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  • Freedom From the Facade

    Freedom From the Facade by Amy Carroll

    “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 (NIV)

    There’s nothing like a picture from high school to remind you of your former goofy self. An old friend recently posted a picture of a group of us on a field trip that made me both giggle and blush.

    There I stood in the middle of the Smithsonian Museum, posed in a feisty Charlie’s Angels stance with my friends, big hair poofing and hip cocked like I owned the world. Remember that weird teen stage that was a mix of self-consciousness and arrogance?

    I laughed at the picture, and then I started to think about that girl — the Amy of decades ago.

    That opinionated girl who thought she understood the world … who had equal measures of sass, attitude and idealism … who always saw the best in people … who loved to be known as “a little different.” That girl has turned into a woman who now feels comfortable in her own skin, but she disappeared behind a facade of her own making — a mask of perfection — for years in between.

    I’m not sure when the change happened. Maybe it was when I tried to measure up in a legalistic church. Or maybe it was when I took on the weight of wanting to be the perfect wife and mom. But probably it was when I started valuing what others thought about me more than protecting the woman God had created me to be.

    Day by day, the true me started to disappear. One small choice after another led me down a path of hiding behind a facade of perfection rather than living the full and free life God had for me. Maybe you recognize yourself here too. You’ve started creating a false “I’ve-got-it-all-together” image to keep people from knowing the real you with your flaws and failures. It feels safer behind that wall, but it’s exhausting. And it’s soul-crushing.

    For a while, even Scripture confused me on this matter, so I sought out a trusted friend to help me. Across the table, I exclaimed to her, “But the Bible does tell us to be perfect! Right there in Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’” She just smiled and sent me home to do some studying and to look up the meaning of the word perfect in its context. I hurried home to do my assignment.

    As the root definition of the word flashed onto my computer screen, I sat in teary-eyed silence. The truer translation of the word perfect in this verse is to be “whole,” “complete” or “mature.” The Amplified Bible says it this way, “You, therefore, will be perfect [growing into spiritual maturity both in mind and character, actively integrating godly values into your daily life], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

    I might be mixed up about lots of things, but suddenly I had clarity on a big step toward breaking up with perfect. God is calling us from the hollowness of self-made perfection to the wholeness of God-given completion. He is doing a perfecting work in us, freeing us day by day from our false image of perfection, until we live in the freedom, joy and fullness of life for which we were made.

    While our pursuit of perfection and a flawless image drains us of energy, God’s work of perfecting fills us with peace. We can trust that God is big enough to turn even our flaws into something usable and to redeem the failures of our past. Living in God’s image the beautiful unique women He created us to be, is a huge step toward true maturity.

    Creating an image is measuring up. Living in God’s image is filling up. Let’s step into His image and complete our own!

    Lord, I want to live in Your perfecting power, the work that makes me whole, complete and mature. Help me put down my mask of perfection and step into the freedom of living in Your image. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 18: 32, “It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what ways have you chosen to create your own image instead of living authentically in God’s image?

    How has that choice shaped the way you feel about yourself or changed your relationships with others?

    Write out a prayer asking God to help you step out from behind the mask and to live in freedom.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • How’s Your Heart?

    How’s Your Heart? by Boyd Bailey

    “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

    “How’s your heart?” This is the question he asked me almost every time we talked, which was often. But I will not hear these words from him anymore in this life.

    Recently after a 2-1/2 year battle with cancer, Scott — my friend and coworker — went to be with Jesus. I miss him, and selfishly, I need to hear his loving question: “Boyd, how is your heart?”

    To me, Scott was a spiritual doctor who cared about my heart’s condition. He knew the quality of my life depended on the health of my heart. He reminded me of my need for the Great Physician.

    Today’s key verse says everything flows from your heart — your hopes, your dreams, your fears, your anxieties, your anger, your forgiveness, your humility, your peace, your greed, your generosity, and your love. Yes, everything that makes you who you are is in your heart. So above all else, your heart needs a guard — and God is your guard.

    When the Holy Spirit fills your heart by faith, He flushes out sin and leaves enough room for the Fruit of the Spirit. Only a heart guarded by God can bear up under the influence of ungodliness. A heart submitted to Christ in prayer is protected by Christ with peace.

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

    Unhealthy heart conditions include:

    • Faintheartedness
    • Loss of heart
    • A broken heart
    • A foolish heart
    • A hard heart

    The remedy for these spiritual ailments is a whole heart for Jesus.

    You may feel fainthearted today — weary in your faith and work. If so, take time to slow down, rest and allow the Holy Spirit to restore your heart to wholeness.

    A loss of heart is a reflection of hope deferred, which creates a sickly soul condition. But hope in Christ gives your heart peace and reassurance.

    Perhaps your heart is broken by past hurt or present rejection. Seek your heavenly Father to be forgiven and to forgive.

    Be on guard! A foolish heart forgets God or even stops believing God. Excessive worry can act like a form of atheism. When we are paralyzed by fear and anxiety, we sometimes behave as if God does not exist. So, we must guard against a foolish heart by gaining a heart of wisdom.

    Most disturbing is a hard heart — someone jaded by injustice and/or the lack of integrity in others. Fortunately, by faith in Jesus a hard heart can be replaced by a heart born from above. A heart from the Lord gives us a heart for the Lord.

    So, in honor of Scott, let me ask you, friend, “How is your heart?”

    Heavenly Father, I ask that You would give me Your heart of love, grace and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 6:45, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which spiritual ailment in your heart needs you to apply God’s remedies?

    Read and meditate on these Scriptures for more encouragement: Isaiah 26:3 Matthew 6:25-34 John 14:27 Ephesians 3:19, 6:18. © 2016 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House 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

  • Preparing for Marriage: 4 Must-Read Books for Newly Engaged Couples


    You’re engaged! Excitement sets in and your head spins just thinking about all of the details to work out – the dress, the venue, the invites. But what about your marriage? Planning for your life together after your big day is an important and often overlooked step. Set yourselves up for a relationship rooted in Christ with these must-read engagement and marriage preparation books.

    All books are Buy One Get One 50% Off at Family Christian now through August 25. Buy one for yourself and one for your soon-to-be spouse! Then discuss what you learned together.

    Things I Wish I'd Known Before We Got Married Bestselling author and marriage counselor, Gary Chapman, put together this practical book to help couples prepare for marriage and learn the skills of working together as intimate teammates. This book is packed with wisdom and tips that will help you develop the loving, supportive and mutually beneficial marriage both men and women long for.

    Preparing for Marriage Begin the lifelong task of building a strong Christian marriage with eight sessions of fun, romantic study that will help you target areas for growth in your relationship. You can work through the book as a couple, with a pastor, with a premarital counselor or with a small group. Don't just plan your wedding, prepare for your marriage!

    Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts Relationship experts Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott offer time-tested marriage principles to help couples debunk myths, establish lines of communication, fight a good fight, master money management, and become true soul mates with seven questions to ask before and after you marry.

    Before You Say "I Do" This popular and helpful interactive workbook is designed to strengthen your love relationship and deepen your bond. You'll find all you need for fun and thoughtful discussions as you explore what the Bible teaches about marriage, what makes you feel loved and how to handle conflict.

    What’s the best marital advice you received before tying the knot?

  • No One is Beyond the Reach of Truth

    No One is Beyond the Reach of Truth by Lysa TerKeurst

    “‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.’” Luke 8:39 (NIV)

    Do you ever find it stressful to talk about Jesus with friends and family members?

    I certainly do sometimes, but I think it’s important to think about. We’ve all got people in our lives who need us to break past our hesitations and share the reality of Jesus.

    I was profoundly reminded of this several years ago when I spoke at a Pregnancy Care Center dinner in Florida. At the end of the night, the center’s director asked a board member to come forward and close the evening in prayer. I almost fell out of my chair when I saw this board member was a guy I’d known in high school.

    Well, let me clarify that. I knew who he was. He didn’t have a clue who I was.

    He had been in the popular crowd — the star athlete who dated the beautiful girls. I was one of those girls in high school who was easy to miss. I felt invisible back then. And judging by the blank look on his face when I made the connection we’d graduated the same year, my assessment was pretty accurate.

    He apologized profusely for his wild behavior in high school and acknowledged that he could have been voted, “Least likely to grow up to be a pastor.” I agreed. But then again, I wasn’t exactly on the fast track toward ministry in high school, either.

    After we chatted for a few minutes, he got a very serious look on his face. Then he said something I won’t soon forget.

    “You know what is really odd, Lysa? All those years of high school and college, I was a very visible person. I had lots of friends. Then I got a college scholarship to play basketball at a major university and there were even more people who knew me. But no one — no family member, no peer, no girlfriend, no teacher, no coach, no professor, no fan — no one — not one person ever told me about Jesus. All those years, all those people, and not one time did someone try to tell me the truth. Finally when I was 21 years old, someone took that chance to share with me how they met Jesus, and it radically changed my life.”

    His statement startled me. And I hope it startles me the rest of my life.

    No one is beyond the reach of truth.

    Not the wispy, invisible girl who thinks of herself as nothing more than a little background noise. And not the star athlete revered by thousands.

    Everyone deserves to hear about Jesus sooner rather than later.

    And we must never assume that surely someone else would do a much better job than we would.

    Who in your sphere of influence needs to hear a bit of your HIS‒story this week? Don’t let Satan whisper that this message is meant for other people. It’s not. If you read this, it’s meant for you, sweet sister.

    And don’t fret trying to figure out the perfect words to say. It’s as simple and beautiful as Jesus’ command to the man in Luke 8:39, “… tell how much God has done for you.”

    You don’t even have to worry about how to arrange the perfect situation to connect with that person who came to mind. Just tell Jesus you are willing. He’s very capable of handling all the details.

    Our job is obedience. God’s job is results.

    Dear Lord, thank You for loving me before I even knew You. Give me Your eyes and Your heart to be able to see anyone who needs to know about You today. And give me the right words and the necessary courage to share with my friends and family members. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 1:27a, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” (NIV)

    Romans 10:20, “And Isaiah boldly says, ‘I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.’” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who could you share your story with this week? Pray. Seek God for the right words and the right opportunity. Take a step of faith. Trust that God will be glorified.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Can’t Seem to Do Enough

    When You Can’t Seem to Do Enough by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “… And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” 2 Corinthians 3:18b (TLB)

    I heard the sound of her frustrated howl before I eyed the sag in her slender shoulders.

    Those angry wails led me to the kitchen table where I found my first-grader hunched over her math homework with a pencil in one hand and a butter knife in the other.

    “What’s wrong?” I asked.

    “I can’t do this!” she moaned.

    I leaned over my slouching girl and glanced at the worksheet that was causing so much angst. Rectangles were printed across the white page with these simple instructions: “Measure the length of each box.”

    I watched as my 7-year-old attempted to align the edge of the butter knife with the base of the rectangle on her worksheet. She leaned in close and studied the glinting utensil as if the answer she sought might be scripted on the silverware’s silver teeth.

    I crossed the room and plucked a metric ruler from the desk drawer. “Maybe you should try a new measuring stick.” I handed the ruler to my discouraged girl and encouraged her to try again. “The right measuring stick changes everything,” I said with an empathetic smile.

    That’s a lesson I’ve learned first-hand.

    When my five kids were young, I lived in a constant state of discouragement. No matter how I stewarded my time, I ended most of my days with the nagging feeling that I hadn’t done enough.

    Sometimes I was defeated because I felt like I hadn’t done enough with my children. I hadn’t played tag or created a Pinterest-worthy craft with them; I hadn’t exposed them to classical music or worked on their ABCs.

    Other days, I felt like I hadn’t done enough on the home front. I hadn’t folded all the laundry or mopped the sticky floors. Sadly, no matter what I accomplished in a given day, my best efforts rarely measured up to the expectations inside of my head.

    Then one night, after listening to my rant about all the things I hadn’t gotten done, my husband gently challenged, “Maybe you’re using the wrong measuring stick.”

    With a sage smile, he suggested, “Instead of asking, ‘What have I done today?’ You should ask, ‘Who have I been today?’”

    At first, I shrugged off my man’s advice. But the more I pondered his quiet wisdom, the more I wondered if he was right. Had I been assessing my days with a butter knife?

    It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t feel natural, but little by little, I began to change the way I evaluated my days. Rather than focusing on what I’d done (or hadn’t done), I began to consider who I’d been:

    Had I been patient?

    Had I been kind?

    Had I been loving?

    Had I been generous? And grace-filled? And real?

    Humbly, I asked God to help me exchange the fickle rulers in my head for His faithful rule in my heart. And, eventually, my daily dose of discouragement was replaced by a steady stream of peace.

    Our key verse reminds us that God is far more interested in who we are becoming than in what we are doing. So, on those days when it feels like we aren’t getting anything done around us, we are wise to remember that God is always at work within us. “… And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him” (2 Corinthians 3:18b).

    God can use our productive and unproductive moments to grow us into the women He’s dreamed us to be. Our efforts may come up short, but God’s promises never will. And knowing that changes everything!

    So, let’s stop measuring our days with that butter knife of doing “enough.” Instead, let’s invite our Maker to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine according to His Spirit within us.

    And then, one day, when we pose the question, “Who have I been today?”

    We just might hear our Father whisper, “You’ve been a beautiful reflection of My Son.”

    Dear God, help me exchange the fickle rulers in my head for Your faithful ruler in my heart so I can grow to be more like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Peter 1:2, “May you have more and more of His loving-favor and peace as you come to know God and our Lord Jesus Christ better.” (NLV)

    Ephesians 3:20-21, “I pray that Christ Jesus and the church will forever bring praise to God. His power at work in us can do far more than we dare ask or imagine. Amen.” (CEV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What faulty measuring sticks are you using right now? What can you do to exchange them for truth?

    What is God doing in you right now? Share with a friend and celebrate His work.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • There’s a Lady at the Gym Who Hates Me

    There’s a Lady at the Gym Who Hates Me by Lysa TerKeurst

    “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV)

    There’s a lady at my gym who hates me.

    No, I’m serious. She sees me coming, and I can feel little poofs of disdain chugging out of her ears as her feet churn at 87 mph on the elliptical machine. I honestly don’t know how she goes so fast. I once tried to keep up with her.

    It was awful.

    And I think that was the day her infuriation with me began.

    Let me back up and confess my sins that started this whole thing.

    The elliptical machines are very close together and completely awkward with their angular moving parts. Think if a New York high-rise and an elephant had a baby … that would be these elliptical machines.

    Now, conjure up a picture in your mind of the most athletic person you know. The one who doesn’t have a drop of fat on her entire body, not even at her belly button, which should be illegal in my cellulite-ridden opinion. OK, do you have your person?

    That’s her. She’s honestly stunningly beautiful.

    Then picture a marshmallow dressed in a T-shirt and spandex pants. Her ponytail is rather tight, but not much else is. That’s me. Hello, world.

    So, I had to sort of get in her space just a tad to mount my machine, and I think I threw off her rhythm. That was sin number one.

    Then I decided to try to stay in sync with her because I wanted to teach all the folks at the gym that, though my legs and derrière might not look like it, I’m in shape. That was sin number two.

    And then there may have been a little issue with me taking a phone call while working out. In my defense this is not at all my common practice. But a friend called who really needed me.

    I tried to chat quietly, but when you feel like a lung might very well pop out of your mouth at any minute, it’s difficult to whisper-talk. Sin number three.

    Three strikes, and she deemed me out. Out of my mind. Out-of-line. Out-of-control.

    She abandoned her elliptical and huffed over to the treadmill. And I think she’s hated me ever since. But then the other day, something occurred. Something odd that stunned me.

    She smiled at me.

    It wasn’t an evil, I’m-about-to-whip-your-tail-on-the-gym-floor kind of smile. It was more like an, “Oh hey, I’ve seen you here before, right?” kind of smile.

    And the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized her hating me has all been a perception thing on my part.

    Which got me thinking about all the many times I assign thoughts to others that they never actually think. I hold them accountable to harsh judgments they never make. And I own a rejection from them they never gave me.

    I know not every rejection is like this. Some are completely certified and undeniable.

    But we have to know there are also perceived rejections, like I had with my fellow gym-goer.

    I don’t even think I was really on her radar.

    But in my mind, I was absolutely in her crosshairs. And so goes the crazy inside our heads sometimes.

    Thankfully, the Lord reminds us in our key verse that He is able to “quiet” our crazy thoughts with His love.

    It makes me remember something I saw an author friend of mine do several years ago when she was signing a book. Her approach was simple. Before signing her name she wrote, “Live loved.”

    Not only an instruction, but a proclamation. One that arrests my soul and is so applicable to our discussion at hand.

    Live from the abundant place that you are loved, and you won’t find yourself begging others for scraps of love.

    It’s not deciding in your mind, I deserve to be loved. Or manipulating your heart to feel loved.

    It’s settling in your soul, I was created by a God who formed me because He so very much loved the very thought of me. When I was nothing, He saw something and declared it good. Very good. And very loved.

    This should be the genesis thought of every new day.

    I am loved.

    Not because of how terrific I am. God doesn’t base His affection on my wilted efforts.

    No, God’s love isn’t based on me.

    It’s simply placed on me.

    And it’s the place from which I should live … loved.

    Dear Lord, I'm so grateful I don’t have to walk around all day trying to figure out who likes me and who doesn’t. I can simply rest in the truth that I am completely and perfectly loved by You. Help me simply live loved today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:1a, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are there thoughts you’re projecting on someone else when they’ve never voiced those things out loud? Ask God to quiet you with His love and redirect your mindset today.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Life Keeps Spinning

    When Life Keeps Spinning by Angela Thomas-Pharr

    For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate … For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Romans 7:15,18b-19 (ESV)

    The Lord knows we’ve all tried to change some things. About ourselves. Other people. Even helping change the world. We’ve tried and tried, with little real change to show from all these spinning circles.

    Now most everybody I know is tired. When you’re tired and your spirit is heavy, the heart begins to mumble the saddest word — Whatever.

    I may not know many things, but spinning in circles, weariness, mumbling — I could teach a master’s class in those.

    I have longed for spiritual and emotional maturity: to improve myself, have greater discipline, for quick obedience when the Holy Spirit leads, to be a woman growing in wisdom, patience and grace, who is being changed and redeemed.

    God has moved powerfully in my life. But mercy, I could cry over all the times I abandoned His power, taking two steps forward then running half a mile back. Too many years wasted when life spins in circles, going nowhere.

    The apostle Paul must have known something about spinning in circles, too, as he wrote about his own inability to change:

    For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate ... For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:15, 18b-19).

    Can I tell you how it humbles me to read those words in my Bible? We rarely encounter that kind of vulnerability and transparency, yet as he continues, we can feel the agony and hopelessness in Paul’s words: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24, ESV)

    I imagine if the truth were told, a part of you wonders, Who will deliver me? Who will deliver me from my pain? My regret? My habits? My choices? My secrets? My sin? Who will deliver me from these crazy circles? Who will deliver me from ... whatever?

    The deep ruts I’ve dug spinning circles only prove that the woman I long to become will not be created by my own hands. I can’t make the person I envision happen. Lord knows I’ve tried. I desperately need Someone to rescue me, shape me, lead me, walk with me and take me the rest of the way.

    Thankfully, we find comfort in what Paul says in the next two verses:

    “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 7:25, 8:1, ESV).

    I belong to Jesus now. This struggle cannot keep shaming me. Jesus took my condemnation to the cross. And there is therefore now no condemnation for me.

    No matter my struggles. Or failures. No matter how stinking awful my track record, if I belong to Jesus Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation.”

    God left heaven to save you, heal you and redeem you. He knows your vulnerabilities and sees your pain. How you keep spinning in circles, revisiting the same places, disappointing the same people, listening to the same lies.

    The old patterns. The insecurities. The stupid habits. The addictions. All the ways you show you can’t improve and can’t get unstuck. He knows you cannot change yourself. And that has always been the point: You can’t. But God can.

    God never designed us to spin in circles, staying the same, growing more frustrated and discouraged every year. We were made to grow and change. God’s power to redeem our lives — and keep redeeming — is how we grow and mature. We can try to dig down to find our bootstraps all we want, but God has so much more in mind.

    When my great need accepts God’s great love, redemption begins. I can’t. But He can.

    Oh Father, You see our sin, and long before we knew, You promised a way to forgiveness, to restoration and a way to be redeemed. Move powerfully in our hearts. Open our eyes. Give new life to our prayers. Stir our souls awake. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 145:18, “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Open your Bible and read Romans 7:15 until the end of the chapter. Paul took an inventory of his great need. What’s your greatest need?

    © 2016 by Angela Thomas-Pharr. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • You Are (Un)Invited

    You Are (Un)Invited by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (ESV)

    The party sounded amazing. The people I’d heard were going are easy to be with, incredibly fun and all have mad skills in the kitchen. And when I saw the invitation posted on a friend’s refrigerator, I smiled at the creative brilliance.

    The only problem was I didn’t get one.

    I’d checked my mailbox for days.

    Every time I walked down the driveway empty handed, I assured my sinking heart that because we live in the country, my mail is always one or two or seven days behind everyone else’s. No big deal.

    But three days before the party when the invite still hadn’t arrived, I ran out of assurance. I lost the pep in my rally. And I realized I was, in fact, not on the guest list.

    When I ran into one of the hostesses later that day, I lobbed out the equivalent of a Hail Mary throw in the final seconds of a game, “What do y’all have going on this weekend?”

    And then I felt as pitiful as the quarterback who watches the opposing team take what would have been his shining star moment and turn it into an interception.

    She replied, “We’ve got plans with friends most of the weekend but would love to catch up with y’all on Sunday after church.”

    And that’s when the hardest of all the realizations hit me.

    We weren’t invited because they simply hadn’t thought to invite us. We weren’t in the circle of “weekend plans with friends.” Immediately, the thought that hopped on me and stuck with super glue tenacity was, I’m not good enough.

    I smiled and told her I’d check with Art to see if that might work. I mean checking with my husband was crucial because our schedule was jam-packed full of all kinds of urgent plans with Netflix. And, hey, for a cheap thrill we could always get a jump on paperwork for our tax returns due in four more months.

    I didn’t want to feel pathetic, but I did.

    Middle school had come for an unwelcome visit bringing with it all the wonky feelings wrapped up in, I’m not good enough.

    I seriously thought by my 46th year of life these feelings would be but a vague memory in my distant past.

    So, why is it still an option for a grown woman like me to feel like the lonely middle school girl who never got asked to the dance?

    Since I had all kinds of thinking time that weekend, I kept pondering that statement sitting on my heart, You’re not good enough. And finally, in the late hours of Saturday night, I had a slight breakthrough.

    “Good enough” is a terrible statement. Nobody ever wants their friends to say, “Well, I mean, you’re good enough.” I would never want my boss or my husband or my kids to just say, “You are good enough.” No child would ever want their parent to say, “You’re good enough.” Absolutely not.

    We’re better than good enough. God made us to be amazing people who learn and explore and create and give and delight and love. He made us full of potential and purpose. He tucked His full wonder inside us so we could help others find our God to be wonderful.

    He made us to reach out not pull back.

    He made us to believe the best before assuming the worst.

    He made us to freely give grace, realizing we so desperately need it ourselves.

    He made us to add goodness, see the beautiful, and rest in the assurance of His lavish love for us.

    Never ever for one second did God look at us and say, “My goal for this one is to simply be good enough.”

    So I wasn’t invited to the party. I decided to see that gift of time as a special invitation by the Lord to be with Him.

    Dream with Him. Be loved by Him. Be doted on by Him. To be held by Him. James 4:8 says all I have to do is draw near to Him, and He will draw near to me.

    Would I still love to be invited to the next party? Of course.

    But even if I’m not, having a night with the Lord is good. Very good. Better than good enough. Because with Jesus I’m forever safe. I’m forever accepted. I’m forever held. Completely loved and always invited in.

    Dear Lord, thank You so much for Your love. A love that always welcomes. A love that doesn’t reject or (un)invite. I am choosing today to rest and delight in the truth of Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: The enemy wants us to feel rejected … left out, lonely and less than. But God wants us to know we are destined for a love that can never be diminished, tarnished, shaken or taken. Is there a situation in your life that's made you feel uninvited? Purposefully set aside time to simply sit and record God's truths about His love for you.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s OK to Need a Shoulder to Lean On

    It’s OK to Need a Shoulder to Lean On by Lynn Cowell

    "While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade.” Acts 3:11 (NIV)

    Recently I met some amazingly brave young people in a class I’m taking. The class is helping me learn more about things I simply don’t understand — namely, mental illness and the struggles of those who deal with it. I’m taking it because I’m hopeful that as my knowledge increases, so will my compassion.

    Two young people stood to share their stories. They weren't professional speakers nor had they rehearsed. They were simply brave and courageous, choosing to be vulnerable about their past struggles and their difficulties of today.

    These are the kind of people I learn from.

    These individuals had something in common: they both needed others to help them reach their fullest potential. Thankfully, both are blessed with someone to support and encourage them as they move forward in life.

    We read a story of similar support in Acts 3. Here Peter and John meet a beggar at the gate called Beautiful and we witness a miracle: a man crippled from birth is healed. After taking Peter’s hand, he is lifted to a place of wholeness, resulting in the ability to walk, jump and praise God!

    Just after this amazing miracle is a verse that can easily be overlooked: "While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade" (Acts 3:11).

    These words “held on to” in the Greek mean to take hold of, grasp, or hold fast. If the beggar was healed in Acts 3:7 and now could walk, why was he holding on to Peter and John?

    The beggar had been healed. The evidence of that healing was demonstrated very quickly as the entire crowd witnessed him walk and jump. Yet shortly after these miracle movements, this man needed someone to lean on.

    The young people struggling with mental illness also needed someone to lean on and hold on to. They both spoke of family who stood by them as they journeyed on the long, hard road to recovery.

    Not one of us in that room judged them for needing help. They had made great strides on their own, but to keep going, they needed others.

    I love this story in Acts because it points to a powerful truth: In order to move toward healing and wholeness in our lives, we need the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit to set us free, and we will often need someone to hold on to.

    And that's OK.

    Nothing in this passage indicates that the beggar’s healing was incomplete because he needed to lean on someone. In fact, later in Acts, Peter reiterates that the man who was crippled was healed. Yet in his healing, he still needed a little help.

    Sometimes in the Christian life, we'll find ourselves in the position of the beggar, needing a Peter or John to support us so we stay on this journey toward becoming more like Jesus. Other times, we'll be Peter and John, the shoulder others need in order to find the strength to keep going.

    Look around you. Who needs you today to be the shoulder of Jesus? Who needs a little support as they move forward on this road called life?

    Let’s stand near and be that encouragement today. And if that someone who needs a little help is you, don’t be too hard on yourself. The beggar had just experienced a miracle in his life, and he still needed to hold on to someone.

    Sometimes we’re Jesus’ hands and feet, but other times we are His shoulders for others to lean on.

    Dear Jesus, You promised us in Your Word that in this life we will have trouble. That trouble comes in many different forms. Thank You that in our troubles You are always with us, and thank You for friends and family to help us as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ecclesiastes 4:10, “For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (ESV) Isaiah 35:3, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does our key verse (Acts 3:11) impact the way you think of the word “healing”?

    Think of one person in your life who needs healing from Jesus. Make it a point to pray for him or her several times today, and let them know you are going to God on their behalf.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • God Goes Before You and Follows You

    God Goes Before You and Follows You by Wendy Pope

    You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.” Psalm 139:5 (NLT)

    My 4-year-old had become quite insistent about walking into school alone. He adamantly declared that he could go from the parking lot to the school by himself. But I knew that an independent, spirited preschooler and a busy parking lot did not mix. Griffin couldn’t understand why I had to walk with him. Trying not to extinguish his self-sufficient spirit, I came up with a plan that ensured his safety and still let him think he was walking by himself.

    Upon arriving in the school parking lot, he would unbuckle, put on his backpack, get out of the van and wait for me. Together, we looked for cars and decided whether it was safe to cross. While I remained next to the van, he crossed the parking lot. Little did he know that I kept my eyes on him the whole time and quickly followed at a distance — far enough behind so he didn’t see me.

    My son thought he was "the stuff." It was wonderful to see his confidence soar. He followed the same path each day and I protected him without his knowledge.

    Our heavenly Father walks behind us too. Psalm 139:5 reminds us, “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head.”

    In moments of confusion and busyness, God knows which way we are going and is there to protect us — even when we can’t see Him, just as I protected my son without his knowledge.

    Whether you’re waiting in a doctor’s office, at work, riding the bus or sitting at home — God has made a way for you to get through the diagnosis, project, busyness and responsibilities. Whatever you face today, God has already gone before you and will guard you from behind.

    This truth is especially comforting to me as my children grow up. We can’t always stand in the “parking lot” of life and watch our kids everywhere they go. But we can trust that their heavenly Father is there with them, leading the way and bringing up the rear. Whether they’re facing a tough exam, driving for the first time alone or dealing with a bully at school, God is with them.

    In the circumstances that surround you and your kids today, in the events that are scheduled on your calendar, take comfort in knowing God is there. He has gone before you — and your children — and follows you, too.

    Lord, thank You for this tender reminder that You are always with me. Forgive me for foolishly carrying the weight of my path, forgetting that Your guiding hand is always upon me. Help me guide my children in this path as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 121:8, “The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” (ESV)

    Psalm 139:7-10, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Make a point to pray out loud with your children each day, giving thanks to the Lord for going before and following them.

    Why not work in tandem with the Lord and “go before” someone this week by sending a card, making a meal or offering to babysit for them?

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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