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Proverbs 31

  • Whose Girl Are You?

    Posted on May 4, 2015 by Family Christian

    Alicia Bruxvoort MAY 4, 2015

    Whose Girl Are You?
    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "You are now children of God because you have put your trust in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26 (NLV)

    When my firstborn was a toddler, we often began our dinnertime routine with a silly game. "Whose boy are you?" I’d ask my wiggly son as we gathered around the table when Daddy got home.

    The answer changed from night to night, but little Luke’s irrepressible delight did not.

    Eyes ablaze, he loved to hold us in suspense as he decided his momentary allegiance.

    "I’m Daddy’s boy!" he’d sometimes declare, while my husband cheered and I feigned grief.

    But on other nights, he’d change his answer. "I’m Mommy’s boy," he’d say with a giggle as my rowdy applause drowned out his daddy’s mock moans.

    One evening, God interrupted my thoughts with a question of His own: "Whose girl are you?"

    It was a question I hadn’t considered since three short words — "It’s a boy!" — had endowed me with the badge of motherhood. Before my son was born, I’d spent hours dreaming of that moment my teeny progeny would call me Mommy.

    As my due date neared, I practiced saying my new name to myself in the mirror, and I wondered if the young woman staring back at me would be everything the name implied … patient and kind, servant-hearted and wise. Whimsical and wonderful and fun. Never once did I consider that a new me wouldn’t instantly emerge with my new name.

    In the beginning, I wore my new name like an Olympic ribbon. I immediately fell in love with our 7-pound miracle and set out to prove I was worthy of being called his mommy.

    However, as days turned to weeks and weeks spiraled into months, as sleep deprivation mounted and toddler tantrums began, that name began to feel more like a heavy weight than a badge of honor. By the time my son celebrated his second birthday, we’d added a newborn daughter to the mix, and the name Mommy no longer felt like a shining statement of who I was; instead, it was a glaring reminder of who I wasn’t.

    On most days, the me in the mirror felt more sapped than super. The me in the mirror wondered how her soul could feel so empty when her hands were so full. The me in the mirror lay in bed at night, too weary to sleep, worrying if she was messing up her kids or disappointing her husband.

    Maybe that’s why God’s probing whisper left me speechless.

    "Whose girl are you?"

    For most of my life, I’d embraced my identity as God’s daughter. But something happened when I had children of my own.

    I became so focused on proving who I was, that I lost sight of Whose I was … I’d forgotten I was still a child of God. Motherhood may alter the dynamics of our days, but it does not change our identity in Christ.

    Our key verse reminds us that even when little ones cling to our knees, we have a place on our Father’s lap: "You are now children of God …" (Galatians 3:26).

    That night, while my babies slept, I sat with my Bible and read about the day Jesus welcomed the little children into his arms (Matthew 19:13-15). I pictured kids of all sizes and personalities clinging to Jesus’ strong arms. And what struck me most was not what Jesus did in those three verses, but what He didn’t do.

    Jesus didn’t require the children to prove their worth before they could climb on His knee. He didn’t sort the ambitious from the lazy, the naughty from the nice. He welcomed them all because they were His.

    And so, dear moms, are we.

    Our identity doesn’t lie in our badge of motherhood. Our identity lies in our merit as God’s children.

    So, next time you’re staring at that mommy in the mirror, listen closely for the whisper of God, "Whose girl are you?"

    And whether you’re feeling sapped or super, look that precious mommy in the eye and invite her to become a child again. I am Yours, Lord. I’m Yours.

    Father God, show me the way back to Your lap. I want to live like a child again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Mark 10:14b, " … Jesus (to the disciples): Let the children come to Me, and don’t ever stand in their way, for this is what the kingdom of God is all about." (VOICE)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you’ve ever felt like you’ve lost your identity, or wondered if you’ve blown it as a parent, you’ll appreciate a copy of Am I Messing Up My Kids? … and Other Questions Every Mom Asks by Lysa TerKeurst.

    Stop by Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today for more encouragement and enter her giveaway! It’s your chance to win a prize helping you become like a child again, as you spend time with your Heavenly Father.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Carve out some one-on-one time with Jesus this week. Take a walk, sing a song, look at the clouds. Enjoy being His child.

    Post this question on your mirror — Whose girl are you? Remind yourself each time you look at your reflection that you are the daughter of the King of Kings.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Faith is Shaken

    Posted on May 1, 2015 by Family Christian

    Sharon Glasgow MAY 1, 2015

    When Your Faith is Shaken
    SHARON GLASGOW

    "And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’" Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)

    Recently, I had one of the hardest days of my life!

    My mom, who lives with us, woke up in excruciating pain. She had no one but me to help her. Within an hour, my pregnant daughter was admitted to the hospital because of her skyrocketing blood pressure. Rachael couldn’t reach her husband, so she asked me to come quickly in case she went into labor.

    My husband had taken our only car to help someone and his cell phone was out of range. On top of all this, we live on a farm and rent out our barn for weddings. I needed to get ready for the two scheduled that weekend.

    Brides and vendors were calling, emailing and texting. My mom was groaning in agony, my daughter was waiting, and I was supposed to be preparing for a retreat where I was speaking in two days! I didn’t know which emergency took precedence. My faith started to quiver in fear; despair attempted to envelop me.

    I called a friend for encouragement. She firmly said, "Sharon, Satan is sifting you like wheat." She reminded me of Peter in the Bible. I got off the phone and went into prayer, laying my load at the feet of Jesus. Then, I picked up the Word and read the story of Peter.

    It was the night before Jesus was crucified. He was sharing the Last Supper with His disciples and turned to Peter (also called Simon): "And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’"

    A "sifter" is a machine that violently shakes grain and turns it into soft flour.

    Satan was asking permission to violently shake Peter. A few hours later, Satan pulled out his first round of ammunition. He fired fear at Peter to get him to deny Christ. Satan knew if he could get Peter (and each of us) to fall for fear, our faith may fail. If this happens, he then sends the atomic bomb of shame and embarrassment.

    There are three things we can learn from this story to encourage us in our troubles:

    1. Satan sometimes asks God for permission to shake us, just like he did Peter.

    God allows hardships for divine purposes. Our faith is increased through each trial, and we learn to trust God’s faithfulness and accept His mercy.

    2. Jesus is praying for us, that our faith will not fail.

    Wow, that’s huge! The very God of the universe prays for you and me!

    3. Even when we fail, God quickly forgives when we ask and frees us from self-condemnation.

    Peter learned this lesson not from his successes, but from his failures. After he denied Christ, Jesus forgave him and commissioned Peter to preach the Gospel and care for others. He could have lived with the shame of failing in his faith, but Jesus’ forgiveness washed that away.

    Self-condemnation is probably one of the worst ways Satan tries to sift us. If our faith falters, we need to immediately ask God for forgiveness and not stay stuck in guilt. This helps take our focus off ourselves and puts it on serving others and the Lord.

    Has Satan been sifting you lately? Boy, do I understand. Hectic deadlines, poor health issues, money frustrations and the pressures of life can shake our faith. These things can cause us to doubt that God is enough and will take care of us. In the middle of trials, we need to remember that God is in control, Jesus is praying for us and there is grace when our faith fails. Trusting these truths will move us from doubt and defeat to hope and peace.

    Dear Lord, Help me! Increase my faith and give me Your strength to help others. Thank You for praying for me and giving me grace when I don’t deserve it. I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Peter 5:10, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Visit Sharon Glasgow’s blog for more encouragement on not losing your faith in the middle of sifting and shaking and enter your name for a giveaway.

    Tell the story of your faith with a beautiful 8x10" print. Treat yourself, or give this meaningful gift for Mother’s Day or graduation. And let it be a constant reminder to always rest in the steadfast promises of God’s great faithfulness.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Does it feel like Satan has been shaking you? Read Luke 22:31-32 and the books 1 Peter and 2 Peter in the Bible. (They’re short!) Peter’s faith was shaken, but he became a powerhouse for the Lord. You can, too.

    © 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • Make Your First 5 Count

    Posted on April 30, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 30, 2015

    Make Your First 5 Count
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you … then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1, 5 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt something stirring in your spirit that wouldn’t go away?

    I have one of those things on my heart right now. And it all started with my middle daughter Ashley.

    Ashley is a driven and responsible girl. Last fall, she went off to college and while she’s always excelled academically, the same couldn’t be said for her spiritual life.

    As her mom, my heart broke over her struggle in her relationship with the Lord. I just couldn’t understand it — she grew up going to church, learned Bible lessons and saw my husband Art and me read Scripture each day.

    But no matter what we did or said, we just couldn’t make it connect for her.

    If you’re in that place right now with your child or in your own walk with the Lord, I understand. I think for Ashley, the Bible felt complicated and disconnected from her everyday life issues.

    As I cried out to the Lord on behalf of my daughter, the word that kept coming to mind was poverty. Poverty might seem like a strange word for this situation but when I saw the lack of spiritual nourishment in Ashley, the parallels from physical to spiritual lined up.

    I chased down this thought a little more — what causes poverty? A lack of opportunity. So many people around the world simply don’t have the opportunity to access the nourishment they need to survive.

    But this wasn’t the case with Ashley. Good gracious, we are like most Americans and have multiple copies of the Bible under our roof. So the poverty I sensed was not caused by a lack of opportunity.

    So what was it? As I wrestled with this, God brought me to the book of Proverbs.

    "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:1-5).

    There is one word in this passage that’s repeated over and over: understand! Solomon says if we want fear of the Lord and knowledge of God, then we will crave understanding.

    Meanwhile, at school, Ashley found herself in a Bible study being challenged by her leaders to just spend the first 5 minutes of her day in the Word.

    After admitting she hadn’t been reading her Bible and hearing many of her friends talk about the benefits they were getting, she finally gave it a try. Each day, little by little, her interest in the Bible grew. Her life and attitude was being transformed.

    I recently visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

    She’s a completely different girl.

    At one point during our time together, I asked her, "What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?" She said, "Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to read the Bible was unrealistic. But as I kept doing it, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of Truth, I had so much more joy."

    I can hardly type these words without crying.

    As Ashley began to share with me what was happening, I also had a light switch go on. Her spiritual poverty wasn’t caused by a lack of access but rather a lack of understanding.

    In that moment, the burden on my mama heart turned to a vision for a hurting world. What if Proverbs 31 Ministries could help every mom recommend a tool to really facilitate their daughters getting into God’s Word for at least 5 minutes first thing every morning?

    What if we could bring the Word of God to college students, moms, daughters, business owners and grandmothers across the globe in a way that made the first minutes of every day life-changing? So, the minute they pick up their phones in the morning, instead of getting distracted by other things, they can get invigorated with Truth.

    We must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. Instead of immediately checking in with social media with the first moments of our day, we can truly make God first by giving Him our first thoughts.

    With God’s vision and your help, Proverbs 31 Ministries is striving to eradicate Biblical poverty. And we want to start by developing a free mobile app called the "First 5" to:

    • Bring life and Truth to the First 5 minutes of every day.
    • Provide a healthier alternative to hopping on social media in the first moments of our day.
    • Give us the opportunity to share hope with the people in our lives who struggle with putting God’s Word first.

    We need people whose hearts are burdened like ours to bring the Word of God to women across the globe. We need you. Join us today.

    Together, all hands in, we can take the burden and carry the vision to change lives with the Word of God.

    Dear Lord, I want to get into Your Word and let Your Word get into me. Help me to understand and apply what I’m reading as I study the Bible so I can help others do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is alive and active." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    We really need your help to move this crucial initiative forward.

    You can help us by giving 5 to the "First 5." Give $5, $50, $500, $5,000. Your gift is needed! Make YOUR 5 really count! Join us today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Each time you sit down to read your Bible this week, ask God to help you understand and apply what you’re learning.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Sleep Worry Free

    Posted on April 29, 2015 by Family Christian

    Amy Carroll APRIL 29, 2015

    How to Sleep Worry Free
    AMY CARROLL

    "But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’" Luke 18:16 (NIV)

    A friend looked deep into my eyes and asked, "What do you miss about being a child?"

    In the middle of playing a silly game of questions with a group, the room faded away and memories of my childhood popped into my mind like bubbles surfacing from deep waters.

    Playing with my brother in our treehouse.

    Fun Fridays with my favorite teacher at school.

    Riding my banana-seat bike down the street with friends.

    Most precious … moments snuggled between my parents while our family read together at night.

    Although it sounds idyllic, it wasn’t perfect. Just like I’m an imperfect parent, my parents weren’t perfect either. But as a child I felt loved, encouraged and most importantly, safe and carefree. As I longed for the feeling of safety that blanketed my childhood, I looked at my friend and answered, "I miss having no worries."

    Being an adult is fraught with pits of peril — financial shortfalls, job instability, parenting challenges, marriage conflict and the general stress of being responsible for yourself and others. For me, childhood was free of all those things. But that day, as I faced my friend’s question, adulthood felt like a heavy weight.

    The next day as I sat in the quiet of early morning, God whispered a single word into my heart … trust. He gently showed me the weight of adulthood I had shouldered. He nudged me to consider the hours I’d spent awake staring into the dark ruminating, with no resolution. He refreshed the sense of deep longing I’d felt the day before when I’d expressed my desire for childhood. The good old days of no worries.

    And He called me back.

    Trust is the mark of a child. Of course I had little girl concerns when I was young, but why didn’t I feel the weight of worry? It was because I trusted my parents. They took the weight of responsibility to shelter me — allowing me to feel safe and worry-free.

    Although not all parents do this well, protecting our children from adult problems is still part of a parent’s job description.

    The funny thing is my trust was partially based on illusion. As parents, my husband and I have tried to do exactly what my parents did for me. We don’t tell our kids about adult problems because we don’t want them to worry about things they can’t fix.

    It’s not that we don’t have problems or that we’re completely in control. The truth is, we’re not in control. But there’s good news for those who are faking control while lying awake at night and for those who have never felt safe.

    God is a Father who is entirely trustworthy because He is truly in control.

    As God’s children, we have a heavenly Father who is worthy of trust. All our obsessive worry over our responsibilities and concerns doesn’t change a thing, so let’s resolve to try something different. Let’s give up our illusion of control and rest peacefully like children in Jesus’ unfailing care.

    Now, instead of letting worry consume my nighttime thoughts, I’m learning to pray childlike prayers. I lay in the dark handing over my worries one by one to my faithful Father instead of grasping them in my powerless hands. I’m still in the process of training myself to trust, but I’m sleeping well at night while the One who never slumbers carries it all.

    Lord, I’ve shouldered my cares as if I’m the one in control. Help me become like a child, handing all my stresses, worries and responsibilities to You, my faithful Father. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    I Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

    Philippians 4:6-7, "Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie Gillies can help you learn to pray for your needs.

    We all pray … some. But wouldn’t we like to pray more? Better? Stronger? If you can relate, you’ll appreciate Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado.

    Visit Amy Carroll’s blog today to enter to win a unique prayer journal that will help you turn your cares to prayers.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What worries and responsibilities fill your thoughts and keep you awake at night? Write them on a list.

    Reflect a moment. How has your worry changed the situations on your list?

    Before bed tonight, pray through your worry list and hand each burden to God. Tell your Heavenly Father you trust Him with each one.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Big Things are in the Small Things

    Posted on April 28, 2015 by Family Christian

    Chrystal Evans Hurst APRIL 28, 2015

    The Big Things are in the Small Things
    CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31 (NIV)

    I looked out my kitchen window and noticed a little bird had just landed on our bird feeder.

    To be honest, I barely noticed the little creature. It wasn’t a bird to notice really. Grayish brown, small, unremarkable. It perched on the edge of the empty soda bottle bird feeder for just a moment before flying away.

    Feeling guilty for the lack of birdseed, I called for the nearest of my three boys. Thankfully, my middle son was in earshot. He had never filled the feeder before on his own, so I sized him up to see if he was now tall enough to reach it since it hung from a ceiling hook on the front porch. Then, I sent him outside with a stool and instructions to grab the feeder and bring it inside.

    Not long after, he reentered the kitchen. I helped him unscrew the top, place a funnel inside the opening, and pour some birdseed inside. My 9-year-old went back outside, and after three or four reaches, he hung the feeder back up.

    He beamed with pride. He had fed the birds, and they would live another day because his provision had saved the day. His small action resulted in a big difference for the birds that visit our home.

    The big things are in the small things.

    That same morning, just a little while later, I sat at the kitchen table with my sons to have devotions before starting our school day.

    And what was our Bible lesson about?

    You guessed it.

    "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care" (Matthew 10:29, NIV).

    We opened our family devotional and read how God takes care of His children. We were reminded that there is no need to worry because the same God who cares for the birds of the air, cares deeply for His own, knows of our needs, and makes it His business to meet them.

    As I reveled in a parenting moment where God had provided such a perfect illustration for our morning Bible time, my mother’s glory was abruptly cut short when my 6-year-old chimed in.

    "So Mom, does that mean God is going to give me an iPod?"

    What in the WORLD?

    I felt laughter and tears bubbling up at the same time.

    How did he miss the whole point?!?!

    He was so consumed with his perception of a "big thing" that he missed the point entirely.

    My friend, how do you and I miss the point?

    At times, I am consumed with my needs, or better yet, my wants. I waste worry on fears that will never happen or give too much attention to desires that are not designed to satisfy. Thoughts of what I hope for sometimes consume me, and I miss the point — the beauty of a God who faithfully and fully meets every single one of my needs.

    And that, dear one, is the point.

    The big thing is that God consistently and lovingly meets us in the small things. While we might be tempted to focus on the things we want, it is so important to intentionally focus on how good He already is. His seemingly small actions of providing for us on a daily basis with clothes, food and shelter are, in truth, very big. Why? Because His "small" actions make a big difference for us, and the ones who live within our homes.

    Lord God, I thank You so much for Your faithfulness in the small things. Please forgive me for being ungrateful and forgetting to show gratitude for Your goodness to me. You are constant in Your loving care. While I sometimes feel my life is "grayish brown, small and unremarkable," thank You for today’s reminder that I matter, that You see me, and that You make it Your business to meet my needs. Help me not to "miss the point" but to live with an intentional heart of thanksgiving. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst will encourage and challenge you to be transformed by God’s truth, seek His best and move forward in the abundant life He has for you.

    Visit Chrystal’s blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is currently consuming your thoughts? What has been the object of your worry and concern, or the focus of your desires and hopes?

    List the "small things" God has done in your life that really are big things. Will you intentionally give Him thanks today?

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down

    Posted on April 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Wendy Pope APRIL 27, 2015

    Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down
    WENDY POPE

    "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." Genesis 2:3 (NASB)

    During my son’s basketball practice, I made my grocery list, returned text messages, checked work emails, read an online devotion and scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of my frenzy, a photo of my friend’s vacation stopped me in my tracks. I could almost feel the warm sun and hear the clear water lapping the shore.

    My shoulders relaxed and my mind rested for just a moment before the referee blew the whistle, and I was off again. Though tired, after the practice I headed to the grocery store, post office and garage for an oil change. I tucked the picture of the beach in the back of my mind and reminded myself that I needed to take a Sabbath — a full day of rest.

    Does taking one whole day off sound foreign to you? I struggle with it, too. That’s because we have lost the rhythm of life, which includes a day of rest. As a result, we are tired, overworked, disorganized, confused and sleep-deprived.

    What has happened to the Sabbath? Where did the ideals of a day of rest go?

    With bills to pay, broken things to fix, kids to care for and work deadlines to meet, it’s difficult to give ourselves permission to slow down. Celebrating the work we’ve done seems like a waste of time. But God said to rest and celebrate. He even modeled it for us.

    We are given an example of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3: "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." The word "blessed" means praise, salute, kneel or bless oneself. The Lord gave Himself permission to rest and to celebrate the work He had done on the other six days of the week.

    Pausing once a week helps to clear our hearts and minds. This "white space" enables us to focus on praising and worshipping the Lord. We find room to rejoice in the work He has enabled us to complete, which balances discouragement over unfinished jobs. It aligns our perspective with what is important and reminds us that these tasks will still be there when we return to work.

    Make plans to schedule a Sabbath rest for yourself. Mark your calendar now and set that day aside for praise and worship, prayer and Scripture reading, naps and knitting (or whatever is restful for you). Most importantly, set your Sabbath state of mind on the Lord and honor Him with a day of rest and celebration.

    Dear Lord, it seems I rarely press pause. Thank You for this reminder to set aside a day of rest and reflection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Exodus 20:8, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Spend your Sabbath rest refreshing yourself in God’s Word and Wendy Pope’s Bible study, Trusting God for a Better Tomorrow: A Study of Psalms.

    Visit Wendy’s blog for tips on creating white space in your life for Sabbath rest.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When is the last time you truly rested and spent time celebrating what God has allowed you to accomplish?

    Sit down with your calendar and decide which day you will take as your Sabbath. If you are married or have children, make this decision as a family.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts

    Posted on April 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Leah DiPascal APRIL 24, 2015

    Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts
    LEAH DIPASCAL

    "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

    I saw the blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror, and knew it was not a good sign. A quick glance at the speedometer revealed I was going faster than intended.

    I quickly began to build my case as I pulled over to the side of the road. With my two toddlers in the back seat, I was sure this would be an easy fix. After all, once the police officer heard my reasons for being distracted, he would certainly let me off the hook with a simple warning, a gentle smile and a cheerful, "Have a good day, ma’am!"

    That’s not exactly how it went down.

    Despite my attempts to explain, the police officer didn’t budge. It didn’t matter that I was lost in an unfamiliar section of town. It didn’t matter that my friend had just given birth to her second child, or that I’d spent hours preparing a meal for her family.

    I was secretly hoping the lingering aroma of chicken fettuccini would prove my point. But despite all my good intentions and lengthy explanations, the officer proceeded with four words no one wants to hear: "License and registration, please."

    Five minutes later, I was back on the road with a nasty speeding ticket sitting on my dashboard. It might as well have been a neon sign flashing the words: loser, busted, cursed.

    We cried the whole way home. My kids cried because they knew Mommy was very upset. I cried — not because I was sad or embarrassed — but because I was angry.

    What kind of officer gives a ticket to a good person who prepares a meal for a friend in her time of need? Sure, I was guilty of going a tad over the speed limit, but the consequences seemed harsh and I felt completely justified.

    As the day went on, my anger mounted and my invisible stress barometer climbed to new heights. I couldn’t stop thinking about our brief and aloof conversation. Over and over, I mentally replayed alternative dialogues: I should have said this … What if he’d said that?

    By the end of the day, I had a fierce headache, a knot in my stomach and a "don’t-go-near-her attitude." All the over-analyzing, replaying and mental back talk created a toxic mess in my mind and body, making an unfortunate situation worse.

    My choice to speed produced the hefty consequence of a ticket and a marked driving record. But choosing to fixate my thoughts on the problem was like dousing gasoline on a tiny spark. That spark had become a consuming fire, distracting me from the real blessings God had for me that day — like the little ones in the back seat of my car and getting home safely.

    In today’s key verse, Moses challenges the people of Israel to choose between life and death, a blessing and a curse. How? By choosing wisely. To love God, obey His commands and place Him above all else in their lives.

    Today, we’re faced with the same challenge. Will we love God and choose His way to experience life and blessings, or will we choose our way and set ourselves up for some potentially explosive consequences?

    Our words, actions and reactions are a direct result of our thought life. Left to our own sinful nature, we can easily find ourselves in a cycle of toxic thinking, choosing and reacting.

    To be women who choose wisely, we have to go to the Source of all wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (NIV).

    Freedom doesn’t come in making our own choices. Freedom comes by seeking God’s perfect wisdom to choose wisely in every area of our lives.

    Friend, where are your choices taking you today? Are your thoughts, words, actions and reactions reflecting who you are in Christ? Let’s encourage one another to choose wisely and live in the blessed freedom that God has already made available to us.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the many blessings You’ve given me today. Help me to choose wisely so I can live in freedom for Your Glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:25, "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do." (NIV)

    Romans 8:6, "The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn to make wise choices in the midst of endless demands with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes.

    Join Leah DiPascal on her blog today to continue this conversation of choosing wisely. She’s giving away two copies of The Best Yes so be sure to sign up here for the giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Make a list of 10 choices you’ve made this week. Place each choice in one of two columns: Wise Choices vs. Toxic Choices. Ask God for wisdom on how to move all your choices into the wise column.

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Did I Hear God Wrong?

    Posted on April 23, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 23, 2015

    Did I Hear God Wrong?
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "For we live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?

    I understand. Thoughts of doubt crossed my mind daily when I began to listen to the promptings on my heart to write.

    The International Christian Retail Show is a big book convention where publishers, authors, agents, media and bookstore owners all gather to talk shop. Books are pitched. Books are sold. Books are talked about a lot!

    I went to this conference years ago when I was a wannabe writer with a book proposal and a dream. Recently, as I signed pre-release copies of my new book, two thoughts went through my mind.

    First … thank You Jesus, that people actually came to my book signing. Because there’s nothing quite like standing there with a big stack of free promotion books, a permanent marker and not a soul interested.

    So when people actually came, I just wanted to hug every single one of them. Seriously. And if I had lots of money, I would’ve bought them all a steak dinner. I’m not kidding.

    The second thought was … look for those desperate for your encouragement.

    Many who came through my book signing line were interested in writing a book. I remember being there.

    I know what it feels like to walk around with a tote bag full of book proposals and a heart full of nervous hope.

    I know what it feels like to consciously choose to live every day "by faith, not by sight" like our key verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 instructs. Honestly, it’s hard to hold on to God’s promises when all that’s staring back at you is a pile of rejection letters from publishers.

    That calling we once felt so strongly starts to feel more like a fairytale than a future reality.

    So, I felt the weight of responsibility to give them the encouragement I so desperately needed when I was in their shoes.

    Maybe you are there right now, looking to actively pursue your dreams or the things God has called you to. But whether it’s the hope of being an author or another dream you have bumping around in your heart, here’s what I’ve learned:

    Rejection from people doesn’t mean rejection from God.

    If God has gifted you to write, write! You don’t need a book deal to have an impact with your writing. The same is true with other dreams. If you’re called to sing, create, teach, paint, develop — use your gifts right where you are to bless others.

    Most overnight success stories are years in the making.

    Value the daily discipline of small steps of faith, hard work, honing your craft and putting in time learning and developing. Take classes. Be mentored. Push through those moments you want to slack off. And do it over and over, year after year.

    Be a blessing to others.

    Don’t keep your work to yourself. Find people who could be blessed with your work. I love to write. But what I love more than writing is seeing my writing help other people. That’s where I find the encouragement to push through the hard times.

    Expect opposition.

    The challenges and disappointments and setbacks are all part of it. And honestly, these hard times serve a great purpose. I’ve learned much more from my failures in writing than my successes. Use these lessons … don’t waste them by giving up too soon. And remember to glorify Him whether it’s a struggle or a success. God uses all things for good.

    Look for the small open doors right in front of you.

    I always scratch my head when I meet people who tell me they want to write and speak but aren’t willing to teach a small Bible study first. If God is calling you to do something, He’ll have a door open in front of you. But it might be a small door. Look for the small door and walk through it.

    Actually … dance through that door with great joy because He will always do great things with people willing to be faithful in the small!

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to live by faith, not by sight. I believe You have amazing plans for my life, and I want to be obedient to You through it all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

    Zechariah 4:10a, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin …" (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    WIF Bookcover

    Be reminded each day to walk by faith, not by sight with a necklace from the Proverbs 31 Ministries Faith Collection. Each necklace is handcrafted by vulnerable and rescued women in Mexico and Charlotte, N.C. Click here to purchase one for yourself or a friend this Mother’s Day!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Choose one of the encouragements Lysa talked about today and hold it close over the next week as you continue to live out what God has called you to.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Concern Consumes Me

    Posted on April 22, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope APRIL 22, 2015

    When Concern Consumes Me
    RENEE SWOPE

    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

    As we drove home from a weekend away in the mountains, I felt a heavy sense of dread and sadness. Laying my head back on my seat, I told my husband, JJ, "I don’t want to go home."

    The stress and strain of countless commitments at home and at work were taking a toll on me. If only I could return to that little mountain town where no one knew me or needed me.

    JJ asked some clarifying questions, and then he suggested I make a list of everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back.

    Honestly, at first I resented the fact that he was adding one more thing "to do" on my already long list of things I’d never get done.

    But later that week I took his advice and wrote out all my commitments and concerns. I made a list of deadlines and dates on my calendar with every appointment, event, conference call and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

    And I prayed: Please God, show me where I need to make changes.

    I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cut backs at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

    Jesus showed me it was worry — not my workload — that was making me weary.

    You see, during the weeks leading up to my "meltdown," I let my thoughts dwell on the possible negative outcome of several different circumstances and decisions, all at the same time. And without realizing it, I had spent as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances and deadlines as I did working on them.

    It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted. It wasn’t until I brought it all to God, and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening.

    Instead of escaping to the mountains where no one knows us or needs us, in today’s key verse from Matthew 11:28 above, Jesus invites us to come to Him so He can give us:

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

    Freedom from the captivity of our concerns.
    "‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity’" (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, NIV).

    Maybe there are worries making you weary. Do you hear Jesus gently inviting you to come to Him, seeking and trusting that His heart is big enough to care and strong enough to carry all that concerns you?

    Dear Lord, when concerns consume me, help me remember You are there inviting me to come to You and talk about all I’m thinking and doing. Show me if my workload or my worries are making me weary and help me trust You more with both. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you ever tire of feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough or gifted enough, you’ll enjoy A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself by Renee Swope.

    Be sure to download Renee’s "3 Steps to Getting God’s Peace" printable and enter to win her "Heart-and-Soul Spa" gift-pack that includes Renee’s A Confident Heart Devotional book, a prayer journal and a Bath & Body Works gift card. You’ll find it all on her blog today.

    If you’ve tried everything else to tackle the disease of stress in your life, with little success, maybe it’s time to give Jesus a try. Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles can help you do just that.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you think about all you need to get done, what makes you feel like you’re coming undone?

    Write three concerns on a piece of paper and put them in an envelope. On the outside of the envelope write: "Jesus, I’m giving my cares to You because You care about me." Put your envelope in a journal or notebook and let God take care of what’s concerning You today.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken

    Posted on April 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    Ruth Soukup APRIL 21, 2015

    Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken
    Michelle McKinney Hammond

    "But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." Genesis 39:20b-21 (NIV)

    When I was a little girl growing up in Barbados with my grandmother, I loved to watch her make sausage.

    First, she would take big chunks of meat and slowly squeeze them into a machine known as a sausage stuffer. Before long, the meat would break down and come out the other side all gushy and floppy.

    I used to feel so sorry for that meat.

    Next my grandmother would add zesty spices and meticulously squish the meat into encasements. And you know what happened? Some of the best sausage you can imagine was formed. It had a wonderful flavor and a long shelf life.

    As you can see, sausage making is quite the process! But the process had a purpose.

    Have you ever felt like that sausage? I have.

    The process of being squeezed and uncomfortable can break us down, making us feel helpless, alone and sometimes even good for nothing.

    We can question, God, where are You? Or, Let’s hurry this discomfort along, OK? (I’m famous for that!) Or even wonder, God, I thought You loved me. What did I do wrong?

    Let me remind you of something, friend. Being squeezed by outside pressure doesn’t indicate God’s rejection, abandonment or that He made a mistake. Sometimes in His great sovereignty and love, God allows for our character to be refined. God reminded me of this recently when I was studying the life of Joseph.

    You may remember Joseph and his coat of many colors. As a teenager, Joseph had big dreams; however, a series of unfortunate events seemed to circumvent those aspirations. He faced difficult and disappointing times — more than once — and was even sold into slavery by his very own brothers.

    Can you imagine going from favored child to slave? I wouldn’t have had a very good attitude about that. "I’m supposed to mop this floor? Don’t you know I watched people mop the floor of my house?" Dear God, get me out of this mess!

    But not Joseph.

    Time and time again Joseph’s plans went differently than expected, yet he ultimately chose to follow God every step of the way. Regardless of outside pressures and demands — slavery, slander, abandonment or imprisonment — Joseph chose to be excellent. The Bible tells us he advanced because of his positive attitude, and he experienced God’s kindness and favor in the midst of struggles and disappointments.

    In our key verse, Genesis 39:21 tells us, "The LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden."

    Let’s be honest. The refining process isn’t easy or comfortable. Prison was a dark place, a place where Joseph really didn’t want to be … a place where he saw no way out.

    But throughout Joseph’s story, God reminds us, very diligently, that no matter how awful and appalling the circumstances, He was still with Joseph.

    Want to hear some good news?

    He’s still with us, too.

    So, friend, if you feel like my grandmother’s sausage, squeezed and broken down, please remember, our God has great purpose in His refining process. He uses whatever He can to form the character He desires for us, His dearly loved kids.

    In many ways God works like my grandmother — squeezing and squishing until there’s nowhere else to turn but up. And when God adds the fruit of the Spirit to our lives, then encases us in the shell of holiness, purity and sound character, we too will have a longer shelf life … a life that glorifies Him.

    Dear Lord, sometimes my days are hard and I feel squeezed in every way. Thank You for the reminder that You will never leave my side, even when it’s uncomfortable. Please help me to experience Your kindness today in a fresh new way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:3-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    1 Peter 4:12-13, "Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Joseph: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond can help give you insight into the power of your choices as you wait on God while pursing your dreams. Watch the first session of Joseph free here.

    Visit Michelle’s website for more encouragement.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Joseph Study Guide with DVD: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond. In celebration of this Bible study, Michelle’s publisher is giving away 5 study guides with DVD! 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, April 27.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What situations have proven to be uncomfortable for you? How have you responded?

    In what ways can you see God at work in your life today?

    © 2015 by Michelle McKinney Hammond. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan 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

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