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Family Christian

  • I Dread Saying Yes But Feel Powerless to Say No

    Posted on August 12, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10 (ESV)

    I have a confession to make: I want people to like me. I want to please people. And sometimes it gets me in trouble.

    I dread saying yes, but feel powerless to say no. Life seems to rush at me every day in the form of endless demands. And I just keep saying yes, yes, yes to the requests that come my way.

    But then my schedule is so packed it feels like I literally can't think straight. Because I have no margin, everything my kids do feels like an interruption. And anything extra my husband asks of me causes bitter resentment to rise up. Instead of talking calmly to those I love, I snarl, snap and scream.

    Saying yes to everything won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn-out woman.

    Can you relate?

    I think to some extent we can all be people pleasers at times.

    We all want to be liked. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance, let's take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.

    One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our hearts. In giving love, we feel love. That's good.

    Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return — love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That's dangerous.

    It's this second motivation that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It's not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting love and things in return, we set ourselves up for trouble.

    Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more leads to exhaustion.

    Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion for the relationship all together.

    Ephesians 5:8-10 says, "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."

    I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is when we walk as children of light — doing what is good, right and true — as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

    I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I'm making today. If I'm seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions and true expectations?

    Or am I doing this with:

    Fearful motives ... They might not like me if I say no.

    Skewed intentions ... If I do this for them, will they be more likely to do that for me?

    Unrealistic expectations ... I just know if I give a little more, they'll affirm me and I'm desperate for their affirmation.

    Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives.

    The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.

    My focus. My choice.

    Dear Lord, help me break away from my people-pleasing tendencies with wrong motives. Guide me in my daily decisions as I battle fear, skewed intentions and unrealistic expectations. I want to make You the focus, Father, so that You continue to become the magnified force in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 2:4, "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more?

    Search your heart and ask, What are my motives? Am I seeking to please people or honor God in this situation? You may need to place healthy boundaries in your relationships with others so that you can learn when to say yes and when to say no.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why You Need a Friend

    Posted on August 11, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

    I was that girl ... feeling like I didn't belong and wanting a best friend more than anything.

    In elementary school, there were the cool kids and the on-the-outs kids. I didn't fit into either group.

    I roamed around mostly a loner and struggled for the bulk of my childhood with the emotions of "not fitting in."

    I just wanted a friend. One. Good. Friend.

    Fast forward to high school.

    There was a girl I clicked with completely. I felt understood and thought I understood her well, too. I wanted to spend lots of time with her and talk to her a bunch — just like any pair of "besties" would.

    And then one day, I heard her refer to someone else as her "best friend."

    Oh, the devastation!

    I mean ... what was I? Just a little minion?

    In a word? Crushed. And on the outs again.

    Fast forward to adulthood.

    I have lots of friends. Lots of people I know in varying degrees. Two or three friends who are the "ride-or-die" kind. I know they have my back and they know I have theirs.

    And the other day, one of those girls referenced another person as her best friend.

    Was I crushed? Nope. I've since changed my outlook on the whole loner thing.

    I am not alone. Never have been. Never will be.

    First, I belong to God. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He is available any time of day to chat, and completely and totally accepts me just the way I am.

    Secondly, I believe in my value. As I understand more of who I am in Christ and stop looking for others to validate my existence, I am less and less tied to the need to fit in. Jesus died for me. If that doesn't validate me, I don't know what does.

    Third, I see now that fitting in is overrated. I have learned that friendship is about so much more than my elementary- and high-school-self understood.

    It's not just about me.

    As I've grown more comfortable in my own skin, I've learned that while friendship includes the wonder of belonging, it is about so much more than that.

    True, I am the beneficiary of my friendships. The life, laughter and fun are invaluable. But once I stopped looking for my friends to give me what only God could give me (my husband as well, for that matter, but that's another story), I was good to go.

    And now it frees me to BE a friend.

    Let me keep it real here. I'm busy. I have a husband and five kids. I homeschool, work, write and speak.

    It's hard to find time for friends. But I make time.

    Why? Because it's not just about me. I am validated because of God's love, but I still need connections. Jesus had friends. At least 12 of them.

    Not because He needed them to define or validate Him, but because the context of His ministry centered around His relationships.

    And here's what we can learn from His example. We need people in our lives whom we sharpen and who sharpen us.

    As God's Word explains, there should be someone in your life who knows she can count on you when she is down: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow," (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a, ESV).

    Let's make it our business to encourage others on to love and good deeds, even it requires effort to find time in our calendars to chat.

    "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ..." (Hebrews 10:24-25a, ESV).

    Are you lonely? Seek to be a friend.

    Busy? Make time to be a friend.

    Maybe you could do without the d-r-a-m-a that friendships occasionally bring ... but you understand the importance and purpose of friendship. So be a friend anyway.

    Dear Jesus, thank You for being my friend. Thank You for being an example of what a good friend looks like. Help me value the relationships You've given me and show me how to cultivate others as You desire. Make me the kind of friend I want to have and let me always point my friends toward You. And where I need friendship for my journey through life, send just the right person my way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which friend or friends are in your life to help "sharpen" you? How are you actively sharpening others?

    In what practical ways do you make time to nourish your friendships? If this is something you haven't been doing well, what is one thing you will do in the near future to better cultivate your connections?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Peace: Unreasonable doubt or incomprehensible peace (scripture to combat mommy guilt)

    Posted on August 7, 2014 by Family Christian

    Bekah writes for  I Prefer My Puns Intended, a blog that explores the fact that life can be punny.  Her articles span topics like faith and family as well as education, wellness, and dapper infant style.  The titles of her posts may be cheesy, but the content gets feta.  Sorry. Better.

    I thought I was doing pretty well this morning.

    Little bear woke me up at 6 a.m., he ate at 6:30, and we played from 7:00 until 8:00.  He has gotten strong enough to sit up with the boppy and play with his toys.  It was an exciting playtime for this proud mommy.  I looked at the clock and thought, ‘if I leave now and run at my fastest pace with the stroller, I can be back in time for his nap time.’  It was a good plan.  I could, realistically, tick all of the boxes off of my very full mommy planner before our playdate.  Then, we could have the day free to do anything. No mid-afternoon sweltering run; just a nice, cool morning jog to start our day.

    Combatting Mommy Guilt

    Well, unsurprisingly, I didn’t hit my goal pace of 10:00/mile with the Bob.  I was struggling with side-stiches, which has been a new thorn in my side during my postpartum training. I was about a minute over my pace and six minutes away from home; my run had crossed over into nap time.  Most mommies know what happened next.  Little bear began to cry and fight the sleep he so desperately needed.  I felt horrible. There was nothing I could do but keep going and try to make it back home, ignoring the irritating pain in my side and devastating pain in my heart.

    And then, another runner passed by.  She was a tall, slender woman who looked to be in her mid-forties, and perhaps two miles into her run.  She glanced down at my little bear, and up at me.  I smiled, but she cocked one eyebrow up and pursed her lips.  It was a momentary glance that stuck with me the rest of our run home. ‘I bet she thinks I am such a selfish mom; I am sure she is wondering why I am out running when I should be tending to my baby. Am I selfish?’

    Little bear is asleep now.  He went right to sleep as soon as we made it home. No harm, no foul.  He will probably sleep for another hour or so.  So why do I feel so guilty?

    My mother-in-law once told me, “motherhood is guilt.”  Oh, how right she was.  My typical worries span the length of the day:

    Did I let him talk too much in his crib before I got him up for the day? Was he uncomfortable in his crib because of his dirty diaper and I waited too long to change it? Is this diaper rash my fault? Did I feed him enough? He threw up, did I feed him too much? Am I making enough for him to grow taller? Should I take him in to see his dad while he gets ready for work, or will that bother his morning routine?  Did I wake up his dad? Should I make myself breakfast? Should I just play with him and wait to eat when he takes a nap? Should I put him on his tummy now or will it upset his tummy? Am I interactive enough? Did I hold him too much? Did I hold him enough? I checked my phone.  I remember that article about checking my phone too much and missing out on time with my kids.  Will I teach him bad habits if I keep checking my phone?  I care way too much about how many people read what I have to say. The TV was on.  Bear saw the TV and watched it for a few minutes.  I remember those articles about how screen time ruins little brains.  Did I scar him for life? Did those two minutes of screen time delay his speech development? His eyesight? His language acquisition? Did he exercise enough? He is rubbing his eyes, but it isn’t nap time. Should I keep him up? If I keep him up too long he won’t sleep and then it is my fault for not putting him down soon enough.

    …and that is just a typical morning in our home. Imagine what your mind can do when your baby cries in public places; on a plane; in a restaurant…the guilt is unbearable. The doubt is unreasonable. Instead of looking to the real heart of the issue (i.e. baby is tired, hungry, or needs to be changed), moms tend to put all of the blame on their shoulders.

    In Psalms 38:4, David talks about guilt;

    My guilt is like a heavy burden.  I am sinking beneath its weight.

    Any moms in this boat? Pun intended.

    Some days, I find myself sinking in this endless sea of guilt.  Guilt, however, is stumbling block to righteousness and real relationship with Christ. If you aren’t a Christian, it is simply an obstacle to a fulfilled motherhood.  Instead of praising God (or celebrating the fact that we kept our baby alive through the night), we replace our joy with worries.  For Christians, this robs us of our witness.  For all mommies, this guilt gives us anxiety.  Here are a few scriptures that I use in order to replace worry,  doubt, and that ever-present “mommy-guilt” with joy and peace in the Lord.

    1. Take away my guilty thoughts.

    “Scrub away my guilt.  Wash me clean from my sin.” Psalms 51:2

    Am I sinning when I worry too much? Yes. Anything that takes me away from giving the glory to God is a sin.  I need to remember to let it go.  God has equipped me to be the mother that little bear needs. And that is enough.

    2. Remember the goodness of God.

    “You have forgiven the bad things your people did.  You have taken away the guilt of their sins.” Psalm 85:2

    It is so important to remember that God doesn’t keep a tally of our sins.  Or, if you want to think about it practically as a mom, he takes away our mommy-mishaps.  He promises to “take away the guilt.” We just have to let him.

    3. Direct us in how to “let it go.”

    “For my yoke is easy; my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

    God has given us the power to leave our worries with him and take on a much lighter load to carry.  We just have to praise him in all that we do, and seek him first. Don’t seek to be the “perfect mom.” That particular role is elusive and impossible to attain. We are not gods, after all.

    4. Become healed from guilt.

    “Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for you are my praise.”Jeremiah 17:14

    No where in that prayer are the words, “my children are my praise.”  Parenthood is oh so important. We are tempted to believe that our children are our everything, however.  This is not the case.  God promises to heal our worried hearts and save us from the sinking ship of guilt if we focus on him.

    5. Release the guilt given to you from other people.

    “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

    I once read a Buddhist fable about a man walking up to Buddha and criticizing his teaching, sincerity, and intelligence.  Buddha said nothing and the man walked away.  An onlooker asked why he didn’t respond and Buddha simply said, “when someone offers you a gift you don’t want, you throw it away.  I refused to receive the negativity the man was offering, so I didn’t respond.”

    That really stuck with me.  God has promised us peace; the world gives us anxiety.  I would much rather choose peace; and yet some days I am riddled with guilt.  This particular scripture is so important when it comes to mommy-shaming, or even those sideways glances when you’re a few minutes from home and your baby starts crying.  Mommy guilt is real, but God’s peace is a much greater alternative than bearing it all on your shoulders.

    6. Live in the abundant peace that surpasses understanding.

    "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 minds in Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 4: 6-7
    Paul suggested that the people of Phillipi live a life filled with the peace of God that “transcends all understanding.” All mommies want to know if what they are doing is best for their children.  Somehow, God beckons us to live each day apart from the full satisfaction of knowing whether or not we made the right choices moment-to-moment.  Living in the worry of our guilt will never bring us satisfaction.  As our children grow, the guilt will only carry higher stakes.  The sooner we release our anxiety to the one who rescues, the sooner we can live a life separate from our guilt, and full of the presence and peace of God.

  • Stuck Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

    Posted on July 11, 2014 by Micca Campbell

    Micca

    "When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep." Genesis 28:11 (NIV)

    I sat in disbelief as my doctor explained the results of my ultrasound. "There's a large cyst with tentacles that has consumed your left ovary," she explained. "We need to schedule surgery as soon as possible. In my expert opinion, there's a 70% chance you may have ovarian cancer."

    While my body felt numb, my mind raced with unanswered questions: What does this mean for me and my family? How will I get through this?

    I felt completely alone and helpless. With no good choice in sight, I was between a rock and a hard place, with no way out.

    Have you ever found yourself there, stuck without options? Maybe you're there now. It's a difficult, lonely, hurting place. For me, it's a familiar place. I was there when my first husband died, when finances were insufficient and as my health faltered.

    During that time of waiting for surgery, I found comfort in Jacob's story. Tucked in the book of Genesis, Jacob found himself in a difficult place. He had stolen the family's inheritance from his brother, Esau. Once Esau realized what Jacob had done, he was out to get him. Literally. So Jacob had no choice but to leave home.

    Our key verse explains that Jacob had a full day of travel, and "When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep" (Genesis 28:11).

    I find it remarkable that Jacob was able to lay his head on a stone and go to sleep after he had been uprooted and was running for his life. Jacob was out of his comfort zone. He was in a hard, cold place instead of his warm, comfortable bed.

    When cancer was likely, I had a restless night of tossing and turning. It was challenging for me to lay my concerns down on a soft pillow and go to sleep, but not for Jacob. He took a stone and put it under his head and slept. How? How could Jacob sleep unless his security was found in something other than his ability to outrun his pursuers?

    Perhaps Jacob knew a Rock that was more than a solid mineral. Maybe Jacob saw his rock as the Rock of Ages. How else could he lay his head and all his fears on a rock if it were not God the Rock as described in Psalm 18:2?

    "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (NIV)

    What an amazing truth: God is our Rock!

    This means when you and I find ourselves "between a rock and a hard place," we can transform that experience from being stuck between a rock to resting on the Rock.

    After reading about Jacob, I decided to change my perspective. Instead of viewing my position as being between a rock and a hard place, I envisioned myself resting on Christ the Rock and leaving all my cares there.

    On the day of my surgery, I was at peace. The nurses noticed my calm disposition. I was resting on my Rock.

    When the surgery was over, I awoke to good news. The cyst was benign! I'm thankful it turned out well. But even if it hadn't, I would still find peace and rest in my Rock.

    Friend, I hope when you feel yourself stuck between a rock and a hard place, you'll see it as Christ the Rock. Then you can lay down your head and find rest in that hard place.

    Dear Lord, thank You for being my Rock, my shield, safety and salvation in troubled times. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Corinthians 10:4, "[All] drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do you feel stuck today? How can you view your rock as God the Rock and rest in Him?

    The Psalms contain words of encouragement for those who feel trapped. Read Psalm 91 and other chapters to learn of God's faithfulness.

    © 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Turning Attitude Into Grattitude

    Posted on July 10, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7 (NIV)

    Trusting God when good news arrives? No problem. I see His hand at work, His unconditional love in action and gratitude fills my heart.

    But when bad news comes knocking, my gratitude can easily turn into attitude.

    After a busy morning speaking at a weekend women's conference, I made my way back to the book table, glad to find two kind souls willing to handle all the details while I signed books.

    When lunchtime arrived and the book table was quickly abandoned in favor of chicken salad and fudge brownies, one of my helpers touched my shoulder.

    "Liz?" Her anguished expression should have warned me. "I don't know how to tell you this, but ... I lost your bank bag."

    My heart sank. "With all the money in it?"

    She nodded, chin trembling. "I carried it with me into the ladies' room for safekeeping. When I put it down to wash my hands, I started talking to someone, then forgot what I was doing and left without the bag." Her voice was strained to the breaking point. "I ran back in, but it was gone. I'm so sorry, Liz ..."

    My first instinct? (Get ready: this is ugly.) I wanted to stomp my foot and say, "That was a lot of money! How could you be so careless?"

    By God's grace, I didn't go there. The woman simply had made a mistake. Hadn't I made one or two (or 10 or 20) myself?

    My second instinct was to flip my hand as if it didn't matter and say, "Whatever." I couldn't go that route, either. We were both concerned, and for good reason; it was foolish to pretend otherwise.

    So, I took a deep breath, prayed for God's peace, then said, "Let's trust the Lord on this one and not worry about the money." Wait. Not worry about money, lots of which needed to go back to my publisher to pay for those sold books?! Clearly that easygoing attitude didn't come from me.

    God alone managed to override the unkind words I might have said. He also tempered my anxious thoughts and toned down my conflicted emotions. The only thing on my mind at that moment was helping ease the woman's obvious distress.

    Trust me, this was not Liz being a good girl. This was God being a great God.

    With an utter sense of peace, I hugged her, then whispered, "Let it go." I felt her slowly relax. Then I surprised us both by announcing, "I believe the bag will turn up. How about we go to lunch and let God take care of things?"

    Not worry? Not fret? Not obsess? So not my style. But that Saturday, by the power of His Spirit, I really did trust God with my whole heart. In fact, I couldn't wait to see what He might do to solve our problem.

    Thirty minutes later the woman in charge came running up to our lunch table, her face shining. "We found your bank bag! Someone left it in the sanctuary."

    Yes. I smiled broadly. Someone did.

    Was I grateful to have the money back? Sure. But the lessons I learned about letting go and trusting God were far more valuable.

    On the drive home I thanked Him over and over for stilling my tongue and calming my spirit. For keeping me from wounding a sister in Christ. For nudging whoever picked up the bag to do the right thing and leave it where it might be found. For changing my negative attitude into heartfelt gratitude.

    Heavenly Father, even bad news is bearable with You by my side. When I'm tempted to worry, fret or obsess, remind me to pray, trust and let go. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 9:9-10, "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)

    Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you're tempted to react from a place of fear, instead respond from a place of faith. Remember, God is more than able to rescue you.

    Are you facing a bad-news situation today? What can you say or do to practice faithfulness and help ease someone else's discomfort?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Convicted but not Condemned

    Posted on July 9, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee

    "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." John 3:17 (NIV)

    Sometimes I wonder how I can go from being in such a good place with God ... feeling peaceful, loving and patient ... then something happens that sends me into an orbit of aggravation!

    It happened just the other day. Things were going well. I'd had a lovely afternoon working from home, alone. Life was peachy.

    Then school got out and my kids came home. Within 15 minutes, one of my boys did something and said something that was not so peachy. Then he did NOT do something I asked him to do, and let's just say ... I lost all my peace and patience right there in the middle of my kitchen.

    I was not happy at all. And I told my precious boy in a not-so-nice kind of way. Then, I felt guilty and like the worst mom on the planet!

    For a few minutes, I was pretty sure that was exactly how God wanted me to feel. But before I convinced myself I was the worst mom who had no business serving in ministry, I remembered a pastor sharing about the difference between conviction and condemnation.

    He explained that condemnation sweeps across our thoughts with generalized statements such as: You're such a failure. You're so hypocritical. You can never be counted on. That is the accuser. His tone is condemning, questioning and confusing. His accusations lead to guilt and shame.

    In contrast, the Holy Spirit's conviction will be specific. He will reveal a sinful action or attitude and instruct us with a solution for what we need to do to right the wrong, such as restoring a broken relationship or returning something that isn't ours. He'll give us steps we need to take to change our behaviors or attitudes.

    Instead of the lie: "You're such a failure as a [wife, mom, daughter, friend]," the Holy Spirit might say, "You were really critical the way you talked to So-and-so. You need to say you're sorry and ask for forgiveness. Then say something to build them up instead of tearing them down."

    Instead of the accusing label: "You're so hypocritical!" The Holy Spirit might say, "You judge others for gossiping, but you're doing the same thing when you talk about your neighbor at work. Apologize for what you said today, and share a few things that are positive about her."

    Instead of shaming words: "You can never be counted on!" The Holy Spirit might say, "You didn't keep your promise to go visit your mom. Call her to say you're sorry, and ask her out to lunch this weekend."

    Satan condemns us accusingly, to make us feel guilty. God convicts us lovingly, to lead our hearts to repentance.

    Conviction draws us away from destructive behavior that hinders our relationship with God and others. Jesus' goal is to bring us out of a condemning place of sin and usher us into the freedom of forgiveness with the assurance of His love.

    The next time we blow it, or lose our peace and patience right there in the middle of the kitchen or the office or 5 o'clock traffic, let's guard our hearts from condemnation and instead, listen only to God's conviction.

    Then let's follow His lead toward restoration as we live in the security of today's truth: Jesus didn't come into the world — or into our lives — to condemn us, but to rescue us with His redeeming grace.

    Lord, sometimes condemning thoughts become so familiar I don't realize how they contradict Your Word and Your ways. Please give me discernment to recognize the difference between conviction and condemnation, and courage to replace my mindset with Yours. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Condemnation focuses on the problem. Conviction offers a solution. Write down the most frequent shaming, blaming or accusing thoughts you have that make you feel condemned.

    Then, using the three contrasting examples Renee shared above, replace condemning statements with convicting, yet loving, truths the Holy Spirit might say. Be sure to offer yourself forgiveness plus a solution that reflects God's goal of restoration and His tone of grace.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Prayer Seems Impractical

    Posted on July 8, 2014 by Leslie Ludy

    Leslie

    "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5 (NASB)

    A busy mom of six once told me, "I'm too busy NOT to pray!" Therein lies the secret to a life that really works.

    Putting Jesus first and making prayer a priority is the key to finding the peace, strength and joy we all long for. And yet, many of us might admit we've got our thinking regarding busyness and prayer backward.

    Let's be honest. As busy women, prayer often becomes that one project we'll "get to eventually," like cleaning the cobwebs from the ceiling or writing a cookbook.

    With so many demands on our time and energy, most of us conclude the only real prayer life we can have are those short bursts of heavenly appeal (Help, Lord!) during the stressful moments of our day.

    I've been there ... many times. The busier I am, the less practical prayer seems.

    But I have come to realize when prayer seems the most unrealistic, that's when I need it the most. In fact, the "Too busy NOT to pray" principle has revolutionized my life.

    Just a few years ago, our four children were all ages 4 and under. Three were in diapers, and the typical noise level in our house rivaled the Whos in Whoville on Christmas morning. Spending quality time with Christ each day felt next to impossible.

    I reasoned, Surely Jesus understands how many important things I need to get done. He won't mind if I just whisper a few hurried prayers here and there as I'm scurrying around!

    Yet in the busyness of my days, I continued to hear Jesus' gentle whisper, inviting me to come away from my hustle and bustle and be with Him.

    So finally, I began to make room in my life for true prayer, even though it was far from convenient. I asked God to show me pockets of time during my day when I could steal away to be with Him. Such as when the children were napping or when my husband could take charge of things.

    I asked God to equip me with the discipline to get up earlier and make my time with Christ a far higher priority than temporal distractions like social media and movies.

    As I began to live by the "Too busy NOT to pray" principle, I was amazed at what happened. Suddenly, life became fruitful instead of frustrating. My responsibilities and demands didn't change. But instead of rushing around in a stressful frenzy, I had a supernatural strength to tackle my daily challenges calmly and joyfully. My defeated and overwhelmed perspective was replaced with a victorious, conquering one.

    I was learning the truth of today's key verse, "... apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5b). I have come to realize that I cannot truly thrive in any area of my life unless I'm spending purposeful time in God's presence on a regular basis.

    I still have a tendency to put tasks above prayer. But now, when I start coming up with reasons why I cannot spend quality time with Christ, I remind myself that actually, I'm too busy NOT to pray. Nothing on my task list could ever be more important than making time with Jesus. He alone has everything I need for the battles I'm called to fight.

    The busier our days are, the more important prayer is. So when prayer seems impractical, let's remember that the very best solution is to get on our knees.

    Lord, help me never forget that spending time in Your presence is what will give me strength for everything else I'm called to do. Teach me to not just fit You into my life when it's convenient, but to truly build my life around You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Luke 10:41-42a, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part ..." (NASB)

    Ephesians 6:18, "... praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints —" (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When do you feel "too busy to pray"?

    When you make time with Christ a priority, how does it change your ability to handle life's stresses and responsibilities?

    © 2014 by Leslie Ludy. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Tired of Trying to Measure Up

    Posted on July 7, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia

    " ... The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7b (NLT)

    When my youngest son was a toddler, he accessorized every outfit with a bulky silver tape measure. Clipped to his waistband or hooked through a belt loop, the tool was handy for appraising just about anything — toy tractors, popsicles or skateboards.

    Although the calculations were useless to a 3-year-old with no grasp of numbers, Joshua spent much of his day wielding that tape measure.

    "Would you like cereal for breakfast?" I'd ask my little boy when he awoke.

    "Maybe, if it's seventy-seven," he'd reply as he aligned his ruler along the side of a Cheerios box.

    "Milk or juice?"

    "The one that's fifty-sixteen," my boy would answer.

    Eventually, Joshua's quirky obsession tried my patience. One night after he'd insisted on measuring every blanket on his bed before lights out, I complained to God: Could You make him forget about that silly measuring tape, Lord?

    The next morning when I frowned at myself in the mirror and harrumphed over my daunting to-do list, my Heavenly Father finally responded: Maybe your little boy will drop his measuring tape when you get rid of yours.

    At first, I ignored the conviction I felt when Joshua reached for his silver ruler. But in time, I realized I carried my own measuring systems. Only mine didn't decorate my belt loop; they adorned my mind.

    Here are a few of the faulty rulers I found:

    The ruler of productivity. This measuring stick assesses my value by my accomplishments: Did I read to my preschooler, fold the laundry or clean the fridge? It assigns value to completed tasks but fails to calculate the worth of immeasurable investments like cuddling my children or listening to a friend. When I rely on the ruler of productivity to establish my worth, time becomes a slave master rather than a gift.

    The beauty barometer. This gauge creates comparison and self-scrutiny. It makes me worry about the extra skin around my middle and the faded highlights in my hair. It changes the way I view the woman in the mirror. Do I look more put-together than I feel? Where did those wrinkles come from? Will anyone notice the dark circles under my eyes? The beauty barometer appraises external appearance but fails to calculate the value of inner loveliness.

    The happy homemaker meter. This measure prompts late-night baking sprees and glue-gun marathons. It propels me to create handmade Valentine's cards even though my daughter just wants store-bought Barbie cards. It produces guilt when I bring chips to the potluck instead of a hot casserole. The happy homemaker meter can twist fantastic ideas into exhausting must-dos and leaves me feeling more tired than inspired.

    Tape measures may be entertaining in the hands of curious toddlers, but they stunt the growth of women like you and me.

    Perhaps it's time to give up our mental measures, and let God grow us into the women He's dreamed us to be. His vision for us is refreshing and life-giving. Our key verse reminds us that, "The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7b).

    Eventually, Joshua traded his shiny measuring stick for a plastic transparent tape dispenser. With a giggle, he applied tape to his favorite book, his baby sister's bruised forehead and his broken Matchbox car.

    Rather than measuring, my son turned to mending. And that's just what God longs to do for us. He wants to destroy our tape measures and heal the wounded places in our hearts from constant comparisons and the failure to meet unreasonable expectations.

    In fact, when we exchange our faulty rulers for Christ's timeless rule, we may discover that our Savior's measuring stick is actually a wooden cross ... that functions like a roll of cellophane tape.

    So I'm abandoning my ridiculous rulers and metrics, in exchange for God's immeasurable grace and healing. Want to join me?

    Sweet Savior, I am tired of carrying my own cache of faulty measures. I want to trade my ridiculous rulers for Your timeless stick of grace. Remind me that my worth is immeasurable in You. Restore my joy and increase my faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 108:4, "For your loving-kindness is great beyond measure, high as the heavens. Your faithfulness reaches the skies." (LB)

    Psalm 90:12 & 17, "Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well! ... And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us, confirming the work that we do. Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do!" (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one faulty measure you need to trade for Christ's timeless stick of grace today?

    Find one Bible verse that speaks truth over the lies your mental measuring tape has created. Post that verse where you can see it, and use it as a prayer this week.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Beautiful Mind

    Posted on July 6, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

    A beautiful mind believes God, for there is fidelity of faith that flows from a mind focused on the Lord. It is steadfast on its Savior because it trusts in Him. An ugly mind is contrary, conflicted, and unsure. Its focus fluctuates between fear and faith. In an ugly mind, there is a battle that fatigues faithfulness to the point of giving up. The mind’s eye can become trapped in the temporal and lose its willingness to trust God. This is tragic and terrifying for those whose minds become numbed to the things of God. Depart from this double-mindedness (James 1:8) or you will lose heart and fracture your faith.

    The mind is a beautiful thing if it is focused properly, but it can be disturbing and destructive when it loses perspective. The mind can play tricks on you because Satan plays mind games. He tries to draw you in with his allure, but his thoughts lead to faithless living. Therefore, build up your intellectual stamina and trust in God so you can reject Satan’s lies. Reject his temptation to remain restless, for you can rest in peace because the Prince of Peace reigns over your life. Reject Satan’s leading into lust because you are loved by the everlasting love of your heavenly Father.

    Moreover, fill your mind with good thoughts. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

    Good thoughts facilitate faith, and God thoughts bring about a beautiful mind. A mind needs to be stretched, as a heart needs to be exercised. An unused mind is a waste; it atrophies and becomes ugly. It is a waste of time to have an unengaged mind. Mindless activity will get you into trouble. Therefore, think. Be a thinker, not just a doer. Engage your mind with large thoughts about the Lord. Reflect on His righteousness and the grandeur of His glory. Get beyond trivial thoughts to thoughts that trust in God. The quality of your life follows the quality of your thoughts. Classical books—along with the Bible—provide fertile soil for great thinking. Great thinkers help you develop disciplined thinking.

    Make it a goal to read, dialogue, and debate with wise thinkers. This will help you think well. A mature mind is a beautiful thing to behold. A messy mind never matures beyond just getting by. Therefore, discipline and stretch your mind. Most importantly, keep trust in the Lord top of mind. Trust in God is your catalyst for wise thinking. Legalism leads to non-thinking and little faith. Without trust in the Lord, your mind becomes fertile ground for deception. Therefore, allow trust to become the scope in which your mind’s eye gazes, and it will see perfect peace. The filter of faith massages your mind with God’s fingers of love, joy, and hope. The mind of Christ is worth a lifetime of study; it beautifies your thinking. A beautiful mind trusts and rests in the Lord.

    Post/Tweet today: Build up your intellectual stamina by trust in God, so you can reject Satan’s lies. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Trust Trustworthy People

    Posted on July 5, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    “‘I will do whatever you say,’ Ruth answered. So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do” (Ruth 3:5–6).

    Sometimes we just do not know what to do, but God puts trustworthy people into our lives to guide us through the decision-making process. He speaks through trustworthy people. It is imperative to seek out trustworthy people so your emotions do not lead you astray. You can talk yourself into just about anything. One day you are convinced you need to move in one distinct direction, and the next day you feel the need to go in the opposite direction.

    If you are not careful, you will fall into a pattern of using “rabbit ears.” You default to the counsel of the last person who offered you advice. Yes, it is important to get input from a variety of people, but promise yourself and God that you will not commit to a decision until your counselors have properly weighed all the facts and you have prayerfully considered the various ideas offered by your trusting friends.

    In some situations you are at a complete loss regarding what to do. You feel you have exhausted your options and your emotional capacity is spent. You are at a crossroads and probably do not have the clarity of mind to make the best decision. This is where it is critical that you listen to trustworthy people. While you are in this funk or fog, look to them for guidance, and do what they say. Trust that God is speaking through them.

    What do you look for in a trustworthy person? They could be your spouse, your pastor, a relative, a doctor, a lawyer, a coach, or a close friend. Pray for someone who has your best interests in mind. This person is not looking to get anything from you; rather, he or she wants to give you outstanding advice and help you through this trying transitional period in your life. A trustworthy person is someone who understands you and your situation, perhaps having experienced a similar situation in the past.

    Traveling to an unfamiliar region of the United States or a foreign country can be disconcerting. Ideally, your preparations will include conversations with those who have been there.  They recommend what to see and what not to see, what foods to enjoy and what to avoid. The best scenario is for the experienced traveler to accompany you on the trip and offer you trusted advice along the way.

    In the same way, surround yourself with people who have been there; trustworthy individuals, a go-to person who will not lead you astray. If you are currently in the middle of an uncertainty, seek out three trusted people, discover the common theme in their counsel, and simply do what they say. God is probably speaking through them.

    “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice” (Proverbs 12:13).

    Prayer: Who are three people I know who can offer trustworthy advice for a pending issue?

    Related Readings: Nehemiah 13:13; Daniel 2:45; Luke 16:11–12; 1 Corinthians 7:25

    Post/Tweet today: We seek out trustworthy people so emotions don’t lead us astray. We can talk ourselves into anything. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. www.wisdomhunters.com

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