• New faith-filled wall decor

Author Archives: Family Christian

  • The Day I Wanted to Punch Somebody

    Amy Carroll MARCH 4, 2015

    The Day I Wanted to Punch Somebody

    "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 (NIV)

    At first it seemed like a wonderful idea to take my boys to the mall on the craziest shopping day of the whole year. We piled into the car and left home excited about all the deals we’d find. My optimism soon faded as we reached the line of cars twisting out of the parking lot onto the road.

    I dropped my sons off in front of their favorite store and promised to join them as soon as I found a parking space.

    However, each space I saw was immediately filled by the nearest car, and the weight of frustration began to press on my chest. My blood pressure rose with each passing minute.

    I inched my car around the corner of the next row, hoping to be released from the snarl, only to be blocked by an enormous SUV driven by a man chauffeuring his family. One of us had to back up, and it seemed like he had more room behind him than I did.

    So, I smiled and motioned a request for him to back up to let me pass. Shockingly, the man motioned back at me with an obvious lack of the pleasantness I had hoped to convey. He refused to budge.

    Suddenly, the girl many have referred to as "sweet" … the girl who usually doesn’t struggle with anger or take quick offense … the girl who knows violence is the wrong solution to conflict … suddenly that girl’s imagination began to swirl. I pictured myself getting out of the car, screaming insults and jabbing my finger in the man’s chest until he humbly backed his car out of my way. In the heat of my rage, I seriously contemplated creating a scene.

    However, the still-functioning part of my brain realized this man wasn’t going to give way, so roiling with anger, I carefully backed up into traffic for him to pass, glaring at him and his posse as he drove by.

    About an hour later, after I finally found a parking space, I nearly walked right into the man and his family coming out of a store. My heart sank, and I was filled with shame.

    Suddenly, I had a new picture in my mind: Me in the parking lot with a sign on my forehead that said, "I love Jesus and follow Him."

    Until our close-encounter outside the safe buffer zone of my car, my still simmering fury seemed justified. Now deflated, I faced my own fault.

    Today’s key verse calls my initial reaction "the flesh." In studying this verse alongside another translation, I found an exact description of my response. "If you live your life animated by the flesh — namely, your fallen, corrupt nature — then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh. But if you live your life animated by the Spirit — namely, God’s indwelling presence — then your focus is on the work of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5, The Voice).

    Although it’s my heart’s desire to live by the Spirit, reflecting God’s indwelling presence to those around me, that day I allowed my flesh to rise up. Instead of being fixated on the things of the Spirit, I focused on what my flesh wanted … a bargain on material things, a parking space and my own way.

    Where our mind is set determines where our actions go.

    Thankfully, the man and his family didn’t seem to recognize me, but I was instantly humbled and repentant when I saw them. Whispering a prayer to God, I asked for His forgiveness and for restoration in my heart and mind to the work of the Spirit. When our flesh rises up, asking God to reset our focus returns us to right relationship with Him and others.

    Lord, my mind’s focus can stray so easily, leading me to live in the flesh instead of in the presence of Your Spirit. Help me start each day by gazing at You so I can live each moment setting my heart, soul and mind on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Galatians 5:22-23, "The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this." (The Voice)

    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst is a practical guide for dealing with raw emotions.

    Visit Amy Carroll’s blog today to read more about the beautiful work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

    What are indicators in your own life that you’ve moved out of the Spirit and into the flesh?

    Write a plan for how to set your mind on the Spirit the next time you recognize these indicators.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Do I Choose?

    Sally Clarkson MARCH 3, 2015

    How Do I Choose?
    John Ortberg

    "…See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut…" Revelation 3:8a (NIV)

    Life is full of tough decisions.

    How do I know if he/she is "the one"? Which college should I go to? What should I major in? Which job should I take? Which church should we attend? Should I change careers? Now that the kids are grown, should we downsize? Is now the right time to retire?

    People hate making decisions. Mostly because we’re terrified of making the wrong one.

    Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide. And that can be downright terrifying.

    My wife, Nancy, and I were at a restaurant once, and the waiter responded to every choice we made by saying, "Brilliant," "Perfect" or "Excellent decision." This happened so steadily throughout the meal that I finally asked him if he ever told anyone they made a lousy choice. He told us that the restaurant managers had discovered diners are so afraid of choosing the wrong thing, they actually print a list of "affirmation words" that the wait staff is required to say in response to everyone’s order.

    Think about that. Even a question as simple as, "Soup or salad?" renders us so vulnerable that restaurants have to turn their wait staff into therapists!

    In a way, we do the same thing with God. Terrified of making a bad decision, we lay all of our choices at God’s feet and ask Him, "What is Your will for my life?"

    But, what if God’s will for us is that we develop the wisdom and discernment to make our own decisions in light of His Word, and the faith and confidence to know He will be there guiding us regardless of which path we choose?

    Doesn’t that sound freeing?

    God wants us to learn how to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to ’How to know God’s will for your life." Paul doesn’t write about "6 Steps to Determine If He’s the One" or "5 Ways to Discern God’s Best Career Path for You."

    What we do see are statements like this: "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you" (James 1:5, NRSV).

    Or "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best" (Philippians 1:9-10a, NIV, 1984).

    So the next time you face a difficult decision, instead of asking God what His will is for your life, begin by asking for wisdom. And don’t live in fear of making the wrong decision. Even if you walk through the wrong door, as long as you walk through it with the right heart, God’s will will be done.

    Remember, God’s will for your life is not about whom, or if, you should marry, which job you should accept, or which neighborhood you should live in. God’s will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus. And nothing can stand in the way of that.

    Dear God, we know that You are the God of the open door. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to grow and serve and make a positive impact on others. Because of Your love, we don’t have to be afraid of failure, nor do we have to live under the tyranny of always making the perfect choice. We pray You will give us the courage and wisdom to walk through whatever doors You open before us. And we pray that through our actions, Your will will be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (ESV)

    Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (ESV)

    How do we determine God’s plans? If you’re searching for more on discovering God’s will for your life, you’ll enjoy John Ortberg’s new book, All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? To dig even deeper with a small group or Sunday School class, explore the 6-session DVD Curriculum.

    Enter to WIN a copy of All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? by John Ortberg. In celebration of this book, John'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 9.}

    Some decisions seem much harder to make than others. Think back to the last genuinely difficult decision you made and compare that to a relatively simple decision you’ve made recently. What made one so much harder/easier than the other?

    Think back to the last "bad" decision you made. What did you learn from the experience that made you a better person?

    © 2015 by John Ortberg. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale 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

  • What can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    When you have a child with autism or other special needs, even the simple everyday tasks most take for granted can present their own set of unique challenges and issues. Trips to the grocery store, outings to the zoo...and yes, even church! Between the noises, the lights and the crowds, churches can be a lot for kids with sensory issues to handle.

    For parents, this can be very isolating. We find ourselves feeling looked down upon in social situations when sensory issues lead to meltdowns and 'inappropriate' behaviors. Even in church, it's easy to feel a little unwelcome at times.


    In an ideal world, every church would offer a sensory friendly service... a special service where families of those with sensory issues could come and worship without fear. Music would be turned down, there'd be no crazy lights, no booming speeches and moving around would be not only acceptable but even welcome. Or perhaps they'd offer a special room (like a cry room, seen in many larger churches) or even a special needs classroom available during the church services. All options would be ideal...but let's be honest, most churches simply do not have the resources available.

    Which leads to the question: what can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    One very simple way is by offering a sensory box to use during services to those that need them. This box would contain both sensory products aimed to help deal with sensory overload, as well as fun activities that can help children stay occupied. Here's a look at some ideas to include:


    • Weighted Products. Weighted/compression vests, lap pads, etc can be a great for calming and helping kids to stay still.
    • Noise Reducing Headphones. One of the big issues for kids in a church setting is the noise- be it the music, the blare of speakers or just the crowd in general. For my son, we have found noise reducing headphones to be essential in public places when it becomes too much. These are similar to what one would wear at a shooting range and does not block out all noise but rather filters out some of the background noise.
    • Oral Sensory Toys. These would of course be specific to each child (to be stored with a plastic baggie with their name), but can also be a great addition to your sensory box. For my son, I've found that having something to chew on such as this can help him to focus...as well as keeping his mouth off of everything around him!
    • Books. For the child that can read, books can be a great distraction! Fill with bright, vibrant books for various age levels. Consider Veggie Tales comics or fun Bible storybooks. I loved featuring a book called 'God Made Me Special' to remind those differently-abled children that God made them perfect just as they are.
    • Art Supplies. Crayons, coloring books, pencils, etc can all again provide great busy work to make the wait a little easier. Color Wonder papers and markers can be ideal for younger kids or those with fine motor issues to prevent messes. Clay and/or playdoh when possible can also serve as a great sensory experience.
    • Small Quiet Toys. Of course there is no better way to occupy a child's attention than with toys! For this box, the key thing you want to look for is toys that can be played with quietly! Plush toys, soft balls, etc are great options. For the sensory seeking kid, offer a variety of textures. Find toys that have colorful lights. Spinning parts are also popular among kids with sensory issues (gears, wheels, tops, etc).  Inexpensive novelty toys are fantastic for this type of box...they can be replaced easily and inexpensively and because they are not played with every day still keep their appeal. (We used this types of toys often as reinforcements in therapy).
    Of course, every child will be different and what helps one child might not for the next, but this list will give you a great starting point to build upon. The sensory therapy products can all be found at stores specializing in therapy or education, but many great sensory friendly toys and books can be found right where you shop for your other church supplies- Family Christian.Just by letting families know that you have thought of them and want to make their church experience as easy as possible can go a long way in letting them know that they are in fact welcome. But don't let the welcoming end there. Offer support where possible, ask questions about how you can make church a better experience for each individual family and above all be understanding. Even creating the perfect sensory-friendly church experience may still prove too much for some children- reach out to these families where they are. A little bit of compassion can go a long way in making this journey with a differently-abled child a little less lonely.

    Randi Sampson is a Christian wife and autism mom. She blogs at A Modern Day Fairy Tale- sharing stories of motherhood, life, product reviews and everything in between.

  • There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom

    Tracie Miles MARCH 2, 2015

    There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom

    "Her children arise and call her blessed;" Proverbs 31:28a (NIV)

    A teenage pregnancy landed me in an abortion clinic. And for years afterward, I was tormented by regret and shame, worsened by the secret fear that God would never bless me with another child. Yet 14 years later, as I held my first baby in my arms, I began thinking hope-filled thoughts for the very first time.

    I peered into Morgan’s little blue eyes and wondered … Maybe God doesn’t despise me after all. Maybe He does see some good in me. Maybe He does love me, despite me. After all, if God would allow me to be a mom to something so tiny and precious, could He really hate me?

    Those questions were the start of my healing, as Jesus began to mend my shattered heart through the cries of a newborn.

    Over time, I embraced God’s love for me. Yet I still believed I had a lot to make up for. I was convinced I had to be the best mommy in the history of all mommies. I intended to prove to God, this baby and myself that I deserved her. I devoted every waking moment to meeting every need of this treasured child.

    Irrational? Obsessed? Overachieving? Yes, I was all of those things. I desperately wanted to be a good mom, the best mom. In fact, I hoped I could make up for my past mistakes if I were the perfect mom. So I set standards for myself that I couldn’t meet — no one could — and constantly felt like a failure.

    I imagine many moms feel that way at times. We set our minds to being the most patient, loving, thoughtful, caring, kind, generous and selfless mothers ever, but life and reality get in the way. Colicky babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, defiant third graders, disrespectful middle schoolers, and hormonal teenagers shake our quest for perfection.

    No matter how hard we try, we can’t live up to the standard of being perfect moms with perfect kids who rise up every day and call us blessed.

    When we read today’s key verse, it might make us wonder if we’re enough as a mom — especially on those days when we don’t feel like enough. But the truth is, this woman’s husband and children, who knew her better than anyone else, were recipients of her love, care and unselfish habits. They believed she was a good mother and wife and respected her faith and who she was overall, and they were proud.

    It doesn’t say she was perfect, just that she was perfectly loved and respected.

    All of us have made mistakes or endured hardships in life, but we don’t have to let our past become a stumbling block for our future or impact the futures of our children. God has called us all to a divine purpose in this life, and sometimes the highest, most divine calling of all, is being a mom.

    Not a perfect mom, but a mom who loves the Lord, and seeks grace when she stumbles and strength when she’s weary. A mom who pushes past her lack of confidence and regrets from the past, and allows God to use those experiences to shape her into a faith role model for her kids.

    A mom who simply tries her best, while remembering she has a God who will guide her through each season of parenting, one imperfect day after another. A mom who loves her children enough to teach them to love Him too, even in the midst of her own short-comings.

    And one day, those sweet babies just might rise up and call us blessed, simply because we built a legacy of faith and love. Then every prayer for grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and perseverance will be well worth the wait.

    Jesus, sometimes I feel like a failure at mothering, and often wonder if my past choices affect my ability to be a good parent. Help me to remember I am flawed, but dearly loved, and that in Your strength and wisdom I can succeed in this calling of motherhood. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Proverbs 22:6, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (NLT)

    For more encouragement on being the woman and mom God called you to be despite the mistakes of your past, consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future.

    Visit Tracie’s blog for 5 Tips of Encouragement for the Less-Than-Perfect Mom and learn about her upcoming book study.

    Want to help put Truth into your children’s hearts? ABC Scripture Cards were designed to bring Scripture memory to life in the heart of your home. Each decorative card contains a verse to memorize with your child as you help instill God’s word into their heart and mind.

    How have you held yourself to unreasonable standards as a mom?

    How might this journey of motherhood be different if you stopped trying to be perfect?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Day I Saw My Son Drowning

    Katy McCown FEBRUARY 27, 2015

    The Day I Saw My Son Drowning
    Katy McCown

    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

    It all happened in a matter of seconds.

    We stormed through the hotel pool’s gate with kids, towels, floaties and a stroller. Still wearing my street clothes, I played pool police while my husband, Luke, secured the little ones into life jackets.

    Our 4-year-old son, who knows how to swim, waded down the steps with confidence. But this marked our first time at the pool since the previous summer, and time took its toll on Micah’s memory. He’d forgotten how to swim, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

    I spotted him first and shouted, "Luke! Micah!"

    Since my husband stood only a few steps away, sporting a swimsuit, I figured he was the guy for the job. I assumed my tone would communicate the urgency of the situation and expected Luke to hop right in and rescue Micah.

    But he didn’t.

    Luke looked at me confused. He didn’t see Micah. He didn’t know what was happening. And every second I waited for my husband to save our son, Micah struggled to breathe.

    I stood steps away, knowing he needed help. But because I reasoned someone else was more prepared or better suited for the job, I did nothing.

    I share one of my worst moments as a mother because I often see the same struggles in our spiritual lives. We see someone drowning and, with good intentions, wait for the "right" person for the job.

    But God put us in front of the ones who need air. We see them with our eyes. We understand the need. God chose us for these jobs. And while we wait for an expert to jump in, someone is drowning.

    Like the new girl at Bible study who unloaded her burdened heart into the middle of our comfortable circle.

    Just minutes earlier, I had greeted her with a smile and tried to make her feel comfortable. I didn’t know much about her, so I asked questions to ease the newness of it all. We grabbed some goodies then shuffled into the living room, where the group gathered in our usual circle.

    We shared and prayed and pondered God’s Word and will for our lives.

    Then the dam broke. The headache in the heart of this new face made her wince as the words poured out of her mouth. Floods of self-doubt and confusion gushed through the gaping hole in her soul.

    She described the uncertainty of new things, the unsettled places of old things and the unraveling of too many things. When the words ran out and the tears came close to spilling over, she lowered her head and pleaded, "I just need to know what to do."

    And we all sat silent.

    The girl who invited her should be the one to say something, I reasoned. Or surely the leader of the group will shed light on her situation. Or at least someone who’s known her longer than five minutes! I thought to myself.

    Everyone else must have rationalized the same way I did. Because not one of us offered a life preserver or anything to help keep her head above water.

    In today’s key verse, Jesus paints the picture of the day we stand before God. He says people will ask Him, "When did we see you hungry and feed you? Or when did we see you naked and give you clothes?"

    In Matthew 25:40 Jesus shares the startling truth, "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (ESV)

    Thankfully, my son Micah’s story ends brighter than the woman at Bible study. That day at the pool, a stranger rescued my son. He saw Micah drowning and took action. I wish it had been me, but I thank God for that man who chose not to hesitate.

    The Bible study visitor never returned. She likely left disappointed and embarrassed. I pray God uses someone else to draw her to Him. I wish it had been me.

    I urge you today, if you see someone drowning, jump into the water. Grab them by the hand and guide them to the only true Life Preserver. Whatever you do for them, you do also for the King of Kings.

    Lord Jesus, give me the courage to jump. I want to be Your vessel who brings hope and rest to those You love. Give me Your eyes and help my arms be like Yours and reach for those who are sinking. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Philippians 2:12b-13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose." (HCSB)

    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)

    Do you long to write powerful words that are memorable and life changing to someone in need of God’s hope? Today’s devotion author, Katy McCown, is a member of COMPEL, a resource for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more or become a member of COMPEL today.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries also hosts She Speaks, an annual training conference for writers and speakers. You’re invited to join us in Charlotte this July 23-25, 2015, for a unique combination of spiritual inspiration and practical application.

    Take inventory of the places where you spend time and make a list of people around you who might be sinking beneath rough waters. Ask God to show you how you can offer His hand of hope.

    Considering 2 Timothy 3:16-17, what’s one thing you can do today to feel better equipped to for the good works God has in store for you?

    © 2015 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 26, 2015

    I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child

    "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

    When my daughter Hope was in high school, she decided her senior year should be adventurous and a little out of the "normal" box. A lot out-of-the-box, actually.

    She withdrew from traditional school. Applied with the state to homeschool. Enrolled in online college courses that would allow her to get both high school and college credit simultaneously. And planned to spend a month serving in Nicaragua doing missions.

    This didn’t surprise me, really. Hope has always liked charting her own course. This thrills me now. But it didn’t thrill me so much in the early years of raising this strong-spirited child.

    When she was really little I was scared to death I was the world’s worst mom, because Hope was never one to be contained. And I honestly thought all her extra tenacity was a sign of my poor mothering.

    One day I took her to the mall to meet several of my friends with toddlers to grab lunch. All of their kids sat quietly eating Cheerios in their strollers. They shined their halos and quoted Bible verses and used tissues to wipe their noses.

    Not Hope.

    She was infuriated by my insistence she stay in her stroller. So, when I turned away for a split second to place our lunch order, she wiggled free. She stripped off all her clothes. She ran across the food court. And jumped in the fountain in the center of the mall.

    Really, nothing makes the mother of a toddler feel more incapable than seeing her naked child splashing in the mall fountain. Except maybe that toddler refusing to get out and said mother having to also get into the fountain.

    I cried all the way home.

    Not because of what she’d done that day. But rather because of how she was every day. So determined. So independent. So insistent.

    I would beg God to show me how to raise a good child. One that stayed in her stroller. One that made other people comment on how wonderfully behaved she was. One that made me look good.

    But God seemed so slow to answer those prayers. So, over the years, I changed my prayer. "God help me to raise Hope to be who You want her to be." Emphasis on, "God HELP ME!"

    I think I changed my prayers for her because God started to change my heart. I sensed He had a different plan in mind for my mothering of Hope.

    Maybe God’s goal wasn’t for me to raise a good rule-following child. God’s goal was for me to raise a God-following adult. An adult who was just determined and independent and insistent enough to fulfill a purpose He had in mind all along.

    Today’s key verse reminds us we are training children so that when they are old they will not turn away from Biblical principles, but rather implement them in their life-long pursuit of God. Remember, the things that might aggravate you about your child today might be the very things that, when matured, make them great for God’s kingdom tomorrow.

    I’ve certainly seen this in raising Hope.

    I don’t know which mama needs to hear this today. But let me encourage you from the bottom of my heart with three simple mothering perspectives you must hang on to:

    1. Don’t take too much credit for their good.
    2. Don’t take too much credit for their bad.
    3. Don’t try to raise a good child. Raise a God-following adult.

    And all the mamas of fountain-dancing children said, "Amen!"

    Dear Lord, I know You desire for me to raise a God-following adult. Please give me Your wisdom as I seek to become the parent You called to this high honor. Redirect my perspectives and equip me for this task today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Deuteronomy 11:18-19, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (NIV)

    Isaiah 40:11, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." (NIV)

    Learn how to make God-honoring decisions throughout your motherhood journey with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. Get your copy here.

    Find community with other moms when you hold The Best Yes Bible study in your home or church! Click here to get started.

    Which of the three mothering perspectives Lysa shared resonated with you the most? Focus on that point this week as you spend time with your kids.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Keep Your Lips Zipped

    Karen Ehman FEBRUARY 25, 2015

    How to Keep Your Lips Zipped

    "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3 (ESV)

    I still remember the first time I witnessed the power of zipped lips.

    Sitting around my tiny dorm room with a group of girls in college, the topic of someone else on campus came up. One by one, everyone chimed in and shared their opinion about this person.

    That is, everyone but my roommate. She sat silently on the bed, staring out the window. Even when another girl asked directly, "Don’t you think so, too?" she said nothing.

    Finally, someone asked if she was listening. Her reply was classic. "Oh, yes. I am listening all right. And I don’t think I have anything to say. We shouldn’t be talking like this behind her back."

    The silence that followed was deafening. But I learned a good lesson.

    My roommate was right. None of us would want others to talk about us, so why were we so eager to talk? Yes, perhaps the most effective way to avoid gossip is to simply keep our lips zipped. And if you want another powerful tool to do that, you might try what I started doing a few years back.

    Make a Promise; Keep a Commitment

    Years ago, I received a call from someone wanting to know if I’d read the newspaper that day. I hadn’t.

    But I didn’t need to see it, because the caller then related all the details about a news story* from the small town where I lived at the time. They asked if I knew a person mentioned in the article — who’d just been arrested for a horrific offense.

    I did know the person. A close relative of theirs was a friend. My heart ached as I imagined what my friend might be experiencing since she was totally blindsided by the situation. Soon my phone started ringing and I heard the computer alerting me to new email messages.

    Knowing it was wrong to talk about this situation, I chose not to pick up the phone and ignored the emails for fear someone might mention the incident to me. I wanted so much to honor God — and my friend — and avoid gossiping about this situation. It was then that I felt God nudge me, saying, "Really? Then tell her that."

    So I sent my friend a text. I said she was loved and treasured, that I could not imagine what she was going through, and then added this note: "I just want you to know that I will not be talking about this situation to anyone other than God. Please let me know how I can pray for you. And if you want to talk or need anything at all, call or text me. We love you."

    I wanted (and needed!) the Lord to help me refrain from idle talk about what was happening to this family. The author of Psalm 141:3, today’s key verse, obviously need the same help when he wrote: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."

    By contacting my friend and making a direct commitment to her, I felt like I had set a "guard over my mouth." And if I ever felt tempted to bring up the situation, I zipped my lips before any words emerged. I simply would not go back on a promise to a friend or to God. Making this commitment to my friend was life-changing. Because I promised her I would not gossip, I didn’t. (Thank God for that!)

    If someone else brought up the situation, I said I’d promised my friend not to discuss the situation with anyone besides her and God. The promise helped me refrain from gossiping, and encouraged a few other people to do the same.

    In our gossip-rich culture, the choice to remain silent will be hard. But like the psalmist, we can ask God for help, knowing He’ll be a faithful guard over the door of our lips.

    Lord, help me honor You with my words. Please set a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to say something that will hurt You and someone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Proverbs 10:19, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." (NLT)

    Proverbs 20:19, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (NIV)

    If avoiding gossip is something you’d like to know more about, 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.

    Join the discussion on how to zip your lips today on Karen’s blog. She is also giving away a book and DVD Bible study bundle of Keep It Shut.

    Do any of the verses above prick your conscience you as you read them? Is God asking you to make a call, send a text or craft a private message asking for forgiveness?

    Will you commit to not gossiping about someone else’s "newsworthy" life in a gossipy sort of way? If so, tell one trusted friend about your commitment.

    *Special Note from Karen Ehman: Some details in this story have been changed to protect my friend, who granted me permission to use it.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • 50 Shades of Irony: The Black and White of Grey

    I don't always speak up every time I see another upwelling issue in our culture — quite frankly, sometimes it's easy to become immune to what you're surrounded by daily.  But when it comes to the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I cannot sit by in silence.  It already made 8.6 million the first day of its release, while some places (like the entire country of Malaysia) have banned it completely.
    What is so compelling about the enigmatic Christian Grey (interesting name) and his relationship with Anastasia Steele (who is softer than her name implies)?  This BDSM romance has captured the hearts of women across the country, spurring on new and unnatural sexual fantasies.  The danger is that we as a culture are normalizing the perversion, turning our gaze away from truth and we as Christians are forgetting what it means to be audacious.
    I believe we should not only boycott what I'm calling “Fifty Shades of Irony" but we should continue to speak out the truth with boldness — we don't need to read the book or see the movie (neither of which I ever plan to do) in order to be informed about it and understand its negative influence.  Here's why.
    The film presents a warped view of sex.
    For those of you who don't know, BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline (BD), Dominance & Submission (DS), Sadism & Masochism (SM).  Sadism is the tendency to get pleasure from inflicting pain or humiliation and masochism is pleasure in self inflicted pain.  The relationship is not equal, but is consensually based on one party being the dominant and the other the receiver.
    This need to dominate or to be dominated by another illuminates an underlying longing to be led, a longing that can only be filled by the Lord.  Whatever your thoughts are on this kind of role-play, mine is simple: This portrayal of sexual gratification though pain and humiliation is not sharing the deepest intimacy out of self sacrifice, gentleness, love or true passion.  It is fundamentally self serving.  Seeking to bring pain to another, even in a consensual context, seems to deviate from Scripture's truths about love and sexuality.  Hebrews 13:4 says, "Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous."
    So, dear Christian, do not foster curiosity.
    Recognize that most negative aspects of our culture are warped versions of good things.  God's blessing of sex is turned into pornography, erotica, prostitution and rape.  Freedoms turn into abuses; wisdom into intellectual pride with declarations of autonomy; innovation into a reliance on man's accomplishments.
    But culture itself is not evil.  Humans are.  Our battle is not one of Christian culture vs. secular culture.  The clash is between hope and despair and the first step to this kind of epistemological humility is recognizing our deep need for God's mercy and His blessing of hope.
    Romanticizing pain delegitimizes it.
    In the book, Christian Grey has a Red Room of Pain where he carries out his sadistic pleasures.  These include handcuffs and whips.  In one scene, he takes a riding crop used for horses and strikes her.
    This breaks my heart — we are making this kind of relationship the ideal!  This is the kind of context people flee from, are wounded by, carry emotional scars from because this kind of relationship is not based on mutual respect for another individual.  And when we romanticize pain and tell women "This is what you should want!" then we delegitimize the actual pain of people who have endured abuse.  It's just that simple.  This encompasses emotional and physical abuse, sexual molestation, rape and by extension even human trafficking.  According to Equality Now, there are over 20 million adults and children in sexual bondage being trafficked around the world, forced into servitude.  I'd like to argue that we serve them the utmost disrespect in supporting a film of this nature.
    The woman's identity is found in the man's.
    Anastasia Steele, our protagonist, is a shy virgin with a low self esteem, no self sufficiency, a fear of abandonment and no sexual identity.  All of these things are fulfilled in the charismatic and controlling Christian Grey.  In the trailer, Anastasia asks him, "So you're a control freak?" and his reply is, "I exercise control in all things." Interesting.
    All of this is along the lines of the common "He completes me" relationship mentality which only makes me gag.  Her worth, identity and confidence are all dependent on one man, which is both deeply sexist and also dangerous for women who claim to identify with Anastasia.  Anyone who watches this film and resonates with her insecurities is now being told to find worth and satisfaction in a controlling figure who is both abusive and self absorbed.
    Instead, we shouldn't be dependent on others or self sufficient, but we should recognize our own inadequacy, genuine desire for relationships with others and desperate need for the relationship with Jesus, the only one which can fulfill.
    Sin supposedly leads to freedom — the ultimate lie of a fallen world.
    To see this matter more clearly, look at the titles of the books themselves.  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Fifty Shades Darker.  Fifty Shades Freed.  We start with grey - between black and white, between right and wrong in the blurred "grey areas".  Then it goes darker, accepting a lifestyle of sin.  Then freedom.
    Let me make myself clear.  Darkness does not lead to freedom.  Shackles of slavery do not lead to liberty.  Indulging in sin is not going to lead to victory over it.  This mindset is humanistic, individualized and part of the relative truth age in which we live.  In our postmodern world, we are encouraged to "love" in a way that is only accepting, encouraging, unprejudiced and never challenging.  For the world, this leads to a tyranny of immorality in which standards are scorned, and the tolerant are intolerant of dissension.  I laugh when I consider how Nathaniel Hawthorne might write the Scarlet Letter about today — our culture wouldn't ostracize immorality, they would shun purity.
    For Christians, this often means a watered down faith that is no longer bold or audacious or proclaiming truth.  The truth is hard!  The Gospel is not easy and Jesus was culturally controversial.  Why are we on the defensive?  We should stand nobly for what is honorable, virtuous and holy.  We should strive to both encourage and challenge.  Our culture, in an attempt to accept and love all, has lost sight of the beauty in tough accountability.  I'm learning more and more that to speak the truth is loving and to love is to be truthful.


    So Christians, stand for what is right.  This is one time when we don't need to see the film or read the book to understand the deeply rooted issues.  Boycott this movie and speak out for purity and the sanctity of marriage.  This sense of truth and hope is what we can share to the Fifty Shades culture.  They need a million shades of light, not deeper depths of darkness.
    Bio: A sophomore at Wheaton College, Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she reads Kerouac and Chaucer, paints still life and modern art and loves writing poetry on her typewriter named Ernest.  As a writer and champion public speaker, she grew up hanging out with Christian music stars, artists and writers who greatly influenced her culturally-engaging outlook on life, which she writes about at www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.
    Ciera Horton
  • How to Make Time for You

    Jessica Turner FEBRUARY 24, 2015

    How to Make Time for You
    Jessica N. Turner

    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:13-14a (NIV)

    Without attention, our schedules become a litany of have-tos that so often cover everyone else’s needs but our own. The idea of making time for ourselves might seem frivolous, but caring for ourselves, and pursuing our passions, is part of becoming who God created us to be.

    I’m reminded of the importance of making time for our unique gifts and talents by watching my children.

    One of my biggest joys in motherhood is seeing my children express their passions. My 6-year-old loves art of every kind. He loves to draw, paint and create. With a marker in his hand, his imagination runs wild.

    My 3-year-old daughter loves to sing and perform. Anything can become a microphone, and the world is her stage. You have never heard a more passionate rendition of "Let it Go" than hers.

    When my son and daughter wholeheartedly live out their talents, their happiness is contagious and their dispositions are cheerful. The evidence that these passions are God-given is undeniable.

    As their mother, I love encouraging their personal expressions, knowing that in doing so, I am helping them to celebrate and live in the way God planned for them. A big part of this encouragement involves giving them ample time to pursue their creativity.

    One of the many prayers I have for my children is that they will always make time for their passions. I see how taking time to do the things they love positively impacts their lives.

    And you know what? I pray that prayer for myself too, because I know that too often, as adults, we don’t prioritize our passions.

    When we invest in ourselves and the talents God gave us, we are more fulfilled individuals. That personal wholeness makes us better wives, moms, friends and co-workers.

    Personally, I often use the fringe hours of my day for my creative pursuits. Fringe hours are those pockets of time that often go underused or wasted all together. Yours might be different than mine, but it’s amazing the fringe hours we can find when we look.

    Sometimes, maximizing fringe hours means I let go of something else. Maybe the dishes wait or the dusting doesn’t get done, and that is okay. Instead, practicing self-care and being intentional with my time for creative pursuits, helps me better live out the other callings God has on my life.

    When I include my own passions in my day, I feel closer to God because I’m proactively pursuing all that He’s made me to be. God didn’t just make me a mother, a wife, a friend — God made me Jessica, a uniquely designed individual with a creative set of passions all my own.

    Today’s key verse in Psalms 139:13-14a is a reminder of how God formed us: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

    My favorite part of that verse is when the psalmist writes that God "knit" us together. I love the imagery of "knitting," because not only is it an investment of time and creativity but because the finished product is unique, beautiful and one-of-a-kind — and the same is true for you and me.

    When God created us, He didn’t just make a physical being, He made a being full of life, giftings and personality. It is incredibly important that we prioritize ourselves so that, as evidenced in my children, we can be our best selves.

    Are you ready to start making your passions and God-given talents a priority? Are you ready to start living wholly as God made you to live? Redeem those fringe hours and you’ll find that you’re a more joyful person, reflecting the beauty of our Father.

    Heavenly Father, may pursuing my passions glorify You and make me a better steward of the blessings You have bestowed upon my life. Thank You for making me a unique creation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Matthew 10:30-31: "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (NIV)

    1 Peter 4:10, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." (ESV)

    If you yearn for more time for yourself but don’t know where to begin, check out The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. This practical and liberating book will empower you to make time for your passions and live the life God intended for you.

    Connect with other women who also want to make time for their passions in a free online book club of The Fringe Hours. Hosted on (in)courage by Angie Smith and Jessica Turner, this study features engaging videos, free resources and honest discussion. Visit (in)courage to learn more and join in.

    Look at your schedule today and determine where you might find some fringe hours to do something just for you. Then take advantage of that time!

    © 2015 by Jessica N. Turner. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell 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

  • When My Mind Says "You Failed"

    Lynn Cowell FEBRUARY 23, 2015

    When My Mind Says "You Failed"

    "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises." Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

    Fail. It’s a word I’ve heard my kids use when something goes wrong. Just plain "fail."

    It’s a word I know as well. Failure is what I felt when I’d done all I knew to do to make a large project successful. Yet, according to my measurement, I had fallen very short. All I could think was, You failed.

    I found my mind swirling, trying to process what happened. Confused, I wondered, God, why didn’t You help me? The project was for Him, after all. You would think He would have stepped up and helped me, at least in the way I was looking for help.

    What did I do wrong?

    Maybe I’m just not cut out for this?

    My confidence was gone.

    Can you recall a time when you thought you were doing what God wanted you to do, yet it didn’t turn out how you anticipated? Was your confidence shaken, not just in yourself, but in God?

    Friend, you are not alone. It’s so easy to lose our confidence when things aren’t going well.

    In today’s key verse, David speaks of confidence: "My heart is confident in you, O God."

    Reading these words, we might assume David wrote them when his life was going well, possibly moments away from marrying the king’s daughter and living happily ever after.

    His reality, in fact, was far from happy. As David penned these words, he was literally running from a mad man (King Saul) who not only wanted to kill him, but also had the power to do so. {You can read 1 Samuel, chapters 19-22, for more of this story.}

    When David wrote these words found in Psalm 57:7, "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises" – words filled with faith and hope – he was hiding in a cave. Not alone, but with 400 guys who were also running from trouble, in debt or just plain discontented with life as they knew it.

    Here, in this awful situation, David reaffirmed his security hadn’t changed even if his circumstances did. His confidence was still built on God.

    According to my study Bible, the word "confident" in the original Hebrew means: "set in place, make secure, to be made ready, be attached."

    I love this last definition: "be attached." My mind pictures a new bride, attached to someone who cares deeply about her, with her face glowing. Her relationship brings her confidence.

    David’s relationship brought him confidence as well. Despite his horrific circumstances, David experienced security and contentment because he knew God was with him even in those circumstances.

    God can make us brave whether our lives are coming together or falling apart. We can have a heart and mind that is set in place, secure and attached, even when our circumstances seem to say, "You failed."

    I want to be like David. Confidence attached to God. Unshaken by any situation or circumstances. Unable to hold back His praises.

    Dear Jesus, the way You define failure and the way we define failure is so very different. Help me see when my circumstances are a set-up, an opportunity to build my confidence in You. Always and only in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." (NIV)

    Philippians 4:12, "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." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:12, "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (NIV)

    Do you know a young woman who needs to learn to build her confidence on God instead of cues from culture? If so, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants, by Lynn Cowell, empowers young women to move beyond negative thoughts, capricious emotions and others’ opinions to gain unshakeable confidence.

    Visit Lynn’s blog today for 10 Verses For Building Unshakeable Confidence. She is also giving away a Confidence Combo — a set of resources to help you build your confidence on God.

    Think of the last time something in your life didn’t go as planned and you felt like you’d failed. How did you respond? Were you able to press into God or did you struggle in self-defeat?

    Write out Hebrews 10:35 and place it where you experience the greatest struggle with your confidence: the scale, your desk, your calendar. Read this verse out loud, allowing God’s Word to fill your heart with His confidence in this area of your life.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

Items 161 to 170 of 814 total


“to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” James 1:27 NIV

Our heartbeat is to help orphans and widows in need, as our Father calls us to do.
And with every purchase you make, you’re making an amazing difference in their lives.

Loading... Loading...