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  • When There is Mourning in Your Merry

    Chrystal Evans Hurst DECEMBER 24, 2015

    When There is Mourning in Your Merry CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 (NASB) 

    Two Christmases ago, I sat quietly contemplating the cordless phone that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.

    No one was awake yet, so it was the perfect time to pick up the phone and call my grandmother.

    But that morning, my heart hurt.

    You see, as the eldest granddaughter, every Christmas it was my job, my assignment, to pick up the phone and call her. Then I’d pass the phone around to everyone else so she and my grandfather could talk to everyone.

    This Christmas, however, I felt twinges of physical pain because this special day, when I called, I knew she wouldn’t be picking up the phone.

    Of course, I would still call my grandfather and everyone would be glad to hear his voice, wish we could be closer and express our love to him … but we would also miss hearing her voice.

    Sometimes there is mourning in the midst of the merry.

    That Christmas day, there would be plenty of laughter, kids squealing with joy, hugs exchanged and catching up with loved ones. There would be good food shared and memories made. That Christmas day there would be lots of things that are just the same as they are every year.

    All except one.

    I felt the mourning in the midst of the merry.

    I wonder if when Jesus was on Earth, He missed His heavenly Father.

    I wonder if He felt off-balance because He exchanged the glorious singing of the angels for the soft sounds of sheep. I wonder if He had immediate grief in His heart as the love He had for mankind was mixed with the mourning of a known difficult and short life and an awareness of a painful and hard death.

    I wonder if Christmas day — the day that Christ was born — was a day of mourning, too.

    I wonder if Mary wished her mother were there to help her deliver her new baby. I wonder if she was saddened at her station in life. Did she wish that she had more to give her new son than a birth in a manger?

    I wonder if she mourned the absence of her friends. Did she feel alone? Lost in a big world that seemed not to see her? I wonder if Christmas day — the day Mary delivered her baby — was a day of mourning, too.

    I wonder if the holiday season — the time of year where you sit right now reading this devotion — is a time of mourning for you. I wonder if you’re lamenting another Christmas season spent not quite the way you thought.

    I wonder if you’re grieving because someone you love is not here this year. I wonder if you’re sad because you feel alone, or life isn’t quite where you’d like it to be. I wonder if you feel twists or twinges in your heart as the notes from "Joy to the World" don’t seem to ring true in your life. I wonder.

    Sometimes, there is mourning in the midst of the merry.

    And I don’t have an answer. I don’t have anything monumental to say to get rid of the heart-hurts you might have today.

    But I do know that if we keep going, mourning can TURN into merry.

    I know Mary saw her Son live the only perfect life in history. Any mother would love to see her children live their lives well.

    I know there was glory waiting for Jesus after the agony of the cross.

    And I know that while I miss my grandmother, I will see her again one day.

    You will not always be in this place. You will not always feel the same intensity of hurt, pain or sadness. You will not always feel lonely.

    Sometimes there is mourning. But the merry is still happening.

    Walk through the mourning. Don’t deny it. Be honest about the pain or ache that you feel. But don’t miss the merry.

    That morning two Christmases ago, I sat quietly contemplating the cordless phone that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. I felt the mourning, but I discovered an opportunity to find the merry.

    I pressed the button that would give me a dial tone and began making that call to my grandfather.

    Dear God, thank You for knowing me intimately and loving me in the middle of my mourning moments. Thank You for the hope, joy and peace You offer. Please help me through the difficult times I face this holiday season. Lord, please help me recognize the opportunities to find the merry and to see where Your hope, joy and peace are available still. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you or someone close to you can relate to the feelings of mourning in the merry, you might appreciate An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell.

    God sees you and is near to those who are brokenhearted. Click here to download a free printable — a gift that Chrystal Evans Hurst has made available just for you.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If this holiday season is difficult for you, take a moment to share the story behind your mourning. There are others who would love to encourage you today.

    If you have ever experienced the pain of grief or loneliness during the holiday season, what tips or encouragement can you offer to someone that desires to find the "merry" even in the midst of their mourning? Share in the comments section.

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • If Only We Knew

    Lysa TerKeurst DECEMBER 23, 2015

    If Only We Knew LYSA TERKEURST

    "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

    Here is my prayer for you this Christmas week: May you catch even the slightest glimpse of the tender mercy of our Lord Jesus. For one drop of the Lord’s mercy is better than an ocean of the world’s comfort.

    The marriage situation that seems impossible.

    The finances that never balance.

    The hope so deferred it makes your heart sick.

    The anxiety over a child bent on a wayward path.

    The diet you are sick of.

    The broken promises of a friend.

    The lack of true friends.

    The constant messiness always distracting the peace you want in your home.

    The impatience and frustration, anger and disappointment of losing it — again.

    If only we knew how deeply Jesus understands and cares for us. If only we could see the wonder of His love. The skies He paints, the flowers He blooms, the world He arranges just for us. The love letters He’s written to us throughout the Bible.

    These are all mercies from Him.

    The world will offer us comfort in the form of escapes. We escape to romance novels, movies, magazines, malls, chocolate, vacations, affirmations from friends. Not that any of these things are bad. They aren’t. But they are very temporary. They make us feel good in the moment, but that good never stays. We need more and more. Trying to fill our aching hearts with these things is like trying to fill an ocean with a tablespoon. It’s never enough. So we clench our fists and keep trying to find something to comfort us.

    If only we knew how to stop clenching our fists so that we could open our hands and catch the drops of His tender mercy. If only we knew how to release the weight of trying to fix it all ourselves. If only we knew to stop in the midst of it all and whisper, "Jesus … help me." Just a whispered breath formed in the wholeness of His Name carries all the power and mercy and wisdom and grace we need to handle what we face.

    If only we knew.

    If you find yourself wanting to escape today into one of the world’s comforts, first invest some time in asking Jesus to help you, show you and direct you. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us of how approachable He is, how He understands our struggles and graciously offers us help and hope: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

    Specifically, ask Him to help you see and notice His tender mercies. Then you will see that, indeed, one drop of the Lord’s mercy is better than an ocean of the world’s temporary comforts.

    Jesus, I don’t want to spend another day chasing after things that will never satisfy. Instead, I pray that I would begin to truly see how high and how deep is the love You have for me. Help me to catch the tender drops of Your mercy, and teach me how to fully embrace Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 100:5, "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:17b-19, "… And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Learn more about making Jesus your focus instead of getting wrapped up in distractions with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best YesPurchase your copy here.

    Connect with Lysa on her Instagram for daily Biblical encouragement here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where do you turn when you need comfort? Ask the Lord to interrupt you this week when you are tempted to run to anything other than Him first. Then pause and spend a few moments in prayer, asking Him to be your help and your comfort.

    Write out a list of the things weighing most heavily on your heart and mind. Specifically lift up each of these to the Lord in prayer, thanking Him that He has all of the grace and mercy you need for each and every one.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Strengthen Your Prayer Life with War Room

    Back on Labor Day weekend of this year, War Room accomplished what many Christian movies before could not: it stood as the number one movie in the box office. Equally as impressive was the fact that it was the second week the movie was in theaters, and yet it still made the jump from second place to the top spot.

    War Room tells the story of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, a married couple who on the outside seem to have everything going for them, while in reality their marriage is on the verge of collapse—that is until Elizabeth meets Miss Clara, who encourages her to create a prayer strategy by establishing a "war room."

    Elizabeth and Miss ClaraPhoto Credit: WarRoomTheMovie.com

    A war room in this case means a room specifically designated for prayer. It is where you create your prayer strategy and spend time alone with God.

    Co-writer Stephen Kendrick has said that Matthew 6 is one of the key pieces of Scripture behind this idea for the movie. In the passage, Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray. Matthew 6:6 (ESV) says, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

    Jesus is telling them not to go out and pray publicly, in a way that seeks recognition, but instead go into your own secret place and authentically communicate with God.

    How many of us actually do as Jesus has told us to though?

    In one scene of the movie, Elizabeth is speaking with Miss Clara when she describes the lives of her and her husband: "We're like most people. We have full schedules," and when describing her prayer life, "I'm not hot, but I'm not cold either. Just somewhere in the middle."

    Can you relate to Elizabeth?

    It is very easy to get caught up in a constant cycle of life. We wake up, prepare breakfast, get the kids ready for school, head to work, come home and make dinner, help the kids with their homework, get them ready for bed, spend a little time with our husband or wife (or ourselves) and then fall asleep only to do the same thing again the next day.

    Time for prayer just doesn't seem to fit.

    War Room offers us the reminder that not only is prayer powerful, but it is a necessity.

    Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth in the movie, says that prayer is “what opens up the flood gates for God to come down and be involved in our everyday circumstances.”

    Spend some alone time with God today, and see how He can change your life through prayer.

    If you’d like to set up your own war room, check out some of our gifts of encouragement to store in it.

    Also grab your copy of War Room on DVD or Blu-ray today.

  • Your Present Suffering

    John Dickerson DECEMBER 22, 2015

    Your Present Suffering JOHN S. DICKERSON

    "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18 (NIV)

    My wife shrieked, her voice straining between hurried gasps for air. As a news reporter, I had seen human suffering. But never before had I witnessed such pain from someone I loved so much.

    Pacing that hospital room, sitting, holding my wife’s hand and stroking her hair, I encountered pain I was unable to control.

    She was giving birth to our first child, Jack.

    And she, like generations before, had no epidural or pain medications to soften the suffering. I did my best to cheer her along. But honestly, I was trying to keep myself together. (Kudos to all you mothers. You have my utmost respect!)

    When I revisit the excruciating pain of childbirth, I am amazed that any mom has ever had more than one child. And yet, so many do!

    Why do smart, sophisticated moms knowingly choose to endure that pain again? Why do so many desire, even ache, to experience one of the worst sufferings known to humanity … again?

    Veteran mothers invite this pain because the lifelong joy of motherhood outlasts the temporary suffering of childbirth.

    Without belittling or demeaning our hurts, God assures us that, much like childbirth, our present sufferings will end. Even more, our difficulties will give way to future fulfillment that eclipses and outlasts our present suffering.

    During the agony of labor, a hopeful mother fixes her thoughts on the arrival of her child. In the same way, Scripture encourages us to "… set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13b, ESV).

    In times of unthinkable pain or dead-end depression, we can "set our hope" on the coming moment when our pain will transition into unending joy. When Christ returns, He will re-create the earth to be unpolluted by evil. He will restore us into bodies with no sickness, no sin-bent, no need for pain sensors or tear ducts.

    I have a rare medical condition that produces unpredictable episodes of severe pain and disability. When it happens, I lose my ability to speak coherent words. With half my body numb, I battle emotional anxiety in tandem with physical pain. In those moments, God has taught me to grab this hope — with the hands of faith.

    I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my suffering will end.

    I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my future fulfillment will far exceed my momentary pain. It actually won’t be worth comparing.

    Fixing my hope like this does not mean the pain immediately ceases. But it does allow peace to invade the cavities and caverns of my soul, even at the peak of my suffering.

    In our key verse, John 16:20-22, Jesus likens our "present sufferings" to the grueling pangs of childbirth, saying we will grieve but eventually, that grief becomes joy.

    I will never forget when the OB-GYN set our firstborn on my wife’s chest after all the excruciating pains of labor, driven by the hope of future joy.

    In that moment when the doctor cradled new squirming life, then set that life on my wife’s chest, tears of joy overcame her. I’ve never seen my wife shed more tears of overwhelming joy.

    That joy is a glimpse of what will be yours when Christ delivers you out of your pain for good — when all of your waiting, believing and hoping delivers.

    Because there will be a day when the birth-pains of this world are over, and we are forever delivered. Rescued. Forever in a place of no pain, no suffering, no broken relationships.

    We will not only be empty of those negative experiences, but entirely filled with the good of God, with oceans of pleasure, joy and goodness that were once only droplets on fallen earth.

    Father, where there is pain, doubt or discouragement in my life today, help me believe in Your future deliverance. I set my hope on the future glory Christ will unveil. I choose to believe Your fulfillment will eclipse and outweigh my present sufferings. Help me build my life around this hope today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 16:20b-22, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: John S. Dickerson’s rare medical condition drove him to study pain and suffering in Scripture. His new book is designed to help you or someone you love discover God’s hope in the midst of suffering or doubt: I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments.

    Download free sample chapters of the book, and find inspirational Pinterest pins at: IAmStrongBook.com.

    Enter to WIN a copy of I Am Strong by John Dickerson. In celebration of this book, John’s publisher is giving away 5 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 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, December 28.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Describe your present sufferings to God by saying them aloud or journaling them. Then, read Romans 8:17-39. Ask God for strength to believe these words and set your hope on the future glory that will eclipse your present suffering.

    © 2015 by John S. Dickerson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan 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

  • Are You Just Visiting?

    Lynn Cowell DECEMBER 21, 2015

    Are You Just Visiting? LYNN COWELL

    "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 (NIV)

    When I was a child, going to visit my grandparents was not on my "Top 10 list of Favorite Things To Do." Honestly, it didn’t even make my Top 50 List.

    The drive was way too long. There was nothing to do at their home or in their tiny town. And they didn’t even have cable TV — making a visit all the more painful. The one thing I hoped for was a short trip.

    I was selfish — making what was meant to be about someone else, all about me instead.

    Unlike me, Jesus understood that His coming to Earth wasn’t all about Him. He was the Son of God who came to give His life for the forgiveness of our sins. God’s plan involved Jesus laying down His life for the honor of His Father and for our salvation.

    Today’s key verse, John 1:14, says Jesus made His "dwelling" among us. The New Living Translation says Jesus made His "home" among us. Both those words create a picture in my mind of Jesus immersed in life with those around Him.

    When He came, Jesus didn’t just pop in for a visit. He didn’t come just to check a commitment off His list. Instead, He gave His best — His very life — for humanity. If Earth and His heavenly home were set side by side, I’m sure Earth could not compare.

    And it wasn’t just about His physical surroundings. Jesus knew He was coming to a place where many would hate Him.

    Jesus didn’t have to spend as many years with us as He did. He could have skipped the first part of His life, shown up just before Good Friday and left after He rose from the dead.

    But He didn’t. In fact, for over 33 years, He made planet Earth His home with the full experience of life: birth, growing pains, even puberty. He went through the awkward stage of gaining independence while still being respectful to His parents. He learned a skill, worked, made friends.

    Jesus came and engaged. He wasn’t too good for this place or the people. That’s powerful, unselfish love in action. It is a love that invested all the years of His life on Earth leading up to His ultimate act: dying for us.

    Thankfully, I no longer exhibit all the selfishness of a child, but there are places in my life where I am still "just visiting." Fulfilling my responsibilities, but not seeing those around me who need this unconditional love Jesus came to bring. I want to change. I need to change in order to fulfill my purpose on Earth.

    Are there places in your life where you are just visiting, too? Missing out on investing in and really loving on the people around you? At work, church, home or the gym? Open your eyes today to see with love the same value Jesus saw in others.

    Dear God, what a challenge You give us today through the example of Your Son, Jesus. I need Your help to love in the extraordinary way You love. Open my eyes to see others as You see them. Then, help me take action to show Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:12, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: In order to love like Jesus loves, we must first understand His love for us. In His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You, Lynn Cowell shows how a relationship with Jesus can meet our deepest desires — from the need for identity and significance to being seen as beautiful. It would make a great gift for the young women on your list!

    Stop by Lynn’s blog today where she is sharing "21 Ways to Love Like Jesus Loves" and giving away a Love Bundle which includes copies of her three books.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where in your life you are "just visiting"… fulfilling your responsibility, but possibly missing those Jesus wants to reach with His love through you?

    In the comments section, write one action you can take to intentionally show those present you care about them.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Living Water: Timmy's Story

    “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14 NIV

    In most villages in sub-Saharan Africa, fetching water is a part of life—and most often, it is the children who do the fetching. They’ll wake up early, make the long trek to the river or watering hole, fill their buckets until they’re overflowing and walk the long trek back.

    But in many villages, World Vision has changed that. By digging boreholes, World Vision gives them access to clean and safe water close by. And with the new boreholes also came a new mindset.

    Access to clean water affects every area of a person’s life—health, school, income and even family life.

    We previously wrote about Dorcas, a nine-year-old girl from Zambia whose life was drastically improved when World Vision came and installed a borehole in her town. With clean water, she and the rest of the people in her community are in better health, and she attends more school, rather than spending her days walking to a distant watering hole.

    Today, we’re sharing Timmy’s story with you. Timmy is a 14-year-old boy, also from Zambia, who never used to fetch water but is now seen at the new pump every morning and night.

    Timmy Uses The Water Hole From World Vision Timmy showing how happy he is to help pump water now.

    Along with others in his village, Timmy used to believe that fetching water was only a girl’s job. But when World Vision came into the picture and dug new boreholes, everything changed. Not only did World Vision provide clean water for his entire community, but they also shared the gospel. And at that point, Timmy learned that the water was a gift from God.

    “I said, ‘Mom, I have to look after the cows first. I’ll do that later.’ I thought it was a girl’s job to fetch water and wash dishes,” he said. “Now [that] we have water, things are a lot different. I help my mother in the garden. I don’t think fetching water is a girl’s job. I will help my wife fetch water [someday].”

    Clean water not only provides for Timmy’s physical needs but also his spiritual needs. He was taught about “Living Water,” or the promise of eternal life that Jesus talked about in John 4, and now he displays the same sacrificial love for his family that Jesus shows him.

    Something as simple as clean water is changing lives all over the world, and YOU can be a part of this change.

    Join us and World Vision as we seek to create a better the future for people in need around the world. World Vision is committed to a goal of providing universal access to clean water by 2030, so let’s help them! Donate $10* by texting FAMILY to 52000. Or, find out more by visiting us in stores or at familychristian.com/wvwater.

    #FCGiveHope

    *Your one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. Message & data rates may apply.

  • Lord, I Want to Be Like This Woman

    Liz Curtis Higgs DECEMBER 18, 2015

    Lord, I Want to Be Like This Woman LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "She … worshiped night and day, fasting and praying." Luke 2:37b (NIV)

    Tucked within the gentle folds of the Christmas story is a woman whose life was a living testimony to faithfulness. We read about her in just three short verses found in Luke 2:36-38.

    Her name, Anna, means "grace," her family name means "face of God," and her devotion to Him ran deep and wide.

    Anna was married in her youth and then widowed after just seven years. Can you imagine her heartache in that time and place where motherhood was the end-all, be-all?

    Even so, we have no record of Anna weeping. Only worshiping the Lord. Night and day. Year after year.

    Who does this? Seriously, it’s a level of commitment most of us can’t get our heads around, especially during the holidays when we’re dashing through the snow to pageants, concerts, banquets, something.

    Our wise sister Anna realized being in the Lord’s presence was celebration enough.

    And while in His presence, she fasted. Not to lose weight or cleanse her body from toxins or to impress others with her piety, but to honor God. "When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen" (Matthew 6:17-18a, NIV).

    He surely saw Anna that day in the temple. She was 84 years old, but you’d never know it to watch her in action. When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple for Mary’s ritual cleansing and the presentation of their firstborn son to the Lord, Anna didn’t miss a beat.

    At the Holy Spirit’s prompting, she made a beeline for the Christ child, "coming up to them at that very moment" (Luke 2:38a, NIV). We sense her urgency, her excitement, her conviction.

    After decades of worshiping and fasting and praying, Anna was prepared when she encountered the Savior. She was filled up, ready to spill out, and so "she gave thanks to God" (Luke 2:38b, NIV).

    Amazing. Anna didn’t complain about the long wait, the lonely years, the emptiness of her stomach, the stiffness in her knees, the hardness of the temple floor. She simply gave thanks.

    We’re listening, Lord. And watching. And learning.

    Instead of remaining with Mary and Joseph, making idle chitchat, Anna then turned to everyone else in the temple courts that day, and "spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem" (Luke 2:38c, NIV).

    Anna gazed beyond His birth, beyond His life, beyond His death and straight through to His resurrection. The people of God longed to be redeemed, but that was only possible through sacrifice. The stark reminder of that truth hung in the temple air — the spilling of blood, the bleating of lambs, the burning of flesh on the altar.

    Did Anna know this innocent child would one day suffer to set his people free? You can be sure of it. Scripture tells us she was a prophetess, which meant she not only heard from the Lord, she also knew what the ancient prophets foretold.

    Anna was prepared and so prepared the way. Now it falls to us, 2,000 years later, to follow in her footsteps. To tell everyone we know, everything we know about Jesus.

    When we ease our breathless pace, when we stop, look and listen, we can sense the gentle weight of His touch and take comfort in the warmth of His presence.

    In this season, in every season, let’s pause and remember Immanuel: God with us.

    Heavenly Father, each aspect of Anna’s worship convicts me, in particular her sacrifice of physical comfort for spiritual intimacy. You deserve more than the few crumbs that fall from my too-full calendar. You deserve my best. A heart of worship, night and day. A willingness to add fasting and more prayer time to my life. Please teach me to be still, to wait, to listen and always to give thanks. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ezra 8:23, "So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer." (NIV)

    Psalm 100:4, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higgs’ book, The Women of Christmas, is a gift book, devotional and Bible study in one, exploring the stories of Elizabeth, Mary and Anna, unwrapping each verse with tender care.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Because Anna was a unique woman in many aspects — her religious upbringing, her role as a prophetess, her lodging in the temple — it’s easy for us to say, "Well, I could never be like her." But still …

    There are things about Anna that we can emulate. How might Anna serve as a role model for you? And in what ways might God be asking you to dwell more closely with Him in the year ahead?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • God’s Job is Not My Job

    Lysa TerKeurst DECEMBER 17, 2015

    God’s Job is Not My Job LYSA TERKEURST

    "But Moses said to the LORD, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh king of Egypt listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?’" Exodus 6:12 (NIV-84)

    I relate so much to Moses in this verse. I too am hesitant to step up to an assignment where I doubt my effectiveness.

    When I first started in ministry I was terrified to give an invitation for people to receive Jesus. "What if no one responded?" I would feel like such a disappointment to the church but even worse … to God.

    But that’s where I was wrong.

    My job is to be obedient to God and deliver the message.

    God’s job is everything else.

    Moses also got this wrong and it’s what fed his overwhelming doubts.

    We must make note of a crucial fact in God’s instruction to Moses. He simply told Moses to go tell Pharaoh to "let the Israelites go out of his country," (Exodus 6:11b, NIV). That’s all Moses was responsible to accomplish. He wasn’t responsible for anything but the delivery of the message.

    The resistant way Moses responds lets me know he misunderstood his assignment. Moses thought he was to bring enough power in his words to convince Pharaoh.

    Moses already felt like he was failing at the smaller assignment of getting the Israelites to listen to him. So, he was understandably hesitant to go and speak to the intimidating powerful leader, Pharaoh.

    But God never told Moses to bring the power.

    He was simply told to bring the words.

    Moses’ job was to be obedient to God. God’s job was everything else.

    God would bring the power. God would bring the strategy. God would bring all the plans together. And God would certainly bring the victory.

    God already assured Moses of this in Exodus 6:1b, "… Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go …" (NIV).

    He wasn’t asking Moses to play every part. Moses was only supposed to play his part. And the same is true for you and me. What assignment has God put before you today? Feel encouraged that your job is simply to be obedient to God. God will handle everything else.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for Your promises and power. You only ask me to do my part, and so often I get caught up in all the details and worried about the outcome. Help me trust and obey You more, especially when I feel inadequate. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 12:11-12, "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say." (NIV)

    Psalm 28:7, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Discover more life-changing revelations like this by using our First 5 app and joining us for the the study of Exodus. The study begins January 4, but you can order your Book of Exodus Experience Guide today by clicking here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you ever felt unsure of your abilities to obey God? Consider if you are taking on more than what God has asked you to do.

    In what area of your life do you need to experience God’s power? Pray and ask for His help today.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Can’t Find God, He’ll Find You

    Nicki Koziarz DECEMBER 16, 2015

    When You Can’t Find God, He’ll Find You NICKI KOZIARZ

    "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9 (ESV)

    Have you ever had a day when you weren’t sure God was near?

    Aches of loneliness filled my heart as I waited in the carpool line and scrolled through my social media feed. The busyness of my soul had convinced me I didn’t have time for God’s Word, community and Bible study. I felt so far from God and didn’t know how to regain His presence.

    But as I kept scrolling on my phone, I saw a graphic from Proverbs 31 Ministries with this Bible verse, Joshua 1:9. Those words, "for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go," flowed into me.

    Then God met me in that school carpool line, through a graphic which reminded me that wherever I went, He was there. I took a deep breath and fought back the tears.

    He was there.

    Sometimes the most desperate moments of our souls offer the greatest demonstrations of God’s presence.

    I don’t think I’m the only one who has experienced a moment like this …

    God was also there for the wife at 6 a.m., waking up to the aches of a hard marriage. She opened her email and read one of these Encouragement for Today devotions, which "just so happened" to be on marriage. She knew she could make it just one more day.

    And God was there for the college student, who was trying to hold tight to His promises, while encountering a culture that has so many problems with God. She opened the First 5 app and instantly had access to the deep, historical, rich roots of the Bible.

    God was there for the momma, who spent her days soothing a crying baby and counting down the moments until she heard her husband’s car pull into the driveway. She was able to do her Bible study at home through P31 Online Bible Studies and felt like she had a supportive community surrounding her.

    Maybe you, too, have felt the presence of God through Proverbs 31 Ministries. Somehow, supernaturally, God made you feel like He was … there.

    Like the devotion was written just for you or the social media post came at just the right time. Or the Bible study helped you know what to say to a co-worker who questioned God. Yes, I think many of us could testify to the faithfulness of God we have experienced through this ministry.

    But here’s the question … will you help us continue to be there? For you, for the people you love, for the mom in the carpool line who’s desperately searching for hope?

    Your investment of any amount with Proverbs 31 Ministries helps us continue to expand God’s reach. There are so many more people who need to be assured, God is there.

    And together, we can bring even more people the only sustaining source of hope there is: Jesus.

    Dear God, thank You for being there, wherever we are. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Exodus 33:14, "And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’" (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve been touched by Proverbs 31 Ministries, will you prayerfully consider giving back? Your donation of any size will help Proverbs 31 Ministries continue to reach women and families across the world. Click here to give now. It’s easy, it’s fast and it makes a big difference!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a time when God showed you He was there when you didn’t feel Him. Say a prayer to thank Him for being there for you, wherever you go.

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • 40 Days To Lasting Change Giveaway

    40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Challenge by Kyle Idleman is a devotional centered around the parable of the prodigal son. Through the elements of this story, Idleman teaches you about "interacting with God, walking and talking with Him, and learning to recognize His voice and His ways in our lives," all in an effort to lead you to your own AHA moments.40 Days to Lasting Change

    AHA stands for Awakening, Honesty and Action, and when these three ingredients come together, you experience spiritual transformation and growth in your life.

    You can buy 40 Days to Lasting Change today and have it shipped to your home or to a store near you, or from now until December 31st, you have a chance to win a free copy just by entering in your name and email address below.

    You can also gain additional entries into the contest by following us on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, by signing up for our email list, or by leaving a comment on this post letting us know what kind of lasting changes you'd like to see in your life in 2016.

    With the new year right around the corner, you've probably already started thinking about your resolutions. If one of your goals is spiritual growth, 40 Days to Lasting Change offers you a guided opportunity to draw nearer to God and grow stronger in your faith.

    Enter now for your chance to win!

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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