Distractions: The Enemy's Toys

I have found it takes more effort to make sure I have my time with Jesus. Distractions seem endless.

I don't have a busy  life with a work schedule,  or children to care for like many of you. I have a home to manage, a husband to keep happy and a mini farm for pleasure which requires the responsibilities of caring for animals. It is a joy, not work.

However, I want more than anything, to keep the Lord first in my life in all I do. But there seems to be those days that every time I am giving my devotional time to God... "things" crop up.

Unexpected visitors, text messages that could come at any other time of the day. A phone call which isn't important. The long list of "to-dos" for the day. Before I know it, the day is almost to its end, and I have only managed light conversation with the Lord, instead of the deeperror times where all is quiet and I  become aware of His presence.

A time that is sacred, set apart for only Him and one through which I am renewed, regenerated, and reaffirmed that "All is well with my soul". A time where I  am caught up in the beauty of His presence and He speaks to me of all that is on my heart. Appealing time I  feel enveloped in Him, and never want to  leave that place.

As I take notice of the things which distract, I quickly assimilate them to gnats at a picnic. Nothing big, but just enough to take your mind off of the joyful time at hand. I then realise it is my old nemesis, the "mini-god" of this world using his pitiful annoyances to steal my time with God.

His objective? Create enough subtle distractions so I can't start my time with the Lord, because he knows as I don't fill myself with God and the things of God,  which keep my spirit fed and my soul at rest, I become vulnerable to him. Susceptible to his attempts to steal all that God wants to give.

So, now, the phone is off. A sign on my bedroom door which reads "Prayer in Progress ", and as for the unexpected visitors... they are learning to call in advance.

No day can be its best without the Creator of it orchestrating first.

Don't let the enemy play with his toys on God's time... which is all the time

Submitted by: Kristal Dollar

Https://kristal-dollar.squarespace.com

Passion for The Passion

I have to say right off, that I’m passionate about The Passion.

It all began for me at the age of nine. Our family was part of a new church plant in Miami, FL back in the 50’s. The church had invited a special speaker who was also a chalk artist. On one particular evening he spoke about the cross and Christ’s substitutionary death for us. It wasn’t just the words he spoke that penetrated the heart of a 9-year-old boy, but the drawing he made that so powerfully displayed the sufferings of Christ in this amazing demonstration of love and grace.

My Passion journey continued as this church, throughout my youth, would charter a bus each Spring and take us to the Lake Wales Passion Play in Lake Wales, Florida. This was the same organization that put on the Black Hills Passion Play in South Dakota. I’ll never forget the sights, sounds, and smells of that outdoor amphitheater as once again, in dramatic fashion, I saw and felt the impact of that demonstration of God’s love and grace. The re-enactment of the last week of the life of Christ, his mock trial, his crucifixion, and His resurrection, made an indelible and lasting mark on the life of this teenage boy.

As I grew older, I had the opportunity to participate in church and college choirs where we would perform Easter Cantatas or sing Handel's Messiah with a community choir, and once again the majesty and splendor of The Passion would overwhelm me.

One experience I will never forget was attending an Easter musical at a huge church in Orlando. Our family was ushered in and seated on a center aisle. As we took in the music and pageantry, we could not be prepared for what happened. The procession of Jesus carrying the cross, surrounded by Roman soldiers, came right down the aisle where we were seated. Tears ran down my face as I once again, was enraptured by God’s great love.

So how was it that Jesus could have suffered such agony. Yes, we know that God so loved the world and sent Him… that He bore our sins on that cross… but I continued to contemplate His sacrifice. That’s when I thought about this scripture:

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:12 NASB

I began to ponder that phrase, “... who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” Then I realized that the joy set before Him was you and I… knowing that we would place our faith in His finished work on the cross and become part of God’s forever family!


I then thought about the joy set before me… Heaven… streets of gold and that face-to-face presence with Jesus.

I asked myself the question, “What is it that I can endure… what struggle is it that I’m working through, that I can overcome by the joy that is set before me?”

I began to press in even deeper and thought about this scripture:

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 KJV

“Who is it I see? What situation am I aware of that I can be moved passionately, like Jesus, to meet a need, to show love, to encourage?” You see, Jesus endured the cross because of what He saw and had compassion. And it wasn’t just an emotional feeling or an expression of sympathy. He was MOVED to act… to do something… and He did.

I’m convicted that this Easter, this Passion Week, we should take the opportunity, or better yet, make the opportunity to passionately serve others the way Jesus did… to make an eternal difference in someone else, who can be raised from death, to walk in a brand new life. May God help us to be passionate for others in the same way our Savior was and is for us

Submitted by: Pastor Bruce Turner has been a part of Christian Care Ministry for 13 years (14 in June), serving as a Development Manager for 12 of those years. He current works remotely from his home in Lynchburg, Virginia.

blog.mychristiancare.org

Finding Perfect Peace In A Perfect Storm

His marriage was going through a massive storm. Financially, well, let’s just say he was living by faith. Did I mention that he had just buried a teenage daughter? But every time I met him, he was smiling from ear to ear.
I was confused. I knew what he was going through. He wasn’t supposed to be smiling. If anything, he had the right to be bitter at the world. He was entitled, dare I say, to be angry at God. But he wasn’t. And that’s what  baffled me.
 

The Secret to Perfect Peace

I just had to ask. And so I did. I wanted to know his secret, the secret to perfect peace in the midst of such turmoil.
His answer?

Isaiah 26:3
You will keep in perfect peace
those whose minds are steadfast,
because they trust in you.

I was still  perplexed. So he explained it to me as a father teaches a child the basic elements of life.
 

#1 Have a Steadfast Mind
 

Perfect peace comes from a steadfast mind. A mind that is always focused on the ultimate and not the immediate. A mind that is concerned about the eternal outcome and not the temporary distractions.

A steadfast mind is focused on the immutable word of God.
A steadfast mind understands that the storm is around me, not in me. Therefore my peace remains intact.
That all sounded good but I couldn’t understand how one develops that steadfast mind. He took me to step 2.
 

#2 Have Unshakable Trust in God


A steadfast mind comes from trusting in God. That trust is developed through an intimate relationship with Him. This is the crux of the matter; a relationship with God.
It is impossible not to trust God if you know Him. No matter how fierce the storm may be, it’s always comforting to know that your life is in the hands of He who is greater than any  tornado. That is why Jesus could sleep despite the  tempest that was ravaging the boat.
Trust in God is  centred on love. Not our love for Him, but His love for us. If He could love you so much as to protect you by giving up His Son, surely He can’t allow a storm to destroy you.
 

Perfect Peace Is A Reality

It is very possible to have perfect peace in a storm. No matter how fierce the  blizzard may be, have a stead fast mind. God WILL see you through. A mind and unshakeable trust will anchor your peace.
I learnt a lot from that conversation that day. I  learnt to have perfect peace in the midst of storms. It is my prayer that you too will find the peace many of us have found in Jesus. That peace is real. You too can enjoy it.
Prayer

Father in Heaven, thank you for the peace that you have made available to me through Jesus. Help me to have a steadfast mind. Help me to have unshakeable trust in you.
In Jesus Name I pray.

Kato Nkhoma is a seasoned teacher of the word with exceptional biblical insight. He has been pastoring full-time for over a decade and is a husband to one wife, Alakanani, and father to two wonderful children.

Kato is currently serving as a missionary in the northern part of Botswana. He has authored 2 books on Amazon and also dabbles in freelance writing.

amazon.com/author/katonkhoma
@katonkhoma
faithcontentwriter.com

Through Ocean's Deep

My friend Vera gets really passionate about the song "Oceans" by Hillsong United.  If you ever hear her talk about the song she will say something like this:

"Do you know what you are really singing and praying when you sing Oceans?

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,
let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander”

Do you know what you are really singing? “Wherever You may call me?”
That can be the place that I'm terrified to go! That's a really big prayer!"

Over the years I have asked God more than a few of those "really big prayers". 

I want to share two of them with you though. I'll talk about the first one in a second, but the second one was for a deeper love of Jesus.

The first prayer was back in October of 2014.  I was at a board meeting for work and one of our board members was delivering a devotion. He shared a question that he had recently asked himself.  You know those questions that when you hear them it feels like you got smacked in the face with a Mack truck.  That’s what happened when I heard this question: “Who are you Jesus that the slaughter of the innocent was worth it?”

Bam. Smacked in the face by the Mack truck. At the time of Jesus’ birth, He was so anticipated among His people that the King ordered the death of innocent little ones in an attempt to eradicate Jesus. He was only a baby, yet His reputation was great and His name was feared!

"Who are you Jesus that the slaughter of the innocent was worth it?"

I took a few days to really reflect on that question.  I even made a list of who Jesus has been to me.  A few of the truths on the list were my worth, my freedom, my encouragement, my authority...  On September 19, 2015 I added a couple truths to the list. He is my Rock, and my Comforter.  Those are truths that are in scripture, and I knew that. But they just weren't as real to me.

On September 19th I found out that I was having a miscarriage that had begun a couple days before.  I didn't know I was pregnant and I thought what I was going through was a result of something else. However, after a conversation with a friend I was on the phone with my doctor, and I took a pregnancy test to confirm the miscarriage and then was on the way to the ER.  I am pretty sure I have never cried so much in my life.  One minute you have one child, one minute you have two but you will never meet the second on this side of eternity. No time to celebrate the pregnancy, just sadness.  I remember cuddling with Charlie a few days later and feeling that there was someone missing from my other arm. I'm not going to lie, it was really hard emotionally.  Tears would just flow. But in the midst of all the tears, God's presence and love was undeniable.  While in the hospital, in the middle of tears and uncertainty, I felt more peace than I had ever felt in my life.

Over the days that passed God showed me 3 pictures that led me to know Him in new and deeper ways.  The first was a picture of me trying to make my way through sifting sand, and I never made my way through.  

The second was a picture of me standing on a Rock with my arms up in worship.  He was giving me a choice.  "You can do this on your own and not make it through, or lean on Me and let Me be your Solid Rock."  We all have that choice.  Are we going to struggle through sifting sand, or stand on the Rock?

The third picture He gave me was a picture of Jesus holding me like a parent would cradle their newborn child.  When I saw that, I cried (I cried a lot).  I know what it’s like to love your child, and to know that I know that I know that Jesus was holding me like His child through my pain was overwhelmingly beautiful.

"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you."  Isaiah 66:13

When I prayed those 2 prayers earlier in the year, I never knew where they would lead. I never knew the love that God would lavish on me through times of pain.  I never knew His strength.  

But now I know He is MY Rock and MY comforter.

I have read over my journal over the years and one prayer keeps showing up "wherever you lead God, I'll go if it's for you."  It's a prayer that has uncertain results... a prayer that doesn't ensure protection, or safety, or an easy life.  Those are things that God never promises us.  He does promise that He is unchanging, and that He is our Comforter, He is our Rock, and He was overcome the darkness.  He is worth it!
What if God allowed you to walk through some really deep waters to have you experience a deeper knowledge of who He is?  What if those deep waters would lead you to trusting without limitation?  Would you still sing?  What if He would allow you to walk through deep waters in order to reveal Himself in a new way?  If you knew He would allow it, would you still follow?

Jessica Schneider is a writer who has a deep love for Christ and a desire to follow where He may lead. In hopes to encourage women in their walks with Christ, she began blogging on her site The Path I Follow. She has a passion for her readers to know that they are loved by a beautiful Creator. Jessica currently lives in Norwalk, CT with her husband Mike, and two children, Charlie and Olivia. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, walks at the beach, helping with women’s ministry at her church, and relaxing on her parent’s boat. You can learn more about Jessica and read her weekly blog posts by visiting her website or FaceBook page.

Little Leaks Can Become Big Problems

About a month ago I had to do a job on my house that was no fun.

I had to re-shingle my roof. And when I say I had to do it, it means that I was the one who physically re-shingled the roof. I did not pay someone else to do it for me, though I wish I could have done that.


Inside the house we had several locations that were leaking some in the ceiling. One spot was so bad that if it rained very much at all, there was a steady stream of water dropping down. This had been occurring for nearly a year. Some of the 'small' leaks had been occurring for over a year, and for the most part were just ignored. My wife and I talked with several companies that does roofing and each cost way more than we could even think about paying any time soon. The cost of doing it myself was about one-fourth of the cost of the lowest charging company. Definitely worth doing it myself.


I was a little nervous about doing the job myself.

The roof has several sun lights, bathroom vents, a heater vent, fireplace vent, and attic vents. That is a lot of things to work around, even though the roof is not steep at all and easy to work on.
Along with that, I have done re-shingling only two or three times in the past and those times were under the supervision of someone who was experienced, and the most recent time was about 15 years ago.
After praying a lot about it, I felt that I needed to do it myself and trust God to guide my hands in the job. Looking at the job, it originally looked like a two-day job. In the end it took two days of sunup to sundown work, plus several six to eight-hour days of work to complete the job.
I was blessed one day with about fifteen college students being there to help out. Each day I had several of my own boys and one of my girls helping out. I also had a few days of some of their friends helping out.


As we began to pull up the shingles, which should not have been difficult, we started to have problems.

The shingles were stapled down, so much harder to pull up, and then we had to go through and pull all of the staples up. A very slow painful process.
Underneath of the shingles that were pulled up, we started to have to remove may different pieces of the decking that were rotted out, several of which a worker stepped on and it broke.
With a lot of back-breaking work, the job was finished. The roof is now re-shingled and is in good repair. There are no more leaks, and we have had some very severe rains to prove that.
Now why do I tell you all of this story? What is the purpose of this posting?
Glad you asked!


Looking back over time that we have lived in this house, we have seen signs of leaks for several years. There were little wet spots in several locations whenever it rained extremely hard. Since it did not leak every time it rained, or at least did not appear to leak, the leak was ignored. I did take note of it, and knew it would be a problem some day, but did not do anything about it, just left it.


One thing to note was just because I did not see the sign of leaks when it was a light rain, did not mean it was not leaking.

It was just that the attic area was not wet enough to let it seep through to the ceiling and be shown. The attic area was still getting wet and causing damage.
The damage being done was slow, but steady. Little by little the decking was being rotted away until it would fall apart and be worthless.
How does this apply to life?
Again, glad you asked!


If I would have taken time to find the leak on the roof and make the minor repairs, the major repairing of the entire roof may not have been needed.

It was in ignoring the small problems that the major problem came up. In life, there can be small problems that creep into our lives. Little things that come up and begin to create damage in our lives. Paul tells us to not give the devil a foothold. Although this is talking about holding onto anger, it can be in many other areas in our lives.
Allowing yourself to have a little taste of sinful pleasure can lead to a greater following of that sin. Each time you tell a lie, it becomes easier to tell another one. Each time you look at something you should not look at it, it becomes easier to look at it again. Each time you say something you should not, it becomes easier to say it again.


All of these things may not look that bad in the moment of here and now, but they will cause problems later in life.

Letting little sins in your life, will make room for larger, more open sinning. In the end it will pull you away from God further and further. There can come a point when you will no longer hear from God. When that happens, you begin to no longer live for God. The 'little' problem has become a major problem. As in the case of my roof, the small leak eventually caused major damage.
Starting today, be willing to throw off the sin that can entangle you. Embrace Jesus and His ways of living. If there is any 'small' leak in your life of sin, get it taken care of immediately. Do not allow it to build up in your life and cause major destruction and destroy you.
Jesus is here today to forgive you of your sins. The Holy Spirit is here today to guide you and give you strength to turn away from all sin. They will make the needed minor repairs now if you let them.

Submitted by: Tom Arn

Tom is happily married to his wife for nearly 25 years and has been blessed with eight wonderful children. He has been writing a daily devotional blog that goes systematically through the entire Bible for several years. His desire is for you to know Jesus and His Word more.

www.insightsfromtom.com

 

Faith, Love & Celibacy

 

We all want that special person, the person God has made just for us!

We also want to be prosperous and live our best lives being successful in every area! We want it all! In order to have all we desire in life we must live in a way that leads us to all God has for us.

Everyone’s life is different, we walk different paths to get to where we are supposed to be in our journeys. We learn lessons, we gain wisdom, we figure out what we truly want out of life, well most of us. There may be some people in the midst of figuring things out, where they are supposed to be, what they want to do and in what direction their life is headed. God is there is to lead and guide us along the way even when we choose a path that may not be good for us. When we look to Him He helps us to make good choices leading us to the life He designed just for us! When looking to God for guidance we must first have Faith!

Faith comes from God, this is not something we have to come up with ourselves.

God gives us Faith to help us believe what we cannot see. My faith started off very small, I had plans, things I wanted to do and most of the time I believed I could. Along the way a lot of my plans were not working out the way I planned so I made new plans. All along I was doing what I wanted and including God in some parts but not fully. Because of my plans I made a lot of mistakes, hooked up with some people who I probably shouldn’t have been hanging out with and learned some lessons the hard way. But even after all of that I had Faith that life had to be better, I knew there was more to life than what I had experienced. At this point I looked to God to include Him fully in every area of my life and not just some parts! I figured out after being hurt many times by so called friends, boyfriends and even family that I wanted to live the life God talked about in the Bible. The life He said He has already given us!

Seeming that I was at a turning point, holding on to past hurts and experiences God first taught me how to forgive. I am not just talking about saying “Sorry” or accepting someone’s apoli-lie! I mean really forgiving someone just like God forgives us! He wipes the slate clean, let’s go of the wrong we have done once we come to Him asking for forgiveness. This was a hard one for me, I am a strong believer in Karma and although I am not revengeful I couldn’t wait for those whom I felt had wronged me to “Get Theirs!” God showed me that forgiveness was not for the people who hurt me or treated me unfairly, it was for me! I was the one holding on to hurt and bad experiences. In order to live out the better life I had in mind, the life God designed just for me I had to forgive and let go!

Although I had learned to forgive, I closed myself off to people and my heart was hardened. God knew in order to live life His Way, Not My Way, His Way, I needed an open heart!

This is when God showed me what true Love is! The God kind of love is unlike any other Love I have ever thought I experienced in my life! It is everything you would look to a significant other for, a family member for or a friend for but end up disappointed time and time again. God’s love is enormous and unending! I now look at God’s love as a very special gift! God showed me before I experienced His love I never really knew what Love was and is! I am still overwhelmed when I think of how much God Loves me! He has proven His Love for me over and over again! Because of the Love God has shown me my heart changed and I now am able to receive things from Him that someone with a hardened heart would not be able to!  Love is an action and God taught me that!

Being guided by God through this transition I remember what it is was like to live my way and the difference of the life God was showing me He had for me! I remembered, starting in middle school when I was criticized for my looks and how that had somehow carried into my adulthood. I would be easily offended if someone said something about my size, my dark skin or worst of all the label “The Big Girl Who Can Dance” UGGGGHH!! I may not have said anything at the moment because at this point I was trying to change my flesh along with how God changed my heart but those things upset me.  God showed me my true self! Who I really am! Beautiful, Confident, Bold, Smart & Talented! If anyone said something different than what God said then I knew they were liars! Now I get compliments on the very things I was criticized for! I have even had encounters with jealousy because others wanted to look the same as I do! Who Knew!?! With this change in my heart, my characteristics and my life as a whole came self Love! I got to know the woman God created me to be and boy do I love her!!!

Once I got to know and really Love myself I begin to realize my worth and how much I had short changed myself over the years.

Dating & Relationships, I was always in one or doing the other but I would always end up alone. So after I had been hurt for the last time by someone who claimed they loved me, I decided to be Celibate! Woooooh Chill, Chill, that’s not a curse word, lol, maybe foreign but if you don’t know what that is Google it. I decided me giving my body to someone that I would not wind up with in the end was pointless. I was tired of getting hurt and being lied to just so someone else could get what they wanted! What about me? I want things too! I want a husband, my life partner, the man God made just for me! And in order to get to Him I have to be ready in all areas of my life! I have to be myself, knowing who I am and what Love really is! I cannot be caught up with another man  who is not my husband just to pass time and then as a result miss my husband! It has now been 5 years, yup that’s right 5 years and I must say I am on the right track! I do not regret for one second getting in partnership with God. He has and continues to increase my life in ways that I never imagined! He has and continues to protect my heart, so I do not fear being hurt! He has put me right where I am supposed to be at this appointed time! The people who are in my life are there for a reason!

No matter what the normal thing to do is, remember there is always something better! If it is within God’s plan then it is possible! Everything I have and am working for are coming to past! My hard times are minuscule and my success is great! God knows what He is doing! I trust Him to continue to help me along this wonderful journey! Stay Tuned! This is only the beginning!

XOXO
JB

Submitted by: Jessica Blount

31 years old single woman of God,Originally from Louisiana now located in Texas began blogging in 2014. Sharing my spiritual journey and life experiences, hoping to encourage others and help them see what living for God is! Promoting positivity and doing my best to be a good example in the earth! :)  http://faithtodivinelife.com

It's Going to Be OK

If I could tell you just one thing and have you really believe me, it would be this: “It’s going to be OK.”

Imagine what that would mean for your fears, your busyness, your perfectionism, your grief, your depression, and your anger. Imagine what it would mean in your daily life if you knew at the center of your being, in your very bones, that no matter what happened or what circumstances appeared to indicate, that things would really, truly be all right.

We know that kind of comfort sometimes as little children.

The first shock of our own red blood issuing from a brand new hole can be tamed by a parent’s calm reassurance that it’s going to be OK. Mom can mend the rip in your favorite shirt. Jimmy will get over the measles. Dorothy really will get back to Kansas. It’ll be OK. But somewhere before adolescence we learn that it isn’t always so. We learn that if we don’t fix it ourselves, it might not get fixed at all. The “C” stays on your report card. The broken window earns you a spanking. Your parents never do get back together. We learn that we live in a fallen world which can’t always be pounded into submission with a little more elbow grease and imagination. But we keep trying. Hence the fears, the busyness, the perfectionism, the grief, the depression, the anger.

Good news, friends. It’s going to be OK. It really is.

If you believe that God has spoken in the Bible, then you must believe this truth. Whatever has happened, whatever might happen, it all comes right in the end. It doesn’t matter whether you can see the solution for your particular tragedy; there is one, and your Father has it all in hand. A hundred years from now, you will see it, too, and you will laugh at your attempts to fix what God had already promised to redeem. Cry your tears and mop up the blood, but then crawl into your Father’s lap and know His gracious promise: it’s going to be OK. Our God ensures the end from the beginning, and because He does, we can live a life of confident hope. It’s going to be all right. It really is. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32-33) Encouraging Reading: Romans 8 Psalm 33 Psalm 139: 1-16 Rev. 21:1-5

Submitted by: Louise Holzhauer

Louise Holzhauer, M.A., LMHC, LMFT, is an experienced counselor, wife, mother and cancer survivor whose own story propelled her into counseling later in life. She is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary with Master’s degrees in Biblical Studies and Counseling, she is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the State of Florida and is qualified to supervise interns in both fields. She currently works with two churches in the Orlando area and enjoys teaching women’s Bible studies, leading small groups, reading and babysitting her granddaughters. She blogs at dearchristiancounselor.com, and you can reach her at LHolzhauer@orangewood.org.

dearchristiancounselor.com

El Roi - God who sees me

In Genesis 16, we read about Hagar, the Egyptian slave of Sarah. 

God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations with descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky. After waiting for many years, Sarah convinced Abraham to sleep with her maid-servant Hagar to produce an heir. When Hagar became pregnant from Abraham, her meek manner changed to arrogance. She began to despise her mistress. As a result, Sarah treated her so harshly that she fled into wilderness.

There by a spring of water, she was found by an angel of God, who told her to return home and promised her that she would have many descendants through her son Ishmael. God had heard of her misery. She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me."Gen.16:13. She obeyed the voice of God and returned back as Sarah's servant. There she raised her son and perhaps grew in her walk with God. 14 years after the birth of Ishmael, Abraham's son Isaac the promised son was born to Sarah. One day Sarah saw that Ishmael was mocking Isaac. She feared that Ishmael would also share the inheritance with Isaac. So she decided to send Hagar and her son into the wilderness.

Alone and abandoned in the wilderness, Hagar was certain that she and her son would die.

Not only were she and Ishmael out of water, but they had also been cast out of their family. As a discarded concubine, her choices were too few. We read In Gen21:17 " then the angel called from heaven " don't be afraid, God has heard the boy crying as he lies there...and Hagar suddenly saw a well of water. God once again showed up for her. This sign of God's continued hand in her life must have given her a renewed hope and reminded her of God's promises in her life.

Using a concubine to bear an heir was a common practice in ancient times.But surely Abraham must have known in his heart that this was the wrong way to gain the heir God had promised. Hagar and Ishmael became victims of his actions. For when their home became a battlefield and a choice was required, Abraham's commitment to Sarah and Isaac took priority over Hagar and Ishmael. But God saw beyond their actions and compassionately took care of Hagar and Ishmael. God sustained them and was with Ishmael until he grew up.

Life Lesson - When the circumstances of life aren't fair, when we have been mistreated, when we have no other option but to run away, we must know that we have a God who sees.

He sees what others have done to us or spoken about us. He knows our misery. He hears the sound of our agony when our hearts are crying and no one else can hear it. Just as he watched over Hagar and Ishmael, He watches over us with compassion and a plan for our future. Many times running from a situation is the first thing we think of doing. We run because we can't handle the pressure, we run because we want a fresh start, we run because those in authority are the reason we are hurting. We run because we want to go where we are unknown and can start over. Instead of running from the situation if we ask God to intervene, He will surely help us to get through it. We serve a God who not only sees but He hears and restores us.

Submitted by:   Elizabeth Livingston

 

 

How to Unlock God's Call on Your Life

God has an undeniable calling on your life.

That is true on the days when you feel like your life has deep significance and is counting for eternity, and it is equally true on the days when you feel like you never accomplish anything more significant than tackling a pile of dirty laundry.

Paul says in Ephesians 4:1: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” The calling he speaks of was not exclusive to the church at Ephesus – you and I are included that “you”. You HAVE received a calling – strong and sure – from the Lord!

A calling from God does not necessarily mean you will become a full-time minister or be sent to Africa to do missions work.

A calling from God DOES mean that the sum total of who you are – your past, present, and even your future, your experiences, your failures, your pain, your hopes and dreams – has vast value in His Kingdom. Nothing is wasted.

A calling from God also means that He has lovingly crafted plans specifically for you to accomplish great things in His kingdom, and to fully embrace your life and daily live for His glory. Right now, no matter what your circumstances might say to the contrary.

HOW CAN WE UNLOCK THAT CALL?

Paul’s answer may surprise you like it did me! He doesn’t send us to a seminar, or ask us to make a list of all our top qualities that we can offer to God. Instead, Paul urges us to unlock the call by living in a manner that is worthy of it:

1. To live UP to our potential in Christ we must first lay DOWN our rights – “Be completely humble and gentle…(Eph 4:2)”

2. Walk out life with those around us in love and patience – “Be patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph 4:2)”

3. Be peacemakers and highly value unity in the Body of Christ – “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3)

The key to unlocking God’s calling on our lives is to turn from our pride and selfishness and turn to the humble, patient, Servant King, and thus become like Him.

He also unlocked God’s call on His life by laying down His rights, walking out life with those around Him in love and patience, and valuing unity among God’s people.  In that place of submission, and only in that place, we are living lives worthy of our calling.

In that place of humility and valuing others above ourselves, we are positioned for God to use us and expand the calling. And then look out – there’s not telling what God has in store! Whatever it is, it will be specifically tailored to your incredible uniqueness, and lovingly crafted with your gifts and talents in mind. In short, it will be something only God can accomplish. Will you join me?

“Father, I pray today that by your grace you would lead each one of us into the fullness of your call on our lives. Help us to walk away from our pride and selfishness, and to embrace humility, patience, loving kindness, and peace. Cause us to live lives worthy of your calling, and may your specific call on each our of lives be completely, beautifully, and joyfully fulfilled. For Your glory, amen.”

With faith, hope, and love,

Submitted by: Christine Sakwitz

Christine is the author of women's Bible studies and of the blog, The Beautiful Journey.  She wholeheartedly believes that no matter what our circumstances, we can begin to fully live intentional, high-impact lives for the glory of God!

She would love to connect with you at:

www.thebeautifuljourney.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/liveyourlifefullynow
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/live_fully_now/

The Other (proverbs thirty-one) Woman

 

Lurking in the shadows cast by the spotlight illuminating the perfect wife and mother I tried to cross-stitch into a wall hanging over twenty years ago lives the other woman.

Our family affectionately refers to this woman as the "Proverbs 32" woman.

I am the other woman.

I do realize the mother instructing her son (in this case, the wise King Solomon) in Proverbs 31 was merely summarizing the general idea of a noble wife and mother, and there was no way she expected her son to find a mere mortal who could fit the bill in every single category every single day. But when you are an over-achieving perfectionist like me, you tend to read this beautiful description of the ideal and then proceed to beat yourself up with your otherwise useless cross-stitching hoops.

See, I am not a quilter, a SAHM, a chef, or an entrepreneur. These things are wonderful, but I am not them. Nor am I a trailblazer or a visionary. I am just an overtired legal assistant with a posse of kids and a messy house. How can I measure up?

Below are just a few of the portions I struggle with: 

She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar.

Does Super Wal-Mart count? Since I usually go to Aldi, shopping at Super Wal-Mart gets me excited over brand-name cereals and a produce section where they mist their vegetables. And don't even get me started on the free samples.

She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.

I'm sorry, but I do not get up before dawn except for those very rare occasions when I have a plane to catch, and then I sleep in my travel clothes the night before so I can pull back my hair, grab some coffee, and make it to the airport just in time for the pre-flight safety checks. My eyes do not even open all the way until I get inside the airport with its lights cranked up to a brilliance rivaling the appearance of a comet.

If only I had a couple of those aforementioned servant girls . . .  

She is energetic and strong, a hard worker.

Okay, now there is just no way to "get up before dawn" and also be "energetic and strong." No way. Not before Starbucks.

Waiter, I'll take what she's having, please.

Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber.

I guess the fact that I couldn't even finish the cross-stitched wall hanging before getting bored to tears explains a lot about why I did not make it into Chapter 31. My sister-in-law ended up finishing that project for me, and her initials stitched above mine are an ever-present reminder of my handiwork shame.

She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.

She makes her own bedspreads?? Um, the last time I tried to make anything, it didn't exactly end as planned. Years ago, I got the wild and crazy idea to make bathrobes for my four daughters for Christmas. Believe it or not, they did actually turn out pretty well, if you didn't look too closely at the arms that were so long they would have been better suited for an adult male gorilla. 

She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.

Okay, I've got this part down pat. I watch over everything. EVERYTHING. I see every sock peeled off in the living room, every coat thrown over the dining room chair, and every dirty dish left in my kids' bedrooms. 

I have been accused of having the ability to SMELL dust. (To this I say, how can you NOT smell dust when it gets so thick your husband asks if you bought a new table runner?)

But my favorite part of all is towards the end. This part resonates with me on a deep and personal level, and it ties the entire chapter up into a pretty package tied up with a ribbon and says, "Here, take this. This is for you."

Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the lord will be greatly praised.

See why I love this? At the end of the day, all that really matters is whether or not my priorities are straight and my heart is right.

If I've got that down, then I am measuring up perfectly to the ideal of who I was uniquely created to be. All I have to do is trust God knew exactly what he was doing when he created me and gave me my unique family and my specific talents (or lack thereof).

Then I can step out of the shadows and into the spotlight of Chapter 31.

And my husband and children shall call me blessed.

Flaws, shortcomings, and all.

Submitted by: Beth Cullett
Beth is a legal assistant who is married to a Marine-turned-minister and the mother of six children ranging in ages from 13 through 26.  When she isn't helping her husband in his ministry with Celebrate Recovery, she is a subpar housekeeper, mediocre pianist, avid reader, and budding writer.

http://shakingmydust.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-other-proverbs-thirty-one-woman.html

True Beauty

All beauty is only reflection.”  I read that today in Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and it struck me as an incredibly profound but rarely verbalized truth.  Our culture worships beauty – never more so than now.  And whatever we were born lacking, we can purchase on a payment plan.  We can change shape, size, eye color and hair color.  We can dewrinkle, fluff up, pouf out, and pay to look like we kissed the back end of every bee in a hive.

This kind of beauty – the kind that comes from a bottle or a syringe or a surgery – is it true beauty?  What about the beauty of a not-so-perfect looking, exhausted mother, tenderly caring for her special needs child day after day?

What about the beauty of utterly impoverished folk in a Third World country, walking mile after mile with no shoes to gather with other villagers and worship in grateful adoration?

What about the beauty of those who suffer for righteousness, whose stories and tears we will never know this side of Heaven?

These, I propose, are the faces of true beauty.  And if “all beauty is only reflection”, as the moon is but a reflection of the glory of the sun, then of WHAT is it a reflection?  Or perhaps, of whom?

I believe the answer lies in a seemingly paradoxical ancient writing by the prophet Isaiah.  He writes prophetically of the coming Christ, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.” (Is. 53:2)

Isaiah had not yet seen this God Man who, pierced and beaten, staggered under the weight of the sins of the whole world.  Under the weight of MY sin.  He hadn’t seen the weary trudging of dusty miles, the nights of no roof overhead, the aching loneliness.  He wasn’t there when this Man of no physical beauty gave life and dignity back to the woman with the issue of blood.  He didn’t get to watch as, with love in His eyes, He reached out and touched the shunned and miserable leper and made him whole.  Isaiah wasn’t there when the muscled back was laid open by a cat-o’-nine tails, only to then have a crude, heavy wooden cross placed on it.  The bleeding brow, the agony of slow suffocation…here, my friends, is beauty.  He endured that for you.  He endured that for me.  Oh, how beautiful He is!  Had Isaiah been granted just a glimpse, surely he would have asked how we could see anything BUT beauty in this consummate love and self-sacrifice.

Here is the beauty from which all other true beauty radiates.  And no matter what our past or our physical appearance, “We who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).

So there you have it.  As you reflect the Beautiful One, you are beautiful.  True beauty – beauty of spirit that far outlasts fleeting physical perfection.

Beautiful friend, go do some reflecting today.  The world needs to see you shine.

Written by:  Christine Sakwitz
Christine is the author of The Beautiful Journey blog, women's Bible study writer and teacher, and homeschooling mom of two critter-loving children.  She has been happily married for 23 years and is passionate about equipping and encouraging women to live full, joyful, high-impact lives.

She would love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter (Live_Fully_Now), or via email at chris@thebeautifuljourney.com.

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When I am Weak

I can remember when the shocking reality hit. No matter how hard I was going to try, or work, I was never going to dance again. Being 17, grief wheeled itself within. Why’s filled my head as I tried to comprehend what my life would be like now as a wheelchair bound teen. I, the stubborn one in my family, attempted with everything within to be as strong as I could. I didn’t want to be the weak one

 

As I struggled with the battle of accepting myself the Lord began to whisper sweet reminders to my soul. My heavenly Father reminded me so kindly and gently, “But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.” (NIV, 2 Cor 2:19) It is not in our strength that God’s power is shown forth. Yet it is when we are willing to admit our weakness and lean on Him for strength when He is strong. 
 

Another verse that was so precious to me is, “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” (NIV, PS. 147:10-11) These two verses spoke directly to my worn soul. I was a worn Christian. I was weak, and frail. Barely able to hold onto Him anymore. Nonetheless He began to draw my sickness torn soul to himself and whisper, “Eliza, do you see that verse. I say that I do not delight in the legs of men. When I see your weak legs, it doesn’t change what I think of you. Instead, I look at the heart.”

This verse rocked my view of God and how He views weakness. God wants us to be weak, not that He brings about sickness or a loss of work to make us weak. However, God longs for a weak heart that is willing to submit to Him and Him alone.

So wherever circumstances you are walking through right now. Know that He, who can make strength from weakness is working with your life.

Written by:    Eliza Downer, a teacher by day and writer by night, can often be found hiking in nearby mountain ranges or sipping a cup of coffee. She currently resides in Colorado with her parents and 10 siblings.

Free Devotional: Searching for Significance

Wycliffe Bible Translators has released a new free, 7-day devotional, "Searching for Significance", and it is available to download here!

We’re all searching for something in life. Whether you want to call it significance, purpose, meaning or something else, there is an innate desire in each of us for our life to matter — to have significance and purpose.

We want to explore that desire with you from a biblical perspective and dive into God’s view of your worth. That’s why we created a seven-day devotional, “Searching for Significance.” Each day we’ll explore a different part of God’s perfect plan for your life, and how he ultimately wants you to find purpose and significance through bringing him glory.

Download the devotional here.

Written by: Annie Monson

Wycliffe Bible Translators is the largest scripture translation organization in the world, with a widespread mission network internationally and in the United States. They endeavor to have begun a translation of the Bible into every language by 2025 while fostering Christian community, providing educational material and fellowship resources.

Living Hope

The definition of hope interests me. It isn’t an expectation of something random to happen. It’s not a blind belief. It’s not even about a doubtful this-or-that outcome. Hope is an expectation or belief in the fulfillment of something desired! [1] Hope is looking forward to something we desire and long for, something good and believing that it will happen, despite how the current situation might look like.

What is our hope anyway?


Our hope is in God who will raise us from the dead. Our hope is in the life eternal. (Titus 1:2) Resurrection power might seem ridiculous to the world, it did in Paul’s time and sadly true even now.

6 And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. 7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. 8 Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead? Acts 26:6-8


Many people think heaven and hell are just fictional places. Because in order to be there we must be resurrected, just and unjust alike. (Acts 24:15) A judgement awaits us. Maybe they are too scared to face it, that they deny the reality of life after death.

God has a name called “Hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8) and “God of Hope” (Romans 15:13). How wonderful that His children can call Him by the name of Hope. He is our hope.

How did we obtain this hope?


Christian hope is a life knowing God and His faithfulness. Because we too were before “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12) If we didn’t know God and what He is capable of doing, how He has been faithful in fulfilling His promises since the beginning, we too would be hopeless. God cannot lie and so His promise of eternal life will also come to fruition. (Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18) We obtained our hope when we put our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the key to our hope. Because Christ is our forerunner we look up to Him, filled with hope, that God who raised Him from the dead will fulfill the same promise in our lives.

What does hope look like?


Hope is looking forward to something in the future. So how does it pan out in this earthly life? Hope is worked out in our lives by patience, perseverance and remaining faithful to what we believe. Life is so full of challenges, miseries, trials and heartaches. But we press on, hoping that one day we will go to a place where there is no more tears! When sinful thoughts entice us and cause us to stumble, we look at Hope and we say no to sin. Because this sinful pleasure is temporary, our hope is eternal.

…but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4


Hope is endurance (Rom 15:4), hope is continuing in the faith (Col 1:23), hope is patience (1 Thessalonians 1:3).

Wow, the riches of His grace and the Hope of eternal life blows my mind. And the word of God that brings it all to us, incredible! Let’s remember these three elements as often as we can in a spirit of thankfulness.

Written by: Alice William

I enjoy learning from God’s word, it amazes me, the wisdom and treasures of God and the way He reveals them to me day after day in a profound manner. In this space I share with you what I’ve learnt through my time with the Word. I earnestly believe that learning alone isn’t sufficient but walking in the word is crucial in a believer’s life. As much as I desire to walk in the word, it’s not always easy. My hope is to encourage you, my dear friend, in your walk with God with words that He has used to strengthen my own walk with Him.  http://walkinginword.com

Being Grateful

I work as a substitute teacher in a local public school. It is a very rewarding job to work with the students, however, when there is no school I have no job. This creates a great concern to be living without a paycheck and having a large family.

In the past, I have been able to secure short-term temporary jobs for the break time. This last break, however, I was unable to get one for the entire break. My wife and I did a lot of praying about it and were still very concerned, ok, very worried about it. In spite of what we saw, God had a different plan for us.

During the break I did get to work for a couple of days for someone for a little pay that did help a lot, but not enough. It also was hard to not be able to do any big family trip during this time, at least that is what we thought would happen.

On the Wednesday right after Christmas, my oldest daughter (an adult who lives with us), had won a pack of four tickets to a Six Flags park in Arlington, Texas. On Thursday, she was then given a four pack of tickets to the San Antonio Zoo.

Since I have a very large family, eight children, we had chosen to split up to use all the tickets we were given. My daughter brought herself and three other siblings with her to the Six Flags Park on that Friday. While she went north, my wife and I brought the three youngest to the zoo.

Both of these trips were a blessing to everyone that was able to go to the place they went. The older ones did not want to go to a zoo, and the younger would not have been able to do much at the park.

As my wife and I left for the zoo, we planned to be back home about 7pm. It was a three-hour drive to the zoo and we planned to leave the zoo when it closed at four.

The younger children had a great time at the zoo seeing all the different animals.

We left as planned to go home. We expected to be home several hours before my daughter and other children would get home.

As we were driving home, we got to about 30 miles from home, when the traffic came to a dead halt. There had been a major accident up ahead. I had decided to sit and wait for the road to open up, since it would have been about a 40 mile turn around to go a different direction around the accident.

As we sat there waiting, we did not know how long it would take. Time kept passing and nothing seemed to be happening. After about 30 minutes of sitting, we saw a helicopter come in and land. It was a medical emergency helicopter. At that point we knew that whatever happened, it had to have been very bad.

It was getting very frustrating to be sitting there, so close to home and, yet, not be able to get home. In just the time we had been sitting there, we could have been home already. The children were starting to get very hungry and tired of sitting.

While waiting there, we saw several people come running up from behind our vehicle to where the accident was. A few moments later, several men and ladies came back wailing very loudly. They stopped just near our vehicle and were holding each other crying.

My wife's and my heart went out to those people. We did not know what happened, but knew it had to have been bad. (The news the following day, stated that it had been a head on collision of two vehicles, and two others were also hit. One person was killed, and all the rest were hospitalized, several were children. Several were in severe critical condition.)

It was at that point, when we saw the people crying, that we started to be grateful for our own lives and protection. We ended up sitting at that one spot for about 1 1/2 hours. When we did get home, we were home only about 40 minutes or so before my daughter got home.

As difficult as it was to sit there, being very tired and hungry from a long day on the road, it was better than what the other people were going through. Several were in the hospital and one never made it home. Families were destroyed. Loved ones were lost. Lives were changed, and not for what seemed the better.

Instead of complaining about having to sit there, we prayed for those people. We prayed God's touch in their lives. And we gave God praise for taking care of us and allowing us to make it back home safely. If we had been just a few seconds faster on that road, we could have been the ones in that accident.

In our lives, there a times that things will occur that will be a major inconvenience or disruption in our lives. In those times we need to look at how the lives of others are going. We need to be grateful for what God has given us, instead of complaining or worrying about what we cannot have or what we are going through. Things can always be better or they can be worse.

During that Christmas break, I was able to spend a lot of time with my family, since I could not work anywhere else. Along with that, money came in from different sources that totaled up to almost exactly what I would have made at my normal job. God had a plan that was to support us and meet all of our needs. We were blessed in many more ways than having a temporary job would have been.

Give God praise today for what He has blessed you with. Be grateful for what God has given you or spared you from.

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Written By: Tom Arn

Tom has been happily married for nearly 25 years and is blessed with eight wonderful children. Over the years he has learned many things from many different experiences with  God. He desires to share some those experiences and things he has learned with you. His prayer is that you may know God more and be more like Jesus everyday. You may see his daily devotional blog at http://www.insightsfromtom.com

When Mom Gets Angry

"Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

~ Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)

Recently, I was reading a memoir written by highly successful woman. She was also a mother, and the descriptions of motherhood sounded like this: “I love spending time with my kids . . . For me,  motherhood is the highest calling . . .  just looking at my children makes me so happy.” It sounded as if the majority of her moments with her children were blissful, fulfilling, and warm - with kisses and hugs all around. The more I read these rosy descriptions of motherhood, the more guilty I felt: lately, my interactions with my two teenagers have been a far cry from loving! Instead, they know how to “push my buttons,” and I find myself getting angry with them quickly and easily.

At first, I panicked, wondering, “Is this normal? Does anyone else get angry with their kids?” In other words, I was looking for some other moms who could commiserate, since misery loves company! But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that - normal or not - being angry with my children feels wrong. The more often we argue or fight, the more tense our household becomes - and this is not the type of relationship I want my children to remember when they think back to their teenage years.

So, I set off to my Bible to see what God has to say about  anger.  Here is what I found, along with some ideas and takeaways:

  • “The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love” (Psalm 145:8). As human beings, we do and say the wrong things so often, it would be easy for God to get angry with us, wouldn’t it? And when I think about the types of things my own children do that result in maternal wrath, it just doesn’t compare. For example, my daughter has a maddening habit of remembering to ask me to wash her gymsuit  . . . at about 10 PM at night - long after I’ve folded the other laundry and cleaned up for the night. In the grand scheme of things, I can think of a lot worse that I’ve personally done. If God isn’t going to hold my transgressions against me, what makes me think I should treat my daughter differently?

Fortunately, God has infinite patience and is filled with love. As a parent, I can focus more on loving thoughts and words, in an effort to “crowd out” the negative. If I spend more time talking to my daughter in a positive way, I won’t have room for the criticism. That’s not to say she never needs to be admonished, and there are certainly times that she needs to experience consequences for her actions. However, when I find the dynamic tipping to a point where I’m upset with her more often than not, it is probably time to check myself and ask if I’m being “slow to anger” or not - and most times, the answer is probably no.

  • “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare” (Proverbs 15:1). This goes right along with the verse in Psalms. One way I can crowd out anger with love is by using gentle words. The next time I want to react to something my son or daughter says or does with a sharp tongue, I can choose a gentle response rather than a bitter one. I've seen firsthand that when I overreact with harsh words, their "tempers flare,” and they start yelling or reacting defensively right back at me.
  • “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs” (Proverbs 19:11). In the words of the song from Disney’s movie, Frozen, I need to "Let it go!" I am not earning anyone's respect - including my children’s - by becoming angry; rather, I need to take that moment to pause so that I can better learn to control an angry reaction.
  • “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quickly hold it back” (Proverbs 29:11). The older I get, the more wise I have gotten in many areas of life. I find that when I don’t feel the need to be right or have the final word, I am becoming more wise in this area, too.
  • “An angry person starts fights; a hot tempered person commits all kinds of sin” (Proverbs 29:22). Ouch! How true this is. Whenever I react in the heat of the moment and get angry, I find myself saying things I later regret. Making a mean comment or just having to have the last word definitely falls into the "sin"category! Thinking of it in these terms makes me more committed to avoiding this type of transgression.
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All of this sounds good in theory. The real question is, can I put this to practice in my life? My plan is to re-read what I've written here each day, and act on my own suggestions when I'm tempted to lose my cool.

Now, what about you? How do you react when you get angry with your children? Are there ways that you have positively dealt with these negative emotions? I'd love to hear from you!

Written By: Julie Lyons

Julie Lyons is a married, working mother of two teenage children - and first-time pet parent to a very spoiled five-year old Maltese. Last year, she decided to blend her part time freelance writing with her faith, resulting in her new book, The Inspired Woman. For more encouragement and inspiration, visit Julie’s website at http://www.mydailywalkwithgod.com.

Rare, Yet Available

This is about the love that is all-inclusive and inexplicable.

So rare, none but you offer it; Yet available, whoever seeks it, finds it. Your invite is to all and sundry; The rich & poor, ‘rested’ & weary.

You call in love, not for a spree, But to give life that’s abundant and free. Oh such amazing grace! Extended to every tribe and race.

You, so high and holy Chose to love me a sinner so unworthy. In my stead you did the suffering, Giving yourself up as a fragrant offering.

No longer am I ridden with guilt, ‘Cos I’ve been stripped of my filth. What a glorious identity, Clothed with a new personality!

Thank you Jesus, for the love, You poured, by the Spirit, from heaven above. So rare, none can offer it; Yet available, everyone can seek and find it!

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This love is made available to all through the ultimate sacrifice of Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Find out how to experience it here.

Written By: Jenom Makama

Jenom Makama is a Son-worshipper, husband and father of two, blogger and avid reader, food and people enthusiast. I inspire people to be authentic by choosing truth, through my blog jenomm.com.

A Daring Request

Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; Psalm 26:2

David had called out to God to vindicate him from his enemies. His reasoning was that he had trusted in God and never faltered in it. He then asked God to test him and examine his heart and mind.

When a person is working hard at trying to improve something, he may ask another person to examine it to determine if it better or not. Writers will often have an editor read through their book to search for any mistakes.

Many do not want anyone to look at it, for fear of being wrong or having too many mistakes in it. They do not want to be looked at as bad. Many fear the truth and know it in their hearts that what they are doing is not that good.

Believers tend to live their lives the same way. They live their lives one way at church and another way in the home or workplace. They fear if any other believer sees them as they really are, seeing the mistakes they make.

David made a very daring request for God to examine his heart and mind. God is the only one that can do that perfectly. God knows exactly every purpose of every action a person has done, and He knows every thought a person has had.

As a believer, you should be willing to dare to ask God to examine your heart and mind. Open yourself up honestly to God's inspection of your life, not just the outward actions, but the inside heart and mind. These are the things that no other person can see at all. In fact, often, it is hidden from the individual himself, the real hidden motives of his heart.

The daring part of asking God to do this, is knowing what God may find there. God knows that you have sinned against Him. There is nothing that you have done or thought that God is not fully aware of. Now it is opening yourself up to allowing God to show you what He finds.

God will examine you in love, not to destroy you or find fault with you, but to improve you. He wants you to be like Jesus. This can only be done if the inner heart and mind is examined and changed.

Are you willing to take the dare and ask God to examine your heart and mind?

I pray today that you will trust God's examination of your life; that you will allow God to change what is needed in your life; and that you will pass God's examination of your heart and mind as faithful to Him.

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Written By: Tom Arn

Tom has been happily married for nearly 25 years, and has eight wonderful (all still at home) children. He loves Jesus and has been serving Him in many ways for many years. Active in teaching in the church and in a school, he desires to share some of what God has shown him over the years. His blog is primarily a devotional blog, but also includes book reviews and other things he has learned and wants to share. You may check his blog out at http://www.insightsfromtom.com .

Texting With God

?How cool would it be if we could actually just pull out our phone and text God? I always assumed that there would be no such thing as hardship if we can communicate with God on the spot. If every time something bad happened we could just ask for instant advice, wouldn't the bad go away? Jesus could communicate perfectly with God, though, and he still faced incredible hardship. I believe communication means a shoulder to go to and peace through whatever you're stumbling over. It doesn't mean the disappearance of every struggle.

In Mathew 27:51, just after Jesus was crucified, it says that: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." (NIV). Don't quote me on my biblical knowledge but this is my explanation: In the old testament, people had to enter a special place to communicate with God. They had to go through a curtain where they could then be in His presence. This verse explains that when Jesus was crucified, he tore that barrier that separated his people from him. Do you know why he did that? Simply because he wanted to text you back. He knew voices reached out to him and he cared.

So when you think about it, we actually can sort of text God. We can shoot up a question to the one who always listens. Sometimes it feels like you're texting that one friend that never replies but the truth is that God is always at his phone reading his texts. Jesus made that a possibility. Now, I'd be lying if I said I always remember that this is true. There's always going to be times when you're down so low and you're getting scraped up by the ground and you really don't think God is listening in. You think you got the wrong number. You think your signals too weak. What we think is trouble on God's end of the conversation is actually trouble on our end. It can be hard to understand when God is speaking to you, and everyone deals with that. I believe God speaks to each and every person in a unique way.

Another thing you have to watch for (and in my opinion, this is the hardest part) is who's texting. The devil wants to get in our minds and he wants to lead us astray. The devil never wants to help us. He can make us confused about our source of wisdom. You know when you get a text and you look at your phone but you just see a number; you have no idea who it is. Sometimes we look at a message given to us and can't tell whether it was from demons or Jesus. That's where the genius invention of caller I.D. comes in. John 10: 27 says "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (NIV). The important advice here about spiritual caller I.D. is that we need to be like sheep that wait for the voice of their shepherd. Sheep that won't listen to a thief or a liar. We need to learn to recognize the voice of God. That's when we are able to set up a contact in God's name. No one's perfect, though, so don't feel like the worst human around if sometimes you do find yourself listening in to the wrong voice. Just stop, take a step back, look at the bible and remember what you know about God and call out to him.

Okay, quick wrap up. Here's what I'm trying to get across. You can communicate with God and in fact, God loves to communicate with you. Jesus made that possible. Through any stumbling block in our path, we can still converse with our all-knowing father. The devil wants to confuse us but Jesus gives us a way to know it's him. If you feel God's number is pretty far down in your recent messages, go and give him a text. He'll jump for joy even higher than when you finally get that text from your crush. Yup, even more than that. ?

Written By: Everitt Born

I'm a Christian writer who enjoys writing short stories, poems and devotionals. I have a website called crEate where I publish this writing; dEvote is a part of that website specifically for devotionals. Check it out!

It's Just A Stage

Living the real life stages of our relationship with Christ. We have a beautiful 2-year-old daughter. A beautiful, strong-willed 2-year-old daughter. Like most little ones, the word NO can send her off on a tangent of fits. You know, the laying on the floor kicking and screaming kind of fits. (Sometimes at our local grocery store) She has two older siblings so I know from experience that this stage in her life will pass, but when you're a mom trying to tame your toddler in a grocery store full of locals, it's undeniable that your face will turn red as you scramble out the door with the little one over your shoulder.

We have a 9-year-old daughter who is also beautiful. A bit over dramatic at times but we can't imagine life without her. She's at astage in life where she's just grasping all the consequences for her own actions and decisions. For instance, she often forgets her lunch at home. The first few times it happened I ran back home to get it for her but I told her I couldn't keep doing this. Now, the consequence? She has to eat whatever the school provides for their hot lunch program. (It's really not that bad, but most days she's not fond the of what they're serving) Not doing homework leads to bad grades, not picking up your iPod means losing it for a week, and so on. She's a sensitive soul so things like this impact her greatly but she's learning life lessons very quickly!

We have a 15-year-old son. He is a fine young man and makes me very proud. There is nothing greater than watching your kids grow into young men and women. He's very involved with youth group and is developing a very good relationship with God, this makes me delighted more than anything else. He's had many, many learning lessons in life. He's been through both of the fore mentioned stages in life, along with many others. Now when he makes a mistake he knows it. He knows when he shouldn't be watching an inappropriate YouTube video or movie. (Not that he never does, but he does recognize that it is wrong) Typically when he makes a mistake there's no need to explain what went wrong and usually he accepts responsibly for his actions almost immediately. Most times with his head hung in shame. It's hard to watch him make mistakes, but now, in his stage, I know that I need to let him make his mistakes and accept responsibility and maybe gently nudge him is the right direction.

We all go through stages. Just as children have many stages so do we have such stages in our relationship with Christ. I wonder how often He wants to throw us over His shoulder and carry us away when we throw a tantrum because we didn't get our way. Or if His heart breaks when He realizes that we "forgot our lunch" and he has to watch us suffer through a long day, or month, or year. Or if He feels a bit of pride when we are able to instantly own up to our mistakes and ask for forgiveness without hesitation. I think these stages, they can come and go in life, especially when we fall away from our relationship with Him. When we talk to Him less and get wrapped up in our earthly problems. When we try to shoulder our burdens on our own, we can easily revert back to the “toddler” stages.

"It's just a stage" they tell us as we're raising our babies but really, life is full of stages, not just of growing physically but of growing in our faith. Stages of our relationship with Christ. I can remember early days of faith when I had a difficult time understating what faith was all about. Before I saw him work in my life, before I really read scripture, before I gave him the glory for all the good that surrounds me. I am happy to say that the stage I'm in right now with God is one of comfort, of strong faith. I have seen Him work and I fully understand that everything I have is due to His undeniable mercy and grace. Not that there's never a hard time, not that I don't have days when I error (sometimes terribly), not that there aren't days when I'm discouraged, but even on the bad days, ultimately I know the good in my life outnumbers the bad by a landslide! Stages, oh the stages we go through.And through it all our Father never waivers in His desire to love and support us in spite of all our blunders.The perfect love of a Father.

Psalm 139:13-16 (MSG)

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother's womb. I thank you, High God - you're breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration - what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I'd even lived one day.”

Written By: Nancy Stank

I am a wife and mother of three. Between working full time and being a full time mom I am faced with the constant need to find a balance. I find this balance when I reflect and immerse my self in my relationship with Christ. You can find me on the web at https://christianblog.com/e263