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Daily Devotion

  • Grace in the Middle

    Posted on January 15, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

    She is slumped on the couch all grumpy and mad, her lips pursed in a dramatic pout. "Why didn't you name ME Elizabeth Grace?" my little girl asks as she punctuates her big sister's name with a hiss of frustration.

    I set down the laundry basket I'm lugging through the living room and turn my head toward my four-year-old.

    Her blue eyes churn indignant like a thundercloud on a hot summer's day, and this girl of mine who is never satisfied with the name I chose crosses her arms in front of her chest with a big harrumph.

    Trying not to laugh at the theatrics, I move to the couch where my daughter sits sulking. I push back the bangs hanging haphazard across her forehead and slump lower on the cushions so we can perch head to head.

    "I didn't name you Elizabeth Grace," I murmur in her ear, "because when you were tucked in my tummy, God gave me the name Magdalene Hope."

    I let my words dangle in the air, the sound of Maggie's sniffled breathing ticking off the silent seconds. I hold my little one's hand and say, "And once God whispered that name to my heart, I knew that's exactly who you were going to be. Our one and only Maggie Hope."

    My dramatic girl raises an eyebrow and sighs, her vexation melting into sadness.

    "But I just want Grace in my middle, Mom. Right between Maggie Moo and Bwuxfort..."

    She adds her nickname to the mix and slaughters our fine Dutch surname, but her gaze is so earnest that now I'm not even tempted to giggle.

    Instead, I pull my fifth-born onto my lap and rock her ever so slightly. And as I rest my chin on her tangle-haired-head, I understand her wish.

    Grace in the middle. Who doesn't need that?

    No matter where life on this earth begins or how it ends, we all need a little grace in the middle. We were made with purpose and our Savior promises joy in the end. But making it through the middle? That's a different story.

    The middle is where hours creep long and the view wanes dim. It's where the starting block feels like a distant memory and the finish line looms like an impossible dream.

    The middle can douse our dreams, derail our zeal, and diminish our faith. It can make us desperate. For mercy. For hope. For grace.

    • When the baby's teething and the toddler's tantrum-ing.

    • When the dishes pile high and the laundry's run wild.

    • When our souls are empty and our calendars are filled, when our dinner tables are noisy and our accolades are quiet.

    • When the bread's burning and our patience has gone up in smoke, when our best isn't good enough and our worst is magnified.

    Right in the middle of that darkness, right in the middle of that mess, we need grace.

    Grace to take one more step, to utter one more prayer, to risk rejection one more time. Grace to trust in His promises and to cling to His hand.

    We linger long there on the couch, me and my girl who wants a new name.

    We just rock and cuddle and listen to the patter of rain on the window, the hum of the washing machine a floor below.

    And instead of offering my mopey Maggie a lecture on the grandeur of her given name, I simply hold her. Hold her with compassion, right in that middle place of wishing for something different and trying to accept what really is.

    And this mom, living somewhere between my beginning and my end, reminds her little girl of one simple truth (Because sometimes we just need to say it aloud for our own road-weary souls):

    There is only one name worthy of our wishing, one name deserving of our dreams. And when we keep that name in the middle of our madness, He offers hope in our beginning, glory in our end, and grace for every moment in-between.

    Jesus.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being here with me in the middle. May Your grace sustain me in the long days, giving me perspective, courage and hope. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What circumstance are you facing today where you need God to step in with His gracious help?

    Is there someone you know who needs your help? Consider how you can be God's hands and feet to someone this week.

    Power Verses:
    Numbers 6:25-26, "... the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Spiritual Growth Plan

    Posted on January 14, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11

    Scripture memory is a spiritual growth plan against sin, Satan and self. It is also His primary method of conforming us into the image of His son Jesus Christ. We all are privileged to renew our minds with the truth of Scripture and to cleanse our hearts with the purifying Word of God. Perhaps we commit to memory a verse a week related to what we are experiencing in life. Over the course of a year we will hide fifty-two nuggets of spiritual nourishment within our soul. Thus, when needed, the Spirit brings to mind what has been deposited deep within our hearts.

    We may not be the best at memorization, but we do seem to remember what engages our affections. Our ability to retain sports statistics and other details related to interests or hobbies should be trumped by the truth of Scripture. Sure, some have the uncanny ability to recite each word perfectly, some even paragraphs of content. We need not be intimidated, but work within our God given abilities. Let’s start off the new year with a systematic plan to retain the Word of the Lord.

    The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word. 1 Samuel 3:21

    Furthermore, the Lord reveals Himself through His word. We increasingly desire to know God, love God and obey God, as His word makes its way into the crevices of our character. We are conformed by the character of Christ as we mature in our understanding of the Word made flesh. Yes, we grow in our love for the Word as we grow in our love for Jesus since He was the Word revealed on earth. God’s secret weapon of scripture memory grows us into the likeness of Christ.

    We are wise to see scripture memory as a blessing not a burden. Be creative. We can listen to God’s word as we commute to work, exercise or do chores around the house. Download free Scripture memory cards (http://bit.ly/1cQ2N7y) you can display to review and recite. Yes, we follow Jesus’ example when we seamlessly say to Satan, “It is written.” God’s word written on our hearts through memorization and meditation equips us to stand strong in Him. The spiritual growth plan of hiding His word is used by seasoned saints who deeply know and love the Lord.

    How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
    Psalm 119:9

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me hide Your word in my heart that I might know You, love You and obey You.

    Related Readings: Psalm 19:14; Jeremiah 15:16; Matthew 4:1-11; John 1:14; Ephesians 6:17

    Post/Tweet today: We increasingly desire to know God, as His word makes its way into the crevices of our character. #Scripturememory

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Vulnerable Strength

    Posted on January 14, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!" Luke 6:32 (NLT)

    Do you meet aggression with aggression and call it strength? Sometimes I do and it leads me to a place I never intended.

    Not long ago a friend told me someone had revealed her secret, and she wondered if I knew who it was. Though I told her no, she asked again. And yet again. Finally I realized she suspected I was the leak.

    My first reaction was surprise, then frustration.

    If you really knew me, you'd know I don't tell secrets.

    I didn't do anything wrong.

    I answered your question. Why are you still asking?

    There were many things I could have done in that instant, but somehow proving I was right was more important. Though I didn't raise my voice, it was clear in my stance and terse response that I was angry.

    Moments later, the Holy Spirit began to show me the bigger picture. My friend's questions were borne out of frustration and fear as the spilled secret could have created damage. Sadly, rather than have a conversation, I took a stand.

    Often, our default in these types of situations is to defend ourselves by meeting aggression with aggression. To throw a punch when we feel punched, whether that is verbal or passive aggressive.

    But is this really strength?

    In Luke 6, Jesus is teaching the disciples a hard truth. Life is not always fair. You might be accused unjustly. You might take a punch that hurts. Someone may move from friend to frenemy and it won't feel good.

    It's easy to respond in love in comfortable situations and with people who are kind. But what about the harder places? Jesus is showing the disciples that rather than aggression, there's a vulnerable strength that can heal conflict and lead to resolution.

    Vulnerable strength isn't a verbal assault. You speak the truth in love, but you let it settle rather than hammer it in.

    Vulnerable strength isn't an emotional outburst, rather it's working through misunderstanding.

    Vulnerable strength isn't one-sided, but it's stepping into another person's shoes for a moment to expand your understanding of the conflict.

    But this is the hard part. You might still get punched verbally, and you might still be at odds. Vulnerable strength doesn't guarantee a happy ending.

    When aggression is met with aggression, there are bound to be casualties. Vulnerable strength reduces the potential for casualties and paves a path for resolution. And if not, then as Luke 6:35 says, "you will truly be acting as children of the Most High ..." (NLT).

    Wouldn't it be unfortunate if we made it to the end of our lives and only loved those who loved us? What might we miss in those harder places of our faith?

    As I changed my approach to vulnerable strength rather than aggression, my friend and I worked through that painful conversation. Thanks to the Holy Spirit's prompting, I have an opportunity to move the focus from what I think someone does wrong, to what I can do better.

    Dear Lord, I have been focusing on what others said or did, instead of asking for Your insight. I have called aggression strength, whether it's been passive, or lashing out, or shutting out. Today, may I love others who seem unlovable with vulnerable strength. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Find a quiet place. Write down a recent offense and how it makes you feel. Then ask God to help you answer these questions:

    1. What were they trying to say? (Step into their shoes for a moment.)
    2. How did I respond? (Shift the focus from their wrongdoing to your potential to grow.)
    3. In what ways might I have responded differently? (How might this have impacted the direction of the conversation?)

    Power Verses:
    Matthew 5:46, "If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much." (NLT)

    1 Peter 1:2b, "May God give you more and more grace and peace." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Intentional Living

    Posted on January 13, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. Nehemiah 1:2

    Intentional living is meaningful living. It is an invitation to significance. Intentional living inquires where God may be working and then serves there. It's a wise balance between peering into the future at what can be accomplished, while focusing on what presently  needs to get done next. Intentionality separates good leaders from great leaders, average parents from exceptional parents, and mediocrity from excellence. Greatness insists on intentionality.

    Nehemiah was set for life. He had significant influence with the most powerful person on the planet. However, his heart was set on helping his people. He traded affluence and comfort for modesty and discomfort. Yes, intentional living is willing to let go of current success and replace it with lesser notoriety. For example, intentional parenting may require a pause in our career advancement to come home for a season until the children leave home. Faithfulness is deliberate.

    By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:24-25

    How can we be intentional in our time with God, our relationships and our leadership? If we desire to be a man or woman who understands and applies Scripture, then we plant it daily deep in our heart. If our goal is to be a loyal friend who is available in times of need, then we ask how we can pray and follow up with appropriate care. If we desire our leadership to be distinguished by wisdom then we intentionally grow in grace and humility. Wisdom grows in listening prayer.

    Therefore, be intentional with your time and money. See opportunities as good, bad or the best investment. By the Spirit’s discernment and godly advice avoid settling for the good, refuse the bad and embrace the best. Be intentional in your marriage to schedule marriage enrichment training along with an annual budget and calendar planning weekend. Be intentional in your diet and exercise. Most of all ask Jesus to lead you in His process. Intentional living anticipates God.

    He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. Hebrews 11:26-27

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Spirit to live a life of intentionality for Your glory.

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 3:9; Psalm 37:4; John 15:4-5; Ephesian 6:13-15; Colossians 3:23

    Post/Tweet today: Use discernment and godly advice to not settle for the good, refuse the bad and embrace the best. #intentionalliving

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • The Three-Word Prayer God Loves

    Posted on January 13, 2014 by Stormie Omartian

    Stormie

    When my husband, Michael, and I were first married and differences arose between us, praying was definitely not my first thought. In fact, it was closer to a last resort. I tried other methods first, such as arguing, pleading, ignoring, avoiding, confronting, debating, and—of course—the ever-popular silent treatment. And the results? Not surprisingly, they were less than satisfying!

    When I did pray, often resentment, anger, unforgiveness, or an ungodly attitude clouded my communication with God. While I may have had a good reason for these emotions, my prayers were not coming from a right heart. What's more, I was praying that my husband would conform to my ideal image of him. My prayer was for God to change him into the person I wanted him to be.

    However, as I went to God in prayer every day, something unusual started to change—me. I was the one God decided to work on first, not my husband. Gently, the Lord began to soften my heart. Humble it. Mold it. And reconstruct it. As He did so, He erased the bitterness and resentment that were affecting my attitude and damaging my marriage.

    And this is how I came to discover a three-word prayer God loves: Change me, Lord.

    Gradually I came to realize that it was impossible to truly give myself in prayer for Michael without first examining my own heart.

    And it wasn't just my relationship with my husband that required me to pray this powerful three-word prayer. My relationship with my son and daughter required it. My relationships with my friends required it. Most of all, my relationship with God required it.

    Change me, Lord.

    I went into my prayer time with the goal of asking God to change others—making them less critical and more obedient. Less fearful. More loving.

    I came out of my prayer time with my own heart changed. My mind changed. My attitude changed. My life changed.

    Now, if you're like I was, this might make you mad at first. "Wait a minute!" you might object. "I'm not the one who needs changing here!"

    But God sees the things we can't see. He knows where we have room for improvement. He doesn't have to search long to uncover attitudes and habits that are outside His perfect will for us.

    Sometimes God uncovers sin in our hearts. This is important to identify because it separates us from Him and hinders our prayers being heard as Psalm 66:18 tells us, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear" (NKJV). God wants our hearts to be right so the answers to our prayers are not compromised.

    Early in my marriage, I knew it was important to pray for my husband. And a favorite trio of three-word prayers was often on my lips: Protect him, Lord. Save our marriage. Change him, Lord. I was convinced that this was the right way to pray, that God and I had the same goal in mind—a changed husband who was able to better meet my needs. But God's way is not always our way. God didn't choose to make those first changes in my husband. He chose to make them in me.

    One of the greatest gifts I could give to Michael was the gift of my own wholeness. One of the most effective tools in seeing transformation in his life was my own transformation.

    You have to trust that God is big enough to accomplish all this and more.

    I learned to pray a new prayer: Whatever you want, Lord. Show me and I'll do it. Change me, Lord.

    Lord, create in me a clean heart and a right spirit before You. Give me a new, positive, joyful, loving, and forgiving attitude toward others. Where there is anything that needs to change in me, I pray You would enable that change to happen. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are you praying for God to change others but ignoring the possible change needed in you? What might God need to work on in your own life—selfishness, impatience, resentment—before your relationships with others can begin to change?

    When you begin to get frustrated with others, take a look at your own heart and pray Change me, Lord.

    Power Verses:
    1 Corinthians 10:24, "Let no one seek his own, but each one the other's well-being." (NKJV)

    Psalm 139:23, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties..." (NKJV)

    © 2014 by Stormie Omartian. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Wise Leadership

    Posted on January 12, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “Chose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”    Deuteronomy 1:13

    The selection process of wise leadership can make or break an organization. We are constantly faced with this in our families, church, work, schools, civic groups, and professional associations. Wise leadership does not come about as a result of pride’s persuasion. It is not found in the “tit for tat” of petty politics. So where do you look for wise leaders? A good place to begin is within the ranks of those who already exhibit wise leadership (Acts 15:22). You see it in the open and authentic environment they create in their work and home, by their own honesty around personal weaknesses and strengths. Indeed, wise leaders are excellent listeners. They listen with the intent to understand. Wisdom desires understanding of what you are thinking and what you are feeling. You observe their wisdom in one-on-one conversation, as they know what questions to ask. They challenge you to think and offer counsel as is appropriate.
    Wise leaders are not gurus or know-it-alls. Instead they are smart enough to understand the vastness of what they don’t know. Moreover, a wise leader is respected (I Timothy 3:8). Those who know them the best respect them the most. If those in someone’s inner circle lack respect for the person in leadership, so will those outside their circle of influence. Indeed, respect comes over time. It is the result of doing what you say. It is integrity in living out what you say you believe. Consistent Christ-like behavior invites raving reviews of respect. Wisdom and respect go hand-in-hand. They promote each another.
    Last of all, wise leadership points toward God. (Any infatuation with them as an individual is directed to their heavenly Father). Wisdom can only remain in a humble heart. It is within the incubator of humility that wisdom germinates and flourishes. Therefore (aptly so), a wise leader shows humility in their heart for God.
    God entrusts wisdom to the humble of heart. He is stingy in giving wisdom to the proud. Pride cannot be trusted to be used for His glory. God-given wisdom is priceless. Even religious leaders can forget the Lord’s wisdom (Jeremiah 2:8). It is the application of wisdom that matures relationships, facilitates faith, and grows business and ministry. Wise leaders do not always tell you what you want to hear, but listen to them. Their words are sometimes hard and seem at the moment to be intolerant and insensitive. But this is the maturing process. Wisdom makes foolishness uncomfortable. It is wise leadership that leads you beyond mediocrity and immaturity. Wise leaders lead you to grow in your relationship with Christ. They promote God’s agenda. Follow wise leaders and be a wise leader. Patiently and prayerfully select and appoint wise leadership.

    Post/Tweet today: It is within the incubator of humility that wisdom germinates and grows. #wiseleaders

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Christ’s Calling

    Posted on January 11, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “‘Come follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19–20).

    Disciples of Jesus are called by the Lord to minister in their homes and in the marketplace. However, Christ does call some of His followers to vocational ministry. It is a calling that many times comes to ordinary men and women who accomplish extraordinary results. Whom does He call? Christ’s call comes to those who have a hungry heart for God.

    Like Paul, you might have been suddenly smitten by a revelation of Jesus as Lord, or perhaps you were like David, who gradually went from feeding sheep what was perishable to feeding God’s people the imperishable. Wherever Christ calls, His first command is to love God and people. A calling without love is like a car without gasoline. It may be attractive on the outside, but it is not going anywhere. Thus, love large where the Lord has called you.

    Furthermore, He has called you to endure hardship. “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary” (Revelation 2:3). Christians are not immune to conflict; in fact, your faith invites difficulty at times. So do not seek to shelter your life from adversity, but rather position yourself in obedience to Christ’s calling. It is out of your regular routine of serving Him that you will see what He has in store next.

    Make sure you minister first to your spouse and children. Do not be like the cobbler who has no shoes for his family. Your creditability for Christ is seeing your faith lived out with those who know you the best. What does it profit a man if he saves the whole world and loses his family? A calling to family first frees you to evangelize and disciple with God’s favor. His calling aligns with His commands; so service for Him is seamless.

    Above all, the Lord is looking for those already engaged in His Word, growing in their character, and active in sharing their faith. His calling comes to Christians who desire the Holy Spirit to conform them into the image of Christ. Your humble imitation of Jesus comes out of your intimate walk with Him. He calls those whom He can trust. So do not look for your calling. Look for Christ, and He will reveal His calling to you.

    “I, even I, have spoken; yes, I have called him. I will bring him, and he will succeed in his mission” (Isaiah 48:15).

    Prayer: What is Christ’s calling for my life? Am I steadfast in loving the Lord and people?

    Related Readings: Acts 9:10; 1 Corinthians 7:17; Hebrews 5:4; Revelation 7:14

    Post/Tweet today: Do not look for your calling. Look for Christ, and He will reveal His calling to you. #Christscalling

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Good List

    Posted on January 10, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. Revelation 21:27

    God keeps a record in the Lamb’s book of life of those who have trusted His son Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Salvation from hell to heaven begs the question, “Is my name written in the book of life?” “Am I on the good list?” Yes, if you believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the grave to give you life in Him, you are known in heaven. There is a required transaction of faith in Jesus before you can enjoy sweet fellowship with Jesus. God’s good list offers eternal security.

    Believers in Jesus do not receive a final judgment of separation from God. The option of exclusion from the Lord’s presence in eternity is removed when His presence is invited on earth. However, there is a judgment after death for Christians regarding how they behaved in this life. Did we store up treasures in heaven or did we waste our time with the trivial and trinkets of earth? Joyous will be followers of Jesus who bow before their Lord and hear from Him, “well done.”

    Their work will be shown for what it is, because the [Judgment] Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3:13

    So, by God’s grace we seek to be righteous in this brief life for this is the caliber of our eternal life. Assurance of being on the good list is not a ticket to live for the flesh, rather it is freedom and motivation to live for the spirit. Our corruptible flesh will perish, but our incorruptible spirit will live. An individual who choses heaven over hell desires its quality of life. The Holy Spirit within yearns for holiness without. Love wins when our name is in His Book.

    Therefore, thank Jesus, the Lamb of God that your name is penned by His blood in His book of life. Rejoice, since your Savior never ever employs an eraser. He writes your name in stone on the pages of His book. Just as the government records your physical birthday, so heaven records your spiritual date of birth. It is well with your soul, since your salvation is sealed by the Holy Spirit. You are on the good list, so do good with God. Invite others to stand firm in Christ Jesus!

    Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that through the blood of Your son Jesus, my name is forever written in the Lamb’s book of life.

    Related Readings: Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; Hebrews 2:3

    Post/Tweet today: Exclusion from the Lord’s presence in eternity is removed when His presence is invited on earth. #goodlist

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Who Sits on the Throne of Your Heart?

    Posted on January 10, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy

    "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, ..." 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

    Monty and I began our marriage in a difficult place. Eleven months before we walked down the aisle, I was the victim of a horrific crime. This experience damaged me deeply. Few knew the fear and despair that had made their home in my heart.

    Intimacy was hard. It brought back too many terrible memories. I tried to be a "good" wife and make my husband happy. But I just couldn't.

    Yet, I needed Monty. Fear consumed me. He was my only safe place. Being home alone terrified me. So when he left to play basketball or go to dinner with friends, I pouted, cried, and complained that he wasn't putting me first.

    This caused a huge rift in our marriage. Days were hard and nights were long. Soon I began to imagine Monty looking elsewhere for the companionship he lacked with me. Jealousy grew within me and I demanded to know when and where he was at all times. When I couldn't get a hold of him, I panicked. My mind went places and imagined things it shouldn't.

    Jealousy infiltrated my heart.

    I knew these feelings were wrong. Even destructive. But I didn't know how to overcome them. As jealous thoughts took root, they became a mental obsession that fed me lies.

    My marriage and my husband were slipping away. Completely at a loss for what to do, I dropped to my knees and begged God to help me.

    Thankfully, God made a way to release jealousy's grip on me—and it was through loving Him. As I came to know God more intimately, the jealousy began to subside.

    God opened my eyes to see Christ in a new way ... as my Savior and my "first love." Until that time, love and security were found in Monty. My need for him was so desperate that I expected him to be my savior, defender, and protector from the evil in the world. I needed my husband more than anything else and felt safe only by his side.

    This created a very unhealthy relationship. We should never "need" our husbands, our children, or anyone more than Christ. Ironically, I was so afraid of losing Monty that I treated him in a way that could potentially have driven him away. No one on this earth can ever be our savior. We have only one Savior, and His name is Jesus.

    Healing came as I grew to know my "First Love" as my defender, refuge, and strong tower. This understanding put my marriage in perspective. As God took His rightful place on the throne of my heart, Monty took his rightful place too. Our marriage changed dramatically.

    Of course, I never want to lose Monty, but I have come to know that I could and would be able to live without him because God now sits in His rightful place on the throne of my heart. He is my first love. My husband and children are precious gifts that He has generously given me.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for Your great love and faithfulness. Open my eyes to see anything or anyone besides You who holds first place in my heart. Help me through the power of Your Holy Spirit to replace it with You and You alone. I ask this in the Name of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Reflect and Respond:
    Who or what sits higher on the throne of your heart than God?

    Write a prayer surrendering this place to Him.

    Power Verse:
    Mark 12:30, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Bad List

    Posted on January 9, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

    There is a bad list of behaviors to avoid for it misses enjoying the Kingdom of God. Rather it is loyal to the Kingdom of this world. Default behaviors of the flesh come from conforming to the culture, while transformational behaviors grow from the fruit of the Holy Spirit. God’s bad list of behaviors represents fleshly discontent that competes with our affection for Christ. Sex, unless it is between a man and woman in marriage, stealing, greed, drunkenness and lying are all listed.

    Furthermore, our behaviors follow our beliefs. If we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we love Him and if we love Him we obey His commands. A crisis of faith occurs when our desire to maintain a bad behavior conflicts with God’s expectations. So, we can justify our disobedience by changing what we believe to accommodate our behavior. For example, we may dishonestly report lesser income on our tax return. Our greed convinces us that the government doesn’t need our money. The flesh bends behaviors toward bad beliefs, while the Spirit transforms with truth.

    As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 1 Peter 1:14

    As a result of being sinners, we all started out on God’s bad list, but once we were born again His grace adopted us into His family. No more are we listed with evil doers who view Jesus with contempt. Our new life in Christ puts away bad habits and replaces them with good ones. We still struggle daily with dying to our selfish desires and pride, but we do not chronically and intentionally sin against the Lord. God’s grace grants us the power to do good and refuse bad.

    Therefore, continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and your behavior will become more and more like His. Believe the truth of God and be set free, or embrace the lies of Satan and stay in bondage to bad behavior. Our actions are an indicator of what’s in our heart, so be changed from the inside out. Reject conforming to the culture’s low bar of behavior and accept the Spirit’s transforming high bar of behavior. Stay off the bad list.

    I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. 2 Corinthians 10:2

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, change me from the inside out, so my behavior reflects your expectations.

    Related Readings: Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 John 2:15

    Post/Tweet today: The flesh bends behaviors toward a bad belief system, while the Spirit transforms us with truth. #badbehavior

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.
    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

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