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  • A New Resolution

    But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Matthew 6:33 ESV

    While most of us make them every year, New Year’s resolutions have a terribly low success rate. Could it be that we fail because we have misguided goals for ourselves? Or, are we concerned too much with the physical results?

    Even though we’re just over a week into the New Year, some of you may have already given up on one or more of your resolutions. Others of you may be still trying to better yourself through dieting, exercise or more, but regretting your decision.

    But what if we told you that you can make this the best year of your life? Hint: it just won’t happen through extra trips to the gym, or by trying out the new fad diet. Nothing is inherently wrong with these pursuits, but it is important to keep them from becoming idols. Strive to use your resolutions as ways to grow more dependent on God, because to make this the best year of your life, you have to make it your best year spiritually.

    In Matthew 6:3–18, Jesus is in the middle of giving His Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, He speaks specifically of giving, prayer and fasting. Not just that we should do these things, but that He expects us to.

    Verse 3: “But when you give…”

    Verse 5: “And when you pray…”

    Verse 16: “And when you fast…”

    Later on, in verse 33, Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    So, how can we have the best year spiritually? Seek first the kingdom of God.

    And how do we do that?

    We give to the needy, so as not to be overcome with greed and envy.

    We pray, exercising our dependence on God and our desire to be in relationship with Him.

    And we fast, saying no to earthly things and saying yes to God.

    The practice of all these disciplines of the Christian life will help motivate you to stick with your resolutions when you want to quit, and—most important—help you grow spiritually.

  • When the Call Feels Bigger Than You

    Eryn Lynum JANUARY 8, 2015

    When the Call Feels Bigger Than You ERYN LYNUM, COMPEL Member

    "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard." Proverbs 31:16 (ESV)

    I walked around the old tattered fence. Hope mounted as crisp leaves crunched beneath my feet.

    The fence was home to a shabby, forgotten garden, out back of the new home we’d just purchased. How long had it been since someone had tended its roots? Surely not too long, I gathered, as I eyed the fallen, pulpous peppers sitting among the underbrush.

    My eyes took in the misfortune of soil left untended, but in my heart I saw a season of growth and opportunity amidst this agricultural wreckage.

    It was my field.

    Stubble. Chaff. Clay. Not much to behold, yet promise was burgeoning just below the soil.

    A year later, after we had tilled and toiled and harvested that garden soil, the words from today’s key verse began their resounding echo in my spirit: "She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard" (Proverbs 31:16).

    The verse reverberated within me over time. As I read it again and again, that originally untended garden out back began to flourish with a successful first season of fruit bearing.

    And God opened my eyes to other untended fields with potential.

    Vacant fields lay all around us. In wedding vows promised before God and family. In the births of new babes. In the prodding of one’s heart toward new ministry. In the face of new mothers in shelters downtown. In the eyes of orphans a world, or a street, away.

    How many times have I stood before an empty field? And how many times have I walked right past one without consideration?

    Sometimes, the eyes of one’s heart must squint to see it, but there is hope amidst the overgrowth. There is great potential waiting to be unearthed from these desolate fields.

    I imagine this woman spoken of in Proverbs 31 … "She considers a field and buys it …" Her feet planted on the edge of that field. Hand rubbing chin and head tilted in curiosity.

    What could it be? What would God work through her hands for His glory?

    Perhaps we are afraid to see these fields. When we glimpse an opportunity before us, do we turn our gaze because we are wary of the work the soil demands? The beauty of the fruit is alluring; we truly desire to see God do great and magnificent things through us. But our hands seem so unprepared, and we feel wholly unworthy of the calling.

    When you stand before that vacant field, and consider the great expanse of the work it will take from barren to harvest, don’t let fear turn you away. We have much to make of empty fields if we are ready to put our hands to the plow and get a little messy.

    You need only consider your next right step. Don’t be overwhelmed by the size of the task before you. Focus on the one thing that must be done next and trust God to level the ground before you. Pick up some gloves and clear the brush. Till some soil. Plant a seed.

    And then watch in wonder as it begins to blossom. When we’re faithful to simply show up with hands willing to work, we can watch in wonder as God brings forth fruit from our humble efforts.

    God places them before us, these barren fields, and beckons our hearts to create something of artistry, of intrigue, of splendor, of His majesty. He’ll call forth the rains. We only need to consider, buy in and put our hands to the plow.

    Heavenly Father, help me see the empty and waiting fields that You place before me. Give me wisdom on when to keep walking and when to stop and put my hands to the plow. Protect me from the fears that will hold me back from seeing You do great and mighty things through me. Help me always work through the strength of Christ and point any and all of my efforts back to Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 3:6, "I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow." (NLT)

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

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there an empty field you sense God calling you to work in, but you are overwhelmed by the task or don’t know where to begin? Spend some time in prayer over this opportunity. Write two to three small steps you could take next.

    Were you given an opportunity recently but you said "No" out of fear? Commit to praying over that opportunity every morning for one week. Ask the Lord whether He might have you change your answer and pursue that opportunity in His strength.

    © 2015 by Eryn Lynum. All rights reserved.

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

  • I’m Breaking Up With My Quiet Time

    Lysa TerKeurst JANUARY 7, 2016

    I’m Breaking Up With My Quiet Time LYSA TERKEURST

    "You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." Psalm 63:1 (NIV)

    I’m taking a break from having a quiet time. Because sometimes I can get in a rut. Even with good things. And having a daily quiet time is a good thing. Until it becomes more about routine than actually connecting with God.

    When God becomes routine rather than revival, it’s time to switch things up.

    Otherwise, I might start seeing this time as less important. It becomes the second or third thing I do. After other things. Seemingly more pressing things. Before I know it, it’s been days since I connected privately and personally with God and His Truth.

    And then my soul feels a bit off and sluggish. Like when my stomach has been denied food, a desperation starts creeping over other parts of my body. That happens with soul hunger too.

    Only the triggers for stomach hunger are much more apparent. My brain quickly reminds me, "You feel awful because you need to eat."

    Sometimes my brain isn’t as quick to pick up on soul hunger. So I just lumber forward but wonder, "What’s wrong?" I think of a list of reasons … I’m tired, I haven’t had enough fun, or my hormones are off.

    And while some of those things may be true — it’s not why my soul is depleted.

    I need more time with God.

    Not more quiet time.

    More listening time. Like the writer in Psalm 63:1 needed. "You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek You; I thirst for You, my whole being longs for You, in a dry and parched land where there is no water." (NIV)

    Recently, as I sat with God with nothing but willingness to listen, some fresh ideas popped into my mind. So these are 3 new ways I’m listening to God:

    Give my first thoughts to God by giving Him my first 5 minutes every day. I downloaded the First 5 app and read these Bible verses and teachings before I check anything else on my phone. I ask God to help me apply what I’m reading to my life that day. I listen.

    Read something from someone I admire. I need to study leadership in this season of my life. So, I pick up a book written on this topic by someone I admire and glean from their godly wisdom. I listen.

    Read something from someone I trust. There’s a book I’m reading right now that is whimsical and grounded all at the same time. It makes me feel like this writer gets me. They get my struggles and offer up advice I know I can trust. I listen.

    Maybe you think all this still sounds like a quiet time, but to me it’s different. It’s a listening time. A time to shake things up a bit and get outside my normal routine. A time to listen to God speak. And He does speak … through His book of wisdom, through someone I admire, and through someone I trust.

    And this morning? My soul felt that thrilling and comforting full feeling. Complete. Satisfied. Deeply nourished.

    Dear Lord, my deepest desire is to grow a stronger relationship with You. Help me to break out of the routine so that I can connect with You and hear You speak. I want my faith to be the most reviving and energizing thing about my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Jeremiah 29:13, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (NIV)

    James 4:8a, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Becoming MoreFollowing Jesus can become more like a revival than a routine! Be equipped to stop reading the Bible just to check it off your list and start experiencing God’s Word in a deeper way with a FREE resource from Lysa TerKeurst. Download "3 Bible Study Basics You Must Know" here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you getting in a rut with your quiet time?

    Ask God to show you how you can breathe new life into your time with Him. Also consider downloading the "3 Bible Study Basics You Must Know" above to more fully experience Scripture in a way that brings revival to your soul.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Give it a Rest!


    Give it a Rest! VICKI COURTNEY

    "This is what the LORD says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’" Jeremiah 6:16a (NIV)

    I stared out the window, my eyes filling with tears as the flight attendant gave her familiar pre-flight safety drill. It was the third time in a two-week period I had heard the same spiel. Minutes later as the plane raced down the runway, I thought about the irony of the moment.

    I was headed to a women’s event to share a message on prioritizing the one thing we all need — time with Jesus. Yeah, right, I thought to myself. If the planning committee had followed me around for the past couple of months, they would have canceled the invitation and organized a Vicki Courtney book-burning.

    Who was I to speak to women on the topic of finding rest for your souls when my own soul was on life support?

    For as long as I can remember, I have been busy. As a young girl, I signed up for enough school clubs and extracurricular activities to keep me hopping every day of the week. It wasn’t enough to be on the cheer squad; I juggled class officer duties, student council and a part-time job. Oh, and homework. Come to think of it, never mind about the homework.

    The only pace I knew was breakneck, and I carried it with me to college and eventually into my marriage and family life.

    At times, I would make bold declarations to slow down. After I met a book deadline. After a busy season of speaking engagements came to a close. After my kids wrapped up a chaotic school year filled with activities. Yet, when after finally arrived, I had already filled the empty block of time with more activity.

    When I wasn’t busy, I felt restless and ill at ease. When I was busy, I felt weary and in need of rest. It was a never-ending vicious cycle. I hated the pace, yet at the same time, I needed the pace.

    It wasn’t until I hit a wall several years ago and suffered extreme burnout that I began to finally take a closer look at what was really going on beneath my habit of chronic busyness.

    I was beyond quick-fix remedies like the familiar tips you might see in a magazine or devotional to "de-clutter your life." Trust me, I had tried them all, and the results were always short-lived. My turning point came when I realized that my busyness was not the result of a scheduling problem but rather, a sin problem.

    Somewhere along the way, I had based my worth and identity in performing, achieving, doing and serving. Ironically, true identity is found by resting in God and being conformed to His image, not running ourselves ragged in an attempt to find it on our own.

    What robs your soul of rest? Unless we take a deeper look at the source of our chronic busyness and get honest with ourselves about the underlying motives, we will only be treating the symptoms instead of the problem. Until then, we might make minor tweaks and adjustments here and there to reduce our load, but our efforts will only provide a short-term solution.

    When we say "yes" to too many other things, we are actually saying "no" to God. Which path will you choose at the crossroads of busyness and rest? God has shown us the "good way," but it’s up to us to walk in it.

    Father, thank You for showing us the good way in order that we might have rest for our souls. Give us the courage to change paths if the one we’re on has left us with little time for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 11:28-30, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)

    Psalm 46:10, "He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Are you ready to take a deeper look at the enemies that rob you of rest in your soul? If so, Vicki Courtney’s new book, Rest Assured: A Recovery Plan for Weary Souls can help.

    Also, be sure to visit Vicki’s blog at VickiCourtney.com and sign up for her e-letter.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Rest Assured by Vicki Courtney. In celebration of this book, Vicki’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here and let us know what robs your soul of rest. (We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one by Monday, Jan.11.)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is chronic busyness a problem for you? If so, are you ready to stage an intervention on your life and take steps to redeem rest for your weary soul? List three specific steps you can take to begin the process.

    © 2015 by Vicki Courtney. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Thomas Nelson Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Introducing Our Books of the Year: A Review of The Battle Plan for Prayer

    You have an enemy–and he’s dead set on destroying all you hold dear and keeping you from experiencing an abundant life in Christ. But you are not unarmed in this battle. Prayer is a powerful weapon and it should be your first plan of attack in all of life’s battles, not your last resort. This year, walk with us as we learn to develop prayer strategies through reading The Battle Plan for Prayer and Fervent, books inspired by the movie War Room.

    The Battle Plan for Prayer, which was written for men, was recently reviewed by our very own Nick Mulder. Check out how the book has touched his life and stay tuned for next week's review of Fervent.

    Change The Way You Pray

    Inspired by the movie War Room, this book motivated a distinctive kind of prayer in my life—one that’s in line with God’s will. The Battle Plan for Prayer, written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, is a powerful reminder of the importance of prayer and the beauty of being able to communicate with our Heavenly Father.

    The book turns the typical idea of prayer on its head. It’s not about us trying to affect God—just the opposite. When you ask God for something, it’s not because God needs to be reminded of what you need. Rather, it reminds us that we need God.

    I love how incredibly positive, uplifting and encouraging this book was. After reading, you will be inspired to improve how you pray. Whether your prayer life is good and you’re looking to make it great, or you hardly pray at all and you need a jumpstart, you will be filled with a hunger for a deeper relationship with God.

    Your trust will grow and your hope and faith in Christ will flourish. The book explains some of the reasons why it might seem like God isn’t answering prayer, and how to pray in ways that will always be answered. It makes the power of prayer really evident. The authors give examples of miraculous times that prayer has pulled through for the people of God, like when their dad was praying for the funds to build a Christian school, and a couple showed up with a check written for the exact amount.

    As you start reading the chapters, you’ll notice a few things: each chapter is short and digestible, making it really easy to read. And you’ll notice that it is absolutely packed with Scripture. The Kendrick brothers do an amazing job throughout the book explaining what the Bible says about prayer. After reading, I felt encouraged to pray in a way like Jesus—not just by praying the Lord’s Prayer, but also through a type of prayer that caters to my struggles, joys and every detail of my life.

    The crux of the book is an explanation of the ACTS style prayer, a pneumonic device that helps Christians to remember to pray through admiration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. The book explains the importance of each aspect of prayer, and how to maximize each one in your life.

    An extremely helpful feature in the beginning of the book is a reading plan that helps you schedule out your reading pace, as well as some prayer targets that you should be aiming for and spaces for you to write your own targets.

    The back of the book has an awesome set of features as well—a list of prayer strategy verses, verses to read in various situations, a list of the names of God, help starting a prayer group, really deep and evocative discussion questions and lots of other helps.

    This book had a remarkable impact in my life. And I’m sure it will for you too.

  • He Speaks in the Silence

    Diane Comer JANUARY 5, 2016

    He Speaks in the Silence DIANE COMER

    "Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened …" Isaiah 50:4b,5a (NLT)

    I was 26 years old the day I sat in front of the doctor in stunned disbelief, his words barely registering with my reality.

    Losing my hearing? I can’t be losing my hearing!

    How does a young wife — a mother of little ones — go deaf?

    The weeks and months of tests and treatment that followed confirmed the truth I’d tried so desperately to pray away. My hearing was going fast. And there was nothing anyone could do.

    I begged God to heal me, to stop the progression of loss that would isolate me from the world of words. I needed to hear my children, to stay connected and close to my husband. How could I do that? How could I be who I was supposed to be without sound?

    Please God, please! I want to hear! I have to hear!

    I walked and prayed, rocked my baby and prayed, prayed with my husband, my friends. I asked everyone I knew to please, please pray!

    All I heard was nothing. No hint that God had heard.

    I stewed in sullen bitterness, appalled at a God who called Himself a God of love, yet, it seemed to me, silently refused to listen to my pleading.

    Of course He could heal me, after all, He made my ears! So why wouldn’t He?

    The day my husband gathered the leaders of our church to pray for healing, I barely said a word, lest all that scalding rage come spilling out. I sat still and silent, the thinnest veil of pretend plastered on my face.

    And there, in my desperation, in the midst of my anger and doubt, is where I first heard God speak to me. Two words: It’s OK! Di, it’s OK. It’s OK!

    Like a father firmly calming his terrified daughter lest she run away to her own hurt, His words washed over me again and again.

    It’s OK … it’s OK … Diane! It’s OK …

    And in that moment, it was. Instantly. All pretend fell away, and I was left raw and weeping, healed in a place I didn’t even know was broken. It was OK!

    Strangely, beautifully, inexplicably OK!

    I knew in a knowing that goes beyond words that God wouldn’t heal my ears. Instead, He was asking me to trust Him to take this thing — this awful, terrible hurtling into deafness — and make it OK.

    Would I trust Him with my children? Could I trust Him to bring them close to His heart even when I couldn’t hear theirs?

    And would I trust Him to somehow forge a way for me to hear and know my husband’s heart without words?

    Could I, would I, trust my Father in the isolating loneliness of silence?

    Since that exquisite first moment of hearing God, of accepting His words for me, of surrendering my will to Him, He has not stopped speaking into my silence. As today’s key verse reads, "The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened."

    How could I have missed this in all those years of church and Bible study, of daily devotions and teaching? How could any of us miss His invitation to come and hear?

    To hear His words just for us, for each of us?

    That was 30 years ago. Thirty years of learning to listen to God. Of being awakened to the allure of His voice inviting me to lean in close. And of honing the skills of hearing God much like I have had to hone the skills of listening to the people I love without having ears that hear.

    Father, I want to hear You, to know that it is Your voice calling me to come close. Your words bring life and hope, wisdom when I am weary, understanding when I’m confused. Will You teach me how to listen? To know and love Your voice? I ask that You do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 27:8, "My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming.’" (NLT)

    Revelation 3:20, "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you long to hear God’s voice in your story, Diane Comer’s book, He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen, will bring you on a journey deep into the heart of God.

    Visit Diane’s blog, hespeaksinthesilence.com, where she writes about listening in real life.

    Enter to WIN a copy of He Speaks In The Silence by Diane Comer. In celebration of this book, Diane’s publisher is giving away 5 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here. {We’ll randomly select 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, Jan. 11.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have your worries and disappointments opened your ears to God’s invitation for you to come near and listen? When was the last time you heard God knocking?

    What are some ways you might hone the skills of listening to God so that you hear Him nearer and clearer?

    © 2016 by Diane Comer. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • Interview with Priscilla Shirer

    Check out our interview with Priscilla Shirer below—where we talk about her role in the hit movie, War Room, as well as her new book and supplement to the movie, Fervent.

    Tell us about the character you play in WAR ROOM.

    In WAR ROOM, I get the privilege of playing a woman named Elizabeth Jordan. Elizabeth is a wife and a mom who is really struggling when you meet her in the movie. She’s become so good at putting on a polished professional veneer that you can’t tell just by looking at her but underneath there are a lot of huge cracks. The main one is that her marriage and family are falling apart. This film is about an older, wiser woman who helps Elizabeth recognize the power of prayer to put her family back together again.

    How do you hope audiences can relate and respond to the film?

    I know that audiences, particularly women, are going to relate to Elizabeth Jordan. So many of us have her story--when we’re out in public, we present a polished, pristine image when really we are hurting or suffocating underneath a mound of difficult circumstances that no one else knows. Elizabeth is just trying to keep it all together, and it takes someone else--Ms. Clara in the story—to be diligent enough and patient enough to break past her external veneer and get to the heart of what’s really happening.

    I think women especially are going to walk out of the theater not only having seen a beautifully crafted film, but they’re also going to be inspired and challenged in their prayer lives. They are going to be reminded that prayer works, and can change even the most difficult circumstances. I’m hoping that they’re going to want to incorporate it more fully into their own personal lives and in the lives of their families. That’s the reason why I wanted to do this film. I’m so glad the Kendrick brothers focused this movie on prayer and that they asked me to be a part of it. After their other films concentrated on a variety of different yet equally critical topics it just seems fitting that this one would focus on calling the church to utilize the most powerful weapon it has been given to fight against the enemy.

    What was it like working with the Kendrick brothers?

    They are hysterical. They were always pulling pranks, always doing something to make everyone lighthearted and engaged. They are masters at building a sense of community among the cast and crew and creating a culture of friendship on the set. And, they prioritize the Lord in every aspect of filming. Each day on set began with devotions and often, they would stop filming to pray for specific portions of the process.

    It has really been special for my husband and me to be in relationship with them. We’ve learned a lot and our ministry and marriage has been strengthened because of their wise counsel. They are men of such integrity, and character, and while they are intent on making entertaining films their primary goal is to make God famous.

    Your new book Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious; Specific and Strategic Prayer is a companion to the WAR ROOM movie. Tell us more about the book and what do you hope women will get from reading it?

    Fervent is a hands-on, knees-down, never-give-up action guide to practical, purposeful praying. It brings the message of WAR ROOM to YOUR room and life.

    Each chapter exposes the enemy’s cruel, cunning intentions against you in all kinds of key areas like these, then coaches you in crafting your own personalized prayer strategies on included tear-out sheets—ready to post them and pray them, anywhere you can put them into active deployment against the enemy.

    What is prayer for you?

    Prayer is a conversation with God. I use the word conversation very specifically because prayer was never meant to be a one-way street. It is talking to God, yes, and knowing that He hears, but it is also leaving room in your life to hear and see God’s response. He wants to be involved in the circumstances of our lives, so when we pray, we have to keep our eyes open to see how He’s going to answer and what He’s going to do in our experience in response to our prayer. Prayer, is how we see heaven invade earth. It’s what opens up the floodgates for God to come down and be involved in our every day circumstances.


  • When You’re Stumbling into the New Year Empty and Drained

    Alicia Bruxvoort JANUARY 4, 2016

    When You’re Stumbling into the New Year Empty and Drained ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Three days later, they all went to celebrate a wedding feast in Cana of Galilee … While they were celebrating, the wine ran out … [And Jesus said] ‘Fill each water pot with water until it’s ready to spill over the top.’" John 2:1a, 3a, 7b (VOICE)

    We were sitting in the dimly lit corner of our favorite Italian bistro when my husband asked the question that made my heart lurch: "What are you looking forward to in the new year?"

    The last hours of the last day of December stretched before us like a gift wrapped in moonbeams and grace, and I was grateful for time to connect as we bid another year goodbye.

    I cast him an appreciative smile, knowing that my quiet guy would have been content to merely eat his steak and savor our momentary break from baby babble and toddler tantrums.

    Normally, his inquiry would have aroused my love for conversation and undaunted dreaming. But as I sliced into my baked potato on that particular New Year’s Eve, I realized I was strangely devoid of words.

    I felt more hollow than hopeful, more discouraged than dreamy.

    I wanted to answer with expectancy and exuberance, to rehearse to my willing listener a list of grandiose goals and polished plans. But I was road-weary from a long and exhausting year. Unexpected disappointments had left me discouraged, and I felt depleted by the demands of the daily grind.

    My husband buttered his roll and waited in comfortable silence. And I felt a cavernous ache rise from the tip of my toes to the corners of my muddled mind. I held his green-eyed gaze and wondered if my heart would split wide open if I put words to my unseen struggle.

    I willed my tears not to drizzle, and I blinked long and slow in an attempt to hide the drops of watery despair.

    "Honey, what’s wrong?" my husband asked, reaching across the table to lace his fingers through mine.

    "I just feel so empty inside …" I cried, as I tipped my water glass to my lips and sipped the last drop. "I don’t how God can use me in the new year when I feel so depleted by the old one."

    Maybe you’ve been there before — too haggard to hope, too wary to wish, too exhausted to anticipate.

    Maybe you’re there right now, toes tired from the journey, your heart feeling bankrupt by the barrage of life.

    But if you’ve limped into the new year with muted hope and a poured-out soul, I’ve got good news for you. Our emptiness doesn’t disqualify us from Christ’s extravagance. Our weariness doesn’t exempt us from His wonder.

    In fact, today’s key verses suggest that our emptiness might actually give us reason for expectancy in the new year.

    After all, we have a Savior who delights in filling empty vessels.

    If we read the entire account of Christ’s first miracle in John 2:1-12, we learn that Christ didn’t view those barren wine jugs as a reason for condemnation; He simply viewed them as a wordless invitation. A subtle summons to reveal His glory in a fresh new way.

    Think about it, friends: if our lavish Savior can use poured-out pots to display His splendor, surely He can use poured-out people to do the same. We need only to admit our void and ask for His help.

    A waiter lingered beside our table with a pitcher and reached for the glass near my plate.

    "An empty one!" the waiter exclaimed as he held the fluted glass up to the light. "I can fix that!" he said with a silly smirk. Then he tipped the pitcher with a gallant swoop and filled my glass to the brim.

    My husband raised his eyebrows as the young man waltzed away. "Maybe being empty isn’t so bad after all …" he said with a wink.

    I took a long sip of water and let it wash away the lump of tears that had been sitting in my throat.

    Then, I cast my husband a grateful grin and let an unexpected giggle spill from my lips.

    After all, it suddenly seemed like I was in the perfect position to embrace a new year brimming with possibility.

    Dear Jesus, help me trade my emptiness for expectancy. I invite you to do a fresh work in me this new year. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:13, "I pray that the God who gives hope will fill you with much joy and peace while you trust in him. Then your hope will overflow by the power of the Holy Spirit." (NCV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Commit to filling up on God’s Word in the new year. Our free First 5 app can help you get into God’s Word with the first five minutes of your day.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a special give-away today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Invite God to do a fresh work in your life this year. Read Isaiah 43:19 and make it your prayer.

    This week, prayerfully pour into someone who is poured out.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Interview With Mahtob Mahmoody

    Mahtob Mahmoody has an incredible story. As a young child, she and her mother were held captive by her father in his home country, Iran, after they were initially promised that it would only be a two-week vacation. Following a daring escape, she lived in constant fear and with constant hatred toward her father.

    My Name Is Mahtob chronicles her journey, offering various impactful stories from her life in the time since.

    Both in the book and in our interview with her, you'll find that the greatest theme she touches on is forgiveness. Specifically, forgiveness that came about as a result of God's healing love.

    Check out the interview below to find out more about Mahtob's life today, how and why she wrote the book, and what she has planned for the future. Then go pick up your copy of My Name Is Mahtob.

  • A New Year’s Prayer for You

    Wendy Blight JANUARY 01, 2015

    A New Year’s Prayer for You WENDY BLIGHT

    {Editor’s Note: Today’s devotion is written simply as a prayer. We hope it will bring you hope and true encouragement for today. May you have an abundantly blessed New Year!}

    "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." 1 John 5:14 (NIV)

    Elohim, God our Creator, Master Architect of all that is, was and ever will be, by Your hand alone, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You shaped us in secret, knitting us together … every moment, every detail planned out before we took a single breath.

    You knew before time began each woman who would pray this prayer. You formed her. You drew her. You know her heart. Her every need. Her deepest desires … dreams … scars … questions … doubts.

    And today, in the quietness of our hearts, we meet with You. Draw near. Fall afresh as we come, from across the globe, to the foot of the cross.

    Father, You are Holy. You call us to be holy. You created us in Your image. Yet, so often our hearts wander. Our speech does not glorify You. Our actions do not honor You. Self prevails. In this New Year, clothe us with humility. Take away our desire to be right and our stubbornness to demand our own way. Submit our will to Yours. As we open the pages of Scripture, tender our hearts so that it will penetrate even to the marrow of our bones.

    Father, in this world of tolerance and compromise, give us hearts that seek Your Truth above all else. Saturate us with Your Spirit of knowledge and revelation so that as we digest Your Truth, we not only understand it but are also equipped to live it. Guard our hearts from the lies of this world and keep our eyes fixed on You, for You alone are the Author and Finisher of our faith.

    Father, we surrender our thoughts — especially our feelings and our emotions — to You, You who are Faithful and True. Where fear and anxiety loom, help us fully trust in You and Your goodness, no matter the circumstances. Your Word says that You don’t give a Spirit of fear but rather Your perfect love drives out fear. Lead us to walk in the freedom of that love. Your Word promises that when we pray, anxiety will flee and peace will prevail. We purpose in our hearts to pray more faithfully and consistently so we can walk confidently in Your peace.

    Father, Your Word says You created us in Christ Jesus to do good works for Your Kingdom. You knit specific gifts and talents into us to do that work. And Your Word promises that when You begin a work in us, You will carry it on to completion until the day we step into eternity with You. Thank You, Father! We desire to walk in Your good and perfect plan, Lord. To serve Your people. To walk boldly in the call You have on our lives. So, as we seek to walk with You, help us to trust in You with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding. Help us acknowledge You in all our ways so that in our obedience, we can clearly hear, "This is the way, My child, walk in it."

    Father, we love You and thank You that our names are engraved in the palm of Your hand. You love us unconditionally and nothing can ever separate us from Your love. May we know more than ever before how wide and high and deep and long is Your love. And as we live out that love, may our lives be a living testimony of You. We ask this in the powerful and mighty name of Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who will do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ever ask or imagine. Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (NIV)

    Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." (NIV)

    © 2016 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

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