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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • But I'd Rather Sleep Than Pray

    Posted on April 3, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman APRIL 3, 2015

    But I'd Rather Sleep Than Pray
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping. He asked Peter, ‘So, couldn’t you stay awake with Me one hour? Stay awake and pray, so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’" Matthew 26:40-41 (HCSB)

    When I was a new Christian, I discovered a pamphlet entitled, How to Spend an Hour in Prayer. I was intrigued. I’d heard about people called prayer warriors who placed great emphasis on conversing with God. Prayer seemed to come to them naturally. For them, spending an hour in prayer must surely be a breeze.

    But honestly, back then I found it difficult to keep my thoughts from wandering when I prayed. Oftentimes today I still do! Instead they ricochet all over the place as I try to focus.

    However, one day, I decided that things were going to change. So I headed to a park with Bible in hand and a resolve in my heart to follow the step-by-step guide. I felt like a spiritual giant.

    I settled myself on a park bench, opened my Bible, looked down at my pamphlet and began to do what it suggested: "Spend five minutes thanking God for the blessings in your life. Spend five minutes praising God for His character qualities," and so on. Apparently, breaking down the various categories into five-minute increments was supposed to help. But it didn’t help me. Five minutes seemed like an eternity.

    Pretty soon a jogger happened by. He was carrying a small portable radio — without headphones — and the blaring music distracted me.

    Two hyper squirrels decided to chase each other up and down a tree, and around and around my bench. I laughed at their antics, but again lost my place. Even when the animals and humans quieted down, I still had trouble concentrating.

    I couldn’t focus; I kept thinking of all the things on my to-do list. And I was tired! The thought of just chucking my plans and heading home to take a nap seemed like a better idea. So, after about 23 minutes, I gave up, packed up and headed home. My conclusion? I just wasn’t cut out to be a prayer warrior. I’d rather sleep.

    It seems I am not alone. Today’s key verse tells us that even Jesus’ own disciples had a hard time with prayer. They fell asleep on the very day before Jesus was crucified. If ever someone needed the prayers of friends, it surely was then!

    Jesus verbalized the trouble with our best-intentions-turned-sour when He told His disciples this: "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41b). How true! My spirit wants to connect and converse with God. But my flesh would rather be off getting things done. Or mentally making my grocery list. Or — worst yet — even copping some zzzzzs!

    In order to see progress in our prayer life, we need to make prayer a matter of prayer! No. That isn’t a typo. We must pray first — before anything else — that God would help us rein in our wandering thoughts. That’s our only hope to battle against the urge to doze off and win the struggle over how we spend our time.

    This doesn’t mean we’ll turn into prayer warriors overnight. But it does mean we’ll want desperately for Jesus to meet us in our weakness and teach us to do the hard work of making prayer a priority. He is faithful. We must be, too.

    Today is Good Friday. The day we remember Christ’s death on the cross for our sins. As you go about your day today, could you sacrifice some time in prayer?

    Remember that God sees our hearts and knows our struggles. He doesn’t expect perfection. But He does want us to keep striving for improvement in the crucial area of daily communication with Him.

    Father, forgive me for the times that I have let my flesh win when my spirit wanted to pray. May I never cease trying to develop the important habit of spending intimate time with You in prayer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 12:12, "Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer." (HCSB)

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For a fun activity with children that not only teaches the importance of prayer but also provides a delicious recipe for homemade pretzels, visit Karen Ehman’s blog. There she’s also giving away a copy of her book, Everyday Confetti: Your Year-round Guide to Celebrating Holidays and Special Occasions, where this idea first appeared.

    For more on learning to trust God through prayer, check out Karen’s book and corresponding DVD Bible study LET. IT. GO. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How often do you find it easy to become distracted — or even sleepy — when you pray? When this happens, what can you do to fight against the flesh and keep on praying?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • And Then I Received Another Rejection Letter

    Posted on April 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 2, 2015And Then I Received Another Rejection Letter
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction." 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)

    I remember the letter like it was yesterday. In a nutshell, it was another publisher telling me my writing did not meet their needs at that time.

    And in his attempt to soften the blow, he’d added a wee bit of humor: "Just use this letter as the liner of your cat litter box as I’m sure one day things will work out for you."

    As if a little humor ever helped someone who has just been knocked into a pit of rejection.

    The letter wasn’t even signed.

    It was clear that nobody at the publishing house stood up in awe as they read my typed words and enthusiastically exclaimed, "Girl has skills!"

    I hung my head, got into my car, and drove to my local bookstore. I saved up all my tears until I was smack dab in the middle of thousands of other books — thousands of other writers who’d received a thumbs up to their dreams — thousands of other people with evidence that their writing mattered — and I sobbed.

    But the tears didn’t come from my eyes. They didn’t come from my heart. They came from my soul that was always slightly suspicious that God really didn’t have any sort of spectacular plan when He created me.

    After my rather impressive display of emotion in the middle of the bookstore, I drove home and silently declared I’d never set myself up for this kind of rejection again.

    I put all my writing attempts in a file drawer. I made tacos for dinner. And made note of the fact that God did nothing to soften this blow.

    There was no verse mysteriously written on a slip of paper that suddenly wafted down from my kitchen ceiling.

    There was no friend that called and said she felt led by the Holy Spirit to encourage me in my writing.

    There was no divine directive that gave any sort of inspiration for me to keep going.

    There was just this utter realization that I’d now have to tell all those praying for me that this writing a book thing was a no-go. In essence, with this "no" from a publisher, I felt I had no skills. And I’d obviously heard God wrong.

    So, surely I should give up.

    Oh how I wish I could go sit with myself on that day from the vantage point of this day.

    I would hand myself a tissue and state that this was not at all a rejection from God. It was a timing issue.

    Sometimes callings from God unfold in a miraculous instant. But more often callings happen within a million slow moments of me becoming mature enough to handle this calling.

    I needed to experience God revealing Himself and maturing me so I could properly handle the Truth I would eventually write and speak about. And so I could develop my communication skills by learning how to string thoughts and words together that could be received by an audience.

    We are charged to be prepared in 2 Timothy 4:2, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction."

    I know I needed maturity to be able to pay special attention to this whole verse, especially that last part … "with great patience and careful instruction."

    I am thankful it would be nearly four years … approximately 1,400 days … 35,040 hours … over 2.1 million moments before I was ready emotionally, spiritually and developmentally to properly handle the weight of God’s Word and the assignment of writing a book.

    Have you ever felt a stirring to write or attempted to write only to have something or someone shut it down?

    I understand. That’s why 14 years ago, after a publisher finally said yes, I knew I had to help other writers coming behind me. So, I developed a conference called She Speaks to train, equip, connect and breathe life into other writers’ dreams.

    You can click here for more information about She Speaks.

    But whether you want to write or fulfill another calling from God, let me assure you of one thing: Slow progress is better than no progress.

    The slow unfolding of readiness in us is often misunderstood to be a quick rejection by God. What a tragic mistake this is for many of us who too quickly shut down in our flesh what God is trying to develop in our spirit.

    Sweet sister, don’t give up. Ask yourself the questions I’ve listed below in the Reflect and Respond section. Then, walk toward the calling God created you to fulfill.

    Dear Lord, I want to step into the calling You’ve prepared for me. Help me push through feelings of doubt and rejection to embrace Your plan for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    2 Timothy 4:5, "But you — keep your eye on what you’re doing; accept the hard times along with the good; keep the Message alive; do a thorough job as God’s servant." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Receive the tools and the confidence you need to answer God’s call on your life at our She Speaks Conference! Find more information and sign up here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Filter your feelings of rejection about your calling through these questions:
    1) Have I taken this seriously by investing time, effort and resources in my development?
    2) Have I given up too soon?
    3) What have I let dissuade me from this calling, that I need to face?
    4) Have I bought into the lie that all the opportunities for my calling have already been given to other people?
    5) What’s one thing I can do today to move my calling forward?

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Being Quiet Just Isn't Enough

    Posted on April 1, 2015 by Family Christian

    Sheila Walsh APRIL 1, 2015

    When Being Quiet Just Isn't Enough
    Sheila Walsh

    "Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT)

    My mother, Elizabeth, has a gentle and quiet spirit. I have her smile but, I’m still working on her spirit!

    I discovered that it’s not enough just to be quiet. Some cats are very quiet right before they pounce! No, the kind of beauty that Christ wants to work in us comes from a peaceful place of surrender, not from a woman who has learned to bite her tongue!

    I grew up as a bit of an emotional "stuffer." My dad’s brain injury and subsequent anger scared me badly as a child. After his death, I never wanted to make anyone angry or rock the boat. So rather than say what I honestly felt, I would put on a smile and push my feelings into the basement of my soul.

    Have you ever done that?

    Your husband said he’d be home at 5:30 p.m. for dinner, but now it’s 6:40 p.m. and the lasagna looks like a burnt offering! But rather than say, "Honey, if you’re going to be that late again, would you just give me a quick call?" you force a smile, feed the lasagna to the dog and start dinner over, muttering under your breath.

    Or maybe you’ve asked your daughter three times to bring her dirty laundry downstairs yet it still decorates every square inch of her bedroom. Rather than sit down with her and explain how disrespectful it is to continue to ignore your requests and promise consequences if it happens again, you just trudge upstairs and gather the abandoned articles yourself. It’s easier to just get it done, so you shove your feelings down and carry on.

    The trouble with living like that, however, is that when the basement gets too full, it only takes one more little thing and the whole place blows up like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

    There has to be a better way to live as daughters of the King of kings!

    I find it interesting that Peter compares focusing on the outside of our lives with what lies inside our hearts. It makes me think that to have a gentle and quiet spirit there must be a direct correlation. If you’re like me, when I only focus on what I can see in the mirror, I can get to a crazy place!

    I need to lose 15 pounds!
    My hair looks like it was attacked by a pack of wild cats!
    I have nothing to wear!

    Our world bombards us every day with unattainable images of so-called perfect women, and it’s hard not to compare ourselves with what we see. When I allow myself to go there, I know my life is not a thing of beauty to God or anyone else.

    So, here’s what I’m learning …

    • To find my worth in God’s amazing love for me.
    • To lean into the truth of who His Word says I am.
    • To talk through every little moment of my day with Him before I take it out on someone else.
    • To be honest with myself and with others.
    • To be still and know that He is God.

    The truth is, although perfection is a myth, pure and simple, godly beauty is something that never fades. When I read that it’s precious to God, I want that. I want to cultivate a life that brings Him honor and pleasure, don’t you?

    Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You know me just as I am and You love me. Teach me to rest in Your love and to value what You value. May Your grace and Your love touch everyone I meet today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 4:8, "Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." (NLT)

    Matthew 6:27-29, "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    God’s Little Princess Bible is a full-text Bible for young princesses everywhere.

    Stop by Sheila Walsh’s website today for more encouragement to pursue pure and simple beauty.

    Enter to WIN a copy of God’s Little Princess Bible by Sheila Walsh. In celebration of this book, Sheila’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. Let us know why you’d like a copy for yourself, OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, April 6.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What one thing can you do today to cultivate a quiet and a gentle spirit?

    © 2015 by Sheila Walsh. 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

  • Moving From Grief to Grace

    Posted on March 31, 2015 by Family Christian

    Susan Mead MARCH 31, 2015

    Moving From Grief to Grace
    Susan B. Mead

    "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." Psalm 147:3 (NIV)

    Grief hits each one of us and can come from so many different directions.

    A romantic relationship gone awry. The loss of a cherished friendship. A puppy put down. Empty arms and a broken heart due to abortion. Infertility. Abuse. The death of a loved one.

    Dreams with a hope and future dashed in an instant. I know. I’ve lived it, too.

    A phone call changed my hopes and future as Matt, my older son, wailed into the phone about my younger son, "Kyle died last night!"

    Oh, God.

    NO, GOD!

    Hopes, dreams, future …

    Wedding invitations from his friends simply ripped my heart apart. Birth announcements of babies from those now married friends rekindled the loss. And the realization that there would be no grandchildren from him — running to me, holding their pudgy little hands or him tossing them into the sky showered with shouts of glee — hit hard.

    Yes, weddings, graduations, birth announcements — all reminders of those hope-filled dreams that had been shattered — caused weeping, groaning and bitterness. My heart often wondered: Will I remain bitter or will I get better? Will I continue to dissolve into tears, or will I ever erupt into cheers for these precious friends?

    At one of my lowest moments, realization and remembrance flooded my heart and mind: God lost His Son too, His only Son. The Father knew my loss, pain and brokenness oh so well.

    That revelation was like supernatural glue applied to bind my wounded soul. The lost, dark, broken part receded as God proceeded to heal my broken heart with His love and light.

    How about your lost plans, hopes and dreams?

    Are you bitter?

    Do you want to be better?

    Are you ready to lay your heavy cares at the foot of the cross … and leave that burden there, so you can step into God’s plans for you? Jesus promised, "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light," (Matthew 11:30, NKJV).

    God’s plan for His Son was not what the people hoped for and expected as they celebrated the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, then experienced His death on the cross by week’s end. They did not know Easter Sunday — His Son’s day — was coming.

    Remember, friend … Sunday’s coming! Jesus arose from the grave by the grace of God to save and redeem us. He has plans for us that include a hope and a future, even when our plans are dashed and we can’t see beyond the overwhelming loss of now.

    "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’" (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).

    We lost Kyle seven years and three days ago today. Yet, out of the ashes of grief a story of grace rises — the grace of our Lord, Jesus.

    Father, help me ease the grip on my grief and lay it at the foot of Your Son’s cross. Thank You that You can bind our wounds and heal our broken hearts. Remind us of Your magnificent plans for us, Lord God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Peter 5:8-11, "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ — eternal and glorious plans they are! — will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you, or someone you know, are working through grief and need help experiencing the transformational joy of the Lord, Susan Mead’s new book, Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace, can help.

    Join Susan on her blog today for her giveaway basket of goodies, including a Kindle Fire.

    Enter to WIN an autographed copy of Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace. In celebration of this book, Susan’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. (We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one on Monday, April 6.)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on how you felt when you read, "He gets the last word," from our Truth for Today Scripture above.

    © 2015 by Susan B. Mead. All rights reserved.

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

  • One Holy Morning

    Posted on March 30, 2015 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs MARCH 30, 2015

    One Holy Morning
    LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb …" John 20:1 (NIV)

    Long before daylight touched the sky, a trombone choir crept along the deserted sidewalks of Main Street, gently nudging the sleeping town awake. Each step drew them closer to the historic church square, where they would form a semicircle, point their instruments toward heaven and herald the dawn of another Resurrection Day.

    I tossed aside my bedcovers, eager to get going. "He is risen!"

    "He is risen, indeed!" my husband mumbled, though I heard the smile behind his words.

    Our two teenagers appeared, bleary-eyed. "This better be worth it, Mom."

    It would be.

    We dressed in a hurry, then joined dozens of worshippers assembled on the church lawn. Many had their hands tucked under their arms for warmth, like robins poking their bills beneath their wings.

    When the final trombone note floated across the square, my husband shepherded our family through the narrow, wooden doors of the church. We settled into a pew near the front and exchanged glances, our eyes moist. Almost time.

    Two thousand years ago, Mary Magdalene ran through the streets of Jerusalem "while it was still dark" (John 20:1), seeking the One who called Himself light. But He was not there. The tomb was empty. As two angels looked on, Mary Magdalene wept. She didn’t grasp the truth of His resurrection until He spoke her name: "Mary" (John 20:16).

    The Lord speaks our names as well, in the depths of our hearts. He calls us to see Him as He truly is: risen, victorious, eternal. He calls us to believe, to leave the darkness of doubt behind and step into the light of His truth.

    That Easter morning, my family and I sat up straighter as John’s Gospel was read aloud, the words washing over us like a shower, scrubbing us clean. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched my teenagers listen more intently than usual. The greatest story ever told, the one that never gets old: the Son of God, risen from the dead.

    We’d heard His story before, but we needed to hear it again. To be reminded.

    My son elbowed me. "When do we go to the cemetery?"

    "Soon," I promised. It was the highlight of our sunrise service, that solemn walk to God’s Acre — the hallowed field where those who’d fallen asleep in the Lord in centuries past were laid to rest.

    When the brief service in the sanctuary ended, we left the stained-glass walls behind and moved out into the damp morning. Trombones and trumpets and French horns echoed across the church parking lot as we walked toward the graves.

    Flat, plain stones — so old the engravings were worn smooth — pressed down upon the spongy earth. We enclosed them in a human square, facing due east in anticipation.

    I realized that nothing was going to actually happen among these graves. I was not Mary Magdalene, and this was not the first Easter. Oh, but it felt like it.

    We’d sung His praises and spoken His name. Now we stood, transformed among the tombs, as we watched the sky above us slowly brighten.

    On that sacred morning long ago, Mary Magdalene couldn’t keep the good news to herself. She went to the disciples, just as Jesus had commanded her, and told them, "I have seen the Lord!" (John 20:18).

    He urges all of us who love Him to do the same. To tell everyone who will listen, "The Lord is alive. He is real. And here’s how much He loves you."

    Dear God, thank You for the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus. We want to celebrate Him every day of our lives. In a world that grows increasingly dark, help us hold up His light. Give us the courage to speak as boldly as Mary Magdalene did, and never be ashamed of proclaiming Your Good News. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 8:12, "When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’" (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 4:6, "For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Celebrate spring with Liz Curtis Higgs’ joy-filled daily devotional, Rise and Shine: Encouragement to Start Your Day.

    Join Liz as she unwraps the Bible each week on her blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    The days and weeks leading up to Easter give us a chance to prepare our hearts for renewal, to leave behind the darkness of winter and welcome the warmth and light of spring. What could you do to make this Easter your most memorable yet?

    How might you, like Mary Magdalene, share the Good News with someone you care about?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Real Love Bleeds

    Posted on March 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Chrystal Evans Hurst MARCH 27, 2015

    Real Love Bleeds
    CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

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

    Once while attending a conference I found myself browsing through the vendor section.

    Most, if not all, of the vendors had products available where the proceeds would be invested directly into a ministry or mission project designed to change the lives of people near and far.

    The idea that my purchase could in some way be a small contribution to Kingdom work propelled me to actively seek something that I wanted to wear, use or display in my home.

    I paused in front of a table featuring art prints with various inspirational quotes and verses. It was like a sea of words.

    I figured that somewhere on that table were words I would want to display in my home. Words that would inspire me and spur me on to be the person God wanted me to be.

    I found those words. But they weren’t the warm and fuzzy words I was looking for. The kind that would make me want to smile when I walked by them in my home.

    Instead I found words that cut deep and convicted me beyond my expectation. Words that inspired me … but solemnly. Words that did not yield a cozy experience, but certainly lit a fire within my heart and soul. The print said:

    "Real love bleeds."

    I bought it.

    Loving people can be hard work. It can be even harder when the love you give requires the very essence of who you are to flow through wounds inflicted by the ones your heart beats for.

    When I read these three small words penned by this artist-turned-missionary, I stopped in my tracks because I knew I had been doing exactly the opposite in my life.

    Instead of being willing to "bleed" for the ones I loved the most, I had slipped into full-on apathy.

    Why? Because sometimes caring for and loving others doesn’t feel good.

    Sometimes, it’s easier not to love.

    Over time, and unbeknownst to me, I had become an expert at self-preservation and pain avoidance.

    Anything that hurt, I didn’t touch — including the people I loved the most.

    I grieved as I realized that the very love Jesus continually offered me — the same love that came at His own great personal discomfort and eventual agony — was unfortunately the kind of love I’d become unwilling to consistently offer.

    Why? Because sometimes loving others hurts.

    As I stood there and pulled out my wallet to purchase the simple yet beautiful print, I realized that great love comes at a great cost — as evidenced by the example of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for my sins, which we see in today’s key verse.

    I remembered His illustration of love for me and recalled His command that I follow in His steps: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34, ESV).

    Now, let me concede this. I am completely aware that everyone who causes us pain should not be an automatic recipient of our deepest level of sacrifice. However, I am acutely aware of my own need to assess my willingness to love like Christ loves me and to sacrifice for those to whom I am called.

    What I know for certain is this: There are times when the love I have for others is not a matter of feeling, but rather a matter of my decision to be obedient to Him — and it won’t feel good.

    The question is, when real love results in my personal discomfort or even a heart-wrenching level of pain, am I willing to love well anyway?

    Father, thank You for Your love — a love that never fails and never gives up on me. You are the perfect example of a great love — a love that is offered full-strength even when love is not given in return. Help me to love like You. I want to honor You by doing my best to love others in the way You have loved me — even when it hurts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 4:11, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." (ESV)

    1 Corinthians 13:13, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst will encourage and challenge you to be transformed by God’s truth, seek His best and move forward in the abundant life He has for you.

    Visit Chrystal Hurst’s blog for more encouragement. Chrystal has prepared a free printable Scripture to remind you that love matters. CLICK HERE to download.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Would the people closest to you say that you love them well? Why or why not?

    Think of one person in your life who is hard to love. What one thing can you do today to love them anyway?

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?

    Posted on March 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman MARCH 26, 2015Seasoned With Snark or Laced With Grace?
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." Proverbs 16:24 (NIV)

    I am kind of a Bible nerd. I not only love to learn the meaning behind the Hebrew or Greek words in Scripture, I also like to study certain English words that catch my attention, drilling down deep to understand why a particular word or phrase is used.

    And so when I read today’s key verse, Proverbs 16:24, I grew curious: Why did God use a honeycomb to describe gracious, sweet and healing speech? I needed only to look in my own neighborhood for my answer.

    Down the street lives a teenager named Jake. He is a terrific football player and an avid wrestler. However, Jake is also a beekeeper who peddles his amber jars of honey at local festivals and fairs. I decided to interview this high school entrepreneur to discover all I could about the honey-making biz. He was very patient with all of my "whys," and his detailed answers fascinated me.

    Jake told me that the flavor and intensity of honey depends on what kind of nectar the bees drink. Clover nectar produces honey that is refreshingly light and sweet. However, another flower’s nectar might create a murky, bitter product, with a lingering, unpleasant aftertaste. Wise beekeepers will be sure their beehive is strategically placed near a large patch of clover if they want the sweetest, most delectable honey there is.

    He also emphasized the importance of situating the beehive where the sun will hit it early in the morning, warming up the bees and triggering them to get busy churning out the utmost amount of sweet syrup possible.

    "So," I questioned my young friend, "is it safe to say that the sweetness or bitterness of honey is determined by what the bee drinks and the amount of time it spends in the sun — especially early in the morning?"

    "Exactly!" he replied.

    DING! DING! DING! We have a winner.

    Perhaps it’s also true that the sweetness or bitterness of our words will be determined by what our hearts drink in each day, and the amount of time we spend early with the Son.

    Today’s key verse states, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." If we long for our words to be laced with grace, rather than seasoned with snark, we need to think like a beekeeper: Watch what we drink and spend time in the Son.

    By tucking God’s Word into our hearts — drinking in its life-changing truths daily as we spend time with Him — we can learn to speak gracious words that are sweetly soothing to the soul and bring healing and hope. Scripture read daily, studied often and memorized intentionally can teach us to speak strategically — yes, with words that are honest — but that are also lovingly tucked inside an envelope of grace.

    When we lace our speech with grace, healing takes place.

    So when someone else’s behavior threatens to knock the nice right out of us, we can pause before we pounce, taking the advice I sometimes have to give to myself: Don’t say something permanently painful just because you are temporarily ticked off. Instead, impart grace: sweet, healing, life-giving grace.

    All the humans you encounter throughout the course of the day are "on-purpose" people. God placed them into your life for a reason. These souls — whether they are the easy-to-love variety or the scratchy sandpaper kind — can be used by God to mold, reshape and sometimes stretch our souls as He perpetually crafts us into creations that look more and more like his Son — especially in the way we speak.

    Others are watching, sizing up what we say and how we say it. What will they see? Words that incite spats and squabbles? Or honey-sweet speech that soothes and heals?

    You choose.

    Father, I pray I may carve out time to soak in Your presence, spending time in Your Word each day so I might speak and act more like Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 10:12, "Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips." (NIV)

    Proverbs 10:32, "The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you need help in watching your words and keeping them in line with Scripture, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

    For a honey-themed "Sweet Speech" giveaway full of all sorts of goodies, head over to Karen Ehman’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being "Never" and 10 being "Always," what number would you give yourself when asked how often your words are gracious and soothing rather than short and snippy?

    What one thing should you remember when conversing with others, that will help you lace your speech with grace?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Love The Home You Have

    Posted on March 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Melissa Michaels MARCH 25, 2015Love The Home You Have
    Melissa Michaels

    "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)

    One day as I was putting away some laundry, I caught a glimpse of our upstairs family room through the door at the end of the hall. The sun was streaming in the windows, filling the room with bright light. Instead of simply rejoicing at the sunshine, I couldn’t help but notice how worn the carpet had become.

    I didn’t love the drab color to begin with, but after years of wear and tear with an aging dog, a teenage boy and three puppies, that carpet definitely had lost its new-house freshness.

    The declining condition of the carpet reminds me of an ever-growing list of things falling apart around the house. If I let myself think about it too long, I can get so overwhelmed counting the flaws (and lack of funds to improve them) that I begin to grow discontent with my home. Before I know it, I’m daydreaming about a better house in a different neighborhood.

    My dream house includes a picket fence, more closet space, less clutter and definitely no drab or smelly carpet in the family room!

    I almost believe that if only I lived there, life would be so much easier.

    There’s nothing particularly wrong with daydreaming now and then about home improvement or a better house, but I’ve learned that what comes next can either help or hinder me.

    When I’m tempted to peer over a picket fence to see if the grass is indeed greener on the other side, I know it’s time to turn around right then and there and change my perspective. The home I have is enough.

    Most of the time I really am grateful for the gift of a roof over my head, but if I lose perspective, it doesn’t take much for discontent to move in and steal any contentment with what I have.

    Yes, carpet can be cleaned or even replaced someday. Clutter can be removed to reveal more closet space. The dishes will have to be done in any house we live in. I will never get to every project on our to-do list.

    Any home needs some TLC to transform it into a sanctuary for our families. Yet to find true contentment in all circumstances, as our key verse reminds us, I have to be transformed first.

    I’ve learned that it’s not about finding the right house or keeping up with the to-do list or the Joneses, but about learning how to find joy and delight in what I’ve been given (even when it isn’t exactly what I would have chosen!).

    With the right perspective, I can create a comfortable space to serve God and my family well, right here in this place.

    Every uplifting word we speak to our families, every time we pick up the mess or clean the carpet or rearrange the furniture, every opportunity we take to show hospitality and love to the people who come through our door — they all matter.

    Caring for the home we have with a perspective of gratitude builds up our contentment with what God has provided. As Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (NIV).

    Whether your home is an apartment, a condo, a rental or your forever dream house, the ordinary blessings you count every day will keep your perspective on what matters most.

    Dear Lord, sometimes I lose perspective when viewing the gifts right in front of me. I start to believe my dream house must be somewhere else, because it certainly couldn’t be right here in this mess. Help me refocus my heart and find contentment right here, in this place You so graciously provided for me. Help me honor You through learning to take care of the home I have and showing love to the people who enter through my door. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 14:1, "The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    What if the house of your dreams is the home you have? If this devotion resonated with you, Love the Home You Have, a brand new book by Melissa Michaels, might inspire you.

    Visit Melissa’s blog, The Inspired Room, for more encouragement today.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Love the Home You Have by Melissa Michaels. In celebration of this book, Melissa’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, March 30.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are the things that bring you frustration or discontent in your home?

    How could you find a new perspective and develop more gratitude to show love for the home you already have?

    © 2015 by Melissa Michaels. 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

  • Interview with Matthew West

    Posted on March 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Matthew West is releasing a new album called Live Forever.  We had the honor of interviewing Matthew.

    Family Christian:  What was your main goal as you were making this album, Live Forever? Take us through a little bit of the process.

    Matthew West:  Six years ago I had the idea to write some songs inspired by peoples’ true stories and see what God might do with it. Six years, 40,000 stories and now 3 records later, I’m blown away by what an amazing experience this has been! Live Forever is my third project inspired by the testimonies that people have sent to me. In the last couple records, I wrote songs that covered a number of different types of chapters that many of us have in our stories. This record looks forward at the chapters of our stories that we are writing write now, and the chapters that are still to come.

    Each song on the record is inspired by someone’s true story. So these songs mean a lot to me, because when I sing them, I’m thinking of that one person who shared their testimony and I’m amazed by how God can use all of our stories if we will choose to let him.

    Family Christian:   How do you think your latest release, Live Forever, speaks to listeners? What do you hope listeners think and feel after listening to your album?

     

    Matthew West:   I hope listeners get so fired up by the messages on this record! This is a victory album. A reminder that God’s mercy is new every single morning. A reminder that our best days are not behind us, they are in front of us. Even musically, my aim was to move forward. I didn’t want to make the same style of music. I wanted to move forward in my sound and in the lyrics. Starting over, starting now…

    Family Christian:   What does the title of your new album mean? How was it chosen and what significance does it have?

     

    Matthew West:   This record carries a message that in many ways flies in the face of the message the world sends to us. This world tells us things like YOLO—You Only Live Once. That sounds real good, but it’s an empty thought. The world lives like our legacy ends the day we die and so the emphasis is on making these moments last forever. But we know this life is temporary. And we also know that for those who choose to follow Jesus, there is the ultimate hope that we can live forever. The songs and stories on this record all point to the reminder that between the day we are born and the day we die, there is a dash. God offers us a way to live our dash, our story in such a way that it leaves a legacy behind us and secures an eternity in front of us. That is how we live forever.

    Family Christian:    Who was Matthew West when your first album came out? Who is Matthew West now?

    Matthew West:   That’s a good question. I was a young songwriter with a calling on my life that I was going to be part of a new generation of voices telling the world about Jesus through song. I guess not much has changed on that front. But I have changed, and hopefully I have grown in many other ways. I think it’s so amazing how God does have a calling placed on each one of our lives, and the more we follow him into his plan for our lives, the more layers he peels back, and the more we begin to see and understand what God had planned all along. Today, I feel like I’m in my sweet spot in many ways. God has blessed me with an amazing wife and two incredible children. He has combined my passion for story with a platform to tell the world how God is the author of redemption in all of our lives.

    Family Christian:   To expand on the previous question, How have you changed over the years when it comes to songwriting, recording and producing music? Do you have the same goals?

    Matthew West:   Well, for starters, I used to use songwriting as a vehicle to tell my story to the world. Now, I’ve found fulfillment in sharing that spotlight with thousands of people who are brave enough to believe that God can speak through their stories. I’d like to think I have continued to push boundaries musically and also topically. I guess I used to write songs with the masses in mind. These days, I find myself reading someone’s story and thinking, “I want to write a song for this one person.” It’s amazing that with such a finite focus, I’ve been writing songs that have been pretty universally relatable. I guess that’s how God works.

  • Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?

    Posted on March 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer MARCH 24, 2015Going Nowhere or Getting Ready?
    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …" Joshua 1:2b (NIV)

    I was poised to take the next step in my career and ministry. My three boys were getting older. Life was moving in a sweet groove. Finally, after years of childrearing I was ready to take my work to the next level. Then God stepped in with a shocking request that changed everything.

    One minute I was sitting in a woman’s conference, enjoying the speaker’s story. The next, God was pounding on my heart to adopt from Africa. Surprised would be an understatement. Terrified was more like it. But the surety of the request was undeniable.

    It took my husband about 60 seconds to agree, and then about six months for us to be certified. But just months after that, two little Liberian sisters (ages 8 and 11) walked into our hearts and homes, and my professional plans came to a halt.

    Although we knew their needs would be great, we hadn’t fully understood the multiple wounds those years of deprivation would cause them. Nor the complicated issues we would face. But one thing was certain: My physical and emotional presence was required.

    So I started to say "no" to other things. No to new opportunities. No to my old dreams. No to going where my heart thought I was finally headed. And "yes" to caring for my two daughters.

    In my prayers, I clearly heard God say this time of stepping back would be three years. I think God didn’t want to overwhelm me, because it’s going on 10 now. And in the beginning, I thought for sure God had replaced my career and ministry dreams with His calling to care for two little girls. And I was completely fine with that.

    What I know now, is that not only did God give me the assignment of raising my daughters, He also equipped me for a future I didn’t see coming.

    God was taking me somewhere, only I couldn’t see where. And those years that felt like I was going nowhere in my career? They were years of preparation for what God had planned next.

    In the Bible, God often told His people to get ready for what was coming next — even when they had no idea what that meant. In our key verse, the Israelites had left Egypt 40 years prior and were close to the land God had promised them. Yet it still must have looked impossible to get there. Not only was there a nation to conquer, but there was a swollen river before them. And yet God said, "Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them …" (Joshua 1:2b).

    Getting ready takes on many forms. There’s the practical side of getting ready, like packing a tent. But getting ready for what God has planned next is often a spiritual task. The Israelites had to reaffirm their trust in God to do the impossible. They had to submit to His lead and not their own, and they definitely had to wait on God’s perfect timing.

    And that’s what happened to me. God needed me to get ready for the next step in my life. In order to do that, I needed to become more dependent on His strength, and less on my abilities. My heart had to be stripped of any remnants of pride and judgment of others. I had to discover the power of the Name of Jesus in a way I’d never experienced from just reading about Him. All of this took time.

    What I didn’t see 10 years ago were the doors of opportunity God would open from my home, allowing me to work around my family commitments. I didn’t see how the Internet would grow and allow ministry around the world. But God did.

    God knew his plans for me 10 years ago, and they involved my getting ready.

    Maybe you feel like your plans have come to a screeching halt. Do you think opportunities are passing you by that won’t come again?

    Don’t despair. The Israelites didn’t see that God was about to do multiple miracles. All they were told was, "Get ready." Maybe that’s just where God has you. If so, what’s coming next is going to be amazing. So get ready.

    Heavenly Father, Your plans for me are perfect. Help me to trust You more and get ready for what You have planned. And Lord, please give me patience as I wait on Your perfect timing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Joshua 3:5, "Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you struggle to manage the practical parts of your life? If so, Glynnis Whitwer’s book, I Used to Be So Organized, can help you regain some control.

    Join Glynnis on her blog today for 5 Ways to Get Ready for Answered Prayer.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Has God changed your plans or priorities lately? What are some of the emotions you are experiencing?

    What work might God want to do in your life (or heart) to get you ready for what’s coming next?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

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