Because I Am Loved

Because I Am Loved by Lysa TerKeurst

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

A few years ago, my friend challenged me with this question: Are you doing this because you are loved or so that you’ll be loved?

Her question is a great one.

Doing something “so that we’ll be loved” is a trap many of us can get caught in. When I do something because I’m trying to get someone else to notice me, appreciate me, say something to build me up or respect me more, my motives get skewed.

I become very “me” focused. I put unrealistic expectations on myself and the other person. And I can get so very hurt when I don’t feel more noticed, appreciated or respected.

I think one of the greatest contributors to relationship breakdowns and breakups is when we hold people hostage to expectations we refuse to express.

I can get all twisted up and take out my frustration on myself and that person in an unfair way.
But, doing something because I am loved is incredibly freeing.

I don’t view the relationship from the vantage point of what I stand to gain. Instead, I look at what I have the opportunity to give. I am “God-focused” and love-directed. I keep my expectations in check.

And I am able to lavish the grace I know I so desperately need. I live free from regret with clarity of heart, mind and soul.

So, how do I know if I’m doing things because I’m loved or so that I will be loved? See how easy or hard it is to apply these Biblical truths:

Because I am loved, I can humble myself.

When I’m trying to be loved, I must build myself up to look better.

Because I am loved, I can cast all my anxiety on Him.

When I’m trying to be loved, I cast all my anxiety on my performance.

Because I am loved, I can resist Satan and stand firm in my faith.

When I’m trying to be loved, I listen to Satan and stand uncertain trying to rely on my feelings.

Because I am loved, I know God will use this to make me stronger — and I want that.

When I’m trying to be loved, I don’t want to be made stronger — I want life to be easier.

Yes, I want to pursue life, relationships and the goals I set from a healthy and free vantage point — because I am loved.

These aren’t just good life principles, they’re God’s life principles: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:6-10, NIV).

Dear Lord, I don’t want my motives to get skewed today. Help me not be so “me-focused.” I want to live each day knowing I am loved. Living because I am loved is freeing. I long to stop trying so hard. I know You love me, Lord, and that You are making me stronger. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” (NIV)
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)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Ask God to help you honestly assess if you’ve been doing things lately because you are loved or so that you’ll be loved. Then spend some time looking up and meditating on Scripture dealing with God’s love for you. Give yourself permission to believe and receive His love — knowing you don’t have to earn it and you can’t ever lose it.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Love at First Fight

Love at First Fight by Dena Dyer

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you?” James 4:1 (NLT)

I loved my husband, Carey, desperately when we first got married … and it shocked me that we would ever have conflict in our marriage.

Naïve much?

We’d been best friends for a year before we ever dated. However, living with someone 24/7 brought out sides of him I’d never seen. It also brought out sides of me I’d never seen. I became self-protective, insecure and jealous.

Marriage quickly became a crucible. I realized I had a choice: Either allow God to forgive and free me from my quickly accumulating sins, or continue to be selfish and petty.

Some days, I chose the latter. Other days, I chose the former.

And I became painfully aware of the truth found in James 4:1, which reminds us that the “quarrels and fights” among us “come from the evil desires at war within.”

I wanted Jesus to have all of me … and I wanted to have a lengthy, healthy marriage. I knew there were no guarantees except that I — with God’s help — could change my own behavior.

In the process, here are three things I learned about fighting fair:

  • Don’t disengage. My past had taught me to stuff emotions and run from conflict. These were not healthy patterns at all, and Carey encouraged me to stick around when we argued, instead of leaving the room or running from issues we needed to resolve. Wow, that was a painful — but necessary — part of growing up. (Admittedly, this took years and lots of hard work. My tendency is still to “shut down” at times when things get tense. But I’m getting better.)
  • Don’t overreact. In the beginning of our marriage, I often let the way Carey said things send me into a tizzy. Instead of dealing with conflict in emotional, irrational ways, I had to learn to take a deep breath and carefully listen to Carey’s words — not just his tone or presentation.
  • Do find a happy medium. In the first few years of marriage, Carey wanted to hash things out for as long as it took to come to an agreement — even if our argument lasted for hours! But I wanted to talk about our conflict and then think about it separately … only coming back together when we had cooled down and found some sort of clarity. After a few years of butting heads over our differences, we found a compromise that worked. We agreed never to go to bed when we were angry, but we also agreed to “table” certain discussions until later, if I became too fatigued or distraught to continue.

Marriage is not always easy, but it was never supposed to be. The rough patches in marriage remind us how much we need to lean into God. As my husband tells our kids when they’re doing their homework, “Hard is not bad. Hard means you’re learning something.”

Difficulties and disagreements in our relationships can be outlets to show our mate “who’s boss.” Yet if we lean into the Lord, they can become opportunities for us to surrender to God’s guidance and build bridges to a deeper relationship with our spouse.

Father, we don’t want to run away from each other or from You, but our desires fight and war within us, and we are tempted to hurt each other. We often choose self-protection over selflessness. Move us from greed to gratitude. Lead us from spite to spiritual union. We need Your help every hour of every day. Continue Your transforming work in us, and sanctify our marriage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 4:26-27, “And ‘don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.” (NLT)

Ephesians 4:31-32, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (NLT)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What makes you angry? Jealous? Self-protective? Talk about the ways your spouse could reassure you. Think about ways you can begin to let God heal the wounds that cause those emotions.
When have you surrendered your own desires for the sake of your spouse? How did you feel? How did your spouse react?

© 2016 by Dena Dyer. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Barbour Publishing for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

In Case You Were Wondering — God Knows

In Case You Were Wondering — God Knows by Tracie Miles

“The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;” Psalm 34:15 (NIV)

For months, I prayed the same prayers, yet they seemed to go unanswered.

So each time I spoke to God, I made sure He hadn’t forgotten by reminding Him constantly of my needs and desires. I felt He had a right to know I was still anxiously waiting for Him to act and that honestly, I was getting a little annoyed at His seeming lack of swift action and attention.

Have mercy.

As I laid my head to rest one night after yet another exhausting, discouraging day, I finally asked the questions we all may be secretly tempted to ask when our circumstances don’t improve and our problems keep piling up: “Do You see me, Lord? Do You even hear what I’m saying? Do You know what’s happening?”

Then moments later, I drifted off to sleep.

A few hours into the quiet darkness of the night, I abruptly awoke. There were no loud creepy sounds coming from another room and no startling thunder or lightning outside that would have interrupted my sleep. Total silence — except for a persistent musical rhythm dancing through my mind.

I recognized the tune but hadn’t heard it in quite some time, so it took my sleepy mind a couple minutes to figure it out. When the lyrics of the song finally came flowing into my mind, tears filled my eyes. The song title? “He knows,” by Jeremy Camp.

“He knows, every hurt and every sting; He has walked the suffering. Let your burdens come undone. Lift your eyes up to the One who knows. He knows.”

God had gently pulled me out of a deep sleep because He had something simple, yet so important, to tell me: He does see me … hear my prayers … and care. And above all, He knows.

My heart quickened at the thought of hearing from my heavenly Father in such a sweet and gentle way. In the midst of running the universe, God saw fit to remind me that just because I didn’t yet know how He was at work in my situations, didn’t mean He didn’t know exactly what was happening.

As the sun began to rise, I reached for my Bible and looked for verses about God’s attentiveness to our lives. I came across today’s key verse that reminds us: Even when we think God isn’t watching, He sees us. When we think He isn’t listening, He hears our prayers.

Scripture tells us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” (Hebrews 4:13, NIV). There isn’t a day or a tear that God doesn’t know about. He sees whatever we’re going though … and He knows.

God’s Word also reassures us the Lord hears His people when they call to Him for help (Psalm 34:17).

God knows every prayer spoken, and He hears the cries of our hearts.

The struggle to believe God sees us often signifies a problem within our hearts, not His heart for us. And yet, doubts don’t make us broken believers, just broken people living in a world where things break our hearts — and God’s.

But there’s no greater joy than seeing throughout Scripture that the Creator of the universe deeply cares about what we’re going through. Hope and peace can be ours when we believe that in God’s timing and in His ways, He will answer.

This late-night encounter with God helped me refocus on my faith and remember although He may not have answered my prayers, I can trust He knows.

If you’ve ever wondered if God cares about what you’re going through, take comfort today in letting yourself believe He does.

Lord, help me remember You not only know what is happening in my life, but You have a plan. Fill me with peace and the ability to trust You as I wait. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Matthew 6:8b, “… for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (NIV)
Psalm 139:2-4, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely.” (NIV)
1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What current situation in your life have you been doubting if God sees, hears, cares or knows about? How does knowing He does help lighten your heart?
Think of a situation causing you to doubt God’s interest in your life. Spend some time in prayer surrendering that problem to God.

© 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

When I Feel Attacked

When I Feel Attacked by Lynn Cowell

“Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.” Numbers 14:5 (ESV)

“Why would you …?”

When someone else begins a conversation with those accusatory words, there is so much potential.

Once they’re uttered, I’ll hold all the power. I have the choice to lean into my natural instincts or control my tendency to let pride take over.

While reading my Bible recently, I was challenged by parts of Moses and Aaron’s stories in the book of Numbers.

After scoping out the new land God had promised them, all except two of Moses’ spies brought back a terrible report. They returned defeated before the takeover plan could even begin.

Allowing fear and ungratefulness to overflow onto everyone they encountered, the spies spilled out fear on all the Israelites:

“So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, ‘The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height … and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them’” (Numbers 13:32, 33b, ESV).

Soon, the entire camp was in a rebellious uproar. They demanded to know why they couldn’t return to Egypt, where they’d been enslaved for centuries. They directed their wrath straight at their leaders: Moses and Aaron (Numbers 14:1-4).

As I read this passage, I didn’t feel contempt for the Israelites. Instead, I saw myself as one of them. I’ve been the complaining consumer of God’s goodness before.

What I felt instead was awe, seeing Moses and Aaron’s response: “Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel” (Numbers 14:5, ESV).

When I feel attacked, my normal response is not to fall on my knees and begin praying. Oh no! I might not be explosive with my words and actions, but my mind often builds a defense strong enough for a courtroom. All my energy goes into self-preservation.

Yet that’s not what I see in Moses and Aaron.

Instead, I see humility.

And I see God respond to these men who didn’t immediately choose to defend themselves and their actions, but instead turned to God: “Then all the congregation said to stone them with stones. But the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the people of Israel. And the LORD said to Moses …” (Numbers 14:10b-11a, ESV).

Moses and Aaron could have chosen the natural human response: build a case, then put people in their place.

Instead, they chose humility. And God not only defended them, He came into their presence.

Moses and Aaron remind me that a posture of humility brings God’s presence to my problem.

Sometime soon, you and I will experience someone’s spill of emotions. As those words begin to burn, like Moses and Aaron, we’ll have a choice. Yes, we can rise up in anger and self-defense, letting them have what they deserve.

Or this: We can choose to humble ourselves and let God come to our defense.

One reaction has an immediate emotional release. We feel better short-term, getting feelings off our chest and onto the “enemy.” But long-term, there will be consequences.

When we choose humility, we pay the price of self-control up front, but it opens the way for God to defend us and brings His peace to our situation. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit working through us can we bypass the natural to choose His supernatural response. This is when we reap the beautiful results of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23.)

I’d like to say this choice is simple, even easy. But that’s simply not true. Looking at heroes of the faith like Moses and Aaron challenges me: I can exude the fruit of the Spirit if I’ll make the hard choice and choose humility.

Holy Spirit, empower me to respond from a place of humility, allowing You to control me and not my emotions. Open my eyes to see when I, like Moses and Aaron, need to fall face-down and understand Your heart before I spill out my own on others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 22:4, “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (ESV)

Ephesians 4:1b-2, “… walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How do Moses and Aaron’s actions impact the way you think of defending yourself?

Is there a relationship in your life that challenges you in responding with humility? Ask the Lord to empower you to respond in a way that invites His presence into the relationship.

© 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

5 Biblical Lessons to Teach Your Kids

Math, science, art and history – your kids learn a lot in the classroom but what about at home? As parents who are raising ambassadors for Christ, it’s important to make sure an understanding of God’s Word is part of the equation. That’s why we’ve outlined five lessons to teach your children that align with God’s will for them.

Love God
There’s a reason this is the first commandment. Jesus instructs us in Mark 12:30 to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind and soul. This is a lesson that children can begin to grasp at an early age and will serve as the foundation for all other principles.

Be Kind
The golden rule taught in grade school has more biblical truth to it than you might have thought. In Matthew 7:12 Jesus tells us to do to others what we would want them to do to us. Kindness is rooted in a deep love and respect for all of God’s people.

Respect Authority
Whether it’s a parent or the president, the Bible is very clear that we are to respect authority. Romans 13:1 reminds us that the authorities in place have been established by God. We are to teach our children that we don’t have to fear authority if we ultimately trust our Lord and Savior.

Tell the Truth
Help your child understand the importance of honesty. Ephesians 4:25 commands us to speak truth to our neighbors because we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Similar to kindness, the ability and desire to tell the truth stems from love and respect.

Give Thanks
We serve a good God who delights in blessing us. The enemy is quick to attack our thoughts in an attempt to consume us with negativity and unmet needs, but it is so important to drown them out with praise and thanks to our Father in Heaven. Psalm 100:4 says that we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving and praise His name. Instill a heart of gratitude in your child and be quick to point out all of the good things God is doing in their life.

While these lessons are important, they’re not all-inclusive. The Bible offers more grace and guidance for parents than we could fit into a blog, so we encourage you to ask for wisdom and spend time in the Word as you seek to raise children of God.

We believe something great happens when a child applies the Bible to their life and begins to understand who God has called them to be. That’s why we’ve created an exclusive line of superhero-inspired kids’ decor called Small But Mighty. This line is designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.

What biblical lessons would you add to our list?

Why You Don’t Have to Fear the Upcoming Election

Why You Don’t Have to Fear the Upcoming Election by Lysa TerKeurst

“‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’” 2 Kings 6:16 (NIV)

I looked around the table at my kids I love so much, and fear gripped my heart.

What will the outcomes of this coming election make our world look like? What will it be like when they are trying to live as Christians in a culture so determined to dismantle our Biblical values? Have I taught them enough? Equipped them for the battles they’ll face? Will they withstand the pressures and policy changes and political shifts?

I’m not even sure I understand all the complicated political realities, but I do know when I watch the news or read discussions about the upcoming election, I don’t get a good feeling.

What I thought we’d have to navigate one day, seems to be a reality this day.

And it can leave this simple mom’s heart feeling afraid.

Do you ever feel this way? We crave safety and certainty and simplicity to raise our families, serve God, and live out our Christian beliefs in both private and public. But so many things feel threatening to those desires.

How do we navigate both our fears and our faith?

There’s a wonderful truth I turn to time and again when I get afraid. It’s in 2 Kings chapter 6 verse 16, “‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’”

The prophet Elisha spoke this treasured truth to his servant. The servant was breathless with fear because he looked and saw a massive enemy army surrounding them. His desperation is so clearly heard in verse 15b: “‘Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?’ the servant asked.”

Their circumstances were horrible and hopeless when examined through human eyes.

But Elisha doesn’t look at circumstances with human eyes. He sees there are always two realities to everything we face: A physical reality but also a spiritual reality. Elisha clearly saw the frightening military leaders surrounding his city who thought they were in control. But he also saw an angel army sent by God who was far stronger, far greater and far more in control than any human eye could see.

I love what Elisha prays for his servant.

Elisha prays his spiritual eyes will be opened so his faith will be increased. He doesn’t pray for his servant’s fear to be eased. He doesn’t pray the enemy army turns and runs away. He doesn’t pray a new king will swoop onto the scene and change the antagonistic political climate of that day. He doesn’t pray his circumstances will change at all. He simply prays his servant can see with spiritual eyes that God is in control.

“‘Don’t be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha,” (2 Kings 6:16-17, NIV). An angel army sent by God was there with a divine assignment.

His fear was then silenced as He saw the protection and provision of God.

And that’s how we can quiet our fears as well. Psalm 34:7 reminds us of this same truth, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” (NIV).

That was true for Elisha’s fearful servant and it is true for us too. The Matthew Henry commentary says, “As angels are God’s messengers, so they are his soldiers, his hosts (Genesis 32:2), his legions, or regiments, (Matthew 26:53), for the good of his people.” And probably most comforting to my mom’s heart is Matthew 18:10 which says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

Angels are not mystical or mythological, nor are they supposed to be the object of our worship. They are Biblical realities on assignment from God. They point me to recognize God’s presence and see God’s power. I need to remember this truth. That’s why I asked my artist friend Deann to paint some angels for me to hang in my home where I see them every day.

I need to remember no matter what the nightly news says about current circumstances, God’s good news is my ultimate reality. The enemy is vicious, but he is not victorious. Therefore, I can sometimes feel afraid, but I don’t have to live afraid. Like that beautiful praise song by Chris Tomlin gloriously expresses, “I know who goes before me — I know who stands behind. The God of angel armies is always by my side.”

Lord, I acknowledge Your angels on assignment from You to protect me. Like secret agents, Your angels are guarding me. Thank You for Your careful concern for every part of me — physical, emotional and spiritual. In all ways, You are with me. I will not feel alone or powerless. I will feel guarded like the treasured daughter I am. I know You are making all things right and good. I know Your love will reign supreme. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 91:11, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What has been stirring fear in your heart recently? Spend some time today surrendering those fears to the Lord, and ask Him to open your eyes to see things from His perspective.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

When the Loneliness Crushes Your Heart

When the Loneliness Crushes Your Heart by Karen Ehman

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

I will never forget the day of my senior prom.

Not because I had a handsome date that swept me off my feet as we danced the night away. Not because I was able to purchase the perfect dress I’d always dreamed of wearing. Not even because I went with a group of girlfriends who all decided to go stag and then had a blast doing “The Bump” on the dance floor together. (Hey, it was the ‘80s, and “The Bump” was all the rage!)

No, I remember the occasion vividly because it was the day I decorated the school gym, set up the food buffet and then went home to spend the evening with the cast from The Dukes of Hazzard as my only companions.

I was on the committee that hung streamers and set out vases of fresh flowers to make the evening magical. And because I worked at the restaurant chosen to cater the finger foods, I also carved a watermelon, filled it with fresh fruit and placed it — along with platters of cheese and crackers and other assorted hors d’oeuvres — for the excited attendees to enjoy.

But there would be no prom night for me. I hadn’t been asked. My senior year of high school wasn’t really a time of fun and friends. It was a year full of sorrow and rejection, of many nights spent home all alone, feeling left out and unloved.

In elementary and middle school I seemed to have little trouble finding friends to call my own. In fact, I was part of the popular crowd. But in the eighth grade, after repeating some gossip about a girl in my class, I lost a slew of friends. I was banished from the popular table at lunch — and forced to find a new group of friends.

This smaller group of friends sufficed throughout my first half of high school. But then, during the fall of my junior year, I turned my life over to Christ. This life-altering decision meant there were parties I would not attend and activities I simply had no interest in engaging in. My circle of friends grew smaller and smaller. My senior year, I even faced ridicule from some classmates for my newfound faith.

Thankfully, I got plugged into a church youth group. However, most of the kids there went to a different high school, so my days spent in class were often void of any real, meaningful friendships. Sure I had teammates on the cheerleading squad and project partners on the school newspaper staff. But close friends? They were nowhere to be found.

Mentally reliving this time brings back sadness, but it also reminds me that this was the exact life experience that catapulted me into the arms of Jesus. During my lonely times I read and re-read His Word — a book I just couldn’t seem to get enough of.

I attended the adult Bible study at church and caught a vision for living a ministry-centered life.

Although my personal friendships on earth were few and feeble, my relationship with my Creator in heaven grew immensely strong. God carefully cradled my crushed heart in His hands and tenderly rubbed the healing balm of His love deep into its wounds.

Today’s key verse describes the deep love of God — unfailing, everlasting. His love is not dependent on our looks, our brains, our financial status or our social standing. He loves us. Now and forever.

Completely and thoroughly. With no signs of stopping.

Prom flowers wither.

Cliques and schoolyard statuses soon go away.

But we will never be found lacking when it comes to a God who created us, is crazy in love with us and won’t ever leave us out. If you have a trampled heart, soothe it with the comfort of this mind-blowing truth — God loves you forever and ever. The End.

Father, thank You for how You always welcome me and have never rejected me. Not only have You loved me in the past, but You will love me forever. I am blessed to know Your steadfast, perfect, unmatchable love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 25:16, “Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.” (NIV)

Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of a time in your life when you felt left out, lonely or unloved. How can the truths of today’s key verse help you to look to God for companionship?

© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

The Real Problem in Marriage

The Real Problem in Marriage by Dr. Tony Evans

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV)

Not long ago, a couple came for marriage counseling with a lengthy list of all the issues they were facing. It must have had at least 30 things on it.

I felt instantly depressed as I watched them pull out that list. How am I ever going to help them solve so many issues? I thought, as they began to read every item.

On and on they read, naming what sounded like legitimate sources of conflict. I could easily see why they weren’t getting along.

Once the couple finished reading, the husband handed me the list and I faced a decision: Would I go through this list with them and provide input on each issue, or would I address the real source of their conflict?

I looked at the list. Then I looked at the couple.

Both of them had hopelessness — even anger — written all over their faces. Then I looked back at the list, carefully and thoughtfully penned.

And I tore it up.

Right there in front of them. You can imagine what their faces looked like then.

They’d taken time to prepare this list for our meeting, and I had just shredded it.

I leaned toward them and said, “We could talk about these 30 things, but nothing will ultimately change in your marriage, because this one thing is missing: the spiritual foundation of your relationship.

“Without establishing and maintaining a solid spiritual relationship, your list of 30 things, once solved, will just morph into another 30, and you’ll wind up back here the same time next year with another list of things to solve.”

I could tell they were listening intently, so I continued. “Get this one thing right, and all the other things will fall into place. Get a divine perspective on your marriage as the foundation for your home, and you’ll discover who your true enemy is — and it is not each other.”

Fights in our marriages assume that our spouses are the problem.

And that’s exactly what the devil wants.

He wants me to believe my spouse is the problem — not my own selfishness. He knows I will never fix the real problem if I believe my mate is the problem.

But ultimately, my spouse is not my enemy, nor the problem. The problem is a spiritual one brought on by my own sinful flesh, and a rebellious, clever enemy of God.

So much of what we fight about in marriage has nothing to do with the real issue. There’s almost always something deeper — an unmet need, a lack of trust, a lack of respect, etc. These are the root of our problems and fights.

However, what makes a marriage strong is loving with a biblical love grounded in patience, kindness, loyalty, grace, and in alignment with God’s covenantal purpose for marriage.

Often things we fight about have to do with our own sinful choices, as well as the demonic realm working against us. When we fail to make a spiritual connection to everything that goes on in marriage, we’ll continue to rant about whatever the current issue is.

That’s why I must commit my marriage to prayer and cultivate a real relationship in humility while seeking God’s wisdom and guidance and asking for His love, grace and mercy.

God’s Word reminds us to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).

I’m happy to say that when the couple I mentioned earlier sought to view each other and their relationship through God’s eyes, they made every attempt to cultivate and keep their marriage.

Over time I saw the wife’s countenance lift as if she were becoming a brand-new woman. I also saw the husband enjoy a relationship with his wife that had brought him dread. To this day, they are living the fullness of a life together, in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God supplies the strength we need to successfully do battle in our marriages. So let’s use the difficulties we face to get on our knees and seek God’s face to grow closer to Him.

Dear Lord, I know that decisions made apart from Your wisdom notoriously wind up causing more harm than good. Help me seek You first, identify the true enemy in my marriage and suit up in the full armor You’ve provided so I can stand firm in the truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 6:12-13, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do you sometimes think your marriage would be wonderful if it weren’t for your spouse? Take a moment today to thank God for your mate and pray for His help that you both focus on God.

© 2016 by Dr. Tony Evans. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

Don’t Worry: God is at Work

Don’t Worry: God is at Work by Arlene Pellicane

“… Saul said to the servant who was with him, ‘Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.’” 1 Samuel 9:5 (NIV)

Ever worry about your children? Yes, me too.

When my eldest child, Ethan, was in first grade, he went to a public school with more than 1,000 kids. There were many unknowns to fear. What if he is taught something by his teacher I don’t agree with? What if he has a friend who shows him something inappropriate? What if his little 6-year-old worldview is shaped by pop culture instead of the Bible?

So I joined a weekly prayer group for kids and schools and asked my new friends to pray my son would find a Christian friend at school. The very next day Ethan said, “Guess what, Mom? I met a boy at recess and I asked if he was a Christian. He said, ‘Yes,’ and Mom, he’s in my class!”

While I was worrying at home, God was working at school.

Apparently, I’m in good company. The father of Israel’s first king was also prone to worrying about his son.

The family’s donkeys were lost, so Saul’s dad, Kish, sent him on a mission to find them. Accompanied by a servant, young Saul passed through the mountains of Ephraim and through the lands of Shalisha, Shalim, the Benjamites and finally the land of Zuph.

Far, far away from home, Saul turns to his servant and says, “ … Come, let’s go back, or my father will stop thinking about the donkeys and start worrying about us.”

I doubt Saul’s father was a weak-willed, easily-frightened man. The Bible describes him as a “mighty man of power” (1 Samuel 9:1b, KJV). Yet even the strongest can crumble under worry when it comes to their children.

Maybe Saul’s father wrestled with nagging questions, too. God’s prophet, Samuel, confirmed that Kish was indeed worried and had been asking others if they’d seen Saul (1 Samuel 10:2b, NLT). I imagine any number of questions were floating through his mind: What if my son is lost? What if my son is stuck in a ditch? What if my son has been injured and can’t get back home?

While he was wondering about Saul’s safe return home, God was preparing Saul to become the first king of Israel.

Saul wasn’t lost. He was exactly where God wanted him. The arduous journey to retrieve those pesky donkeys was designed by God to bring Saul to Samuel.

It’s a reminder that instead of worrying about my children and their problems, I should pray for them. And recognize the challenging journeys they face at school — or in life — may be exactly what they need in order to hear God’s voice and receive His direction for their lives.

My son Ethan is now in junior high. Thankfully, he is still friends with that Christian boy God illuminated in first grade.

Just like young Saul left on a mission to retrieve donkeys and then returned as the chosen king of Israel, your child (or a child you care about) is on a personal journey of faith. One filled with unexpected challenges and blessings. Don’t worry along the way; instead pray. Take heart. In the midst of our worries and concerns, we can rest assured God is at work.

Dear Lord, I commit the children in my life to You. Help me not to worry about them, but pray in faith, believing You are at work. I will not be anxious today. I will be patient, waiting on Your answers for their lives. Thank You for working on my behalf. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 138:8, “The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.” (NKJV)

Philippians 4:6-7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are you worried about one or more of your children this school year? Tell God all about your cares and then praise Him that He’s working behind the scenes for your child’s good.

© 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

How to Choose a Bible: 4 Questions to Consider

With so many translations, styles and features – choosing a Bible can be both exciting and overwhelming. We know the importance of understanding and connecting with God’s Word. That’s why we’re committed to being your spiritual partner and helping you find a Bible that speaks to you. Get started with the following questions designed to walk you through the Bible selection process.

Who is this Bible for?
Maybe you’re buying your first Bible, your fifth Bible or looking to bless someone with the gift of God’s Word. If you’re buying a Bible for someone else, consider their age, gender and spiritual needs. Keep this in mind as you consider the following questions.

Is this Bible for a specific life event or milestone?
Whether you’re celebrating a baptism, graduation or simply welcoming a new believer, we’ve got a Bible specific to each occasion. The needs of a pastor and someone celebrating their first communion will be different, and we believe their Bible should be too.

Are you looking for a specific translation?
Some translations, including the KJV and NKJV, are more literal because they were translated word for word and often require a higher reading level. Other translations, like the NIV and NLT, use more contemporary language because they were translated phrase by phrase allowing for a smoother reading experience. Both types of translations are used to study God’s Word, so be sure to choose one that resonates with you.

Are you looking for additional features?
Hard cover or leather bound? Large or small print? Maybe you want wide margins for Bible journaling. Maybe you’re doing a majority of your reading on the road and would benefit from a compact version. Consider when and where you’ll be using your Bible most and choose features that align with your needs.

Still have questions? Take the next step and try out our new Bible Finder. This online tool will walk you through these very questions, present you with an in-depth look at your options and then recommend a variety of Bibles based on your responses.

What questions do you have about the Bible buying process?