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Family Christian

  • Own Your Faith: 10 Practical Ways to Show God’s Love

    Welcome to the Own Your Faith Challenge! We believe God has great things in store for 2017 and we’re excited to partner with you in making this year the best one yet. Each month, we’ll share a new challenge that focuses on a unique area of spiritual growth to keep you committed to your goals all year long.

    This month, we’re getting intentional about showing the love of Christ. We encourage you to prayerfully consider the following acts of love. Listen to what God is laying on your heart, then choose 5 out of the 10 challenges below and complete them throughout the month.

    1. Visit a Nursing Home: Make this one a family affair and bring your kids along. Most senior living communities and retirement homes welcome visitors. Spend a Saturday afternoon getting to know some of the seniors by playing board games or simply listening to their stories. Be a friend to someone who may not otherwise have the company.
    1. Be a Good Listener: When people confide in us, our first reaction can often be to try to fix their problems. But sometimes what people really need is for someone to simply listen. Identify someone in your life who is going through a challenging time and give him or her a call or drop by for a visit. Ask lots of questions and focus on truly hearing what they are telling you without offering solutions.
    1. Delight in Someone’s Success: Think of a friend or family member who has recently reached a goal or accomplished something they have been working toward. Give them a call, write them a letter or stop by and congratulate them in person. Show genuine excitement and interest in their success.
    1. Support Our Troops: There are many organizations, both nationally and locally, that send letters of support to those who are serving our country. Write a heartfelt letter of thanks to a solider and spend some time in prayer for our men and women overseas.
    1. Invest in Your Family: Sometimes we forget to love the people God put right in front of us. Plan a family game night or an outing. Show your kids, your spouse and those who care for you just how important they are. Be sure to turn off your devices and give them your undivided attention.
    1. Write a Thank You Note: Think back on who has gone out of their way to help you lately. Maybe someone watched your kids when you were in a pinch, maybe someone prayed for something you were going through. Whatever the case may be, write a thank you card to express your gratitude.
    1. Be a Spiritual Mentor: Find someone who is just getting started out in their walk with the Lord and pour into their life. This doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment, but it certainly could be. Invite them out for coffee or lunch and spend an hour meeting them where they are.
    1. Ask for Input: Whether you’re working on a home improvement project or a presentation at work, find someone and ask him or her for feedback. This is a simple way to show others that you love and respect them.
    1. Love Your Neighbor: We’re not talking metaphorically here – go love your literal neighbor! Bring them a plate of freshly baked treats, offer to help out with some yard work or invite them over for a cup of coffee.
    1. Pray in the Moment: Instead of telling someone you’ll pray for them, pray with them right then and there. Look for an opportunity to pray for someone in the moment. Grab their hands, bow your head and speak truth over their circumstances. Develop your prayer life with Christian Prayer Books.

    We hope your heart is on fire for what God is going to do through you. Print off this list, highlight your areas of focus and get started on your challenges today! If you feel called to hone in on just one of these challenges, please do so. Know that any of these acts of love, no matter how big or small, will produce good fruit.

    We’ll check in with you at the end of the month to hear how God used this challenge to affect change in your life and the lives of those around you. Remember to like us on Facebook for details on our upcoming challenges.

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  • When a Dream Dies

    When a Dream Dies by Sharon Jaynes

    “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.’” Ezekiel 37:4b-5 (NIV)

    I sat on my porch with my Bible and a hot mug of coffee. Early morning is my favorite time of day. Just me, Jesus and a smattering of birds. However, this morning, as I looked out over my backyard, my eyes landed on a mound of fur nestled in the grass.

    I moved in for a closer look. My heart sank as I discovered what appeared to be a curled-up lifeless baby fawn. Probably the same fawn my neighbor had seen nursing from its mom the day before. My heart broke. I understand the circle of life, but still. A baby fawn lay dead in my yard. Most likely the target of the coyote I’d seen roaming around.

    I couldn’t get close enough to see the wound. Sometimes that is the way of things. I would have to wait until my husband got home to take care of the situation, as I didn’t have the nerve.

    All morning long my mind returned to the still form lying in the sun. Hours passed. At noon I looked out of the window and the fawn remained unmoved. I couldn’t stand it. I had to know what had happened to it. So I mustered up my courage and made my way to the fawn. Three feet away. Stop. No signs of an attack. I inched closer.

    Finally, I knelt down by the beautifully-crafted creature, admiring God’s handiwork. But I couldn’t see what had killed it.

    “What happened to you, little deer?” I whispered.

    Suddenly, the fawn’s head popped up! Startled eyes stared into mine. Like a deer caught in the headlights, I fell back on the grass. Time stood still for a moment as we stared at each other in disbelief!

    Finally, the fawn sprang to its feet, wobbled a bit and scampered off. I sat in the grass and laughed and laughed and laughed. So, the fawn wasn’t dead after all. It had simply found a bit of grass and fallen asleep … until almost noon.

    After my heart rate returned to its normal pace, God spoke to my heart: “Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.”

    I pondered those words for the rest of the day. I called a friend who was struggling in her marriage — in a very bad way. The sort of way that leaves you wondering if it will survive. I told her the story.

    Sometimes things are dead, and sometimes they just need to be woken up.

    Sometimes a marriage is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

    Sometimes a friendship is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

    Sometimes a dream is dead, and sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

    I think of how God told the prophet Ezekiel to speak to the valley of dry bones: “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD’” (Ezekiel 37:4-6).

    I imagine Ezekiel felt pretty silly talking to those dry bones. And honestly sometimes I feel pretty silly obeying God and speaking life into the dry bones of some of my situations.

    So here’s the word for me and you today.

    For my friend struggling in her marriage …

    For my friend who cries for her adult son who walked away from God …

    For my friend who longs to cuddle up with a good husband rather than a good book …

    Don’t assume the dream is dead. Sometimes it just needs to be woken up.

    Dear Lord, Wake me up! Stir my heart. It’s not over until You say it’s over. I commit to continue to pray for what others deem as a lost cause, for I know that there is never a lost cause when it comes to Your power to save, to deliver, to redeem, to rebuild. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

    James 5:16, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Read the verses in Ezekiel 37:1-10. How do you think Ezekiel felt when God told him to speak to the dry bones?

    What would have happened if Ezekiel refused, telling God that it was a lost cause?

    Is there anything in your life that you feel is a lost cause? If so, what is God saying to you through today’s scripture and devotion?

    © 2017 by Sharon Jaynes. All rights reserved.

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

  • Tearing Up the Star Charts

    Tearing Up the Star Charts by Jennie Allen

    “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)

    Our son Cooper was nearly 4 years old the day we first met him. In my head, I was flying to Africa to bring home my cuddly little toddler, only to arrive and realize this was a full-blown kid who had learned how to rule his roost at the orphanage. We’d had no input on any of the 1,400 days of his life so far, then — bam! — just like that, he was our son.

    When we brought Coop back to the guest home in Rwanda, words poured out of him without any apparent concern that none of us knew what he was saying.

    That first night I cooked “popeyes” for dinner on a tiny skillet. I grew up in Arkansas eating popeyes: over-medium eggs, with the yellow yolk poking out of a little hole in toast. The typical thick porridge he ate in the orphanage didn’t require utensils, but popeyes do. But when I reached to show him how the fork worked, he knocked it away.

    My husband Zac quickly corrected him with words Coop couldn’t yet understand but in a tone that he apparently did. That child stood up and started waving his finger and preaching like he was in church. Our strong-willed, gregarious new son was obviously familiar with a good old-fashioned southern scolding.

    This was a showdown of wills, and we needed a way to motivate his cooperation. When we got home, Coop had one obsession: a bike. So I printed a picture of the most epic bike any 4-year-old had ever seen, and I made rows of squares with an arrow pointing to the bike. Then, whenever Coop did anything noteworthy — used the potty, used a fork, stayed in bed, shared his toys — he earned a little star sticker toward that bike.

    And I will be honest: it worked.

    In fact, that star chart still works. He can’t do math to save his life until there is a light saber at the end of 10 stickers. Then he can do long division in second grade.

    While this brings out the best in Coop’s behavior and performance, in some ways it also brings out the worst.

    My Coop fights shame. Somewhere along the way, Coop decided he was a bad kid. So on the days he earns a star, a grin breaks out, as if this star proved his worth. But if he doesn’t land his star, his head drops, as if the finger-waving scoldings from the orphanage are all true. Yes, Coop wants enough stickers for his light saber, but this ache is bigger. Something in him strives to prove he is enough.

    We all have our own version of star charts, something we are trying to get approval for, from our parents, friends, spouses, kids, online acquaintances, coworkers or even from God. Most of us carry that striving feeling all our lives.

    But the way we interact with people eventually makes its way into our spiritual lives. So often we try to relate to God through star charts — and we end up feeling shame or disappointment that our performance didn’t bring the outcome we wanted. We try to work harder, achieve more, jump farther, score higher in order to win His approval or blessing. We end up relating to God with an underlying fear rather than full of expectant, childlike, joy-filled faith.

    God doesn’t work with star charts. He is not manipulated by our performance. In Jeremiah 9:23-24, He says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

    God is not after great performances or great movements. He is after us!

    God already knows we aren’t enough, but He’s not asking us to be. We are the ones who have chosen to walk through the desert with enormous packs strapped to our backs full of everything but water. As if the kingdom of God were held up or together by us.

    To get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit we aren’t. Pretending we are okay is how many of us are making life work. With that illusion gone, we might have to live needing God.

    And it might be hard. Strike that. It is hard.

    No more performing. No more pretending. No more proving ourselves.

    Because we have nothing to prove.

    Dear God, I’m realizing it’s not my curse that I believe I’m not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be. Thank You for the reminder that life with You means I can rest, and I have nothing to prove. Will You continue to show me Your freedom, Your power and my need to stop striving to please You and instead just live life with You? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 103:12, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you feel like God is keeping a star chart based on your performance?

    When we see ourselves the way God sees us, we don’t have to strive. Read 2 Corinthians 12:9. How does this verse encourage you? Does it challenge you to tear up the star chart?

    © 2017 by Jennie Allen. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks WaterBrook & Multnomah 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

  • When You've Fallen in Fear and You Can't Get Up

    When You've Fallen in Fear and You Can't Get Up by Kelly Balarie

    “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].” Habakkuk 3:19 (AMP)

    I shoved the training books deep into the closet, making them disappear under a pile of clutter. There. If I can’t see them and others can’t see them, these books have far less power to hurt me. Now no one will be reminded I’m a walking disappointment.

    Satisfied, I shut the doors and wiped my hands of the costly, and only partially completed, How to Get Your License real-estate books. My worthlessness was contained.

    Ahh, I breathed a sigh of relief. And, like dust swept under a rug, the gnawing fear I’d live constantly floundering in defeat was — Poof! — gone.

    Victory! I declared. Kind of …

    There was a problem. Although I try to run from pain and hide my faults, fear knows where to find me. And, just as I expected, within minutes, like nails on a chalkboard, it spoke: Kelly, you won’t amount to anything more than a loser. You’ll never succeed. You’ll always be criticized. You’ll let people down. If you try, people will see you as a fraud, a wanna-be. Certainly, they won’t say it, but you’ll know how they really feel. My heart sinks, like a lost penny in a worthless wishing well. Will I live forever paralyzed, side-stepping God’s glorious missions for me?

    My body trembles at the thought. Frankly, I’m tired of seeing everyone else celebrating grand and glorious winnings on Facebook, while I’m stuck on my sofa digging into a pint of Chunky Monkey while wearing tattered pajamas. Somehow, I missed the memo on courage. This hurts and leaves me to question God.

    God, why am I not brave? God, why do I always start and stop? God, why do others look so good, while I fail so bad?

    And, most of all, what if I never amount to anything? What if, at the end of my days, I learn I’m the defect? The one person created without significance. What then, God?

    So often I see myself leashed to a couch of complacency. Microwave popcorn, a warm blanket and a sunken-in sofa rarely leave a woman feeling embarrassed, anxious and uncertain. I guess it makes sense I can’t easily get up.

    But lately I’ve been thinking: What good is short-term comfort if it leaves you with long-term regret? And what is life, if it isn’t lived for Christ? And, what is faith, if not practiced in full?

    God, I want more. I want to deeply and whole-heartedly believe Your truth, so I can brazenly and passionately step into Your callings before me.

    God hears prayers. He answers mine with today’s key verse: “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet and makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” (Habakkuk 3:19).

    As I read this verse, I discover six ways God empowers each of us:

    He gives His strength. He sends out His invisible army to work and fight on our behalf. He steadies our feet, no matter how unsteady the terrain. He makes us walk into His predestined great places. He leads us to high places. He develops spiritual confidence within us. This is powerful. For our progress is not about us, the weak ones. It is all about Him, the strong One, Who can do all things at all times. When we believe the truth that He is behind us, with us and for us, we access what He wants to do through us. It happens naturally, without striving and agonizing.

    It’s seamless when we simply see Him. It’s glory-filled, when we simply follow Him. It’s joy-laden when we realize there are no failures in God’s Kingdom, only loved children. Here we realize we are daughters, women, cared for and protected, forgiven and cherished, emboldened and encouraged.

    God, You are our strength. May we fall into Your arms and find rest in You. Bring us to Your high places. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 4:18a, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear …” (ESV)

    Psalm 51:6, “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (NASB)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What fear consumes you? When you apply the key verse to it, how does God prompt you to see it afresh?

    How might your life change if you let faith flood this place of fear?

    © 2017 by Kelly Balarie. All rights reserved.

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

  • Bible Basics: 8 Benefits of Reading Your Bible Daily

    BlogThumbnail_BB_Benefits Reignite your passion for reading the Bible by reminding yourself of the benefits God has made available to you through His Word.

    The Bible is the living, breathing Word of God. And though we know it in our heads, sometimes we forget this truth in our hearts. We go through the motions and treat our time in the Word as an obligation, failing to see it as the gift it really is. Reignite your passion for reading the Bible by reminding yourself of the benefits God has made available to you through His Word.

    1. Your faith will be strengthened. Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. –Romans 10:17 NIV

    2. You will be successful. "Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do." –Joshua 1:8 NLT

    3. You will be prepared. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

    4. You will receive direction and clarity. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. –Psalm 119:105 KJV

    5. You will be equipped to point others toward Jesus. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. –Titus 1:9 ESV

    6. You will gain understanding. The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. –Psalm 119:130 NIV

    7. You will be encouraged. For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. –Romans 15:4 ESV

    8. You will be set free. Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” –John 8:31–32 NLT

    We hope you feel inspired and excited about digging into God’s Word and seeking Him daily. We recommend starting with a study Bible if you’re new to reading the Bible. A study Bible contains extensive help and features like annotations that explain difficult passages or theology and doctrine, references to indicate where text relates to, word definitions, a concordance, maps and timelines, and more.

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  • When You Need to Win Over Worry

    When You Need to Win Over Worry by Betsy De Cruz

    “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:27 (NIV)

    When it comes to worrying, I could win an Olympic prize. Not surprising, since I come from a long line of expert worriers.

    My grandparents were champions. During my childhood, they showed up at every family gathering two hours early to avoid being late. Then by 2:30 in the afternoon, my Papa would start fretting about how they needed to get home before dark. They’d leave at 3 p.m., so they could go check on their dog and make sure their house wasn’t on fire.

    One of my favorite family memories comes from a car trip I took with my grandparents back in the days when the top speed limit was 55 mph. Grandma was blowing down the highway at 50 when a traffic police appeared. Papa leaned over to warn her, “See that cop, Ma? You better slow down.” He was scared to death they’d get a speeding ticket.

    Thirty years later, it’s easy for me to laugh at my grandparent’s apprehensions, but maybe my worries look equally foolish to God. When I consider my fears in the light of my all-powerful, heavenly Father, they look small and unnecessary.

    Jesus knew all about our inclination to worry when He asked, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27).

    Maybe worrying is in my genes, but I nurture it every time I allow it to take root in my thoughts. I’ve wasted time and energy letting my mind get worked up over situations my heavenly Father had under His control.

    Scripture reminds me I have a loving Father who cares even for birds: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26, NIV). When I call to mind that God feeds even sparrows, I’m reassured. I remember my heavenly Father sees me, loves me and cares for my needs.

    What about you, friend? You might have some pressing uncertainties in your life. Trouble at work may be wearing you down. Concern for your kids can keep you up at night. Bills might look big at the end of the month, and a simple visit to the doctor can turn your life upside down.

    Let’s flex our faith muscles today.

    Rather than waste time and energy on worry, let’s use it to build our faith. Why replay fears in our minds when we can choose to remember God’s truth instead? What if we look to His Word to find a specific Scripture verse that addresses our concerns?

    We can flip fear with the Word of God. Worrying won’t change our situation, but God’s Word can. When anxious thoughts come, let’s call to mind God’s promises and meditate on His faithfulness. Let’s turn our worries into prayers as we proclaim God’s powerful Word over ourselves and the people we love.

    After all, our heavenly Father calls each star by name, and He sees each sparrow when it falls. We can trust Him to take care of us.

    Lord, I know You love and care for me and the people in my life. Help me learn to trust You. Give me grace to believe that You will work for good in every situation. Help me to lay worry aside and flex my faith muscles instead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take a few minutes to identify your present concerns. Lift in prayer to God each person or situation that comes to mind. Ask Him to do His perfect work. Trust that He will.

    Can you think of a Scripture verse that addresses a specific fear you have? Write it on a notecard. Keep it close, and meditate on it whenever fear or worry rise up in your heart.

    © 2017 by Betsy de Cruz. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Seduction of Satisfaction

    The Seduction of Satisfaction by Lysa Terkeurst

    “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

    Have you ever been tempted to make seemingly small compromises in the short term that had the potential to take you away from God’s best in the long term?

    I know this struggle all too well. But I also know that those small compromises build upon one another until they become a big pile of regret.

    Temptation of any kind is Satan’s invitation to get our needs met outside the will of God.

    One of the subtle ways he does this is to plant the hesitant thought in our mind that God will not meet our needs — that God is not enough. Satan wants us to feel alone and abandoned, so that we turn to his offerings instead. It’s the seduction of satisfaction.

    Often the script that plays in our head is, “I need __________ so I can be satisfied.”

    It’s what sends the wife on a budget off on a spending spree. She feels the thrill of the sale in the moment. But as she’s hiding the bags from her husband, shame creeps in.

    It’s what pulls at the business woman to work harder and longer and refuse to build boundaries in her schedule. Always chasing that next accomplishment or that next compliment but it’s never enough.

    It’s what sent me on many eating sprees. The kids were loud, the house was messy, the demands felt beyond my control. So with great justification I’d indulge only to have a bloated stomach and a deflated heart.

    This subtle message sold to us by Satan can be exposed when we understand the difference between a need and a want.

    All of the examples above were wants — not needs. But oh, how Satan wants to make them one and the same.

    When the difference between these two words starts getting skewed, we start compromising. We start justifying. And it sets us up to start getting our needs met outside the will of God. The abyss of discontentment invites us in and threatens to darken and distort everything in our world.

    Listen, Satan is a liar. The more we fill ourselves with his distorted desires, the more empty we’ll feel. That’s true with each of the desires mentioned above. The more we overspend, overwork or overeat — the more empty we feel. Remember, Satan wants to separate you from God’s best plans. He wants to separate you from God’s proper provision. He wants to separate you from God’s peace.

    God’s provision sustains life. Satan’s temptation drains life.

    God’s provision in the short term will reap blessings in the long term. Satan’s temptation in the short term will reap heartache in the long term.

    God’s provision satisfies the soul. Satan’s temptation gratifies the flesh.

    Oh sweet sister, we must consider these realities when making choices today. We’re all just a few poor choices away from doing things we never thought we would. Especially when our hearts are in a vulnerable place of longing for something that God hasn’t yet provided.

    And the time to prevent destruction from temptation is before it ever starts.

    We are either holding fast to God’s promise or being lured by a compromise. And isn’t it interesting that the word promise is right there in the midst of that word com(promise)?

    God promises, “I will meet all your needs according to the riches of My Glory in Christ Jesus,” (paraphrase, Philippians 4:19). He is everything we need and so perfectly capable of filling in the gaps of our wants as well. We must let truth seep deep into the longings of our soul. Otherwise lies are prone to creep into this place of our desire.

    Yes. We must trust God. Embrace truth. Live His promise.

    Dear Lord, help me to focus only on Your provision in my life today. I don’t want to be separated from You, Your best plans for me or Your peace. Help me notice when the enemy is trying to entice me with false desires, because they only lead to emptiness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 26:41, ”Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are there any areas in your life where you know you’ve been compromising instead of waiting on God’s provision? Spend some time in prayer today. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom and strength. And then thank Him that His plans for you are good and that you absolutely can trust His timing and His ways.

    © 2017 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Control Girl to Jesus Girl

    Control Girl to Jesus Girl by Shannon Popkin

    “Not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42b (ESV)

    “You guys are going to love this!” I said as I plopped steaming heaps of peach porridge into my kids’ breakfast bowls.

    They didn’t look convinced.

    This was my fifth new recipe that week — all attempts to accommodate my son’s new elimination diet. The nutritionist had promised that peach porridge would be a favorite. But Cade — who was 6 and never shy about his opinion — said, “Blech! Mommy, this is so icky!”

    His older siblings giggled and admitted, “Mom, it is pretty bad.”

    I should have laughed good-naturedly and pulled out some gluten-free cereal, but instead, I snapped: “Well that’s your breakfast and you’re going to eat it.” I was running out of recipes and patience. Plus those ingredients were expensive. And I had enough left for 10 more batches of peach porridge. “These kids are so picky!” I fumed.

    The older kids, sensing I meant business, began forcing porridge down by gulping juice, but Cade refused. “I can’t eat it, Mommy!” he wailed.

    I whirled around and said, “Oh, yes you can, and you’ll sit there till you do!”

    He choked down several spoonfuls down, but then began gagging dramatically, which produced a little heap of porridge that slid right back into his bowl.

    I was furious. “Oh, so you want to start over?” I snarled and replaced his porridge with a fresh, heaping bowl.

    Oh, the crying and gnashing of teeth in our kitchen that morning! The bus came and went, and poor little Cade sat spilling tears into his bowl. Before long, the wash of remorse came. I apologized, fed my poor boy and drove him to school. It’s one of many “Control Girl” memories I wish I could erase.

    I’m learning that my anger over little things — like dirty clothes under the bed or an un-shoveled driveway — is often a symptom of a deeper problem. Anger is what’s spewing, but feeding my anger is a deep, unhealthy craving for control.

    The same is true of my anxiety. On the surface, I might be fretting or obsessing over my baby not crawling or my husband’s spending, but feeding my fear is a desperate longing to have control.

    So, when I feel a surge of anger or a spike of anxiety, I’m learning to ask myself, OK, Shannon, what are you trying to control? What do you feel you’re losing control of?

    And then I remind myself of the truth: I’m not in control. God is.

    God never intended for me to shoulder the burden of trying to control. I can live responsibly and positively influence the people I love. But can I ultimately control whether my kids graduate with honors, marry a Christian or eat their peach porridge? No, I can’t.

    And when I clamp down on outcomes I’m convinced I can and must create (in parenting or elsewhere), I only become angry, fretful and obsessed.

    Thankfully, Jesus offers me another way. He invites me to follow Him and live the way He did. And how did Jesus live? Did He take control or give it up?

    The hours before Jesus’ arrest were the most stressful, trying moments of His life. Unlike us, Jesus could have taken control and avoided the cross. Instead we see Jesus sweating profusely in agonized prayer, pleading, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42, ESV).

    Do you hear the surrender in Jesus’ words? I often picture the posture of surrender as hands serenely lifted during a gentle worship song. But perhaps the image of Jesus’ sweaty battle on His knees is more accurate.

    And what does this uphill, gritty surrender yield? Peace. Security. Hope in God, not in my ability to lunge for control.

    Surrender begins not in cross-sized situations but in the small moments — like when my 6-year-old won’t eat his porridge. Or my middle-schooler fails math. Or my husband shrugs off health concerns. In these moments, will I explode in anger or dissolve in fear? Or will I retrain my heart to say, Not my will but Yours, Lord, be done …?

    Small surrender leads to big surrender. And a lifestyle of surrender is what turns me from a Control Girl into a Jesus Girl.

    Lord, thank You that I am not in control and that You are. Help me live like both of these are true. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are you fretting or angry about today? How will you surrender control to God?

    © 2017 by Shannon Popkin. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Kregel 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

  • When a Bad Day Becomes a Bad Year

    When a Bad Day Becomes a Bad Year by Suzie Eller

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13 (NIV)

    It started out as a promising family day, with lots of good things packed in, until everything started going wrong.

    Someone got impatient. Someone else got mad. Someone’s feelings were hurt.

    Suddenly, the good day was a mess.

    When it finally ended, there were a lot of reactions simmering in my heart, and none of them led in the right direction. I went over the day again and again. There’s something satisfying in rehashing a scene to justify my feelings, or to vilify someone else’s actions.

    It’s also not really helpful.

    This was family. We would get together again soon. If I nurtured those frustrations, I’d take them to the next family event like a bad side dish.

    I sat outside that night and held up the day to God.

    I asked Him to show me if I played a role in the conflict and, if so, what to do differently next time. I asked that He ease the emotions simmering just under the surface.

    In today’s text, Paul reminds us we’re all imperfect. There will be days we have a grievance with each other. People will say the wrong thing. People will react in the wrong way. What we do in response can help us resolve the issue — at least in our hearts.

    I have friends who haven’t spoken to their family in a long time. When I ask why, some point to the exact day an offense took place. Others have forgotten the original offense, but the feelings march on as if it took place yesterday.

    In both situations, unresolved feelings were stoked and fueled.

    One bad day became one bad week, which became one bad month, and it was still doing damage in the hearts of everyone years after the initial offense.

    When I invited the Holy Spirit into my bad day, I was able to see some tired and stressed family members. I was able to pinpoint misunderstanding. Although I wasn’t directly involved (at least this time), I certainly played a part in moving it forward.

    I needed to put one bad day in perspective and measure it against some really great days with these same people.

    I needed to offer mercy, as I admitted the times I’ve said the wrong thing or arrived at an event stressed and out-of-sorts.

    Has a bad day turned into a bad week? Are you still reliving that bad day or a bad moment? Talk to God about your painful moments. Share those unresolved feelings with Him.

    We were never supposed to live our life tangled up in one bad day. As we ask God to help us move forward, we’ll not only find a listening ear but also help resolving the issues.

    And that one bad day can take its rightful place in our thoughts and in our lives.

    Heavenly Father, help me offer mercy to others, just as You’ve shown me mercy. I’ve held on to these feelings for far too long. I don’t want to be defined by one day, but live every day fully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When we experience a bad day with someone close to us, our instinct might be to focus on their words or actions. For today, flip the focus onto your own heart.

    Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the bigger picture of that day. Pray for each person involved. Ask for forgiveness, if you’ve played a role. You’ll be surprised at how the burden will lift.

    © 2017 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Quick! Bring Out The Best

    Quick! Bring Out The Best by Karen Ehman

    “But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:22-24 (HCSB)

    When someone wrongs you, how do you respond? I admit, I don’t always respond in the most gracious of ways — or with the most gracious of words.

    Even when that person admits responsibility and asks for forgiveness, sometimes I still want to dwell on their fault rather than respond with grace. However, a fender-bender incident from years back taught me an important lesson about the right way to react.

    I was driving back to my dorm my sophomore year of college, when a car ran a stop sign and smashed into my old station wagon. Uninjured but upset, I got out of my car. At that point, I discovered that the person who hit me was someone I knew: the baseball coach’s teenage daughter.

    She was understandably shaken. At the time of the accident, she was driving a nearly-new car and was apprehensive about calling her parents. With a little encouragement, she walked to a building on campus to phone her dad. As soon as she explained about the accident, her dad asked over and over, “How are you? Do you have any injuries at all? Are you sure you’re okay?”

    She confessed the accident was all her fault. Plus, she expressed her worry about the vehicle, but repeatedly, her dad’s only concern was to make sure she was safe. He seemed to care nothing about the car’s damage.

    The memory of that incident touches my heart. My kids have been in minor accidents in older cars, and I too have been more concerned about their well-being than the car. But in this particular situation, I might have had a hard time looking past the price tag of that nice vehicle.

    I can’t help but wonder: If I knew my child was okay, would I still be as forgiving if I had just recently laid down a large sum of money to buy a brand-new vehicle?

    There is one similarity I see in this story and the story of the prodigal son: the fathers’ reactions. Both kids had a dad who responded with the bigger picture in mind.

    In our key passage today, Luke 15:24 tells how the father says of the son, “He was lost and is found!” The son, who had selfishly taken all his inheritance early, was now back to confess he’d made some foolish choices. And amazingly, the father responds with joy! No bitterness. No guilt trips. The father didn’t look at his clothes and remark on his shabby appearance.

    In that moment, the father was able to step back and see the big picture of his son’s homecoming as he says, “Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him …”

    The Bible is so practical. What If I used those same words when someone came to me admitting their faults? Take a moment to pause and think about what it would look like to respond to a desperately repentant person by saying, “Quick, let me get my very best for you.” Take a moment to picture yourself saying these words to someone: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

    Then take a moment to picture yourself receiving these words: “Quick, let me bring out my very best for you.”

    The college coach who was more concerned with his daughter’s well-being than the damage to the car is a great reminder to look at the big picture. Give grace. Grant compassion. Be quick to forgive.

    You know, just like Jesus treats us.

    Father, may I respond with quick compassion and total forgiveness when someone admits their fault. Just like You did with me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Luke 17:3-4, “So watch yourselves. ‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’” (NIV)

     

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Don’t wait for the magic words. Some people give apologies that hardly sound like apologies at all. But we are only responsible for our response. Don’t wait for an enchanting combination of words. Use your words to display lavish compassion. Don’t hesitate. Do it quickly. What an expression of love it will be.

    © 2017 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

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