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Daily Devotion

  • You are Chosen and Loved

    Posted on June 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    Jennifer Rothschild JUNE 2, 2015

    You are Chosen and Loved
    Jennifer Rothschild

    "I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’" Hosea 2:23b (NIV)

    Growing up, I was an uncoordinated kid.

    One of the ones who was often chosen last for the kickball team in gym class. And even then, only because there was no one else left to pick.

    If you, too, have ever been picked last, the idea of being chosen by God might sound rather foreign. Some of us might even need to rethink what it means to be chosen.

    To be chosen by God means we are His first choice and His best choice. Unlike the kids in the gym, He didn’t shrug His shoulders and say, "Well, I guess I’ll take her if no one else will."

    Not at all.

    When Jesus’ hands were nailed to a cross, His fingers pointed to you and me — He intentionally chose to die for us. He chose you and He chose me and He chooses us every day.

    Isn’t that amazing?

    The book of Hosea in the Bible beautifully illustrates this concept for us. Hosea was a prophet whom God told to marry a prostitute and thereby show the nation of Israel how she’d been unfaithful by worshipping false gods. Hosea chose Gomer, a woman who would birth his children, yet leave him time and again for another lover. (For more, see Hosea chapters 1 and 2.)

    All through the book of Hosea, we see both judgment and hope, destruction and restoration. Hosea proclaims both sides of God, which reflect His one heart — God’s faithful love for His people, warning them for their good.

    Just like God chose the nation of Israel and Hosea the prophet chose Gomer to reveal His love, God chose you. In fact, you are a chosen woman of God.

    It’s so easy to look in the foggy mirror that is my life and see all the reasons why I shouldn’t be chosen and loved: I’m selfish, I wander from God, I have mixed motives, I’m not good enough … oh, the reasons are unending!

    However, the more accurate mirror of God’s Word reflects the truth that I am chosen and loved. And, that my friend, includes you.

    In today’s key verse, God’s Word to Israel reminds us that even though we have made mistakes and might feel rejected and unworthy of love, God still pursues us. The message of Hosea is still God’s message to us.

    In other words, Israel’s identity was a chosen and loved people of God. Our identity is chosen and loved women of God.

    Thankfully, I’ve learned God doesn’t love me because I am cleaned up, religious or even because I am a Christian. He loves me because He is love. We didn’t earn His love and we can’t lose His love either.

    The Bible says, "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8b, ESV). He didn’t choose to love you because you were lovely, He loved you and then you became lovely. Your value comes from His inherit value.

    Look into the mirror of your soul and see Gomer reflected back at you. She was the beloved bride and so are you. Embrace your true identity as a chosen and loved woman of God!

    Lord, thank You for choosing me, even when I feel unworthy to be chosen. And thank You for loving me when I didn’t do anything to earn Your love. Please speak words of truth over me when I’m tempted to doubt I am chosen and loved. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 4:9-10, "God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins." (NLT)

    Romans 8:38-39, "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything by Jennifer Rothschild is a 7-session Bible study that focuses on the Old Testament prophet, whose life message demonstrates the kind of love we dream of, a love that changes everything. For details, click here.

    For more encouragement from Jennifer, visit her website.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Hosea by Jennifer Rothschild. In celebration of this study, Jennifer’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, June 8.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    You are indeed chosen and loved. Stop right now and ask God to help you receive and believe you are chosen. And loved.

    Your identity is not your failure or past. Your identity is not your success or virtues. Your identity is not what you do, what you did, haven’t done, should have done, or wished you’d done. Your identity is a chosen, loved woman whom God calls His beloved. How could your life be different today, if you fully believed these truths?

    © 2015 by Jennifer Rothschild. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • What’s it Like on the Other Side of Me?

    Posted on June 1, 2015 by Family Christian

    Nicki Koziarz JUNE 1, 2015

    What’s it Like on the Other Side of Me?
    NICKI KOZIARZ

    "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’" James 4:6 (ESV)

    Did you know it’s possible to get demoted from Room Mom to Assistant Room Mom?

    It is.

    It all started at the school open house. My little pig-tailed daughter and I walked into her new teacher’s classroom. She greeted us with a warm smile and told us to look around the room and check out all the papers that were on her desk.

    I knew what papers were on the desk, so I quickly made my way there.

    And there it was …

    The purple sign-up sheet, listing all the volunteer roles for the year. And with a blank line next to the most coveted spot for all the moms at this school.

    Room Mom.

    Room Mom seemed like a Pinterest dream come true for me. The chance to be at my daughter’s school for all her important events and to unleash my DIY skills!

    I couldn’t believe the space was blank. It was never, ever blank by the time I got to the open house each year. So I quickly wrote my name down and went home to get my party-momma hat on.

    This is going to be the best year ever!

    And it was … for about four weeks.

    In the midst of all the Room Mom excitement, several doors of opportunity opened up for me in other areas of my life. I took on a part-time job, began speaking at events and my afternoons were spent shuffling kids to this activity, and then to that activity.

    Before I knew it, I was completely overloaded. I was desperately trying to fulfill all the commitments I had made, including Room Mom. However, returning emails in a timely manner became hard and my availability to help cut out crafts became limited.

    And after my Fall FAIL party craft [Pinterest lies. Oh how it lies!], one of the other moms began to get frustrated with me.

    Soon after, I got an email from my daughter’s teacher explaining that she felt like this other mom might have "more time" to fulfill the Room Mom assignments and suggested I assist her.

    Well then.

    To be honest, the teacher was right. The other mom could do this Room Mom thing in her sleep. She was great at it! And she did have more time to offer than I did.

    Still, something inside me ached in knowing people had become so frustrated with me, and I had no idea. Pride had clouded my vision. I couldn’t even see how my overloaded schedule was affecting the people around me. I just kept telling myself I was doing the best I could.

    In reality, I needed to admit my overload and ask for help.

    So now, when I’m sensing my schedule is overwhelmed, I ask myself the best reflective question I’ve found:

    Right now, what is it like to be on the other side of me?

    After I ask that question, I take notice of the commitments I’ve made and adjust them to avoid frustrating the people who are depending on me to fulfill my obligations.

    Right now, what is it like to be on the other side of me?

    This question helps me pause, pray and ask the Holy Spirit to show me anything I need to change.

    Right now, what is it like to be on the other side of me?

    It’s the question that helps me step into conflict and see the perspective of the person I’ve offended or frustrated.

    Yes, this question leads to a hard-humble place. But it’s also a grace-filled place, like James describes in our key verse today.

    When I pause to ask what its like to be on the other side of me, God gives me a perspective that is beyond what I can see. And no, I’ve never checked that Room Mom box again. [smile]

    Lord, thank You for the grace You bring to us through humility. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:33, "Wisdom’s instruction is to fear the LORD, and humility comes before honor." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more wisdom on making wise choices with your schedule pick up a copy of The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst.

    For a chance to win a copy of The Best Yes visit Nicki Koziarz’s blog today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is an area of your life where pride has slipped in and clouded your ability to see things for what they are? Tell us in the comment section today.

    Pray and ask God to help you answer the question Nicki posed today: "Right now, what is it like to be on the other side of me?" Then walk humbly in His grace by apologizing to someone and seeking to make amends.

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Shouldn't This Be Easier?

    Posted on May 29, 2015 by Family Christian

    Leah DiPascal MAY 29, 2015

    Shouldn't This Be Easier?
    LEAH DIPASCAL

    "When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say." Revelation 3:7b (CEV)

    I have a confession to make. There have been times in my past when I felt like God was getting in the way of my plans.

    More often than not, I would admire my friends and notice how they seemed to be on the fast track toward success in life. I, too, had goals I wanted to accomplish, dreams to pursue and a calling I longed to fulfill. Why did it seem like they were making great progress and I wasn’t?

    Determined to make things happen, the achiever in me insisted on bulldozing forward with big expectations and lofty dreams. If I just work harder and stay focused, everything will go according to my plan.

    I longed for God to stamp "yes" stickers on all my prayer requests and open every door of opportunity that I thought would be the perfect fit for me. But that didn’t happen.

    Instead, I faced many challenges and obstacles. It seemed as if I’d take one step forward and three steps backward … like I was encountering more roadblocks than open doors.

    My self-made highway toward all those dreams started to look more like a dirt road littered with potholes of discouragement and puddles of frustration. So, I prayed harder, sought God more and asked why He wasn’t taking all of my great ideas into consideration.

    I wanted to be optimistic and full of faith, but the more I pondered and asked questions, the more I second-guessed my calling. Self-doubt filled my mind:

    If God has gifted and called me to this, shouldn’t it be easier?

    If I’m trying to do God’s will, why does it seem like He’s denying all my prayer requests? Surely, He knows this is important to me!

    Look at this great opportunity. It’s exactly what I’ve been asking for! Why do I keep getting overlooked?

    Not all of the answers came right away, but I refused to give up. I kept reading my Bible and asking God the tough questions. I continued to trust Him and follow His lead even when things didn’t make sense.

    Then one morning as I was reading my Bible and journaling, I came across today’s key verse from Revelation 3:7: "When I open a door, no one can close it. And when I close a door, no one can open it. Listen to what I say."

    Then this thought came to me: A closed door is not God’s objection toward me; it’s His sovereign protection over me.

    Suddenly that changed everything. I looked at the closed doors in my life from a new perspective.

    God loves me too much and knows me too well to give me everything I ask for. His protection for me will always override my earthy wants and desires. Even when I have the best intentions in mind, His plan is always better.

    The Bible tells us in Psalm 84:11-12, "The LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly … blessed is the one who trusts in you!" (ESV)

    To "walk uprightly" means to have a faith that is genuine — to continuously seek after God’s will and obey Him in every area of our lives.

    If you’re walking uprightly and God closes a door that you think is a great opportunity, I hope you will remember this devotion and hold onto this truth: God is not setting you up for disappointment or failure. He’s setting you up for something better.

    The gifts God has given you and the calling He’s placed on your life are irrevocable. Whatever door God opens on your behalf cannot be closed by anyone. God’s plans for you will succeed and His promises stand firm forever.

    Meanwhile, let’s not only thank God for the doors He’s opening, but also for the doors He’s closing. Doors that could potentially lead us to harm, should we get our own way. Let’s be sure to remember: God is not getting in our way — He is the only way to complete victory!

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts and calling You’ve placed on my life. Help me to trust You when things don᾿t go according to my plans and desires. Let me see the potential of a closed door as a divine detour that will lead me closer to You as I wait for something better. I’m so grateful Your promises stand forever. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 1:6, "And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Are you looking for answers and longing for more of God’s peace and perspective? Check out the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women today. It’s filled with insightful daily devotions written by Lysa TerKeurst and the Proverbs 31 Ministries team.

    Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog to continue the conversation and enter her drawing to win a copy of the NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time a closed door became a divine detour in your life?

    Write down all the benefits and blessings from a closed-door experience. Take time to thank God for each one.

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • When I Don’t Get What I Want

    Posted on May 28, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 28, 2015When I Don’t Get What I Want
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

    Have you ever wanted something so badly your heart ached with each thought of it? It seems life would be so much better if you had that.

    There would be more happiness.

    More contentment.

    More fulfillment.

    More satisfaction.

    More peace.

    We can envision ourselves with this thing, this person, this opportunity. And all things are better. So, why doesn’t God give us this longing of our heart?

    Because He wants us to willingly release it to Him.

    Ouch.

    Not the answer we want. Why would God let the aching desire linger and not make things happen? He could. He’s certainly able. But when He doesn’t, it seems unfair. Not good. Confusing.

    It’s easy to get down when we’re constantly let down.

    We hope this thing will happen … we’ll meet this right person … we’ll get this job … we’ll finally be healed … we’ll get that chance … we’ll see that family member turn their life around. Time and again it doesn’t happen. That’s when it’s easy to slip.

    We can so easily slip into feeling a little distant from God because we feel hurt by God.

    That’s what happened when the man I thought I was going to marry told me he met someone else. That’s what happened when I didn’t get the job I was so certain was going to be the answer to all my financial problems. That’s what happened when my son didn’t get into the charter school we were so certain would have been perfect for him.

    But, in each of these things, I eventually had to make a choice. I could either be consumed with my unmet longing or trust the plans of our loving God.

    As an offering of trust, we must give up that which could so easily bring us down.

    Not give up as in a discouraged surrender. But giving up as in placing this desire in the hand of God and saying, "Either way, I will see Your answer as the good answer and walk in trust."

    The Scriptures and today’s key verse promise He rewards those who honestly seek Him: "And without faith is it impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (Hebrews 11:6).

    Sometimes I get so consumed with seeking my unmet longings, I don’t earnestly seek Him. But then I miss out on His reward. And His reward is the only thing that will fill the void in my heart.

    Yes, I still struggle with unmet desires.

    But not as much today as I did yesterday.

    And that is good. Not easy. But good.

    Dear Lord, I sacrifice chasing what I want so I might more fully, and with more focus, chase You. I release this grip of desire. I praise You for who You are, what only You can bring, and how You will fill whatever gap this release might leave. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Timothy 6:12, "Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses." (NIV)

    Hebrews 12:1, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If this devotion resonated with you, Lysa TerKeurst’s book Made to Crave is just what you need to replace your unmet desire with a longing for God. Get your copy today.

    For more encouragement, visit Lysa’s blog!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What unmet longing do you need to let go of today?

    Place this desire in the hand of God by declaring, "Lord, either way, I will see Your answer as the good answer and walk in trust."

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Where's God When I'm Afraid

    Posted on May 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Susie Davis MAY 27, 2015

    Where's God When I'm Afraid
    Susie Davis

    "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the one Israel praises." Psalm 22:1-3 (NIV)

    I lay flat on the floor, pounding my fists in desperation.

    Lost in grief so deep, I didn’t even think about the fact I might wake my babies, ages 4 and 9 months, napping in the rooms right next door. I wanted to snap myself out of it and return to folding laundry and picking up scattered toys. Instead, I lay pressed to the floor, drowning in a sea of horrible memories.

    I flashed back to a boy, a gun and my teacher dying on the classroom floor. Mental images of the horror of what had happened a decade ago invaded my life as a young wife and mother, instantly engulfing me in post-traumatic stress.

    Although I loved God, I’d stopped trusting Him long before this moment. The fear landscape of my life seemed preferable to trusting a God who could allow such a terrible thing to happen. Yet all the years I spent trying to pack down the fears of what I had witnessed as a child came flooding to the surface. With it came the exhaustion I felt from working hard to make my world, and my children’s world, safe.

    The endless hours I expended trying to manage, control and protect my little family finally fractured my body, soul and spirit. I was a broken woman, falling apart.

    And then in the middle of my meltdown, a verse, really nothing more than a quiet whisper, came rushing in.

    "Yet You are holy …"

    For those of us who struggle with fear, there may be no more important word in the Bible than the word yet.

    Yet tells us the story hasn’t fully been told.

    Yet tells us a page is about to be turned.

    Yet tells us God has a different perspective.

    In our key verse, we see how David felt like God was distant and unfeeling, like He was not listening. And David, like you and me, struggled greatly with fear. But despite all this, David followed his feelings with a powerful yet. And it’s a big one. "Yet you … are Holy."

    Here’s the thing: God never uses fear as a tactic to make us holy. His ways are higher than stooping to that level. If that’s true, there’s no need to panic. No worrying that God has lost control of things. No anxiety over things unknown. Just the calm, confident confession that God is still holy.

    And in that holiness, God manages the details of the whole universe … including you, me and the people we love.

    God isn’t just the God of the calm and peaceful. He isn’t just God in the happy and safe. He’s God in the chaos. He’s God in the courtroom, the emergency room, the waiting room and the viewing room.

    He is always holy. Even now.

    Trouble may abound but God is holy still. His sovereignty takes the pressure off of us to control our sometimes scary circumstances and hold tightly to the things we think will bring us comfort. Because God shows up, we can live our lives unafraid.

    When the pressure overwhelms, when we’re broken on the floor or feel like we just can’t handle what the world may hand us … may we find God holy after all.

    God, I am frightened of far too many things. Things that overwhelm me and cause me to believe You’re really not in control. And You know how I often try to become the savior of my little world, hyper-managing my children and the people I love, because I’m terrified You won’t show up. Regardless of how dark my circumstances feel or how terrifying my personal problems, You are holy. Thank You for being holy — and for being in total control. Let me rest in the peace of that knowledge. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Luke 12:31-32, "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)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you struggle with fear and anxiety, check out Susie Davis’ new book, Unafraid: Trusting God in an Unsafe World.

    You can also visit Susie’s blog, where she regularly writes about the creative ways God rescued her from being a fearful wife and mother.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Unafraid by Susie Davis. In celebration of this book, Susie’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, June 1.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are three areas of your life that currently overwhelm you? Write out a prayer in blue or black pen, starting with an honest confession of your circumstances.

    Then, finish by choosing a bright colored pen and underneath; write a Scriptural promise from God’s Word reminding you He is in control. Whenever you feel frantic and anxious during the day, look back at your prayer and remind yourself that God is holy still.

    © 2015 by Susie Davis. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers 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

  • I Want a Do-Over

    Posted on May 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Wendy Blight MAY 26, 2015

    I Want a Do-Over
    WENDY BLIGHT

    "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." Romans 12:2a (NLT)

    Before blogs, Facebook and Pinterest, we actually used cookbooks. Old-fashioned cookbooks, with pages that you turn, not swipe on an electronic device. I opened one of those folded-down, tattered pages and found an old favorite. I labored throughout the day, creating a magnificent meal featuring one of my grandmother’s treasured recipes as the centerpiece.

    I couldn’t wait for my family to gather around the table that night. My husband usually arrived home at or before 6:30 p.m., so that was our appointed time to eat. The kids and I sat down for dinner at 6:30 … but no husband.

    6:40, still no husband.

    6:50 … no husband and no call. Where was he? How thoughtless. Not even a call.

    At 6:55, when the phone finally rang 25 minutes later, I was fuming! So what did I do? I ignored it, and told the kids to eat.

    When my husband finally walked in at 7:05, I narrowed my eyes and gave him the silent treatment. Not just for that moment, but for the rest of the evening. I was furious. How could he be so rude? I worked on this meal all day. How hard is it to call?

    That night, I allowed my emotions to override any and all rational thoughts. I was frustrated, and just plain mean.

    I look back now and think how differently this night would have ended had I prepared my heart for the disappointment, anger and hurt feelings. But I hadn’t. I had nothing but my emotions from which to pull … and they ran wild.

    But what if I had more than just my fickle feelings? What if I had God’s Word stored in my heart to renew my mind, to speak truth over my emotions, to rein in my tongue, to soften my eyes? What if I acted in accordance with our key verse so that I thought differently and responded differently? "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think" (Romans 12:2a).

    What if I got a "do over"?

    Let’s replay the night, but with a different scenario. In this one, I have readied and renewed my mind with God’s Word.

    Well, 6:30 arrives, but Monty doesn’t. The thoughts creep in: Where is he? Why hasn’t he called? He knows we eat at 6:30 every night. He always calls when he is going to be late.

    As the minutes tick away, my anger escalates. But suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see pink sticky notes over the kitchen sink. Three Scriptures that I had not only memorized but also personalized. I walk over and drink in the words:

    Wendy, a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

    Wendy, a fool gives full vent to her anger, but a wise woman keeps herself under control. (Proverbs 29:11)

    Wendy, be kind and compassionate to your family, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.(Ephesians 4:32)

    In this scenario, I was open to God as He interrupted my angry thoughts and replaced them with fresh thoughts … with His powerful, life-giving, life-transforming, mind-renewing words. Words that are a gift from the One who only wants the very best for me, my marriage and my family. When I read them, God reminds me of who He is and who He wants me to be. The Holy Spirit softens my heart.

    So this time, when the phone rings at 6:50, I answer it. I hear my husband’s sincere apology and accept it. He walks in the door at 7:05, after a long day’s work, forgiven and ready to enjoy a wonderful meal with his family … experiencing grace, love, forgiveness and joy.

    Which is the better scenario?

    Heavenly Father, fill me with the riches of Your Word. Give me a heart that loves and seeks after Your Truth. Guard my heart. Interrupt my thoughts. Renew my mind so that I can live ruled by Your love and Your Word, not by my emotions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 29:11, "Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    To gain wisdom on how to make more faith-filled choices, check out Wendy Blight’s latest book, Living So That: Making Faith-Filled Choices in the Midst of a Messy Life.

    Stop by Wendy’s blog for more guidance on how to personalize and pray God’s Word. She is also offering a FREE devotional, "Five Days to a Faith-Full Life."

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Pray and ask God to reveal an area where you might need a "do-over."

    Then open God’s Word and find one or two verses that address the area you chose. Personalize the verses, and ask God to renew your mind. Invite Him to give you the strength and the power to accomplish a "do-over" in that area.

    © 2015 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Power of Simply Saying Thanks

    Posted on May 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman MAY 25, 2015

    The Power of Simply Saying Thanks
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." Colossians 4:2 (NIV)

    "Wait … where is she going?" I asked my then college boyfriend.

    We were strolling with his parents at a festival celebrating Michigan’s abundant cherry harvest when his mom — who had been explaining the difference between tart and dark cherries — stopped talking mid-sentence and darted off.

    I watched her weave through the summertime crowd until she reached her destination. She stopped at the side of a serviceman in uniform and spoke a few words to him. She then gifted him with an impromptu hug and returned to my side where she finished her explanation to me without missing a beat.

    For over a quarter century I’ve watched my (now) mother-in-law thank servicemen and women whenever she sees them. It can be in the middle of a busy grocery store or in the bleachers of a Friday night football game. She will stop whatever she’s doing, walk over to the person and simply say, "Thank you for serving our country." And then — whether they want it or not — she will present them with one of her grateful hugs.

    Often when she turns to walk away from the soldier, tears fill her eyes. "I tell you," she’s declared on more than one occasion, "these young men and women can’t ever be thanked enough for all they do for us civilians. We take them for granted every day!"

    Her kind gesture touched my heart the very first time I witnessed it. It also inspired me to want to do the same. However, although I am an outgoing and rather chatty gal, I felt a little awkward the first time I decided to give it a try. I wasn’t exactly sure what response I would get from the soldier. Would my words tumble out of my mouth clumsily? Would there be a strange silence? I determined to push past the awkward and try it anyway.

    I am thrilled to report that, without fail for over 25 years now, I have been greeted with a smile and heartfelt words of appreciation for stopping what I was doing to take time to simply thank a serviceman or woman for sacrificing for our country.

    Today’s key verse tells us the importance of living a prayerful life of observation and thankfulness: "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful" (Colossians 4:2).

    Learning to take notice of those who serve in our midst and then thanking them can help to grow our prayer life. Often after these encounters, God brings the person back to my mind. I then whisper a prayer for their safety, asking God to make Himself very real to them and sustain their loved ones while they are apart during deployment.

    Because I was watchful and noticed them, and then displayed my thankfulness, I also was granted the honor of praying for these servants.

    But it isn’t just soldiers who do the serving. Think through your life on an average day. Who comes across your path? Do you spy the garbage collector faithfully keeping the city clean? The elderly crossing guard safely helping the children scoot across the street to school each morning? The gas station attendant or grocery store clerk doing their job with a smile?

    Has it ever crossed your mind to simply thank them for what they do so faithfully, without any fanfare? Could you carve out a minute or two in your schedule to add them to your prayers?

    Let’s use Colossians 4:2 as a template for our ordinary day today. Be prayerful. And watchful. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to tap you on the heart, and prod you to simply say, "Thank you" to someone who serves. Someone who least expects to be noticed and thanked (or maybe even hugged). Then, remember them before your Father as you mention them in prayer.

    The small pause in your day and kind gesture of your heart is sure to bring a smile. To their faces … and to yours.

    Father, may I be one who notices a servant today and stops to genuinely thank them. May they sense Your immense love through my simple gesture. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more creative and simple ideas on how to reach out to those who serve us daily, on Memorial Day and throughout the year, visit Karen Ehman’s blog.

    To be inspired to live a life that is others-centered, check out Karen’s book A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think through your ordinary schedule this week. Where will you go? What service providers are you likely to encounter? Jot down one or two of them (even if you don’t know their names) on your calendar or in the notes app on your cell phone.

    Brainstorm a few simple phrases you could say to show others your appreciation for what they do. Then, make a point to push past awkward, follow through and do it!

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks

    Posted on May 22, 2015 by Family Christian

    Amy Carroll MAY 22, 2015

    Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks
    AMY CARROLL

    "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." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

    From my days as a teacher, I remember the sinking feeling of being ignored. Glazed eyes, slumped postures and fidgety fingers signaled to me my students had tuned me out … again, and I knew we were about to face failures.

    "But I didn’t know what to do on my homework," a child would exclaim.

    "You never taught me this," I’d hear after handing out a bad test grade.

    "Why didn’t you help me?" another tear-stained face would plead.

    On one hand, I was sympathetic. I remembered being a child, sitting at school, wondering if the day would ever end. Other enticements — the sunshine outside, my new bike at home, my best friend whispering beside me — would capture my attention, and my teacher’s voice was drowned out by shinier thoughts.

    Although I understood my students, my sympathies didn’t run very deep. I had taught them the material, and it was my passion to make the lessons as fun and interesting as possible. But I couldn’t make them learn. They ultimately had to choose to be good students in order to avoid the pain of failure.

    Remembering my school days led me to ponder my own adult learning patterns. More often than not, I seem to learn from the school of hard knocks. Recently, I created drama among my friends when I felt the need to fix a problem that was none of my business. The pain of my mess rolled over and over in my heart until I cried out to God, "Lord, I feel beaten and bruised from my failures. Thank You for teaching me through them, but isn’t there an easier way?"

    Immediately, today’s key verse came to mind. Our wise and kind Father gently reminded me of His infinitely better way. He’s given us His Word, the Bible, to instruct us so that we don’t have to stay continually in the classroom of pain and failure.

    As I thought through the pain of my busybody ways, God used Scripture to show me how I could have avoided the situation. He brought I Thessalonians 4:11-12a to my memory. "… Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders …" (NIV).

    God was using His Word to do exactly what was promised in our key verse, 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

    His Word teaches us. God taught me to desire a quiet life instead of being embroiled in the drama around me.

    His Word rebukes us. He showed me that I wasn’t minding my own business. Ouch!

    His Word corrects us. Instead of being focused on others, I need to have my eyes fixed on my own calling and work.

    His Word trains us in righteousness. As I live these lessons, they will keep me from repeating my mistakes, and I’ll represent Jesus well to those around me while avoiding the consequences of my own sin.

    As God’s girls, let’s make it our desire to graduate from the school of hard knocks rather than staying permanently enrolled. I’d much rather learn from God’s Word than the painful consequences of my choices.

    Knowing my flaws, I’m certain I’ll have more opportunities to learn from my mistakes, but I’ve embraced a new and improved pattern. Each day, I gaze intently into the face of my Teacher, give Him my full attention and trust Him to show me how to grow and change.

    Lord, I’m willing to learn through my mistakes but I ask You to make my heart responsive to the teaching of Your Word. Show me where I need to change as I read Scripture each day, and help me to transform before I struggle and fail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Matthew 22:29, "Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’" (NIV)

    Proverbs 2:6-7, "For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller launching June 22. Click here for more information.

    If you’re looking to shift from the desire to change to the ability to change through Christ, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places might be helpful for you.

    Amy Carroll invites you to visit her blog today where you can get a free printable of Scriptures about God’s wisdom.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which way have you most often learned — the school of hard knocks or the instruction of Scripture?

    If you answered, "school of hard knocks," how do you think your life would change if you decided to graduate?

    If you answered, "instruction of Scripture," pause now and thank God for His grace to learn hard lessons the best way.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Stop Reading Your Bible

    Posted on May 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 21, 2015

    Stop Reading Your Bible
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart." Psalm 119:34 (NLT)

    I have a request today: Stop reading your Bible.

    Does that shock you? Relieve you? Make you angry at worst? Curious at best?

    Read on and see what I mean by this request.

    There have been many days in my Christian journey when God was reduced to something on my to-do list. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an unwritten checklist of sorts explaining what "good Christians" are supposed to do:

    Pray.

    Read your Bible.

    Go to church.

    Don’t cuss.

    Be nice.

    Being the rule-following girl I am, I subscribed to the good things on that list and waited with great expectations to receive the zap of contentment and happiness good Christian girls are supposed to exude.

    But then I felt something was wrong with me. I still felt restless. I still reacted in anger. I still felt a bit hollow.

    I was going through all the motions but didn’t feel connected to Jesus. Others around me seemed very connected. They would talk of being "moved by the Spirit." They would hear from God Himself. They would clap their hands and shout "Amen" in the middle of a sermon that sounded like Greek to me.

    I often felt like a weightless soul grasping at the air, hoping to somehow snag this Jesus that was just out of reach. Have you ever been there?

    Have you ever sat in a church service watching everyone else eagerly flip open their Bibles to the exact right passage, while you were left sweating because you didn’t have a clue how to find what they were reading?

    Have you ever walked out of church watching everyone else smile and shake hands and seem so gentle while you mentally beat yourself up for throwing the orange juice carton across the kitchen that very morning?

    Suddenly this nagging sense creeps in that you don’t belong — that you’ll never get it — that you don’t have what it takes to be a Christian. That’s where I was. I lived there for a long time until someone challenged me to stop simply reading my Bible because it was a thing on my Christian checklist. Instead, they challenged me to experience God. To know God.

    In other words, I needed to look at the words in the Bible as a love letter. God’s love letter to a broken-down girl. A love letter not meant to simply be read … but a love letter meant to be lived.

    I won’t lie. It took a while. It took many days of sitting down with my Bible while praying gut-honest prayers. I told God I wasn’t connecting. I told Him I wanted to understand, just like the psalmist in our key verse, Psalm 119:34.

    I asked Him to help me. I begged Him to help me. Finally, one verse came alive to me. I literally felt moved when I read it. I think I read it 100 times that day. I memorized it and thought about it all day long. All week long. Maybe all month long.

    I was overjoyed. I had a verse. A verse where Jesus spoke tenderly and clearly and specifically to me. It was Jeremiah 29:11, "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’" (NIV)

    Slowly, I added more verses. Day by day. Chapter by chapter. And eventually my Bible became my greatest treasure, my love letter.

    Now, every day I open up God’s Word with great expectation and intentionally look for my verse for that day. Usually one verse among the many I read during my devotion time grabs my heart and I know it’s meant just for the day ahead. And then I attempt to live that verse out in some way, that very day.

    When I make the connection between what happens in my life that day and why I need that verse, I experience God. I see Him being active in my life and I become even more deeply aware of His constant presence.

    I’m sure some Bible scholars would probably take issue with my simplistic approach. But it sure has helped me throw fewer orange juice cartons across the kitchen.

    And having less thrown cartons sure seems like a step in the right direction to me.

    So, back to my original statement. Stop reading your Bible. In other words, stop simply reading it because you have to cross it off the Christian checklist.

    Read it with great expectations of connecting more deeply and living more authentically with God.

    Dear Lord, thank You for showing me the Christian life can be so much more than a checklist. I want to not only read Your Word, but live it out each day. Please give me the wisdom to understand and the courage to become more like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:130, "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is flawless …" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you’ve ever felt discouraged about reading and studying God’s Word because you don’t think you’re doing it right, you’re not alone.

    In the United States, 94% of households have at least 1 Bible in their home but only 24-29% of those same people are engaging with the Bible outside of church.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we want to change that and believe it’s possible, with your help. Within the next few months, we are launching several initiatives including a mobile phone app called "First 5." It will be specifically designed to help women and teen girls give the first 5 minutes of each day to God’s Word before social media.

    Based on a nationwide research study sponsored by P31, this app is needed and wanted by women of all ages.

    Please support this crucial project by clicking here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Read Psalm 119 this week and make a list of some of the amazing ways Scripture tells us how God’s Word can help us every day.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What's Their Secret

    Posted on May 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope MAY 20, 2015

    What's Their Secret
    RENEE SWOPE

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you …" John 17:21a, (NIV)

    Have you ever wondered why we need each other? Why we crave relationships yet find it hard to build the kind we long for?

    My craving for closer friendships surfaced as I sat across the table listening to the sounds of laughter and admiring the bond between two women I’d met at a lunch. What they had was uncommon.

    The way they loved each other, how well they knew each other and how much they enjoyed each other reminded me of a Hallmark commercial. But I wasn’t watching television. This was real life.

    And when I asked how long they’d known each other, they replied, "More than 60 years."

    More than 60 years? Now I was more interested in listening than eating lunch. So I put down my fork and picked up a pen like a journalist and tried to think of as many questions as I could. How had they met? What had they done to build a lifelong friendship? What moments and memories filled all those years and kept their hearts so closely knit together? What’s their secret?

    Here’s what I discovered:

    They were intentional about making their friendship last because it mattered to them.
    They became friends in grade school, but their friendship grew and continued long after they both married their high school sweethearts, who played football together.

    Things had to be planned and time together had to be priority.
    Their families vacationed together for years. And when they were young and had little money, they’d all get together for a meal while the kids played in the yard. But as their kids got older it became more challenging, so they’d get together and play cards once a week — a tradition that was still going strong.

    They determined early on they would be there for each other no matter what.
    These two lifelong friends were now widowed and counted on each other for companionship and laughter, weekly shopping adventures and everything in between. And they had an understanding between them. If one of them starts feeling down she’ll call the other and say, "Hey, I need to get out of the house." And then they go do something together.

    I thought about how different our generation is, how busy we are. How much more we rely on screen time more than face-to-face time. And a twinge of sadness came over me. Would there be anyone in my life I would have known for 40 or 50 years, much less 60 years, when I’m 70 or 80 years old?

    Besides my husband, which friend will be able to finish my sentences? Who will know me better than I know myself?

    From the beginning of time, God created us to be in relationship — with Him and each other.

    Designed in His image, our need for connection comes from God, who has always been in community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Jesus’ final prayer for His friends in today’s key verse challenges me. In it, He prays they will know the Father the way He does, and that the world would know His love because of their love for one another. And in Jesus’ prayer we find His heart’s desire for us to be closely connected with each other:

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21a).

    How can we do this better? Maybe we can be creative and get together for lunch during a busy workday, or meet to plan menus for our families each week, do laundry at one of our houses, or take turns cleaning out each other’s closets or running errands together.

    That was their secret. They wanted to be together and so they made sure they were.

    Dear Lord, the longer I live, the harder it seems to build close friendships. With family and work, and all I have on my plate, intimate friendships drop to the bottom of my priorities. And yet I know deep friendships are part of what You want for me. Show me how to get creative, find a new starting point and be intentional by reaching out to a friend this week. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 18:24, "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Looking for a great book to help you grow closer in your relationship with God and a friend, or a group of friends? Renee Swope’s book, A Confident Heart, can help you do just that! Packed with personal stories and Biblical truths we need friends to remind us of, each chapter also includes great conversation-starter questions at the end.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How often do you make time for friendships each week? What is one step you can take today to grow closer to a friend you already have, or make a new one?

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

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