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    Lies with Truth

    I set my Bible on the podium and stared at the eager faces waiting for me to begin the message. I’d prayed and prepared. Why couldn’t I speak?

    You’re worthless. No one will ever listen to you, especially if they know your past. And God would never use you. Seared into my heart and mind, the words spoken in various ways over my life ignited a decade-long war against the lies I so easily believed. Though I knew the words weren’t true, I couldn’t seem to escape my insecurities and fears. So, I opened my Bible.

    Turning to Proverbs 30:5, I inhaled and…

    At Our Worst

    “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.” This sentence, pronounced by Mr. Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is the reason I will never forget that novel and its impact on me. Because after reading that one sentence, I firmly decided I would never like Mr. Darcy.

    But I was wrong. Like Austen’s character Elizabeth Bennet, I had the humbling experience of slowly—and quite reluctantly—changing my mind. Like her, I’d been unwilling to get to know Darcy’s character as a whole; I preferred to hang onto my reaction to one of his worst moments. After finishing the novel, I…

    Unimaginable Promises

    In our moments of greatest failure, it can be easy to believe it’s too late for us, that we’ve lost our chance at a life of purpose and worth. That’s how Elias, a former inmate at a maximum-security prison in New York, described feeling as a prisoner. “I had broken . . . promises, the promise of my own future, the promise of what I could be.”

    It was Bard College’s “Prison Initiative” college degree program that began to transform Elias’ life. While in the program, Elias participated in a debate team, which in 2015 debated a team from Harvard—and won.…

    Making His Music

    Choral director Arianne Abela spent her childhood sitting on her hands—to hide them. Born with fingers missing or fused together on both hands, she also had no left leg and was missing toes on her right foot. A music lover and lyric soprano, she’d planned to major in government at Smith College. But one day her choir teacher asked her to conduct—which made her hands quite visible. From that moment, she found her career, going on to conduct church choirs and serving now as Director of Choirs at another university. “My teachers saw something in me,” Abela explains.

    Her inspiring story invites…

    Loved, Beautiful, Gifted

    Malcolm appeared confident as a teenager. But this confidence was a mask. In truth, a turbulent home left him fearful, desperate for approval, and feeling falsely responsible for his family’s problems. “For as far back as I remember,” he says, “every morning I would go into the bathroom, look in the mirror, and say out loud to myself, ‘You are stupid, you are ugly, and it’s your fault.’”

    Malcolm’s self-loathing continued until he was twenty-one, when he had a divine revelation of his Christian identity. “I realized that God loved me unconditionally and nothing would ever change that,” he recalls. “I…

    Underestimating Ourselves

    The young man became his team’s captain. The professional sports squad was now led by a mild-mannered kid who barely needed to shave. His first press conference was underwhelming. He kept deferring to the coach and to his teammates, and mumbled clichés about just trying to do his job. The team performed poorly that season, and by the end of it the young captain had been traded. He didn’t grasp that he’d been entrusted with the authority to lead, or maybe he never believed he could.

    Due to his failures, Saul was “small in [his] own eyes” (1 Samuel 15:17)—which…

    What You’re Worth

    Now an accomplished writer, Caitlin describes the depression she battled after fighting off an assault. The emotional violence cut deeper than her physical struggle, for she felt it proved “how undesirable I was. I was not the kind of girl you wanted to get to know.” She felt unworthy of love, the kind of person others use and toss aside.

    God understands. He lovingly shepherded Israel, but when He asked them what He was worth, “they paid me thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12). This was the price of a slave; what masters must be reimbursed should their slave be accidentally…

    God’s Special Treasure

    Imagine a vast throne room. Seated confidently on the throne is a great and powerful king. He is surrounded by all manner of attendants, each on their best behavior. Now imagine a box that sits at the king’s feet. From time to time the king reaches down and runs his hands through the contents. And what’s in the box? Jewels, gold, and gemstones particular to the king’s tastes. This box holds the king’s private treasures, a collection that brings him great joy. Can you see that image in your mind’s eye?

    The Hebrew word for this treasure is segulah, and it…

    Beautiful to God

    When Denise began dating her boyfriend, she attempted to maintain a slim figure and dress stylishly, believing she would be more attractive to him in that way. After all, it was what all the women’s magazines advised. It was only much later that she discovered what he really thought: “I liked you just as much when you were heavier and didn’t worry about what you wore.”

    Denise realized then how subjective “beauty” was. Our view of beauty is so easily influenced by others, and often focused on the external; forgetting the value of inner beauty. But God sees us in only…

    Life Beyond Compare

    In a TV program, adults posed as high school students to better understand the lives of young people. They discovered that social media plays a central role in how students measured their self-worth. One participant observed, “[The students’] self-value is attached to social media—it’s dependent on how many ‘likes’ they get on a photo.” This need for being accepted by others can drive young people to extreme behavior online.

    Our longing for being accepted by others can be seen throughout the ages. In Genesis 29, Leah understandbly yearns for the love of her husband Jacob. It’s reflected in the name of…

    Personality

    . . . that they may be one just as We are one . . . —John 17:22

    Personality is the unique, limitless part of our life that makes us distinct from everyone else. It is too vast for us even to comprehend. …

    Individuality

    Jesus said to His disciples, ’If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself . . .’ —Matthew 16:24

    Individuality is the hard outer layer surrounding the inner spiritual life. Individuality shoves others aside, separating and isolating people. We see it as the primary …

    Christ-Awareness

    . . . and I will give you rest —Matthew 11:28

    Whenever anything begins to disintegrate your life with Jesus Christ, turn to Him at once, asking Him to re-establish your rest. Never allow anything to remain in your life that is causing the unrest. Think of every detail of your life that is causing the disintegration as something to fight against, not as something you should allow to remain.

    Self-Awareness

    God intends for us to live a well-rounded life in Christ Jesus, but there are times when that life is attacked from the outside. Then we tend to fall back into self-examination, a habit that we thought was gone. Self-awareness is the first thing that will upset the completeness of our life in God, and self-awareness continually produces a sense of struggling and turmoil in our lives.

    The Inevitable Penalty

    There is no heaven that has a little corner of hell in it. God is determined to make you pure, holy, and right, and He will not allow you to escape from the scrutiny of the Holy Spirit for even one moment. He urged you to come to judgment immediately when He convicted you, but you did not obey. Then the inevitable process began to work, bringing its inevitable penalty. Now you have been “thrown into prison, [and] . . . you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny” (5:25-26).

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