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Our Prayers Can Move Heaven Page 8

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The Intimate Language of Lament Page 46


KNOWING CHRIST

Life Saver

The

Who will lift you up? by BOB HOSTETLER S A YOUNG MAN, Dawson Trotman At the funeral, Billy Graham said, “Daws died was a petty thief, Prohibition-era the same way he lived — holding others up.” bootlegger, and pool shark. But One of the earliest followers of Jesus he started memorizing verses of described the “one mediator … , Christ Scripture to impress a girl, Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself — and through that effort felt the a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:5-6). He came to impact of the Bible’s message. After becoming earth and got into the same boat, so to speak, a follower of Jesus, he began with all of sinful humanity. to help others believe and And when the time came, trust in Jesus Christ. In He gave Himself for you. the late 1930s, he began He died to save you from the Navigators, a ministry sin, death, and hell. dedicated to leading people to You can respond gratefully faith in Christ and mentoring to Jesus’ loving sacrifice right them. He partnered with now by praying something Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and like this: “Jesus, thank You others to effectively disciple for lowering Yourself in order thousands of new Christians. to lift me up, for sacrificing In June 1956, Trotman was a Your life to give life to me. speaker at Schroon Lake, New Please forgive my sins, come York, at a camp hosted by Jack into my heart, take control Wyrtzen’s Word of Life minisof my life, and teach me to tries. One sunny afternoon, follow You wholeheartedly Trotman, Wyrtzen, and a few day by day. Amen.” campers went water skiing. If you prayed that prayer, Unfortunately, when the boat tell a pastor or Christian Dawson Trotman (right) hit choppy water a while later, friend, or call (888) 537-8720. with Billy Graham. both Trotman and one of the female campers were thrown from the boat. Rather than saving himself, Trotman swam to her and held her out of the water to keep her BOB HOSTETLER is an award-winning author of more from drowning while the boat circled back. than 30 books, including The Red Letter Life and The She was saved. Dawson Trotman drowned. Red Letter Prayer Life. He lives in Ohio.

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DAWSON TROTMAN PHOTO COURTESY OF THE NAVIGATORS

Jesus, thank You for lowering Yourself in order to lift me up.


FROM MY DESK

People-watching.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Created in the image of God, crowned with glory and honor, heirs of salvation — mature believers are especially fascinating. I hope you will be honored to know that I have been people-watching you the past few years. More than that, I’ve had lots of conversations with our Heavenly Father about you. Here is what I have come to admire most about mature believers: You are grateful worshipers who are devoted to Jesus, prayer warriors who make eternal differences, and bighearted servants who invest your God-given gifts. After watching you, I feel I know you as longtime friends. I love how God does that! There are others who have been watching as well — the dedicated folks who serve on the Mature Living team. Together, we have been looking forward to celebrating the 40t anniversary of Mature Living, and beginning next month, we will be giving away 40 copies of the Christian Standard Bible in appreciation to our readers. So, as the new year starts, we want to visit with you each month and bring along a group of dear friends who will speak to you through the pages of Mature Living. Some you may recognize from the past as we share reprints of articles from the last 40 years. Some you’ll have heard from recently, such as our columnists Steve Rogers, Linda Tomblin, and Marie Armenia. And you’ll be happy to know that Anne Graham Lotz and Colin Smith have joined us as columnists this year. Joining us, too, will be friends whom you will recognize from their writings and ministries, or you may be surprised to find a fellow church member here. Why don’t you bring along a few of your own friends by sharing your magazine with them? Each month will feel like a reunion — a family of God reunion. And believe me, I’m looking forward to reading what our Mature Living writers have to say as they hear from God and share with us. We’ll learn and laugh and sometimes even lament together in the presence of the One who draws us together. This year, let’s peoplewatch and find God at work in our own lives. It will be fascinating!

DEAN DIXON PHOTOGRAPHY ISTOCK

Blessings for the new year,

DEBBIE DICKERSON Managing Editor

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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®

IN EVERY ISSUE

2 3 6 58

Knowing Christ by Bob Hostetler From My Desk Read-the-Bible-Through Plan Devoted

LIVING IN THE WORD

8

VOLUME  NUMBER  JANUARY 

PRAY LIKE DANIEL PRAYED by Mark Kelly Anne Graham Lotz says our nation can be changed.

16 Walking With the Word by Colin Smith 18 Praying the Word by Anne Graham Lotz 20 In the Word by Linda Tomblin

BALANCED LIVING

28 30 31 33

Life Well Lived by Steve Rogers Mind Benders by Dick Clagett Recipes Coloring Page

LEGACY LIVING

40 The Comfort Project 42 Take Care

by Danny Hedgepeth

44 Forward in Faith

by Ronda Little Martin

12 4

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

THE TIME AND TIDE OF GRACE by John Koessler God’s grace has the power to redeem all things — past, present, and future.


KICKS & GRINS

52 Creative Moments

by Tricia Goyer 54 No Laughing Matter by Marie Armenia 56 Brag Board 57 Cracker Barrel & Puzzle Solution

WHY GRANNY WORE AN APRON Anniversary article from 1979 by M.E. Bean

Aprons had lots of uses.

15

FEATURES 21 My New Year’s Prayer (Anniversary poetry from 1978) by Jo Durbin 22 Bible Stories and the Bible Story

by Eric Geiger In every Bible story is the story of Christ.

24 How to Pursue the Blessing of God

by Colin Smith One at a time, journey through the Beatitudes to a truly blessed life.

38 Be a Pro-life Champion in Your Church

34

ZUCCHINIS FOR DOUGHNUTS Fiction by Tricia Goyer

Ready to quit, Jennifer Madison needs a sign that what she does matters.

by Daniel Darling Make a difference for life with five practical suggestions.

46 Joy in Lament

by Esther Fleece Sharing our suffering with God brings us closer to Him.

50 I Remember My First Permanent Wave (Anniversary article from 1979) by Fletcher Croom I was sure it would make me beautiful.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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®

Read-the-Bible-Through Plan

January 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

6

Genesis 1–3

Matthew 1

Genesis 4–6

Matthew 2:1-12

Genesis 7–8

Matthew 2:13-23

Genesis 9–11

Matthew 3

Genesis 12–14

Matthew 4:1-11

Genesis 15–17

Matthew 4:12-25

Genesis 18–19

Matthew 5:1-16

Genesis 20–22

Matthew 5:17-48

Genesis 23–24

Matthew 6:1-18

Genesis 25–27

Matthew 6:19-34

Genesis 28–29

Matthew 7:1-14

Genesis 30–31

Matthew 7:15-29

Genesis 32–33

Matthew 8:1-17

Genesis 34–36

Matthew 8:18-34

Genesis 37–38

Matthew 9:1-26

Genesis 39–40

Matthew 9:27-38

Genesis 41–42

Matthew 10

Genesis 43–45

Matthew 11:1-19

Genesis 46–47

Matthew 11:20-30

Genesis 48–50

Matthew 12:1-21

Exodus 1–2

Matthew 12:22-50

Exodus 3–4

Matthew 13:1-23

Exodus 5–7

Matthew 13:24-58

Exodus 8–9

Matthew 14:1-21

Exodus 10–11

Matthew 14:22-36

Exodus 12–13

Matthew 15:1-20

Exodus 14–15

Matthew 15:21-39

Exodus 16–18

Matthew 16:1-12

Exodus 19–21

Matthew 16:13-28

Exodus 22–23

Matthew 17:1-13

Exodus 24–26

Matthew 17:14-27

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

Living a Christian Legacy volume  number  · january  Eric Geiger VICE PRESIDENT, LIFEWAY RESOURCES Faith Whatley DIRECTOR, ADULT MINISTRY Amy Lowe MANAGER, ADULT MINISTRY PUBLISHING Emily Ellis PUBLISHING TEAM LEADER Debbie Dickerson MANAGING EDITOR Nancy Comeaux PRODUCTION EDITOR Dawn Wyse ART DIRECTOR graphic design services provided by emily lambright and edward crawford Send questions/comments to: Editor, MATURE LIVING, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN - or email us at MATURELIVING@LIFEWAY.COM. printed in the united states of america cover photo: Courtesy of Anne Graham Lotz Mature Living® (ISSN 0162-427X; Item 005075227) is published monthly by LifeWay Press®, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234, Thom S. Rainer, President. ©Copyright 2016 LifeWay Press®. For inquiries visit lifeway.com, or write LifeWay Church Resources Customer Service, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0113. For subscriptions or subscription address changes, visit lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5818, or write to the above address. For orders with three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed monthly, at the ministry rate, visit lifeway.com/magazines, fax (615) 251-5933, or write to the above address. Annual individual or gift subscription: $29.95. Save 50% off the cover price by choosing the ministry rate when placing your order (three or more issues shipped to one address, mailed monthly): $2.00 each per month, plus shipping. Please allow six to eight weeks for arrival of first issue. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. We believe that the Bible has God for its author; salvation for its end; and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter and that all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. The 2000 statement of The Baptist Faith and Message is our doctrinal guideline. Would you like to write for Mature Living? We’d love to receive your humorous Brag Board stories (25-125 words), Cracker Barrel quips, and challenging biblical word search puzzles (payment varies). Although most article writing for Mature Living is done by assignment, we love hearing from you and will review your submission for publication in light of the current needs of the magazine. You will be notified only if your submission is selected for publication. If you have not received a response from us within six to eight weeks, please feel free to submit your writing elsewhere. Submissions are not returned. Email us at matureliving@lifeway.com for electronic submissions (preferred). For hard copy submissions, send your submission to Mature Living, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0175. Include your name, address, and phone number. Mature Living often provides information for websites. While we verify appropriateness of each site, the contents may change after publication. Please use discretion before visiting any website.


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Feature

LIKE PRAY DANIEL PRAYED Anne Graham Lotz says our nation can be changed.

THINKSTOCK

by MARK KELLY

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Mature Living / JANUARY 2017


D

ANIEL WAS JUST A BOY when soldiers overran his city and hauled him off for a life of slavery 800 miles from home. But in 67 years of servitude in Babylon, Daniel never forgot the God of Israel. Daniel longed for the days when his family worshiped at Jerusalem’s temple. When he prayed, he went to a window facing that distant ruin of a city where God once dwelled among His people. Yet as Daniel prayed this day, his heart was racing. An entire generation of his people had suffered in captivity as God’s judgment for their sin, but he knew the prophet Jeremiah had declared their slavery would end after 70 years. Daniel could do the math: only 3 more years! As he poured out a desperate plea to God to deliver his people, Daniel’s heart was buoyed by a confidence that God always keeps His promises.

“I’m praying a lot of people will pray like Daniel prayed, and we’ll see change in our nation.”

ANEMIC PRAYER As a Bible teacher and evangelist, Lotz has traveled all over the world since she began her itinerant ministry in 1988. Her understanding is further deepened by her experiences as the second of five children born to Billy and Ruth Graham. She has spoken to great crowds in large arenas and to small groups in little churches. As she travels, Lotz sees a lot of God’s people in prayer — and she notices a difference. “In other countries, especially in the Third World, people are aware of their need,” Lotz says. “Many are desperate for the basics — food, clothing, and health care. They cry out to God, and God hears and answers. The stories of miracles and answers to prayer are thrilling. “I feel almost ashamed when I come back to America,” she adds. “Our churches, in general, are very anemic by comparison. In our prosperity, we have been lulled into thinking we don’t need God, that we can meet our own needs.”

“It was a desperate plea, a heart’s cry on behalf of his nation that had come under God’s judgment.”

A NATION UNDER GOD’S JUDGMENT Anne Graham Lotz believes we have a lot to learn from Daniel’s prayer that day, which is recorded in Daniel 9. Her book The Daniel Prayer lays out a pattern for prayer she says can “move heaven and change nations.” “Daniel’s prayer is not a casual ... prayer,” Lotz says. “It’s an all-out, no-holds-barred, go-for-broke, nothing-held-back commitment to pray. It was a desperate plea, a heart’s cry on behalf of his nation that had come under God’s judgment.” As the fabric of American society unravels more and more quickly, it desperately needs Christians to move beyond a “Now I lay me down to sleep” kind of prayer, Lotz says.

A HEART COMPELLED TO PRAY Daniel felt compelled to pray, Lotz says. He knew firsthand the pain of slavery forced upon his people because of their sin before God. Because of that sin, the Lord had judged His people, and foreign armies laid waste to their city. Daniel knew his nation’s need for repentance, and in burlap and ashes, he laid himself out before God in confession.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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The American church needs to come to a similar place of brokenness, Lotz says. “Maybe God has allowed some of the things that have happened in our country to cause us to know we need God,” Lotz suggests. “There is a power to prayer that comes out of a heart compelled by the problems we see around us.” But first, Christians must be willing for God to show them what their sin is. “More than we want to believe the lie that we are better than we are, we must want to know what God thinks of us,” she says. “Then God sends His Spirit to open our eyes. It takes a lot of courage to see yourself in a different light. We can fool ourselves about our own intent and actions. But when God strips you of all that and you see underneath, you are spiritually revitalized.”

“We have sinned, … . We have not listened to Your servants the prophets … . [This] public shame belongs to us” (Dan. 9:5-7). “When we pray for our nation, rather than pointing fingers, we know we are sinners too,” Lotz says. “Daniel confessed that God’s name had been dragged through the mud because of the sin of His people.” Many Christians’ prayers are “out of focus” because they petition God for personal needs instead of asking Him to make His name great, Lotz says. “Often when we pray, we’re praying, ‘God, heal my disease because I want to feel better.’ ‘Solve my financial situation because I want more money to spend on myself.’ ‘Bring my child back from rebellion because it’s so embarrassing for a Christian to have a child living like this,’” she explains. “The glory of God should be our bottom-line aim in life and prayer,” she adds. “Then our whole perspective shifts on our circumstances so everything happens in life for the glory of God’s name.”

“The glory of God should be our bottom-line aim in life and prayer.” — Anne Graham Lotz

OUR MOTIVATION TO PRAY A key to the effectiveness of Daniel’s prayer is that he personally owned the sins of his people:

A POWERFUL PRAYER PATTERN Lotz says that singular focus provides a point of entry for a pattern of prayer that still has the power to change nations: • Centered on God’s glory; • Compelled by a desperate awareness of our sin and need for the Lord;

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• Confident in God’s faithfulness to keep His promises; • Contrite for sin and shame personally, in the church, and in the nation; and • Clear in a request for the Lord to bring revival to His people and spiritual awakening to the lost. As Daniel persisted in his prayer, God sent a messenger to tell him that heaven had been moved by his petition and Israel’s fortunes were about to change, Lotz points out. A new king was about to announce a decision that was nothing short of a miracle: He would let these slaves return to their land and rebuild their city and temple. “I believe prayer is a very powerful weapon,” Lotz says. “When we pray sincerely like Daniel prayed, the enemy is shaken because God uses prayer to accomplish His purpose and will.”

A PRAYER LIKE DANIEL’S

JUST ONE PERSON’S PRAYER

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ is one of today’s leading international Christian authors, teachers, speakers, and ministry leaders. Daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, she is the president and CEO of AnGeL Ministries and chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. She is also the best-selling and award-winning author of 15 books, including her most recent, The Daniel Prayer. For more information, visit annegrahamlotz.org.

THINKSTOCK

Daniel’s story also emphasizes that heaven can be moved and a nation changed, even when just one person prays, Lotz says. “We watch the news and think, Oh, my goodness, what can I do? We can pray,” she says. “We’ll never know the difference the prayer of one person makes until we pray.” American Christians need to see not just their society’s sin, but their own sin and the sin of the church as a whole, Lotz explains. “I’m praying God’s Spirit will fall on the entire American church and give us the gift of repentance,” she says, “that we would be the church God called us to be — to show His love, mercy, and grace to the world around us — and people would be drawn to Jesus as a result. “My prayer is that people who read [The Daniel Prayer] would sincerely, honestly, humbly, and privately pray like Daniel prayed — and then let’s see what God will do!”

Great God of Creation. God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Living God of Daniel. God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We worship You alone. When everything gives way, You are the Rock on which we stand! Save us from ourselves. We are pleading with You for an outpouring of Your Spirit on us, on our families, on our churches, and on our nation. O Holy God, look on Your people who are called by Your Name. Hear our prayer. Listen to our pleas. Have mercy on us. Let the Fire of the Holy Spirit fall fresh on us! For the glory of Your Name. Amen. Adapted from “A Prayer That Is Clear” of The Daniel Prayer by Anne Graham Lotz (Zondervan, 2016).

MARK KELLY is a freelance writer in Marietta, Georgia. You can hear his full interview with Anne Graham Lotz on his website, godsrevolution.net.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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Feature

The

Time and Tide of God’s grace has the power to redeem all things — past, present, and future. by JOHN KOESSLER 12

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017


I

N FEBRUARY , scientists announced they had recorded the sound of two black holes colliding in deep space. The collision produced a gravitational wave, a space/time distortion that rippled across the universe and was finally picked up by observatories in Louisiana and Washington. The noise, when it finally reached the earth, sounded like water. It was more of a drip than a bang. An old hymn based on Psalm 90 says that time is like an ever-rolling stream that carries us away. I understand why. The days seem to go faster as I grow older, and I find myself regretting that I have been in such a hurry to meet them. Albert Einstein, the scientist who predicted that we would one day discover gravitational waves, is reported to have said, “I never think about the future; it comes soon enough.” I cannot say the same. The future is never very far from my view. Most of my youth was spent in school, preparing for the future. When I was a pastor, much of my energy was devoted to implementing my vision for the church. Now that I am a professor in a Bible college, I spend my days training the next generation of church leaders. The future is what we save for and is the object of our planning. But if the future is the place where we meet our expectations and desires, it is also the point where the present ends. The future is not a destination. It is a current that carries the happy present downstream and bears it away. This is why the prospect of meeting the future is an occasion for anxiety as often as it is cause for rejoicing.

THE FUTURE’S TWO HORIZONS

THINKSTOCK

In reality, our future has two horizons. One is near; the other is far. It is on the far horizon that we see the “Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). This is the future of the new heaven and the new earth. The events that lie on the future’s far horizon are beyond our immediate reach. The nearer horizon, on the other hand, is the future of our dreams and plans. This is the domain of short-term goals and what we usually call long-range planning. When we invest our money or save for retirement, we do so for the near future. The near

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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is like the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb.

horizon is a realm of action and change. It is the future I worry about. The far horizon is the realm of faith and fulfillment. The events that lie on the far horizon are certain because they have been promised in Scripture. Those that are part of the near future are less certain. As Proverbs 19:21 observes, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the LORD’s decree will prevail.” An example from the life of David illustrates the difference between these two horizons. According to 2 Samuel 7, once David was firmly established as king over Israel and settled in his palace, he began to feel guilty over the disparity between his richly appointed palace and the tabernacle of God. When David shared his intent to build a temple for God, the prophet Nathan gave quick assent. But that night, the Lord came to the prophet and revealed that He had a different plan. There was to be a temple in Israel’s future. But it would be constructed in God’s own time and by a different builder. God’s promise on the near horizon focused on Solomon and the temple he would build in Jerusalem. But there was someone else on the far horizon of the distant future. The eternal kingdom described in 2 Samuel 7:13 ultimately belonged to a descendant who would be greater than Solomon. (See Matt. 12:42.) Jesus is the architect and builder of a greater temple through the resurrection.

THE FUTURE’S TWO CURRENTS Like David, we make plans for the future that are often adjusted by God. We can misread God’s intent. Even when we grasp His purpose, we do so imperfectly. We may grow frustrated when we attempt to execute our perfect plan only to find that God takes it in a different direction. Yet, David’s experience is a striking example of the capacity of God’s grace to draw all things into its power. The temple that David had initially envisioned was eventually built on a landscape that was littered with the remains of David’s

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foolish choices and sinful actions. The plot of land on which Solomon’s temple would eventually be built was acquired by David after he sinned by numbering the people. God’s chosen instrument for constructing the temple was the fruit of a marriage that grew out of David’s greatest sin. God’s grace is like the river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. (See Rev. 22:1-3.) It has the power to reverse the damage done by sin’s curse. What is more, grace is a river with two currents. It flows forward, linking the horizon of the near future with the horizon of the distant future. But it also moves backward, drawing all things into its power. In eternity, we will see our experiences from both perspectives. Consequently, when we finally reach the far horizon, we will see that God was at work in “all things … for the good of those who love God” (Rom. 8:28). This perspective will not change the details of the past. The bad things we have done will not suddenly disappear from the timeline of our lives as if they had never existed. Nor will it change the character of the past. Evil will not prove to have been something else. That which was bad will not suddenly become good. Yet, the current of God’s grace shown to us in Christ will redeem our past. Our view of it will change. More importantly, we will be changed. The debris of the past will prove to have been the stuff of transformation used by God for our good. The hymn writer was right. Time is a river whose current cannot be resisted. But the same tide that “bears all its sons away” also bears us into the arms of Christ. JOHN KOESSLER serves as chair of the pastoral studies department at Moody Bible Institute where he has been a member of the faculty since 1994. His latest book is The Radical Pursuit of Rest: Escaping the Productivity Trap published by InterVarsity Press. He and his wife, Jane, live in Northwest Indiana.


Feature

Aprons had lots of uses.

THINKSTOCK, GETTY

by M.E. BEAN

RANNY’S APRON WAS one of the most versatile garments ever made. It not only protected her dress from spatters of hot grease from the platters of crispy fried chicken, doughnuts, and potatoes, but when she churned, it caught the spatters from the chug-chug of the dasher in the big churn. Folded several times, it served as a handy hot pad to protect her hand from pot handles or the iron handle on the oven door of the faithful wood stove which cooked so many delicious meals. Granny’s apron dried the tears of unhappy little children, bringing them comfort. It wiped runny noses of the little ones and served as a secure support for the uncertain toddler. A corner could be wet to wipe off a sticky doorknob. It even could be used as an emergency dust cloth if unexpected callers appeared. The apron was a convenient carryall as the old-time housewife went about her tasks. It was used to bring fresh vegetables from the garden — potatoes from the potato house or peaches,

apples, or pears from the orchard. It could be used to bring in peanuts for parching or eggs from the chicken house or hidden nests. I recall my grandmother gently placing newly hatched chicks in her apron when she found a nest that the hen had hidden away from the henhouse. She would carefully transport the fluffy yellow babies back to a safe coop, all the while patiently and gently encouraging the distraught mother hen to follow and then safely reuniting her with her little family. I certainly kept a safe distance from her sharp beak and savage pecks! Once the little flock was safe in the backyard coop, the apron might come in handy again to flutter at a hawk and scare it away. The apron was indeed one of the most versatile garments ever worn and surely one of the most useful. Granny’s apron takes its place with the other vanishing Americana — recalling an era sweet in our memories but soon to be known no more. Reprint from Mature Living, March 1979, when M.E. Bean was a homemaker and news correspondent in Kountze, Texas.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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LIVING IN THE WORD

Colin Smith / WALKING WITH THE WORD

Fresh Fuel Open your Bible and pray the living Word of God.

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Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

people who have sorted through these envelopes have made the same choice: They wanted to talk with their pastor about their prayer lives. Now, picture this mature believer opening the envelope. Inside are seven cards, each offering a one-word description of a person’s prayer life: valuable, enjoyable, fruitful, hard work, irregular,

unstructured, and aimless. I ask her to pick three that most accurately describe her prayer life. She spreads out the cards on the table in front of her and then starts the process of elimination: “It’s not this,” she says rejecting one of the cards, “and it’s certainly not that.” In the end, three cards remain in front of her on the table: irregular,

ISTOCK

O

NE OF THE JOYS I have as a pastor is to talk with people about their spiritual lives. Often, people have a pressing issue they want to discuss, but when that is not the case, I sometimes bring out the “envelopes.” Some time ago, I developed a series of questions that serve as starters for useful conversation. Each of the envelopes has one of these questions written on the front, and inside there are several cards, each offering a possible answer. So, picture me sitting with a mature Christian believer. I hand her the envelopes and ask her to choose a question she would like to discuss. She shuffles through the envelopes and then holds one up. “How about this one?” she says and reads out the question printed on the front: “How would you describe your prayer life?” Over the years, I would estimate that at least half of the


unstructured, and aimless. Now, we have an opportunity to talk about how this mature believer can grow in her prayer life. The purpose of this column that I am privileged to share with you each month is that we should sit down together and talk about some aspect of your walk with the Lord. I wish it could be a conversation in which I could see your face and hear your voice, but since that is not possible, I’m going to draw from conversations I have had with members of the two congregations I have served as pastor — first, for 16 years in London and then, for the last 20 years in Chicago. Given my experience that many people, when provided the opportunity, want to speak with their pastor about their prayer life, I am assuming this may be something that is of interest to you. The most helpful advice I ever received about prayer came from my own pastor early in life: Always pray with an open Bible. He used the analogy of a choke that needs to be opened to start an engine and described the Scriptures as the choke that both gets you started and keeps you going in prayer. Here’s how this works: Begin by reading a few verses of Scripture and then turn what you read into prayer for yourself and for others. Suppose, for example, you are reading Psalm 1:1-2 (ESV):

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” This one sentence would direct you to pray along the following lines: First, ask God to help you recognize advice that is dishonoring to Him and give you strength not to follow it. Second, pray that the Lord would guard your heart from cynicism (scoffing) and from judging the motives of others. Third, ask God to deepen your love for His law and convince you that walking in His way will always bring blessing, even when that way is costly. Turning the Scriptures into prayer will help you keep your prayers fresh. Every day, you will have something new to bring before the Lord for yourself and for others. Every command can be turned into prayer, and every blessing can be turned into thanksgiving.

COLIN SMITH (M.Phil, London School of Theology) is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, a multicampus church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and his ministry extends through his radio program Unlocking the Bible. He is also committed to mentoring next generation pastors, missionaries, and church planters through The Orchard Network. Colin and his wife, Karen, have two married sons and four granddaughters.

Unlocking the Bible is

the teaching ministry of Pastor Colin Smith, created to put the Gospel in people’s grasp through impactful Bible teaching delivered through a range of modern media to edify believers and point the lost to Christ.

Free

Get a free e-book from Colin this month at UnlockingtheBible.org

UNLOCKINGTHEBIBLE.ORG


LIVING IN THE WORD

Anne Graham Lotz / PRAYING THE WORD

Committed to Pray Prepare to pray like Daniel.

A PREPARED PLACE Daniel had a specific place that he designated for prayer, which

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was an upstairs room in his home to which he withdrew three times every day. It was a refuge away from the allconsuming culture closing in around him. I’m convinced

we all need this kind of set-aside space for quiet, focused time alone with God. Do you have one? My designated, prepared place for prayer in my home is

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HE DANIEL Prayer is not a casual, every-day, pray-asyou-feel-like-it, run-of-the-mill, garden-variety type of prayer. It is not even a flare sent up as a distress call for help. The Daniel Prayer is a commitment — a commitment that perseveres over any and every obstacle until heaven is moved and nations are changed. It’s a commitment to pray until the prayer is answered. It’s not easy. It requires time. Energy. Sacrifice. It’s motivated by a wholehearted love that’s willing to suffer, to repent, to sacrifice — to do whatever it takes to get an answer. In today’s busy culture, it’s hard to pray like Daniel. The commitment to pray doesn’t just happen; it requires preparation: a prepared place, a prepared time, a prepared atmosphere, and a prepared attitude.


the corner of my living room. On one side of the wingback chair where I sit is a fireplace. On the other side is a table with a drawer in which I keep several different translations of the Bible, three small devotional books, a Bible study notebook, a personal journal, my reading glasses, pencil, pen, legal pad, iPad, and tissues. I want everything within reach so that once I slip into my prepared place, I can simply pray.

A PREPARED TIME Daniel not only had a prepared place; he also had a prepared time for communing with the Lord. He established the habit of meeting God in his designated place for prayer three times a day, and he maintained that commitment even when under pressure and in the face of life-threatening attack. Do you not only have a set-aside place for prayer, but a set-aside time to meet with God in prayer? When do you pray? I pray in the morning. Waking up used to require a clock that sounded like a major seven-fire alarm, loud worship music, a jog, and a triple shot of espresso in my latte. But, over time, getting up for an early morning prayer time has become one of my greatest joys in life.

A PREPARED ATMOSPHERE Daniel did something else that I believe helped him keep his

focus when he prayed; he had a prepared atmosphere. When Daniel went to his designated place for prayer, he opened his windows toward Jerusalem — home. The poignant gesture revealed not only the longing in his heart for his city and his people but also his exclusive focus on the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. There are a variety of ways to prepare the atmosphere for your prayer time. Once in a while, change your designated place to one that’s outside where you can reflect on the beauty of His creation. Or, use the words of hymns or praise songs to help you stay focused. You can play praise and worship music or even use aspects of color and décor to set the mood in the space you’ve set aside. Just consider what will help you open the window of your heart toward your Heavenly Father — and home.

A PREPARED ATTITUDE Finally, Daniel had a prepared attitude for prayer. His body language — bowing his knees to God — helped him remember that he, Daniel, a slave in exile, had an audience with the One who is the living God, All Glorious, Most Holy, the Ancient of Days, the Almighty. It was an outward gesture that revealed his inner attitude of humility, reverence, submission, and allegiance to the One so much greater than himself or any earthly king or world ruler.

Only prayer that moves heaven can change a nation. When was the last time you prayed on your knees? Have you ever prayed on your knees? Try it. The difference your outward position makes in your inner attitude as you pray may surprise you. Daniel taught us about prayer by his own example. Heartfelt, desperate prayer. Prayer where the pray-ers rend their hearts, return to the cross, and repent of personal and national sin. Only prayer that moves heaven can change a nation. I believe it’s time to pray like Daniel.

ANNE GRAHAM LOTZ is one of today’s leading international Christian authors, teachers, speakers, and ministry leaders. Daughter of Billy and Ruth Graham, she is the president and CEO of AnGeL Ministries and chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force. She is also the best-selling and award-winning author of 15 books, including her most recent, The Daniel Prayer. For more information, visit annegrahamlotz.org.

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LIVING IN THE WORD

Linda Tomblin / IN THE WORD

Consider Others “Consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

I

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my car. Thousands of crumbs were scattered across the carpets. Smudges smeared the spotless windows, and sticky fingerprints had taken up residence on the leather seats. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. “Help me, Lord,” I whispered. Scraps of songs the children sang on their way home ran through my mind as I prayed. Memories slipped through the closed windows as their voices came back. They had actually been talking about being a Christian between their giggles

and teasing. And to think, I had almost let selfishness rob me of the blessing of those memories. The seats and windows could be cleaned, and the crumbs could be swept away, but nothing could replace the wonder of those young hearts as they first begin to understand about Jesus. I hoped tonight would remain with them — and me — for life! LINDA TOMBLIN is an awardwinning author from Rutherfordton, North Carolina. She is a popular speaker and teacher and is a two-time winner of the national AMY award.

THINKSTOCK

HAD A NEW CAR! Not new to its previous owner, but it was new to me. It was beautiful, silver with black leather seats and interior. It was spotless, and even more importantly, it started when the key was turned. My old one had finally given up the ghost. True, it had also been new and shiny at first, but with four grandchildren and various neighborhood kids riding in it to church, play practice, preschool, and so forth, it had rapidly lost its glow. I enjoyed a few weeks of quiet, clutter-free driving until our church decided to begin a children’s choir. That’s when I found myself once again stuffing children into my car. Naturally, none had eaten before leaving home, so within five minutes, they were all hungry and dying of thirst. I finally gave in and stopped for snacks, and after myriad warnings, handed the treats to my passengers. After practice, I dropped the children off, parked under a streetlight, and wearily inspected


my New Year’s prayer Feature

by JO DURBIN Dear Lord, I offer humble thanks For the year I’ve just come through; For the sorrows and joys, the laughter and tears, The rain, the sunshine, the dew. I thank Thee, dear Lord, that the darkest clouds Have been lined with silver and gold, That the burdens that seemed so heavy at the time, Have Thy blessings helped to unfold. I know as the stone must be chiseled and cut To bring out its beauty rare, So I must bear burdens, have heartaches, shed tears, To keep me near Thee in prayer.

THINKSTOCK

Dear Lord, in the year that lies ahead, I ask not the easy way But that Thou will provide the strength that I need To care for my trials each day. I seek not the paths without any thorns, The days that are cloudless and fair, But I ask for the faith to trust full in Thee And the privilege of service and prayer.

Reprint from Mature Living, January 1978

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Feature

BIBLE STORIES and the

BIBLE STORY In every Bible story is the story of Christ. by ERIC GEIGER

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JESUS IS I AM. Many centuries after Moses, Jesus called Himself “I am” (John 8:58). Jesus was claiming to be eternal and was simultaneously saying, “It was My voice in the burning bush who spoke to Moses, announcing freedom for God’s people. The voice your grandparents told you about, the voice that led your ancestors to freedom — that was My voice! I am.”

THINKSTOCK / ISTOCK

OME PEOPLE MISS the story of the Bible — even people who can recite verses and give details to some of the stories within the Bible. Edmund Clowney stated, “It is possible to know Bible stories and miss the Bible story.” Sadly, lots of people grow up knowing bits and pieces of the Bible but fail to understand the whole story. The story of Moses is an example. What an incredible episode in the grand narrative of Scripture! So much is there: plagues, a dramatic rescue, a parting sea, the giving of the Ten

Commandments, and a tabernacle. But as we read the narrative of Moses, we must see how it points us to the central figure in the story of the Bible — Christ Himself.


“Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.” — J.I. Packer JESUS IS THE LAMB. When Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples, He changed the meaning of the meal. No longer would God’s people eat the bread and drink of the cup to remember their rescue from physical slavery. From now on, God’s people would remember the death of the Lamb of God and the liberation from the slavery of sin. The meal would no longer be about the blood of lambs on doorposts but the blood of the Lamb of God over our lives.

JESUS IS THE FULFILLMENT OF THE LAW. When Moses asked the people if they would keep His covenant, they promised, “We will do all that the LORD has spoken” (Ex. 19:8). But they never could. Nor can we. All of us have broken the commands of God. The law was given to us, in part, to show us that we couldn’t keep the law — that we need Christ who can keep it for us. Jesus came to fulfill the law. He obeyed it perfectly, and when we receive Him as Lord, we receive all of His obedience.

JESUS IS THE TABERNACLE. As Moses led the people in the wilderness, God instructed Moses to construct the tabernacle. The tabernacle was a pitched tent where God met with man. In Jesus, God pitched a tent in human skin. He dwelt among us. God’s people no longer look to the tabernacle to see God. We look to Jesus. (See John 1:14.)

JESUS IS GREATER THAN MOSES. Just as the pharaoh of Egypt wanted all males slaughtered, so did King Herod of Judea when Jesus was born. Both Moses and Jesus, in God’s providence, survived the genocide. Moses led

God’s people to freedom, but Christ leads us to a greater and better freedom — freedom from our sin and shame. For this reason, “Jesus is considered worthy of more glory than Moses” (Heb. 3:3). The story of Moses is awesome because it points us to the story of Christ, the ultimate point of Scripture. As we read Bible stories, we must not miss the Bible story. Read your Bible this year, but read it looking at Christ! As J.I. Packer stated, “Whatever else in the Bible catches your eye, do not let it distract you from Him.”

Unfolded: The Story of God Most of us know some Bible stories, but do we know the story of the Bible? In this THE STORY OF GOD 8-session study, Unfolded: The Story of God, Eric Geiger helps us see that while the ERIC GEIGER Bible is a collection of 66 books, the overarching theme of Scripture is God’s powerful redemptive story. Because the story of the Bible is about God, the story begins with God. God wants to be known. And because He wants to be known by you, He has self-disclosed who He is. He is not a silent God. In His great love, He has revealed Himself to us through His story. The Bible is His story, and it is better and greater than any other. Unfolded: The Story of God is available this month at lifeway.com/Unfolded. 8-SESSION BIBLE STUDY

ERIC GEIGER serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric authored or coauthored several books including Creature of the Word and the best-selling church leadership book, Simple Church. He also serves as the senior pastor of ClearView Baptist Church in Franklin, Tennessee. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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PHOTO CREDIT

Feature

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One at a time, journey through the Beatitudes to a truly blessed life.

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by COLIN SMITH HAT DO YOU THINK a blessed life looks like? Is it having a happy marriage? Gifted children and grandchildren? Good health? Fulfilling work? Financial stability? All of these are rich blessings, but none of them are included in our Lord’s description of the life that is blessed. Not one! No one knows where blessing is to be found more than Jesus Christ, and when He speaks about the blessing of God, as He does in the Beatitudes, I want to pull up a chair and listen. Jesus does not say, “Blessed are the happily married,” “Blessed are those who enjoy good health,” or “Blessed are those who can afford a large home and exotic vacations.” When He sits down with His disciples to tell them (and us) about life under the blessing of God, He describes a person who is poor in spirit, mourns over his or her sins, and meekly submits to the will of God. Out of this comes a great longing to grow in righteousness, which, in turn, produces the beautiful fruit of mercy, purity and peace. (See Matt. 5:1-10.) There is a definite order in the Beatitudes. Each blessing flows from the others that went before, and together, they provide a practical plan for pursuing the blessing of God. The Beatitudes give directions for discipleship that you can pursue in your own life and a grid for growth that you can

use when you have the opportunity to mentor or counsel others. Suppose, for example, you are trying to help a colleague who wants to forgive but feels that forgiving is beyond her reach. She knows she is supposed to forgive, and she admires others who do, but she has been hurt, and her wounds run deep. The Beatitudes, properly understood, show how she can grow in mercy and so, get to forgiveness. Or, suppose you are discipling a friend who struggles with impurity. Images he now wishes he had never seen press into his mind, pouring fuel on the flames of his desires. He feels trapped and longs to be free, but he doesn’t know how to get out of this prison. How do you get to purity? That’s his question, and the Beatitudes hold the answer. Somewhere in your life, you will face a bend in the road that takes you by surprise. A loved one dies, your church divides, a serious illness is diagnosed, and then you find yourself in turmoil. You wish you could find a greater degree of peace, but how do you get there? The Beatitudes will show you the way. Picture a series of seven rings, each suspended on a rope from a high ceiling. At either end of these rings, there is a high platform, and your goal is to get from one platform to the other by swinging from ring to ring. The first ring is within your reach. If you pull it back and swing on it, your momentum will

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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bring you within reach of the second ring, and swinging on the second ring will bring you within reach of the third and so on. I’ve found it helpful to think about the Beatitudes as being like this series of seven rings. The only way to get to the fifth ring of forgiveness, the sixth ring of purity, and the seventh ring of peace is by means of the rings that went before. Forgiveness, purity, and peace have to be reached, and the Beatitudes show us how. The starting point in this journey is to acknowledge your own need. We become poor in spirit when we see that we do not have what it takes. (See Matt. 5:3.) We are not the Christians we want to be, and we are a long way from what God calls us to be. The good news is that this first ring is within your reach. In the kindness of God, the need you feel for purity, peace, and the ability to forgive others is where you begin. Blessing begins when you come to God empty-handed, knowing your only hope is to receive what you need from Him. Owning your need will lead you to mourn over your own sins. (See Matt. 5:4.) God’s purpose for your life is not that you should remain stuck in a cycle of sinning, saying sorry to God and then repeating the same behavior. Spiritual mourning will break that cycle by bringing you to a place where you grieve over your sin, see its cost, and make a decisive break from it. The more you know of this kind of mourning in your life, the more blessed you will be. Spiritual mourning will lead you to the meekness that humbly submits to God. (See Matt. 5:5.) A horse that has not yet been broken resists the bit and the bridle. But when its wild passions are tamed, its strength is controlled. Meekness is the submission that brings strength under control. It tames the temper, calms the passions of the heart, and brings order out of the chaos that would otherwise reign in your soul. These first three Beatitudes are the roots of a blessed and godly life, and from them come the shoots of a deep hunger and thirst for righteousness. (See Matt. 5:6.) Continuing that

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metaphor, the shoots of this righteous desire will produce the beautiful fruit of mercy, purity, and peace described in the fifth, sixth, and seventh Beatitudes. (See Matt. 5:7-9.) If you feel stuck in your Christian life and want to move forward, the Beatitudes are for you. If you are battling with a compulsive sin or addiction and long for greater strength in your struggle against temptation, the Beatitudes are for you. If you are mentoring or discipling other believers and want to show them a practical plan for growing in the Christian life, the Beatitudes are for you. Welcome to the gymnasium. The rings are suspended above you. Take a firm hold on the first ring and swing!

Most Christians want to make real, noticeable progress in their walk with Christ. Momentum: Pursuing God’s Blessings Through the Beatitudes (Moody Publishers, October 2016) and the Momentum Bible study (available from LifeWay in July 2017) can help. Find out what it really means to be poor in spirit, to be meek, and to mourn, and discover how those qualities will help you live a life in which God’s blessings are abundantly clear and present. Learn more about the Bible study at lifeway.com/momentum, call 800.458.2772, or visit the LifeWay Christian Store serving you. COLIN SMITH (M.Phil. London School of Theology) is senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church, a multicampus church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, and his ministry extends through his radio program, Unlocking the Bible. He is also committed to mentoring next generation pastors, missionaries, and church planters through The Orchard Network. Colin and his wife, Karen, have two married sons and four granddaughters.


Notetaking Bible Your Journey.Your Life. Your Bible. Enjoy An Escape Into God’s Word AVAILABLE IN HCSB, KJV & NKJV

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BALANCED LIVING

Steve Rogers / LIFE WELL LIVED

Is It Time to Make a New Will? Change your will to find the perfect will of God.

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including the ungrateful children, are gathered in the drawing room for the reading of the will. Everyone leans in, hanging on every word as it comes from the lips of the family attorney: “To my faithful valet, Tredwell, I leave

a legacy of 500 pounds. To my only granddaughter, Bernice, I leave the rest of my entire estate including Willington Manor, the summer home on the Isle of Wight, the Rolls and Bentley, and controlling interest in the diamond mine in Rhodesia.”

THINKSTOCK

ERHAPS, like me, you’re a fan of Agatha Christie whodunits. If so, you’re familiar with the stereotyped setting: The elderly patriarch — universally reviled — has finally died, and all of the relatives,

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Everyone’s jaw drops as the harsh reality sinks in: The old man changed the will! As evidenced by the shock on the faces of the siblings and offspring who find themselves suddenly disinherited, a changed will can cause disruption. Assumptions are challenged. Past plans are abandoned. Expectations are realigned with a new reality. This, of course, is what happens when you surrender your will to the will of God. A whole new set of plans and priorities are immediately put in place. But don’t worry. When this happens, you aren’t going to find yourself among the disinherited — suddenly stripped of all of the best things you had hoped for in life. On the contrary, you will be more like granddaughter Bernice as the keys to God’s unlimited riches are placed in your hands. Imagine God telling you, “Child, one of the keys in your hands opens this safe deposit box with your name on it. Go ahead.” As you unlock the box, you see that the only thing it contains is a detailed set of blueprints. “‘For I know the plans I have for you’ — this is the LORD’s declaration — ‘plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’” (Jer. 29:11). Many resist God’s will and, like Jonah, end up running from it, convinced that if they gave God total control, He would

In reality, God wants for you what you would want for yourself if you had enough sense to want it. end up sending them off to some developing country to live out their days in some menial servitude. In reality, God wants for you what you would want for yourself if you had enough sense to want it. Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, KJV). Although we know God’s will will ultimately be done “in earth, as it is in heaven,” a quick glance at this morning’s headlines will reveal with certainty that God’s will is not being done everywhere on earth right now. I wonder if this was Jesus’ intention for this line in the Lord’s Prayer about God’s will: Pray for it globally; apply it personally. Want to know God’s perfect will for your life? Here’s a great way to begin: Starting tomorrow, begin your day with your own personalized version of the Lord’s Prayer. Something like this: “Thy kingdom come (in me); Thy will be done (in my life today). No matter where I am or what I do, no matter where my path leads me, no matter what challenges I may face, let my life

be an outpost of Your kingdom in which You rule and reign and in which Your will is done.” As you seek God’s will in your life, here are several thoughts to ponder: • God’s will is in a person, not a place. • God’s will is a relationship, not a road map. • God is not so much concerned about where you are geographically as where you are spiritually. Isn’t it time you tore up that old self-will you’ve been clinging to and say, “God, from now on, I’m signing on to Your will”? Jesus showed us how it’s done in the garden of Gethsemane. He didn’t need an attorney to advise Him or a paralegal to draft the document. He simply prayed, “Not my will, but thine” (Luke 22:42, KJV).

“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:10, KJV

STEVE ROGERS is president and co-founder of the Adrian Rogers Pastor Training Institute in North Palm Beach, Florida. A well-known author, songwriter, and speaker, he co-wrote three books with his father. He and his wife, Cindi, have a daughter and a grandson.

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BALANCED LIVING

Mind Benders by DICK CLAGETT

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Acacia Agate Almonds Amethyst Beryl Blue Brass Candlesticks Diamond Emerald Gold Jasper Ligure Olive Oil Onyx Stone Poles of Gold Purple Rams Skin Rings of Gold Ruby Sapphire Scarlet Silver Ten Curtains Topaz Two Cherubim Veil

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Search up, down, forward, backward, and diagonally to find words relating to the tabernacle and breastplate. Solution is on page 57.


From The Chautauqua's 20th Anniversary Cookbook, 1992

COMFORT SOUPS

ALYSSAJOYPHOTO.COM

Styling & Photography by Alyssa Valletta

BEEF VEGETABLE SOUP

CHEESE SOUP

SOUR CREAM POTATO SOUP

CHILI


Our Favorite

R ECIPES Cheese Soup

Beef Vegetable Soup

1½ quarts water 2½ cups diced potatoes 1 cup chopped celery 1 cup chopped onion 2 packages California mixed vegetables (broccoli, carrots, cauliflower) 2 cans cream of chicken soup 4 chicken bouillon cubes 1 pound Velveeta

1½ pounds beef tips chicken broth 5 ribs celery and leafy tops, chopped 2 large onions, chopped 4 potatoes, diced 1 cup mushrooms, sliced 64-ounce can V8® juice 1 cup corn 1 cup okra 1 cup macaroni 1 pound package winter vegetables (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower)

Cook vegetables in water until done; add chicken soup, bouillon cubes, and Velveeta cheese. Leave on burner until cheese melts. Yield: 10 servings Beulah Waisner, Marshall, Missouri

Cook beef tips in chicken broth for one hour. Cook celery, onions, potatoes, and mushrooms in water. Drain. Add these vegetables to beef tips. Add V8 juice, corn, okra, macaroni, and winter vegetables to beef tips. Bring to a boil and cook 30 minutes. Serve with cornbread. Yield: 10 to 12 servings Geneva Box, Dallas, Texas

MATURE LIVING MAGAZINE / JANUARY 2017

MATURE LIVING MAGAZINE / JANUARY 2017

Chili

Sour Cream Potato Soup

1 pound ground chuck 2 garlic cloves, chopped 1 large onion, chopped 4 tablespoons oil 4 tablespoons chili powder 1 tablespoon salt 2 bay leaves 2 teaspoon cumin seeds 2 teaspoon oregano seeds (or leaves) 12 coriander seeds, mashed 4 tablespoons flour 1 can diced tomatoes 1 can tomato sauce 2 cans pinto beans

4 cups red potatoes, diced ½ cup chopped celery ½ cup chopped onion 3 cups water 2 cups milk 2 chicken bouillon cubes 3 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons flour 1 small carton sour cream 2 teaspoons salt ½ teaspoon pepper

Combine ground chuck, garlic, onion, and oil. Cook until vegetables are tender and meat is browned. Mix spices with flour and add to meat mixture. Add tomatoes and tomato sauce. Simmer 30 minutes. Add beans. Heat thoroughly. Remove bay leaves before serving. Yield: 6 to 8 servings Sue Orrell, Chattanooga, Tennessee MATURE LIVING MAGAZINE / JANUARY 2017

Cook potatoes, celery, and onion in water until tender. Add milk, bouillon cubes, and butter. Mix flour and sour cream with a little milk; add to soup mixture. Stir constantly until thickened. Stir in salt and pepper last. Yield: 6 servings Helen Chaney, Bastrop, Louisiana

MATURE LIVING MAGAZINE / JANUARY 2017


COLORING PAGE

I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

ILLUSTRATION: BRENDA GILLIAM

Isaiah 41:10

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Fiction

Jennifer Madison unwrapped the scarf from around her neck and looked down at the children gathered beside her, standing in the foyer of the extended care facility. She’d been teaching the second grade Sunday School class for the last year, and they’d been learning about trusting God for all their needs. She’d come up with the idea for the children to interview a few elderly people — to learn about their faith and life — but now she wondered why she’d thought it was a good idea. There had been fighting and pushing on the way to the church van, and the ride hadn’t been any smoother.

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by TRICIA GOYER

H, LORD, DID YOU really call me to this? Jennifer had prayed on the way over. Can You give me a sign that I’m making a difference? I’m ready to just quit. She forced a smile and gazed down at the group of eight children. Their cheeks were pink from the nippy air outside, but only a few seemed interested in this outing. Two kids clutched their handheld

games, eyes focused on the screens. A small cluster of girls were chatting. One was yawning, and only two children seemed halfway interested, and neither of them were her own kids. Why am I doing this? Why am I wasting my time? It had been the Sunday School director who had approached her, asking if she’d be interested in teaching the class for the coming year. Jennifer had been both surprised and worried when she’d been asked. Surprised because she didn’t see

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and the doughnuts. And that’s when everything had changed. Miss Rhonda had come with the doughnuts, and a relationship was built. Even more importantly, over the coming months, she’d learn about Jesus too. Jesus had changed her life, and that’s why she’d agreed to teach. But as the children fought over who would be first in line, she decided this would be her last month. I’m just not making a difference. Jennifer released a sigh, “Children, does everyone have a question card?” The children nodded and pulled the notecards from their pockets. They’d come prepared for each child to pair up with a resident and ask questions.

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herself as the teacher type. And worried … well, she didn’t know how to say no. So, Jennifer did the politically correct thing to do when approached by a task like this. She’d smiled at Margo, “Wow, I’m so honored to be asked. Can I pray about it?” It wasn’t until a few days later when she sat down with her Bible and prayer journal that she remembered to pray. Over the last year, she’d learned the importance of focusing on just a few ministries instead of spreading herself too thin. She’d just assumed that as she prayed, she’d feel peace about saying no to teaching. But as she closed her eyes, a memory filled her thoughts. Jennifer saw herself as an 8-yearold girl attending church for the first time. Her parents had just divorced. Church hadn’t been part of their lives before that, but her mom had said she needed God’s strength since she had no one else to lean on. Jennifer still remembered her dress — a secondhand frock they’d gotten at a yard sale. When she entered the Sunday School class, she recognized a few of the kids, but she felt out of place as the other children recited memory verses and sang songs. All eyes were on her, and she couldn’t wait to find her mother. But just before they were dismissed, Miss Rhonda set a treasure box in front of her. “Since you are our new guest, you get to pick. Either silver from the treasure box, or I’ll bring doughnuts to you and your mother this week.” All eyes had turned to Jennifer, and she’d wiggled in her seat. As much as she liked the idea of silver, there was something in Miss Rhonda’s eyes that made Jennifer pick her


Butterflies filled Jennifer’s stomach, and she leaned forward, waiting for the rest of the story.

“All right. The residents are waiting. Use your manners, please.” They chattered and shoved, but as they walked into the activity room, the children quieted. One by one, she matched each child with a person to interview. As she took her last student, Sophie Wall, to the woman waiting, Jennifer paused. Sitting in a wheelchair with a large smile and permed white hair was a familiar face. Jennifer placed a hand on her heart. “Miss Rhonda?” “Is that little Jenny?” the old woman’s eyes glimmered. Her frail hand reached out, and Jenny took it in her own. “It’s so good of you to come see me.” The woman’s skin was paper thin, but her grip was strong. “Are these your children?” “Two of these children are mine, Miss Rhonda. The rest are my Sunday School class.” Miss Rhonda gazed around the room. “You’re teaching Sunday School?” Jennifer sat in the chair next to the older woman, and Sophie sat on the other side. “Yes, I am. I have been for about a year.” She left off the part that she wouldn’t be teaching soon. After all, she was no Miss Rhonda. Warmth filled her chest as she noticed her teacher’s hair was now white and her frame thin, but she still wore the same brilliant smile. Miss Rhonda sighed. “I’ve been wondering what story I was going to share today. Yes, I’ve seen God do a lot of things over the years, but ... ” A spark of joy brightened her face. “Now I’ve thought of the perfect story. Jenny, this story includes you.” “Me?” “Oh, yes. You see, teaching Sunday School was one of my joys, but when my husband, Robert, lost his job, I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to keep it up. I didn’t have a budget like teachers do these days. I’d spend my own money for the memory verse prizes and quarters from the treasure box.” Miss Rhonda let out a heavy sigh. “And then, when I saw your scared face, I knew you — and

most likely your mother — needed a friend. And that’s when I gave you the option of my bringing doughnuts. I’d never given that option before, and I did it only a few times after that. But I knew it was a way to get to know you both better. Robert and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, let alone doughnut money. It was a step of faith.” Butterflies filled Jennifer’s stomach, and she leaned forward, waiting for the rest of the story. “What happened?” Sophie asked, her eyes wide. “Well, I used to keep a garden, and I’d sell extra produce for spending money. The next day, when I went to the garden, it was as if the whole thing had exploded. I must have had 25 zucchinis if I had one.” She chuckled. “Zucchinis for doughnuts!” “I’d rather have doughnuts!” Sophie said with a chuckle. Then she turned to Jennifer. Sophie looked up to her teacher with large, blue eyes. Jennifer was certain she was going to ask for doughnuts, but Sophie had something else in mind. “Do you think I can teach Sunday School when I grow up?” Instead of answering right away, Jennifer turned to Miss Rhonda. The woman’s face was glowing, and fresh tears trickled down her wrinkled cheeks. “Oh, sweet girl, I’m sure the dear Lord would like nothing better. All it takes is a step of faith,” Miss Rhonda answered. And as the young girl embraced the older woman, Jennifer knew God had answered her prayers too. At times, it was hard to believe she was making a difference, and she had no idea how her faithfulness would impact the next generation. She only had to trust that God knew.

TRICIA GOYER is a mom of 10, grandmother of 2, and an author of 52 books. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she also leads a Teen Mom Support Group. Tricia would love for you to connect with her on her website TriciaGoyer.com.

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Feature

OU’VE SEEN the staggering number of abortions that happen every year in America. You’ve watched the horrifying YouTube videos that expose abortion providers like Planned Parenthood. You are frustrated with the inaction you see at the state and federal levels of government. So what do you do? What you may not realize is that there is much good you can do for the cause of life in your own community. Here are five things you can do to become a champion for human dignity in your church.

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Read and study the issue. Do you know the moral and theological reasons for your position? It’s helpful to study up on the issue, not simply from a political perspective, but from a gospel, kingdom-centered point of view. Christians champion human dignity because every person was created in the image of God. (See Gen. 1:26.) Every life matters because every life was knitted in the womb by the Creator. (See Ps. 139.) Before you become an activist on behalf of the unborn, it is important to develop a holistic, pro-life perspective. Some good resources are Why Pro-Life? by Randy Alcorn, The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf, and Women on Life by

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by DANIEL DARLING


Trillia Newbell. Some helpful websites are erlc.com and focusonthefamily.com.

Have a discussion with your pastor. Most pastors are eager to find someone in their church as a point person on the sanctity-of-life issue. Schedule a meeting with your pastor, and ask him how you can serve the church in both educating the congregation on human dignity issues and also serve as a liaison to pro-life organizations in the community. The best approach is not to say, “You need to be active on this issue,” but rather, “How can I help us champion life here in our community?”

Curate and develop good pro-life resources. Find the best pro-life resources that are easy to understand and make them available in a way that is accessible for the average church member. You might even work with your pastor to schedule a forum on this issue or to arrange to have a pro-life speaker address the church on Sanctity of Life Sunday (third Sunday in January). Busy church members are looking for ways to be equipped and educated on important issues like this.

Develop a pregnancy care ministry. The reality is that in your community today, there are vulnerable young women who are contemplating what to do with their unexpected pregnancy. Each one is scared to tell loved ones and unsure of how she will be able to raise a child. The one place in the community where she should find hope is the church. Is your church a lighthouse? One way to do this is to look for and partner with existing pregnancy care ministries in your community and come alongside them. If you are looking for a center in your neighborhood, visit Care Net’s online directory of centers (care-net.org), or find additional help from Focus on the Family’s Operation Ultrasound Program (heartlink.org). If there isn’t a pro-life ministry

in your neighborhood, maybe God is calling you to start one. Not only can your church provide gospel hope, but it can also meet physical needs by providing diapers, formula, and other baby necessities. You can offer parenting and counseling classes. Most of all, you can send the message that the church will be there for the mother and her child long after the baby is born.

Support and get involved with the growing adoption movement. Today in America, thousands of young children are waiting for a home, and yours might meet the need of at least one of them. The people of God are called to serve the widows and orphans among us. A great place to start getting information is either Christian Alliance for Orphans or Focus on the Family. You should also read Jim Daly’s book Finding Home or Russell Moore’s book Adopted for Life. You might arrange meetings with your local city and county governments and social service agencies to discover the full scope of the need. You might, then, arrange a series of informal meetings at church to inform interested families. Together you can work to build an adoption culture. Live out the gospel in your community by working to inform, educate, and build a culture where human dignity is championed. It’s important for Christians to be pro-life, not simply on the issue of abortion but to see the image of God in every human being. Do what you can for life, and watch God bring about eternal results. DANIEL DARLING is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. A former pastor, he is the author of several books, including his latest, The Original Jesus. He is a contributor to Leadership Journal, and his work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Washington Post, First Things, CNN, Relevant, and other publications.

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LEGACY LIVING

The Comfort Project

A Testimony of Comfort When You’re Losing Control

OR THE LAST SIX MONTHS of his life, I did my best to keep my 78-year-old husband alive. Hank was 10 years older than I, but he had always been the stronger one in every way. I was sure I would not be able to survive without his strength in my life. I had convinced myself I would never have to because until the day he was rushed to the hospital, he’d never been sick one day in our 46-year

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marriage. The hospital confirmed he’d had a heart attack. After a brief hospital stay, he came home. For the next six months, I diligently cared for him. I prepared his meals according to the doctor’s orders. I made sure we both got the healthy exercise recommended. I gazed into his face every moment in thankfulness that I could still see it. One night, six months after that first ambulance ride to the hospital, Hank awoke with

“I CALLED TO THE LORD IN MY DISTRESS, AND HE ANSWERED ME” (JONAH 2:2).

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Our Only Option


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God hears every cry. And He answers. some slight pain in his chest. By the time the ambulance arrived, he was gone. I grieved the loss of my best friend. I tortured myself with thoughts that it was my fault somehow. Did I miss a symptom I should have called the doctor about? Did I insist on too much exercise? Not enough exercise? I was sure there was something I could have done better that would have kept my husband alive another day. Our only son lives 400 miles away. After his dad passed away, he insisted I move to live with him and his family. I refused. I didn’t want to have to live in someone else’s house. I didn’t want to give up that control. I wasn’t ready to be a widow in need of everyone else’s help. Four months after Hank died, I was taking the trash out and slipped on some ice on our driveway. I broke my leg. After a week in the hospital, I was required to stay in a rehab center. While in the rehab facility, I acquired an infection that did not respond to any antibiotics and was highly contagious. I was not allowed to return home for months. Because of the contagious nature of my infection, I was not allowed to have any visitors. I felt like I was cut off from the human race.

One day, my despondency reached its peak, and I simply sobbed before the Lord. It’s like I could almost hear His voice saying, “I see you. You are not alone.” That very day, I happened to turn to the Book of Jonah. His prayer to God from the belly of that huge fish could have been mine. Jonah received comfort from feeling like he was in control of his life and what happened in it. So did I. When life got completely out of Jonah’s control — and mine — is when the mercy and deliverance of God was our only option. He is in control when someone is in the belly of a fish or in the belly of a rehab center. God took Hank at the very moment God had decided. Nothing I did or did not do would have changed that. He healed me and rescued me from the infection and brought me out of the rehab hospital. I am thankful to now live with my son and his family. If you feel like you are in the belly of a huge fish, if life seems out of control, remember that God hears every cry. And He answers.

These testimonies are shared anonymously through The Comfort Project. Visit awordtothewives.blogspot.com.


LEGACY LIVING

Take Care by DANNY HEDGEPETH

Strength to Serve Grow spiritually while serving as a family caregiver.

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HERE’S A group of people whose numbers are growing. They are family caregivers. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 65.7 million people in the United States identify themselves as family caregivers. Conservative estimates are that one in every five households in our country has someone who is giving care to another family member over age 18. Family caregivers experience many blessings. Memories of sharing a laugh at a silly moment or crying together during a painful experience will last a lifetime. Some gain a new level of spiritual intimacy with the Lord while serving as a caregiver. However, a large number of family caregivers suffer spiritually. The demands of caring for a family member often keep them from church. They feel left out of the Sunday School fellowships and home Bible studies. Family caregivers often believe that no one understands the demands being placed on their lives. Resentment and sometimes


anger can hinder the family caregiver’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The good news for family caregivers is that the depth of relationship with our Lord can grow during this time of intense service. Here are some important elements of spiritual growth for family caregivers. Pray honestly. One of the passages family caregivers should cherish is Hebrews 4:14-16: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens — Jesus the Son of God — let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” This passage invites us to honestly tell our needs to the Lord who understands our challenges. Honestly expressing our needs is not just a cathartic exercise to make us feel better. Jesus hears the hurts and cries of our prayers and answers with wisdom and care. Understand that your spiritual health is related to your physical and emotional health. Family caregivers often express that they feel down all the time and wonder why they are not more spiritually vibrant. Sometimes these instances of

physical lethargy can come from lack of sleep or improper diet. Many family caregivers will experience reactive depression while watching their loved one suffer physically. Family caregivers need to have honest conversations with their personal physicians about their health. Make sure to tell your doctor if you are not eating or sleeping or have prolonged feelings of depression. Medical therapy can often help. Adopting an appropriate exercise schedule can also aid in overall well-being. Plan a time of daily worship. It’s important for family caregivers to have a regular time of personal worship when they can read the Bible and pray. Sometimes they will need to adjust the time to fit their lifestyle as a caregiver. Here are some suggestions: • Read short passages of Scripture more frequently. Stress often slows our ability to retain large sections of information. This process will help retain the meaning of passages. • Find Christian devotional material that speaks to your needs. (Refer to the sidebar.) • Pray with the family member for whom you are caring. If appropriate, ask the person if he would allow you to pray with him. These prayers do not have to be long or elaborate. You will both find strength from speaking to the Father together.

What you do as a caregiver is highly valued and fulfills a biblical role that honors God. See your service in light of God’s perspective, and take care to grow spiritually.

Christian Resources for Caregivers • Grace Notes by Philip Yancey (Zondervan, 2009) • Strength for the Moment: Inspiration for Caregivers by Lori Hogan (Image, 2012) • Second Forgetting: Remembering the Power of the Gospel During Alzheimer’s Disease by Dr. Benjamin Mast (Zondervan, 2014) • Open Windows (quarterly devotional available in print or audio CD at lifeway.com/openwindows) • Journey (monthly devotional for women at lifeway.com/journey) • Stand Firm (monthly devotional for men at lifeway.com/standfirm)

DANNY HEDGEPETH and his wife, Sherry, reside in Bogart, Georgia. He has served 37 years as a Southern Baptist pastor. Hedgepeth is also president of Home Instead Senior Care of Athens, Georgia, an agency that specializes in the care of older adults. He is a current member of the Southern Gerontological Society.

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LEGACY LIVING

Forward in Faith by RONDA LITTLE MARTIN

PHOEBE

Connections

A New Approach to Widows’ Ministry

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MUST CONFESS that before I became a widow, I didn’t understand a widow’s distress, nor did I care. As a little girl, I dreamed of having a happy marriage and family, and at the age of 41, I was finally living that dream with a wonderful, godly husband and a beautiful 4-year-old son. Life was how I preferred it until the unthinkable happened: My husband died in a motorcycle accident, leaving me to raise our son alone. Alone. The word is a sentence within itself, perfectly and hauntingly describing a widow’s distress. She finds herself alone to make decisions, alone socially while couples gather with other couples, alone intellectually without her closest companion to share her deepest thoughts, and alone spiritually if she does not have a strong biblical foundation and a relationship with Jesus Christ. She has an overwhelming need to connect with others on many levels, and the church should be the place to provide her with the necessary avenues

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to make those connections. Sadly, however, most churches don’t have a widows’ ministry, nor do they comprehend how to care for widows. Since she is no longer a wife, the widow often experiences loss of identity. She must build new relationships that embrace her widowhood. She must know who she is in Christ and find new purpose in life. Jesus is the answer to all her distress, and the church has the responsibility and the power to help her. With this realization, I answered a call to widows’ ministry. Upon a challenge from my pastor to be a support to hurting widows, I called a widowed friend, who called another friend, and that friend called another. We quickly saw how God was bringing together widows strong in their relationship with Christ and able to minister to various needs. Before long, we had the foundation of what is now known as PHOEBE Connections, Inc. PHOEBE Connections is an interdenominational widows’ ministry in Wilson County, Tennessee,

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“Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (Jas. 1:27).


that directs widows to Christ as their Healer, Provider, Maker, and Husband. With daily devotions via email and Facebook, widows are encouraged to meditate on Scripture daily and seek God first. Monthly meetings incorporate programs of special interest while enabling widows to connect with other widows. In addition, the ministry provides a platform for service by partnering with another ministry, church, or civic organization each month to meet a specific need in the community. Service champions healing, and relational bonds strengthen as widows serve Christ together with a common cause. Since its launch in 2010, PHOEBE widows have engaged in hundreds of service projects from stocking food pantries and pet shelters to preparing meals for women who are homeless and women exiting prison to contributing to local shoe and toy drives. PHOEBE widows have engaged in annual mission trips to lead international students to Christ and assisted other ministries to reach widows in Africa and India. Most projects have been funded from their own pockets. In 2015,

PHOEBE Connections incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Private contributions to the ministry funded $6,000 in scholarships to children of widows in 2016, and the ministry plans to expand its reach to include scholarships for widows who need to further their education to provide for their families. Like Phoebe in Romans 16:1-2, these widows have been a benefactor of many and have impacted their community with the love of Jesus Christ. NOTE: Encourage widows in your life with a copy of God’s Word to a Widow’s Heart: Daily Hope to Overcome Personal Loss by author and PHOEBE Connections founder, Ronda Little Martin. The book is a compilation of devotions sent to the widows of PHOEBE Connections and can be purchased through Westbow Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and most major booksellers online. RONDA LITTLE MARTIN is a widow, mother to a teenage son, and co-founder of PHOEBE Connections, Inc. She lives in Lebanon, Tennessee, and is author of God’s Word to a Widow’s Heart, a daily devotional

book for widows. Connect with Ronda and PHOEBE Connections through rondalittlemartin.com; phoebeconnections.com; on Facebook at God’s Word to a Widow’s Heart and Phoebe Connect.

Practical Steps to Minister to Widows 1. Include them. Value widows as individuals and willingly befriend them. 2. Assign deacons to check on them frequently and assist with household needs. 3. Incorporate support programs, such as GriefShare, to help process grief and provide counseling within a safe environment. 4. Host meetings directed toward widows’ interests to help them build relationships with one another. 5. Mainstream widows into the church body by helping them discover their spiritual gifts and empowering them to serve. 6. Direct them to visit PHOEBE Connections at phoebeconnections. com and on Facebook at Phoebe Connect.

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Feature

LAMENT by ESTHER FLEECE

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Sharing our suffering with God brings us closer to Him.


S IT OK TO BE A disappointed Christian? I have so much to be thankful for. I will enter this year newly married and with several fun things on the horizon. Yet sometimes, especially following the Christmas season, I feel the weight of disappointment looming in my prayers. As a believer, I am supposed to “Rejoice always!” (1 Thess. 5:16) and “Give thanks in everything” (1 Thess. 5:18), but how do I pray when my disappointment won’t go away? The Christmas season is often more difficult than we’d like to imagine. We are busier than we hope to be, or we feel isolated and alone. How do we begin our new year after “the most wonderful time of the year” tunes no longer play?

DON’T BE ANXIOUS? In college, I had several mentor families. My biological parents divorced when I was young, and through challenging circumstances of their own, they could no longer take care of me. Several families in my church and community stepped up to care for me. Even though life was disappointing, God had a way of placing me in loving homes. (See Ps. 68:6.) One of the moms in these families would memorize Bible verses with me. I loved the Word of God for how it spoke to me, but she taught me the value of hiding it within my heart. When this mom began facing complicated health issues, she asked me to memorize Philippians 4:4-7 with her: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

This seemed like a very Christian verse to me at the time. Rejoice always. Be gracious. The Lord is at work. It was an easy verse to pray for her when things in my own life were going well, but this verse became more difficult to pray when real disappointment hit me close to home.

PUT IT IN PROPER CONTEXT. Have you ever been there before? Loved a particular passage of Scripture until it began to challenge you? It wasn’t until several years later that I was taught to study a biblical passage within its particular context. The words joy and rejoice are found in the Book of Philippians more times than in any other writings of Paul. I opened the Bible to see to whom this book was written and why. To my surprise, several times in chapter 1, we are told that Paul was in chains as he wrote this letter, circumstances that were certainly not worry-free.


PRAY ABOUT EVERYTHING. One of Paul’s secrets was to pray about everything: “Let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). This is often hard to implement because this includes going to God with our laments: God, I am disappointed that my circumstances are difficult. God, I feel let down because You are not speaking to me like You once did. We pour our hearts out to God without holding anything back. The language of lament has been largely lost in our churches and social clubs of today, but this language is found throughout Scripture. When we are in the midst of disappointment, can we look for an area where God may have appeared? Paul says, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble” (Phil. 4:14, ESV). We find Paul giving thanks for people in the midst of his heartache. This has been true for my life; even when I don’t feel that God is close to me, He has provided people to share in my burdens. When disappointment hits our lives, with whom can we share this burden? It appears that some of Paul’s contentment came from confiding in others, and not in his own self-sufficiency. Who can show care, empathy, and tangible help in the midst of your trial? Not only does God want to walk with us through our burdens, He also wants to send someone to tangibly help bear

our burdens with us. As a former orphan and a single woman for 34 years, I recognize this can be a daunting task. Yet, Paul demonstrates both individual laments and community laments. He does not bear the burdens of this life alone. Part of Paul’s thanksgiving — despite his suffering — was from the support that was extended to him from people around him. We have community parties, but do we host community laments? We like to give public praise, but are we holding our laments inside? Yes, God strengthens us in the midst of honest lament. (See Phil. 4:13.) Yes, God wants us to rejoice and be glad, but He does not expect shallow praise, void of lamenting any struggle. Paul acknowledged his sufferings and said he was being “poured out like a drink offering” (Phil. 2:17). He did not deny his dire circumstances to find joy. Paul was experiencing sorrow upon sorrow, yet he could be glad. We don’t deny our feelings or ignore our circumstances before we come to God. Instead, we pray about everything, pour out our requests to Him, and watch God transform us in the midst of our pain. God is the one who helps us take our eyes off our circumstances and place them back on Him. It’s OK if we’re disappointed after the holiday season because our disappointment can lead us to prayer, which always leads us back to Him. This is precisely why there is joy in lament.

ESTHER FLEECE is an author and international speaker recognized among Christianity Today’s “Top 50 Women Shaping the Church and Culture” and CNN’s “Five Women in Religion to Watch.” Esther’s first book, No More Faking Fine, is available in stores January 10, 2017 (Zondervan). Share your personal lament journey at estherfleece.com. We are ending the pretending — together.

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If the apostle Paul could write these things about being glad from a literal prison, what could this mean for my thoughts, feelings, and emotions? If Paul suffered and was in need and could rejoice in chains, how could I get unstuck from the disappointment my life was facing? (See Phil. 4:12.)


WE ALL LONG FOR MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS, THE COLOSSIANS 3:14 KIND THAT FULFILL OUR DESIRE FOR UNITY AND CONNECTION WITH GOD, OUR FRIENDS, AND OUR COMMUNITY. BUT WHERE DO WE START? Join the (in)courage writers as they share real-life stories, practical Scripture application, and connection challenges in Craving Connection. Grab a cup of coffee, pull a chair up to the table, and commit to creatively and prayerfully fulfilling your cravings for connection.

www.CravingConnectionBook.com www.incourage.me/cravingconnection


Feature

I was sure it would make me beautiful. by FLETCHER CROOM NE SPRING in the 1920s, our town was alive with excitement — the girls of the town, that is. Someone was bringing a permanent wave machine down from the city, and it would be in our area for a whole week. We high schoolers lined up at the temporarily established beauty shop to make appointments for lustrous, longed-for ringlets and for status. It didn’t matter that my locks were cut in a Dutch bob (bangs even across my eyebrows, hair straight on the sides and whacked off just under my ear lobes) and that it took all of my carefully saved errand-running money; I dreamed at night of curls hanging down around my shoulder à la Mary Pickford. A permanent wave would work magic! The Saturday of my appointment, I was up as early as if it were a school day and showed

up promptly for the session with the miracle machine. The umbrella-shaped thing resembled some ancient torture implement with hundreds (or so it seemed) of short, dangling wires. From each wire was suspended a small metal clamp. With apprehension and growing excitement, I submitted to the shampoo. Then the operator began the interminable process of rolling the curls — each one wound tightly around a small metal rod and soaked in a strong-smelling solution whose odor stayed on my head for days. Each taut curl was fitted with a clamp from one of the dangling wires. Then came the frightening moment when the operator flipped a switch and turned on the electric current. Rigid with fear, I imagined I might be electrocuted. Sizzles and hisses escaped from the hot, wet rods. The beautician warned me not to move my head as a metal rod touching my scalp would cause a severe burn. Little wisps of steam rose

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I DREAMED AT NIGHT OF CURLS HANGING DOWN AROUND MY SHOULDER À LA MARY PICKFORD.


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around me, my scalp grew hotter and hotter, and sweat trickled down inside my blouse. Finally, I was forced to beg for relief. The beauty operator and one of her assistants sprang into action with newspaper fans, vigorously stirring up the air in the direction which I indicated by a pointing finger as being too hot for comfort. I don’t know how long I sat under that fiend of a machine. It must have been about an hour, but it seemed an eon. My frantic gestures to various points on my head brought the operators rushing to fan me energetically, while I forlornly wondered if the heat would make me completely bald. Only intense concentration on a vision of myself with shining sausage curls kept me from screaming out in terror. At last the ordeal ended when the operator shut off the current. My feverish head cooled gradually. When the metal rods did not sizzle to a spit-upon finger touched to them, the operator loosened the clamps, and the awful thing of wires was pushed over to the next unsuspecting and eager worshiper at the shrine of beauty. Then the beautician began the laborious job of unrolling the curls and brushing them into a

coiffure. I kept my eyes tightly closed until I could gaze at myself in full resplendent beauty. When my hair was brushed to the operator’s satisfaction, she produced a mirror. Holding my breath, I opened my squeezed-shut eyes and looked. I looked just like myself! My hair had a strange wiry quality it had not possessed before and was shorter than ever — with corkscrews. Drawn upward with the rigorous treatment it had undergone, it did curl tightly. My brothers were unkind enough to say it was kinky, but straight it was not. Stoutly, I averred to my friends (with typical teenage exaggeration) that I loved my permanent wave, but secretly, I nursed a sour disappointment. To suffer so much discomfort and to lose my nest-egg of coins and not to change my appearance was a bitter blow. It was a good 15 years before anyone could persuade me to attempt such a drastic beauty measure again, and by then the chemical wave was out on the market. Reprinted from Mature Living, May 1979. Article was written by Fletcher Croom who was a retired teacher living in Houston, Texas.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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KICKS & GRINS

Creative Moments by TRICIA GOYER

Bible Journaling for Future Generations Let the Word of God speak personally to your children through your handwritten notes and prayers.

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I didn’t know how I could do that. I didn’t have time to sit down with each person and have a one-on-one Bible study. Instead, I decided to share my faith through notes and prayers

that I wrote in the margins of my Bible. Each year, I buy a new Bible, and throughout the year, I write notes and prayers for one member of my family.

© LIFEWAY, RANDY HUGHES

AM THE MOTHER of 10 children and the grandmother of 2. As a mom and grandmother, I want to pass on a heritage of faith, but for so long,

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Last year, I filled a Bible for my 27-year-old son. This year, I’m doing the same for my 24-year-old daughter. Each day that I sit down to read and pray, I write the date, and I highlight a specific Scripture passage. Then, in the margins, I write a personal note or story. Some days, I share about my faith walk. Other days, I write about moments when I’ve seen God work in my child’s life. I don’t worry about trying to sound wise or eloquent. Instead, I write plainly, as if I were sitting across from my son or daughter and sharing what was on my heart. On the journalized pages, I also include a prayer. I pray the

My hope is that my words and prayers are something my son can turn to throughout his life. Scriptures, and I also pray about whatever my child is facing during that time in his or her life. I don’t always have time to write a thought or prayer every day, but I commit to be faithful and do so as much as possible. This year, I gave my son his Bible on his birthday, and he’s told me numerous times how much it means to him. My hope is that my words and prayers are something my son can turn to

throughout his life and that they can even become a keepsake to pass on. I’ve found the best Bibles to use are journaling Bibles. I plan to buy a new one every year until every family member has one. It may seem strange to pass on a “used Bible,” but I know these Bibles will be forever cherished because they were written in, prayed over, and adorned with my tears. TRICIA GOYER is a mom of 10, grandmother of 2, and an author of 52 books. She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she also leads a Teen Mom Support Group. Tricia would love for you to connect with her at TriciaGoyer.com.

10 Tips for Journaling

ISTOCK

1. Pray about who would be

blessed to receive a Bible with your notes and prayers. 2. Buy a Bible designed for note taking, or if you prefer not to write in your Bible, select a journaling notebook. 3. Gather pens, highlighters, and colored pencils that won’t smudge. 4. Keep the supplies in a convenient location where you have your Bible study. 5. Decide when you want to present the gift. Then determine if you have time to read through the Bible, read selected books of the Bible, or focus on favorite verses to share.

6. Each day, write the

date in the margin of the selected passage or in the journal notebook. 7. Spend time in prayer, asking God to show you verses that will be meaningful to your child or grandchild. 8. As you read, highlight specific verses or write them in your notebook. 9. If you have an artistic flare, sketch a design to emphasize a key word or meaningful phrase, or use colored pencils to add your own personal touch to your handwriting. 10. Remember, the most important part of journaling

is letting your family hear you speak God’s Word into their lives, so simply write notes and prayers that come from your heart.

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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KICKS & GRINS

Marie Armenia / NO LAUGHING MATTER

Sew What? Acknowledging what you can’t do will make you better at what you can do.

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Years ago, in an attempt to help me in my quest to become a seamstress, my husband bought me a portable sewing machine ($400). He signed me up for a six-week sewing class at the store ($75). I also needed sewing tools ($80) and some fabric and thread ($48). Six weeks later when I walked in the door with my $603 lumpy, blue wool skirt, my husband’s first words were, “What is it?” I decided to practice at home. I followed the 463-step process required to

thread the needle. I wound the thread under and around various hooks and crevices and through the eye of the needle. With great hope and anticipation, I put the fabric under the needle. I put my foot on the pedal, and for two glorious seconds, I was sewing. Five stitches in, the thread broke, and I was no longer sewing. This happened four times. The catalog instructed that I should check the tension. My tension was high. I put the machine back in the box and gave it a kick.

SHUTTERSTOCK

MAGINE THE thoughts you’d have if a friend said to you, “Yesterday, I flew to Mars and back.” You might laugh out loud and say, “You did not. That’s impossible and beyond human ability!” That’s exactly what I said when my friend informed me, “Yesterday, I sewed some new slipcovers for the sofa.” I answered, “You did not. That’s impossible! It’s beyond human ability!” Of all the things in life that I cannot master — and there are many — sewing is at the absolute top of the list. I am in awe of people who can sew.

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“Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another” (Rom. 12:4-5). You’d think that a self-threading machine would help, but that’s only half the problem. I cannot interpret those supposedly simple sewing patterns. It is my opinion that in fairness to consumers everywhere, each pattern should have the warning “Some Knowledge of Trigonometry Required” printed on the cover. My last attempt at sewing happened a few decades ago. I decided I was going to make myself a pair of black shorts. I drove to the fabric store. I hadn’t taken my measurements in years because why ruin a good day? I picked a pattern in my size — 10. The measurements seemed way too small. I decided that my hips must be at least 60 inches wide because that’s how they felt when I tried to zip up my jeans. So, I bought a pattern in size 28, fully confident I’d be wearing black shorts in the morning. The pattern allowed

me to add two inches to the size of the shorts if I used the outside line. I used it. Only as the project neared completion did I comprehend that I’d created a pair of shorts to accommodate a person with 72-inch hips. I fit my whole body in one leg of the shorts. I put the machine away for good. I finally conquered my sadness about my sewing success-less-ness by understanding and accepting something important: Jesus is the only One who does all things well. (See Mark 7:37.) Where did I get the idea that I should be able to have the same talents and giftedness as someone else? When I spend my time trying to be something God did not intend for me to be, I am wasting my time. It’s not about giving up but about giving in to God’s plans for me. I can’t sew, but I have a friend who can. She will sew slipcovers for me, and I will teach her to make chicken parmigiana. It’s a deal made in heaven.

Test Your Sewing Skills Bias-cut a) When a coach lets a player go because he favors another player b) Cut diagonally across the grain of fabric Fabric grain a) What you should have eaten for breakfast but spilled on your shirt instead b) The way the fabric is woven or knit together Hem a) A male; not her b) The edge of the cloth that has been turned under and sewn Interfacing a) Turning toward someone so as to come face to face b) Fabric sewn into the “wrong” side of a garment to make it stiff Selvage a) A final attempt to save a garment you’ve almost destroyed b) The finished edges of fabric that help keep it from unraveling

MARIE ARMENIA is content to live without knowing how to sew as long as she continues to have friends who do.

If you answered “a” for any term, let’s just say you are gifted with a sense of humor!

Mature Living / JANUARY 2017

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Brag Board YOU KNOW THE PLACE

MASTER PAINTER When our great-granddaughter Serina was 2, we were looking at a beautiful sunset together. She said, “God’s painted the sky again! Do you think He will get in trouble for that?” –Letha McKinney, Russellville, Alabama

While visiting my younger son and his family, I was asked to drive my granddaughter to church that Sunday morning. Never having been there before, I asked Katelyn for directions as we drove closer to the church’s location. She replied in her small 8-year-old voice, “Nana, you know. Turn over there where the people with the labels are.” I suppressed my giggles as I drove reverently down the narrow road alongside the cemetery. –Joanne K. Powell, Salem, South Carolina

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JUST GETTING READY FOR THE DAY Some years ago, my brother had gone rabbit hunting and was cleaning the rabbit. My niece was there beside him and asked him what he was doing. My brother answered, “What does it look like I'm doing?” She replied, “It looks like you are taking th his jammies off.” –Carol Drake, ANNIVERSARY Danielsville, Georgia

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A BLAST FROM THE PAST:

My uncle took his car into a shop for repairs. This sign was on the wall: “Shop labor: $10 per hour; $12 if you watch; $15 if you help; $27.50 if you worked on it before bringing it here.” — Bert Crampton January 1983, Mature Living

“I resolved to take a walk every day this year. Today I walked to the fridge and got this pie.”

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Send submission of 25-125 words to: Brag Board, Mature Living, One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN 37234-0175 or email, matureliving@lifeway.com. Include name, address, and phone number. Stories may be edited and will not be returned.

CARTOON: DOUG JONES; THINKSTOCK / SHUTTERSTOCK

Feature


40th ANNIVERSARY

40th

Cracker Barrel

ANNIVERSARY

Feature

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A Letter To The Editor from 1977 Mature Living sounds like a worthwhile project. But I hope a special subscription rate will be offered to those over 60 who, after all, are the ones who need the publication most. Yet, many of these people will not be able to pay $6.50 [per year]. I have some doubt that “Grandparents Brag Board” can be transformed from a gimmick into a constructive monthly feature. Not many grandparents I know are interested in any except their own grandchildren, and that interest needs to be toned down rather than encouraged.

You’re How Old?

I’ve been a senior for a long time, And in the discounts I bask. Still, I appreciate the cashier Who is kind enough to ask. –Lyn Keys Tutor, Magee, Mississippi

Please Move Over My Kind of Dream

Dreaming of a smaller waistline Can be as distant as the stars If you’re doing all your dreaming W hile munching on chocolate bars. –Betty D. Sexton, Corpus Christi, Texas

It Sure Is a Workout

THINKSTOCK

Since I started water aerobics, My bones no longer ache. But squeezing into a bathing suit Sure ain’t no piece of cake! –Betty McDow, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

No matter where I’m going And no matter the time of day, Somebody’s always in a hurry, And I’m always in their way! –Ralph J. Polk Jr., Warrenton, Virginia

Answer to Word Search Puzzle (page 30)

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DEVOTED

GETTY

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life — a ransom for many. Matthew 20:28

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COME YOU’LL LOVE WHE R E WE TAKE YO U.

OCTOBER 22-29, 2017 We’re sailing to the Caribbean! Depart from Cape Canaveral, FL (near Orlando). Enjoy beautiful Philipsburg, St Maarten; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Labadee, Haiti. Set sail with speakers Fred and Elizabeth Luter, Dr. Johnny Hunt, Angela Thomas-Pharr, singer/songwriter Laura Story, worship leader Travis Cottrell & comedian Jeff Allen!

LIFEWAY.COM/CRUISE Eve nt s u b j e c t to c h a n ge w i t h o u t n o t i ce.


BETH MOORE worship by

TRAVIS COTTRELL

ABBOTSFORD, BC, CA | January 27-28, 2017 FAIRFAX, VA | March 3-4, 2017 CEDAR RAPIDS, IA | March 17-18, 2017 WICHITA FALLS, TX | March 31-April 1, 2017 ORLANDO, FL | April 28-29, 2017 BATON ROUGE, LA | June 23-24, 2017 EVANSVILLE, IN | July 21-22, 2017 FORT COLLINS, CO | August 11-12, 2017 SPRINGFIELD, MA | August 25-26, 2017 TOLEDO, OH | September 16, 2017 SACRAMENTO, CA | October 6-7, 2017

LIFEWAY.COM/LIVINGPRO OF | 800.254.2022 Events subject to change without notice. Sales tax applied to event cost, if applicable.


Mature Living Magazine Sample - January 2017