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Monthly Archives: January 2017

  • The Work and Wonder of Love

    The Work and Wonder of Love by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

    We walked behind the house and into the backyard. My mother wanted to show me something.

    There was a small tree. Not quite a sapling, but still young. It was a pecan tree, to be more exact.

    As we stood in the yard of the house my parents had just moved into, I wondered why my mother thought to point out this particular tree.

    “She planted it for her dad.” My mom paused and turned her face up slightly to look into the tree’s thin branches. “Her dad passed away and she planted this tree for him.”

    My mother’s own father had just recently passed away and I’m sure my mom felt connected to the gesture of keeping a beloved memory alive.

    It’s been some years since my mom showed me that tree. And even though the tree wasn’t planted for her dad, she has taken care of it like it was.

    The tree has grown. Its trunk has gotten wider and its branches have stretched higher and become denser. We have to look up with more than a slight glance to see the top and it even provides much-needed shade.

    But we didn’t plant the tree.

    While my mother has watered it, trimmed it and picked up the fallen pecans, she did not place the roots of the tree in the ground.

    Someone else did.

    But now, we all benefit from its growth and shade.

    More than 50 years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. placed the roots of grand ideas in the soil of our nation. He did it to keep the dreams alive of others who had gone before. He did it while praying that in the future, others would benefit from the growth of the ideas. He did it because he knew the roots of those ideas would grow and honor the God who created people of all color.

    While Dr. King planted the ideas in the hearts and minds of millions, he was not with us very long to water the tree himself.

    Today, we all benefit from the tree of brotherly love and biblical equality that Dr. King planted. But we do so because so many people came alongside Dr. King, then and now. They watered the dream, trimmed it and picked up the pieces that fell every now and again.

    So many over the years have honored the message and the memory of Dr. King by caring for the dream as if it were their own.

    In a way, it has been. People have been compelled to keep the dream alive and well. They have felt connected because their stories or standards reminded them that the dream mattered.

    And it does matter.

    To all of us.

    We are all connected. First John 4:7 reminds us that Christ-followers all bear the mark of the glory of God. As believers, we bear the special mandate of loving others because the love of God covered our sin. When we love our brothers and sisters, we are watering, trimming and picking up what we all hold dear — our love for God, His love for us and our remembrance of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. This is what makes it possible for us to, indeed, all be connected in Him.

    And love matters. Love for those who look like us. Love for those who don’t.

    The beauty of our love lies simply in this … the work of love allows us to behold the wonder of love. So, as we care for each other, we honor not only the dream of brotherly love from one man, but more importantly, the God who gave that man the ideas to plant. In doing so, we all benefit from love’s covering.

    Dear Father in Heaven, help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ and also those who do not yet know You. Help me remember that Your sacrifice was the beginning of the love that I know and the love that You want me to give to others. Help me to faithfully do my part to share Your love with the world — whether that’s on the other side of the globe, in my town, on my street or down the hallway. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Sometimes we are tempted to show love to strangers when we need to love the people down the hall. What does it look like for you to practically love someone close to you today?

    How long has it been since you intentionally reached out to show love to someone who does not know Christ? How could you do that today?

    © 2017 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Bible Basics: 5 Tips for First-Time Bible Readers

    Get encouraged and equipped with these tips for first-time Bible readers.

    Opening the Bible for the first time can be intimidating and overwhelming. But with some grace and guidance, you can press past your doubts and find freedom in God’s Word. Get encouraged and equipped with these tips for first-time Bible readers.

    We’re offering 50% off select Bibles now through January 26 to help you get started.

    Prepare Your Heart In the beginning, you may feel like reading your Bible is an obligation or a chore. Don’t be discouraged! Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you see His Word as a blessing instead of a burden.

    Start with the Gospel Don’t feel like you need to read from beginning to end. The Bible is like no other book; reading out of order won’t change the truth on the pages. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are a great place to start. They are commonly referred to as the Gospel because they detail the life of Jesus.

    Use a Bible Study Guide Designed to enrich your understanding of God's Word, Bible Studies are a great tool for first-time Bible readers. Navigate God’s Word by books of the Bible or by a topic that relates to a specific season in your life.

    Ask Questions It takes time to fully understand God’s Word. If you’re confused by a passage or stumble on something that doesn’t’ align with what you have been told about Christianity – ask! Find a spiritual mentor or leader in the church who can help you navigate the complexity of the Bible and answer your questions honestly.

    Apply the Word The Bible should inspire you to live differently. If you’re simply going through the motions and moving on with business as usual, you’re missing out on the benefits of the Bible. Choose at least one verse from your reading to meditate on and think about how you can implement that wisdom into your daily life.

    God’s Word is a gift. We hope these tips encourage you to dive in and begin to unpack all the Bible has to offer.

    You Might Also Like

    Bible Basics: 7 Tips to Help You Read the Bible in this New Year

    How to Choose a Bible: 4 Questions to Consider

    How to Study the Bible: 10 Practical Tips to help you Understand God’s Word

  • Be Still

    Be Still by Lynn Cowell

    “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

    One after another, choices needing decisions just keep coming.

    Home decisions hang in the balance. When can I get this fixed? Who will follow through with the repairs? What will it take to get everything done?

    Work decisions weigh on my mind. What are the next steps to take? Am I the only person who can do this? Do I need to bring in more help? How will this timeline come together?

    Relationship decisions tug on my heart. Is “yes” the best answer? When can I spend time with them? Should I really be that honest with my thoughts and feelings?

    Decision fatigue.

    Even as I write these words, my mind feels so very tired of the many decisions that need to be made.

    Weary, my heart turns to the only One who has the answers to each and every single decision.

    I open to a blank page in my journal to share my tired heart with the Lord.

    A prayer seeps from my heart, through my pen and onto the page. Weariness oozes from the ink: Lord, renew my awareness of Your presence. I need a fresh infilling of You in me. I need Your wisdom, for You to do a gentle, peaceful work in me that flows from me. No rushing. No pressure. Just peaceful guidance from You, leading to purposeful obedience from me.

    As I pray I realize that in the natural, this pathway of making these decisions alone will not lead to peace. He is peace.

    I make the best choice I can choose — turning to His Word to me: “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10a).

    Do you see that comma? It seemed to jump off the page.

    A pause.

    Be still, …

    When I’m still, then I will know. I will know the peace He embodies. He will show me His will. I will know that He is God.

    Not When I’m busy, When I’m productive or When I make all the right decisions, but When I’m still.

    The word “still” in Hebrew (the original language of the Old Testament) means: to hang limp, sink down, be feeble, to be lazy, to leave alone, abandon, withdraw, to show oneself slack.

    Am I reading this right? Could it be that God is endorsing this type of behavior?

    Yes, I have read His word correctly.

    Be still. Be patient. Be quiet. Be trustful and know. That is where He calls me to go: Pause and find Him. Peace.

    Lord, being still, when there is so much to do, seems so wrong. Yet, Your ways are not my ways. Help me to breathe deep, be still and pause to take You in. I want to know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

    Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:15, “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is decision fatigue something you experience? How often?

    Spend some time being still before God today. Present to Him the decisions you need to make. Then ask Him to help you pause before Him, so He can give you the peace and wisdom you need.

    © 2017 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • What Were You Put on Earth to Do?

    What Were You Put on Earth to Do? by Dr. Tony Evans

    “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

    When you set out to plan your day — or even your week — what is it you want to do most? Even deeper than that — what is your dream?

    I didn’t ask you what your dream is for your friend, kids, spouse, church or work — I want to know what your dream is, if you still even know what it is? What were you put here on earth to fulfill?

    Now, if you struggle with answers for any of the above, know you’re not alone. Especially if you are a busy mom, knee-deep in daily duties and driving demands, you … are … not … alone.

    And yes, I was never a mom — but I was a very involved dad in our four kids’ lives. Every morning, it was my responsibility to get them ready for school, bundle them into the car and drive them where they needed to go. And every evening after work, I focused on dedicated family time — devotions around the table, playtime with them on the floor wrestling or doing board games. (Sometimes I even let them win!)

    And for years, I had homework duty, too. So I understand how it feels to sit for hours after a long day at work — glued to the dinner table with a restless child night after night, year after year — trying everything to help the one who struggles with attention-deficit-disorder grasp the importance of perseverance and learning.

    I understand the things that keep parents up at night, unable to sleep — concerned with whether or not their children will be equipped to fulfill their dreams. These concerns and passions of parenting, marriage and relationships at church or work can be all-consuming for so long that eventually you wake up one day and realize you’ve forgotten about your dreams, passions and your destiny to fulfill. Just making it through the day is enough.

    I get it. I know how it is to give so much you simply do not have enough energy left to think about yourself anymore.

    Dream? Only when sleeping.

    Purpose? Passion? Eaten up by the daily demands of living a life for others. Which is good. It’s easy to forget what used to inspire you, drive you or even bring you hope.

    It’s easy to forget the you in you.

    God has a destiny for you. He has a purpose and a plan for you. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “we are God’s masterpiece … so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” He has something that maximizes your skills, personality, experiences, passions and compassions in a way like no one else ever could.

    Sure, it may not happen tomorrow. Nor will you get there by going in a straight line. This is because God sets twists and turns in all our lives that provide opportunities for us to grow, mature, be humbled, learn, develop, surrender, gain confidence and more. I call these twists and turns “detours.”

    Detours are unanticipated routes that take us another way to our intended destination. It’s either a sign you come upon, a person who steers you elsewhere or a police car with lights flashing, sitting there to let you know the road you are traveling is no longer available. Inevitably, they are also road bumps to our emotions. Because of the detour, we must go off the beaten path, take longer than we had wished, and be inconvenienced more than we had hoped.

    Few of us like to be stalled, for any reason. Even if it’s just someone cutting us off in traffic and forcing us to slow down. But detours are necessary to make any improvement on the paths we travel. Or to clean up any wreck or avoid hazards. Detours are designed for our own good on the roads of life, regardless of how we view them.

    Detours are a good thing that often feel bad.

    This is because it’s in our detours that we’re developed for our destiny.

    We learn patience, compassion, kindness, gratitude and all those wonderful things that empower us to fully live out our dreams. You may feel that your life right now is on one ongoing detour from fulfilling your dreams … while you’re serving the needs of others, setting your own hopes aside. But, just like Joseph whom God positioned from the pit to the palace (read Genesis chapter 37-50), God has a plan for every moment in your life as well. Yes, even the most mundane and monotonous ones.

    God is taking you straight to your destiny … in His ever God-like-zig-zagging-sort-of-way.

    Father God, help me keep my eyes open and learn to look for Your hand in the midst of happenstance, so my hope remains steadfast and my heart remains full. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What detours has God allowed you to face in recent months? How could God be using this detour in your life to fulfill His greater purpose?

    © 2017 by Dr. Tony Evans. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks The Urban Alternative for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • What to Do When You're Just Overwhelmed

    What to Do When You're Just Overwhelmed by Kathi Lipp

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    If one more person asks me about centerpieces, I think I may stab myself with the cake knife!

    How can one of the happiest days in a family’s life — something all of us have been looking forward to for years — turn into one of the most overwhelming events ever?

    You see, overwhelm camouflages itself. Some days it appears in hard places: A health crisis. Not being able to pay the bills. A huge project at work that requires all your time and attention.

    Other times, it sneaks in through the door of blessings: A new, unexpected addition to the family. A long-dreamed-about trip to see family. Or, in our case, one of our kids getting married.

    When Amanda and Shaun announced their engagement, we were thrilled. We’d been praying for the right man to come into Amanda’s life, and Shaun was a welcome addition to the family.

    But after the announcement came all the wedding plans. Who do we invite? Where will we hold the wedding? How will we pay for everything?

    After the initial excitement, reality came crashing down on us. That’s when overwhelm kicked in. Dreams of seeing Amanda walking down the aisle were replaced with elaborate fantasies of bribing the kids to elope.

    When I’m overwhelmed, my first instinct is to shut down. Then I fall back into familiar overwhelmed thinking patterns: I just need to work harder. Maybe I can rearrange my schedule to do some work on Sundays. Yes, that’s it … except my husband and I agreed that our Sundays would be a day for rest. But how else would these plans come together?

    After stressing and stewing about how to make everything work, I finally remembered I was not in this alone. God is not surprised by the trials, or the blessings, coming my way.

    When I start to feel the familiar weight of overwhelm press down, here’s what I eventually remind myself to do:

    Stop comparing plates. Our capacity to handle life is like dishes at an estate sale. There are dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates and more. Some people get the dinner plates; their capacity is awe-inspiring. Then there are those who have been given a salad plate. They overwhelm easily and live a carefully curated life in order to function.

    Friends, we need to know which size plate we have.

    If you’re delicately balancing a demitasse cup plate in life, and your best friend has a turkey platter of a plate, don’t start comparing your capacity to hers. God designed your temperament and hers differently on purpose.

    Take the next faithful step to deal with overwhelm. With my daughter’s wedding, when I started to feel the panic of overwhelm rise within me, instead of trying to “suck it up” and power through, I learned to ask the right questions:

    • I asked for time. I asked if I had some flexibility on other deadlines — I did!

    • I asked for help. When my friend Nancy heard that Amanda was getting married, she offered to help with all the plans and prep. I politely declined, and then five minutes later, came to my senses and begged her to help. Nancy got to use her gift of planning amazing parties on the cheap, and I obeyed orders and bore less stress.

    • I asked for grace. My husband and I took the day after the wedding off from work. We wanted time to rest, reflect and recover. The wedding was a huge blessing in our lives, but it was also stressful. We didn’t want to carry that over into other parts of our lives. Taking that day to reflect on what God had done — and rest — was priceless.

    Practice trusting God more deeply before overwhelm sets in.

    I’ve learned to step back, take a break and let myself sit in the unimaginable — the thought that God already provided everything I need for this challenge. I no longer let calendars, emails and to-dos dictate my next move, but I hold to God’s promises to shape my heart into the kind of daughter He designed me to be.

    Father, let me take every thought and emotion, blessing or burden, directly to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do today to trust God with your overwhelm?

    © 2017 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Dear God, Where Are You?

    Dear God, Where Are You? by Lysa Terkeurst

    “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

    “Mom, I didn’t make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God.”

    My heart sank. I felt my daughter’s deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

    I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

    She’d been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn’t old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

    Finally, this was going to be her year.

    She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight … until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

    She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn’t ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn’t ignite.

    She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she’d been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn’t just pray — she cried out to God.

    “Please help me, God. Please,” she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned, but the paper did not.

    As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

    When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

    The fact that she didn’t get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God’s power like the other girls had. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

    “Mom, I didn’t get that with God. Why?”

    This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don’t want to mess up in answering.

    I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God’s hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

    And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn’t light. None at all. Everyone else’s paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn’t.

    “Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn’t have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there … protecting you … loving you … revealing His power to you.”

    She put her head on my shoulder, “You really think so, Mom?”

    I whispered, “I know so.”

    I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

    He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).

    He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, and I am not alone: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

    Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, “Yes, sweetheart, I know so.”

    Sometimes God’s power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

    Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don’t — even when I don’t agree. Help me see Your “yes” and “no” as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:

    Look back at a situation where you felt God didn’t answer your prayers. Can you see His power in not allowing your prayer to be answered?

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Bible Basics: 7 Tips to Help You Read the Bible in this New Year

    Stay committed to reading the Bible in one year with these tips.

    January has arrived, and with it, the promise of renewal and a fresh start. We know many of you have set spiritual goals for the year ahead and we’re excited to walk alongside you during this season of growth. We also know spending more time in God’s Word is one of the most popular resolutions among believers. Stay committed to reading the Bible in one year with these tips.

    Commit to Consistency Establish a time of day that works well for you and commit that window of time to your daily Bible reading. Find a place in your home that is comfy and quiet, free of distractions, so you can focus on reading and absorbing God’s Word.

    Buy a One-Year Bible The One Year Series of books, Bibles and devotionals are our most popular annual readers. The One Year Series will guide you through God's Word in 365 days featuring daily passages from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the book of Psalms and Proverbs.

    Rethink the Rules There is more than one way to read and understand the Bible, so give yourself permission to skip around. If reading cover to cover isn’t for you, consider reading chronologically or dabbling in both the Old Testament and the New Testament every day. If you’re just getting started on your walk with God, we recommend first reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    Take Down Your Thoughts Writing is a wonderful way to explore your emotions and your faith more fully. Journal verses that stand out to you, prayer requests, how certain passages make you feel and anything else God whispers to you during these quiet moments with Him.

    Ask for Accountability Find a spiritual mentor who can check in with you periodically or encourage a friend or family member to read along with you. Allowing others in on your goal can increase your chances of achieving it.

    Pray Persistently As Christians, prayer is the cornerstone of everything we do. Set yourself up for success by laying your goals down at God’s feet and relying on Him for strength. If prayer has felt more like a burden than a blessing lately, energize your prayer life with these four tips.

    Give Yourself Some Grace We all fall short of perfection. Thankfully, we serve a gracious God who doesn’t expect us to be faultless. If you miss a day of reading, forgive yourself, pray about it and get back on track tomorrow. Don’t give up!

    We hope you feel encouraged and empowered to reach your goal of reading through the Bible in 2017.

    You Might Also Like

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  • Environment is Stronger Than Willpower

    Environment is Stronger Than Willpower by Arlene Pellicane

    “For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

    For my mom’s birthday one year, a creative friend made her a poster board plastered with chocolate bars. Each chocolate bar was part of a sentence like, “Your friendship is worth $100 Grand.” To my surprise, she didn’t eat the candy. Every time I went into her home office, I had to look at those chocolate bars. For months I was tempted to “enjoy” my mom’s birthday gift for myself!

    Finally, I asked my mom if I could cut open the wrappers and throw away the chocolates. That candy-laden environment was winning against my willpower. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I came to a breaking point: Either eat the candy, or change the environment.

    Environment is stronger than willpower. We may have all the willpower in the world, but when we’re constantly surrounded by chocolate (or another favorite treat), we will eventually give in.

    Today’s key verse warns believers about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Those chocolate bar decorations certainly represented the lust of the flesh, a physical temptation, for me. Whether your goal is to eat healthier or to pray more, it’s crucial to create the right environment to reduce temptation.

    If my temptation is food, I must make my home a safe place to eat. I can’t buy junk food in the grocery store or stock my cupboards with it and expect to resist the temptation for a late-night snack. Instead I’ll do better to fill my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to create a better environment. It’s not always easy, but I find when I make the decision beforehand to walk past the breakroom and the box of donuts waiting on the countertop — over time — it becomes easier to resist.

    When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his first attempt was with food. The devil said, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b, NIV). But Jesus answered, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4: 4b, NIV).

    Notice Jesus didn’t say people don’t need food. He said that man doesn’t live by food alone. We can lean on the promises of God’s Word when we’re tempted to indulge the lust of the flesh.

    Maybe you don’t have a problem with food. Maybe your struggle is prayer. I understand. Sometimes I want to pray, but my flesh says, “I’m too tired” or “I don’t need to pray; I’ve got this handled.” Just as I can create a healthier environment by eating whole foods and attending an exercise class, I can also create a prayerful environment.

    What’s been helpful for me is to begin each day by praising God for who He is. I place my Bible right next to my bed so it’s the first thing I reach for. I’ve also developed new habits like not checking social media until I check in with God in prayer. When I first started this new routine, I would even put a sticky note over my phone to remind me.

    A positive environment can inspire you to make the choices you want to make. Don’t count on willpower to defeat the lust of the flesh. Rely on the Holy Spirit and wisely build an environment for positive change and accountability.

    And if you ever receive a bunch of candy bars for your birthday, here’s my advice: Share them with others and get them out of your house as soon as possible!

    Dear God, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me take care of my physical body and my soul. Show me how to turn away from the lust of the flesh. Reign over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (KJV)

    Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take stock of the current environment for your body and soul. What are some potential hazards in your house? It could be food, social media, television, relationships, etc.

    What will be your plan to escape temptation and walk in freedom?

    © 2017 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Time Well Spent

    Time Well Spent by Dr. James Merritt

    “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“ Psalm 37:4-7 (NIV)

    There is an old saying “time is money.” That really isn’t true. The real truth is “time is life.” Life comes down to the time we have on this earth and how we spend it.

    The older I get, the more I realize the most precious time in life is when I spend it with the people I love the most. Even after 40 years of marriage, I love spending time with my precious Teresa. One-on-one. Just the two of us. I have never gotten over the fact that … a) she married me, and b) she still loves to spend time with me.

    Yet even more amazing to me is that God desires to spend time with me!

    In fact, He wants to spend time with you and me so badly that He paid in order to get it. He sent Jesus to remove every barrier, tear down every wall and unlock every door so we could have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, He gave us His Word so we could hear from Him constantly and consistently.

    That’s why I love to read my Bible. I know God wants me to have unrestricted access to Him, anywhere and anytime I want. God has a personal side and He wants me to know it. God wants you to get to know Him better so you can love Him fully, hear Him clearly and experience His guidance. This comes by spending time with Him in His Word.

    A king by the name of David wrote a song about the benefits of spending time with God, showing us why this should be a top priority of our life.

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Reflect God’s Character Just as I enjoy spending precious time with my wife, God is delighted when we are delighted in Him! He loves to be our eyes and ears so He can speak into our heart.

    Have you noticed the more time you spend with someone, the more you become like them? As we spend time with God and His Word, He changes us so we become more like Him. God changes us so He can use us to change other people. You simply cannot spend time with God, hear His Word, know Him better, love Him more and be the same person.

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Receive God’s Blessings God promises that when we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Now this is not a “your wish is my command!” promise. As we spend time with God, we will delight in Him. His desires become our desires because our hearts are tuned to His. He will grant us what we desire, because we both want the same thing!

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Rest in God’s Will As we spend time with God and His Word, our faith and trust in Him will grow. Fear is replaced by faith, and worry is replaced by worship. Spending quality time with God and consistently studying His Word grows our confidence in His power and our commitment to His plans for our lives.

    So today … set aside time to spend with the One who is above all time. It will be time well spent.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting to spend time with me and inviting me to spend time with You. Help me prioritize this time with You, knowing it is the path to divine power and meaningful productivity in the time You have given me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are the barriers that keep you from spending time with God?

    What are you willing to give up today to make spending time with God a priority? Make that commitment to God now.

    © 2017 by Dr. James Merritt. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Letting God Fill in the Blanks

    Letting God Fill in the Blanks by Lysa Terkeurst

    “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (NIV)

    There’s this little painting that hangs in my home. Most people wouldn’t consider it a masterpiece. I only paid $5 for it at an estate sale, but I like it because it speaks redemption to my soul every time I look at it.

    I don’t know what happened to the gal who painted it. All I know is it seems something about her life fell apart. And one day a company opened her front door to strangers. They walked through all the sacred spaces she once called home and bought the stuff her life had collected. I guess I’m too sentimental to attend estate sales; I couldn’t stand it.

    But I also couldn’t leave without rescuing something in her creative collection. Then I had the strangest notion to go on a wild adventure to find this unknown painter. I pictured it like an epic scene in a movie where the music crescendos and I find her living in a New York high-rise. I would knock on her door and make the great assumption that she would be thrilled with my announcement.

    “I just want you to know I love your work. I bought one of your paintings and it speaks a message of redemption to me every day. And I treasure it.”

    Surely then she would get misty eyed, invite me in for coffee and share her devastatingly beautiful story. We would become wonderful unlikely friends. She would go on to become a famous painter. And live happily ever after.

    But life isn’t usually as epic as what we see on movie screens. It’s untidy and so unpredictable that our fragile hearts get broken at best, crushed at worst. And sometimes it’s just easier to run away than to risk letting the shards of the fallout cut away the little bit of life still left in us.

    No crescendo to the music. No epic arc to the story. No lasting friendship. Just a $5 painting that hangs in my kitchen. And that’s all I know.

    Life sometimes keeps us from details that are better left alone. It keeps some of the blanks blank on the outline of this message.

    Does it ever drive you crazy when a speaker gives you an outline with blanks but then skips some of the points? Me too.

    We like complete outlines. All the blanks filled in. All the gaps closed. All the details disclosed. And all the why questions answered to our satisfaction.

    But that’s not the way life is. Some speakers are disorganized and forgetful. Some gaps too wide to close. And there are some questions for which there are no apparent answers. I believe that’s the way God wants it. Our all-knowing God not only allows this but actually designed life to be this way.

    Without blanks, we would have no room for Him to enter in and write His answers. For Him to become the Way when there is no way. For Him to be the Truth when lies long to be what consume our thoughts. For Him to be the Life He’s designed on the other side of our crumbling attempts to control our stories (John 14:6). Our God is not fickle, forgetful or fragile in any way. He does not make mistakes. He purposes the gaps. He allows sacred spaces and blank places. He leaves room.

    If we had all the blanks filled in, we would explain away God’s part in our story. God doesn’t want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. He wants us to make room for His additions to our story.

    One time God was told, “There is no room,” and He turned an ordinary stable into an unforgettable sanctuary. “No room” became a space through which Jesus Christ stepped through glory to the grit and grime of this sin-soaked world.

    What did He come to bring? Redemption.

    And what do the blanks and unanswered questions of your life provide space for? Redemption.

    So why is it OK with me if I never know the details of my kitchen painting? Redemption.

    Father God, I thank You that everything You do has holy purpose. Even the things that don’t make sense to me. Thank You for being the way, the truth and the life that I need. You are my Redeemer and I trust You with every detail of my story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 111:9, “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever — holy and awesome is his name.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you have any “blanks” in your life causing you pain or frustration? Release them in prayer today to God — thanking Him that He knows exactly how to fill them in.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

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Activate Your Faith - Phillipians 4:13
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