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User Archives: Tracie Miles

  • Is Jesus Just Pretend?

    Posted on December 19, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    TRACIE MILES

    TRACIE MILES

    "But he replied, 'I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.'" John 20:25b (NLT)

    She looked up at her daddy with eyes filled with concern, trying to put into words the fears and doubts which had crept into her 3-year-old mind.

    It was a day dedicated to prayer and worship at my niece's Christian preschool where her father works and where they'd spent the morning praying for Jesus to join them and be present.

    When the service finished, Berkeley tugged on her daddy's shirt, and as he looked at her distraught little face, he asked what was wrong. Hesitantly, she innocently asked "Daddy, is Jesus just pretend?"

    He was taken aback by her question, but gently answered, "Of course not honey. He's very much alive and with us today."

    Berkeley replied, "But He didn't come." They had asked Jesus to come, and in her mind, He hadn't shown up.

    When my brother told me this story, my first reaction was a chuckle. How adorable is that? But my second thought was how even as adults, we sometimes wonder if Jesus is just pretend, simply because we don't see physical evidence of Him when we want to. Even one of Jesus's disciples, Thomas, doubted Jesus was really alive until he saw Him with his own eyes.

    After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), and Jesus appeared before them saying "Peace be with you." He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side and they were overcome with joy.

    But Thomas was not there that evening to witness this encounter. Since he didn't see Jesus himself, he didn't believe Jesus had actually shown up. In today's key verse, Thomas stated he needed proof before he could believe Jesus was really alive and active.

    I've been a doubting Thomas before myself.

    I've spent nights wondering if Jesus was really with me when my heart was breaking, my mistakes were heavy burdens, and my problems seemed overwhelming. I've walked through days begging for Jesus to give me a sign, any sign, to prove He was with me. And just like Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, there was one particular day He showed Himself to me.

    I was participating in a Bible study and instructed to do a timeline of my life. I half-heartedly began the exercise, but over the next hour, as I scribbled out decades of experiences, good and bad, my spiritual eyes were opened for the first time. I suddenly saw a picture of God's handiwork, and how He had been at work every step of the way.

    When they were written in black and white, I began to see the happenings of my life from a new perspective — as tangible proof of Jesus. They were no longer just memories, but experiences that all fed my life story and mapped out a divinely designed future, purpose and plan just for me.

    Only after Thomas saw Jesus for himself did he believe He was alive. Similarly, when the proof of Jesus was staring at me from my scribbled paper, I could not help but believe either.

    However Jesus wants us to believe in Him even if we don't see the proof. In John 20:29b Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing me" (NLT).

    Sometimes we want proof that Jesus sees, cares and loves. But if we sincerely look for proof in our lives, seeking how and where He has been at work, what we see with our spiritual eyes will be so much better proof than what we could ever see with our physical ones.

    Dear Jesus, I want to see with new spiritual vision how You have been at work in my life. Give me wisdom and discernment to see how You have been shaping me for purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Genesis 16:13, "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" (NIV)

    Joshua 1:9, "This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)

    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on a time in your life when you felt Jesus was "just pretend." Ask Him for spiritual vision to see how He was with you and at work.

    How might God want to use a difficult experience from your past to help others understand He is real, alive and active?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 John

  • When You Can't See What God Is Building

    Posted on November 14, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    TRACIE MILES

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

    It started out as a simple school assignment, but turned into a lesson from God.

    My son's seventh-grade Social Studies teacher told students to build a pyramid. There were no specifics about how tall, big or what materials to use. The students were only told to use their imaginations.

    When my son told me about the project, I immediately put on my crafty-mom hat. How much foam core board and hot glue would we need to form a pyramid? I was ready to get started, but when Michael told his daddy about the project, it took on a whole new twist. Before I knew it, we were all at the local hardware store shopping for lumber and nails.

    Lumber and nails? "Ummmm, honey, it's a seventh grade project," I said to my husband as if he had forgotten. He simply smiled and replied, "I know."

    I had no idea how a few two-by-four's could be transformed into a pyramid, and it's not at all the way I would've done it. But my husband had a clear mental picture of the outcome. We simply had to trust him.

    He and my son spent hours in the cold garage, measuring, sawing and nailing boards. Step by step, a pyramid evolved. We anxiously waited for my husband's vision to become visible. And when it did, it truly was a masterpiece.

    As I marveled at this work of art crafted by the hands of my husband and son, God spoke gently to my spirit, reminding me of how I had once questioned His building abilities. All those years when I thought He didn't love me or see my pain. All those years spent questioning His ways and wondering why He had allowed difficult circumstances in my life. All those times I felt mad at God, and wondered if He was mad at me for my sin and my mistakes.

    But now I see the bigger picture. I can look back and see how God was crafting my future based on the experiences — good and bad — of my past.

    God chose this crafty moment to whisper to my spirit, "Tracie, I have been building something good, beyond your human understanding. I have a purpose for what you have been through, and in time you will see My masterpiece."

    Today's key verse reminds us that we are God's workmanship, His masterpiece. The word "workmanship" was used in ancient Greek literature to refer to what a person made or did, and our God is "making" each of us. In Ephesians 2:10, we are urged to remember that just as a painter, sculptor, writer or builder creates their masterpieces, our lives are being crafted by our Creator, making use of all the good things, and difficult things.

    When we look back over our lives and see hardships, God sees learning experiences. When we remember difficulties, God sees how He helped us overcome them. When we see pain, God sees the foundation for a unique way to minister to others.

    Step by step, day by day, God is working and building, creating a beautiful exhibition of His Presence in our lives. He wants us to see what He sees, and view our lives as a work-in-progress, trusting that He is up to something good. Although we may not like the building process, it may become the one thing God uses to bless us most.

    In the same way my husband had a clear mental picture of what he planned to build, God has a clear holy vision about what He is building in our lives, and in His timing, we will get a glimpse of His masterpiece too.

    Dear Lord, I believe that You are doing a good work in me and through me. Help me to embrace the promise that You are building a good thing in my life, a masterpiece of Your own making, that one day I will be able to see. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 3:4, "For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God." (NLT)

    Psalm 139:13, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How has God been working in your life?

    How have your experiences equipped you to minister to others in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Uncategorized and was tagged with Psalm, Ephesians

  • How God Turns Your Past Into Purpose

    Posted on October 21, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39 (NIV)

    As I sat in the church pew with my head bowed in prayer, I heard a voice reverberate so thunderously in my heart that it startled me.

    The voice was blaringly loud, as if it had been announced over the loudspeakers. I opened my eyes surprised to see that no one else was taken aback. All was calm.

    And so began my encounter with God.

    I felt God speak loud and clear a short message that held life-altering repercussions. Three powerful, commanding words: "Go and share!"

    I became overwhelmed with emotion. I was awestruck that God had spoken to me at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

    Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, "Surely You can't mean share my past, Lord. Surely You don't mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret." Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I didn't like it.

    I didn't want to go, much less share. I didn't want to be transparent or vulnerable. I gratefully accepted His forgiveness and healing, but I wasn't ready to accept His call to give me a purpose. The man who was healed from demon possession in today's key verse experienced similar feelings.

    This tormented man lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

    He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

    What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man's past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

    The man's story became a testimony when he was willing to share it with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

    People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God's transformational power in someone's life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God's faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

    I've since learned it is always God's desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

    God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a plan for great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

    Lord, help me find the courage and the desire to share what You have done in my life. Turn my past into my purpose and refuse to let my pain be for nothing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Isaiah 61:3, "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you been thankful for God's spiritual healing, but hesitant to share what He has done in your life?

    In what ways have you become an overcomer and found victory in Christ? How could you share that with others to impact their lives?

    How might God be able to use your past for a specific and unique purpose for ministry?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Luke

  • Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

    Posted on October 10, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

    All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

    Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

    I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

    As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, "Awww. I wish we could have seen her." My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

    After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: "Mom, she is ugly!"

    Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, "Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary." Little Michael was too stunned for words.

    We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

    They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

    Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else's opinions would change that.

    As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God's eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

    Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

    In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

    In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

    Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God's love for them was immeasurably more.

    Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

    Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

    You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

    Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

    Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I've made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have you allowed the opinions of others to convince you that you are not valuable to God?

    In what ways have your past experiences equipped you to serve God in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Luke

  • Time to Do a Little Faith Stretching

    Posted on September 23, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him." Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

    I knew the work would be tough, the weather would be hot and the floor I'd sleep on would be hard. But little did I know none of those inconveniences would be the "stretching" part.

    Several years ago, I participated in a mission trip to renovate homes of families in need. God planned to stretch me beyond what was comfortable that week, but as it turned out, it wasn't the work or inconveniences that stretched me.

    I wasn't stretched as I climbed up a 10-foot ladder to hand someone a heavy can of paint. Or as I sprawled across a noisy air mattress every night — hoping it wouldn't completely deflate before morning. I wasn't stretched as I endured 105-degree temperatures, wearing the required attire of full-length jeans that stuck to my sweaty legs like glue.

    I wasn't even stretched taking showers in close proximity to total strangers, separated by only a thin curtain, or when I shared that awkward shower with a large, dead, winged creature lying in the drain.

    None of these things were enjoyable, but they weren't really outside of my "comfort zone." Yet when it came time to walk through a local neighborhood, knock on doors and share the Gospel, with the looming fear a door might be slammed in my face (or worse), I felt my faith being stretched.

    Looking back now, I realize God was gently pushing me out of my comfort zone into a faith zone. He confronted me with the choice to stretch my faith or play it safe.

    It would have been easy to send my work crew down the street without me. I could have stood in the shadows of the big oak trees as others on the team approached the strangers. But God had planted a burning conviction in my heart to trust Him and do some serious stretching. So standing alone on the sidewalk wasn't an option.

    I had no idea that by stepping out in faith, I would receive the greatest blessing.

    There are countless stories in the Bible of God calling people out of their comfort zones. And with each one, the stretching brought blessings they'd never imagined.

    Abraham trusted God for the child he was promised, despite his and his wife's advanced age. His faith-stretching ended with a little baby in his arms named Isaac.

    Jesus' disciples feared for their lives when a violent storm threatened to sink their boat. But Peter's faith to step out of the boat at Jesus' invitation resulted in Peter's human feet miraculously walking on water.

    Jesus told a crippled man, with muscles weak and atrophied, to get up and walk. The man stretched his faith as he stretched out his legs and walked for the very first time.

    And on it goes. A blind man who had faith to believe Jesus could heal, saw Jesus' face with those very eyes. Joshua might have felt ridiculous circling the walls of Jericho seven times, but eventually the walls came crumbling down. Joseph spent more than 10 years in a dark dungeon, but it was his unwavering faith which eventually landed him on the throne.

    God calls us all to do some faith stretching now and then. Whether we are called to leave our comfort zones to obey and act, or to rest and trust God during a difficult season of life, He always rewards great faith with wonderful blessings, just as today's key verse promises.

    Maybe stepping outside of your comfort zone to obey God seems like too much of a stretch right now. Keep in mind that although it may seem impossible, God will never stretch us beyond what we are capable of in His strength — not ours. And when we are willing to be stretched, blessings begin to flow.

    Lord, help me fully trust You with my life and develop a faith that is willing to stretch for Your sake, and mine. Show me how You can use my life for Your good. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 4:13, "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (NLT)

    Psalm 138:3, "In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what ways has God been calling you to leave your comfort zone?

    What is one thing you could do today to stretch your faith muscles?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Hebrews

  • Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

    We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.

    Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.

    We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.

    After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.

    As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.

    My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.

    In today's key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it's even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.

    In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he'd broken God's laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn't do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.

    Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life's purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.

    So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn't allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don't have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.

    Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.

    Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How might your life be different if you accepted God's forgiveness and grace, then let go of the weight of shame and regret once and for all?

    Read the whole chapter of Romans 7. How does Paul's honest admission of sin and wrongdoing help you recognize that neither you, nor anyone, is beyond God's redemption?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Best Approach with a Frenemy

    Posted on June 30, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me." Psalm 118:6-7 (NLT)

    Day after day, month after month, the hurtful behavior continued. The longer it went on, the stronger my emotions grew.

    Someone who'd been a friend to my daughter had somehow become an enemy. Not an enemy with physical strength, but rather one armed with the power to injure through hurtful words, lies and gossip while manipulating others to do the same. Each day presented a new conflict, inducing heightened feelings of rejection, isolation and lowered self-esteem.

    We reported the issue to the appropriate people, but despite many attempts, nothing changed. We felt hopeless. When yet another situation sent my daughter home from school in tears, I felt my hostility and frustration bubbling to the surface, and knew I was faced with choices about my own behavior.

    I could fuel my daughter's anger by reminding her of all the reasons she had a right to be mad, causing both of us to grow more bitter.

    I could allow hostility to become a stronghold in my heart and refuse to forgive.

    I could talk to my friends and family about the situation, soliciting their support.

    I could cry buckets of tears, although that wouldn't dry the tears of my daughter.

    Unfortunately I did a little of all that, because nothing hurts a mom's heart more than when her child's heart is broken or her spirit is crushed. But eventually, I grew weary of my emotions holding me hostage and turned to prayer instead of pouting.

    I prayed daily for God to give us both the strength to continue trusting His purpose for my daughter's pain. I asked God to help me see those involved through His eyes, instead of my own — which were tainted with anger and concern for my own child. I prayed for Him to intervene and give us hope, peace and the comfort that only He could provide. I also prayed for God to help me forgive, when nothing in me wanted to.

    As I sat down and prayed with my daughter, we discussed these words from Psalm 118:6-7a, "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me."

    I reminded her (and myself) of the truth of the Psalmists words, that regardless of what anyone said or did, God still was on her side. I wanted her to know eventually this difficult season would pass, but in the meantime she could find strength and courage in Christ. A tear fell as she promised to try and remember God would be with her every step of the way.

    Even in the face of suffering and heartache, the Psalmist chose not to fear but instead focus on the favor of God, trusting He would protect and prevail over his difficult situation. He remained calm, confident and focused on God, intentionally choosing to fight his enemies with faith. As a mom, I knew our faith was the best choice for us as well.

    We knew we couldn't force anyone to alter the way they treat others. Only God can change a heart. But we could choose to trust God and approach this situation the best way possible — through the eyes of faith.

    Lord, I know You see our children and what they are going through. Help me to know how to speak truth into their lives, and help us have strength and courage to continue trusting You are bigger than our conflicts. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Editor's Note: If you or someone you love is facing a bullying situation, please report it immediately to someone in authority and make sure you or your loved ones are safe.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If your child is hurting due to a similar situation, which have you been doing more: praying or pouting?

    If you struggle with negative emotions stemming from concern over your child's situation, write a prayer to God seeking His strength. Ask God for help to push past feelings, focus on faith and discern how best to handle the problem.

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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

  • When Worry is Part of Your Personality

    Posted on June 5, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

    His comment wasn't meant to be critical, but it immediately pierced my heart.

    I was explaining to my husband how worried I'd been about several situations and reciting the reasons why my worry was justified. He gently reminded me that worrying wouldn't help anything, and I quickly replied, "But I can't help it!"

    Then he said with a smile, "I know you can't. Worrying is just part of your personality."

    Deep down I knew I worried too much, especially when it came to my children's safety, their happiness and situations I couldn't control. But I didn't want to be labeled a "worrier," and I certainly didn't want to admit worrying was "part of my personality."

    Yet, if I were honest with myself, I knew it was true.

    Although I trust God and know He is in control, the human side of me often tends to worry. I'm thankful God isn't surprised by my worry, and wants to help me overcome it. Jesus even addressed this very issue when He taught His followers in what we now call the Sermon on the Mount.

    In this teaching, Jesus shared detailed instructions for how Christians should live their daily lives and how faith should shape behavior — including how to deal with worry.

    In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus specifically told His followers not to worry about food or clothes because God would provide for their needs, just as He does for the birds of the air. This promise of provision and protection applies to all areas of our lives, including help with our problems and easing our inner-most anxieties.

    Jesus knew the people of that time struggled with worry, just as we do. At times it is hard to trust God with the concerns that weigh heaviest on our hearts. Instead of trusting Him to handle what we cannot, we waste the opportunities of today worrying about the possibilities of tomorrow. God wants us to leave our problems in His hands, rather than let them become a stumbling block in our faith.

    Sometimes it takes a gentle reminder, such as my husband's innocent words, to remind me of this promise. I needed to stop holding onto my worries and quit continually reminding Jesus to be as concerned as I was. Instead, I should daily turn those worries into prayers. I have since committed to worrying less and trusting Jesus more and have experienced the freedom that comes with truly entrusting my needs to Him.

    Although we all have things in our lives that lead to worry and reasons to be concerned, what peace we can enjoy if we consciously choose to lay down each day's worries at God's feet and leave tomorrow's worries up to Him, too.

    Lord, forgive me for not trusting You with my problems and for letting my worry become a wedge in my faith. Give me the strength to put them in Your hands and avoid trying to take them back. Help me learn to trust You more and believe You are always in control of my life and the things that worry me most. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

    Luke 12:29-32, "What I'm trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don't be afraid of missing out. You're my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself." (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What worries are most heavily weighing on your heart today that you need to turn over to God?

    Have you been trying to handle everything on your own, without God's help?

    Read Matthew 6:25-34 and ask God to speak to your heart through these verses.

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Matthew

  • Enjoying the Seasons of Parenting

    Posted on May 23, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NLT)

    "Are they going to laugh all night long?" my husband jokingly asked. "I don't know," I said, chuckling at his question. "But I hope so. It's a sound that makes my heart happy."

    My teenage daughter had invited her entire cheerleading squad to sleep over at our house after a basketball game. When they arrived, the house immediately filled with laughter and conversations as they gobbled up pizza and chocolate chip cookies.

    Later that night, sleep seemed to escape me. Not because of the cheerful noise billowing down the stairs from a house full of girls, but because I wondered how many more laughter-filled sleepovers I might have the blessing of hosting. Knowing my children are growing up quickly, I couldn't help but face the reality I was entering a new season of life.

    I began to ponder all I would miss with two daughters living away at college this fall, instead of just one. Although my son still has a few years left at home, I had to face the reality that this season of my parenting was coming to a close. And my heart felt heavy.

    I remember feeling these same emotions when my babies outgrew their cribs and moved to big-kid beds. When my daughters tucked away baby dolls and hair bows and focused on nail polish and fashion. When my son grew too old for his teddy bear. When they left elementary school behind and entered the scary world of middle school. When they stopped riding their bikes and instead, got behind the wheel of a car.

    As I lay in the dark pondering this changing season of my life, a warm tear trickled down my face. Yet I felt God's sweet comfort and His reminder that although life is ever-changing, He is constant. I started to pray and sensed God was showing me the importance of treasuring the current season of parenting, rather than mourning the ones already passed, because every moment with our children is a blessing.

    The idea of seasons of life is found in the book of Ecclesiastes, authored by King Solomon. After becoming king of Israel following his father King David's death, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him anything he wanted. Instead of asking for riches or victories, Solomon asked God for wisdom and received the blessing of understanding life (1 Kings 3:5, 10-13).

    Although Solomon doesn't directly speak about parenting in Ecclesiastes, his wise advice certainly applies to this subject.

    Today's key verse reminds us life is a progression of seasons, with everything happening in God's timing and under His control: "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

    Then Ecclesiastes 3:2-8 highlights many of life's experiences that we find in the seasons of parenting, such as times to plant and uproot. Times to cry, laugh, grieve and dance. Times to embrace and turn away. Times to search and quit searching. Times to tear and to mend. Times to speak and to keep quiet. Times to keep and to let go.

    We find pieces of our parenting experiences scattered between the lines of this passage. As we accept there will be different seasons of parenting, we allow God to whisper specific encouragement to our hearts, fill our spirits with perseverance and understanding, and pierce our minds with the spiritual wisdom needed not only to make it through the seasons, but to appreciate them as gifts from God.

    No matter which season we find ourselves in, let's treasure it and bask in the blessings it brings. Embracing each season as it comes brings peace because we know we are right where God wants us to be and that He is preparing us for the season to come.

    My house may not always be filled with laughter in the middle of the night, but if I trust God is with me, I will always have joy in my heart.

    Lord, thank You for the privilege of being a parent, grandparent or caregiver to the little ones You've entrusted into my care. Help me enjoy every day of every season and lean on You when my heart aches for seasons gone by. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 3:11a, "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Ever wished you were in a different season of parenting, rather than treasuring the one you are in? If so, reflect on the blessings you enjoy in your current season of parenting. Ask God to help you focus on these things when your heart feels discouraged, tired or sad.

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Ecclesiastes

  • A Resurrection of Compassion

    Posted on April 28, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

    As soon as I answered the phone, I heard the panic in her voice.

    My daughter had called to ask if she had possibly left her new iPod in the car that morning. After searching thoroughly to no avail, her worst fears became a reality — the music player was missing.

    I immediately went to the school and met with the principal to file a report about the missing iPod, where I learned there had been a rash of thefts since school had resumed after the holidays. When my daughter joined us, I could see the sadness in her eyes, hear the loss in her voice and sense the overwhelming regret pouring out of her heart.

    As she settled into the chair beside me, I knew she was beating herself up inside. The lost item had been a special gift. Now it was gone.

    Soon the tears she'd been holding back could no longer be restrained, as she expressed how desperately she wished she could go back in time. What if she had left it at home or in the car? Or not left her purse unattended? What if she had been more responsible?

    Hugging her tightly, I sent her off to class. But as she walked away, slumped shoulders carrying the weight of regret and sorrow, maternal emotion overcame me.

    I wanted to sprint down the hall like a mom on a mission, scoop her up into my arms, and whisk her home where we could snuggle up in a blanket, drink hot chocolate and watch silly cartoons. I felt an overwhelming compassion building up inside me.

    Although my daughter's pain was over a material item that could be replaced in time, in that moment, I just wanted to take away her hurt and regret.

    Could it be that my parental compassion is even a hint of what God feels for us?

    Today's verse reminds us that God feels an immense compassion for us, which far exceeds mine. In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah (believed to be the author) told God's people that although they had been unfaithful for many years, God would still have compassion on them. And because of that compassion, they could have hope.

    Thinking back on that day at school, I thought of the many years I lived with regret, desperately longing to go back in time and get a second chance. But shame and regret held my heart captive.

    I remembered the heaviness that came with shouldering all the "what ifs" and "if onlys," while beating myself up inside, knowing I couldn't change the past.

    But all those regrets lost their grip on me the day I embraced God's promises of unconditional forgiveness and love. When I finally understood His compassion, I realized that just like the iPod, my past mistakes were history too.

    When we struggle with our own set of "what ifs" and "if onlys," God wants to show us His faithfulness and shower us with compassion, even if we have been unfaithful or messed up more times than we want to count. If we accept Him as our Savior, we open the door for Him to erase our regrets and shame once and for all.

    Last week, on Easter Sunday, we came face to face with the depth of God's mercy, as we celebrated the greatest act of compassion ever known — the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    God was a Father on a mission, compelled by overwhelming compassion and a willingness to do whatever it took to scoop us up into His arms and atone for our mistakes, making them nothing more than history. He died to carry our burdens so we wouldn't have to, and so we could be free to live in peace, not regret.

    Jesus was resurrected so we can experience His mercies anew every day. Now that is an act of compassion worth celebrating.

    Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me, so that I might be freed from my past and have eternal life with You. I praise You for Your undeserved compassion and mercy. I love You. In Your Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have I been carrying the weight of regret rather than allowing Jesus to carry it for me?

    How can I live my life in such a way that expresses praise and thankfulness for His compassion and daily mercies?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 78:38, "Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath." (HCSB)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. 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 Lamentations

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