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Family Christian

  • The Crushing Times

    The Crushing Times by Lysa TerKeurst

    “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don’t snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram. We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive …

    … when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    … when the teacher sends one of “those” emails about my child.

    … when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    … when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let’s journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel. Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, “When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples” (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. This garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest, said to Peter, James and John, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it. And I don’t think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life. The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit — and so do we. We need both winds of hardship and relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes: washing, breaking, soaking, sometimes salting, and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness and prepared for usefulness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well … the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is the best way to preserve it for the long run. It must be crushed in order to extract the oil. The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are “pressed … but not crushed”? Let’s read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; …”

    This was one of the biggest “aha” moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn’t the olive’s end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It’s also the way to get what’s most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed … pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    I think I need to revisit these truths often:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I’m being processed, I forget it’s for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I’m being crushed, I forget it’s for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this.

    Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful that on the other side of the process of being broken and waiting is a useful heart free of bitterness. Help me to hold fast to You when the days are especially hard. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (NIV) I love how Eugene Peterson describes those same verses, “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you walking through a difficult season? Look back on the points Lysa made. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories. © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Calming My Back-to-School Mama’s Heart

    Calming My Back-to-School Mama’s Heart by Karen Ehman

    “Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Luke 2:51-52 (HCSB)

    Neatly lined notebook paper. Sharpened number two pencils. A brand-new box of brightly-colored crayons. A sturdy lunch box ready for the first PB&J of the year. Permission slips. Sports schedules. Class lists. So many details and so much stuff!

    This time of year, shopping for 3-ring binders can seem almost like a 3-ring circus. Gone are the lazy days of summer. The fall school routine brings new courses, loads of homework and many extra curricular activities.

    While the arrival of the school year brings a fresh start — and soon the change of seasons — it can also bring a lot of worry to a mama’s heart.

    Our thoughts turn toward our children’s interaction with others. We wonder how our timid child will fare in a brand-new classroom, when most of his friends are in another class. We fret about our prank-pulling middle schooler, earnestly hoping he doesn’t make a habit of getting called to the principal’s office. We fear for our high school student, worried she will start hanging around the wrong crowd.

    Or we stress over academic concerns. Will our struggling first grader ever make progress in her reading? Will math ever click with our fifth grader who gets hives when she sees a story problem? Will our high schooler get into his hoped-for university?

    Besides relational and academic matters, we also long for kids who are spiritually and physically healthy and strong. If left unchecked, our thoughts and concerns as mothers can wreak havoc on our hearts as we allow the tentacles of worry to choke out our joy.

    We find an antidote to worry in the gospel of Luke and the story of Mary and Jesus.

    Luke 2 mentions four areas Jesus grew in as a young boy: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.” Our Lord grew wiser each year. He physically grew. His relationship with His heavenly Father continually strengthened. Jesus even gained favor with people here on earth who saw Him day to day.

    And how I love the simple sentence that precedes this: “His mother kept all these things in her heart.”

    When Mary was mothering Jesus, she tucked thoughts of her son safely in her heart. Some Bible translations say she “treasured” them. Others use the word “cherished.” The original Greek word meant, “to keep safe or hold fast.” In none of these descriptions do we see Mary fretting and fussing, worried and anxious, disquieted and unsettled. She pondered about her son and his growth, but she didn’t allow her mama heart to become rattled.

    This fall, let’s turn our anxious thoughts into treasured prayers, kept safe and held fast by our loving Father — the one who knows our hearts and loves our children even more than we do. When a concern pops up in our mind, let’s drop to our knees and carry that concern to God. When we start to fear for our child’s future, let’s petition the only one who knows exactly what the future holds.

    When we turn our worries into our prayers, we create space in our hearts to treasure and cherish the sweet moments with our kids. These paper-and-pencil school days won’t last forever.

    Let’s delight in all that God is teaching our kids, whether it’s how to read, how to forge friendships or how to solidify their walk with Him. And realize they aren’t the only ones being taught; we moms are learning a life-long lesson in trusting and treasuring, knowing God is always in control.

    Father, please help me this year to turn my worries into prayers, knowing You are in control. Allow me to treasure each moment with my children as they grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with others and also with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, “Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: List one worry or fear you have for each of your children or someone younger in her faith — whether they are school age or not. Now, how can you reword that issue, turning it into a prayer to God?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Can a Wounded Marriage Be Better Than New?

    Can a Wounded Marriage Be Better Than New? by Cindy Beall

    “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6 (NLT)

    It was a mild day in central Texas on January 9, 1993. I remember it well because that was the day I stood in front of the people I loved, to proclaim my commitment to Chris Beall. For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death parts us.

    Always and forever, I knew I would be his, and he would be mine. We would serve Jesus together and in my mind, everything would work out perfectly. It just would.

    However, one February morning close to a decade later would prove me a fool.

    Within minutes of my husband walking through the door, my world crumbled as I listened to him confess his infidelity and pornography addiction. After a slew of questions, as well as long periods of silent weeping, I began to suffer from an onslaught of unbearable pain, suffocating despair and waves and waves of grief. My desire to leave this world and meet Jesus face to face was powerful. Surely, I thought, that would be better than my present predicament.

    That was over 14 years ago.

    Thankfully, God brought my husband and me through that fire, and we don’t even smell like smoke. The first thing God did was heal each of us from the inside out, and then He was able to make our marriage better than new.

    He gave us a platform where we could shout, “You don’t have to throw in the towel when marriage gets tough. Ask us how we know!” God has been more than faithful to redeem, restore and reinvent two broken people.

    I wonder what circumstance you’re facing right now that makes your heart weary and heavy, or makes you cry on a daily basis.

    Maybe your marriage is broken and you have no idea how to climb out of the pit you’re in. Perhaps you struggle with your health and no treatment seems to make a difference. It could be your children are weary, wounded, angry or far from God, and some days even getting out of bed feels like an Olympic sport.

    I get it.

    There were days I could barely lift my head from my pillow. Mornings where I awoke with joy only to have it dashed because I suddenly remembered, Oh yeah, this really did happen. And there were times when the trigger of a past event left me helpless and in a puddle of tears in the middle of some store. There were moments of hope only to be eradicated by our spiritual enemy’s assault of doubt.

    I’ve been in that pit of despair. But, by the generous grace of our God, I am no longer taking up any real estate in that deep abyss.

    May this former pit-dweller offer you some hope? God can take your questions and your pain. In the midst of your storm, rest in the truth that God sees and He knows. He has not forgotten your discomfort. He is holding each tear you’ve cried. He will never leave you.

    Just as we read in today’s key verse, the Lord wants us to be strong and courageous, not fearful or panicked: “God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6b). He is always near.

    Sometimes I’d much rather God just wave His majestic arm and make everything better. Yet, it’s the difficult times that develop our character and simultaneously reveal God’s glory while making us more like Him.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for making the journey with us through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You for being our peace and comfort in the midst of tumultuous situations. Help us be aware of Your presence each day so we can walk in the power of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 40:29-31, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What current struggle are you facing that makes you feel alone, panicked or afraid? Find truth from God’s Word to stand as you press on in faith. © 2016 by Cindy Beall. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • What Can I Do to Bring You Joy?What Can I Do to Bring You Joy?

    What Can I Do to Bring You Joy? by Suzie Eller

    “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” Romans 5:11 (NLT)

    Lord, take care of that friend who is a missionary.

    Lord, heal my hurting heart.

    Father, help me to be wise with our finances.

    Father, I need You right now.

    If I could stack up my prayer requests, I’m sure they’d reach the sky. I’ve been bringing them to God for a long time, sometimes whispered in a time of crisis and other times as I settle in the morning for quiet time. I love that God is receptive to each request and hears every one.

    However, a while back, I started praying a little differently.

    I started talking to God as if He were truly a friend, someone who wasn’t just the recipient of my requests, but a dear friend where the conversation was mutual. This idea might seem strange to some, but it’s very biblical.

    In Romans 5, Paul reminds us that Jesus came to earth as a result of God’s love for us. It was God’s desire that the cross and resurrection forever break down walls that sin erected.

    Paul doesn’t stop there, however. He joyfully shares that this reconciliation brought us into a wonderful new relationship with God — that of a friend.

    This concept of God as a friend doesn’t diminish His sovereignty or the fact that He is powerful. Rather it reveals His desire not only to know us, but to be known.

    I would never come to a friend with only requests or only praise of their virtues. I would tune in to that person’s heart; sharing would be mutual.

    That’s what led me to pray in a different way. I began my conversations every morning asking one simple question: Lord, is there anything I can do to bring You joy today?

    That simple question led to answers, some of them surprising. One day I was rocking 2-year-old Josiah, my grandson. His tired mama rested in the other room. I sang a silly song over him and he snuggled close.

    This brings Me joy.

    Those words came from deep within. A confirmation that God was delighted by what I was doing.

    He saw something I didn’t. Perhaps it was the fact that Josiah was snug in my arms and that moment was building security in this little man’s heart. I’ll never know for sure, but it brought God joy and that was enough.

    On another day, a friend messaged me. She was having a bad day. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I felt that gentle tug so I messaged her and we chatted for no more than 15 minutes. I ended our conversation with the words, “I love you big and I’m going to pray for you.” Then I knelt and prayed before going on with my schedule for the day.

    There it was again. That inner knowing.

    This brings Me joy.

    I had assumed it was the bigger things that brought God joy. You know, like telling someone about Jesus or changing the world. Certainly, these are beautiful in the eyes of our Heavenly Father, but these small moments matter to God, too.

    As we begin our everyday conversations with God asking, “What might I do to bring You joy today?” our spiritual ears start to open. We might discover that some of the smallest events of our day are actually miracles, as we partner with God to love people.

    Coming to God as a friend as well as our heavenly Father draws us into the wonderful relationship Paul talked about in Romans 5:11: “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

    Maybe today is a great day to flip our prayer lives in a whole new direction.

    What can we do to bring You joy today, Lord?

    We just might be surprised at the answer.

    Heavenly Father, what can I do today to bring You joy? Not to earn points with You, but to simply talk with You. To hear Your heart, as well as to share mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Sometimes what brings God joy may be buried in the heart of our request. Our prayer might be, “Lord, fix my friend’s hurting heart.” As we reach out to her with a note or words of encouragement, our response might be exactly what delights the heart of God.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Bible Journaling for Beginners: 4 Easy-to-Follow Steps to Help You Get Started

    If you’ve been on Instagram or Pinterest lately, you’ve probably seen your fair share of Bible journaling photos. In the midst of all those masterpieces, it can be intimidating to try your hand at it. Bible journaling is a great way to document your spiritual journey – and the good news is you don’t need to be a creative genius to do it!

    We’re here to help you get stared with 30% off select journaling Bibles and accessories now through August 25. There’s never been a better time to pick out a Bible, stock up on some supplies and jump in with these easy-to-follow steps!

    Step 1: Prepare Your Heart Before you tackle the pens and paints, set your mind on what really matters. Spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal Himself to you. Pray that your focus would be on pleasing God and not on pursuing perfection.

    Step 2: Get Into The Word As you dig into your Bible, take note of verses and words that stand out to you. Don’t know where to start? Try using a devotional to guide you through God’s Word and provide context around the piece of scripture you’re reading.

    Step 3: Put It On Paper Write down or draw out what spoke to you as you were reading God’s Word. It’s okay to start with a few words or writing out a verse. Don’t feel like you need to decorate the entire page. As you begin to feel more comfortable, you can add in some color and texture by using stamps, stickers, paint and washi tape.

    Step 4: Have Fun Enjoy yourself! It’s easy to fall into the enemy’s trap of comparing your skills, abilities and artwork to others. Know that Bible journaling is between you and God and He is simply rejoicing that you choose to spend time in His presence. So stop chasing perfection and give yourself the freedom to try something new.

    We hope these steps encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and connect with the Father on a deeper level. We’d love to see what you create and hear what’s worked well for you. Tag us on Instagram or post your works of art on our Facebook page.

    What are your favorite Bible journaling tips?

  • Is Faith Something We Believe? Or Something We Do?

    Is Faith Something We Believe? Or Something We Do? by Liz Curtis Higgs

    “She thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’” Mark 5:28 (NIV)

    Many of us struggle with health concerns, money woes or family traumas and wonder why God hasn’t answered our prayers. Do I need more patience? More courage? More faith?

    We’ll find the answer in Capernaum, a fishing village on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. A place of miracles and healings. A sacred place.

    As soon as Jesus arrived that day, a large crowd gathered, including a certain woman. No name. No age. We only know she came a long way to see Jesus — 30 miles, some scholars say. A challenging walk for someone who was unwell because she’d been “bleeding for twelve years” (Mark 5:25b, NIV).

    Every woman’s nightmare. An endless flow of blood. Not one week a month, but every week of every month for 12 long years. Imagine the pain, the shame, the hygiene issues, the anemia, the exhaustion.

    Desperate for relief, she spent all she had in seeking medical help, but “instead of getting better she grew worse” (Mark 5:26b, NIV). Not only was her body bleeding, her bank account was bled dry as well. Have you been there, friend? At the end of your rope?

    Here’s the good news: Faith was all this woman had left. And faith was all she needed.

    In God’s perfect timing “When she heard about Jesus” (Mark 5:27a, NIV) she made tracks for Capernaum. Our bleeding woman, who wasn’t supposed to touch anyone, “came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak” (Mark 5:27b, NIV).

    Today’s verse reveals the depth of her faith: “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed” (Mark 5:28b). She believed. She trusted. And so she turned her faith into action. Truth is, she’d done so miles ago when she left the safety of her home and started out for Jesus Town. It was a walk of faith on the outside and a leap of faith on the inside.

    Too often we base our faith on how we feel. A better measure is what we do, since “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17b, NIV).

    When we put feet to our faith, believing we’ll find an answer, that’s when miracles happen.

    “Immediately her bleeding stopped” (Mark 5:29a, NIV). She didn’t simply feel better. She was utterly “freed from her suffering” (Mark 5:29b, NIV). No more blood, no more pain, no more shame.

    She’s not the only one who noticed. “At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him” (Mark 5:30a, NIV). Zap! When He “turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’” (Mark 5:30b, NIV), this woman’s stomach had to be tied in a knot, especially when He “kept looking around to see who had done it” (Mark 5:32, NIV).

    She could have avoided His gaze, crawled away, kept her healing to herself. But those are cowardly acts, and faith requires a measure of courage. She’d walked many miles. She’d stretched out her hand. This was her third act of faith: she “fell at his feet” (Mark 5:33b, NIV).

    So brave, so honest, so open! Then she spoke to Him — another step of faith — and despite trembling with fear, she “told him the whole truth” (Mark 5:33c, NIV), holding nothing back.

    Jesus responded by calling her “Daughter” (Mark 5:34b, NIV). Of all people! This ostracized, unclean, don’t-get-anywhere-near-her woman. His tender endearment assured the crowd, “She’s family. She belongs to Me.”

    Then He told her, “Your faith has healed you” (Mark 5:34c, NIV). Her faith? How is that possible? Because the healing power of Jesus passed through His garment to meet her outstretched hand. Even before her fingers brushed against the threads, she was already healed because she dared to believe.

    The Lord is calling us to do the same. God calls us to demonstrate our faith by doing something brave and bold. To act on our belief in Jesus by reaching beyond our comfort zone, knowing He is ready and waiting with healing in His wings.

    Heavenly Father, remind me that I am Your daughter and can call on Your power to help, to heal, to save. Give me the courage to take risks and the faith to believe You are with me and for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 3:12, “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (NIV) Luke 1:45, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: It’s right and good to pray for more faith. God also wants us to act on our faith. To knock on a closed door, to respond kindly to an enemy, to ask for the impossible, believing all things are possible with God. What leap of faith is God asking you to take right now?

    © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Rejection from Man Doesn’t Mean Rejection from God

    Rejection from Man Doesn’t Mean Rejection from God by Lysa TerKeurst

    “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 (NIV)

    There’s nothing quite like waiting 15 years to receive a phone call. When it finally came, it was the slightest crack in the doorway of my dream to be a speaker.

    I was hesitantly excited. When you have wanted something for a long time and it comes close enough to become a reality, it’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time.

    Suddenly, your heart shifts from neutral into this vulnerable place where acceptance commingles with rejection. And you are all too aware, things could go either way.

    So, I packaged up a CD of one of my talks and sent it off. And I let my mind prematurely celebrate.

    Then I waited.

    And waited.

    And nothing.

    Feeling like a foolish girl who’d bought a prom dress before actually being asked to the dance, I sheepishly called to inquire whether or not the CD had been received. I was told it had been and if I hadn’t heard anything yet, I should assume it was a “No.”

    Ouch.

    That’s when you go sit on your back deck, close your eyes and decide whether to let the tears slip quietly down your cheeks or blink them back in an act of courageous defiance.

    Rejection stinks.

    I mean it really stinks.

    It stunk when no guy asked me to couple skate in the 5th grade. It stunk when when my dad left our family. It stunk when I thought I was getting engaged at the very dinner when my college boyfriend broke up with me. It stunk when for years, all of my book proposals were declined by publishers. And it stunk when I sat on my deck and processed this situation.

    Sometimes things like this just simply stink and there’s no cheery rainbow or pot of gold around the next corner. The music doesn’t crescendo as the hero in the story swoops you onto the side of his horse and the two of you ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

    Sometimes it just is what it is. And that’s that.

    But God’s girls have a beautiful promise tucked in our pockets that lets us smile even when tears puddle in the corner of our eyes. Even when there’s no rainbow, pot of gold or galloping prince — we have the promise of resurrection.

    On the other side of death there will always be a resurrection of some sort. Maybe not a resurrection of our circumstances. And maybe not a resurrection of things lining up like we thought they should. But there will be a resurrection.

    Jesus has insured that.

    Nothing in this world can permanently strip hope from our lives when we know, “we do not follow cleverly invented stories about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” but we follow the reality of the Risen One (2 Peter 1:16).

    Jesus.

    The One who was well-acquainted with rejection. The One who was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, crucified and buried. The One death could not hold down.

    He is our resurrection.

    He is our hope.

    He is that beautiful reminder that rejection from man doesn’t equal rejection from God.

    And He is the One who is weaving a story into our life that will one day make sense.

    Dear Jesus, You know what rejection feels like. That’s why You are the perfect One for me to run to when I feel rejected. Today, I’m bringing you the broken pieces of my heart and asking You to stir hope deep within me again. Rejection did not get to have the final say in Your life, and I am choosing to believe it will not have the final say in mine either. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have recent rejections left your heart feeling hollow and hopeless? Spend some time today thanking Jesus for the price He willingly paid for you on the cross. You may feel rejected by man, but you can remind your heart that you have been purposefully pursued by our God.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • It’s My Time

    It’s My Time by Leah DiPascal

    “A woman name Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a dealer in purple fabrics who was [already] a worshiper of God, listened to us; and the Lord opened her heart to pay attention and to respond to the things said by Paul.” Acts 16:14 (AMP)

    Every morning while it’s still dark outside, I sneak into my kitchen and make a dense cup of coffee before settling into my favorite chair.

    As the clock quickly ticks away, I grab a lightweight blanket and toss it over my lap, simultaneously reaching for my well-worn Bible. A deep breath in and a slow exhale. I know one thing for sure …

    It’s my time. It’s His time. It’s our time to be together.

    Before everyone wakes up and the day’s chatter begins, I get to be with Jesus. And for a few quiet moments, I don’t have to share Him with anyone.

    The routine may seem ordinary to some, but the words are always fresh to me. A new chapter from a different part of the Bible. What will He show me today?

    Sometimes I understand the text right away. Other times … not so much. I read it once, twice, maybe even three times. Then I pause and whisper, “Lord, open my eyes to see the wonderful things in Your Word. Help me understand what You’re trying to show me.”

    I don’t want to miss a single thing in God’s Word that could make a significant difference in my day.

    I don’t want the distractions of the clock or the weight of daily assignments to pull my thoughts away from His.

    I’ve come to meet with Jesus. To gather only with Him for a momentary Sabbath rest. To pray, ponder, understand and respond.

    In today’s key verse, we meet a woman named Lydia. She and her friends had gathered for prayer on the Sabbath when they encountered the Apostle Paul and his traveling companions just outside Macedonia, near the riverbanks.

    Scripture tells us Lydia was already a worshiper of God. But as Paul shared the Good News of Jesus and His redeeming work on the cross, we learn, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention and to respond to the things said by Paul” (Acts 16:14b).

    I absolutely love this statement! Oh, let’s not breeze past or miss any of its significance.

    The word opened in the original Greek is dianoigõ, which means, “to open thoroughly what had been closed. To open one's soul (mind, will, emotions), to rouse in one the faculty of understanding or the desire of learning.”

    In those priceless moments down by the riverside, God opened Lydia’s mind to pay attention and understand a fresh revelation of Jesus. He deposited a desire in her heart to learn more about the gospel of grace which Paul was generously sharing.

    Friend, let this be our heart’s greatest desire — today and every day!

    In our special moments with God, let’s ask Him to gently open our hearts wide so we can receive a fresher revelation of Jesus. No matter how much we think we know about Him, let us long to know Him more!

    Let’s yearn for a deeper understanding of His character and attributes. Let’s wake up every day saying, “Good Morning Jesus,” and embrace the desire to spend time with Him before anyone else, discovering His truths, memorizing His precepts and rejoicing in His promises.

    And in those quiet moments as we read through the pages of our Bible, if we come to a part we don’t understand, let’s pause and whisper ever so sincerely, “Jesus pull back the veil so I can see You more clearly and hear You more distinctly. Open my eyes to see the wonderful things in Your Word.”

    And when He does, let’s respond with a wellspring of joy and gratitude that will quench our souls and make our spirits soar!

    Lord, soften my heart and open it wide to receive all the love You have for me. Give me a greater desire to spend time with You. Teach me Your ways and help me understand Your attributes as I read my Bible. I want to know You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:18, “Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.” (TLB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take some time to read the story of Lydia in Acts 16. As you read, ask God to open your heart and mind to discover details in the text you’ve never noticed before. Write these new truths down and then share what you’ve learned with someone else.

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Forget Who You Are

    When You Forget Who You Are by Susie Larson

    “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak.” 2 Corinthians 4:13 (NIV)

    Ever had one of those weeks when everything that could go wrong did go wrong? You can’t find your groove, and your circumstances repeatedly trip you up and stress you out?

    I remember one such week for me.

    I battled insomnia in the worst way, which made me feel prickly all over. My children were out of sorts, too. They were under the weather and crabby and seemed to cry over the littlest things. I felt irritable and easily frustrated — so tired that my skin hurt.

    At one point I passed by a mirror and winced. I didn’t at all like the reflection staring back at me. I saw only the worst version of myself.

    Tired. Crabby. Exhausted. Brain-fogged.

    Which was especially uncomfortable since I had a speaking event coming up that weekend.

    How could I possibly prepare my heart when I couldn’t even find my footing? But then, deep within my soul, I sensed God’s invitation to trust Him with the surface parts of me, things I could barely stand to acknowledge, as well as to trust Him with the deepest parts of me that still needed healing and wholeness.

    Amid the temptation to loathe myself and cringe at my weakness, I put my foot down and prayed: “Lord, even here, even now, I belong to You. And despite my bleary eyes and messy hair, I’m still Your treasure — a spoken-for heir of God. This is true because You say it’s true. So I speak it out loud for my own ears to hear and I choose to believe it until my heart fully knows it. Thank You, thank You for seeing past my frazzled exterior and for valuing the treasure of my soul. I wrap my arms around Your grace. I seek Your face in this place. And I will finish this race because You promised to get me safely home. In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.”

    Something stirred in my heart after that prayer. I knew God’s words were true regardless of how I felt about myself.

    Just like we read in 2 Corinthians 4:13, we too can believe and therefore speak. How? First, we dare to believe; we grab God’s truth as our very own. Then, it’s our choice to believe; we walk and talk like it’s true.

    When faith makes its way into our ears, it also finds its way into our hearts. Often when my ears hear my mouth say truths God has reflected in His Word, I’m changed. I’m strengthened. And I remember once again I’m not who I was. I’m not what I do. I’m someone God loves and enjoys.

    In life, we’ll walk through storms which smash against us. We’ll try to find our footing amidst pelting rain and whipping winds. Sometimes those storms are of our own making. Sometimes they’re the natural elements of a fallen world. And sometimes we’re turned upside down in a storm that had nothing to do with us and everything to do with someone else’s rotten choices.

    No matter the reason for the storm, at times we’ll find ourselves responding in ways that are beneath us. We’ll say things we wish we hadn’t. We’ll be forced to reckon with our humanity and with our very real need for a Savior. (Praise God we have one!)

    During such times it helps to remind our souls that we love because He loved us first. We can walk in God’s promises, not because we’re perfect, but because He is perfect. We can enjoy God’s presence because He’s the One who invited us there in the first place. We can and will be used greatly by Him because He knew all about our frailties long before we were ever aware of them, and He planned ahead of time to redeem us from them. Amazing grace!

    Thank You, Lord, that Your words are true and I can fully believe them. Even when I trip up, You’re there to catch me. You don’t look the other way in disgust. Your grace is enough for me! There is no one like You! I will believe. I do believe. I will, therefore, speak with boldness and great power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:17, “Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you kind to your soul? Do you see yourself as an heir? Dare to believe (and speak) what’s true about you because of Jesus.

    © 2016 by Susie Larson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Baker Publishing Group for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • The 5 Best Things to Say to a Friend Today

    The 5 Best Things to Say to a Friend Today by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13 (NIV)

    I remember sitting in the smelly middle school gym like it was yesterday.

    I’d survived the awkward and much-dreaded moments of changing into my PE uniform in the girls’ locker room. And now I sat on the hard bleachers listening to the squeak of tennis shoes, the uneven cadence of bouncing balls, the teacher’s sharp whistle and the girls laughing behind me.

    They weren’t laughing with me. That would have meant I was accepted, wanted and invited in to be a part of their group.

    No, they were laughing at me.

    I was the subject of their gossip. I was the punch line of their jokes.

    And it hurt.

    I imagine you know that hurt too. Change the scenery and people, and this same hurt can be found in most of our lives:

    • When your coworkers all make plans to go to lunch, but you weren’t invited.
    • When that other preschool mom says, “Several of us moms are concerned with how aggressive your child seems on the playground.”
    • When everyone else’s social media makes marriage look dreamy and uber-romantic as you’re crying yourself to sleep.

    Then a friend steps in with a gentle smile and a few simple words of encouragement and suddenly you’re not alone.

    I want to be that friend for you today.

    In the midst of whatever made your heart feel knocked off-kilter, can I whisper what I believe are the 5 best things one can say to a friend? And then might you give the gift of saying these things to a friend today?

    This list is from our key verses, Romans 12:12-13, in a section titled “Love.”

    1. “You’re wonderful.”

    (Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope …”)

    The world is quick to tell us all the ways we fall short. We are hyperaware of our faults and frailties.

    So, what a precious gift to remind a friend of specific ways she’s a wonderful friend, a wonderful mom, a wonderful Jesus girl, a wonderful wife, a wonderful co-worker, a wonderful person.

    2. “Me too.”

    (Romans 12:12, “… patient in affliction …”)

    What a blessing to remind a friend we all have afflictions, hurts, faults and tender places. We all get sick both emotionally and physically.

    The patient friend freely gives grace because she so desperately needs it herself. “Me too” acknowledges I’m no better than you, but together we are stronger. It’s such a loving and disarming admission that we’re all in this together.

    3. “I’ll pray.”

    (Romans 12:12, “… faithful in prayer.”)

    Wouldn’t it be wonderful to tell a friend you will absolutely be faithful in praying for her? I have someone who prays for me faithfully and even texts me Scriptures she’s praying. But here’s what I really love about her. She doesn’t just pray about my situations: She prays me through them.

    4. “I’ll share.”

    (Romans 12:13, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need …”)

    When we notice a need in a friend’s life, might we be willing to step in and be part of the solution? I have a friend who lost every possession she owned due to a chemical spill in her home. So, we threw her a “Job Party” (like the man in the Bible). Each of us brought a few things to help her family start over.

    We didn’t come close to fully meeting their financial needs. But we helped build a foundation of restoration and gave this family the assurance God was working on their behalf.

    5. “Come over.”

    (Romans 12:13, “Practice hospitality.”)

    Welcoming a friend inside the sacred space of our home is such a needed gesture. There’s just something about relationships that are less pixelated when we get eye-to-eye, voice-to-voice and talk. Really talk.

    Over broken bread we share broken hearts. And then we celebrate the parts of us that are still intact. We reach across the table and across our differences to grab hold of the glorious bond of friendship. Yes, these are 5 great things to say to a friend.

    And I’ve found as we purposefully ease the loneliness ache in others, we will see it is beautifully eased in us.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gift of friendship. Please show me who I can encourage today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 13:16, “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a friend in need. Of the five statements above, which one can you put into practice with her today?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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