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Family Christian

  • A Different Beautiful

    A Different Beautiful by Courtney Westlake

    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

    I sat my daughter, Brenna, on her changing pad as I snapped up her outfit after a diaper change. And as she looked around, chattering, her eyes fell on my feet, with toenails painted in deep pink.

    “Ow?” she asked, associating the color with blood and a hurt toe.

    “No, not Ow. Mommy put a pretty color of paint on my toenails,” I explained as best I could in toddler language. I showed Brenna my nail polish bottle, as she pointed to herself. “Me!” she exclaimed.

    I had really never even thought about painting Brenna’s nails, which are a product of a rare skin disorder she was born with. They grow in such a solid, thick yellow there have been times we’ve had to trim them with side-cut pliers.

    I didn’t know exactly how her nails — thick but sensitive — would react to polish. I worried about the polish getting on her skin and causing an adverse reaction. But as her bright blue eyes begged me to open the bottle, I said enthusiastically, “Yes, let’s paint your nails!”

    As I carefully applied the pink color to her two big toenails, Brenna leaned over my arm, watching intently. “Wow!” I exclaimed as I dabbed a final spot, waiting for her reaction.

    “Wooo-ow,” she whispered slowly.

    Two brightly colored toenails, one on each foot — and the admiration that followed as she held up her foot in the light streaming from the window. The kind of admiration that made five minutes of painted toenails come to life in a celebration.

    I slowly realized the beauty we were creating in those minutes and in the moments that followed as she proudly showed off her pretty pink toes for the next week, extending her foot to nearly everyone she came in contact with. Even if she wore shoes, she knew how beautiful they were underneath.

    It had nothing to do with the polish or the color.

    Rather, it was all about how she felt about herself. The way she felt as we painted together — loved and special. The way she felt around others — admired and engaged. Brenna felt beautiful because she was living in joy, in celebration, with those around her.

    Since Brenna’s birth, simple celebration is what we have discovered for ourselves, in and around some very hard parts of life. In the whirlwind of four years, there have been things you’d never expect to experience when you bring a child into the world.

    But with that has come a joy-filled life we also never expected, the kind of overwhelming richness that’s beyond comprehension. Even on the worst days, we can find beauty.

    Beauty extends from all pieces of our lives, just waiting to be noticed, appreciated, celebrated. And what our family has discovered is the best kind of beautiful — the truest beauty that God intentionally and lovingly created for us — is not only seen, but also felt.

    The most dazzling beauty in this world is not found in magazines or even seen in the mirror. It is felt deep within our souls, and it is released to those around us in the forms of love, kindness, compassion and generosity.

    In a version of myself I can hardly remember, I once believed beauty was something to strive for. But there is a different beautiful than the perfection our culture often worships. That beautiful is found not when we open our eyes, but rather when we open our hearts.

    There is a whole new kind of beautiful to be discovered when we stop closing our eyes and our hearts to what is unfamiliar or unexpected. When we focus on the goodness we are feeling rather than seeing, we can learn what it truly means to celebrate beauty in life — the joy, the passion, the deep relationships with each other and God, plus the dazzling, fleeting moments in front of us that might not otherwise cause us to pause.

    Like painting with pink nail polish.

    Dear Lord, thank You for the glorious way You have brought beauty into this world. Help me embrace true joy, contentment and faith. Open my heart to those around me and empower me to demonstrate the love, kindness, compassion and generosity You’ve given me to share. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 Peter 3:4, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Can you name two or three ways you can demonstrate true beauty to others today? © 2016 by Courtney Westlake. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Barbour Publishing 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

  • What Makes Rejection So Awful

    What Makes Rejection So Awful by Lysa TerKeurst

    “I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” John 12:46 (NIV)

    My mouth was dry. My hands a bit numb. There was a stabbing tightness in my chest. My mind blurred as my thoughts became a fragmented kaleidoscope of a million pictured hopes I thought were just around the corner for me. For us. For the us that was now becoming … just me again.

    We were only dating. But my mind had already run ahead in time and built a life with this man. In the future we had romantic picnics to take, snowball fights to laugh through, a wedding to plan, a house to build and kids to name with his smile and my eyes.

    I’m not sure these were ever real to him. But to me, they were as real as the stone-cold coffee now sitting in front of me. The one I kept stirring to have something to focus on but that I never intended to drink. Drinking coffee seemed a bit too normal when my entire inner life had just been declared a state of emergency. Because suddenly, the rest of my planned-out life was aflame. I wasn’t just losing a boyfriend today. I was losing the connection to my dreams for tomorrow that would never be.

    His words made their way through my ears to my heart. I felt the full impact of their harsh landing. As they skidded their way across the most tender places inside me, their piercing weight burned and cut and ripped apart what I thought would be so very permanent. Rejection always leaves the deepest, darkest marks.

    That was decades ago. But I can pull up that memory as if it were yesterday. I have to search a bit in my past, but there it is. The wound isn’t pulsing with pain any longer. It’s more of a scar. Like a war wound, it’s just a story now.

    I pulled out my journal today and tried to capture the raw essence of what makes rejection so awful. But I couldn’t capture the depth of it with finely crafted words. Instead of diving deep with my thoughts, I let them come in simple, personal phrases:

    I like stability. I don’t like getting caught off guard. I like feeling known. I don’t like feeling thrown away.

    As I wrote this list, one line finally emerged to sum up rejection better than the others: I don’t want my normal to be snatched away. Life feels impossibly risky when I’m reminded how unpredictable circumstances can shatter and forever change what I know and love about my life. And in the fallout, some pieces never fall back into place.

    It’s like taking a photograph containing all the people you love and suddenly, some of them purposely cut themselves out of the picture. And the gaping hole left behind in some ways is worse than death. If they’d passed away, you would grieve their loss. But when their absence is caused by rejection, you not only grieve their loss but also wrestle through the fact that they wanted this. They chose to cut themselves out.

    Though you’re devastated, they’re walking away feeling relieved. Or worse, they might even feel happy. And there you sit, staring at a jacked-up photograph no glue in the world can fix. Normal? Taken. Not by accident. But very much on purpose from someone you never expected could be such a thief.

    Rejection steals the security of all we thought was beautiful and stable and leaves us scared, fragile and more vulnerable than ever.

    But God. He’s there. Jesus said, “I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness,” (John 12:46). With Jesus I can walk out of this dark place.

    Yes, He is the One who can help me. Heal me. Show me what to do when I’m hurting. Therefore, I must do whatever He instructs me to do. I must embrace Him. And I know I can’t continue to fully embrace God while rejecting His ways.

    So I turn to Him. And really listen to where He’s leading with a willing heart.

    God drops a word into my heart. Like a swig of orange juice just after brushing my teeth, I recoil at the unexpected taste. Of grace.

    Why grace?! Because grace given when it feels least deserved is the only antidote for bitterness. Just because I’ve been hurt doesn’t mean I now have to live hurt. I can get mad and bitter and spread more hurt around. Or, I can choose grace and gentle responses and spread more hope around.

    Hurt people, hurt people. Healed people, heal people. And I want to be in that latter group.

    There’s nothing we can do to eliminate the pain of rejection. Oh, how I wish there were. With every fiber of my being, I wish I could remove it from my world and yours. But I can’t. The only thing to help my heart heal from these deep wounds is the constant pursuit of the sweetest grace.

    To love God is to cooperate with His grace. And since I’m so very aware of my own need for grace, I must be willing to freely give it away. Each hole left from rejection is an opportunity to create more and more space for grace in my heart.

    Father God, please help me be a woman who is quick to give grace, even when it’s the last thing I want to do. Thank You for the grace You extend to me each and every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who needs your grace and forgiveness today? Even if it’s someone you’re not in contact with anymore, think how you might release your hurt into God’s hands.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Tabernacle of Trash

    A Tabernacle of Trash by Amy Carroll

    “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things — and the things that are not — to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 (NIV)

    Looking around, I can scarcely take in a home so different from my own. I am at Raju’s house, a man who has spent his whole life as a rag-picker in India. Along with the rest of the community he leads, he spends his days sifting through a local dump, looking for materials to retrieve and recycle.

    His house is a hodgepodge of things he’s salvaged. The walls are draped in plastic, old blankets and sheets. Metal bicycle rims, tires and rusty car parts secure the tarp roof of his large tent home. Thin blankets on the floor are seats for children and adults who come to meet with me and the rest of our Proverbs 31 International Initiatives team. We are given plastic chairs of hospitality and honor.

    Raju circulates in the midst of the gathered crowd, smiling and greeting his guests. There are families that he not only loves, but that he pastors and teaches in the church and literacy class that meet in his home.

    When everyone is gathered, Raju stands and greets us through an interpreter before he prays. He bows his head and starts a stream of words I can’t understand. Later, we learn he prayed a blessing over us. All I know is I am suddenly overcome.

    Unbidden, tears stream down my face, and I steal myself against the sobs threatening to wrack my body. Through the sweep of emotion, I ask myself, What’s going on here? I can’t even understand what he’s saying. Why do I feel such awe and broken-heartedness?

    The weight of God’s Spirit fills the room. I can hardly explain it. It’s the most powerful, tangible presence of God I’ve ever encountered. As Raju prays, it’s truly as if God is sitting in the room with us.

    Suddenly, a tent made of trash became a tabernacle for the very presence of God.

    It’s been months since I sat in Raju’s house in the cloud of God’s power, but I’ve been reflecting on it ever since. Raju isn’t a man our world would consider wise. He barely has a fifth-grade education gained through one year of attendance in literacy classes, yet he has partnered with Mission India to teach others to read.

    He isn’t physically strong, yet this man leads his community with a fierceness and joy that none can deny.

    He might not be a man of material wealth, but as a pastor, he daily leads his congregation to the greatest riches of the King of Kings.

    He’s found the secret to joining Jesus in life-changing, Kingdom-growing work: God wants you to give Him your all, but all that’s essential is your heart.

    So often, I mistakenly think the essentials to having a life that counts is more Bible knowledge, more financial resources or more influence. But both Scripture and Raju’s life tell me differently. Our key Scripture tells us that God doesn’t just tolerate the foolish, weak and lowly. He chooses them. To make a difference, I don’t need more. I need a willingness to give more.

    Though the world may tell us we’re unworthy or unqualified, or that our very lives consist of “trash,” God can take a heart like Raju’s — or yours and mine — and change the world around us. All that’s required is our surrender and His power.

    Lord, I surrender my whole self to You for Your work. I know what I’m offering is completely insufficient, so I trust and find joy in Your sufficiency. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 3:13, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What have you felt is a limitation to you serving God?

    How does Raju’s story and today’s Scripture change the way you think about that limitation?

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Summer On The Go: Your Family Friendly Road Trip Playlist

    Summer is in full swing and families everywhere are hitting the road, heading to their vacation destinations. Whether you’re traveling across town or across the country, we’ve created a playlist that’s sure to quiet the ‘Are we there yet?’ chorus and keep your family entertained with the latest and greatest in Christian music.

    Start building your library of road trip tunes. All CDs are Buy One Get One 50% Off at Family Christian now through August 25.

    Summer On The Go Playlist

    Make the road trip fun for the kids! Give them permission to roll down the windows and belt out their favorite tunes as you enjoy a fun-filled journey together.

    What’s your family singing along to this summer?

  • What Keeps You Up At Night?

    What Keeps You Up At Night? by Katy McCown

    “I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings.” Psalm 63:6-7 (NLT)

    Darkness blanketed my quiet house. No one was stirring, not even a mouse. Yet my heart would not be still.

    Just a few hours before, my heart danced to the sweet sounds of my husband, Luke, tucking our boys into bed. The spaghetti dishes piled up in the sink didn’t even bother me.

    The buzz of Luke’s phone interrupted my party. Who could be calling at this hour? When Luke met me in the kitchen, my dancing heart had ceased.

    “Someone’s calling you,” I choked out. “The number is from work.”

    The voice on the other end confirmed our fears — a job change, effective immediately.

    And when I say immediately I mean like by breakfast the next morning our family would be in a new city hundreds of miles away.

    Let the packing begin.

    Working at the pace of an Olympic sprinter, I washed clothes and folded them into piles, sorted them and threw them into bags. I arranged for doggy care while we figured out where on earth we’d live in this new place, then gathered snacks for the journey ahead.

    Finally, with only a few hours to spare I tried to force my eyes shut, and tried to shut down my mind. But this night, I couldn’t find the off button. In the midst of my midnight mayhem, a friend sent a message to say, “God’s up. You don’t have to be.”

    Her timely words remided me of a principle my kids learned one day at violin lessons.

    “Don't squeeze. Just kind of sink all the way to the bottom,” the teacher instructed.

    As she taught her eager students to play new notes, she noticed they took their effort a little too far. They focused hard and fixed their eyes on the strings. They wanted so badly to do it right.

    But their work didn’t produce the results they’d hoped for. The note screeched off the strings and the sound pierced the air, forced and unpleasant.

    My boys looked confused. They’d tried so hard, and it just wasn’t working. “What did I do wrong?” they wondered. That’s when the music teacher loosened their grip.

    “Sink don't squeeze,” she said. “The note will play itself. Simply place your finger on the string and let it sink all the way down.”

    What if God's plans for us are like those strings? Created. Arranged. Ready. We simply need to sink into them.

    But sometimes we don’t. We squeeze instead of loosening our grip. We encounter a challenging assignment and assume God brought us to it, but left us alone to do it. So we work really hard and give it all we’ve got, all the while screeching out a substitute version of the beautiful melody God intended.

    Our key verse gives us another option, "I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:6-7). King David penned these words in the wilderness, on the run from a vast army led by his own rebellious son.

    Yikes! If there were ever a moment to be up at night worrying, this would be it.

    David did lie awake at night, but not for the reasons we’d expect. Instead of fearing for his life or devising a plan of escape, he couldn’t stop thinking about God.

    When you find yourself squeezing and not releasing, maybe move your mind from the goal to the Giver of the goal.

    After I read my friend’s wise words that night, my heart shifted. Instead of counting all the things still left to do, I counted on God’s greatness, power and provision. I even giggled as I considered my great big, powerful God watching me scurry about thinking it’s all up to me.

    If you’re confused and exhausted today, wondering why your best effort hasn’t played the tune you hoped for, maybe it’s time to loosen your grip. Sink into God’s love for you, then rest in the shadow of His wings.

    Dear God, I want my thoughts to swirl with praises to You instead of churn with anxiety over the assignments You give me. Help me shift my thoughts to the richness of Your presence and provision. And as I do, let me sink into the wonderful plans You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (NIV) Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (HCSB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Make a list of the things that keep your mind racing and commit to pray about these things daily.

    Call a friend and ask her to pray with you.

    © 2016 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • Desperate for Reassurance

    Desperate for Reassurance by Lysa TerKeurst

    “Whatever is true … think about such things … And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8b, 9b (NIV)

    If you’ve ever heard me give my testimony, you know part of what I share is being a little girl twirling around next to my daddy, wishing I could know that he loved me.

    Maybe in his own way, he did love me. But something was broken in our relationship that left me feeling desperate for reassurance.

    Over the years, God has healed my heart in miraculous ways. Through God’s promises I’ve been reassured of all those things I wished my earthly father would have said. I know God’s love for me is deep, unwavering and certain.

    But there are still times I catch myself twirling again. Crying out again. Wishing I could feel totally secure. Hating my insecurities. And mad that this struggle I thought was over, surfaces still.

    Maybe it always will.

    And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

    For it keeps me desperate for a reassurance I can’t get any other way. It keeps me desperate for God.

    I can hear my husband tell me a hundred times that he loves me and no, my backside isn’t big … and yet I still feel my heart desperately twirling.

    I can stand in an arena with thousands of people clapping for the message I just gave … and still feel my heart desperately twirling.

    I can conquer my food demons and finally fit back into my skinny jeans … and still feel my heart desperately twirling.

    The only thing that stops the desperation, the uncertainties, the insecurities, the twirling … is for the Spirit of God to lay across my heart and make it still. The blanket of His presence and His protection is the only perfect fit for the deep creases and crevices carved inside me.

    I don’t know what tough things you’ve been through sweet sister, but I do know this: Brokenness is universal. We all have things in life that trigger deep insecurities and our own personal “twirling about,” searching for reassurance.

    But here’s the amazing thing.

    While brokenness is universal, God’s redemption is also universal for those who proclaim Christ as Lord. No matter what cracks and crevices we have in our hearts, if we seek the truth of God above all else, He is enough to fill in those raw places.

    “Whatever is true … think about such things … And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8b, 9b).

    Have you caught your heart twirling, desperate for reassurance lately? Today, spend a few minutes letting these truths fill your mind and seep into those desperate places of your heart:

    “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you; but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV).

    “I pray that you … may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17b, 18, NIV).

    “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV).

    “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness’” (Jeremiah 31:3).

    I pray these truths flood your heart with peace like they do mine. Peace that gives you permission to stop twirling and start to live like you are loved.

    Because you are.

    Deeply. Abundantly. And without end.

    Dear Lord, may Your spirit fall fresh upon each of us today. Remind us. Reassure us. Rest upon us. Help us to be still and know that You are our loving God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 36:5, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.” (NIV) Psalm 48:9, “Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What things trigger your heart to feel desperate? Choose one of the Scripture-based truths Lysa shared to meditate on, and memorize it this week.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Seeing the Good in Correction

    Seeing the Good in Correction by Arlene Pellicane

    “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.” Proverbs 15:32 (NIV)

    When someone corrects you, or points out an area where you might need to grow, what’s your first reaction?

    Let me guess. It’s probably not, “Thanks, I was really hoping someone would point out my mistake.” I’ll admit my natural tendency is to avoid correction, protecting myself from embarrassment or possible hard changes I need to make in my life.

    Recently, my husband James and I were talking with a new staff member in the hallway at church. When he asked what I did for work, I enthusiastically launched into my job description and apparently, I proceeded to turn my back toward my husband, totally leaving him out of the conversation!

    Of course I didn’t notice this. I was just leaning into the conversation — at least that’s what I thought. So James grabbed my shoulders and not-so-gently pivoted my body to include him in the circle. I thought that was rude!

    As we walked to the car, he said, “You know, you’ve done that before. You step toward the person you’re talking to and leave out whoever else is there.”

    I remained silent, as I justified my actions in my mind. I don’t leave others out. He is overreacting. Correction, whether big or small, is hard to swallow. I didn’t feel like learning or growing. I felt like being right.

    But after a few minutes (and replaying the scene in my mind), I had to admit I did turn my back toward James. I left him out of the conversation with my nonverbal behavior and owed him an apology. I wanted everything to be right again between us, so I apologized.

    I have learned that a good apology isn’t only saying “I’m sorry.” It’s also about saying “I’ll try my best not to do that again.” I’m so glad I accepted correction from James that day instead of ignoring it. It certainly improved that particular day, but it also helps now as I’m more courteous to him and other friends.

    After being married 17 years, I’ve come to embrace our key verse because I’ve found it to be true: “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves” (Proverbs 15:32a). If I had ignored my husband’s mild rebuke, tension would have reigned supreme in our home that day and I would still have terrible conversation manners (I might turn my back on you!). On the other hand, when I’m willing to humble myself and admit my own wrongdoing, I can find grace, reconciliation and understanding.

    It’s wise to make correction our friend, not our foe. When I don’t pay attention to counsel and correction from God’s Word and from truth-telling people, I’m not allowing myself to learn and grow.

    Hebrews 12:5-6 says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son” (NIV).

    Do not make light.

    Don’t ignore discipline when someone points out your mistakes. Don’t just brush it off. Don’t miss a moment of divine correction.

    When the Holy Spirit convicts your spirit, when you have unrest because you know you have to make something right, when you are reaping the consequence of bad decisions, embrace correction as a dear friend.

    God’s discipline is never meant to hurt us; it’s meant to redeem us. Unlike my story of turning my back toward James, God will never turn His back on us.

    Is there something the Lord is correcting you about today? Don’t harden your heart. Accept His words of correction and reap the peace and wholeness that comes from obedience.

    Lord, I open my heart to Your correction. Forgive me for ignoring Your discipline in my life. Thank You for loving me enough to guide me to truth and steer me away from sin and error. I will seek to obey Your commandments. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 15:31, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” (NIV)

    Hebrews 12:11, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When someone who cares about you corrects you, how do you respond? Do you quickly defend yourself in your mind or do you truthfully consider the rebuke?

    What is one way you can be more open and responsive to God’s correction in your life?

    © 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Relationships Feel Like Obstacles

    When Relationships Feel Like Obstacles by Beth Moore

    “But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel.” Philippians 2:22 (NIV)

    I’ve come to believe there is a divine plan, an orchestration of events, opportunities and encounters, not only historically regarding the people of God but for each person of God individually.

    In the blinding ambush of the present, so much that happens in our lives seems random. However, retrospect helps us see those happenings through the lens of order, which may reveal something shocking. Ink splotches start to form edges and the edges start to look like puzzle pieces and, lo and behold, a handful of them actually fit.

    I often think about what I would have missed had my path been one straight line from A to B and B to C, rather than a sharp turn here and a soft veer there. With every curve and corner, God was sketching unforeseen triangles between Jesus, me and a handful of unrelated others.

    Second only to Scripture, God has used and continues to use key people to shape the phases of my calling and unlock something in me that proves crucial in the next season.

    Callings are organic just like the people God uses to invest in them. To decide at 25 that we know exactly what this thing is supposed to look like is to set ourselves up for failure, faithlessness, and boredom and to miss some of the most meaningful relationships of our lives. Don’t fix your feet in concrete. Keep moving and savor the fellow sojourners God deposits along your path, remembering to look back every now and then.

    A purposeful glance in the rear-view mirror will clearly show how desperately we needed what somebody brought us.

    So, what does this have to do with our key verse? Well, we’ve stepped in to the middle of a story where there had been some conflict between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). But Paul has not given up and Timothy, a young man of faith, is the evidence.

    But what if Paul had shut down after the falling out with Barnabas? Or, what if he’d decided to keep everything strictly professional and to forgo all things personal with Timothy? What if he’d bought into staying ahead of the game by withholding his heart? Or, what if he’d played “tick tock, the game is locked” and refused to make room in his life for anyone new?

    What if the next person on your path is meant to become one of the most important people in your entire journey? One of the very dearest? Most influential? What if he or she is the extension of God’s index finger pointing you that way?

    Here’s the scary part: The biggest obstacle we have to our next relationship may well be our previous relationship.

    This could be true whether our last relationship proved fabulous and satisfying or disastrous and terrifying. A relationship can either be so good we make no room for another or so bad we refuse to take a second risk. Our last loss can forfeit our next gain. A nightmare can kill our lifelong dream.

    You’ve probably encountered triads of people in which one person is detrimental to the relationship between the other two. So have I. It’s enough to unsettle any of us. Connectedness has too important a place in Christian theology for the enemy not to attempt to counterfeit it with disastrous triangulations.

    Here’s the good news, when the pen is in the hand of God, and He’s the one connecting the dots and drawing triangles, mutual joys abound, missing pieces are found and a network emerges for the sake of the gospel.

    Dear Lord, thank You for giving me strength to persevere. In all the ups and downs, tears and fears, conflicts and disappointments, thank You that Jesus was still infinitely better than the circumstances were hard. Help me remember all along, He was worthy of hanging in there. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 15:5, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Name up to five key people in your spiritual journey. As you think about them, journal what God unlocked in you through each one.

    Say a prayer and thank God for the key people He’s used to influence your life.

    © 2016 by Beth Moore. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks LifeWay 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

  • Sitting at Home, Alone

    Sitting at Home, Alone by Lysa TerKeurst

    “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 (NIV)

    They were laughing in their matching neon pink t-shirts with the words “Bethany’s Birthday Girls” printed on the front. They were going bowling after school. Then to get pizza. Then a sleepover.

    When Bethany passed out the shirts that morning I pretended to be too busy to notice. I stayed hyper-focused on unpacking my book bag into my locker. And then I hurried off to my first class.

    It was clear. Bethany had made a list of her friends and I hadn’t been included.

    I thought I would be. We’d gotten together before. I’d invited her to my pool party.

    “No big deal,” I tried to tell myself all day. I had plans that night too.

    To sit at home. Alone. And wonder why I hadn’t been chosen.

    It’s been years since I watched those neon pink shirts all pile into a station wagon after school and drive away.

    But it hasn’t been years since I’ve heard the negative inside chatter that ensued afterwards.

    “You’re not liked.”

    “You weren’t invited.”

    “You weren’t chosen.”

    Here’s what I wish I could have told my little non-wearing pink t-shirt self back then … and what I need to remember when those same feelings creep in today:

    Don’t put the whole of your identity into the smallness of this situation.

    Not getting invited that day felt like a defining moment. And maybe it was for the day of Bethany’s party.

    But it wasn’t a defining moment of my identity.

    It was a moment. And moments shift. People are fickle. People shift.

    In the moment Bethany made the list of who to invite to her party, I wasn’t on the top of her mind. Not because she didn’t like me, but simply because she hadn’t thought about it.

    It was a small situation.

    And I can’t put the whole of my identity into the smallness of this situation. Or any other for that matter.

    Have you ever done this? Let a moment define you? It’s so easy to do. And it’s certainly not a struggle that is new to mankind. We see evidence of this as the Apostle Paul has to address identity issues in our key verse.

    In his letter to the church at Colossae, Paul tells them that because of their faith in Christ, they are made complete in Christ.

    “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9-10, NIV).

    Complete. Whole. Full. Nothing lacking. No need for anyone or anything to give them their identity. The same is true for us as believers.

    What peace for my heart.

    I have been brought to fullness. I am filled up by Christ. With acceptance. With love. With all the fullness of an identity that can’t be shaken.

    I can place the wholeness of my identity in that reality … and see everything else as small in comparison.

    And when I walk around with that kind of fullness, I become free to let humans be human — fickle and fragile and forgetful.

    Yes. Full and free.

    Those are the words I want to define me.

    Dear Lord, I praise You for Your faithfulness to me in every situation. I don’t want to get hung up on the small things of this world. Please help me place the wholeness of my identity in who You are and the everlasting acceptance that You provide. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 2:4-5, “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.” (NIV) John 1:12-13, “Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God — children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What past hurt are you still processing that seemed like a defining moment in your life?

    Reflect on the verses in today’s devotion. Write them down in a place where you’ll see them every day. This will help you remember what God says we are to Him — His beloved children who have been saved through His grace.

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Study the Bible: 10 Practical Tips to help you Understand God’s Word

    The Bible is a love letter, a set of instructions, the inspired Word of God and so much more. But if we’re honest, it can also be confusing, overwhelming and intimidating. With so many authors, parables and translations, it can be difficult to wrap your head around all the Bible has to offer. Get into the Word and begin to better understand the Gospel with these Bible study tips.

    10 Bible Study Tips

    1. Prepare Your Heart: Say a prayer of thankfulness before diving into God’s Word. This will align your heart and your mind as you seek to know Him more.
    2. Strive For Consistency: Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl, try to set aside a consistent time every day to dig into scripture.
    3. Set The Tone: Listen to praise and worship music before getting started to focus your heart and your mind. Stock up on your favorite tunes with our Buy One Get One 50% Off sale on all music.
    4. Avoid Distractions: Be honest with yourself about what pulls your focus away from God and avoid it during your quiet time.
    5. Engage With Community: While individual time with God is important, spending time getting to know Him with your brothers and sisters in Christ can be incredibly effective.
    6. Make Time: If you can’t find time to sit in God’s presence, write down everything you do for a few days. You’ll likely notice patterns and identify areas that are consuming you.
    7. Change Up Your Technique: Don’t be afraid to use more than one devotional or tool to avoid falling into a rut. Use a Study Bible or document your journey with God in a Journaling Bible.
    8. Revisit Verses: The beauty of God’s Word is that it is alive. This means scripture may speak differently to you depending on what season you are in.
    9. Pick Out Patterns: The Bible is full of promises, warnings and instructions. Choose a color for each theme and highlight passages that relate.
    10. Ask For Clarity: Ask God for clarity when you don’t understand something. He is ready and willing to impart His wisdom if we simply ask.

    What are some of your go-to Bible study tips?

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