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  • 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

  • A Wrecked Marriage Saved

    Sharon Glasgow SEPTEMBER 23, 2015

    A Wrecked Marriage Saved SHARON GLASGOW

    "A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered." Proverbs 17:27 (NLT)

    "I can’t STAND my husband. I’ve had enough; it’s over. I’m finished with this marriage, Sharon. I’m done … DONE!" Kate yelled as I held the phone away from my ear. When she stopped to take a breath, my friend started sobbing. I could hear her children fighting and her baby screaming in the background.

    Before I could respond, Kate asked, "May the kids and I come over for lunch? I need your help. I don’t know what to do."

    Everything in me wanted to say, "NO!" We were renovating our house and using my bedroom as a makeshift kitchen. I hadn’t been grocery shopping and had no idea what I’d feed all our kids, the two of us and the construction crew.

    Despite my hesitations, I said, "C’mon over and …" Her phone disconnected before I finished the sentence.

    Rummaging through a box, I found lunch — oatmeal, walnuts and maple syrup. I boiled water on a tabletop burner, wiped 15 bowls that were covered in construction dust and prayed for God to help me help my friend. I knew if her marriage was going to be saved, it wouldn’t be because of my words. It’d be because of God’s.

    Kate didn’t seem to notice the messy house. She had tunnel vision and only saw her wrecked marriage. After we ate lunch, the kids played outdoors while my friend and I stayed inside. I let her talk for over an hour. As she told me her story, I thought to myself, Oh my! I can’t imagine being married to this man either! He’s an inconsiderate jerk.

    At the end, Kate looked at me and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

    I paused before answering. My flesh wrestled with my spirit big time. The more she talked, the angrier I became for her. Part of me wanted to come up with mean jabs for her to say back to her husband. Or encourage her to give him the silent treatment. Or go yell at him myself!

    But I knew none of these "solutions" would help heal Kate’s heart or her marriage. Do you remember the old saying, "If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all"? Scripture tells us a similar thing in today’s key verse of Proverbs 17:27, "A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered."

    Sitting with my friend, I took a deep breath, silently asked God to forgive my anger and instead of giving advice, I said, "Let’s pray and ask God what He thinks."

    I prayed for help to say only what He wanted me to say. Words rolled out of my mouth that I hadn’t planned. Words based on Scripture, not my emotions. Words of kindness, not contempt. So much better than my thoughts.

    Oh my goodness — I can count more times than not when I’ve blurted out words that should never have been said, especially in the heat of the moment. Do you know what I mean? Mercy!

    But, let me tell you something — if we consistently read God’s Word and pray, the most amazing thing will happen: We’ll follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, even when our human desires want to do or say something different.

    I’m thankful I paused and invited the Lord into my conversation that day. Kate said, "I’m going to need more prayer to get through. Everything you prayed convicted me. I do love him and have renewed hope that God is going to turn this around."

    Notice she didn’t say she would need tons of conversations, clever words or plans to retaliate. Just a short prayer based on Scripture revived her. We have continued to pray together, and her wrecked marriage is being restored.

    The next time you’re tempted to give someone a piece of your mind or spout long-winded advice, pause first. Invite the Lord, through prayer, to lead your thoughts and guide your few words.

    Lord, help me not to lean on my own understanding but in everything acknowledge You so that You can direct my words, thoughts and actions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 15:28, "The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words." (NLT)

    Proverbs 15:7, "The lips of the wise give good advice; the heart of a fool has none to give." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Visit Sharon’s blog for more encouragement on ministering to hurting people and enter your name to win a free gift.

    Learn how to resolve conflict with kindness and confidence in your most important relationships with an Unglued Devotional by Lysa TerKeurst.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do your words reflect the fruit of the Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

    Take note of your words each day. Are they few or many?

    © 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • Lord, Teach Me to Laugh

    Ann Spangler SEPTEMBER 22, 2015

    Lord, Teach Me to Laugh ANN SPANGLER

    "Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Genesis 18:13b-14a (NIV)

    My prayer life ramped up significantly the day I became a parent.

    As the single mother of two adopted children, I feel both tremendously blessed and incredibly challenged.

    Like any mother, I want my teenage girls to launch well, to know that they will reach adulthood as people who can take care of themselves and relate well to others.

    Because both have special needs, I’m anxious about how difficult this might be. Sometimes, in fact, I feel like one big blob of worry.

    Since I adopted my children late in life, I love recalling the story of Sarah. She’s the woman in the Bible who had a baby when she was 90 years old. I love her not just because she holds the world record as the oldest woman ever to get pregnant, but because she’s so real. Like most of us, she’s a long way from perfect. Still, because of how God worked in her life, she learned that nothing is too hard for Him. Here’s a tiny window into her story:

    Hers is a face that still makes men look; so beautiful it once charmed kings.

    You might think her a fool for all the nonstop laughter. Her body shakes with it. But she is no fool, only a woman who can’t stop marveling at what God has done. Although her husband is more than 100 years old and she’s not far behind, she is pregnant with his child. Who wouldn’t find that funny? Two old sticks kindling a fire!

    Sarah’s joy is so strong and wild that nothing can stop it. "God has brought me laughter," she says, "and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me" (Genesis 21:6, NIV). And so she named her son Isaac, which means laughter.

    I love learning about Sarah because it gives me hope for the story God is telling with my life and the lives of my children. Like her, I want to become a woman who has learned to laugh, not because she’s perfect or her life is easy, but because she finally gets it — that nothing in this great big world is too hard for God.

    Like Sarah, I haven’t a clue as to how the future will unfold. But instead of allowing myself to dissolve into that big blob of worry when difficulties arise, I can express the truth that God will help my children and me, regardless of whether or not He does so according to my timeline. From a practical standpoint, I’ve found my faith growing stronger as I’ve learned to fill every prayer request with praise and thanksgiving.

    I expect that learning to laugh in the midst of life’s challenges will be a process rather than an event. It may take the rest of my life. But as I’ve added more praise and thanksgiving to my prayers, I’ve discovered my anxiety receding and my joy increasing.

    Lord, thank You for the way You’ve surprised me with so many good things. Please help my faith to grow stronger so that regardless of circumstances, I will always find joy in You. May my laughter be like a song of praise to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 126:4-6, "Restore our fortunes, LORD, like streams in the Negev. Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.’ (NIV)

    Proverbs 31:25, "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Sarah was "wicked" old, but God’s promise brought her joy and laughter. Discover how the lives of the Bible’s most outrageous women can yield rich insights into God’s mercy and love with Ann Spangler’s book, Wicked Women of the Bible.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Wicked Women of the Bible by Ann Spangler. In celebration of this book, Ann’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, September 28.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Spend 10 minutes reflecting on the positive surprises God has brought into your life.

    Sarah’s story is evidence that nothing is too hard for God. Ask God to show you one thing you can do to increase your faith in Him.

    © 2015 by Ann Spangler. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan 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

  • When it all Falls Apart

    Amy Carroll SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

    When it all Falls Apart AMY CARROLL

    "It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect." Psalm 18:32 (NIV, 1984)

    Everything seemed to go wrong at the same time. Instead of having "one of those days," I was having one of those months!

    The emotional load in our home increased as my eldest son moved back from college, filling every square inch of our little house with testosterone. My youngest son graduated from high school and then had an accident that would require surgery. My computer crashed, not just once but three times. A spur-of-the-moment trip required hours of unscheduled time. An event I was planning seemed to teeter between success and epic fail. On top of it all, my little dog came down with intestinal issues … I’ll spare you the details.

    For a time, not one thing in my life seemed to measure up to the picture of perfection in my head. Not my messy home. Not my fearful mothering. Not my unstable professional life. Not my overloaded schedule.

    Nothing.

    I felt weak and overwhelmed. For a woman who loves order, a managed schedule and peace, it’s not easy to face times like these. Maybe you’ve had seasons similar to mine. Perhaps for some of you, it’s been even longer — even one of those years — when chaos seems to reign.

    As difficult as it is to cope when life gets messy, we can view struggles as a great opportunity to operate in a new way. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong and imperfect, we can turn our focus to the Perfect One, our heavenly Father. When it’s obvious our best efforts and planning aren’t good enough, we can shift our perspective to the Source of our true strength.

    Our key verse, Psalm 18:32, reminds us: Our own strength isn’t enough, but God’s is.

    We all want to be strong and competent. Yet the Bible suggests we should embrace our weaknesses as a reminder to trust in God’s strength alone. Paul gave us a picture of the perfection of our weakness when he said, "And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB).

    I’m learning to embrace chaos as a sweet call from God to rest in Him when my own work falls short.

    Striving for perfection is exhausting. But God waits for us to give in and step aside. Once I end my pursuit of perfection, God can begin His perfecting work in me. We’re unable to create perfection, but God makes our way perfect.

    What does it look like in everyday life to exchange my weakness for God’s strength? To choose His way over my way?

    It’s trusting Him, rather than trusting my own capabilities.

    It’s surrendering the pictures of perfection that I carry around in my head to the presence of God in my imperfect reality.

    It’s walking in daily obedience to His Word and direction, rather than charting my own course.

    God works powerfully in the midst of our weakness to show His power as we trust, surrender and obey. That’s when His strength and perfect way is displayed most brightly in our lives.

    Lord, I know if I surrender to You I don’t have to be strong all by myself. Instead of sinking into my tangled circumstances, will You teach me to draw on Your strength? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 1:25, 27, "The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than men … but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong." (NASB)

    Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: In Amy Carroll’s book Breaking Up with Perfect she shares more lessons learned from giving up the pursuit of perfection in light of God’s loving, perfecting work in us. You can join her in the journey by purchasing one today!

    Amy invites you to visit her blog today, where she’s giving away a copy of Breaking Up with Perfect and cute reminder cards of today’s key Scripture verse.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you’re in a chaotic time of life, write a prayer of trust, surrender and obedience straight from your heart to God.

    If you’re in a peaceful time of life, write a prayer to God asking Him to prepare you for the next time all doesn’t go as planned. Decide now how to react when that time comes.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Power of Being Ordinary

    Liz Curtis Higgs SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

    The Power of Being Ordinary LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 (NIV)

    When I first embraced God’s gift of grace, I knew almost nothing about the Bible. I bought my first copy on a snowy Friday night, intimidated by the size of it, overwhelmed by the notes in the margins and the maps in the back.

    I started with the book of Psalms because it looked like poetry, and I was undone by the end of the first verse. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" (Psalm 1:1, NASB)

    Sinners, scoffers? I knew these people. We used different words — party animals, bad girls — but they were my friends. My before-Jesus friends. The people I had walked with, stood with and sat with, just like the Bible said.

    Though I loved them, I no longer wanted to do the things they did. Was it possible to change? To be made new? The next verse showed me what a person of God did: "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2, NASB).

    Wow. So simple. 1) Read the Bible with enthusiasm. 2) Think about what you’ve read. Bam.

    No wonder my new friends from church kept telling me to read God’s Word. In a world filled with problems, He provides answers.

    I started taking my Bible to work, catching a few minutes here and there to read and digest. I didn’t understand all of it, couldn’t keep the characters straight and wasn’t clear on how everything fit together. But this much I knew: for the first time in my life, the Bible made sense.

    A co-worker, seeing my excitement, asked me what I was reading.

    "The Bible!" I told her. "Do you have one?"

    She laughed. "Not one like that."

    So, I bought one for her, the same make and model as mine. That turned out to be a blessing, because our Bibles had the same page numbers. Seriously, when you don’t know Chronicles from Corinthians, those numbers come in handy.

    We started meeting together once a week in the conference room at work, with our matching Bibles and our fill-in-the-blank workbooks designed for new believers. I stayed one weekahead of her in the workbook, figuring if she asked me a question, I had a better chance of knowing the answer.

    Me, leading a Bible study? Talk about the blind leading the blind! By that point, I knew maybe three verses by heart. Three. But I also knew the One who wrote them.

    I brought nothing to that study but the Bible in my hand and Jesus in my heart. Like our verse today says, I was "unschooled" and "ordinary." I had no training, no biblical knowledge and no experience in making disciples. The Greek word for "ordinary" is idiótés, which pretty well sums things up.

    Those disciples in Jerusalem? Their boldness … their confidence … didn’t come from having been in school. It came from having "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). And it came from being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:8, NIV).

    For those of us who struggle, thinking "I don’t know much" or "I’m not smart enough" to share the Bible with others, our first-century brothers show us the way. Spend time with Jesus, through worship and the Word, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the talking.

    Heavenly Father, even as I diligently study the Bible, remind me it’s not about what I know, but Who I know. Help me lay down my weaknesses and embrace Your strength. Help me put aside my words and share Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 2:13, "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Want more encouragement about trusting the Lord and sharing His Word? In Liz Curtis Higgs’ new book, It’s Good to Be Queen, you’ll meet the earthly Queen of Sheba, who discovers wisdom’s heavenly Source.

    This week on her blog, Liz is exploring why it’s good to be humbled by God.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Spending time in God’s presence and in His Word transforms us from the inside out, preparing us to share His love and His truth with our hurting world.

    If you’ve felt "unschooled" or "ordinary" when it comes to handling God’s Word, what encouragement have you found here to bolster your courage? Who might you study the Bible with, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the teaching?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • When It Feels Better to Blame Someone Else

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

    When It Feels Better to Blame Someone Else LYSA TERKEURST

    "That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’" James 4:6b (NIV)

    You want to know one of the hardest three-word statements to make? "I am wrong."

    It’s so easy to point out wrong in others. It’s so easy to want it to be someone else’s fault. It’s so easy to get critical and cynical and caught up in our limited perspectives.

    But boy is it hard to see our own flaws. Where we went wrong. What we need to own.

    I’ve been challenging myself on this. I recently had to correct one of my children for trying to blame someone else for something my child needed to own themselves.

    I could clearly see the pride, the insecurity, and the fear all wrapped around her blaming words. And why could I see it so clearly?

    Because it’s always easier to spot in other people. But when I see pride in others, that’s the exact moment where I must challenge myself to examine my own heart.

    I had to have a conversation where I explained to my child something I’m learning myself. About blaming. And the dangerous path blaming can take us on.

    In most conflicts I have two ways I can choose to travel:

    The Path of Pride: I can blame the other person, focus only on their flaws and refuse to own my part of it. That response will increase my pride and decrease the Lord’s blessing in my life.

    The Humble Way: I can honestly assess what I’m contributing to this conflict, admit where I went wrong and ask for forgiveness. That response will lead to humility and increase the Lord’s blessing in my life.

    I see this principle woven throughout the Bible:

    James 4:6b, "That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."

    Proverbs 29:23, "Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor." (NIV)

    Matthew 23:12, "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (NIV)

    I know this. I believe this. So, why do I still find it hard to implement sometimes?

    Well, here’s where my head wants to go when I start examining certain conflicts: But what if it really isn’t my fault? It’s not fair to assign the blame with me when this person did this and this and this.

    But that’s the wrong direction to go. Don’t try to assign the blame. Just own the part you brought into the conflict. When I approach conflict with a heart of humility, I’ve yet to see where I haven’t added something to the issue.

    And if the other person doesn’t own their issues — the Lord will deal with them. (See the verses above.)

    There are gifts hidden in the tough stuff of conflict. There is grace and honor to be gained. But I’ll only see those gifts if I stop blaming others and start examining myself.

    Dear Lord, I want to follow Your teaching in this. But it’s so hard. I’m mad and frustrated and hurt. The last thing I feel like doing is examining where I am wrong. But I know that’s what I need to do. Will You soften my heart? Will You give me eyes to see beyond my hurt? Will You help me cut through the assumptions and wrong-thinking? I want to honor You in this, I really do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (NIV)

    Psalm 25:9, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help your child develop humility with "10 Biblical Truths for Your Child Whether They Win or Lose." It’s the perfect resource every mom needs as we point our kids toward God’s Word this school year. Download it for free here!

    Learn more about cultivating a heart of humility in the midst of a tough situation with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best YesClick here to purchase your copy.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a recent conflict you had with someone. Which path did you travel?

    Remember, it’s never too late to go back and choose the humble way. Even if you can’t see it, ask God to reveal the part you’ve brought to the conflict so you can approach the situation from a new perspective.

    © 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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Proclaim the Good News | Mark 16:15
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