• Valentine's Day Gifts

Family Christian

  • Just Because

    Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 27, 2016

    Just Because  LYSA TERKEURST

    "Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions." 1 John 3:18 (NLT)

    Grace looked up from the old, worn photo album to see Richard the postman making his way through the cold to her door. What a sweet young man, she thought.

    Grace loved her walks to the mailbox in late spring and through the summer, but the cold winter air seemed to whip through her thin skin. Though in her heart she still felt like a young, energetic girl, her age was evident to her. Aches and pains made her careful and slow. As the air turned cooler, Richard made it a habit to deliver Grace’s mail to her door.

    Today was an especially lonely day for Grace. It was the seventeenth. No one but her Jim would have known what a special day this was. It wasn’t her birthday or their anniversary. For 42 years the seventeenth of every month was their unique day, as Jim would say, just because.

    Though they never were rich with money, they were determined to be rich with love. For this reason, on the seventeenth Jim always found some special way to say it and live out 1 John 3:18, "Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions."

    Over the years the gifts had been as simple as a scribbled note or as elaborate as a bouquet of store-bought flowers. But the message was always the same: "Just because." Once he’d secretly taken Grace’s wedding band from her jewelry box and had it engraved with their special saying.

    She found such comfort, confidence and connection in those two simple words. To Grace it was more than a gesture of love; it was an outward symbol of much more.

    When she’d gotten sick and couldn’t keep up with the house, it meant I love you for who you are, not what you do. When they had an argument, it meant even when we don’t see eye-to-eye I love you still. When she started aging, it meant yours is a timeless beauty. Though Jim had never been a man of many words, his "just because" was perfect and poetic to Grace.

    Jim had passed away three weeks earlier. It wasn’t a sudden death; they both had known his end was near. They’d had a sweet time of reminiscing, hugging, crying and then as quickly as he came into her life all those years ago, he was gone. She missed him terribly but had peace.

    They’d had a wonderful life and left nothing unsaid. Now Grace loved flipping through their old photo albums savoring pictures, but even more so she loved touching all the mementos from over the years written in his masculine handwriting.

    Though she’d seen the postman coming, the doorbell startled Grace. Carefully, she made her way to the door. She graciously took the few letters he handed her and apologized for not having cookies. Maybe tomorrow. She then walked slowly to the kitchen to open her mail. A bill, another sympathy card and something that made her heart jump and melt all at the same time.

    Her eyes filled with tears and her hand trembled as she slid her finger underneath the envelope’s back flap. It was a simple letter as they always were, delivered on the seventeenth as they always had been. Before his death, Jim had arranged for Richard to make one last special delivery. "Not even death shall stop my heart. Just because, Jim."

    ~ ~ ~
    Sometimes a short story illustrates a point better than pages of instruction on how to be more intentional with relationships.

    All relationships take work. And I know firsthand how hard it can be. I imagine some of you have prayed for a more tender relationship with your spouse. I’ve been there. I understand.

    So I wrote this story to remind myself to pursue this kind of intentionality with Art during the good days and the really hard ones too. This kind of love — not flashy, but forever; not commercial, but committed — isn’t always easy, but it truly is honoring to the Lord and to your spouse.

    I pray this story settles into your heart and encourages you that even the smallest acts of love toward your spouse can bring about the most loving legacies.

    Dear Lord, I am so thankful for who You are — the Great Lover of our souls. Cultivate in me a heart of generosity and intentionality so Your love can shine through me into my relationships. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 13:34-35, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: You don’t need to feel alone. We want to help you get the resources you’ve been looking for to help you through the ups and downs of marriage. Click here for our top picks for helpful marriage resources.

    Let the decor of your home tell the story of your love with the "We Still Do" sign and frame. Find out more here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who do you need to be more intentional with when it comes to expressing your love? Ask the Lord to show you one simple way you can say "I love you" to that person today — no fancy packaging required.

    We don’t have to wait for special occasions like Valentine’s Day to show others how much they mean to us. Do something kind and out of the ordinary for someone this week — just because.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Feel too Busy to Enjoy Life

    Alli Worthington JANUARY 26, 2016

    When You Feel too Busy to Enjoy Life ALLI WORTHINGTON

    "LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is." Psalm 39:4 (NLT)

    I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide.

    Somehow in the rush of my crazy busy schedule and all the demands on my time and attention, I found myself in a crowded airport, realizing I had left my cell phone in the shuttle from the hotel. I asked the couple in front of me if I could borrow their phone so I could call my own phone and ask the shuttle driver to please return it to me.

    As I dialed my number and waited for the shuttle driver to answer, an embarrassing thing happened: Right there in the airport, surrounded by people, my bra started ringing.

    I had tucked my phone in my bra, totally forgotten about it, freaked out thinking I had lost it and then called it right there in line! (Can you even imagine?)

    On the flight home, I worked hard to not make eye contact with anyone else and thought about how my life had become so exhaustingly busy.

    "I have to get off the hamster wheel. I have to be made for more in my life than just running in circles. This busyness is breaking me."

    My husband Mark and I have five sons, and at that point in our lives we were both working full time, leading a church small group, teaching on Sunday mornings and if that weren’t enough, he even coached pee-wee football. On the outside we looked like a happy all-American family (or at least we did on Instagram and Facebook — isn’t that how it always is?) … but on the inside I was exhausted and burned out. And I was way too busy to actually enjoy life.

    The crazy part of it all is that everything we were doing in our lives was, in itself, a good thing. But we had to admit to ourselves that doing all of it together at the same time was killing us.

    Between our scheduled commitments, the little things that popped up daily and the needs of all five kids, we barely made time for ourselves, each other and God. Sure, we were serving and leading, but the mad-dash schedule of one thing after the next didn’t leave us with any room to rest or be restored. We were running on empty and had the frazzled nerves to prove it.

    The Bible teaches us another way to live: to keep our hearts and our minds focused on the things that really matter in our lives.

    The Psalmist said, "LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is" (Psalm 39:4).

    Just as we read in today’s key verse, being aware that my days are short helps me remember to focus on the things that bring real happiness, peace and purpose to my life: my relationship with Christ, my family and my relationships.

    I’ve learned that by staying focused on the big things in life, I’m better at protecting my time from the little things that creep in and make my life crazy busy.

    Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve felt the demands of all those little things that seem so urgent in life? You want to finish your Bible study, but those piles of laundry must get done. You want to sit down at the end of a long day and read books to the little ones but your mind can’t get away from those work emails that need to get answered. The struggle is real.

    I’ve learned the best way to keep my heart and mind focused is by keeping my to-do list focused as well.

    Lord, help me keep fighting the good fight against busyness today. Remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Enable me to focus on the things You want me to do, not all the little things I worry about or think I should do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 5:15-16, "So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Have you ever secretly felt like a fraud or failure as you struggle to find balance in life? Do you ever feel like life is just one cycle of crazy busy after another? Then it’s time to start Breaking Busy. Check out Alli Worthington’s new book, Breaking Busy: How to Find Peace and Purpose in a World of Crazy.

    Learn more about Alli on her website.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Breaking Busy. In celebration of this book, Alli’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, February 1.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What activities can you put on hold (even if it is just for a season) to allow yourself more breathing room?

    © 2016 by Alli Worthington. 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

  • Q & A with Jim Gash - Author of Divine Collision

    Jim, your new book, Divine Collision, recounts an unforgettable legal case you worked on in Uganda. This case changed a boy’s life, your family’s future, and helped improve the criminal justice system in Uganda. Has your life always been this exciting?
    Divine Collision

    I have been blessed at many stages of my career with challenging and rewarding opportunities to travel and to serve. I clerked for a prominent federal court of appeals judge in Houston, Texas after graduating from law school, worked on cases pending before the US Supreme Court and other courts around the country for one of the largest and most prestigious law firms in the world, and taught three different semesters at Pepperdine’s London campus as part of my full-time law teaching job in Malibu, California. But none of these experiences can compare with the opportunity I have been given to partner with the leaders of Uganda to assist them in delivering justice to their people.

    Bob Goff, an attorney, humanitarian, and author, is the founder of Restore International. How did Bob’s speech at a Christian Legal Society conference set you on a collision course for Uganda?

    Bob is the craziest and most inspiring person I have ever met – he would have to be in order to shake me out of my comfort zone. In fact, Bob absolutely destroyed the life I once knew and I tell him that regularly. In 2007, he came to Pepperdine to speak to our students about using their God-given abilities and legal training to serve those around the world. A few weeks later, two of our students hopped on a plane to Uganda with Bob and came back with a plan for our students to serve as interns for Ugandan judges. The frenetic pace of my job as dean of students and professor at Pepperdine, and my commitment to my young family, however, had convinced me that I had no room in my life to join my students in these efforts. I was content in my role was as cheerleader – encouraging others to go and do. But in 2009, God used Bob’s “Love Does” speech at the CLS National Conference to jolt me from my complacency, and knock me to my knees. It was time for me to say yes to the call I now believe I had been avoiding my entire life to join in the ongoing efforts in Uganda. A couple months later, I met Henry in a juvenile prison.

    You write that you went to Uganda hoping to “throw some starfish back in the ocean.” Tell us what you hoped to accomplish.

    The team we assembled to go to Uganda included two other Pepperdine Law graduates – Ray Boucher and David Barrett. On a layover in Nairobi, Kenya, David told me “The Starfish Story” for the first time. Distilled, the story involves a young boy throwing starfish stranded on the shore back into the ocean one at a time so they can thrive and flourish. An older man heckles the boy, telling him there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see – “how can you possibly make a difference.” The boy picks up a starfish, throws it back into the ocean, and defiantly says, “I made a difference for that one, didn’t I.” That story penetrated me to the core. The problems facing Africa were so overwhelming, I had previously questioned how we could make any sort of measurable impact. But after hearing that story, I had my answer – one starfish at a time. When we landed in Uganda, I went looking for my starfish. And after I met Henry and his younger brother Joseph, I was determined to do whatever I could to throw them back into the ocean so they could thrive and flourish once again.  It was only later than I fully understood The Starfish Story.

    One of the first boys you met when your team reached the juvenile detention facility was Henry. Tell us your first impression of him, and how he came to be accused of two murders.

    Before heading out to the Masindi Remand Home, our team met with the local magistrate judge at the courthouse. There, he provided us with a list of the twenty-one inmates and their charges. I immediately noticed that one boy named Henry had been charged with two separate counts of murder – one in 2008 and the other in 2009. I made a mental note to avoid this kid. We hadn’t thought to bring interpreters with us, foolishly assuming that everyone spoke English. When we arrived at the Remand Home, we discovered that only two of the juveniles spoke English. They would have to be our interpreters. The warden introduced them to us as brothers – Henry and Joseph. Soon thereafter, the boy I had planned to avoid became my interpreter. Over the course of that day, I learned that Henry and Joseph, along with their father, had been charged with murder eighteen months earlier in conjunction with the mob killing of a herdsman who had stolen their family’s entire savings. I also learned that undisputed evidence showed that Henry and Joseph had been in school at the time of the killing. During Henry’s time at the Remand Home, he had risen to the position of Katikkiro in the internal prison government, which meant he was prime minister of the prison. It was in that capacity that he was charged with a second murder, alongside a prison official who served as the matron over the juveniles, in conjunction with the death of another prisoner who died while attempting to escape, just one month before I arrived.

    Now that Henry is free, and in medical school as he always dreamed, how do you view that story of the boy tossing back the starfish?

    For much of my life, I was the man in The Starfish Story – perplexed and crippled into inaction when faced with the enormity of the problems around the world, not doing anything because I couldn’t do everything. When I finally surrendered control of my life and took a step in faith, I began to identify with the boy – looking to throw the starfish one at a time back in the safety and security of the ocean. But now, as I look back on this story and reflect more carefully upon its characters, I realize that I am not the boy in the story after all. I am the starfish. I was stranded on the shores of inaction, baking in the sun of indifference – just waiting for someone to throw me into the ocean of obedience and service. Come on in – the water is great!

  • Retaliating with Words

    Wendy Pope JANUARY 25, 2016

    Retaliating with Words WENDY POPE

    "May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!" 1 Samuel 25:22 (NLT)

    "I’m going to let her have it!" My friend said she’d had enough with another friend’s gossip and lies. She asked me to read an email she’d composed to this woman, basically telling her off.

    I could totally relate to her anger as there have been people in my life who had the ability to raise my blood pressure and make me see red. However, I knew my friend would immediately regret hitting send, so we deleted the email and moved away from her computer instead.

    Have you ever been so fed up with someone’s rudeness and disrespect that you made a beeline toward revenge? Perhaps in your head, you composed a sassy text message or a scathing verbal assault?

    It’s in those moments we need an "Abigail" to speak reason and bring clarity to the situation. Let me explain …

    In 1 Samuel 25, David was furious at a very rude man named Nabal. Maybe on a good day David wouldn’t have gotten so mad. But he’d had a string of misfortunes come his way. He was on the run for his life from King Saul, and David’s living quarters consisted of caves and fields.

    So when Nabal refused to offer food and drink to David and his men, especially after David had treated Nabal’s shepherds kindly, David reacted, as we see in today’s key verse: "May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!" (1 Samuel 25:22).

    Whoa, those are strong words! But given all that had happened to David, you can almost understand and somewhat justify his anger against Nabal. Enduring such trying circumstances would make anyone temperamental! And now to be treated with so much disrespect and contempt … David was fed up and plotted revenge, until Nabal’s level-headed wife Abigail stepped in.

    Scripture tells us that Abigail was a discerning woman. She had the words of wisdom to calm David down and deter him from his plan to kill Nabal. David hit pause and permitted the intervention that stopped him from doing something he’d later regret.

    In our "I have had enough" moments, we too need to press pause before we press send. It may not feel like it in the heat of the moment, but acting out in anger is often something we will later regret.

    We might not have an Abigail reading our emails over our shoulder or speaking reason into our situation, but as Christ-followers, we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us every minute of every day. Our response to the still small voice will make the difference between regret and relief.

    Lord, help me control my anger. Set a guard over my mouth to help me pause in the moment so I don’t make matters worse. Help me honor You in all I say and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 29:11, "Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end." (NIV)

    Ephesians 4:29, 32, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear … Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve ever tried to avoid saying something that’s permanently painful just because you’re temporarily ticked off, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It, and When to Say Nothing at All.

    To stay connected with Wendy Pope, stop by her blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you struggle with anger, look up all the verses in the book of Proverbs about this topic.

    Write the verses on a notecard, and memorize five of them. In your "I’ve had enough" moments, recall and repeat these scriptures to yourself.

    © 2016 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Distant Shore by Levi Lusko

    Her pink bike is in the garage with her helmet hung by its strap from one of the handlebars. It has white-walled tires. Just like mine. Every time I walk by it I take a deep breath in and let it out slowly as I think about how spring will come and the snow will melt and we will go on family bike rides in the evenings, but her bike will stay parked in that spot. Her helmet will stay there too, dangling from the handlebars. Lenya will not ride that bike again. Eventually Daisy will use it and then Clover, but not Lenya. Not ever.

    She isn’t going to play with her toys anymore. Neither will she wear any of her dresses or other clothes that are hanging in her closet and folded in her drawers. She used to transform all the pieces from this wardrobe into three or four wild and wonderful outfits, and as many messy piles on the floor by lunchtime each day. Her room is far too clean and tidy now. Everything stays as we put it. Her Jesus jar is empty because she brought her tithe to church the weekend before she left us, but the money she saved up in her “spend” jar will not be spent by her.

    I know this all to be true because my daughter has gone to heaven. She is on a distant shore. Though we can’t see her she is near. Heaven can’t be that far away because when you leave this earth you are able to be instantly with the Lord. At most it is a day’s journey away because Jesus promised the thief on the cross that, “today you will be with Me in paradise,” and when He said that they had already been on the cross for hours. Maybe it’s extremely close, just unseen to us presently. Doesn’t that seem to be how Stephen makes it sound, in the book of Acts, when, in his final moments, he gave us a description of of glory that seemed to appear before his eyes right before he died? I wonder, and long to find out. Perhaps if we knew how close Heaven was we would be more motivated by it and live to fill it more ardently than we do.

    In Lenya’s final moments on earth her mother’s voice was in her ears and she was held by her father’s hands. Those were frantic, desperate and frightening minutes to us as we sought to keep her here through CPR. God chose instead to bring her to His country. A place without sin or pain or fear. No, she can’t ride her pink bike on the cracked pavement of this tired world any longer, but I don’t suspect that brings her much concern as she swims with dolphins or rides down the beach on a horse with a tropical wind whipping her hair up behind her. Or maybe it’s a unicorn. If she has the option I guarantee you she is picking the unicorn.

    It is true that Lenya died. It is also true that she is more alive today than she has ever been. More alive than me. I take great joy in thinking about the fact that she is in a place without death. We had to attend her funeral but she did not. She never attended one in her life and she never will. She is in the land of the living.

    What anchors us in this storm of our separation from her is the promise that she is with Him and He is in us. The more we are filled with His Spirit the greater our connection to her grows. I would lose heart if I did not believe that I will see the Lord. But I do. Someday soon my ship will set sail for the distant shores of that perfect place, where Lenya lives and laughs and plays, and I will finally be Home.

    ------

    Levi Lusko is the pastor of Fresh Life Church in Montana, as well as the author of Through the Eyes of a Lion: Facing Impossible Pain, Finding Incredible Power.

    Through the Eyes of a LionIn it, Lusko tells the story of how he lost his daughter, Lenya, but not in the form of a manual for grieving. Instead, he provides a manifesto for high-octane living, and teaches you to turn your journey into a "roar story."

    Whether you’re currently facing adversity or want to prepare yourself for inevitable hardship, it’s time to look at the adventure of your life through Jesus’ eyes—the eyes of a Lion.

    Head over to the product page for more info and to read a sample chapter >

  • Can God Handle Our Doubts?

    Liz Curtis Higgs JANUARY 22, 2016

    Can God Handle Our Doubts? LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:24b (NIV)

    If you’ve ever whispered: "I’m not sure what I believe, Lord. I just don’t have enough faith," then be encouraged. A story in Mark 9 shows us what God can do when we wrestle with doubt.

    First, we meet a desperate father, whose son was possessed by a demon that threw the boy to the ground, leaving him rigid and foaming at the mouth. Jesus’ disciples tried to drive out the evil spirit, but failed.

    When the Lord arrived and learned what happened, He didn’t mince words. "You unbelieving generation … how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?" (Mark 9:19, NIV). He rightly called them, "You faithless people!" (Mark 9:19a, NLT), because faith was the missing element.

    Jesus wasn’t unhappy with His disciples. Rather, He was pointing out the spiritual state of the crowds who followed Him but hadn’t placed their trust in Him. Because of their unbelief, demons roamed the land. Because of their lack of faith, a young boy lay stiff on the ground. Because they doubted God’s power, His people couldn’t call upon it.

    Beloved, we needn’t wonder why there is so much evil and suffering in the world when people who claim to know God have stopped believing in His power. Deep down, they don’t think He can triumph over evil. They aren’t convinced He can really fix things. They may call Him the great I AM, yet struggle to believe it.

    Listen to this boy’s father, whose words reflect that kind of uncertainty: "But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us" (Mark 9:22b, NIV).

    "If?" Clearly this man didn’t know who he was talking to, because Jesus can do anything! Still, we can be every bit as doubtful as this needy father. We place our requests before God, then take them right back, fretting over how we’re going to solve our problem, not convinced God can really do anything about it.

    The Lord repeated this man’s words back to him — not to mock him but to underline the father’s misplaced doubt. "‘If you can’? said Jesus" (Mark 9:23a, NIV). It’s a gentle but firm reprimand as well as a loving reminder of His power.

    Then comes the good news we’ve been waiting for, the response to his question, "Can you help me, Lord?" The answer is "Yes, yes, yes!" Jesus told the man, "Everything is possible for one who believes" (Mark 9:23b, NIV).

    A man who thought nothing could be done, yet pleaded for something to be done, just learned all things can be done.

    I love what happened next. "Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, …" (Mark 9:24a, NIV). This father didn’t think at length about the Lord’s words. No, he responded instantly. We can almost feel the tightness in his chest, the stinging sensation in his nose, as he tried to keep from crying. But he had to speak, had to blurt out the truth.

    "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24b).

    There it is: his confession of faith. And, in the same breath, his admission of doubt. What an example for all of us! He embraced the unbelief inside him — his fear, his uncertainty, his trust issues — and gave it all to Jesus, saying, "I do have faith! Please help me to have even more" (Mark 9:24b, CEV).

    For those of us who believe in God, worship God, and yet have times when we doubt, here is proof that we can admit our lack of faith to God and ask for His help.

    He knows how to ease our suspicions and fears, our misgivings and apprehensions. He can handle our cynicism, our incredulity. He understands our doubts.

    However wobbly our faith may be at times, our trustworthy God never changes. He hears and answers when we cry out, "Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior" (Psalm 38:22, NIV).

    Heavenly Father, we want to believe. Help us with our unbelief. Remind us Who You are. Remind us You can do anything. Keep our eyes on Your Word and our lives in Your hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 24:38-39a, "He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see.’" (NIV)

    Mark 5:36b, "Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higgs’ devotional, Rise and Shine, offers encouragement to start your day in the right way, bringing you gentle humor, poignant stories and biblical lessons to strengthen your faith.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Our loving God is not afraid of our fears, nor does He have doubts about us when we have doubts about Him.

    What doubts or fears do you harbor in your heart? Ask God to help your unbelief, and trust Him to strengthen your faith.

    © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Getting Past My Past

    Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 21, 2016

    Getting Past My Past LYSA TERKEURST

    "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV)

    Is there something from your past that haunts you and constantly interrupts your thoughts?

    For many years, that something in my life was my abortion. I walked around in a zombie-like state in the months following that decision with a growing hatred for myself at the root of my pain and confusion.

    Up until that point, the things that brought hurt into my life were caused by others. But the abortion was a choice I made myself. It seemed like the only answer at the time. The abortion clinic workers assured me that they could take care of this "problem" quickly and easily, so I would never have to think about it again. What a lie.

    I kept my secret buried deep within my heart. I was so ashamed, so horrified, so convinced that if anyone ever found out I’d had an abortion, I’d be rejected by all my church friends and deemed a woman unfit to serve God.

    My complete healing began when I was finally able to turn my thoughts past my own healing to helping others in the same situation. It was terrifying to think about sharing my story with another person. But then I heard of a young girl who worked for my husband who was in a crisis pregnancy situation. She’d asked for a few days off to have an abortion.

    I was faced with a fierce tug of war in my spirit. I knew if she heard my story, she might make a different choice. But what would she think of me? What would others think if they found out? I knew God wanted me to talk to her; so would I trust Him, or would I retreat back into my shame?

    With shaking hands, I approached Sydney, intent on extending God’s comfort and compassion. Maybe I could just share a few Bible verses and offer to help her without making myself vulnerable.

    But during our time together, it became clear she needed to hear my story. With a cracking voice and tear-filled eyes, I decided to care more about her situation than keeping my secret hidden. I told her the truth of what I’d experienced and prayed she’d make a different choice than I had.

    A year after that first meeting, I sat across from Sydney once again. She choked out a whispered, "Thank you," as she turned and kissed the chubby-cheeked boy in the baby carrier beside her. As soon as she spoke those two life-defining words, tears fell from both of our eyes.

    Hers were tears of relief.

    Mine were tears of redemption.

    Both were wrapped in the hope that God truly can take even our worst mistakes and somehow bring good from them.

    God has brought me so far since that first meeting with Sydney. Now I travel to crisis pregnancy events and tell my story in hopes of encouraging people to support their local centers. I also share my story from pulpits all across America, trusting that the many women in the audience will see it is possible to be healed and restored from the tragic mistakes from our past.

    But I can’t reach everyone. There are women in your sphere of influence who need to hear your story.

    I realize an abortion may not be the pain you’re dealing with, but I also know few of us have escaped very deep hurts.

    Will you go? Will you share? Will you allow God to comfort you and then take that comfort to others? This step could help you start your own healing process.

    I think you’ll find that you are the one who winds up doubly blessed as you walk out the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

    Dear Lord, only You can heal my deepest hurts and use the bad in my life for good. I need You more and more each day. Please continue to work in my life and use me as a light to help those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:18, "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (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)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Becoming MoreOnly God can fill the cup of a wounded, empty heart. If you need that fulfillment today, join us for our next free online Bible study of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study GirlSign up today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who could you share your story with?

    If there’s not an obvious person or group in your mind, ask the Lord to reveal how and when you should open up about your past hurts.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Q&A with Steven Furtick

    In our interview with Steven Furtick, lead pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, we talked about his upcoming book (Un)Qualified—asking why he chose to write on this topic now and how it is possible that he feels unqualified with the success he has had.

    (Un)Qualified

    1. You lead one of the country’s fastest growing churches with more than 20,000 attendees and you’ve now written your fourth book. Why are you addressing the topic of feeling unqualified now?

    I’m writing on this now because it doesn’t matter if you're preaching to a group of 10 sweaty middle schoolers at a youth group lock-in or if you’re preaching to an arena of people at a church leadership conference – the feeling of being unqualified and inadequate is something you can’t ever really outrun. At one point or another, we all feel ridiculously unqualified for what God has called us to do. That‘s okay. Actually, to be used by God, it’s essential. God loves to work with unqualified people.

    2. Why is it that we often misunderstand what it means to be qualified?

    I think it goes back to our earliest form of qualification – grade school. Pass, fail. A-plus, C-minus, F. These letters mean something to us. They were our first measurement of success, and this whole business of judging and assessing and qualifying is deeply ingrained in our culture and psyche. We constantly analyze and summarize each other. We develop our own secret, subjective ways of determining whether people measure up, and we do the same to ourselves. The problem is we will never be perfect enough or fail proof enough to be at peace with ourselves on this basis of qualification alone.

    3. You preach every week in front of large crowds, how is it possible that you question your ability to fulfill your calling?

    I question it because I know me. I think we all secretly fight feelings of inadequacy, insufficiency, and incompetence. We fear we are not enough – whatever that means in our particular situations. I heard once that most people, particularly men, go through life wondering how long it will be before everyone realizes they’re a fraud. Not in the sense that they’re insincere, but just that they have no idea what they’re doing. I relate to that more than I can explain.

    4. You make the statement,  “God can’t bless who you pretend to be.” What do you mean by that?

    It was a thought that hit me while I was preparing a series of sermons on Jacob. I mean, Jacob was a con, a liar and a manipulator – you know, the model citizen for Sunday school stories – and yet God chose him to be one of the pillars of our faith and one of the fathers of the nation of Israel. He was simultaneously one of the most important figures in scripture and one of the most screwed up.

    I was reading the scene in the Bible where Jacob dressed up like his brother Esau to get blessed by his father Isaac. And it worked. Kind of. He spent the next twenty-one years on the run – from his family, his homeland, and ultimately, himself.

    It wasn’t until Jacob admitted his true identity while wrestling at the Jabbok that God was able to bless Jacob the way he wanted to. And that’s when God changed his name, on the basis of his true identity, not his persona or construct.

    And as I’m sitting there studying this, I realized that we’re all like Jacob. We find ourselves pretending to be someone we’re not. We’re thinking if we manipulate our image just right, it will bring the accomplishments or acceptance we’re so desperate to receive. We think our weaknesses are the problem and faking it till we make it is the answer. But God sees it so differently. He longs to bless us. The real us, with all our ups and downs. The version of us that limps and loses, but refuses to lie about it. Once we come to him in that way, His truth begins to set us free to become who we really are.

    5. You ask readers to fill in the blank to the statement “I am ­____. What word or phrase do you use to fill in that blank and why?

    Oh man. It depends on the day or even the minute, honestly. I know the answer I’m supposed to say is “I am chosen” or “I am loved” or something super pastoral, but the reality is I’m schizophrenic when it comes to the word I fill in the blank with. The words I find myself saying cover the whole spectrum too: I am unqualified. I am stupid. I am strong. I am driven. Screwed up. Loyal. Stuck. Hurting. Overwhelmed. Blessed. Capable. Disappointed. Hopeful. Jaded. Content. So many of my words circle around my weaknesses, but at the same time, I know God has equipped me, and remembering that helps shift my thinking. Making that choice, moment to moment, is what the book is all about!

    6. What is your recommendation for someone who is struggling to come to terms with his or her weaknesses and ability to change?

    The more I study the Bible the more convinced I am that we need a fuller understanding – not just of God – but of ourselves. And we need to give less weight to our opinion of our weaknesses and problems. Don’t give up. Keep showing up. I truly believe the key to change isn’t always doing something new, but often in doing the right things over and over again. Change isn’t something that happens overnight. There are the exceptions, sure. But for the rest of us, change is a long, messy process. But if we don’t show up every day, and decide that today is going to build on the success we had yesterday, and so on, then our change will never last. And at the same time, when it comes to maturing us, God has His own timetable, and the Christian walk isn’t really about a finish line. Faith can’t be reduced to a goal or an achievement. It‘s an ongoing relationship with Jesus. It‘s a progression of growing and changing, of embracing and replacing, of listening to God‘s voice and living out who he says we are. It‘s a process, and it will last the rest of our lives.

    7. What patterns do you see in the Bible of God using those who don’t outwardly appear to be qualified for what he has asked them to do?

    Well, just think about how many of our Bible heroes were tortured souls with marked pasts that would label them unqualified by our standards. You’ve probably heard a version of this before: Noah was a drunk. Moses was a coward and a murderer. David was an adulterer. Paul was chief proponent in the killing of many Christians. Yet, these are some of the men God used. Don’t even get me started on Rahab!

    Look, God has a habit of picking people who have been passed over. It’s just proof that God’s qualification system is totally different than ours. The very people we’re so quick to discount and disqualify are often the earthen vessels in whom God pours the greatest measure of His glory.

    You can order your copy of (Un)Qualified from Family Christian today!

  • Shake Me Up, Lord

    T. Suzanne Eller JANUARY 20, 2016

    Shake Me Up, Lord SUZIE ELLER

    "And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 (NKJV)

    I was sitting in a hotel room when suddenly the floor beneath my feet began to shudder. Rumble, rumble, rumble. Not really a sound, but rather a powerful rocking that caused me to leap from my chair.

    A few short moments later, it ended. Comments on Twitter and Facebook came alive.

    "Did you feel that?"

    "What was that?"

    "Did we just have an earthquake?"

    Later I listened to the news and heard it was a magnitude 5.6. The story of the earthquake was widely reported. The big news wasn’t the earthquake itself, but where the earthquake took place. Though there had been small tremors, there had never been earthquakes on that level before.

    In today’s passage, another newsworthy story occurred: Peter and John healed a man in the name of Jesus. These were ordinary and uneducated men; everyone knew that, which is why it garnered the attention of those in authority.

    What just happened?

    How did they do that?

    Is that even possible?

    The news spread. Crowds gathered. People ran to find their friends and family, carrying the sick on cots in hopes they might just pass in the shadow of these men and be healed. Three thousand were saved. Then 5,000 more, along with their wives and children. Something was happening.

    As I read this story, I began to pray, tears trickling down my face.

    Can this still happen?

    Will You do this in me?

    Lord, everything is possible with You.

    God Himself took up residence inside of Peter and John with the power of His Spirit. He made His presence known by shaking the upper room. He made made His existence clear by showing up in ordinary men and shaking up faith as it had always been known.

    Like the disciples, I’m ordinary and uneducated in a hundred different ways. I don’t always have the answers. I don’t always know the words to pray. I can’t always explain how God works.

    Yet I know that He is real and His presence in our lives changes us and impacts others. If He transformed the disciples with His power and presence, He can do the same in me and you.

    Shake me up.

    Is this your prayer, too? Then let’s pray that prayer together.

    As we pray, may there be a rumble, rumble, rumble inside women all over the world as we open the doors to our hearts, our thoughts, our lives and every part of who we are.

    Shake me, Father. Lead me to seek You before any other. Give me boldness and confidence beyond the natural. Rattle my doubts with belief. Tumble down my excuses as You ask me to step out in faith. Take my eyes off my own capabilities, and let me place my trust in Yours. Father, I often focus on who I am or what I have to offer, when all along You are all I need. Shake up my heart as I reach for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (NLT)

    Acts 4:13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you are in a hard place, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, offers hope and help.

    Join Suzie on her blog where she and other women discuss what it might look like when God shakes you up.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: The more Peter and John experienced the power of Christ, the more they realized that Jesus was their Source, rather than their own efforts or accomplishments.

    He’s your Source, too. As you pray for Christ’s presence to ignite inside of You, rest in this truth: He is the One doing the work. Your part is to simply be open to what He wants to do in and through you.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Comeback: Louie Giglio's Favorite Chapters

    We all know what it is like to have life disappoint us. That feeling when things do not work out as we'd hoped. And we all know what it is like to long for something different, something better or something more.

    But your current circumstances do not get the final say in your life.

    This is what The Comeback is all about—providing you with perspective and encouragement, no matter the challenge you're facing.

    In the book, author Louie Giglio celebrates new beginnings. From personal stories to Bible stories, he shows how God is in the business of giving fresh starts, and how His plans always prevail, even when ours don't.

    Check out Giglio's three favorite chapters now:


    Get your copy today!

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