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  • 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

  • Time to Start a New D.I.E.T.

    Tracie Miles DECEMBER 28, 2015

    Time to Start a New D.I.E.T. TRACIE MILES

    "Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NLT)

    The holiday hustle and bustle may be behind us, but perhaps you’re like me and find you have a few regrets over the neglect of your health. It’s so simple in the rush of the season to find a few bad habits sneaking in … times where we take the easy route over the best route.

    For example, on a busy day, it’s quicker to zip through a drive-through than grill some chicken and veggies at home.

    Not only can we take the easy way with our health, we can easily slip into bad spiritual habits as well. When we’re exhausted, it’s easier to slump onto the couch and seek comfort in milk and cookies, rather than open God’s Word for encouragement.

    It’s so enticing to sleep late on Saturday mornings, rather than get up and spend quiet time with God.

    Let’s face it, easier and quicker isn’t always better — either physically or spiritually. The best choices often take extra time and effort, but they are crucial for our health and a strong faith.

    Our key verse reminds us we have a responsibility to care for ourselves spiritually because of Who resides inside: "Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).

    This year, as we think about New Year’s Resolutions, what if we focused on the inside? What better time to begin committing to a healthy spiritual diet that feeds our spirits, lightens our hearts, nourishes our souls and fuels our walk with Christ than right now?

    Below is some "food for thought" for how to kick off a strong spiritual D.I.E.T. and become a spiritually healthier you in the coming year.

    D — DISCIPLINE: 1 Chronicles 16:11 says, "Search for the LORD and for his strength; continually seek him" (NLT). The Bible gives us guidelines for living through His Word that help us grow spiritually healthy and mature in our faith. A daily dose of disciplined faith, which includes setting aside time every day to seek God through His Word and prayer, goes a long way to helping us achieve spiritual health.

    I — INTENTIONAL: A strong faith doesn’t happen on its own but needs to be intentionally pursued. I have to make a deliberate effort to put God first in my life. Acts 2:42 says, "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (NIV). What a beautiful example we have of the intentionality of the first followers of Jesus — they gathered together daily to study, pray and share the Lord’s supper.

    E — EARNEST: Being earnest in our faith takes effort to the next level. Have you ever read a passage of the Bible or listened to a sermon, and forgotten the topic 10 minutes later? Me too. I listened, but apparently my mind and heart weren’t fully engaged. Hebrews 11:6 says "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (NIV). When we sit down to spend time with God in any form, He longs for our full, zealous attention and the reward for our intentional and earnest faith is the development of a deep spiritual hunger.

    T — TRUSTING: My weakest times are when I doubt God’s plans or purpose for the hard times. Psalm 9:10 says, "Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, do not abandon those who search for you" (NLT). When I start to feel weak, I need to uncover any doubt that has settled in my heart and choose to trust God. Trusting God, in the good and bad times, is an essential part of a healthy spiritual diet.

    Is 2016 your year to start a new D.I.E.T. plan with Jesus? Why not start today? After all, it is a Monday, when all new healthy diets begin.

    Sweet Jesus, I long to have a deeper relationship with You and commit to making my faith a priority. Give me the desire and strength to follow a healthy spiritual diet this year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 7:1, "Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Discover a great tool for kicking off a healthy spiritual diet by using our First 5 app and joining us for a study of Exodus. The study begins January 4, but you can order your Book of Exodus Experience Guide today by clicking here.

    Visit Tracie Miles’ blog for a few of her favorite healthy recipes, sprinkled with spiritual encouragement.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If I’ve let my physical and spiritual health decline, what three things can I do to be healthier in 2016, inside and out?

    Who can I ask to join me as an accountability partner in my quest to be more spiritually healthy?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Merry Christmas!

    Stephanie Raquel DECEMBER 25, 2015

    Merry Christmas! STEPHANIE RAQUEL

    {Editor’s note: Today’s devotion recounts the Christmas story through Scripture. Jesus’ birthday is so much more than a story worth hearing; it’s a gift to be shared — tied to enriching our everyday lives here on Earth and more importantly, our days spent for all eternity. So from all of us at Proverbs 31 Ministries, we hope and pray you have a blessed and very Merry Christmas!}

    "Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’" John 8:12 (NLT)

    We begin the story of how Jesus came into the world with these reminders from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah:

    "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before you" (Isaiah 9:2-3a, NLT).

    "For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end" (Isaiah 9:6-7a, NLT).

    Then we learn from the prophet Micah that this Prince of Peace will be born in lowly Bethlehem:

    "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf" (Micah 5:2, NLT).

    It took hundreds of years before these prophetic words were actually fulfilled. But indeed, the pieces were in place for them to become a reality some 2,000 years ago.

    The first Roman emperor (who happened to be Julius Caesar’s adopted son) was named Augustus. He decided to count his citizens through a census so he could tax them. That sets the stage for our first encounter with him in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2:

    "At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

    "And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them" (Luke 2:1-7, NLT).

    From the beginning, God wanted His people to share the good news of Jesus’ birth with the whole world, which we see in Luke 2:8-17:

    "That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 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! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

    "Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others — the armies of heaven — praising God and saying,

    "Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’

    "When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

    "They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child." (NLT)

    The shepherds could easily have kept quiet about the miracle. But instead, they "told everyone what had happened." God had given us the ultimate light in the darkness, the gift of eternal life with the King of Kings, and this gift was meant to be shared.

    If you know Jesus, we pray you’ll go and do likewise!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for sending light in the darkness through the gift of Your Son Jesus. I know I need a Savior from all my problems, but also from living apart from You. I’m amazed by Your gift of eternal life. Help me this Christmas, and always, to never take this for granted, and to follow the shepherds’ example to go and tell everyone what happened. 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)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you know Jesus? If so, thank Him for His presence in Your life. If not, click here to learn more about a life-saving relationship with the God of the universe.

    © 2015 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

  • When There is Mourning in Your Merry

    Chrystal Evans Hurst DECEMBER 24, 2015

    When There is Mourning in Your Merry CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18 (NASB) 

    Two Christmases ago, I sat quietly contemplating the cordless phone that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand.

    No one was awake yet, so it was the perfect time to pick up the phone and call my grandmother.

    But that morning, my heart hurt.

    You see, as the eldest granddaughter, every Christmas it was my job, my assignment, to pick up the phone and call her. Then I’d pass the phone around to everyone else so she and my grandfather could talk to everyone.

    This Christmas, however, I felt twinges of physical pain because this special day, when I called, I knew she wouldn’t be picking up the phone.

    Of course, I would still call my grandfather and everyone would be glad to hear his voice, wish we could be closer and express our love to him … but we would also miss hearing her voice.

    Sometimes there is mourning in the midst of the merry.

    That Christmas day, there would be plenty of laughter, kids squealing with joy, hugs exchanged and catching up with loved ones. There would be good food shared and memories made. That Christmas day there would be lots of things that are just the same as they are every year.

    All except one.

    I felt the mourning in the midst of the merry.

    I wonder if when Jesus was on Earth, He missed His heavenly Father.

    I wonder if He felt off-balance because He exchanged the glorious singing of the angels for the soft sounds of sheep. I wonder if He had immediate grief in His heart as the love He had for mankind was mixed with the mourning of a known difficult and short life and an awareness of a painful and hard death.

    I wonder if Christmas day — the day that Christ was born — was a day of mourning, too.

    I wonder if Mary wished her mother were there to help her deliver her new baby. I wonder if she was saddened at her station in life. Did she wish that she had more to give her new son than a birth in a manger?

    I wonder if she mourned the absence of her friends. Did she feel alone? Lost in a big world that seemed not to see her? I wonder if Christmas day — the day Mary delivered her baby — was a day of mourning, too.

    I wonder if the holiday season — the time of year where you sit right now reading this devotion — is a time of mourning for you. I wonder if you’re lamenting another Christmas season spent not quite the way you thought.

    I wonder if you’re grieving because someone you love is not here this year. I wonder if you’re sad because you feel alone, or life isn’t quite where you’d like it to be. I wonder if you feel twists or twinges in your heart as the notes from "Joy to the World" don’t seem to ring true in your life. I wonder.

    Sometimes, there is mourning in the midst of the merry.

    And I don’t have an answer. I don’t have anything monumental to say to get rid of the heart-hurts you might have today.

    But I do know that if we keep going, mourning can TURN into merry.

    I know Mary saw her Son live the only perfect life in history. Any mother would love to see her children live their lives well.

    I know there was glory waiting for Jesus after the agony of the cross.

    And I know that while I miss my grandmother, I will see her again one day.

    You will not always be in this place. You will not always feel the same intensity of hurt, pain or sadness. You will not always feel lonely.

    Sometimes there is mourning. But the merry is still happening.

    Walk through the mourning. Don’t deny it. Be honest about the pain or ache that you feel. But don’t miss the merry.

    That morning two Christmases ago, I sat quietly contemplating the cordless phone that fit perfectly in the palm of my hand. I felt the mourning, but I discovered an opportunity to find the merry.

    I pressed the button that would give me a dial tone and began making that call to my grandfather.

    Dear God, thank You for knowing me intimately and loving me in the middle of my mourning moments. Thank You for the hope, joy and peace You offer. Please help me through the difficult times I face this holiday season. Lord, please help me recognize the opportunities to find the merry and to see where Your hope, joy and peace are available still. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you or someone close to you can relate to the feelings of mourning in the merry, you might appreciate An Untroubled Heart by Micca Campbell.

    God sees you and is near to those who are brokenhearted. Click here to download a free printable — a gift that Chrystal Evans Hurst has made available just for you.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If this holiday season is difficult for you, take a moment to share the story behind your mourning. There are others who would love to encourage you today.

    If you have ever experienced the pain of grief or loneliness during the holiday season, what tips or encouragement can you offer to someone that desires to find the "merry" even in the midst of their mourning? Share in the comments section.

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • If Only We Knew

    Lysa TerKeurst DECEMBER 23, 2015

    If Only We Knew LYSA TERKEURST

    "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

    Here is my prayer for you this Christmas week: May you catch even the slightest glimpse of the tender mercy of our Lord Jesus. For one drop of the Lord’s mercy is better than an ocean of the world’s comfort.

    The marriage situation that seems impossible.

    The finances that never balance.

    The hope so deferred it makes your heart sick.

    The anxiety over a child bent on a wayward path.

    The diet you are sick of.

    The broken promises of a friend.

    The lack of true friends.

    The constant messiness always distracting the peace you want in your home.

    The impatience and frustration, anger and disappointment of losing it — again.

    If only we knew how deeply Jesus understands and cares for us. If only we could see the wonder of His love. The skies He paints, the flowers He blooms, the world He arranges just for us. The love letters He’s written to us throughout the Bible.

    These are all mercies from Him.

    The world will offer us comfort in the form of escapes. We escape to romance novels, movies, magazines, malls, chocolate, vacations, affirmations from friends. Not that any of these things are bad. They aren’t. But they are very temporary. They make us feel good in the moment, but that good never stays. We need more and more. Trying to fill our aching hearts with these things is like trying to fill an ocean with a tablespoon. It’s never enough. So we clench our fists and keep trying to find something to comfort us.

    If only we knew how to stop clenching our fists so that we could open our hands and catch the drops of His tender mercy. If only we knew how to release the weight of trying to fix it all ourselves. If only we knew to stop in the midst of it all and whisper, "Jesus … help me." Just a whispered breath formed in the wholeness of His Name carries all the power and mercy and wisdom and grace we need to handle what we face.

    If only we knew.

    If you find yourself wanting to escape today into one of the world’s comforts, first invest some time in asking Jesus to help you, show you and direct you. Hebrews 4:15-16 reminds us of how approachable He is, how He understands our struggles and graciously offers us help and hope: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."

    Specifically, ask Him to help you see and notice His tender mercies. Then you will see that, indeed, one drop of the Lord’s mercy is better than an ocean of the world’s temporary comforts.

    Jesus, I don’t want to spend another day chasing after things that will never satisfy. Instead, I pray that I would begin to truly see how high and how deep is the love You have for me. Help me to catch the tender drops of Your mercy, and teach me how to fully embrace Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 100:5, "For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:17b-19, "… And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Learn more about making Jesus your focus instead of getting wrapped up in distractions with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best YesPurchase your copy here.

    Connect with Lysa on her Instagram for daily Biblical encouragement here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where do you turn when you need comfort? Ask the Lord to interrupt you this week when you are tempted to run to anything other than Him first. Then pause and spend a few moments in prayer, asking Him to be your help and your comfort.

    Write out a list of the things weighing most heavily on your heart and mind. Specifically lift up each of these to the Lord in prayer, thanking Him that He has all of the grace and mercy you need for each and every one.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Strengthen Your Prayer Life with War Room

    Back on Labor Day weekend of this year, War Room accomplished what many Christian movies before could not: it stood as the number one movie in the box office. Equally as impressive was the fact that it was the second week the movie was in theaters, and yet it still made the jump from second place to the top spot.

    War Room tells the story of Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, a married couple who on the outside seem to have everything going for them, while in reality their marriage is on the verge of collapse—that is until Elizabeth meets Miss Clara, who encourages her to create a prayer strategy by establishing a "war room."

    Elizabeth and Miss ClaraPhoto Credit: WarRoomTheMovie.com

    A war room in this case means a room specifically designated for prayer. It is where you create your prayer strategy and spend time alone with God.

    Co-writer Stephen Kendrick has said that Matthew 6 is one of the key pieces of Scripture behind this idea for the movie. In the passage, Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray. Matthew 6:6 (ESV) says, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

    Jesus is telling them not to go out and pray publicly, in a way that seeks recognition, but instead go into your own secret place and authentically communicate with God.

    How many of us actually do as Jesus has told us to though?

    In one scene of the movie, Elizabeth is speaking with Miss Clara when she describes the lives of her and her husband: "We're like most people. We have full schedules," and when describing her prayer life, "I'm not hot, but I'm not cold either. Just somewhere in the middle."

    Can you relate to Elizabeth?

    It is very easy to get caught up in a constant cycle of life. We wake up, prepare breakfast, get the kids ready for school, head to work, come home and make dinner, help the kids with their homework, get them ready for bed, spend a little time with our husband or wife (or ourselves) and then fall asleep only to do the same thing again the next day.

    Time for prayer just doesn't seem to fit.

    War Room offers us the reminder that not only is prayer powerful, but it is a necessity.

    Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth in the movie, says that prayer is “what opens up the flood gates for God to come down and be involved in our everyday circumstances.”

    Spend some alone time with God today, and see how He can change your life through prayer.

    If you’d like to set up your own war room, check out some of our gifts of encouragement to store in it.

    Also grab your copy of War Room on DVD or Blu-ray today.

  • Your Present Suffering

    John Dickerson DECEMBER 22, 2015

    Your Present Suffering JOHN S. DICKERSON

    "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18 (NIV)

    My wife shrieked, her voice straining between hurried gasps for air. As a news reporter, I had seen human suffering. But never before had I witnessed such pain from someone I loved so much.

    Pacing that hospital room, sitting, holding my wife’s hand and stroking her hair, I encountered pain I was unable to control.

    She was giving birth to our first child, Jack.

    And she, like generations before, had no epidural or pain medications to soften the suffering. I did my best to cheer her along. But honestly, I was trying to keep myself together. (Kudos to all you mothers. You have my utmost respect!)

    When I revisit the excruciating pain of childbirth, I am amazed that any mom has ever had more than one child. And yet, so many do!

    Why do smart, sophisticated moms knowingly choose to endure that pain again? Why do so many desire, even ache, to experience one of the worst sufferings known to humanity … again?

    Veteran mothers invite this pain because the lifelong joy of motherhood outlasts the temporary suffering of childbirth.

    Without belittling or demeaning our hurts, God assures us that, much like childbirth, our present sufferings will end. Even more, our difficulties will give way to future fulfillment that eclipses and outlasts our present suffering.

    During the agony of labor, a hopeful mother fixes her thoughts on the arrival of her child. In the same way, Scripture encourages us to "… set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13b, ESV).

    In times of unthinkable pain or dead-end depression, we can "set our hope" on the coming moment when our pain will transition into unending joy. When Christ returns, He will re-create the earth to be unpolluted by evil. He will restore us into bodies with no sickness, no sin-bent, no need for pain sensors or tear ducts.

    I have a rare medical condition that produces unpredictable episodes of severe pain and disability. When it happens, I lose my ability to speak coherent words. With half my body numb, I battle emotional anxiety in tandem with physical pain. In those moments, God has taught me to grab this hope — with the hands of faith.

    I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my suffering will end.

    I choose to believe that, like childbirth, my future fulfillment will far exceed my momentary pain. It actually won’t be worth comparing.

    Fixing my hope like this does not mean the pain immediately ceases. But it does allow peace to invade the cavities and caverns of my soul, even at the peak of my suffering.

    In our key verse, John 16:20-22, Jesus likens our "present sufferings" to the grueling pangs of childbirth, saying we will grieve but eventually, that grief becomes joy.

    I will never forget when the OB-GYN set our firstborn on my wife’s chest after all the excruciating pains of labor, driven by the hope of future joy.

    In that moment when the doctor cradled new squirming life, then set that life on my wife’s chest, tears of joy overcame her. I’ve never seen my wife shed more tears of overwhelming joy.

    That joy is a glimpse of what will be yours when Christ delivers you out of your pain for good — when all of your waiting, believing and hoping delivers.

    Because there will be a day when the birth-pains of this world are over, and we are forever delivered. Rescued. Forever in a place of no pain, no suffering, no broken relationships.

    We will not only be empty of those negative experiences, but entirely filled with the good of God, with oceans of pleasure, joy and goodness that were once only droplets on fallen earth.

    Father, where there is pain, doubt or discouragement in my life today, help me believe in Your future deliverance. I set my hope on the future glory Christ will unveil. I choose to believe Your fulfillment will eclipse and outweigh my present sufferings. Help me build my life around this hope today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 16:20b-22, "You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: John S. Dickerson’s rare medical condition drove him to study pain and suffering in Scripture. His new book is designed to help you or someone you love discover God’s hope in the midst of suffering or doubt: I Am Strong: Finding God’s Peace and Strength in Life’s Darkest Moments.

    Download free sample chapters of the book, and find inspirational Pinterest pins at: IAmStrongBook.com.

    Enter to WIN a copy of I Am Strong by John Dickerson. In celebration of this book, John’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, December 28.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Describe your present sufferings to God by saying them aloud or journaling them. Then, read Romans 8:17-39. Ask God for strength to believe these words and set your hope on the future glory that will eclipse your present suffering.

    © 2015 by John S. Dickerson. 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

  • Are You Just Visiting?

    Lynn Cowell DECEMBER 21, 2015

    Are You Just Visiting? LYNN COWELL

    "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." John 1:14 (NIV)

    When I was a child, going to visit my grandparents was not on my "Top 10 list of Favorite Things To Do." Honestly, it didn’t even make my Top 50 List.

    The drive was way too long. There was nothing to do at their home or in their tiny town. And they didn’t even have cable TV — making a visit all the more painful. The one thing I hoped for was a short trip.

    I was selfish — making what was meant to be about someone else, all about me instead.

    Unlike me, Jesus understood that His coming to Earth wasn’t all about Him. He was the Son of God who came to give His life for the forgiveness of our sins. God’s plan involved Jesus laying down His life for the honor of His Father and for our salvation.

    Today’s key verse, John 1:14, says Jesus made His "dwelling" among us. The New Living Translation says Jesus made His "home" among us. Both those words create a picture in my mind of Jesus immersed in life with those around Him.

    When He came, Jesus didn’t just pop in for a visit. He didn’t come just to check a commitment off His list. Instead, He gave His best — His very life — for humanity. If Earth and His heavenly home were set side by side, I’m sure Earth could not compare.

    And it wasn’t just about His physical surroundings. Jesus knew He was coming to a place where many would hate Him.

    Jesus didn’t have to spend as many years with us as He did. He could have skipped the first part of His life, shown up just before Good Friday and left after He rose from the dead.

    But He didn’t. In fact, for over 33 years, He made planet Earth His home with the full experience of life: birth, growing pains, even puberty. He went through the awkward stage of gaining independence while still being respectful to His parents. He learned a skill, worked, made friends.

    Jesus came and engaged. He wasn’t too good for this place or the people. That’s powerful, unselfish love in action. It is a love that invested all the years of His life on Earth leading up to His ultimate act: dying for us.

    Thankfully, I no longer exhibit all the selfishness of a child, but there are places in my life where I am still "just visiting." Fulfilling my responsibilities, but not seeing those around me who need this unconditional love Jesus came to bring. I want to change. I need to change in order to fulfill my purpose on Earth.

    Are there places in your life where you are just visiting, too? Missing out on investing in and really loving on the people around you? At work, church, home or the gym? Open your eyes today to see with love the same value Jesus saw in others.

    Dear God, what a challenge You give us today through the example of Your Son, Jesus. I need Your help to love in the extraordinary way You love. Open my eyes to see others as You see them. Then, help me take action to show Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:12, "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: In order to love like Jesus loves, we must first understand His love for us. In His Revolutionary Love: Jesus’ Radical Pursuit of You, Lynn Cowell shows how a relationship with Jesus can meet our deepest desires — from the need for identity and significance to being seen as beautiful. It would make a great gift for the young women on your list!

    Stop by Lynn’s blog today where she is sharing "21 Ways to Love Like Jesus Loves" and giving away a Love Bundle which includes copies of her three books.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Where in your life you are "just visiting"… fulfilling your responsibility, but possibly missing those Jesus wants to reach with His love through you?

    In the comments section, write one action you can take to intentionally show those present you care about them.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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