Quick! Bring Out The Best

Quick! Bring Out The Best by Karen Ehman

“But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24 (HCSB)

When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? I admit, I don’t always respond in the most gracious of ways — or with the most gracious of words.

Even when that person admits responsibility and asks for forgiveness, sometimes I still want to dwell on their fault rather than respond with grace. However, a fender-bender incident from years back taught me an important lesson about the right way to react.

I was driving back to my dorm my sophomore year of college, when a car ran a stop sign and smashed into my old station wagon. Uninjured but upset, I got out of my car. At that point, I discovered that the person who hit me was someone I knew: the baseball coach’s teenage daughter.

She was understandably shaken. At the time of the accident, she was driving a nearly-new car and was apprehensive about calling her parents. With a little encouragement, she walked to a building on campus to phone her dad. As soon as she explained about the accident, her dad asked over and over, “How are you? Do you have any injuries at all? Are you sure you’re okay?”

She confessed the accident was all her fault. Plus, she expressed her worry about the vehicle, but repeatedly, her dad’s only concern was to make sure she was safe. He seemed to care nothing about the car’s damage.

The memory of that incident touches my heart. My kids have been in minor accidents in older cars, and I too have been more concerned about their well-being than the car. But in this particular situation, I might have had a hard time looking past the price tag of that nice vehicle.

I can’t help but wonder: If I knew my child was okay, would I still be as forgiving if I had just recently laid down a large sum of money to buy a brand-new vehicle?

There is one similarity I see in this story and the story of the prodigal son: the fathers’ reactions. Both kids had a dad who responded with the bigger picture in mind.

In our key passage today, Luke 15:24 tells how the father says of the son, “He was lost and is found!” The son, who had selfishly taken all his inheritance early, was now back to confess he’d made some foolish choices. And amazingly, the father responds with joy! No bitterness. No guilt trips. The father didn’t look at his clothes and remark on his shabby appearance.

In that moment, the father was able to step back and see the big picture of his son’s homecoming as he says, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him …”

The Bible is so practical. What If I used those same words when someone came to me admitting their faults? Take a moment to pause and think about what it would look like to respond to a desperately repentant person by saying, “Quick, let me get my very best for you.” Take a moment to picture yourself saying these words to someone: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

Then take a moment to picture yourself receiving these words: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

The college coach who was more concerned with his daughter’s well-being than the damage to the car is a great reminder to look at the big picture. Give grace. Grant compassion. Be quick to forgive.

You know, just like Jesus treats us.

Father, may I respond with quick compassion and total forgiveness when someone admits their fault. Just like You did with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Luke 17:3-4, “So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Don’t wait for the magic words. Some people give apologies that hardly sound like apologies at all. But we are only responsible for our response. Don’t wait for an enchanting combination of words. Use your words to display lavish compassion. Don’t hesitate. Do it quickly. What an expression of love it will be.

© 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

Bible Basics: How to Read and Understand the Bible

Understand the timeline of biblical events, learn more about the culture and customs during Jesus’ time and discover how to apply the Good News to your life by supplementing your study with a second Bible.

Have you ever read the Bible and felt like you didn’t understand the point of the passage? The stories in the Bible aren’t documented in order and it isn’t always clear how they relate to other pieces of Scripture, which can make it difficult to comprehend the context. Understand the timeline of biblical events, learn more about the culture and customs during Jesus’ time and discover how to apply the Good News to your life by supplementing your study with a second Bible.

Enjoy 50% off select Bibles now through January 26 and invest in a better understanding of God’s Word.

A Chronological Bible
Gain a greater understanding of the order of biblical events and the historical context in which they unfolded. Chronological Bibles arrange the entire Bible text—books, chapters and even verses—in the order the events actually happened. This structure allows the stories to flow in a more natural way so they are easier to understand.

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible
Discover new insights into even the most familiar Bible passages with the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Every page is packed with expert insights into the customs, culture and literature of Bible times. It’s a window into behind-the-scenes details of the ancient world that will clarify difficult passages and give you confidence in your study of Scripture.

The Jesus Bible
The birth of Jesus in Bethlehem isn’t the beginning of the story of Jesus. The entire Bible points to Him. Filled with relevant notes, articles, essays and book introductions, The Jesus Bible will help you follow the thread of Jesus from cover to cover. Discover a new depth to the Bible’s meaning as you see Him in every chapter of the story. The Jesus Bible includes exclusive articles from Louie Giglio, Max Lucado, John Piper, Ravi Zacharias, Randy Alcorn and others from the Passion Movement.

A Life Application Study Bible
The Life Application Study Bibles emphasize living out the principles of Scripture rather than simply looking at the historical details from that time period. The notes not only explain difficult passages and give cultural cues; they go a step further, speaking to every situation and circumstance of your life. These Bibles include nearly 10,000 Life Application notes and features designed to help you apply God’s truth to everyday life.

Understanding the Bible is the first step to applying what’s on the pages. We hope these resources help you grasp all that God’s Word has to offer.

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How to Study the Bible: 10 Practical Tips to help you Understand God’s Word

How To Live a Brave and Beautiful Life

How to Live a Brave and Beautiful Life by Alicia Bruxvoort

“You direct me on the path that leads to a beautiful life. As I walk with You, the pleasures are never-ending, and I know true joy and contentment.” Psalm 16:11 (VOICE)

The woman sitting beside me in the airport held a faded leather backpack that appeared to had weathered a lifetime of stories. And the hiking boots laced to her ankles bore the scars of a thousand miles.

And, to be honest, I was surprised by the discontent that stirred deep in my soul as I wondered what adventures the traveler next to me had lived.

I’d like to scale a mountain bigger than the laundry piles in my basement, I silently pouted while I counted the eyelets on those dusty boots.

I’d been serving at a ministry conference all weekend and would soon catch a flight back to the small town I call home. And though I was excited to be reunited with my husband and five children, I wasn’t eager to return to my daily grind of carpooling and homework-helping, cooking and cleaning.

“Where are you headed?” the wearer of those boots asked, interrupting my pity party.

“Home,” I replied as I lifted my eyes to meet her kind smile and reciprocate the question.

Turns out our destinations were the same, but we had little else in common. She worked for an international relief organization, serving people in need all over the world. I worked from home serving the six people who live beneath my roof.

During the past week, while I’d watched ballgames and grumbled about cooking dinner again, she’d watched the sun rise over the Himalayas and delivered food to hungry children in Nepal. Her feet had trekked through jungles and climbed rugged mountains, while mine had wandered grocery store aisles and played endless rounds of backyard soccer.

The more we talked, the more I wondered why this world traveler was waiting to catch a flight to my pedestrian little town.

When I asked that question, her eyes sparkled.

She told me she was on her way to visit her only sister who was “raising kids and cattle” on the family farm where they’d both been born.

I tried to imagine the dramatically different lives these two sisters had lived — one sprouting wings and traveling the world, the other sinking roots and rarely venturing beyond state lines.

“So have you always been the brave one?” I queried with a wink.

The woman fiddled with the leather strap on that old backpack, then met my gaze. “Actually, my sister’s the brave one.”

My expression must have broadcast my confusion, because that boot-clad traveler flashed me a knowing smile and continued, “I’ve spent a lifetime finding joy all over the world. But my sister wakes up in the same place every day and chooses to find joy right where she’s at.”

A lump of conviction welled in my throat.

“I think that’s brave,” the woman beside me murmured with quiet reverence.

In today’s key verse, King David reminds us the secret to living a beautiful life isn’t dependent on where our feet tread but in WHOM our feet follow.

A life of joy isn’t found in chasing adventure but in chasing our Savior.

And, according to Psalm 16:11, when we choose to keep company with Jesus — prayerfully seeking Him first and obeying His directions — we find true contentment right where we are.

The overhead speaker crackled with our flight’s first boarding call. And as the woman beside me excused herself to make a phone call to that brave sister of hers, my eyes seeped silently with tears.

I pictured the ordinary life waiting for me at home — the demands and the delights, the giggles and the grumbles, and suddenly, I couldn’t wait to hop on that plane and return to my beautiful life.

And maybe, once I hugged those five kids who call me Mom and scaled those mountains of laundry that grew tall in my absence, I’d dig out my old hiking boots and set them by the door. ‘Cause sometimes we just need a simple reminder to keep looking for joy on the path beneath our feet.

Dear Lord, I want to find joy in the life You’ve planned for me. Give me strength to follow and obey. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Timothy 6:6, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” (NIV)

Philippians 4:12b, “… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation …” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Turn Psalm 16:11 into a prayer; invite Jesus to direct you on the path that leads to a beautiful life.

Feeling discontent with your life? Spend time with Jesus and ask for His joy.
© 2017 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Review

Grace, forgiveness and redemption are core themes in The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, a fun, faith-based comedy in theaters now. Essentially, these traits are what Christians are known for, but Gavin Stone doesn’t know that when he shows up on the doorstep of Masonville Baptist Church to serve his 200 hours of community service.

After a party gone wrong, Gavin is just looking to serve his time so he can get back to Hollywood to reclaim his fame as an actor. He mops a few floors and cleans a few bathrooms, but quickly comes across auditions for the upcoming church play. Naturally, he wants to audition, but the church has one stipulation: You must be a Christian. “I am,” he lies. And so begins his journey as a “believer,” which involves many cheesy moments, cliché phrases and wrong assumptions.

Strictly following church stereotypes, Gavin tries to fit in with his cast mates. When he attends his first church service, he trades in his beanie, jeans and button down shirt for khaki pants, Dockers and a tucked-in polo shirt. He greets everyone he passes with a “Blessings. Peace to you.” He goes “all out” during worship, and grabs a whole handful of communion wafers instead of just one as they pass the communion tray during the service.

It’s humorous moments like these that make Gavin likeable and relatable as a character, though some of his humor about Christian stereotypes could offend conservative viewers. It’s an effort to draw attention to how Gavin sees Christianity from the outside, showing that his assumptions about Christianity only get him so far. In getting to know people from the church, he realizes he is missing something.

His cast mates don’t just say all the right Christian things; they demonstrate a Christ-like attitude in the way they live.  Allen Richardson, played by The Cutting Edge front man D.B. Sweeney, is the pastor of Masonville, but he knows what the “bad boys” are like and won’t take any grief from Gavin. He makes it known that Gavin has to make good decisions to complete his community service at his church. Kelly—the pastor’s daughter, the play’s director and Gavin’s love interest in the film—demonstrates patience, grace and forgiveness time and time again as Gavin presents his new ideas to “enhance” the play. Doug, played by former WWE wrestler Shawn Michaels, is a sweet man in a biker gang for Jesus who is dedicated to helping others in need. He attends a weekly Bible study and invites him in when no one else does. His example of humility is exactly what Gavin needs, having come from the narcissistic world of Hollywood.

It’s through these characters’ actions that the gospel is preached. God’s grace shines through as the audience sees Gavin feel welcomed into the church community and begin to understand what being a Christian truly means.Overall, this movie is a laugh-along, feel good film with a strong Christ-centered message.

I Was Her

I Was Her By Lysa Terkeurst

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NIV)

I saw her coming across the arena. Deliberately. Intentionally. Her eyes fixed on the stage … on me … on what I must have represented in that moment — a woman who might understand.

Through the crowd. Up the stairs. Across the stage. She stood next to me, pressing her shoulder against mine, as I was speaking to 6,500 women.

And there she was staring out at thousands, but pressing into one. Needing more than words.

Later she explained she needed God and thought if she stood close enough to me, she just might be able to feel Him.

I didn’t have time to carefully plan what to do. I’d never had this happen before. I’ve never seen this happen. It wasn’t even on my scope of possibility. But there she was. And there I was. Two women who simply, desperately, need Jesus.

And because I am so hyper-aware of my own desperation for Jesus in every moment of every day, I simply wrapped my arm around her and kept on speaking.

It was a wrinkle in time. Something that wasn’t supposed to be, and yet was. And I think I now know why.

I needed to remember that ravenous longing I once had to press against somebody who knew Jesus. I was her. Looking at other people’s faith wondering how to get that. That depth. That closeness. That unswerving conviction.

I truly thought if only a person with that faith would let me be close enough, I’d discover their secret. I’d learn their routines. I’d mimic their obedience. I’d follow them to the ends of the earth until I got it right. Then, then, then, I’d feel close to Jesus. I’d understand the Bible. I’d pray powerful prayers. And all would finally make sense.

However, there is a big difference between being close to people who love Jesus and being close to Jesus Himself.

I can certainly learn from people. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20a, ESV).

But if I want closeness with Jesus, I won’t find that in following anyone but Jesus Himself. He is the One who must be pursued.

There have been a thousand whispers from my heart, “Show me, Jesus. Show me how to follow You, be close to You, press into You, be more like You … show me. Show me today. Show me in this minute. Show me, please Jesus, show me.”

A thousand whispers. And there will surely be thousands more that pour from my lips. For Jesus wants us to walk with Him. He says, “Follow me.” Over 20 times in the Gospels, “Follow me. Follow me.”

And those who dare to whisper yes and then walk in His ways, find the One for whom they are longing. They find light and love, hope and life — “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” John 8:12 (NIV)

Yes, there she was. And there I was. Two women who simply, desperately, need Jesus.

Dear Lord, I desperately need You. But I don’t ever want to settle for a secondhand relationship with You — relying on what others know of You, instead of seeking You for myself. I want to see You. I want to hear You. I want to know You. So I’m asking You to show me. Help me to follow You. I am choosing to press in close to You above all others today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” (NIV)

John 14:6, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Ask the Lord to help you take an honest look at your life. Are you following Jesus or are you following others more? Purposefully set aside time this week — just you, Jesus and His Word.

© 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

How Long, Oh Lord?

How Long, Oh Lord? By Esther Fleece

“How long will my enemy triumph over me?“ Psalm 13:2b (NIV)

When I reached my 30s, I remember praying “How long, Lord?” as I filled out yet another change of address form.

During several years of job and life transitions, I’d filled out my share of these. I needed to have a list of my previous addresses nearby just to remember them all, and it drove me insane when the gas station pumps began requiring zip codes to make a transaction. My biological family had painfully broken apart years ago, and now everywhere I turned, I was reminded I had no place to call home.

Why, God, am I still living out of a suitcase? How long is this going to be my life?

These were honest prayers, raw prayers, and I had to go on a journey with God to learn it was OK to pray them at all.

For much of my life, I thought to question God was to doubt Him. I had learned to trust in His sovereignty, and desired God’s will for my life over my own. But somewhere along the path of obedience, my questioning ceased, and so did my laments.

Lament is a passionate expression of grief where God meets us in our time of sorrow. Lamenting prayers are prayers where we express our honest emotions before God. God wants to hear us, even on our bad days, and He is always open to our honest prayers.

One example of a lament found in Scripture is when the Psalmist cries out to God, asking: How long?

“How long, LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psalm 13:1, NIV)

Have you ever lamented how long to God? How long must you be in angst? How long before you see your children come to the Lord? How long must you stay in a job that doesn’t satisfy you?

David’s how long lament shows we will sometimes feel forgotten, and even forsaken by God. Notice that this lament isn’t silenced by a happy-go-lucky song in church, or dismissed by an uncomprehending friend. David’s lament is taken directly to God in the form of prayer. In Scripture God permits us to lament, and as we cry out to him in lament, He answers.

The Psalmist continued, “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2a)

God gives us permission to present our honest questions before Him. He knows we will have anxious thoughts and troubling circumstances. It is what we do in these lamenting times that matter.

Unfortunately, I am guilty of often gossiping about God instead of taking my honest laments before Him in prayer. As a child of God, we can take our questions directly to God, even while our hearts are still filled with pain.

Why is she getting married, and I am still single?

Why is her life blessed, and I am still struggling?

Why is my sorrow unending, with no change in sight?

What are your how long prayers right now? Do you have permission to express them in the context of a Christian community, and have you given yourself permission to lament them directly to God?

We are all blessed with good things in life, and many of us are simultaneously struggling. As God’s people, we can experience multiple emotions at once. In a later Psalm, David laments as a form of confession, while at the same time asking God’s help to give Him praise.

“Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.” (Psalm 51:15, NIV)

There is no “fake it ‘til you make it” in Scripture. Lamenting gives our honest cries to God and gives Him the opportunity to comfort us when everything is not fine. Being “fine” is never to be our goal with God, however, intimacy and transparency are.

As we take our laments directly to God, He will meet us right where we are … not where we pretend to be. Keeping our laments inside will cause us to shut down, displace emotions, isolate ourselves or stop praying altogether. What a generous God who has invited us to lament “how long” and modeled this language to us directly.

Heavenly Father, help me let out my laments to You. As I cry out, “How long?” meet me right where I am, and transform my laments into praise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Habakkuk 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” (NIV)

Revelation 6:10, “They called out in a loud voice, ‘How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?’” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What is one lament you have had in the last 24 hours?

Practice telling God of the disappointment you are currently facing.

© 2017 by Esther Fleece. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage

Reigniting Passion in Your Marriage by Sharon Jaynes

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5a (NIV)

What do you do when you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’ in your marriage? Maybe you truly adored your husband in the beginning, but now you can’t remember why. Maybe you honestly admired his finer qualities, but now you can’t remember what they were. You once appreciated his wonderful attributes, but now you take them for granted.

Between taking out the garbage, paying the bills, running the car pool, mowing the lawn, disciplining the kids and folding the laundry, sometimes the passion of marriage gets lost. It happens to all of us at one time or another. We can get so busy taking care of life that we forget to take care of love.

No one gets married to have a long list of chores.

If you’re like me, you got married because you were madly in love and couldn’t imagine life without your man! You were passionately stirred beyond belief and couldn’t wait to tie the knot and spend the rest of your days with this incredible person God had miraculously brought into your life. Maybe you still feel that way. But maybe you could use a little reminder — a re-stoking of that passion.

In the book of Revelation, God had this to say to the church at Ephesus: “I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Ephesus was one of the most loving churches in the New Testament, and yet somewhere along the way they lost that initial thrill of knowing Christ. Their love for each other and for God had grown cold.

So how do you get that lovin’ feelin’ back? God gave the church two simple steps in Revelations 2:5a, and I believe we can apply them to our marriages as well: “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.”

Remember how it was in the beginning.
Return and do the things you did at first.
For most of us, the accumulation of small struggles can nibble like termites to undermine the foundation of what appears to be a healthy structure as surely as the unexpected, earth-shaking rumble of sudden disaster. And routine, even good routine, can rob us of the joy and passion of marriage … if we let it.

One day I took John’s words in Revelation to heart, and decided to “remember and return” by romancing my husband. One day I simply put a sticky note on his bathroom mirror that said, “I love you.” Another day I placed a box of Red Hot candy on his car seat with a note that said, “You’re a hottie.”

And you know what happened? Steve had a skip in his step and smile on his face. And what happened in me? I can hardly describe the love that welled up in me, as I loved my man well. Hear this … I changed! The passion was re-ignited.

I don’t have a personal story of how God took our marriage and miraculously transformed it into a storybook romance filled with white-knight rescues, relentless romance and rides into the sunset leaving all danger and darkness behind. Although our marriage has been all that at one time or another, it’s no fairy tale.

Our marriage is like a daily journal, one page after another, one day after another. I’m guessing just like yours. Some entries are smudged with tears; others are dog-eared as favorites. Some days are marred by unsuccessful erasures that couldn’t quite rub away the hurtful words said; others are finger-worn by the reading of precious events time and time again.

But on those days when I see my marriage slipping into the mundane cadence of passionless routine, I pull out my list of ideas, and put a smile on Steve’s face.

Lord, may that be my challenge today. When I see the fire needs stoking, help me remember and return. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 7:5, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (NIV)

Proverbs 5:18, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What are some ways you could let your husband know you love him today?

© 2017 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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

The Work and Wonder of Love

The Work and Wonder of Love by Chrystal Evans Hurst

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

We walked behind the house and into the backyard. My mother wanted to show me something.

There was a small tree. Not quite a sapling, but still young. It was a pecan tree, to be more exact.

As we stood in the yard of the house my parents had just moved into, I wondered why my mother thought to point out this particular tree.

“She planted it for her dad.” My mom paused and turned her face up slightly to look into the tree’s thin branches. “Her dad passed away and she planted this tree for him.”

My mother’s own father had just recently passed away and I’m sure my mom felt connected to the gesture of keeping a beloved memory alive.

It’s been some years since my mom showed me that tree. And even though the tree wasn’t planted for her dad, she has taken care of it like it was.

The tree has grown. Its trunk has gotten wider and its branches have stretched higher and become denser. We have to look up with more than a slight glance to see the top and it even provides much-needed shade.

But we didn’t plant the tree.

While my mother has watered it, trimmed it and picked up the fallen pecans, she did not place the roots of the tree in the ground.

Someone else did.

But now, we all benefit from its growth and shade.

More than 50 years ago, a man by the name of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. placed the roots of grand ideas in the soil of our nation. He did it to keep the dreams alive of others who had gone before. He did it while praying that in the future, others would benefit from the growth of the ideas. He did it because he knew the roots of those ideas would grow and honor the God who created people of all color.

While Dr. King planted the ideas in the hearts and minds of millions, he was not with us very long to water the tree himself.

Today, we all benefit from the tree of brotherly love and biblical equality that Dr. King planted. But we do so because so many people came alongside Dr. King, then and now. They watered the dream, trimmed it and picked up the pieces that fell every now and again.

So many over the years have honored the message and the memory of Dr. King by caring for the dream as if it were their own.

In a way, it has been. People have been compelled to keep the dream alive and well. They have felt connected because their stories or standards reminded them that the dream mattered.

And it does matter.

To all of us.

We are all connected. First John 4:7 reminds us that Christ-followers all bear the mark of the glory of God. As believers, we bear the special mandate of loving others because the love of God covered our sin. When we love our brothers and sisters, we are watering, trimming and picking up what we all hold dear — our love for God, His love for us and our remembrance of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice. This is what makes it possible for us to, indeed, all be connected in Him.

And love matters. Love for those who look like us. Love for those who don’t.

The beauty of our love lies simply in this … the work of love allows us to behold the wonder of love. So, as we care for each other, we honor not only the dream of brotherly love from one man, but more importantly, the God who gave that man the ideas to plant. In doing so, we all benefit from love’s covering.

Dear Father in Heaven, help me to love my brothers and sisters in Christ and also those who do not yet know You. Help me remember that Your sacrifice was the beginning of the love that I know and the love that You want me to give to others. Help me to faithfully do my part to share Your love with the world — whether that’s on the other side of the globe, in my town, on my street or down the hallway. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Sometimes we are tempted to show love to strangers when we need to love the people down the hall. What does it look like for you to practically love someone close to you today?

How long has it been since you intentionally reached out to show love to someone who does not know Christ? How could you do that today?

© 2017 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

Bible Basics: 5 Tips for First-Time Bible Readers

Get encouraged and equipped with these tips for first-time Bible readers.

Opening the Bible for the first time can be intimidating and overwhelming. But with some grace and guidance, you can press past your doubts and find freedom in God’s Word. Get encouraged and equipped with these tips for first-time Bible readers.

We’re offering 50% off select Bibles now through January 26 to help you get started.

Prepare Your Heart
In the beginning, you may feel like reading your Bible is an obligation or a chore. Don’t be discouraged! Spend some time in prayer, asking God to help you see His Word as a blessing instead of a burden.

Start with the Gospel
Don’t feel like you need to read from beginning to end. The Bible is like no other book; reading out of order won’t change the truth on the pages. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are a great place to start. They are commonly referred to as the Gospel because they detail the life of Jesus.

Use a Bible Study Guide
Designed to enrich your understanding of God’s Word, Bible Studies are a great tool for first-time Bible readers. Navigate God’s Word by books of the Bible or by a topic that relates to a specific season in your life.

Ask Questions
It takes time to fully understand God’s Word. If you’re confused by a passage or stumble on something that doesn’t’ align with what you have been told about Christianity – ask! Find a spiritual mentor or leader in the church who can help you navigate the complexity of the Bible and answer your questions honestly.

Apply the Word
The Bible should inspire you to live differently. If you’re simply going through the motions and moving on with business as usual, you’re missing out on the benefits of the Bible. Choose at least one verse from your reading to meditate on and think about how you can implement that wisdom into your daily life.

God’s Word is a gift. We hope these tips encourage you to dive in and begin to unpack all the Bible has to offer.

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Be Still

Be Still by Lynn Cowell

“He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

One after another, choices needing decisions just keep coming.

Home decisions hang in the balance. When can I get this fixed? Who will follow through with the repairs? What will it take to get everything done?

Work decisions weigh on my mind. What are the next steps to take? Am I the only person who can do this? Do I need to bring in more help? How will this timeline come together?

Relationship decisions tug on my heart. Is “yes” the best answer? When can I spend time with them? Should I really be that honest with my thoughts and feelings?

Decision fatigue.

Even as I write these words, my mind feels so very tired of the many decisions that need to be made.

Weary, my heart turns to the only One who has the answers to each and every single decision.

I open to a blank page in my journal to share my tired heart with the Lord.

A prayer seeps from my heart, through my pen and onto the page. Weariness oozes from the ink: Lord, renew my awareness of Your presence. I need a fresh infilling of You in me. I need Your wisdom, for You to do a gentle, peaceful work in me that flows from me. No rushing. No pressure. Just peaceful guidance from You, leading to purposeful obedience from me.

As I pray I realize that in the natural, this pathway of making these decisions alone will not lead to peace. He is peace.

I make the best choice I can choose — turning to His Word to me: “Be still, and know that I am God …” (Psalm 46:10a).

Do you see that comma? It seemed to jump off the page.

A pause.

Be still, …

When I’m still, then I will know. I will know the peace He embodies. He will show me His will. I will know that He is God.

Not When I’m busy, When I’m productive or When I make all the right decisions, but When I’m still.

The word “still” in Hebrew (the original language of the Old Testament) means: to hang limp, sink down, be feeble, to be lazy, to leave alone, abandon, withdraw, to show oneself slack.

Am I reading this right? Could it be that God is endorsing this type of behavior?

Yes, I have read His word correctly.

Be still. Be patient. Be quiet. Be trustful and know. That is where He calls me to go: Pause and find Him. Peace.

Lord, being still, when there is so much to do, seems so wrong. Yet, Your ways are not my ways. Help me to breathe deep, be still and pause to take You in. I want to know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

Jeremiah 29:13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (NIV)

Isaiah 30:15, “For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.” (NASB)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Is decision fatigue something you experience? How often?

Spend some time being still before God today. Present to Him the decisions you need to make. Then ask Him to help you pause before Him, so He can give you the peace and wisdom you need.

© 2017 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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