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Proverbs 31

  • Cleaning up a Mess I Didn't Make

    Posted on May 6, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "And I pray that you ... grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18 (NIV)

    When my middle son was 2 years old, he went through various stages that almost sent me to the mad house.

    One of the most irritating stages was his habit of taking off his diaper after putting him to bed. Many late nights we would have to put on a fresh diaper, change his sheets and put him back to bed.

    After awhile, we wised up. We started putting him into all-in-one pajamas that made it not so easy for him to accomplish his little feat.

    That pretty much solved the problem.

    Until one night, when my husband put the boys (ages 2 and 4) to bed. Unfortunately, he forgot about our precautionary measure of locking our toddler into his diaper.

    Before long, our eldest son shouted at the top of his lungs, "Mommy! It stinks in here! Somebody needs his diaper changed!"

    No worries. It happens, right?

    Soon we heard urgency in our eldest son's voice as he called out again, "MOMMY! COME QUICK! THERE'S A STINKY MESS IN HERE!"

    We entered their room. The smell that greeted me at the door was enough to make me want to run for my life.

    Friends, we are talking yuck e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e ... on the sheets, blankets, feet and smudged into the carpet. So that night, while many other mothers slept peacefully in their beds, guess what I was doing?

    Cleaning up a mess.

    At almost midnight and for close to an hour, I was on my hands and knees cleaning and scrubbing. I'll spare you the gory details.

    Believe it or not, the carpet today looks like nothing ever happened. Between my cleaning concoctions that fateful night and a borrowed steam cleaner the next day, I managed to handle the situation like a pro.

    Of course I did. I'm a mom. That's what moms do. We clean up after our children when necessary, because that's what love does.

    There is a lesson to be learned from the middle of this messy situation ...

    My son didn't mean to make a mess. He didn't intentionally deprive me of sleep or aim to make me uncomfortable. He didn't mean to make me suffer for his transgression.

    But I did.

    And why? Because that's what love does.

    Even when he wasn't showing me much love, I loved him anyway. And I showed my love by cleaning up a mess that I didn't make.

    My dear sister... don't you know Jesus loves us this same way?

    He saw us in our mess. He cleaned up after us. He was willing to suffer for our transgressions. And even when we aren't showing Him much love, He loved us first and continues to love us anyway.

    Because that's what love does.

    I believe with all my heart that as my son matures, he will be grateful and appreciate my sacrifices. I pray that eventually he will come to understand the width, length, height and depth of the love I have for him. Just like God's love for us, Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus "may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:18).

    In the same way, as we mature in our relationship with God and develop a greater understanding of why we needed His rescue, we can appreciate more and more His huge sacrifice.

    Here's the kicker – our lives, actions and attitudes should show it.

    Just like mothers find a way to do what seems

    ... inconceivable

    ... impossible

    ... or insurmountable ...

    so, too, our precious Savior found a way to rescue us from our plight.

    And I'm so thankful. Aren't you?

    Dear Lord, thank You for being willing to clean up my mess. Sometimes I'm a little bit of a mess. Other times, I'm a big mess and the yuckiness in my attitude or actions greatly impacts others. Yet You still love me. You loved me enough not only to clean up after me, but also to suffer on my behalf. I want You to know I'm grateful. Help me to walk worthy of the love that You have so lavishly offered me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 4:1b, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:19, "I ask that you'll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God." (CEB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    At some point and time we have all been a mess. If we're honest with ourselves, we still are! How does the fact that God loves you anyway make you feel?

    In light of God's great sacrifice for you, what is one thing you can do today that would show your appreciation for His great gift?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Life Feels Like a Mess

    Posted on May 5, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee

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

    Do you ever feel like your days are filled with one messy relationship and situation after another? During those times, it's easy to label my circumstances and myself as "a mess," then wonder how God could ever use me, or my experiences, for good.

    To protect my heart from discouragement, I often ask God to remind me of times when He has worked in ways I couldn't have imagined, in my life and the lives of others. Recently He reminded me of Joseph's story (Genesis 37-50). It reads like a series of very unfortunate events!

    Imagine being beaten and thrown into a pit, sold as a slave and then relocated to a foreign country where you are falsely accused of a crime you didn't commit and banished to die in prison. And to make matters worse, what if your siblings had initiated this evil against you?

    That's only the beginning of what happened to Joseph.

    Looking behind the scenes of stories like his helps me see how God specializes in using messes to transform people into masterpieces of His grace. That's exactly what He did here:

    "[Joseph's brothers] saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him ... they stripped him of his robe ... and they threw him into a pit" (Genesis 37:18, 23b–24, ESV).

    Joseph was then taken to Egypt where he was sold as a slave to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh. Could things get worse? They did when Potiphar's wife tried to seduce him, and despite Joseph resisting her advances, she accused him of attempting to rape her:

    " ... she called to the men of her household and said to them, 'See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.'"

    "As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him ... his anger was kindled. And Joseph's master took him and put him into the prison ..." (Genesis 39:14-15, 19-20a).

    In Potiphar's house, Joseph learned servant leadership and integrity; in prison, Joseph learned forgiveness, wisdom and patience. He had been wronged multiple times, yet he experienced God's guidance through the darkness that helped Joseph get out of prison:

    "And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. ... And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed" (Genesis 39:22-23, ESV).

    In a messy pit, the house of Potiphar and a cold dark prison, God prepared Joseph for the amazing future and role he would play in rescuing God's people and eventually bringing his family back together.

    Through it all, Joseph stayed close to God and allowed his difficult circumstances to make him more dependent on the Lord. And in turn, God molded Joseph's character into a great and godly leader — who was humble, loving, forgiving, patient and wise.

    Friend, you might feel like you're in a pit right now just like Joseph was, but don't despise the mess you're in — God is doing some behind-the-scenes work. He is preparing to unleash His limitless power in and through you!

    Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that You are always with me, just like You were with Joseph. When I face hard circumstances, I want to lean in and depend on You for wisdom, patience and grace. In all these things, I will remember that I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:

    Do you ever look at the messiness of your circumstances and feel discouragement or even despair? Although Joseph had every reason to be depressed, he chose not to be by looking beyond where he was, to what God was doing.

    Read Joseph's story in Genesis 37-50 and make a list of ways God used messes and difficulties to transform Joseph's life for His glory.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Losing This Battle is Not an Option

    Posted on May 2, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon

    "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in." Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)

    By the time our daughter Heather turned 2, all my prideful pre-parenting thoughts had come back to me. How many times had I unfairly judged another mama and promised myself my kids would never act like that?

    You know that behavior: flailing around in their mother's arms, pitching a fit on the grocery store floor or throwing a tantrum in line at the movies. However, my daughter's strong will was unrelenting. She tried my patience constantly ... and often acted like that.

    I'll never forget one particularly difficult night. It had been a long grueling day of battles, and it was bedtime. (Praise God for bedtime.) Heather had hurt her baby sister, so I told her to apologize. She refused.

    Everything in me wanted to just put Heather to bed, but I knew I couldn't let this go. So in a stern voice, I told her, "Go to your room and I'll meet you there." Thankfully, she obeyed and walked to her bedroom.

    I thought a battle had been avoided ... until she looked back at me with that iron will glaring. She stood there with one foot in the room and one foot in the hall.

    "Get in your room, Heather." My tone meant business, but she wouldn't budge. I thought to myself, I'm just too stinking tired for this.

    At that point, I remembered Proverbs 3:11-12, a verse I memorized before Heather was born: "My son, do not despise the LORD's discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in."

    As I weighed my choices, the Lord spoke to me through that verse. And I knew He was saying: Losing this battle is not an option. I took a deep breath and decided no matter how long it took, I would not allow Heather's disobedient will to triumph over my exhaustion. I loved her too much.

    She finally sat down, half in the room, half out. And I joined her in the hall. We stayed there for hours that night. I wasn't mad, just determined. My daughter would know after this night that her mama means what she says. There was no TV. No toys. Not even a scrap of paper to draw on.

    While she sat, I folded laundry, paid a few bills and made my grocery list — in between asking if she wanted to apologize. Her eyes were getting heavy, and I knew she wanted to win the battle, but I remained firm.

    Finally, three hours after her bedtime she apologized to her sister and to me. I kissed her goodnight as I tucked her in bed; she hugged me and smiled like I was the greatest mom in the world. All was good in our home, at least for that night.

    That wasn't our last battle. But over time they became fewer and fewer as I consistently disciplined my children, just like the Lord disciplines those He loves. Why? Because He longs for us to be wise, to avoid making harmful mistakes and to grow in His grace. That's what I want for my five daughters.

    I spent a lot of time in prayer and sitting in doorways as my girls grew up. Each one was different from the other, each requiring a different form of discipline. They're grown up now, and I'm delighted to say that Heather and her sisters love the Lord and walk in His ways.

    I love my children and know they are worth all the time invested in the disciplining. Even the many long, sleepless nights.

    Lord, I need You more than ever. I need Your strength, wisdom and leading to raise my children up in the way they should go. Help me! I feel inadequate most days. I know that through You I can do all things. Thank You, Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Raising children takes a lot of mental, spiritual and physical bandwidth. Are there things in your schedule you could delete that would give you greater ability to parent well?

    Are you consistent in disciplining? Do you follow through with the rules? Do you discipline in love? Write a list of things you need to work on to be the parent God calls you to be.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 29:17, "Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • The 5 Best Things to Say to a Friend Today

    Posted on May 1, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:12-13 (NIV)

    I remember sitting in the smelly middle school gym like it was yesterday.

    I'd survived the awkward and much-dreaded moments of changing into my PE uniform in the girls' locker room. And now I sat on the hard bleachers listening to the squeak of tennis shoes, the uneven cadence of bouncing balls, the teacher's sharp whistle and the girls laughing behind me.

    They weren't laughing with me. That would have meant I was accepted, wanted and invited in to be a part of their group.

    No, they were laughing at me.

    I was the subject of their gossip. I was the punch line of their jokes.

    And it hurt.

    I imagine you know that hurt too. Change the scenery and people, and this same hurt can be found in most of our lives.

    • When your co-workers all make plans to go to lunch, but you weren't invited.
    • When that other preschool mom says, "Several of us moms are concerned with how aggressive your child seems on the playground."
    • When everyone else's social media makes marriage look dreamy and uber-romantic as you're crying yourself to sleep.

    Then a friend steps in with a gentle smile and a few simple words of encouragement and suddenly you're not alone.

    I want to be that friend for you today.

    In the midst of whatever it is that's made your heart feel knocked off-kilter, can I whisper what I believe are the 5 best things one can say to a friend? And then might you give the gift of saying these things to a friend today?

    This list is from our key verses, Romans 12:12-13, in a section titled "Love."

    1. "You're wonderful."

    (Romans 12:12, "Be joyful in hope ...")

    What a loving thing to infuse joyful hope into your friend's life by reminding her why you think she is wonderful.

    The world is quick to tell us girls all the ways we fall short. We are hyperaware of our faults and frailties.

    So, what a precious gift to remind a friend of specific ways she's a wonderful friend, a wonderful mom, a wonderful Jesus girl, a wonderful wife, a wonderful co-worker, a wonderful person.

    2. "Me too."

    (Romans 12:12, "... patient in affliction ...")

    What a gift to remind a friend we all have afflictions, hurts, faults and tender places. We all get sick both emotionally and physically.

    The patient friend freely gives grace because she so desperately needs it herself. "Me too" acknowledges that I'm no better than you, but together we can get stronger. It is such a loving and disarming admission that we're all in this together.

    3. "I'll pray."

    (Romans 12:12, "... faithful in prayer.")

    Wouldn't it be wonderful to tell a friend you will absolutely be faithful in your prayers for her? I have someone who prays for me faithfully and even texts me Scriptures she's praying.

    But here's what I really love about her. She doesn't just pray about my situations. She prays me through them. I honestly don't know how she hasn't gotten tired of praying for some of my same issues for so long. I get so tired of me ... but she never does. What a gift. A gift I know I must pass on by being faithful in my prayers for others.

    4. "I'll share."

    (Romans 12:13, "Share with the Lord's people who are in need ...")

    When we notice a need in a friend's life, might we be willing to step in and be part of the solution?

    I have a friend who lost every possession she owned due to a chemical spill in her home. So, we threw her a "Job (like the man in the Bible) Party." Each of us brought a few things to help her family start over.

    We didn't come close to fully meeting their financial needs. But we helped build a foundation of restoration and gave this family the assurance that God was working on their behalf.

    5. "Come over."

    (Romans 12:13, "Practice hospitality.")

    Welcoming a friend inside the sacred space of our home is such a needed gesture. There's just something about relationships that are less pixilated when we get eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice and talk. Really talk.

    Over broken bread we share broken hearts. And then we celebrate the parts of us that are still intact. We reach across the table and across our differences to grab hold of the glorious bond of friendship.

    Yes, these are 5 great things, maybe even the best things, to say to a friend. So, today, I pause and say them to you.

    Now, I haven't quite figured out how to do that last one. It would be such a hoot trying to fit you all in my kitchen, but I sure am dreaming about it!

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship. Please show me who I can encourage today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Think of a friend in need. Of the five statements above, which one can you put into practice with her today?

    Power Verse:
    Hebrews 13:16, "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why My Savior Complex Had to Die

    Posted on April 30, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy

    "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 (NLT)

    For years, something in me longed to be a savior. It was the space within my heart that lit with imagination when I watched heroes on TV save a falling baby with a mattress, rescue survivors from a mudslide or wrestle a hijacker to the floor of a plane. I aspired to be a woman with such daring, admired by thousands.

    That desire carried me on a trip to Kolkata, India, where I was determined to make a difference with my positive attitude and can-do spirit!

    I prepared with confidence and traveled with bravado, but when I arrived in the city, my assurance began to wilt. Walking out of the airport into the dead of the night, our team was surrounded at once with impoverished women and children begging. Shouldn't they be sleeping?

    Decrepit buildings lined potholed streets, patrolled by feral dogs and rifle-armed policemen. Rancid smells and unfamiliar sights assailed our senses.

    On the way to our hotel, we drove by a billboard proclaiming, "Kolkata: City of Joy." The very idea whiplashed my brain, and my deepest motives were exposed. What was I thinking? This isn't a job for me ... making Kolkata the City of Joy is truly a God-sized job!

    In that moment, my desire to be a hero was both exposed and crushed. My smile and positive attitude alone would not feed the hungry, free women from oppression or liberate captives from spiritual darkness with. No, only Jesus the Savior could meet such overwhelming need and make a difference! I was simply there to serve Him.

    Why did I want to be a savior? The truth was a mix of good and bad. I desired to help people, ease their suffering and introduce them to a loving God. But all that good was spoiled when mixed with my desire to feel virtuous, to gain recognition from others for the "noble" things I was doing and to feel I had met God's requirements.

    The works inspired by my savior complex might have looked good on the outside, but they were achieving self-gratification rather than pleasing God.

    Jesus is our true hero, the only real Savior. Jesus brings good news to the poor. He can bind up the brokenhearted. He provides freedom for the captives and releases prisoners from the darkness. Jesus brings God's favor, comforts those who mourn and cares for those in need. He gives us beauty instead of ashes, gladness instead of mourning and praise instead of despair (Isaiah 61:1-3). Jesus is beautiful and powerful and worthy of being the Savior.

    In Matthew 20:28, Jesus reveals His superhero, Savior secret to His followers, and it's a huge surprise: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."

    The secret is service. As we serve our Savior and those around us, we can become behind-the-scenes heroes in God's eyes. Humble service may not make the news, but it can definitely change the world.

    Years after my lesson in Kolkata, I walked into a new volunteer position with my same bright smile and positive attitude. The difference was I wasn't there to be a savior, but instead to serve my Savior.

    Jesus is the hero to admire; I'm just there to roll up my sleeves and stand beside Him as He saves the world.

    Jesus, I praise You as the only worthy Savior. Will You change my motives from a desire for admiration to a desire to humbly serve You? Please change my savior complex to a servant's mindset? I long to follow Your example in serving Your people. In Your Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have your motives to serve the Lord ever gotten mixed with a desire for recognition or to feel virtuous?

    What is one way you can serve someone anonymously this week?

    Power Verses:
    Isaiah 43:11, "I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior." (NIV)

    Psalm 115:1, "Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." (NIV)

    Ephesians 6:7, "Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people ..." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Every Doing Starts With a Step

    Posted on April 29, 2014 by Shelene Bryan

    Shelene

    "When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, 'What are you doing here, Elijah?'" 1 Kings 19:13 (NIV)

    When I was about 13 years old, my family vacationed in the beautiful Hawaiian Islands with friends. We heard about a local waterfall with a smooth slide carved into the rocks. We were up for the adventure, so we went to check it out.

    The water slide looked spectacular. As we made our way to the top of the rocks that formed the slide, I noticed a handful of local kids jumping off of the adjacent towering cliffs into the water. Whew, that looked scary!

    After about an hour of fun on that wonderful natural slide (it's still the best water slide I've ever been on in my life), we started eyeing the cliffs and the local kids who were jumping. We looked at each other to see who would conjure up the guts to be the first mainlander to climb the cliff and jump.

    Seeing how I always wanted to beat the boys, I volunteered.

    I made my way up a path cut into the rock wall. As I stepped up to the edge of the cliff, where the overhang suspended me 30 feet above the water, I began to seriously appreciate how high I was. Basically I started to freak out.

    Tim, one of the younger boys in our group, joined me on the cliff. He said, "If you're not going to jump, move over and I'll jump. Are you chicken?"

    Before I could answer his challenge, a local man, who must have been watching me for five minutes as I contemplated jumping, said, "Just step off."

    "What?" I yelled.

    "Just step off," he repeated.

    "Yeah," Tim echoed. "Just step off."

    Just taking a step seemed easy. I took steps all day long. What was the big deal? It's just a step. With that, I moved to the edge, closed my eyes tight and simply took a small step forward. My body instantly plunged into space and I free fell with a scream of thrill all the way to the water. I came up out of the water feeling like a stunt girl on Hawaii Five-0.

    Are you standing on a "cliff," unable to jump? Are you feeling like God wants you to make a radical change, but you just can't? Some people are born jumpers. Others are more like I was: frozen on the edge of that cliff, unwilling to jump but willing to take a small step.

    Throughout history God has prodded His people with questions and suggestions to help us figure out what we are doing for Him. Kind of like that man's comment to me to step off the cliff.

    An example of this kind of question is asked of one of my favorite Bible characters: A prophet named Elijah. Elijah had a deep love of God. And in 1 Kings 19, God quietly called out to Elijah through a whisper in the midst of a series of riotous distractions.

    God asked a very simple question: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

    The question was not for God's benefit and certainly not for His information. God already knew the answer before He whispered the question. God designed that question to help Elijah come to grips with what he was going to do.

    Nearly three millennia later, God asks the same question of me: "What are you doing here, Shelene?"

    His question asks me to consider where I am. It challenges me to see where I need to go. And then it prompts me to take my next step.

    I may not be a jumper, but I can take a step.

    Lord, help me recognize Your voice when You call. Help me recognize Your trustworthy character and trust that You have my best interests in mind. Burn into my heart the desire to do the tasks You want me to accomplish for You. Give me the strength and courage to take the first step toward what You want me to do. In His Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What insecurities are holding you back from taking a step toward the things God is calling you to?

    What small steps can you start taking this week?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 37:23-24, "The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Shelene Bryan. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Resurrection of Compassion

    Posted on April 28, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

    As soon as I answered the phone, I heard the panic in her voice.

    My daughter had called to ask if she had possibly left her new iPod in the car that morning. After searching thoroughly to no avail, her worst fears became a reality — the music player was missing.

    I immediately went to the school and met with the principal to file a report about the missing iPod, where I learned there had been a rash of thefts since school had resumed after the holidays. When my daughter joined us, I could see the sadness in her eyes, hear the loss in her voice and sense the overwhelming regret pouring out of her heart.

    As she settled into the chair beside me, I knew she was beating herself up inside. The lost item had been a special gift. Now it was gone.

    Soon the tears she'd been holding back could no longer be restrained, as she expressed how desperately she wished she could go back in time. What if she had left it at home or in the car? Or not left her purse unattended? What if she had been more responsible?

    Hugging her tightly, I sent her off to class. But as she walked away, slumped shoulders carrying the weight of regret and sorrow, maternal emotion overcame me.

    I wanted to sprint down the hall like a mom on a mission, scoop her up into my arms, and whisk her home where we could snuggle up in a blanket, drink hot chocolate and watch silly cartoons. I felt an overwhelming compassion building up inside me.

    Although my daughter's pain was over a material item that could be replaced in time, in that moment, I just wanted to take away her hurt and regret.

    Could it be that my parental compassion is even a hint of what God feels for us?

    Today's verse reminds us that God feels an immense compassion for us, which far exceeds mine. In Lamentations 3, the prophet Jeremiah (believed to be the author) told God's people that although they had been unfaithful for many years, God would still have compassion on them. And because of that compassion, they could have hope.

    Thinking back on that day at school, I thought of the many years I lived with regret, desperately longing to go back in time and get a second chance. But shame and regret held my heart captive.

    I remembered the heaviness that came with shouldering all the "what ifs" and "if onlys," while beating myself up inside, knowing I couldn't change the past.

    But all those regrets lost their grip on me the day I embraced God's promises of unconditional forgiveness and love. When I finally understood His compassion, I realized that just like the iPod, my past mistakes were history too.

    When we struggle with our own set of "what ifs" and "if onlys," God wants to show us His faithfulness and shower us with compassion, even if we have been unfaithful or messed up more times than we want to count. If we accept Him as our Savior, we open the door for Him to erase our regrets and shame once and for all.

    Last week, on Easter Sunday, we came face to face with the depth of God's mercy, as we celebrated the greatest act of compassion ever known — the death and resurrection of Jesus.

    God was a Father on a mission, compelled by overwhelming compassion and a willingness to do whatever it took to scoop us up into His arms and atone for our mistakes, making them nothing more than history. He died to carry our burdens so we wouldn't have to, and so we could be free to live in peace, not regret.

    Jesus was resurrected so we can experience His mercies anew every day. Now that is an act of compassion worth celebrating.

    Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross for me, so that I might be freed from my past and have eternal life with You. I praise You for Your undeserved compassion and mercy. I love You. In Your Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Have I been carrying the weight of regret rather than allowing Jesus to carry it for me?

    How can I live my life in such a way that expresses praise and thankfulness for His compassion and daily mercies?

    Power Verses:
    Psalm 78:38, "Yet He was compassionate; He atoned for their guilt and did not destroy them. He often turned His anger aside and did not unleash all His wrath." (HCSB)

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Sticker Book

    Posted on April 25, 2014 by Micca Campbell

    Micca

    "Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:5 (NIV 1984)

    It took creative measures to potty train our daughter. No sweet treat was good enough to get her ready for big-girl pants. It was going to take something she really loved to lure her into this next phase of life.

    Suddenly, it came to me. My daughter loves stickers. This gave me a great idea. I hung a large poster board on the bathroom wall. With colorful markers, I divided the poster into weekly sections. In a basket on the floor, I placed an assortment of sparkly stickers.

    Peyton's eyes widened with excitement when I showed her the newly decorated bathroom. "Each time you go to the potty, I will give you a sticker to place on the poster board," I explained. "When you get a certain amount of stickers, I'll take you to the store where you can pick out a prize."

    I've never seen a diaper come off so quickly before in my life. The stickers were working!

    My husband also noticed how well the training was going. One day, he came in from work and tossed a sticker book on the kitchen counter where I was preparing dinner. "What's that?" I questioned.

    "I noticed how the stickers were working for Peyton, and I thought maybe they'd work for you too," he answered. I narrowed my eyes at him and thought, What is he up to?

    "Every time you and I have a romantic night, I'll give you a sticker to put in your sticker book. When you fill it up, I'll take you anywhere in the world you want to go," he continued with a huge grin on his face.

    It's not that I didn't want to have romantic evenings with my husband, but most of the time tiredness trumped romance. You know what I mean?

    As women, we wear a lot of hats that require much responsibility. We constantly pour ourselves out for others. At the end of the day, all I want is a soothing bath and a warm bed. I suppose my husband could interpret that the wrong way. He probably feels like he gets my leftovers. This is not God's plan and it's why He gave married couples this passage:

    "The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control" (I Corinthians 7:4-5).

    God knew both women and men would struggle in this area. Whatever the reason, withholding should be mutual, short-lived and discussed openly and privately between husband and wife. This helps both of you avoid temptation. Communication also helps your spouse hold on to his confidence when he knows the reason behind the struggle.

    After I shared with my husband the cause for my tiredness, he started pitching in around the house. Nothing is more appealing than a man running the vacuum!

    Working together can bring about great results. On the other hand, buying your spouse a sticker book might also move things in the right direction. The best reward, however, isn't a big vacation. The best reward is sticking it out with my husband as we learn to communicate, work together and trust each other through the struggles of everyday life.

    Dear Lord, my spouse is a gift from You. Give me the courage to talk honestly and openly with him. Use communication to deepen and strengthen our relationship in all areas. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Is intimacy difficult for you? Sometimes talking to your spouse is all you need. Other times, seeking medical care is the answer. Start by being open about the issue. You'll be glad you did.

    Practice being open with your spouse and ask God for courage to discuss any topic that is difficult for you.

    Power Verses:
    Ephesians 5:21, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." (NIV)

    Hebrews 13:4, "Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure ..." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I'm Tired of Praying the Same Prayers

    Posted on April 24, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "'Not so, my lord,' Hannah replied, 'I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.'" 1 Samuel 1:15 (NIV 1984)

    Just not having a good day. I'm tired of praying these same prayers!

    I debated whether or not to update my Facebook status to reflect how I really felt. Not every day is a good day. This day was especially hard as I held my prayer journal. I thought, I just don't have it in me to pray those prayers again. I'm exhausted, worn out. I might be able to read my Bible, but pray? Not today.

    I decided to share the reality of my emotional state on Facebook. Hoping my words would encourage someone else who was having a bad day and struggling to pray for things that break her heart.

    There was another woman whose prayers were hard to pray. Her name was Hannah, and for years she prayed for and longed desperately for a child.

    Each year, Hannah traveled with her husband to worship the Lord. One year in particular, the burden of her prayer was more than she could take. The Bible says, "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD" (1 Samuel 1:10, NIV 1984).

    As she prayed in her heart, her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. The priest thought she was drunk! "'Not so, my LORD,' Hannah replied, 'I am a woman who is deeply troubled ... I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief'" (vv. 15,16).

    Eli, the priest, sensed Hannah's pain and stepped into her situation with words to encourage, "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him" (v. 17). The story tells us that Eli's words made a difference, and Hannah left no longer sad.

    While a priest didn't respond to my Facebook status, my dear friend Julie did. She had read my post and called, asking, "Are you OK?"

    With those three short words, my dam of keeping-it-all-together broke. "No, I'm not." The flood of weariness from unanswered prayers poured out.

    From there, my friend reassured me she was praying for me, but it was her challenge that did my heart the most good. Her words enabled me to "go in peace," like Eli told Hannah to do.

    Julie encouraged me to pick up my prayer journal. Not so I could pray the prayers again, but to see God's faithfulness in the past.

    "Go through and read all the prayers God has answered in your life," Julie said. She assured me that remembering God's goodness would fuel me to keep praying and trusting God for those answers yet to come.

    I recognized wise advice, so I took my prayer journal and read of God's faithfulness to me and my family. In fact, I read it out loud. It made a difference in my attitude.

    God finally answered Hannah's prayer for a son after many years of prayer. And while I don't want to wait years to see answers to my prayers, Hannah's story inspires me to keep worshiping, praying and looking for His answers.

    Do you have a prayer you are weary of praying? Maybe it's time to focus on God's faithfulness in those answered prayers in your past.

    Dear Jesus, You are faithful, always. Though I may grow weary in praying for Your will and Your ways to be accomplished in my life, You never grow weary. Though I may not see what You are doing, I know You are working. Today, I rest in the comfort of what You have done in my past and all You will do in my future. In Your Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you have a way to record answered prayers? If not, consider starting a prayer journal. Start by listing ways God has been faithful to you in the past.

    Do you know a friend who is waiting on answers to her prayers and might be growing weary? Call her today to encourage her. Help her see the prayers God has already answered.

    Power Verses:
    Romans 10:17, "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." (NIV)

    Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • When a Thief Steals Your Heart

    Posted on April 23, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds." Titus 2:14 (NLT)

    Melissa was walking home from the bus stop and stopped to talk to the friendly neighbor who always sat in his driveway. He waved her over and invited her to follow him into his garage for a piece of candy.

    She walked into the garage an innocent, trusting girl, but she walked out broken.

    As she grew up, Melissa spent many years trying to heal herself. Over time she perfected the art of wearing a mask, while on the inside she felt unworthy of any good thing. She often wondered if she'd ever be whole.

    Perhaps, like Melissa, a thief stole a piece of your heart. You might have even wondered if God cared that it happened. God does care and to prove it, Titus 2:14 tells us Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice: "He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds."

    In this verse, the apostle Paul describes the death of Jesus as an offering. It was given for those who couldn't make it themselves. Jesus gave His life willingly and to free us from every kind of sin.

    We often give thanks for His sacrifice that removed the debt of our sin. But there is more. Jesus took our sins, but that same act freed us from the effect of others' sins upon our hearts and lives.

    Let that soak into the wounded places for a moment.

    A thief may have tried to steal away your heart, but you aren't destined to be marked by that person's sin. Hurtful touch no longer defines you, for Jesus' touch brings you from death to life. From old to new.

    Because of His sacrifice, this becomes your truth, your new legacy:

    You are beautiful, not because of what you have to give, but because of whose you are.

    You have value, not because of what someone wants from you, but because of what has always been inside of you.

    You are in the process of restoration, and you have purpose because of Christ's love.

    Healing is a transformative process, peeling away one layer at a time. That process begins as we accept that Jesus boldly walked into the den of a thief on our behalf and reclaimed what was His own. That act took the damage inflicted on your soul and carried the burden you were never intended to bear.

    And what happened to that little girl, Melissa? After years of trying to fix herself and hiding her hurt, she asked Jesus to touch the broken places. Today Melissa Taylor is a mom, a wife and a woman who finds joy in pouring out God's hope to others.

    She leads thousands of women across the world in online Bible studies through Proverbs 31 Ministries. If you were to ask Melissa who she is, she would say she doesn't see herself as a woman marked by a thief, but a woman reclaimed and restored by her Savior.

    Father, You see who I am, ready to burst forth because of Your sacrifice. Thank You for touching my heart and my thoughts in a way that is holy and restorative. Thank You for taking away the mark of others' sins upon my heart. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Suzie Eller’s latest book speaks to this topic of healing. Click here to order your copy of The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

    Visit Suzie's blog for a giveaway of her book, The Mended Heart: God's Healing for Your Broken Places. Also on her blog are an online study and the first chapter of The Mended Heart.

    Would you like to bring Suzie Eller to your church? Click here to find out more about considering Suzie as your next retreat/keynote speaker.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Read Isaiah 64:8.

    Jesus never saw a single person as too damaged or broken. How do you believe God, the One who created you, sees you? What might His vision for you be?

    Power Verses:
    Matthew 20:28, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." (NLT)

    Hebrews 7:25, "Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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