Words That Made My Heart Ache

Words That Made My Heart Ache by Wendy Pope

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

As beautiful as aging can be, it can also have it’s challenges. In my early 40s, I began to notice my arms weren’t quite long enough to make the words on the page appear clear. As the problem began to worsen, I knew I had to move from my regular print Bible to a large-print one.

My search started at one of my favorite online shopping spots looking for affordable, used options. I typed my criteria into the search box … Thinline, Large Print. Scrolling through the results I saw several possibilities, but one jumped out at me.

The descriptions showed the amount of use, and some Bibles were “used” with highlighted verses. Others were of various colors and designs. So many choices!

As I scrolled toward the bottom of the listings, a tan and dark brown Bible caught my eye, so I selected its picture. This was the one! It wasn’t until I clicked to make the purchase that I read the description: Excellent condition. Does not appear to have been read. My heart ached as I paused to re-read the words: Does not appear to have been read.

Why wouldn’t someone read their Bible? Then I remembered why.

For many years, I didn’t read the Bible either. For a long season of my life I was a carrier of God’s Word. I read the Bible during church when the pastor would preach, and I made sure to read enough to fill in my blanks for Bible study.

But to read, highlight and apply Scripture to my life was foreign to me. How could I, a “C” student, ever understand the Bible? I wanted to be one of those women who highlighted and applied, but I didn’t even know where to start.

Then, our local Christian radio station challenged the listening audience to follow a one-year Bible reading plan. I couldn’t fathom reading the whole Bible, much less in only a year.

In an effort to calm my fears, I took a trip to my local Christian bookstore. If I am going to read the whole Bible, certainly I need a new Bible to read. For what seemed like hours, I previewed various types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. Just when I was about to give up, I pulled a chronological Bible from the shelf.

The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An attractive cover. The best part: Knowing I would read the Bible in the order the events occurred. Yes! This was the Bible for me.

Slowly, I began to understand the Bible as the ultimate guide to life, as Psalm 119:105 reminds us, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, but not without stumbling. The year taught me so much. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy are difficult to read in some parts. I learned it’s necessary to read the Old Testament to really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me as described in the New Testament. Lastly, I learned it’s OK if I don’t understand the whole Bible. God will continue to reveal things to me as I continue to make His Word a priority.

Now, after reading a chronological Bible I am no longer just a carrier of the Word, I am a lover of the Word!

If you’ve always wanted to read through the Bible but desired a friend to come along aside you for support, I pray you’ll take the same challenge and dig into God’s Word in 2017!

Dear God, I admit that reading the Bible is challenging for me. Yet I desire to be more than a carrier of Your Word. Give me a hunger and thirst for Your Truth. Lead me by the power of Your Spirit to study and apply Your Word to my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (NASB)

Isaiah 55:11, “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What are your biggest obstacles to reading through the Bible? Commit now to reading the Bible in 2017. Ask God to help you … and He will.

© 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

When Worries Persist

When Worries Persist by Francine Rivers

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)

In the words of Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never.”

That must be the rallying call for the woodpeckers in our neighborhood, some of whom decided the vent holes beneath our eaves are the perfect location for their new homes. We’ve had one pesky fellow trying to widen the access to our attic. He managed to get through the wire mesh and pull out some insulation.

We wouldn’t have known he was at work if he hadn’t decided to put his machine-gun beak into our bedroom wall. I leapt off my exercise bike, ran to the wall, and pounded — with both fists.

Silence. For one whole minute.

I had no sooner returned to cycling than he was back at work. This time I ran out of the room, down the stairs and out through the back door. He fluttered calmly away and took a break on the oak down the hill. I know he was smirking; I could feel it. I went back inside. By the time I reached the bedroom, he was back at the wall, probably laughing.

Such persistence!

He reminds me of the worries that can come rat-a-tatting at my mind, usually late at night. The doubts and fears flutter in, and I try to rat-a-tat some kind of solution. Then I remember: God is God, and I am not. Which means I have a decision to make: Keep rat-a-tatting, or let go and let God work.

We called in professionals to help cover the woodpecker’s holes with metal vents. When we find ourselves drilling our own holes through constant worry, we can cover those vulnerable places with prayer, which redirects our thought processes and keeps us focused on Jesus.

In Philippians 4:6-7, God promises that when we release our worries and turn instead to prayer, He will give us His peace — a peace that’s beyond anything we can understand. His peace will guard our hearts and minds from the anxieties that can be as persistent as a woodpecker.

Not discouraged, the woodpecker has started drilling his way into the telephone pole across the street. It’s a good reminder to be diligent in prayer and not let worries flutter back and nest in my head.

Lord, it’s so easy to fall into worry. When my fears are reverberating in my mind, help me stop trying to fix everything myself. Teach me to turn to You in prayer, trust You to be in charge and let Your peace reign over me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 29:11, “The LORD gives his people strength. The LORD blesses them with peace.” (NLT)

Psalm 46:1-2, “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.” (NLT)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What worries keep you from resting in God’s peace? Spend a few minutes outside (or, if it’s too wet or cold, look out a window). Look for evidence of God’s presence and His loving care in nature, and remember that it extends to you, too.

This week, reread Philippians 4:6-7. When you’re anxious, choose to turn away from worry and toward prayer, away from anxiety and toward God’s peace.

© 2016 by Francine Rivers. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publisher 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

Why Chipped Crock-Pots Are Holy

Why Chipped Crock-Pots Are Holy by Karen Ehman

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:9-10 (NIV)

My Crock-Pot is a culinary eyesore. Oh, on the day it was purchased, it was actually a gorgeous and functional domestic tool — sleek and shiny, with a new-fangled “keep warm” feature. But today, this kitchen staple sits silently on my pantry shelf, nicked and chipped — nearly tuckered out from two decades of use.

Although I hate to admit it, at times I have succumbed to slow cooker envy. Especially when I spy some of the stunning new styles. Some are digital, and programmable. Others have cute little clip-on signs to showcase what’s simmering inside just waiting to delight everyone’s taste buds. And then, there sits my dilapidated model. Not pretty, but well-loved.

You see, my aging slow cooker has been an important ministry partner to me.

It has housed batches of homemade three-alarm chili for the hungry football team. It has served vegetable soup to an exhausted mom who’d just welcomed a newborn baby after a scary, surgical delivery. It has contained savory beef stew that nourished the bodies of a grieving family we invited over to eat after the recent death of a loved one. Most often, it has warmed the tummies of my own family during an ordinary Sunday supper served on our old oak farm table.

I could grouse about the not-so-newness of my Crock-Pot, wishing for a newer model with all the bells and whistles — and sometimes I have. But as long as she’s still chugging, I have determined to be grateful and not grumble. To just keep cooking. And inviting. And washing. And drying. And doing it all over again.

When we share our gifts, talents and ordinary household items to bless and serve others, we aren’t just being nice. We’re being obedient to God’s Word as our key verse says:

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:9-10).

When we have a God-honoring perspective about our possessions and resources, our hearts and homes can become a wheelhouse for ministry. We can lead with our hearts and bless with our homes. Our homes become a haven — not only for those who dwell there permanently — but for whomever God sends our way. And believe me, He will send people your way.

Our aim should be the same for all of these guests. We don’t offer hospitality — or a home-cooked meal — to impress them. Instead, we want to refresh them. To give them a place where they can relax and unwind. To provide a setting where they can talk and question and contemplate. Most of all, we offer our homes to God as a ministry tool in building His kingdom here on earth. To use our gifts to serve others, displaying God’s grace as we do.

Yes, along with the scrapes and scratches of our kitchen utensils can come work for God’s kingdom. We can weave the gospel into conversations with others. Rock babies as we give their weary moms a break. Encourage teens when they fail to make the team or land a part in the play. Study the Bible, asking big questions and growing our belief. Feed tummies. And fill hearts.

When we offer hospitality with gusto, without grumbling, or complaining, or fretting over our not-so-nice-anymore stuff, we are doing exactly what pleases God — using our gifts for His glory.

A chipped and nicked Crock-Pot is a holy thing indeed.

Father, may I make it my aim today to open both my heart and home without grumbling, using whatever gifts You have given me to serve others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NIV)

Philemon 1:7, “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
When it comes to willingly using your possessions — and opening your home — without grumbling, what letter grade would you give yourself? If your grade needs improving, what can you begin to do to see that grade go up?

© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

Christmas Gift Guide: 10 Christian Gifts Under $10

Give meaningful Christmas gifts that won’t break the bank this holiday season.

You’re making a list and checking it twice. You need presents for the kids, one for your spouse, something thoughtful for that sweet friend of yours, oh, and don’t forget a Secret Santa gift for your office Christmas party. Before you know it, you’re buying twice the gifts you planned on. And while your Christmas list may have doubled, we know your budget probably hasn’t. Give meaningful Christmas gifts that won’t break the bank this holiday season with our Christmas Gift Guide.

Barnabas Bear
This popular teddy bear is soft, shimmery and ready for snuggles. Take him home to give as a gift or donate him to a child in need through your local Family Christian store. All of our stores donate their bears to a local ministry partner in their community.

The Psalms in Color: Inspirational Adult Coloring Book
The Book of Psalms is featured in this beautifully crafted Adult Coloring Book. The pages include a variety of delightful patterns, designs, motifs and ink drawings that incorporate Scripture from Psalms. Rejoice in the songs of praise while you create your unique work-of-art.

Woven Infinity Scarf
This infinity scarf will become your go-to fashion accessory this holiday season. You can dress up any outfit with this stylish scarf. Theses scarves are available in metallic burgundy, metallic silver, metallic copper and metallic black.

Cherry Blossom Bath & Body Box
This bath & body set comes with a cherry blossom scented lotion and shower gel. This set makes a wonderful gift for the women in your life. It is wrapped and ready for gift giving.

Be Fearless Matte Mug
Enjoy a steaming cup of coffee or hot cocoa in this matte ceramic mug. It says ‘Be Fearless’ in big black print. This 14oz mug would make a great gift for a friend or family member this Christmas!

Cross Necklace with Crystals
This simple cross pendant features a cross with crystals on the horizontal of the cross. A wonderful gift, this cross necklace makes a great gift for any woman of faith.

Cupcakes and Jesus Lip Balm Pods
Our exclusive Cupcakes and Jesus Lip Balm Set contains is the perfect accessory for any girl that wants to show and share her faith! The 3-pod set containers are red, pink, and white with sprinkles. Each pod twists open to reveal the lip balm inside.

Small But Mighty Wall Art
Our exclusive Small But Mighty wall art features bright colors, with comic book call outs that say “Use Your Powers For Good” and “Small But Mighty”. Available in assorted colors and patterns.

Active Faith Sport Bands
Show off your faith in a subtle way with this Active Faith “In Jesus’ Name I Play” silicone sport band. They are available in many colors and have the Active Faith logo and message engraved on the band.

Facing the Giants DVD
Facing the Giants is an action-packed, family-friendly drama from the award-winning producers of Flywheel about a high school football coach who draws up a new game plan for his team and himself.

We hope these gift ideas allow you to bless your loved ones this Christmas while staying on a budget. Place your order by December 16 to make sure you get your gifts in time for Christmas.

You Might Also Like

Christmas Gift Guide: 8 Christian Gift Ideas for Her

Christmas Gift Guide: 8 Christian Gift Ideas for Him

Christmas Gift Guide: 6 Christian Gifts Your Pastor Will Enjoy

I’ll Take It From Here

I’ll Take It From Here by Lynn Cowell

“Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, ‘God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.’” 1 Samuel 23:7 (NIV)”

Stuck somewhere between numb and exhaustion, I stared out the window. Lord, how did I end up here? Please forgive me.

I had grown up hearing, “Pray for God to open a door.” So when it came to my job, I had done just that. I prayed, I believed and before I knew it, there wasn’t just one, but many open doors. That’s when I quit praying. Somewhere in my mind, I figured I would just do what I had been trained to do and walk through them.

All of them.

In the middle of the success coming my way, I didn’t stop to ask, “Is this You, Lord?” I already knew it was Him. My actions, however, said, “I’ll take it from here.”

It reminds me of King Saul.

Shortly after being crowned king of Israel, Saul took over his life as well. When he no longer humbled himself to ask for God’s wisdom, Saul’s heart became hard. Although he initially experienced a change of heart and the Spirit of God moving in his life (1 Samuel 10:9-10), the sin of jealousy over a young shepherd boy named David and his success took over. His jealous heart blinded him from recognizing the voice of God.

Saul began to confuse God’s voice with his own jealous heart. So in today’s key verse of 1 Samuel 23:7, when Saul discovers the whereabouts of the hidden man David, in a delusional state he believes God provided this opportunity. He actually thinks God gave him the opportunity to kill David, the one whom God had anointed to be the next king of Israel!

How did Saul slip from the place where 1 Samuel 11:6 says, “… the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him …” (NIV) to the point where he is seeking to kill God’s appointed one?

One step at a time.

First, Saul failed to obey God fully in 1 Samuel 15:9, yet he told the prophet Samuel he had obeyed.

Next, in 1 Samuel 15:30, he chose to value how he looked in people’s eyes over how he looked in God’s eyes.

Finally, in 1 Samuel 18:9, he allowed jealousy to overtake his heart toward David. He deceived himself.

One step at a time, he stopped conversing with God. He stopped asking God for wisdom and to forgive him when he failed. In that place of lost intimacy, his heart grew cold and in the end, his feet walked away from God.

That day of my despair was the beginning of new lessons for me. I realized I need to consult God no matter how sure I feel about my decisions. I need to hear from the Holy Spirit on every aspect of my life. The moment I stop humbly asking my Creator for daily direction and to examine my heart is the day I start a journey I don’t want to go on ever again.

Holy Spirit, help me humble myself, seek Your wisdom and submit to Your ways — not what appears to be right to me. Open my eyes to see when I’m too dependent on my own strength. I want to hear You, see You and walk with You every day, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 26:2, “Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” (NIV)

James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How do Saul’s actions impact the way you think about the importance of consulting God’s wisdom for our daily life?

As you look at your own life, has there been a time, or are you in a current situation that could be better if you asked God for wisdom beforehand? Like Lynn, what can you learn from this experience to empower you to make better decisions in the future?

© 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

Satan’s Plan Against You

Satan’s Plan Against You by Lysa TerKeurst

“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:16 (NIV)

Something I pray on a regular basis is that God will give me a keen awareness of the enemy’s plans and schemes against me. I want to be able to recognize his traps and avoid them.

I believe part of His answer came one day as I studied the story of Satan tempting Eve in Genesis 3 and our key verse: “For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).

As I compared these passages, I had a serious epiphany about how Satan goes after us. These verses outline Satan’s 3-pronged plan of attack on our hearts. And it’s the same plan we see him using while tempting Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4:1-11! A fact that tells me while the enemy may be powerful, he’s also predictable.

Let’s take a closer look at Satan’s plan as revealed in Eve’s story and Jesus’ story:

1. Make them crave some sort of physical gratification to the point they become preoccupied with it. Be it sex, drugs, alcohol or food.

Satan tempted Eve with fruit, which “was good for food” (Genesis 3:6b, NIV).

Satan tempted Jesus while on a fast with bread.

Satan tempts us with whatever physical stimulation we are too preoccupied by — be it taste, smell, sound, touch or sight. These things are good within the boundaries where God meant for them to be enjoyed. But venture outside God’s intention for them, and they become an attempt to try and get our needs met outside the will of God.

2. Make them want to acquire things to the point they bow down to the god of materialism. Keep them distracted by making their eyes lust after the shiny things of the world.

Satan tempted Eve by drawing her attention to what was, “pleasing to the eye” (Genesis 3:6c, NIV).

Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world and told Him that He could have it all.

Satan flashes the newer, bigger and seemingly better things of this world in front of us, trying to lure us into thinking we must have it. “This will make me fulfilled. This will make me happy.” And then it wears out, breaks down, gets old and reveals just how temporary every material thing is.

3. Make them boastful about what they have or do. Keep them distracted and obsessed with their status and significance. Choke the life out of them using the tentacles of their own pride.

Satan tempted Eve by promising an increased awareness which would make her become more like God.

Satan tempted Jesus by telling Him to throw Himself off the highest point of the temple, and then command the angels to save Him. This would impress everyone watching and certainly raise Jesus’ status and significance.

Likewise, Satan tempts us to try and elevate ourselves over others. We wrongly think we have to become something the world calls worthy. This creates a need within our flesh to have people notice us, commend us, revere us and stroke our pride. We then dare to boast about all we are.

Oh sweet sisters, this is where we must stop and remind ourselves that we don’t have to be held hostage by Satan. We are onto him and his schemes. And his power over us is nothing compared to the freeing promises of God.

There was a huge difference between Eve’s response to Satan and Jesus’ response to Satan. Eve dialoged with Satan and allowed him to weave his tangled web of justifications. Jesus on the other hand, immediately quoted truth. With every temptation, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy as He answered, “It is written …” and He shut Satan down with the truth of God.

What will our response be?

It’s our choice.

Satan has no power over us except what we allow. Moment by moment, decision by decision, step by step — will we operate in God’s all-powerful truth or allow Satan to entangle us in his lies?

Dear Lord, thank You for making me aware of the enemy’s plans against me. I declare today that while the enemy may be vicious, he will not be victorious in my life. Not with You helping me walk in Truth and Light. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Which part of Satan’s plan do you struggle with the most? Spend some time in prayer today asking the Lord to lead you to Scripture you can use to battle your temptations.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

The Way to Break Free of Stress

The Way to Break Free of Stress by Ann Voskamp

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

When I feel like we’re drowning in all of life, our daughter Hope and I will go up to the lake and feel the waves pound, sense the serene fury of water.

As the waves break against the earth it quakes the inner cochlear, and there’s nothing else to hear but the breaking. Hope stands there with windblown strands of hair across her face, the electrical energy of each breath of wet, briny air sparking something in her.

“Is there anything lovelier, really, than the way waves keep touching the shore no matter what tries to keep pulling them away?” I lean into her and say it over the sound of the wind, of the crashing surf.

Hope tucks her hair behind her ear, “Love’s like waves — it keeps reaching out, no matter what tries to keep pulling it away.”

She and I stand there in the battering of the elements, watching waves, eyeing how the light catches in water, how the waves move like the earth’s own pulse, like our own heartbeat.

“You know — a pool isn’t like this.” I say it slowly, watching the waves, seeing it for the first time: “It has no power, no life — because it has no breaking of waves … Strange how that is: It’s in the breaking, there is life.”

What did my husband say again and again? “Never be afraid of being a broken thing … Unless a seed breaks, there is no life.”

All down the shoreline, the waves keep crashing and breaking … and living.

Hope slips her arm through mine.

All of life’s losses break us, break through us, scar us. I want them not to. Frankly, there are days I’d like to hide my scars and the jagged edges of my brokenness, days when I wish there were no marks to bear. But if losses don’t leave their mark — how can we say we were ever marked or shaped by love? Scars are signs that show the way we loved.

Hope’s hand rests on mine.

“You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.” (Psalm 79:9, MSG)

Give us a break, God, in the midst of overwhelming stress and the pounding of waves, the storms of life.

And I don’t even realize I’m saying it out loud: “When you’re hit by the breaking waves, break deep.”

You’ve got three options when breaking waves hit, when you feel like you’re drowning.

Either let fear make you run hard — but fear never makes you safe, fear just makes you fall — and fall hard.

Or, fall back on your pride and try to stand against that wave breaking over you — and it will break you.

Or lastly, when you’re hit with a breaking wave — you can break deep. You can break deep into that breaking wave and let yourself be moved by Living Water and transformed and formed by Christ and remade by the rising current of His Love.

The only way through a breaking wave — is to break deep into the wave.

The only way through the overwhelming waves is to break deep into the roiling water and dive into the depths and stretch out both arms through the fathoms and let yourself be made into the shape of a cross.

That’s all there is: You can either be broken by fear or broken by pride — or you can break into the surrendered, cruciform shape of Christ.

Break deep. Break deep, and break free.

I turn to Hope — I kind of feel baptized. She and I — we can face stress, the waves coming from every side, because we can break deep into the wave of whatever comes at us, arms opened wide and choose to live shaped like a cross, cruciform. It feels like surrender. When you choose to break deep into the breaking waves — when you break the surface of the water again — you can feel born again. Remade into the image of Christ.

When you’re in over your head, you can touch the depths of God.

Hope turns to me. “Hear it, Mama? It’s like every crash of the waves is echoing it.”

Break deep — break free.

Lord, when waves of stress rise and threaten to overwhelm, cause me not to be broken by fear of being overwhelmed or by the pride of standing in my own strength. When I feel stress, cause me to break deep — break deep into whatever is coming at me, shaped like Christ, acting like Christ, formed like Christ, broken and given and surrendered like Christ, cruciform like Christ. Cause me to break deep today — and break free. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 4:24, “And then take on an entirely new way of life — a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” (MSG)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think of one stress today you are facing. What’s one way you can break deep into that wave, surrendered and living Christlike?

© 2016 by Ann Voskamp. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Christian Book Distributors 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

But This Isn’t What I Prayed For

But This Isn’t What I Prayed For by Andrea Reeves

“… so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11 (NIV)

One day, I was on my way to class when I saw one of my classmates crying while on the phone. I had just moved to the Northeast for graduate school and was having a hard time integrating my faith into new relationships. Maybe this is the opportunity I’ve been asking God for, I thought.

I waited for her to hang up and then approached her hesitantly, as if she were a deer that would run off if I spooked her. I sat next to her and asked what was wrong.

“It’s my pop, he’s having surgery today,” she said through her tears. It was hard for me to understand her — she was very upset and there was a slight language barrier between us.

From what I understood, her father was having surgery back home in China and she was understandably upset she couldn’t be there with him. I felt terrible. I couldn’t imagine my dad lying on a hospital bed while I was in a foreign country.

I questioned whether or not I should pray for her right in that moment, but doubt creeped into my mind. I don’t even know if she knows what prayer is. Will she be uncomfortable? Or worse, will she think I’m weird??

I said a quick prayer and decided to go for it: “I don’t know what you believe, but I believe in God. And I believe that God can heal your pop,” I said to her, pretty surprised at my sudden boldness. “I talk to God through prayer … do you mind if I pray to Him now?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

I began praying confidently, believing this was a conversation ordained by God. “Lord, I pray supernatural healing over her father —” I felt a tap on my shoulder.

“No, not my father,” she said. “My pop.”

I racked my brain for all the people in her life who could be called “pop.” Great, she probably already thought you were a crazy prayer lady, and now she thinks you don’t pay attention!

“Your grandfather?” I asked, hesitantly.

She spoke again. “No. My pup. My puppy.”

My entire body went numb. I’m supposed to pray for her sick dog? Completely embarrassed, I began praying again; this time, for her puppy, for the vets who would be handling the surgery and for her peace of mind. I was so caught off guard, I didn’t have time to think of any fancy words to use.

After I said “Amen,” she showed me pictures of her cute furry friend. I smiled at the photos, but still felt absolutely mortified at the change of events. God, what good is praying for a spunky little Papillon dog going to do?

Once we were done talking, she gave me a hug and thanked me, this time with a visible sense of calmness and relief.

In the moments before her hug, praying for a pet felt so silly and insignificant to me. But in the end, I saw a peace come over her that only my God could have provided.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says, “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

I was upset and embarrassed because I approached my classmate with my idea of what God’s purpose was for the conversation. When it didn’t pan out the way I imagined, I felt like my boldness had gone to waste.

I then realized this wasn’t about a dog, or how confidently I prayed or the type of cool, Christian impression I left on this girl … God used a simple prayer for a dog to show His love for one of His children. And He let me be a part of that assignment.

God will use us in small ways to make a big impression on behalf of His Kingdom … we just have to be willing to follow His lead. God won’t waste our efforts, no matter how big or small those efforts may feel to us.

These steps can be uncomfortable, and sometimes our efforts feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But together, as we all take these small steps side-by-side, we are able to make such a great, eternal impact on the world around us. One that will bring God glory.

Lord, thank You for letting me be a part of Your great purpose. Help me see the ones around me who need Your loving reminder, and show me ways in my life that I can impact Your Kingdom for the better. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Name a time God used a small act of obedience to make a big impression on behalf of His Kingdom.

How do you think God can use you today? Look for opportunities to show His love to someone who needs it.

© 2016 by Andrea Reeves. All rights reserved.

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

Godly Friends, Godly Wisdom

Godly Friends, Godly Wisdom by Tracie Miles

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)

I didn’t know where to turn, what to think or what to do. My emotions were running high, and I feared they were getting in the way of making wise decisions.

Over several months of dealing with a difficult circumstance, I received a lot of godly counsel from beloved friends and family. Yet I found it hard to heed their good suggestions at times, because my feelings seemed to be in control of my thoughts.

Recognizing this struggle within, I bowed my head and prayed: “Lord, please help me see with eyes that are wise, not eyes blurred with overwhelming emotions. Help me act out of a heart that follows You, not a heart heavy with worry. Help me think with a holy perspective, not a mindset based on my own opinions or feelings. Give me wisdom and discernment, and the ability to recognize and follow wise instruction when I receive it.”

I opened my eyes and reached for my Bible, and immediately came across today’s key verses, Proverbs 19:20-21 …

“Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.”

My heart quickened at the thought of God whispering the comforting answer I had just prayed for. I sensed His assurance that it was okay to accept and trust wise advice that aligned with Scripture, because His plans and purposes would always prevail even if my decisions weren’t perfect.

As the primary author of Proverbs, King Solomon obviously grasped the importance of listening to the advice of trusted, God-fearing believers. The book of Proverbs gives numerous wise instructions and advice for living an effective and faith-filled life based on the authority and direction of God. He even referred to the passages in this book as the “sayings of the wise” (Proverbs 24:23a, NIV).

Obviously my first place for wisdom and guidance is God’s Word and prayer, and I had been anxiously seeking His direction for weeks. But as I read this verse, I felt prompted to ponder all the people who’d offered me loving wisdom.

I thought about their relationships with the Lord, and how much I respected their faith and advice that was always laced with holy truth and love. I suddenly realized these people had been divinely designated in my life — long before I needed them — to be the voice of the wise during my trial.

With grateful humility, I bowed my head again to pray, intentionally thanking God for all the people who continually poured wise instruction into my heart and seeking discernment about the best advice to follow.

God sends people into our lives for many reasons, and in many cases, it is in response to a need we have — whether it’s now, or yet to come. No relationship happens in the Kingdom of God by circumstance or without reason, whether it’s to provide friendship, help us through a season of difficulty, provide wisdom or inspire us to stand strong in our faith when we feel weak and unsure.

Throughout Scripture we are instructed to choose our friends wisely, because with godly friends comes godly wisdom — just when we need it most.

Lord, thank You for the people You have divinely placed in my life who speak holy truth, love and words of wisdom. Give me a heart of discernment to know when You are using someone to speak instruction into my heart and my circumstances, and give me the strength and courage to follow through with that advice, even when it’s hard. Fill me with peace in knowing that even if I take a wrong turn, Your purpose will prevail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (NIV)

Proverbs 12:26a, “The godly give good advice to their friends.” (NLT)
Proverbs 13:20a, “Walk with the wise and become wise.” (NLT)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you thanked God lately for the people He’s lovingly placed in your life? Those who are able to bless you with godly wisdom and advice? Write out a prayer for those whom you are most thankful for.

What decision/circumstance are you currently seeking discernment and wisdom about? How does it bring peace to your heart knowing that whatever choice you make, God’s purpose will prevail?

© 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

When Shame Weighs You Down

When Shame Weighs You Down by Sharon Jaynes

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …” Philippians 3:12b,13b (NIV)

I sat on my back porch, wrapped in my fuzzy worn robe. The birch tree leaves shivered in the cool morning crispness, and the daisies that slept beneath the soil through the winter stretched their faces to the sun.

Then I heard him. The rooster.

ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I’m not sure where he lives, but it’s within earshot.

ER-er-ER-er-ERRRR. I thought of Peter. I thought of me. I thought of you.

Maybe you know the story. On the night before Jesus went to the cross, He had a chat with his friend Peter. He referred to Peter in his pre-disciple-days name — Simon, as we read in Luke 22:31-34.

“‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’”

“But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’”

“Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.’” (NIV)

A few hours later, Peter did deny he even knew Jesus. Three times. And then the rooster crowed. ER-er-ER-er ERRRR.

Peter went outside and wept bitterly. He cried and cried and cried. The next morning, the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered his failure. And the next, and the next and the next. And Peter remembered all over again.

I have been there. I have failed. I have cried and cried and cried. And I have remembered. Shame has poked drain holes in my Spirit-filled confidence, and I have hidden behind the wall with Peter. And even though I asked God to forgive me, and I knew He had, the rooster still crowed in my heart, and I remembered failing all over again. I wonder if you have too.

I have been stuck like a trapeze artist who refuses to let go of the first bar — trying desperately to take hold of grace, but not quite letting go of the shame.

And God calls to me … Let go. Move forward. Live bold. It’s the only way.

And Paul tells me how … “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead …” (Philippians 3:12b,13b).

And I see it clearly. For me and for you.

When we finally take hold of, grasp and make our own all that Jesus has already prepared for us, we begin to experience life to the full — the faith we’ve always longed for.

But taking hold of what’s new is not enough. We’ve got to let go of the past.

  • Let go of shame-filled ponderings, and take hold of grace-filled pardon.
  • Let go of crippling bitterness, and take hold of radical forgiveness.
  • Let go of weak-kneed worry, and take hold of sure-footed confidence.
  • Let go of insecurity, and take hold of our true identity as a child of God.

God has placed lavish promises in my heart. And letting go of shame and taking hold of grace is where it all begins.

What did Jesus say about Peter’s failure? Three strikes, you’re out? Hardly. Jesus removed the shroud of shame hanging from Peter’s guilt-weary shoulders and called him to get back to ministry.

Jesus does the same for me and for you, but the rooster still crows.

The question is, What will we remember when we hear that crow?

May I suggest, not the sin … but the grace.

Let’s not let the enemy accuse us of what God has already forgiven! Don’t let him fool us into thinking that Jesus’ death on the cross was not enough. Take hold of what Jesus has already taken hold of and place it in you.

Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving me and removing my shame. I’m so sorry I listen to the rooster crowing in my heart — telling me I am guilty and shameful. I know what Jesus did for me on the cross is enough, and there’s nothing I need to do or can add to his sacrificial gift. Thank You for wiping away my sins and loving me unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 8:1-2 “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.” (NIV)

Psalm 34:5, “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” (NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
In John 21:15-19. Why do you think Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me” three times?

Are you hanging on to any shame in your life? Ready to let it go? If so, leave a comment and say, “I’m ready to let it go!”

© 2016 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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