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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • When Good Intentions Get in the Way

    When Good Intentions Get in the Way by Kristine Brown

    “And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it.” 2 Samuel 7:20-21 (ESV)

    “We don’t have a coach for your son’s team. If someone doesn’t step up, the kids won’t get to play.”

    The words weighed on my heart, but I had no idea how to coach soccer. I took dance lessons as a child — pirouettes, not penalties! I tried playing softball once. Even so, I don’t think you can count picking wildflowers in right field as actually playing.

    But I felt a heap of responsibility as the league director gave the ultimatum. I understood his dilemma. He faced a shortage of parent volunteers. I didn’t want to be known as that parent — the one who never took her turn.

    “I’ll coach the team.” The response sputtered out of my mouth. No turning back now.

    I still remember the agony of stumbles and fumbles that followed. We lost every game. Every. Single. One. My eager group of 8-year-olds pressed through with smiles on their faces while their clueless coach wore a constant frown.

    Each Saturday morning brought more apprehension. I would’ve rather eaten beets than face another brutal defeat. I read books. I watched videos. I tried everything possible to gain a glimpse of knowledge worth passing on to these potential soccer stars. I soon realized this just wasn't my calling.

    King David knew a thing or two about this, as we see in today’s key verse: “And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord GOD! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it” (2 Samuel 7:20-21).

    King David spent years in battle, fighting enemies one after another. Not to mention running for his life from the former king, Saul. However, at this time God had given David a break from conflict. He enjoyed much-needed rest in his palace.

    Then he got a brilliant idea.

    David felt guilty living in luxury while the ark of God “dwelled in a tent.” (See 2 Samuel 7:1-2.) He resolved to do something about it. He was the king, after all. Who better to build a house for the ark of the Lord?

    David shared his plan with Nathan the prophet. Since God was with David, Nathan encouraged him to go ahead. There was just one small problem: God didn’t tell David to do it.

    That night, God spoke to Nathan with an urgent message for David. God had a different plan for the ark of the covenant, and He needed David to step out of the way. Even though David’s desire came from his best intentions, this job belonged to someone else. And through his mistake, God taught David a valuable lesson.

    Sometimes, making a decision solely based on our good intentions interrupts God’s perfect plan.

    David took the correction as an opportunity for growing closer to his Lord. And with the heart of a servant, David thanked Him for it. This is God’s desire for us too.

    We work with such enthusiasm, don’t we? We try our best to love, help and give. In our zeal, sometimes we step into places God never intended for us. Just like a flower-picking ballerina attempting to coach little-league soccer. But God knows us so well, and He offers grace when we get ahead of Him.

    That was my first and last experience with coaching. During the final game of the season, one of the other parents approached me. He asked a question that left me speechless.

    “How did you get involved in coaching? This is something I would really enjoy doing!”

    He could have been the next person on the list of potential volunteers, but my good intentions got in the way. Lord, forgive me.

    In His firm yet gentle way, God teaches us to trust. And when we allow the Lord to guide our decisions, we find unmatched fulfillment. So let’s agree to seek His instruction today. We can race ahead wanting to serve, but let’s also listen for the times He says, “Stop.”

    Then, like David, we can thank our loving Father for the training. After all, He’s the best Coach ever.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for Your guidance. Forgive me for getting ahead of Your plans, and help me know when to stop and listen for Your direction. Your ways are perfect, Lord. Thank You for offering gentle grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 33:11, “But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one specific area of your life where you need God’s guidance today?

    What steps can you take to listen for His divine direction?

    © 2016 by Kristine Brown. All rights reserved.

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

  • Soak Up the Sun: 5 Beach Reads for Summer 2016

    Who doesn’t love getting lost in a good book at the beach? Your toes in the sand, salt in the air and the sun on your skin – few things are more relaxing. Whether you’re planning a summer getaway or aiming your sprinkler at the patio, kick back and relax with these popular beach reads.

    All books are Buy One Get One 50% Off at Family Christian now through August 25 making it the perfect time to stock your beach bag with these Christian fiction favorites.

    The Things We Knew by Catherine J. West After her mother's death, Lynette Carlisle watched her family unravel. All her siblings eventually left Nantucket, silently blaming their father. Nobody will tell Lynette about that day that she can't remember. But when Dad's failing health and financial concerns bring everybody home, secrets begin to surface that will either restore lost relationships---or separate the Carlisles forever.

    The Promise of Jesse Woods by Chris Fabry In the summer of 1972, Matt Plumley forms a friendship with Jesse Woods, a tough-as-nails girl. But one night the wrath of the prominent Blackwoods and the secrets of Jesse's family will collide and destroy the promise she and Matt make to each other. Will he ever learn the truth behind the only pledge Jesse ever broke?

    The Second Half by Lauraine Snelling Ken and Mona are looking forward to their retirement, but then they receive a call from their son, a Special Forces officer. Announcing that he's been deployed overseas, he asks them to care for his kids. They find parenting a challenge, but it's even harder when Steig stops contacting them. Can they trust God to bring him home?

    Close to You by Kara Isaac Allison Shire is done with love and travels to New Zealand to work as a tour guide for Lord of the Rings movie sites. But she doesn't expect to meet Jackson Gregory, a would-be entrepreneur who's pretending to be a Tolkien aficionado. Will the know-it-all guide and fake fan take a chance on romance?

    Fading Starlight by Kathryn Cushman A high-profile fashion internship should have launched Lauren Summers's career---but instead, a red carpet accident left her blackballed. Working for a former Hollywood star in return for free lodging in a seaside cottage, she sets out to salvage her reputation. But will the old woman's secrets raise new questions---and knock her off balance again?

    What great beach read would you add to the list?

  • If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

    If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

    There were many feelings I expected to have at a conference I’d been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

    On paper, these were my people.

    They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

    Yes. I couldn’t wait to be with these people.

    And I couldn’t wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

    I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn’t there, I got a sinking feeling.

    I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

    I waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren’t able to come for some reason. So, I’d be seated alone. Very alone.

    In reality, I don’t think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all, by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressings.

    In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or 10 perhaps? It’s certainly an option when you’re sitting single at a table for 10.

    And that’s when a very clear sentence popped into my head: “You aren’t set aside, Lysa. You are set apart.” It wasn’t audible. And it wasn’t my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

    To be set aside is to be rejected.

    That’s exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I’d become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

    To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

    That’s what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I’d be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

    Have you ever been in this place?

    I wasn’t just in this place at the dinner that night. I’ve been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

    Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

    1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

    Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that “with humility comes wisdom” (NIV). In this set-apart place, God will give you much-needed special wisdom for the assignment ahead.

    2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

    This will help you develop a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now, I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

    3. Look for the gift of silence.

    Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I’m trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, “God what might You want to say to me right now? I’m listening.”

    I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

    But as you pray through your feelings, ask God exactly what the psalmist does in Psalm 25:16-17, our key verse — to turn to you and be gracious to you in your loneliness. And then see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than overlooked.

    There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God’s call for her to be set apart.

    Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I’m believing today that I’m set apart, not set aside. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:16a, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think about your current struggle with loneliness and the three encouragements Lysa listed. Then, choose to look for one of those gifts in your situation.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Praiseworthy Life

    A Praiseworthy Life by Cynthia Heald

    “Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NLT)

    In today’s world we are enticed to buy products that will firm our skin, prevent wrinkles and keep us from aging. Why? So we can prolong our youthful good looks and hopefully receive praise for our lasting beauty. Certainly it is not wrong to want to be attractive, but Proverbs 31:30 reminds us that beauty does not last.

    I’m grateful this scripture cautions us concerning the elusiveness of charm and beauty. Seeking beauty in order to boost our self-esteem and receive praise can subtly spill over into inauthenticity. Focusing on temporal beauty can keep us from experiencing any genuine praise we deserve.

    This verse is special because it not only states the ultimate ineffectiveness of pursuing “anti-aging,” it also tells us what we can do to truly be appreciated.

    In the next stroke of the pen we are instructed to desire the great praise that results from fearing the Lord. After recounting the various activities of the Proverbs 31 woman, we learn the secret for the admiration she received: She feared God.

    I like concise summations that clearly and simply state what is necessary — in this case, her fear of the Lord prompted her commendation.

    Initially in my walk with God, I struggled to comprehend what it meant to fear the Lord. Should I be “afraid” of God? As I have grown in my understanding, though, I have discovered that fearing God doesn’t exactly mean “fear” like we first imagine.

    Instead, it means standing in awe of Him, reverencing Him, adoring and respecting him. I like this definition: “giving God His rightful place in your life.”

    God’s role as Creator of everything in the universe establishes Him as the only One who merits this reverence. He is our almighty, majestic, redeeming God and He deserves to be first in our hearts.

    Fearing God is a significant truth. We discover in Proverbs 15:33a, “Fear of the LORD teaches wisdom” (NLT). Only as we stand in awe of His holy and just character can we obtain wisdom and gain an eternal perspective on life. To revere and honor Him above all requires that we submit ourselves to His lordship and rule in our lives. As we acknowledge His preeminence, we become recipients of His wisdom — wisdom that gives us good judgment and the ability to make wise choices.

    Because the Proverbs 31 woman feared God, she was honored by her family and her deeds were worthy of praise. She was a wife who greatly enriched her husband’s life; she diligently looked well to the ways of her household; she thought of others and she spoke wisely. She “laughs without fear of the future” (Proverbs 31:25, NLT) because when we fear God, we have no other fears. The Proverbs 31 woman’s fear of God enabled her to live a life worthy of praise.

    For me, fearing God means that daily, I surrender my plans and agenda in order to follow my Shepherd. I take time to be still, sit at His feet and listen to His word. I talk with Him throughout the day. I memorize His word. I pray to make wise choices and become a woman who brings Him glory.

    Fearing God frees me from seeking praise from the world. It frees me from self-centeredness. It frees me from pursuing beauty that does not last. But fearing God centers my life and bestows a gracious beauty of its own — one that reflects the beauty of the Lord and with this beauty is the promise of living a praiseworthy life.

    Our Father, I humbly bow in reverence asking that my life would reflect a life that fears You. I pray that I will seek the beauty of the fruit of the spirit that comes from abiding in You. I pray that I will be a special blessing to my family and to all I meet. Thank You that I am Your child and that in fearing You I receive your wisdom and grace to live a praiseworthy life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 103:13, “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” (NLT)

    Proverbs 15:16, “Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How would you describe your fear of God? Are there any changes you can make? Write them down and commit them to prayer.

    © 2016 by Cynthia Heald. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • When Rejection Steals the Best of Who I Am

    When Rejection Steals the Best of Who I Am by Lysa TerKeurst

    “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19 (NIV)

    “We don’t need you there.”

    A simple sentence. Five words. Five syllables. However, in my brain the interpretation of this sentence was anything but simple.

    It unleashed a flood of uncertainty. My brain instantly fired off locator arrows that traveled to past rejections in my memory. Pulling past hurts into the current conversation. Suddenly, I wasn’t hearing “We don’t need you there.” I was hearing, “You aren’t wanted.”

    Rejection always wants to steal the best of who I am by reinforcing the worst of what’s been said to me.

    The best of who I am was certainly not the one interpreting this comment.

    The most hurt version of me took what was said and added pages of commentary. This additional dialogue highlighted my insecurities, brought to mind all the many reasons I was surely being excluded and vilified the person who uttered those five words that started this whole thing.

    Suddenly, this person was unsafe. She was insensitive. And worst of all, I pictured her rallying others to believe the worst about me as well.

    I blinked back my tears. I swallowed the long-winded speech I was dying to spew in retaliation to her hurtful proclamation. And with a simple, “Okay,” I walked to my car.

    Later that night I retold my husband the whole story. With great emotion and lots of added commentary, I gave him the play-by-play. Finally, I paused long enough to catch my breath and fully expected him to jump right in with absolute support and an offer to rush to my defense.

    Instead he said, “Lysa, what else might she have meant by her statement? Is there any chance she didn’t intend to hurt you, but rather was just simply stating the fact that they had enough people participating and you didn’t have to feel the pressure to attend?”

    I shot back,“Oh no, I’m telling you this was so much more than that.”

    Right as I was about to unleash another dramatic retelling of the whole situation, he wrapped me in a hug and said, “Lysa, just make sure you aren’t holding her accountable for words she never said. She didn’t say you weren’t wanted. She didn’t say you weren’t capable. She didn’t say others were thinking the same way as her. She simply said they didn’t need you there.”

    After stewing for a while, I dared to consider what he’d said. I called the gal and asked a few questions. And in the end, I realized there was absolutely no agenda behind her statement at all.

    In fact, she thought she was doing me a favor by assuring me that I wasn’t needed so that I wouldn’t feel pressure to have to be gone from home during that very busy season.

    This situation happened 8 years ago, but I think about it often. It taught me three perspectives that I don’t want to forget:

    1. When I’m tired or stressed, I’m likely to interpret interactions way more emotionally than I should. Therefore, I should wait to respond to others until I’ve had a chance to rest and de-stress. A depleted girl can quickly become a defeated girl when she lets emotions dictate her reactions.

    That’s one of the reasons I love today’s key verse and the way it interrupts me: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). 2. Believe the best before assuming the worst. Even if they didn’t have my best interest in mind, they probably didn’t have the worst intentions either. Regardless, being positive will keep me in a much better place.

    3. Clarify. Clarify. Clarify. When in doubt, I should ask them to help me understand what they truly meant. And when I clarify, I must recognize and resist adding any additional commentary my past hurt has added to this situation.

    Can you think of a time in your life where these perspectives might help? I certainly haven’t perfected making these perspectives the first thing I think of when I’m in an uncertain situation. But at least I do think of them. And that’s great progress, so feelings from yesterday’s rejections don’t take away from today’s relationships.

    Dear Lord, I don’t want to allow hurts from my past or runaway emotions to steal from my present relationships. I surrender my heart to You today — asking for Your wisdom and healing touch. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you been assuming the worst about something someone said or did? Prayerfully ask God if you need to go to that person and humbly ask for clarification.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • 7 Bible Verses to Share with Your Daughter about her Identity in Christ

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    The right friends, the right opinions, the right pant size – tween girls are at an age where they’re feeling pressured to look and act a certain way. Society, the media and their peers are all competing to be their source of self-worth. Your precious daughter is in one of the most delicate and influential seasons of her life – it’s up to you to be the voice of truth.

    It’s our hope that these verses will inspire a larger conversation with your daughter about who she is and whose she is. We encourage you to ask God for guidance as you communicate what it means to be a Daughter of the King.

    7 Bible Verses about Identity

    You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you. – Song of Solomon 4:7 NIV

    I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. – Psalm 139:14 NKJV

    This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! – 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

    He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 ESV

    Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. – Ephesians 1:4 NKJV

    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. – Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

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

    Be intentional about speaking truth to your daughter. Challenge her to memorize a verse, pray these promises over her life and remind her to just have fun while remembering Jesus. Spark your tween girl’s faith with our exclusive new line of Cupcakes & Jesus clothing and accessories. It’s sweet, sparkly and speaks truth to your daughter using messages that remind her to be bold, shine bright and show the love of Christ.

    How do you teach your little girl about what it means to be a child of God?

  • Decisions, Decisions

    Decisions, Decisions by Karen Ehman

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:12-13 (NIV)

    I have a confession. I love to get my way. Oh, I go about it rather cryptically, appearing to just be logical or thoughtful, but really — deep down inside — I know what I want. And usually, I know just how to get it.

    Perhaps this is why I love going to the coffeehouse. I can step up to the counter and rattle off to the barista my high-maintenance order, and my coffee turns out just like I did like it: “a grande, decaf, skim milk mocha, with 1‑½ pumps of coconut flavoring, 1‑½ pumps almond flavoring, light whipped cream, slight drizzle of chocolate, extra hot and double-cupped, please.” (See, I told you it was high maintenance!)

    While it works at the coffeehouse, sometimes with the people closest to me, getting my way gets in the way of my relationships.

    Usually it goes like this: We are traveling as a family and need to decide where we’d like to eat. I know which restaurant I want. Unfortunately, the members of my family like a different eatery. So, I’ll try my best to convince them my choice is better.

    Or perhaps it’s time to spruce up the living room with a fresh coat of paint. I want to decide what color is best. My husband may have his own opinion, but somehow I’ll manipulate the situation so “sage green” wins over his “boring tan.”

    From matters as small as what brand of ketchup to buy, to huge decisions such as purchasing a house, I am very vocal — and equally convincing — when it comes to getting my way. And my large-and-in-charge bossy ways can cause conflict and friction with others.

    This dilemma really isn’t new. Our ancestor Eve exhibited this behavior back in the Garden of Eden when she decided she knew better than God. She ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God commanded her not to eat. Humankind’s relationship with God experienced its first conflict, and sin entered the world.

    Today, to get our way, we might employ various tactics: reasoning, arguing, pleading or even pouting — anything to secure the outcome we desire. But one day when reading today’s key verse, I gained a fresh insight on this familiar scripture.

    In John 15:12-13, Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I used to think about the dramatic ways one might lay down their life, like getting in harm’s way to save a friend from a deadly injury. Or a soldier might willingly give up his or her life on the battlefield. While these are certainly true and noble, I have come to think of this passage in a more practical way.

    What if we gave up our quest to get our own way in everyday life?

    What if we stopped needing to be the one in our relationships — especially our marriages — who decides all of the time? Laid down our will and desires for how life goes that day and deferred to another. It doesn’t mean we don’t contribute our thoughts, or make our case, but we don’t insist on all decisions going our way. This action of laying aside our desires for another’s certainly is a way to show love.

    It hasn’t been easy, but viewing this verse as an encouragement to stop trying to get my own way and let others decide has been so freeing! I have learned others have good ideas and allowing someone else to choose helps me become less selfish. Yes, laying down our lives in even the smallest ways shows love for others and reverence for Christ. And it helps us decision-loving gals learn to let go and let others have a say.

    Father, forgive me for the times I try to get my own way without listening to others or letting them in on the decision-making process. I want to learn to lay down my life — in ways both big and small. Help me be more like Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (NIV) Romans 12:10, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Will you dare today to defer to others in both small and big decisions? What is one area where you might do this in the next few days?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When I Feel Like a Fraud

    When I Feel Like a Fraud by Kristi Woods

    “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2 (NIV)

    Sometimes I feel like a fraud. It happened again the other day.

    My child found trouble at school. His wrestle with a heart issue surfaced and accountability was deemed necessary.

    In the midst of his struggle, I also struggled. I wrestled with feeling like a Christian fraud: I thought you were supposed to be a good Christian mom. If you raised him right, he wouldn’t have these problems. What will others think?

    Thoughts roared. My worth quaked. I wanted to run and hide. I began to question how worthwhile my Christian mothering was, how sincere my own faith stood. The feelings pounded with force.

    But then I remembered where true help is found, and the view changed. In the midst of an emotional whirlwind, the Lord set my eyes on Psalm 121.

    Its message rang clear. True help comes from only one place: the Lord.

    Its lesson rooted deep. Its impact proved life-changing. And it was in dire need of use against feelings of fraud. I needed help!

    Portions of Psalm 121 rushed from my mouth: “I lift up my eyes. My help comes from You, LORD, Maker of heaven and earth.”

    I sputtered the confession a second time, clawing to escape fraud’s lie: “I lift up my eyes. My help comes from You, LORD, Maker of heaven and earth.”

    I assured myself with the confession three times. It was a coaxing of the necessary kind.

    Clinging to this truth mirrored hanging on a cliff, clawing for dear life. It was hard! The weight of past habits pulled on me, but I was determined.

    I did feel like a fraud, like a bad mom whose Christian flag apparently waved at half-staff or whose wilted flower lay lifeless on the dirt, kicked and trampled on by passersby.

    But that wasn’t truth.

    I did feel like a mom whose child might wrestle needlessly or walk away from their faith altogether. But that wasn’t mine to control. It was mine to pray over.

    I did question if there was something I didn’t handle or instill appropriately.

    But then, I purposefully stopped believing the feelings and intentionally looked to the Lord. And I was helped.

    As I climbed this mountain of despair, the Lord offered the only “arm-up” to true safety available. Grasping trust in His Word was thought-changing, like pulling up and over the cliff’s edge. Our God is a life-saving, thought-changing God.

    Our children, spouses, or others don’t define us. Truth does, His help assures.

    People are not our salvation. Jesus is.

    Others’ works aren’t stars on our performance chart. His grace has approved us, simply by faith.

    We aren’t what we feel and certainly aren’t a fraud when troubles rise. We are what God says we are — accepted, dearly loved and forgiven.

    Thankfully, help isn’t found in fraudulent feelings. They’ll tout their story and we might be tempted to believe, but true help is found by looking to the Lord, the very One who made heaven and earth. True help is found in His truth. On that, we can assuredly stand firm.

    Father, I desire to trust You in every area of my life. Forgive me for times when I’ve run to other counsel. Cause me to trust in and be changed by Your truth. Steep me in Your help for my worth, direction, wisdom and more. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (NKJV) Psalm 124:8, “Our help is from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What areas of your life do you depend on your own strength or the actions of others to feel successful? Offer this to God in prayer.

    Recall a time when God was your help, and offer Him your thanks for that situation and your trust for situations to come. © 2016 by Kristi Woods. All rights reserved.

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

  • Seeing Beauty Instead of Pain

    Seeing Beauty Instead of Pain by Lysa TerKeurst

    “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” Luke 8:14 (NIV)

    My life has not been a bed of roses.

    What an odd statement. It’s supposed to mean that I haven’t lived a life without snags and hurt. However, think of an actual bed of roses. Doesn’t it have both thorns and flowers?

    My aunt grew roses for years. She’s the one I lived with for almost a year when I was in middle school and my family was falling apart. I remember her telling me not to run through her rose garden. After all, she had what seemed like hundreds of other acres that unfolded in wide open fields. I could run there.

    But I didn’t want to.

    I only wanted to run through the rose garden. I wanted to spread my arms wide open and run between the rows brushing my fingertips across all the velvety blooms. I wanted some of the blooms to burst and shower petals all around. Then I could gather the petals and spread them along my path.

    As if I could carve a new place in this world lined with beauty and void of adult words like divorce, rejection and hate … I wanted my world to be soft, pink and lovely. I didn’t want to think about my dad leaving our family. My heart couldn’t process how he not only didn’t live with us anymore, but he was also slowly pulling back from participating in our lives all together.

    So, I took a running start with my arms outstretched only to be shocked with searing pain within the first few steps.

    Thorns. Big, mean, vicious thorns. Thorns that ripped my flesh and opened up the flood of tears I’d been so determined to hold back. Suddenly, I hated that bush. I wanted to chop it down and beat it into the ground. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to destroy something that produced such beauty.

    I stood back from the source of my pain and wondered, Should I call it a bush of thorns or a bush of flowers? Really, it could go either way.

    Suddenly I wasn’t just staring at a bush. I was staring at my life. My life. Such a bed of roses. Would I see the hurt or would I see the beauty?

    Luke 8:14 says, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” The seed being referred to here is the Word of God. Isn’t it interesting that people who are choked by life’s circumstances and never mature are referred to as having thorns in the soil of their soul?

    Yes, life sometimes hands us thorns but we have the choice to park our mind on the thorn or on the beauty it can eventually produce in us, if only we’ll cling tightly to God’s Word. How a person thinks is how they will eventually become.

    If we dwell on the negative in life, we’ll become negative and God’s Word will have a hard time taking root in our souls. If, however, we acknowledge the negative but choose instead to look for the good that can come from it, God’s Word will take root in our souls and produce a lush crop of beauty.

    It all comes down to choice. That day in my aunt’s garden, I chose to be aware of the thorns but park my mind on the beautiful roses.

    And over the years, I have come to the place in my life where I realize I can focus on the hurt my dad’s absence caused or choose to focus on other things in my life. Beautiful things.

    It’s been more than 25 years since I’ve seen my dad. That’s hard on a girl’s heart. But where he fell so short, God has filled in many gaps. I don’t have to be the child of a broken parent the rest of my life, I can be a child of God. Loved. Truly loved.

    And that is a beautiful truth I can let flourish in my heart.

    Dear Lord, it can be really hard to focus on the petals rather than the thorns of life. But I want the soil of my soul to be healthy and ready to receive Your Word. Will You produce beauty in my life despite the thorns by which I’ve been so hurt? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 15:17, “They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you been focusing on the thorns or the petals in your life lately? If you have been dwelling on the pain, ask the Lord to help you see the beauty today.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Freedom From the Facade

    Freedom From the Facade by Amy Carroll

    “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

    There’s nothing like a picture from high school to remind you of your former goofy self. An old friend recently posted a picture of a group of us on a field trip that made me both giggle and blush.

    There I stood in the middle of the Smithsonian Museum, posed in a feisty Charlie’s Angels stance with my friends, big hair poofing and hip cocked like I owned the world. Remember that weird teen stage that was a mix of self-consciousness and arrogance?

    I laughed at the picture, and then I started to think about that girl — the Amy of decades ago.

    That opinionated girl who thought she understood the world … who had equal measures of sass, attitude and idealism … who always saw the best in people … who loved to be known as “a little different.” That girl has turned into a woman who now feels comfortable in her own skin, but she disappeared behind a facade of her own making — a mask of perfection — for years in between.

    I’m not sure when the change happened. Maybe it was when I tried to measure up in a legalistic church. Or maybe it was when I took on the weight of wanting to be the perfect wife and mom. But probably it was when I started valuing what others thought about me more than protecting the woman God had created me to be.

    Day by day, the true me started to disappear. One small choice after another led me down a path of hiding behind a facade of perfection rather than living the full and free life God had for me. Maybe you recognize yourself here too. You’ve started creating a false “I’ve-got-it-all-together” image to keep people from knowing the real you with your flaws and failures. It feels safer behind that wall, but it’s exhausting. And it’s soul-crushing.

    For a while, even Scripture confused me on this matter, so I sought out a trusted friend to help me. Across the table, I exclaimed to her, “But the Bible does tell us to be perfect! Right there in Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” She just smiled and sent me home to do some studying and to look up the meaning of the word perfect in its context. I hurried home to do my assignment.

    As the root definition of the word flashed onto my computer screen, I sat in teary-eyed silence. The truer translation of the word perfect in this verse is to be “whole,” “complete” or “mature.” The Amplified Bible says it this way, “You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    I might be mixed up about lots of things, but suddenly I had clarity on a big step toward breaking up with perfect. God is calling us from the hollowness of self-made perfection to the wholeness of God-given completion. He is doing a perfecting work in us, freeing us day by day from our false image of perfection, until we live in the freedom, joy and fullness of life for which we were made.

    While our pursuit of perfection and a flawless image drains us of energy, God’s work of perfecting fills us with peace. We can trust that God is big enough to turn even our flaws into something usable and to redeem the failures of our past. Living in God’s image the beautiful unique women He created us to be, is a huge step toward true maturity.

    Creating an image is measuring up. Living in God’s image is filling up. Let’s step into His image and complete our own!

    Lord, I want to live in Your perfecting power, the work that makes me whole, complete and mature. Help me put down my mask of perfection and step into the freedom of living in Your image. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 18: 32, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what ways have you chosen to create your own image instead of living authentically in God’s image?

    How has that choice shaped the way you feel about yourself or changed your relationships with others?

    Write out a prayer asking God to help you step out from behind the mask and to live in freedom.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

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