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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Escaping the Anxiety Trap

    Escaping the Anxiety Trap by Amy Carroll

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18a (NIV)

    He cried all the way to school, and I cried all the way back home. Day after day, my 7-year-old’s fears loomed large in our lives. The latest fear was of school, but his other fears had kept us from normal life routines for years.

    My husband and I tried everything we knew to reassure our son, but we were exhausted and out of ideas. Finally, in desperation, we turned to a Christian counselor.

    During one of our first meetings, she asked me to make a complete list of our son’s fears. I started the list, and then I listed some more. And I listed. And I listed. I was stunned when I saw the full scope of his anxieties.

    I finally got the courage to ask the questions weighing on my heart from the start. Through tears I asked: “Is this just the beginning? I need to know what to expect. Will these fears continue to grow for the rest of his life?”

    Our counselor smiled, explained that childhood anxiety is usually short‑lived and then told me a story. She had a friend who had struggled with overwhelming fear and anxiety since childhood. As her friend grew up, she came to a saving knowledge of Jesus followed by a calling to missions.

    Even though the friend overcame her fear enough to move to a foreign country, she confessed that there was constantly a gap of time between God speaking to her and obedience while she overcame the fear of change.

    The counselor gently reached for my hand and said, “Amy, you’re doing the right thing helping your son to face and overcome his fears now. If my friend had gotten help as a child, she would be able to obey God with joy instead of fear. That’s the goal!”

    I sobbed with relief and stoked my determination to fight his fears (and mine) to the death. If you’re in those shoes today, I want to encourage you. Fear can be vanquished, and it’s worth the work. Just keep your eyes on the prize …

    We can conquer our fears to follow God fearlessly. If you or your child feels overwhelmed by fear, here are steps our family took to find freedom:

    Memorize Scripture. Knowing key Scripture verses by heart was essential. We’d say the verse, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …” (1 John 4:18a). And then I’d ask our son to say who loves him, starting with God. The power and truth of Scripture is calming.

    Harness thought patterns. We talked about how fear is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The longer it rolls, the larger and faster it gets. When our son would start to panic, we’d say, “Let’s not let the snowball roll down the hill. Let’s talk about/think about something good.”

    Enlist the help of a Christian counselor. Our family hired a Christian counselor when we ran into a problem we couldn’t seem to solve ourselves. In our case, we only saw the counselor for a very limited time before we were back on our feet again. I’m a huge advocate for the power of outside help!

    Today, our son is a thriving college freshman. He didn’t overcome his fear and anxiety overnight, but we haven’t seen signs of them in years. He’s eager for his story to be told to help other people, so he gave me full permission to share it here. He wants you to know that freedom is achievable. God loves you and wants you to walk free from fear as you take steps of trust today.

    Lord, I want to be free from anxiety and fear. Teach me to trust Your Word and to give You my anxious thoughts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 3:6, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (NIV)

    Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are some things that feed your fears?

    What activities help you fight your fears? Choose to implement at least one of these today.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Interview with Glenys Nellist

    We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Glenys Nellist, author of Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Snuggle Time Prayers. We learned what an average day for her looks like, where she draws her inspiration from and more.

    She also discussed how adults complicate salvation and gave us insight into how she simplifies this idea for children by offering them an invitation to "join Jesus' team" by way of a small postcard found at the end of the each book.

    Check out the full interview below:

  • You’re Still Here. And You’re Still Awesome.

    You’re Still Here. And You’re Still Awesome. by Stephanie Raquel

    “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them … Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” Genesis 1:27, 31a (NLT)

    It had been a rough year.

    Our family had been hurt deeply by some people close to us, and as I reflected on Good Friday, I thought about how Jesus must have felt knowing the disciple Judas, one of His close followers, had betrayed Him. (For more about this, read Matthew 26:47-56.)

    I found myself on the verge of tears, empathizing with our Lord. Feeling personally wounded and rejected, I wondered what that experience must have been like for Him nearly 2,000 years ago.

    In the midst of my misty-eyed moment, my daughter walked into the room and could tell something was troubling me.

    She asked what was so upsetting, and I explained how hurt and dejected I was feeling. She knew about the betrayal as she, too, had been deeply hurt personally.

    But her words in that moment were wise beyond her years.

    She simply explained that unlike what Jesus endured, what happened to her didn’t kill her. “I’m still here, and I’m still awesome!” she declared.

    It made me smile and I hugged her, grateful for her encouragement.

    Perhaps you relate?

    Maybe you, too, know and appreciate that feeling of being wounded by someone once close to you — a friend, a neighbor, coworker, family member, a spouse — someone you loved dearly.

    And maybe you could use a little reminder that no matter how much heartache you’ve experienced, whatever happened to you didn’t kill you: You’re still here. And you’re still awesome.

    Still wonder if God thinks you’re awesome? Let’s go back to the beginning when God made all of creation for five days in a row and called it “good.” But as today’s key verse reminds us by the end of creation, we see a new phrase describing God’s greatest creation: Human beings were deemed “very good.”

    Yes, God made “good” things like the earth, the sun, the moon, the plants, the oceans, the animals and more. But when God created people, something was quite different. Genesis 1:31a says: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”

    Made in God’s divine image. Declared “very good.” Indeed that, to me, equals awesome.

    Ironically, thinking back to Judas’ betrayal, it’s because of Jesus’ shed blood at the cross that we can fully rest in that truth. When we know Jesus personally as our Savior, God the Father sees us as holy, blameless, perfect, co‑heirs with Christ. And again, that amounts to even more awesomeness.

    I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t always easy for me to embrace. I need constant reminders. But I am choosing to live my life in light of these truths and pray you’ll do the same.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me in Your image. This Easter, help me remember that it’s because of Your Son’s death on the cross that I can fully accept the gift of being deemed “awesome” in Your eyes, not just here on earth, but for all eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.” (NLT)

    Ephesians 2:10, “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.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of someone who’s recently been going through a tough time. Send her a text or drop her a personal note that says simply, “Just wanted to say that You. Are. Awesome. Yes, you are awesome.”

    Spend some time reflecting on the truth of God’s Word in Ephesians 2:10, which declares that you’re awesome as His masterpiece. If you haven’t already memorized this verse, write it on a notecard or add it into your phone so you can commit it to memory.

    © 2016 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • Jesus’ Prayer for You

    Jesus’ Prayer for You by Lysa TerKeurst

    “… that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23b (NIV)

    I treasure reading about the last moments of Jesus’ life with His friends in the Upper Room, especially around Easter. But at the same time, my heart aches. He knew all that was about to happen to Him. Within hours of this last time together, He knew:

    • One of them would betray Him.
    • The others would not stand with Him.
    • He would soon endure extreme brutality all alone.

    And yet, somehow He was focused enough to stay very present in this moment instead of living in dread of the horrific moments to come.

    Yes, on this night over 2,000 years ago, they ate together. They drank together. They experienced Jesus’ last supper together.

    Then He prayed. For Himself. For the disciples.

    And then for you and for me.

    The fact that Jesus thought of and prayed for us in these final moments astounds me.

    I need to read what He prayed. But even more importantly, I need to live what He prayed.

    “… that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23b)

    May those of us whom He brought to complete unity let the world know about Jesus and His love.

    Unity. Love.

    Of all the many things He could have prayed for us, it was unity and love. That’s what He prayed. But is this what we live?

    Do I see unity and love in the way Christians speak about one another online?

    Do I see unity and love in the way I handle frustrations?

    Do I see unity and love in the way I process people who think differently than I do?

    Do I see unity and love between pastors and churches and denominations?

    Sometimes I do. But heartbreakingly, many times I don’t.

    If I don’t see what should be the defining marks for us Christians, what must the onlooking world think?

    These are hard questions, but they’re necessary questions. Ones that are good for me to address in my own life.

    I think I’m finally understanding that I don’t have to bend my beliefs or compromise my understanding of Scripture to walk in unity and love with others. We can be united by our love for Jesus even if we’re divided on the specific issues.

    The main thing is Jesus. And I guess everything else will be sorted out with crystal clarity in heaven.

    This Easter, might we each choose to embrace a God-honoring unity and love in our lives. We honor Him most when we live His prayer.

    Father God, You long for us to receive the love of Jesus and to live the love of Jesus. For us to walk in unity and in love. Help us to tear down the barriers we have constructed to keep others at a safe distance, especially the ones we struggle with or disagree with, and help us to simply and sincerely love one another. May our hearts be challenged and our lives be changed by Your call to unity and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are there any people in your life you find it hard to walk in unity and love with? Spend some time in prayer today asking God to show you how you can begin to walk out Jesus’ prayer in these relationships.

    Pray for unity today between our pastors, our churches and our denominations. When we walk in unity, we display the love of Jesus to the world — the kind of love that will draw unbelievers straight to the heart of God.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • She Got More Likes Than I Did

    She Got More Likes Than I Did by Tracie Miles

    “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

    “Should I delete my Instagram pic? I only got 12 likes in the first five minutes,” I overheard one of my daughters say to the other.

    In typical mom fashion, I took that opportunity to remind them that their beauty, value and self‑worth did not hinge on the opinions, approvals or disapprovals of others, much less how many “likes” they received on a picture.

    And of course, in typical young adult fashion, I got a couple of eye rolls. But that’s okay. Because every now and then, we all need to be reminded of the truth.

    I get where they’re coming from, especially considering today’s online culture. I vividly remember what it felt like as a young girl to long for the approval and acceptance of others. I also remember the insecurities that festered in my heart over feeling like I didn’t measure up or wasn’t accepted by my peers, or by boys. I remember the painful sting of rejection or being excluded — and that was long before everything was on the Internet.

    Unfortunately, those longings for acceptance, approval and love don’t end after high school or even college. Deep‑seated insecurities and the hurt of feeling rejected and unwanted are no less painful as an adult. In fact, those emotions are often personified as we look at others’ social media pages and see how many “friends” they have, how perfect their families look, how awesome their husbands seem to be, how great their lives appear and how many “likes” they get on their photos.

    But the truth is, behind those photos, real life happens. And it’s not always pretty or perfect. In fact, those same women we think have it all together or get the most “likes,” probably struggle with deep hidden hurts and the constant unmet need to feel accepted and wanted. To feel loved and treasured, instead of set aside and rejected. To feel we’re enough, instead of inadequate.

    I’m one of those women. Maybe you are, too.

    But what comfort it brings to read Paul’s words to God’s people in today’s key verse: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4).

    How reassuring to know there is One who always accepts us and thinks we are priceless. But the reassurances don’t stop there. Paul continues by telling believers, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:5-8, NLT).

    Whether we are 9‑ or 99‑years‑old, we all want to feel accepted, loved, approved of and liked. Maybe you long for the acceptance and love from a husband, a child, a friend or a community. Maybe there are days when you wonder if you are enough. Days when you lose sight of all the wonderful, unique things about yourself and instead focus on all the wonderful, unique things about everyone else. Everyone else who seems to be more accepted and “liked” than you.

    Those are the days when the verses from Ephesians 1 become the perfect poetry to recite in our hearts. They serve as sweet reminders that we have not only been individually chosen by a sovereign God, but that we are also blessed, accepted, forgiven and redeemed. And you can’t get any more “liked” than that.

    Lord, thank You for choosing me and loving me despite my flaws. Help me to remember this truth on days when I’m feeling like I’m not enough. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 42:1a, “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me.” (NLT)

    1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who or what causes you to feel like you’re not accepted or enough? Say a prayer for God to replace those insecurities with holy confidence in who you are in Him and to Him.

    Have you been so focused on your own perceived shortcomings or rejection from someone whose approval you longed for that you’ve forgotten how precious you are to God? What can you do to change your perspective?

    © 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Good Work of Home Work

    The Good Work of Home Work by Sarah Mae

    “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

    Tucked into a mountaintop, surrounded by trees and blue skies, her home sat waiting to greet me. As I approached her door, I saw a sign on the side of the house that said, “Welcome, Sarah! We are so glad you are here!” Through the front door, into the entryway, I was greeted with smiles and hugs. After introductions, I was shown to my room where I would be staying for the next few days.

    Next to the neatly made bed was a bottle of water, a vase of simple flowers, a beautifully hand-written note and a little jar of foil-wrapped chocolates.

    This lovely set-up, personally arranged, was all for me.

    Back upstairs, the smell of a homemade meal was floating in the air. Candles were lit and classical music played in the background.

    This was my first time at my mentor’s home. I had flown hundreds of miles to visit her, to spend time with her family and be mentored in person. And immediately upon pulling up to her home, I felt so special, so loved.

    I would have been happy just to spend time with her without any of the extras, but she chose to make things beautiful for me. Going the extra step to raise life above mere existence is her defining gift.

    I want to do that as well — to be someone who takes the time to make the ordinary into something beautiful.

    And I have that opportunity to offer more than the mundane every day because I have a home where eternal souls live, and where meals are made and laundry is washed and toilets are scrubbed and all of this work matters.

    I can make beauty right where I am for the people whom God has entrusted me with: my husband, my children, my neighbors and anyone else whom God brings to my home. This is my work, my first work, to carve out a space where love takes root and grows … where character is forged, humility is nurtured and holiness has a place to grow.

    There is purpose in this good work of home work.

    We see in the Scripture that work, including home work is never just work for the sake of itself; it is tied to purpose, to seeing our labor come to the fruition of an inner desire (see the Greek word ergon for reference). So our home work is a good work planned in advance by God to bring others to His very heart. All work is about His heart, which is of course about knowing Him and His love and offering that love to others.

    Knowing that all the work in my home from scrubbing the floors to tackling another load of laundry, from listening to one child tell me about her dreams to correcting another, from moderating a conflict to having the neighbor over for coffee as she tells me about her latest struggle, is all about loving God and loving others. My home work is about love, and that love overflows through a listening ear, a flower next to a guest’s bed, another homemade meal.

    Love is so often in the details.

    Whether you’re married or single, if you have children or you don’t, your home work is meaningful and beautiful and has great eternal purpose.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us and giving us good work to do. Please help us to walk in confidence and joy where you have called us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: It can feel overwhelming to invite others into our homes if we think everything has to be just right. But maybe there is someone out there, perhaps someone on your heart right now, who could use a gentle‑spirited friend?

    You don’t have to have your home in perfect order. Just brew some coffee, fluff the pillows and invite them in. The rest? Offer it as a good work to the One who planned it all in advance.

    © 2016 by Sarah Mae. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • What Should I Pray for My Children?

    What Should I Pray for My Children? by Lynn Cowell

    “‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’” Matthew 20:21 (NIV)

    “You don't know what you’re asking.”

    Have you ever wanted to make this statement to a loved one when their request seemed so big it teetered on crazy?

    Jesus did.

    After sharing with His disciples that He would soon be killed, the mother of James and John decided this was the right time to ask Jesus for a favor.

    Matthew 20:20-21 tells us: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’”

    What a bold woman! She just asked Jesus to make her sons His favorites in His kingdom.

    Jesus answered her request in the next verse: “You don't know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22a, NIV).

    This mom was asking Jesus to make her sons great — to give them the most prominent places in God’s kingdom.

    What mom doesn’t want greatness for her children? I have definitely been that bold, even begging Jesus at times “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” in the lives of my kids just like Ephesians 3:20 says. These are good, even Biblically correct prayers.

    But as I continue to read this chapter, I hear Jesus saying to me, just like He said to James and John’s mother, “You don’t know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22).

    As Matthew 20 continues, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that as His followers, their life journeys would not be easy. In fact, if becoming great was what they really wanted, Jesus told them there was only one way to obtain greatness: become a servant.

    “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27, NIV).

    My prayers are challenged by Jesus’ words. First, I am stirred by the question Jesus poses to the mother of two disciples. Not only do I hear Him asking, “What is it you want?” but there’s a deeper question: “Why do you want it?”

    When I am praying, asking God to do great things for and in the lives of my family, what is my motive?

    My reflection took me to one conclusion: the mother of James and John — and this mom — might have something in common. My requests of Jesus, my prayers, are often positioned from pride.

    I see pride because I want my kids to succeed because I believe who they are and what they do reflects on me. I've made that terrible mistake of equating what they do to how I did as their mom.

    Jesus says that to become great in His kingdom, my family, beginning with me, must do one thing: Become a servant. Yes, becoming great has to do with accomplishments, but not the type of accomplishments I may be thinking.

    Great accomplishments to Jesus are acts that serve others.

    My point today is not to encourage us to stop praying powerful prayers over our families. No, indeed we are to be praying fervently and without ceasing. It's part of what we do as moms and as investors in the lives of others.

    But maybe we need to truly understand God’s definition of great. Keeping a pulse on our hearts' motives, let’s pray that above all else, the Holy Spirit will empower us to be humble and become servants for Him and others.

    And may we pray for God's best in and for our families for the sake of His kingdom and not for the glory of our own.

    Lord, may we become great as You define greatness. Create in us the heart of a servant, choosing to work for Your glory and fame and not our own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 9:35, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (NIV)

    Luke 22:26, “But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to serve someone who does not have the ability to pay you back?

    Start a conversation with your family on how you can serve and practice goodness together.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Does Anyone Appreciate All I Do?

    Does Anyone Appreciate All I Do? by Glynnis Whitwer

    “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

    After finishing a big project at work, I was pretty proud of myself. Although most of my part had been behind the scenes, I hoped someone had noticed. The next few days, I checked and rechecked my emails and texts, waiting for an “atta girl” or “well done” message. But none came.

    While I was slightly disappointed, I didn’t make a big deal of it … that was until another person in the organization completed one small task as part of my bigger project and was praised effusively.

    Although I joined my thanks in the responses, my heart became very sad when my name wasn’t mentioned.

    The lack of notice hurt more than it should have. And over the next few weeks, my feelings got hurt with increased intensity, and I began to wonder if anyone appreciated all I do for them. It started at work but spread to home.

    When my kids left shoes in the living room I’d just picked up, or my husband didn’t say thank you for dinner, the hurt grew.

    When I finally broke down in tears one afternoon, I realized something had gotten mixed up. Why did my heart get bent out of shape when I didn’t get the praise and acknowledgement I thought I deserved?

    As I took some time to think this through, it seemed like somewhere over the previous months, my desire to serve my Savior was overshadowed by a desire for approval from others.

    Jesus taught on this very topic in Matthew 5 and 6. He gathered His disciples for a lesson on life in His Kingdom, which was radically different from the dusty streets of Galilee they knew. In this world, we do look to others for approval. But it’s very different in the Kingdom of God.

    Jesus wanted His disciples to understand an important truth: God is always watching. Whether our work is on a public stage or done in the quietness of our homes, God sees. And when we do things with a heart to serve Him, He rewards us with His pleasure.

    However, when we work with impure motives or just to gain others’ approval, that is our reward … temporary and superficial.

    It seems our heart motive makes the difference. Jesus cut right to the core issue in Matthew 6:1: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (NIV).

    The Jews were all about parading their righteousness in public hoping to be noticed, including praying with great spectacle. Jesus addressed that specific issue in our key verse, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

    Jesus wasn’t saying don’t ever pray out loud; He was giving us the key to break our desperate need for approval. According to Jesus, we receive God’s approval in the secret places, when no one else knows what we’ve done.

    As I looked back over that time when my feelings were hurt consistently, I realized I hadn’t spent much time in secret places with God. I hadn’t sought His approval.

    I managed to read a few Bible verses before bed and whisper a few prayers during the day. But the truth was I’d neglected time with my Heavenly Father. I’d exchanged His whispers of approval for the inconsistent and unfulfilling approval from people.

    I needed to get alone with God, quiet the world’s feedback, so I could hear His voice.

    And when I did, I realized that one word of approval from God is worth more than a hundred “atta-girl” comments.

    The next time disappointment creeps up when I’m overlooked, or I think, “Why not me?” — I’ll see it as a little warning. It’s my reminder to go back to that secret place. To spend time with God alone.

    That’s where I’ll get the acceptance my heart really wants.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for seeing what I really need and want. The approval of people never satisfies. Help me to see it as a poor substitute for Your approval — which brings me true joy and meaning. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 1:10, “Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” (NLT)

    1 Corinthians 3:13-14, “Their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Why is the approval of people often more important than God’s approval?

    What is one thing you can do in secret this week to try and break the addiction to approval from others?

    © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Marriage Lies

    The Marriage Lies by Lysa TerKeurst

    “[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a (NIV)

    The first five years of my marriage were really hard. Two sinners coming together with loads of baggage, unrealistic expectations and extremely strong wills.

    There was yelling. There was the silent treatment. There were doors slammed. There was bitterness. There was a contemplation of calling it quits. There was this sinking feeling that things would never, could never get better. That’s when I first started hearing the three lies:

    • I married the wrong person.
    • He should make me feel loved.
    • There is someone else better out there.

    I believed those lies. They started to weave a tangled web of confusion in my heart. All I could see was all that was wrong with him. I became so blind to his good. I became so blind to my not-so-good.

    And I wasn’t shy about sharing my frustrations about the whole situation with my friends.

    Most of them nodded their heads in agreement with me, making me feel ever‑so‑justified. But one didn’t. Instead she said, “I know what you think. But what does the Bible say?”

    Ugghhhh. The Bible? I didn’t think her “religious suggestion” would help me. But over the next couple of days, her question about looking into the Bible replayed over and over in my mind.

    Reluctantly and with great skepticism, I tried it one afternoon. I turned to a couple of verses she suggested, including 1 Corinthians 13. As I read the list of everything love is supposed to be, I got discouraged. My love didn’t feel kind, patient or persevering. The love in my marriage felt broken.

    I closed the Bible. It didn’t seem to do anything but make me feel worse. So much for that.

    Then a few days later, I heard an interview on a Christian radio station where a couple was talking about these same verses. I wanted to gag and turn the station. What do they know about how hard love can be? That’s when they said a statement that grabbed me, “Love isn’t a feeling; it’s a decision.”

    Wow.

    I went home and flipped to 1 Corinthians 13 again. This time, instead of reading it like a list of what love should make me feel, I read it as if I could decide to make my love fit these qualities. My love will be kind. My love will be patient. My love will persevere. Not because I feel it — but because I choose it.

    At the same time, God was working on my husband’s heart as well. We decided to make some 1 Corinthians 13 love decisions. Slowly, the cold stone wall between us started to come down.

    It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t overnight. But slowly our attitudes and actions toward one another changed. And I stopped believing the marriage lies and replaced them with these three marriage truths:

    • Having a good marriage is more about being the right partner than having the right partner.
    • Love is a decision.
    • The grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s greener where you water and fertilize it.

    Maybe you’ve heard the marriage lies before. My heart aches for you if you are in a hard place in your marriage. And believe me, I know tough relationships are complicated and way beyond what a simple devotion can possibly untangle. But maybe something I’ve said today can help loosen one knot … or at least breathe a little hope into your life today.

    Dear Lord, thank You for this truth, no matter how hard it is to read. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who gives me strength to turn from the lies and walk in Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Lift up an honest prayer to the Lord and ask Him how you can be the right partner for your spouse today. Also, try the 1 Corinthians 13 exercise Lysa mentioned in the devotion today and determine to fight against the marriage lies!

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why Dreaming Small Might Be the Secret to Living Your Biggest Dream

    Why Dreaming Small Might Be the Secret to Living Your Biggest Dream by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “I have asked one thing from the LORD — it’s all I seek: to live in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, seeing the LORD’s beauty and constantly adoring his temple." Psalm 27:4 (CEB)

    I was curled up with my Bible by the window when I heard the pitter patter of slippered feet. My young son stumbled down the stairs with his blue blankie in one hand and his tattered stuffed dog in the other. I moved the Bible in my lap to the broad arm of the leather chair where I sat, and my littlest boy snuggled up beside me in the morning hush.

    Joshua crawled on my lap, and I buried my nose in the soft nest of his tousled hair. I breathed in the subtle scent of little boy — a fragrant mix of yesterday’s backyard dirt and last night’s sleep. And together, we watched the sun’s pink fingers pierce the dark before dawn. We swapped sleepy chatter about school friends and soccer games, recess plans and superheroes.

    Then when my son grew quiet, my eyes roamed back to the Bible still lying open beside me. My early bird rested his head on my shoulder, and I read King David’s ancient overture to the metronome of my son’s rhythmic breathing.

    “I have asked one thing from the LORD … it’s all I seek:”

    “What does it say?” my boy murmured as he pointed to the holy writ marked with a streak of yellow highlighter.

    I put voice to the verse I’d just consumed in silence.

    “I have asked one thing from the LORD … it’s all I seek:”

    “Who wrote that?” Joshua asked.

    “King David,” I replied.

    “The one who killed the giant?”

    “Yep,” I answered.

    “The one who fought all those battles and lived in the palace and was a really really important king?” my little guy questioned, his sluggish posture now taut and alert.

    “That’s the one,” I nodded, smirking at my son’s growing enthusiasm.

    “Oh,” he said with a reverent sigh. “That David must have really loved God.”

    “Why do you say that?” I asked.

    “Cause he could've asked for anything ... And all he asked for was more of God.”

    My pensive one squirmed in my lap. Then, in a small, apologetic whisper he admitted, “I think I would’ve asked for something else.”

    My stomach lurched at my son’s honesty, and I leaned low to tuck my words in his ear. “Me too,” I conceded. “Me, too.”

    The morning sun was peaking above the treetops and the clock above the mantle ticked a steady warning that soon the big yellow bus would be chugging up the hill.

    But before I climbed the stairs to wake the rest of my children for school, I cuddled my small son and wondered if I’d been dreaming in the wrong direction.

    What if the secret to a large life isn’t found in dreaming big, but in dreaming small?

    Inarguably, King David accomplished “big things” in his lifetime. He slew a giant, conquered nations and ruled a dynasty. In fact, the reality of this hero’s life probably far surpassed the dreams he’d entertained as a lowly shepherd boy caring for his father’s sheep.

    However, if we read between the lines of his story, we see that the king’s colossal quest wasn’t for big fame or glory, but for a small gap between God’s heart and his.

    “I have asked one thing from the LORD — it’s all I seek.”

    When all was said and done, David’s burning desire was to enjoy the presence of His Lord. His greatest wish wasn't for gain, but for loss. And when this mighty king chose to lose himself in the Lord, he found the secret to living the life of his dreams; a life large enough to be remembered for generations to come (Matthew 1:6-18).

    “Hold me closer,” Joshua murmured as he twined his bony legs around mine. I pulled my son closer to my heart and diminished the space between us.

    Then I closed my eyes and asked my Heavenly Father for one small thing.

    Dear God, Shrink the gap between Your heart and mine and grow within me a giant love for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

    Psalm 73:28a, “But as for me, how good it is to be near God!” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing you could do today to shrink the gap between your heart and your Savior?

    What “big dream” may be keeping you from dreaming small? Ask Jesus to show you how to make Him your chief desire.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

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