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  • Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose


    "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)

    We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.

    Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.

    We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.

    After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.

    As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.

    My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.

    In today's key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That's a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it's even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.

    In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he'd broken God's laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn't do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.

    Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life's purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.

    So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn't allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don't have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.

    Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.

    Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV)

    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How might your life be different if you accepted God's forgiveness and grace, then let go of the weight of shame and regret once and for all?

    Read the whole chapter of Romans 7. How does Paul's honest admission of sin and wrongdoing help you recognize that neither you, nor anyone, is beyond God's redemption?

    © 2014 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Tempest Inside: Seeking Fulfillment

    A young man in his twenties hangs his head as if in prayer. Sitting in a camp chair at his church's fall retreat he tightens his grasp on the book in his hands. A beautiful glow from the bonfire casts a deceptive shadow behind him preventing everyone except his closest peers from knowing the tempest that stirs inside. Some can see the form of a strong young man with an athletic build who appears as if he could conquer anything. The shadow shares both a truth and a lie. On one hand it is very true because the man loves to work outdoors. He finds strength and pleasure just being around God's creation and for this reason he enjoys taking pride in his tasks. History has proven that in many cases it would seem whenever he sets his heart and mind on something, he really could conquer anything set before him.

    On the other hand, the shadow is offering a great deception. In reality, the very heart and soul of this man withers away with each mistake and selfish notion. He ultimately searches to find God's fulfillment in his life, yet only his closest and dearest friends who gather near him tonight truly know his heart aches in turmoil struggling to find answers. There have just been too many recent occasions of shame and suffering he's endured the last few months for him to relax and enjoy the fellowship around him. Although he doesn't realize it yet, much of this man's misfortune was unnecessary. Sadly, most instances were prompted by poor choices despite both friends and family trying to prevent him from making such a choice. Between the constant emotional and financial stress now taking its heavy toll, he sits broken before the Lord - mindlessly staring at the earth beneath his feet. Most of the others nearby cannot see or feel his anguish as he wonders about tomorrow - his eyes dazed by the flicker of fire light dancing across the ground.

    He has his health and for that he is thankful, but he has not appreciated that gift enough. Now he grows more frail in both physical form and inner strength as he continues to spiral downward into the abyss of his own wandering negative thoughts - frustrated by his selfish choices. He longs for God to intervene and give him a push in the right direction. Thoughts of one day finding the answers - God's purpose for his life - swirl inside his mind and tear at his innermost being. He desires to see the future of hope, but is still at a loss as to where God intends his life to go from here.

    As he wrestles with finding direction, he finally humbles himself enough to pray. Muttering silently under his breath, he asks the Lord for forgiveness, peace, and fulfillment. "How can I get back on track living a life that is worthy of your calling, Lord?", he ponders to himself as he lets out a long sigh. His lips whisper softly, "I want to live for you now - and you alone, Lord." Broken and completely humbled, the man remains still for a moment before God - waiting and hoping to somehow hear His voice.

    Crackles of burning embers and the night song of happy crickets fill his ears while voices of laughter drift away in the background nearby. The soft leather Bible he had clutched on his lap, now lays open before him. He prays and seeks for hope and inspiration to one day feel fulfilled in the Lord and know His life's purpose. Unfortunately this Bible which once went with him everywhere had lost its place in the young man's priorities and had become almost forgotten. He now boldly begins to read it once again. Page after page he scans in the dim orange light, then pauses. Opening his heart and mind to God's word, he soon finds he is now at peace. Praying to the Lord once more in thanks for not giving up on him, he quietly rests his thoughts in meditation. His eyes stop on some verses and he trusts the Lord for encouragement.

    Time passes and the young man stares into the night sky as God's starry masterpiece sparkles and shines. Slowly, it's being revealed to him that all things are possible with God. Just then, his lips begin to curl a bit at the edges, and it almost appears to be forming a smile. Recalling the verses of Psalm 57:2-3 that his wise pastor once shared with him many years ago, he turns to those pages and begins to read out loud: "I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills his purpose for me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me; God sends his love and his faithfulness."

    The young man's friends now quickly turn toward him, gladdened by his sudden break of silence and depression. They've all known each other a long time. No words were necessarily needed to comfort. Just being there with him and praying for him during this time of struggle is all he could have ever asked. He stands up slowly - gently placing his Bible down on his seat and smiling at it. It is going to forever be a priceless treasure to him now, as he plans on reading through God's wisdom daily. His peers join him to rejoice as he is warmly greeted and hugged by all.

    Surrounded by the joyful tears and thankful hearts, the young man now knows God was always by his side through every circumstance. He realizes a great truth - the friends and people in our lives that God brings our way in His name are His blessings to help guide and protect us. God's purpose and vision were available to him all along, the young man just forgot where to look. His friends tried to share with him that God's words of the Bible are freely given as a gift and road map for our lives to help us find that purpose and fulfillment we each search for. He now knows they were right all along. The love and devotion of God's people shall continue to be an influence on the young man's future steps, but he will always remember to seek God's wisdom first in the Good Book. The young man bent down by his seat and carefully lifted up his prized possession - the Bible. This fulfilling treasure of God's loving promises that is now something he can never live without.

    Rebecca Harmon at Love2EncourageYou http://love2encourageyou.com

  • In Me you may have peace

    "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.

    In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

    (John 16:33)


    Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in one of their last meetings together. In the hours that followed, Jesus would be severely beaten, mocked, humiliated and ultimately hung to suffer on a Roman crucifix. The disciples' world was quickly turned upside-down and sideways, simply because they followed a humble carpenter from Galilee.


    The same is happening today to hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world.



    The list goes on and on; persecution of Christians is taking place on a worldwide basis. Check out this list our friends at Open Doors USA put together. It's called the "World Watch List", and it shows you which countries have the most violence against Christians.


    Peace may seem hard to find in this chaotic and often-violent world.  When peace is elusive, at least in my case, anxiety is quick to set in. When situations and circumstances spiral out of control, my knee-jerk response is to worry and fret.


    "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”


    These simple statements a two-fold promise: you will face trials, but you will also overcome them. We often don't know how the Lord will help us get through a hardship, or when we will see Him act. But, the end result is promised: we will overcome.


    When you know how a story ends, it often provides peace to "ride out the storm" and endure whatever challenges come your way.  Please join me today in praying for peace and endurance for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.

    Tornadoes, like the one that came through our neighborhood earlier this year, can cause major destruction in a matter of minutes. How do you find peace when the tornadoes of life come?

    How do you find peace in the middle of life's storms?

    BY: Katey Hearth

    Katey is a Staff Writer/Social Media Coordinator at Mission Network News. She has a heart for global missions and desires justice for the “least of these” around the world, from victims of sex trafficking to India’s Dalit people.

    You can find her latest thoughts at Mission Network News.

  • God, I'm Worn Out


    "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Psalm 142:3 (NLT)

    Have you ever had one of those late night come-to-Jesus moments where the weight of regret lays heavy across your chest?

    For me, it usually happens because in the hectic pace of the day, I blew up at one of my kids, I brushed past a moment of connection with someone God put in my path, or I rushed through all the moments without stopping to enjoy any of them.

    I've discovered a great source of stress, distraction and exhaustion in my life. I say yes to too many things. I take on too many good things, which causes me to miss my best things. It's so hard to say no and let go of opportunities that come my way. But if I don't learn the gift of release, I'll wrestle with a lack of peace.

    I saw this visibly a few years ago when I traveled to visit a friend. As soon as she picked me up from the airport and we started driving, I saw the fallout from the storm she'd tried to describe. A massive 20-inch snow in the middle of fall.

    But it wasn't the amount of snow still on the ground, or the snowmen proudly standing that grabbed my attention.

    It was the broken trees. The branches were piled everywhere.

    House after house. All down the street. Disastrous piles of limbs — big piles of trees — all still clinging to the leaves that hadn't dropped yet. And because the leaves hadn't dropped, the trees broke.

    That's what happens when a snow comes early. The trees weren't designed to face snow before releasing their leaves. They weren't made to carry more than they should. And neither are we.

    I know the weight of carrying more than I should. And usually it's because I've refused to release something before taking on something else. If I want to choose a Best Yes, it's crucial I make room for it first.

    Otherwise, a Best Yes can quickly become a stressed yes. And a stressed yes is like snow on a tree that refuses to release its leaves. It causes cracks and breaks at our core.

    If we refuse to release before we add, we will get overloaded.

    We see how refusing to release gets people in trouble all throughout the stories in Scripture.

    Eve refused to release the forbidden fruit. And because she became hyperfocused on that one thing, she missed out on the best things in paradise.

    Esau refused to release his urgent need for some stew. And because he became hyperfocused on eating that soup, he missed out on his birthright.

    Moses refused to release his fear that just speaking to the rock as God commanded wouldn't actually bring forth water. And because he struck the rock twice, he missed out on entering the Promised Land.

    Each of these people paid a high price for their refusals to release — to let go of their ways so they could walk in the amazing way of God.

    It wasn't God's desire for any of these people to suffer the consequences they did. Each of us has a free will, which means we have the freedom to make choices.

    God tells us the right way to go, but we have to make the choice to do so. Choices and consequences come in package deals. When we make a choice, we ignite the consequences that can come along with it.

    It was true for Eve, Esau and Moses. And it's true for you and me. Refusing to release often means refusing to have peace. I trade my peace for a weight of regret.

    Release is a gift to a woman weighed down, grasping her leaves in the midst of a snowstorm, so desperate for help. She can feel the twinges and hear the creaking sounds of a splitting break about to happen.

    She knows she can't take much more. She remembers Psalm 142:3, "When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn." Tears well up in her upturned, pleading eyes. "God help me. It's all too much. I'm tired and frustrated and so very worn out."

    The wind whips past her, trailing a whispered, "R-e-l-e-a-s-e." She must listen or she will break. Her tree needs to be stripped and prepared for winter. But she can't embrace winter until she lets go of fall. Like a tree, a woman can't carry the weight of two seasons simultaneously. In the violent struggle of trying, she'll miss every bit of joy each season promises to bring.

    I think sometimes I'm resistant to release because I fear missing out. But, in an effort to hold on to too much, I wind up stressed, exhausted and at my breaking point.

    Release brings with it the gift of peace. There are some opportunities I need to decline today. There are some things I need to say no to in this current season. There are good things I need to let go of so I can make room for the best things. Then and only then can my beautiful, bare winter branch receive its snow. When we release in peace, we signal we're now ready to receive.

    Receive what's next. Receive what's best. Receive what's meant for this season, right now.

    I don't know what you have to release right now. But I suspect you know. Just like I do in a few areas of my life.

    So let's release. With release comes more peace. I see that now. I believe that now. And soon, I pray you will too.

    Dear Lord, only You can help me with this release. My heart seeks to obey You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you feel like you need to release? Offer this thing up to the Lord in prayer and ask for wisdom, discernment, and direction.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Peace I leave with you

    John 14:27-Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

    Storytelling is something I really enjoy. I hope you enjoy my short feature.
    with god

    Gazing out my window I see the slight movement of the leaves as they dance back and forth upon their branches. The sun is shining but that slight breeze causing the leaves to sway back and forth is providing the perfect sense of relief. It was a stressful day and all I could think about were the tasks at hand and the obstacles I was to overcome. Overwhelmed with the stress of the unknown. Fear was setting in, but that tiny brisk breeze blowing in through my window was enough…enough to relax me for just a moment. A moment long enough to take my mind off of the fears…the unknown.

    Suddenly I was starting to see things in a different light. My mind was turning and as the light shown in through the window onto the wall in front of me I knew…I knew there was a light at the end of my dark tunnel. At that very moment it hit me that I was no longer in control of my situation, I never really was to begin with. How quickly we forget that we are not in control. How quickly we forget that even when it’s dark and all doors seem to be closing, there is always a bright light. We just need to wait in the hallway and open that door when the time is right!

    But how do I know when the time is right? How do I know when I’m going to feel that peace, that sweet peace that overcomes my body and leaves me with the most serene and calm feeling? When will I be overcome by peace? And then my mind started to wonder…

    But it didn’t take long for that breeze to sweep in through my window. It catches my attention and leaves me thinking…wondering…mind in motion…

    In an instant…a sudden instant, my fears, my worries…they seem to disappear, because it is in that instant that I realize I haven’t truly given my worries to God. For had I given my worries to God I wouldn’t be struggling to understand the things that just don’t make sense. And in that moment I hit my knees and I was overcome with peace…sweet peace.

    When life is just to hard to stand…kneel.

    I pray that you find that peace. I pray that you are overcome with a peace and understanding. I pray that you can be the bright light to others that are struggling with finding their peace.

    John 16:33 "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

    This post was written by Mandee Suchland. Mandee is a very busy woman! She has 5 BOYS and is writer and owner of the websitmee www.raisingmy5sons.com, a site all about Mandee's life as the only female in a house full of males. She says life is Crazy, Hectic and LOUD, but it's always full of love and laughter and she wouldn't have it any other way. As if that isn't enough to keep her busy, Mandee is also the owner of www.sheblogsit.com, a site where she shows a little more of her writing talents and shares her faith with others.


  • Finding Peace as a Christian Artist


    I remember it distinctly-- the song “One of Us” by Joan Osborne softly played on the radio in my mom's car. My interest peaked as I listened to the words “what if God was one of us?”

    My version of Jesus was a perfect man wearing iridescent clothing, floating in the sky and shaking his head at my life decisions. Yet, these lyrics described a different Jesus-- someone who understood my pain, who could relate to me, and maybe even talk to me.

    At that time, I rejected the idea of Christianity, avoiding Christian music at all costs. Oddly enough, the secular-- even controversial-- song, “One of Us” still lingered in the back of my mind, along with the idea of a loving Jesus. Music was especially close to my heart since I had just started writing songs. As the years rolled by, my music evolved with it.

    Then at age 19, I gave my life to Christ. I began listening to Christian music non-stop to fuel up and draw close to God. That was about the time I ran into a dilemma-- now that I was a Christian, was I supposed to write Christian music?

    I tried over and over again to write a “Christian song”, but it usually felt unnatural and forced. My style of writing had always been metaphorical and illustrative, where the listener could derive their own interpretation and personally connect with the music.

    Every time I wrote a “Christian song”, I felt like I was robbing the song of its true story by spelling out how the reader should think and feel. I was living passionately for God, but I felt guilty every time I wrote a song that didn't explicitly say “God” or “Jesus” in it.

    Then God opened my mind.

    I took a break from songwriting and He showed me how limitless He really was. I began hearing him in songs that I once considered “secular”. I heard him in the quiet melodies of an acoustic guitar, in the gut-wrenchingly honest words of a broken-hearted songwriter, and even in the soaring harmony of a symphony.

    I realized that God is everywhere-- he's in every type of music, whether it's in the “Christian” genre or not.

    That revelation helped me reconcile my faith with my voice as an artist. I let God pour through my songwriting, without any fear or inhibitions getting in the way. As a result, I finally have peace as a Christian artist.

    For more about Brian and Chelsea, visit: brianandchelseamusic.com

  • My Hidden Tattoos


    " ... the LORD's declaration. 'I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.'" Jeremiah 31:33b (HCSB)

    I didn't mean to stare, but I couldn't help it.

    After exchanging a quick smile, she continued placing grocery bags into her cart, while my eyes glanced back at her arms.

    Tattoos covered every inch of skin from her tiny shoulders to her delicate wrists.

    Images of hearts, religious symbols, quotes and names of those I imagined she loved over the years. Woven together in a tapestry of flesh and ink.

    Some of the designs had faded with time, while others popped with fresh, bold colors. Forever inscribed with permanent ink from a tattoo machine.

    It was obvious she had a passion for art ... and a relationship with a trusted tattoo artist.

    If I ever wanted to get a tattoo, how could I possibly decide on one design? I thought to myself.

    As she gathered her things and left the store, I wondered about the sting of the tattoo gun and how it must have hurt.

    Lord, if I chose to go through the pain, where should my special tattoo be placed?

    To my surprise, today's key verse from Jeremiah immediately came to mind:

    "I will put My teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people."

    As a grin emerged from my soul, I whispered to Him, Thank You, Lord, as I pictured my heart covered with colorful tattoos.

    Inscribed Scriptures placed ever so carefully with great detail. Engraved instructions written by the holy finger of my Heavenly Father.

    Some had faded over the years. Weathered by life's trials.

    Others were stained with bold, fresh colors. Some were recently tattooed as I had claimed new promises.

    It was a fresh perspective right there in the grocery checkout line! Something totally unexpected, but wonderful at the same time. A teachable moment. His heart connecting with mine.

    Originally, God's teachings were written on tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18) and scrolls made from parchment or papyrus (Jeremiah 36:2). This was established under the old covenant.

    But as believers under the new covenant, God has chosen to place His Word on our hearts, at the very center of our being, making it familiar and readily available to us. He carefully positions His promises over our hearts to protect our emotions, desires and perceptions of ourselves and others.

    As life moves on and years go by, I long for the Master Artist to continue etching His Word on my heart until every inch is covered. Inside and out. I hope you do, too.

    Although these special tattoos aren't visible for everyone to see, I know they are there and that's what is most important to me.

    I can't wait to see my tattooed heart when I get to heaven one day. As I kneel before God and if I dare to ask, "Lord, do You have a tattoo?" I won't be surprised if He reaches out, and there in the palm of His hand, my name beautifully inscribed for all of eternity. A tattoo, of sorts, that will never fade away or be removed.

    "Can a mother forget her little child and not have love for her own son? Yet even if that should be, I will not forget you. See, I have tattooed your name upon my palm." (Isaiah 49:15b-16, TLB)

    Lord, Thank You for placing Your Word on my heart so that it's always available to me. When life is difficult and nothing seems to go right, help me remember You are near and Your promises are true. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:11, "I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you." (NIV)

    2 Corinthians 3:3, "And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you have a favorite Scripture verse? Is it one you've memorized recently or have you known it for a long time? Why not challenge yourself to discover a new favorite verse this week?

    How do you feel knowing God has written His Word on your heart? What words come to mind? Take a minute to thank Him and make a list of things you're grateful for today.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Two Most Powerful Words


    "And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:17 (NIV)

    Not too long ago, I stood at the sink trying to ease the stabbing feeling of stress. I had so much pulling at me.

    I found myself rushing my husband in conversation. Rushing my kids out the door. Rushing to the next thing and then the next. Rushing to make dinner and then rushing my people through dinner.

    I had set my life to the rhythm of rush.

    Exhaustion gnawed deep places in my heart, demanding me to slow down. But how? I've made my decisions and now my decisions have made me. Me — this shell of a woman caught in the rush of endless demands.

    Have you ever felt this same way? I suspect most of us have.

    I'm starting to realize the two most powerful words are yes and no. How I use them determines how I set my schedule.

    How I set my schedule determines how I live my life.

    How I live my life determines how I spend my soul.

    When I think about my decisions in light of spending my soul, it gives gravity to choosing more wisely. Each and every thing I say yes to sets the pace of my life.

    After all, when a woman lives with the stress of an overwhelmed schedule, she'll ache with the sadness of an underwhelmed soul. An overwhelmed schedule leads to an underwhelmed soul — a soul with a full calendar but no time to really engage in life.

    If you've found yourself caught in a stressful pace recently, I understand. I think so much of why my schedule gets overloaded is because I'm afraid of missing out or not measuring up.

    One quick look at social media, and it feels like everyone else is able to live at a breakneck pace with a smile. Their kids are accomplishing more than my kids. Their business pursuits seem more important than mine do. Their marriage seems more romantic. Their home is cleaner. And they even have time to invite dinner guests over to eat food from their garden. Huh?

    It's interesting to me the timing of God's words to Jesus in Matthew 3:17: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

    At that point, Jesus hadn't yet performed miracles, led the masses or gone to the cross. Yet, God was pleased with Jesus before all of those accomplishments.

    His Father was establishing Jesus' identity before He started His activities. Jesus heard God, believed God and remained unrushed. In Christ, God has given us a new identity (Romans 6:4). But, unlike Christ, we forget.

    We fill our days and our lives with so much activity that the only way to keep up with it all is to rush. And I'm discovering that the source of much of the stress in my life is this constant need to keep up. But what if I'm chasing the wrong desire?

    Do I really want my life to look more like others? Or to look more like God's best for me?

    God's best for me means engaging with life and the people in it. God's best for me means noticing divine invitations and feeling the freedom to say yes — a Best Yes to the Lord's assignments.

    If I really want an unrushed life, I must underwhelm my schedule so God has room to overwhelm my soul.

    Today, we must stand moment-by-moment in the reality of our identity before we resume our activity. Grasp this truth and rub it in deep: "You are my daughter, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased."

    Well pleased because of who you are, not because of what you do. Well pleased because of an unfathomable, unconditional love that's not earned, but simply given.

    Dear Lord, unrush me as I set my schedule today. I want to step out of the rush so I can embrace Your best for me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 6:4, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Ask yourself these questions: Do I really want my life to look more like other people's? Or to look more like God's best for me?

    Honestly assess your answer and pray that the Lord would show you how to pursue His plan.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • His Eye is on the Sparrow


    "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 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 6:25-26 (NIV)

    When I moved to Nashville years ago in pursuit of a music career, I never imagined I would land here. Here, on the Amazon River, where the day starts when the sun rises, and morning comes early.

    The complexity of the jungle sent my head spinning — the fact that all this grows and thrives without Wall Street, smartphones and us! I felt appropriately small. I couldn't get over the countless symbiotic relationships: this creature surviving off that tree, relying on that seed, transported by those birds. It was astounding how everything hung in this delicate balance, how in the beautiful and mysterious words of Colossians 1:17b, in Christ "all things hold together."

    Often I think I'm the one holding things together. I get busy with appointments, planning dinner, waiting to hear if a friend's news from the doctor is hopeful. I fall into this mentality that keeping all these plates spinning is life, while the jungle life appeared so effortless.

    The gentle and imposing stature of the jungle convicted and humbled me, as I crunched atop its brush and beneath its canopy.

    How much more, God seemed to be saying, do I care for you if I care for the birds who have no barns, the flowers who needn't spin nor toil for their splendor? In Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, He points to His custody of nature, proving if He cares for the tiniest of creatures, certainly we don't have to worry about what we're going to eat or drink or wear, because He knows our needs.

    I don't rely on this truth enough, since food, garments and shelter are readily available where I come from — at least for most people. I knew God called His people to meet the needs of the poor, to tangibly demonstrate He knows their needs and intently cares to meet them. I believed this, but what I didn't know was how personal it would feel.

    While there, I visited a village school in Chita. With about 20 children ages 3 to 10 in the room, our program included singing, a puppet show and Bible story.

    When asked if anyone would like to come up for prayer, a 4-year-old boy named Yan leaped from his chair. Yan turned back to grab his mother's wrist, dragging her forward. "We need a house," he said matter-of-factly.

    I bowed my head, realizing I'd never prayed for God to provide someone with a house before. Sure, I'd prayed with friends to "find a house," but what I meant was they'd find a good house in a solid school district with low taxes ... maybe near a swimming pool, good church and a park. I didn't actually mean find a house.

    When it was time to say good-bye to the villagers in Chita, there stood Yan alone on the shore. I hated to leave that little boy. As the wind blew across my skin and the banks thick with trees moved past us, I was lulled into reflection.

    A 4-year-old boy taught me something about dependence and prayer, and the jungle itself had also spoken. Walking through the rainforest was like walking through a cathedral.

    There was something holy about encountering creation the way the psalmist speaks of the heavens declaring God's glory, breathing out utterances that reach to the ends of the earth. Here I was, at the ends of the earth, and He was still there. And His eye was on the sparrow ... a little sparrow named Yan, and a slightly bigger sparrow named Kelly.

    Dear Heavenly Father, I proclaim You as my Provider. Worry, striving and fretting are not from You, because You care for my every need. Please give me the grace to trust You with all that's weighing on my mind and heavy on my heart. When my anxiety becomes overwhelming, give me the peace of Christ that transcends my understanding. Thank You for promising to never leave me nor forsake me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 7:7, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." (NIV)

    Colossians 1:17, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Pinpoint a present worry or concern, then meditate on the key verses of Matthew 6:25-26. What truth speaks to your current anxiety?

    We read in Colossians 1:17 that Christ holds all things together. What practical steps can you take to entrust your concerns to His Almighty care?

    © 2014 by Kelly Minter. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks David C. Cook for their sponsorship of today's devotion. Author photo compliments of Brooke Boling.

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

  • I Dread Saying Yes But Feel Powerless to Say No


    "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord." Ephesians 5:8-10 (ESV)

    I have a confession to make: I want people to like me. I want to please people. And sometimes it gets me in trouble.

    I dread saying yes, but feel powerless to say no. Life seems to rush at me every day in the form of endless demands. And I just keep saying yes, yes, yes to the requests that come my way.

    But then my schedule is so packed it feels like I literally can't think straight. Because I have no margin, everything my kids do feels like an interruption. And anything extra my husband asks of me causes bitter resentment to rise up. Instead of talking calmly to those I love, I snarl, snap and scream.

    Saying yes to everything won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn-out woman.

    Can you relate?

    I think to some extent we can all be people pleasers at times.

    We all want to be liked. There's nothing wrong with that. But as we travel the path toward love and acceptance, let's take a look at two of the possible motivations behind people-pleasing.

    One motivation is to give love out of the kindness of our hearts. In giving love, we feel love. That's good.

    Another motivation is to give to others out of what we hope to get in return — love. In getting love from what we do, we feel desperate to do more to get more. That's dangerous.

    It's this second motivation that gets us into trouble with people-pleasing. It's not wrong to want to make others feel loved, happy and pleased. But if we are doing it with the motivation of getting love and things in return, we set ourselves up for trouble.

    Being in a constant state of trying to get love by doing more and more leads to exhaustion.

    Exhaustion for the giver. Exhaustion for the taker. Exhaustion for the relationship all together.

    Ephesians 5:8-10 says, "... for at one time you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord."

    I like the explanation of what the fruit or evidence is when we walk as children of light — doing what is good, right and true — as we discern what is pleasing to the Lord.

    I am challenged to make this a filter for the decisions I'm making today. If I'm seeking to please the Lord, I will ask some questions before agreeing to do something for another person: Am I doing this with good motives, right intentions and true expectations?

    Or am I doing this with:

    Fearful motives ... They might not like me if I say no.

    Skewed intentions ... If I do this for them, will they be more likely to do that for me?

    Unrealistic expectations ... I just know if I give a little more, they'll affirm me and I'm desperate for their affirmation.

    Wherever we focus our attention the most will become the driving force in our lives.

    The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please people, the more of a magnified force people-pleasing will become in my life. The more I focus on trying to figure out how to please God, the more of a magnified force He will become in my life.

    My focus. My choice.

    Dear Lord, help me break away from my people-pleasing tendencies with wrong motives. Guide me in my daily decisions as I battle fear, skewed intentions and unrealistic expectations. I want to make You the focus, Father, so that You continue to become the magnified force in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 2:4, "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you experienced the cycle of doing more to get more?

    Search your heart and ask, What are my motives? Am I seeking to please people or honor God in this situation? You may need to place healthy boundaries in your relationships with others so that you can learn when to say yes and when to say no.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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