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  • Why We Should Stand Our Ground

    Tracie Miles OCTOBER 26, 2015

    Why We Should Stand Our Ground TRACIE MILES

    "But Shammah stood his ground in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. And the LORD brought about a great victory." 2 Samuel 23:12 (ISV)

    Fall is one of my favorite times of the year — but not for familiar reasons, like cooler weather and colorful trees. I love fall because it’s football season!

    My family loves football, and we attend games practically every weekend. Home games are my favorite.

    Having the home field advantage makes a huge difference to players. Being in familiar territory with devoted fans cheering them on helps players feel empowered and motivated to win.

    When you’re the away team, it’s a whole different game.

    Players don’t feel as appreciated or supported. They aren’t used to the environment, and the taunts and jeers from opposing fans can be so loud they become a distraction. As a result, away team members have to stand their ground and play harder to fight for victory.

    With football season upon us, I recently found myself pondering how much football and faith have in common. You see, after watching the news, I began feeling discouraged. A world filled with broken people making so many choices that break God’s heart and can detrimentally affect generations to come.

    So with a heavy heart, I turned to God’s Word and discovered the story of David’s mighty warriors in 2 Samuel 23:8-17.

    Here we see three men who stood firm in their faith, trusted God and claimed victory despite insurmountable odds.

    Josheb-Basshebeth killed 800 enemies with a single spear, because the Lord gave him victory.

    Eleazar, with only David by his side, fought the battle against the Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him victory.

    Then in today’s key verse, Shammah singlehandedly stood his ground against a large troop of Philistines to prevent them from plundering an entire crop of lentils, and the Lord gave him victory.

    Each man stood firm in the strength and name of the Lord.

    These men didn’t start out as mighty warriors. They were just normal people with flaws and insecurities. Yet they trusted the Lord and were willing to fight for righteousness. As a result, they found victory despite the odds or the size and power of their enemies.

    The truth is, even Jesus never had the home field advantage. He was a member of the "away team" in the public’s eye. Always considered the outcast. Always opposing laws and government that went against what was right in His Father’s eyes.

    He was scoffed at for not accepting sin and immorality as acceptable, and He was possibly considered intolerant. He was seen as a threat to the ever-changing social norms and persecuted for standing His ground and preaching righteousness.

    Opponents whose voices seemed louder and more powerful than Jesus’ (from an earthly perspective) were perpetually trying to silence Him. But He never accepted defeat and instead stood firm.

    When the game got harder, Jesus stepped up His game. He stood His ground in the face of persecution. He persevered. He boldly stood up for the Truth without hesitation, all the while maintaining godly character, thoughts and behaviors. He portrayed peace, grace and love to His followers — and even His opponents — in all that He did.

    Believers today play the game of life in a territory often opposed to the Word of God. A territory becoming more volatile, dangerous and sinful by the day, making it clear that God’s team of earthly believers is officially the away team.

    But just like David’s mighty warriors, we are called to stand up for God’s truth, and stand firm in our faith, even when the odds are against us or it appears we are falling too far behind in the game to gain the upper hand.

    Followers of Jesus may feel like the underdog, but we can choose to embrace a mindset of victory and let Jesus be our motivation to keep standing strong in God’s Word.

    Let’s allow His voice to be louder in our hearts than any opponent. Let’s trust the Lord will bring victory, and let’s never give in to defeat.

    Lord, empower me with courage and enthusiasm to stand firm for Your truths and be confident in my faith, remembering You are still in control. Show me how to stand my ground for You and make a difference in this broken world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Need a resource to help you step out of your comfort zone and live out loud for Jesus? Consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book, Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future.

    Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement on standing up for Christ in today’s world, and learn about her new inspirational series called Media Mondays.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have do you let the frustrations of this broken world cause you to lose hope and feel defeated?

    How can you stand firm in God’s truths today and get excited about living your life for Him?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Give Hope: Education

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

    As the Christmas season draws near, we are reminded of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brought to the world. Today, so many people around the world are struggling, and are without the hope of Jesus. Our prayer is that together we can help fill many of them with that hope.

    There are three ways in which we aim to give hope this year: through education, food and water.

    Give Hope: Education, Food, Water

    Our first initiative is to give hope through education, which runs from now through November 12th.

    Along with our partner Back2Back Ministries, we are raising money and support for orphans and vulnerable children, offering them an opportunity to live in a family-style setting, and receive scholarships, tutoring, and encouragement to pursue their dreams.

    The ultimate goal is to teach these children how to become self-sufficient and to give back to their communities. With more education, children are more likely to become leaders of tomorrow and forever shape the direction of their countries.

    One of those future leaders, Madison, broke free from a cycle of physical and spiritual poverty when she entered into the Hope Program at Back2Back.

    We asked her how life changed after entering Madisonthe program, and this is what she said: “My life changed in a really radical way. Probably the coolest that has happened to me since I've been here is that I began a real relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    The Hope Program is about more than just providing young people with an education. Loving house parents nurture and care for each student, and most important, introduce them to the hope found in Jesus.

    We asked Madison what she hopes for now that she’s been through the program, and her answer brilliantly captures the mission behind the Hope Program:

    “My only hope is Jesus. My dream isn’t in a family or a job. It’s only in what He’s going to do in my life.”

    Yes, we are aiming to provide children throughout the world with hope through education, water, and food, but our ultimate hope is rooted in Jesus.

    This is because hope in Jesus is eternal, while other “hopes” fade away. That’s why Peter calls it a living hope.

    "The only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ." – Charles Spurgeon

    The Hope Program opened doors for Madison that previously didn't exist. She now plans to serve one year in a mission school, and then go on to study dentistry. Even with all the new opportunities popping up in her life, her zeal for Christ has not taken a back seat.

    “I think my greatest desire is to share my testimony with many students, that they would understand the hand of God and the glory of God exists in our lives, and that He can change the bad to good and restore hearts,” Madison said.

    If you would like to join us in giving hope to students like Madison, please visit our Give Hope: Education page, or text FAMILY to 91011.

  • The Entitlement Cure

    Dr. John Townsend OCTOBER 23, 2015

    The Entitlement Cure DR. JOHN TOWNSEND

    "But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.’" 2 Kings 5:11 (NIV)

    Entitlement is an issue that we read about in the news all the time, and yet it’s one we may feel a bit confused about. Fortunately, God’s Word gives us an example of a man who suffered from entitlement. His name is Naaman.

    Naaman was a respected commander of a powerful army, a strong soldier, well regarded by his superiors and yet, had leprosy. At this time, there was no known cure for this disease.

    One of his servants told him where he could go to be healed. So Naaman went to Elisha with his horses and chariots. Elisha told him that if he washed in the Jordan River seven times, he would be cleansed.

    Here’s where we see Naaman’s entitlement: "But Naaman went away angry and said, ‘I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy’" (2 Kings 5:11).

    Entitlement encompasses two attitudes: (1) I am exempt from responsibility, and (2) I am owed special treatment. In other words, I don’t have to carry my own burdens, and I should be treated differently.

    Naaman presents both of these characteristics in his response. First, in Naaman’s mind, he was owed special treatment or at least a proper acknowledgment. Second, Naaman felt that he should be exempt from responsibility. He didn’t want the responsibility to follow orders by washing in the river.

    We all have a Naaman in our lives. Perhaps it’s a co-worker, family member or friend who wants you to wave a hand over their situation and fix their problems. Maybe you have a son or daughter that, despite your best parental efforts, has chosen a path of laziness. They feel they deserve special treatment with no responsibility.

    Here’s what you need to remember: Change happens in the presence of compassion. Before you look at that Naaman in your life and pretentiously point out all their failings, remember that you have been a Naaman. The Bible says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23, NIV).

    Here are a few skills that will help the entitled people in your life:

    1. Be truly "for" them. Naaman’s servants wanted him to be healed and didn’t settle for less. Entitled people need support! Even when they drive you crazy, frustrate you and make you feel helpless, they still require the elements of grace. We have all failed, and we will all need second and third chances: "Out of his fullness we have all received grace" (John 1:16). This will help you to have mercy and identify with the person, keeping you away from being judgmental or giving up too soon.

    2.  Be clear about your expectations. Entitlement often causes people to not listen well to requirements and to others’ needs and expectations. Because those things don’t support their view of themselves as special and above the rules, they tend to dismiss them. Do all you can to defeat this dismissive attitude by being unmistakable in what you want from them. Whether it is specifically defining a payment plan or writing out a goal for their future career path, err on the side of being over-clear. Clarity requires that you don’t assume anything in your relationship with your entitled person.

    3.  Find health. Look for friends, churches, counselors and coaches who are full of grace and truth and who could be a resource for your entitled person. Find where the best relational heath resources are in your area and get them plugged in. In my opinion, offering your entitled friend or coworker this kind of help isn’t being codependent or enabling. It’s supporting them. It’s doing something for them that they can’t do well for themselves.

    At the conclusion of the story, Naaman was healed. With some encouragement, patience and wisdom from his servants, Naaman ultimately followed Elisha’s orders.

    Entitlement can be cured too. We won’t be able to wave our hands over the problems of our loved ones. We also can’t expect that they will get it right the first time. Most likely, we will have to walk with them down a Hard Way path of healing.

    Through compassionately executing these principles along with several more, we can help our loved ones to be made well. I have seen it happen in so many of my individual and organizational clients. God’s paths work for your good and for His glory.

    Lord, thank You for a chance to make a difference. Give me compassion for the Naamans in my life. Help me to be "for" them, give them clear expectations and find the proper care. Even if the path toward healing grows uncomfortable, allow me to take the necessary steps to see them through. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:19, "We love because he first loved us." (NIV)

    Luke 9:23, "Then He said to them all: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: In a culture that encourages shortcuts and irresponsibility, Dr. John Townsend’s newest book, The Entitlement Cure provides principles and skills to help you both navigate life with those around you who have an entitlement mindset and identify areas in your own life where you are stuck in "easy way" living.

    Visit Dr. Townsend’s blog for more on this and other life-changing topics.

    Enter to WIN a copy of by The Entitlement Cure by Dr. John Townsend. In celebration of this book, John’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Friday, October 30.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which of the skills above are you challenged to try out this week, to decrease entitlement and create a better life for you and your loved one?

    © 2015 by Dr. John Townsend. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan 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

  • The Root of My Rot

    Lysa TerKeurst OCTOBER 22, 2015

    The Root of My Rot LYSA TERKEURST

    "Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." Psalm 139:24 (NLT)

    Recently, a friend of mine really hurt my feelings and I got all bent out of shape. And, honey, everyone in my house knew Mama wasn’t happy. I tried everything to usher gentleness back into my tone and my temper.

    I quoted verses.

    I rebuked Satan.

    I bossed my feelings around with truth.

    I even tried to take a nap.

    But none of these activities soothed me.

    What really sent me over the edge, though, was a smell that started to fill my home that not even three strongly scented candles could mask.

    Unfortunately, as the mysterious, awful smell continued to waft through my home, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was or where it was coming from.

    Finally, I realized my daughter had placed a trashcan in the middle of my bedroom floor so she could toss scraps of paper as she worked on a school project. Some food had obviously been thrown away in that forgotten trashcan that had surpassed gross and moved into the final stages of rot.

    I didn’t have the heart to find out what the rot was; I just knew the trash can had to go. Immediately.

    The smell was an outside indication of an internal situation. And the trashcan wasn’t the only thing that stunk that night. So did my attitude.

    My reaction was also an outside indication of an internal situation.

    The reason I couldn’t be soothed by quoting Scripture, bossing my feelings, rebuking Satan or even taking a nap is because God wanted me to be aware of my stink … something inside of me that stunk … a place starting to rot.

    I’d been hurt by a friend and didn’t want to confront the issue or forgive the person who had hurt me. I’d stuffed bitterness in my heart and tried to pretend it wasn’t there. But the rot was there and the stink from deep within my heart kept spilling out.

    God didn’t want me to temporarily mask the situation by feeling better in the moment. He wanted me to address the root of my rot — to see it, admit it, expose it, let Him clean it up and shut it down. Immediately.

    In our key verse, we’re reminded of King David’s plea to the Lord, "Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." We must have this same attitude when it comes to our own lives.

    A little rot can spread fast and furiously if not dealt with swiftly and seriously. That’s why it’s so crucial to pay attention to our reactions today.

    How we react is a crucial gauge of what’s really going on inside us.

    When people or issues or situations bump into our happy, it’s not wrong to feel annoyed. But if that annoyance leads to a reaction out of proportion to the issue at hand, we can bank on the fact that this eruption has a root of rot.

    Here are some telltale signs of roots of rot:

    • I throw out statements like, "You always … You never … Why can’t we ever …"
    • I start gathering ammunition from past situations to build my case.
    • I use words and a tone outside my normal character.
    • I justify my reaction by pointing out how hard my life is right now.
    • I demand an apology, all the while knowing I should be giving one.

    These are not fun to admit, but here’s the beauty of the situation: The quicker we see a root of rot, the quicker we can get rid of the stink and move forward.

    Dear Lord, thank You for bringing to light the rotting areas of my life. Help me to address these areas with Your grace and truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 26:2: "Put me on trial, LORD, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Win or Lose

    Join thousands of women worldwide who want to filter their reactions through God’s Truth with our next online Bible study of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, UngluedSign up today for free!

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there a place in your life where you need to ask for God’s help to get rid of the rot? Pray about and reflect on the telltale signs Lysa listed in the devotion today.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Child Makes a Bad Choice

    Karen Ehman OCTOBER 21, 2015

    When Your Child Makes a Bad Choice KAREN EHMAN

    "For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow to Me, and every tongue will give praise to God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God." Romans 14:11-12 (HCSB)

    It was a gray and gloomy day when my ordinary routine of laundry and dishes was interrupted. With no time to spruce up, I soon found myself seated in the vice principal’s office wearing my sweatpants and my shame.

    My son had gotten himself in a heap of trouble, the result of a bad choice he’d made in order to please a peer.

    My son confessed, and the school issued consequences. My child seemed genuinely sorry for his behavior. The administrator was kind and compassionate. The meeting ended with both of them seeming fine. I, however, was a maternal mess. I just couldn’t shake the stigma of being the mom of a teen who broke the rules and broke my heart.

    Ever since my children were little, I have formed mothering equations in my mind. A crying baby in church = a bad mom. A toddler throwing a temper tantrum in public = a bad mom. A teen who broke the rules or the law = a bad mom.

    Then, whenever a child of mine misbehaved or made a bad choice, I made the worst choice of all. I scribbled on my tender mama heart yet another untrue equation, wrongly surmising that I was a failure as a mom. And over the years as my child added more wrong choices, my sorrow as a mom multiplied.

    There is a family in the Bible that has always fascinated me when it comes to trying to pin the bad behavior of a child on the shoulders of a parent. That family is Adam and Eve and their sons, Cain and Abel.

    Cain was the very first man born into the world. His brother Abel was the very first one to die. And how did he die? At the hands of his brother.

    The book of Genesis tells us Cain tended to the crops. His kid brother was a sheepherder. A jealous drama ensued between the brothers over the fact that the Lord accepted Abel’s offering yet rejected Cain’s. As a result, Cain was mad. So, one day, he lured his unsuspecting brother out into the field and promptly murdered him.

    In this biblical story we see two sons. Each with different likes and passions. Different personalities. Extremely different character qualities.

    One was innocent. One committed murder. Yet both had the same parents. If you can draw the conclusion that how a child turns out is the parents’ direct responsibility, then how do you account for these two mismatched brothers? How did one grow up to be a mind-your-own-business, likeable sort, while the other became the first criminal to have his mug shot nailed to the local post office wall?

    Were Adam and Eve responsible for these boys’ actions? No. Their choices were their own.

    Today’s key verse tells us, "each of us will give an account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12). We each are responsible for our own behaviors. We will answer someday for what we did while on earth. Notice we are not told we will answer for others’ behavior — not even our children’s.

    So when we are tempted to painfully pin on the badge of "Bad Mom of the Year" because our child makes a bad choice, let’s remember that each of us will answer for our own conduct. Sure we need to teach and model good behavior, but we cannot force our kids to obey. Our role is to pray they develop and grow a personal relationship with God. So when they give an account of their choices, they will not be ashamed.

    We must know our place as a praying parent and tether our identity only to Christ.

    Father, please help me to do my best to raise my child to make good choices. Help me to find my identity in Christ alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Karen Ehman’s newest book Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off is available for pre-order. If you purchase the book through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you will receive a free downloadable journal entitled "On My Knees & In My Heart: 5 Mini-Spiritual Retreats for Moms."

    For more motherhood encouragement, visit Karen’s blog today and enter to win a copy of Hoodwinked.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What one or two truths can you remember when your child makes a wrong choice?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The 46th Annual Dove Awards: Better Together

    46thDoveAwardsLast Tuesday, October 13, 2015, marked the return of the annual GMA Dove Awards. Since 1970 the show has honored excellence in Christian music, with this year’s show being no different. Highlighting the event were a number of big name performers, presenters, and the theme of the entire event: “We are better together.”

    Hosted by "Duck Dynasty" star Sadie Robertson and five-time Grammy winner Erica Campbell, the fun-filled night included powerhouse performances by Kirk Franklin, Matt Maher, Crowder, newcomer Lauren Daigle and many more.

    Speaking of Lauren Daigle, the young artist had one of the most memorable nights of all, as she brought home the “Song of the Year,” “New Artist of the Year,” and “Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year” awards.

    In her acceptance speech, Daigle reminded viewers of why she and all the others create the music that they do. “We as Christians have a legacy to leave, and it’s all about a love of Christ to permeate the music and reach the hearts of all of the people out there.”

    Taking home the “Artist of the Year” award was rapper Lecrae, who made history by becoming the first pure hip-hop/rap artist to win the award*. It didn’t stop there though, as he also took home the “Rap/Hip Hop Song of the Year” and “Rap/Hip Hop Album of the Year” awards.

    Though he was not able to accept his awards in person, Lecrae offered this statement to The Christian Post the following day: “It is extremely humbling. I make music to impact and inspire. I’m grateful to have a team around me that believes in the vision and contributes their talent to bring it all to fruition.”

    Surrounding the night was the overarching theme of unity, reminding us believers that we are all one in Christ and that “we are better together.”

    That was never more present than when rapper KB performed his song, “I Believe,” where he and a group of dancers faced off against another group dressed as police and wearing riot gear.

    After the song ended he posed the question, “What does it look like to have two come together and talk and become unified, linking together to actually bring peace?”

    Throughout Scripture we are called to come together as one people within the body of Christ. In Colossians 3:13-14 (NIV), Paul says, “13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

    And in the Psalms it reads, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 NIV).

    The Dove Awards promoted unity on a national scale, but more than awareness, unity requires action. We are to forgive one another and love one another as the Lord forgives and loves us.

    What can you do in your community to start creating more unity?

    __________________________________________________________________________________________________

    *tobyMac has previously won “Artist of the Year,” but his style features a blend of rock, pop, and rap music.

  • When You Feel Like Giving Up

    Rachel Wojo OCTOBER 20, 2015

    When You Feel Like Giving Up Rachel Wojo

    "For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? — the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless." Psalm 18:31-32 (ESV)

    The alarm would sound any minute. It was time. Time to open my eyes, sit up and face another day. I started the inner pep talk immediately. Maybe today will be different. Things can’t get any worse. Well, maybe they can. No, God’s got this. I had this conversation in my head before my feet ever hit the floor.

    Circumstances overwhelmed me and had begun to take a toll on my body as well. I knew God was with me; I’d known that since I was a child. But the perfect life had taken a wild detour, and I found myself in a very imperfect world.

    The unexpected journey through divorce and losing my mom to cancer had been tough enough. Now looking ahead, my daughter’s label of "terminal disease" seemed bigger than God.

    In my desperation, I didn’t just pray: I cried to the Lord. I needed more than another sermon illustration. More than a checklist of do’s and don’ts. I really needed to know that God was not just near, but that He would get me through this. But how?

    My habit of reading the Psalms kicked in, and I fumbled to one of my favorites where today’s key verse can be found: "For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? — the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless."

    As I meditated on the verses, the phrase "who equipped me with strength" captured my attention. I found myself begging: Lord, I need the kind of strength only You can give. I need this equipping process, Jesus. Will You please help me?

    I dangled my feet over the side of the bed and continued reading. The Psalmist reflected: "You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip" (Psalm 18:36, ESV).

    The Holy Spirit prompted me through this reflection. That’s it! That’s what I need to remember! When I feel like giving up, I don’t have to comprehend the entire journey. I only need enough strength to take one more step.

    I can take comfort in the fact that God’s plan is always bigger and better than mine.

    Echoing the words of the psalmist, I whispered to God that the battle felt enormously overwhelming. I asked Him to equip me with strength only He can give (Psalm 18:39a).

    Finally, I moved my dangling feet from the bedside and placed them solidly on the ground, knowing His power would carry me through whatever came my way that day.

    Have you felt like giving up lately? Does the thought of seeing yourself on top of the mountain ahead seem too far-fetched to imagine? Let’s stop thinking about the vastness of the journey. Let’s recognize that when things seem out of control, God is always in control. He is with us, and giving us the strength to take one more step.

    Dear God, please equip me with strength for today. I know I can’t walk this journey on my own. I need Your spirit to infuse me with energy for the next step. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Job 23:10-11, "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. My foot has held fast to his steps; I have kept his way and have not turned aside." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Rachel Wojo’s new book, One More Step: Finding Strength When You Feel Like Giving Up, will help you learn how to persevere through out-of-control circumstances and gain a more intimate relationship with Jesus.

    Do you need to know how to keep going when things are going wrong? Visit Rachel’s blog where she encourages fresh faith.

    Enter to WIN a copy of One More Step by Rachel Wojo. In celebration of this book, Rachel’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, October 26.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How can I remember to run to God’s Word when discouragement strikes?

    Sometimes the overwhelming circumstances we face make us feel like giving up altogether. But when we begin to rely on God’s strength in place of our own, we can discover how to face those feelings of despair.

    © 2015 by Rachel Wojo. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Waterbrook Multnomah 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

  • Discovering Something Better Than "Perfect"

    Amy Carroll OCTOBER 19, 2015

    Discovering Something Better Than "Perfect" AMY CARROLL

    "As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him." Psalm 18:30 (NIV)

    In the beginning of my marriage, I believed my husband Barry was the luckiest man alive. After all, he had married me, a woman who was going to introduce him to one of the principle joys of life, a live Christmas tree.

    In my mind, nothing could be more perfect than a live Christmas tree — certainly not the artificial ones he had experienced as a child!

    Each year we went to the Christmas tree lot to search for a perfectly-shaped, fragrant live tree. We’d haul it home, put it in the Christmas tree holder filled with water and decorate our lovely evergreen, singing "O Tannenbaum" all the while. Okay, so maybe I’m embellishing a little, but suffice it to say having a live Christmas tree thrilled the HGTV corner of my heart.

    There was one thing that made me very unhappy, however. Every Christmas, and I mean every Christmas, my darling husband was sick. The first Christmas, I attended to him with newlywed sweetness. The second Christmas, I tolerated him and brought him soup.

    By the third Christmas of holiday sickness, I was just plain annoyed. What was wrong with the man? He was big and strapping and healthy. How could he become so weak and sickly and pitiful every year at Christmas? I began to make snide remarks under my breath like, "Maybe you’re allergic to time with my family."

    Sometime in that fourth year, Barry went to the doctor after another round of illness. A specialist had Barry lay on his stomach while he poked lots and lots of tiny needles in his back. As you may have guessed by now, the results revealed that my poor husband is allergic to almost every green living thing … including Christmas trees.

    Because I believed live Christmas trees to be far superior to artificial trees, every year we dragged a beautiful, green, bushy deathtrap into our living room.

    Because I came to believe Barry just didn’t like the holidays much, I got snappy with him when he was sick.

    Basically, because I believed the wrong things, I acted in wrong ways.

    My belief about what’s perfect, like my idea of the "perfect" Christmas tree, is often off-base. Over the years, when I’ve acted on those false beliefs, I’ve damaged relationships.

    When I’ve believed I have to hide my flaws to be liked, I’ve kept friends at arm's length.

    When I’ve believed my kids have to behave perfectly to make me the perfect mom, I’ve left all of us feeling as if we don’t measure up.

    When I’ve believed I can create a perfect facade with my stuff, my service and my competence, I’ve pursued goals that left me empty and lonely.

    After years of struggling with my own perfection, I’m learning a new way. Here’s the freeing truth I’m beginning to live: Only when I give up my own view of perfection can God begin His perfecting work in me. When I embrace God’s true perfection, leaving the exhausting, destructive weight of my own perfection, I can take refuge in Him.

    Amazingly, giving up my own view of perfectionism has improved not only my relationship with God, but also with others.

    I’m more authentic with my friends, leading to greater closeness.

    I’m more grace-filled with my kids, leading to more trust and better communication.

    I’m not a live-Christmas-tree-fanatic anymore, so now Hubby and I curl up at Christmas in the glow of a plastic, pre-lit tree. It’s just perfect. We’re sniffle-free and happy.

    I’m committed to choosing people over perfection. If you’ll commit to the same thing, I promise you’ll find something better than your view of "perfect."

    Lord, please forgive me for pursuing my own perfection instead of finding refuge in Yours. As You faithfully forgive me, please draw me close to You. Restore my other relationships and help me to choose people over perfection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:96, "To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless." (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 12:9, "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." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Amy Caroll’s first book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is now available. Visit the Proverbs 31 Ministries store to purchase it today!

    Maybe it seems a little early for a Christmas devotion, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner! Visit Amy’s blog today for the beginning of a fun blog tour with Amy and other authors titled UnWrapped Grace: Holiday Help for Recovering Perfectionists. You can break up with perfect, strengthen your relationships and experience more joy over the holidays this year! Register at Amy’s blog to win a $100 gift card for help with gift giving this year.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you struggle with perfection, what relationships have you damaged by holding tight to your belief about perfection?

    What would letting go of those beliefs cost you? What would you gain?

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Spread the Warmth of God's Love with Barnabas Bear

    Family Christian introduced Barnabas Bear in 2003 to raise money for and show love to children in need throughout the world. With your help, we've donated over 800,000 bears in the twelve years since. Barnabas Bear has had many different looks, but the message has always remained the same:

    "This bear is named Barnabas, which means comfort and encouragement. Barnabas is here to remind you every day that someone cares about you and wants you to know that God loves you. To become a child of God and know that you will someday live in Heaven with Him and His Son, Jesus, all you have to do is ask Him to come and live in your heart.

    Just say this simple prayer: Dear God, thank you for loving me. I know that I have done things that make your heart sad. Please forgive me and come and live in my heart forever. Help me to do what's right. I love you. In the name of your Son, Jesus, Amen!"

    Barnabas Bear

    Offering a tangible expression of Christ's love, Barnabas Bear provides a wonderful way to share a big hug with the kids in your community and around the world.

    One of our employees from an Ohio store, Melissa, witnessed firsthand the comfort Barnabas Bear brings. In 2012 her nephew and his family were in a bad car accident. While her nephew and his 11-month-old daughter did not survive the wreck, her niece and their 2-year-old son did.

    Melissa shared that her great nephew was conscious at the scene of the accident, but was very traumatized by the machinery, sirens, and other loud noises.

    When a first responder found the young boy in a responsive state, he provided him with Barnabas Bear to help keep him calm.

    "It brings me comfort, knowing that he had this little bear with him to help provide the love and comfort that he needed in that very terrible situation," she said.

    This is one of many stories that show the impact Barnabas Bear can have in a child's life, and the reason that Family Christian created it years ago.

    Many children do not know Jesus, but Barnabas Bear gives a child the introduction, or reminder, that God loves and wants to have a relationship with them.

    Barnabas Bear with Kids

    Purchase Barnabas for only $5, and share God’s love by:

    Donating Him: When you buy at your local store, we give him to a ministry in your own community. When you buy online, your bear will be donated to and distributed through Back2Back Ministries, a non-profit organization who strives to provide spiritual, physical, emotional, educational, and social needs to orphans and other vulnerable children around the world.

    Taking Him Home: Give him to a child you know who needs to feel the warmth of God’s love.

    We look forward to teaming up with you once again to spread love to children in our own communities and to the ends of the earth.

    Have you or anyone else that you know had an experience with Barnabas Bear? Let us know in the comments below!

  • How to Take Your Faith to a New Level

    Lynn Cowell OCTOBER 16, 2015

    How to Take Your Faith to a New Level LYNN COWELL

    "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD." Isaiah 11:2 (NIV)

    When my youngest daughter was 13 years old, she started preparing me, "Mom, for my 18th birthday, we’re going skydiving." Yeah, right! Not wanting to break her brave-girl bubble, I went along with it for a few years. Then the day came; my girl turned 18.

    So yes, long story short … I jumped out of a plane.

    The week after Madi and I went skydiving, I noticed something new about me. Suddenly I felt brave! I found myself climbing a tree with my niece and nephew and even rescued a fawn in my backyard. It was as if I were a new woman!

    Have you ever done something requiring bravery? Joined a new group? Spoken in front of people? Gone back to college?

    If you have, maybe you’ve made the same discovery: adventure breaks monotony.

    Adventure breaks monotony not only in the roles I play, but it also breaks the boredom in my relationship with God.

    I know, I’m probably not supposed to admit this. I’m not proud to admit it, but sometimes … my consistency, my predictability, my every-day-is-the-same when it comes to the way I interact with God can get down right boring.

    And boring is a terrible place to be.

    God didn’t create us for boredom! In John 10:10, Jesus said He came to give us a rich and satisfying life. Are we taking Him up on His offer?

    Skydiving in our relationship with the Holy Spirit can break boredom! In today’s key verse, Isaiah 11:2, it says: "The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him — the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD."

    This verse caused me to compare the Holy Spirit to my skydiving instructor:

    1) The Holy Spirit prepares us. Nehemiah 9:20a tells us: "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them …" (NIV). He prepares us with instructions on how to fully experience this life God has for us, just as my instructor whispered directions to me as we soared through the air.

    2) The Holy Spirit pushes us. He challenges us to grow. Jesus said, "… whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12b, NIV).

    When Jesus left earth, He gave us the Holy Spirit to live inside of those who invite Him to be their Savior. He did this so we could do great things, even greater than He did.

    So what did Jesus do?

    Luke 4:18 tells us: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (NIV).

    What an adventure! Getting down on your knees and then into the lives of people who need to know and discover His truth!

    3) The Holy Spirit empowers us. The day I skydived, I made a choice to attach myself to my instructor. Then, he could use his experience and power to do what I couldn’t do on my own. This is what happens when we connect with the Holy Spirit. He empowers us to do the work Jesus calls us to accomplish which we cannot do alone.

    Is your relationship with God a bit predictable? If we’re only doing the things we are capable of, there is no need for divine power or the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need to intentionally invite the Holy Spirit into our lives every day and experience God’s adventure!

    Holy Spirit, today I’m going to attach myself to You. Give me Your wisdom and guidance and take me on a great adventure. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Acts 1:8, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (NIV)

    John 14:26, "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (NIV)

    John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: The Holy Spirit wants to take us on an adventure to transform us into people who reflect God Himself. Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants by Lynn Cowell empowers young women to partner with the Holy Spirit to experience this transformation.

    Lynn invites you to stop by her blog today, where she’s giving away a Bravery Bundle — resources to help you attach your heart to the Holy Spirit.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Would you consider your relationship with Jesus full and satisfying, or dull and boring?

    What is one step of bravery you could take today that requires you to be dependent on the Holy Spirit in order to accomplish it?

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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