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  • Christmas Gift Guide: 6 Christian Gifts Your Pastor Will Enjoy

    Let your pastor know you appreciate them with a Christmas gift or a simple word of encouragement.

    While you’re certainly not obligated to give a Christmas gift to your pastor, it can be a nice way to show your appreciation for the sacrifices they make day in and day out to encourage you and nurture your faith. We’ve put together this gift guide to help you discover unique and useful ways to bless your pastor this Christmas.

    A Cup of Coffee When you give a bag of Crazy Faith Coffee, you’re sharing a story of someone who demonstrated miraculous faith. Not only is the coffee delicious, the stories are an inspiring reminder of the important role your pastor plays in the lives of believers.

    A Monthly Box Subscription Faithbox is a monthly subscription service that delivers Christian products right to your pastor’s doorstep. Every box includes a monthly devotional and an impact guide so they know the charitable impact of each product that was chosen.

    A Devotional The Songs of Jesus devotional by Tim Keller takes your pastor on a yearlong journey through the Psalms. During the first six months, they'll find a brief devotional on each of the Psalms, with a basic overview and life application. During the last six months, Keller shows readers how to turn each Psalm into a prayer.

    A Handwritten Note of Encouragement You don’t need to spend a lot of money on an elaborate gift to show your pastor that you care. A handwritten note of encouragement can go a long way. Learn How to Write a Christian Thank You Card in 5 Simple Steps with our helpful guide.

    A Donation on Their Behalf Instead of a gift, consider sponsoring a child through World Vision on your pastor’s behalf. Sponsoring a child is a personal way to show God’s love. For $39 a month, you'll help a child and their community experience freedom from poverty.

    A Gift Card Don’t know what to get your pastor? A gift card is the way to go. As an added bonus, you’ll receive a free $5 gift for yourself when you spend $30 in gift cards.

    Our church leaders have dedicated their lives to serving God’s people. Show your appreciation this Christmas with one of these pastor gifts or a simple word of encouragement.

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  • Tired of Doing Good

    Tired of Doing Good by Amy Carroll

    “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9 (NLT)

    I felt worn-out, and I knew my perspective on giving needed a little refreshing.

    Even though I’ve always admired generous people and want to be known as one, I started to feel resistance in my heart against being a truly cheerful giver in every area of my life — with my time, my gifts and my finances.

    Sometimes I was reluctant to give because I felt too consumed by my every day schedule. Other times, I felt the pinch of need in my own life. And occasionally it was because I’d become jaded toward the recipients of my help.

    My friend Rita told me a story that was just what I needed. Her mother, an immigrant who grew up in desperate poverty, was very committed to a relief project for her home country. She would collect gently used shoes and ship them to an organization in her homeland that had needed help.

    Rita’s mother did this for years, during which her own eight children observed their mother’s work and generosity.

    Surprisingly, Rita was frustrated with her mother instead of admiring her work. One day, in exasperation, she said to her mother, “Why do you continue to work on this project? You know how corrupt the system is over there. Those shoes are probably stolen, resold and used to line the pockets of some corrupt official. You are just wasting your time.”

    Her mother looked at Rita compassionately and responded, “Rita, my responsibility is not in the receiving. My responsibility is in the giving.”

    As I digested Rita’s story and her mother’s lesson, I realized I’d stopped giving because I wasn’t sure of the response.

    • I didn’t give to poor people on the street because I didn’t know how they’d spend the money.
    • I didn’t freely love friends because I didn’t know how they felt about me.
    • I withheld time from my family because I didn’t think they appreciated it.

    It’s easy to find reasons not to give … Too busy. One too many scams. Believing nobody cares about giving to me in my need. Thinking that somehow, somebody else will take care of it.

    I’ve used all these excuses at one point or another, but I felt a softening in the hardened places of my heart as I listened to the wisdom Rita’s mom shared.

    Her reminder is one echoed in Galatians 6:9, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

    If you’re tired and full of excuses like I was, the best way to renew your commitment to doing good is to start giving.

    My former stingy approach to life and love never served me well. God has given me extravagance and abundance. I want to be wise about where I give my time and resources, but I also want to do it freely and with an open heart. I want to be one who listens carefully to His voice for opportunities to give, because I know He can be trusted with the results.

    Receiving refreshment comes through giving. And sometimes, it’s in the simplest of ways:

    Give a smile to a weary clerk.

    Give a break to a worn-out mom.

    Give some time to a struggling non-profit.

    Give your money to someone in need.

    Give loving wisdom to a stressed friend.

    Join me in the refreshing act of giving, even if you’re tired of doing good!

    Lord, it’s easy to become tired in giving, but I’m asking You to increase my desire and determination to be generous in all parts of my life. I ask You to make good on your promise: Refresh me as I refresh others! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 37:21, “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” (NIV)

    Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which of Amy’s excuses have you used in the past instead of giving?

    Ask God to show you where to be generous in your life today. At the end of the day, write down the results of your giving and how you feel about it.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • What to Do With Tough Relationships

    What to Do With Tough Relationships by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV)

    Ever feel like relationships are hard to navigate sometimes? Are you in the midst of trying to figure out a situation that’s complicated, messy and unpredictable?

    Sometimes I try so hard to figure out just the right words to say and talk through a situation. While talking is good, sometimes the conversations start running in a circle, and there aren’t any productive words left to say. When this happens, it can make a girl feel like giving up. But before I give up, I’ve learned to hush up.

    Spending time getting quiet can really be the best remedy for tangled situations. Taking a step back from all the emotion, frustration and exhaustion to sit quietly with Jesus will do more to untangle a mess than anything else I’ve ever found.

    Here are five beautiful things that can happen in the quiet:

    1. We can feel safe enough to humble ourselves.

    In the heat of a mess, the last thing I want to do is get humble. I want to get loud and prove my point. I’ve learned I have to step out of the battle and humbly ask God to speak truth to my heart for things to start to make sense. Never have I had a relationship issue where I didn’t contribute at least something to the problem. Usually, I can only see this something in the quiet.

    1 Peter 5:6a, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand …” (NIV).

    2. God will lift us up to a more rational place.

    When we are in the heat of a tangled relationship, crazy emotions can drag us down into a pit of hopelessness. The only way out of the pit is to make the choice to stop digging deeper and turn to God for a solution.

    1 Peter 5:6b, “… that he may lift you up in due time” (NIV).

    3. Anxiety gives way to progress.

    We can pour our anxious hearts out to Jesus who loves us right where we are, how we are. And because His love comes without judgment, we can feel safe enough to humbly admit we need Jesus to work on us. Trying to fix another person will only add to my anxiety. Letting Jesus work on me is where real progress can happen.

    1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).

    4. We see our real enemy isn’t the person with whom we’re in conflict.

    The truth is, we have an enemy, and it’s not each other. Satan’s influence on me and the person offending me is the real culprit. I can’t realize this in the heat of the moment. But in the quiet, I become alert and can gain a strategy for acting and reacting in a more self-controlled manner.

    1 Peter 5:8-9a, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith …” (NIV).

    5. I can rest assured God will use this conflict for good — no matter how it turns out.

    If I make the effort to handle this conflict well, I can be freed from the pressure to make everything turn out rosy. Sometimes relationships grow stronger through conflict. But other times, relationships end. Because I can’t control the other person, I must keep focusing on the good God is working out in me through this and leave the outcome with Him.

    1 Peter 5:10-11, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (NIV)

    In the end, this struggle can be used by God to make me stronger and more capable in my relationships. If I am humble enough to receive from Him in the quiet what He wants to teach me through this, I can rest assured with whatever the outcome is.

    Dear Lord, help me stop trying to figure this situation out and just sit in the quiet with You for a while. God, humble me. Show me Your steps toward restoration. Or show me Your steps toward a healthy parting. Take my anxiety and replace it with Your peace, wisdom and security. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you’re tangled up in a conflict with someone, write out a prayer for this person. Sometimes praying for someone who frustrates us softens our heart and lets us see new possibilities for restoration.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Hug a Porcupine and Squeeze a Skunk

    How to Hug a Porcupine and Squeeze a Skunk by Karen Ehman

    “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 (NLT)

    I once worked as a substitute teacher. While that evokes images of chewing gum stuck to chairs and strategically placed “Kick me!” signs, this was not my experience. Sure, many of the kids were squirrely, but I never had an ounce of trouble with any of them.

    Until one day.

    That was the day the principal told me, “In third hour you will have a student named John Smith. Just send him down to the office before class starts. He’s known as Big Bad John, and he’s never successfully made it through even one hour with a sub. He will disrupt the class, bully others and try to make you look stupid. I want to spare you any confrontation.”

    I knew exactly which student he meant and really wanted a chance to reach this troublemaker. So I petitioned the principal: “May I attempt to keep him in class and then send him to the office if he causes trouble? I’d love to try, if you don’t mind.”

    “Be my guest,” he laughingly replied. “I’ll expect him shortly after class begins.”

    Just before third period, a towering, husky student appeared in the doorway. He had on ripped jeans — before they were fashionable — and a soiled light blue T-shirt. I could tell from the way the students stayed back that his odor was as unpleasant as his appearance and personality. I shot up a quick prayer and greeted him.

    With a smug look on his unwashed face, he boldly declared, “I suppose you’ve heard ’bout me. I’ll bet the principal told you to send me right to the office ’cause ain’t none of you subs able to handle me.”

    “Nope,” I replied, just as quickly and confidently. “I heard you were going to be in my class, and I also heard you are a great kid. Do you mind helping me pass out these papers?”

    Big Bad John wasn’t sure what to do. Some he threw on the floor. Another he used to play a game of keep-away with a girl in class. I followed behind him, corrected whatever he did, picking up the papers or gently taking one from his hand to give to a student. I thanked him when he was through, making no comment on his behavior.

    Next, we watched a movie, and John began to act like his nickname. He was disruptive — not just talking but also taunting other students.

    I walked over to his chair, squatted down, looked him in the eye and firmly but gently said, “Hey, look, John. I know that you have a reputation of never being able to make it through an hour with a substitute teacher. But I say today we show the principal a thing or two. I know you can cooperate. I know you are a good kid deep down inside. I’d love for that good kid to come out today and for us to be friends. Are you willing to give it a try, just this once?”

    His countenance softened. For the last 15 minutes of class, John actually watched the movie without incident. After class, the school’s office staff buzzed with the news that this school bully had made it through an entire hour with a sub. After that, whenever I had John in class, he behaved well. In fact, when he saw me out at a basketball game or the grocery store, he smiled, waved and hollered, “Hi, lady.”

    It’s easy to love those who are lovable. It’s a breeze to be kind to people you like. But to truly be patient and gentle toward someone who acts unloving or unbecoming is an altogether special assignment — one Jesus not only taught, but modeled.

    He spent much of his time on earth with the not-so-popular people. He touched the leper. He granted dignity to the prostitute. He welcomed children and the tax collectors and those whom society rejected. Jesus modeled upside-down living and loving. And He urges us to do the same.

    Let’s make it our aim not to just love the easy-to-love, but to hug the “porcupines” and squeeze the “skunks” in our lives, reaching those whose behavior and demeanor usually pushes people away rather than draws them in close.

    Father, give me eyes to see through others’ tough exteriors to their hearts — hearts that so desperately need a loving touch from You through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.” (NIV)

    Romans 12:9a, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How can you show a difficult-to-love person in your life unconditional love today?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • When People Wear You Out!

    When People Wear You Out! by Kelly Minter

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

    For me, being an aunt has been a lovely surprise. Not the actual day it happened — I had nine months to anticipate the event — but the unexpected joy that’s followed.

    These little creatures kept springing into the world, crawling into my house, then strutting through the kitchen demanding juice boxes. Suddenly there were five of them! Actual humans. All with distinct personalities, cherubic cheeks and germs.

    I remember when my youngest niece Holland was born. Her 6-year-old sister’s excitement bubbled over. But her 4-year-old big brother Emmett was not nearly as amused. For him meeting Holland was a real yawner.

    Emmett’s speech was still developing and he routinely switched “she” and “her” for “hers?” As in, “Mom, will you tell hers to stop.” So when Emmett learned the family was visiting his newborn sister in the hospital two days in a row, his response was, “We have to go see hers again?”

    After my sister left the hospital, the new family headed straight to collect the older siblings from school. They skipped across the schoolyard, and Emmett punched the button that opens the minivan. It slid open like always, only this time newborn Holland was there. Emmett lamented with utter shock, “You mean HERS is still here?”

    “Buddy, get in the car,” my brother-in-law said, “Hers is going to be here for the rest of your life.”

    I imagine most of us can relate. We’ve had that moment when we realize, for better or worse, we’re stuck with a certain person or people or church congregation.

    None of us are exempt from having to get along with trying family members, working through complicated relationship triangles or quirky church dynamics. We’ve all had that realization — despite how tired and beat up we may be — “hers” is still here. And perhaps not going anywhere.

    This is where the final few chapters of 2 Corinthians shoot into the sky with a bang. There were difficult false teachers, confused congregants and continued attacks on Paul. In the middle of a combustible environment, Paul stayed with them. He continued to fight for the relationships. He truly believed the words tucked into our key verse, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

    I keep thinking about these Corinthians and how I’d have moved on to another city to find a more grateful bunch of believers. Surely other churches would have been more appreciative of having the apostle Paul as their spiritual father. But you know what it came down to? A calling.

    Corinth was part of an assignment God had given Paul. Smack in a sphere where God had commissioned him to serve. Yes, Paul loved the Corinthians deeply, but affection can only carry you so far.

    Sometimes the only thing keeping us in the race are the endorphins of pure calling. I don’t know who you’re called to care for, but my hunch is that a few of them may be wearing you out. Maybe you’re not feeling appreciated, or you fear you’re being taken advantage of, or they keep slipping back into old patterns. This is when you press in, step up, push back, stay engaged.

    Why? Because you’ve been called.

    Paul’s relentless commitment to stay with the Corinthians is a trait I want more of. But this trait is hewn over the long haul as we refuse to abandon a group of people just because things have gotten hard. Or aren’t what they used to be. Or because a challenging “hers is still here.”

    My prayer for you: that Christ’s love will compel you to stay committed in those trying relationships. When you’re tempted to draw harsh judgment from your scabbard, instead draw humble authority and use it to build up rather than tear down.

    Lord, help me not to lose the pure desire for people that can easily blur into desiring their possessions or what they can do for me. Allow the Holy Spirit to grant discernment to know when to be soft spoken and when to be bold, when to let an offense roll off my back and when to confront. For the ministry assignment You’ve given me, help me view the people in my spheres not from a human perspective, but to see them as Christ sees them. Thank You for making even the most challenging person brand new. Even hers. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 9:13, “As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who inspires you to give passionately and eagerly? What is it about them that stirs up this passion?

    © 2016 by Kelly Minter. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • Make Your Spiritual Fitness A Priority

    Make Your Spiritual Fitness A Priority by Tracie Miles

    Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

    As soon as I open my eyes each day, they are quietly waiting for me on the floor. Royal blue and florescent orange, with bright orange laces. My running shoes sit within arm’s length of where I rise every morning.

    I purposely place these shoes beside my bed every night, so I’ll put them on first thing in the morning. If I walk past my colorful shoes and slip on my warm bedroom slippers, get coffee, check my email or get distracted with something else, the chances of a morning workout greatly diminish with each passing minute.

    You see, when I put on those running shoes, something happens. It’s as if those shoes hold some motivational power. For some reason, once my feet are ready to go, my body is ready too, and I feel motivated and eager to work out.

    One morning as I laced up my shoes, I chuckled at how this one simple habit has helped me stay motivated and consistent in physical exercise. I realized my outward actions fueled an inward motivation to do something that will benefit my health and help me stay physically fit and strong.

    I couldn’t help but consider how much more spiritually fit and strong I am when I adhere to spiritual habits in my daily routine as well. If my Bible also stays within arm’s reach of my bed each morning and habitually becomes the first thing I reach for, then spending time with Jesus is kind of like putting on those running shoes. It becomes an outward action that fuels an inner motivation to live a life that pleases God and helps me stay strong in my faith.

    The Bible is obviously much more important than an old pair of running shoes.

    But Paul understood this comparison when he wrote to a young church pastor, Timothy, to encourage him and give him guidelines for strong spiritual leadership.

    Paul had learned the importance of staying spiritually strong and the benefit of developing spiritual habits in his life — like spending time in the Scriptures, prayer and daily worship. He knew this would be good advice to a young man like Timothy who had little experience leading a church. Paul understood the importance of staying spiritually fit, especially in the face of opposition, and he wanted to make sure Timothy understood that as well.

    We all know it’s crucial for healthy living to eat nutritious foods and exercise, but today’s verse reminds us it’s even more important we stay spiritually healthy. We benefit from a healthy body during our time on earth, but staying spiritually fit offers benefits now and for eternity.

    There are many mornings when I simply don’t feel like exercising, and I bet you can relate. There are days when my to-do list screams, my phone rings continually, or I just feel lazy, tired or unmotivated. So I’ve learned if I don’t intentionally make it a priority and form habits to help purposefully add exercise into my day, I won’t make the time.

    We are the only ones who have control over setting priorities in our lives — and if we don’t intentionally make staying spiritually fit and spending time with God of utmost importance, then it won’t happen. And without habitual spiritual nourishment, we will never be spiritually fit and strong.

    When we form habits in our spiritual lives that help us stay strong, we’ll have the inner motivation to live out outward actions that glorify God. When hearts and spirits are ready to go, our bodies will be too.

    Lord, help me make spending time with You a habit I stick to every day, one that motivates me to live the way Your word trains me. Help me make an intentional commitment to grow spiritually strong and fit so I can be strong in my faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 3 John 1:2, “Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” (NLT)

    Matthew 4:4b, “ … People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What outward action (new habit) can you start doing each day that will fuel an inner motivation to live an outward life that pleases and glorifies God?

    © 2016 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Top Christmas Toys for Christians 2016

    Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with Christ-centered toys for kids.

    Christmas is just around the corner and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season will be here before you know it. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with these Christ-centered toys your children will be excited about on Christmas morning.

    Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus share the stable with their animal friends in this Little People re-telling of the Christmas Story. Place the angel atop the stable to activate the light-up star and hear the holiday favorite "Away in a Manger" play. The perfect size for little hands, the Fisher-Price Little People nativity set is the perfect introduction to the story of the birth of Christ for young children.

    Prayer Dolls Prayer Dolls are the perfect friend for your child during prayer time or play. Your little one can pray along and even hold the dolls hands together as she recites four different prayers. They are cute, cuddly and colorfully dressed with stylish hair.

    VeggieTales In The House DVD Shiver Me Timbers! Ichabeezer has lost his toy pirate ship! Guess what? Larry the Cucumber found the ship and wants to keep it for himself! Can Bob the Tomato help Larry decide to do what’s right - or will Larry’s friendship with Ichabeezer’s be lost at sea? Find out in this all-new VeggieTales In The House story about sharing and caring.

    Plush Toys Bears for Humanity plush toys are perfect for keeping your kids company on long car rides or just hanging out around the house. The bear, lion and eagle toys are made from 100% organic cotton and are hand sewn right here in the United States. Looking for something a bit bigger? Our 22’’ Barnabas Bear is sure to make a big impact on Christmas morning.

    My First Green Toys Shape Sorter Made in the USA from food-safe, 100% recycled plastic milk jugs that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Shape Sorter helps develop recognition of shapes and colors while also encouraging eye-hand coordination, problem solving, and fine and gross motor skill development. The two-part elliptical Shape Sorter and 8 colorful shapes (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares, 2 triangles) are the perfect size and weight for little hands.

    Bibleman Putting on the Full Armor of God Meet Bibleman and his team and find out how they use the Shield of Faith, the Sword of the Spirit, and the rest of the armor of God to defeat dangerous villains like Dr. Fear and the Master of Mean. Then create your own adventure scene using the foldout “Put Your Armor On” poster and stickers!

    We hope you enjoy the excitement as your children open these Christ-centered gifts on Christmas morning and encourage you to use these gifts as an opportunity to remind your little ones that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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  • Do You Ever Feel Distracted?

    Do You Ever Feel Distracted? by Katy McCown

    “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

    I perched on top of my kitchen table and peered into the dimly lit room. My shaking fingers dialed my husband — who was asleep in another state. Why is he always gone when these things happen?

    Moments before, right before bedtime, something slammed into the side of my foot. Assuming it was my son’s baseball, I looked down to retrieve the runaway. Instead, I found a tail. A long one. Attached to the body of a giant rat.

    Please excuse me while I pause to scream and shake off the shivers …

    Somehow, a live rodent had found its way into our house and now my hysteria had snapped my husband awake.

    After confirming no one had died, Luke told me to get off of the kitchen table and go to bed. Go to bed? Are you serious?

    Ignoring his nonsense, I stayed atop the table and weighed my options.

    Weekend: Yes. Almost midnight: Yes. Rat trap: No. Hmmmm.

    I knew what I had to do. I climbed down, clenched my teeth, grabbed a shoe and approached the room.

    I pushed around toys. Looked under clothes. Scanned the room for any sudden movements …

    But I found nothing

    It seemed as quickly as the intruder had appeared, he’d vanished. With no other option I carefully moved toward the bedroom.

    I poked around on the bed before I slid my toes under the covers. Who knew what might be lurking underneath? As my eyes fell shut I snapped them back open. Did I just see something move?

    An event that took just seconds from start to finish eventually claimed hours, even days of my life. I lived distracted.

    Your pest likely doesn't look quite like my furry house guest. But maybe you've been distracted by the rat of rage, or the critter of comparison, the intruder of insecurity.

    Today's key verse reminds us we have a spiritual enemy that prowls about and confirms his intentions: "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

    The Bible names this enemy Satan — the enemy of God determined to cause chaos among God’s people — disturbing, disrupting and distracting us. We all have a pest waiting to wreak havoc in our lives. We just need to decide what to about it. The way I see it, we’ve got three options:

    Option 1: Ignore it.

    This is the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” solution. It sort of works, if the pest never appears. Problems arise, however, when he comes out from hiding and into our tidy lives. Enemies often strike when we least expect it, and without a plan we panic.

    Option 2: Avoid it.

    This choice seems to address the problem at hand, but usually creates new problems along the way. For example, while I tried to convince myself my methods were enough, the reality held me hostage. I peeked around corners before I stepped into rooms, and I jumped at the slightest flash of a shadow. My faulty solution trapped me beneath the weight of my own worry.

    Option 3: Prepare for it.

    When we choose to prepare for the threat to our souls, we trade distraction for action, and set our souls free. We set up safeguards that unchain us to pursue God and His plans within the boundaries of His protection. Of all our options, this is the only one offering true peace and freedom.

    After days spent ignoring and avoiding the problem in my house, I changed my tactics. I prepared for my “enemy.” I called a local pest control company and even adopted a rescue cat. As silly as it sounds, each step of preparation for the next encounter calmed my heart.

    I spent less time contemplating where he was and when he might reappear. My fear gave way to freedom, and I no longer lived distracted by the pest. Instead, I grew more invested in the life Jesus spoke of when He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b, ESV).

    Dear God, I want to live life more abundantly. Help me stay alert, prepared for the enemy’s future attacks. Point me to Your truth, that I may have an answer for my accuser’s lies, and steady me with Your love as I turn my distraction into action. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time you felt distracted? What caused it?

    Write down the root of your distraction then ask God to help you make a plan for the next time this pest bumps into you.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • What to Do When You Don’t Feel Very Thankful

    What to Do When You Don’t Feel Very Thankful by Lysa TerKeurst

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    It was one of those days. I drove to the airport in the pouring rain. The skies were gray. The day was gloomy. And honestly, so was I.

    Many of the things entrusted to me in life were beginning to feel more like burdens than blessings.

    There were just a lot of little things swarming my thoughts. Feelings of inadequacy. There are so many things I’m responsible for and never enough hours in the day. I do enough to keep things from sinking. But I just wonder if I’m doing anything well. I don’t think I am … doing anything well.

    The more I focused on these thoughts, the more overpowered I became. The more overpowered I became, the more withdrawn I felt.

    I pulled into the parking space and started the fight with my luggage. My suitcase has two wheels missing, and of course I keep intending to do something about this. But I don’t have time. So I make do with a crazy suitcase and a crazy life and a crazy sense I should just pack my family up and move out west somewhere. Live on a ranch where we grow our own food and I cook beans in a black pot over an open flame.

    Surely that would fix everything.

    Except that I know it wouldn’t.

    Because the chaos isn’t from my circumstances.

    It’s inside me.

    I boarded the plane. I stared out the window. I watched the gray clouds envelop us. And then the gray broke.

    Suddenly, we rose above the clouds and the sun was shining brightly. The sky was fabulously clear.

    The clouds were just a temporary covering. They didn’t stop the sun from shining. They merely prevented my eyes from seeing the sun. And it wasn’t just the sky that appeared a little brighter. My mood did as well.

    I started to shift from feeling overpowered to empowered as I realized three things:

    Just because I feel it doesn’t make it real.

    Just like the clouds prevented my eyes from seeing sun, my gloomy mood had prevented me from seeing the truth. I might feel like I’m not doing anything well, but it doesn’t make it true. The fact that I have weaknesses doesn’t make everything about me weak. I have plenty of strengths.

    All I have to do is ask a couple of my friends or family members to help me see what I do well. I can celebrate those, and then get a plan for bettering things that need improvement. I can start by identifying one thing to improve on this month, and do a little toward making that one thing better.

    There are a lot of people who would trade their best day for my worst day.

    Yes, I have a lot to manage. And yes, sometimes things get a little foggy. But that doesn’t mean I have to stay swallowed up in the gray. That means I need to get my head above the clouds and see all the many places where the sun is shining brightly in my life.

    I can start by making a list of things for which I need to be thankful.

    My mind needs some space to think.

    If I always run at a breakneck pace, I’m eventually going to break. My mind is a powerful tool, capable of seeing things that can be done more efficiently and effectively if I give myself time to think. When is the last time I just sat quietly with a pen and paper and asked the Lord to help me think?

    As 2 Corinthians 12:9 teaches, God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” When I’m sinking in thoughts of inadequacy, I remember that my ability is not based on what I can do. My ability and strength come from the One who can do all things.

    With the Lord working in me and through my weaknesses, I can feel the transformation from being overpowered to empowered taking place.

    If the clouds have been looming close lately, maybe it’s time to stop. Pause. Lift your eyes to an altitude that can rearrange your attitude.

    Dear Lord, thank You for all You’ve given me. I want to cultivate a thankful heart that relies on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:18a, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Keep a notebook or a piece of paper with you all day today. Write down things you are thankful for throughout the day and then look back over your list before you go to bed — thanking God for each and every one.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Knowing Whose You Are Changes Everything

    Knowing Whose You Are Changes Everything by Tim Tebow

    “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NASB)

    I remember that night like it was yesterday.

    I sat numbed, staring at a powered-off TV, replaying a conversation that aired in real life that morning. One that sucker-punched me to the core.

    “We’re letting you go,” said the coaches of the New England Patriots, guys I admired and respected. This wasn’t the first time I’d been cut. It was the third time I was told I couldn’t do what I’d dreamed of doing since I was a little boy — play quarterback.

    That night, I stared into blank space pleading with God, “I thought we had this. I thought You had a plan in mind! What’s the deal?”

    I had no job. No car. No home. And I didn’t have a clue what the future held.

    I’m not saying getting cut multiple times from different NFL football teams is the end of the world or the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it shook my identity quite a bit. And it definitely made me wrestle with doubt about God’s plan and purpose for my life.

    You may or may not relate to football, but I bet there was a time, or two, in your life when you faced a storm that turned your world upside down. Maybe a dream you worked so hard to fulfill flopped. Or your once rock-solid marriage starting crumbling. Or the cancer came back. Or something you were positive God put on your heart to do didn’t quite turn out the way you expected.

    I’ve learned that in these times of disappointment, failure or loss we need to be grounded in our identity in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we cave into cultural or societal pressure and allow the things of this world to define us — like what we look like, what kind of car is parked in our garage, what title we hold at the office, how much money is in our bank account, our marriage, how well our kids are doing, how many followers or likes we have on social media.

    But as Jesus followers, none of these things define us. If they did, each one of us would be left questioning our identity, because let’s be real … the material stuff doesn’t last.

    Looks fade. Financial situations change. Jobs come and go, friends and followers, too.

    So who are we? Maybe the better question is, Whose are we? We are children of God. We were created by Love, in love and for love. And because we belong to Him, we can endure even the toughest of times. This is what our key verse, Psalm 16:8, tells us, “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

    When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

    We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never, ever let us go.

    When you know Whose you are, it changes everything.

    Dear Jesus, Thank you that You are my Father and I am Your child. Thank You that I am not defined by the world or by others, but by You. Remind me in times of doubt or confusion that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. And that no matter what comes my way, my faith will stand because You will never let me go. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does grounding your identity in Jesus affect the way you handle disappointment?

    © 2016 by Tim Tebow. All rights reserved.

    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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