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  • If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them?

    If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them? by Kenisha Bethea

    “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

    Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to dislike people different from me.

    I’d just moved to a new city where I experienced blatant prejudice on a scale I’d not experienced before. I grew tired of visiting places where not even the greeters at the front door acknowledged me. Once inside, people either stared right through me or stared me down.

    Then one evening as I strolled through my neighborhood, a pick-up truck pulled up next to me, someone inside shot a gun off in the air and several people hurled profanities at me before screeching off into the darkness of the sunset.

    As I walked home, wiping tears and trying to process what happened and why, I made a simple resolve in my heart: I’m done trying to love these people any more. With all the reasoning of a 5-year-old in a schoolyard scuffle I determined, If they don’t like me, I won’t like them either.

    Once home, I called my mom, told her what happened and shared my decision to stop caring about these people who had hurt me. Honestly it was more than just not caring. I could feel hate growing deep in my heart.

    “How are you going to do that?” she asked, meaning how would I justify my decision to hate as a follower of Christ.

    “I’m glad you’re OK,” she said. I could tell she was holding back tears for my sake. “But I can’t support your decision. You can either continue to be a Christian, to love God and all those He created, or you can decide to go against God and despise His creation … but not both. So which will you choose?”

    I didn’t say anything about going against God, I thought, defending my position.

    But just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind so did the words of a verse I learned as a child in Sunday School: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

    Up until that point, I’d mostly heard this verse used to describe the sanctity of human life. But now, I was willing to trade this Truth that deemed all human life worthy for the lie that their behavior makes them worthless.

    The harsh words of my heart were in stark contrast to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

    Jesus continued, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that” (Matthew 5:47, NLT). In what seemed like less than a nanosecond, the same day I decided to hate others turned into the day I decided never to give my heart over to hatred.

    That’s a hard word for me to even type. But, in order to make a conscious decision about why I would always work to steer my heart away from that word I had to look at that word for all that it was.

    Hate carries a false arrogance that shouts:

    “I’m better than you.”

    “I deserve better than you.”

    “I wish you would go away.”

    At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, the core of the Christian heart is love. It walks with a humbleness toward others — a gentle knowing that we’re all the same at the foot of the cross of Jesus. This kind of love says:

    “I’m no better than you.”

    “All I have I owe to Jesus.”

    “I’m glad you’re here.”

    This kind of heart honors God as Creator of all.

    Father God, forgive me for losing sight of the Truth that You created all people in Your image. By Your grace, help me to see hatred — whether initiated or returned — as a tool Satan uses to keep me from experiencing and sharing the richness of Your love. Dear Lord, even when I don’t like the hurtful things others do, help me love the way You love them, extending the same kindness, mercy and grace I have received from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 2:11, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (ESV)

    John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

    Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does reflecting on the Truth that all people are created by God help you in loving others well? Share your encouragement in the comments section.

    © 2016 by Kenisha Bethea. All rights reserved.

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

  • Make Room for What You Love

    Make Room for What You Love by Melissa Michaels

    “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)

    As a young newlywed, I’ll admit one of my worries was kind of ridiculous. Don't laugh, but my fear was that paramedics or firemen or neighbors would show up at my door without fair warning.

    Not that I feared the help or the friendly visit. Rather, I was worried I wouldn’t be prepared. I wanted to have at least a moment's notice to clear the clutter and put my lipstick on before I had to swing open the door.

    I was often frustrated because I couldn't make our home the sanctuary I wanted it to be. Since home is where we do the holy work of loving God and caring for our people, it should feel like a place of refuge and safety, a place of peace.

    But so often I just felt overwhelmed. The daily dishes, clutter, responsibilities, busy schedule and the desire for order — mixed with the resulting chaos of having no clue how to manage it all — weighed on me.

    I couldn't seem to get myself organized, let alone organize my home or manage anyone else. Sometimes it felt like my shining accomplishment when my kids were little was getting everyone out the door with pants on! It was all too much: the piles, the clutter, the dishes, everything.

    Considering my fear of being unprepared to answer the door, imagine the night I asked my husband to call 911 because I thought I was dying. I felt like the room was closing in on me and I couldn't breathe. I shut my eyes tightly and tried to calm myself down while we waited for help. Who had time to prepare or put on lipstick? Not me!

    I'm relieved to say I lived (and, ironically, the paramedics didn’t care about the clutter or the lack of lipstick). Panic attacks are no joke, but the good news is I learned something from that stressful time. God reassured me He didn't need me to manage everything, just what He’s called me to do.

    Part of that faithfulness was me learning to let go of things that added unnecessary stress or chaos in my life and home. I got serious about clearing out the clutter so I could create a more peaceful sanctuary. Out went the stuff that overwhelmed me: the busyness, the hurry, distractions or idleness, disorganization, perfectionism or any other roadblocks to peace.

    Thank goodness perfection isn’t the goal! Different seasons of life bring change to our home, and change brings the need for continual refinement. Loving people well is messy business! God gives us grace when we open the door to welcome people, whether we feel fully prepared or not. As today’s key verse reminds us, God offers mercy in our weakness and strength for our weariness.

    Disorder in our home life brings so much stress because we try to hang on to more than we can handle.

    I learned that I find more peace when I let go of the clutter and focus on the joy of being a faithful steward of the life and home God gave me.

    Dear Lord, help me to place my trust in You even at times when everything around me feels out of control. Help me to let go of what clutters my perspective so I can find joy in creating a sanctuary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What areas of your home or life feel overwhelmed by clutter and stress? Ask God to help you simplify. Let go of what you don’t need, so you can create a more peaceful sanctuary for your family and the people He brings across your doorstep.

    © 2016 by Melissa Michaels. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Wearing Too Many Hats

    Wearing Too Many Hats by Karen Ehman

    “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)

    As a woman, do you wear a lot of hats? During the course of a busy week, you may wear any of these hats: counselor, co-worker, daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, aunt, grandma, neighbor, chef, nurse, counselor, referee, committee chair, and oh, yeah … a woman of God.

    Sometimes these hats are stacked so high that trying to balance them all on our competent-but-anxious-and-exhausted heads sends us toppling over completely!

    It’s easy to misplace our identity in such roles. And sadly for many Christ-followers, often the last hat we place on top is the crown we wear as a daughter of the King of Kings.

    I love the simple, straight-shooting words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33. He cuts to the chase with clear, understandable directives. Without being complex, He tells us gently, but firmly, what must be done to meet the many demands in our lives and yet still help our hearts not to worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    However simple these verses may be, sometimes fleshing them out in our lives isn’t always easy. Especially in today’s society, a climate of endless activities often breeds busyness. And busyness usually births an anxious soul, as we wrongly surmise that busyness equals importance.

    As a result of buying into this keep-moving mindset, we have practically no white space left on our calendars. Our kids are carted from one activity to the next and many families hardly eat dinner together anymore. Something in us longs to “do more” by painting our lives in a bright, bold shade of busy.

    Although we live in a much different time than the original recipients of Jesus’ words, He wants us to learn from them nonetheless. They were concerned about where they’d find food and clothing. While we share those concerns, we also add things like how we will clean the house, bathe the kids, finish the laundry, prioritize the marriage, visit the relative, complete the work project … and on it goes.

    While our unfinished tasks may tempt us to fret, Christ stands whispering … Stop. Halt the hustle. Resist the rush. Press pause to find a little calm in the chaos. Seek first Mykingdom and My righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well.

    Perhaps His words will prompt us to do a little hat-reduction, ridding our schedules of some of the activities that clamor for our attention, unsettle our souls and draw us away from time spent with Him.

    By pressing pause to connect with Jesus we can learn to re-prioritize our tasks — perhaps bowing out of some optional activities as we do — and calm our anxious hearts. Our lives can then properly reflect this truth: Busyness doesn’t equal importance and our most important endeavor each day is to simply slow down and connect with our Creator.

    Whatever set of hats God directs you to keep wearing, remember to don them in proper order. They will only stay standing when you place the crown you wear as a daughter of the King of Kings on first!

    Dear Lord, I’m sorry for the times that my hats are completely out of order, causing my heart to become anxious. May I seek You and the righteousness You offer me first every day, before I attempt to carry out any of my God-ordained responsibilities. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (NIV)

    Psalm 31:14-15a, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands …” (NIV)

    Galatians 3:26, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When it comes to the many hats you wear as a woman, which ones make you the most anxious? How could taking time to connect with God before meeting the challenges of the day help calm your fretful heart? Have a friend hold you accountable to spending time in God’s Word each day.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Life is More

    Life is More by Suzie Eller

    “Then someone called from the crowd, ‘Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?’ Then he said, ‘Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.’” Luke 12:13-15 (NLT)

    Isn’t it fascinating we don’t really know what the disciples looked like?

    We don’t know what size shoe Jesus wore, or whether Peter was stocky or thin. We don’t know if Simon the Zealot had a man-bun, or if Bartholomew was fashionably dressed. There are rare hints in Scripture. For example, we know James the son of Alpheus (James the lesser) was short, but only because it differentiates him from the other disciple named James.

    This is what we do know, however. Simon the Zealot was loyal. Bartholomew was recognized for his good character. John was beloved by Jesus. Judas Iscariot fell prey to greed. Andrew was a dependable, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. While there is little in the Bible about what these followers wore or looked like, their character is clear.

    What’s inside is important to God, and we see that affirmed in the story where today’s key verse is found. Jesus and the disciples are traveling, when a guy stops Jesus and asks Him to step in and demand that his brother share a portion of an inheritance. Jesus hears something in the man’s request that troubles Him. In direct response to the man’s question, He starts a conversation about craving what you don’t have.

    Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who has a fertile farm. His barns are full. Yet instead of being content, he tears down the old barns and builds bigger, better barns to store more grain to acquire even more wealth.

    Jesus warns His listeners that these things aren’t what fulfill us, but rather we find our “riches” in our relationship with God (verse 20). It’s a lesson Jesus taught often. He helped lead His disciples away from worrying over things that didn’t have lasting significance, to center on things that did.

    So often we are measured in this culture by things that have little eternal value, like how in shape (or out-of-shape) we are, the size of our home, the prestige of our job, our cute shoes or wardrobe.

    Can I be honest? Sometimes I measure myself by those same standards, forgetting there’s much more to life than that.

    But I know that as a woman who’s loved by Jesus, I am faith-filled and my faith shines a light in darkness.

    I am strong because of Him, and that sings of bravery in harder times.

    I can be generous in His name, and that makes a difference in the world.

    I am loved well by our Heavenly Father, which allows me to love others.

    Who we are on the inside is what lasts for eternity.

    There’s nothing wrong with being physically fit, owning a pair of cute shoes or even building a bigger barn. It’s just that these are temporary, external characteristics that God never intended to be our main pursuit. These things were never meant to define us or become our greatest concern or worry.

    Instead, what’s on our insides is the story that will have eternal impact. That’s what will be written in the hearts of those who know us. It’s what will be remembered.

    Jesus led the disciples to a life of “more.”

    He leads you and me down the same path — to a life well-lived from the inside out.

    Dear Jesus, I know that beauty begins with my heart, but sometimes that’s not where I put my energy or thoughts. Give me wisdom to end the pursuit of things that have little eternal value. Help me run after what changes me from the inside out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (NIV)

    1 Samuel 16:7b, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NLT)

    1 Peter 3:3-4, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be fit or owning a home where people come in and feel welcome. The trap is comparing ourselves with others or what they have, then allowing discontent or greed to define who we are.

    Write down one characteristic you possess that writes an eternal story in the heart of others.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Looking for the Good in Your Man

    Looking for the Good in Your Man by Kathi Lipp

    “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)

    When Roger and I were first married, he would leave for work every day and yell upstairs, "Shut the door!"

    At first, I was so confused. Shut the door? Why? He was the one at the door. Why did he want me to shut it?

    This went on for weeks (OK, maybe it only felt like weeks). As a new bride, I didn't want to rock the boat, but boy, did it bug me. I felt like every single morning he said, "Be sure the door is locked because you are not an adult and I have to remind you every. Single. Day."

    Plus he was leaving the house without even saying "I love you" …? That made me even more upset.

    Once again, he left the house one morning, yelled upstairs, "Shut the door!" and then walked to his car.

    Finally — after being angry for way too long — I confronted him.

    "I hate it when you yell ‘Shut the door!’ every morning. It makes me feel judged and just a little stupid."

    Roger looked dumbfounded. "I've never said 'Shut the door' to you in my life." And after he thought about it, a look of understanding came over his face.

    "Wait, do you mean when I yell 'Je t'adore'? That means ‘I adore you’ in French.”

    Um … Whoops!

    All this time, I heard criticism when all my husband intended was love.

    How often do we do this in our relationships? Our spouse rearranges the dishwasher to fit more dishes while helping in the kitchen, and we take it as criticism of our abilities.

    Or he picks up a skinny vanilla latte for us, and our first thought is: He must think I look fat. When in reality, he just knows our standard order.

    Why is it so easy to hear criticism when love is intended?

    Sometimes we gird ourselves for the hurt we think is coming, so when roses are headed our direction, we only see thorns. It’s as if we can’t see the truth of what’s being said.

    1 Corinthians 13:6-7 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    We want to see the truth about our relationship with our husband, and at the same time work on being someone who protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres on behalf of our relationship. We want to live out love every single day.

    So how do we become purposeful in looking for the love our husbands intend?

    1. Receive well. I love what Luci Swindoll said, "Take everything as a compliment. You'll live longer."

    2. Look for the good. Several years ago, when I was looking for a new van, I had a friend recommend a certain brand, saying “It’s the most popular minivan on the road.” Which I highly doubted, since I didn’t remember ever seeing one.

    But when I got to the dealership, I was talked into that make and model. On the way home, I didn’t see one. Instead, I saw six. That’s because, for the first time, I was looking for it.

    It’s the same with looking for the good in our husbands. When we look for love, we start to see acts of love we’ve missed in the past. We start to hear the love we’ve been missing in casual conversation.

    3. Create a husband-friendly environment. Maybe things have been tense. Maybe the language of love hasn’t been spoken in a while. Make it safe for your husband to show love. For instance, compliment him on his BBQ skills. Thank him for entertaining the kids while you finish up work. (Sure, that’s his job. He’s their dad. But say Thank You anyway.) Be a noticer of good things and call them out in your husband. A husband who feels respected and appreciated, just for being who he is, walks differently in the world.

    So now, when my husband and I want to express our deep love to each other, we write "Shut the door!" on a Post-it. We both know all the history (and love) that is behind those three little words.

    Don’t just wish for love. Keep looking for it.

    Father, I pray that I will hear everything my husband says through Your truth and Your love. Let me receive his words and actions in the way they are intended, each and every time. Build up a reservoir of grace within me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (NLT)

    2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do today to create a “husband-friendly” environment? What’s one great thing about your husband you can remind him of today?

    © 2016 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Choosing Joy On The Way To Grouchy-ville

    Choosing Joy On The Way To Grouchy-ville

    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

    One recent morning, I woke to a strange reality. Instead of my usual sunny “Good morning, world!” reaction to a new day, for no good reason I felt dread and anxiety the moment I opened my eyes.

    Through the groggy lens of grumpiness I rolled over, grabbed my phone and read a middle-of-the-night text from a friend. The worrisome text only deepened my funk, so I shuffled downstairs before the sun had barely risen to try and find some hope in my coffee cup.

    By the time my sweet hubby came down for breakfast, I was on the verge of tears. He wrapped his arms around me in concern and asked, “What in the world is wrong?”

    “Nothing,” I sniffled. “Except a hundred little things.”

    Guilt immediately tiptoed into my heart, because I have some friends dealing with truly catastrophic circumstances — an unfaithful husband, a cancer diagnosis, a missing loved one — and here I was crumbling to pieces simply because of a few minor problems. What in the world was wrong with me? Even though there was no big crisis, the weight of a list of little things had sunk my soul. Ever been there?

    Recognizing my sorry state, I quieted my anxiety long enough to remember a favorite family saying: Choose joy!

    In this circumstance, and maybe in yours today, we have a choice to make in the moment. We can either continue to let our day roll downhill, or we can intentionally take steps to turn our mood around. I don’t always make the right decision, but that morning I chose not to park in the pit of grumpiness. Instead I took some wavering strides toward joy.

    I repeated to myself what Paul emphatically commanded God’s people to do in our key verse, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

    I focused my mind on the Scripture I had read earlier. Even though it was noon before I realized that I needed to steer my wayward, negative thoughts, God gently whispered to my heart that it wasn’t too late to start fresh.

    I took a short break to get out into the sunshine for a walk. Despite the fact that I felt like I didn’t have time for it, I knew I needed the exercise and vitamin D more than the check on my to-do list.

    I reached out to a friend to tell her how much I love her. Initially, I began a text to ask for prayer, but on this day I decided it would be more beneficial to concentrate on someone besides myself.

    In a few easy steps, I refocused my day and felt the gloom start to lift. I can’t tell you that I switched completely into cheery mode, but I didn’t stay stuck in Grouchyville, either!

    This intentional act of choosing joy isn’t just Pollyanna philosophy. It’s actually Scriptural. Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NIV, emphasis added).

    Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things”(NIV).

    God is so good! He not only offers us His complete and abundant joy, God gives us directions on how to choose it. Instead of allowing our emotions to determine our day, we determine our thoughts to shape our day.

    He gives us the option, so let’s do it. Choose joy!

    Lord, we thank You that You are the giver of joy. If we choose joy and ask You for it, You never fail to fill us. Thank You for such a wonderful gift! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (NIV)

    Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Create a handwritten list of Scriptures that restore your joy when you read them, and post them in your home.

    What other actions or steps can you take when you need joy-renewal?

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Don’t Overlook This Important Relationship

    Don’t Overlook This Important Relationship by Katy McCown

    “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

    I answered the door with a red, swollen face. My tears glistened, and I dared not blink for fear the waterfall that would flood my soul.

    On the other side of the door stood my friend, Stephanie, with two smoothies. One for me; one for her. Just a few minutes earlier, I had called her with the news, “It’s a tumor.”

    With a growing bump on my baby boy’s head, we arranged to see a pediatric specialist. For most of his life we’d observed this spot on Elijah’s skull, but I still didn’t expect to hear those three words.

    We scheduled surgery two weeks out and made arrangements for pre-op visits. But shockwaves rumbled through my soul. What about right now? I silently screamed. What do I do while I wait?

    With my husband at work and family hundreds of miles away, my fingers quivered as I dialed Stephanie’s number. “Do you need me to come over?” she asked. At first I refused, but as the reality of going home to an empty house consumed me, I called her back.

    She took my smoothie order and minutes after I walked through my door, she knocked.

    The rest of the afternoon she sat with me. She didn’t do or say anything special. But she just sat with me.

    She let me unravel and face my deepest fears. She listened to the cry of my heart. She supported me and believed in me, even when I wasn’t sure I couldn’t handle this.

    A few years back as I read through the Bible, I moaned at the sight of my assigned text for the day. It was a list full of names I couldn’t pronounce and how many sons they had … and all their names.

    It’s places like this in Scripture that I sometimes wonder, Why is this in here? I know all Scripture is inspired by God, but what am I suppose to do with this? Then, there it was.

    In the midst of the list of King David’s counselors, advisers, army commanders and officials, God breathed this, “Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend” (1 Chronicles 27:33b, NLT).

    In a “Who’s Who” text of all King David’s men, God named his friend.

    This glimpse into the life of a man after God’s own heart challenges me to rethink my friendships. Sadly, in the busyness of life sometimes my friends fall to the bottom of the list. And we all know we never make it to the bottom of the list.

    Too often my friendships go unnourished. It can even feel selfish to seek out time with them. An inner whisper suggests I’m skipping out on responsibilities or neglecting duties far more important than “girl time.”

    But as our key verse reminds us, God wants us to “encourage each other and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11a). And to do that we have to prioritize each other from time to time.

    Friendships might seem trivial or even optional, but in God’s design it seems they are as important as counselors and commanders.

    A few weeks later, the surgeon successfully removed the tumor from our son’s skull and deemed it benign. In the following weeks, while our baby wore a bandage that wrapped completely around his head, a carousel of friends tended to us. They brought food, called to check on us and loved on our little patient.

    They encouraged us and built us up.

    What an important reminder to invest in our friends. Prioritize them and pray for them. And let’s start today!

    Dear God, it’s awesome to consider Your purposes for friendships. Thank You for making me Your friend, through Jesus. Thank You for the gift of earthly friendships that sharpen me and challenge me to be more like You. Move my heart to love my friends the same way You love me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

    Job 2:11a, 13, “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him … Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When is the last time you intentionally sought out a friend to build her up? List one or two things that keep you from doing this more often.

    Who could use your encouragement today? Make a plan to contact that person by the end of the day.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • What’s a Good Father Really Like?

    What’s a Good Father Really Like? by Glynnis Whitwer

    “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:11 (NIV)

    “I love watching her dance.”

    I heard the catch in his voice, standing there at his daughter’s senior dance concert. We both knew these days of high school were coming to a close, and I knew how much our friend would miss them.

    John’s pleasure in his daughter was evident. He was enthusiastic about everything connected with her dancing, from the practices to fundraising events to ticket sales at the concerts. He even seemed to enjoy the parts that most parents dislike, but because it was for his daughter, John was all in.

    My father-experience was quite different. Dance wasn’t my thing, but singing was. From age 8 until just a few years ago, I was always involved with some kind of chorus, choir or band. And not once did my father hear me sing while he was alive.

    To me it was normal to only have a mother in the audience. I guess I assumed men didn’t enjoy those types of “girl” events. But watching John these past few years has given me a different perspective on a father’s interest in his daughter.

    Standing there at that concert, I could almost hear God’s voice speaking about His pleasure in watching His daughters. And my heart overflowed in thanksgiving for a good Heavenly Father.

    For so many years I defined my understanding of God’s interest in me based on my father’s interest in me. I knew my dad loved me, but it was limited by his background and personal experience. But God’s love is unhindered by any human experience or limitation.

    Every day I come to a greater understanding of God as the perfect Father. It makes me feel treasured and softens the pain of what I didn’t have growing up. As I’ve sought to understand what a good Father is like, here are five things I’ve discovered in Scripture we can count on about our Heavenly Father:

    1. He cares for and provides for our daily needs. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus vividly described to His disciples how God cares for the birds and the flowers and explained we are far more important to our heavenly Father than that. God cares about all our needs.

    2. He’s merciful toward us. Mercy is withholding punishment for what we deserve. Although God allows natural consequences when we make wrong choices, our Heavenly Father shows lovingkindness rather than anger when we fall short. (Luke 6:36)

    3. God hears our prayers and answers them. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus makes an incredible statement that shows God’s heart. He says when two or more agree upon something in prayer, God hears and answers.

    4. He protects us. In Matthew 26:53, Jesus said His Father would send 12 legions of angels to save Him if Jesus asked. Psalm 91 says, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11, NIV).

    5. God watches and waits for us when we turn from Him. Jesus told a story that modeled the Father’s heart for us. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, the son decides to go his own way and squander his inheritance. When his life fell apart, the son realized his folly and returned home. Jesus described the father’s response, and it wasn’t “I told you so!” Rather God’s Word tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20b, ESV). Then the father threw a party! Imagine!

    No matter our situation with our earthly father, we can say with confidence we have a good heavenly Father who loves us with attentive devotion. He’s all in, and we never outgrow His care and provision.

    So this Father’s Day, as we honor our earthly fathers, may we take some time to honor our heavenly Father. And I hope you hear Him whisper, “I love to watch you dance.”

    Heavenly Father, my heart is full of love for You. Thank You for showing Your love for me in so many ways. I confess I haven’t always trusted Your love based on my earthly experience. But I want to experience You in greater ways every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 64:8, “Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (NIV)

    Matthew 13:43, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What characteristics of earthly fathers have you assigned to your Heavenly Father?

    Knowing you have a Father who wants to bring you good things, what would you like to ask your heavenly Father for today?

    © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • There’s No Way I Can Do That!

    There’s No Way I Can Do That! by Gloria Furman

    “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2 (ESV)

    Have you ever looked at a verse from the Bible and thought to yourself, Ha! There’s no way I can do that!

    Today’s key verse is one I’ve wrestled with over the years: “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).

    At first glance, this one verse seems utterly out of touch with those of us who have to pay attention to everyday things on earth. Things like chasing curious toddlers, returning phone calls, adjusting quarterly budgets, watching the pot on the stove and shifting lanes while driving. How are we supposed to set our minds on things that are above when the things on earth are so urgent and necessary?

    One reason I’ve struggled with understanding this verse is it’s too easy to take one Bible verse at a time and give it a cursory glance. When I read Scripture with that approach, I’ll seldom arrive at any conclusions the Author intended. I’ve learned to best understand the meaning of a passage, it’s important to understand its context.

    The context for Colossians 3:2 is the rest of the argument, the rest of the letter, the rest of the New Testament and the rest of the Bible. In other words, because this verse is in the Bible, it is not utterly out of touch, but rather it is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. (See 2 Timothy 3:16.)

    So let’s expand the context of that verse a bit. There’s a whole grand story behind Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:2, and we need to know that story in order to interpret the passage properly.

    When Paul wrote his letter to the Colossians, he often reminded his readers of the big picture. The first few sentences in Colossians 3 are a brilliant example of this big picture reminder.

    “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4, ESV).

    When Paul reminds us of what Christ has done in the past, is doing today and will do tomorrow, it makes exhortations like “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” resound with joy-filled simplicity and reliable sensibility. Remembering that we have died and risen with Christ, our lives are hidden with Him, and He’s coming back for us, will make it so much easier to fill our minds with thoughts of Him!

    Understanding Scripture in context makes a difference. Even in the midst of our urgent, earth-based tasks, our minds can be preoccupied with Jesus — the beauty of His character, the astonishing mercy of what He’s done for us, His patient work in the world today and the mind-boggling reality of what He has promised to do in the future.

    There are no more sweeter thoughts to entertain as we go about our everyday ministry of motherhood than thoughts of Jesus and the reality that is now in play because of Him.

    Lord, there is no denying that motherhood is difficult at times and that the comforts the world offers us are useless and empty. We need You, Jesus, to help us see the big picture! And what a joy it is to see You’ve designed us to not only need You for our mothering work, but also as we labor to make disciples. Help us, Lord, to labor for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 6:8, “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (ESV)

    Colossians 3:3, “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How will thoughts of the faithfulness of Jesus and the exciting prospect of His future grace change the way you see the rest of your day today?

    Can you think of one or two other ladies in your life who could use the same encouragement? Write them a note or give them a call.

    © 2016 by Gloria Furman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • When I’m Thirsty For More

    When I’m Thirsty For More by Leah DiPascal

    “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” John 4:13-14 (NIV)

    Have you noticed that water is becoming somewhat of a fancy trend?

    Growing up I only had one option. Tap water.

    That is, unless I was brave enough to drink from the river just outside our neighborhood or sip on rainwater as part of a school science experiment.

    Today, grocery store shelves are lined with a plethora of water options: spring, mineral, flavored, sparkling … the list goes on and on.

    Bottled water might be wrapped in snazzy labels. But the truth is, water in its most basic form is essential for living. And when you don’t have any, it quickly becomes the most valuable commodity, wrapped in fancy packaging or not.

    I was reminded of this truth last week when our family went on a hiking trip through the mountains. Instead of getting an early start, we waited until after lunchtime and set out during the hottest part of the day.

    I thought I packed enough water, but miles into our hike we ran out. As the sun beat down on us, and my mouth started to dry out, all I could think about was my need for water. And how I was determined to get some in order to quench my thirst.

    Today’s key verse is from a story in the Gospel of John about a woman who also took a long walk during the hottest part of the day. You might know her as the Samaritan woman.

    She was in need of water and taking necessary measures to get some. When she approached a well, she encountered Jesus, and the subject of water quickly came up.

    Initially, Jesus asked for water, but as their conversation continued, He in turn offered her water. Not from a natural spring or the well she was using. Instead, Jesus offered the gift of living water.

    “Jesus replied, ‘If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water … Anyone who drinks this [well] water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life”’ (John 4:10, 13-14 NLT).

    Jesus knew this woman had made some poor choices. Life was difficult, and she’d developed a habit of looking to others in hopes they would meet her physical and emotional needs. It was a type of thirst she couldn’t seem to quench.

    Maybe this living water would make her life easier? She had no idea this encounter with Jesus would change her life forever.

    There may be times when we find ourselves thirsting for more — more recognition from others, more money in our checking account, more love from a spouse, more things to call our own.

    We can embrace a trend of putting our hope into earthly possessions or certain people, believing they will quench our deepest desires. But the shallow water this world offers through its temporary fixes and short-lived fortunes will only bring us momentary satisfaction. Eventually we’ll thirst for more.

    Like the woman at the well, Jesus invites everyone to receive His Living Water, which is the gift of His Spirit, along with forgiveness, redemption and grace.

    He is the Fountain of Water, bubbling up within us, that gives eternal refreshment and strength for our souls. Only Jesus can fully quench our deepest desires and fill us with His overflowing love.

    Are you feeling parched today? Like the woman at the well, open your heart and hands to receive all that Jesus wants to give you, so you never have to be thirsty for more again.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of Your Spirit, which is the Living Water that quenches my soul and satisfies my deepest desires. Fill me to overflowing with Your love and joy, so I never have to thirst again for the temporary things this world offers me. Let my heart spring up with Your hope and peace from this moment forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 58:11, “The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Imagine going a whole day without water. How would your body respond from being deprived of what it needs? Would you feel weak, thirsty, sluggish?

    It’s the same when we go through our days without tapping into the Living Water (Holy Spirit) — our soul will be deprived of what it needs. The “thirst” we long to quench can only be satisfied through knowing Jesus and having a personal relationship with Him.

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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