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  • Be Still

    Be Still by Lynn Cowell

    “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

    One after another, choices needing decisions just keep coming.

    Home decisions hang in the balance. When can I get this fixed? Who will follow through with the repairs? What will it take to get everything done?

    Work decisions weigh on my mind. What are the next steps to take? Am I the only person who can do this? Do I need to bring in more help? How will this timeline come together?

    Relationship decisions tug on my heart. Is “yes” the best answer? When can I spend time with them? Should I really be that honest with my thoughts and feelings?

    Decision fatigue.

    Even as I write these words, my mind feels so very tired of the many decisions that need to be made.

    Weary, my heart turns to the only One who has the answers to each and every single decision.

    I open to a blank page in my journal to share my tired heart with the Lord.

    A prayer seeps from my heart, through my pen and onto the page. Weariness oozes from the ink: Lord, renew my awareness of Your presence. I need a fresh infilling of You in me. I need Your wisdom, for You to do a gentle, peaceful work in me that flows from me. No rushing. No pressure. Just peaceful guidance from You, leading to purposeful obedience from me.

    As I pray I realize that in the natural, this pathway of making these decisions alone will not lead to peace. He is peace.

    I make the best choice I can choose — turning to His Word to me: “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10a).

    Do you see that comma? It seemed to jump off the page.

    A pause.

    Be still, …

    When I’m still, then I will know. I will know the peace He embodies. He will show me His will. I will know that He is God.

    Not When I’m busy, When I’m productive or When I make all the right decisions, but When I’m still.

    The word “still” in Hebrew (the original language of the Old Testament) means: to hang limp, sink down, be feeble, to be lazy, to leave alone, abandon, withdraw, to show oneself slack.

    Am I reading this right? Could it be that God is endorsing this type of behavior?

    Yes, I have read His word correctly.

    Be still. Be patient. Be quiet. Be trustful and know. That is where He calls me to go: Pause and find Him. Peace.

    Lord, being still, when there is so much to do, seems so wrong. Yet, Your ways are not my ways. Help me to breathe deep, be still and pause to take You in. I want to know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

    Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:15, “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is decision fatigue something you experience? How often?

    Spend some time being still before God today. Present to Him the decisions you need to make. Then ask Him to help you pause before Him, so He can give you the peace and wisdom you need.

    © 2017 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • What Were You Put on Earth to Do?

    What Were You Put on Earth to Do? by Dr. Tony Evans

    “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

    When you set out to plan your day — or even your week — what is it you want to do most? Even deeper than that — what is your dream?

    I didn’t ask you what your dream is for your friend, kids, spouse, church or work — I want to know what your dream is, if you still even know what it is? What were you put here on earth to fulfill?

    Now, if you struggle with answers for any of the above, know you’re not alone. Especially if you are a busy mom, knee-deep in daily duties and driving demands, you … are … not … alone.

    And yes, I was never a mom — but I was a very involved dad in our four kids’ lives. Every morning, it was my responsibility to get them ready for school, bundle them into the car and drive them where they needed to go. And every evening after work, I focused on dedicated family time — devotions around the table, playtime with them on the floor wrestling or doing board games. (Sometimes I even let them win!)

    And for years, I had homework duty, too. So I understand how it feels to sit for hours after a long day at work — glued to the dinner table with a restless child night after night, year after year — trying everything to help the one who struggles with attention-deficit-disorder grasp the importance of perseverance and learning.

    I understand the things that keep parents up at night, unable to sleep — concerned with whether or not their children will be equipped to fulfill their dreams. These concerns and passions of parenting, marriage and relationships at church or work can be all-consuming for so long that eventually you wake up one day and realize you’ve forgotten about your dreams, passions and your destiny to fulfill. Just making it through the day is enough.

    I get it. I know how it is to give so much you simply do not have enough energy left to think about yourself anymore.

    Dream? Only when sleeping.

    Purpose? Passion? Eaten up by the daily demands of living a life for others. Which is good. It’s easy to forget what used to inspire you, drive you or even bring you hope.

    It’s easy to forget the you in you.

    God has a destiny for you. He has a purpose and a plan for you. Ephesians 2:10 reminds us, “we are God’s masterpiece … so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” He has something that maximizes your skills, personality, experiences, passions and compassions in a way like no one else ever could.

    Sure, it may not happen tomorrow. Nor will you get there by going in a straight line. This is because God sets twists and turns in all our lives that provide opportunities for us to grow, mature, be humbled, learn, develop, surrender, gain confidence and more. I call these twists and turns “detours.”

    Detours are unanticipated routes that take us another way to our intended destination. It’s either a sign you come upon, a person who steers you elsewhere or a police car with lights flashing, sitting there to let you know the road you are traveling is no longer available. Inevitably, they are also road bumps to our emotions. Because of the detour, we must go off the beaten path, take longer than we had wished, and be inconvenienced more than we had hoped.

    Few of us like to be stalled, for any reason. Even if it’s just someone cutting us off in traffic and forcing us to slow down. But detours are necessary to make any improvement on the paths we travel. Or to clean up any wreck or avoid hazards. Detours are designed for our own good on the roads of life, regardless of how we view them.

    Detours are a good thing that often feel bad.

    This is because it’s in our detours that we’re developed for our destiny.

    We learn patience, compassion, kindness, gratitude and all those wonderful things that empower us to fully live out our dreams. You may feel that your life right now is on one ongoing detour from fulfilling your dreams … while you’re serving the needs of others, setting your own hopes aside. But, just like Joseph whom God positioned from the pit to the palace (read Genesis chapter 37-50), God has a plan for every moment in your life as well. Yes, even the most mundane and monotonous ones.

    God is taking you straight to your destiny … in His ever God-like-zig-zagging-sort-of-way.

    Father God, help me keep my eyes open and learn to look for Your hand in the midst of happenstance, so my hope remains steadfast and my heart remains full. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What detours has God allowed you to face in recent months? How could God be using this detour in your life to fulfill His greater purpose?

    © 2017 by Dr. Tony Evans. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks The Urban Alternative 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

  • What to Do When You're Just Overwhelmed

    What to Do When You're Just Overwhelmed by Kathi Lipp

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    If one more person asks me about centerpieces, I think I may stab myself with the cake knife!

    How can one of the happiest days in a family’s life — something all of us have been looking forward to for years — turn into one of the most overwhelming events ever?

    You see, overwhelm camouflages itself. Some days it appears in hard places: A health crisis. Not being able to pay the bills. A huge project at work that requires all your time and attention.

    Other times, it sneaks in through the door of blessings: A new, unexpected addition to the family. A long-dreamed-about trip to see family. Or, in our case, one of our kids getting married.

    When Amanda and Shaun announced their engagement, we were thrilled. We’d been praying for the right man to come into Amanda’s life, and Shaun was a welcome addition to the family.

    But after the announcement came all the wedding plans. Who do we invite? Where will we hold the wedding? How will we pay for everything?

    After the initial excitement, reality came crashing down on us. That’s when overwhelm kicked in. Dreams of seeing Amanda walking down the aisle were replaced with elaborate fantasies of bribing the kids to elope.

    When I’m overwhelmed, my first instinct is to shut down. Then I fall back into familiar overwhelmed thinking patterns: I just need to work harder. Maybe I can rearrange my schedule to do some work on Sundays. Yes, that’s it … except my husband and I agreed that our Sundays would be a day for rest. But how else would these plans come together?

    After stressing and stewing about how to make everything work, I finally remembered I was not in this alone. God is not surprised by the trials, or the blessings, coming my way.

    When I start to feel the familiar weight of overwhelm press down, here’s what I eventually remind myself to do:

    Stop comparing plates. Our capacity to handle life is like dishes at an estate sale. There are dinner plates, salad plates, dessert plates and more. Some people get the dinner plates; their capacity is awe-inspiring. Then there are those who have been given a salad plate. They overwhelm easily and live a carefully curated life in order to function.

    Friends, we need to know which size plate we have.

    If you’re delicately balancing a demitasse cup plate in life, and your best friend has a turkey platter of a plate, don’t start comparing your capacity to hers. God designed your temperament and hers differently on purpose.

    Take the next faithful step to deal with overwhelm. With my daughter’s wedding, when I started to feel the panic of overwhelm rise within me, instead of trying to “suck it up” and power through, I learned to ask the right questions:

    • I asked for time. I asked if I had some flexibility on other deadlines — I did!

    • I asked for help. When my friend Nancy heard that Amanda was getting married, she offered to help with all the plans and prep. I politely declined, and then five minutes later, came to my senses and begged her to help. Nancy got to use her gift of planning amazing parties on the cheap, and I obeyed orders and bore less stress.

    • I asked for grace. My husband and I took the day after the wedding off from work. We wanted time to rest, reflect and recover. The wedding was a huge blessing in our lives, but it was also stressful. We didn’t want to carry that over into other parts of our lives. Taking that day to reflect on what God had done — and rest — was priceless.

    Practice trusting God more deeply before overwhelm sets in.

    I’ve learned to step back, take a break and let myself sit in the unimaginable — the thought that God already provided everything I need for this challenge. I no longer let calendars, emails and to-dos dictate my next move, but I hold to God’s promises to shape my heart into the kind of daughter He designed me to be.

    Father, let me take every thought and emotion, blessing or burden, directly to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do today to trust God with your overwhelm?

    © 2017 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Dear God, Where Are You?

    Dear God, Where Are You? by Lysa Terkeurst

    “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

    “Mom, I didn’t make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God.”

    My heart sank. I felt my daughter’s deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

    I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

    She’d been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn’t old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

    Finally, this was going to be her year.

    She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight … until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

    She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn’t ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn’t ignite.

    She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she’d been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn’t just pray — she cried out to God.

    “Please help me, God. Please,” she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned, but the paper did not.

    As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

    When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

    The fact that she didn’t get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God’s power like the other girls had. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

    “Mom, I didn’t get that with God. Why?”

    This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don’t want to mess up in answering.

    I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God’s hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

    And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn’t light. None at all. Everyone else’s paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn’t.

    “Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn’t have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there … protecting you … loving you … revealing His power to you.”

    She put her head on my shoulder, “You really think so, Mom?”

    I whispered, “I know so.”

    I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

    He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NIV).

    He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, and I am not alone: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

    Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, “Yes, sweetheart, I know so.”

    Sometimes God’s power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

    Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don’t — even when I don’t agree. Help me see Your “yes” and “no” as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. 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)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:

    Look back at a situation where you felt God didn’t answer your prayers. Can you see His power in not allowing your prayer to be answered?

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Bible Basics: 7 Tips to Help You Read the Bible in this New Year

    Stay committed to reading the Bible in one year with these tips.

    January has arrived, and with it, the promise of renewal and a fresh start. We know many of you have set spiritual goals for the year ahead and we’re excited to walk alongside you during this season of growth. We also know spending more time in God’s Word is one of the most popular resolutions among believers. Stay committed to reading the Bible in one year with these tips.

    Commit to Consistency Establish a time of day that works well for you and commit that window of time to your daily Bible reading. Find a place in your home that is comfy and quiet, free of distractions, so you can focus on reading and absorbing God’s Word.

    Buy a One-Year Bible The One Year Series of books, Bibles and devotionals are our most popular annual readers. The One Year Series will guide you through God's Word in 365 days featuring daily passages from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the book of Psalms and Proverbs.

    Rethink the Rules There is more than one way to read and understand the Bible, so give yourself permission to skip around. If reading cover to cover isn’t for you, consider reading chronologically or dabbling in both the Old Testament and the New Testament every day. If you’re just getting started on your walk with God, we recommend first reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    Take Down Your Thoughts Writing is a wonderful way to explore your emotions and your faith more fully. Journal verses that stand out to you, prayer requests, how certain passages make you feel and anything else God whispers to you during these quiet moments with Him.

    Ask for Accountability Find a spiritual mentor who can check in with you periodically or encourage a friend or family member to read along with you. Allowing others in on your goal can increase your chances of achieving it.

    Pray Persistently As Christians, prayer is the cornerstone of everything we do. Set yourself up for success by laying your goals down at God’s feet and relying on Him for strength. If prayer has felt more like a burden than a blessing lately, energize your prayer life with these four tips.

    Give Yourself Some Grace We all fall short of perfection. Thankfully, we serve a gracious God who doesn’t expect us to be faultless. If you miss a day of reading, forgive yourself, pray about it and get back on track tomorrow. Don’t give up!

    We hope you feel encouraged and empowered to reach your goal of reading through the Bible in 2017.

    You Might Also Like

    7 Ways to Pursue Spiritual Growth in 2017

    How to Choose a Bible: 4 Questions to Consider

    How to Study the Bible: 10 Practical Tips to help you Understand God’s Word

  • Environment is Stronger Than Willpower

    Environment is Stronger Than Willpower by Arlene Pellicane

    “For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

    For my mom’s birthday one year, a creative friend made her a poster board plastered with chocolate bars. Each chocolate bar was part of a sentence like, “Your friendship is worth $100 Grand.” To my surprise, she didn’t eat the candy. Every time I went into her home office, I had to look at those chocolate bars. For months I was tempted to “enjoy” my mom’s birthday gift for myself!

    Finally, I asked my mom if I could cut open the wrappers and throw away the chocolates. That candy-laden environment was winning against my willpower. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I came to a breaking point: Either eat the candy, or change the environment.

    Environment is stronger than willpower. We may have all the willpower in the world, but when we’re constantly surrounded by chocolate (or another favorite treat), we will eventually give in.

    Today’s key verse warns believers about the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Those chocolate bar decorations certainly represented the lust of the flesh, a physical temptation, for me. Whether your goal is to eat healthier or to pray more, it’s crucial to create the right environment to reduce temptation.

    If my temptation is food, I must make my home a safe place to eat. I can’t buy junk food in the grocery store or stock my cupboards with it and expect to resist the temptation for a late-night snack. Instead I’ll do better to fill my kitchen with fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks to create a better environment. It’s not always easy, but I find when I make the decision beforehand to walk past the breakroom and the box of donuts waiting on the countertop — over time — it becomes easier to resist.

    When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, his first attempt was with food. The devil said, “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3b, NIV). But Jesus answered, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” (Luke 4: 4b, NIV).

    Notice Jesus didn’t say people don’t need food. He said that man doesn’t live by food alone. We can lean on the promises of God’s Word when we’re tempted to indulge the lust of the flesh.

    Maybe you don’t have a problem with food. Maybe your struggle is prayer. I understand. Sometimes I want to pray, but my flesh says, “I’m too tired” or “I don’t need to pray; I’ve got this handled.” Just as I can create a healthier environment by eating whole foods and attending an exercise class, I can also create a prayerful environment.

    What’s been helpful for me is to begin each day by praising God for who He is. I place my Bible right next to my bed so it’s the first thing I reach for. I’ve also developed new habits like not checking social media until I check in with God in prayer. When I first started this new routine, I would even put a sticky note over my phone to remind me.

    A positive environment can inspire you to make the choices you want to make. Don’t count on willpower to defeat the lust of the flesh. Rely on the Holy Spirit and wisely build an environment for positive change and accountability.

    And if you ever receive a bunch of candy bars for your birthday, here’s my advice: Share them with others and get them out of your house as soon as possible!

    Dear God, I praise You that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me take care of my physical body and my soul. Show me how to turn away from the lust of the flesh. Reign over my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore, these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (KJV)

    Matthew 6:13, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take stock of the current environment for your body and soul. What are some potential hazards in your house? It could be food, social media, television, relationships, etc.

    What will be your plan to escape temptation and walk in freedom?

    © 2017 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

  • Time Well Spent

    Time Well Spent by Dr. James Merritt

    “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“ Psalm 37:4-7 (NIV)

    There is an old saying “time is money.” That really isn’t true. The real truth is “time is life.” Life comes down to the time we have on this earth and how we spend it.

    The older I get, the more I realize the most precious time in life is when I spend it with the people I love the most. Even after 40 years of marriage, I love spending time with my precious Teresa. One-on-one. Just the two of us. I have never gotten over the fact that … a) she married me, and b) she still loves to spend time with me.

    Yet even more amazing to me is that God desires to spend time with me!

    In fact, He wants to spend time with you and me so badly that He paid in order to get it. He sent Jesus to remove every barrier, tear down every wall and unlock every door so we could have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, He gave us His Word so we could hear from Him constantly and consistently.

    That’s why I love to read my Bible. I know God wants me to have unrestricted access to Him, anywhere and anytime I want. God has a personal side and He wants me to know it. God wants you to get to know Him better so you can love Him fully, hear Him clearly and experience His guidance. This comes by spending time with Him in His Word.

    A king by the name of David wrote a song about the benefits of spending time with God, showing us why this should be a top priority of our life.

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Reflect God’s Character Just as I enjoy spending precious time with my wife, God is delighted when we are delighted in Him! He loves to be our eyes and ears so He can speak into our heart.

    Have you noticed the more time you spend with someone, the more you become like them? As we spend time with God and His Word, He changes us so we become more like Him. God changes us so He can use us to change other people. You simply cannot spend time with God, hear His Word, know Him better, love Him more and be the same person.

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Receive God’s Blessings God promises that when we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart. Now this is not a “your wish is my command!” promise. As we spend time with God, we will delight in Him. His desires become our desires because our hearts are tuned to His. He will grant us what we desire, because we both want the same thing!

    Spending Time with God Causes Me to Rest in God’s Will As we spend time with God and His Word, our faith and trust in Him will grow. Fear is replaced by faith, and worry is replaced by worship. Spending quality time with God and consistently studying His Word grows our confidence in His power and our commitment to His plans for our lives.

    So today … set aside time to spend with the One who is above all time. It will be time well spent.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for wanting to spend time with me and inviting me to spend time with You. Help me prioritize this time with You, knowing it is the path to divine power and meaningful productivity in the time You have given me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 2:15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are the barriers that keep you from spending time with God?

    What are you willing to give up today to make spending time with God a priority? Make that commitment to God now.

    © 2017 by Dr. James Merritt. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Letting God Fill in the Blanks

    Letting God Fill in the Blanks by Lysa Terkeurst

    “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6 (NIV)

    There’s this little painting that hangs in my home. Most people wouldn’t consider it a masterpiece. I only paid $5 for it at an estate sale, but I like it because it speaks redemption to my soul every time I look at it.

    I don’t know what happened to the gal who painted it. All I know is it seems something about her life fell apart. And one day a company opened her front door to strangers. They walked through all the sacred spaces she once called home and bought the stuff her life had collected. I guess I’m too sentimental to attend estate sales; I couldn’t stand it.

    But I also couldn’t leave without rescuing something in her creative collection. Then I had the strangest notion to go on a wild adventure to find this unknown painter. I pictured it like an epic scene in a movie where the music crescendos and I find her living in a New York high-rise. I would knock on her door and make the great assumption that she would be thrilled with my announcement.

    “I just want you to know I love your work. I bought one of your paintings and it speaks a message of redemption to me every day. And I treasure it.”

    Surely then she would get misty eyed, invite me in for coffee and share her devastatingly beautiful story. We would become wonderful unlikely friends. She would go on to become a famous painter. And live happily ever after.

    But life isn’t usually as epic as what we see on movie screens. It’s untidy and so unpredictable that our fragile hearts get broken at best, crushed at worst. And sometimes it’s just easier to run away than to risk letting the shards of the fallout cut away the little bit of life still left in us.

    No crescendo to the music. No epic arc to the story. No lasting friendship. Just a $5 painting that hangs in my kitchen. And that’s all I know.

    Life sometimes keeps us from details that are better left alone. It keeps some of the blanks blank on the outline of this message.

    Does it ever drive you crazy when a speaker gives you an outline with blanks but then skips some of the points? Me too.

    We like complete outlines. All the blanks filled in. All the gaps closed. All the details disclosed. And all the why questions answered to our satisfaction.

    But that’s not the way life is. Some speakers are disorganized and forgetful. Some gaps too wide to close. And there are some questions for which there are no apparent answers. I believe that’s the way God wants it. Our all-knowing God not only allows this but actually designed life to be this way.

    Without blanks, we would have no room for Him to enter in and write His answers. For Him to become the Way when there is no way. For Him to be the Truth when lies long to be what consume our thoughts. For Him to be the Life He’s designed on the other side of our crumbling attempts to control our stories (John 14:6). Our God is not fickle, forgetful or fragile in any way. He does not make mistakes. He purposes the gaps. He allows sacred spaces and blank places. He leaves room.

    If we had all the blanks filled in, we would explain away God’s part in our story. God doesn’t want to be explained away. He wants to be invited in. He wants us to make room for His additions to our story.

    One time God was told, “There is no room,” and He turned an ordinary stable into an unforgettable sanctuary. “No room” became a space through which Jesus Christ stepped through glory to the grit and grime of this sin-soaked world.

    What did He come to bring? Redemption.

    And what do the blanks and unanswered questions of your life provide space for? Redemption.

    So why is it OK with me if I never know the details of my kitchen painting? Redemption.

    Father God, I thank You that everything You do has holy purpose. Even the things that don’t make sense to me. Thank You for being the way, the truth and the life that I need. You are my Redeemer and I trust You with every detail of my story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 111:9, “He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever — holy and awesome is his name.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you have any “blanks” in your life causing you pain or frustration? Release them in prayer today to God — thanking Him that He knows exactly how to fill them in.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Maybe it Really is That Simple

    Maybe it Really is That Simple by Glynnis Whitwer

    “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8 (NIV)

    Life has a way of being complicated. I wish the right decision were always obvious. But whether that decision has to do with relationships, responsibilities or resources, I can get confused. Especially now.

    I’ve come to a time in my life where I’m not sure which path to take. At one time God’s direction was clear. But now … things have changed. What was once life-giving, seems life-draining. It’s time to do something new.

    But what if I’m wrong? Perhaps God is calling me to persevere despite the hardship. Or maybe I’ve completed my assignment, and it’s time to move on. Couldn’t God just use a holy highlighter and give me a sign?

    Have you ever faced a decision where the right choice was unclear?

    I used to think God had one path for me, and I had to choose rightly or miss God’s best. But more than ever, I realize God wants my heart in the right place, and the way I serve Him is secondary.

    Throughout history, God’s people have consistently gotten these two things mixed up. It’s in our human nature to want to control and manipulate things, even God’s approval. There’s some comfort in creating rituals and rules; then we always know where we stand in comparison.

    Although God certainly established rules for our good, He never meant for those rules to replace a relationship with Him. God wants us to trust Him rather than a set of guidelines.

    With as many good choices as we face today, it can feel impossible to know which one is right for us. We can either over-commit because we want desperately to serve God or under-commit because we have decision-paralysis or we’ve just given up trying.

    The Israelites seemed to have the same problem. For generations, they either became legalistic trying to please God with their religious sacrifices, or they gave up and grew hard hearts.

    In the time of the prophet Micah, the people’s hearts were far from God. They’d created a religion based on rituals and rules that no one could keep. Some even abandoned God and worshipped idols. And yet God continually called them back to a relationship with Him.

    Micah tried to tell the people that following God was really much simpler than they made it out to be: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

    I imagine some of the religious folk having a problem with that simplified version of faith. Or maybe agreeing but wanting to add a few hundred rules to it. But Micah clearly communicated God’s desire through that prophesy — just three things are required: justice, mercy and humility.

    It’s interesting to note that although there is action involved, each of those requirements starts with a soft and loving heart. We won’t act justly if we harbor resentment or hate. We won’t show kindness and mercy if we seek to serve ourselves. And a prideful heart will always walk ahead of God.

    Could those three conditions apply to me today? Maybe all God is asking of me is to stand for what is right … to choose kindness … and to walk closely to Him, submitting my will daily.

    Perhaps I’m making my choice harder than I have to. If I strip away all the man-made rules and all the expectations I’ve placed on myself, and if God hasn’t clearly spoken to me, then the only thing that matters is if my heart is in the right place: near God’s.

    If God’s pursued the hearts of His children for thousands of years, He is certainly still pursuing yours and mine. And we won’t find a relationship with Him through routine obedience or service. In fact, God the Father sent His Son Jesus so those who believe in Him could have God’s presence residing in us — the closest relationship possible.

    If you are facing a choice today that’s kept you frozen in indecision, I hope God’s Word encourages you. Maybe it really is this simple. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God. Now, the choice is yours.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for not adding burdens to this already-difficult life and for making Your way simple. Help me to not make it any harder than it has to be, and to be more concerned with the condition of my heart than making the perfect choice. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (NIV)

    John 20:31, “But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which do you struggle with more: acting justly, loving mercy or walking humbly with God?

    Are you facing a difficult choice today? Pray for God to help you live out Micah 6:8 in greater measure.

    © 2017 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Start the New Year Prepared

    Start the New Year Prepared by Katy McCown

    “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2 (NLT)

    “I’m not doing this again,” I proclaimed, and I meant it with all my heart.

    Just a few days before, I spent a dark, rainy weekend packing our lives into boxes and then unloading them into a new place in a new city.

    Though the bulk of the work was behind me, I felt exhausted and unsatisfied. I didn’t look forward to new memories and planting roots, because this new place had no more certainty than the last one. I feared another weekend much like the one I’d just experienced was all too close.

    So, I announced I wasn’t doing it again. But my husband’s career requires us to relocate often, so although I knew I couldn’t cling to the idea of never moving again, I could purpose to do it differently the next time.

    Why do we need this lamp? There are perfectly fine lights on the ceiling. Who needs headboards for the beds? The wall will be support enough. This dresser isn’t necessary. We can stack clothes on the shelf in the closet.

    And so it went. One thing at a time, I whittled away at our stuff and created a simpler, much more manageable life of mobility.

    In today’s key verse, God talks to His people, the Israelites, as they begin a journey. After years in captivity, they rejoiced at the freedom to return to their homeland. But to get there, they would have to travel a long distance.

    Their travel would look quite different from ours — no plane to catch and no trailer to haul their stuff. So you can imagine the challenge this nation would face when they found themselves standing in front of deep waters or difficult rivers.

    Men, women, children, livestock and all their belongings would have to find a way through these physical obstacles.

    Though we may not come upon an actual river, we will likely encounter something this year that mimics a rushing current or suffocating smoke. Notice how our key verse says, “When you go through deep waters … When you go through rivers of difficulty … When you walk through the fire of oppression.”

    When. Not if.

    The nation of Israel was guaranteed to encounter all of these on their journey, and I think we can count on it too. So let’s prepare for it, shall we?

    When I realized the uncertainty of my family’s future, I purposed to get rid of all of the extra, unnecessary things that weighed us down. The things we absolutely could live without and would ultimately free us up to follow God wherever He chose to lead us.

    Since that day, my family has moved every single year. And that’s okay. Our things are now so simplified we can do it in a matter of hours. Our last move demanded my husband and me, and about two hours of our time. That’s it.

    Consequently, I no longer dread future moves, because I know we’re prepared for it.

    We all have extra. Sometimes in our physical surroundings. Sometimes in our spiritual ones. To face the troubles sure to surface, we need to get rid of the extra.

    When the water is deep, your feet can’t feel the bottom. And your body is tired, but the other side is still so far away. That one thing you don’t need could be the one thing that drags you under.

    Of course, no matter how prepared we feel, we’ll never be able to conquer our troubles alone. God didn’t just warn of potential problems ahead, He included promises to stand on in the midst of them.

    God will be with us. We will not be overtaken. We will not be utterly consumed.

    As we head into a new year, let’s start this one prepared, so when we face the trials of life we will stand. Undaunted by deep waters. Ready for rivers of difficulty. Fearless in the face of the fire.

    Dear God, thank You. Thank You for the smiles and laughs and songs and prayers all shared in 2016. And thank You for the promise of Your presence as I travel through 2017. Through deep waters and difficult rivers and oppressive heat, You promise You will be with me. May my actions prove Your promises this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, “Don’t run from tests and hardships, brothers and sisters. As difficult as they are, you will ultimately find joy in them; if you embrace them, your faith will blossom under pressure and teach you true patience as you endure. And true patience brought on by endurance will equip you to complete the long journey and cross the finish line — mature, complete, and wanting nothing.” (VOICE)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you clinging to something that may be weighing you down and preventing you from fully living in God’s promises?

    Ask God to show you some things you can throw off to help you be less exhausted and more effective this year.

    © 2017 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

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Activate Your Faith - Phillipians 4:13
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