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Proverbs 31

  • The Day God's Extraordinary Interrupted My Ordinary

    Posted on December 8, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    WENDY

    "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ..., " Judges 6:12a (NLT)

    Another day of errands. Same cycle every week. Grocery store. Gas station. Dry cleaners. Target.

    I dread errand days. I whine about the fun and exciting things I can't do because of the mundane tasks I have to do.

    But one particular week, God interrupted my ordinary with the extraordinary. You know, one of those moments when it seems God speaks directly to you ... as if He has heard the banter in your head and addresses it head on?

    I was studying about Gideon, a warrior from the Old Testament who also became a Judge over Israel. We initially meet him in the midst of his mundane in Judges chapter 6, when "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ...," (Judges 6:12a).

    No thunder. No lightning. No pomp. No circumstance. Very quietly, the Angel of the Lord came to speak to Gideon in the midst of his ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    Gideon's story remained heavy on my heart. Do I look for God in the midst of my ordinary? No, I don't. I just want the mundane over so I can get on with my day.

    Yet, I want to experience the extraordinary! But I look for it in the grandiose, the uncommon, the bigger-than-life. So, I prayed for a Gideon moment: God will You show up in my mundane? I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    God answered that very day, but not in the form of an angel. In the form of a 7-year-old boy.

    While checking out at Target, I noticed a young boy standing behind me, proudly toting a HUGE Nerf toy (almost as big as he was) and tightly gripping a handful of gift cards. I learned his name was Luke. I asked Luke if the toy was for him. Shyly, he shook his head yes. It was for his birthday. His mom said he received some gift cards and was spending them all on this one item!

    God met me right there in the checkout lane, in that shy smile, and moved my heart to give and my mouth to speak. I asked Luke's mom if I could buy his gun as a birthday present.

    In that moment, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking. It didn't make logical sense to offer this to a child I didn't know. I just knew God was calling me to do it — and I obeyed.

    A huge grin spread across Luke's face. "Really?" he asked. I nodded my head yes and suggested that he could then spend his gift cards on something else. Tears leaked from his mama's eyes as I shared my prayer that morning.

    I stopped by customer service, and as I turned toward the door to leave, Luke's dad, with Luke by his side, stopped to say thank you. But it wasn't the thank you for the gift that touched my heart. It was the words that followed, thanking me for the lesson Luke learned.

    Luke decided that instead of spending all his gift cards on another new toy, he would only spend four so that he could give one away.

    I'm so grateful God spoke to me in His Word that day. I'm grateful that "word" led me to pray a Gideon prayer ... for God to meet me in the ordinary to experience the extraordinary. I'm grateful God answered that prayer. And I'm so grateful that in meeting me, God also met Luke.

    And somewhere in this city, another little boy on another ordinary day will meet an extraordinary God through a tender-hearted little boy named Luke.

    Will you join me in praying a Gideon prayer ... for God to interrupt your ordinary tasks on an ordinary day to intervene in an extraordinary way? Let's invite Him to open our spiritual eyes so that we can see Him more clearly than ever before.

    Heavenly Father, I invite You to show up in my mundane. I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Samuel 3:10b, "And Samuel replied, 'Speak, Your servant is listening.'" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Pray your Gideon prayer, asking the Lord to make Himself visible to you (as He did to Gideon) in the midst of your mundane. Pray that He will open your spiritual eyes to see Him in a fresh way.

    Record how God worked through your prayer in your Bible or a journal.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • It's Okay if We Don't Understand the Whole Bible

    Posted on December 5, 2014 by Wendy Pope

    WENDY

    "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." Deuteronomy 29:29a (NLT)

    Read the Bible? The whole thing? From cover to cover? Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? I've heard they're hard. Do I have to read the Old Testament? Jesus wasn't even born then. What if I don't understand everything?

    These concerns plagued me as I sensed God nudging me to read the entire Bible. I'd grown up in the church and attended Sunday School and mid-week Bible study every week. But the thought of reading the whole Bible intimidated me. My greatest fears were failure to finish and not being able to understand what I read.

    To ease my anxiety, I went to my local Christian bookstore with this thought: If I'm going to read the whole Bible, certainly I need a new Bible.

    I previewed various types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. It seemed like hours had passed. And just when I was about to give up, I pulled the One Year Chronological Bible from the shelf.

    The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An attractive cover. The best part to me was knowing I would read the Bible in the order the events occurred. Yes! This is the Bible for me.

    That year I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I stumbled some, but I also learned a lot. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy really are difficult to read. They are full of laws, actual numbers and more laws. But through those books and the rest of the Old Testament, I learned to really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me (because there's no way any human on the planet could keep all of those laws). And, I learned it's okay if I don't understand the whole Bible.

    What a relief! You see, I thought a Christian should be able to understand the Bible completely. And because I didn't, I thought something must be wrong with me.

    Truth is, we're not meant to understand everything in the Bible the first time we read it. If we were, we could read it once and put it on our shelf.

    The Bible is unlike any other book. Hebrews describes God's Word as living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is meant to help us live life. Therefore, it's necessary to have it as a part of our daily living.

    Our key verse says, "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." God reveals the truths He wants us to understand when He feels we are ready to understand and apply them.

    When we don't understand something, it doesn't mean we are less of a Christian or not as smart as another. God, in His infinite wisdom, keeps some things hidden from us until just the right time.

    With this truth in mind I set out to read the Bible one day at a time. Now many years later, I've read the Bible in its entirety year after year. Not because I'm a super Christian, but because my first reading of the entire Bible taught me that amazing truth ... and I wanted more.

    What about you? Have you ever thought about reading the entire Bible but were too intimidated to get started? If so, now is your chance. Let's be women who read God's Book. I promise it will be a life-changer.

    Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Word to help us through life. Give me the desire to read the Bible every day. Will You teach me Your truths and keep me from becoming overwhelmed with what I don't understand? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 141:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:105, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (KJV)

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What intimidates you most about reading through the Bible? What good might come if you let God reveal more of His truth in your life?

    Take those things to God in prayer and ask Him to help you.

    © 2014 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • When I Lose My Patience with God

    Posted on December 4, 2014 by Christy Mobley

    CHRISTY

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

    ON YOUR MARK ... GET SET ... GO!

    Hearing those words, I was always first off the starting block. Actually they were more like pieces of wood taped to the asphalt, but it was junior high; we made do.

    It didn't matter to me because I was the fastest kid in our seventh-grade class. I could out-run the girls and the boys any day of the week ... except when it came to the 600-meter run.

    Every year we had to go through something called the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. It consisted of a series of strength and endurance tests to determine each student's level of physical fitness. Those who finished the assessment in a certain percentile earned the coveted Presidential Physical Fitness Award.

    I wanted that award in the worst kind of way. I knew I could ace the other tests, but year after year one eluded me. The 600-meter run. It seems like such a short distance now, but for this lanky seventh-grader, it was a marathon.

    Before we started, the coach gave us instructions to set our pace to finish the race. I thought, Yeah, I know how to pace myself. Fast! I'll be around that track and done before the other kids hear the O in GO! Or, so I thought.

    I figured I didn't need to heed the advice of our PE coach. What did he know? I'd set my own pace. And I did.

    After running my heart out for about 100 meters, my legs suddenly felt like rubber and my lungs like lead. I couldn't go a second longer. Bent over and gasping for air, I watched out of the corner of my eye as each classmate plodded past me to victory.

    Looking back, ignoring guidance and running as fast I could wasn't the best approach. As an adult, I can still run too fast and get ahead of God's plans. Instead of prayerfully asking God where He wants me, I speed ahead with my own agenda. And when I do, I'm like a fast-burning candle with a short wick. I burn out fast.

    Our key verse, Philippians 2:13, tells us God has a plan and purpose for us, and He'll get us where He needs us to go. In His timing. We need not try to beat Him to the finish.

    I've heard that patience is slowing down to the speed of someone else. I've also learned I need to have a little more patience with God and slow down to His pace — the pace He has set for me.

    I have to admit I was disappointed every year that I didn't receive the Presidential Physical Fitness Award. But today, I'd rather finish my race at God's pace and have the reward of hearing Him say,"Well done, good and faithful servant."

    Dear Heavenly Father, I have spent my life racing ahead, and I'm exhausted. My desire is to be in step with You. Help me slow down to Your pace, so I don't run past the place and purpose You have set for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 2:10, "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (NIV)

    Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (NIV)

    Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What may cause you to rush ahead of God's timing, and what steps can you take to get back in pace with Him?

    Pray and ask God to reveal to you where He is working in your life and the lives of your family and friends. Jot down what you learn. Then ask God to show you where you can join Him.

    © 2014 by Christy Mobley. All rights reserved.

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

  • You're Shining for Jesus Wherever You Are

    Posted on December 3, 2014 by Holley Gerth

    HOLLEY

    "You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

    The news headlines drifted in from the living room as I sat at my desk. The story of yet another tragedy contrasted so sharply with what I was writing that I stopped, sighed and leaned back in my chair. A sense of despair washed over me.

    "Lord," I silently prayed, "is there anything I can do about the darkness in this world? It seems so overwhelming."

    I sensed a gentle whisper within my heart replying, "The only way to get rid of the darkness is to add more light."

    Darkness is the absence of light. Trying to go after it directly is like chasing your shadow. You can't bag it up and throw it away. Only light is powerful enough to make the darkness disappear. During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that we are the light of the world. We are called to shine. But the light we share is not our own.

    From the very beginning of creation, God has been the source of light both spiritually and literally. Genesis 1:2b-3 says, "Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light" (NIV).

    Imagine a world full of darkness. Then with four small words, light blazes forth. Every living thing in our world relies on light for its existence — plants, animals and people. The God who brought light to the world also brings it to our lives. As 2 Corinthians 4:6a says, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts" (NIV).

    The best part of all is that we don't have to be like the light bulb that said, "I have to find a way to shine!" The light bulb went to a self-help meeting to learn about its inner capacity for light. It read books about how to get brighter. Each morning the light bulb would get up and recite positive affirmations. "I am a light bulb. I believe in myself. I will shine!" But nothing happened.

    Eventually the light bulb became weary and discouraged. It began to doubt who it was and what it could do. It almost burned out completely. Fortunately, one day the light bulb was carefully placed in a fixture. Light burst forth and filled the room. The light bulb finally understood. The key was not to try harder but to plug into the source.

    Trying to shine on our own can be exhausting. Instead, we're simply called to be closely connected to God and remain in Him. When we do, His light pours forth through us in powerful, brilliant ways that change the world. The ways we shine might not make the news, but they make even more of a difference than we can see.

    Lord, thank You for being the light within us so we can shine brightly for the world around us. When it seems darkness is crowding in, use us to make a difference. We ask that You will help us share Your love, joy and peace — especially this time of year. You are the hope we need and the One light that will never burn out, be overcome or fade away. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Daniel 12:3, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever." (NIV)

    Isaiah 60:20, "Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    The Everlasting Light Collection from DaySpring provides beautiful and inspirational items that will help you share your faith and brighten the lives of those you love.

    Holley Gerth is the best-selling author of several books, a certified life coach and speaker. She has written more than 2,000 cards for DaySpring and is a cofounder of (in)courage.me. You can find more encouragement from Holley at www.holleygerth.com.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Whose life can you brighten in a simple way wherever you are today?

    © 2014 by Holley Gerth. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks DaySpring 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

  • I Want to Quit Ministry

    Posted on December 2, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" John 21:15a (NIV)

    Do you ever wish God would appear in the flesh and tell you exactly what He wants you to do in a situation? I do.

    Sometimes I wish He'd hand me a piece of paper with clear, step-by-step instructions written out and personalized for my specific circumstance. And then He'd stay for a little Q&A session where He'd tenderly answer all my questions with deep reassurances.

    I guess some people would say that demonstrates my lack of faith. And maybe it does. Or maybe my heart just feels incredibly vulnerable with some decisions I have to make, and I desperately want to get it right.

    I love the Lord so much.

    I want to honor Him with my life.

    But sometimes I feel Him stirring me to do something that's terrifyingly opposite of what I want to do. Left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I'd never choose on my own.

    This question forces my eyes to glance toward that path: More than anything else, do you want to follow God and live His message?

    Or even more deeply: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

    It's this question the resurrected Jesus asked Peter at a crucial crossroads in Peter's life. And gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

    He'd been following Jesus for years.

    Then things got hard, just like Jesus told the disciples they would. Jesus gave them the clear hope to hold onto:

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33, NIV).

    But isn't it hard when what you see with your physical eyes seems contrary to what you believe in your heart?

    Problems beg us to forget God's promises.

    Peter denied Jesus because he feared the cost of following Him.

    Then circumstances got really hard. Jesus was crucified and Peter took his eyes off that hard path of continuing in ministry. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable ... fishing.

    Then Peter got one of those visits from Jesus I wish I could have. Resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh and could not have made it any clearer what He wanted Peter to ponder. With one question, He ruined Peter's justifications to stay safe.

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" (John 21:15).

    Do you love me more than these?

    We've all got our own "these."

    They are anything that make us look away from the less chosen path of following God with everything we've got.

    So, back to my decision.

    Last year, I wanted to quit ministry. Proverbs 31 Ministries had experienced tremendous growth and suddenly I felt enormous pressure that I wasn't smart enough, capable enough or resourced enough to lead this ministry.

    Everything was bigger, which made me feel like everything was scarier.

    The staffing needs.

    The budget.

    The worries.

    Gathering up my fears, I presented a strong case to the Lord to give this assignment to someone else and let me quietly slip away. I set my sights on what felt more comfortable and safe and certain.

    But Jesus' question ruined all my quitting plans: "Do you love me more than these ... more than your fears ... more than your desire to do something easier and less scary?"

    So, here I stand, a girl with trembling hands wearing boots dusty from that uncommon path. I stand and proclaim, "Yes, Jesus, I love You more than these. I will live out the charge presented in Your Holy Word to, "Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching," (2 Timothy 4:2, HCSB).

    I realize your struggles and decisions might not look like mine, but whatever they are, my team at Proverbs 31 Ministries and I are committed to meeting you at your point of need with the Truth that points you to God's best pathway for you.

    I pray this devotion and all the others we send each day help you hold God's Truth close and more clearly discern God's direction for your day.

    I'm determined to persevere. But I'm also determined to recognize I can't do this alone. Will you join us with your prayers and financial support?

    This is so hard and honestly awkward for me to ask. But if I don't, you won't know Proverbs 31 Ministries depends on your support to do what we do each day.

    I need your help and I thank you for letting me ask. Oh, how I wish we could have this conversation over coffee ... maybe one day. I would love that. But for now, if you can join us, please click here for more information. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Dear Lord, I want to declare today that I love You more than my "these." Thank You for reminding me to follow You even when it's difficult. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are your "these"? The things that keep you from following God with everything you've got? Once you've identified them, pray about handing them over to God.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Only a Friend Who Gets It Will Do

    Posted on December 1, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    LIZ

    "At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth." Luke 1:39-40 (NIV)

    When I was pregnant with our firstborn, I carried around a well-marked copy of the book, What to Expect When You're Expecting, counting on its practical wisdom to get me through those scary (yet exciting) months.

    With our next child, I turned to a close friend who was also expecting her second. We exchanged advice, discussed at length the many joys and discomforts of pregnancy, and cheered each other on as our delivery dates drew near. If you need a listening ear, a friend who is walking the same path is a great place to turn.

    Surely that was the case 2,000 years ago for Mary and Elizabeth, who didn't even expect to be expecting. Mary was a virgin, betrothed to Joseph. Elizabeth was an older, barren woman, married to Zechariah the priest. When we first meet them in the Bible, neither woman could imagine being pregnant. But God was already on the move.

    When Gabriel brought Mary the good news of the Son she would bear, the angel offered this word of encouragement: "Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month" (Luke 1:36, NIV).

    No wonder Mary took off for Zechariah's house! Elizabeth might actually believe her miraculous story. Today's key verse assures us young Mary "got ready and hurried," eager to connect with the one person who would understand her situation: a pregnant kinswoman who shared Mary's faith in a wonder-working God.

    If you're bursting with news about something the Lord has done in your life — an answer to prayer, a long-awaited blessing, a surprising provision — you don't want to spill the beans to just anyone. Like Mary, you long to tell somebody who will get it. A friend who will say, "Praise God!" instead of, "Lucky you."

    Besides, who else could Mary tell? Her young friends? Her neighbors in Nazareth? "Hey, I just had a visit from an angel, and I'll be giving birth to God's Son."

    Right. Not happening. Mary needed Elizabeth, just as we need a friend who will listen without judgment and offer wise counsel because she's been there — or is there right now.

    The moment Mary arrived, another miracle occurred. "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb" (Luke 1:41a, NIV). If a mom-to-be eats something sweet or drinks something cold, an unborn child often responds with a swift kick. But this was different: "and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit," (Luke 1:41b, NIV).

    Can you fathom the emotions and sensations that must have washed over Elizabeth? An urge to laugh and cry at once, a sense of being flooded with sunlight and fresh air, an overwhelming desire to shout with joy. And shout she did. "In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women ...'" (Luke 1:42a, NIV).

    Think of it! Two ordinary women bound together by an extraordinary God, empowered by His Holy Spirit.

    Mary and Elizabeth had a friendship that shines through the ages. Shared faith, shared joy, shared experience. If you need someone to listen, advise and empathize, consider a woman you know who could use that same kind of support from you. When encouragement flows both directions and honors the Lord, that's a friendship that will go the distance.

    Lord, You will always be our closest friend, our best source of counsel, the first place we turn. Thank You for also providing earthly friends who help us keep our focus on You, every season of the year. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 27:9b, "The pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice." (NIV)

    Psalm 94:19, "When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy." (NIV)

    Proverbs 17:17a, "A friend loves at all times." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn more about the special bond of friendship between Mary and Elizabeth, as Liz Curtis Higgs unwraps their stories in The Women of Christmas, preparing your heart for this holy season.

    Visit Liz's blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    A godly friend is one of the kindest gifts the Lord could bestow on us. In this season of giving and receiving, think of a woman you know who might benefit from a word of encouragement drawn from your well of experience.

    What specifically could you do for her? Say to her? Provide for her? The gift of praying for her daily might not come wrapped in a bow, but would surely be the one thing she needs most in the coming year.

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Adapted from The Women of Christmas. All rights reserved.

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

  • The $285 Cinnamon Roll

    Posted on November 21, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right." Psalm 106:3 (NIV)

    It was a simple cinnamon roll. Well, not the run-of-the-mill, refrigerated whack-open canned variety. It was a jumbo pastry from our local all-night diner, laden with gooey cream cheese frosting. The cost? Just $285.

    My 16-year-old son was spending the night with some boys at a neighbor's house. A little past dark, they got a hankering for this famed treat and decided to make the less than 2-mile trek to satisfy their culinary desire.

    Our state has rules for 16-year-old drivers. They may not have more than one other person in the car unless they are related or the group is heading to or from school. Also, they may not drive past 10 p.m. unless they're returning from school, church or work.

    These boys knew all this, so they decided one of them — age 19 — would drive. However, his car was out of gas. So my son allowed him to drive our car instead. Upon leaving the restaurant, his friend discovered he didn't have his driver's license with him. The group decided it was better for my son to shuttle the gang the short distance home rather than for his friend to drive without his license.

    When they were almost home, the red and blue flashing lights of a police vehicle interrupted their quick outing. My son got pulled over. Questioned. Busted. Not only was my son driving past curfew, but he also had three unrelated passengers in the vehicle with him. He was fined heavily and ordered to pay for an online driving refresher course. Additionally, he had to appear before a judge at the Secretary of State's office.

    Although the authorities told us the hearing is usually just a stern lecture (which we were glad he would get!) when his turn came, the usual judge was ill. Instead, our son appeared before a judge from a neighboring county. She listened to his story. And then? She took his drivers license away completely for two months, and ordered him to pay another three-digit fine to get it back!

    The diner's menu that fateful night listed the cinnamon roll for the meager price of $3 and some change. In the end, it actually cost our son a total of $285 dollars of his own hard-earned money because he did not do the right thing by obeying the laws of our state.

    Although we know we should "always do what is right" as today's key verse urges, sometimes we think we can bend the rules ever so slightly. We might even have good reason, as my son felt he did that night. But a rule is a rule. A law is a law. Breaking them comes with consequences — sometimes even stiff penalties and hefty fines.

    Likewise, we might bend God's rules. Flirt with sin. Rationalize wrongdoing.

    Things such as ... It's not really "gossip" if I'm simply sharing a prayer request. I don't think of it as lying, just creatively leaving out a few minor details. Come on! I'm just reconnecting with a former guy "friend" I found on Facebook for a cup of coffee. What harm could there be in that?

    We might know what God commands of us in Scripture by heart, but sometimes we decide ignoring a command "just this once" isn't really a big deal. We convince ourselves we probably won't get caught. However, these seemingly innocent actions could lead to more costly behavior. Sin snowballs. And it often cruelly crushes those foolish enough to stand in its path.

    When we're tempted to twist God's commands oh-so-slightly, let's remember my cinnamon-roll-craving son. What we think has a very affordable and even enticing price tag might end up costing us a whole lot more.

    Father, please help me to pause before I decide to bend Your commands even a tiny bit. Give me the strength to make right and righteous choices. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Genesis 4:7, "You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master." (NLT)

    Romans 13:3, "For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one area in your life that — if not kept in check — could potentially lead to a sinful and messy situation? Take this matter to God in prayer now asking Him to empower you with strength to avoid sin and pursue righteousness.

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Before You Say "Yes" to One More Thing

    Posted on November 20, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety." Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)

    I want people to like me. I want to please others and pretend I can do all things for all people.

    But I can get myself and my schedule into a mess because of it.

    And in an effort to please others, it's those closest to me who get the worst of me when I'm overscheduled.

    When my oldest daughter, Hope, was about 4 years old she decided it was too boring to take her afternoon nap. Instead, while I was downstairs preparing for guests, she was busy doing something else.

    Please understand I'm not very talented in the kitchen. I do okay with preparing simple food for my people. But I get completely twisted up in a knot when preparing food for other people.

    My timing is off. The veggies are stone cold by the time the meat is done. I forget the bread that's still frozen in the oven. And I also forget that making the salad the day before is a bad idea when you mix the dressing and croutons in it. Which, I've learned, turns it all into one big, soggy mess.

    My emotions are also off. The pressure of my timing issues mixed with my desire to have everything just so with the house, isn't a pretty combination.

    But when my Bible study leader asked for someone to host the year-end dinner and my friends all looked at me, I said, "Oh yes, of course. I'd love to do it."

    Visions of home décor magazine covers started dancing in my head. Recipes and flower arrangements and perfectly set tables swirled about, intoxicating me with the thrill of seriously impressing my friends. Then some greatly deceived part of me quipped, "And no need for y'all to bring anything. I'd love to prepare a really nice meal for us."

    Would somebody get a wooden spoon and knock some sense into me?

    My inner people-pleaser blinded me ... until the day of the dinner party. Then the full-on reality of what I'd committed to made me want to crawl in a hole and hide. I was overwhelmed and underprepared.

    I desperately needed my little people to give me full cooperation with naptime that day.

    But Hope had no intention of fully cooperating. So when I saw puffs of something white coming through the air vents downstairs, my heart sank.

    I dashed upstairs to find that Hope had emptied a large container of baby powder all over her room, herself and every air vent she could find. And now, that powder was filling the downstairs with a layer of white residue that made it look like I hadn't dusted in decades.

    Fury rose from some deep, unbridled part of my already-pushed-to-the-max-self. Every bit of my frustration about the dinner party was now also Hope's fault. I screamed, "What were you thinking? Why do you always mess stuff up?!"

    Instantly, I felt a cloud of shame descend on me thicker than the baby powder ever could.

    And then the strangling effects of condemnation gripped me when her little voice replied back, "I was trying to make it look like heaven, Mommy. I thought you would love it."

    Ouch.

    The jarring reality of this incident started me on a journey of realizing that the ill effects of people pleasing spread. And make me the opposite of the kind of woman God made me to be.

    Saying yes all the time won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman. This isn't pleasing to anyone. Not my family. Not my friends. Not the people I'm trying to impress. And certainly not God.

    If I know this, I can start to see people pleasing for what it really is ... a trap. Even the Bible calls it this in our key verse, Proverbs 29:25, "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORDmeans safety." (NLT)

    Yes, being so focused on pleasing people is a vicious trap that ensnares us and those who do life with us.

    So, here's what we need to do today:
    • Look for the trap.
    • Unlock the trap.

    To unlock the trap, we must use the word "no." This should be handled delicately and appropriately, but it should be used.

    Back to the baby powder situation. I wound up apologizing to Hope after I had a good cry about my poor reaction. We took pictures of her "heaven." (Pictures that now, 16 years later, are complete treasures to me.)

    I also served pizza to my Bible study group that night. In the midst of baby powder dust. And ... we all lived to tell about it.

    Dear Lord, help me identify and overcome the traps of people pleasing today. I fully place my trust in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Identify a trap of people pleasing in your life. Then, look for an appropriate place to say no today. Remember, saying yes all the time won't make you Wonder Woman. It will make you a worn out woman!

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • My Addiction to Overcommitting

    Posted on November 19, 2014 by Valorie Burton

    VALORIE

    "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us ..." 2 Corinthians 5:20a (NIV)

    That's it! I bossed myself. Here you are again, overwhelmed by the number of commitments on your plate. You are never going to overload your schedule again.

    Oh, I was serious — and a bit annoyed with myself. But I wondered: How did I (once again) not see this coming?

    I knew this much ... my actions were rooted in fear. But of what? I couldn't seem to pinpoint the cause.

    It showed up in my tendency to be over-responsible.
    If there's a problem (mine or not) I feel compelled to solve it. Whether it's at home with a family member or at work with a team member, my initial reaction is to jump in quickly with an answer.

    It showed up in my tendency to over-compensate.
    I overloaded my schedule in high school. I rushed through college in three years — all in an effort to prove to myself and others that I was smart. A year spent on academic probation left me feeling dumb. I believed in order to be acceptable I must be exceptional. That wasn't God's requirement. That was my own insecurity fueling decisions and filling my life to the brim with misguided ambition.

    Overcompensating for our mistakes and weaknesses is one way we allow the enemy to trip us up. Rather than accepting God's grace and our human limitations, we get caught in a web of fear that somehow we aren't good enough and must prove our worth. Peeling back many layers of emotion, I wondered, is any of this connected to my unrelenting habit of overcommitting?

    When we find ourselves dealing with a similar problem repeatedly, there is often a divine lesson waiting. Our job is to listen, ask God for wisdom and expect to receive it.

    As a life coach, I've discovered that whenever we are stuck and unable to determine the cause, asking a few questions (and answering them honestly) can be a powerful exercise. When I was afraid to say "no" to doing more, even though I resented feeling overwhelmed and desperately wanted to decline, these questions helped me:

    • What am I afraid will happen if I say "no" to a good opportunity?
    • What if my fear actually happens?
    • What's the worst part of that?
    • What would that mean to me?

    I was afraid of saying "no" to an opportunity that could be "the opportunity" and I'd regret it. Business would dry up. I would become irrelevant. (Honestly, that last statement was my real issue.)

    Often I feel driven to take on too much out of a desire to gain approval. In other words, my core fear is rejection.

    After answering those tough questions, praying and self-reflection, I asked for the wisdom, understanding and courage to change. Eventually, I heard a clear message: The change you need to make isn't just about you; it's about being a light in a dark world. So many are living the way you are — overwhelmed, anxious, lacking peace. Are you willing to risk missing a good opportunity in favor of My best for you?

    God wants us to be His ambassadors of love, power and faith. Others should be able to look at our lives and say, Wow, what's her secret weapon? Where does she find the strength? Where did she get such wisdom?

    Ultimately, the pace I maintain in my life impacts and influences those around me — my family, our kids, my team members. It is about so much more than me. So, too, is your breakthrough.

    Lord, give me the courage to conquer the fears that threaten again and again to get me stuck. Allow my testimony to inspire greater faith, boldness and courage in those who cross my path. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 3:13b-14, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you consider the areas of your life in which you repeatedly get stuck, what is the common thread or fear?

    In what way is God calling you to get unstuck?

    © 2014 by Valorie Burton. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers 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

  • Re-Routing Negative Thoughts

    Posted on November 18, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    SHARON

    "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things." Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

    The screaming and fighting in the back seat were brutal! It was a fight to the death. As I tried to break it up, the car swerved off the road. Semi-trucks were passing me, going 80 miles an hour, as I pulled over to stop the fight.

    A few weeks ago, I drove through the beautiful Appalachian Mountains and picked up our newest family members — a Royal Palm Turkey and a Red Bourbon Turkey. They were not happy about being confined to a cage or being stuck next to each other. Hence, the deadly fight in my back seat. The Red Bourbon tried to cure his displeasure by lashing out in anger. He was on a mission to kill, literally. He hopped on top of the Royal Palm and went for the neck!

    I called my husband in a panic. His advice? "Re-route their thinking; it's stuck. Scream and hit the cage." I followed his instructions and the fighting stopped for 10 minutes. Then it started again. I had to yell, bang on the cage and clap my hands to break up a few more fights until both turkeys finally settled down for good. We all made it home alive, and now they're best friends.

    As I thought about the turkeys' stuck thinking, I could sense the Lord say to my heart: You are no different.

    Ouch! When my circumstances aren't what I want, my thinking gets stuck, too. Just that morning on my way to get the turkeys, I was alarmed to find the car was on empty and worse yet — I had no money in my purse. And I had left the house with no margin in my schedule to stop for gas or return home for money.

    Yet without any money, I had no choice but to return home, which made me late. Worse, I had planned to drop my daughter at the airport and she missed her flight. I was not happy and boy did my family hear about it!

    We all struggle with negative thinking at times; it's a common battle. And that's why it's important to recognize negative thought patterns and learn how to re-route them. The good news is we can have control over what we think.

    When we're down, sad or hopeless, let's take inventory of our thoughts. When we find ourselves jumping to conclusions, doling out guilt trips on others or replaying arguments in our mind, let's consciously change our thinking. When I get in a funk, often it's because I've focused too much on what's bad. The apostle Paul advises us in our key verse, Philippians 4:8, to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

    The next time you're fighting negative thoughts, "rattle your cage" by remembering you have the mind of Christ. Take each negative thought captive and replace it with what Paul describes in our key verse. Scripture promises that when we align our thoughts with God's, His peace, which passes all understanding, will keep our hearts and mind through Christ Jesus.

    Lord, give me Your ability to bring every thought captive. Help me to refute negative thoughts with truth. Thank You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    2 Corinthians 10:4-5, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (NKJV)

    1 Corinthians 2:14-16, "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take inventory of your thoughts for a whole day. Each time a negative thought repeats in your mind, re-route it with truth found in God's Word. Place our key verse near you in a familiar spot to remind you of where to focus your thoughts.

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

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