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  • Exclusive Interview with Mark Batterson

    Mark Batterson

    Family Christian: We are excited about your new book “If”. The idea of using your worries as a springboard to a new future is an intriguing idea.   What was your inspiration for this book?

    Mark: Everybody has a favorite chapter in the Bible. Romans 8 is mine. It’s got everything! It starts with no condemnation in Christ. It ends with nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And right in the middle it says all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose! But the key verse to me is Romans 8:31—If God is for us, who can be against us. That’s the game-changer! There are 1,784 ifs in the Bible, but that’s my favorite.

    Family Christian: “If” is filled with great content, but if you could condense this down to one primary thought for readers to take away what would it be?

    Mark: God is for you every day, in every way!

    Family Christian: Same question Mark, but this time for Pastors. What do you hope Pastors, or those serving in ministry will take away from “If”?

     Mark: Pastors set the tone, set the standard. When you create a culture where people actually believe that God is for them, the church turns into a faith-filled atmosphere where anything can happen!

    Family Christian: Speaking of pastors, this is Clergy Appreciation Month. Do you have a suggestion for how lay people can show appreciation for their pastors/ministry leaders?

    Mark: I love gift cards! It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

    Family Christian: Could you share with us one encouraging verses for Pastors to focus on during Clergy Appreciation month?

    Mark: Jesus said, “I will build my church.” Emphasis on I and my. It’s His church, not ours. And if we can stay out of the way of what God wants to do, some amazing things can happen! We say it this way at NCC: if you stay humble and stay hungry, there is nothing God cannot do in you or through you.

    Family Christian: We know you are a talented author, so we have to ask…what are YOU reading right now?

    Mark: I had a little sabbatical this summer, first one in nineteen years of pastoring. So I had the chance to do lots of reading! I love biographies—helps me put my story in perspective. So I read biographies on George Washington, the Wright Brothers, and Andrew Jackson to name a few. I’m also at a place where I’m really trying to manage priorities and establish boundaries that are healthy and holy. I loved Essentialism by Greg McKeown and the classic book by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Boundaries.

    Family Christian: Finally, we’d love to know how we can be praying for you and your family Mark.

    Mark: I have the joy and privilege of pastoring a church in the nation’s capital. Frankly, we’re praying for revival to start here. Why not? As we head into a presidential election year, I know all eyes will be on DC. I also know that our hope is not in the government, but in the King of Kings.

    "If" by Mark Batterson

    Order your copy of "If" today or pick this title up in your local Family Christian store.   You may visit our website to find other books by Mark Batterson as well.

  • When Happily-Ever-After Slips Away

    Rachel Macy Stafford OCTOBER 13, 2015

    When Happily-Ever-After Slips Away RACHEL MACY STAFFORD

    "The LORD will vindicate me; your love, LORD, endures forever — do not abandon the works of your hands." Psalm 138:8 (NIV)

    If you are anything like me, you can become quite skilled at putting off your happily-ever-after. Maybe you’ve said things like …

    "Once I get this work done" … "When things slow down at work" … "When this crazy month is over" … "In just a minute" …

    But once the work is complete, the minute has passed and the busy month has concluded, something else always comes up. Your "one more thing" has no end.

    That’s when things start to happen: You drive into the intersection before it’s your turn because you’re tired and distracted … you scream at the ones you love the most because you’re stretched too thin … you wake up feeling irritable and unhappy despite the abundant blessings in your life.

    Then you speak to a friend whose husband is fighting for his life and realize your happily-ever-after is slipping right through your busy, little fingers.

    That’s how it played out for me. It was the slow deterioration of my highly distracted life that led me to pray for the Life Do-Over I once thought was impossible.

    Let me show you what my do-over looked like:

    At the height of my bulging social calendar, at the height of my ability to "do it all," at the height of my perfectly orchestrated life, God gave me the strength to let go.

    I surrendered my plan, as well as societal expectations, in order for God to show me His plan. Each morning I designated 10 minutes to be still and listen. Once I began to hear God’s gentle voice, instead of the damaging demands of distraction, perfection and pressure, I was able to grasp what mattered most in life.

    I told my inner drill sergeant perfection was not required on this journey. God nudged me when to let my children help prepare the meal … when to stay a few more minutes at the dinner table … when to stop hurrying and let my child set the pace. God showed me that accomplishing tasks perfectly and efficiently is less important than being present and connected to the people I love.

    I told my harsh inner critic to stop sabotaging my joy. I stopped letting the bulge around my waist or the wrinkles around my eyes prevent me from jumping in the pool … dancing with my children … or voicing my life-long dreams. God showed me that in order to reach my full potential, I must stop letting the mirror or the number on the scale determine my worth.

    I informed my internal over-achiever that I would no longer be everything to everyone. I realized that continually saying yes to everything outside the home meant saying no to the most important things inside the home. God showed me that in order to be joyfully fulfilled, I must choose to place my time and energy in what (and who) mattered most.

    It has been five years since I began my Hands Free journey. When I lay my head down at night, there is no longer a list of unfinished to-do’s running through my head. I am no longer consumed with guilt over missed opportunities to live, love and laugh. Instead, I am filled with gratitude for the grace of God, a daily do-over gift available to all of us.

    Dear God, Thank You for reminding me it’s not too late to live the life You have planned for me. Please help me discern what is important from the many distractions and time wasters in my life. Please nudge me when my loved ones are near, wanting me to listen to them, talk to them and love them. Lord, please help me see what really matters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 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)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’re tired of managing life and want to start living life, you’ll appreciate Rachel Macy Stafford’s newest book, HANDS FREE LIFE: 9 Habits for Overcoming Distraction, Living Better, & Loving More. Through truthful storytelling and life-giving Habit Builders, Rachel can show you how to live each day with more love, more presence and more grace.

    Enter to WIN a copy of by Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford. In celebration of this book, Rachel’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, October 19.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Rachel once wrote: "There is peace knowing I spent today living my happily-ever-after instead of tacking it to the bottom of the to-do list where it will never be touched."

    Think about your daily to-do list. Is there time for living, laughing and loving each day? How might you surrender both self-induced pressures and societal pressures to allow God to lead you on a more fulfilling path?

    © 2015 by Rachel Macy Stafford. 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

  • How to Find Peace Under Pressure

    Leah DiPascal OCTOBER 12, 2015

    How to Find Peace Under Pressure LEAH DIPASCAL

    "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" Isaiah 26:3 (NLT)

    Frantically pushing my grocery cart through the parking lot, I glanced back and forth, trying to remember where I had parked the car.

    The sun was blazing hot and as a bead of sweat dripped down my back, I couldn’t help but think of my hungry kids, waiting at home to consume the food I’d just bought.

    It was way past lunchtime and knowing my family and some visiting relatives were waiting at home created anxiety in my heart. But I figured I would make things right by serving up a delicious pizza, freshly baked in the deli department.

    As I continued to hunt for my car, the swirling aroma of mozzarella cheese, sweet basil, grilled garlic and fresh tomatoes was calling my name. I was tempted to snatch a slice, but decided to wait until I got home.

    Besides, I could almost hear the cheers of approval as I imagined the moment I would place this scrumptious meal before my clan. Sure, it wasn’t homemade, but at this point anything edible would have been welcomed with open arms.

    However, my thoughts came to an abrupt halt when my cart bobbled and suddenly stopped.

    I glanced down, and there it was. My deliciously fresh stone-baked pizza — on the ground with a tire mark across the top of the box. Sure enough, I had rolled over it with my grocery cart.

    You’ve got to be kidding! Honestly, who does that?

    In my haste, I hadn’t noticed that the cashier placed my pizza carton on the lower rack of my cart due to the overflowing groceries.

    With no time to have another one made, I rushed home with a car full of groceries, a smashed pizza and a very heavy heart.

    I tried to fake a calm smile when I got home, but the house erupted in laughter when everyone saw my fumbled fiasco. As my younger son tried to scrape off the gooey cheese from the broken pizza lid, everyone else opted for sandwiches.

    In situations like this, I need to be reminded of today’s key verse: "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!"

    The whole pizza mess could have easily been avoided if I weren’t in such a rush and worried about my peeps back home. Sure, it’s important to take care of family, but when meeting their needs creates anxiety and stress, it’s an indication that something is out of balance.

    Oftentimes, it’s not what my family asks of me — it’s what I demand of myself: I want everything to be perfect. I want to meet all my family’s needs. I want to please everyone.

    But that’s not possible, and God doesn’t require it of me. Instead, based on Isaiah 26:3, He promises to keep me in perfect peace, despite any situation, if I willingly commit to doing these two things:

    1. Trust God, instead of trying to master things on my own.

    2. Keep my thoughts fixed on God, instead of worrying about what everyone else thinks.

    Are you feeling rushed or anxious today? Would you like a slice of peace to calm your nerves and settle down the stress you’re experiencing? Jesus wants to offer you a holy deposit of His perfect peace that will last a lifetime — and not just satisfy you for a few hours.

    Dear Jesus, You are the Prince of Peace. Help me to trust and focus on You every day, so I can be calm and stress-free in any situation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Peter 1:2, "May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord." (NLT)

    Philippians 4:7, "Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’re craving a slice of peace in your life, you’ll appreciate Tracie Miles’ book, Stressed-Less Living: Finding God’s Peace in Your Chaotic World.

    Connect with Leah DiPascal on her blog today and enter to win a Peace Under Pressure giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is creating stress and anxiety in your life today? Is it a situation or a person? What are ways you can trust God and keep your thoughts on His promises as you navigate this challenge and seek to experience His perfect peace?

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Want to Do Big Things

    T. Suzanne Eller OCTOBER 9, 2015

    I Want to Do Big Things SUZIE ELLER

    "The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’" Matthew 25:21 (NLT) 

    Every Wednesday night, a handful of women gather around my kitchen table to laugh, eat and study the Bible together.

    These women haven’t had it easy. Life is downright hard sometimes, but they are feisty and fun. I can’t imagine Wednesdays without them.

    Not too long ago, I read an article about several Christian women who were making a difference in the world. One raised funds to dig wells in villages desperate for clean water. Another started a school for girls rescued from the slave trade. One after another, I read these stories of brave women who grabbed these assignments from God and ran with them.

    For a moment it caused me to look at my own life. God, have I missed my assignment? Is there something BIG I’m supposed to be doing?

    Before the words even left my mouth, I felt His gentle rebuke.

    I thought about the week before. One of the women around my kitchen table said there was a time when she didn’t know anything about Scripture, but now it was changing her.

    Just the day before, one woman wanted to take a walk after our meeting. As we trekked down the walking trail, we talked about Jesus and prayed together.

    My focus had almost shifted to the "bigness" of other women’s assignments rather than settling into the beauty of my own.

    In Matthew 25:14-30, Jesus tells a story of a man about to take a long trip. He called his servants together and entrusted each with a measure of responsibility. He gave five bags of silver to one servant, two bags of silver to another and one bag of silver to a third servant.

    While he was away, the servant with five bags invested it and earned five more. The man with two bags went to work and earned two more. But, the man who had been given one bag dug a hole in the ground and buried it.

    When the master returned, he was filled with praise for the two who had multiplied the silver entrusted to them. As we see in our key verse "Well done, my good and faithful servant," he said to each. "You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!"

    His reaction to the man who had hidden the bag in the ground was much different: "Why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it"(Matthew 25:27, NLT).

    It’s worth noting that this story is not really about money. It was a parable Jesus taught to convey a spiritual truth.

    Jesus was about to leave the disciples. In His absence, each would have an assignment. Some would pray and watch miracles take place. Others would plant churches. Some would disciple new believers. Others would serve and love people one by one. Whether the assignment seemed big or small, it’s what they did with it that mattered.

    My treasured assignment is to love the four to six women who meet around my table every Wednesday night. I get to do that by fixing dinner for them and celebrating birthdays with a cake made just for that individual. I get to do that as we dig deep into the Word of God and grow in our faith together.

    Whatever our assignment, it’s BIG because every single person impacted by the name of Jesus counts.

    If you are teaching teens, mentoring or putting out chairs for a Sunday morning service, let’s celebrate together!

    If you’re feeding the hungry, singing sweet words over the heart of a troubled child, sending an encouraging note to a friend or praying for the leaders of our nation, let’s celebrate together!

    Whatever He’s trusted us to do, let’s celebrate together as we make a difference in the world in His name.

    Savior, today I take my eyes off anyone else’s assignment and I thank You for the beauty of mine. If I’m burying that assignment because of uncertainty or comparison, I hold it up to You. Thank You for showing me what to do and multiplying it for Your sake. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Corinthians 12:4, "There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them." (NIV)

    Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you’re wondering about God’s plans for you, no matter how big or small, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God by Lysa TerKeurst will encourage you.

    Join Suzie Eller and friends today in a conversation on her blog about discovering our faith assignment as well as the chance to win a giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: You can have five "bags of silver" and bury it or use it. It’s not about how gifted you are; it’s about how faithful you are with your gifts.

    What is one way you desire to make a difference? How has God uniquely created you to do that right where you are?

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Agenda That Will Never Satisfy

    Lysa TerKeurst OCTOBER 8, 2015

    An Agenda That Will Never Satisfy LYSA TERKEURST

    "He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons." Mark 3:14-15 (NIV)

    I should have been happy. I knew it. I could have listed so many things for which I was thankful.

    So, what was this undercurrent of disappointment that ebbed and flowed just beneath the surface of my more honest moments? I got still and I got sad.

    Then I would see something horrific on the news that other people are facing, and I felt so horribly guilty for even daring to give myself permission to entertain anything other than gratitude.

    Which just heaped shame on top of my sadness. So I’d reach for a handful of something chocolate. And I’d wash it down with a Diet Coke and determine that maybe all this off-kilterness was just because I was running a little low on sugar and caffeine.

    But the real answer was something I already knew but didn’t want to admit.

    I was doing many things, pouring myself out for God, but not really spending time getting refilled by God.

    Maybe you can relate?

    We run at a breakneck pace to try and achieve what God wants us to slow down enough to receive.

    He really does have it all worked out. The gaps filled. The needs met. The questions answered. The problems solved.

    And the parts He’s purposed for us? They’re all perfectly portioned out in assignments meant for us today. No more. No less.

    All He asks is that we personally receive from Him before setting out to work for Him. In doing so we are fueled by His power and encouraged by His presence. This is the daily sacred exchange where ministry duty turns into pure delight.

    How it must break His heart when we work like we don’t believe He’s capable. We say we trust Him but act like everything depends on us. We give all we have to the tasks at hand with only occasional leftovers of time to slightly acknowledge Him.

    Imagine a little girl running while holding a cup, sloshing out all it contains. She thinks what will refill her is just ahead. So she presses on with sheer determination, clutching an empty cup.

    She keeps running toward an agenda He never set, one that will never satisfy.

    She sees Him and holds out her cup. But she catches only a few drops as she runs by Him because she didn’t stop long enough to be filled up. Empty can’t be tempered with mere drops.

    The tragic truth is what will fill her … what will fill us … isn’t the accomplishment just ahead.

    That shiny thing is actually a vacuum that sucks us dry — but never has the ability to refill.

    I should know because that’s where I was. There’s no kind of empty quite like this empty — where your hands are full but inside you’re nothing but an exhausted shell.

    Since my fast pace chase had gotten me into this mess, I knew it would take slow moments to get me out of it.

    I needed to reconnect with the One who knows how to breathe life back into depleted and dead places. Jesus doesn’t participate in the rat race. He’s into the slower rhythms of life like abiding, delighting and dwelling — all words used to describe us being with Him.

    As a matter of fact when Jesus appointed the disciples, there were two parts to their calling, as we see in today’s key verse of Mark 3:14-15:

    "He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons."

    Yes, they were to go to preach and drive out demons, but the first part of their calling was to "be with him."

    Fullness comes when we remember to be with Him before going out to serve Him.

    He wants our hearts in alignment with Him before our hands set about doing today’s assignment for Him.

    So, He extends what we need and invites us each day to receive in prayer, worship and truth from His Word. And He lovingly replenishes our cup while whispering: This isn’t a race to test the fastest pace. I just want you to persevere on the path I have marked out especially for you. Fix your eyes, not on a worldly prize, but on staying in love with Me.

    That’s an agenda that’s always completely satisfying.

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to stop in the midst of everything to just be with You. Let me never forget what a gift it is to spend this sacred time in Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:5, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." (NLT)

    Hebrews 12:1b-2a, "And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you feel like you’ve set your life to the rhythm of rush and your relationship with God is suffering, Lysa’s book The Best Yes can help. Purchase your copy here.

    RELFECT AND RESPOND: When you hear the words "abide, delight and dwell," what comes to mind? How could you delight yourself in the Lord today?

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Have You Forgotten How to Dream?

    Glynnis Whitwer OCTOBER 7, 2015

    Have You Forgotten How to Dream? GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work." Jeremiah 1:5a (NCV)

    "What God-inspired dreams do you have in your heart now?"

    As a table leader for our church’s women’s event, I read the question aloud, then smiled expectantly at the small group of women surrounding me.

    Eyes looked down, up and to the left. Fingers fiddled with pens. One woman sipped her coffee and focused on the rising steam. Seconds ticked by silently as I gave them time to think.

    Surely someone will say something, I thought, as the silence turned awkward.

    But no one said anything. Hmmm … I’ll try another approach. So I revised the question, "What would you do for God if you knew you wouldn’t fail?"

    Again, crickets.

    As I looked at those precious women, all ages and stages of life, my heart ached. I knew from the ice-breaker question their days were laden with concerns. Although they weren’t complaining, real challenges slipped into their answers: jobs, demanding schoolwork, caring for children with developmental needs, serious health issues and more.

    The idea of a God-given dream must seem impossible when your 2-year-old isn’t walking and your savings are dwindling. In fact, getting through the day without falling apart was the only "dream" shared that night by one sweet lady when the quiet was just too much.

    The very lack of dreams then became the discussion as we realized we’d forgotten to dream for ourselves.

    We knew how to dream years ago; children have no problem dreaming big dreams. Yet as life responsibilities piled up, it was easy to forget to dream. In fact, sometimes a dream even felt selfish when there were so many great needs.

    Yet when God gives us a dream, it’s not for selfish reasons, it’s for Kingdom reasons. And He has uniquely wired us to be able to fulfill that dream with His help.

    Scripture tells us God chose us and set us apart for a special purpose: "Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work"(Jeremiah 1:5a).

    It’s one thing to read those words on the page and understand them intellectually. It’s another thing altogether to believe them with my heart. Especially when inner doubts find their way to the surface:

    … How could God choose me for anything important when I can’t even go to Target with my kids without a meltdown? … How could I be set apart when there’s nothing special about me? … And a "special work"? That’s for people much more important than I am.

    But here’s what I know about God: He crafted each of us with such great love and intentionality that the dream He wants to give us is what we were created to do.

    He knows our potential because He placed it there. Inside each of us, He deposited seeds of talent. He appointed our personalities. He established our strengths. And all lay in wait for His Spirit to empower us to pursue our God-given dreams.

    Because we serve a loving God, many times the "special work" He assigns comes in the form of a dream that will bring us joy. I’ve met women who dream of caring for foster children, bringing fresh water to a village, writing a book or teaching Bible study from a stage.

    These dreams can feel selfish because we want them so much. But we can know they are God-given when they are aligned to His Word, and we want God to get all the glory and take none of it for ourselves.

    Dreams are never easy to accomplish. In fact, sometimes they seem downright impossible. And yet, Scripture tells us in Matthew 19:26 that with God, all things are possible.

    Perhaps this is the greatest reason we stop dreaming God-dreams. We let people and percentages, facts and figures determine the probability of achieving our dreams.

    But what would happen if we took the "impossible" label off our dreams? What if we declared God’s power to fulfill every dream He plants in our hearts? Wouldn’t it be amazing?

    Today, let’s rip that "impossible" label off, scrunch it up and toss it in the garbage. And then, like a child, let’s remember to dream again.

    Dear Lord, thank You for calling me to serve You in ways that bring me joy. I want to always be open to the next dream You want to plant in my heart. Help me keep my eyes and heart tuned to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Timothy 1:9, "It is he who saved us and chose us for his holy work not because we deserved it but because that was his plan long before the world began — to show his love and kindness to us through Christ." (TLB)

    Matthew 18:3, "And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Many men and women say the God-dreams they’re experiencing are related to writing. At COMPEL Training, we are excited to equip beginning authors and bloggers with the tools they need to breathe life into their writing dreams. Our newest resource is a free eBook called The 7 Secrets You Need to Know as a New Writer: Wisdom from 30 of the Industry’s Top Authors and Bloggers. Lysa TerKeurst and her team have gathered writing tips and advice from some of the most well-known authors in the industry. It’s all HERE in this eBook, available free for those pursuing a dream to write.

    Visit Glynnis Whitwer’s blog to learn how God fulfilled her childhood dream, and enter to win a copy of her latest book, Taming the To-Do List.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What were some of your dreams as a child? What happened to those dreams? Invite a trusted friend to join you this week in talking about your God-given dreams again.

    What would you do for God if you knew He would give you the strength to accomplish it?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • One Little If Can Change Everything

    Mark Strong OCTOBER 6, 2015

    One Little If Can Change Everything MARK BATTERSON

    "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31b (NIV)

    It was a picture perfect day in Paris. After climbing 669 steps to the second floor, we hitched a terrifying elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Then, with France as my witness, I kissed my wife. Life goal #102? Check! And it all started with if.

    You could simply say that I puckered my lips, took an approach path from the left, closed my eyes at the last second, and voila — a kiss in France, not to be confused with a French kiss. That’s how it happened, but there’s more to it than that.

    That simple kiss was the result of a rather complex itinerary. We flew out of Dulles International Airport, made it through French customs, took the regional train to Paris, hailed a taxi whose driver enjoyed saying mademoiselle a little too much for my taste and got walking directions from a French lady with a dog in her purse. Not even kidding! Classic as a croissant! But that, too, is just a fraction of the story.

    You could argue that our Eiffel Tower kiss originated the moment I set life goal #102. And that’s partially true. You won’t accomplish 100 percent of the goals you don’t set.

    But the true origin of our kiss traces all the way back to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. An engineer named Alexandre Gustave Eiffel proposed a 984-foot tower, the tallest building in the world at that time. Skeptics scoffed at his design, calling it useless and artless. Eiffel called her La Dame de Fer — the Iron Lady.

    It was Eiffel’s if that made our romantic rendezvous atop the tower possible, but Eiffel himself thanked 72 scientists, engineers and mathematicians on whose shoulders he stood. Their names are inscribed on the tower, and without their collective genius, our kiss is cancelled.

    Then there were the 300 riveters, hammermen and carpenters who put together the 18,038-piece jigsaw puzzle of wrought iron. Oh, and don’t forget the acrobatic team Eiffel hired to help his workers maintain balance on very thin beams during strong gusts of wind.

    Now, I know it’s starting to sound like all of history revolves around and conspired for our kiss, so let me stop there and make my point. Every moment, like our kiss atop the Eiffel Tower, is created by millions of ifs that combine in a million different ways to make that moment possible. And if you need to read that sentence again, no shame. It’s complicated — as complicated as the sovereignty of God. Yet as simple as if.

    History is like an intricately interwoven tapestry with infinite patterns that only the Omniscient One can see and foresee — but if threads the needle. Your ifs don’t just change the trajectory of your life; they change the course of history.

    Our kiss atop the Eiffel Tower is part of a chain reaction that started when I wondered if Lora would go out with me. Then I acted on that if — well, actually I dialed and hung up a few times first. (We could get away with that before caller ID.)

    Long story short, one if led to another if, which led to I do. The net result? Twenty-three years of marriage and three ifs named Parker, Summer and Josiah.

    If you stop and think about it, everything begins with if. Every achievement, from the Nobel Prize to the Oscars, begins with what if? So does every dream, every breakthrough. So the question is: What’s your what if? If you aren’t sure, go back to the Bible!

    There are 1,784 ifs in the Bible. Most of those ifs function as conditional conjunctions on the front end of God’s promises. If we meet the condition, God delivers on the promise! All that stands between your current circumstances and your wildest dreams is one little if.

    One little if can change everything.

    One little if can change anything.

    And perhaps the most amazing if is Romans 8:3, today’s key verse — "If God is for us, who can be against us?"

    God is for you every day.

    God is for you in every way.

    Lord, forgive us for believing the lie of the enemy that You are somehow against us. Nothing could be further from the truth! Thank You that You are for us every day in every way! Thank You that you proved it at Calvary’s cross! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    Romans 8:37, "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: What if God wants us to live lives marked with confidence? If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson gives you the tools to explore all the possibilities God has for you.

    Click here for more encouragement on how to begin living life with fewer regrets.

    Enter to WIN a copy of If: Trading Your If Only Regrets for God’s What If Possibilities by Mark Batterson. In celebration of this book, Mark’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, October 12.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: If God is for you, why are you worried?

    Your problems might be bigger than you, but they aren’t bigger than God.

    © 2015 by Mark Batterson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Baker Books 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

  • How to Live with Margin for a Miracle

    Alicia Bruxvoort OCTOBER 5, 2015

    How to Live with Margin for a Miracle ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Teach us to number our days so that we may truly live and achieve wisdom." Psalm 90:12 (The Voice)

    I knew something had to change the day I grumbled at my 4-year-old for studying a caterpillar on the sidewalk.

    We were about to head to swim lessons when I realized I’d forgotten my purse in the house. I told my daughter to wait on the driveway, and I’d be right back.

    When I returned moments later, my curly-haired girl was nowhere to be found.

    I eyed the swing set, peeked between the towering pine trees and checked in the garage.

    We’re gonna be late, I ranted silently as the tension of haste settled heavy between my shoulder blades. Finally, I spotted Lizzy squatting on the sidewalk just beyond the driveway.

    "Mommy, look what I found," she crooned, her blue eyes sparkling with awe.

    I raced to her side and spotted a fuzzy orange caterpillar in the shadow beneath her knees. I forced a smile, then tugged at her arm, urging, "We need to go."

    "Just a minute," Lizzy pleaded. "This caterpillar’s gonna turn into a butterfly. And I really wanna see a miracle."

    I sighed and prodded her once more with a gentle nudge. "We don’t have time for miracles today," I grumbled, scooping up my girl and carrying her to the minivan.

    I buckled my little caterpillar-spy into her car seat and sped across town toward the pool.

    The dashboard clock taunted me; worse yet, the eyes in the rearview mirror haunted me. Those eyes that had been alight with wonder now waned dim with glassy tears.

    "I thought you liked swimming lessons," I harrumphed, trying to ignore the silent streams of sorrow zigzagging down my daughter’s cheeks.

    "I do," Lizzy replied, her voice small and strained. "But hurry makes my heart hurt."

    A familiar lump of sadness rose in my throat.

    In an attempt to give my kids opportunities to learn and grow, I’d packed our days with good things — art classes and swimming lessons, church programs and playgroups. But lately, even those good things had lost their glimmer. Our schedule was full, but my heart ached with emptiness.

    When we arrived at the aquatic center, I settled on the edge of the pool to watch. The instructor stood in the water and beckoned Lizzy to swim to his side.

    My daughter took a deep breath, dunked her head and kicked with all her might. At first she moved toward her teacher with impressive speed, but then she began to flail. Her torso sank and she yelped in fear.

    The teacher lifted my trembling girl out of the water and held her steady. "Slow down," he chided as Lizzy gulped for air. "You were moving so fast you forgot to breathe!"

    The image of a fuzzy orange caterpillar flashed through my mind, and my stomach lurched with conviction. Though a haze of unsolicited tears blurred my vision, suddenly I could see clearly.

    In the midst of all our hurry, I’d forgotten to leave time for our souls to breathe. We had no time for lingering on sidewalks or pausing to help a friend in need. We had no time for delighting in God’s Word or savoring a sunset. And in the words of a frenzied mom, we had no time for miracles!

    Today’s key verse reminds us that life is a gift to use wisely. We’ve been created for more than just counting our days. We’ve been created to make our days count.

    To merely tally time doesn’t require much forethought, but to truly live requires Spirit-inspired wisdom. Maybe that’s why the psalmist approaches God with a humble heart and implores, "Teach us to number our days …"

    While the Bible doesn’t contain a template for perfect time management, this simple prayer reminds us that God alone knows the best rhythm for our lives. He knows how to direct our time without draining our souls. He knows how to establish our pace without hurting our hearts.

    If we want to truly live, we must seek His vision as we set our schedules.

    As we learn to number our days, we’ll have a margin for miracles … because you never know when you might stumble upon a fuzzy orange caterpillar just waiting to turn into a butterfly!

    Dear Lord, teach me how to use my time so I can truly live! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 52:12, "Go in confidence and grace — no rushing, no frantic escape. There’s no need to be anxious — the Eternal One goes before and behind you. The God of Israel paves the way with assurance and strength. He watches your back." (The Voice)

    Matthew 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too." (The Voice)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If your schedule leaves no room for lingering over caterpillars, you might enjoy Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. In it, author Glynnis Whitwer helps you manage an overloaded schedule, so you have time for what matters most.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and a special giveaway today.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Identify someone whose heart is hurting from hurry. Do something this week to lighten her load.

    Have an honest conversation with the Lord about your schedule. Ask Him to help you align your agenda with His heart.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • True Peace is Possible

    Micca Campbell OCTOBER 2, 2015

    True Peace is Possible MICCA CAMPBELL

    "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." Colossians 3:15 (NIV)

    Growing up, my father had a philosophy when life became hectic. He’d cross his arms over his chest, and in a joking kind of way say, "There will never be any peace until we’re all laid to rest."

    I knew what he meant. Life is hard. And sometimes it’s easy to despair over finding peace when trouble seems to lurk around every corner. When hard times come, many emotions rule my heart and mind. Like my dad, peace is usually the emotion I sense the least when life turns topsy-turvy. But this is not God’s plan.

    Peace is God’s will. Heavenly peace is a state of tranquility or quiet amidst anxious thoughts and emotions. It speaks of freedom from external pressures.

    The kind of peace God gives remains. It’s not something that comes and goes depending on our circumstances. Divine peace should govern our lives in all things at all times. When the things of life haunt us — that stack of bills, new tires for the car, anxious feelings of inadequacy — don’t we long for peace?

    Here’s the good news: We can have that kind of peace. Jesus told His disciples, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27, NIV).

    Jesus is not talking about the kind of peace we feel when a debt is finally paid. That’s relief. It’s not the kind of peace we experience when we can purchase that big house we’ve always wanted. That’s gratification.

    The peace Christ gives is fully satisfying. It’s peace of mind, heart, body and soul. It’s contentment knowing that no matter what happens, you are in the care of the Almighty.

    Sadly, it’s my selfish nature that tries to obtain peace by my own efforts. Perhaps you’re like me. We try to persuade God with promises. We even attend church more often than usual. We think: If I follow all the rules and do the things that please God most, then maybe I’ll find some peace.

    In the end, we’re working at peace instead of resting in it. This reveals one thing: My trust is in myself instead of in God. In other words, I put my trust in what I can do, not what God is truly capable of doing.

    The Bible has something to say about putting our trust in someone other than God: "He who trusts in himself is a fool, but one who walks in wisdom will be safe" (Proverbs 28:26, HCSB).

    If we don’t actively seek God’s help when we’re afraid or facing trouble, we’re probably trusting in our own resources and abilities. Therefore, Isaiah warns, "Don’t put your trust in mere humans" (Isaiah 2:22a, NLT). Doing so often leaves us disappointed and defeated.

    In times of doubt and fear, let peace rule.

    Resting in God’s promises give us the hope we need to stay focused on Him and His faithfulness, instead of on our circumstances. One way we can be certain that we’ve really placed our trust in God is when we experience an indescribable peace.

    Let this promise from the Lord reassure you today from Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (NLT)

    Dear God, I know peace is Your will for my life. Help me to trust You with my worries and rest in Your care, not my own abilities, when life gets tough. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 29:11, "The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace." (NIV)

    Matthew 6;34, "Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (HCSB)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you find yourself lacking peace, tangled in a web of worry, Micca Campbell’s book, An Untroubled Heart, can help you find the peace you seek.

    Visit Micca’s blog for a chance to win a pair of Faith Collection Earrings from Fashion & Compassion.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What can you do to stay focused on God’s promise of peace when life turns upside down?

    © 2015 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Song of Our Story

    Sandi Patty OCTOBER 1, 2015

    The Song of Our Story SANDI PATTY

    "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’" Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)

    My husband Don and I have had the privilege of raising eight kids together over the past 20 years. They are grown now and out of the house … mostly. I think because of our history and because we are a blended family, we always wondered: Could God use us again? We know He loves us and we know He forgives us, but to USE us to encourage and bless others? Maybe we missed out on that window.

    But interestingly, as each of the kids has begun to step into their own giftedness over the last couple of years, we have drawn closer together. We all — first individually and then corporately — began to say, "Maybe God DOES have something special for US to do."

    And so we began to share our family’s story whenever we had the opportunity. The opportunities came in little ways at first, and then we had the incredible honor of sharing our family and our family’s story on the stage at Women of Faith.

    When I was invited to be part of Women of Faith about 10 years ago, it was the beginning of some tremendous healing for me, and really for our whole family. At the time, we were emotionally bruised by some life choices.

    Truthfully, after my first appearance with Women of Faith, I didn’t expect to be invited back. I expected judgment but found grace. Because of the love shown to our entire family, we gradually stopped feeling like castoffs relegated to the "island of misfit toys."

    We began to believe that we, too, had a purpose and that God truly had a plan just for us, a plan to give us "a future and a hope," just as today’s key Scripture says: "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope’" (Jeremiah 29:11).

    Part of our healing as a family has come through our common love of music. Music has always been a cornerstone of our family and has been for multiple generations, so it just seems natural for us to gravitate to song as the mode to share our story.

    Although our vehicle of connection is music, every family can discover what unites them. And when we come together to do something we love, in spite of our fractured past, we can all experience God’s good plan for us.

    Recently a dear friend summed it up by saying, "Your family’s story is heard in the undercurrent of your song!" I know what they mean. When we sing, It is Well With My Soul, we feel the truth of it in every fiber of our beings.

    Every time our family comes together to share God’s love through music, my soul gets a little more "well" as I think about what He has brought us through and the love He shows us every single day.

    We feel privileged and blessed to be able to share our crazy beautiful blended mess of a family and by doing so we share the song of our story. The anchor of all of it is simply knowing how much God truly loves us … bruises and all!

    Lord, thank You for Your unfailing love that never gives up on me. On those days when I wonder if You can use me, please remind me that You have a plan and a purpose for my life. Help me raise my voice to sing the song of my story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: "But I have spared you for a purpose — to show you my power and to spread my fame throughout the earth." Exodus 9:16 (NLT)

    "Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning." Lamentations 3:23 (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Loved by God Devotional is a unique collection of inspiration from much-loved Women of Faith speakers, real-life stories from attendees sharing their remarkable experiences and insights from some of the freshest voices resonating with women today. This devotional offers a year’s worth of inspiration with 52 weekly entries that feature a meaningful Scripture and a prayer. Organized in four sections — one for each season of the year — Loved by God Devotional shares with readers the message they so desperately need to hear: You are seen. You are known. You are free. You are loved.

    You can experience Sandi Patty and her family performing together on Women of Faith’s Loved: The Farewell Tour.  Click here for a full listing of dates and cities!

    Enter to WIN a copy of Loved by God by Women of Faith authors. In celebration of this book, the 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, October 5.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Can you identify a previously challenging situation in your life that has become a blessing? How can you use your experience to encourage others?

    © 2015 by Sandi Patty. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale Momentum 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

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