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User Archives: Renee Swope

  • Lord, I Need Your Help

    Posted on October 8, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help." (Psalm 18:6 NIV)

    One evening after an intense "discussion," my husband, J. J., told me that no matter what he did or how hard he tried, it was never enough for me. He was right. I constantly found fault with him as a husband and as a dad.

    But when he implied that I was impossible to please ... well, that sent my already-out-of-control emotions reeling. I grabbed my coat and stormed out the front door. Hot tears streamed down my cheeks as I replayed our conversation in my head.

    I was determined to figure out what J. J.'s problem was and get Jesus to fix him. So I started filing complaints against my husband in what you might call a prayer. And I finally heard myself—all the ugliness, all the anger. That's when I realized, I need help. I needed God to help me figure out how—after seven years of a happy marriage—we had gotten to this ugly place.

    Instead of just crying, I found myself crying out to God for help.

    King David was much better at this than I was that day. He had a habit of crying out to God for help when he was in distress. One Bible scholar notes that the phrase, "'In my distress' refers, most probably, not to any particular case, but rather indicates [David's] general habit of mind, that when he was in deep distress and danger he had uniformly called upon the Lord, and had found him ready to help."*

    That night, when I stopped talking and started listening, I sensed God showing me I wanted J. J. to make up for all the ways my dad had fallen short as a father to me and as a husband to my mom. Years as a child in a broken home with a broken heart had led to a significant sense of loss and deep disappointment. Yet, up to that point, I had never grieved the happily-ever-after that I longed for but didn't have.

    My unfulfilled hopes had become bitter expectations. I became controlling and critical, thinking that if I could get J. J. to be the husband and dad I wanted him to be, maybe my broken dreams could be put back together. But I was wrong. Instead of expecting my husband to make up for my losses, I needed to cry out to God with my hurts and call on Him for help.

    Are there hurts that hold you hostage? Expectations no one could really ever meet? Need some help today? I know I do. And I know God is there, waiting for us to cry out to Him.

    As I continued to process what had happened in my childhood and how it affected my marriage, I learned to ask God for help through each step of my healing journey. It took time, prayer, and courage, but God was my very present help.

    By the way, I'm crazy about my husband. And so very thankful for that day several years ago when I finally asked the Lord for help.

    Dear Lord, I need Your help, especially with _______________. Please show me where to start and be my help each step of the way. In Jesus' name, Amen.

    Remember
    Hurts from your past can hold you hostage. God is there, waiting to heal you.

    Reflect
    In what ways do you file complaints against your husband (or other loved one) in what you might call a prayer?

    Respond
    Determine if your hurts are too deep to heal without outside help. If they are, consider seeing a pastor or counselor.

    Power Verses
    Psalm 46:1; Deuteronomy 4:7

    *Albert Barnes, Barnes' Notes on the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983).

    Taken from Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Living by Renee Swope, Lysa TerKeurst and Samantha Evilsizer and the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team. © 2013 Proverbs 31 Ministries. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • Letting God Fill My Empty Places

    Posted on September 25, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

    It was a source she'd come to depend on. A place she went to get her needs met. But it was never enough; every day she came back for more.

    Filling her jar with water, the woman looked up and heard Him ask her for a drink. He offered her something in return: living water. Unlike the water she came to get that day, He said the water He offered would satisfy her so deeply she'd never thirst again.

    But she had a hard time believing His promise. "You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" (John 4:11 NIV) She asked.

    What she didn't realize was that Jesus wanted to satisfy a deeper thirst in her heart—a longing He'd created to lead her heart to Him: the One and only Source that could satisfy her soul.

    All He needed to draw with was His Spirit, for it would draw her near to Him. And as far as the depth of the well, it was her heart He was looking into. She was the only one who could stop Him from reaching the empty places in her heart.

    I know that place of needing Jesus to look into my heart and show me the emptiness only He can fill.

    Like the woman at the well, I've depended on other means to get my needs met. Yet when I look to them, instead of Him, they are never enough.

    I've looked to people: family and friends, bosses and boyfriends, teachers and mentors, my husband and my kids. I've longed for their approval and the affirmation that comes with it.

    I've also looked to possessions and positions and accidentally put my hope in recognition. I've thought "if only I had or could ... then I'd be fulfilled."

    But no matter how much I do or get, it's never enough to fill me up. And it's not supposed to be.

    Why? Because the empty places in our hearts were created to be filled by God alone. The deepest thirst of our souls can only be quenched by Him.

    We see this deep thirst even in King David, who had everything: the highest position, unlimited possessions, and great power, yet none of it was enough. He described himself as parched and thirsty for God:

    You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. (Ps. 63:1 NIV)

    Then David went on to describe what he experienced when he drank deeply of God's love:

    I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands. (vv. 2–4 NIV)

    And the same thing happened to the woman Jesus met at the well that day. She drank deeply of His love and was filled to overflowing, and we can be too.

    Just like the woman at the well, God put a longing in our hearts that was intended to lead us back to Him. Only His unconditional acceptance, approval, and affirmation can fill the empty places in our hearts-the deepest thirst of our souls. Until God's love and acceptance is enough, nothing else will be.

    Dear Lord, show me the empty places in my heart and the ways I try to fill them. Then lead me back to You and show me how I can position my heart to be filled and fulfilled by Your promises and the power of Your love. In Jesus' Name, amen.

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    Reflect and Respond:
    What or who do you depend on to fill the empty places in your heart?

    What would change if you allowed God's unconditional acceptance and approval to fill the deepest thirst of your soul?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 143:8, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." (NIV)

    Jeremiah 2:13, "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • Trigger Points of Doubt

    Posted on September 17, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "'But Lord,' Gideon asked, 'how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.'" Judges 6:15 (NIV 1984)

    A few years ago I felt paralyzed with self-doubt about a big ministry commitment I'd made, but had never done before. After begging God to zap me with confidence, and realizing it wasn't happening, I asked Him to reveal what made me insecure.

    Immediately I remembered Gideon, a man whom God called to do big things, yet he was paralyzed by inadequacy. From reading his story in Judges 6, I knew Gideon overcame his doubts and fears by focusing on what God thought about him, instead of what he thought about himself.

    But first he honestly processed his doubts with God. Recent conflicts and defeats caused Gideon to doubt God's presence and promises. When an angel of the Lord told him to defeat the Midianites, Gideon asked, "'How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest ... and I am the least in my family'" (Judges 6:15).

    Gideon's perception of himself made him feel inadequate. We aren't so different when damaged emotions and insecurities from our past influence how we see ourselves today.

    It was time for me to get honest with God about my uncertainties too. I needed to figure out what triggered my self-doubts and led me to such a yucky place of uncertainty.

    I remembered how a conflict with a friend that week made me doubt if I should even be in ministry. After all, self-doubt whispered, if I can't maintain healthy relationships, how can I help others?

    Also, feedback on a project kept hounding me. One harsh criticism overshadowed several positive comments and consumed my focus. I'd also been comparing my abilities to other women. Self-doubt convinced me I wasn't as gifted as they were.

    Conflict, criticism, and comparison had sent me into the shadows of doubt.

    What about you? When conflict arises, do you assume it disqualifies you from ministries or callings? Does criticism paralyze you from believing you can do certain things? Or, has comparison convinced you that someone else can do it (whatever "it" is) better than you?

    Thankfully, we can allow God to change the way we think, which will change the way we feel, and eventually transform the way we live!

    It's not a quick fix. It's a powerful process of naming our doubts, identifying what triggers them, and learning to rely on God's power to lead us to live confidently in the security of His promises.

    The next time you feel insecure, ask God what triggered your doubts. Process that trigger point through God's perspective and promises in the Bible. Ask Him to show you lies you believe and truths to replace them. Then let Him change your thought process by focusing on His thoughts about you instead of your thoughts about yourself. For instance:

    When doubt tells you that you can't do something, remember God says you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).

    When doubt tells you you're not good enough, focus on the truth that God says you're fearfully and wonderfully made; all of His works are wonderful and you are one of them (Psalm 139:14).

    Jesus wants us to live with a confident heart so we can accomplish what He's calling us to do. And He wants to change us from the inside out so we can learn to completely depend on Him!

    Dear Lord, I'm tired of feeling paralyzed by insecurity. Show me what triggers my self-doubt. Help me focus on Your thoughts about me instead of my thoughts about myself. I want to learn how to rely on and live in the security of Your promises. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:


    Reflect and Respond:

    Power Verse:
    Judges 6:14, "The LORD turned to him and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?'" (NIV 1984)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Judges, Doubt

  • The Gift of Listening

    Posted on August 20, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray." Psalm 17:6 (NLT)

    One night I heard my husband calling our dog to get her treat. He was actually trying to lure Chelsea, our thirteen-year-old dachshund, to her doggie bed. She was in her favorite chair and nothing was getting her to budge, not even the promise of a treat.

    I asked my kids if they thought Chelsea had "selective hearing" because she didn't want to go to bed or if she was going deaf. I had a feeling it was the latter.

    We reminisced and laughed about how Chelsea used to hear every little thing, from the icemaker in our kitchen to a leaf blowing outside. Then my son Andrew, who was nine at the time, looked at me with great concern. "Mom, I hope when you get old you don't go deaf like Chelsea."

    I laughingly told him it might be good if I can't hear everything when I get as old as Chelsea. She gets a lot more sleep, and she's not offended by the doggy jokes we make about her advanced age.

    My light-hearted response didn't wipe the concern off his brow, so I asked why he was afraid I wouldn't be able to hear him. He answered without hesitation, "Well, sometimes you don't hear me now. Like when you're on the computer and I ask you a question."

    Ouch! I had no idea my child thought I couldn't hear him. His answer almost sent me on a bad-mommy guilt-trip. Flashbacks popped up from times I'd heard him but hadn't listened because my focus was on someone or something else, like the computer and TV.

    Instead of defining that moment with guilt, I pulled Andrew close and told him I was sorry for not listening sometimes. I explained how me being on the computer is similar to him watching a movie. He gets so involved he doesn't hear me call him for dinner. He smiled recognizing his own "hearing loss" at times.

    Still, I didn't want that to be my excuse. So I promised him I would try to stop what I am doing when he comes to me. In my heart, I committed to look away from my computer or phone to really listen. His comment made me realize, we all long to be heard, don't we?

    Psalm 17:6 reflects our desire for God to hear us. The psalmist wrote, "I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray." It reminds me that in the same way I go to God because I want Him to listen and answer me, my child and others come to me because they want me to listen to them. When I stop what I'm doing and listen, it tells them that they, and what they have to say, are important to me.

    In our culture of constant contact through technology, it's easy for our attention to be divided and our focus to shift away from those who are in the room with us.

    Although we are physically present, often times we are mentally absent.

    That night God showed me the valuable gift we can give our children, spouses, friends, co-workers and even strangers. It's the gift of listening.

    We give it each time we stop what we're doing and turn our full attention to others when they talk to us. And, it's a gift God gives to us each time we talk to Him too!

    Lord, thank You for listening to me. Please help me be a better listener. It's easy to hear with one ear while the other is turned toward my computer, television or cell phone. I want to give the gift of listening because it communicates that I value those who want me to hear them. Make me aware and willing to push past this habit so that I can be a listener like You. 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:
    Ask God to show you throughout the day how you are doing when it comes to really listening to those you live and work with.

    Make a list of people you will give the gift of listening to this week.

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 54:2, "Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth." (NIV)

    Luke 2:46, "After three days they found him [Jesus] in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm, Listening

  • When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith

    Posted on June 5, 2013 by Renee Swope

    "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

    Renee Swope

    When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)

    As I crawled in bed, fear came over me. My husband was out of town for work and I was afraid to go to sleep. Fear had become a constant companion during his nights away.

    I needed to trust God, but I didn't. I went through the motions of what I knew I should do: pray, read scriptures, and tape verses to my bedside table and bathroom mirror. But there was also a phone on my pillow, and a neighborhood directory and Bible next to the bed.

    One night I took it a step further. I put toys on the stairs to trip possible burglars, brought my children into my room to sleep with me, and moved the dresser in front of the bedroom door.

    Still fear kept me awake. I thought I was controlling my circumstances, but instead fear had taken control of me. Frustrated I still couldn't sleep, I opened the Bible and read these familiar words:

    "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:1-2).

    That night God showed me something I'd never seen: my fears were like flames and my efforts to protect myself were like gasoline. Every feeble attempt to ease my fears was like pouring fuel on the fire, and now fear was consuming me. Gently, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God had not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

    The only way I would overcome fear was by walking through it.

    I had to put away the props in which I'd placed my faith and go to bed trusting God, realizing that even if my fears came true He would be with me. Crawling out of bed, I started putting everything away. The dresser went back in place. My kids went back to their rooms and I went to sleep without my phone on the pillow.

    For me, it was like walking through the flames of fear, doing what God was calling me to do–to fear not. And you know what? I slept better than I had in weeks.

    Fear lost its power when I actively put trust in God's promises.

    To be free from fear so we can walk in faith, we have to hold on to God's truths, replacing our natural ways with the steps He offers to guide us.

    Let's ask God to show us fears that paralyze our faith and keep us from living confidently in His peace and freedom. And then let's give God a chance to come though for us as we courageously walk through our fears, holding God's hand and trusting His heart to lead, protect, and preserve us each step of the way.

    Dear Jesus, help me walk through my fears by facing them instead of being paralyzed by them. I want to take Your hand and trust Your heart with all that is within me. Give me courage today to take the first step. In Jesus' Name, amen.

    Related Resources:
    Could you use the encouragement of a friend to help you overcome your fears? In her life-changing book, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope will walk you through a powerful process of identifying and overcoming any fears and insecurities so that you can live with confidence and courage!

     

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are there fears that paralyze your faith or hinder your everyday life? Ask God to show you one step to take today to walk through a fear that keeps you from trusting God completely.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 34:4, "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Fear, Isaiah, Faith

  • He Cares About You

    Posted on May 29, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT)

    When life gets overwhelming, do you ever wonder if God notices all you have going on? Does He see how hard you're working and trying to take care of everyone and everything? Staying up late to pay the bills, and feeling stretched between relationships at home and in church while caring for aging parents, commuting to work and carpooling kids?

    Several years ago, I came to a point where it felt like I was suffocating under the weight of my many responsibilities. Slowly, worry started to weave its way into my thoughts, making me wonder how I was going to do it all.

    I was exhausted and ready to resign from just about everything. I didn't have enough energy to handle it all. My faith was drained too, which led me to a place of self-doubt. I questioned my ability to manage my life and doubted my ability to hear God clearly or fulfill all the roles I assumed He wanted me to do.

    And all those worries made me weary, and they also made me wonder. I wondered if God noticed and cared about the burdens I carried. I also questioned why He wasn't doing something to make life easier. After all, my days were consumed with doing things for Him and others.

    One day I was reading my Bible and noticed how Martha's worries were making her wonder if Jesus cared about her. Martha's sister Mary had left her in the kitchen to do all the work while Mary sat in another room listening to Jesus. The Bible tells us, "She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!'" (Luke 10:40b NIV)

    Listen to how Jesus responded: "'Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her'" (v. 41-42 NIV).

    In that moment, Jesus showed Martha just how much He cared. Not just about how hard she was working, but about the rest He knew she needed. Instead of giving her what she demanded, Jesus showed Martha what she needed and the choice she could make to receive it.

    Jesus helped Martha see that Mary hadn't abandoned her to do the work by herself. Instead, Mary chose to walk away from distractions and preparations so she could take hold of something that couldn't be taken away from her.

    It was the one thing that would last even after Jesus was gone: time with Him resting in His presence, soaking in His perspective, and listening to His promises.

    1 Peter 5:7 says to "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you."

    As I read this verse and Martha's story, I saw the difference between what God offers and what I had been doing. I was carrying the heavy weight of my concerns but Jesus had invited me to come to Him and cast my cares upon Him, so that He could care for me.

    When I do all the talking and instructing, God doesn't have a chance. Instead of telling Him what I needed, He showed me how to say, "Lord, this is what's on my mind. This is what I'm worried about." And then stop and ask, "But Lord, what is going on in my heart? What are Your thoughts about this situation? What do I need and what should I do?"

    As I'm learning to give my concerns to God, my heart is growing more confident in knowing just how much He cares about me. With this new approach, my burdens are lighter and my heart is too.

    Jesus, help me seek You as much as I serve You and others. I want to balance my life and my workload with You, knowing with confidence that You care about me and are good at taking care of me! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    When you purchase A Confident Heart through from Family Christian, the proceeds go to help rescue widows and orphans.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Some time today, even if it's as you are putting your head on your pillow, talk to the Lord. "Lord, this is what's on my mind. This is what I'm worried about."

    Then ask, "Lord, what is going on in my heart? What are Your thoughts about this situation? What do I need and what should I do?"

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 55:22, "Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 Peter

  • Praying With Confidence

    Posted on May 15, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14 (NAS)

    I used to be hesitant to pray and found myself stumbling over my words when talking to God. I especially didn't know how to pray when struggling with uncertainty and doubts.

    Desperately wanting to say the right things, I believed if I prayed the right way God would listen and answer my prayers the way I wanted Him to.

    It took me a while, but I eventually got up the courage to talk with a friend about my fears and struggles. She shared how she had struggled with the same things. She also explained how, over time, she had discovered that prayer isn't about saying or asking the right things; it's about building a relationship with God by talking to Him.

    She also showed me how to take verses from the Bible and turn them into powerful prayers. Using God's Word as a guide gave me a new sense of confidence and direction when I didn't know what to say.

    One day I was reading 1 John 5:14, and noticed it says we can pray with certainty when we ask God for what is already part of His will: "This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us."

    Praying Scriptures increased my confidence over time, knowing that I was praying God's will when I prayed God's Word.

    Wanting my prayers to be filled with power and my heart to be infused with faith, I now look for Scriptures about God's will and God's ways. One is Hebrews 4:12 where God teaches us His Word is "alive and active." Praying that truth, I ask God to make His Word come alive in a situation and become active in the person's life I am praying for, including my own.

    Oftentimes when I pray now, I'll remember verses in the Bible that apply. For instance, when it feels like my plans are spinning out of control, Jeremiah 29:11 will come to mind. On those days, I'll pray:

    Lord, You know the plans You have for me, plans to prosper me and not to harm me, plans to give me a future and a hope. You say that if I come to You and pray, You will listen and will lead me. So, today I surrender my plans for Your plans. Please guide my decisions and thoughts to match Yours so I can experience hope and not harm. Even though things aren't going so great today, I trust the plans You have for me."

    God isn't looking for the perfect combination of words, and there's no formula to get it right. Now that the pressure to say the right things is gone, praying has become one of my favorite things to do—whether alone or with a friend.

    Sometimes I just sit still and let God whisper His promises into my thoughts and then I ask for their fulfillment in my prayers.

    Lord, I'm so glad I don't have to say that right thing to get Your attention. Thank You for Your Spirit that lives in me and leads me—in my daily activities and even in my prayers. Please show me verses You want me to pray so I can see Your Word come alive in my circumstances and become active in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    In her life-changing book, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope ends each chapter with a prayer weaving together powerful scriptures to help you overcome doubt and insecurity based on the topic and teaching in that chapter. Buy a copy for yourself or a friend!

    Follow us on Facebook.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Use God's Word as a guide to pray when you don't know what to say.

    Pick a verse today to begin praying.

    Power Verse:
    Matthew 6:9-13, "Pray then like this: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.'" (ESV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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



    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Prayer, 1 John

  • When Helping Others Helps Us

    Posted on April 17, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

    I don't like open heights. I can't stand narrow balconies. And when driving across a bridge, you'll find me hugging the rail along the inside lane. A few years ago, our friends John and Laura tried to help me conquer this fear of heights by inviting our family to an indoor rock-climbing center. My heart raced as we entered the doors and faced the highest peak at 25 feet.

    The instructors assured me that a web of ropes and harnesses would hold me tight. Before I could say "no thank you," I was signing an injury waiver and getting strapped in.

    After a few practice rounds, I started to climb. Little by little, I went higher and higher. But I never could get past my fear of climbing to the highest peak of 25-feet. I needed something to help me overcome my anxiety and this high rock wall! Our friend's eight-year-old son Steven needed help too.

    Towards the end of the day John asked Steven if he wanted to climb to the highest peak. Steven wasn't crazy about heights either, but he loved a challenge.

    With admiration I watched as Steven started the climb with confidence. He made it to 10 feet, then 15. But as he inched past the next face of the wall, he looked down. Realizing how high he was and how far he still had to go, he insisted he couldn't do it.

    By this time, Steven's dad was consoling their very fussy 3-year-old and his mom was feeding their hungry infant daughter. My brave husband was not close by, and I quickly realized the only one standing there with a free hand to do something was me!

    Suddenly courage and strength surged through my body and I called out, "Don't give up buddy. You can do it. I'll help you!"

    In record time, I reached Steven to encourage him, reminding him of how far he'd come. I told him he could make it up to 25 feet with God's strength and that it would be worth it if he'd persevere. Remembering Joshua 1:9, I encouraged him, "Be strong and courageous Steven. Don't be afraid; God is right there with you and I am too."

    Filled with new confidence, Steven turned his eyes and his thoughts toward the reward of getting to a place he had stopped believing he could reach.

    And the same thing happened in me. The voices of my own fears were silenced by focusing on helping someone overcome theirs.

    In that moment, I realized the promises I had claimed for Steven were true for me, too. My anxiety could be overcome and my fears conquered with God's strength.

    Each day we have the same opportunity. Like God did with Joshua in Joshua 1:9, and like He does with us, we can come alongside each other in some of life's hardest challenges and highest peaks. We can remind others of this truth from God's Word too.

    Isn't it amazing that when we take our eyes off our fears, doubts, and struggles to focus on someone else's needs, we somehow forget our own? And in believing the power of God's promises for others, our confidence in His promises for us increases.

    Let's look for ways to encourage and help someone else today, knowing we may just help ourselves in the process.

    Jesus, Your words give me courage to become who You've created me to be-to go to places You're calling me to and to reach heights that seem out of my reach. Thank You for encouraging my heart. I want to pass that on to someone else today. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Give yourself {or a friend} a gift of life-changing encouragement you'll find in Renee's best-selling book, A Confident Heart. Chapter by chapter, you will learn how to conquer self-doubt by relying on and living in the security of God's promises in your most important roles and relationships.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How has someone's encouraging words or God's words of encouragement helped you do things you never thought you could?

    Encourage someone today with one of God's promises and a prayer. It could be the very thing they need to overcome doubt, discouragement and defeat.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 10:17, "You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry." (NIV)

    Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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



    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Joshua

  • A New Pattern of Thought

    Posted on April 2, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2 (NIV)

    It's usually very subtle. I'll think about something I want to do or sense God calling me to, and a feeling of uncertainty comes over me. Doubt whispers You can't do that. You're not good enough. Out of the blue, I'll get that awful, insecure feeling.

    Too many times in the past I've gone along. Without realizing it, I agreed with my insecurities.

    For years, I didn't tell anyone about my doubts. I figured if they knew the reasons I doubted myself, they'd notice flaws I had worked hard to hide. Honestly, I thought I was the only one who struggled with doubt.

    However, I didn't call it doubt. Maybe you don't either. Sometimes I called it worry—worry that I was going to disappoint someone, worry that I might make a mistake and get criticized for it, worry that I might start something but not be able to finish.

    Other times I'd call it fear—fear of not measuring up, fear of rejection, fear of looking prideful by thinking I could do something special for God.

    What I've realized over the years is that these feelings may end up as fear or worry, but their source is self-doubt. Looking back, I see there was a pattern in my thinking that led to the pattern of my doubting.

    As a child I thought I wasn't worth keeping. My insecurity kept me from riding the carousel at an amusement park because I doubted my dad would wait for me. In school, I thought I wasn't smart enough. I avoided great opportunities because they came with the risk of failure.

    Even as a young bride, I doubted my worth in my husband's eyes. Although he gave me no reason to fear, our newlywed memories include many arguments about trust.

    The apostle Paul challenges us in Romans 12:2 to not let our minds be conformed by the patterns of this world. This means we need to take our patterns of thought into consideration because they affect what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about God's view of us and others.

    The world's patterns of thought tell us our worth is measured by our weight or bank account, our job or spouse, by the number of our friends, or if we are able to have children. And if we do have children, the world tells us we're only good parents if our children behave 'just so.'

    Have any of these thoughts ever convinced you you're not enough or don't have what it takes to do all God's calling you to do?

    Just this week, doubt tried to convince me I couldn't handle my life. I had a sick teenager, a huge deadline to meet, several therapy appointments for my daughter and very concerning health problems with my mom.

    Remembering the wisdom in today's key verse, I paused to consider the pattern of my thoughts and knew they didn't line up with God's thoughts. For instance, in Philippians 4:13 God tells me, "... I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (NLT).

    I claimed God's promise by weaving it into my thoughts, knowing I could do it all if I depended on the strength God promises to give. And when I did, God transformed my heart by renewing my mind with His peace and confidence.

    It takes time to replace our patterns of thought with God's thoughts. The ways of the world—fear and worry—are powerful forces. But God's Word trumps them, always. Today, let's be intentional to lay down self-doubts and replace them with truth, remembering "... he who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. 1:16 ESV).

    Lord, I want to have a confident heart in Christ and persevere in Your truth so that when I have done Your will, I will receive what You have promised. When doubt tells me I can't do something, I'll remember all things are possible to her who believes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    In her life-changing book, A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises, Renee Swope will empower and equip you with new patterns of thought to help you overcome doubt, fear, and worry so you can move forward in confident assurance of all God has for your life!

    Reflect and Respond:
    What motivates you the most to be free from self-doubt?

    What would you do differently if you were free from worry and fear, and fully trusted God? Let go of unforgiveness? Volunteer more? Travel? Start a new hobby or look for a new job? Ask the Lord to help you replace self-doubt with His confidence and what your first step of freedom should be.

    Power Verse:
    Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Romans

  • The Day Forgiveness Set Me Free

    Posted on March 20, 2013 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. ... Forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:2, 32 (NIV)

    I thought I was over the hurt. I was sure I had moved on. But as my thumb slipped under the seal of the invitation to my 10-year college reunion, it hit me: I had not forgiven her.

    During our last semester at school, the harsh tone and accusing anger of a friend had been more than my heart could handle, especially in the middle of my year-long battle with depression. A deep sense of sadness and self-doubt, that I couldn't explain or escape, had left me feeling depleted.

    When she questioned something I had done and expressed deep frustration toward me, I didn't have the mental or emotional strength to process her criticism without being pulled into a pit of condemnation.

    If I attended our class reunion I would likely see her and other friends who had gotten tangled in our mess. With that possibility came a flood of memories and emotions that made me feel the same yuck I felt the day our friendship ended. The day that pretty much ruined the last few weeks of our senior year.

    Holding the envelope in my hand, that hurt took hold of me again. Instead of simply deciding how to RSVP, I stood at the edge of a pit filled with insecurity that threatened to pull me back in.

    After weeks of holding onto the invitation I finally decided I was tired of living as prisoner to my hurt. I wanted freedom. The kind of freedom I'd come to know in the ten years in between. The freedom of forgiveness Jesus died to give me.

    I spent hours praying and reading my Bible over the next month. Listening to worship music and messages on forgiveness, I asked God to drench me with His perspective and give me His assurance so I could walk into my reunion as a secure child of God.

    By the time I arrived, my mind was filled with God's grace and promises. I literally wanted to find my old friend and restore our relationship. The confidence that came as I followed God's command to seek and offer forgiveness came as a surprise.

    Forgiving those who hurt us is hard. Often we are afraid to forgive because it might open us to be hurt again. Or we're afraid if we bring something up it might unearth bitterness we don't want to deal with, so its left buried.

    But any time we bury a hurt alive, it will keep rising from the dead to disturb us.

    God used today's verses to show me how to let forgiveness set me free from the hurt I had buried. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. ... Forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you." (Eph. 4:2, 32)

    Forgiving in the way this scripture describes has helped me recognize I need God's grace as much as anyone else. Although pardoning an offense is not easy, it is possible when we follow God's plan of being humble and gentle, patient and bearing with those who've hurt us. It's so worth what it takes to be set free.

    Forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves when we offer it to others. In doing so, we don't forgive so we can forget. We forgive, as we have been forgiven, so we can find freedom from our past and live with confident hope for our future.

    Lord, I need Your help. Help me process my hurt with You and let go of any bitterness that keeps me from wholeness and hope. Empower me to forgive just as You have forgiven me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Conflict is hard and unhealed hurts can make us doubt ourselves, as well as our ability to have healthy relationships. In her life-changing book: A Confident Heart: How to Stop Doubting Yourself & Live in the Security of God's Promises, Renee Swope empowers us to overcome the hurts that hold us back as we move forward in the confident assurance of all God has for our lives!

    Reflect and Respond:
    Is there unresolved conflict or unforgiven hurt that could be holding you back you from living in the freedom Jesus wants for you? Journal thoughts that came to mind while reading today's devotion and commit to take one step towards the freedom of forgiveness God is calling you to today.

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 3:13, "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Forgiveness, Ephesians

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