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  • When You Stop Being a Debt Collector

    T. Suzanne Eller MAY 13, 2015

    When You Stop Being a Debt Collector SUZIE ELLER

    "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’" Matthew 5:38 (NLT)

    Years ago, if you were to ask me if I was an "eye-for-an-eye" kind of girl, I’d say no. But in reality, I was. And, I hadn’t allowed God to heal my heart because I was waiting.

    I was waiting for an apology for wrongs done.

    I was waiting for someone to change before I took the plunge myself.

    I was waiting for an acknowledgement that I didn’t deserve what happened.

    My first year of college, I was fully on my own. A small scholarship paid for tuition. I worked two jobs — one in the evenings during the week and another on the weekends, to pay room and board. I was frustrated that it seemed so much easier for everyone else. Some students didn’t have to worry about how much textbooks cost. Their parents put gas in their cars and a few extra dollars in their bank accounts.

    It seemed so unfair, while I dragged myself to classes on Mondays, exhausted from working two night shifts and constantly worried whether there’d be enough left in my wallet to pay the next round of bills.

    I let resentment pile up.

    It was stacked on top of the other resentments I had tucked away in my heart from childhood.

    I carried that growing pile of resentment with me when I left college and married. I didn’t want to feel that way, so I often pushed it down. I prayed. I tried to do things differently with my own children.

    But when things got hard, I’d look back and point to my past.

    If only they’d done something different.

    If only things had been easier.

    It was my eye-for-an-eye barter system.

    Though I sensed God leading me to let go of this debt, I couldn’t quite release it. When, and if, the wrongdoing was paid for in full, then I’d be OK to move on. But that left me holding tightly to anger, pain and insecurity — and going nowhere in the healing process.

    In today’s verse, Jesus contested this view of payback. In Matthew 5:38, He said: "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’"

    I had heard that too.

    I’d heard when someone hurts you, forgiving her without any change on her part was a weakness.

    I’d heard that when you didn’t get what you thought you deserved, you should dig in your heels until you did.

    Yet Jesus’ words empowered believers, like me, to think differently. An eye-for-an-eye might just leave the offender and the offended both without an eye. And God has something for us to see beyond the hurt.

    In Romans 12:19a, Paul says, "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God …" (NLT).

    My anger back then was far from righteous. It was deeply ingrained and surprisingly hidden, but it surfaced in my thoughts. It conflicted with my ability to trust.

    It even affected those who were innocent of wrongdoing, because my eye-for-an-eye mentality was hypersensitive to potential wrongdoing. It left little room for grace, even for those who loved me well.

    In order to mend my heart, I had to exchange payback for paid-in-full.

    Giving up my eye-for-an-eye mindset felt unnatural at first. But then, all the debts that kept this God-girl trapped began to fall away, and that left room for God to take up residence in the wounds of my past.

    I stopped waiting for an apology.

    I stopped waiting for others to change.

    I stopped waiting for an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

    I stopped recounting the wrongs.

    And I started living. Finally God released me from the debt collection business so I could just be me.

    Lord, I willingly walk away from a life dedicated to collecting the debts of others. You paid in full the price to mend my heart, and I receive that healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:21, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller launching June 22. Click here for more information.

    If you’re looking to shift from the desire to change to the ability to change through Christ, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, might be helpful for you.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Consider how much energy you devote on a daily basis to thinking about people who have caused you pain.

    What might happen if that space was available to receive what God has for you today?

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Which Truth Sets Us Free?

    Glynnis Whitwer MAY 12, 2015

    Which Truth Sets Us Free? GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’" John 8:31b-32 (NIV)

    I lay awake, eyes staring at the ceiling, mind racing with fearful thoughts. "What if" questions consumed every last remnant of the fragile peace I’d managed to scrounge together during the daylight hours. In the dark, fear unpacked its bags and took up residence. Not just one day, but it went on for weeks.

    I didn’t tell anyone how afraid I was. It was embarrassing. After all, others saw me as a leader … a strong Christian. What if they knew fear over the results of a pending medical test had me sleepless? Fearful to the point of actual trembling? Sick to the point of not eating?

    My pride kept me silent, a prisoner to the fear.

    Night after night the fear kept me wide-eyed. And day after day, I silently suffered while waiting for the doctor’s call.

    After several weeks of this misery, I stumbled upon a Bible verse. I wasn’t looking for help; I just happened to find it. But something in the words spoke deep to my spirit. It was James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (NIV).

    It was one of those instances where I sensed God trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure it out. Kind of like when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t pull it from memory. I wanted healing, but what was the sin? Surely fear for my health wasn’t sinful, I thought. So what was God trying to tell me?

    Then I had a dream.

    In the dream, I found myself in a storm-ravaged house, looking out a broken wall at another storm coming. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled through a cage tunnel to escape. The tunnel led to the safety of someone else’s house.

    Immediately I understood James 5:16.

    The broken-down house was my heart. The storm was the fear battering my heart. To escape the fear, I had to humble myself before others, and fully confess my pride (that was the sin) and the depth of my fear.

    So I started dialing and through sobs, confessed it all to a handful of people, asking for their prayers. With each confession, fear lost its grip.

    My friends’ prayers spoke truth to the lies Satan had planted in my mind. Their confidence in God’s power helped restore my weakened faith. Their love reminded me I wasn’t alone and still wouldn’t be if the worst happened.

    Before the doctor’s call ever came, I was healed from the fear. God’s truth battered down my prison door.

    Years before, I’d heard my pastor teach on today’s key verse in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." My pastor said the only truth that can set us free is the truth we know.

    My experience with James 5:16 proved this true. If I hadn’t read that verse and applied it to my life, fear would have had its way with me. The truth of God’s Word made an immediate difference in my heart.

    Here’s the problem: If we don’t know the truth in the Bible, how can it make a difference in our lives?

    If my Bible sits on my shelf, pages closed, dust gathering, it’s like a caged lion. But when I open it up and read it, soaking in its truth, it unleashes God’s power in my life.

    Mighty, life-changing, heart-restoring, healing truth saturates every page of God’s Word! It has the power to set us free from fear, anger, loneliness, pride, betrayal — just as Jesus promised it would.

    The doctor’s call came, and the results were negative. Was it the powerful and effective prayers of my friends? Maybe. But I know for sure I experienced the power of God’s truth in a way I’d never known before. And I’m hungry to experience it again.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for generously sharing Your truth in Your Word. Forgive me for ever reading it like it’s a history lesson. Help me see its power to set me free and change my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 1:17, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (NIV)

    2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."(NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you wish you knew more of the Bible? You’re not alone. Most of us feel like it’s overwhelming and don’t know where to start.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we understand. We know it can feel intimidating to approach God’s Word. That’s why we’re developing a mobile app to help you read and understand God’s Word in a life-changing way.

    It’s called "First 5," which we’ve designed to help women around the world give the first 5 minutes of each day to God’s Word in an easy-to-understand way. Imagine the freedom that will happen when women read and apply God’s truth!

    Will you be a part of bringing God’s truth and freedom to women everywhere? Click here to support this crucial project.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas of your life would you like to experience God’s freedom?

    Use a concordance (which is a book listing Bible verses by topic) or an online Bible website to find verses on God’s truth about these things.

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Embracing the Inconvenient

    Leslie Ludy MAY 11, 2015

    Embracing the Inconvenient Leslie Ludy

    "Whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me." Matthew 25:40b (NIV)

    I will never forget the day my son Hudson learned what an orphan was. A close family friend had just returned from Haiti where she visited an orphanage and had taken heartbreaking photos of destitute children in desperate need of loving homes.

    As a wide-eyed 3-year-old, Hudson stared at the pictures and asked, "Who dose kids? Why dey sad?"

    I explained that the children in the photos were orphans, children without a mommy or daddy. As Hudson pondered this, his heart was gripped with compassion. He suggested we go to Haiti and bring home 20 orphans to live with us.

    I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and then informed him I didn’t think we’d have room in our house for 20 more children. A few days later, Hudson led me upstairs to see several "orphan beds" he’d created. Each bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow and one of his favorite stuffed animals.

    There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy’s room, two in his sister’s room, and five in Hudson’s bedroom. (He’d taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself!)

    "See?" he exclaimed. "We do have room!"

    I was speechless.

    God was using my 3-year-old to remind me of His simple solution for the orphaned, the destitute and the starving: sacrificially sharing what we have with those in need.

    That day, God challenged my heart with some poignant questions: Was I willing to serve the weak, even if it required personal sacrifice? If Hudson was willing to share his mommy, daddy, bedroom and favorite stuffed animals with children in need — then what was I willing to share?

    Those questions changed the course of my life. While we didn’t bring home 20 orphans, God has led us to adopt four children in need of a loving home. The journey has not been easy, but through it we have seen God’s amazing faithfulness.

    In our noisy, busy world, it’s easy to become consumed with self-focused pursuits and remain indifferent toward the needs of the lost and dying around us. I have been guilty of this attitude many times.

    Whenever I’m struggling with a self-focused mindset, I’m reminded of a sobering story I once heard about the Jewish Holocaust.

    In the story, a German church sat next to the railroad tracks where cars of Jews rattled by the church, on their way to the concentration camps. The prisoners would scream as loudly as they could, begging the churchgoers to help. But the Christians didn’t want to get involved. Instead, as the cars rolled past, they sang their hymns loudly to drown out the cries of the suffering.

    Astounding, isn’t it?

    Still today, there are cries of anguish resounding all over the world — from the starving child to the persecuted Christian. Yet how often do we drown them out with entertainment, busyness, materialism or selfish ambitions? God asks each of us to turn down the noise in our lives and learn to love and give the way He does, embracing the inconvenient and holding nothing back.

    Naturally, this will look different for each of us.

    Some of us might be called to minister to the homeless, others to adopt, others to fight for the unborn, others to help orphans, others to encourage the persecuted — and countless other possibilities.

    Cultivating a sacrificial lifestyle often starts with one simple step, such as ministering to someone in our community. I encourage you to let God stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. He will open your eyes to the ways in which He desires you to become His hands and feet to those in need.

    Throughout history, the Christians who’ve made the most impact for God’s kingdom rarely lived comfortable or convenient lives. Their mighty acts for God required enormous personal sacrifice and a willingness to venture far beyond the realm of the easy and convenient. If today’s Christians are too busy, who will take up the torch of Gospel-centered rescue work in this generation?

    Lord, help me learn to look past myself and see the needs of others. Teach me to love others the way You love them, sacrificially. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 20:21, "So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’" (NKJV)

    James 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Have you ever felt an ache for something more in your Christian walk? Do you long to leave apathy behind and pursue passionate devotion to the one true King? Then you’ll want to get a copy of The Set Apart Woman — God’s Invitation to Sacred Living, by Leslie Ludy.

    Enter to WIN a copy of The Set-Apart Woman by Leslie Ludy. In celebration of this book, Leslie’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, May 18.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do this week to show God’s sacrificial love to someone in need?

    © 2015 by Leslie Ludy. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House 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

  • Loving the Other Mother

    Liz Curtis Higgs MAY 8, 2015

    Loving the Other Mother LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

    The truth? I am not what my mother-in-law prayed for. She would have been happy with Mary or Martha as a wife for her godly son. Instead, she got Rahab. That is to say, a former bad girl, slightly tattered around the edges, continually grateful for God’s grace.

    Because I lost my own mother to emphysema in my twenties, the idea of getting to know my husband’s mother was both thrilling and intimidating. Given time, I hoped we might become mother-daughter close. But as each year went by, I became less certain of my place in her heart.

    Did Mary Lee Higgs love me for making her son happy and giving her two brilliant grandchildren? Yes, absolutely.

    But did she like me as a person? Approve of me as a daughter-in-law? I wasn’t entirely sure, and so I emotionally held her at arm’s length, guarding my still-tender heart.

    Yes, I did all the right things, especially on Mother’s Day — greeting cards, fresh flowers, dinners out, nice gifts. But I wasn’t fully invested in her happiness the other 364 days of the year, in part because I had no idea what might please her most.

    Then I became a mother-in-law. Oh.

    I quickly began making amends with Mary Lee, finally understanding the one thing she needed from me — unconditional love, expressed in as many ways as possible. Because of God’s kindness (and her patience), our last five years together were sweeter than all the years that came before them combined.

    If you have a mother-in-law, it’s never too late to strengthen or rebuild your one-of-a-kind relationship. Which of these practical ideas might work best for you?

    Praise her good points. Just as you may wonder if she likes you, your mother-in-law may think you don’t like her. So, "Honor her for all that her hands have done … " (Proverbs 31:31a, NIV), praise her every chance you get and help put her unspoken fears to rest.

    Brag about her son. At any age, mothers long to know they did a good job. Sincerely compliment your husband’s fine character or commendable actions, then watch his mother light up, just as God’s Word says: " … may she who gave you birth be joyful!" (Proverbs 23:25b, NIV).

    Forget the MIL jokes. Humorists have milked the stereotype of the overbearing mother-in-law for ages. Even if it’s funny, such humor hurts rather than heals. Look for laughs elsewhere and hold her in high regard. "Give to everyone what you owe them … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7, NIV).

    Request a favorite recipe. Gourmet or everyday, her home-cooked meals fed your growing husband. Find out his favorite dish and ask his mother to share the recipe. Like you, "… she provides food for her family …" (Proverbs 31:15b, NIV), and might be tickled for one of her dishes to become your favorite.

    Be all in. In Scripture, Ruth’s pledge to stick faithfully by her mother-in-law Naomi, whatever their future might hold, sets a high bar for us all: "… Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay" (Ruth 1:16b, NIV). If necessity required it, could you welcome your mother-in-law into your home? Or willingly live under her roof? Does she know that?

    Give thanks. Show your gratitude for the woman who raised the man you love. She wasn’t a perfect mother, but she was his mother. Still is. Always will be. Even after she’s gone, honor her memory and be grateful for everything she did and was. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

    As relationships go, this one can be complicated, which means it also has the potential to go deep and wide. Open your heart, my friend. Let her in.

    Father God, our earthly relationships give us the chance to mirror our heavenly relationship with You. No matter where things stand with our mothers-in-law right now, help us be more loving, more grace-giving, and more kind in the days ahead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)

    Leviticus 19:32a, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God …" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Want a splash of encouragement to start your day — or the perfect gift for your mother or mother-in-law this May? Liz Curtis Higgs’ Rise and Shine offers engaging stories, upbeat advice and heartfelt prayers to brighten your morning.

    All this spring, Liz is exploring why "He Is Worthy of Our Praise" on her weekly blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: One of the last things my mother-in-law Mary Lee said before she stepped into the arms of her Savior was, "Family is a good investment." Yes, it is, Mom.

    Of the six steps above, which one will you invest in today?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Moms: Let's Make This Pledge

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 7, 2015

    Moms: Let's Make This Pledge LYSA TERKEURST

    "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

    I really want to be a great mom. I want to raise kids who love the Lord, are respectful, kind, smart and all the other things we want for our kids.

    So, I pray. I read parenting books. I teach manners, kiss the skinned knees and help my teen process her first broken heart. I plan the family dinners, the date nights, the vacations. I keep track of who needs what and when. I set the appointments and the discipline parameters and the alarm clock so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

    And through every minute, I am hyper aware of my frailties and faults.

    My heart wants to be incredibly patient and organized and excited about reading books out loud.

    But then I get tired. And over-extended. And suddenly my day finds me getting snappy, losing track of all those papers sent home from school and skipping pages to hurry to the end of the book that started off with such promise.

    There is a gap between my desires and my reality.

    I bet this is true for many moms, so we should all understand those hard places, right? But somewhere in the day-to-day, we can forget how important it is to support each other as moms and sisters in Christ. We can forget the need to foster a sense of community. And as soon as we forget these things, it’s much easier for thoughts of judgment to creep in.

    In those moments, it’s crucial to remember that being a source of encouragement for others is biblical. Our key verse, Hebrews 3:13 tells us to "encourage one another daily" so that we aren’t "hardened by sin’s deceitfulness" which causes us to unfairly judge others.

    So, I was just wondering if we might all make a little pact together today.

    A pact to build each other up. To not judge one another. Ever. Even when we parent differently. Even when my kids act like I never taught them manners.

    Might you give me the benefit of the doubt? Just assume it’s a bad moment, but this isn’t an indication of all our moments.

    And then I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt when your child messes up.

    Or when I hear you snap in Target and make threats to your kids that betray every good intention you had that morning. When you prayed. And read the parenting books. And taught manners, kissed skinned knees, planned the dinner, and all the other zillions of things you did so well.

    Instead of judging you, I will love you.

    And maybe you can love me too.

    Moms, let’s pledge to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Most of us are desperately trying to do this mothering thing right.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for not extending grace at times to others. I am a woman who desperately needs it, so I should be a woman who freely offers it. Help me to build others up and to love them as You love us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Being a mom is hard work, and certainly can’t be done in our own strength! Learn to look to the Lord for what you need each new day with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Am I Messing Up My Kids? … and Other Questions Every Mom Asks. Get your copy today.

    For more encouragement for your mama heart, follow Lysa on Facebook!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: This Mother’s Day weekend, think of a mom you know who really needs encouragement and support in this season of her life.

    Make a list of three things you could do or say over the next few weeks that would communicate intentionality and show her love.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Can't You Hurry Up, God?

    Lynn Cowell MAY 6, 2015

    Can't You Hurry Up, God? LYNN COWELL

    "But Sarai and Abram had no children. So Sarai took her maid, an Egyptian girl named Hagar, and gave her to Abram to be his second wife. ‘Since the Lord has given me no children,’ Sarai said, ‘you may sleep with my servant girl, and her children shall be mine.’ And Abram agreed." Genesis 16:1-2 (TLB)

    Why have you said, "No," God?

    The whole situation didn’t make sense. The job description fit me perfectly. And I just knew God had made me aware of that opportunity so I could move forward in my heart for ministry. Yet all the doors closed, and I couldn’t figure out why.

    Weeks turned into years as the quicksand of discouragement pulled me under. I felt forgotten, and I often looked back on that lost opportunity with regret. Maybe there was something more I could have done to make it work? Why didn’t I try harder?

    Time went on, and I was no closer to my dreams. I couldn’t understand why God kept me from that perfect position.

    In today’s key verse, Sarai, Abram’s wife, was stuck too. God had promised them offspring — as many as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5) — yet time was ticking. Sarai was growing older and worried she had yet to have a child.

    Sarai may have believed she’d become invisible to God, and it was time to take matters into her own hands. She decided she wouldn’t wait any longer, so she devised a plan to get what she wanted.

    And she got it, alright — a pregnancy plus a whole lot of trouble.

    Sarai followed a common practice of her time and gave Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to Abram to become a surrogate mother. But her plan backfired. Hagar became pregnant and also a little haughty. With another person looking down on her barrenness, Sarai was more miserable than before.

    If only she would have waited instead of manipulated.

    Like Sarai, I had a hard time waiting on God. I couldn’t understand what was taking Him so long! Yet, when the perfect position opened down the road from my home, instead of a 1,000 miles away, like the other job, it all made sense.

    So often now as I take my short drive to the office, I find myself very thankful I waited for God to provide.

    If we can wait and not manipulate, God promises us He is always at work for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when the situation seems to be going the wrong way, we can trust that His way is best. We must be prayerful, wait and trust. Easier said than done, though, I know.

    Yet when we wait and see God’s goodness come to past, we create a history with God, a repertoire of faith moments when we have seen God’s faithfulness. This foundation builds our faith in Him so we know we can trust Him again and again.

    These stories, these faith-building encounters with God, are the same stories I share with my kids, helping them to trust God with their dreams for the future as well. Helping them also learn to wait and not manipulate.

    Today, thank God for the times you have seen His faithfulness. If you are in a current struggle, pray for the patience to wait and not manipulate.

    Lord, when life doesn’t go as planned, everything in me says, "Do something!" when You might be asking me to do nothing but wait. Give me faith to wait and not manipulate. To trust You fully, no matter how my circumstances appear. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (NIV)

    Psalm 130:5, "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope." (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:18, "Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you know a young woman who needs to wait and not manipulate? Lynn Cowell’s Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants would be a good resource to give her.

    Stop by Lynn’s blog today where she shares a beautiful download for those difficult times of waiting.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you been tempted to manipulate a situation in your life instead of prayerfully waiting for God to move?

    Choose one of the verses above to have on hand when your mind wants to start planning instead of praying for God to move.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding Joy in Unplanned Circumstances

    Melissa Kruger MAY 5, 2015

    Finding Joy in Unplanned Circumstances Melissa Kruger

    "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV)

    Early in the morning I approached his crib. Already dressed for my busy day, I greeted him with a smile.

    As I took him in my arms, he responded by throwing up all over me. My recently blown-out hair hung limp and my better-than-usual-somewhat-clean-clothes absorbed the rest.

    No. No. No. I thought to myself. I have important things to do today. I’m supposed to teach Bible study this morning. I’ve prepared all week just to be ready. Why did the stomach bug have to come today? All that work for nothing.

    Discontent welled in my heart as a sigh escaped my lips.

    Grumbling to myself, I called a friend asking her to lead the group in my place. Glancing at my notes as I emailed them to her, one of the verses I’d been preparing to teach grabbed my attention.

    "Rejoice always … Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16, 18a).

    All means all. How many times have I told my children that very thing? When I ask them to put away all of their toys, I mean all of them (especially those small toy cars precariously situated on the stairs that I walk up and down all day).

    When God asks me to "give thanks in all circumstances," He means all, too. Even when it means my hopes for the day are rearranged from doing something for which I planned, prepared and prayed. Something that seemed like a good thing to do.

    At that moment, two options lay before me. I could nurse my frustrations, reciting the difficulties and disappointment, or I could choose to give thanks. As I peeled off layers of my pungent clothing and my son’s, the temptation to complain seemed pretty appealing. Wouldn’t I rather just stew a little while and enjoy a nice warm cup of self-pity?

    I’d gone this path plenty of times and knew the outcome of inward grumbling. The meditations of my heart eventually become the words of my mouth. Sharp tones, angry words and impatient sighs overflow when I hold fast to my plans rather than accept the Lord’s plan for my day.

    Quietly the truth that had been marinating all week took the arduous journey from my head to my heart. While I prepared all week to teach others, in actuality God was teaching me. The stomach bug was my classroom and thanksgiving the lesson.

    All God asks of us is to do whatever task He gives with a thankful, rejoicing heart. Isn’t this exactly what we’d like our children to do? We care about their attitude as much as their obedience. Just as I’m in the process of parenting my children, the Lord is in the process of parenting me. And by trusting Him, I can face the unwelcome moments of mothering with joy and peace.

    My son’s illness was not an unnecessary inconvenience, getting in the way of more important things. The mundane task of cleaning up was just as valuable as teaching a group of women. Loving my son in the midst of his sickness was the most important ministry God had for me that day.

    By God’s grace, I let go of my plan. I held my son tightly, rejoicing in the gift I’d received.

    Another woman could lead Bible study that morning, but I was the only woman in the entire world who could enjoy being this little boy’s mommy. I savored the sweetness of his clean skin, the tenderness of his embrace.

    In the midst of circumstances I wouldn’t have chosen, choosing to give thanks led to the experience of joy.

    Lord, I can so easily hold onto my plans and purposes for my day. So often when I pray "Thy will be done," I really just want my own will to be done. Help me loosen my grip on my plans and cling more tightly to You. Give me a thankful, rejoicing heart in all things. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’S purpose that prevails." (NIV)

    Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Struggling to spend time with God in the midst of the busyness of the mothering years? Whether you’re parenting a toddler or a teen, Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood is an 11-week Bible study that provides daily nourishment and refreshment from God’s Word.

    To read more about trusting God when you find yourself at the end of your rope, visit Melissa Kruger at her blog, Wit’s End.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Walking with God in a Season of Motherhood by Melissa Kruger. In celebration of this book, Melissa’s publisher is giving away 5 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 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, May 11.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What would it look like for you to trust God with all of your plans today?

    How would giving thanks in the midst of unwelcome circumstances change your experience of them? How would it change your attitude?

    Take the time to list out 5 (or more) specific things you can thank God for today. Remember to give Him thanks in all circumstances.

    © 2015 by Melissa Kruger. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Waterbrook Multnomah 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

  • Whose Girl Are You?

    Alicia Bruxvoort MAY 4, 2015

    Whose Girl Are You? ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "You are now children of God because you have put your trust in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:26 (NLV)

    When my firstborn was a toddler, we often began our dinnertime routine with a silly game. "Whose boy are you?" I’d ask my wiggly son as we gathered around the table when Daddy got home.

    The answer changed from night to night, but little Luke’s irrepressible delight did not.

    Eyes ablaze, he loved to hold us in suspense as he decided his momentary allegiance.

    "I’m Daddy’s boy!" he’d sometimes declare, while my husband cheered and I feigned grief.

    But on other nights, he’d change his answer. "I’m Mommy’s boy," he’d say with a giggle as my rowdy applause drowned out his daddy’s mock moans.

    One evening, God interrupted my thoughts with a question of His own: "Whose girl are you?"

    It was a question I hadn’t considered since three short words — "It’s a boy!" — had endowed me with the badge of motherhood. Before my son was born, I’d spent hours dreaming of that moment my teeny progeny would call me Mommy.

    As my due date neared, I practiced saying my new name to myself in the mirror, and I wondered if the young woman staring back at me would be everything the name implied … patient and kind, servant-hearted and wise. Whimsical and wonderful and fun. Never once did I consider that a new me wouldn’t instantly emerge with my new name.

    In the beginning, I wore my new name like an Olympic ribbon. I immediately fell in love with our 7-pound miracle and set out to prove I was worthy of being called his mommy.

    However, as days turned to weeks and weeks spiraled into months, as sleep deprivation mounted and toddler tantrums began, that name began to feel more like a heavy weight than a badge of honor. By the time my son celebrated his second birthday, we’d added a newborn daughter to the mix, and the name Mommy no longer felt like a shining statement of who I was; instead, it was a glaring reminder of who I wasn’t.

    On most days, the me in the mirror felt more sapped than super. The me in the mirror wondered how her soul could feel so empty when her hands were so full. The me in the mirror lay in bed at night, too weary to sleep, worrying if she was messing up her kids or disappointing her husband.

    Maybe that’s why God’s probing whisper left me speechless.

    "Whose girl are you?"

    For most of my life, I’d embraced my identity as God’s daughter. But something happened when I had children of my own.

    I became so focused on proving who I was, that I lost sight of Whose I was … I’d forgotten I was still a child of God. Motherhood may alter the dynamics of our days, but it does not change our identity in Christ.

    Our key verse reminds us that even when little ones cling to our knees, we have a place on our Father’s lap: "You are now children of God …" (Galatians 3:26).

    That night, while my babies slept, I sat with my Bible and read about the day Jesus welcomed the little children into his arms (Matthew 19:13-15). I pictured kids of all sizes and personalities clinging to Jesus’ strong arms. And what struck me most was not what Jesus did in those three verses, but what He didn’t do.

    Jesus didn’t require the children to prove their worth before they could climb on His knee. He didn’t sort the ambitious from the lazy, the naughty from the nice. He welcomed them all because they were His.

    And so, dear moms, are we.

    Our identity doesn’t lie in our badge of motherhood. Our identity lies in our merit as God’s children.

    So, next time you’re staring at that mommy in the mirror, listen closely for the whisper of God, "Whose girl are you?"

    And whether you’re feeling sapped or super, look that precious mommy in the eye and invite her to become a child again. I am Yours, Lord. I’m Yours.

    Father God, show me the way back to Your lap. I want to live like a child again. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 10:14b, " … Jesus (to the disciples): Let the children come to Me, and don’t ever stand in their way, for this is what the kingdom of God is all about." (VOICE)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve ever felt like you’ve lost your identity, or wondered if you’ve blown it as a parent, you’ll appreciate a copy of Am I Messing Up My Kids? … and Other Questions Every Mom Asks by Lysa TerKeurst.

    Stop by Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today for more encouragement and enter her giveaway! It’s your chance to win a prize helping you become like a child again, as you spend time with your Heavenly Father.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Carve out some one-on-one time with Jesus this week. Take a walk, sing a song, look at the clouds. Enjoy being His child.

    Post this question on your mirror — Whose girl are you? Remind yourself each time you look at your reflection that you are the daughter of the King of Kings.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Your Faith is Shaken

    Sharon Glasgow MAY 1, 2015

    When Your Faith is Shaken SHARON GLASGOW

    "And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’" Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)

    Recently, I had one of the hardest days of my life!

    My mom, who lives with us, woke up in excruciating pain. She had no one but me to help her. Within an hour, my pregnant daughter was admitted to the hospital because of her skyrocketing blood pressure. Rachael couldn’t reach her husband, so she asked me to come quickly in case she went into labor.

    My husband had taken our only car to help someone and his cell phone was out of range. On top of all this, we live on a farm and rent out our barn for weddings. I needed to get ready for the two scheduled that weekend.

    Brides and vendors were calling, emailing and texting. My mom was groaning in agony, my daughter was waiting, and I was supposed to be preparing for a retreat where I was speaking in two days! I didn’t know which emergency took precedence. My faith started to quiver in fear; despair attempted to envelop me.

    I called a friend for encouragement. She firmly said, "Sharon, Satan is sifting you like wheat." She reminded me of Peter in the Bible. I got off the phone and went into prayer, laying my load at the feet of Jesus. Then, I picked up the Word and read the story of Peter.

    It was the night before Jesus was crucified. He was sharing the Last Supper with His disciples and turned to Peter (also called Simon): "And the Lord said, ‘Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.’"

    A "sifter" is a machine that violently shakes grain and turns it into soft flour.

    Satan was asking permission to violently shake Peter. A few hours later, Satan pulled out his first round of ammunition. He fired fear at Peter to get him to deny Christ. Satan knew if he could get Peter (and each of us) to fall for fear, our faith may fail. If this happens, he then sends the atomic bomb of shame and embarrassment.

    There are three things we can learn from this story to encourage us in our troubles:

    1. Satan sometimes asks God for permission to shake us, just like he did Peter.

    God allows hardships for divine purposes. Our faith is increased through each trial, and we learn to trust God’s faithfulness and accept His mercy.

    2. Jesus is praying for us, that our faith will not fail.

    Wow, that’s huge! The very God of the universe prays for you and me!

    3. Even when we fail, God quickly forgives when we ask and frees us from self-condemnation.

    Peter learned this lesson not from his successes, but from his failures. After he denied Christ, Jesus forgave him and commissioned Peter to preach the Gospel and care for others. He could have lived with the shame of failing in his faith, but Jesus’ forgiveness washed that away.

    Self-condemnation is probably one of the worst ways Satan tries to sift us. If our faith falters, we need to immediately ask God for forgiveness and not stay stuck in guilt. This helps take our focus off ourselves and puts it on serving others and the Lord.

    Has Satan been sifting you lately? Boy, do I understand. Hectic deadlines, poor health issues, money frustrations and the pressures of life can shake our faith. These things can cause us to doubt that God is enough and will take care of us. In the middle of trials, we need to remember that God is in control, Jesus is praying for us and there is grace when our faith fails. Trusting these truths will move us from doubt and defeat to hope and peace.

    Dear Lord, Help me! Increase my faith and give me Your strength to help others. Thank You for praying for me and giving me grace when I don’t deserve it. I love You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 5:10, "But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Visit Sharon Glasgow’s blog for more encouragement on not losing your faith in the middle of sifting and shaking and enter your name for a giveaway.

    Tell the story of your faith with a beautiful 8x10" print. Treat yourself, or give this meaningful gift for Mother’s Day or graduation. And let it be a constant reminder to always rest in the steadfast promises of God’s great faithfulness.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Does it feel like Satan has been shaking you? Read Luke 22:31-32 and the books 1 Peter and 2 Peter in the Bible. (They’re short!) Peter’s faith was shaken, but he became a powerhouse for the Lord. You can, too.

    © 2015 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • Make Your First 5 Count

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 30, 2015

    Make Your First 5 Count LYSA TERKEURST

    "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you … then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God." Proverbs 2:1, 5 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt something stirring in your spirit that wouldn’t go away?

    I have one of those things on my heart right now. And it all started with my middle daughter Ashley.

    Ashley is a driven and responsible girl. Last fall, she went off to college and while she’s always excelled academically, the same couldn’t be said for her spiritual life.

    As her mom, my heart broke over her struggle in her relationship with the Lord. I just couldn’t understand it — she grew up going to church, learned Bible lessons and saw my husband Art and me read Scripture each day.

    But no matter what we did or said, we just couldn’t make it connect for her.

    If you’re in that place right now with your child or in your own walk with the Lord, I understand. I think for Ashley, the Bible felt complicated and disconnected from her everyday life issues.

    As I cried out to the Lord on behalf of my daughter, the word that kept coming to mind was poverty. Poverty might seem like a strange word for this situation but when I saw the lack of spiritual nourishment in Ashley, the parallels from physical to spiritual lined up.

    I chased down this thought a little more — what causes poverty? A lack of opportunity. So many people around the world simply don’t have the opportunity to access the nourishment they need to survive.

    But this wasn’t the case with Ashley. Good gracious, we are like most Americans and have multiple copies of the Bible under our roof. So the poverty I sensed was not caused by a lack of opportunity.

    So what was it? As I wrestled with this, God brought me to the book of Proverbs.

    "My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God" (Proverbs 2:1-5).

    There is one word in this passage that’s repeated over and over: understand! Solomon says if we want fear of the Lord and knowledge of God, then we will crave understanding.

    Meanwhile, at school, Ashley found herself in a Bible study being challenged by her leaders to just spend the first 5 minutes of her day in the Word.

    After admitting she hadn’t been reading her Bible and hearing many of her friends talk about the benefits they were getting, she finally gave it a try. Each day, little by little, her interest in the Bible grew. Her life and attitude was being transformed.

    I recently visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

    She’s a completely different girl.

    At one point during our time together, I asked her, "What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?" She said, "Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to read the Bible was unrealistic. But as I kept doing it, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of Truth, I had so much more joy."

    I can hardly type these words without crying.

    As Ashley began to share with me what was happening, I also had a light switch go on. Her spiritual poverty wasn’t caused by a lack of access but rather a lack of understanding.

    In that moment, the burden on my mama heart turned to a vision for a hurting world. What if Proverbs 31 Ministries could help every mom recommend a tool to really facilitate their daughters getting into God’s Word for at least 5 minutes first thing every morning?

    What if we could bring the Word of God to college students, moms, daughters, business owners and grandmothers across the globe in a way that made the first minutes of every day life-changing? So, the minute they pick up their phones in the morning, instead of getting distracted by other things, they can get invigorated with Truth.

    We must exchange whispers with God before shouts with the world. Instead of immediately checking in with social media with the first moments of our day, we can truly make God first by giving Him our first thoughts.

    With God’s vision and your help, Proverbs 31 Ministries is striving to eradicate Biblical poverty. And we want to start by developing a free mobile app called the "First 5" to:

    • Bring life and Truth to the First 5 minutes of every day.
    • Provide a healthier alternative to hopping on social media in the first moments of our day.
    • Give us the opportunity to share hope with the people in our lives who struggle with putting God’s Word first.

    We need people whose hearts are burdened like ours to bring the Word of God to women across the globe. We need you. Join us today.

    Together, all hands in, we can take the burden and carry the vision to change lives with the Word of God.

    Dear Lord, I want to get into Your Word and let Your Word get into me. Help me to understand and apply what I’m reading as I study the Bible so I can help others do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 4:12, "For the word of God is alive and active." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: We really need your help to move this crucial initiative forward.

    You can help us by giving 5 to the "First 5." Give $5, $50, $500, $5,000. Your gift is needed! Make YOUR 5 really count! Join us today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Each time you sit down to read your Bible this week, ask God to help you understand and apply what you’re learning.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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