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Proverbs 31

  • Shut the Door on Anger

    Posted on September 15, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon

    "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

    I was alone downstairs in my home — at least I thought I was, until noises from the cellar startled me. From the corner of my eye, I saw something move. Taking a big gulp, I looked up to see eyes staring at me from the cellar door. Fear gripped me, and I screamed for my husband.

    Peering out from behind Dale, I could see a long snake hanging firmly from the top of the door. Dale grabbed it and pulled it off. I watched from on top of the table as he juggled the snake's weight toward the front door and flung it outside.

    With a sigh of relief, I gathered myself and sat back down to work. Ellie, my youngest daughter, came into the kitchen a few minutes later and pointed at the same door. "Mom, there's another one." Swallowing hard, I turned to see she was right.

    We've lived in our home for 20 years and never had a snake indoors before then. It turned out Dale accidentally left the crawl space door under the house open in the fall. The snakes saw it as a welcome sign and took up residence. Once winter was over, they decided to go exploring. Thankfully, we haven't seen another snake in the house since.

    That night, as I thought about that open crawl space door, Ephesians 4:26-27 came to mind: "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

    The open door in my house was much like the foothold referred to in that passage. A foothold in our lives is an open door of opportunity Satan uses to gain access.

    Scripture cautions us to guard the door of our hearts because Satan is always looking for a way in (1 Peter 5:8).

    Many times we don't realize he's gotten a foothold until anger and anxiety stare us in the eyes and say: Here I am, now what are you gonna do about it? We can choose to ignore it, be afraid of it or engage in a battle that will define our lives.

    A good starting point is to take a look at our thoughts and emotions. Is there someone we harbor resentment toward? A situation we replay over and over in our mind, causing untold anxiety? A wound that is still sore, years later?

    These are indicators of unresolved anger — anger that has been carried from one day to the next to the next, maybe even for a lifetime. The enemy uses these open doors to come between us and God, tear apart relationships and hurt our Christian witness (John 13:35).

    To avoid these destructive conditions, Scripture tells us to quickly get rid of anger so the enemy has no foothold. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live with snakes in my home or an enemy in my life. So how do we close the open doors?

    • Trust God to be your defender. Holding a grudge sets us up to think our anger will avenge the wrong against us. But it doesn't; only God can do that (Romans 12:19).

    • Even if you never receive an apology, forgive anyway. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (NIV). This verse helps me to recall God's great forgiveness for my own sin.

    • If possible, follow the prescription of reconciliation in Matthew 18:15-17.

    • Desire for God to be glorified more than you long to be justified (1 Peter 2:12).

    Imagine what my house would be like if we left the door open. I wouldn't want to live there! Every now and then I double-check the crawl space door, just to be sure it's closed. And I double-check my heart for any footholds of anger.

    Lord, please help me be aware of open doors and to close them through trust, reconciliation, forgiveness and honor. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:19b-20, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)

    1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are you holding on to any anger or grudges? Ask God to forgive you and heal your heart.

    Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness for your actions? Can you do that today?

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Dangerous Familiar

    Posted on September 5, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" Galatians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    "Aw, come on Mom and Dad ... pleeeeease!"

    During an afternoon drive, our kids spied a "free kittens" sign and begged for their first real pet. My husband and I caved and pulled into the farmhouse. After weeks of pestering, our offspring had won. We would get a kitten, and they would get the chance to prove they could handle the responsibility.

    Our youngest child, Spencer, chose a tiger kitten and proudly toted him out of the barn. When he placed the timid fur ball in the car, the kitten frantically dug his claws into Spencer who let out a scream and let go of the cat. It scurried under the driver's seat, crawled up near the clutch, and somehow managed to squeeze through a small opening into the dashboard where we could not see him.

    As an employee of an automaker, my husband assured us the kitty was safe. Even then, we waited awhile before making the trip home with the stowaway. Once home, he still wouldn't come out. We pulled the car into the garage, opened the driver's side door and tried to bribe our furry friend with some milk and food. Surely the little kitty would get hungry and come out. He did — a full two days later.

    We promptly named him Dash, and he became a normal, playful kitty. But we noticed something about Dash. Whenever he wanted to escape, he would crawl up under the engine of our van and sleep. When we'd start the engine, he would dash out and run into our woods. Apparently, even though his first few minutes with us had been traumatizing, they had made a lasting impression.

    When he wanted to take a break from life, he went back to what felt familiar, even though it initially had been a horrible experience.

    Sometimes we make the same kinds of choices as Dash. When we feel like throwing in the towel for awhile, we revert back to a not-so-nice habit because it feels familiar. Maybe it's a brownie laden with ice cream and hot fudge eaten in secret, a somewhat steamy show or questionable novel, or perhaps a phone conversation to "let off steam" while engaging in gossip.

    Our hidden habits and besetting sins entice us to participate just a little. They promise to offer us rest and a feeling of familiarity, but in reality they are dangerous places for us to lodge.

    Today's verse labels those familiar places that enslaved us before we knew God as "weak and miserable." Paul writes these words to the Christians: "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?" (Galatians 4:8-9).

    And that is just what returning to old habits makes us — weak and miserable.

    Determine today to stop hiding out in old destructive habits. Instead, come out into the light of His glorious grace and learn a new method of coping. Race to Him instead of running back to your old ways. His Word is alive and active. It can help us break horrible habits and form new, Jesus-pleasing ones as we reply with a resounding "No" to returning to the dangerous familiar.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for running to the familiar instead of to You. Break sin's hold on me as I strive to break old habits for Your glory alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Corinthians 10:13, "No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity. God is faithful, and He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way of escape so that you are able to bear it." (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    To what familiar habits do you regularly revert? Write them down. Then come up with one or two alternative actions you could take the next time you are tempted to participate in an old pattern.

    Recruit a friend to help you resist becoming enslaved by old habits. Call her for prayer when you feel yourself slipping back into wrongful ways.

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Before They Go to School ... Have This Conversation

    Posted on September 4, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15 (NIV)

    I look around the dinner table and feel that desperate ache not uncommon to women who deeply love.

    Whether it's my own family or those who just feel like family, I want so much for them. These young people who are so full of possibility and dreams and bright futures ... they have my heart.

    Yet my heart feels fragile in the hands of these young people. They are smart. They are grounded. But they are young.

    It takes me back to me at that age.

    And that scares me.

    I remember feeling so grown up and crazy excited at the chance to be in charge of my own life. Ready for independence. Ready for love. Ready for the next chapter of my life.

    Chasing what felt good and thrilling, I quickly learned the wind blows in dangerous directions sometimes. Going with the flow led me places I didn't intend to go. And I woke up one morning ashamed of my choices, wondering how in the world I got to this place.

    How?

    I cringe thinking back on it. And I cry. Because I don't want that experience for these people I desperately love.

    So, in the midst of the laughter and casual banter, I turn the conversation at the dinner table to a word I want them to know and live.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today who you want to be. In this moment of togetherness, surrounded by family, and saturated in love — decide.

    Decide what your answer will be when the talk turns ugly and the laughter turns mean against that girl who desperately needs you to be her friend.

    Decide what your answer will be when someone invites you to the cool party full of drinks and drugs.

    Decide what your answer will be when the boy says it's no big deal to stay the night.

    Decide what your answer will be when "friends" laugh at your Christian views and challenge you to lighten up.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today who you are going to turn to if you do get into trouble. Remember the people at this table. Remember who truly has your best interests at heart. Remember who you are.

    Pre-decide.

    Decide today to turn around any mistakes from your past by asking for God's forgiveness and walking in His grace.

    Decide today to ignore the enemy who wants to trick you and trip you and take you out.

    Pre-decide. And only say yes to the decisions that lead you in the direction of becoming more like Christ. This is the Best Yes.

    Yes, pre-decide.

    And then we go around the table and tell what we are pre-deciding this year. And my heart feels less of that ache.

    I'm not so foolish to think this will act as a bad choice immunization. We are all susceptible. But it is a way to infuse their heart with a memory of a pre-decision.

    And with that the plates are cleared, the cookies are nothing more than crumbs, and it's time to go.

    Here are some great Bible verses to pray for our kids as they head off to school this year:

    • Galatians 1:10
    "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (NIV)

    • Romans 12:2
    "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will." (NIV)

    • Joshua 24:15
    "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve ... but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (NIV)

    • Proverbs 29:25
    "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe." (NIV)

    So, along with these Scripture verses, I whisper a few last words that are a "best yes" for them as they pack up to go ...

    Go where wisdom gathers, not where wisdom scatters.

    Make decisions today that will still be good tomorrow.

    And (insert voice cracking and tears welling up), remember how much I love you.

    Dear Lord, You are so good. Thank you for entrusting these people to me. I pray You'll guide my family in Your way as we enter a new school year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Corinthians 15:33, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which of the above Scripture verses will you pray for your child? Write it down on an index card and personalize it using your child's name. Then, put the index card where you will see it often during the day as a reminder to pray.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Potholes Fill Your Path

    Posted on September 3, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth." Isaiah 26:7 (NIV)

    On the night before he began kindergarten, my youngest son, Joshua, announced he'd "rather go to jail" than go to school.

    His big brother mumbled something sarcastic about the prison bars in the principal's office, while his sisters attempted to soothe Joshua's anxieties by pointing out the perks of being a kindergartener.

    "Did you know that when you lose a tooth at school you get to bring it home in a tiny treasure box?" my daughter Hannah asked.

    Joshua grinned and poked his finger in his mouth to check for loose teeth. But when it was time to brush those pearly whites and head to bed, his smile faded and fears returned.

    What if my legs get cramped on my carpet square?

    What if my ears hurt from listening all day?

    What if I forget to raise my hand?

    What if I'm the only one who can't read?

    To be honest, Joshua's worries resonated with my own. I'd prayed unceasingly over the school year to come and was certain God had placed my son in the kindergarten classroom that would best meet his needs. Yet I just couldn't imagine my littlest boy thriving in any classroom at all. He loved piles of dirt more than stacks of books and preferred hammers over pencils.

    Joshua's eyelids drooped and his breathing slowed. Then, before he surrendered to sleep, he voiced one last concern: "I can't go to kindergarten tomorrow, Mommy. I don't have even one wiggly tooth!"

    I assured my son that loose teeth weren't a prerequisite for kindergarten, and I headed to the kitchen to pack lunches for morning. Minutes later my husband found me crying over the peanut butter, and I had to confess the angst preying on my mind. "I can't figure out how Joshua's going to make it through the school year."

    "You don't have to figure it out," my husband gently replied as he wiped a smudge of peanut butter off my cheek. "That's God's job."

    Have you been there before? Perhaps you've sought God's direction, followed His lead, only to find yourself walking a path marked by concerns that cause you to stumble.

    Sometimes the potholes in our path make us wonder if we are really on the right road. Unanswered, difficult questions can make us doubt the direction we've been given.

    However, today's key verse reminds us it's not our job to fix the chinks in our trail. If we let God lead, He will smooth the way: "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth" (Isaiah 26:7).

    Whatever the path looks like, God has a plan for every step (Jeremiah 29:11). We may be trekking toward a new school year or stepping into an empty nest; stumbling along a painful detour or skipping into a new job; but no matter where we're headed, God is aware of every gap in the road He's established for us.

    Joshua's school year wasn't perfect, but God was faithful. And nine months later, as we waited for the big yellow bus to chug up our street on the last day of school, my son admitted he'd changed his mind. With a toothless grin, he conceded. Going to kindergarten was definitely better than going to jail!

    The bus slowed to a stop, and Joshua climbed aboard. He pressed his face against the window and waved good-bye. That's when I noticed a splash of white hovering at the top of his gaping grin.

    Soon a new tooth would inhabit that endearing hole in his smile. Because that's just how God works, faithfully filling every gap in His own way and in His perfect time.

    Lord, I don't have every step figured out, but I'm thankful You do. Fill me with courage when my path is packed with potholes. Give me faith to follow Your lead and awaken me to see You at work as I travel along the road You've prepared for me. Thank You for providing direction and peace in Your perfect timing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is the most daunting "pothole" in your path right now? Today, how could you lean on Christ rather than on your own understanding?

    God's word is like a GPS for life travelers. When your path feels confusing or difficult, the truth of Scripture brings peace. Set aside ten minutes this week to read your Bible. Look up these promises in the Psalms: Psalm 16:11, 18:36, 119:9, 119:35, 119:105.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Woman on a Mission

    Posted on September 2, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    When you leap into the arms of Jesus, you never know where He'll carry you. As a new Christian, I was certain God called me to a distant mission field. Really distant: Indonesia.

    True, I'd only been a believer six months, after a wild and wooly decade as a seriously Bad Girl. I also had no husband at the time, no college degree and little knowledge about Indonesia other than where it landed on a map. Still, I knew that Christians were called to "go into all the world" (Mark 16:15, NIV). Shouldn't I go too?

    When I threw myself at a mission board, certain they'd be thrilled to take me, the director was very kind. He listened, nodded, took notes. And then he said the last thing I expected to hear: "I'm sorry, Liz. But ... no."

    My heart sank. I thought if you offered to live in a hut and eat beetles, they'd say, "Great! Sign here."

    Then he explained why I wasn't the best candidate for foreign missions: "Liz, you're already well versed in a culture most Christians know little about."

    I knew where this was going. He meant my old life. My Bad Girl life.

    His voice softened. "Do you know the story of the woman at the well? After she met Jesus, she went back to town, where everyone knew her sordid story, and she told them about Jesus. That's what you need to do."

    "You mean the people I used to hang out with?" My cheeks grew hot even thinking about it. "The people I partied with? The men I slept with? Those people?"

    I could feel Indonesia slipping away as I pictured the faces of friends I knew well — and who knew way too much about me. People as lost and confused as I'd once been. People who needed to know Jesus.

    "Never fear," the director said as he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and escorted me to the door. "God will take care of Indonesia."

    So, I went back to Louisville and told my story. No hut, no beetles, yet a mission field for which I was already qualified, simply because I spoke their language. And because I loved them.

    Soon one coworker came to know Jesus. Then another. Then a third. Who knew?

    God knew. But He never forgot my heart for Indonesia.

    Twenty years after my no-go with the mission board, I stood in my publisher's booth at a Christian booksellers convention. The guy in charge of international rights pulled me aside and said, "Liz, please meet Yani with World Harvest."

    A tiny woman with thick, black hair looked up, her face radiant, "I am in the process of translating three of your books into my country's language."

    "Wonderful!" I beamed at her. "What country might that be?"

    She beamed back. "Indonesia."

    Oh my. To think that my words would travel there, even if I never did! Only God could manage such a thing.

    And He wasn't finished. When I shared my experience at an evangelism conference, one of the guest speakers approached me. "Liz, would you like to speak in Indonesia?"

    My heart skipped a beat. Would I?! I could barely get out the words. "W-who would my audience be?"

    "Women," she assured me, then smiled. "Missionaries."

    Lord, the tenderness of Your mercy overwhelms me. You miss nothing. You care about everything. You answer our deepest longings, according to Your perfect will and perfect timing. You know our mission fields, Lord, far better than we do. Help us serve You, wherever You send us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 2:8b, "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Liz was eager to share the gospel with the world because God's grace had changed her life. What compels you to tell others about Jesus?

    Might someone cross your path today who needs to hear the good news?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Overriding Your To-Do List

    Posted on September 1, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

     

    Leah

    But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62 (TLB)

    I was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. Or, so I thought.

    With an over-ambitious mindset and a determined heart, I clutched my lengthy to-do list as if it were a sacred antidote for life.

    Having much to accomplish and only a few hours to spare, I whipped into a parking spot and made a mad dash towards the front doors of my local convenience store.

    On the way in, I noticed a group of people staring at something on the ground. Avoiding the distraction, I shifted my direction and headed towards another set of doors on the opposite side of the store. Then the unexpected happened.

    A nudge. A knowing. A whisper in my heart: "Go over to the crowd."

    At first, I dismissed it as curiosity. A random thought that needed to be ignored. But then it dawned on me ... I wasn't curious at all. In fact, I was much more interested in getting in, getting out and going my own way.

    I'm not involved, so it's not my problem.

    Then I sensed the whisper again: "Leah, I want you to go over there."

    With a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I made a beeline for the crowd. NOT. Instead, it went something like this: Heavy sigh. Slow turn. Unsettled feelings.

    I recognized God's nudge, and I wanted to obey. Really, I did. But, another part of me just wanted to keep walking.

    This distraction is going to throw off my schedule and keep me from accomplishing what I need to get done today. It's probably nothing.

    Reluctantly making my way back across the parking lot, I approached the crowd and saw a man on the ground. A heavy concoction of sweat, alcohol fumes and stale smoke filled the air.

    Glancing at his tattered clothes and swollen feet, I noticed the scratches on his arms and face.

    His eyes were swollen shut, and he wasn't moving. The crowd stood silently staring at his body. I couldn't tell if he was breathing, but I could hear the faint sounds of an ambulance in the distance.

    Help was on its way, so I could now be on my way. Then the whisper came again: "Kneel down and pray for him."

    Seriously Lord ... kneel down? Here in the parking lot? Can't I just stand here and pray silently for him? All these people will think I'm a weirdo. Besides, help is coming.

    "Kneel down and pray for him."

    So I did. Kneeling down next to the man, I stretched out my hand and gently placed it on his shoulder. I began to pray out loud. No one else said a word.

    At first it felt awkward. Uncomfortable. Crazy. But then I felt someone's hand rest gently on my shoulder. Within moments, a woman bent down next to me and placed her hand on the sick man's arm. Another hand extended. Another voice responded to the prayers.

    In just a few seconds, this unlikely mix of strangers transformed into a powerful prayer group. Right in the middle of a busy convenience store parking lot. An unwanted distraction became a divine appointment.

    No one objected. No one walked away. We continued to pray until the paramedics arrived, treated the man and left for the hospital. As the sirens faded into the background, I stood there astonished at what God had just done in our midst.

    Had I ignored the whisper I would have missed out on the miracle. I could have overlooked the distraction, but I would have missed my divine appointment. My "important" schedule paled in comparison to what I had just experienced: God tying hearts together and weaving a beautiful blanket of prayer over one of His broken children.

    In the midst of the ordinary, God breathed the extraordinary ... all within a circle of strangers willing to be distracted for a moment in time.

    Did you wake up this morning with a long to-do list and an ambitious mindset? When distractions come your way, try pausing for a moment to see if God is unwrapping a divine appointment for you. It may be disguised as ordinary circumstances. But as you peel back the layers, whispering "Yes Lord, I'll obey," you will no doubt experience His presence and glory!

    Lord, thank You for entrusting me with divine appointments, and let my answer to Your call always be yes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 7:23b, "Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you." (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time God turned a distraction into a divine appointment for you?

    Do you struggle with discerning God's voice? Pray and ask God to give you a greater awareness of His presence.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Unshakable Confidence

    Posted on August 29, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "Mary responded, 'I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.' And then the angel left her." Luke 1:38 (NLT)

    Lord, I'm not sure I can take one more rejection.

    No. No. No. Every email I received said the same thing, using different words. We don't publish that type of book. We don't publish writers we don't know. We won't publish you.

    Letting each rejection seep into my heart, many days I crawled into bed and cried. Why would God ask me to do something good, yet allow a process that made me feel so bad?

    But then I remembered Mary, who was much wiser than I. Her story is found in the Bible. Instead of building her confidence on something she could lose, or have taken away, she built her confidence on God.

    Picture this teenager. She's engaged to a great guy. Wedding plans are in motion. Life is good.

    Then suddenly, her happily-ever-after dreams are interrupted by an angel announcing this surprise:

    "Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, Beautiful inside and out!
    God be with you"
    (Luke 1:28, MSG).

    Flattered? Nope. She was scared! However, the angel assures her, "You have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus" (v. 29-33).

    My reaction would have been, What? Pregnant? I'm not married yet! There's no way!

    But when Mary received this news, we don't see fear or doubt. Her response isn't, "This will be the end of me! What will everyone say about me?"

    Mary doesn't ditch her confidence. Instead, as we find in today's key verse, her reaction is grounded in faith: "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true" (Luke 1:38a).

    Mary responded with confidence because Mary's confidence began with her relationship with God.

    Not on something, like her reputation. That was outside her control.

    Not on someone, like Joseph. For all she knew, he would leave her once he learned she was pregnant.

    Not on some place, like her home. Mary actually left town to visit her cousin after she received this news.

    Did Mary understand everything God was doing? Unlikely. Or resent what He was doing? Doesn't appear so.

    Would others judge her? No doubt they would, but Mary did not allow people's opinions to prevent her from embracing God's calling, even if she didn't completely understand it. The lack of details didn't impact her confidence in His plans for her life, nor her trust in Him to take care of her.

    There have been times when I've based my confidence on others. As a teenager, I based it on a boyfriend's affection, a coach's affirmation or my parent's approval. If one of them failed to give the "Atta girl!" I craved, I saw myself as a failure.

    As a mom, I've built it on my kids and their performance. When they made a mistake, my confidence was shaken. I've based my security on my career and the success I wanted. Success hasn't always come, although rejection often has.

    Has there been a time when circumstances were less than perfect and your confidence was shaken?

    I'm learning that unshakable confidence is not built on someone, something or someplace, but on our unshakable God. This confidence is built over time, before confidence-shaking circumstances come. In the difficult times, God has taught me He alone is my firm foundation for rebuilding confidence. Only Him.

    As we face inevitable uncertainties in life, in our relationships, in our futures, let's start to rebuild our confidence on the One that can never be taken away: God. The only One who will never leave us or forsake us.

    Lord, it's easier to build my confidence on what I can see and what I know. Help me to build my confidence on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35-36, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What have you been building your confidence on? Is it something you could lose or have taken from you?

    How can you begin to make a shift and build your confidence on God — His faithfulness and love for you?

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Thrill of an Unrushed Yes

    Posted on August 28, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "...all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Psalm 39:6 (NLT)

    Recently, my husband and I got into an argument right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date. In the heat of the moment, he announced the date was off.

    He no longer wanted to go. And honestly, I didn't either.

    I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective.

    But it's at this exact moment of resistance an unraveling can begin.

    Oh, the unraveling. It can happen so suddenly and with such tragic consequences.

    Once, I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn't too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were so loosely woven it snagged on things.

    I was always mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater when I wore it so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.

    Until one day I was in a hurry. I grabbed some things I needed for a meeting and rushed to my car. I tossed all my stuff over to the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook. This spiral notebook had a metal-binding wire that unbeknownst to me caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.

    I unhooked myself and assessed the damage.

    What I should have done was taken the sweater off, put something else on, and later taken the time to repair the snag the correct way. But in the rush, I made the tragic decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the loose threads and hoped for the best. That tragic decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of my beautiful sweater.

    Which brings me back to date night.

    Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn't what's best for the long term. So, I pushed for us to still go on our date.

    It wasn't fun. It wasn't easy. There were tears and awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt and eventually talked.

    Talked through the snags. The pulls. The things that threatened to unravel us.

    There is a delicate nature to marriage. Honestly, there's a delicate nature to all relationships. It's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective. Stop and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in those we love.

    Psalm 39:6 wisely reminds us that "all our busy rushing ends in nothing."

    Yes, the unraveling can happen so quickly when we refuse to push the pause button.

    My unrushed yes was the best yes for that day. There were eventual apologies and conversations that repaired the snags the right way — tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.

    Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time — make time — to talk.

    Where do we find this unrushed yes? We make it. We make time for relationships by thinking about them when scheduling our lives. Like Louie Giglio said, "Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less."

    I don't want my relationships to constantly get my less. And I'm sure you don't either. So let's get intentional about leaving enough unscheduled times on our calendars for relationship moments to happen.

    Let's leave space and look for opportunities to give relationships our best yes.

    Dear Lord, unrush me today. I want to pause and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in the people I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3: 12-14, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a relationship in your life that needs your attention. Decide to give an unrushed yes to investing in that person today. It will be the best yes of your day.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Live an Invitation

    Posted on August 27, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:34 (NIV)

    Walking into the building, I kept my head down and peered around the room from under my lashes. The butterflies in my stomach took flight as I assessed the unfamiliar surroundings. The room was filled with strangers and mysterious equipment, making my hands slick and my heart pound.

    I was a foreigner in a new land: the gym.

    You might laugh, but have you ever had similar feelings in a new situation? Even though I'm seasoned in many settings, the first time I visited my gym, I remembered the feelings of being the outsider. The newbie who doesn't know the culture, secrets to fitting in or how things work.

    Being a "foreigner" is uncomfortable, but when we pass that stage and become a "native," it's easy to forget those feelings and become oblivious to the needs and feelings of a newcomer.

    Even though I'm fully integrated into my church family, that first foray into the gym brought flashbacks of visiting churches after our move. I remembered the discomfort of walking into rooms full of people I didn't know, wondering if anyone would speak to me. It was difficult to navigate unfamiliar surroundings, trying to pick up on the unique vibe and vocabulary of each place.

    Those were the days when my "house" hadn't achieved the status of "home." I walked my neighborhood and wondered about the people behind the doors. Would I be accepted here? Maybe even loved? In those early months, every place and every interaction held the starchy, scratchy newness of jeans just off the shelf. How I ached for the warm softness of the worn and familiar.

    On the day my new neighbor Nikki visited and brought a pie, things began to shift. Her children were the same age as mine, and as they ran off to play, Nikki's kindness and happy smile opened a door into a new place of belonging. Even before I earned "native" status, she treated me as a friend. Nikki lived the powerful truth in our key verse: "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born" (Leviticus 19:34a).

    God created us for expanding community, and He calls us to live a life of welcome.

    When we remember our days as a newcomer, our time as "foreigners in Egypt," we can live life with one hand joined and the other open. One hand holds the hand of the precious community God gives us — neighbors, family, friends, and brothers and sisters in faith — while keeping the other hand free to draw newcomers into the circle.

    The hand joined to our community keeps us close and connected. It's where we commit to live our truest self, working through the messiness that inevitably arises with close living. It's the people we eat with, pray with, play with and love. When we have the blessing of a tight-knit group, sometimes it's easiest to close the circle, joining both hands with those we know well. But God asks us to keep one hand free, always looking for one more new friend to draw into the loop.

    My awkward first visit to the gym lifted my eyes from my everyday busyness and engagement with my well-established loved ones. Now I'm trying to be a walking invitation to the "foreigners" around me. "Come join us!" my heart cries.

    Let's go with a heart of invitation to work, school, church, the neighborhood party ... and maybe, even the gym.

    God, help me shake the complacency of being a "native." Lift my eyes to see people around me who are new and in need of my kindness. Show me how to reach out to others in love to draw them into my circle, living a life of invitation. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:10-11, "Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ." (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone new in your neighborhood, workplace or church who needs to feel welcomed?

    Pray and watch for a way to reach out and make them feel included. Follow through one day this week, then savor the joy of bringing encouragement to someone else.

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • That Sneaking Feeling You're Being Watched

    Posted on August 26, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him ..." 2 Chronicles 16:9a (NIV)

    Last summer, my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The googly kind, of course. So did my milk jug, tissue boxes, egg carton and toothpaste tubes.

    Don't worry, those wobbly watchers didn't leave me frightened or flabbergasted. After all, the strange surveillance gig was my idea.

    I'm the one who dug through a box of craft supplies early one morning and located a stash of googly eyes. I'm the one who snuck through the house with a glue gun and attached those wobbly watchers to anything I could find.

    I didn't add a pair of eyes to the salsa jar because I wanted to play a prank on my family or because I had too much time on my hands at 6 a.m. No, I raided the plastic peepers because I was tired of forgetting.

    I was tired of reading my Bible in the morning and going about my day as if God's promises had no impact on my hours. I was tired of forgetting that God's Word is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12). I was tired of relying on my own strength, instead of banking on His.

    So, when I read about God's eyes roaming the earth searching for hearts to strengthen, I wanted to remember that glorious truth. I needed to pin that promise to my soul and let it shine hope in the midst of my weariness.

    That's why my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The gospel is radical and ridiculous in the most marvelous of ways, and I never want to forget that. The truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9a is audacious if you think about it. "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth ..." Wow.

    We live wrapped in the warmth of God's gaze.

    We are watched by the King of Glory.

    We are strengthened by the Author of Life.

    Even when we fail to fix our sight on Him, God's eyes are fixed on us. And remembering that truth could change everything.

    If God sees us, then we're not invisible.

    If God sees us, then we're not invaluable.

    If God sees us, then we're not unknown.

    Those eyes aren't waiting to see us stumble. Those eyes are scanning this swiveling globe because the Creator of the galaxies wants to create something new in you and in me.

    He wants to infuse our tired legs with vigor.

    He wants to replace our whimpers with wonder.

    He wants to trade our powerlessness for His power.

    I need that truth when the kids are fighting and the bread is burning and my energy is waning fast. I need that promise when my plans have flopped and my feelings have been hurt and my intentions have been misunderstood.

    If God sees me, I am not forgotten.

    Eventually I threw out the sneaky-peaky salsa jar and the peeping peanut butter. I recycled the spying soap bottle and the gazing graham crackers, and my kids relegated our strange summer under surveillance as just another one of their mama's crazy ideas.

    But this morning, when I awoke feeling sapped and discouraged, I opened my Bible to Psalm 33:18 and wondered if I should go find my glue gun once again: "But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (NIV).

    After all, it never hurts to be reminded that I'm being watched.

    Dear Jesus, Help me remember that You long to give me strength when I am weak. Grow in me a heart that is fully committed to You, and fix my mind on Your wondrous promises today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry." (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:3, "The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How does knowing God wants to strengthen you, change the way you can approach a specific challenge in your life right now?

    Choose one of the verses listed in today's devotion and share it with a friend who is battling discouragement or weariness. Consider delivering the good news with googly eyes!

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

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