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  • When Life Keeps Spinning

    When Life Keeps Spinning by Angela Thomas-Pharr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • You Are (Un)Invited

    You Are (Un)Invited by Lysa TerKeurst

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

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

    The only problem was I didn’t get one.

    I’d checked my mailbox for days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He made us to reach out not pull back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    These are the kind of people I learn from.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And that's OK.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • God Goes Before You and Follows You

    God Goes Before You and Follows You by Wendy Pope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Please Don’t Give Me a Christian Answer

    Please Don’t Give Me a Christian Answer by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV)

    I love Jesus. I love God. I love His Truth. I love people.

    But I don’t love packaged Christian answers. Those that tie everything up in a nice neat bow. And make life a little too tidy.

    Because there just isn’t anything tidy about some things that happen in our broken world. The senseless acts of violence we hear about continually in the news are awful and sad and so incredibly evil.

    And God help me if I think I’m going to make things better by thinking up a clever Christian saying to add to all the dialogue. God certainly doesn’t need people like me — with limited perspectives, limited understanding and limited depth — trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense.

    Is there a place for God’s truth in all this? Absolutely. But we must, must, must let God direct us. In His time. In His way. In His love.

    And when things are awful we should just say, “This is awful.” When things don’t make sense, we can’t shy away from just saying, “This doesn’t make sense.” Because there is a difference between a wrong word at the wrong time and a right word at the right time.

    When my sister died a horribly tragic death, it was because a doctor prescribed some medication no child should ever be given. And it set off a chain of events that eventually found my family standing over a pink rose-draped casket.



    Needing time to wrestle with grief and anger and loss.

    And it infuriated my raw soul when people tried to sweep up the shattered pieces of our life by saying things like, “Well, God just needed another angel in heaven.” It took the shards of my grief and twisted them even more deeply into my already broken heart.

    I understand why they said things like this … they wanted to say something. To make it better. Their compassion compelled them to come close.

    And I wanted them there. And then I didn’t.

    Everything was a contradiction. I could be crying hysterically one minute and laughing the next. And then I’d feel so awful for daring to laugh that I wanted to cuss. And then sing a praise song. I wanted to shake my fist at God and then read His Scriptures for hours.

    There’s just nothing tidy about all that.

    But the thing I know now that I wish I knew then is that even Jesus understood what it was like to feel deeply human emotions like grief and heartache. We see this in John 11:32-35 when Jesus receives the news that his dear friend Lazarus has died, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother [Lazarus] would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.”

    Yes, Jesus wept and mourned with His loved ones in that devastatingly heartbreaking moment. And the fact that He can identify with my pain is so comforting to me.

    You want to know the best thing someone said to me in the middle of my grief?

    I was standing in the midst of all the tears falling down on black dresses and black suits on that grey funeral day. My heels were sinking into the grass. I was staring down at an ant pile. The ants were running like mad around a footprint that had squashed their home.

    I was wondering if I stood in that pile and let them sting me a million times if maybe that pain would distract me from my soul pain. At least I knew how to soothe physical pain.

    Suddenly, this little pigtailed girl skipped by me and exclaimed, “I hate ants.”

    And that was hands-down the best thing anyone said that day.

    Because she just entered in right where I was. Noticed where I was focused in that moment and just said something basic. Normal. Obvious.

    Yes, there is a place for a solid Christian answer from well-intentioned friends. Absolutely. But then there’s also a place to weep with a hurting friend from the depths of your soul.

    God help us to know the difference.

    Dear Lord, thank You for being there in my darkest time. I know You are real and You are the only one who can bring comfort to seemingly impossible situations. Please help me speak Your truth to those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:15-16a, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:23, “A person finds joy in giving an apt reply — and how good is a timely word!” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of someone in your life who is going through a really tough situation. How can you make a difference in their life today?

    It may involve serving them and making sure their physical needs are met during this difficult time. Allow God to lead you as you try to serve your friend best.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Playing Favorites

    Playing Favorites by Karen Ehman

    My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James 2:1 (NIV)

    Parenting has many unspoken and logical rules.

    For example, don’t reward a 2-year-old’s temper tantrum by giving her the new toy she’s screaming for in the middle of the department store. Don’t let a short-on-sleep child skip a much-needed nap before an evening event where he needs to be on his best behavior. And — probably one of the age-old classics — when it comes to your children, do not play favorites. Ever. Never ever.

    Although we as moms know we shouldn’t play favorites, admittedly sometimes it’s difficult. We might get along better with one of our children. Or we share more common interests and passions. Or more commonly it’s this scenario: One of our kids is so much like us that it drives us absolutely nuts. That has sure been the case with me!

    Sometimes it was easier to speak kindly to one child who is very neat than to the other two who were more prone to be messy. I tended to snap at them more because their rooms were usually disasters, while my middle son’s room was impeccable, with all his shirts color-coded and spaced exactly 1-inch apart in his closet.

    There’s a woman in the Old Testament who also broke that last parental rule of thumb. She not only preferred one youngster over the other, her partisan attitude lead to devious actions. This resulted in major familial mayhem that not only affected her immediate family, but had consequences for generations to follow. (See Genesis 25-27.)

    Rebekah was married to Isaac. She and the Mr. had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Esau was the first twin to appear from the womb, but Jacob quickly became Rebekah’s favorite. When the boys grew older, and on a day Esau was particularly famished, Jacob duped his older brother into selling his birthright for a simple bowl of lentil stew.

    Later, when their father lay dying with his eyesight nearly gone, Rebekah helped Jacob steal something yet again. She conspired with him to trick Isaac into pronouncing a blessing over Jacob instead of over Esau, thereby seizing the blessing intended for the firstborn. Rebekah’s deception caused animosity between the brothers that continued for years.

    It’s not just Rebekah and sons where we learn playing favorites is an unwise thing to do. Our key verse in James 2:1 urges, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.” James goes on to caution us to not show preferential treatment to someone just because they’re rich or important. Instead, we are to treat people in a consistent manner, regardless of their status in society.

    When we refuse to play favorites — either with our offspring, coworkers or strangers — we model how God treats us to a watching world. He loves us equally and offers us each the same incredible gift — the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.

    Galatians 3:26-28 tells us, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

    When it comes to our relationships, let’s resist being a Rebekah and refuse to play favorites. If we’re prayerful and careful as we relate to others, we can avoid the tendency to treat them in an unequal manner. And as we parent our children, God can impart a love for each of our children that’s special and unique, not preferential.

    We won’t be playing favorites. We’ll be loving profusely — and saving ourselves and our descendants from strife as well.

    Father, forgive me for the times I have shown favoritism. May I seek to love and treat others equally — especially my children. I want to accurately reflect Your love for us to a watching world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 2:11, “There is no favoritism with God.” (HCSB) Leviticus 19:15b, “Do not be partial to the poor or give preference to the rich; judge your neighbor fairly.” (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you ever been tempted to play favorites with someone? Have you given into this temptation? If so, what happened? What factors do you think go into your tendency to be drawn more to one person (or child) than another? Take this situation to God today, asking Him to help you show love lavishly, equally to all.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When a Mom Keeps a List of Her Mistakes

    When a Mom Keeps a List of Her Mistakes by Becky Thompson

    As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12 (NIV)

    “We get to dress fancy today!”

    My 4-year-old daughter’s words suddenly made me sick to my stomach. I felt a familiar flush as I realized I had done it again. I had completely overlooked something very important on her class calendar.

    “Is today Fancy Day?” I questioned, hoping she might be mistaken.

    “Yes! My teacher says we can dress as fancy as we want today, and we will have fancy snacks and eat on fancy plates. It’s going to be so much fun!”

    My son had been in the same pre-K class the year before, so I was familiar with this event. How had I missed it this year? Was it posted on some calendar? Had I even received this month’s class calendar? I texted a few other moms with children in the class, and they quickly responded … confirming the party. Great.

    We had exactly 10 minutes to get out the door before my children were late to school, but I had to transform my daughter’s outfit from leggings and light-up tennis shoes to a princess dress and fancy jewelry. Somehow, we made it. But as we raced out the door with my daughter’s little plastic heels clomping down the sidewalk, my heart was heavy.

    Here was one more moment to add to my growing list of the times I thought I wasn’t a very good mom. Despite finding a dress and sending my daughter to school in a “fancy” outfit, there have been plenty of instances recently when I just missed it: I forgot to take my son’s coat to his school before outdoor recess, I forgot to send something with my daughter for show and tell, I forgot to wash my son’s blanket for his rest time at school. My list goes on.

    Have you ever had something like this happen to you? Ever forgotten the lunch box or homework folder or the permission slip for the field trip? Have you been so bombarded by life that you just could not seem to get ahead on anything? Perhaps you’re familiar with feeling like you’re letting everyone down. It’s so easy to keep a record of these moments. It’s so easy to write these moments down on some secret list we keep pinned to the walls of our hearts — weighing them when we consider our worth as mommas and as wives.

    But the truth is, the only one keeping a tally of your failures is you.

    Oh how I need to remind myself of that!

    Scripture tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:5, “Love keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). But oftentimes, we do. And while God’s love for us is not based on our performance — good or bad — many times, our love for ourselves is.

    Today is your opportunity to tear up the secret record of failures you’re holding in your heart as you ponder the words of our key verse: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

    If God removes our very sins from us, it doesn’t do our hearts any good to hold onto the moments we’ve felt like failures either. They pale in comparison.

    The Psalmist continues, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14, NIV).

    Let’s commit to show ourselves the same kind of love our Heavenly Father offers us. Let’s move beyond these moments as we realize the best way to move forward is to lean back on what God has already done.

    Now, wouldn’t that just be fancy?

    Lord, thank You for loving us so well. Thank You for never holding our less-than-perfect moments against us. Help us to continually remember that You are never disappointed in us, so we don’t have to live as if You are. Teach us how to show ourselves the same love and grace that You offer to us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 3:13b-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

    1 Corinthians 13:4-5, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” (NIV)


    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are some of your moments that you consider failures? Write them down on a list, and then tear it up!

    © 2016 by Becky Thompson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks WaterBrook & Multnomah 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

  • The Most UN-Romantic Marriage Advice I Ever Heard

    The Most UN-Romantic Marriage Advice I Ever Heard by Stephanie Raquel

    Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

    My friends were getting married, and in my dreamy-eyed, naïve opinion it had all the makings of a beautiful ceremony — until the officiating minister began to speak.

    I was single at the time and my close friend Steve attended the same wedding. I don’t know what advice we expected the pastor to share: godly words of wisdom, tips on how to keep a romance alive … the usual fare.

    But what he told the beaming bride and groom that day surprised us. He shared simply, “Marriage is hard.” He repeated it for what felt like endless times during his message to the couple. “Marriage is hard,” he reiterated. (I’m sure he shared lots of reasons why this was true. But all of that was lost on my 20-something self.)

    Sigh. I left the church that day a little down on marriage. I remember thinking, That has got to be THE most UN-romantic marriage advice I ever heard.

    Yet God has a sense of humor. That close friend? We started dating not long after that wedding and were married the following year. And it didn’t take long before we realized how true those pastor’s words were: Marriage is hard. Really. Hard.

    Like most of my peers, I’d grown up with an idyllic view of marriage, convinced it was full of endless romance and blissful memory making. In reality, however, my husband’s new job was very demanding which meant our time together was ridiculously scarce.

    Throw in a move to a new city in the midst of a major recession, while trying to find full-time work for me, and it was a rude awakening to the “endless bliss” I expected. Additionally, we watched helplessly while our dear friends and mentors’ long-term marriage was on the rocks.

    Steve and I would argue about not having enough money, how to spend our free time, and then have these molehill-to-mountain “discussions” over things like which brand of noodles to buy at the grocery store. Who knew you could shed tears over pasta?

    In spite of all the external hardships we faced, maybe the most challenging part of marriage was learning to forgive each other. We quickly realized offering forgiveness, even to the love of our lives, isn’t always easy!

    One thing that helps as I continue to learn to forgive is to remember how much the Lord forgave me. Our key verse encourages us in this way: “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).

    When I start counting grievances toward my husband, I remember Jesus forgave all my unloving and unlovely behavior. Many days I cry out to the Lord for help with my snippy attitude because I need His grace to help me forgive. To be honest, sometimes I’d much rather stew in a sea of self-righteousness.

    But I’m also learning to accept responsibility for my misgivings and apologize without blaming my husband for my own selfish behavior. It’s tough, and I can’t say I always do it well.

    In the 20-plus years since Steve and I got married, we’ve continually benefitted from that “un-romantic advice” offered years ago. Recognizing marriage (and life in general!) is hard gave us more realistic expectations that serious issues are just a part of life. That’s why we need divine help!

    The solemn vows we took to remain faithful ‘til death do us part sure do mean a lot more on hard days — especially when the “for worse,” the “in sickness” or the “for poorer” kicks in.

    Because yes, marriage is hard, but no matter what situations we face, God is there to help us through it. None of our issues faze God in the slightest. And more importantly, He can handle it!

    Dear God, sometimes life can be SO hard and I need Your guidance to navigate my path. Lord, help me keep forgiving when I’d much rather hold a grudge, knowing You have totally forgiven me. Empower me to keep fighting for my marriage. Give me strength to show my mate some unconditional love in meaningful ways today, just like You’ve done for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 13:7, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (ESV)

    Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: As you think about the hard things facing you in life right now, pray and ask God for wisdom to help navigate them.

    What’s one thing you can do today to remind your husband how much you love him, even when marriage is hard?

    © 2016 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Forget Your Grace-Face

    When You Forget Your Grace-Face by Brenda Bradford Ottinger

    “Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’” Acts 10:4 (NIV)

    “Hey! Kids! No riding bikes on my sidewalk,” she hollered.

    Interesting way of saying “welcome to the neighborhood,” don’t you think? Seems we missed the “Stay-Off-My-Sidewalk-and-Other-Random-Rules” meeting and were unaware all bikes must be diverted into the street so as to bypass “her sidewalk.”

    This neighbor was a handful. And she was our handful for the next 7 years.

    Ever meet someone who didn’t tempt your grace to come out and play?

    Regarding said grace: I tried.

    Regarding said attempts: It’s only right I inform you that I didn’t always succeed.

    I’d love to say I had my grace-face on at all times, but, that would fall into the category of Things-That-Make-Your-Nose-Grow.

    Like that one time the boys came running inside (from our very own backyard, mind you) and informed me she’d fussed at them for playing outside while she was outside. She sure did.

    So. Well, then.

    Like any good-ish mother would do, I set the example-bar high. “She needs to get a life already,” I said. The door might have still been open. And, while we’re on the subject of admission, I may have said it loudly enough to hear across the iron fence.

    Yeah. Like that time.

    Please tell me I’m not alone — that you’ve forgotten your grace-face once or twice, too?

    I’m so glad the Spirit’s good at saving us from ourselves, as every bit of credit goes to Him for ensuring this unlovely response was the exception rather than the rule.

    You see, the humbling truth He kept tethered to my heart was this: She needed God. And, so did I.

    Everyone has a story, and I’d guess hers hadn’t been a fairy tale. Outwardly, she appeared strong, but her sorrow betrayed her. Broken and vulnerable on the inside, she bled pain — through her eyes, her harsh tones, her reclusive lifestyle — carelessly staining those around her. And herself. Especially herself.

    When my efforts at friendliness failed, I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed.

    And, there in the bedrock of my weary heart, an accidental memorial was being built. These prayer offerings became my stones, like what the Israelites used to signify crossing over the dry Jordan River (see Joshua 3:17-4:8 for more on that). Those prayers were an offering by fire in the temple of my heart, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

    What a comfort it is to know God sees when we choose humility … when we swallow bitter words before speaking them … when we smile, even when we’d rather sneer. Better yet, He sees from the inside out and knows when our devotion isn’t from an onerous place of cliché religion, but from the quiet of a heart that longs to please the Lord.

    He sees. He hears. He remembers.

    It’s been many years since we sold that home, and, unfortunately, her wall never did come down. But my prayers for her didn’t evaporate, and I trust the Lord will ultimately redeem that time for Himself. The God of yesterday is still the God of today and tomorrow, and He is able.

    Absorbing offenses that seep through frayed pores of the wounded doesn’t come naturally. And sometimes our humanity runs out in front of us, tripping us up.

    Oh, but then there are those sweet spots of partnering with God as He exchanges our grief for His glory. He can help us put our grace-face back on again.

    We see that in our key verse today. A devout and God-fearing man, Cornelius knew what it was to partner with God and understood the value of service and prayer.

    It’s hardly a stretch to see caring for the needy as a sacred directive — a ministry where fruit is seen with human eyes in human time.

    But I’m especially touched by the angel’s words to Cornelius about his prayer life: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4b).

    How beautiful this insight from across eternity, where prayers land on the ears of a listening God. Welcomed, received, memorialized.

    When at first we start to pray, we make a difference in the Kingdom. A memorial arises from the temple within, sacred boundaries are erected, prayers spilled bare are received on holy ground, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 2:2, NASB).

    Father, I’m so grateful the deeds and prayers of a true heart aren’t disappearing into nothingness but are falling softly to rest at Your throne. Help me remember my grace-face as I represent You to a hurting world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 141:2, “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (NASB)

    Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does knowing that God receives our prayers as an offering bring comfort to you today?

    © 2016 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.

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

  • How To Love The Life You Live

    How To Love The Life You Live by Nicki Koziarz

    “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” Galatians 6:4 (NIV)

    I spent the first few years of my childhood in a small town. We were by no means well off, and we always seemed to have just enough to get by. So rarely was there room in our budget for extras … like the black and white saddle shoes I wanted one year.

    My dad was the high school football coach, which meant I spent a lot of Friday nights with my mom and brother in the bleachers. The game itself was anything but thrilling to me. But I didn’t mind going because it meant I was able to watch the cheerleaders. That was exciting!

    I would watch and dream of the day I too would get out there in a pleated skirt with pom-poms and make the crowd roar with enthusiasm for our team.

    The cheerleaders must have known how much I looked up to them because they invited me and my best friend to come cheer with them for one of the last games.

    Our elementary schoolgirl excitement was out of control!

    High school cheerleaders?! YES!

    We practiced in the backyard every chance we could get leading up to the game. And one afternoon, we even put on our uniforms.

    But my zeal for this opportunity quickly faded as I looked down at my friend’s feet. She had a pair of brand-new, shiny, black and white saddle shoes!

    My thoughts screamed with envy: What? Where did she get those? I need a pair too!

    I went to my mom and pleaded for the shoes — but our bank account didn’t match my begging, so no matter what I said, it didn’t matter.

    And so began the sowing of the seed of comparison in my life.

    This seed reaps nothing but weeds of jealousy, envy and discontent into our lives. I wish I could tell you that was the only time I’ve struggled with the seed of comparison, but it’s not.

    Today’s generation seems to be filled with more opportunities to compare ourselves with each other than ever before. We are constantly bombarded with social media feeds that tempt us to compare. Reality TV show us everything BUT reality. And advertisers tease us with promises that their products will provide perfection.

    But here’s the deal … I LOVE today’s key verse, because it’s helping me find a rhythm in my soul with this comparison thing.

    “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4).

    The reality is, comparison can compromise the individual calling and beautiful life God has given each of us.

    If we spend more time looking at what others are doing or have, we could miss what we have and are supposed to do. Staying focused on what good things are happening in and through us will help keep this inner battle of comparison at bay.

    Before that big football game, my mom actually found a pair of black and white saddle shoes I could borrow. No, they weren’t shiny brand-new ones like my friend had; in fact, they were pretty scuffed up and a little tight on my feet! But I was thrilled. I took so much pride in those shoes and I loved them.

    Our culture will always try to tempt us with comparison, but God never does. He wants us to love our life just as much as He does. Even if the shoes are scuffed and tight … God helps us love where we are, not where we wish we could be.

    God, help me love the life I live right now. Show me the good things I often overlook and help me be content with what I have. 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)

    Proverbs 30:8b-9, “Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing you are grateful for about the life you live? Leave a comment today sharing what it is!

    © 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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