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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • How God Changed My Attitude Without My Help

    How God Changed My Attitude Without My Help by Glynnis Whitwer

    “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; …” Ephesians 4:22-23 (NIV)

    I walked out to my front yard that Saturday morning, feeling the cool breeze whisper around me. After a hot summer, I should have enjoyed the moment. But I didn’t. It only reminded me I was here, facing a yard filled with weeds, rather than doing something fun.

    Out-of-town trips and a major project had kept me from yard work for the previous month. It was impossible to delay any longer, so I grabbed my bucket, sat down and started pulling.

    With each yank, I thought of where I’d rather be. Like hiking with the dogs. Going to a farmer’s market with my husband. Or preparing for a picnic with friends or family. Why did the weather have to be so perfect while I had to work?!

    I started getting annoyed, taking it out on the overgrown grass that had snaked its way into a flower bed. Within minutes I had worked myself into quite a snit, feeling resentful about all the yard work I had to do. Especially as I thought about “everyone” else out there having a great day.

    Then my daughter walked outside. She’d had her wisdom teeth pulled the day before, so I hadn’t asked for her help. Without saying a word, she sat down next to me and started pulling weeds too.

    I forced a smiled and asked if she felt okay to be outside, thanking her for coming to help. We sat in silence for a minute, with my attitude still yucky, until she turned on some music. But not just any music — she turned on worship music.

    I don’t know if she sensed my mood, or if God told her I needed more than just the physical help of pulling weeds. But as the familiar lyrics washed over me, I immediately felt my mood lighten. As the chorus began, I joined in. By the end of the second song, my perspective had shifted 180 degrees.

    We worked side-by-side for the next few hours, chatting, singing together and enjoying the beautiful weather, which I had resented earlier. My heart slowly grew thankful for a helpful daughter, a home to care for and the strength to do the work.

    What a perspective change! And I wasn’t even trying to get my attitude under control. Then I realized: When God’s truth enters my thoughts, it changes everything. God reawakened my joy and redirected my attitude by renewing my mind.

    Managing and submitting my thoughts to God is a daily battle. So often my mind threatens to take me places I shouldn’t go. Whether it’s resentment, frustration, anxiety or anger, my mind has the potential to lead me away from where I should go, which is toward thankfulness, love, grace and kindness.

    When I easily simmer and stew, allowing my mind to dwell on a problem or offense, it creates a one-sided, myopic view of the situation. Yet, when God changes my perspective, I realize there’s so much more to the picture. It’s like I can back up and see the panoramic view. God brings fresh air and light into my tunnel vision.

    I love how Paul put it in Ephesians 4:22-23: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self … to be made new in the attitude of your minds …”

    My thoughts and attitude definitely need to be made new when they get stuck in a negative pattern. That is my “old self” that needs to be put off. The new self that needs to be put on is Jesus. Romans 13:14a says, “Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ …” (NLT).

    Thankfully, this battle isn’t mine to fight alone. That’s good news, because sometimes I feel helpless to shift my attitude. How amazing that our God planted power in His Word and the praises of His people to break the chains we could never shake off ourselves.

    So, today, when you feel a negative attitude threaten, turn on some worship music and let God do what He does best — change you from the inside out.

    Lord, help me rein in my thoughts today and have a renewed perspective. My thoughts feel locked in negativity. Help redirect and renew my mind as I put You first. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there an ongoing situation where you could benefit from a perspective change?

    Try listening to worship music, and allow God to change your perspective.

    © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • What We Need to Remember to Never Forget

    What We Need to Remember to Never Forget by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “It was there at Gilgal that Joshua piled up the twelve stones taken from the Jordan River.” Joshua 4:20 (NLT)

    As a child, one of my favorite places to play was a bedraggled plot of weeds at the edge of my uncle’s farm. Dotted with rusty oil barrels and timeworn tractor parts, discarded soda bottles and mud-caked stones, the overgrown patch of green provided endless hours of “treasure hunting” for my young cousins and me.

    We gathered pieces of shattered glass as if they were precious jewels and collected dandelions like nuggets of gold. We scavenged for gum wrappers and bottle caps, for acorns and butterfly wings. But we were most intrigued by the abandoned shanty that sat in the middle of that littered lot. Of course, with doors locked and windows sealed, we couldn’t see what was inside … until the day we began stacking rocks.

    We’d been playing tag when we noticed a fallen tree limb had shattered the window just above our heads. We’d tried to lift one another up to climb through the splintered passageway, but our muscles weren’t as developed as our imaginations.

    That’s when my cousin dropped to his knees and began digging in the dirt. Before long, he’d excavated a flat, hefty rock from the sunbaked soil and placed it beneath the window.

    We spent the rest of the afternoon stacking stones until our arms throbbed and our fingernails turned a silty shade of brown. But before dusk’s debut, we crawled through that opening and discovered a wondrous cache of treasure — chipped coffee cups and dusty books, sagging lampshades and dingy tea towels.

    “I can’t believe this treasure has been here all along,” my cousin said with an incredulous yelp. “We just couldn’t see it without our pile of rocks.”

    In the fourth chapter of Joshua, where today’s verse is found, we discover another crew of children stacking stones. Of course, these kids aren’t 4-foot dreamers biding time in a patch of weeds; they are the children of Israel preparing to step into the Promised Land.

    But before they move forward, God invites them to look back. He commands them to dig some stones out of the muddy riverbank they’d just crossed (while it was miraculously dry) and to stack them high as a reminder of the great things He has done. God knows that when we forget what He’s done in the past, we begin to doubt what He can do in the present.

    Maybe I love this story because, like those children of long ago, I’m prone to forget. I forget my keys. I forget my grocery list. And sadly, when the spin of life presses in, I tend to forget God’s faithfulness too.

    But, maybe I love this story because it holds the secret for improving my memory. And lately, I’ve been stacking some “spiritual stones.” Not actual rocks caked in mud, just memories laced with gratitude. Each week, I’m setting aside some time to remember the great things God has done:

    • The moments He’s met me in my weakness and showered me with strength
    • The times He’s reached into my loneliness and buoyed me with His love
    • The occasions He’s brought clarity to my confusion, direction to my wandering, and peace to my fears

    And you know what I’m discovering? The more I acknowledge God’s footprints across my yesterdays, the more I see His hand upon today.

    But best of all, this simple habit is a bit like that pile of rocks I climbed on at my uncle’s farm long ago — it’s opening my eyes to the treasure that has been there all along and will remain forevermore — the wondrous gift of God’s power and presence.

    Dear Lord, forgive me of my forgetfulness. Help me remember all You have done in in the past so I can trust You completely with today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 78:35, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” (NIV)

    Deuteronomy 4:9, “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Stack some “spiritual rocks” this week. Ask God to remind you of specific ways He has shown you His presence and power in the past. Invite your spouse, your children or your friends into the conversation. Sometimes people outside of our story can see God’s involvement in our lives more clearly than we can.

    Are you losing faith in God’s faithfulness? Choose a Bible verse that speaks into your circumstances right now and turn God’s promise into a prayer.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Is Fear Keeping You from Speaking Up and Stepping Up?

    Is Fear Keeping You from Speaking Up and Stepping Up? by Valorie Burton

    “… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b (NIV)

    I cringe when I think about just how deep my insecurities must have been that day.

    I was in my last semester of grad school studying journalism, and I had an internship with a minor league hockey team in Tallahassee, Florida.

    One day, I was sitting in the team office when the head coach came bounding through the office saying, “Rosa Parks is somewhere in the building! She’s in town to speak or something. I’m going to go try to meet her,” he added, looking at the few of us sitting at our desks.

    My mind raced. It would be amazing to meet Rosa Parks. But Terry was the head coach, and I was just an intern. Yet, as he reached the door to head to the civic center, he looked directly at me and said, “You should come.”

    Now, to most, this might seem like a no-brainer. But in the few seconds between his statement and my response, a flurry of negative, self-sabotaging thoughts overwhelmed me. Even years later, I remember the panicked thoughts that hit me:

    Who am I to bother Ms. Parks? She’s probably here on business, and I’ll be interrupting her.

    What if she doesn’t want to speak to me? I’m just an intern.

    What will I say if we get her attention?

    With those thoughts, I quietly told Terry, “No. I better stay here and finish my work.” And although it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I sat at my desk and continued to work.

    Terry returned 45 minutes later with a big smile on his face. “I met her!” he said, his eyes filled with excitement. “I got a picture, too.” Then he turned to me, “You should have come.”

    My heart sank. I felt sick. Or rather, I felt small. I’d shrunk from what I really wanted. Why didn’t I speak up and say yes when he’d invited me?

    Ever been there? Maybe it wasn’t the opportunity to shake hands with a legend, but the chance to give your opinion, negotiate for a better deal or simply speak your truth. But when the moment came, the words and courage left you.

    My reaction that day reflected a deeper issue affecting my career and personal life. My anxiety about rejection meant I hesitated to share ideas even when my idea was truly a great one. When it came to saving money, it meant I’d pay more for something even though I knew I could get a better price.

    It seems I’m not alone. Research shows that we women tend to underestimate ourselves. As a result, we are more likely to shrink from possibilities, second-guess ourselves and settle for less than what’s possible.

    We are also more likely to be perfectionists, so we’ll spend more time thinking about the perfect approach to a conversation or problem but become paralyzed to speak up — fearing that failure is too great a risk.

    But here’s what we must remember: We have God with us. God’s Word says, “… Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9b).

    It wasn’t until I connected my fear with my faith that I truly had a breakthrough. James 2:17b says, “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (NIV). In other words, your actions must line up with your faith. This means showing up as though you belong. Speaking up when He prompts your heart’s desire. And seizing opportunities when God places them before you.

    Lord, give me courage to step up and speak up rather than allow fear to paralyze me. Grant me wisdom to know what to say when I get flustered. Help me see myself as You see me, rather than through the lens of any insecurities or doubts I may have. Free me from fear that masquerades as perfectionism and gives me an excuse to put off important conversations for another day. Help me become the wise, bold, courageous woman I know You’ve called me to be. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what way(s) do you shrink from conversations or opportunities you actually desire? What is God saying to you right now about stepping up in a bolder way?

    © 2016 by Valorie Burton. 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

  • Waiting and Wanting

    Waiting and Wanting by Wendy Pope

    “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.” Isaiah 64:4 (NIV)

    I don’t know anyone who likes to wait.

    Life in our technologically-advanced world has taught us that waiting does not have to be an option. Let’s face it: Within seconds of posting to social media, everyone can see pictures of your lunch with your best friend.

    We can instantly picture chat with anyone, anywhere, anytime. Text messaging is faster than a telephone call, and email is quicker than the postal service. Our dinner can be paid for, cooked and placed in our hands in a matter of minutes without us even leaving our car. Yes, the message we’ve received from our have-it-your-way world is this: “You don’t have to wait.”

    But friend, we have been deceived.

    We might want our food served quickly; however, by waiting we are more likely to get healthier food that’s better for us. I am sure we all have burned with an urgency to express our thoughts in an email, text message or Facebook update concerning something that made us angry. On the other hand, if we push through the want with a timely wait, we have the opportunity to thoughtfully respond so others will see Christ in us. Can we collectively agree things usually turn out better when we wait?

    When I was young, my family had one television. My brother and I had to take turns watching our favorite television shows. This got old fast, so I decided it would be nice for me to have my very own television in my bedroom. I took this bright idea to my parents. To my surprise, they said yes, but they wisely turned my want into a wait.

    Instead of buying the television for me, they made me earn the money. After months of babysitting and doing extra chores, I finally saved the $89 needed to purchase the 13-inch, black-and-white set. While sitting on my bed, watching my favorite shows, without my older brother pestering me, I determined that small television I’d wanted so much was worth the wait.

    Our key verse offers encouragement for the long waits we face: “Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4). Although this verse is about Israel’s return to Jerusalem after Babylonian captivity, we can probably identify with “those who wait.” We share in the hope that the perfect ending to our wait is something no ear has perceived, no eye has seen when we wait on God.

    As adults, the value of what we wait for is far greater than the cost of a black-and-white television. We wait for the salvation of a loved one, the healing of our friend, the end of our own long-term health issue, deliverance from addictions, a positive result on a pregnancy test, or the end of unemployment. The value of what we wait for is so great that we can easily become derailed from life.

    These things are important to pray about, for sure. But when they become all-consuming, their value is magnified — especially the longer we wait. Some carry greater weight than we originally thought, while some carry less. As the days, months and years pass, we can put more energy, effort, prayer, conversations, and yes, sometimes manipulation and guilt trips, into making these things come to pass. Without realizing it, we exchange the Person of our faith for the object of our wait.

    Waiting well means staying peaceful in the present while looking forward to the future. Our wait may not be as quick as a social media post, but we can trust God to work while we wait and bring about an ending for our good and His glory.

    Dear God, waiting is hard, and waiting well seems impossible. Help me see the good around me as I wait, rather than feeling neglected and dismissed. You are trustworthy and have my best interest in mind. Thank You for the good plans You have prepared for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:25, “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (ESV)

    Psalm 62:5, “My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are your biggest obstacles to waiting? Conquer the power of waiting today by simple acts of kindness such as allowing someone to pull in front of you in traffic or order before you at a restaurant.

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Christmas Gift Guide: 6 Christian Gifts Your Pastor Will Enjoy

    Let your pastor know you appreciate them with a Christmas gift or a simple word of encouragement.

    While you’re certainly not obligated to give a Christmas gift to your pastor, it can be a nice way to show your appreciation for the sacrifices they make day in and day out to encourage you and nurture your faith. We’ve put together this gift guide to help you discover unique and useful ways to bless your pastor this Christmas.

    A Cup of Coffee When you give a bag of Crazy Faith Coffee, you’re sharing a story of someone who demonstrated miraculous faith. Not only is the coffee delicious, the stories are an inspiring reminder of the important role your pastor plays in the lives of believers.

    A Monthly Box Subscription Faithbox is a monthly subscription service that delivers Christian products right to your pastor’s doorstep. Every box includes a monthly devotional and an impact guide so they know the charitable impact of each product that was chosen.

    A Devotional The Songs of Jesus devotional by Tim Keller takes your pastor on a yearlong journey through the Psalms. During the first six months, they'll find a brief devotional on each of the Psalms, with a basic overview and life application. During the last six months, Keller shows readers how to turn each Psalm into a prayer.

    A Handwritten Note of Encouragement You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an elaborate gift to show your pastor that you care. A handwritten note of encouragement can go a long way. Learn How to Write a Christian Thank You Card in 5 Simple Steps with our helpful guide.

    A Donation on Their Behalf Instead of a gift, consider sponsoring a child through World Vision on your pastor’s behalf. Sponsoring a child is a personal way to show God’s love. For $39 a month, you'll help a child and their community experience freedom from poverty.

    A Gift Card Don’t know what to get your pastor? A gift card is the way to go. As an added bonus, you’ll receive a free $5 gift for yourself when you spend $30 in gift cards.

    Our church leaders have dedicated their lives to serving God’s people. Show your appreciation this Christmas with one of these pastor gifts or a simple word of encouragement.

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  • Tired of Doing Good

    Tired of Doing Good by Amy Carroll

    “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

    I felt worn-out, and I knew my perspective on giving needed a little refreshing.

    Even though I’ve always admired generous people and want to be known as one, I started to feel resistance in my heart against being a truly cheerful giver in every area of my life — with my time, my gifts and my finances.

    Sometimes I was reluctant to give because I felt too consumed by my every day schedule. Other times, I felt the pinch of need in my own life. And occasionally it was because I’d become jaded toward the recipients of my help.

    My friend Rita told me a story that was just what I needed. Her mother, an immigrant who grew up in desperate poverty, was very committed to a relief project for her home country. She would collect gently used shoes and ship them to an organization in her homeland that had needed help.

    Rita’s mother did this for years, during which her own eight children observed their mother’s work and generosity.

    Surprisingly, Rita was frustrated with her mother instead of admiring her work. One day, in exasperation, she said to her mother, “Why do you continue to work on this project? You know how corrupt the system is over there. Those shoes are probably stolen, resold and used to line the pockets of some corrupt official. You are just wasting your time.”

    Her mother looked at Rita compassionately and responded, “Rita, my responsibility is not in the receiving. My responsibility is in the giving.”

    As I digested Rita’s story and her mother’s lesson, I realized I’d stopped giving because I wasn’t sure of the response.

    • I didn’t give to poor people on the street because I didn’t know how they’d spend the money.
    • I didn’t freely love friends because I didn’t know how they felt about me.
    • I withheld time from my family because I didn’t think they appreciated it.

    It’s easy to find reasons not to give … Too busy. One too many scams. Believing nobody cares about giving to me in my need. Thinking that somehow, somebody else will take care of it.

    I’ve used all these excuses at one point or another, but I felt a softening in the hardened places of my heart as I listened to the wisdom Rita’s mom shared.

    Her reminder is one echoed in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

    If you’re tired and full of excuses like I was, the best way to renew your commitment to doing good is to start giving.

    My former stingy approach to life and love never served me well. God has given me extravagance and abundance. I want to be wise about where I give my time and resources, but I also want to do it freely and with an open heart. I want to be one who listens carefully to His voice for opportunities to give, because I know He can be trusted with the results.

    Receiving refreshment comes through giving. And sometimes, it’s in the simplest of ways:

    Give a smile to a weary clerk.

    Give a break to a worn-out mom.

    Give some time to a struggling non-profit.

    Give your money to someone in need.

    Give loving wisdom to a stressed friend.

    Join me in the refreshing act of giving, even if you’re tired of doing good!

    Lord, it’s easy to become tired in giving, but I’m asking You to increase my desire and determination to be generous in all parts of my life. I ask You to make good on your promise: Refresh me as I refresh others! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” (NIV)

    Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which of Amy’s excuses have you used in the past instead of giving?

    Ask God to show you where to be generous in your life today. At the end of the day, write down the results of your giving and how you feel about it.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • What to Do With Tough Relationships

    What to Do With Tough Relationships by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

    Ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Are you in the midst of trying to figure out a situation that’s complicated, messy and unpredictable?

    Sometimes I try so hard to figure out just the right words to say and talk through a situation. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle, and there aren’t any productive words left to say. When this happens, it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I’ve learned to hush up.

    Spending time getting quiet can really be the best remedy for tangled situations. Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I’ve ever found.

    Here are five beautiful things that can happen in the quiet:

    1. We can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.

    In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to get loud and prove my point. I’ve learned I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn’t contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.

    1 Peter 5:6a, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …” (NIV).

    2. God will lift us up to a more rational place.

    When we are in the heat of a tangled relationship, crazy emotions can drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.

    1 Peter 5:6b, “… that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).

    3. Anxiety gives way to progress.

    We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.

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

    4. We see our real enemy isn’t the person with whom we’re in conflict.

    The truth is, we have an enemy, and it’s not each other. Satan’s influence on me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can’t realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.

    1 Peter 5:8-9a, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (NIV).

    5. I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good — no matter how it turns out.

    If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times, relationships end. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.

    1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

    In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.

    Dear Lord, help me stop trying to figure this situation out and just sit in the quiet with You for a while. God, humble me. Show me Your steps toward restoration. Or show me Your steps toward a healthy parting. Take my anxiety and replace it with Your peace, wisdom and security. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you’re tangled up in a conflict with someone, write out a prayer for this person. Sometimes praying for someone who frustrates us softens our heart and lets us see new possibilities for restoration.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Hug a Porcupine and Squeeze a Skunk

    How to Hug a Porcupine and Squeeze a Skunk by Karen Ehman

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

    I once worked as a substitute teacher. While that evokes images of chewing gum stuck to chairs and strategically placed “Kick me!” signs, this was not my experience. Sure, many of the kids were squirrely, but I never had an ounce of trouble with any of them.

    Until one day.

    That was the day the principal told me, “In third hour you will have a student named John Smith. Just send him down to the office before class starts. He’s known as Big Bad John, and he’s never successfully made it through even one hour with a sub. He will disrupt the class, bully others and try to make you look stupid. I want to spare you any confrontation.”

    I knew exactly which student he meant and really wanted a chance to reach this troublemaker. So I petitioned the principal: “May I attempt to keep him in class and then send him to the office if he causes trouble? I’d love to try, if you don’t mind.”

    “Be my guest,” he laughingly replied. “I’ll expect him shortly after class begins.”

    Just before third period, a towering, husky student appeared in the doorway. He had on ripped jeans — before they were fashionable — and a soiled light blue T-shirt. I could tell from the way the students stayed back that his odor was as unpleasant as his appearance and personality. I shot up a quick prayer and greeted him.

    With a smug look on his unwashed face, he boldly declared, “I suppose you’ve heard ’bout me. I’ll bet the principal told you to send me right to the office ’cause ain’t none of you subs able to handle me.”

    “Nope,” I replied, just as quickly and confidently. “I heard you were going to be in my class, and I also heard you are a great kid. Do you mind helping me pass out these papers?”

    Big Bad John wasn’t sure what to do. Some he threw on the floor. Another he used to play a game of keep-away with a girl in class. I followed behind him, corrected whatever he did, picking up the papers or gently taking one from his hand to give to a student. I thanked him when he was through, making no comment on his behavior.

    Next, we watched a movie, and John began to act like his nickname. He was disruptive — not just talking but also taunting other students.

    I walked over to his chair, squatted down, looked him in the eye and firmly but gently said, “Hey, look, John. I know that you have a reputation of never being able to make it through an hour with a substitute teacher. But I say today we show the principal a thing or two. I know you can cooperate. I know you are a good kid deep down inside. I’d love for that good kid to come out today and for us to be friends. Are you willing to give it a try, just this once?”

    His countenance softened. For the last 15 minutes of class, John actually watched the movie without incident. After class, the school’s office staff buzzed with the news that this school bully had made it through an entire hour with a sub. After that, whenever I had John in class, he behaved well. In fact, when he saw me out at a basketball game or the grocery store, he smiled, waved and hollered, “Hi, lady.”

    It’s easy to love those who are lovable. It’s a breeze to be kind to people you like. But to truly be patient and gentle toward someone who acts unloving or unbecoming is an altogether special assignment — one Jesus not only taught, but modeled.

    He spent much of his time on earth with the not-so-popular people. He touched the leper. He granted dignity to the prostitute. He welcomed children and the tax collectors and those whom society rejected. Jesus modeled upside-down living and loving. And He urges us to do the same.

    Let’s make it our aim not to just love the easy-to-love, but to hug the “porcupines” and squeeze the “skunks” in our lives, reaching those whose behavior and demeanor usually pushes people away rather than draws them in close.

    Father, give me eyes to see through others’ tough exteriors to their hearts — hearts that so desperately need a loving touch from You through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.” (NIV)

    Romans 12:9a, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How can you show a difficult-to-love person in your life unconditional love today?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When People Wear You Out!

    When People Wear You Out! by Kelly Minter

    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

    For me, being an aunt has been a lovely surprise. Not the actual day it happened — I had nine months to anticipate the event — but the unexpected joy that’s followed.

    These little creatures kept springing into the world, crawling into my house, then strutting through the kitchen demanding juice boxes. Suddenly there were five of them! Actual humans. All with distinct personalities, cherubic cheeks and germs.

    I remember when my youngest niece Holland was born. Her 6-year-old sister’s excitement bubbled over. But her 4-year-old big brother Emmett was not nearly as amused. For him meeting Holland was a real yawner.

    Emmett’s speech was still developing and he routinely switched “she” and “her” for “hers?” As in, “Mom, will you tell hers to stop.” So when Emmett learned the family was visiting his newborn sister in the hospital two days in a row, his response was, “We have to go see hers again?”

    After my sister left the hospital, the new family headed straight to collect the older siblings from school. They skipped across the schoolyard, and Emmett punched the button that opens the minivan. It slid open like always, only this time newborn Holland was there. Emmett lamented with utter shock, “You mean HERS is still here?”

    “Buddy, get in the car,” my brother-in-law said, “Hers is going to be here for the rest of your life.”

    I imagine most of us can relate. We’ve had that moment when we realize, for better or worse, we’re stuck with a certain person or people or church congregation.

    None of us are exempt from having to get along with trying family members, working through complicated relationship triangles or quirky church dynamics. We’ve all had that realization — despite how tired and beat up we may be — “hers” is still here. And perhaps not going anywhere.

    This is where the final few chapters of 2 Corinthians shoot into the sky with a bang. There were difficult false teachers, confused congregants and continued attacks on Paul. In the middle of a combustible environment, Paul stayed with them. He continued to fight for the relationships. He truly believed the words tucked into our key verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

    I keep thinking about these Corinthians and how I’d have moved on to another city to find a more grateful bunch of believers. Surely other churches would have been more appreciative of having the apostle Paul as their spiritual father. But you know what it came down to? A calling.

    Corinth was part of an assignment God had given Paul. Smack in a sphere where God had commissioned him to serve. Yes, Paul loved the Corinthians deeply, but affection can only carry you so far.

    Sometimes the only thing keeping us in the race are the endorphins of pure calling. I don’t know who you’re called to care for, but my hunch is that a few of them may be wearing you out. Maybe you’re not feeling appreciated, or you fear you’re being taken advantage of, or they keep slipping back into old patterns. This is when you press in, step up, push back, stay engaged.

    Why? Because you’ve been called.

    Paul’s relentless commitment to stay with the Corinthians is a trait I want more of. But this trait is hewn over the long haul as we refuse to abandon a group of people just because things have gotten hard. Or aren’t what they used to be. Or because a challenging “hers is still here.”

    My prayer for you: that Christ’s love will compel you to stay committed in those trying relationships. When you’re tempted to draw harsh judgment from your scabbard, instead draw humble authority and use it to build up rather than tear down.

    Lord, help me not to lose the pure desire for people that can easily blur into desiring their possessions or what they can do for me. Allow the Holy Spirit to grant discernment to know when to be soft spoken and when to be bold, when to let an offense roll off my back and when to confront. For the ministry assignment You’ve given me, help me view the people in my spheres not from a human perspective, but to see them as Christ sees them. Thank You for making even the most challenging person brand new. Even hers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 9:13, “As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who inspires you to give passionately and eagerly? What is it about them that stirs up this passion?

    © 2016 by Kelly Minter. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • Make Your Spiritual Fitness A Priority

    Make Your Spiritual Fitness A Priority by Tracie Miles

    Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

    As soon as I open my eyes each day, they are quietly waiting for me on the floor. Royal blue and florescent orange, with bright orange laces. My running shoes sit within arm’s length of where I rise every morning.

    I purposely place these shoes beside my bed every night, so I’ll put them on first thing in the morning. If I walk past my colorful shoes and slip on my warm bedroom slippers, get coffee, check my email or get distracted with something else, the chances of a morning workout greatly diminish with each passing minute.

    You see, when I put on those running shoes, something happens. It’s as if those shoes hold some motivational power. For some reason, once my feet are ready to go, my body is ready too, and I feel motivated and eager to work out.

    One morning as I laced up my shoes, I chuckled at how this one simple habit has helped me stay motivated and consistent in physical exercise. I realized my outward actions fueled an inward motivation to do something that will benefit my health and help me stay physically fit and strong.

    I couldn’t help but consider how much more spiritually fit and strong I am when I adhere to spiritual habits in my daily routine as well. If my Bible also stays within arm’s reach of my bed each morning and habitually becomes the first thing I reach for, then spending time with Jesus is kind of like putting on those running shoes. It becomes an outward action that fuels an inner motivation to live a life that pleases God and helps me stay strong in my faith.

    The Bible is obviously much more important than an old pair of running shoes.

    But Paul understood this comparison when he wrote to a young church pastor, Timothy, to encourage him and give him guidelines for strong spiritual leadership.

    Paul had learned the importance of staying spiritually strong and the benefit of developing spiritual habits in his life — like spending time in the Scriptures, prayer and daily worship. He knew this would be good advice to a young man like Timothy who had little experience leading a church. Paul understood the importance of staying spiritually fit, especially in the face of opposition, and he wanted to make sure Timothy understood that as well.

    We all know it’s crucial for healthy living to eat nutritious foods and exercise, but today’s verse reminds us it’s even more important we stay spiritually healthy. We benefit from a healthy body during our time on earth, but staying spiritually fit offers benefits now and for eternity.

    There are many mornings when I simply don’t feel like exercising, and I bet you can relate. There are days when my to-do list screams, my phone rings continually, or I just feel lazy, tired or unmotivated. So I’ve learned if I don’t intentionally make it a priority and form habits to help purposefully add exercise into my day, I won’t make the time.

    We are the only ones who have control over setting priorities in our lives — and if we don’t intentionally make staying spiritually fit and spending time with God of utmost importance, then it won’t happen. And without habitual spiritual nourishment, we will never be spiritually fit and strong.

    When we form habits in our spiritual lives that help us stay strong, we’ll have the inner motivation to live out outward actions that glorify God. When hearts and spirits are ready to go, our bodies will be too.

    Lord, help me make spending time with You a habit I stick to every day, one that motivates me to live the way Your word trains me. Help me make an intentional commitment to grow spiritually strong and fit so I can be strong in my faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” (NLT)

    Matthew 4:4b, “ … People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What outward action (new habit) can you start doing each day that will fuel an inner motivation to live an outward life that pleases and glorifies God?

    © 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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