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Family Christian

  • What’s in Your Heart?

    What’s in Your Heart? by Wendy Pope

    “Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies.” Psalm 24:4 (NLT)

    Many years ago, as I read the book of Exodus, I was appalled to learn how God’s people created and worshiped idols like the golden calf. Later, my disdain turned into understanding when I learned the definition of idol and uncovered my own false gods.

    An idol is any person or thing regarded or worshiped with blind admiration, adoration, intense love or extreme devotion. Studying this definition forced me to examine my life. When I asked myself what I adored and loved the most, sleep topped my list.

    For me, there was nothing compared to changing into my pajama bottoms after a long day, curling up in bed with a good book and not waking up until I hit the snooze button a couple of times the next morning. If my kids or husband interrupted my sleep, it must have been for a very, very good reason! Some days (OK, many days) my first waking thought was, “I can’t wait to go back to sleep tonight.”

    My extreme admiration for sleep had overtaken my desire to spend time with the Lord in the morning. Instead of getting up to read the Bible and pray, I’d roll over and dream. God wasn’t first, second or even third in my heart’s desires.

    God knew the desire for us to create idols would be tempting. It’s human nature to go after things we can see (hence the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind”), but as God’s people, we must remember to keep our spiritual eyes on Him.

    Friends, this is nothing new. Moses warned God’s people about turning their affections away from their Creator and onto His creation:

    “So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form … don’t be seduced into worshiping them … Remember that the LORD rescued you … in order to make you his very own people and his special possession, which is what you are today” (see Deuteronomy 4:16a, 19b-20, NLT).

    Everyone’s idols will differ: money, marriage, notoriety, security. Whatever our idols are, they can’t remain in our hearts. Why? In Psalm 24, David asks who can be near God. The answer is found in today’s key verse: "Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who do not worship idols and never tell lies" (Psalm 24:4).

    If we are to be in a close relationship with the Lord, we can’t have idols lingering in our hearts. Jesus said in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money” (NLT).

    Or sleep. Or ________ {you fill in the blank}.

    It may not seem like a big deal for us to desire wealth, fame, relationships or other seemingly insignificant things. But when these take precedence over God, it is a major issue to Him. Scripture tells us that He is jealous for our hearts and will not — nor should He — share His glory with another (Deuteronomy 4:24).

    Reality television has co-opted the word jealous: we see housewives jealous over handbags and luxury vehicles; chefs jealous over others’ delicious, well-executed dishes; bachelorettes jealous over fun dates other women go on. But they aren’t actually jealous; they are envious.

    Envy longs for what belongs to others.

    Jealousy passionately desires what rightly belongs to you.

    You and I belong to God, so when anything claims our affections, time, money, thoughts or desires more than He does, He becomes jealous. He loves us and knows nothing can fulfill us like He can and nothing is better for us than His ways. In fact, Psalm 24:5 says that when we purify our hearts of idols, we “will receive the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God [our] savior” (NLT). God longs to be the one thing you long for the most.

    Every now and then, I still struggle with desiring more sleep than I need. But now, instead of settling in for an excessive snooze, it’s a lot easier to convince my sleepy bones to follow my heart’s true desire — to spend every moment I can with the One my heart longs for.

    Lord, investigate my heart, search every part. Reveal anything that is keeping me from having a right relationship with You. Forgive me for elevating anything and anyone above You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 10:14, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: To what or whom do you have blind admiration, adoration, extreme devotion or intense love?

    How will you safeguard your heart against giving that thing or person first place in your life where only God belongs?

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • No Matter What

    No Matter What by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (NIV)

    I remember the day Art and I settled in our hearts that we would choose God’s love and the pursuit of a relationship with Him, no matter what.

    We were in the hospital with our middle daughter who was 6 weeks old. She had seemed a perfectly healthy baby until an allergic reaction to the protein in my breast milk landed us in the intensive care unit. The doctors told us on the fourth day of our visit that Ashley needed emergency surgery, and they did not expect her to survive.

    They gave us five minutes to tell our baby goodbye.

    My heart was shattered.

    I so desperately wanted to scoop her up and run out of the hospital. I wanted to somehow breathe my life into hers. I wanted to take her place. I could handle my own death so much easier than the death of my child. Art prayed over Ashley, we both said our goodbyes, and then, with tears streaming down our faces, we let her go.

    When Art took me outside to the hospital parking lot, I collapsed into his arms. He gently cupped my face in his hands and reminded me that Ashley was God’s child to give and His to take back.

    “Lysa, God loves Ashley even more than we do,” he gently told me. “We must trust His plan.”

    Art then asked me to do something, and it changed my whole perspective on my relationship with God. “We have to get it settled in our hearts that we will love God no matter the outcome of Ashley’s surgery,” he said.

    At first I resented Art’s desire that we love God in this way. I feared it might give the impression it was alright for God to take Ashley.

    With all my being, I wanted to hold on to my child and refuse God. Yet, though I was heartbroken, I also felt God’s compassion. I felt Him drawing me close and pouring out His tender mercy. God knew firsthand the pain we were feeling because He’d felt it Himself. I knew that, ultimately, I had no ability to control my child’s future.

    With tears pouring from our eyes, Art and I released our sweet Ashley to the Lord and promised to love Him no matter what.

    It was as if the more I fell into God’s arms, the less the pain of the moment seared my heart. Feeling the power of God took away the fear of the unknown. I stopped thinking about the what-if’s and let my soul simply say, OK. God, in this minute I choose rest with You. I will not let my mind go to the minutes that are coming. I will simply be in this moment and face it with peace.

    That day we settled our love for God not just for this situation, but for all time. Though we did not feel at all happy, a gentle covering of unexplainable calm settled over our hearts. Knowing that the One who loved Ashley even more than we did was taking care of her, and that His plan for her was perfect, brought peace in the middle of heartbreak.

    The end of this chapter of Ashley’s life was miraculous and we are so grateful. Though the doctors can’t explain how, she made a full recovery. Who can understand why God answers prayer the way He does?

    I know the devastating other side of situations like this — where my little sister didn't recover, and we stood at her grave, helpless and heartbroken.

    But both situations have taught me that no matter what God’s answer, our hearts can be settled to trust and love Him. I don't have to understand; I just have to trust. This kind of total surrender brings about a depth of peace and relationship with God you can’t get any other way. It all stems from living out today’s key verse, loving God “with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

    Nothing in life is certain. Circumstances roll in and out like the ocean’s tide. And the unknown can sometimes seem so frightening.

    We can’t stop or control things that roll our way any more than we can stop the water’s edge.

    But we can make the minute-by-minute choice to let our souls rest in God.

    Dear Lord, I want to love You with all of my heart, all of my soul and all of my strength like Your Word instructs. Teach me how to give up the control I try to maintain as I experience uncertainties and hard times. Guide me in pursuing a love relationship with You no matter what comes my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are difficult circumstances causing you to pull away from God? Ask Him to help you surrender them to Him today.

    Write out your own “no matter what” prayer — one you can turn to when times get tough.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Who Owns Your Stuff?

    Who Owns Your Stuff? by Karen Ehman

    “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” 1 Chronicles 29:14b (NIV)

    I was beside myself with excitement on that spring afternoon. With my brand new driver’s license in my purse, I snagged the car keys from my dad and took the Cutlass for a spin — all by myself! It didn’t matter it was an old clunker, complete with rust spots and faded army green paint. I was thrilled to call it “my car.” Although the title was in my dad’s name, I still felt the pride of ownership.

    Can you remember the thrill of owning something for the first time?

    Maybe your first watch? Or bicycle? Or maybe, after years of scraping and saving, it was the joy of owning your very first home! Whether large or small, we like our things. But it begs the question, who really owns our stuff?

    The Bible gives us a true perspective of what we call “ours.”

    In 1 Chronicles 29, we see King David preparing to build God’s temple. He mentions he will spare no resource toward the construction, but will donate his own possessions and personal treasures of gold and silver. Then, other Israelite leaders join in willingly and joyfully donating gold, silver, bronze, iron and precious jewels toward the building of the temple (see 1 Chronicles 29:6-9).

    After gathering the resources for the temple, David praises God in front of the whole assembly. Notice he doesn’t praise the people for their generosity, nor boast about himself and his charitable giving.

    Instead, David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,

    “Praise be to you, LORD the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.

    Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.”

    He continues:

    “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you” (1 Chronicles 29:10b-11a, 14-17, NIV).

    Wow. Did you catch that?

    “Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand” (1 Chronicles 29:14b).

    What an amazing perspective on our possessions. If the ancient Israelites were so willing to offer what God had given them, turning right back around and investing in building His temple, could we today use all that He’s given us to build up other believers and also to encourage others who might not know Him yet?

    It’s a subtle but crucial shift in perspective when we realize everything we work for here on earth really doesn’t belong to us. Instead it all comes from God. All our possessions are His in the beginning and at the end of our lives.

    The question comes down to this: Who owns your stuff? Will you willingly share so others’ lives may be bettered? The satisfaction from serving God in this way never rusts, tarnishes or fades.

    Dear God, help me remember that You own all my stuff. Help me have the same mindset as King David, to share it all with others so Your work can be done and others’ lives can be touched. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 6:20-21, “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (NLT)

    Psalm 50:10, “For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you remember about owning an item for the very first time? What about your first real paycheck? How can the subtle shift in perspective that God owns your stuff encourage you to be more generous?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Love Seems to Fade

    When Love Seems to Fade by Alicia Bruxvoort

    "There are three things that amaze me — no, four things that I don’t understand: how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.” Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

    One entire weekend. No kids. Just my husband and me, alone in the mountains.

    It sounded like a dream come true. Except …

    By the time we finally stepped away from our busy lives to celebrate our anniversary, it felt like our love had lost its luster. Our marriage had morphed into an ordinary humdrum of kids, carpools, commitments and careers, and I wondered if we would ever rediscover the whimsical joy that marked our story from the start.

    “Lord, I want our love to be extraordinary again,” I prayed as I followed my husband’s footsteps up a craggy mountain trail on a hike one afternoon.

    When we reached the peak, we sat silently side by side and watched the sinking sun illuminate the canyon below in a blaze of orange glory.

    “God, I want our marriage to be beautiful like that,” I whispered as my husband laced his fingers through mine.

    And while I didn’t hear God’s voice peal from the sky, a simple thought crossed my mind. “Look for the beauty right where you are …”

    “Beauty in the bedlam?” I silently questioned the God of the universe. “God, You know our life right now is filled with bills and babies, tears and tantrums.”

    A shadow danced across my dusty shoes, and I dropped my eyes to study the stones scattered at our feet. And that’s when God reminded me of a little lesson I’d learned one spring from an obscure pile of gravel and a wide-eyed little girl …

    My mind wandered back to the day we’d gathered seashells near the ocean. Suddenly, my daughter had plopped on the ground with a squeal of joy and began digging with gusto in the filthy gravel.

    When I’d tried to convince her it was just ordinary old gravel, my daughter had flashed me a knowing smile. Then she extended her hand to show me the lovely pink shell she held in her palm. “This gravel may be ordinary,” she conceded, “but if you look closely, it’s really beautiful …”

    As I sat on the mountaintop, I couldn’t help but smile at that sweet memory, a visual reminder to find beauty everywhere.

    The sunlight started to wane, so my husband and I began to weave our way down the trailhead with steady speed. My feet hit a patch of slippery stones and suddenly, my legs wobbled and slid. My husband steadied my frame with a strong gentle hand.

    I thought about the cavern ablaze with wonder and the “beautiful” gravel speckled with shells and the wise words I’d read that morning in my Bible. “There are three things that amaze me — no, four things that I don’t understand … the way that a man loves a woman.”

    Proverbs 30:19 reminds us that love is downright amazing. There’s nothing ordinary about a man choosing to love a woman for a lifetime, nothing trite about two people committing to love one another through the daily grind. Even love tucked into the folds of an ordinary life is one of God’s most beautiful gifts.

    Suddenly, I was awash with awe as I looked at the man who faithfully walks beside me through the marvelous and the mundane. And I whispered a prayer that God would keep me from growing blind to the amazing gift He had given me.

    When we reached the end of our hike, I picked up a simple souvenir — a handful of auburn gravel. I slipped those little stones into my pocket with a smile, because sometimes we just need something to remind us of the beauty of ordinary love.

    Dear Jesus, thank You for loving me with an amazing love. Help me to love my husband in the same way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 13:4a, “Love does not give up.” (NLV)

    Proverbs 18:22, “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the LORD.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Thank your spouse specifically for something you noticed he does to love you in the midst of the daily grind.

    Ask Jesus to open your eyes to something amazing about your marriage you haven’t seen before.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Motherhood Press

    The Motherhood Press by Brooke McGlothlin

    “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

    I sat in the late evening sun on the front porch of our home, head in hands, tears streaming down my face, rendered speechless by the realization that I didn’t have what it took to be the kind of mom I wanted to be.

    Before having kids, I’d never really failed at anything. Oh sure, I had been through failed relationships. I’d come close to failing a test here and there. I even failed to live up to my own expectations from time to time, but never the big things. Every goal I set for myself I achieved. But as a mom — the one thing I really wanted to get right in life — I was failing.

    I wanted everyone to believe I was capable of handling the two beautiful boys God gave me, but I wasn’t.

    I wanted everyone to believe I could juggle work, kids, husband, home and church with ease, but I couldn’t.

    I wanted everyone to believe crying babies, nursing problems, shift work and the Terrible Twos weren’t too much for me all at once, but they were.

    And what I really wanted everyone to believe — that I was a confident, capable, smart, fully independent woman — was keeping me from admitting the truth. I didn’t have what it took.

    Motherhood showed me just how much I needed Jesus.

    It scraped me, rubbed me raw and pressed ugly emotions and words out of my heart I didn’t even know were there.

    If you asked people I grew up with to describe my personality, I’m happy to report words like “angry, insensitive, overbearing, short-tempered and unkind” would not have topped the list. But there, sitting on my front porch in front of all my neighbors, not really caring who saw, I realized the woman I so proudly presented to others wasn’t the real me.

    The truth taunted me and beat me down. The person I thought I was didn’t exist, and for the first time, I couldn’t fix my situation by working a little bit harder. My need was greater than my ability. I simply couldn’t do it by myself.

    Why does it take motherhood to bring out the worst in us? Maybe it’s because most of us have never really been pressed so hard, pushed so hard or loved so hard. We’re like children eating a jelly-filled donut. When little hands squeeze, the jelly hiding inside dumps into their lap … and when life presses a mama too hard, sin lurking in her heart comes out and dumps on the people she loves most.

    I love today’s key verse, Psalm 119:11. I learned it as a child, and its simplicity is the perfect antidote to my challenging, chaotic mothering days: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

    I learned a life lesson that day I hope will stick with me forever. What’s in our hearts will come out, good or bad. In order to be the kind of godly women we want to be, we have to store God's Word in our hearts, letting it change who we are in our most-hidden places, so when we’re pressed, His love pours out.

    Father, give me a never-ending desire to spend my moments storing up the treasures in Your Word, so that when I’m pressed by life’s challenges I might not sin against You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 12:34b, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (ESV)

    Proverbs 4:23, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you been “pressed” by motherhood? How can you rearrange priorities in your life to store up God’s Word in your own heart?

    Pick one thing you can do differently this week to give you more time to spend studying the Bible and let us know about it in the comments!

    © 2016 by Brooke McGlothlin. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • He Knows What We Need

    He Knows What We Need by Liz Curtis Higgs

    “Get up, take your mat and walk.” Mark 2:9b (NIV)

    Get ready, friend. Jesus is “in the house” (Mark 2:1, ASV), and it’s standing room only. In fact, that day in Capernaum, “they gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door” (Mark 2:2a, NIV). People surely stepped on one another’s sandaled feet and craned their heads to get a better look.

    Whatever they were seeking, the Lord gave them what they needed: “and he preached the word to them” (Mark 2:2b, NIV). Whether we’re fully aware of it or not, that’s what our souls hunger for most: God’s Word. We may pray for material things or mended relationships or financial blessings or easier lives, but what our hearts truly want is to hear His truth and experience His presence.

    Jesus encountered a man that day who wasn’t content with simply hearing Him speak. This man wanted to be changed, forgiven, healed. He wanted Jesus, but he needed help to reach Him. Then, “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them” (Mark 2:3, NIV). What a perfect picture of how we’re to bear one another’s burdens!

    Sadly, no one made room for a paralyzed man on a mat. No one gave up their place. So, his resourceful buddies “made an opening in the roof above Jesus” (Mark 2:4b, NIV) and lowered the paralyzed man into the house.

    The crowd must have looked up in astonishment as a man on a mat entered the room through a door that didn’t exist before. A helpless man who didn’t have the ability to create that opening or lower himself down.

    This is how God rescues us, beloved. It is not of our own doing. The Holy Spirit is our Helper, our Comforter, our stretcher-bearer, delivering us to the only One who can save us.

    When He looked up, “Jesus saw their faith” (Mark 2:5a, NIV). Yes, their faith, not just the faith of the paralytic man. Faith might be invisible, but the evidence of it was clear in their brave, bold, collective move.

    Then Jesus spoke directly to the man lying before him. “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5b, NIV).

    Oh, my. We weren’t told the man was a sinner. We thought he was merely stricken with a malady and in need of a physician.

    But Jesus was far more concerned with the state of the man’s soul than the state of his body. Like many of us, this man on the mat was paralyzed with fear, with shame, with guilt. Jesus had to address that first, just as He does with us.

    At once, the deed was done. Jesus told him “the penalty is remitted, the sense of guilt removed, and you are made upright and in right standing with God” (Mark 2:5b, AMPC). Glory!

    But not everyone in the crowd was pleased. The teachers of the law watched all this unfold and thought to themselves, “‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:7).

    How this truth must have irked them! Because if no one can forgive sins except God, then Jesus must be …

    Right. God. In the flesh.

    With the crowd hanging on His every Word, Jesus told the teachers of the law, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10a). To further prove His power, Jesus said to the paralyzed man “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:11, NIV).

    The man arrived unable to do any of those things. He couldn’t stand, he couldn’t hold his mat, and he definitely couldn’t head for home on his own. Now, because of Jesus, he “walked out in full view of them all” (Mark 2:12a, NIV).

    No wonder people praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (Mark 2:12b, NIV). Now, you and I have seen it as well, through the eyes of a broken man made whole.

    Lord, You really do know what we need most: Your truth, Your forgiveness and the freedom You offer us through Your Son. Give us the humility to accept help and seek You, whatever it takes. Only You can forgive. Only You can heal. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Acts 13:38, “Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (NIV)

    John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When I express my deepest needs in prayer, it’s comforting to realize God already knows what they are. What need has He already met for you today? And how might His Word address your unmet needs?

    © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • 3 Ways to Press Through Unanswered Prayer

    3 Ways to Press Through Unanswered Prayer by Lysa TerKeurst

    “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

    I opened the anonymous letter and my heart sank. It was from another mom who wanted to make sure I had a list of all the ways one of my daughters was falling short. There in black and white she listed my daughter’s mistakes, shortcomings and frailties.

    And then just to make sure I took her nameless letter seriously, she informed me she’d be sending a copy to my pastor.

    My initial reaction was to figure out who sent this so I could call her. Talk this through face-to-face. Assure her my husband and I were not only aware of some struggles my daughter was having, but also working diligently to help her course-correct.

    But as I reread the letter, I discerned it wasn’t sent from a place of love for my family or a heart that wanted to help.

    From the language she used and the fact that there wasn’t a way to contact her, it was obvious she didn’t send it because she wanted the best for my daughter.

    I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.

    It’s so hard to have someone attack you in an area that’s already rubbed raw with hardship. Her letter was like a bullet straight to my heart.

    However, it was also a wake-up call to get more intentional in praying for my daughter. I thought about her struggles a lot. I talked about her struggles. I worried about her struggles.

    But thinking about, talking about and worrying about something is not the same as praying about it.

    I clung to the truth in our key verse, Genesis 50:20, and determined to turn this letter that felt like a bullet into a blessing by using it as a catalyst to ramp up my prayer life.

    Through my tears I cried out to the Lord, “I will not sacrifice Your grace for my child on the altar of people’s opinions. Of course I want my daughter to walk the straight and narrow path of great choices. But I trust You, Lord, to write her testimony. My main goal for her is not behavior modification but total heart transformation. I want her to want You, Lord, and Your best for her life. Give me the courage to not just pray about my daughter, but to pray her all the way through this.”

    Praying her through the ups and downs wasn’t easy. There were days I wondered if God even heard my prayers.

    It’s tough to pray someone all the way through a messy, hard, complicated situation and not see answers. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re there now.

    Can I speak hope into your heart with 3 ways to press through unanswered prayers?

    1. Know with confidence God hears your prayers. First John 5:14 reminds us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (NIV).

    2. Trust that prayer makes a difference, even when you don’t see the difference. It may take a while for you to see God answer your prayers. But don’t miss an “in the meantime answer” you can receive right away. Philippians 4:6-7 reminds us of the immediate answer to every prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (NIV, emphasis added).

    Did you catch it? It’s the peace of God that will guard your heart and mind in the process while you’re waiting for God to reveal His answer to your request. When you pray, you can trust you’re doing your part, and God will certainly do His part.

    3. Tell fear it has no place in this conversation. These prayers are your gateway to feel an assurance you don’t see yet. But fear will beg you to focus on the problem more than God’s promises. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (NIV).

    It’s been a few years since I got that hard letter that prompted more frequent prayers for my daughter. But I still remember the day I visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

    She had become a completely different girl.

    At one point during our time together, I asked her, “What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?” She said, “Mom, I’ve made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn’t want to. At first I thought getting up to do devotions was unrealistic, prayer meetings were boring and listening to praise music, excessive. But as I kept doing these things, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of truth, I had so much more joy.”

    She then paused and said words I’ve longed to hear and prayed to hear for so long, “Mom, I’ve just completely fallen in love with Jesus.”

    I can hardly type those words without crying.

    I pray this infuses your heart with hope to keep praying. I pray you believe God can take the things others intended to harm you or the ones you love, and use them for good to accomplish His purposes … because He can!

    Dear Lord, only You can turn what was meant for evil into good. I thank You in advance for all that You’re going to do in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 116:1-2, "I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Re-read the three truths Lysa TerKeurst talked about. Then, choose one you’re going to claim this week.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Blessings of the Hard Yes

    The Blessings of the Hard Yes by Glynnis Whitwer

    “At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. They obeyed the LORD’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.” Numbers 9:23 (NIV)

    When my husband travelled cross-county to interview for a job, we had no plans to move. We didn’t think he’d get an offer, and honestly, I hoped he wouldn’t. I had no intention of moving 2000 miles from home. So when the offer came through and my husband was interested, I said no.

    With three little boys under age 7, I couldn’t even go to the store by myself. How could I move away from my parents, sisters, friends and church? How could I give up my part-time job that allowed one day a week with a lunch break? Convinced I’d be miserable, I put my foot down.

    I even said, “Just because your name rhymes with God …” (his name is Tod) “doesn’t mean you know God’s will for me!” (Ahem. Not my finest moment as a wife.)

    Then for the first time in my Christian life, I heard God speak. How do I know it was God? It was something I would never have told myself. God told me to tell my husband yes.

    In fact, God was very clear. He said, “Your husband has never demanded his way; it’s his time. Tell him yes.”

    You’d think I’d be overjoyed to hear God so clearly. I’d longed for Him to speak to me for years. But why did it have to be about this? Why didn’t God tell me to treat myself to a new outfit or pedicure? Not move across country! But that was God’s command and with a fearful heart, I said yes.

    I think of that time whenever I read the account of the Israelites in the Old Testament book of Numbers. They left slavery in Egypt and were travelling to the Promised Land. Only the journey wasn’t clearly laid out before them. They didn’t know the exact destination, and they didn’t know the path God would lead them on.

    God gave them direction through a cloud over the tabernacle. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites packed up and followed the cloud, no matter whether it was day or night. During the night, the Lord even provided a fire in the cloud. When it stopped, they stopped.

    It was a life of faith as our key verse explains, “At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses” (Numbers 9:23).

    God knew what He had waiting for His chosen people, and it was GOOD. And that’s what the Lord did for me.

    What we thought was a career move for my husband, turned out to be a priority-flipping, life-changing move for me. God pried my tight grip from a life lead by me, and showed the beauty of a life lead by Him.

    Within weeks of moving to our new city, God lead us to a church where Proverbs 31 Ministries’ President Lysa TerKeurst “just happened” to be giving her testimony that Sunday. Later that week I heard her on the radio, and God spoke to me a second time and told me, “Call her and volunteer.”

    That yes was almost as hard as the first, because I don’t just call people I don’t know. But again, because I knew it wasn’t my own thought, I obeyed. When I reached Lysa and told her I had just moved and had a degree in journalism and I was wondering if Proverbs 31 needed any volunteers, she said, “We’ve been praying for someone with a degree in journalism.”

    Eighteen years later, God has transformed my heart, my faith and my family through that first hard yes. In that time, I’ve learned that God seldom gives me a road map for my next assignment. He simply tells me to move and waits for my yes.

    As scary as it is to obey, God has proven His faithfulness. Even when it looks like I’m headed into the unknown, it’s only because my sight is limited. God knows His good plans for me, He just wants me to trust Him. And each time I do, the result is better than I could ever imagine.

    God has given me joy and peace, He’s removed the fear that kept me bound for years, and my faith has grown. Although it’s a paradox, I’ve learned this truth: The harder the yes, the greater I’m blessed.

    Dear Lord, thank You for having good plans for me. Help me learn to listen intently for Your next assignment and obey with a joyful heart even when I don’t know where You’re leading me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Samuel 15:22, “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.’” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Why would God withhold a road map for our assignments and callings?

    Is God asking you to do something hard today? What should your answer be?

    © 2016 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Lessons on the Waiting Life

    Lessons on the Waiting Life by Annie Downs

    “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14 (NIV)

    I love the thought of living the farm life. But growing up, the closest I ever got were the grapevines and gravel driveway that led up to my childhood home.

    To me, the thought of living on a farm meant the chance to play in endless dirt. As a tomboy kind of gal, I always had my hands and feet in the dirt, and I loved when my grandmother would tell stories about her life as a cotton farmer while we picked Muscadine grapes.

    But it wasn’t until I went off to college and made friends with some South Georgia folks that I learned a great lesson about the farm life through the eyes of a farmer.

    A bunch of us went home with our friend for a weekend. In true college fashion, we showed up caravan style after our 4-hour drive and piled on beds to take naps.

    That night at dinner, as we sat down to enjoy homegrown food, my friend’s dad prayed to bless the food. He also prayed for the soil and the rain. That stuck out to me, as I had never heard anyone pray like that before.

    Later, he explained that the soil needed to be just right and the rain needed to come for the crops to grow, so their family would have produce to sell. God had allowed him the strength to do the planting, but the rest was entirely up to God, and his job now was to wait on the completion of God’s provision while continuing his faithful work.

    Later, we went out to see the pecan trees, the fields and the family’s livelihood. The farm life was just as fascinatingly beautiful as I imagined, but it was also educational.

    It wasn’t until years later that I realized farming is featured all throughout the Bible … from Adam and Eve’s instructions to take care of the land, to Jesus’ use of agricultural metaphors in His teachings.

    We can learn a lot from farmers … especially in regard to waiting.

    I imagine farmers know first hand what our key verse encourages, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14).

    I don’t know anyone else who better understands the toiling, the waiting, the trusting and the hope that comes in the middle of waiting on God, more than a farmer.

    I want to have a farmer’s heart when it comes to how I view and face various trials in my life, the seasons of waiting and the harder-than-I-realized times.

    After a crop is planted, a farmer doesn’t just kick back in a rocking chair on the front porch for a season of sipping sweet tea and lemonade. (That’s what I imagine farmers drink.) They look after their crops for anything that would threaten to harm their harvest: weeds, bugs, hungry animals, diseases … the list could go on depending on geography and climate.

    My friend’s farmer father didn’t fret over all the cares of the growing season. He sought God for provision of every detail … right down to the soil under his feet.

    We would do well to follow his example.

    We may not be planning to go out and toss seeds across the yard today, but we can make the choice to persevere with patience in any situation we find ourselves in or any challenge that comes our way.

    When we plant seeds of Scripture and the loveliness of the character of God continually into our hearts, we will persevere.

    Dear God, thank You for providing for me in ways that I see and ways that I’ve yet to realize. Help me to wait on You with the assurance that You will provide for all my needs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How will the picture of the farmer waiting on God to bring sunlight and rain help you in a current or future season of waiting?

    © 2016 by Annie Downs. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • Just Do It!

    Just Do It! by Chrystal Evans Hurst

    “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers …” James 1:22 (NASB)

    I sat on the edge of the exam table, watching the doctor flip through a few pages of paper.

    I remember being a little girl and actually enjoying my visits to the doctor. It meant a break from school and best of all, I always left with a lollipop in my hands.

    This time there would be no lollipop, but there would be a lecture.

    While there was nothing life-threatening happening in my body, many of the numbers my doctor reviewed were headed in the wrong direction. And she made sure to kindly, but pointedly, bring to my attention that I was no longer a spring chicken and that I needed to get my act together or else I’d have regrets as time went on.

    Ugh. How depressing. I mean who wants to hear they’re not a spring chicken?

    But the worst of it? I know better.

    Of course I know that the food choices I make can affect my overall health, but it still remains such a battle.

    Can I just keep it real for a second?

    I love food.

    But the food I love, doesn’t always love me back.

    The message on that sheet of paper in my doctor’s hand was not a love letter but more like a letter of warning reminding me to get my act together.

    And it’s not like I don’t know what to do; I just don’t always do it.

    I’ve read about making better food choices in books and magazines. I’ve had many discussions with friends and family on wellness. I’ve listened to radio shows and heard experts share tips for living a healthy lifestyle. Truth be told, I think I’ve watched almost every season of The Biggest Loser!

    Ugh! Why is it so hard to know what to do — and then actually do it?

    The problem I face in my physical life is one I also face often in my spiritual life.

    I’ve read about making better choices in the Bible, Christian books and devotionals. I’ve had many discussions with friends and family on spiritual well-being. Listened to more sermons, radio programs and podcasts than I can count. Truth be told, I think I’ve had a front row seat at church almost every single Sunday morning of my life!

    Yet … knowing and doing are not the same thing.

    When James wrote his epistle, or letter, to the Jewish believers, he was writing to encourage them during a time of great hardship and tribulation. It wasn’t easy to be a believer because Christians were persecuted for choosing to follow the message and person of Jesus Christ.

    While faith in Jesus Christ served as the first and most important step in the life of a believer, James wanted Christians to understand that works of obedience should also accompany faith in the Savior: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24, ESV).

    Even though it would be hard, James encouraged believers to “work out” what they believed — for their actions to match their beliefs. He didn’t want them to simply understand the truth, he wanted their lives to be a demonstration of a truth that was active in their hearts, minds, souls and feet.

    Knowing about healthy choices doesn’t equal me actually making those choices and therefore reaping the full benefit of a healthy body.

    And knowing about life in Jesus Christ doesn’t equal me actually making the choice to obey His Word and therefore reaping the benefit of a healthy soul.

    As James reminds us in today’s key verse, I must be more than a hearer, reader, discusser, watcher. I must be a doer.

    God wants more than for us to have a simple awareness of His instructions. He wants us to obey Him and to do what He says — both for His glory and our good. His instructions may not always be easy but this much is clear: He wants us to hear His Word and just do it.

    Dear Father, forgive me for the areas in my life that I tend not to walk in full obedience to You. I’m sorry for not being willing to fully trust You enough to obey You. Help me put what You have taught me into practice. I want to please You and I want Your best for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 11:28b, “… ‘Happy rather are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.’” (CEB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas do you find it most difficult to be obedient to God? What’s one thing you can do today to begin walking in obedience?

    What tips can you share with others for studying, knowing and understanding God’s Word? Your tips might encourage someone else in their walk.

    © 2016 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

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