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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • When I Feel Attacked

    When I Feel Attacked by Lynn Cowell

    “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.” Numbers 14:5 (ESV)

    “Why would you …?”

    When someone else begins a conversation with those accusatory words, there is so much potential.

    Once they’re uttered, I’ll hold all the power. I have the choice to lean into my natural instincts or control my tendency to let pride take over.

    While reading my Bible recently, I was challenged by parts of Moses and Aaron’s stories in the book of Numbers.

    After scoping out the new land God had promised them, all except two of Moses’ spies brought back a terrible report. They returned defeated before the takeover plan could even begin.

    Allowing fear and ungratefulness to overflow onto everyone they encountered, the spies spilled out fear on all the Israelites:

    "So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height … and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’” (Numbers 13:32, 33b, ESV).

    Soon, the entire camp was in a rebellious uproar. They demanded to know why they couldn’t return to Egypt, where they’d been enslaved for centuries. They directed their wrath straight at their leaders: Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:1-4).

    As I read this passage, I didn't feel contempt for the Israelites. Instead, I saw myself as one of them. I've been the complaining consumer of God's goodness before.

    What I felt instead was awe, seeing Moses and Aaron’s response: "Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel" (Numbers 14:5, ESV).

    When I feel attacked, my normal response is not to fall on my knees and begin praying. Oh no! I might not be explosive with my words and actions, but my mind often builds a defense strong enough for a courtroom. All my energy goes into self-preservation.

    Yet that’s not what I see in Moses and Aaron.

    Instead, I see humility.

    And I see God respond to these men who didn’t immediately choose to defend themselves and their actions, but instead turned to God: "Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the LORD said to Moses …" (Numbers 14:10b-11a, ESV).

    Moses and Aaron could have chosen the natural human response: build a case, then put people in their place.

    Instead, they chose humility. And God not only defended them, He came into their presence.

    Moses and Aaron remind me that a posture of humility brings God’s presence to my problem.

    Sometime soon, you and I will experience someone’s spill of emotions. As those words begin to burn, like Moses and Aaron, we'll have a choice. Yes, we can rise up in anger and self-defense, letting them have what they deserve.

    Or this: We can choose to humble ourselves and let God come to our defense.

    One reaction has an immediate emotional release. We feel better short-term, getting feelings off our chest and onto the “enemy.” But long-term, there will be consequences.

    When we choose humility, we pay the price of self-control up front, but it opens the way for God to defend us and brings His peace to our situation. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us can we bypass the natural to choose His supernatural response. This is when we reap the beautiful results of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

    I’d like to say this choice is simple, even easy. But that’s simply not true. Looking at heroes of the faith like Moses and Aaron challenges me: I can exude the fruit of the Spirit if I’ll make the hard choice and choose humility.

    Holy Spirit, empower me to respond from a place of humility, allowing You to control me and not my emotions. Open my eyes to see when I, like Moses and Aaron, need to fall face-down and understand Your heart before I spill out my own on others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 22:4, “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (ESV)

    Ephesians 4:1b-2, “… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How do Moses and Aaron’s actions impact the way you think of defending yourself?

    Is there a relationship in your life that challenges you in responding with humility? Ask the Lord to empower you to respond in a way that invites His presence into the relationship.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • 5 Biblical Lessons to Teach Your Kids

    Math, science, art and history – your kids learn a lot in the classroom but what about at home? As parents who are raising ambassadors for Christ, it’s important to make sure an understanding of God’s Word is part of the equation. That’s why we’ve outlined five lessons to teach your children that align with God’s will for them.

    Love God There’s a reason this is the first commandment. Jesus instructs us in Mark 12:30 to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind and soul. This is a lesson that children can begin to grasp at an early age and will serve as the foundation for all other principles.

    Be Kind The golden rule taught in grade school has more biblical truth to it than you might have thought. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus tells us to do to others what we would want them to do to us. Kindness is rooted in a deep love and respect for all of God’s people.

    Respect Authority Whether it’s a parent or the president, the Bible is very clear that we are to respect authority. Romans 13:1 reminds us that the authorities in place have been established by God. We are to teach our children that we don’t have to fear authority if we ultimately trust our Lord and Savior.

    Tell the Truth Help your child understand the importance of honesty. Ephesians 4:25 commands us to speak truth to our neighbors because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Similar to kindness, the ability and desire to tell the truth stems from love and respect.

    Give Thanks We serve a good God who delights in blessing us. The enemy is quick to attack our thoughts in an attempt to consume us with negativity and unmet needs, but it is so important to drown them out with praise and thanks to our Father in Heaven. Psalm 100:4 says that we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise His name. Instill a heart of gratitude in your child and be quick to point out all of the good things God is doing in their life.

    While these lessons are important, they’re not all-inclusive. The Bible offers more grace and guidance for parents than we could fit into a blog, so we encourage you to ask for wisdom and spend time in the Word as you seek to raise children of God.

    We believe something great happens when a child applies the Bible to their life and begins to understand who God has called them to be. That’s why we’ve created an exclusive line of superhero-inspired kids’ decor called Small But Mighty. This line is designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.

    What biblical lessons would you add to our list?

  • Why You Don’t Have to Fear the Upcoming Election

    Why You Don’t Have to Fear the Upcoming Election by Lysa TerKeurst

    “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” 2 Kings 6:16 (NIV)

    I looked around the table at my kids I love so much, and fear gripped my heart.

    What will the outcomes of this coming election make our world look like? What will it be like when they are trying to live as Christians in a culture so determined to dismantle our Biblical values? Have I taught them enough? Equipped them for the battles they’ll face? Will they withstand the pressures and policy changes and political shifts?

    I’m not even sure I understand all the complicated political realities, but I do know when I watch the news or read discussions about the upcoming election, I don’t get a good feeling.

    What I thought we’d have to navigate one day, seems to be a reality this day.

    And it can leave this simple mom’s heart feeling afraid.

    Do you ever feel this way? We crave safety and certainty and simplicity to raise our families, serve God, and live out our Christian beliefs in both private and public. But so many things feel threatening to those desires.

    How do we navigate both our fears and our faith?

    There’s a wonderful truth I turn to time and again when I get afraid. It’s in 2 Kings chapter 6 verse 16, “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”

    The prophet Elisha spoke this treasured truth to his servant. The servant was breathless with fear because he looked and saw a massive enemy army surrounding them. His desperation is so clearly heard in verse 15b: “‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.”

    Their circumstances were horrible and hopeless when examined through human eyes.

    But Elisha doesn’t look at circumstances with human eyes. He sees there are always two realities to everything we face: A physical reality but also a spiritual reality. Elisha clearly saw the frightening military leaders surrounding his city who thought they were in control. But he also saw an angel army sent by God who was far stronger, far greater and far more in control than any human eye could see.

    I love what Elisha prays for his servant.

    Elisha prays his spiritual eyes will be opened so his faith will be increased. He doesn’t pray for his servant’s fear to be eased. He doesn’t pray the enemy army turns and runs away. He doesn’t pray a new king will swoop onto the scene and change the antagonistic political climate of that day. He doesn’t pray his circumstances will change at all. He simply prays his servant can see with spiritual eyes that God is in control.

    “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha,” (2 Kings 6:16-17, NIV). An angel army sent by God was there with a divine assignment.

    His fear was then silenced as He saw the protection and provision of God.

    And that’s how we can quiet our fears as well. Psalm 34:7 reminds us of this same truth, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (NIV).

    That was true for Elisha’s fearful servant and it is true for us too. The Matthew Henry commentary says, “As angels are God’s messengers, so they are his soldiers, his hosts (Genesis 32:2), his legions, or regiments, (Matthew 26:53), for the good of his people.” And probably most comforting to my mom’s heart is Matthew 18:10 which says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

    Angels are not mystical or mythological, nor are they supposed to be the object of our worship. They are Biblical realities on assignment from God. They point me to recognize God’s presence and see God’s power. I need to remember this truth. That’s why I asked my artist friend Deann to paint some angels for me to hang in my home where I see them every day.

    I need to remember no matter what the nightly news says about current circumstances, God’s good news is my ultimate reality. The enemy is vicious, but he is not victorious. Therefore, I can sometimes feel afraid, but I don’t have to live afraid. Like that beautiful praise song by Chris Tomlin gloriously expresses, “I know who goes before me — I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side.”

    Lord, I acknowledge Your angels on assignment from You to protect me. Like secret agents, Your angels are guarding me. Thank You for Your careful concern for every part of me — physical, emotional and spiritual. In all ways, You are with me. I will not feel alone or powerless. I will feel guarded like the treasured daughter I am. I know You are making all things right and good. I know Your love will reign supreme. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 91:11, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What has been stirring fear in your heart recently? Spend some time today surrendering those fears to the Lord, and ask Him to open your eyes to see things from His perspective.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When the Loneliness Crushes Your Heart

    When the Loneliness Crushes Your Heart by Karen Ehman

    “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

    I will never forget the day of my senior prom.

    Not because I had a handsome date that swept me off my feet as we danced the night away. Not because I was able to purchase the perfect dress I’d always dreamed of wearing. Not even because I went with a group of girlfriends who all decided to go stag and then had a blast doing “The Bump” on the dance floor together. (Hey, it was the ‘80s, and “The Bump” was all the rage!)

    No, I remember the occasion vividly because it was the day I decorated the school gym, set up the food buffet and then went home to spend the evening with the cast from The Dukes of Hazzard as my only companions.

    I was on the committee that hung streamers and set out vases of fresh flowers to make the evening magical. And because I worked at the restaurant chosen to cater the finger foods, I also carved a watermelon, filled it with fresh fruit and placed it — along with platters of cheese and crackers and other assorted hors d’oeuvres — for the excited attendees to enjoy.

    But there would be no prom night for me. I hadn’t been asked. My senior year of high school wasn’t really a time of fun and friends. It was a year full of sorrow and rejection, of many nights spent home all alone, feeling left out and unloved.

    In elementary and middle school I seemed to have little trouble finding friends to call my own. In fact, I was part of the popular crowd. But in the eighth grade, after repeating some gossip about a girl in my class, I lost a slew of friends. I was banished from the popular table at lunch — and forced to find a new group of friends.

    This smaller group of friends sufficed throughout my first half of high school. But then, during the fall of my junior year, I turned my life over to Christ. This life-altering decision meant there were parties I would not attend and activities I simply had no interest in engaging in. My circle of friends grew smaller and smaller. My senior year, I even faced ridicule from some classmates for my newfound faith.

    Thankfully, I got plugged into a church youth group. However, most of the kids there went to a different high school, so my days spent in class were often void of any real, meaningful friendships. Sure I had teammates on the cheerleading squad and project partners on the school newspaper staff. But close friends? They were nowhere to be found.

    Mentally reliving this time brings back sadness, but it also reminds me that this was the exact life experience that catapulted me into the arms of Jesus. During my lonely times I read and re-read His Word — a book I just couldn’t seem to get enough of.

    I attended the adult Bible study at church and caught a vision for living a ministry-centered life.

    Although my personal friendships on earth were few and feeble, my relationship with my Creator in heaven grew immensely strong. God carefully cradled my crushed heart in His hands and tenderly rubbed the healing balm of His love deep into its wounds.

    Today’s key verse describes the deep love of God — unfailing, everlasting. His love is not dependent on our looks, our brains, our financial status or our social standing. He loves us. Now and forever.

    Completely and thoroughly. With no signs of stopping.

    Prom flowers wither.

    Cliques and schoolyard statuses soon go away.

    But we will never be found lacking when it comes to a God who created us, is crazy in love with us and won’t ever leave us out. If you have a trampled heart, soothe it with the comfort of this mind-blowing truth — God loves you forever and ever. The End.

    Father, thank You for how You always welcome me and have never rejected me. Not only have You loved me in the past, but You will love me forever. I am blessed to know Your steadfast, perfect, unmatchable love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 25:16, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a time in your life when you felt left out, lonely or unloved. How can the truths of today’s key verse help you to look to God for companionship?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Real Problem in Marriage

    The Real Problem in Marriage by Dr. Tony Evans

    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV)

    Not long ago, a couple came for marriage counseling with a lengthy list of all the issues they were facing. It must have had at least 30 things on it.

    I felt instantly depressed as I watched them pull out that list. How am I ever going to help them solve so many issues? I thought, as they began to read every item.

    On and on they read, naming what sounded like legitimate sources of conflict. I could easily see why they weren’t getting along.

    Once the couple finished reading, the husband handed me the list and I faced a decision: Would I go through this list with them and provide input on each issue, or would I address the real source of their conflict?

    I looked at the list. Then I looked at the couple.

    Both of them had hopelessness — even anger — written all over their faces. Then I looked back at the list, carefully and thoughtfully penned.

    And I tore it up.

    Right there in front of them. You can imagine what their faces looked like then.

    They’d taken time to prepare this list for our meeting, and I had just shredded it.

    I leaned toward them and said, “We could talk about these 30 things, but nothing will ultimately change in your marriage, because this one thing is missing: the spiritual foundation of your relationship.

    “Without establishing and maintaining a solid spiritual relationship, your list of 30 things, once solved, will just morph into another 30, and you’ll wind up back here the same time next year with another list of things to solve.”

    I could tell they were listening intently, so I continued. “Get this one thing right, and all the other things will fall into place. Get a divine perspective on your marriage as the foundation for your home, and you’ll discover who your true enemy is — and it is not each other.”

    Fights in our marriages assume that our spouses are the problem.

    And that’s exactly what the devil wants.

    He wants me to believe my spouse is the problem — not my own selfishness. He knows I will never fix the real problem if I believe my mate is the problem.

    But ultimately, my spouse is not my enemy, nor the problem. The problem is a spiritual one brought on by my own sinful flesh, and a rebellious, clever enemy of God.

    So much of what we fight about in marriage has nothing to do with the real issue. There’s almost always something deeper — an unmet need, a lack of trust, a lack of respect, etc. These are the root of our problems and fights.

    However, what makes a marriage strong is loving with a biblical love grounded in patience, kindness, loyalty, grace, and in alignment with God’s covenantal purpose for marriage.

    Often things we fight about have to do with our own sinful choices, as well as the demonic realm working against us. When we fail to make a spiritual connection to everything that goes on in marriage, we’ll continue to rant about whatever the current issue is.

    That’s why I must commit my marriage to prayer and cultivate a real relationship in humility while seeking God’s wisdom and guidance and asking for His love, grace and mercy.

    God’s Word reminds us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

    I’m happy to say that when the couple I mentioned earlier sought to view each other and their relationship through God’s eyes, they made every attempt to cultivate and keep their marriage.

    Over time I saw the wife’s countenance lift as if she were becoming a brand-new woman. I also saw the husband enjoy a relationship with his wife that had brought him dread. To this day, they are living the fullness of a life together, in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    God supplies the strength we need to successfully do battle in our marriages. So let’s use the difficulties we face to get on our knees and seek God’s face to grow closer to Him.

    Dear Lord, I know that decisions made apart from Your wisdom notoriously wind up causing more harm than good. Help me seek You first, identify the true enemy in my marriage and suit up in the full armor You’ve provided so I can stand firm in the truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:12-13, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you sometimes think your marriage would be wonderful if it weren’t for your spouse? Take a moment today to thank God for your mate and pray for His help that you both focus on God.

    © 2016 by Dr. Tony Evans. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale 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

  • Don’t Worry: God is at Work

    Don’t Worry: God is at Work by Arlene Pellicane

    “… Saul said to the servant who was with him, ‘Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.’” 1 Samuel 9:5 (NIV)

    Ever worry about your children? Yes, me too.

    When my eldest child, Ethan, was in first grade, he went to a public school with more than 1,000 kids. There were many unknowns to fear. What if he is taught something by his teacher I don’t agree with? What if he has a friend who shows him something inappropriate? What if his little 6-year-old worldview is shaped by pop culture instead of the Bible?

    So I joined a weekly prayer group for kids and schools and asked my new friends to pray my son would find a Christian friend at school. The very next day Ethan said, “Guess what, Mom? I met a boy at recess and I asked if he was a Christian. He said, ‘Yes,’ and Mom, he’s in my class!”

    While I was worrying at home, God was working at school.

    Apparently, I’m in good company. The father of Israel’s first king was also prone to worrying about his son.

    The family’s donkeys were lost, so Saul’s dad, Kish, sent him on a mission to find them. Accompanied by a servant, young Saul passed through the mountains of Ephraim and through the lands of Shalisha, Shalim, the Benjamites and finally the land of Zuph.

    Far, far away from home, Saul turns to his servant and says, “ … Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

    I doubt Saul’s father was a weak-willed, easily-frightened man. The Bible describes him as a “mighty man of power” (1 Samuel 9:1b, KJV). Yet even the strongest can crumble under worry when it comes to their children.

    Maybe Saul’s father wrestled with nagging questions, too. God’s prophet, Samuel, confirmed that Kish was indeed worried and had been asking others if they’d seen Saul (1 Samuel 10:2b, NLT). I imagine any number of questions were floating through his mind: What if my son is lost? What if my son is stuck in a ditch? What if my son has been injured and can’t get back home?

    While he was wondering about Saul’s safe return home, God was preparing Saul to become the first king of Israel.

    Saul wasn’t lost. He was exactly where God wanted him. The arduous journey to retrieve those pesky donkeys was designed by God to bring Saul to Samuel.

    It’s a reminder that instead of worrying about my children and their problems, I should pray for them. And recognize the challenging journeys they face at school — or in life — may be exactly what they need in order to hear God’s voice and receive His direction for their lives.

    My son Ethan is now in junior high. Thankfully, he is still friends with that Christian boy God illuminated in first grade.

    Just like young Saul left on a mission to retrieve donkeys and then returned as the chosen king of Israel, your child (or a child you care about) is on a personal journey of faith. One filled with unexpected challenges and blessings. Don’t worry along the way; instead pray. Take heart. In the midst of our worries and concerns, we can rest assured God is at work.

    Dear Lord, I commit the children in my life to You. Help me not to worry about them, but pray in faith, believing You are at work. I will not be anxious today. I will be patient, waiting on Your answers for their lives. Thank You for working on my behalf. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 138:8, “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (NKJV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you worried about one or more of your children this school year? Tell God all about your cares and then praise Him that He’s working behind the scenes for your child’s good.

    © 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Choose a Bible: 4 Questions to Consider

    With so many translations, styles and features – choosing a Bible can be both exciting and overwhelming. We know the importance of understanding and connecting with God’s Word. That’s why we’re committed to being your spiritual partner and helping you find a Bible that speaks to you. Get started with the following questions designed to walk you through the Bible selection process.

    Who is this Bible for? Maybe you’re buying your first Bible, your fifth Bible or looking to bless someone with the gift of God’s Word. If you’re buying a Bible for someone else, consider their age, gender and spiritual needs. Keep this in mind as you consider the following questions.

    Is this Bible for a specific life event or milestone? Whether you’re celebrating a baptism, graduation or simply welcoming a new believer, we’ve got a Bible specific to each occasion. The needs of a pastor and someone celebrating their first communion will be different, and we believe their Bible should be too.

    Are you looking for a specific translation? Some translations, including the KJV and NKJV, are more literal because they were translated word for word and often require a higher reading level. Other translations, like the NIV and NLT, use more contemporary language because they were translated phrase by phrase allowing for a smoother reading experience. Both types of translations are used to study God's Word, so be sure to choose one that resonates with you.

    Are you looking for additional features? Hard cover or leather bound? Large or small print? Maybe you want wide margins for Bible journaling. Maybe you’re doing a majority of your reading on the road and would benefit from a compact version. Consider when and where you’ll be using your Bible most and choose features that align with your needs.

    Still have questions? Take the next step and try out our new Bible Finder. This online tool will walk you through these very questions, present you with an in-depth look at your options and then recommend a variety of Bibles based on your responses.

    What questions do you have about the Bible buying process?

  • Letting Go of a Secret Sin

    Letting Go of a Secret Sin by Liz Curtis Higgs

    “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 (NIV)

    First, a confession: I used to indulge in a certain guilty pleasure, especially while traveling. Buying what I needed in an airport shop, I then inhaled it on the plane, hoping no one was looking. No, not dark chocolate, and not illicit drugs, but something equally addictive: romance novels.

    Love stories are one thing. These were something else. Not uplifting Christian novels. The other kind. Pretty flowers on the cover, innocent-sounding titles, but the content definitely didn’t qualify as “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

    A happily married woman, I convinced myself that reading such stories was harmless. I rationalized that since I wasn’t fantasizing about other men, wasn’t hurting anyone and wasn’t breaking any laws, that it wasn’t all that bad.

    Really, Liz?

    Today’s verse tells us, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12, NIV).

    The romance novels I chose — dozens upon dozens — were definitely fruitless, producing nothing healthy in my spiritual life or in my marriage. And they were decidedly shameful. I did everything I could to hide them, like reading in bed at night with my back toward my husband, or reading in public with a quilted book cover masking the subject matter.

    When we need to hide what we’re doing, we need to ask ourselves why.

    Forgive me if I’m stepping on your toes, beloved. It’s not my job to pass judgment, only to show you how much Jesus loves His daughters. So much so that He stands ready to rescue us the moment we realize we’re drowning and cry out for help.

    For me, that desperate moment came during a Christian women’s conference in Georgia nearly 20 years ago. During the closing minutes of the Saturday night session, the speaker offered an invitation to come forward and have a heart-to-heart conversation with the Lord.

    Here’s the thing: I was the speaker who offered that invitation.

    The worship leader sat behind me, softly playing music on a keyboard, while I encouraged our sisters in Christ to take a brave step of faith and come forward to pray. Some came alone; others came in pairs, often weeping. The empty floor in front of the stage began to fill with women seeking His forgiveness.

    Your turn, Liz.

    My words faded into silence. The prompting in my heart wasn’t audible, but I knew it was the Lord speaking to me, and I knew what He wanted me to do.

    Now, Liz. Go.

    I put down the microphone with shaking hands, nodded at the musician to keep playing, then stepped down and knelt on the floor. Forgive me, Lord. Help me, Lord. My whispered confession poured out. So did my tears, hot with shame.

    As I sensed His mercy washing over me, my cheeks grew cooler, and my breathing eased. I was left with nothing but gratitude and a clear sense of what had to be done when I got home.

    The question was, what to do now? A thousand women had watched their speaker abandon the platform to pray. What must they be thinking? I stepped back onstage and faced the audience. Turns out, they weren’t thinking about me at all. They were kneeling. Everywhere. On the floor, in the aisles, in front of their chairs.

    It wasn’t my invitation they responded to. It was God’s.

    He wants us to live in the light of His love, and He asks us to leave our dark deeds behind. The first step is the hardest: admitting we’re in trouble. But, oh, the freedom we gain when we discard our secret sins and step into His light!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for not leaving us in darkness and shame, for showering us with grace, for showing us the way out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (NIV) James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Conviction comes when we realize our lives don’t line up with God’s truth.

    Confession is next, as we put our sin into words and ask His forgiveness.

    Contentment follows when we make the necessary changes, relying on His strength to see us through. If God is shining His light on a dark spot in your life today, what step can you take to begin on the path that leads to peace? © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Does God Really Care About Me?

    Does God Really Care About Me? by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4 (NIV)

    Do you ever feel lonely?

    A few years ago, I was at an event full of people. Everyone else seemed to effortlessly connect with others. I just felt out of sorts.

    Someone had said something earlier that day that hurt my feelings and knocked me off-kilter. It was one of those, “I would really like to be at home alone, in a bubble bath, eating something chocolate” kind of nights. But I had to go to this outing, so here I was — feeling lonely.

    My shifting emotions caused me to get in such a down state, I even started wondering if God cared about me.

    I politely smiled my way through the evening, and finally got to go home. As I crawled into bed that night, I prayed and asked Jesus, “Why am I letting some thoughtless comment made by someone affect me like this?”

    There was no deep explanation. There was no Bible verse that instantly popped into my head. There was no sudden rush of peace through my heart. Only a very gentle reminder deep in my soul that Jesus loves me — insecurities and all.

    Jesus loves me, that simple little song I learned all those years ago. Very simple, yet so powerfully profound, that one statement grounds me in the truth of who God says I am.

    Friends can’t make you feel accepted all the time. Accomplishments will never truly make you feel secure. Having lots of people around you does not mean you won’t ever feel lonely. And chocolate, while it is deliciously distracting, is just a little too temporary.

    No person or thing can fix from the outside a perspective that needs rewiring on the inside. Only the Lord can do that.

    So, I turn to the One who is Everlasting, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel — God with us. I draw close to Him so He can separate solid truth from shifting emotions.

    See if you can identify with any of the shifting emotions listed below. Then, rejoice as you read God’s solid truths for a firm place to stand and a sure place to park your feelings.

    Shifting Emotion: I don’t always feel noticed by other people. Everyone just seems wrapped up in their own lives. Sometimes I even wonder if God notices me.

    Solid Truth: God not only notices us, He is with us at all times. We are to keep ourselves in God’s love, whether we feel Him or not. By praying and filling our minds with God’s truth, His love will grow in us and through us. Then we won’t be so consumed with wanting others to notice us. We will become people who notice others and let God’s love shine on them. Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (NIV).

    Shifting Emotion: I don’t feel very loved. Therefore, I don’t feel like being very loving toward others.

    Solid Truth: We are dearly loved by God. His love enables us to display compassion, kindness and patience even when we don’t feel like it. Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NIV).

    Shifting Emotion: Does God really care about this situation I’m in?

    Solid Truth: God is with us. As we cry out to Him, we are reminded of His help. Psalm 61:1-4, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

    As I finish reading these truths, my heart feels so much more secure. It’s a feeling I want to soak in every day as I remind myself that I am truly, wholly and forever loved.

    Dear Lord, Help me rid my mind and heart of the doubts that shifting emotions cause and be filled with only Your solid truths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are some other verses that specifically apply to areas of struggle for you right now? How might it help to keep these verses close at hand — and reflect on them often?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Look at Me, Child

    Look at Me, Child by Suzie Eller

    “So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31 (NIV)

    She wore a white dress. It was tattered and soiled. She had just climbed through a sagging barbed wire fence and it snagged on her tiny ankle. The wound was red and gaping. She cried, but there was no comfort to be found.

    I started digging through my backpack, looking for a bandage, a wipe.

    Anything.

    It wasn’t enough. There wasn’t a wipe or bandage in the world that could fix what was wrong with this picture.

    She lived in a rag-picking slum. Her home was an open, dirt floor, cloth shanty with a tin roof held in place by rocks.

    She was a Dalit, a class of people once called untouchable — a class of people still treated as untouchable.

    Many young girls, like this little one, are seen as a burden from birth. It’s hard to believe, but some are killed shortly after birth because they have “no value” to their family. They are viewed as a financial liability due to the dowry requirement for marriage.

    Little girls like this typically don’t receive an education. They grow up caring for siblings or working from a tender age. This girl will sort through mountains of trash to find rags and plastic bottles. She is told this is her duty, and perhaps her next life might be better.

    I’ve seen poverty. I’ve walked through slums before. I’ve held children while lice crept through their hair, and I’ve wept over hungry bellies.

    Yet I’ve never experienced hopelessness that says, “You have no value. This is your lot in life. It’s the best you can expect.”

    Untouchable. Uninvited. Worthless.

    Her culture might tell her she’s untouchable, but Jesus reaches for her.

    Her family might see her as uninvited, but her Heavenly Father sees her as created in His image.

    Her status in society might say she’s worthless, but the Holy Spirit marks her as priceless.

    She is not uninvited. She is not untouchable. She is not worthless.

    This little girl is created in His image. Jesus’ own words tell us she’s treasured: “… you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). The sparrows are unseen and unvalued by most. Yet God sees them, and He sees her.

    I knelt that day, crouched between cow dung and sagging barbed wire and smiled at her, praying the heart of my words would somehow break the language barrier.

    Look at me, child.

    You are beautiful and wanted. I’m going to pray for you. I don’t know your name, but God does.

    Look at me, child.

    That’s our Heavenly Father calling to us, because sometimes when a problem seems SO big, He wants us to reach for Him because He’s greater.

    He doesn’t want us to give up or throw up our hands in despair, but to hold them up in surrender, asking Him to show us our part to play.

    We are not big enough to fix what’s wrong with a society that says a female child has little value, but we can pray.

    We can’t put a bandage on every child’s wounds, but we can fall to our knees and cry out to God to heal their hearts.

    We can’t go to every nation, but we can support ministries brave enough to offer education and hope in Jesus’ Name.

    We can’t do it alone, but together we can reach across barriers and cultures and join hands to make a difference.

    Dear God, I hear Your call to love others in Your name. I ask that You open my eyes to that child, that woman, who’s on Your heart. Let me play my part in inviting them into Your presence and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” (NLT) Proverbs 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor taunts and insults his Maker, But he who is kind and merciful and gracious to the needy honors Him.” (AMP)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When a problem or issue feels impossible to solve, we might feel we have no voice. Yet one voice, combined with thousands of others, is heard. Not just by entities, but by those who feel they have no voice at all.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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