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  • Set Yourself Up for Success

    Katy McCown AUGUST 3, 2015

    Set Yourself Up for Success KATY MCCOWN

    "This book of instruction must not depart from your mouth; you are to recite it day and night so that you may carefully observe everything written in it. For then you will prosper and succeed in whatever you do." Joshua 1:8 (HCSB)

    I gripped the steering wheel while my heart beat a little faster than usual. Something didn’t feel normal.

    I followed behind my husband, both of us pulling moving trailers, our sights set on Florida. We knew this road well, and we’d pulled trailers down it before. But this time, something was wrong.

    I phoned Luke with my concern: "Every time we take a turn or hit a bump I feel like I lose control of the car."

    We switched cars so he could feel it for himself. One bump later, we looked for a place to pull over.

    "It’s loaded wrong," he groaned.

    In our haste to leave, we threw our things in without a plan, leaving the light items in the front and the heaviest pieces in the back. That combination made the load unstable. The only thing we could do was unload and start over.

    A local post office set the stage for what turned out to make quite a stir in the little community. A few ladies even crossed the street to check out what they thought was a garage sale. We assured everyone we would be on our way just as soon as we loaded everything again — this time in the right order.

    I’ve discovered my life can feel the same way.

    I have important assignments. Given by God. But in my haste, I set my sights on where I’m going and forget how important it is to "load" my days the right way.

    The day’s duties and demands, time with God and my family … they all get thrown into my soul without considering what goes in first. Then as I go through my day, the road feels shaky. The load of life seems to control me. My heart beats faster and fear fills my journey.

    Yet God reminded me of a time when that wasn’t my practice. No matter how much I had to do, I started each morning — before the sun rose — on my knees with my husband. We handed over our burdens to God, determined to surrender to His way and stand in His strength.

    I made time in God’s Word a priority, not an afterthought. I took God seriously when He said, "Pray constantly" (1 Thessalonians 5:17, HCSB).

    And that changed everything. No longer did the load demand my attention. No longer did the load lead me. No longer did I grip the day in fear of the next bump or turn. Instead, I settled into my God-given assignments with confidence.

    God spoke our key verse to Joshua as he took command of the nation of Israel and stared down a big job … cross a river and conquer a land full of unfriendly people and fortified cities. No small task for the new guy.

    But, after God issued His orders, He did not go straight into battle plans. In fact, God didn’t talk war strategy at all.

    Instead, God told Joshua: Stick with me. It’s as if God knew our human tendencies to focus on the plan, instead of the Planner. To look to the goal instead of the Giver of the goal.

    The key to Joshua’s victory would be his surrender to God. And the same is true for us today. Before we scroll through social media. Before we reach for our calendars. Before we pick up the concerns that tucked us into bed last night. Let us load God’s Word.

    Dear God, I know I cannot handle this day without You. Set my heart on Your presence from the moment I rise to the last blink of my eyes. Help me ignore the demands of my day until I’ve loaded Your truth into the foundations of my soul. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:35, "Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: The First 5 app is now available! Download it for free and join us as we continue to study the book of John.

    Take your daily app teachings even deeper with The Book of John Experience Guide. The Experience Guide is beautifully designed to complement each day’s teaching and grow your faith, as you reflect and respond on what you’re learning. It’s not too late to purchase yours and until it arrives, don’t hesitate to use the downloadable version for free with your purchase!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning? What keeps you from devoting the first moments of your day to God?

    List two or three ways you can deflect those thoughts to a later time and guard the first minutes of your day for whispers with God.

    While you talk with God, keep a pen and paper nearby. Jot down "to-dos" that creep into your mind, then continue your conversation with Him.

    © 2015 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith

    Renee Swope JULY 31, 2015

    When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith RENEE SWOPE

    "‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’" Isaiah 43:1b-2 (NIV)

    I crawled into bed and slipped under a blanket of fear. My husband was out of town for work, and I was afraid to go to sleep. Fear had become a constant companion during his nights away.

    I knew I needed to trust God, but I didn’t.

    Instead, I went through the motions of what good Christians do: I prayed, read Scripture and taped Bible verses on sticky notes to my lamp and bedside. But then I also put a phone under my pillow and a neighborhood directory beside my bed.

    The next night, I took it a step further by putting toys on the stairs — to trip possible burglars. I brought my children into my room to sleep there as well, and moved the dresser in front of our bedroom door.

    Although I thought I was controlling my circumstances, fear had taken control of me. Frustrated that I still couldn’t sleep, I opened the Bible and read a familiar passage, found in today’s key verse:

    "‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze’" (Isaiah 43:1b-2).

    As I read each word slowly, God showed me something I’d never seen: My fears were like flames and my efforts to protect myself were like gasoline. Every attempt to ease my fears was like dousing fuel on the fire, and now it was consuming me.

    Gently, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God had not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit "of power and of love and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7b, NKJV).

    Suddenly I knew the only way to overcome my fear and walk in faith was to walk through what I feared the most. I had to put away the props in which I’d placed my faith and go to bed trusting God, realizing that even if my fears came true, He would be with me.

    I crawled out of bed and put everything away. The dresser went back in place. My kids went back to their rooms and I went to sleep without my phone under my pillow. And that night, I slept better than I had in weeks.

    Fear loses its power when we actively trust God more than what we fear.

    Let’s ask God to show us what we are afraid of. What is paralyzing our faith and keeping us from living confidently in His peace and freedom? And then let’s give God a chance to come though for us as we courageously walk through our fears, holding God’s hand and trusting His heart to lead, protect and preserve us each step of the way.

    Dear God, help me walk through my fears by facing them instead of being paralyzed by them. I want to take Your hand and trust Your heart with all that is within me. Give me courage today to take the first step. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:4, "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Could you use the encouragement of a friend to help overcome your fears? In her life-changing book, A Confident Heart, Renee Swope will walk you through a powerful process of identifying and overcoming your greatest fears and insecurities so you can live with confidence and courage!

    For more encouragement and a giveaway, visit Renee’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What fears paralyze your faith or hinder your everyday life?

    Ask God to show you one step to take today to walk through a fear that keeps you from trusting Him completely.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Born of Desire

    Amber Haines JULY 30, 2015

    Born of Desire AMBER C. HAINES

    "Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." James 1:15 (NIV)

    What a dreadful verse for me to write about here, I know, but when the fog and fear of grief landed on me the year after my baby was in the hospital, I broke down, and I need to say this: I became fractured.

    I desperately wanted control of my son’s health, and for that matter, I wanted control of anything in my proximity. This is how I thought I could hold myself together … how I thought I could hold the whole world together.

    It’s interesting how sin creates a role reversal between God and us, and often when we’re in the midst of it, we don’t see what we’re doing. There’s no way we would purposely go into a situation and say, "Yeah, I think I would like to bear the weight of the world here." Instead, those thoughts are more like tiny seeds inside us, and these seeds are often the hidden seeds of desire.

    I didn’t know back then how any desire not satisfied in Christ would divide me from my community and shatter me from within. One from the other (wife from husband, mother from sons) and one from within (mind from body from soul). We all fracture this way when we confuse our desires and aim for satisfaction outside of God.

    It was like backward walking for us during those days, a process of un-recovery. Seth topped off his drinks in secret. I loomed in online shopping carts as a way to tap into another world, a way to inject a sense of hope. I counted pennies and bought clothes and art and arranged an imagined life of control and order and clarity while my boys ran unanswered circles around me. I planned and spent our money as if I were buying sanity.

    Deeper into the bottle and deeper into my to-do lists and imaginary occasions to wear beautiful clothes, we engaged ourselves in an undoing, and with every undoing (the drinks, the shopping, the disappointed stomp), I entered deeper inside myself, desire so muddy I didn’t know I wasn’t whole. I didn’t know how much I refused to acknowledge my brokenness, walking around in the pieces of pride.

    I sat for hours making lists. I listed foods my son could eat. I scanned my schedule and wrote down every move I would make. I wanted control of myself, to make myself a life. The desire to survive created in me a striving I had never known. I was striving so hard that I had to lean into the kitchen counter to hold up my lungs. I was working to breathe.

    Every step of striving was a wall, a barrier against love and a refusal to trust my Heavenly Father. Every effort toward control made me more numb, and if you can’t feel, you aren’t alive anymore. Control was killing me. Just as our key verse in James 1:15 points out: sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

    All along, maybe I just wanted a little bit of my own kingdom, a place where I knew I would be okay, but I wasn’t made to be queen. I was made a beloved and free daughter. I wasn’t made to be divided by desire, bearing the fruit of rage, anxiety, isolation and exhaustion.

    I was made for an abundant life whose desires bear the unhindered and eternal fruit of righteousness.

    Heavenly Father, You are the giver of every good and perfect gift. You’ve given Your Word, Your Spirit and our Savior. You give me desires that lead to life. Help me recognize my desires and give me wisdom to know what will be born from them. Bear in me the fruit of Your Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Lord, this is my freedom. Please set me free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:18, 21, "He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created … Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Amber Haines’ new book, Wild in the Hollow: On Chasing Desire and Finding the Broken Way Home, brings hope for everyone who has longed to feel free, authentic and whole.

    Do you wrestle with desire? Head to Amber Haines’ blog today for more encouragement.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Wild in the Hollow by Amber Haines. In celebration of this book, Amber’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 Wednesday, August 5.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Sometimes we want a very long list of things, but even those surface-level things can tell you something about what you really need from God.

    What is it right now that you desire? How might that desire be fulfilled in Christ?

    © 2015 by Amber C. Haines. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Faith Feeds on the Word of God

    Wendy Blight JULY 29, 2015

    Faith Feeds on the Word of God WENDY BLIGHT

    {Editor’s Note: This week, we introduce a new, exciting and we believe faith-transforming initiative. We call it First 5. It’s our desire for women across the globe to join us in giving the first moments of our day to God. In today’s devotion, we share a taste of what will greet you as you open the mobile app each morning. So our format will be a little different than what you are used to seeing. Enjoy!}

    "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." Romans 10:17 (NIV)

    Faith feeds on the Word of God.

    Our Creator made it so that our faith works much the same way our bodies work. He designed us to require daily nourishment. So, a few cups of coffee in the morning, a protein bar at lunch and another before we go to bed is not enough to sustain us physically. We need real food — fruits and vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates — to supply the fuel we need to carry us throughout each day.

    Similarly, a diet lacking a steady intake of God’s Word cannot sustain us spiritually. Our faith weakens.

    How do we know our faith needs God’s Word to grow? The Bible gives us great clues.

    Our verse today from Romans 10:17 says, "… Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ." In other words, our faith flourishes when we spend time in God’s Word. It only makes sense that if faith comes from the Word of God, it dissipates in its absence.

    Faith feeds on the Word of God.

    Proverbs 22:18,19b says, "For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips … so you will trust in the LORD" (NLT). God gives us His Word so we can know His character and be assured that He is trustworthy.

    Faith feeds on the Word of God.

    As the prophet Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and never stop producing fruit" (NLT).

    Similarly, when we meditate on the Word of God day and night, we are like strong, unbendable trees. Trees that bear bountiful fruit. Trees that are continually nourished, so they never die.

    Faith feeds on the Word of God.

    Faith has no life without the Word. It’s what faith trusts. And without a continual filling of God’s wisdom and truth, faith has no fan to flame it.

    You’re invited to join our Proverbs 31 Ministries family as we begin a daily intake of God’s Word together. Not only first thing in the morning. But meet back with us throughout the day for My Moments, Prayer Moments, More Moments and Major Moments.

    I can only imagine the joy that will fill God’s heart as He looks down each morning and sees us not only giving Him the first moments of our day, but also listening for His whispers and watching for His hand at work each and every day.

    Faith feeds on the Word of God.

    Prayer Moment: Heavenly Father, I trust Your Word. I want my faith to grow, so I commit today to give the first 5 minutes of my morning to You. I want a fresh filling of You each day. I want a deeper faith. A trusting faith. I can’t wait to meet with You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    My Moment: What will it look like for you to give your first 5 minutes to God each day?

    Wendy’s Response: I will have to sacrifice a few more moments of precious sleep so I can meet with Jesus before I jump into the morning, making lunches and getting my family ready for the day.

    More Moment: Read Proverbs 2:1-5. What does God ask us to do? What does God promise if we walk in obedience to His command?

    Read Isaiah 55:11. When God’s Word goes out, what does God promise?

    Major Moment: God sent His Word to feed and nourish us.

    I’m praying for you today! For you to say "yes" to giving God the first moments of your day. To feed your soul. To gird up your faith. To get to know and trust the very One who created you and loved you so much He gave His One and only Son for you.

    RELATED RESOURCES: The First 5 app is now available! Download it for free and join us as we study the book of John.

    Take your daily app teachings even deeper with the book of John Experience Guide. The Experience Guide is beautifully designed to complement each day’s teaching and grow your faith, as you reflect and respond on what you’re learning. Purchase yours today and receive a free, downloadable Experience Guide to use until yours arrives!

    © 2015 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Our Wedding Night Changed Our Marriage

    Kim Kimberling JULY 28, 2015

    Our Wedding Night Changed Our Marriage KIM KIMBERLING, PH.D.

    "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 (NIV)

    When I tell people that my wife Nancy and I have been married 45 years, I almost always hear "Wow!" and "That’s great." I appreciate those comments, but where we are today has been a journey. We didn’t have an awesome marriage for a very long time.

    In fact, starting out as barely 20-year-olds, we really had no idea what marriage was all about. Our fights almost did our marriage in before it began. After six years of marriage, the future was dark, we had a new baby and we needed a miracle.

    Of all the things we did wrong, there is one thing we did right. I wish I could say I brought it to the marriage, but I didn’t. Nancy did.

    Let me paint a picture for you.

    On our wedding night after we left the reception and finally made it to our hotel room, Nancy made a request of me that God has used in our marriage since that day.

    As we got ready for bed, Nancy went into the bathroom to change. I changed in about 30 seconds and waited for her sitting on the side of the bed. An eternity later, she emerged from the bathroom looking like an angel. She walked over to me, took my hand, sat beside me on the bed, looked into my eyes and said, "We need to pray."

    In case you were wondering, that was the last thing I thought my new bride would say to me in that moment. But the real surprise was that I looked her back in the eyes and said, "OK."

    We knelt by the bed in our hotel room, held hands and prayed a prayer we both knew and were comfortable praying together: The Lord’s Prayer.

    Since that first night many years ago, we have prayed together almost every day. Through all the ups and downs of life and marriage, praying together daily is the glue God has used over and over to keep us close to Him.

    During the darkest times in our marriage, as we continued to pray together, we saw God show up over and over to keep us together.

    First, God used an older lady in our church to minister to Nancy. As Nancy shared our story, this wise woman lovingly encouraged Nancy to stay in the marriage and that God would make something beautiful out of it.

    Second, as we continued to talk about our marriage and our struggles, it became obvious that neither one of us really wanted a divorce.

    Finally, we made a vow never to bring up divorce again and to let God build our marriage His way.

    As we purposely put God first each day, our marriage began to change. It was not overnight; in fact, it was a process that continues to this day. But God taught us how to fight for our marriage instead of fighting each other. It was marriage-changing.

    We learned to stand side by side with God and take on anything and everything that the world threw at us. We learned firsthand that if God is for us no one can ever stand against us (Romans 8:31b). It is a truth that I pray every married couple can embrace because it is a truth that will close the gap between where your marriage is and where God wants it to be.

    Father, You truly are the Great Healer. I pray that I may see Your plan for my marriage. Make the changes You want to make in me. In us. I pray to be so connected to You and my spouse that we may stand together against all that would come against our marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 17:15, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Dr. Kim Kimberling’s new book, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage: Strengthen Your Most Intimate Relationship, will help you have the marriage God designed for you.

    For lots of great free resources for your marriage, click here.

    Enter to WIN a copy of 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage by Dr. Kim Kimberling. In celebration of this book, Dr. Kim’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, August 3.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Today, where is God in your marriage?

    If God is not the center of your marriage, what needs to be your next step? It may be praying together on a regular basis, or talking to a trusted mentor. If you and your spouse need further help, it may be time to talk to your pastor or a Christian counselor.

    Whatever your next step is, do it today! It will make a difference in your marriage tomorrow.

    © 2015 by Kim Kimberling, Ph.D. 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

  • How Long Until Naptime?

    Whitney Capps JULY 27, 2015

    How Long Until Naptime? WHITNEY CAPPS

    "Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." Psalm 90:13-14 (NIV)

    A wise friend told me once that in parenting the days are long, but the years are short. At the time I had three little boys at home, ages 5, 4 and 2. I was in the midst of long days. I woke up to the sound of little people; it was a steady soundtrack throughout my day:

    "Mommy, I need …"

    "Mommy, can we …"

    "Mommy, he just …"

    I had a soundtrack playing in my head, too: "How long, Oh Lord? How long until naptime?"

    It’s a paraphrase of Moses’ words from today’s key passage from Psalm 90. Moses was pleading with the Lord for relief. He was pleading with the Lord for rest. That’s a prayer we parents know all too well.

    Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses gives us valuable insight for how to punctuate these desperate, quiet groanings: "Satisfy us in the morning."

    Satisfaction from the Lord is not just what I want, it’s what I need. Because, let’s be real, not much is going to change in my day-to-day activities.

    Feeding kids. Running errands. Wiping faces and bottoms. Checking homework. Driving carpool. Scrubbing toilets. In the midst of all of that (and your list looks similar, right?) we need the Lord to satisfy us, feed us and make us full before life empties us.

    Moses knew about the Lord’s daily satisfaction. Each morning, the Israelites would arise and gather enough manna for the day. They were fed, filled and satisfied each morning by the Lord’s supernatural provision of food in their desert wanderings.

    They were not permitted to gather extra. They couldn’t store it up for the next day. The Israelites were given just enough for the day in front of them. God’s satisfaction was immediate and effective, but just for today’s demands. Tomorrow would have fresh bread for the gathering.

    We read in Deuteronomy 8:3b how Moses told the Israelites that the real message of the manna was that they were not satisfied by the bread but "on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD" (NIV).

    Moses, a man who knew a thing or two about dealing with demanding, whiny, difficult people, knew that the Word of the Lord would give him hope for the day’s struggles. God’s Word would give him patience as he waited. God’s Word would help him worship. God’s Word would turn his eyes from his day’s circumstances and fix them instead on the character of his Lord.

    It’s an ambitious prayer. It’s a prayer that believes God’s Word is powerful — and every bit as powerful as the God who breathed it. I believe it’s that powerful. Do you?

    It’s okay if you’re not sure. It’s okay if you’ve never really experienced its power. But can I ask you to try again? God’s Word has really, truly changed my days.

    Sometimes it’s overwhelming to know where to start. I understand. I used to kind of do the "flip and dip" approach to reading my Bible. You know, flip it open and dip in, hoping something sticks. For me, that was terribly inconsistent and frustrating.

    What worked was reading a small portion of the Bible every day. Like the Israelites received the Lord’s satisfying care every day, that’s just what I needed, too.

    I didn’t need to read chapters and chapters to sustain me for the week. I just needed my daily portion.

    And just like the Lord was faithful to the Israelites, He is faithful today to all who turn to Him. Amazingly, God’s Word sustains me through each day so I can make one more sandwich, drive to one more practice and read one more bedtime story … with a smile.

    Oh Lord, I feel like I run on empty. I need to be filled, but sometimes I try to fill myself with rest, television, social media or food. Nothing fills and prepares me for today’s demands like Your Word. Help me feast daily on the bread You have provided in Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Nehemiah 9:20-21, "You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. For forty years you sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen." (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:8, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Transform your time with God and download The First 5 app for free! First 5 is now available and we’d love for you to join us as we start our very first study in the book of John!

    Continue your journey with the book of John Experience Guide. The Experience Guide is designed to accompany each day’s teaching and grow your faith, as you reflect, respond and learn what makes the book of John so unique. Purchase yours today!

    Visit Whitney Capps’ blog to receive practical tips on how to let the Word of God shape your day.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What activity fills your "free time" but rarely fills your heart?

    What is usually the first thing that grabs your attention in the morning? Do those thoughts shape your day?

    © 2015 by Whitney Capps. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Finally Stop Procrastinating

    Glynnis Whitwer JULY 24, 2015

    How to Finally Stop Procrastinating GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied." Proverbs 13:4 (NRSV)

    My husband and I used to laugh and say if it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done. Then we’d stay up all night to finish a project due the next day, or make the whole family stressed because of our stress. It wasn’t funny.

    I laughed it off at the time because I didn’t really think it was a problem. Everyone procrastinates on something, I reasoned. Plus, what more could I do? The problem certainly wasn’t with me.

    On the surface, there were always reasons why I couldn’t get everything done. Good, solid reasons. Like I’d taken on too much work. Or my family needs were too demanding. And the technology which should have made my life easier, actually made it harder sometimes. Who couldn’t understand that? I reassured myself.

    Then faced with a deadline, I snapped at everyone, stayed up late and rushed to finish what needed to be done. Consequently, everything suffered. My family was shortchanged, my work was sub-par and I became a person I didn’t like very much.

    Those issues affecting me were all legitimate. But there was still another issue afoot. One that took some soul searching to identify. And that was an internal desire for ease rather than challenge.

    This truth about myself hit hard when I read Proverbs 13:4, today’s key verse: "The appetite of the lazy craves, and gets nothing, while the appetite of the diligent is richly supplied."

    At first, I didn’t think this verse applied to me. How could I be lazy when I’m always busy?

    In fact, I didn’t know any woman around me who was lazy. So why did we all tend to complain about not being able to get important things done?

    But then it hit me, faced with a choice between two tasks, my tendency is to choose whichever seems easier. I tend to put off what’s difficult until I "feel more like it." But that day never comes because I never feel like organizing my tax information or tackling projects that highlight my weak areas.

    So my days were filled, but filled with less challenging work.

    And my to-do list got longer, overflowing with tasks and projects I’d much rather avoid. The crazy thing is I will even avoid good things if I think it will make me address an issue I’d rather not face … like clothes shopping and having to admit my size isn’t what it once was.

    Eventually I got around to doing my work, but usually with a wrong heart, with a shadow of the quality I could produce or with so much frustration that it affected everything else. Some fabulous opportunities I just abandoned, because how could I follow a dream if I couldn’t even keep my kitchen counters clear?

    I even realized I was disobedient to God in some areas. Of course, they were the hard things God asked me to do. I’d much rather obey God in the easy areas … but step out and take a risk? I’ll do that another day, thank you very much.

    Sometimes an "aha" moment is exactly what we need to change. When I realized my tendency to avoid discomfort, to choose ease over challenge, I felt like I could finally address my procrastination.

    Each time I caught myself thinking "I’ll do that later," I tried to identify my resistance for each task and face it. It wasn"t always easy, because my reasons for procrastinating were often complicated and overlapping. Like when my perfectionist tendencies collided with my fear of failure.

    But each time I addressed my resistance, and didn’t give in to it, I got stronger. It’s just like going to the gym and lifting weights. It might hurt, but the only way to strengthen anything is to face resistance.

    God’s Word did reveal a lazy tendency in me. And honestly, it’s still there. But with His help, I’m not avoiding it any more. And with His strength in me, I can face it and get more of the right things done.

    Procrastination is not a label of failure. Only a sign that God’s got more work to do in me. And that is great news!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and seeing my potential in spite of my many weaknesses. My heart longs to follow You with abandon, but my flesh is weak. Help me trust You more as I step into areas that are uncomfortable. I need Your bravery and strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 12:11, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Glynnis Whitwer’s new book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, (releasing in August and available to pre-order today!) will help you get more of the right things done by facing your resistance to unpleasant tasks and overcoming them. This book will also be our next P31 Online Bible Study, kicking off in early September.

    As a thank you for pre-ordering Taming the To-Do List, Glynnis has prepared a bonus PDF titled "5 Habits of Women Who Get Things Done." Click here to pre-order your copy and the first 2,000 books ordered will receive an autographed copy.

    Visit Glynnis’ blog for more encouragement to overcome procrastination.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What tasks do you tend to avoid most?

    What resistance are you facing for these dreaded tasks? Identify it and decide you won’t let it stop you.

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Giving My First Moments to God

    Lysa TerKeurst JULY 23, 2015

    Giving My First Moments to God LYSA TERKEURST

    "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name." Psalm 86:11 (NIV)

    It is very early in the morning. Though my body begs me to go back to sleep, my soul stirs to get up and talk with Jesus.

    And though I can’t physically see Him, I know He is present.

    I open my Bible to the book of Psalms and pray through the verses I read to start my day. The more I do this, the less I hear the ongoing naggings of this world. A beautiful melody of God’s truth rises up and my worries fade in their light.

    His perspective on what troubles me overshadows my anxiety. This time alone with God prepares me for what I will need throughout the day. He’s equipping me to handle what is ahead with His gentle boldness, quiet strength and loving grace.

    In Psalm 81:10b, God instructs me, "Open wide your mouth and I will fill it." (NIV)

    He will give me what to say. What to say in happy moments and in aggravating moments. What to say when I feel insecure and what to say when I am confident.

    He also reminds me that sometimes it is good to keep my mouth closed and say nothing at all.

    Psalm 84:1 reminds me that God’s dwelling place is lovely. So I ask for Him to dwell in me richly. I want it to be evident that I’m a girl who spends time with Jesus and that He’s working on me — shifting a wrong attitude, guarding my words and whispering constant truths into my heart.

    Psalm 86:11 prompts me to ask, "Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (NIV).

    Each of these verses leads my morning prayer:

    Lord, may nothing separate me from You today. Teach me how to choose only Your way today so each step will lead me closer to You. Help me walk by Your Word and not my feelings.

    Help me to keep my heart pure and undivided. Protect me from my own careless thoughts, words and actions. And keep me from being distracted by MY wants, MY desires, MY thoughts on how things should be.

    Help me to embrace what comes my way as an opportunity … rather than a personal inconvenience.

    And finally, help me to rest in the truth of Psalm 86:13, "Great is your love toward me" (NIV).

    You already see the ways I will fall short and mess up. But right now, I consciously tuck Your whisper of absolute love for me into the deepest part of my heart. I recognize Your love for me is not based on my performance. You love me … shortcomings and all.

    That’s amazing.

    But what’s most amazing is that the Savior of the world would desire a few minutes with me this morning. Lord, help me to forever remember what a gift it is to sit with You like this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    I’m now ready to face today. Armed with truth. Surrounded by love. Filled with gratitude.

    Dear Lord, I love You. All that I’ve expressed above is the desire of my heart. I confess that sometimes my actions and reactions betray my love for You. Please forgive me. Thank You for Your grace that is able to recognize this new day as a new chance to walk closer with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Imagine how different our days would be if we exchanged whispers with God before shouts with the world. The First 5 app is now available and will help you give God your first thoughts, by giving Him your first 5 minutes. Download it today for free!

    As a gift to you, we’ll be live-streaming a special message from Lysa TerKeurst at our She Speaks Conference on Friday, July 24. For more information, visit our website to watch Lysa’s message for free.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Challenge yourself to wake up a few minutes earlier this week to spend time with God. Soak in these moments and see how pausing for just a few extra minutes each day helps prepare you for all that will come your way.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • My Relationship with My Stuff

    Amy Carroll JULY 22, 2015

    My Relationship with My Stuff AMY CARROLL

    "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35 (NIV)

    This morning I stood in my closet and considered all the multiples — multiple shoes, multiple scarves and multiple purses. Too much stuff!

    How have I gotten to this place again with a collection of more than I need? The most honest answer is that I use my things to define myself. I think my "perfect" purse makes me seem more perfect. I believe my cool shoes transfer their vibe to my persona. I hope my trendy scarf affirms my relevance.

    It’s time to clean out! Not only do I not need so much, but years ago I learned a memorable lesson about the soul-cleansing power of simplifying. I learned it while visiting a humble, cinder-block house in the mountains of Ecuador.

    Early on a Sunday morning, the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team and our local hosts loaded into buses that drove us out of the large capital city of Quito, into the gorgeous countryside and up the mountains.

    As the bus rounded a corner on the twisting mountain road, a stucco church with a red-tiled roof came into view. Our group clambered down the steps and walked toward the church flanked on either side by two rows of stunning, dark-haired, dark-eyed children clad in heavily embroidered clothing. Once their shyness melted away, these darling children climbed onto our laps and held our hands throughout the entire worship service.

    When the sermon ended, our team split into pairs to visit with the children in their homes. Our guides explained that their beautiful faces might cause us to overlook the harsh reality of their lives. So, with groceries in hand for the families, we set out to visit their homes and see their true living conditions.

    One of the mothers, Dolores, greeted us and invited us into her home to meet her family. Her husband, a builder working in Quito, wasn’t there that day, but evidently they had a loving relationship when he was home … he and Dolores had filled their tiny space with seven children!

    The home was tidy, but the floors were bare dirt and plastic sheeting served as a ceiling. There was running water and electricity but no appliances in the kitchen. The only sign of food was a small stack of maize in the corner. In the bedroom, we saw two beds for the whole family, and though we knew the mountain nights and winters to be cold, I didn’t see a furnace or any indication that the house was heated. Even so, it was obvious that Dolores was proud of her well-built home and of the hours her faithful husband had spent building it for their family. She glowed as she described the care and craftsmanship he invested for them.

    As we prepared to leave, my team partner asked Dolores a pivotal question: "Dolores," she began. "How can we pray for you and your family? What is your greatest need?"

    While we waited for the interpreter, I took a mental assessment of Dolores’ many needs. But my mouth hung open as I listened to her response: "My greatest need is to be able to teach my children about Jesus so they will follow the Lord all the days of their lives." Tears filled my eyes as my heart absorbed the lesson this Ecuadorian woman in humble circumstances taught me.

    Dolores’ prayer request revealed that her deepest desire isn’t for the perfect house or the signature outfit. She values relationships — with God and others — more than material things.

    That experience impressed this truth upon my heart: God created us for connecting, not collecting.

    As I clean out my closet, I want to value the same thing Dolores values. I vow to hold my "stuff" loosely and be defined by the closeness of my relationships.

    Lord, forgive me for my defining relationship with stuff. I want to be defined by You and my love for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Learn to value relationships over resources in Amy Carroll’s brand new book, Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You.

    Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she’s giving away a copy of her book Breaking Up with Perfect and a beautiful sign that says, "God created us for connecting, not collecting."

    You can also sign up for "Five Days to Himperfection," five devotions and freebies centered around ending the exhausting pursuit of perfection by clicking here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What material things have you used to define yourself? Your house? Your clothes? Your car?

    What do you have that you could give to bless someone else, build relationships or help you start to redefine yourself by love rather than by what you own?

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why It’s Good to Be Bold

    Liz Curtis Higgs JULY 21, 2015

    Why It’s Good to Be Bold LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Since we have such a hope, we are very bold." 2 Corinthians 3:12 (ESV)

    I’m a take-charge chick, so I always thought boldness was a good thing. Fearless, confident, adventurous? Yes, please. But when I asked a roomful of sisters in Christ, "Who wants to be bold?" only a few hands shot up.


    Later, I chatted with some women in the audience, hoping to find out why boldness held little appeal to them. One told me, "I don’t want to seem pushy." Another said, "I’m too shy for that." And a third added, "I’m afraid I’ll come off as arrogant."

    Ah. Now I get it. When we go bold on our own, it can look pretty ugly. Demanding, controlling, my-way-or-the-highway. That’s not what we’re shooting for. A steamroller approach doesn’t honor God and seldom gets the job done. We don’t want to flatten people; we want to lift them up.

    It’s time for boldness to get a makeover, because His Word shows us it’s good to be bold.

    When the queen of Sheba challenged King Solomon to a battle of wits, she was decidedly bold. No other monarch in Scripture dared question the wisest man on earth. Others came simply to hear Solomon’s wisdom; Sheba came to test it.

    After Solomon answered every one of her difficult questions, Sheba confessed, "But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes," (1 Kings 10:7a, NIV). She came, she saw, she conquered her doubts, and in the end found what she was searching for: a God infinitely bolder than she was.

    Queen Esther demonstrated great boldness when she approached the throne of King Xerxes, saying, "I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish," (Esther 4:16b, NIV). What a role model for women in every century! Before she put her life on the line to save her people, she wisely asked them to fast and pray, that she might be given favor by the king.

    Boldness can be a risky business, but only if we do it on our own. When the Lord leads the way, we can follow Him without fear, knowing the outcome is always in His capable hands.

    Queens aren’t the only bold souls in Scripture.

    When the disciples prepared to share the gospel, they prayed, "Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness," (Acts 4:29b, NIV). They knew they couldn’t drum up boldness on their own, so they called on God to help them be unafraid and unapologetic.

    The Lord quickly answered the disciples’ prayer: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly," (Acts 4:31b, NIV). Boldness is really about God, then, and not about us. Rather than a personality trait, it’s an attribute of the Holy Spirit.

    Even if we don’t have a leadership role like Sheba or Esther, we can be bold because of the One who empowers us. When God resides in us and works through us, His strength sustains us. As our key verse today says, "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold."

    What might boldness look like in our day-to-day lives?

    Starting a home Bible study and inviting neighbors who don’t know God. Praying with a stranger who has just shared her struggles with you. Visiting a women’s prison with a group from your church and sharing God’s love.

    When we let His boldness pour through us, we’ll discover, "He crowns the humble with victory," (Psalm 149:4b, NIV). God gives us a different sort of crown from the queen of Sheba’s gold one, but it shines far brighter. And it shines forever.

    Heavenly Father, I want to do bold things for You, but fear of others often gets in the way. Help me care more about serving You than pleasing people. When I hold back, nudge me forward. When I get scared, banish my fears with the assurance of Your love. Strengthen my heart and mind so I can boldly share Your truth with those who are hurting. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 28:1, "The righteous are as bold as a lion." (NIV)

    1 Corinthians 16:13, "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higgs’ new book, It’s Good to Be Queen, releases today and explores how you can become as bold, gracious and wise as the queen of Sheba.

    Study the Bible each week with Liz! Sign up for her Wednesday posts by clicking here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Being bold doesn’t need to come naturally. In fact, it’s more effective when it comes supernaturally.

    What person or situation in your life could benefit from your boldness — humbly sharing the good news of God’s forgiveness or speaking a hard truth in love? Ask God right now for the courage to move forward.

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

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