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Luke

  • Why Me?

    Boyd

    “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Luke 1:43

    Sometimes you wonder why God has blessed you so much. You pinch yourself because of the overwhelming blessing of God. It may be gratitude for life itself or for a new baby. It may be the blessing of God a good friend is experiencing. Your joy may be because your children married people who place God at the top of their priority list, or because your career has taken off to a level of success you never imagined, and your financial abundance exceeds your expectations many times over. You often question why you are the recipient of God’s magnificent grace. The magnitude of His blessing seems to be greater than normal because you are the object of Almighty God’s sovereign selection of unmerited favor.

    It is good that you have not gotten over your gratitude to God. Your faith would be suspect if you routinely expected God to go over the top on your behalf. This type of presumption regarding God’s favor is influenced by pride because it not only expects but demands the blessing of God. However, joyful obedience is God’s expectation of you; He expects your surrender and submission. Doing His will is the least you can do, for He has chosen you for this opportunity to exalt Him. Never get over the fact that faith in God and obedience to His commands position you to be blessed at His discretion (1 Chronicles 29:12).

    Furthermore, embrace those who have been graced with God’s blessing. Wish only His very best for them. Do not be jealous because you did not receive what they received. The Bible says that the Lord made us all unique. “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly” (Romans 12:6a NASB). Be grateful that you can hang out with those on whom God’s hand rests. He will choose to bless others differently than you, but blessing differentiations are meant to promote celebration, not division. This is how God expresses His sovereign control. He even blesses those outside the faith to promote His kingdom. He uses His indiscriminate blessings to draw good, but unredeemed people to Himself.

    Blessing is the Lord’s lightning rod for the remembrance of a righteous God. The next time a friend is blessed by God, turn your inner snarl into an authentic smile. Be extremely grateful that He allows you to live or work with someone who is blessed to have the hand of God on his or her life. “Rejoice with those who rejoice…” (Romans 12:15a). These special, chosen servants are rare indeed. They are energizing to be around because they encourage you to be better. You don’t feel patronized, but privileged to be in their presence.

    Trustworthy followers of Jesus are rare, so seek to learn from them and model their wise and humble ways. Watch how God works in their lives. Emulate their pure hearts for the Lord. God has you where you are for a season. Seize this time to learn from those who know how to lean on the Lord. Be thrilled that He has trusted you with this relational stewardship. God’s blessing is bountiful, so be aggressively appreciative that you and others are so blessed. Gratefully accept His blessing on your life and the lives of others. When you ask, “Why me?” remember it is because He wants you to be blessed on His behalf. Therefore ask, “Why not me?”

    Taken from the March 23rd reading in Boyd’s 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God vol. 1”

    Post/Tweet today: Our blessings are the Lord’s lightning rod for remembrance of our generous God. #whyme?

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Unjust Treatment

    Boyd

    And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? Luke 18:7

    What happens when we are treated unjustly? A written agreement is not honored. Our hard work goes unrecognized or even worse, someone else gets the credit. We are passed over for a promotion, because we did not play politics. A friend will not meet to work out our differences. We feel ignored, mistreated and misunderstood. Our reputation may be bruised, even battered. Unjust treatment can feel like torture. It tests our resolve to persevere in our trust in the Lord.

    What happens in our hearts when we are treated unfairly? They can harden under the pressure of pride, or soften under the influence of humility. An offended heart can lash back in anger, or it can respond in repentance and seek to restore the relationship. Deep disappointment from someone we really respect can challenge our confidence in their character and tempt us to dismiss them. Thus, it's critical that we forgive fast and ask Christ to lead our conversations.

    “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

    Furthermore, we are wise to invite the peace of God to protect our heart and mind. His peace is a buffer between fleshly feelings and Spirit-led emotions. His peace gives us the courage to be a peacemaker, instead of defending our desire to be right. In persistent prayer, God’s peace renews our minds with His thoughts of faith, hope and love. He keeps the devil’s lies away from our thought process, so we can prayerfully process God’s will. Christ’s peace stabilizes our soul.

    Therefore, our unjust treatment is an opportunity for us to ask our heavenly Father to purify our motives and accelerate our forgiveness. Love does not stew in self pity, rather by God’s grace, it wipes clean any dark offense on the white board of our heart. We seek to be reconciled--not to be declared right. We value the relationship far beyond any monetary loss or gain. We die to ourselves, so Christ can come alive in our lives. Unjust treatment will be justified in God’s timing.

    “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart” (Matthew 18:33).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, I trust You to make injustices right, and use me in the meantime to model grace, love and forgiveness.

    Related Readings: Job 34:31; Psalm 88:1; 1 Kings 8:39; 2 Corinthians 2:5, 2:9; Revelation 6:10

    Post/Tweet today: God’s peace is a buffer between fleshly feelings and Spirit-led emotions. #unjusttreatment

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Wisdom Hunters Resources / A registered 501 c3 ministry info@mail.wisdomhunters.com /www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Time to Get Up

    Kyle

    "So he got up and went to his father ..." Luke 15:20a (NIV)

    After high school graduation, I joined my senior class for a trip to Dallas, Texas. While there, for the first time ever I saw someone bungee jump. At several hundred feet off the ground, this was one of the tallest jumps in the country.

    We watched as a guy got ready to make the leap with nothing but a chord strapped to his ankles. He dove headfirst, and it was clear my fellow students were impressed.

    Trying to sound cool enough to bungee jump but too cool to actually spend the money, in that moment, here's what came out of my mouth: "I'd do that, but I'm not going to spend 40 bucks on it."

    Suddenly there was a little commotion behind me. One of the girls in my class pulled out a $20 bill and asked, "Would this help?"

    At that point, my back was against the wall. A girl had called my bluff — in front of everyone. I could've said, "Well, I'm not going to spend 20 bucks on it either," but that wouldn't have gone over well. So without stopping to consider the fact that I don't like heights, I took the $20 bill and got in line.

    As the crane lowered, I told myself: It's not that high. But once the platform was at ground level and I stepped onboard, my nerves began. The platform rose higher and higher until the crane finally lurched to a halt. I stepped to the edge and made a horrible choice: I looked down.

    Overcome with paralyzing fear, I turned to the crane operator and said, "I can't do it. I just can't do it!" But then a thought struck me, and I asked, "Would you just give me a shove?"

    Apparently I wasn't the first guy too scared to jump, but too embarrassed to ride the platform back down. The worker replied, "Well, we're not legally allowed to push someone off."

    Frustrated with his answer, I replied, "Do you have any other ideas for me?"

    "Well, sometimes it works if you just close your eyes and fall," he said, adding, "Anybody can do that."

    So I stepped to the edge, closed my eyes and I'm proud to say that ... well, I didn't so much as bungee jump, I bungee fell.

    It's one thing to say what you are going to do, but it's another thing to do it. Action is where a lot of us get stuck. We know what needs to be done, but when we step out onto the platform, we just can't move.

    This is an opportunity for an "AHA" moment. In Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son tells of one of these experiences. The younger son asked his father for his inheritance early, but then wasted it. After losing everything, he came to his sense and experienced an AHA moment. Moments like this always include:

    1. A Sudden Awakening 2. Brutal Honesty 3. Immediate Action

    In Luke 15:20 we read a simple phrase that changed the personal story of the Prodigal Son. Jesus simply said, "So he got up ..."

    He took immediate action. He recognized that it was time to get up. And unless our personal stories read, "So she got up," or "So he got up," then nothing really changes in our lives.

    I want you to see a connection between these two phrases in Luke 15:

    "He came to his senses ..." (verse 17)

    "So he got up ..." (verse 20)

    Without verse 20, verse 17 doesn't really matter.

    My question for you is: When are you going to get up?

    When are you going to join a Bible study group?

    When are you going to talk to one of your coworkers about your faith?

    When is verse 20 going to be a part of your story?

    It's time to get up.

    Dear Lord, please show me where I need to take action in my life and give me the courage and strength to move forward. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Remember, awakening happens to us, honesty happens in us, but nothing really changes unless action comes out of us.

    In what areas of life are you finding yourself stuck? Identify what's holding you back and make a plan to take action and overcome your obstacles.

    Power Verse: Luke 19:8, "But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, 'Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.'" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Kyle Idleman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks David C. Cook for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Scurrying or Seated?

    Karen

    "She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations." Luke 10:39-40 (NASB)

    I glanced at the clock on the wall. How was it 11:45 already? Where had the time gone? It was nearly noon and I wasn't even halfway through my to-do list for the morning.

    My day had started hours earlier when I had bounded out of bed with a goal of knocking off a bevy of tasks around the house, on the computer and in my little hometown. Scrawled out on a baby-blue legal pad, my plan included things to cook, calls to make and errands to run.

    I'd started whittling down my list as soon as my family left for school and work. Now at mid-day, I still had four or five items left undone and no way to accomplish them before my 1 p.m. dentist appointment to get a crown on my tooth.

    My spirit sank. What's my problem? I wondered. Did I underestimate how long each task would take? Or did I overestimate my ability to execute them quickly? Or, perhaps, it was a little bit of both.

    I also hadn't factored in the interruptions. A text from my daughter needing help on a tax form. An email from a friend wanting a recipe for company coming over later that day. A neighbor whose computer was on the blink and needed to borrow ours to make an order online. More distractions and delays.

    A little nervous about my dentist appointment, I called my friend Mary to ask for prayer. As we visited, I shared the details of my frustrating morning, and asked how her day was going. She replied that she hadn't completed what she'd hoped to either, concluding, "But I had a good long time alone with God this morning praying and reading my Bible which is what I needed most, so it's okay."

    My heart sank as I realized my problem: I hadn't taken time for the most important detail of the day. Spending time with God wasn't even on my radar. Maybe if I had spent time with the Lord I wouldn't have felt so much frustration at my lack of productivity.

    Our key verse today tells of another woman who put chores ahead of spending time with Jesus. The story in Luke 10 tells of two sisters and how they spent their time when Jesus came to visit. Martha was busy scurrying to get to the end of her "to-do list," but Mary chose a different path. She settled herself at Jesus' feet, soaking in His words and His presence.

    Later on we read that when Martha complained to the Lord that Mary wasn't helping her, He replied, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42, NASB).

    There's no doubt Martha's sister Mary also had things to do. So did my friend Mary. But in the case of each Mary, they chose to do the best thing first: position themselves where they could clearly hear from the Lord.

    Perhaps today we can set aside our to-do lists until we've mimicked the Marys. Let's vow to meet with God before we attempt to meet the challenges of the day. Yes, maybe that's the key. Let's stop scurrying and be seated instead.

    There is always plenty of room at His feet.

    Dear Lord, help me to take time today to meet with You before I try to tackle the tasks of the day. Give me the perspective that You are more important than my never-ending list of tasks. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Can you remember a time when you didn't get to the end of your to-do list? Now, think back. Did you have a time alone with God that day? How, if so, how did it make a difference?

    Power Verse: Psalm 27:8, "You have said, 'Seek my face.' My heart says to you, 'Your face, LORD, do I seek.'" (ESV)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Jesus Came to Heal Hurting Hearts

    Suzie

    "The Spirit of the Lord is on Me. He has put His hand on Me to preach the Good News to poor people. He has sent Me to heal those with a sad heart. He has sent Me to tell those who are being held that they can go free. He has sent Me to make the blind to see and to free those who are held because of trouble." Luke 4:18 (NLV)

    "Why can't you get it together?"

    "If you would just try harder."

    Have you heard any of these statements? Maybe you've even said them to yourself.

    Perhaps those who stood on a hot hillside in Nazareth were asking themselves the same questions. Many tried hard to follow all the religious laws, but knew they fell short. Would Jesus give them more rules to follow? Imagine their surprise as Jesus spelled out His personal mission statement:

    I've come to open the eyes of the blind.

    I've come to set the prisoner free.

    I've come with good news for the poor in spirit.

    I've come to heal the brokenhearted.

    The crowd must have been shocked by His words, for they expected a warrior, not a heart surgeon. Jesus Himself was setting the record straight. He came so that we might be made whole ... through Him.

    For those who had been trying harder, striving more, it was a transforming message. They were accustomed to following rules or meeting expectations of man, rather than resting in the power of their almighty God.

    When I became a believer, I didn't understand Jesus' mission statement. I was dealing with untended brokenness and trying everything to fix myself. When I grasped the power of Luke 4:18, this truth changed me: The power of the cross is not found in what I do, but in what has already been done for me.

    Jesus didn't mean for us to do this alone. It's not our strength or power that will transform us. Yes, we make changes. Yes, we open our broken heart to His tender touch. Yes, we allow Him to move us in uncomfortable directions to discover new paths — and leave old ones behind. But we are in a partnership with God ... and He's bigger.

    I also discovered I didn't have to earn God's love. Maybe, like me, you thought God would love you one day, when you had it all together.

    Jesus' mission statement proclaims that He loves us today. With our baggage and hurting hearts. When we grasp that kind of love, it changes us. It compels us to return that love, and to trust Jesus from our hearts.

    This trust helps us listen for His voice. We sense when He is teaching or redirecting us. We weigh temptation in light of our love for our heavenly Father. This relationship helps us discover our "true selves, [our] child-of-God selves" (John 1:12, The Message).

    Last, Luke 4:18 reminded me that I didn't have to run away just because I felt broken.

    A hurting heart can send us running down paths we may regret, searching for something or someone to ease our pain. Jesus' mission statement invites us to stop running and rest in Him, expectant that our true selves will emerge with His healing touch.

    The truth of Luke 4:18 is ours today to hold close, for Jesus came to heal our hurting hearts.

    Dear Jesus, for the longest time I've been concentrating on my efforts, but today I expectantly rest in You. Thank You that the power of the cross is not in what I do, but in what has already been done for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Today, you read about what you don't have to do. You don't need to fix yourself, or earn God's love or run any more. In fact, the more you don't do these things, the more you live in Him. The more you don't do these things, the more you build a foundation of rest and trust. The more you don't do these things, the more joy you rediscover in your faith.

    What will you not do today?

    Power Verses: Psalm 147:3, "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (NIV)

    Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Five Scriptures to Pray Over Your Marriage

    Lysa

    "[Jesus] also told them this parable: 'Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?'" Luke 6:39 (NIV)

    I sat down to write some thoughts for a young friend getting married. I wanted these words to be encouraging but also realistic. I didn't want to pen the typical "best wishes on your wedding day." Wishes might be sweet for a church full of flowers and white tulle, but it takes a whole lot more for a marriage to go the distance.

    So I wrote honest thoughts as they came to me:

    "Being married is incredibly difficult. Being married is amazing. Being married can seem impossibly hard. Being married can seem incredibly beautiful. There is no other person who can frustrate me the way my husband can. There is no other person who can make me feel as loved as my husband can."

    As these words tumbled out I wondered if my friend would think me a bit crazy. One minute I painted marriage as blissful as a kite catching wind and rising to the sky. And the next minute it was as if the string had gotten caught in a thorny bush and sent the kite crashing to the ground with thuds of disappointment.

    So which is it? Bliss or disappointment?

    It's a fragile blend of both.

    In the end, I crumpled up my original note and simply wrote this: "Determine to pray more words over your marriage than you speak about your marriage."

    I wrote that note not because it had been true for my relationship but because suddenly I wanted it to be true.

    The teacher being taught by her own lesson.

    And you know what I've discovered in the weeks since? I haven't been praying nearly enough for my marriage.

    I think about things. Discuss things. Complain about things. Attempt to fix things. Work on things. Apologize for things. Want to change things. And then I discuss things some more.

    But talking about things, thinking about things and working on things ... these are not at all the same as praying for them.

    In Luke 6:39 Jesus asks an important but simple question, "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit?" My husband and I need Jesus leading us, guiding us, teaching us, redirecting us and showing us how to have a marriage that honors Him and each other.

    This year, my goal is to spend a lot less time in the pit. And I think praying more words over my marriage will certainly be key to this.

    Here are some Scriptures I'm praying:

    "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters ... You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (2 Samuel 22:17 and 29, NIV).

    "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6, NIV).

    "What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NIV).

    "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

    "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

    Actually getting intentional about praying for something in my marriage today is the first step toward that marriage I've been dreaming of—the one that seemed so possible for Art and me 20 years ago in that church full of flowers and tulle.

    Making sure I'm headed in that direction as a wife is only a few intentional prayers away.

    Dear Lord, I want to honor You completely with my marriage. Help me to remain dedicated to praying over my relationship with my husband. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: It's so tempting to think praying for your marriage would be a good idea but then not take the next step.

    Assign yourself the next step you want to take with getting more intentional in praying for your marriage. Choose one of the Scriptures above and pray it out loud each day for the next week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Things Have Got to Be Different This Year

    Glynnis

    "When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, 'Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.' Simon answered, 'Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break." Luke 5:4-6 (NIV)

    "Something's got to change!"

    Have you ever said that in January? I sure have.

    It's usually when I'm frustrated with myself for something I'm not doing. For example, my broken-record complaints focus on the same three things: losing weight, better managing my work load, and spending more time with people I love.

    It's not for lack of trying my situations don't change; I work hard. But recently it dawned on me that I keep trying the same things in varying measures. I tried adding five minutes to my elliptical routine, and spent more time on my emails. Results: clothes still tight, inbox still overflowing. Time with family? I'm not sure more trips to the grocery store together qualify.

    The problem isn't my effort; it's my approach. Something has to change.

    There's a story in the Bible where Jesus told a disciple to change his approach. It happened at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, as He was identifying and calling His disciples.

    In Luke 5, Jesus borrowed the boat of the fisherman called Simon Peter to teach the people on the shore. When He finished teaching, Jesus told Simon to put the boat in deep water and let down the nets.

    Simon surely was skeptical. Can't you see him raising his eyebrows as he looks at Jesus then at the water? He explains he's been fishing all night and hasn't caught anything. What he doesn't say, but might have thought is: Day isn't the best time to fish. Besides, all these people on the shore have probably scared them away. And no disrespect intended Jesus, but you are a carpenter/preacher—I am a fisherman. I might know a little something about fishing.

    But to Simon's credit he obeys Jesus' unusual request to fish differently. The Scripture records they caught so many fish the nets began to break.

    This story challenges my status quo. It's a call to change my approach to problem solving. If I want things to be different this year, I must do things differently.

    For me, like Simon Peter, this starts with listening to and obeying the voice of Jesus for new directions.

    This is hard for a routine-loving girl like me. I'm not a fan of different because it often feels uncomfortable. I prefer to keep things the way they are ... except that doesn't always work.

    So I prayed about these three areas in my life, and asked God to show me a fresh approach for each. Being a faithful God, He gave me some options to shake up my routines.

    1. Rather than go to the gym at night and stick with the elliptical machine, He asked me to go in the morning and incorporate strength training. So I signed up for a morning exercise class at church.

    2. Rather than try to manage my emails by spending more time on them, I'm unsubscribing to every list. I'll visit websites and blogs on my schedule.

    3. Realizing I've become too inward focused, I've made a list of special days, activities, and places I want to go where I can invite others to join me.

    That day on the lake, Jesus invited Simon Peter to go into the deep waters—a place Simon had been many times before. But under Jesus' direction and with a new approach, Simon saw amazing results.

    Can the same be true for me? For you? As we start 2014, may we become women who listen for the voice of Jesus as He speaks new ways into old habits. May we raise our faces to the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit. And may we trust Jesus as He takes us in to deep waters, where under His direction, we'll see amazing results.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being a God of new things. You have called me in to new life with You, and Your ways are higher than mine. Help me see those areas of my life that need a breath of the newness of Your Spirit. I want to be a woman who sets aside her comfort and routine to fish in deep waters with You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: What problem have you been trying to solve in your life by using the same approach as always?

    Pray and ask God to show you one thing you can do differently starting today.

    Power Verse: Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?" (NIV)

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Hate Saying "No"

    Crystal

    "As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!' 'Martha, Martha,' the Lord answered, 'you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10:38-42 (NIV)

    I wanted to run away from it all. I was exhausted, stressed to the max, and overwhelmed.

    We'd recently moved to a new city so my husband could start a new job. I had a newborn, a two-year-old, and a four-year-old. Not only that, but my online business was keeping me busy.

    There were never enough hours in the day to do it all. It felt like no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had a massive weight of guilt hanging over me and whispering in my ear. They were actually more like hisses telling me I should be ten other places, focusing on ten other priorities that were desperate for my attention.

    My house was constantly a mess, and I was forever behind. Most days, I couldn't think straight or get much accomplished. I was just plain bone-tired from late nights working on projects, middle-of-the-night feedings for the baby, and early mornings completing business tasks before my kids woke up.

    But my Type A self wouldn't allow me to admit how bad things were to anyone. I just kept pressing forward, kept saying "yes" to that opportunity, and "yes" to this project, and "yes" to that responsibility. I told myself if I'd get a little more organized, or try a little harder, or sleep a little less, somehow I'd find a way to do it all.

    Like Martha in Luke's Gospel, I was an expert at staying busy with serving and doing. But I was never able to take time to slow down because I placed my worth and value in my productivity.

    So I just kept right on saying yes — even though it was destroying my health and my sanity ... and threatening to take my marriage, family, and business right down with it.

    Finally, I got to the end of my rope. I couldn't keep going like that. Something had to give. So I sat down with my husband and tearfully told him, "I can't do this anymore. I'm overwhelmed. I'm exhausted. Help!"

    I was expecting a big hug or words of sympathy. But instead, my husband looked at me sympathetically and said, "Crystal, you know that you are the one who is bringing most of this on yourself."

    That was the last thing I wanted to hear, and his words stung! However, I ended up having to admit he was right.

    I didn't have to say "yes" to every commitment and opportunity that came my way. Nobody and nothing was obligating me to do anything except me!

    Since that difficult time in my life, I've grown to love the word "no." Not because it's fun to say, but because I've realized that when I say "no" to one thing that's a lower priority, it allows me to say "yes" to my highest priorities.

    As the story of Martha powerfully illustrates, Christ didn't come to make us Superwomen. He didn't come to give us the tools to become powerhouses of productivity. Instead, He came to give us abundant life, rest, peace, and joy.

    Saying "no"—even though it's hard to do—frees me up to say "yes" to what matters. And that's a beautiful thing.

    Dear Lord, help me to remember that You care much more about my heart than what I accomplish on my to-do list. Give me the courage to say "no" to those things in my life that are keeping me from being able to say "yes" to the best. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: How am I bringing stress into my life by being unwilling to admit that I can't do it all?

    What mediocre things do I need to say "no" to in order to start saying "yes" to the best?

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

    © 2014 by Crystal Paine. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Not What I Expected

    Lynn

    "So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." Luke 15:20 (NIV)

    My daughter, her two friends and I packed the car for our overnight trip to the mountains. Our plan was to pick up my son and head for the slopes for a wonderful day of tubing and making memories in the snow. Then reality set in with a series of disappointments.

    Disappointment #1: When we arrived at my son's apartment, he had decided not to go snow tubing with us.

    Disappointment #2: The bitter wind made me want to crawl back in my car.

    Disappointment #3: The girls weren't having as much fun as I had expected.

    Disappointment #4: When we arrived at the cabin, it wasn't clean.

    By this point, disappointment draped itself over my heart. So when the girls asked if there was an alternative to the homemade lasagna I'd planned for supper, I felt like losing it! I didn't yell, but you know you don't have to yell at someone to "yell" at someone!

    The small issues throughout the day had created one big issue in my heart. My expectations that this mountain excursion was going to recharge, rejuvenate, renew me didn't happen!

    Expectations of others can easily cause bumps in my relationships. Often when I hit one of those bumps, I choose to wait. Wait for the phone call, text or email saying "I'm sorry" before moving on.

    However, the Bible shows me a different way to respond to unmet expectations using the example of the father in the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15.

    In the story, the son showed an audacious amount of disrespect by requesting his inheritance while his father was still living. As a parent, you could interpret this rudeness on endless levels. I am sure the father was more inconvenienced or disappointed than I was that snowy day in the mountains.

    To make matters worse, the son's choices after receiving the money caused more heartache. He had wasted his entire inheritance and had nowhere to go. So this desperate young man headed home.

    It is the father's next step that humbles me and causes me to reconsider my response to disappointment: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him ..."

    While he was still a long way off ...

    The father had no idea why the son was returning. He could have been coming to ask for more money or possessions or land. However, no matter the son's motives or attitude, the father's love was in motion as soon as he saw his son. Not holding back to see what the son had to say, the father gave his love.

    I wonder if like me, the father was ever tempted to keep score. If he did, not only would it have been uneven, there would have been a huge deficit. Father: 100. Son: -100.

    Thankfully, God, our Heavenly father, is like the father in Luke 15. He continually extends love to us despite the deficit we bring to the relationship. He settled the score when Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin.

    Because God freely and unconditionally pours love on me, I can freely give to others. I, too, can give up keeping score—with my family, my friends, even with the rude woman in customer service.

    Because I am forgiven, loved and embraced I can forgive, love and embrace.

    The father demonstrated love. He ran, he kissed, he gave. Love that is demonstrated is love that is felt. John 15:13 says, "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (NIV).

    For me, I demonstrate love by laying down my expectations of others and stop keeping score. This becomes easier when I understand God's great, unconditional love for me.

    Thank you, Father for demonstrating a different way. Your love, through us, makes it possible to love others. Help me stop keeping score and open my eyes to see Your love poured over me. Teach me to rely on that love so I can pour love over others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Write a note to that person in your life you've had a hard time not keeping score with. Assure them of your love for them!

    Power Verse: John 15:9, "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Vulnerable Strength

    Suzie

    "If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!" Luke 6:32 (NLT)

    Do you meet aggression with aggression and call it strength? Sometimes I do and it leads me to a place I never intended.

    Not long ago a friend told me someone had revealed her secret, and she wondered if I knew who it was. Though I told her no, she asked again. And yet again. Finally I realized she suspected I was the leak.

    My first reaction was surprise, then frustration.

    If you really knew me, you'd know I don't tell secrets.

    I didn't do anything wrong.

    I answered your question. Why are you still asking?

    There were many things I could have done in that instant, but somehow proving I was right was more important. Though I didn't raise my voice, it was clear in my stance and terse response that I was angry.

    Moments later, the Holy Spirit began to show me the bigger picture. My friend's questions were borne out of frustration and fear as the spilled secret could have created damage. Sadly, rather than have a conversation, I took a stand.

    Often, our default in these types of situations is to defend ourselves by meeting aggression with aggression. To throw a punch when we feel punched, whether that is verbal or passive aggressive.

    But is this really strength?

    In Luke 6, Jesus is teaching the disciples a hard truth. Life is not always fair. You might be accused unjustly. You might take a punch that hurts. Someone may move from friend to frenemy and it won't feel good.

    It's easy to respond in love in comfortable situations and with people who are kind. But what about the harder places? Jesus is showing the disciples that rather than aggression, there's a vulnerable strength that can heal conflict and lead to resolution.

    Vulnerable strength isn't a verbal assault. You speak the truth in love, but you let it settle rather than hammer it in.

    Vulnerable strength isn't an emotional outburst, rather it's working through misunderstanding.

    Vulnerable strength isn't one-sided, but it's stepping into another person's shoes for a moment to expand your understanding of the conflict.

    But this is the hard part. You might still get punched verbally, and you might still be at odds. Vulnerable strength doesn't guarantee a happy ending.

    When aggression is met with aggression, there are bound to be casualties. Vulnerable strength reduces the potential for casualties and paves a path for resolution. And if not, then as Luke 6:35 says, "you will truly be acting as children of the Most High ..." (NLT).

    Wouldn't it be unfortunate if we made it to the end of our lives and only loved those who loved us? What might we miss in those harder places of our faith?

    As I changed my approach to vulnerable strength rather than aggression, my friend and I worked through that painful conversation. Thanks to the Holy Spirit's prompting, I have an opportunity to move the focus from what I think someone does wrong, to what I can do better.

    Dear Lord, I have been focusing on what others said or did, instead of asking for Your insight. I have called aggression strength, whether it's been passive, or lashing out, or shutting out. Today, may I love others who seem unlovable with vulnerable strength. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond: Find a quiet place. Write down a recent offense and how it makes you feel. Then ask God to help you answer these questions:

    1. What were they trying to say? (Step into their shoes for a moment.) 2. How did I respond? (Shift the focus from their wrongdoing to your potential to grow.) 3. In what ways might I have responded differently? (How might this have impacted the direction of the conversation?)

    Power Verses: Matthew 5:46, "If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much." (NLT)

    1 Peter 1:2b, "May God give you more and more grace and peace." (NLT)

    © 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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