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Tag Archives: Ephesians

  • Words Matter: Especially the Ones We Say to Ourselves

    Posted on December 30, 2014 by Lisa-Jo Baker

    LISA-JO BAKER

    LISA-JO

    "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

    There are so many things I’m not good at.

    And apparently I have an inner monologue determined to record each and every one of them from the past year.

     

    There’s a voice in my head that tells me I am not enough. Some days it’s quiet and other days it’s super shouty.

    It’s the strangest thing to discover the back of your brain muttering mean things to yourself.

    The voice is so ordinary, so routine by now that I rarely stop to investigate. I just let the words run through my veins until they seem like a normal part of my DNA.

    This house will never be clean.

    You’ll never get caught up on the laundry.

    Your words won’t match up to hers.

    You’ve never lived up to your New Year’s resolutions.

    You’re never going to get caught up.

    You’re going to start another year already behind the curve.

    You’re just not good at this.

    I heard that voice in the car today. I was sitting in a coffee shop parking lot in our minivan. Alone. Maybe that’s why I listened without just letting it wash over me. Maybe that’s why I tuned in to the nefarious whispering I’d been ignoring until then.

    I listened and almost couldn’t believe what I heard. I was surprised, actually. Kind of amazed that I was capable of such petty meanness to myself. Because the thing about that voice is it’s a nitpicker. It delights in destroying the DNA of a day, a dream, a moment … bit-by-petulant-bit.

    But when I tuned in, the voice sounded more and more like static. Fuzzy, harsh, unforgiving and small. My friend Holley Gerth calls it "devil static" – the noise that tries to drown out the truth God is speaking into our lives and through our lives. The noise that crackles and cackles and tries to poke fun at who we are growing up to become. The noise that tries to derail us out of sheer embarrassment.

    I told that voice off today.

    Yes, I talked back to myself in an empty car.

    I spoke out loud the words that have been spoken over me by The Word — by the Voice who speaks the only words that matter.

    As our key verse reminds us, "… we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand," (Ephesians 2:10a, ESV).

    I called out that small voice in my head with all its mean and miserable words. And in doing so I could almost hear it deflate. I addressed that no-voice with my whole attention, reciting my inheritance in Christ, my royal claim as a child of God, my significance because of Him. Because He is enough I am chosen, cherished and beloved. And I could hear the static fizzling.

    I am not nothing.

    You are not nothing.

    We are daughters of the King. We are bought at a price. We are loved.

    And there is a much greater Voice, a voice with all the rich, resonant tones of Truth so filled with love for us that unlike that devil static, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

    With singing. Not hissing or criticizing or comparing or mocking, but with singing.

    Hold onto that as we head into this New Year. That the words we say to ourselves matter because the God who is The Word says we matter. And it’s time we start believing Him.

    Dear Jesus, help me see myself through Your eyes and Your words this year. Teach me kindness to myself and compassion to others. Make me a word sister to my friends and a word model to my children. Give me the gift of Your Word in my life and make them a lamp to light my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (NIV)

    Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What lie have you been saying and believing about yourself this past year?

    What Truth from God’s Word can you use to replace the lies in the coming New Year?

    © 2014 by Lisa-Jo Baker. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don't Feel Like Being Nice

    Posted on December 12, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    GLYNNIS

    "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

    Grocery shopping alone! Oh how I'd taken that luxury for granted before having children.

    As I headed to the store after dropping my children off at a church event, I was nearly giddy with the joy of it all. A whole hour to myself. I had it all planned. I'd start with a soda, and leisurely meander through the aisles, actually looking at my coupons and thinking through meal planning.

    No "Mommy can I get this?" or "I have to go the bathroom!" comments would interrupt my time. I was going to be the most effective shopper in that store!

    It felt like I had all the time in the world, and I was really enjoying myself. Until I looked at my watch. Then panic set in.

    How had that much time gone by? I'd been there over an hour. I wasn't finished and still had to check out.

    I grabbed the last items on my list, rushed to the checkout lines and scurried between them trying to find the shortest line. I mentally assessed the checkout clerks, trying to determine their speed. Glancing at my watch for the fifth time, I picked one hoping Murphy's Law would not apply to me.

    The clerk proved quick, and soon it was my turn. Although I could feel myself getting impatient (as I looked at my watch yet another time) I tried to keep it under control. But the time was really late. And not only did I still have to pick up my children, but I told my sister I'd meet her for lunch after that. Everyone was waiting on me.

    And then the clerk hit a snag. One of my items wasn't ringing up correctly. He called for backup. But the first manager couldn't help. "I'm sorry Ma'am," the young man cringed. "I'm going to have to call the meat department."

    Seriously?! I thought to myself. Just give it to me for free so I can go!

    I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Everything in me felt like showing this young man how impatient I was. I could roll my eyes, sigh with exaggeration and set my wallet down hard on the counter.

    I sensed the Lord was telling me to be nice, but I didn't feel like being nice!

    Thankfully, then the Holy Spirit stepped in and clearly spoke to my heart: Don't sacrifice kindness on the altar of your impatience.

    Immediately I was repentant. I knew I was the one to blame for neglecting the time. Not this clerk. And rather than impatience, God prompted me to show kindness to this flustered young man who could not get my ham steak to ring up.

    "It's okay," I said with a sincere smile. "I'll come back another time."

    Whew, talk about a close call. I could have easily given in to impatience like I'd done plenty of times before. And then it probably would have snowballed. Especially when I got back to the church and my children sauntered up to the car. Yet rather than snapping at them to hurry, they got an apology and a much nicer mother.

    I so desperately want to be a woman who shows grace and kindness to others. One who puts the feelings of others above her plans. However, too often I allow impatience to direct my actions, sacrificing kindness when others most need it.

    God has such a beautiful, loving plan for us as we live together on this earth. In one sentence we have all the rules needed to get along: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32).

    At this busy Christmas season, it might be easy to feel impatient as stores are crowded and lines are long. If you're like me, you've got too much to do in too little time. Yet in the midst of the hustle and bustle, when impatience starts to rise, perhaps we might make a choice.

    Could we choose to be kind even when we don't feel like it?

    Perhaps we could even start a kindness revolution ... at home first, then work, church and the store. Rather than impatience, let's create a culture of kindness wherever we go, showing God's love to those who need it most.

    Lord, thank You for showing kindness to me when I least deserved it. Help me to be Your loving hands, feet and words to a world that desperately needs You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what situations do you find yourself the most impatient?

    What things can you do differently to create a culture of kindness in your life?

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Can't See What God Is Building

    Posted on November 14, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    TRACIE

    "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

    It started out as a simple school assignment, but turned into a lesson from God.

    My son's seventh-grade Social Studies teacher told students to build a pyramid. There were no specifics about how tall, big or what materials to use. The students were only told to use their imaginations.

    When my son told me about the project, I immediately put on my crafty-mom hat. How much foam core board and hot glue would we need to form a pyramid? I was ready to get started, but when Michael told his daddy about the project, it took on a whole new twist. Before I knew it, we were all at the local hardware store shopping for lumber and nails.

    Lumber and nails? "Ummmm, honey, it's a seventh grade project," I said to my husband as if he had forgotten. He simply smiled and replied, "I know."

    I had no idea how a few two-by-four's could be transformed into a pyramid, and it's not at all the way I would've done it. But my husband had a clear mental picture of the outcome. We simply had to trust him.

    He and my son spent hours in the cold garage, measuring, sawing and nailing boards. Step by step, a pyramid evolved. We anxiously waited for my husband's vision to become visible. And when it did, it truly was a masterpiece.

    As I marveled at this work of art crafted by the hands of my husband and son, God spoke gently to my spirit, reminding me of how I had once questioned His building abilities. All those years when I thought He didn't love me or see my pain. All those years spent questioning His ways and wondering why He had allowed difficult circumstances in my life. All those times I felt mad at God, and wondered if He was mad at me for my sin and my mistakes.

    But now I see the bigger picture. I can look back and see how God was crafting my future based on the experiences — good and bad — of my past.

    God chose this crafty moment to whisper to my spirit, "Tracie, I have been building something good, beyond your human understanding. I have a purpose for what you have been through, and in time you will see My masterpiece."

    Today's key verse reminds us that we are God's workmanship, His masterpiece. The word "workmanship" was used in ancient Greek literature to refer to what a person made or did, and our God is "making" each of us. In Ephesians 2:10, we are urged to remember that just as a painter, sculptor, writer or builder creates their masterpieces, our lives are being crafted by our Creator, making use of all the good things, and difficult things.

    When we look back over our lives and see hardships, God sees learning experiences. When we remember difficulties, God sees how He helped us overcome them. When we see pain, God sees the foundation for a unique way to minister to others.

    Step by step, day by day, God is working and building, creating a beautiful exhibition of His Presence in our lives. He wants us to see what He sees, and view our lives as a work-in-progress, trusting that He is up to something good. Although we may not like the building process, it may become the one thing God uses to bless us most.

    In the same way my husband had a clear mental picture of what he planned to build, God has a clear holy vision about what He is building in our lives, and in His timing, we will get a glimpse of His masterpiece too.

    Dear Lord, I believe that You are doing a good work in me and through me. Help me to embrace the promise that You are building a good thing in my life, a masterpiece of Your own making, that one day I will be able to see. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 3:4, "For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God." (NLT)

    Psalm 139:13, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How has God been working in your life?

    How have your experiences equipped you to minister to others in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Can't See How

    Posted on November 13, 2014 by Renee Swope

    RENEE

    "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Roman 8:28 (NIV)

    All I could see were the hard parts. Everything we would have to give up: sleep, money, comfort, familiarity, others' approval. All the hard things we would have to navigate: huge expenses and significant changes.

    What if our sons resented us for re-arranging their lives forever? What if our parents and extended family didn't approve? What if we exhausted our time, emotions and money only to end up with broken hearts and an empty bank account?

    How could God work all that together for good? I couldn't see how. I could only see "hard."

    Yet it was undeniable. Confirmations chased us down. My husband and I knew God was calling our family to adopt a severely malnourished baby girl from Ethiopia.

    After a year of paperwork, waiting, praying and wondering how, our family traveled to Ethiopia to get our little girl in October 2009.

    Was it hard? Yes. Even more than I imagined.

    But as I trace God's hand over the past five years since we brought Aster home, I see Him working so many things together for good. I see a handwritten love letter, written to our little girl from her Heavenly Father on every page of our adoption story.

    I see God working, even the hard things, together for good.

    Despite our inadequacy, sadness and fear of the unknown when Aster was diagnosed with a speech disorder, global developmental delays, low muscle tone and sensory processing disorder, I now see God working it all for good.

    I see God working, even the overwhelming things, together for good.

    I see how a year of sleepless nights brought out servants hearts in our teenage sons when they saw their dad struggling with depression caused by sleep-deprivation. So they decided to take turns sleeping on a mattress in their sister's room to relieve her anxiety and give us sleep.

    I see God working, even the embarrassing things, together for good.

    Like the day I had a meltdown in my car because I was overwhelmed by the task of carpooling three kids and coordinating Aster's therapy appointments. The day a stranger tapped on my window to see if I was okay. That same afternoon I ran out of gas on my way to get my youngest son, and my oldest son, with a new cast on his broken foot, had to push our car off the road. I see awesome stories for them to tell their children one day.

    And on those days when my reality doesn't look or feel like "good" to me, I ask God to help me see how He's keeping the promise found in today's key verse: "that in all things [He} works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Roman 8:28).

    What I've discovered is this: God is always working things together for good, but not just for our good. Sometimes we are part of His working things together for someone else's good.

    You see, I believe Jesus heard a mother in Africa praying for her baby. A mother who was living in the middle of "hard" like I'd never imagined. A mother who couldn't see how she could give her little girl the nurture and nutrition she needed.

    And when God heard that mama's prayers, He tapped on the hearts of a family in North Carolina who loved Him and were called according to His purpose.

    I believe God saw an orphanage in Ethiopia searching for a forever family to provide unconditional love and medical care for an 8-pound, 6-month old baby with pneumonia.

    So Jesus went back to that family in North Carolina who prayed that He would reveal Himself to them and through them, knowing this little girl would be an answer to that prayer.

    When all I could see was hard, all God could see was how.

    Is there a relationship or situation in your life where all you see is hard? Have you asked God how He can work this together for good?

    I don't know about you, but I need a tangible reminder that He can. A visual to help me see how He does, like the beautiful bead necklace I'm wearing today made from repurposed bullets found in the rubble of Ethiopian soil.

    Each time I look in the mirror I remember how God answered a desperate mother's prayers for her baby's needs and filled my family's longing to experience more of Him. Only He could know how much we needed the gift of a little girl to light up our world, and to remind us that He indeed works all things together for good!

    Lord, some days all I can see is the hard stuff. Help me see how I can be part of YOUR working all things together for the good of someone else today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 1:11, "Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there a situation or relationship where God may want you to be part of His "working all things together for good" for someone else?

    Make a few "deposits" of good in a hard relationship or circumstance this week as you ask God to reveal His heart to you and through you.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Shut the Door on Anger

    Posted on September 15, 2014 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon

    "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

    I was alone downstairs in my home — at least I thought I was, until noises from the cellar startled me. From the corner of my eye, I saw something move. Taking a big gulp, I looked up to see eyes staring at me from the cellar door. Fear gripped me, and I screamed for my husband.

    Peering out from behind Dale, I could see a long snake hanging firmly from the top of the door. Dale grabbed it and pulled it off. I watched from on top of the table as he juggled the snake's weight toward the front door and flung it outside.

    With a sigh of relief, I gathered myself and sat back down to work. Ellie, my youngest daughter, came into the kitchen a few minutes later and pointed at the same door. "Mom, there's another one." Swallowing hard, I turned to see she was right.

    We've lived in our home for 20 years and never had a snake indoors before then. It turned out Dale accidentally left the crawl space door under the house open in the fall. The snakes saw it as a welcome sign and took up residence. Once winter was over, they decided to go exploring. Thankfully, we haven't seen another snake in the house since.

    That night, as I thought about that open crawl space door, Ephesians 4:26-27 came to mind: "'In your anger do not sin': Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold."

    The open door in my house was much like the foothold referred to in that passage. A foothold in our lives is an open door of opportunity Satan uses to gain access.

    Scripture cautions us to guard the door of our hearts because Satan is always looking for a way in (1 Peter 5:8).

    Many times we don't realize he's gotten a foothold until anger and anxiety stare us in the eyes and say: Here I am, now what are you gonna do about it? We can choose to ignore it, be afraid of it or engage in a battle that will define our lives.

    A good starting point is to take a look at our thoughts and emotions. Is there someone we harbor resentment toward? A situation we replay over and over in our mind, causing untold anxiety? A wound that is still sore, years later?

    These are indicators of unresolved anger — anger that has been carried from one day to the next to the next, maybe even for a lifetime. The enemy uses these open doors to come between us and God, tear apart relationships and hurt our Christian witness (John 13:35).

    To avoid these destructive conditions, Scripture tells us to quickly get rid of anger so the enemy has no foothold. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live with snakes in my home or an enemy in my life. So how do we close the open doors?

    • Trust God to be your defender. Holding a grudge sets us up to think our anger will avenge the wrong against us. But it doesn't; only God can do that (Romans 12:19).

    • Even if you never receive an apology, forgive anyway. Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (NIV). This verse helps me to recall God's great forgiveness for my own sin.

    • If possible, follow the prescription of reconciliation in Matthew 18:15-17.

    • Desire for God to be glorified more than you long to be justified (1 Peter 2:12).

    Imagine what my house would be like if we left the door open. I wouldn't want to live there! Every now and then I double-check the crawl space door, just to be sure it's closed. And I double-check my heart for any footholds of anger.

    Lord, please help me be aware of open doors and to close them through trust, reconciliation, forgiveness and honor. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:19b-20, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)

    1 Peter 5:8, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are you holding on to any anger or grudges? Ask God to forgive you and heal your heart.

    Do you need to ask someone for forgiveness for your actions? Can you do that today?

    © 2014 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Dread Saying Yes But Feel Powerless to Say No

    Posted on August 12, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10 (ESV)

    I have a confession to make: I want people to like me. I want to please people. And sometimes it gets me in trouble.

    I dread saying yes, but feel powerless to say no. Life seems to rush at me every day in the form of endless demands. And I just keep saying yes, yes, yes to the requests that come my way.

    But then my schedule is so packed it feels like I literally can't think straight. Because I have no margin, everything my kids do feels like an interruption. And anything extra my husband asks of me causes bitter resentment to rise up. Instead of talking calmly to those I love, I snarl, snap and scream.

    Saying yes to everything won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn-out woman.

    Can you relate?

    I think to some extent we can all be people pleasers at times.

    We all want to be liked. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance, let's take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.

    One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our hearts. In giving love, we feel love. That's good.

    Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return — love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That's dangerous.

    It's this second motivation that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It's not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting love and things in return, we set ourselves up for trouble.

    Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more leads to exhaustion.

    Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion for the relationship all together.

    Ephesians 5:8-10 says, "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."

    I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is when we walk as children of light — doing what is good, right and true — as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

    I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I'm making today. If I'm seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions and true expectations?

    Or am I doing this with:

    Fearful motives ... They might not like me if I say no.

    Skewed intentions ... If I do this for them, will they be more likely to do that for me?

    Unrealistic expectations ... I just know if I give a little more, they'll affirm me and I'm desperate for their affirmation.

    Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives.

    The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.

    My focus. My choice.

    Dear Lord, help me break away from my people-pleasing tendencies with wrong motives. Guide me in my daily decisions as I battle fear, skewed intentions and unrealistic expectations. I want to make You the focus, Father, so that You continue to become the magnified force in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 2:4, "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more?

    Search your heart and ask, What are my motives? Am I seeking to please people or honor God in this situation? You may need to place healthy boundaries in your relationships with others so that you can learn when to say yes and when to say no.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Honor Aging Parents

    Posted on May 10, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise. Ephesians 6:2

    Aging parents are a gift from Almighty God. How many children have the opportunity to grow old with their mom and dad? Some see disease or an accident snatch away their mother or father before they become elderly. It is a blessing to support those who may have supported us over the years. To serve and honor our parents is to serve and honor Jesus. Yes, caring for them is a picture to a lost world of how our Heavenly Father cares for us. Aging parents are God’s excuse to love.

    How can we help our aging parents in a way that honors them? What if they don’t want assistance, but find themselves in a very needy situation? Build up relational equity with your mother and father before their bodies begin to break down. Don’t wait until they really slow down before you start your service to them. Dignify the aging process by honoring them along the way. They’ll feel more comfortable as you continue your care, as mentally they are less aware.

    "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32).

    Receive whatever level of engagement your loved ones allow. You may have total access to their finances; if so seek to co-manage their money with them. They may invite you into the inner sanctuary of their soul for spiritual support; do so with humble prayers, Bible reading, and church attendance, if they are able. Perhaps you join your mom and dad in their conversations with their physician. Ask questions as their advocate. Or, maybe they move in with you for a season.

    Most of all, pray aggressively for your aging parents. Pray for them to feel the caring comfort of Christ in their heart and His peace in their mind. Pray for them to come to know Jesus in a personal relationship of trust in His death and resurrection for their salvation. Pray for opportunities for you to love them to the Lord and to share the gospel. Pray for yourself to patiently model the grace of God. Aging parents are not about our convenience, but their honor.

    "Love is patient" (1 Corinthians 13:).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, give me favor with my parents to love and honor them as You do.

    Related Readings: Malachi 1:6;  Matthew 15:5-7; Romans 13:7; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Titus 2:2-3

    Post/Tweet today: Aging parents are not about our convenience, but their honor. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Cleaning up a Mess I Didn't Make

    Posted on May 6, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "And I pray that you ... grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." Ephesians 3:17b-18 (NIV)

    When my middle son was 2 years old, he went through various stages that almost sent me to the mad house.

    One of the most irritating stages was his habit of taking off his diaper after putting him to bed. Many late nights we would have to put on a fresh diaper, change his sheets and put him back to bed.

    After awhile, we wised up. We started putting him into all-in-one pajamas that made it not so easy for him to accomplish his little feat.

    That pretty much solved the problem.

    Until one night, when my husband put the boys (ages 2 and 4) to bed. Unfortunately, he forgot about our precautionary measure of locking our toddler into his diaper.

    Before long, our eldest son shouted at the top of his lungs, "Mommy! It stinks in here! Somebody needs his diaper changed!"

    No worries. It happens, right?

    Soon we heard urgency in our eldest son's voice as he called out again, "MOMMY! COME QUICK! THERE'S A STINKY MESS IN HERE!"

    We entered their room. The smell that greeted me at the door was enough to make me want to run for my life.

    Friends, we are talking yuck e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e ... on the sheets, blankets, feet and smudged into the carpet. So that night, while many other mothers slept peacefully in their beds, guess what I was doing?

    Cleaning up a mess.

    At almost midnight and for close to an hour, I was on my hands and knees cleaning and scrubbing. I'll spare you the gory details.

    Believe it or not, the carpet today looks like nothing ever happened. Between my cleaning concoctions that fateful night and a borrowed steam cleaner the next day, I managed to handle the situation like a pro.

    Of course I did. I'm a mom. That's what moms do. We clean up after our children when necessary, because that's what love does.

    There is a lesson to be learned from the middle of this messy situation ...

    My son didn't mean to make a mess. He didn't intentionally deprive me of sleep or aim to make me uncomfortable. He didn't mean to make me suffer for his transgression.

    But I did.

    And why? Because that's what love does.

    Even when he wasn't showing me much love, I loved him anyway. And I showed my love by cleaning up a mess that I didn't make.

    My dear sister... don't you know Jesus loves us this same way?

    He saw us in our mess. He cleaned up after us. He was willing to suffer for our transgressions. And even when we aren't showing Him much love, He loved us first and continues to love us anyway.

    Because that's what love does.

    I believe with all my heart that as my son matures, he will be grateful and appreciate my sacrifices. I pray that eventually he will come to understand the width, length, height and depth of the love I have for him. Just like God's love for us, Paul prayed that the church at Ephesus "may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:18).

    In the same way, as we mature in our relationship with God and develop a greater understanding of why we needed His rescue, we can appreciate more and more His huge sacrifice.

    Here's the kicker – our lives, actions and attitudes should show it.

    Just like mothers find a way to do what seems

    ... inconceivable

    ... impossible

    ... or insurmountable ...

    so, too, our precious Savior found a way to rescue us from our plight.

    And I'm so thankful. Aren't you?

    Dear Lord, thank You for being willing to clean up my mess. Sometimes I'm a little bit of a mess. Other times, I'm a big mess and the yuckiness in my attitude or actions greatly impacts others. Yet You still love me. You loved me enough not only to clean up after me, but also to suffer on my behalf. I want You to know I'm grateful. Help me to walk worthy of the love that You have so lavishly offered me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 4:1b, "I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:19, "I ask that you'll know the love of Christ that is beyond knowledge so that you will be filled entirely with the fullness of God." (CEB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    At some point and time we have all been a mess. If we're honest with ourselves, we still are! How does the fact that God loves you anyway make you feel?

    In light of God's great sacrifice for you, what is one thing you can do today that would show your appreciation for His great gift?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Forgiven People Forgive

    Posted on April 28, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32, NKJV

    Forgiven people forgive, because they are eternally grateful for the grace of God’s forgiveness in their heart. They are keenly aware that outside of Christ, they are cursed to a cycle of unforgiveness—lost in their sins. Thus, the Lord raised them up forgiven, so they in turn can forgive. Forgiveness on earth flows from forgiveness in heaven. It is something to be passed on today, not to be stored away for some unique future occasion.

    Unforgiveness encroaches on the health of our relationships. Its cancerous affect eats away at our enjoyment of God, family and friends. Suddenly, without advance notice, we lash out at those we love—because of someone we don’t love. Unforgiveness, like an inactive but rumbling volcano, waits to explode at any moment of disappointment. The embroiled embers smolder like sin and will erupt when pressure shakes its foundation.

    Do you hold a grudge that has a hold of you? Does resentment hang over you like a bad dream, only you never wake up? This level of emotional upheaval is no way to live for the Lord. His will is not for you to be preoccupied with people who have stolen your joy and hindered your fellowship with Jesus. Forgiveness frees you from the bitter taste of bitterness and replaces it with the sweet taste of grace. Thus, forgive like you’re forgiven.

    True forgiveness is sincere and all-inclusive. We are not in the position to judge who deserves forgiveness and who does not.. One test is to ask if you are tender hearted or hard hearted toward another. A hard heart has yet to be broken by heaven’s caring crush, it may take extended adversity to soften your heart to forgive.

    Why wait in anxious resentment when you can be freed today from hatred and relational apathy? Moreover, make your forgiveness specific. Communicate clearly you are forgiving an exact amount of money—they are no longer in debt to you. Did a relative abuse you as a child? Were you fired over office politics? Talk with them—if they have abandoned you or are dead, write a letter expressing Christ’s love and your forgiveness.

    What if you forgive someone and they are unresponsive and unrepentant? You cannot control another’s response, only your own. Trust that the Lord is working and that your humble and sincere example will begin a work of grace in their heart. Love and kindness tear down walls of anger—grace and forgiveness build bridges of hope. Satan’s destructive deception is exposed and destroyed in the face of your forgiveness.

    “And that I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Corinthians 2:10b-11).

    Prayer: Who needs my total forgiveness? What is the best method for me to forgive them?

    Related Readings: Micah 7:18; Jeremiah 33:8; Luke 7:47; Hebrews 8:12

    Post/Tweet today: Forgiveness frees us from the acidic taste of bitterness and replaces it with the sweet taste of grace. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • Will I Ever Accomplish Something Great?

    Posted on April 9, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah

    "For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)

    Have you ever thought to yourself, "God could never use me"? I have ... many times.

    I spent years watching from the sidelines as some of my closest friends accomplished great things. Rewarding careers. Successful families. Thriving ministries.

    If only I were smarter. If I could just meet the right people. If I had a little more courage. Then surely God would use me.

    What did others have that I didn't? I loved God. He loved me. So why wasn't I on the approved-to-be-used-by-God list? What was the problem? Would my big moment to shine ever come?

    I was under the false impression that if God chose me to accomplish great things for Him, it would include an elaborate theme with plenty of fanfare. Boy, was I wrong.

    Sure, God certainly knows how to manifest grand and elaborate: A snow capped mountain range. A sunrise bursting with color. A field of wildflowers in full bloom. He even gives people tremendous platforms to fulfill His wondrous plans. People whose names we all know by heart.

    God also chooses people like you and me to do great things for His glory. But sometimes our assignments look very different than we think they should. Although the world tends to focus on famous people, high positions and big platforms, God looks at the intent of the heart.

    While admiring the successful journeys of others and wondering why God wasn't choosing me, I overlooked something important. He was using me — as His masterpiece — to accomplish good things that were already planned for me years ago (Ephesians 2:10).

    While I was dreaming up grand ideas, God was waiting for a grateful heart.

    While I was longing for elaborate platforms, God was looking for a humble spirit.

    While I was dreaming of success, God was watching for a willingness of obedience.

    A grateful heart when diapers needed changing and toys were left all over the floor. A humble spirit when dirty clothes sat in piles waiting to be washed and dinner needed to be prepared. A willingness of obedience when God whispered to my heart "Apologize first and say you're sorry."

    Looking back over the years I can now see that some of my greatest accomplishments happened within the simple walls of my own home. Serving my family in messy ways and being stretched beyond what I thought was my breaking point.

    Saying "yes" when I wanted to say "no." Helping with last-minute homework assignments. Holding little hands during bedtime prayers.

    There was no sea of spectators. No cheers from the crowd. No standing ovations. Only a simple family, living life one day at a time, trying to do what was right in God's eyes.

    What great things has God chosen for you to do? Remember, you are His masterpiece, a one-of-a-kind creation, created to fulfill important plans no one else can do.

    Are your God-given assignments wrapped in baseball caps and sneakers?

    Are your grand moments filled with princess tiaras and bedtime stories?

    As you tirelessly serve your family and sometimes wonder if anyone notices, be assured that God does. He sees you as His greatest asset! Your willingness to serve your family brings Him great joy.

    And when will our big moment come? When we get to shine?

    I imagine it will be one glorious day when we humbly kneel before our Heavenly Father and He lovingly speaks our names saying, "Well done my faithful daughter. You have accomplished great things in My Name."

    Lord, help me to accomplish all the plans You've chosen for me. Give me wisdom and discernment to know what path You've laid out for me to follow. Thank you for creating me as Your masterpiece and may I delight in You as I serve my family well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Are you living out God's plan for your life? If not, what is holding you back from accomplishing great things for Him?

    What are some ways you enjoy serving your family? Plan something special for your family to do together. Take pictures and create a memory board to hang up in your home.

    Power Verses:
    Proverbs 16:3, "Commit your actions to the LORD, and your plans will succeed." (NLT)

    1 Samuel 16:7, "God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NET)

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

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