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  • Finding True Rest

    Finding True Rest by Ruth Schwenk

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

    “Whaaat do you waaaant?!?!” I bellowed with frustration, loud enough so my teenage son could hear me upstairs. He had just eagerly called my name and in my haste, I replied with anger.

    “Mom, I just wanted to tell you that I had finished cleaning my room without you even asking me. I thought you would be excited,” he replied meekly.

    Ugh. Instantly I was overcome with guilt.

    Wearily, I apologized: “I am so sorry, Tyler. Everyone is trying to talk to me at the same time, the dogs won't stop barking and the house is a mess. I am just overwhelmed, and I shouldn’t have responded that way. I’m sorry.” I was trying to justify myself as much as I was apologizing!

    Wow, where did that come from? I wondered. It’s amazing to me how motherhood can bring out the best in us, but also the worst. Being a mom can expose the true condition of our hearts.

    As the years have quickly passed and my children are getting older, I have slowly come to the conclusion that pretty much every time I am feeling irritable and on edge, there is one thing missing from my day.

    Jesus.

    He is the One who makes even the chaos seem peaceful. My day always goes better when I first pause to spend time with Him. I used to think that I had to get away and go somewhere like a particular place that had been well planned out. But I’ve discovered something very different.

    Rest doesn’t have to mean getting away from the noise, the busyness, the work or even the to-do list! Rest can be found right in the middle of it all.

    How? Because our rest is ultimately found in a Person. Rest is found in Jesus. The joy and peace I need starts by running to Him, abiding in Him, trusting in Him and staying close to Him.

    A soul at peace, no matter what is going on around me, is settled by clinging to Jesus' words and walking in Jesus' ways.

    Matthew captures the promise of peace and rest Jesus offers when he records Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

    That’s the rest I need. It’s where my soul is most satisfied. I can’t create Christlikeness on my own, but as I come to Jesus, He shares His life with me. Through the work of His Spirit in me, I am being made new. Who He is changes who I am, and I can have an easy soul when I rest in Him.

    Rest. Peace. A soul not easily moved. A mom who is strong when she is weak. All of this Jesus offers if we would just come to Him.

    For you, that might look like waking up 30 minutes earlier, sneaking away from your day for 15 minutes or taking a break from work to go for a short walk outside. For all of us, the time may look different, but the result is the same. When we press pause and find the quiet moments to meet with Jesus, He changes us. We can give the best of who we are by first giving ourselves to Jesus.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the blessing of being a mom. Remind me daily of the quiet moments I need to spend with You. Help me find my rest in You and in You alone. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 62:5, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (NIV)

    Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Finding time alone with Jesus can be difficult. What will you do to ensure you take that much needed quiet time each day?

    © 2016 by Ruth Schwenk. All rights reserved.

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

  • You Are a Beautiful Design

    You Are a Beautiful Design by Matt Chandler

    “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 (NIV)

    The question of origin: “Who am I?” The question of purpose: “Why am I here?” and The question of design: “How do things work?” all find their root in Genesis 1:1.

    This verse tells us we were created. And because we are the created and not the Creator, we are not the measure of anything. We're not the point.

    That's hard because, if I can be honest, I like to be the point. I like everyone to defer to what I want, what I need and what I desire, and so do you. We all want to be the point, and when we feel like we're not the point, a lot of conflict is birthed.

    Although we may not be the point, God did create us differently than the rest of the world. Genesis 1:26a and 27 say, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness’ … So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NIV).

    But God didn’t stop there. Verse 31a adds a compelling completion to creation, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (NIV).

    That's the first time those words are used. Up until this point it was good, it was good, it was good, and now we have man and woman, and it's very good.

    In this passage, we get what theologians have called for a few millennia the Imago Dei, the image of God, and the idea that men and women are different from all of creation because we have been made in the image of God.

    There are several things textually that take place in this passage of Scripture that start to reveal that truth. First, there's a break in the rhythm. It's not just, “I created this, and it was good. I created this, and it was good.” It was all of a sudden a conversation inside the Godhead: “Let us make mankind in our own image.” Us, Our. This conversation in the Godhead, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    Out of the overflow of Their unity, joy and perfection, They began to paint Their glory on the canvas of creation. And then, in the vastness of this universe, on this tiny little dirt ball in one of the smaller solar systems in this expansive universe, God placed His crown jewel of all creation: men and women, made in His image and endowed with dominion and authority.

    The Imago Dei is God's investment in humanity of God-like glory and moral capacity to reign and rule the earth as His representatives. This is what sets us apart.

    What are the implications of the Imago Dei? There is an intrinsic human dignity that places us above everything else in the creative order.

    We have an intrinsic value because of the image God has given to us. It's not a functional thing as much as a gift from God. And it shapes how we view humanity — those we live side-by-side with and those we’ll never meet.

    Yet we forget this amazing truth, and sin messes us up, and we treat each other in ways that must break God’s heart.

    What if we could really grasp that we have intrinsic value because we are made in the image of God? The difference would be incredible. This is God’s beautiful design for us, and we were made to walk in this beauty.

    Father, I thank You for our sameness. I thank You that we are brothers and sisters by Your design. May that truth shape how we view others, but first, may it shape how we view ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 43:6b-7, “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth. Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Write one area where you consistently look to the world (created things) for purpose or meaning. What would change if you began to look toward God and His good design in that specific area?

    © 2016 by Matt Chandler. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • I Don’t Know the Future, but I Know Who Holds It

    I Don’t Know the Future, but I Know Who Holds It by Tracie Miles

    “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day. I will test them in this to see whether or not they will follow my instructions.’” Exodus 16:4 (NLT)

    I had barely slept as the worries in my heart grew bigger and bigger in the darkness. When the sunshine finally peeked through my window, I immediately began to pray. I poured out my heart to God and dumped all of my concerns at His feet.

    But as I continued praying, I began to notice a pattern. No matter what circumstance or concern I shared with God, they all seemed to share one underlying theme — the fear of lack of provision.

    You see my personal circumstances had changed, and suddenly my future was not as secure as it once seemed. I felt God convicting my heart with the need to stop fearing the unknown and start trusting, Him with the unknown. Then I heard a gentle whisper in my spirit saying, “I alone am your Provider.”

    With eyes closed and tears threatening to emerge, I nodded my head, “Yes, Lord. You are. Forgive me for doubting Your provision. I seek Your peace and ask You to take away the fears gripping my heart. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know You hold my future. Amen.”

    I opened my eyes and felt Jesus nudging me to have some time alone in His Word, so I picked up my phone and clicked on the app where I read one of my daily devotions. Immediately, hot tears pushed through my eyes as I realized the devotion was echoing the prayer I had just prayed minutes earlier. It specifically addressed the fears for provision I had just shared with God. In fact, it was nearly word for word. God had heard the cries of my heart, and He wasted no time reassuring me He was listening.

    The devotion was based on today’s key verse in Exodus where God provided for His people in a miraculous way. It was designed to bring them closer to Him, as they were forced to trust Him for their provision on a daily basis.

    I read about how the people of Israel had looked everywhere but “up” for their needs to be met. They’d been slaves to the Egyptians, and after God set them free, they had to fully trust Him for all of their needs. The slaves were physically free but still mentally enslaved to their habit of looking for provision from people and things.

    I thought about where I usually looked for provision, and none of them were “up.” I looked to my job. I looked to my husband. I looked to my checkbook or my savings account. I looked to my goals and dreams. I looked to my relationships. But now life was changing, and God was calling me to look to Him.

    Then I read further in the passage to Exodus 16:8 which says, “Then Moses added, ‘The LORD will give you meat to eat in the evening and bread to satisfy you in the morning, for he has heard all your complaints against him. What have we done? Yes, your complaints are against the LORD, not against us’” (NLT).

    Ouch. I had been doing a lot of complaining and sharing my concerns. I realized my complaints were not only to my Provider, but against my Provider. The One who had always provided for me in the past, and He would continue to do so in the future, even if I didn’t know exactly how.

    After reading the devotion and thanking God for reminding me He was my Provider, I felt a wave of peace. Admitting my need for God and trusting Him as my Jehovah-Jireh, lightened my heart and changed my perspective from that day forward.

    I still may not know what the future holds, but I know Who holds my future. And He has your future in His hands, too.

    Lord, I have been feeling enslaved to my thoughts of worry and doubt and I seek Your forgiveness. Help me remember You alone are the One who will provide for all of my needs — physical, spiritual and emotional. Help me recognize the sweet ways You are raining down manna each day and to trust You alone with the future. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:19, “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What provisional needs have you been most stressed about?

    How might committing to trust God as your Jehovah-Jireh bring peace to your heart today?

    © 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Emerson Eggerichs and the Respect Effect

    A mom wrote:

    "I have been really struggling with my... son lately. Now I understand why every mother wants a daughter... because we “get” them! When my... daughter throws a fit about something, I know what angle to come from because I understand why she’s upset. When my son does something, I’m like, “Why did he just do that?” Again!"

    Mothers love their sons more than they love their very lives, but they readily confess ignorance and confusion.

    Every mother recognizes the woman in the girl and her longing for love. The feminine need for love rings loud and clear to all women. And, the desire to love is obvious. Who misses the nurturing nature of women and little girls?

    Yet as I talk to mothers and tell them there is a man in the boy, some respond with curiosity about who that man might be. These mothers admit they are a bit in the dark on God’s virtuous design of testosterone, unlike the way they intuitively grasp the purity of estrogen. One mom quipped (about her son), “We love these kids, but Lord help us; if they don’t have the same XX or XY chromosomes that we do, it can be like navigating a foreign country without a map.”

    But there is good news! In the book Mother & Son: The Respect Effect, I explain the attributes of mothernsonblogthe masculine soul. Both research and the Bible reveal the male’s need for respect.

    This is a simple and revolutionary insight into the heart of a son that we have overlooked—and shockingly so. This book is about a mother going beyond her love and applying respect to the heart of her son. Every mom will begin to see for herself this need in her son of any age. She will see her influence increase, her son motivated, and the two of them connect in ways she thought were not possible.

    I have collected hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from moms. You need to hear their testimonies. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your son.

    ------

    Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is internationally known for speaking on the topic of male-female relationships. Based on his personal experiences over three decades of counseling, as well as scientific and biblical research, Dr. Eggerichs has written numerous books and created the Love and Respect Conference for married couples.

  • There You Are!

    There You Are! by Jill Savage

    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 (ESV)

    I walked into the room, secretly hoping someone would come talk to me, welcome me to the group and make me feel comfortable. When that didn’t happen in the initial moments, I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my email so it appeared I was connected to someone. Anyone.

    Jill, look around and see.

    The words weren’t audible, but God’s voice resonated deep in my soul.

    I moved my eyes from the phone to glance around the room. I questioned whether I actually belonged here. These women looked so put together.

    Jill, every woman here has a backstory … just like you. Stop comparing your insides to their outsides. They may look put together on the outside, but I’m at work in each of their imperfect lives on the inside. Can you see them through My eyes?

    Mustering every ounce of courage I could find, I left the safety of my seat and the feigned interest in my phone to walk across the room and start a conversation with another woman sitting alone. Initially it was awkward, but as we talked it felt good to actually be connecting with someone.

    I once read there are two kinds of people in this world: those who walk into a room and say, “Here I am. Come talk to me. Come make me feel comfortable,” and those who walk into a room and say, “There you are! You look interesting to get to know. I’d like to learn more about you.”

    Jesus was a master at being a “there you are” person. He saw people and reached out to them.

    Zaccheaus. The woman at the well. Each of His disciples. Jesus sought them out. He pursued them. He really saw them.

    If I’m honest, sometimes I don’t see well.

    In social settings I'm often more focused on my own comfort than I am on making others feel comfortable.

    As a parent, particularly when my kids were younger, I often parented “by herd.” I herded all five kids to church. To school. To activities. I saw them as a group instead of the unique individuals God made them to be.

    Sometimes I don’t see my husband. My heart screams, “Here I am. Look at me,” and I miss opportunities to bless and encourage him, or really see how tired or discouraged he is.

    Oh, to see others more like Jesus. To fully live out the message of today’s key verse, Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

    We aren’t perfect, but each and every day God is perfecting you and me to be more like Jesus. That includes moving from being a “here I am” person to being more of a “there you are” person as often as we can.

    Father God, thank You for seeing me. Thank You for pursuing me with Your unconditional love. Help me see like you do. Show me how to resist comparing my insides to other women’s outsides so I can stop comparing and start seeing. When I look at my husband, my kids and those around me, let me see them through Your eyes. Help me be more of a “there you are” person each and every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:10, “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” (ESV)

    Genesis 16:13, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me?’” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one step you can take to be more of a “there you are” person in your marriage or with your children?

    The next time you’re in a social environment, practice being a “there you are” person, and give someone the beautiful gift of being seen.

    © 2016 by Jill Savage. All rights reserved.

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

  • Stop. Look. Fix our Eyes.

    Stop. Look. Fix our Eyes. by Wendy Blight

    “Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’” Acts 3:4 (NIV)

    Six years ago, a simple visit to the pediatrician turned our lives upside down when a doctor diagnosed our daughter Lauren, then 12, with scoliosis (curvature of the spine). We prayed for healing, but the curve worsened over the years. It finally reached the point where her pain was unbearable and surgery was our only option.

    The morning of her surgery greeted us early … 4:30 a.m., to be exact. As I looked into Lauren’s eyes, I saw fear. My bright-eyed, happy girl sat across from me with tears dripping down her cheeks. I excused myself because I knew I was about to lose it — and we hadn’t even left for the hospital yet. As I walked into my room, a tiny box caught my eye. It was one of the many gifts we had received from friends and family before the surgery.

    I had forgotten about this elegantly wrapped box. When I lifted the lid, beautiful feathers fluttered out. What a strange gift, I thought, until I read the tiny scroll tucked inside.

    You are the Almighty Most High and You offer us shelter and refuge when we trust You. Father, cover Wendy and Lauren with Your feathers and under Your wings may they find a safe dwelling place. Like the wings of a mother bird, may the shadow of Your protection rest over them and bring them peace, keeping them safe and sure.

    Her precious gift stopped me right in my tracks. It shifted my perspective from fear to feathers — feathers which represented God’s promises.

    As I looked at those feathers and the promises that went with them, I fixed my eyes on Jesus.

    I walked back downstairs and shared the feather and prayer with my girl. Our tears arrested. Our hearts full. We climbed in the car and headed to the hospital full of more faith than fear.

    This brings to mind a story from God’s Word where someone else needed a bit of perspective shifting. In today’s verse, Peter and John are on their way to the temple to pray. While pressing through the crowds, they encounter a beggar who had been “lame from birth” (Acts 3:2, NIV).

    When the man asked them for money, rather than fulfill his request, the apostles looked him straight in the eye, and Peter commanded, “Look at us!” Peter demanded the lame man’s full attention to shift his focus … his perspective … from his immediate needs. To move this beggar beyond the visible and ordinary to the invisible and extraordinary.

    When I first read the story, “Look at us” seemed only like three simple words. However, God used them to shift this man’s perspective and change his life.

    I discovered other places in the Bible where God interrupted someone’s life to shift their perspective: Hagar in the wilderness to see a well of water (Genesis 21:19); Balaam to see the angel of the Lord (Numbers 22:31); Elisha’s servant so he could see the chariots of fire (2 Kings 6:17).

    It was only by God shifting their focus from the earthly to the heavenly, the natural to the supernatural, from despair to hope, fear to trust, that they experienced the extraordinary hand of God at work in their midst.

    Once the beggar locked eyes on Peter and John, he received the gift they had for him. But it wasn’t money. It was far better than silver or gold. By the power and authority Jesus had given them, the man was healed.

    This beggar. Lame from birth. Instantly. Completely. Healed.

    Sometimes thoughts of fear, despair and hopelessness consume us. Sometimes the entanglements of this world interrupt, even hinder, God’s ability to work in our lives.

    Like I did that day in my room, we too must make an intentional choice to shift our perspective. We must make a choice to …

    Stop. Look. Fix our eyes on Jesus.

    It’s here God will provide in ways more marvelous than we could ever ask or imagine. Like the beggar, we too will experience God’s life-transforming miracles. We will move from the earthly to the heavenly, beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary.

    Father, I want to experience You as the miracle-working God You are. The Bible teaches You are the same yesterday, today and forever. I invite You to do a work in my life today. Help me take my eyes off myself, my circumstances, my trials, my ailments. Fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. The One who heals, redeems and restores. I ask You to do a life-transforming work in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 91:4, “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 4:18, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does God need to shift your focus so you can receive His gift and move from the visible and ordinary, to the invisible and extraordinary?

    © 2016 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s Hard to Love Difficult People

    It’s Hard to Love Difficult People by Suzie Eller

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

    My dad stands at 5-foot-6 and wears a size 6‑1/2 shoe, but when my siblings and I talk about him, you’d think he was Goliath. We have stories … like the time Dad was walking the dog in the neighborhood and the dog stopped to sniff the grass. A neighbor came barreling out of his home and said, “Hey, don’t let that dog do his business on my lawn.” My dad’s fists curled, ready to take on the taller man if necessary.

    I love this man fiercely. He married my mother and took on two little girls as his own. He’s a good man, but when he was younger things weren’t easy. He wanted us to be protected, so he taught us to be tough. Early on, we learned lessons about dealing with difficult people that my dad was proud of teaching, including these:

    Don’t put up with nonsense.

    The person with the quickest fists wins.

    The problem with these lessons is that difficult people aren’t always strangers. Sometimes it’s your child. Sometimes it’s your spouse. It might be a coworker. In nearly any job or ministry, difficult people are almost guaranteed to be in the mix.

    When we live with our fists (or our words) ready to fly, we can become the difficult person and not even know it.

    In Luke 6:27-29, Jesus describes things difficult people might do: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.”

    Then, in the next few verses, He offers three radical ways to respond.

    1. Give extravagantly.

    “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” (Luke 6:30, NIV)

    Our first step is to become acutely aware that Jesus loves us right where we are. He loves us when we’re prickly. He loves us when we fail to think before we speak. As hard as it is to understand, we don’t always deserve a loving response, but our Heavenly Father gives it in generous measure.

    Being loved by Jesus allows us to love others. We are free to give a measure of mercy, even as we work through conflict to resolve differences.

    2. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

    “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31, NIV)

    When we treat others the way we want to be treated, we give up the need to control them or the situation. We stop looking for flaws, as we realize how deeply flawed we are as well. We hold back verbal karate chops, choosing words that heal rather than heat up the situation, because that’s exactly what we’d desire if the tables were turned.

    3. Love unexpectedly.

    “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32, NIV)

    My pastor once asked this question: What if you made it to the end of your life having loved only those who loved you back?

    Loving difficult people is a harder path of faith, but it’s also where His greatest work begins in our own heart. It’s where we begin to learn new lessons like, “getting them before they get you” doesn’t make us stronger. Or that living on the defense all the time leaves us little energy to battle what really matters.

    I love my dad. He’s an awesome man and I’m grateful for him, but I’m also thankful for a Heavenly Father who frees us to love others with an open heart rather than curled fists.

    Lord, I’ve struggled with loving difficult people. I live constantly on the defense and I’m tired of it. I am well loved by You, and I ask that You help me love others in the same way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 3:15b-17, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Before pointing out another person’s shortcomings, how will realizing that you are sometimes the difficult person change the way you act and react?

    List one way God has responded to your flaws and thank Him for that mercy.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Laughing In The Dark: Our Exclusive Interview with Chonda Pierce

    Chonda Pierce is a platinum-selling, Emmy-nominated Christian comedian, who has been making audiences laugh for more than two decades now.

    Chonda posing with a flower in her mouth.

    Last year, she gave fans a more intimate look at her life in the form of a documentary style film. In addition to her normal stand-up performances, she showed the audience a behind the scenes look into her life, which showcased her struggles with loss, separation, tragedy and depression and finds hope and life through her relationship with God and her fans.

    Laughing in the Dark comes out on DVD today, April 5th, and to celebrate the release, we spoke with Chonda to discover how she got into comedy, life as a Christian comedian and more.

    Family Christian: How did you get started doing comedy?

    Chonda Pierce: I was cast in a show at a theme park called, Opryland USA. Our show, Country Music USA told the history of Country music by impersonating various country stars. I was given the role of Minnie Pearl - mainly to exclude me from the big dance number that followed. Since I was taught as a child that dancing would send you to "hell in a hand basket!"

    FC: What comedians inspired you early on in your comedy career? What comedians these days inspire you?

    CP: Sarah Cannon (aka Minnie Pearl), Carol Brunette, Red Skelton and Lucille Ball

    FC: Was comedy your dream job growing up, or did you have another career path in mind?

    CP: I was always interested in the performing arts. Even as a young child I loved the theater and filled my days with community theater, high school productions, college theater, etc.

    FC: When did faith begin to play a role in your life? Were you always a “Christian” comedian or did your faith get put into your acts later on?

    CP: My faith is never a part of my "act.' My faith is a part of my life - my life with Christ will always bleed over into EVERYTHING I do.

    FC: Some Christian rappers have said they don’t like being known as “Christian rappers”, but rather they are just rappers who also are Christians. How do you feel being labeled a Christian comedian?

    CP: Sadly, the secular world deems the "Christian" artist as soft, less than or not as interesting. It's a silly judgment... But it exists. Looking back - I see now what a distraction calling myself a Christian comedian can be when trying to legitimize my talent as a comic. But, frankly, I was so excited to not be going to hell that I wore the title proudly!! HA!

    FC: How has God spoken to you and worked in your life in the areas of darkness and depression? And how have you been able to use this to be an encouragement to others?

    CP: Talking honestly about depression has become somewhat of a calling. I wrote a book called Laughing in the Dark. You should read it sometime! HA!! HA!!

    FC: Since creating the film, Laughing in the Dark, has God worked in any new ways?

    CP: God has certainly surprised me with the overwhelming success of this movie. I don't feel like anyone "created" anything... I simply lived my life and someone filmed it. GOD did ALL the rest.

    FC: Do you have a specific verse or verses that you lean on during troubled times?

    CP: Favorite scriptures vary with moods, circumstances, etc. Just like favorite songs! But my overall LIFE verse is: John 6:63 "The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing..." Puts EVERYTHING in perspective doesn't it!?

    FC: Do you hope to make more films like this in the future? If so, can you share some of your plans?

    CP: NO! A documentary of the most trying times of my life??? No, thank you!!! I'd love to do some fun movies, some serious acting. But, I'm ready to take a break from tragedy!!

    We can't thank Chonda enough for taking the time to answer our questions.

    Check out Laughing in the Dark today!

  • Where You Sit Is How You Stand

    Where You Sit Is How You Stand by Logan Wolfram

    “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness.” Isaiah 61:10a (NIV)

    The words that reduced me to tears came from a Dove Soap video produced in France:

    • “You have a big chest and short legs. Some women can make that work. But you … you’ve got no charm. You’re just fat and ordinary.”
    • “Every time you smile, those baby teeth you have make you look like a mouse.”
    • “Sit straight up so your belly doesn’t look so big.”

    In the video, women had been asked to record a journal with all the thoughts they had about themselves throughout the day. Dove then turned the women’s thoughts into a dialogue that played at a street café within earshot of several other tables, including tables where the original women sat.

    Strangers overhearing the conversation were appalled to hear how the women spoke to one another, and they interrupted the exchange.

    “That’s so violent what you’re saying to her! You should stop. Your words are so unkind.”

    When the original women realized those spoken words were the thoughts they’d written in their journals, they were mortified.

    “It’s so horrifying. I hope my daughter never speaks to herself like that,” one woman observed.

    I sat weeping at my kitchen table through the whole video, realizing it wasn’t just those women. I do it too. So many of us do. Over and over we devalue ourselves. Over and over we choose to believe lies over truth.

    But we cannot walk into our full potential in Christ when we falsely believe who God created us to be falls woefully short.

    How often and easily do we forget our value? How often do we believe lies of the world instead of words from our Creator about us? We set aside the truth that Jesus came and lived and died to prove to us we are of great value to the God of the heavens. Even Dove Soap sees our value. Our renowned Creator has given us inherent value. Yet, we call “ugly” what God calls a “masterpiece.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT) And then we operate according to the lies and lose the capacity to follow Him.

    How we minimize Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice when we insist that more must be done to redeem our messy lives. We make Satan’s job so simple. He plants one tiny lie somewhere along the path, and we take it all the way to our own self-destruction.

    We all have them, those lies we believe. Then we adopt new ideas we think will cover them. But eventually the facade cracks, and the old lies remain … still distorting our beliefs about everything. Instead of moving forward in curiosity after God, we get stuck on lies about ourselves. It’s time we learn to uncover the lies, to name them, to call them out! Time to stop believing them and replace them with Christ’s truth.

    I get it, though. We forget what God says about our identity in Him. We get wrapped up in things around us. Our families and jobs require so much of us we can lose ourselves — and turn into people we never thought we’d become. The harsh reality of life exploits and exposes us. So we turn inward and try to protect what little we think remains. We know there is more to life, but we don’t even have the energy to be curious about it. Then one day we wake up lost and don’t know how to get back to what or who we used to be.

    You are not what you do. Your value isn’t decided by a number on the tag in the back of your jeans, your profession or by your roles: career woman, wife, mom, sister, friend, etc. Those are gifts you have, traits you exhibit. But they don’t define the core of your being. You aren’t the sum of your mistakes or the messed-up identity you once wore.

    Your identity is simple. It’s clear. It’s beautiful. Your identity is purely who God says you are. Beautiful, redeemed, renamed, engraved on the hands of Christ, where you will never be forgotten.

    I recently heard it said that “the things around us can’t define how we stand, when we’re actually seated with God” because:

    “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV).

    Where we sit determines how we stand. So stand tall in your seats, sisters. Stand true in honor and dignity and kindness and grace. Wear the truth that was made for you. Toss off the raggedy clothes of mistaken identity and put on the “garments of salvation” and “robe of righteousness” found in Isaiah 61:10, that are yours in Christ Jesus.

    Father God, we thank You that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Thank You, Lord, that You call us daughters, chosen, beloved … and that You have our names engraved on the palms of your hands. Lord, lend us Your eyes, that we may see our true identity through the clear lens of Scripture, not the distorted lens of the world. Deepen our understanding of who we are in You so that we can live and walk more curiously after the things you have for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 49:15b-16a, “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (ESV)

    Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What lies are you believing about yourself today? What is the truth of what God says about you? How do the lies you believe about yourself interfere with your capacity to curiously follow after what God may have for you?

    © 2016 by Logan Wolfram. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Opposition’s Opportunity

    Opposition’s Opportunity by Nicki Koziarz

    “So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.” Ruth 4:13 (AMP)

    A few weeks ago, I wanted to do something nice for a few friends. I spent a lot of time thinking through what to put in a care package for each of them. As I was loading the packages into the car to mail them, I was giddy. I couldn’t wait to celebrate my friends.

    And all was well in my little celebration world … until I arrived at the post office.

    I was so pleased to see the place completely empty, because I thought I would be in and out quickly. I walked in, set my many packages on the counter and smiled.

    But instead of a friendly smile in return, the lady at the counter rolled her eyes. She looked at the clock and said, “You do realize I close this office at 4:30?”

    I looked at the clock and saw it said 3:45 p.m., glanced around the empty office and wondered what the problem was?

    “I will try to help you but if someone else walks in this office, I’m going to have to put this to the side and help them. My customers are important to me,” she said sharply.

    My heart began to thump a little faster because I was pretty sure I was also a customer and her only one at that point. She went on to throw out several nasty comments about the amount of things I was trying to mail and didn’t I know there were better ways to mail this many items?

    After a few minutes of her aggressive words and complaints about my mailing order, I was fed up. I picked up my boxes and walked out, vowing never to step foot in that post office again.

    I could have stood there and taken those rude comments, confronted her or shown her some grace-filled-kindness but something in me just wanted to run. And so I did. The next day, I went to a different post office to mail the packages. This isn’t something new for me; I’m an avoider of all things confrontational.

    Some days, though, we face hard things that are much bigger than a frustrated postal worker. And ultimately we have a choice: Face the situation head-on or run.

    It’s hard and a lot of days, I don’t win at this.

    I think it’s why I look up to a woman in the Bible named Ruth so much. She was willing to face all kinds of opposition in order to experience God’s best for her.

    God transformed her situation, taking her from being completely broken to completely blessed. Our key verse is the end result of her perseverance. A husband, a baby (who became part of the lineage to Jesus) and a redeemed life.

    But the process to get there was challenging.

    Ruth became a widow, moved to a foreign land, lived with a bitter mother-in-law and that’s just the beginning of what we know of her story. As I’ve studied Ruth, I saw how she never quit because she stayed with God.

    With Him, she was able to face the opposition in her life directly. And that opposition became the opportunity for God’s glory to be revealed.

    What if today you and I looked at our opposition as an opportunity to do something with God?

    With God, hard circumstances can become the breeding ground for miracles. With God, conflicts can become conversations of grace. With God, our desire to run can become a destiny-filled step.

    That day at the post office, I missed it. But today is a new 24 — a new day!

    Each day contains a fresh dose of God’s perseverance in me. As I walk through each hard situation today, I’m remembering who I want to become and breathing in His transforming strength.

    God, I want to be a woman who doesn’t quit in the midst of opposition. Help me remember You always have the opportunity to do something through me if I’ll stick it out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (NIV)

    Romans 5:3-4, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was a time you tried to finish something but looking back now, you see how discouragement kept you from completing it?

    If you’re prone to quit, spend time in prayer today asking God to help you persevere. Meditate on the verses above when you feel the desire to quit. © 2016 by Nicki Koziarz. 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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