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Family Christian

  • The Power of Being Ordinary

    Liz Curtis Higgs SEPTEMBER 18, 2015

    The Power of Being Ordinary LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13 (NIV)

    When I first embraced God’s gift of grace, I knew almost nothing about the Bible. I bought my first copy on a snowy Friday night, intimidated by the size of it, overwhelmed by the notes in the margins and the maps in the back.

    I started with the book of Psalms because it looked like poetry, and I was undone by the end of the first verse. "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" (Psalm 1:1, NASB)

    Sinners, scoffers? I knew these people. We used different words — party animals, bad girls — but they were my friends. My before-Jesus friends. The people I had walked with, stood with and sat with, just like the Bible said.

    Though I loved them, I no longer wanted to do the things they did. Was it possible to change? To be made new? The next verse showed me what a person of God did: "But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2, NASB).

    Wow. So simple. 1) Read the Bible with enthusiasm. 2) Think about what you’ve read. Bam.

    No wonder my new friends from church kept telling me to read God’s Word. In a world filled with problems, He provides answers.

    I started taking my Bible to work, catching a few minutes here and there to read and digest. I didn’t understand all of it, couldn’t keep the characters straight and wasn’t clear on how everything fit together. But this much I knew: for the first time in my life, the Bible made sense.

    A co-worker, seeing my excitement, asked me what I was reading.

    "The Bible!" I told her. "Do you have one?"

    She laughed. "Not one like that."

    So, I bought one for her, the same make and model as mine. That turned out to be a blessing, because our Bibles had the same page numbers. Seriously, when you don’t know Chronicles from Corinthians, those numbers come in handy.

    We started meeting together once a week in the conference room at work, with our matching Bibles and our fill-in-the-blank workbooks designed for new believers. I stayed one weekahead of her in the workbook, figuring if she asked me a question, I had a better chance of knowing the answer.

    Me, leading a Bible study? Talk about the blind leading the blind! By that point, I knew maybe three verses by heart. Three. But I also knew the One who wrote them.

    I brought nothing to that study but the Bible in my hand and Jesus in my heart. Like our verse today says, I was "unschooled" and "ordinary." I had no training, no biblical knowledge and no experience in making disciples. The Greek word for "ordinary" is idiótés, which pretty well sums things up.

    Those disciples in Jerusalem? Their boldness … their confidence … didn’t come from having been in school. It came from having "been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13). And it came from being "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 4:8, NIV).

    For those of us who struggle, thinking "I don’t know much" or "I’m not smart enough" to share the Bible with others, our first-century brothers show us the way. Spend time with Jesus, through worship and the Word, and trust the Holy Spirit to do the talking.

    Heavenly Father, even as I diligently study the Bible, remind me it’s not about what I know, but Who I know. Help me lay down my weaknesses and embrace Your strength. Help me put aside my words and share Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 2:13, "This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Want more encouragement about trusting the Lord and sharing His Word? In Liz Curtis Higgs’ new book, It’s Good to Be Queen, you’ll meet the earthly Queen of Sheba, who discovers wisdom’s heavenly Source.

    This week on her blog, Liz is exploring why it’s good to be humbled by God.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Spending time in God’s presence and in His Word transforms us from the inside out, preparing us to share His love and His truth with our hurting world.

    If you’ve felt "unschooled" or "ordinary" when it comes to handling God’s Word, what encouragement have you found here to bolster your courage? Who might you study the Bible with, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the teaching?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • When It Feels Better to Blame Someone Else

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 17, 2015

    When It Feels Better to Blame Someone Else LYSA TERKEURST

    "That is why Scripture says, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’" James 4:6b (NIV)

    You want to know one of the hardest three-word statements to make? "I am wrong."

    It’s so easy to point out wrong in others. It’s so easy to want it to be someone else’s fault. It’s so easy to get critical and cynical and caught up in our limited perspectives.

    But boy is it hard to see our own flaws. Where we went wrong. What we need to own.

    I’ve been challenging myself on this. I recently had to correct one of my children for trying to blame someone else for something my child needed to own themselves.

    I could clearly see the pride, the insecurity, and the fear all wrapped around her blaming words. And why could I see it so clearly?

    Because it’s always easier to spot in other people. But when I see pride in others, that’s the exact moment where I must challenge myself to examine my own heart.

    I had to have a conversation where I explained to my child something I’m learning myself. About blaming. And the dangerous path blaming can take us on.

    In most conflicts I have two ways I can choose to travel:

    The Path of Pride: I can blame the other person, focus only on their flaws and refuse to own my part of it. That response will increase my pride and decrease the Lord’s blessing in my life.

    The Humble Way: I can honestly assess what I’m contributing to this conflict, admit where I went wrong and ask for forgiveness. That response will lead to humility and increase the Lord’s blessing in my life.

    I see this principle woven throughout the Bible:

    James 4:6b, "That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble."

    Proverbs 29:23, "Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor." (NIV)

    Matthew 23:12, "For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." (NIV)

    I know this. I believe this. So, why do I still find it hard to implement sometimes?

    Well, here’s where my head wants to go when I start examining certain conflicts: But what if it really isn’t my fault? It’s not fair to assign the blame with me when this person did this and this and this.

    But that’s the wrong direction to go. Don’t try to assign the blame. Just own the part you brought into the conflict. When I approach conflict with a heart of humility, I’ve yet to see where I haven’t added something to the issue.

    And if the other person doesn’t own their issues — the Lord will deal with them. (See the verses above.)

    There are gifts hidden in the tough stuff of conflict. There is grace and honor to be gained. But I’ll only see those gifts if I stop blaming others and start examining myself.

    Dear Lord, I want to follow Your teaching in this. But it’s so hard. I’m mad and frustrated and hurt. The last thing I feel like doing is examining where I am wrong. But I know that’s what I need to do. Will You soften my heart? Will You give me eyes to see beyond my hurt? Will You help me cut through the assumptions and wrong-thinking? I want to honor You in this, I really do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 11:2, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom." (NIV)

    Psalm 25:9, "He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help your child develop humility with "10 Biblical Truths for Your Child Whether They Win or Lose." It’s the perfect resource every mom needs as we point our kids toward God’s Word this school year. Download it for free here!

    Learn more about cultivating a heart of humility in the midst of a tough situation with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best YesClick here to purchase your copy.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Think of a recent conflict you had with someone. Which path did you travel?

    Remember, it’s never too late to go back and choose the humble way. Even if you can’t see it, ask God to reveal the part you’ve brought to the conflict so you can approach the situation from a new perspective.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Inexpensive Gift You Can Give

    Chrystal Evans Hurst SEPTEMBER 16, 2015

    An Inexpensive Gift You Can Give CHRYSTAL EVANS HURST

    "Each of you has been blessed with one of God’s many wonderful gifts to be used in the service of others. So use your gift well." 1 Peter 4:10 (CEV)

    I really needed to talk to someone.

    I desperately needed to process the ramifications of a heavy weight I carried and wanted to hear a caring voice on the other end of the line. I desired the gift of truth wrapped in encouragement and presented with a little affirmation.

    So I picked up the phone and called my friend.

    She answered, but I could tell she was busy. She was in the car with her kids running errands, so I offered to call her back and chat later, but she insisted that she had time to talk.

    I believed her and began sharing my heart’s concerns.

    However, multiple times during our conversation, she asked me to hold while she took another call or needed to talk to her kids. She did try hard to listen well in between distractions, but after about 10 minutes, she interrupted me to say that she’d arrived at her destination. She needed to get her kids out of the car and take care of her errand. She offered to call me back.

    I was left hanging, feeling a tad unimportant, and a lot silly for even attempting to "put myself out there" and share my struggle and desire for encouragement. In the moment where I needed support and reached out for that very thing, I was left with a sense of regret for even trying.

    Now, I know my friend didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, imply that I wasn’t important or leave me hanging. How do I know this you might ask? Because I’ve been that friend, too.

    There have been times when someone has called or reached out to me and in my genuine and sincere desire to make time for them, I’ve squeezed them into a space in my time that wasn’t adequate. I’m guilty of unintentionally leaving people I love and care for feeling forgotten and a tad bit unimportant.

    So what do I wish my friend had done? What did I become painfully aware of that I can do for others?

    Give the gift of attention.

    Attention is an easy and inexpensive gift that you and I can give to others.

    In Mark 5:25-34, we find Jesus busy with the demands of His everyday ministry life. Healing and teaching took up a lot of His time and the more He did, the more the people wanted Him to do. Large crowds followed Him and pressed in on Him everywhere He went. Jesus was a busy man on a mission.

    And yet, one woman needed His help and desired His attention.

    She carried the heavy weight of a broken spirit and body. She suffered from abnormal bleeding and carried with it the shame, frustration and loneliness of being an outcast — an "untouchable." She desired the gift of wholeness wrapped in compassion and presented with a little mercy, so she took the risk of reaching out to Jesus.

    She touched Him.

    And Jesus noticed. Even amidst the busy demands of His day, He stopped and gave special attention to this woman, her problem and her heart’s desire. Jesus made room in an overflowing schedule, and as a result, a woman received a new opportunity at life and we have a great picture of what it means to give others the gift of our attention.

    Jesus spent time with those who would have easily gone unnoticed by others. He willingly and regularly paused His own activities, engaged one-on-one, and made room for meaningful conversations. He gave the gift of His attention and it cost Him nothing more than His time. Because of His example, I am reminded of how important it is to make room in my life for unexpected interruptions.

    And I’m reminded of the gift my undivided attention can be to others.

    Dear Jesus, I’m so glad You understand what it is to have an overflowing schedule. Yet, You still made time to give the gift of Your full attention when You engaged with others. Help me to do the same. Give me the wisdom to know when to pause and with whom I should engage. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you desire to give the gift of attention to others but don’t seem to have room in your life to do so? Check out The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst.

    Chrystal has created a free printable to help you remember to focus on the needs of others. Click here to download.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you struggle with giving others your undivided attention? Why do you think that is?

    Pray and ask God to show you how you can give the gift of your attention to someone today.

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Unwanted Change in Your Life

    Kristen Strong SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

    Unwanted Change in Your Life KRISTEN STRONG

    "The LORD had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you …’ So Abram went, as the LORD had told him." Genesis 12:1-2a, 4a (NIV)

    I stand in the kitchen, lost in the rhythm of dinner preparation, while singing with a tune sauntering from the radio. Suddenly, an offbeat percussion noise invades my peaceful space as it bounces around the house. I quickly move to the window to see if it’s what I think it is. Sure enough, nickel-sized hail pings everything, like a drumbeat set to the tune of destruction.

    I fly out the door to bring my potted plants toward protection. But it’s not ‘til the storm leaves and the hail melts that I see the full extent of the damage.

    Flourishing flowerbeds have been reduced to flower shrapnel. The potted arrangements fared better because I brought them in mid-storm, but many petunia and geranium stems stand stark naked, their foliage in limp piles on the Miracle-Gro dirt.

    Commence yours truly throwing a fit big enough to make any toddler proud. I stomp my feet and shout, "It’ll take a miracle to get these flowers back to the way they were!"

    This is one change I could do without.

    If you’re like me and have spent much of life viewing unwanted change with crossed arms and stomping feet, you might see it like a devastating hailstorm. Just when your life is settled and moving along well, something comes along and damages much that is beautiful within it.

    The man who was supposed to stay, left. The place that was "home," is no longer your address. The boss you showed your best work to, showed you the door.

    A monumental moment fell into your life, and it stands like a stone in your pathway blocking your contentment. Within the darkness of your fears, you think, "It’ll take a miracle to get things back to the way they were."

    As a longtime Air Force wife, my life played to the soundtrack of change. Just when I got used to something — our location, local friends, my husband’s schedule — things would be shaken and rearranged, and I’d have to get used to something different. I spent years fighting this reality until one day I felt the Lord ask me to change my prayers from God, remove this change from my life to a new perspective: God, remove my attitude toward this change.

    Sometimes, a girl has to find a new song to sing. I needed new lyrics to redirect my attention from my fears to the faithful promises of God, like the one found in Genesis.

    In Genesis 12, when God asks Abram to leave his home for a new, unfamiliar land, He gave Abram a promise to hold onto during the weary transition. A promise to bless Abram through the change. And you know what? God does the same for you and me as He did for Abram.

    If God is sending you to a new place, He’s sending you with a promise of blessing.

    Perhaps the best thing you and I can do is, like Abram, obey God by leaning into the change rather than fighting it.

    Whether you experience transition under your feet, in your heart, or both, the Lord is using it for you, not against you. He is bringing you to a new place for the purpose of blessing you. We can trust change is not a life hindrance, but a life occurrence acting as a stepping-stone toward God’s best for us.

    It’s more than OK to mourn the loss change brings. But as we do, may we also remember that change is not the end. A new song, sung to the tune of God’s promises and to the steady rhythm of His grace, is the blessing to find as a result.

    Dear Father, thank You that while unwanted change is a surprise to me, it’s not a surprise to You. Thank You for being my safe place where I can share my fears about this change. Help me to believe that if You’re allowing something I never fathomed into my life, it’s because You’re working something unfathomably good for me through it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 9:33, "God warned them of this in the Scriptures when he said, ‘I am placing a stone in Jerusalem that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. But anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’" (NLT)

    Galatians 3:29, "And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Read the rest of Kristen Strong’s change story as well as the stories of others in her hope-filled book Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You Through Life’s Transitions.

    Find more everyday encouragement and downloadable freebies when you stop by Kristen’s blog, Chasing Blue Skies.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong. In celebration of this book, Kristen’s publisher is giving away 10 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 10 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, September 21.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What changes are you fearful about today? What is one way you can lean into the change in your own life?

    © 2015 by Kristen Strong. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell 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

  • The Only Thing Stopping Me is Me

    Glynnis Whitwer SEPTEMBER 14, 2015

    The Only Thing Stopping Me is Me GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

    For most areas of my life, the only thing holding me back from achieving my goals is me.

    I know what I should do … what I could do … but when it comes right down to it, excuses slip in and override my good intentions:

     

    • I want to read my Bible every day, but I’m tired and the kids are so loud.
    • I could go to the gym, but I’m sure the elliptical machines will be taken by now.
    • I should start a diet … but this lasagna and garlic bread are calling my name! I’ll start tomorrow.

     

    And so it goes. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). I must be a super weakling, because self-discipline is as unnatural to me as exercise.

    Recently, I heard today’s key verse read over the radio and it gave me a new perspective on self-discipline. It’s a familiar verse to me and I love the first part of it: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).

    Some versions of the Bible say God did not give us a spirit of fear. I love the idea of not being afraid or timid. I cheer when I read that!

    And He gives us "power" … woo hoo!

    And "love" … YES, YES I want more of that.

    I know this verse well. But when I heard it read aloud, for the first time that last word jumped out at me: "self-discipline." Have you ever seen a cartoon character come to a screeching halt, with dust and pebbles flying?

    I seriously wondered how someone snuck that word into my Bible without me noticing it before.

    Apparently, God had been offering me the gift of self-discipline, and I’d been ignoring it. So I decided to give it a try the next week on something mundane that I really didn’t want to do.

    I had ignored my ironing for a while, and decided to tackle the laundry baskets. After an hour, stopping sounded great. But I remembered the verse and asked the Lord for the self-discipline to continue. I kept going. I’m guessing you’ve never let your ironing pile up like this, but I ironed for three more hours until every last shirt was pressed. (Now I know there are lots of other issues surrounding this fact, like why I iron t-shirts, but the point is, God gave me the discipline to finish what I’d started.)

    So often I ignore the gifts God wants to lavishly share with me, like power, love and self-discipline. I try to power through in my own strength, which simply isn’t enough for the best things in my life. And yes, even ironing qualifies as a "best" choice when my family needs work shirts.

    Beyond the daily tasks of life, I long for the discipline to achieve long-time goals and dreams. I want to leave behind the disappointment in myself when I fail to achieve them yet again.

    Having a natural bent away from self-discipline is an opportunity to discover God’s power, as I need to return to God often and ask for His help. Once a week just won’t cut it. It needs to be hourly and sometimes by the minute. Even though God wants to give me the gift of self-discipline, I still have a strong free will, which can reject it.

    What more might God want to do in me and through me with this gift of help? I’m pretty sure God’s got a list for me, and with His help, I’ll be ready. It might even include saying no to lasagna.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for freely giving me Your Spirit to help me with the hard things in life. My heart longs to be more self-disciplined, but my flesh is weak. Help me remember when faced with a choice, I don’t have to give in to excuses. I can call on You for help. Thank You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 5:22-23, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (NIV)

    Proverbs 25:28, "Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve got an overflowing to-do list and need some practical encouragement, you’ll appreciate Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day.

    When you order your book through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you’ll receive two free Time Management Tools to help prioritize your best work over busy work! Your bonus includes printable planner sheets to organize your master to-do list and weekly assignments. To claim your freebie, please submit your receipt to TamingtheToDoList@proverbs31.org.

    It’s not too late to join us for our current P31 Online Bible Study of Glynnis’ book, Taming the To-Do ListClick here for more information and to sign up.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing you wish you had the self-discipline to do this week?

    Why would Paul, the author of 2 Timothy, combine "power, love and self-discipline" together in our key verse? Do you see any connection to these three gifts from God?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Your Life Can Display God’s Power

    Tracie Miles SEPTEMBER 11, 2015

    Your Life Can Display God’s Power TRACIE MILES

    "‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.’" John 9:3 (NLT)

    Have you ever wondered why God allows you to suffer? Was it something you did wrong? Or was someone else at fault? We want to find someone to blame, especially when so much bad happens in our world.

    I struggle with these thoughts as well, but years ago God’s Word helped me see a different perspective. Jesus’ disciples had these same questions, and John chapter 9 records Jesus’ interesting response.

    Jesus and His disciples were walking through the streets of a city when they encountered a blind man. One of the disciples asked Jesus why the man was blind: "As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth. ‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’" (John 9:1-2, NLT)

    Jesus lovingly put their confusion to rest with today’s key verse, "‘It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,’ Jesus answered. ‘This happened so the power of God could be seen in him’" (John 9:3).

    I imagine the disciples standing there, looking perplexed by Jesus’ answer. How could this man’s blindness display the power of God? How could this physical infirmity bring glory to God? How could his life serve a higher purpose?

    The passage continues, "Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes. He told him, ‘Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam’ (Siloam means ‘sent’). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!" (John 9:6-7, NLT)

    The blind man’s sight was completely healed, but notice that his healing wasn’t immediate. He wasn’t healed when Jesus spat on the mud and smeared it on his eyes, but only after he obeyed what Jesus instructed him to do.

    The blind man was healed when he chose to obey the command of Jesus to "go." Without questioning or hesitating, the man went and his obedience resulted in not only healing, but discovering a holy purpose from his pain.

    Like many, this man had been suffering with undeserved physical and emotional challenges for decades. He may have lived his entire life feeling inferior, unloved, rejected, excluded and possibly believing he had no purpose. He may have also assumed his past and his current limitations rendered him useless. After all, he didn’t have any special skills or qualifications … or even eyesight.

    But here stood Jesus, telling everyone this man’s life could serve as proof of the power of God. But it only happened because of obedience.

    Unlike the blind man in this story, we often talk ourselves out of obedience, rather than trusting and obeying God’s command to "go." But when we walk in faith, even when we don’t feel ready and have to push through our doubts, fears and hesitations, true healing and purpose can begin to take shape in our hearts and lives.

    We don’t always get answers to why something happened. But regardless of our circumstances or our limitations, when we choose to take a leap of faith, we too can experience true spiritual healing and see a new perspective about our past for the very first time.

    What a wonderful world this would be if we all caught a glimpse of how God wants to turn our pain into purpose and use our lives as proof of His power.

    Lord, I want my life to serve as proof of Your goodness. Fill me with courage and motivation to go and share with others what You have done for me. Show me how You can turn my pain into purpose and make my life count for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:28, "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (NLT)

    Psalm 119:60, "I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you long to discover how God can use your past to glorify Him and bring joy and purpose to your life? Purchase Tracie Miles’ book, Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Our Past To Create A Beautiful Future.

    Looking for a life-changing Bible study for your church or small group? Longing to inspire women to step out of their comfort zones and serve God in new ways? Consider offering Your Life Still Counts as your next fall series! Visit Tracie’s blog to find out how to get a free Bible study guide for all participants, with video teachings, when you purchase eight or more copies of the book.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How might God be able to use your past for a specific purpose to glorify Him?

    What fears do you need to overcome in order to step out of your comfort zone and allow God to use your life as proof of His power?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Small Things Threatening Your Marriage

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 10, 2015

    The Small Things Threatening Your Marriage LYSA TERKEURST

    "May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Psalm 19:14 (NIV)

    One day, I was mindlessly looking out the window of an airport watching a few seagulls dart about overhead while airline workers were busy loading bags.

    Nothing about the scene spoke of danger. But then I remembered a flight from a while back that was brought down by a few geese. The seagull that faded into the background just moments before became a point of extreme interest to me. What if?

    It’s amazing if you stop to think about it that a huge airplane could be brought down by just a few birds. Birds. Who would have thought? It makes me think about other seemingly small things that can cause great destruction as well … especially when it comes to marriage.

    Words vented in frustration can seem so small.

    Slightly disrespectful attitudes can seem so small.

    Complaining about lack of finances can seem so small.

    Brushing off his desires can seem so small.

    Making mental lists of things you wish were different about him can seem so small.

    But each one of these seemingly small things can so easily and tragically wedge itself into the core of a marriage and send it spiraling toward destruction. Entire families have been ripped apart by things that once seemed so small.

    Listen to the heartbreak in this note that was anonymously posted on my blog:

    "Girls … I know this seems small … but, it’s really not. Take it from someone who has blown it to the point where he gave up and divorced me. It’s too late for me. But, it’s not for you. Please be aware of the little things. I wouldn’t have you join me for anything in the world. Be on your guard and protect your marriage."

    I am challenged by this. I can’t just mindlessly assume that my marriage is coasting along okay and that little problems can’t topple us. I can’t get complacent. I can’t get prideful. I can’t get lazy. I can’t take the gift of my marriage for granted.

    I have a good marriage, but sometimes I slip into automatic and stop getting as intentional as I should about investing richly and deeply into our relationship.

    So, I’ve decided to declare this my "get intentional" week. Today I’m focusing on my words. I’m praying for God to interrupt my mouth at every turn today. I want "these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart to be pleasing" (Psalm 19:14) to the Lord and honoring to my husband.

    I’m going to hold my tongue against saying anything careless. I’m going to intentionally use my words as gifts to my husband today and nothing else.

    Not that just one day of doing this can protect my marriage forever — but it sure is a good start.

    Dear Lord, I want my thoughts, words and actions to always reflect Your love in me. Help me to extend grace to my spouse just as You have extended grace to me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Pray for yourself and your husband with Lysa TerKeurst’s FREE 5-day challenge, "Praying Boldly For Your Marriage." Sign up here.

    Learn to give the best of who you are to your most treasured relationships with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes. Purchase your copy today.

    RELFECT AND RESPOND: Consider these questions:

    What negative thing have I said recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    What negative thing have I done recently to my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    What negative thing have I thought recently about my spouse that seemed so small initially?

    Then, look for ways this week to counteract those actions with a loving word, a graceful gesture or a forgiving thought.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Headed in the Wrong Direction

    Lynn Cowell SEPTEMBER 9, 2015

    Headed in the Wrong Direction LYNN COWELL

    "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death." Proverbs 14:12 (NIV)

    I anxiously glanced at the clock thinking, If I leave now I’ll still make it on time.

    This wasn’t a meeting I could comfortably slip into if I were late … because I was the speaker!

    Grabbing my purse, I headed for the garage door when I thought I heard bleating. Yes, bleating, as in a noise coming from a very small animal.

    What in the world? I have no idea what that is, but I’m late! Trying to put the strange noise out of my mind, I kept heading toward my car. But try as I might, my heart wouldn’t let me ignore the sad sound, no matter how late it was going to make me.

    I turned around and made my way closer to the tiny cry. There, next to our backyard gate, stood the tiniest of fawns. This precious little thing couldn’t have been more than a couple hours old, as it wavered on tiny legs.

    On the other side of the fence stood the object of the baby’s sorrow — his mother. They were separated by the fence, and the baby was trapped. He couldn’t get to her and she had no way of getting him out of our backyard.

    This wasn’t the first time a little one has been born in our yard. I believe deer spot the cool shade of our woods and decide our yard is the perfect place to give birth. But our yard is not as it seems. When the baby is born and the mother hops back over the fence, her fawn is trapped, alone and without care and protection.

    Our yard may appear safe and peaceful to an adult animal, but to an infant it is anything but. I wondered: How many times have I unknowingly jumped into a situation I deemed safe only to get caught where I should not have been? Things like:

    … Entering benign conversations, where my speech takes a wrong turn and I find myself gossiping.

    … Bored or stressed, as I make my way to my pantry only to indulge in foods that harm, rather than help, my body.

    … Wanting to guide my child, when I speak words meant to bring discernment, but instead bring damage.

    Today’s key verse warns us, "There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Sometimes, we can feel like we’re doing the right thing, like the mother deer, when in fact, we’re heading in a wrong direction. How can we know what’s right?

    Jesus promised us in John 16:13, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come" (NIV).

    When Jesus ascended into heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We need Him. We need His guidance to make wise choices and not become trapped by sin that hurts us and damages our relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us, available all day long, with the wisdom we need to live the rich and satisfying life Jesus wants for us. Our part is to listen for His direction.

    After making a few phone calls to animal experts, I was instructed to pick up the fawn and lift him over the gate to safety. He didn’t struggle as I gently lifted him from the ground and delivered him back to his mother. I am so thankful that in my life, as I listen to the Holy Spirit, He too, lifts me up and helps deliver me out of the traps I get myself in.

    And yes, thankfully, I did make my speaking engagement just in time.

    Holy Spirit, I invite You today, to guide and instruct me. Help me not simply choose what seems best to me, but teach me to listen for Your guidance so I can make wise choices. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 10:10, "The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life." (NLT)

    Isaiah 40:11, "Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help a young woman discover how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to create His fruit in her life with Lynn Cowell’s book, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants. Included in the book is a leader’s guide, making this a great back-to-school study for a small group, Sunday School or mother and daughter to do together! Click here to purchase your copy.

    You’re invited to stop by Lynn’s blog today, where she shares more on listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit. She is also giving away a copy of Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Reflect on the last month, week or even 24 hours. Have you gotten caught in a situation that was not as it seemed?

    Make a point to continually ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Pay attention to how He leads your heart. It’ll become easier and easier to "hear" His direction.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Are You Brave Enough?

    Nicole Unice SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

    Are You Brave Enough? NICOLE UNICE

    "Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’" Mark 6:50b (NIV)

    I had my arm around my 9-year-old daughter, Cameron, while we watched The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe together. The spunk and transparency of the youngest character, Lucy, reminded me of Cameron, and I squeezed her a little, hoping she noticed the same.

    At one point in the movie, Lucy speaks with Father Christmas, and he asks her if she is ready for the war that will take place in Narnia. He looks down at her and asks her somberly, "Can you be brave?"

    Lucy smiles up at him and answers, "I think I could be brave enough."

    I had no idea how important that moment would become.

    The words brave enough kindled a flame in my soul as I began to think about all the ways I wanted to be brave enough: brave enough to speak up, brave enough to be graceful, brave enough to forgive.

    I might not be facing a war of Narnian proportions, but what if my daily life still required bravery? "Brave enough for today" became a sticky phrase in my head — an inspiration for the morning and a personal challenge when I didn’t want to do the hard thing.

    I found myself wanting to be brave enough for my job. Brave enough for my family. Brave enough to mother well and brave enough to make good choices in my marriage.

    When Cameron struggled later that year with an injury, I wanted to be brave enough for her. But what I learned along the way was I would never have enough courage on my own to face life without fear. I needed a courage that came from outside myself. My self-manufactured bravery always fell short.

    In the Bible, Jesus uses the word courage in very specific ways. The original word means something like "be encouraged" or "take heart." The phrase take courage is used four times in the Gospels, always by Jesus Himself. In each instance, Jesus begins with a command: "Take courage!" And then Jesus offers the essence of Himself to the person as the way courage will be enacted.

    In one account, He says, ‘Take heart!" and then offers forgiveness of sin. In another, He says "Be encouraged!" and then offers healing. And when He walks out on water in the middle of the night, terrifying His disciples, He offers a simple exhortation, "Take courage. It is I!"

    No matter what you need to be brave enough for today, Jesus offers to meet you there with what only He can do. He offers you forgiveness when you fail and grace that energizes you to try again. He offers you healing when you hurt and strength that replaces your weakness. He offers you his presence, giving confidence that comes fully from who He is — not who you are.

    When you have Jesus, you have all the courage you need, for whatever you may face.

    Heavenly Father, I want to believe that in You I have all I need. As I begin today, would You help me be brave enough for whatever You have for me? Give me courage to forgive generously, love fully and shine brightly in the place You’ve placed me to grow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 9:2b, "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’" (NIV)

    Matthew 9:22, "Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed at that moment." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Nicole Unice’s new book, Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Live Bold and Free, and 8-week DVD curriculum are available now!

    Hear more from Nicole on her book, and find more encouragement and Real. Honest. Truth. from Nicole’s blog.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Brave Enough. In celebration of this book, Nicole’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR who you would give the book to if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, September 14.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you need to be brave enough for today?

    How can you commit that circumstance/person/challenge to God throughout the day?

    © 2015 by Nicole Unice. 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

  • Why Teachers Need Our Prayers

    Stephanie Raquel SEPTEMBER 7, 2015

    Why Teachers Need Our Prayers STEPHANIE RAQUEL

    "Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Colossians 4:2 (NLT)

    We sat together at the table, nestled into the tiny chairs made for young students.

    The students’ artwork hung throughout the room … the pencils ready, sharpened for writing projects … and my husband and I got a newsy update about our daughter’s progress during the school year.

    As the principal’s voice came over the intercom announcing it was time to wrap up our 15-minute appointment, we realized there was no parent standing in the doorway waiting to come in. We had a rare extra pocket of time with our daughter’s teacher.

    This open window allowed us to continue our conversation … and we began to chat about real life. Which included some pretty tough stuff.

    We were on the same committee for an upcoming event and she apologized for missing some of our meetings. She then shared the hard reason she’d been absent. Her husband had recently learned he had a rare form of cancer and they were in the middle of considering all their options.

    Talk about real life, indeed.

    As a cancer survivor I wanted to offer some hope, but at the same time, felt my personal story or encouraging words weren’t enough.

    So although I’d never asked her before, in that moment I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to ask if I could pray for her right then, and she agreed. After I finished praying, she thanked me and then relayed how she and her husband had been growing in their own faith lately.

    Although this was a teacher I’d known for several years, I’m sad to say it took a conversation about cancer to lead me to discuss matters of faith or pray aloud with her. But I’m oh so thankful that I didn’t ignore God’s prompting. And at the same time, I was utterly convicted to do more of that.

    As today’s key verse Colossians 4:2 reminds us, God calls us to devote ourselves to pray "with an alert mind and a thankful heart." Seems simple enough, right? However, I know I have room to grow in this department!

    I want to have that alert mind and be on the lookout for ways to pray more personal, specific prayers for everyone in my sphere of influence … especially the teachers in my world.

    So as this new school year begins, will you join me in prayer for our teachers? Whether they’re public or private teachers, home-schooling parents, college professors, children’s church leaders or Bible study teachers, they’re all influencing others.

    This summer, I began doing weekly prayer walks around my kids’ schools. Some specific areas I’ve prayed for in this upcoming school and ministry year include: safety, leadership transitions, divine wisdom in lesson planning, endurance, health, perseverance to finish strong, encouragement to handle difficult situations and an abundance of grace and patience in solving difficult situations.

    As our children (and sometimes we ourselves) head back to school, let’s remember the vital role teachers play. And why they need our prayers.

    Father God, I come before You and lift up all our teachers. Thank You for the important part they play in our lives. Lord I also ask You help me stay devoted to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Empower me to encourage the teachers in my world to keep on pressing on, when it would be so much "easier" to quit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Timothy 2:1-2, "I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity." (NLT)

    James 5:16, "Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Feeling overwhelmed with all you’ve got to accomplish? Could you use a little hope to tackle your tasks as a new school year begins? If your real life is crazy, you’re not alone. Join us for the next P31 Online Bible Study of Glynnis Whitwer’s newest book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day, kicking off tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 8.

    Have a child or child-at-heart in your life who might be a little nervous about some changes in their life? It Will Be Okay: Trusting God Through Fear and Change by Lysa TerKeurst could be a tremendous encouragement to them.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If you’ve got school-age children living with you or near you, ask the names of their teachers and begin praying for them today. Consider grabbing a few moms or join a Moms in Prayer group to meet and pray weekly for them.

    Know someone who’s teaching or influencing the next generation? Whether they’re instructing children, or merely those younger in the faith, consider sending a text or dropping a note in the mail to say you’ve prayed for your friend today.

    © 2015 by Stephanie Raquel. All rights reserved.

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

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