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  • Serving Others

    Wendy Pope JULY 3, 2015

    Serving Others WENDY POPE

    "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:45 (NLT)

    The sunny, spring afternoon made me grateful to be outside. A warm breeze fluttered between my neighbor and me as we watched our children play. Looking around, I realized my 4-year-old had gone missing … again. He had a habit of disappearing at least once an hour.

    We lived on a quiet cul-de-sac and I knew Griffin couldn’t be far. As I stood up to search, I saw him coming to me with a "surprise." My son had gotten himself a rather large spoonful of peanut butter. Before I could open my mouth to discuss him helping himself without adult supervision, he said, "I brought some for you, too."

    He frequently brought me snacks when he served himself, justifying in his mind that he could not get in trouble if he gave something to his mom. Then I spied two other spoonfuls of peanut butter. Griffin quickly added, "I brought some for my friends, too." His thoughtfulness made me smile as I enjoyed my snack.

    As I watched my boy offer his friends the treat, the Holy Spirit led my mind to Mark 10:45: "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."

    Jesus is our greatest example of selflessness. Scripture is full of examples of Him serving others — from going out of His way to talk to the woman at the well, to healing lepers, to washing His disciples’ feet, to the ultimate sacrifice of giving His life. I often get so caught up in my own needs that I do not think of others or look for ways to serve like Jesus. But watching Griffin that day inspired me.

    He taught me several valuable lessons:

    Consider the needs of others. Griffin felt hungry and believed that his friends might be hungry also.

    Serve generously and without reservation. Griffin served his friends heaping spoonfuls of peanut butter.

    Serve with gladness. Griffin delighted in sharing with others.

    Opportunities to serve are all around us. It’s easy to find them when we are at home: doing someone else’s chore or fixing someone a special meal during a hard week. But God gives us plenty of opportunities to imitate Him outside our houses too. We can hold the door for a mom pushing a stroller. Help a neighbor rake their yard. Or offer to get someone a refill while at a restaurant.

    God will put someone in our path whom we can serve today. Let’s consider their needs and serve them gladly, without reservation!

    Father, enable me to see the needs of others. Give me the confidence to serve without hesitation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:3-7, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (ESV)

    Proverbs 11:25, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered."(ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Stop by Wendy Pope’s blog today to discuss more about serving others.

    Looking for ways to serve others? You might enjoy Trusting God for A Better Tomorrow: A Psalms Bible Study by Wendy Pope, available in eBook and soft cover.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Pray and ask God to give you a heart like Jesus.

    Make a list of people in your home, neighborhood, church and work. Then, as you pray for them, ask God to give you a sense of a need that He could fill through your service to them this week.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Focus Brings Freedom

    Nicki Koziarz JULY 2, 2015

    Focus Brings Freedom NICKI KOZIARZ

    "Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called the blind man and said to him, ‘Have courage! Get up; He’s calling for you.’" Mark 10:49 (HCSB)

    A few months ago, my daughter’s 4x800-meter relay team made it to the State Track and Field Championships. My daughter told me her only goal was to beat the team with the yellow uniforms.

    Her competitive nature has at times thrown off her running ability, so I looked my girl in the eye and said, "Taylor, remember: Stay in your lane. Run hard. And pass the baton!" She nodded her head and took off.

    And do you know what happened? Her team not only finished the race strong, but they beat the school record!

    Focus brought her freedom.

    Some time later, as I came across the story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46-52, I was captured by the focus of this blind beggar. There he sat on the side of a road in Jericho calling out to Jesus for mercy.

    But Jesus seemed to just pass him by.

    The Bible tells us that many people around the beggar told him to be quiet. But he was focused and just kept calling out to Jesus.

    Finally, the man was told "Take heart. Get up; he is calling you," (Mark 10:49b, ESV). After a short exchange, Jesus told Bartimaeus his faith had healed him, and he became whole and able to see.

    Bartimaeus’ focus brought him freedom.

    It is so easy for me to lose focus. Even while writing this devotion, I’ve turned away three times to look at something else on the Internet. But I want to have this extreme focus Bartimaeus had, so when Jesus is passing by through my everyday life, I’m ready.

    I don’t want to miss miracle moments with Jesus because I allow life to distract and detour me.

    So today, to help me focus, I’m reminding myself (and you, my friends) those same three things I told my daughter:

    1. Stay in your lane. We have everything we need to encounter Jesus, right where we are. We are not invisible. Jesus sees us. Just stay in place.

    2. Run hard. Persevere like Bartimaeus. He had the benefit of encountering Jesus face-to-face in that moment, but through the work of the Holy Spirit we now have the benefit of having Him with us at all times. Keep praying. Keep meditating on the Truth of God’s Word. Stay the course. Keep speaking His Name.

    3. Pass it on. The last verse of this story says, " … Immediately he could see and began to follow Him on the road" (Mark 10:52b, HCSB). I smiled when I read that. It’s as if Bartimaeus thought, "I am the proof of Jesus' touch and so where He goes, I will go!"

    What has Jesus done in you that others need to see? Pass on the proof.

    Stay in your lane. Run hard. And pass it on. No matter how blurry life seems to be, focus on Jesus will always bring us freedom.

    God, help me to see You passing me by today. I want to encounter all the miracle moments You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 10:51, "Then Jesus answered him, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ ‘Rabbouni,’ the blind man told Him, ‘I want to see!’" (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Visit Nicki Koziarz’ blog today to win a beautiful framed print with a reminder of today’s devotion!

    Sometimes focusing on Jesus happens best when we underwhelm our schedule, so God can overwhelm our soul. You might enjoy The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands by Lysa TerKeurst.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing that distracts you from focusing on Jesus?

    What can you do today to keep your focus on Him? Share your ideas in our comment section. You never know how you might "pass on" some encouragement to someone else reading the comments.

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Wish You Had a New Name

    Alicia Bruxvoort JULY 1, 2015

    When You Wish You Had a New Name ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it." 2 Corinthians 3:18 (VOICE)

    We were standing in line at the grocery store, my 4-year-old wiggling impatiently in her favorite purple tutu, when the elderly woman behind us bent low to look my daughter in the eye.

    "You’re as beautiful as your dancing dress," the silver-haired shopper said with a playful wink.

    Maggie accepted the compliment with a pirouette and a smile, and the friendly chatter continued as I searched for coupons in the bottom of my purse.

    "What’s your name?" the soft-spoken conversationalist asked, her aged eyes sparkling.

    Maggie stopped spinning long enough to return her inquisitor’s gaze. Then she folded her arms across her chest and responded with a dramatic roll of her baby blues. "Well, my mommy named me Magdalene Hope, but I’d rather be called Bluebell."

    Muffled giggles erupted from the eavesdroppers in the snaking line behind us.

    "Oh …" she mumbled as she straightened her bony knees and rose shakily to her feet. "I see," she said, as Maggie continued twirling.

    I paid for my wares, grabbed my preschooler’s hand and made my way to our waiting mini-van. Once I’d buckled my misnamed child into her car seat, I asked about the grocery store confession.

    "Why don’t you like your name?"

    "I’d just rather be named Bluebell," Maggie said, her lips pursed in a pink pout. "Or Daffodil or Lily."

    "So, you wish you were a flower?" I responded, trying to follow my 4-year-old’s line of thought.

    "No, Mommy!" Maggie exclaimed with a giggle. "That would be silly. Then I’d have to sleep in the dirt!"

    She stared at me in the rearview mirror and shook her head in silent disbelief. "I don’t want to be a flower. I just want to be beautiful like a flower."

    My daughter’s words struck a chord deep inside of me. And for just a moment, I wasn’t glancing at my ballerina in the back seat; I was gazing back in time, staring at my own 14-year-old reflection in a smudgy bathroom mirror.

    For just a moment, I was remembering what it was like to be that lanky girl in the eighth grade who wanted to be called by a new name.

    The girl who wanted to be called beautiful instead of bony. Lovely instead of loud. Winsome instead of weird.

    Maybe, at one time or another, you’ve wished for a new name, too. Perhaps even today you stared at your own reflection in the mirror and wondered if anyone would ever look at your life and call it beautiful. Or maybe you love someone who wrestles with that very question.

    If so, may I tell you what I’ve learned since those days of 14-year-old wishing? May I tell you what I’m going to share with Bluebell as she grows?

    There is only one name that calls out our true beauty.

    And it isn’t a name whispered by onlookers or posted by friends.

    It isn’t a name plastered on a label or sewn into a pair of jeans.

    Ironically, the name that calls out the beauty buried in each of us is the Name of the One who was said to have no beauty at all (Isaiah 53:2).

    It’s crazy, when you think about it — we have a Savior who surrendered the glory of Heaven so we could become a reflection of His beauty on earth.

    And when we take our eyes off the woman in the mirror and fix them on the Lover of our souls, our lives begin to bloom with a radiance that can’t be bottled or concealed.

    Maggie pressed her nose to the window and let out a happy squeal.

    "Mommy! Mommy! Look at that huge flower …"

    I turned my head to see a solitary sunflower standing along the road, its yellow face stretching tall toward the shimmering sun.

    Once again, my preschooler sighed, "I wish you’d named me Sunflower."

    I eyed my sulking girl and tried not to laugh.

    Then, as I steered the van toward home, I prayed that the girl we’d named Magdalene Hope would one day grow to be like that golden flower. Because this mama is learning that true beauty shines brightest when we turn our face to the light of the Son.

    Dear Jesus, may my life mirror Your beauty. I want to look more like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:5, "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." (NIV)

    Psalm 16:11, "Instead, You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment." (VOICE)

    RELATED RESOURCES: You can help a young woman in your life discover her true beauty with Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants.

    Visit Alicia’s Bruvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a "True Beauty" giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Write Psalm 34:5 on your mirror with a dry erase marker. Practice gazing at Jesus, rather than at your reflection.

    Who in your life reflects Christ’s radiance? Take a moment to tell her she is beautiful!

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Joseph's Adoption

    Buying here helps young men find forever families

    Joseph was 12 years old when he first set foot on the Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch, a foster care alternative with multiple family-style homes. He arrived from a group home where he struggled with anger and getting into fights. All that changed when Goshen Valley welcomed him in to their family.

    During his time there, Joseph began going to church, school and youth group each week and became close with the eight other boys in his home and his house parents, who were devoted to helping him succeed in life. Joseph was also there during Family Christian’s first mission trip.

    “The development after Family Christian came in was huge. I saw them put in roads, a learning center, and they did all kinds of stuff to better Goshen Valley,” Joseph said. “If it wasn’t for Family Christian, I feel like the development of Goshen would not be where it is today.

    During that first mission trip, Joseph also met Tina, our Senior Visual Manager.

    Joseph and Tina

    Joseph and Tina

    They spent the week together working on projects, hanging out and created a close friendship. Soon after the trip, Tina felt God tugging at her heart to adopt a child from Goshen. And a year and half later, Tina and her husband Kevin adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

    Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago

    Joseph with Kevin and Tina, outside Joseph’s home near Chicago

    “I always thought my husband and I would adopt,” Tina said. “After the mission trip, I kept thinking about how I wanted to do more, so I asked Kevin to pray for one week. I wanted to see if God was saying to him what he was saying to me.”

    One week later, Kevin confirmed what Tina had heard from the Lord, which was that their family should share what God had given them with others by adopting a child from Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch. And a year and half later, they adopted Joseph, who was just shy of his 18th birthday.

    A year and a half after graduating high school, Joseph moved to Chicago to study in the automotive field. He’s now 22 and works as a mechanic. While he’d like to stay in the automotive industry, he sees himself eventually moving closer to his family again. He describes having Tina, Kevin and his three-year-old brother, Bear, in his life as “a life-changing experience.”

    Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together!

    Joseph and his three-year-old brother, Bear, love hanging out together!

    “The biggest change I saw was a young man who desperately wanted a family and didn’t know how a family works, to a young man who understands that we’ll always have his back and love him,” Tina said. “God has unconditional love for us, and I never grasped that concept until I had Joseph in my life. There is nothing he could do that could make us stop loving him.”

    When you buy from Family, you are giving to ministries like Goshen Valley, helping them raise young boys into godly men and preparing them for a possible adoption.

    Learn more about Goshen Valley and our other ministry partners.

  • You Get to Decide

    Renee Swope JUNE 30, 2015

    You Get to Decide RENEE SWOPE

    "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

    My 8-year-old son walked into my room before school one morning and declared, "Mom, I don’t want to have any anxious thoughts today!"

    "I don’t want to worry about you not being home when I get off the school bus. I don’t want to worry about my teacher not liking my science project. And I don’t want to worry about Dad getting in a car accident! I wish I could be like other kids because they never worry."

    Listening to him describe his fears made my stomach ache. Anxious thoughts had been a companion ever since I was a child, so I knew just how he felt.

    However, I assumed my fears stemmed from hard things in my childhood during my parents’ divorce. My anxiety had solid reasoning behind it. My dad left before I was ever born. And by the time I was 2 years old, their divorce was final.

    For as long as I could remember, I feared my mom would leave me too. Fear of rejection and abandonment followed me into every relationship I had for the rest of my life: with friends, boyfriends and even my husband.

    Somewhere along the way, I accepted worry as a disability and settled into believing I didn’t have a choice in how it impacted my life. I let anxiety form a pattern in my thoughts.

    Now here I stood with my son who’d declared he wanted a day off from worry! And I was determined to help him get it. I wanted to rip those threads of fear out of his thoughts and make sure he knew what to do with them.

    I couldn’t take my child’s fears away, but I could equip him with the truth to face them courageously and fight them victoriously. I told Andrew, "You get to decide what to do with your worries." And I shared three powerful truths to help him:

    Truth #1: Other kids do worry; they just don’t talk about it on the playground.

    Truth #2: Worry and fear must be a normal because God tells us not to, over 100 times in the Bible.

    Truth #3: God doesn’t just tell us not to worry or fear, He tells us what to do when we do!

    I read today’s verse out loud from 2 Corinthians 10:5, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." But a puzzled look on his face told me Andrew needed to know how to do that, so I described it in terms he could understand:

    "Andrew, when you have a thought that makes you feel anxious, you have to decide to catch it like a baseball." I then cupped my hand like I was holding a ball and told him to look at it and ask, "Is this something Jesus would say to me?"

    If the answer is "no" — then throw your thought back into the outfield!

    For instance, worry says: "Your mom isn’t going to be home when you get off the bus."

    "Would Jesus say that?" I asked.

    "No," he replied.

    "Then it’s outta here!" I told him, as I threw the invisible ball across the room.

    Worry says: "Your teacher isn’t going to like your science project!"

    "Would Jesus say that?" I prompted.

    Again, "No."

    "Throw that one away, too!"

    We talked through each worry, and I helped him decide what to do. Then we prayed and asked God to replace each worry with confident peace, and thanked God for ways He’d protected Andrew in the past, reminding him how good He is at being God.

    After our collective "Amen" I looked up and Andrew had a big grin on his face. Then he said, "Thanks Mom!" as though all his worries were gone.

    My sons are 17 and 20 now, and there have been many days I’ve wanted to take away their worries. I’ve been tempted to fix problems and sticky situations. But I’ve learned that doesn’t strengthen their faith or their ability to decide what to do when hard times come.

    Instead, what our kids need most is for us to be there: to talk through their struggles, listen to their stories, pray through their worries and be willing to share God’s truths that have helped us decide how to face ours.

    Dear Lord, show me how to be still and listen, and let You be God in my child’s life. Help me walk in Your truth and win the war over my own worry so I can share Your Word and show them how to lean on You when they come to me for help. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Don’t miss Renee Swope’s "Fear Not For I am With You" FREE printable. It’s a powerful reminder and tool to help us, and our kids, decide worry won’t get the final say — God will! Download yours and enter to win A Confident Heart Devotional gift pack.

    Perfect for summer, Renee Swope’s A Confident Heart Devotional is filled with powerful stories, practical life-lessons and biblical insights to help you overcome fear and worry through the power of God’s truth each day! Order a copy here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How much does fear and worry impact your daily decisions and joy (or your child’s)?

    What might happen if you took each anxious thought captive and decided which ones stay and which ones go, based on what Renee shared today?

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Even in the Midst of Dirty Dishes

    Sharon Glasgow JUNE 29, 2015

    Even in the Midst of Dirty Dishes SHARON GLASGOW

    "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: … whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 4:9-10,11b (ESV)

    My friend Stella and her husband have been missionaries for more than 60 years, and have led countless people to Christ. At the time of my visit, she was in her eighties and still serving. Another friend, Sheli, and I were honored to stay with her for a week to minister alongside her.

    We traveled 30 hours to her home in Takamatsu, Japan, and arrived late in the evening. Stella ushered us into her kitchen for a hearty meal, then prayed for us before we all went to bed. When the sun was barely up the next morning, we feasted on an enormous breakfast in her tiny kitchen.

    The kitchen was crowded, her appliances old and worn, dishes piled high in the sink from her lavish food preparation — yet the atmosphere felt entirely like home. As she and her husband read Scripture and encouraged us, tears welled in my eyes, the love of Christ enveloped us; it overwhelmed me.

    Immediately after breakfast, Stella began cooking again; this time for 100 women. She’d rented a banquet hall and invited friends, telling them an American would be speaking and there would be food. We cooked and set up tables for the luncheon, and then I was ushered to the front to speak. Her objective in hosting the event was to build relationships in hopes that those who came for lunch would come back again for church on Sunday. Many did!

    While driving home after lunch, she told me she’d invited a large group to the house for dinner that night. I couldn’t imagine how we could clean up the mess we’d left behind and simultaneously prepare another meal. How would we get it all done? She didn’t seem concerned. Instead, she was fueled by the energy of what the Lord had done at the luncheon.

    There have been times I’ve worried more about my kitchen than how I could serve others. I’d fret over the size and messiness. But I was inspired as I watched this woman who had no concerns about the dirty pots in her sink. Stella didn’t let an un-swept floor keep her from ministering. She set the table beautifully and welcomed her guests. She and her husband prayed and read Scripture. Hearts melted.

    Years have passed since that week in Japan and I think of my friend Stella whenever I have company. Over the course of her life, she has ministered to thousands in her home, and many have come to know Jesus there. Her ministry had nothing to do with a spotless kitchen. In fact, her kitchen was a mess. But whenever God opened a window of opportunity, she seized it.

    I want my service to be like Stella’s. Hers is like that described by the apostle Peter in today’s key verse, grounded "by the strength that God supplies." I want to long for people to know Jesus more than I long for the perfect kitchen.

    God cares more about what’s happening among the people in our kitchen than He cares about the state of it. My missionary friend taught me that it is possible to share God’s love, demonstrate His character and offer hospitality — even in the midst of dirty dishes.

    Dear Lord, show me ways to serve through the resources You’ve given me. Help me care more about people than things like dirty dishes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 31:15a, "She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household." (ESV)

    Proverbs 31:25-27, "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: The secret to making guests feel comfortable is more about the condition of your heart than the condition of your home. For tips on helping others feel refreshed, not impressed, check out Karen Ehman’s book A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart & Home to Others.

    Visit Sharon Glasgow’s blog for more encouragement on offering hospitality in the midst of messiness.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Your kitchen is a perfect place to show hospitality. Don’t wait for it to be perfect to invite guests. God will supply the ability you need to minister in your kitchen, and He will be glorified.

    Would you be willing to invite people to stay for dinner if they dropped by unannounced — even if your kitchen were a mess? Why or why not?

    Can you think of a person, family or neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus yet, whom you could invite for dinner? Make a call or send a text and get it on the calendar.

    © 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • Who Am I Like?

    Wendy Pope JUNE 26, 2015

    Who Am I Like? WENDY POPE

    "Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children." Ephesians 5:1 (NLT)

    "Mommy, my friend needs new crayons," bellowed my then 5-year-old as he climbed in the family van after school.

    In a true mommy-has-all-the-answers kind of way I confidently responded, "Well, his mommy will buy him some new crayons."

    The next day Griffin and I had the same conversation. Only this time Griffin added, "His mommy can’t buy him more crayons." To which I replied, "Well, your teacher will get him some crayons."

    Later, when I called Griffin to dinner I noticed he was quite delayed; usually he was the first one to the table. What happened next stirred my soul.

    Me: "Griffin, what kept you from coming when I called your name?"

    Griffin: "I was going through my crayons to take some to my friend."


    Yes, I was speechless. Griffin’s example of selflessness weighed heavy on my heart for several days. What an extraordinary act of generosity for such a young boy.

    I knew God used ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. And I began to wonder about some of my favorites from the Bible … and myself: Who am I like? Do I have the tenacity to accomplish a lengthy assignment like Noah? Am I courageous and daring like Esther? Can I patiently wait years for God’s plan to unfold like David? Would I have the character of the Good Samaritan or the thoughtfulness of my 5-year-old? Could I have that?

    Though it’s good to be inspired by the actions and faith of others, our key verse instructs us to imitate one person, Jesus. Imitating Jesus is quite a tall order. Most times I try to be like Him, but I miss the mark. Can you relate?

    If I’m honest, some days I’m more like the rogues in Scripture than Jesus. I don’t enjoy that comparison as much, but it’s worthwhile to ask tough questions.

    Is my heart stubborn and spirit unwilling to obey God like Pharaoh? Am I prideful and audacious like Samson? How often do I deny Christ like Peter before the crucifixion? Am I pious like the Pharisees?

    Unfortunately, I have to answer yes to some of these. At times, I submit to my sinful nature. I make decisions with pride and arrogance that are contrary to what God wills and wants.

    God expects me to forgive her even though she deeply wounded me? Forget it. That woman doesn’t deserve my forgiveness.

    I asked and asked him to help me, but he didn’t. Now God wants me to help him? I don’t think so.

    If he needs help, why doesn’t he get a job instead of standing on the corner asking for handouts?

    The more we rebel against God’s ways, the less tender our hearts become. Distance invades our intimacy with the Lord, which leads us on a dangerous path away from Him.

    It’s then that we should pray and ask Him to reveal areas of rebellion. Our response to His revelation? Immediate repentance followed by immediate obedience. The result will be an agreeable spirit and a softened heart, like Jesus, with a desire to imitate Him in all we say and do.

    We each have certain aspects of our personalities that are similar to Noah, Esther and David. If we are willing to admit it, we can be a little like Pharaoh, Samson and the Pharisees, too. However, our goal should be to liken ourselves to one hero in the Bible … Jesus: obedient, humble, compassionate, truthful and so much more.

    Dear Lord, I ask You to help me walk upright, imitating You in everything I say and do. Quicken my spirit when I fail, so I might repent and be restored to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 5:1-2, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." (ESV)

    Philippians 2:1-4, "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Spark your love for God’s Word with Wendy Pope’s Bible study Trusting God for A Better Tomorrow: A Psalms Bible Study.

    Visit Wendy’s blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one character trait Jesus bears that you would like to imitate?

    Make a list of things that hinder you from being like Jesus. Pray and ask God to help you overcome these things. Be prepared! If you struggle with selfishness, for example, you may sense God asking you to donate some belongings, volunteer your time consistently, give up your efforts to always park in the spot closest to the store, or something else. Listen for His direction.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • 3 Steps to Overcome Fear

    Lysa TerKeurst JUNE 25, 2015

    3 Steps to Overcome Fear LYSA TERKEURST

    "The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5b-7 (NIV)

    When my kids were younger and had a bad dream, they always knew they could find safety and security from their fears by calling me near.

    Sometimes I’d make my way to their room and climb in with them. But more times than not, they wanted to sleep right beside my bed. Something about mommy and daddy being "near" quieted their souls and calmed their hearts.

    How like our Heavenly Father when we get entangled in fear as well.

    Today’s Scripture includes a popular verse people like to quote about fear, found in Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

    I love this verse. I’ve taught my kids this verse. And as I’ve spent time studying it, I’ve noticed something really interesting. There are four very powerful words that come right before the, "Do not be anxious" part.

    Because the verse right before it (Philippians 4:5) ends with, "The Lord is near." And because the Lord is near, we don’t have to be anxious. We have the assurance of His soothing presence.

    When I put this verse in context and see how God promises to be with me and those I love, this verse takes on a whole new meaning for me.

    It’s His presence plus His promise that chases away our anxious thoughts.

    And to truly understand that, we must also look at how the next verse (Philippians 4:8) instructs us, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things." (NIV)

    In other words, God instructs us to "park our minds" on that which is true and right and worthy of praise. But, oh how hard this can be sometimes.

    Because just like my kids, I can have such a runaway mind where I focus on my fears and blow them way out of proportion. So this "park your mind" concept has been huge for me and as my kids have grown, I’ve consciously made an effort to teach them to park their minds on God’s truth as well.

    The next time you find yourself or your child being pulled into fear, try these three steps:

    1. Pray Honestly — Encourage your child to honestly tell God what they’re afraid of and ask Him to help them not live in that fear. Pray for His protection and assurance.

    2. Read God’s Truths — Be intentional about helping your child find the courage they need by showing them Scriptures about overcoming fear. Tuck God’s Truth into their heart and arm them with the most powerful tool available — His Word!

    3. Verbalize Trust in Him — Help your child quote the Scriptures they’ve memorized on dealing with fear. Encourage them to quote the verse slowly and intentionally, to claim the truths contained within, and to verbalize their belief in God out loud.

    Yes, I’m convinced the more we fill our minds with God’s Word, the more crowded out our fears will become.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the promise that You are near. I’m so grateful that my kids and I can give all of our fears over to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Genesis 28:15a, "I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go." (NIV)

    Isaiah 41:13, "For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Live A Life Of Love

    Help a child discover that God is always with them as they overcome new or scary circumstances with Lysa’s children’s book, It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change. Included in the book are 10 powerful Scriptures to memorize with a child as you navigate their fears together! Click here to purchase your copy for a special, limited time price of $10.99.


    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a fear or worry your child is having right now. Consider how you can specifically walk them through the three steps Lysa talked about in the devotion today.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Strength of Weakness

    Michele Cushatt JUNE 24, 2015

    The Strength of Weakness MICHELE CUSHATT

    "That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10 (NIV)

    It was the opportunity of a lifetime, I knew.

    For years I’d dreamed of being a writer. In between mothering a houseful of monkeys (a.k.a. children), I’d hunker down over my laptop and wrestle with words. But navigating the tension between dream and duty seemed impossible.

    Until, one day, an email landed in my inbox.

    "We’d like to invite you to be one of our speakers …"

    A speaking invitation. To a national conference.

    Hope rallied. I stared at the screen in disbelief. A break, finally! I couldn’t mess it up.

    But soon after, the unthinkable happened. Three short months before the speaking date, with a single phone call from my doctor, my world collapsed.

    Cancer. Of the tongue.

    It made zero sense. I was a healthy 39-year-old mom. I ate right, exercised. Heck, I even flossed. That deserved bonus points.

    But cancer is no respecter of persons, I’d learn soon enough. It plows through a life like an unmanned car, destroying individuals, families and dreams without the slightest hesitation.

    What followed in the months after that unexpected phone call involved an upheaval that’s still hard to describe. Only those who have endured the unthinkable understand how quickly a life can change. Unending doctor appointments. Countless tests and scans. Major surgery to remove part of my tongue. Long, painful months of recovery.

    But the physical trauma was only a fraction of my nightmare. The hardest part was the unanswerable questions:

    God, why? Where are You in all of this? Will I ever eat or speak normally again?

    Will I live?

    By the first day of the conference, I’d shrunk to a fraction of myself. Cancer had zapped my strength. Fear and unknowns had claimed my confidence. I considered canceling. Who was I to talk about peace and faith? I had nothing to offer. Nothing except my broken and battered self.

    Intent on keeping my promise, I made my way to the conference venue. But moments after arriving, pain gripped me again.

    God, help me!

    Grabbing ibuprofen, I headed for the water fountain. That’s when I heard my name.

    "Michele, hold on," a female voice whispered. It was Erika. One of the conference staff. Before I could answer, she grabbed my behind.

    Yes. Erika’s hand. On my derrière.

    "Excuse me?" I might’ve slapped her. We didn’t know each other that well.

    "Hold on a minute." She maintained her grip. "You lost your skirt."


    "Your skirt fell. I’m pulling it back up."

    Sure enough, the long chocolate brown skirt I’d meticulously ironed and donned an hour before had dropped well below the tree line. An unfortunate consequence of months of weight loss. In a room filled with conference staff and speakers I wanted to impress, I’d exposed the lesser version of myself.

    Isn’t that nice.

    Even so, something shifted. What began as my mortification became my salvation. For a lifetime, I’d exhausted myself trying to be "enough," to deliver the polished and put-together me I believed God and the world demanded.

    Then cancer. Fear. A shaken faith. And a skirt malfunction.

    That’s when God delivered an unexpected healing. You see, there’s nothing wrong with doing my best. And excellence certainly has its place. But in all my trying I’d missed a beautiful truth: The strength of weakness.

    As our key verse of 2 Corinthians 12:10 reminds us, when we are weak, we are strong. Yes, I’d been striving to be good enough, strong enough, pretty enough, faithful enough. But in the process, I’d forgotten Jesus’ offering of relief:

    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest," (Matthew 11:28, NIV).

    Rest. Rest.

    It’s what this cancer-fighting, failure-feeling mama needed. A grace-loving God big enough to take the pressure off her and put it squarely on Himself.

    Turns out it’s what the women at the conference needed, too.

    My friends, ministry — of the purest kind — isn’t about impressing others with a flawless life. It’s not about polished presentations, perfect families and always-put-together women.

    It’s about daring to expose our hidden imperfections and giving others permission to do the same. Becoming a fellow struggler, faith wrestler and hand-holder who delivers zero judgment but instead offers oceans of presence and grace.

    Why? Because we have a God who says we’re enough. Just as we are.

    Even when our skirts fall to the floor.

    God, heal me of my desperate striving! Help me to believe and rest in the truth that I am enough, because I am Yours. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:22-23, "Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Tired of trying to be "enough"? Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life, by Michele Cushatt, will encourage anyone in the midst of a messy life that didn’t turn out the way she expected.

    Visit Michele’s blog where she shares life, encouragement and hope.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Undone by Michele Cushatt. In celebration of this book, Michele’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, June 29.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one area of your life where you need to cease striving and receive Jesus’ rest?

    © 2015 by Michele Cushatt. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan Publishers 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

  • Why I Buy Orange Marmalade

    Karen Ehman JUNE 23, 2015

    Why I Buy Orange Marmalade KAREN EHMAN

    "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

    The sound of clanking silverware and clinking dishes wafted through the air as my husband and I sat across from each other in a retro-styled diner looking over the breakfast menu. We’d been meaning for weeks to spend some time alone, or maybe even go on a real date. So we set our alarms for still dark o’clock and drove a half hour to the quaint eatery.

    I’m not a big breakfast eater, so a steaming cup of coffee with fruit and nut oatmeal was enough for me. My husband, however, loves breakfast. So he ordered one of the diner’s famous combo plates that included eggs, sausage and a few pieces of whole grain toast.

    He slathered some sweet cream butter on the toast. Then he began to dig through the gingham-lined basket on the table like a child digging through a toy box for a favorite plaything.

    I had to know, so I asked: "What are you searching for?"

    "Orange marmalade," he replied.

    "What? Isn’t grape jelly or strawberry jam good enough? You can’t seem to get enough of my homemade strawberry jam," I teased.

    "But orange marmalade is my favorite," he answered. "Loved it ever since I was a kid."

    Wow. There I sat across from my college sweetheart-turned-husband whom I’ve known over a quarter century, and I never knew this simple fact — he loves orange marmalade.

    Often in marriage — especially if there are children in the picture — we spend so much time just getting life done. Keeping up the house. Making appointments. Tending to the yard work. Shuttling children. Paying bills. And we stop noticing the little things about our spouses — the stuff we used to notice all the time when we were dating.

    In college, I took good notes on what my then-boyfriend enjoyed. I knew he was a lover of butter pecan ice cream, so sometimes I would pick up a hand-packed pint from the local ice cream parlor and deliver it to him when he was studying in the college library.

    Back then it seemed easy to put him first, to always be on the lookout for his interests and likes. Selfishness on my part didn’t really exist in our relationship. I was head-over-heels in love with this guy and intent on noticing his preferences and pleasing him.

    Sadly, as the days and months of marriage turn into years and decades, it’s easy for noticing to decrease and selfishness to creep in. Instead of longing to please our spouses, even in the little things, we often look to get our own way. Today’s key verse seems to be the perfect prescription for this dilemma. We are encouraged to look not just to our own interests, but also in humility look to the interests of others. There are so many ways to apply this verse in marriage!

    It may mean spending a weekend doing activities your spouse prefers. In my case, that would mean attending a jazz festival on a Saturday with my trumpet-playing husband, rather than hunting for antiques at a large indoor market, which bores him to death.

    Sometimes it might be a more important matter, and other times it could be a seemingly trivial thing. Again, in all things means not only looking to your own interests, but in humility looking to the interests of your spouse.

    In a culture of selfies and selfishness, let’s purpose to take notice of our spouse’s interests and show them love in even the smallest of ways. For me, that means I’m now surfing the Internet for a winning orange marmalade recipe. Well, that and buying a few jars of the store-bought variety for back up!

    Father, may I be on the lookout for ways to bless my spouse — both in the little interests of life and in the major issues of marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:2, "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: To be inspired to live a life that’s other-centered, check out Karen Ehman’s book, A Life That Says Welcome: Simple Ways to Open Your Heart and Home to Others.

    Today, Karen is sharing a free PDF of "Get-To-Know-You-Again Questions" to ask your spouse on a date. She’s also giving away a special date-night-in-a-box gift to one reader. For details visit Karen’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time you took notice of your spouse’s likes and interests, and then made a point to do something with that information to bless him?

    Make plans in the next week or two to surprise your spouse with a day — or even just a few hours — of the two of you doing something that interests him even if it is something you aren’t fond of.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

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