If you’ve been following my blog, you know I’ve been working my way through Proverbs, focusing on one application centered in one truth each day.

But all the focus in the world amounts to naught if I don’t couple it with follow through.

Because: Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty (Proverbs 14:23 NLT).

Today is the last day in January, and I suspect, many will abandon or forget those resolutions made with such enthusiasm but a month ago. 1151807_to_do

Will you?

Even if you didn’t make a resolution, I suspect you have goals–areas you’d like to improve in, new skills you’d like to master, perhaps new relationships you’d like to build.

So, what are you doing to make those things happen? What will you do *today* to move toward those goals? 

Do you even remember the goals you’ve made and the reason/s you made them?

Today, I encourage you to take time to think back over your resolutions or commitments made for this month. If you’ve been following our Bible study, pause to review devotions, verses,  and/or passages that stuck out to you and any determinations you made regarding them. Then, commit anew to follow through.

Do you keep a journal? If not, I strongly suggest you start. Not only will it help you expand on your thoughts, but it will provide a recording of things God has shown you. Then, a week or month after an entry, you can return and refresh whatever lessons God showed you.

What devotion/chapter/verse stuck out to you most this past month? Go back, revisit it, and recommit.

Let’s talk about this. You can share your thoughts here in the comments, join the discussion at Living by Grace on Facebook, or join our online Bible study group. You can also review previous posts by scrolling down.

 

A while back, I read a beautiful account of how one mother trained hope in her child, and I immediately thought of Proverbs 13:12. It seems we humans can endure almost anything, as long as we have hope. Hope for change, hope for love or companionship, hope that whatever we are facing won’t last forever. Ultimately, our hope rests not in this world or the things of it, but the unchanging nature of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His promise of heaven where He will indeed wipe every tear from our eyes. In the meantime, I believe He sprinkles a great deal of hope throughout our day. We just need to look for it, to grab hold of it, and not allow our concerns or problems steal that hope from us.

Cheri_portrait-2Today’s post comes from  a sweet sister in Christ who has guest posted for me before, Cheri Swalwell. As you read her devotion, pause to consider how you can train hope as well, not just in your children, but in yourself.

Today’s reading: Proverbs 13

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12 (NIV)

Today’s focus: Choosing and grabbing hold of hope

This week’s memory verse: Proverbs 15:15 For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast (NIV).

Hope by Cheri Salwell

I started a ritual with our youngest at bedtime, not realizing I was creating something meaningful.  In all honesty, I was just trying to stop his tears.  In his mind, everyone else was still having fun but he had to go to bed.  So, I started to distract him by talking about all the fun things he would do the next day, exciting activities he did that day, and sometimes, if his chuckles were extra loud, we would talk about the fun we would have all week.  It put a smile on his face, giggles in his belly, and he would settle down easily so we could pray, sing, and rock a little before tucking him in bed.  I didn’t realize how much he enjoyed it, until asking me what fun things he would do the next day became his evening ritual.

That was when I realized I was teaching him about hope.  bedtimehopeNot on purpose, but instilling it nevertheless.  I started thinking…isn’t that what we all do?  Don’t we look forward to things to come?  Plan for the future?  Have goals in our personal life, professional life, marriage, and with our children?  Isn’t the goal to lose twenty pounds a sense of hope?  What about training for a marathon…hope that you will finish, beat your personal score, or maybe even come in first?  Getting the job promotion, saving for a house, planning a vacation, beating cancer?

Life without hope or something to anticipate brings about a completely different perspective.  I’ve had periods of life where I’ve felt “hopeless” about certain situations.  Thankfully, those periods haven’t lasted too long, but I’ve had that feeling of hopelessness and I know how awful it can feel.

The Bible tells us that if we’re God’s children, we have hope in every situation, no matter how desperate it seems.  We don’t have to be hopeless, feel helpless, or worry about the answers.  With God, even diagnoses like cancer, financial hardships, wayward children, and extramarital affairs – no matter what the issue, we can have hope.

The following is a concept that has always brought me comfort. In Psalm 139:16, we are told, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (NIV).  This assures me that years before I was even born, God knew what would happen.  He knew about this particular day, event, trauma, tragedy, or whatever it may be that wants to destroy the hope that I have.  In Proverbs 13:12, we learn that we can become physically ill when we lose hope, but something anticipated and achieved brings vibrancy and health.

The best hope of all is what’s to come – Eternity.  For those who are God’s children, which anyone of us can be if we accept His free gift through His Son Jesus Christ, we have the promise of experiencing things far greater than we can imagine for all eternity.  It’s hard to wrap my head around the concept of forever when I can barely keep track of my schedule this week, but it’s there, nevertheless.  And, that, my friends, is real hope.

The vacations, losing twenty pounds, or getting ready for a marathon are all nice to help break up the monotony of life, but Eternity in Heaven with God is the ultimate goal.

Cheri Swalwell is a wife, mother, and avid reader, but first and foremost she is a Christ follower. She has a degree in Psychology and has been blessed to be a guest on a variety of blogs including Christiandevotions.us, Circle of Friends, and Crosswalk.com/family. She is a regular contributor to book fun magazine. If you want to hear more about the heart she has for marriage, parenting, and relationships from a Christian perspective, feel free to visit her blog: http://journeysfromtheheartofawifeandmother.wordpress.com or “like” her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/cheri-Swalwell. She loves to interact with her readers, so feel free to connect with her at clSwalwell99@gmail.com.

***

Let’s talk about this. Where do you place your hope? So often, it’s easy to focus on the here and now, which isn’t entirely bad, unless that is the extent of our hope. How can focusing on eternity and the things of God bring about fresh hope?

Do you hope for spiritual things–like increased love, patience, kindness, and wisdom, as much as you hope for material things?

How diligent are you in guarding your thoughts? I believe we can and must control what we think about, continually turning our focus off of ourselves and onto the things of God.

What are some ways you intentionally grab hold of and/or teach hope?

You can share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or join our Yahoo study group by clicking the button below.


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The other day, on the Christian radio station, they discussed the characteristics of happy children. Apparently, a study was conducted, and research shows kids who are kinder are generally happier. A short discussion on this study ensued, and the general consensus was: 1) We are happier when we are less focused on ourselves, and, 2) We are happiest when we are most acting like God, or, in other words, when we are allowing Him to freely work and love through us.

Today, Proverbs Study member Beth Farley brings this truth home with her devotion on Proverbs 11:17:

Your own soul is nourished when you are kind, but you destroy yourself when you are cruel (NLT).

Nourishing Your Soul by Beth Farley

            I was in the store the other day looking at the handwashingvarious moisturizers. My skin is so incredibly dry this season. Since I work at a library, I am constantly washing my hands. I am digging into bins to rescue germy books that need to be returned to the shelves. I also work with patrons all day long that have been sneezing or coughing, so for me, the hand sanitizer and frequent washing is a MUST.

Well, when I was in the bathroom the other day, God’s word came to me. I was looking at the ingredients of the hand cream that someone donated and it highlighted the word nourishing. The cream stated that it was suitable for all skin types and had hand selected ingredients that protected the skin.

When I was reading Proverbs 11:17; I started to recall those ingredients and thought about my spiritual walk God. When I am kind to others, especially in my job, when I can be dealing with some really not-so-nice people, my soul is being nourished. When I go out of my way, come out of my boundaries and am nice to others and helpful to others, I am nourishing my soul and being protected by God. I know in studying the book of Proverbs we’ve talked a lot about obedience, but if I may, let me remind us today that walking in kindness(love) is one of God’s desires, Love is the first fruit of the Spirit; but also kindness is in there as well. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. NIV.

How are you going to walk today? Are you going to carry around a nourished soul knowing that your inner ingredients have been hand selected just for you?

How can you apply this kindness to your day today? Are you dealing with a cranky boss? Sick children? Impatient husband? Needy friend? My dear sisters, we must walk in kindness and allow the nourishment to flow through us. We don’t know what God’s up to but we can trust that He’s hand selected his day for us to walk with HIM.

I am praying for each one of you!

Beth

Beth Ann Farley is a dear friend of mine and one of our Yahoo Bible Study group members. She is married with three grown children. She lives in Kansas City, MO where she serves as librarian. She loves to read, write, decorate and spend as much time as possible outside with her Peek-A-Poo. Beth is a lover of the Lord. “He is my-everything and I can’t start a day without visiting with Him.” Beth came to know the Lord when she was 30 years old and has served Him on committee’s such as Missions Outreach, Local Missions, Diaconate Committee, Youth Committee, and was a church secretary for several years. Beth loves Women’s Bible Studies, has hosted several in each one of her homes that she has lived in and has led a few as well. Beth is now taking time in life to move forward with her writing in whatever way God directs her.

Visit her online at: http://firsthalfday1.wordpress.com/

***

Let’s talk about this! Beth asked some thought-provoking, and hopefully, action-initiating questions:

How can you apply this kindness to your day today? Are you dealing with a cranky boss? Sick children? Impatient husband? Needy friend?

Let’s talk about this.

Join me at Living by Grace as we talk about living out our faith by demonstrating Christ’s love and the soul-reaching nourishment this provides.

Please note, Lotis is giving away an electronic copy of her book, the Song of the Tree (see description below).

Today’s reading: Proverbs 9, Daniel 3,

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 9:10 Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment (NLT).

This week’s memory verse: This week, I encourage you to review the verses you’ve already memorized. Week one, we memorized Proverbs 2:7-8; week two we memorized Proverbs 3:9-10; and last week we memorized Proverbs 6:16-17

Wisdom and Fear by Lotis Key

lotishomepicProverbs 9: 1-12

“The fear of the Lord, is the beginning of wisdom.” From this statement, I understand that wisdom, and the fear of the Lord, are inseparably linked.

Yet, in this world, it’s hard to find much recognizable as, “fear of the Lord”. Instead, if it were possible to condense all human fears, press them together into one small box, and slap a label on them, it would be this: I fear my needs will not be met.

We steal because we fear we won’t have enough. We lie because we fear the truth is costly. We murder with our tongues, because we fear competition will rob us. We commit adultery because we fear a shortage of pleasure. We worship other gods, because we fear our own, can’t, or won’t, satisfy our, “needs”.

Our every foolishness, our every crime, is based in fear, not of God, but of the world.

The Scriptures, repeatedly lift up, “the fear of the Lord”. Yet, what is it? How do we get it if, let’s say, we look over our life, and realize, that perhaps what we really need, is a little wisdom?

In this particular sense, what if we understood “fear” to be “recognition”? To recognize, that He is the Creator and we, are merely the created. To recognize, that an all-powerful Creator, who made sacrifice, of His only begotten Son, for love of His creation, is a Creator worth trusting for our supply.

To embrace this recognition, results in the chain-breaking freedom of our first, baby steps into the realm of Wisdom: a Wisdom that brings gifts, and lays them at our feet.

Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars.

(Wisdom provides shelter.)
She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.

(Wisdom provides sustenance.)
She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city,

“Let all who are simple come to my house!”

To those who have no sense she says,
“Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.

Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight.”

(Wisdom opens her door to all, offering entry into a life of ready supply.)

Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults; whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you; rebuke the wise and they will love you.

(Wisdom gives understanding of, and insight into, the world around us.)
Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

(Wisdom guides, and instructs, our journey through this life.)

 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

(Wisdom promises a future, and a hope.)
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

(Wisdom does not force us to her will. She advises of the consequences, yet offers the freedom to accept, or reject, her.)

 

Oh, Lord, help me to put away my fears of the world. Help me to fear YOU instead, and in that fear, to find real peace, true love, and the satisfaction, of my every need.

Lotis Melisande Key (SAG/AFTRA/ACFW/MCWG) has lived a life of wide travel and curious variety. She’s raised horses in the Australian outback; skied the Alps; run tours through a tropical jungle; bought & sold antiquities. She’s been a restaurateur; a breeder of show cats; a third world church planter. She’s worked in an orphanage, and run a ministry that puts children through school.

After a professional theater début at the age of twelve, she subsequently starred in over seventy-five feature films for the Asian market. She’s also hosted numerous television and radio shows. Upon settling in the United States, she signed with Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis based talent agencies, expanding into American on-camera and voice over narration, industrial videos, trade shows, professional theater, television, and radio commercials.

Retiring from secular work, she founded MESSENGERS, a Christian theater arts group based at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. As artistic director, she toured the company throughout the US, Canada, and Asia.

Vice-president of the Minnesota Christian Writers Guild, Lotis is a passionate storyteller. Her work focuses on the mystery of God, and His incomprehensible love for the unattractive, wayward parts, of His otherwise perfect, creation.

Lotis book,

The Song of the Tree:

hDespite promises of eternal joy given by the Tree of Life, a privileged young woman loses everything in a brutal war. Her husband disappears; her family is murdered; her home is burned to the ground.

Desperate, starving, and burdened with an unwanted child, she now despises and rejects the Tree she once worshiped. Ripped from her land and people, forced into survival immigration, she becomes a lowly refugee, a servant in the homes of the rich. Her unusually gifted child thrives, but is an ever-present reminder of ultimate loss and betrayal.

Two women: one broken, the other rooted in bitterness, continue to be drawn towards the song of a Tree that will not let them go. Along roads of degrading poverty and equally destructive wealth, each much wrestle with the siren call of perfect love, and its altar sacrifice of perfect trust.

The Song of the Tree is an intense, contemporary allegory that moves the God-seeker from fist shaking stance, down to knees before the throne.

(Buy it here!)

 ***

Let’s talk about this. No one likes to be afraid, nor do I believe God wants us to be afraid. In fact, throughout the Bible we read the words “Do not fear!” or “Do not be afraid!” numerous times.

And yet, I suspect we all have times when our fears and anxieties get the best of us. How might rerouting our thoughts help us when we feel afraid?742655_surrender

For me, it comes down to complete surrender. I need to get to the point, in whatever situation I find myself in, that I can say, “Not my will but thine be done, Lord.” Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, I need to reach the point where I can say, “But even if He doesn’t (save me from the fire, heal me, answer this prayer, whatever), we want to make it clear to you, your majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” In other words, regardless of what God chooses, I will remain loyal and fully committed, fully surrendered, to Him. I’ve reached that point numerous times–for but a moment, and oh, what immense peace that brings! But somehow, I crawl off that altar soon after.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you believe peace comes in full surrender? Pause to consider the things that cause you angst. How might releasing your expectations provide freedom?

I’ve also noticed my peace dramatically increases when I spend more time with my Savior. Do you notice a similar correlation? I’ve mentioned before, the Bible tells us we’ve been given the mind of Christ, but I suspect to fully take hold of that mind, we need to stay connected with Christ.

Pause to think of a time when you’ve been exceptionally fearful. Do you remember your spiritual state at that time? Were you diligent about spending time with Christ or had life’s business gotten in the way?

What thoughts came to mind as you read today’s passage?

Let’s talk about this! You can share your thoughts in the comments below or join our Yahoo Bible study group by clicking the link below.


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Click to join ProverbsStudy

Maintaining an Inner Drive

The other day, after a moment of contemplation, my teenage daughter marveled at how long it’s been since she’s been grounded. Now, before you assume she had been a rebellious or difficult child, I must admit, her father and I can be strict about certain things, and her dedication studiousto school, or lack of, is top on our parental radar. For numerous reasons, the primary being we are very concerned about the character traits developed on a daily basis.

As I’ve mentioned before, I believe everything Steve and I do as parents develops habits in our daughter, either positive or negative. Let me explain. If I walk into her bedroom, notice clothes thrown across the floor and pick them up, I’m encouraging her to continue this behavior. In other words, I’m encouraging her to develop a habit of being careless with her belongings. I’m also encouraging a “serve-me” attitude. However, if I make a conscious choice to leave the clothes for her to pick up, I’m encouraging her to take responsibility for her actions.

Similarly, if we allow her to do the bare minimum with schoolwork, focusing more on the product (grades) then the behavior and attitude (studiousness and a desire for excellence), then we encourage her to develop a habit of taking the easy way out. When she reaches adulthood this attitude of laziness could get in the way of her career aspirations and marital growth.

Because of this, Steve and I have always enforced consequences for missed homework or sloppy work (regardless of the grades received).

So why hasn’t she experienced consequences this past year?

Because she’s developed an inner drive. Her motivations isn’t to avoid getting grounded but instead, to reach her goals and dreams of getting into the college of her choice. And because she is driven, we no longer have to drive her.

Obviously, inner drive can be taken too far. If it overshadows our relationships and spiritual growth, or if it’s rooted in pride and selfishness, it will become toxic. But, if it’s rooted in an attitude that pursues excellence, doing everything to the best of our ability in order to honor God by utilizing the gifts and talents He’s given us, then it’s an act of worship. This pursuit of excellence, in my opinion, should be evident in every area of our life: how we approach our marriage, parenting, our spirituality and walk with God, our “home-making”.

Pause to consider Colossians 3:22

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.

How might your daily tasks and work ethics be an act of worship?

I suspect we all have areas and times where we’re tempted to “just get by,” doing the bare minimum or frittering away our time. Pause to consider today’s passage in light of your day and/or week, and your motivation. Do you have an inner drive that strives for excellence in every task you undertake, or are there areas you’re cutting corners? Remember one of our early devotions on discipline and determine now to face today with discipline and perseverance.

Do you work with the same fervor when alone as you do when others are watching or you know you’ll be “graded” for your efforts?

If you’re a parent, pause for a moment to consider the character traits you’d like to see your child/children develop. Are you encouraging those by your daily actions or are you, perhaps inadvertently, encouraging laziness? What are you modeling?

 Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.

Learn from their ways and become wise!
Though they have no prince
or governor or ruler to make them work,
they labor hard all summer,
gathering food for the winter.
But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep?
When will you wake up?
10 A little extra sleep, a little more slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit;
scarcity will attack you like an armed robber. (Proverbs 6:6-11 NLT).

The ant doesn’t procrastinate or waste its time. It works during the summer in order to prepare for the winter. If procrastination is an issue for you, prayerfully ask God to show you the underlying cause. Is it laziness? A desire for pleasure, perhaps preferring to spend time watching television or engaging on Facebook? A lack of clarity or focus? Or do you get overwhelmed when you look at a task? If the latter is true, how might focusing on your attitude and a pursuit of excellence, rather than the end result and perfection, help?

Let’s talk about this! Join the discussion in the comments below, at Living by Grace, or join our Yahoo Bible Study group by clicking the link below.
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Today’s reading: Proverbs 6:1-5, Jeremiah 42-44

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 6:3 follow my advice and save yourself,
    for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy.
Now swallow your pride;
    go and beg to have your name erased (NLT).

This week’s memory verse:

Proverbs 6:16-17 There are six things the LORD hates–no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent. (To keep this verse manageable, I cut it off at 17. If you want to memorize all six things God hates, you can find it here: Proverbs 6:16-19)

debtIn a moment of haste, you said yes to something you later realized wasn’t in God’s will for you. So what do you do? Integrity tells us to honor our commitments, but it also tells us to obey God without hesitation, to follow His will above all else.

My child, if you have put up security for a friend’s debt
or agreed to guarantee the debt of a stranger—
if you have trapped yourself by your agreement
and are caught by what you said—
follow my advice and save yourself,
for you have placed yourself at your friend’s mercy.
Now swallow your pride;
go and beg to have your name erased.
Don’t put it off; do it now!
Don’t rest until you do.
Save yourself like a gazelle escaping from a hunter,
like a bird fleeing from a net

(Proverbs 6:1-4).

Although this passage is talking specifically about co-signing, I wonder if the principal might be true in other situations. I’d love to hear from you. When should we honor the commitments we’ve made, even if we’ve realized later they were made in error, and when should we “save ourselves” “like a gazelle escaping from a hunter.”?

I find today’s reading quite interesting in light of a few of our previous devotions. When I consider mistakes I’ve made, they normally boil down to two causes: either I didn’t pause to seek God’s will, or, I didn’t give God enough time to respond. Meaning, there have been many times when I’ve prayed about something, but, when God didn’t answer according to my time schedule, have made a decision or commitment anyway.

Obviously, it is far better to seek God’s will before giving our commitment, but we’re not perfect and will, on occasion, get ourselves into difficult situations.

Pause to think about decisions you’ve made in the past, specifically those that you made in haste. Did God ever ask you to rectify a situation, and if so, how did you do this, and what were the results?

Notice, this passage is talking specifically about co-signing. Do any other verses or biblical truths come to mind when you read this?

How does God feel about debt? If you’re unsure, read Deuteronomy 15:6 & 28:12, Proverbs 22:7, Romans 13:8

How does God feel about co-signing? (Prov. 22:26-27)

How might knowing and living God’s Word help avoid situations like those alluded to in today’s reading?

Do any past memory verses or reading passages come to mind? (I’m thinking of Proverbs 2:7-8. 🙂 )

Let’s talk about this! You can join the conversation in the comments below, or, you can join our Yahoo Proverbs Study group by clicking the link below:

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Today’s reading: Proverbs 5:15-23; Song of Songs 5:9-16

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:18 Be happy with the wife you married when you were young. She gives you joy, as your fountain gives you water.

This week’s memory verse: Proverbs 6:16-17 There are six things the LORD hates–no, seven things He detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent. (To keep this verse manageable, I cut it off at 17. If you want to memorize all six things God hates, you can find it here: Proverbs 6:16-19

You’ve probably heard the saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” Have you also heard, “The grass is greener where there’s more water?” Or, in other words, if your neighbor’s lawn looks more vibrant than yours, chances are he’s spent a bit more time with the upkeep. 😉

photo-1 copyIn today’s devotion, author and social-media-guru, Edie Melson, encourages us to cherish our spouse for who they are and not who we wish they’d be.

Cherish Your Spouse

Be happy with the wife you married when you were young.
    She gives you joy, as your fountain gives you water. Proverbs 5:18

 

Early on in our marriage, I decided it was my job to help my husband improve himself. I thought I was just acting like any good wife, but you men have another word for it—nagging. I never thought what I was doing qualified as nagging; after all, I was just trying to help!

What I was actually doing was getting ahead of God. He knows, so much better than anyone else, what each of us needs to become more Christ-like. But He knows something else—the order in which those changes need to be made. And my attempts to help were actually hindering my husband’s growth.

When I was looking for ways to help my husband grow, I wasn’t cherishing the ways he’d already grown as a husband and as a man. And it was driving a wedge between us as a couple.

There was another problem with my focus, it kept me from concentrating on my own growth. It’s amazing how easy it is to see someone else’s faults and not your own.

This attempt to help God doesn’t just apply to married couples. Nagging can enter into any relationship. Once I started waiting on God and concentrating on the things He wanted to accomplish in me, the rocky road of a new relationship began to smooth out.

I could see the long way God had yet to go with me, and the long way He’d come with my husband. I once again found joy in the man I’d chosen to share my life with.

Challenge: Who are you trying to help God with? I invite you to join me, and give the responsibility of change over to God and let Him work.

Edie Melson is a freelance writer and editor with years of experience in the publishing industry. She’s a prolific writer, and has a popular writing blog, The Write Conversation. She’s the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, as well as a popular faculty member at numerous others. Her new book, Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers will be released on February 1, 2013. She’s also the social media columnist for Southern Writers Magazine and social media coach for My Book Therapy. Connect with her through Twitter and Facebook.

DSC_5705 - Version 2Connections:

Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers:

“So how much time do I really have to spend on social networking?”

It’s the question that plagues every armchair marketer. What is Social Media? How much time do I need to spend on Facebook and Twitter? Do I need Pinterest? What about my blog—who is going to follow it?

Social Networking can be overwhelming—yet it’s essential for a successful writer. With the right techniques, it can be streamlined and maximized to produce exactly the results you need to further your writing career.

Edie Melson puts this crazy world of social media into perspective and gives writers the tools needed to succeed and still find time to write.

***

Let’s talk about this. Pause for a moment to consider how you view your spouse. More often than not, are you seeking out and appreciating his/her positive qualities, or do you tend to zero in on their weaknesses? I think we all have times when we’re a bit more negative than others, but that doesn’t mean we need to stay in negativity. I’ve often said, if you look for the negative, you’ll find it every time. But the converse is also true. If you look for the positive, I suspect, you’ll find it’s been there all along.

Today, I encourage you to write your spouse a letter, listing the five things you most appreciate about them.

What is one thing you can and will do to show your spouse you love and appreciate them today?

Few things wrench my heart like listening to one spouse speak negatively about the other. I’ve often wondered how I would feel to know Steve were talking negatively about me. Honestly, it’d break my heart. I’m blessed that he doesn’t do that, and I hope you can say the same.

Pause to prayerfully consider your marriage–your heart–in light of the words in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

What are some situations that challenge your patience? How can you show more patience in that situation? And more importantly, will you choose to?

What is an area your spouse has shown you patience? (I must admit, my list would be quite long here! Which is a great reminder to me to offer my husband the same grace!)

How does pride increase quarrels?

When I consider verse five, I’m reminded of Romans 12:10

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Quite honestly, I tend to honor myself above everyone else, including my spouse. But marital intimacy and growth demands the opposite–that I die to myself and think of my spouse first.

But if I’m truly honoring my spouse, I will refuse to make cutting or negative remarks. I will find ways to bless him, even when it is inconvenient or I am tired. I will not demand my own way but will instead, seek out what’s in his best interest and the best interest of my family. I will find ways to build him up throughout the day.

What about you? How has today’s devotion challenged you, or, what are some changes you’ve made personally that have blessed your marriage? Join the conversation in the comments below or by joining our Yahoo Proverbs study group.


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Today’s reading: Proverbs 5

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:8 Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!

Today’s Focus: Guarding against sin

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

 

Susan'sheadshotToday’s devotion, focusing on Proverbs 5, comes from one of my sweet friends and a Yahoo Proverbs study member, Susan Aken. When you think of God’s commands, do you feel slighted? Deprived? In the following devotion, Susan challenges us to think differently, realizing God’s loving and faithful and always has our best in mind.

God’s Plan for sex by Susan Aken

The wisdom shared in this chapter concerns immorality. Various translations refer to the woman in v. 3 as adulteress, immoral woman, strange woman, forbidden or loose woman. Obviously it is about being tempted to have a casual sexual relationship, and I think the principle would apply also to a woman being tempted by a forbidden man. Her lips “drip honey” and her (or his) speech is “smoother than oil”.

These verses apply so well in today’s world. Our society is so saturated with sex. We are not even surprised or shocked by casual sexuality anymore. But wisdom warns here that though he or she looks so appealing, “in the end she is…sharp as a double-edged sword”. Regret will come. (v.12) God’s wisdom is spurned in our society. “Drink water from your own cistern” v. 15 sounds archaic to most, it seems. The truth is that God’s ideal for us, one man and one woman committed to each other, is the best for us.

Jesus took it further when he said that even looking at a woman lustfully is like committing adultery. The abundance of pornography, graphic TV shows and movies, books that promote depravity, all these are like the woman whose lips drip honey. They promise a thrill that sounds so good. Keeping pure in heart sexually is a challenge for everyone in today’s world. Our flesh faces the sweet lies of sexual immorality everywhere we turn. But, in the end, we will regret that we did not listen to wisdom. God is not trying to steal our joy by calling us to purity; he wants to give us true joy that is free of regrets.

***

Susan Aken and her husband, Russ, will celebrate their 30th anniversary in May. They have one son who just turned 20. She was a school media specialist for 17 years. She quit when their son was 2 to be at home with him. She returned to work as a substitute teacher when he was in 5th grade and is still working as a sub. She has two books she self-published some years ago and has a blog she neglected in 2012 but wants to do better with it this year. She grew up knowing about Jesus and personally acknowledged him as Lord when she was 13. She’s had many ups and downs but He has been her solid rock. She used to think that by the time she was this age she would be this spiritual giant who would have figured things out. Instead she’s learned that we are all on a journey. Sometimes we move forward and sometimes we slide back, but we won’t reach full maturity until we see Jesus face to face.

Visit Susan online at: http://aken53.wordpress.com

***

So how do you guard your heart from sin? Not to sound cliche, but I suggest to you the best defense is a good offense. 😉 Or, in other words, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16-17 NLT).

Let’s talk about this.

What are some ways to guard our minds and hearts against sexual immorality?

We all know the physical dangers of sexual immorality–unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But how does sexual immorality affect us at our core?

How might memorizing and meditating on Scripture help insulate you against temptation? (And yes, that was sly nagging that translates as: You are working on memorizing this week’s verse, right? How’s that going? Because tomorrow begins a new week with a new verse. 🙂 And yet another opportunity for us to set our hearts and minds on the things of God.)

I’d love to know your thoughts! You can share them in the comments below, at Facebook, or through our online Bible study. If you’re looking for a cyber-study to join, it’s not to late, and we’d love to have you!


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Today’s reading: Proverbs 5

Today’s focal verse: Proverbs 5:8 Stay away from her!
Don’t go near the door of her house!

Today’s Focus: Guarding against sin

This week’s memory verse: 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best of everything you produce. Then He will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine.

Sin doesn’t “just happen.” Temptation arises everywhere, but many times, before the temptation comes, we’ll find we’ve placed ourselves where we shouldn’t be or have exposed ourselves to something we shouldn’t have.

If you are or have been a parent, you probably remember how diligently you guarded your child/children, especially when they were young. You Hear no evilmonitored what they watched on television and took a special interest in who their friends were. In yesterday’s devotion, written by Delia Latham, she reminded us of the need to guard our hearts with the same diligence.

Today I encourage you to guard not only your hearts, but your steps as well.

Affairs don’t just happen, and no one is immune.

In 1 Corinthians 10:12, Paul warns us: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

And in Matthew 26:41, Jesus urges us to “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

Or, in other words, to be on guard for the pitfalls of our flesh.

Pause for a moment to consider the warnings in Proverbs 5 in light of your own life and marriage. What are the dangers of thinking we we won’t sin?

What are some ways to guard ourselves against infidelity?

Pause for a moment to think back to Proverbs chapters 1-4. What role does the heart and ming–what we think about–play in sin?

Let’s talk about this! You can join the conversation by leaving comments below or by joining our Yahoo study group.


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Join us tomorrow when my sweet friend and one of our Yahoo Proverbs study members discusses this further.