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  • Top Christmas Toys for Christians 2016

    Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with Christ-centered toys for kids.

    Christmas is just around the corner and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season will be here before you know it. Get a head start on your Christmas shopping with these Christ-centered toys your children will be excited about on Christmas morning.

    Fisher-Price Little People Nativity Set Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus share the stable with their animal friends in this Little People re-telling of the Christmas Story. Place the angel atop the stable to activate the light-up star and hear the holiday favorite "Away in a Manger" play. The perfect size for little hands, the Fisher-Price Little People nativity set is the perfect introduction to the story of the birth of Christ for young children.

    Prayer Dolls Prayer Dolls are the perfect friend for your child during prayer time or play. Your little one can pray along and even hold the dolls hands together as she recites four different prayers. They are cute, cuddly and colorfully dressed with stylish hair.

    VeggieTales In The House DVD Shiver Me Timbers! Ichabeezer has lost his toy pirate ship! Guess what? Larry the Cucumber found the ship and wants to keep it for himself! Can Bob the Tomato help Larry decide to do what’s right - or will Larry’s friendship with Ichabeezer’s be lost at sea? Find out in this all-new VeggieTales In The House story about sharing and caring.

    Plush Toys Bears for Humanity plush toys are perfect for keeping your kids company on long car rides or just hanging out around the house. The bear, lion and eagle toys are made from 100% organic cotton and are hand sewn right here in the United States. Looking for something a bit bigger? Our 22’’ Barnabas Bear is sure to make a big impact on Christmas morning.

    My First Green Toys Shape Sorter Made in the USA from food-safe, 100% recycled plastic milk jugs that save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Shape Sorter helps develop recognition of shapes and colors while also encouraging eye-hand coordination, problem solving, and fine and gross motor skill development. The two-part elliptical Shape Sorter and 8 colorful shapes (2 stars, 2 circles, 2 squares, 2 triangles) are the perfect size and weight for little hands.

    Bibleman Putting on the Full Armor of God Meet Bibleman and his team and find out how they use the Shield of Faith, the Sword of the Spirit, and the rest of the armor of God to defeat dangerous villains like Dr. Fear and the Master of Mean. Then create your own adventure scene using the foldout “Put Your Armor On” poster and stickers!

    We hope you enjoy the excitement as your children open these Christ-centered gifts on Christmas morning and encourage you to use these gifts as an opportunity to remind your little ones that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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  • Do You Ever Feel Distracted?

    Do You Ever Feel Distracted? by Katy McCown

    “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8 (NLT)

    I perched on top of my kitchen table and peered into the dimly lit room. My shaking fingers dialed my husband — who was asleep in another state. Why is he always gone when these things happen?

    Moments before, right before bedtime, something slammed into the side of my foot. Assuming it was my son’s baseball, I looked down to retrieve the runaway. Instead, I found a tail. A long one. Attached to the body of a giant rat.

    Please excuse me while I pause to scream and shake off the shivers …

    Somehow, a live rodent had found its way into our house and now my hysteria had snapped my husband awake.

    After confirming no one had died, Luke told me to get off of the kitchen table and go to bed. Go to bed? Are you serious?

    Ignoring his nonsense, I stayed atop the table and weighed my options.

    Weekend: Yes. Almost midnight: Yes. Rat trap: No. Hmmmm.

    I knew what I had to do. I climbed down, clenched my teeth, grabbed a shoe and approached the room.

    I pushed around toys. Looked under clothes. Scanned the room for any sudden movements …

    But I found nothing

    It seemed as quickly as the intruder had appeared, he’d vanished. With no other option I carefully moved toward the bedroom.

    I poked around on the bed before I slid my toes under the covers. Who knew what might be lurking underneath? As my eyes fell shut I snapped them back open. Did I just see something move?

    An event that took just seconds from start to finish eventually claimed hours, even days of my life. I lived distracted.

    Your pest likely doesn't look quite like my furry house guest. But maybe you've been distracted by the rat of rage, or the critter of comparison, the intruder of insecurity.

    Today's key verse reminds us we have a spiritual enemy that prowls about and confirms his intentions: "Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

    The Bible names this enemy Satan — the enemy of God determined to cause chaos among God’s people — disturbing, disrupting and distracting us. We all have a pest waiting to wreak havoc in our lives. We just need to decide what to about it. The way I see it, we’ve got three options:

    Option 1: Ignore it.

    This is the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” solution. It sort of works, if the pest never appears. Problems arise, however, when he comes out from hiding and into our tidy lives. Enemies often strike when we least expect it, and without a plan we panic.

    Option 2: Avoid it.

    This choice seems to address the problem at hand, but usually creates new problems along the way. For example, while I tried to convince myself my methods were enough, the reality held me hostage. I peeked around corners before I stepped into rooms, and I jumped at the slightest flash of a shadow. My faulty solution trapped me beneath the weight of my own worry.

    Option 3: Prepare for it.

    When we choose to prepare for the threat to our souls, we trade distraction for action, and set our souls free. We set up safeguards that unchain us to pursue God and His plans within the boundaries of His protection. Of all our options, this is the only one offering true peace and freedom.

    After days spent ignoring and avoiding the problem in my house, I changed my tactics. I prepared for my “enemy.” I called a local pest control company and even adopted a rescue cat. As silly as it sounds, each step of preparation for the next encounter calmed my heart.

    I spent less time contemplating where he was and when he might reappear. My fear gave way to freedom, and I no longer lived distracted by the pest. Instead, I grew more invested in the life Jesus spoke of when He said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10b, ESV).

    Dear God, I want to live life more abundantly. Help me stay alert, prepared for the enemy’s future attacks. Point me to Your truth, that I may have an answer for my accuser’s lies, and steady me with Your love as I turn my distraction into action. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 6:13, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When was the last time you felt distracted? What caused it?

    Write down the root of your distraction then ask God to help you make a plan for the next time this pest bumps into you.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • What to Do When You Don’t Feel Very Thankful

    What to Do When You Don’t Feel Very Thankful by Lysa TerKeurst

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    It was one of those days. I drove to the airport in the pouring rain. The skies were gray. The day was gloomy. And honestly, so was I.

    Many of the things entrusted to me in life were beginning to feel more like burdens than blessings.

    There were just a lot of little things swarming my thoughts. Feelings of inadequacy. There are so many things I’m responsible for and never enough hours in the day. I do enough to keep things from sinking. But I just wonder if I’m doing anything well. I don’t think I am … doing anything well.

    The more I focused on these thoughts, the more overpowered I became. The more overpowered I became, the more withdrawn I felt.

    I pulled into the parking space and started the fight with my luggage. My suitcase has two wheels missing, and of course I keep intending to do something about this. But I don’t have time. So I make do with a crazy suitcase and a crazy life and a crazy sense I should just pack my family up and move out west somewhere. Live on a ranch where we grow our own food and I cook beans in a black pot over an open flame.

    Surely that would fix everything.

    Except that I know it wouldn’t.

    Because the chaos isn’t from my circumstances.

    It’s inside me.

    I boarded the plane. I stared out the window. I watched the gray clouds envelop us. And then the gray broke.

    Suddenly, we rose above the clouds and the sun was shining brightly. The sky was fabulously clear.

    The clouds were just a temporary covering. They didn’t stop the sun from shining. They merely prevented my eyes from seeing the sun. And it wasn’t just the sky that appeared a little brighter. My mood did as well.

    I started to shift from feeling overpowered to empowered as I realized three things:

    Just because I feel it doesn’t make it real.

    Just like the clouds prevented my eyes from seeing sun, my gloomy mood had prevented me from seeing the truth. I might feel like I’m not doing anything well, but it doesn’t make it true. The fact that I have weaknesses doesn’t make everything about me weak. I have plenty of strengths.

    All I have to do is ask a couple of my friends or family members to help me see what I do well. I can celebrate those, and then get a plan for bettering things that need improvement. I can start by identifying one thing to improve on this month, and do a little toward making that one thing better.

    There are a lot of people who would trade their best day for my worst day.

    Yes, I have a lot to manage. And yes, sometimes things get a little foggy. But that doesn’t mean I have to stay swallowed up in the gray. That means I need to get my head above the clouds and see all the many places where the sun is shining brightly in my life.

    I can start by making a list of things for which I need to be thankful.

    My mind needs some space to think.

    If I always run at a breakneck pace, I’m eventually going to break. My mind is a powerful tool, capable of seeing things that can be done more efficiently and effectively if I give myself time to think. When is the last time I just sat quietly with a pen and paper and asked the Lord to help me think?

    As 2 Corinthians 12:9 teaches, God’s power “is made perfect in weakness.” When I’m sinking in thoughts of inadequacy, I remember that my ability is not based on what I can do. My ability and strength come from the One who can do all things.

    With the Lord working in me and through my weaknesses, I can feel the transformation from being overpowered to empowered taking place.

    If the clouds have been looming close lately, maybe it’s time to stop. Pause. Lift your eyes to an altitude that can rearrange your attitude.

    Dear Lord, thank You for all You’ve given me. I want to cultivate a thankful heart that relies on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Thessalonians 5:18a, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Keep a notebook or a piece of paper with you all day today. Write down things you are thankful for throughout the day and then look back over your list before you go to bed — thanking God for each and every one.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Knowing Whose You Are Changes Everything

    Knowing Whose You Are Changes Everything by Tim Tebow

    “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 16:8 (NASB)

    I remember that night like it was yesterday.

    I sat numbed, staring at a powered-off TV, replaying a conversation that aired in real life that morning. One that sucker-punched me to the core.

    “We’re letting you go,” said the coaches of the New England Patriots, guys I admired and respected. This wasn’t the first time I’d been cut. It was the third time I was told I couldn’t do what I’d dreamed of doing since I was a little boy — play quarterback.

    That night, I stared into blank space pleading with God, “I thought we had this. I thought You had a plan in mind! What’s the deal?”

    I had no job. No car. No home. And I didn’t have a clue what the future held.

    I’m not saying getting cut multiple times from different NFL football teams is the end of the world or the worst thing that can happen to a person, but it shook my identity quite a bit. And it definitely made me wrestle with doubt about God’s plan and purpose for my life.

    You may or may not relate to football, but I bet there was a time, or two, in your life when you faced a storm that turned your world upside down. Maybe a dream you worked so hard to fulfill flopped. Or your once rock-solid marriage starting crumbling. Or the cancer came back. Or something you were positive God put on your heart to do didn’t quite turn out the way you expected.

    I’ve learned that in these times of disappointment, failure or loss we need to be grounded in our identity in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we cave into cultural or societal pressure and allow the things of this world to define us — like what we look like, what kind of car is parked in our garage, what title we hold at the office, how much money is in our bank account, our marriage, how well our kids are doing, how many followers or likes we have on social media.

    But as Jesus followers, none of these things define us. If they did, each one of us would be left questioning our identity, because let’s be real … the material stuff doesn’t last.

    Looks fade. Financial situations change. Jobs come and go, friends and followers, too.

    So who are we? Maybe the better question is, Whose are we? We are children of God. We were created by Love, in love and for love. And because we belong to Him, we can endure even the toughest of times. This is what our key verse, Psalm 16:8, tells us, “I have set the LORD continually before me; Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

    When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

    We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never, ever let us go.

    When you know Whose you are, it changes everything.

    Dear Jesus, Thank you that You are my Father and I am Your child. Thank You that I am not defined by the world or by others, but by You. Remind me in times of doubt or confusion that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. And that no matter what comes my way, my faith will stand because You will never let me go. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does grounding your identity in Jesus affect the way you handle disappointment?

    © 2016 by Tim Tebow. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Lies Take Your Heart Captive

    When Lies Take Your Heart Captive by Stacey Thacker

    “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (ESV)

    Tolerable. This coffee will have to do today. I knew I was beyond the point of hoping for a better brew as I grabbed the Styrofoam cup and pushed the button on the coffee machine in the hospital waiting room.

    I swirled an unusual amount of creamer and the contents of several tiny yellow packets into my cup and sipped twice before making my way back to my chair.

    My daughter snuggled close as I wrapped one arm around her and held my lukewarm, barely tolerable cup of brown water at a distance. We were waiting, once again, for tests we prayed would give us solid answers. We were also waiting for the sun to come up; I wasn’t sure either was going to happen today.

    My mind ran backward over days and weeks of discovering and managing her chronic illness. The intensity had been relentless. To top it off, I was worn thin from being awake all night and fighting a raging battle in my heart. The conversation went something like this:

    How could you not know she was sick? What can I do to fix it? A good mom would know the answers. What is wrong with you?

    I returned to the present moment when our name was finally called, and soon a group of nurses settled my daughter in pre-op. With a few seconds to breathe, I looked at my phone, which seemed like a safe place to rest my eyes. I was surprised to see multiple messages from friends.

    First I heard Liz’s voice.

    “Stacey, I believe the Lord wants me to tell you right now, ‘You are a good mom.’”

    My hand went to my mouth and I lowered my head in disbelief. How did she know I needed to hear these exact words in this moment? I bit my lip to keep from dissolving into an ugly cry. It worked — barely. She couldn’t have known the enemy was ambushing my heart, working to convince me I should win the award for worst mom of the year.

    Other lies had piled on as well. The accuser lied that my mess was too much for my friends … and too much for Jesus too.

    While a current was pulling me under and away from shore, Liz’s words pulled me out and brought me in just in time. When I stopped to consider what she said, the Lord reminded me that even though I was tempted to hide in the middle of my fresh-out-of-amazing moment and let the enemy take my heart captive, Jesus was not having it. My mess was not too much for Him. He was right there with me the whole time.

    And my friends? They were loving and supporting me as well.

    I may not know what the future holds with my daughter’s chronic illness, but as we continue to make slow progress, I will hold these powerful truths close to my heart.

    “Maybe you can relate on some level.” Do you think your mess is too much for Jesus? Are you wrapped in a bunch of lies about your own inadequacies that weigh you down and wear you out?

    Can I encourage you with this thought? Jesus doesn’t sit across the table from you or me saying the situation is beyond His pay grade. He leans in close, looks into our eyes, and says, “I will not cast you off, sweet girl. Not ever.”

    Jesus is our patient friend. Sometimes He speaks boldly through our sisters in Christ. Other times, He speaks directly to us with truth from His Word. Either way, when you’re tempted to believe one lie, or maybe three, charge back with God’s truth instead.

    Every thought. Every emotion. Every lie. Take them captive to obey Christ. Replace them with truth. When we do, they have no chance.

    Dear God, nothing is impossible for You. Thank You for speaking words of truth over our hearts in the most loving and compassionate way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 147:5, “Our LORD is great. Nothing is impossible with His overwhelming power. He is loving, compassionate, and wise beyond all measure.” (VOICE)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What lies do you believe? How can you charge back with specific truth from God’s Word?

    © 2016 by Stacey Thacker. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest 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

  • When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over

    When the Struggles of Life Knock You Over by Leah DiPascal

    “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” Luke 13:12-13 (NIV)

    She heard His voice but couldn’t see Him clearly. The surrounding crowds had blocked her view.

    Bent over at the waist and unable to stand up straight, she strained to get a good glimpse of Him. Then, unexpectedly, He’d called her forward.

    I imagine her heart was racing as she slowly shuffled her way to the front of the synagogue.

    Why would Jesus single her out of the crowd? Was He going to make a spectacle of her brokenness? Or expose her deepest pain and darkest secrets?

    As the crowds around her murmured, each step toward Jesus felt as if she were lugging the weight of the world behind her.

    For 18 years, her body had been crippled. Eighteen long, exhausting years.

    She certainly had plenty of reasons not to go to the synagogue that Sabbath morning. Why subject herself to the possible harsh stares and hurtful comments? Yet she was there, listening intently to the teachings of Jesus.

    She didn’t say a word. She didn’t try to get His attention. She simply stood in His presence, soaking in the life-giving statements that gave her hope in the midst of her hopeless situation.

    But Jesus saw her. Jesus had compassion for her. Jesus loved and wanted to heal her. And in one swift statement, those 18 long, exhausting years came to a screeching halt.

    “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b).

    With the gentle touch of His hands, warmth flowed through her body, and she suddenly realized she was standing upright. She no longer strained to get a glimpse of Jesus … she now saw Him face to face.

    With a burst of joy, bondage gave way to freedom and she exhaled in worshipful praise and adoration to her Lord. Her healer. Her bondage breaker.

    Scripture doesn’t tell us her name, but I think we all can relate to this woman in one way or another. Maybe you see a small part of her story that rings true in your own life, connecting you though years separate. Could it be:

    • An ailment that physically restricts your body and makes you feel weak?
    • A spiritual battle keeping you in bondage to the enemy?
    • An unwanted flaw that draws painful attention and hurtful comments from others?
    • A heavy heart filled with shattered dreams and stinging emotions?
    • A burden you carry, causing you to shuffle through life feeling alone, unwanted or disposable?

    Whatever has made your life seem long and exhausting, Jesus can repair it by His powerful presence, His comforting words and His healing touch.

    He loves you. He longs to be gracious to you. He rises to show compassion so you can stand upright again.

    Assured. Secure. Enveloped in His comforting embrace.

    You are never lost in the crowd because you have captivated Jesus’ heart. His gaze is always fixed on you.

    He sees your pain. He’s aware of your affliction. He knows your struggles.

    Like the woman in the synagogue, come as you are — with all that makes you feel less than. Draw near to Jesus, soak in His life-giving Word and wait expectantly to hear Him speak freedom over your situation:

    “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12b). Jesus did it for her … and He can do it for you too!

    Lord, I come to You today and lay all my burdens at Your feet. Take the emotional and mental weight I’ve been carrying so that I can stand upright again. Draw near to me. Heal me. Free me. I want to live assured, secure and continuously aware of Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 30:18, “The LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (NIV)

    Psalm 145:14, “The LORD supports all who fall, and lifts up all who are bent over.” (NET)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: I would’ve loved to see Jesus miraculously heal that precious woman in the synagogue on that Sabbath day. It’s beautiful how her very first response was to praise God. How do you express gratitude for all God has done in your life? What are some things you can praise Him for today?

    © 2016 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • 3 Kids Bibles that will Engage Your Child

    Get your little ones engaged in God's Word with a Kids Bible they can understand and encourage them to personalize their faith.

    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14 NIV

    God has a heart for children, and His Word makes it clear that He desires to be in an intimate relationship with them. Teaching your kids about their Lord and Savior is one of your greatest responsibilities as a parent – but it’s also one of your greatest blessings. Encourage your little ones to draw near to their Father with a Kids Bible they can easily understand.

    The Beginner's Bible: Timeless Children's Stories

    The Beginner’s Bible has been a favorite of young children and their parents for decades. The easy-to-read text and bright, full-color illustrations on every page make it the perfect way to introduce young children to the stories of the Bible. With new three-dimensional art and compelling text, more than 90 Bible stories come to life. Kids ages 6 and under will enjoy the fun illustrations of Noah helping the elephant onto the ark, Jonah praying inside the fish and more.

    NLT Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible

    Scripture memorization grounds kids in their faith, equips them for the future and solidifies their relationship with Christ. The NLT Hidden in My Heart Scripture Memory Bible was designed to encourage kids to read God’s Word and hide it deep within their hearts. One hundred of the Bible’s core verses have been set to music by renowned children’s author and songwriter Stephen Elkins. The 100 songs include a variety of genres and are available in the New Living Translation, New International Version and King James Version.

    NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers

    Now available with full-color throughout, the bestselling NIrV Adventure Bible for Early Readers includes the complete New International Reader's Version written for a third grade reading level—for children just beginning to explore the Bible on their own. Kids ages 6-10 will be even more captivated with learning about the Bible and growing closer in their relationship with God. Enjoy 30% Off All Adventure Bibles now through November 17.

    Give your child their very own Bible as a gift or choose a Bible together. Challenge them to read a whole chapter of the Bible, memorize their favorite verse or have them read their new Bible to you.

    How do you encourage your kids to spend time in God’s Word?

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  • Noticing Your Necessary People

    Noticing Your Necessary People by Karen Ehman

    “So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NLT)

    My two small children huddled together, excitedly giggling with glee. It wasn’t Christmas or Easter. It was a different holiday — Mr. Brown Day.

    Let me explain.

    One day, my husband and I encouraged our kids to choose a “necessary person” — someone who helps us get life done each week — and then think of a creative way to thank them. They came up with the same person — Mr. Brown. And the idea? Mr. Brown Day!

    Mr. Brown was our mailman. But he delivered more than just bills and packages. He distributed smiles to those along his route — never too busy to chat with a lonely widow or ask a youngster about his Little League game.

    We took the kids shopping for trinkets for Mr. Brown — a squirt gun for him to use to ward off the neighborhood dogs and a gift certificate to the local Dairy Queen, so he could take Mrs. Brown out for a “fancy dinner.” We baked cookies and poured lemonade. Then, we hid inside our front door and waited with party blowers and confetti.

    “Surprise!” we shouted as we threw open the door. “It’s Mr. Brown, best mailman in town! Today is officially Mr. Brown Day!”

    To say he was surprised would be a gross understatement. He wanted to know what all the ruckus was about. My daughter told him we had been studying in the Bible about not just saying we love people but really showing them. And she and her brother had chosen him! He enjoyed the refreshments, gave each child a hug and then went on his way with an added spring in his step and confetti still in his hair.

    A week later he stood on my porch and said, “I have to tell you, I am still not over Mr. Brown Day.” His voice cracking, he continued, “You know, I have been a mailman on this street for 33 years, and no one has ever done anything like what your family did for me. Sure, people remember me at Christmas. But no one has ever reached out to me on a random Tuesday afternoon to say they appreciate what I do. Thank you for Mr. Brown Day.”

    Noticing the necessary people in our lives isn’t just a hobby. It isn’t just something we engage in so we can snap a picture, upload it on social media and have everyone elect us humanitarian of the year. We don’t do it to boast. Or to get a blessing in return. We show love to the necessary people in our lives because when we do, we acknowledge the fact that all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

    Every day and every week, our lives naturally intersect with many people, all of whom bear God’s image. When we look beyond ourselves — and beyond the flaws and quirks of others — we see God. We have an opportunity not only to greet these necessary people face-to-face, but to witness God’s very image in them.

    Each person in their roles demonstrates some aspect of God’s character and His care for us. Our hairstylist can note the very hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30)! Our carpet cleaner makes our carpet as white as snow (Psalm 51:7). (Well, except for that one pesky grape juice stain!) Our medical professionals help us live, breathe and have our being (Acts 17:28). Yes, everywhere we look we see reflections of God’s creative genius and His loving care in the people who serve us.

    Our lives can take on new meaning and be an exciting adventure if we stop to notice these necessary people. As we recognize them as image-bearers of God Himself, we will be more cognizant not only to thank them for their service, but to do something to encourage them as well.

    Which “necessary person” will you bless today? I hear there’s a great sale on confetti this week.

    Father, thank You for the people You have placed in my life that serve me faithfully each week. When I see these image-bearers, may I also see You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Survey your life for a moment. Who are the necessary people in your life? Take time this week to thank at least one of them with a kind word, small gesture or even your own confetti shower of love.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Girl Called Loser

    The Girl Called Loser by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” Hebrews 3:1 (NIV)

    The year was 1982. I was in the 7th grade.

    With frizzy brown hair and bucked teeth, I walked down the pea-green hallway of my middle school. It was the day after student council elections.

    The day after my classmates confirmed what I’d so desperately feared: If you didn’t have beauty and a boyfriend, no one would vote for you.

    I shuffled toward my locker, wishing I were invisible. I kept my eyes down while I willed my feet to just keep walking. Finally, my locker was in sight. That glorious metal box was where I could sort of escape this world of critical girls with cute outfits and spiral-permed hair. I could hide my face, let the tears slip and pretend to be busy shuffling books.

    But instead of finding respite in that tiny metal space, I found one of my election posters plastered to the front, with the word “loser” scrawled across the top. How do you quickly hide a poster-sized proclamation by the world that you aren’t good enough, cool enough, pretty enough or accepted enough?

    Books dropping, girls laughing, tape ripping and poster crunching were the sounds throbbing in my ears as the poster board resisted my attempts to ball it up small enough to fit into the mouth of the hallway trashcan.

    “Please fit, please fit, please fit! Oh God, please help this stupid poster from this stupid election with my stupid face on it disappear into this stupid trashcan!”

    The bell rang. And as all the “normal” people scampered past me, I heard Stephanie’s voice like a dagger’s death blow whisper, “Loser.”

    I turned and saw my one confidant. My one friend. My one secret-holder, being welcomed into the popular girl’s circle. Her public rejection of me was her ticket in to the crowd we’d secretly loathed together. Together.

    I sank beside the trashcan where the poster slowly untwisted on the ground in front of me. Loser.

    I remembered this one night recently as I sat in front of a group of young high school students. Girls who vulnerably shared how hard peer relationships can be. They described tangled relationships and feelings of loneliness so consuming they sometimes wished the world would open up and swallow them whole.

    I understood their feelings all too well. I have known the sting of loneliness. I knew it in the flat-chested stage of middle school. And even now, as it continues into the sagging-chested stage of adulthood. Relationships can be hard no matter what your age.

    And here’s the real kicker.

    I always thought my ticket to acceptance would have come had I won that school election. Not so. For I’ve discovered on the other side of achievements, if you were lonely before you win, you’ll be lonely after you win. No amount of outward success can give you inward acceptance.

    I’ve only been able to find that in the comfort of Jesus.

    One quick glance at our key verse confirms that Jesus is exactly the One we need to look to — “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest,” Hebrews 3:1.

    Thoughts fixed on, heart filled with, life defined by Jesus.

    Jesus.

    The One who will never reject us. The One who knows what it feels like to be rejected — though He should have been the most accepted. The One who will sit with us and remind us rejection from man doesn’t equal rejection from God. The One who whispers to each of us, “The voices of shame and rejection can come at you, but they don’t have to reside in you.”

    I wish I could go back and preach this truth to my 7th-grade self, but since I can’t, I’ll preach it to my grown-up heart. And to yours too. We are loved. And no person’s rejection can ever take that love away from us.

    Father God, thank You for the reminder I don’t have to let the labels from others stick to me. You say I am loved. You say I am chosen. You say I’m forever Yours. And Yours is the voice I’m choosing to believe. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 53:3a, “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Ask God to show you any labels you’ve allowed to define you from your past that need to come off today. Then let the words HE wants to declare over you — words like loved, chosen, beautiful — sink in deep.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Still Learning How to Be Still

    Still Learning How to Be Still by Liz Curtis Higgs

    “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’” Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

    Here’s the truth: The word still — as in “don’t move” — is not in my vocabulary. Stand still? Sit still? Lie still? Nope. I shift from foot to foot or wriggle in my chair or flip back and forth in bed every two minutes, searching for a more comfortable position.

    So when God says, “Be still,” I know I’m in trouble. The words may sound soothing, but in Scripture they’re a gentle but firm reproof. “Calm down” (CEV), He says. “That’s enough!” (CEB). At the time these words were written, God was speaking very pointedly to His battle-prone people. “Stop fighting” (ERV), He told them, “cease striving” (NASB) and “desist” (YLT).

    Okay, then.

    It’s clear that in our own daily battles we’re to lay down our weapons and trust God for the victory, believing it will come in His perfect timing and according to His flawless plan. In the meantime, He tells us to rest in Him and “let go of your concerns!” (GW)

    We nod in agreement even as we hang on to those concerns with both hands. If we don’t fret over our children’s future, who will? If we don’t worry about our parents’ health, who will? If we don’t agonize over life’s disappointments, big and small, who will?

    He will. That’s what God wants us to understand.

    Only when we stop moving and stop striving can we recognize the truth about God: He is in control.

    No matter how crazy our world gets — and it’s definitely getting crazier by the minute — God is still in His heaven, and His good and perfect will is certain to prevail.

    When our verse continues, “know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a), He’s reminding us who He is and what He can do. The creator of all things — including all humanity — knows how to calm our hearts, ease our minds and guide our lives in the right direction.

    In the meantime, our calling is simple. Be still. Believe. Be ready.

    One autumn morning my husband and I breezed along a country road, taking my new car for a spin. It was a beautiful Thursday, not a cloud in the sky, not a troublesome thought on our minds.

    Without warning, a car coming from the opposite direction swerved into our lane and headed straight for us. Several cars were in front of him, so he couldn’t get back in line. The road had no shoulder, no passing lane and no obvious way we could escape a head-on collision.

    Three words pounded in my heart. Be still. Know.

    With only a split second to act, I dove into the grassy embankment and steered around a telephone pole, a large electrical transformer, an enormous tree and one very long white fence.

    When I finally braked to a stop without hitting any of the above, I was amazingly calm. No tears, no trauma, no trembling hands.

    Another car that had also been forced off the road pulled up behind us. “Are you okay?” the anxious driver wanted to know.

    “Fine,” we both assured her, blinking at each other in astonishment. We were fine. So was our car. Clearly, the Lord had spared us. While I was being still, He was steering.

    Does this mean in our day-to-day lives we should take our hands off the wheel, kick back, take a nap, trust God? Not quite. Our hands must stay on the wheel, at the computer, in the laundry basket. Wherever our day finds us, we need to be fully engaged.

    But when worries come, we can lift them up to God. When adversaries appear, we can let God handle them. For God to change how we live, He first must change how we think. Step one? Be still.

    Lord, help us be still and not strive, to stand in place without pacing in circles. Help us sit calmly and wait for the promised victory that is in Your able hands. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Some of us may find it easier to force our bodies to be still rather than to corral our scattered thoughts or bring our stubborn wills into submission.

    Think about when, where and how you might be still before the Lord today for just five minutes. (It’s longer than it sounds!) What did you discover about yourself? About God? About the value of taking time to be still? © 2016 by Liz Curtis Higgs. Adapted from 31 Verses to Write on Your Heart. Published by WaterBrook. All rights reserved.

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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