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Family Christian

  • Be The Gift God Created YOU To Be

    Mmichele Dudley NOVEMBER 27, 2015

    Be The Gift God Created YOU To Be MICHELE DUDLEY

    "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)

    When I cleaned out my messy closet recently, I found a beautiful gift a friend had given me many months ago.

    I remember when she gave me the gift — I was thrilled! It made me feel so special and loved that she purchased it with me in mind.

    Yet somehow in the busyness of life, the gift became buried underneath "stuff," hidden and unused. I can’t imagine how disappointed my friend would be if she knew I hadn’t continued to treasure it.

    It made me pause and think about the gifts that the Ultimate Gift Giver has given each of us … and whether or not we’re using them.

    1 Corinthians 12:7 says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" (NLT).

    I envision God, with His infinite creativity, pouring over each of us as He formed us, selecting unique abilities and spiritual gifts to prepare us for the work that He has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10). And not for our own good, but for His good and the good of His people.

    It’s our job to steward these gifts. We must prayerfully consider what they are and how we can use them to serve a world in desperate need — this is our purpose, our calling.

    At Fashion & Compassion, I work with women who are overcoming exploitation, addiction, war/conflict, domestic abuse and incarceration in the U.S. and around the world. Because of their life circumstances, many of these women have never considered God’s purpose for their life.

    For example, Carrie came to us three years ago, emotionally beaten down after 30 years in an abusive marriage. She was essentially locked in her home — with her seven children — and constantly told she was "stupid" and "useless" by her husband.

    When Carrie came to Fashion & Compassion, she was frightened and scarred, afraid she couldn’t do anything right. Through love, encouragement and prayer, Carrie now sees that God gifted her with a HUGE heart of compassion for suffering women and an incredible artistic gift.

    As our jewelry project manager, Carrie loves and ministers to women with a genuine empathy, compassion and peace that can only come from the healing and restoration she has received from Christ. She patiently teaches and encourages other vulnerable women to make jewelry, and she uses her God-given creative abilities to develop many of our beautiful designs.

    Once Carrie understood who she was in Christ and allowed Him to heal her past, she became free to use her gifts to minister to women in a way that only she can.

    So as you shop for special gifts today, remember our key verse and use those gifts to serve one another.

    Just imagine what the world would be like if we began to steward the gifts God has given us to serve each other and bring healing to the broken.

    And unlike the gift my friend gave me long ago, let’s not keep our unique gifts from God hidden under a mountain of stuff in the closet of our lives. Let’s use our gifts for His glory NOW!

    Dear God, Thank You for the sacrificial gift of Your Son — the BEST gift I can ever receive. Keep me mindful of Jesus during these busy days and don’t let the busyness of life keep me from using the gifts You have given me to serve a world in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 139:13-14, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (ESV)

    Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Remind someone they are loved by God and by you by giving them a "Loved" charm dangle bangle bracelet made by a Fashion & Compassion artisan. You can purchase the bracelet and other jewelry made by women overcoming poverty & injustice here.

    Enter to WIN a one-of-a-kind Fashion & Compassion bracelet designed by Carrie by signing up to receive our email updates. We’ll randomly select 10 winners from those who join our list and send you an email notification by Friday, December 4, if you win.

    Unsure what your spiritual gifts are? Find out by taking this spiritual gift assessment.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you seen God use your gifts and abilities to transform the life of another person? Please share your stories in the comment section.

    How could you serve your church or a ministry in your community using the gifts that God has given you? Ask for God’s leading as you prayerfully consider next steps.

    © 2015 by Michele Dudley. All rights reserved.

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

  • Don’t Waste the Tantrum

    Carrie Zimmer NOVEMBER 26, 2015

    Don’t Waste the Tantrum CARRIE ZIMMER, COMPEL Member

    "Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)

    I woke up in a bed of wetness. My 3-year-old daughter had climbed into our bed in the early morning hours and had an accident. Had this been the only trial that day, I might’ve been unaffected. However, this was followed by a tantrum at breakfast that left a bowlful of cereal and milk all over the kitchen floor.

    I’d like to think that I could’ve even held back the tears at this point, but the entire day unraveled. My girl screamed at the top of her little toddler lungs over clothing selections, then threw up in her newly-washed car seat. That, coupled with a crying, hungry baby, left me no option but to call and cancel on a friend whom I was suppose to meet that morning.

    Instead of meeting my friend, I sat on the princess-dress covered floor of my toddler’s room and cried.

    That was one of the most challenging weeks I have faced as a mom. But it was also that week that I found myself being incredibly grateful as Jesus gently steered my focus back to Himself.

    That day, everything in my flesh wanted to run away and come back only when my daughter had outgrown this trying phase.

    But as I sat there crying on her bedroom floor, with her crying next to me, through the power of the Holy Spirit alone, I whispered, "Thank you, God."

    It felt so unnatural to thank God as my daughter laid an arm’s length away screaming and flailing, but in that moment God reminded me that when I feel utterly out of control and frustrated to my core, He is there, and He is good.

    In our key verse today, Paul gently reminds us that our suffering, whatever that looks like in our lives, is not just for the sake of suffering. There is purpose in it and that purpose is to produce endurance, character and hope!

    Too often, I think of relying on God’s strength as though it needs to be saved for the big things, like death or crisis moments. But how foolish I am to think I could face any trial without His strength.

    I have found that it is easy to hold my breath and wait for trials to pass or wait for the storm to settle. But yet in the quietness of my soul, God gently reminds me not to waste this moment, this tantrum, because in it, God is teaching me something great. That no matter what comes my way, He is good. He is sovereign. He is all I need. And that is a beautiful hope!

    Dear God, would You show me in the depths of my hearts that I need You every hour? As I navigate the ups and downs of life, give me the assurance that You will use, everything for Your divine purpose. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." (ESV)

    Hebrews 4:14-16, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Longing to write words that are memorable and life-changing? Struggling to build a platform, but realize it takes more writing than you thought? Today’s devotion author, Carrie Zimmer, is a member of COMPEL, a monthly membership program for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is an area of your life that you try to handle on your own strength?

    Confess your desire to control things and handle them on your own and pray for strength to surrender that thing to Jesus.

    © 2015 by Carrie Zimmer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Being Thank-full Goes Beyond Counting Your Blessings

    Tracie Miles NOVEMBER 25, 2015

    Being Thank-full Goes Beyond Counting Your Blessings TRACIE MILES

    "One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan." Luke 17:15-16 (NIV)

    So, ’tis the season to be thankful. Everywhere you look, people are talking about being thankful, focusing on expressing thankfulness and even posting the reasons they’re thankful on social media every day.

    But you know what? Being "thankful" does not automatically mean we are being thank-full. Being thankful for the good things is really just being glad we are benefiting from those good things and appreciating God’s blessings upon us. But being truly thank-full requires looking beyond our blessings, to the One who blesses. It’s about being full of gratitude for Christ, not just being full of thanks for what He has given us or done.

    If someone were to ask me today to spontaneously list the things I am thankful for, my list would probably be very similar to yours — food, a home, clothes, family, jobs, transportation, friends, health, etc. Each of these things are huge blessings, and tremendous reasons to be thankful, all of which I am very grateful for.

    But I began to wonder: Is appreciating those blessings which I can physically touch or see really creating a solid attitude of thank-full-ness? Do I still feel thank-full when life is hard?

    What about when we feel we don’t have anything to be thankful for from this past year? What about those of us who are out of work, lost homes, had children stray from the Lord, had marriages split up or received a challenging health diagnoses? What about those grieving the loss of someone they loved or struggling with infertility?

    Maybe you can relate to one or more of those situations or are experiencing a different hardship in life, and if so, maybe the thought crossed your mind that possibly this is just not the year to feel thankful. But Thanksgiving isn’t just about counting our blessings.

    Thanksgiving Day originally started with the Pilgrims, a group of believers who in the midst of extreme hardship, loss of loved ones and minimal food and supplies, still believed they were extremely blessed. They chose to celebrate and thank God for His blessings even though life was difficult and their blessings were few.

    As I thought about this topic and the Pilgrims' unwavering thankfulness, I recalled the story found in Luke. In Luke 17:11-19, we read a story about a man whose heart was focused on Jesus, not just focused on his blessings. It’s the story of when Jesus had compassion, mercy and grace for ten lepers on the roadside, and healed each one of them … but only one returned to say thank you. Only one healed leper recognized that not only was his body healed, but also his soul. Only one man was so overwhelmed and full of thankfulness, that he took the time to say thanks.

    The leper surely still had lots of problems in his life to face, but due to being thank-full, he heard Jesus give him the greatest blessing of all, when He said in Luke 17:19, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

    As I read this story, I had to ask myself some hard questions: Am I thankful for what I do have and what Jesus has done in my life, or feeling unthankful or negative about what I don’t have and what I feel Jesus hasn’t done for me yet? I couldn’t help but wonder if my faith was helping me have an attitude of true gratitude in my heart, like the Pilgrims and the healed leper, even though everything in life wasn’t as I wanted it.

    There will always be things we may not feel thankful for, but we can still be thank-full by putting a different focus on what thankfulness really is. Let’s open the door for our hearts to be transformed as we focus not on just thanking God for our blessings, but thanking Him for being the One who blesses.

    Lord, forgive me for focusing more on the negatives in my life than the positives. Thank You for Your blessing of love, grace, mercy and eternal life. Fill my heart with Your spirit this Thanksgiving so I can be thank-full. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 107:1, "Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Visit Tracie Miles’ blog today for more encouragement and to enter to win one of two beautiful Gratitude Journals!

    Check out Tracie’s books, Stressed-Less Living and Your Life Still Counts, to help you begin focusing on God’s goodness and grace in your life in the coming year.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you been focusing more on the negatives of life, instead of the positives?

    If you become more thank-full and take your gratitude for Christ beyond just counting your blessings, how might that new perspective change your heart, mind and life?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Happy Thanksgiving from Family Christian: What We Are Most Thankful For

    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. – 1 Chronicles 16:34 NIV

    With Thanksgiving just two days away, we’d like to share with you some of the many things we are thankful for here at Family Christian. In response to a survey, almost 20 team members from many different roles within the organization gave the top three things they were thankful for this year. With all the answers provided, this list could go on forever, but here are just a few.

    Without a doubt, we are most thankful for God and His grace.

    Family Christian would not exist without the grace of God. All the work that we do would be impossible without Him.

    And while Family Christian would not exist without God, we would not function without you. We are so thankful for your prayers and support, and all of your purchases that help us fulfill our mission of bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth.

    Thankful to Serve

    We are so thankful for the lives we touch.

    We are also thankful to work for a company which whose mission is to put purpose over profits, striving to make a difference in the lives of so many people all over the world.

    From widows and orphans to all of you, our main goal is to share the love of Christ every single day.

    We are blessed to be able to provide you with products that will help you find, grow, share and celebrate your faith, and at the same time give hope to widows and orphans all over the world.

    Finally, we are thankful for all of our family and friends. They enrich our lives so much, by sticking with us through our ups and downs, promoting our spiritual growth, and helping mold us into the people we are today.

    There are so many other things we are thankful for: health, the seasons and second chances to a name few, but ultimately everything comes from God. To Him all thanksgiving and praise is due.

    As you celebrate this year, go beyond just thinking about food and football, and remember to give thanks to the Lord for every gift He has given you, including the most important gift of all: the redemptive sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  • A Hard Lesson I Learned on "Accident"

    danya jordan NOVEMBER 24, 2015

    A Hard Lesson I Learned on "Accident" DANYA M. JORDAN

    "Freely you have received; freely give." Matthew 10:8b (NIV)

    The hot water rinsed the shampoo down my head and neck as my mom tenderly washed my blood-soaked hair. I had just returned home from the trauma center after being involved in a serious six-car accident just hours before — grateful to be miraculously alive.

    It was difficult to comprehend walking away that evening from the emergency room with no broken bones, no visible cuts. MRI and CAT scans showed no brain injury from my scalp gash and being knocked unconscious from the side airbag. Eleven staples in the back of my head and body bruises were my only (yet barely visible) battle wounds.

    The inner wounds lingered, though, as I processed the lessons God was trying to teach me.

    Loved ones and friends brought daily meals, sent cards, flowers, texts, emails and left sweet phone messages for me. Mom chauffeured me around for a week to doctor’s appointments and errands before I was issued a rental car.

    As grateful as I was, I struggled to accept their help. It has always been easier for me to give, to serve, to try to be in control of my situation, my surroundings. This car accident changed my perspective and humbled my heart.

    God wanted me to learn this truth about myself: I’m not good at receiving.

    As result of that accident, I learned a hard lesson. I learned to ask for help when I need it. And when I did, God taught me the blessing of receiving.

    God’s Kingdom is built on the principle of giving and receiving … receiving and giving. At times we need to do both.

    Asking for help is often hard, whatever the reason. At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we love to give. We love serving you, and offering God’s Word to a hungry world.

    And at times, we struggle to ask for help. But we know that would deny others the blessing of giving. For some, giving is a spiritual gift, as Romans 12:8 shows us (see below).

    Our key verse in Matthew 10:8b teaches us that our hands should be open when it comes to giving and receiving help. Jesus was giving specific instructions to His disciples in that passage. The full verse eight says: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

    God wired our hearts to give and receive. He gave the Ultimate Gift. He gave sacrificially. He gave from His heart, just as He wants us to give sacrificially and have the grace and humility to receive. How many times have I rejected God’s offer of help to me, thinking I could do life on my own? It was pride.

    This incident taught me the hard lesson that I needed to learn to ask for help. I thank God for my car accident and that He spared my life for His purpose. I pray God continues to show me how to give sacrificially and receive with grace and humility.

    Lord Jesus, thank You for saving my life. You are my Jehovah Jirah. Forgive me for my pride in struggling to receive. Help me to continue to lavishly give to You, serve others and receive Your blessings. I pray for Your continued favor on the friend reading this devotional and on Proverbs 31 Ministries. Thank You for providing more than enough, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:6 & 8, "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; … if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 9:10-11, "Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (NIV)

    1 John 3:1a, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: We pray you have received a blessing from our Proverbs 31 offerings throughout the year. With our God-sized vision to eradicate Biblical poverty, we humbly ask for you to give financially to Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Lord leads you. Simply go online to www.proverbs31.org/give.

    Each day more than 500,000 people in almost every country worldwide have used the First 5 Mobile App. Close to one million people receive our Encouragement for Today devotionals and participate in Online Bible Studies. It thrills our souls to offer these resource to you free. Thank you for investing in God’s Kingdom through Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    Please also pray with us for the Lord to provide more than $1 million for Proverbs 31 Ministries by December 31 to accomplish His Kingdom work.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: With what "accident" has God taught you a difficult lesson?

    When have you lavishly given and lavishly received?

    Are you a Proverbs 31 Ministries Monthly Partner yet? If not, click here.

    © 2015 by Danya Jordan. All rights reserved.

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

  • Learning to Love More People, More

    Lisa Harper NOVEMBER 23, 2015

    Learning to Love More People, More LISA HARPER

    "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 (NIV)

    You’ve probably heard the old adage, "you can’t teach an old dog new tricks." Well, I beg to differ. I’ve learned at least one new thing. Every. Single. Day. Of the last year and a half.

    Most of the lessons have come courtesy of a joyful 6-year-old Haitian with a wee rambunctious streak named Missy, who officially became my daughter in April 2014 after a tumultuous two-year adoption process.

    My little girl has a brave warrior spirit and a predisposition to wiggle gleefully in the grocery store and greet bemused shoppers with the invitation, "Hello ma’am, do chu wanna dance wid my mama and me?" My little girl also has HIV.

    She was unwittingly infected by her biological mom who, like far too many people living in impoverished conditions in third world countries, never got tested and died of AIDS without ever realizing she had it.

    As a result of Missy’s disease, one of the first new lessons I learned was about loving more people, more. My tutoring session took place in the private non-chain pharmacy we visit monthly that specializes in meds for people with HIV and AIDS. They don’t sell candy, cards, breakfast cereal, toothpaste or Chia pets, just pricey medicine for pretty sick folks. It’s tucked away on the fifth floor of an old building that used to house a low-budget shopping mall.

    Of course, at first some of the other customers glanced at us with curiosity. This was probably because — with Missy dressed in a plaid school uniform and a bow bigger than her head, and me wrapped in my whole harried, disheveled look — they assumed we were lost.

    Some even hurdle over benign curiosity and jump straight to barely disguised contempt. This aptly describes the man with an angry expression who rode up the elevator with us one visit. He literally averted his gaze and exhaled in protest when Missy blurted out happily, "Hello Sur! How awe you?"

    I put my hand protectively on her shoulder and tried to scoot her a few inches away, but this was one time her ardor was not easily redirected. She tugged on his sleeve and persisted with more animation, "I’m Missy Haar-Purr. I’m FIVE! And this is my MAMA Haar-Purr!"

    He threw me a look of frustration and exhaled louder. It was all I could do not to grin at his surprised expression when we walked into the pharmacy behind him and the darling employees swarmed Missy like a bevy of favorite aunts.

    He seemed startled when they asked her to sing and she responded by belting out the praise chorus of "Your Great Name" followed by an enthusiastic, hip-swiveling encore of "Shake Your Booty." (Missy’s musical repertoire is surprisingly vast.)

    A few minutes later, after she’d proclaimed, "I lub ya’ll!" she handed a big sucker to each one of the staff. Then Missy turned to the man, held up her last remaining lollipop, and asked sweetly, "Wood chu like a sucker, Sur?"

    His expression softened as he leaned down and replied gently, "Well, yes, honey. I believe I would." My daughter hugged him before bellowing a rather bossy "Goodbye Sur, it was nice to meed you!" At which point he reached over her head and shook my hand.

    When our eyes met, we both smiled. I couldn’t speak, because I was too close to tears. But I don’t think we needed any more words. Enough had already been said.

    What Thanksgiving does annually for my waistline, Missy has done for my heart. She’s increased my capacity to "be kind and compassionate to one another," which is exactly the kind of effect the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit has on Christ-followers.

    Our Heavenly Father’s forgiveness and acceptance causes our hearts to expand far beyond our previous boundaries. As maturing Christians, we’ll scoot past simply being consumers of grace and become carriers of grace, becoming brave enough to embrace people we never noticed before as we seek to act like Christ.

    Lord, remind us today that Your grace is available to everyone and that we are all in need of it. Help us live in a way that reflects Your nature to others. We know we can do it only through the empowering of Your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 13:34, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (NIV)

    1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: In her new book, Believing Jesus, Bible teacher and author Lisa Harper retraces the steps of the apostles in the book of Acts, while throwing in a few of her own crazy adventures along the way.

    Lisa has also prepared a Believing Jesus DVD Study and accompanying Study Guide. In them, she addresses what it means to believe Jesus. Not just believe in Jesus, but actually believewhat He said — and shape our lives around that truth.

    Enter to WIN a set of Believing Jesus — book, DVD and Study Guide by Lisa Harper. Lisa’s publisher is giving away 5 sets! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a set for yourself OR whom you would give the set to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications by Monday, November 30.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who is one person you know — perhaps someone different from yourself — to whom you could show Jesus’ grace and compassion today? How will you do that?

    What would it look like for you to "love more people, more"? In what ways would that change your mindset and the way you view others?

    © 2015 by Lisa Harper. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson 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

  • A Heart for Giving

    In Acts 20:35 (NIV), Paul tells us that Jesus says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

    However, it is a struggle for many people today to give without feeling obligated or without expectation of something in return. Whether it is the giving of gifts, of money, or of time, many of us find it difficult to make a sacrifice without getting some type of repayment.

    When others need help, is your initial reaction to think, “What’s in it for me?” If so, I encourage you to meditate on the verses below and evaluate whether or not you have a heart for giving.

    If this is an area of difficulty in your life, ask God to work in your heart and to teach you to give cheerfully and without expectation.

    John 3:16

    “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

    We have been given the greatest gift of all – the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This gift was given freely to all who accept it, without receiving anything in return. This is the heart for giving that we should model in our lives today.

    Deuteronomy 15:10

    “Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.”

    Proverbs 11:25

    “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

    Proverbs 18:16

    “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.”

    Luke 6:30

    “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

    1 Corinthians 13:3

    “If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

    2 Corinthians 9:6-8

    “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

    Hebrews 13:16

    “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

    1 John 3:17

    “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?”

    God asks us to give not out of obligation or with any reservation, but rather to give because He first gave to us. It is not what we give, or how much we give, but whether or not we have a heart for it.

    With the holiday season upon us, now is the perfect time to practice your giving. To you that could mean giving a surprise present to someone and not expecting anything in return, or it could mean giving up a Saturday afternoon and volunteering somewhere.

    Just remember, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

    ------

    This post was written by Family Christian's own Alex Rogers. He loves coffee, movies, and spending time with friends and family.

  • Overcoming a Sizable Fear

    Liz Curtis Higgs NOVEMBER 20, 2015

    Overcoming a Sizable Fear LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." 1 John 4:18 (NLT)

    My flight was in the boarding process as I settled into my aisle seat, 7-B, and began to pray for whomever might sit in 7-A.

    Sadly, I wasn’t praying for that person’s soul — I was praying for his or her size. I dearly hoped the stranger would be petite, someone who wouldn’t feel miserable squished next to an abundantly blessed woman on a tiny commuter plane.

    Please, Lord?

    I watched the passengers file past, apprehension mounting. My opening patter was well rehearsed: "They keep making these planes smaller, don’t they?" or "Sure wish my hips could fit in the overhead compartment." Anything to put him or her at ease.

    Moments later a slender, smiling boy appeared beside me. "I’m 7-A."

    I beamed at him. "Wonderful!" He had blond hair, perfectly round glasses and the pink cheeks of late childhood. I pegged him at 9 or 10, maybe even a mature age 8.

    He climbed into his seat, barely taking up half of it, and announced, "I like this plane. It’s my size." He leaned toward me and added in a stage whisper, "It makes me feel bigger."

    Bless his heart.

    I asked his name, wondering what it must be like to travel alone at such a young age, then gently patted his arm. "I’m here if you need anything."

    The child talked non-stop for the first 30 minutes before folding over and drifting off to sleep. Watching him, I resisted the maternal urge to smooth back his hair. So young.

    When the engines grew louder, signaling our descent, my neighbor woke up with a yawn, glanced at his watch and grinned. "Whaddaya know? My birthday is next week."

    Picturing a big party in the works, I asked, "Which one will this be?"

    "15!"

    My smile froze in place. It couldn’t be. Not this small boy, no taller than a third-grader.

    I could only imagine the snide comments his peers threw at him. Or the many clueless strangers like me, who treated him as if he were a half-grown child instead of a full-fledged teenager.

    "Happy birthday," I murmured, my heart breaking for him. What must it be like to be smaller than people expect?

    It’s like being larger than people expect.

    I looked down and fumbled with my seat belt, suddenly feeling exposed. Just like this self-conscious teen who kept his defense tactics at the ready — "It’s my size" — I had my verbal arsenal loaded as well, deflecting imagined criticism by beating people to the punch — "They keep making these planes smaller, don’t they?"

    No, Liz. They don’t.

    The time had come to see my self-effacing banter for what it was: fear of embarrassment, fear of rejection.

    What if you don’t like me? What if you say something unkind?

    Today’s key verse, 1 John 4:18, helped change my thinking. God promises that His "perfect love expels all fear." The truth is: People may not love us. But God does. If we embrace His love, we won’t fear the approval of people and can instead focus on loving them.

    "If we are afraid," 1 John 4:18 continues, "it is for fear of punishment." Rude stares, rolled eyes, hurtful comments. Such things might come from people, but never from the Lord. As our verse concludes, such fear "shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love."

    I not only want to experience God’s perfect love; I also want to give it away. Now whenever I fly alone, I offer a different prayer. To be more other-conscious and less self-conscious. And to seek God’s approval alone.

    Heavenly Father, the size of our hearts is infinitely more important to You than the size of our bodies. Help us cast aside our fears and replace them with Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 1:10, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (NIV)

    Proverbs 29:25, "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Want more encouragement about embracing the woman God created you to be? Liz Curtis Higgs’ new book, It’s Good to Be Queen, explores the remarkable life of the Queen of Sheba, an ancient role model for modern women.

    Stop by Liz’s blog where her post, "What Will People Think?" expands on Proverbs 29:25, offering further encouragement for letting go of fear.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Your fears may be entirely different than mine, yet they still reflect a need to fully embrace God’s love.

    Day in and day out, what are you most afraid of? How might a deeper awareness of His love help you overcome that fear?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Family Christian® Celebrates New Path Forward

    Family Christian® Celebrates New Path Forward Store and product improvements create unique shopping experience GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Nov. 18, 2015) – Following a 12-month operational reorganization, along with a complete store and product overhaul, Family Christian® announced today it is on the path to becoming a stronger retailer and supporter of faith-based causes.

    As part of the reorganization, Family Christian have upgraded and expanded their product selection to include a new compelling assortment of home décor, apparel, and books. “It’s not just about the new merchandise, though,” said Steve Biondo, Family Christian Spokesperson. “We’ve also implemented a new Service Promise throughout the organization, focused on loving and caring for our customers, to guarantee a shopping experience like no other.” The most important element of the organization’s restructuring is an even deeper focus on maximizing its ministry impact. Purchases at Family Christian support the non-profit’s efforts to unite with ministries that are helping children and families in need stateside and worldwide. “While our business goal is to be a first-class retailer, the heart of this organization is firmly grounded in ministry,” said Biondo. “We will be developing even stronger ministry partnerships to continue and increase our support of hands-on widow and orphan work worldwide, and sharing God’s word through Bible donations and mission trip support.”

    To locate the nearest Family Christian store, visit www.familychristian.com.

    About Family Christian Located in the United States, Family Christian is the world's largest Christian-focused retailer. The nonprofit organization has approximately 255 stores in 36 states. The organization offers a variety of Christian-themed merchandise, including Bibles, home decor, art, gifts, DVD’s, kids products, books, and music. In addition to its physical stores Family Christian provides consumers with access to all these resources through www.familychristian.com, its eCommerce platform. All earnings are donated to Christian ministries serving families, orphans and widows in distress. Learn more at http://www.familychristian.com/about.

  • Showing Our Troubles to God

    Wendy Pope NOVEMBER 19, 2015

    Showing Our Troubles to God WENDY POPE

    "They told him, ‘This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby.’" 2 Kings 19:3 (NLT)

    During the fall semester of her senior year in college, my friend Sandy’s life sort of fell apart within a matter of two days. Her steady boyfriend called it quits. She got strep throat. She slept through her mid-term exams. Her beloved grandmother passed away. Then she received a letter from her college. While dealing with her Grandma’s death, her parents forgot to pay the spring semester tuition bill. All her classes had been dropped.

    She told me this story 20 years after it happened. However, all the heartbreak and mishaps didn’t strike me as much as Sandy’s reaction did. When she walked out of the post office, she headed straight to a park on campus. There, she sat by a stream. As her tears hit the cancelled-classes letter, she prayed and told God the same story she’d told me.

    Rather than running home to call her parents or talk to her roommates, Sandy headed straight to the Lord. Her response to difficulties reminded me of King Hezekiah in the Old Testament.

    This king had been repeatedly tested. His enemy, the King of Assyria, not only insulted King Hezekiah personally, but on more than one occasion tried to mess with his army’s psyche. His enemy kept sending threatening letters to Hezekiah and his strength ran out.

    Whooped and beaten, King Hezekiah didn’t have it in him to make it one more day. "They told him, ‘This is what King Hezekiah says: Today is a day of trouble, insults, and disgrace. It is like when a child is ready to be born, but the mother has no strength to deliver the baby’" (2 Kings 19:3).

    When he could take it no longer, King Hezekiah used his last bit of vigor to pick himself up and go to the Temple of the Lord. There, as we read in 2 Kings 19:14, he spread out the distressing letter before God. I love the visual of Hezekiah, the powerful king of Israel, humbly and feebly showing his troubles to God.

    I often seek counsel from trusted friends before taking my concerns to the Lord. Perhaps deep down I feel I need someone with skin who can help me audibly process my problems. Godly friends are wonderful sources of wisdom and care. But rather than spread my troubles out among several friends, I want to spread them out before the One and only God first.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we want to help others do the same. Our deepest desire is to help women around the globe weave God’s Word into the rhythm of their lives, through the collection of ministries we offer each day.

    Just imagine the peace you’d experience by showing your troubles to God, and placing His truth front and center in your day — instead of focusing on challenges that come your way.

    I’m not sure what Sandy prayed that difficult day two decades ago, but Hezekiah’s prayer is recorded for us in the Bible. Next time we’re faced with hardships, we could repeat his words to God: "O LORD, God of Israel, you are enthroned between the mighty cherubim! You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth. You alone created the heavens and the earth. Bend down, O LORD, and listen! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see!" (2 Kings 19:15b-16a, NLT)

    Lord, thank You for my godly friends and their wisdom. Quicken my spirit to turn to You when I need strength and my troubles seem overwhelming. You are my very present help in times of trouble. Help me to seek You first each and every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Chronicles 16:11, "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: This is an incredible time to participate in an investment that is reaping huge eternal dividends, but we need your help. There are still so many more to reach! Will you join us? Your donation to Proverbs 31 Ministries can make a difference when you click here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you believe God hears your prayers? If not, why not?

    When is a time you prayed to God and felt His peace?

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

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