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Tag Archives: Psalm

  • My Callused Heart Needs Softening

    Posted on September 25, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis

    "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise." Psalm 51:17 (NIV)

    My daughter Cathrine held out her hands, palms up, for her brother to see. "Look, I have bumps on my hands ... what are they from?"

    Robbie ran his fingers over her palms and answered with the authority of an older brother, "These are calluses, you got them from lifting weights at school. Look at mine."

    He turned his hands over, and she ran her fingers over his palms and grinned.

    My children's hands are a resume of their work in the gym. Calluses formed to protect their tender skin from harm as they lift weights.

    I sat at the table, watching the interaction, and then looked at my hands. Smooth palms and short nails revealed my hardest workouts came at the keyboard, not the gym. But a thought skirted in and around my mind: Where else might calluses have formed?

    Turning back to my computer, my eyes stared out the window and my fingers stilled on the keys as an image came to mind. My heart ... covered in calluses.

    I closed my eyes and sighed. That explained a lot. My heart is harder than it used to be. And sadly, much harder than I'd like it to be.

    It's easy to see how I've gotten here. Each time I've been hurt, my approach to dealing with pain has been stoic. The warrior-like determination inside me to protect myself had affected the softness of my heart. With each offense, each lie, each rejection, I made a silent declaration to not be hurt like that again.

    I thought I'd handled things well because I hold no grudges. I'm desperately aware of my own sin and hold no accounts for offenses. But that image of a callused heart revealed the truth that I haven't handled offenses as well as I thought.

    It's hard dealing with people. We're all sinful and make choices that hurt others. But for me, over time suspicion replaced trust, and hyper-vigilance replaced peace. My empathy was diminished, which is a very dangerous heart-position for someone whom God has called to love others.

    I'm convinced these calluses aren't supposed to stay there. A callused heart may protect me from great pain, but it also keeps me from great love. To love deeply, to love like Jesus, requires risk. I'll be honest, that vulnerable position makes me want to wrap a few more layers around my tender heart, and vow beyond all measure to protect myself.

    This makes me ask a question I really don't like to ask. At all. Am I willing to risk being hurt to obey the call to love?

    King David, God's warrior, spoke of this decision as a "sacrifice." David was betrayed by those he loved and trusted. He had every right to seek revenge. And yet Psalm 51 speaks of David's desire for a pure heart and to tell others about God. In verse 17 he says, "My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise."

    Rather than choosing to protect his heart with pride, David chose brokenness and humility. He took his pain to God rather than move on like nothing happened. It's from this place of humility that God met David and cared for his broken heart. With God's care, it mended in a healthy way, free from calluses.

    There are some people I can't trust. But that doesn't apply to everyone. Rather, most are good folks who make an occasional mistake. They are the ones who need my softened heart.

    So here's my commitment. Rather than bandage my own wounds and act like I'm not hurt, I'm taking every offense to my Heavenly Father. Every day I'm praying, Lord, heal and soften my heart so I can love like You.

    Lord, You alone know the many ways people have hurt me. And You see the hardened places in my heart that affect how I love others. I'm asking You to break my heart in a good way, Lord. Be my protection from the rough rubbing of the world, so I can be Your hands and feet to a world in need of Your love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ezekiel 36:26, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (NIV)

    Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are the hurts of your past affecting your relationships today? How?

    Is there something in you that resists admitting you've been hurt? If it's unhealthy pride, consider confessing that to God today and receive His healing.

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Stress Cure

    Posted on September 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Linda

    "The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving." Psalm 28:7 (NLT)

    Not long ago, I heard a radio preacher say, "If you have stress, that means you're not trusting God." I was having a stressful day, so I didn't particularly care for his remark. I silently argued, Why of course I trust God, my problem is I'm having a day that won't let me "phone-it-in."

    My stressful day started the morning I had to drive 50 miles to do a live radio interview in another town. As the clock ticked down to my departure time, everything started to go wrong. I suddenly remembered I needed to get a tax report into the mail.

    As I felt my stress rise, I got a call telling me payroll was late. This was a payroll I had to sign before I left town so my assistant could get paid and buy groceries — a habit she didn't like to break. So by the time I finished, filed, found and signed my paperwork, my stress level was high and I was late for the radio interview, which I could not do via phone.

    So, I hopped in my car and with sweat trickling between my shoulder blades, I raced through freeway traffic for 50 miles. When I arrived, I sprinted to catch the elevator. When it reached the top floor, I dashed down the hall and slipped into the chair and headphones as the radio station's mike went live. The host barely managed to whisper, "And I was beginning to think you wouldn't make it!"

    As I talked to the host about how we can live our lives in a deeper relationship with God, I had to laugh at myself for not including more of God in my day. Sure, I'd shot off many Help-me-Lord prayers that morning. But in all my rush to get to the radio station, I felt more flustered than peaceful.

    What could I have done differently? To find a clue, let's unpack Psalm 28:7.

    This verse starts with "The LORD is my strength and shield."

    This is a great reminder that we can use God's strength to make it through any of our problems. In fact, God's strength can serve to shield us from the fiery darts of worry, fear and stress. This news is a great relief!

    The next line of this verse says, "I trust him with all my heart."

    These words prompt us to trust God. The next time you're tempted to turn a hectic day into a panic attack, instead say, "I'm going to trust God through this." You'll soon discover that your choice to trust God will calm you with a peace that surpasses understanding.

    The rest of the verse says, "He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving."

    This puts us on notice to acknowledge God's help and presence in our lives. When we take the time to count our blessings, to remind ourselves of all the ways God has helped us through difficulties, we are sure to experience His joy.

    Maybe the radio preacher had it right. When we remember to trust God and to face a hectic day in His strength, we'll see our blessings and count it all as joy.

    Dear Lord, I often allow stress to rule my life. I rush to achieve my goals in my own strength, forgetting that I can rely on Your strength. Help me to put my trust in You so I can relax in Your great love. Thank You for all the blessings You send my way. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you!" (NLT)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What past stress are you still holding on to?

    What would happen if you gave both yesterday and today's stress to the Lord?

    © 2014 by Linda Evans Shepherd. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • How Do I Trust Again?

    Posted on September 19, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie

    "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

    Years ago, hurtful words from a friend landed in a tender spot in my heart. It was already damaged by a previous incident with her ... and the one before that.

    When this friend was frustrated or lost her temper, words just tumbled out. Words that went straight to my vulnerable places.

    Each time she said she was sorry, and she meant it.

    I knew we could work through it, but part of me wanted to give up on trusting her altogether. Why trust someone who might let you down again?

    In fact, why trust at all? Why not just close my heart and keep it safe from any potential harm?

    King David understood this struggle. In Psalm 28, David asks God for help. Many scholars believe that this was written at the end of David's life. At this point, he knows what it is to hide from words and actions that harm. He understands how it feels to be surrounded by people who say they are loyal to him, but sometimes let him down.

    Even at this late stage, it may have been tempting to shut everyone out and never trust again ... not just the people who intentionally sought to harm him, but those who loved him and messed up. It might have even crossed his mind that he should trust no one at all.

    Instead, in verse 7 we see David's thoughts and attitude change and find him singing a beautiful song to his Heavenly Father. In this place of hurt and uncertainty, he reveals a secret: He can trust because God is trustworthy.

    With my friend, I found that same hope.

    The Lord is our strength and shield.

    Like a triple-plated silver shield, David needed God's protection for his heart. David may have wanted to isolate, but God had handwritten a plan for his life. People were an integral part of that blueprint.

    The reality is that people are messy. My friend was a mess. Sometimes I'm a big ol' mess, too. The words my friend spoke hurt and we needed to work through it, but God's shield of protection allowed me to see the areas where He was still working in both of us. It also offered His truth to counterbalance hurtful words.

    This shield allowed me to approach her from a place of resolution, rather than a place of offense or retaliation.

    Our hearts trust in Him and He helps us.

    We need wisdom to know what to say, when to say it and when to hold those words back. God offers that guidance (James 1:5).

    We need discernment over what is ours to fix and when to step back as God does His part (Psalm 55:22).

    We need to know what to do when someone is destructive or unwilling to change, and how to transfer our trust to God in that hard situation, rather than take matters into our own hands. We can ask for hope and healing in our hearts while God performs His work in someone else's heart.

    Our hearts leap for joy, and with a song we praise Him.

    Conflicts, difficult conversations or poor behavior can make you want to give up or shut people out completely. In David's case, trusting in God produced a strong foundation that led him out of seclusion and into a plan and a purpose.

    Have you been tempted to climb into a cave of isolation?

    Do you sense God asking you to trust again? Maybe not even in a specific person, but in Him? In others? In the fact that He's completely with you as you run after His plan for your life?

    My friend is still my friend. She's changed a lot in the past few years, and it's delightful to have watched that transformation.

    Is she perfect? No, but neither am I. We're two imperfect women whose hearts trust in God.

    Dear Lord, someone has hurt my heart and my response has been to hide or build a wall. Thank You for wisdom, compassion and discernment as I trust in You first, and You show me how to trust others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 37:4-5, "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When someone breaks our trust repeatedly, that can impact relationships that are innocent of wrongdoing. In essence, they pay a price for someone else's actions.

    In your journal, write down the names of those closest to you who are innocent of wrongdoing but who are paying a price due to someone else's wrongdoing in your past. Ask God to help you trust again.

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Thrill of an Unrushed Yes

    Posted on August 28, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "...all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Psalm 39:6 (NLT)

    Recently, my husband and I got into an argument right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date. In the heat of the moment, he announced the date was off.

    He no longer wanted to go. And honestly, I didn't either.

    I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective.

    But it's at this exact moment of resistance an unraveling can begin.

    Oh, the unraveling. It can happen so suddenly and with such tragic consequences.

    Once, I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn't too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were so loosely woven it snagged on things.

    I was always mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater when I wore it so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.

    Until one day I was in a hurry. I grabbed some things I needed for a meeting and rushed to my car. I tossed all my stuff over to the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook. This spiral notebook had a metal-binding wire that unbeknownst to me caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.

    I unhooked myself and assessed the damage.

    What I should have done was taken the sweater off, put something else on, and later taken the time to repair the snag the correct way. But in the rush, I made the tragic decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the loose threads and hoped for the best. That tragic decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of my beautiful sweater.

    Which brings me back to date night.

    Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn't what's best for the long term. So, I pushed for us to still go on our date.

    It wasn't fun. It wasn't easy. There were tears and awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt and eventually talked.

    Talked through the snags. The pulls. The things that threatened to unravel us.

    There is a delicate nature to marriage. Honestly, there's a delicate nature to all relationships. It's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective. Stop and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in those we love.

    Psalm 39:6 wisely reminds us that "all our busy rushing ends in nothing."

    Yes, the unraveling can happen so quickly when we refuse to push the pause button.

    My unrushed yes was the best yes for that day. There were eventual apologies and conversations that repaired the snags the right way — tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.

    Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time — make time — to talk.

    Where do we find this unrushed yes? We make it. We make time for relationships by thinking about them when scheduling our lives. Like Louie Giglio said, "Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less."

    I don't want my relationships to constantly get my less. And I'm sure you don't either. So let's get intentional about leaving enough unscheduled times on our calendars for relationship moments to happen.

    Let's leave space and look for opportunities to give relationships our best yes.

    Dear Lord, unrush me today. I want to pause and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in the people I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3: 12-14, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a relationship in your life that needs your attention. Decide to give an unrushed yes to investing in that person today. It will be the best yes of your day.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • God, I'm Worn Out

    Posted on August 19, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Psalm 142:3 (NLT)

    Have you ever had one of those late night come-to-Jesus moments where the weight of regret lays heavy across your chest?

    For me, it usually happens because in the hectic pace of the day, I blew up at one of my kids, I brushed past a moment of connection with someone God put in my path, or I rushed through all the moments without stopping to enjoy any of them.

    I've discovered a great source of stress, distraction and exhaustion in my life. I say yes to too many things. I take on too many good things, which causes me to miss my best things. It's so hard to say no and let go of opportunities that come my way. But if I don't learn the gift of release, I'll wrestle with a lack of peace.

    I saw this visibly a few years ago when I traveled to visit a friend. As soon as she picked me up from the airport and we started driving, I saw the fallout from the storm she'd tried to describe. A massive 20-inch snow in the middle of fall.

    But it wasn't the amount of snow still on the ground, or the snowmen proudly standing that grabbed my attention.

    It was the broken trees. The branches were piled everywhere.

    House after house. All down the street. Disastrous piles of limbs — big piles of trees — all still clinging to the leaves that hadn't dropped yet. And because the leaves hadn't dropped, the trees broke.

    That's what happens when a snow comes early. The trees weren't designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren't made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.

    I know the weight of carrying more than I should. And usually it's because I've refused to release something before taking on something else. If I want to choose a Best Yes, it's crucial I make room for it first.

    Otherwise, a Best Yes can quickly become a stressed yes. And a stressed yes is like snow on a tree that refuses to release its leaves. It causes cracks and breaks at our core.

    If we refuse to release before we add, we will get overloaded.

    We see how refusing to release gets people in trouble all throughout the stories in Scripture.

    Eve refused to release the forbidden fruit. And because she became hyperfocused on that one thing, she missed out on the best things in paradise.

    Esau refused to release his urgent need for some stew. And because he became hyperfocused on eating that soup, he missed out on his birthright.

    Moses refused to release his fear that just speaking to the rock as God commanded wouldn't actually bring forth water. And because he struck the rock twice, he missed out on entering the Promised Land.

    Each of these people paid a high price for their refusals to release — to let go of their ways so they could walk in the amazing way of God.

    It wasn't God's desire for any of these people to suffer the consequences they did. Each of us has a free will, which means we have the freedom to make choices.

    God tells us the right way to go, but we have to make the choice to do so. Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.

    It was true for Eve, Esau and Moses. And it's true for you and me. Refusing to release often means refusing to have peace. I trade my peace for a weight of regret.

    Release is a gift to a woman weighed down, grasping her leaves in the midst of a snowstorm, so desperate for help. She can feel the twinges and hear the creaking sounds of a splitting break about to happen.

    She knows she can't take much more. She remembers Psalm 142:3, "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Tears well up in her upturned, pleading eyes. "God help me. It's all too much. I'm tired and frustrated and so very worn out."

    The wind whips past her, trailing a whispered, "R-e-l-e-a-s-e." She must listen or she will break. Her tree needs to be stripped and prepared for winter. But she can't embrace winter until she lets go of fall. Like a tree, a woman can't carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously. In the violent struggle of trying, she'll miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.

    I think sometimes I'm resistant to release because I fear missing out. But, in an effort to hold on to too much, I wind up stressed, exhausted and at my breaking point.

    Release brings with it the gift of peace. There are some opportunities I need to decline today. There are some things I need to say no to in this current season. There are good things I need to let go of so I can make room for the best things. Then and only then can my beautiful, bare winter branch receive its snow. When we release in peace, we signal we're now ready to receive.

    Receive what's next. Receive what's best. Receive what's meant for this season, right now.

    I don't know what you have to release right now. But I suspect you know. Just like I do in a few areas of my life.

    So let's release. With release comes more peace. I see that now. I believe that now. And soon, I pray you will too.

    Dear Lord, only You can help me with this release. My heart seeks to obey You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What do you feel like you need to release? Offer this thing up to the Lord in prayer and ask for wisdom, discernment, and direction.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Turning Attitude Into Grattitude

    Posted on July 10, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz

    "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD." Psalm 112:7 (NIV)

    Trusting God when good news arrives? No problem. I see His hand at work, His unconditional love in action and gratitude fills my heart.

    But when bad news comes knocking, my gratitude can easily turn into attitude.

    After a busy morning speaking at a weekend women's conference, I made my way back to the book table, glad to find two kind souls willing to handle all the details while I signed books.

    When lunchtime arrived and the book table was quickly abandoned in favor of chicken salad and fudge brownies, one of my helpers touched my shoulder.

    "Liz?" Her anguished expression should have warned me. "I don't know how to tell you this, but ... I lost your bank bag."

    My heart sank. "With all the money in it?"

    She nodded, chin trembling. "I carried it with me into the ladies' room for safekeeping. When I put it down to wash my hands, I started talking to someone, then forgot what I was doing and left without the bag." Her voice was strained to the breaking point. "I ran back in, but it was gone. I'm so sorry, Liz ..."

    My first instinct? (Get ready: this is ugly.) I wanted to stomp my foot and say, "That was a lot of money! How could you be so careless?"

    By God's grace, I didn't go there. The woman simply had made a mistake. Hadn't I made one or two (or 10 or 20) myself?

    My second instinct was to flip my hand as if it didn't matter and say, "Whatever." I couldn't go that route, either. We were both concerned, and for good reason; it was foolish to pretend otherwise.

    So, I took a deep breath, prayed for God's peace, then said, "Let's trust the Lord on this one and not worry about the money." Wait. Not worry about money, lots of which needed to go back to my publisher to pay for those sold books?! Clearly that easygoing attitude didn't come from me.

    God alone managed to override the unkind words I might have said. He also tempered my anxious thoughts and toned down my conflicted emotions. The only thing on my mind at that moment was helping ease the woman's obvious distress.

    Trust me, this was not Liz being a good girl. This was God being a great God.

    With an utter sense of peace, I hugged her, then whispered, "Let it go." I felt her slowly relax. Then I surprised us both by announcing, "I believe the bag will turn up. How about we go to lunch and let God take care of things?"

    Not worry? Not fret? Not obsess? So not my style. But that Saturday, by the power of His Spirit, I really did trust God with my whole heart. In fact, I couldn't wait to see what He might do to solve our problem.

    Thirty minutes later the woman in charge came running up to our lunch table, her face shining. "We found your bank bag! Someone left it in the sanctuary."

    Yes. I smiled broadly. Someone did.

    Was I grateful to have the money back? Sure. But the lessons I learned about letting go and trusting God were far more valuable.

    On the drive home I thanked Him over and over for stilling my tongue and calming my spirit. For keeping me from wounding a sister in Christ. For nudging whoever picked up the bag to do the right thing and leave it where it might be found. For changing my negative attitude into heartfelt gratitude.

    Heavenly Father, even bad news is bearable with You by my side. When I'm tempted to worry, fret or obsess, remind me to pray, trust and let go. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 9:9-10, "The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you." (NIV)

    Romans 15:13, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you're tempted to react from a place of fear, instead respond from a place of faith. Remember, God is more than able to rescue you.

    Are you facing a bad-news situation today? What can you say or do to practice faithfulness and help ease someone else's discomfort?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Trading Fears for Freedom

    Posted on July 4, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah

    "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4 (NLT)

    {Editor's note & trigger alert: We are mindful today's devotion might stir up emotions for anyone who's survived intense trauma. We pray you are encouraged by Leah's message.}

    As a teenager, I lived a pretty sheltered life. I believed nothing bad would ever happen to me. Then one day, I found myself in the middle of a really bad situation.

    Being in the wrong place at the wrong time resulted in a pistol put to my head. A robbery that was a sudden and terrifying scenario for this naive teenage girl.

    "Don't move or I'll shoot!" The sharp words of my abductor rattled me to my very core. Shaking uncontrollably, I could feel the cold, hard surface of his gun pushing against my pulsating temple.

    As my heart raced, thoughts ran through my mind: I'm going to die. This is it ... my life is over. I wanted to run, but saw no way out.

    By the grace of God, I survived. But although I had no physical wounds, the memories of that experience settled deep within my heart. Like acid, it seeped into the center of my shaken soul and ate away at my once-upon-a-time teenage confidence.

    At night, my mind replayed the awful scenario. And during the day, I was afraid to go anywhere alone. Or even be left alone.

    What if I run into him again? Will he recognize me? What if he followed me home that day and knows where I live? What if he comes looking for me again?

    I didn't feel safe ... anywhere.

    I was afraid ... most all the time.

    I struggled ... the memories haunted me.

    Looking back, I realize my abductor abused me momentarily, but fear held me hostage for what seemed like a lifetime. It kept my thoughts in bondage and dictated my daily decisions.

    My biggest regret during that season of distress was not having God's Word hidden in my heart. If I had taken the time to not only read but memorize His Word, I could have traded my fears for God's truth of freedom found in John 8:32: "And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (NLT).

    On those sleepless nights, I could have claimed this promise instead: "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant," Proverbs 3:24 (HCSB).

    When I was alone and scared my abductor might return, I could have replaced my thoughts with today's key verse: "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" Psalm 56:3-4.

    Have you ever experienced something tragic that's left you feeling afraid? Are your thoughts sometimes filled with "what-if" worries or scary scenarios that keep you awake at night? Does fear and anxiety hold you hostage today?

    If so, I understand. I've been there. God's Word is the answer to help you move beyond your fears to freedom with a new level of unshakable courage. Here's the key: Real and sustainable freedom from fears can only be found in Jesus Christ and through His powerful Word.

    Here's what I've discovered: What consumes our thoughts overtakes our thought life. We can't change what's happened in our past, but we can change how we respond to those difficult situations in the future.

    As women of faith, we find freedom from fear when we choose to capture those fearful memories, cover them with God's Word and begin building a healthy thought life as we place our trust in Him.

    Let's commit to focusing on thoughts that bring life, hope and freedom. Let's surrender our broken memories to God and allow Him to saturate them with His healing grace.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being with me so that I'm never alone. Help me to replace my fearful thoughts with Your Word as I begin memorizing Scripture verses today. I believe I can live a life of freedom from fear with Your help. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 43:18-19a, "Forget what happened in the past, and do not dwell on events from long ago. I am going to do something new. It is already happening. Don't you recognize it?" (GWT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    You can start today by memorizing a few of the Scripture verses shared above. Speak them aloud or personalize them into prayers.

    How can you let God's Word change your thinking as it brings healing to painful memories and true freedom to your life?

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Christ and Country

    Posted on July 3, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind. Psalm 33:12-13

    God blesses a country that honors Him, but He brings down a country that dishonors Him. It is  honoring to Him for His people to pray in earnest for righteousness to reign in religion, the work place, seats of government and the home. It dishonors the Lord when we behave like His commands are suggestions and marginalize His mandates. Countries founded on Christ are blessed if they continue with Christ.

    Where is our Christ conscientiousness? Do our actions reflect accountability to almighty God and His ultimate judgment? Faith without the fear of God is anemic in the face of moral relativism, academic attacks and the indulgences of affluence. A nation that fears the Lord fears sin and its deadly consequences. Thus, Christians are called by Christ to engage in their communities with compassion and a standard of right and wrong.

    The law of the Lord is the basis of the law of the land in a country that honors Christ. The Bible is clear, “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous”(Romans 2:12-13). God blesses a nation that obeys His laws.

    Therefore, for our children’s sake, let’s raise our standard of acceptable actions for preachers, politicians and parents. Let’s return to public prayers of dependence on the Lord and private prayers of repentance from sin. Without God’s blessing a country creeps into moral chaos, economic meltdown and institutional irrelevance. But, with God’s blessing a country thrives on trust in Him. We desperately need to stay bless-able before the Lord.

    "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).

    Prayer: Am I a citizen who unashamedly represents Christ in my community? Do I pray with persistence and humility for repentance among God’s people?

    Related Readings: Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 144:15; Romans 12:14-15; 1 Peter 2:9

    Post/Tweet today: Countries founded on Christ are blessed if they continue with Christ. #wisdomhunters

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

  • The Best Approach with a Frenemy

    Posted on June 30, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me." Psalm 118:6-7 (NLT)

    Day after day, month after month, the hurtful behavior continued. The longer it went on, the stronger my emotions grew.

    Someone who'd been a friend to my daughter had somehow become an enemy. Not an enemy with physical strength, but rather one armed with the power to injure through hurtful words, lies and gossip while manipulating others to do the same. Each day presented a new conflict, inducing heightened feelings of rejection, isolation and lowered self-esteem.

    We reported the issue to the appropriate people, but despite many attempts, nothing changed. We felt hopeless. When yet another situation sent my daughter home from school in tears, I felt my hostility and frustration bubbling to the surface, and knew I was faced with choices about my own behavior.

    I could fuel my daughter's anger by reminding her of all the reasons she had a right to be mad, causing both of us to grow more bitter.

    I could allow hostility to become a stronghold in my heart and refuse to forgive.

    I could talk to my friends and family about the situation, soliciting their support.

    I could cry buckets of tears, although that wouldn't dry the tears of my daughter.

    Unfortunately I did a little of all that, because nothing hurts a mom's heart more than when her child's heart is broken or her spirit is crushed. But eventually, I grew weary of my emotions holding me hostage and turned to prayer instead of pouting.

    I prayed daily for God to give us both the strength to continue trusting His purpose for my daughter's pain. I asked God to help me see those involved through His eyes, instead of my own — which were tainted with anger and concern for my own child. I prayed for Him to intervene and give us hope, peace and the comfort that only He could provide. I also prayed for God to help me forgive, when nothing in me wanted to.

    As I sat down and prayed with my daughter, we discussed these words from Psalm 118:6-7a, "The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? Yes, the LORD is for me; he will help me."

    I reminded her (and myself) of the truth of the Psalmists words, that regardless of what anyone said or did, God still was on her side. I wanted her to know eventually this difficult season would pass, but in the meantime she could find strength and courage in Christ. A tear fell as she promised to try and remember God would be with her every step of the way.

    Even in the face of suffering and heartache, the Psalmist chose not to fear but instead focus on the favor of God, trusting He would protect and prevail over his difficult situation. He remained calm, confident and focused on God, intentionally choosing to fight his enemies with faith. As a mom, I knew our faith was the best choice for us as well.

    We knew we couldn't force anyone to alter the way they treat others. Only God can change a heart. But we could choose to trust God and approach this situation the best way possible — through the eyes of faith.

    Lord, I know You see our children and what they are going through. Help me to know how to speak truth into their lives, and help us have strength and courage to continue trusting You are bigger than our conflicts. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Editor's Note: If you or someone you love is facing a bullying situation, please report it immediately to someone in authority and make sure you or your loved ones are safe.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If your child is hurting due to a similar situation, which have you been doing more: praying or pouting?

    If you struggle with negative emotions stemming from concern over your child's situation, write a prayer to God seeking His strength. Ask God for help to push past feelings, focus on faith and discern how best to handle the problem.

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • God is Not Mad at You

    Posted on June 27, 2014 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness." Psalm 145:8 (AMP)

     

    It never took us kids long to figure out that our dad was angry. He'd bite his bottom lip, then ball up both of his hands into fists. In nanoseconds, all five of us would escape out the back door, where we hung out in our 10-acre, wooded back yard until the eruption was over.

    Unfortunately, many times we didn't make it out the back door fast enough.

    So years later, after I became a believer, the concept of a kind, loving heavenly Father was hard for me to grasp. The words my pastor spoke sounded wonderful, but deep down I couldn't escape a vague sense of God's anger directed toward me.

    Even when I read my Bible, the words often sounded angry to my ears. And every time I failed, messed up or fell short, I felt myself the target of God's anger.

    And I failed, messed up and fell short all the time.

    Initially I didn't understand that my background skewed my perception. It was as if the atmosphere of anger in my childhood home had warped my brain cells, and my experience blocked the truth of who and how God really was.

    Truth began seeping in after a conversation with a friend. I shared, through hot tears, that I desperately wanted to please God, but it felt like He was always angry with me. My friend said, "God is not angry with you, Julie. He loves you, and He understands you."

    This truth was the beginning of a massive boulder of a lie dislodging from my heart.

    For the first time it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, it was possible God wasn't angry with me. But things didn't change overnight. For me, it was a gradual unfolding, a slow process as I grew to know and understand God's loving character more intimately.

    When I stumbled upon today's key verse, tears stung my eyes again, but this time in a good way: "The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and abounding in mercy and loving-kindness" (AMP).

    The fact that God is slow to anger, that He offers forgiveness when I confess my failures and that He does not hold my shortcomings against me in fierce anger, revolutionized not only my brain, but my heart.

    As if that were not awesome enough, that same verse declares that God is abounding in mercy and loving-kindness toward us. The word abounding means "to be present in large numbers or in great quantity; to be fully supplied or filled." As I meditated on this verse and dared to believe God's truth, the massive boulder that had lodged in my heart as a child slowly began to move.

    In reality, God is nothing like my past experience had shaped Him to be.

    He is our gracious heavenly Father who loves and accepts us as we are, patiently bearing with us, teaching and guiding us as we grow and mature in Christ. He is not mad at me, and He is not mad at you. God is for us, not against us (Romans 8:31). He has good plans for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), and He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

    Sometimes our past experiences shape us in ways we don't fully understand. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, God reshapes us, transforming our hearts and minds as only He can. Though it often takes time, God's truth can work its way deeply into our hearts and completely dislodge boulders of lies. And oh, how He loves to roll away the stones!

    God, where boulders of inaccurate perceptions are lodged in my heart, please remove them and bring truth. I am thankful that instead of regarding me in fierce anger, You forgive and patiently lead and guide me. I'm so grateful that You are slow to anger. You are a loving, gracious heavenly Father, and I adore You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 31:3, "God told them, 'I've never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!'" (MSG)

    Romans 8:31, "What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do you seem to sense that God is angry with you? Ask Him to enable you to hear His gentle, loving, true voice. Ask Him to give you an accurate perception of who He truly is.

    Write down Jeremiah 31:3 and read it to yourself several times daily this week. Know that the same God who will never quit loving you is not angry at you!

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

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

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