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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • A Place to Begin When You Don’t Know Where to Begin

    Liz Curtis Higgs FEBRUARY 19, 2016

    A Place to Begin When You Don’t Know Where to Begin LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1 (NIV)

    A cold February night many winters ago. Snow was falling thick and fast, blowing across my windshield. Not far ahead I saw the glowing lights of a bookstore.

    Liz, you drove through a snowstorm to buy a book? I did. But it wasn’t just any book.

    Minutes earlier, seated in a toasty warm office, I’d confessed my sins (well, most of them) to the pastor of the church I’d started attending. I told him enough to get my point across, to convince him I was a "Bad Girl."

    The pastor gently said, "So, you lived a worldly life."

    I was confused. "No, I did all that stuff in America."

    He smiled. Then he prayed and encouraged me to read the book of John.

    I bolted out of his office, intent on buying a Bible right then and there, snow or no snow. The bookstore was deserted. The cashier was freaked out about the weather. But I found what I was looking for: the biggest, thickest study Bible in stock.

    Safely back home, I opened my new Bible and read today’s key verse: "In the beginning was the Word …" (John 1:1a, NIV). Um … did this mean back when God created the earth? No, even before that. "Before the world began, the Word was there" (John 1:1a, ERV).

    So, God wasn’t talking about a printed book filled with words. He was talking about His Son.

    I kept reading. "And the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1b, NIV). Father and Son, together with the Holy Spirit, bound throughout eternity. Three in one, like water in three forms: liquid, vapor and ice.

    I couldn’t believe so much mind-boggling truth was packed into a single verse. Is the whole Bible like this? I wondered.

    Sitting there in my drafty old apartment, where central heat was little more than a rumor, I let the truth of John 1:1 sink in, warmed by the words and what they revealed about this God I was only beginning to understand.

    Then I read the next verse. And the next. I inhaled the book of John, then the Psalms, then the letters of Paul. I couldn’t get enough, didn’t want to stop.

    As the months went by, I feared my enthusiasm for the Bible might wear thin. That once I’d read each page, the words wouldn’t be as exciting the second time, let alone the tenth time.

    Seriously, Liz? Nothing could be further from the truth! Every time I read a familiar verse, God reveals a richer, deeper meaning. And when I find a new-to-me passage? Pure joy.

    Beloved, is that how reading the Bible is for you? An ongoing journey of discovery, an endless adventure? Or has it become a duty, a task, something to be checked off on your daily to-do list?

    Maybe it’s time to change that.

    All over the world, Bibles are waiting to be opened. On shelves and under beds, on top of coffee tables and inside dresser drawers. Waiting, waiting. In your house. In my house. In lots of people’s houses.

    When we finally dive into God’s Word, a light comes on. Things inside us fall into place. Our hearts begin to heal from years of brokenness. We have a new reason to get out of bed in the morning. We’re drawn to a place of worship where we can serve and to a body of people we can love.

    One book can do all that? It can. It will. Just begin. Go slowly. One verse a day, maybe two. Break each verse into phrases, then into individual words. What is God saying? What does it mean? How could you apply it to your life right now, this very day?

    Heavenly Father, help me keep my Bible close at hand and foremost in my thoughts. Prompt me to reach for Your timeless Word every day and open it with joyful anticipation of what You will show me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 130:5, "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope." (NIV)

    Deuteronomy 30:14, "… the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it." (NIV)

    1 John 2:5a, "… if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higgs’ latest Bible study, It’s Good to Be Queen, explores the queen of Sheba’s journey to Jerusalem in search of something rare and precious: wisdom.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Most of us really want to spend more time in God’s Word. Is finding a moment to yourself your greatest challenge? Choosing a Bible translation? Figuring out where to begin? Suppose you started with just five minutes, get the First 5 app or use a Bible you already own and opened it to the book of John. What might happen?

    © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why Should I Be Excited About Leviticus?

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 18, 2016

    Why Should I Be Excited About Leviticus? LYSA TERKEURST

    "If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD." Leviticus 1:3 (NIV)

    Can I admit something to you about the book of Leviticus? I’ve never really been excited about studying it. I honor it as truth. I value it as part of the history for the children of Israel. But I always kind of skipped over that book when it came to choosing a book from God’s Word to personally study.

    So when our ministry decided to study Leviticus for our First 5 app, I was skeptical. I got into the first chapter’s instructions about animal sacrifices and thought, How does this relate to my life?

    But as I kept reading, I felt challenged to ask a different question.

    It’s a question that gives me a much deeper appreciation for the teachings of Leviticus and my desperate need to read this book. And I want to share it with you — because I’m thinking I’m not the only woman who needs a fresh set of eyes when it comes to this book of the Bible.

    The question is this: "What attitude shift is God asking His people to make here?"

    The specific activities being described in chapter 1 of Leviticus may not apply to me, but the heart attitude about bringing an offering to God certainly does.

    So, let’s read our key verse, Leviticus 1:3, and think more about the attitude shift than the activity itself: "If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD."

    There are three things that stand out to me from this verse regarding my attitude:

    1. I am to return to God a portion of what He’s given me. He isn’t asking for the "whole herd," although He certainly could. But He does ask me to acknowledge Him with the provision I’ve been given. My attitude needs to be, "God, I acknowledge that what I have is a good gift from You. Therefore, I will gladly return the correct portion back to You with a grateful heart. I am compelled to do this not because of a rule but because this is a way to keep my heart in tune with Your best plan for me."

    2. I should offer God my very best. God required them to bring a male without defect to Him. My attitude should be, "God, I don’t want to offer You something that costs me nothing. I want to intentionally set aside my very best offering for You. But I also want to apply this to other areas of my life as well. I want to offer You a portion of my day when my mind is the most sharp, so my best thoughts go to You. I want to offer You a portion of my best strength, so I can help someone in Your name today. And I want to offer my very best at my job today, so I truly bring You glory in my workplace."

    3. I need to present my offering at the entrance. In other words, the attitude behind this action is, "I need to make giving to God the first thing I do, not the last thing I consider." When I get my paycheck, the first check written should be to the Lord. When I wake up to a new day, the first minutes and my first thoughts go to God. If I want God to be first in my life, I need to acknowledge Him with my firsts.

    What rich truths.

    Truths that redirect me and remind me to approach Leviticus with expectation instead of hesitation. Truths that encourage me to keep looking for the attitudes God was addressing in the midst of the actions He was requiring.

    Yes. I think this is going to an incredible adventure toward experiencing God.

    Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that my attitude matters. I want to bring You my very best each and every day. Help me to keep You first in all of my life. And continue teaching me and shaping me through Your marvelous Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    Psalm 119:18, "Open my eyes [to spiritual truth] so that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law." (AMP)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Instead of feeling intimidated by Leviticus, we can actively look for heart-redirecting, attitude-shifting truths together! Join us as we journey through Leviticus and Hebrews on the First 5 app. Download First 5 today for free.

    Don’t miss out on learning how Leviticus and Hebrews are closely intertwined! Get ready for the study by purchasing your Leviticus/Hebrews Experience Guide today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you ever find the Bible intimidating? Pause and pray Psalm 119:18 before you read today, believing God wants to speak to you through His Word.

    Are there any areas in your life where you need to start giving God your first or your best?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Lessons from a Yellow Slip ’N Slide

    T. Suzanne Eller FEBRUARY 17, 2016

    Lessons from a Yellow Slip ’N Slide SUZIE ELLER

    "The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more." Psalm 103:15-16 (NIV)

    My 2-year-old daughter had drunk enough water from the hose that her little belly looked like a watermelon. Her twin brother wore only a bloated diaper. My eldest, 3 years old, struggled to keep her bathing suit on.

    The liquid dish soap I added to the water made the Slip ’N Slide like a rocket. Their little bodies flew as they squealed in delight. I was having a blast until the car drove up. Three church ladies wearing dresses stepped out of the car. I recognized them from the new church we’d visited the week before.

    I immediately wished I could whisk a wand so we’d all be invisible. What would they think of my mostly naked child with her watermelon belly? Or my son with his 5-pound diaper? What did I look like with my hair half-dry, the other half wet and sticky from the soap solution?

    The women walked to the fence and greeted me. "Can we come in?" one asked.

    That’s when real panic set in. Until that moment our day had been almost perfect, but my home? It was far from perfect! Laundry was piled in a basket on the kitchen table. Toys cluttered the living room. As a mom of three toddlers, I worked hard but cleaning my small house was like mowing the grass only to come out five minutes later and discover it had grown eight inches.

    When the women stepped inside, I saw it through their eyes and I began to wrestle with comparison.

    Surely, I thought to myself, other moms with three children under age 4 were able to keep a spotless home, fold their laundry as it came out of the dryer and organize toys so you didn’t step on them.

    Surely there were other moms who had a roast — no, strike that because maybe red meat isn’t the healthiest option — a chicken and fresh vegetables roasting for dinner.

    Surely there were other moms with stretch marks who weren’t wearing a swimsuit in the backyard where God and everybody could see.

    Sadly, I allowed those thoughts to overshadow the beauty of that day.

    Looking back, I wish I hadn’t.

    My children are grown now and I’m "Gaga" to six beautiful grandbabies under the age of 5. Today, when my children flock to my house with their kids, car seats, fruit snacks and diaper bags, I want them to know something important.

    Sometimes, we act as if we have forever and we put too much emphasis on what others think. Or we get so tangled up in our to-do lists that we forget to enjoy the moment with those we love the most.

    Sure, we have tasks to do and they are important, but no more valuable than the sweet pockets of play and silliness. As my grown children gather around the table, they don’t talk about how spotless my kitchen once was (or wasn’t), or how I managed to have it all together. Instead, they laugh as they remember how the dish soap made the Slip ’N Slide so fast, or how mama took an afternoon off from laundry to enjoy the noon sunshine.

    Those flashes of time have become precious markers of their childhood that settled as memories. As our key verse reminds us, "The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more" (Psalm 103:15-16).

    I know we’re busy, yet today is a good day to laugh with a child. It’s a perfect day to stop comparing ourselves to others. It’s a good time to put down the to-dos for a few minutes and enjoy the moment.

    Heavenly Father, I get trapped in busy work that seems so important, and sometimes I forget to just laugh. Slow me down for a few moments today, Lord. Whisper in my heart about the importance of making sweet memories with those I love the most. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ecclesiastes 3:1,4, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: … a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Sometimes enjoying the moment means embracing our God-given talents and abilities before time gets away. If you want to connect with authors like Suzie Eller, our Proverbs 31 Speaker and Writer teams and others in the writing and speaking community, join us for She Speaks 2016, held July 21-23, in Concord, N.C.

    If your childhood was painful and you struggle in any way with knowing how to be a mom, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future, offers practical help, healing and encouragement.

    Join Suzie on her blog for a giveaway of The Mom I Want to Be.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Sometimes we feel pressure simply because it’s a busy season, but many times we put the pressure on ourselves.

    Give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy the moment. Remind yourself that the memories you make are just as valuable as the tasks you perform.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hillsong UNITED Brings EMPIRES Tour To The United States

    Nashville, Tenn. (February 3, 2016) – After recent stops in India, Singapore and Indonesia, Billboard Music Award winners Hillsong UNITED will bring their highly acclaimed EMPIRES tour to the United States, featuring special guests Rend Collective. In their first touring return to North America since 2013, EMPIRES tour will kick off February 11 in Sunrise, Fla. and end with two dates in Honolulu, Hawaii. Due to sold-out shows, additional dates have already been added to the band's U.S. trek. 

    The Australian-based Hillsong UNITED has a long history of sold-out shows in the United States, including notable venues such as the famed Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles), Staples Center (Los Angeles), Red Rocks (Denver), ShoWare Center (Seattle), Gwinnett Center (Atlanta) and BankUnited Center (Miami). Hillsong UNITED holds the record for largest attendance ever in the Sears Centre Arena (Chicago, IL), outdrawing concerts there by such legendary performers as Billy Joel, Elton John and the Eagles. Since 2006, Hillsong UNITED has toured six continents and 42 nations. 

    “We haven’t really done our own thing in the USA since WelcomeZion 2013, so we are super excited to be bringing the EMPIRES tour to the states,” shares Joel Houston of Hillsong UNITED.  “We write songs to be sung with people – they are always for the people – so when we get to sing these songs with people on the road, it is the purpose of why we do what we do! We can’t wait to worship with people singing all the new EMPIRES songs as well as everyone’s favorites.”

    “Say The Word," the latest single from Hillsong UNITED's EMPIRES is currently impacting radio. The track picked up 30 adds in only two weeks. EMPIRES strongly debuted in Spring 2015 at No. 1 on Billboard's Christian Albums Chart and No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200. The album was met with appearances on The Today Show and Yahoo! along with critical acclaim from the likes of USA Today and The New York Times which remarked their talent as “a musical powerhouse.” 

    Hillsong United Tour 2016

    For more information on the EMPIRES tour, visit hillsong.com/united/#tours.

    EMPIRES 2016 Tour
    February 11 – BB&T Center – Sunrise, FL
    February 12 – CFE Arena (University of Central Florida) – Orlando, FL
    February 13/14 – USF Sun Dome – Tampa, FL
    February 15 - Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, LA
    February 16 – FedEx Forum – Memphis, TN
    February 18 – Cedar Park Center – Austin, TX
    February 19 – American Airlines Center – Dallas, TX
    February 20 – United Supermarkets Arena (Texas Tech University) – Lubbock, TX
    February 22 – Gila River Arena – Phoenix, AZ
    February 23 – Citizens Business Bank Arena – Ontario, CA
    February 26/27 – Neal Blaisdell Arena – Honolulu, HI

    About UNITED: UNITED is a worship band that originally rose out of the youth ministry of Hillsong Church in Sydney, Australia. This progressive worship band is a global recording and touring entity sent out to share the ever-evolving worship music of Hillsong Church to an international audience through live performances and records. UNITED desires to see a generation across the earth awakened to real love, rising up with hearts as one and finding value in the broken, hurting and lost connecting with Jesus.

    The Billboard Music Award winner’s newest record EMPIRES debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 to critical support from The New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today and Yahoo! Most recently, Hillsong UNITED was named the Top Christian Artist of 2015 by Billboard Magazine. Selling out venues across multiple continents, Hillsong UNITED have filled major U.S. venues including Staples Center (Los Angeles), Radio City Music Hall (New York City), Red Rocks Amphitheater (Denver) and more. It is estimated that over 30 million people sing their songs each week, among those, their platinum selling single “Oceans."

    About Hillsong Church: In August 1983, Brian and Bobbie Houston founded the Hills Christian Life Centre in the Hills District of Sydney, Australia. It has grown from a congregation of 45 to what is said to be the largest local church in Australian history. It has now expanded to be a global church with local expressions in significant cities; with churches in Australia, London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Cape Town, Stockholm, Germany, Kiev, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Each week, tens of thousands of people across the globe call Hillsong Church ‘home’ and the reach, impact and influence of this local congregation is seen across many nations.

    Order your own copy of  Open Heaven/River Wild today.

    Open Heaven/River Wild
  • Miles Apart and Didn’t Even Know It

    JACKIE BLEDSOE FEBRUARY 16, 2016

    Miles Apart and Didn’t Even Know It JACKIE BLEDSOE

    "Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you." 1 Peter 4:12 (NLT) 

    A couple years ago my wife, Stephana, and I were at a marriage retreat. We were asked to participate in an exercise where we rated the state of our marriage. After revealing our answers to one another, the difference was shocking.

    We were miles apart and didn’t even know it.

    That little exercise quickly revealed we were in what I call the "marriage danger zone." It was dangerous because at least one of us was ignorant about how the other person was feeling, how they perceived our marriage and whether or not their needs were being met in our marriage.

    The worst part was we’d been there before.

    There have been many times when things seemed to be going great for one of us, then a conversation revealed the other was completely dissatisfied, frustrated or hurt. To the spouse who thought everything was going great, it came as a complete shock, and left us wondering, Where did this come from?

    On our wedding day, most of us say "I do" or utter heartfelt vows along the lines of, "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health …"

    We think we’ll never forget those words.

    Yet it seems we do. Somehow, we forget we made that promise. We forget that challenges are inevitable — especially when the "worse," "poor" and "sickness" parts of marriage head our way.

    Based on our wedding vows and the percentage of married couples who divorce, it seems like we would expect challenges in our marriages. That’s why we vow to our spouses we will be there and will still love them when — not if — these challenges arise. Yet we also know it’s much easier said than done.

    As Stephana and I have learned, a lasting and truly fulfilling marriage only happens through persevering. Indeed, marriage is hard and takes work, but great rewards often come as a result.

    As our key verse reminds us, we shouldn’t be surprised when we face challenges, as if it were something strange.

    One of the biggest challenges in our marriage came during the times we were homeless. Yes, I said "times" with an "s" at the end, as it happened twice.

    We went from two regular incomes with some pretty good benefits and financial perks to two very inconsistent incomes with no benefits and zero financial perks. And we had no idea when it would end. Yes, it was a huge obstacle and one that has destroyed many marriages. But our marriage came out stronger in the end.

    Difficulties in marriage are hardly positive experiences at the time, yet the Bible paints a beautiful picture of them. The reason is simply because struggles, trials and hard work are part of the development process God uses to get the most out of us and the best for us.

    These difficulties are necessary in God’s way of doing things. This includes our marriages as well. As we experience and embrace this, we can approach challenges in our marriages from a completely different viewpoint.

    I don’t know what obstacles your marriage may be facing today, but I do know you can overcome them together. What you are facing is intended to strengthen you and your marriage, not destroy it. If you have faced trials before, be encouraged by our story, and get ready to tell your story of overcoming marriage obstacles.

    It may be the story that saves another marriage similar to ours and yours. They, too, could be miles apart and not even know it.

    Dear God, thank You for how You are working in my marriage, even through trials. I ask for Your help to persevere and see how trials in my life can be used for good. Empower me to choose joy even in the midst of trials because something amazing will be produced. Help me to hold on, not give up and allow You to complete Your work in me through them. Thanks, God, for Your grace, which allows me to persevere during the tough times of marriage. 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)

    Romans 15:5-6, "Now may the God who gives endurance and encouragement allow you to live in harmony with one another, according to the command of Christ Jesus, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with a united mind and voice." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: From the engagement ring to years after the wedding ring, every season of a marriage requires renewed commitment, fresh perspective and practical biblical wisdom. Jackie Bledsoe’s DVD-driven Bible study and book, The 7 Rings of Marriage, will teach couples to view their marriage with the end in mind.

    If you’d like more encouraging thoughts on marriage and parenting, stop by Jackie Bledsoe’s blog.

    Enter to WIN a copy of The 7 Rings of Marriage by Jackie Bledsoe. In celebration of this book, Jackie’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, February 22.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a time when you faced a trial with a positive attitude and a time when you didn’t. How does your attitude make a difference?

    © 2016 by Jackie Bledsoe. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • How We Can Know God is With Us

    Wendy Blight FEBRUARY 15, 2016

    How We Can Know God is With Us WENDY BLIGHT

    "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." Isaiah 7:14 (NIV)

    I remember the moment I realized Jesus, God’s Son, connected the Old Testament to the New Testament. I had joined a Bible study that required us to read the Old Testament. I almost quit that study before I started because I was so intimidated at the thought.

    The Old Testament always seemed so complicated and irrelevant to my life. I’d always believed the story of Jesus began when He came to earth. But the more I read, the more I realized how wrong I was.

    As I hesitantly began reading Genesis, I saw that Jesus was with God the Father in the beginning, creating. God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness"(Genesis 1:26a, NIV).

    A look at Colossians 1:16, in the New Testament, and we see: "For in him [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, … all things have been created through him and for him" (NIV).

    Jesus and His Father labored together to handcraft each and every created thing … including you and me.

    Our hearts … our smiles … our purpose. All part of Their creative process!

    But it wasn’t enough for Jesus to be part of creation. There came a point in history, a time Jesus knew would come, when those precious created ones would need more. When sin and disobedience would reign and rule on the earth. When the devil would initiate a battle and relentlessly pursue the souls of those God created.

    It was then they would need a savior.

    At the right time, God announced that Savior through one of His spokesmen — the prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah 7:14b, also in the Old Testament, says, "The virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

    That Son, Immanuel, is Jesus.

    Let this soak in, my friend. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah prophesied His birth.

    The human and the divine collided.

    The Eternal One became a real man of particular height and weight, with a particular color of hair, speaking a particular language.

    A miraculous act driven by divine love done with the absolute intent to be with us.

    By His very name, we know this. Immanuel means God with us.

    God is not distant; He is here with us. God is not unapproachable but drawing ever near. And even better … He came not only to be with and near us but also to equip and empower us.

    Immanuel came to equip us with confidence to face any challenge life presents.

    We live in a fallen world. Hardships, tragedies, sickness, death, betrayal, all come our way. It’s inescapable. But we do not do this life alone.

    Hold tight to these beautiful promises.

    "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:37-39, NIV).

    "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you … When you walk through the fires, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze … For I am the LORD your God …" (Isaiah 43:2-3a, NIV).

    Immanuel came to empower us so that we can accomplish all He calls us to do.

    God’s Holy Spirit, Who comes to live inside of us when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, seals and infuses the heart of every believer. It’s miraculous and inexplicable what transpires in our bodies in that moment. The old is gone. God does a new thing. And this new work transforms and initiates a work deep within us that we cannot do in our own flesh.

    Walk confidently in these promises.

    "For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13, NLT).

    "Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think" (Ephesians 3:20, NLT).

    Friend, in the deepest of valleys, through the darkest of times, Immanuel promises to be with us. Whether we see Him or not. By His very name we know He is there.

    So whatever you are walking through today, walk confidently, equipped and empowered, because Immanuel is with you every step of the way!

    Dear God, Thank You for being Immanuel. For coming to earth and implanting a piece of Your heart in mine to equip and empower me for the amazing life You planned for me before time began. Help me to take hold of and walk confidently in those promises and that plan today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you want to go from knowing about God to really knowing God? Our in-depth Bible study class of Wendy Blight’s latest book, I Know His Name begins Monday, March 7. Registration is only open for two weeks and launches TODAY.

    Do you want to experience more of the Prince of Peace in your life? Stop by Wendy Blight’s blog and sign up for her FREE 5-day devotional for a sneak peek at her new book, I Know His Name: Discovering Power in the Names of God, and a chance to win a signed copy.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where do you need to see God "with you" today?

    Write a prayer asking Him to show up in very real and personal ways so that you will know that you know He is with you.

    © 2016 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hymns That Are Important to Us

    GRAMMY®-nominated, husband-and-wife country music duo Joey+Rory have announced the release of an all-new recording.  Hymns That Are Important to Us (Gaither Music Group).

    Hymns that are important to us

    “I refer to [this] as Joey’s album--the one she’s always wanted to make–filled with the hymns she grew up singing,” described Rory.  “It was early in the spring when we started talking about the record…we began recording it in a studio in Nashville early in the summer, just after recovering from her first big surgery in Chicago.  She championed it…and even with all she’s gone through there might have been a few things that changed, but that record was not gonna stop….

    “So we recorded in between some of her treatments after the surgery.  Sometimes in the evenings I would get out a microphone, and my wife sang the vocals in our hotel room in Atlanta because she wanted to see this record happen.  She did her vocals where she could--in hotel rooms, at our house, wherever and whenever she felt up to singing.”

    As reported on Rory’s blog www.thislifeilive.com and covered by major media outlets across the country, Joey has been fighting Stage 4 cancer for over six months.  During that time she and Rory have turned to family, friends and their faith as never before.  And they have turned to hymns—timeless melodies with messages that continue to carry them through a difficult and inspiring journey of faith.

    Hymns that are important to us

    The songs Joey picked and the words she recorded were especially significant to her as she has found strength in them through her highly-publicized health battle.  The release features songs such as “It Is Well with My Soul,” “How Great Thou Art,” “I Surrender All” and “I Need Thee Every Hour.” 

    “A lot has taken place in a year’s time, but through it all these songs have given me such strength,” stated Joey.  “They’ve given me such hope, and they give me something to look forward to.  I think that a lot of times when we don’t know what to say…you don’t know what to pray…you don’t know how to even begin…I think that’s, for me, where these hymns have come into play so much…

    ’Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand.  I’m tired…I’m weak…I’m worn.  Through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light, take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.’

    “I remember waking up--it was about two days after my surgery--at one point in the middle of the night,” recalled Joey.  “I’m hooked up to every machine possible; and out of just complete thankfulness that I came through, I remember having the strength to sit up enough, and my hands just elevated over my head, and I sang [the hymn], ‘I need Thee, oh I need Thee, every hour I need thee….’

    “Every hour He got me through…and it was hard, and I needed Him every hour, and I still do to this day—there are days that are just hard.  [This song] has got us through so much at every hour that we needed Him…He continues to watch over us and take care of us.  People every day who don’t have cancer who are dealt with trials or family issues or whatever it might be…we need Him.  It doesn’t matter what it is, and when we think that we can get by on our own we’re so wrong….”

    “[Hymns] have met generations of people at their moments of need, which is incredible,” Rory described.  “As a songwriter…we’re moved that someone will sing along with one of our songs today, but imagine them singing along with one of our songs in 100 years.  That’s an incredible achievement, and I think it’s mostly because there are things that don’t last and things that do.  What these songs are about--they’re gonna matter then just as much as they do now, just as much as they did 100 years ago.  That’s pretty special.

    “In early October, we even did a TV taping of these songs in the concert hall at our farm in front of a live audience,” described Rory.  “Joey was weak and it was difficult for her, but she was determined…these are the songs that are most important to her….”

    The family has spent the past few months in Joey’s hometown of Alexandria, Indiana, near Joey’s family.  Rory and their daughter Heidi went into Bill Gaither’s nearby studio to add harmony parts to Joey’s lead vocals for the recording while in that area.  The DVD includes a special, behind-the-scenes interview with Gaither and Joey+Rory recorded at their farm in Tennessee; and the audio recording includes a moving re-release of the song “When I’m Gone,” found on Joey+Rory’s His and Hers recording (Sugar Hill Records/Vanguard Records, divisions of Concord Music Group, Inc.), a fan favorite.

    Both the Hymns are Important to Us CD and DVD are available at your local Family Christian or on our website.  You may purchase the CD here and the DVD here.

  • His and Mine

    Lynn Cowell FEBRUARY 12, 2016

    His and Mine LYNN COWELL

    "My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies." Song of Solomon 2:16 (NIV)

    Growing up, there were many Valentine’s Days I wished would have never happened. In elementary school, it was the year with the long walk home from school. My red paper-covered box, which contained no Valentine from my favorite crush, felt heavy for being so empty.

    Maybe when I am a teenager my love life will get better, I hoped.

    My hope was in vain. In fact, if I had known how my first Valentine’s Day in high school was going to play out, I would have just stayed home. Our student council decided Valentine’s Day was the perfect time to host a fundraiser. Students could purchase flowers to be delivered: yellow to your best friend, red to the one you love and white to the one you wanted to ask out.

    First period — the predictable yellow carnation arrived with a note from my best friend. Not the color I was looking for. Second period — no flower. Third period — no flower. Is there any way I can get out early? I asked myself as my nemesis waltzed in, arms loaded with flowers.

    By fourth period, I was begging for the day to end when in came the delivery girl. "Lynn Martin."

    Me?

    I sprinted to the front, grabbed the white flower and glided back to my seat. The base drum of my heart pounded through my blouse while my mind spun: Who could this be from? My eyes quickly scanned the note: "I’d like to ask you out. -Scott." Scott? As in a senior?

    My excitement lasted only long enough for logic to set in. He’s a senior somebody; I’m a sophomore nobody. This has to be a joke, I told myself. Shoving the flower and note in my bag, I shoved down my broken heart too. I just hope nobody saw me was all I could think.

    That was the year I began to ask a lot of questions, my heart crushed by my crush: Why doesn’t he ask me out? What does she have that I don’t? Why doesn’t he want me? Answering the question, What’s wrong with me? became my mission.

    Whether it’s a memory from long ago or a pain as fresh as yesterday, we’ve all experienced rejection in one form or another. We’ve all wanted to be wanted — whether it was by a boy, a club, a friend or a group.

    However, the truth is we’ve always been wanted and always belonged … to the Lord.

    In other words, we belong to Love Himself. As Song of Solomon 2:16 tells us, "My beloved is mine and I am his …" Indeed, I am His.

    While others have rejected us, He wholeheartedly accepts us. Let that soak in for just a moment. Say it out loud. I am His.

    What we have longed for and still want today, we already have. Friend, we belong.

    The truth that I didn’t have to search to belong, or struggle to find love and be loved, completely changed me.

    Jesus, I am Yours. You are mine. Thank You for loving me and filling my heart with exactly what I have always wanted — to be wanted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:16, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them." (NIV)

    1 John 4:9, "God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Lynn Cowell’s book, His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You, teaches young women how Jesus’ unchanging love changes absolutely everything.

    For a copy of "5 Love Verses Every One Should Know," visit Lynn’s blog today. You can also enter to win a copy of His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When have you felt rejected? How does knowing that Jesus fully accepts us help ease the pain?

    We have all experienced times when we felt we didn’t belong. Ask Jesus to heal the hurt you felt and fill your heart with the acceptance you need and He gives.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • 5 Ways to Survive Love Season

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 11, 2016

    5 Ways to Survive Love Season LYSA TERKEURST

    "We love because he first loved us." 1 John 4:19 (NIV)

    February 15th can be a really tough day. No, you aren’t reading that wrong. That’s the day after Valentine’s Day.

    As long as it’s February 14th, there’s still hope for someone to bring you a flower … give you a chocolate something … sing you a song … write you a poem … say, "You complete me" … you get the picture.

    But then the clock strikes midnight and disappointment takes you by the hand and wants to chat for a while. Today’s unmet expectations become tomorrow’s frustrations.

    So, February 15th rolls around and suddenly the full impact of whatever was lacking on February 14th hits full force.

    For my single friends it can feel like "Single Awareness Day."

    For my married friends it can feel like "the gaps in my marriage were so highlighted by yesterday’s lack."

    I’ve felt both of these.

    But I’m challenged to check my heart on this. I mean really check my heart. Here are five ways I’m challenging myself to not just survive but really thrive this love season:

    1. What am I doing that’s feeding my expectations?

    Maybe right now isn’t the best time to read a romance novel or watch movies with lines in them like, "You had me at hello" or "You complete me."

    2. What am I doing that comforts me in the moment but makes me feel awful just hours later?

    Hint … put down the ice cream and don’t mix up the cookie dough. Just because the cookies aren’t baked doesn’t mean the calories don’t exist. (This is just a totally hypothetical situation, of course.)

    3. Who can I bless this Valentine’s Day?

    Instead of waiting to be loved, I should make the decision to give love. I have so many friends who need to know someone is thinking about them right now. And there are wonderful ministry opportunities to reach out to those in need.

    There is so much joy to be had when we seek to invest loving acts into others’ lives.

    4. What can I put on my schedule with my friends or loved ones that will make me look forward to this season of love?

    Instead of waiting to be asked, I can get proactive. If I have something to look forward to on my schedule, it gives my heart such a boost.

    5. Am I believing the "if only" lie?

    If only I had a boyfriend. If only I had a husband. If only I had a more romantic husband. "If only" can do quite a number on our hearts. Refuse to paint these pictures of Egypt.

    Egypt — huh? Let me explain.

    I got this thought from reading the Old Testament story about what happened to the Israelites when they were freed from captivity in Egypt. At first they were happy. And then when life got hard en route to the Promised Land, they started believing the "if only" lie … if only they’d never left Egypt they’d have pots of meat to eat.

    How quickly they forgot the miracles God had performed to free them. How easily they dismissed the fact they were once mistreated slaves in Egypt!

    And while part of me is tempted to judge them for their forgetfulness, I know I can be found doing the same thing. It’s so easy to forget the good we have and paint the picture that our lives would be better "if only." That’s why I’m determined to replace my "If only I had … I could" scripts with "Because I am … I can."

    Because I am loved by God, I can boss lies around.

    Because I am loved by God, I can be so thankful for the people I do have in my life.

    Because I am loved by God, I can choose to make this love season wonderful.

    I pray these questions and ideas help. And I pray we make 1 John 4:19 our declaration this year as we choose to give love instead of waiting for love to come our way: "We love because he first loved us."

    Father God, thank You for helping me to look at Valentine’s Day in a new and fresh way — not as a day where I strive to get love, but as the perfect opportunity for me to give love. Fill me to overflowing today with the knowledge of just how loved I am by You, and show me where I can spill that great love onto others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 3:17b-18, "And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Learn more about the unconditional love God has for you with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study GirlPurchase your copy here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are there "if only" lies you have been rehearsing lately? Take some time to replace those scripts with "Because I am … I can."

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Will Always Love You

    Wendy Pope FEBRUARY 10, 2015

    I Will Always Love You WENDY POPE

    "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever." 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NLT)

    It’d been one of those weeks. Every time I turned around, my precious little toddler had gotten into something else. The dirty laundry hadn’t moved from the hallway in days. And my baby wouldn’t go down for his nap.

    As quietly as possible, I tried to rock him to sleep for the umpteenth time, but my 3-year-old daughter kept coming in the nursery with markers in her hand. With frustration in my voice, I told her once and for all to go to her room and I would color with her later. She obeyed and marched her tiny feet straight to her bedroom. But she didn’t wait for me to color.

    After the baby finally fell asleep, I headed to Blaire’s room. As I opened the door, I stepped on the masterpiece she had been creating. Her frustrations with me were illustrated all over the carpet in her favorite purple marker. (Yes, this is when I learned to have only washable markers in our home.)

    I wish I could say I was as "slow to anger" as Christ is with me. But my voice and words were harsh. Blaire began to cry uncontrollably and I put myself in time-out.

    After a little while Blaire found me. Still short of breath from her crying, she asked a very sad question: "Do you still love me?"

    Her question caused me to reflect on the magnitude of God’s enduring love. I was able to respond to her the same way my heavenly Father responds to me, "There is nothing you can do that would make me stop loving you. I will always love you."

    Have you ever thought about the magnitude of God’s enduring love? 1 Chronicles 16:34 records this amazing truth: "Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever."

    For years, I never really considered what that meant. I knew God loved me, but the fact that His love endures forever was hard to comprehend. Nothing we do will make Him love us more or love us less.

    As a mother, I’ve endured sleepless nights, cranky kids and the daily building of tents. When compared to what God’s love endures for me though, I stand amazed!

    • His love died for you and me while we were still sinners.
    • His love grants us mercy when we stray from His ways.
    • His love overcomes our fears and doubts.
    • His love never leaves us nor forsakes us.
    • His love makes a place for us to spend eternity with Him.

    How can He love like that? Because He is God and only God is capable of such love. The first half of 1 Chronicles 16:34 tells us to "give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!" Let’s do that today!

    Lord, thank You for your steadfast and enduring love. Help me to love others the way You love me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 63:3, "Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you." (ESV)

    Psalm 138:8, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Spark your love for God’s Word with Wendy Pope’s Bible study, Trusting God for A Better Tomorrow: A Psalms Bible Study.

    Visit Wendy’s blog for more encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who in your life has shown you enduring love? A grandparent, spouse, friend? If possible, write a note to tell them thank you.

    Then, write a letter of gratitude to the Lord, giving Him thanks for specific instances when He showed His enduring love to you.

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

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