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Daily Devotion

  • Home-Shaping

    Posted on January 20, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen

    "My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." Psalm 62:7 (NIV)

    They piled high on the living room coffee table: colorfully wrapped boxes with curly, coordinating bows and snappy gift bags with crisp tissue paper peeking out of their tops in anticipation. They accented the festivities as nearly three-dozen friends eagerly gathered for an open house for my friend Thida.

    A Cambodian native, Thida met Keith when he was studying abroad in her country. Now married and living in the United States, our circle of friends showered Thida with well-wishes and the heartfelt welcome of an old-fashioned housewarming party.

    What domestic treasures she opened that night! New fluffy towels in deep jewel tones, contemporary metal candleholders and spicy-scented candles, kitchen utensils and casserole dishes, picture frames and pots. Ever a soft-spoken and grateful soul, this sweet twenty-something new bride was visually humbled and verbally thankful with each package she unwrapped.

    Every so often, she would look at the crowd and utter the same phrase, "Oh ... I want to thank you so much for helping me to shape our home."

    We knew what Thida meant. She meant to "furnish" her home, to decorate and outfit it with needed and useful items. However, somehow when trying to get her sentiments across by speaking in English (her second language) the phrase she continually chose was "shape our home."

    As I heard sweet Thida utter these words many times that night, it struck a chord within my soul. In essence this group of siblings, aunts, cousins, and grandparents-by-marriage, along with an abundance of new friends, were doing exactly that!

    Thida is from a country where, of the 14.5 million inhabitants, only a few thousand claim to follow Christ. Over 95% of Cambodians are practicing Buddhists.

    Thida began a relationship with Jesus through the example of an aunt and, although the rest of her family is still Buddhist, this strong woman now loves and serves the God of the Bible. She chose to break from her parents' tradition to begin a new life with Christ. And, aside from her aunt, she had no one who could help her learn what it meant to live as a woman and wife according to God's ways.

    Thida made a choice. Rather than choosing the false god of her ancestors, she chose the true God of the Bible. And she and her husband desire nothing more than to build their home and grow a family someday according to the ways of the Lord. And now we, as her circle of support in her new country of residence, will try our best to encourage her in her endeavors; to model a Christian home with our actions and decisions. Yes, you could say in essence that we all have made a covenant to help precious Thida do exactly what she declared—"shape her home."

    Do you know another woman who has made a decision for Christ? One who left her former ways to walk in the ways of the Lord? If so, there are eyes upon you, watching, soaking and learning. What will she see? Will you help her shape her earthly home, and her heart's home, with God's truths while building on the foundations of Christ?

    Home shaping is significant business. May we all be mirrors that reflect Christ to those who are watching, soaking and learning. And yes...perhaps even shaping.

    Dear Lord, may I be ever mindful there are others looking to me for an example of how to shape our lives according to Your ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What are some ways you try to weave the Bible's commands into your home life?

    How can you help others who are new in the faith to ground their hearts in God, His Word and His ways?

    Power Verse:
    Luke 4:8 "And Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve."'" (ESV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • God Backfills

    Posted on January 19, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—the great locust and the young locust, the other locusts and the locust swarm—my great army that I sent among you.”
    Joel 2:25

    God can make up for wasted time. He specializes in redeeming rough seasons in our lives. What has become a torturous transition, He can use to love you into a closer relationship with Him. Where else can you go for eternal life than to the one who is eternal (John 6:68)? Allow God to backfill this blot on your past. He can rebuild what has been broken, even destroyed.
    You may have been embarrassed and humiliated but this is not beyond God’s long arm of restoration. Injustice may have invaded your unsuspecting life. Unaware and unexpectedly you lost everything you had spent a lifetime building. Poof, in a twinkle of an eye, it was gone. Your career was gone. Your family teetered on division. Your reputation was tattered and all but obliterated. Your joy was gone, your finances depleted, your energy sapped. And your faith was shot full of holes. Your desire to move forward in life was severely stalled.

    Worst of all, you wondered where the Lord was in all this reversal of fortune. You were on the fast track to bitterness because of your feelings of betrayal. You may have hit rock bottom, and now there is nowhere to look but up. Look up to Jesus. He is your hope, your rock, and your refuge. Look up to the Lord even though He may seem a million miles away. Now is the time to practice what you told others all those years. Trust God during this time of turmoil. God wants to backfill your loss. He can fill your pit of pity with hope (Psalm 40:2). Your broken relationships that are buried in a cistern of hurt, He can retrieve with forgiveness. Into your financial black hole, He can shine the light of His provision and opportunity.
    In Christ, your best days lie ahead. Submit to His healing. Let go of your hurt and pride,  hang onto Him. He is the best thing you have going for you. Let these failures forge a stronger faith in you and in your family. Face the fact that you are forgiven  and move forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Lean on the Lord. He can handle it. He is your stability in this storm of insanity. God is there for you to rebuild your reputation, and to give you daily doses of hope and encouragement. Your eruption of raw emotion will grow you into a more sensitive and compassionate follower of Christ.

    He has brought you through this crisis of faith to allow you to coach others through the same. You are a living and breathing testimony of the grace and love of God. Project His faithfulness on other fledgling followers of Jesus. Let the Lord backfill the hole in your heart and life with His love and faithfulness. His filling of right attitudes and actions will bar the door of your mind from bitterness and backstabbing. Invite the Holy Spirit to backfill your soul with His fruit of love, joy, peace, self-control, purity, forgiveness, and humility. What God fills proves faithful. What God fills, He controls and comforts. Use the lessons of the past as a reminder for the Holy Spirit’s filling in the present. His backfilling results in faithfulness going forward.

    Post/Tweet today: God rebuilds reputations and gives daily doses of hope and encouragement. #Godbackfills

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

  • Racial Reconciliation

    Posted on January 18, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles’” (Acts 22:21).

    Race divides. Inherently it needs reconciliation. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are expected to be on the forefront of racial reconciliation. Christ is colorblind. There is no preference between Jew and Gentile, black or white, yellow or brown. They are all precious in His sight. Yet every day, millions are disenfranchised or killed because of their cultural heritage and skin color. Where pride and ego drive the human race into different geographical and racial directions, Christ reunites. He is the racial reconciler.

    The feet of Jesus are on level ground for all races. Sin is the only explanation for one race’s sense of superiority over another. It breaks the heart of God. Jesus went far out of His way to love a racial outcast in the Samaritan woman (John 4). He was compelled by the Holy Spirit to reach across class, cultural, and racial barriers.

    In the same way and spirit, God is leading you to reach out to others different from you. He is calling on His disciples to be intentional in healing past hurts and serving current needs. Some will receive your sincere service, while others will question your motive. But when all is said and done, your part is to go and be a blessing. God’s part is to facilitate trust and healing. You probably do not consider yourself a racist. That is, you do not feel or act better than another human being just because of your race.

    However, to be silent or not intentionally reach out to another culture is passive racism. It is subtle, but the same ill effects occur. The offended or disillusioned ones are still stuck in their inferior state of mind, economics, and education.  It is the role of the church to bring down cultural barriers. We can model the way of racial reconciliation as Jesus did.

    Consider a year-long, weekly, one-on-one study with someone of a different race. Learn about his or her culture, history, and hurts. Indeed, racial reconciliation happens one person at a time, and it happens relationally. Do not wait on someone to come to you. You go to that person. Yes, it is a little uncomfortable, and yes, there will be misunderstanding. But Jesus is the standard bearer and relational mediator.

    Let the Bible be your foundational source of racial reconciliation. Start today on a cross-cultural mission. Is there someone at work or in your neighborhood? Invite the family into your home for a meal. Serve them every time you get a chance, and watch God work. Then the world will see—in Technicolor—that you are truly disciples of Christ because you love one another. Races will be reconciled, and God will be glorified. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

    Prayer: Why is Christ colorblind? Who can I build a relationship with that is of a different race?

    Related Readings: Genesis 11:1–8; John 4:1–42; Romans 10:12; Galatians 2:14

    Post/Tweet today: Pride and ego drive the human race into different directions, but Christ reunites. He is the racial reconciler. #racialreconciliation

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

  • Relational Investment Plan

    Posted on January 17, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. Titus 1:4

    Relational investments compound into eternity. Yes, loving people takes time, effort and perseverance, but the dividends pay off handsomely. For example, we can regularly read a children’s bible to our little one and not see immediate character change, but hopefully over time they will accept the Scripture as God’s wisdom and love letter to them personally. Or, our efforts to encourage a friend may be frustrating, but at least they know we love them unconditionally.

    Who needs your intentional attention in this season of life? A co-worker? A relative? A neighbor?  Relational involvement is messy, so ask the Lord for His grace, patience and forgiveness to fill your soul. Go the extra third and fourth mile to serve, even if someone takes advantage of your good will. Better to take the risk to love than to hide your affections from a hurting heart. If you receive a cold shoulder for your care, keep a warm heart. Love is the best relational investment.

    A new command I [Jesus] give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

    We love like Jesus when we share our life with people. We eat together, we travel together, we worship together, we pray together, we study the Bible together, we work together, we play together, we laugh together and we cry together. Perhaps there is someone who needs to live in our home for a defined period of time. They understand their exit strategy after six months and they agree to abide by the ground rules of mutual respect, church attendance and doing chores. Our home is an incubator for relational development. An open home opens hearts to Jesus.

    Furthermore, a solid relational investment plan requires a focus on faith. Equip another teachable soul in the tenets of trusting God. Pray with them, discuss the Bible with them, share your struggles with them and talk of the Lord’s faithfulness in your life. Or, you may facilitate a book club with a few friends, join a small group from your church or take a mission trip. Have a mutual fund of diverse friendships and you will never go relationally broke. Be grateful and give more than you receive in all relationships. Your relational investments will grow into true riches! Learn from a relational hero of mine Dan Glaze... http://bit.ly/KkUJQz

    We cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:8

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me who I need to invest my life in with love and service for Your sake.

    Related Readings: Genesis 13:8; Luke 16:11; Acts 2:44-45; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:22

    Post/Tweet today: Invest in a mutual fund of diverse friendships and you will never go relationally broke. #relationalinvestmentplan

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

  • Not What I Expected

    Posted on January 17, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20 (NIV)

    My daughter, her two friends and I packed the car for our overnight trip to the mountains. Our plan was to pick up my son and head for the slopes for a wonderful day of tubing and making memories in the snow. Then reality set in with a series of disappointments.

    Disappointment #1: When we arrived at my son's apartment, he had decided not to go snow tubing with us.

    Disappointment #2: The bitter wind made me want to crawl back in my car.

    Disappointment #3: The girls weren't having as much fun as I had expected.

    Disappointment #4: When we arrived at the cabin, it wasn't clean.

    By this point, disappointment draped itself over my heart. So when the girls asked if there was an alternative to the homemade lasagna I'd planned for supper, I felt like losing it! I didn't yell, but you know you don't have to yell at someone to "yell" at someone!

    The small issues throughout the day had created one big issue in my heart. My expectations that this mountain excursion was going to recharge, rejuvenate, renew me didn't happen!

    Expectations of others can easily cause bumps in my relationships. Often when I hit one of those bumps, I choose to wait. Wait for the phone call, text or email saying "I'm sorry" before moving on.

    However, the Bible shows me a different way to respond to unmet expectations using the example of the father in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

    In the story, the son showed an audacious amount of disrespect by requesting his inheritance while his father was still living. As a parent, you could interpret this rudeness on endless levels. I am sure the father was more inconvenienced or disappointed than I was that snowy day in the mountains.

    To make matters worse, the son's choices after receiving the money caused more heartache. He had wasted his entire inheritance and had nowhere to go. So this desperate young man headed home.

    It is the father's next step that humbles me and causes me to reconsider my response to disappointment: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him ..."

    While he was still a long way off ...

    The father had no idea why the son was returning. He could have been coming to ask for more money or possessions or land. However, no matter the son's motives or attitude, the father's love was in motion as soon as he saw his son. Not holding back to see what the son had to say, the father gave his love.

    I wonder if like me, the father was ever tempted to keep score. If he did, not only would it have been uneven, there would have been a huge deficit. Father: 100. Son: -100.

    Thankfully, God, our Heavenly father, is like the father in Luke 15. He continually extends love to us despite the deficit we bring to the relationship. He settled the score when Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin.

    Because God freely and unconditionally pours love on me, I can freely give to others. I, too, can give up keeping score—with my family, my friends, even with the rude woman in customer service.

    Because I am forgiven, loved and embraced I can forgive, love and embrace.

    The father demonstrated love. He ran, he kissed, he gave. Love that is demonstrated is love that is felt. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (NIV).

    For me, I demonstrate love by laying down my expectations of others and stop keeping score. This becomes easier when I understand God's great, unconditional love for me.

    Thank you, Father for demonstrating a different way. Your love, through us, makes it possible to love others. Help me stop keeping score and open my eyes to see Your love poured over me. Teach me to rely on that love so I can pour love over others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Write a note to that person in your life you've had a hard time not keeping score with. Assure them of your love for them!

    Power Verse:
    John 15:9, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Physical Care Plan

    Posted on January 16, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. 1 Corinthians 6:19

    The Holy Spirit has such a high regard for our body that he makes His residence within us. Our body His temple, is His holy habitation. We wouldn’t desecrate a church with unholy influences, nor should we mistreat the temple of the Holy Spirit with unhealthy influences. Indeed, it is our spiritual responsibility to nourish and care for what God owns and allows us to inhabit. We seek to make wise decisions in our physical care plan since our soulmate, God’s Spirit, lives within us.

    A plan to care for our body protects us from abuse and neglect. Yes, God’s pinnacle of creation is fearfully and wonderfully made, evidenced by its resilience to restore and heal itself. Though elegantly created, its lifetime is brief with only the soul living on into eternity. So in the meantime we are called to give intentional physical care to our body. The Maker of our marvelous self expects us to love our body as He does. We care for ourselves so we can care for others.

    Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church. Ephesians 5:28-29

    What does it mean for us to feed and care for our body as Christ does the church? For one, He cherishes and nourishes the church, His Body, with what is necessary for its growth, holiness and happinesses. In the same way we love our body by submitting it to a healthy diet and regular exercise. Hence, we grow to love, respect and enjoy ourselves as God does. So, our physical care plan can include healthy meals at home, a workout partner and a competent, caring physician.

    Perhaps a fast is necessary to refocus on the Lord and flush toxins from our system. A break from solid food can be a solid remedy to break us from its addictive influence. Food is for our physical nourishment and emotional enjoyment, not to become an idol over consumption. What consumes us controls us. So, perhaps we start with a juice fast for three days before we tackle a water only fast for a week. A fast can recalibrate our physical and spiritual desires with God’s will. Learn more about fasting from my friend Chris White... http://bit.ly/1cmqnGh.

    When you fast, wash your face and beautify yourself with oil, so no one who looks at you will know about your discipline. Only your Father, who is unseen, will see your fast. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:17-18, The Voice

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, my heart’s desire is to nourish and care for my body as Christ does for His body the church.

    Related Readings: 1 Samuel 7:6; Daniel 1:15-16; Psalm 139:14; Matthew 4:2; Acts 14:23

    Post/Tweet today: What consumes us controls us. #physicalcareplan

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

  • Isn't This Just a Small Thing?

    Posted on January 16, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food." Romans 14:19-20a (NIV)

    I always considered my food struggle as a small thing in light of the bigger challenges of life.

    I can remember saying, "God, you can mess with my pride, you can mess with my anger, you can mess with my money, you can mess with my selfishness, you can mess with my frustration with my children, you can mess with the times I disrespect my husband ... you can mess with all that, but don't mess with my overeating." However, small things can easily become big things. Consider this example.

    On January 15, 2009, Flight 1549 took off from New York's LaGuardia Airport with 155 occupants on board. The takeoff went fine, but three minutes later, at only three thousand feet, the plane encountered a flock of geese. Both engines shut down. Captain "Sully" Sullenberger had to make an immediate decision with life or death consequences. He made a miraculously successful emergency landing on the Hudson River.

    Those geese were small, but they brought down an entire plane. Small things can easily become big things. We would do well to remember this principle.

    Let's begin to acknowledge the "big" emotions that often accompany our "little" food struggles. I realized that I constantly bounced between feeling deprived and guilty; deprived, then guilty. My disgust and frustration with myself stripped me of the peace and joy that I wanted to be the hallmark of my life.

    Having peace is a big deal. Scripture tells us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Isn't peace what we want in every area of our lives — even our health? Is your heart dominated by feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing, or defeat about your food struggles? Those are big emotions.

    Whenever we feel defeated by an issue, it can prevent us from following God completely. That's why my weight loss goal isn't a number on the scale. My real weight loss goal is peace. I knew I would be successful one day when I stood on the scale and I felt peace, no matter what the number said.

    As we move through our healthy eating journey, the goal shouldn't just be a smaller waistline measurement, but a larger measure of peace. The apostle Paul puts it this way: "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food" (Romans 14:19-20a). In other words, don't let a small thing become a big thing.

    I often ask myself this pivotal question before making a food choice: Will this choice add to my peace or steal from it? Remember, nothing tastes as good as peace feels.

    Dear Lord, Your peace is what I plead for today. I don't want my focus to be on food, a number on the scale, insecurity, or inadequacy. I want my focus to be on You. That is where I will find true peace. In Jesus' name. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What "big" emotions are accompanying your "little" struggle?

    Whether it's a struggle with food or something else, write down the emotions you feel when you think about it.

    Then, write down action steps you can take to move away from those feelings and toward peace. Start with talking to the Lord and offering up this struggle to Him.

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 3:15, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Financial Management Plan

    Posted on January 15, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. Matthew 25:16

    Money manages people or people manage money. It is a productive servant, but a dreadful master. Thus, a financial plan is necessary to organize assets around a system to spend, give and save. Simple processes offer checks and balances to keep the check book balanced, avoid debt, pay taxes, stay accountable to not over spend, be generous, and prepare not presume on the future. Our Heavenly Father entrusts us with His material blessings to be wise managers.

    Perhaps you start by recording all your expenditures over a month. Watch closely how much it takes you to live, save receipts from everything: coffee, gasoline, books, magazines, food, eating out, medical, house and car repair. Store the amount of the receipts on a budgeting app or spreadsheet. This discipline to details gives you a realistic understanding of what it costs to live. You may discover the need to designate more funds to areas that are subtle spending costs.

    Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer. Proverbs 30:24-25

    Like the tiny ant we are extremely wise to define our needs and prepare a financial plan to facilitate good outcomes. For example, God expects and blesses generosity. Giving marks mature followers of Jesus. So, we start by giving 10% of our income before taxes to the Lord’s work. We also save 5% in a short term contingency account and 5% for long term savings. Now we are positioned to spend responsibly after investing in what’s most important. Wisdom plans well. Learn from my friend Greg Stipe on the good example of C.S Lewis’ life: http://bit.ly/1hUFvN4

    Above all, be prayerful and nimble in your approach to financial planning. Make sure the plan serves your priorities, if it doesn’t, modify the plan to meet your needs. Every season is different, so be aware of how you must adjust. For example, you may have to choose between private education now for your child or a college fund for later. Don’t put unrealistic pressure on your family to do both if it erases your financial margin or dips into debt. A financial plan is freedom.

    The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead me by Your Spirit to plan and manage well Your material blessings.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 15:22, 25:28; Luke 12:16-21, 14:28-30; 1 Timothy 6:6-10

    Post/Tweet today: Money manages people or people manage money. It is a productive servant, but a dreadful master. #financialplan

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

  • 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

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