Monday

When Someone You Love Has No Faith

My friend Marilyn Nutter edits an annual devotional book called Penned from the Heart*. She recently sent out a call for submissions for the 2015 edition. 

As you know, devotions are my specialty, so her request should have been easy to answer. Except for one thing.


The maximum word count for each devotion is 225 words.

I can't even order dinner in 225 words.


The Guttenberg Bible contains 4 volumes


.
But writing to fit a word count is a valuable discipline for a writer, so I accepted the challenge. The devotion below is the result. I pray it blesses you. Thanks, Marilyn, for stretching (or compressing) me.

If you'd like to read the full story, (thankfully Bible writers didn't have a maximum word count), Luke 5 contains all the wonderful details.



When Someone You Love Has No Faith

Verses like these make sense to me: 

“Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you,’” (Mat. 9:22). 

“’Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight,” (Mark 10:52). 

“He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace,’” (Mark 5:34). 

People believe, and God rewards their faith by healing them. 

But what if someone we care about has no faith? Is there any hope for them? 

Will God heal a person crippled by addictions? Will he heal a marriage damaged beyond repair? Will he heal a rebellious heart bent on self-destruction? 

I find hope in the story of the paralytic in Luke 5. 

“When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’" (v. 19). 

When he saw their faith. Not the faith of the man on the mat, the faith of the believers who carried their friend to the feet of Jesus. God honored their love, sacrificial service, and commitment and used their faith to accomplish a miracle. 

Are you praying for someone with no faith? 

Don’t stop. 

In his mercy, God may use your faith to bring them to Jesus. 



*If you'd like to submit a 225 word devotion for consideration in Penned from the Heart, CLICK HERE for submission guidelines. 




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Thursday

How Can a Murderer Be a Man After God's Own Heart?

David’s always been somewhat of a mystery to me.

The Bible describes him as “a man after God’s own heart.” The same Scripture, however, also describes his adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, his cold-hearted murder of her husband, and the death of their infant son as a direct result of David’s sin.

Wow.

This doesn’t sound like a man after God’s own heart, yet here it is—right in the middle of Paul’s powerful sermon at Antioch—scriptural proof that David occupied a special place in God’s heart: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: 'I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart'” (Acts 13:22).

Why?

In my quest to read through the Bible in a year, I’ve just finished reading the book of 1 Chronicles. This and other parts of Scripture give me a glimpse into what made David so dear to God.

This is important to discover because I want to be a man (woman) after God’s own heart. 

David exhibited many admirable qualities: courage, loyalty, perseverance, generosity, and leadership, but I believe it was David’s humility that endeared him to our Lord.

Here are three examples of David’s humility: 

1. He was humble about his position. 

One day God spoke to David and revealed all he planned to do through him and his family: cut off your enemies, make your name great, provide a homeland for your people, set your son upon the throne after you, and establish a permanent covenant with your descendants.


And understandable response would have been: It’s about time God noticed how hard I’ve been working for him. It was no picnic playing lullabies for crazy King Saul every time he had a headache or a bad dream. And do you know how many Philistines I’ve killed over the years? And how many nights I’ve spent on the run, sleeping in damp caves? We won’t even mention the assassination attempts . . . It's about time for me to be recognized.

Instead, “King David went in and sat before the LORD, and he said: ‘Who am I, O LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (I Chr. 17:16). David was humble.

2. He was humble about his wealth. 

He led Israel in an enormous capital funds campaign to gather the resources Solomon would need to build the temple of God. Although he could have hoarded it for the royal treasury, David donated thousands of pounds of gold, silver, and bronze toward the project. He challenged the people to give generously, then went above and beyond what was expected of him as a leader by donating vast amounts of gold and silver from his personal treasuries (I Chr. 29:3-5).

Instead of proudly standing before God and declaring how his military prowess and business acumen enabled him to give so generously, he humbly asked God, "But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (v.14).

3. He was humble about his sin. 

In a moment of doubt and fear, David sinned grievously against the nation by ordering a census of the fighting men. He ignored the counsel of his general and brought severe judgment upon Israel. When God convicted his heart of his sin, instead of defending his logic and reasoning, he confessed, repented, and assumed full responsibility for his actions.

“David said to God, ‘Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? O LORD my God, let your hand fall upon me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people’” (1 Chr. 21:17).

David was far from perfect. Over the course of his lifetime, he often failed his family, his nation, and his God. And while I may not have committed the exact same sins as David, I, too, have failed the people around me and hurt and disappointed my precious Savior.

This is why David’s story gives me hope. It reminds me that it is God who grants me the opportunities to serve him and the ability to work and give. It reminds me that God knows my frailties and loves me anyway. It reminds me that if I come to him in humble repentance, his door of forgiveness and restoration will always be open. 

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 




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Monday

7 Tips for Becoming a Better Listener

My friend and I were standing in the hallway at church. It had been a hard week, and I was sharing something particularly troubling. Although she had said yes when I asked if she had a minute to talk, I could tell almost immediately that I did not have her full attention. Every few seconds her gaze would slide past me to a point somewhere behind my head. Her eyes scanned the crowd milling around us. Every now and then she’d smile at someone walking by, and once she even waved silently. Then her eyes would slide back to mine, and she’d frown in mock concentration and nod sympathetically. 

I thanked her for her time and ended the “conversation” as quickly as I could. It was apparent to me that she was not listening. 

Before I come down too hard on my friend, I need to admit that I’m not always the best listener either. Always mindful of the next thing on my To Do list, sometimes I fail to give the person in front of me my full attention. I’ll check email on my phone while my husband’s trying to tell me about his day. I’ll mentally write my grocery list while eating lunch with a friend. Sometimes I’ve even stooped so low as to send a quick text message during church. 

I suspect I’m not alone in my less-than-stellar listening. This is why I’ve dedicated this post to the skill of listening.  I call it a skill, because while some people are naturally good listeners, it is possible for the rest of us to learn to listen well.

A wise man once said, “A conversation begins when the first person listens,” and I agree. Listening comforts, validates, empowers, and encourages. James, the brother of the Lord, exhorts us:

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). 

If you have a friend with the gift of listening, you are truly blessed. She doesn’t even have to say anything to help you feel better—her listening ear is often enough to part the clouds and let the sun shine in. 

I want to be this kind of friend, and I suspect you do, too. 

In an effort to become the best speaker I can for the Lord, I am a member of Toastmasters International. While preparing for a recent presentation, I discovered several helpful tips for becoming a better listener. I share these, with my comments added, from the Toastmasters International Competent Leaders manual. 

7 Tips for Becoming a Better Listener

1. Keep an open mind. 

Avoid making assumptions and judgments before the speaker is finished speaking. This is especially important when dealing with our loved ones. Oftentimes we feel like we know them so well that we are able to accurately predict what’s coming next. Listening all the way to the end will often pleasantly surprise us. 

2. Maintain eye contact. 

Give the speaker your full attention. My opening example and the fact that I still recall the feeling of being marginalized long after the encounter demonstrates how important eye contact is to the listening process. 

3. Watch your body language. 

Uncross your arms (even if you’re feeling defensive), lean forward, nod, and smile when appropriate. Using your body language to communicate openness and engagement often speaks more powerfully than our words. 

4. Listen for key ideas and full understanding. 

I’m easily distracted by details, so I find it especially important to listen intentionally for the main points. 

5. Rephrase what the speaker is saying. 

This is a great technique to affirm and clarify. Capturing the essence of a person's thoughts and mirroring it conveys your understanding and gives your speaker a chance to clarify anything you’ve misunderstood. 

6. Ask questions. 

Another technique for clarification, asking questions can also help you understand more fully. 

7. Evaluate. 

This is probably the most challenging part of listening—thinking about what someone has said before firing off a response. To pause and think honors the speaker and allows the Holy Spirit time to help you give you a wise answer. And sometimes the wisest answer of all is to listen well and say nothing. 

“Listen, my son, and be wise,” Proverbs 23:19 reminds us. 

Will you join me in this challenge to honor our friends, family, and Lord by listening well? 

What about you? Has someone blessed you by listening well? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, CLICK HERE, scroll to the end of the post, and click Comments to share. 



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Thursday

Sleep Is a Waste of Time Part III

Is sleep a waste of time? 

Our culture seems to think so. CDC data shows that 28% of U.S. adults report sleeping six hours or less each night. “Many people getting insufficient shut-eye simply may not value sleep. This is a culture where not sleeping very much or pulling an all-nighter is considered a ‘badge of honor,’” Safwan Badr, a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a sleep expert with Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University says. 

Anne Wheaton, a CDC epidemiologist, agrees that people just don't make it a priority. Many people think taking the time to get sufficient sleep is being lazy and a waste of time, but they could be performing so much better if they were well-rested, she says.* 

In Part I of Sleep Is a Waste of Time, I made the case that God created us to need sleep, that sleep is a gift from God, and deep down inside, our attitudes about sleep reveal our degree of trust in God. 

In Part II of Sleep Is a Waste of Time, I suggested four ways to ensure we get enough sleep in the crazy, high-speed world in which we live. Today I’ll conclude the series with three more ways to make room in our lives for sleep. 

5. Commit to a regular bedtime. While there will always be days when life requires a later bedtime, many, if not most, of our days are predictable. At my house, I know the alarm rings at 5 a.m. Since that’s a non-negotiable, I know I must be in bed by 10 if I am to get adequate rest. 

Almost 6 months ago, I shared my sleep epiphany with my husband, who was also sleep deprived, and we committed to help each other get to bed by 10 p.m. I set a nightly alarm for 9:30 to remind us that bedtime is approaching. When this alarm goes off, we begin the pre-bedtime routine. We start wrapping up whatever we’re doing, wash our faces and brush our teeth, let the dog out, make sandwiches, and gather what we need for the next day. 

6. Choose our evening activities wisely. 

“Some nights I can’t help it; there’s no way to be in bed before midnight,” DeYoung writes, “But on other nights, I get started on a project I didn’t need to begin, or fritter away 30 minutes on my phone, or waste an extra 45 minutes watching a meaningless sporting event, or spend an hour reading late at night instead of guarding that time so that I can get up to read my Bible the next morning. If we really paid attention, we’d be surprised to see what we do and don’t do from eight to 12 o’clock every night.” 

“Our natural limitations can’t be transgressed without consequence,” says DeYoung, and I agree. 

There’s a reason God designed us with a need for sleep and rest, and we’d be wise to adjust our lives accordingly. If we fail to get adequate rest, sooner or later we’ll crash—physically, emotionally, relationally, or spiritually, and the results could be devastating. 

My husband and I are six months into our new routine, and we’re already experiencing the long-range benefits. Even though it’s usually closer to 10:15 when we’ve turned out the lights, we’re still getting to bed much earlier than before. It’s been wonderful to drift off to sleep instead of falling into unconsciousness. We awaken with more energy and enthusiasm for the day. Most significantly, I’m consciously choosing to maximize the hours between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. and trusting God to do what I can’t. 

French poet and novelist Victor Hugo said it best: “When you have completed your work, lie down and sleep. God is awake.” 

What about you? Are you sleep deprived? Do you struggle with making time for rest? Is there always one more thing you need to do? Do you feel like sleep is a waste of time? 

 I challenge you today to make whatever changes you need to ensure that you get enough rest. Because when we rest in faith, we discover that sleep ISN’T a waste of time. 

What are your thoughts? Has this series helped you view sleep differently? What changes do you plan to make to ensure that you give sleep its proper place in your life? Leave a comment below and bless us all.


To Read the USA Today article, "If You Don't Snooze, You Lose, Health Experts Say," CLICK HERE

"Sleep Is a Waste of Time" is one of many presentations I share at women's ministry events, Ladies Night Outs, and retreats. For more information on Lori Hatcher's speaking ministry, CLICK HERE.  



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Sunday

Sleep Is a Waste of Time Part II

“The time you spend sleeping is not a waste. It’s a valuable investment in the rest of your life,” says Safwan Badr, a past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and a sleep expert with Detroit Medical Center and Wayne State University.* 

“Treat sleep as a valuable and divine part of our existence.” 

In my last post, I made the case that sleep is a precious gift from God, crucial to our health and wellbeing, and a barometer of our trust in God. (If you missed this post, CLICK HERE to read Sleep Is a Waste of Time, Part I.) Hopefully you’re now convinced we all need adequate periods of sleep, but how do we make this happen in our busy, jam-packed lives? In Part II and III of this series, I'll share six suggestions: 

1. Begin your day with God. Theologian E.M. Bounds says, “He who fritters away the early morning, its opportunity and freshness, in other pursuits than seeking God will make poor headway seeking him the rest of the day.” 

If we use our time of morning Bible reading and prayer as a time to seek God’s mind and will for our day, we can hold our To Do list up to his wise eyes and allow him to refine it. You might be surprised by the thoughts that come to you when you ask the Lord, “What would you have me to do today?” You might also be surprised to find that many of the must dos on your list don’t seem as important after you’ve prayed about them. 

2. Choose carefully what you say yes to. Women think we can and should do it all. Not so. Even Jesus didn’t do it all. “Jesus didn’t meet every need,” writes DeYoung, “He left people waiting in line to be healed. He left one town to preach in another. He hid away to pray. He got tired. He never interacted with the vast majority of people on the planet. . . . And yet, he did everything God asked him to do.” 

Oswald Chambers tells us “the good is often the enemy of the best.” 

The world shrieks that our children will be stunted if they don’t participate in every extra-curricular activity available, attend every youth group event, and play a musical instrument. Multiply one child’s activities by three or four, and you have a family that is running ragged, seldom eats a meal together, and, yes, doesn’t sleep enough. 

And who’s the last one to fall in bed late at night and rise before anyone else is awake? Mom. 

Evaluating every commitment by asking, “Is this good, or is this the best for my family right now?” will help prevent us from spending our limited time and energy on unnecessary activities. 

3. Do the most important things first. It sounds simplistic, but putting off what must be done each day often causes a late-night panic and flurry of activity that not only delays sleep, but often prevents it. If I reach the end of my day and there are still non-essential items on my To Do list, it’s no big deal. I can either let them go, or transfer them onto the bottom or tomorrow’s list. 

4. Delegate, Team Up, or Swap. Because we can’t do it all, after we choose our activities wisely, we must delegate what someone else can do. This applies both inside and outside our home. 

Our children are our most obvious and readily available sources of help for many of us. Training our children to do household chores is helpful and necessary. It teaches them valuable life skills, gives them a meaningful way to contribute to the family, and allows them to develop a work ethic that strives for excellence. 

Sometimes, however, especially in the early years, this involves lowering our expectations. A child who is just learning to do a chore is seldom able to complete it to our standards, but that’s okay. Taking the long view of training reminds us that the most important thing is that he develops the disciplines of serving, hard work, and cooperation, not that he does a task perfectly the first or second time around. One final note – remember that you can only Expect what you Inspect. 

For those of you who have no free source of slave labor, consider swapping tasks with a friend or teaming up to tackle them together. I’m often amazed at how much quicker difficult tasks go in the company of a friend. 

So how about it? Are you beginning to see the light (or dark) and realize that sleep is important, godly, and doable? For the final post in the series and two more ways to ensure that your sleep isn't a waste of time, CLICK HERE.

To read Part I of Sleep Is a Waste of Time, CLICK HERE.

*For more information and to read the USA Today article, "If You Don't Snooze, You Lose, Health Experts say," CLICK HERE.




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