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Proverbs 31

  • Convicted but not Condemned

    Posted on July 9, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17 (NIV)

    Sometimes I wonder how I can go from being in such a good place with God ... feeling peaceful, loving and patient ... then something happens that sends me into an orbit of aggravation!

    It happened just the other day. Things were going well. I'd had a lovely afternoon working from home, alone. Life was peachy.

    Then school got out and my kids came home. Within 15 minutes, one of my boys did something and said something that was not so peachy. Then he did NOT do something I asked him to do, and let's just say ... I lost all my peace and patience right there in the middle of my kitchen.

    I was not happy at all. And I told my precious boy in a not-so-nice kind of way. Then, I felt guilty and like the worst mom on the planet!

    For a few minutes, I was pretty sure that was exactly how God wanted me to feel. But before I convinced myself I was the worst mom who had no business serving in ministry, I remembered a pastor sharing about the difference between conviction and condemnation.

    He explained that condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements such as: You're such a failure. You're so hypocritical. You can never be counted on. That is the accuser. His tone is condemning, questioning and confusing. His accusations lead to guilt and shame.

    In contrast, the Holy Spirit's conviction will be specific. He will reveal a sinful action or attitude and instruct us with a solution for what we need to do to right the wrong, such as restoring a broken relationship or returning something that isn't ours. He'll give us steps we need to take to change our behaviors or attitudes.

    Instead of the lie: "You're such a failure as a [wife, mom, daughter, friend]," the Holy Spirit might say, "You were really critical the way you talked to So-and-so. You need to say you're sorry and ask for forgiveness. Then say something to build them up instead of tearing them down."

    Instead of the accusing label: "You're so hypocritical!" The Holy Spirit might say, "You judge others for gossiping, but you're doing the same thing when you talk about your neighbor at work. Apologize for what you said today, and share a few things that are positive about her."

    Instead of shaming words: "You can never be counted on!" The Holy Spirit might say, "You didn't keep your promise to go visit your mom. Call her to say you're sorry, and ask her out to lunch this weekend."

    Satan condemns us accusingly, to make us feel guilty. God convicts us lovingly, to lead our hearts to repentance.

    Conviction draws us away from destructive behavior that hinders our relationship with God and others. Jesus' goal is to bring us out of a condemning place of sin and usher us into the freedom of forgiveness with the assurance of His love.

    The next time we blow it, or lose our peace and patience right there in the middle of the kitchen or the office or 5 o'clock traffic, let's guard our hearts from condemnation and instead, listen only to God's conviction.

    Then let's follow His lead toward restoration as we live in the security of today's truth: Jesus didn't come into the world — or into our lives — to condemn us, but to rescue us with His redeeming grace.

    Lord, sometimes condemning thoughts become so familiar I don't realize how they contradict Your Word and Your ways. Please give me discernment to recognize the difference between conviction and condemnation, and courage to replace my mindset with Yours. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Condemnation focuses on the problem. Conviction offers a solution. Write down the most frequent shaming, blaming or accusing thoughts you have that make you feel condemned.

    Then, using the three contrasting examples Renee shared above, replace condemning statements with convicting, yet loving, truths the Holy Spirit might say. Be sure to offer yourself forgiveness plus a solution that reflects God's goal of restoration and His tone of grace.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Prayer Seems Impractical

    Posted on July 8, 2014 by Leslie Ludy

    Leslie

    "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NASB)

    A busy mom of six once told me, "I'm too busy NOT to pray!" Therein lies the secret to a life that really works.

    Putting Jesus first and making prayer a priority is the key to finding the peace, strength and joy we all long for. And yet, many of us might admit we've got our thinking regarding busyness and prayer backward.

    Let's be honest. As busy women, prayer often becomes that one project we'll "get to eventually," like cleaning the cobwebs from the ceiling or writing a cookbook.

    With so many demands on our time and energy, most of us conclude the only real prayer life we can have are those short bursts of heavenly appeal (Help, Lord!) during the stressful moments of our day.

    I've been there ... many times. The busier I am, the less practical prayer seems.

    But I have come to realize when prayer seems the most unrealistic, that's when I need it the most. In fact, the "Too busy NOT to pray" principle has revolutionized my life.

    Just a few years ago, our four children were all ages 4 and under. Three were in diapers, and the typical noise level in our house rivaled the Whos in Whoville on Christmas morning. Spending quality time with Christ each day felt next to impossible.

    I reasoned, Surely Jesus understands how many important things I need to get done. He won't mind if I just whisper a few hurried prayers here and there as I'm scurrying around!

    Yet in the busyness of my days, I continued to hear Jesus' gentle whisper, inviting me to come away from my hustle and bustle and be with Him.

    So finally, I began to make room in my life for true prayer, even though it was far from convenient. I asked God to show me pockets of time during my day when I could steal away to be with Him. Such as when the children were napping or when my husband could take charge of things.

    I asked God to equip me with the discipline to get up earlier and make my time with Christ a far higher priority than temporal distractions like social media and movies.

    As I began to live by the "Too busy NOT to pray" principle, I was amazed at what happened. Suddenly, life became fruitful instead of frustrating. My responsibilities and demands didn't change. But instead of rushing around in a stressful frenzy, I had a supernatural strength to tackle my daily challenges calmly and joyfully. My defeated and overwhelmed perspective was replaced with a victorious, conquering one.

    I was learning the truth of today's key verse, "... apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b). I have come to realize that I cannot truly thrive in any area of my life unless I'm spending purposeful time in God's presence on a regular basis.

    I still have a tendency to put tasks above prayer. But now, when I start coming up with reasons why I cannot spend quality time with Christ, I remind myself that actually, I'm too busy NOT to pray. Nothing on my task list could ever be more important than making time with Jesus. He alone has everything I need for the battles I'm called to fight.

    The busier our days are, the more important prayer is. So when prayer seems impractical, let's remember that the very best solution is to get on our knees.

    Lord, help me never forget that spending time in Your presence is what will give me strength for everything else I'm called to do. Teach me to not just fit You into my life when it's convenient, but to truly build my life around You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Luke 10:41-42a, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part ..." (NASB)

    Ephesians 6:18, "... praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —" (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When do you feel "too busy to pray"?

    When you make time with Christ a priority, how does it change your ability to handle life's stresses and responsibilities?

    © 2014 by Leslie Ludy. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Tired of Trying to Measure Up

    Posted on July 7, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    " ... The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7b (NLT)

    When my youngest son was a toddler, he accessorized every outfit with a bulky silver tape measure. Clipped to his waistband or hooked through a belt loop, the tool was handy for appraising just about anything — toy tractors, popsicles or skateboards.

    Although the calculations were useless to a 3-year-old with no grasp of numbers, Joshua spent much of his day wielding that tape measure.

    "Would you like cereal for breakfast?" I'd ask my little boy when he awoke.

    "Maybe, if it's seventy-seven," he'd reply as he aligned his ruler along the side of a Cheerios box.

    "Milk or juice?"

    "The one that's fifty-sixteen," my boy would answer.

    Eventually, Joshua's quirky obsession tried my patience. One night after he'd insisted on measuring every blanket on his bed before lights out, I complained to God: Could You make him forget about that silly measuring tape, Lord?

    The next morning when I frowned at myself in the mirror and harrumphed over my daunting to-do list, my Heavenly Father finally responded: Maybe your little boy will drop his measuring tape when you get rid of yours.

    At first, I ignored the conviction I felt when Joshua reached for his silver ruler. But in time, I realized I carried my own measuring systems. Only mine didn't decorate my belt loop; they adorned my mind.

    Here are a few of the faulty rulers I found:

    The ruler of productivity. This measuring stick assesses my value by my accomplishments: Did I read to my preschooler, fold the laundry or clean the fridge? It assigns value to completed tasks but fails to calculate the worth of immeasurable investments like cuddling my children or listening to a friend. When I rely on the ruler of productivity to establish my worth, time becomes a slave master rather than a gift.

    The beauty barometer. This gauge creates comparison and self-scrutiny. It makes me worry about the extra skin around my middle and the faded highlights in my hair. It changes the way I view the woman in the mirror. Do I look more put-together than I feel? Where did those wrinkles come from? Will anyone notice the dark circles under my eyes? The beauty barometer appraises external appearance but fails to calculate the value of inner loveliness.

    The happy homemaker meter. This measure prompts late-night baking sprees and glue-gun marathons. It propels me to create handmade Valentine's cards even though my daughter just wants store-bought Barbie cards. It produces guilt when I bring chips to the potluck instead of a hot casserole. The happy homemaker meter can twist fantastic ideas into exhausting must-dos and leaves me feeling more tired than inspired.

    Tape measures may be entertaining in the hands of curious toddlers, but they stunt the growth of women like you and me.

    Perhaps it's time to give up our mental measures, and let God grow us into the women He's dreamed us to be. His vision for us is refreshing and life-giving. Our key verse reminds us that, "The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7b).

    Eventually, Joshua traded his shiny measuring stick for a plastic transparent tape dispenser. With a giggle, he applied tape to his favorite book, his baby sister's bruised forehead and his broken Matchbox car.

    Rather than measuring, my son turned to mending. And that's just what God longs to do for us. He wants to destroy our tape measures and heal the wounded places in our hearts from constant comparisons and the failure to meet unreasonable expectations.

    In fact, when we exchange our faulty rulers for Christ's timeless rule, we may discover that our Savior's measuring stick is actually a wooden cross ... that functions like a roll of cellophane tape.

    So I'm abandoning my ridiculous rulers and metrics, in exchange for God's immeasurable grace and healing. Want to join me?

    Sweet Savior, I am tired of carrying my own cache of faulty measures. I want to trade my ridiculous rulers for Your timeless stick of grace. Remind me that my worth is immeasurable in You. Restore my joy and increase my faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 108:4, "For your loving-kindness is great beyond measure, high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches the skies." (LB)

    Psalm 90:12 & 17, "Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! ... And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!" (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one faulty measure you need to trade for Christ's timeless stick of grace today?

    Find one Bible verse that speaks truth over the lies your mental measuring tape has created. Post that verse where you can see it, and use it as a prayer this week.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Trading Fears for Freedom

    Posted on July 4, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah

    "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4 (NLT)

    {Editor's note & trigger alert: We are mindful today's devotion might stir up emotions for anyone who's survived intense trauma. We pray you are encouraged by Leah's message.}

    As a teenager, I lived a pretty sheltered life. I believed nothing bad would ever happen to me. Then one day, I found myself in the middle of a really bad situation.

    Being in the wrong place at the wrong time resulted in a pistol put to my head. A robbery that was a sudden and terrifying scenario for this naive teenage girl.

    "Don't move or I'll shoot!" The sharp words of my abductor rattled me to my very core. Shaking uncontrollably, I could feel the cold, hard surface of his gun pushing against my pulsating temple.

    As my heart raced, thoughts ran through my mind: I'm going to die. This is it ... my life is over. I wanted to run, but saw no way out.

    By the grace of God, I survived. But although I had no physical wounds, the memories of that experience settled deep within my heart. Like acid, it seeped into the center of my shaken soul and ate away at my once-upon-a-time teenage confidence.

    At night, my mind replayed the awful scenario. And during the day, I was afraid to go anywhere alone. Or even be left alone.

    What if I run into him again? Will he recognize me? What if he followed me home that day and knows where I live? What if he comes looking for me again?

    I didn't feel safe ... anywhere.

    I was afraid ... most all the time.

    I struggled ... the memories haunted me.

    Looking back, I realize my abductor abused me momentarily, but fear held me hostage for what seemed like a lifetime. It kept my thoughts in bondage and dictated my daily decisions.

    My biggest regret during that season of distress was not having God's Word hidden in my heart. If I had taken the time to not only read but memorize His Word, I could have traded my fears for God's truth of freedom found in John 8:32: "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (NLT).

    On those sleepless nights, I could have claimed this promise instead: "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant," Proverbs 3:24 (HCSB).

    When I was alone and scared my abductor might return, I could have replaced my thoughts with today's key verse: "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4.

    Have you ever experienced something tragic that's left you feeling afraid? Are your thoughts sometimes filled with "what-if" worries or scary scenarios that keep you awake at night? Does fear and anxiety hold you hostage today?

    If so, I understand. I've been there. God's Word is the answer to help you move beyond your fears to freedom with a new level of unshakable courage. Here's the key: Real and sustainable freedom from fears can only be found in Jesus Christ and through His powerful Word.

    Here's what I've discovered: What consumes our thoughts overtakes our thought life. We can't change what's happened in our past, but we can change how we respond to those difficult situations in the future.

    As women of faith, we find freedom from fear when we choose to capture those fearful memories, cover them with God's Word and begin building a healthy thought life as we place our trust in Him.

    Let's commit to focusing on thoughts that bring life, hope and freedom. Let's surrender our broken memories to God and allow Him to saturate them with His healing grace.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being with me so that I'm never alone. Help me to replace my fearful thoughts with Your Word as I begin memorizing Scripture verses today. I believe I can live a life of freedom from fear with Your help. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 43:18-19a, "Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago. I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don't you recognize it?" (GWT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    You can start today by memorizing a few of the Scripture verses shared above. Speak them aloud or personalize them into prayers.

    How can you let God's Word change your thinking as it brings healing to painful memories and true freedom to your life?

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Encouragement for the Hurting

    Posted on July 3, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "He has made everything beautiful in its time ..." Ecclesiastes 3:11a (NIV)

    Sometimes life hurts.

    Am I the only one who wants to tuck her tail, give up and stay home forever with a stash of chocolate and great coffee?

    Sometimes I want to straight up hide. I hope I'm not alone.

    However, yesterday I was reminded that while life does hurt at times, life also has days that feel really good.

    Because yesterday, during his swim lesson, my son swam the entire length of the pool. Twice.

    He swam from the deep end to the shallow end and back again.

    Every mother is proud when her child learns to do something new. But not every mother gets to know the joy of seeing her child do something she thought she might never see.

    My son was a shoulder dystocia baby. He got stuck in the birth canal and as a result acquired nerve injury during delivery. That meant for months he had no use of his right arm. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I watched my newborn son throw, wave and extend one arm, while the other arm lay still.

    My heart was like a stone. I felt guilty, grieved and heartbroken for my baby who did not have perfectly moving limbs. I cried every day for months.

    I cried because I wondered how hard his future life would be with only one fully functional arm.

    I wanted to figure out how to avoid the hurt.

    I was angry with God for allowing a bad thing to happen.

    And I was on a mission to fix it. We spent time and money seeing various out-of-town doctors and trying different therapies — none of which changed the bottom line. He was injured. For life.

    But here's what I didn't know then that I want to share with you now: eventually things get better.

    Even when the source of our pain may leave a scar or a memory of deep heartache, time brings a healing like no other.

    Yesterday, my son swam the length of that pool. Twice — with both arms moving — and then he asked if he could try out for the swim team.

    Over time, things have gotten better, thanks to God's power and the gifting He has given many capable medical professionals.

    I'm not going to sugarcoat things. My son still has an injury and his arm will never be perfect. My mother's heart will always want to fix that, but I can't.

    But you need to know that time has brought healing. With the passing of time, I have learned the depths of pain I experienced are matched equally with the heights of joy. God can make all things beautiful with time.

    How is that possible?

    God changes us and our perspective.

    He allows us to see what He sees. He shows us that when things are not always as perfect, easy or as straightforward as we would like them to be, they still can be beautiful.

    This isn't always easy to learn. You or someone you love may have to live with the reality of a mind, body or soul injury. With all your heart, you may always want to fix, change or redo something ... and you can't.

    Some things may never be perfect. But with time, God can take the hard and make you happy. He can take the sorrow and make you smile.

    He can turn the mountain you are climbing of grief or regret into a place where you can view the beautiful landscaping He has created on your behalf.

    Resist the urge to tuck your tail and hide every time you run into the hard, because you will not only be hiding from the bad, you will be exempting yourself from the good that's down the road.

    God makes things beautiful in time. Hang in there. Have the courage to allow time to pass between your place of pain and unveiling of joy.

    Father God, I wish I could fix everything. I wish I could make it all just the way I want it to be. Truth be told ... I get frustrated when I can't. Help me to wait on You and Your timing. Give me courage to trust You and believe that You are good, despite how things may feel. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 71:16-17, "I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign LORD; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What in your life do you wish you could "fix" on your own? Do you think you are trusting God despite what's "broken"?

    Have you ever experienced God making things beautiful with time? Click HERE to leave a comment and share your thoughts today, as it might give others hope as they wait on God's timing.

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Not Defined by the Size of Our Jeans

    Posted on July 2, 2014 by Emily T Wieringa

    Emily

    "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NASB)

    The moon was a slice of white in the night sky.

    It looked like the rim of a coffee mug, the mug with a picture of a teddy bear saying "I love you beary, beary much" ... the mug my brother gave me when I was 13 and hospitalized for anorexia.

    Here I was again, in a green hospital gown, only this time, I wasn't hypothermic and 60 pounds.

    This time I was holding a baby doctors had said I'd never be able to have. He was 8 pounds, 2 ounces, his name was Aiden Grey and I couldn't stop crying. Because he couldn't stop hiccupping.

    "Is he okay?" I touched the nurse's elbow as she straightened my sheets.

    She smiled. "Yes," she said. "There's nothing that can be done for hiccupping — it just has to take its course," and I tucked Aiden close to my heart, because I couldn't tuck him back into my womb.

    I have two sons now, and I've had two miscarriages too, and there's nothing harder than watching your body fail your baby. But God — He never fails.

    He is always there. Even in the miscarriage.

    He was there when I was a pastor's kid who began starving herself at age 9; when I was an 18-year-old hippie who ran away from home and traveled the world searching for faith. When I came home to a mother who was dying from brain cancer, who still sang Great is Thy Faithfulness from somewhere deep her in sleep.

    In the midst of our pain, He is there, hanging from a cross, only to rise again.

    When I was young I stopped eating to avoid feeling pain. Now, I'm learning to wait for the resurrection. I'm learning to trust God in the ache.

    This past spring, I looked out my office window, saw snow on the ground, and my 2-year-old jumping on our trampoline.

    Naked.

    His clothes strewn around him, and he was singing.

    I laughed even as I ran to cover him, but secretly, I was envious. I envied the freedom to sing naked, oblivious to the audience of a highway running perpendicular to our house.

    Perhaps this is a picture of what God's Word invites us to do in 1 Peter 5:7, where it says cast "all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."

    It's not easy to truly cast our anxiety on Jesus in a world that tells us we are defined by the size of our jeans. It's a lot easier to hide, than trust Jesus with our pain, or our questions about who we are and if we matter.

    And I think it's somewhere in there, in that quiet place of being loved — in the mother's embrace of her baby — that we find ourselves.

    The other night in a rare moment of quiet in my house, I felt as if I had stepped straight into love. Like it had been waiting there for me the whole time.

    I saw the real me: a passionate, scatter-brained 33-year-old woman who loves the world deeply and laughs loudly and needs alone time. Who gets paint on the kitchen table when she's making art, who would rather write than do housework, who has tattoos, who cries when her sons refuse to listen to her.

    And suddenly I knew who I was. Right in the middle of that sacred moment surrounded by Legos and train tracks.

    I was loved.

    It's who we all are, friends.

    We're not defined by the size of our jeans. We're not the sum of our Twitter followers or the square feet of our house.

    We are God's daughters, tucked in His arms, where He aches over hiccups, where He longs to carry our worries, and where He would die for us.

    He did die for us. Yes, this, friends.

    We are loved.

    Dear God, help me know You love me. Help me feel Your caring arms around me today, even in the dark. Help me hear Your voice singing over me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 46:10, "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you ever felt your Abba Father's presence in the midst of a difficult time in your life? If so, how?

    Are you clinging to fear, or do you know the kind of love that casts it far, the kind that evokes utter peace and joy?

    © 2014 by Emily T. Wierenga. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Baker Publishing Group 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

  • When You Feel a Little Stalled

    Posted on July 1, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Isaiah 43:2 (NIV)

    I hung on to a vine to climb over one more rock. My heart was beating hard, and I struggled to catch my breath.

    My friend turned in concern. "Are you okay?"

    Well, yes and no.

    When we started the hike I knew it was challenging, but I hiked often and this wasn't my first tough trail to navigate. What I didn't anticipate was the combination of elevation and the steepness of the climb.

    I paused for a few moments until my heart rate settled down and my lungs expanded to catch a breath. While waiting, I soaked in the sight of water splashing down over huge rocks and tree branches bending down as if to pray. Roots from hundred-year-old trees laced up the trail.

    Yes, the path was hard, and it required more of me than I thought, but it was worth it.

    Sometimes our faith can feel the same way. We started this journey because we wanted more of Jesus, but somewhere along the way it got hard.

    Really hard.

    In those hard times you might even feel stalled. And it's at those moments when the enemy can declare you're a failure or you don't measure up. May I share something with you?

    Feeling stalled is different than being stagnant.

    Feeling stalled can be a result of moving forward. There was a time you didn't even know you weren't moving, and now — because of what God has done in your heart — you are aware of those days when old behavior or feelings creep in. You know when you feel further from God.

    Stagnant, on the other hand, is never moving. It's staying away from the hard parts. It's throwing your hands in the air and giving up.

    So, what do you do when you feel stalled?

    Celebrate how far you've come.

    Look back. Where did you begin? How have you grown? Check out the beauty of what God has already done within you.

    Ask for wisdom.

    You don't have to figure out the entire journey. Ask God for the next step, and the next after that. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask for it (James 1:5).

    Allow Him to work in you before you move on.

    On the mountain, my body was signaling that I wasn't getting enough oxygen. I needed to breathe deeply. To allow my heart rate to rest. Perhaps this is the perfect time to allow God to fill you or give you the necessary tools before you move ahead.

    Invite God into that stalled place.

    In Isaiah 43:2, we are promised that God walks with us through hard times. Our key verse says: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

    When I stopped to rest on the mountain, my friend sat beside me. That harder place turned into a time of conversation and kinship.

    Your stalled place can be a time of intimacy with a God who loves you deeply.

    And what about when you finally arrive?

    When I finished the hike, I lay in the grass and threw my arms out at my sides in exhaustion and joy.

    I had experienced sights that I would have never experienced otherwise. I learned what I could do, and what might help me the next time around.

    If you've been feeling a little stalled, take heart. Feeling stalled is different than being stagnant. With God's help, your stalled place can become a beautiful part of the adventure.

    Dear Lord, I feel a little stalled today, but I praise You because I am not stagnant. Thank You for helping me find You in the hard places of my faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 61:2, "From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety." (NLT)

    Isaiah 30:15b, "... in quietness and trust is your strength ..." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    C. S. Lewis said, "Feelings come and go, and when they come a good use can be made of them, but they cannot be our regular spiritual diet." How does this quote resonate with you?

    Just as Suzie filled her lungs with air when she was feeling stalled, what is one way you can fill up spiritually when you feel a little stalled?

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Best Approach with a Frenemy

    Posted on June 30, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me." Psalm 118:6-7 (NLT)

    Day after day, month after month, the hurtful behavior continued. The longer it went on, the stronger my emotions grew.

    Someone who'd been a friend to my daughter had somehow become an enemy. Not an enemy with physical strength, but rather one armed with the power to injure through hurtful words, lies and gossip while manipulating others to do the same. Each day presented a new conflict, inducing heightened feelings of rejection, isolation and lowered self-esteem.

    We reported the issue to the appropriate people, but despite many attempts, nothing changed. We felt hopeless. When yet another situation sent my daughter home from school in tears, I felt my hostility and frustration bubbling to the surface, and knew I was faced with choices about my own behavior.

    I could fuel my daughter's anger by reminding her of all the reasons she had a right to be mad, causing both of us to grow more bitter.

    I could allow hostility to become a stronghold in my heart and refuse to forgive.

    I could talk to my friends and family about the situation, soliciting their support.

    I could cry buckets of tears, although that wouldn't dry the tears of my daughter.

    Unfortunately I did a little of all that, because nothing hurts a mom's heart more than when her child's heart is broken or her spirit is crushed. But eventually, I grew weary of my emotions holding me hostage and turned to prayer instead of pouting.

    I prayed daily for God to give us both the strength to continue trusting His purpose for my daughter's pain. I asked God to help me see those involved through His eyes, instead of my own — which were tainted with anger and concern for my own child. I prayed for Him to intervene and give us hope, peace and the comfort that only He could provide. I also prayed for God to help me forgive, when nothing in me wanted to.

    As I sat down and prayed with my daughter, we discussed these words from Psalm 118:6-7a, "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me."

    I reminded her (and myself) of the truth of the Psalmists words, that regardless of what anyone said or did, God still was on her side. I wanted her to know eventually this difficult season would pass, but in the meantime she could find strength and courage in Christ. A tear fell as she promised to try and remember God would be with her every step of the way.

    Even in the face of suffering and heartache, the Psalmist chose not to fear but instead focus on the favor of God, trusting He would protect and prevail over his difficult situation. He remained calm, confident and focused on God, intentionally choosing to fight his enemies with faith. As a mom, I knew our faith was the best choice for us as well.

    We knew we couldn't force anyone to alter the way they treat others. Only God can change a heart. But we could choose to trust God and approach this situation the best way possible — through the eyes of faith.

    Lord, I know You see our children and what they are going through. Help me to know how to speak truth into their lives, and help us have strength and courage to continue trusting You are bigger than our conflicts. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Editor's Note: If you or someone you love is facing a bullying situation, please report it immediately to someone in authority and make sure you or your loved ones are safe.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If your child is hurting due to a similar situation, which have you been doing more: praying or pouting?

    If you struggle with negative emotions stemming from concern over your child's situation, write a prayer to God seeking His strength. Ask God for help to push past feelings, focus on faith and discern how best to handle the problem.

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • God is Not Mad at You

    Posted on June 27, 2014 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness." Psalm 145:8 (AMP)

     

    It never took us kids long to figure out that our dad was angry. He'd bite his bottom lip, then ball up both of his hands into fists. In nanoseconds, all five of us would escape out the back door, where we hung out in our 10-acre, wooded back yard until the eruption was over.

    Unfortunately, many times we didn't make it out the back door fast enough.

    So years later, after I became a believer, the concept of a kind, loving heavenly Father was hard for me to grasp. The words my pastor spoke sounded wonderful, but deep down I couldn't escape a vague sense of God's anger directed toward me.

    Even when I read my Bible, the words often sounded angry to my ears. And every time I failed, messed up or fell short, I felt myself the target of God's anger.

    And I failed, messed up and fell short all the time.

    Initially I didn't understand that my background skewed my perception. It was as if the atmosphere of anger in my childhood home had warped my brain cells, and my experience blocked the truth of who and how God really was.

    Truth began seeping in after a conversation with a friend. I shared, through hot tears, that I desperately wanted to please God, but it felt like He was always angry with me. My friend said, "God is not angry with you, Julie. He loves you, and He understands you."

    This truth was the beginning of a massive boulder of a lie dislodging from my heart.

    For the first time it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it was possible God wasn't angry with me. But things didn't change overnight. For me, it was a gradual unfolding, a slow process as I grew to know and understand God's loving character more intimately.

    When I stumbled upon today's key verse, tears stung my eyes again, but this time in a good way: "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness" (AMP).

    The fact that God is slow to anger, that He offers forgiveness when I confess my failures and that He does not hold my shortcomings against me in fierce anger, revolutionized not only my brain, but my heart.

    As if that were not awesome enough, that same verse declares that God is abounding in mercy and loving-kindness toward us. The word abounding means "to be present in large numbers or in great quantity; to be fully supplied or filled." As I meditated on this verse and dared to believe God's truth, the massive boulder that had lodged in my heart as a child slowly began to move.

    In reality, God is nothing like my past experience had shaped Him to be.

    He is our gracious heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are, patiently bearing with us, teaching and guiding us as we grow and mature in Christ. He is not mad at me, and He is not mad at you. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He has good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

    Sometimes our past experiences shape us in ways we don't fully understand. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reshapes us, transforming our hearts and minds as only He can. Though it often takes time, God's truth can work its way deeply into our hearts and completely dislodge boulders of lies. And oh, how He loves to roll away the stones!

    God, where boulders of inaccurate perceptions are lodged in my heart, please remove them and bring truth. I am thankful that instead of regarding me in fierce anger, You forgive and patiently lead and guide me. I'm so grateful that You are slow to anger. You are a loving, gracious heavenly Father, and I adore You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 31:3, "God told them, 'I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!'" (MSG)

    Romans 8:31, "What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do you seem to sense that God is angry with you? Ask Him to enable you to hear His gentle, loving, true voice. Ask Him to give you an accurate perception of who He truly is.

    Write down Jeremiah 31:3 and read it to yourself several times daily this week. Know that the same God who will never quit loving you is not angry at you!

    © 2014 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Perfect Parenting Formula

    Posted on June 26, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2a (NIV)

     

    When I was a young mom, I was desperate for a formula. I truly thought there must be a formula I could plug my family into that would yield great kids. And there were plenty of moms who tried to convince me they had the formula.

    "Bottle feed and never let them sleep in your bed."

    "Breastfeed until they are 3, and give them the security of sleeping between you and your husband every night."

    "Don't ever send them to pre-school. It will be detrimental to their social development."

    "Send them to pre-school right away — it's crucial for their social development."

    "TV is good."

    "TV is bad."

    "They must read by age 5."

    "Let them take their time learning to read. You'll ruin their love for books if you force them."

    "Step in and model healthy conflict resolution when they argue with their siblings."

    "Let them handle things on their own."

    "Be there 24/7 for your kids."

    "Don't be a helicopter mom. Give your kids room to discover who they are without you hovering over them."

    Seriously, it's a wonder we moms figure anything out with all the conflicting information and advice we get. I spent the first five years of motherhood convinced I was messing my kids up beyond repair. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Heavens no. I was serious about gathering every morsel of information I could and trying with all my might to decode "the formula."

    Well, here's the deal. I now have kids ranging in ages from 26 to 15, and this is my very best advice in regards to the formula: There isn't one.

    There is no perfect parenting formula. What works for one child may not work for another. The seemingly perfect algorithm one family follows could be disastrous for another.

    We weren't made to follow formulas. We were made to follow Jesus. Period.

    This is true with parenting, but it's also true with every other aspect of our lives as well. We were made to follow Jesus' lead in our marriages, our jobs, our ministries, our churches, our friendships, our everything.

    In Romans 12:2 Paul so powerfully reminds us, "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."

    We weren't made to be robotic followers of this world's formulas. We were made to be transformed into the unique person God appointed to fulfill the assignments set before us. So, on a practical level, what does this look like?

    It's a simple woman who humbly acknowledges how much she doesn't know about life and readily admits how much she needs Jesus. Not just in a spiritual sense ... this woman needs Jesus in every way. All throughout her day, she can be heard whispering heartfelt pleas to her Jesus saying, "Show me the way, show me the way, show me the way."

    And as she does this, she loosens her grip on all the formulas thrown at her and courageously embraces His gentle voice behind her saying, "This is the way, now walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).

    Dear Lord, help me to follow You and You alone — not a pre-planned formula. Help me to see that I need You more than anything else today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:5, "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (NIV)

    John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What parenting formulas (if any) have you been following or holding onto?

    This week, take some time to pray over each of them to discern if they are in accordance with God's plan for you and your family.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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