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  • Problems at Work

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. Ecclesiastes 2:23

    Growing an enterprise is like raising a child. There are cycles of progress and enjoyment, and there are cycles of grief and pain. With great, even idealistic intentions, we launch a work around our passion, skills and experience only to see a set back at the inception. We question ourselves, ‘Did the Lord really call me to birth this new work endeavor or did I talk myself into this for the wrong reasons?’ Thus, wise are we to ride out the rough times and rely on God to get us through.

    Lack of vocational progress during the day can cause our minds restless nights. We remind ourselves of the preparation that preceded our step of faith to follow the Lord’s career change. We know in our heart that our Faithful Heavenly Father has foreseen the problems we face and He has solutions He wants us to apply. So, if money is sparse we creatively keep down expenses and maybe forgo a salary for a season. Finances test our motive to remain faithful.

    This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. Revelation 14:12

    So, we honestly ask ourselves, “Are we laboring for the love of money or love for the Lord?’ The much grander goal of love for God will get us through uncertain times. Our work done unto the Lord positions us as candidates for His wisdom. Our loving Savior loves to give insight and assurance to incredible works done for His glory. Therefore, we lean into Jesus during lean times and He shows us a better way. We trust in The Way to show us the way. He owns the outcomes.

    Lastly look to the Lord’s people for counsel and even financial assistance to help you through this bump in the road. Dear friends are blessed when they can invest in your integrity and in the work of your hands. Your caring community is honored to pay forward what Christ has entrusted to them. Indeed, your work and business is His. Keep an open hand and heart. He will supply the means necessary to sustain the work. God’s work, done God’s way, never lacks God’s resources.

    The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me to trust You with work issues. I commit my career to You.

    Related Readings: Numbers 23:19; Nehemiah 6:3; Psalm 4:3; 1 Corinthains 1:9; Philippians 1:6

    Post/Tweet today: Lean into the Lord during lean times and He will show you the way. #leanintotheLord

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

  • Clinging to Christ in the Middle of the Hurricane - Natalie Grant

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by John van der Veen



    In the opening lines of “In The End,” the spirited but poignant unplugged track that wraps her latest album Hurricane, Natalie Grant puts it as plainly as she ever has in dealing with the troubling storms we all face: “Can’t catch a break/You’ve had your fill of old clichés…”. Emerging from a dark, spiritually challenging time in her own life, the multi-talented singer/songwriter—a Grammy nominated, five time GMA (Gospel Music Association) Dove Award winner for Female Vocalist of the Year – breaks through the well worn and cheerful, but not completely truthful, phrases that often leave those who are struggling in need of more.

    Natalie and I sat down (with her daughter, Sadie, on her lap) and talked about what went into her new album. The ups and downs of life. Times of depression. Times of joy.

    After reading this, you'll hear what Natalie has always been and still is passionate about. Christ and His work.

    John: Natalie, it’s been a while since you have had some new music. Would you mind sharing about your new album, Hurricane?

    Natalie: I’ve had a lot of life happen in those three years. I think if you look back just even at my releases over the past 14 years, I’ve never made records quickly. Those artists that can turn around records every 18 months, my hats are off to them. I don’t know how they do it. I’ve always usually gone about two years, but this is the longest I’ve ever gone between a release. I knew about a year ago that they were going to come to me and say, okay, it’s time to start making a record, and I literally at that point thought I’m just going to say, fine.

    Bring me ten songs. I’ll sing them, whatever. I just don’t have space in my world for this right now. What’s funny is that it sounds like such a cliché, but it’s so true that when we’re completely at our end and thinking, “I’ve got nothing, I have absolutely nothing in the well,” God shows up and always says, “Okay, I finally have you where I want you, and you’ve got nothing, but I’ve got something.” I ended up writing more on this record than I’ve ever written on any other record.

    John: I was going to ask, to say, I think I read that you wrote about eight songs or so; is that right?

    Natalie: About eight out of the ten tracks, yes.

    John: What is that like compared to other records?

    Natalie: It’s way more … I’ve always written about at least half, but to write 80% of the record is more than I’ve ever done before, and those songs--those eight--were really my songs. Sometimes I’d be in a co-write situation, and even though I was in this, these songs were really birthed out of my own personal journey over the last three years. I think when I came into this process so empty, I had given birth to my third child and went through a lot of post-partum depression.

    That’s something that I didn’t give a voice to for a long time because first of all, I think that there is a stigma—or was in my mind--that women want to stay in their pajamas and eat ice cream all day if say they have post-partum depression. But I soon learned that that is not true, that it is a real problem and a darkness that can overtake a woman, and oftentimes as a Christian. I think we’re so ashamed to say that we are struggling with depression, because somehow it’s going to reflect on our faith or our relationship with the Lord, but then throw into the mix being a Christian artist where you’re supposed to have your life together and get on that stage and sing your encouraging songs about the Lord. Where you’re expected to say all the right Scripture verses, and I think that I put some of that undue pressure on myself, but really, I think, I enabled myself to stay in that pit for longer than I even needed to.

    I really struggled with a lot of depression after the birth of Sadie and found out that a very close family member was struggling, not just with drug addiction, but with heroine addiction, which was tearing my family apart. Three months after that, my father had died of cancer. It’s been quite a journey the last three years and a testing of my faith like I’ve never faced before, and so these songs have really come from a deeply personal place.

    I feel like I’ve always had songs that have been like that for people that are connected because they’ve been about a real life story or journey, but typically, they’ve been about someone else’s story, like “Held,” which was written about a couple who lost their baby and “In Better Hands,” which was written about a little boy and a fire. All of them were personal stories, but they weren’t my story. These songs are my stories, and I think that’s what really makes this project different for me.

    John: Do you think, be it a man or a woman, married or single, that one has to go through some form of wilderness or hardship in their life to really understand what it means to be that close, to identify that closely with Christ?

    Natalie: Absolutely. I think that the challenge is finding the closeness when there isn’t the hardship, because in our human nature, we’re just wired in our fallen state to do it on our own, and we’re wired that when things are going well, somehow we don’t “need,” or we don’t think we need the Lord quite as much. We don’t recognize, I think, our need for Him in the good. In the bad, we cling to the Lord like never before. I think the more hardships we walk through, the more we experience our faith at a deeper level; it’s what helps us understand that faith when we’re actually on the mountaintop.

    John: Those are good words. I think a lot of people forget about that as they encounter Jesus. I think they think that to some extent, being a Christian is all kind of the rose-colored glasses syndrome, that everything is hunky-dory and fine.

    Natalie: I think that that could be an entire interview for another day. Honestly, my soap box is because there’s so much false teaching that’s prevalent in our culture and especially in our nation that if you just have enough faith, if you just are a good enough Christian, then you’re going to not have any health issues. You’re going to have a big house. Your marriage is going to be perfect, and if somehow those things are not well in your life that that has some reflection on your faith in Jesus. I think that that teaching, which is especially prevalent in the United States, has done so much damage to the believer’s walk with Christ.

    John: Natalie, as an individual, if I or my wife were to open up to a close friend, we know that a lot of times, what we share if I’m sharing with another brother in Christ, what I’m sharing is very personal, and it usually stays just between the two of us. It seems to me that what you have more or less outlined on this album is that type of conversation where you’re just kind of allowing everyone to see what’s been going on in your heart. What is that feeling like to know that people are going …

    Natalie: When you say it like that, it’s not so fine! [laughing]

    John: I’m sorry. I don’t mean to scare you, but to some extent, you’re throwing yourself out there to say, here I am. I’m a follower of Jesus, and I’ve seen that wilderness. What is that like?

    Natalie: Yes. You know, honestly, it has been very scary, and it would have been a lot easier just to have them bring me ten really nice, say all the right Christian cliché songs that would have pushed all the right buttons and gone number one on Christian radio, but I think there is so much beauty in the wrestle. Do you know what I mean? In the struggle. And in the dialogue of honesty, there is such beauty in that, and I’ve only discovered that in the last several years that the more honest and transparent I become, the greater connection people seem to have to my artistry.

    I feel like it started when I allowed myself to start talking about how I struggled with an eating disorder. I started to have this connection, which went so far beyond a song. I loved that. I thrived on that because I felt in that, I found my ministry more than just a musician but having something that I felt was going to be lasting fruit. I think that in finding my own voice, and I say this all the time, giving voice to the depression I was facing, that is when my healing started. I think that oftentimes, when we’re facing hardship or we’re walking through the wilderness, it’s almost easier to stay there than … I know that sounds backwards, but it’s … I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but …

    John: You are.

    Natalie: Sometimes it’s easier to stay in our mess than to actually get out of it, and the things that we know we need to do to get out we almost run from because we become so used to being a victim and all that. It’s just easier to stay there. For me, when I started to give voice to what I was facing and be honest and real in my own life, it became more than just, oh, I’d write some good honest songs. It actually is where I started to find my own healing, and I have to believe that having the courage to be honest will help others do the same thing.

    John: Now for the record, I’ve listened to the album I think three or four times since I got it yesterday morning. For the record, this album is not a sad album. This is not a dark album. You certainly are confronting those things, but there’s a string of hope that goes through every single song on this record, and it is powerful.

    Natalie: Thank you. I giggle when I hear that because it thrilled me because that is what I think is the mark of this record is that I’m going to say all the stuff that I went through. You’re going to listen to this record, and I think it just bursts with hope, and that’s what’s so, so just amazing to me about what God did through the process. I can say, listen, I have these songs that are full of light, even like full-on pop like “Closer to Your Heart,” the opening track, sounds like it could be on Top 40 radio, but the lyric says, “Here I am once again crying out on the floor,” so it still has this lyric that is this weighty heavy lyric to this really full of hope track and music.

    That’s what I wanted because that’s the result of hope to me. It’s not that in the moment everything is right and perfect, but it’s that’s why I’m singing these songs because that’s what I was living. I was singing these songs because that’s where I know I was going, and I was going to get there, and so I wanted the song and the record to reflect the truth that hope is what keeps the light on in our darkest moments.

    Hope is what keeps us taking one step forward and continuing to move. Maybe we’re barely crawling, but we’re moving forward. I feel like hearing you say that that’s what this record sounded like to you. It really does make me giggle with joy because that’s what I wanted it to be.

    John: That’s awesome. Natalie, you are a wife. You’re a mom. You’re Dove Award winning. You’re Grammy nominated. You’re an actress. You’re a philanthropist.

    Natalie: [laughs] Who are you talking about [laughing]?

    John: Natalie, some people look to you and say, obviously, you have it all together, and I think from the testimony that you just gave, you would say, hey, yeah, I am doing those things, but at the same time, I’m also normal. What would you say to the mom who has got babies at her ankles right now, and she kind of feels like she can barely get through just one day, let alone juggle small group, Bible study, nursery duty, church, all those other extra things?

    Natalie: For me, it’s one of the reasons as well that it’s important to me to be so honest and transparent, because I feel consistently in my life like there is this myth that surrounds me that I have it all together, and I get asked about this all the time. “How do you do it all?” I’m like, I have no idea because if you would have been at my house today, you’d clearly say that I don’t have it all together [laughing]. I might do a lot, but doing a lot does not mean that we’re doing a lot well.

    I feel like in my own life… I can only speak from my own experience… most days, I fall flat on my face and something struggles, something fails, something isn’t quite what I hoped it would be. I fall in bed at night, and by the grace of God, He wakes me up the next day, and I try it all over again, and hopefully what I learn is that I can’t do it without a personal relationship with the Lord, and that’s aside from trying to plug into the Lord with my husband or trying to make sure that my kids are learning the Bible verses.

    All of that aside, I’m talking about just me and Jesus, and if that means 15 minutes when I can hear my kids at 6:00 am in the morning on the baby monitor, for 15 minutes, nothing’s going to happen to them. If they’re kind of crying in their crib, if they’re talking, they’re going to be just fine. I’m going to take 15 minutes for Him, or even hit the floor to cry out to God and say, “Okay, I do not have the ability to do what I need to do today on my own, but if You called me to it, then You anoint me to be able to do it.”

    I have to believe that that’s true, and I have to believe that He’ll equip me to be able to do it. Some days, I feel like empowered like, yep, He did. Other days, I feel like He forgot me today. Clearly, He completely forgot about me today. You know, that is a daily process, and I think that right now in my own life, I’m figuring out that there are just some things that we just have to say no to and that that fear of disappointing someone or … I think that that’s a constant fear, especially in women, that oh, well, if I say no to this or that, well then this person will get upset. Whether it’s my kids or this or that, my job, or my husband. There are just some things that we have to learn to say no to, and I’m trying to learn that same thing right now.

    John: Good words. All right, real quickly, just a couple of bullet questions here. On “Born to Be,” you have a duet with Gary LeVox from Rascal Flatts. What brought that about?

    Natalie: He was awesome. You know, I wrote the song with Brett James who’s a great songwriter. He wrote “Jesus Take the Wheel” and just lots of other incredible songs, and when we wrote it, also with my husband, I just immediately thought this needs to be a duet. I actually had somebody else in mind from the CCM world, and I was like, okay, I think this person would be great on this, and he said, “You know, I think that Gary from Rascal Flatts would be great.” I was like, well, yeah, that would be great, but I don’t know him [laughing]. What’s going to make him want to all of a sudden be on a Christian record? I didn’t really know his story about in the last couple of years, he has rededicated his life to Christ, that he, and his wife, and his mom, and their daughter all got baptized together just last year …

    John: Amazing.

    Natalie: And has had this real rebirth of his faith in his life, and his story, his testimony is really quite beautiful. Brett knows him well because he’s written a lot of Rascal Flatts songs, and so he sent the song to Gary, and he fell in love with the song. What I didn’t know is that he was a huge fan of my music, and so he said it had always been on his bucket list to sing with me, which just sounds funny, but it was so easy. I guess it was just meant to be.

    John: That is incredible! Natalie, what is on your bucket list?

    Natalie: [laughs] I want to see the Great Wall of China. I’ve never been to the Orient and … well, I’ve been to Asia because I’ve been to India, not really close to Asia, right? I’m a failure at geography, so don’t judge me.

    John: Join the club.

    Natalie: I want to see the Great Wall of China. That is near the top of my bucket list. Let’s see what else is on my bucket list. I would love to do a duet with CeCe Winans. She and Whitney Houston were my vocal heroes growing up, and I’m a huge fan of CeCe’s and just everything about her. My other bucket list item would be to really teach my children to swim [laughing]. I’ve put them in swimming lessons twice, and they still can’t so I think I’m going to have to get in the pool with them and really help them figure it out.

    John: That is so awesome. I love that for a bucket list idea. That’s great. Natalie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. I really appreciate it.

  • Lord, I Need Your Help

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help." (Psalm 18:6 NIV)

    One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.

    But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.

    I was determined to figure out what J. J.'s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That's when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.

    Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.

    King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, "'In my distress' refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David's] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help."*

    That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn't have.

    My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.

    Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.

    As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.

    By the way, I'm crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.

    Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember
    Hurts from your past can hold you hostage. God is there, waiting to heal you.

    Reflect
    In what ways do you file complaints against your husband (or other loved one) in what you might call a prayer?

    Respond
    Determine if your hurts are too deep to heal without outside help. If they are, consider seeing a pastor or counselor.

    Power Verses
    Psalm 46:1; Deuteronomy 4:7

    *Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983).

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 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

  • 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

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WHAT WE'RE ABOUT

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