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  • Just Do It!

    Just Do It! by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers …” James 1:22 (NASB)

    I sat on the edge of the exam table, watching the doctor flip through a few pages of paper.

    I remember being a little girl and actually enjoying my visits to the doctor. It meant a break from school and best of all, I always left with a lollipop in my hands.

    This time there would be no lollipop, but there would be a lecture.

    While there was nothing life-threatening happening in my body, many of the numbers my doctor reviewed were headed in the wrong direction. And she made sure to kindly, but pointedly, bring to my attention that I was no longer a spring chicken and that I needed to get my act together or else I’d have regrets as time went on.

    Ugh. How depressing. I mean who wants to hear they’re not a spring chicken?

    But the worst of it? I know better.

    Of course I know that the food choices I make can affect my overall health, but it still remains such a battle.

    Can I just keep it real for a second?

    I love food.

    But the food I love, doesn’t always love me back.

    The message on that sheet of paper in my doctor’s hand was not a love letter but more like a letter of warning reminding me to get my act together.

    And it’s not like I don’t know what to do; I just don’t always do it.

    I’ve read about making better food choices in books and magazines. I’ve had many discussions with friends and family on wellness. I’ve listened to radio shows and heard experts share tips for living a healthy lifestyle. Truth be told, I think I’ve watched almost every season of The Biggest Loser!

    Ugh! Why is it so hard to know what to do — and then actually do it?

    The problem I face in my physical life is one I also face often in my spiritual life.

    I’ve read about making better choices in the Bible, Christian books and devotionals. I’ve had many discussions with friends and family on spiritual well-being. Listened to more sermons, radio programs and podcasts than I can count. Truth be told, I think I’ve had a front row seat at church almost every single Sunday morning of my life!

    Yet … knowing and doing are not the same thing.

    When James wrote his epistle, or letter, to the Jewish believers, he was writing to encourage them during a time of great hardship and tribulation. It wasn’t easy to be a believer because Christians were persecuted for choosing to follow the message and person of Jesus Christ.

    While faith in Jesus Christ served as the first and most important step in the life of a believer, James wanted Christians to understand that works of obedience should also accompany faith in the Savior: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, ESV).

    Even though it would be hard, James encouraged believers to “work out” what they believed — for their actions to match their beliefs. He didn’t want them to simply understand the truth, he wanted their lives to be a demonstration of a truth that was active in their hearts, minds, souls and feet.

    Knowing about healthy choices doesn’t equal me actually making those choices and therefore reaping the full benefit of a healthy body.

    And knowing about life in Jesus Christ doesn’t equal me actually making the choice to obey His Word and therefore reaping the benefit of a healthy soul.

    As James reminds us in today’s key verse, I must be more than a hearer, reader, discusser, watcher. I must be a doer.

    God wants more than for us to have a simple awareness of His instructions. He wants us to obey Him and to do what He says — both for His glory and our good. His instructions may not always be easy but this much is clear: He wants us to hear His Word and just do it.

    Dear Father, forgive me for the areas in my life that I tend not to walk in full obedience to You. I’m sorry for not being willing to fully trust You enough to obey You. Help me put what You have taught me into practice. I want to please You and I want Your best for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 11:28b, “… ‘Happy rather are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (CEB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas do you find it most difficult to be obedient to God? What’s one thing you can do today to begin walking in obedience?

    What tips can you share with others for studying, knowing and understanding God’s Word? Your tips might encourage someone else in their walk.

    © 2016 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When My Prayers Seem Trivial

    When My Prayers Seem Trivial by Leah DiPascal

    “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things, [things which have been confined and hidden], which you do not know and understand and cannot distinguish.” Jeremiah 33:3 (AMP)

    I could tell by the look on his face that my little guy was upset about something. Kneeling down I asked, “What’s wrong, Brody?”

    “I can’t find my game, and I’ve looked everywhere!”

    Feeling confident it was somewhere in the house, I agreed to help him look. We rummaged through closets and toy boxes. I combed through every room in the house, while Brody frantically searched all the dresser drawers.

    After 20 minutes, I started thinking maybe the treasured toy had been accidentally left at school or lost during one of our many errands.

    My heart ached as I watched the tears puddle up in my sweet boy’s eyes. So I asked, “Brody, have you prayed and asked Jesus to help you find it?”

    “No Mom … will you pray for me?”

    Huddled together we paused and prayed, calling on the One who has all the answers. We asked Him to reveal exactly where the game was mysteriously hiding.

    As I wiped the tears from Brody’s eyes, we agreed that it was now time to wait and trust Jesus to answer our prayers when the time was right.

    I knew this wouldn’t be easy. Brody was still longing to have his treasured item back, and asking an 8-year-old boy to trust in an invisible God was a big request that required even greater faith.

    Ten minutes later, I heard him running down the hall. “I found it! I found it!!”

    With pure joy beaming from his face, Brody waved the lost item in his hands.

    “Where was it, Brody?”

    “In my sleeping bag,” he said.

    “How did you know it was in your sleeping bag?”

    Looking at me with a countenance of confidence he said, “Jesus told me it was there!”

    We hugged and celebrated together — thanking God for answering our prayers.

    Losing something so small might seem trivial to some. But to my little boy, it was a very big deal. And watching how Jesus made Himself real to Brody that day was a very big deal to me.

    We both learned an important lesson. Today’s key verse reminds us of God’s faithfulness when we call upon Him:

    “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things, [things which have been confined and hidden], which you do not know and understand and cannot distinguish” (Jeremiah 33:3).

    God invites us to call out to Him when we need answers. He promises to teach us things we don’t understand and even show us things that have been hidden.

    I’ve discovered that these “things” can be spiritual truths, which He shows us in His Word or practical things like giving Brody a thought to check his sleeping bag which he hadn’t used in weeks.

    God loves us. He cares enough to speak to us about the little and big things in our lives. There is nothing we care about that God doesn’t want us to bring to Him.

    Have you lost something you love and long to have it back? Are you rummaging through life looking for answers and not sure what to do next?

    If it’s a big deal to you, then it’s a big deal to God. He wants you to come to Him about everything. No request is too small. No problem you face is too trivial or insignificant for God.

    He’s invited you to ask, so ask and trust that He will answer.

    Heavenly Father, sometimes I don’t want to bother You with the small problems I’m facing in life. I often wonder if they seem trivial or if I’m wasting Your time asking for help. Thank You for inviting me to come and ask You about anything. The big issues and the small ones. Thank You for loving me and reminding me what matters to me does matter to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 17:6-7a, “I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you trying to solve a problem on your own because it seems too trivial or insignificant to ask for God’s help?

    Take time now to share whatever is bothering you (no matter how big or small) with God. Ask Him to show you what to do next, and trust that He will answer.

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Three Things Every Mom Should Know

    Three Things Every Mom Should Know by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10 (NIV)

    Being a mom is tough.

    I think one of the hardest things about motherhood for me has been my tendency to blame myself for the wrong choices my kids sometimes make.

    The second hardest thing is trying to figure out how to fix their issues. Especially when you are hyper aware the situation your child is in will carry great consequences.

    Deep is the sorrow of a mother who feels helpless.

    Thankfully, God knows what it’s like to deal with wayward children. He feels our pain. He knows our sorrow. And He knows exactly how to encourage us through His Word.

    Ephesians 6:10-12 tells us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 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.” (NIV)

    Based on this truth, here are three things mamas should know:

    1. God does not call us to find a power within ourselves to overcome the issues we’ll face with our kids.

    He calls us to put on His armor because what we are facing is a battle. A battle of epic proportions. And His weapons aren’t silly little spiritual suggestions that might or might not work. His weapons are certain.

    His belt of truth. I must park my runaway mind in the assurance of God’s love for me and my child.

    His breastplate of righteousness. I must stop reacting in the flesh and choose to battle this with my praises and prayers.

    His gospel of peace. I must walk in the assurance and peace that even when I can’t see things changing, God is working on my child’s behalf. His shield of faith. I must have faith in God’s timing and in His ways.

    His helmet of Salvation. I must trust God’s ultimate desire for my children is for them to have a close relationship with Him. Though a situation might seem like an unlikely part of this process, God will bring good out of it.

    His sword, which is the Bible. I must read God’s love letter to me every day. And hold those truths as the lifeline between God’s security and my shaky heart.

    And His gift of prayer. I must see prayer not as a last resort but as the very thing God’s most courageous followers turn to first.

    Ephesians 6:13-18 assures us with these in place, we’ll be able to stand. These things will help us tap into a power beyond ourselves.

    2. The battle isn’t against our child and their choices.

    It often feels like the battle is against our child. Boy does it ever! But, in reality, the battle is against Satan’s schemes.

    There will be some battles we face with our kids that seem impossible to win. Because Satan twists truth. He hides consequences. He blinds reality. He has schemes perfectly designed with our weaknesses in mind.

    Therefore, we have to battle Satan. He’s the real enemy here. And because we are Jesus girls, we hold the power for victory in our prayers and praises to God.

    3. The battle is taking place in the heavenly realms.

    Oh how I want to fight my kids’ battles with what I can see. But that simply isn’t enough.

    So, I must fight with the only thing I have that can reach into the heavenly realm: my praises and prayers. Praises for who God is and prayers for Him to remove Satan’s influence in a situation. If ever I’m tempted to doubt how powerful praises and prayers are in battle, a quick read of 2 Chronicles 20:1-27 soothes this mama for sure.

    I hope you’ll take some time to sit and read it today too. It’s an amazing story of God’s people feeling overwhelmed in the face of a vast army, but when they began to sing and praise the Lord, their enemy was defeated.

    Prayers to God and praises for God release the power of God.

    The things that bridged the gap between them feeling powerless and experiencing victory were praises and prayers. And it’s the same way for us.

    I can’t fully explain it. But I can proclaim it. Our prayers and our praises are powerful and effective.

    Yes, being a mom is really tough. But we aren’t alone. God understands this struggle of parenting children who get off track.

    And since God, the perfect parent, has dealt with this since the beginning of time — I think His is the best advice around.

    Father God, thank You so much that You have perfectly equipped me to do battle for my children. Today I lift my prayers and my praises up to You, believing for a mighty victory in their lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 144:1, “Praise be to the LORD my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” (NIV)

    2 Chronicles 20:15b, “This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What battle do you need to entrust to the Lord? Spend some time lifting up prayers and praises to Him today.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Move When You’re Moved

    Move When You’re Moved by Lynn Cowell

    “They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning.” Exodus 36:3 (NIV)

    I couldn't stop the tears flowing like a stream down my face. Crying in church … I'm OK with that. But when you start that shaking-and-I-can’t-stop bawling thing, well, that can be downright embarrassing.

    Our pastor was preaching on — of all things — giving. Giving! Is that something to really get so emotional about? Though it has been a long, slow learning process for me, through the generosity of my husband, I’ve learned what it means to be a generous giver. So why was I crying?

    The Lord was pressing on my heart to give and give generously to someone who was hurting. Sitting there in church, it was as if the Lord allowed me to experience the pain they were feeling, the hurt they were going through in a very difficult time. That pain and weight was heavy in my chest as if it were my own.

    But that’s not all that was going on. God was speaking to me to give. See in our family, I leave it to God to speak with my husband on this issue. Greg, the generous one. Greg then shares with me where God is leading his heart, and we give.

    It’s not the other way around.

    Except on this day.

    Walking out of church, I was still visibly upset. Then fear set in. I started to feel nervous about telling Greg what I felt the Lord was nudging me to do. I had no reason to be anxious, yet I wanted to back out. I began trying to convince myself, It’s just your emotions talking. Calm down. This nudging will go away.

    But no; that's not what the Holy Spirit had in mind.

    Before we reached home, I got up the nerve to talk to my man. And as I knew he would, he said yes.

    This is where the bad news comes in.

    For two months I wrestled with it, not taking the steps to give as I felt prompted. I had my excuses. It’s complicated. I don’t want to offend them. I let those uncomfortable feelings settle back in my heart again. I let them tell me what to do.

    In Exodus 35, there was a need in the Israelite community, and God told the people: “From what you have, take an offering for the LORD. Everyone who is willing is to bring to the LORD an offering …” (Exodus 35:5a, NIV).

    Everyone who is willing. I got that part down. I am willing.

    It’s the next part that gave me the push I needed: “and everyone who was willing and whose heart moved them came and brought an offering to the LORD for the work … ” (Exodus 35:21a, NIV).

    They weren’t just moved; they got moving.

    I wonder if you've ever been like me, or maybe you're in that place now. You heard a stirring sermon, read a convicting verse, listened to a compelling story and you felt moved by God.

    But. You. Haven't. Moved.

    Me too.

    It's wonderful for us to feel God's presence, to sense His stirring, but that's not enough. We can't just be moved, we have to get moving. We have to follow through in obedience. That's where the blessings come in.

    I love the way this account of giving in Exodus wraps up. I've yet to see anything like it in the church today. The skilled craftsmen doing the work of God went to their leader and essentially said, "Enough! We've got enough!"

    "And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work" (Exodus 36:6b-7, NIV).

    I finally moved forward in giving the way the Lord had directed me. I’m also learning that when it comes to obedience, it is important to not just obey, but obey immediately. Before my heart leads me in the wrong direction or my thoughts begin to analyze the situation. I’m not getting it perfect every time, but with the Holy Spirit’s help, I am making progress.

    Lord, we need Your help to move us when we are moved. Holy Spirit, give us faith, courage and bravery to go and do what You are stirring in our hearts, for we know that obedience to You will bring blessings from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (NIV)

    1 Samuel 15:22, “But Samuel replied: ‘Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.’” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what area do you struggle most with obedience?

    Pinpoint the root behind why you struggle, and pray for God to help you overcome in this particular area.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • How God Can Heal a Daughter’s Heart

    How God Can Heal a Daughter’s Heart by Tessa Afshar

    “‘Daughter,’ he said to her, ‘your faith has made you well. Go in peace.’” Luke 8:48 (NLT)

    My father passed away several weeks ago. There are a lot of lessons to learn when you watch your daddy die.

    I’ve learned, deep in my soul, where words can’t reach and only experience can teach, that death is the enemy. Yet I’ve also learned to be utterly grateful that Jesus has overcome death. One day, I will be with my father in the mystery that is heaven, and I’ll hold his perfect body, and we will wonder what tears are.

    But there is one more lesson I’ve had to learn in a new way as I watched my daddy die. I’ve learned to come face-to-face with the fact that I am a daughter.

    I may be a wife, I may be a writer, I may work in ministry, people may rely on me for wisdom and help. But none of this changes the fact that I am also a daughter. At the core of my being, I carry the blessings and wounds of being my father’s daughter.

    That’s true for most of us. Whatever it has meant to you to be a daughter is recorded at the roots of your soul. Somewhere in your head, you still think of yourself in these terms: cherished, loved, encouraged, acknowledged, accepted, protected, worthy, wanted, or abandoned, rejected, put down, criticized, judged, neglected.

    Whatever your father thought of you is how a part of you still thinks of yourself. Daughter.

    There is a story in the Gospels about a woman who has been sick for 12 years. She has suffered from a bleeding disease, and no physician can help her. She is broken and devastatingly alone.

    There are two more things we know about her. We know that Jesus heals her and her body stops bleeding the moment her hand touches His dust-stained robe.

    And perhaps, more importantly, we also know that Jesus calls her “daughter.” In fact, she is the only person in all of the New Testament whom Jesus calls daughter.

    When you read her story carefully, it seems that in addition to bleeding outwardly, this woman’s heart is bleeding inwardly from a different kind of wound.

    A father wound.

    A father’s rejection or absence, his neglect, abandonment or scorn. We don’t know how she has been hurt any more than we know the modern diagnosis for her physical bleeding.

    We just know that in a culture where fathers show up to advocate for their daughters, she comes to Jesus alone, in secrecy and shame. There is no father to appeal on her behalf.

    And Jesus, looking at her, perceives the lack. Recognizes the wound. And He chooses to heal it.

    “Daughter,” He calls her. And with that one word, He claims her as His own. It is as if Jesus is saying, “You have Me to father you now. You have me to take care of you, love you, cherish you. Everything good in a father that you missed, you will have in Me. I will be your father.”

    With that one proclamation, all the lies, shame and hurt attached to her experiences as a daughter are healed. Jesus has the power to restore the daughter inside us, to make us whole where our fathers, despite their best or worst efforts, failed us.

    After my father passed away, we found a picture of me as a little girl in his favorite briefcase. He used to carry that battered old thing on every trip with him. Through the years, there I was, forever captured in the photo as a 5-year-old, forever close to Daddy’s heart.

    In real life, my father couldn’t always be there for me. I knew from the day I was born that he loved me. But he was a busy man, and he didn’t always have time to spend with me. When I came to the United States, we were separated from each other for years. I was fatherless, even though I was loved.

    All these separations left their mark. A throbbing bruise that can’t be banished with human strength.

    What I have found, though, is that Jesus can overcome these wounds. Daughter, He calls me, and I know we will never be separated. He is never too busy for me. I will never be abandoned. One day, I will be with my earthly daddy in heaven. Until that day, I will have the perfect love of my heavenly Father to make me whole, make me daughter.

    Dear Jesus, thank You that You have called me daughter. Thank You that You desire to teach me what it means to be cherished and protected. Please restore my heart today, and help me to trust You to be the Father I need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:1a, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Can you identify the specific ways that your relationship with your father may have wounded you? Ask Jesus to heal each wound.

    © 2016 by Tessa Afshar. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Come with Me

    Come with Me by Suzie Eller

    “And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’” Luke 5:7-8 (KJV)

    Google Maps is my friend when I drive to an unfamiliar place. It tells me exactly where I’m going and when I’ll arrive.

    I also like lists. A grocery list gets me in and out of the store quickly. A schedule tells me what to expect from my day. My yearlong planner maps out my goals.

    While these are helpful in my everyday life, I usually don’t have that luxury in my faith.

    Sometimes, Jesus simply says, Come with me, Suzie, and I have no idea what the next step looks like, much less where the finish line ends. I don’t know if I have everything I need or if I’m equipped for the journey.

    My emotional reaction might look like this:

    If You’ll just tell me the plan (every part of it), I’ll come with You.

    Lord, if You’ll assure me that I’m the right person for this, I’ll go.

    Just hand me the itinerary, and I’m Your girl.

    In today’s key verse, Simon Peter is exhausted after an all-night fishing expedition. He has just finished washing the heavy nets weighted with stones, when Jesus approaches.

    Jesus asks Simon to put the boat out a little from shore, so Jesus could teach the crowds. Simon agrees.

    A bit later, Jesus asks Simon to go fishing. Simon has just fished all night without results. He’s exhausted, but because Jesus asks, he takes that step.

    The abundance of fish is so great that it nearly capsizes Simon’s and his fishing partners’ boats.

    Simon sinks to his knees and asks Jesus to leave him. It’s not because he’s afraid, but because he’s in awe.

    Come with me.

    That was Jesus’ invitation. Simon left his boat, his business and the fish behind to follow Jesus.

    When we read this story, we often focus on the fish as the miracle, but Simon left the heap of fish behind. He understood that walking with Jesus was the real miracle.

    In fact, following Jesus was the beginning of a lifetime of miracles for Simon.

    While making plans and scheduling and doing our own thing is a natural response, Jesus is perched in our “boats” with a spectacular invitation.

    He asks us to walk in faith with Him in our marriages, in the midst of disappointments, as we make plans and dream, in our relationships, in our anxious places and in every aspect of our lives.

    Come with me.

    Have you resisted that invitation? I have. I can look back and see that I resisted, only to discover that Jesus was trying to give me the greatest gift of His presence. He was trying to lead me out of my comfort to discover His plans for me.

    Simon Peter was changed the day he decided to follow Jesus. He saw lame men leap to their feet. He walked on water. He went through hard places as well, but always with Jesus as his leader.

    When Simon accepted the invitation, it changed him, and it changed his story. Once he might have been described as a man with salt on his cheeks as he fished all night. When all along, Jesus knew that Simon was a fisher of men.

    Come with me.

    That’s the invitation for all of us who believe.

    Jesus, the invitation to “come with You” is for me. I accept it. Right where I am. I may not know where You are taking me, but I trust You. Thank You for sitting in the “boat” of my life and walking with me every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 5:11, “And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (KJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When you sense an invitation from Jesus in an area of your life how do you respond?

    It’s OK to acknowledge your doubts, for that’s what you do in any healthy relationship. But this is where change takes place. Say “yes” when “no” wants to take root.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • One Way to Fear Less and Do More

    One Way to Fear Less and Do More by Katy McCown

    “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

    I stopped when I felt her hold me tighter.

    As my eyes caught hers, I saw uncertainty rather than enthusiasm. Instead of fun, my little girl felt fear.

    I tried several times to lift my baby girl off my hip and load her into a bucket swing. As a mom of six, I didn’t think twice about putting her in for a ride. In fact, I was excited about this day … her first time in a swing!

    But her thoughts unraveled into my heart as I realized, though I knew exactly what would happen next, she didn’t.

    She didn’t know where I was putting her. She didn’t know if she’d be safe. But finally she released her grip and went.

    She didn’t know a lot of things, but she knew me. And it seems even at such a young age, that changed everything for her.

    I recently sat in a room full of women as we tackled the question, “What are you missing because of fear?”

    As I considered this question, my thoughts drifted to summers with my large family. Just about every Fourth of July we go to the lake. And every Fourth of July, tons of little McCown kids catapult themselves off the boathouse and into the cove below.

    It’s a family tradition … passed down from my husband, Luke, and his siblings to their children. Quite honestly, I could do without it, but who can argue with tradition?

    A ladder points the way up to the roof of the boathouse. Once perched on top there’s no telling what the kids will come up with.

    Sometimes they shoot off one-by-one like pellets pegging the water. Sometimes they line up, hold hands and jump on the count of three. But there was one boy in the group with a different perspective. My son, Elijah, would stand at the edge chewing his little fingernails while the other kids raced around him.

    One year, as we watched Elijah’s fear grow and faith in himself fail, Luke climbed that ladder, too. He sat down on the roof next to his son. He talked to him and walked to the edge with him. He stayed with him as long as it took. And eventually Luke’s confidence in his boy sent him over the edge. Splash!

    Elijah’s face rose out of the water with an ear-to-ear grin. “I did it!” he screamed. And as soon as his feet hit the deck he ran right back up the ladder to do it again.

    Have you ever stood at the edge of a leap of faith?

    I’ve been stuck on the roof many times. But with each peek over the edge I’ve learned when I shift my gaze from what I face to the One who stands beside me, I gain the confidence to try.

    I may not know where God’s taking me. I may not know what happens next. I may question whether or not I’ll be safe. But as our key verse says, I can count on the One who sends me, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).

    If you’re standing at the edge today looking at cloudy waters below, turn your head. Your Heavenly Father is right beside you. You may not know a lot of things, but if you know Him, that changes everything.

    Just like Elijah, my daughter didn’t let fear keep her from anything either. Little by little she relaxed. One swing at a time she settled in and began to enjoy the ride.

    Today, we went back to that same swing again. This time she beat me there. She wiped out the dirt from the bottom and begged me to help her up. With a smile and giggle she rocked back and forth shouting, “Push me, Mama. I want to go higher!”

    Lord Jesus, push me! I want to go higher with You! I want to know the fullness of life that comes only when I’m planted in Your will. Help me trust You and follow You wherever you lead, that I may experience the joy of Your salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Copy the verses in the Truth for Today section and keep them where you’ll see them often. Then make a plan to take one step this week toward something you’ve been putting off because of fear.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Finish Well

    How to Finish Well by Nicki Koziarz

    “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

    Do you finish things well?

    Me? Well, I start things off really strong but when things get hard, don’t go according to plan or become seemingly impossible, I tend to want to give up!

    A few years ago my husband trained for months for his second marathon. His goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon — an elite goal for runners. But in order to qualify, he needed to maintain a very specific pace during the entire racecourse.

    On race morning, my three girls and I headed to the finish line to show our support. We had posters, cowbells and pom-poms ready to cheer!

    Throughout the morning I was anxiously looking at my watch, knowing his needed pace time and hoping he would make his goal.

    But the qualifying pace time for Boston appeared on the clock and there was no sign of him. I was so worried about his feelings of disappointment; he had trained so hard.

    About five minutes later we saw him turn the corner, wearing his bright orange shirt and an exhausted smile.

    My girls and I became the loudest cheering squad at the marathon finish line. The last few yards of the race, we all got behind him and cheered him on as he crossed under the finish line banner.

    Even though my husband didn't win or even meet his goal, he had accomplished something great. It was a powerful moment in his life.

    He finished well.

    In everything we do, whether we choose it or not, there is a finish point:

    The day the last baby leaves the nest. The moment we pack up our desk from a job. The time we put a completed check mark next to a goal or a to-do.

    But how we finish our seasons is important.

    If we quit before it’s finished or run defeated to the finish line, we might miss the strength that awaits us.

    Beneath the layers of fear when a season is ending, or not going according to our plans, is this thread of courage from our God. God sees our efforts and hard work in each season as He prepares us to move to the next.

    But how we finish this assignment might determine our next assignment.

    Our key verse offers each of us a little hope, a little determination, a little strength to keep going: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

    You can overcome those temporary temptations to give in by the strength of God. Are you near a season of life that’s left you feeling discouraged?

    Do you want to just give up and move on?

    If so, I totally understand what that’s like.

    While it’s tempting to quit before it’s finished, today I want to encourage you to lean into the faithfulness of God and … finish well.

    Is there a hard conversation you need to have? God’s strength is with you. Is there a physical weakness convincing you it’s over? God’s strength is with you. Is there a financial limitation numbing your belief to press on? God’s strength is with you.

    Every assignment or season God calls us to offers an eternal perspective. And sometimes I have a hard time remembering this through my temporary thoughts. But as I’m holding onto our verse, I’m reminding my soul there is restoration, confirmation and strength coming my way … if I don’t give up.

    About a year later my husband gave the marathon another go. And guess what? He did it. He qualified for and eventually ran his dream race, the Boston Marathon. Maybe there’s not a marathon ahead of us, but there is something great.

    Lord, thank You for providing Your strength when I feel weak. Help me finish this assignment well, as You prepare me for the next. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (NIV)

    Acts 20:24, ”However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.“ (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What would it look like for you to finish the season you are in right now well?

    © 2016 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding Your Financial Voice

    Finding Your Financial Voice by John H. Putnam

    “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

    “We don’t have a budget, we have credit card debt and we don’t know what to do.”

    I could tell the words were painful to share as this smart, hardworking couple awaited my response. I quickly cut the tension: “First, don’t feel alone — you’re not the only ones who've ever made these mistakes. Second, you both have the ability to deal with this. And third, it’s going to be okay.”

    I could see their relief. Their troubled voices had been working their way to the surface for a long time. Why did they wait so long to share their concerns?

    The answer is easy. Most of us who struggle with money troubles keep it to ourselves. We can feel prideful, embarrassed and worried, and so we keep quiet. But these lies can keep us trapped in the snares of our own silence.

    Like this couple, somewhere on our life journeys, we began to keep financial troubles to ourselves. But when we internalize the confusion around our common money troubles, it can quickly become a barrier to God’s plans for us to live in freedom. Yet God’s voice remains so very clear. He tells us to listen, surrender, obey, trust, serve, love and pray and He’ll take care of the rest.

    We know that to be true, but in our silence we can forget God’s promises. And the enemy’s job becomes much too easy as our silence provides a clear shot at our unprotected heart and mind. This is not what God intended.

    As we learn to live for free, we must find our own financial voice. And once we’ve found our voice, Jesus gives us direction on what to do next. In Matthew 18:19, He said, “… truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

    God does not want our money to be a barrier in our relationships with each other, or with Him. Rather than staying silent, allowing worrisome and false thoughts to take root, we need to pray and plan and partner together before, during and after our money troubles. If we never speak up to each other, how can we agree?

    We need to speak up sooner and louder. We need to talk with each other about our money troubles. No more will we let our financial silence inhibit our heart’s desire to love and serve God, our spouse, our family and our neighbors. Let’s raise our surrendered voices so God can calm our troubled hearts.

    Right now, ask God to help you find your financial voice — with your spouse, your friend, your pastor or your advisor. Refuse to be quiet. Raise your voice. Speaking our financial troubles out loud begins to frees us. God wants to help you find your financial voice. And He promises that when you ask for anything in His name, it will be done. Find your financial voice. Your Father in heaven is listening.

    Lord, You gave me a voice to speak to You and to others. So why is it so difficult to speak about my money troubles? I sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed of my financial choices. Everyone seems to have it all together. Lord, hear me and help me find my voice. Help me raise my voice to heaven in surrender and repentance so I may use the money You give me as tool to bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:8-9, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you and your spouse, or you and your friend, really talk about money? Do you have a poor financial habit or trouble that you’ve kept private … creating pride, shame or regret? Will you find your voice, speak it out loud and bring your issues into the light for God to hear? Because He is listening.

    © 2016 by John H. Putnam. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks John H. Putnam for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Is This a Delay or a Dead End?

    Is This a Delay or a Dead End? by Lysa TerKeurst

    “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.’” Exodus 32:1 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong? I understand.

    For many years I thought my calling to write was a dead end instead of a delay. I received rejection letter after rejection letter from the many book proposals I’d sent to publishers. I was so frustrated! I started wondering if I had heard God incorrectly when this passion to write was placed in my heart.

    I didn’t realize I was confusing a delay with a dead end. But I think we do this all the time. We put a period where our life story may just need a little string of dots …

    In punctuation, there are terminal points and pausing points. A terminal point is a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.

    But there are far more options for pausing points such as: the comma, semicolon, colon, em dash, and my personal favorite which drives my editors a little batty: the ellipsis.

    What in the world does all of this have to do with Biblical truth?

    When we confuse what’s really a pausing point with a terminal point, we can get into trouble. And that’s how the people of Israel got themselves into a mess of trouble while waiting for Moses to come down from a mountaintop meeting with God.

    Exodus 32:1 tells us, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.’”

    What “happened” to “this fellow” was that God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments. A pretty important pause. But because the people didn’t understand the delay, they decided they couldn’t trust God.

    So, they took matters into their own hands and had Aaron form a false god to comfort themselves and combat their confusion. In the end, their solution only added more chaos. And it cost them more than they ever imagined.

    They got completely out of control. They became the laughing stock of their enemies. Many lost their lives — it says over 3,000 died. AND they suffered from a plague.

    Of course, they could have avoided it all, including enraging Moses to the point where he threw the stone tablets God had personally carved for them, breaking them into pieces. But that would have required waiting just a little longer for Moses to return.

    Oh, friend. When there is a delay in our lives, we must determine to fill the gap between here and there by intentionally proclaiming every hint of God’s activity. Just the fact that we woke up breathing this morning is evidence of His goodness. So, let’s make a list and keep acknowledging that just because God is silent in one area of our life does not mean He is silent in every area.

    Also, let’s think about an area of our life where we’ve been waiting for what seems like an unreasonable amount of time. Let’s determine today not to mistake this delay for a dead end.

    We can say out loud, “I will not run ahead of God in this. I will not manipulate or manufacture solutions. I will not give up until God confirms I should. I will keep seeking God, fully anticipating and trusting His perfect plan to unfold in His perfect timing and His perfect way. And if He does confirm this is a dead end, I will still honor Him.”

    As for the delays in my journey to be a writer, I can look back and see that the Lord used those times in my life to develop my character to match my calling … and I’m so thankful He did.

    So let’s trust Him today. And choose to believe He is packing great purpose into our places of pausing.

    Heavenly Father, I confess that all too often I confuse pauses with end points. Remind me that my thoughts are not Your thoughts and my ways are not Your ways. Help me to not run ahead of You, but instead fully seek You. I trust that Your plan and timing are perfect. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

    But we can only continue to offer these free resources with help from friends like you. Will you prayerfully consider partnering financially with Proverbs 31 Ministries? Click here to give.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you in the midst of any delays that feel like dead ends? Use Lysa TerKeurst’s declaration in the devotion to surrender that area to the Lord today.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. 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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