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Family Christian

  • Click to Change a Life

    Posted on December 29, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN EHMAN

    KAREN

    "For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (AMP)

    "Look, Miss Karen! When you click here you can change the color of her fingernail polish just like that!" I was watching my friend’s pre-teen daughter for the weekend. She was parked on the couch playing around on a nail art website on my computer. Each time she clicked on a different bottle the color instantly changed on the model’s hands.

    Clicking a mouse to change things on our computer screen is so simple. If only real life were the same!

    Many times I look at my circumstances and wish I had a special mouse so I could click and change everything I don’t like. But life doesn’t work like that. While there’s much I can change, there’s much more I can’t.

    And when I focus on all I can’t revise, my heart can feel defeated. There are people I can’t change, finances I can’t control and circumstances that leave my heart feeling shattered. If only I could recolor bad attitudes or rewrite difficult experiences, then I’d feel better. Right?

    Wrong.

    I've discovered that trying to change other people or alter their circumstances isn’t really a fix for my often-troubling situations, because it isn’t something I can make happen. I can't control another's behavior, only my own. Here is where the solution lies: Even when circumstances and people stay the same, my attitude toward them and my perspective can change. What can bring about this transformation?

    God’s Word.

    God’s Word can snap me back to attention, soften my heart and help me view my life through a different and God-honoring lens. It can align my heart and actions with God’s so I don’t do or say things today I will regret tomorrow. As our key verse of Hebrews 4:12 states, it helps to expose, sift, analyze and judge the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

    In a very practical way, God’s Word makes it all click — and that clicking makes me change.

    Spending time daily in the Bible is imperative to bringing about this change, and we at Proverbs 31 Ministries are committed to helping women around the world interact with God’s Word daily through our many ministry avenues. In the past year alone, God impacted more than 750,000 women daily through our free Encouragement for Today devotions. We celebrated with over 5,000 women who made first-time decisions for Christ, and we led an additional 150,000 women from 120 countries through our Online Bible Studies.

    It’s not only the volunteers and staff who contribute to God’s transforming work. So does everyone who gives a financial gift — no matter the size — to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    We value every gift and giver. The ones who give hundreds … the ones who forego lattes each month to share their saved $25 … the ones who donate $5.

    Yes, $5 makes a big impact.

    Together, we offer perspective-changing truth that can renew a woman’s heart and mind, no matter what age or stage of life she’s in.

    Together, we point women to the Healer, made known on the pages of Scripture, who can make their spirits whole.

    Together, we teach women how to study the Bible, forgive and mend friendships, strengthen a marriage and effectively parent children.

    Do you want to change the world by offering hope, help and even life from behind your computer screen? We’d love for you to join us. When we give our collective "littles," God transforms them into a big movement that can alter lives both now and for eternity.

    With a click of your mouse, you help change the world.

    We’d be honored if you would join us.

    Dear LORD, thank You for the life-altering and perspective-changing power of Your holy Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:11 "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (ESV)

    Psalm 139:23-24 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When is a time that God’s Word helped to change your bad attitude or wrong perspective?

    Will you forward this email to a friend who needs to receive encouragement from God’s Word?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Can't Do Everything

    Posted on December 26, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    AMY CARROLL

    AMY

    "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me ... For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10b (NIV)

    "I don't want to go bowling," I said hearing a cringe-inducing whine creep into my voice.

    While my entire extended family enthusiastically prepared for a fun outing, I was dragging my feet. In reality, I don't dislike bowling terribly. I just really, really, REALLY don't like doing things I'm not good at. And I'm terrible at bowling.

    Avoidance or quitting is my natural default.

    Our self-esteem driven culture says, "You can do anything you want!"

    But the truth is I can't do everything.

    My dream as a little girl was to be a platinum award-winning pop star. I sang into my hairbrush and made sure I stood on the stage for every talent show my school held. But no matter how much I practiced, my heart-felt but average singing was met with tepid applause and sympathetic pats on the back from my friends.

    Yes, if I'd been born just a little later, I would be one of the pitiful audition examples on American Idol — a contestant who's convinced she's great while the rest of the world watches with wide eyes and gasps. My family, the world's greatest encouragers, would be at home cheering wildly while the rest of the world muttered, "Bless her heart!"

    No matter how many lessons I take or how much I practice, I'm never going to progress from the choir loft to the stadium stage. It's just not going to happen.

    Singing isn't a gift God has given me, and I don't feel His leading to take a leap of faith. If I were to audition, it would be foolish, because it would be a risk taken from my own desires and based on an unrealistic assessment of my gifts. Simply put, there's a clear difference between a foolish risk and an inspired risk.

    I think it's great for us to understand our limits. But I have another issue that's not so great. It's my propensity to give up too quickly when things get hard ... when I'm challenged to do something I'm not already good at.

    Recently I've been challenged to complete the most difficult process of my professional life. I've worked and struggled and fallen more times than I'd like to count. Day after day I've wanted to quit. And I've become painfully aware that this assignment is too big for me.

    But this assignment is an inspired risk. It's based on the beginnings of a gift God has placed in me and on His clear calling.

    So I've spent time on my knees asking God for direction and just a little more fortitude.

    He has faithfully encouraged me. God continues to point out He not only opened the door of opportunity, He surrounded me with others to help me develop this embryo of a gift.

    Instead of doing what our culture does, passing out false praise and "you can do anything's," God has instructed me to rejoice that I'm really not good enough ...

    To do it without Him.

    To accomplish it without the help of others.

    To finish without perseverance (which produces character, and character hope, Romans 5:3-5).

    Sometimes, when we're given a task beyond ourselves, we just need to rejoice. It's a good thing we're really not good enough. It's in those times of struggle, failure and ultimately growth that we find out God is enough.

    Lord, teach me to rejoice in the difficult assignments, because it's there I come to the end of my own abilities and learn to lean on Yours. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)

    1 Corinthians 1:25, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is an inspired risk you believe God wants you to make?

    Write a prayer asking God to help you obey when He calls you to something that seems beyond your ability.

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Christmas Prayer for the Merry ... and Not-So-Merry

    Posted on December 25, 2014 by Family Christian

    "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior — yes, the Messiah, the Lord — has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!'" Luke 2:10-11 (NLT)

    Editor's Note: Today, and always, we pray you experience God's love through the gift of His Son, Jesus. We wish you a very Merry Christmas! From your friends at Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Father God,

    We thank You and praise You today for the miracle of Your Son's birth. Thank You for bringing great JOY to the whole world!

    Thank You for giving us the assurance that because You came to us in the form of a human, we who believe in Jesus can know with absolute certainty that we'll spend eternity with You.

    We thank You, Lord, for the many reasons we have been given a merry Christmas. And we rejoice for each blessing. New life. New love. A home. A job. New opportunities. Second chances. And more.

    We know, Lord, that You bring the sun and the moon and set the stars in motion. You tell the ocean where to stop and the snow when to start. And we thank You for the mighty gift of Your creation.

    Thank You, Father, for spiritual leaders and faith-filled friends who keep encouraging us when we are close to giving up.

    And although we have many reasons to rejoice today, Lord, we also know December 25th can be not-so-merry for a whole host of reasons. We pray for those who are experiencing loss this Christmas: relational, financial, spiritual and physical.

    We pray for those who are coping with loving a prodigal and our friends and family members whose hearts are far from You. We pray for those dealing with unemployment and addictions and chronic sickness ... and unending pain and frustrations of all kinds. Thank You, Lord, that You are The Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace, even in the midst of our not-so-merry circumstances.

    Finally, Lord, we ask You to grant us peace. Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, when the world all around us spins out-of-control.

    Help us to stay focused on You, this Christmastime and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so that we might truly have a very merry Christmas.

    In Jesus' Name,
    Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 3:16, "For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life." (NLT)

    Luke 2:10, "But the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.'" (NLT)

    1 John 5:13, "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life." (NIV)

    Psalm 95:1-2, "Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." (NIV)

    Job 38:8-11, "Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, 'This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!'" (NLT)

    Psalm 72:12-14, "He will rescue the poor when they cry to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them. He feels pity for the weak and the needy, and he will rescue them. He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are precious to him." (NLT)

    Isaiah 9:6, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:23, "Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again." (NLT)

    Prayer © 2014 by Steph Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • God is With Us

    Posted on December 24, 2014 by Micca Campbell

    MICCA CAMPBELL

    MICCA

    "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means 'God with us').'" Matthew 1:23 (NIV)

    I woke to the cooing of my 8-month-old son in need of a dry diaper and a bottle. By the time I got to his room, I was fully awake to my reality. It was Christmas morning. Sigh. I had dreaded the arrival of this day.

    It was the first Christmas after my husband's death.

    Most of my days consisted of loneliness and grief. I knew facing the holidays would be worse. I felt so alone.

    My heart was joyless. There was no one to wish a Merry Christmas. No gifts to open. No celebration. For me, it was just another ordinary day of going through the motions. I'd care for my son and try to survive the grief and loneliness.

    Have you ever been this lonely? Your situation may not be like mine, but I do know during difficult times God often feels distant. Uncaring. Unresponsive. Unaware. And yet, Psalm 139:7 challenged my feelings that Christmas Day.

    "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" (NIV)

    The Psalmist was clear. God is everywhere. There is nowhere I can go that God is not already there.

    As I pondered this truth, hope began to rise in my heart. I am never alone because God is with me in every situation, good or bad.

    Isn't this the message of Christmas — God is with us? Isn't this the essence of our faith — God is with us?

    Perhaps this is what inspired Matthew to write our key verse: "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means, 'God with us.')" (Matthew 1:23).

    That name, Immanuel, holds great significance for you and me.

    This Name tells us Christ didn't come that holy night to say "well done." He didn't come to pat us on the back or encourage us for just a time. He came to stay. God came to dwell among us and to reside within us forever.

    Sure, God has always been with us, but this truth took on a whole new meaning when Jesus was born. The astounding truth of Christmas is that God put on human flesh and became one of us. A babe, lying in a manger, was proof He had come and His name was the message. God is with us in human formImmanuel became one of us and suffered as we suffer so that He might understand our pain. So that He might know how to comfort and help us.

    That's not all. This baby Jesus didn't come only to walk among us. He came to deliver us and set us right with God. The coming of Jesus meant God the Father had now sent His Son to deliver the world from sin.

    What does this mean for you and me? It means no matter the challenge, you are not alone. Whatever your need — deliverance, strength, hope — Immanuel is present. He is not some far-off God. He is right there beside you this very moment.

    My days grew brighter as I looked for God's company amidst my pain. Eventually, I no longer trudged through ordinary days because my extraordinary God met me at my point of need. The secret is this. The more I learned to acknowledge His presence, the more of His presence I experienced. You can, too.

    No matter where you are this Christmas Eve, you are not alone.

    You may feel alone. It may appear that you are alone. But Christ is there with you. He sees you. He understands. And He can help you.

    Tomorrow can be different. You can celebrate Christmas morn with new joy because He — God Himself — has come to be with you. In His magnificent company, though you may be down and out, you are not without. You are not without His love or His all-sufficient strength. You are not without His safety. You are not without His care or provision. And you are not without His presence.

    This is the best news of all. Immanuel, God is with us!

    Lord, Thank You for your promised presence. I can move forward in faith knowing You are with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 13:5b, " ... because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How will you respond to the Christ child this Christmas?

    © 2014 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Didn't Have The Courage

    Posted on December 23, 2014 by Renee Swope

    RENEE SWOPE

    RENEE

    "The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD..." 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV)

    I didn't want to go first. As much as I knew God wanted me to trust Him, I didn't have the courage.

    It was June 1989. I had given my life to Christ six months earlier and was on a college youth retreat. While reading my Bible one day, I sensed God wanted me to share my story. First with my large youth group, and then with others in the coming weeks. Not just the happy parts of my story; but also the hidden, redeemed-by-His grace parts.

    I didn't want to tell people the hard parts of my story, especially not my struggles with depression and anxiety. Yet I knew God wanted me to share the reasons behind the life-changing hope I'd found in Christ.

    I wish I could say I gave my story freely and wholeheartedly to the Lord, to use for His glory. Just like King David and his leaders gave their gifts to build a temple for the Lord, as we see in today's key verse, 1 Chronicles 29:9, I wish I could say my heart responded with a courageous "Yes!"

    But that's not what happened and here's why:

    I couldn't see the why behind God's will. Why would God want me to share my story? How could my story help people? Their smiles and seemingly happy-go-lucky Christian lives convinced me they were doing fine. I assumed their problems were minor and their need for Jesus was minimal compared to mine.

    I didn't realize pride had blocked my perspective. I thought I was afraid to share my story, but I'm pretty sure pride was the problem. Sadly, I was more concerned with what people thought about me than what they thought about God. Clinging to the details of my story like priceless jewels, I would not give my brokenness to use for others' good or for His glory.

    I didn't have the courage to go first. I had never heard Christians share their emotional and spiritual struggles. And I did not want to be the first. What if depression and anxiety were topics under a secret "things we don't talk about" category I hadn't been told about? That would be awkward. Maybe if someone else went first, then I'd go next.

    I didn't share my story that weekend or in the 10 years that followed.

    I didn't have courageous willingness like King David. But eventually I became like his leaders and like the people who saw their example and "rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD ..." 1 Chronicles 29:9a (NIV).

    You see, God brought women into my life who followed His lead even when they didn't understand the why behind His will. Women who recognized pride's ability to block our perspective and keep us from God's best.

    Women who were willing to go first, which gave me the courage to go next.

    Through my church, speakers at women's conferences and here at Proverbs 31 Ministries, God has surrounded me with women who give Jesus full access to their lives and their stories because they trust Jesus more than their fears.

    God uses women who are willing to go first — to give others courage to go next.

    I want to be that kind of woman. A woman who is willing to say, "I'll trust Jesus even when it's hard. I'll let my guard down so you can see Christ working in me. I'll be brave so you know you can be, too. Watch, I'll go first."

    Why? Because He's worth it and you're worth it. We're worth it, friend. We're worth the work it takes to follow Christ with all of our hearts and willingly give Him all we've got.

    Let's do it. Are you with me? I'll go first.

    Lord, make me brave. Give me courageous willingness to go first — whether it's sharing my story or saying I'm sorry. And when I feel afraid, remind me that You went first so I could go next. From Bethlehem to Calvary, You have gone before me and You are with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Chronicles 29:11, "Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Proverbs 31 Ministries exists to be a trusted friend who comes along side of you and millions of women around the world each day — a friend who says: "You can do this. We know it's hard, but you're not alone. We are with you!" It's why we share our struggles and our stories held together with God's truth through our FREE daily devotions, radio shows and Online Bible Studies. But we can't do it without your help. Will you prayerfully consider making a year-end gift or becoming a monthly partner?

    Like King David and his leaders, we've invited our staff, board of directors and speaker team to go first with us in our giving by making a year-end gift or becoming monthly partners during our year-end campaign. We would love for you to join us as we invest in building God's kingdom through Proverbs 31 Ministries. Make a DONATION here. Thank you for your prayers and generous support.

    © 2014 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • If You're Longing For Home This Christmas...

    Posted on December 22, 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort

    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    ALICIA

    "Jesus replied, 'Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'" John 14:23 (NIV)

    In January, my son cried every night when the moon rose high.

    Moving boxes replaced our Christmas boxes as we started the new year in a new house, in a new town, in a new state 450 miles away from the only place Joshua had ever called home.

    When the Legos were abandoned and the pingpong paddles laid to rest, when the clamor of the day grew mute and the quiet of the night grew noisy, my littlest boy would lie in his top bunk and remember where he was.

    Or where he wasn't.

    The shadows danced differently on those new bedroom walls, and the wind rattled the windows in a curious cadence. The owl in the big evergreen sang to the stars with an eerie screech, and the streetlamp cast a golden beam on the closet door.

    I wanna go home, my son would cry as salty tears dampened his pillow. I wanna go home.

    Sometimes the words seeped angry. Other times, the syllables dribbled like a dirge echoing lonely in the darkness. But every time, I'd lie next to my snuffling son with my heart aching and my head quaking. And I would pray until he surrendered to sleep.

    Crammed between the cold wall and Joshua's little frame, I prayed for new friends and for fresh courage. For comfort and for peace. But most of all, I begged God to make our new place home.

    I prayed that line all through the long hours of that first homesick month until one morning I realized that my prayer had already been answered.

    I was lingering in the 14th chapter of the gospel of John when the 23rd verse made my heart leap.

    "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them."

    I shifted my gaze from the Bible on my lap to the moving boxes piled high in the corner, and I soaked in the comfort of my Savior's words.

    We may have left a house behind when we followed the moving truck east, but we hadn't relinquished our home.

    You see, home isn't a place, it's a Person.

    Home isn't a refuge from the storm. It's a Perfect Love that storms our hearts.

    Home isn't the light at the end of the road. It's an unquenchable Hope that lights our way.

    And right before Jesus went to Heaven to prepare a forever place for you and me, He reminded us of that simple truth.

    We don't find home by following a yellow brick road. Home finds us when we follow Christ's commands and choose to live as His beloved.

    Our zip code may change and the familiar may fade, but when we build our lives on the cornerstone of Christ, we are never far from home.

    Because home isn't summed up in an address.

    It's captured in a name. Immanuel.

    Matthew 1:23 says, "'The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')" (NIV).

    Dear Jesus, I want to build my life on the unchanging reality of Your love, so that no matter where I go, I will always feel at home. Thanks that You are always with me. Teach me how to live in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (NIV)

    Psalm 90:1, "God, it seems you've been our home forever ..." (MSG)

    John 15:5, "I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me." (NLV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    As you decorate for Christmas, pray about the ways you can "decorate" your heart, Christ's home, in honor of His birth. Ask God to show you if you need to sweep out some cobwebs of unforgiveness, hang a garland of prayer, or re-arrange your priorities to put others first.

    Set up a simple manger scene somewhere in your home and let it remind you of the gift of Immanuel — at Christmastime and always.

    © 2014 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Is Jesus Just Pretend?

    Posted on December 19, 2014 by Tracie Miles

    TRACIE MILES

    TRACIE

    "But he replied, 'I won't believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.'" John 20:25b (NLT)

    She looked up at her daddy with eyes filled with concern, trying to put into words the fears and doubts which had crept into her 3-year-old mind.

    It was a day dedicated to prayer and worship at my niece's Christian preschool where her father works and where they'd spent the morning praying for Jesus to join them and be present.

    When the service finished, Berkeley tugged on her daddy's shirt, and as he looked at her distraught little face, he asked what was wrong. Hesitantly, she innocently asked "Daddy, is Jesus just pretend?"

    He was taken aback by her question, but gently answered, "Of course not honey. He's very much alive and with us today."

    Berkeley replied, "But He didn't come." They had asked Jesus to come, and in her mind, He hadn't shown up.

    When my brother told me this story, my first reaction was a chuckle. How adorable is that? But my second thought was how even as adults, we sometimes wonder if Jesus is just pretend, simply because we don't see physical evidence of Him when we want to. Even one of Jesus's disciples, Thomas, doubted Jesus was really alive until he saw Him with his own eyes.

    After the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), and Jesus appeared before them saying "Peace be with you." He showed them the wounds in His hands and His side and they were overcome with joy.

    But Thomas was not there that evening to witness this encounter. Since he didn't see Jesus himself, he didn't believe Jesus had actually shown up. In today's key verse, Thomas stated he needed proof before he could believe Jesus was really alive and active.

    I've been a doubting Thomas before myself.

    I've spent nights wondering if Jesus was really with me when my heart was breaking, my mistakes were heavy burdens, and my problems seemed overwhelming. I've walked through days begging for Jesus to give me a sign, any sign, to prove He was with me. And just like Jesus showed Himself to Thomas, there was one particular day He showed Himself to me.

    I was participating in a Bible study and instructed to do a timeline of my life. I half-heartedly began the exercise, but over the next hour, as I scribbled out decades of experiences, good and bad, my spiritual eyes were opened for the first time. I suddenly saw a picture of God's handiwork, and how He had been at work every step of the way.

    When they were written in black and white, I began to see the happenings of my life from a new perspective — as tangible proof of Jesus. They were no longer just memories, but experiences that all fed my life story and mapped out a divinely designed future, purpose and plan just for me.

    Only after Thomas saw Jesus for himself did he believe He was alive. Similarly, when the proof of Jesus was staring at me from my scribbled paper, I could not help but believe either.

    However Jesus wants us to believe in Him even if we don't see the proof. In John 20:29b Jesus says, "Blessed are those who believe without seeing me" (NLT).

    Sometimes we want proof that Jesus sees, cares and loves. But if we sincerely look for proof in our lives, seeking how and where He has been at work, what we see with our spiritual eyes will be so much better proof than what we could ever see with our physical ones.

    Dear Jesus, I want to see with new spiritual vision how You have been at work in my life. Give me wisdom and discernment to see how You have been shaping me for purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Genesis 16:13, "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: 'You are the God who sees me,' for she said, 'I have now seen the One who sees me.'" (NIV)

    Joshua 1:9, "This is my command — be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (NLT)

    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reflect on a time in your life when you felt Jesus was "just pretend." Ask Him for spiritual vision to see how He was with you and at work.

    How might God want to use a difficult experience from your past to help others understand He is real, alive and active?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • I'm Worried About My Child's Future

    Posted on December 18, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

    Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child's success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

    A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn't get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

    She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

    For the most part, that's right.

    This hasn't always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

    She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn't read.

    Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

    In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

    Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I'd done something right, I reasoned.

    But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

    Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child's future.

    Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I'm depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don't do will mess up their futures. I'm reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

    As their parent, it's my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn't be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He'll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

    This revelation has provided such freedom.

    I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can't grasp a certain subject — well, that's also part of God's direction.

    Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

    This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that's more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

    I'm convinced her struggles in school are actually God's way of keeping her on the path He's had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

    The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

    I'd never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

    Hope.

    We named her Hope.

    Now, we won't talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

    We'll save those stories for another day.

    But I'll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn't quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

    Hope's steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

    She wrote to say, "Mom, I've fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time."

    His Hope.

    From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

    All that to say, yeah — I don't get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God's plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that says You determine our steps. Help me to remember that when I'm anxious over my child's future. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 138:8a, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;" (ESV).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What things are you worried about for your child? Write them down and then ask God to orchestrate every detail that concerns you.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Do I Trust Again?

    Posted on December 17, 2014 by Suzie Eller

    SUZIE ELLER

    SUZIE

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-8 (ESV)

    We walked into the doctor's office fully expecting good news.

    We walked out carrying a slew of pamphlets and news that we didn't see coming.

    Cancer is a place we've been through before as a couple. Except back then it was me, and now it's him.

    In the hours after his diagnosis, we attended a sweet birthday celebration for a grandchild. We danced under the stars at a family wedding. When the busy weekend finally passed, I sat in the living room with my Bible in front of me. Sun streamed in through windows as I grieved.

    Lord, I don't want to do this again.

    I glanced at my open Bible and read the Scripture verse in Jeremiah I'd committed to memory the week before:

    "Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit."

    As I memorized it, I had pictured a tall tree, its leafy branches hovering over the water, roots reaching for nourishment. The tree was laden with fruit, though everything else around it was burned and dry.

    Now I sensed the heat coming our way. Hard decisions. Financial burdens. Emotional uncertainty.

    With tears, I whispered the beautiful words over and over until they soaked into my heart: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Maybe you are in a hard place today. Perhaps it's a place you've encountered before, and it's the last place you wanted to be. I pray that Jeremiah's words bring guidance to you, as they do to me.

    First, Jeremiah reveals that we can be honest about how we feel.

    Sometimes, in that hard place, we don't give space to the feelings trapped in our hearts. We somehow believe that acknowledging our emotions is a lack of faith.

    Jeremiah doesn't paint a pretty picture with his words about what is taking place. Instead, he describes intense heat that withers everything around the tree. But He also points to a God who is close by. Our God knows what we are going through. He's our safe place.

    While we are being strong for others, He will be strong for you and me.

    Second, we can run to the life-giving Source.

    Hard places require wise choices. Hard places can make you feel empty. Yet there is a promise of refreshing that runs so deep that we are strengthened and nourished in spite of what is taking place.

    Last, let's settle into this promise found in today's key verse: When we remain close to God in the hard places, there's fruit.

    Because I've walked this path before, I know it to be true.

    Fruit might come through joy that makes no sense in relation to circumstances.

    Fruit can spring forth in laughter that erupts where darkness wants to take hold.

    Fruit is the very real promise of eternity.

    Fruit is planted inside of us as we hold tightly to a faith that is bigger than we are.

    I'm still rocked by the news, and I still don't want to be in this hard place, but I know what to do. I'm pushing my roots deep in my faith. I'm scooting closer to my God in the midst of drought. I'm even anticipating the fruit that will drop from our lives as a result.

    Today, let's whisper it together. Let's hold close to it in the hard place: Blessed is the {woman} who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

    Dear Jesus, today I intentionally walk to the water and I dip my roots in deep to find all that I need in this hard place. Thank You for being my Source. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (NIV)

    Psalm 118:14a, "The LORD is my strength and my song." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Matthew 11:28-29 offers rest when we feel overwhelmed. Isaiah 40:29-31 promises renewed strength. Romans 8:37-39 assures us that He keeps us company in hard places.

    Read these verses and underline the words that describe what you need from God today.

    © 2014 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

    Posted on December 16, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses." Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

    There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I'd been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

    On paper, these were my people.

    They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

    Yes, these will for sure be my people.

    And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you're going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you ... like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

    I couldn't wait to be with these people.

    And I couldn't wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

    I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn't there, I got a sinking feeling.

    I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

    I waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren't able to come for some reason. So, I'd be seated alone. Very alone.

    In reality, I don't think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

    In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It's certainly an option when you're sitting single at a table for ten.

    And that's when a very clear sentence popped into my head, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." It wasn't audible. And it wasn't my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

    To be set aside is to be rejected.

    That's exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I'd become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

    To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

    That's what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I'd be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

    Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you're there this Christmas season. It's tough when everything around you screams "merry" while you're aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

    I wasn't just in this place at the dinner that night. I've been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

    Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

    1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

    Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that "with humility comes wisdom" (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you'll need for the assignment ahead.

    2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

    This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

    3. Look for the gift of silence.

    Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I'm trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, "God what might You want to say to me right now? I'm listening."

    I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

    But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

    There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God's call for her to be set apart.

    Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I'm believing today that I'm set apart, not set aside. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 15:16a, "You didn't choose me. I chose you." (NLT)

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