• Kitchen Sale

Proverbs 31

  • Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks

    Posted on May 22, 2015 by Family Christian

    Amy Carroll MAY 22, 2015

    Graduating from the School of Hard Knocks

    "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

    From my days as a teacher, I remember the sinking feeling of being ignored. Glazed eyes, slumped postures and fidgety fingers signaled to me my students had tuned me out … again, and I knew we were about to face failures.

    "But I didn’t know what to do on my homework," a child would exclaim.

    "You never taught me this," I’d hear after handing out a bad test grade.

    "Why didn’t you help me?" another tear-stained face would plead.

    On one hand, I was sympathetic. I remembered being a child, sitting at school, wondering if the day would ever end. Other enticements — the sunshine outside, my new bike at home, my best friend whispering beside me — would capture my attention, and my teacher’s voice was drowned out by shinier thoughts.

    Although I understood my students, my sympathies didn’t run very deep. I had taught them the material, and it was my passion to make the lessons as fun and interesting as possible. But I couldn’t make them learn. They ultimately had to choose to be good students in order to avoid the pain of failure.

    Remembering my school days led me to ponder my own adult learning patterns. More often than not, I seem to learn from the school of hard knocks. Recently, I created drama among my friends when I felt the need to fix a problem that was none of my business. The pain of my mess rolled over and over in my heart until I cried out to God, "Lord, I feel beaten and bruised from my failures. Thank You for teaching me through them, but isn’t there an easier way?"

    Immediately, today’s key verse came to mind. Our wise and kind Father gently reminded me of His infinitely better way. He’s given us His Word, the Bible, to instruct us so that we don’t have to stay continually in the classroom of pain and failure.

    As I thought through the pain of my busybody ways, God used Scripture to show me how I could have avoided the situation. He brought I Thessalonians 4:11-12a to my memory. "… Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders …" (NIV).

    God was using His Word to do exactly what was promised in our key verse, 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

    His Word teaches us. God taught me to desire a quiet life instead of being embroiled in the drama around me.

    His Word rebukes us. He showed me that I wasn’t minding my own business. Ouch!

    His Word corrects us. Instead of being focused on others, I need to have my eyes fixed on my own calling and work.

    His Word trains us in righteousness. As I live these lessons, they will keep me from repeating my mistakes, and I’ll represent Jesus well to those around me while avoiding the consequences of my own sin.

    As God’s girls, let’s make it our desire to graduate from the school of hard knocks rather than staying permanently enrolled. I’d much rather learn from God’s Word than the painful consequences of my choices.

    Knowing my flaws, I’m certain I’ll have more opportunities to learn from my mistakes, but I’ve embraced a new and improved pattern. Each day, I gaze intently into the face of my Teacher, give Him my full attention and trust Him to show me how to grow and change.

    Lord, I’m willing to learn through my mistakes but I ask You to make my heart responsive to the teaching of Your Word. Show me where I need to change as I read Scripture each day, and help me to transform before I struggle and fail. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Matthew 22:29, "Jesus replied, ‘You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’" (NIV)

    Proverbs 2:6-7, "For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless." (NIV)

    Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller launching June 22. Click here for more information.

    If you’re looking to shift from the desire to change to the ability to change through Christ, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places might be helpful for you.

    Amy Carroll invites you to visit her blog today where you can get a free printable of Scriptures about God’s wisdom.

    Which way have you most often learned — the school of hard knocks or the instruction of Scripture?

    If you answered, "school of hard knocks," how do you think your life would change if you decided to graduate?

    If you answered, "instruction of Scripture," pause now and thank God for His grace to learn hard lessons the best way.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Stop Reading Your Bible

    Posted on May 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 21, 2015

    Stop Reading Your Bible

    "Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions; I will put them into practice with all my heart." Psalm 119:34 (NLT)

    I have a request today: Stop reading your Bible.

    Does that shock you? Relieve you? Make you angry at worst? Curious at best?

    Read on and see what I mean by this request.

    There have been many days in my Christian journey when God was reduced to something on my to-do list. Somewhere along the way, I picked up an unwritten checklist of sorts explaining what "good Christians" are supposed to do:


    Read your Bible.

    Go to church.

    Don’t cuss.

    Be nice.

    Being the rule-following girl I am, I subscribed to the good things on that list and waited with great expectations to receive the zap of contentment and happiness good Christian girls are supposed to exude.

    But then I felt something was wrong with me. I still felt restless. I still reacted in anger. I still felt a bit hollow.

    I was going through all the motions but didn’t feel connected to Jesus. Others around me seemed very connected. They would talk of being "moved by the Spirit." They would hear from God Himself. They would clap their hands and shout "Amen" in the middle of a sermon that sounded like Greek to me.

    I often felt like a weightless soul grasping at the air, hoping to somehow snag this Jesus that was just out of reach. Have you ever been there?

    Have you ever sat in a church service watching everyone else eagerly flip open their Bibles to the exact right passage, while you were left sweating because you didn’t have a clue how to find what they were reading?

    Have you ever walked out of church watching everyone else smile and shake hands and seem so gentle while you mentally beat yourself up for throwing the orange juice carton across the kitchen that very morning?

    Suddenly this nagging sense creeps in that you don’t belong — that you’ll never get it — that you don’t have what it takes to be a Christian. That’s where I was. I lived there for a long time until someone challenged me to stop simply reading my Bible because it was a thing on my Christian checklist. Instead, they challenged me to experience God. To know God.

    In other words, I needed to look at the words in the Bible as a love letter. God’s love letter to a broken-down girl. A love letter not meant to simply be read … but a love letter meant to be lived.

    I won’t lie. It took a while. It took many days of sitting down with my Bible while praying gut-honest prayers. I told God I wasn’t connecting. I told Him I wanted to understand, just like the psalmist in our key verse, Psalm 119:34.

    I asked Him to help me. I begged Him to help me. Finally, one verse came alive to me. I literally felt moved when I read it. I think I read it 100 times that day. I memorized it and thought about it all day long. All week long. Maybe all month long.

    I was overjoyed. I had a verse. A verse where Jesus spoke tenderly and clearly and specifically to me. It was Jeremiah 29:11, "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’" (NIV)

    Slowly, I added more verses. Day by day. Chapter by chapter. And eventually my Bible became my greatest treasure, my love letter.

    Now, every day I open up God’s Word with great expectation and intentionally look for my verse for that day. Usually one verse among the many I read during my devotion time grabs my heart and I know it’s meant just for the day ahead. And then I attempt to live that verse out in some way, that very day.

    When I make the connection between what happens in my life that day and why I need that verse, I experience God. I see Him being active in my life and I become even more deeply aware of His constant presence.

    I’m sure some Bible scholars would probably take issue with my simplistic approach. But it sure has helped me throw fewer orange juice cartons across the kitchen.

    And having less thrown cartons sure seems like a step in the right direction to me.

    So, back to my original statement. Stop reading your Bible. In other words, stop simply reading it because you have to cross it off the Christian checklist.

    Read it with great expectations of connecting more deeply and living more authentically with God.

    Dear Lord, thank You for showing me the Christian life can be so much more than a checklist. I want to not only read Your Word, but live it out each day. Please give me the wisdom to understand and the courage to become more like You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Psalm 119:130, "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple." (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God is flawless …" (NIV)

    If you’ve ever felt discouraged about reading and studying God’s Word because you don’t think you’re doing it right, you’re not alone.

    In the United States, 94% of households have at least 1 Bible in their home but only 24-29% of those same people are engaging with the Bible outside of church.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we want to change that and believe it’s possible, with your help. Within the next few months, we are launching several initiatives including a mobile phone app called "First 5." It will be specifically designed to help women and teen girls give the first 5 minutes of each day to God’s Word before social media.

    Based on a nationwide research study sponsored by P31, this app is needed and wanted by women of all ages.

    Please support this crucial project by clicking here.

    Read Psalm 119 this week and make a list of some of the amazing ways Scripture tells us how God’s Word can help us every day.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What's Their Secret

    Posted on May 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Renee Swope MAY 20, 2015

    What's Their Secret

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you …" John 17:21a, (NIV)

    Have you ever wondered why we need each other? Why we crave relationships yet find it hard to build the kind we long for?

    My craving for closer friendships surfaced as I sat across the table listening to the sounds of laughter and admiring the bond between two women I’d met at a lunch. What they had was uncommon.

    The way they loved each other, how well they knew each other and how much they enjoyed each other reminded me of a Hallmark commercial. But I wasn’t watching television. This was real life.

    And when I asked how long they’d known each other, they replied, "More than 60 years."

    More than 60 years? Now I was more interested in listening than eating lunch. So I put down my fork and picked up a pen like a journalist and tried to think of as many questions as I could. How had they met? What had they done to build a lifelong friendship? What moments and memories filled all those years and kept their hearts so closely knit together? What’s their secret?

    Here’s what I discovered:

    They were intentional about making their friendship last because it mattered to them.
    They became friends in grade school, but their friendship grew and continued long after they both married their high school sweethearts, who played football together.

    Things had to be planned and time together had to be priority.
    Their families vacationed together for years. And when they were young and had little money, they’d all get together for a meal while the kids played in the yard. But as their kids got older it became more challenging, so they’d get together and play cards once a week — a tradition that was still going strong.

    They determined early on they would be there for each other no matter what.
    These two lifelong friends were now widowed and counted on each other for companionship and laughter, weekly shopping adventures and everything in between. And they had an understanding between them. If one of them starts feeling down she’ll call the other and say, "Hey, I need to get out of the house." And then they go do something together.

    I thought about how different our generation is, how busy we are. How much more we rely on screen time more than face-to-face time. And a twinge of sadness came over me. Would there be anyone in my life I would have known for 40 or 50 years, much less 60 years, when I’m 70 or 80 years old?

    Besides my husband, which friend will be able to finish my sentences? Who will know me better than I know myself?

    From the beginning of time, God created us to be in relationship — with Him and each other.

    Designed in His image, our need for connection comes from God, who has always been in community: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    Jesus’ final prayer for His friends in today’s key verse challenges me. In it, He prays they will know the Father the way He does, and that the world would know His love because of their love for one another. And in Jesus’ prayer we find His heart’s desire for us to be closely connected with each other:

    "… that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you" (John 17:21a).

    How can we do this better? Maybe we can be creative and get together for lunch during a busy workday, or meet to plan menus for our families each week, do laundry at one of our houses, or take turns cleaning out each other’s closets or running errands together.

    That was their secret. They wanted to be together and so they made sure they were.

    Dear Lord, the longer I live, the harder it seems to build close friendships. With family and work, and all I have on my plate, intimate friendships drop to the bottom of my priorities. And yet I know deep friendships are part of what You want for me. Show me how to get creative, find a new starting point and be intentional by reaching out to a friend this week. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Proverbs 18:24, "Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family." (MSG)

    Looking for a great book to help you grow closer in your relationship with God and a friend, or a group of friends? Renee Swope’s book, A Confident Heart, can help you do just that! Packed with personal stories and Biblical truths we need friends to remind us of, each chapter also includes great conversation-starter questions at the end.

    How often do you make time for friendships each week? What is one step you can take today to grow closer to a friend you already have, or make a new one?

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Finding Faith in the Fog

    Posted on May 19, 2015 by Family Christian

    danya jordan MAY 19, 2015

    Finding Faith in the Fog
    Danya M. Jordan

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

    Reality snapped me to attention. Just two hours before, I had left an encouraging Christian conference, full of hope, full of the love of Jesus, full of direction for my life, full of courage to get it done.

    Or so I thought.

    The upbeat praise and worship music streamed from the car speakers into my heart as I loudly sang the words. Suddenly, though, my singing stopped.

    My fingers white-knuckled the steering wheel as I rounded a corner of the mountain road, right into a dense fog. The fog was so thick it shielded the landscape like a thick blanket.

    I had driven this familiar stretch of road a hundred times before. I knew it by heart. But at that moment, my heart was panicky.

    My eyes strained to see past the hood of the car. I knew they were there, but I couldn’t see the white lines on the two-lane road. All I could do was cry out to God.

    "Lord, I am scared. Please guide me. You are the same God on the sunny, clear, mountaintop days, when I can see for miles, as You are right now. I see nothing. Please show me the way. I am doubting everything I know to be true."

    As my car inched along, I reflected on the uplifting conference where I had been for the last three days. God called me there to clearly trust Him and serve Him. I knew that full well, just as I know my name.

    But minutes later, I was doubting God. I was so scared, but I had to keep driving. All I could do was repeat a desperate prayer: "Lord, help me. Lord, help me. Help me keep going. Lord, help me."

    About an hour later, I exited off the twisting, mountainous road and into the driveway of my destination. I exhaled. I don’t know if I had fully breathed since I hit the fog.

    My hands still shook as I reached in the dark for my car door handle. I deeply inhaled that foggy mountain air and made my way to the front door. Once inside the house, I fell to my knees in thanksgiving for the miracle God had just brought me through. It was only then that I realized I had just lived a message: Foggy nights produce deeper faith.

    Since then, I have hit other "patches of fog" in my faith journey. Usually the doubt comes soon after a deeply meaningful time when I feel God’s presence and see clearly His purpose for me. It is then that my faith is tested.

    Our key verse reminds us that true faith is finding certainty in uncertain territory. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

    This chapter, Hebrews 11, is often referred to as the Bible’s "Hall of Faith." I love reading all the different examples of extraordinary faith, from Abel and Abraham to Rahab the prostitute. Each "Hall of Faith Honoree" demonstrated faith in the foggy times of life.

    God is with you, whatever circumstances you find yourself in today, whether you’ve just celebrated an uplifting, mountaintop experience or groped blindly through the foggiest night of your life. Know the same God on the sunny, clear day is the same God in the foggy night.

    May we be encouraged to find and strengthen our faith in the fog and in the SON.

    Lord Jesus, You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Thank You for the sweet times when I can feel Your presence so easily and know Your purpose for me. Forgive me for doubting You in the foggy times. Thank You for testing my faith and refining me. Please help guide my every step. Help me do what You call me to do, even when I’m scared of the darkest hours and the foggy circumstances of my life. I am Yours. You are mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Isaiah 7:11, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." (NIV)

    Matthew 15:28, "Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment." (NIV)

    If you’ve ever wondered where to take the next step, you’ll appreciate Lysa TerKeurst’s book, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith. Get your copy today.

    For more inspiration about this topic, stop by Danya Jordan’s blog today.

    When have you felt God’s presence clearly, like a mountaintop experience?

    What foggy night circumstances have you experienced lately? Stay close to God, and trust that He is with you through it all.

    © 2015 by Danya Jordan. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Cure for Morning Madness

    Posted on May 18, 2015 by Family Christian

    Wendy Pope MAY 18, 2015

    The Cure for Morning Madness

    "When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests." Deuteronomy 17:18 (NLT)

    It was one of those mornings when God’s work in my heart and life was not very evident to those I love. Somehow, our morning routine had been knocked off schedule.

    My response? To fuss at everyone.

    My mood plummeted from bad to worse. After searching frantically for missing shoes, throwing book bags and lunches in the car, feverishly buckling children in car seats and slamming every door I could get my hands on, I zoomed off down the road.

    Once settled and on our way, my anger turned to remorse. How had I lost so much patience, love and trust so quickly? As conviction filled my spirit, prayer filled my lips. I’d missed a few days of my usual morning time reading Scripture, and it showed in my actions. My soul craved the Word of God to renew, refine and redirect me.

    For thousands of years, people have needed God’s Word to help guide them. In today’s key verse, we read some of the directives given to the kings of Israel. God knew any leader for His people would need His instructions. That’s why the Lord told them, "When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests" (Deuteronomy 17:18). It goes on to say: "He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives" (Deuteronomy 17:19a, NLT).

    Surely if the kings of Israel needed to keep a copy of God’s Word near them to read daily, we do too! God’s Word teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains in righteousness and equips (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So on mornings when we’re in the midst of frenzied fussing, it helps tame our tempers and settle our souls.

    That morning, through tears, I glanced over to the passenger side seat for my Bible that I always kept there. I’d hoped to read it in the school parking lot once my kids were dropped off. Much to my dismay, I’d forgotten to grab it during the morning madness. My soul deflated fully. I needed God’s Word.

    I decided to make it a point to never again to be without a copy of the Bible nearby. Just as it was necessary for the kings to have a copy of the Book of Instruction beside them, it’s necessary for you and me to have the Bible near to guard and guide us throughout the day.

    I’ve also learned it really isn’t enough to have my Bible nearby. I need to get into it, study it and really connect it with my life.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we know the difference God’s Word makes. And we want to help you dig in deeper with our free First 5 mobile app, launching this summer. With God’s vision and your help, Proverbs 31 Ministries is striving to eradicate Biblical poverty. And we want to start by developing this First 5 app to:

    • Bring life and truth to the First 5 minutes of every day.
    • Provide a healthier alternative to hopping on social media with the first moments of our day.
    • Give us the opportunity to share hope with the people in our lives who struggle with putting God’s Word first.

    We are praying that people whose hearts are burdened like ours will join us as we bring the Word of God to women across the globe. We need your help. Join us today.

    Dear Lord, I ask You today to give me a hunger for Your Word and an urgency to apply its truths to my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (ESV)

    Psalm 119:16, "I delight in Your decrees, I will not neglect Your word." (NIV)

    Deuteronomy 17:19-20a, "He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way." (NLT)

    You can help us by giving 5 to the "First 5." Give $5, $50, $500, $5,000. Your gift is needed! Make YOUR 5 really count! Join us today.

    Visit Wendy Pope’s blog to learn how to develop a love for God’s Word.

    When is the last time you opened your Bible to read it as an act of obedience and worship to the Lord?

    There are many ways to be in Scripture every day. Listening to an audio version, using an app on your smartphone or tablet, and of course, reading a printed copy! How will you get into God’s Word today?

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • The One Thing We Can All Have in Common

    Posted on May 15, 2015 by Family Christian

    Tracie Miles MAY 15, 2015

    The One Thing We Can All Have in Common

    "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." Romans 8:28 (NIV)

    As I read her email, my heart felt heavy. She had endured so much pain in her life, none of which she deserved or caused.

    Then I read another email. And this person’s story was completely different, yet the pain and heartache of her life seemed unfair, too, and more than one person should have to endure. Then another email. Then another.

    Countless emails sat in my inbox — each one saturated with intense emotion and vulnerable honesty. All sharing a different experience and a different level of hurt, shame or regret.

    One had been physically abused. One was betrayed. One battled addiction. One divorced. One had been sexually abused. One struggled with fear and anxiety. One had chosen abortion. One had been unfaithful. One had a serious disability.

    The list was long, and every one of these women had something in her past that once made her feel insignificant, void of value and unlovable to God. Yet, despite their different experiences, all these women had one amazing thing in common, which stood out loud and clear.

    You see, each one had allowed God to transform her pain into purpose, and as a result, their lives now shine as a living testament to the power of a Holy God. Each one had watched God turn something difficult into something that would glorify Him.

    Romans 8:1-2 says, "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death" (NIV). This verse reminds us that no matter what has happened in our lives, or what we have or have not done, God loves and values us unconditionally.

    Later in that same chapter, in today’s key verse, we read God not only loves us, but has a plan and a purpose for our lives — not despite our past, but because of it.

    Paul experienced pain and suffering through various forms of persecution: imprisonment, beatings and rejection. He spoke from the wisdom of his own experiences and exemplified the transforming power of God’s ability to turn any mess into a message.

    Paul encouraged believers to embrace God’s promise that He can use all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, not only for God’s good, but also our own.

    Regardless of how difficult our pasts are, as children of God we have a commonality in Christ Jesus our Savior: God will use for good what the devil intended for evil. When we allow God to use our pain for a purpose that glorifies Him and ministers to others, we enjoy the blessing of spiritual healing and transformation like never before.

    No matter how different our prior experiences, we can still have one precious thing in common. We can each choose to live as proof of the power of Jesus to change a life. All things truly can be used for the good of those called by Him.

    Lord, I’ve always felt I couldn’t be fully loved or forgiven because of my past and that maybe You had no purpose for me. Help me embrace the promise of Romans 8:28 — of Your love and plans for my life. Help me discover the amazing purpose You’ve ordained just for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (NLT)

    Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (NIV)

    Ever wondered about your value to God, and if God could really use you for a divine purpose? Get your copy of Your Life Still Counts by Tracie Miles and embark on a journey of healing, life transformation and the discovery of purpose.

    To help you remember Romans 8:1 every morning and how precious you are to God, Tracie is giving away two Your Life Still Counts Keepsake Coffee Mugs to enjoy your favorite beverage during your quiet time or prayer time. Visit her blog for a picture of the mugs and find out how to enter to win!

    What has happened in your life that made you feel unworthy of God’s love? Surrender those things to God and pray for a new perspective, peace and purpose.

    How has God used a difficult experience in your past to equip you to minister, help or comfort others in a special way?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Praying for My Marriage

    Posted on May 14, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 14, 2015

    Praying for My Marriage

    "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." Psalm 145:18 (NIV)

    I was cleaning my kitchen counter the other day and brushed past a framed snapshot taken on my wedding day. Someone caught that moment we were driving away, waving to all our wedding guests.

    I stared at the photo taken 22 years ago. I laughed at how big my hair was. I sighed at how much smaller my waist was. And I wished I could pull that young bride aside and give her some advice and perspective that would certainly have benefitted me.

    I would have whispered …

    "Sweetheart, there is only one day where marriage naturally looks like the storybooks. It’s this day. This day, your wedding day, is where every hour has been arranged and planned to be beautiful and special. And as you wave goodbye to this one day, realize what happens from here is all about choices.

    "Choose to understand that love isn’t always a feeling. Many days love will be a choice. It’s a choice to press through and learn to enjoy the fragile blend of both the bliss and disappointments of two people learning to become a family.

    "Being married is amazing. Being married is incredibly difficult. Being married can seem impossibly hard. Being married can seem incredibly beautiful. There is no other person who can frustrate me the way my husband can. There is no other person who can make me feel as loved as my husband can.

    "Yes, marriage is a fragile blend of all this and more.

    "Remember to keep little things little through the power of prayer, humility and the discernment to know how and when to address them. Watch these kinds of disillusioning thoughts and capture them before they take root:

    "He didn’t load the dishwasher even after I asked him to. He doesn’t listen to me.

    "He just handed me a brochure about the new gym opening down the street. I’m never good enough for him.

    "He took a phone call while we’re on date night. He doesn’t love me enough to give me his full attention.

    "Yes, the unraveling places of relationships often occur in these kinds of spots with these kinds of thoughts. Little discouragements can grow into big wedges of discontentment.

    "And most of all, remember to pray your marriage through. Don’t fall into the trap of just thinking about your differences, discussing your issues, complaining about your challenges and attempting to fix these things on your own.

    "Thinking, talking, complaining and working on those things is not at all the same as praying for them."

    And then I would end this sermonette to my young bride self with the best advice of all: "Remember, the more you do battle for your marriage on your knees, the less you will fight in the flesh."

    And as I finished imagining this conversation I would have so loved to have, I felt challenged that even 22 years later, I needed a fresh dose of applying my own advice.

    I still need to bring every concern I have and blessing I desire for our marriage to the Lord in prayer.

    Dear Lord, You have called me to this great honor of being a wife, but I can’t do this without You. I don’t want to do this without You. Help us to put You at the center of our marriage every day, so we may glorify You through our relationship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Jeremiah 29:12, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (NIV)

    Be equipped to start declaring powerful words over your husband and your marriage with "Praying Boldly for Your Marriage: A 5-Day Challenge." Click here to sign up for free!

    For more Biblical encouragement, connect with Lysa on Instagram, @LysaTerKeurst.

    Commit to praying these Scriptures over your marriage each day this week:

    • "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (2 Samuel 22:17, 29, NIV).
    • "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6, NIV).
    • "What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NIV).
    • "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
    • "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Stop Being a Debt Collector

    Posted on May 13, 2015 by Family Christian

    T. Suzanne Eller MAY 13, 2015

    When You Stop Being a Debt Collector

    "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’" Matthew 5:38 (NLT)

    Years ago, if you were to ask me if I was an "eye-for-an-eye" kind of girl, I’d say no. But in reality, I was. And, I hadn’t allowed God to heal my heart because I was waiting.

    I was waiting for an apology for wrongs done.

    I was waiting for someone to change before I took the plunge myself.

    I was waiting for an acknowledgement that I didn’t deserve what happened.

    My first year of college, I was fully on my own. A small scholarship paid for tuition. I worked two jobs — one in the evenings during the week and another on the weekends, to pay room and board. I was frustrated that it seemed so much easier for everyone else. Some students didn’t have to worry about how much textbooks cost. Their parents put gas in their cars and a few extra dollars in their bank accounts.

    It seemed so unfair, while I dragged myself to classes on Mondays, exhausted from working two night shifts and constantly worried whether there’d be enough left in my wallet to pay the next round of bills.

    I let resentment pile up.

    It was stacked on top of the other resentments I had tucked away in my heart from childhood.

    I carried that growing pile of resentment with me when I left college and married. I didn’t want to feel that way, so I often pushed it down. I prayed. I tried to do things differently with my own children.

    But when things got hard, I’d look back and point to my past.

    If only they’d done something different.

    If only things had been easier.

    It was my eye-for-an-eye barter system.

    Though I sensed God leading me to let go of this debt, I couldn’t quite release it. When, and if, the wrongdoing was paid for in full, then I’d be OK to move on. But that left me holding tightly to anger, pain and insecurity — and going nowhere in the healing process.

    In today’s verse, Jesus contested this view of payback. In Matthew 5:38, He said: "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’"

    I had heard that too.

    I’d heard when someone hurts you, forgiving her without any change on her part was a weakness.

    I’d heard that when you didn’t get what you thought you deserved, you should dig in your heels until you did.

    Yet Jesus’ words empowered believers, like me, to think differently. An eye-for-an-eye might just leave the offender and the offended both without an eye. And God has something for us to see beyond the hurt.

    In Romans 12:19a, Paul says, "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God …" (NLT).

    My anger back then was far from righteous. It was deeply ingrained and surprisingly hidden, but it surfaced in my thoughts. It conflicted with my ability to trust.

    It even affected those who were innocent of wrongdoing, because my eye-for-an-eye mentality was hypersensitive to potential wrongdoing. It left little room for grace, even for those who loved me well.

    In order to mend my heart, I had to exchange payback for paid-in-full.

    Giving up my eye-for-an-eye mindset felt unnatural at first. But then, all the debts that kept this God-girl trapped began to fall away, and that left room for God to take up residence in the wounds of my past.

    I stopped waiting for an apology.

    I stopped waiting for others to change.

    I stopped waiting for an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

    I stopped recounting the wrongs.

    And I started living. Finally God released me from the debt collection business so I could just be me.

    Lord, I willingly walk away from a life dedicated to collecting the debts of others. You paid in full the price to mend my heart, and I receive that healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Romans 12:21, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (NLT)

    Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller launching June 22. Click here for more information.

    If you’re looking to shift from the desire to change to the ability to change through Christ, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, might be helpful for you.

    Consider how much energy you devote on a daily basis to thinking about people who have caused you pain.

    What might happen if that space was available to receive what God has for you today?

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Which Truth Sets Us Free?

    Posted on May 12, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer MAY 12, 2015

    Which Truth Sets Us Free?

    "Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’" John 8:31b-32 (NIV)

    I lay awake, eyes staring at the ceiling, mind racing with fearful thoughts. "What if" questions consumed every last remnant of the fragile peace I’d managed to scrounge together during the daylight hours. In the dark, fear unpacked its bags and took up residence. Not just one day, but it went on for weeks.

    I didn’t tell anyone how afraid I was. It was embarrassing. After all, others saw me as a leader … a strong Christian. What if they knew fear over the results of a pending medical test had me sleepless? Fearful to the point of actual trembling? Sick to the point of not eating?

    My pride kept me silent, a prisoner to the fear.

    Night after night the fear kept me wide-eyed. And day after day, I silently suffered while waiting for the doctor’s call.

    After several weeks of this misery, I stumbled upon a Bible verse. I wasn’t looking for help; I just happened to find it. But something in the words spoke deep to my spirit. It was James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (NIV).

    It was one of those instances where I sensed God trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure it out. Kind of like when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t pull it from memory. I wanted healing, but what was the sin? Surely fear for my health wasn’t sinful, I thought. So what was God trying to tell me?

    Then I had a dream.

    In the dream, I found myself in a storm-ravaged house, looking out a broken wall at another storm coming. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled through a cage tunnel to escape. The tunnel led to the safety of someone else’s house.

    Immediately I understood James 5:16.

    The broken-down house was my heart. The storm was the fear battering my heart. To escape the fear, I had to humble myself before others, and fully confess my pride (that was the sin) and the depth of my fear.

    So I started dialing and through sobs, confessed it all to a handful of people, asking for their prayers. With each confession, fear lost its grip.

    My friends’ prayers spoke truth to the lies Satan had planted in my mind. Their confidence in God’s power helped restore my weakened faith. Their love reminded me I wasn’t alone and still wouldn’t be if the worst happened.

    Before the doctor’s call ever came, I was healed from the fear. God’s truth battered down my prison door.

    Years before, I’d heard my pastor teach on today’s key verse in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." My pastor said the only truth that can set us free is the truth we know.

    My experience with James 5:16 proved this true. If I hadn’t read that verse and applied it to my life, fear would have had its way with me. The truth of God’s Word made an immediate difference in my heart.

    Here’s the problem: If we don’t know the truth in the Bible, how can it make a difference in our lives?

    If my Bible sits on my shelf, pages closed, dust gathering, it’s like a caged lion. But when I open it up and read it, soaking in its truth, it unleashes God’s power in my life.

    Mighty, life-changing, heart-restoring, healing truth saturates every page of God’s Word! It has the power to set us free from fear, anger, loneliness, pride, betrayal — just as Jesus promised it would.

    The doctor’s call came, and the results were negative. Was it the powerful and effective prayers of my friends? Maybe. But I know for sure I experienced the power of God’s truth in a way I’d never known before. And I’m hungry to experience it again.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for generously sharing Your truth in Your Word. Forgive me for ever reading it like it’s a history lesson. Help me see its power to set me free and change my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    John 1:17, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (NIV)

    2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."(NIV)

    Do you wish you knew more of the Bible? You’re not alone. Most of us feel like it’s overwhelming and don’t know where to start.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we understand. We know it can feel intimidating to approach God’s Word. That’s why we’re developing a mobile app to help you read and understand God’s Word in a life-changing way.

    It’s called "First 5," which we’ve designed to help women around the world give the first 5 minutes of each day to God’s Word in an easy-to-understand way. Imagine the freedom that will happen when women read and apply God’s truth!

    Will you be a part of bringing God’s truth and freedom to women everywhere? Click here to support this crucial project.

    In what areas of your life would you like to experience God’s freedom?

    Use a concordance (which is a book listing Bible verses by topic) or an online Bible website to find verses on God’s truth about these things.

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Embracing the Inconvenient

    Posted on May 11, 2015 by Family Christian

    Leslie Ludy MAY 11, 2015

    Embracing the Inconvenient
    Leslie Ludy

    "Whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me." Matthew 25:40b (NIV)

    I will never forget the day my son Hudson learned what an orphan was. A close family friend had just returned from Haiti where she visited an orphanage and had taken heartbreaking photos of destitute children in desperate need of loving homes.

    As a wide-eyed 3-year-old, Hudson stared at the pictures and asked, "Who dose kids? Why dey sad?"

    I explained that the children in the photos were orphans, children without a mommy or daddy. As Hudson pondered this, his heart was gripped with compassion. He suggested we go to Haiti and bring home 20 orphans to live with us.

    I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and then informed him I didn’t think we’d have room in our house for 20 more children. A few days later, Hudson led me upstairs to see several "orphan beds" he’d created. Each bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow and one of his favorite stuffed animals.

    There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy’s room, two in his sister’s room, and five in Hudson’s bedroom. (He’d taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself!)

    "See?" he exclaimed. "We do have room!"

    I was speechless.

    God was using my 3-year-old to remind me of His simple solution for the orphaned, the destitute and the starving: sacrificially sharing what we have with those in need.

    That day, God challenged my heart with some poignant questions: Was I willing to serve the weak, even if it required personal sacrifice? If Hudson was willing to share his mommy, daddy, bedroom and favorite stuffed animals with children in need — then what was I willing to share?

    Those questions changed the course of my life. While we didn’t bring home 20 orphans, God has led us to adopt four children in need of a loving home. The journey has not been easy, but through it we have seen God’s amazing faithfulness.

    In our noisy, busy world, it’s easy to become consumed with self-focused pursuits and remain indifferent toward the needs of the lost and dying around us. I have been guilty of this attitude many times.

    Whenever I’m struggling with a self-focused mindset, I’m reminded of a sobering story I once heard about the Jewish Holocaust.

    In the story, a German church sat next to the railroad tracks where cars of Jews rattled by the church, on their way to the concentration camps. The prisoners would scream as loudly as they could, begging the churchgoers to help. But the Christians didn’t want to get involved. Instead, as the cars rolled past, they sang their hymns loudly to drown out the cries of the suffering.

    Astounding, isn’t it?

    Still today, there are cries of anguish resounding all over the world — from the starving child to the persecuted Christian. Yet how often do we drown them out with entertainment, busyness, materialism or selfish ambitions? God asks each of us to turn down the noise in our lives and learn to love and give the way He does, embracing the inconvenient and holding nothing back.

    Naturally, this will look different for each of us.

    Some of us might be called to minister to the homeless, others to adopt, others to fight for the unborn, others to help orphans, others to encourage the persecuted — and countless other possibilities.

    Cultivating a sacrificial lifestyle often starts with one simple step, such as ministering to someone in our community. I encourage you to let God stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. He will open your eyes to the ways in which He desires you to become His hands and feet to those in need.

    Throughout history, the Christians who’ve made the most impact for God’s kingdom rarely lived comfortable or convenient lives. Their mighty acts for God required enormous personal sacrifice and a willingness to venture far beyond the realm of the easy and convenient. If today’s Christians are too busy, who will take up the torch of Gospel-centered rescue work in this generation?

    Lord, help me learn to look past myself and see the needs of others. Teach me to love others the way You love them, sacrificially. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    John 20:21, "So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’" (NKJV)

    James 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (NKJV)

    Have you ever felt an ache for something more in your Christian walk? Do you long to leave apathy behind and pursue passionate devotion to the one true King? Then you’ll want to get a copy of The Set Apart Woman — God’s Invitation to Sacred Living, by Leslie Ludy.

    Enter to WIN a copy of The Set-Apart Woman by Leslie Ludy. In celebration of this book, Leslie’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, May 18.}

    What’s one thing you can do this week to show God’s sacrificial love to someone in need?

    © 2015 by Leslie Ludy. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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