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  • You Said What?

    You Said What? by Lynn Cowell

    “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” Luke 12:3 (NIV)

    I wasn’t sure why, but I just knew the texts I was receiving were never intended for my eyes.

    Suddenly I received a call from my daughter: “Mom, are you getting my texts?” she asked, a bit panicky.

    Yes, I was. Madi’s phone was receiving my texts, while my phone received hers. We both had the same reaction: Oh no! What conversations were we in the middle of that we wouldn’t want the other to read? What texts would others send that we might feel embarrassed for the other to read?

    Somehow our cell service had crossed our phone numbers, and until they could figure out what was going wrong, there was no way to straighten out the problem.

    I’m guessing you haven’t experienced this exact same situation, but maybe you’ve accidently forwarded an email thread to the wrong person. Perhaps you’ve had a phone conversation overheard that should’ve been private. Maybe you wrote a note that a particular person should’ve never read.

    When I came across today’s verse in my quiet time, I was reminded of Jesus’ words: “What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12:3).

    Nothing is ever truly private. Especially in this time when everything and anything can be seen on social media — all we do and say has the possibility of going to an unintended recipient. Especially when we speak unkind words.

    Jesus commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, (Matthew 22:39), but when our emotions want to take over, this can be difficult. In the moments when my anger is hot or my heart is hurt, I struggle most to put self-control into practice. That’s exactly when today’s verse gives me an added reason to choose my words carefully.

    When I’m tempted to speak — or type — in anger, I can simply ask myself a couple of questions:

    If this conversation went from private to public, would feelings be hurt?

    If the person I am talking about heard what I said, would I be embarrassed?

    While all of us are human and certainly prone to make mistakes, Jesus’ words give us reason to be careful with our words: “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2, NIV).

    I was so grateful that during the phone fiasco no embarrassing texts transpired. I pray that by following the Holy Spirit’s lead that will be the case each and every day.

    Dear Jesus, I want to love others the way You love us all — unconditionally. My words are a reflection of what is in my heart, I know. Holy Spirit, empower me to guard my words so I never have to be embarrassed when they are brought into the light. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (NIV)

    Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” (NKJV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: With each text you receive and each call you take today, decide to only say words that could be “proclaimed from the rooftops.”

    © 2017 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Would You Rather Be Liked Online -- Or Loved in Person?

    Would You Rather Be Liked Online -- Or Loved in Person? by Kari Kampakis

    “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

    A little over a year ago, the exhaustion hit me. I began waking up in the mornings feeling drained, burned out and lonely.

    The loneliness is what surprised me most. I have four kids, a great husband and friends I adore; why would I feel lonely when there’s no shortage of love in my life?

    With a little self-reflection, I recognized the problem. For 18 months, I’d worked tirelessly on a project, writing and traveling and building a social media presence. It was non-stop. When things finally slowed down, I crashed. I was running on empty and desperately in need of downtime, prayer and regrouping.

    The hardest truth to admit was that I’d neglected my closest relationships. I’d fallen into the black hole of my computer and my phone. The lifestyle changes I’d made to get everything done — like working through family dinners and turning down invitations to meet friends for lunch — caught up with me. As fun as it was to connect with new people and build online relationships through this project, I missed the people closest to me.

    In my efforts to succeed in my work and be liked by people online, I’d forgotten the value of personal contact. I knew the only solution was to stop going wider into new relationships and start diving deeper into the relationships I already had.

    And so I took a break. I started working less, calling people instead of texting, exercising regularly and reconnecting with friends. When my husband came home from work, I spent time with my family instead of retreating to my computer. I went on field trips with my daughters, hosted more get-togethers and helped with my 6th grade daughter’s play — one of my favorite parenting experiences yet.

    I also prayed more during this break. I asked God to make His will for me clear, saying that if He wanted me to work less, I needed direction.

    Slowly the changes I made refreshed my soul. I felt deeper peace and fulfillment than my computer, phone and social media presence could provide. What I learned was that spending too much time on technology breeds loneliness. The feelings I might try to escape by getting online — i.e., loneliness or boredom — are only magnified if I’m not making time for real-life connections.

    Technology is a gift, but it can also be a crutch.

    It can make us lazy in our relationships and instill a false sense of security of having more real friends than we do. Just because someone takes two seconds to “like” our latest post, however, doesn’t mean they’d take off an entire afternoon to help us in a crisis. A thousand Twitter followers doesn’t equal a thousand trustworthy friends.

    Life’s best connections happen in person. God created us to live in community, and while digital communities can enrich our lives, they can’t replace the joy of eye contact, laughter and tears, hugging and the comfort, love and affection of a live human friend.

    In today’s key verse, God reminds us to intentionally gather together: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    In an age when we’re more “connected” than ever through technology, many people feel lonely because they’re tending to the friends who “like” them online before the people who love them in real life.

    The good news is: There’s hope. God wants us to love each other well, and He will guide us. Through Him, we can take small steps in the right direction. We can limit screen time and commit to spending more time in personal dialogue than online dialogue. We can also alter any habits that keep us from discovering the deep peace and joy of being loved and known in person.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the gifts of friendship and community. Thank You for the technology that enables me to connect with others. Please, Lord, help me use technology wisely. Guide me in setting healthy boundaries so I can deepen my real-life relationships and ultimately grow closer to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (NIV) REFLECT AND RESPOND: Has technology enhanced or hurt your closest relationships? How can you prioritize your personal interactions ahead of your digital connections?

    © 2017 by Kari Kampakis. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

  • National Random Acts of Kindness Day: 10 Ways to Get Involved

    10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today. 10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today.

    Happy National Random Acts of Kindness Day! We’re all about a holiday that encourages us to show compassion just as Paul did in Ephesians 4:32 NIV: “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Here are 10 ways to communicate kindness to those around you today.

    1. Call Your Family Pick up the phone and call someone you don’t regularly talk to. Ask them about their day and let them know that you love them.

    2. Sponsor A Child By sponsoring a child through World Vision, you'll help that child and their community experience freedom from poverty.

    3. Smile At A Stranger Spread the joy of the Lord by smiling at someone while you’re out running errands—it’s contagious!

    4. Make A Donation Clean out your home, and donate gently used clothes, books, board games, kitchenware and anything else you no longer need.

    5. Send A Card You don’t need to spend a lot of money to show someone that you care. Write a handwritten note of encouragement in a greeting card.

    6. Pay It Forward Literally—pay for someone’s meal or buy two cups of coffee in the morning and give one away.

    7. Give Directions If you see someone who looks lost, stop and ask them if they need help. Even if they don’t, they’ll be thankful and inspired by your thoughtfulness.

    8. Leave An Encouraging Reminder Keep sticky notes on hand and write down some Bible verses or messages letting people know that God loves them. Leave them in public restrooms, at the gas pump or anywhere else strangers may see them.

    9. Volunteer Find a local charity or ask your church how you can help by volunteering your time or talents.

    10. Say A Prayer Spend some time praying for healing, wisdom, loved ones’ prayer requests and anything else God puts on your heart.

    Looking to for more ways to be a light in the world? Our February Own Your Faith Challenge is all about showing the love of Christ—and you still have time to join us!

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    Own Your Faith: 10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

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  • The One Small Prayer That Fulfills Our Greatest Dream

    The One Small Prayer That Fulfills Our Greatest Dream by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Luke 11:9 (ESV)

    “So, what’s your greatest dream?” I asked my new friend, Heidi, as we lay beneath the moon with a gaggle of sleeping girls and a splattering of starlight.

    We’d spent the week as camp counselors together. We’d chased squirrels from the bath house. We’d chased boys away from our chocolate stash, and we’d tried to chase a handful of little girls closer to the heart of Jesus.

    But we hadn’t talked about the dreams we planned to chase when we left church camp in the morning.

    Heidi intrigued me. She oozed joy, moved with confidence and offered grace with ease. She was purposeful, but not pushy. Tenacious, yet tensile. Popular, not plastic. But it was her relationship with Jesus that intrigued me most.

    Heidi lived like our Savior was lingering beside her. When the canoe teetered and the girls wailed, she’d laughed and invited Jesus to calm the current — as if He were sitting right next to us in that tipsy boat. And when our homesick campers cried in the dark of night, she’d prayed as if the One who’d spun the stars stood bent over those wooden bunk beds, too.

    Maybe that’s why I asked that question in the dark of night. With her vibrant personality and confidence in Jesus, I was certain Heidi could accomplish anything she aimed to do.

    “I want Jesus to be my greatest dream,” she whispered wistfully. “How about you?”

    Did I dare tell the truth? I wanted Jesus to bless my greatest dreams, but I wasn’t certain I wanted Him to be my greatest dream. I wanted to do ambitious things for my Savior, but I wasn’t planning to make Him my chief ambition.

    “I don’t think I love Jesus enough to make Him my greatest dream,” I finally admitted.

    “That’s okay,” Heidi said as she gave my hand an understanding squeeze. “All you have to do is ask. That’s a prayer Jesus loves to answer.”

    Though our paths never crossed again, Heidi’s words stuck with me long after the sweet summer we shared. And, over the years, when I grew weary of my own striving, and I slowed long enough to wonder why I felt so empty inside, I’d think of my friend from church camp and echo her simple prayer.

    Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more.

    At first, I wasn’t sure it would work. Or maybe, I wasn’t even sure I wanted it to work. After all, I had big dreams for my life, and Heidi’s prayer seemed so small.

    But, in time, I found that even my grandest ambitions failed to satisfy me. My most significant accomplishments still left my soul sapped and wanting.

    So, I followed the advice of Luke 11:9 and persisted in prayer.

    Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more.

    I prayed it when I got my first job offer and when I received my first byline.

    I prayed it when I kissed the first child of my womb and when I signed my first mortgage.

    I prayed it when my plans thrived and when my plans failed, when my expectations were met and when they weren't.

    I persisted until that small plea became the greatest cry of my heart.

    And not long ago, I realized that the 44-year-old woman staring back at me in the mirror has something in common with that radiant young friend I met long ago at church camp.

    I really do love Jesus more.

    More than my well-laid plans.

    More than my fabulous family.

    More than my achievements or success.

    More than my fears or my failures.

    More than my hopes or my wishes.

    More than a 15-year-old girl ever thought she could when she lay beneath the stars with a gaggle of little girls and a friend who dreamed big.

    I can't pinpoint when it happened, but somewhere along the way, my Savior answered my prayer.

    And, sweet friend, He’d love to do the same for you.

    We could pray it together — this big and beautiful prayer — and see where it takes us. I have a feeling that it will lead us somewhere far beyond our wildest dreams.

    Dear Jesus, be my greatest dream. I want to love You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s keeping you from making Jesus your greatest dream?

    Growing weary in prayer? Invite a friend to join you in your persistent plea.

    © 2017 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Scribbled Truth That Changed My Life

    I Scribbled Truth That Changed My Life by Lysa Terkeurst

    “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you.’” Acts 3:6a (NIV)

    When my baby sister died tragically and unexpectedly, my entire world flipped upside down. It was a very dark season of my life.

    What I once knew to be true suddenly became questionable.

    Is God good? If so, why this? And if I never know why, how can I ever trust God again?

    Hard questions. Honest questions. Questions that haunted me.

    Until one day, I got a note from a friend. A girl I not-so-affectionately called my "Bible friend." She honestly got on my nerves with all her Bible verse quoting. I wasn’t on good terms with God at that point in my life. I didn’t want to believe God even existed. And I certainly wasn’t reading the Bible.

    I made all of this very known to my Bible friend. But in her gentle, sweet, kind way … she kept slipping me notes of truth with gently woven verses tucked within. And one day, one verse cracked the dam of my soul. Truth slipped in and split my hardhearted views of life open, just enough for God to make Himself known to me.

    I held that simple note with one Bible verse scribbled on the front as the tears of honest need streamed down my cheeks. My stiff knees bent. And a whispered, "Yes, God," changed the course of my life.

    My “Bible friend” had reached me. And because of her, I’m determined to use my words as a gift to others who may be in hard places … like a friend of mine who recently told me she is struggling with feeling like she has no real purpose.

    Life rushes at her each day with overwhelming demands. Everything feels hard, with very little reprieve.

    If ever there were a drowning with no water involved, this is where my friend is. Maybe you have a hurting friend, too.

    So I sat down to write my friend a card and send her a little gift. I desperately wanted to love her through my words. My heart was full of care, compassion and a strong desire to encourage, but I struggled to translate all I felt on paper.

    As I prayed about it, the word “loved” kept coming to mind.

    Remind her she is loved. Remind her how much you respect her. Remind her that she is a woman who has so much to offer. Remind her she is valuable and she is enough.

    In Acts 3, Peter and John encountered a crippled man at the temple gate called Beautiful. They stopped. They noticed. They decided to touch. Riches weren’t available to them but the ability to value was.

    As our key verse of Acts 3:6-7a says, “‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up …”

    Peter and John didn’t have silver, but they had a hand to offer and value to give. The man in need was worth touching. The hurting one in need was a man who needed someone to see him as a man. The man in need had so much to offer. After he got up, he went into the temple courts, praising God and stirring up wonder and amazement about God.

    I want my friend to remember she, too, has praise left inside her for our God. She, too, can get up. She, too, can stir up amazement and wonder about our God.

    Yes, she is loved and God has a good plan for her. I want to help her see that, just like my “Bible friend” did for me all those years ago.

    I will never doubt the power of one woman reaching into the life of another woman with some written whispers of love.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for the relationships You’ve placed in my life. Would You help me discern what encouraging words my friend needs to hear today? I want to show her Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Which friend comes to mind when you think of someone who needs some encouragement? Ask the Lord to give you specific words for her in this season of life, as you write a note to her this week.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Longed For Something More

    I Longed For Something More by Glynnis Whitwer

    “… It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this …” 2 Samuel 6:21-22a (NIV)

    Growing up in a traditional church, singing traditional hymns, meant being a Christian was very matter-of-fact for me. I was a Christian in the same way I would have told you I was a student. It was very … academic.

    Nothing much changed in my faith experience. Every Sunday, I gathered with faithful men and women of God, who taught Sunday School and served on committees. It was wonderful, and I grew up loving God’s Word and His church. Yet, something in me longed for more.

    Then during high school, I was introduced to a new style of Christian music. These songs depicted a faith in God that was passionate and alive.

    Something stirred within me as I listened to that music. The “more” I wanted was taking shape. My faith was expanding from head-knowledge to life-changing.

    I can still picture myself in a sold-out symphony hall before a live concert as half the room yelled, “We love Jesus, yes we do. We love Jesus, how ’bout you?” I was on the other side, and we answered as loudly as we could, repeating the challenge. Joy and celebration vibrated through the hall as we shouted, jumped up and down, and waved our arms in the air for love of Jesus.

    It was completely undignified and I was completely undone … never to be the same. I knew I wanted a faith like that. I wanted to be so excited about Jesus that it overflowed, and I didn’t care what my worship of Him looked like to others.

    A few years ago, I read the story of King David dancing before the Lord. Now there was someone who didn’t worry what others thought. David had overseen the return of the ark of the Lord, and as it neared, he couldn’t contain his joy. He replaced his kingly attire with a simple outfit and danced with all his might.

    His wife, Michal, watched from the window and didn’t approve of David’s behavior. She was disgusted with him and told him so. David wasn’t fazed and responded with words that encourage me today: “… It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this …” (2 Samuel 6:21-22a).

    David was so in tune with God’s heart that he was unconcerned with any judgmental comments. David’s only focus was on worshipping his God with sincerity and abandon.

    That’s my hope and prayer for myself. I want my longing for more of God to help me completely release my fears and worship with uncontained joy. One day, when I’m too old to dance, in some people’s opinions, I hope you’ll find my wrinkled hands raised, my gray head bobbing and my body swaying in worship — still wanting more. And then one day, beyond that, all my longings will be fulfilled. Oh, what a day that will be!

    Dear Lord, King David got it right, and I want to as well. You are worthy of all my worship and adoration. Forgive me for letting other’s opinions influence how I worship You. Help me focus more on Your majesty and less on myself. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 29:25, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” (NIV)

    John 4:23, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Set aside time this week to worship God. Read the Psalms, listen to music or just sit somewhere quietly. Write down five characteristics of God that make Him worthy of our praise.

    Read 2 Samuel 6:14-23. Describe the scene in verses 14 and 15. What are some of the ways people are rejoicing and worshiping God? How can David’s answer to Michal help us overcome the fear of other’s opinions?

    © 2017 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Making My Wife Cry on Christmas

    Making My Wife Cry on Christmas by Gary Thomas

    “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” Song of Songs 1:15a (NIV)

    At first, it looked like the worst Christmas gift ever.

    I could read the expression on Lisa’s face: “Why would you do this to me?”

    Lisa held the daily journal in her hand and thought (she later told me): “You know I don’t like to keep a journal. Please don’t ask me to do this.”

    But then she noticed it was stamped “2016” — which had already passed. And then she saw how the entries were already filled in.

    The first page said, “Lisa’s Lovely Ways,” and I explained that throughout the past year, I’d written down something every day Lisa did which I was thankful for, or something about who she is that I admire.

    That’s when she cried.

    “You found 365 things to say? Even on my ornery, not-so-nice days?”

    My 20-something daughter said, “Sheesh, that’s like something you see in a Hallmark movie that nobody actually ever does.”

    I borrowed the idea from a wife who did this for her husband. After he read it, he said, “Reading that journal makes me aspire to be the man she thinks I am.”

    Here’s why it was so powerful for me to write this journal of gratitude: I don’t think I asked God to change my wife even once during the months I wrote it.

    Every morning, I had to come up with something new to say. I couldn’t thank Lisa for the same thing 10 or even five times without it losing its power. So sometimes, particularly near the end of the year, I had to sit before God and ask Him to remind me about something Lisa had done, or even something she is that perhaps I’d taken for granted. Starting each day praying, asking God to help me recognize my wife’s excellence, impacted my thinking for the rest of the day.

    Writing the journal made asking God to change anything about my wife seem a little … picky. When you have a book already listing over 100 praise-worthy things about your spouse, asking God to “change” her is a bit like examining a brand new Mercedes Benz and being upset that the gasoline tank holds “only” 18 gallons instead of 21. I mean, Come on.

    While traveling, I feared losing the journal because I had put so much effort into it, but then I realized the discipline of writing had already changed my marriage. It made my wife feel more cherished because of the way I thought about her, spoke to (and about) her and felt about her. Without even knowing it, she was receiving the present long before Christmas Day.

    That journal is just one of dozens of things I put into practice when I realized it wasn’t enough to love (be committed to, sacrifice for and serve) my wife. I had promised to cherish her (“I promise to love and to cherish until death do us part”).

    And here’s what I’ve found:

    A cherishing marriage is a much happier marriage. Cherishing can be chosen and learned. Cherishing feeds itself — the more I cherish my spouse, the more I cherish and value my spouse. In a world where so many spouses feel neglected, I want mine to feel especially cherished. The author of our key verse today was intentional about pointing out what he cherished about his beloved: “How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful!” (Song of Songs 1:15a) Might we do the same?

    We need to raise the bar for our marriages. For the sake of our children. To please our God. Even for our own happiness, we need to learn what it means to cherish our spouse and put it into practice. When marriage gets difficult, it’s easy to focus on our commitment to love — but we also promised to cherish. I don’t want my spouse to think I’m with her just because it would be wrong to leave her; I promised to cherish her, and I’m determined to follow through on that promise.

    Lord, help me cherish my spouse the way You cherish me. Please don’t let me settle for mere love; help me fulfill my promise to learn how to cherish this spouse who is committed to me. Let me speak about my spouse the way Your word teaches me to. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Song of Songs 5:10: “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Read Song of Songs 5:10 in our Truth for Today. Think on your spouse’s most excellent qualities until you can say this verse and mean it.

    © 2017 by Gary Thomas. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

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

  • When The Road Ahead Feels Uncertain

    When The Road Ahead Feels Uncertain by Katy McCown

    “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’” Luke 1:38a (NLT)

    Sitting alone in the hospital room, my mind drifted to all that had taken place the previous 24 hours.

    The day before, I awoke to what should have been a normal Friday. I expected to feed my five little ones, do some laundry and end the day on a date with my hubby.

    But when I opened my eyes, it was anything from ordinary. Over the next several hours, my sixth child — the one not due for another two weeks — was ready to move. That day.

    The date night became a trip to the hospital. A few hours later, I frantically called our babysitter and out-of-town family, trying to line up care for the five kids at home.

    And my husband had a non-negotiable plane to catch in 12 hours.

    I’d never given birth on a deadline before, and my pulse rate proved it.

    Would the baby come before Dad’s flight? Would family arrive in time to relieve the babysitter tomorrow morning? Would the babysitter be able to handle my wild bunch at home?

    I needed to relax, but no amount of modern medicine would slow my soul. This unexpected delivery sent me into a frenzy. No matter how hard I tried to straighten out the future, the outcome remained unknown.

    The woman in today’s key verse probably knew a thing or two about that feeling.

    We meet Mary in this first chapter of Luke, just after an angel revealed a glimpse into her future: “‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus’” (Luke 1:30b-31, NLT).

    Naturally, Mary was confused, since there was no biological way she could be pregnant. “Mary asked the angel, ‘But how can this happen? I am a virgin’” (Luke 1:34, NLT). That’s when the angel explained the son whom Mary would carry was in fact God’s Son.

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Talk about a normal day turned all kinds of sideways. This is the part of the story where Mary should freak out. I mean, really. Didn’t she earn at least a few minutes of losing her mind? Go on girl, let it out. Cry. Scream.

    But, according to the Bible, that’s not what Mary did. No, as our key verse simply confirms: “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true’” (Luke 1:38a).

    She sounds so calm. There’s not even an exclamation point at the end of her response. We can almost breeze right by, like it’s no big deal. But, it is. Because I’m not sure I would have done that.

    Like what transpired that night in my delivery room, I probably would have fretted and made futile, yet frantic, plans. I would have wondered and worried about the future.

    And speaking of the future … a few chapters later we find Mary, now very pregnant, on another unexpected journey from her hometown to Bethlehem. A dangerous trip. One not made by plane or car. As if that weren’t enough, she had no place to stay when she arrived.

    Surely, when she imagined the day of her delivery, a stable was not the setting for the birth. This must have felt like such a mess to Mary. Yet in God’s view, it was all going according to plan.

    Sometimes our lives feel like they’re spinning out of control. In our hearts we scream, This is not the way I imagined it! But even when our plans don’t seem to match God’s path, we can still count on His purpose.

    All of this scrolled through my thoughts as I glanced over at my sleeping baby girl. The quietness in the room marked a sharp contrast to the chaos just hours before. But we made it. She met her daddy before he boarded the plane. And both of her grandmas would soon burst through the door with all of her siblings in tow, anxious for their first hug.

    That was more than three years ago. And I still have no idea why God chose that day. I’m sure Mary wondered about God’s timing, too. But God knew just what needed to happen — and when and where it should happen — that night in Bethlehem. He knows today, too! God’s ways had purpose then, and they still have purpose today. For Mary’s life, for my life and for yours.

    Dear God, I admit I like to know what the future holds. It’s hard not to try and fix things or figure them out. Increase my faith! Help me rest in You, knowing You love me, and Your plans for me are perfect. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 11:33, “Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!” (NLT)

    Psalm 33:11, “But the LORD’s plans stand firm forever; his intentions can never be shaken.” (NLT)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Make a plan for the next unexpected situation you will face. Copy the verses in Truth for Today and put them in a place where you will see them often. Read them daily and let them become anchors for your soul in the midst of life’s surprises.

    © 2017 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • 5 Simple Ways to Love Your Spouse

    Create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

    Life is busy. Between carting the around kids and keeping up with a calendar full of commitments, we sometimes forget about the responsibilities that don’t get penciled into our planners. But God calls us to honor Him in all areas of our lives—and our marriages are no exception. Here are five ways to help you create and sustain a healthy marriage by loving your spouse well.

    Compliment Their Character Instead of commenting on the way they look, build them up with a compliment that focuses on the way they handle conflict, their work ethic or their trustworthiness. This type of compliment shows both love and respect to your spouse.

    Give Them Your Undivided Attention Surprise your significant other by making sitter arrangements for the kids and spend the night cooking a meal together or snuggling up and watching a movie. Taking care of any distractions in advance will show them that you’re interested in focusing on their needs.

    Hold Their Hand Show them affection during the most ordinary moments. Grab their hand while you’re grocery shopping or walk up to them in a crowded room and give them a hug. Showing physical affection in small ways, when they least expect it, will speak volumes.

    Give Them A Gift Stop by the store on your way home or order their favorite gifts, just because. These sweet surprises let your loved one know that they’re on your mind. Make sure they don’t feel like it takes a special occasion for them to be appreciated.

    Take Care of the Honey-Do List Is there an unfinished task that has been weighing on your spouse—maybe a closet that needs to be organized or yard work they haven’t gotten to? Remove that burden from their shoulders by taking care of it for them.

    Keep your relationship thriving amid the demands and conflicts of everyday life by understanding The 5 Love Languages that define how men and women give and receive love. The 5 Love Languages books are all 40% off now through Valentine’s Day.

    You Might Also Like

    Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: 7 Christian Gift Ideas for the Whole Family

    Own Your Faith: 10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

    Preparing for Marriage: 4 Must-Read Books for Newly Engaged Couples

  • Dear God: I Want a Cloud, Too

    Dear God, I Want a Cloud, Too by Tracie Miles

    “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way …” Exodus 13:21a (NIV)

    It had been a hard and long day. Maybe you can relate?

    Problems abounded, and my head was spinning from all the difficult decisions I faced. For weeks, I searched for supportive Scriptures and hoped I would glean a definitive, holy answer to my questions. I stayed alert for any trace of God speaking. I wanted to hear His voice loud and clear. I looked for patterns in things I read or heard. And I continually sought precise affirmation in the choices I was leaning toward.

    My thoughts ran rampant. What if I made a wrong decision? What if I thought I heard God’s voice, but instead it was just my own emotions or feelings controlling my thoughts? Was it too much to ask to get a blinking neon arrow dropped down from Heaven to point the way?

    So on this particularly frustrating day, I stopped trying to figure everything out. I stopped looking for a blaring answer from God. I simply began to pray.

    I prayed for wisdom, clarity and guidance about how to move forward. I prayed for peace and hope to fill my heart and mind — leaving no room for confusion and negative thoughts. I prayed that decision-making would be an extension of my faith, not an exhaustion of my efforts.

    I whispered, Amen, opened my eyes, and looked out the window. Immediately, I noticed groups of big, puffy, white clouds in the sky. As I watched the clouds drift slowly across the bright blue sky, our key verse in Exodus 13 came to mind, and I reached for my Bible.

    “By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way …” (Exodus 13:21a).

    Shortly after their rescue from Egypt, God led the Israelites through the wilderness. He guided them during daytime with a cloud, and at night He provided a pillar of fire. I found myself wishing for a holy cloud of my own to guide me.

    Instead of a cloud, I had a cloudy mind. I was so worried to make a wrong decision I couldn’t make any decisions at all. I felt lost in a wilderness, much like the Israelites.

    Yet as I read through this passage of Exodus, my heart began to lighten. Exodus 13:17-18 tells us, “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt. So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea. The Israelites went up out of Egypt ready for battle.’”

    God didn’t lead them down the short path, possibly one that was easier, because they might not have felt the need to fully rely on Him. Or they might have been tempted to take a wrong path when things got tough. Because of this, God led them through the more difficult path, around the desert and toward the Red Sea. It was a long, difficult journey but God was always before them. They trusted God to lead the way, even if they didn’t understand it, and their lives and faith were saved as a result.

    As these lessons in this story came to mind, my thoughts became less cloudy and I rested in knowing God would be my guide. If I walk down the right path, God will be there with me. But if I take a wrong turn, He will still be there, redirecting me, guiding me and leading me out of the wilderness. In fact, He may take me down the most difficult journey, with full intention of growing my faith along the way.

    I closed my Bible, and a smile crept across my face. I may not have a cloud I can see with my eyes, but I can trust God is always leading the way. God may lead us into the wilderness, and He may even guide us there to camp for a while, but He will never leave us there. Regardless of the decisions we make, we’ll never be on any path alone.

    Lord, sometimes I would love a blinking neon sign or a cloud to guide me and confirm Your will for the decisions I face. But Your presence is truly what I desire. Help me rest, knowing You are always with me, and if I stumble or go down a wrong path, You will lead me in Your way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What major decisions have you been fretting over and trying to figure out on your own rather than resting in God and trusting He will guide you and go before you?

    Ask God to help you give the situation fully to Him today. © 2017 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

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Proclaim the Good News | Mark 16:15
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