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Tag Archives: Romans

  • Shame On Me, Again

    Posted on December 10, 2014 by Vickie Courtney

    VICKIE

    "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (ESV)

    It happened suddenly and without warning.

    One minute I was sitting in a booth, laughing over a cup of coffee with my youngest son on his college campus (which just so happens to be my alma mater). The next minute, I'm driving away from my old college stomping grounds when the mere sight of a corner drugstore triggers a painful reminder of my past.

    It just so happened to be the same corner drugstore that one of my roommates and I ducked into late one night under a cloak of darkness to purchase a pregnancy test. She was late and had assumed the worst. It turned out it was negative, but it just as easily could have been me purchasing the test.

    In fact, at age 17 it had been me, which is what triggered my sudden feelings of shame that day. Back then, I was the one taking a pregnancy test, only my results were positive. This, in turn, led to my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I've spoken openly about this part of my past and have been walking in victory for many years, but every so often, the feelings of shame still come.

    And that's what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.

    Dictionary.com defines shame as "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."

    We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.

    We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve's sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.

    Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to breakneck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds, and yes, even ministry service. Been there. Done that.

    Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a mainstay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.

    Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, "What you did was bad." Shame says, "What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person."

    Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, "If I could go back and do things differently, I'd do this ... or that." Shame says, "I'll never get it right. I'm a failure."

    Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, "Everyone experiences embarrassing moments." Shame says, "Yet another reminder that I'm a loser, and nothing will change that fact."

    Guilt is always connected to behavior, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.

    We can't completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.

    And that's exactly what I did that day driving past the drugstore when the old shame tapes began to play. I hit the "eject" button and boldly declared out loud today's key verse, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Over and over, I proclaimed it until, once again, I believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.

    Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time you experienced a painful encounter with shame? Did you allow the shame tapes to play in your mind or immediately turn to Christ, hit "eject," and show shame the door?

    The next time shame pays you an unexpected visit, show it the door by confidently declaring Romans 8:1.

    © 2014 by Vickie Courtney. All rights reserved.

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

  • But You Don't Know My Family

    Posted on December 9, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN

    "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:18 (ESV)

    Sometimes the images I spy during the holiday season can deflate my festive spirit and send me instead into a frosty funk.

    A stunning home appears on my television screen complete with color-coordinated décor, an inviting roaring fire and stunning packages under the Christmas tree that look as if they were wrapped at a high-end department store.

    Then, I glance around my home.

    I see ordinary decorations donning our humble tree and gifts wrapped with commonplace paper topped off with tags from the dollar store. And I use the term "wrapped" rather loosely. I'm all thumbs when it comes to holding a roll of tape while also trying to create crisp creases and edges. I usually opt for an easy-open gift bag instead.

    Social media blows up with taunting images too. A holiday tablescape dotted with gourmet foods. Clever crafts. Incredible traditions. All of these can make me feel my holiday season is "less than" by comparison.

    But the images that prompt the most "must-be-nice" feelings in me are the ones of the families gathered together. And they're not just gathered. They also appear to be getting along!

    Family time around the holidays can be rough. Different personalities, lifestyles, schedules, religious beliefs and political views — even the opinions on who should bring the pumpkin pie this year — can all make for an interesting, even explosive, yuletide gathering.

    I used to enter time with family with the goal of everyone behaving. No outright fights, sarcastic statements or backhanded comments. While it didn't always happen, when it did, it was usually due to one particular relative who loves to sling their opinions throughout family events. Before each family gathering with this person, I hoped and prayed that none of their caustic and cruel comments were slung my way. But rarely did that happen.

    Instead I had my mothering skills subtly slammed, my method of mashing potatoes called into question and worse. As a result, my hopes of a happy family gathering were dashed and my feelings got repeatedly — and deeply — hurt.

    Over the years, I have found a tool that helps me when entering into interactions with the in-laws and out-laws. I simply apply today's key verse from Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

    I am not single-handedly responsible for bringing peace to the family gatherings. I can't close the curtain on every scene of drama. I can't force others to be nice. But I can control my words and actions. I can make sure what I say doesn't contribute further to the tension or escalate a minor squabble into a family feud.

    As far as it depends on me, I can behave.

    I can change the subject. Speak in a calm and collected tone when answering the combative person. Or just simply keep my mouth shut and say nothing at all. I can leave the room and go play with the children. Go into the kitchen and quietly do the dishes.

    I've learned I don't need to say every single thing I'm thinking. Or even half the things I'm thinking!

    I can purpose to pray and weigh. Pray that the Lord will help me know if I should speak or remain silent. And weigh each word I do say, asking myself if it is totally appropriate, completely necessary and ultimately gracious.

    Then, when another family gathering is in the books, I can look back and see that I did not contribute to any of the drama that might have ensued, but instead I chose — to the best of my ability — to create or keep the peace. I can then put on my coat, give a round of goodbye hugs and leave the family gathering guilt-free, with no regrets.

    Well, except for that second piece of pumpkin pie.

    Father, when interacting this holiday season with family members, help me to do everything in my ability to live peaceably with all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 14:19, "So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more on using your words properly, check out Karen's latest book, releasing next month, entitled Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say it and When to Say Nothing at All. Click here to preorder and be among the first to receive your copy.

    Save the date! Our next Online Bible Study starts January 26 and features Keep It Shut. Watch for updates at Proverbs31.org.

    Visit Karen's blog to enter her 12 Days of Christmas giveaways or sign up for her free email resource about using our words carefully called 5 Days to Sweet & Salty Speech.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone you encounter at family gatherings whose bad behavior sometimes tempts you to behave poorly in return?

    How can keeping in mind the instructions in Romans 12:18 help you to alter your behavior around that person this year?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Recapturing Us in the Midst of Our Rush

    Posted on November 6, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

    Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many options and demands to manage?

    So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early on in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.

    However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time it was my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived right down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine.

    Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.

    But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.

    I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary's funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what?

    When I reached Ken, I just bent down and gave him a hug. "How are you, Ken?" Tears filled his eyes, "Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa."

    And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more as I began to sense I was to invite Ken over for dinner.

    I started having this argument with God in my mind, "God, he's going to expect food. Cooking isn't in my Top 10 talents. I mean, sometimes we just order pizza and call it a night. My cooking doesn't even hold a candle to Mary's. Are you sure about this?"

    But Ken hadn't asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.

    So I smiled at Ken and said, "Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can't always promise it will be tidy and I'm certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure ... my house is never silent."

    Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.

    We never had candles or tablecloths or even a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken's lonely heart.

    We wanted to live out today's key verse, Romans 12:9-10, "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."

    Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn't my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But offering what little I had was used by God!

    We just did life and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary's ways of doing things and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive.

    And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.

    One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he stepped off the sidewalk to make his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply.

    He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, "Don't miss this. Don't rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in."

    I've never forgotten that.

    Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried and moved away.

    But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinners. We invite co-workers, acquaintances and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in.

    Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don't allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I've been entrusted with get my "less" instead of my "best" because I'm distracted.

    I'm so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours and it changed Ken's.

    It's amazing to me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings of my life. And I've done a lot of breathing it all in ever since.

    Dear Lord, help me see the assignments right in front of me. I desperately want to unrush my schedule so I can love those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 John 1:6, "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one small assignment right in front of you that God is calling you to fulfill? Commit to begin living that out this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dying to My Selfie

    Posted on September 16, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn

    "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin ..." Romans 6:6 (NIV)

    Girls' weekend was finally here! I was so excited to be going away with my two girls and their friends, that when someone hollered, "Selfie!" I nudged my way into the picture just in time.

    The selfie is a spontaneous picture taken to capture ...

    To capture what?

    Sometimes, like our road-trip shot, it's to capture a moment we're enjoying and people we're loving. Other times, I wonder if it's more than that.

    "Mom, you always find a way to get in there!" one of my girls lovingly laughed from the back seat.

    My daughter's tease got me thinking ...

    Do I always find a way to get in on what is going on? If so, why?

    Do I turn selfie moments into opportunities to make the moment about me? Shift the attention toward me?

    Shouldn't I be past this?

    Sometimes the young girl we once were, the one who wanted to be noticed, the one who sought after a boy's attention or longed for her parents' approval, is not completely gone.

    Maybe there's a side of me still wanting acceptance and attention. This possibility makes me uncomfortable. I don't want to be an insecure woman.

    I want to be a woman who reflects love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I want to have selfless attributes of a heart that reflects Christ in me, the fruit of His Spirit on display. A lasting grace that isn't about getting attention, but about serving and loving others more than I love myself.

    I want that kind of beauty for me, and for my daughters as well.

    But to gain it, I have to give something up. I'm going to have to die first.

    Die to the me who is all about me.

    Die to my selfie.

    Because, when I die to me, another woman can emerge. A woman whose character is found in the love she gives, the joy she lives and the peace when she forgives.

    A woman who doesn't make her life about gaining attention, but giving it.

    Today's key verse reminds me that Jesus' work on the cross makes it possible for me to become this kind of woman: "For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6).

    Christ died so I don't have to struggle with the sin of self-centeredness, the pull to make life about me. Christ's new life in me means I no longer have to be a slave to needing attention. I can confidently put the spotlight on Him and others.

    And here is the intriguing twist: A woman who possesses this type of beauty, who chooses others above herself is hard to find, yet she is easy to spot.

    Jesus, I want to be beautiful the way You define beautiful. A woman whose life reflects Your life inside of me. Help me to die to myself so that You might daily live strong in me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on the past 24 hours. Can you spot a moment when you needed to "die to your selfie"?

    In that moment, were you able to recognize this difficult choice you were facing of choosing others over yourself?

    Today, ask the Father to help you recognize when you need to choose others over yourself.

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

    We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.

    Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.

    We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.

    After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.

    As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.

    My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.

    In today's key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it's even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.

    In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he'd broken God's laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn't do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.

    Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life's purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.

    So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn't allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don't have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.

    Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.

    Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

    Romans 8:28, "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." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How might your life be different if you accepted God's forgiveness and grace, then let go of the weight of shame and regret once and for all?

    Read the whole chapter of Romans 7. How does Paul's honest admission of sin and wrongdoing help you recognize that neither you, nor anyone, is beyond God's redemption?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Perfect Parenting Formula

    Posted on June 26, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2a (NIV)

     

    When I was a young mom, I was desperate for a formula. I truly thought there must be a formula I could plug my family into that would yield great kids. And there were plenty of moms who tried to convince me they had the formula.

    "Bottle feed and never let them sleep in your bed."

    "Breastfeed until they are 3, and give them the security of sleeping between you and your husband every night."

    "Don't ever send them to pre-school. It will be detrimental to their social development."

    "Send them to pre-school right away — it's crucial for their social development."

    "TV is good."

    "TV is bad."

    "They must read by age 5."

    "Let them take their time learning to read. You'll ruin their love for books if you force them."

    "Step in and model healthy conflict resolution when they argue with their siblings."

    "Let them handle things on their own."

    "Be there 24/7 for your kids."

    "Don't be a helicopter mom. Give your kids room to discover who they are without you hovering over them."

    Seriously, it's a wonder we moms figure anything out with all the conflicting information and advice we get. I spent the first five years of motherhood convinced I was messing my kids up beyond repair. And it wasn't for lack of trying. Heavens no. I was serious about gathering every morsel of information I could and trying with all my might to decode "the formula."

    Well, here's the deal. I now have kids ranging in ages from 26 to 15, and this is my very best advice in regards to the formula: There isn't one.

    There is no perfect parenting formula. What works for one child may not work for another. The seemingly perfect algorithm one family follows could be disastrous for another.

    We weren't made to follow formulas. We were made to follow Jesus. Period.

    This is true with parenting, but it's also true with every other aspect of our lives as well. We were made to follow Jesus' lead in our marriages, our jobs, our ministries, our churches, our friendships, our everything.

    In Romans 12:2 Paul so powerfully reminds us, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will."

    We weren't made to be robotic followers of this world's formulas. We were made to be transformed into the unique person God appointed to fulfill the assignments set before us. So, on a practical level, what does this look like?

    It's a simple woman who humbly acknowledges how much she doesn't know about life and readily admits how much she needs Jesus. Not just in a spiritual sense ... this woman needs Jesus in every way. All throughout her day, she can be heard whispering heartfelt pleas to her Jesus saying, "Show me the way, show me the way, show me the way."

    And as she does this, she loosens her grip on all the formulas thrown at her and courageously embraces His gentle voice behind her saying, "This is the way, now walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21).

    Dear Lord, help me to follow You and You alone — not a pre-planned formula. Help me to see that I need You more than anything else today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:5, "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (NIV)

    John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What parenting formulas (if any) have you been following or holding onto?

    This week, take some time to pray over each of them to discern if they are in accordance with God's plan for you and your family.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Heart Knowledge

    Posted on June 12, 2014 by Boyd Bailey

    Boyd

    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

    There is a very important distinction between heart knowledge and head knowledge. A person can know facts about God in her head, without applying it to her heart by faith. A man or woman can hear all the right things, say the right things, attend church, and still be 18 inches away from heaven—the distance between the head and the heart.

    We can play church, masquerade our true heart to others, and even fool ourselves, but God cannot be fooled. We can volunteer in ministry, give money and have accolades from genuine Christians, but has our heart truly been transformed by the grace of God? Evidence of conversion is a public declaration of Jesus as Lord, and an internal confession that God raised Him from the dead. A heart engaged with eternity is saved from sin.

    “The Lord says: 'These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught'” (Isaiah 29:13).

    Where are you on the continuum of your commitment to Christ? Are you still seeking? Have you crossed over the line of belief by bowing in humble submission to your Savior and Lord Jesus? Be honest with yourself and God if you have not given your heart to heaven. Pray for the Lord to help your unbelief, and be bold to request prayer from others.

    What life event will it take to lead you to authentic faith and repentance? Marriage? The birth of a child? The loss of a child? The loss of a parent? Health issues? Financial brokenness? When we are on our back, our heart looks to heaven for help. When we drop to our knees in humble prayer, we see the Lord lifted up, and we invite His warm embrace.

    Don’t fight the hang-ups in your head—instead surrender your heart to Jesus. The enemy will always find an excuse for your mind to excuse eternal life in heaven. Do not dismiss childlike faith in Jesus for this is the entrance into His Kingdom. We are first born again with infant faith then we mature by grace and the meat of God’s word. Have you made this initial move of heart-felt faith? Take this first step of trust and start your walk with Jesus.

    “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).

    Prayer: What obstacle to faith do I need to lay at the feet of Jesus, and trust Him?

    Related Readings: Job 33:3; Psalm 21:2; Mark 7:6; John 3:3; 2 Timothy 1:9

    Post/Tweet today: When we are on our back, our heart looks up to heaven for help. #wisdomhunters

    © 2014 by Boyd Bailey. All rights reserved.

  • The Story of the Running Father

    Posted on May 27, 2014 by Sherri Gragg

    Sherri

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NIV)

    Everything was quiet. I sat very still with my Bible and journal on my lap by my front window in a picture of perfect peace. But my heart was heavy with familiar grief.

    I had been in church my whole life. "Amazing Grace" was as familiar to me as the lullabies my mother sang over my crib, yet somehow my image of God was less of a kind and gracious Father and more of an angry, distant judge. How could a holy God ever accept me, one so flawed?

    I bowed my head and began to weep and pray with the kind of honesty that only comes when we are at the end of all our strength.

    I know the Bible says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, but I just can't seem to believe it. Every time I turn to You, my first impulse is fear!

    I give up. I can't do this on my own. Will You please heal my heart?

    Over the next year, God did for me what I had been utterly helpless to do on my own. He revolutionized my image of Him.

    One of the stories that meant the most to me on my journey was the story many of us know by the title, The Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15:11-32. I discovered that in the Middle Eastern Church the story goes by another name: The Story of the Running Father. The difference in the title reflects important cultural knowledge that the people to whom Jesus spoke would have known.

    In the biblical story, the son demands his share of the family's wealth, leaves home and breaks his father's heart in the process. Eventually the young man finds himself destitute in a foreign land and determines to return to his father's house with the hope of working as a servant.

    Scripture tells us the father sees his son a long way off and runs to him. It's the image of this running father that was so powerful to the hearers of Jesus' story.

    First, it was considered extremely undignified for a Middle Eastern man to run anywhere. Running was for children. Also, running required men to hike up their robes and expose their legs, which was considered humiliating and disgraceful.

    The reason he was running was even more significant. It was a very serious matter for a Jewish young man to lose his family's inheritance in a foreign land. If he did, and he had the gall to actually return to his village, his entire community would then bring him to justice through a custom called the Kezazah. Once the community discovered the money was lost, they would surround him and break a pot at his feet. Then they would announce that from that moment on he was cut off from his family and community ... as if he were dead.

    But this young man's father had been watching, and even though his son had broken his heart, he had been hoping for his return. He knew all too well what would happen when the villagers saw his boy. His son would be shamed and then the pot would fall, break, and his son would be lost. So, the father did what no first-century Middle Eastern man would do: he hiked up his robe and ran.

    He ran through the village streets as his neighbors stared in horror. He ran as young boys began running along behind, shouting and mocking him in his shame. He ran ahead of the crowd as they moved toward his guilty, filthy son. He ran ahead of all that was reasonable and fair. He ran ahead of justice, taking his boy's shame upon himself.

    When he reached the boy, the father quickly gathered his son into his arms, kissed him on each cheek and called for a banquet in his honor.

    This, Jesus tells us, is what God is like.

    For too long my image of God was one of a tyrant, or a cold and callous judge. But now whenever I think of God, I see Him running toward me, gathering up my shame in His wake, to redeem me with His costly love.

    My Father, thank You so much for running toward me. Help me rest in Your grace and trust Your great love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 31:3, "The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'" (NIV)

    Psalm 103:13-14, "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What do you honestly believe about the nature of God? Take time to prayerfully consider this.

    What belief do you have that is holding you back from resting in God's love for you?

    © 2014 by Sherri Gragg. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • Redefining My Label

    Posted on May 14, 2014 by Stephanie Raquel

    Stephanie

    "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." Romans 5:3-4 (ESV)

    Have you ever been given a label you didn't choose? The type of label you're sure will stick with you for the rest of your life?

    When I was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer, that's exactly how I felt: I was the victim of a poor label-maker.

    The doctors said there was nothing I could have done to avoid getting my particular type of cancer. So it felt as if an enemy chose me to attack, for no apparent reason.

    My heart ached. Some days it felt as if I were in a boxing ring, with each new cancer-related challenge hitting me smack in the gut.

    As if the cancer diagnosis weren't enough, the trials continued. The "cancer" label affected my eligibility for health insurance and prevented me from giving blood. I know it sounds odd to be sad about not getting poked with a needle, but I often donated blood and absolutely hated being "punished" for something completely out of my control.

    Life seemed so unfair. Couldn't God give me a new label altogether?

    It took several years, but God changed my perspective and enabled me to see my cancer as a gift, filled with multiple life lessons that produced endurance, character and hope.

    Today's key verse helped me understand how God was using this unfair label to change my character: "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope ..." (Romans 5:3-4).

    This passage taught me an important distinction. The goal isn't to rejoice because of our difficult circumstances. But rather, to rejoice in knowing God is doing something in the midst of our suffering. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but I'm grateful (okay, mostly grateful!) God has given me several opportunities to work on this.

    Each of these traits in Romans 5 (endurance, character and hope) builds on the next. Since that fateful diagnosis, I've grown to see God had a purpose in what I suffered. In His grace, God allowed me to hold a mirror up to my life and closely examine it. Cancer helped my husband and me re-evaluate our priorities. Among other things, my family changed churches to find older, godly mentors, and my husband ultimately began his own business.

    This month I celebrate eight years as a cancer survivor — no longer labeled a "victim," but a "victor." My past may not always be worth celebrating, but my future definitely is! I'm so grateful we serve a limitless God who can redefine our labels no matter what we've done, or what has been done to us.

    Father God, I ask for Your patience as You turn trials into triumphs. Lord, help me remove the negative labels others have placed on me, and instead, live by the labels You put on me. Thank You for producing character and hope in me and helping me daily move from victim to victor. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 1:11-12, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." (MSG)

    Psalm 60:12, "With God we will gain the victory, and he will trample down our enemies." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have the labels from your past placed limits on your life? What would your life look like if you were to allow God to help remove the labels?

    Write down one negative label others have used to define you. Next, read Ephesians chapter one. Pray about how God wants to redefine your identity. Then tear up the old word, replacing it with a new word from the Ephesians passage.

    © 2014 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • From Panic to Peace

    Posted on May 13, 2014 by Nancy McGuirk

    Nancy

    "So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God." Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

    Here I am, lying in bed, staring at the ceiling. No sleep. Body still, mind racing. Panic building.

    I forgot to contact Pat today. She's so sick and probably needed me.

    Did my daughter realize she hurt my feelings with that comment?

    What if I don't make my deadline?

    I should have exercised today.

    Why does life seem darker at night? Not just literally. It's as though Satan and his minions are just waiting for me to be alone so they can begin the battle for my mind.

    Recently I began to meditate on Philippians 4:6a: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything" (NLT). Did the Apostle Paul really mean not to worry about anything? Is that even possible? Isn't worry just part of human nature?

    Yes, worry is part of our human nature. Unfortunately when sin entered the world, emotions like worry did too. However, our fallen human nature always clarifies what being separated from God looks like. And it often looks like fear.

    As God's beloved children, we are called to faith, not fear. Faith says, "God is in charge of my life; I will trust Him, even when circumstances might suggest He's not there. I believe God loves me and knows what is best for me." Faith always crowds out fear.

    My heart longs to live in faith; however, at times this is difficult. But here's the key: "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

    If I haven't made time to hear from God through His Word, I find my prayers being more of a monologue of fear-based worry.

    But when I make time to listen to God, I'm reminded of His promises and I become familiar with His voice. As a result, my prayers really do change from panic to praise. In bed at night, a dialogue evolves (no longer a monologue). When I turn to God with my concerns, I can hear His response. As John 10:27a tells us, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them ..." (ESV).

    God's Word reminds us to put the kingdom of God first and the things we need will be ours (Matthew 6:33, ESV). In other words, when I devote myself to God first, all the rest will sort itself out, and this brings peace.

    What is most pressing in your life right now? Whatever that is, put God's Word there instead. Replace worry with the truth of God's love and power. Then we can trust that God will do as He says: "keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed" on Him (Isaiah 26:3a, ESV).

    As I think about God's promises, panic turns to praise, praise turns to peace and peace turns to sleep. I begin to understand what Paul meant when he said, "Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand" (Philippians 4:7a, NLT).

    It is possible to experience God's peace. When we learn to cast our cares on God and trust Him to handle them, faith replaces fear. Worry sees problems, but faith sees the God who can handle the problems.

    God's Word changes how we cast our cares. When we choose to cast them onto Him instead of into the air, we'll find comfort in His promises. Then maybe we can finally get a good night's sleep.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for watching over me at night. Forgive me for the times I have worried. Help me to be devoted to You and Your love, not my circumstances. Instead of tossing and turning at night, I want to remember to turn the pages of Scripture in my mind. I want to rest in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 4:8, "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe." (NLT)

    Isaiah 26:3, "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How can you make time in your day for more of God's Word? Write down your current worries and look for God's promises in response to each concern.

    Consider making a "to think" list each day, instead of a "to do" list. List the promises of God that apply to your life and meditate on them.

    © 2014 by Nancy McGuirk. All rights reserved.

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

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