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  • Stop! Thief!

    Stop! Thief! by Kathy Mills

    “The Instruction you’ve given to me is better than thousands of pieces of gold and silver!” Psalm 119:72 (CEB)

    I hate to admit it, but I was a bank thief. Yup. I walked into the bank and robbed the teller assisting me.

    Perhaps I should explain.

    I went to the bank to cash three small checks. One held only my husband’s name on it. Even though it had been two years since my husband’s death, his name was still on our account. It didn’t occur to me the bank teller wouldn’t accept this check; it was only for $12.30!

    Unfortunately, the bank teller and I didn’t see the check-cashing transaction in the same way. She spoke about the bank’s policy, while I spoke of the absurdity in it. I didn't say anything inappropriate, but my attitude sure was.

    On the short drive home, I tried to justify my reaction in a prayer. By the time I entered my home however, I felt a conviction to return to the bank and apologize.

    Do I have to? I begged the Lord. Please, I don’t want to go back. It’s not like I said anything wrong. Besides, she’ll never miss my apology.

    The Lord lovingly revealed to my heart what my attitude had done. Instead of bringing her the Lord’s goodwill and gentleness, I "held her up" with my disregard and discontent. I stole her calm assurance and robbed her of the peace in doing her job well.

    And while I was at it, I stole from those who worked with her. My actions robbed all of them of God’s intended blessings for what my life is supposed to be towards others. I even robbed myself of the blessing that comes from being kind.

    So … I grabbed my keys and headed for the bank. Thankfully, something wonderful happened after my apology. The teller’s first response was the look of sweet delight followed by a big smile. I saw blessed relief in her. I felt relief, too.

    I discovered in that moment how my actions had indeed caused her to feel troubled. She shared how she spoke to her manager asking for advice on how to respond, knowing this was a difficult circumstance. Then she quickly gave way from how she had felt and expressed concern for me. She wanted to know if I was OK. She even thanked me for caring enough about her feelings to return.

    You know, as I left the bank, I think I heard Jesus’ joyful laugh as He said to my heart: “These blessings from obedience are always abundant, Kathy. Trust and don’t doubt or fear, for My teachings and My love are more precious than silver or gold.”

    Some lessons can be pretty costly. Thankfully, this one was worth much more than anything $12.30 could ever buy.

    Lord, You have taught me to value others’ feelings while trusting You to take care of my own. Yet, sometimes, I get lost inside my own emotional needs and expect others to deposit the understanding and love that only You can provide. Faithfully, Your presence and love gives rest and peace to my most troubled thoughts. May I always treasure Your teachings above all else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 1:13-14, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you treasure most? Do you believe that Jesus’ teachings are worth more than silver and gold? Why?

    © 2017 by Kathy Mills. All rights reserved.

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

  • Pressing Through the Pain

    Pressing Through the Pain by Lysa Terkeurst

    “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a (NKJV)

    Does it ever feel like the heartbreak in your life is trying to break you?

    I understand. I really, really do. I’ve been in that place where the pain of heartbreak hits with such sudden and sharp force that it feels like it cuts through skin and bone. It’s the kind of pain that leaves us wondering if we’ll ever be able to function like a normal person again.

    But God has been tenderly reminding me that pain itself is not the enemy. Pain is the indicator that brokenness exists.

    Pain is the reminder that the real enemy is trying to take us out and bring us down by keeping us stuck in broken places. Pain is the gift that motivates us to fight with brave tenacity and fierce determination, knowing there’s healing on the other side.

    And in the in-between? In that desperate place where we aren’t quite on the other side of it all yet, and our heart still feels quite raw?

    Pain is the invitation for God to move in and replace our faltering strength with His. I’m not writing that to throw out spiritual platitudes that sound good; I write it from the depth of a heart that knows it’s the only way.

    We must invite God into our pain to help us survive the desperate in-between.

    The only other choice is to run from the pain by using some method of numbing. But numbing the pain — with food, achievements, drugs, alcohol or sex — never goes to the source of the real issue to make us healthier. It only silences our screaming need for help.

    We think we are freeing ourselves from the pain when, in reality, what numbs us imprisons us. If we avoid the hurt, the hurt creates a void in us. It slowly kills the potential for our hearts to fully feel, fully connect, fully love again. It even steals the best in our relationship with God.

    Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And we must choose to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief.

    So how do we get this new strength? How do we stop ourselves from chasing what will numb us when the deepest parts of us scream for some relief? How do we stop the piercing pain of this minute, this hour?

    We invite God’s closeness.

    For me, this means praying. No matter how vast our pit, prayer is big enough to fill us with the realization of His presence like nothing else.

    Our key verse (James 4:8a) reminds us that when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. When we invite Him close, He always accepts our invitation.

    And on the days when my heart feels hurt and my words feel quite flat, I let Scripture guide my prayers — recording His Word in my journal, and then adding my own personal thoughts.

    One of my personal favorites to turn to is Psalm 91. I would love to share this verse with you today, as an example for when you prayerfully invite God into your own pain.

    Verse: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” (Psalm 91:1, NIV)

    Prayer: Lord, draw me close.

    Your Word promises when I draw close to You, You are there. I want my drawing close to be a permanent dwelling place. At any moment when I feel weak and empty and alone, I pray that I won’t let those feelings drag me down into a pit of insecurity. But rather, I want those feelings to be triggers for me to immediately lift those burdensome feelings to You and trade them for the assurance of Your security.

    I am not alone, because You are with me. I am not weak, because Your strength is infused in me. I am not empty, because I’m drinking daily from Your fullness. You are my dwelling place. And in You I have shelter from every stormy circumstance and harsh reality. I’m not pretending the hard things don’t exist, but I am rejoicing in the fact that Your covering protects me and prevents those hard things from affecting me like they used to.

    You, the Most High, have the final say over me. You know me and love me intimately. And today I declare that I will trust You in the midst of my pain. You are my everyday dwelling place, my saving grace.

    In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    And with that I close my prayer journal, feeling a lot less desperate and a lot more whole. I breathe the atmosphere of life His words bring.

    I picture Him standing at the door of my future, knocking. If I will let Him enter into the darkness of my hurt today, He will open wide the door to a much brighter tomorrow.

    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: Read Psalm 91, and choose a verse to pray through in your own personal prayer journal.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What Should I Do with My Unfulfilled Longings?

    What Should I Do with My Unfulfilled Longings? by Boyd Bailey

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

    Our daughter and son-in-law could not have children.

    After years of testing, prodding, probing and prayers, the doctor concluded that without a special procedure, they only had a 5 percent probability of pregnancy.

    Ten days prior to the scheduled procedure to increase their chances of conceiving, our daughter conceived. Teary-eyed, she administered the home test a second time, and there was the additional line — positive for pregnancy!

    She showed her husband, and they embraced in grateful hope. Then she called us, he called his parents and we all wept together in humble thanksgiving to God.

    An unfulfilled longing brings us to our knees in anticipation of our heavenly Father’s generous grace. Humility is the Lord’s remedy to keep us positioned for His blessings. Our hope may be deferred — but God is still good. He specializes in what man says is a 5 percent chance … because the Lord is faithful 100 percent of the time!

    In the book of 1 Samuel, we read about a woman named Hannah, who also longed for God to bring her a child. “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, ‘LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life’” (1 Samuel 1:10-11, NIV).

    Barren, broken, rejected, sorrowful, ashamed — these are just a few of the feelings that might have been conceived in Hannah’s hurting heart. But she let the pain drive her to humble herself and call on the name of the Lord. Vowing with sacred devotion, she dedicated Samuel to the Lord all the days of his life.

    Her merciful Creator answered her prayer and blessed her with Samuel, who grew into the iconic priest who anointed King David. God blessed Hannah’s humility, her bold prayer and her trust in Him.

    Whatever our heart craves, we must remember it’s in our soul’s solitary confinement and utter brokenness that our Father’s mercy can move in profound ways. Sometimes, as Proverbs 13:12, today’s key verse reminds us, our longings remain unfulfilled longer than we would like — even up to heaven’s gates. But when we take those longings to God and let them birth within us a humble desire for His response, His comfort and His presence, He heals our fractured faith.

    What is it you’re longing for today? Physical or emotional restoration? Someone to love? A bigger family? A friend? A new opportunity?

    Bring it to God, knowing He has the power to work big miracles out of slim chances. And remember that oftentimes, the biggest miracle of all is our own changed heart and a renewed awareness of His love. Today, present your unfulfilled longings in humility and embrace your brokenness as a pathway to answered prayer, blessing and intense intimacy with God.

    Heavenly Father, You know the deepest longings of my heart. I bring them to You now, asking for Your power to move in my life and Your presence to meet me here. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 130:1-2, 5, “Out of the depths I cry to you, LORD; LORD, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy … I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” (NIV)

    Mark 10:27, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What very real longing can you leave with the Lord and trust Him to fulfill in His timing?

    © 2017 by Boyd Bailey. 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

  • You Said What?

    You Said What? by Lynn Cowell

    “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:3 (NIV)

    I wasn’t sure why, but I just knew the texts I was receiving were never intended for my eyes.

    Suddenly I received a call from my daughter: “Mom, are you getting my texts?” she asked, a bit panicky.

    Yes, I was. Madi’s phone was receiving my texts, while my phone received hers. We both had the same reaction: Oh no! What conversations were we in the middle of that we wouldn’t want the other to read? What texts would others send that we might feel embarrassed for the other to read?

    Somehow our cell service had crossed our phone numbers, and until they could figure out what was going wrong, there was no way to straighten out the problem.

    I’m guessing you haven’t experienced this exact same situation, but maybe you’ve accidently forwarded an email thread to the wrong person. Perhaps you’ve had a phone conversation overheard that should’ve been private. Maybe you wrote a note that a particular person should’ve never read.

    When I came across today’s verse in my quiet time, I was reminded of Jesus’ words: “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3).

    Nothing is ever truly private. Especially in this time when everything and anything can be seen on social media — all we do and say has the possibility of going to an unintended recipient. Especially when we speak unkind words.

    Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, (Matthew 22:39), but when our emotions want to take over, this can be difficult. In the moments when my anger is hot or my heart is hurt, I struggle most to put self-control into practice. That’s exactly when today’s verse gives me an added reason to choose my words carefully.

    When I’m tempted to speak — or type — in anger, I can simply ask myself a couple of questions:

    If this conversation went from private to public, would feelings be hurt?

    If the person I am talking about heard what I said, would I be embarrassed?

    While all of us are human and certainly prone to make mistakes, Jesus’ words give us reason to be careful with our words: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2, NIV).

    I was so grateful that during the phone fiasco no embarrassing texts transpired. I pray that by following the Holy Spirit’s lead that will be the case each and every day.

    Dear Jesus, I want to love others the way You love us all — unconditionally. My words are a reflection of what is in my heart, I know. Holy Spirit, empower me to guard my words so I never have to be embarrassed when they are brought into the light. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV)

    Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (NKJV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: With each text you receive and each call you take today, decide to only say words that could be “proclaimed from the rooftops.”

    © 2017 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Would You Rather Be Liked Online -- Or Loved in Person?

    Would You Rather Be Liked Online -- Or Loved in Person? by Kari Kampakis

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

    A little over a year ago, the exhaustion hit me. I began waking up in the mornings feeling drained, burned out and lonely.

    The loneliness is what surprised me most. I have four kids, a great husband and friends I adore; why would I feel lonely when there’s no shortage of love in my life?

    With a little self-reflection, I recognized the problem. For 18 months, I’d worked tirelessly on a project, writing and traveling and building a social media presence. It was non-stop. When things finally slowed down, I crashed. I was running on empty and desperately in need of downtime, prayer and regrouping.

    The hardest truth to admit was that I’d neglected my closest relationships. I’d fallen into the black hole of my computer and my phone. The lifestyle changes I’d made to get everything done — like working through family dinners and turning down invitations to meet friends for lunch — caught up with me. As fun as it was to connect with new people and build online relationships through this project, I missed the people closest to me.

    In my efforts to succeed in my work and be liked by people online, I’d forgotten the value of personal contact. I knew the only solution was to stop going wider into new relationships and start diving deeper into the relationships I already had.

    And so I took a break. I started working less, calling people instead of texting, exercising regularly and reconnecting with friends. When my husband came home from work, I spent time with my family instead of retreating to my computer. I went on field trips with my daughters, hosted more get-togethers and helped with my 6th grade daughter’s play — one of my favorite parenting experiences yet.

    I also prayed more during this break. I asked God to make His will for me clear, saying that if He wanted me to work less, I needed direction.

    Slowly the changes I made refreshed my soul. I felt deeper peace and fulfillment than my computer, phone and social media presence could provide. What I learned was that spending too much time on technology breeds loneliness. The feelings I might try to escape by getting online — i.e., loneliness or boredom — are only magnified if I’m not making time for real-life connections.

    Technology is a gift, but it can also be a crutch.

    It can make us lazy in our relationships and instill a false sense of security of having more real friends than we do. Just because someone takes two seconds to “like” our latest post, however, doesn’t mean they’d take off an entire afternoon to help us in a crisis. A thousand Twitter followers doesn’t equal a thousand trustworthy friends.

    Life’s best connections happen in person. God created us to live in community, and while digital communities can enrich our lives, they can’t replace the joy of eye contact, laughter and tears, hugging and the comfort, love and affection of a live human friend.

    In today’s key verse, God reminds us to intentionally gather together: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    In an age when we’re more “connected” than ever through technology, many people feel lonely because they’re tending to the friends who “like” them online before the people who love them in real life.

    The good news is: There’s hope. God wants us to love each other well, and He will guide us. Through Him, we can take small steps in the right direction. We can limit screen time and commit to spending more time in personal dialogue than online dialogue. We can also alter any habits that keep us from discovering the deep peace and joy of being loved and known in person.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts of friendship and community. Thank You for the technology that enables me to connect with others. Please, Lord, help me use technology wisely. Guide me in setting healthy boundaries so I can deepen my real-life relationships and ultimately grow closer to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (NIV) REFLECT AND RESPOND: Has technology enhanced or hurt your closest relationships? How can you prioritize your personal interactions ahead of your digital connections?

    © 2017 by Kari Kampakis. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson 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

  • National Random Acts of Kindness Day: 10 Ways to Get Involved

    10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today. 10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today.

    Happy National Random Acts of Kindness Day! We’re all about a holiday that encourages us to show compassion just as Paul did in Ephesians 4:32 NIV: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Here are 10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today.

    1. Call Your Family Pick up the phone and call someone you don’t regularly talk to. Ask them about their day and let them know that you love them.

    2. Sponsor A Child By sponsoring a child through World Vision, you'll help that child and their community experience freedom from poverty.

    3. Smile At A Stranger Spread the joy of the Lord by smiling at someone while you’re out running errands—it’s contagious!

    4. Make A Donation Clean out your home, and donate gently used clothes, books, board games, kitchenware and anything else you no longer need.

    5. Send A Card You don’t need to spend a lot of money to show someone that you care. Write a handwritten note of encouragement in a greeting card.

    6. Pay It Forward Literally—pay for someone’s meal or buy two cups of coffee in the morning and give one away.

    7. Give Directions If you see someone who looks lost, stop and ask them if they need help. Even if they don’t, they’ll be thankful and inspired by your thoughtfulness.

    8. Leave An Encouraging Reminder Keep sticky notes on hand and write down some Bible verses or messages letting people know that God loves them. Leave them in public restrooms, at the gas pump or anywhere else strangers may see them.

    9. Volunteer Find a local charity or ask your church how you can help by volunteering your time or talents.

    10. Say A Prayer Spend some time praying for healing, wisdom, loved ones’ prayer requests and anything else God puts on your heart.

    Looking to for more ways to be a light in the world? Our February Own Your Faith Challenge is all about showing the love of Christ—and you still have time to join us!

    You Might Also Like

    Own Your Faith: 10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

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  • The One Small Prayer That Fulfills Our Greatest Dream

    The One Small Prayer That Fulfills Our Greatest Dream by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 (ESV)

    “So, what’s your greatest dream?” I asked my new friend, Heidi, as we lay beneath the moon with a gaggle of sleeping girls and a splattering of starlight.

    We’d spent the week as camp counselors together. We’d chased squirrels from the bath house. We’d chased boys away from our chocolate stash, and we’d tried to chase a handful of little girls closer to the heart of Jesus.

    But we hadn’t talked about the dreams we planned to chase when we left church camp in the morning.

    Heidi intrigued me. She oozed joy, moved with confidence and offered grace with ease. She was purposeful, but not pushy. Tenacious, yet tensile. Popular, not plastic. But it was her relationship with Jesus that intrigued me most.

    Heidi lived like our Savior was lingering beside her. When the canoe teetered and the girls wailed, she’d laughed and invited Jesus to calm the current — as if He were sitting right next to us in that tipsy boat. And when our homesick campers cried in the dark of night, she’d prayed as if the One who’d spun the stars stood bent over those wooden bunk beds, too.

    Maybe that’s why I asked that question in the dark of night. With her vibrant personality and confidence in Jesus, I was certain Heidi could accomplish anything she aimed to do.

    “I want Jesus to be my greatest dream,” she whispered wistfully. “How about you?”

    Did I dare tell the truth? I wanted Jesus to bless my greatest dreams, but I wasn’t certain I wanted Him to be my greatest dream. I wanted to do ambitious things for my Savior, but I wasn’t planning to make Him my chief ambition.

    “I don’t think I love Jesus enough to make Him my greatest dream,” I finally admitted.

    “That’s okay,” Heidi said as she gave my hand an understanding squeeze. “All you have to do is ask. That’s a prayer Jesus loves to answer.”

    Though our paths never crossed again, Heidi’s words stuck with me long after the sweet summer we shared. And, over the years, when I grew weary of my own striving, and I slowed long enough to wonder why I felt so empty inside, I’d think of my friend from church camp and echo her simple prayer.

    Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more.

    At first, I wasn’t sure it would work. Or maybe, I wasn’t even sure I wanted it to work. After all, I had big dreams for my life, and Heidi’s prayer seemed so small.

    But, in time, I found that even my grandest ambitions failed to satisfy me. My most significant accomplishments still left my soul sapped and wanting.

    So, I followed the advice of Luke 11:9 and persisted in prayer.

    Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more.

    I prayed it when I got my first job offer and when I received my first byline.

    I prayed it when I kissed the first child of my womb and when I signed my first mortgage.

    I prayed it when my plans thrived and when my plans failed, when my expectations were met and when they weren't.

    I persisted until that small plea became the greatest cry of my heart.

    And not long ago, I realized that the 44-year-old woman staring back at me in the mirror has something in common with that radiant young friend I met long ago at church camp.

    I really do love Jesus more.

    More than my well-laid plans.

    More than my fabulous family.

    More than my achievements or success.

    More than my fears or my failures.

    More than my hopes or my wishes.

    More than a 15-year-old girl ever thought she could when she lay beneath the stars with a gaggle of little girls and a friend who dreamed big.

    I can't pinpoint when it happened, but somewhere along the way, my Savior answered my prayer.

    And, sweet friend, He’d love to do the same for you.

    We could pray it together — this big and beautiful prayer — and see where it takes us. I have a feeling that it will lead us somewhere far beyond our wildest dreams.

    Dear Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s keeping you from making Jesus your greatest dream?

    Growing weary in prayer? Invite a friend to join you in your persistent plea.

    © 2017 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Scribbled Truth That Changed My Life

    I Scribbled Truth That Changed My Life by Lysa Terkeurst

    “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.’” Acts 3:6a (NIV)

    When my baby sister died tragically and unexpectedly, my entire world flipped upside down. It was a very dark season of my life.

    What I once knew to be true suddenly became questionable.

    Is God good? If so, why this? And if I never know why, how can I ever trust God again?

    Hard questions. Honest questions. Questions that haunted me.

    Until one day, I got a note from a friend. A girl I not-so-affectionately called my "Bible friend." She honestly got on my nerves with all her Bible verse quoting. I wasn’t on good terms with God at that point in my life. I didn’t want to believe God even existed. And I certainly wasn’t reading the Bible.

    I made all of this very known to my Bible friend. But in her gentle, sweet, kind way … she kept slipping me notes of truth with gently woven verses tucked within. And one day, one verse cracked the dam of my soul. Truth slipped in and split my hardhearted views of life open, just enough for God to make Himself known to me.

    I held that simple note with one Bible verse scribbled on the front as the tears of honest need streamed down my cheeks. My stiff knees bent. And a whispered, "Yes, God," changed the course of my life.

    My “Bible friend” had reached me. And because of her, I’m determined to use my words as a gift to others who may be in hard places … like a friend of mine who recently told me she is struggling with feeling like she has no real purpose.

    Life rushes at her each day with overwhelming demands. Everything feels hard, with very little reprieve.

    If ever there were a drowning with no water involved, this is where my friend is. Maybe you have a hurting friend, too.

    So I sat down to write my friend a card and send her a little gift. I desperately wanted to love her through my words. My heart was full of care, compassion and a strong desire to encourage, but I struggled to translate all I felt on paper.

    As I prayed about it, the word “loved” kept coming to mind.

    Remind her she is loved. Remind her how much you respect her. Remind her that she is a woman who has so much to offer. Remind her she is valuable and she is enough.

    In Acts 3, Peter and John encountered a crippled man at the temple gate called Beautiful. They stopped. They noticed. They decided to touch. Riches weren’t available to them but the ability to value was.

    As our key verse of Acts 3:6-7a says, “‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up …”

    Peter and John didn’t have silver, but they had a hand to offer and value to give. The man in need was worth touching. The hurting one in need was a man who needed someone to see him as a man. The man in need had so much to offer. After he got up, he went into the temple courts, praising God and stirring up wonder and amazement about God.

    I want my friend to remember she, too, has praise left inside her for our God. She, too, can get up. She, too, can stir up amazement and wonder about our God.

    Yes, she is loved and God has a good plan for her. I want to help her see that, just like my “Bible friend” did for me all those years ago.

    I will never doubt the power of one woman reaching into the life of another woman with some written whispers of love.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for the relationships You’ve placed in my life. Would You help me discern what encouraging words my friend needs to hear today? I want to show her Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which friend comes to mind when you think of someone who needs some encouragement? Ask the Lord to give you specific words for her in this season of life, as you write a note to her this week.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Longed For Something More

    I Longed For Something More by Glynnis Whitwer

    “… It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this …” 2 Samuel 6:21-22a (NIV)

    Growing up in a traditional church, singing traditional hymns, meant being a Christian was very matter-of-fact for me. I was a Christian in the same way I would have told you I was a student. It was very … academic.

    Nothing much changed in my faith experience. Every Sunday, I gathered with faithful men and women of God, who taught Sunday School and served on committees. It was wonderful, and I grew up loving God’s Word and His church. Yet, something in me longed for more.

    Then during high school, I was introduced to a new style of Christian music. These songs depicted a faith in God that was passionate and alive.

    Something stirred within me as I listened to that music. The “more” I wanted was taking shape. My faith was expanding from head-knowledge to life-changing.

    I can still picture myself in a sold-out symphony hall before a live concert as half the room yelled, “We love Jesus, yes we do. We love Jesus, how ’bout you?” I was on the other side, and we answered as loudly as we could, repeating the challenge. Joy and celebration vibrated through the hall as we shouted, jumped up and down, and waved our arms in the air for love of Jesus.

    It was completely undignified and I was completely undone … never to be the same. I knew I wanted a faith like that. I wanted to be so excited about Jesus that it overflowed, and I didn’t care what my worship of Him looked like to others.

    A few years ago, I read the story of King David dancing before the Lord. Now there was someone who didn’t worry what others thought. David had overseen the return of the ark of the Lord, and as it neared, he couldn’t contain his joy. He replaced his kingly attire with a simple outfit and danced with all his might.

    His wife, Michal, watched from the window and didn’t approve of David’s behavior. She was disgusted with him and told him so. David wasn’t fazed and responded with words that encourage me today: “… It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this …” (2 Samuel 6:21-22a).

    David was so in tune with God’s heart that he was unconcerned with any judgmental comments. David’s only focus was on worshipping his God with sincerity and abandon.

    That’s my hope and prayer for myself. I want my longing for more of God to help me completely release my fears and worship with uncontained joy. One day, when I’m too old to dance, in some people’s opinions, I hope you’ll find my wrinkled hands raised, my gray head bobbing and my body swaying in worship — still wanting more. And then one day, beyond that, all my longings will be fulfilled. Oh, what a day that will be!

    Dear Lord, King David got it right, and I want to as well. You are worthy of all my worship and adoration. Forgive me for letting other’s opinions influence how I worship You. Help me focus more on Your majesty and less on myself. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (NIV)

    John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Set aside time this week to worship God. Read the Psalms, listen to music or just sit somewhere quietly. Write down five characteristics of God that make Him worthy of our praise.

    Read 2 Samuel 6:14-23. Describe the scene in verses 14 and 15. What are some of the ways people are rejoicing and worshiping God? How can David’s answer to Michal help us overcome the fear of other’s opinions?

    © 2017 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Making My Wife Cry on Christmas

    Making My Wife Cry on Christmas by Gary Thomas

    “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” Song of Songs 1:15a (NIV)

    At first, it looked like the worst Christmas gift ever.

    I could read the expression on Lisa’s face: “Why would you do this to me?”

    Lisa held the daily journal in her hand and thought (she later told me): “You know I don’t like to keep a journal. Please don’t ask me to do this.”

    But then she noticed it was stamped “2016” — which had already passed. And then she saw how the entries were already filled in.

    The first page said, “Lisa’s Lovely Ways,” and I explained that throughout the past year, I’d written down something every day Lisa did which I was thankful for, or something about who she is that I admire.

    That’s when she cried.

    “You found 365 things to say? Even on my ornery, not-so-nice days?”

    My 20-something daughter said, “Sheesh, that’s like something you see in a Hallmark movie that nobody actually ever does.”

    I borrowed the idea from a wife who did this for her husband. After he read it, he said, “Reading that journal makes me aspire to be the man she thinks I am.”

    Here’s why it was so powerful for me to write this journal of gratitude: I don’t think I asked God to change my wife even once during the months I wrote it.

    Every morning, I had to come up with something new to say. I couldn’t thank Lisa for the same thing 10 or even five times without it losing its power. So sometimes, particularly near the end of the year, I had to sit before God and ask Him to remind me about something Lisa had done, or even something she is that perhaps I’d taken for granted. Starting each day praying, asking God to help me recognize my wife’s excellence, impacted my thinking for the rest of the day.

    Writing the journal made asking God to change anything about my wife seem a little … picky. When you have a book already listing over 100 praise-worthy things about your spouse, asking God to “change” her is a bit like examining a brand new Mercedes Benz and being upset that the gasoline tank holds “only” 18 gallons instead of 21. I mean, Come on.

    While traveling, I feared losing the journal because I had put so much effort into it, but then I realized the discipline of writing had already changed my marriage. It made my wife feel more cherished because of the way I thought about her, spoke to (and about) her and felt about her. Without even knowing it, she was receiving the present long before Christmas Day.

    That journal is just one of dozens of things I put into practice when I realized it wasn’t enough to love (be committed to, sacrifice for and serve) my wife. I had promised to cherish her (“I promise to love and to cherish until death do us part”).

    And here’s what I’ve found:

    A cherishing marriage is a much happier marriage. Cherishing can be chosen and learned. Cherishing feeds itself — the more I cherish my spouse, the more I cherish and value my spouse. In a world where so many spouses feel neglected, I want mine to feel especially cherished. The author of our key verse today was intentional about pointing out what he cherished about his beloved: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Songs 1:15a) Might we do the same?

    We need to raise the bar for our marriages. For the sake of our children. To please our God. Even for our own happiness, we need to learn what it means to cherish our spouse and put it into practice. When marriage gets difficult, it’s easy to focus on our commitment to love — but we also promised to cherish. I don’t want my spouse to think I’m with her just because it would be wrong to leave her; I promised to cherish her, and I’m determined to follow through on that promise.

    Lord, help me cherish my spouse the way You cherish me. Please don’t let me settle for mere love; help me fulfill my promise to learn how to cherish this spouse who is committed to me. Let me speak about my spouse the way Your word teaches me to. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Song of Songs 5:10: “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Read Song of Songs 5:10 in our Truth for Today. Think on your spouse’s most excellent qualities until you can say this verse and mean it.

    © 2017 by Gary Thomas. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, 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

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Proclaim the Good News | Mark 16:15
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