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Daily Devotion

  • I'm Worried About My Child's Future

    Posted on December 18, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

    Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child's success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

    A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn't get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

    She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

    For the most part, that's right.

    This hasn't always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

    She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn't read.

    Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

    In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

    Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I'd done something right, I reasoned.

    But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

    Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child's future.

    Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I'm depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don't do will mess up their futures. I'm reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

    As their parent, it's my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn't be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He'll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

    This revelation has provided such freedom.

    I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can't grasp a certain subject — well, that's also part of God's direction.

    Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

    This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that's more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

    I'm convinced her struggles in school are actually God's way of keeping her on the path He's had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

    The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

    I'd never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

    Hope.

    We named her Hope.

    Now, we won't talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

    We'll save those stories for another day.

    But I'll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn't quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

    Hope's steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

    She wrote to say, "Mom, I've fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time."

    His Hope.

    From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

    All that to say, yeah — I don't get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God's plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that says You determine our steps. Help me to remember that when I'm anxious over my child's future. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 138:8a, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;" (ESV).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What things are you worried about for your child? Write them down and then ask God to orchestrate every detail that concerns you.

    © 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 Proverbs

  • How Do I Trust Again?

    Posted on December 17, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    SUZIE ELLER

    SUZIE ELLER

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

    We walked into the doctor's office fully expecting good news.

    We walked out carrying a slew of pamphlets and news that we didn't see coming.

    Cancer is a place we've been through before as a couple. Except back then it was me, and now it's him.

    In the hours after his diagnosis, we attended a sweet birthday celebration for a grandchild. We danced under the stars at a family wedding. When the busy weekend finally passed, I sat in the living room with my Bible in front of me. Sun streamed in through windows as I grieved.

    Lord, I don't want to do this again.

    I glanced at my open Bible and read the Scripture verse in Jeremiah I'd committed to memory the week before:

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."

    As I memorized it, I had pictured a tall tree, its leafy branches hovering over the water, roots reaching for nourishment. The tree was laden with fruit, though everything else around it was burned and dry.

    Now I sensed the heat coming our way. Hard decisions. Financial burdens. Emotional uncertainty.

    With tears, I whispered the beautiful words over and over until they soaked into my heart: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Maybe you are in a hard place today. Perhaps it's a place you've encountered before, and it's the last place you wanted to be. I pray that Jeremiah's words bring guidance to you, as they do to me.

    First, Jeremiah reveals that we can be honest about how we feel.

    Sometimes, in that hard place, we don't give space to the feelings trapped in our hearts. We somehow believe that acknowledging our emotions is a lack of faith.

    Jeremiah doesn't paint a pretty picture with his words about what is taking place. Instead, he describes intense heat that withers everything around the tree. But He also points to a God who is close by. Our God knows what we are going through. He's our safe place.

    While we are being strong for others, He will be strong for you and me.

    Second, we can run to the life-giving Source.

    Hard places require wise choices. Hard places can make you feel empty. Yet there is a promise of refreshing that runs so deep that we are strengthened and nourished in spite of what is taking place.

    Last, let's settle into this promise found in today's key verse: When we remain close to God in the hard places, there's fruit.

    Because I've walked this path before, I know it to be true.

    Fruit might come through joy that makes no sense in relation to circumstances.

    Fruit can spring forth in laughter that erupts where darkness wants to take hold.

    Fruit is the very real promise of eternity.

    Fruit is planted inside of us as we hold tightly to a faith that is bigger than we are.

    I'm still rocked by the news, and I still don't want to be in this hard place, but I know what to do. I'm pushing my roots deep in my faith. I'm scooting closer to my God in the midst of drought. I'm even anticipating the fruit that will drop from our lives as a result.

    Today, let's whisper it together. Let's hold close to it in the hard place: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Dear Jesus, today I intentionally walk to the water and I dip my roots in deep to find all that I need in this hard place. Thank You for being my Source. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (NIV)

    Psalm 118:14a, "The LORD is my strength and my song." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Matthew 11:28-29 offers rest when we feel overwhelmed. Isaiah 40:29-31 promises renewed strength. Romans 8:37-39 assures us that He keeps us company in hard places.

    Read these verses and underline the words that describe what you need from God today.

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. 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

  • If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

    Posted on December 16, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses." Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

    There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I'd been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

    On paper, these were my people.

    They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

    Yes, these will for sure be my people.

    And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you're going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you ... like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

    I couldn't wait to be with these people.

    And I couldn't wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

    I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn't there, I got a sinking feeling.

    I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

    I waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren't able to come for some reason. So, I'd be seated alone. Very alone.

    In reality, I don't think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

    In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It's certainly an option when you're sitting single at a table for ten.

    And that's when a very clear sentence popped into my head, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." It wasn't audible. And it wasn't my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

    To be set aside is to be rejected.

    That's exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I'd become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

    To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

    That's what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I'd be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

    Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you're there this Christmas season. It's tough when everything around you screams "merry" while you're aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

    I wasn't just in this place at the dinner that night. I've been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

    Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

    1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

    Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that "with humility comes wisdom" (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you'll need for the assignment ahead.

    2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

    This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

    3. Look for the gift of silence.

    Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I'm trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, "God what might You want to say to me right now? I'm listening."

    I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

    But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

    There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God's call for her to be set apart.

    Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I'm believing today that I'm set apart, not set aside. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 15:16a, "You didn't choose me. I chose you." (NLT)


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

  • I Don't Want to Fit In

    Posted on December 15, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    LYNN COWELL

    LYNN COWELL

    "Then a herald shouted out, 'People of all races and nations and languages, listen to the king's command! When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and other musical instruments, bow to the ground to worship King Nebuchadnezzar's gold statue. Anyone who refuses to obey will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.'" Daniel 3:4-6 (NLT)

    I knew I needed to stop talking about him, but as a new bride, I just couldn't. Fresh and new, I could often be found gushing about my amazing husband!

    However in my work environment, I quickly realized being happy and being married wasn't all that popular. The positive comments I made about my husband stood out from the daily hubby-bashing of my peers. So it didn't take me long to find my own complaints about marriage to add to the conversations.

    I worked to find something negative about Greg to throw in the fire. But although my words fit in well with my peers, making negative comments hurt my heart. I knew better. It wasn't a matter of simply letting something slip; I was choosing to be someone I was not.

    When we hear the words "peer pressure," we often think of just teenagers. But pressure to conform doesn't go away once we leave our school days. It isn't limited to any one age, gender or status group. In one form or another, every culture is influenced by the pressure to belong.

    In our key verse today, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon commanded "people of all races and nations and languages" to bow down and worship an image of himself. All people, of all types, were subject to his pressure to conform.

    We, too, are under pressure to conform daily.

    To bad mouth our spouses. To keep our clothes, cars or condos up to date. To meet society's demands about body image. Daily we can be pushed to "bow down" to the gods of bellyaching, buying and beauty.

    Although my early marriage days are long gone, I still experience the pressure of society's standards.

    But I've decided I don't want to do it any more. I don't want to fit in, if fitting in means going against God's best for His glory and my good.

    Like the three brave young men who stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3 and bravely refused to bow down to the gold statue of the king, we too can be brave and refuse peer pressure. We can reach out to Jesus for the strength, courage and determination to not "bow down" to culture's definition of behavior. Boldly, we can choose to be women who exude the traits of Jesus — the fruit of the Spirit. And in turn, we can teach our children to be bold too.

    When we display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control we become different. And it's a difference that is gorgeous and godly.

    Jesus, it is all too easy for me to just go along each day with what society calls "normal." Yet You call me to stand up and stand out for You. Help me today to choose to be different and choose to allow Your life to flow through mine. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." (NIV)

    Romans 12:2, "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what ways do you face the daily pressure to conform to culture's norms?

    Do a word search using the concordance of your Bible, or an online version, to discover what God's Word has to say about this particular struggle.

    © 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 and was tagged with Daniel

  • I Don't Feel Like Being Nice

    Posted on December 12, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    GLYNNIS WHITWER

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

    Grocery shopping alone! Oh how I'd taken that luxury for granted before having children.

    As I headed to the store after dropping my children off at a church event, I was nearly giddy with the joy of it all. A whole hour to myself. I had it all planned. I'd start with a soda, and leisurely meander through the aisles, actually looking at my coupons and thinking through meal planning.

    No "Mommy can I get this?" or "I have to go the bathroom!" comments would interrupt my time. I was going to be the most effective shopper in that store!

    It felt like I had all the time in the world, and I was really enjoying myself. Until I looked at my watch. Then panic set in.

    How had that much time gone by? I'd been there over an hour. I wasn't finished and still had to check out.

    I grabbed the last items on my list, rushed to the checkout lines and scurried between them trying to find the shortest line. I mentally assessed the checkout clerks, trying to determine their speed. Glancing at my watch for the fifth time, I picked one hoping Murphy's Law would not apply to me.

    The clerk proved quick, and soon it was my turn. Although I could feel myself getting impatient (as I looked at my watch yet another time) I tried to keep it under control. But the time was really late. And not only did I still have to pick up my children, but I told my sister I'd meet her for lunch after that. Everyone was waiting on me.

    And then the clerk hit a snag. One of my items wasn't ringing up correctly. He called for backup. But the first manager couldn't help. "I'm sorry Ma'am," the young man cringed. "I'm going to have to call the meat department."

    Seriously?! I thought to myself. Just give it to me for free so I can go!

    I could feel myself getting more and more anxious. Everything in me felt like showing this young man how impatient I was. I could roll my eyes, sigh with exaggeration and set my wallet down hard on the counter.

    I sensed the Lord was telling me to be nice, but I didn't feel like being nice!

    Thankfully, then the Holy Spirit stepped in and clearly spoke to my heart: Don't sacrifice kindness on the altar of your impatience.

    Immediately I was repentant. I knew I was the one to blame for neglecting the time. Not this clerk. And rather than impatience, God prompted me to show kindness to this flustered young man who could not get my ham steak to ring up.

    "It's okay," I said with a sincere smile. "I'll come back another time."

    Whew, talk about a close call. I could have easily given in to impatience like I'd done plenty of times before. And then it probably would have snowballed. Especially when I got back to the church and my children sauntered up to the car. Yet rather than snapping at them to hurry, they got an apology and a much nicer mother.

    I so desperately want to be a woman who shows grace and kindness to others. One who puts the feelings of others above her plans. However, too often I allow impatience to direct my actions, sacrificing kindness when others most need it.

    God has such a beautiful, loving plan for us as we live together on this earth. In one sentence we have all the rules needed to get along: "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32).

    At this busy Christmas season, it might be easy to feel impatient as stores are crowded and lines are long. If you're like me, you've got too much to do in too little time. Yet in the midst of the hustle and bustle, when impatience starts to rise, perhaps we might make a choice.

    Could we choose to be kind even when we don't feel like it?

    Perhaps we could even start a kindness revolution ... at home first, then work, church and the store. Rather than impatience, let's create a culture of kindness wherever we go, showing God's love to those who need it most.

    Lord, thank You for showing kindness to me when I least deserved it. Help me to be Your loving hands, feet and words to a world that desperately needs You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:12, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what situations do you find yourself the most impatient?

    What things can you do differently to create a culture of kindness in your life?

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. 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 Ephesians

  • When Fear Chases Me

    Posted on December 11, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

    My eyes popped open and my heart raced when my phone buzzed at 1 a.m. Good news isn't usually delivered at that hour.

    I hopped out of bed and grabbed my phone to read a text: "Mom, police have my dorm on lockdown and are running up and down the hall shouting. I don't know what's going on but I'm scared."

    It was Ashley, my college freshman daughter, more than seven hours away from me.

    I tried calling her but the reception was so bad neither of us could make out what the other was saying. Texting was my only option so I asked a series of questions trying to get a better handle of what was happening.

    My hands were shaking. My heart was racing. And I felt intensely helpless.

    When she was a little girl and cried out in the middle of the night, all I had to do was run upstairs. I could sit on the edge of her bed and rub her back. I could let her see me. Calm her with my touch. Be there to whisper reassurances.

    But now that little girl was a college girl very far from me.

    I couldn't sit on her bed and she couldn't see me. I couldn't calm her with my touch. I couldn't whisper those reassurances with my voice.

    All I could do was text her.

    And that felt completely inadequate in light of the situation.

    Scary images assaulted my mind with all the possible scenarios a completely shaken mama conjures up in moments of frightening uncertainty. I sank down to my knees and begged God to clear my head and give me the words to text that would help.

    This was one of those times I wished God would appear in a way my eyes could see Him and give me clear, step-by-step instructions saying exactly what to do.

    But I couldn't see Him. And no Spirit Finger wrote instructions on my wall. Instead, I felt this gentle nudge to pay attention to what He'd already given me that week: A set of verses a friend texted me and that I'd passed along to another friend which is our key verse today.

    Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

    I love that these verses give us a script to say out loud, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

    Quickly, I texted Ashley these verses and instructed her to say this out loud over and over until she felt some relief from her fear. And you better believe I was saying it out loud over and over as well.

    Isn't it interesting the two words God is called here are refuge and fortress?

    A refuge is a quick place you duck into to find shelter. A fortress is a place built intentionally for the purposes of exceptional security. The Hebrew word for fortress is metsudah, with one of its definitions being an "inaccessible place."

    God is not just a quick refuge from the storm, but He's also the place where fear no longer has access to me.

    Fear can't catch what it can no longer reach.

    It's not that bad things won't happen to my kids or me. We live in a broken world where broken things happen every day. But as a child of God I don't have to live with fear taunting and terrorizing me.

    We still don't know all the reasons why my daughter's dorm was on lockdown. Thankfully, she and her friends were safe and we all eventually got some sleep that night. I understand that other middle-of-the-night calls don't turn out so well. I've sadly lived through those times too.

    But I'm determined to make some imperfect progress when I'm processing fear.

    I now know I can feel afraid but I don't have to live afraid.

    I can say out loud, "God, You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." And then close my eyes and picture Him lifting us to a place where fear can't catch us.

    Dear Lord, I'm declaring today that I will not live in a state of fear. I place all of my fears into Your hands and commit to trust Your plan. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 32:7, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What fear are you living with? The next time you feel that fear sneaking in, declare the Scripture and prayer that Lysa shared. Remember: you can feel afraid but you don't have to live afraid!

    © 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

  • Shame On Me, Again

    Posted on December 10, 2014 by Vickie Courtney

    VICKIE COURTNEY

    "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (ESV)

    It happened suddenly and without warning.

    One minute I was sitting in a booth, laughing over a cup of coffee with my youngest son on his college campus (which just so happens to be my alma mater). The next minute, I'm driving away from my old college stomping grounds when the mere sight of a corner drugstore triggers a painful reminder of my past.

    It just so happened to be the same corner drugstore that one of my roommates and I ducked into late one night under a cloak of darkness to purchase a pregnancy test. She was late and had assumed the worst. It turned out it was negative, but it just as easily could have been me purchasing the test.

    In fact, at age 17 it had been me, which is what triggered my sudden feelings of shame that day. Back then, I was the one taking a pregnancy test, only my results were positive. This, in turn, led to my decision to terminate the pregnancy. I've spoken openly about this part of my past and have been walking in victory for many years, but every so often, the feelings of shame still come.

    And that's what shame does. It shows up uninvited to steal your joy and accuse your soul.

    Dictionary.com defines shame as "the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another."

    We avoid talking about shame because it is messy.

    We see the earliest account of shame in the immediate aftermath of Adam and Eve's sin in the garden (Genesis 3). Prior to their sin, Scripture tells us they were both naked and unashamed. One chapter later they are sewing fig leaves together and playing a game of hide-and-seek with God. With that one forbidden bite came our first bitter taste of shame.

    Like Adam and Eve, our human instinct is to hide our shame. We attempt to cover it with modern-day fig leaves, ranging from addictions to breakneck busyness. We bury our shame beneath perfectionism, good deeds, and yes, even ministry service. Been there. Done that.

    Some people are more prone to experiencing feelings of shame, while others seem better equipped to avoid its sting with a healthy understanding of guilt and grace. Those who grew up in households where shame was a mainstay of the family diet will often turn around and serve it in their own families, passing it down from generation to generation.

    Shame is not the same as guilt. Guilt says, "What you did was bad." Shame says, "What you did was bad, so therefore, you are a bad person."

    Shame is not the same as regret. Regret says, "If I could go back and do things differently, I'd do this ... or that." Shame says, "I'll never get it right. I'm a failure."

    Shame is not the same as embarrassment. Embarrassment says, "Everyone experiences embarrassing moments." Shame says, "Yet another reminder that I'm a loser, and nothing will change that fact."

    Guilt is always connected to behavior, while shame is always connected to identity. While guilt draws us toward God, shame sends us away from God.

    We can't completely abolish painful reminders of shame that show up uninvited on the doorsteps of our souls, but we can refuse to answer the door.

    And that's exactly what I did that day driving past the drugstore when the old shame tapes began to play. I hit the "eject" button and boldly declared out loud today's key verse, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Over and over, I proclaimed it until, once again, I believed it. I showed shame the door. And you can, too.

    Heavenly Father, when feelings of shame pay me an unexpected visit, help me immediately usher them out by declaring Your unfailing love and forgiveness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:22, "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time you experienced a painful encounter with shame? Did you allow the shame tapes to play in your mind or immediately turn to Christ, hit "eject," and show shame the door?

    The next time shame pays you an unexpected visit, show it the door by confidently declaring Romans 8:1.

    © 2014 by Vickie Courtney. 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

  • But You Don't Know My Family

    Posted on December 9, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN EHMAN

    "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." Romans 12:18 (ESV)

    Sometimes the images I spy during the holiday season can deflate my festive spirit and send me instead into a frosty funk.

    A stunning home appears on my television screen complete with color-coordinated décor, an inviting roaring fire and stunning packages under the Christmas tree that look as if they were wrapped at a high-end department store.

    Then, I glance around my home.

    I see ordinary decorations donning our humble tree and gifts wrapped with commonplace paper topped off with tags from the dollar store. And I use the term "wrapped" rather loosely. I'm all thumbs when it comes to holding a roll of tape while also trying to create crisp creases and edges. I usually opt for an easy-open gift bag instead.

    Social media blows up with taunting images too. A holiday tablescape dotted with gourmet foods. Clever crafts. Incredible traditions. All of these can make me feel my holiday season is "less than" by comparison.

    But the images that prompt the most "must-be-nice" feelings in me are the ones of the families gathered together. And they're not just gathered. They also appear to be getting along!

    Family time around the holidays can be rough. Different personalities, lifestyles, schedules, religious beliefs and political views — even the opinions on who should bring the pumpkin pie this year — can all make for an interesting, even explosive, yuletide gathering.

    I used to enter time with family with the goal of everyone behaving. No outright fights, sarcastic statements or backhanded comments. While it didn't always happen, when it did, it was usually due to one particular relative who loves to sling their opinions throughout family events. Before each family gathering with this person, I hoped and prayed that none of their caustic and cruel comments were slung my way. But rarely did that happen.

    Instead I had my mothering skills subtly slammed, my method of mashing potatoes called into question and worse. As a result, my hopes of a happy family gathering were dashed and my feelings got repeatedly — and deeply — hurt.

    Over the years, I have found a tool that helps me when entering into interactions with the in-laws and out-laws. I simply apply today's key verse from Romans 12:18: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."

    I am not single-handedly responsible for bringing peace to the family gatherings. I can't close the curtain on every scene of drama. I can't force others to be nice. But I can control my words and actions. I can make sure what I say doesn't contribute further to the tension or escalate a minor squabble into a family feud.

    As far as it depends on me, I can behave.

    I can change the subject. Speak in a calm and collected tone when answering the combative person. Or just simply keep my mouth shut and say nothing at all. I can leave the room and go play with the children. Go into the kitchen and quietly do the dishes.

    I've learned I don't need to say every single thing I'm thinking. Or even half the things I'm thinking!

    I can purpose to pray and weigh. Pray that the Lord will help me know if I should speak or remain silent. And weigh each word I do say, asking myself if it is totally appropriate, completely necessary and ultimately gracious.

    Then, when another family gathering is in the books, I can look back and see that I did not contribute to any of the drama that might have ensued, but instead I chose — to the best of my ability — to create or keep the peace. I can then put on my coat, give a round of goodbye hugs and leave the family gathering guilt-free, with no regrets.

    Well, except for that second piece of pumpkin pie.

    Father, when interacting this holiday season with family members, help me to do everything in my ability to live peaceably with all. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 14:19, "So then, we must pursue what promotes peace and what builds up one another." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more on using your words properly, check out Karen's latest book, releasing next month, entitled Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say it and When to Say Nothing at All. Click here to preorder and be among the first to receive your copy.

    Save the date! Our next Online Bible Study starts January 26 and features Keep It Shut. Watch for updates at Proverbs31.org.

    Visit Karen's blog to enter her 12 Days of Christmas giveaways or sign up for her free email resource about using our words carefully called 5 Days to Sweet & Salty Speech.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone you encounter at family gatherings whose bad behavior sometimes tempts you to behave poorly in return?

    How can keeping in mind the instructions in Romans 12:18 help you to alter your behavior around that person this year?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. 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

  • The Day God's Extraordinary Interrupted My Ordinary

    Posted on December 8, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    WENDY BLIGHT

    "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ..., " Judges 6:12a (NLT)

    Another day of errands. Same cycle every week. Grocery store. Gas station. Dry cleaners. Target.

    I dread errand days. I whine about the fun and exciting things I can't do because of the mundane tasks I have to do.

    But one particular week, God interrupted my ordinary with the extraordinary. You know, one of those moments when it seems God speaks directly to you ... as if He has heard the banter in your head and addresses it head on?

    I was studying about Gideon, a warrior from the Old Testament who also became a Judge over Israel. We initially meet him in the midst of his mundane in Judges chapter 6, when "The Angel of the LORD appeared to him ...," (Judges 6:12a).

    No thunder. No lightning. No pomp. No circumstance. Very quietly, the Angel of the Lord came to speak to Gideon in the midst of his ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    Gideon's story remained heavy on my heart. Do I look for God in the midst of my ordinary? No, I don't. I just want the mundane over so I can get on with my day.

    Yet, I want to experience the extraordinary! But I look for it in the grandiose, the uncommon, the bigger-than-life. So, I prayed for a Gideon moment: God will You show up in my mundane? I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day.

    God answered that very day, but not in the form of an angel. In the form of a 7-year-old boy.

    While checking out at Target, I noticed a young boy standing behind me, proudly toting a HUGE Nerf toy (almost as big as he was) and tightly gripping a handful of gift cards. I learned his name was Luke. I asked Luke if the toy was for him. Shyly, he shook his head yes. It was for his birthday. His mom said he received some gift cards and was spending them all on this one item!

    God met me right there in the checkout lane, in that shy smile, and moved my heart to give and my mouth to speak. I asked Luke's mom if I could buy his gun as a birthday present.

    In that moment, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking. It didn't make logical sense to offer this to a child I didn't know. I just knew God was calling me to do it — and I obeyed.

    A huge grin spread across Luke's face. "Really?" he asked. I nodded my head yes and suggested that he could then spend his gift cards on something else. Tears leaked from his mama's eyes as I shared my prayer that morning.

    I stopped by customer service, and as I turned toward the door to leave, Luke's dad, with Luke by his side, stopped to say thank you. But it wasn't the thank you for the gift that touched my heart. It was the words that followed, thanking me for the lesson Luke learned.

    Luke decided that instead of spending all his gift cards on another new toy, he would only spend four so that he could give one away.

    I'm so grateful God spoke to me in His Word that day. I'm grateful that "word" led me to pray a Gideon prayer ... for God to meet me in the ordinary to experience the extraordinary. I'm grateful God answered that prayer. And I'm so grateful that in meeting me, God also met Luke.

    And somewhere in this city, another little boy on another ordinary day will meet an extraordinary God through a tender-hearted little boy named Luke.

    Will you join me in praying a Gideon prayer ... for God to interrupt your ordinary tasks on an ordinary day to intervene in an extraordinary way? Let's invite Him to open our spiritual eyes so that we can see Him more clearly than ever before.

    Heavenly Father, I invite You to show up in my mundane. I want to see You. I want to experience You in my ordinary tasks on an ordinary day. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Samuel 3:10b, "And Samuel replied, 'Speak, Your servant is listening.'" (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Pray your Gideon prayer, asking the Lord to make Himself visible to you (as He did to Gideon) in the midst of your mundane. Pray that He will open your spiritual eyes to see Him in a fresh way.

    Record how God worked through your prayer in your Bible or a journal.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. 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 Judges

  • It's Okay if We Don't Understand the Whole Bible

    Posted on December 5, 2014 by Wendy Pope

    WENDY POPE

    "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." Deuteronomy 29:29a (NLT)

    Read the Bible? The whole thing? From cover to cover? Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? I've heard they're hard. Do I have to read the Old Testament? Jesus wasn't even born then. What if I don't understand everything?

    These concerns plagued me as I sensed God nudging me to read the entire Bible. I'd grown up in the church and attended Sunday School and mid-week Bible study every week. But the thought of reading the whole Bible intimidated me. My greatest fears were failure to finish and not being able to understand what I read.

    To ease my anxiety, I went to my local Christian bookstore with this thought: If I'm going to read the whole Bible, certainly I need a new Bible.

    I previewed various types of Bibles in an array of colors, styles and formats. It seemed like hours had passed. And just when I was about to give up, I pulled the One Year Chronological Bible from the shelf.

    The format intrigued me. Short readings. An easy-to-follow daily plan. An attractive cover. The best part to me was knowing I would read the Bible in the order the events occurred. Yes! This is the Bible for me.

    That year I read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I stumbled some, but I also learned a lot. I learned Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy really are difficult to read. They are full of laws, actual numbers and more laws. But through those books and the rest of the Old Testament, I learned to really appreciate the wonderful sacrifice Jesus made for me (because there's no way any human on the planet could keep all of those laws). And, I learned it's okay if I don't understand the whole Bible.

    What a relief! You see, I thought a Christian should be able to understand the Bible completely. And because I didn't, I thought something must be wrong with me.

    Truth is, we're not meant to understand everything in the Bible the first time we read it. If we were, we could read it once and put it on our shelf.

    The Bible is unlike any other book. Hebrews describes God's Word as living and active (Hebrews 4:12). It is meant to help us live life. Therefore, it's necessary to have it as a part of our daily living.

    Our key verse says, "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them." God reveals the truths He wants us to understand when He feels we are ready to understand and apply them.

    When we don't understand something, it doesn't mean we are less of a Christian or not as smart as another. God, in His infinite wisdom, keeps some things hidden from us until just the right time.

    With this truth in mind I set out to read the Bible one day at a time. Now many years later, I've read the Bible in its entirety year after year. Not because I'm a super Christian, but because my first reading of the entire Bible taught me that amazing truth ... and I wanted more.

    What about you? Have you ever thought about reading the entire Bible but were too intimidated to get started? If so, now is your chance. Let's be women who read God's Book. I promise it will be a life-changer.

    Dear Lord, thank You for giving us Your Word to help us through life. Give me the desire to read the Bible every day. Will You teach me Your truths and keep me from becoming overwhelmed with what I don't understand? In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 141:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I may not sin against you." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:105, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." (KJV)

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What intimidates you most about reading through the Bible? What good might come if you let God reveal more of His truth in your life?

    Take those things to God in prayer and ask Him to help you.

    © 2014 by Wendy Pope. 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 Deuteronomy

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