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  • Your Life Can Display God’s Power

    Tracie Miles SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

    Your Life Can Display God’s Power TRACIE MILES

    "‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’" John 9:3 (NLT)

    Have you ever wondered why God allows you to suffer? Was it something you did wrong? Or was someone else at fault? We want to find someone to blame, especially when so much bad happens in our world.

    I struggle with these thoughts as well, but years ago God’s Word helped me see a different perspective. Jesus’ disciples had these same questions, and John chapter 9 records Jesus’ interesting response.

    Jesus and His disciples were walking through the streets of a city when they encountered a blind man. One of the disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind: "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’" (John 9:1-2, NLT)

    Jesus lovingly put their confusion to rest with today’s key verse, "‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’" (John 9:3).

    I imagine the disciples standing there, looking perplexed by Jesus’ answer. How could this man’s blindness display the power of God? How could this physical infirmity bring glory to God? How could his life serve a higher purpose?

    The passage continues, "Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam’ (Siloam means ‘sent’). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!" (John 9:6-7, NLT)

    The blind man’s sight was completely healed, but notice that his healing wasn’t immediate. He wasn’t healed when Jesus spat on the mud and smeared it on his eyes, but only after he obeyed what Jesus instructed him to do.

    The blind man was healed when he chose to obey the command of Jesus to "go." Without questioning or hesitating, the man went and his obedience resulted in not only healing, but discovering a holy purpose from his pain.

    Like many, this man had been suffering with undeserved physical and emotional challenges for decades. He may have lived his entire life feeling inferior, unloved, rejected, excluded and possibly believing he had no purpose. He may have also assumed his past and his current limitations rendered him useless. After all, he didn’t have any special skills or qualifications … or even eyesight.

    But here stood Jesus, telling everyone this man’s life could serve as proof of the power of God. But it only happened because of obedience.

    Unlike the blind man in this story, we often talk ourselves out of obedience, rather than trusting and obeying God’s command to "go." But when we walk in faith, even when we don’t feel ready and have to push through our doubts, fears and hesitations, true healing and purpose can begin to take shape in our hearts and lives.

    We don’t always get answers to why something happened. But regardless of our circumstances or our limitations, when we choose to take a leap of faith, we too can experience true spiritual healing and see a new perspective about our past for the very first time.

    What a wonderful world this would be if we all caught a glimpse of how God wants to turn our pain into purpose and use our lives as proof of His power.

    Lord, I want my life to serve as proof of Your goodness. Fill me with courage and motivation to go and share with others what You have done for me. Show me how You can turn my pain into purpose and make my life count for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

    Psalm 119:60, "I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you long to discover how God can use your past to glorify Him and bring joy and purpose to your life? Purchase Tracie Miles’ book, Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Our Past To Create A Beautiful Future.

    Looking for a life-changing Bible study for your church or small group? Longing to inspire women to step out of their comfort zones and serve God in new ways? Consider offering Your Life Still Counts as your next fall series! Visit Tracie’s blog to find out how to get a free Bible study guide for all participants, with video teachings, when you purchase eight or more copies of the book.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How might God be able to use your past for a specific purpose to glorify Him?

    What fears do you need to overcome in order to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to use your life as proof of His power?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Small Things Threatening Your Marriage

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

    The Small Things Threatening Your Marriage LYSA TERKEURST

    "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

    One day, I was mindlessly looking out the window of an airport watching a few seagulls dart about overhead while airline workers were busy loading bags.

    Nothing about the scene spoke of danger. But then I remembered a flight from a while back that was brought down by a few geese. The seagull that faded into the background just moments before became a point of extreme interest to me. What if?

    It’s amazing if you stop to think about it that a huge airplane could be brought down by just a few birds. Birds. Who would have thought? It makes me think about other seemingly small things that can cause great destruction as well … especially when it comes to marriage.

    Words vented in frustration can seem so small.

    Slightly disrespectful attitudes can seem so small.

    Complaining about lack of finances can seem so small.

    Brushing off his desires can seem so small.

    Making mental lists of things you wish were different about him can seem so small.

    But each one of these seemingly small things can so easily and tragically wedge itself into the core of a marriage and send it spiraling toward destruction. Entire families have been ripped apart by things that once seemed so small.

    Listen to the heartbreak in this note that was anonymously posted on my blog:

    "Girls … I know this seems small … but, it’s really not. Take it from someone who has blown it to the point where he gave up and divorced me. It’s too late for me. But, it’s not for you. Please be aware of the little things. I wouldn’t have you join me for anything in the world. Be on your guard and protect your marriage."

    I am challenged by this. I can’t just mindlessly assume that my marriage is coasting along okay and that little problems can’t topple us. I can’t get complacent. I can’t get prideful. I can’t get lazy. I can’t take the gift of my marriage for granted.

    I have a good marriage, but sometimes I slip into automatic and stop getting as intentional as I should about investing richly and deeply into our relationship.

    So, I’ve decided to declare this my "get intentional" week. Today I’m focusing on my words. I’m praying for God to interrupt my mouth at every turn today. I want "these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart to be pleasing" (Psalm 19:14) to the Lord and honoring to my husband.

    I’m going to hold my tongue against saying anything careless. I’m going to intentionally use my words as gifts to my husband today and nothing else.

    Not that just one day of doing this can protect my marriage forever — but it sure is a good start.

    Dear Lord, I want my thoughts, words and actions to always reflect Your love in me. Help me to extend grace to my spouse just as You have extended grace to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Pray for yourself and your husband with Lysa TerKeurst’s FREE 5-day challenge, "Praying Boldly For Your Marriage." Sign up here.

    Learn to give the best of who you are to your most treasured relationships with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes. Purchase your copy today.

    RELFECT AND RESPOND: Consider these questions:

    What negative thing have I said recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    What negative thing have I done recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    What negative thing have I thought recently about my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    Then, look for ways this week to counteract those actions with a loving word, a graceful gesture or a forgiving thought.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Headed in the Wrong Direction

    Lynn Cowell SEPTEMBER 9, 2015

    Headed in the Wrong Direction LYNN COWELL

    "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

    I anxiously glanced at the clock thinking, If I leave now I’ll still make it on time.

    This wasn’t a meeting I could comfortably slip into if I were late … because I was the speaker!

    Grabbing my purse, I headed for the garage door when I thought I heard bleating. Yes, bleating, as in a noise coming from a very small animal.

    What in the world? I have no idea what that is, but I’m late! Trying to put the strange noise out of my mind, I kept heading toward my car. But try as I might, my heart wouldn’t let me ignore the sad sound, no matter how late it was going to make me.

    I turned around and made my way closer to the tiny cry. There, next to our backyard gate, stood the tiniest of fawns. This precious little thing couldn’t have been more than a couple hours old, as it wavered on tiny legs.

    On the other side of the fence stood the object of the baby’s sorrow — his mother. They were separated by the fence, and the baby was trapped. He couldn’t get to her and she had no way of getting him out of our backyard.

    This wasn’t the first time a little one has been born in our yard. I believe deer spot the cool shade of our woods and decide our yard is the perfect place to give birth. But our yard is not as it seems. When the baby is born and the mother hops back over the fence, her fawn is trapped, alone and without care and protection.

    Our yard may appear safe and peaceful to an adult animal, but to an infant it is anything but. I wondered: How many times have I unknowingly jumped into a situation I deemed safe only to get caught where I should not have been? Things like:

    … Entering benign conversations, where my speech takes a wrong turn and I find myself gossiping.

    … Bored or stressed, as I make my way to my pantry only to indulge in foods that harm, rather than help, my body.

    … Wanting to guide my child, when I speak words meant to bring discernment, but instead bring damage.

    Today’s key verse warns us, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Sometimes, we can feel like we’re doing the right thing, like the mother deer, when in fact, we’re heading in a wrong direction. How can we know what’s right?

    Jesus promised us in John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" (NIV).

    When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We need Him. We need His guidance to make wise choices and not become trapped by sin that hurts us and damages our relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us, available all day long, with the wisdom we need to live the rich and satisfying life Jesus wants for us. Our part is to listen for His direction.

    After making a few phone calls to animal experts, I was instructed to pick up the fawn and lift him over the gate to safety. He didn’t struggle as I gently lifted him from the ground and delivered him back to his mother. I am so thankful that in my life, as I listen to the Holy Spirit, He too, lifts me up and helps deliver me out of the traps I get myself in.

    And yes, thankfully, I did make my speaking engagement just in time.

    Holy Spirit, I invite You today, to guide and instruct me. Help me not simply choose what seems best to me, but teach me to listen for Your guidance so I can make wise choices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 10:10, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." (NLT)

    Isaiah 40:11, "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help a young woman discover how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to create His fruit in her life with Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants. Included in the book is a leader’s guide, making this a great back-to-school study for a small group, Sunday School or mother and daughter to do together! Click here to purchase your copy.

    You’re invited to stop by Lynn’s blog today, where she shares more on listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. She is also giving away a copy of Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reflect on the last month, week or even 24 hours. Have you gotten caught in a situation that was not as it seemed?

    Make a point to continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Pay attention to how He leads your heart. It’ll become easier and easier to "hear" His direction.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Are You Brave Enough?

    Nicole Unice SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

    Are You Brave Enough? NICOLE UNICE

    "Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’" Mark 6:50b (NIV)

    I had my arm around my 9-year-old daughter, Cameron, while we watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe together. The spunk and transparency of the youngest character, Lucy, reminded me of Cameron, and I squeezed her a little, hoping she noticed the same.

    At one point in the movie, Lucy speaks with Father Christmas, and he asks her if she is ready for the war that will take place in Narnia. He looks down at her and asks her somberly, "Can you be brave?"

    Lucy smiles up at him and answers, "I think I could be brave enough."

    I had no idea how important that moment would become.

    The words brave enough kindled a flame in my soul as I began to think about all the ways I wanted to be brave enough: brave enough to speak up, brave enough to be graceful, brave enough to forgive.

    I might not be facing a war of Narnian proportions, but what if my daily life still required bravery? "Brave enough for today" became a sticky phrase in my head — an inspiration for the morning and a personal challenge when I didn’t want to do the hard thing.

    I found myself wanting to be brave enough for my job. Brave enough for my family. Brave enough to mother well and brave enough to make good choices in my marriage.

    When Cameron struggled later that year with an injury, I wanted to be brave enough for her. But what I learned along the way was I would never have enough courage on my own to face life without fear. I needed a courage that came from outside myself. My self-manufactured bravery always fell short.

    In the Bible, Jesus uses the word courage in very specific ways. The original word means something like "be encouraged" or "take heart." The phrase take courage is used four times in the Gospels, always by Jesus Himself. In each instance, Jesus begins with a command: "Take courage!" And then Jesus offers the essence of Himself to the person as the way courage will be enacted.

    In one account, He says, ‘Take heart!" and then offers forgiveness of sin. In another, He says "Be encouraged!" and then offers healing. And when He walks out on water in the middle of the night, terrifying His disciples, He offers a simple exhortation, "Take courage. It is I!"

    No matter what you need to be brave enough for today, Jesus offers to meet you there with what only He can do. He offers you forgiveness when you fail and grace that energizes you to try again. He offers you healing when you hurt and strength that replaces your weakness. He offers you his presence, giving confidence that comes fully from who He is — not who you are.

    When you have Jesus, you have all the courage you need, for whatever you may face.

    Heavenly Father, I want to believe that in You I have all I need. As I begin today, would You help me be brave enough for whatever You have for me? Give me courage to forgive generously, love fully and shine brightly in the place You’ve placed me to grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 9:2b, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’" (NIV)

    Matthew 9:22, "Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Nicole Unice’s new book, Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free, and 8-week DVD curriculum are available now!

    Hear more from Nicole on her book, and find more encouragement and Real. Honest. Truth. from Nicole’s blog.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Brave Enough. In celebration of this book, Nicole’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 who you would give the book to if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, September 14.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you need to be brave enough for today?

    How can you commit that circumstance/person/challenge to God throughout the day?

    © 2015 by Nicole Unice. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

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

  • Why Teachers Need Our Prayers

    Stephanie Raquel SEPTEMBER 7, 2015

    Why Teachers Need Our Prayers STEPHANIE RAQUEL

    "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

    We sat together at the table, nestled into the tiny chairs made for young students.

    The students’ artwork hung throughout the room … the pencils ready, sharpened for writing projects … and my husband and I got a newsy update about our daughter’s progress during the school year.

    As the principal’s voice came over the intercom announcing it was time to wrap up our 15-minute appointment, we realized there was no parent standing in the doorway waiting to come in. We had a rare extra pocket of time with our daughter’s teacher.

    This open window allowed us to continue our conversation … and we began to chat about real life. Which included some pretty tough stuff.

    We were on the same committee for an upcoming event and she apologized for missing some of our meetings. She then shared the hard reason she’d been absent. Her husband had recently learned he had a rare form of cancer and they were in the middle of considering all their options.

    Talk about real life, indeed.

    As a cancer survivor I wanted to offer some hope, but at the same time, felt my personal story or encouraging words weren’t enough.

    So although I’d never asked her before, in that moment I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to ask if I could pray for her right then, and she agreed. After I finished praying, she thanked me and then relayed how she and her husband had been growing in their own faith lately.

    Although this was a teacher I’d known for several years, I’m sad to say it took a conversation about cancer to lead me to discuss matters of faith or pray aloud with her. But I’m oh so thankful that I didn’t ignore God’s prompting. And at the same time, I was utterly convicted to do more of that.

    As today’s key verse Colossians 4:2 reminds us, God calls us to devote ourselves to pray "with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Seems simple enough, right? However, I know I have room to grow in this department!

    I want to have that alert mind and be on the lookout for ways to pray more personal, specific prayers for everyone in my sphere of influence … especially the teachers in my world.

    So as this new school year begins, will you join me in prayer for our teachers? Whether they’re public or private teachers, home-schooling parents, college professors, children’s church leaders or Bible study teachers, they’re all influencing others.

    This summer, I began doing weekly prayer walks around my kids’ schools. Some specific areas I’ve prayed for in this upcoming school and ministry year include: safety, leadership transitions, divine wisdom in lesson planning, endurance, health, perseverance to finish strong, encouragement to handle difficult situations and an abundance of grace and patience in solving difficult situations.

    As our children (and sometimes we ourselves) head back to school, let’s remember the vital role teachers play. And why they need our prayers.

    Father God, I come before You and lift up all our teachers. Thank You for the important part they play in our lives. Lord I also ask You help me stay devoted to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Empower me to encourage the teachers in my world to keep on pressing on, when it would be so much "easier" to quit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Timothy 2:1-2, "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity." (NLT)

    James 5:16, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Feeling overwhelmed with all you’ve got to accomplish? Could you use a little hope to tackle your tasks as a new school year begins? If your real life is crazy, you’re not alone. Join us for the next P31 Online Bible Study of Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, kicking off tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8.

    Have a child or child-at-heart in your life who might be a little nervous about some changes in their life? It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change by Lysa TerKeurst could be a tremendous encouragement to them.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you’ve got school-age children living with you or near you, ask the names of their teachers and begin praying for them today. Consider grabbing a few moms or join a Moms in Prayer group to meet and pray weekly for them.

    Know someone who’s teaching or influencing the next generation? Whether they’re instructing children, or merely those younger in the faith, consider sending a text or dropping a note in the mail to say you’ve prayed for your friend today.

    © 2015 by Stephanie Raquel. 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 One, The Tests

    Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College

    Part One, The Tests

    Ciera Horton


    It’s that time of year again, with college students heading back, seniors preparing to apply to school, and parents pulling out the tissue boxes. As I return for my junior year of college and my sister prepares to graduate from high school, I’ve seen all the emotional responses in my own family. “My baby is growing up so fast! They’re moving away! How often will they come home? Will they have everything they need? Are they really ready? Am I really ready?”

    Advice for Parents

    Parents, if your child is looking towards applying to their dream schools, you have the opportunity to help them make their goals achievable. College may be overwhelming, but if you stand by your student, then this can be an adventure you embark on together. In this article series, we are going to be examining some of the most common questions, concerns and confusions regarding the college application process. As a student myself at the Christian liberal arts school Wheaton College in Illinois, I know from experience how to prepare for standardized tests, apply for private scholarships, gather letters of recommendation, give a winning interview and write a memorable entrance essay. At the end of my college prep, I got my ideal test scores, earned over $42,000 in private scholarships and made it to my dream school. So let’s get started!  1. What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? Does my child need both? Both the SAT and ACT are official standardized tests that most colleges accept and require. The SAT is a logic and critical thinking style test that will examine your child’s problem solving skills. The subjects on the test are Math, Critical Reading, Writing and the Essay. The Math section will cover basic Algebra and Geometry, but not Precalculus and Trigonometry, and your child can use a standard calculator on this exam. Critical Reading will provide your child with a passage based response section examining their comprehension. Writing is actually a grammar section testing their knowledge of parts of speech and vocabulary. Lastly, there is the essay; your child will have 25 minutes to respond to a prompt in a short written exercise. The number one key to this is having a succinct thesis (single argument or main point) which they then support with logical analysis. If a question is answered incorrectly on the SAT, there is a deduction of 1/4 a point. The highest possible SAT score is a 2400. The ACT is similar, however the Math section does have Precalculus and some Trigonometry. The benefit, however, is that there is no point deduction for incorrect answers. In addition, there is a Science section — this part of the test does not necessarily ask questions based on high school science classes, but instead asks your child to analyze graphing and data provided in sample problems. The highest possible ACT score is a 36. When applying to colleges, students typically need scores from at least one of the two options, but you will want to check each school’s requirements individually.

    2. How do I know when the SAT and ACT are being offered? How do I register my child? You can find the dates for the SAT online at the official CollegeBoard website here https:// sat.collegeboard.org/register. Instructions are provided on how to register your child. You can sign up for the ACT on the official website here: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/.

    3. What is super-scoring and how might it help me? Super-scoring is the standardized testing miracle! It allows you to combine your highest scores form different times the test was taken. For example, if your student gets a 25 on ACT Math and 32 ACT Writing on their first try, but then takes the test the next year and gets a 30 ACT Math and 29 ACT Writing, you can show only the highest scores from each category on your transcript. It will only show 30 ACT Math (from the second try) and 32 ACT Writing (from the first). Talk to your school guidance counselor about super-scoring.

    4. How can I help my child study for the tests? The best way to help your child is to actually make them study. A high majority of students don’t practice or do any sample problems before walking in on testing day. This is like trying to win a sports championship without ever showing up for a team practice! Here are some easy tips. A) Have the SAT Question of the Day delivered to your child’s Inbox every day. The official CollegeBoard website provides this wonderful study tool and will send an email with a practice question to you and/or your student. It’s definitely worth subscribing! When I was in high school, my parents assigned this question to me every day and I was required to do it, but the continual review kept me prepared. B) Buy the official SAT Practice Book. There are so many SAT guide books out there from Princeton review and other text book companies. I would recommend getting the official CollegeBoard book, since the CollegeBoard is the organization that actually administrates the official test. This book comes with instructions, tips and several sample tests. My recommendation is to have your student do all of them. C) Sign up for an SAT Workshop. My favorite was the CollegePrep Genius course taught by Jean Burke. She helps students learn how to think like the test writers and analyze the questions appropriately.

    5. How many times should my child take the SAT or ACT? They should take the test as many times as they need to get the ideal test scores for their school of choice. You can look online to find the average accepted SAT and ACT scores for each school. If your child is applying to Vanderbilt, then make sure their scores are in the goal range for what the school accepts.

    6. What is an SAT Subject Test? A Subject Test is similar to an AP exam. This is where a student can demonstrate expertise in a specific category that is not on the general test. Options include American History, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, foreign languages and many others. Some schools allow high scores in these tests to exempt freshmen from 100 level intro courses.

    7. What is National Merit and how can my child qualify? The National Merit scholarship is a prestigious honor given to students whose standardized test scores meet a specific requirement. This is only given for students who have taken the PSAT, which is the pre-SAT. Students can only qualify during their junior year, but they should definitely take it as a freshman or sophomore to practice. If your student is a junior, then have them study for and take the PSAT. If they qualify, they could receive full ride scholarships to college. Preparing for college may be a busy and confusing time. For the students, it’s a new challenge and threshold, one that will push them farther than they knew was possible and give them the chance to define their own identity. For you parents, it’s a time to help your student achieve their goals and start a new life. Stay tuned for tips on writing the application essays, winning scholarships, delivering interviews and helping your child set off on the great adventure of college.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

    Advice for Parents With Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, presenting the certificate for the Outstanding First Year Student Award, Class of 2017!

    Bio: Ciera is 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.

    Advice for Parents
  • When Bedhead is Beautiful

    Alicia Bruxvoort SEPTEMBER 4, 2015

    When Bedhead is Beautiful ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "A friend loves at all times …" Proverbs 17:17a (NIV)

    I’d forgotten I was sporting a rumpled crown of bedhead until my 3-year-old put on a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses and shimmied right up to the couch where I was sitting.

    I caught a glimpse of myself in the silver lenses, my hair standing straight on end and my eyes rung with smudges of yesterday’s mascara. And I laughed out loud at the shocking sight.

    After a harried morning of getting my school-age children out the door, I was desperate for connection. So after dropping my kids at school, I decided to swing by a friend’s house without worrying about my uncombed hair or my old ratty sweat pants. I might have looked like a woman in disarray, but in that moment, my whole world felt right.

    My friend sat cross-legged on the couch beside me, her white T-shirt stained with a yellowed streak of spit up. For all I knew, she’d slept in that stretched-out T-shirt, rising in the darkness to feed the newborn who now nestled in her lap. But that hadn’t stopped her from inviting me in when I’d knocked on her door that morning with a bag of donuts and two steamy mugs of coffee.

    Dirty breakfast dishes were piled high on the kitchen table. Toys were strewn across the floor, but we perched together in the mess and talked above the roar.

    I confessed my latest parenting flop, and she admitted her struggle with impatience. We swapped prayer requests and potty-training tales, shared recent challenges and victories.

    We wiped noses and mediated arguments, refilled sippy cups and reheated our coffee. And as the kids played at our feet, we asked those hard questions about marriage and motherhood, about daring to dream and walking by faith.

    A droopy-diapered toddler grabbed a banana and began to croon into his make-shift microphone like a star-studded soloist. So we set down our coffee cups and clapped along with the impromptu rock concert unfolding in the living room.

    And as my friend’s laughter rose above the musical clatter, I wondered how many sweet moments I’d missed before I learned this liberating truth: True friends don’t need to have it all together to enjoy being together.

    True friends don’t need to tidy up their lives before they can share them. They don’t need to figure out all the answers before they can voice meaningful questions. True friends don’t need guises; they just need grace.

    Today’s key verse reminds us how God’s recipe for friendship is built on presence, not perfection.

    A true friend is willing to be present in every situation, even when there are breakfast dishes on our tables or stains on our shirts, even when there are muddles in our marriage or struggles in our soul.

    A true friend loves at all times … in the glory and the grit, the bedlam and the beauty, because that’s how Jesus loves.

    We have a Savior who willingly steps into our messy lives and offers us the gift of His friendship. And because His Spirit lives in us, we can do the same for others.

    So, let’s tear down the facades and build up some faith. Let’s shatter the guises and scatter some grace.

    Let’s ask Jesus to show us someone who needs a friend who loves at all times. And then, let’s offer her the perfect present of our imperfect presence.

    It may not be comfortable. It may not be easy. But, in time, it will be beautiful.

    My daughter danced up to the couch where my friend and I sat sipping our luke-warm coffee, and she planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. Then she twirled like a ballerina and landed in my lap with a giggle.

    "You look lovely, Mommy," she proclaimed as she patted my crazy tufts of un-combed hair and raised her eyebrows at me above the rims of those shiny shades.

    I winked at my little girl and returned her happy grin. And I wondered if bedhead looks different through a heart-shaped lens.

    Kind of like looking at ourselves through the eyes of a true friend.

    Dear Jesus, I want to be the kind of friend to others that You have been to me. Help me offer someone the perfect present of my imperfect presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:12-14, "My commandment to you is this: love others as I have loved you. There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends. You celebrate our friendship if you obey this command." (VOICE)

    Proverbs 18:24b, "… a true friend is closer than a brother." (VOICE)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Get to know the Friend who loves you most through this daily collection of devotions.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and for a "true friendship give-away."

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Schedule a "bedhead date" with a friend. (You could even sport some pajamas.) Spend time together without any fuss or facades. Just enjoy being together.

    Ask Jesus to show you someone in your life who needs a friend. Do something to get to know that person better.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Who I Am Doesn’t Feel Good Enough

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 3, 2015

    Who I Am Doesn’t Feel Good Enough LYSA TERKEURST

    "‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’" Luke 1:38a (NIV)

    Several years ago I sat in a seminar listening to a very organized mom talking about how she parented her kids. She was an amazing woman; a super mom in my eyes.

    I held up my feeble efforts with my three toddlers and determined I stunk as a mother. Who I was just didn’t feel good enough. So I thought maybe if I went home and imitated her, I could enter into the world of super moms.

    I mentally listed what I discerned must be her secret to success and set about to be just like her. But it didn’t take long before I was absolutely miserable. I mentally beat myself up for not having what it obviously took to be a great mom. What was wrong with me?

    I begged God to make me just like her — that really good mom. And then one day in Bible study I read the story of Mary, the teenage mother of Jesus. My heart beat fast as I realized she didn’t meet the standard of super mom I’d set for myself.

    Somehow, just as she was, God chose her to be Jesus’ mother. And the only qualification she seemed to have was her willingness. We see her trust in God’s plan in our key verse, Luke 1:38a: "‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.‘"

    So I made the choice to try and let go of all those expectations I had for myself as a mom. I let go of the comparisons to other moms. I laid down the measuring stick of perfection. And I simply bowed my head and gave God my willingness.

    Slowly, I started to see my own unique qualities as a mom instead of always focusing on the places I felt I fell so short. I may not be the most organized mom, but I’m a fun mom willing to drop my to-do list in the name of spontaneity.

    I may not do sit-down devotions with my kids every morning, but I’m good at helping my kids see God working in situations all throughout our days.

    I may not be able to even sew a hem, but I know where to find a seamstress who is amazing.

    I may not always keep my cool in the everyday aggravations of life, but throw something big at me and somehow I’ll be the calmest person in the room.

    Sure I have a lot of room for growth in my mothering. God and I work on things daily. But over the past 10 years I’ve learned how to embrace who I am and the beauty of living fully as me.

    And while I still fall short at times, I’m finally embracing that being fully me is so much better than an imitation version of someone else.

    I have the exact qualities God knew my kids would need in a mother. So, each day I hold up my willingness and ask God to make me the best version of me I can be.

    Dear Lord, I lift up my willingness to You today in all areas of my life — at home, at work, in ministry, and in my relationships. My greatest desire is to be the woman You’ve called me to be and not anyone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:16, "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." (NIV)

    Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Part of seeing yourself through God’s eyes involves knowing what His Word says. We’d love to have you join us dig deep into Scripture as we journey through Genesis on the First 5 mobile app! Download it today for free.

    The Book of Genesis Experience Guide complements each day’s teaching and will help you grow in your faith, as you reflect and respond to what you’re learning through First 5. Order yours today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What area of your life have you been comparing to another person’s?

    Remember this week that God has given you the qualities you need to match the position He’s called you to. Pray that He will help you to embrace this truth instead of comparing yourself to others.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Need Help

    Nicki Koziarz SEPTEMBER 2, 2015


    "When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down." Exodus 17:12 (HSCB)

    We were sitting in gray chairs next to white walls, listening to the hum of the air-conditioning unit. My legs crossed. His arms folded.

    The memories of 12 years of arguments flashed before my eyes. The pride, the anger, the selfishness, the cold silence.

    How does happily ever after end up like this? And when did we decide we couldn’t ask for help?

    I know how and when. It happened when we decided to stuff our feelings and put Band-Aids over deep wounds because it seemed more visually appealing than an exposed injury.

    Years had passed, and we kept going until neither of us could take it any longer.

    And now we sit in these gray chairs next to these white walls. Our last effort. The words I couldn’t say all those years before spill from my lips … "We just need help."

    Help is offered, and I can finally breathe again. It was almost too late …

    A few days later, I got one of those early morning phone calls. The kind of early morning call you know once you answer, your life will never be the same. An attempted suicide from someone close.

    A soul who also wasn’t able to say, "I need help." And I’m troubled by another almost too late cry for help I had no idea was being stifled.

    Each day we pass by people who, like Moses, are becoming incredibly weary.

    Moses was in the midst of a battle for the Lord. With the staff of God in his hand, he noticed that each time he let his arms down, the enemy advanced. But each time he held his arms up, the Israelite army advanced.

    Moses had to keep his arms up for the victory, but he eventually grew weary and couldn’t do it on his own. Two people came alongside Moses to hold up his arms for just a little longer, and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

    Two things challenge me from this story:

    1. The ability to say, "I just need help."

    The Bible doesn’t say Moses asked for help, but I imagine he did — either verbally or with a "Come here, come quick!" look or motion with his head. Contrary to what my soul screams, these are not words of weakness, but rather strength. They mean I’m not ready to give up: I want to keep going. I just need a little help. Vulnerability is one of the first things we look for in other people but the last thing we are willing to show ourselves.

    2. The ability to see those around me who need me to help hold up their arms.

    Maybe one of the greatest prayers we can pray is to ask God to show us who it is that needs help … our help. Sure it’s risky to stand beside people who are ready to give up, but I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities for our own personal growth. Compassion is a powerful form of strength.

    I want to be a woman who lives to see victory in others and myself. When my arms feel heavy, I want to ask for help. And when I see others’ arms falling, I want to quickly look for stones I can place under them.

    Dear God, help us to be willing to say those words, "I need help" more freely in our lives … to You, and to others. Thank You for the grace You have given us through Jesus for today, tomorrow and the days to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Dr. Kim Kimberling’s new book, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage: Strengthen Your Most Intimate Relationship, can help you make your marriage into what you want it to be.

    Are you a leader whose group is about to give up on something or someone? Nicki Koziarz has a powerful message for your group called, "The 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit." For information on booking Nicki to speak at your next event, click here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Why do you think it’s so hard for us to ask for help? Let’s discuss this today in the comments section.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call a trusted friend, or get in touch with a counselor who can walk you through difficulties. Help is available!

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Is Your Soul Being Held Hostage by Hustle?

    Emily Freeman SEPTEMEBER 1, 2015

    Is Your Soul Being Held Hostage by Hustle? EMILY P. FREEMAN

    "… Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

    That Tuesday morning I had grand plans to catch up on a mountain of work. I grabbed my laptop and headed to the nearest coffee shop. While standing in line, I overheard someone mention the Wi-Fi connection wasn’t working.

    I needed Wi-Fi for the work I had to finish so I gathered my things, went back to my car, and drove to the second nearest coffee shop. I checked the Internet connection before I ordered my coffee and finally sat down to be productive.

    But when I opened my computer, all I saw was a blank screen. I held down the power button to restart it when a horrific sound blared through my speakers.


    I cannot describe to you how loud this beep was. The screen was still blank, and the series of three beeps cut through all the coffee shop chatter, marching on like stubborn beeping soldiers.

    After an inappropriate amount of button pushing and armpit fanning, I finally gave up and shut my computer, only to have the beeping continue even though the laptop was closed. Panic rose in my chest as I watched my productive morning slowly melt away.

    Leaving the coffee shop, I drove directly to the computer store where I waited one full hour for an appointment, at which time they informed me that my computer was dying and would cost $500 to fix. Thankfully it was still under warranty but by this time, my soul was so frantic I had trouble letting that good news sink in.

    A broken computer in need of repair meant I would have to be without it for several days, dashing any hopes of productivity. Driving home I felt out of control, overwhelmed and frustrated with myself that something as small as a broken computer got me this jumbled up. Shouldn’t I be this concerned about hunger and world peace?!

    Here’s why I think talking about this fiasco and others like it is important: because most of life happens not in brightness or in darkness, but in the medium light of a regular day.

    Until we are honest about how these small inconveniences and frustrations are forming us, we won’t know how to move into the brokenness of the world, simply because we haven’t let Christ move into the brokenness of our own souls.

    Later that evening, when I finally became still, I remembered a phrase a trusted friend and mentor said to me at a particularly overwhelming time in my life: "Celebrate your smallness."

    I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, the last thing I want to do is celebrate. Still, my mentor’s words have stayed with me over the years, and the Holy Spirit brings them to mind during times when I am tempted to try and control life.

    I’ve discovered that celebrating my smallness is where Christ wants to meet me. And my "regular" Tuesdays have become a weekly reminder of smallness in my own life.

    It’s easy for me to get tangled in a fast-paced world, distracted by hustle, driven to produce, hungry to check everything off my list. What seems good for my schedule is often suffocating for my soul, but I don’t realize this until my schedule gets wonky and my soul starts to shake.

    So here’s to the difficult Tuesday moments in our lives — may we not be so quick to shove them aside. Instead, may we celebrate our smallness by looking for Christ on the other side of frustrating. May we give our souls some room to follow our key verse, to be still and know that He is God.

    Dear God, Help me let go of the constructed life and embrace the connected life, even if it means I don’t get all my work finished. Remind me to be still in Your presence so I might remember that my soul is made to find my rest in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 1:17, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Has your soul been held hostage by hustle? Find a kind companion in Emily Freeman’s newest book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World, where she will show you how to embrace today’s work, find contentment in the now, replace competition with connection and learn to breathe in a breathless world.

    If you need space for your soul but don’t know where to start, visit simplytuesday.com and sign up to receive a series of free videos from Emily that offer practical ways to take a soul breath today.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. In celebration of this book, Emily’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, September 7.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Find five minutes to close your eyes, place your hands gently on your lap and be still in the presence of Christ. Don’t make a list, read a verse or do anything except breathe and know you are loved.

    © 2015 by Emily P. Freeman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

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

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