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Daily Devotion

  • Woman on a Mission

    Posted on September 2, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz Curtis Higgs

    When you leap into the arms of Jesus, you never know where He'll carry you. As a new Christian, I was certain God called me to a distant mission field. Really distant: Indonesia.

    True, I'd only been a believer six months, after a wild and wooly decade as a seriously Bad Girl. I also had no husband at the time, no college degree and little knowledge about Indonesia other than where it landed on a map. Still, I knew that Christians were called to "go into all the world" (Mark 16:15, NIV). Shouldn't I go too?

    When I threw myself at a mission board, certain they'd be thrilled to take me, the director was very kind. He listened, nodded, took notes. And then he said the last thing I expected to hear: "I'm sorry, Liz. But ... no."

    My heart sank. I thought if you offered to live in a hut and eat beetles, they'd say, "Great! Sign here."

    Then he explained why I wasn't the best candidate for foreign missions: "Liz, you're already well versed in a culture most Christians know little about."

    I knew where this was going. He meant my old life. My Bad Girl life.

    His voice softened. "Do you know the story of the woman at the well? After she met Jesus, she went back to town, where everyone knew her sordid story, and she told them about Jesus. That's what you need to do."

    "You mean the people I used to hang out with?" My cheeks grew hot even thinking about it. "The people I partied with? The men I slept with? Those people?"

    I could feel Indonesia slipping away as I pictured the faces of friends I knew well — and who knew way too much about me. People as lost and confused as I'd once been. People who needed to know Jesus.

    "Never fear," the director said as he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and escorted me to the door. "God will take care of Indonesia."

    So, I went back to Louisville and told my story. No hut, no beetles, yet a mission field for which I was already qualified, simply because I spoke their language. And because I loved them.

    Soon one coworker came to know Jesus. Then another. Then a third. Who knew?

    God knew. But He never forgot my heart for Indonesia.

    Twenty years after my no-go with the mission board, I stood in my publisher's booth at a Christian booksellers convention. The guy in charge of international rights pulled me aside and said, "Liz, please meet Yani with World Harvest."

    A tiny woman with thick, black hair looked up, her face radiant, "I am in the process of translating three of your books into my country's language."

    "Wonderful!" I beamed at her. "What country might that be?"

    She beamed back. "Indonesia."

    Oh my. To think that my words would travel there, even if I never did! Only God could manage such a thing.

    And He wasn't finished. When I shared my experience at an evangelism conference, one of the guest speakers approached me. "Liz, would you like to speak in Indonesia?"

    My heart skipped a beat. Would I?! I could barely get out the words. "W-who would my audience be?"

    "Women," she assured me, then smiled. "Missionaries."

    Lord, the tenderness of Your mercy overwhelms me. You miss nothing. You care about everything. You answer our deepest longings, according to Your perfect will and perfect timing. You know our mission fields, Lord, far better than we do. Help us serve You, wherever You send us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 2:8b, "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Liz was eager to share the gospel with the world because God's grace had changed her life. What compels you to tell others about Jesus?

    Might someone cross your path today who needs to hear the good news?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

     


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Mark

  • Overriding Your To-Do List

    Posted on September 1, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

     

    Leah Dipascal

    But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62 (TLB)

    I was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. Or, so I thought.

    With an over-ambitious mindset and a determined heart, I clutched my lengthy to-do list as if it were a sacred antidote for life.

    Having much to accomplish and only a few hours to spare, I whipped into a parking spot and made a mad dash towards the front doors of my local convenience store.

    On the way in, I noticed a group of people staring at something on the ground. Avoiding the distraction, I shifted my direction and headed towards another set of doors on the opposite side of the store. Then the unexpected happened.

    A nudge. A knowing. A whisper in my heart: "Go over to the crowd."

    At first, I dismissed it as curiosity. A random thought that needed to be ignored. But then it dawned on me ... I wasn't curious at all. In fact, I was much more interested in getting in, getting out and going my own way.

    I'm not involved, so it's not my problem.

    Then I sensed the whisper again: "Leah, I want you to go over there."

    With a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I made a beeline for the crowd. NOT. Instead, it went something like this: Heavy sigh. Slow turn. Unsettled feelings.

    I recognized God's nudge, and I wanted to obey. Really, I did. But, another part of me just wanted to keep walking.

    This distraction is going to throw off my schedule and keep me from accomplishing what I need to get done today. It's probably nothing.

    Reluctantly making my way back across the parking lot, I approached the crowd and saw a man on the ground. A heavy concoction of sweat, alcohol fumes and stale smoke filled the air.

    Glancing at his tattered clothes and swollen feet, I noticed the scratches on his arms and face.

    His eyes were swollen shut, and he wasn't moving. The crowd stood silently staring at his body. I couldn't tell if he was breathing, but I could hear the faint sounds of an ambulance in the distance.

    Help was on its way, so I could now be on my way. Then the whisper came again: "Kneel down and pray for him."

    Seriously Lord ... kneel down? Here in the parking lot? Can't I just stand here and pray silently for him? All these people will think I'm a weirdo. Besides, help is coming.

    "Kneel down and pray for him."

    So I did. Kneeling down next to the man, I stretched out my hand and gently placed it on his shoulder. I began to pray out loud. No one else said a word.

    At first it felt awkward. Uncomfortable. Crazy. But then I felt someone's hand rest gently on my shoulder. Within moments, a woman bent down next to me and placed her hand on the sick man's arm. Another hand extended. Another voice responded to the prayers.

    In just a few seconds, this unlikely mix of strangers transformed into a powerful prayer group. Right in the middle of a busy convenience store parking lot. An unwanted distraction became a divine appointment.

    No one objected. No one walked away. We continued to pray until the paramedics arrived, treated the man and left for the hospital. As the sirens faded into the background, I stood there astonished at what God had just done in our midst.

    Had I ignored the whisper I would have missed out on the miracle. I could have overlooked the distraction, but I would have missed my divine appointment. My "important" schedule paled in comparison to what I had just experienced: God tying hearts together and weaving a beautiful blanket of prayer over one of His broken children.

    In the midst of the ordinary, God breathed the extraordinary ... all within a circle of strangers willing to be distracted for a moment in time.

    Did you wake up this morning with a long to-do list and an ambitious mindset? When distractions come your way, try pausing for a moment to see if God is unwrapping a divine appointment for you. It may be disguised as ordinary circumstances. But as you peel back the layers, whispering "Yes Lord, I'll obey," you will no doubt experience His presence and glory!

    Lord, thank You for entrusting me with divine appointments, and let my answer to Your call always be yes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 7:23b, "Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you." (NIV)

    Philippians 2:13, "... for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time God turned a distraction into a divine appointment for you?

    Do you struggle with discerning God's voice? Pray and ask God to give you a greater awareness of His presence.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Luke

  • Unshakable Confidence

    Posted on August 29, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn Cowell

    "Mary responded, 'I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.' And then the angel left her." Luke 1:38 (NLT)

    Lord, I'm not sure I can take one more rejection.

    No. No. No. Every email I received said the same thing, using different words. We don't publish that type of book. We don't publish writers we don't know. We won't publish you.

    Letting each rejection seep into my heart, many days I crawled into bed and cried. Why would God ask me to do something good, yet allow a process that made me feel so bad?

    But then I remembered Mary, who was much wiser than I. Her story is found in the Bible. Instead of building her confidence on something she could lose, or have taken away, she built her confidence on God.

    Picture this teenager. She's engaged to a great guy. Wedding plans are in motion. Life is good.

    Then suddenly, her happily-ever-after dreams are interrupted by an angel announcing this surprise:

    "Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, Beautiful inside and out!
    God be with you"
    (Luke 1:28, MSG).

    Flattered? Nope. She was scared! However, the angel assures her, "You have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus" (v. 29-33).

    My reaction would have been, What? Pregnant? I'm not married yet! There's no way!

    But when Mary received this news, we don't see fear or doubt. Her response isn't, "This will be the end of me! What will everyone say about me?"

    Mary doesn't ditch her confidence. Instead, as we find in today's key verse, her reaction is grounded in faith: "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true" (Luke 1:38a).

    Mary responded with confidence because Mary's confidence began with her relationship with God.

    Not on something, like her reputation. That was outside her control.

    Not on someone, like Joseph. For all she knew, he would leave her once he learned she was pregnant.

    Not on some place, like her home. Mary actually left town to visit her cousin after she received this news.

    Did Mary understand everything God was doing? Unlikely. Or resent what He was doing? Doesn't appear so.

    Would others judge her? No doubt they would, but Mary did not allow people's opinions to prevent her from embracing God's calling, even if she didn't completely understand it. The lack of details didn't impact her confidence in His plans for her life, nor her trust in Him to take care of her.

    There have been times when I've based my confidence on others. As a teenager, I based it on a boyfriend's affection, a coach's affirmation or my parent's approval. If one of them failed to give the "Atta girl!" I craved, I saw myself as a failure.

    As a mom, I've built it on my kids and their performance. When they made a mistake, my confidence was shaken. I've based my security on my career and the success I wanted. Success hasn't always come, although rejection often has.

    Has there been a time when circumstances were less than perfect and your confidence was shaken?

    I'm learning that unshakable confidence is not built on someone, something or someplace, but on our unshakable God. This confidence is built over time, before confidence-shaking circumstances come. In the difficult times, God has taught me He alone is my firm foundation for rebuilding confidence. Only Him.

    As we face inevitable uncertainties in life, in our relationships, in our futures, let's start to rebuild our confidence on the One that can never be taken away: God. The only One who will never leave us or forsake us.

    Lord, it's easier to build my confidence on what I can see and what I know. Help me to build my confidence on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35-36, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What have you been building your confidence on? Is it something you could lose or have taken from you?

    How can you begin to make a shift and build your confidence on God — His faithfulness and love for you?

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31

  • The Thrill of an Unrushed Yes

    Posted on August 28, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa Terkeurst

    "...all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Psalm 39:6 (NLT)

    Recently, my husband and I got into an argument right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date. In the heat of the moment, he announced the date was off.

    He no longer wanted to go. And honestly, I didn't either.

    I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective.

    But it's at this exact moment of resistance an unraveling can begin.

    Oh, the unraveling. It can happen so suddenly and with such tragic consequences.

    Once, I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn't too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were so loosely woven it snagged on things.

    I was always mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater when I wore it so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.

    Until one day I was in a hurry. I grabbed some things I needed for a meeting and rushed to my car. I tossed all my stuff over to the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook. This spiral notebook had a metal-binding wire that unbeknownst to me caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.

    I unhooked myself and assessed the damage.

    What I should have done was taken the sweater off, put something else on, and later taken the time to repair the snag the correct way. But in the rush, I made the tragic decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the loose threads and hoped for the best. That tragic decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of my beautiful sweater.

    Which brings me back to date night.

    Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn't what's best for the long term. So, I pushed for us to still go on our date.

    It wasn't fun. It wasn't easy. There were tears and awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt and eventually talked.

    Talked through the snags. The pulls. The things that threatened to unravel us.

    There is a delicate nature to marriage. Honestly, there's a delicate nature to all relationships. It's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective. Stop and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in those we love.

    Psalm 39:6 wisely reminds us that "all our busy rushing ends in nothing."

    Yes, the unraveling can happen so quickly when we refuse to push the pause button.

    My unrushed yes was the best yes for that day. There were eventual apologies and conversations that repaired the snags the right way — tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.

    Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time — make time — to talk.

    Where do we find this unrushed yes? We make it. We make time for relationships by thinking about them when scheduling our lives. Like Louie Giglio said, "Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less."

    I don't want my relationships to constantly get my less. And I'm sure you don't either. So let's get intentional about leaving enough unscheduled times on our calendars for relationship moments to happen.

    Let's leave space and look for opportunities to give relationships our best yes.

    Dear Lord, unrush me today. I want to pause and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in the people I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3: 12-14, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a relationship in your life that needs your attention. Decide to give an unrushed yes to investing in that person today. It will be the best yes of your day.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • How to Live an Invitation

    Posted on August 27, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy Carroll

    "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:34 (NIV)

    Walking into the building, I kept my head down and peered around the room from under my lashes. The butterflies in my stomach took flight as I assessed the unfamiliar surroundings. The room was filled with strangers and mysterious equipment, making my hands slick and my heart pound.

    I was a foreigner in a new land: the gym.

    You might laugh, but have you ever had similar feelings in a new situation? Even though I'm seasoned in many settings, the first time I visited my gym, I remembered the feelings of being the outsider. The newbie who doesn't know the culture, secrets to fitting in or how things work.

    Being a "foreigner" is uncomfortable, but when we pass that stage and become a "native," it's easy to forget those feelings and become oblivious to the needs and feelings of a newcomer.

    Even though I'm fully integrated into my church family, that first foray into the gym brought flashbacks of visiting churches after our move. I remembered the discomfort of walking into rooms full of people I didn't know, wondering if anyone would speak to me. It was difficult to navigate unfamiliar surroundings, trying to pick up on the unique vibe and vocabulary of each place.

    Those were the days when my "house" hadn't achieved the status of "home." I walked my neighborhood and wondered about the people behind the doors. Would I be accepted here? Maybe even loved? In those early months, every place and every interaction held the starchy, scratchy newness of jeans just off the shelf. How I ached for the warm softness of the worn and familiar.

    On the day my new neighbor Nikki visited and brought a pie, things began to shift. Her children were the same age as mine, and as they ran off to play, Nikki's kindness and happy smile opened a door into a new place of belonging. Even before I earned "native" status, she treated me as a friend. Nikki lived the powerful truth in our key verse: "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born" (Leviticus 19:34a).

    God created us for expanding community, and He calls us to live a life of welcome.

    When we remember our days as a newcomer, our time as "foreigners in Egypt," we can live life with one hand joined and the other open. One hand holds the hand of the precious community God gives us — neighbors, family, friends, and brothers and sisters in faith — while keeping the other hand free to draw newcomers into the circle.

    The hand joined to our community keeps us close and connected. It's where we commit to live our truest self, working through the messiness that inevitably arises with close living. It's the people we eat with, pray with, play with and love. When we have the blessing of a tight-knit group, sometimes it's easiest to close the circle, joining both hands with those we know well. But God asks us to keep one hand free, always looking for one more new friend to draw into the loop.

    My awkward first visit to the gym lifted my eyes from my everyday busyness and engagement with my well-established loved ones. Now I'm trying to be a walking invitation to the "foreigners" around me. "Come join us!" my heart cries.

    Let's go with a heart of invitation to work, school, church, the neighborhood party ... and maybe, even the gym.

    God, help me shake the complacency of being a "native." Lift my eyes to see people around me who are new and in need of my kindness. Show me how to reach out to others in love to draw them into my circle, living a life of invitation. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:10-11, "Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ." (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone new in your neighborhood, workplace or church who needs to feel welcomed?

    Pray and watch for a way to reach out and make them feel included. Follow through one day this week, then savor the joy of bringing encouragement to someone else.

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Leviticus

  • That Sneaking Feeling You're Being Watched

    Posted on August 26, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia Bruxvoort

    "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him ..." 2 Chronicles 16:9a (NIV)

    Last summer, my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The googly kind, of course. So did my milk jug, tissue boxes, egg carton and toothpaste tubes.

    Don't worry, those wobbly watchers didn't leave me frightened or flabbergasted. After all, the strange surveillance gig was my idea.

    I'm the one who dug through a box of craft supplies early one morning and located a stash of googly eyes. I'm the one who snuck through the house with a glue gun and attached those wobbly watchers to anything I could find.

    I didn't add a pair of eyes to the salsa jar because I wanted to play a prank on my family or because I had too much time on my hands at 6 a.m. No, I raided the plastic peepers because I was tired of forgetting.

    I was tired of reading my Bible in the morning and going about my day as if God's promises had no impact on my hours. I was tired of forgetting that God's Word is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12). I was tired of relying on my own strength, instead of banking on His.

    So, when I read about God's eyes roaming the earth searching for hearts to strengthen, I wanted to remember that glorious truth. I needed to pin that promise to my soul and let it shine hope in the midst of my weariness.

    That's why my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The gospel is radical and ridiculous in the most marvelous of ways, and I never want to forget that. The truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9a is audacious if you think about it. "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth ..." Wow.

    We live wrapped in the warmth of God's gaze.

    We are watched by the King of Glory.

    We are strengthened by the Author of Life.

    Even when we fail to fix our sight on Him, God's eyes are fixed on us. And remembering that truth could change everything.

    If God sees us, then we're not invisible.

    If God sees us, then we're not invaluable.

    If God sees us, then we're not unknown.

    Those eyes aren't waiting to see us stumble. Those eyes are scanning this swiveling globe because the Creator of the galaxies wants to create something new in you and in me.

    He wants to infuse our tired legs with vigor.

    He wants to replace our whimpers with wonder.

    He wants to trade our powerlessness for His power.

    I need that truth when the kids are fighting and the bread is burning and my energy is waning fast. I need that promise when my plans have flopped and my feelings have been hurt and my intentions have been misunderstood.

    If God sees me, I am not forgotten.

    Eventually I threw out the sneaky-peaky salsa jar and the peeping peanut butter. I recycled the spying soap bottle and the gazing graham crackers, and my kids relegated our strange summer under surveillance as just another one of their mama's crazy ideas.

    But this morning, when I awoke feeling sapped and discouraged, I opened my Bible to Psalm 33:18 and wondered if I should go find my glue gun once again: "But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (NIV).

    After all, it never hurts to be reminded that I'm being watched.

    Dear Jesus, Help me remember that You long to give me strength when I am weak. Grow in me a heart that is fully committed to You, and fix my mind on Your wondrous promises today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry." (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:3, "The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How does knowing God wants to strengthen you, change the way you can approach a specific challenge in your life right now?

    Choose one of the verses listed in today's devotion and share it with a friend who is battling discouragement or weariness. Consider delivering the good news with googly eyes!

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Chronicles

  • Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

    We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.

    Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.

    We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.

    After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.

    As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.

    My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.

    In today's key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it's even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.

    In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he'd broken God's laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn't do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.

    Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life's purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.

    So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn't allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don't have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.

    Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.

    Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How might your life be different if you accepted God's forgiveness and grace, then let go of the weight of shame and regret once and for all?

    Read the whole chapter of Romans 7. How does Paul's honest admission of sin and wrongdoing help you recognize that neither you, nor anyone, is beyond God's redemption?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Romans

  • God, I'm Worn Out

    Posted on August 19, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa Terkeurst

    "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Psalm 142:3 (NLT)

    Have you ever had one of those late night come-to-Jesus moments where the weight of regret lays heavy across your chest?

    For me, it usually happens because in the hectic pace of the day, I blew up at one of my kids, I brushed past a moment of connection with someone God put in my path, or I rushed through all the moments without stopping to enjoy any of them.

    I've discovered a great source of stress, distraction and exhaustion in my life. I say yes to too many things. I take on too many good things, which causes me to miss my best things. It's so hard to say no and let go of opportunities that come my way. But if I don't learn the gift of release, I'll wrestle with a lack of peace.

    I saw this visibly a few years ago when I traveled to visit a friend. As soon as she picked me up from the airport and we started driving, I saw the fallout from the storm she'd tried to describe. A massive 20-inch snow in the middle of fall.

    But it wasn't the amount of snow still on the ground, or the snowmen proudly standing that grabbed my attention.

    It was the broken trees. The branches were piled everywhere.

    House after house. All down the street. Disastrous piles of limbs — big piles of trees — all still clinging to the leaves that hadn't dropped yet. And because the leaves hadn't dropped, the trees broke.

    That's what happens when a snow comes early. The trees weren't designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren't made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.

    I know the weight of carrying more than I should. And usually it's because I've refused to release something before taking on something else. If I want to choose a Best Yes, it's crucial I make room for it first.

    Otherwise, a Best Yes can quickly become a stressed yes. And a stressed yes is like snow on a tree that refuses to release its leaves. It causes cracks and breaks at our core.

    If we refuse to release before we add, we will get overloaded.

    We see how refusing to release gets people in trouble all throughout the stories in Scripture.

    Eve refused to release the forbidden fruit. And because she became hyperfocused on that one thing, she missed out on the best things in paradise.

    Esau refused to release his urgent need for some stew. And because he became hyperfocused on eating that soup, he missed out on his birthright.

    Moses refused to release his fear that just speaking to the rock as God commanded wouldn't actually bring forth water. And because he struck the rock twice, he missed out on entering the Promised Land.

    Each of these people paid a high price for their refusals to release — to let go of their ways so they could walk in the amazing way of God.

    It wasn't God's desire for any of these people to suffer the consequences they did. Each of us has a free will, which means we have the freedom to make choices.

    God tells us the right way to go, but we have to make the choice to do so. Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.

    It was true for Eve, Esau and Moses. And it's true for you and me. Refusing to release often means refusing to have peace. I trade my peace for a weight of regret.

    Release is a gift to a woman weighed down, grasping her leaves in the midst of a snowstorm, so desperate for help. She can feel the twinges and hear the creaking sounds of a splitting break about to happen.

    She knows she can't take much more. She remembers Psalm 142:3, "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Tears well up in her upturned, pleading eyes. "God help me. It's all too much. I'm tired and frustrated and so very worn out."

    The wind whips past her, trailing a whispered, "R-e-l-e-a-s-e." She must listen or she will break. Her tree needs to be stripped and prepared for winter. But she can't embrace winter until she lets go of fall. Like a tree, a woman can't carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously. In the violent struggle of trying, she'll miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.

    I think sometimes I'm resistant to release because I fear missing out. But, in an effort to hold on to too much, I wind up stressed, exhausted and at my breaking point.

    Release brings with it the gift of peace. There are some opportunities I need to decline today. There are some things I need to say no to in this current season. There are good things I need to let go of so I can make room for the best things. Then and only then can my beautiful, bare winter branch receive its snow. When we release in peace, we signal we're now ready to receive.

    Receive what's next. Receive what's best. Receive what's meant for this season, right now.

    I don't know what you have to release right now. But I suspect you know. Just like I do in a few areas of my life.

    So let's release. With release comes more peace. I see that now. I believe that now. And soon, I pray you will too.

    Dear Lord, only You can help me with this release. My heart seeks to obey You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What do you feel like you need to release? Offer this thing up to the Lord in prayer and ask for wisdom, discernment, and direction.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • My Hidden Tattoos

    Posted on August 15, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    Leah Dipascal

    " ... the LORD's declaration. 'I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.'" Jeremiah 31:33b (HCSB)

    I didn't mean to stare, but I couldn't help it.

    After exchanging a quick smile, she continued placing grocery bags into her cart, while my eyes glanced back at her arms.

    Tattoos covered every inch of skin from her tiny shoulders to her delicate wrists.

    Images of hearts, religious symbols, quotes and names of those I imagined she loved over the years. Woven together in a tapestry of flesh and ink.

    Some of the designs had faded with time, while others popped with fresh, bold colors. Forever inscribed with permanent ink from a tattoo machine.

    It was obvious she had a passion for art ... and a relationship with a trusted tattoo artist.

    If I ever wanted to get a tattoo, how could I possibly decide on one design? I thought to myself.

    As she gathered her things and left the store, I wondered about the sting of the tattoo gun and how it must have hurt.

    Lord, if I chose to go through the pain, where should my special tattoo be placed?

    To my surprise, today's key verse from Jeremiah immediately came to mind:

    "I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people."

    As a grin emerged from my soul, I whispered to Him, Thank You, Lord, as I pictured my heart covered with colorful tattoos.

    Inscribed Scriptures placed ever so carefully with great detail. Engraved instructions written by the holy finger of my Heavenly Father.

    Some had faded over the years. Weathered by life's trials.

    Others were stained with bold, fresh colors. Some were recently tattooed as I had claimed new promises.

    It was a fresh perspective right there in the grocery checkout line! Something totally unexpected, but wonderful at the same time. A teachable moment. His heart connecting with mine.

    Originally, God's teachings were written on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18) and scrolls made from parchment or papyrus (Jeremiah 36:2). This was established under the old covenant.

    But as believers under the new covenant, God has chosen to place His Word on our hearts, at the very center of our being, making it familiar and readily available to us. He carefully positions His promises over our hearts to protect our emotions, desires and perceptions of ourselves and others.

    As life moves on and years go by, I long for the Master Artist to continue etching His Word on my heart until every inch is covered. Inside and out. I hope you do, too.

    Although these special tattoos aren't visible for everyone to see, I know they are there and that's what is most important to me.

    I can't wait to see my tattooed heart when I get to heaven one day. As I kneel before God and if I dare to ask, "Lord, do You have a tattoo?" I won't be surprised if He reaches out, and there in the palm of His hand, my name beautifully inscribed for all of eternity. A tattoo, of sorts, that will never fade away or be removed.

    "Can a mother forget her little child and not have love for her own son? Yet even if that should be, I will not forget you. See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm." (Isaiah 49:15b-16, TLB)

    Lord, Thank You for placing Your Word on my heart so that it's always available to me. When life is difficult and nothing seems to go right, help me remember You are near and Your promises are true. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 3:3, "And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? Is it one you've memorized recently or have you known it for a long time? Why not challenge yourself to discover a new favorite verse this week?

    How do you feel knowing God has written His Word on your heart? What words come to mind? Take a minute to thank Him and make a list of things you're grateful for today.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Jeremiah

  • The Two Most Powerful Words

    Posted on August 14, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa Terkeurst

    "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

    Not too long ago, I stood at the sink trying to ease the stabbing feeling of stress. I had so much pulling at me.

    I found myself rushing my husband in conversation. Rushing my kids out the door. Rushing to the next thing and then the next. Rushing to make dinner and then rushing my people through dinner.

    I had set my life to the rhythm of rush.

    Exhaustion gnawed deep places in my heart, demanding me to slow down. But how? I've made my decisions and now my decisions have made me. Me — this shell of a woman caught in the rush of endless demands.

    Have you ever felt this same way? I suspect most of us have.

    I'm starting to realize the two most powerful words are yes and no. How I use them determines how I set my schedule.

    How I set my schedule determines how I live my life.

    How I live my life determines how I spend my soul.

    When I think about my decisions in light of spending my soul, it gives gravity to choosing more wisely. Each and every thing I say yes to sets the pace of my life.

    After all, when a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she'll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. An overwhelmed schedule leads to an underwhelmed soul — a soul with a full calendar but no time to really engage in life.

    If you've found yourself caught in a stressful pace recently, I understand. I think so much of why my schedule gets overloaded is because I'm afraid of missing out or not measuring up.

    One quick look at social media, and it feels like everyone else is able to live at a breakneck pace with a smile. Their kids are accomplishing more than my kids. Their business pursuits seem more important than mine do. Their marriage seems more romantic. Their home is cleaner. And they even have time to invite dinner guests over to eat food from their garden. Huh?

    It's interesting to me the timing of God's words to Jesus in Matthew 3:17: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

    At that point, Jesus hadn't yet performed miracles, led the masses or gone to the cross. Yet, God was pleased with Jesus before all of those accomplishments.

    His Father was establishing Jesus' identity before He started His activities. Jesus heard God, believed God and remained unrushed. In Christ, God has given us a new identity (Romans 6:4). But, unlike Christ, we forget.

    We fill our days and our lives with so much activity that the only way to keep up with it all is to rush. And I'm discovering that the source of much of the stress in my life is this constant need to keep up. But what if I'm chasing the wrong desire?

    Do I really want my life to look more like others? Or to look more like God's best for me?

    God's best for me means engaging with life and the people in it. God's best for me means noticing divine invitations and feeling the freedom to say yes — a Best Yes to the Lord's assignments.

    If I really want an unrushed life, I must underwhelm my schedule so God has room to overwhelm my soul.

    Today, we must stand moment-by-moment in the reality of our identity before we resume our activity. Grasp this truth and rub it in deep: "You are my daughter, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased."

    Well pleased because of who you are, not because of what you do. Well pleased because of an unfathomable, unconditional love that's not earned, but simply given.

    Dear Lord, unrush me as I set my schedule today. I want to step out of the rush so I can embrace Your best for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Ask yourself these questions: Do I really want my life to look more like other people's? Or to look more like God's best for me?

    Honestly assess your answer and pray that the Lord would show you how to pursue His plan.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Matthew

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