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Family Christian

  • It’s Hard to Love Difficult People

    It’s Hard to Love Difficult People by Suzie Eller

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

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

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

    Don’t put up with nonsense.

    The person with the quickest fists wins.

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

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

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

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

    1. Give extravagantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    3. Love unexpectedly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

    Chonda posing with a flower in her mouth.

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

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

    Family Christian: How did you get started doing comedy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Check out Laughing in the Dark today!

  • Where You Sit Is How You Stand

    Where You Sit Is How You Stand by Logan Wolfram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    © 2016 by Logan Wolfram. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Opposition’s Opportunity

    Opposition’s Opportunity by Nicki Koziarz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    But the process to get there was challenging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • When Discontentment Comes Knocking at Your Door

    When Discontentment Comes Knocking at Your Door by Leah DiPascal

    “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)

    The movers were arriving in less than 10 days, and I still had so much to pack.

    Shipping boxes, wrapping paper and rolls of tape were everywhere. Every room in our house begged for attention, and I didn’t know which direction to go first.

    Downsizing wasn’t fun, but it was necessary. With a squeezing economy and company cutbacks, our family made the difficult decision to sell our home and minimize our debt.

    Deep inside I knew it was the right choice, but the process was hard. And although I tried to put on a happy face, my heart was aching.

    I dragged myself from room to room, pouting every step of the way. I stared at the massive amount of accumulated stuff, and it totally overwhelmed me. Clothes, furniture, linens, accessories … and enough kitchen appliances to open a community diner.

    Bulging closets and overflowing dresser drawers reminded me of past shopping sprees where I’d picked up many of the items. And now I was blaming the early-bird door busters and all those neon clearance stickers that lured me in the first place.

    I had prided myself on all the money I saved buying everything on sale. Who was I kidding?

    The truth was our checking account balance was shrinking, yet I wanted to buy new things. All the while, insisting these were purchases we needed.

    But now, all those bargains had to be boxed up, moved and put into storage. My “treasures” had become burdens. As I looked around at all the clutter, I wondered if it was really my heart, not my home, that needed to be de‑cluttered.

    It was time to make some major adjustments in my thought life and begin living out today’s verse in Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have.”

    God spoke to me that day with gentle conviction. It was time to stop making excuses for buying so much and be content with less. A lot less. Kneeling in my storage room, I prayed and asked God to forgive me and help me change. Not just for a season, but as a new way of living.

    When the movers arrived, everything was boxed and ready to go. Instead of heading to a storage facility, we delivered most of those boxes to a local children’s home in desperate need of household items and clothing.

    It felt freeing to give away more and keep less. To experience the Giver instead of holding on to the material gifts. To trust God’s provision and stop worrying about having enough. To simply be content.

    Maybe sometimes you struggle with contentment, too. Do you ever find yourself buying something you really don’t need? I know … it was probably on sale, right?

    The cure to discontentment is not found in acquiring more things. It’s found in experiencing more of God’s presence. Remember what He promises in today’s key verse, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

    Perhaps God is asking you to keep less and give away more. To be content with what you already have and not feel the urge to buy more.

    Friend, don’t fall for the lies I did. Trust God will provide what you need when you need it. If you have extra items, consider giving them away to someone else and experience the weightless freedom of being content with less.

    Lord, You know me better than I know myself. Help me to be content with what You’ve provided for me. Take away my cravings for always wanting more as I treasure time spent in Your Word. Teach me to desire You above all else and help me give generously to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” (ESV)

    Matthew 6:33, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas of your life are you least content? Write them in your journal along with the two Scripture verses above. Pray and ask God to help you be content with what you have as you trust Him to provide all you need.

    Get a box or kitchen trash bag and go through your closets. Place at least one item from each closet into the box or bag and take them to a local charity or give them to someone in need.

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Planning Funerals that Won’t Happen Today

    Planning Funerals that Won’t Happen Today by Lysa TerKeurst

    “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

    Several years ago, my then‑teenage son came to me and asked if he could take his brother and sisters to go get ice cream. How fun! How thoughtful! “Sure,” I said, “Let me grab my keys and we’ll go.”

    “No, Mom … we sort of want to go just us kids,” he quickly replied.

    “Oh,” and that’s about all I could get my mouth to say as my brain started racing and reeling. In my mind, pictures started flashing of a terrible accident, a phone call from the police, planning a funeral and then thinking back to this moment when I could have said No.

    And it was that strange sense that everything depended on me and my decisions that made me want to say: No. Absolutely not. You will stay home today. You will all stay home forever. I have to keep you safe.

    Why do we moms do that? Most of us live with this gnawing, aching, terrifying fear that something will happen to one of our children. We carry the pressure that ultimately everything rises and falls on whether or not we can control things. And mentally, too often we plan funerals that won’t happen today.

    We do it because we know the realities of living in a broken world where car accidents do happen. Tragedy strikes old and young alike. We have no guarantees for tomorrow. And that’s really hard on a mama’s heart.

    I stood at the front window of my house chewing my nails and watching as the entire contents of my mama heart piled into one car.

    And I realized I had a choice.

    I could run myself ragged creating a false sense of control that can’t really protect them. Or, I could ask God to help me make wise decisions and choose to park my mind on the truth.

    The truth is:

    God has assigned each of my kids a certain number of days.

    My choices can add to the quality of their life, but not the quantity. They could be at home tucked underneath my wings and if it’s their day to go be with Jesus, they will go.

    Our key verse confirms this: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:15-16).

    Jesus conquered death so we don’t have to be afraid of it any longer.

    Of course, the death of anyone I love would make me incredibly sad, heartbroken and dazed with grief. But I don’t have to be held captive by the fear of death.

    “Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15, NIV).

    Death is only a temporary separation. We will be reunited again.

    In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, he confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23b KJV). David knew he would see his child again — not just a faceless soul without an identity, but this child for whom he was longing. He would know him, hold him, kiss him and the separation death caused would be over.

    I know these are heavy things to process on a Thursday morning. And I certainly don’t claim that these truths will help you never ever fear again. But I do hope these truths will settle your heart into a better place. A place where your heart is consumed with truth instead of fear.

    Dear Lord, the fear of something happening to one of my children is so raw. But if I focus on this fear, it will consume me. Instead help me focus on You, so I’ll only be consumed with Your truth, Your love, Your insights and Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV)

    Matthew 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one of your greatest fears when it comes to your children? Ask God to give you verses you can cling to and pray — actively keeping fear from consuming you.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s Hard to Let Go

    It’s Hard to Let Go by John H. Putnam

    “I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NIV)

    I held the key and opened the door to our new home. We were immediately greeted by an echo of excitement that only comes as sound bounces through an empty space. Since the movers hadn’t come yet, it was just the five of us standing inside the doorway, looking at the place we expected to live for years.

    So you can imagine my surprise about 18 months later when I began to feel God leading us somewhere new.

    “God, are You kidding me?” I asked in prayer. “I’ve gotten attached to this place. Why do You want it back?”

    The answer came back clearly; we were to go where God was taking us next, and this house was a distraction from His plans. God was also protecting us from the enemy’s plans.

    The enemy is as cunning as he is patient. He understands so clearly how possessions can create a distraction — build a barrier — between God and us. Satan’s goal is to separate us from Christ and take what He has given us. He will dangle in front of us whatever he believes will attract us, always at the opportune time. And money and possessions are simple and abundant bait. The only guard against the enemy’s distraction is a stronger attraction.

    It’s hard for me to let go of something I love. We wanted that house and God let us have it. Now, unexpectedly, we felt God leading us to let it go. I guess if God puts something in your hand, He has the right to take it out. So I prayed: “Help me want You more than I want this house.”

    God knew I needed to learn an important lesson. He was teaching me, changing me and reminding me that only He is my refuge and my fortress.

    When I opened the door that day, I held a key in my hand — it represented earthly success, shelter, rest, safety and protection. Yet ultimately, God wanted me finding success, shelter, rest and safety in Him alone. He wanted to be our refuge in times of trouble, a fortress in times of attack.

    Anne and I have found that following God on our financial journey has always been interesting, but not always easy. The world tries to tell us that success and security are found in having what we want …in a better job, nicer house or newer things. But we’ve learned that the greatest success is wanting what God provides.

    When we can let go of what’s in our hands and place our complete trust in God, we can be certain that what comes next will always be better than any plan of our own.

    Lord, please guide me, love me, and help me want You more than anything else. Let me always be open to You Lord so I may live and rest in You as my refuge and my fortress. Your plans and Your thoughts are beyond what I know. Help me be confident in Your leading and bold in my following. Be everything to me — my trust, my confidence and my security. May my hands always be open for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there something God has put in your hands that is, or has the potential to become, a distraction to Him and His plans for you? It could be anything — a house, a neighborhood, a car, a job, a hobby, or a possession. Would you be willing to let go of something for what God may have in store for you? Please share one something and your prayer for what God may do next.

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

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

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

  • Where Does a Mom Go to Resign?

    Where Does a Mom Go to Resign? by Karen Ehman

    “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

    It started out as an ordinary spring day. Outside, the sun shone brightly, warming my kitchen counters through the window. Inside, however, the temperature was chilly. (And I don’t mean the thermostat was set too low.) My normally cheerful spirit had glazed over into a wall of ice and anger. I’d finally had enough. And so I snapped.

    My emotions snapped.

    My self-control snapped.

    And — most visibly — I snapped at my three children.

    “Ugh!!!!! You kids get out here right this minute!” I hollered from the living room, tagging on a warning, “And I don’t mean maybe!” All of a sudden, it was the 1980s and I heard my own mom’s voice coming out of my mouth. I vowed I would never say, “And I don’t mean maybe!” Yet here I was not only breaking that promise, but other vows as well.

    I’ll never scream like some parents do. I’ll gently explain.

    Our family won’t have anger issues. We’ll be loving and kind.

    That morning, my well-intentioned plans got chucked out the window as I let my angry words fly. My kids’ crime? Simple childhood irresponsibility.

    My youngest had abandoned his action figures and plastic building blocks in the living room, right where this unsuspecting mom would step on one, barefoot.

    My second child had tracked in mud from the woods. Somehow — despite being told umpteen times — he just couldn’t remember to remove his boots in the garage before entering the house to show me the latest creature he’d caught.

    And our kitchen was a total disaster after yet another one of our young teen daughter’s kitchen concoctions. She loved creating recipes. Unfortunately, what she didn’t love was cleaning up the mess left in the wake. And on the counter — in the midst of the mess — were two permission slips she needed, now spattered with batter.

    I was tired of trying to teach my kids to be responsible. I wanted to officially resign from being a mother. Without even giving two weeks’ notice!

    When my temper simmered down, I apologized to my kids. But I didn’t let them off the hook. We talked about their lack of follow‑through, their messes and the resulting mayhem that drove their mama nuts! We all vowed to try harder and to speak kinder next time.

    Bringing up children is not for the faint of heart. Day after day, we must instruct, encourage, correct and supervise. And then? The next day, we must do it all over again. For years and years … oh my!

    Yes, motherhood is hard work. But it is also good work. And today’s key verse says this about good work, “… let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

    See those last four words? Do. Not. Give. Up.

    Mom, don’t turn in your resignation just yet. You aren’t finished. There will be a harvest … in due season.

    My children are all over 18 now. I’ve had a little time to observe the harvest. And I see that it is true — we reap a harvest when we don’t give up.

    My toy‑building, critter‑catching boys each have jobs where they are responsible, and they now clean up after themselves very nicely. My daughter uses her culinary skills to bless others and even fills out her own mounds of paperwork in a timely manner as a small business owner.

    Eventually, our children acquire the skills we attempt to teach them. Not overnight, but in due season. They will learn to keep a house. Make a meal. Take care of a business. Not only will they survive, they will thrive.

    So hang in there, mom. Keep doing the good work of motherhood. Don’t grow weary. Mothering matters. Not only to your kids, but also to God.

    Father, please grant me a fresh perspective and renewed energy to persevere in the high calling of raising kids for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 5:7-8, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (NIV)

    2 Thessalonians 3:13, “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas of motherhood do you tend to grow weary, tempting you to give up? List these on paper. After each area, list a possible result of you refusing to throw in the towel and instead being diligent to persevere as a mom.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Escaping the Anxiety Trap

    Escaping the Anxiety Trap by Amy Carroll

    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18a (NIV)

    He cried all the way to school, and I cried all the way back home. Day after day, my 7-year-old’s fears loomed large in our lives. The latest fear was of school, but his other fears had kept us from normal life routines for years.

    My husband and I tried everything we knew to reassure our son, but we were exhausted and out of ideas. Finally, in desperation, we turned to a Christian counselor.

    During one of our first meetings, she asked me to make a complete list of our son’s fears. I started the list, and then I listed some more. And I listed. And I listed. I was stunned when I saw the full scope of his anxieties.

    I finally got the courage to ask the questions weighing on my heart from the start. Through tears I asked: “Is this just the beginning? I need to know what to expect. Will these fears continue to grow for the rest of his life?”

    Our counselor smiled, explained that childhood anxiety is usually short‑lived and then told me a story. She had a friend who had struggled with overwhelming fear and anxiety since childhood. As her friend grew up, she came to a saving knowledge of Jesus followed by a calling to missions.

    Even though the friend overcame her fear enough to move to a foreign country, she confessed that there was constantly a gap of time between God speaking to her and obedience while she overcame the fear of change.

    The counselor gently reached for my hand and said, “Amy, you’re doing the right thing helping your son to face and overcome his fears now. If my friend had gotten help as a child, she would be able to obey God with joy instead of fear. That’s the goal!”

    I sobbed with relief and stoked my determination to fight his fears (and mine) to the death. If you’re in those shoes today, I want to encourage you. Fear can be vanquished, and it’s worth the work. Just keep your eyes on the prize …

    We can conquer our fears to follow God fearlessly. If you or your child feels overwhelmed by fear, here are steps our family took to find freedom:

    Memorize Scripture. Knowing key Scripture verses by heart was essential. We’d say the verse, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …” (1 John 4:18a). And then I’d ask our son to say who loves him, starting with God. The power and truth of Scripture is calming.

    Harness thought patterns. We talked about how fear is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The longer it rolls, the larger and faster it gets. When our son would start to panic, we’d say, “Let’s not let the snowball roll down the hill. Let’s talk about/think about something good.”

    Enlist the help of a Christian counselor. Our family hired a Christian counselor when we ran into a problem we couldn’t seem to solve ourselves. In our case, we only saw the counselor for a very limited time before we were back on our feet again. I’m a huge advocate for the power of outside help!

    Today, our son is a thriving college freshman. He didn’t overcome his fear and anxiety overnight, but we haven’t seen signs of them in years. He’s eager for his story to be told to help other people, so he gave me full permission to share it here. He wants you to know that freedom is achievable. God loves you and wants you to walk free from fear as you take steps of trust today.

    Lord, I want to be free from anxiety and fear. Teach me to trust Your Word and to give You my anxious thoughts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 3:6, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (NIV)

    Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are some things that feed your fears?

    What activities help you fight your fears? Choose to implement at least one of these today.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Interview with Glenys Nellist

    We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Glenys Nellist, author of Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Snuggle Time Prayers. We learned what an average day for her looks like, where she draws her inspiration from and more.

    She also discussed how adults complicate salvation and gave us insight into how she simplifies this idea for children by offering them an invitation to "join Jesus' team" by way of a small postcard found at the end of the each book.

    Check out the full interview below:

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