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Family Christian

  • You Are Worthy: Lesson from the Least Likely

    You Are Worthy: Lesson from the Least Likely by Julie Sunne

    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

    I boarded the bus with a badge around my neck, carrying a lunch … and a heavy spirit. I was accompanying my daughter Rachel and her Special Olympics team to their soccer event.

    As a volunteer coach, I had helped with these events in the past, and it was always a special time. But this day, I yearned for something I couldn’t quite define.

    For years, I had secretly thought that if I accomplished enough I’d be accepted and worthy. Each day I spent trying to please others by earning enough money, making a name for myself and providing for every need that crossed my path.

    I believed I should be the greatest mom, the perfect wife, the best friend, the hardest worker, the one who had all the answers and cared enough to respond to everyone’s requests. I bought into the lie that success equals validation.

    It was beginning to strangle me.

    Upon arrival at our venue, as always, smiling faces lit up the stadium. These were genuine I’m-having-the-time-of-my-life smiles, not fake I’ll-smile-because-I-should kind of smiles.

    Nearly every participant displays such a grin, welcoming attendees into the world of Special Olympics and real people.

    Laughter and squeals of delight intermixed with “Good job!” or “Nice try!” and “You can do it!” echoed around the dome.

    As I surveyed the athletes, I realized my longing was for what they had: the freedom to be who they were created to be.

    How many of us long for that very thing — to quit pretending and live the way we were created?

    The weight of trying to do it all eased just a bit.

    I watched as my daughter kicked the soccer ball. Even before it stopped, she raised her hands in victory, eyes sparkling and laughter ringing through the air! The ball fell short of the goal.

    Rachel celebrated anyway!

    The thought snuck in that my worth isn’t something to be found or earned, but it’s innate because of who God created me to be.

    Moving to the next event, Rachel was too busy waving to those around her to listen to the instructions. Still, the ball was there, so she kicked it. It rolled far short of the goal, but her arms still shot up in victory!

    The desire to simply be who God created me to be grew.

    My daughter moved from one ball to the next. She cheered every kick, even when the ball dribbled a mere foot. Her smile never wavered, inviting the audience to experience her joy.

    And I did! My soul began to sing!

    That day I noticed that same joy in the face of each Olympian. I saw their unconditional love, unfettered joy and uncommon grace. I saw the way they live with passion and authenticity, excited to live out who they are.

    As the event drew to a close, I glanced at the athletes one more time and marveled at their serenity and openness.

    There is no pretense at Special Olympics events or in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. There is no hiding behind masks. There is just love and realness. Who you see is who they are.

    Each Special Olympian is authentic, a genuine representation of themselves.

    I always enjoyed volunteering for Special Olympics. But this time I entered the stadium overwhelmed by a lifetime of busy, trying to make myself into someone of worth. I left realizing I was already that someone.

    I just needed to let myself be her.

    Each of us is created in the image of God — remarkably and wonderfully made. We don’t need to prove ourselves or earn our worth. And as today’s key verse reminds us, God’s works are wonderful.

    Just like Rachel and her Special Olympic friends, we already have worth in our Creator and Redeemer. That realization alone should give us peace as we live out who we are freely in Christ.

    Dear Lord, Thank You for fearfully and wonderfully creating each of us. Thank You for giving us worth in Your eyes. Help us live as the one You uniquely intended us to be. Help us abide instead of strive, living peacefully and joyfully as heirs to Your Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who are you trying to prove your worth to? Today, embrace the truth that in Christ you are already worthy.

    © 2016 by Julie Sunne. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding Peace in the What-If Moments

    Finding Peace in the What-If Moments by Cindi McMenamin

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4:6-7a (NLT)

    If ever I needed peace, it was that moment.

    My 18-month-old daughter, Dana, was on the other side of the closed hospital door, being prepped for a bone marrow test.

    Three days earlier she woke up from a nap with bruises all over her body. Her pediatrician discovered that little Dana’s blood platelet count was dangerously low. He had her admitted to a children’s hospital to see a blood specialist and take a bone marrow test to determine if she had cancer.

    My husband and two friends were planning to wait with me during Dana’s test. But the specialist arrived at the hospital a day early and decided to perform the test immediately. The nurse whisked my sleeping daughter out of my arms and took her into the surgical room for the procedure — the insertion of a needle into her spine to extract marrow from her bone.

    I sank down to the floor on the other side of the door and prayed. “God, this test did not take You by surprise. Neither did whatever is going on in my child’s body. Thank You that You are in that room with her, and You are right here with me, too. Please give me Your peace and the assurance that You are in control.”

    We all know what it’s like to feel helpless when someone we love is in need. We’ve all asked what-if questions, like …

    What if it’s cancer? What if we lose her? What if I can’t get through this?

    Worry seems like the most natural thing to do in these situations. But there’s a reason God’s Word tells us to pray instead: “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a).

    As I sat on the floor continuing to pray, I waited for the screaming and crying behind the other side of the door that never came. Dana slept through the entire procedure even though no anesthesia was used. She was still asleep when they handed her back to me 25 minutes later.

    The next morning, Dana was fitted for a little padded helmet to protect her head from bruising, and we were sent home to await the test results.

    A week later, word came that the bone marrow test results were normal. Dana had a condition where the child usually recovers anywhere from six months to five years. After two more weeks, the specialist informed us that Dana had experienced a complete recovery. He’d never seen a child recover so quickly and so thoroughly from this disease as she had.

    Today, Dana is a perfectly healthy 23-year-old college graduate. I don’t call her medical scare a nightmare. Instead, I refer to it as the defining moment in which God built my confidence in Him and taught me that it is far better to pray than to worry.

    I’m grateful for that experience so many years ago because it taught me that I am not, nor have I ever been, in control of my daughter's health, life or destiny. It also showed me where peace is ultimately found: Not in pleasant circumstances or the feeling that “all is well” in my child’s world, but in the palm of God’s hand as He allows whatever He will to come her way and mine.

    Finally, it gave me an experience to look back on and build my confidence upon whenever I begin to worry, doubt or fear for an event in my child’s life — or my own.

    Lord, thank You that nothing takes You by surprise and nothing touches my child’s life — or mine — that hasn’t first passed through Your loving hands. You are more than capable of caring for every what-if question that tempts me to worry. I trust You with what is closest to my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV)

    Matthew 6:27, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you tend to worry about the most when it comes to your children? Ask God to remind you that He loves your children even more than you do, and ask Him to help you trust Him more and more each day.

    © 2016 by Cindi McMenamin. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Does Prayer Really Change Anything?

    Does Prayer Really Change Anything? by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b (NLT)

    Our coffee mugs sit empty, but we still cup them in our hands as if the warm porcelain between our fingers might anchor our wobbling souls.

    The clock pushes hard toward the school day’s end, and we know we’ll soon be collecting kids in the carpool line. But for now, we linger in the coffee shop, two women sharing the mess of life over a table dotted with crumbs.

    My throat swells with a lump of tears, and I can’t think of anything to say. Words feel like a paltry bandage for the open wound my friend has revealed.

    Her marriage is flailing, and her hope is too.

    Drizzles of despair roll down her cheeks, and my stomach churns with empathy. I know of the soul aches that throb loud at night and the pangs of disappointment that hover somewhere just beneath the heart in the waking hours.

    I want to fix those lifeless eyes, but mere words can’t rebuild the shards of a shattered union. So with a whisper, I offer the one thing that has saved my marriage a dozen times from landing in the give-up-and-walk-away grave — “Could we pray?”

    My friend fiddles with the ring on her finger, then divulges her doubt: “Do you really think it will change anything?”

    The weight of her honesty steals my breath.

    And suddenly a poignant memory flashes into my mind and pushes me through the years …

    I’m 9 years old again, curled up in a ball of trembling misery, with no words to explain my pain. I just know I feel broken inside because of that girl who teases me on the playground.

    “I don’t want to go to school anymore,” I tell my mom who’s perched on the edge of my bed.

    She nods in understanding but doesn’t endorse my plan to flee. Instead, she murmurs, “Let’s pray for her.”

    I lift my head off the soggy pillow. “Do you really think prayer will change anything?”

    I wait for my mom to assure me that prayer will, indeed, transform my foe into a friend. But she just wraps her arms around me and sits long in the silence. Finally, she exhales a jagged sigh and says, “Honey, I can’t guarantee that prayer will change her heart, but I know it will change ours …”

    The whirr of the espresso machine echoes off the walls, and my friend shuffles in her seat, her question dangling between us.

    I glance at her wedding ring and answer with a sliver of truth I learned as a 9-year-old. “Prayer always changes something …”

    Prayer may not always work in the way we expect, but prayer does work.

    Our key verse promises, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16b).

    Prayer’s no magic wand, but when we humbly place the cries of our hearts into the hands of our mighty God, something wonderful happens.

    Prayer may not instantly fix our quandaries, but it will invariably affix us to our King.

    My friend reaches across the table and twines her slender fingers through mine. “Will you say the words?” she asks. “I don’t have any left.”

    Closing my eyes to hide the burning tears, I begin: “Dear Jesus, we don’t know what to do with this mess, but we know You are in it with us …”

    I’m not sure what to say, but I trust God hears the cry of my heart. And as we bow our heads over those empty coffee cups, we become more aware of the One who can fill the depths of our need with the riches of His grace.

    And slowly, silently, hope swells.

    Dear Lord, give me faith to pray even when I don’t have words to say. Help me see past the pain and look to You for ultimate hope and guidance.

    Lord, we know You are in the business of bringing dead things back to life, even marriages that barely have a pulse. Help me trust that You alone can change the God-sized problems in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:26b, “… We do not know how to pray or what we should pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays to God for us with sounds that cannot be put into words.” (NLV)

    Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them.” (NLV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What situation in your life feels hopeless? Bring it to God in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf.

    Meditate on the promise in Matthew 18:20 this week and arrange a time to meet and pray with a friend or two.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them?

    If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them? by Kenisha Bethea

    “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

    Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to dislike people different from me.

    I’d just moved to a new city where I experienced blatant prejudice on a scale I’d not experienced before. I grew tired of visiting places where not even the greeters at the front door acknowledged me. Once inside, people either stared right through me or stared me down.

    Then one evening as I strolled through my neighborhood, a pick-up truck pulled up next to me, someone inside shot a gun off in the air and several people hurled profanities at me before screeching off into the darkness of the sunset.

    As I walked home, wiping tears and trying to process what happened and why, I made a simple resolve in my heart: I’m done trying to love these people any more. With all the reasoning of a 5-year-old in a schoolyard scuffle I determined, If they don’t like me, I won’t like them either.

    Once home, I called my mom, told her what happened and shared my decision to stop caring about these people who had hurt me. Honestly it was more than just not caring. I could feel hate growing deep in my heart.

    “How are you going to do that?” she asked, meaning how would I justify my decision to hate as a follower of Christ.

    “I’m glad you’re OK,” she said. I could tell she was holding back tears for my sake. “But I can’t support your decision. You can either continue to be a Christian, to love God and all those He created, or you can decide to go against God and despise His creation … but not both. So which will you choose?”

    I didn’t say anything about going against God, I thought, defending my position.

    But just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind so did the words of a verse I learned as a child in Sunday School: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

    Up until that point, I’d mostly heard this verse used to describe the sanctity of human life. But now, I was willing to trade this Truth that deemed all human life worthy for the lie that their behavior makes them worthless.

    The harsh words of my heart were in stark contrast to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

    Jesus continued, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that” (Matthew 5:47, NLT). In what seemed like less than a nanosecond, the same day I decided to hate others turned into the day I decided never to give my heart over to hatred.

    That’s a hard word for me to even type. But, in order to make a conscious decision about why I would always work to steer my heart away from that word I had to look at that word for all that it was.

    Hate carries a false arrogance that shouts:

    “I’m better than you.”

    “I deserve better than you.”

    “I wish you would go away.”

    At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, the core of the Christian heart is love. It walks with a humbleness toward others — a gentle knowing that we’re all the same at the foot of the cross of Jesus. This kind of love says:

    “I’m no better than you.”

    “All I have I owe to Jesus.”

    “I’m glad you’re here.”

    This kind of heart honors God as Creator of all.

    Father God, forgive me for losing sight of the Truth that You created all people in Your image. By Your grace, help me to see hatred — whether initiated or returned — as a tool Satan uses to keep me from experiencing and sharing the richness of Your love. Dear Lord, even when I don’t like the hurtful things others do, help me love the way You love them, extending the same kindness, mercy and grace I have received from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 2:11, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (ESV)

    John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

    Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does reflecting on the Truth that all people are created by God help you in loving others well? Share your encouragement in the comments section.

    © 2016 by Kenisha Bethea. All rights reserved.

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

  • Make Room for What You Love

    Make Room for What You Love by Melissa Michaels

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    As a young newlywed, I’ll admit one of my worries was kind of ridiculous. Don't laugh, but my fear was that paramedics or firemen or neighbors would show up at my door without fair warning.

    Not that I feared the help or the friendly visit. Rather, I was worried I wouldn’t be prepared. I wanted to have at least a moment's notice to clear the clutter and put my lipstick on before I had to swing open the door.

    I was often frustrated because I couldn't make our home the sanctuary I wanted it to be. Since home is where we do the holy work of loving God and caring for our people, it should feel like a place of refuge and safety, a place of peace.

    But so often I just felt overwhelmed. The daily dishes, clutter, responsibilities, busy schedule and the desire for order — mixed with the resulting chaos of having no clue how to manage it all — weighed on me.

    I couldn't seem to get myself organized, let alone organize my home or manage anyone else. Sometimes it felt like my shining accomplishment when my kids were little was getting everyone out the door with pants on! It was all too much: the piles, the clutter, the dishes, everything.

    Considering my fear of being unprepared to answer the door, imagine the night I asked my husband to call 911 because I thought I was dying. I felt like the room was closing in on me and I couldn't breathe. I shut my eyes tightly and tried to calm myself down while we waited for help. Who had time to prepare or put on lipstick? Not me!

    I'm relieved to say I lived (and, ironically, the paramedics didn’t care about the clutter or the lack of lipstick). Panic attacks are no joke, but the good news is I learned something from that stressful time. God reassured me He didn't need me to manage everything, just what He’s called me to do.

    Part of that faithfulness was me learning to let go of things that added unnecessary stress or chaos in my life and home. I got serious about clearing out the clutter so I could create a more peaceful sanctuary. Out went the stuff that overwhelmed me: the busyness, the hurry, distractions or idleness, disorganization, perfectionism or any other roadblocks to peace.

    Thank goodness perfection isn’t the goal! Different seasons of life bring change to our home, and change brings the need for continual refinement. Loving people well is messy business! God gives us grace when we open the door to welcome people, whether we feel fully prepared or not. As today’s key verse reminds us, God offers mercy in our weakness and strength for our weariness.

    Disorder in our home life brings so much stress because we try to hang on to more than we can handle.

    I learned that I find more peace when I let go of the clutter and focus on the joy of being a faithful steward of the life and home God gave me.

    Dear Lord, help me to place my trust in You even at times when everything around me feels out of control. Help me to let go of what clutters my perspective so I can find joy in creating a sanctuary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What areas of your home or life feel overwhelmed by clutter and stress? Ask God to help you simplify. Let go of what you don’t need, so you can create a more peaceful sanctuary for your family and the people He brings across your doorstep.

    © 2016 by Melissa Michaels. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Wearing Too Many Hats

    Wearing Too Many Hats by Karen Ehman

    “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)

    As a woman, do you wear a lot of hats? During the course of a busy week, you may wear any of these hats: counselor, co-worker, daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, aunt, grandma, neighbor, chef, nurse, counselor, referee, committee chair, and oh, yeah … a woman of God.

    Sometimes these hats are stacked so high that trying to balance them all on our competent-but-anxious-and-exhausted heads sends us toppling over completely!

    It’s easy to misplace our identity in such roles. And sadly for many Christ-followers, often the last hat we place on top is the crown we wear as a daughter of the King of Kings.

    I love the simple, straight-shooting words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33. He cuts to the chase with clear, understandable directives. Without being complex, He tells us gently, but firmly, what must be done to meet the many demands in our lives and yet still help our hearts not to worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    However simple these verses may be, sometimes fleshing them out in our lives isn’t always easy. Especially in today’s society, a climate of endless activities often breeds busyness. And busyness usually births an anxious soul, as we wrongly surmise that busyness equals importance.

    As a result of buying into this keep-moving mindset, we have practically no white space left on our calendars. Our kids are carted from one activity to the next and many families hardly eat dinner together anymore. Something in us longs to “do more” by painting our lives in a bright, bold shade of busy.

    Although we live in a much different time than the original recipients of Jesus’ words, He wants us to learn from them nonetheless. They were concerned about where they’d find food and clothing. While we share those concerns, we also add things like how we will clean the house, bathe the kids, finish the laundry, prioritize the marriage, visit the relative, complete the work project … and on it goes.

    While our unfinished tasks may tempt us to fret, Christ stands whispering … Stop. Halt the hustle. Resist the rush. Press pause to find a little calm in the chaos. Seek first Mykingdom and My righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well.

    Perhaps His words will prompt us to do a little hat-reduction, ridding our schedules of some of the activities that clamor for our attention, unsettle our souls and draw us away from time spent with Him.

    By pressing pause to connect with Jesus we can learn to re-prioritize our tasks — perhaps bowing out of some optional activities as we do — and calm our anxious hearts. Our lives can then properly reflect this truth: Busyness doesn’t equal importance and our most important endeavor each day is to simply slow down and connect with our Creator.

    Whatever set of hats God directs you to keep wearing, remember to don them in proper order. They will only stay standing when you place the crown you wear as a daughter of the King of Kings on first!

    Dear Lord, I’m sorry for the times that my hats are completely out of order, causing my heart to become anxious. May I seek You and the righteousness You offer me first every day, before I attempt to carry out any of my God-ordained responsibilities. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (NIV)

    Psalm 31:14-15a, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands …” (NIV)

    Galatians 3:26, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When it comes to the many hats you wear as a woman, which ones make you the most anxious? How could taking time to connect with God before meeting the challenges of the day help calm your fretful heart? Have a friend hold you accountable to spending time in God’s Word each day.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Life is More

    Life is More by Suzie Eller

    “Then someone called from the crowd, ‘Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?’ Then he said, ‘Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.’” Luke 12:13-15 (NLT)

    Isn’t it fascinating we don’t really know what the disciples looked like?

    We don’t know what size shoe Jesus wore, or whether Peter was stocky or thin. We don’t know if Simon the Zealot had a man-bun, or if Bartholomew was fashionably dressed. There are rare hints in Scripture. For example, we know James the son of Alpheus (James the lesser) was short, but only because it differentiates him from the other disciple named James.

    This is what we do know, however. Simon the Zealot was loyal. Bartholomew was recognized for his good character. John was beloved by Jesus. Judas Iscariot fell prey to greed. Andrew was a dependable, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. While there is little in the Bible about what these followers wore or looked like, their character is clear.

    What’s inside is important to God, and we see that affirmed in the story where today’s key verse is found. Jesus and the disciples are traveling, when a guy stops Jesus and asks Him to step in and demand that his brother share a portion of an inheritance. Jesus hears something in the man’s request that troubles Him. In direct response to the man’s question, He starts a conversation about craving what you don’t have.

    Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who has a fertile farm. His barns are full. Yet instead of being content, he tears down the old barns and builds bigger, better barns to store more grain to acquire even more wealth.

    Jesus warns His listeners that these things aren’t what fulfill us, but rather we find our “riches” in our relationship with God (verse 20). It’s a lesson Jesus taught often. He helped lead His disciples away from worrying over things that didn’t have lasting significance, to center on things that did.

    So often we are measured in this culture by things that have little eternal value, like how in shape (or out-of-shape) we are, the size of our home, the prestige of our job, our cute shoes or wardrobe.

    Can I be honest? Sometimes I measure myself by those same standards, forgetting there’s much more to life than that.

    But I know that as a woman who’s loved by Jesus, I am faith-filled and my faith shines a light in darkness.

    I am strong because of Him, and that sings of bravery in harder times.

    I can be generous in His name, and that makes a difference in the world.

    I am loved well by our Heavenly Father, which allows me to love others.

    Who we are on the inside is what lasts for eternity.

    There’s nothing wrong with being physically fit, owning a pair of cute shoes or even building a bigger barn. It’s just that these are temporary, external characteristics that God never intended to be our main pursuit. These things were never meant to define us or become our greatest concern or worry.

    Instead, what’s on our insides is the story that will have eternal impact. That’s what will be written in the hearts of those who know us. It’s what will be remembered.

    Jesus led the disciples to a life of “more.”

    He leads you and me down the same path — to a life well-lived from the inside out.

    Dear Jesus, I know that beauty begins with my heart, but sometimes that’s not where I put my energy or thoughts. Give me wisdom to end the pursuit of things that have little eternal value. Help me run after what changes me from the inside out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (NIV)

    1 Samuel 16:7b, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NLT)

    1 Peter 3:3-4, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be fit or owning a home where people come in and feel welcome. The trap is comparing ourselves with others or what they have, then allowing discontent or greed to define who we are.

    Write down one characteristic you possess that writes an eternal story in the heart of others.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Looking for the Good in Your Man

    Looking for the Good in Your Man by Kathi Lipp

    “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)

    When Roger and I were first married, he would leave for work every day and yell upstairs, "Shut the door!"

    At first, I was so confused. Shut the door? Why? He was the one at the door. Why did he want me to shut it?

    This went on for weeks (OK, maybe it only felt like weeks). As a new bride, I didn't want to rock the boat, but boy, did it bug me. I felt like every single morning he said, "Be sure the door is locked because you are not an adult and I have to remind you every. Single. Day."

    Plus he was leaving the house without even saying "I love you" …? That made me even more upset.

    Once again, he left the house one morning, yelled upstairs, "Shut the door!" and then walked to his car.

    Finally — after being angry for way too long — I confronted him.

    "I hate it when you yell ‘Shut the door!’ every morning. It makes me feel judged and just a little stupid."

    Roger looked dumbfounded. "I've never said 'Shut the door' to you in my life." And after he thought about it, a look of understanding came over his face.

    "Wait, do you mean when I yell 'Je t'adore'? That means ‘I adore you’ in French.”

    Um … Whoops!

    All this time, I heard criticism when all my husband intended was love.

    How often do we do this in our relationships? Our spouse rearranges the dishwasher to fit more dishes while helping in the kitchen, and we take it as criticism of our abilities.

    Or he picks up a skinny vanilla latte for us, and our first thought is: He must think I look fat. When in reality, he just knows our standard order.

    Why is it so easy to hear criticism when love is intended?

    Sometimes we gird ourselves for the hurt we think is coming, so when roses are headed our direction, we only see thorns. It’s as if we can’t see the truth of what’s being said.

    1 Corinthians 13:6-7 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    We want to see the truth about our relationship with our husband, and at the same time work on being someone who protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres on behalf of our relationship. We want to live out love every single day.

    So how do we become purposeful in looking for the love our husbands intend?

    1. Receive well. I love what Luci Swindoll said, "Take everything as a compliment. You'll live longer."

    2. Look for the good. Several years ago, when I was looking for a new van, I had a friend recommend a certain brand, saying “It’s the most popular minivan on the road.” Which I highly doubted, since I didn’t remember ever seeing one.

    But when I got to the dealership, I was talked into that make and model. On the way home, I didn’t see one. Instead, I saw six. That’s because, for the first time, I was looking for it.

    It’s the same with looking for the good in our husbands. When we look for love, we start to see acts of love we’ve missed in the past. We start to hear the love we’ve been missing in casual conversation.

    3. Create a husband-friendly environment. Maybe things have been tense. Maybe the language of love hasn’t been spoken in a while. Make it safe for your husband to show love. For instance, compliment him on his BBQ skills. Thank him for entertaining the kids while you finish up work. (Sure, that’s his job. He’s their dad. But say Thank You anyway.) Be a noticer of good things and call them out in your husband. A husband who feels respected and appreciated, just for being who he is, walks differently in the world.

    So now, when my husband and I want to express our deep love to each other, we write "Shut the door!" on a Post-it. We both know all the history (and love) that is behind those three little words.

    Don’t just wish for love. Keep looking for it.

    Father, I pray that I will hear everything my husband says through Your truth and Your love. Let me receive his words and actions in the way they are intended, each and every time. Build up a reservoir of grace within me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (NLT)

    2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do today to create a “husband-friendly” environment? What’s one great thing about your husband you can remind him of today?

    © 2016 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Choosing Joy On The Way To Grouchy-ville

    Choosing Joy On The Way To Grouchy-ville

    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NIV)

    One recent morning, I woke to a strange reality. Instead of my usual sunny “Good morning, world!” reaction to a new day, for no good reason I felt dread and anxiety the moment I opened my eyes.

    Through the groggy lens of grumpiness I rolled over, grabbed my phone and read a middle-of-the-night text from a friend. The worrisome text only deepened my funk, so I shuffled downstairs before the sun had barely risen to try and find some hope in my coffee cup.

    By the time my sweet hubby came down for breakfast, I was on the verge of tears. He wrapped his arms around me in concern and asked, “What in the world is wrong?”

    “Nothing,” I sniffled. “Except a hundred little things.”

    Guilt immediately tiptoed into my heart, because I have some friends dealing with truly catastrophic circumstances — an unfaithful husband, a cancer diagnosis, a missing loved one — and here I was crumbling to pieces simply because of a few minor problems. What in the world was wrong with me? Even though there was no big crisis, the weight of a list of little things had sunk my soul. Ever been there?

    Recognizing my sorry state, I quieted my anxiety long enough to remember a favorite family saying: Choose joy!

    In this circumstance, and maybe in yours today, we have a choice to make in the moment. We can either continue to let our day roll downhill, or we can intentionally take steps to turn our mood around. I don’t always make the right decision, but that morning I chose not to park in the pit of grumpiness. Instead I took some wavering strides toward joy.

    I repeated to myself what Paul emphatically commanded God’s people to do in our key verse, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

    I focused my mind on the Scripture I had read earlier. Even though it was noon before I realized that I needed to steer my wayward, negative thoughts, God gently whispered to my heart that it wasn’t too late to start fresh.

    I took a short break to get out into the sunshine for a walk. Despite the fact that I felt like I didn’t have time for it, I knew I needed the exercise and vitamin D more than the check on my to-do list.

    I reached out to a friend to tell her how much I love her. Initially, I began a text to ask for prayer, but on this day I decided it would be more beneficial to concentrate on someone besides myself.

    In a few easy steps, I refocused my day and felt the gloom start to lift. I can’t tell you that I switched completely into cheery mode, but I didn’t stay stuck in Grouchyville, either!

    This intentional act of choosing joy isn’t just Pollyanna philosophy. It’s actually Scriptural. Colossians 3:1-2 says, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (NIV, emphasis added).

    Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things”(NIV).

    God is so good! He not only offers us His complete and abundant joy, God gives us directions on how to choose it. Instead of allowing our emotions to determine our day, we determine our thoughts to shape our day.

    He gives us the option, so let’s do it. Choose joy!

    Lord, we thank You that You are the giver of joy. If we choose joy and ask You for it, You never fail to fill us. Thank You for such a wonderful gift! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:11, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (NIV)

    Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Create a handwritten list of Scriptures that restore your joy when you read them, and post them in your home.

    What other actions or steps can you take when you need joy-renewal?

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Don’t Overlook This Important Relationship

    Don’t Overlook This Important Relationship by Katy McCown

    “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NLT)

    I answered the door with a red, swollen face. My tears glistened, and I dared not blink for fear the waterfall that would flood my soul.

    On the other side of the door stood my friend, Stephanie, with two smoothies. One for me; one for her. Just a few minutes earlier, I had called her with the news, “It’s a tumor.”

    With a growing bump on my baby boy’s head, we arranged to see a pediatric specialist. For most of his life we’d observed this spot on Elijah’s skull, but I still didn’t expect to hear those three words.

    We scheduled surgery two weeks out and made arrangements for pre-op visits. But shockwaves rumbled through my soul. What about right now? I silently screamed. What do I do while I wait?

    With my husband at work and family hundreds of miles away, my fingers quivered as I dialed Stephanie’s number. “Do you need me to come over?” she asked. At first I refused, but as the reality of going home to an empty house consumed me, I called her back.

    She took my smoothie order and minutes after I walked through my door, she knocked.

    The rest of the afternoon she sat with me. She didn’t do or say anything special. But she just sat with me.

    She let me unravel and face my deepest fears. She listened to the cry of my heart. She supported me and believed in me, even when I wasn’t sure I couldn’t handle this.

    A few years back as I read through the Bible, I moaned at the sight of my assigned text for the day. It was a list full of names I couldn’t pronounce and how many sons they had … and all their names.

    It’s places like this in Scripture that I sometimes wonder, Why is this in here? I know all Scripture is inspired by God, but what am I suppose to do with this? Then, there it was.

    In the midst of the list of King David’s counselors, advisers, army commanders and officials, God breathed this, “Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend” (1 Chronicles 27:33b, NLT).

    In a “Who’s Who” text of all King David’s men, God named his friend.

    This glimpse into the life of a man after God’s own heart challenges me to rethink my friendships. Sadly, in the busyness of life sometimes my friends fall to the bottom of the list. And we all know we never make it to the bottom of the list.

    Too often my friendships go unnourished. It can even feel selfish to seek out time with them. An inner whisper suggests I’m skipping out on responsibilities or neglecting duties far more important than “girl time.”

    But as our key verse reminds us, God wants us to “encourage each other and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11a). And to do that we have to prioritize each other from time to time.

    Friendships might seem trivial or even optional, but in God’s design it seems they are as important as counselors and commanders.

    A few weeks later, the surgeon successfully removed the tumor from our son’s skull and deemed it benign. In the following weeks, while our baby wore a bandage that wrapped completely around his head, a carousel of friends tended to us. They brought food, called to check on us and loved on our little patient.

    They encouraged us and built us up.

    What an important reminder to invest in our friends. Prioritize them and pray for them. And let’s start today!

    Dear God, it’s awesome to consider Your purposes for friendships. Thank You for making me Your friend, through Jesus. Thank You for the gift of earthly friendships that sharpen me and challenge me to be more like You. Move my heart to love my friends the same way You love me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

    Job 2:11a, 13, “When three of Job’s friends heard of the tragedy he had suffered, they got together and traveled from their homes to comfort and console him … Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and nights. No one said a word to Job, for they saw that his suffering was too great for words.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When is the last time you intentionally sought out a friend to build her up? List one or two things that keep you from doing this more often.

    Who could use your encouragement today? Make a plan to contact that person by the end of the day.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

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