew 25:36

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Spirit to give my some to those with none.

    Related Readings: Job 31:19-20; Ezekiel 18:16; Isaiah 16:4; Luke 10:33-37; Hebrews 13:2

    Post/Tweet today: Those with none need those with some and those with some need to give to those with none. #shareextrastuff

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

  • For When You're Lost

    Posted on October 4, 2013 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn't she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." (Luke 15:8–10 NIV)

    I was awash in a sea of three toddlers. Trying to do anything outside the house was an adventure. But one day I decided to brave a trip to the mall to shop for Christmas gifts. As I stood at the register, I asked my children to hold onto mama's jeans. Their tightly clutched fists let me know that they were close. After completing my purchase, I turned around and realized that two-year-old Ryan was nowhere in sight. The three tiny hands clutching my pant leg turned out to be one child holding on with two hands, and the other holding on with one while their brother made his escape.

    I buckled the kids in the monster-sized stroller, threw my package underneath, and blasted through the store calling out my two-year-old's name.

    "Have you seen my son? He's two. He has brown hair and he's tall for his age. Has anyone seen him?"

    Finally an older woman approached me. "Honey, I saw a little boy with brown hair just a few moments ago carrying a really large box out those doors."

    Seconds later, I saw him strolling through the mall with his little two-year-old gait, carrying an extra large shoebox. My son wasn't just lost. He had shoplifted a pair of men's shoes in the process.

    I scooped up my little lost shoplifter and held him close.

    Something had captured my toddler's attention and he wandered. I knew what might have easily happened to him if I had not found him. My love for him meant I'd push that stroller to the ends of the earth, calling his name, until he was safe in my arms.

    In his book Amazing Grace, K. W. Osbeck says, "If the New Testament teaches us anything, it teaches us about God's love in searching for lost men. Becoming a Christian in a very real sense is simply putting ourselves in the way of being found by God—to stop running from His loving pursuit."

    Maybe you have escaped God. One adventure took you to the next and suddenly you were lost in a crowd, wondering if you'd gone too far.

    You haven't.

    Stop. Right where you are. Let Him scoop you up.

    And that box of things you're carrying—those emotions, mistakes, choices you wish you'd never made—give it to Him. He'll return them to where they rightfully belong as He leads you back home.

    Dear Lord, I willingly climb into Your arms. Please accept this box of gathered mistakes and failures. Today I am joyfully found by You, In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember
    Stop. Right where you are. Empty your arms of that weight you've been carrying and lift it up to be scooped into your heavenly Father's embrace.

    Reflect
    Name one way you have been running. What would it look like to stop?

    Respond
    Imagine God scooping up you as the woman in the parable scooped up her lost coin. Write down God's response to finding you as well as your response to being found by God.

    Power Verses
    Psalm 145:18–19; Psalm 119:151

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

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

  • Fruit of Repentance

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Luke 3:8-9

    A surrendered life to the Lord produces fruit of repentance. Like a well kept vineyard of grapes seasonly tills rich soil and meticulously removes weeds, so a Spirit-filled life is watered with grace, love and mercy. Character cultivation happens to a heart turned toward heaven, captivated by trust in Jesus. Hail storms damage, even destroy the best kept crops, but the sun’s life giving rays and the nurturing farmer bring them back. So, God grows a disciple into His hearty harvest.

    Spiritual fruit from the past is no substitute for fruit produced in the present. Praise God for our faithful ancestors of the faith, but their fruit was for their time. The Spirit of God looks to harvest fruits of repentance for this generation. The good old days of spiritual renewal are inspiring to reminisce, but today the Lord calls those of us with a little gray hair to grow up in His grace. We who identify with Jesus have a significant role and responsibility to produce fruit of repentance.

    I [Paul] preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. Acts 26:20
    How do we know if we produce fruit of repentance? Private belief for salvation and public confession in baptism are the first fruits of repentance, but just the beginning point. The ongoing fruit bearing process is a lifetime of leaning into the Lord. So, the Spirit reminds us when we drift into bad habits or wrong thinking. We confess spiritual pride and we remember that only by the grace of God can we do good. We turn from self righteousness and turn to God’s righteousness.

    What is the proof of fruit produced by repentance? Good deeds from a heart of humility and grace arefruit that glorifies God. Your Spirit-filled actions of abstinence, generosity, tutoring, publicservice, faith sharing, foster care and orphan adoption please your Heavenly Father. Jesus smiles when you are hospitable and when you visit the sick and those in prison. Your authentic repentance keeps you broken to care for the broken. What breaks God’s heart breaks your heart!

    Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I repent of known and unknown sin in my heart, I turn to Your heart for forgiveness and the faith to produce good deeds.

    Related Readings: Deuteronemy 4:30; Jeremiah 18:11; Ezekeil 47:12; Acts 11:18; Galatians 3:7

    Post/Tweet today: Our authentic repentance keeps us broken to care for the broken. #fruitofrepentance

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

  • Liz Curtis Higgs - She's Smart. Witty. Serious. (And a cat lover.)

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by John van der Veen


    In her best-selling series of Bad Girls of the Bible books, workbooks, and videos, Liz Curtis Higgs breathes new life into ancient tales about the most infamous—and intriguing—women in scriptural history, from Jezebel to Mary Magdalene. Biblically sound and cutting-edge fresh, these popular titles have helped more than one million women around the world experience God’s grace anew.

    Her best-selling historical novels, which transport the stories of Rebekah, Leah, Rachel, Dinah, Ruth, and Naomi to eighteenth-century Scotland, also have invited readers to view these familiar characters in a new light.

    Liz is the author of nearly 30 books, with more than 3 million copies in print. Her popular nonfiction books include Bad Girls of the Bible, Really Bad Girls of the Bible, Unveiling Mary Magdalene, Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, Rise and Shine, and Embrace Grace.

    Liz is married to Bill Higgs, Ph.D., who serves as Director of Operations for her speaking and writing office. Liz and Bill enjoy their old Kentucky home, a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Louisville, and are the proud (and relieved!) parents of two college grads, Matthew and Lillian.

    Liz was traveling through the area and stopped by our offices. I had never met Liz before and honestly, I didn't really know what to expect. What I met was a genuine follow of Christ. Or, in other words, a sinner/saint. Liz is not perfect. She has a "past." But more importantly, she is a child of a Great King. She stands as a testimony of God's grace and mercy.

    Thankfully, Liz is now a friend. No, she's a sister. For that I am thankful.

    John: How is Jack, your cat? (In case you, reader, didn't know this, Liz is a lover of her cat, Jack.)

    Liz: Jack the cat is wonderful. Jack the cat has a story.

    John: Oh, does he really?

    Liz: Oh, yes. Well, when cats adopt you they always come for a reason. I was doing a book called Mine is the Night. The book, by the way, is based on the Book of Ruth but set in 18th century Scotland. The hero was going to be strong just as the Bible says Boaz is. In the Bible that means a man of warfare, a man of battle. But I wanted him softened by something, and I decided he would have a cat! I was all prepared to do a Facebook bit where I said to people, "Send me pictures of your cat, and I'll choose one to be Jack's, the hero, Jack's cat." Before I could, literally the day I was going to start the contest, a cat walked into our house.

    John: Oh, so you didn't go seeking him?

    Liz: I did not.

    John: He came seeking you.

    Liz: My husband is not a cat person. My husband walked in with this cat in his arms and turned to my daughter and I—we're total cat people—and said, "Have you ever seen this guy before? Because he's hanging around the back door like he wants to come in." We took one look at him and said, "Hello!"

    I have him on my website. He's so handsome. He really is. He's just a very handsome cat. I knew right away he was Jack's cat and therefore, his name really ought to just be Jack. So we have Jack the hero, but we also have Jack the cat. He is described verbatim in the book. I just used him as my example. It's just fun.

    John: I love it.

    Liz: Jack has been with us ever since, and he's the best cat I've ever had. Don't tell Big Cat, Tiger or Mac—cats of the past.

    John: Liz, you write fiction, non-fiction, children's literature, you're a speaker, you're a Bible study teacher, a Bible study leader, and you have DVDs out. You wrote a column for Today's Christian Woman for how many years?

    Liz: I think it was right at ten years for them.

    John: You're a mom. You're a wife.

    Liz: I am, and I sing alto in the choir (laughing). I do! When they let me.

    John: How does a mom with a couple of young kids at her feet, or a single parent dad who's in the midst of life, a business leader not look at you and think, "Look at everything that she's doing. She must have everything all together and everything seems to be always falling apart for me." What do you say to that person, Liz?

    Liz: Well, first of all, things always look like they're falling apart from where I'm sitting too. I feel like I'm juggling so many balls in the air, and some of them do slip out of my hands.

    I think the hardest thing for us to deal with, whatever we're doing, whatever our situation, whether our kids are younger, older or we don't have them, there's always the fear I haven't done enough or I haven't done it well enough. Those are the two big challenges for me: I haven't done enough or haven't done it well enough. This is when we rest. We just have to rest in, "I did everything I could with all the hours I was awake, and now I'm going to trust God with this and keep going."

    If you're a perfectionist—and I most assuredly am—it's very difficult because you're never going to be finished with a task. You're never going to be fully happy. I've never turned a book in where I've said, "Yup, nailed it," ever, ever. I'm always so anxious for the first draft to come back to me so I can write the second draft. Then I think at the end of the second draft, "It's better, but it's still not right." I'm always really grateful when I get it back again from another set of editors and I get to write the third draft. Eventually, you know, they just come take them away and they won't let you have them anymore.

    John: It's time to turn it in.

    Liz: Exactly, so that's the rest piece. You finally have to rest in this: "I did the best I could, and it was God's work anyway. If God is working through me, then I think He is at peace with this as well." So many times we deal with a nagging voice. Maybe it's just me, but I know that nagging voice. I know it's never God. God is not a nag. He will convict by the power of the Holy Spirit. He'll convict us when we need to go a different direction, when it's time to have ears to hear and eyes to see and do something different. But conviction is healthy. That's the Holy Spirit drawing you to God.

    The other voice is condemnation drawing you away from God, telling you you're not good enough, not finished enough, do better, this is terrible, all those kinds of messages. You're not a good enough father, you're not a good enough wife, and your husband deserves someone better than you. All that kind of condemnation is never from God.

    That leaves one other option: It's from the enemy of our souls. I think when we can hear the difference between conviction and condemnation, we can take the conviction as the gift that it is. It's a gift. God wants to change us. He loves us so much He wants to change us. As for the condemnation, you need to send the one dishing out those lies back where he came from, because it's untruth and we don't need any more untruth pouring into our ears. That's one thing I try to do is to discern the voice.

    John: Earlier today, you shared a short testimony about how you came to know the Lord. How did you move from that experience of saying, "Okay, Jesus and me together," to now, "I have a voice and I need to start sharing my life experiences with others”?

    Liz: The truth is you start sharing them immediately with the people around you. You're already moving from experiencing it yourself to sharing it with other people, because it's the most natural thing to do. If you see a movie you love, you are texting people before you leave the theater. If you read a book you love, you want everybody to hear about it. You jump online and leave a review, whatever your deal is.

    It is our nature when we have good news, any kind of good news, to tell people. When you get the best news in town, you tell people.

    The only reason we stop telling is because we hit some resistance, or we begin to become self-conscious about it, or people treat us a little differently and we're not sure we like that. We begin to grow quiet about the Lord. I know sometimes people will say, "I have a quiet faith," but I don't think we're called to be quiet.

    You have to find a way, and God will certainly show you, to share your faith in a way that is congruent with who you are. I mean, I'm loud and carry on and I'll stop complete strangers. I've had situations where I've gone into a restaurant alone, but I strike up such a conversation with the people in front of me that when the waiter comes over he expects to seat me with the people. He's sure I'm with them. Because it's just my nature to talk to anybody, anywhere; but that is not everybody's thing.

    Quiet people find other ways. Sometimes they become writers. Ann Voskamp is a most extraordinary writer, and that is how her gift happens, that's how her sharing happens—on the page. Other people are incredible servants, they are doers behind the scenes, but their actions speak more loudly than my words would ever speak because it's done with such grace and such humility.

    We all do have ways to do it, but I don't think doing nothing is one of the options. I think we all have to find a way to walk Christ out among the people around us.

    John: Liz, is there anything left on your bucket list?

    Liz: Oh, what a great question. I used to want to jump out of an airplane, you know, with a parachute attached. I've decided that, even with the parachute, it would be such an ugly thing to watch, that we're not going to be seeing that one in my lifetime (laughs). So, no jumping out of a parachute.

    There are many places in this world I long to go. As it happens, because I write historical novels set in Scotland, I just keep going back to Scotland. The truth is, I would love to get to Italy. I've never been there, I'm anxious to go. I mean I'd love to go anywhere. I'd love to go to Russia. I'd love to go to India, very high on the list. I've never even been to Ireland, and it's 20 miles across the Irish Sea from the coast of Scotland. So there are many places. My bucket list is full of travel.

    In our family, travel is what we do for each other. When the kids graduated from school, we never gave them stuff. We took them on a trip. That was the deal for graduating—a trip anywhere they wanted to go. It's so fun, because then you're making memories as well as expanding your understanding of the world and seeing what a small part of the world this country is. We kind of think we are big. We are big, but we're not the only game in town. It's so healthy to go outside our shores. Humbling, really.

    John: From Bad Girls of the Bible to Really Bad Girls of the Bible to Slightly Bad Girls of the Bible, those books have certainly done well. Why do you think there is such an affinity towards identifying with those "bad girls"? When people look at Rahab or they look at any character in the Bible, they see themselves so well. Why is that?

    Liz: It's interesting, because every once in a while I'll take a little heat for focusing on the bad girls. I always say first of all I didn't put them there. They were already in the Word. All I did was bunch them up together. I did that I think because we do tend to gloss over the bad.

    At least in the "women of the Bible" books that I've seen, they tend to focus on the good girls. You know, Esther Lydia, Priscilla. I thought, "Well, the Lord has put these bad girls in the Bible for a reason." Of course I'm a former bad girl, so I'm coming from that very personal place of saying, "What does God want me to see in these women's lives?"

    I have to say this. In Bad Girls of the Bible, and for that matter in the other books as well, I found a bit of myself in all of them. You have to cut away the cultural differences. We eat different foods, we wear different clothes, we live in different kinds of houses and have different transportation than they did two or three thousand years ago. But the bottom-line stuff is the same whether it's lust or greed or whatever—any kind of sin you want to come up with. Pride is always the basic one. That hasn't changed at all. Human nature is the same as always.

    When we identify something about that bad girl that resonates with us, then we read her story with a different eye and we see how things turn out for her. It didn't turn out too well for Jezebel, who turned her back on the one true God and worshiped her daddy's god, Baal. It didn't turn out well at all. Shoved out a window, trampled by horses, eaten by dogs, such that there was nothing left that identified her even as woman, let alone as Jezebel. This is God's statement on what happens when you turn your back on Him permanently, when you have no interest in Him, when you shut Him out completely.

    She's a cautionary tale, but one worth looking at because it not only shows the big picture Jezebel, killing off the prophets, but her story in the Bible shows the small domestic scene with her husband, which for many of us who are strong-willed women will look really familiar. She kind of takes over: "I'll get you the vineyard. I'll take care of it. Give me your seal. I'll write the letter. I'll take care of it." Those of us who, as we used to say back in the day, like to wear the pants in the family—that's a funny phrase, isn't it?—we can learn from Jezebel. We can see the ugliness on the page and go, "I don't want to go there."

    I think there is something to be learned from all of them. Of course our favorite ones are the ones who are redeemed. Those are the ones that really give us hope. Those are the ones that prove you can't go too far. God's arm is not short. He's going to reach you. Those are the stories I tend to speak about from the platform.

    I'll touch on the other women, but hope is the main thing we offer our readers, our audiences, our friends. Hope! So the stories of the "Rahabs," and the woman at the well, and the sinful women of Luke 7 … incredible story. She never even speaks. She's kind of a little cage-rattler that one, because she never speaks, she never asks His forgiveness, she never prays the sinner's prayer, she never confesses her sin. Wow!

    Does it count? It must, because Jesus says twice, "You are forgiven." It's repeated twice, just in case, just to make sure. Then He says, "Your faith has saved you." Wow. I thought Jesus saved her. Yeah, He did. Her faith in Him saved her. "Go in peace." I love that story. "Go in peace."

    To my knowledge, that's what everybody in the world wants: peace. We take some pretty convoluted paths to get there. Jesus says, "My peace I give to you." He's the one who is all about peace.

    I love the women of the Bible, and I do especially love the bad girls. I won't ever be writing a book called Good Girls of the Bible. I'm asked a lot to do that. But the stumbling block for me is the Bible says in Jesus's own words, "No one is good except God alone." It's the truth.

    I mean even if I do a good thing, it wasn't Liz. It was God kindly doing a good thing through me. It's His righteousness, not mine. I just can't go down that road of finding all the good qualities in these women, unless I just pointed every one back to God. I could do that. Bad girls and I, we still have a little more ground to tread. I haven't done them all yet.

    John: There's more to come?

    Liz: Well, probably nothing called Bad Girls of the Bible in any shape, slightly, really, mostly, somewhat (laughs). I think we're done. There are still more women I want to write about. There's some that I've tucked in my pocket, thinking, "Someday." They're jumping out of my pocket now one by one. It's really fun.

    John: Who do you write for? Do you write for Liz, or do you write for the people you go to church with, or do you write for the people who have read your books before? Who do you have in mind?

    Liz: I have in mind Liz at 26. I came to know Jesus at 27, but I always think about Liz at 26. In other words, I make no assumptions about what people know or don't know about the Bible. I try and really spell it out. It might therefore come out as a little bit simplistic to somebody who's deep, deep, deep in the Word. But hopefully, because I also do tons of research and use about 40 English translations, there's also plenty of meat there for a believer who's been at it a while. I try to keep my language really accessible and not turn off Liz at 26.

    Actually, she's not the only person I write to because we write to more than one. There is kind of this group of people. I can see them, right behind my screen. There's Liz at 26 and there's my mother-in-law. I think about who she is. She's an avid reader, 84, so an older woman. Presbyterian her whole life. There's a particular something she's going to respond to. I'm also thinking about other women of other ages and stages, married and single, deeply in the Word, new to the Word. You kind of have this little group of women and they're all peering over the screen at me. "Got something for me?" And I say, "Here, this is for you, Liz at 26, and this is for you, Mary Lee. I know that you'll really resonate with this, and this is for you."

    John: Are you a reader?

    Liz: Oh, yeah. This, I don't know what this will do to my credibility, but what I read is fiction. I'm a fiction reader.

    John: Any authors that we know?

    Liz: Well, Francine Rivers has always been my hero. She's always written boldly. Redeeming Love was bold for Christian readership. She put it all out there. Actually, I read Redeeming Love in the original. She wrote it for the general market first. Then when she came to know Christ, she got the rights back and Multnomah was able to publish it for her. There were some adjustments made in the book, but it was powerful in either form for sure.

    I love fiction. I love historical fiction especially. Obviously, when I'm writing non-fiction I've got all sorts of research books around me. I love all the classics. I love Practicing His Presence, a book like that, small, powerful. Anything by C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity was really the book that spoke loudest to me as a new believer.

    Actually, before I came to know Christ, when I was on that journey of the sun growing brighter and brighter, it was just overwhelming to me because I come from a family who really values education so everybody has master's degrees and are just very impressed with being educated. Which is great, obviously. But Jesus asked us to come as simple as a child.

    To read Lewis, who's obviously brilliant and yet sees also the simplicity in some ways, just blew my mind. A man that’s smart thinks this is the answer? I was having a hard time arguing with him. Of course, he presents arguments so skillfully. He'll present the argument and then lay out 1 through 10, here's all the reasons why. You can't come up with 11. It's like, "I agree!" (Laughs.)

    John: You twisted my arm! HA!

    Liz: That's right. You have very effectively twisted my mind. You've taken this very intellectual journey and come to a very spiritual place. It's unique. Of course, I marvel that he wrote not for a Christian publisher, he wrote for the world. He did radio broadcasts for everybody.

    John: What has God been teaching Liz Curtis Higgs lately?

    Liz: So many things. It's hard to know where to start. One word He's pressing down so hard into me is "gratitude" and the responsibility that goes with all those gifts. I don't mean gifts as in talents; I mean just the blessings.
    To be really grateful and always expressing that gratitude, and never, never letting myself indulge in even a moment of, "Hey, I did a pretty good job there." We just can't go there. We can't say, "I did a pretty good job." You might say to yourself, "Wow, God. Wow, God, I had a sense of You at work there. How did I get to be a part of that? I don't know, but thank You." It's just so different.

    I heard an interview with an author on NPR and I learned so much and was greatly convicted. After every sentence the unstated was, "Aren't I brilliant?" "I did this, I did this, I did this." That's what I heard behind the words. It was convicting because I thought, "Oh, my word. I've got to go back and listen to my interviews and say, 'Is that what I was also saying? Aren't I brilliant?'" So, I'm not. I know that. I think that's the one thing God is trying to make really clear to me. That if there is any good thing, it's just Him.

    And Liz continues to write. To be an influence. At the time of this interview she was just finishing up her new Christmas title, The Women of Christmas.

    Liz is here to stay and for that we all can be thankful.

  • Sacrifices of Praise

    Posted on October 3, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD." Psalm 4:5 (NLT)

    I have a confession to make. After many years of walking with Jesus and seeking Him to fill me, I still struggle with unmet longings.

    Maybe you can relate. Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached with each thought of it? It seems like life would be so much better if you had that one thing.

    There would be more happiness.

    More contentment.

    More fulfillment.

    More satisfaction.

    More peace.

    You can envision yourself with this thing, this person, this opportunity. And all things are better. So, why doesn't God give you this longing of your heart? This longing of my heart?

    Could it be because He wants us to willingly let it go?

    Ouch.

    That's not the answer I want. Why would God let the aching desire linger and not make things happen? He could. He's certainly able. But when He doesn't, it seems unfair. Not good. Confusing.

    It's easy to get down when we're constantly let down. We hope this thing will happen ... we'll meet this right person ... we'll get this job ... we'll finally be healed ... we'll get that chance ... we'll see that family member turn his or her life around. Time and again it doesn't happen. That's when it's easy to slip.

    That's where trust steps in and reminds us we can't ever learn how to live real faith if we never need real faith.

    As an offering of trust, we must give up that which could so easily bring us down.

    Not give up as in discouraged surrender. But give up as in placing this desire in the hand of God and saying, "Either way, I will see Your answer as the good answer and walk in trust."

    I like to call these types of releases in my life sacrifices of praise, like Psalm 4:5 tells us to do: "Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD."

    Lord, I sacrifice chasing this so I might more fully and with more focus chase You. I release this grip of desire. I praise You for who You are, what only You can bring, and how You will fill whatever gap this release might leave.

    Yes, I still struggle with unmet desires.

    But not as much today as I did yesterday.

    And that is good. Not easy. But good.

    Dear Lord, I want to offer You sacrifices of praise with a willing heart. Cultivate in me an attitude of obedience as I choose to trust Your plans above my desires. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What can you offer up as a sacrifice of praise to the Lord?

    Take small steps each day as you walk in obedience and give that thing up to God.

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 62:8, "Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge." (NIV)

    Isaiah 26:4, "Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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