Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tearing Up the Star Charts

Tearing Up the Star Charts by Jennie Allen

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)

Our son Cooper was nearly 4 years old the day we first met him. In my head, I was flying to Africa to bring home my cuddly little toddler, only to arrive and realize this was a full-blown kid who had learned how to rule his roost at the orphanage. We’d had no input on any of the 1,400 days of his life so far, then — bam! — just like that, he was our son.

When we brought Coop back to the guest home in Rwanda, words poured out of him without any apparent concern that none of us knew what he was saying.

That first night I cooked “popeyes” for dinner on a tiny skillet. I grew up in Arkansas eating popeyes: over-medium eggs, with the yellow yolk poking out of a little hole in toast. The typical thick porridge he ate in the orphanage didn’t require utensils, but popeyes do. But when I reached to show him how the fork worked, he knocked it away.

My husband Zac quickly corrected him with words Coop couldn’t yet understand but in a tone that he apparently did. That child stood up and started waving his finger and preaching like he was in church. Our strong-willed, gregarious new son was obviously familiar with a good old-fashioned southern scolding.

This was a showdown of wills, and we needed a way to motivate his cooperation. When we got home, Coop had one obsession: a bike. So I printed a picture of the most epic bike any 4-year-old had ever seen, and I made rows of squares with an arrow pointing to the bike. Then, whenever Coop did anything noteworthy — used the potty, used a fork, stayed in bed, shared his toys — he earned a little star sticker toward that bike.

And I will be honest: it worked.

In fact, that star chart still works. He can’t do math to save his life until there is a light saber at the end of 10 stickers. Then he can do long division in second grade.

While this brings out the best in Coop’s behavior and performance, in some ways it also brings out the worst.

My Coop fights shame. Somewhere along the way, Coop decided he was a bad kid. So on the days he earns a star, a grin breaks out, as if this star proved his worth. But if he doesn’t land his star, his head drops, as if the finger-waving scoldings from the orphanage are all true. Yes, Coop wants enough stickers for his light saber, but this ache is bigger. Something in him strives to prove he is enough.

We all have our own version of star charts, something we are trying to get approval for, from our parents, friends, spouses, kids, online acquaintances, coworkers or even from God. Most of us carry that striving feeling all our lives.

But the way we interact with people eventually makes its way into our spiritual lives. So often we try to relate to God through star charts — and we end up feeling shame or disappointment that our performance didn’t bring the outcome we wanted. We try to work harder, achieve more, jump farther, score higher in order to win His approval or blessing. We end up relating to God with an underlying fear rather than full of expectant, childlike, joy-filled faith.

God doesn’t work with star charts. He is not manipulated by our performance. In Jeremiah 9:23-24, He says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

God is not after great performances or great movements. He is after us!

God already knows we aren’t enough, but He’s not asking us to be. We are the ones who have chosen to walk through the desert with enormous packs strapped to our backs full of everything but water. As if the kingdom of God were held up or together by us.

To get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit we aren’t. Pretending we are okay is how many of us are making life work. With that illusion gone, we might have to live needing God.

And it might be hard. Strike that. It is hard.

No more performing. No more pretending. No more proving ourselves.

Because we have nothing to prove.

Dear God, I’m realizing it’s not my curse that I believe I’m not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be. Thank You for the reminder that life with You means I can rest, and I have nothing to prove. Will You continue to show me Your freedom, Your power and my need to stop striving to please You and instead just live life with You? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (NLT)

Do you feel like God is keeping a star chart based on your performance?

When we see ourselves the way God sees us, we don’t have to strive. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9. How does this verse encourage you? Does it challenge you to tear up the star chart?

© 2017 by Jennie Allen. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks WaterBrook & Multnomah 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 You’ve Fallen in Fear and You Can’t Get Up

When You’ve Fallen in Fear and You Can’t Get Up by Kelly Balarie

“The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].” Habakkuk 3:19 (AMP)

I shoved the training books deep into the closet, making them disappear under a pile of clutter. There. If I can’t see them and others can’t see them, these books have far less power to hurt me. Now no one will be reminded I’m a walking disappointment.

Satisfied, I shut the doors and wiped my hands of the costly, and only partially completed, How to Get Your License real-estate books. My worthlessness was contained.

Ahh, I breathed a sigh of relief. And, like dust swept under a rug, the gnawing fear I’d live constantly floundering in defeat was — Poof! — gone.

Victory! I declared. Kind of …

There was a problem. Although I try to run from pain and hide my faults, fear knows where to find me. And, just as I expected, within minutes, like nails on a chalkboard, it spoke: Kelly, you won’t amount to anything more than a loser. You’ll never succeed. You’ll always be criticized. You’ll let people down. If you try, people will see you as a fraud, a wanna-be. Certainly, they won’t say it, but you’ll know how they really feel.
My heart sinks, like a lost penny in a worthless wishing well. Will I live forever paralyzed, side-stepping God’s glorious missions for me?

My body trembles at the thought. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing everyone else celebrating grand and glorious winnings on Facebook, while I’m stuck on my sofa digging into a pint of Chunky Monkey while wearing tattered pajamas. Somehow, I missed the memo on courage. This hurts and leaves me to question God.

God, why am I not brave? God, why do I always start and stop? God, why do others look so good, while I fail so bad?

And, most of all, what if I never amount to anything? What if, at the end of my days, I learn I’m the defect? The one person created without significance. What then, God?

So often I see myself leashed to a couch of complacency. Microwave popcorn, a warm blanket and a sunken-in sofa rarely leave a woman feeling embarrassed, anxious and uncertain. I guess it makes sense I can’t easily get up.

But lately I’ve been thinking: What good is short-term comfort if it leaves you with long-term regret? And what is life, if it isn’t lived for Christ? And, what is faith, if not practiced in full?

God, I want more. I want to deeply and whole-heartedly believe Your truth, so I can brazenly and passionately step into Your callings before me.

God hears prayers. He answers mine with today’s key verse: “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet and makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” (Habakkuk 3:19).

As I read this verse, I discover six ways God empowers each of us:

He gives His strength.
He sends out His invisible army to work and fight on our behalf.
He steadies our feet, no matter how unsteady the terrain.
He makes us walk into His predestined great places.
He leads us to high places.
He develops spiritual confidence within us.
This is powerful. For our progress is not about us, the weak ones. It is all about Him, the strong One, Who can do all things at all times. When we believe the truth that He is behind us, with us and for us, we access what He wants to do through us. It happens naturally, without striving and agonizing.

It’s seamless when we simply see Him. It’s glory-filled, when we simply follow Him. It’s joy-laden when we realize there are no failures in God’s Kingdom, only loved children. Here we realize we are daughters, women, cared for and protected, forgiven and cherished, emboldened and encouraged.

God, You are our strength. May we fall into Your arms and find rest in You. Bring us to Your high places. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (NASB)


What fear consumes you? When you apply the key verse to it, how does God prompt you to see it afresh?

How might your life change if you let faith flood this place of fear?

© 2017 by Kelly Balarie. All rights reserved.

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

Bible Basics: 8 Benefits of Reading Your Bible Daily


Reignite your passion for reading the Bible by reminding yourself of the benefits God has made available to you through His Word.

The Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. And though we know it in our heads, sometimes we forget this truth in our hearts. We go through the motions and treat our time in the Word as an obligation, failing to see it as the gift it really is. Reignite your passion for reading the Bible by reminding yourself of the benefits God has made available to you through His Word.

1. Your faith will be strengthened.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. –Romans 10:17 NIV

2. You will be successful.
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” –Joshua 1:8 NLT

3. You will be prepared.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

4. You will receive direction and clarity.
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. –Psalm 119:105 KJV

5. You will be equipped to point others toward Jesus.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. –Titus 1:9 ESV

6. You will gain understanding.
The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. –Psalm 119:130 NIV

7. You will be encouraged.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. –Romans 15:4 ESV

8. You will be set free.
Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:31–32 NLT

We hope you feel inspired and excited about digging into God’s Word and seeking Him daily. We recommend starting with a study Bible if you’re new to reading the Bible. A study Bible contains extensive help and features like annotations that explain difficult passages or theology and doctrine, references to indicate where text relates to, word definitions, a concordance, maps and timelines, and more.

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When You Need to Win Over Worry

When You Need to Win Over Worry by Betsy De Cruz

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

When it comes to worrying, I could win an Olympic prize. Not surprising, since I come from a long line of expert worriers.

My grandparents were champions. During my childhood, they showed up at every family gathering two hours early to avoid being late. Then by 2:30 in the afternoon, my Papa would start fretting about how they needed to get home before dark. They’d leave at 3 p.m., so they could go check on their dog and make sure their house wasn’t on fire.

One of my favorite family memories comes from a car trip I took with my grandparents back in the days when the top speed limit was 55 mph. Grandma was blowing down the highway at 50 when a traffic police appeared. Papa leaned over to warn her, “See that cop, Ma? You better slow down.” He was scared to death they’d get a speeding ticket.

Thirty years later, it’s easy for me to laugh at my grandparent’s apprehensions, but maybe my worries look equally foolish to God. When I consider my fears in the light of my all-powerful, heavenly Father, they look small and unnecessary.

Jesus knew all about our inclination to worry when He asked, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27).

Maybe worrying is in my genes, but I nurture it every time I allow it to take root in my thoughts. I’ve wasted time and energy letting my mind get worked up over situations my heavenly Father had under His control.

Scripture reminds me I have a loving Father who cares even for birds: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NIV). When I call to mind that God feeds even sparrows, I’m reassured. I remember my heavenly Father sees me, loves me and cares for my needs.

What about you, friend? You might have some pressing uncertainties in your life. Trouble at work may be wearing you down. Concern for your kids can keep you up at night. Bills might look big at the end of the month, and a simple visit to the doctor can turn your life upside down.

Let’s flex our faith muscles today.

Rather than waste time and energy on worry, let’s use it to build our faith. Why replay fears in our minds when we can choose to remember God’s truth instead? What if we look to His Word to find a specific Scripture verse that addresses our concerns?

We can flip fear with the Word of God. Worrying won’t change our situation, but God’s Word can. When anxious thoughts come, let’s call to mind God’s promises and meditate on His faithfulness. Let’s turn our worries into prayers as we proclaim God’s powerful Word over ourselves and the people we love.

After all, our heavenly Father calls each star by name, and He sees each sparrow when it falls. We can trust Him to take care of us.

Lord, I know You love and care for me and the people in my life. Help me learn to trust You. Give me grace to believe that You will work for good in every situation. Help me to lay worry aside and flex my faith muscles instead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)

Take a few minutes to identify your present concerns. Lift in prayer to God each person or situation that comes to mind. Ask Him to do His perfect work. Trust that He will.

Can you think of a Scripture verse that addresses a specific fear you have? Write it on a notecard. Keep it close, and meditate on it whenever fear or worry rise up in your heart.

© 2017 by Betsy de Cruz. All rights reserved.

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

The Seduction of Satisfaction

The Seduction of Satisfaction by Lysa Terkeurst

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

Have you ever been tempted to make seemingly small compromises in the short term that had the potential to take you away from God’s best in the long term?

I know this struggle all too well. But I also know that those small compromises build upon one another until they become a big pile of regret.

Temptation of any kind is Satan’s invitation to get our needs met outside the will of God.

One of the subtle ways he does this is to plant the hesitant thought in our mind that God will not meet our needs — that God is not enough. Satan wants us to feel alone and abandoned, so that we turn to his offerings instead. It’s the seduction of satisfaction.

Often the script that plays in our head is, “I need __________ so I can be satisfied.”

It’s what sends the wife on a budget off on a spending spree. She feels the thrill of the sale in the moment. But as she’s hiding the bags from her husband, shame creeps in.

It’s what pulls at the business woman to work harder and longer and refuse to build boundaries in her schedule. Always chasing that next accomplishment or that next compliment but it’s never enough.

It’s what sent me on many eating sprees. The kids were loud, the house was messy, the demands felt beyond my control. So with great justification I’d indulge only to have a bloated stomach and a deflated heart.

This subtle message sold to us by Satan can be exposed when we understand the difference between a need and a want.

All of the examples above were wants — not needs. But oh, how Satan wants to make them one and the same.

When the difference between these two words starts getting skewed, we start compromising. We start justifying. And it sets us up to start getting our needs met outside the will of God. The abyss of discontentment invites us in and threatens to darken and distort everything in our world.

Listen, Satan is a liar. The more we fill ourselves with his distorted desires, the more empty we’ll feel. That’s true with each of the desires mentioned above. The more we overspend, overwork or overeat — the more empty we feel. Remember, Satan wants to separate you from God’s best plans. He wants to separate you from God’s proper provision. He wants to separate you from God’s peace.

God’s provision sustains life. Satan’s temptation drains life.

God’s provision in the short term will reap blessings in the long term. Satan’s temptation in the short term will reap heartache in the long term.

God’s provision satisfies the soul. Satan’s temptation gratifies the flesh.

Oh sweet sister, we must consider these realities when making choices today. We’re all just a few poor choices away from doing things we never thought we would. Especially when our hearts are in a vulnerable place of longing for something that God hasn’t yet provided.

And the time to prevent destruction from temptation is before it ever starts.

We are either holding fast to God’s promise or being lured by a compromise. And isn’t it interesting that the word promise is right there in the midst of that word com(promise)?

God promises, “I will meet all your needs according to the riches of My Glory in Christ Jesus,” (paraphrase, Philippians 4:19). He is everything we need and so perfectly capable of filling in the gaps of our wants as well. We must let truth seep deep into the longings of our soul. Otherwise lies are prone to creep into this place of our desire.

Yes. We must trust God. Embrace truth. Live His promise.

Dear Lord, help me to focus only on Your provision in my life today. I don’t want to be separated from You, Your best plans for me or Your peace. Help me notice when the enemy is trying to entice me with false desires, because they only lead to emptiness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Matthew 26:41, ”Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (NIV)

Are there any areas in your life where you know you’ve been compromising instead of waiting on God’s provision? Spend some time in prayer today. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and strength. And then thank Him that His plans for you are good and that you absolutely can trust His timing and His ways.

© 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Control Girl to Jesus Girl

Control Girl to Jesus Girl by Shannon Popkin

“Not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42b (ESV)

“You guys are going to love this!” I said as I plopped steaming heaps of peach porridge into my kids’ breakfast bowls.

They didn’t look convinced.

This was my fifth new recipe that week — all attempts to accommodate my son’s new elimination diet. The nutritionist had promised that peach porridge would be a favorite. But Cade — who was 6 and never shy about his opinion — said, “Blech! Mommy, this is so icky!”

His older siblings giggled and admitted, “Mom, it is pretty bad.”

I should have laughed good-naturedly and pulled out some gluten-free cereal, but instead, I snapped: “Well that’s your breakfast and you’re going to eat it.” I was running out of recipes and patience. Plus those ingredients were expensive. And I had enough left for 10 more batches of peach porridge. “These kids are so picky!” I fumed.

The older kids, sensing I meant business, began forcing porridge down by gulping juice, but Cade refused. “I can’t eat it, Mommy!” he wailed.

I whirled around and said, “Oh, yes you can, and you’ll sit there till you do!”

He choked down several spoonfuls down, but then began gagging dramatically, which produced a little heap of porridge that slid right back into his bowl.

I was furious. “Oh, so you want to start over?” I snarled and replaced his porridge with a fresh, heaping bowl.

Oh, the crying and gnashing of teeth in our kitchen that morning! The bus came and went, and poor little Cade sat spilling tears into his bowl. Before long, the wash of remorse came. I apologized, fed my poor boy and drove him to school. It’s one of many “Control Girl” memories I wish I could erase.

I’m learning that my anger over little things — like dirty clothes under the bed or an un-shoveled driveway — is often a symptom of a deeper problem. Anger is what’s spewing, but feeding my anger is a deep, unhealthy craving for control.

The same is true of my anxiety. On the surface, I might be fretting or obsessing over my baby not crawling or my husband’s spending, but feeding my fear is a desperate longing to have control.

So, when I feel a surge of anger or a spike of anxiety, I’m learning to ask myself, OK, Shannon, what are you trying to control? What do you feel you’re losing control of?

And then I remind myself of the truth: I’m not in control. God is.

God never intended for me to shoulder the burden of trying to control. I can live responsibly and positively influence the people I love. But can I ultimately control whether my kids graduate with honors, marry a Christian or eat their peach porridge? No, I can’t.

And when I clamp down on outcomes I’m convinced I can and must create (in parenting or elsewhere), I only become angry, fretful and obsessed.

Thankfully, Jesus offers me another way. He invites me to follow Him and live the way He did. And how did Jesus live? Did He take control or give it up?

The hours before Jesus’ arrest were the most stressful, trying moments of His life. Unlike us, Jesus could have taken control and avoided the cross. Instead we see Jesus sweating profusely in agonized prayer, pleading, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV).

Do you hear the surrender in Jesus’ words? I often picture the posture of surrender as hands serenely lifted during a gentle worship song. But perhaps the image of Jesus’ sweaty battle on His knees is more accurate.

And what does this uphill, gritty surrender yield? Peace. Security. Hope in God, not in my ability to lunge for control.

Surrender begins not in cross-sized situations but in the small moments — like when my 6-year-old won’t eat his porridge. Or my middle-schooler fails math. Or my husband shrugs off health concerns. In these moments, will I explode in anger or dissolve in fear? Or will I retrain my heart to say, Not my will but Yours, Lord, be done …?

Small surrender leads to big surrender. And a lifestyle of surrender is what turns me from a Control Girl into a Jesus Girl.

Lord, thank You that I am not in control and that You are. Help me live like both of these are true. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV)

What are you fretting or angry about today? How will you surrender control to God?

© 2017 by Shannon Popkin. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Kregel Publishers 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 a Bad Day Becomes a Bad Year

When a Bad Day Becomes a Bad Year by Suzie Eller

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

It started out as a promising family day, with lots of good things packed in, until everything started going wrong.

Someone got impatient. Someone else got mad. Someone’s feelings were hurt.

Suddenly, the good day was a mess.

When it finally ended, there were a lot of reactions simmering in my heart, and none of them led in the right direction. I went over the day again and again. There’s something satisfying in rehashing a scene to justify my feelings, or to vilify someone else’s actions.

It’s also not really helpful.

This was family. We would get together again soon. If I nurtured those frustrations, I’d take them to the next family event like a bad side dish.

I sat outside that night and held up the day to God.

I asked Him to show me if I played a role in the conflict and, if so, what to do differently next time. I asked that He ease the emotions simmering just under the surface.

In today’s text, Paul reminds us we’re all imperfect. There will be days we have a grievance with each other. People will say the wrong thing. People will react in the wrong way. What we do in response can help us resolve the issue — at least in our hearts.

I have friends who haven’t spoken to their family in a long time. When I ask why, some point to the exact day an offense took place. Others have forgotten the original offense, but the feelings march on as if it took place yesterday.

In both situations, unresolved feelings were stoked and fueled.

One bad day became one bad week, which became one bad month, and it was still doing damage in the hearts of everyone years after the initial offense.

When I invited the Holy Spirit into my bad day, I was able to see some tired and stressed family members. I was able to pinpoint misunderstanding. Although I wasn’t directly involved (at least this time), I certainly played a part in moving it forward.

I needed to put one bad day in perspective and measure it against some really great days with these same people.

I needed to offer mercy, as I admitted the times I’ve said the wrong thing or arrived at an event stressed and out-of-sorts.

Has a bad day turned into a bad week? Are you still reliving that bad day or a bad moment? Talk to God about your painful moments. Share those unresolved feelings with Him.

We were never supposed to live our life tangled up in one bad day. As we ask God to help us move forward, we’ll not only find a listening ear but also help resolving the issues.

And that one bad day can take its rightful place in our thoughts and in our lives.

Heavenly Father, help me offer mercy to others, just as You’ve shown me mercy. I’ve held on to these feelings for far too long. I don’t want to be defined by one day, but live every day fully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)


When we experience a bad day with someone close to us, our instinct might be to focus on their words or actions. For today, flip the focus onto your own heart.

Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the bigger picture of that day. Pray for each person involved. Ask for forgiveness, if you’ve played a role. You’ll be surprised at how the burden will lift.

© 2017 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

Quick! Bring Out The Best

Quick! Bring Out The Best by Karen Ehman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, just like Jesus treats us.

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

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


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

© 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

Bible Basics: How to Read and Understand the Bible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How To Live a Brave and Beautiful Life

How to Live a Brave and Beautiful Life by Alicia Bruxvoort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I asked that question, her eyes sparkled.

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

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

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

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

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

A lump of conviction welled in my throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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