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Family Christian

  • Introducing Our Books of the Year: A Review of The Battle Plan for Prayer

    You have an enemy–and he’s dead set on destroying all you hold dear and keeping you from experiencing an abundant life in Christ. But you are not unarmed in this battle. Prayer is a powerful weapon and it should be your first plan of attack in all of life’s battles, not your last resort. This year, walk with us as we learn to develop prayer strategies through reading The Battle Plan for Prayer and Fervent, books inspired by the movie War Room.

    The Battle Plan for Prayer, which was written for men, was recently reviewed by our very own Nick Mulder. Check out how the book has touched his life and stay tuned for next week's review of Fervent.

    Change The Way You Pray

    Inspired by the movie War Room, this book motivated a distinctive kind of prayer in my life—one that’s in line with God’s will. The Battle Plan for Prayer, written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, is a powerful reminder of the importance of prayer and the beauty of being able to communicate with our Heavenly Father.

    The book turns the typical idea of prayer on its head. It’s not about us trying to affect God—just the opposite. When you ask God for something, it’s not because God needs to be reminded of what you need. Rather, it reminds us that we need God.

    I love how incredibly positive, uplifting and encouraging this book was. After reading, you will be inspired to improve how you pray. Whether your prayer life is good and you’re looking to make it great, or you hardly pray at all and you need a jumpstart, you will be filled with a hunger for a deeper relationship with God.

    Your trust will grow and your hope and faith in Christ will flourish. The book explains some of the reasons why it might seem like God isn’t answering prayer, and how to pray in ways that will always be answered. It makes the power of prayer really evident. The authors give examples of miraculous times that prayer has pulled through for the people of God, like when their dad was praying for the funds to build a Christian school, and a couple showed up with a check written for the exact amount.

    As you start reading the chapters, you’ll notice a few things: each chapter is short and digestible, making it really easy to read. And you’ll notice that it is absolutely packed with Scripture. The Kendrick brothers do an amazing job throughout the book explaining what the Bible says about prayer. After reading, I felt encouraged to pray in a way like Jesus—not just by praying the Lord’s Prayer, but also through a type of prayer that caters to my struggles, joys and every detail of my life.

    The crux of the book is an explanation of the ACTS style prayer, a pneumonic device that helps Christians to remember to pray through admiration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. The book explains the importance of each aspect of prayer, and how to maximize each one in your life.

    An extremely helpful feature in the beginning of the book is a reading plan that helps you schedule out your reading pace, as well as some prayer targets that you should be aiming for and spaces for you to write your own targets.

    The back of the book has an awesome set of features as well—a list of prayer strategy verses, verses to read in various situations, a list of the names of God, help starting a prayer group, really deep and evocative discussion questions and lots of other helps.

    This book had a remarkable impact in my life. And I’m sure it will for you too.

  • He Speaks in the Silence

    Diane Comer JANUARY 5, 2016

    He Speaks in the Silence DIANE COMER

    "Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened …" Isaiah 50:4b,5a (NLT)

    I was 26 years old the day I sat in front of the doctor in stunned disbelief, his words barely registering with my reality.

    Losing my hearing? I can’t be losing my hearing!

    How does a young wife — a mother of little ones — go deaf?

    The weeks and months of tests and treatment that followed confirmed the truth I’d tried so desperately to pray away. My hearing was going fast. And there was nothing anyone could do.

    I begged God to heal me, to stop the progression of loss that would isolate me from the world of words. I needed to hear my children, to stay connected and close to my husband. How could I do that? How could I be who I was supposed to be without sound?

    Please God, please! I want to hear! I have to hear!

    I walked and prayed, rocked my baby and prayed, prayed with my husband, my friends. I asked everyone I knew to please, please pray!

    All I heard was nothing. No hint that God had heard.

    I stewed in sullen bitterness, appalled at a God who called Himself a God of love, yet, it seemed to me, silently refused to listen to my pleading.

    Of course He could heal me, after all, He made my ears! So why wouldn’t He?

    The day my husband gathered the leaders of our church to pray for healing, I barely said a word, lest all that scalding rage come spilling out. I sat still and silent, the thinnest veil of pretend plastered on my face.

    And there, in my desperation, in the midst of my anger and doubt, is where I first heard God speak to me. Two words: It’s OK! Di, it’s OK. It’s OK!

    Like a father firmly calming his terrified daughter lest she run away to her own hurt, His words washed over me again and again.

    It’s OK … it’s OK … Diane! It’s OK …

    And in that moment, it was. Instantly. All pretend fell away, and I was left raw and weeping, healed in a place I didn’t even know was broken. It was OK!

    Strangely, beautifully, inexplicably OK!

    I knew in a knowing that goes beyond words that God wouldn’t heal my ears. Instead, He was asking me to trust Him to take this thing — this awful, terrible hurtling into deafness — and make it OK.

    Would I trust Him with my children? Could I trust Him to bring them close to His heart even when I couldn’t hear theirs?

    And would I trust Him to somehow forge a way for me to hear and know my husband’s heart without words?

    Could I, would I, trust my Father in the isolating loneliness of silence?

    Since that exquisite first moment of hearing God, of accepting His words for me, of surrendering my will to Him, He has not stopped speaking into my silence. As today’s key verse reads, "The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened."

    How could I have missed this in all those years of church and Bible study, of daily devotions and teaching? How could any of us miss His invitation to come and hear?

    To hear His words just for us, for each of us?

    That was 30 years ago. Thirty years of learning to listen to God. Of being awakened to the allure of His voice inviting me to lean in close. And of honing the skills of hearing God much like I have had to hone the skills of listening to the people I love without having ears that hear.

    Father, I want to hear You, to know that it is Your voice calling me to come close. Your words bring life and hope, wisdom when I am weary, understanding when I’m confused. Will You teach me how to listen? To know and love Your voice? I ask that You do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 27:8, "My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’" (NLT)

    Revelation 3:20, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you long to hear God’s voice in your story, Diane Comer’s book, He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen, will bring you on a journey deep into the heart of God.

    Visit Diane’s blog, hespeaksinthesilence.com, where she writes about listening in real life.

    Enter to WIN a copy of He Speaks In The Silence by Diane Comer. In celebration of this book, Diane’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, Jan. 11.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have your worries and disappointments opened your ears to God’s invitation for you to come near and listen? When was the last time you heard God knocking?

    What are some ways you might hone the skills of listening to God so that you hear Him nearer and clearer?

    © 2016 by Diane Comer. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

  • Interview with Priscilla Shirer

    Check out our interview with Priscilla Shirer below—where we talk about her role in the hit movie, War Room, as well as her new book and supplement to the movie, Fervent.

    Tell us about the character you play in WAR ROOM.

    In WAR ROOM, I get the privilege of playing a woman named Elizabeth Jordan. Elizabeth is a wife and a mom who is really struggling when you meet her in the movie. She’s become so good at putting on a polished professional veneer that you can’t tell just by looking at her but underneath there are a lot of huge cracks. The main one is that her marriage and family are falling apart. This film is about an older, wiser woman who helps Elizabeth recognize the power of prayer to put her family back together again.

    How do you hope audiences can relate and respond to the film?

    I know that audiences, particularly women, are going to relate to Elizabeth Jordan. So many of us have her story--when we’re out in public, we present a polished, pristine image when really we are hurting or suffocating underneath a mound of difficult circumstances that no one else knows. Elizabeth is just trying to keep it all together, and it takes someone else--Ms. Clara in the story—to be diligent enough and patient enough to break past her external veneer and get to the heart of what’s really happening.

    I think women especially are going to walk out of the theater not only having seen a beautifully crafted film, but they’re also going to be inspired and challenged in their prayer lives. They are going to be reminded that prayer works, and can change even the most difficult circumstances. I’m hoping that they’re going to want to incorporate it more fully into their own personal lives and in the lives of their families. That’s the reason why I wanted to do this film. I’m so glad the Kendrick brothers focused this movie on prayer and that they asked me to be a part of it. After their other films concentrated on a variety of different yet equally critical topics it just seems fitting that this one would focus on calling the church to utilize the most powerful weapon it has been given to fight against the enemy.

    What was it like working with the Kendrick brothers?

    They are hysterical. They were always pulling pranks, always doing something to make everyone lighthearted and engaged. They are masters at building a sense of community among the cast and crew and creating a culture of friendship on the set. And, they prioritize the Lord in every aspect of filming. Each day on set began with devotions and often, they would stop filming to pray for specific portions of the process.

    It has really been special for my husband and me to be in relationship with them. We’ve learned a lot and our ministry and marriage has been strengthened because of their wise counsel. They are men of such integrity, and character, and while they are intent on making entertaining films their primary goal is to make God famous.

    Your new book Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious; Specific and Strategic Prayer is a companion to the WAR ROOM movie. Tell us more about the book and what do you hope women will get from reading it?

    Fervent is a hands-on, knees-down, never-give-up action guide to practical, purposeful praying. It brings the message of WAR ROOM to YOUR room and life.

    Each chapter exposes the enemy’s cruel, cunning intentions against you in all kinds of key areas like these, then coaches you in crafting your own personalized prayer strategies on included tear-out sheets—ready to post them and pray them, anywhere you can put them into active deployment against the enemy.

    What is prayer for you?

    Prayer is a conversation with God. I use the word conversation very specifically because prayer was never meant to be a one-way street. It is talking to God, yes, and knowing that He hears, but it is also leaving room in your life to hear and see God’s response. He wants to be involved in the circumstances of our lives, so when we pray, we have to keep our eyes open to see how He’s going to answer and what He’s going to do in our experience in response to our prayer. Prayer, is how we see heaven invade earth. It’s what opens up the floodgates for God to come down and be involved in our every day circumstances.

    2016BookOfYear

  • When You’re Stumbling into the New Year Empty and Drained

    Alicia Bruxvoort JANUARY 4, 2016

    When You’re Stumbling into the New Year Empty and Drained ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee … While they were celebrating, the wine ran out … [And Jesus said] ‘Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top.’" John 2:1a, 3a, 7b (VOICE)

    We were sitting in the dimly lit corner of our favorite Italian bistro when my husband asked the question that made my heart lurch: "What are you looking forward to in the new year?"

    The last hours of the last day of December stretched before us like a gift wrapped in moonbeams and grace, and I was grateful for time to connect as we bid another year goodbye.

    I cast him an appreciative smile, knowing that my quiet guy would have been content to merely eat his steak and savor our momentary break from baby babble and toddler tantrums.

    Normally, his inquiry would have aroused my love for conversation and undaunted dreaming. But as I sliced into my baked potato on that particular New Year’s Eve, I realized I was strangely devoid of words.

    I felt more hollow than hopeful, more discouraged than dreamy.

    I wanted to answer with expectancy and exuberance, to rehearse to my willing listener a list of grandiose goals and polished plans. But I was road-weary from a long and exhausting year. Unexpected disappointments had left me discouraged, and I felt depleted by the demands of the daily grind.

    My husband buttered his roll and waited in comfortable silence. And I felt a cavernous ache rise from the tip of my toes to the corners of my muddled mind. I held his green-eyed gaze and wondered if my heart would split wide open if I put words to my unseen struggle.

    I willed my tears not to drizzle, and I blinked long and slow in an attempt to hide the drops of watery despair.

    "Honey, what’s wrong?" my husband asked, reaching across the table to lace his fingers through mine.

    "I just feel so empty inside …" I cried, as I tipped my water glass to my lips and sipped the last drop. "I don’t how God can use me in the new year when I feel so depleted by the old one."

    Maybe you’ve been there before — too haggard to hope, too wary to wish, too exhausted to anticipate.

    Maybe you’re there right now, toes tired from the journey, your heart feeling bankrupt by the barrage of life.

    But if you’ve limped into the new year with muted hope and a poured-out soul, I’ve got good news for you. Our emptiness doesn’t disqualify us from Christ’s extravagance. Our weariness doesn’t exempt us from His wonder.

    In fact, today’s key verses suggest that our emptiness might actually give us reason for expectancy in the new year.

    After all, we have a Savior who delights in filling empty vessels.

    If we read the entire account of Christ’s first miracle in John 2:1-12, we learn that Christ didn’t view those barren wine jugs as a reason for condemnation; He simply viewed them as a wordless invitation. A subtle summons to reveal His glory in a fresh new way.

    Think about it, friends: if our lavish Savior can use poured-out pots to display His splendor, surely He can use poured-out people to do the same. We need only to admit our void and ask for His help.

    A waiter lingered beside our table with a pitcher and reached for the glass near my plate.

    "An empty one!" the waiter exclaimed as he held the fluted glass up to the light. "I can fix that!" he said with a silly smirk. Then he tipped the pitcher with a gallant swoop and filled my glass to the brim.

    My husband raised his eyebrows as the young man waltzed away. "Maybe being empty isn’t so bad after all …" he said with a wink.

    I took a long sip of water and let it wash away the lump of tears that had been sitting in my throat.

    Then, I cast my husband a grateful grin and let an unexpected giggle spill from my lips.

    After all, it suddenly seemed like I was in the perfect position to embrace a new year brimming with possibility.

    Dear Jesus, help me trade my emptiness for expectancy. I invite you to do a fresh work in me this new year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:13, "I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NCV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Commit to filling up on God’s Word in the new year. Our free First 5 app can help you get into God’s Word with the first five minutes of your day.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a special give-away today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Invite God to do a fresh work in your life this year. Read Isaiah 43:19 and make it your prayer.

    This week, prayerfully pour into someone who is poured out.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Interview With Mahtob Mahmoody

    Mahtob Mahmoody has an incredible story. As a young child, she and her mother were held captive by her father in his home country, Iran, after they were initially promised that it would only be a two-week vacation. Following a daring escape, she lived in constant fear and with constant hatred toward her father.

    My Name Is Mahtob chronicles her journey, offering various impactful stories from her life in the time since.

    Both in the book and in our interview with her, you'll find that the greatest theme she touches on is forgiveness. Specifically, forgiveness that came about as a result of God's healing love.

    Check out the interview below to find out more about Mahtob's life today, how and why she wrote the book, and what she has planned for the future. Then go pick up your copy of My Name Is Mahtob.

  • A New Year’s Prayer for You

    Wendy Blight JANUARY 01, 2015

    A New Year’s Prayer for You WENDY BLIGHT

    {Editor’s Note: Today’s devotion is written simply as a prayer. We hope it will bring you hope and true encouragement for today. May you have an abundantly blessed New Year!}

    "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." 1 John 5:14 (NIV)

    Elohim, God our Creator, Master Architect of all that is, was and ever will be, by Your hand alone, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You shaped us in secret, knitting us together … every moment, every detail planned out before we took a single breath.

    You knew before time began each woman who would pray this prayer. You formed her. You drew her. You know her heart. Her every need. Her deepest desires … dreams … scars … questions … doubts.

    And today, in the quietness of our hearts, we meet with You. Draw near. Fall afresh as we come, from across the globe, to the foot of the cross.

    Father, You are Holy. You call us to be holy. You created us in Your image. Yet, so often our hearts wander. Our speech does not glorify You. Our actions do not honor You. Self prevails. In this New Year, clothe us with humility. Take away our desire to be right and our stubbornness to demand our own way. Submit our will to Yours. As we open the pages of Scripture, tender our hearts so that it will penetrate even to the marrow of our bones.

    Father, in this world of tolerance and compromise, give us hearts that seek Your Truth above all else. Saturate us with Your Spirit of knowledge and revelation so that as we digest Your Truth, we not only understand it but are also equipped to live it. Guard our hearts from the lies of this world and keep our eyes fixed on You, for You alone are the Author and Finisher of our faith.

    Father, we surrender our thoughts — especially our feelings and our emotions — to You, You who are Faithful and True. Where fear and anxiety loom, help us fully trust in You and Your goodness, no matter the circumstances. Your Word says that You don’t give a Spirit of fear but rather Your perfect love drives out fear. Lead us to walk in the freedom of that love. Your Word promises that when we pray, anxiety will flee and peace will prevail. We purpose in our hearts to pray more faithfully and consistently so we can walk confidently in Your peace.

    Father, Your Word says You created us in Christ Jesus to do good works for Your Kingdom. You knit specific gifts and talents into us to do that work. And Your Word promises that when You begin a work in us, You will carry it on to completion until the day we step into eternity with You. Thank You, Father! We desire to walk in Your good and perfect plan, Lord. To serve Your people. To walk boldly in the call You have on our lives. So, as we seek to walk with You, help us to trust in You with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. Help us acknowledge You in all our ways so that in our obedience, we can clearly hear, "This is the way, My child, walk in it."

    Father, we love You and thank You that our names are engraved in the palm of Your hand. You love us unconditionally and nothing can ever separate us from Your love. May we know more than ever before how wide and high and deep and long is Your love. And as we live out that love, may our lives be a living testimony of You. We ask this in the powerful and mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who will do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or imagine. Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    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)

    Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." (NIV)

    © 2016 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • Christmas Cards that Keep on Giving

    Leah DiPascal DECEMBER 31, 2015

    Christmas Cards that Keep on Giving LEAH DIPASCAL

    "So I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers." Ephesians 1:16 (CEV)

    One of the things I love most about the holiday season is sending and receiving Christmas cards.

    Since our family lives far from relatives, there have been many years when we were unable to travel "home" to be with our extended family at Christmastime.

    But … each year I can count on my Aunt Elsie to send the first Christmas card of the season, which always arrives in my mailbox the week after Thanksgiving.

    As days pass, I find myself waiting with great anticipation for the mailman to slide a new batch of red and green envelopes into my holly-and-bow draped mailbox.

    My routine is always the same: I open each card, read the message inside, gaze and smile at the enclosed family photo, then proudly tape it to my kitchen pantry door.

    As the countdown to Christmas continues, every white space on that door disappears as I tape a steady stream of cards and pictures over every inch, including the doorframe.

    Smiling faces and seasonal attire are on display as I hang each card with loving care. Neighbors, friends, relatives, classmates, co-workers … even our mailman and dentist’s cards are included.

    I used to bundle all those cards and tuck them away in a keepsake box once January rolled around. But the last several years, I’ve decided to make some changes to my Christmas card tradition.

    Instead of tucking away those beautiful smiling faces (into a box I probably won’t open until the following December), I transfer them onto a decorative framed corkboard, which hangs in my laundry room.

    You’re probably wondering, the laundry room? Yes, the laundry room, because for me it’s a central place where I’m guaranteed to be several times a day.

    I made a decision to display the cards there, so every time I went in and out of the laundry room, I was reminded to pray for each person represented.

    Even after the Christmas decorations are packed and put away, the cards remain and I am committed to pray for each family. Not just for one month or two, but all year long.

    I pray for stronger marriages and godly children.

    For daily provision and unexpected blessings.

    For loving conversations and renewed appreciation.

    For restored health and increased faith.

    Every time I whisper a prayer, I’m reminded of how blessed I am and grateful to God for placing these special people in my life.

    Though many miles may separate us, prayer instantly brings us invisibly together — right in the midst of some flowery-scented laundry detergent and spray starch.

    Just like today’s key verse (Ephesians 1:16) says, "I never stop being grateful for you, as I mention you in my prayers."

    Ever consider changing your Christmas card tradition? Before you discard or put away those seasonal cards, why not embrace the idea of turning them into an annual prayer collection? What a great opportunity to speak prayers of blessings into someone else’s life and experience a greater sense of gratitude in your own.

    Let’s remember that God has placed specific people in our lives for important reasons. Not only do they need our prayers during Christmastime, but all year ’round.

    Father, help me not just to look for blessings during the Christmas season, but to go out of my way to bless others. Remind me to pray for friends and loved ones every time I pray for myself. Teach me to invest in my relationships by sharing Your love and grace with others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 1:2, "We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers." (ESV)

    Proverbs 17:17a, "A friend loves at all times." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help us continue to reach women and families all over the world with God’s Word by partnering with us through prayer or a monetary gift. Click here to give now.

    For those who’ve already supported this ministry with your prayers, one-time gifts or as monthly partners, we thank God for you! We pray you are blessed as a result of your generosity!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What other ways can you create a visual reminder to pray for family, friends and those in need of prayer?

    What other ways can you be a blessing to friends and family as you partner with God to make an eternal difference in their lives?

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Something to Consider with Criticism

    Lysa TerKeurst DECEMBER 30, 2015

    Something to Consider with Criticism LYSA TERKEURST

    "It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict." Luke 21:13-15 (HCSB)

    Criticism stinks. That’s usually my first thought when someone makes it clear they don’t like something I’ve done or said.

    My pride says, "How dare you!" My heart says, "I want a chance to explain." My soul says, "Jesus, am I off base?" My mind says, "Why do I open myself up like this?" My feelings say, "Ouch."

    Sometimes criticism is fair. Maybe I messed up and it would serve me well to reconsider. Other times criticism is nothing but rotten spew. And boy, does it stink. But if I get stuck in the stink, it serves no good purpose.

    Might there be another way to look at harsh criticism? Is there a way to get past the hurt to see something about the one criticizing me that will soften my heart toward them?

    Recently, I stumbled on an article about the armadillo lizard. This fascinating creature has hard and pointy scales that have "Don’t mess with me" written all over them. But, like all tough creatures, this lizard has a vulnerable place.

    The armadillo lizard’s tough exterior wraps around its back but softens at the underbelly. When threatened, the lizard grabs its tail and displays a prickly, intimidating posture to keep other creatures away. At that point, the rest of the body serves only one purpose — to hide and protect its most vulnerable part.

    So what does a strange desert creature have to do with criticism?

    In an effort to protect my underbelly, I sometimes get all wrapped up in myself and tragically forget the underbelly of my critics — the place where they are vulnerable and might be hiding things, protected beneath their harsh words and a prickly exterior.

    This is a place they may never let me see. It’s the storage place for their hurts and disappointments. It holds the root cause of their skepticism and the anger that probably has very little to do with me. "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Matthew 12:34b, NIV). And from the overflow of their hurt, they spewed.

    Remember … behind every harsh critic is usually a broken-hearted person desperate for love.

    If I forget the other person’s vulnerability, I am tempted to start storing up my own hurt, skepticism, anger and disappointments.

    If I remember this underbelly, I have a much greater chance to keep it all in perspective. I can let my reaction be a good example to this other person just as our key verse, Luke 21:13-15 reminds us: "It will lead to an opportunity for you to witness. Therefore make up your minds not to prepare your defense ahead of time, for I will give you such words and a wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict."

    When criticism comes — and it will — I must make up my mind not to worry about defending myself. I can resist the urge to become prickly and use it as an opportunity to be a witness. A witness of the love, grace and mercy of Jesus. Things I desperately need myself.

    Dear Lord, thank You for this challenge to think about the other person’s underbelly before I react to criticism. I know it’s a simple step, but it’s so hard to live out. Help me put this truth into practice and to walk in the wisdom You have already given me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 3:9, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing." (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:5, "Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you enjoy receiving these devotions each day, will you consider helping support us? Click here to give. While our devotions are free to all who receive them, they do cost us quite a bit to send out. We need you to stand with us as we stand for truth each day. Thank you for supporting Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Learn more about responding with honesty and kindness in the face of offense with Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. You can purchase your copy here and start learning how to find peace even in your most difficult relationships.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there someone in your life who is consistently critical of you? Spend some time praying specifically for that person today. Ask God to show you how you can best be a witness to her, and ask Him to bring healing to her wounded and vulnerable places.

    Sometimes we ourselves are the critical ones. Choose someone whom you would normally be critical of and focus on one way you can sincerely encourage her this week.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Living Water: Violet's Story

    Violet Smiling Violet rejoices at the sight of clean water.

    “Please tell everyone that my suffering ended today.” – Violet

    How often do we take the simplest, yet most vital things in life, for granted? Are you conscious of how much water you use daily–whether you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hands, taking a shower or enjoying a refreshing drink?

    In America, we have an abundant access to clean water. We don’t have to worry about running out or becoming sick from doing these everyday tasks. But there are still areas of the world where people don’t have the luxury of just turning a knob and having water pour out.

    Some don’t even have clean water at all.

    Every day when Violet used to fetch water, she wished she was in school. Three times a day, she had to walk two miles to fetch water—water that caused disease, pain, poverty and suffering.

    Violet and her family needed the water to survive, even if it meant risking disease and missing school.

    Then World Vision came in and drilled boreholes in her village in Zambia and everything changed. As the holes were being drilled, villagers danced, sang and laughed. Everyone wanted to touch and taste the clear, clean, refreshing water.

    To them, clean water means hope. Violet will no longer be sick, with itchy sores all over her body. Violet and her friends now have a chance to go to school, rather than constantly fetching water. And now, Violet believes she can reach her goal of becoming a doctor.

    World Vision not only brings health through clean water but also a new chance at life. Violet is one of a million reasons why World Vision is drilling for water across the globe, reaching one new person every 30 seconds with clean water.

    And YOU can be a part of the story.

    Join us and World Vision as we seek to create a better the future for people in need around the world. World Vision is committed to a goal of providing universal access to clean water by 2030, so let’s help them! Donate $10* by texting FAMILY to 52000. Or, find out more by visiting us in stores or at familychristian.com/wvwater.

    #FCGiveHope

    *Your one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. Message & data rates may apply.

  • On Which Stage Do You Want to Appear?

    Susan Gregory DECEMBER 29, 2015

    On Which Stage Do You Want to Appear? SUSAN GREGORY

    "Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant." Galatians 1:10 (NLT)

    If you’re anything like me, you can relate to William Shakespeare’s words, "All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players."

    I admit, too many times I feel as if I’m stepping onto a stage when I’m around people. I want the approval of the audience! And way too often I find my ego hanging on my sleeve, vulnerable to their judgment, especially when it comes to how I look and dress.

    I don’t always feel great about myself. I want to be taller. Even a few more inches would help me feel more acceptable. And while we’re on the subject, I’d also like thicker hair.

    When I look at photographs of movie stars or models, I have to admit there is a part of me that compares how they look with the reflection I see in the mirror every morning. I always lose the contest.

    I know I’m not alone in this impossible quest to win the approval of people. It’s a challenge that starts early on the school playground and then gets even worse in teen social circles. Oh, how wonderful it would be if we would grow out of this malady when we emerge from puberty.

    The truth is, many of us have carried this desire for approval into our adult lives. The aspiration may morph into becoming an all-out people pleaser. And while the pressure might lessen, gaining the approval of others is still a heavy burden and an unattainable goal.

    The problem is especially irrational when we try to gain approval of people we don’t know or might not even respect!

    Meanwhile, God calls us to a different stage. His arena has an audience of One. Before we take the first step into His presence, we can be assured that He loves us. He approves of us. And He is delighted with the masterpiece He created when He first formed us in His own image.

    The truth is, we each have an Agent who gets us ready for the stage. He represents us to the Audience and He wipes away every blemish before we ever appear. He leads us onto the platform and holds our hands the whole time we’re there. Jesus made the way for us to walk boldly onto the stage (Hebrews 4:16) as we present ourselves to God.

    When we’re with Him, we may receive a critique from our Audience of One. Yet His words are gentle, caring, true and all for our good. None of His instructions have to do with longer legs or thicker hair. Instead, His directives are about following in His footsteps. Be gentle where there is strife. Forgive where there is bitterness. Love rather than judge. This is the stage I want to be on.

    The really good news is when I do well on this stage, the Director sends me as His representative out into the world to show His way of acting to those who have never known His love. I want to always be ready for this performance.

    Father, thank You that I can step into Your presence where I am surrounded with Your love, grace, mercy and care. Help me see those occasions when I try to gain the approval of people so that I turn instead to You for my value and my worth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 139:14 "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you struggle with weight and body image issues, you’ll appreciate Susan Gregory’s newest book, The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss: A Biblical Approach to Losing Weight and Keeping It Off. Susan’s approach succeeds where other programs fail because it focuses on your relationship with God as well as your relationship with food. To learn more, visit Susan’s website at Daniel-Fast.com.

    Join Susan Gregory for a complimentary 4-part online Bible study using The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss. Click here to register: http://daniel-fast.com/biblestudy.

    WIN a copy of The Daniel Fast for Weight Loss. Susan’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, January 4, 2016.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think about your attitudes, about your appearance, your body image and your health. Do you prefer the applause of people or the approval of your loving God?

    Ponder these words from Susan in light of God’s Word, and pray for His perspective on you, His marvelous creation:

    "God creates only what is good. When pride contaminates His creation, all is spoiled, and beauty becomes ugliness. But when we think of ourselves as human beings created in the image of God and intentionally made, we can indeed see beauty in ourselves. That’s not because of our definition of beauty, but because of His."

    © 2015 by Susan Gregory. All rights reserved.

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

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

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

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