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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Did I Hear God Wrong?

    Posted on April 23, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 23, 2015

    Did I Hear God Wrong?
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "For we live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?

    I understand. Thoughts of doubt crossed my mind daily when I began to listen to the promptings on my heart to write.

    The International Christian Retail Show is a big book convention where publishers, authors, agents, media and bookstore owners all gather to talk shop. Books are pitched. Books are sold. Books are talked about a lot!

    I went to this conference years ago when I was a wannabe writer with a book proposal and a dream. Recently, as I signed pre-release copies of my new book, two thoughts went through my mind.

    First … thank You Jesus, that people actually came to my book signing. Because there’s nothing quite like standing there with a big stack of free promotion books, a permanent marker and not a soul interested.

    So when people actually came, I just wanted to hug every single one of them. Seriously. And if I had lots of money, I would’ve bought them all a steak dinner. I’m not kidding.

    The second thought was … look for those desperate for your encouragement.

    Many who came through my book signing line were interested in writing a book. I remember being there.

    I know what it feels like to walk around with a tote bag full of book proposals and a heart full of nervous hope.

    I know what it feels like to consciously choose to live every day "by faith, not by sight" like our key verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 instructs. Honestly, it’s hard to hold on to God’s promises when all that’s staring back at you is a pile of rejection letters from publishers.

    That calling we once felt so strongly starts to feel more like a fairytale than a future reality.

    So, I felt the weight of responsibility to give them the encouragement I so desperately needed when I was in their shoes.

    Maybe you are there right now, looking to actively pursue your dreams or the things God has called you to. But whether it’s the hope of being an author or another dream you have bumping around in your heart, here’s what I’ve learned:

    Rejection from people doesn’t mean rejection from God.

    If God has gifted you to write, write! You don’t need a book deal to have an impact with your writing. The same is true with other dreams. If you’re called to sing, create, teach, paint, develop — use your gifts right where you are to bless others.

    Most overnight success stories are years in the making.

    Value the daily discipline of small steps of faith, hard work, honing your craft and putting in time learning and developing. Take classes. Be mentored. Push through those moments you want to slack off. And do it over and over, year after year.

    Be a blessing to others.

    Don’t keep your work to yourself. Find people who could be blessed with your work. I love to write. But what I love more than writing is seeing my writing help other people. That’s where I find the encouragement to push through the hard times.

    Expect opposition.

    The challenges and disappointments and setbacks are all part of it. And honestly, these hard times serve a great purpose. I’ve learned much more from my failures in writing than my successes. Use these lessons … don’t waste them by giving up too soon. And remember to glorify Him whether it’s a struggle or a success. God uses all things for good.

    Look for the small open doors right in front of you.

    I always scratch my head when I meet people who tell me they want to write and speak but aren’t willing to teach a small Bible study first. If God is calling you to do something, He’ll have a door open in front of you. But it might be a small door. Look for the small door and walk through it.

    Actually … dance through that door with great joy because He will always do great things with people willing to be faithful in the small!

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to live by faith, not by sight. I believe You have amazing plans for my life, and I want to be obedient to You through it all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

    Zechariah 4:10a, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin …" (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    WIF Bookcover

    Be reminded each day to walk by faith, not by sight with a necklace from the Proverbs 31 Ministries Faith Collection. Each necklace is handcrafted by vulnerable and rescued women in Mexico and Charlotte, N.C. Click here to purchase one for yourself or a friend this Mother’s Day!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Choose one of the encouragements Lysa talked about today and hold it close over the next week as you continue to live out what God has called you to.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Concern Consumes Me

    Posted on April 22, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope APRIL 22, 2015

    When Concern Consumes Me
    RENEE SWOPE

    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

    As we drove home from a weekend away in the mountains, I felt a heavy sense of dread and sadness. Laying my head back on my seat, I told my husband, JJ, "I don’t want to go home."

    The stress and strain of countless commitments at home and at work were taking a toll on me. If only I could return to that little mountain town where no one knew me or needed me.

    JJ asked some clarifying questions, and then he suggested I make a list of everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back.

    Honestly, at first I resented the fact that he was adding one more thing "to do" on my already long list of things I’d never get done.

    But later that week I took his advice and wrote out all my commitments and concerns. I made a list of deadlines and dates on my calendar with every appointment, event, conference call and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

    And I prayed: Please God, show me where I need to make changes.

    I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cut backs at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

    Jesus showed me it was worry — not my workload — that was making me weary.

    You see, during the weeks leading up to my "meltdown," I let my thoughts dwell on the possible negative outcome of several different circumstances and decisions, all at the same time. And without realizing it, I had spent as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances and deadlines as I did working on them.

    It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted. It wasn’t until I brought it all to God, and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening.

    Instead of escaping to the mountains where no one knows us or needs us, in today’s key verse from Matthew 11:28 above, Jesus invites us to come to Him so He can give us:

    Rest for our weary hearts and minds.
    "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’" (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV).

    Freedom from the captivity of our concerns.
    "‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity’" (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, NIV).

    Maybe there are worries making you weary. Do you hear Jesus gently inviting you to come to Him, seeking and trusting that His heart is big enough to care and strong enough to carry all that concerns you?

    Dear Lord, when concerns consume me, help me remember You are there inviting me to come to You and talk about all I’m thinking and doing. Show me if my workload or my worries are making me weary and help me trust You more with both. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Peter 5:7, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you ever tire of feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough or gifted enough, you’ll enjoy A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself by Renee Swope.

    Be sure to download Renee’s "3 Steps to Getting God’s Peace" printable and enter to win her "Heart-and-Soul Spa" gift-pack that includes Renee’s A Confident Heart Devotional book, a prayer journal and a Bath & Body Works gift card. You’ll find it all on her blog today.

    If you’ve tried everything else to tackle the disease of stress in your life, with little success, maybe it’s time to give Jesus a try. Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles can help you do just that.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When you think about all you need to get done, what makes you feel like you’re coming undone?

    Write three concerns on a piece of paper and put them in an envelope. On the outside of the envelope write: "Jesus, I’m giving my cares to You because You care about me." Put your envelope in a journal or notebook and let God take care of what’s concerning You today.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken

    Posted on April 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    Ruth Soukup APRIL 21, 2015

    Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken
    Michelle McKinney Hammond

    "But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." Genesis 39:20b-21 (NIV)

    When I was a little girl growing up in Barbados with my grandmother, I loved to watch her make sausage.

    First, she would take big chunks of meat and slowly squeeze them into a machine known as a sausage stuffer. Before long, the meat would break down and come out the other side all gushy and floppy.

    I used to feel so sorry for that meat.

    Next my grandmother would add zesty spices and meticulously squish the meat into encasements. And you know what happened? Some of the best sausage you can imagine was formed. It had a wonderful flavor and a long shelf life.

    As you can see, sausage making is quite the process! But the process had a purpose.

    Have you ever felt like that sausage? I have.

    The process of being squeezed and uncomfortable can break us down, making us feel helpless, alone and sometimes even good for nothing.

    We can question, God, where are You? Or, Let’s hurry this discomfort along, OK? (I’m famous for that!) Or even wonder, God, I thought You loved me. What did I do wrong?

    Let me remind you of something, friend. Being squeezed by outside pressure doesn’t indicate God’s rejection, abandonment or that He made a mistake. Sometimes in His great sovereignty and love, God allows for our character to be refined. God reminded me of this recently when I was studying the life of Joseph.

    You may remember Joseph and his coat of many colors. As a teenager, Joseph had big dreams; however, a series of unfortunate events seemed to circumvent those aspirations. He faced difficult and disappointing times — more than once — and was even sold into slavery by his very own brothers.

    Can you imagine going from favored child to slave? I wouldn’t have had a very good attitude about that. "I’m supposed to mop this floor? Don’t you know I watched people mop the floor of my house?" Dear God, get me out of this mess!

    But not Joseph.

    Time and time again Joseph’s plans went differently than expected, yet he ultimately chose to follow God every step of the way. Regardless of outside pressures and demands — slavery, slander, abandonment or imprisonment — Joseph chose to be excellent. The Bible tells us he advanced because of his positive attitude, and he experienced God’s kindness and favor in the midst of struggles and disappointments.

    In our key verse, Genesis 39:21 tells us, "The LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden."

    Let’s be honest. The refining process isn’t easy or comfortable. Prison was a dark place, a place where Joseph really didn’t want to be … a place where he saw no way out.

    But throughout Joseph’s story, God reminds us, very diligently, that no matter how awful and appalling the circumstances, He was still with Joseph.

    Want to hear some good news?

    He’s still with us, too.

    So, friend, if you feel like my grandmother’s sausage, squeezed and broken down, please remember, our God has great purpose in His refining process. He uses whatever He can to form the character He desires for us, His dearly loved kids.

    In many ways God works like my grandmother — squeezing and squishing until there’s nowhere else to turn but up. And when God adds the fruit of the Spirit to our lives, then encases us in the shell of holiness, purity and sound character, we too will have a longer shelf life … a life that glorifies Him.

    Dear Lord, sometimes my days are hard and I feel squeezed in every way. Thank You for the reminder that You will never leave my side, even when it’s uncomfortable. Please help me to experience Your kindness today in a fresh new way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:3-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    1 Peter 4:12-13, "Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Joseph: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond can help give you insight into the power of your choices as you wait on God while pursing your dreams. Watch the first session of Joseph free here.

    Visit Michelle’s website for more encouragement.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Joseph Study Guide with DVD: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond. In celebration of this Bible study, Michelle’s publisher is giving away 5 study guides with DVD! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, April 27.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What situations have proven to be uncomfortable for you? How have you responded?

    In what ways can you see God at work in your life today?

    © 2015 by Michelle McKinney Hammond. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

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

  • Is There Room for Me?

    Posted on April 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer APRIL 20, 2015

    Is There Room for Me?
    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’" Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

    Standing on the outside looking in hurts. So many times I’ve looked at others on the "inside," hoping someone would notice and invite me in.

    I still remember standing on the sidelines in 7th grade, while the "fast" kids played speedaway. Somehow the teams always got filled before I could get on one.

    I’ve stood on the sidelines of other sports and music tryouts, watching the real athletes get chosen and the highly talented musicians get the parts. I’ve even stood on the sidelines watching friends hang out together, wishing I’d been invited.

    Perhaps the most difficult sideline times are when I’ve looked at my personal gifts and talents and believed no one wanted — or needed — what I had to offer.

    Feeling left out stinks. But feeling like there’s no room left for us in our careers or callings can be downright scary. What if all the good spots are already taken? Then what?

    For years I struggled, fearing what I had to offer just wasn’t good enough. All these fears and questions collided when I sensed God was calling me to write.

    I held out my meager gift in faith, doubting anything would ever really come of it. After all, there were so many really talented authors already. And they were much better than I was at connecting with important people and marketing themselves. For heaven’s sake, I consistently show up at conferences without my business card!

    Believing all the spots were already taken by much more qualified people, made me want to quit before I’d even started.

    But then God gave me a picture of what His kingdom is really like. Previously, I had this image of a slice of "pie" that was reserved for people with my calling, and only the best got in.

    But God showed me He isn’t in the business of dividing a sliver of opportunity among His children: He’s in the business of making a bigger pie!

    What hope this has planted in my heart. There is room for me! And more than enough of it.

    When we answer God’s call on our lives, there is unlimited opportunity to serve Him. Whether it’s teaching, dancing, singing, serving, leading, organizing, public speaking or writing, there is room for each of us to do His Kingdom work.

    God isn’t limited by market trends or economic downturns. Nothing is too hard for Him. So if He’s called you, there is room for you, too.

    Satan wants us to believe opportunities are scarce or that we’re not really necessary in God’s plans. He’d much rather have us allow the sense of competition to simmer so we never truly celebrate each other’s successes.

    Or better yet, have us fight amongst ourselves, scratching and clawing to climb higher on the ladder of success by stepping on each other.

    When we realize there is more than enough room, and that we are all invited to "play," our hearts should change. Rather than worry about our place and position, we should lace our fingers together, offering a firm place to step, and give our sisters and brothers a boost.

    Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’"

    In this verse, Jesus encourages us to pray for more people to step up and serve Him.

    Can you imagine the world acting like this? What a radical way to think. Rather than worrying if there’s a place for me to serve God with my specific gifts and talents, I should be praying for more women and men to start doing exactly what I’m called to do. And then do whatever I can to help them succeed.

    I’m so thankful God changed my heart. It frees me to fully be myself and truly celebrate others’ successes.

    Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." So … what’s stopping you? Come join me in the harvest. There’s lots of room!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me just as I am and calling me to serve You with my gifts and talents. I believe You have a place for me and accept Your invitation. Please call more of our sisters and brothers to serve You in the harvest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 4:1, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?" (NIV)

    Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Feeling called to write or speak? At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we believe there’s room for you to develop your God-given gifts wherever God has placed you and would love to help you answer that call! That’s why we developed our monthly writing program, COMPEL Training, and our annual conference, She Speaks, held July 23-25, 2015 in Concord, N.C.

    Join Glynnis Whitwer on her blog for more encouragement to pursue God’s calling on your life.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What would you do for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?

    What’s the next step you can take today to answer God’s call on your life?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Cure for Envy

    Posted on April 17, 2015 by Family Christian

    Liz Curtis Higgs APRIL 17, 2015

    The Cure for Envy
    LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

    I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.

    Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.

    Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.

    Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.

    The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague who’d been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. "It’s not fair, Lord!"

    His response was swift. "Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?"

    Groan. Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters — women who love and serve the Lord — I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, "I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one person’s work above another, if not absorbing the world’s way of doing things?"

    Her words echo the Apostle Paul’s: " … For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.

    Today’s verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, here’s the way out:

    Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth" (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.

    Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over John’s place in Jesus’ ministry, and asked, "‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘ … what is that to you? You must follow me’" (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).

    Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" (Romans 12:15a, NIV).

    Be patient. Many a career or ministry has collapsed under too much, too soon. Embrace the tasks you’ve been given, rather than longing for something bigger, better or faster. Success isn’t money or fame — it’s love for one another. By definition, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud" (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).

    Befriend your rival. As one of our sisters explained, "A woman was brought in on a fast track executive management program at my corporation. At our first meeting, I thought, ‘Well, here’s my rival.’ Then I heard God say, ‘She is smart, energetic and sharp — just like you. You could become best buddies.’" And, they did.

    Count the cost. Behind every successful woman is a host of sacrifices we never see. The truth? We’re seldom jealous of all the work a person does — just the outcome. Whether building a tower or building a career, the Bible cautions us, " … Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money" — or time or energy — "to complete it" (Luke 14:28b, NIV).

    Lean on the Lord. He stands ready, willing and able to overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Spirit. "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always" (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).

    Heavenly Father, we know envy and jealousy are no match for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us when we grumble over how You bless others, and help us be grateful for all the ways You have kindly blessed us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)

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

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Want more encouragement from Liz Curtis Higgs to start your day? Rise and Shine offers engaging stories, upbeat advice and heartfelt prayers to brighten your morning.

    All this spring, Liz is exploring why "He Is Worthy of Our Praise" on her weekly blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If you’ve ever succumbed to envy or jealousy, now’s the time to confess the truth and experience genuine success: rejoicing with others, as you trust God’s timing.

    Of the seven steps above, which one are you ready to take today?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • When I Want to Be Mean

    Posted on April 16, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 16, 2015

    When I Want to Be Mean
    LYSA TERKEURST

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

    I looked at the text message in complete disbelief. Why couldn’t this person see how insensitive and hurtful she was being?

    I don’t know who made up the saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Either they had nerves of steel, or they lived on a deserted island with no other people. Because not only do words hurt me but they make me want to fight back and be mean, too.

    Have you ever had a little situation with someone where you just knew you were right and they were wrong? Or at least you could make a really good case for your side of things?

    Oh how I have this burning need to state my case in these kinds of situations. It’s like an inner attorney rises up desperate to defend my rights and get the other person to see things my way. This is pretty normal, right?

    Yes. But normal doesn’t always mean good. Especially in light of today’s key verse.

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

    I should live rooted in Jesus’ teaching and overflow with thankfulness. The opposite of this is when I’m rooted in self-centered opinions and overflowing with grumbling. I need to let God show me how to see things from this other person’s side and gain a different perspective. In doing so, I will be strengthened and taught.

    Colossians 3:12-14 reminds me, "… as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (NIV).

    My job isn’t to fix this person or make them see my side of things. My job is to obey God by offering an extension of the forgiveness I’ve been given. But I can also stay healthy in this situation by remembering forgiveness doesn’t mean giving this person access in my life that sets me up for destructive patterns.

    Finally, Colossians 3:17 reminds me, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (NIV).

    Everything I do and say tells a story of whom I serve. If I act out of anger and spite, I give in to the ways of the enemy, spreading his darkness. If I honor the Lord with my actions, I serve to further the Name of Jesus and spread His light.

    At the end of the day, honoring God leads to good things. Anything else leads to confusion, emotional exhaustion and a lack of good things.

    I processed the text message mentioned above with my husband. He said something that brought much clarity. "Lysa, you know when you’ve taken the high road, God blesses you. You’ve seen these blessings over and over as you’ve made choices that honor God. So choose a blessing today and save yourself the emotional turmoil of trying to prove you’re right."

    He’s a smart man.

    I know this isn’t easy stuff. I’m having to live it in the midst of feeling hurt. But I’m also feeling more at peace being able to see another perspective — a healthier perspective — a Biblical perspective. And I’m really excited about the blessings that are surely coming my way.

    Dear Lord, You know the hurtful words and actions that have come my way. Please give me Your strength to not retaliate, but instead to react based on Your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    James 1:19-20, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learning to control our reactions can be difficult! In Lysa’s book, Unglued, she shares personal experience and Scriptural wisdom to help us make healthy decisions with our reactions. Order your copy today.

    The accompanying Unglued Bible study package will help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. Get started here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are you struggling with a person who sometimes acts rude or insensitive? Choose one of the truths Lysa mentioned today to pray and live out.

    At the end of the day, honoring God leads to good things. Anything else leads to confusion, emotional exhaustion and a lack of good things.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Danger of an Empty Heart

    Posted on April 15, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lynn Cowell APRIL 15, 2015

    The Danger of an Empty Heart
    LYNN COWELL

    "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:16 (NIV)

    I’ve come to the realization that every choice I make is actually a trade.

    Some trades are good. On the days I trade a half hour of sleep for extra time with Jesus in God’s Word … that’s a great trade. The time I chose to keep dusting as my daughter shared her heart with me … that was a horrible trade. Taking care of my body or indulging in a little more dessert? It’s all about what trade I will make.

    There’s a guy in the Bible, not much different than me, who also made a trade. His name was Esau, and the story of his dealings are found in Genesis 25.

    Esau was the twin brother of Jacob. Esau, like me, was an outdoorsy type. Jacob, unlike me, liked to hang out in the kitchen.

    One day, after being out in the open country, Esau returned home exhausted and famished to find Jacob cooking some stew. He said, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew!" (Genesis 25:30, NIV).

    Jacob, being the conniving type, saw an opportunity to play let’s-make-a-deal with his older brother. He made a proposition, "First, sell me your birthright" (Genesis 25:31, NIV).

    According to Jewish tradition, fathers gave the birthright to the firstborn son. The eldest would receive the title of the family name (maybe something like the way royalty passes on the family title) and a double portion of his father’s inheritance.

    Maybe Esau thought Jacob’s proposition was a lighthearted toss, so he threw back an exaggerated, sarcastic response: "Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me?" (Genesis 25:32, NIV)

    That’s all it took. He swore an oath and got his bowl of stew.

    Some trade.

    When I first read this account I thought: Really? Give away all of your rights for a bowl of stew?

    What would possess Esau to make such an uneven exchange?

    Take a closer look at the word describing Esau’s condition: famished. Extremely hungry, starving, empty, hollow. I think Esau’s condition had a lot to do with his decision. Past the point of being hungry, he was empty.

    Hollow.

    If Esau would have grabbed a snack while waiting for the meal preparation, he could have been sated until all was ready. The temptation to give up the best of later for the quick fix of now wouldn’t have had such a tantalizing pull.

    Esau and I are a lot alike. When I’m "hungry" — whether that looks like loneliness, fear or tiredness — I can make some unwise decisions. When my heart is empty, I can make an unequal trade out of desperation. In this condition, I am tempted to:

    Make quick decisions
    Speed had everything to do with Esau’s choice. He wanted his problem fixed now! It wasn’t hard for Jacob to manipulate a man who wouldn’t wait.

    Exaggerate my condition
    Esau told his brother he was about to die. Someone who has been out in the open country all day doesn’t seem to be at death’s door.

    Make unwise decisions
    Esau gave up the best of what he had for a bowl of stew.

    What’s the trade you’re facing? Does it have to do with how you spend your time, invest in relationships, or take care of yourself? Maybe you find yourself trading intimacy with your husband for a romance novel? Sacrificing financial freedom for "having it all"? Bypassing time with your kids for the project at work? The trade presents itself in many different ways.

    Today’s key verse in Psalm 145:16 tells us, "You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Jesus will satisfy our hungers and allow us to see the truth of the trade if we turn to Him. Then, we can see the exchange for what it is.

    What trades are you tempted to make today? Let’s learn from Esau. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth the trade if it means giving up God’s very best.

    Father, I think often I am unaware that I am making a trade. Open my eyes to see the temptation for what it is and empower me by Your Holy Spirit to make the right choices for Your honor and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 90:14, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." (NIV)

    Isaiah 58:11, "The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you know a young woman making some unhealthy trades? Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants by Lynn Cowell can help her learn to make wise choices.

    Today Lynn is giving away a "Wise Choice" bundle which includes a copy of The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst, and her book Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants. Stop by Lynn’s blog for your chance to enter.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are some of the trades, good or bad, that you make on a regular basis?

    Take a moment to ask the Lord to help you see these choices and give you the strength to make the best trades in the week ahead.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Miracle of Friendship

    Posted on April 14, 2015 by Family Christian

    Melanie Shankle APRIL 14, 2015

    The Miracle of Friendship
    MELANIE SHANKLE

    "As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul." 1 Samuel 18:1 (ESV)

    One of my dearest friends is dying of cancer right now.

    I realize that’s not really an uplifting start to your day. But it’s the reality. I am heartbroken at the prospect of losing my Jen. She’s been a constant presence in my life since we first met at 18 years old and she swept into a room wearing a denim wrap skirt and Cole Haan loafers that caused me to immediately reexamine all my personal wardrobe goals. She was exuberant and confident, and immediately I wanted to be her friend … if I could get over feeling so intimidated.

    Fortunately, I did, and she quickly became one of my dearest friends as we learned all the ways we were alike and all the ways we were different. God used Jen to draw my heart back to Him as she demonstrated how to make faith a priority. I look back at that time and realize God very purposely knit our hearts together during those years. He knew all the ways He would use us to encourage and strengthen one another.

    As we see in our key verse, 1 Samuel 18:1, God sometimes knits our hearts with others like He did with David and Jonathan. He puts people in our paths because He knows we’ll need them.

    Jonathan was just what David needed at that stage of his life. David was a young shepherd thrust into the spotlight. And based on some of his future writings in the book of Psalms, maybe a little overemotional at times.

    David was often overwhelmed by feelings of inadequacy and depression, and being hunted by a crazy king. (I can relate to all of these things with the exception of the crazy king.) But Jonathan loved David, believed in him, and sought God’s best for him. Jonathan’s friendship was what David needed to grow into the king and leader he was to become.

    As women, many of us spend our early lives thinking about marriage and hoping to find Mr. Right. Then we realize our husbands don’t necessarily want to hear all about the best waterproof mascara or cry with us over the kid who’s failing math or eat cookie dough straight from the bowl. That’s why God gives us our girlfriends.

    Beyond common interests, affection and a sense of humor — the aim of friendship is to sow into each other words of eternal life and blessing. We remind each other of God’s wisdom and provision, refresh each other’s spirit and strengthen each other’s faith.

    Good friendships require walking with one another down some hard roads, losses, a bad diagnosis, financial problems and much more. We need friends to help us remember what God has done for us and that He will be faithful.

    In 2 Samuel 1:26b, David says of Jonathan, " … Your friendship was a miracle-wonder, love far exceeding anything I’ve known — or ever hope to know," (MSG). That’s ultimately what God gives us in friendship: a real life, everyday miracle in the form of another person.

    But having your soul knitted to another isn’t for the faint of heart.

    It means you bear your own hurts along with those of your friend. You cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh and feel like your heart will break wide open when you face not having them by your side.

    But it’s worth it because they cause you to love harder, laugh louder, live richer and become more than you could ever be without them. It’s putting your heart and your name in the hands of another person and saying, "I trust you with all of this," as they do the same.

    Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the friends You have given us to walk with us through life here on earth. Please show us ways to love each other better and take away any fear we have of being authentic about our struggles. Help us have open hearts that love the way You love. Thank You for knitting our hearts together with the people You know will make us stronger. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 27:17, "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another." (ESV)

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Real friendship takes effort. It’s forgiving and loving, making a casserole, and doing a carpool pickup. To celebrate friendship, check out Melanie Shankle’s new book, Nobody’s Cuter than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship.

    Stop by Melanie’s blog today to connect with her and learn more about her writing and ministry.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Nobody’s Cuter than You by Melanie Shankle. In celebration of this book, Melanie’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, April 20.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on some ways your friendships have made you stronger and how God has used them in your life.

    What are some tangible ways you can show your friends how much they mean to you?

    © 2015 by Melanie Shankle. 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

  • What Does Real Love Look Like?

    Posted on April 13, 2015 by Family Christian

    Nicki Koziarz APRIL 13, 2015

    What Does Real Love Look Like?
    NICKI KOZIARZ

    "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" Matthew 25:40 (ESV)

    She’s a name-dropper.

    The kind of woman who always needs the world to know what famous person tweeted at her, liked her post or followed her on Instagram. She’s always at the important meetings, the ones where the people in charge see her. And she schedules lunches and coffee dates with people who can take her career further.

    We all know this woman. She’s our neighbor. Our co-worker. Our ministry leader. She’s everywhere.

    And maybe, at times, there’s a little bit of this woman in each of us.

    The world tells us in order to go higher we must surround ourselves with people who will take us higher. Our mommas taught us at a young age we will become like those we keep close. And in high school we grouped together with people who were like-minded.

    While I understand the importance of keeping company with the right kind of people, I see Jesus taking a different approach at times as I study His life in the Bible.

    It’s true Jesus had good friends like His disciples, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. But as I look closely at the steps of Jesus, I see He invested a lot of His time into the "least of these:" the poor, the hungry, the broken, the weak and the people who had absolutely nothing to offer Him.

    Jesus always had a genuine concern and focus on people in need.

    If we are always surrounding ourselves with the "best of these," how will we ever truly learn to love the least of these?

    It’s an honest question to reflect on as we go about our days, make our schedules and choose where to invest our energy. But I don’t really know if in Jesus’ eyes this concept of serving the least of these is optional.

    Do I always get this right? Goodness no.

    My excuses for a lack of service to those in need are shameful:

    • I’m too busy.
    • I already give so much.
    • I don’t have what they need.
    • I forgot.

    God blesses us so that we may bless others. May we be compelled to take our eyes off ourselves and turn our heads to the right and to the left. Let us see those around us in need and give whatever we have to bless them.

    Here are three ways to do this right now:

      1. Spend time with someone who has nothing to give back to you.

     

      1. Ask God if there’s anything you have in your possession that could bless someone else. Maybe it’s a coat, a pair of shoes, a purse, jewelry … what can you give up to bless another?

     

    1. Write a note of encouragement to someone who is down, sick or weary. Tell her specific things you are praying over her life.

    We don’t always need to be with the "best of the best." There is life, love and opportunities to expand our souls if we will humble ourselves and become just a little bit more like Jesus today and serve the least of these.

    God, help us to see those in need today. Help our lives ring loudly as we take steps to serve others more than ourselves. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 6:10, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (NIV)

    1 John 3:18, "Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Looking for a creative way to send a note of encouragement? Check out this unique notecard set.

    For more ways to say yes to God, check out Lysa TerKeurst’s book What Happens When Women Say Yes to God.

    For more ideas on how to bless someone in need visit Nicki Koziarz’s blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Why do you think we are naturally drawn toward surrounding ourselves with "the best of the best"?

    What is one thing you will do this week to focus on the "least of these"? Share it with us in the comment section today.

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • The One Sin I Thought was Unforgivable

    Posted on April 10, 2015 by Family Christian

    Tracie Miles APRIL 10, 2015

    The One Sin I Thought was Unforgivable
    TRACIE MILES

    "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus." Romans 8:1 (NLT)

    The event speaker spoke the one word I didn’t want to hear. She said the one word that elicited painful memories, shame and regret. One word that left me weeping silently in the pew, hoping no one would notice my brokenness.

    My eyes were closed, but I sensed God’s eyes were wide open and focused directly on me. Part of me felt afraid and confused, but a bigger part of me felt peace in light of the gift God was offering.

    Amid the flood of hot tears that burned in my swollen, tightly shut eyes, I pleaded with God for His forgiveness of the one sin — the one word — that I felt was unforgivable. I meekly, humbly and reluctantly dared to ask God, once again, the prayer I had uttered so many times, yet never believed could be answered.

    Could You … would You … possibly … forgive me for that, Lord? Really?

    If You could forgive others for their sins, could You maybe, just maybe, forgive me too?

    If You can still love them, despite their pasts, can You love me too?

    Will You still love me, God?

    I felt like a little girl sitting at her daddy’s feet, asking forgiveness for not listening to his words of instruction, and longing for him to scoop her up and reassure her of his love. My heart was gaping wide, and I waited, anxious for God to fill me with all the things I never thought I deserved to ask for, much less receive.

    I felt sure God was wondering if I were a broken record instead of a broken soul. I had asked for His forgiveness for 14 years, never feeling worthy of it and never expecting Him to actually grant it. But this time, in this place, I actually believed I was forgiven.

    I felt the lightness and freedom of a prisoner set free. Joy caught in my throat, and I could hardly swallow. The unbearable, heavy burden of my shame, regret, sorrow and haunting memories were all lifted the moment I embraced God’s promise that ALL sins are forgivable through Christ. Including mine.

    Abortion. The one word that made my heart shudder — that was a tragic choice made by a scared 19-year-old. And unfortunately, statistics show that more than 56 million U.S. women may have shuddered at that one word as well, since abortion became legal in America.

    Yet despite the reasons we made bad choices, God longs to offer forgiveness. The enemy doesn’t want us to believe that truth. He wants to keep us in bondage to shame and secrecy … to prevent us from living as a testament of God’s grace and power over sin. As our key verse notes, Scripture states quite the opposite: "So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

    The "one word" you dread might be very different from mine, but God can free you from whatever keeps you from embracing how much you are adored by Christ. Might today be the day you learn to fly in the freedom of His forgiveness and peace?

    Father, You know the "one word" that makes me shudder. Forgive me and cleanse my heart. Fill me with overwhelming peace and acceptance of that gift. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 1:7, "He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins." (NLT)

    1 John 1:9, "But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." (NLT)

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

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    April is National Abortion Recovery Awareness Month and Tracie’s heart is to help women find healing who are still struggling with regret or shame over abortion, or any sin or experience that has made them feel unforgivable or unlovable. Visit Tracie’s blog for tips and resources on overcoming shame and embracing your value and worth to Jesus.

    To read the rest of Tracie’s story of how God transformed her heart and life after abortion, you can purchase her book Your Life Still Counts. Tracie also offers other study material on her blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is the "one word" you don’t want to hear? Embrace God’s forgiveness and freedom from it once and for all.

    Let God guide your thoughts as you sit in His Presence. Utter the words you never felt capable of uttering, and be ready for God to move in your heart.

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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