Monthly Archives: September 2016

The Real Problem in Marriage

The Real Problem in Marriage by Dr. Tony Evans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I tore it up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s exactly what the devil wants.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Worry: God is at Work

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

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

Ever worry about your children? Yes, me too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

How to Choose a Bible: 4 Questions to Consider

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

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

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

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

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

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

What questions do you have about the Bible buying process?

Letting Go of a Secret Sin

Letting Go of a Secret Sin by Liz Curtis Higgs

“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:11 (NIV)

First, a confession: I used to indulge in a certain guilty pleasure, especially while traveling. Buying what I needed in an airport shop, I then inhaled it on the plane, hoping no one was looking. No, not dark chocolate, and not illicit drugs, but something equally addictive: romance novels.

Love stories are one thing. These were something else. Not uplifting Christian novels. The other kind. Pretty flowers on the cover, innocent-sounding titles, but the content definitely didn’t qualify as “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure” (Philippians 4:8, NIV).

A happily married woman, I convinced myself that reading such stories was harmless. I rationalized that since I wasn’t fantasizing about other men, wasn’t hurting anyone and wasn’t breaking any laws, that it wasn’t all that bad.

Really, Liz?

Today’s verse tells us, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12, NIV).

The romance novels I chose — dozens upon dozens — were definitely fruitless, producing nothing healthy in my spiritual life or in my marriage. And they were decidedly shameful. I did everything I could to hide them, like reading in bed at night with my back toward my husband, or reading in public with a quilted book cover masking the subject matter.

When we need to hide what we’re doing, we need to ask ourselves why.

Forgive me if I’m stepping on your toes, beloved. It’s not my job to pass judgment, only to show you how much Jesus loves His daughters. So much so that He stands ready to rescue us the moment we realize we’re drowning and cry out for help.

For me, that desperate moment came during a Christian women’s conference in Georgia nearly 20 years ago. During the closing minutes of the Saturday night session, the speaker offered an invitation to come forward and have a heart-to-heart conversation with the Lord.

Here’s the thing: I was the speaker who offered that invitation.

The worship leader sat behind me, softly playing music on a keyboard, while I encouraged our sisters in Christ to take a brave step of faith and come forward to pray. Some came alone; others came in pairs, often weeping. The empty floor in front of the stage began to fill with women seeking His forgiveness.

Your turn, Liz.

My words faded into silence. The prompting in my heart wasn’t audible, but I knew it was the Lord speaking to me, and I knew what He wanted me to do.

Now, Liz. Go.

I put down the microphone with shaking hands, nodded at the musician to keep playing, then stepped down and knelt on the floor. Forgive me, Lord. Help me, Lord. My whispered confession poured out. So did my tears, hot with shame.

As I sensed His mercy washing over me, my cheeks grew cooler, and my breathing eased. I was left with nothing but gratitude and a clear sense of what had to be done when I got home.

The question was, what to do now? A thousand women had watched their speaker abandon the platform to pray. What must they be thinking? I stepped back onstage and faced the audience. Turns out, they weren’t thinking about me at all. They were kneeling. Everywhere. On the floor, in the aisles, in front of their chairs.

It wasn’t my invitation they responded to. It was God’s.

He wants us to live in the light of His love, and He asks us to leave our dark deeds behind. The first step is the hardest: admitting we’re in trouble. But, oh, the freedom we gain when we discard our secret sins and step into His light!

Heavenly Father, thank You for not leaving us in darkness and shame, for showering us with grace, for showing us the way out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

John 12:46, “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (NIV)
James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

Conviction comes when we realize our lives don’t line up with God’s truth.

Confession is next, as we put our sin into words and ask His forgiveness.

Contentment follows when we make the necessary changes, relying on His strength to see us through.
If God is shining His light on a dark spot in your life today, what step can you take to begin on the path that leads to peace?
© 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

Does God Really Care About Me?

Does God Really Care About Me? by Lysa TerKeurst

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” Psalm 61:1-4 (NIV)

Do you ever feel lonely?

A few years ago, I was at an event full of people. Everyone else seemed to effortlessly connect with others. I just felt out of sorts.

Someone had said something earlier that day that hurt my feelings and knocked me off-kilter. It was one of those, “I would really like to be at home alone, in a bubble bath, eating something chocolate” kind of nights. But I had to go to this outing, so here I was — feeling lonely.

My shifting emotions caused me to get in such a down state, I even started wondering if God cared about me.

I politely smiled my way through the evening, and finally got to go home. As I crawled into bed that night, I prayed and asked Jesus, “Why am I letting some thoughtless comment made by someone affect me like this?”

There was no deep explanation. There was no Bible verse that instantly popped into my head. There was no sudden rush of peace through my heart. Only a very gentle reminder deep in my soul that Jesus loves me — insecurities and all.

Jesus loves me, that simple little song I learned all those years ago. Very simple, yet so powerfully profound, that one statement grounds me in the truth of who God says I am.

Friends can’t make you feel accepted all the time. Accomplishments will never truly make you feel secure. Having lots of people around you does not mean you won’t ever feel lonely. And chocolate, while it is deliciously distracting, is just a little too temporary.

No person or thing can fix from the outside a perspective that needs rewiring on the inside. Only the Lord can do that.

So, I turn to the One who is Everlasting, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel — God with us. I draw close to Him so He can separate solid truth from shifting emotions.

See if you can identify with any of the shifting emotions listed below. Then, rejoice as you read God’s solid truths for a firm place to stand and a sure place to park your feelings.

Shifting Emotion:
I don’t always feel noticed by other people. Everyone just seems wrapped up in their own lives. Sometimes I even wonder if God notices me.

Solid Truth:
God not only notices us, He is with us at all times. We are to keep ourselves in God’s love, whether we feel Him or not. By praying and filling our minds with God’s truth, His love will grow in us and through us. Then we won’t be so consumed with wanting others to notice us. We will become people who notice others and let God’s love shine on them. Jude 1:20-21, “But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” (NIV).

Shifting Emotion:
I don’t feel very loved. Therefore, I don’t feel like being very loving toward others.

Solid Truth:
We are dearly loved by God. His love enables us to display compassion, kindness and patience even when we don’t feel like it. Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (NIV).

Shifting Emotion:
Does God really care about this situation I’m in?

Solid Truth:
God is with us. As we cry out to Him, we are reminded of His help. Psalm 61:1-4, “Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.”

As I finish reading these truths, my heart feels so much more secure. It’s a feeling I want to soak in every day as I remind myself that I am truly, wholly and forever loved.

Dear Lord, Help me rid my mind and heart of the doubts that shifting emotions cause and be filled with only Your solid truths. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Matthew 7:24-25, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (NIV)

What are some other verses that specifically apply to areas of struggle for you right now? How might it help to keep these verses close at hand — and reflect on them often?

© 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Look at Me, Child

Look at Me, Child by Suzie Eller

“So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:31 (NIV)

She wore a white dress. It was tattered and soiled. She had just climbed through a sagging barbed wire fence and it snagged on her tiny ankle. The wound was red and gaping. She cried, but there was no comfort to be found.

I started digging through my backpack, looking for a bandage, a wipe.


It wasn’t enough. There wasn’t a wipe or bandage in the world that could fix what was wrong with this picture.

She lived in a rag-picking slum. Her home was an open, dirt floor, cloth shanty with a tin roof held in place by rocks.

She was a Dalit, a class of people once called untouchable — a class of people still treated as untouchable.

Many young girls, like this little one, are seen as a burden from birth. It’s hard to believe, but some are killed shortly after birth because they have “no value” to their family. They are viewed as a financial liability due to the dowry requirement for marriage.

Little girls like this typically don’t receive an education. They grow up caring for siblings or working from a tender age. This girl will sort through mountains of trash to find rags and plastic bottles. She is told this is her duty, and perhaps her next life might be better.

I’ve seen poverty. I’ve walked through slums before. I’ve held children while lice crept through their hair, and I’ve wept over hungry bellies.

Yet I’ve never experienced hopelessness that says, “You have no value. This is your lot in life. It’s the best you can expect.”

Untouchable. Uninvited. Worthless.

Her culture might tell her she’s untouchable, but Jesus reaches for her.

Her family might see her as uninvited, but her Heavenly Father sees her as created in His image.

Her status in society might say she’s worthless, but the Holy Spirit marks her as priceless.

She is not uninvited. She is not untouchable. She is not worthless.

This little girl is created in His image. Jesus’ own words tell us she’s treasured: “… you are worth more than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). The sparrows are unseen and unvalued by most. Yet God sees them, and He sees her.

I knelt that day, crouched between cow dung and sagging barbed wire and smiled at her, praying the heart of my words would somehow break the language barrier.

Look at me, child.

You are beautiful and wanted. I’m going to pray for you. I don’t know your name, but God does.

Look at me, child.

That’s our Heavenly Father calling to us, because sometimes when a problem seems SO big, He wants us to reach for Him because He’s greater.

He doesn’t want us to give up or throw up our hands in despair, but to hold them up in surrender, asking Him to show us our part to play.

We are not big enough to fix what’s wrong with a society that says a female child has little value, but we can pray.

We can’t put a bandage on every child’s wounds, but we can fall to our knees and cry out to God to heal their hearts.

We can’t go to every nation, but we can support ministries brave enough to offer education and hope in Jesus’ Name.

We can’t do it alone, but together we can reach across barriers and cultures and join hands to make a difference.

Dear God, I hear Your call to love others in Your name. I ask that You open my eyes to that child, that woman, who’s on Your heart. Let me play my part in inviting them into Your presence and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.” (NLT)
Proverbs 14:31, “He who oppresses the poor taunts and insults his Maker, But he who is kind and merciful and gracious to the needy honors Him.” (AMP)

When a problem or issue feels impossible to solve, we might feel we have no voice. Yet one voice, combined with thousands of others, is heard. Not just by entities, but by those who feel they have no voice at all.

© 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

Shame Off You

Shame Off You by Christine Caine

“Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.” Isaiah 54:4 (NIV)

I spent the first 22 years of my life shackled by shame. Looking back, I realize I had always felt it. Shame had been a part of my life from my earliest memories.

I felt it when I was rejected. Made to feel unworthy — of no value.

I felt it when I was abused and couldn’t tell anyone. And believed it was somehow my fault.

I felt it when I tried to hide or apologize for who I was, minimize my talents or overachieve and compensate for feeling somehow “less than.”

Have you felt it? If you’re human, you have — and the result is always the same.

Shame is the fear of being unworthy, and it adversely affects our relationship with God, ourselves and others. It greatly hinders our ability to receive God’s unconditional love and share it with others.

I wish I could say that as soon as I decided to follow God and dedicate my life to serving Him through helping others, the shame in my life disappeared. But unfortunately, that’s not how shame works.

I expected that once I’d left my old life and joined God’s team, I would feel free and could simply forget the past and move on. But I didn’t.

I was forgiven and had access to all of the promises of God in Christ Jesus, but I still carried a broken heart, a wounded soul and a tormented mind because shame destroys our internal settings.

Walking with God to work through and fight against the shame in my life has been my single most difficult journey. But doing the hard work of healing is the only way we can get to the other side — the freedom to fulfill our destiny.

Because of God’s great love, I began to discover the power of God’s Word to break through the lies I had believed — and to reveal the truth of who I am and why I was created. Notice the key word in that sentence is began.

Breaking free from the shackles of shame is not an overnight experience or a quick-fix, 10-step process. It is, however, a grand, ongoing adventure of discovering the depths of God’s love and the huge scope of God’s power to transform us, re-create us and continually renew us.

Today’s key verse, Isaiah 54:4, spells this out for us: “Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood.”

God created you for a unique purpose: He has a specific plan for your life and a powerful destiny He wants you to fulfill. And guess what? Shame has no place in that purpose, plan and destiny. Jesus came to set you free from shame.

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and for helping me walk this journey to complete freedom from shame. Please help me continually seek You when I start to feel shame’s strongholds creeping in. As I seek You and search Your Word, please reveal to me the power to break the shackles of shame that bind me. Father, I believe that You are writing a great story for my life, and that I’m a vital member of Your plan at work in this hurting world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (NIV)

Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (ESV)

Have you trusted Jesus with your shame? Reflect on one step you can take today that will allow you to move toward His grace.

© 2016 by Christine Caine. 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

When Your Story Doesn’t Stick to the Script

When Your Story Doesn’t Stick to the Script by Alicia Bruxvoort

“We can make our plans, but the final outcome is in God’s hands.” Proverbs 16:1 (TLB)

“I really want a script,” my daughter confessed as we stood in the doorway of our small town opera house and eyed the wiggly ribbon of children streaming toward the stage.

A traveling theater troupe had come to town and invited the local kids to help them produce a musical.

There was no limit to the number of children who could participate in the chorus, so every young thespian who braved the tryouts would be granted a place on stage.

But my 10-year-old didn’t just want to learn a few dance moves and sing songs. She wanted a role with a script.

I wished my girl the best and promised to be waiting in the parking lot when auditions were over. She flashed me a hopeful smile and took her place at the end of the snaking line.

And as I waved goodbye, I realized I’m not that different from my daughter. I may never find myself on a spotlighted stage, but when it comes to living this tale called life, I prefer a script too.

After all, a script breeds confidence. When we follow a script, we know exactly what to say and do. We can play our part with poise and avoid the possibility of failure.

A script reduces risk. When we can anticipate what’s coming next, we don’t have to worry about being caught off-guard or feeling unprepared. A script creates comfort. Once we master our lines, we don’t need to navigate unexpected plot twists or sudden scene changes.

Fortunately, my daughter’s wish came true. She became the proud steward of a black binder with her very own lines, highlighted in yellow.

She clung to her script all week, rehearsing with diligence and delight. But when opening night arrived, we were reminded even the best stories don’t always follow the script.

The musical unfolded as planned until the last scene. The props were stunning, the characters were entertaining and the storyline was captivating.

But as the chorus filed on stage for the final number, the spotlights started to quiver and the sound system began to cackle. The stage grew dim, and the littlest performers began to whimper.

The lead missed her cue, the chorus refused to dance in the dark and the audience waited awkwardly for closure.

A few kids tried to shout their lines over the ensuing mayhem, but the script just didn’t make sense in the midst of the chaos and clamor.

Maybe you know the feeling. Maybe you’re living a story that isn’t going as planned. Maybe you’ve done all you can to ensure success, yet run into failure.

Maybe you’ve prided yourself on careful preparation but you’ve been toppled by the unexpected.

And maybe, like those little thespians, the script you’ve clung to just doesn’t make sense anymore.

May I tell you what happened on the dark stage that night?

Just as the show seemed to be crumbling, the director waltzed into the chaos. Armed with an industrial-sized flashlight and a shining smile, she inserted a few unscripted lines into the struggling story and tied up the closing scene with a beautiful song.

And as the children followed their rescuer off the platform, one little boy declared with awe, “That was the perfect ending … and we didn’t even follow the script!”

Proverbs 16:1 reminds us even when our scripts aren’t working, we have a Savior whose plan never fails. And if we invite Him into our stories, He will bring His light into our darkness and shine His glory through our glitches.

Each scene might not turn out as we’d expected, but we can trust Jesus with our stories. And when we cling loosely to our own scripts and hang tightly to God’s promises, we discover that His tale is better than anything we could imagine on our own.

And best of all, His story always ends in happily ever after (Revelation 21:1-7).

Dear God, Help me trust You even when my plans fail and life doesn’t go as expected. Please step into my story and script Your perfect plan for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 19:21, “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” (NLT)

Psalm 37:23, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” (NLT)

Do you cling more tightly to your Savior or your script? Spend some time with Jesus this week and invite Him to step into the scene you’re living right now.

Memorize Romans 8:28 as a reminder that God is working on your story.

© 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

When Being Critical Hurts You

When Being Critical Hurts You by Leah DiPascal

‘“I speak to him [Moses] face to face, clearly, and not in riddles! He sees the LORD as he is. So why were you not afraid to criticize my servant Moses?’ The LORD was very angry with them, and he departed. As the cloud moved from above the Tabernacle, there stood Miriam, her skin as white as snow from leprosy.” Numbers 12:8-10a (NLT)


We’ve all felt the sting of it. We’ve all had opportunities to use it on others.

Like pepper sprinkled on a hot dish of tamales, we’ve served it up to friends, family members, even co-workers on occasion.

I wish I could say I’ve never criticized those who are dear to me, but that wouldn’t be true. I love my sister and we are very close, but there was a time during my teen years when I was highly critical of her.

It wasn’t because she deserved it or was doing anything wrong. My sister had what I longed for: popularity, straight A’s on her report card and a coveted spot on the cheerleading team.

My criticism was an unjustified way of soothing a sharp thorn inside me called jealousy.

In today’s key verse, we read about a gal named Miriam who stirred the pot of criticism with one of her siblings: Moses.

Miriam was Moses’ older sister. Their relationship goes back to what many would consider the most unusual babysitting job ever. Miriam carefully watched her baby brother float down the Nile River in a waterproof basket that ended up in the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter (Exodus 2).

Her quick thinking not only saved Moses’ life but set him up in a posh palace where he eventually rose to greatness. Years later, God raised Moses up to lead the Israelites out of captivity making him one of the most influential men in history. Not only that, but God trusted Moses and spoke to Him face to face. (verses 7-8)

Jealousy bubbled under the surface of Miriam’s heart as Moses’ position with God and influence with the Israelites grew. She wanted some of what Moses had: position, authority and influence with God. Then one day it spilled over through criticizing words that quickly captured God’s attention:

“Has the LORD spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he spoken through us, too?” Numbers 12:2 (NLT)

If Miriam was longing for special attention from God she certainly had it now … God singled her out in a very distinct way. She was inflicted with leprosy and banned from her family and friends for seven days.

She could have eventually died from the leprosy. Instead, God allowed her to only experience it for seven days. Why? Because her brother pleaded on her behalf: “So Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘O God, I beg you, please heal her!’” (Numbers 12:13, NLT)

Moses, the target of Miriam’s criticism, had now become her greatest defender. Miriam’s jealousy was countered with compassion from her brother.

We can learn three important lessons from this story that will reframe our thinking about unwarranted criticism:
1. Criticism often stems from a root of jealousy and hurt.
2. Criticism toward others offends God.
3. Criticism can be cured through love and forgiveness.

Moses expressed love for his sister by begging God for her healing. God expressed mercy and forgiveness and spared Miriam’s life — even though she sinned against Him by questioning Moses’ positional authority.

Before criticizing someone, let’s make sure we pause long enough to discover our own motives. Is jealousy at the root? Is hurt, envy or comparison pushing on our heartstrings? Is godly love for this person sinking when it should be rising to the surface?

And if you’ve been unjustly criticized lately, remember the offense hasn’t gone unnoticed by God.

If you’re not able to work out those differences with the one who has wrongly criticized you, God is always there to help you work through the hurt with Him.

Lord, I want to be known as a woman who loves others freely, not criticizing unfairly because of my own personal hurts or jealousy. Help me pause long enough to check my motives before speaking words that could upset someone I love. And give me a compassionate heart that celebrates unity, not division. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t let even one rotten word seep out of your mouths. Instead, offer only fresh words that build others up when they need it most. That way your good words will communicate grace to those who hear them.” (VOICE)

Is there someone you’ve been critical of lately? Pray and ask God to show you the root of your feelings toward them. Like Leah suggested, oftentimes you’ll find your criticism has more to do with you than them.
© 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

When You’re Running on Empty

When You’re Running on Empty by Katy McCown

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NKJV)

My heart beat a little faster as I realized the truth about my situation.

I needed fuel and couldn’t find any.

Yes, the “low fuel” warning lit up miles ago which meant my dear, well-intentioned van showed me the empty gas tank with the words, “Drive to a gas station,” spelled out in bright yellow letters.

Yes, I saw it. Yes, I acknowledged it … and yes, I ignored it.

I’ve actually built a bit of a reputation for waiting until the very last second to stop for gas. In college, my sister usually bore the brunt of my push-it-till-the-last-drop decisions. Let’s just say, there may have been a time or two I parked our shared vehicle in front of the apartment on empty, only for her to drive it next and run out of gas on the way to fill up.

This particular day, with my six kids in the backseat, I wondered if I’d make it in time.

My friend in the passenger seat noticed me tighten my grip on the wheel and squirmed in her seat. “Are we pushing it?” she asked.

“Yep,” I answered, as we drove down the highway in silence.

For a moment, my mind wandered to a time similar to this one … only it was my soul on empty.

My days started before sunrise and ended long after the stars twinkled overhead. Demands flooded from every direction. And duty pounded on my door.

Some nights I met my husband at the door and fell into his arms, tears dropping at his feet. There just wasn’t enough of me to go around.

I noticed my soul’s “low fuel” light. I felt God’s gentle nudge to pull away and fill up in His presence. But I ignored it. It wasn’t until I neared a breakdown that I finally realized how vital that fuel really is.

Recently I learned of a woman in a similar season of life but who handled it differently. As she noticed the “low fuel” lights in her soul, she began to pray, God, show me a time I can be with You.

Not long after, she started waking up every day at 2 a.m. No alarm clock. No screaming baby to blame.

She just woke up, and she took it as God’s offer to meet with Him.

She would get out of bed and snuggle up to her Lord for the next hour or so. Then she slipped back under the covers until life and light woke her again.

When I felt those same spiritual “low fuel” signs, instead of asking God to show me time, I argued with Him about how I didn’t have enough time. When He gently nudged me to wake a little earlier and spend those quiet moments with Him, I brushed it off and reasoned, There’s no way God would want me to do this. He knows I need my sleep.

Sometimes it seems futile to pull over. There’s always a place to go, a mission to accomplish or an errand to run. And stopping to refuel feels like a waste of time. But in today’s key verse Jesus reminds us, “… without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5b).

We don’t know what each day holds, but God sees what’s next. He knows what we need and how to equip us for the things ahead. If only we’ll pay attention when the Light alerts us.

That dreadful day on the highway as the last drops of gasoline dripped out of the tank, we found help.

I’ve never been more excited to see a gas station. And when I pulled away with a full tank of gas, my heart felt very different than when we arrived. I felt relief and confidence to continue moving down the road.

My soul also found relief through those draining days of life. After physical sickness, emotional exhaustion and a spiritual drought, I finally dropped to my knees and admitted my need for a fuel only found in Jesus. I gulped down His presence and drank in His peace, all the while wondering why I waited so long to pull over.

If your soul is nearing empty, don’t wait! Take time to fuel up and find rest for your soul.

Dear God, I can’t make it on my own. Forgive me for ever thinking I could. Thank You for Your faithfulness to fill me up, if only I’ll remain in You and pay attention to Your instruction. Help me abide in You today, depending on You alone for everything I need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose.” (HCSB)
Psalm 42:1, “My soul is dry and thirsts for You, True God, as a deer thirsts for water.” (VOICE)

What are your spiritual “low fuel” warning lights?
Take some time today to think about these and make a plan for how you’ll respond the next time your soul needs to fill up.
© 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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