Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why I Stopped Praying Against Fear

Julie K Gillies JULY 17, 2015

Why I Stopped Praying Against Fear

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT)

Hi. My name is Julie. And for entirely too long my middle name might as well have been Fear.

Fear influenced many of my decisions. Fear amplified my imagination in a bad way — I was the worst-case scenario queen. Fear even tried to prevent me from moving forward in obedience to what I sensed God calling me to do.

So I did what any wise believer would do. I prayed. For years, I diligently prayed against fear. That God would take away my fear. That fear would leave me alone. That fear would vanish. That fear would be far from me.

Eventually I realized those prayers would probably require me to live in a bubble, limit my interactions with people, never attempt anything that could be considered risky and quite possibly never leave my house.

Ahem …

But the truth is, until Christ’s return, fear will always exist on this earth. We live in a scary world where bad things happen. One look at the news headlines makes that clear.

John 10:10 tells us that the enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (ESV). One of the primary ways he does this is through fear. The enemy’s intent is to keep our eyes riveted on our fears and stop us from trusting God. Stop us from making wise decisions. Stop us from believing things can change. Stop us from pursuing the seemingly impossible dreams in our hearts.

It soon became clear to me that there must be a better way to pray. That praying against fear wasn’t enough, because fear still held far too much influence over me. And if God had not given me a spirit of fear, as our key verse declares, I wanted to sense a difference. I wanted to be brave and strong on the inside so fear could no longer shake me.

So my prayers changed. Drastically. Instead of just praying against fear, I began to use God’s Word and pray for specific things. God-inspired things. Like courage and confidence and amazing peace.

Though we might not always be fearless, by praying specifically for qualities found in God’s Word, we can fear less. If you’re battling fear on any level or in any area of your life, I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Instead of praying that fear will be far from us, we can ask God to give us strong, bold and courageous hearts (Joshua 1:9) when fear comes near.

Instead of asking God to take away all fear, we can ask for His grace to run toward the big, scary things with great courage (1 Samuel 17:48).

Instead of praying that fear will leave us alone, we can pray that when we are afraid we will trust and have confidence in God (Psalm 56:3).

Instead of asking God to make all fear in our lives vanish, we can pray that His peace which surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and supersede all fear (see Philippians 4:6-7).

Praying this way changes us. It has changed me. I no longer make decisions based on fear. I recognize worst-case scenarios forming and instead of entertaining them I nip them in the bud. And I am moving forward in obedience to the things God has called me to do.

God doesn’t promise to always take away all our fears. Yet He gives us the power, love and self-discipline necessary to embrace His life-changing truth. When we pray His living and active Word something amazing happens — God strengthens our hearts. He helps us trust Him, girds us with His amazing peace and enables us to move forward in courage.

And we will fear less.

Hi. My name is Julie. And my middle name is Brave.

Dear God, Help me not be paralyzed by my fears, but when I am afraid, help me trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 34:4, “I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.” (NLT)

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (NIV)

Julie Gillies’ devotional, Prayers For a Woman’s Soul, will help you pray for and about yourself with topics that are relevant to you, including fear.

Visit the Prayers For A Woman’s Soul Community Facebook Page for inspiring prayer encouragement.

Write the verse above that most resounds with you and keep it nearby. This week, every time you sense fear building in your heart, determine to pray God’s Word.

© 2015 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

I’m Not Hungry, But I Want To Be

T. Suzanne Eller JULY 16, 2015

I’m Not Hungry, But I Want To Be

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus Christ throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)

I just ate a sub sandwich, whole-wheat chips and a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie. If you tried to tempt me with something delicious at this moment, no matter how good it smelled, I’d probably turn you down because I’m full.

That’s how it works in the physical realm, right? The more you eat, the fuller you become and the less you want.

Spiritual hunger is the exact opposite. The more you eat, the hungrier you become and the more you want.

A couple of years ago, I found myself in a spiritually dry season.

I sat with my Bible but the words didn’t leap from the page like they once did. I prayed and a hundred other things rolled through my brain. Remember to pick up toilet paper at the grocery store. Did I pay the water bill?

That lack of hunger made me feel a little lost. The temptation was to skip it, or breeze through it and call it a day.

Except this one truth from Ephesians 3:20-21 kept coming to mind: We serve a God who can do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us.

God longs to work within us.

I can’t tell you why I wasn’t hungry for His Word or for prayer during that time, but I can tell you that it’s not the only time. Whether it was busyness or an attack of the enemy or just a hard place in my faith, I’ve learned that when this happens, it’s time to go “eat” some spiritual food.

Whether I feel hungry or not.

Stormie Omartian, whose books on prayer have reached millions, once battled anxious thoughts. A friend recommended she have a quiet time with God to soothe those thoughts. She read a chapter from the Bible in Psalms and Proverbs each morning, and then again at night. Within weeks she looked forward to her time of reflection and after several months she says, “Gradually it became God’s voice in my ear.”

The spiritual hunger principle had kicked in — the more you eat, the hungrier you become.

If you’ve longed to connect with God and your lack of hunger has made you feel guilty or perhaps disconnected, please know that you are not alone.

Don’t wait until you feel hungry to pray or open the Bible. God has work He desires to do within you. Thank goodness, it’s not a task. Nor is it a test that you fail.

It’s an invitation from the God of the Universe, who adores you and desires to spend time with you.

Consider it time with a really close friend. Stop by every day. Don’t worry about the clock. If it’s a few minutes, it’s a sacred few minutes. If those few minutes turn into something deeper, that’s beautiful too.

Turn off distractions. If the grocery list pops into your brain, scrawl it down in your open journal and then keep feasting on your time with God.

That dry season I encountered? It wasn’t forever.

My lack of hunger slowly abated until I looked forward to my time with God every day. If it happens again — and it will — then I’ll take one bite, and then another. I’ll fill myself up with words from the One who can do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine.

Heavenly Father, I’m not hungry, but I’m not going to allow my lack of hunger to keep me from Your presence. Thank You for meeting me where I am and for renewing my spirit and filling me up. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 John 2:27, “As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit — just as it has taught you, remain in him.” (NIV)

Psalm 81:10, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (ESV)

Could your prayer life use a little extra nourishment? You might appreciate Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado.

Our summer Proverbs 31 Online Bible Study is covering Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places.

Contrast spiritual hunger with physical hunger. Have you been treating them the same?

Consider ways you might start feeding your spirit. What does that look like for you?

© 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

How We Answer Our Own Prayers

Karen Ehman JULY 15, 2015

How We Answer Our Own Prayers

“Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1 (ESV)

A group of teenagers and I sat cross-legged on the church lawn, soaking in the warm summer sunshine. We’d just taken a break from a group game to sip something cold and visit. One of the girls had just returned from a mission trip in a developing nation and I couldn’t wait to hear about her experience.

“So, Renee, tell us about your trip.” I inquired. “What is the one thing you think you will remember the most?”

I imagined her answer would have something to do with a child who captured her heart with a sweet smile. Or a church service she attended that was so very different from ours. Neither of these guesses were right.

“Oh, that’s easy. I will always remember it was on this trip when I learned how easy it is in our culture to answer our own prayers.”

Her statement stunned me for a moment. I wondered, What in the world did she mean by that? Answer our own prayers? Only God answers prayer, right? But before I could pipe up and ask her to explain further, she continued.

“You see, here in America, we bow our heads and say grace and ask God to ‘give us this day our daily bread.’ And then? We hop in our cars, run down to the grocery store and buy a loaf or two. We ask Him to keep us safe and warm. Then parents buy their kids the best car seats available, and we crank up the furnace whenever we feel chilly. It is so easy in our culture to provide the answer to our own prayers. But the people I met on the trip? They pray God will give them their daily bread, not knowing if they will have enough food to feed their families that night. Their prayers are bold. They ask God for things they can’t always provide for themselves.”

I had never thought of this concept before and it caused me to think about two things.

First, I want to use my abundance to help answer someone else’s prayers. To share the privilege I have been given with others.

Second, I need to learn to pray bold prayers, asking God for the things that only He can bring about. That is if they are in accordance with His will. To pray for requests in my life beyond the, “Lord, keep us safe and warm and well-fed. Amen.” routine we can often fall into.

Today’s key verse from Luke 11 gives me hope that I’m not alone in thinking my prayer life could use a makeover. Luke 11:1 reminds us that even the disciples wanted help learning how to pray. They saw Jesus praying and desired to follow His example.

Ephesians 3:20-21 tells us God can do things we can’t even dream of. Even provide answers to questions that we often hesitate to even ask. This suggests we can be daring when we pray, asking God for great things done only in His great strength.

My little chat with this spiritually sensitive teen changed me. I began to work into my prayers not only requests that God would help me be attentive to those who need my help, but also that He would help me make bold requests I can’t possibly answer myself. And then, that I would stand back and — in faith — watch Him work.

How about you? Is your prayer list full of items you can cross off yourself? Perhaps it’s time you, too, began to ask, “Lord, teach me to pray.”

Father, teach me to pray more boldly. May I be both generous in giving and faith-filled in my prayers. Help me pray more confident prayers that can’t be answered on my own and can only happen through Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 138:3, “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, And made me bold with strength in my soul.” (NKJV)

Luke 11: 9-10, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (NLT)

For more on prayer, including a place to post your “I Can’t Answer it Myself” prayer request, visit Karen Ehman’s blog. She is also giving away a prayer time basket to one reader who comments.

To be inspired to live a life that trusts in God, check out Karen’s book and DVD Bible study, LET. IT. GO.: How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

What are some daily prayers you pray that are easy to “answer” yourself? List them on a piece of paper or a notes app on your phone.

Now, under where you made that list, write down at least one bold prayer that you cannot answer yourself. Then, begin to pray daily about this request, asking God to align your will with His.

© 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

Never Say Amen

Tracie Miles JULY 14, 2015

Never Say Amen

“Never stop praying.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT)

“Are you still talking with her?” I asked my daughter Kaitlyn. She’d been texting with a friend for what seemed like hours.

She nodded and continued texting.

“I just don’t see how you can have that much to talk about. Does the conversation ever end?” I asked.

“Nope,” she proudly exclaimed. “We never really end the conversation or say goodbye. We just take breaks and then pick back up later where we left off.”

I rolled my eyes and suggested she force herself to take a break, or I might just help her take a really long break from her phone altogether. We chuckled as she slid the phone into her pocket.

As I thought back to her answer, it made me wonder about my conversations … particularly with God. How might my relationship with God grow if I simply never said, “Amen”? If I just kept the conversation going all day, picking back up where we left off or talking about new things?

In today’s key verse, Paul urges us to pray continually. Not because God requires it, but because our hearts long to feel close to Him.

Talking with God throughout the day invites Him into even the smallest details of our lives. Of course He doesn’t need us to fill Him in on our problems, prayer requests and praises. Instead, we receive the blessing because we will feel His presence throughout each and every day.

Just as my heart leaped at the idea of continual conversation with God, my mind chimed in with logistics: How can I possibly pray all the time when I obviously have other thoughts going through my mind? How can I stay focused on prayer in the midst of the chaos of work, to-do lists, daily obligations, frustrations, parenting and busyness?

Praying continually doesn’t mean we have to stay on our knees all day and never stop to do anything else. It simply means maintaining an attitude of prayer. A mindset that God is always there, like a trusted friend walking beside us or merely one text away. A friend with whom we can jump back into the conversation — with confidence that He will be there.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (NLT). Having a heart attitude of prayer simply means developing a focus on joy and gratitude.

When we focus on the good, instead of the bad, we develop a mental attitude of thankfulness. When our hearts are full of thankfulness for God, we will find ourselves longing to talk with Him more and more and learning to recognize His holy whispers.

We must be aware that Satan will do everything in his power to distract us and try to keep us from having an attitude of prayer and thankfulness. He knows the more time we spend talking with God, the more we will depend on Him and trust Him with our whole hearts.

I can keep my daughter from having a never-ending texting conversation, but no one can keep us from having an ongoing conversation with the Most High. Nothing can stand in the way of us conversing with God unless we let it, and prayer is a conversation worth continuing and never saying “Amen.”

Lord, fill me with a desire to talk with You all day long and to feel Your Spirit leading me through our conversations. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (NLT)

Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.” (NLT)

For tips and encouragement on growing closer to God and learning to hear His voice in the busyness of everyday life, consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace In Your Chaotic World.

Visit Tracie’s blog to download her free “7 Days of Prayer” printable to help you pray daily for your children, husband, work, finances and faith. Also, enter to win a copy of her book Stressed-Less Living!

What is it that keeps you from talking to God more often? What can you do to change your mindset about praying without ceasing?

Consider the worries that have been heaviest on your heart, or those issues keeping you too busy or distracted to spend time in prayer. Open up a conversation with God about those things and invite Him into the details of your everyday life.

© 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

There Are No “Big” Prayer Requests

Glynnis Whitwer JULY 13, 2015There Are No “Big” Prayer Requests

{Editor’s Note: We’re doing things a bit differently this week at Encouragement for Today. We’ve decided to dedicate this entire week of devotions to prayer. Will you join us in praying “big” prayers, according to His Word, believing nothing is too hard for God?}

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV)

Eyes closed and head bowed, I rattled off my daily prayer requests: “Lord, please keep my children safe … watch over my mother … help my husband with all he’s got to do.” Then I paused and said, “Now I’ve got a big one.”

My next prayer was going to be for a friend battling advanced cancer. God certainly knew what I planned to say, and He knew we needed a miracle. So I’m not sure why I decided to prepare Him for what was coming.

His answer was clear and immediate: “There are no big requests to Me.”

Instantly, I was contrite. “Of course not, Lord. What was I thinking?” Some heart-searching was in order, because I’m not actually sure what I was thinking.

I quickly realized my tendency to categorize and order my prayer requests, with most of them seeming “manageable.” I do pray about serious requests when needed, but I don’t often seek out “big” prayers.

Maybe I subconsciously think I only get a few of them with God … kind of like making sure you don’t overload someone with too many favors. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a natural risk taker. Keeping my prayers “easy” seems safer in my mind.

Looking back, I can see I put human limitations on God. But how silly to compare God to a person, when He is incomparable in power.

The God of the Universe made everything we see, and everything we can’t, with a word. From the simplest cell to the intricacy of our brains, He designed and created it all. There are no limitations to His power. He can (and does!) send angels to protect my children and restore health to my friend’s body at the same time.

No matter how hopeless the situation seems, God is more than able to step in and do what no human can do.

In Chapter 32 of Jeremiah, where we get today’s key verse, we read how God made a promise that seemed impossible from human standards. Jeremiah prophesied about impending calamity for the rebellious Israelites. The people were about to experience devastation from an enemy as a consequence for their great disobedience. Yet God’s intention was to bring His people back one day to Jerusalem with a softened heart, to live in safety.

On the surface, that promise seemed inconceivable. And yet God reminded Jeremiah that nothing was too hard for Him: “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).

Centuries later, an angel told a young virgin named Mary (newly pregnant with Jesus), “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37, NKJV).

Thousands of years later, God said the same thing … to me.

Why do I compare God’s power to mine? Why do I worry about “bothering” Him with too many “big” requests? Why do I accept so many situations and never even think about praying for them to change?

Truth is, I’m much more comfortable praying for things that could be solved in my power. There’s an underlying fear God might say “No,” or worse, stay silent.

Plus, I’m afraid I’ll misuse my invitation to pray or seem demanding. The last thing I want is to treat God like a genie in a bottle. Those complicated fears limit my prayers for God’s help in many impossible situations.

Oh how that must grieve the heart of my Heavenly Father. He knows how much more He wants to do in my life, if only I’ll invite Him.

Here’s the truth: When I build my faith on what I can do, then I will only see what I can do. But a faith based on what God can do? … now that’s life-changing.

That’s how I want to live my life. I want my prayers and faith to go beyond human power. I want to bring everything to my Heavenly Father, every care, every need. Not with a demanding heart, but with one with positive expectation.

It’s not my responsibility how God decides to answer. But that shouldn’t keep me from asking.

I’m tired of playing it safe. It’s time to cast off my fears, remove the limitations I’ve placed on God, and invite Him into every situation I face — especially those that seem hopeless. It’s then I’ll see God’s power, not mine.

Heavenly Father, I praise You for Your power and majesty. Forgive me for the times I’ve shut You out of my life or not asked for Your help. I want to be a woman whose trust in You is so great that I don’t think twice about praying for things that need Your supernatural intervention. Thank You for all You’ve done and will do! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

John 15:7, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (NIV)

Luke 18:1, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” (NIV)

Do you need reminders to pray God-sized prayers? Our beautiful custom-designed Faith Print and Faith Collection Jewelry can be that reminder.

Visit Glynnis Whitwer’s blog for a giveaway of a prayer journal to record your requests and God’s faithfulness.

In John 15:7 (A Truth for Today verse), Jesus gives us a condition for our prayers. What does it mean to remain in Jesus and have His words remain in us?

What prayer has seemed too impossible to pray? Will you leave a comment today declaring your faith in God’s power to do what only He can do?

© 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

Who Am I Becoming?

Lynn Cowell JULY 10, 2015

Who Am I Becoming?

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

Dragging my feet and my heart, I headed to her room, finding her buried in her schoolbooks. She was responsible; I hadn’t been.

Welling up with tears, I began my apology. Seems like I’d been doing that a lot lately. This time I had failed to order my daughter’s graduation announcements.

What kind of mom am I?

My girl smiles as I blubber my confession. She reassures me: this is not an emergency. Tilting her head, she looks at me as if I’m from another planet. Not because I forgot, but because I’m crying. Who is this woman? I imagine her asking in her thoughts.

I know she must wonder about me these days.

Lately, I haven’t been recognizing myself either. The normally organized, rational, on-task woman can’t seem to keep it all together.

Maybe the forgetting isn’t so unintentional. Could this be my heart’s way of trying to put off the inevitable?

On my desk sits the form, the one I’ve procrastinated completing, requiring me to admit her age. She’s an adult now. How did that happen? My mind wonders, Will she still need me? Who am I now? What is my place? Change is hard.

I’m guessing that like me, you’ve either just come out of a season of change, are entering a season of change or it’s just on the horizon. It might not be your youngest graduating from high school. You might be returning to school, making a move or looking for a new job.

Change has a way of swirling in and around our lives. Just when we adjust, like a squirming toddler, life refuses to stay still. We finally think we’ve gotten control, when chaos erupts again. One activity stops while two are added. And whether we like the new that’s come, or wish we could run and hide, our feelings don’t change the inevitable.

Facing another change, and handling it well, requires a woman of character. Change requires traits I feel like I haven’t fully mastered and so I tend to think, I’m just not patient. I can’t be kind.

But maybe, just maybe, times of transition are God’s way of bringing the change. He just might be setting up this opportunity for me to grow into the woman He knows I can become.

I’m learning I can allow the pressure of transition to transform me. I can permit the rain and the sunshine in my life to grow His fruit in me … the kind described in today’s key verse from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Every day we are becoming something different. The question is, Who are we becoming? During the planting, watering and weeding of change, if we will be diligent and faithful during each season, we’ll see beauty grow in our lives.

As we lean into God, asking for strength through the peace or through the pain, He will make us into the women He’s intended for us to become: Women becoming God’s definition of beautiful.

Dear Jesus, I don’t always like the change that comes in my life, but I do want to be beautiful instead of bitter. Grow in me the traits You call gorgeous and help me to embrace this season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Galatians 5:24-25, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (NIV)

Romans 8:5, “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.” (NLT)

This summer is a great time to invest in the life of a young woman and use Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants, to study the fruit of the Spirit together.

Today, Lynn is giving away a “Summer Study Kit” along with two copies of her book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants, on her blog. Stop by for your chance to enter.

Who are you becoming? As you look at the direction your heart, attitudes and words are heading each day, how are you becoming the woman you want to be?

Summer usually affords a slower pace of life. How can you make the most of the change of schedule to grow in your spiritual life?

© 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

Sometimes It’s a One- or Two-Verse Day

Lysa TerKeurst JULY 9, 2015

Sometimes It’s a One- or Two-Verse Day

“Pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.” Proverbs 4:20b-22 (NIV)

Do you ever get overwhelmed when you sit down to read your Bible? There are so many books, deep thoughts, spiritual insights and life-altering truths … where do we begin for today?

My sticky farm table and I have a long history of early mornings together. I gather up my Bible and my computer. I push past the sleepy feelings begging me to go back to my bed. And I look at the well-worn book as my love letter from God.

I don’t say that in a syrupy, flowery way. Truly, His words are a lifeline to me. A whisper from my God. A personal note. A treasure.

But right now I’m in a season where I don’t consume chapters at a time. Some days it’s just one or two verses that I tuck into my heart so I can live out our key verses (Proverbs 4:20-22) and pay attention to what God says.

I want to really pay attention. I need to listen well to what God is saying. I look for one verse that I can savor word by word, letting it sink in deeply … interrupting me, rearranging me, redirecting me.

And I pray …

“God, what plans have I made for today that this verse needs to interrupt?

“God, what thoughts did I bring in from yesterday that this verse needs to rearrange?

“And God, what heart attitudes have I been carrying that this verse needs to redirect?”

His Word is the protective covering over my plans, my mind and my heart. To let me run free without it, will surely find me tripping over my own selfishness, insecurities and weaknesses. So, with His love letter, He reminds me to pause, pause, pause.

Pause and let the Holy Spirit intervene in my natural flesh response.

Pause so I don’t make the conversations all about me.

Pause and remember I’m not always right.

Pause to see the blessings, so many blessings, and say “thank you” at least once an hour.

Pause to serve, pause to give, pause to encourage when everyone else rushes by.

“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding — indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding … then you will understand what is right and just and fair — every good path,” (Proverbs 2:1-3, 9, NIV).

Don’t get overwhelmed with the enormity and depth of the Bible.

It’s okay if we read just a verse or two today.

But more importantly than reading His words, we must choose to receive them. And even more importantly, we must live them.

Dear Lord, help me to see You today in a single word or in a single verse. You are all powerful and anything is possible through You. May Your words and Your truth seep into the plans I make and every thought I think today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 4:6-8, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.” (NIV)

Luke 11:28, “[Jesus] replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (NIV)

This month, Proverbs 31 Ministries is launching First 5, a mobile app to help you devote the first few moments of your day to the Lord no matter what you’re going through. Sign up today for our interest list and be entered to win one of our weekly giveaways, here!

The next time you open your Bible, pray that God would reveal the specific verses He wants you to read that day. Then, look for ways throughout your week to live out the truth found in those Scriptures!

© 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Practical Encouragement for Loving Your Man

Chrystal Evans Hurst JULY 8, 2015

Practical Encouragement for Loving Your Man

“The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” Proverbs 31:11 (ESV)

I love the way real people from history can teach us some pretty valuable lessons.

Recently, I read the story of Emperor Justinian the Great to my children.

We were studying history when the Roman Empire fell and gave rise to the Byzantine Empire. We read how Emperor Justinian was fair and just, and we also read a bit about his wife, Theodora.

She seems to have been a wise and encouraging woman who helped him as he ruled the empire and challenged him to be the best man he could be. It is said that Justinian didn’t make major decisions without consulting his wife.

At the height of Justinian’s rule, the Byzantine Empire came under attack and he wanted to flee. He didn’t think he could fight off the invaders and wanted to at least escape with his life. But his wife challenged him, telling him it would be better to die an emperor than to spend the rest of his life wandering as a fugitive.

Justinian followed his wife’s advice and stayed put.

The result? He won the battle.

And he remained the emperor.

His wife’s counsel and encouragement made all the difference.

I proceeded to use this “teachable moment” to share with my boys how important it was to find a good wife. She should be wise, kind and encouraging, both for him personally and for God’s purpose in their lives.

I like to hear myself talk. Especially when I’m talking to my children and think I have something worth saying that can alter the course of their lives.

Yet I could see my 12-year-old starting to glaze over and give me that “get-to-the-bottom-line-Mom” look. He was probably thinking I could have said in three seconds flat what it took me more than a few minutes to explain.

And then my 6-year-old looked like he was about to burst from excitement … because all he heard was he should find a great wife and he’d already determined he knew the perfect candidate.

It was his camp counselor from two years ago, when he was only 4 years old.

Her camp nickname was “Hotcakes,” and apparently, he was smitten.

While my 12-year-old wished I’d hurry up and my 6-year-old apparently had already found his beloved, the longer I talked to my boys about the concept of finding a good wife, the more convicted I became about the kind of wife I actually am.

Because I’m guilty at times of not being a Theodora.

I have to be honest and say I’ve missed opportunities to build up my husband. At times when I could have been more encouraging, more supportive and more of a cheerleader, I’ve been critical, distant or even disengaged.

I could have prayed for him more and spent less time focusing on how the events of his life would affect me.

I could have believed the best instead of expecting the worst.

I could have chosen words that build him up, instead of words that tear down.

If you are like me and desire to please God and also love your husband well, here are a few tips for doing just that:

  • Pray for your husband often.
  • Encourage him with your words and actions.
  • Build him up by praising him in front of other people.
  • Smile at him. Force yourself if you have to.
  • Believe the best. Give him credit for being capable.

You play an important role in the life of others. You play an indispensable role in the life of your man. And based on the story of Theodora, the way that you encourage, support and love your man can change the world.

Hotcakes and Theodora. My 6-year-old can’t forget the former. The world will forever remember the latter.

Let’s remember the impact a woman can make on the heart and life of her man. Love, encourage and support him. It pleases God. And it makes all the difference.

Dear God, I want to be a good wife. Help me encourage, support and love my husband. You know where and why we struggle. So Lord, help me not to focus on what my husband is or isn’t getting right. Help me to focus on how I can “do good” to my husband, and, more importantly, how I can ultimately please You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 31:12, “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” (ESV)

Listen to Chrystal Evans Hurst’s podcast where she and her husband discuss, “What Does It Mean to Love Your Man.”

Chrystal has prepared a free printable to remind you to love your husband well. Click here to download.

How do you struggle trying to be a supportive wife? What can you do today to support your husband?

What practical tips do you have for loving and encouraging your husband? Share those in the comment section so that they might be an encouragement for someone who can learn from you.

© 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

A Righteous Rebellion

Amy Carroll JULY 7, 2015

A Righteous Rebellion

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

I was at the height of my glory. All my friends had gathered in a large closet off my third grade teacher’s classroom, where we put together a play for the class. Our girlish giggles floated through the air as we created a story and practiced our lines. I was in charge.

Large and in charge.

I directed. I bossed. I revised. I plain took over. Soon the giggles turned into grimaces until finally the group staged an all-out mutiny. They were tired of trying to live up to my idea of perfection, so my cast abandoned brokenhearted me to deliver a monologue.

Sadly, that same kind of scenario continued to play out in different ways again and again into adulthood. I wanted to do well so badly, and I wanted the approval of my friends even more. Perfection seemed like a good goal, but my Good Girl List, the list residing in my heart of all the things I needed to do to earn approval and love, constantly battered my relationships. My perfectionistic ways drove friends away instead of drawing them close.

I learned this truth: Relationships shatter when we value perfection over people.

Maybe you hold the Never Good Enough List close to your heart. Instead of listing all the things you need to do to measure up, it’s the list of all the ways you feel you don’t make the grade. You’re going to die trying, though!

On the outside, Good Girls and Never Good Enough Girls look the same. We work hard to create a perfect facade in order to hide our mixed-up insides.

It’s exhausting! Always trying to do it right. Always working to follow the rules. Always falling short and feeling the sting.

It’s strange that Jesus has used a little rebellion to rescue me. Even though I tend to be a rule-follower, I have a rebel streak, too. I hope you have a little rebel in you as well — whether you wrestle with the Good Girl List like I do, or struggle with the Never Good Enough List. Just when we feel beaten down and nearly subdued by our lists, our inner rebel rises up, our sass kicks in and fresh strength surges to fight our urge to be perfect!

Inside, we’re sick of our own perfection — those facades and lists — and we scream, “Enough!”

When our lists interfere with the gifts God has for us, including the gift of friendship, that’s when it’s OK to rebel. Not only OK — but good!

When we — as freedom-loving women — band together in this uprising for authenticity and against perfection, a miraculous thing happens. Restoration begins. Relationships begin to flourish, and these relationships fulfill the profound longing we all have for deeper love — a love that extends to God, ourselves and others.

Even though our longing for relationship is a God-given desire, we often turn that longing upside down, and it becomes an unhealthy impetus for approval. That upside-down longing is what propels us into a frenzy of trying harder and harder to earn love.

But when we participate in this righteous rebellion, our longings are turned right-side up and morph from the warped pursuit of perfectionism to the beauty of authenticity.

Instead of seeking perfection, we’ll be free to connect deeply with God and with the people we love. These new relationships will be tighter and more invested than we ever imagined. Tighter than all our self-determined work could ever accomplish. And that’s what we’ve been after all along.

Lord, my pursuit of my own perfection has worn me out. Help me stage a righteous rebellion, surrendering to Your perfecting work in me. As I surrender, please restore my relationships with You and others to a place of true authenticity and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 19:7, “The instruction of the LORD is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the LORD is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.” (HCSB)

Today’s devotion is adapted from Amy Carroll’s newly released book, Breaking Up with Perfect. Enjoy the FREE resources included with your book purchase today.

Amy invites you to visit her blog where she’ll be giving away 10 copies of her brand new release and a grand prize you won’t want to miss!

Which list do you hold most closely … the Good Girl List, or the Never Good Enough List?

How would it change your relationships if you staged a righteous rebellion and laid your list down forever?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

Can You Hear Me Now?

Leah DiPascal JULY 6, 2015

Can You Hear Me Now?

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27 (ESV)

Maybe you’ve heard someone say, “The Lord told me _____” or “I’ve sensed the Lord saying _____ to my heart.” Did it make you wonder if you could discern God’s voice too?

Maybe like me, you’ve wondered: Is it really possible to hear God’s voice? Can I know when He is speaking to me? Maybe that was just a random thought? What if I make a decision based on what I think God is saying and then discover I was wrong … then what?

I wrestled with these questions several years ago when our family was going through a tough time. Much was at stake, and despite numerous conversations with my husband, considering every option, it was clear that a sacrifice was required.

One morning, as I stared into my bathroom mirror — trying to ignore the knot in my stomach and holding back a wall of tears — I turned on my blow dryer and started drying my hair.

I asked again, “Lord, what if I can’t discern what You’re telling me? Will all the chaos and thoughts swirling in my mind drown out Your voice?”

As the high-pitched sound of my blow dryer blasted away, I began to hear another sound. It was muffled and faded, yet I was aware of it.

I ignored the sound at first, but even with my blow dryer going, I could still hear a familiar tone.

I turned off the blow dryer and surprisingly heard my friend Renee Swope. Confused at first, I walked into the bedroom and realized her voice was coming from the radio. She and Proverbs 31 Ministries President, Lysa TerKeurst, host a daily broadcast called “Everyday Life with Lysa and Renee.”

Renee and I have been friends for years. We’ve spent lots of time together engaging in honest and transparent conversations.

As I listened to Renee’s voice, the thought came to me, “Because you know Renee so well and have spent a lot of time with her, you can discern her voice, despite the overwhelming noise of the blow dryer.”

I realized God was teaching me a new truth about discerning His voice.

Just like my close relationship with Renee, God showed me that a close relationship with Him — based on truth, transparency and time invested — was essential to discerning His voice.

Over the years, as I’ve spent more time in God’s presence — through prayer, reading His Word and singing songs of worship — I’ve come to know Him better and recognize His voice.

Maybe you’ve felt like God has been silent lately. Like you’re not sure God actually speaks to you or that you’re capable of discerning His voice. If so, let me give you three things to consider:

Believe: Jesus said in John 8:47a, “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says” (NIV). If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you belong to Him. You already have the capability of discerning God’s voice when He speaks to you. This happens through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Anticipate: 1 Samuel 3:9b says, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening” (NIV). What if we approached each day with an attitude of anticipation, making this verse a welcome invitation for the Lord to speak to us? Let’s set our hearts and minds to a place of readiness as we wait to hear from God.

Follow: Jesus said in John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (ESV). God doesn’t just speak to be heard. He speaks to be obeyed. When we discern God’s voice of direction or correction, we have to be willing to follow in obedience.

That day in my bathroom was a defining moment. I didn’t receive a specific answer to what our family was supposed to do. But I did receive a beautiful promise from God, that when the time was right, He would let us know. And no noise from this world would block out His voice, as long as we stayed close to Him.

Dear God, help me discern Your voice. Give me an attitude of anticipation to wake up every morning and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” And when You speak, let me be faithful to follow and obey You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Isaiah 30:21, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (NIV)

Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (NIV)

Hear God’s Word first thing in the morning, by giving Him your first 5 minutes. The First 5 app will be available soon and will transform your time with God. Learn more here.

Continue your First 5 journey with the corresponding Experience Guide. The Experience Guide is beautifully designed to complement each day’s teaching and grow your faith, as you reflect on and respond to what you’re learning. Pre-order your guide today for a special price and receive it before the study starts!

Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog today for more encouragement.

It’s important to remember that God does things in His own timing. Regardless of whether or not you’ve discerned God’s voice today, He is always working behind the scenes on your behalf.

Write a prayer telling God why you want to discern His voice.

© 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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