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Family Christian

  • One Way to Fear Less and Do More

    One Way to Fear Less and Do More by Katy McCown

    “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him.” Jeremiah 17:7 (NIV)

    I stopped when I felt her hold me tighter.

    As my eyes caught hers, I saw uncertainty rather than enthusiasm. Instead of fun, my little girl felt fear.

    I tried several times to lift my baby girl off my hip and load her into a bucket swing. As a mom of six, I didn’t think twice about putting her in for a ride. In fact, I was excited about this day … her first time in a swing!

    But her thoughts unraveled into my heart as I realized, though I knew exactly what would happen next, she didn’t.

    She didn’t know where I was putting her. She didn’t know if she’d be safe. But finally she released her grip and went.

    She didn’t know a lot of things, but she knew me. And it seems even at such a young age, that changed everything for her.

    I recently sat in a room full of women as we tackled the question, “What are you missing because of fear?”

    As I considered this question, my thoughts drifted to summers with my large family. Just about every Fourth of July we go to the lake. And every Fourth of July, tons of little McCown kids catapult themselves off the boathouse and into the cove below.

    It’s a family tradition … passed down from my husband, Luke, and his siblings to their children. Quite honestly, I could do without it, but who can argue with tradition?

    A ladder points the way up to the roof of the boathouse. Once perched on top there’s no telling what the kids will come up with.

    Sometimes they shoot off one-by-one like pellets pegging the water. Sometimes they line up, hold hands and jump on the count of three. But there was one boy in the group with a different perspective. My son, Elijah, would stand at the edge chewing his little fingernails while the other kids raced around him.

    One year, as we watched Elijah’s fear grow and faith in himself fail, Luke climbed that ladder, too. He sat down on the roof next to his son. He talked to him and walked to the edge with him. He stayed with him as long as it took. And eventually Luke’s confidence in his boy sent him over the edge. Splash!

    Elijah’s face rose out of the water with an ear-to-ear grin. “I did it!” he screamed. And as soon as his feet hit the deck he ran right back up the ladder to do it again.

    Have you ever stood at the edge of a leap of faith?

    I’ve been stuck on the roof many times. But with each peek over the edge I’ve learned when I shift my gaze from what I face to the One who stands beside me, I gain the confidence to try.

    I may not know where God’s taking me. I may not know what happens next. I may question whether or not I’ll be safe. But as our key verse says, I can count on the One who sends me, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him” (Jeremiah 17:7).

    If you’re standing at the edge today looking at cloudy waters below, turn your head. Your Heavenly Father is right beside you. You may not know a lot of things, but if you know Him, that changes everything.

    Just like Elijah, my daughter didn’t let fear keep her from anything either. Little by little she relaxed. One swing at a time she settled in and began to enjoy the ride.

    Today, we went back to that same swing again. This time she beat me there. She wiped out the dirt from the bottom and begged me to help her up. With a smile and giggle she rocked back and forth shouting, “Push me, Mama. I want to go higher!”

    Lord Jesus, push me! I want to go higher with You! I want to know the fullness of life that comes only when I’m planted in Your will. Help me trust You and follow You wherever you lead, that I may experience the joy of Your salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 1:7, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (NIV)

    Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Copy the verses in the Truth for Today section and keep them where you’ll see them often. Then make a plan to take one step this week toward something you’ve been putting off because of fear.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Finish Well

    How to Finish Well by Nicki Koziarz

    “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

    Do you finish things well?

    Me? Well, I start things off really strong but when things get hard, don’t go according to plan or become seemingly impossible, I tend to want to give up!

    A few years ago my husband trained for months for his second marathon. His goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon — an elite goal for runners. But in order to qualify, he needed to maintain a very specific pace during the entire racecourse.

    On race morning, my three girls and I headed to the finish line to show our support. We had posters, cowbells and pom-poms ready to cheer!

    Throughout the morning I was anxiously looking at my watch, knowing his needed pace time and hoping he would make his goal.

    But the qualifying pace time for Boston appeared on the clock and there was no sign of him. I was so worried about his feelings of disappointment; he had trained so hard.

    About five minutes later we saw him turn the corner, wearing his bright orange shirt and an exhausted smile.

    My girls and I became the loudest cheering squad at the marathon finish line. The last few yards of the race, we all got behind him and cheered him on as he crossed under the finish line banner.

    Even though my husband didn't win or even meet his goal, he had accomplished something great. It was a powerful moment in his life.

    He finished well.

    In everything we do, whether we choose it or not, there is a finish point:

    The day the last baby leaves the nest. The moment we pack up our desk from a job. The time we put a completed check mark next to a goal or a to-do.

    But how we finish our seasons is important.

    If we quit before it’s finished or run defeated to the finish line, we might miss the strength that awaits us.

    Beneath the layers of fear when a season is ending, or not going according to our plans, is this thread of courage from our God. God sees our efforts and hard work in each season as He prepares us to move to the next.

    But how we finish this assignment might determine our next assignment.

    Our key verse offers each of us a little hope, a little determination, a little strength to keep going: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

    You can overcome those temporary temptations to give in by the strength of God. Are you near a season of life that’s left you feeling discouraged?

    Do you want to just give up and move on?

    If so, I totally understand what that’s like.

    While it’s tempting to quit before it’s finished, today I want to encourage you to lean into the faithfulness of God and … finish well.

    Is there a hard conversation you need to have? God’s strength is with you. Is there a physical weakness convincing you it’s over? God’s strength is with you. Is there a financial limitation numbing your belief to press on? God’s strength is with you.

    Every assignment or season God calls us to offers an eternal perspective. And sometimes I have a hard time remembering this through my temporary thoughts. But as I’m holding onto our verse, I’m reminding my soul there is restoration, confirmation and strength coming my way … if I don’t give up.

    About a year later my husband gave the marathon another go. And guess what? He did it. He qualified for and eventually ran his dream race, the Boston Marathon. Maybe there’s not a marathon ahead of us, but there is something great.

    Lord, thank You for providing Your strength when I feel weak. Help me finish this assignment well, as You prepare me for the next. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (NIV)

    Acts 20:24, ”However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.“ (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What would it look like for you to finish the season you are in right now well?

    © 2016 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding Your Financial Voice

    Finding Your Financial Voice by John H. Putnam

    “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:19 (NIV)

    “We don’t have a budget, we have credit card debt and we don’t know what to do.”

    I could tell the words were painful to share as this smart, hardworking couple awaited my response. I quickly cut the tension: “First, don’t feel alone — you’re not the only ones who've ever made these mistakes. Second, you both have the ability to deal with this. And third, it’s going to be okay.”

    I could see their relief. Their troubled voices had been working their way to the surface for a long time. Why did they wait so long to share their concerns?

    The answer is easy. Most of us who struggle with money troubles keep it to ourselves. We can feel prideful, embarrassed and worried, and so we keep quiet. But these lies can keep us trapped in the snares of our own silence.

    Like this couple, somewhere on our life journeys, we began to keep financial troubles to ourselves. But when we internalize the confusion around our common money troubles, it can quickly become a barrier to God’s plans for us to live in freedom. Yet God’s voice remains so very clear. He tells us to listen, surrender, obey, trust, serve, love and pray and He’ll take care of the rest.

    We know that to be true, but in our silence we can forget God’s promises. And the enemy’s job becomes much too easy as our silence provides a clear shot at our unprotected heart and mind. This is not what God intended.

    As we learn to live for free, we must find our own financial voice. And once we’ve found our voice, Jesus gives us direction on what to do next. In Matthew 18:19, He said, “… truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”

    God does not want our money to be a barrier in our relationships with each other, or with Him. Rather than staying silent, allowing worrisome and false thoughts to take root, we need to pray and plan and partner together before, during and after our money troubles. If we never speak up to each other, how can we agree?

    We need to speak up sooner and louder. We need to talk with each other about our money troubles. No more will we let our financial silence inhibit our heart’s desire to love and serve God, our spouse, our family and our neighbors. Let’s raise our surrendered voices so God can calm our troubled hearts.

    Right now, ask God to help you find your financial voice — with your spouse, your friend, your pastor or your advisor. Refuse to be quiet. Raise your voice. Speaking our financial troubles out loud begins to frees us. God wants to help you find your financial voice. And He promises that when you ask for anything in His name, it will be done. Find your financial voice. Your Father in heaven is listening.

    Lord, You gave me a voice to speak to You and to others. So why is it so difficult to speak about my money troubles? I sometimes feel embarrassed or ashamed of my financial choices. Everyone seems to have it all together. Lord, hear me and help me find my voice. Help me raise my voice to heaven in surrender and repentance so I may use the money You give me as tool to bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:8-9, “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you and your spouse, or you and your friend, really talk about money? Do you have a poor financial habit or trouble that you’ve kept private … creating pride, shame or regret? Will you find your voice, speak it out loud and bring your issues into the light for God to hear? Because He is listening.

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

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

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

  • Is This a Delay or a Dead End?

    Is This a Delay or a Dead End? by Lysa TerKeurst

    “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.’” Exodus 32:1 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong? I understand.

    For many years I thought my calling to write was a dead end instead of a delay. I received rejection letter after rejection letter from the many book proposals I’d sent to publishers. I was so frustrated! I started wondering if I had heard God incorrectly when this passion to write was placed in my heart.

    I didn’t realize I was confusing a delay with a dead end. But I think we do this all the time. We put a period where our life story may just need a little string of dots …

    In punctuation, there are terminal points and pausing points. A terminal point is a period, a question mark or an exclamation point.

    But there are far more options for pausing points such as: the comma, semicolon, colon, em dash, and my personal favorite which drives my editors a little batty: the ellipsis.

    What in the world does all of this have to do with Biblical truth?

    When we confuse what’s really a pausing point with a terminal point, we can get into trouble. And that’s how the people of Israel got themselves into a mess of trouble while waiting for Moses to come down from a mountaintop meeting with God.

    Exodus 32:1 tells us, “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him.’”

    What “happened” to “this fellow” was that God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments. A pretty important pause. But because the people didn’t understand the delay, they decided they couldn’t trust God.

    So, they took matters into their own hands and had Aaron form a false god to comfort themselves and combat their confusion. In the end, their solution only added more chaos. And it cost them more than they ever imagined.

    They got completely out of control. They became the laughing stock of their enemies. Many lost their lives — it says over 3,000 died. AND they suffered from a plague.

    Of course, they could have avoided it all, including enraging Moses to the point where he threw the stone tablets God had personally carved for them, breaking them into pieces. But that would have required waiting just a little longer for Moses to return.

    Oh, friend. When there is a delay in our lives, we must determine to fill the gap between here and there by intentionally proclaiming every hint of God’s activity. Just the fact that we woke up breathing this morning is evidence of His goodness. So, let’s make a list and keep acknowledging that just because God is silent in one area of our life does not mean He is silent in every area.

    Also, let’s think about an area of our life where we’ve been waiting for what seems like an unreasonable amount of time. Let’s determine today not to mistake this delay for a dead end.

    We can say out loud, “I will not run ahead of God in this. I will not manipulate or manufacture solutions. I will not give up until God confirms I should. I will keep seeking God, fully anticipating and trusting His perfect plan to unfold in His perfect timing and His perfect way. And if He does confirm this is a dead end, I will still honor Him.”

    As for the delays in my journey to be a writer, I can look back and see that the Lord used those times in my life to develop my character to match my calling … and I’m so thankful He did.

    So let’s trust Him today. And choose to believe He is packing great purpose into our places of pausing.

    Heavenly Father, I confess that all too often I confuse pauses with end points. Remind me that my thoughts are not Your thoughts and my ways are not Your ways. Help me to not run ahead of You, but instead fully seek You. I trust that Your plan and timing are perfect. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

    But we can only continue to offer these free resources with help from friends like you. Will you prayerfully consider partnering financially with Proverbs 31 Ministries? Click here to give.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you in the midst of any delays that feel like dead ends? Use Lysa TerKeurst’s declaration in the devotion to surrender that area to the Lord today.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Heart Longs for Something More

    When Your Heart Longs for Something More by Sharon Jaynes

    “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12 (NIV)

    I was alone, or at least I felt that way. Women huddled in happy clusters chatting about one thing, then another. Some propped babies on their hips. Others clutched Bibles in their hands.

    Most wore smiles on their faces. I wore one too. But it didn’t reflect what was in my heart. My upturned lips were simply the camouflage I wore to blend in — to avoid being found out.

    What I really wanted to do was run and hide. On the outside I was a normal mom, but on the inside I was a little girl cowering in the far recesses of the playground hoping no one would notice me.

    What’s wrong with me? I wondered. Why don’t I feel the joy these other women feel? Where is that “abundant life” Jesus talked about? If I am a new creation like the Bible says, why don’t I feel like one? Why do I continue to act like the same old me, struggling with the same negative emotions and wrestling with the same old sins?

    The problem was I was stuck. Yes, I had professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But I had a nagging feeling He meant something more than heaven when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b, NIV).

    Have you ever watched a circus performer on a flying trapeze? The aerialist grabs the trapeze bar, jumps off a high platform and swings through the air. She swings out once, swings back above the platform and swings out again. During the peak of the third swing, the fun begins for those below.

    The performer releases the bar mid-air and grabs hold of another bar or second performer hanging from his knees who swings toward her.

    Once she grabs hold, the crowd exhales.

    Somersaults, backflips and triple twists wow the crowd. Each move requires the performer to let go of one bar and grab another.

    Without the faith to let go at just the right time, the trapeze artist would simply swing back and forth until the pumping momentum gave way to dangling or hanging, stuck between two platforms with hands clinging to both bars. Not the greatest show on earth.

    And that described me for many years — trying to take hold of what God had for me but refusing to let go of what He didn’t.

    And then I met Mary Marshall, an older woman in my church. She began to teach me about who I was as a child of God: holy, dearly loved, anointed, appointed, chosen, valuable to God, indwelt by the Holy Spirit. She showed me I was free from condemnation and enveloped in grace.

    Mary explained the truth of my new identity under the muck and mire of my stuck faith and encouraged me to move forward and live bold. But I had trouble believing it. I knew the truth in my head, but had trouble believing it was true for me.

    Paul wrote to the Philippians, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12, emphasis added). When you fully grasp and make your own all that Jesus has already taken hold of for you, you begin to experience the life you’ve always longed for.

    If we would grasp and make our own what Jesus has already done for us, and in us, our lives would look very different.

    God’s power, provision and purposes are for “whosoever will” (Mark 8:34, KJV). Will what? Will let go of all that holds you back from experiencing the abundant life of the adventurous faith — and take hold of truth that makes it so.

    One day I sat at a crossroads with God and decided I was going to believe I was who He said I was. Regardless of my past mistakes and failures, I would grasp hold of the truth I was forgiven and free. Regardless of my deep-seated struggles with worthlessness and insignificance, I was going to take hold of my new identity in Christ. To let go of the past, move forward in the present and live bold in the adventurous faith God intended all along.

    And that’s what God wants for all of us. Ask yourself: Are you hanging on to something God is calling you to let go of? Shame? Resentment? Condemnation? Unbelief? Ingratitude? Bitterness? Unforgiveness? A false sense of who you are?

    If He brings something to mind, let it go, move forward, live bold. The faith you’ve always longed for is just a decision away.

    Lord, I don’t know why I hang on to my past — what has been done to me and the mistakes I’ve made. I don’t know why I have trouble believing what the Bible says about my new identity as a child of God. Today, I’m letting go. I am taking hold of all that Jesus has taken hold of for me. Give me the faith to make Your promises my own. Help me move forward in faith and live bold in courage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 2:9, “but just as it is written [in Scripture], ‘Things which the eye has not seen and the ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him [who hold Him in affectionate reverence, who obey Him, and who gratefully recognize the benefits that He has bestowed].’”(AMP)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing hindering your spiritual life that God is calling you to let go of today?

    Leave a comment to complete this sentence: Today I am letting go of _______ and taking hold of _____________.

    © 2016 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Baker Publishing Group for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Did I Hurt God’s Feelings?

    Did I Hurt God’s Feelings? by Leah DiPascal

    “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30 (ESV)

    Wouldn’t it be great if God answered you immediately, every time you prayed or asked Him a question?

    Just imagine. You’d always have His clear direction and sure confirmation. You’d know exactly what to do in any situation. No more hesitating or second-guessing.

    Wouldn’t that be fantastic!

    Well, several months ago, I was dealing with a tough situation and kept asking God to bring clarity to what I should do. I searched Scripture and found some great verses that could apply.

    But I longed for more. I wanted specific words from Him pertaining to my specific situation. One solid sentence would do. Just something … anything … to give me a clear, concise direction.

    I brainstormed solutions. Offered God suggestions. Even pouted a little. But no specific words came.

    Then one evening during my quiet time, I asked again, Lord, why haven’t You given me direction with this situation? You know I’m struggling and waiting for a specific word from You, right?

    Within seconds, Ephesians 4:30, today’s key verse, popped into my thoughts: Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    Huh … ?

    My heart sank. My shoulders slumped. My eyes gazed down at the floor.

    Lord, how have I grieved Your Holy Spirit? You know I love You more than life itself.

    I quickly picked up my Bible, turned to Ephesians 4, and there it was staring back at me in black and white print: “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” (Ephesians 4:30-31).

    God had definitely taken His holy highlighter and illuminated specific words. Except, these words were not the ones I expected.

    It was time for a little personal Bible study, so I read through Ephesians 4, looking up cross-references and commentary notes to better understand. Then I mulled over the tough situation I’d been asking God about — this time with a new perspective. His perspective.

    I prayed some more and began quietly listening instead of doing all the talking. And then it hit me …

    In the prior days of wrestling with my issue, I lost sight of the fact that I was also expressing a lot of frustration, irritation and ugliness. Not just in my thoughts, but with my words … to my family and a close friend.

    Sure, I was still praying daily, reading my Bible and listening to worship music. But I was also planting tiny seeds of bitterness and anger inside my heart every time I thought about the situation or expressed it to others.

    These tiny seeds of sin were taking root and sprouting ugly weeds of negativity in my thought life, attitude and words.

    This sin wasn’t breaking my relationship with God, but it was definitely creating a hindrance in our fellowship and grieving His Spirit.

    I had overlooked the truth that the Holy Spirit is a divine Person with feelings and emotions. And my expressions were definitely in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control.

    You can bet I didn’t waste time before saying I was sorry and confessing my sin. Nothing is more important to me than my relationship with God and the close fellowship I have with Him.

    So how do we maintain close fellowship with the Holy Spirit on a consistent basis? A few examples are given in the same section of Ephesians 4: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32, ESV).

    When we live like Christ — forgiving and extending kindness to others, expressing genuine love from a tender heart that’s been shaped by God — we bring joy to Him. And that joy also enriches our friendships and makes our relationship with others so much sweeter!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me Your Holy Spirit as my Guide and Companion for life. Thank You for loving me unconditionally, even when I act in ways I know I shouldn’t. Make me aware of any unconfessed sin I’ve held on to, so I can repent and continue to move forward with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” (ESV)

    Galatians 5:22-23a, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control …” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: The Holy Spirit works within us to reveal the truth of God’s Word in every aspect of our lives. He always points us to Jesus and brings glory to the Father.

    As a true believer, your relationship with God is secure in Christ. Don’t let sin hinder your vibrant fellowship or quench the Holy Spirit’s workings in your life. Take a few minutes now and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal Himself in an undeniable way.

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Pretending I’m Fine or Proving I’m Right

    Pretending I’m Fine or Proving I’m Right by Lysa TerKeurst

    “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace‑loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17 (NIV)

    If someone says something or does something that hurts me, what is the godly response? Is it to pretend like everything is fine so I can keep the peace? Or is it to confront the person to prove how wrong they are?

    Neither.

    If ever I catch myself pretending or proving, I know I’m processing my hurt the wrong way.

    The godly way is approaching this situation with soul integrity — responding in a way that’s honest but also peacemaking. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure (honest); then peace‑loving …” Yes, I want this kind of wisdom — this soul integrity. I want to be honest and peacemaking at the same time. But how?

    I must remember I need real honesty combined with real peacemaking.

    Real Honesty. Not all honest expressions of my feelings can be categorized as “real honesty.” You see, my honest feelings may not be truthful assessments of the situation. I can be honest with how I feel and still exaggerate or misinterpret what is factually true. I can feel justified in being blatant about my feelings — not hiding a thing — and yet prideful for being so real, all under the guise of being “honest” enough not to stuff my emotions.

    But in reality, honesty that isn’t real isn’t honesty at all. It could just be emotional spewing. That’s why we need peacemaking honesty — honesty reined in by the Holy Spirit — if we’re going to have authentic soul integrity.

    So, if I want real honesty, I have to ask the Holy Spirit to show me real truth. I need to see things from the other person’s perspective. I need to ask questions with the desire to better understand instead of throwing out statements of accusation. Ultimately, my goal should be to add peacemaking to my honesty.

    Real Peacemaking. It must grieve God to see plastic versions of peacemaking that aren’t reined in by honesty. That’s what we do when we stuff our emotions and pretend everything is okay. The upside to stuffing is that we have the semblance of peacemakers. But when we do this at the expense of honesty, we harbor a corrosive bitterness that will eventually emerge. Either it will erode our health and later present itself in a host of emotional and physical anxiety-induced illnesses, or it will accumulate over time and surprise everyone when the peacemaker eventually erupts. Saying “I’m fine” to keep the peace when we’re really not fine builds walls and shuts down intimacy.

    Sometimes, dishonesty comes in the form of saying things that aren’t true. But it’s also dishonest when we don’t say things that are true.

    It may seem godly in the moment, but it’s false godliness. Truth and godliness always walk hand‑in‑hand. The minute we divorce one from the other, we stray from soul integrity and give a foothold to the instability that inevitably leads to coming unglued.

    Yes, we’re after soul integrity — honesty that is also peacemaking that leads to godliness. This soul integrity brings balance to unglued reactions. It makes us true peacemakers — people who aren’t proving or pretending but rather, honestly demonstrating what they experience in a godly manner.

    And being a true peacemaker reaps a harvest of great qualities in our lives: right things, godly things, healthy things.

    Dear Lord, it is only through You that I’m able to bring all my exploding and stuffing under Your authority and truth. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit who gives me the wisdom to move beyond my reactions. Help me lean on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (ESV)

    James 3:18, “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is the Lord moving you toward real honesty, real peacemaking or a combination today?

    Thinking about your current relationships, what are some practical applications you can make as you pursue soul integrity?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When I Don’t Feel Like I Measure Up

    When I Don’t Feel Like I Measure Up by Renee Swope

    “When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.” 2 Corinthians 10:12b (NIV)

    Do you ever compare yourself to other women and feel like you don’t quite measure up? Maybe you feel like you’re not as smart, pretty, fun, organized or as good at _______ as they are.

    It’s so easy to think that if we had more or knew more, we’d be secure. But the truth is, even people who “have it all” still struggle with feelings of insecurity. The Bible opens with the story of a woman who had everything, but it still wasn’t enough (Genesis 2).

    God had established Eve’s worth as His child and the crown of His creation. He also supplied Eve with every woman’s desire: intimacy, beauty, security, significance and purpose. Yet Satan conjured up feelings of insecurity by luring Eve’s eyes off what she had and on to what she didn’t have.

    Boy, can I relate. Like Eve, I’ve heard Satan’s whispers telling me I’m not all I could be — or should be. One day I was reading her story in Genesis 3, and I noticed that Satan’s questions and suggestions were intended to plant seeds of doubt in Eve’s heart. He wanted her to doubt God and herself.

    The enemy’s whispers tempted Eve to try to “be” more and “have” more by seeking significance apart from God’s provision. He convinced her something was missing in her life and that the forbidden fruit would make her be “like God.”

    It was a foolish comparison. All comparisons are. Yet we do it all the time. If only I were like her … if only I had a house like hers, a husband like hers, a job like hers … if only my children behaved like hers … if only _______, then I’d feel significant, satisfied and secure.

    In today’s key verse, 2 Corinthians 10:12b, Paul warns us that those who “measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, are not wise.”

    Comparison will always leave us feeling like we don’t measure up. We can try to do more and be more, yet it’s never enough.

    If only Eve had focused on who she was and what she had as a child of God. If only we would, too. Yet Satan wants us to focus on our flaws and feelings of inadequacy, then exhaust even more energy figuring out how to hide them.

    We don’t have to go along with his schemes. Instead we can equip ourselves to recognize his lies, refute his temptations with truth and focus on God’s acceptance, security and significance.

    Then we can thank God for His provision and His promises that remind us of who we are in Him:

    I am accepted … Ephesians 1:3-8, I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. Colossians 1:13-14, I have been redeemed and forgiven of all my sins. Colossians 2:9-10, I am complete in Christ.

    I am secure … Romans 8:28, I am assured that God works for my good in all circumstances. Romans 8:31-39, I am free from condemnation. I can’t be separated from God’s love. Philippians1:6, I am confident God will complete the good work He started in me.

    I am significant … Ephesians 2:10, I am God’s workmanship. Ephesians 3:12, I may approach God with freedom and confidence. Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    Author and psychologist Dr. Neil T. Anderson says, “The more you reaffirm who you are in Christ, the more your behavior (and beliefs) will begin to reflect your true identity!”

    So, the next time we’re tempted to use the measuring stick of comparison — let’s commit to measure UP by focusing upward on Christ and who we are in HIM!

    Lord, thank You that in Christ I’m chosen, holy and dearly loved. When I’m tempted to measure myself according to the world’s standards or my foolish comparisons, help me recognize Satan’s lies, refuse his temptations and rely on Your truth about me instead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 5:9, “Stand firm against him [the devil], and be strong in your faith. Remember that your family of believers all over the world is going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (NLT)

    2 Corinthians 3:4-5, “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what ways do you compare yourself with others?

    When you’re tempted to use the measuring stick of comparison — measure UP by re-focusing upward on who you are in Christ.

    © 2016 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Life without a Bucket List

    Life without a Bucket List by Kara Tippetts

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)

    {Editor's Note: On March 22nd, 2015, Kara Tippetts went home to be with Jesus after a long and difficult battle with cancer. While she was here, she touched so many lives, and helped people understand how you can find God, even in the midst of suffering, even in the midst of the mundane. Kara’s response to her terminal brain cancer was filled with grace, hope and peace. This devotional comes from her final book, And It Was Beautiful. We hope these words will speak to you in a special way today.}

    I can confidently say I don’t live with a long list of things I want to do, see or complete before I’m done in this place. I carried a dream for years of having a farm. I was in love with all things Wendell Berry. I could picture it, the life of routine created by the land and its rhythms.

    But beyond that, I’ve never longed for having a list and checking things off. I’m happy with my old cars, my simple wardrobe, my lack of fancy things and vacations. Don’t get me wrong, I do love a good concert, but I also love an organic dance party in my kitchen. I love great food, but I also love a hot dog over the fire pit in my backyard. I love a hike in the mountains, but I also love a walk around the block with my people.

    Last week, when I heard I may have another long road to travel on this journey, I turned to Jason and cried. I told him how day after day this place is losing its grip on me. Driving down the street, this place sometimes feels so vulgar, so wanting my money without care for my heart.

    Billboards blare at me what to buy, what to think, how to vote. But the tie that binds me here is relationships. Sickness makes those bonds more real, more important. It’s people who grip my heart.

    Suffering has a way of exposing our theology, certainly our practical theology, where what we believe about God collides with where we live. My heart always hurts a little when someone hears my story and begins to question God’s goodness.

    I have found that suffering makes my faith more childlike, more simple. Our ideas of God are not necessarily made bigger or more grandiose through suffering, but they are simplified as we wade through the unknown of what comes next.

    Last week, in that unknown, I was smooching on [my son] Lake and the thought hit me that I won’t be around to help him navigate his first heartbreak. I was in a public place and I nearly lost my footing because of the fear that gripped me in that moment. I looked up and saw my growing girls and was almost suffocated by the thought of who will help them during the awkward years of puberty. Shouldn’t it be me? That’s the way it’s supposed to be, right? Can’t I stay and be here for them when they need me?

    The truth is none of us know the length of our lives. So we pray for daily bread and say thank you when it comes. For today I have a little boy who will cross the room to give me a hug. I have a baby girl who gives me 10 kisses when I ask for five. I have a preteen who still holds my hand in public, in front of her friends even. I have a second born who loves to tell me every tiny detail of her day. I have a guy who makes coffee just like I like it.

    A bucket list? No, I don’t need one. I’m so rich. It’s relationships that matter. And for me, paying attention to the precious gift of today is the only thing on my list.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the blessings that I have, the friends, family, relationships, even the material possessions I own. But Lord, please let my heart not rest in these. Let my heart not grow hard, or grow weary when You decide that something should be taken from me. May You forever be my ultimate rock and resting place. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:11-13, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV)

    Matthew 6:33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What one hope, dream, blessing, are you holding onto so tightly that you won’t entrust it fully to God? Give it up to Him today.

    © 2016 by Kara Tippetts. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom

    The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “And I will give you a new heart — I will give you new and right desires — and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love.” Ezekiel 36:26 (TLB)

    “I don’t even know who I am anymore,” my friend moaned as we sat side-by-side on a park bench at the end of a long summer’s day. “It’s like these kids are stripping away the old me, and I just feel hollow inside.”

    She jostled the baby on her lap and dabbed the tears streaking toward her chin. Then she turned her head to gaze at our crew in the sandbox.

    “We’re gonna make the biggest hole ever!” exclaimed one of our preschoolers, as he plunged his chubby fist into the gritty grains. The other kids echoed his enthusiasm and dropped to their knees to dig.

    My friend stared at the cavern in the sand, and my stomach churned with empathy. I pulled my friend into a one-armed hug and tried to formulate a comforting response. But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by a squeamish squeal.

    “Eowww! There’s garbage in here!” My daughter waved a dirty drinking straw in the air and flung it over her shoulder.

    Sure enough, the deeper the kids dug, the more debris they discovered. Their gritty fingers unearthed soggy brown leaves and grimy grey rocks, twisted twigs and long-forgotten gum wrappers.

    And that’s when I realized that my experience of motherhood has been a bit like a dirty sandbox dig. Simply put, motherhood is an unspoken invitation for God to excavate our souls.

    I never knew what lurked in the depths of me until I became a mother.

    I didn't realize the expanse of my own impatience; I wasn’t aware of the parameters of my pride. I didn’t recognize the breadth of my selfish ambition or the width of my weakness, until God asked me to lay down my life for the children He’d entrusted into my care.

    Let’s face it … kids expose our hearts on a whole new level. And in His infinite wisdom, God our Maker uses the daily demands of motherhood to excavate the garbage in our souls.

    Selfishness? It’s uprooted piece by painful piece each time we rise in the dark of night to feed a baby or comfort an anxious child. It’s unearthed every time we hold a bucket in front of a sick child, mop a muddy floor or tackle a tower of dirty laundry.

    Perfectionism? It’s shaved sliver by sliver as we trade firm abs for stretch marks and spotless windows for smudgy handprints; as we stumble through grocery aisles with spit-up on our collars and wailing ones on our hips. It’s steadily shredded as we embrace our tweens’ goofy mannerisms and our toddlers’ peculiar fashion sense.

    Pride? It’s uprooted every time we admit that we don’t have all the answers and we can’t do it all. It’s eradicated when we choose to listen rather than lecture, to compromise rather than control.

    It’s humbling — this heart dig — and harrowing at times. It can leave a mama feeling insecure and confused, conflicted and strange.

    But what if this soul excavation is more than just an identity crisis? What if it’s a holy hollowing?

    Our key verse, Ezekiel 36:26, reminds us God is in the business of making things new — including our hearts. He’s committed to scooping out the impurities within us so we have room to house more of His Spirit, a greater portion of His love.

    The process may be painful, but here’s the good news: When God empties us, He doesn’t leave us that way. He offers to fill our purged places with something new. God’s excavation is always intended for transformation.

    The chasm in the sandbox resembled a moon crater, and the kids stood back to admire their work. Suddenly, eyes brightened. “Hey, that hole’s big enough to hold treasure now!” a little digger declared.

    And in an instant, our scoopers turned into scavengers. They scattered across the park in a flurry of excitement and began to search for hidden treasure.

    My friend shuffled the sleeping baby in her arms and flashed me a subtle smile. And as our kids filled that huge hole with playground pearls, I wondered if a mama’s soul excavation is just God’s merciful way of carving out more room in her heart for the treasures He longs to give her.

    Dear God, do whatever it takes to make room in my heart for more of You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (NIV)

    John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Invite God to reveal an “impurity” He’d like to extract from your life so He can grow more of His Spirit in you. Commit to cooperating with His holy hollowing today.

    Ask God to show you someone who’s “empty” and needs encouragement and prayer this week.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

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