• Patriotic Tees

Author Archives: Family Christian

  • The Freedom of Releasing Regrets

    The Freedom of Releasing Regrets by Amy Carroll

    “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)

    “Time’s up!” Those two words battered my heart over and over as I sat in the silence of an empty nest, drowning in the pain of regrets.

    I had thought I’d break into celebration when our two boys headed out into the world on their own. Even though I knew I’d miss them terribly, they were going to good places with spiritual growth as a priority, decision-making skills intact and solid friendships to encourage them … mostly.

    I agonized over how I should have done more to fill every gap. I should have prayed more, taught more about Scripture and instructed more concerning finances. I convinced myself I should have stopped to listen more, been present more (instead of consumed with my to‑do list) and empathized more.

    Instead of celebrating our boys’ launch into adulthood, I was sinking into despair, but I knew I shouldn’t allow regrets to reign.

    Based on past experience, I knew regret would be erosive and paralyzing — washing away my confidence in God and myself. I knew what it would be like to feel powerless to live in the victory and freedom God has for us. Too many times I’d collapsed under the weight of imperfections, mistakes and sin.

    Thankfully the Bible, our manual for life, has instructions about how to rid ourselves of regret. As we see in today’s key verse, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

    This verse helped me assess the situation. Are my sorrows (or regrets) leading to salvation and an eventual release from the regret? Or are they leading to death, a dark place where there’s no freedom in sight? For me, I knew my parenting regrets were of the worldly type because I was in a downward spiral.

    One silent morning, after several days of wrestling with regret, I spent time with God, telling Him about my sadness and worry that I had fallen short as a mom. One by one, I took my regrets to Jesus and left them in His care.

    With time He brought me to a place of asking Him for forgiveness. Where there were places of sin, I repented. Turning away from those sins was a step that left me feeling washed clean. With others, He showed me how my imperfect parenting had still been enough. God was much gentler with me than I was with myself! For each regret, He promised that His work would succeed where mine had failed and that He would complete what I had left unfinished.

    I walked away from my time with God that morning with exactly what He said in His Word — the hope of salvation and a release from regrets. I rested in the truth that His power floods in to fill our gaps. He offers that same relief to you, no matter where your sorrow lies.

    Are you worried you haven’t parented well enough? God is still at work in our children’s lives, even after they become adults. Their story isn’t over, and God is big enough to finish the work He started in our hearts and homes.

    Are you swamped with shame from your past? God offers salvation today for every circumstance in our rear-view mirror. That door didn’t close the moment we wandered. He is able to soothe our sorrows.

    Are you fretting over lost opportunities? Our good God redeems our misses and can fill our lives with second chances. Let’s trade our despair for hope today!

    Lord, we come to You needing release from regrets. Instead of wallowing in despair, help us trust in Your powerful, ongoing work. Instead of agonizing over our imperfections, help us look to You for perfecting. In all things, help us turn our regrets over to You, our Redeemer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 116:3b-5a,6, “I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What regrets in your life have paralyzed you in their grip?

    Bring those regrets to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to show you:

    • What needs His forgiveness?
    • What needs His comfort?

    Write out a prayer asking God to release you from your regrets and to move forward in complete trust in His work.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Chain of Courage

    A Chain of Courage by Lynn Cowell

    “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

    Each day I started my workday by telling myself, You can do this! It’s not a big deal. For many people the task I needed to complete was simple — something they could accomplish in a few short minutes. But it wasn’t for me.

    Even though this simple act would help others in their walk with Jesus, that motivation wasn’t enough to push me through. The fear of failure crippled me. I finally found the courage I needed to push past my phobia when a story leapt off the page and into my heart.

    The first two chapters of the book of Exodus tell the tale of a chain of courage — one act of fearlessness prompting another until the whole of these women’s actions changed history.

    Act 1: Shiphrah and Puah, midwives in Egypt, are commanded by Pharaoh to kill all males as soon as they are born. Exodus 1:17 tells us, "The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live."

    What bravery these women showed in obeying God rather than Pharaoh!

    Act 2: Jochebed, the mother of Moses, courageously decides she will not obey Pharaoh, either. Rather than kill her son, she hides him at home. When she can no longer keep his existence a secret, she puts this one she loves in a basket, hiding him in the Nile River.

    Jochebed’s faith to take the risk of hiding a baby and putting him in a river is compelling!

    Act 3: Miriam, Moses’ sister, stands by, watching the basket boat. But she isn't just observing. When Pharaoh's daughter calls for the basket to be brought to her, this grit of a girl steps up and addresses the princess, giving royalty advice on how the child can be taken care of.

    Do you see the chain effect one woman's courage had on another's?

    Shiphrah and Puah decided to go against Pharaoh together.

    Jochebed, in the same steps of the midwives, chose courage instead of compromise.

    I have no doubt that Jochebed inspired her daughter to show her prowess to the princess.

    I want to be a part of a chain effect of courageousness, too!

    As a young mother, my mom stepped out of her social norm, embraced Jesus as her Savior and became a prayer warrior for her eight children. Even though several were already adults when she came to know Christ, through her prayers and life testimony, all of us serve Him today.

    Seeing my mother’s fearless faith gives me courage to make a difference in my world. Seeing God answer her prayers for her children empowers me to pray for my children’s salvation, asking God that they will follow the steps of Miriam — on the lookout for where God can use them — and when the time is right, boldly step up with the wisdom God gives them.

    Friend, where are you in a chain of courage?

    Is God calling you to be the first in your family to break out? To step up and bravely make decisions to bring God’s redemption to your family line? To redefine “normal” in your family's legacy?

    Maybe like me, you are blessed to have witnessed the courage of another, and it’s empowered you to be brave. We have to be careful not to grow comfortable or complacent when we're in the middle of the chain but instead be empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep courage going.

    We can start by:

    1. Praying for courage.
    2. Surrounding ourselves with others who are courageous.
    3. Reading stories of others who’ve been courageous in the Bible or in books.

    Let's be brave. Let's display daring boldness and in turn, teach others to be courageous.

    Lord, help us to choose courage over fear. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to lean on You and take the steps You call us to take. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (NIV)

    2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How can we teach the next generation to be brave?

    Let's spur each other on today. Share today’s devotion with a friend or family member, asking them to join you in a chain of courage.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I'm Really Afraid

    I'm Really Afraid by Lysa TerKeurst

    “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Psalm 34:7 (NIV)

    A few years ago, one of my back teeth started hurting. It wasn’t the first time that tooth had given me trouble, and quite honestly, I just didn’t want to deal with it. That tooth had been a complete pain. Literally.

    I’d had not one, not two, but three crowns done on the same tooth. The first one broke. The second one broke. And though the third one seemed like it would finally work, the tooth started aching again. Ugh!

    The dentist informed me the only thing to do was to have a root canal.

    I’m okay with the word “root.” And I’m okay with the word “canal.” But when he put those two words together a wild fear whipped its tentacles around my heart and squeezed the life out of me. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t bring myself to schedule the appointment.

    So I dealt with the throbbing pain.

    For a year, I didn’t chew on that side of my mouth. I didn’t let cold drinks leak over to that side. And I took ibuprofen when the throbbing got the best of me.

    A year!

    Finally I’d had enough. The pain overrode the fear, and I made an appointment for the dreaded root canal.

    And you know what? I survived! Not only did I survive, but I honestly found the whole root canal ordeal to be no big deal. The fear of it was so much worse than actually having the procedure done.

    I think fear often plays out that way. Sometimes living in fear of what might be causes more stress and anxiety than actually facing what we fear. Is there something you’re avoiding because you’re afraid?

    Psalm 34:7 reminds me, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” To fear the Lord means to honor Him and magnify Him in my heart most of all. When I focus on or magnify my fears, they become all I can think about. So instead I’ve learned to focus on God by doing three things:

    • I cry out to Him with honest prayers. I verbalize to God what I’m afraid of and how paralyzing my fear is. I ask Him to help me see if this fear is a warning or an unnecessary worry. And then I ask Him to help me know the next step to take.
    • I open my Bible and look for verses that show me what He wants me to do in that moment of fear. I write down truths from the Bible about fear and then align my next thoughts and actions with His truth.
    • I then walk in the assurance that I am fearing (honoring) the Lord as Psalm 34:7 tells me to, therefore I know with certainty an angel of the Lord is encamped around me, and God will deliver me.

    I like this promise so much. It comforts me. It reassures me. And it challenges me to really live like I know it is true.

    What’s a fear you can face today? Think of an everyday fear holding you back. Is there a fear of confronting an issue with a friend? Is there a fear of stepping out in obedience to something God is calling you to do? Is there a fear of a medical diagnosis you just received?

    Oh, if I were there, I would totally hold your hand. Better yet, God is with you. And when you know He is with you and His angels are encamped around you, you can face your fears.

    Dear Lord, if a feeling of fear is a legitimate warning from You, help me to know that. But if this feeling of fear is more of a distracting detriment, help me be courageous and walk assured in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

    2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What fear currently has you feeling paralyzed? Take that fear today and walk through the 3 steps Lysa shared in her devotion — taking it to God honestly in prayer, searching for verses about fear and then moving forward clinging to the hope and truth of Psalm 34:7.

    Do you have a friend who’s battling fear? Take some time today to pray for her and actively encourage her.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding True Rest

    Finding True Rest by Ruth Schwenk

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

    “Whaaat do you waaaant?!?!” I bellowed with frustration, loud enough so my teenage son could hear me upstairs. He had just eagerly called my name and in my haste, I replied with anger.

    “Mom, I just wanted to tell you that I had finished cleaning my room without you even asking me. I thought you would be excited,” he replied meekly.

    Ugh. Instantly I was overcome with guilt.

    Wearily, I apologized: “I am so sorry, Tyler. Everyone is trying to talk to me at the same time, the dogs won't stop barking and the house is a mess. I am just overwhelmed, and I shouldn’t have responded that way. I’m sorry.” I was trying to justify myself as much as I was apologizing!

    Wow, where did that come from? I wondered. It’s amazing to me how motherhood can bring out the best in us, but also the worst. Being a mom can expose the true condition of our hearts.

    As the years have quickly passed and my children are getting older, I have slowly come to the conclusion that pretty much every time I am feeling irritable and on edge, there is one thing missing from my day.

    Jesus.

    He is the One who makes even the chaos seem peaceful. My day always goes better when I first pause to spend time with Him. I used to think that I had to get away and go somewhere like a particular place that had been well planned out. But I’ve discovered something very different.

    Rest doesn’t have to mean getting away from the noise, the busyness, the work or even the to-do list! Rest can be found right in the middle of it all.

    How? Because our rest is ultimately found in a Person. Rest is found in Jesus. The joy and peace I need starts by running to Him, abiding in Him, trusting in Him and staying close to Him.

    A soul at peace, no matter what is going on around me, is settled by clinging to Jesus' words and walking in Jesus' ways.

    Matthew captures the promise of peace and rest Jesus offers when he records Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

    That’s the rest I need. It’s where my soul is most satisfied. I can’t create Christlikeness on my own, but as I come to Jesus, He shares His life with me. Through the work of His Spirit in me, I am being made new. Who He is changes who I am, and I can have an easy soul when I rest in Him.

    Rest. Peace. A soul not easily moved. A mom who is strong when she is weak. All of this Jesus offers if we would just come to Him.

    For you, that might look like waking up 30 minutes earlier, sneaking away from your day for 15 minutes or taking a break from work to go for a short walk outside. For all of us, the time may look different, but the result is the same. When we press pause and find the quiet moments to meet with Jesus, He changes us. We can give the best of who we are by first giving ourselves to Jesus.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the blessing of being a mom. Remind me daily of the quiet moments I need to spend with You. Help me find my rest in You and in You alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 62:5, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Finding time alone with Jesus can be difficult. What will you do to ensure you take that much needed quiet time each day?

    © 2016 by Ruth Schwenk. All rights reserved.

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

  • You Are a Beautiful Design

    You Are a Beautiful Design by Matt Chandler

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

    The question of origin: “Who am I?” The question of purpose: “Why am I here?” and The question of design: “How do things work?” all find their root in Genesis 1:1.

    This verse tells us we were created. And because we are the created and not the Creator, we are not the measure of anything. We're not the point.

    That's hard because, if I can be honest, I like to be the point. I like everyone to defer to what I want, what I need and what I desire, and so do you. We all want to be the point, and when we feel like we're not the point, a lot of conflict is birthed.

    Although we may not be the point, God did create us differently than the rest of the world. Genesis 1:26a and 27 say, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’ … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NIV).

    But God didn’t stop there. Verse 31a adds a compelling completion to creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (NIV).

    That's the first time those words are used. Up until this point it was good, it was good, it was good, and now we have man and woman, and it's very good.

    In this passage, we get what theologians have called for a few millennia the Imago Dei, the image of God, and the idea that men and women are different from all of creation because we have been made in the image of God.

    There are several things textually that take place in this passage of Scripture that start to reveal that truth. First, there's a break in the rhythm. It's not just, “I created this, and it was good. I created this, and it was good.” It was all of a sudden a conversation inside the Godhead: “Let us make mankind in our own image.” Us, Our. This conversation in the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    Out of the overflow of Their unity, joy and perfection, They began to paint Their glory on the canvas of creation. And then, in the vastness of this universe, on this tiny little dirt ball in one of the smaller solar systems in this expansive universe, God placed His crown jewel of all creation: men and women, made in His image and endowed with dominion and authority.

    The Imago Dei is God's investment in humanity of God-like glory and moral capacity to reign and rule the earth as His representatives. This is what sets us apart.

    What are the implications of the Imago Dei? There is an intrinsic human dignity that places us above everything else in the creative order.

    We have an intrinsic value because of the image God has given to us. It's not a functional thing as much as a gift from God. And it shapes how we view humanity — those we live side-by-side with and those we’ll never meet.

    Yet we forget this amazing truth, and sin messes us up, and we treat each other in ways that must break God’s heart.

    What if we could really grasp that we have intrinsic value because we are made in the image of God? The difference would be incredible. This is God’s beautiful design for us, and we were made to walk in this beauty.

    Father, I thank You for our sameness. I thank You that we are brothers and sisters by Your design. May that truth shape how we view others, but first, may it shape how we view ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 43:6b-7, “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth. Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Write one area where you consistently look to the world (created things) for purpose or meaning. What would change if you began to look toward God and His good design in that specific area?

    © 2016 by Matt Chandler. 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

  • I Don’t Know the Future, but I Know Who Holds It

    I Don’t Know the Future, but I Know Who Holds It by Tracie Miles

    “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.’” Exodus 16:4 (NLT)

    I had barely slept as the worries in my heart grew bigger and bigger in the darkness. When the sunshine finally peeked through my window, I immediately began to pray. I poured out my heart to God and dumped all of my concerns at His feet.

    But as I continued praying, I began to notice a pattern. No matter what circumstance or concern I shared with God, they all seemed to share one underlying theme — the fear of lack of provision.

    You see my personal circumstances had changed, and suddenly my future was not as secure as it once seemed. I felt God convicting my heart with the need to stop fearing the unknown and start trusting, Him with the unknown. Then I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit saying, “I alone am your Provider.”

    With eyes closed and tears threatening to emerge, I nodded my head, “Yes, Lord. You are. Forgive me for doubting Your provision. I seek Your peace and ask You to take away the fears gripping my heart. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know You hold my future. Amen.”

    I opened my eyes and felt Jesus nudging me to have some time alone in His Word, so I picked up my phone and clicked on the app where I read one of my daily devotions. Immediately, hot tears pushed through my eyes as I realized the devotion was echoing the prayer I had just prayed minutes earlier. It specifically addressed the fears for provision I had just shared with God. In fact, it was nearly word for word. God had heard the cries of my heart, and He wasted no time reassuring me He was listening.

    The devotion was based on today’s key verse in Exodus where God provided for His people in a miraculous way. It was designed to bring them closer to Him, as they were forced to trust Him for their provision on a daily basis.

    I read about how the people of Israel had looked everywhere but “up” for their needs to be met. They’d been slaves to the Egyptians, and after God set them free, they had to fully trust Him for all of their needs. The slaves were physically free but still mentally enslaved to their habit of looking for provision from people and things.

    I thought about where I usually looked for provision, and none of them were “up.” I looked to my job. I looked to my husband. I looked to my checkbook or my savings account. I looked to my goals and dreams. I looked to my relationships. But now life was changing, and God was calling me to look to Him.

    Then I read further in the passage to Exodus 16:8 which says, “Then Moses added, ‘The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us’” (NLT).

    Ouch. I had been doing a lot of complaining and sharing my concerns. I realized my complaints were not only to my Provider, but against my Provider. The One who had always provided for me in the past, and He would continue to do so in the future, even if I didn’t know exactly how.

    After reading the devotion and thanking God for reminding me He was my Provider, I felt a wave of peace. Admitting my need for God and trusting Him as my Jehovah-Jireh, lightened my heart and changed my perspective from that day forward.

    I still may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future. And He has your future in His hands, too.

    Lord, I have been feeling enslaved to my thoughts of worry and doubt and I seek Your forgiveness. Help me remember You alone are the One who will provide for all of my needs — physical, spiritual and emotional. Help me recognize the sweet ways You are raining down manna each day and to trust You alone with the future. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What provisional needs have you been most stressed about?

    How might committing to trust God as your Jehovah-Jireh bring peace to your heart today?

    © 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Emerson Eggerichs and the Respect Effect

    A mom wrote:

    "I have been really struggling with my... son lately. Now I understand why every mother wants a daughter... because we “get” them! When my... daughter throws a fit about something, I know what angle to come from because I understand why she’s upset. When my son does something, I’m like, “Why did he just do that?” Again!"

    Mothers love their sons more than they love their very lives, but they readily confess ignorance and confusion.

    Every mother recognizes the woman in the girl and her longing for love. The feminine need for love rings loud and clear to all women. And, the desire to love is obvious. Who misses the nurturing nature of women and little girls?

    Yet as I talk to mothers and tell them there is a man in the boy, some respond with curiosity about who that man might be. These mothers admit they are a bit in the dark on God’s virtuous design of testosterone, unlike the way they intuitively grasp the purity of estrogen. One mom quipped (about her son), “We love these kids, but Lord help us; if they don’t have the same XX or XY chromosomes that we do, it can be like navigating a foreign country without a map.”

    But there is good news! In the book Mother & Son: The Respect Effect, I explain the attributes of mothernsonblogthe masculine soul. Both research and the Bible reveal the male’s need for respect.

    This is a simple and revolutionary insight into the heart of a son that we have overlooked—and shockingly so. This book is about a mother going beyond her love and applying respect to the heart of her son. Every mom will begin to see for herself this need in her son of any age. She will see her influence increase, her son motivated, and the two of them connect in ways she thought were not possible.

    I have collected hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from moms. You need to hear their testimonies. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your son.

    ------

    Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is internationally known for speaking on the topic of male-female relationships. Based on his personal experiences over three decades of counseling, as well as scientific and biblical research, Dr. Eggerichs has written numerous books and created the Love and Respect Conference for married couples.

  • There You Are!

    There You Are! by Jill Savage

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

    I walked into the room, secretly hoping someone would come talk to me, welcome me to the group and make me feel comfortable. When that didn’t happen in the initial moments, I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my email so it appeared I was connected to someone. Anyone.

    Jill, look around and see.

    The words weren’t audible, but God’s voice resonated deep in my soul.

    I moved my eyes from the phone to glance around the room. I questioned whether I actually belonged here. These women looked so put together.

    Jill, every woman here has a backstory … just like you. Stop comparing your insides to their outsides. They may look put together on the outside, but I’m at work in each of their imperfect lives on the inside. Can you see them through My eyes?

    Mustering every ounce of courage I could find, I left the safety of my seat and the feigned interest in my phone to walk across the room and start a conversation with another woman sitting alone. Initially it was awkward, but as we talked it felt good to actually be connecting with someone.

    I once read there are two kinds of people in this world: those who walk into a room and say, “Here I am. Come talk to me. Come make me feel comfortable,” and those who walk into a room and say, “There you are! You look interesting to get to know. I’d like to learn more about you.”

    Jesus was a master at being a “there you are” person. He saw people and reached out to them.

    Zaccheaus. The woman at the well. Each of His disciples. Jesus sought them out. He pursued them. He really saw them.

    If I’m honest, sometimes I don’t see well.

    In social settings I'm often more focused on my own comfort than I am on making others feel comfortable.

    As a parent, particularly when my kids were younger, I often parented “by herd.” I herded all five kids to church. To school. To activities. I saw them as a group instead of the unique individuals God made them to be.

    Sometimes I don’t see my husband. My heart screams, “Here I am. Look at me,” and I miss opportunities to bless and encourage him, or really see how tired or discouraged he is.

    Oh, to see others more like Jesus. To fully live out the message of today’s key verse, Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

    We aren’t perfect, but each and every day God is perfecting you and me to be more like Jesus. That includes moving from being a “here I am” person to being more of a “there you are” person as often as we can.

    Father God, thank You for seeing me. Thank You for pursuing me with Your unconditional love. Help me see like you do. Show me how to resist comparing my insides to other women’s outsides so I can stop comparing and start seeing. When I look at my husband, my kids and those around me, let me see them through Your eyes. Help me be more of a “there you are” person each and every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV)

    Genesis 16:13, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one step you can take to be more of a “there you are” person in your marriage or with your children?

    The next time you’re in a social environment, practice being a “there you are” person, and give someone the beautiful gift of being seen.

    © 2016 by Jill Savage. All rights reserved.

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

  • Stop. Look. Fix our Eyes.

    Stop. Look. Fix our Eyes. by Wendy Blight

    “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’” Acts 3:4 (NIV)

    Six years ago, a simple visit to the pediatrician turned our lives upside down when a doctor diagnosed our daughter Lauren, then 12, with scoliosis (curvature of the spine). We prayed for healing, but the curve worsened over the years. It finally reached the point where her pain was unbearable and surgery was our only option.

    The morning of her surgery greeted us early … 4:30 a.m., to be exact. As I looked into Lauren’s eyes, I saw fear. My bright-eyed, happy girl sat across from me with tears dripping down her cheeks. I excused myself because I knew I was about to lose it — and we hadn’t even left for the hospital yet. As I walked into my room, a tiny box caught my eye. It was one of the many gifts we had received from friends and family before the surgery.

    I had forgotten about this elegantly wrapped box. When I lifted the lid, beautiful feathers fluttered out. What a strange gift, I thought, until I read the tiny scroll tucked inside.

    You are the Almighty Most High and You offer us shelter and refuge when we trust You. Father, cover Wendy and Lauren with Your feathers and under Your wings may they find a safe dwelling place. Like the wings of a mother bird, may the shadow of Your protection rest over them and bring them peace, keeping them safe and sure.

    Her precious gift stopped me right in my tracks. It shifted my perspective from fear to feathers — feathers which represented God’s promises.

    As I looked at those feathers and the promises that went with them, I fixed my eyes on Jesus.

    I walked back downstairs and shared the feather and prayer with my girl. Our tears arrested. Our hearts full. We climbed in the car and headed to the hospital full of more faith than fear.

    This brings to mind a story from God’s Word where someone else needed a bit of perspective shifting. In today’s verse, Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray. While pressing through the crowds, they encounter a beggar who had been “lame from birth” (Acts 3:2, NIV).

    When the man asked them for money, rather than fulfill his request, the apostles looked him straight in the eye, and Peter commanded, “Look at us!” Peter demanded the lame man’s full attention to shift his focus … his perspective … from his immediate needs. To move this beggar beyond the visible and ordinary to the invisible and extraordinary.

    When I first read the story, “Look at us” seemed only like three simple words. However, God used them to shift this man’s perspective and change his life.

    I discovered other places in the Bible where God interrupted someone’s life to shift their perspective: Hagar in the wilderness to see a well of water (Genesis 21:19); Balaam to see the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:31); Elisha’s servant so he could see the chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17).

    It was only by God shifting their focus from the earthly to the heavenly, the natural to the supernatural, from despair to hope, fear to trust, that they experienced the extraordinary hand of God at work in their midst.

    Once the beggar locked eyes on Peter and John, he received the gift they had for him. But it wasn’t money. It was far better than silver or gold. By the power and authority Jesus had given them, the man was healed.

    This beggar. Lame from birth. Instantly. Completely. Healed.

    Sometimes thoughts of fear, despair and hopelessness consume us. Sometimes the entanglements of this world interrupt, even hinder, God’s ability to work in our lives.

    Like I did that day in my room, we too must make an intentional choice to shift our perspective. We must make a choice to …

    Stop. Look. Fix our eyes on Jesus.

    It’s here God will provide in ways more marvelous than we could ever ask or imagine. Like the beggar, we too will experience God’s life-transforming miracles. We will move from the earthly to the heavenly, beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.

    Father, I want to experience You as the miracle-working God You are. The Bible teaches You are the same yesterday, today and forever. I invite You to do a work in my life today. Help me take my eyes off myself, my circumstances, my trials, my ailments. Fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. The One who heals, redeems and restores. I ask You to do a life-transforming work in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does God need to shift your focus so you can receive His gift and move from the visible and ordinary, to the invisible and extraordinary?

    © 2016 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s Hard to Love Difficult People

    It’s Hard to Love Difficult People by Suzie Eller

    “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” Luke 6:32 (NLT)

    My dad stands at 5-foot-6 and wears a size 6‑1/2 shoe, but when my siblings and I talk about him, you’d think he was Goliath. We have stories … like the time Dad was walking the dog in the neighborhood and the dog stopped to sniff the grass. A neighbor came barreling out of his home and said, “Hey, don’t let that dog do his business on my lawn.” My dad’s fists curled, ready to take on the taller man if necessary.

    I love this man fiercely. He married my mother and took on two little girls as his own. He’s a good man, but when he was younger things weren’t easy. He wanted us to be protected, so he taught us to be tough. Early on, we learned lessons about dealing with difficult people that my dad was proud of teaching, including these:

    Don’t put up with nonsense.

    The person with the quickest fists wins.

    The problem with these lessons is that difficult people aren’t always strangers. Sometimes it’s your child. Sometimes it’s your spouse. It might be a coworker. In nearly any job or ministry, difficult people are almost guaranteed to be in the mix.

    When we live with our fists (or our words) ready to fly, we can become the difficult person and not even know it.

    In Luke 6:27-29, Jesus describes things difficult people might do: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

    Then, in the next few verses, He offers three radical ways to respond.

    1. Give extravagantly.

    “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30, NIV)

    Our first step is to become acutely aware that Jesus loves us right where we are. He loves us when we’re prickly. He loves us when we fail to think before we speak. As hard as it is to understand, we don’t always deserve a loving response, but our Heavenly Father gives it in generous measure.

    Being loved by Jesus allows us to love others. We are free to give a measure of mercy, even as we work through conflict to resolve differences.

    2. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

    “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31, NIV)

    When we treat others the way we want to be treated, we give up the need to control them or the situation. We stop looking for flaws, as we realize how deeply flawed we are as well. We hold back verbal karate chops, choosing words that heal rather than heat up the situation, because that’s exactly what we’d desire if the tables were turned.

    3. Love unexpectedly.

    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32, NIV)

    My pastor once asked this question: What if you made it to the end of your life having loved only those who loved you back?

    Loving difficult people is a harder path of faith, but it’s also where His greatest work begins in our own heart. It’s where we begin to learn new lessons like, “getting them before they get you” doesn’t make us stronger. Or that living on the defense all the time leaves us little energy to battle what really matters.

    I love my dad. He’s an awesome man and I’m grateful for him, but I’m also thankful for a Heavenly Father who frees us to love others with an open heart rather than curled fists.

    Lord, I’ve struggled with loving difficult people. I live constantly on the defense and I’m tired of it. I am well loved by You, and I ask that You help me love others in the same way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 3:15b-17, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Before pointing out another person’s shortcomings, how will realizing that you are sometimes the difficult person change the way you act and react?

    List one way God has responded to your flaws and thank Him for that mercy.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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