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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • When I See You In Heaven

    Leah DiPascal JANUARY 21, 2015

    When I See You In Heaven LEAH DIPASCAL

    " … He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’" Revelation 21:4-5a (NASB)

    I could feel the slow rhythm of his heartbeat as I laid my head against his chest. Tears quietly rolled down my face as I held back the sobs that were begging to burst forth from underneath my heart.

    Closing my eyes, I remembered being 5 years old again with my daddy holding me on his broad, strong shoulders the day he took me to the zoo. So long ago. Such sweet memories. And, yet, my heart was breaking.

    Lord, not yet. Please. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I still have so much to say. I want it to be meaningful. I want Dad to know how much I love him. Not yet, Lord, not yet.

    As I curled up closer, like that 5-year-old little girl so long ago, I could hear his shallow breathing. Gently I cradled his hand into mine.

    Thank you, Lord, that Dad’s not in pain. When it’s time, please take him peacefully. But, not yet, Lord, not yet.

    The clock ticks. The moments pass. The memories linger.

    And it is time.

    Having to say goodbye to my dad that day was one of the hardest experiences of my life. It had only been 15 short months since my mom passed away, and the idea of losing him, too, was more than I could bear.

    No longer could I hear his voice say, "I love you." No longer could I call him and ask for his advice. No longer could I see his smile or feel his hand holding mine.

    No longer.

    This month marks the 2-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Not a day goes by that I doṉt think of him and my mom. I miss them so much. I long to be with them again.

    But even in the midst of "no longer" here on earth, there is a ray of hope that shines within me. A knowing. A promise that I will one day see my parents again.

    I find comfort in knowing there is a real place that has been created by God and prepared by Jesus for each of us, if we accept His invitation. An extraordinary place of astounding wonder. Greater than we can fully understand or imagine. A place called heaven.

    As I awake to another day on earth of "no longer," I anchor my heart in the assurance of what Jesus said in John 14:2, "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you" (NASB).

    In those moments when the memories return and the sadness resurfaces, I find comfort and even joy for my parents as I reflect on the promise of today’s key verse. For in heaven, there is no mourning, crying, pain or death. All things are made new.

    If you’re like me, and you’re missing someone special today. Someone you long to see again. To hold their hand, to capture their smile or to simply say, "I love you." And, yet, the realization of "no longer" looms in the reality of each day that you live without them …

    Can I encourage you with the truth? If your loved one accepted God’s invitation, then they are not dead but are living in heaven. In that extraordinary place, of astounding wonder, where pain and sorrow can never linger.

    They’re experiencing joy and peace like they’ve never known as they celebrate the splendor of their eternal home.

    And there is hope, comfort and assurance for you today that if you accept God’s invitation you too will see them again one day.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for creating heaven. A place where we will spend eternity with You and our loved ones who have accepted Your invitation. Help us live with a joyful heart and share the hope we have of eternal life with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (ESV)

    John 11:25, "Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.’" (NLT)

    John 10:28, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Have you accepted God’s invitation to experience eternal life in Heaven? Click here to know more about that process and stay connected once you make that decision.

    For more encouragement, connect with Leah DiPascal today on her blog, Whispers for the Soul, and download a free printable that includes a prayer she’s written for you.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you know someone who’s recently lost a loved one? Take time to send a card, bring them a meal or pray for them today.

    Tell others about God’s invitation of eternal life by sharing the truth of John 3:16 with them today.

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Need a Fresh Start

    Ruth Soukup JANUARY 20, 2015

    I Need a Fresh Start LARA CASEY

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

    As a personal trainer years ago, January was always an exciting month.

    People packed the gym, energy soared and hope flowed like water. This was a fresh new start. Great things were ahead!

    Then, come February 1 … you know where this is going. I’ve been right there too, making progress on some goals then weeks later, getting bogged down by inner shame: I failed. I can’t do this. I am not enough. I messed up — all hope is lost!

    There is nothing magical about January 1st and no matter what you’ve done or not done, great things are ahead with God. The best is yet to come. Every day we are given the opportunity to be made new in Christ, not by our might but by our surrender. As Paul reveals in our key verse: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

    I need that truth written on a Post-it Note and plastered to my forehead every day.

    As a toddler mama, wife, business owner and friend, I mess up a lot. We need new starts around here like we need daily food and clean diapers. I try to control just about everything: naptimes, schedules and my to-do lists. When things begin getting out of control and I feel Madame Overwhelmed creeping up behind me, I think back to a cold day one November when things started to change.

    I was so afraid to let go. I was afraid of more pain. I was afraid my life would never be the same.

    But I soon realized that the tighter I held the reins of control, the more intense the pain became. The day my daughter Grace was born, I learned a life-altering truth: my need for control was holding life back.

    Perhaps your roadblocks aren’t roadblocks at all, but rather new beginnings in disguise. Perhaps your missteps are actually opportunities for growth, greater closeness with God or a nudge to take a leap of faith.

    In order for a seed to sprout, the outer casing first has to fall away, or surrender, in order for new life to come. The same is true with our lives. We must let go a little — or sometimes a lot — for our new start to be revealed. As Paul says in Philippians 3:13b-14, "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

    My middle school English teacher had the words "This too shall pass" permanently painted on her classroom bulletin board. (And am I grateful that the awkward days of perming my already-curly hair did pass!) While those words on the chalkboard didn’t originate from the Bible, they do reveal some truth.

    This life and everything in it will pass away, but God’s love never changes. Our new start can’t be found in more money, more business, more fun, more stuff or more visits to the gym. Our new start is found only in Him.

    Lord, I have found myself overwhelmed at times, trying to do it all. I am so grateful You’re in control so I don’t have to be! Thank You for Your radical grace that makes all things new. Help me see my failures and mistakes as You see them: opportunities to draw closer to You. Help me find my worth and identity only in You, not in my accomplishments and not in my missteps. I love You Lord. I want to be closer to You, always sure of the fresh start I have been given because of Your sacrifice! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (NIV)

    Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Whether you’re longing to make something meaningful happen, feeling like youଁre never enough or trying to find purpose amidst a lot of noise and heartache, Lara Casey’s new book, Make it Happen will help you see the impossible is possible and the best is yet to come.

    If you connected with today’s devotion, you’ll enjoy following Lara on Instagram.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Make It Happen: Surrender Your Fear, Take the Leap, Live On Purpose by Lara Casey. In celebration of this book, Lara’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, January 26.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What leap of surrender can you take today? Fill in the blank: God I need a new start! Help me to let go of ___________.

    © 2015 by Lara Casey. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Redefine Beautiful

    Lynn Cowell JANUARY 19, 2015 

    Redefine Beautiful LYNN COWELL

    "Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’" Acts 3:6 (NIV, 1984)

    Every girl wanted them. And she "needed" them as well!

    They were the boots that winter. Another season it was a specific backpack or jacket. Every year my daughter was in school, there was something she just had to have.

    If Christmas or a birthday was near, she often got the item she wanted. But sometimes, by the time this special day came around, the crowd was wearing something new and my daughter had moved on to a different "need."

    All too often, I knew the motive: my girl wanted to fit in. She wanted to be like the other girls in her school. And while I didn’t want to encourage her desire for material things, my mama’s heart understood. She didn’t want to be different … at least not in this way.

    My daughter was convinced the object of her desire at that moment would meet her needs or fix her problem.

    I was thinking about my daughter when I read the story of Peter, John and the crippled man.

    Acts 3:1-10 tells the story of a man crippled since birth who was carried to the temple gate called Beautiful every day. There he would sit and beg from those going into the temple courts. One day, he saw Peter and John, disciples of Jesus, about to enter and asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him and said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

    Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk" (Acts 3:6b). Peter then took him by the hand to help him up. The man jumped to his feet and began to walk. He followed them into the temple jumping and praising God. All the people who knew the crippled man were amazed.

    Every day, there are those we love who are heading to the gate called Beautiful to beg. A man-made "gate," beautiful is culture’s standard of what it takes to be approved. Asking those who have what it takes, we beg for what we feel we need. For the teen girl it may mean acceptance by the popular group or the boy. As women, it may be our need for significance and value.

    But, like the crippled man, we don’t realize we’re asking for the wrong thing from the wrong people. He didn’t know there was a better solution.

    Peter and John didn’t give the crippled man what he thought he needed. They gave him what he truly needed — to be made whole.

    We too have places in us that need healing. Society has forced its standard of beauty, telling us we must look this way, weigh this much and measure this size. But just like the crippled man in Acts 3, we can be made whole. In the name of Jesus, we can redefine beautiful by His standard and receive the acceptance, approval and affirmation we need.

    "All beautiful you are, my darling; there is no flaw in you." (Song of Solomon 4:7, NIV, 1984)

    Father, I have been crippled by society’s definition of beautiful. I desire to be made whole. Heal my crippled spirit. Restore my broken heart. Make straight in my life where my vision of myself is crooked. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 45:11, "The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord." (NIV,1984)

    Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV,1984)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you know a young woman who needs to redefine beautiful? Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants would be a good resource to give her.

    Today, Lynn Cowell is sharing 3 Ways to Help Your Girl Redefine Beautiful as well as giving away a "Redefining Library," including copies of Magnetic, His Revolutionary Love and Devotions for a Revolutionary Year. Stop by her blog to learn more and enter to win.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you do when you feel pressure to conform to society’s standard of beautiful?

    Write one of the verses in Truth for Today on a sticky note. Put this verse near your closet or on your scale as a gentle reminder of how beautiful Jesus says you are.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

  • Building on the Past's Foundation

    Amy Carroll JANUARY 9, 2015

    Building on the Past's Foundation AMY CARROLL

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

    Each year as the New Year arrives, I feel the familiar conflict … make resolutions or avoid them? On one hand, there’s the excitement of starting fresh and the hope for better outcomes. Most of the time, however, I don’t feel expectancy at all. Instead, I’m overcome by the fear of failure and the "what ifs" of trying again.

    This year, I found a principle in Scripture that helps me approach resolutions with anticipation instead of dread. Today’s key verses show us how to plan our future with a focus on thankfulness. They help us plan for the future from a past with a solid foundation and a present pattern of growth.

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

    When I think back over the years, it’s amazing to look back at how life changes once we’re dedicated to Jesus as Lord. Through mountaintop experiences, the thrill of learning new truths, and the shaping of hardships, we become rooted and strengthened. Jesus builds a foundation in us that can’t be shaken, so we can thank Him for the past.

    Today, in our present, He calls us to "live in him." With all the demands of life around us, we can struggle to concentrate on living our life in God, but His benefits — peace, guidance, love and forgiveness — are the valuable payoff for our focus. He has given us the precious gift of living in Him, so we’re thankful to Him for our present.

    As we remember the past and intentionally make Him the most important part of our present, we will be "built up in him." Here’s where it gets exciting for the future! The Greek word for "built up" here means "to increase the potential of someone or something, with focus upon the process involved."

    It’s amazing and true. God created each of us with a well of talent and budding gifts. Scripture says that God has good works created for you in advance (Ephesians 2:10), so plan away for the New Year! Ask God to build you up in 2015, revealing the potential He’s embedded in you. But as you look toward the future, don’t forget the past or the present — cover it all with a blanket of thankfulness.

    This morning I sat in silence watching the first rays of dawn creep into my windows. There was no fanfare or pageantry. It was a humbling moment brimming with deep peace and overwhelming gratitude, so …

    I thanked God for my past:

    My parents who raised me in a home where we loved God.

    All the hard times and bad decisions that have made me see my need for Jesus.

    The Sunday school teachers and Bible study leaders who have taught me.

    Blessings He poured out along the way: family, jobs I’ve loved, jobs I’ve disliked, home.

    Then I moved on to simple, present gifts:

    The steaming mug in my hands.

    A fire warming the room.

    My little, red dog snoring on the coach.

    Companionship of friends who fully know me and yet love me.

    Love and kindness from my husband.

    Laughter from my boys.

    Grace poured on me by my Creator.

    Finally, I thanked God for 2015 with all its possibilities:

    For lessons yet to learn.

    For dreams yet to be fulfilled.

    For growth experiences.

    For all the things unknown.

    Now it’s your turn. Even if 2015 hasn’t started out the way you wanted … be thankful. Dream. Plan. Make resolutions built on the foundation of your past and the abiding of your present. I’m anticipating the rest of what God has in store for you in 2015!

    Lord, we thank You for this new year and new beginnings, and we also praise You for the present moment. God, use pieces of the past and gifts of the present to build the future You have planned for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 4: 2, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (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: The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst can help you make wise decisions in the midst of endless demands.

    Visit Amy Carroll's blog for more about dreams for the future.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are you thankful for in 2014? Write your list in a journal or on a piece of paper to post in your home.

    Spend time in prayer thanking God for all He did in your life last year.

    Ask Him to help you set divinely-inspired goals for 2015.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

  • Why Do I Have So Many Issues?

    Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 8, 2015

    Why Do I Have So Many Issues? LYSA TERKEURST

    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NIV)

    Have you ever looked at other people and thought to yourself, "How does everyone else have it all together? And why is it I seem to have so many issues?"

    I understand. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with my weight and committing to a healthy lifestyle. My soul was rubbed raw from years of trying and failing.

    I wanted something to instantly fix my issues. I wanted to stop calling myself awful names I’d never let another person call me. I wanted to be naturally thin like my sister. I wanted to stop crying when I walked into my closet to get dressed in the morning.

    So when I lost 25 pounds a few years ago and kept it off for the first time in my life, it was a huge victory.

    But my real celebration hasn’t been over the smaller clothing size and reduced numbers on the scale. My real celebration is over the spiritual insights I gained while losing the weight and maintaining my healthy progress.

    For me, this has been a spiritual journey — a significant spiritual journey with great physical benefits. I had been overweight physically and underweight spiritually and finally tying those two things together was life changing.

    One of the richest lessons has been realizing the amount of mental and spiritual energy I wasted for years just wishing things would change. All the while, I was beating myself up for not having the discipline to make those changes.

    If you have an issue with weight and food, you know what I mean. But no matter what issue you are currently dealing with, can I offer a bit of encouragement?

    Jesus wants to help you with that issue. He really does. But you’ve got to stop beating yourself up about it and determine to follow His lead.

    We like to identify our shortcomings, form them into a club, and beat the tar out of ourselves mentally. Over and over and over again. We label ourselves and soon lose our real identity to the beaten and bruised fragility we call "me."

    We compare, we assume, we assess, we measure and most times walk away shaking our head at how woefully short our "me" falls compared to everyone else. How dangerous it is to hold up the intimate knowledge of our imperfections against the outside packaging of others.

    If there is one thing that living 40-plus years has taught me it’s this: All God’s girls have issues. Every single one of us.

    But we can make the choice to identify our shortcomings and instead of using them against ourselves, hand them over to Jesus and let Him chisel our rough places.

    The grace-filled way Jesus chisels is so vastly different than the way I mentally beat myself up.

    My mental scripts are too often full of exaggerated lies that leave me feeling defeated. His chiseling is full of truth that sets me free.

    Oh what a difference.

    Jesus doesn’t compare.

    Jesus doesn’t exaggerate.

    Jesus doesn’t condemn. Our key verse, Romans 8:1, confirms this.

    He simply says, "Hey, I love you. I love you just how you are. But, I love you too much to leave you stuck in this. So, let’s work on it together. You can do this.

    There is something so powerful in really believing that with Jesus’ help you can do this. Say it with me, "I can." I can is a powerful little twist for a girl feeling deprived and defeated.

    I can helps me walk into the dinner party and find the conversation more appealing than the food table. I can helps me stay on the perimeter of the grocery store where the fresher, healthier selections abound and smile that I know this.

    I can helps me look at the drive-thru menu and order a fruit tray without even giving a thought to the fried foods I used to snack on. I can reminds me to look online for a restaurant’s nutritional information before going out, ensuring wiser choices. I can reminds me no food will ever taste as sweet as victory does.

    Having issues isn’t the absence of victory in our lives. It’s simply a call to action reminding us victory is right around the corner. Today is a great day to start believing you were made to walk in victory and to say to Jesus, "Yes, with Your truth as my guide, I can."

    Dear Lord, help me see myself the way You see me. Remove the lies that defeat me more often than I want to acknowledge. You have set me free. Help me live like I truly believe that. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

     

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Reach your healthy goals and grow closer to God through the process with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Made to CravePurchase your copy here.

    Consider hosting a Made to Crave Bible Study with your friends or church group to kick off the New Year! Find out how to get started.

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When you read this part in the devotion, what went through your mind? "Hey, I love you. I love you just how you are. But, I love you too much to leave you stuck in this. So, let’s work on it together."

    Instead of using your shortcomings against yourself, take some time today to hand them over to Jesus and let Him begin to chisel your rough places.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

  • The One Thing To Remember If Your Life Feels Small ...

    Alicia Bruxvoort JANUARY 7, 2015

    The One Thing To Remember If Your Life Feels Small ... ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Who dares despise the day of small things …" Zechariah 4:10a (NIV)

    Laundry frames the end of my day. Stacks of clean underwear and yet-to-be-folded T-shirts, drifts of unmatched socks and mountains of wrinkled jeans.

    Upturned baskets are scattered across the living room like tiny tables awaiting a tea party. But I’;m not in the mood for a midnight soiree; I’m drinking from my own deep reservoirs of self-pity.

    I’m exhausted and the voices of discouragement in my head rise above what my heart knows to be true.

    What did you do all day?

    Why don’t you ever get anything done?

    You’re never going to have time to do something that really matters.

    Dishes and dirt, tantrums and time-outs — some days, a mother’s life can feel so small.

    I rub the palm of my hand over those crumpled jeans, trying to press out the unwanted creases that sprouted in the dark of the unattended dryer. If only I could smooth the ragged edges of my soul in a similar fashion.

    "Sometimes I just want to do something bigger than all of this …" I tell my husband, as he joins me on the floor and begins stacking the folded laundry into piles.

    I imagine you’ve felt the same at one time or another. You don’t need to be a mother to feel discouraged by the daily grind. Whether you’re running errands or running a business, planning a meal or planning a merger, the everyday mundane can seem trifling and insignificant.

    My man sits beside me in silence, weighing his words. Finally, he murmurs, "Just because what you’re doing feels small, doesn’t mean that it is."

    I’m tempted to discard his comment like I dispose of ratty socks, but then I remember the scene that had unfolded on the driveway earlier that afternoon.

    The kids had designed a racetrack on the cement with squiggles of pink sidewalk chalk and then lined up their scooters for a friendly competition. I launched the action with a wave of my hand and stepped back to watch the race. Wheels squeaked. Kids squealed. And then a shrill cry halted the fun.

    My 10-year-old laid sprawl-eagle on the ground, surrounded by a smorgasbord of broken scooter parts. Blood oozed from a gash in her knee, and her blue eyes brimmed with tears.

    "What happened?" I asked as I ran to her side.

    "I don’t know …" Hannah mumbled as she surveyed the collection of bolts and screws, rivets and spokes that dotted the driveway. "My scooter was just missing one little piece …"

    She dropped her head in chagrin. "Something fell off my scooter right before the race began, but it was just a small thing, so I didn’t think it was important."

    As I lifted Hannah to her feet, her little brother began gathering the scattered parts in a bucket. With an ornery grin, he presented the pieces to his sister and declared, "I guess that small thing was really a big deal after all."

    While there’s no mention of a scooter race in the age-old book of Zechariah, God’s message in today’s key verse rings with a familiar echo straight from my pink-chalked driveway.

    "Who dares despise the day of small things …"

    God first spoke these words to the children of Judah as they prepared to rebuild the temple, one small brick at a time. I think He realized that they might grow discouraged in the daily grind, that the monotony of laying bricks day after day might eventually feel insignificant and trivial. But God knew that those little bricks would one day create a big opportunity for worship if His children remained faithful to the task.

    Like the children of Judah, we, too, have a choice. We can measure the significance of our lives by the size of our accomplishments, or we can trust God to use our small offerings for His great glory.

    As for me, I think I’ll ask God to renew my passion for this ordinary, laundry-folding-carpooling life that I live. ’Cause there’s a broken scooter in my garage that reminds me that the small stuff just might be a big deal after all!

    Heavenly Father, please forgive me for trying to measure my significance by the size of my accomplishments. I want to serve You with all of my heart in big ways and small ways. Give me fresh passion for my daily grind and help me to glorify You in all that I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters ..." (NIV)

    Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Sometimes big change begins with a small yes. Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional, will encourage you to live for God in big ways and small ways.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort's blog today for more encouragement and a small giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take a moment to thank someone who has blessed or encouraged you in a small way this week. Your small gift of gratitude could make a big difference!

    Do a heart check! Prayerfully consider your attitude toward the small tasks that comprise your days. Invite God to give you a new passion for the small stuff in your life.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

  • When to Weigh Your Words

    Karen Ehman JANUARY 6, 2015

    When to Weigh Your Words KAREN EHMAN

    "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil." Proverbs 15:28 (NIV)

    One of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes is going to the Farmer’s Market. The scene at this huge building filled with goods from far and near is a delight to my eyes. And on one weekend morning, God used apples to send a clear message about my words.

    Rows of vendors line the marketplace floor. Colorful fresh-cut flowers. Bright raw veggies. Aromatic fruit. Handmade soaps and lotions. Woven textiles and dried herbs. For me, there is no better way to kick off my weekend than to stroll through the market, making fresh purchases for the upcoming week.

    Whenever I pick apples to make homemade pie, I opt for the Michigan Northern Spy variety. They are the best for my family’s favorite dessert, "Spies for pies," my mother always taught me.

    While selecting my apples, I make sure to weigh them on the farmer’s old gray metal scale to ensure I have enough for a pie. (That would be just shy of three pounds per pie, if you must know!)

    One by one, I place the apples onto the scale. When I get close to the three-pound mark, I have to choose the perfectly sized apple for the final one; one that will make the dial on the scale read exactly three pounds. It takes a couple minutes, but by carefully weighing, I’m sure to have the perfect amount of apples for my flaky and tasty pastry.

    And so it is with our words. If we want to ensure we have a pleasant outcome, we need to weigh our words carefully. Especially — as today’s key verse instructs — when giving someone an answer.

    Before we answer a child’s request, we must think through what is really best for our son or daughter before we start to speak. Answering too quickly can lead to a sticky parental situation.

    Before we answer a co-worker or family member who might be upset with us, we need to consider our response cautiously, selecting phrases that will convey the truth, but also promote understanding and peace. Speaking without weighing our words first may escalate the situation emotionally, causing an all-out verbal battle.

    At times we may be asked a question that needs a gentle and tender response — instead of a quick and thoughtless reply. (This is definitely easier said than done!) We need to sort through the options in our minds as we invite the Holy Spirit to give us just the right combination of fruitful words.

    If we are to pursue righteousness, we must heed the advice of today’s key verse in Proverbs 15:28, "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers …"

    Notice it says "the heart." It doesn’t say the mouth.

    Sometimes, by the time the words are starting to tumble out of our mouths, it’s too late. When I don’t first pause to pray and ponder in my heart, hurtful words come out of my mouth. In order to avoid causing heartache and even regret in the future, I’ve learned to contemplate words secretly in my heart. Which means running my thoughts through the grid of Scripture, before I ever let the words escape from my lips.

    Back and forth. Back and forth. Searching for just the right … and righteous … fruitful combination.

    Are you ready to carefully weigh your words today? The result will be a delightful offering, pleasing to you, to the hearer and to God.

    It might even be more wonderful than my famous apple pie a la mode!

    Father, today I will need to speak many words, both in person and online. Help me weigh my words carefully in my heart before I ever let them escape my lips. May they bear much fruit for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 13:3, "The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." (HCSB)

    Proverbs 25:11, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Have you ever said words that were permanently painful because you were temporarily ticked off? Learn what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all in our upcoming Online Bible StudyKeep It Shut, with Karen Ehman. The study starts January 26. Register today!

    Purchase the book through Proverbs 31 Ministries and receive a free, 10-day devotional on Tempering your Tongue! The first 1,200 copies will be signed by Karen as our gift to you!

    Visit Karen’s blog where she is giving away a Keep It Shut bundle that includes a Kindle Fire Tablet.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What percent of the time would you say that you carefully weigh your words before speaking? Is it closer to 100% of the time or closer to … well … never? Be honest.

    What are some questions you can learn to ask yourself before giving an answer to someone? Are there any helpful phrases to keep in your mind that will help you weigh your words? If so, jot them down her.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

  • Hope for the Messed-Up Life

    James Merritt JANUARY 5, 2015

    Hope for the Messed-Up Life JAMES MERRITT

    "Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’" John 4:13-15 (ESV)

    Have you ever messed up so badly that it left you believing God wants nothing to do with you? If your answer is "yes," then you’re in good company, because we all have. We’ve all made poor choices and bad decisions. A bad decision can cost you your marriage, job, friendships and even your peace of mind.

    But, if you’re willing to admit you’ve messed up, you’re a prime candidate for an encounter with Jesus. In fact, He specializes in ministering to messed-up people. One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He gravitates toward those who are typically ignored, ridiculed, hated and rejected.

    One of the greatest examples of this is found in the book of John. In chapter 4, Jesus encounters a woman at a well. This nameless woman meets Jesus while she performs one of the most mundane tasks in her messed-up life — drawing water out of a well.

    She quickly learned a lesson we all need to know as well — the mundane can become momentous when we let Jesus clean up our mess-ups and radically change our lives. Jesus wants to clean up our mess-ups so much that He will break down every possible barrier to do so.

    For example, to meet the woman at the well …

    Jesus overcame a cultural barrier. Jesus traveled through a region that His people — the Jews — would always avoid. Jesus saw culture, not as a barrier to compassion, but as a bridge to ministry.

    Jesus overcame a moral barrier. This woman carried a terrible reputation. Her past put her in the category of a Hall-of-Fame sinner. She had been married five times and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband. With this track record, everyone in her community knew her, and no man would dare to speak with her in public. No man, except Jesus! Jesus engaged with this woman, and we see her fess up to her mess-up.

    We live in a culture that teaches us to hide our mess-ups and call them anything except the sins that they are. Jesus demonstrated through this woman that He will forgive us when we are willing to confess our sin to Him.

    Jesus is not intimidated by our past. He sees beyond our failures and offers us a faithful future. You can’t do anything so bad that it will cause God to love you less.

    If you’re reading this today and feel like Jesus wants nothing to do with you, I want you to know that He will break every possible barrier to reach you. Jesus is so serious about the task that He left heaven and came to earth to restore anyone who is willing to be cleansed. Today, you can meet with Jesus, bring Him your mess-ups, and allow Him to clean you up.

    Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving me so much that You destroy every possible barrier that could keep me from You. Help me to quickly fess up to my mess-ups, so that I can receive the wonderful forgiveness that is only found in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Just like the woman at the well, if we took the time to really live with Jesus, we might be surprised by what we’d find. For hope and encouragement for your messed-up life, you’ll be encouraged by 52 Weeks With Jesus by James Merritt.

    To learn more about Dr. Merritt, visit touchinglives.org.

    Enter to WIN a copy of 52 Weeks with Jesus by Dr. James Merritt. In celebration of this book, Dr. Merritt’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, Jan. 12.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What barriers have you built in your mind that cause you to believe that Jesus is not near to you?

    What mistakes have you refused to fully give over to Jesus? Give them to Him today and trust that He has forgiven you.

    © 2015 by James Merritt. All rights reserved.

  • How to Motivate Kids to Clean

    how to motivate kids to clean Are you looking for ideas to keep your home organized this year? Once you find the best routine for your family, the next hurdle is how to motivate the kids to clean! Trying to get the kids motivated to help can be frustrating, as it frequently breeds a case of the grumps. Here are six tips on dealing with grumpy kids. Before we get started on how to motivate your kids to clean let’s talk about having grace with yourself. It’s a new year and you are gung-ho telling yourself, “This year will be different!” The year starts of perfectly then *BAM*! Life throws a curve. Your routine is in a spiral and you never truly gain the previous momentum. This leaves the feeling of another failed New Year’s Resolution. This year start slowly and steadily embrace a new viewpoint for your old resolution.

    Adopt this philosophy: Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    how to motivate kids to clean 2 You live in your home, so focus on keeping it fresh and clean. Striving for a model home when you live with kids will only lead to frustration.

    Motivating the Kids

    I have found two tools that help motivate kids to clean. One is using a point system to earn prizes from the treasure box. The other is a chore card. I’ll explain both! Point System chore cards pointsMy kids earn a Pohl Point (since our last name is Pohl) for every chore they complete. Download Point Printable here I give bonus points when they work with a positive attitude, without being reminded, or after helping a sibling. However, they pay me points for poor work and grumbling attitudes. At the end of the week and after they have earned X amount of points they get to choose from the treasure box. My kids are super motivated with this method and yours will be too!

    I wanted to fill our treasure box with meaningful and economical items. At Family Christian’s toy department I found a spinning rack with containers filled with perfect little toys that have a positive inscription. The tween area has small buttons, bookmarks, pens, and notebooks that are a great too. Also, I find great treasure box items in the clearance section of the store. I can fill the box for less than $20 and it lasts for weeks! treasure box Chore Cards A chore card an individual card with step by step directions for one particular chore. It’s ideal for kids age 5 and up. You can find the full Chore Card System Packet here. Like a mini laminated tutorial. Each chore in our home has a chore card. The chore cards for my younger kids include pictures. This saves me from becoming a broken record. In the morning I divvy up the chores my kids are to complete and clip them to their clipboard. Typically, I assign one to two chores per person daily. With the directions in hand, literally, my expectations are clear. After completion, the card is flipped over to the backside which says DONE! Then I know to check their work. I also made cards for their morning and night time routines. Keep the daily cleaning schedule simple. Set specific things you plan to accomplish each day. To catch the missed messes plan a deeper clean every few weeks. Remember, the idea is to keep things clean and fresh, not perfect. Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    Encouragement for Mom

    When my three girls were under six years old I did my best to keep up with our home. Having a preschooler, toddler and infant the mess would easily get out of hand. I refused to let anyone in my home unless it was perfectly clean. My uptight attitude changed one day when a friend showed up unexpectedly.

    I heard the knock at the door. Perfection turned my stomach into knots as I reluctantly opened the door and presented a warm hesitant smile. She leaned forward, expecting to enter. I opened the door further and through my smile said, “I’m happy to see you…. Would you like to come in?” I ushered her to our beautiful sitting area. A formal room we rarely used. Nevertheless, with little effort you could see the pile of dishes that covered the table, the toys that lined the hallway, and mountain of dirty clothes that flowed out of the laundry room. I swallowed deeply and offered her a freshly brewed cup of coffee with a slice of cake. She accepted. I served her the refreshments and plopped down next to her. She looked at me with grief in her eyes and said, “I was just diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.” I embraced her and silently prayed, “Thank you God for the wisdom to lay down my pride by not turning her away at the door.” In that moment I learned, God cares about my clean heart more than my clean house!

    Momma, your day to day tedious tasks make a difference in God’s Kingdom. Contrary to our cultural belief, home is our first ministry, an important one. Taking care of our family takes diligence and a willingness to be flexible. It is both rewarding and challenging. Smack dab in the middle of the chaos, diapers, hand-me-downs, temper-tantrums, adolescence, and school – it is easy to be drained and lose sight of the big picture. I am often encouraged by, 1 Timothy 5:9-10 NIV. “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.” First on the list, of life time achievement deeds, is bringing up children. That has always brought me peace and continues to bring value to my ministry as the care taker of my home. I hope it does for you as well. Keep in touch! Let me know how you’re keeping the kids motivated to clean. Written by Michelle {at} Blooming With Joy {dot} com

  • A Christmas Prayer for the Merry ... and Not-So-Merry

    "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!'" Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)

    Editor's Note: Today, and always, we pray you experience God's love through the gift of His Son, Jesus. We wish you a very Merry Christmas! From your friends at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Father God,

    We thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son's birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world!

    Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we'll spend eternity with You.

    We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more.

    We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation.

    Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up.

    And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss this Christmas: relational, financial, spiritual and physical.

    We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness ... and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances.

    Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control.

    Help us to stay focused on You, this Christmastime and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas.

    In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 3:16, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT)

    Luke 2:10, "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'" (NLT)

    1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (NIV)

    Psalm 95:1-2, "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." (NIV)

    Job 38:8-11, "Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, 'This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!'" (NLT)

    Psalm 72:12-14, "He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him." (NLT)

    Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again." (NLT)

    Prayer © 2014 by Steph Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

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