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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • The Rapid Rise of Christianity

    In 2013, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey brought us The Bible Miniseries, a ten episode series which aired once a week leading up to Easter Sunday. It briefly covered main events of the Old Testament, as well the life of Christ from birth to resurrection.

    Earlier this year they returned with a sequel series, A.D. The Bible Continues, which covered life after Christ’s death and resurrection. This time the first episode aired on Easter Sunday and ran for the eleven weeks following.
    A.D. The Bible Continues

    The series, which releases on DVD and Blu-ray today, follows the disciples who, after the Resurrection, received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, enabling them to go out and share the message that they were commissioned to give.

    Christianity quickly spread during this time period, but it was not without heavy persecution. However, at times the suffering believers endured was the reason that belief spread.

    In Acts 7, we read about the first Christian martyr, Stephen, who was stoned to death for proclaiming Christ as Lord (Acts 7: 54-60 ESV).

    Following that story, we find in Acts 8 that because of this great persecution in Jerusalem, believers were “scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” but also that “those who scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:1-4 ESV)

    Even with all the torturing and killing, believers did not turn from Christ, as the combination of Roman oppression and Jewish revolt was no match for the power of God. This goes to show that God can use evil for good and will do whatever is necessary for His will to be done.

    The faith and perseverance that early believers had offers strong encouragement for Christians today. If you’ve ever been treated poorly because of your faith in Christ, remain steadfast, as “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV).

    Check out some of these stories and many more in A.D. The Bible Continues, which recreates the tense and dramatic narrative of the beginning of the Book of Acts, and encourages you to dig deeper by studying Scripture for yourself.

  • Where Did She Go Wrong?

    Lynn Cowell NOVEMBER 2, 2015

    Where Did She Go Wrong? LYNN COWELL

    "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." John 15:16 (NIV)

    Where did she go so wrong?

    In school, she was the girl everyone wanted to be like; the one I wanted to be like. So much potential. She seemed to have it all: the grades, the guys, the goods … everything. It was as if she were magnetic, attracting all the best, all the time. Often I wished, "If I could have just one ounce of her talent and beauty …"

    Yet, years later, not everything came together for her like I thought it would. Her ’til-death-do-us-part marriage parted early. The promising career didn’t deliver on its promise. My heart broke as her life came up so short of what I had expected. I’m sure it fell short of what she expected, too.

    Life can be strange at times. What we thought were the ingredients for the perfect life can prove to not be enough. Investments made with our time, energy and emotions can seem more like withdrawals when they don’t produce what we were counting on.

    It reminds me of the two types of fruit I saw when I opened a bag of oranges recently. One juicy orange, so healthy, had reached its full potential. Sunshine, water and nutrients from the soil gave the fruit all it needed to reach the fullness it was created for. I couldn’t wait to enjoy it!

    Another fruit in the same bag, shriveled and pale, revealed only dried pulp when peeled. Why the difference? Both pieces began with so much possibility.

    The result had everything to do with what the fruit had soaked in … or hadn’t.

    When we’re planted in God, we become like the healthy fruit. Drawing from God and His Word, we can reach the fullest potential He desires. We can grow into a person who is bearing fruit as today's verse mentions — fruit that will last. If, on the other hand, we look to some person, place or thing to make our lives fruitful, chances are we’ll never become all Christ created us to be.

    As I think back to the teen-turned-woman in my life, my heart aches for the time she lost, but I am joyful for the woman she has since become. Like for many of us, life didn’t go as planned. But in that place of loss and disappointment, she made a change. Instead of looking for the good life in all the places culture tells us to look, later in life she again made Jesus the focus of her life, motivation, energy and efforts. His ways and His plans took center stage instead of her own.

    At the end of trying to find the life she was looking for, God took her shriveled heart and filled it, empowering her to become the woman He always envisioned her to be. The beauty she now possesses is much more than skin deep; it’s heart deep. She has truly become a magnetic woman.

    Dear Jesus, I may not see it or feel it, but in me is all the potential You planted the day You created me. I want to draw on Your strength and power to become all You created me to be; I want to be a woman whose beauty reflects Your beauty. Teach me to come to You each and every day, to feed my heart so I can have a beauty that’s more than skin deep. I pray for a beauty that’s heart deep. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (NIV)

    Jeremiah 17:7-8, "But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you know a young woman who is filled with potential? Help her soak in the nutrients of God’s Word by getting her Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants.

    Join Lynn on her blog for more insights on how to reach your fullest potential, where she is also giving away a reaching-your-fullest-potential gift box.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Every day we are soaking in something, both intentionally and unintentionally, by the things we watch, listen to, read and observe. Pray and ask God to reveal what influences you need to change in your life. Write them down so you can see them.

    Ask God to nudge at your heart when you are tempted to turn to those things that will hinder His work in your life.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part Two, The Scholarships

    This is the second part of a series on helping your child get into their dream college. Part one discusses testing.

    College is expensive. Tuition alone costs a monstrous amount, but then there’s room and board, a meal plan, travel costs and let’s not forget text books — yes, some really do cost hundreds.

    But one of the best kept secrets when applying to school is that you don’t have to pay it all. You can earn it.

    Most students concerned about college try to get a job to help pay for school. Instead of looking for minimum wage work, I focused on being a student. And within only two years, I’d earned $40,000 to put towards my college education.

    How? Private scholarships.

    Most students and parents assume that they will only earn what their school of choice gives them. They then miss out on the wonderful opportunities that exist through private scholarship organizations.

    I'm here to tell you that with the right attitude and diligent hard work, students can make more money studying for your SATs and applying for scholarship competitions than most who have a job all throughout high school.

    Here’s how.

    The Prep Work:

    1. Have your student study the SAT by taking practice tests. I lost count of how many times I actually took the SAT and ACT. The best way to do well is to know how the test is structured. Buy the practice test books and have your child utilize them. You can even sign up your student to receive the SAT question of the day sent directly to their email — if they take this every day, they are getting more exposure to the style and format of the questions.

    2. Help them make a resume. Students don’t need to wait until they’re job searching to have a resume. They should keep it on file and have it ready at all times. If they haven’t had much job experience, then they can include any awards or accomplishments, volunteer service, extracurriculars or special skills.

    3. Help them perfect the short bio application essay (less than 500 words). This is your student’s time to shine and tell the judges about life experience and what makes them a good contender for their competition. Word of advice: students should not over-emphasize other scholarships they have already won, as some organizations want to identify new potential winners.

    4. Guide them to read voraciously. Reading deeply and widely will help students answer scholarship questions and will aid them in writing the necessary short answer essays on the standardized tests and on the grant application forms.

    collegeprep

    5. Assist in identifying candidates to write letters of recommendation. It’s helpful for your student to go ahead and ask important people to write a letter of recommendation for them. Consider a wide range of people — teachers, pastors, coaches, mentors, employers etc.

    The Process:

    Help your student go for it! Here are a few sample organizations that provide generous amounts of money to high school students applying for college. Your student will usually create an account and then submit your application.

    A few scholarships:

    National Society of High School Scholars - This is an honors society that I joined as a senior after receiving an invitational letter. They have monthly scholarships that your students can apply for and some are quite simple. Not only is this a great way to earn money, but membership is also a good resume-builder.

    Distinguished Young Women - I walked away from DYW with $20,000 to be put towards Wheaton College, the school of my dreams. This organization is for girls in their senior year of high school. Students compete in 5 categories: Fitness, Self-Expression (onstage question), Talent, Interview and Scholastics. Not only can this program help you gain money but it is also a thrilling experience and a wonderful opportunity for students to challenge themselves and to get involved in their community.

    National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) - This organization is for college athletes, so if your child plans on taking sports to school, look into the leadership programs, grants and scholarships with the NCAA.

    Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) - I also participated in this organization. This program serves to educate young people about patriotism and the fundamental values of our nation. Students compete at several different levels in an essay competition: Post, Regional, State, National. The competition is called "Voice of Democracy".

    Siemens Foundation - Siemens offers both a merit scholarship and a national competition for math, science and technology. Applicants create a project and write a research report on their findings to be evaluated by a panel of judges in the selected field. If your child prefers science fairs to literary analysis, Siemens is one to consider.

    Ayn Rand Institute - Every year, there is a substantial essay competition in honor of the magnificent writer and political thinker Ayn Rand. The competition for Grade 12 - College is on her book Atlas Shrugged and the winner walks away with $20,000. It's worth looking into.

    The Official College Board - This is the organization that releases the SAT. Through them, you can find online questions, study guides and other resourceful materials. There are also merit-based scholarships through private organizations. It's helpful for your student to create a profile with the College Board and browse scholarships that match your needs.

    I recently received an email from someone working at my school’s Financial Aid department telling me that I brought in more private scholarships than most students they see. She was asking me how this was possible because they’re always working to make college affordable and she wanted to know my story so that it could potentially help other applying students.

    This is how.

    In just a handful of hours, any student can apply for a plethora of scholarships. Think about the possibilities! If your child wins one quick-draw $5,000 scholarship that probably took only two-three hours to prepare for, they’ve just made over $1500 an hour.

    This is the kind of work that pays off. This is the kind of work that pays for college. Help your child do the research and learn how to apply their strengths. They can work hard and work smart — they, too, can earn $40,000 for college.

    ------

    This post was written by Ciera Horton, a unique blend of academic and artistic. She is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

  • What Does It Mean to Be Made New?

    Liz Curtis Higgs OCTOBER 30, 2015

    What Does It Mean to Be Made New? LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

    When this Former Bad Girl received Christ, you can imagine what my coworkers thought when I danced out the door on a Friday afternoon shouting, "Party!" and then strolled in Monday morning saying, "Praise the Lord, I’ve been baptized!"

    Did they notice? Oh, baby.

    As spring turned into summer, I soared and stumbled along my new walk with Christ, watched carefully by my coworkers, who were curious about the changes they were seeing.

    One October day, our receptionist asked me, "Liz, what does it mean to be a Christian?"

    Uh-oh. The most important question ever. Did I have an answer at the ready? I did not. Desperately looking around for inspiration, I saw a ceramic pumpkin on display and stammered, "Oh, Alice, it’s just like being a pumpkin."

    "Really?" she asked. "What do you mean by that?"

    Friend, I had no idea what I meant. After silently pleading for the Lord to make sense of my nonsense, I said, "Well, God chooses us out of the pumpkin patch of life." Whew.

    "No kidding?" Alice nodded thoughtfully. "Tell me more."

    More? Another prayer, another leap of faith. "We’re dirty, right? From being out in the field? So, God washes us on the outside. That’s like baptism. Then He pierces our thick skins with the double-edged sword of His Word so He can clean out all that icky stuff on the inside."

    Alice made a face, no doubt remembering the last time she’d plunged her hands into a warm, slimy pumpkin. Squish.

    "Yuck," I agreed. "And those slimy seeds? Bitterness and discontent can cling to our hearts just like those stubborn seeds. Thank goodness God is willing to clean us out, because He’s the only One who can."

    "Okay …" She was still listening, still taking it all in. "Then what?"

    The Lord had a swift answer for both of us.

    "He gives us a brand new face, Alice."

    I swallowed hard, overwhelmed by her open expression, knowing God was at work, right then and there. "He gives us eyes that see like His, without blinking or turning away. A nose to capture the fragrant aroma of His sacrifice. And a mouth that smiles with joy."

    "Then …" I blinked away tears. Oh, Alice! Do you see? "He fills us with the light of His Spirit and puts us out in a dark world to shine for Him."

    Her eyes widened. "Boy, that all makes so much sense!"

    My hands shook as I reached for a pencil, wanting to write down everything God had shown us. Over the years, I shared this parable in many places, until it took on a life of its own and began spinning around the Internet. If it ever appears in your inbox, now you know the rest of the story!

    What matters most is what happened next: Alice was made new.

    Not long after our conversation, Alice gave her heart to God and was scrubbed clean, inside and out. Just as today’s verse tells us, "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17) Alice’s old life wasn’t nearly as hairy and scary as mine, but she was forgiven all the same. So was I.

    And those slimy seeds that represent our old sins? God has a plan for those, too. They can be sprinkled with salt, roasted to perfection and shared with others, just as we can use our past experiences to speak to loved ones who are stuck in the yuck.

    Heavenly Father, when I invited You inside my dark heart, I feared my less-than-lovely past would turn You away forever. Yet, You willingly plunged Your holy hands into my unholy mess and gave me a new heart. This season and every season, Lord, help my sisters and me shine for Your glory, praying others will hear Your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 51:10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me." (NASB)

    John 4:35b, "I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Celebrating 20 years of encouraging young hearts, The Pumpkin Patch Parable is available in a big, new Parable Treasury, combining four stories by Liz Curtis Higgs — one for each season — especially for children ages 4-7. Liz has 10 copies to give away! (U.S. addresses only — thanks for understanding.) We’ll choose 10 winners at random and send email notifications to each one by Monday, November 2.

    Stop by Liz’s blog, where she offers a free weekly Bible series on opening God’s Word and embracing the Good News.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Over the centuries, our Creator has revealed the promise of His redemption through story, music, dance, art, drama, spoken word — He is endlessly creative.

    Ask God to give you a new way to capture the profound truth of the Gospel, then look for an opportunity to share it this weekend with someone who needs to hear about Jesus.

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Sometimes I Talk Too Much

    Lysa TerKeurst OCTOBER 29, 2015

    Sometimes I Talk Too Much LYSA TERKEURST

    "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 18:21 (NLT)

    I have some opinions.

    I have some thoughts.

    I have a plethora of words that beg to be spoken.

    And if I’m not careful those words can be too much. Maybe you can relate.

    Unchecked words that come too fast bring with them a rush of trouble. That’s why it’s important for us to consider three things with our words …

    1. Listening should take precedence over speaking.

    Honestly, I think a lot of relationship troubles could be solved if we made the commitment to listen more than we speak. Gosh this is hard, isn’t it? Sometimes when I’m listening to someone all I can focus on is when I’m going to be able to jump in and say what’s screaming in my brain. Later I realize all that focus on my next words prevented me from really listening to what they were trying to say.

    What if I made the commitment today to do more listening than speaking? I’m going to challenge myself to not interrupt. Wait until there is a true pause in the conversation. Truly consider what the other person has said. And then respond with care.

    "To answer before listening — that is folly and shame." Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)

    2. Words should be measured.

    I need to engage my brain before I engage my mouth. Just like I consider how a purchase will affect my bank account, I have to consider how words will affect my relationship account. I can do this by thinking about how my words will come across and intentionally asking myself if there are better words that could be used in this situation?

    "Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions." Proverbs 18:2 (NIV)

    3. Once words are spoken, I can’t un-speak them.

    Once words come out of my mouth I can’t gather them back in. It’s like once you squeeze too much toothpaste out, you can’t get it back into the tube. Now certainly, I can quickly say I’m sorry. I can ask for forgiveness. I can attempt to make the wrong right. But I can’t un-speak my words.

    "The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences." Proverbs 18:21

    If my greatest desire is to honor the Lord with every word I say and interaction I have, these three things are crucial for me to keep in mind. Instead of allowing my flesh reactions to lead me, I’ve got to boss my thoughts and opinions around using God’s Truth.

    Dear Lord, I always want my words to reflect the fact that You live within me. But sometimes my first reaction isn’t as God-honoring as it should be. Help me to keep these three perspectives in mind as I deny my flesh response and follow Your teaching in this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 10:19, "Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues." (NIV)

    Galatians 5:16-17, "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Join a community of women who want to honor God with their actions and reactions with our next free online Bible study of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, UngluedSign up here.

    Get ready for the study by purchasing your copy of Unglued today!

    RELFECT AND RESPOND: Consider the three points Lysa gave in today’s devotion. Which of these speaks to you the most?

    Choose one point and determine to implement it in your conversations and responses this week.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Find an Unshakable Identity

    Glynnis Whitwer OCTOBER 28, 2015

    How to Find an Unshakable Identity GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 (NIV)

    For so many years, I had the ability to move from success to disappointment in a heartbeat. Just when I thought I had it all together, something happened. I’d forget an appointment. Snap at one of my children. Or procrastinate on a project until I was stressed out and mad.

    I’d built my identity on the shaky foundation of my circumstances and abilities. As soon as the delicate balance was tipped with a mistake, misstep or mishap, I kicked it in to overdrive to try and compensate. But all that frenetic activity never made a lasting difference.

    My roller coaster identity took me on a wild ride for years, but not the fun theme park kind. It all changed when I read about the difference between being and doing. These two things are opposite, but somehow, I had connected them.

    Why do so many of us draw a straight line from our actions to our identity? Why are we so quick to connect dots that aren’t there, slap a label on ourselves and believe it to be true? We stumble and call ourselves clumsy. We forget to pay a bill and call ourselves stupid. Our home is cluttered, and we call ourselves pathetic.

    Those aren’t lines God draws. Only Satan, the enemy of this world, draws a line from our work to our worth. Only the enemy wants us to find our identity in what we do, because he knows when the lights dim and the "success" is gone, so is our value.

    God, however, has another identity for us, one that’s unchanging and independent of our actions. It’s as His chosen and beloved child. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God."

    When I first learned this truth about my identity, it took a long time to accept. Each time I caught my belittling self-talk, I had to make a choice about what to believe. I had to choose to take God at His Word, and believe in His love. This took my faith from academic head knowledge to real-life heart belief.

    If I have any doubt that God’s approval is conditioned on my perfect behavior, Romans 5:6-8 tells me the truth: "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (NIV).

    God’s acceptance of us, and hence our identity, is NOT defined by our actions. So we will never be a "failure" when our performance doesn’t match our expectations. When we reassign the source of our value and worth to its rightful place, we will be free from the fear of failure or the opinions of others. We will be free from the labels we place on ourselves. And free from the shifting sands of our self-worth.

    The only thing that matters is what our Heavenly Father thinks about us. And that is unchanging. We can rest knowing we are safe and secure in God’s unconditional love.

    And once we really believe this truth, our identity will be unshakable.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for embracing me as Your beloved daughter. Knowing You will never turn away from me, nor forsake me, fills my heart with joy. I want to love You and serve You more each day, free from the lies that hold back my potential in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." (NIV)

    John 8:36, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If your overwhelming circumstances have you feeling like a failure, you’ll appreciate Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, Taming the To-Do List. It’s filled with encouragement to help you learn the truth about your worth, identify your priorities and develop simple strategies to live that out every day.

    Join Glynnis on her blog today for a special announcement about her FREE Do It Now! Challenge and a giveaway of her book, Taming the To-Do List.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What labels have you put on yourself that you would never put on someone else?

    How would your life change if God’s thoughts about you were enough? How would you approach your relationships, work and ministry differently?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Case for Volunteering

    Throughout the Bible you can find verse after verse about serving others. As Christians, sharing our time and the talents that God has blessed us with is something we are called to do.

    Two of my favorite Bible verses about the spirit of volunteering speak to important principles of serving your fellow man: 1 Peter 4:10 and Acts 20:35.

    Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 1 Peter 4:10 NIV

    I like how this verse from Peter puts emphasis on using whatever gift God has given us to serve others. God isn’t asking us to do something we aren’t equipped to do; He simply wants us to use the talents He has given us.

    I have a strong background in reading and writing, so I use these talents to assist one organization with rewriting their website and another helping with kids who are falling behind in reading. While I would love to build housing for the less fortunate, I am not good with power tools, so I have learned to concentrate my efforts in areas that I am skilled at.

    That is the wonderful thing – God has blessed us all with different talents. And with so many organizations needing help, you are sure to find a group in your community that can put your talents to good use. If you like working with children, Big Brothers Big Sisters might be a good match. If you are good with a hammer, Habitat for Humanity might be the spot for you. The Internet has made it easier than ever to connect with organizations locally and nationally.

    Building A House

    The important thing is to find a project that excites you and speaks to your passions. When you find that perfect match, you will be inspired to give your best to others.

    And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.' Acts 20:35 NLT

    We are all familiar with this Scripture, especially the end - “It’s better to give than to receive.” I’m sure we all have experienced this feeling. It is always fun to select the perfect gift for a friend or loved one and to watch their reaction as they unwrap it.

    It also works the same way with volunteering. This is definitely a case where the giving of your time and talent to a worthy cause is much better than being on the receiving end. You are giving a part of yourself every time you work with an organization. You leave part of yourself with the house you help build, with the kids you work with, with the patients you visit, and so on. You leave the best part of you!

    I do have a confession to make. While it’s true that I’m not getting compensated monetarily for the work that I am doing, I feel like I’m getting compensated spiritually. The feeling you get when you volunteer is unlike many feelings. For me, it totally turns my day around. It doesn’t matter what has happened, if I got stuck in traffic, if the dogs made a mess in the house or whatever else is going on, once I get to the school and start reading with my second graders, all that goes away. And the good feelings last a long time – you totally get hooked and can’t wait for the next time you can serve others.

    Reading to a Child

    I encourage you to answer the call and find an organization in your community to help. It is easy to write a check, and please don’t get me wrong, cash donations are important to organizations – but when you give of yourself with your time and talents it is a totally different feeling. A feeling that I would love for everyone to experience.

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    This post was written by Family Christian's own Tammi Skellenger. She enjoys camping, football and spending time with her husband and two golden retrievers.

  • Shame No Longer Has Me

    Sandi Patty OCTOBER 27, 2015

    Shame No Longer Has Me AUBREY SAMPSON

    "Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame." Psalm 34:5 (NIV)

    You know that phenomenon when you learn about a new car for the first time, and then begin to see it everywhere? Shame is a lot like that. Once we begin to recognize its presence in our lives, we start to see how much emotional space it takes up.

    The difficulty with shame, however, is that it encompasses such a wide range of emotions it can be difficult to define. Perhaps the simplest way to understand shame is to think back on a moment when you experienced it.

    You may have felt embarrassment, discomfort or self-consciousness. (I was in middle school when it was cool to have pink and purple braces and bangs up to the clouds, so I definitely know self-consciousness!)

    Shame can also express itself in much weightier emotions, like when we feel humiliated, inadequate, injured or abused.

    So many women live under the weight of shame without realizing it because we’ve been conditioned by culture and life experience to accept that feeling as normal. Shame is simply always there; it’s that familiar yet profound feeling that we don’t measure up.

    Add to all of that, the pressure we often feel as women to be successful, sophisticated and in great shape, we can feel ashamed when we make even the tiniest of mistakes. At its core, an identity of shame is the belief that, in whole or in part, I am not enough. That "not-enoughness" is what drives our shame.

    Think about it.

    Maybe you regularly view life through the lens of other people’s expectations (real or imagined), and you’re beginning to buckle under the pressure. Perhaps you feel self-conscious about not having a boyfriend or a happy marriage when all of your friends seem content in their relationships.

    Perhaps a friend betrayed you, one of your parents was emotionally or physically absent, or your loved one has a secret addiction, and you think it’s all somehow your fault. Maybe you’re stressed about your children and how you handle things at home.

    The voice in your head says, I’m not a very good mother. Maybe you feel like a failure because life got hard, and now your dreams seem out of reach, or you just don’t know who you are anymore. Maybe you go through life with ever-present feelings of inadequacy; you worry what other people would think if they knew the real you. Shame lurks in all of these things. (I could go on, but at the risk of depressing us all, I’ll stop there.)

    In spite of the overwhelming nature of shame, there is good news. The promise of Scripture is that when we look to God, He transforms our shame into something beautiful — a sparkling, splendorous joy.

    It may take time, and there may always be moments in life when we experience shame, but when our identity is centered in Christ — not only knowing who we are in Christ, but knowing who He is in us — we can discard the dark covering of shame and rise in radiance. In other words, we may have shame, but in Jesus, shame no longer has us.

    Whether you’re simply having a "not enough" moment, or you’ve been hiding in shame for years, have hope. You can overcome shame, because your Overcomer already has.

    Dear heavenly Father, I praise You because You not only remove my shame, You faithfully transform it into something beautiful and new. And while I don’t fully understand it, I know You have the power to help me overcome shame because You’ve already done so on the cross. Open my heart to experience Your love and mercy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 2:6, "For in Scripture it says: ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If shame from your past has imprisoned you, you’ll appreciate Aubrey Sampson’s brand new release, Overcomer: Breaking Down the Walls of Shame and Rebuilding Your Soul.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Overcomer. In celebration of this book, Aubrey’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, November 2.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think back over the last few days. What kinds of things — small or large — have triggered shame in you?

    In what ways might your life be different if you could be free of shame? For example, consider the impact on your relationships, aspirations, confidence and faith.

    When you face shame, what’s one thing you can do to reassure yourself of God’s love?

    © 2015 by Aubrey Sampson. 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

  • Why We Should Stand Our Ground

    Tracie Miles OCTOBER 26, 2015

    Why We Should Stand Our Ground TRACIE MILES

    "But Shammah stood his ground in the middle of the field, defended it, and killed the Philistines. And the LORD brought about a great victory." 2 Samuel 23:12 (ISV)

    Fall is one of my favorite times of the year — but not for familiar reasons, like cooler weather and colorful trees. I love fall because it’s football season!

    My family loves football, and we attend games practically every weekend. Home games are my favorite.

    Having the home field advantage makes a huge difference to players. Being in familiar territory with devoted fans cheering them on helps players feel empowered and motivated to win.

    When you’re the away team, it’s a whole different game.

    Players don’t feel as appreciated or supported. They aren’t used to the environment, and the taunts and jeers from opposing fans can be so loud they become a distraction. As a result, away team members have to stand their ground and play harder to fight for victory.

    With football season upon us, I recently found myself pondering how much football and faith have in common. You see, after watching the news, I began feeling discouraged. A world filled with broken people making so many choices that break God’s heart and can detrimentally affect generations to come.

    So with a heavy heart, I turned to God’s Word and discovered the story of David’s mighty warriors in 2 Samuel 23:8-17.

    Here we see three men who stood firm in their faith, trusted God and claimed victory despite insurmountable odds.

    Josheb-Basshebeth killed 800 enemies with a single spear, because the Lord gave him victory.

    Eleazar, with only David by his side, fought the battle against the Philistines until his hand was too tired to lift his sword, and the Lord gave him victory.

    Then in today’s key verse, Shammah singlehandedly stood his ground against a large troop of Philistines to prevent them from plundering an entire crop of lentils, and the Lord gave him victory.

    Each man stood firm in the strength and name of the Lord.

    These men didn’t start out as mighty warriors. They were just normal people with flaws and insecurities. Yet they trusted the Lord and were willing to fight for righteousness. As a result, they found victory despite the odds or the size and power of their enemies.

    The truth is, even Jesus never had the home field advantage. He was a member of the "away team" in the public’s eye. Always considered the outcast. Always opposing laws and government that went against what was right in His Father’s eyes.

    He was scoffed at for not accepting sin and immorality as acceptable, and He was possibly considered intolerant. He was seen as a threat to the ever-changing social norms and persecuted for standing His ground and preaching righteousness.

    Opponents whose voices seemed louder and more powerful than Jesus’ (from an earthly perspective) were perpetually trying to silence Him. But He never accepted defeat and instead stood firm.

    When the game got harder, Jesus stepped up His game. He stood His ground in the face of persecution. He persevered. He boldly stood up for the Truth without hesitation, all the while maintaining godly character, thoughts and behaviors. He portrayed peace, grace and love to His followers — and even His opponents — in all that He did.

    Believers today play the game of life in a territory often opposed to the Word of God. A territory becoming more volatile, dangerous and sinful by the day, making it clear that God’s team of earthly believers is officially the away team.

    But just like David’s mighty warriors, we are called to stand up for God’s truth, and stand firm in our faith, even when the odds are against us or it appears we are falling too far behind in the game to gain the upper hand.

    Followers of Jesus may feel like the underdog, but we can choose to embrace a mindset of victory and let Jesus be our motivation to keep standing strong in God’s Word.

    Let’s allow His voice to be louder in our hearts than any opponent. Let’s trust the Lord will bring victory, and let’s never give in to defeat.

    Lord, empower me with courage and enthusiasm to stand firm for Your truths and be confident in my faith, remembering You are still in control. Show me how to stand my ground for You and make a difference in this broken world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:13, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Need a resource to help you step out of your comfort zone and live out loud for Jesus? Consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book, Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future.

    Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement on standing up for Christ in today’s world, and learn about her new inspirational series called Media Mondays.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have do you let the frustrations of this broken world cause you to lose hope and feel defeated?

    How can you stand firm in God’s truths today and get excited about living your life for Him?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Give Hope: Education

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3 ESV

    As the Christmas season draws near, we are reminded of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brought to the world. Today, so many people around the world are struggling, and are without the hope of Jesus. Our prayer is that together we can help fill many of them with that hope.

    There are three ways in which we aim to give hope this year: through education, food and water.

    Give Hope: Education, Food, Water

    Our first initiative is to give hope through education, which runs from now through November 12th.

    Along with our partner Back2Back Ministries, we are raising money and support for orphans and vulnerable children, offering them an opportunity to live in a family-style setting, and receive scholarships, tutoring, and encouragement to pursue their dreams.

    The ultimate goal is to teach these children how to become self-sufficient and to give back to their communities. With more education, children are more likely to become leaders of tomorrow and forever shape the direction of their countries.

    One of those future leaders, Madison, broke free from a cycle of physical and spiritual poverty when she entered into the Hope Program at Back2Back.

    We asked her how life changed after entering Madisonthe program, and this is what she said: “My life changed in a really radical way. Probably the coolest that has happened to me since I've been here is that I began a real relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    The Hope Program is about more than just providing young people with an education. Loving house parents nurture and care for each student, and most important, introduce them to the hope found in Jesus.

    We asked Madison what she hopes for now that she’s been through the program, and her answer brilliantly captures the mission behind the Hope Program:

    “My only hope is Jesus. My dream isn’t in a family or a job. It’s only in what He’s going to do in my life.”

    Yes, we are aiming to provide children throughout the world with hope through education, water, and food, but our ultimate hope is rooted in Jesus.

    This is because hope in Jesus is eternal, while other “hopes” fade away. That’s why Peter calls it a living hope.

    "The only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ." – Charles Spurgeon

    The Hope Program opened doors for Madison that previously didn't exist. She now plans to serve one year in a mission school, and then go on to study dentistry. Even with all the new opportunities popping up in her life, her zeal for Christ has not taken a back seat.

    “I think my greatest desire is to share my testimony with many students, that they would understand the hand of God and the glory of God exists in our lives, and that He can change the bad to good and restore hearts,” Madison said.

    If you would like to join us in giving hope to students like Madison, please visit our Give Hope: Education page, or text FAMILY to 91011.

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