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Author Archives: Karen Ehman

  • Do You Have Enough?

    Karen

    "Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'" Luke 12:15 (NIV)

    "On your mark. Get set. Go!!" my husband shouted as our three kids began the M&M race.

    The rules were simple. Each child had a bowl in a separate corner of the family room. In the middle of the floor sat a huge bowl of M&M's. The kids were to transport their candies one tablespoon at a time back to their individual bowls. If any dropped on the floor, they couldn't pick them up.

    The most important rule was this: when the timer rang, they had to stop in place. If the kids weren't sitting in their corner holding their bowl, all their M&M's would be forfeited.

    The clincher? We wouldn't tell them how long the timer would be set.

    Four-year-old Spencer, the family clown, giggled as he dashed back and forth, candies flying off his spoon. He kept going, thinking he would get the most by hurrying and scurrying.

    Methodical Mitchell was slow and careful so he could balance more candies on the spoon, not drop any and fill his bowl to the brim. But he forgot about the timer.

    Big sister Kenna quickly clued in to the "catch" of the game. She too was careful transporting her M&M's. But after a few trips, she sat down with bowl in lap and waited.

    Moments later the timer went off. Spencer dove for his bowl. Mitchell, who was meticulously scooping, realized all of his tedious effort had come to nothing. Both boys were without a single M&M.

    In her corner sat their sister, now the proud owner of everyone's candies. One boy began to complain, the other to cry. They wanted their candy! We had them calm down to listen as we finished the Bible lesson. There was a point to this shenanigan.

    My husband read the story of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. This man had a prosperous farm that earned him quite a deal of money. Instead of using his wealth to bless others, he tore down his barns and built bigger ones to stash his stuff.

    However, that very night, life's timer would go off and he would die. All of his earthly possessions would be of no value to him. In fact, they would be left for others. We related this story to our family game that day.

    You know, when I step back and look around, it's easy to see how I can seek excessive earthly treasures too. I spend money on things I don't need instead of giving to feed the poor or reaching out to people with the good news of Christ. Clothes, out-on-the-town outings, or money spent on luxuries for ourselves can fill our home and heart. I'm not only talking about really expensive items or trips. It can be as simple as a pair of sandals on sale.

    Even though three pairs of sandals sit in my closet that are in good condition, I can justify spending $15 on new ones. They're cute, match my favorite blue shirt and are half price! And I sure do want to get to the store early so my size is still there.

    Do I really need them? No. Do I want them? Yes. And here's where I have to do some soul searching and re-read the story of the greedy farmer from Luke12:15. In it, we're warned, "Then he said to them, 'Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.'"

    Am I hoarding my money for an abundance of possessions? Could I limit myself by setting a budget for splurges (like those sandals) and spend the money I save on needful things?

    While there is merit in saving for a rainy day, we should also share that which God has given us. This is exactly what our daughter did that day with her M&M's and her two baby brothers!

    Dear Lord, show me where I can spend less on myself and more on others. All I have belongs to You. May I use it for Your glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: A Life That Says Welcome, Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others by Karen Ehman

    The NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women with 366 devotions written by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team on everyday life.

    Reflect and Respond: Keep track of what you spend on items that aren't necessities. How could you spend that money in a way that would help someone else?

    What areas are strongholds for you in the struggle with greed? Pray about what action God would have you take to curb your cravings for more.

    Power Verse: Proverbs 28:25, "The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Mistaken Identity

    Karen

    "He who belongs to God hears what God says." John 8:47a (NIV 1984)

    I poured a cup of coffee and logged on to my computer to peek at a friend's Facebook page.

    When I tried hopping over to see her latest pictures, I couldn't get her name to appear in the search bar. I was puzzled. This had always worked before. Glancing at the top of the screen, I realized I wasn't logged in to my own account. My son had forgotten to sign off when he'd been on earlier, so I was actually logged in as him instead.

    I couldn't get where I wanted to go because I had a mistaken identity.

    With a quick click of a mouse, I switched accounts and used Facebook as "me." Under the right identity, I was free to view friends' pages, leave comments with ease and get where I wanted to go.

    Sometimes in life we encounter the same issue-a mistaken identity keeps us from living out God's best for our lives. This may happen when a voice from our past or our own negative self-talk causes us to forget our identity in Christ. We log into our day and encounter wrong thinking that's not in sync with who we are. Those wrong thoughts lead us to doubt God's promise of a life filled with security. We can question our value that is rooted deep in His heart toward us.

    Instead of the truth of our identity, we hear: You can't do that. You aren't good enough. You'll never change. Why can't you be more like your sister? If only you were more ____________ instead of so ___________.

    When self-doubt screams and discouragement sets in, we need to recognize what's happening, log out of the lies we believe and log into God's truth. It's the only way to live in our true identity so we can navigate our lives according to God's Word.

    Here are some truths we can tell ourselves to remember who we are: I am the daughter of the Most High God. I am loved, redeemed and renewed. I am chosen, blameless and holy. I was bought at a great price. God knows me thoroughly and yet loves me completely. He has plans for my future that include hope, not harm; blessings, not banishment. I belong to Him.

    John 8:47a tells us, "He who belongs to God hears what God says" (NIV 1984). We need to listen to His Word, let it take root in our minds and allow it to eradicate any untrue, destructive thought patterns. Replacing the negative chatter with assuring scriptures will gently, but firmly, remind us we are children of God.

    Yes, if we "belong to God" we will hear what He says. As we log into His truths daily, no longer will we mistake our identity. We will know the confident reality of who we are in Christ.

    Dear Lord, when I am tempted to think of myself in a way that is neither healthy nor true, remind me both of who I am and to Whom I belong. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness by Suzanne Eller

    Reflect and Respond: What are some counter-productive or self-doubting thoughts that race through your mind at times? The next time you sense this happening, read Ephesians 1:3-14.

    Power Verses: Romans 1:6, "And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (NIV 1984)

    1 John 3:1a, "Consider this: The Father has given us his love. He loves us so much that we are actually called God's dear children. And that's what we are." (GW)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Didn't Sign up for This

    Karen

    "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good ..." Genesis 50:20a (NLT)

    "I didn't sign up for this!" my friend moaned as we reviewed the printed class schedules we'd just picked up in the school office.

    While I had gotten all my desired classes, she had been assigned one she had absolutely no interest in taking. She couldn't imagine spending four months stuck in a classroom studying something she disliked.

    I tried to empathize, but truthfully I felt she was whining about a very minor issue. Her life, in my estimation, was absolutely fantastic. She came from a well-to-do family. Her parents had been happily married for over 25 years. She had a big extended family and fun get-togethers. She had straight teeth and a nearly-new car.

    I, on the other hand, came from a family rocked by divorce and financial struggles. I had only one brother with whom I didn't get along. My car was old and ugly. My teeth needed braces, but the funds had never been available.

    Hearing her complain about her schedule started my descent into self-pity as I compared my circumstances to hers.

    The more I thought about the unfairness of my life, I reached the same conclusion she had when she spied that unwanted class: "I didn't sign up for this!"

    My friend and I both felt stuck. However, our situations weren't life-threatening. They were issues we could work to change. We could learn the lessons God had for us by not always having a perfect life. And if truly unable to change parts of our circumstances, we could still change our attitudes.

    A young man in Scripture, Joseph, also found himself smack dab in a heap of hassles and difficult situations he never signed up for. His jealous brothers sold him into slavery. He was whisked away to live in a foreign land. To top it off, he was falsely accused of raping his master's wife even though he tried his best to stay away from her. He even wound up in prison.

    These unjust circumstances could have had him complaining, "I didn't sign up for this!" He could have retaliated against those who had caused his turmoil. But he didn't.

    Joseph maintained a God-fearing, God-honoring attitude throughout his ordeals, even as a slave with no freedom in sight.

    At the end of his life we get a glimpse into his continual Christ-like behavior. He'd risen from slave to governor of Egypt through his discernment and wisdom. When his brothers came to buy grain during a famine from the Egyptian authorities, they were shocked to see their younger brother—long thought dead—sitting in a position of power. They feared he would retaliate for the cruel things they did to him, but Joseph's response? "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good ..." (Genesis 50:20a).

    Joseph refused to let life's hard knocks knock him off course, preventing him from living a life that pleased God. He believed in a God Who works all things together for good. By recognizing God's redemption of horrific circumstances, he found true spiritual freedom from self-pity, anger and retaliation. Instead he characterized what God wants of us in Micah 6:8b, "And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?" (NAS).

    Today when I am tempted to whine as I compare my life with someone I perceive has an easier one, I remember Joseph, the slave-by-force. I want to emulate his attitude, be spiritually free, and walk in the ways of God.

    It also prompts me to remember that today forced slavery still exists; women and children are forced into the sex-trafficking trade every day. These precious ones sit in atrocious circumstances due to no fault or choice of their own.

    We enjoy simple freedoms they never get to experience. Unless ... we band together, purposing to do something about this awful practice. Could we dare to get our eyes off of our sometimes minor problems and spend time doing justice, acting kindly and humbly walking with God to help free these slaves?

    No matter our circumstances, it's never too late to be free. Our God-honoring attitude that comes from a shift in perspective can help us find spiritual freedom. And our intentional actions can help others imprisoned in slavery find freedom, physically, spiritually and emotionally.

    Dear Lord, help me take my eyes off of my circumstances and fix them solely upon You and Your plan so I can find true spiritual freedom and offer freedom to others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Priceless: A Novel on the Edge of the World by Tom Davis

     

     

     

    Reflect and Respond: When you can't change the circumstances, how might you change your attitude, bringing it in line with Scripture?

    Power Verse: Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose." (HCSB)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Clashing with Others

    Karen

    "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found..." Proverbs 10:12-13a (ESV)

    My husband and I often joke about what would have happened in our college-courting days if we had sent our profiles to an online match-making website. We are pretty sure that instead of pairing us, the computer screen would have blinked DO NOT DATE!! TOTALLY NOT COMPATIBLE!

    We're a lot like the two candlestick holders on the dresser in our bedroom. While both are crafted from solid brass with similar round bases, the rest of each holder couldn't be more different.

    One is straight and streamlined, more functional than fancy. That candlestick holder has tall, strong lines. The second is designed with a touch of flair. It has two strands of brass that whirl and swirl from top to bottom in a "look at me" manner.

    I found the candlesticks at different yard sales. While their styles aren't the same, somehow this eclectic pair is an interesting match. And more importantly, they're a visual reminder to my husband and me of our marriage.

    My husband is the first candlestick. No frills. Straight-forward. Only about function. I am the second one. Crazy. All over the map. All about fun. While we both are "forged from brass" in that we are followers of Christ with the same spiritual foundation, pair our opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum personalities together and disaster could ensue.

    Beyond the normal male/female differences, we have a lot in our personalities that cause friction and sometimes (mostly from me) snapping and harsh words.

    Mismatched personalities in marriage, parenting or in work or friendship situations, can cause frustration, anger and at times, wounded feelings.

    Someone who is not wired as we are, does not think like we do and who makes decisions and carries out actions we would never dream of, can rub us the wrong way. It causes our feathers to ruffle and not-so-nice thoughts enter our brains.

    Usually, if dealing with a non-family member, we manage to keep our composure and tame our tongues to avoid saying anything we might regret. With our children or spouses however, sometimes we open the floodgates and spew cutting comments, nasty words, criticisms and awful accusations. My husband and I call it "throwing flesh balls." At that point, we no longer "walk by the Spirit" but "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16 NIV).

    If I allow it, my flesh likes to be satisfied and nothing satisfies it more than a good ol' verbal assault on my thinks-and-acts-so-differently-from-me husband.

    There's a different way God calls me to respond though. Proverbs 10:12-13a provides direction for how we should handle conflicts that arise from trying to mesh two differing personality types. "Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found ..." (ESV).

    Love is key to wise responses in a relationship. Because we love God, and others, we should seek to understand when we clash. And ask God for wisdom when we don't understand. We should love intentionally. Not necessarily in an "ushy-gushy, touchy-feely" way, but in an "I am going to choose to react gently and behave kindly because that is what God is asking me to do" sort of way.

    Cementing this thinking in our minds will help us to respond with God's love and biblical truth. Especially when faced with someone who thinks and acts differently than us.

    Will you join me in purposing to stop stirring up strife when it comes to someone in your life? And to choose to love and understand them? Especially when they are oil while you are water. Yes, even your spouse.

    Dear Lord, grant me the ability to speak kindly, respond gently and at times, to hold my tongue. I want my actions and reactions to please and reflect You and Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: The NIV Real Life Devotional Bible for Women with devotions by the Proverbs 31 team.

    Reflect and Respond: What is the driving force behind your words when you spew anger? Wanting to be right or to be heard? Anger, selfishness, or pride? Take time to formulate a loving, understanding, and godly reaction for the next time you clash with someone.

    Power Verses: Proverbs 15:1, "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (ESV)

    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)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Answer Envy

    Karen

    "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3 (NIV)

    Do you ever envy God's answers to someone else's prayers?

    I recall the twinges of pain that shot through my heart each time I would open my mailbox discovering yet another baby shower invitation. As a young bride longing to become a mother, the joy of my positive pregnancy test was shattered a few months later when I suffered a miscarriage. And, although I was genuinely thrilled for my friends who were pregnant, I was also heartbroken that it wasn't my name on those pale pink or baby blue invites.

    I call this answer envy. It is that "poor me" mentality that creeps into my heart when God answers someone else's prayers more quickly than mine. Or when His answer seems to be a "no," or at least a "not right now."

    I've had my fair share of answer envy outbreaks over the years, at all stages of life.

    As a child, I was envious of the kids who came from two-parent homes while I resided in a family torn apart by divorce. No matter how hard I folded my little hands and prayed to God, my daddy didn't come back to us.

    In high school, it was other girls' good looks, cute clothes or even cuter boyfriends that I longed for. Instead, I was granted average looks and wore hand-me-down fashions. And, as sports editor of our school paper, although I was every guy's pal, I was usually nobody's gal.

    In college, I envied those whose prayers for a knight in shining armor (complete with a diamond ring) were answered while I remained single.

    My heart was filled with questions. God, why did my daddy leave? Where's my knight? Why don't I have a baby to hold? When will it be my turn?

    Over the years I've discovered the cure for answer envy isn't always easy. Rather than stay stuck in disappointment, I must play an active role in my healing.

    What I need is a shift in perspective. When I call out to God with my questions as encouraged in Jeremiah 33:3, I must trust He will keep His word. He will tell me "great and unsearchable things" that I do not know. Sometimes those things He provides are the answers to my request. However, do you know what those great and unsearchable things more often are? They are the reasons He seems not to be answering my original request!

    While God is generous to answer my requests, I also need to ask myself some questions. Questions like, "What is my Creator trying to teach me that I might never learn if He were to suddenly pluck me out of this situation?" Or, "What character qualities is He trying to grow in me? Patience, trust, compassion, contentment?"

    Not available in quick microwave form, the cure for answer envy has to be cultivated moment by moment.

    We must believe that God will answer. He will clearly say "yes," "no," or "not right now." He is able, ready and willing to answer our prayers—here is the catch—as He sees fit and to grow us to be more like His Son in the process.

    Sometimes we'll have a long stay in God's waiting room. Having been there myself, I now know this to be true: I must not merely seek the answer to my prayer. Instead, I must seek a deeper relationship with the answer Giver.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your perfect plans ... Your perfect timing ... and the perfect way Your development happens in my times of waiting. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    If you have trouble trusting God's timing and try to "fix things" yourself instead, check out Karen's latest book LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

    Follow us on Facebook.

    Reflect and Respond: Think back on a prayer request or two from your past where God seemed not to be answering. What else did you learn about Him as you waited for His reply?

    List out personal prayer requests you currently have. As you continue walking through life in the next few months, next to your requests, chronicle all of the peripheral blessings that come from the waiting.

    Power Verses: Psalm 38:15, " But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer." (ESV)

    Romans 8:25, "But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Micromanaging Mama

    Karen

    "Don't let your spirit rush to be angry, for anger abides in the heart of fools." Ecclesiastes 7:9 (HCSB)

    I couldn't think of anything more exciting than going to Sylvia's house for the afternoon. She had fancy clothes and the neighborhood's only built-in swimming pool. But best of all?

    Sylvia had one amazing dollhouse.

    There were bedroom sets with dressers, cloth curtains in the windows, and colorful spreads on the beds. There was a living room set with a tiny television and a kitchen with real-looking appliances in the trendy shade of turquoise.

    To top it all off, it came with a family - pliable, lifelike miniature human beings who smiled no matter how I posed them. There was even a trusty canine I named Scrappy.

    I could arrange the furniture any way I desired. The petite pots and pans were just the way I liked on the stove to simmer. The baby woke up from her nap just when I wanted. The family members entered and exited on my cue. No object missed a single prompt in the scenarios that played out at the ends of my chubby little fingertips.

    However, my perfect little world was easily shattered. Sometimes, when I had to go home to eat dinner, Sylvia wanted to play with her own toys. Later I'd return to find the house rearranged by someone who was not going along with my program.

    I never liked when someone messed with my plan. In fact, it made me angry.

    Today my days still revolve around a house. The furniture is bigger. The dishes and rugs are real. The people are too. And I still don't like anyone messing with my plan.

    Messing with my plan often looks like this: abandoned dirty dishes, shoes scattered haphazardly, newly washed windows dotted with sticky fingerprints, mud tracked floors, crumbs trailed, trash not taken out as asked, homework undone, pokey kids making the family late for church. Again.

    And sadly, messing with my plan can also find me behaving like this: sharp words strategically hurled, a caustic demeanor meant to snap my family to attention, or a "martyr mom" pose I suddenly strike to convey my "I-do-so-much-for-all-of-you-people-and-what-thanks-do-I-get?" message.

    At times like this, as today's key verse from Ecclesiastes 7:9 states, my spirit rushes to anger. When anger takes the lead, I can go from mild-mannered mother to micromanaging mama in three seconds flat to try and make my family "get with the program—and PRONTO!"

    Rushing to anger in an attempt to micromanage can lead to hurt feelings, crumpled spirits and fractured relationships in need of repair. Of course we should expect our children to do as they are asked, to perform their chores or remember their school responsibilities.

    But, when they don't—because they are kids and like us, not perfect—how will we chose to behave? Do we choose to be like Jesus who would respond appropriately and with self-control or like a wild woman who somehow thinks yelling is effective although it has never, ever worked in the past.

    Will you join me in a challenge to pause before pouncing? To not rush to anger and instead rush to Jesus' side? It is there we can allow Jesus to temper our tempers and filter our words so we can behave in a way that honors Him—and our family members too.

    Dear Lord, teach me to rush to You instead of rushing to anger. I want others to clearly see You reflected in my actions and reactions. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    For a more in-depth study of the topic of this devotion, check out Karen's new book and DVD curriculum LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith.

     

    Reflect and Respond: Think back to a time when you rushed to anger over the condition of your home or the behavior of a family member. What happened?

    How could the situation have been different if you'd rushed to Jesus' side instead, seeking His wisdom and self-restraint?

    Power Verses: James 1:19-20, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Boomerang of Blessing

    Karen

    "The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed." Proverbs11:25 (NLT)

    I tried my best to smile for the camera in the grocery store. Tears welled up in my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks, dragging my mascara along for the ride. I had one toddler on my hip and a baby on the way, a pressing concern when our only income was from my husband who was paid straight commission. Some weeks he earned money; others brought no paycheck at all.

    That day in the store, my budget was so tight my dollars squeaked! As a result, I had to remove a few items from the conveyer belt as I watched the total mount. As I paid for my order, the cashier handed me a scratch-off card from the store's current promotion. Customers could get money off of their order by matching dollar amounts revealed on the card.

    I used a dime to rub away the shiny silver coating, revealing a $10 match! Smiling, I handed the clerk the card and asked for the "can't afford them" items back. "Sure!" she replied. "Now, do you want to use the remainder of your prize today or on another trip?"

    My puzzled look must have clued her in. "What?" I questioned. She then showed me I'd actually won $100! A manager quickly snapped my picture to display alongside the other smiling winners on the store's wall. Only in my photo, my smile was saturated with grateful mascara-smudged tears.

    During those lean days God always took care of us, often through generous people in our lives: groceries left anonymously on our porch, cash in an envelope tucked under our windshield after church, and hand-me-down clothes from an acquaintance who wanted to share her children's outgrown clothes.

    We learned to live frugally during that time, and yet God also challenged us to give. As we did, we found ourselves blessed. Sometimes monetarily. Always spiritually.

    Nowadays, although at times our family experiences layoffs due to the nature of my husband's employment, we are in a place where we can more consistently be the "bless-er" and not just the ones being blessed. What a thrill it is to treat, secretly pay, or stealthily provide as we ourselves become spiritually blessed and ultimately God—the giver of all things—is glorified. As Proverbs 11:25 states, "The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed" (NLT).

    Will you willingly contribute to God's work and also to others, refreshing them as God also refreshes you? What we have—both our money and possessions—all belongs to God. When we give, we receive. The boomerang of blessing comes right back around.

    How might you seek to display generosity toward someone today? You just might make their day. Or perhaps, even make their mascara run.

    Dear Lord, teach me to treat all I have as Yours. May I give willingly and cheerfully as I seek to be a blessing to those in my life who might need a helping hand. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    If you want to learn to increase your faith and trust in God, check out Karen's new book and DVD curriculum LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith.

    Reflect and Respond: Name a time when you were blessed by someone's generosity, whether in person or anonymously. How did it make you feel to be the recipient of their kindness?

    Do you know someone who is currently in financial need? Bless them this week with either money or needed items.

    Power Verses: 2 Corinthians 9:7, "Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver." (HCSB)

    Matthew 6:3-4, "But when you give to the poor, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (HCSB)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Junk Closet Heart

    Karen

    "Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults." Psalm 19:12 (HCSB)

    Our basement furnace room is not a pretty sight right now. This out-of-the-way space is a catch-all place for off-season items and assorted memorabilia. To combat clutter and keep objects organized, we've purchased shelves and large plastic totes over the years to neatly house our family's stuff.

    In my perfect plan, bins are labeled, shelves are stocked tidily with homemade canned goods, and holiday decorations nestle themselves neatly in our oh-so-organized furnace storage room. And truthfully, this is how it usually goes. Well, 82% percent of the time.

    However, when we are not intentional to actually walk into the room and place items in the proper bin or situate them on their assigned shelf, we tend to revert to the open, drop, and shut method of organization: open the door, drop the item just inside the room, and shut the door tightly so that the accumulating pile of clutter is not visible from the adjacent family rec room.

    The result is an unattractive pile of stuff that slowly grows and messes with my plan of an orderly storage room. When this occurs, I have to stop what I'm doing and carve out time to sort and situate the items back to their proper place.

    At times my heart can become a catch-all for clutter and junk too. It is not my intent to have a messed-up heart that harbors incorrect attitudes or contaminated thoughts that eventually might lead to wrong actions or even unconfessed sin. However, when I am not intentional to put those thoughts and feelings in their proper place—under the authority of Christ—they can soon breed a bunch of unwanted and sinful "stuff" in my spirit that messes with God's plan for me to behave like His Son. And although the outside world may not see it, behind the door of my heart I know the junk pile is there.

    For believers to keep this spiritual clutter at bay, we must make a regular habit of asking God to show us if we are collecting such unwanted attitudes, thoughts and issues.

    Are we harboring anger, bitterness, envy or ill-will? Have we accumulated spiritual laziness or a love for something that is greater than our love for God?

    Without putting these away soon by confessing them to God, we might end up with an unintentional pile of spiritual junk that often can lead to sins we never set out to commit. Hidden anger in our heart toward another becomes harshly hurled words. Secret envy morphs into gossip. Behind-the-scenes bitterness begets public bad behavior.

    Let's make today's key verse our heart-cleaning plea, "Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults." God is the Master de-clutterer who alone can help us deal with the messes we might make.

    Let's allow Him to clean out the clutter of our hearts and make our spirits whole again. This is spiritual pile-busting at its very best.

    Dear Lord, teach me to bring any unconfessed sins to You early so they do not pile up making a mess of my heart. I want to daily be more like Your Son. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: The Complete Guide to Getting and Staying Organized by Karen Ehman

     

    Reflect and Respond: Name a time in your life when you allowed unhealthy thoughts and attitudes to pile up in your heart. What happened? How did it affect not only you but also others?

    Spend some time alone with God asking Him to show you if you have any unintentional sins or hidden faults that need to be surrendered to Him. Write out what He shows you. Then, one by one, confess them to Him asking Him to clean them away and make your heart new.

    Power Verses: 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (HCSB)

    Psalm 66:17-19 "I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Following from Afar

    Karen

    "Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the high priest's courtyard. He was sitting with the temple police, warming himself by the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but they could find none." Mark 14:54-55 (HCSB)

    At the back of the little country church, I clumsily thumbed through the pages of the worn pew Bible. It was Easter week and I was a senior in high school. I had given my life to Jesus just over a year prior at a youth campfire gathering and was still uncertain about the location of certain verses.

    That Good Friday, I was at a drop-in service. This wasn't a traditional service at an appointed time with a message and singing. People could stop by the church at any time to individually and quietly work their way through a devotional reading and accompanying verses.

    It was during that time of reflection that I met the Apostle Peter in the words of Scripture. Peter, who later became a bold witness for Christ, was not so valiant at the time of Jesus' betrayal and crucifixion. Although Peter claimed that even if everyone else ditched Jesus, he would remain faithful, Jesus knew the truth. The truth was that Peter would deny Christ not once, but three times in one night.

    Before Peter's denials came, something else came: a widening space between Peter and Jesus. Although Peter was a close companion of His, when Christ was suddenly arrested, Peter stopped his "right-beside-ya" stroll. Today's key verse from Mark 14:54-55 clearly states where he stood, "Peter followed Him at a distance" (HCSB).

    My teenage heart broke as those words stung my soul. They cut a bit too close. As a new believer I'd eagerly told others about Jesus. However, when I saw that my new-found faith wasn't so readily accepted by certain friends at school, I'd backed off from associating myself so publicly with Jesus. Like Peter, I was following at a distance.

    The remedy to my problem lay squarely in my hands. It was so obvious I almost missed it. The Bible.

    To walk closely with Jesus we have to walk ourselves daily through God's Word. Tethering our hearts to Scripture helps grow our friendship with Jesus. As a result, He becomes more important to us than others or their opinions of us. The more we learn about God's character, the more we fall in love with Him and the less likely we'll be to turn from Him when the crowds tempt to sway us. Or when fear of judgment or persecution comes.

    Have you been following Jesus at a distance? Walking far enough behind that you can still see Him but others don't see you right next to Him? Grab a Bible. Crack it. Get into God's Word and get His Word into you. No more lagging behind. Let's walk right beside the Lord, unashamedly, and allow others to see our desire to be near Jesus in hopes they will long to get to know Him too.

    Dear Lord, help me to follow through with my intentions of immersing myself in Your Word and then walking close with You day-by-day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: Unpack Scripture with us on a deeper level! Our team has compiled 366 of our devotions in the new Proverbs 31 Ministries' NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women.

    If you want to learn to walk more closely with Jesus, check out Karen's new book and DVD curriculum LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith.

    Reflect and Respond: Was there a time in your life when you felt you walked so closely with Jesus that others readily associated you with Him? When was it? Describe your relationship with Him.

    If over the years you feel that you have started following more from a distance, what factors do you feel contributed to this?

    What is one action step you can take to start to walk more closely to the Lord when it comes to reading, studying or memorizing the Bible? Write it out. Now, whose help can you enlist to enable you to follow through with that commitment?

    Power Verse: Matthew 16:24, "Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.'" (NLT)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Wait Training 101

    Karen

    "... but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

    Ever feel like God signed you up for an intense "wait training" class?

    You pray. You ask. You anticipate God's answer, but like an Internet page taking a long time to load, you must wait.

    And wait.

    And wait some more.

    I had to wait years before I became pregnant. During that time I attended baby showers while choking back tears.

    I had to wait nearly three years for our too-expensive-for-our-new-financial-situation home to sell. During that time, I pinched pennies and lost sleep.

    And I'm still waiting on many prayer requests: for a spiritually lost loved one, a family friend in ICU, a plan for my high school son's future. Waiting, waiting, waiting ...

    But just as physical weight training builds strength, so does spiritual "wait training." We are promised this in Isaiah 40:31:

    "... but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

    How can waiting renew our strength? After all, doesn't waiting seem to sap our strength as we worry and fret and drum our fingers impatiently? It's exhausting playing the "What if?" game in our minds:

    What if this doesn't work out? What if God's answer is "No"? What if the thing I fear the most actually happens ... what then?

    All of this worry-laden waiting drains rather than strengthens. How can we turn this around and actually find ourselves renewed?

    I have found that to shift my perspective in the waiting times replenishes my strength. I try not to think of those times of seemingly silence from God as waiting in the sense of sitting and anxiously anticipating a response. But as in waiting like a butler, maid or restaurant server.

    Those who "wait on the Lord"—as in serve Him, cater to Him, help Him accomplish His work; those who take His order and bring Him what He wants—they are the ones who renew their strength.

    They mount up with wings as eagles.

    They walk and do not faint.

    As we serve, we become more aware of what the One we are waiting on desires. We become alert, attentive, and in tune with His wishes. We begin to take our eyes off of our problems and fix them on the Lord instead. As we do, we get a glimpse into His heart.

    Then, instead of the wait sapping our spiritual strength, it is renewed as we seek to do the Lord's will ... to make Him famous ... to give Him glory. Even in those long, hard times of waiting for an answer, we continue to serve Him.

    Will you sign up with me for Wait Training 101?

    You'll grow stronger spiritual muscles if you do. But we must commit to this perspective: we won't just "wait on the Lord," we'll wait on Him. Trust me, the tips He leaves are out of this world!

    Dear Lord, teach me to shift my perspective during those times of waiting and doubt. May I stop fretting and worrying, and busy myself serving You instead. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources: If you want to learn to stop trying to make things happen and trust God instead, check out Karen Ehman's new book and DVD curriculum LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show & Start Walking in Faith.

    Reflect and Respond: Name a time in your life when you had to wait on God for an answer. Rate yourself from 1 to 10 on how you did in the waiting (10 is patiently worshipping and 1 is freaking out).

    Now, think of something you are currently waiting on God for an answer. Write down two or three new actions you will take to "wait" on the Lord.

    Memorize either today's key verse, Isaiah 40:31, or one of the power verses below. During the times you are tempted to fuss and fret, quote the verses to yourself.

    Power Verses: Psalm 40:1, "I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry." (ESV)

    Psalm 100:1-3, "Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

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