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Proverbs 31

  • The Things We Do For Love

    Posted on February 5, 2014 by Renee Swope

    Renee Swope

    "What a person desires is unfailing love ..." Proverbs 19:22a (NIV)

    I had everything I wanted yet felt empty and confused.

    My life was full of relationships and accomplishments I'd worked hard to gain, but none could fill or fulfill me.

    Frustrated by my aching emptiness, tears streamed down my face as I thought about the guy I dated through high school and college. Our future plans had crumbled under the pressure of me expecting him to be all I needed. I had been crazy about him — a little too crazy.

    I'll never forget the time a friend mentioned my ex-boyfriend was heading to our hometown for the weekend. We worked near each other, so Friday afternoon I parked by his office and waited for him to leave.

    We both "happened" to be at the same fast food restaurant, at the same time and bumped into each other. After getting my order, I got in my car and followed behind him, hoping he'd see me, realize he couldn't live without me and signal to pull over so we could talk.

    Seriously, what was I thinking? As you can guess, he never stopped. I was hopeless and humiliated.

    A few weeks later, I was taking a walk around my college campus. My eyes drifted to the buildings, dorms and other landmarks of memories. Suddenly my mind filled with a collage of faces, reminding me of my efforts to win the approval of advisors, friends and professors — hoping their affirmation could fill my emptiness.

    Although I was graduating soon, had a few great job offers and achieved success in many ways, my heart still felt restless. And I couldn't help but wonder: Why was all that I had never enough?

    A thought rushed through my soul, stringing together two words I had never put next to each other. I sensed God answering me.

    Renee, all you have ever wanted is unconditional love.

    Unconditional love? I didn't know there was such a thing. Then God whispered into my soul: You'll never find the love you long for in anyone or anything but Me. I AM the unconditional love you're looking for.

    The thought of God loving me without any conditions was inconceivable, yet something deep in my soul told me it was true. I'd been looking for love that didn't have to be earned. Love I didn't have to fear losing.

    Honestly, it was hard to see how God's love could fill the emptiness in my heart. It took time, but I came to understand that God created me with that need for fulfillment so He could meet it.

    Our key verse, Proverbs 19:22a, says, "What a person desires is unfailing love."

    The word "desire" comes from the Hebrew word ta'avah, which means: to greatly long for, deeply desire or crave. Interestingly, unfailing love is mentioned over 30 times in the Bible, and not once is it attributed to a person. It is only attributed to God.

    God gave us a desire for unfailing love because He knew it would lead us back to Him.

    His love draws us to Him. Only we can stop God from reaching the deep and hidden parts within us that need Him most.

    Will you invite Jesus to look into your heart today so He can show you what, who and where you might be looking to be filled and fulfilled? Then ask Him to fill and fulfill you with the promise and reality of His unfailing love instead.

    Jesus, help me stop searching for fulfillment in anything or anyone but You. Will You satisfy me with Your unfailing love and help me depend on You to meet my deepest desires and needs. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What or whom do you look to, to fill and fulfill you?

    Write down steps you can take to transfer your hope from other things and people to God to satisfying your longings. Start by talking to God and processing this struggle with Him.

    Power Verse:
    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)

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs

  • I Don't Do Fancy

    Posted on February 4, 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." 1 John 4:7 (NIV)

    I'm not a spontaneous or particularly fancy person. Some people I know are, and their creativity amazes me. They whip up a gourmet dinner from leftovers in the fridge and what's in the cabinet. They create craft projects out of dried macaroni, spray paint and shoe boxes. They can think of birthday party games, favors and food that leave the celebrant feeling like a million bucks.

    Not me. Ask my kids.

    I'm thankful four out of five have summer birthdays and we have a pool! Cut up a watermelon, order pizza and voila!

    It's not that I didn't care. Or that I didn't want to do more. But for so many years in my early parenting, I was overwhelmed with managing a job, home and very active children. Plus I believed my celebrations had to look a certain way. Since I didn't possess many creative skills, I always felt like a party-failure.

    It was years later I realized most people don't really remember all the whoopla of a big party. There might be some shock-and-awe at first, but when the streamers fall and the balloons droop, people are more apt to remember moments inside those events. For example, at my 8th grade graduation, the only memory I have is of my older sister fixing my hair. Granted it was a long time ago, but her loving gesture meant the world to me.

    People just want to feel loved. Remembered. Noticed. Valued.

    That's how we were designed. God created us with a heart and soul to receive His love, so we could share it with others. In fact, loving God and each other is our highest calling. The Bible says it this way, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God" (1 John 4:7).

    Jesus said this, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12, NIV). The New Testament shows that Jesus loved His disciples by spending time with them, and caring about them deeply. He didn't need anything fancy to show His love.

    Fancy's not wrong. Some people show their love through their creativity. And I applaud them. But for those of us who walk out of a craft store crying because we can't figure out which tie-die kit to buy, maybe a simpler option is more our style.

    Maybe for some of us, we need to remove the self-imposed unrealistic expectations. Maybe we need to focus more on showing love rather than having our centerpieces match what we saw on Pinterest.

    I've learned that it's often the little things that speak love to my friends and family. It's sitting outside at that summer pool party and watching the silly jumps off the diving board. It's abandoning the dishes to play a board game. It's an impromptu potluck dinner with friends on paper plates.

    While I'll still try to make things pretty and creative, it's not my focus. My goal every day is to show love to my friends and family somehow. I may not always accomplish that goal with perfection, but I can come closer to it with God's help than I'll ever be able to pull off a spectacular birthday party.

    Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I've gotten so worried about how my dinner or gathering looks that I've neglected what matters most to You. Open my eyes to ways I can show Your love to others, making them feel valued. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Remember a special event where someone made you feel loved. What did that person do?

    What can you do this week to show someone you care deeply for them?

    Power Verse:
    Romans 13:8, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law." (NIV)

    John 15:12, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 John

  • Blog Summary for January 2014

    Posted on February 3, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are some of the most popular blogs that have been read by our followers during the month of January.

    MercyMe's Shake - Q&A

    MercyMe's new album, Welcome to the New releases later this year. Their first single from the album, Shake, hit stations already and is climbing the charts.

    We thought we would ask a few questions about Shake and their new album.

    Your new song, Shake, is a bit of different path for traditional MercyMe singles. What is the inspiration behind the song?

    Read the full q&a by clicking here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    Lecrae, how much was music or the arts part of your life growing up? Did you realize early on that there was some talent in your life, or did that come later?

    "Absolutely. I was a latchkey kid so I would sit at home for hours while my mother was at work. I had to use my imagination. I’d sit in front of the television so much. Sometimes she would allow me to watch television and she would come home to see if it was warm so I had to figure out what I could do with my time. It just became an outlet to start writing, experimenting, and just trying to be creative. I knew I had a passion for the arts, but we didn’t recognize it. It was one of my fifth-grade teachers who recognized it and suggested to my mother that I be put in a special class. That special class led me to audition for a special school so I actually went to a performing arts middle school for a couple years. That’s really where I started to hone my writing skills."

    Read the full interview here.

    Free Wallpaper for Your Mobile, Tablet or Computer

    February is also a month for love. We would be amiss if we didn't mention Valentines Day and what that stands for. As followers of Jesus, Valentines Day is much more than a once-in-three-hundred-sixty-five-days type of holiday. For we have been loved well, so we are compelled to do the same to all around us. AND not just on one day, but every day.

    Look below for some free wallpaper to decorate your desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device. These are completely free to download. Just right click on the size that you need and you will be all set. To find out which size you need, click here.

    Both images are taking from our Coupon Calendars that we sell online and in our stores. Click here to find the Growth in Faith Calendar and the He Refreshes My Soul Calendar.

    See the whole selection of sizes here.

    What if the Trouble Is in Me?

    "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b (NIV)

    When Barry and I were first married I came up with a nickname for him: "Velcro-Boy."

    He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

    If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

    "I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

    I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

    I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

    Read this whole devotional from Sheila Walsh here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us. Read the full blog post here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses
    physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now
    enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and
    rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet
    there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine
    style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
    history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says.
    “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in
    the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole
    would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.


    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Read the full interview here.

    Michael Landon Jr. - Leaving a Legacy in Film

    Michael, what do you think that the lack of family type of entertainment has done to the family unit, you know, the idea of sitting down and all watching stuff together on a regular basis? What do you think that that causes in a family dynamic?

    "It's hard to probably calculate exactly what the repercussions are. I can't imagine it not having some detrimental effect to the family. I mean, technology is amazing, the way we use it, the way we can quickly disseminate information back and forth between each other. But at the same time, obviously, there is this fragmented aspect of being together, where everybody is in the same room and yet not really present with each other. They're on their phone and tweeting, or emailing or texting their friends. It's definitely breaking down the family unit in a way. It doesn't allow for intimacy to really grab hold of families. And also, I can't imagine that the increased and different content isn't breaking down the family unit as well. It clearly is. The messaging that's coming out of a lot of these shows sometimes is sexually promiscuous or shows a lack of respect for authority whether it be for parents or teachers or whoever. I mean, these are messages that our children are being bombarded with constantly--no holds barred. It seems nothing is really off limits. If you advocate limits, then you're against freedom of speech. It's always spun off in a very kind of negative tone."

    Read the full interview here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith. Sheila shares insightful biblical teaching, intimate stories of her own storms and the chaos other women have faced and overcome.

    Read the full blog post and watch a video from Sheila here.

    Phil Robertson. Father. Teacher. Theologian. Commander.

    If you have never heard of Phil Robertson or the Robertson boys, well, you must be living under a rock.  The Robertson family has taken American TV by storm, along with it the hearts of almost every person. Along with Phil, his wife Kay and their boys, the reality TV show Duck Dynasty has been a gathering place for the whole family. In other words, it's been a breath of fresh air.

    Phil Robertson was born and raised in Vivian, Louisiana, a small town near Shreveport. With seven children in his family, money was scarce and very early on, hunting became an important part of his life.

    As a high-school athlete, Phil was All-State in football, baseball, and track which afforded him the opportunity to attend Louisiana Tech University on a football scholarship. There he played first string quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw. Phil's been quoted as saying "Terry went for the bucks, and I chased after the ducks." After receiving his Bachelor's Degree in Physical Education and a Master's in Education, he spent several years teaching. While his students claim he was an excellent teacher, spending time in a classroom brought Phil to the conclusion that his time and talents would be better spent in the woods.

    Read our full interview with Phil here.

    If you like these blog posts. Make sure that you check out our blog regularly. Or add our blog url to your blog reader.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Movies, Interviews, Proverbs 31, Alex Mosoiu, Dan Hubka and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, MercyMe, Francesca Battistelli, Nick Vujicic, Capital Kings, Phil Robertson, Michael Landon Jr., Wallpapers, Sheila Walsh

  • He Really Loves Me!

    Posted on February 3, 2014 by Darlene Sala

    Darlene Sala

    "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)

    Our hearts long to be loved. We want to know someone treasures and values us. Truly. Faithfully. Lavishly. Would someone, anyone, be willing to give up an item of great value for us?

    I'm stunned God willingly paid so much for me to know Him. It's mind-boggling to grasp that Jesus left His Father in heaven to come to this earth as a baby, then die by crucifixion. I can hardly comprehend a love that cost so much.

    I can't imagine sacrificing any of my three children to save someone else's life. Yet Peter writes, "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed ... but with the precious blood of Christ ..." (1 Peter 1:18-19, NIV). What love!

    What makes it even more costly is God the Father knew He would need to turn away from His son during Jesus' death.

    When Jesus was hanging on a wooden cross, God the Father withdrew His presence because of the sin His Son bore on our behalf. Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46b, NIV). A great shadow had come between Jesus and the Father. Jesus was excruciatingly alone on that cross because of you and me.

    A story from the mission field illustrates a similar kind of love. For years, Dr. Margaret Brand served as a missionary eye surgeon in southern India. In the rural areas she would sometimes do 100 cataract surgeries in a day.

    In one instance where there was no electricity, Dr. Brand asked a 12-year-old boy to hold a large flashlight so that its beam gave her enough light to operate. Dr. Brand doubted whether the boy would be able to endure the sight of eyes being sliced open and stitched. For the first five operations he did his job impressively. During the sixth, however, he faltered.

    "Little brother, show the light properly," Dr. Brand instructed him. But she could sense that he simply could not bear to look at the eye. When she asked him if he felt well, she saw tears running down his cheeks. "Oh, doctor, I cannot look," replied the boy. "This one, she is my mother."

    You see, God loves us so much, "For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21, NRSV) when we put our faith in Him. The high price Jesus paid makes us incredibly valuable — no matter how worthless we may feel at the end of the day.

    Here's another way to look at it. When it comes to placing a value on a piece of art, that value is derived from three things:

    • Who made it?
    • How many are there like it?
    • What is someone willing to pay for it?

    You are a priceless work of art. The greatest Artist in the universe hand-crafted you. God gave the life of His only Son to have a relationship with you. That's how valuable you are. I'm clearly a sinner, not holy like God. But God loves me, and He loves you enough to pay an enormous price so that we could have our sins forgiven.

    With a word the universe was brought into being. With a touch lepers were healed. But when sin was forgiven, Jesus the Son of God willingly died. What amazing love!

    And the focus of that love? You and me.

    May we pause in this moment to absorb the depth of God's love for us. And may our lives be filled with thankfulness that He was willing to pay the price!

    Loving God, help me always remember that my only true worth is found in You. Thank You for the gift of Your Son; thank You for loving me so much that You thought I was worth Christ's life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Knowing how treasured you are by God, what part of you doesn't feel like a "priceless work of art"?

    What would your day look like if you thanked Him for this "flaw" all day long?

    Power Verses:
    1 John 3:1a, "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are." (ESV)

    1 John 4:19, "We love him, because he first loved us." (KJV)

    © 2014 by Darlene Sala. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Corinthians

  • Secrets of Happily Married Couples

    Posted on January 31, 2014 by ShauntiFeldhahn

    Shaunti Feldhahn

    "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!" Proverbs 11:27 (NLT)

    My dear friend's marriage was crumbling; her husband's heart had turned to stone. For years he had dearly loved his wife, but had never known how to show it in the way she needed. Her insecurity grew. He eventually believed he could never please her, never make her happy. Sadly, he left.

    Despite my friend's deep hurt, she took ownership of what she could change as she mourned her marriage and moved forward. As she considered her part in what had happened, she realized that starting in the earliest days of her marriage she had subconsciously believed the worst of her husband, rather than the best.

    For example, if he said something that hurt her, she subconsciously thought: He knew that would hurt me and he said it anyway. Not: He loves me, so he wouldn't deliberately say something that would hurt me. Or she would think: If he really loved me he would do this particular thing. But since he isn't ... he doesn't.

    Deep down, without realizing it, my friend believed her husband didn't care. Even though, for most of their marriage, he did.

    Have you ever believed someone didn't like you based on something they said or did? I know I have. But as followers of Christ, we need to ask ourselves: Are we searching for evil or searching for good?

    There's a benefit in looking for good. Proverbs 11:27 tells us we get what we look for: "If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!"

    My research confirms this truth. I've spent the last three years researching the most happily married couples to find out what they are doing differently. What is making them so happy? What are their secrets?

    Of all my discoveries, one thing stood out as a prerequisite for any good relationship: believing the best of the other person's intentions. Or to be more precise, refusing to believe the worst. In the happiest relationships, even if someone couldn't completely explain what had happened, they resolutely assumed that their spouse or good friend cared about them and had no intention of hurting them.

    And that is usually the truth! For example, in the thousands of married people I've anonymously surveyed, only a tiny fraction no longer cared about their spouse. Even in some deeply difficult marriages, most of the time, the hurt was not intended. In happy marriages, the offended spouse chooses to believe that; in unhappy marriages, they don't.

    For most of us, "searching for good" when we are in pain is not our default response. It is so easy to gauge what the other person intended by how we feel in the moment. But that only creates avoidable pain!

    Yes, sometimes the intentions of people we love aren't good. But in most cases, they don't want to hurt the people they care about any more than we do.

    The choice to search for a more generous explanation may not come easily at first. But try it. Bring your feelings in line with what you know to be true about this person. And once you see, over and over again, that the "good" explanation is usually the real one, you become fully convinced that this person is "for" you.

    Better yet, as our key verse explains, by expecting the best, you bring out the best. We all know this deep down; we just have to act on it. And when we do, everything changes.

    Lord, thank You for putting people in my life who care about me. And thank You for showing grace to me even when I don't deserve it. Help me to have grace and see others through Your eyes. Through the power of Your Holy Spirit help me to search for the good in each situation and not assume evil intent. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    The next time you are faced with a hurtful situation, pray to God for wisdom and ask yourself:

    1) What is the truth in this situation and is there a more generous explanation for what this person did?
    2) Is it really true that this person doesn't care about me, or am I allowing my thoughts to be controlled by my hurt feelings?

    Power Verses:
    James 1:19, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (NLT)

    1 Corinthians 13:4-7, "Love is patient and kind ... It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance." (NLT)

    © 2014 by Shaunti Feldhahn. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Proverbs

  • God Wants to Set You Free

    Posted on January 30, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie Eller

    "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?" Isaiah 43:19a (ESV)

    Last January I prayed about my one word for the year. I hoped for words like "discovery" or "new" or "intimacy." Something beautiful and fresh in my relationship with God.

    As I knelt I sensed the word "forgive."

    This wasn't logical. I teach on forgiveness. I write books and articles about forgiveness. It's the one word I thought had already defined my life.

    Yet, every time I prayed, that one word remained.

    So, in 2013 I began to let this word saturate my life, and discovered new lessons my Heavenly Father wanted to show me. One of those was a shift in the way I viewed forgiveness. We often hear these directives:

    You need to forgive.

    You should forgive.

    But as I let this word guide me in my conversations, in my responses to people and events, in my feelings, and in my faith, a powerful truth emerged:

    We get to forgive.

    We aren't prisoners of bitterness, locked behind the walls of our anger. We have free will, and can choose to step out of unforgiveness, into a place of beauty at any time.

    However, if we choose to hold on to our hurt, it can feel like a dry wasteland has taken up residence in our hearts. It roots its way into our thought process, and in the way we view life or people. It may make us feel strong as we hold on to a grudge or build a wall to protect ourselves, when in actuality we have only hemmed ourselves in from all that God wants us to experience.

    In Isaiah 43, the Israelites had a choice as well. They were in a hard place, and had been for a long time. They had heard about the miracles performed in the past, but God was offering to "cut a path through the wilderness, and create rivers in a dry wasteland" (verse 19b). He was prepared, if they followed His leading, to show them something they wouldn't see or experience otherwise. God makes the same offer to us.

    We are meant to live free. Totally free. This is what we discover when we start to live a forgiving lifestyle. Not hindered or encumbered in any way.

    As I lived out my word in 2013, I was reminded that although I had forgiven big things, I needed to address little offenses. God showed me the power of little things that irked or flared in resentment, robbing me as I nurtured a hurtful word or action ... long after the person who caused the pain had left the scene.

    If there's unforgiveness lurking, festering, hurting you, will you consider allowing God to move into those broken and wounded places in 2014?

    Will it be easy? Not for most of us. Living life as a forgiver is one of those acts of faith that may seem impossible, especially when another has caused you pain. But forgiving leads you from a place of hurting to healing, it clears away past baggage that weighs you down, and offers a new identity based on who you are to God, rather than what someone did.

    "Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"

    Forgiving offers a fresh slate.

    Forgiving allows us to discover new depths and facets of our faith.

    Forgiving leads to deeper relationship with God as we live out this word daily, even when it is difficult. For we aren't alone in this journey, and God has more for us as we follow where He leads.

    Dear Lord, may this be the year I forgive and live free. Show me day by day what forgiving looks like, and give me wisdom and strength to live it out. Thank You that I get to forgive so I can discover what You have for me! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    You never know where your one word might lead. Mine led me to the words I first hoped I would hear: new, discovery, intimacy!

    Prayerfully ask God for a word. It may not be forgive, for God knows what you need. As you begin each day, ask God to show you the opportunities to live out your word. How will it affect your choices? The way you respond to others? The way you live out your day?

    Power Verses:
    2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV)

    Matthew 6:12, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Isaiah

  • What if the Trouble Is in Me?

    Posted on January 29, 2014 by Sheila Walsh

    Sheila Walsh

    "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33b (NIV)

    When Barry and I were first married I came up with a nickname for him: "Velcro-Boy."

    He earned that title because every time I turned around, there he was. In the beginning, I thought I might suffocate from lack of oxygen!

    If I went out for an hour to buy groceries he would call me: "Hey honey, where are you?"

    "I'm at the grocery store ... remember, I told you right before I left."

    I might on a good day make it to the cereal aisle before the phone rang again: "I'm missing you. Are you almost done?"

    I'm sure some of you are thinking what a blessed woman I am. But while it's lovely to have someone enjoy your company, I subscribe to the old adage that, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." My heart was never going to have that opportunity!

    What I've learned over the years is Barry is an extrovert and I am an introvert. Being with people energizes him, but I need alone time to process life.

    We can joke about it now, but back then there was more to my need for personal space than I wanted to admit. God was at work in my life, and marriage was the perfect forum for the trouble brewing in my heart to surface.

    During the last significant conversation Christ had with His closest friends He spoke these words about trouble: "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33b NIV).

    While some might find this verse comforting, it echoed differently inside of me the first time I heard it. The question stuck in my head: What if the trouble is inside of me?

    Have you ever felt that way? Do you believe that if others knew the whole truth about you they would, at best, be disappointed?

    Here's the tricky thing though. I wouldn't have been able to answer if you had asked me, "So, what's the big secret you're hiding from everyone, Sheila?"

    Something was wrong back in those early days of marriage, but I couldn't identify it. That's the sneaky thing about shame. Guilt says you've done something wrong, but shame says you are something wrong. Shame was like a squatter in my heart that refused to leave.

    So how does this unwelcome guest gain access to our souls? It often starts with some kind of abuse that changes how we see ourselves. To others, it may look as if everything is as still and peaceful as the surface of a lake. Only you know the storm raging inside, pounding your heart and soul onto the rocks of who you believe you are.

    Does the promise Christ made to his friends during the most brutal 24 hours of his life speak to us? Yes! Yes, a million times over!

    Christ, the innocent Lamb of God became shame so that we who are weighed down by it could have a place to take it. And that place is not our marriage relationships.

    In the early years of my marriage, I allowed that shame to intrude in my marriage, and it created a chasm between Barry and me. I pulled away and he wondered what he had done. Truth was, he'd done nothing. I was listening to the old siren song of shame.

    Shame tells us to hide but Christ calls us to walk in the light with each other. In his first letter, John wrote, "But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 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" (1 John 1:7-9, NLT).

    So is shame sin? No, but refusing to acknowledge its presence and allowing it to damage my marriage is.

    When shame raises its ugly voice, let's bring it into the light of Christ. Let's write down every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside our hearts and hear Christ say to us, "I overcame that!"

    Father God, You sent Your beloved Son to take my shame away. Today I choose to receive the love and freedom You offer and lay down the chaos of who I have seen myself to be. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Which of your relationship issues might be caused by shame?

    Put on paper every shameful feeling and condemning word that echoes inside your heart. Imagine Jesus saying specifically to you, "I overcame that!"

    Power Verse:
    2 Thessalonians 3:16, "Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Sheila Walsh. All rights reserved.

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

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with John

  • Thankfulness Changes Lives

    Posted on January 28, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    Karen Ehman

    "I thank my God every time I remember you." Philippians 1:3 (NIV)

    A winter Saturday afternoon found me cleaning our basement storage room. There were boxes of papers to sort, bins of holiday decorations to shuffle and other assorted items to realign neatly on the shelves. I'd estimated it would take me an hour or so to tidy up the space. Except I hadn't factored in one thing.

    Memories.

    The items I straightened and stacked weren't spectacular; they were common articles found in many basements and garages. But the fragrance of precious memories clung to them. Memories of events that changed my life. Memories of people who touched my heart. My pace slowed significantly.

    I gently folded the ivory lace dress my daughter wore for her baby dedication at church over two decades ago. My mother bought it for her and continues to think of her grandchildren, picking up special trinkets and treats for them. She has a knack for making others feel loved.

    I thank my God every time I remember my mom.

    A hand-sewn stuffed bunny rabbit sat perched on a corner shelf. My college roommate Kelly lovingly crafted it for one of my children when they were young. For over 30 years, Kelly has been a thoughtful friend who never forgets my birthday and faithfully prays for my family.

    I thank my God every time I remember my friend Kelly.

    I found an old key on a greyed leather keychain. Turning the keychain over I saw a simple word scrawled across the back: pool. Our former neighbor, a widow and retired school teacher, had a built-in swimming pool and we did not. Without children or grandkids nearby, she gave us a key so our young family could take a dip any time we wished.

    I thank my God every time I remember Mrs. B.

    Memories surrounded me as I sorted through yearbooks and photo albums. Old friends. Precious relatives. Former church members and coworkers. Pieces of my past. So many of these dear folks played a part in my life. Remembering them brought a smile to my face and a few salty tears to my eyes.

    I whispered a prayer of sincere thankfulness for all of those people who helped shape my life. Their encouragement, advice and sometimes mere presence were blessings to me. God even used the relationship bumps to help mold my character and teach me life lessons.

    In today's key verse, Paul writes to the believers at the church in Philippi declaring, "I thank my God every time I remember you." Just calling to mind the image of these loved ones gave the apostle reason to be grateful to God. But Paul didn't only thank God, Paul also told his friends of his thankfulness.

    Could we do the same today? To not only thank God for those in our lives but also let them know how grateful we are for them? Dare we divert from our daily routine to take a moment or two to shoot off an email, make a phone call, or even send a hand-written note to someone we thank God for each time we remember them?

    Gratefulness brings contentment and contentment brings peace—peace in knowing all the pieces of our lives string together to make us who we are today.

    Grab a pen or pick up your phone. Someone is waiting to hear how thankful you are for them. It might just make their day. And yours.

    Dear Lord, help me to take time today to not only thank You for the many special people in my life but to joyfully tell them as well. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Who in your life are you grateful for? Make a list. Then, after each name, mention a few reasons why.

    Take time today to contact at least one of these people and let them know why you are thankful God placed them in your life.

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 2:6-7, "Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude." (HCSB)

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Philippians

  • I Once Was a Shell of a Girl

    Posted on January 27, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

    Have you ever believed the injustices of the world were too big for you to make a difference? I have felt that way. So instead of doing something, even something small, I did nothing.

    I thought big, world-sized problems required big, powerful people.

    But then a friend told me about spending time with rescued victims of sex trafficking. I knew that conversation was meant for more than just two friends connecting. I couldn't just say, "Wow, how awful," and go about my normal life. I had to do something. Even if it was something very small.

    My small act didn't solve the evils of the world, but it did help combat the evil being done against one. And that small gift tendered my heart to do more.

    A few years later, I spent almost a week living and serving in a shelter for girls rescued from sex trafficking. Coming face to face with those affected by evil was starkly different than just hearing about it. I listened to their stories, saw their tears, and held their hands.

    What I heard and saw horrified me on deep, deep levels. I kept thinking, How can this be going on in America? How was I so unaware?

    And yet the reality is I personally know the horrors of being taken advantage of and feeling powerless. As a young girl I was caught in a vicious cycle of sexual abuse by a family "friend" for years.

    His threats kept me silent. Over time that silence turned into overwhelming shame. Hatred cloaked my soul in darkness. And that bitterness seeped into the deepest crevices of my heart, changing how I saw myself. A girl can get completely lost inside the caverns of hate and lose every bit of what used to make her feel alive.

    I once was a shell of a girl ravaged by evils done to me.

    But now I'm a girl who has hope bigger than the hurt. Light brighter than the darkness. And a life full of truth as God set me free from those death chains of hatred.

    How did I find that pathway to healing? Someone told me about Jesus.

    Jesus promised me a new life by following Him. As I did, He saved me by His love, comforted me by His grace, and freed me by His truth. Christian counseling helped me understand how to forgive and challenged me to share the hope I'd found. Every time I shared my story, it miraculously deepened my own healing. Every time I comforted another hurting woman, my own soul found deeper comfort.

    The Bible reminds us that God has comforted us "so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:4b-5, NASB).

    Your story and circumstances may be different, but we all need healing and comfort of some kind. Seek that comfort from God today. But don't stop there.

    God doesn't comfort us to make us comfortable. He comforts us to make us comfort-ABLE ... able to help others.

    Seek out someone to help today. And if you need a small place to start, I want to introduce you to a friend named Becky who was rescued and gave her life to Jesus just a few weeks ago. (For more on Becky's story, read the related resources portion below.)

    If you want to be part of the miracles happening in Becky's life and the lives of other women being helped right now, here are three ways:

    * Be aware there are women needing help.

    * Pray for these women and the organizations seeking to rescue them.

    * Buy a bracelet made by Becky or one of the other women being helped by a ministry we've partnered with called Fashion & Compassion. When you buy a bracelet, you get the name of the "rescued" woman who made it. You can pray for her specifically as you wear this beautiful reminder that small gifts matched with your prayers make a big difference.

    And if you have a story of hope like me, share it. Love. Comfort. And believe small gifts aren't small at all.

    Dear Lord, thank You for being our Comforter. Wrap Your loving arms around each woman struggling with hurt and pain in the world right now, Father. Please show me how I can help them specifically. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    What small thing could you do today to help those who are hurting in the community around you? Pray for them and then take action however you can.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 62:7, "My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Corinthians

  • Looking for Hidden Beauty

    Posted on January 24, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy Carroll

    "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NASB)

    As a child who grew up swimming in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, I was used to wading into murky waters. The sun sparkled brilliantly on the surface, but most of the time I couldn't see anything past a few inches from the top of the brownish Atlantic Ocean. My young mind whirled as my toes met with all kinds of unknowns.

    "What's that sharp edge?!"

    "Oooo ... a slimy thing!"

    "What just brushed past me?!"

    A sting from a jellyfish and watching Jaws fueled my active imagination and latent fears. I couldn't see what was swimming in the vast expanse around me, so I worried, "What's in there?"

    One rare day, I waded into the ocean and much to my surprise, my toes were in full view! I don't know what caused the unusual clarity, but that day our waters were like the crystal-clear blue seas of the Caribbean.

    Suddenly, I could see all the delights around me. Brightly colored seaweed, flashing silver scales of a fish, and shells were pushed along the bottom by the tide. The sight that remains sharp in my memory, though, was a yellow piece of seaweed with several exquisite black and white striped angelfish swimming around it.

    Was THAT what I had been worrying about?

    The little vignette looked like something I'd pay to see in a public aquarium. The beauty was riveting, and I was shocked to know these gorgeous fish had been there all along, hidden by the cloudy water.

    Life is so often like the lesson I learned that day. Most of the time we are wading through life without seeing every situation clearly, and it's easy to become fearful of what we can't see.

    But just because the beauty is hidden, doesn't mean there's no beauty to be found. I've often gone through hard times when I couldn't see where my next footstep would land. That's just a season, though, not the whole picture. We truly only see in part, but thankfully we can befriend the One who knows fully.

    If we could only see our lives through God's eyes, the lens of eternity, we'd see that just below the surface there is something beautiful. He has created each day and each moment with purpose. Sometimes our vision will be cloudy and other seasons will bring enough clarity to see the loveliness of God's concealed work.

    I remember sitting beside my friend's bedside as death approached. Watching her still face, I prayed for God's will to be done quickly and peacefully. Walking through that experience with her, a young mother with precious little boys, was a very murky time for me. I just didn't understand why her life had to end so soon.

    But as I prayed, God reminded me that every minute of her life was beautiful and precious, even those she spent near death in a hospital bed. Rather than just seeing the heartache and pain, God opened my eyes to see His good work in and purpose for my friend's life. Years later I still remember the beauty of her life. Her example of proclaiming God's goodness in the midst of a tragic reality modeled deep faith in her Father's reign over her eternal story.

    In each season of our lives, even the ones moving through murky waters when we can only see in part, we can trust in the One who views it all. There is something beautiful happening just below the surface. May God give us eyes to see it clearly.

    Lord God, You are good. I trust You are doing beautiful things in my life even when I can't see them. Please help me trust when I don't see Your eternal picture clearly and hold on tightly to You until a new season of clarity. Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    How would things change if you truly believed that this season won't last forever—that it's only part of God's bigger, eternal picture?

    List some of the other seasons of your life. Looking back, can you see with clarity some of the beautiful work of God even in the hard ones?

    Power Verses:
    Ephesians 3: 20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (NIV)

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 Corinthians

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