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Family Christian

  • Have You Forgotten How to Dream?

    Glynnis Whitwer OCTOBER 7, 2015

    Have You Forgotten How to Dream? GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work." Jeremiah 1:5a (NCV)

    "What God-inspired dreams do you have in your heart now?"

    As a table leader for our church’s women’s event, I read the question aloud, then smiled expectantly at the small group of women surrounding me.

    Eyes looked down, up and to the left. Fingers fiddled with pens. One woman sipped her coffee and focused on the rising steam. Seconds ticked by silently as I gave them time to think.

    Surely someone will say something, I thought, as the silence turned awkward.

    But no one said anything. Hmmm … I’ll try another approach. So I revised the question, "What would you do for God if you knew you wouldn’t fail?"

    Again, crickets.

    As I looked at those precious women, all ages and stages of life, my heart ached. I knew from the ice-breaker question their days were laden with concerns. Although they weren’t complaining, real challenges slipped into their answers: jobs, demanding schoolwork, caring for children with developmental needs, serious health issues and more.

    The idea of a God-given dream must seem impossible when your 2-year-old isn’t walking and your savings are dwindling. In fact, getting through the day without falling apart was the only "dream" shared that night by one sweet lady when the quiet was just too much.

    The very lack of dreams then became the discussion as we realized we’d forgotten to dream for ourselves.

    We knew how to dream years ago; children have no problem dreaming big dreams. Yet as life responsibilities piled up, it was easy to forget to dream. In fact, sometimes a dream even felt selfish when there were so many great needs.

    Yet when God gives us a dream, it’s not for selfish reasons, it’s for Kingdom reasons. And He has uniquely wired us to be able to fulfill that dream with His help.

    Scripture tells us God chose us and set us apart for a special purpose: "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work"(Jeremiah 1:5a).

    It’s one thing to read those words on the page and understand them intellectually. It’s another thing altogether to believe them with my heart. Especially when inner doubts find their way to the surface:

    … How could God choose me for anything important when I can’t even go to Target with my kids without a meltdown? … How could I be set apart when there’s nothing special about me? … And a "special work"? That’s for people much more important than I am.

    But here’s what I know about God: He crafted each of us with such great love and intentionality that the dream He wants to give us is what we were created to do.

    He knows our potential because He placed it there. Inside each of us, He deposited seeds of talent. He appointed our personalities. He established our strengths. And all lay in wait for His Spirit to empower us to pursue our God-given dreams.

    Because we serve a loving God, many times the "special work" He assigns comes in the form of a dream that will bring us joy. I’ve met women who dream of caring for foster children, bringing fresh water to a village, writing a book or teaching Bible study from a stage.

    These dreams can feel selfish because we want them so much. But we can know they are God-given when they are aligned to His Word, and we want God to get all the glory and take none of it for ourselves.

    Dreams are never easy to accomplish. In fact, sometimes they seem downright impossible. And yet, Scripture tells us in Matthew 19:26 that with God, all things are possible.

    Perhaps this is the greatest reason we stop dreaming God-dreams. We let people and percentages, facts and figures determine the probability of achieving our dreams.

    But what would happen if we took the "impossible" label off our dreams? What if we declared God’s power to fulfill every dream He plants in our hearts? Wouldn’t it be amazing?

    Today, let’s rip that "impossible" label off, scrunch it up and toss it in the garbage. And then, like a child, let’s remember to dream again.

    Dear Lord, thank You for calling me to serve You in ways that bring me joy. I want to always be open to the next dream You want to plant in my heart. Help me keep my eyes and heart tuned to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 1:9, "It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan long before the world began — to show his love and kindness to us through Christ." (TLB)

    Matthew 18:3, "And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Many men and women say the God-dreams they’re experiencing are related to writing. At COMPEL Training, we are excited to equip beginning authors and bloggers with the tools they need to breathe life into their writing dreams. Our newest resource is a free eBook called The 7 Secrets You Need to Know as a New Writer: Wisdom from 30 of the Industry’s Top Authors and Bloggers. Lysa TerKeurst and her team have gathered writing tips and advice from some of the most well-known authors in the industry. It’s all HERE in this eBook, available free for those pursuing a dream to write.

    Visit Glynnis Whitwer’s blog to learn how God fulfilled her childhood dream, and enter to win a copy of her latest book, Taming the To-Do List.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What were some of your dreams as a child? What happened to those dreams? Invite a trusted friend to join you this week in talking about your God-given dreams again.

    What would you do for God if you knew He would give you the strength to accomplish it?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • One Little If Can Change Everything

    Mark Strong OCTOBER 6, 2015

    One Little If Can Change Everything MARK BATTERSON

    "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31b (NIV)

    It was a picture perfect day in Paris. After climbing 669 steps to the second floor, we hitched a terrifying elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Then, with France as my witness, I kissed my wife. Life goal #102? Check! And it all started with if.

    You could simply say that I puckered my lips, took an approach path from the left, closed my eyes at the last second, and voila — a kiss in France, not to be confused with a French kiss. That’s how it happened, but there’s more to it than that.

    That simple kiss was the result of a rather complex itinerary. We flew out of Dulles International Airport, made it through French customs, took the regional train to Paris, hailed a taxi whose driver enjoyed saying mademoiselle a little too much for my taste and got walking directions from a French lady with a dog in her purse. Not even kidding! Classic as a croissant! But that, too, is just a fraction of the story.

    You could argue that our Eiffel Tower kiss originated the moment I set life goal #102. And that’s partially true. You won’t accomplish 100 percent of the goals you don’t set.

    But the true origin of our kiss traces all the way back to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. An engineer named Alexandre Gustave Eiffel proposed a 984-foot tower, the tallest building in the world at that time. Skeptics scoffed at his design, calling it useless and artless. Eiffel called her La Dame de Fer — the Iron Lady.

    It was Eiffel’s if that made our romantic rendezvous atop the tower possible, but Eiffel himself thanked 72 scientists, engineers and mathematicians on whose shoulders he stood. Their names are inscribed on the tower, and without their collective genius, our kiss is cancelled.

    Then there were the 300 riveters, hammermen and carpenters who put together the 18,038-piece jigsaw puzzle of wrought iron. Oh, and don’t forget the acrobatic team Eiffel hired to help his workers maintain balance on very thin beams during strong gusts of wind.

    Now, I know it’s starting to sound like all of history revolves around and conspired for our kiss, so let me stop there and make my point. Every moment, like our kiss atop the Eiffel Tower, is created by millions of ifs that combine in a million different ways to make that moment possible. And if you need to read that sentence again, no shame. It’s complicated — as complicated as the sovereignty of God. Yet as simple as if.

    History is like an intricately interwoven tapestry with infinite patterns that only the Omniscient One can see and foresee — but if threads the needle. Your ifs don’t just change the trajectory of your life; they change the course of history.

    Our kiss atop the Eiffel Tower is part of a chain reaction that started when I wondered if Lora would go out with me. Then I acted on that if — well, actually I dialed and hung up a few times first. (We could get away with that before caller ID.)

    Long story short, one if led to another if, which led to I do. The net result? Twenty-three years of marriage and three ifs named Parker, Summer and Josiah.

    If you stop and think about it, everything begins with if. Every achievement, from the Nobel Prize to the Oscars, begins with what if? So does every dream, every breakthrough. So the question is: What’s your what if? If you aren’t sure, go back to the Bible!

    There are 1,784 ifs in the Bible. Most of those ifs function as conditional conjunctions on the front end of God’s promises. If we meet the condition, God delivers on the promise! All that stands between your current circumstances and your wildest dreams is one little if.

    One little if can change everything.

    One little if can change anything.

    And perhaps the most amazing if is Romans 8:3, today’s key verse — "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

    God is for you every day.

    God is for you in every way.

    Lord, forgive us for believing the lie of the enemy that You are somehow against us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Thank You that You are for us every day in every way! Thank You that you proved it at Calvary’s cross! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: What if God wants us to live lives marked with confidence? If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson gives you the tools to explore all the possibilities God has for you.

    Click here for more encouragement on how to begin living life with fewer regrets.

    Enter to WIN a copy of If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson. In celebration of this book, Mark’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, October 12.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If God is for you, why are you worried?

    Your problems might be bigger than you, but they aren’t bigger than God.

    © 2015 by Mark Batterson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Baker Books 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

  • How to Live with Margin for a Miracle

    Alicia Bruxvoort OCTOBER 5, 2015

    How to Live with Margin for a Miracle ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom." Psalm 90:12 (The Voice)

    I knew something had to change the day I grumbled at my 4-year-old for studying a caterpillar on the sidewalk.

    We were about to head to swim lessons when I realized I’d forgotten my purse in the house. I told my daughter to wait on the driveway, and I’d be right back.

    When I returned moments later, my curly-haired girl was nowhere to be found.

    I eyed the swing set, peeked between the towering pine trees and checked in the garage.

    We’re gonna be late, I ranted silently as the tension of haste settled heavy between my shoulder blades. Finally, I spotted Lizzy squatting on the sidewalk just beyond the driveway.

    "Mommy, look what I found," she crooned, her blue eyes sparkling with awe.

    I raced to her side and spotted a fuzzy orange caterpillar in the shadow beneath her knees. I forced a smile, then tugged at her arm, urging, "We need to go."

    "Just a minute," Lizzy pleaded. "This caterpillar’s gonna turn into a butterfly. And I really wanna see a miracle."

    I sighed and prodded her once more with a gentle nudge. "We don’t have time for miracles today," I grumbled, scooping up my girl and carrying her to the minivan.

    I buckled my little caterpillar-spy into her car seat and sped across town toward the pool.

    The dashboard clock taunted me; worse yet, the eyes in the rearview mirror haunted me. Those eyes that had been alight with wonder now waned dim with glassy tears.

    "I thought you liked swimming lessons," I harrumphed, trying to ignore the silent streams of sorrow zigzagging down my daughter’s cheeks.

    "I do," Lizzy replied, her voice small and strained. "But hurry makes my heart hurt."

    A familiar lump of sadness rose in my throat.

    In an attempt to give my kids opportunities to learn and grow, I’d packed our days with good things — art classes and swimming lessons, church programs and playgroups. But lately, even those good things had lost their glimmer. Our schedule was full, but my heart ached with emptiness.

    When we arrived at the aquatic center, I settled on the edge of the pool to watch. The instructor stood in the water and beckoned Lizzy to swim to his side.

    My daughter took a deep breath, dunked her head and kicked with all her might. At first she moved toward her teacher with impressive speed, but then she began to flail. Her torso sank and she yelped in fear.

    The teacher lifted my trembling girl out of the water and held her steady. "Slow down," he chided as Lizzy gulped for air. "You were moving so fast you forgot to breathe!"

    The image of a fuzzy orange caterpillar flashed through my mind, and my stomach lurched with conviction. Though a haze of unsolicited tears blurred my vision, suddenly I could see clearly.

    In the midst of all our hurry, I’d forgotten to leave time for our souls to breathe. We had no time for lingering on sidewalks or pausing to help a friend in need. We had no time for delighting in God’s Word or savoring a sunset. And in the words of a frenzied mom, we had no time for miracles!

    Today’s key verse reminds us that life is a gift to use wisely. We’ve been created for more than just counting our days. We’ve been created to make our days count.

    To merely tally time doesn’t require much forethought, but to truly live requires Spirit-inspired wisdom. Maybe that’s why the psalmist approaches God with a humble heart and implores, "Teach us to number our days …"

    While the Bible doesn’t contain a template for perfect time management, this simple prayer reminds us that God alone knows the best rhythm for our lives. He knows how to direct our time without draining our souls. He knows how to establish our pace without hurting our hearts.

    If we want to truly live, we must seek His vision as we set our schedules.

    As we learn to number our days, we’ll have a margin for miracles … because you never know when you might stumble upon a fuzzy orange caterpillar just waiting to turn into a butterfly!

    Dear Lord, teach me how to use my time so I can truly live! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 52:12, "Go in confidence and grace — no rushing, no frantic escape. There’s no need to be anxious — the Eternal One goes before and behind you. The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength. He watches your back." (The Voice)

    Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too." (The Voice)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If your schedule leaves no room for lingering over caterpillars, you might enjoy Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. In it, author Glynnis Whitwer helps you manage an overloaded schedule, so you have time for what matters most.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a special giveaway today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Identify someone whose heart is hurting from hurry. Do something this week to lighten her load.

    Have an honest conversation with the Lord about your schedule. Ask Him to help you align your agenda with His heart.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • True Peace is Possible

    Micca Campbell OCTOBER 2, 2015

    True Peace is Possible MICCA CAMPBELL

    "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

    Growing up, my father had a philosophy when life became hectic. He’d cross his arms over his chest, and in a joking kind of way say, "There will never be any peace until we’re all laid to rest."

    I knew what he meant. Life is hard. And sometimes it’s easy to despair over finding peace when trouble seems to lurk around every corner. When hard times come, many emotions rule my heart and mind. Like my dad, peace is usually the emotion I sense the least when life turns topsy-turvy. But this is not God’s plan.

    Peace is God’s will. Heavenly peace is a state of tranquility or quiet amidst anxious thoughts and emotions. It speaks of freedom from external pressures.

    The kind of peace God gives remains. It’s not something that comes and goes depending on our circumstances. Divine peace should govern our lives in all things at all times. When the things of life haunt us — that stack of bills, new tires for the car, anxious feelings of inadequacy — don’t we long for peace?

    Here’s the good news: We can have that kind of peace. Jesus told His disciples, "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, NIV).

    Jesus is not talking about the kind of peace we feel when a debt is finally paid. That’s relief. It’s not the kind of peace we experience when we can purchase that big house we’ve always wanted. That’s gratification.

    The peace Christ gives is fully satisfying. It’s peace of mind, heart, body and soul. It’s contentment knowing that no matter what happens, you are in the care of the Almighty.

    Sadly, it’s my selfish nature that tries to obtain peace by my own efforts. Perhaps you’re like me. We try to persuade God with promises. We even attend church more often than usual. We think: If I follow all the rules and do the things that please God most, then maybe I’ll find some peace.

    In the end, we’re working at peace instead of resting in it. This reveals one thing: My trust is in myself instead of in God. In other words, I put my trust in what I can do, not what God is truly capable of doing.

    The Bible has something to say about putting our trust in someone other than God: "He who trusts in himself is a fool, but one who walks in wisdom will be safe" (Proverbs 28:26, HCSB).

    If we don’t actively seek God’s help when we’re afraid or facing trouble, we’re probably trusting in our own resources and abilities. Therefore, Isaiah warns, "Don’t put your trust in mere humans" (Isaiah 2:22a, NLT). Doing so often leaves us disappointed and defeated.

    In times of doubt and fear, let peace rule.

    Resting in God’s promises give us the hope we need to stay focused on Him and His faithfulness, instead of on our circumstances. One way we can be certain that we’ve really placed our trust in God is when we experience an indescribable peace.

    Let this promise from the Lord reassure you today from Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT)

    Dear God, I know peace is Your will for my life. Help me to trust You with my worries and rest in Your care, not my own abilities, when life gets tough. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 29:11, "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace." (NIV)

    Matthew 6;34, "Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you find yourself lacking peace, tangled in a web of worry, Micca Campbell’s book, An Untroubled Heart, can help you find the peace you seek.

    Visit Micca’s blog for a chance to win a pair of Faith Collection Earrings from Fashion & Compassion.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What can you do to stay focused on God’s promise of peace when life turns upside down?

    © 2015 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Song of Our Story

    Sandi Patty OCTOBER 1, 2015

    The Song of Our Story SANDI PATTY

    "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’" Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

    My husband Don and I have had the privilege of raising eight kids together over the past 20 years. They are grown now and out of the house … mostly. I think because of our history and because we are a blended family, we always wondered: Could God use us again? We know He loves us and we know He forgives us, but to USE us to encourage and bless others? Maybe we missed out on that window.

    But interestingly, as each of the kids has begun to step into their own giftedness over the last couple of years, we have drawn closer together. We all — first individually and then corporately — began to say, "Maybe God DOES have something special for US to do."

    And so we began to share our family’s story whenever we had the opportunity. The opportunities came in little ways at first, and then we had the incredible honor of sharing our family and our family’s story on the stage at Women of Faith.

    When I was invited to be part of Women of Faith about 10 years ago, it was the beginning of some tremendous healing for me, and really for our whole family. At the time, we were emotionally bruised by some life choices.

    Truthfully, after my first appearance with Women of Faith, I didn’t expect to be invited back. I expected judgment but found grace. Because of the love shown to our entire family, we gradually stopped feeling like castoffs relegated to the "island of misfit toys."

    We began to believe that we, too, had a purpose and that God truly had a plan just for us, a plan to give us "a future and a hope," just as today’s key Scripture says: "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’" (Jeremiah 29:11).

    Part of our healing as a family has come through our common love of music. Music has always been a cornerstone of our family and has been for multiple generations, so it just seems natural for us to gravitate to song as the mode to share our story.

    Although our vehicle of connection is music, every family can discover what unites them. And when we come together to do something we love, in spite of our fractured past, we can all experience God’s good plan for us.

    Recently a dear friend summed it up by saying, "Your family’s story is heard in the undercurrent of your song!" I know what they mean. When we sing, It is Well With My Soul, we feel the truth of it in every fiber of our beings.

    Every time our family comes together to share God’s love through music, my soul gets a little more "well" as I think about what He has brought us through and the love He shows us every single day.

    We feel privileged and blessed to be able to share our crazy beautiful blended mess of a family and by doing so we share the song of our story. The anchor of all of it is simply knowing how much God truly loves us … bruises and all!

    Lord, thank You for Your unfailing love that never gives up on me. On those days when I wonder if You can use me, please remind me that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. Help me raise my voice to sing the song of my story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: "But I have spared you for a purpose — to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth." Exodus 9:16 (NLT)

    "Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:23 (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Loved by God Devotional is a unique collection of inspiration from much-loved Women of Faith speakers, real-life stories from attendees sharing their remarkable experiences and insights from some of the freshest voices resonating with women today. This devotional offers a year’s worth of inspiration with 52 weekly entries that feature a meaningful Scripture and a prayer. Organized in four sections — one for each season of the year — Loved by God Devotional shares with readers the message they so desperately need to hear: You are seen. You are known. You are free. You are loved.

    You can experience Sandi Patty and her family performing together on Women of Faith’s Loved: The Farewell Tour.  Click here for a full listing of dates and cities!

    Enter to WIN a copy of Loved by God by Women of Faith authors. In celebration of this book, the publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, October 5.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Can you identify a previously challenging situation in your life that has become a blessing? How can you use your experience to encourage others?

    © 2015 by Sandi Patty. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale Momentum 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

  • How to Stop Shooting From the Lips

    Karen Ehman SEPTEMBER 30, 2015

    How to Stop Shooting From the Lips KAREN EHMAN

    "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." Proverbs 17:27 (ESV)

    When I was a little girl, one of my favorite places to pass the time was on our couch, snuggled up on my father’s lap, watching television. One of my dad’s favorite programs was also one of mine — the Andy Griffith Show. The plot centered around the folk of a small town named Mayberry and featured Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widower, his precocious young son, Opie, and their loving Aunt Bea who kept things together on the home front.

    But my favorite character of all was the sheriff’s bumbling sidekick, Deputy Barney Fife. I laughed my way through Barney’s antics.

    Trigger-happy Barney prided himself on being "quick to the draw," and he loved to "watch the lead fly." He would frantically grab for his gun whenever there was an utterance of trouble brewing. In haste and excited recklessness, he would try to draw his pistol from his holster to protect the town from evil, but in doing so, he’d quickly shoot from the hip and shoot himself in the foot instead.

    Now before we get lost in idioms and Mayberry reminiscing, let’s make a practical application. We might not carry a deputy’s pistol, but we shouldn’t shoot from the hip with our words either. Better said, we shouldn’t "shoot from the lip."

    Today’s key verse from the book of Proverbs states, "Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding." The book of Proverbs has many pieces of advice for how and how not to use our words. In fact, just a few pages later in Proverbs 29:20 we read, "Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him" (ESV).

    When I’m hasty with my words, I end up shooting myself in the foot, just like Barney. It’s foolish, and in my own reality apart from TV land, shooting from the lip doesn’t hurt just me. I also wound innocent bystanders on the other end of my unfortunate misfire, causing damage when my words tear into another’s heart.

    So how do we remedy this quick-to-the-draw impulse and keep ourselves from the damaging habit of shooting from the lip?

    We need to do what Proverbs 17:27 urges: restrain our words, have knowledge and a cool spirit. This means to stop, really think about what to say and allow our emotions to simmer down a bit before we let any words emerge from our mouth.

    Back in Mayberry, the insightful Sheriff Taylor required that Deputy Barney keep his only bullet tucked safely in his shirt pocket. This way it took him a few seconds to load his gun, giving him time to think before he acted. When ol’ One Bullet Barney listened to his boss’s order, he had fewer accidents and less embarrassment.

    However, Barney didn’t always take Andy’s advice. Throughout the episodes, the gawky deputy periodically reverted to old habits and prematurely loaded his gun. Those instances resulted in great ratings for the show and plenty of laughs, but they also serve as reminders that we can easily slip into our old "quick-draw" selves.

    Barney had to make a choice to keep his bullet in his pocket. We have to make the choice every day to put away the verbal ammunition and restrain our words. When we choose to pause and ponder before we let words fly, we can keep a misfire from occurring.

    Can we put our words away? Can we tuck them safely in a place where we will have to stop, think and cool down before speaking? Let’s keep our speech unlocked and unloaded, and not make it a practice to mindlessly shoot from the lip.

    Father, help me pause and ponder before I speak, preventing myself from thoughtlessly shooting from the lip. I want my words to please You and not wound others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:19, "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you need help in watching your words and keeping them in line with Scripture, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest New York Times bestselling book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

    If you want more encouragement for watching your words, Karen Ehman is sharing a free downloadable PDF entitled 7 Tips to Stop Shooting from the Lips. Visit Karen’s blog for details.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 1 being never and 10 being always), how often would you say you really ponder what you will say before you open your mouth? If you would like to see that number change, what is one action step you could take today?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Remember Who You Are

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 29, 2015

    Remember Who You Are LYSA TERKEURST

    "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Proverbs 22:1 (NIV)

    There were so many things I wanted to say in this big moment for my daughter. Shouldn’t I have a speech? Or a famous person’s quote? Or a highly engaging devotion all planned out?

    She was heading to her first day of high school. And I knew she would soon face choices that carried more weight than ever before in her life. We make our choices and then our choices make us.

    I swallowed hard and blinked back the tears. And suddenly I knew exactly what to say: "Remember who you are."

    This was the perfect statement. Not because it’s incredibly profound to the rest of the world. But it is to my kids. It’s our family motto.

    We’ve spent years teaching our kids character lessons and highlighting people who model solid integrity. We’ve tied these lessons to be defining marks on what we want our name to stand for when people think of us.

    But, we wanted a way to encapsulate all those lessons into one quick statement that could be said every time our kids head out into the world. And, it had to be a statement that made sense to all of our kids, whether it was one of our teens heading out on a Friday night with friends, or a younger child going over to a friend’s house for an afternoon playdate.

    So, we came up with the simple statement, "Remember who you are." In other words, you are a child of the Almighty God. Live that truth today.

    This is our family signature. This would be that quick reminder of the spiritual vision of our family.

    All those life lessons …

    • upholding purity in our thoughts and actions
    • honoring God with the words we say and choose not to say
    • keeping a good attitude whether we win or lose
    • extending grace to others as God has extended grace to us

    … boiled down into one easy-to-remember and easy-to-repeat statement: Remember who you are.

    And this isn’t just a reminder to hold our family name in high regard. No, even more importantly, it’s a reminder to hold the fact that we are part of God’s family in high regard. Our name is worth something.

    The Bible says in Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is more desirable than great riches." Calling ourselves Christians is a huge responsibility. Christ’s name is part of our identity.

    Yes, "Remember who you are," was the perfect thing to say on this day of new beginnings, opportunities and choices.

    Does all this mean we have kids who never mess up or let us down? Nope. It doesn’t even mean that I never mess up or let others down. It’s tough having a sold-out-to-Jesus soul stuck in a flesh-filled body.

    It means we’ve defined what we’re shooting for, and hopefully we’re all in the process of getting closer and closer to hitting the mark.

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to remember who I am in You — no matter what I face today. I want to live out the truths You’ve taught me and help those around me do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 10:7: "The name of the righteous is used in blessings, but the name of the wicked will rot." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:33-34: "Teach me, LORD, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:

    Teach children their value is tied to who they are, not how they play. Lysa TerKeurst’s NEW children’s book, Win or Lose, I Love You!includes 10 Scriptures to help children remember who they are and how to treat others. Get it now for a special release day price of only $10.99! Purchase your copy here

     

    Win or Lose Win or Lose

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there a place in your life where you’ve been compromising for others instead of living in God’s Truth?

    Consider what "remember who you are" means to you in your own journey with God. Then, think of one thing you can do today to align your words, thoughts and actions with His Word above all else.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • No More Guilt-Induced Doubt

    Renee Swope SEPTEMBER 28, 2015

    No More Guilt-Induced Doubt RENEE SWOPE

    "Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

    The retreat was just a few weeks away and my message outlines were due, but not quite ready. Knowing the stress I felt, my mom invited me to work at her house that Saturday since she’d be gone all day.

    Studying and preparing with no kids or interruptions sounded like perfection to me!

    Mom said she’d be running errands until 5 p.m. She’d already planned to watch our boys that evening so my husband, JJ, and I could attend a surprise birthday party. He could meet me at Mom’s house, and we’d leave from there.

    A quiet house was just what I needed to get into my "zone" of focused study. I was making great progress, and kept thinking how perfect the setting was … until my mom came home … two hours early.

    Not only was she early, she was noisy! Displaying her new landscape treasures, she unloaded several cement pavers on the floor in the kitchen, where I was working. Then she walked back out to her car and returned with grocery bags that she plopped down on the kitchen table, next to my stuff.

    Normally this would have been fine. It was her house and I was grateful to be there, but not today. I wasn’t done, and I was terrified I’d never get back into my "zone" again.

    It didn’t matter though. My time was up, and unfortunately that was only the beginning of my terribly horrible, very bad day.

    As I started to put my papers away, I knocked over a water bottle, which spilled onto my laptop! You can imagine the mayhem. Finally after mopping up my mess, and laying hands on my laptop while praying for protection over my files, I decided to get ready early for the party.

    From 5 p.m. on, I waited for my husband to arrive. But he didn’t arrive … not at 5 or 5:30. The party was 20 minutes away, and I knew it could ruin the surprise if we were late. But he wasn’t answering his cell phone either, so I didn’t know whether to be irritated or worried.

    I decided to borrow my mom’s car and meet JJ there. But, just as I was pulling out of the driveway, he pulled up.

    Surprisingly, he didn’t look a bit hurried. And to make matters worse, my 6-year-old son got out of the car first, walked over to me and said, "Daddy told us you would be mad."

    That was an understatement! But also confirmation we still needed to drive separately to the party. Because my perfect day was about to turn into the perfect storm!

    Confused that I was still driving out of the driveway, JJ waved for me to stop and asked, "Aren’t you going to wait for me?"

    "No," I snapped. "Because you’re acting like a [beep]."

    Just about that time, my 8-year-old son walked up and said, "Mommy! You just called Daddy a [beep]."

    It was a mess. I was a mess. And I was convinced God wondered why He ever thought it was a good idea to have me speak at my church’s retreat.

    Guilt crashed over me in waves of accusation and condemnation: I’m not cut out for this. I’m not godly enough. I have no business teaching a message I can’t even live.

    We ended up going to the party together, with fake "everything is fine" smiles. But the next morning at church, I went straight to our women’s ministry director to confess what happened and step down from speaking at our retreat.

    Her response shocked me: "Renee, if you don’t need this message as much as the women attending, then you are not qualified to teach it. But because you need it as much as we do, you are. You’ve been appointed and you are anointed to do this."

    I had never experienced such a demonstration of God’s grace. Her words reminded me of today’s key verse and showed me what it looks like to "approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

    I ended up speaking at the retreat, and although I feared some women might judge me, I shared what had happened that weekend. Instead of judgment, they offered acceptance, love and a sense of relief knowing they aren’t the only ones who blow it occasionally.

    Isn’t it hard to believe God could use us when we mess up? Yet the Bible is filled with stories of men and women He used greatly — despite their downfalls.

    Although guilt from the enemy tempts us to give up on ourselves, grace reminds us God never will. Instead, He can take what feels like destruction and use it for reconstruction through our dependence on Him.

    When we confess our wrong thoughts, words and actions and receive God’s forgiveness, we can replace guilt-induced doubt with His grace-infused confidence.

    Lord, I come to You today to receive Your mercy and find Your grace to help me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If Renee Swope’s devotion resonated with you today, you’ll love her A Confident Heart book and A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself.

    Discover "3 Ways to Replace Guilt-induced Doubt with Grace-infused Confidence" on Renee’s blog today and enter to WIN A Confident Heart Devotional by Renee Swope, plus a set of Scripture Promises Cards! Enter to win here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Jesus lived and died to save us from our sins and downfalls. Receive His forgiveness today and ask Him to replace your guilt-induced doubt with His grace-infused confidence. Find out more here.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Living in the Valley of Wait

    Leah DiPascal SEPTEMBER 25, 2015

    Living in the Valley of Wait LEAH DIPASCAL

    "Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you." Psalm 33:20-22 (ESV)

    We were already late.

    I could feel tension building in the back of my neck as I stared at the long road ahead and wondered, Will we make it in time?

    My son’s basketball game was starting in 30 minutes, and we were still 20 minutes away from the gym.

    The team was counting on Carson to show up and play. Carson was counting on me to get him there on time.

    Then it happened. Up ahead I could see the stream of cars slowing down. Within seconds we were forced to a snail’s pace and then a complete stop.

    Noooo! Not now. Not today!

    With a heavy, nervous sigh I glanced at my watch, hoping the time would miraculously come to a standstill like my car. But it didn’t and as the clock ticked, I began to panic.

    Minutes seemed like hours as we waited … and waited … and waited. There must be an accident up ahead. Maybe a car broke down. Surely it’s something major to cause all this traffic on a Saturday morning!

    Finally, the traffic started moving again. I kept looking ahead waiting to discover the reason for all the road congestion. But nothing materialized, and my panic turned to frustration.

    I wanted to see a tangible reason — something to blame — for all that waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s ironic how my life can be that way sometimes.

    I’ll be moving along, making progress in my journey, when all of a sudden things come to a standstill. But instead of slowly maneuvering my way through temporary traffic, I find myself parked in the proverbial Valley of Wait.

    Not seeing a tangible reason or knowing how long I’ll be there can be frustrating.

    Selfishly, I want immediate answers, and I’m quick to ask, "Why Lord? I don’t understand."

    It’s in those situations and difficult seasons of life that I need to remember the truth of today’s key verse: "Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you" (Psalm 33:20-22).

    As my soul waits in the valley, I am not alone. God is there. Helping me. Shielding me. Protecting me.

    As my soul waits in the valley, I can experience His gladness instead of my own frustration. Simply hearing the whispers of His holy Name fills my heart with joy.

    As my soul waits in the valley, I can trust in God’s goodness by remembering His faithfulness in seasons past.

    As my soul waits in the valley, I have hope despite all that’s around me, because God’s unfailing love rests upon me.

    It’s taken me a long time to learn this valuable lesson: I would rather live in the Valley of Wait with Jesus than journey through life on my own.

    For my soul can only find true rest in His presence. Where He is … that’s where I want to be.

    I may never discover all the reasons why I needed to tarry there, but with God by my side, I’ll know it was meant to be.

    Heavenly Father, I love You and I’m so grateful You love me, too. I never want to be apart from Your presence. I want to experience every moment of my life with You, even if that means living in the Valley of Wait. You are everything to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:25, "The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him." (ESV)

    Isaiah 30:18, "Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: What if the next big step God asks you to take is actually small? No matter what God has called you to, you can take the next step through Lysa TerKeurst’s What Happens When Women Walk in Faith.

    Connect with Leah DiPascal on her blog today and sign up for her special giveaway!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you living in the Valley of Wait today? Friend, trust that your time there is not wasted. What is God teaching you? How is it changing your relationship with Him? Who do you want to become during this season of wait?

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dealing with Deep Grief

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 24, 2015

    Dealing with Deep Grief LYSA TERKEURST

    "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

    Losing someone you love can cut into your heart so viciously it forever redefines who you are and how you think. It’s what I call deep grief.

    It strains against everything you’ve ever believed. So much so, you wonder how the promises that seemed so real on those thin Bible pages yesterday could possibly stand up under the weight of this enormous sadness today.

    I once stood at the side of a casket too small to accept. Pink roses draped everywhere. And I watched my mom as she lay across the casket refusing to let go. How could she let go? Part of her heart lay within, so quiet and so still.

    I stood paralyzed and stunned. Just days ago we were laughing and doing everyday things and assuming that all of our lives stretched before us in spans of many, many years. And then suddenly … it all stopped.

    In the flurry of funeral plans and memorial services we all operated on automatic. People were everywhere. Soft chatter filled in the gaps that our stunned silence could not. And people brought in enough food to feed the whole neighborhood.

    But eventually people went back to their own lives. The soft chatter dissipated. The food stopped coming. And we were forced to carry on. Only we had deep grief wrapped about us that made our throats feel strangled and our feet stuck in mud.

    I remember around that time when I tried to go to a drive-thru to order some food. But I couldn’t. I sat there with the speaker spouting words at me I couldn’t process. The cashier kept asking if she could take my order.

    Yeah, I had an order. Take away my bloodshot eyes. Take away my desire to hurt the doctors that couldn’t save my little sister. Take away my anger toward God. And then take away my guilt for being the one who lived. I’ll take all that with no onions and extra ketchup, please.

    I drove away sobbing. How dare they offer happy meals! No one should be happy today. Or tomorrow. Or next year.

    This is the reality of deep grief. Even when you love God and believe in His promises. Even when you know without a doubt that some day you will see your loved one again. Even when you know hope is still there. Even when you know He is near.

    It takes time.

    It takes wading through an ocean of tears.

    It takes finding a possession of your loved one you thought was lost and realizing God did that just to comfort you. It takes discovering one day that the sun still shines. It takes being caught off guard when you catch yourself smiling, only to realize it’s okay.

    It takes prayer. It takes making the decision to stop asking for answers and start asking for perspective. It takes telling people to please not avoid saying her name — you want to hear it, over and over and over again.

    Then one day you take off the blanket of deep grief. You fold it neatly and tuck it away. You no longer hate it or resist it. For underneath it, wondrous things have happened over time. Things that could only have come about when Divine Hope intersects with a broken world.

    And finally you can see years stretching before you once again. You look up, blow a kiss, wipe a tear and find it’s still possible to dance.

    Dear Lord, thank You for assuring me that Your promises hold true even when life seems to betray me. You are my strength and my hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 30:11-12a, "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent." (NLT)

    Psalm 18:28, "You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Read more about Lysa TerKeurst’s testimony and how God redeemed her pain in Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study GirlGet your copy here.

    Help your child through a difficult time of change or loss with Lysa’s children’s book, It Will Be OkayPurchase your copy here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you deeply grieving the loss of someone or something?

    Give yourself permission to mourn, cry and feel raw emotions. Bring your heartache to the Lord in prayer and allow Him to just be near in this hard time.

    If you know someone deeply grieving, don’t ask, "Is there anything I can do?" Instead, be proactive and just do something to help them this week — buy groceries for them, mow their lawn, babysit their children, etc.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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