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Proverbs 31

  • Recapturing Us in the Midst of Our Rush

    Posted on November 6, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

    Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many options and demands to manage?

    So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early on in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.

    However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time it was my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived right down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine.

    Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.

    But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.

    I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary's funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what?

    When I reached Ken, I just bent down and gave him a hug. "How are you, Ken?" Tears filled his eyes, "Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa."

    And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more as I began to sense I was to invite Ken over for dinner.

    I started having this argument with God in my mind, "God, he's going to expect food. Cooking isn't in my Top 10 talents. I mean, sometimes we just order pizza and call it a night. My cooking doesn't even hold a candle to Mary's. Are you sure about this?"

    But Ken hadn't asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.

    So I smiled at Ken and said, "Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can't always promise it will be tidy and I'm certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure ... my house is never silent."

    Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.

    We never had candles or tablecloths or even a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken's lonely heart.

    We wanted to live out today's key verse, Romans 12:9-10, "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."

    Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn't my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But offering what little I had was used by God!

    We just did life and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary's ways of doing things and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive.

    And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.

    One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he stepped off the sidewalk to make his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply.

    He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, "Don't miss this. Don't rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in."

    I've never forgotten that.

    Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried and moved away.

    But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinners. We invite co-workers, acquaintances and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in.

    Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don't allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I've been entrusted with get my "less" instead of my "best" because I'm distracted.

    I'm so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours and it changed Ken's.

    It's amazing to me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings of my life. And I've done a lot of breathing it all in ever since.

    Dear Lord, help me see the assignments right in front of me. I desperately want to unrush my schedule so I can love those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 John 1:6, "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one small assignment right in front of you that God is calling you to fulfill? Commit to begin living that out this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Burned Out on Religion

    Posted on November 5, 2014 by Kerri Weems

    KERRI

    "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me — watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

    Tired. Worn out. Burned out on religion. All of those words described the state I found myself in just over three years ago. After being in full-time ministry for more than 12 years, I was so frustrated, frazzled and numb on the inside I was ready to quit! Nobody, not even my husband, knew how I was feeling.

    I was living a double life, in a way, but I was tired of the charade. I didn't want to fake it anymore ... I just wanted to let it go. The funny thing is, letting it all go was just exactly what I did. Only, I didn't let go by walking away from it all. I let go by learning to lean into God's grace.

    Jesus' invitation to let Him set the pace of our lives seems tailor-made to fit this generation of weary souls, even though He spoke these words two millennia ago. Recover your life ... real rest ... unforced ... free and light living. This lifestyle of unbroken fellowship with Jesus is the goal of the rhythms of grace. Rhythms of grace are God's divine tempo for your life. It's not about what we do or don't do. It's about Who is setting our pace.

    Think for a moment about rhythm and our most basic response to it: movement. I have a few playlists on my iPod that I listen to when I'm working out. There are different kinds of music for different kinds of movement.

    When I engage in the slow and sustained movements of stretching, I listen to ethereal tunes or piano instrumentals. But when it comes to cardio workouts, that won't do. I need energy! So I pump my favorite Christian hip hop artist into my headphones. Why? Because the rhythm makes me move. How I move — the speed, the motion, the duration — is a response to the beat I am hearing.

    The rhythm of the music sets my workout pace, but when it comes to the pace of my life, I have to ask, Who is setting the rhythm? The answer depends on who has access to my ears, mind and heart in that moment.

    People have different responses when it comes to dealing with the demands of life. Some people hop on the hamster wheel and keep going faster and faster, as if they can outrun the stress or even run away from it. Some people feel so helpless they just stop moving altogether. Others ignore problems hoping they will somehow go away.

    I understand each of those reactions — and I have experienced them plenty of times! Somewhere between the hamster wheel and the full stop, there is a perfect pace — a rhythm that's a custom fit for your life and the leg of the race you are running right now. This perfect pace is God's rhythm of grace for your life, His perfect tempo.

    Scripture encourages us to "run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1, NASB). Our Father's desire for all of His daughters is that we go the full distance of our life's race — and not just so we can crawl exhausted across the finish line. He wants us to enjoy the race and come to the end with our heads held high, a smile on our faces and our arms lifted in a double fist-punch! Reaching that moment, dear friend, begins with keeping time with God's perfect tempo for your life.

    Dear Heavenly Father, Help me tune into Your voice above all others. I want to move to Your rhythm and at Your pace so I can finish the race You have marked out for me with joy and wholeness. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 14:27, "My peace is the legacy I leave to you. I don't give gifts like those of this world. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful." (VOICE)

    2 Corinthians 12:9, "... and finally He said to me, 'My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.' So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on — I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me." (VOICE)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What tempo is playing the loudest in your ears right now? How would you describe your "movements" in response to that pace?

    © 2014 by Kerri Weems. All rights reserved.

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

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

  • The Ultimate Promise Keeper

    Posted on November 4, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    LEAH

    "The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does." Psalm 145:13b (NIV)

    A couple years ago, a loved one broke a promise to me. At first, I was shocked. This was someone I completely trusted. Someone I had shared my secrets and dreams with for years. We did life together and I believed with all my heart I could rely on this person.

    My shock quickly turned to anger and regret. Anger that I'd been betrayed. Regret that I trusted this person in the first place. Moments of awkward silence and days of heartache followed.

    How would I ever trust again? Could this relationship ever be repaired? What good is making a promise if it's going to be broken?

    Anyone can make a promise, but let's be honest. How many of us have actually kept every promise we've made in our lifetime? A promise only has real value if it holds hands with commitment, faithfulness and perseverance.

    Broken promises hurt. They have the potential to sever relationships, bring heartache and wound deeply.

    In this tough world we live in, struggles and heartache are inevitable, and they may leave us wondering: Whom can we trust? Is there anyone out there who actually keeps every promise?

    The answer is a glorious YES and we find proof in today's key verse. Psalm 145:13b tells us, " ... The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does."

    If you're like me and someone you love has broken a promise to you, this verse is like a brilliant sunrise, illuminating hope in the midst of your dark and dreary circumstances.

    I've discovered three truths in this passage I'd love to share with you today:

    God makes promises. Who are we that God would promise us anything? Yet, out of His love for us, He established many promises that are not hidden or secret. We can easily find them in Scripture. "God is not a human that He would lie ..." (Numbers 23:19a, NIV). When God makes a promise to us, it will be accomplished through His sovereignty.

    God is trustworthy. We can count on God to fulfill His promises. He is dependable, reliable and worthy of our trust. God has already kept His greatest promise, by sending Jesus to die on our behalf so we can have eternal life in Him (John 3:16). If God fulfilled this sacred promise out of love for us, how can we doubt He will keep the other promises He has made?

    God is faithful. Not just sometimes or when He wants to be. God is faithful in all He does (Deuteronomy 7:9). God is loyal to those He loves. He is 100 percent devoted to His children and nothing will ever change that. The vow He made to you is eternal.

    Life is challenging. People will disappoint us. And, yes, as much as we try, we may even fall short in keeping some of our promises to others. But no matter what happens in life, we can hold on to this profound truth: God will never break His promises. Never. He is trustworthy and faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

    God will do what He says He will do. And that, dear friend, is something we can confidently rely on forever!

    Lord, thank You for always keeping Your promises and loving me even in those moments when I haven't been faithful to You. Grow my faith and help me see You working in my life, so I can come to know You more. Let my trust in You increase as I learn to rely on Your faithfulness. Help me keep the promises I make to others. And when others have broken promises to me, let me never forget that Your promises and devotion extend for all of eternity. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 18:30, "God's way is perfect. All the LORD's promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection." (NLT)

    2 Corinthians 1:20, "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ. And so through him the 'Amen' is spoken by us to the glory of God." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Has someone broken a promise to you recently? Have you resolved the situation? If not, pray and ask God to show you how He wants to mend this relationship and your broken heart.

    Reflect on how trustworthy God is from today's key verse (Psalm 145:13b) and ask Him to help you become more trustworthy and faithful to others. Ask Him to give you wisdom and perseverance when it comes to keeping those promises you've already made.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Power of a Simple Prayer

    Posted on November 3, 2014 by Max Lucado

    MAX

    "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers." Philippians 4:6 (TLB)

    Want to see a father's face ashen or hear a mother gasp? Then sit nearby as they discover three words on the box of a new toy: "Some assembly required." What follows are several late night hours of squeezing "A" into "B," bolting "D" into "F," and hoping no one notices if steps 4, 5 and 6 are skipped altogether.

    Parents want a gift for their child. What they get is a project — sometimes a project for life.

    "Some assembly required." It's not the most welcome sentence, but it's an honest one. Marriage licenses should include those words, in large print. Job contracts should state them in bold letters. Babies should exit the womb with a toe tag: "Some assembly required."

    Life is a gift, albeit disassembled. It comes in pieces and sometimes falls to pieces. Part A doesn't always fit Part B. The struggle seems large and inevitably, something is missing.

    It's such a common problem. Who among us doesn't have an area of life that isn't working? How do you respond when the pieces don't fit? In frustration? In anger? In prayer?

    I'd like to say I always respond in prayer. The truth? I am a recovering prayer wimp. I doze off when I pray. My thoughts zig, then zag, then zig again. If attention deficit disorder applies to prayer, then I am afflicted.

    But I also know there's power in prayer, even simple prayers. Mary, the mother of Jesus, knew this too.

    Maybe you've heard the story. A couple thousand years ago there was a common wedding in Cana. The bride wasn't the daughter of an emperor. The groom wasn't a prince. Apart from one detail, the event would've been lost in time. But we remember it because Jesus was on the guest list.

    While Jesus was there, the wedding party ran out of wine. Enter Mary, mother of Jesus. For my nickel, she appears too seldom in Scripture. After all, who knew Jesus better than she did? So, on the rare occasion she speaks, we perk up. "The mother of Jesus said to Him, 'They have no wine'" (John 2:3b, NKJV).

    Consider this prayer of Mary. The pieces didn't fit, so she took the problem to Jesus. Mary wasn't bossy. She didn't say: "Jesus, they are out of wine. So, here is what I need. Go down to the grove at the corner. Accelerate the growth of some Bordeaux grapes. Turn them into wine." She didn't try to fix the problem.

    Nor was she critical. "If only they had planned better, Jesus. People just don't think ahead. What is society coming to?"

    Nor did she blame Jesus. "What kind of Messiah are you? If you truly were in control, this never would have happened!"

    She didn't blame herself. "It's all my fault, Jesus. Punish me. I failed as a friend. Now, the wedding is ruined. The marriage will collapse. I am to blame."

    None of this. Mary didn't whine about the wine. She just stated the problem.

    Then, "Jesus said to her, 'Woman, what does your concern have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.' His mother said to the servants, 'Whatever he says to you, do it'" (John 2:4-5, NKJV).

    Apparently Jesus had no intention of saving the wedding banquet. This wasn't the time nor the place He had planned to reveal his power. But then Mary entered the story: Mary, someone He loved, with a genuine need.

    So what did He do? Jesus told the servants to fill the water pots with water, and that water became wine the entire party enjoyed.

    Problem presented. Prayer answered. Crisis avoided. All because Mary entrusted the problem to Jesus. Her simple request prompted a divine response!

    Like me, you might think if you take your problems to Jesus every time you have one, you'll talk to Jesus all day long. I think that's the point. After all, the writer of Philippians reminds us in our key verse, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers" (Philippians 4:6).

    When life doesn't fit, it's easy to worry or be critical or try to fix it. But let's let Mary be our model. She took her problem to Jesus and she left it there. She stated her problem simply, presented it faithfully and trusted Him humbly.

    Father, You are good. I need help to lay my problems at Your feet. Help my friends to do the same. Thank You for hearing my cries for help and being faithful to respond in love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ephesians 6:18, "And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    In what areas of your life do you find yourself reclaiming problems even after you've given them up?

    What one thing do you need to trust Jesus with today?

    © 2014 by Max Lucado. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Slavery of Striving

    Posted on October 24, 2014 by Family Christian

    Angela

    "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

    "Why are you doing all these things?" she asked me over iced tea.

    Her boldness startled me. Sure, I had just filled my friend's ears with my true feelings about the craziness of my life. But I figured I was only doing what everyone else was doing. All the things I had to do.

    She could see I was drowning in all sorts of good activities that were taking the joy out of motherhood. I woke up daily with knots in my stomach and struggled through days as a homeschooling mom, shadowed by four little people. I was a hurried, overwhelmed mom who wished life could somehow be different.

    To my friend, it was simple. What if you just did less?

    I objected immediately. I was already convinced I should have been doing so much more — and performing so much better. But as I considered her question, my yoke became obvious. I realized that in my striving, I was living under a yoke of slavery. I was missing the freedom Jesus came to earth to give me.

    In Galatians 5, Paul reminds the believers that Christ came to set us free from the yoke of the Law. Or in other words, freedom from having to follow all the rules perfectly.

    Obeying the Law without error was impossible. But before Jesus came, this was how followers of God had to live. Then Jesus removed this heavy burden and provided freedom through His sacrifice on the cross.

    Yet, just as freed slaves sometimes ran back to their old masters, the first followers of Jesus were easily deceived into living under the Law again. Slavery was all they knew.

    The Apostle Paul knew it would take effort to walk the new way of freedom, to walk in the truth. In our key verse, Paul challenged the church: Stand firm, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by this yoke.

    In many ways, my striving resembled theirs. Sure, I wasn't technically a slave and I didn't have to worry about keeping the Law. And in my head, I knew I didn't need to prove my worth to God. But I found myself trying to prove my significance in some way. I lived under imaginary laws and unwritten expectations.

    I didn't even know what those laws were, just that I was bent on keeping or exceeding them. Because I needed to. Or so I thought.

    My friend's direct question that day helped reveal to me I was indeed living under a yoke. I desperately felt the need to prove myself as a mom. I reflected long on that realization and continued to ask why.

    Because of Jesus, I don't need to prove myself anymore. Jesus is enough. His grace alone is sufficient. When God looks at me, He sees His Son. He sees that I am His and He is mine. The more I grasp this truth, the more I'm changed.

    Do you know that weight of expectation too? Today the Word of God has good news. Instead of striving, we can rest confidently, standing firm in our freedom, our gift from Jesus.

    Stand firm, friends.

    Lord, help me live my days centered in this freedom You've given me. You did not die for me to remain a slave to perceived expectations or anything else. Thank You for breaking the bars of this yoke. Help me walk as a free woman. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Leviticus 26:13, "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high." (NIV)

    Romans 6:19, "Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy." (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think about the whys behind all you do in a typical week. Are you striving to meet unrealistic expectations and then stressed because of them? How are you burdened by a heavy yoke of slavery?

    Ask God to help you discern where you need to do less and to enable you to walk in freedom.

    © 2014 by Angela Parlin. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Crushing Times

    Posted on October 23, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be a part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don't snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.

    We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive ...

    ... when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    ... when the teacher sends one of "those" emails about my child.

    ... when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    ... when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let's journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.

    Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples" (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest said to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.

    And I don't think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.

    The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit ... and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes:
    washing,
    breaking,
    soaking,
    sometimes salting,
    and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well ... the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.

    Then the olives can be picked and preserved.

    And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

    The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are "pressed ... but not crushed"? Let's read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ..."

    This was one of the biggest "aha" moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn't the olive's end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It's also the way to get what's most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed ... pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    But here's the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I'm being processed, I forget it's for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I'm being crushed, I forget it's for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, "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)

    Are you going through a crushing time? Look back on the points Lysa made: crushing times are necessary, and allow for processing and preservation. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Why I Quit Depending on My Own Plans

    Posted on October 22, 2014 by Julie Gilles

    Julie

    "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

    Everything in me wanted to plow headlong into my next project. I yearned to get started. People were excited about my participation. And with only one older child living at home, my time was freer than ever.

    There was no reason for me not to move forward. Or so I thought.

    And so I planned. Created to-do lists. And tried to get busy.

    But strangely, nothing happened. Inspiration refused to bubble up. Over and over I tried. Over and over I accomplished nothing. I began to wonder what on earth the issue could be.

    So I prayed. Over the following weeks as my plans stubbornly refused to progress, I began to sense the Lord's gentle hand of restraint on my shoulder, holding back my ever-forward movement.

    And then my heart heard one word. Wait.

    I sensed God inviting me into a holy pause. And though I didn't understand why waiting was necessary, the Lord graciously brought my heart into alignment with His.

    Wait is one of my least favorite words because it's one of my least favorite things to do. Over the years I have waited for eternally important things, like the salvation of loved ones. I've also waited for medical test results, some hard teen years to be over, a sickness to pass and houses to sell.

    And while waiting is unavoidable, it can feel like a waste of time, primarily because waiting feels unproductive to my task-oriented nature. The truth is I enjoy the feelings of accomplishment and the satisfaction of a job well done. And that's okay.

    But is our productivity or desire for an easy, wait-free life more important than our obedience to God? Productivity, the desire for an answer or our longing for the wait to be over cannot hold more weight in our hearts than God's timing, His will and His perfect plans for that particular time in our lives.

    Sometimes a holy pause doesn't make sense to us.

    Yet our key verse reminds us not to depend on our own understanding, and instead to seek God's plans for our lives: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

    Had I failed to heed God's promptings, I probably would have been facing a project deadline in the midst of what turned out to be intense family-wide health issues, including many which were quite serious.

    What I learned during this holy pause is that down time does not equal wasted time. In God's economy and wisdom, down time — when prompted by Him — can spare us, equip us, refresh us or prepare us.

    If we are wise, we will use our down time, that holy pause, to allow our hearts to connect with His on a more frequent and deeper level. At some point the wait will be over and we will be free to move forward, with Him, into all He has for us at that particular time.

    When we seek God's will in all we do and learn to trust more in the Holy Spirit's promptings than our own desire for productive accomplishments, our hearts will come into alignment with His. And He will show us the right path, in His perfect timing.

    Lord, I long to obey You in every respect, even when I don't understand. Help me not to rush forward when You are inviting me into a holy pause. Bring my heart into alignment with Yours, and cause my thoughts to become agreeable to Your will. Thank You for accomplishing Your will in my life during every wait. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 40:31, "But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." (NLT)

    Psalm 31:15, "My times are in Your hands; deliver me from the hands of my foes and those who pursue me and persecute me." (AMP)

    Isaiah 55:9, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts." (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write down the things you are currently waiting for on an index card. Then write Isaiah 40:31 directly beneath your list. Allow this verse to settle in your heart when you feel frustrated or weary, knowing that God is strengthening you while you wait.

    © 2014 by Julie K. Gillies. All rights reserved.

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

  • How God Turns Your Past Into Purpose

    Posted on October 21, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "'Return home and tell how much God has done for you.' So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him." Luke 8:39 (NIV)

    As I sat in the church pew with my head bowed in prayer, I heard a voice reverberate so thunderously in my heart that it startled me.

    The voice was blaringly loud, as if it had been announced over the loudspeakers. I opened my eyes surprised to see that no one else was taken aback. All was calm.

    And so began my encounter with God.

    I felt God speak loud and clear a short message that held life-altering repercussions. Three powerful, commanding words: "Go and share!"

    I became overwhelmed with emotion. I was awestruck that God had spoken to me at all, but even more so at the three words I heard. Go and share? Go and share what?

    Then it hit me. Fear immediately overwhelmed me and I sank into the pew, trembling at what I thought God might be asking. I began to question God, "Surely You can't mean share my past, Lord. Surely You don't mean go and share what I prefer to keep secret." Yet, that is exactly what He meant. And I didn't like it.

    I didn't want to go, much less share. I didn't want to be transparent or vulnerable. I gratefully accepted His forgiveness and healing, but I wasn't ready to accept His call to give me a purpose. The man who was healed from demon possession in today's key verse experienced similar feelings.

    This tormented man lived as an outcast for many years, naked and alone in the tombs of Gadara, near Galilee. When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees and shouted at the top of his voice, begging for mercy from God. Jesus commanded the demons to leave him and then cast them into a herd of pigs that rushed down the steep bank into a lake and drowned. The man was healed physically, but more importantly, spiritually.

    He was so overwhelmed with gratitude for what Jesus had done, he begged to travel with Jesus and stay by His side. But Jesus had other plans. Instead, Jesus told him to go and share his story. And he did.

    What had once been a burden to bear became a powerful story of holy transformation. This man's past, and the healing he experienced, became the foundation of a purpose in life that he would have never imagined — living his life as proof of the life-changing power of Jesus.

    The man's story became a testimony when he was willing to share it with others. How many people believed in Jesus and are now spending eternity with Him simply because this former demon-possessed man willingly allowed his terrible past to become a story of redemption and purpose?

    People can deny Christ, dispute Scripture and ignore prophecy, but they cannot deny, dispute or ignore God's transformational power in someone's life. Our stories of pain, adversity and overcoming in Christ are meant to serve as a testimony of God's faithfulness and power, evidence that God really can take what the devil meant for evil and use it for good.

    I've since learned it is always God's desire for us to go and share our stories, whether we want to or not.

    God never wastes our pain. Only we do that. God has a plan for great purpose and a beautiful future for all who believe in Him. Not despite our past, but because of it.

    Lord, help me find the courage and the desire to share what You have done in my life. Turn my past into my purpose and refuse to let my pain be for nothing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    Isaiah 61:3, "... to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Have you been thankful for God's spiritual healing, but hesitant to share what He has done in your life?

    In what ways have you become an overcomer and found victory in Christ? How could you share that with others to impact their lives?

    How might God be able to use your past for a specific and unique purpose for ministry?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • My Morning Prayer

    Posted on October 20, 2014 by Wendy Blight

    Wendy

    "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." Mark 1:35 (NIV)

    I've always been indescribably drawn to the private life of Jesus.

    The Jesus who was led into the wilderness.

    The Jesus who agonized over His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    But the moments that interest me most are when Jesus withdrew to quiet places to pray — each prayer time a compelling picture of the Son's intimate connection with His Father.

    Mark tells us in our key verse that while it was still dark, Jesus slipped out of the house and went to a secluded place to meet with His Father. Mark doesn't tell us what morning this was. But we do know this prayer time followed a full day of healing the sick and casting out demons.

    After that kind of day, you would think Jesus might have slept in ... just for an hour or two. I would have. But not Jesus. He awakened before the sun peeked over the horizon to be refreshed and renewed for the ministry awaiting Him that day.

    Oh, how I long to know what Jesus said. How long did He pray? What did He pray? Could He audibly hear His Father's response? Were the angels with Him?

    And more practically, did His mind wander? Mine does. Sometimes I find myself praying and my mind travels to my "to do" list. Or I begin praising God but then the concerns weighing on my heart push through and usher out my praise.

    I imagine Jesus' mind didn't wander because He knew in those solitary places He was sitting in very presence of His Father. And what I forget — perhaps many of us do — is that when we pray, we too sit in the very presence of God, our Father.

    Although our eyes cannot visibly see Him, I picture Him drawing near, bending close to hear our every word. His Spirit surrounding us. His hands lifting our faces heavenward. His ears fixed on every cry of our hearts ... the praises, the confessions, the anxieties, the fears, the doubts ... He hears them all.

    Sometimes it's hard to awaken early. Hard to focus. And most of all, it's hard to fathom that the God of the universe, who holds the entire world in His hands, has time to hear our little prayers. But not only does He have the time, He calls us to come to Him. Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (NIV).

    So, let's band together this week for morning prayer. Each morning, find a solitary place to pray ... your own secret spot. Below, I've written a special prayer for us to open our time with God.

    Our Morning Prayer:

    Dear Lord, I don't know who or what will cross my path today. But I do know that You are my Rock and my Fortress. You are my Shield and my Strong Tower. Help me to anchor myself to You today. Teach me how to stand strong in You and choose only Your way today. Help me walk by Your truth and not my feelings.

    Help me to embrace anything that comes my way as an opportunity to see You at work and as an opportunity to point others to You.

    Thank You that You love me and nothing can ever take that away from me! Even if I fail today and fall short, You whisper Your unconditional love deep into my soul and remind me that Your mercies are new every morning.

    That truly amazes me, Lord.

    Thank You for meeting with me today. Would You wake me again tomorrow with the same sweet whisper of Your love? I can't wait to meet with You again. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Imagine the marvelous sight before God's eyes! Each morning this week, as Elohim, the God who created us, peeks over the edge of heaven, gazes across the continents, and spans the time zones, He will find His girls gathering to pray with one voice: Our morning prayer.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 33:3, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write our Morning Prayer on a notecard or in a journal and pray it out loud each morning. At the end of the week, record how God has used this time to transform your heart for prayer.

    © 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Value Is in the Eye of the Beholder

    Posted on October 10, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie

    "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Luke 12:6-7 (NIV)

    All they saw was a piece of useless junk. But I saw a precious treasure.

    Years ago on a cold winter morning, my young children and I were sitting around the kitchen table chatting about the gifts they wanted for Christmas. When my daughter expressed a desire for a new baby doll, memories from long ago came to mind.

    I remembered running excitedly down the stairs on Christmas morning to see my new doll sitting in front of the tree. She had big chocolate brown eyes, silky hair and a long ponytail that cascaded down her little pink ruffled dress. But her greatest feature was the cord in her back. When pulled, it wound all the strands of hair back into her head, transforming her long locks into a short bob.

    As I shared how beautiful and special this doll was to me, Kaitlyn said, "Awww. I wish we could have seen her." My eyes lit up with excitement as I shared with them that I still had her! I scurried to the closet, dug out the box and held up the doll with pride, thrilled to share a piece of my childhood with my children.

    After a few seconds of awkward silence, Morgan spoke up with child-like honesty: "Mom, she is ugly!"

    Then Kaitlyn said sheepishly, "Yeah Mommy. She kind of looks scary." Little Michael was too stunned for words.

    We all shared a laugh, but as I gently tucked my doll back into her box, I caught a glimpse of what they really saw.

    They saw an outdated toy covered in scuffmarks with missing eyelashes and oversized bulging eyes. They saw tangled, fuzzy red hair that had been pressed against the side of a box for 30 years and a faded dress that was stained and ripped.

    Yet because she was valuable to me, I saw beyond her imperfections. My love alone gave her value, and no one else's opinions would change that.

    As I stood in the aftermath of my kids shunning my doll, my thoughts wandered back to the years I spent questioning my own value — years wondering if the sins of my past or the failures of my present had stolen my value in God's eyes. Years not realizing how precious I was to Jesus.

    Apparently the disciples wondered about these things, too.

    In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus knew He and His disciples would soon be judged and persecuted. To calm their fears, He offered encouragement of their worth with the story about sparrows.

    In biblical times, sparrows had little value, other than being cheap food for the poor.

    Jesus shared with His disciples how God loved the little sparrows, even though they were worthless in the eyes of the world. He assured them God's love for them was immeasurably more.

    Jesus wanted them to understand He saw beyond their imperfections, sins and fears, and beheld them as valuable, no matter what anyone else thought. He loved them simply because they were His. He alone gave them great value.

    Like the disciples, Jesus values each of us, no matter what. Nothing we have ever done or endured has lessened our value in Christ.

    You see, real value is in the eye of the beholder, and Christ is the Beholder of us all. Our value not only makes us precious to God, but it also makes us usable for amazing purposes in His kingdom that we would have never imagined.

    Might you see yourself through His eyes today and embrace who you are because of Whose you are?

    Lord, I struggle with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness due to the hardships I have endured and the mistakes I've made. Help me see myself through Your eyes and accept how valuable I am in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have you allowed the opinions of others to convince you that you are not valuable to God?

    In what ways have your past experiences equipped you to serve God in a special way?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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