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  • When Potholes Fill Your Path

    Posted on September 3, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia Bruxvoort

    "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth." Isaiah 26:7 (NIV)

    On the night before he began kindergarten, my youngest son, Joshua, announced he'd "rather go to jail" than go to school.

    His big brother mumbled something sarcastic about the prison bars in the principal's office, while his sisters attempted to soothe Joshua's anxieties by pointing out the perks of being a kindergartener.

    "Did you know that when you lose a tooth at school you get to bring it home in a tiny treasure box?" my daughter Hannah asked.

    Joshua grinned and poked his finger in his mouth to check for loose teeth. But when it was time to brush those pearly whites and head to bed, his smile faded and fears returned.

    What if my legs get cramped on my carpet square?

    What if my ears hurt from listening all day?

    What if I forget to raise my hand?

    What if I'm the only one who can't read?

    To be honest, Joshua's worries resonated with my own. I'd prayed unceasingly over the school year to come and was certain God had placed my son in the kindergarten classroom that would best meet his needs. Yet I just couldn't imagine my littlest boy thriving in any classroom at all. He loved piles of dirt more than stacks of books and preferred hammers over pencils.

    Joshua's eyelids drooped and his breathing slowed. Then, before he surrendered to sleep, he voiced one last concern: "I can't go to kindergarten tomorrow, Mommy. I don't have even one wiggly tooth!"

    I assured my son that loose teeth weren't a prerequisite for kindergarten, and I headed to the kitchen to pack lunches for morning. Minutes later my husband found me crying over the peanut butter, and I had to confess the angst preying on my mind. "I can't figure out how Joshua's going to make it through the school year."

    "You don't have to figure it out," my husband gently replied as he wiped a smudge of peanut butter off my cheek. "That's God's job."

    Have you been there before? Perhaps you've sought God's direction, followed His lead, only to find yourself walking a path marked by concerns that cause you to stumble.

    Sometimes the potholes in our path make us wonder if we are really on the right road. Unanswered, difficult questions can make us doubt the direction we've been given.

    However, today's key verse reminds us it's not our job to fix the chinks in our trail. If we let God lead, He will smooth the way: "The path of the righteous is level; you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth" (Isaiah 26:7).

    Whatever the path looks like, God has a plan for every step (Jeremiah 29:11). We may be trekking toward a new school year or stepping into an empty nest; stumbling along a painful detour or skipping into a new job; but no matter where we're headed, God is aware of every gap in the road He's established for us.

    Joshua's school year wasn't perfect, but God was faithful. And nine months later, as we waited for the big yellow bus to chug up our street on the last day of school, my son admitted he'd changed his mind. With a toothless grin, he conceded. Going to kindergarten was definitely better than going to jail!

    The bus slowed to a stop, and Joshua climbed aboard. He pressed his face against the window and waved good-bye. That's when I noticed a splash of white hovering at the top of his gaping grin.

    Soon a new tooth would inhabit that endearing hole in his smile. Because that's just how God works, faithfully filling every gap in His own way and in His perfect time.

    Lord, I don't have every step figured out, but I'm thankful You do. Fill me with courage when my path is packed with potholes. Give me faith to follow Your lead and awaken me to see You at work as I travel along the road You've prepared for me. Thank You for providing direction and peace in Your perfect timing. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is the most daunting "pothole" in your path right now? Today, how could you lean on Christ rather than on your own understanding?

    God's word is like a GPS for life travelers. When your path feels confusing or difficult, the truth of Scripture brings peace. Set aside ten minutes this week to read your Bible. Look up these promises in the Psalms: Psalm 16:11, 18:36, 119:9, 119:35, 119:105.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

     


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

  • Woman on a Mission

    Posted on September 2, 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs

    Liz Curtis Higgs

    When you leap into the arms of Jesus, you never know where He'll carry you. As a new Christian, I was certain God called me to a distant mission field. Really distant: Indonesia.

    True, I'd only been a believer six months, after a wild and wooly decade as a seriously Bad Girl. I also had no husband at the time, no college degree and little knowledge about Indonesia other than where it landed on a map. Still, I knew that Christians were called to "go into all the world" (Mark 16:15, NIV). Shouldn't I go too?

    When I threw myself at a mission board, certain they'd be thrilled to take me, the director was very kind. He listened, nodded, took notes. And then he said the last thing I expected to hear: "I'm sorry, Liz. But ... no."

    My heart sank. I thought if you offered to live in a hut and eat beetles, they'd say, "Great! Sign here."

    Then he explained why I wasn't the best candidate for foreign missions: "Liz, you're already well versed in a culture most Christians know little about."

    I knew where this was going. He meant my old life. My Bad Girl life.

    His voice softened. "Do you know the story of the woman at the well? After she met Jesus, she went back to town, where everyone knew her sordid story, and she told them about Jesus. That's what you need to do."

    "You mean the people I used to hang out with?" My cheeks grew hot even thinking about it. "The people I partied with? The men I slept with? Those people?"

    I could feel Indonesia slipping away as I pictured the faces of friends I knew well — and who knew way too much about me. People as lost and confused as I'd once been. People who needed to know Jesus.

    "Never fear," the director said as he placed a gentle hand on my shoulder and escorted me to the door. "God will take care of Indonesia."

    So, I went back to Louisville and told my story. No hut, no beetles, yet a mission field for which I was already qualified, simply because I spoke their language. And because I loved them.

    Soon one coworker came to know Jesus. Then another. Then a third. Who knew?

    God knew. But He never forgot my heart for Indonesia.

    Twenty years after my no-go with the mission board, I stood in my publisher's booth at a Christian booksellers convention. The guy in charge of international rights pulled me aside and said, "Liz, please meet Yani with World Harvest."

    A tiny woman with thick, black hair looked up, her face radiant, "I am in the process of translating three of your books into my country's language."

    "Wonderful!" I beamed at her. "What country might that be?"

    She beamed back. "Indonesia."

    Oh my. To think that my words would travel there, even if I never did! Only God could manage such a thing.

    And He wasn't finished. When I shared my experience at an evangelism conference, one of the guest speakers approached me. "Liz, would you like to speak in Indonesia?"

    My heart skipped a beat. Would I?! I could barely get out the words. "W-who would my audience be?"

    "Women," she assured me, then smiled. "Missionaries."

    Lord, the tenderness of Your mercy overwhelms me. You miss nothing. You care about everything. You answer our deepest longings, according to Your perfect will and perfect timing. You know our mission fields, Lord, far better than we do. Help us serve You, wherever You send us. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 2:8b, "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Liz was eager to share the gospel with the world because God's grace had changed her life. What compels you to tell others about Jesus?

    Might someone cross your path today who needs to hear the good news?

    © 2014 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

     


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

  • Overriding Your To-Do List

    Posted on September 1, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

     

    Leah Dipascal

    But Jesus told him, 'Anyone who lets himself be distracted from the work I plan for him is not fit for the Kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62 (TLB)

    I was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop me. Or, so I thought.

    With an over-ambitious mindset and a determined heart, I clutched my lengthy to-do list as if it were a sacred antidote for life.

    Having much to accomplish and only a few hours to spare, I whipped into a parking spot and made a mad dash towards the front doors of my local convenience store.

    On the way in, I noticed a group of people staring at something on the ground. Avoiding the distraction, I shifted my direction and headed towards another set of doors on the opposite side of the store. Then the unexpected happened.

    A nudge. A knowing. A whisper in my heart: "Go over to the crowd."

    At first, I dismissed it as curiosity. A random thought that needed to be ignored. But then it dawned on me ... I wasn't curious at all. In fact, I was much more interested in getting in, getting out and going my own way.

    I'm not involved, so it's not my problem.

    Then I sensed the whisper again: "Leah, I want you to go over there."

    With a smile on my face and joy in my heart, I made a beeline for the crowd. NOT. Instead, it went something like this: Heavy sigh. Slow turn. Unsettled feelings.

    I recognized God's nudge, and I wanted to obey. Really, I did. But, another part of me just wanted to keep walking.

    This distraction is going to throw off my schedule and keep me from accomplishing what I need to get done today. It's probably nothing.

    Reluctantly making my way back across the parking lot, I approached the crowd and saw a man on the ground. A heavy concoction of sweat, alcohol fumes and stale smoke filled the air.

    Glancing at his tattered clothes and swollen feet, I noticed the scratches on his arms and face.

    His eyes were swollen shut, and he wasn't moving. The crowd stood silently staring at his body. I couldn't tell if he was breathing, but I could hear the faint sounds of an ambulance in the distance.

    Help was on its way, so I could now be on my way. Then the whisper came again: "Kneel down and pray for him."

    Seriously Lord ... kneel down? Here in the parking lot? Can't I just stand here and pray silently for him? All these people will think I'm a weirdo. Besides, help is coming.

    "Kneel down and pray for him."

    So I did. Kneeling down next to the man, I stretched out my hand and gently placed it on his shoulder. I began to pray out loud. No one else said a word.

    At first it felt awkward. Uncomfortable. Crazy. But then I felt someone's hand rest gently on my shoulder. Within moments, a woman bent down next to me and placed her hand on the sick man's arm. Another hand extended. Another voice responded to the prayers.

    In just a few seconds, this unlikely mix of strangers transformed into a powerful prayer group. Right in the middle of a busy convenience store parking lot. An unwanted distraction became a divine appointment.

    No one objected. No one walked away. We continued to pray until the paramedics arrived, treated the man and left for the hospital. As the sirens faded into the background, I stood there astonished at what God had just done in our midst.

    Had I ignored the whisper I would have missed out on the miracle. I could have overlooked the distraction, but I would have missed my divine appointment. My "important" schedule paled in comparison to what I had just experienced: God tying hearts together and weaving a beautiful blanket of prayer over one of His broken children.

    In the midst of the ordinary, God breathed the extraordinary ... all within a circle of strangers willing to be distracted for a moment in time.

    Did you wake up this morning with a long to-do list and an ambitious mindset? When distractions come your way, try pausing for a moment to see if God is unwrapping a divine appointment for you. It may be disguised as ordinary circumstances. But as you peel back the layers, whispering "Yes Lord, I'll obey," you will no doubt experience His presence and glory!

    Lord, thank You for entrusting me with divine appointments, and let my answer to Your call always be yes. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 7:23b, "Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you." (NIV)

    Philippians 2:13, "... for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When was the last time God turned a distraction into a divine appointment for you?

    Do you struggle with discerning God's voice? Pray and ask God to give you a greater awareness of His presence.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Fulfill: Promised By God

    Posted on September 1, 2014 by Family Christian

    It's so hard for me to believe my baby girl will be two soon. She is the youngest of 6 with 5 amazing older brothers. The fact that she is our last makes everything more emotional. While all of my children are miracles in my opinion, my youngest definitely beat the odds and reinforced my faith and trust.
    I had suffered 4 miscarriages in the past, two after my 2nd son was born and two after my youngest son. They were devastating. When I got pregnant for the 10th time, I was a nervous wreck. I was one of those people that planned and charted so I knew I was pregnant super early. When I got the first positive test, I immediately called my doctor and asked if I could come in to have my levels checked. She agreed and I went in the next morning. I was so anxious and scared. I prayed and prayed that everything was okay. I knew my hcg levels should be around at least 80. When the phone rang, I jumped on it. The nurse proceeded to tell me that my levels were at 165! I immediately started crying. I was so relieved since that was a great sign. My doctor called me a few hours later to congratulate me. I asked her if I should come back in for a second test. She said I could just come in for an ultrasound the next week if I wanted to see how everything looked. I would only be 5 weeks so we knew we wouldn't see a heartbeat but we would still be able to tell a lot about the health of the pregnancy from what they could see. I was cautiously optimistic and continued to pray for my tiny little one.
    The next Thursday, my husband and I went for the ultrasound. The tech started and we could plainly see the sac and it measured at 4 weeks, 5 days weeks. I took this a great sign. However, when my doctor came into the room, the look on her face told me otherwise. She proceeded to tell me that the sac was not shaped right. It should be nice and round at 5 weeks and mine was shaped more like a lima bean. I felt my stomach drop. I fought back the tears as she told that while she wasn't saying I was definitely going to miscarry, she wasn't getting a warm fuzzy. She said I had a 50/50 chance of the pregnancy being viable.  She told me to come back in one week for another ultrasound. At that point they would be able to tell more. I left the office feeling completed deflated. The thought of going through yet another miscarriage was heartbreaking. I went home and spent the rest of the day crying in bed.
    That weekend, I went to our church's annual women's retreat. I was trying so hard to be optimistic but it was hard, especially after 4 previous losses. I even packed some supplies in case I started to miscarry during the 2 days I would be gone. That night at our first group session, we gathered together and sang praise and worship songs. When we started singing "Mighty to Save", it really spoke to me. When we sang "My Savior, He can move the mountains My God is mighty to save He is mighty to save", I started crying. Inside I started begging God to save my baby. Thankfully, my good friend was there with me.  She was one of only 3 people that even knew I was pregnant. I was so thankful for her caring and support. Later, when the speaker started, she told us our first memory verse for the weekend. It was Exodus 14:14, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” It was like God had spoken it directly to me.
    That verse was immediately stamped on my heart. When I got home the next afternoon, I shared my experience with my husband. I remember getting on my knees that night and begging God to fight for me and my baby. When I talked to a close friend the next day, she told me that God was bigger than that ultrasound machine and He was in control. I clung to that.
    The following days were filled with so many emotions. I was hopeful, scared and anxious. I prayed for the best but tried to prepare myself for the worst. The morning of the ultrasound, I was admittedly cranky. My husband and I snapped at each other because we were both worried and scared. We got to the office only to find out that one of the techs was out that day so I would have to wait an additional 45 minutes to see another one. That was torture. I sat there praying and trying not to cry. When they finally called me back, I said one last prayer that God would be with me and if it was bad news that He would give me the strength to get through. The tech started the ultrasound and said, here's the sac and I can see a yolk sac. Then, she the words I will never forget, "and there's your little one's heartbeat!". I immediately broke down crying. I was flooded with gratitude and joy! I think the tech was caught off guard by my reaction since she hadn't done the first ultrasound and I don't think she was aware of why I was there. I told her that I hadn't expected to hear good news but that I had been praying all week for a heartbeat. She smiled and said "God is good!". She went on to tell me that in addition to a strong heartbeat, she also saw a perfectly normal, round sac. In fact, everything looked perfect and I was even measuring 2 days ahead. I was over the moon happy and my doctor even teared up when she walked in. She hugged me and told me how happy she was for me. I couldn't stop smiling and kept thanking God for fulfilling His promise to fight for us.
    We chose not to find out the gender of our baby but with 5 sons, I really assumed it was a boy. We even decorated the room for a boys and had a boy's name picked out. So when after only 2 hours of labor, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, we were a little shocked. We hadn't decided on a girl's name but one stuck out in my mind. I had found it on a baby name website in the final weeks of my pregnancy and it just felt right. We named our sweet baby girl Amaris which means "Promised by God".
    Belinda is a wife, mom, blogger, and Brand Ambassador. She has six children including 5 boys and 1 girl. Belinda enjoys reading, photography, crafts and DIY projects, and watching her boys play soccer.  You can more from Belinda at Mudpies and Tiaras.


    This post was posted in Guest Bloggers and was tagged with Parenting, guest blogger, babies, fulfill, child loss, loss

  • Unshakable Confidence

    Posted on August 29, 2014 by Lynn Cowell

    Lynn Cowell

    "Mary responded, 'I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true.' And then the angel left her." Luke 1:38 (NLT)

    Lord, I'm not sure I can take one more rejection.

    No. No. No. Every email I received said the same thing, using different words. We don't publish that type of book. We don't publish writers we don't know. We won't publish you.

    Letting each rejection seep into my heart, many days I crawled into bed and cried. Why would God ask me to do something good, yet allow a process that made me feel so bad?

    But then I remembered Mary, who was much wiser than I. Her story is found in the Bible. Instead of building her confidence on something she could lose, or have taken away, she built her confidence on God.

    Picture this teenager. She's engaged to a great guy. Wedding plans are in motion. Life is good.

    Then suddenly, her happily-ever-after dreams are interrupted by an angel announcing this surprise:

    "Good morning! You're beautiful with God's beauty, Beautiful inside and out!
    God be with you"
    (Luke 1:28, MSG).

    Flattered? Nope. She was scared! However, the angel assures her, "You have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus" (v. 29-33).

    My reaction would have been, What? Pregnant? I'm not married yet! There's no way!

    But when Mary received this news, we don't see fear or doubt. Her response isn't, "This will be the end of me! What will everyone say about me?"

    Mary doesn't ditch her confidence. Instead, as we find in today's key verse, her reaction is grounded in faith: "I am the Lord's servant. May everything you have said about me come true" (Luke 1:38a).

    Mary responded with confidence because Mary's confidence began with her relationship with God.

    Not on something, like her reputation. That was outside her control.

    Not on someone, like Joseph. For all she knew, he would leave her once he learned she was pregnant.

    Not on some place, like her home. Mary actually left town to visit her cousin after she received this news.

    Did Mary understand everything God was doing? Unlikely. Or resent what He was doing? Doesn't appear so.

    Would others judge her? No doubt they would, but Mary did not allow people's opinions to prevent her from embracing God's calling, even if she didn't completely understand it. The lack of details didn't impact her confidence in His plans for her life, nor her trust in Him to take care of her.

    There have been times when I've based my confidence on others. As a teenager, I based it on a boyfriend's affection, a coach's affirmation or my parent's approval. If one of them failed to give the "Atta girl!" I craved, I saw myself as a failure.

    As a mom, I've built it on my kids and their performance. When they made a mistake, my confidence was shaken. I've based my security on my career and the success I wanted. Success hasn't always come, although rejection often has.

    Has there been a time when circumstances were less than perfect and your confidence was shaken?

    I'm learning that unshakable confidence is not built on someone, something or someplace, but on our unshakable God. This confidence is built over time, before confidence-shaking circumstances come. In the difficult times, God has taught me He alone is my firm foundation for rebuilding confidence. Only Him.

    As we face inevitable uncertainties in life, in our relationships, in our futures, let's start to rebuild our confidence on the One that can never be taken away: God. The only One who will never leave us or forsake us.

    Lord, it's easier to build my confidence on what I can see and what I know. Help me to build my confidence on You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35-36, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What have you been building your confidence on? Is it something you could lose or have taken from you?

    How can you begin to make a shift and build your confidence on God — His faithfulness and love for you?

    © 2014 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31

  • The Thrill of an Unrushed Yes

    Posted on August 28, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa Terkeurst

    "...all our busy rushing ends in nothing." Psalm 39:6 (NLT)

    Recently, my husband and I got into an argument right before we were about to head out the door to go on a date. In the heat of the moment, he announced the date was off.

    He no longer wanted to go. And honestly, I didn't either.

    I wanted to go sit in a coffee shop by myself and make a mental list of all the reasons I was right. All the reasons he was wrong. And justify my perspective.

    But it's at this exact moment of resistance an unraveling can begin.

    Oh, the unraveling. It can happen so suddenly and with such tragic consequences.

    Once, I had a favorite sweater I loved wearing. It wasn't too bulky but was still warm and cozy. The only problem was the threads were so loosely woven it snagged on things.

    I was always mindful of the delicate nature of this sweater when I wore it so I could protect it, make it last, and enjoy wearing it time and again.

    Until one day I was in a hurry. I grabbed some things I needed for a meeting and rushed to my car. I tossed all my stuff over to the passenger seat, including a spiral notebook. This spiral notebook had a metal-binding wire that unbeknownst to me caught on my sleeve. As I pulled my arm toward the steering wheel, the notebook came with it and pulled a huge snag in my sweater.

    I unhooked myself and assessed the damage.

    What I should have done was taken the sweater off, put something else on, and later taken the time to repair the snag the correct way. But in the rush, I made the tragic decision to do what seemed easiest in the moment. I snipped the loose threads and hoped for the best. That tragic decision started an unraveling process that ended the life of my beautiful sweater.

    Which brings me back to date night.

    Doing what seems easy in the moment often isn't what's best for the long term. So, I pushed for us to still go on our date.

    It wasn't fun. It wasn't easy. There were tears and awkward stretches of silence. But we pushed through the resistance we both felt and eventually talked.

    Talked through the snags. The pulls. The things that threatened to unravel us.

    There is a delicate nature to marriage. Honestly, there's a delicate nature to all relationships. It's so easy to forget that. It's so easy to take it all for granted and stop being careful. Stop being mindful. Stop being protective. Stop and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in those we love.

    Psalm 39:6 wisely reminds us that "all our busy rushing ends in nothing."

    Yes, the unraveling can happen so quickly when we refuse to push the pause button.

    My unrushed yes was the best yes for that day. There were eventual apologies and conversations that repaired the snags the right way — tying a knot and tucking it back into the weave of our relationship fabric.

    Conversational threads are what make up the fabric of relationships. We must take time — make time — to talk.

    Where do we find this unrushed yes? We make it. We make time for relationships by thinking about them when scheduling our lives. Like Louie Giglio said, "Whenever you say yes to something, there is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less."

    I don't want my relationships to constantly get my less. And I'm sure you don't either. So let's get intentional about leaving enough unscheduled times on our calendars for relationship moments to happen.

    Let's leave space and look for opportunities to give relationships our best yes.

    Dear Lord, unrush me today. I want to pause and embrace the unrushed yes of investing in the people I love. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of a relationship in your life that needs your attention. Decide to give an unrushed yes to investing in that person today. It will be the best yes of your day.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • How to Live an Invitation

    Posted on August 27, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    Amy Carroll

    "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 19:34 (NIV)

    Walking into the building, I kept my head down and peered around the room from under my lashes. The butterflies in my stomach took flight as I assessed the unfamiliar surroundings. The room was filled with strangers and mysterious equipment, making my hands slick and my heart pound.

    I was a foreigner in a new land: the gym.

    You might laugh, but have you ever had similar feelings in a new situation? Even though I'm seasoned in many settings, the first time I visited my gym, I remembered the feelings of being the outsider. The newbie who doesn't know the culture, secrets to fitting in or how things work.

    Being a "foreigner" is uncomfortable, but when we pass that stage and become a "native," it's easy to forget those feelings and become oblivious to the needs and feelings of a newcomer.

    Even though I'm fully integrated into my church family, that first foray into the gym brought flashbacks of visiting churches after our move. I remembered the discomfort of walking into rooms full of people I didn't know, wondering if anyone would speak to me. It was difficult to navigate unfamiliar surroundings, trying to pick up on the unique vibe and vocabulary of each place.

    Those were the days when my "house" hadn't achieved the status of "home." I walked my neighborhood and wondered about the people behind the doors. Would I be accepted here? Maybe even loved? In those early months, every place and every interaction held the starchy, scratchy newness of jeans just off the shelf. How I ached for the warm softness of the worn and familiar.

    On the day my new neighbor Nikki visited and brought a pie, things began to shift. Her children were the same age as mine, and as they ran off to play, Nikki's kindness and happy smile opened a door into a new place of belonging. Even before I earned "native" status, she treated me as a friend. Nikki lived the powerful truth in our key verse: "The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born" (Leviticus 19:34a).

    God created us for expanding community, and He calls us to live a life of welcome.

    When we remember our days as a newcomer, our time as "foreigners in Egypt," we can live life with one hand joined and the other open. One hand holds the hand of the precious community God gives us — neighbors, family, friends, and brothers and sisters in faith — while keeping the other hand free to draw newcomers into the circle.

    The hand joined to our community keeps us close and connected. It's where we commit to live our truest self, working through the messiness that inevitably arises with close living. It's the people we eat with, pray with, play with and love. When we have the blessing of a tight-knit group, sometimes it's easiest to close the circle, joining both hands with those we know well. But God asks us to keep one hand free, always looking for one more new friend to draw into the loop.

    My awkward first visit to the gym lifted my eyes from my everyday busyness and engagement with my well-established loved ones. Now I'm trying to be a walking invitation to the "foreigners" around me. "Come join us!" my heart cries.

    Let's go with a heart of invitation to work, school, church, the neighborhood party ... and maybe, even the gym.

    God, help me shake the complacency of being a "native." Lift my eyes to see people around me who are new and in need of my kindness. Show me how to reach out to others in love to draw them into my circle, living a life of invitation. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:10-11, "Now you're dressed in a new wardrobe. Every item of your new way of life is custom-made by the Creator, with his label on it. All the old fashions are now obsolete. Words like Jewish and non-Jewish, religious and irreligious, insider and outsider, uncivilized and uncouth, slave and free, mean nothing. From now on everyone is defined by Christ, everyone is included in Christ." (MSG)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Is there someone new in your neighborhood, workplace or church who needs to feel welcomed?

    Pray and watch for a way to reach out and make them feel included. Follow through one day this week, then savor the joy of bringing encouragement to someone else.

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • That Sneaking Feeling You're Being Watched

    Posted on August 26, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    Alicia Bruxvoort

    "For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him ..." 2 Chronicles 16:9a (NIV)

    Last summer, my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The googly kind, of course. So did my milk jug, tissue boxes, egg carton and toothpaste tubes.

    Don't worry, those wobbly watchers didn't leave me frightened or flabbergasted. After all, the strange surveillance gig was my idea.

    I'm the one who dug through a box of craft supplies early one morning and located a stash of googly eyes. I'm the one who snuck through the house with a glue gun and attached those wobbly watchers to anything I could find.

    I didn't add a pair of eyes to the salsa jar because I wanted to play a prank on my family or because I had too much time on my hands at 6 a.m. No, I raided the plastic peepers because I was tired of forgetting.

    I was tired of reading my Bible in the morning and going about my day as if God's promises had no impact on my hours. I was tired of forgetting that God's Word is active and alive (Hebrews 4:12). I was tired of relying on my own strength, instead of banking on His.

    So, when I read about God's eyes roaming the earth searching for hearts to strengthen, I wanted to remember that glorious truth. I needed to pin that promise to my soul and let it shine hope in the midst of my weariness.

    That's why my salsa jar sprouted eyes.

    The gospel is radical and ridiculous in the most marvelous of ways, and I never want to forget that. The truth of 2 Chronicles 16:9a is audacious if you think about it. "The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth ..." Wow.

    We live wrapped in the warmth of God's gaze.

    We are watched by the King of Glory.

    We are strengthened by the Author of Life.

    Even when we fail to fix our sight on Him, God's eyes are fixed on us. And remembering that truth could change everything.

    If God sees us, then we're not invisible.

    If God sees us, then we're not invaluable.

    If God sees us, then we're not unknown.

    Those eyes aren't waiting to see us stumble. Those eyes are scanning this swiveling globe because the Creator of the galaxies wants to create something new in you and in me.

    He wants to infuse our tired legs with vigor.

    He wants to replace our whimpers with wonder.

    He wants to trade our powerlessness for His power.

    I need that truth when the kids are fighting and the bread is burning and my energy is waning fast. I need that promise when my plans have flopped and my feelings have been hurt and my intentions have been misunderstood.

    If God sees me, I am not forgotten.

    Eventually I threw out the sneaky-peaky salsa jar and the peeping peanut butter. I recycled the spying soap bottle and the gazing graham crackers, and my kids relegated our strange summer under surveillance as just another one of their mama's crazy ideas.

    But this morning, when I awoke feeling sapped and discouraged, I opened my Bible to Psalm 33:18 and wondered if I should go find my glue gun once again: "But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (NIV).

    After all, it never hurts to be reminded that I'm being watched.

    Dear Jesus, Help me remember that You long to give me strength when I am weak. Grow in me a heart that is fully committed to You, and fix my mind on Your wondrous promises today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 34:15, "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry." (NIV)

    Proverbs 15:3, "The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How does knowing God wants to strengthen you, change the way you can approach a specific challenge in your life right now?

    Choose one of the verses listed in today's devotion and share it with a friend who is battling discouragement or weariness. Consider delivering the good news with googly eyes!

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "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." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

    We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.

    Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.

    We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.

    After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.

    As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.

    My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.

    In today's key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it's even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.

    In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he'd broken God's laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn't do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.

    Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life's purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.

    So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn't allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don't have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.

    Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.

    Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How might your life be different if you accepted God's forgiveness and grace, then let go of the weight of shame and regret once and for all?

    Read the whole chapter of Romans 7. How does Paul's honest admission of sin and wrongdoing help you recognize that neither you, nor anyone, is beyond God's redemption?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


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

  • The Tempest Inside: Seeking Fulfillment

    Posted on August 25, 2014 by Family Christian

    A young man in his twenties hangs his head as if in prayer. Sitting in a camp chair at his church's fall retreat he tightens his grasp on the book in his hands. A beautiful glow from the bonfire casts a deceptive shadow behind him preventing everyone except his closest peers from knowing the tempest that stirs inside. Some can see the form of a strong young man with an athletic build who appears as if he could conquer anything. The shadow shares both a truth and a lie. On one hand it is very true because the man loves to work outdoors. He finds strength and pleasure just being around God's creation and for this reason he enjoys taking pride in his tasks. History has proven that in many cases it would seem whenever he sets his heart and mind on something, he really could conquer anything set before him.

    On the other hand, the shadow is offering a great deception. In reality, the very heart and soul of this man withers away with each mistake and selfish notion. He ultimately searches to find God's fulfillment in his life, yet only his closest and dearest friends who gather near him tonight truly know his heart aches in turmoil struggling to find answers. There have just been too many recent occasions of shame and suffering he's endured the last few months for him to relax and enjoy the fellowship around him. Although he doesn't realize it yet, much of this man's misfortune was unnecessary. Sadly, most instances were prompted by poor choices despite both friends and family trying to prevent him from making such a choice. Between the constant emotional and financial stress now taking its heavy toll, he sits broken before the Lord - mindlessly staring at the earth beneath his feet. Most of the others nearby cannot see or feel his anguish as he wonders about tomorrow - his eyes dazed by the flicker of fire light dancing across the ground.

    He has his health and for that he is thankful, but he has not appreciated that gift enough. Now he grows more frail in both physical form and inner strength as he continues to spiral downward into the abyss of his own wandering negative thoughts - frustrated by his selfish choices. He longs for God to intervene and give him a push in the right direction. Thoughts of one day finding the answers - God's purpose for his life - swirl inside his mind and tear at his innermost being. He desires to see the future of hope, but is still at a loss as to where God intends his life to go from here.

    As he wrestles with finding direction, he finally humbles himself enough to pray. Muttering silently under his breath, he asks the Lord for forgiveness, peace, and fulfillment. "How can I get back on track living a life that is worthy of your calling, Lord?", he ponders to himself as he lets out a long sigh. His lips whisper softly, "I want to live for you now - and you alone, Lord." Broken and completely humbled, the man remains still for a moment before God - waiting and hoping to somehow hear His voice.

    Crackles of burning embers and the night song of happy crickets fill his ears while voices of laughter drift away in the background nearby. The soft leather Bible he had clutched on his lap, now lays open before him. He prays and seeks for hope and inspiration to one day feel fulfilled in the Lord and know His life's purpose. Unfortunately this Bible which once went with him everywhere had lost its place in the young man's priorities and had become almost forgotten. He now boldly begins to read it once again. Page after page he scans in the dim orange light, then pauses. Opening his heart and mind to God's word, he soon finds he is now at peace. Praying to the Lord once more in thanks for not giving up on him, he quietly rests his thoughts in meditation. His eyes stop on some verses and he trusts the Lord for encouragement.

    Time passes and the young man stares into the night sky as God's starry masterpiece sparkles and shines. Slowly, it's being revealed to him that all things are possible with God. Just then, his lips begin to curl a bit at the edges, and it almost appears to be forming a smile. Recalling the verses of Psalm 57:2-3 that his wise pastor once shared with him many years ago, he turns to those pages and begins to read out loud: "I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness."

    The young man's friends now quickly turn toward him, gladdened by his sudden break of silence and depression. They've all known each other a long time. No words were necessarily needed to comfort. Just being there with him and praying for him during this time of struggle is all he could have ever asked. He stands up slowly - gently placing his Bible down on his seat and smiling at it. It is going to forever be a priceless treasure to him now, as he plans on reading through God's wisdom daily. His peers join him to rejoice as he is warmly greeted and hugged by all.

    Surrounded by the joyful tears and thankful hearts, the young man now knows God was always by his side through every circumstance. He realizes a great truth - the friends and people in our lives that God brings our way in His name are His blessings to help guide and protect us. God's purpose and vision were available to him all along, the young man just forgot where to look. His friends tried to share with him that God's words of the Bible are freely given as a gift and road map for our lives to help us find that purpose and fulfillment we each search for. He now knows they were right all along. The love and devotion of God's people shall continue to be an influence on the young man's future steps, but he will always remember to seek God's wisdom first in the Good Book. The young man bent down by his seat and carefully lifted up his prized possession - the Bible. This fulfilling treasure of God's loving promises that is now something he can never live without.

    Rebecca Harmon at Love2EncourageYou
    http://love2encourageyou.com


    This post was posted in Guest Bloggers and was tagged with guest blogger, fulfill

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