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Family Christian

  • Finding Faith in the Fog

    danya jordan MAY 19, 2015

    Finding Faith in the Fog Danya M. Jordan

    "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

    Reality snapped me to attention. Just two hours before, I had left an encouraging Christian conference, full of hope, full of the love of Jesus, full of direction for my life, full of courage to get it done.

    Or so I thought.

    The upbeat praise and worship music streamed from the car speakers into my heart as I loudly sang the words. Suddenly, though, my singing stopped.

    My fingers white-knuckled the steering wheel as I rounded a corner of the mountain road, right into a dense fog. The fog was so thick it shielded the landscape like a thick blanket.

    I had driven this familiar stretch of road a hundred times before. I knew it by heart. But at that moment, my heart was panicky.

    My eyes strained to see past the hood of the car. I knew they were there, but I couldn’t see the white lines on the two-lane road. All I could do was cry out to God.

    "Lord, I am scared. Please guide me. You are the same God on the sunny, clear, mountaintop days, when I can see for miles, as You are right now. I see nothing. Please show me the way. I am doubting everything I know to be true."

    As my car inched along, I reflected on the uplifting conference where I had been for the last three days. God called me there to clearly trust Him and serve Him. I knew that full well, just as I know my name.

    But minutes later, I was doubting God. I was so scared, but I had to keep driving. All I could do was repeat a desperate prayer: "Lord, help me. Lord, help me. Help me keep going. Lord, help me."

    About an hour later, I exited off the twisting, mountainous road and into the driveway of my destination. I exhaled. I don’t know if I had fully breathed since I hit the fog.

    My hands still shook as I reached in the dark for my car door handle. I deeply inhaled that foggy mountain air and made my way to the front door. Once inside the house, I fell to my knees in thanksgiving for the miracle God had just brought me through. It was only then that I realized I had just lived a message: Foggy nights produce deeper faith.

    Since then, I have hit other "patches of fog" in my faith journey. Usually the doubt comes soon after a deeply meaningful time when I feel God’s presence and see clearly His purpose for me. It is then that my faith is tested.

    Our key verse reminds us that true faith is finding certainty in uncertain territory. "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1).

    This chapter, Hebrews 11, is often referred to as the Bible’s "Hall of Faith." I love reading all the different examples of extraordinary faith, from Abel and Abraham to Rahab the prostitute. Each "Hall of Faith Honoree" demonstrated faith in the foggy times of life.

    God is with you, whatever circumstances you find yourself in today, whether you’ve just celebrated an uplifting, mountaintop experience or groped blindly through the foggiest night of your life. Know the same God on the sunny, clear day is the same God in the foggy night.

    May we be encouraged to find and strengthen our faith in the fog and in the SON.

    Lord Jesus, You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Thank You for the sweet times when I can feel Your presence so easily and know Your purpose for me. Forgive me for doubting You in the foggy times. Thank You for testing my faith and refining me. Please help guide my every step. Help me do what You call me to do, even when I’m scared of the darkest hours and the foggy circumstances of my life. I am Yours. You are mine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 7:11, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights." (NIV)

    Matthew 15:28, "Then Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.’ And her daughter was healed at that moment." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’ve ever wondered where to take the next step, you’ll appreciate Lysa TerKeurst’s book, What Happens When Women Walk in Faith. Get your copy today.

    For more inspiration about this topic, stop by Danya Jordan’s blog today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When have you felt God’s presence clearly, like a mountaintop experience?

    What foggy night circumstances have you experienced lately? Stay close to God, and trust that He is with you through it all.

    © 2015 by Danya Jordan. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Cure for Morning Madness

    Wendy Pope MAY 18, 2015

    The Cure for Morning Madness WENDY POPE

    "When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests." Deuteronomy 17:18 (NLT)

    It was one of those mornings when God’s work in my heart and life was not very evident to those I love. Somehow, our morning routine had been knocked off schedule.

    My response? To fuss at everyone.

    My mood plummeted from bad to worse. After searching frantically for missing shoes, throwing book bags and lunches in the car, feverishly buckling children in car seats and slamming every door I could get my hands on, I zoomed off down the road.

    Once settled and on our way, my anger turned to remorse. How had I lost so much patience, love and trust so quickly? As conviction filled my spirit, prayer filled my lips. I’d missed a few days of my usual morning time reading Scripture, and it showed in my actions. My soul craved the Word of God to renew, refine and redirect me.

    For thousands of years, people have needed God’s Word to help guide them. In today’s key verse, we read some of the directives given to the kings of Israel. God knew any leader for His people would need His instructions. That’s why the Lord told them, "When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests" (Deuteronomy 17:18). It goes on to say: "He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives" (Deuteronomy 17:19a, NLT).

    Surely if the kings of Israel needed to keep a copy of God’s Word near them to read daily, we do too! God’s Word teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains in righteousness and equips (2 Timothy 3:16-17). So on mornings when we’re in the midst of frenzied fussing, it helps tame our tempers and settle our souls.

    That morning, through tears, I glanced over to the passenger side seat for my Bible that I always kept there. I’d hoped to read it in the school parking lot once my kids were dropped off. Much to my dismay, I’d forgotten to grab it during the morning madness. My soul deflated fully. I needed God’s Word.

    I decided to make it a point to never again to be without a copy of the Bible nearby. Just as it was necessary for the kings to have a copy of the Book of Instruction beside them, it’s necessary for you and me to have the Bible near to guard and guide us throughout the day.

    I’ve also learned it really isn’t enough to have my Bible nearby. I need to get into it, study it and really connect it with my life.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we know the difference God’s Word makes. And we want to help you dig in deeper with our free First 5 mobile app, launching this summer. With God’s vision and your help, Proverbs 31 Ministries is striving to eradicate Biblical poverty. And we want to start by developing this First 5 app to:

    • Bring life and truth to the First 5 minutes of every day.
    • Provide a healthier alternative to hopping on social media with the first moments of our day.
    • Give us the opportunity to share hope with the people in our lives who struggle with putting God’s Word first.

    We are praying that people whose hearts are burdened like ours will join us as we bring the Word of God to women across the globe. We need your help. Join us today.

    Dear Lord, I ask You today to give me a hunger for Your Word and an urgency to apply its truths to my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." (ESV)

    Psalm 119:16, "I delight in Your decrees, I will not neglect Your word." (NIV)

    Deuteronomy 17:19-20a, "He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: You can help us by giving 5 to the "First 5." Give $5, $50, $500, $5,000. Your gift is needed! Make YOUR 5 really count! Join us today.

    Visit Wendy Pope’s blog to learn how to develop a love for God’s Word.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When is the last time you opened your Bible to read it as an act of obedience and worship to the Lord?

    There are many ways to be in Scripture every day. Listening to an audio version, using an app on your smartphone or tablet, and of course, reading a printed copy! How will you get into God’s Word today?

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • The One Thing We Can All Have in Common

    Tracie Miles MAY 15, 2015

    The One Thing We Can All Have in Common TRACIE MILES

    "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." Romans 8:28 (NIV)

    As I read her email, my heart felt heavy. She had endured so much pain in her life, none of which she deserved or caused.

    Then I read another email. And this person’s story was completely different, yet the pain and heartache of her life seemed unfair, too, and more than one person should have to endure. Then another email. Then another.

    Countless emails sat in my inbox — each one saturated with intense emotion and vulnerable honesty. All sharing a different experience and a different level of hurt, shame or regret.

    One had been physically abused. One was betrayed. One battled addiction. One divorced. One had been sexually abused. One struggled with fear and anxiety. One had chosen abortion. One had been unfaithful. One had a serious disability.

    The list was long, and every one of these women had something in her past that once made her feel insignificant, void of value and unlovable to God. Yet, despite their different experiences, all these women had one amazing thing in common, which stood out loud and clear.

    You see, each one had allowed God to transform her pain into purpose, and as a result, their lives now shine as a living testament to the power of a Holy God. Each one had watched God turn something difficult into something that would glorify Him.

    Romans 8:1-2 says, "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" (NIV). This verse reminds us that no matter what has happened in our lives, or what we have or have not done, God loves and values us unconditionally.

    Later in that same chapter, in today’s key verse, we read God not only loves us, but has a plan and a purpose for our lives — not despite our past, but because of it.

    Paul experienced pain and suffering through various forms of persecution: imprisonment, beatings and rejection. He spoke from the wisdom of his own experiences and exemplified the transforming power of God’s ability to turn any mess into a message.

    Paul encouraged believers to embrace God’s promise that He can use all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, not only for God’s good, but also our own.

    Regardless of how difficult our pasts are, as children of God we have a commonality in Christ Jesus our Savior: God will use for good what the devil intended for evil. When we allow God to use our pain for a purpose that glorifies Him and ministers to others, we enjoy the blessing of spiritual healing and transformation like never before.

    No matter how different our prior experiences, we can still have one precious thing in common. We can each choose to live as proof of the power of Jesus to change a life. All things truly can be used for the good of those called by Him.

    Lord, I’ve always felt I couldn’t be fully loved or forgiven because of my past and that maybe You had no purpose for me. Help me embrace the promise of Romans 8:28 — of Your love and plans for my life. Help me discover the amazing purpose You’ve ordained just for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Genesis 50:20, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (NLT)

    Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Ever wondered about your value to God, and if God could really use you for a divine purpose? Get your copy of Your Life Still Counts by Tracie Miles and embark on a journey of healing, life transformation and the discovery of purpose.

    To help you remember Romans 8:1 every morning and how precious you are to God, Tracie is giving away two Your Life Still Counts Keepsake Coffee Mugs to enjoy your favorite beverage during your quiet time or prayer time. Visit her blog for a picture of the mugs and find out how to enter to win!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What has happened in your life that made you feel unworthy of God’s love? Surrender those things to God and pray for a new perspective, peace and purpose.

    How has God used a difficult experience in your past to equip you to minister, help or comfort others in a special way?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • Praying for My Marriage

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 14, 2015

    Praying for My Marriage LYSA TERKEURST

    "The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth." Psalm 145:18 (NIV)

    I was cleaning my kitchen counter the other day and brushed past a framed snapshot taken on my wedding day. Someone caught that moment we were driving away, waving to all our wedding guests.

    I stared at the photo taken 22 years ago. I laughed at how big my hair was. I sighed at how much smaller my waist was. And I wished I could pull that young bride aside and give her some advice and perspective that would certainly have benefitted me.

    I would have whispered …

    "Sweetheart, there is only one day where marriage naturally looks like the storybooks. It’s this day. This day, your wedding day, is where every hour has been arranged and planned to be beautiful and special. And as you wave goodbye to this one day, realize what happens from here is all about choices.

    "Choose to understand that love isn’t always a feeling. Many days love will be a choice. It’s a choice to press through and learn to enjoy the fragile blend of both the bliss and disappointments of two people learning to become a family.

    "Being married is amazing. Being married is incredibly difficult. Being married can seem impossibly hard. Being married can seem incredibly beautiful. There is no other person who can frustrate me the way my husband can. There is no other person who can make me feel as loved as my husband can.

    "Yes, marriage is a fragile blend of all this and more.

    "Remember to keep little things little through the power of prayer, humility and the discernment to know how and when to address them. Watch these kinds of disillusioning thoughts and capture them before they take root:

    "He didn’t load the dishwasher even after I asked him to. He doesn’t listen to me.

    "He just handed me a brochure about the new gym opening down the street. I’m never good enough for him.

    "He took a phone call while we’re on date night. He doesn’t love me enough to give me his full attention.

    "Yes, the unraveling places of relationships often occur in these kinds of spots with these kinds of thoughts. Little discouragements can grow into big wedges of discontentment.

    "And most of all, remember to pray your marriage through. Don’t fall into the trap of just thinking about your differences, discussing your issues, complaining about your challenges and attempting to fix these things on your own.

    "Thinking, talking, complaining and working on those things is not at all the same as praying for them."

    And then I would end this sermonette to my young bride self with the best advice of all: "Remember, the more you do battle for your marriage on your knees, the less you will fight in the flesh."

    And as I finished imagining this conversation I would have so loved to have, I felt challenged that even 22 years later, I needed a fresh dose of applying my own advice.

    I still need to bring every concern I have and blessing I desire for our marriage to the Lord in prayer.

    Dear Lord, You have called me to this great honor of being a wife, but I can’t do this without You. I don’t want to do this without You. Help us to put You at the center of our marriage every day, so we may glorify You through our relationship. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Jeremiah 29:12, "Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Be equipped to start declaring powerful words over your husband and your marriage with "Praying Boldly for Your Marriage: A 5-Day Challenge." Click here to sign up for free!

    For more Biblical encouragement, connect with Lysa on Instagram, @LysaTerKeurst.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Commit to praying these Scriptures over your marriage each day this week:

    • "He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters … You, LORD, are my lamp; the LORD turns my darkness into light" (2 Samuel 22:17, 29, NIV).
    • "Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:6, NIV).
    • "What then shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31, NIV).
    • "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).
    • "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful" (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Stop Being a Debt Collector

    T. Suzanne Eller MAY 13, 2015

    When You Stop Being a Debt Collector SUZIE ELLER

    "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’" Matthew 5:38 (NLT)

    Years ago, if you were to ask me if I was an "eye-for-an-eye" kind of girl, I’d say no. But in reality, I was. And, I hadn’t allowed God to heal my heart because I was waiting.

    I was waiting for an apology for wrongs done.

    I was waiting for someone to change before I took the plunge myself.

    I was waiting for an acknowledgement that I didn’t deserve what happened.

    My first year of college, I was fully on my own. A small scholarship paid for tuition. I worked two jobs — one in the evenings during the week and another on the weekends, to pay room and board. I was frustrated that it seemed so much easier for everyone else. Some students didn’t have to worry about how much textbooks cost. Their parents put gas in their cars and a few extra dollars in their bank accounts.

    It seemed so unfair, while I dragged myself to classes on Mondays, exhausted from working two night shifts and constantly worried whether there’d be enough left in my wallet to pay the next round of bills.

    I let resentment pile up.

    It was stacked on top of the other resentments I had tucked away in my heart from childhood.

    I carried that growing pile of resentment with me when I left college and married. I didn’t want to feel that way, so I often pushed it down. I prayed. I tried to do things differently with my own children.

    But when things got hard, I’d look back and point to my past.

    If only they’d done something different.

    If only things had been easier.

    It was my eye-for-an-eye barter system.

    Though I sensed God leading me to let go of this debt, I couldn’t quite release it. When, and if, the wrongdoing was paid for in full, then I’d be OK to move on. But that left me holding tightly to anger, pain and insecurity — and going nowhere in the healing process.

    In today’s verse, Jesus contested this view of payback. In Matthew 5:38, He said: "You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’"

    I had heard that too.

    I’d heard when someone hurts you, forgiving her without any change on her part was a weakness.

    I’d heard that when you didn’t get what you thought you deserved, you should dig in your heels until you did.

    Yet Jesus’ words empowered believers, like me, to think differently. An eye-for-an-eye might just leave the offender and the offended both without an eye. And God has something for us to see beyond the hurt.

    In Romans 12:19a, Paul says, "Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God …" (NLT).

    My anger back then was far from righteous. It was deeply ingrained and surprisingly hidden, but it surfaced in my thoughts. It conflicted with my ability to trust.

    It even affected those who were innocent of wrongdoing, because my eye-for-an-eye mentality was hypersensitive to potential wrongdoing. It left little room for grace, even for those who loved me well.

    In order to mend my heart, I had to exchange payback for paid-in-full.

    Giving up my eye-for-an-eye mindset felt unnatural at first. But then, all the debts that kept this God-girl trapped began to fall away, and that left room for God to take up residence in the wounds of my past.

    I stopped waiting for an apology.

    I stopped waiting for others to change.

    I stopped waiting for an acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

    I stopped recounting the wrongs.

    And I started living. Finally God released me from the debt collection business so I could just be me.

    Lord, I willingly walk away from a life dedicated to collecting the debts of others. You paid in full the price to mend my heart, and I receive that healing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:21, "Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Join our next Online Bible Study of The Mended Heart by Suzie Eller launching June 22. Click here for more information.

    If you’re looking to shift from the desire to change to the ability to change through Christ, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places, might be helpful for you.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Consider how much energy you devote on a daily basis to thinking about people who have caused you pain.

    What might happen if that space was available to receive what God has for you today?

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • Which Truth Sets Us Free?

    Glynnis Whitwer MAY 12, 2015

    Which Truth Sets Us Free? GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’" John 8:31b-32 (NIV)

    I lay awake, eyes staring at the ceiling, mind racing with fearful thoughts. "What if" questions consumed every last remnant of the fragile peace I’d managed to scrounge together during the daylight hours. In the dark, fear unpacked its bags and took up residence. Not just one day, but it went on for weeks.

    I didn’t tell anyone how afraid I was. It was embarrassing. After all, others saw me as a leader … a strong Christian. What if they knew fear over the results of a pending medical test had me sleepless? Fearful to the point of actual trembling? Sick to the point of not eating?

    My pride kept me silent, a prisoner to the fear.

    Night after night the fear kept me wide-eyed. And day after day, I silently suffered while waiting for the doctor’s call.

    After several weeks of this misery, I stumbled upon a Bible verse. I wasn’t looking for help; I just happened to find it. But something in the words spoke deep to my spirit. It was James 5:16: "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (NIV).

    It was one of those instances where I sensed God trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t figure it out. Kind of like when you have a word on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t pull it from memory. I wanted healing, but what was the sin? Surely fear for my health wasn’t sinful, I thought. So what was God trying to tell me?

    Then I had a dream.

    In the dream, I found myself in a storm-ravaged house, looking out a broken wall at another storm coming. I got down on my hands and knees and crawled through a cage tunnel to escape. The tunnel led to the safety of someone else’s house.

    Immediately I understood James 5:16.

    The broken-down house was my heart. The storm was the fear battering my heart. To escape the fear, I had to humble myself before others, and fully confess my pride (that was the sin) and the depth of my fear.

    So I started dialing and through sobs, confessed it all to a handful of people, asking for their prayers. With each confession, fear lost its grip.

    My friends’ prayers spoke truth to the lies Satan had planted in my mind. Their confidence in God’s power helped restore my weakened faith. Their love reminded me I wasn’t alone and still wouldn’t be if the worst happened.

    Before the doctor’s call ever came, I was healed from the fear. God’s truth battered down my prison door.

    Years before, I’d heard my pastor teach on today’s key verse in John 8:32, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." My pastor said the only truth that can set us free is the truth we know.

    My experience with James 5:16 proved this true. If I hadn’t read that verse and applied it to my life, fear would have had its way with me. The truth of God’s Word made an immediate difference in my heart.

    Here’s the problem: If we don’t know the truth in the Bible, how can it make a difference in our lives?

    If my Bible sits on my shelf, pages closed, dust gathering, it’s like a caged lion. But when I open it up and read it, soaking in its truth, it unleashes God’s power in my life.

    Mighty, life-changing, heart-restoring, healing truth saturates every page of God’s Word! It has the power to set us free from fear, anger, loneliness, pride, betrayal — just as Jesus promised it would.

    The doctor’s call came, and the results were negative. Was it the powerful and effective prayers of my friends? Maybe. But I know for sure I experienced the power of God’s truth in a way I’d never known before. And I’m hungry to experience it again.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for generously sharing Your truth in Your Word. Forgive me for ever reading it like it’s a history lesson. Help me see its power to set me free and change my life today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 1:17, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (NIV)

    2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth."(NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you wish you knew more of the Bible? You’re not alone. Most of us feel like it’s overwhelming and don’t know where to start.

    At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we understand. We know it can feel intimidating to approach God’s Word. That’s why we’re developing a mobile app to help you read and understand God’s Word in a life-changing way.

    It’s called "First 5," which we’ve designed to help women around the world give the first 5 minutes of each day to God’s Word in an easy-to-understand way. Imagine the freedom that will happen when women read and apply God’s truth!

    Will you be a part of bringing God’s truth and freedom to women everywhere? Click here to support this crucial project.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what areas of your life would you like to experience God’s freedom?

    Use a concordance (which is a book listing Bible verses by topic) or an online Bible website to find verses on God’s truth about these things.

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Embracing the Inconvenient

    Leslie Ludy MAY 11, 2015

    Embracing the Inconvenient Leslie Ludy

    "Whatever you did for one of the least of these … you did for me." Matthew 25:40b (NIV)

    I will never forget the day my son Hudson learned what an orphan was. A close family friend had just returned from Haiti where she visited an orphanage and had taken heartbreaking photos of destitute children in desperate need of loving homes.

    As a wide-eyed 3-year-old, Hudson stared at the pictures and asked, "Who dose kids? Why dey sad?"

    I explained that the children in the photos were orphans, children without a mommy or daddy. As Hudson pondered this, his heart was gripped with compassion. He suggested we go to Haiti and bring home 20 orphans to live with us.

    I smiled at his childish enthusiasm and then informed him I didn’t think we’d have room in our house for 20 more children. A few days later, Hudson led me upstairs to see several "orphan beds" he’d created. Each bed consisted of a blanket, a pillow and one of his favorite stuffed animals.

    There were two orphan beds in Mommy and Daddy’s room, two in his sister’s room, and five in Hudson’s bedroom. (He’d taken the greatest burden of caring for these orphans upon himself!)

    "See?" he exclaimed. "We do have room!"

    I was speechless.

    God was using my 3-year-old to remind me of His simple solution for the orphaned, the destitute and the starving: sacrificially sharing what we have with those in need.

    That day, God challenged my heart with some poignant questions: Was I willing to serve the weak, even if it required personal sacrifice? If Hudson was willing to share his mommy, daddy, bedroom and favorite stuffed animals with children in need — then what was I willing to share?

    Those questions changed the course of my life. While we didn’t bring home 20 orphans, God has led us to adopt four children in need of a loving home. The journey has not been easy, but through it we have seen God’s amazing faithfulness.

    In our noisy, busy world, it’s easy to become consumed with self-focused pursuits and remain indifferent toward the needs of the lost and dying around us. I have been guilty of this attitude many times.

    Whenever I’m struggling with a self-focused mindset, I’m reminded of a sobering story I once heard about the Jewish Holocaust.

    In the story, a German church sat next to the railroad tracks where cars of Jews rattled by the church, on their way to the concentration camps. The prisoners would scream as loudly as they could, begging the churchgoers to help. But the Christians didn’t want to get involved. Instead, as the cars rolled past, they sang their hymns loudly to drown out the cries of the suffering.

    Astounding, isn’t it?

    Still today, there are cries of anguish resounding all over the world — from the starving child to the persecuted Christian. Yet how often do we drown them out with entertainment, busyness, materialism or selfish ambitions? God asks each of us to turn down the noise in our lives and learn to love and give the way He does, embracing the inconvenient and holding nothing back.

    Naturally, this will look different for each of us.

    Some of us might be called to minister to the homeless, others to adopt, others to fight for the unborn, others to help orphans, others to encourage the persecuted — and countless other possibilities.

    Cultivating a sacrificial lifestyle often starts with one simple step, such as ministering to someone in our community. I encourage you to let God stretch you beyond what is comfortable and easy. He will open your eyes to the ways in which He desires you to become His hands and feet to those in need.

    Throughout history, the Christians who’ve made the most impact for God’s kingdom rarely lived comfortable or convenient lives. Their mighty acts for God required enormous personal sacrifice and a willingness to venture far beyond the realm of the easy and convenient. If today’s Christians are too busy, who will take up the torch of Gospel-centered rescue work in this generation?

    Lord, help me learn to look past myself and see the needs of others. Teach me to love others the way You love them, sacrificially. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 20:21, "So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’" (NKJV)

    James 2:26, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." (NKJV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Have you ever felt an ache for something more in your Christian walk? Do you long to leave apathy behind and pursue passionate devotion to the one true King? Then you’ll want to get a copy of The Set Apart Woman — God’s Invitation to Sacred Living, by Leslie Ludy.

    Enter to WIN a copy of The Set-Apart Woman by Leslie Ludy. In celebration of this book, Leslie’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, May 18.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do this week to show God’s sacrificial love to someone in need?

    © 2015 by Leslie Ludy. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

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

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

  • Loving the Other Mother

    Liz Curtis Higgs MAY 8, 2015

    Loving the Other Mother LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)

    The truth? I am not what my mother-in-law prayed for. She would have been happy with Mary or Martha as a wife for her godly son. Instead, she got Rahab. That is to say, a former bad girl, slightly tattered around the edges, continually grateful for God’s grace.

    Because I lost my own mother to emphysema in my twenties, the idea of getting to know my husband’s mother was both thrilling and intimidating. Given time, I hoped we might become mother-daughter close. But as each year went by, I became less certain of my place in her heart.

    Did Mary Lee Higgs love me for making her son happy and giving her two brilliant grandchildren? Yes, absolutely.

    But did she like me as a person? Approve of me as a daughter-in-law? I wasn’t entirely sure, and so I emotionally held her at arm’s length, guarding my still-tender heart.

    Yes, I did all the right things, especially on Mother’s Day — greeting cards, fresh flowers, dinners out, nice gifts. But I wasn’t fully invested in her happiness the other 364 days of the year, in part because I had no idea what might please her most.

    Then I became a mother-in-law. Oh.

    I quickly began making amends with Mary Lee, finally understanding the one thing she needed from me — unconditional love, expressed in as many ways as possible. Because of God’s kindness (and her patience), our last five years together were sweeter than all the years that came before them combined.

    If you have a mother-in-law, it’s never too late to strengthen or rebuild your one-of-a-kind relationship. Which of these practical ideas might work best for you?

    Praise her good points. Just as you may wonder if she likes you, your mother-in-law may think you don’t like her. So, "Honor her for all that her hands have done … " (Proverbs 31:31a, NIV), praise her every chance you get and help put her unspoken fears to rest.

    Brag about her son. At any age, mothers long to know they did a good job. Sincerely compliment your husband’s fine character or commendable actions, then watch his mother light up, just as God’s Word says: " … may she who gave you birth be joyful!" (Proverbs 23:25b, NIV).

    Forget the MIL jokes. Humorists have milked the stereotype of the overbearing mother-in-law for ages. Even if it’s funny, such humor hurts rather than heals. Look for laughs elsewhere and hold her in high regard. "Give to everyone what you owe them … if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7, NIV).

    Request a favorite recipe. Gourmet or everyday, her home-cooked meals fed your growing husband. Find out his favorite dish and ask his mother to share the recipe. Like you, "… she provides food for her family …" (Proverbs 31:15b, NIV), and might be tickled for one of her dishes to become your favorite.

    Be all in. In Scripture, Ruth’s pledge to stick faithfully by her mother-in-law Naomi, whatever their future might hold, sets a high bar for us all: "… Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay" (Ruth 1:16b, NIV). If necessity required it, could you welcome your mother-in-law into your home? Or willingly live under her roof? Does she know that?

    Give thanks. Show your gratitude for the woman who raised the man you love. She wasn’t a perfect mother, but she was his mother. Still is. Always will be. Even after she’s gone, honor her memory and be grateful for everything she did and was. "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

    As relationships go, this one can be complicated, which means it also has the potential to go deep and wide. Open your heart, my friend. Let her in.

    Father God, our earthly relationships give us the chance to mirror our heavenly relationship with You. No matter where things stand with our mothers-in-law right now, help us be more loving, more grace-giving, and more kind in the days ahead. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)

    Leviticus 19:32a, "Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God …" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Want a splash of encouragement to start your day — or the perfect gift for your mother or mother-in-law this May? Liz Curtis Higgs’ Rise and Shine offers engaging stories, upbeat advice and heartfelt prayers to brighten your morning.

    All this spring, Liz is exploring why "He Is Worthy of Our Praise" on her weekly blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: One of the last things my mother-in-law Mary Lee said before she stepped into the arms of her Savior was, "Family is a good investment." Yes, it is, Mom.

    Of the six steps above, which one will you invest in today?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Moms: Let's Make This Pledge

    Lysa TerKeurst MAY 7, 2015

    Moms: Let's Make This Pledge LYSA TERKEURST

    "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness." Hebrews 3:13 (NIV)

    I really want to be a great mom. I want to raise kids who love the Lord, are respectful, kind, smart and all the other things we want for our kids.

    So, I pray. I read parenting books. I teach manners, kiss the skinned knees and help my teen process her first broken heart. I plan the family dinners, the date nights, the vacations. I keep track of who needs what and when. I set the appointments and the discipline parameters and the alarm clock so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.

    And through every minute, I am hyper aware of my frailties and faults.

    My heart wants to be incredibly patient and organized and excited about reading books out loud.

    But then I get tired. And over-extended. And suddenly my day finds me getting snappy, losing track of all those papers sent home from school and skipping pages to hurry to the end of the book that started off with such promise.

    There is a gap between my desires and my reality.

    I bet this is true for many moms, so we should all understand those hard places, right? But somewhere in the day-to-day, we can forget how important it is to support each other as moms and sisters in Christ. We can forget the need to foster a sense of community. And as soon as we forget these things, it’s much easier for thoughts of judgment to creep in.

    In those moments, it’s crucial to remember that being a source of encouragement for others is biblical. Our key verse, Hebrews 3:13 tells us to "encourage one another daily" so that we aren’t "hardened by sin’s deceitfulness" which causes us to unfairly judge others.

    So, I was just wondering if we might all make a little pact together today.

    A pact to build each other up. To not judge one another. Ever. Even when we parent differently. Even when my kids act like I never taught them manners.

    Might you give me the benefit of the doubt? Just assume it’s a bad moment, but this isn’t an indication of all our moments.

    And then I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt when your child messes up.

    Or when I hear you snap in Target and make threats to your kids that betray every good intention you had that morning. When you prayed. And read the parenting books. And taught manners, kissed skinned knees, planned the dinner, and all the other zillions of things you did so well.

    Instead of judging you, I will love you.

    And maybe you can love me too.

    Moms, let’s pledge to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. Most of us are desperately trying to do this mothering thing right.

    Dear Lord, forgive me for not extending grace at times to others. I am a woman who desperately needs it, so I should be a woman who freely offers it. Help me to build others up and to love them as You love us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:29, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (NIV)

    1 Thessalonians 5:11, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Being a mom is hard work, and certainly can’t be done in our own strength! Learn to look to the Lord for what you need each new day with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Am I Messing Up My Kids? … and Other Questions Every Mom Asks. Get your copy today.

    For more encouragement for your mama heart, follow Lysa on Facebook!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: This Mother’s Day weekend, think of a mom you know who really needs encouragement and support in this season of her life.

    Make a list of three things you could do or say over the next few weeks that would communicate intentionality and show her love.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Can't You Hurry Up, God?

    Lynn Cowell MAY 6, 2015

    Can't You Hurry Up, God? LYNN COWELL

    "But Sarai and Abram had no children. So Sarai took her maid, an Egyptian girl named Hagar, and gave her to Abram to be his second wife. ‘Since the Lord has given me no children,’ Sarai said, ‘you may sleep with my servant girl, and her children shall be mine.’ And Abram agreed." Genesis 16:1-2 (TLB)

    Why have you said, "No," God?

    The whole situation didn’t make sense. The job description fit me perfectly. And I just knew God had made me aware of that opportunity so I could move forward in my heart for ministry. Yet all the doors closed, and I couldn’t figure out why.

    Weeks turned into years as the quicksand of discouragement pulled me under. I felt forgotten, and I often looked back on that lost opportunity with regret. Maybe there was something more I could have done to make it work? Why didn’t I try harder?

    Time went on, and I was no closer to my dreams. I couldn’t understand why God kept me from that perfect position.

    In today’s key verse, Sarai, Abram’s wife, was stuck too. God had promised them offspring — as many as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5) — yet time was ticking. Sarai was growing older and worried she had yet to have a child.

    Sarai may have believed she’d become invisible to God, and it was time to take matters into her own hands. She decided she wouldn’t wait any longer, so she devised a plan to get what she wanted.

    And she got it, alright — a pregnancy plus a whole lot of trouble.

    Sarai followed a common practice of her time and gave Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to Abram to become a surrogate mother. But her plan backfired. Hagar became pregnant and also a little haughty. With another person looking down on her barrenness, Sarai was more miserable than before.

    If only she would have waited instead of manipulated.

    Like Sarai, I had a hard time waiting on God. I couldn’t understand what was taking Him so long! Yet, when the perfect position opened down the road from my home, instead of a 1,000 miles away, like the other job, it all made sense.

    So often now as I take my short drive to the office, I find myself very thankful I waited for God to provide.

    If we can wait and not manipulate, God promises us He is always at work for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when the situation seems to be going the wrong way, we can trust that His way is best. We must be prayerful, wait and trust. Easier said than done, though, I know.

    Yet when we wait and see God’s goodness come to past, we create a history with God, a repertoire of faith moments when we have seen God’s faithfulness. This foundation builds our faith in Him so we know we can trust Him again and again.

    These stories, these faith-building encounters with God, are the same stories I share with my kids, helping them to trust God with their dreams for the future as well. Helping them also learn to wait and not manipulate.

    Today, thank God for the times you have seen His faithfulness. If you are in a current struggle, pray for the patience to wait and not manipulate.

    Lord, when life doesn’t go as planned, everything in me says, "Do something!" when You might be asking me to do nothing but wait. Give me faith to wait and not manipulate. To trust You fully, no matter how my circumstances appear. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." (NIV)

    Psalm 130:5, "I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope." (NIV)

    Isaiah 30:18, "Yet 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)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Do you know a young woman who needs to wait and not manipulate? Lynn Cowell’s Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants would be a good resource to give her.

    Stop by Lynn’s blog today where she shares a beautiful download for those difficult times of waiting.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How have you been tempted to manipulate a situation in your life instead of prayerfully waiting for God to move?

    Choose one of the verses above to have on hand when your mind wants to start planning instead of praying for God to move.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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