Category Archives: Daily Devotion

Dear God: I Want a Cloud, Too

Dear God, I Want a Cloud, Too by Tracie Miles

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way …” Exodus 13:21a (NIV)

It had been a hard and long day. Maybe you can relate?

Problems abounded, and my head was spinning from all the difficult decisions I faced. For weeks, I searched for supportive Scriptures and hoped I would glean a definitive, holy answer to my questions. I stayed alert for any trace of God speaking. I wanted to hear His voice loud and clear. I looked for patterns in things I read or heard. And I continually sought precise affirmation in the choices I was leaning toward.

My thoughts ran rampant. What if I made a wrong decision? What if I thought I heard God’s voice, but instead it was just my own emotions or feelings controlling my thoughts? Was it too much to ask to get a blinking neon arrow dropped down from Heaven to point the way?

So on this particularly frustrating day, I stopped trying to figure everything out. I stopped looking for a blaring answer from God. I simply began to pray.

I prayed for wisdom, clarity and guidance about how to move forward. I prayed for peace and hope to fill my heart and mind — leaving no room for confusion and negative thoughts. I prayed that decision-making would be an extension of my faith, not an exhaustion of my efforts.

I whispered, Amen, opened my eyes, and looked out the window. Immediately, I noticed groups of big, puffy, white clouds in the sky. As I watched the clouds drift slowly across the bright blue sky, our key verse in Exodus 13 came to mind, and I reached for my Bible.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way …” (Exodus 13:21a).

Shortly after their rescue from Egypt, God led the Israelites through the wilderness. He guided them during daytime with a cloud, and at night He provided a pillar of fire. I found myself wishing for a holy cloud of my own to guide me.

Instead of a cloud, I had a cloudy mind. I was so worried to make a wrong decision I couldn’t make any decisions at all. I felt lost in a wilderness, much like the Israelites.

Yet as I read through this passage of Exodus, my heart began to lighten. Exodus 13:17-18 tells us, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.’”

God didn’t lead them down the short path, possibly one that was easier, because they might not have felt the need to fully rely on Him. Or they might have been tempted to take a wrong path when things got tough. Because of this, God led them through the more difficult path, around the desert and toward the Red Sea. It was a long, difficult journey but God was always before them. They trusted God to lead the way, even if they didn’t understand it, and their lives and faith were saved as a result.

As these lessons in this story came to mind, my thoughts became less cloudy and I rested in knowing God would be my guide. If I walk down the right path, God will be there with me. But if I take a wrong turn, He will still be there, redirecting me, guiding me and leading me out of the wilderness. In fact, He may take me down the most difficult journey, with full intention of growing my faith along the way.

I closed my Bible, and a smile crept across my face. I may not have a cloud I can see with my eyes, but I can trust God is always leading the way. God may lead us into the wilderness, and He may even guide us there to camp for a while, but He will never leave us there. Regardless of the decisions we make, we’ll never be on any path alone.

Lord, sometimes I would love a blinking neon sign or a cloud to guide me and confirm Your will for the decisions I face. But Your presence is truly what I desire. Help me rest, knowing You are always with me, and if I stumble or go down a wrong path, You will lead me in Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (NLT)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What major decisions have you been fretting over and trying to figure out on your own rather than resting in God and trusting He will guide you and go before you?

Ask God to help you give the situation fully to Him today.
© 2017 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

Dark Places

Dark Places by Lysa Terkeurst

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5 (NIV)

Do you ever have little places of discouragement that entangle around your heart? You know in the bigger picture of life things are good. But there’s this little dark place. A little black hole. That sometimes doesn’t feel little.

It hangs like a cloud — blocking the sun, casting shadows.

Maybe it’s an argument you and your husband have had one too many times. Your relationship is good, but this one topic feels like a black hole.

Maybe it’s an issue with one of your kids. You have an amazing child, but there is this one behavioral tendency that baffles you, embarrasses you and causes you to fear. It feels like a black hole.

Or maybe it’s a recurring frustration with a friend. She’s amazing, but there’s this one part of your friendship that darkens the collective good. And you can’t figure out how to address it. Now it’s happening with more frequency, and it feels like a black hole.

I know. It’s hard.

Recently I was up at night praying and crying out to God to help me better process some of the hard situations in my own life.

I asked God to shed some of His light on what I’m struggling through so I don’t get lost in the darkness of confusion. His voice wasn’t loud or definitive. Just a slight shift of my thoughts to be more in line with truth, and I knew light was defeating my darkness:

Look at all the prayers that have been answered with this situation.

Small changes. The big, grand finale I keep hoping for hasn’t yet come. But might I notice the beautiful symphony of hopeful notes in the in-between?

Look at the strength I’m gaining in the process.

Every time I turn to God and ask for Him to shed light on my situation, I’m trading a little of my struggle for a bit of His strength.

Look at the reality that a black hole isn’t a black whole.

The whole isn’t all bad. Yes, there are some issues to address and some tensions to manage, but I can’t let Satan use this frustration to darken my outlook.

Jesus reminds us, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life” (John 8:12b, NIV). He also assures us in our key verse that darkness cannot win against light, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

Ask Jesus to shed His light on your situation today. Look at this from Jesus’ perspective. Use truth to do something positive in this area today. Invest the time to make a little imperfect progress right there.

In the dark place.

That won’t be so dark with a little light cast upon it.

Father God, I need Your light. Light defeats darkness every time. And while I might not have all the answers to my struggles right now, I am seeing more hope than ever. Jesus is my light. And because of Him, even my darkest nights aren’t so daunting and confusing. Thank You for leading me. Thank You for loving me. Thank You for lighting the way for me — day by day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are there any areas of discouragement in your life right now that feel like a black hole? Ask God to shed His light on this situation and help you look at it with fresh perspective. What prayers — even small ones — have already been answered in this situation? What strength are you gaining?

© 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

Do What You Know

Do What You Know by Dr. Tony Evans

“And he answered, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” Luke 10:27 (NASB)

When you are sick, you go to the doctor, and if she finds an infection, she writes you a prescription. Guess what the doctor expects you to do while you are waiting to get better? Take the medicine.

She doesn’t expect you to read about the medicine. She doesn’t expect you to talk about the medicine. She doesn’t even expect you to understand what the medicine is or how it works. Just do what the doctor told you to do, and let the outcome present itself in time. When we take medicine, we wait for it to work. It is never instant.

But keep in mind, the longer you put off taking the medicine, the longer it will take to work. And, if you choose not to take the medicine at all, you can pretty much expect to remain sick.

Far too many Christians like to talk to other people about what God’s Word says we are to do in our lives. We like to think about His Word. But far too few will actually act on it.

And yet, God, the Great Physician, has prescribed what we need in His Word. Whether or not we follow what He has revealed — things like love, forgiveness, trust, faith, hope and more — will determine how long we wait. These are the things being developed within us on detours. These are the characteristics of Christ.

“So, what am I to obey?” you may be asking. You are to obey what you know. We are to obey what God has already revealed to us in His Word. You or I will never see what God plans to do in secret unless He sees us obeying what He has already revealed in public.

God never tells you everything at once. But, He has told you something. Whatever that is, obey it. However small, however insignificant it may seem — obey it. Do what you know to do even if you don’t know what it is doing.

If you still don’t know where to start, you can start with the simplest of all commandments to remember, but the most difficult to live out. It’s simple to remember because it basically boils down to one word: love. It’s difficult to live out because this one word contains the essence of all the other commandments we’ve ever been given.

It says: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

One man who obeyed and loved well was Job. Job’s friends were not that friendly. In fact, when Job was at the worst of times, his friends judged, griped, criticized, accused and more. For Job, praying for his friends involved a lot more than asking God to bless them. It involved a significant amount of faith, forgiveness, acceptance, humility and love.

It wasn’t until after Job showed grace and kindness to those who had brought him pain that God restored him. This is because Job had obeyed the law of love and asked God to give His goodness to others.

Learning to wait well with patience involves learning how to put into practice the regularity of living as a child of God. It means putting into practice those things we already know.

Forgiving
Loving
Believing
Working as unto the Lord, even if it’s not your favorite place to work
Honoring the authority over you, even if you don’t particularly like or respect that authority
Bearing with one another’s burdens, even when you feel weighted down by your own
Do what God has already said to do. Then watch Him usher you straight out of your detour and into your destiny.

Heavenly Father, I want to love like You love, forgive like You forgive and honor You with my heart in every way. Mold me into the person You will take great pleasure in. Use me as a testimony of grace, kindness and love to those around me. I pray for a double portion of favor and blessing in my life, God, and ask You to give me wisdom on how to set myself up for just that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 5:14, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’” (NASB)

Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.” (NASB)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:

In what area is God asking you to wait and trust Him for His leading and timing?

How is God asking you to obey Him in your current detour?

© 2017 by Dr. Tony Evans. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks The Urban Alternative for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

Sweet and Salty Speech

Sweet and Salty Speech by Karen Ehman

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6 (ESV)

A friend once urged me to try a new drink at my local coffeehouse rather than the coconut mocha I usually order. When the barista cracked some sea salt on top of a mug of caramel hot cocoa and its mounds of whipped cream, I’ll admit, I was skeptical. But I trusted my friend’s advice and tried it and … Oh. My. Word. Who would’ve thought?

Salt.

On the periodic table of elements (which I haven’t looked at since high school) it’s sodium chloride — NaCl. Salt is the number one flavor enhancer in the world and used in numerous cultures. In fact, over a quarter billion pounds of salt are produced each year.

Diners put a dash of salt on their casseroles, sprinkle it on piping hot potatoes and add a pinch or two to a bowl of soup. Salt is even added to sweet things to intensify their sweetness, thus the deliciousness overload of the salted caramel hot cocoa. My father always puts it on his slices of melon. And have you ever tasted dark chocolate with sea salt? Heavenly.

One time I forgot to add salt to a mint brownie recipe. When I tasted a bite, there was plenty of mint and cocoa powder, the two main flavors of the dish, but somehow it just didn’t taste right. Even though the recipe called for only half a teaspoon, omitting the salt ruined the normally delicious treat. It takes only a little salt to coax out the wonderful flavor of other things around it.

In today’s key verse from Colossians 4, we see our speech should be seasoned with salt and gracious. And we’re told to know how to give the right answer to everyone. Might it mean that we should ask ourselves if we are bringing out sweetness in both our choice of words and in our conversations with others — especially online conversations where we not only start a conversation but often give answers?

In the Sermon on the Mount, at one point, Jesus states: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Matthew 5:13, NIV).

Maybe you’ve also wondered … just what does the phrase “the salt of the earth” mean?

Here are some other uses of salt and corresponding questions we can ask ourselves about exactly what salt does:

Salt preserves. Do our words preserve God’s Word? Are we helping to improve a situation and keep decay from happening?
Salt is valuable. Do our words add value to the conversation at hand, or are they empty and worthless?
Salt purifies and softens. Are the words we utter pure and truthful? Are they soft and kind or harsh and hostile?
Salt melts hard ice. Do we phrase our speech in such a way as to help melt an icy conversation and bring out the best in others?
Salt prevents infection in a wound. When an interaction starts to turn ugly — either between you and another person or in a group situation — do your words try to help heal, preventing further toxicity from spreading?
Too much salt ruins the soup. Although we’re called to season our speech with salt, too much salt will not only spoil the soup but can overpower a conversation as well.
So many uses for salt. So many applications for our speech. Before we use our words — in person, while texting or online — let’s grab the truths of God’s Word and make our words both salty and sweet.
Father, before I speak today — in person or digitally — may I sprinkle a little salt on my words, making them sweet to the hearer and pleasing to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 22:11, “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” (ESV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:

Today’s key verse in Colossians 4 mentions salty speech directly in reference to knowing “how you ought to answer” everyone.Can you think of a time when you gave an answer to someone and it did not go well? If you could go back in time, how would you answer differently based on a particular quality of salt?

© 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

The Embarrassing Kiss

The Embarrassing Kiss by Arlene Pellicane

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth — for your love is more delightful than wine.” Song of Solomon 1:2 (NIV)

A few years ago on Valentine’s Day, my husband, James, surprised me. He arranged a dozen roses in a vase all by himself and cooked dinner for our family of five. I was expecting pizza bagels, but instead, he served stir-fry chicken. After dinner, he announced that the kids were going to Grandma’s, and we were going out. I assumed dessert at a restaurant but instead, James drove to a park overlooking the city.

We walked to a picnic table where he took out two cups of ice cream. Then to my dismay, I mean delight, he spread out a blanket and invited me to sit down, then leaned in for a kiss. We are married, you know. But all I could think was, Oh no! In the shadows, we’ll probably look like the kissing teenagers that nice moms and dads try to avoid with their kids.

James noticed my hesitancy and said, “We used to kiss all the time when we were dating and you didn’t seem to mind. You weren’t so self-conscious and worried. Now we’re married — it should be more OK!” He was right.

Where was the younger version of myself, the woman who loved kissing her man, holding hands and snuggling close? I was never embarrassed or hesitant to show my affection for my fiancé. That Valentine’s Day in the park, I discovered I needed to be a little less self-conscious and a little more affection-conscious.

Solomon’s wife proclaimed in today’s key verse, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth — for your love is more delightful than wine.” This is a verse packed with passion. She desired her husband and his affection. She didn’t think kissing was embarrassing, inconvenient or a waste of time.

And since it’s in the Bible, I can safely assume God likes married people kissing, too.

After many years in a relationship, the fire of first love tends to grow dim. This happens in marriage, and it happens in our relationship with God. In Revelation 2:1-7, John the Apostle writes about the church in Ephesus. The Ephesians had been faithful and hardworking, but God had one thing against them: They had left their first love.

A warning was issued: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5, NKJV).

This church was known for the zeal with which they embraced their salvation. They realized they loved Christ because Christ first loved them. (1 John 4:19) They were dead in sin and then made alive in Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Whether we’re single or married, we are wise to go back to this first love with Jesus. We can return to those first works of love and affection, service and obedience, amazement and appreciation. We must hunger and thirst once again to be in God’s presence. Like a stale marriage, we can lose the passion and fervor we once had for God. We can accept the status quo and sit comfortably in spiritual complacency.

Sometimes it takes a little reminder to get us back on track.

That Valentine’s night in the park, I had to apologize to my starry-eyed husband and repent with a kiss. Believe me, through the years I’ve had to repent many times for being too busy or preoccupied or uninterested in my husband’s affection. The same is true in my relationship with God.

Don’t wait for something external to happen to fan the flames of love for Christ. Instead, take time to remember how far God has brought you and what a difference being loved has made in your life. And if you’re married, don’t be embarrassed to kiss your husband, even on a blanket in the park!

Dear God, I am ever grateful to be loved by You. I remember what You have done to save and deliver me from sin. Thank You for making me alive and redeeming my life from the pit. I return to You, my first love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Ephesians 2:4-7, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
(NIV)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Think about the warmth and love you felt towards Christ when you first became a Christian. How can you return to those attitudes and actions today?

If you’re married, how do you usually respond to your husband’s affection? Make the decision to kiss him each day this month for 5 to 30 seconds.

© 2017 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

When You Just Can’t Be Cheerful

When You Just Can’t Be Cheerful by Amy Carroll

“As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry.’” Luke 7:12-13 (NIV)

I did something recently I’ve rarely done in the decades I’ve loved Jesus. I sat before Him, cried and told Him everything on my heart. Some of it wasn’t pretty, and some of it was confession of confusion mixed with anger toward Him.

For most of my life, I didn’t come to Jesus with raw honesty. I came to Him with my cheerful, or I didn’t come at all. I’d withdraw from Him until I could pull myself together. Slowly, over the years, I’ve realized how my wrong beliefs about God have kept me from some of His greatest gifts.

I believed that He only wanted me to come to Him feeling positive, so I missed out on His power.

I believed He only wanted me to come to Him happy, so I missed out on His healing.

I believed He only wanted me to come to Him contented, so I missed out on His compassion.

In the account in today’s key verse, I doubt the grieving mother could have mustered up any of those positive emotions to give to Jesus in the midst of her intense grief. Her husband and now her only son were dead. Even though a large crowd of mourners surrounded her, she must have felt desperately alone. Maybe she was even angry at God, not understanding why the two closest to her had died.

Often, I’ve skimmed over these stories without thinking about the humanity of the people in the accounts, but let’s think through this together. What funeral circumstances are particularly tragic to you? When the children are left without a mother? When the victim died too young? When against all rules of nature, a child dies before his parent?

That’s exactly what this crowd was feeling, so the mother must have been broken times 100. Maybe you’ve stood in her shoes.

Jesus tells her, “Don’t cry,” but not because He was disturbed by her grief. Our key verse from Luke 7:13 tells us, “His heart went out to her.” His heart was joined with hers, and He felt her grief. He met her emotions not with outrage or rebuke or harshness. He met them with kindness, gentleness and mercy.

Then He went to work to show His power and healing.

When we are bogged down in grief or doubt or fear, those negative emotions may seem so wrong to bring to God. But He doesn’t want us to muster up a pretty smile in order to approach Him. He wants us to bring those emotions to Him. He wants to join His heart with ours so He can help us and give us hope.

Do we experience a miracle or a resolution to our situation every time like this widow got to experience?

No. But in the presence of Jesus there is always healing.

That morning when I wept and ranted before Jesus, I didn’t feel His displeasure. I didn’t get struck by lightning. I didn’t get a sharp rebuke. Instead, I felt His love and mercy wash over me.

Even though I didn’t experience a change in my circumstances, my soul made a seismic shift from turmoil to peace. Jesus’ heart went out to me, and He gifted me with an inner-healing.

Feeling sad, lonely, depressed or overwhelmed today? Working to wrestle fear and doubt to the ground? Our kind Savior’s heart goes out to you. Take it all to Him and experience His love and healing.

Father God, instead of trying to hide my true feelings from You, help me to trust You with them. I’m tired of trying to act like I’m OK in front of You when I really need Your healing and help. I surrender and receive. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Titus 3:4-5a, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” (NIV)

Hosea 2:14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her … and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.” (AMPC)

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Visit Amy’s blog today to download a free wallpaper for your computer screen, reminding you to run to Jesus. You’ll also find out how to do her free online book study of Breaking Up with Perfect at your own pace.

© 2017 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

I Have Trust Issues

I Have Trust Issues by Lysa Terkeurst

“For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NLT)

I want life to be as stable as a math problem. Two plus two always equals four. It will equal four today, tomorrow and into the tomorrows years from now.

Math equations don’t experience breakups and letdowns. They don’t get cancer. Or have their best friend get transferred and move across the country. They don’t have affairs or unmatched affections. They are highly predictable. Therefore, they are easy to trust.

But life doesn’t add up. People don’t add up. And in the rawest moments of honest hurting, God doesn’t add up. All of which makes us hold our trust ever so close to our chests until it becomes more tied to our fears than to our faith.

That’s where I was when Bob and Maria stuck out their hands to shake mine and invite me to their mountain home. I needed God to untangle some of my trust issues.

They were having a retreat at their mountain home with an eclectic group of some of their favorite people, and somehow I got on that list.

It was all going well until someone handed me a helmet. We were about to do a ropes course.

And not just any old ropes course. The grand dismount of this course was a leap from a platform to catch a bar suspended several feet away. I started looking around for the emergency exit, because there was no way on God’s green earth they were going to get me to jump.

And then Bob appeared. With his enormous smile, grandfather-gray hair and arms magnetic with the purest grace, he drew me over to the edge.

“Lysa, this isn’t about finishing the ropes course. This is about conquering your hesitancy, resistance and fear. These ropes holding you will only let you slightly drop if you miss the bar. Then they will catch, and you absolutely will not fall,” he whispered as if he had a window view inside of my soul.

I looked at the space between the edge of the platform and the bar. I saw death. Bob saw life.

What a visual for the word trust.

What we see will violate what we know unless what we know dictates what we see.

Bob knew the ropes would hold me. And he knew that my ability to survive this jump had absolutely nothing to do with my efforts. I was held safe standing on the platform. I would be held safe in midair. And I would absolutely be safe, whether or not I caught the bar.

Bob whispered, “You are absolutely loved. Now, when you’re ready, jump.”

I can’t tell you how long I stood there. It felt like days and milliseconds all at the same time. The world swirled and tilted and shifted without me so much as twitching a muscle fiber. I forgot to breathe. I couldn’t even blink.

I would imagine you’ve been in situations that have felt quite paralyzing as well. And it’s in these times I have to tie my heart to soul-steadying verses like our key verse: “For God has said, ‘I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5b‑6).

Just like those ropes wrapped around and around my body holding me to the course from beginning to end, God’s Word can wrap our souls with steady assurance.

The peace of our souls does not have to rise and fall with unpredictable people or situations. Our feelings will shift, of course. People do affect us. But the peace of our souls is tethered to all that God is. And though we can’t predict His specific plans, the fact that God will work everything together for good is a completely predictable promise.

Bob whispered one final thing: “It’s already done.”

I don’t know exactly what he meant, but I know what my soul heard. God has already caught me. His goodness and love have pursued me and won me. I just need to jump into that reality. And without any other conscious thought, my soul kicked in where my brain could not. My feet exploded off the platform and into midair.

I touched the bar, but I did not catch it. I didn’t need to. Because trust caught me.

Lord, I can’t thank You enough for the promise that I can trust You at all times. Even though people may fail me … even though others may abandon me … You never will. I’m choosing to let that truth steady my heart today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Have you been struggling to trust God with any areas of your life? Spend some time surrendering each one to God in prayer today.

© 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

When a Dream Dies

When a Dream Dies by Sharon Jaynes

“Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.’” Ezekiel 37:4b-5 (NIV)

I sat on my porch with my Bible and a hot mug of coffee. Early morning is my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus and a smattering of birds. However, this morning, as I looked out over my backyard, my eyes landed on a mound of fur nestled in the grass.

I moved in for a closer look. My heart sank as I discovered what appeared to be a curled-up lifeless baby fawn. Probably the same fawn my neighbor had seen nursing from its mom the day before. My heart broke. I understand the circle of life, but still. A baby fawn lay dead in my yard. Most likely the target of the coyote I’d seen roaming around.

I couldn’t get close enough to see the wound. Sometimes that is the way of things. I would have to wait until my husband got home to take care of the situation, as I didn’t have the nerve.

All morning long my mind returned to the still form lying in the sun. Hours passed. At noon I looked out of the window and the fawn remained unmoved. I couldn’t stand it. I had to know what had happened to it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way to the fawn. Three feet away. Stop. No signs of an attack. I inched closer.

Finally, I knelt down by the beautifully-crafted creature, admiring God’s handiwork. But I couldn’t see what had killed it.

“What happened to you, little deer?” I whispered.

Suddenly, the fawn’s head popped up! Startled eyes stared into mine. Like a deer caught in the headlights, I fell back on the grass. Time stood still for a moment as we stared at each other in disbelief!

Finally, the fawn sprang to its feet, wobbled a bit and scampered off. I sat in the grass and laughed and laughed and laughed. So, the fawn wasn’t dead after all. It had simply found a bit of grass and fallen asleep … until almost noon.

After my heart rate returned to its normal pace, God spoke to my heart: “Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.”

I pondered those words for the rest of the day. I called a friend who was struggling in her marriage — in a very bad way. The sort of way that leaves you wondering if it will survive. I told her the story.

Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

Sometimes a marriage is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a friendship is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Sometimes a dream is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

I think of how God told the prophet Ezekiel to speak to the valley of dry bones: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6).

I imagine Ezekiel felt pretty silly talking to those dry bones. And honestly sometimes I feel pretty silly obeying God and speaking life into the dry bones of some of my situations.

So here’s the word for me and you today.

For my friend struggling in her marriage …

For my friend who cries for her adult son who walked away from God …

For my friend who longs to cuddle up with a good husband rather than a good book …

Don’t assume the dream is dead. Sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

Dear Lord, Wake me up! Stir my heart. It’s not over until You say it’s over. I commit to continue to pray for what others deem as a lost cause, for I know that there is never a lost cause when it comes to Your power to save, to deliver, to redeem, to rebuild. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Read the verses in Ezekiel 37:1-10. How do you think Ezekiel felt when God told him to speak to the dry bones?

What would have happened if Ezekiel refused, telling God that it was a lost cause?

Is there anything in your life that you feel is a lost cause? If so, what is God saying to you through today’s scripture and devotion?

© 2017 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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

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.

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

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
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.

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

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.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
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)

 

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
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
www.Proverbs31.org