Monthly Archives: March 2016

Planning Funerals that Won’t Happen Today

Planning Funerals that Won’t Happen Today by Lysa TerKeurst

“My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:15-16 (NIV)

Several years ago, my then‑teenage son came to me and asked if he could take his brother and sisters to go get ice cream. How fun! How thoughtful! “Sure,” I said, “Let me grab my keys and we’ll go.”

“No, Mom … we sort of want to go just us kids,” he quickly replied.

“Oh,” and that’s about all I could get my mouth to say as my brain started racing and reeling. In my mind, pictures started flashing of a terrible accident, a phone call from the police, planning a funeral and then thinking back to this moment when I could have said No.

And it was that strange sense that everything depended on me and my decisions that made me want to say: No. Absolutely not. You will stay home today. You will all stay home forever. I have to keep you safe.

Why do we moms do that? Most of us live with this gnawing, aching, terrifying fear that something will happen to one of our children. We carry the pressure that ultimately everything rises and falls on whether or not we can control things. And mentally, too often we plan funerals that won’t happen today.

We do it because we know the realities of living in a broken world where car accidents do happen. Tragedy strikes old and young alike. We have no guarantees for tomorrow. And that’s really hard on a mama’s heart.

I stood at the front window of my house chewing my nails and watching as the entire contents of my mama heart piled into one car.

And I realized I had a choice.

I could run myself ragged creating a false sense of control that can’t really protect them. Or, I could ask God to help me make wise decisions and choose to park my mind on the truth.

The truth is:

God has assigned each of my kids a certain number of days.

My choices can add to the quality of their life, but not the quantity. They could be at home tucked underneath my wings and if it’s their day to go be with Jesus, they will go.

Our key verse confirms this: “My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:15-16).

Jesus conquered death so we don’t have to be afraid of it any longer.

Of course, the death of anyone I love would make me incredibly sad, heartbroken and dazed with grief. But I don’t have to be held captive by the fear of death.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15, NIV).

Death is only a temporary separation. We will be reunited again.

In 2 Samuel 12, when David’s infant child died, he confidently said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (v. 23b KJV). David knew he would see his child again — not just a faceless soul without an identity, but this child for whom he was longing. He would know him, hold him, kiss him and the separation death caused would be over.

I know these are heavy things to process on a Thursday morning. And I certainly don’t claim that these truths will help you never ever fear again. But I do hope these truths will settle your heart into a better place. A place where your heart is consumed with truth instead of fear.

Dear Lord, the fear of something happening to one of my children is so raw. But if I focus on this fear, it will consume me. Instead help me focus on You, so I’ll only be consumed with Your truth, Your love, Your insights and Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” (NIV)

Matthew 6:27, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (NIV)

What is one of your greatest fears when it comes to your children? Ask God to give you verses you can cling to and pray — actively keeping fear from consuming you.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

It’s Hard to Let Go

It’s Hard to Let Go by John H. Putnam

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” Psalm 91:2 (NIV)

I held the key and opened the door to our new home. We were immediately greeted by an echo of excitement that only comes as sound bounces through an empty space. Since the movers hadn’t come yet, it was just the five of us standing inside the doorway, looking at the place we expected to live for years.

So you can imagine my surprise about 18 months later when I began to feel God leading us somewhere new.

“God, are You kidding me?” I asked in prayer. “I’ve gotten attached to this place. Why do You want it back?”

The answer came back clearly; we were to go where God was taking us next, and this house was a distraction from His plans. God was also protecting us from the enemy’s plans.

The enemy is as cunning as he is patient. He understands so clearly how possessions can create a distraction — build a barrier — between God and us. Satan’s goal is to separate us from Christ and take what He has given us. He will dangle in front of us whatever he believes will attract us, always at the opportune time. And money and possessions are simple and abundant bait. The only guard against the enemy’s distraction is a stronger attraction.

It’s hard for me to let go of something I love. We wanted that house and God let us have it. Now, unexpectedly, we felt God leading us to let it go. I guess if God puts something in your hand, He has the right to take it out. So I prayed: “Help me want You more than I want this house.”

God knew I needed to learn an important lesson. He was teaching me, changing me and reminding me that only He is my refuge and my fortress.

When I opened the door that day, I held a key in my hand — it represented earthly success, shelter, rest, safety and protection. Yet ultimately, God wanted me finding success, shelter, rest and safety in Him alone. He wanted to be our refuge in times of trouble, a fortress in times of attack.

Anne and I have found that following God on our financial journey has always been interesting, but not always easy. The world tries to tell us that success and security are found in having what we want …in a better job, nicer house or newer things. But we’ve learned that the greatest success is wanting what God provides.

When we can let go of what’s in our hands and place our complete trust in God, we can be certain that what comes next will always be better than any plan of our own.

Lord, please guide me, love me, and help me want You more than anything else. Let me always be open to You Lord so I may live and rest in You as my refuge and my fortress. Your plans and Your thoughts are beyond what I know. Help me be confident in Your leading and bold in my following. Be everything to me — my trust, my confidence and my security. May my hands always be open for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 19:21, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” (NIV)

Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

Is there something God has put in your hands that is, or has the potential to become, a distraction to Him and His plans for you? It could be anything — a house, a neighborhood, a car, a job, a hobby, or a possession. Would you be willing to let go of something for what God may have in store for you? Please share one something and your prayer for what God may do next.

© 2016 by John H. Putnam. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks John H. Putnam for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

Where Does a Mom Go to Resign?

Where Does a Mom Go to Resign? by Karen Ehman

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9 (ESV)

It started out as an ordinary spring day. Outside, the sun shone brightly, warming my kitchen counters through the window. Inside, however, the temperature was chilly. (And I don’t mean the thermostat was set too low.) My normally cheerful spirit had glazed over into a wall of ice and anger. I’d finally had enough. And so I snapped.

My emotions snapped.

My self-control snapped.

And — most visibly — I snapped at my three children.

“Ugh!!!!! You kids get out here right this minute!” I hollered from the living room, tagging on a warning, “And I don’t mean maybe!” All of a sudden, it was the 1980s and I heard my own mom’s voice coming out of my mouth. I vowed I would never say, “And I don’t mean maybe!” Yet here I was not only breaking that promise, but other vows as well.

I’ll never scream like some parents do. I’ll gently explain.

Our family won’t have anger issues. We’ll be loving and kind.

That morning, my well-intentioned plans got chucked out the window as I let my angry words fly. My kids’ crime? Simple childhood irresponsibility.

My youngest had abandoned his action figures and plastic building blocks in the living room, right where this unsuspecting mom would step on one, barefoot.

My second child had tracked in mud from the woods. Somehow — despite being told umpteen times — he just couldn’t remember to remove his boots in the garage before entering the house to show me the latest creature he’d caught.

And our kitchen was a total disaster after yet another one of our young teen daughter’s kitchen concoctions. She loved creating recipes. Unfortunately, what she didn’t love was cleaning up the mess left in the wake. And on the counter — in the midst of the mess — were two permission slips she needed, now spattered with batter.

I was tired of trying to teach my kids to be responsible. I wanted to officially resign from being a mother. Without even giving two weeks’ notice!

When my temper simmered down, I apologized to my kids. But I didn’t let them off the hook. We talked about their lack of follow‑through, their messes and the resulting mayhem that drove their mama nuts! We all vowed to try harder and to speak kinder next time.

Bringing up children is not for the faint of heart. Day after day, we must instruct, encourage, correct and supervise. And then? The next day, we must do it all over again. For years and years … oh my!

Yes, motherhood is hard work. But it is also good work. And today’s key verse says this about good work, “… let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

See those last four words? Do. Not. Give. Up.

Mom, don’t turn in your resignation just yet. You aren’t finished. There will be a harvest … in due season.

My children are all over 18 now. I’ve had a little time to observe the harvest. And I see that it is true — we reap a harvest when we don’t give up.

My toy‑building, critter‑catching boys each have jobs where they are responsible, and they now clean up after themselves very nicely. My daughter uses her culinary skills to bless others and even fills out her own mounds of paperwork in a timely manner as a small business owner.

Eventually, our children acquire the skills we attempt to teach them. Not overnight, but in due season. They will learn to keep a house. Make a meal. Take care of a business. Not only will they survive, they will thrive.

So hang in there, mom. Keep doing the good work of motherhood. Don’t grow weary. Mothering matters. Not only to your kids, but also to God.

Father, please grant me a fresh perspective and renewed energy to persevere in the high calling of raising kids for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 5:7-8, “Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 3:13, “And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.” (NIV)

In what areas of motherhood do you tend to grow weary, tempting you to give up? List these on paper. After each area, list a possible result of you refusing to throw in the towel and instead being diligent to persevere as a mom.

© 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

Escaping the Anxiety Trap

Escaping the Anxiety Trap by Amy Carroll

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:18a (NIV)

He cried all the way to school, and I cried all the way back home. Day after day, my 7-year-old’s fears loomed large in our lives. The latest fear was of school, but his other fears had kept us from normal life routines for years.

My husband and I tried everything we knew to reassure our son, but we were exhausted and out of ideas. Finally, in desperation, we turned to a Christian counselor.

During one of our first meetings, she asked me to make a complete list of our son’s fears. I started the list, and then I listed some more. And I listed. And I listed. I was stunned when I saw the full scope of his anxieties.

I finally got the courage to ask the questions weighing on my heart from the start. Through tears I asked: “Is this just the beginning? I need to know what to expect. Will these fears continue to grow for the rest of his life?”

Our counselor smiled, explained that childhood anxiety is usually short‑lived and then told me a story. She had a friend who had struggled with overwhelming fear and anxiety since childhood. As her friend grew up, she came to a saving knowledge of Jesus followed by a calling to missions.

Even though the friend overcame her fear enough to move to a foreign country, she confessed that there was constantly a gap of time between God speaking to her and obedience while she overcame the fear of change.

The counselor gently reached for my hand and said, “Amy, you’re doing the right thing helping your son to face and overcome his fears now. If my friend had gotten help as a child, she would be able to obey God with joy instead of fear. That’s the goal!”

I sobbed with relief and stoked my determination to fight his fears (and mine) to the death. If you’re in those shoes today, I want to encourage you. Fear can be vanquished, and it’s worth the work. Just keep your eyes on the prize …

We can conquer our fears to follow God fearlessly. If you or your child feels overwhelmed by fear, here are steps our family took to find freedom:

Memorize Scripture. Knowing key Scripture verses by heart was essential. We’d say the verse, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …” (1 John 4:18a). And then I’d ask our son to say who loves him, starting with God. The power and truth of Scripture is calming.

Harness thought patterns. We talked about how fear is like a snowball rolling down a hill. The longer it rolls, the larger and faster it gets. When our son would start to panic, we’d say, “Let’s not let the snowball roll down the hill. Let’s talk about/think about something good.”

Enlist the help of a Christian counselor. Our family hired a Christian counselor when we ran into a problem we couldn’t seem to solve ourselves. In our case, we only saw the counselor for a very limited time before we were back on our feet again. I’m a huge advocate for the power of outside help!

Today, our son is a thriving college freshman. He didn’t overcome his fear and anxiety overnight, but we haven’t seen signs of them in years. He’s eager for his story to be told to help other people, so he gave me full permission to share it here. He wants you to know that freedom is achievable. God loves you and wants you to walk free from fear as you take steps of trust today.

Lord, I want to be free from anxiety and fear. Teach me to trust Your Word and to give You my anxious thoughts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 3:6, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” (NIV)

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (NIV)

What are some things that feed your fears?

What activities help you fight your fears? Choose to implement at least one of these today.

© 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

An Interview with Glenys Nellist

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Glenys Nellist, author of Love Letters from God, Little Love Letters from God, and Snuggle Time Prayers. We learned what an average day for her looks like, where she draws her inspiration from and more.

She also discussed how adults complicate salvation and gave us insight into how she simplifies this idea for children by offering them an invitation to “join Jesus’ team” by way of a small postcard found at the end of the each book.

Check out the full interview below:

You’re Still Here. And You’re Still Awesome.

You’re Still Here. And You’re Still Awesome. by Stephanie Raquel

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them … Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” Genesis 1:27, 31a (NLT)

It had been a rough year.

Our family had been hurt deeply by some people close to us, and as I reflected on Good Friday, I thought about how Jesus must have felt knowing the disciple Judas, one of His close followers, had betrayed Him. (For more about this, read Matthew 26:47-56.)

I found myself on the verge of tears, empathizing with our Lord. Feeling personally wounded and rejected, I wondered what that experience must have been like for Him nearly 2,000 years ago.

In the midst of my misty-eyed moment, my daughter walked into the room and could tell something was troubling me.

She asked what was so upsetting, and I explained how hurt and dejected I was feeling. She knew about the betrayal as she, too, had been deeply hurt personally.

But her words in that moment were wise beyond her years.

She simply explained that unlike what Jesus endured, what happened to her didn’t kill her. “I’m still here, and I’m still awesome!” she declared.

It made me smile and I hugged her, grateful for her encouragement.

Perhaps you relate?

Maybe you, too, know and appreciate that feeling of being wounded by someone once close to you — a friend, a neighbor, coworker, family member, a spouse — someone you loved dearly.

And maybe you could use a little reminder that no matter how much heartache you’ve experienced, whatever happened to you didn’t kill you: You’re still here. And you’re still awesome.

Still wonder if God thinks you’re awesome? Let’s go back to the beginning when God made all of creation for five days in a row and called it “good.” But as today’s key verse reminds us by the end of creation, we see a new phrase describing God’s greatest creation: Human beings were deemed “very good.”

Yes, God made “good” things like the earth, the sun, the moon, the plants, the oceans, the animals and more. But when God created people, something was quite different. Genesis 1:31a says: “Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”

Made in God’s divine image. Declared “very good.” Indeed that, to me, equals awesome.

Ironically, thinking back to Judas’ betrayal, it’s because of Jesus’ shed blood at the cross that we can fully rest in that truth. When we know Jesus personally as our Savior, God the Father sees us as holy, blameless, perfect, co‑heirs with Christ. And again, that amounts to even more awesomeness.

I’ll be the first to admit, this isn’t always easy for me to embrace. I need constant reminders. But I am choosing to live my life in light of these truths and pray you’ll do the same.

Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me in Your image. This Easter, help me remember that it’s because of Your Son’s death on the cross that I can fully accept the gift of being deemed “awesome” in Your eyes, not just here on earth, but for all eternity. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 139:14, “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it.” (NLT)

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (NLT)

Think of someone who’s recently been going through a tough time. Send her a text or drop her a personal note that says simply, “Just wanted to say that You. Are. Awesome. Yes, you are awesome.”

Spend some time reflecting on the truth of God’s Word in Ephesians 2:10, which declares that you’re awesome as His masterpiece. If you haven’t already memorized this verse, write it on a notecard or add it into your phone so you can commit it to memory.

© 2016 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

Jesus’ Prayer for You

Jesus’ Prayer for You by Lysa TerKeurst

“… that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:23b (NIV)

I treasure reading about the last moments of Jesus’ life with His friends in the Upper Room, especially around Easter. But at the same time, my heart aches. He knew all that was about to happen to Him. Within hours of this last time together, He knew:

  • One of them would betray Him.
  • The others would not stand with Him.
  • He would soon endure extreme brutality all alone.

And yet, somehow He was focused enough to stay very present in this moment instead of living in dread of the horrific moments to come.

Yes, on this night over 2,000 years ago, they ate together. They drank together. They experienced Jesus’ last supper together.

Then He prayed. For Himself. For the disciples.

And then for you and for me.

The fact that Jesus thought of and prayed for us in these final moments astounds me.

I need to read what He prayed. But even more importantly, I need to live what He prayed.

“… that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:23b)

May those of us whom He brought to complete unity let the world know about Jesus and His love.

Unity. Love.

Of all the many things He could have prayed for us, it was unity and love. That’s what He prayed. But is this what we live?

Do I see unity and love in the way Christians speak about one another online?

Do I see unity and love in the way I handle frustrations?

Do I see unity and love in the way I process people who think differently than I do?

Do I see unity and love between pastors and churches and denominations?

Sometimes I do. But heartbreakingly, many times I don’t.

If I don’t see what should be the defining marks for us Christians, what must the onlooking world think?

These are hard questions, but they’re necessary questions. Ones that are good for me to address in my own life.

I think I’m finally understanding that I don’t have to bend my beliefs or compromise my understanding of Scripture to walk in unity and love with others. We can be united by our love for Jesus even if we’re divided on the specific issues.

The main thing is Jesus. And I guess everything else will be sorted out with crystal clarity in heaven.

This Easter, might we each choose to embrace a God-honoring unity and love in our lives. We honor Him most when we live His prayer.

Father God, You long for us to receive the love of Jesus and to live the love of Jesus. For us to walk in unity and in love. Help us to tear down the barriers we have constructed to keep others at a safe distance, especially the ones we struggle with or disagree with, and help us to simply and sincerely love one another. May our hearts be challenged and our lives be changed by Your call to unity and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Romans 12:9a, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” (NLT)

John 13:34-35, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

Are there any people in your life you find it hard to walk in unity and love with? Spend some time in prayer today asking God to show you how you can begin to walk out Jesus’ prayer in these relationships.

Pray for unity today between our pastors, our churches and our denominations. When we walk in unity, we display the love of Jesus to the world — the kind of love that will draw unbelievers straight to the heart of God.

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

She Got More Likes Than I Did

She Got More Likes Than I Did by Tracie Miles

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

“Should I delete my Instagram pic? I only got 12 likes in the first five minutes,” I overheard one of my daughters say to the other.

In typical mom fashion, I took that opportunity to remind them that their beauty, value and self‑worth did not hinge on the opinions, approvals or disapprovals of others, much less how many “likes” they received on a picture.

And of course, in typical young adult fashion, I got a couple of eye rolls. But that’s okay. Because every now and then, we all need to be reminded of the truth.

I get where they’re coming from, especially considering today’s online culture. I vividly remember what it felt like as a young girl to long for the approval and acceptance of others. I also remember the insecurities that festered in my heart over feeling like I didn’t measure up or wasn’t accepted by my peers, or by boys. I remember the painful sting of rejection or being excluded — and that was long before everything was on the Internet.

Unfortunately, those longings for acceptance, approval and love don’t end after high school or even college. Deep‑seated insecurities and the hurt of feeling rejected and unwanted are no less painful as an adult. In fact, those emotions are often personified as we look at others’ social media pages and see how many “friends” they have, how perfect their families look, how awesome their husbands seem to be, how great their lives appear and how many “likes” they get on their photos.

But the truth is, behind those photos, real life happens. And it’s not always pretty or perfect. In fact, those same women we think have it all together or get the most “likes,” probably struggle with deep hidden hurts and the constant unmet need to feel accepted and wanted. To feel loved and treasured, instead of set aside and rejected. To feel we’re enough, instead of inadequate.

I’m one of those women. Maybe you are, too.

But what comfort it brings to read Paul’s words to God’s people in today’s key verse: “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes” (Ephesians 1:4).

How reassuring to know there is One who always accepts us and thinks we are priceless. But the reassurances don’t stop there. Paul continues by telling believers, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:5-8, NLT).

Whether we are 9‑ or 99‑years‑old, we all want to feel accepted, loved, approved of and liked. Maybe you long for the acceptance and love from a husband, a child, a friend or a community. Maybe there are days when you wonder if you are enough. Days when you lose sight of all the wonderful, unique things about yourself and instead focus on all the wonderful, unique things about everyone else. Everyone else who seems to be more accepted and “liked” than you.

Those are the days when the verses from Ephesians 1 become the perfect poetry to recite in our hearts. They serve as sweet reminders that we have not only been individually chosen by a sovereign God, but that we are also blessed, accepted, forgiven and redeemed. And you can’t get any more “liked” than that.

Lord, thank You for choosing me and loving me despite my flaws. Help me to remember this truth on days when I’m feeling like I’m not enough. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Isaiah 42:1a, “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen. He is my chosen one, who pleases me.” (NLT)

1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” (ESV)

Who or what causes you to feel like you’re not accepted or enough? Say a prayer for God to replace those insecurities with holy confidence in who you are in Him and to Him.

Have you been so focused on your own perceived shortcomings or rejection from someone whose approval you longed for that you’ve forgotten how precious you are to God? What can you do to change your perspective?

© 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

The Good Work of Home Work

The Good Work of Home Work by Sarah Mae

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

Tucked into a mountaintop, surrounded by trees and blue skies, her home sat waiting to greet me. As I approached her door, I saw a sign on the side of the house that said, “Welcome, Sarah! We are so glad you are here!” Through the front door, into the entryway, I was greeted with smiles and hugs. After introductions, I was shown to my room where I would be staying for the next few days.

Next to the neatly made bed was a bottle of water, a vase of simple flowers, a beautifully hand-written note and a little jar of foil-wrapped chocolates.

This lovely set-up, personally arranged, was all for me.

Back upstairs, the smell of a homemade meal was floating in the air. Candles were lit and classical music played in the background.

This was my first time at my mentor’s home. I had flown hundreds of miles to visit her, to spend time with her family and be mentored in person. And immediately upon pulling up to her home, I felt so special, so loved.

I would have been happy just to spend time with her without any of the extras, but she chose to make things beautiful for me. Going the extra step to raise life above mere existence is her defining gift.

I want to do that as well — to be someone who takes the time to make the ordinary into something beautiful.

And I have that opportunity to offer more than the mundane every day because I have a home where eternal souls live, and where meals are made and laundry is washed and toilets are scrubbed and all of this work matters.

I can make beauty right where I am for the people whom God has entrusted me with: my husband, my children, my neighbors and anyone else whom God brings to my home. This is my work, my first work, to carve out a space where love takes root and grows … where character is forged, humility is nurtured and holiness has a place to grow.

There is purpose in this good work of home work.

We see in the Scripture that work, including home work is never just work for the sake of itself; it is tied to purpose, to seeing our labor come to the fruition of an inner desire (see the Greek word ergon for reference). So our home work is a good work planned in advance by God to bring others to His very heart. All work is about His heart, which is of course about knowing Him and His love and offering that love to others.

Knowing that all the work in my home from scrubbing the floors to tackling another load of laundry, from listening to one child tell me about her dreams to correcting another, from moderating a conflict to having the neighbor over for coffee as she tells me about her latest struggle, is all about loving God and loving others. My home work is about love, and that love overflows through a listening ear, a flower next to a guest’s bed, another homemade meal.

Love is so often in the details.

Whether you’re married or single, if you have children or you don’t, your home work is meaningful and beautiful and has great eternal purpose.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us and giving us good work to do. Please help us to walk in confidence and joy where you have called us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Matthew 22:36-40, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (NIV)

It can feel overwhelming to invite others into our homes if we think everything has to be just right. But maybe there is someone out there, perhaps someone on your heart right now, who could use a gentle‑spirited friend?

You don’t have to have your home in perfect order. Just brew some coffee, fluff the pillows and invite them in. The rest? Offer it as a good work to the One who planned it all in advance.

© 2016 by Sarah Mae. All rights reserved.

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

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

What Should I Pray for My Children?

What Should I Pray for My Children? by Lynn Cowell

“‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’” Matthew 20:21 (NIV)

“You don’t know what you’re asking.”

Have you ever wanted to make this statement to a loved one when their request seemed so big it teetered on crazy?

Jesus did.

After sharing with His disciples that He would soon be killed, the mother of James and John decided this was the right time to ask Jesus for a favor.

Matthew 20:20-21 tells us: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. ‘What is it you want?’ he asked. She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.’”

What a bold woman! She just asked Jesus to make her sons His favorites in His kingdom.

Jesus answered her request in the next verse: “You don’t know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22a, NIV).

This mom was asking Jesus to make her sons great — to give them the most prominent places in God’s kingdom.

What mom doesn’t want greatness for her children? I have definitely been that bold, even begging Jesus at times “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” in the lives of my kids just like Ephesians 3:20 says. These are good, even Biblically correct prayers.

But as I continue to read this chapter, I hear Jesus saying to me, just like He said to James and John’s mother, “You don’t know what you are asking” (Matthew 20:22).

As Matthew 20 continues, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that as His followers, their life journeys would not be easy. In fact, if becoming great was what they really wanted, Jesus told them there was only one way to obtain greatness: become a servant.

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27, NIV).

My prayers are challenged by Jesus’ words. First, I am stirred by the question Jesus poses to the mother of two disciples. Not only do I hear Him asking, “What is it you want?” but there’s a deeper question: “Why do you want it?”

When I am praying, asking God to do great things for and in the lives of my family, what is my motive?

My reflection took me to one conclusion: the mother of James and John — and this mom — might have something in common. My requests of Jesus, my prayers, are often positioned from pride.

I see pride because I want my kids to succeed because I believe who they are and what they do reflects on me. I’ve made that terrible mistake of equating what they do to how I did as their mom.

Jesus says that to become great in His kingdom, my family, beginning with me, must do one thing: Become a servant. Yes, becoming great has to do with accomplishments, but not the type of accomplishments I may be thinking.

Great accomplishments to Jesus are acts that serve others.

My point today is not to encourage us to stop praying powerful prayers over our families. No, indeed we are to be praying fervently and without ceasing. It’s part of what we do as moms and as investors in the lives of others.

But maybe we need to truly understand God’s definition of great. Keeping a pulse on our hearts’ motives, let’s pray that above all else, the Holy Spirit will empower us to be humble and become servants for Him and others.

And may we pray for God’s best in and for our families for the sake of His kingdom and not for the glory of our own.

Lord, may we become great as You define greatness. Create in us the heart of a servant, choosing to work for Your glory and fame and not our own. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Mark 9:35, “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’” (NIV)

Luke 22:26, “But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (NIV)

What is one thing you can do in the next 24 hours to serve someone who does not have the ability to pay you back?

Start a conversation with your family on how you can serve and practice goodness together.

© 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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