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Tag Archives: Proverbs

  • When Rushing Takes You in the Wrong Direction

    Posted on December 31, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    LEAH DIPASCAL

    LEAH

    "Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)

    I dropped the grocery bags on the counter and glanced at the clock. It’s way past dinnertime.

    I shoved the dirty dishes to one side of the sink and quickly began washing the vegetables that rolled out from one of the bags on the counter. I could feel my heart racing as I grabbed a sauté pan and looked for the pork chops hiding somewhere in the refrigerator.

    Why am I always running late? No matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to get my act together. I’m tired of rushing all the time. Why won’t anyone notice and help me?

    In record time, I had potatoes in the oven, a fresh salad made and my stowaway pork chops sizzling on the stove.

    Hopefully no one’s noticed what time it is yet. Breathe, Leah … breathe!

    Just then I heard my teenage son hollering from the back door, "Mom, please come move your car out of the driveway. I want to shoot some hoops."

    In a mad dash, I headed for the door with my car keys in hand. I have to hurry – otherwise the pork chops are going to burn! I hopped in the car, shoved the gear stick in reverse and quickly backed up … right into my husband’s truck.

    Oh, yes I did!

    The crash was so hard and loud that my husband heard it from inside. In seconds we were surveying the damage. Let’s just say he was not a happy camper. And I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out.

    I felt terrible about what had just happened but no matter how many times I apologized, my words couldn’t fix the huge dents in both of our cars.

    Keith was gracious and said it would be OK. But, it wasn’t OK. Not for me. I had made a careless and costly mistake that would have been avoided if I weren’t in such a hurry. My rushing had taken me in the wrong direction. Oh, and the pork chops on the stove? Completely burned.

    Maybe like me you sometimes include too many things in your schedule. Sure, we have good intentions and want to meet everyone’s needs. But how helpful can we really be if we’re rushing around all day, feeling anxious and unintentionally setting ourselves up for careless mistakes because we’re doing too much?

    I long to be a woman who chooses wisely and plans well. A woman who seeks the Lord’s guidance before setting her schedule, so that she can experience the peace of His presence instead of the anxiety of her hurriedness.

    Do you want to be that kind of woman too? What would our days look like if we embraced the pace of God’s steady grace rather than rushing ahead in our attempts to get more done? What if we actually lived like Proverbs 21:25 says, knowing that careful planning puts us ahead but hurry and scurry can put us further behind?

    Would we be more helpful to others and ourselves by slowing down, giving attention to what we’re doing and being present in our circumstances, instead of daydreaming about the next thing on our to-do list? I think so.

    As we enter the New Year, let’s decide to make a change and do things differently.

    Let’s ask God for insight when we create our schedules and move at a pace that pleases Him. Let’s be wise women who choose to avoid the trap of rushing which often leads us in the wrong direction.

    Let’s settle our hearts and watch the anxiousness wash away as we take God’s hand and walk in the gentle pace of His steady grace today.

    Dear Lord, give me Your wisdom as I plan my schedule each day. If I start to feel anxious because I’m trying to do too much, remind me to slow down, focus on what I’m doing and avoid the trap of rushing in the wrong direction. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

     

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 2:25a, "Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?" (MSG)

    1 Peter 5:6-7, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn how to rise above the rush of endless demands and experience the joy of an uncluttered schedule. Order a copy of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes and start making wise decisions today!

    Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog and enter her drawing to win a copy of The Best Yes. Discover the strategies Leah now uses to plan her daily/weekly schedule so that you too can be less rushed.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If you find yourself rushing around weary and anxious because of the requests and demands of others, what’s one thing you can do differently that will help you feel less hurried and more peaceful?

    When was the last time you asked God to help you plan your schedule? Take a few minutes now and ask Him for guidance and direction.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • I'm Worried About My Child's Future

    Posted on December 18, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

    Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child's success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

    A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn't get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

    She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

    For the most part, that's right.

    This hasn't always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

    She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn't read.

    Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

    In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

    Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I'd done something right, I reasoned.

    But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

    Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child's future.

    Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I'm depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don't do will mess up their futures. I'm reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

    As their parent, it's my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn't be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He'll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

    This revelation has provided such freedom.

    I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can't grasp a certain subject — well, that's also part of God's direction.

    Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

    This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that's more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

    I'm convinced her struggles in school are actually God's way of keeping her on the path He's had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

    The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

    I'd never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

    Hope.

    We named her Hope.

    Now, we won't talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

    We'll save those stories for another day.

    But I'll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn't quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

    Hope's steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

    She wrote to say, "Mom, I've fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time."

    His Hope.

    From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

    All that to say, yeah — I don't get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God's plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that says You determine our steps. Help me to remember that when I'm anxious over my child's future. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 138:8a, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;" (ESV).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What things are you worried about for your child? Write them down and then ask God to orchestrate every detail that concerns you.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Before You Say "Yes" to One More Thing

    Posted on November 20, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety." Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)

    I want people to like me. I want to please others and pretend I can do all things for all people.

    But I can get myself and my schedule into a mess because of it.

    And in an effort to please others, it's those closest to me who get the worst of me when I'm overscheduled.

    When my oldest daughter, Hope, was about 4 years old she decided it was too boring to take her afternoon nap. Instead, while I was downstairs preparing for guests, she was busy doing something else.

    Please understand I'm not very talented in the kitchen. I do okay with preparing simple food for my people. But I get completely twisted up in a knot when preparing food for other people.

    My timing is off. The veggies are stone cold by the time the meat is done. I forget the bread that's still frozen in the oven. And I also forget that making the salad the day before is a bad idea when you mix the dressing and croutons in it. Which, I've learned, turns it all into one big, soggy mess.

    My emotions are also off. The pressure of my timing issues mixed with my desire to have everything just so with the house, isn't a pretty combination.

    But when my Bible study leader asked for someone to host the year-end dinner and my friends all looked at me, I said, "Oh yes, of course. I'd love to do it."

    Visions of home décor magazine covers started dancing in my head. Recipes and flower arrangements and perfectly set tables swirled about, intoxicating me with the thrill of seriously impressing my friends. Then some greatly deceived part of me quipped, "And no need for y'all to bring anything. I'd love to prepare a really nice meal for us."

    Would somebody get a wooden spoon and knock some sense into me?

    My inner people-pleaser blinded me ... until the day of the dinner party. Then the full-on reality of what I'd committed to made me want to crawl in a hole and hide. I was overwhelmed and underprepared.

    I desperately needed my little people to give me full cooperation with naptime that day.

    But Hope had no intention of fully cooperating. So when I saw puffs of something white coming through the air vents downstairs, my heart sank.

    I dashed upstairs to find that Hope had emptied a large container of baby powder all over her room, herself and every air vent she could find. And now, that powder was filling the downstairs with a layer of white residue that made it look like I hadn't dusted in decades.

    Fury rose from some deep, unbridled part of my already-pushed-to-the-max-self. Every bit of my frustration about the dinner party was now also Hope's fault. I screamed, "What were you thinking? Why do you always mess stuff up?!"

    Instantly, I felt a cloud of shame descend on me thicker than the baby powder ever could.

    And then the strangling effects of condemnation gripped me when her little voice replied back, "I was trying to make it look like heaven, Mommy. I thought you would love it."

    Ouch.

    The jarring reality of this incident started me on a journey of realizing that the ill effects of people pleasing spread. And make me the opposite of the kind of woman God made me to be.

    Saying yes all the time won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman. This isn't pleasing to anyone. Not my family. Not my friends. Not the people I'm trying to impress. And certainly not God.

    If I know this, I can start to see people pleasing for what it really is ... a trap. Even the Bible calls it this in our key verse, Proverbs 29:25, "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORDmeans safety." (NLT)

    Yes, being so focused on pleasing people is a vicious trap that ensnares us and those who do life with us.

    So, here's what we need to do today:
    • Look for the trap.
    • Unlock the trap.

    To unlock the trap, we must use the word "no." This should be handled delicately and appropriately, but it should be used.

    Back to the baby powder situation. I wound up apologizing to Hope after I had a good cry about my poor reaction. We took pictures of her "heaven." (Pictures that now, 16 years later, are complete treasures to me.)

    I also served pizza to my Bible study group that night. In the midst of baby powder dust. And ... we all lived to tell about it.

    Dear Lord, help me identify and overcome the traps of people pleasing today. I fully place my trust in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Identify a trap of people pleasing in your life. Then, look for an appropriate place to say no today. Remember, saying yes all the time won't make you Wonder Woman. It will make you a worn out woman!

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Controlling the Green Monster of Envy

    Posted on November 7, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    CHRYSTAL

    "It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up." Proverbs 14:30 (CEV)

    I was the maid of honor. I was supposed to smile. Be happy. Celebrate another.

    But I couldn't do it.

    I'm sure I faked it well enough. I mean ... I showed up didn't I? I participated in all of the required events and followed through on all of my responsibilities.

    But my heart was like ice.

    As the date for the wedding drew near, my heart was breaking. I was angry that it was her and not me. I was disappointed that I still hadn't met "that" guy. You know ... "the" guy. The one I desired to spend the rest of my life with — and who felt the same way about me.

    I was tired of celebrating everybody else.

    Although my mind directed my heart to revel in the moment of another, my heart was in full-scale rebellion and refused to soften. It was a sheer act of the will that made me show up at all of the functions. It was pure pain to stand next to the bride and watch her get exactly what I longed for myself.

    I was jealous.

    The green monster of envy had taken up residence inside of me.

    Jealousy was an issue for me even before this wedding stuff, but I assumed that infectious green organism was tucked away in a back room somewhere.

    I was wrong.

    That wedding was the key that unlocked the door and unexpectedly let the creature out of its secure location. Now, it was taking over.

    Somewhere down deep, the best of who I am wanted to feel joy for the bride. But I couldn't.

    It wasn't an issue of mind over matter. It was an issue of my misery overtaking my mood.

    I wish I could say I got control of that green-eyed monster before the actual wedding began. But no.

    I'm ashamed to say I allowed my envy to eat me alive. I'm ashamed to say that I was a blot on what was otherwise a beautiful day. And I'm ashamed to say that day was the day of my sister's wedding.

    I simply wasn't happy for her. I couldn't be. I was too consumed with myself.

    I had spent so much time and energy over the years lamenting the parts of my life I disliked, that I'd unknowingly left the door of my heart wide open.

    And when that small green beast slipped in, I didn't kick it out. In fact, I hospitably fed it, nurtured it and coddled it with brooding breakfasts, melancholy midday meals, snacks of sarcasm and dinners of dissatisfactions.

    I simply did not take my envy problem seriously and work diligently to get rid of it.

    I fed it, and it grew. I became an ugly green girl.

    That's what happens when we don't nip envy in the bud. Left unattended, it can become a difficult guest to move out.

    While it is not easy to deal with this sin of the heart, it is absolutely necessary if you want your heart to be clean and clear before God.

    How do you get rid of a jealous, envious heart?

    Give thanks. Learn contentment. But most importantly, love others.

    "Love is kind and patient, never jealous, boastful, proud ..." (1 Corinthians 13:4, CEV)

    Where there is love, there is less room for things that oppose it.

    You may think: How do I love my way out of jealousy or envy when I don't feel love?

    You act like you do. In time, your feelings will follow your feet.

    Show love.

    Actively bless that person by looking for opportunities to show your care and concern. Encourage, praise and pray for the person. Practice shifting your mind from your own desires to needs of a sister or brother in Christ.

    Love so well that envy has no room to breathe.

    That day at the wedding, I fell short of God's call to love. But through His grace, I've been given more chances. And with His strength, I'm more able to kick that green-eyed monster out of my heart.

    Father God, forgive me for how I have allowed envy to grow in my heart. Sometimes I don't realize how easy it is to nurture jealousy and before I know it, I have turned into a green girl. Help me as I seek to learn contentment and show love to others in a way that pleases You. Wash my green clean with Your precious blood. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Galatians 5:26, "Let's not become arrogant, make each other angry, or be jealous of each other." (CEB)

    Romans 13:13-14, "Let us walk properly as in the daytime ... not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How has envy of another person or a situation affected your ability to experience joy?

    What can you do to love your way out of a place of envy? How can you encourage the one whose presence usually brings your green monster out of hiding?

    What will you do today to practice thankfulness and to choose contentment?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why I Quit Depending on My Own Plans

    Posted on October 22, 2014 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

    Everything in me wanted to plow headlong into my next project. I yearned to get started. People were excited about my participation. And with only one older child living at home, my time was freer than ever.

    There was no reason for me not to move forward. Or so I thought.

    And so I planned. Created to-do lists. And tried to get busy.

    But strangely, nothing happened. Inspiration refused to bubble up. Over and over I tried. Over and over I accomplished nothing. I began to wonder what on earth the issue could be.

    So I prayed. Over the following weeks as my plans stubbornly refused to progress, I began to sense the Lord's gentle hand of restraint on my shoulder, holding back my ever-forward movement.

    And then my heart heard one word. Wait.

    I sensed God inviting me into a holy pause. And though I didn't understand why waiting was necessary, the Lord graciously brought my heart into alignment with His.

    Wait is one of my least favorite words because it's one of my least favorite things to do. Over the years I have waited for eternally important things, like the salvation of loved ones. I've also waited for medical test results, some hard teen years to be over, a sickness to pass and houses to sell.

    And while waiting is unavoidable, it can feel like a waste of time, primarily because waiting feels unproductive to my task-oriented nature. The truth is I enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. And that's okay.

    But is our productivity or desire for an easy, wait-free life more important than our obedience to God? Productivity, the desire for an answer or our longing for the wait to be over cannot hold more weight in our hearts than God's timing, His will and His perfect plans for that particular time in our lives.

    Sometimes a holy pause doesn't make sense to us.

    Yet our key verse reminds us not to depend on our own understanding, and instead to seek God's plans for our lives: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Had I failed to heed God's promptings, I probably would have been facing a project deadline in the midst of what turned out to be intense family-wide health issues, including many which were quite serious.

    What I learned during this holy pause is that down time does not equal wasted time. In God's economy and wisdom, down time — when prompted by Him — can spare us, equip us, refresh us or prepare us.

    If we are wise, we will use our down time, that holy pause, to allow our hearts to connect with His on a more frequent and deeper level. At some point the wait will be over and we will be free to move forward, with Him, into all He has for us at that particular time.

    When we seek God's will in all we do and learn to trust more in the Holy Spirit's promptings than our own desire for productive accomplishments, our hearts will come into alignment with His. And He will show us the right path, in His perfect timing.

    Lord, I long to obey You in every respect, even when I don't understand. Help me not to rush forward when You are inviting me into a holy pause. Bring my heart into alignment with Yours, and cause my thoughts to become agreeable to Your will. Thank You for accomplishing Your will in my life during every wait. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 40:31, "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (NLT)

    Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me." (AMP)

    Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write down the things you are currently waiting for on an index card. Then write Isaiah 40:31 directly beneath your list. Allow this verse to settle in your heart when you feel frustrated or weary, knowing that God is strengthening you while you wait.

    © 2014 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

  • What Your Pastor's Wife Needs Most in a Friend

    Posted on October 3, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    AMY

    {Editor's Note: October is Pastor Appreciation Month. We recognize there are women serving in churches in a variety of roles, and encourage you to show your appreciation for all those serving in ministry this month.}

    "One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend." Proverbs 22:11 (NIV)

    I sat in mute sadness, as I listened to the woman sitting in the driver's seat beside me.

    Tears streamed down this pastor's wife's face as she described her family's financial struggles. No one had asked her about her return to the workforce. She felt nobody cared about her as she transitioned from home to full-time work. Years before, a "friend" in the church gossiped about a confidence she shared, so this woman felt she could no longer trust anyone with her pain.

    Another pastor's wife stoically described the 20 years she spent alone in a pew Sunday after Sunday until one woman finally reached out in friendship. Her face lit up, as she told me about her new friend who now sits with her and banishes the painful loneliness she felt amongst the crowd at her own church.

    Isn't it strange? Pastors' wives are often some of the most admired women in the church, and yet they are often the most lonely. When listing my life-long friends, I realized two of the five are pastors' wives.

    That's a pretty big percentage, so what binds me to these women? Their loyalty, love and acceptance. They're a treasure to me, so I've been thinking: What does a pastor's wife most need in a friend? How can I be that kind of friend?

    When talking to my besties and searching Scripture, two main needs emerged. Pastors' wives need their friends to be: 1) free from expectations and 2) free from self. Here's what I mean ...

    Free from Expectations

    Both of my friends defy the stereotypes attached to a pastor's wife. They need friends who will let them be themselves, women with their own identity separate from a spouse or the church.

    Releasing our pastors' wives from our expectations is the greatest gift we can give.

    Pastors' wives are real women just like us with flaws, varying gifts, dust on their dressers, arguments with their husbands and a wide range of personalities. If we want to be true, pure-hearted friends without ulterior motives, we need to affirm all their facets, cover their imperfections with love and encourage them to follow their passions rather than just expect them to conform to a mold.

    Free from Self

    Some days, it's all about me ... or at least that's how I act at times. In my selfishness, I've had thoughts like: She hasn't answered my email. I wonder what I've done wrong. Or, I can't believe she just blew by me in the store. She must be mad at me.

    I'm learning to let go of selfish thoughts and give my friends space.

    Pastors' wives minister to the many people, carve out time for their husbands during their odd hours off, work, run their households, reach out to neighbors, care for their children and more. The list is unending. They need friends who are selfless, patient friends who give them grace instead of demand perfect performances.

    We also have to refrain from gossip. I hate to admit it, but there's a part of me that longs to repeat confidences when I want to feel more important or in the know ... like I'm part of the inner circle. As their friends, we have to overcome the desire to build up ourselves and to put our friend first by never, ever, gossiping.

    Both my friends expressed how important confidentiality is to them. It's a deal-breaker for your pastor's wife. As today's key verse points out, good leaders delight in friendships with those who are in pure in heart and speak graciously. Indeed ... sincere, caring, kind and genuine relationships give life to those who lead.

    In the midst of church life, we walk through all of life's joys and pain together with love and loyalty. It's what pastors' wives want in a friend ... and it's what I want, too. That's true friendship and a desire at the heart of everywoman, pastor's wife or not.

    Lord, help me to be a truly loyal friend to my pastor's wife, putting her needs above my own. Purify my heart and my words to be a joy and encouragement to all my friends. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 17:17, "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity." (NIV)

    Job 16:20, "My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God ..." (NIV)

    Ecclesiastes 4:10, "If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is an action step God is calling you to do this month to encourage your pastor's wife?

    What is something you can do if you find yourself in a setting where there is gossip or criticism about your pastor's wife?

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why You Need a Friend

    Posted on August 11, 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    Chrystal

    "As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

    I was that girl ... feeling like I didn't belong and wanting a best friend more than anything.

    In elementary school, there were the cool kids and the on-the-outs kids. I didn't fit into either group.

    I roamed around mostly a loner and struggled for the bulk of my childhood with the emotions of "not fitting in."

    I just wanted a friend. One. Good. Friend.

    Fast forward to high school.

    There was a girl I clicked with completely. I felt understood and thought I understood her well, too. I wanted to spend lots of time with her and talk to her a bunch — just like any pair of "besties" would.

    And then one day, I heard her refer to someone else as her "best friend."

    Oh, the devastation!

    I mean ... what was I? Just a little minion?

    In a word? Crushed. And on the outs again.

    Fast forward to adulthood.

    I have lots of friends. Lots of people I know in varying degrees. Two or three friends who are the "ride-or-die" kind. I know they have my back and they know I have theirs.

    And the other day, one of those girls referenced another person as her best friend.

    Was I crushed? Nope. I've since changed my outlook on the whole loner thing.

    I am not alone. Never have been. Never will be.

    First, I belong to God. He has loved me with an everlasting love. He is available any time of day to chat, and completely and totally accepts me just the way I am.

    Secondly, I believe in my value. As I understand more of who I am in Christ and stop looking for others to validate my existence, I am less and less tied to the need to fit in. Jesus died for me. If that doesn't validate me, I don't know what does.

    Third, I see now that fitting in is overrated. I have learned that friendship is about so much more than my elementary- and high-school-self understood.

    It's not just about me.

    As I've grown more comfortable in my own skin, I've learned that while friendship includes the wonder of belonging, it is about so much more than that.

    True, I am the beneficiary of my friendships. The life, laughter and fun are invaluable. But once I stopped looking for my friends to give me what only God could give me (my husband as well, for that matter, but that's another story), I was good to go.

    And now it frees me to BE a friend.

    Let me keep it real here. I'm busy. I have a husband and five kids. I homeschool, work, write and speak.

    It's hard to find time for friends. But I make time.

    Why? Because it's not just about me. I am validated because of God's love, but I still need connections. Jesus had friends. At least 12 of them.

    Not because He needed them to define or validate Him, but because the context of His ministry centered around His relationships.

    And here's what we can learn from His example. We need people in our lives whom we sharpen and who sharpen us.

    As God's Word explains, there should be someone in your life who knows she can count on you when she is down: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow," (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10a, ESV).

    Let's make it our business to encourage others on to love and good deeds, even it requires effort to find time in our calendars to chat.

    "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another ..." (Hebrews 10:24-25a, ESV).

    Are you lonely? Seek to be a friend.

    Busy? Make time to be a friend.

    Maybe you could do without the d-r-a-m-a that friendships occasionally bring ... but you understand the importance and purpose of friendship. So be a friend anyway.

    Dear Jesus, thank You for being my friend. Thank You for being an example of what a good friend looks like. Help me value the relationships You've given me and show me how to cultivate others as You desire. Make me the kind of friend I want to have and let me always point my friends toward You. And where I need friendship for my journey through life, send just the right person my way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which friend or friends are in your life to help "sharpen" you? How are you actively sharpening others?

    In what practical ways do you make time to nourish your friendships? If this is something you haven't been doing well, what is one thing you will do in the near future to better cultivate your connections?

    © 2014 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Nation Exalted

    Posted on July 4, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. Proverbs 14:34

    What makes a nation great? Its goodness is what God blesses. Righteousness is the lever the Lord uses to lift a nation up as an example for other nations to follow. However, like people, a nation can fall from God’s grace. His blessing is removed when a haughty country shows no remorse for their sin, even sanctioning its use. A blessed nation will cease to be great when it forgets where it came from and jettisons Jesus.

    It is when a nation is hurting that it most needs healing. The nation of Israel experienced this, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). Have we drifted as a nation in our need for God? Has our sin found us out? Are we reaping what we have sown?

    The good news is that an exalted nation does not have people sneaking out, but instead, sneaking in. Peoples of the world clamor to come into a country Christ has blessed. The ‘best and the brightest’ are drawn like a ‘moth to a light’ to live somewhere they can chase their dreams. It is out of its goodness that a nation becomes a magnet for mankind. Righteousness reposes in the heart of great nations; it supports virtue and suppresses vice.

    Lastly, a crippled country can come back, but not without consequences. It starts with individuals repenting and taking responsibility for their actions. ‘How can I come clean with Christ?’ ‘Have I been financially irresponsible?’ ‘Has greed governed my giving?’ ‘Has fear frozen my faith?’ ‘Has comfort and ease become my idol?’ ‘What is my part, so God can trust our nation with greatness again?’

    “He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised” (Deuteronomy 26:19).

    Prayer: Heavenly Father, lead our nation away from the temptation of trust in our ingenuity and lead us back into trust in You and Your precious promises.

    Related Readings: Proverbs 11:11; Jeremiah 22:2-25; Matthew 12:21; Romans 16:25-27

    Post/Tweet today: Righteousness reposes in the heart of great nations; it supports virtue and suppresses vice. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved. www.wisdomhunters.com

  • Regular Replenishment

    Posted on June 19, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.  Proverbs 11:25

    Everyone is in need of encouragement. Each day life issues extract courage from every human being. Indeed, all are candidates in need of receiving courage from a caring soul. They need to hear, “Job well done”, “You can do it”, “You are a blessing”, “You are a gift from the Lord”, “I need you” and “I love you”. Like the gas tank in an automobile, people need a regular fill up of encouraging words, kind deeds and a listening ear.

    Spouses need encouragement so they feel loved, accepted, and respected. Children need encouragement so they feel love and the security around well defined boundaries. Work associates need the balance of many more  “well dones” to balance out the “why didn’t you?” All restaurant servers deserve a sincere smile and most deserve a generous tip. Encourage those the Lord sends your way each day; these are His divine moments.

    “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

    Furthermore—the replenishment of others is reciprocal. When we take a short amount of time to extend kindness and care, we receive the blessing of a thank you, a gentle hug, a grateful email, or the satisfaction of representing Jesus well. What a privilege to be a conduit for Christ and connect two people who grow to love and appreciate each other. Encouragers decrease—while others increase—and all are filled with joy by faith in God.

    When you give others hope—you become hopeful. When you give others peace—you become peaceful. When you give others faith—you become faithful. You give others comfort—you become comforted. When you give others encouragement—you become encouraged. When you give others Jesus—you become like Jesus!

    Who needs a handwritten thank you note? Perhaps you set a goal of writing two or three caring communications each day. Give a new Bible to the maintenance worker at your office—ask him or her the names of their children and give them Bibles. Invite a couple to dinner to love on and listen to how they are doing. Drop by to see a family with a special needs child, just to see how they’re doing—and pray with them. No one normally complains of too much encouragement, so be a regular replenisher of courage. Most of all, lead others to be refreshed by the Lord—His refreshment satisfies best.

    “He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

    Prayer: How can I encourage my family and friends to be faithful followers of Jesus?

    Related Readings: Psalm 19:7, 68:9; Proverbs 25:13; Acts 3:19; 1 Corinthians 16:18

    Post/Tweet today: No one normally complains of too much encouragement, so be a regular replenisher of courage. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • All That Glitters

    Posted on June 19, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value." Proverbs 31:11 (NIV)

    The jeweler smiled as my fiancé and I touched the loose diamonds she'd strewn across a square of blue velvet. "So, what's your budget?" she asked, her tone hopeful.

    Bill gulped and answered, "$400." On a college teacher's salary, it was all he could afford, but I still winced when he said it. Even all those years ago, $400 meant a very small diamond. Teensy weensy.

    Except for the flaws. Those would be huge.

    The jeweler guided us to the other end of the counter. "I think we can find something here that will suit you." Out came another velvet square, but the diamond chips she placed on it nearly disappeared in the nap of the fabric.

    Bill listened as she explained clarity and carat weight, while my gaze drifted back to the larger stones still on display. Their many facets caught the bright store lights, winking at me, beckoning me.

    Diamonds are forever, I told myself. Surely there must be a way we could swing something larger.

    When no solution came to mind, I chose a pretty but petite gemstone and tried my best to be excited.

    Bill touched my elbow. "Make sure you're happy with it, Liz, while I look around."

    I was happy with Bill, no question. The dearest of men, godly and kind. But was I happy with a diminutive diamond? Hmmm.

    Here's the ugly truth: As a single woman, I'd grown accustomed to buying whatever I wanted, even if that meant pulling out my credit card. My frugal fiancé, though, was a cash-and-carry kind of guy.

    Still, he did say he wanted me to be happy ...

    I waited until Bill was out of earshot before I leaned over the counter, waving the jeweler closer. "Could I look at the bigger stones again?"

    She placed them in front of me without a word. "I really like this one," I whispered, eyeing a square-cut beauty. "Suppose Bill gave you a check for $400 and I slipped you a check for the difference?"

    She looked at me evenly. "Are you sure that's how you want to begin this marriage?"

    Heat flew to my cheeks. "No, I ... uh ... guess not." I quickly turned away, ashamed to have my sins spread out like so many finely cut stones. Greed, deceit, covetousness, pride — oh, it was not a pretty sight.

    Then I recalled today's key verse from Proverbs 31, long committed to memory: "Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value."

    From across the room, I studied Bill — a man who deserved a woman he could trust with his heart and with his wallet — and silently begged his forgiveness for even considering such a thing.

    The jeweler was right. That was not how I wanted to begin my married life. Thank goodness I'd just been handed something even more valuable than diamonds: a second chance.

    When I turned back to the jeweler, we were both smiling. "You are absolutely right," I assured her. "The smaller stone will be perfect." And it was.

    Year in and year out, I flashed my ring like it was the Hope Diamond, because for me, that's what it represented: hope for a marriage built on honesty, not deception, and a forever kind of love that would outshine any sparkling gem.

    Now that our silver anniversary has come and gone, Bill — bless his generous heart —recently bought me a new diamond. Square-cut, of course.

    If there are flaws, I haven't noticed them. I'm too busy offering a prayer of thanks for a grace-giving God who overlooks my flaws and polishes me clean every morning.

    Lord, thank You for Your gentle, but firm, correction in my life and my marriage. I'm beyond grateful that You enable me to love and respect my husband. Be honored and glorified in our lives. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)

    James 3:13, "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a similar situation when you might have veered in the wrong direction. How did the Lord keep you from stumbling?

    As you thought about a similar situation, what did that experience teach you about God's constant guidance and tender care?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

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