Wednesday

The Prisoners Are Listening -- What Happens When We Praise God in Suffering

I had a most interesting conversation with a friend. I hadn’t seen Debra in years, and we were catching up on each other's lives. 

“How’s everything going?” I asked. 

“It’s going well,” she responded. “Steve lost his job several weeks ago.” 

Normally when someone tells me her husband has lost his job, the conversation doesn’t begin with, “It’s going well.” Like chocolate syrup on barbecue, the two just don’t normally go together. 

“I’m sorry to hear about Steve’s job,” I said, but before I could say more, she interrupted me. 

“It’s OK. I remember years ago when your husband lost his job. You’d come into Bible study, and we’d ask you how it was going. Every week you’d have a new story of how God was taking care of you.How he’d met your need that week. I know if he took care of y’all, he’ll take care of us.” 

I thought of Debra as I read Acts 16. 


Paul and Silas didn't know others were watching either. They were just faithfully living out their calling, preaching and teaching the gospel in Philippi. Many were coming to faith in Christ. When they exorcised a demon from a slave girl, however, the tide of popular opinion turned against them. 

The slave girl’s ability to foretell the future had given her masters a steady cash flow. Now it was gone. And boy were they mad. 

Hauling them before the magistrates, they levied charges against them. The officials were eager to comply—these foreigners were upsetting the balance of their city. Beating them viciously, they confined Paul and Silas to the deepest part of the jail, stretched their legs out as far as they could go, and locked them in the stocks. 

What did Paul and Silas do? Whine and complain because they were being punished for doing good? Become angry at God for not protecting them? Turn their backs on him because he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain? 

“But at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God . . .” 

They glorified God. Not despite their troubles, but in their troubles. 

And what happened next? 

“. . . and the prisoners were listening to them.” 

When a believer experiences a trial and continues to praise and glorify God, people take notice. They listen to what you have to say, because your suffering has earned you the right to say it. 

People expect believers to praise God when everything is going well. Why wouldn’t they? Like Satan said in Job 1:10, “Why shouldn’t Job serve you? You’ve blessed everything his hand has touched.” 

“But take your hand of blessing away,” Satan hissed, “and see if he doesn’t curse you to your face.” 

People who are prisoners, chained in hopeless captivity to the world, the flesh, and the devil, recognize true freedom when they see it. And even if they don’t appear to be watching, like my friend Debra so many years ago, they are. 

They’re listening to how you speak about God. They’re watching for the next chapter, to see what’s going to happen. And deep down inside, even though they may be skeptical or disbelieving, they’re hoping God will come through for you. 

Somehow, deep inside the jail cells of their hearts, they know that maybe, just maybe, if God rescues you, he can also rescue them. 

And that’s exactly what happened. 

“Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” 

If you’re going through a trial today, be aware that others are watching you. And they can spot a fake a mile away. It’s not enough to paste on a Bible promise and a plastic smile and lie through your teeth. You’ve got to own the truth that God is in control, and he’s going to use everything in your life for your good and his glory.

 What kind of kingdom ambassador are you? If you're struggling to trust God, check out this link of 50 Promises of God. Or read through the book of Psalms, writing down every attribute of God you find. Coming face to face with God will grow your faith and build your trust.

The prisoners are listening.
And God wants to use you to help set them free.












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Sunday

Will Your Marriage Be the Last One Standing?


I remember how it felt to be the last one standing when the stomach bug ravaged our family. 


I desperately sprayed Lysol on everything that didn’t breathe (and maybe a few things that did). I bleached hard surfaces, laundered bedding, and washed my hands until they cracked. 

Not me, I vowed. I will not get sick. It’s not going to get me. 

I felt the same way recently when I heard the news that two more of our friends had separated. Married longer than we’ve been, they appeared to have a stable marriage. Now they’re living in different houses, deciding if their marriage is worth fighting for. 

Hearing the news makes me want to reach for the Matrimonial Lysol and spray anything that dares get within 10 feet of my marriage. I want to scrub away the lies we’re tempted to believe – that someone else will understand us better, that a little pornography doesn’t hurt, that we deserve someone more exciting. I want to launder away the soil of selfishness, laziness, and pride. Most of all, I want to wash my hands of the excuses we make for not loving each other like Christ loves us. 

I don’t want my marriage to be the last one standing. My husband and I want to be part of a long line of lifers—couples who have navigated the waters of marriage from “I do” to “’til death do us part.” I want our marriage to grow sweeter as the years go by, not sour or cynical. 


Here we are on our wedding day, Dec. 28, 1984
I want us to hold hands when we’re 90, sneak kisses when we think no one’s looking, and fall asleep in the same bed every night. 

I want my husband to still think I’m pretty when wrinkles and grey hair replace smooth skin and highlights. I want to always admire his muscles and tell him how handsome he looks. I want to pray with him, not against him. 

Now more than ever, I want to love my husband when it’s easy and when it’s hard, because our kids are watching. And our grandkids. And God. They all know neither of us is easy to live with. But we’re going to keep our commitment to each other, because we promised. 

And about that promise – the one we made before God. I don’t want one day to look at Jesus’ nail-scarred hands and pierced side and say, “My marriage was too hard. The sacrifice was too great.” 

Our marriages are the best examples to the world of what committed love looks like. They're reflections of God’s love toward us – unconditional and never-ending. This is why we can’t give up.


We have to continue to become the husband or wife God intends for us to be. We have to go the extra mile, and the next, and the next. We must grab hold of our marriages and not let go – to be like Jacob and say, “I will not let you go until you bless me!” And we must forgive - seventy times seven.

Finally, we must pray circles around our marriages and our mates every day. This is spiritual warfare, and we can no longer remain ignorant or disengaged. Satan is prowling, seeking whom he may devour. He wants it to be us. 

I refuse to be the last one standing. It’s time to stand up and be counted.

"(We) can do all things through Christ who gives (us) strength" (Phil. 4:13).

Will you join me? 

If you leave your name in the comment box. I’d be honored to pray for your marriage today.

And if you need another reminder to fight and pray, take a few minutes and watch this clip from War Room, "It's Time to Fight." If you're reading by email, click here to be challenged and inspired.







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Wednesday

10 Scriptures about Death to Comfort the Grieving

I didn’t fully understand the depths of grief until the year my family lost two sisters and a brother within eight months. 

My brother-in-law lost a five-year battle with cancer, my sister died an agonizing death from a toxic clash of prescribed medications, and my sister-in-law died suddenly from a triple brain aneurysm. 

Before 2010 I had a head knowledge of death, but afterward, I’d been baptized by fire. As one family member eloquently described, “I felt like my body had been cut open and all my happiness pulled out.” 

God comforted us through those horrible days in many different ways. Friends made hospital visits and attended funerals. Distant relatives emailed sweet expressions of sympathy. Fellow church members sent cards and casseroles. Our greatest source of comfort, however, was the Bible verses we read in the days surrounding our loved ones’ deaths. 

To read the ten verses we found especially meaningful, click here follow the link: http://www.crosswalk.com/slideshows/10-scriptures-about-death-to-comfort-the-grieving.html.

And if you know someone who's struggling through the throes of grief, I'd be honored if you'd share this post with them.



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Sunday

How to Quench the Flames of Fear


Before my friend said a word, I knew something was wrong. 

She didn’t meet my eyes when I greeted her, and her normally bright smile sagged like a limp balloon. Taking her by the hand, I led her into one of the side rooms of the building, away from curious eyes and listening ears. 

“What’s going on?” I asked gently. Tears filled her eyes. 

“I haven’t felt well for months,” she began. “I thought it was just reflux or indigestion . . . then I started losing weight. They did an MRI last Friday. I’m waiting on the results.” 

Her eyes met mine, and before she said the words, I knew what was in her heart. 

“I’m scared.” 


I knew that look, because I’ve seen it in the mirror – fear, terrible fear that squeezes your heart and takes your breath away. Capable of driving every rational thought out of your head and replacing them with spinning nightmares, it makes you want to run away. But there’s no place to run, because IT is everywhere. 

The last time I felt fear like that, I took to the streets. Shoving my feet into my running shoes and lacing them tightly, I knew I had to go somewhere – anywhere. 

“Lord,” I prayed. “I’m afraid. I don’t know what to do, and this looks bad. Please help me.” 

Call Cathy, God’s still, small voice said. 

Cathy? Yes! Cathy. Cathy would understand. Cathy’s been where I’ve been. She’s gone toe-to-toe with this giant and lived to tell the story. 

Shoving my headphones into my ears and dialing the phone, I prayed she’d answer. When she did, I blurted out my story, panic squeezing my throat, making it hard to push the words out. Hard even to breathe. 

Cathy listened quietly, then said the words I needed most. “Let me pray for you.” 

Her prayer changed nothing about my circumstances – at least not immediately – but it brought about a marvelous transformation in my heart. As Cathy prayed, she reminded me of what fear had made me forget: 

That God saw my circumstances. 

That he was able to work in ways I could only imagine. 

That his resources were unlimited. 

And that he hears and answers prayer. 

The panic that had taken my breath away subsided, and by the end of her prayer, my heartbeat had returned to normal. Even better, I felt hopeful. 

Thinking back on the precious gift Cathy gave me that day, I knew what to do to help my frightened friend. 

“Jackie,” l said, “let’s pray.” 


Like Cathy’s prayer for me, my words didn’t change anything about Jackie’s immediate circumstances, but they reminded her God not only knew about her need, but he cared. And he had the power to work in her life. 

So the next time you face a frightening situation, or you encounter someone who is, pray. More than anything else, prayer will take a fire hose to the flame of fear and set you on the path to comfort and peace. 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7) 

Now it’s your turn. How have you experienced the peace that comes through prayer? Leave a comment below and share your story.



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Wednesday

Why Child-like Prayers Work


I’ve never seen a child eat with so much enthusiasm. Like a squirrel to an oak tree, Caroline had moved from across the kitchen to my side. A tug on my leg induced me to pick her up and plop her onto the counter beside me while I carved up the fat, green watermelon. 

“Mmmm. Mmmm,” she purred, eagerly watching as I raised the knife and split the striped orb in half. Before I could cut the first slice, she had reached an eager hand into its wet, pink center. I handed her a bite-sized morsel. Cramming it into her mouth and chomping down, she squirted a pink river down her chin and onto the front of her t-shirt. “Mmmmm,” she said again, reaching for another piece. 

We sat there for a while, me cutting the watermelon into little pieces and she happily eating them. Finally, her tummy full, she wiggled to the edge of the counter so I could set her back onto the floor. Off she ran, satisfied and happy. 

Jennifer Kennedy Dean, in Live a Praying Life, describes a similar situation. “A child simply assumes that the need or desire is potent enough to speak for itself. All that is required is to bring that need to Mom’s or Dad’s (or Gigi’s) attention. The request assumes the answer. The child’s only thought is to bring the need to the source of supply.” 

Her observation made me realize that I often treat God as a reluctant giver instead of an abundant provider. Caroline helped me better understand God’s heart toward me. 

When I realized Caroline was hungry, I eagerly met her need. My supply was abundant, and I fed her with a liberal, generous hand. I didn’t resent her request, nor did I find it burdensome. In contrast, it made me happy that she came to me. She trusted me to satisfy her desire. I loved feeding her. 

God the Father feels the same way about us. He invites us, nay, expects us to bring our needs to him. His supply is ample, and his heart benevolent. He smiles when we push back from his table satisfied and happy. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Jesus told his disciples, “. . . unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3). 

Dean writes, “You don’t need to build a theological case for why God should want to meet your need. He wants to meet your need because He’s your daddy, and you are the apple of His eye.” 

Father, forgive us for treating you more like a deadbeat dad than a generous father. Help us trust you with the eager, sure confidence of a little child. When we forget, remind us that you are a father who loves to give good gifts to his children. Grow our faith. Show us your ways. Lead us ever deeper into the ocean of your love. In the strong name of Jesus we pray, Amen.



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