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Daily Devotion

  • I Don't Feel Like Being Nice

    Posted on December 12, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

    Grocery shopping alone! Oh how I'd taken that luxury for granted before having children.

    As I headed to the store after dropping my children off at a church event, I was nearly giddy with the joy of it all. A whole hour to myself. I had it all planned. I'd start with a soda, and leisurely meander through the aisles, actually looking at my coupons and thinking through meal planning.

    No "Mommy can I get this?" or "I have to go the bathroom!" comments would interrupt my time. I was going to be the most effective shopper in that store!

    It felt like I had all the time in the world, and I was really enjoying myself. Until I looked at my watch. Then panic set in.

    How had that much time gone by? I'd been there over an hour. I wasn't finished and still had to check out.

    I grabbed the last items on my list, rushed to the checkout lines and scurried between them trying to find the shortest line. I mentally assessed the checkout clerks, trying to determine their speed. Glancing at my watch for the fifth time, I picked one hoping Murphy's Law would not apply to me.

    The clerk proved quick, and soon it was my turn. Although I could feel myself getting impatient (as I looked at my watch yet another time) I tried to keep it under control. But the time was really late. And not only did I still have to pick up my children, but I told my sister I'd meet her for lunch after that. Everyone was waiting on me.

    And then the clerk hit a snag. One of my items wasn't ringing up correctly. He called for backup. But the first manager couldn't help. "I'm sorry Ma'am," the young man cringed. "I'm going to have to call the meat department."

    Seriously?! I thought to myself. Just give it to me for free so I can go!

    I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Everything in me felt like showing this young man how impatient I was. I could roll my eyes, sigh with exaggeration and set my wallet down hard on the counter.

    I sensed the Lord was telling me to be nice, but I didn't feel like being nice!

    Thankfully, then the Holy Spirit stepped in and clearly spoke to my heart: Don't sacrifice kindness on the altar of your impatience.

    Immediately I was repentant. I knew I was the one to blame for neglecting the time. Not this clerk. And rather than impatience, God prompted me to show kindness to this flustered young man who could not get my ham steak to ring up.

    "It's okay," I said with a sincere smile. "I'll come back another time."

    Whew, talk about a close call. I could have easily given in to impatience like I'd done plenty of times before. And then it probably would have snowballed. Especially when I got back to the church and my children sauntered up to the car. Yet rather than snapping at them to hurry, they got an apology and a much nicer mother.

    I so desperately want to be a woman who shows grace and kindness to others. One who puts the feelings of others above her plans. However, too often I allow impatience to direct my actions, sacrificing kindness when others most need it.

    God has such a beautiful, loving plan for us as we live together on this earth. In one sentence we have all the rules needed to get along: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32).

    At this busy Christmas season, it might be easy to feel impatient as stores are crowded and lines are long. If you're like me, you've got too much to do in too little time. Yet in the midst of the hustle and bustle, when impatience starts to rise, perhaps we might make a choice.

    Could we choose to be kind even when we don't feel like it?

    Perhaps we could even start a kindness revolution ... at home first, then work, church and the store. Rather than impatience, let's create a culture of kindness wherever we go, showing God's love to those who need it most.

    Lord, thank You for showing kindness to me when I least deserved it. Help me to be Your loving hands, feet and words to a world that desperately needs You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what situations do you find yourself the most impatient?

    What things can you do differently to create a culture of kindness in your life?

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. 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 Ephesians

  • When Fear Chases Me

    Posted on December 11, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

    My eyes popped open and my heart raced when my phone buzzed at 1 a.m. Good news isn't usually delivered at that hour.

    I hopped out of bed and grabbed my phone to read a text: "Mom, police have my dorm on lockdown and are running up and down the hall shouting. I don't know what's going on but I'm scared."

    It was Ashley, my college freshman daughter, more than seven hours away from me.

    I tried calling her but the reception was so bad neither of us could make out what the other was saying. Texting was my only option so I asked a series of questions trying to get a better handle of what was happening.

    My hands were shaking. My heart was racing. And I felt intensely helpless.

    When she was a little girl and cried out in the middle of the night, all I had to do was run upstairs. I could sit on the edge of her bed and rub her back. I could let her see me. Calm her with my touch. Be there to whisper reassurances.

    But now that little girl was a college girl very far from me.

    I couldn't sit on her bed and she couldn't see me. I couldn't calm her with my touch. I couldn't whisper those reassurances with my voice.

    All I could do was text her.

    And that felt completely inadequate in light of the situation.

    Scary images assaulted my mind with all the possible scenarios a completely shaken mama conjures up in moments of frightening uncertainty. I sank down to my knees and begged God to clear my head and give me the words to text that would help.

    This was one of those times I wished God would appear in a way my eyes could see Him and give me clear, step-by-step instructions saying exactly what to do.

    But I couldn't see Him. And no Spirit Finger wrote instructions on my wall. Instead, I felt this gentle nudge to pay attention to what He'd already given me that week: A set of verses a friend texted me and that I'd passed along to another friend which is our key verse today.

    Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

    I love that these verses give us a script to say out loud, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

    Quickly, I texted Ashley these verses and instructed her to say this out loud over and over until she felt some relief from her fear. And you better believe I was saying it out loud over and over as well.

    Isn't it interesting the two words God is called here are refuge and fortress?

    A refuge is a quick place you duck into to find shelter. A fortress is a place built intentionally for the purposes of exceptional security. The Hebrew word for fortress is metsudah, with one of its definitions being an "inaccessible place."

    God is not just a quick refuge from the storm, but He's also the place where fear no longer has access to me.

    Fear can't catch what it can no longer reach.

    It's not that bad things won't happen to my kids or me. We live in a broken world where broken things happen every day. But as a child of God I don't have to live with fear taunting and terrorizing me.

    We still don't know all the reasons why my daughter's dorm was on lockdown. Thankfully, she and her friends were safe and we all eventually got some sleep that night. I understand that other middle-of-the-night calls don't turn out so well. I've sadly lived through those times too.

    But I'm determined to make some imperfect progress when I'm processing fear.

    I now know I can feel afraid but I don't have to live afraid.

    I can say out loud, "God, You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." And then close my eyes and picture Him lifting us to a place where fear can't catch us.

    Dear Lord, I'm declaring today that I will not live in a state of fear. I place all of my fears into Your hands and commit to trust Your plan. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 32:7, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What fear are you living with? The next time you feel that fear sneaking in, declare the Scripture and prayer that Lysa shared. Remember: you can feel afraid but you don't have to live afraid!

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. 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

  • Shame On Me, Again

    Posted on December 10, 2014 by Vickie Courtney

    VICKIE COURTNEY

    "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (ESV)

    It happened suddenly and without warning.

    One minute I was sitting in a booth, laughing over a cup of coffee with my youngest son on his college campus (which just so happens to be my alma mater). The next minute, I'm driving away from my old college stomping grounds when the mere sight of a corner drugstore triggers a painful reminder of my past.

    It just so happened to be the same corner drugstore that one of my roommates and I ducked into late one night under a cloak of darkness to purchase a pregnancy test. She was late and had assumed the worst. It turned out it was negative, but it just as easily could have been me purchasing the test.

    In fact, at age 17 it had been me, which is what triggered my sudden feelings of shame that day. Back then, I was the one taking a pregnancy test, only my results were positive. This, in turn, led to my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I've spoken openly about this part of my past and have been walking in victory for many years, but every so often, the feelings of shame still come.

    And that's what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.

    Dictionary.com defines shame as "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."

    We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.

    We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve's sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.

    Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to breakneck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds, and yes, even ministry service. Been there. Done that.

    Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a mainstay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.

    Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, "What you did was bad." Shame says, "What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person."

    Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, "If I could go back and do things differently, I'd do this ... or that." Shame says, "I'll never get it right. I'm a failure."

    Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, "Everyone experiences embarrassing moments." Shame says, "Yet another reminder that I'm a loser, and nothing will change that fact."

    Guilt is always connected to behavior, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.

    We can't completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.

    And that's exactly what I did that day driving past the drugstore when the old shame tapes began to play. I hit the "eject" button and boldly declared out loud today's key verse, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Over and over, I proclaimed it until, once again, I believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.

    Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time you experienced a painful encounter with shame? Did you allow the shame tapes to play in your mind or immediately turn to Christ, hit "eject," and show shame the door?

    The next time shame pays you an unexpected visit, show it the door by confidently declaring Romans 8:1.

    © 2014 by Vickie Courtney. 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

  • But You Don't Know My Family

    Posted on December 9, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN EHMAN

    "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:18 (ESV)

    Sometimes the images I spy during the holiday season can deflate my festive spirit and send me instead into a frosty funk.

    A stunning home appears on my television screen complete with color-coordinated décor, an inviting roaring fire and stunning packages under the Christmas tree that look as if they were wrapped at a high-end department store.

    Then, I glance around my home.

    I see ordinary decorations donning our humble tree and gifts wrapped with commonplace paper topped off with tags from the dollar store. And I use the term "wrapped" rather loosely. I'm all thumbs when it comes to holding a roll of tape while also trying to create crisp creases and edges. I usually opt for an easy-open gift bag instead.

    Social media blows up with taunting images too. A holiday tablescape dotted with gourmet foods. Clever crafts. Incredible traditions. All of these can make me feel my holiday season is "less than" by comparison.

    But the images that prompt the most "must-be-nice" feelings in me are the ones of the families gathered together. And they're not just gathered. They also appear to be getting along!

    Family time around the holidays can be rough. Different personalities, lifestyles, schedules, religious beliefs and political views — even the opinions on who should bring the pumpkin pie this year — can all make for an interesting, even explosive, yuletide gathering.

    I used to enter time with family with the goal of everyone behaving. No outright fights, sarcastic statements or backhanded comments. While it didn't always happen, when it did, it was usually due to one particular relative who loves to sling their opinions throughout family events. Before each family gathering with this person, I hoped and prayed that none of their caustic and cruel comments were slung my way. But rarely did that happen.

    Instead I had my mothering skills subtly slammed, my method of mashing potatoes called into question and worse. As a result, my hopes of a happy family gathering were dashed and my feelings got repeatedly — and deeply — hurt.

    Over the years, I have found a tool that helps me when entering into interactions with the in-laws and out-laws. I simply apply today's key verse from Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

    I am not single-handedly responsible for bringing peace to the family gatherings. I can't close the curtain on every scene of drama. I can't force others to be nice. But I can control my words and actions. I can make sure what I say doesn't contribute further to the tension or escalate a minor squabble into a family feud.

    As far as it depends on me, I can behave.

    I can change the subject. Speak in a calm and collected tone when answering the combative person. Or just simply keep my mouth shut and say nothing at all. I can leave the room and go play with the children. Go into the kitchen and quietly do the dishes.

    I've learned I don't need to say every single thing I'm thinking. Or even half the things I'm thinking!

    I can purpose to pray and weigh. Pray that the Lord will help me know if I should speak or remain silent. And weigh each word I do say, asking myself if it is totally appropriate, completely necessary and ultimately gracious.

    Then, when another family gathering is in the books, I can look back and see that I did not contribute to any of the drama that might have ensued, but instead I chose — to the best of my ability — to create or keep the peace. I can then put on my coat, give a round of goodbye hugs and leave the family gathering guilt-free, with no regrets.

    Well, except for that second piece of pumpkin pie.

    Father, when interacting this holiday season with family members, help me to do everything in my ability to live peaceably with all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 14:19, "So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more on using your words properly, check out Karen's latest book, releasing next month, entitled Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say it and When to Say Nothing at All. Click here to preorder and be among the first to receive your copy.

    Save the date! Our next Online Bible Study starts January 26 and features Keep It Shut. Watch for updates at Proverbs31.org.

    Visit Karen's blog to enter her 12 Days of Christmas giveaways or sign up for her free email resource about using our words carefully called 5 Days to Sweet & Salty Speech.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone you encounter at family gatherings whose bad behavior sometimes tempts you to behave poorly in return?

    How can keeping in mind the instructions in Romans 12:18 help you to alter your behavior around that person this year?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. 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 God's Extraordinary Interrupted My Ordinary

    Posted on December 8, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    WENDY BLIGHT

    "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ..., " Judges 6:12a (NLT)

    Another day of errands. Same cycle every week. Grocery store. Gas station. Dry cleaners. Target.

    I dread errand days. I whine about the fun and exciting things I can't do because of the mundane tasks I have to do.

    But one particular week, God interrupted my ordinary with the extraordinary. You know, one of those moments when it seems God speaks directly to you ... as if He has heard the banter in your head and addresses it head on?

    I was studying about Gideon, a warrior from the Old Testament who also became a Judge over Israel. We initially meet him in the midst of his mundane in Judges chapter 6, when "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ...," (Judges 6:12a).

    No thunder. No lightning. No pomp. No circumstance. Very quietly, the Angel of the Lord came to speak to Gideon in the midst of his ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    Gideon's story remained heavy on my heart. Do I look for God in the midst of my ordinary? No, I don't. I just want the mundane over so I can get on with my day.

    Yet, I want to experience the extraordinary! But I look for it in the grandiose, the uncommon, the bigger-than-life. So, I prayed for a Gideon moment: God will You show up in my mundane? I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    God answered that very day, but not in the form of an angel. In the form of a 7-year-old boy.

    While checking out at Target, I noticed a young boy standing behind me, proudly toting a HUGE Nerf toy (almost as big as he was) and tightly gripping a handful of gift cards. I learned his name was Luke. I asked Luke if the toy was for him. Shyly, he shook his head yes. It was for his birthday. His mom said he received some gift cards and was spending them all on this one item!

    God met me right there in the checkout lane, in that shy smile, and moved my heart to give and my mouth to speak. I asked Luke's mom if I could buy his gun as a birthday present.

    In that moment, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking. It didn't make logical sense to offer this to a child I didn't know. I just knew God was calling me to do it — and I obeyed.

    A huge grin spread across Luke's face. "Really?" he asked. I nodded my head yes and suggested that he could then spend his gift cards on something else. Tears leaked from his mama's eyes as I shared my prayer that morning.

    I stopped by customer service, and as I turned toward the door to leave, Luke's dad, with Luke by his side, stopped to say thank you. But it wasn't the thank you for the gift that touched my heart. It was the words that followed, thanking me for the lesson Luke learned.

    Luke decided that instead of spending all his gift cards on another new toy, he would only spend four so that he could give one away.

    I'm so grateful God spoke to me in His Word that day. I'm grateful that "word" led me to pray a Gideon prayer ... for God to meet me in the ordinary to experience the extraordinary. I'm grateful God answered that prayer. And I'm so grateful that in meeting me, God also met Luke.

    And somewhere in this city, another little boy on another ordinary day will meet an extraordinary God through a tender-hearted little boy named Luke.

    Will you join me in praying a Gideon prayer ... for God to interrupt your ordinary tasks on an ordinary day to intervene in an extraordinary way? Let's invite Him to open our spiritual eyes so that we can see Him more clearly than ever before.

    Heavenly Father, I invite You to show up in my mundane. I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Samuel 3:10b, "And Samuel replied, 'Speak, Your servant is listening.'" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Pray your Gideon prayer, asking the Lord to make Himself visible to you (as He did to Gideon) in the midst of your mundane. Pray that He will open your spiritual eyes to see Him in a fresh way.

    Record how God worked through your prayer in your Bible or a journal.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. 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

  • It's Okay if We Don't Understand the Whole Bible

    Posted on December 5, 2014 by Wendy Pope

    WENDY POPE

    "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." Deuteronomy 29:29a (NLT)

    Read the Bible? The whole thing? From cover to cover? Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? I've heard they're hard. Do I have to read the Old Testament? Jesus wasn't even born then. What if I don't understand everything?

    These concerns plagued me as I sensed God nudging me to read the entire Bible. I'd grown up in the church and attended Sunday School and mid-week Bible study every week. But the thought of reading the whole Bible intimidated me. My greatest fears were failure to finish and not being able to understand what I read.

    To ease my anxiety, I went to my local Christian bookstore with this thought: If I'm going to read the whole Bible, certainly I need a new Bible.

    I previewed various types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. It seemed like hours had passed. And just when I was about to give up, I pulled the One Year Chronological Bible from the shelf.

    The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An attractive cover. The best part to me was knowing I would read the Bible in the order the events occurred. Yes! This is the Bible for me.

    That year I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I stumbled some, but I also learned a lot. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy really are difficult to read. They are full of laws, actual numbers and more laws. But through those books and the rest of the Old Testament, I learned to really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me (because there's no way any human on the planet could keep all of those laws). And, I learned it's okay if I don't understand the whole Bible.

    What a relief! You see, I thought a Christian should be able to understand the Bible completely. And because I didn't, I thought something must be wrong with me.

    Truth is, we're not meant to understand everything in the Bible the first time we read it. If we were, we could read it once and put it on our shelf.

    The Bible is unlike any other book. Hebrews describes God's Word as living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is meant to help us live life. Therefore, it's necessary to have it as a part of our daily living.

    Our key verse says, "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." God reveals the truths He wants us to understand when He feels we are ready to understand and apply them.

    When we don't understand something, it doesn't mean we are less of a Christian or not as smart as another. God, in His infinite wisdom, keeps some things hidden from us until just the right time.

    With this truth in mind I set out to read the Bible one day at a time. Now many years later, I've read the Bible in its entirety year after year. Not because I'm a super Christian, but because my first reading of the entire Bible taught me that amazing truth ... and I wanted more.

    What about you? Have you ever thought about reading the entire Bible but were too intimidated to get started? If so, now is your chance. Let's be women who read God's Book. I promise it will be a life-changer.

    Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Word to help us through life. Give me the desire to read the Bible every day. Will You teach me Your truths and keep me from becoming overwhelmed with what I don't understand? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 141:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:105, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (KJV)

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What intimidates you most about reading through the Bible? What good might come if you let God reveal more of His truth in your life?

    Take those things to God in prayer and ask Him to help you.

    © 2014 by Wendy Pope. 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 Deuteronomy

  • When I Lose My Patience with God

    Posted on December 4, 2014 by Christy Mobley

    CHRISTY MOBLEY

    "For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." Phillippians 2:13 (NIV)

    ON YOUR MARK ... GET SET ... GO!

    Hearing those words, I was always first off the starting block. Actually they were more like pieces of wood taped to the asphalt, but it was junior high; we made do.

    It didn't matter to me because I was the fastest kid in our seventh-grade class. I could out-run the girls and the boys any day of the week ... except when it came to the 600-meter run.

    Every year we had to go through something called the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. It consisted of a series of strength and endurance tests to determine each student's level of physical fitness. Those who finished the assessment in a certain percentile earned the coveted Presidential Physical Fitness Award.

    I wanted that award in the worst kind of way. I knew I could ace the other tests, but year after year one eluded me. The 600-meter run. It seems like such a short distance now, but for this lanky seventh-grader, it was a marathon.

    Before we started, the coach gave us instructions to set our pace to finish the race. I thought, Yeah, I know how to pace myself. Fast! I'll be around that track and done before the other kids hear the O in GO! Or, so I thought.

    I figured I didn't need to heed the advice of our PE coach. What did he know? I'd set my own pace. And I did.

    After running my heart out for about 100 meters, my legs suddenly felt like rubber and my lungs like lead. I couldn't go a second longer. Bent over and gasping for air, I watched out of the corner of my eye as each classmate plodded past me to victory.

    Looking back, ignoring guidance and running as fast I could wasn't the best approach. As an adult, I can still run too fast and get ahead of God's plans. Instead of prayerfully asking God where He wants me, I speed ahead with my own agenda. And when I do, I'm like a fast-burning candle with a short wick. I burn out fast.

    Our key verse, Philippians 2:13, tells us God has a plan and purpose for us, and He'll get us where He needs us to go. In His timing. We need not try to beat Him to the finish.

    I've heard that patience is slowing down to the speed of someone else. I've also learned I need to have a little more patience with God and slow down to His pace — the pace He has set for me.

    I have to admit I was disappointed every year that I didn't receive the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. But today, I'd rather finish my race at God's pace and have the reward of hearing Him say,"Well done, good and faithful servant."

    Dear Heavenly Father, I have spent my life racing ahead, and I'm exhausted. My desire is to be in step with You. Help me slow down to Your pace, so I don't run past the place and purpose You have set for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV)

    Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (NIV)

    Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What may cause you to rush ahead of God's timing, and what steps can you take to get back in pace with Him?

    Pray and ask God to reveal to you where He is working in your life and the lives of your family and friends. Jot down what you learn. Then ask God to show you where you can join Him.

    © 2014 by Christy Mobley. 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 Phillippians

  • You're Shining for Jesus Wherever You Are

    Posted on December 3, 2014 by Holley Gerth

    HOLLEY GERTH

    "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

    The news headlines drifted in from the living room as I sat at my desk. The story of yet another tragedy contrasted so sharply with what I was writing that I stopped, sighed and leaned back in my chair. A sense of despair washed over me.

    "Lord," I silently prayed, "is there anything I can do about the darkness in this world? It seems so overwhelming."

    I sensed a gentle whisper within my heart replying, "The only way to get rid of the darkness is to add more light."

    Darkness is the absence of light. Trying to go after it directly is like chasing your shadow. You can't bag it up and throw it away. Only light is powerful enough to make the darkness disappear. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that we are the light of the world. We are called to shine. But the light we share is not our own.

    From the very beginning of creation, God has been the source of light both spiritually and literally. Genesis 1:2b-3 says, "Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (NIV).

    Imagine a world full of darkness. Then with four small words, light blazes forth. Every living thing in our world relies on light for its existence — plants, animals and people. The God who brought light to the world also brings it to our lives. As 2 Corinthians 4:6a says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts" (NIV).

    The best part of all is that we don't have to be like the light bulb that said, "I have to find a way to shine!" The light bulb went to a self-help meeting to learn about its inner capacity for light. It read books about how to get brighter. Each morning the light bulb would get up and recite positive affirmations. "I am a light bulb. I believe in myself. I will shine!" But nothing happened.

    Eventually the light bulb became weary and discouraged. It began to doubt who it was and what it could do. It almost burned out completely. Fortunately, one day the light bulb was carefully placed in a fixture. Light burst forth and filled the room. The light bulb finally understood. The key was not to try harder but to plug into the source.

    Trying to shine on our own can be exhausting. Instead, we're simply called to be closely connected to God and remain in Him. When we do, His light pours forth through us in powerful, brilliant ways that change the world. The ways we shine might not make the news, but they make even more of a difference than we can see.

    Lord, thank You for being the light within us so we can shine brightly for the world around us. When it seems darkness is crowding in, use us to make a difference. We ask that You will help us share Your love, joy and peace — especially this time of year. You are the hope we need and the One light that will never burn out, be overcome or fade away. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (NIV)

    Isaiah 60:20, "Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    The Everlasting Light Collection from DaySpring provides beautiful and inspirational items that will help you share your faith and brighten the lives of those you love.

    Holley Gerth is the best-selling author of several books, a certified life coach and speaker. She has written more than 2,000 cards for DaySpring and is a cofounder of (in)courage.me. You can find more encouragement from Holley at www.holleygerth.com.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Whose life can you brighten in a simple way wherever you are today?

    © 2014 by Holley Gerth. All rights reserved.

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

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

    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

  • I Want to Quit Ministry

    Posted on December 2, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" John 21:15a (NIV)

    Do you ever wish God would appear in the flesh and tell you exactly what He wants you to do in a situation? I do.

    Sometimes I wish He'd hand me a piece of paper with clear, step-by-step instructions written out and personalized for my specific circumstance. And then He'd stay for a little Q&A session where He'd tenderly answer all my questions with deep reassurances.

    I guess some people would say that demonstrates my lack of faith. And maybe it does. Or maybe my heart just feels incredibly vulnerable with some decisions I have to make, and I desperately want to get it right.

    I love the Lord so much.

    I want to honor Him with my life.

    But sometimes I feel Him stirring me to do something that's terrifyingly opposite of what I want to do. Left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I'd never choose on my own.

    This question forces my eyes to glance toward that path: More than anything else, do you want to follow God and live His message?

    Or even more deeply: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

    It's this question the resurrected Jesus asked Peter at a crucial crossroads in Peter's life. And gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

    He'd been following Jesus for years.

    Then things got hard, just like Jesus told the disciples they would. Jesus gave them the clear hope to hold onto:

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33, NIV).

    But isn't it hard when what you see with your physical eyes seems contrary to what you believe in your heart?

    Problems beg us to forget God's promises.

    Peter denied Jesus because he feared the cost of following Him.

    Then circumstances got really hard. Jesus was crucified and Peter took his eyes off that hard path of continuing in ministry. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable ... fishing.

    Then Peter got one of those visits from Jesus I wish I could have. Resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh and could not have made it any clearer what He wanted Peter to ponder. With one question, He ruined Peter's justifications to stay safe.

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" (John 21:15).

    Do you love me more than these?

    We've all got our own "these."

    They are anything that make us look away from the less chosen path of following God with everything we've got.

    So, back to my decision.

    Last year, I wanted to quit ministry. Proverbs 31 Ministries had experienced tremendous growth and suddenly I felt enormous pressure that I wasn't smart enough, capable enough or resourced enough to lead this ministry.

    Everything was bigger, which made me feel like everything was scarier.

    The staffing needs.

    The budget.

    The worries.

    Gathering up my fears, I presented a strong case to the Lord to give this assignment to someone else and let me quietly slip away. I set my sights on what felt more comfortable and safe and certain.

    But Jesus' question ruined all my quitting plans: "Do you love me more than these ... more than your fears ... more than your desire to do something easier and less scary?"

    So, here I stand, a girl with trembling hands wearing boots dusty from that uncommon path. I stand and proclaim, "Yes, Jesus, I love You more than these. I will live out the charge presented in Your Holy Word to, "Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching," (2 Timothy 4:2, HCSB).

    I realize your struggles and decisions might not look like mine, but whatever they are, my team at Proverbs 31 Ministries and I are committed to meeting you at your point of need with the Truth that points you to God's best pathway for you.

    I pray this devotion and all the others we send each day help you hold God's Truth close and more clearly discern God's direction for your day.

    I'm determined to persevere. But I'm also determined to recognize I can't do this alone. Will you join us with your prayers and financial support?

    This is so hard and honestly awkward for me to ask. But if I don't, you won't know Proverbs 31 Ministries depends on your support to do what we do each day.

    I need your help and I thank you for letting me ask. Oh, how I wish we could have this conversation over coffee ... maybe one day. I would love that. But for now, if you can join us, please click here for more information. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Dear Lord, I want to declare today that I love You more than my "these." Thank You for reminding me to follow You even when it's difficult. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are your "these"? The things that keep you from following God with everything you've got? Once you've identified them, pray about handing them over to God.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. 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, Deuteronomy

  • When Only a Friend Who Gets It Will Do

    Posted on December 1, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth." Luke 1:39-40 (NIV)

    When I was pregnant with our firstborn, I carried around a well-marked copy of the book, What to Expect When You're Expecting, counting on its practical wisdom to get me through those scary (yet exciting) months.

    With our next child, I turned to a close friend who was also expecting her second. We exchanged advice, discussed at length the many joys and discomforts of pregnancy, and cheered each other on as our delivery dates drew near. If you need a listening ear, a friend who is walking the same path is a great place to turn.

    Surely that was the case 2,000 years ago for Mary and Elizabeth, who didn't even expect to be expecting. Mary was a virgin, betrothed to Joseph. Elizabeth was an older, barren woman, married to Zechariah the priest. When we first meet them in the Bible, neither woman could imagine being pregnant. But God was already on the move.

    When Gabriel brought Mary the good news of the Son she would bear, the angel offered this word of encouragement: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month" (Luke 1:36, NIV).

    No wonder Mary took off for Zechariah's house! Elizabeth might actually believe her miraculous story. Today's key verse assures us young Mary "got ready and hurried," eager to connect with the one person who would understand her situation: a pregnant kinswoman who shared Mary's faith in a wonder-working God.

    If you're bursting with news about something the Lord has done in your life — an answer to prayer, a long-awaited blessing, a surprising provision — you don't want to spill the beans to just anyone. Like Mary, you long to tell somebody who will get it. A friend who will say, "Praise God!" instead of, "Lucky you."

    Besides, who else could Mary tell? Her young friends? Her neighbors in Nazareth? "Hey, I just had a visit from an angel, and I'll be giving birth to God's Son."

    Right. Not happening. Mary needed Elizabeth, just as we need a friend who will listen without judgment and offer wise counsel because she's been there — or is there right now.

    The moment Mary arrived, another miracle occurred. "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb" (Luke 1:41a, NIV). If a mom-to-be eats something sweet or drinks something cold, an unborn child often responds with a swift kick. But this was different: "and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit," (Luke 1:41b, NIV).

    Can you fathom the emotions and sensations that must have washed over Elizabeth? An urge to laugh and cry at once, a sense of being flooded with sunlight and fresh air, an overwhelming desire to shout with joy. And shout she did. "In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women ...'" (Luke 1:42a, NIV).

    Think of it! Two ordinary women bound together by an extraordinary God, empowered by His Holy Spirit.

    Mary and Elizabeth had a friendship that shines through the ages. Shared faith, shared joy, shared experience. If you need someone to listen, advise and empathize, consider a woman you know who could use that same kind of support from you. When encouragement flows both directions and honors the Lord, that's a friendship that will go the distance.

    Lord, You will always be our closest friend, our best source of counsel, the first place we turn. Thank You for also providing earthly friends who help us keep our focus on You, every season of the year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 27:9b, "The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice." (NIV)

    Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." (NIV)

    Proverbs 17:17a, "A friend loves at all times." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn more about the special bond of friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, as Liz Curtis Higgs unwraps their stories in The Women of Christmas, preparing your heart for this holy season.

    Visit Liz's blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    A godly friend is one of the kindest gifts the Lord could bestow on us. In this season of giving and receiving, think of a woman you know who might benefit from a word of encouragement drawn from your well of experience.

    What specifically could you do for her? Say to her? Provide for her? The gift of praying for her daily might not come wrapped in a bow, but would surely be the one thing she needs most in the coming year.

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Adapted from The Women of Christmas. 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

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